"Writing a book is the art of listening to oneself."-Brad Cameron

Friday, March 29, 2013

Guest Author-Tonya Macalino

Tonya Macalino is my guest blogger today.  She is the author of The Shades of Venice series.  These novels are urban fantasy thrillers featuring folklore and folk history from the collapsing canals and alleyways of Venice.
Leda and the Swan: From the End of The Age of Heroes Rises a New Legend

Once upon a time…

Once upon time, a single moment, a typical moment of amorous indiscretion brought about the end of The Age of Heroes. For in that moment, the leader of the Greek gods, the almighty Zeus, took the form of a swan to mask from his ever-jealous wife Hera another of his endless pursuits. With Leda, Queen of Sparta, he begat that ending in the shining form of Helen.

Helen of Sparta, who was to become Helen of Troy, received the gift of beauty, but was denied the gifts of honest love and deepest friendship. Twice kidnapped—once by Theseus and once by Paris—because of her beauty and divine heritage, she lived ultimately to become the downfall of Troy. The face that launched a thousand ships.

A generation of heroes died on the plains of Troy not to see her liberated or even truly to see her husband’s pride avenged, but simply because, as her former suitors, these kings and heroes had been made to swear an oath to defend the marriage lest the losers in the bid for her hand slaughter one another.

An oath to prevent a slaughter.

An oath culminating in ten years of bloody war. Ten years that would leave Helen friendless on either side of the ramparts and throughout the civilized world long after the war was over. Passed along from the burning ruins of a once great city, she would continue to be a pawn in the plots of gods and kings until her life was ultimately ended by them.

But something else passed along from those burning ruins, something arose, slowly from the end of The Age of Heroes. Antenor, advisor to the royal Trojan family, escaped the flames with his Veneti. They fled the Aegean and emerged into the Adriatic, settling Pavatium in 1183 B.C.

Near noble Pavatium, or Padua as it was to become known, were a chain of islands in the lagoon, a place to flee to during the relentless sieges and raids of the Huns and Romans. Rife with mosquitoes and diseases, the islands became a refuge for the descendants of these Veneti.

A lagoon, a scattering of islands.

The legendary empire of The Most Serene Republic…of Venice.

Helen and her tragedy would live on in thousands of years of myth built up into the romantic, decaying city of Venice we know today. Myths of mermaids, sea creatures, doomed monks, vengeful Doges…and of fairy-witches known as fate. Yes, fate. Whether because the Veneti brought Leda, Helen, and their capricious gods with them, or because of a Roman influence, the three sister Fates found their reincarnation in the stories of the lagoon.

Stories that continue to lurk in our psyches on into the modern day.

But now I invite you to come a little further forward, one hundred years—a mere moment in the time of myth—and watch a new woman, Alyse Kate Bryant, struggle to become disentangled from those fated, flooded ruins…as the legends of Venice rise again.
Here are some links to keep up on the words and works of Tonya:
The Story of Place Blog: http://www.tonyamacalino.com/Blog.html
The Myth Makers Newsletter: www.facebook.com/TheMythMakers

Friday, March 22, 2013

Making the Myths Innocent

Perhaps my biggest struggle in trying to write YA fiction that borrows from Norse Mythology, is attempting to tame stories that can sometimes be full of rather bawdy material. The real labor is in trying to turn them into something considered innocent. Sometimes the task becomes a process of pure translation as I take a story like “The Necklace of the Brisings” - a tale that has the goddess Freyja spending four nights in a row with four different dwarfs - and then retell it, introducing my main characters into the roles normally reserved for mythical creatures. The subject of extreme violence can also be problematic. For instance, the myth of “Thor and Geirrod” - a story that portrays a violent, rather grotesque death - describes Thor hurling a flaming ball of iron at a giant, puncturing a large hole in his midriff. In my retelling, Zeke Proper takes on the role of Thor and begins to discover his own hidden, inner strengths.

As an example, I would like to delve into the next installment of the Zeke Proper Chronicles: The Gates of Asgard. I will begin by exposing portions of Chapter Twelve: “Geirrod’s Stronghold“. In keeping with the adventures that the Mist plays in the young hero’s quest, the narrative has the Proper brothers, Zeke and Devon trapped in the Mist in a palace made of roughly hewn timber and logs. The stronghold belongs to Geirrod, a giant who, in the original telling of the myth, faces off with Thor in a furnace-filled room. The furnaces contain molten iron that Geirrod picks up with tongs and hurls at Thor. Geirrod’s hatred toward the god is magnified because Thor killed Hrungnir - strongest of all the giants. However, Thor takes the battle in the end because he catches the tossed ball of fire in his iron gloves. After a moment of hesitation, Thor hurls the ball back at Geirrod, thus destroying him.

