Book Jacket


rank 389
word count 99948
date submitted 18.04.2011
date updated 10.04.2014
genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Christian
classification: moderate

The Willow Branch - Book 1 of The Dance of Healing

Lela Markham

A healer must mend a fractured kingdom and bring two enemy races together before a greater enemy destroys them both.


Fate took Prince Maryn by surprise, leaving Celdrya to tear itself apart. A century later an army amasses against the warring remains of the kingdom as prophesy sends a half-elven healer on a journey to find the nameless True King. Padraig lacks the power to put the True King on the throne, yet compelled by forces greater than himself, Padraig contends with dark mages, Celtic goddesses, human factions and the ancient animosities of two peoples while seeking a myth. With all that distraction, a man might meet the True King and not recognize him.

rate the book

to rate this book please Register or Login



celtic, dark magic, dragon, elves, fallen kingdoms, fantasy, sentient animals

on 58 watchlists



To leave comments on this or any book please Register or Login

subscribe to comments for this book
Fiona Haven wrote 130 days ago

WTF review (kind of)

So sorry, I could find nothing major to criticise in the first chapter and a half that I read.
The only issue I had was that there were an awful lot of names (people and places) to get my head around, so if it would be possible to delay introducing any of those, you might want to consider that.
Overall, I found your tale intriguing, absorbing, wonderfully told and gripping.
I think I will have to put this on my bookshelf for further reading.
High stars and if this doesn't get a publisher I'll be very surprised.

Fiona Haven
Falling Upwards

Amanda Chwa wrote 190 days ago

I have skimmed the first several chapters, but your idea is intriguing so I will have to come back and read more thoroughly. You write quite well, although I'm not sure all readers will be able to follow the old fashioned English used at the beginning. On the other hand, it also makes it seem more authentic.

I'll be backing this for the time being and I'll return to read more later.

Software wrote 216 days ago

Well constructed story that successfully combines fantasy and Christianity with elements of the dark side. There is a good traditional mix of expected constituents in The Willow Branch-Book 1 of The Celdryan Cycle including Irish celtic mysticism and hints of the spiritual and the supernatural. It's also one of the rarest things on Authonomy, a complete story of genuine novel length. High stars and W'Led. In the queue for backing.

Clive Radford
Doghouse Blues

Fragmented wrote 218 days ago

Hi Lela!

This is part of a chapter by chapter swap read.
'as was his wont'...(want)
Being picky here...'at midwinter', or IN midwinter?
'I liked her well enough;....(like)
'Tis a pleasant..'..'T'is'
Picky again..'it must be nearing the middle of the night'. How about it IS nearing the middle of the night, or it is the middle of the night?
'Several fires (had) burned down to coals'
'Good even'??? Or 'even'in'? even'n? even?
Wow. You just killed off what I thought would be one of the main characters. Brilliant.

25 years..Im pretty sure you shouldn't put numericals in text. Write it.
Again, at 17 or 18.

Ok, so these minor grammatical issues aside, I would say that Im not too sure where the story is heading just from this first chapter. It feels like I have read two separate stories, in a way. (Though I assume the first part was a sort of prologue). Your setting and language bring out the time period very well, and I found it nicely did a lot of showing rather than telling, which I enjoy. I would sugest here that for me, there isn't enough of a 'hook' for me to turn to the second chapter. *Though I will as part of our deal, and id also be interested to see where this does get 'hooky' for me). You have obviously put a lot of work into this, your work is polished, and you have just the right balance of dialogue and scenery/ descriptions. Im just not too sure about the opening scene(s).

The Medea Complex


Scott Butcher wrote 229 days ago

Hey Lela,

I like the little prologue/quotation, I think it sets the scene well. Seems true to the period. I've just read the first chapter for now, as it is quite long (not a criticism). I've enjoyed the medieval nature of the narrative (well, actually it's earlier than that, isn't it?). I hope to come back in the next few days to read a bit more. Some minor editorial stuff:

"My friend..." I'm not sure a foster child would refer to his father in this way. I guess this is the English like fostering system, where you raised the children of your neighbours as hostages?

"I'll not make that mistake with this one." hmm, is the flippancy intentional? If he still mourned them both I doubt anyone could be this flippant. You may need to interject with some narrative explanation here. Or at least you could provide the speaker with some degree of regret and sadness.

"I'm for sleep, my brother." again for a foster son? I don't think so. You've made the foster an equal, and I don't think that could ever happen, especially in a feudalistic society "my father" maybe. There are no equals in feudalism.

Despite the criticism I do appreciate the medieval thought, with women being mere chatelles. But then again I am a guy.

"Spring FY 1028 " FY? Founding year? Don't assume your audience have grasped the meaning of FY, it's not obvious.

"...and a whoreson bastard in the margin." loved that turn of phrase.

"Knowing little of swordcraft, he knew the warrior knew..." Lot's of knew and knowing...need to change this. "Even with little knowledge of swordcraft he could see that..."

"(,) and the link dissolved..."
"(as) aware of its master's mood as he was aware of it." not its.

"...somewhat that rarely happened..." grammar check needed for this sentence.

"The stew he'd begun..." this is a bit of a discontinuity in the tale. Maybe something like "Retreating to his personal chambers, the stew..."

"...even in the swamp(,) for..."

Okay narrow hips mentioned twice, it appears the author has a bit of a fixation with this???

" to my horse..." should be " for my horse..."

"...probably left behind when he'd gone to..." who, what, where? Are these second hand clothes we're talking about? Left behind by who?

"At 17 or 18... was a difficult year..." Okay you need to meld the "At 17 or 18" with the "was a difficult year..." this sentence doesn't work until that's done.

"There's no reason for you to return then." I think there should be a question mark at the end of this instead of an apostrophe."

"...wondered if he have spoken too quickly." should be ""wondered if he had spoken too quickly."

"...the one we choose..." I think should be "...the one we chose..."

"The vyngretric himself(,) or the heir and spare(,) might..."

"...walking walked..." need to fix that one. I don't think the "walked" is needed.

