Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday Inspirations: How in the World Will Emily Defeat the Darkness?

Fantasy Comments & Graphics

~Magickal Graphics~

Hello Friday! And welcome to something new that I'm trying on my blog, Friday Inspirations.
When answering interview questions, interviewers often ask, "What's your inspiration?"
Sometimes a whole story may be inspired by one small thing - a song, a quote, an object, a dream or vision. For me, a lot of individual scenes or parts of a novel have specific inspiration pieces.

On Fridays, I'll post about various things that are inspirations for my work. My thought is that by sharing, it will give the reader insight into some of what makes my writer mind tick (I know, *scary*!). But I'm also thinking that some of the things that inspire me may inspire you too.

Right now, I'm writing Emily's Heart, Book 3 of the Akasha Chronicles. Anyone who has read Emily's Trial (Akasha Chronicles)knows that I left poor Emily in a precarious situation with lots of messes to clean up in Book 3! And I left myself with a hell of a mess too! *head slap*

One of the great puzzles for me, as the writer, is how Emily and crew will defeat the darkness that is spreading like a virulent malignancy throughout their world?

Last year at the Tucson Festival of Books, I came across a wonderful book:JESUS, BUDDHA, KRISHNA, LAO TZU: The Parallel Sayings. I've long been fascinated by the similarities between the world's great religions (I tend to see more commonality than dissimilarity, which makes it even crazier, in my mind, that so many wars have been fought - so many lives lost - over what is to me, a secular person, so very alike), and this book is fairly short and has quotes side by side for comparison.

Here are some quotes that are providing inspiration to me as I puzzle my way through writing Emily's Heart:
"Compassion is what gives me bravery. One cannot become brave without nurturing compassion. Battles are won by compassion. Mercy is victorious. Heaven belongs to those who are merciful." - The Tao Te Ching
Judas asked, "How should one begin to follow the Way?" Jesus answered, "Love and kindness." - The Gospel of the Hebrews
"Never in this world has hate ever cast out hate. Love alone wins over hate . . . with this and the knowledge that we will all die, how can you argue with each other?" - The Buddha
I've also been re-reading Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdomby John O'Donohue. I'm consistently amazed by the huge amount of simple wisdom packed into this small book. I like this quote about light and dark:
"We need a light that has retained its kinship with the darkness. For we are sons and daughters of the darkness and of the light." - John O'Donohue, p. 4, Anam Cara
Do you think you're seeing a pattern here? Think you know where the story might be going? Have I given away too much?!

Let me know what you think and I'd love to hear your quotes for what inspires you. Drop me a comment :-)

AND, my March giveaway is almost over and the Rafflecopter is lonely, so if you haven't entered, please enter below!

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Writer Wednesday with Karen Myers: Getting Friendly with My Characters

Some people think of a novel and a movie version as at least roughly equivalent, at least from the perspective of the story.  Yes, a novel allows internal perceptions from the characters in a way difficult for a movie, and movies concentrate on visual tools more than language, but nonetheless, the stories and characters are at least recognizably related.

Others have a different view, one which I agree with.  They maintain that the more appropriate match is to a season of a quality television show, in that newish long form that cable television has been cultivating for the last few years.  In other words, a season of Game of Thrones is more similar to a book in that series than any movie could be.
I think this is true for several reasons.  Most obviously, the time it takes to watch, say, 13 episodes is more closely equivalent to the time spent to read a long novel, and thus characters and plots can develop to a similar depth of complexity.

But there’s another feature which isn’t much discussed.  For a reader, reading the novel and watching the entire season of a show in a marathon are a good match.  For a writer, however, a better match to the novel is the full season viewed over time.  The 3+ months of the episodes, one per week, is much closer to the time it takes to write the book.  Here I am not speaking specifically of George R. R. Martin who is notoriously taking a very long time between his sequels, but of myself.
Why do I think the time factor matters?  When I watch a season of shows as they occur, I have a week between episodes to chew on the characters, to speculate about how they will grow over time, what they will do, what complications might ensue.  I learn about my own characters in a similar way over time as I write about them, as I rub them around trying to understand how they fit together, how the intended plot is altered by their personalities in ways I cannot entirely control.  I don’t do this while I’m actually writing so much, but in all the other hours of the day, as if I were speculating about a popular show that only I can see.

