Pronunciation Guide

Sunday, October 12, 2014

“Y” is for yes

This goes for any other type of consent as well, whether spoken, unstated, or simply undisputed.

Much of my story will deal with the concept of sowing and reaping. Closely connected to that is the subject of choices and compromise: small yesses (yes’s?) that at one time were seemingly insignificant. Several of my characters find themselves in situations they never planned on, never would have chosen. But it happened slowly, little yes by little yes. It’s a subtle silencing of one’s conscience, a split-second decision between two seemingly identical paths.

Jehur starts out wanting good things for good reasons. But deep brokenness and a thirst for approval steer him toward compromise. The first little “yes” was a pinprick in his heart, a moment where he felt a twinge of guilt. The second time didn’t affect him as much. By the time he’s the age he is in the story, his conscience is seared. He no longer feels guilt – not for killing people, not for doing whatever it takes to get ahead, not for following unspeakable orders, not for going to a brothel and doing awful things to an innocent girl there. It takes horror to awaken him to the horrible person he’s become, and when he finally sees the truth of himself, he is shattered. And determined to set things right.

Mas doesn’t compromise, but willfully chooses his path. He is driven by anger and brokenness, but he knows exactly what he’s becoming. He just doesn’t care. In his eyes, the end justifies the means, and vengeance, power, and brutality are all he seeks. Horror awakens him as well, breaks something in him, but his personality remains. His beliefs remain. He still wants the same things; his target has simply switched. But now, he also cares. With each decision he makes knowing it will hurt people, it cuts deeper and deeper into a thawing heart. And he lets it soften him.

Sorek teeters on the edge of compromise. He has removed himself from his past, but it lingers, threatening to overwhelm him if he ever lets his guard down. So he remains locked up tight, laughing to distract himself even as he feels the darkness creeping closer. He wants to be good. Yet in order to stand against evil, he feels his actions must often be evil. He hasn’t grasped the truth that hatred cannot drive out hatred, only love can. With each step he takes toward that darker path, each time he kills in the same brutal fashion as those he is killing, the more he questions who he really is. What he really is. How different he is from the people he’s fighting, or if he’s actually any different at all. And he’s just sacrificial enough to allow himself to be consumed by darkness, as long as it sets others free.

Rab also teeters on the edge. After years of protecting her sister from their abusive mother, the anger and pain has built up almost to a breaking point. In a moment of rage, she makes a decision. One that has been a long time coming, one she’s threatened and entertained in her head for years. She feels justified. In some ways, maybe she is. But in the aftermath, the weight slowly begins to crush her, to push her toward that cliff of no return.

Sometimes it’s not a gradual thing; sometimes it’s one moment that affects everything after it. The choice to drive drunk. The choice to talk to that person. The choice to turn left instead of right. The choice not to go there. The choice to withdraw from a loved one. The choice to lie. The choice to run. The choice to go home. The choice to pursue.

Yet even within those, it is often a culmination of the choices before it.

The point is, we never know where one “yes” may take us.

Ari learns this the hard way when she places trust in someone who seems trustworthy, but isn’t. Little compromises don’t throw her into hell, a choice borne of desperation and innocence does. It is a combination of a ruthless manipulator and a terrified young girl in need of help. It is the decision to stay instead of run, the decision to trust instead of question.

If she knew what awaited her there, she would have fled. But she didn’t realize. Didn’t know the gravity of that moment. Just like many of us don’t see the end result of our little yesses. Sometimes the path that veers to the edge of a cliff looks a lot like the path that leads to a fertile valley.

Be mindful of what you choose.
And know that it’s not too late to turn around.
As long as your heart is still beating and you are still breathing, there is hope. There is a chance.

It starts with one little “yes.”

Thursday, September 25, 2014

“X” is for xenophobia/xenocide

Firstly, a definition.

~Xenophobia: “fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.”
~Xenocide is basically what it sounds like: the murder/slaughter of anything strange or foreign.

When I started this story, I wanted the wars to begin for no physical reason. I didn’t want it to be a thing where someone from one of the races attacked someone from another and both sides retaliated, or someone fell in love with someone they shouldn’t have and their parents fought to keep them apart…

No. It had no basis; there is nothing anyone can point to and say, “This is when it began. This was the first act of war.”

Well, they can, but they’d be wrong. The war began long before the first drop of blood was shed. It began – as I honestly believe all war does – in the hearts.   

It was fear, which grew into hatred. Nothing more.

This, too, goes back to the quote from Cool Runnings: “We’re different. People are always afraid of what’s different.”

My races had absolutely no reason to fear or hate each other. In fact, though they don’t know it, they are all intimately connected to each other. But they looked different. They lived differently. They had different ways of speaking. And in hearts and minds, fear took root. A fear of the unknown, the uncertain. An insidious hiss of, “What if…?”

So that’s where it started.