Poor Gregyen, not a good life on the island at all. The bastards!

Interesting first chapter, but I think you need to set the direction of the story a bit more in this chapter. A lot of background is given (and I enjoyed reading that) but where is the story going? A story of revolt by the younger journeyman? I can't see the relation to the short and long promos, or the separate section at the start of the chapter. As I say, I enjoyed reading the text, I think you've captured the mindset of a middle age people, but I think you need to bring the storyline into this first chapter. Regardless, an enthralling story, that brings back the character of a bygone age with a very dark glimpse of magics going wrong.

Cheers, Scott Butcher (The Dreams of Aine's Blood)

KathrynW wrote 230 days ago


CCRG Review

You have created a rich and believable world in which to tell your story. There are the hints of Ireland and celtic mythology woven together with the hint of something more alien - swamps and crocs and orchids. You have obviously done a lot of work to build up the geography, history, peoples, religions and rituals of your characters, which gives great depth to the story. If this is published, my only plea is that you include a map at the start together with the lineage of some of your families as this would greatly help.

Your writing and editing are both strong. Obviously you have some idiosyncratic spellings to provide an archaic feel to the text, so I didn't see those as errors. The only obvious mistake was in chapter one where you write "Gregyn went out to the wide porch, walking walked slowly . . ."

As far as plotting and hooking the reader I have two main points. Firstly as a reader I was longing to latch onto the main character who I'm supposed to care about and champion throughout the story. I assume that this is Padraig, but he is introduced much too late. Could he be introduced somewhere in chapter 1 or at the latest at the beginning of chapter 2 before the section about poisoning the King? In chapter 1 I began to identify with Maryn, and then he was killed - which came as an unexpected shock. Then I began to latch onto Tallid before realising that he was the villain of your tale. At the beginning of chapter 2 I thought perhaps Deryk was your main character. Now I'm pretty sure its Padraig. I feel as though I have been riding blindfold on an emotional rollercoaster I'm searching for my emotional focus. Once I begin to care about a character, I'm hooked.

Secondly, I think you should start a new chapter every time you start a new section. Without changing anything I think this would have the effect of increasing the pace of your story. Chapter breaks allow the reader to have a psychological breather and take stock before moving forward. Chapters that are lengthy make a story seem longer and slower than it actually is. You have a lot of very dense description and some difficult names to absorb. Having shorter chapters would prevent the reader from tiring.

As far as Christian content is concerned, it is too early for me to judge. I am guessing the plot involves a battle of good against evil and will bring out Christian truths and values in the way that the Lord of the Rings does.

Best wishes


Seringapatam wrote 392 days ago

Lela, Far to complicated for me, but with that said, a fantastic piece of writing to say the least. Not the genre I would read and believe me I stuck with it and it did interest me, but my brain struggled to survive in this genre. Other than that. Clever writing with your work done before you started writing and although I can see some comments below, I can see this doing well once polished. Well done and good luck with it.
Sean Connolly. British Army on the Rampage. (B.A.O.R) Please consider me for a read or watch list wont you?? Many thanks. Sean

Searcher wrote 407 days ago

Hi Lela, I see you're looking for critique on later chapters but I started at the beginning to get some of the story's background. You caught me by complete surprise when Maryn was killed. Nice writing there.

Looks like you're still deciding on some names .. Chapter 10; Aye, ? gave birth to a healthy boy. How long ..etc .. Another ? a few sentences later.

The pace was a little slow for me in spots. I think you might be able to tighten the story by eliminating a few words. For instance .. Tamys laughed a moment longer, shaking his head, but, eventually, he recognized that he owed Padraig somewhat. .. I think you could drop any of the following "a moment longer" "eventually" "that" & "somewhat" in that sentence. But then, you have your own style of writing which fits this fantasy.

Wishing you the best.


Keiran Proffer wrote 412 days ago

CCRG Comment
Overall comment: In Chap 1 you are trying to write in an archaic style, with 'naught' and 'twas'! The trouble with this is you have to keep it up all the time, and inevitably you slip into modern style at some points, which ruins the effect. Let your characters have archaic speech, but you should write normally; which in fact after the first few paragraphs in Chap 1 you do, then introduce some archaic term which clashes. See below for places where I have pointed this out.
I'm afraid the only suggestion I can make is that you re-write into normal 21st-century speech everywhere where you are attempting to write in ancient style. Let your characters talk in old style if you want.

I read up to 'The Tongue' in chap 3, then ran out of time: too many other obligations. Overall a good story, but needs some work tidying up.

1. "Fate took prince Maryn by surprise" I took that to mean Maryn had an unexpected offer, or suddenly found himself king. It did not read as if he was killed; though that was unexpected! It would be better to say "Fate took Padraig by surprise".

Chap 1:
General Points:
1. I make notes as I read. Some questions I raise may be answered later.
2. Punctuation. Punctuation is a guide to reading aloud, especially in books written for children. Full-stops (periods) show where to take a full breath; semi-colons separate phrases; commas mark brief pauses or topping-up breaths. This is apart from the conventions such as having lists separated by commas. Also commas mark breaks in sense or ideas. They should not come in the middle of a group of connected words.
So on your first page you should have a comma after 'confirmed the engagement' and not after 'stillborn daughter'.
3. What era are we in? Are we in a parallel earth? The opening chapter reads like the ancient Celts, then we get on to Tarot cards which are 14th century. Perhaps a word of explanation in an introduction would help.

Detailed points:
Spring in FY 931
1. What is FY 448? Ok realised what it meant later.
2. Would Celts call themselves Celts? "People" or "The Folk" is more like it. However, it may be necessary for the plot to have "Celts".
3. 3rd sentence: add comma after 'High Celdrya'.
4. Take out "flavorfully" What is un-flavorfully spiced?
5. Twas should be 'Twas.
6. What does 'cockled' mean?
7. Typo: 'into into Llyr'
8. Deryk is older than Maryn (23). He should have a full beard by now, even if he has lighter hair.
9. Add comma after 'engagement'
10. No comma after 'daughter'
I hope I've made my point about commas. I won't mention it again.
11. Dew does not have a scent, but maybe you can have this: poetic licence.
12. "expected not but a quiet night" cod archaism! You are making a rope for your own neck! "expected naught but a quiet night" or "expected but a quiet night" or better "expected a quiet night".
13. Alders are water-loving trees. Are they camped near a lake? Wouldn't the ground be damp?
14. "dun's war band"? dun in English is an adjective meaning a dull unspecified colour. What does it mean here?
15. It seems clear on re-reading, but at first I was not sure who had died. Maybe you could say "Death took Maryn by surprise".