By thinking so long and hard about my own characters I give them a sort of mental life.  They’re something like friends.  I feel for their distresses as I sympathize with their joys.  I obsess over certain scenes that seem primal to me, as I might reread a special moment in a favorite book when I’m in a particular mood.  Until I write those scenes down, anything could happen.  After I’ve made it concrete to myself, I can’t change it radically, as if the event had reality outside of my imagination and now was an immutable part of the character’s history.

It’s very odd.  No wonder writers walk around mumbling about their characters and the independent lives they lead.  I can’t imagine having two wildly unrelated works going simultaneously, where the characters inhabit different moral universes.  It would be like trying to live with two sets of incompatible in-laws at the same time, always trying 
to reconcile them.

*     *     *

Thank you Karen for a great post. I love the cover of her book! I'm going to check it out. If you'd like to learn more about Karen or her book, visit these links:

Karen Myers writes, photographs, and fiddles in the picturesque foxhunting country of the Virginia Piedmont.
A graduate of Yale University from Kansas City, Karen has lived with her husband, David Zincavage, in Connecticut, New York, Chicago, California, and for the past several years in Virginia, where they both follow the activities of the Blue Ridge Hunt, the Old Dominion Hounds, the Ashland Bassets, and the Wolver Beagles.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Teaser Tuesday: First Look at Emily's Heart

Gothic Comments

~Magickal Graphics~

This is an excerpt from a scene that I'm working on for Emily's Heart, Book 3 of the Akasha Chronicles. In this scene, Emily has just received a visit from the mysterious Draicha. He reminds her so much of Madame Wong, but Emily's not sure of him. Is he a good guy? Or is he more bad news?

I grabbed a potholder and opened the oven door, the smoke hitting me in the face. I coughed and gagged as I fanned the smoke away. I pulled the pizza from the oven, the edges like cinders.
My dinner. Black and unsavory, a bit like most everything else in my world.
The smoke alarm blared, but I didn't dare open a window to get air. It would only alert the people in the shadows that I was easy prey.
I sat on the barstool where Draicha had been only minutes before. Instead of it being warm from his body heat, it was cold.
I pulled the card from my pocket and stared at it. The high-pitched screeching of the smoke alarm sang in the background but it sounded as if far off, down a tunnel, in another place.
       I was on a battlefield, my fellow warriors around me, facing an enemy made from the dark 

shadows of our fears, and I searched my mind for the answer to how one kills a shadow.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day! 5 Tips for Celebrating Spring as the Ancients Might Have

Fantasy Comments & Graphics
The bacchanalian holiday celebrating all things green and Irish is just around the corner. But did you know that St. Patrick’s Day traces its origins to an ancient rite of spring known as Ostara? Long before there was green beer, Leprechauns with pots of gold and crockpots full of corned beef, ancient peoples paused in mid-March to celebrate the coming spring.

St Patrick's Day Comments

Because the ancient Celts passed on their traditions, histories and stories orally, little is known of the ways that the Celts honored the passing of the seasons. But the coming of spring is a reason to celebrate and our penchant to party this time of year may well be a rite of spring going back thousands of years.

If you’re tired of green beer and cabbage, here are five tips to help you connect with the ancient roots of Ostara and celebrate the coming Spring the way our ancestors might have:

 1. Sweep and Rake: Get out your broom and sweep away the leaves and dust blown in by the winter winds. Rake up the old leaves mushed onto the grass by the snow. Clear away the dead things left from fall and winter to make room for the new growth of spring.
 2. Tend Your Garden: Roll up your sleeves, grab your spade, and get your hands dirty. Even if your garden is a high-rise patio, tend to the plants in your part of the world. Snip the dead blooms, prune, feed, water and show the green things in your world some love.
 3. Take a Hike: Preferably with your sweetie. Enjoy a stroll through the neighborhood park or hike into the forest or desert near you. Take in the signs of the change from cold, dead and dreary to warm, blooming and colorful. Who knows, maybe the time together in the great outdoors will kindle the fires of romance.
 4. Create a Feast of the Season: Make an outing to a local farmer’s market or, if there isn’t such a market near you, check out the produce at your neighborhood grocery. What’s in season? What’s fresh? Collect your bounty of the season and cook a Spring Feast.
 5. Party! Share that feast that you lovingly prepared with your friends and family. If it’s warm enough, take the feast outside and party in your garden. End your evening with a fire to warm the hearts of your guests. It doesn’t have to be a bonfire. Build your fire in a fire pit, chiminea or fireplace. Or if none of those options are available to you, light some candles. The warm glow of the fire’s embers call to mind the warmth of the coming season.

