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Posts Tagged ‘Characters’

MaryHolland.JPG Thanks to author Mary Holland for stopping by and sharing the inspiration for her speculative novel and a bit about how she built her fantasy world. Enjoy!

In With The Out Crowdby Mary Holland

In the world of The Bone Road, it’s hard to have a living baby. The Deom people are divided into two moieties, or tribes, called Wid and Zeosil. Babies live if a Wid and a Zeosil mate with each other. If they are careless or unthinking or criminal, and a Wid gets pregnant by another Wid, or a Zeosil by a Zeosil, the baby will be a Shun. Shun are infertile, and often do not survive their birth. It’s a tough world and people have to make hard choices so their society can survive.

I came up with Deom society quite easily. When I was growing up in a working class town on the East Coast, the big division in my high school was between the Whites and the Italians. I was a ‘half-breed’ with an Italian last name, a non-Italian mother, and not a member of the Catholic Church. However, my last name barred me from acceptance as a ‘White’, so I had early experience as a member of the out crowd, i.e., Anyone Not Us.

The out-group gives the in-group a sense of belonging, importance, and meaning. In fact, the in-group cannot survive without having people to exclude and look down on. If everyone belongs equally, the classifications are meaningless and will cease to exist. Humans are very good at creating new in/out groups as the old ones lose importance: White/Black, Arab/Jew, gay/straight, popular/unpopular, it’s an endless list. Dividing people between Italian and White sounds ridiculous now. I can only hope that, with time, the other divisions become just as ridiculous. But we are all human beings, members of the same biological species, and a definition of species is the ability to cross breed. Miscegenation is not a biological term.

When I was creating the Deom of The Bone Road, I took this one step further. What if groups of humans couldn’t interbreed? What if the pairing of a Catholic and a Jew was biologically impossible? Or, inverting the idea, what if a Catholic and a Jew had to interbreed for humanity to survive? What kind of world would that be? How would the society be structured, how would they have children, how would they live? I always knew the world would be pre-industrial, certainly pre-technology, so how would a woman know if a man was a safe or proper mate for her? I thought about magic, which led me to divination, and then to the idea of a ‘divvy’, which is another word for fortuneteller. At that point I had my main character, Rhona, and her special skill.

World building in fantasy is wonderful for playing with concepts. If I have a major premise and I am logically consistent I can work out the rules of the world and structure my plot around them.

As I’ve said, The Bone Road is a tough world. The Deom don’t believe in a life after death, and there is no mourning. When a Deom dies, their body goes into the Road and their name is never spoken. The Deom grieve, but they grieve in private. Rhona brings bad luck down on herself when she mentions her dead mother’s name, and she knows she deserves it for breaking custom. She achieves her purpose, but she also lives with the consequences of her act.

Rhona is a powerful woman. Deom society is matriarchal, because property inheritance and moiety affiliation go through the women, so Rhona has never lived in a subordinate position. The idea makes no sense to her. I enjoyed writing her a great deal, and I tried very hard to present her as a woman who has strong feelings, a sense of honor, and no sentimentality.

Mary Holland Bone Road I tell the story of The Bone Road through three points-of-view: Rhona, her son Jak, and the girl Ani. My favorite character is someone the reader sees only from the outside: Matteo the Shun. This was deliberate, because Matteo is an enigmatic figure, and extremely reserved. I wanted the reader to see him as the other characters see him. Rhona tells her son part of Matteo’s story, but even she, who knows him best, only knows a part. Matteo is the ultimate outsider. He is a Shun, unable to breed, and traditionally despised by both Wid and Zeosil. He is also estranged from other Shun because he insists on living with Wid and Zeosil. And finally, he is a moneylender and extremely wealthy, so he picks up an extra ration of hatred from the less fortunate.

Because Matteo is such an excluded and despised figure, he has no allegiance or loyalty to any group. His vision of Deom society is clear and unencumbered. He relates to each person he meets as an individual. He judges them by their actions, not their status in society. And because he is an outsider, he’s the first to notice the disruptions and odd changes happening in the south and to understand the consequences. That’s the power and the great value in being an outsider: your mind is not locked into one way of thinking.