And now, centuries later in the world, they are still at war, still enemies, and no one even knows why. They fight because that is just what they do. Before you start hating on my H-guys, remember this: they think they are protecting people from the real threat, the d-guys. They have been taught since they could learn that the d-guys are to be feared, hated, destroyed. That they are the enemy.

The d-guys have been taught the same thing toward the humans.

Fear is an attitude of the heart. That’s where it lives; that’s where it attaches itself. To change the world, one must change hearts. You can’t just kill off all the “bad guys”– because truly, the more I write this story, the more I realize that there aren’t bad guys. Oh, there are characters who do bad things, really bad things…but they think they’re doing what’s right. And even if they were absolutely evil, killing them off solves nothing: new bad guys will rise in their place. That’s the nature of the beast, as the saying goes.

Originally, I had it that my H-guys were arrogant when they said they were the saviors. Now I see that that are simply misguided. They want to be the saviors. They want to fight evil. The majority of them are men; they’re especially designed with a drive to protect and defend their loved ones.

Their hearts are in the right place.
They’re just fighting the wrong things.

What started as ignorance and fear has escalated into a thirst for genocide.
Where will it end? How will it end?

I’m not sure.
But I guess I must ask, where is your heart?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

“W” is for words


They have such power, don’t they? I mean, I’m a writer. I’m counting on my words having an impact on people. I write, hoping that what I have to say will make a difference to someone somewhere someday.

The power of life and death is in the tongue.

Anyone who has been wounded by words will know this to be true.
As will anyone who has been saved by them.

My friend sent me a quote the other day: “Broken children grow into broken adults. To create a more peaceful future for our planet, we need to create a more peaceful present for our children. Our world needs more heart-whole adults, not more refugees from childhood.”

Most people are not whole. Most of us are refugees from childhood, whether we acknowledge it or not, whether we want to be or not.

Hurt people hurt people. And one of the primary ways is with words.

I believe everyone has a deep cry in their hearts: “Do you delight in me? Am I enough? Do I have what it takes?” Most often, our parents answer those questions.

Ari’s mother is verbally and emotionally abusive toward her and has been as long as Ari remember. Her words cut through Ari’s heart and become the condemning voice inside her head. For Rab, it is not so much the vicious words that pierce her heart – it is the unspoken ones, the silence, the accusations of betrayal. Their mother doesn’t know how to love either of them; she attacks Ari and neglects Rab. Both girls grow up searing with pain, open wounds festering inside.

Jehur strives to please his father, to hear those words of affirmation, validation: “Yes, you have what it takes! You are enough!” They don’t come. Silence weighs heavily. His failure to become what he believes his father views as a man haunts him. Public humiliation and being revealed as not good enough don’t help. He is one of my older characters (at least of the humans), but he is broken, parts of him still stuck at seven years old and aching for his daddy’s approval.

Azcmavel (from this post and this post) is haunted by his father’s words. Though not outright abusive, his father was cutting, emasculating. Incapable of offering approval and oblivious to the chasm he was creating in his young son’s heart. He didn’t know any different – his own father was the same way. Whereas Jehur’s question was mostly ignored, Azcmavel’s was answered with, “No. You are not enough. You’re weak. You’re pathetic. You’re a coward. And you’ll never be any different.”

…Hurt people hurt people.

It becomes a vicious cycle. Children learn what they live. Then they live what they know.

Tirhakah is on the opposite side of this. His parents loved him, taught him what true strength is. They validated him, encouraged him. From the time he was little, they used both actions and words to show him what he meant to them. When others picked on him, mocked him, he stood strong because he knew who he was. He knew he wasn’t a mistake or unwanted – his parents and siblings loved him; he was no different from his siblings, no less of a priceless person. He had a purpose. Though broken by external circumstances and haunted by his choices, the encouraging words have remained with him, have carried him through. (His wife’s words offer immense healing and encouragement as well.) And as such, he is able to affirm, encourage, see through to the heart of broken people and speak to their greatest need: unconditional love and acceptance.

I don’t really know how to end this, so I’ll just end with this: be very careful with your words. Think before you speak and don’t speak in anger. You truly do carry the power of life and death in your tongue.

Choose wisely.

Monday, August 11, 2014

“V” is for violence: vice or virtue?

I received some wonderful suggestions for “V.” This won out; I’m hoping I can do it justice.

If you know my story at all, you know its world is violent. Lots of killing, raping, manipulating, brutalizing, etc. Much of the story focuses on how certain groups are – what they do to those they deem less worthy of life, what they do to those who threaten their lives/power…

And then there are my good guys.

The lines between them are often blurred, if they exist at all. The bad guys are brutal, merciless. So are many of my good guys. My good guys believe they are good, that their cause is just. My bad guys believe the same. Both sides are willing to defend their convictions and people to the death. Both sides kill those the other side deems “innocent.” Both sides seek to protect their own.

Who is right? Who determines which side is good and which side is bad? Or are they really that different at all? Perhaps they are simply two sides to the same coin – opposite, yet one in the same.

