New Fantasy Novel Out: Rethana’s Surrender

Nightmares and Dreamscapes

 

When I was 15 years old, I had a dream about a yellow telephone booth.

No, that’s not a Dr. Who reference. ; ) In the dream, I was standing inside the phone booth, holding the handset. (Yes, this was a rotary phone. Let me know if you don’t know what that is. *grin*) Outside, it was dusk, and fog was rolling in. I couldn’t see any farther than about twenty feet from the phone booth. And as I watched, dozens of yellow eyes with slitted black pupils appeared in the fog.

That dream gave birth to the universe in which I set my latest novel, Rethana’s Surrender (Legends of the Light-Walkers, #1).

What’s the Because?!

If you’ve already read Rethana’s story, you’re probably wondering how in the name of all that’s good and writerly I got from {fog + yellow eyes + relatively modern phone booth} to {epic fantasy universe + magic-wielding heroine + semi-political love triangle}. Well, my dear inklings, that story is a rather long one, and tell you it would take a series of novels in which I invite you to explore this whole universe I have built and am building….

Oh. Wait. I guess that invitation would be what Legends of the Light-Walkers (LLW) is all about. ; )

So, the books themselves are the long explanation. The short version is that the phone booth dream turned into a scene in my LLW novel Legend’s Heir (working title). Chronologically, that one takes place before Rethana’s story. But I finished Legend’s Heir (working title) more than ten years ago…and, perhaps needless to say, it needs quite a bit of work before it sees the light of day. Thus, you get Rethana’s story first. Y’all seem like you’re okay with that, though.

And What’s the Big Idea?

The big idea for Rethana’s story grew from a cold, snowy visit to a small town in eastern Germany back around Christmas of 2002. The husband and I were living in Chemnitz, Saxony, then. Some friends took us to the Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market) in a little town called Annaberg-Buchholz.

I could wax nostalgic on how much I miss the German Christmas markets, but that’s not why you dear people are here, and it would make me cry besides, so let’s just skip that part and move on.

Belltower of St. Annenkirche

On that cold, snowy evening so many years ago, our friends insisted that we visit St. Annenkirche (St. Anna’s Church; please note that I’ve linked to the German Wikipedia article because it has more pictures than the English version). Thus, we traipsed up the hill — there was much slipping, sliding, and sniggering — and entered the church building, where we proceeded to get an unexpected tour.

We ended up climbing the belltower.

If you’ve read Rethana’s story, you know where I’m going with this.

Near the top of the tower, we stepped from the wooden staircase onto a wide, circular platform spanning the width of the tower. About thirty feet above our heads was a wooden ceiling. Another staircase led up to it. The tour guide explained that we were looking at the underside of the apartment housing the bellringer and his family. And above that apartment hung the bells.

These people lived in the top of the belltower. They hauled household goods up to their apartment via lifts that had been operational for hundreds of years. They were in charge of the bells, the largest of which was named Anna.

Images flooded my mind. Characters, scenes, plots, dialogue. In my head, I saw a bellringer family in medieval dress, and I knew they were hiding from something. I saw soldiers and magic-users in the town below, and I knew they were hunting this family. I saw a mischievous young girl using her magic to tease her friends, who were sneaking up the tower staircase to play a prank on her.

All of this flashed through my head within the space of about 20 seconds. In the meantime, the tour guide was still talking. I had no idea what he was saying — but the next thing I knew, he was handing out earplugs. I stuffed them into my ears just in time.

Somebody rang Anna.

Anna of St. Annenkirche is a big girl. Even through earplugs, the noise was deafening. Without really thinking about what I was doing, I wandered over to the stone wall of the tower and laid my hand on it. The wall was vibrating with Anna’s song, and I could feel the reverberation all the way up into my shoulder. And I knew what my next story would be.

Writing Rethana’s Surrender

The mischievous bellringer girl became Rethana Chosardal. Anna became the sacriligiously-named Lirrenae. Annaberg turned into Saemnoth. I started writing the story for NaNoWriMo 2003.

It would take me more than 4 years to finish the first draft. By the time I was done, I had close to 230,000 words. I knew very good and well that no publisher would consider reading an unpublished author’s 200+k words, so I spent the second draft trimming. My mom read it. Another beta reader read it. Both made suggestions, and I trimmed some more. When I hit 210,000, I knew I couldn’t do anything more with the story, so I shelved it and moved on to the next project.

