Thursday, February 14, 2019
Let's talk about this mysterious saint. The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. One legend says that Valentine was a priest, serving in third-century Rome. The Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage for young men contended single men made better soldiers than those with families. Consequently, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine realized the injustice of this edict and secretly continued performing marriages for young lovers. When this defiance was discovered, Valentine was put to death.According to another story, an imprisoned Valentine sent the first valentine greeting to a young girl with whom he'd fallen in love - possibly the jailor’s daughter who visited him while he was imprisoned. Before his death, he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” which we still use today.
Thursday, February 7, 2019
And when you look at something like historical romance and romantic science fiction, there’s a whole secondary language of world-building that brings the reader into the right era.
I grew up reading the great gothic romances of Victoria Holt and Phyllis A. Whitney, and at the same time, I was gobbling up fantasies by Piers Anthony and Anne McCaffrey. Mary Stewart bridged both of those worlds for me with her gothic romantic mysteries and her Arthurian Merlin novels. And each of those genres had their own unique language. A reader who picked up one of Piers Anthony’s Xanth novels would expect the language of fantasy, somewhat archaic and elevated language, but also the wry, tongue-in-cheek humor Anthony is known for. If instead, the reader found contemporary, intimate first-person with a preponderance of internal monologue and anxiety, it would be jarring.
For a writer, switching between such genres can be equally discombobulating. My first novels were fantasy with romantic elements (with some erotic fantasy romance mixed in), followed by a series of contemporary paranormal romances. The switch in language from fantasy to contemporary required a little getting used to, but over the past few years of writing my Sisters in Sin series, I had almost forgotten my “native” language of fantasy. When I decided my latest book would be a return to that genre, it was like going back to basics for a language refresher.
My protagonists are also from different sides of the mote, so to speak: one raised as royalty and the other a commoner. For the two characters’ points of view, I chose to switch between first person and third person as a way of distinguishing their voices, but I also used different kinds of language for both of them. Aoife, the daughter of a queen, uses few contractions and a lot of longer, more flowery words to get around saying what she really means—even to herself, while Ygraine, my little rebel thief, sounds more modern and blunt, and usually says exactly what she’s thinking.
Aoife, for example, spends a lot of time pondering how her surroundings reflect her inner world:
Below me, Yliastr’s streets were as still and lifeless as their enchanted inhabitants. I whispered to myself what I remembered. “I am the daughter of a queen.” I could not recall her name, or even my own, but I remembered her face. Full of lines, heavy with the burden of rule but kind. “The Sylph are my sworn enemies.” The melancholy symphony of crickets and river frogs ought to offer a soft accompaniment to my words, carried on a saline breeze, but they were absent. If I remembered rightly, this land ought to be situated on the coast of a vast ocean, surrounded on three sides by water, but I could not smell the sea.
My Undine soul yearned for our element. This temporary lifting of the spell could not tell me the name of my realm—or whether this town in which I stood unsleeping was even a part of it, or if we had been taken far away—but my blood knew its source.While Ygraine tends to be a bit more pragmatic, noting the basic facts of the world around her:
Ygraine shivered and pulled her collar closer against a gust of wind howling down from the mountain. Here on the edge of the centers of commerce, among the rows of comfortable stone houses flanked with abundant gardens, lawmakers and patrons of the arts had once mingled with Yliastr’s intelligentsia. But those to whom such terms might have applied no longer served a purpose under the sovereignty of the reigning monarch. Instead of warm and welcoming light spilling into the gardens and through their gates after dusk, dark holes now looked out upon the quiet streets. Inside the walled gardens, the bushes and flowerbeds, like the stately trees that lined the avenues, were skeletons painted in rime frost.
“Move along. Loitering is forbidden by the Ruling Hand.”
It was a sentence Ygraine had heard many times since the Ruling Hand had come to power. But this was the first time she’d heard it from a woman’s tongue. She had, in fact, encountered precious little from a woman’s tongue in any capacity for more months than she cared to count.
She turned her back to the lock she was picking and studied the owner of this unexpected voice. The woman was an officer of the highest rank, as evidenced by the gold braiding on the deep indigo blue of her dolman and pelisse and on the stiff indigo breeches. Silver-damasked hair, severely drawn back, accentuated an angular face from which a pair of eyes that could not settle on a truth between chestnut and olive regarded Ygraine with cool indifference. She belonged to the Undine.