Sorek is currently my best (most difficult) example of this. His ability to murder without remorse is chilling, as is his willingness to do it. His natural reaction is violence. He recognizes this about himself and hates it, yet he feels he has no choice. In this world, it is often “kill or be killed.” Or, “kill, or watch your friends die.” What is a vice in the bad guys is more often than not a virtue in Sorek. While they kill to remain in power, he kills to protect, rescue, and free.

But he’s still murdering. And it’s often preemptive.

There are corrupt bad guys, but most believe they’re good – that they are protecting, rescuing, fighting for freedom.

So what separates them? What makes Sorek good, but not some of these other guys? Is it his motivation? Is it theirs? Or is he actually good? Are they actually bad?

(Okay, maybe he wasn’t the greatest example! This is a challenging post, haha!)

Are there times when violence is necessary? Times when, in order to defeat your vicious enemy, you must become equally vicious? Times when the only course of action to keep from being killed is to kill? Is violence ultimately a vice, or a virtue? Or can it be both? And if it can be both, then what decides the difference? And how does one know on which side of the line between good and evil they truly fall?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

“U” is for ulterior

Trust is a big issue in my story-world. So many people have ulterior motives for what they do/don’t do; it’s almost impossible to know who to trust. Trust the wrong person and you’ll probably end up tricked, betrayed, and dead.

One must wonder why I love this place so much.

Three years before the story starts, Masrekah (an H-guy) wanted to marry Rab, but refused to take Ari with them. So Rab refused his proposal. Anger ensued, harsh words were exchanged, and it ended with him basically assaulting her and promising she’d regret her decision. She vowed she wouldn’t. (I love this girl. So feisty!)

Fast forward to now. The H-guys are cracking down on the rebels and Mas appears to be driving the hunt. Rab (who is a rebel) believes he still has it out for her, that he’s watching her because of her past insubordination. Did I mention Mas is the second in command in the town, and has the top guy basically wrapped around his finger? Yeah. He has power enough to destroy everything Rab yearns to build, power enough to find and slaughter every one of her friends. He’s a chilling enemy with unclear motives, and Rab can only assume the worst.

Book two introduces the inn/brothel. The innkeeper is a perfect example of “ulterior,” in one of the cruelest ways. She welcomes Ari in, promises help and safety and food and shelter, and comes off as kindly in every way. Then she traps her. Her motives also remain unclear.

There are many others too – some big, some small, some fluid. Sorek, for instance, has motives for how he relates to Rab that he doesn’t explain for a while, and his desires are often at war. Within a single scene, he may act on one motivation, then turn around and act on another, then go back to the first. It would be wonderful if he’d just say what he’s thinking, if he’d explain himself, but it’s not realistic for his character. He has seen far too many loved ones die, and he’s faced immensely difficult decisions. It may sound odd to any non-writers, but I truly can’t make my characters do whatever I want. Once a character’s personality is established, they lead it. Characters have/should have unspoken desires/drives/hopes/fears. These things often drive relationships in real life, so my story-world and characters should be no different. =)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Changes and Updates and Such

Ah, so much has changed in the past few days. =) Big thing is, with some great help, I retitled my books. And I have decided that all seven will have dual perspectives between Ari and Rab. Fun fun!

Here are the current new titles. Subject to change, but this is the direction I’m going.

1. Sowing
2. Fracturing
3. Seeking
4. Shattering
5. Garroting
6. Silencing
7. Reaping

I. Am. So. Excited!!

That is all. Off to write. About 3,000 more words and I’m done with Camp Nano!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Author Spotlight -- Angel Blackwood!

This is my friend and editor, Angel Blackwood. She did an author spotlight on me (available on her page), and I am returning the favor! She has excerpts, pictures, and all kinds of story-related stuff on her page: Angel Blackwood -- Facebook Page

What inspired you to write your first book?
Way back when I was nine, I watched a news story about veterans writing their life story. It made me want to write. That was my first little piece of nothing book. I wrote my first real book when I was thirteen. It was 380 or so handwritten pages. A friend I’d made that year introduced me to writing. It was originally to help me get the demons out during a very dark time in my life, but it soon became something I loved.

Do you have a specific writing style?
I write fantasy, third person omniscient. It’s where you can be in any of the character’s heads at any time. I try to keep it mostly in one person’s head per scene, but sometimes I jump. I try to have variety depending on whose scene it is. For example, Zahir’s parts tend to be more stilted and awkward because English isn’t his first language while Althea’s parts tend to have more fragments because that’s how she talks.  