Spring FY 1028
1. "possessed of a suicide bent" doesn't seem to fit in. I can see what you are saying, but it makes more sense to take it out.
2."Eaddyn seized" is bad grammar, or is "seized" an active verb in the occult?
3. "I will attend later". Full stop (period) after "later", if he is giving an instruction; or change the comma into "and".
4. 'mix the tiles' puzzled me at first. Perhaps you should say 'shuffled'.
5.'somewhat of the arm, and the sword, naught more'. I warned you! for the last few paragraphs you have been writing normal 21st century English. The sudden switch to 'somewhat' (which should have been 'something') and 'naught' jarred.
6. 'wondered if he have' change 'have' to 'had'
7. You have switch from calling Tariq 'Talidd' when Gregyn arrives. You should be consistent.
8. 'begin working on him to travel with him' Couldn't follow this. Change one of the 'hims' to a name.
9. 'vyngretrix himself' '-trix' is a feminine ending in Latin.
10. Sawyl is presented as the bad guy, yet he has a surge of grief and rage at the killing of Eaddyn. Who is the villain here?
11. 'his own death earned' change to 'his own death would be earned'. I puzzled over it at first.

Chap 2:
General points:
1. I am not clear (yet) why we are jumping forward and back in time, between 931 and 1028.
2. You are now writing in a more 21st-century style, and it reads a lot better. I suggest again that you re-write the first paragraphs of chap 1.
3. At one place you refer to dwarfs as cousins of goblins. Of course you can invent your own mythology, but since Tolkien goblins are regarded as originating from elves. It would be better not to give them origins, or be very clear why you are making them cousins of dwarfs.

Dawn returns:
1. Sounds like some Celts passed though a portal into another world, and some Chrystans came through also. Interesting.

FY931 Summer:
1. 'since' Not quite grammar. Change 'since' to 'dwelling here' or something similar.
2. Still not clear what a 'dun' is. Building? Lump of rock?
3. 'if there'd be war' Do not use contractions in narrating, unless to make some point. What point are you making?
4. Bit unkind to merchants. And don't they get pillaged in war?
5. 'an eightnight'? Did any old race use this term? A sennight for a week certainly.
6. 'Mulyn knew ravens'. This threw me at first. Who was Mulyn? It was only by scrolling back that it was shown as a place. Maybe you should say 'Coming from Mulyn, Burcan knew ravens...'
7. 'the councillor took the lead' Who was he? I had got lost. Better say 'councillor Dumyr took the lead'
8. Typo: skip line after 'a good servant he'
9. I have not been able to find out what the scent of wolfsbane is like, but if it was that pungent so that Deryk noticed it at once, wouldn't the king or one of his tasters have noticed it?

Spring FY1028
1. Typo: full stop after 'Kindred name'
2. 'some difficult trail' bad grammar.
3. What is 'Cenconyn way'? And add a comma after 'way'
4. 'breecs'? did you mean breeches? And was 'siarc' sark?
5. 'practical elven dress' made me pause. Human dress, at least for any working man, is practical; elven dress is both practical and beautiful.
6. 'Fey'? The more usual spelling is 'Fay'.
7. Werglidd is a bit close to weregild. It confused me at first. Could you alter the name?
8. First time you say 'Basketlands', then later it becomes 'basketlands'. you should be consistent.
9. Last para; you use 'he'd'. I have a thing about contractions in the narration, so I would prefer 'he had'.

Blue Iris Holt
1. 'departed from sheltered in': bad grammar. make 'departed from the shelter of'
2. 'Dwarfs' rather than 'dwarven'
3. Add comma after 'mines played out'
4. Elves should have beautiful names, not mouthfuls like 'Morynsionryanna'!
5. 'She didn't know..' clumsy sentence.
6. The rock basin has water coursing into it yet the surface is reflective? How? You must obey normal physical laws unless magic is being applied. Preferably a separate basin for scrying.
7. 'man of indetermined years' make 'indeterminate years'. And a bit later you say 'into his third decade'. Contradiction.
8. 'connoisseur' clashed slightly: means one who savours it, rather than possesses. Change to 'mistress' or something similar.
9. 'basketlands' and 'Basketlands' again.
10. 'One True God' implies that some Elves believe in many gods. Is this correct? Also raises the question of Elve's salvation and economy of grace. Have you worked it out, and what is it?
11. 'contract to Gil'? Married to Gil for only a period? What are elvish rules on marriage? How do half-elfs marry?
12. Why the change in spelling of 'Pol', 'Scripos' etc? It is obvious what you mean.

Chap 3:
General: I am having difficulty coping with the jumps backwards and forwards. Are they really useful?

1. Priests invoking the gods? What is the religion(s) of this place? We should have had some background by now.
2. As far as I know, it was only in the 19th century that the tradition of men not crying came into vogue. In the Quest for the Holy Grail, Lancelot weeps many tears at a friend's death.
3. 'His greeting chamber': ambiguous. I read it as Deryk's at first. Change to 'The greeting ..'
4. 'as the captain' make 'as befitting the captain' or 'for the captain'
5. 'spare heir'? Not a term I have heard before. What are the rules governing inheritance here?

singfam wrote 487 days ago

Wow, Lela. Fascinating stuff. Very complicated for me. Your mind is rich with imagination! Such detail of multi-streamed plot, character, scenery, language, and setting even down to the way they record time and history! really amazing. Your vocabulary is very mature as well as somewhat foreign to me. And although I would start out confused, the consistancy in your words, definitions, "slang" of the times, etc, helped me to "slip into" your world and before long I stopped noticing any difficulty in understanding. A very interesting experience. I do think there is still plenty of room to simplify, but I wont focus on that. There will be readers who love the way you write. I know quite a few who would devour this kind of book. :-)
Your writing is very good, however complicated. You have a complicated story, so not sure how to help that. :-)

My biggest focus would be your characters. When I read about what your characters are doing, I get an idea as to who they are and what they are like, but they are not "alive" to me. They are missing something, that I just cant quite put my finger on. I know who they are and if they are good or bad, but I don't feel what they feel. Maybe its a matter of "show" vs "tell". Not quite sure. Sorry. I just feel like I am watching them from a distance.

