Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Guest Author: Cathy Hird: My Point of View

I am just pleased as punch to be hosting the lovely Cathy Hird today, a fellow author at Prizm Books/Torquere Press.

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I love the way storytellers today pull us into the perspective of different characters. Writers put us right at the shoulder of one character after another letting us see events through their eyes. Even placing us in the skin of a character we don’t like is powerful. The texture of their reality can help us see what is truly at stake.

As I worked through my story Moon of the Goddess, I began with the captured princess Thalassai. She wakes from a dream in the dark and panics when she realizes she has been kidnapped. We follow her struggle to hold herself together and to find strength.

As Thalassai imagines her brother Melanion racing to her rescue, I figured the reader wanted to see him too. Their father sends a fleet after her, but her brother knows she may be killed if there is a direct confrontation. So he rides in secret to get to her before the fleet and find a way to free her.

As the underlying conflicts of the story got more complicated, I found that we needed to see what was happening in the kidnappers’ home.

Too many shifts in point of view can be confusing, but the story told in Moon of the Goddess needed to be seen from these three vantage points. I never make you fit inside the skin of the evil characters, though there are some. Hope you enjoy the shape of the story!



Thalassai, pampered princess of ancient Tiryns, wakes from a dream and discovers she has been kidnapped. Her fear grows to terror when she realizes her kidnappers intend to use her as a pawn to gain Poseidon’s aid for their valley. The mother goddess, who in the past sustained the valley, calls a bloodred harvest moon into the spring sky. She will challenge Poseidon for the allegiance of her people and assist the princess.
Thalassai’s brother Melanion rides north to rescue her, and finds allies among the servants of the goddess. Slowed by bandits, Melanion is forced to take a tunnel under the mountains even though earthquakes have rendered it hazardous. He skirts the edge of Hades’ kingdom as he races to reach his sister in time. Caught between the mother goddess and the rising power of Olympus, will Thalassai break under the strain or find the strength she needs to stand up to her captors?
Set in the days of Helen of Troy and the great heroes of Greece, this story takes the reader on a fast paced journey across the sun-drenched landscape of Homer and deep into darkness.

Here is a hint of what happens; this is the second day of the princess Thalassai’s captivity:
A breath of air woke Thalassai from her doze. The afternoon wind was rising. She looked through the open door and saw that the rowers had pulled their oars from the water. The ship’s captain gave the order to unfurl the sail and called the same order across the water to the other boat. The rowers murmured with relief as they secured the oars and began the task of raising the sail. Thalassai knew that the seamen of her city looked forward to this time of day when the wind took over from their tired arms.

Another whiff of breeze reached her corner of the cabin, and Thalassai breathed deeply of the fresh sea air. The midday heat had been oppressive in the cabin, but she had not dared to step out of its shelter. On an ordinary trip, she would have spent the sun’s zenith under the awning that sheltered the men from the burning sun, encouraging their efforts, listening to her father discuss plans for trading at their destination. She ached for the warmth of companions she knew, for the care of her servant Diakonia and the strength of her father. How could she have been stolen from her home? Tears flowed down her cheeks. She leaned her head against the ship’s side and gave in to sorrow.

Eventually, Thalassai’s tears ran dry, and her body felt empty as a streambed in summer. Her head ached when she lifted it from the side of the boat. She rubbed her temples, trying to ease the pain, trying to think. The image of the goddess by the door caught her attention.

Have you forgotten your promise to be strong?” The gentle whisper seemed to come from the image.

I prayed to be made strong, she thought. I didn’t promise. She shook her head at the idea that she argued with a statue, but she sat a little straighter.

Focus on what is going to happen next,” whispered the warm, motherly voice.

Thalassai stared at the figure of the goddess. Of course, the wooden statue did not move, but the eyes were deep, and the open hands seemed to reach toward her. “I’m being taken to Ephyra, a city far from my home,” she whispered, “a city I’d never heard of before this prince and his companions arrived in Tiryns.” A thin blade of anger entered her voice. “There is nothing else to know.”

The shaft of anger focused her thoughts. She had known that the sail would go up as soon as she felt the afternoon breeze. She now knew the captain stood at the rudder on the cabin roof while the men with practiced hands worked the ropes and sailcloth. She knew that soon the sailors would lounge on the benches, stretching their arms and legs with one assigned to watch for rocks and for shifts in the wind. She wondered if a sailor would be stationed with the captain to watch for pursuit.

How far back would Melanion be, she asked herself. She pressed the heels of her hands against her eyes to hold back the tears and told herself to figure out what would happen next.

Water would be passed, and a light meal. Someone might bring her food. She tried vainly to smooth the wrinkles in her linen tunic. If someone came, she wanted to look more like a princess. On her father’s ship, one of the eldest would tell stories as they rested. No one would sleep, as the sailors needed to be alert for the sudden wind, which could make the ship heal and turn. Later, as the sun fell toward the horizon, they would head for shore to seek fresh water and food.

With that thought, Thalassai realized that the drink the sailor had given her had tasted stale. She remembered his comment that water was in short supply. She realized that the night before they had not found a stream to replenish their water jars.

What did that mean? Lines furrowed her brow as she tried to concentrate. Melanion would know, but she had sailed often enough. She should be able to figure out the implication. Yes, but we never went without water, she thought. Except once. There was one day when a sudden storm carried them past the village that had been their intended stop. They had spent the night anchored in the shelter of a cliff, and the next day, they rationed water. They stopped to fill their water jars at the first cove with a stream flowing into the ocean.

Thalassai moved to the edge of the bed and swung her legs over. The sailors might or might not bring her water now, but they would stop at a village or a stream even before dusk. This was a land the northerners did not know, and they dared not miss an opportunity to replenish their supply. She felt the ship leap forward and knew the sail was up and full.

