Tag Archives: Sanctuary series

Javelin: a sharp, lethal weapon

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Javelin, Jelly’s story.

Javelin, book three in the Sanctuary series, is like all of the series, pure fantasy. The best part of writing fantasy is that you get to make things up. You get to play god in creating situations that could be, better yet, the way they should be and then you get to put characters you care about into those worlds and see what they do.

A writer’s attachment to their work should come from the investment they have in the ideas that work represents and from the affection/disgust they feel towards the characters living in that work.

The characters  live. If they don’t why read the book? There should be a point in a good book where the reader steps into the world and lives inside the head of at least one character. I know there are  books written without a single sympathetic entity included. I won’t invest  more than reading 25% of a book if I can’t find someone to” love”. The character may be flawed (all the better) beaten up like an old stuffed frog, but if there is a shred of something I can identify with, I’ll keep reading.

Writing a book is a series of choices. Every word is a choice, set in place like stones in the walls of places like Machu Pichu. No cement, no masonry, just precision and tension. Sound like a good book? It does to me. The plot should undulate like the earthquakes that shake and wiggle the high places and the words should be able to withstand the pressure. Ok, enough metaphor.

Machu picchu temple of the sun inside

Machu Picchu is over 560 years old. The walls were built without mortar, like a good book, built to stand the changes of time.

Words often get in the way. For me, there are times when I want to shape the story with my hands not my words. I want to paint the faces, show a movie of the actions and create a scent that would expose the motivations of the characters. I want to make it real.

I’m blessed and cursed. I can draw and paint but not with the skill I need communicate at the level I desire. I can write but I struggle with the same limitations. When one reader tells me that they get the character or the story, it means that the magic moment of connection has been achieved. Writing, like most things creative, is lonely, often a singular journey. The difference is the reader.

In Javelin the third book in the Sanctuary series the main characters are surrounded by walls of their own making. In self defense they keep others at a distance. The theme is that love conquers all, even broken hearts. Sound a little different from what you expect from high fantasy, well all fiction is fantasy. This series tells the old stories through the minds and actions of species nonhuman and human, characters ultimately not afraid to open their minds or hearts.

If you like to wonder what if, wander in Sanctuary for a while.

Overview: Javelin—Jelly Jones’ story. Follow the coming of age of Lunabel’s best friend. Jelly has the warrior spirit of of an Amazon princess and a heart that knows no gear for retreat.

 

The secret interview

This blog will be an imaginary conversation with the main character in my Sanctuary series. It is a way for me to learn about these characters and hopefully for you too.

LUnabel for pub

I’m here with Lunabel O’Hara, who has agreed to give us a short interview. Lunabel, you are a girl with a secret and a mission. Can be say your mission is secret too, Lunabel?

“What makes you think that? What you see is what you get. I’m an open book.”

I happen to know that you excel in keeping one secret. Tell us what event first took you in that direction. What made you decide to go undercover. (She is looking at me, deciding whether to respond or not).

“Your not real, right? So anything I tell you will be just between us? Am I crazy talking to a figment of my imagination?”

Well, I can’t promise that. But I can guarantee that your secret is safe with me and if someone reveals it in your world it won’t be me.

“I’m going to trust you, I have to trust someone. And since you don’t really exist I can talk to you. The first time I decided it wasn’t safe to be myself was at a very early age. I was three, as a matter of fact. I was in the living room of my parents house with my older sister Myra.”

Myra, your mother’s ‘little me’? She grins and a wicked twinkle in her eye changes her whole demeanor. She chuckles. It is a tripping sound like  a fox hopping  over snow, or petals falling in the breeze of autumn.

“Yeah, Myra used to be a pain. Well what happened is … I was humming and the floor started buzzing. My grandma’s brass plates started to rattle a bit. Myra freaked. She yelled for Mom. Mom ran into the room. I was transfixed by the motes in the air and how I could make them dance when I sang. So I hummed, laughed and hummed some more. Then I must have been particularly impressed by a shaft of light and all the motes to make merry with because I shrieked and blew out every window in the living room.

Long story short, Mom called me freak, Dad rescued me again and I learned that if I were going to make more love me, or at least be in the same room with me I better practice sound on my own time.

I have echoic hearing, which means I remember everything I hear forever and my voice has a range that goes higher and lower than the record holder in the Guinness book of records.

So, yeah, I have a secret. Secret is the only way I can get by and I don’t intend to give it up unless I have no choice. Mom is happier not knowing that I never outgrew my little peculiarity, and I’m in no hurry to relay the information to her.

Things would have gone along as usual if it hadn’t been for the storm and the disappearance of the faery . . .

Well we’ve run out of time, Lunabel thank you for stopping by. I promise I won’t share a word with your mother or anyone in your hometown. Thornhill is almost impossible to find and I know that makes the other secrets your keeping even more secure.