The Bone Road is a complete story in one volume, not part of a trilogy. But I might do another stand-alone story set in that world, and some of the same characters might be involved. A great deal of Matteo’s back-story wasn’t told, and he is, as I said, the type of character who sticks with you. After I finish my current, and new, project, I might revisit Rhona and Matteo and the Bone Road. Anything can happen. It is fantasy, after all.”

For more information about Mary Holland, visit her website: http://www.mary-holland.com To buy her books: Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/The-Bone-Road-ebook/dp/B007W6RDBY/ Smashwords (epub): https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/153422 Lulu(paperback): http://www.lulu.com/shop/mary-holland/the-bone-road/paperback/product-20733757.html

Thanks again to Mary Holland for her guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, blogs from me, and Readers & Writers Recipes. Have an empowered day! – Vonnie

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Jaleta's CC Oatmeal Cookies The recipe for these delicious cookies comes from science fiction writer, Jaleta Clegg. These cookies are perfect for a book club or readers’ group get-together or for the kids when they get home from school. Like last week’s Oven Baked Chicken Bruschetta, Jaleta’s Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies get great reviews. And now, a few words from Jaleta and the recipe:

Have you ever put cooking scenes in your stories? I can’t stop myself. I love cooking and I don’t see that changing for people in the far future, when my stories tend to happen. Picture it: a starship flying through the cosmos, the crew gathered in the galley cooking dinner. I have a thing for RVs. I guess it shows in my books. Right now I’m channeling the Winnebago scenes from Space Balls and the kitchen scenes from Firefly.

I’ve got a main character that loves to cook. It’s her way to destress and connect. She loves playing with new spices and ingredients. Jasyn understands the role food plays in society. It not only nourishes our bodies but our souls.

I can picture Jasyn making a batch of these wonderful cookies in her tiny kitchen on her ship. I can also picture the other crew members – Dace and Clark – devouring them, just like my kids in my kitchen.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

3/4 c. butter

1 c. brown sugar

1/2 c. white sugar

2 eggs

1/2 t. salt

2 t. baking soda

1 t. vanilla

1 c. whole wheat flour

1/2 c. white flour

2 1/2 c. quick cooking oatmeal

2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 c. dried cranberries (optional)

Cream butter and sugars together. Add eggs, salt, baking soda, and vanilla. Beat until very light and fluffy. Add flour, oatmeal, and chocolate chips. Stir until well mixed. Set aside while the oven preheats. Or cover and refrigerate for several hours. (Letting the dough rest allows the oats to absorb moisture and makes the cookies softer.)

Heat oven to 375°F. Spray cookie sheets with non-stick spray. Scoop cookie dough in one inch balls onto sheets. Bake for 9 minutes. Let cool for a couple of minutes before removing from the sheets. Makes 5 – 6 dozen cookies.”

biosmall Jaleta Clegg loves writing what she knows – science fiction and cooking with the occasional bit of silly horror thrown in for laughs. She loves concocting dishes with bizarre names such as Chilled Monkey Brains, Radioactive Dog Spit, and Snake Surprise. New spices and strange vegetables are common on her table. Her children have learned to taste before complaining. You never know what you might enjoy until you try it. Find recipes on her blog every Thursday: http://jaletaclegg.blogspot.com and links to her writings at http://www.jaletac.com

Thanks again to Jaleta Clegg for sharing her recipe. Appearing Monday on Whimsical Words: a guest post from speculative writer, Jennifer Allis Provost.

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I love my readers, and so does my publisher. So, for a limited time, Cold Moon Press is offering its readers one of my stories, Blame it on the Trees, as a FREE eBook. Now, let me tell you how this eBook came to be…

Last January, I thought The Greener Forest, my 1st fantasy short fiction collection was complete. But Editor Katie had another idea: “You’ve got trees and tree images in all of these tales. I want one more story where the trees are a character that interacts with the rest of the characters.”