The Zeke Proper Chronicles’ version goes something like this:

Zeke and Devon followed the servant…Soon they arrived in their original place of captivity, a place where the ceiling domed high, where the walls were covered with pine logs, and where the smoke of furnace fires drifted heavy in the air, making the room too warm for comfort. Staring at them from the far end of the hall was a giant of a man. His hair was long and hung past his shoulders in blond and red waves. A bristly beard of the same color covered his face. He was tall, but more than that, he was strong. Neck muscles flexed when he moved, blending with ripples of strength in his arms and chest.

Geirrod stretched forth his hand, but it was not to greet Zeke or Devon; it was to pick up a pair of tongs. With them, he reached toward one of the red-hot furnaces and retrieved a glowing piece of coal.

“Welcome to my palace!” he shouted, and aimed the fiery lump straight at Zeke.     Zeke continued to stare, feeling as if time had suddenly stopped as he watched the sizzling missile advance toward his face.  At the last moment, just before the red-hot coal struck him, he bent, his thigh muscle crying out in pain. The burning lump of coal jetted past him, struck the log wall behind, and sputtered to a dead, black ember.

“Ah! You’re quick, boy. I’m quicker, though. In the end I’ll see ya burn!”

Devon ran up from behind Zeke, grabbing him by the shoulder. “The staff, you idiot! Use the staff!”

Zeke rose quickly and used the strength of his arms to push himself into a standing position. He gripped the staff with both hands holding it like a baseball bat. Geirrod sent another molten missile at Zeke’s face, but this time Zeke stood his ground with his feet square and his eyes watching as the ball of fire approached.    

Zeke swung Sinmora’s staff with every ounce of strength he possessed. He connected with the glowing coal like a major-leaguer, its trajectory bending toward Geirrod. Everyone who stood as witness in the great hall, giants and dwarfs alike, scrambled under the tables as Geirrod himself tried to step behind one of the hall supports. However, the fiery ball punched through the support, passing through the giant’s midriff, and continuing through the wooden wall finally lodging itself in an earth slope outside the building.

Geirrod stood up straight - a strange, defeated look on his face - and looked down at the hole in his chest. He gasped and then hissed, as if all of the hate and venom built up inside him suddenly escaped. He gave one violent jerk, gurgled and was dead.

The third installment of The Zeke Proper Chronicles - The Gates of Asgard will be out this summer. Order your copies of Book One and Two and get caught up in the myth.


Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Next Big Thing

I've just been tagged in The Next Big Thing, by my friend and fellow NIWA member, Tonya Macalino. The Next Big Thing is a way for writers to share and discuss their work and their upcoming projects. Tonya is the author of Author of SPECTRE OF INTENTION and THE SHADES OF VENICE series. 
You can read her post about "The Next Big Thing" and her upcoming work here.


What is the working title of your new book?
Currently, I am working on Book 3 in The Zeke Proper Chronicles: The Gates of Asgard. Books 1 and 2 are respectively -Odins Light and The Serpents Ship. Both books are available through Amazon on Kindle eBooks and in paperback. 

Where did the idea come from for the book?
This is one of those questions that when I answer it honestly, it always gets a raised eyebrow. Probably because it is so cliché. Nevertheless, it is true. The idea came from a dream. I had been playing around with various storylines, jotting down notes here and there, and putting together many incomplete short stories. Then one night I had a dream. When I woke up, I knew what I was going to write. The original idea changed  considerably during the writing process, but the initial energy was there, and I took it and ran with it

What genre is your book?
My books are YA Fantasy Fiction. Urban Fiction is probably closer. My characters live in present day Nova Scotia in a fictionaltown called Alder Cove. However, as the story progresses, they begin rubbing shoulders with the Norse gods of the past.

Which actors would you choose to play the characters in a movie rendition?
Zeke Proper - Cole Sprouse
Devon Proper - Mitchel Musso
Taylre Anders - Taylor Swift
Percy Proper - Jake Johnson
The Captain - Ian McNeice
Vivian Proper - Zooey Deschanel
Loden/Loki - Johnny Depp
Marjorie Anders - Selina Cadell

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
The Zeke Proper Chronicles is a coming of age novel that explores a young mans connection with the Mist and the Norse Gods.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
As all of my books are, The Gates of Asgard, the third installment in The Zeke Proper Chronicles, will be self-published through World Tree Fantasy.

How long did it take to write the first Draft of the first novel?
Dog Ear Publishing completed the original printing of my first novel. The original title was Zeke Proper and the Sacrifice at Alder Cove. Writing the draft that I sent to that publisher took me well over five years to complete. However, keep in mind; I took a lot of time off in the writing process. In the end, I was very unhappy with the result of the publication. Therefore, I took the original manuscript, rewrote a major portion of it, and renamed it Odins Light.