I don’t know what you’re talking about. Even the people in my head won’t leave me alone . . .

 

 

Branding Sanctuary, how to find your favorite series

What is branding, you ask. . .

Branding requires that your potential readers will be able to identify the genre of the series and will look for the other books in the series. In essence the series has developed a brand.

Writing a series is a whole level of magnitude beyond writing a book.  Not only do you have a story to tell, with characters that change during the story, you hope, but you also have to grow a series arc that must change over the course of several books. One book allows growth for characters within a snapshot of time. A series gives you the potential to create a comprehensive world where the characters and their context should also grow, over an era of time. Hopefully the end result is a unique place where the reader can escape.

One of the most important part in creating the mood for a series is the Cover. I design my own covers. I’m happy that I can and probably spend way too much time and energy on it. I think about it, I agonize over how to depict the characters, the stylistic approach I would take, whether to use specific images or abstract suggestions of the story. It takes me forever.

Then I worry about whether my ‘target market’, those readers who want to read high fantasy with young protagonists, will relate to the image.

Just as the first book in the Sanctuary series has taken  forever to complete, the cover has also gone through a long history of gestation. But a funny thing happened. As the story matured, the cover changed and when I got both of them to the place that felt right the next three books in the series have rushed to get out. I’m grabbing asphalt trying to keep up. And falling short.

The world I’m trying to create is taking over and I better hold on tight or get left behind. But it takes time.

Early cover of Grace Notes
First cover for Grace Notes

The cover, above, was developed from a 3D model. I thought I wanted to do this because I hoped, still do, to create an interactive version of the story, with animations. Something that is doable if you are working with wire frames and animation. This cover was created by putting a “skin” over a wire frame base. The advantage to this is that the frame remains essentially the same even when you turn it , displace parts of it, your final result is recognizable as the same character. This is a realistic looking character but I finally I discarded the cover because I wanted something more “real”. I wanted a heroine that felt vulnerable, fey, wary and tough, like the character and I don’t have the skill to show that with CG. Finally, I didn’t think my reader would relate as strongly to a CG model as they would to a photo-model.

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Interim cover

This cover was created to refer to an element in the book rather than a character. This cover appeals to me but it doesn’t suggest the genre/target I’m trying to reach as well as the close up of the main character. A cover image influences how the reader sees the character sometimes that isn’t a good thing. In this version I’d inserted images that suggested setting.

represents the setting of the series
third version of cover

“Grace Notes” is the story of a girl with a secret. She has immense power but she is afraid to let anyone know. She is also hiding from the judgment of people who are uncomfortable with her strength.

In order to realize her potential the heroine will have to face her worst fear and question her most comfortable assumptions. The fact that these themes are revealed through a love story between characters of wildly different cultures that have been in historic opposition, existing amid prejudice and misunderstanding adds nice layers of richness, I think. And of course the motivation, besides heroine’s need for authenticity, peace of mind, and joy, is the driving force of first love.

Examples of my branded series:

Covers in progress for the next three titles in the Sanctuary series:

Book one in Sanctuary series
Current cover for Grace Notes

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Book two, release Sept 15, 2015 

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Book three, Javelin, release date November 2015.

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Book four, Cohort, release date December 2015.

Another factor of branding a series is by title, That’s why the final covers carry the title: The Fae Wars-Grace Notes, The Fae Wars- Cantata and so forth. The original titles, Grace Notes and Cantata meant nothing to the average reader, though hopefully the meaning became clear in the reading of the books.

Covers that are strongly branded for fantasy series:

the representational simplicity of the

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Twilight series by Stephanie Meyers

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The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

So, why fiction? Especially, why fantasy?

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We can learn empathy, new ways to sort our perceptions or escape in fantasy.

 

We  search for meaning in our lives. Most of us  strive to live in ways that are rich, empowered, and authentic. At least that’s what Carol S. Pearson wrote in The Hero Within. I subscribe to that theory. I don’t hear people recommending fiction as a way to do this, nearly often enough.

An article published in Brain Connectivity says that reading novels allows us to be more empathic to others. Most novel readers already know this. But the article says that not only do novels allow us to escape, try on new ways of looking at things, and experience feelings  outside of our lives, but the study asserts that reading novels actually changes the chemistry of our brains—causing chemical effects that can linger for days.

When I read, and I read everything, including box labels, highway signs, non-fiction, which I love, and most especially fiction. I expect to fulfill one or all of the aspirations above.

  • I want to enrich my understanding
  • I want to know about my options (do I really want that 34% fat content for a snack? Probably yes, sigh, I don’t guarantee that understanding my options will mean making the best choices)
  • I want to feel some thing that will add authenticity, joy, or excitement to my life.
  • Or, I want to forget for just a moment, lay down my awareness and slip into a safe and soothing place.