One other thing that I would mention is that I had a hard time figuring out your "bad guy." When your story went to that first chapter about him, I didnt realize that he was the bad guy for quite some time. When I came to some mention of his evil thought or character, I kept thinking - ooooh, that is odd. why would he go there? or "huh, the term "ritual" is usually used in connection with evil," and yet, I continued to keep him on my list of "good people" in the book, till finally, the end of the peice about him, it became quite obvious that he was "the bad guy".

So that was kind of odd. not sure why or how that worked. Maybe you could slam the reader with his evilness right off the bat ( describing his "evil lare", his twisted heart, or his bloody works,) instead of just teasing us with a negative word here and a manipulative action there. My head is like a river, it just goes along the path of least resistance, and if it is reading about good characters, it will continue along that road, until it is literally picked up and moved to another road by some kind of obvious motion or narrative.

Your story is really something, though. Sounds like you are watching, and trying to record, this "movie" that plays in your head. :-) I have been there. :-) You are doing an amazing job "recording" the details of this movie for others to be able to experience. I did start to become attached to Gregyn as he showed his desire to fight his evil master. He got me rooting for him. :-)
Anyways, This is quite the project!! Simplify where you can and bring those characters out where I can "taste" their personalities and you will have a winner here! good luck to you!!!

Jeannette Singleton
Journey to Kalado're

evermoore wrote 494 days ago

Lela....What an amazing mind you have! I wasn't sure I'd be drawn into 'Celtic, dark magic, or a dragon'...but I was! I love the journey of faith you took me on and if this were published today, I would have it for my grandson who would absolutely love it. He would be drawn into the things I shy away from, but through the telling of this tale, understand the power of faith in the one True King. High stars and a want of more...
Daniel Simmons Journey
Children Walking with Jesus

KMac23 wrote 498 days ago

Hi Lela,

The first section is dramatic with the scene of Maryn being killed. The richness of your words, gave your writing a deep feel to it. Your characters, dialogue and the setting seem all very authentic. In chapter one, I found I myself a bit lost, with the words ‘scry’, ‘mage’ and ‘nadir’ etc. They gave it the right feel, and yet might benefit with a meaning attached. When Tariq was looking into the future, I loved the foreshadowing and the setting. You are very adept at writing the darker scenes and making them seem very realistic. The raven theme is interesting.

You’ve put a whole lot of thought into your plot. Your writing is very in depth. I think the genre you picked has a lot of potential for salability, as this type of story is very popular in the market right now. You write it well, and tell a good tale. I will star this highly and wish you the best with it.

A Gate Called Beautiful

Ch. 1
Tariq felt no fear, no outward encroachment as he picked up his stirring stick to scry(.)

NowSpeakTruth wrote 535 days ago

I was looking for the word to describe this style. The comment below me was perfect, "Tolken-esque"
This seems to bring this style back to life at least in my mind, I was never a huge fan of it but you've done it perfectly. A few things:

"you ducked into into..." double word.
Okay, I've only just had time-and attention span- for this first bit here. Dang it, we were just getting to like Maryn. You introduced the character flawlessly in a way that made your reader like him and respect him just in a few conversations. Tricky, but done well. Although I'd only known of the character for a few paragraphs, his death still came as an unwelcome shock to me. You successfully attached me to a character, which is no easy feat as I'm picky when it comes to characters.

The conversation with the newest guard was especially pleasant, it was the blossoming point for Maryn's life and death.

Excited to come back to this as time permits.
God bless

EliConstant wrote 549 days ago

I have a lot of reads right now, but I really liked your pitch. I've watchlisted and can't wait to get to it! Then again...I love anything that might have a Tolkien-esque quality to it!

Just wondering...are the names pronounced phonetically? Haha...I have to know how to pronounce the names to read the story smoothly. So I'm going with: [Mare-in] , [Sell-dry-a] , and [Pad-rag] of course some people pronounce Celtic with a hard 'C' so I guess Celdrya could be [Kell-dri-a]. I know...semantics!


andrea lightfoot wrote 565 days ago

Hi - you commented on The Fire Pendant a while back, but I'm not sure whether you've investigated Fantastica - short stories & poems yet. I wondered what you made of it?



Dekkle wrote 587 days ago

Your pitch grabbed me, I had to read. I am an avid fan of Celtic lore, the Tuathan, Druids, etc, so nearly anything on that topic will get my attention. Chapter One's introduction and the death of Maryn was insanely well written - I thought I'd get a little lost in the language but it flowed very well together - there as never a time when I had to reread anything. I'll get to more comments when I've read the next chapters, but overall I'm loving it. Well done, and best of luck!
Through the Fire.

Kristen Lusk wrote 628 days ago

Hey Lela! Your story sounds authentic, and the dialogue seems fitting for the time your setting takes place. I found it really interesting how freely Maryn and Deryk spoke about second marriages. I felt sorry for Maryn when he explained how he had truly loved his first wife, and her death was unfortunate. The fact he was set to remarry so quickly after his wife and unborn child's passing was sad, but it seems fitting for a family of such royalty. You ended the first section at a good cliffhanger - I definitely want to know who killed Maryn - and why. All-in-all, a fresh story idea. Good job, and I wish you the best of luck!

