Friday, March 29, 2013

Points of Inspiration

The other day I wrote about how music inspires writing and today I want to focus on other muse-ish sources and mainly those that prompted me to write Always Me.

The story basically started with three things:

1. The Life Aquatic by Steven Zissou
2. My husband and I making violent threats to each other while bringing in the groceries.  Most couples share romantic declarations or whisper sweet nothings - my husband and I plot.  It's how we show we care.
3. This photo below:

This is Tatiana Romanov.  She was the second daughter of the last Tsar of Russia.  I’ve always had a sort of morbid curiosity when it comes to the Romanov family.  It’s a strange and tragic story that, only until recently was shrouded in mystery and conspiracy.  But left behind from these haunting lives is so much evidence—letters, furniture, clothing, jewelry, and countless photographs. 

Old black and white photos creep me out.  But I’m drawn to them like a crowd to a crash.  I study them with a frown because I feel like they could at any moment turn into a ghost story.  And everyone seems so sad and tormented in them.  This one in particular struck me.  It rooted itself deep in my psyche.  It’s her expression, right?   She’s this willowy, delicate beauty with such a stern, unabashed stare.  I wanted her to be a character.  I wanted to create a story for her that I could live in and be a part of.  I wanted to spend just a little more time with her.  And that’s where groceries and a Wes Anderson movie come in.

In “The Life Aquatic with Steven Zissou” Bill Murray’s character is married, though estranged to Angelica Huston’s character.  They’d been living apart but come together and have this undeniable connection and chemistry.  They just can’t get along.  And in one of those moments where they don’t want to be away from each other, but can’t stop bickering, Angelica Huston’s character tells Bill Murray’s, “We’re doomed to be together.” 

One bright, Texas afternoon as my husband and I were bringing in the groceries, we were making our usual, playful threats on each other’s lives.  He with his usual, “I’m gonna throttle you,” and me with my, “I’m going to stab you in the throat.”  (No need to call the police – we really do love each other, but I’m not romantic at all, I can’t do the sappy love declarations.  We get a kick out of this.  It’s fun for us.)  And after him wondering how we live with each other, I quoted to him, “We are doomed to be together.”  And there blossomed in my mind the story of two people who fall in love, but then act so atrociously towards each other, both irredeemable so that when they do kill each other, they are doomed to do so again and again and again.  Until they can—if they ever can, learn to forgive and repent for their behavior.  And that was my opportunity to create a longer life for Tatiana Romanov.  To share the world with her a little longer and give her the chance to fight for her life.

Eventually I’ll publish the prequel to Always Me, titled Inheritance of Storms.  The title comes from a Byron poem, Epistle to Augusta, and I think it’s well suited for Xander and Nicky’s story.  The stanza reads:
If my inheritance of storms hath been
In other elements, and on the rocks
Of perils, overlooked or unforeseen,
I have sustained my share of worldly shocks,
The fault was mine; nor do I seek to screen
My errors with defensive paradox;
I have been cunning in mine overthrow,
The careful pilot of my proper woe.

In honor of this post, I’m currently listening to “Photograph” by Weezer.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Queen of Arèthane Excerpt: Facing Dragons

 “Come with me,” Karawyn ordered, grabbing Emily’s arm and dragging her behind as she marched down the palace halls.  For a fleeting moment, Emily was reminded of the last time Karawyn had dragged her through these grounds, nearly breaking her arm, as the Elf Queen submitted to magical orders.
“Where are we going?” Emily pulled her arm free and hurried to keep up.
“You’re getting dressed, properly, and we’re going to pay someone a long due visit.”
Two servants pulled open Karawyn’s chamber doors as she slipped between.  Inside several elven attendants waited.  One held a long gown made of shimmery pale blue velvet. 
“Who?” Emily eyed the attendants with a frown.
“Don’t worry about that right now.” Karawyn nodded to the attendants who then began undressing Emily.
“Hey!” Emily complained as one unbuttoned her top and another attacked her sneakers, pulling them off as Emily’s balanced jostled. “Why do I have to wear…this?” She scowled at the heavy gown before her eyes grew wide when her bra was slipped off.  Cheeks burning, she covered her chest with her arms.  Karawyn sat on a bench, wearing her normal bored expression.
“Because it’s a formal visit we’re making.  Your human rags would be offensive.”
“Rags?” Emily repeated, but the word was muffled as the dress slipped over her head.  Her arms were pulled through the sleeves, ending in delicate silver embellishments just past her wrists.  The same design spanned the wide neck of the gown that rested just off her shoulders and clung tightly to her torso when buttoned.  Across her chest, the Star and Leafless Tree were stitched with similar, beautiful skill.
Once she was dressed, the attendants pulled her hair from its messy ponytail and with quick, nimble fingers began brushing and pulling the sides back into small braids, letting the rest fall across her shoulders.  When they were done, Emily glanced at her reflection in the mirror and thought she looked like one of those girls who visited comic book conventions dressed up as a character.  Only she was real.  Shaking her head, she turned to Karawyn.
“So what’s the rush?”
Karawyn stood up and left the room, Emily swishing after her in the long skirt.  As soon as her feet hit the stone floor, she frowned, having not realized the attendants had also placed and tied knee-high boots on her feet.
“This is our only real opportunity for now to make this visit.” Karawyn rushed down the winding staircase with an innate grace that Emily couldn't help noticing every time she moved. 
“Why?” Emily grew agitated at Karawyn’s coyness—she was normally so abrupt—as she gathered up her skirts to follow, hoping to not fall.
With a heavy sigh, Karawyn stopped and faced her.  “Because Aerath would not approve where we are going.  He would insist on coming, too, and quite frankly, his presence would do more harm than good.  So while he and Aelrah are out in the flatlands, we’re latching on to the opportune moment.  I’m perfectly capable of defending us, myself.”
She resumed her trek, pausing at the door only long enough to let another attendant secure a long, hooded cloak around her neck.  He slipped a similar one around Emily’s shoulders, its color a blue darker than midnight.
Once they were both astride horses, accompanied by a dozen guards clopping across cobbles before crossing a stone bridge, Emily asked, “Defend against what?”