Yikes! Trees as a character. So, I thought about what sort of person trees might care about. I’d used fairies, a Brown Man, she-elf, applehead gnomes, swan maidens, mermaid, dragon, Mud people, and other nature spirits in the book’s stories already. I needed someone different. While leafing through A World of Baby Names [T. Norman] trying to find a name for a main character that might spark a tale, I spotted, Berg: “Directly derived from berg (mountain).” Woot! I’d found my name and my Faerie race: a giant.

I decided to write against type, and make my giant kindhearted. But where would a giant go to interact with others and why? My answers: a zoo, because he likes to hunt animals – with a camera, of course. What kind of job would a giant have? That’s easy – one where he counts gold, or in this case, money. So I made Berg an accountant. Besides being tall with big hands and feet, I also gave him the “typical” large, scary, yellow teeth readers associate with giants. But Berg is embarrassed by his ugly teeth.

Next, I need someone who chooses to interact with a giant. A damsel in distress seemed a reasonable choice. My damsel, Shelly, is a woman babysitting her nephew. Since opposites attract, I made her short and good with words rather than numbers.

And here’s where the trees come into the tale. From placing a wire-like rootlet on the path so the  stroller’s wheel gets tangled, to pushing up the sidewalk with a root and tripping Shelly, to shoving a teen into the grizzly bear pen – the zoo’s trees play an active role in the love story. And, yes, it is a love story.

blame it on the trees cover When Editor Katie suggested giving away one of my stories as a gift to my readers, Blame it on the Trees seemed a natural. Now, I needed cover art. I’d done a watercolor (with a few inks & a touch of acrylics) called Poet’s Moon which seemed perfect. A small square of the painting had been used by Scifaikuest as the cover art for their February 2012 issue, but over half of the painting remained unpublished. That half was filled with trees in the pinks and purples one often associates with Valentine’s Day.

So – a belated Happy Valentine’s Day to my readers. Visit http://tinyurl.com/vonnies-blame-trees-story for your FREE copy (or enjoy it as the last story in The Greener Forest should you like to read more magical tales). There is a time limit on the FREE, but I hope to have the eBook available for those who want a quick read for quite some time.

And should you decide to read either Blame it on the Trees or The Greener Forest, I hope you’ll take the time to “Like” the book and give it a brief review. Thanks, readers. I really do appreciate your support.

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I was invited to participate in Darkover this past Thanksgiving weekend in Timonium, Maryland. Wow! What a wonderful con. I was part of several panels including substituting at the last moment on the “Animal Sidekicks” panel for a couple of writers who had planes/rides to catch.

I love adding animal sidekicks in my stories. Per the advice of Dr. John Flynn, who taught “Writing Science Fiction” as part of my Masters in Professional Writing Degree Program & served as my advisor for 2 Independent Studies on writing science fiction & fantasy prose, I try my hardest to avoid cats, dogs, and horses. Now, it’s not because I don’t love cats, dogs, and horses — but rather because they’re the most common animals used.

 So what critters have I used as sidekicks or important characters in my stories? In “Assassins,” I use a singing opossum – it’s genetically altered, hence the singing and glow-in-the-dark eyes. In “Birdling,” a robin is an important character. I must admit to using a one-eyed dog and three-legged cat in “Appleheads,” but they’re really a goblin and bogle, so I’m not sure if that counts. In “Toad,” I use a toad. (That was hard to guess, I know!) In “Henkie’s Fiddle,” a calf-shaped buggane is a sidekick. In “Weathermaker,” a Chinese dragon has a starring role. In a novel I’m pecking away at, I use rats and pigeons as sidekicks. I’m also currently at work on several stories where owls are either a sidekick or necessary character. Then, there’s this tale where telepathic beetles bond with the protagonist…

The advice I gave on the Darkover panel (with a nod to Dr. Flynn) is still good — “Think outside the box.” Cats, dogs, and horses make fabulous sidekicks and characters, but so do spiders (EB White’s “Charlotte’s Web”), cockroaches (Suzanne Collins’ “The Underland Chronicles”), beavers (CS Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia”), polar bears (Philip Pullman’s “The Golden Compass”), snakes (JK Rowling’s “Harry Potter”), and even trees (JRR Tolkien’s Treebeard in “Lord of the Rings”).