Please check out my novel, The Keeper, as I look forward to advice/suggestions as well! Thanks!! :)

pickarooney wrote 666 days ago

Hi Lela,

I came here for the chapter swap and read chapter one. I have to say it didn't really grab me. I found it tried to mix too many things together and it didn't really work.

There are far too many characters in the opening chapter and no real focus. We know from the first line that Maryn is about to die so what could have been a neat twist is ruined. Moreover, the reader is unlikely to want to invest in a character who will be gone by the end of the page.

You've chosen an odd blend of real and imaginary names and places. Padraig, Dublin and Donegal for example are obviously straight-up Irish while some of the others could conceivably pass for Celtic names, others sound like they're straight out of Westeros and there's even an Arabic character in there, which is... interesting.

Likewise, you half-heartedly mix the odd bit of eighteenth-century British English (in both dialogue and narration) with modern American spelling, neither of which does anything to convey a Celtic theme.

As it stands, I wouldn't read on, but there could well be a very interesting story here if you revise the style.

Best of luck

TDonna wrote 671 days ago

Lela, I'm working towards the later chapters. Just read 9 and 10. I feel completely inadequate to comment except insofar as to say I am impressed with your writing, your creativity, your characters, and the constant underlying intensity. (One minor correction in ch 10: "That Is the usual way of it." You have "i" capitalized.)

I look forward to reading on :)
(No Kiss Good-bye)

Dianna Lanser wrote 681 days ago

Hi Lela,

I really enjoyed the first two chapters of your book. It’s so nice to simply read for pleasure and that’s exactly what I experienced. Your story begins with a most intriguing scene and each scene after that adds even another interesting aspect.

I appreciated Padraig and Ryanna’s faith and wonder how it’s going to fit into the developing plot of the story. You have done a wonderful job piquing my curiosity of what is to come for Deryk and the kingdom, as it’s obvious that scoundrel, Talidd is up to no good.

Each and everyone of your characters are delightful in their goodness or their wickedness. You have given each player vivid looks and outstanding personalities that make each scene very memorable. I found myself committed and caught up in the steady, forward motion of the story.

Surroundings are described in a way in which your reader is welcomed to utilize all their senses. From sight, sound, smell, taste, the reader feels they are living the story right along side your characters.

I love the names you have chosen for your main players, they give an authentic feel to the time and place of the story - as does their speech.

Sorry that I don’t have much to offer in the way of constructive criticism. I truly was impressed with what I read and found myself simply and easily engaged in the story. As far as my impressions go, you have a great beginning to a really good story!

Dianna Lanser
Nothing But The Blood

Chapter one -

“A few of (the) riders still talked around fires here and there.”

“… though the guards would keep one (the) cook fire going through the night.“

Chapter two -

“I was just drifting off when the alaram (alarm) was called…”

“it was almost as long as his forearm and a (as) wide as his spread hand.”

Tod Schneider wrote 691 days ago

Excellent job with the flavor of the times; the dialog rings true, and there's a good balance between various components. A little thick with the language at times. The hardest part for me is the use of tongue-twisting names for people and creatures -- although that may appeal to a certain set. The opening paragraph was a good hook. Best of luck with this!
If you've any interest in kid lit, you are invited to check out my novel, the Lost Wink.

Sharda D wrote 691 days ago

Hi Lela,
a return read for our reading swap.

There's lots to like here, I love all the mentions of food and drink. A really good way of making the reader feel immersed in the scene.
I also really liked the first section where the roguish Prince talks so heartily about his new bride. It feels authentic to the time and just a little bit cheeky. Enough to pique my interest anyway!

This probably isn't my favourite genre, but you write very well, and there is a good balance of dialogue, description and action. Sometimes the writing is a tad too flowery, which makes it slightly dense/slow at times, but if you cut a few adjectives out, you'd probably sort that out pretty quickly.

5 stars from me,
all the best,

aurorawatcher wrote 692 days ago

I've done it! The Willow Branch revision is substantially complete. Although I will be proof-reading and checking for continuity issues, the hard work is done. The Willow Branch - Book 1 is completed. So, folks, let me know, what works and what you think does not. I'm especially interested in later chapters -- and very much in the last two chapters.

aurorawatcher wrote 693 days ago

Although I think your chapter one is a bit too long, it is well written. You handle Middle English very well, not too much to loose the reader, but enough to add flavor to the story. Where is your Christian element? That should be in the first chapter to show that you are in the correct thread. In the time period you have chosen, there is little evidence of Christianity. Christianity does appear until much later. Adding Christianity out of time would weaken your story. You still do well in a difficult time period. Keep up with the good work and break up the chapters a bit. I suggest you divide the chapters by your dates. This gives the reader more breathing room. Alll in one chapter makes it hard to breathe.

Don R. Budd

Don makes a good point that perhaps I should explain. Celdrya does not exist anywhere in the world we know. My premise is that Celtic people from sometime after the Roman invasion of Gaul in the first century BC but before the complete loss of continental Celtic culture around the 5th century AD were fleeing a Roman squad when they somehow stumbled into an alternate universe. I borrowed from Celtic history for my basis. The Trevellyns (the Celdryan royal family) may be descendents of the Traverri of northern Gaul who maintained their culture until they were absorbed by the Franks, by which time there was some Christian influence in Romanized-Gaul.

From that very vague premise, nothing else is historical and is not intended to be historical. The Willow Branch is not a historical novel. It's a fantasy. The cool thing about fantasy is I only have to be consistent within my world. I greatly admire Stephen Lawhead and Morgan Llewellyn for the historical research that must go into their novels, but I'm not that organized.

But, Don does have a good point, so I probably will need to include some sort of explanation of this at a future time. Epic fantasy always seems to require explanation.

Lela Markham

DoninMich wrote 697 days ago

Although I think your chapter one is a bit too long, it is well written. You handle Middle English very well, not too much to loose the reader, but enough to add flavor to the story. Where is your Christian element? That should be in the first chapter to show that you are in the correct thread. In the time period you have chosen, there is little evidence of Christianity. Christianity does appear until much later. Adding Christianity out of time would weaken your story. You still do well in a difficult time period. Keep up with the good work and break up the chapters a bit. I suggest you divide the chapters by your dates. This gives the reader more breathing room. Alll in one chapter makes it hard to breathe.