Far away from the mountain hold of the palace, the horses seemed to fly, covering miles of ground at lightning speeds.  Emily had long ago grown accustomed to riding Arèthane horses; elegant beasts that seemed as fast and enchanted as their elven owners.
She knew why Karawyn brought her along.  Emily suspected the Elf Queen wanted to distract her from thoughts of Jarrad.  To probably distract herself from thoughts of Jarrad.  The time the Elders had decreed for his punishment had come and gone.  And still no Jarrad.
Distractions were welcomed.
Don't break down, don't break down, don't break down.
Emily glanced at the stony expressions of the elf riders within their group, untouced by emotion.  With a deep breath, she pushed the threat of tears back and continued on.
With the current climate of the land, the threat of Jabari’s army, and the burning villages, Emily worried for their safety as they traveled.  But the group seemed to move like the wind, slipping through forests and across meadows undetected.  They slowed only once the ground grew rockier, the horizon broken up by the large bodies of sharp, craggy mountains.  The air turned colder, her breath visible in small puffs.  Yet her cloak kept her warm without weighing her down.  More elfish magic.
The group found a path, small and threatening, leading along the side of a giant of a mountain.  Raising her face to the sky, Emily could not see its apex, hidden high above by clouds and its own height.  The sun had begun its afternoon descent and blazed its rays around the mountain’s side.  Squinting, Emily faced forward again, her grip tightening on the reins.  The path curved more sharply to their right, disappearing before a far off horizon.  And to her left solid ground stood miles away.  Her stomach in knots, Emily squeezed the horse with her legs and fought the urge to bury her face in his neck.
After what felt like a lifetime on the dangerous precipice, the path finally ended at a wide leveled off space.  There, what looked like the façade of a gothic castle had been cut out of the mountain within the opening of a giant cave.  Large stone doors were guarded on either side by men dressed in black leather, their faces covered by masks.  Each held a tall staff that had blades of fire on the end.  Something about them struck Emily as odd, something not quite right, but she didn’t want to get caught staring at them.
There was room on the portico for their entire group and the horses to fit.  They all dismounted with Karawyn leading the group to the entry.  One guard spoke.
“Welcome, Elf Queen.  What business do you seek of the Drakyth?”
“I wish to speak with Käärme,” Karawyn answered as she lowered her hood.  With the slightest of movements, she motioned for Emily to stand at her right.  Emily complied, lowering her own hood.  A fierce wind whipped her and Karawyn’s cloaks against their bodies, threatening to knock Emily off her feet.  It burned against her cheeks and brought tears to her eyes.
The guard’s gaze flickered over her and there she saw what she had not noticed before—what had seemed off about them.  Both had cat-like eyes; pupils long slits and irises that glowed bright yellow.
“You two may enter, but the rest may not.”  The guard nodded at the elf entourage.  The lead stepped forward and opened his mouth to speak, but Karawyn raised her hand, stopping him.
“Fine,” she agreed.
Stepping aside, the two guards drew the doors open, a slow process to move the heavy structures.  Behind them only darkness stood.  Though wary, Emily followed Karawyn in. 
They found themselves inside a great hall, as though inside the mountain had been hollowed out.  The roof was so high it hid in shadow, the walls the same.  They walked out on a stone bridge surrounded by a black void and before them a stone throne sat empty, guarded with two black-haired, pale-skinned young girls dressed in more black leather.
Halfway across the bridge, Karawyn stopped.  Emily frowned, wondering who or what they were waiting for.  But then she heard the deep whoosh above them, the shadows darkened by an even blacker shape until it swooped down before them, large leathery wings flapping.  Its cat-like eyes glowed yellow in the dark, sharp teeth gleaming as it hovered above. 
On a breath, Emily whispered, "A dragon."
An odd crackling noise echoed off the walls.  Before Emily could react, she heard a pop and then fire exploded from the beast's mouth.  Certain they were both dead, Emily cringed facing away as all around her vision was enveloped in flames. 
When she realized she wasn't burning and not in pain, Emily looked forward to see Karawyn with one hand raised, creating an invisible wall to protect them from the blaze. 
Then the fire died and the dragon dropped to the bridge, transforming in the process and as soon as he touched the ground, there was no longer a dragon, but a man.  Tall and pale with raven black hair his fierce beauty was punctuated by the yellow, cat eyes. 
He was also naked.
"Woah." Emily put up her hand to block the parts she felt inappropriate to see. 
One of the girls hurried to him, following as he marched toward Karawyn and Emily.  She tossed a long black robe around his shoulders that he further secured.
"Impressive, Sorceress Elf Queen," he said with a deep, hard voice.