By now, I was living in Oklahoma again and had recently re-met Aaron Pogue, a college acquaintance and fellow writer. We fell to talking of fantasy (because really, why wouldn’t we?), and he asked to read my fantasy novel. I let him.

Aaron had feedback. Part of that feedback was that I should split the book in half so as to achieve a manageable word count. The moment he said it, I knew where: right after the fight scene in Terllach Caverns. Right after Rethana almost admits to Allasin that–

Well, I don’t want to spoil it for you if you haven’t read it. ; )

Aaron said, “That’s a doozy of a cliffhanger. Your readers will hate you for it. Or they might love you.”

Aaron might or might not have actually used the word “doozy.” Either way, I decided to take the risk. And, once he got his indie publishing company, Consortium Books, up and running, he decided to take the risk of publishing it.

So far, so good.

Rethana’s Surrender (Legends of the Light-Walkers, #1), is now available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes & Noble!

If you’ve read the novel, you can post your review at those two links as well as at Goodreads.

10 Things They Don’t Tell You About Being A Baby Factory, Pt. 2

This just appeared randomly a few days ago. 15 week, 5 days.

A little late (but late due to a good cause), here is the second half of my “Baby Factory 10 Things” list. If you missed the first half, check out numbers 1-5 here.

And so! Now that you’re all caught up, let’s proceed to…

10 Things They Don’t Tell You About Being A Baby Factory, Pt. 2

6. There is this thing. It is called “food.” You will not like it.
It will taste funny. It will smell like feet. Your favorites will suddenly turn into cardboard or charcoal and make you gag. (As an aside, brushing your teeth will make you gag, too.) Even the much-praised saltine, upon which you munch to keep something in your stomach at all times, will eventually crumble to ashes in your mouth. This is not happy.

The reason this happens is, once again, Our Favorite Friend Progesterone. It changes the chemical composition of your saliva, which alters the taste of food. This is MADE OF WEIRD.

This is also frustrating and demoralizing, and you will get in trouble with your doctor for losing 9 lbs. between Weeks 5 and 8.

7. There is this thing. It is called “food.” You will crave it like a hyena craves a wildebeest.
The good news is that around Week 12, the flood of progesterone becomes less flood-ish. Bit by bit, things start to taste normal again. Sadly, some of your favorites will still taste and smell like feet. (I still mourn peanut butter.) But in general, you’ll start liking food again. Food will no longer bring on nausea at every longed-for bite. Suddenly, the vegetables you loathed in Week 11 taste like ambrosia in Week 14. This, my dears, is glorious, and you shall rejoice!

You shall also begin gaining weight like your doctor told you to do back in Week 8.

8. If this is your first, THEY are all experts.
THEY are women in your family. THEY are your female friends. THEY are your female acquaintances. THEY are women who’ve had babies. Sometimes, THEY are even women who haven’t had babies.

One and all, they will tell you what it is you’re experiencing. They will tell you how much they hearted being pregnant. They will tell you how grateful you should feel that you’re sick. They will tell you horror stories of bleeding and cramping — their own and other women’s. They will tell you all of these things even though you don’t ask to hear. And you will sigh muchly. And try not to freak out.

(The good news is that when you actually *do* request stories from some of them, there is much loving commiseration as soon as it becomes clear that this is what you need. When this happens, you will be quite glad to have so many experts in your life.)

9. At night, you will have an IMAX theater in your head.
Once upon a time, the husband said that because I’ve always has such vivid dreams, I must have an IMAX in my head at night. (He, on the other hand, is blessed with a calm, sleep-preserving, empty warehouse.) Well, Mr. Sandman seems to be taking hits of that famed, illicit drug Proges Terone — because now my dreams are more vivid and convoluted than ever. At times, I wake up to a flood of emotions that don’t even feel like my own. This, too, is a WEIRDNESS.

So far, the most memorable dream was the one where civilization had mostly recovered after the zombie apocalypse hit. I was waiting for my grandparents outside a convention hall because I was their driver. The convention was for The Church of the Protection of Zombies or somesuch; apparently, my grandparents had joined a cult that preached against the killing of zombies. Being a killer of zombies whenever opportunity struck, I disagreed with this religion and so chose not to enter the convention hall.

Yeah. So there’s that.