Don R. Budd

Shelby Z. wrote 699 days ago

Thrilling and creative to no end.
Every chapter has something new and exciting.
I love the way you develop and flow things to make everything work. You have a good imagination, which is clear throughout your book.
I like the way you develop each character.
Amazing work.

Shelby Z./Driving Winds

James Workman wrote 701 days ago

Lela--(for CCR)--I've read through 4 and continue to be mesmerized. I have only one suggestion--and so minor. You write "secondary road." Secondary sounds to me like a Rand-McNalley map legend. "Second" is from Latin for "after first"--used in English from around 1300 (sorry--I'm an etymology freak). Alternative: "lower-rank road" or "less-travelled" or "small road."

Another change would help me. I get the century gap between phases of the story, but it would orient me better if you used the Founding Year date for the main thread of the story and then write "a hundred-year time before" for the back-story. Also on the time-place tags, I can't place the places in my mind. Could you add some directions--"far to the north," "near-by to the west"? Check geography orientations in Tolkein.

These are quibbles. The story is great.

staymark wrote 702 days ago


Thank you for the comments regarding my story. I too have been reading your story, and wanted to get a few chapters in before I made any comments. I am about three chapters in by now and have a few thoughts for you.

First of all, I am not an expert in fantasy-type novels, so my comments could either be good in offering an outside perspective or of little worth in expressing ignorant critique.

Overall, I find myself thinking about the feeling you create by your descriptions. I can tell that you have done your research and have tried to be as accurate to the celtic culture as possible--I think at least. As I am unfamiliar with it, you could be making it all up and just be a creative genius. Anyway, I find myself confused by many of the terms and aspects of the society, as if I am a foreigner, looking on at this world. This can be either beneficial or detrimental. Reading is a bit more laborious, but also creates an exotic getaway.

Two questions. The first is how you weave your two time periods. Is there a distinct reason why you do this? Is it more beneficial to do it this way than to split up the time periods by chapter. I think the human mind likes the latter strategy better, but if the reason comes out later on, I am willing to support it.

The second regards point of view (POV). At one point, in chapter 1, A character is referred to as both Talidd and Taliq. I understand why, but I think the narration should stick with just one of them. Consider the POV of the story, and how the reader adopts that POV from the very beginning. If it is inconsistent, it confuses the reader. This aspect of writing will also affect how you handle the different cultural terms--whether they are explained or not. Just remember that this aspect can affect both how readable and how exotic the story seems to the reader.

Some of these comments may just be rambling, but those are my initial, honest impressions. I hope they are of some value to you and help you progress in your writing.

Best wishes,

Lacydeane wrote 702 days ago

Your work is very good. I like the way you speak--your voice is unique. Your dialogue flows as does your word choice and sentence structure. When I read I think of the Robin Hood era. It is definitely epic. Your writing is clean and I enjoyed reading. Highest stars, Lacy

Scott Toney wrote 707 days ago

{The Willow Branch - Book 1} Chapter 6


You continue to impress me with your world building ability, from your fabulous descriptions of your characters' meals up to that of your characters and their interactions themselves! One of the things that is also really fantastic about your work is the Christian aspect interweaved within its {digital} pages! My favorite section here was probably "The Dragon's Back" but I enjoyed them all.

If I had one crit here it would be that a few names are possibly too complex and long for the avaerage reader. I love the celtic names but I did stumble over Glynansynjoran. I noticed you shorten it to Gly most times though so maybe it dousn't matter.

Have a wonderful day! I'm highly enjoying the read!

- Scott, The Ark of Humanity, Eden Legacy and Lazarus, Man

Tarzan For Real wrote 707 days ago

Well written with good tension and foreshadowing. Character developing well too. Great concept and storyline. I'll continue.--JL

Scott Toney wrote 709 days ago

{The Willow Branch - Book 1} Chapter 5


Chapter 5 was well done and I really enjoyed the first and last sections of the chapter. You think of everything... all the minute details... as you write and that really enhances the book for me! The scene with the woman in the beginning of the chapter really drew me in and you had an interesting dialogue there. It is amazing how much wemon on those positions knew in that time period and I think you wrote a great representation of that here.

And the ride with the Dragon in the end of the chapter was simply delicious! I hope there's much more where that came from! And an army amassed within striking distance... :) I like where we are heading!

Have a wonderful day!

Scott, Eden Legacy

Lyn Ventura wrote 709 days ago

Hi Lela

I started reading your book, I like the dialect and the death scene at the end of the first section, beautifully written. You really have a wonderful way of drawing the reader into the world of the Celtic people. Looking forward to reading more!

Lyn Ventura
With All My Mind

Scott Toney wrote 713 days ago

{The Willow Branch - Book 1} Chapter 4


I always enjoy returning to your mystical, lost celtic world! I know I've already said it but one of the things that I thuroughly enjoy about your work is the depth of world creation you have here and the complete realness that I feel as I read. There are a few things that stand out for me about this chapter... My favorite was probably the first portion where Perryn was in the council and the amount of descention around him. It is clear that he is going to have troubles if he tries to hold this group together around him. I also really liked the strength of his heart amidst a group containing members that could care less if innocents live or die.

And later I enjoyed watching the journey of both groups as one tracked the other. Gregyn is a wonderful character and yet I worry that his heart might be darkened as time progresses. And the wildfolk :) now they and their descriptions really made me smile. I hope we see a lot more of them!

Have a wonderful day! It means so much to me that you're continuing to enjoy Eden Legacy!

- Scott, Eden Legacy

P.s. I love being your 100th comment! :)

TDonna wrote 715 days ago

You made me stop and ponder. The way you describe Padraig asking for forgiveness...for sins he remembered, and sins that he didn't remember and the Lord brought a few of those to his mind. I think we've lost our respect for the act of repentance. How we ought to do it. How serious we ought to be about it. We've given ourselves too much license to handle the subject matter lightly lest it makes us uncomfortable and puts us in a true light.