It surprises me how many times I’ve heard people ‘admit’ they read fiction but only—insert a current critics’ darling, or the most recent break out best seller from the most prestigious bestseller list. These poor souls’  behavior suggests that they only read as a way to improve themselves or stay abreast of cultural core knowledge. They imply that reading fiction is a duty, and reading the ‘right’ things seems to make them feel righteous.

But there is a solid core of  people  contemptuous of fiction (which by definition means a work that is partially or all made up, something that is not true, which may even have issued from the fevered imaginings of people like Edgar Allan Poe or J.R. Tolkein). Just the facts, Ma’am and anything that isn’t  is an unsavory past time. Or,  you infer from some people’s reactions that reading is a waste of time

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Classic fantasy is often a metaphor for universal truths or archetypal passages in our lives

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Too bad for them. I won’t waste  time on people who worry about the value of fiction or the significance of what they read.  Worry cuts into my reading time.

I am a word slut, a  novel addict, and sometimes a self admitted escape artist. Don’t get between me and my drug of choice.

While I can admire the strength of a well crafted sentence, the power of a well hewn paragraph or the structural beauty of literary  fiction, sentences, paragraphs and beautiful form are only devices, tools to deliver the guts of the work, like the brushstrokes of a painting. For example, ‘Starry Night’ has several levels of impact. If you would deconstruct the image, each stroke becomes a personal statement. But the real impact is viewing the image as a whole. Like all of Van Gogh’s work, it vibrates, it is alive, and it can grab me by the throat across the room. I can feel it with my back turned.

If I notice careful crafting, or sense that the writer is a little too conscious of what they have wrought or if the structure begs to be admired for it’s brilliance, I’m pulled out of the story. I can admire but admiration is a cerebral response and I’m in it for the game-changing-gut-wrenching-soul-blowing whole enchilada.

I want it all, I want to respect the competence, even the artistry of the writer and I want to be lifted out of myself by the story.  If I can’t have it all,  I’d rather have the emotional lift and save my intellectual gratification for architecture. Sorry but that’s the way I’m wired.

For me, story is the point. Words are just abstract marks unless they translate into thoughts or feelings, most hopefully both. Words are just elegant symbols if they lack the means to evoke understanding.  I can appreciate beautiful writing but without the good bones of a story and engaging, authentic characters, beautiful writing doesn’t move me.

Fiction should push us beyond our present understanding, expand our experience beyond our current knowledge, escape mundane or even impossible situations and/or give us a push, either a feel good-rush, or a terror-buzz or a connection to something you’ve never quite felt in touch with before.

Good Romance fiction is a great means to accomplish that. Don’t roll your eyes. I’m talking about the original definition of Romance.

Unfortunately, Romance and romantic fiction, (though there is nothing wrong with romantic fiction) have become interchangeable in the general vocabulary. This misunderstanding has diminished the impact of one of the most powerful implements for achieving  meaning in our lives.

Traditionally, firstly, fundamentally, Romance was a medieval tale based on legend, chivalric lore and adventure, or the supernatural. Think of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, The Golden Arrow or Ivanhoe. Romance is also a prose narrative with imaginary characters involved in events, remote in time or place and usually heroic, adventurous, or mysterious

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Story can inspire, challenge our standards of right and wrong or suggest a way to live that rises above and beyond our daily experiences.

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I write fantasy romance. While I write in  other genres, fantasy romance will always be the most appropriate genre to convey the best I have to offer. 

I once  heard Tamara Pierce say that she wrote fantasy because it was the one genre where you could talk about honor, integrity and impossible goals without embarrassment. We should expect fantasy to thrust us into a journey that requires the best and brightest to meet the worst and most destructive forces; to triumph and  come out on the other side of their quest as even better, brighter and stronger beings who leave the world a better place. 

We are flawed, we can rise above it—that is the bottom line for Romance. Life is big, we are small but Romance should suck the best stuff from deep, deep inside us and show us what we can achieve.

When you add the third definition of Romance,  a love story in the form of a novel, you have a pretty complete understanding of why I write what I do.

The Sanctuary series is high fantasy set in an Urban environment, based on themes like: love conquers all, be true to one’s self, good overcomes evil and life trumps death.

This blog will be about creativity, fiction, the world of Sanctuary and fun. Yeah, because in the end if this isn’t fun, or at least interesting I’m taking  myself too seriously.  I’m counting on someone pointing that out, immediately.

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Some of my favorite go to books of fantasy romance: The Stand, by Stephen King, The Thomas Covenant books by Stephen R. Donaldson, Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, Briar’s Book, Circle of Magic series by Tamora Pierce, all the Wild Magic series by Tamora Pierce, Tithe, Valiant and Ironside by Holly Black, to name a few.