How did you come up with the title?
The series I’m mostly focused on right now is The Obsidian Embers trilogy. Obsidian because Zahir is dark-skinned, and the magic they fight is dark. Embers because it made me think of something smoldering right beneath the surface, something that, if it were fanned, would spark and burn brightly. The rebellion, to me, was that. As for the titles of the first book… Kindling is what starts a fire. It’s also a word for beginning, awakening, the start of a blaze.
I’m also working on The Tales of The Lone Guardians right now. It’s easier than the other to explain. These are tales of the group known as The Lone Guardians. The first book, Death and Other Inconveniences, is named such because Alexander, Ursula, Raphael, Mace and Hellequin experience a lot of terrible things, a lot of setbacks, and plenty of death.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
In The Obsidian Embers Trilogy – Fight. If you see a cause that needs championing, don’t wait for someone else to do it. Stand up for freedom, for your rights, for those who can’t stand up for themselves. It doesn’t matter if you think you’re qualified, it doesn’t matter if you have money or a pedestal to stand on. Stand up and fight for the things you know to be right.
In Tales of The Lone Guardians – Redemption. It doesn’t matter your past or where you came from, everyone has the potential to be redeemed. Prostitutes, runaways, swindlers…it doesn’t matter. With hard work and a genuine desire to be a better person, it can be done. 

How much of the book is realistic?
There’s magic and whatnot, but I try to keep things as realistic as I can. There are rules that the magic follows. I try to make sure that everything in the book that can be realistic should be.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Nothing in particular is based on my real life, but there’s some abuse and insanity I can connect with. Besides that, I try to put myself into all my characters. I was educated in criminal justice and psychology, so that helps a lot too.

What books have most influenced your life most?
When I set writing aside somewhere around fifteen, RA Salvatore made me want to write again. His books are amazing and they inspired me to pick up my pencil again. Later, Joe Abercrombie wrote his books and let me know that real life is dark and crummy sometimes and it was okay to write it that way.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
RA Salvatore shared some great advice with me a few years ago. And I really look up to Joe Abercrombie’s style. They write indifferent styles, so I can choose them both. :P

What book are you reading now?
Well, I’m reading yours, Angie. It’s grabbing my attention the more and more I read your new book one. Aside from that, I’m not currently reading anything. I’m gathering some money to buy the new RA Salvatore books I’m behind on. Then I’ll be getting Half a King by Joe Abercrombie and The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks.

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I recently read some sci-fi type books by Nick Sagan (Carl Sagan’s son) and really loved them. Halloween is by far my new favorite cynical character in a sci-fi novel. I’m anxious to see if he writes anything after the Idlewild series.

What are your current projects?
I’m working on The Obsidian Embers Trilogy right now, which I talked about up there. When July is over, I’ll be going back to working on Tales of The Lone Guardians, too. I’ve also got some historical romance and a sci-fi novel rolling around in my brain. And I’m trying to help my husband write his first sci-fi novel, Bargaining with the Beast.

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My friends try to be supportive. I can tell they don’t necessarily get wanting to write as a career, but they do their best. Everyone in the writers group here on facebook has been really supportive.

Do you see writing as a career?
Of course! I want it to be my full time career one day.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Well, book one is actually now book two, and it will be revised heavily. I am already changing a lot, and more will change too. The only thing I’d change apart from what I’m already planning to change is just to write it better, use better descriptions, fewer words to explain myself, etc. And not repeat myself so much! Ack!

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I mentioned it up there. I saw a news program once when I was nine that made me want to write. And, when I was thirteen and going through a very dark time in my life, my friend let me read some things she was writing. She suggested that I write. It snowballed from there.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Of course. Here’s a bit I wrote recently:

“Matron, let me introduce Prince Gajendra to you.”
            Desdemona rose one delicate white brow and stepped forward. She looked up into Jen’s bearded face. Her eyes seemed to bore into him as she studied him, and he shifted nervously. She lifted her hand and cupped his chin, tilting his head from side to side. She pulled his head down so she could touch his hair. After a moment, she smiled and let him go. He immediately scrambled behind Dejanira.
             “I suppose a good job is in order,” Desdemona said. She stepped up and looked up into Dejanira’s eyes. “And a how dare you.”
            “What?” She shook her head and started to step away, but Desdemona narrowed her eyes. The look held her as still as any bonds.
            “How dare you make a spectacle of yourself at the auctions? How dare you disrupt my plans for your own pigheaded sense of pride? How dare you send such an important man off with a servant all alone? How dare you lose him?” She took hold of Dejanira’s chin and jerked her head down so they were eye level. “And especially, how dare you walk in here as though you’ve done nothing wrong?”
            Dejanira gulped and, to her disgrace, she felt tears well in her own eyes. She tried to pull away, but Desdemona’s fingers were like iron. If only they were the type of iron she could command. 
            “Please, Matron, I meant no harm.” She cleared her throat and tried to sound more confident. “I wanted to bring him to you myself. I don’t know what came over me. Please forgive me.”
            “You very nearly ruined everything,” she said and gave Dejanira’s face a hard shake. “No matter.”
            She released her with a little push, and Dejanira stumbled backward. Desdemona stepped back and leaned her hips against her desk. She nodded to the corner of the room where a dark-skinned man lay bound and unconscious.
            “As you can see, I have my prize. No thanks to you.” She folded her arms and tilted her head, a gleam in her eyes that Dejanira surely didn’t like. “I do congratulate you on bringing me the prince. That wasn’t easy. Good job.”
            “So, I’m forgiven?” she asked, hope edging into her voice despite her efforts to keep it away.
            “Forgiven? No.” She waved her hand and the little door that lead into the library opened behind her desk.
            Two men slid into the room, and Dejanira immediately recognized them. One had the pink eyes and white hair of a rabbit and the other had the dark skin of a piece of burnt wood with eyes like coals. Dejanira was fond of keeping opposites in her personal menagerie, and these two were her favorites.
            “As punishment, I’m releasing your two most prized men. They will leave from here with the next trip to the neighboring city.” Dejanira gasped and tried to protest, but at a look from Desdemona, she snapped her mouth shut. “And you will be confined to the quiet room until I see fit to let you out.”
            “But Matron-“
            Desdemona quickly stepped up to her and slapped her hand over Dejanira’s mouth. She squeezed her cheeks and a pull like her very soul was being ripped from her mouth came over her. She groaned and her knees buckled. Jen shot across the room and cowered against the door, face in his hands as he trembled.
            “I am the Matron, not you. I am in charge, not you.” She pushed and Dejanira was forced to arch her back. “I give the orders, and you follow them.”
            She dropped her soft voice down until she was whispering. “Is that clear, puppy?”
            Dejanira nodded quickly, her head swimming as black spot erupted over her vision.
            “Good.” With that, she released her and Dejanira fell all the way back.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
No, not really. Sometimes it’s hard to get into the characters minds, especially the more girly of the women or the children. But really, I don’t find any of it overly challenging.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
You’re going to be hearing a lot about these three. RA Salvatore is a favorite because he has amazing fight scenes and his heroes are wonderful displays of the good and his bad guys are a little more gray than most peoples. Joe Abercrombie is a favorite because he writes dark, gritty, realistic fantasy. Brent Weeks is a favorite for the same reason as Abercrombie, but he goes a bit further. Brent Weeks uses children in his novels and says “Sometimes kids have a bad life. Sometimes things are dark.” 

Which character has been the most challenging to write and which the easiest?
Absalom has by far been the hardest person to write. He’s closest to a purely good character in my books, and I’ve found it very difficult to write someone who is so good. He’s got some moral gray zones, but ultimately, he is so good it makes it hard for me to get in his head. As for easiest, I very much enjoy writing Verin. He’s dark and twisted, but he has a tortured soul and good spots. It’s easier to write someone gray and dark.

Who designed the covers?
I design my own covers. When I’m actually published, someone else will do it, but right now, I get to put all my own artwork on the cover.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?
There was a pretty dark moment in the original book two where Marietta remembers rape. That was enormously hard to write for me.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I’ve obviously learned how to be a better writer. I’ve learned a bit about risk taking. I have to take risks and put my stuff out there to get feedback so I can be better. I have to take risks and write the things other people aren’t willing to.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
Set a time and write. Even if it’s just thirty minutes a day, write during it. Slowly bump it up to forty-five minutes, an hour and so on. It will really get you used to writing. And let people who aren’t your friends and family read it. They will be honest with you.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you for reading. Thank you for supporting me. Thank you for loving my world as much as I do. And to all my future readers when I’m on the shelves one day, thank you for giving me a chance.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

“T” is for too many things…

I had numerous options and suggestions for “T.” But one stood out, and within that one, I realized I could explore several of the other compelling ideas as well.

So. “T” is for Tirrene, tyranny, treason/traitor, trafficking, terror, tragedy, and transformation.

Tirrene (tie-reen) is one of the five human nations. And though the world is controlled by the H-guys, Tirrene rules the H-guys; the leaders of the other four nations answer to the Tirrenian leader.

In the minds of most of my characters, “Tirrene” and “H-guys” are synonymous. Tirrene is the heart of the H-guys. They started the original war against the d-guys. The H-guys formed in Tirrene. The horrific things that take place in the world stem from the Tirrenian Lords. No nation does much without Tirrene giving the go-ahead. And if someone decides to implement their own ideas without asking permission first, they’re pretty much dead. No matter who they are.

While there are pockets of dissatisfaction/rebellion brewing in the other nations, nearly everyone in Tirrene is loyal to the H-guys, either because of true agreement or fear. Tirrene rules by instilling terror. Even the slightest disobedience is treason. While every nation is harsh in dealing with rebels/traitors, Tirrene is the most brutal. Yet their arrogance will be their downfall. Because of their reputation, they believe they are untouchable; they believe no one would be stupid enough to try to undermine them, or betray them, or fight against them.

The brothel Ari gets trapped in is in Tirrene, and there are more brothels in Tirrene than any other nation. The half-breed group lives in the Tirrenian Forest and searches tirelessly for abandoned children within Tirrenian cities. The nation is rife with all sorts of corruption. The other nations aptly refer to Tirrene as “the land of bloodshed.” That term is also interchangeable with the H-guys, as they are a people of bloodshed.