Book 4 Hint

I'm currently working on Queen of Arèthane the fourth and final book of the Elves of Arèthane series and I have just one word for you to sum up what I'm currently writing...dragons.

Excerpt to come...

Monday, March 25, 2013

Music and Writing - or also titled GD it, Miley Cyrus!

Thanks to the below video of Miley Cyrus performing “Lilac Wine” in what she’s titled The Backyard Sessions, I have now become a Miley Cyrus fan.  Honestly, I was aware she was a singer, but had never heard her perform.  If she puts out more music like this, I’ll be her biggest fan.

This song, along with “Look What They’ve Done To My Song, Ma” and “Jolene” – an all-time favorite of mine, inspires ideas and scenes in my head every time I hear it.  It stirs me to write about cracked concrete front porches and those green, rusting metal chairs with the round backs.  Lemonade, singing cicadas, lightning bugs.  Sweating at twilight, walking barefoot in the grass.  Basically my childhood growing up in the South.

I guess as writers we should take inspiration anywhere we can find it; it is certainly preferable to sitting in front of the lap top, forcing myself to write.  And music is a huge inspiration – that’s why you now see playlists for books either on the author’s website or in the back of the paperback.  It's why "Sex On Fire" by Kings of Leon has popped up in nearly every Contemporary Adult book out there (fun fact: the band hates the song and didn't want it on the album.)  It’s one of the easiest ways to connect the emotion of the story to the emotions of the reader.  It gives a complete picture—a soundtrack.  And sometimes it’s just a song that births an entire novel.  I had “My Body is a Cage” by Arcade Fire on repeat while I wrote “Prince of Arèthane.”  In my head, I saw an entire music video/movie trailer playing along to that song. 

But that’s Arcade Fire…and Radiohead and VAST and Johnette Napolitano and Honey Honey.  Not Miley Cyrus.  Should it matter, if the music is good?  I guess not and don’t be surprised if you see a book sometime down the road set in a sleepy small town in Oklahoma about a girl who loves lemonade and banging on buckets to the rhythm of the cicadas.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

What I'm Reading: Sisters Red by Jackson Pierce

I'm currently almost finished with "Sisters Red" by Jackson Pearce and it has been the only book, it seems, to hold my focus right now.  I'm in the midst of a reading/writing ADD attack.  I can't seem to focus on any one thing long enough to finish it.  Even books that I've been waiting for so long for - like "Clockwork Princess" - can't hold my attention.  Unless the very first sentence can grab me, it's not going to.  So "Sisters Red" speaks for itself that I'm as far into as I am.  It's a very unique retelling of Little Red Riding Hood - a true modern retelling that doesn't seek to try too hard to be edgy like so many of the modern retellings do.  Told from the point of view of two sisters, it's exciting, different and a good read for anyone who has a sister.  That's cheesy, right?

Ms. Pearce also has a Hansel and Gretel retelling that I may check out too...

New Look!

Hi kids!
So as you can see, we're testing out a new layout for the site.  With other works down the road, I wanted this to be a place where you, lovely reader, may come to check out more about the worlds around the stories than just a big ad for them.  I think this look is calmer and more relaxing - I like it, and I hope you do, too.

What I'm hoping to bring you in the days to come is more insight into Arethane, as well as Xander and Nicky's world.  I also want to share with you what I'm currently working on, as I'm working on it.  I plan to offer small prequel novellas, some short stories featuring your favorite characters that can't be found in the books, as well as character bios/profiles, pictures and maybe a letter from one of the characters him/herself.

I hope to make these worlds as much a part of YOUR world - a fun place to which you may escape.

I also hope to post more - new year's resolution and all.  Keep me honest, kids!

Until the real soon next time...