I think readers like to read about cats, dogs, and horses — but they probably would like a pinch of emu, lizard, and lion, too.

Till next I blog: Happy reading! Happy writing! And thanks so much to the folks at Darkover for inviting me.

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Well, shiver me timbers! Once again, September 19th has arrived, and it’s time to celebrate the roguishly fun Talk Like a Pirate Day. The official website offers a new sing-along this year in addition to their usual pirate fare: http://talklikeapirate.com For those of a more delicate disposition, might I suggest viewing the options listed for kids after you enter the site.

Why such interest in pirates? Nowadays, we have Johnny Depp and Disney’s Captain Jack Sparrow to thank for renewed interest in these scallywags of the seas – but long before the films arrived in theaters, pirates had captured our imaginations. William Kidd, Black Bart, Henry Morgan, Blackbeard, and others seemed to live a life filled with swashbuckling escapades. They sailed to exotic lands, captured treasures, drank a lot of rum, and had romantic encounters with beautiful women.

And speaking of women, there were a few ladies who cast aside their frilly gowns, dressed in male garb, and pursued the life of a sailor. In the 17th and 18th century, there are records of female pirate captains including Charlotte de Berry, Mary Read, and Anne Bonny. But like their male counterparts, their life of adventure ended badly.

 After a shipwreck, Charlotte’s husband lost the “drawing of straws” selection process, and was eaten by his starving shipmates. Once they were rescued, Charlotte chose to join her dead husband, and jumped from the ship into the sea. Mary Read and Anne Bonny were eventually captured, tried as pirates, and sentenced to hang. They avoided the noose by claiming they were pregnant. Mary died in prison. As for Anne Bonny – she vanished. The romantic in me likes to believe a guard fell in love with her and let her escape, or another pirate was so smitten with her independent nature that he risked all to set her free.

And who can forget Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island? As a teen, I read the novel and saw the movie. The book introduced me (and many other young readers) to: “Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest…” (Chapt.1) and “Pieces of eight!” shouted out by Long John Silver’s parrot, Captain Flint (Chapt. 27). The beauty and wildness of the exotic locales visited by pirates was aptly captured by Stevenson, especially in this bit from Chapter 27: “Suddenly a kind of brightness fell upon me. I looked up; a pale glimmer of moonbeams had alighted on the summit of the Spy-glass, and soon after I saw something broad and silvery moving low down behind the trees, and knew the moon had risen.”

But it was the ambiguity of Long John Silver that I liked best in Treasure Island. (Writers take note!) Despicable and likeable, he was the forerunner of Captain Jack Sparrow and his comrades. Robert Louis Stevenson introduced his readers to a most complicated character. And like the charming and deadly, Long John Silver, pirates are to be scorned and envied:

“’John Silver,’ he said, ‘you’re a prodigious villain and imposter – a monstrous imposter, sir. I am told I am not to prosecute you. Well, then, I will not. But the dead men, sir, hang around your neck like mill-stones.’

‘Thank you kindly, sir,’ replied Long John…” (Chapter 33)

The words most often associated with these privateers gone wild: independent, romantic, freedom, and adventure – are, I think, the reason we find the pirate life so appealing. Most of us value freedom and independence. Many of us crave adventure – though more tame than battling opposing pirates with knives, axes, pistols, cannons, and machetes. Lots of us daydream about the romantic life at sea – minus, of course, the scurvy, worm-ridden food, appalling living conditions, and violence.

But let’s set aside the reality of trials and hangings, torture and peg legs, and poor hygiene in the extreme – at least for one day a year, we can shout “Aarrgh!” for no reason. We can relax the  workaday-world seriousness, and greet our office mates with an “Ahoy, mateys” rather than the usual “Good morning.” And we can thumb through a copy of Treasure Island dreaming of adventure.