From this nation has come nearly every atrocity and tragedy the world has known.

From this nation will come a champion – one who will stand against the evil, bridge the abyss between the oppressed and the oppressor.

The Tirrenian leader is terrified of this prophesied “champion.” He’s slaughtered people, spilled the blood of innocents upon every corner of his nation and the world to avoid it. He’s instilled terror in every land and rules with an iron fist. He doesn’t tolerate the slightest hint of treason, disloyalty, or disobedience. He has secured his world and hunkered down with his closest allies to ride out the threat.

One thing will dismantle it all: transformation.

The transformation of “follower,” to “traitor,” to “savior.”

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

“S” is for service/sacrifice

There’s a scene I love at the end of Avatar: The Last Airbender. I can’t find a clip, so I’ll explain it briefly.


It’s after the final battle. The war is over, and Zuko (former enemy turned friend) is now the Fire Lord. He and his friends are sitting in his uncle’s tea shop, and Zuko is serving tea to everyone. He’s the ruler of his nation – and he is serving, not demanding he be served. (Here is a link. Start it at about 21:45.)


I have numerous leaders in my story. Some use their position to further their agenda, often at the expense of others. They aren’t corrupt – they’re typical. In both my story-world and real life. We often think of “leaders” as strong, powerful people with great influence/speaking abilities.

I believe a great leader serves. A great leader isn’t one who stands with his head lifted above the crowd – he’s the one who stoops and bows his head to wash the feet of those he loves. He doesn’t send his people to battle – he goes in first. He is the one who doesn’t focus on trying to lead – he focuses on being someone worth following.

I have selfish leaders, but others are different. Whatever else their methods, they are humble, respectful, compassionate. They seek to serve instead of trying to force/convince others to serve them. They don’t demand people sacrifice for them – they willingly sacrifice for others. They don’t tout themselves as great leaders – they just try to be good people. People don’t follow them because they are charismatic, natural leaders, or because they have special powers/great influence. People follow them because they trust their hearts, their goodness.

Sorek and Tirhakah are the two that come most readily to mind. Neither asked to be a leader, neither is a natural leader (Sorek is fiery but a loner; Tirhakah is reserved and hates attention), and neither finds their worth in the power given them. In truth, both would step down and slip away in obscurity if they could.

But they can’t.  
They love people too much.

They passionately, desperately, sacrificially love people. They break for the broken because they know how it feels to be shattered. They gather the abandoned because they know how it feels to be left alone. They defend the weak because they’ve had to fend for themselves in a cruel world.

They have come through the fire and emerged stronger, refined, focused.

When things go wrong or the enemy attacks, bad leaders throw aside whatever they said and seek to save themselves. Good leaders hurl themselves between their people and the enemy. And with fire in their eyes and passion pouring from their hearts, they stand there until they cannot stand anymore.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

“R” is…not for what you may expect!

Nope, “R” is not for rape (whew!), but racism.

There’s a line from the movie Cool Runnings that has always stood out to me. It’s when the Jamaican bobsled team is at the Olympics. They haven’t been well-received by the other competitors, and one of the guys quietly comments on the fact that no one seems to like them. His teammate replies, “We’re different. People are always afraid of what’s different.”

Racism plays a huge part in my story. It’s not just one of the themes, but it’s the foundation of the world.

And it starts with fear.

The humans fear the d-guys. Believing them to be dangerous, the humans did what any “wise” nation would do – they didn’t wait to be destroyed, but attacked preemptively.

The humans started the war, yes.

But both sides fueled it – and continue to fuel it – with their hatred, their fear, their unwillingness to lay down their arms and work toward understanding each other. The humans think the d-guys are not worthy of life. The d-guys believe the same about the humans. And therein we find this playing out: “The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world.”

The half-breeds could be racist as well. They could identify themselves as “half-human” or as “half-d-guy.” But they don’t; they recognize the silliness in that. Besides, it will get them nothing – neither race wants them. Instead of trying to lord something over someone else, they simply band together. They try to find others like themselves – not just half-breeds, but all of the unwanted, rejected, abandoned. They seek people in need.

Within the half-breed group, there isn’t racism. There is compassion. There is a mutual respect and understanding of the fact that they are not different inside, even if they look a little different on the outside. They look at the heart. And they love each other for who they are, paying no attention to what they are.

Yet again, Thrice lyrics inspired this story.
“Don’t we all know life is sacred? Don’t we all know we bleed the same red blood?”

In the half-breed group, life is sacred. They live it, fight for it, and risk their lives for it.

They get it.

The rest of the world will eventually.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

“Q” is for quit

Ari has many reasons – and opportunities – to give up.

Her mother hates her, is verbally/emotionally/sometimes physically abusive. Early on in the story, she’s been torn from all she’s ever known. Returning home means death – but her sister needs help, so she tries her hardest to reach her. She ends up trapped in a horror she never imagined, the remainder of her innocence ripped from her at the hands of men and a vicious woman. Originally, she had no reason to fight for her survival (apart from the desire to simply stay alive).