She leaned to look out the door. Aphoron was still standing in the prow, looking up at the sail. He looked straight toward her, and she pulled herself back into the shadows. She told herself he could not see into the darkness of the cabin, but still she shivered. I am supposed to try to be strong, she thought. She got off the bed and stood straight, imagining how tall her father would stand. Aphoron walked toward her between the benches. Her legs shook. She put her hand on the bed to support herself.

You can buy the book from Prizm HERE.


Do keep in touch by checking out my blog at openonemore.com or follow me on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/cathyhirdwriter.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Guest Post: Amber Cook

Today (or rather tonight), I have the pleasure of hosting Amber Michelle Cook, an author and fellow NIWA member.




Hey, Voss.  Thanks for having me on your blog for some Demon Hunting and Three Dimensional Physics.  NIWA rules!

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Mine Your Own Life for Story Setting Gold

Camelot.  Oz.  Narnia.  Middle Earth.  Gormenghast.  Hogwarts.  Downton Abbey. 

Some of these places are as big as the stories they come from.  Some of them are as alive in the reader's imagination as Lancelot, Dorothy, The White Queen, Frodo, Dumbledore or Lady Mary. 

If settings can be a major character in a story, how do we go about creating those particular kinds of characters? 

Not every setting has to be memorable or so alive you can picture other stories taking place in them, but we all want the major settings in our tales to be as engaging as they can be.  There are many ways to make settings come alive, but every setting usually begins with an inspiration. 

The Familiar, and the Favorites:

Dickens used his home city of Rochester, England to set his last novel in, giving it a different name:  Cloisterham.  Why rename it?  Although the setting is very much based on his detailed familiarity with Rochester, it's his take on the place, the feelings it evoked for him personally—in conjunction with the gothic tone of The Mystery of Edwin Drood—that conspired to produce a setting so alive and atmospheric, it breathes all the more with every description of it being an ancient place of the buried dead. 

Every year in fall I attend an event at the McMenamin's Edgefield in Troutdale, OR.  I love the Edgefield.  I couldn't believe it when one day near twilight I passed by this cluster of trees with bright yellow fall foliage to find the canopies of leaves sparkling with twinkle lights.  There were no building, no power lines.  With no sign of cords or outlets, it was like having a magical moment of encountering faerie.  That year when I did NaNoWriMo, I couldn't help it:  the story being a modern day adaptation of Through the Looking Glass, adult Alice's urbanized Wonderland was inspired by the Edgefield.  People who’ve read the novel for critique are struck by the setting, and I know it's because the enthusiasm and delight I have for the Edgefield translates to the reader.  (The novel is Sleepwaking, and it will be my third book, coming out this fall.) 

A few years ago I went to St. Louis and found this crazy, cool looking place called the City Museum on the web.  I spent a day there, a day I'll never forget.  I consider it one of my other favorite places in the world, along with the Edgefield, the Georgia Aquarium, any Cirque du Soleil tent, Florence, and the end of the street I used to live on in Höheinöd, Germany.  The City Museum is an eclectic mix of found industrial objects housed in a giant old shoe warehouse in which you can find the unexpected at every turn.  Caves, climbable giant slinkies, an airplane fuselage suspended several stories in the air via wire mesh tunnels like hamster runs you have to crawl through to get up there, an aquarium, multi-story slides, a wall made out of glass bottles, and so much more.  A couple years later I wrote a story using it as the inspiration for the setting, calling my place ‘the Imaginarium.’  Beta readers have loved the Imaginarium, much the same way I love the City Museum.  You can find the Imaginarium in my second book, Defense Mechanisms, which has just been released.

What are some of your favorite places?  Places you love going to.  That you love being in.  Place where you've had memorable experiences.  Places you know so well you almost don't think of them anymore. 

These could be the next great settings for your stories.  Figure out why they’ve impacted you and what emotions they generate, and then write to give your readers that kind of experience.  Whether you use them as is, or let them inspire you to create something all your own—if they touch you or animate you, they can do the same for your readers. 

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Mini-bio:

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Amber Michelle Cook writes stories of deep, meaningful fun.

Partly raised in Germany, she went to an international school for high-school, majored in linguistics, loves literature and period pieces.  She's also a photography/graphic arts artist of color and wonder living in the great Northwest.

In addition to leading improv writing tables, she's one of the team behind National Novel Editing Month and Member Relations Chair of Communications/Marketing for the Northwest Independent Writers Association.

Aside from words and stories, she adores dogs and is fascinated by any and everything aquatic.  Especially cephalopods.
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Book blurb:

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What if your déjà vu was really flashes of a life running parallel to your own?

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An imaginative child, Janey left childhood far behind as soon as older children and adults began to tease her for it, much to the disappointment of her younger brother.  On her thirtieth birthday, the first Pulse hits and drives them to seek shelter at his favorite hangout – a one-of-a-kind indoor playland for grown-ups called the Imaginarium.  When the place is attacked by urban looters, she becomes an unwilling 'defender of imagination.'

Raised within the confines of Tanglewood, a workshop-residence formed from the awakening of a grove of silver birch, Ozanne fled her family's unrelenting expectations for a life of frivolity and vanity at Court.  Upon the passing of a Wave that obstructs all but personal Glamour, she races back with her brother to protect it from the Foe, though certain she has little to offer.  Why then does he persist in looking to her to protect them?

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Defense Mechanisms is a contemporary fairy tale of finding realistic, modern-day happy endings when the ways we learn to protect ourselves from other people's emotional sore spots, like ignorance and hate, keep us from being who we really are and finding our place in life.


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On Amazon/Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1490580042/ (also Smashwords)
Twitter:  @cook_amber