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 After a long wait, I finally have in hand my copy of While The Morning Stars Sing – An Anthology of Spiritually Infused Speculative Fiction. Congratulations to editor Lyndon Perry for this big (over 250 pages), beautiful book. The cover art, Transcendence, by Lance Red is even more powerful in-person than on-line. I can’t wait to sit quietly tonight and begin to read the stories and poems that others have written.

But wait — isn’t the 1st thing I should do is re-read my story, Blood of the Swan? Actually, no! I’ve already spent hours writing the dark fantasy story, then hours editing it after in-put from my writing group’s comments (thanks Katie & Michelle). I re-read it, scanning for typos, before I sent Blood of the Swan to the Writers of the Future Contest where it earned an Honorable Mention. Next, I made a few more revisions before sending it out to prospective publishers. ResAliens Press was the 2nd place I sent the tale to, and upon seeing this anthology — I know it is where the story was meant to find a home.

And isn’t finding the right publication for your story the trick? First, you need to find that editor who connects with your characters, recognizes the merit in the tale, and has the space for your 5,000 words or so. Then, the book or magazine has to make it through the publication process. Sadly, many wonderful small presses fall by the wayside, their projects incomplete and unpublished. And finally, you hope that readers will not only enjoy your story, but remember it once they’ve closed the book.

For memorable stories that stir an emotional response, stay with the reader, and maybe even cause him or her to think about their views on a part of life are the goal of most writers. Not an early bird, I suspect as I stay up late this evening reading the work of my co-contributors in While The Morning Stars Sing, I might witness the song of morning stars and summer moon as the bats wing, the owls call, and the grandfather clock chimes midnight.

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Balticon 2011 was a wonderful experience. On Friday, the publisher of The Greener Forest, Cold Moon Press, had a publisher’s presentation where Editor Katie did a fabulous job: http://coldmoonpress.com Cold Moon Press had so many cupcakes, cookies, and other goodies prepared for attendees, that I took the extras to the Broad Universe Reading.

Broad Universe is an organization that supports women who write (and illustrate) science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Gail Z. Martin, D. Renee Bagby, Danielle Ackley McPhail, Roberta Rogow, Jean Marie Ward, Phoebe Wray & I each read an excerpt from our writing. It was a wonderful hour-long reading. For more information about BU: http://broaduniverse.org

On Saturday, I shared an early morning booksigning time with novelist Leona Wisoker, and invited her to read with me during my afternoon reading slot. (She kindly agreed, and shared a few pages of her 2nd novel, Guardians of the Desert). We followed friends, Katie Hartlove & Michelle D. Sonnier. Great fun & a nice audience. I also participated in an Artists & Publishers Small Press Round Table that was relaxed & informative. A group of us went to dinner afterwards, including Balticon regulars writers Grig “Punkie” Larson & Jhada “Rogue” Addams.

Sunday began early with a panel on heroes, a presentation by Dark Quest Books, and I had the opportunity to listen to a presentation by Robin L. Sullivan & the authors of Ridan Publishing. They’re quite an impressive group. Sunday was also the 2-hour Poetry Workshop. We made the attendees write, write, write – and invited the women in attendence to submit something to The Gunpowder Review http://gunpowderpenwomen.wordpress.com

On Monday, I managed to attend 2 more presentations that featured folks from Ridan Publishing. Robin was sick, but her authors did a great job. Look for me to apply some of the lessons I learned from them in the future. Also, I was the moderator for a panel on Cardboard Characters. And I got a few compliments on the maze I’d drawn for The BSFAN, the con’s program book.

Balticon was a fabulous place to network. It was friendly, there was an exchange of opportunities, and people were supportive. I got to meet fellow writers, readers & fans, and a few editors & publishers. I bought books by others, and folks bought a few of my books. And that’s what good networking is all about. Watch online for info on next year’s con chaired by Patti Kinlock: http://balticon.org

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