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Category: Tue-Rah

Locked Is Now Live!

Locked is now live!

I am so excited to share this because it is the first official release of the Tue-Rah stories. A prequel to The Tue-Rah Chronicles.

It is really happening.

It has amazed me how quickly my readers fell in love with WroOth. As I have mentioned before (and likely will again), he is probably the dearest of my characters because he is the oldest. This is a character who has literally been with me since I was around Inale’s age at the start of Identity Revealed, and he was created out of a need to express myself and all of my snarkiness as a child. Which there was a lot of. I was a smart aleck whose world was quite small with cruel outskirts. I had a lot to say and a deep love of dragons. So why not channel them into a middle-aged shapeshifter whose favorite form is a red dragon?

(Funny thing, originally WroOth [Giluf Wroth and then Wroth, my oh so subtle nod toward my own anger issues] was based off Smaug in an incredibly loose sense. Oddly he never had a love for gold or a hatred of dwarves but he did enjoy riddles and mindteasers, thus the appearance of the puzzle box.)

Thomas Williams described discovering characters as starting a fire and sitting down and waiting to see who comes to warm their hands by the firelight.

What a beautiful thought and image.

For me, it’s never quite the same way, but I typically know who my characters are. It feels more like perpetually walking through a forest or a jungle. The terrain changes. Day fades and night comes. There is no warning about who I will find, and some characters skitter across the peripherals of my mind without sticking. And other times, they walk up, and they walk alongside me, and it is so easy to let them flow then into the pages. With most of the characters in my story, there is a point where I precisely remember them appearing and learn more of who they are.

Because WroOth was so deeply personal to me, I doubted that others would connect quite so well. It’s a common fate that the deeply loved or personal characters are the ones whom audiences grow swiftly annoyed with and despise (and who knows! The same may yet happen, though I hope not). But to those of you who are WroOth fans, you were kind enough to encourage me and affirm your desire to read more about him and his past, present, and future.

Of all the characters, I have received the most kind notes and greatest support for WroOth. And it is actually you, dear readers, who convinced me to release Locked and even gave me the idea to release it before the official release of Identity Revealed and Enemy Known.  (In fact, James was the one who convinced me to let WroOth play a much larger role in the primary series as in a rendition about five years ago, WroOth was trapped in his skinchanger form and unlike who he used to be or would become. So thank you for that, James, my dearest love.

And it makes me laugh because WroOth is a villain. Of sorts. But he connects somehow. I think it’s because of his smiles and what he hides and the reality that inside he’s so broken that the only thing that holds him together is his love for his family and his determination to somehow make it right. And over all that, he plasters a smile and finds the joke, even if he has to make it up himself.

It’s with Mara that he finds some of his greatest happiness. They’re both fractured people in a broken world, and their love story is one I delight in writing. There is a lot more to come for them and all that they experienced as well as the events in Tue-Rah Chronicles and beyond.

So if you’d like to pick up a copy of Locked, I’d greatly appreciate it, and if you would be so kind as to leave a review on Amazon, I’d appreciate that as well. No matter what though, I’ll keep on writing. Thank you for reading.

Fiction Snippet: What A Sister Knows

So, as I am striving to post at least once each day, I will also be sharing snippets of fiction as well as essays.

This is a rough draft, though the writing time took more than 15 minutes as I intended. Still I had fun with it.

Today’s is from Rejected:  A Tue-Rah Story

Spoiler Level: No spoilers for Tue-Rah Chronicles

Note: brief vocabulary explanations found at the bottom

Snippet: 

Naatos chose the garden because he wanted to be alone. As he passed beneath the stone archway and into the quiet haven, he knew he had to come to a solution. Hatet had become more aggressive with her advances, and she had made fools out of both of them.

He sat on the silver marble bench heavily and let his hands slide over his knees. This was all too much.

This garden should have offered peace and consolation. The ancient trees and thick lamb’s ear and heather bushes scented the air with many pleasant notes, both contemplative and calming. Except for now, the chaos within him overwhelmed even that.

Soft footsteps sounded outside in the hall. Mara started to pass by with a basket of apples. Bundles of herbs and white and yellow flowers sat on top. She broke off when she saw him and then entered the garden. “Why so grave today? Are you all right?” She put the back of her hand to his forehead. “Are you sick?”

“No.” Naatos pulled back. “I am thinking. Go.”

“You’re brooding.” Mara sat and angled sideways to face him. “Is this about Hatet? I like her.”

“As do I. She is many things.” Naatos refrained from looking at her in case she took that as a sign he wanted her there.

“Many wonderful things.” Mara smiled. “She’s bold, she’s ferocious, she’s intelligent. And she is willing to literally break down doors to get to you.”

“But she is not my viskaro.”

“Couldn’t she be?”

“No.”

“What makes her unsuitable?” Mara tilted her head. Her long mass of semi-curly hair fell over her shoulders. The humidity made it all the thicker even as sweat dampened her face.

“Mara…I came to the garden to think. Not to talk to you.” Naatos motioned toward the open doorway nearest them. “So go.”

“If you didn’t want to talk to someone, you would have closed the door. I know you well enough not to fall for all that kabuliblech.” Mara combed her fingers through his hair, gathering it to the side with each stroke. Small strands and tangles caught on her callouses and scars. “If you want me to get WroOth or AaQar or QueQoa or Khanaan or someone else, I will.”

“That’s not the issue.” And she was right. He had left the door open. Naatos sighed. “Mara,…are you braiding my hair?”

“It’s getting too long. You’ll catch it in the door or window or a cabiza’s mouth.”

“I know how to handle it.”

“You look handsome with it braided.” Mara parted his thick black hair. “But more importantly it soothes you.”