Beside serving as an eye opener, your writing is superb. The chapter flows excellent and your it's smooth reading, enjoyable and yet meaty ... does that make sense? It's not rainless clouds. It's not empty smoke. There's so much you pack into it, I love it!
(No Kiss Good-bye)

Scott Toney wrote 716 days ago

{The Willow Branch - Book 1} Chapter 3


As I read on I'm really enjoying the way you write several mini chapters within the chapter, starting off with the one from earlier times. It is a great way to slowly give us back story with a deeper quality than what we would normally have! It's also intriguing to watch that first vein of story unfold because we know that somehow it will lead to the later story we are reading.

I liked the dark vein as well and Talidd is truly such an evil character! I like it though and it's very well written. When Gregyn hurled on the alter it was so real and I felt his dreadful emotions as it occured. I am torn because this is such a dark place, and supposedly Gregyn is working to join them (even though he longs to leave), and yet I really like Gregyn and see such potential for him to turn it all around.

I also thuroughly enjoyed the scene at the end with the larger cats and the hunt that was going on! So much blood in this chapter... with the slitting of the horses' throats and the blood around the doors and in the hunt... but I think that enhances your work. From the blood and darkness will rise the light. It makes for good story telling and that ability to bring in that transformation to the light.

Have a wonderful day and thank you so much for your comments on Eden Legacy!

- Scott, Eden Legacy

TDonna wrote 716 days ago

Another great chapter that captivated completely. You made me laugh in this chapter, not because it was intended as humorous, but because you described me ... unintentionally ... with "humans ought to grow fur so they wouldn't be so afraid of the cold." Oh, my goodness. Too funny for me (and considering the source :)).

Also, very touching. It resonated with me when you wrote about the "bag of food in the cart." And I love how you weave the messages into the story, "That Jesu was her Savior was easy enough to say; to wait upon His guidance was much more difficult."

I read this chapter and sighed. Delightful!
(No Kiss Good-bye)

Scott Toney wrote 716 days ago

{The Willow Branch - Book 1} Chapter 2


I enjoyed so many things about Chapter 2 that it is going to be hard to fit them all in here... But I'll try! :) First let me say that something I really like about your writing is the intelligence that comes through in your work. I love depth in fantasy and a well thought out world and as I read I can feel the thought put in to your work and the intelligence of it. You also have a fantastic grasp on all things celtic here (I recall much from other celtic books I have read in the past, as it is one of my favorite types of book to read) and I love your approach to Christianity through your work and your actual use of the word "Chrystans"! That is a very nice writing of the word and I wonder if it was ever spelled that way somewhere. Was it? :) Nice!

Your grasp on fantasy as a genre is also refreshing and I have read many published authors who do not create a fantasy world as believable and in depth fantasy world as yours. I particularly liked the 'witch stone' and the descriptions of their meals and thought processes. And in the end of the chapter Ryanna is greatly growing on me. I'm really enjoying her as a character and I get the sense that she will play a great role in things to come.

Have a wonderful day! This is a great read and I'll be back soon for more!

- Scott, Eden Legacy

P.s. Thank you so much for reading and commenting on Eden Legacy! It means so much and makes me smile every time I read a new comment! I can't wait to see what you think of the rest of the book!

TDonna wrote 717 days ago

Your writing continues to mesmerize, the story unfolds fluidly, and the characters fascinate. You made me chuckle when I read "Teddryn seemed annoyed with the world, frowning about him as if the world did not quite meet his expectations." Yes, perfect description for some people I'd have rather not met (lol) ... and "drooling imbeciles." But the message is coming through, "The One True God taught forgiveness. This generation moved in that direction." Amazing story beautifully written!
(No Kiss Good-bye)

aurorawatcher wrote 718 days ago

This isn't the genre I usually read, but you easily kept my interest in the first chapter. This has a very authentic feel to it and the writing style is absorbing. It sucks the reader into the time and setting effortlessly and the story flows naturally.

Maryn's death was written very well. It comes suddenly and spikes the reader's interest just at the right time. Your strong point is definitely dialogue. It seems to me like this was very difficult to put together, but every word fits in perfectly with the chosen setting. I admire the concentration it would require to write in such a style.

This was a nice surprising read because I'm probably out of my comfort zone, but regardless of genre, anything that is written well deserves to succeed and I'm sure this will continue to rise up the ranks.

Highly rated and I'll keep it on my watchlist.

For anyone curious about how to get into a mindset for writing fantasy -- of course, others have other methods -- but I write with Celtic instrumental music turned up loud. No concentration is required. It sucks me into a zone where my characters pretty much write their own dialogue. For visuals, I take a lot of photos and then describe them, often with classical music playing -- my husband is an audiophile, so I can always find something by a long-dead composer that suits the photo I'm trying to describe. Again, once in the zone, the story writes itself. Where I struggle and have to concentrate is with the religious/magical systems of this world and with the political systems as well. Those require attention to detail and a continuity notebook to keep all of it straight.

Marc Jones wrote 718 days ago

This isn't the genre I usually read, but you easily kept my interest in the first chapter. This has a very authentic feel to it and the writing style is absorbing. It sucks the reader into the time and setting effortlessly and the story flows naturally.

Maryn's death was written very well. It comes suddenly and spikes the reader's interest just at the right time. Your strong point is definitely dialogue. It seems to me like this was very difficult to put together, but every word fits in perfectly with the chosen setting. I admire the concentration it would require to write in such a style.

This was a nice surprising read because I'm probably out of my comfort zone, but regardless of genre, anything that is written well deserves to succeed and I'm sure this will continue to rise up the ranks.

Highly rated and I'll keep it on my watchlist.

Kristen Lusk wrote 718 days ago

Hey girl! I was just reading your first chapter and wanted to leave you a few of my thoughts. First of all, I think your descriptions of characters and the atmosphere/environment is really good. Your dialogue was equally impressive, and your word usage helps play up the time period your book is set in.