But now, she has a reason (saving her sister).
So she fights.
And keeps fighting.

I don’t even know how many times she comes near the point of giving up, but she doesn’t quit. She learns. She adapts. Amid torture (physical and psychological) and forced prostitution, she hardens herself. She plots and manipulates and tries numerous times to escape her imprisonment, until at last she secures her freedom.

Every obstacle she encounters, she faces. She figures out a way where there seems to be no possible way, no matter the cost. And even when everything crashes down on her – which happens several times – she keeps trying. Sometimes she rises to the challenge. Sometimes the struggle gets the best of her. But she never quits. She won’t.

Rab does give up for a while. When everything is ripped from her, she falls and doesn’t rise immediately. She doesn’t face the challenges, doesn’t adapt. She implodes, then explodes. Seeing no purpose for her life, she doesn’t try to preserve it. Broken and furious, she becomes reckless – the recklessness of one who has nothing to lose.

But she, too, will come to the crossroads. A moment where she must decide whether to quit, or rise again.

There are many others too. Most of my characters have every reason to quit, to let their circumstances consume them. Some do. Some can’t handle the strain, the fear, the things required of them.

But the others are resilient. In the face of evil, they may tremble, but they stand. When presented with the chance to quit, though they may falter a bit, they ultimately press on. For their loved ones, for their people, for the greater good of the whole world.

I hope I can do it all justice.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

“P” is for purpose

Wow. Where to begin.

Several years ago, I got a story idea. Whatever else happened, it would be about a girl who is exactly who she is, where she is, with the personality and strengths and life experiences and everything else for a reason.

This is that.

I try to make purpose bleed from every aspect, every character. Not in the way of, “I’m the chosen one! This is my destiny!” – but how it is in real life: people are shaped choice by choice. They in turn do/say things that help shape others. Sometimes for good, sometimes not. Sometimes people end up changing the world though they never set out to do it. Sometimes, people simply change. They make one decision – to fight, stand, run, hurt, wait, kill, spare, forgive, not forgive, speak, not speak…

And it becomes a ripple.

“All sacrifice and suffering is redemptive. It is used to either teach the individual or to help others. Nothing is by chance.”

I believe everyone has a purpose, a destiny. That everything happens for a reason.

I put my characters through crap. Many writers do. For me, it’s about purpose, redemption. The purpose of redemption.

A girl is held as a sex slave. What shattered her heart enables her to heal the hearts of others. She can reach those that others can’t.

A young man is captured, forced to do unconscionable things. He’s terrified like everyone else. He isn’t a leader. But people are looking to him, and he rises to the challenge. In the bowels of that prison, the first seeds of a world-altering movement are planted. In more ways than one.

Another man is born in moral darkness and knows nothing else. Everything in his life prepares him, positions him. When it comes down to it, he’s exactly what the world needs.

The unwanted, the children of rape, are the ones who become the beacon of hope in a world staggering under the weight of its own wickedness.

The very thing that one man does to ensure victory is what ultimately destroys him.

Cause and effect. Suffering and redemption. In the darkness, the light shines brightest. Out of the fire come the souls seared with a passion that cannot be stopped. The abusers become the rescuers. The oppressed become the champions. The weak and flighty and unexpected become the warriors who change everything.

Ah, for all its frustrating-ness sometimes, I love this story.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

“O” is for opportunity

Blah. I’m finally back.

“O” is for opportunity…

Opportunity plays an increasingly large part of my story…though I’m not sure how to explain how I’m looking at it. It’s kind of an abstract concept.

Many of my characters are looking for an opportunity in some way or another. Some are more selfishly-motivated than others; some have been a long time coming; some are newly-acquired/realized goals.

Basically, very long story short, my story-world has four groups of people:
1. H-guys (Huls) – in charge of everything, oppressive, led by a guy who is going crazy
2. D-guys – creature race with dwindling numbers
3. K-guys – creature race in self-imposed exile
4. Everyone else

Amid the “everyone else” are two groups – those who accept the oppression (either by agreement, or resignation), and those who don’t (human rebels and half-breeds).

~Certain rebels have been seeking the opportunity to undermine the H-guys.
~Certain H-guys have been seeking to further their own power.
~The H-guy in charge seeks to destroy all who oppose him, hoping he will get the opportunity to do what his father never could – end the threat of the prophecy.
~The man just under him seeks the opportunity to bump him off and take the power for himself, to restore the world to what he thinks it should be.
~The man under him seeks first to rise higher through the ranks, then eventually to redeem himself and make the world right.
~Another high-up leader waits for the opportunity to assert himself and break free of those who have power over him.
~Another man waits for the opportunity to destroy those who he now sees as wicked and corrupt.
~The half-breeds seek the opportunity to infiltrate the ranks of their enemy and do as much damage as possible.
~The d-guys seek the opportunity to crush their enemy before they themselves are crushed.
~The k-guys seek an opportunity for redemption.
~A man I originally was going to kill seeks the opportunity to help as many people as he can, for as long as he can.
~On a more local level, a young woman seeks the opportunity to save her sister and herself from an abusive situation.
~That sister stumbles upon the opportunity for freedom, but all is not as it could be.
~That sister later thinks she’s been given the opportunity of help, but her opportunities for escape are running out.