When Ygraine didn’t move, the Undine’s hand did—on the hilt of her long knife. Ygraine’s gaze lingered on the exquisite fingers. What was an Undine woman of leisure, as evidenced by those well-kept hands, doing in the service of the Righteous Guard of the Ruling Hand?
“I said, move along.” The order was louder but with no more passion in it than in the ambiguous eyes. The Undine soldier had the mien and affect of a wind-up doll. A lovely, authoritarian wind-up doll. No, no. Scratch “lovely.” For fire’s sake. What in the name of Salamand’s flame was wrong with her?
“I have business here.” Ygraine nodded toward the gate as if her business were with it, an early evening meeting with a miniature portcullis of wrought iron.
Somehow, the two do eventually learn to speak the same language. And in the midst of all their court intrigue, rebellion, and layers of deception, they also have to find the right words to fall in love.
I’m still deep in revisions, trying to get it right. It’s a delicate balance trying to tie it all together—without showing the seams. But hopefully, by the time I’m done, I’ll be fluent in multiple languages.
Jane Kindred is the author of the Harlequin Nocturne series, Sisters in Sin, and the epic fantasy series The House of Arkhangel’sk, Demons of Elysium, and Looking Glass Gods. She spent her formative years ruining her eyes reading romance novels in the Tucson sun and watching Star Trek marathons in the dark. She now writes to the sound of San Francisco foghorns while two cats slowly but surely edge her off the side of the bed.
Monday, February 4, 2019
|Creative Commons photo courtesy of- sander-wehkamp-532443-unsplash.jpg|
Plot Twist Straight Ahead
Everybody Loves a Grandma
Enough of the Everyday
Can You Name a Book, or a Movie, with an Awesome Plot Twist?
Saturday, February 2, 2019
I've been whiling away the winter on my blog with a serial story--"A Cold Spring." Episodes 15 and 16 are below. We are rushing toward the conclusion, but you can catch up with previous episodes HERE. (You'll find a Groundhog Day present there, too. *Hint: Two Bonus Episodes.)
“I see why they call a group of crows a murder,” mutters Mayebelle. “If I could get my hands on them, I’d wring their necks.”
She tosses a clump of mud at the impudent birds. The projectile falls to earth with a soggy splash, stirring up the flock. They wheel and kite, screaming epithets and curses with renewed vigor.
One particularly large and particularly vocal crow dives at Mayebelle, raking her head with sharp talons. Another tries the same with me, but I send a spark of green magic into his feathers. Maddock’s old fire spell smolders in the soft down beneath the coarse plumage. The crow retreats hurling curses at me from the safety of the thick fir trees.
“Let’s get inside the croft before they come back.” Mayebelle fingers the scratch on her head, limping toward the door. “The devil’s in all animals today. Even Pyewacket refused to eat a perfectly good bit of baked chicken. He snaps with static every time I touch him.”
Pyewacket the black cat watches us from the windowsill. His amber eyes focus on something behind me. In a fluid motion, he rises on his toes. White teeth flash and black fur fuzzes to spiky heights.
A flutter of feathers near my ear and sharp claws on my shoulder bring me up short. A crow--not the pushy young one who attacked Mayebelle--but an old crow with notched wings and rheumy eyes perches on my shoulder.
“Stand still, Allium,” cries Mayebelle. “I’ll fetch the besom and make him regret the day he visited our garden.” She disappears inside the croft.
The crow’s claws bite into the meaty part of my arm, but he’s standing on only one foot. He clutches something in the other. I hold out my hand, coaxing him to release his burden. He winks a bright bird eye and drops an object onto my open palm.
“I bring you this in remembrance of one who saved my nest many years ago.” The bird speaks slowly, making sure I understand. “A La Croix he was. You have his magic.”
Before Mayebelle returns with the broom, he flaps his moldering wings and soars out of sight.
I squeeze my fingers around the crow’s gift. I don’t have to look at it to know what I hold.
On the night Lucia and Maddock disappeared, I’d put it on the table in front of me. Through that last dinner, I enjoyed the dark mystery of the witch stone, felt the subtle pull of its magnetic aura.
When Lucia appeared, Maddock hurried me out of the castle before I had time to grab it. That’s the last I saw of it.