10. Your brains will fall out.
This, fortunately, has nothing to do with zombies — although it might seem like you’ve turned into a zombie, what with the bleary eyes, the slow shuffle, and the random bouts of feeding frenzy.

But no, what we’re really talking about here is the Infamous Pregnancy Brain. I guess it’s the hormones. Or maybe it’s the lack of sleep. Or maybe it’s that your entire being is subconsciously focused on assembling a brand-new other being inside of you. Whatever the cause, the effect is that you can’t think straight, you can’t process information in a logical manner, and you can’t remember squat.

Except where the ice cream is located. You can remember this perfectly well.

The bad news, THEY tell me, is that Infamous Pregnancy Brain doesn’t ever really go away. It turns into Infamous Newborn Brain and from there morphs into Infamous Toddler Brain. By this time, I don’t think we can blame it on the hormones anymore, so it’s gotta be the lack of sleep. And THEY tell me this doesn’t stop until the kid moves out.

Will I recover my brain then? Some say yes, some say no. I’m banking on the kid turning out a nightowl just like me, in which case we should be able to let each other get as much sleep as either of us could possibly want.

Shut up, experts. Lemme have my delusions. They ain’t hurtin’ nobody. ; )

BONUS
11. When you hear your baby’s heartbeat for the first time, you will sob like you did when Bambi’s mother died. Only happier this time.
: )

Music To Demon By

Once upon a time, dear inklings, I told you the story of how my Demons of Saltmarch came into being.

To recap: I dreamed about a forbidding figure on a bridge, and I recorded the imagery in my dream journal. I knew that at some point, those images would turn into a fantasy novel. A few months later, I was pushing and prodding my vacuum cleaner into sucky submission whilst listening to the INXS album The Greatest Hits.

And BAM! there was the rest of the story.

There is an entire blog post, by the way, on receiving creative inspiration while engaging in the mundane. But that is another story and shall be told another time.

Anyway, the song that really got me that day in my hallway was “Suicide Blonde.”

Got some revelation put into your hands
Save you from your misery
Like rain across the land
Don’t you see
The colour of deception
Turning your world around again
.

And that, my loves, was how Colors of Deception was born. As of last week, you are now acquainted with its younger sibling, Shadows after Midnight, as well.

Recalling the INXS lyrics that helped bring my demons to paper (in more ways than one), I realized I’ve been remiss in sharing my writing playlists with you. So, without further ado or adon’t, here are the songs that inspired scenes and characters for the first two Demons of Saltmarch novels:

Colors of Deception


All songs by INXS.

Suicide Blonde (Dante)
The Strangest Party (Holly and Peter)
Taste It (Dante and Holly)
Devil Inside (Holly in chapel)
Heaven Sent (Holly, driving)
Disappear (Dante)
The Gift (Dante in the cave)
Need You Tonight (Dante and Holly)
Deliver Me (Dante)
Baby Don’t Cry (Dante’s denouement)
Afterglow (Dante’s epilogue)

Shadows after Midnight


All songs by INXS. The Shadows playlist also included all the songs from Colors.

Original Sin (Dante)
I Send a Message (Dante and Holly)
The Swing (Peter)
Johnson’s Pendulum (Eileen)
Love Is What I Say (Peter and Dante)
Burn for You (Dante and Holly)
 

 
 

For Stains of Grace, I branched out from INXS. But if I share that playlist with you, you’ll get all sorts of icky spoilers, so I don’t wanna do that. ; ) I can tell you, though, that it includes Linkin Park, Breaking Benjamin, Porcupine Tree, and Apocalyptica.

Yeah. I mix stuff. ; )

And with that, I’ll leave you with the words of Dante’s favorite musician:

Yes, it’s me,
I am the one
To make you see
Where we belong.

To dream
All the time
Without a scream
In the dead of night,
All those faces
Come back to me.
I’ll be begging
To swim that sea.

A need to quench
The thirst of many
To justify
And make ready

This realization
Owes us strength to show.
If you’re uncertain
You’re invited to believe.*

______

*Lyrics by Michael Hutchence and Andrew Farriss.

The Most Difficult Thing in the World–in the Shower

Idea Lizard with Vacuum Hose

Recently, I got inspired when Becca talked about what really happens in the shower.

Before you all click through en masse to find out the details, I’ll tell you the gist of what Becca was getting at: the power of verbalizing ideas and the precious instances in which we get those ideas.