Each of my characters wants something. Some, as I said, are selfish. Others are crazy. Others think what they seek will make them happy, but once they get it, they realize its emptiness. Others are desperate for hope, freedom, a way out. Some are too desperate. Others are selfless, sacrificial.

The desires of all of these characters drive the story. They are constantly presented with opportunities, some in disguise, some coming in ways they never expected.

I am not sure yet how it will all play out. But I want the foundations of this world to shake. =)

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Writing Meme Thingy!!

I was tagged in this Writing Meme by Rachel, so I shall answer these questions (I love answering questions!!), and tag some fellow writers!

1) What is the title of your next book/work?
My current story will be seven books, and I’m kind of working on several at once. (Some of the timelines overlap a bit.) The series itself is currently called “The Purification Era,” which is what they in my story-world call their current era. I’m not sure if that will change or not, though I like it a lot and it fits, so… I’m currently writing (er, should be writing…) book one, which is “Emerging of Emerald.” I’m also revising book two, “Searching for Silver.”

(S for S was originally book one, and I revealed what happened before it started via flashbacks. As a friend edited it, she said she felt like I was trying to tell two stories at once and should separate them. That confirmed something I’d been wrestling with for a while, so I decided to do it. As I started writing new book one, the storyline changed drastically, which means that a massive revision is needed for book two. It may not sound fun, but I love it!)

2) Where did the idea come from for the book/work?
WELL. That’s a fun question. I don’t know where the original idea came from because I don’t remember it. I started this story in 2003, lost it for about five years, and re-found it late one night. The basic idea was about a girl who is somehow different and who somehow finds people like her. It had something to do with their eyes. The big thing that spurred it on was the song “Under a Killing Moon” by Thrice. Here are the lyrics…

The air my lungs first loved carves craters from my eyes.
They said, “Breathe deeply son, or be the next to die.”
Beneath the falling night and heaven’s shutting gate,
pray keep your tongue held tight, or suffer the same fate.

“The blood on our black gloves, it is none of your concern.
If you want to call our bluff, get in line and wait your turn.
And watch the witches burn.”

Don’t flinch when innocents are dancing with the flames;
if they wanted to live, they’d learn to play the game.
You can still walk away if you just hold your tongue;
if you’d just walk away, you’d live to see the sun, but…
Under this killing moon, under this burning sky, the fire’s shining groom,
I hold my breath and close my eyes.

Listening to that, I got the image of people in black burning people that they deemed bad, dangerous, the enemy. And I saw someone else standing off to the side, watching the killing and believing it to be wrong – and knowing that if they spoke up against the killers, they’d die too.

From that, the story was birthed. It has changed a lot, but that is still the foundation. Especially of a certain character’s (Rab) moral dilemma early on. =)

3) What genre does your book/work fall under?
Fantasy for the most part, with elements of dystopian too. I’m not sure whether it would fall under high fantasy or low fantasy… I don’t fully grasp the differences between the two, but from what I’ve read, mine sort of straddles the line.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I haven’t the slightest idea. Seriously. Never thought about it at all.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Oh gosh. Just one sentence? Um…

In a war-torn world, two sisters must forge a path through the darkness and find their purposes.

…Sure. We’ll go with that.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I am going to self-publish. =)

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I edit/revise a lot as I write, and I write in pieces, so it’s really hard to say. But it probably took about two and a half years? Something like that.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Uh…not a clue. Haha!

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Ultimately God. So many things have inspired me though – song lyrics, news stories, sermons, books I’ve read, movies, my own life experiences, a video about human trafficking…

Basically, the story is about redemption. Redemption has been the cry of my heart for as long as I can remember. Redemption not only for those who have endured horrible things, but for those who have done horrible things. In thousands of tiny ways, I am inspired all the time.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
I don’t know how much it will pique people’s interest, but the way I am writing it should prove interesting (especially should I pull it off the way I want to). It will be told from alternating perspectives of my two sisters, Ari and Rab. And while what is going on in the world is the backdrop of the story, this story is not a sweeping, epic fantasy. I’m showing war, but instead of focusing on massive battles on a huge scope, it is more intimate. Ultimately, it is about two girls who change – not about war or those girls changing the world. Yes, the world will change, but only when people change. It is about relationships, brokenness, healing, and forgiveness. It’s about how individuals are affected, and how they affect other people.

I don’t know how different that is, but I’m hoping it’s at least intriguing. =)

Thanks for reading! I shall tag some people!!