“Allium, you can’t go.” Mayebelle flattens herself against the door as if she means to stop me with bodily force.
“That stone was inside the castle, Mayebelle—Inside.” I jam a blanket into my worn duffle bag along with underwear and woolen socks.
“It’s such a long way, and you won’t be able to travel quickly. Not in your condition.”
“I can be in Highmoor Valley in four days.” I pick up a sweater and push it into the bag.
“We don’t know what might be out there. Beyond the boundary.” Mayebelle casts a fear-filled eye out the window. “Maddock would come here—if he could.”
“He may be hurt. He may need help.”
“And just what are a cripple and a pregnant woman going to do about that?”
After Mayebelle found me babbling on the road, we lingered in Highmoor Valley for weeks––hoping the castle would pop into existence again. At last, Mayebelle convinced me to return with her to her home. I had just enough sense left to lay a protective boundary just beyond the fringe of trees encircling her plot of land. Neither of us has ventured beyond it since.
I always intended to go back. As little Petunia, Lavender, or Felicity grew, I abandoned the idea of returning until she was born.
The witch stone simmers in my hand, warm and pulsing with energy. I can’t wait any longer. I string it with a jute cord and slip it over my head. The stone nestles between my breasts.
“I’m going, Mayebelle. You don’t have to come. I know how hard it is for you to go . . .outside. I understand.” I settle the stiff woolen poncho over my shoulders and hoist the duffel bag.
“What if the baby comes while you’re on the road?”
“I’ll be back before then.” I waddle out the door, muffling the raw spring wind with a scarf around my face. Little Abbie or Betty or Celeste taps softly beneath my rib cage––encouragement, I think.
The sun is already westering, but I have to get started. Before I reach the gate, Mayebelle’s hoarse voice calls from the door of her cozy croft.
“Alright, you stubborn gobshite. You can’t go alone. Wait while I pack. You’ve run off without provisions and I’ll have to leave food for Pyewacket.”
To my over excited senses, Mayebelle wastes precious time. She moves as slowly as sap while I dance with impatience.
“I’m not waiting. You can catch up.”
The garden gate, damp and swollen, refuses to open. I yank it with both hands, suddenly desperate to escape this safe, stagnant place. Why did I delay? What if I’m already too late?
The gate opens with a creak of wet wood and I do my best to hurry along the gloomy, rain-drenched road. The gate latch snaps behind me and padding footsteps grow louder.
Mayebelle catches up to me easily, despite her twisted, ice-burned legs. She limps to my side and puts a supporting hand under my arm. “At least I won’t slow you down. You can’t go any faster than I can.”
I’m glad the scarf hides my face. I would hate for her to see how happy I am she’s with me––how relieved I won’t be alone when I look down on Highmoor Valley once again.
A black crow rides the cold wind beneath the lowering clouds. His harsh cry, distant but clear, falls with the mist of rain.
“Hurry,” he calls. “Time is changing.”
Friday, February 1, 2019
I didn't intend to write a children's book. Until I shared it with my daughter (a middle-school teacher), I thought I was writing a Young Adult novel. She said, no, it's middle grade (ages 9 -12). Huh? Groan. I didn't know anything about MG stories.
So off I went online to read samples of MG books. Holy smoke! She was right. The sound, the adventure, the characters. Middle Grade. I did more research, looking at other stories that my grandkids (ages 11 and 9) read. Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus series. J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter. Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. Say what? The Hobbit?
That's when it hit me. When I taught sixth grade, I read A Wrinkle in Time and The Hobbit to my students. (If my teaching days weren't so far behind me, I would've read Riordan's books to those kids.) I've read the Percy Jackson series, I loved the Harry Potter books. I did know MG stories.
As I reread Rescuing Mara's Father, in preparation to sending it off to my editor, I recognized the elements that made it a story that would appeal to that age group. The ages of the characters (16, 15, 11), friendships, camaraderie, high stakes, a life-death adventure. I'd instinctively written a Middle Grade story.
At last, a book my older grandkids could read. They know I'm a writer. They've "approved" my covers. They also know they have to be older to read my books. Now, they won't have to wait so long.
Because Rescuing Mara's Father is still a work-in-progress, here's the tentative blurb:
Every weekend, I share snippets from Rescuing Mara's Father with the Weekend Writing Warriors. Pop on over to my blog tomorrow to read the next snippet.