The only advice I have is in regards to the unique names of your characters/places. I'm a fan of creativity, but I also think its possible to go too far 'out of the box'. What I mean is, while I was reading, I struggled and became a little distracted by the oddly spelt choices of names. I began to just skip over the names because it seemed easier. Of course, you don't want your readers to 'skip over' anything in your book, and in my opinion, I think less is more. If only the important main characters had distinctly different names, I think readers would remember them more and know they were of more significance to the story. This is only my opinion, and I do not mean to discourage you in any way.

All-in-all, your storyline is good, and I wish you the best of luck and success! :)

Scott Toney wrote 720 days ago

P.s. :) I like the fact that we each left eachother our 90th comments on eachother's books today!

Scott Toney wrote 720 days ago

{The Willow Branch - Book 1} Chapter 1


It's been a while since I've been here and I'm excited to be back to give The Willow Branch a full read! I've just finished with Chapter 1 and I really enjoyed my re-read! My favorite part was probably the beginning with the King in the forest having the conversation with his men! Your descriptions are strong (which I remember well from my first read) and I was able to easily picture the world you've created for us as I read! The King's death was awsome here... I loved how it was totally unexpected and the blood and shock of his death was vivid to me. I also cought on to the fact that he had already slept with the woman he was to wed :) and so there could very well be and heir even though he never had the opportunity to marry her.

I also greatly enjoyed the rest of your chapter and the darkness of some of your characters there. I find myself yearning for Talidd to die so that Gregyn can be free and the absolue horror of Eaddyn in the swamp being devoured by a bull croc was perfectly written. Top that off with the well written dialect you infuse in your dialogue and I'm just having a great time reading! :)

Have a wonderful day! I'm looking forward to returning for more soon!

- Scott, Eden Legacy

P.s. Thank you so much for reading and commenting on Eden Legacy! It means so much that you're enjoying the book!

Philthy wrote 721 days ago

Hi Lela,
I’m here for our read swap. So sorry it’s taken me this long to get here. Below are my findings/comments. They are of course my humblest opinions, so please take them for whatever they’re worth and feel free to disregard what you disagree with.
Spring in Founding Year 931
Nice opening-line hook.
Not sure I like how the second sentence is phrase. “Naught” is a strange word choice here, IMHO.
“flavorfully spiced” is redundant, as something that is spiced is typically full of flavor.
“as was his wont” is a clunky phrase. Be careful about word choices. Sometimes they seem forced.
I’ve read a couple chapters and I must say, this is a fun read. Some nice imagery and good dialogue. My biggest suggestion is to be careful about the language. Sometimes it seems overdone, which can serve as a distraction more than it enhances the drama. Kind of like swatting a fly with a jackhammer. The story is good, though, and the characters are likeable. I can see this doing well here. Best of luck.
(Deshay of the Woods)

TDonna wrote 723 days ago

I have to say that you are an amazing visual writer. I am in the moment in the scenes and it reads beautifully. You're a natural with dialogue.

I can finally breathe from all the editing on my mss. Still going through the first chapters, though. It's never ending. What a nice break it was to come back here. It's soooo different than what I'm used to, but this adventure and personal stretch for me is delightful.
(No Kiss Good-bye)

James Workman wrote 723 days ago

Lela--I read chapter 1 and you really pulled me in. Your writing is very good. The dark arts section felt very dangerous and real. Since I'm reading this for a You-know-what writers' forum, I hope the good will come through stronger. I'll keep reading to find out.

A typo in your bio blurb: "...Book 1 is be part of a series...." Maybe your Celtic is rubbing off on your Alaskan!

Best wishes,

Jim Workman

aurorawatcher wrote 724 days ago


Sorry it took me so long to return the read. I've read up to Chapter 3. At first I wasn't sure about your style of writing, but I think it lent itself to the genre. It really made me feel as though I was in fantsy world, but it wasn't hard to read. So you did a good job with that. I love the hook in the begining "Death took Prince Maryn by surprise" You really have a strength for description. Just two comments I would break up the chapters. They started getting a little long at the end. The other comment is I'm not sure why you go back and forth between the past and present (maybe it will make sense later). It actually took me a bit to realize that you were doing that (I know there are dates, but I'm dense).

Overall good read.
Thanks for your comments on my book. I appreciate it.

The reason for going back and forth between the two times is fairly simple. One -- the first version of The Willow Branch on Authonomy really lacked compelling action. I kept getting comments (you can read them) that the reader liked the journey we were on, but sort of wondered if we were ever going to get anywhere. The Padraig thread is the main thread -- the present part of the story. He is the king maker. Yet, realistically, he hadn't done anything yet to warrant sword play and I just could not force the character in that direction. I tried to write Tamys starting a tavern brawl, but that didn't work either. The characters aren't those sorts of people.They engage in sword play when NECESSARY, not when their writer wants them to be more entertaining.

OTOH, Maryn's been dead a century and he and all his kin died in bloody ways. That was always part of the back story, referenced but not actually written. Rather than rewrite the entire present story line, I decided to write the back story to provide the action the readers were saying the story needed.

The second reason is actually found in the first quote by the druidess -- beneath the story that is unfolding right now lies the past and the past is the foundation of the present, so is much more important than we realize. Later in the book, you'll find that a lot of the past has been lost to the present and that's a problem for those who would restore the kingdom.

jenniferkillby wrote 725 days ago


Another Celtic piece. It's nice to come across these. I enjoyed the writing and the story seems interesting. The writing is well-done. The descriptions are done in a way not to bogg down the writing. The dialogue is real enough and your characters are well-rounded. I think you have a good piece here. Celtic stories no matter how many times they're told are all interesting, but this one has a different flare to it. Nice way to pull from the pack.

Thanks for sharing.
Jennifer Killby - The Legend of the Travelers: Willow's Journey

Shelby Z. wrote 725 days ago

I read a little, but what I saw was so well written.
I like the way that you start it off with well, pulling the reader in.
This is a different mix of themes here. Very original!
Will read more later.
Good work.

Shelby Z./Driving Winds

P.S. Please take a look at my Christian pirate adventure Driving Winds.