Fairy Comments & Graphics

~Magickal Graphics~

Emily’s House, Book 1 of the Akasha Chronicles, with its setting in both modern and ancient Ireland, is the perfect read for the St. Patrick’s Day season.

Emily's House, Book 1 of the Akasha Chronicles, by Natalie Wright

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Celtic Origins of a Modern YA Quest

My first book series, The Akasha Chronicles, incorporates ancient Celtic mythology and magic into a story about a modern, teenage girl. I’ve been asked how I researched the Celtic aspects of the series and came up with the magical elements. Here’s the story of how The Akasha Chronicles acquired its Celtic flavor.

When I first conceived of Emily’s House (Book 1 of the Akasha Chronicles), I was not a writer yet! It was during hypnosis that was supposed to help me lose my baby weight that I had a vision of a golden armlet hovering over rolling green fields. (BTW, hypnosis does not help you to lose weight. Apparently, sitting in a chair, half asleep does nothing to boost your metabolism ;-) I couldn’t get that golden arm bracelet out of my mind!

I began scouring the Internet for pictures of the golden object I’d seen. Before long, I came across a photo of a torc – the golden armlet! And from there, I began reading all that I could find about ancient Ireland and the pre-Christian Celts.
Though I wasn’t actively writing fiction at that time, the more I researched, the more a story began to develop in my head. My research about ancient Ireland led me to Brighid, an ancient Goddess.

I came across a story of an order of women that were the keepers of the flame of the goddess Brighid (pronounced BREE – id). The story goes that these Druid women worshipped the goddess Brighid, whose symbol is a column of fire. It is said that no men were allowed into their cloister, and any men who ventured into their grove were cursed. I loved this idea of women with powerful magic.

Interestingly, once Christianity displaced Druids on the Emerald Isle, the group of women who once worshipped the goddess, Brighid, became a group of Catholic nuns who honored the Saint Bridget. They kept that sacred flame going for many generations. But during the Reformation, it was decided that tending to the fire was too pagan and it was ordered that the flame be extinguished.

I had the opportunity to visit Kildare, Ireland and the ancient foundations of the original abbey still exist – the place where the ancient flame was kept alive! It is one of the oldest, continuously used worship sites in all of Ireland, and has a legacy as a sacred site dating back into the Celtic times as well. In 1993 in the Market Square in Kildare, the fire of Brighid was re-lit by Mary Teresa Cullen, the then leader of the Brigidine sisters. Since then, the Brigidine Sisters in Kildare have tended the flame. Here is a photo of the ancient foundation at St. Brigid’s Cathedral in Kildare.
The story of the goddess Brighid and the order of women who worshipped her inspired me greatly. I took the ancient Celtic mythology – and the story of the women who kept her flame alive – and tweaked it to fit my needs. When you read Emily’s House, you’ll recognize The Order of Brighid as a reference to this ancient order rumored to have existed prior to the modern Christian times in Ireland.

In addition to hundreds of pages of Internet articles and Wikipedia pages, I also read a lot of books that inspired the Celtic aspects of the series. Here are a few of them:

Despite pages and pages of research and information, much of the Celtic mythos in my novels is of my own imagination – a melding of some of the juicy facts mixed with my own creations.

For example, my character Lianhan Sidhe (pronounced SHEE) is based on a mythical Celtic creature. In the ancient myths, Lianhan Sidhe is a beautiful fairy with a dreadful power. It is said that most men cannot refuse her, a beautiful muse who offered inspiration but at a price – most men who become her lover go mad and die prematurely.

I tweaked the myth quite a bit in Emily’s House to create my own version of Lianhan Sidhe, a beautiful – but deadly – creature.

And you may have heard of a Banshee. I came across research that suggested that Bian Sidhe (Banshee) and Lianhan Sidhe were sisters. Two beautiful, but potentially deadly, faerie sisters of ancient Ireland. I had to use that in my story!

But the Celtic influence didn’t stop at just the ancient backstory portion of the book. I wanted to use it in the modern story as well. Much has been written about the connection between Druidic practices and philosophy, and ancient Vedic tradition of the Brahmins. West meets East. The Vedic tradition of India can be traced back over 10,000 years. During my research, I found the parallels between the ancient philosophies of India and the more modern Celtic thought fascinating. The combination of the two philosophies led to the chapters where Emily receives training in the Netherworld.

I spent over three years reading books, articles and Wikipedia pages while writing Emily’s House! Despite countless pages of research, a small fraction of what I learned was used. As you read Emily’s House and Emily’s Trial, you may wonder what is real and what did the author create? 

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