What are some current novels that you would compare with your novels?
I really hate to make comparisons, because I feel my books are unique. Nevertheless, my best guess would probably be the Percy Jackson Series and perhaps Fable Haven, simply because they also deal with some aspect of Mythology.

Who or what inspired you to write?
There are two writers that have had a huge impact on my own writing, mostly because they implement an incredible use of imagery and figurative language. Ray Bradbury, whose prophetic voice captures a true essence of the future, and Stephen King.  Guy who really knows how to tell a scary story. His images are at the same tactile as well as emotional.

In the coming weeks, another friend and fellow author of mine, Raymond Macalino, will be discussing his "Next Big Thing" on his blog. He is the author of a picture book for children titled, Damien and the Dragon Kite.  Make sure to check that out here!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Guest Blog by Ksenia Anske

This week, I am excited to be hosting author, Ksenia Anske.  Ksenia was born in Moscow, Russia, and came to US in 1998 not knowing English, having studied architecture and not dreaming that one day she'd be writing.  SIREN SUICIDES, an urban fantasy set in Seattle, is her 1st novel.

I was invited by Brad Cameron to guest post on his blog and have been thinking about what to write, when my Beta Readers asked me to write about my obsession, errr... fascination with sirens, because this is what my 1st novel is about, SIRENS. Yes, so, let's see, where did it start? Ah, I know, with Rusalkas. I'll explain in a second. You see, if you told me about 15 years ago that I would be writing novels, more than that, that I'd be writing novels in English, I'd probably look at you like you were mad. Because back then not only did I not know any English at all (well, except "Hello" and "I love you" both of which I heard in pop songs), I didn't know how to write either, having been told since high school that my writing sucks because I have "too much imagination." I always got B's and never A's on my essays, but that didn't stop me from being fascinated with magical creatures from Russian fairy tales, a lot of which reside in the woods, and swamps, and bogs, and ponds. Especially Rusalkas. Mermaids, in English.
I can't pinpoint the exact moment when this interest in Rusalkas struck me, only the fact that when I was studying acting in my teens (yeah, I wanted to be an actress once upon a time) I spent hours in the library looking up the history of Russian theater and folklore and stumbled on so many legends involving Rusalkas that eventually I forgot all about my research and started reading more about them. Hey, what's not to like? In Slavik mythology, unlike a mermaid, a Rusalka is not simply a woman who changed into a magical being, but a woman who has died violently, before her time, or from suicide. She also had to die in or near a river or a lake, to claim it as her territory. Once her murder was avenged, however, she could die in peace. The dark angle of this myth fascinated me, especially because I've been a suicidal teenager and a runaway (I ran away from home at 16, got pregnant at 17, had my daughter at 18, you get the picture). I think since then I had an image of this unhappy girl in my mind and it touched me deeply because of my personal history which included very dark childhood with a lot of trauma of which I was not aware until my thirties, until I settled in life and became happy.
That's when Rusalkas started knocking again, from deep inside, from some hidden corners of my mind. I ignored this for a while, but the ideas kept pouring, and somehow along the way they transformed from Rusalkas to sirens because of the deeper history and acceptance of Greek mythology in America where anyone I told about Rusalkas blinked at me, but where sirens did ring a bell. To me it didn't really matter what these creatures should be called, as long as they helped me tell my story, and my story was about a girl finding her voice, as simple as that. Partly, it's my own struggle in life, partly it's the story of my main character, a teenage girl, who struggles with the same problem, to the point of wanting to take her life via suicide. It was all about the voice, the song, the scream for help. I guess the slightly violent tone of this, the "I-will-scream-in-your-face-if-you-don't-hear-me" sat better with sirens, who in Greek mythology are originating from 3 sisters with bird wings and bird voices, who lured men to their deaths in their siren meadow on an island and who threw themselves into the sea after Odysseus fooled them. They lost their wings and drowned. Maybe, maybe not. Mythology leaves us there. And that's where I pick up. I say, nope, they didn't die, they continued on living, sucking out souls from people as food, and singing, singing, singing.

There you have it. These are my sirens, and that's why I'm fascinated with them. They are a perfect blend of a bad girl and an innocent maiden, the yin and the yang in one body, beautiful and elusively ugly, sophisticated and primitive at the same time, and they are... women. Along with suicide, another underlying theme in my novel is misogyny, or hatred or dislike of women and girls, which I had to experience myself growing up and which is why I'm writing this novel, to shed the light on how it feels from the inside.

Oh, and I live in Seattle. It rains here all the time. What else to write about, if not about water creatures?
- Ksenia anske

Novel excerpt: http://www.kseniaanske.com/blog/2012/12/24/siren-suicides-excerpt-draft-5.html
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