Lizards

For Becca, those instances happen to take place in the shower. As I left a comment on her post, I pondered my own sources for artistic ideas.

Many of you, my most darlingest readers, heard me talk last Thursday about one of those sources: my dreams. (That was my first ever video blog post, and many of you lovelies let me know how much you enjoyed it! Thanks again — and yes, I do intend to repeat the trick. What I won’t do for you people… 😉 )

So, Becca revealed that what really goes on in the shower is thinking. In my reply to her post, I wrote the following:

My thinking time happens whenever I just let my mind wander. Like a kid, it comes back to me with its hands and pockets stuffed full of all sorts of oddities. This usually happens when I’m doing housework. The more mindless and repetitive the activity, the more likely I am to turn around and find my artist-child brain holding up a lizard or something for me to coo over.

Valkyries

Were this Twitter, and were I tweeting, I would now employ the most handy hashtag #outingmyself. There you have it, folks. I might be 34 years old, but inside, my mind is really just a big kid.

My mind loafs around, skipping merrily down darkened alleys and picking up things that probably shouldn’t be touched. I’ll be doing housework — vacuuming the floors, let’s say — and suddenly, I have this idea that a certain demon (Dante) in a certain story I’m working on (Colors of Deception) should have an obsession with the music of a certain rock band (INXS).

#thatreallyhappened

I’m shoving the vacuum across the carpet with all the elegance of a Valkyrie in platform shoes, and my artist-child brain dances up and shoves my antagonist’s main quirk in my face. “Look!” says the artist-child. “Look at this! Have you ever seen anything like this before? What is it?” And the most important question:

“What can we do with it?”

Greed and Goethe

What, indeed? In the case of this particular idea, what I did was drop the vacuum, grab some paper, and scribble down the idea. I’d been thinking, but I hadn’t been thinking consciously. I knew that such ideas originate in the vast depths of the subconscious, and as easily as they emerge from the murk, they can just as easily sink back into it. I needed to preserve my idea as quickly as possible, so that I could come back to it later on.

The artist-child loves to share her discoveries — but she can be a greedy little hoarder, too. She doesn’t trust me to take proper care of her lizard; she wants to stick him back into her pocket for safekeeping. She’ll take the lizard back from me if she can — meaning, if I don’t record my idea, I will forget it.

When I write down an idea in my scribblebook, it’s like sticking the lizard in a jar until I can put him into an environment where he can thrive.

Putting the idea into a story, that’s like letting the lizard loose in a huge terrarium made just for him, where he can run and play and laze around and just be what he was meant to be.

“Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Goethe knew it’s not easy, building a terrarium to house all those scampering little idea lizards.

My artist-child mind brings ’em to me while I’m stuck doing the most mundane activities. But I guess it’s kind of a fair trade, considering how much I love playing with that terrarium.

And once the idea lizards are free to be themselves within their new home (i.e. within my stories), my inner artist-child concedes that keeping them cooped up in her pockets wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun, after all.

___________________________

And you? Where and when do you do your best thinking?

Does your mind hand you ideas you’d rather not touch too often?

What do you do with those?

What’s your lizard?

I Dream, Therefore I Write — And Video!

Eeeeeeeeeek! Scariness! My first ever video blog post!

If you’ve been attentive (and, of course, you have been), you know that I’ve recently been blogging about the time I gave up writing. That time of my life is closely connected with my dreams — actual, nighttime dreams, not daydreams or wishes — so I knew I needed to share my thoughts about all of that at some point.

Thanks to inspiration from El Edwards and Judy Dunn, I’ve also wanted to try my “hand” (i.e. face and voice?) at video blogging. So here’s the result. Happy viewing!

I’m Writing About Demons

Greetings, my dears! For my next trick, I’d like to tell you a little bit about my current work-in-progress (WIP). Earlier this week, I mentioned that I’m writing a paranormal fantasy novel. It is, as yet, untitled, so I’m bringing my formidable, literary creative powers to bear upon the title challenge and calling this book Demons 3. Boo-yah.

“So, O Most Formidably Literary Creative One,” you might be thinking, “what does the numeral 3 denote in the title of your work-in-progress?”

Saltmarch, Where The Demons Live

Ahh, my dear Questioning Ones, I am so glad you asked. The “3” in Demons 3 denotes the fact that this WIP is the third in a trilogy I am, thus far, calling “Demons of Saltmarch.” This trilogy consists of:

  • Colors of Deception (projected publishing date: June/July 2011)
  • Shadows After Midnight

and, of course,

  • Demons 3.

The Saltmarch trilogy (hmm…maybe that should be Saltmarch Trilogy — and here you’re witnessing how a writer revises aspects of her work even as she discusses it) had its genesis in vacuuming and vivid dreaming. One night in early 2008, I dreamed that I was standing in the center of a grated bridge. Facing me at one end of the bridge was this human-shaped figure with its jaw unhinged like a snake’s. A ring of darkness came out of its mouth and spread out toward me. Terrified, I knew that the ring should not touch me. I ended up on my hands and knees, scrambling to get away.

But in dreams, we never can get away, can we?

The dark ring engulfed me, and the whole world turned the “color” of TV static. I blinked and was in a different place, surrounded by people who didn’t quite look like people. Somehow, I knew they were demons. They’d used their powers to make this place look like my childhood home. But even though it looked familiar, I knew there was something wrong with it. I knew it wasn’t real. And I knew that the demons called it “Saltmarch.” Then, the dream ended.

Now, some people would have awakened from that dream and felt residual fear and confusion the rest of the day. They would have called it a nightmare and shuddered whilst relating it to friends over mid-morning coffee. Me? I got all excited, wrote it down, and decided it would make a great fantasy novel. If only I could come up with characters for it.

Fast-forward a few months, and I’m vacuuming my hallway, lamenting to myself that I can’t hear my favorite INXS CD over the jarring noise from this behemoth of a dust-sucking apparatus I’m shoving around my home. And, out of nowhere, the thought pops into my head:

What if one of the demons is obsessed with the music of INXS?

I don’t know how these things work. I don’t know why INXS triggered the beginnings of a character description for a character in a story that consisted of nothing but a rather odd dream sequence. All I know is that two months later, during NaNoWriMo 2008, a whole story came pouring out of me, and that dream sequence turned into one of the last scenes leading up to the climax.

That story became Colors of Deception, and it revolves around a young lady named Holly Idaho. Holly’s a sophomore at a Christian university. She’s got her problems: boy issues, tension with her girlfriends, doubts about her faith, an intense crush on the new music teacher, too much homework. Pretty standard stuff for a college student, right?

Until the demon with the INXS obsession shows up. And, as far as Holly is concerned, all hell breaks loose.

Colors of Deception is Holly’s story: how she deals with doubt, terror, love, lust, betrayal, and forgiveness. Her story is filled with the bizarre and the ordinary — a tale I hope will both fascinate readers and connect with them on a basic, I-know-how-that-feels level.

Shadows After Midnight picks up a few months after Colors ends. This second book in the trilogy is the story of Peter Townsend, who is Holly’s somewhat antisocial friend and doesn’t know that he shares a name with several famous people (and wouldn’t care, even if he did know). I won’t tell you much about Peter, because it would give away too much of the first book. But suffice it to say that Peter has a lot of arrogance to get out of his system (oh my word the boy’s got an ego, but I love him!)…and the demon who shows up to plague him has just the tricks to get him to make a mess he can’t clean up on his own.

The unfortunately untitled Demons 3 tells the story of Anne Waylock, another of Holly’s close friends. I feel like a mother hen playing favorites among her baby chicks…but I almost want to say that Anne is my favorite of the three. She’s snarky, unapologetically obnoxious, borderline blasphemous, and deeply, heart-breakingly sensitive. Her external challenges seem more threatening than those Holly and Peter face in their stories — and her internal challenges are far more subtle. I think. I’m not even through Draft 1 of her story yet, so I’m still getting to know her. There are aspects of her that haven’t crystallized yet.

So, that’s my paranormal fantasy trilogy in a shelle du nut. When I talk to people about it, I refer to it as “young adult (YA) paranormal,” but in some ways, I feel this is misleading. No, it’s not “adult” fiction, but if I had kids, I’m not sure I’d want my kids under age 15 to read it. On the other hand, I’m hoping the books will appeal to the wide audience of adults out there who’ve been devouring so much YA fiction over the past decade or so. (Some of you are reading this. 😉 )

Either way, I am so excited to get these books into the hands of readers, I can hardly stand it!