It was true, but it puzzled Naatos how she had determined this. He had never told anyone. Then again, she had braided his hair when he was ill. Something about the motion was calming. He glanced at her sidelong. “Surely you have more important things to do.”

“Nothing pressing. The babies are sleeping, and so is WroOth. They’re all tired from playing monster.” Mara smiled crookedly. “So…why not Hatet? She is drawn to you.”

“Apparently. But as I am strong enough to fend her off and not accept the locking, I do not have to join with her.” Naatos remained as he was, shoulders half-slumped, elbows resting on his knees. Even if Mara insisted on braiding his hair, he would not act as if he enjoyed it.

Mara shook her head. She twined the hair about. “I don’t really understand that. If you like her too and she likes you, why not see if you are compatible? WroOth said if you decided you wanted to be receptive that, with a little time, you both might. Maybe give it some time and kisses?”

“That is not the issue.” Naatos started to shake his head, but Mara pulled the braid taut.

“Hm.” Mara nodded. She sounded like she was talking to one of her children. She lifted up one section of his hair.  “I think…maybe this whole idea of you locking with a Neyeb is the problem. Maybe you should reconsider that. It may be keeping you from seeing someone perfect for you.”

“No.” Naatos took hold of the braid as he turned to look at her. “I am strong enough to resist, therefore, it is my choice.” It truly was that simple. Hatet had had numerous chances to overpower him with the locking, but it had not taken. “I do not choose to accept her even though I like her. This is the Vawtrian way.”

Mara drew both legs up onto the marble bench and sat on her knees. She studied him. “But maybe that’s the problem. When aren’t you strong? You’re so set on where you want to go that you’re ignoring this other path that may be even better. The only way anyone changes your mind is if there’s no other option” She picked up the braid once more and resumed plaiting.

“It may be better,” Naatos said. “But it is not what I want.”

“Well…” Mara shrugged and scooted back on the bench to maintain tension on the braid. “Sometimes not getting what you want is part of the fun. And Hatet is lots of fun. She and WroOth have always been close. She’s been close to all of you.”

“She tried to lock with WroOth as well.” Naatos recalled how poorly that had gone as well. WroOth had not understood the first time, and he had not expected the second attempt. After that Hatet, did not speak of it again.  Up above a tracker eagle called out to its mate. The second responded within the span of a breath.

“Yes. And she tried with AaQar, but he’s hard to catch. Unlike you. I almost always know where you’re at.” Mara tugged his ear lightly.

“It’s because I let you know.” Naatos watched her. She had changed a great deal in the past years, but her core head remained the same. “If I did not anyone to know where I was, they wouldn’t.”

“I know. You are terrifying. But anyway, I just don’t think a Neyeb is a good choice for you. You like to fight. You yell.”

“Not always.”

“No. But you’ve got this tone, it’s not yelling, but it feels like you’re yelling. And you know, when you’re wrong, you don’t like to admit it. I suppose none of us do, but you take it farther. A Neyeb is going to be more likely to give you a literal mind adjustment rather than work with you. Or you’ll scare her. And what if she just collapses? WroOth said that some of the Neyeb avoid you because your mind is such a terrifying place.”

“He’s exaggerating.” Naatos propped his chin on his fist.

“Is he?” Mara leaned closer. “Naatos, I love you, but you carry so much heaviness and darkness inside you. Even I can feel it, and I’m not a mindreader. Terrible things happened to all of you, and nothing changes it. At least another Vawtrian could endure through it by your side rather than having to experience it with you while also trying to walk with you.”

Naatos stared at the high stone wall of the garden, avoiding her soft yet piercing gaze. The Neyeb Council had already rejected him once. Despite their promises to continue the search, he wondered if any compatible Neyeb would ever exist. Mara was close in her understanding why it was important, and nothing would convince him to give that up.

“Well, if you aren’t going to give it up, then you need to do your best to start filing down the points and cleaning out the muck.” Mara tied off the braid. “It’s not fair to her otherwise. And, yes, I know life isn’t about what’s fair, but if you want to be a good husband, you won’t make her go through that. And I still think Hatet is good.”

Naatos held up the long braid. It reached nearly to the base of his back. Large white and yellow olna blossoms were woven throughout. “Flowers…”

Mara giggled. She sounded very much like an older version of Sadyr. “You’re going to cut it anyway, and I had extra.” She sank back on her heels. Her smile became more crooked. “So aside from Hatet trying to lock with WroOth and that not working and trying to lock with AaQar and that not working, why are you so set against her? You two might actually become compatible.”

Naatos bristled. “That is precisely the point though. “She wanted both of them before she wanted me.”

“Oh!” Mara clapped her hands over her mouth, a bright grin lighting her face. “You want someone to fall in love with just you. You don’t want Hatet because she wanted your brothers before you. You are so much more like Awdawms than you want to admit.”

“Mara.” Naatos realized too much had been exposed. He hadn’t intended to share this much.

Mara laughed as she stood. “You don’t want to be found out and yet you want to marry a Neyeb? She’ll know you inside and out within the space of a few weeks.”

“They also have a divine gift of discernment and compassion so they know better than to speak of what they’ve seen.” Naatos shifted his weight back.

Mara’s smile became even more crooked as she drew closer. “I know how to keep secrets too.” She kissed him on the cheek. “We just want you to be happy. And this I do understand. I’m sure if you had to deal with being the second or third pick, you’d deal with it. I suppose too that when all the seeds are sown, it makes as much sense that you would find a Neyeb who could make you happy if they find one you’re compatible with. It’s taken me years to figure you out. You are so prickly.”

“It doesn’t seem to bother you,” Naatos said dryly.

“Well of course not. And it doesn’t bother Hatet either. Now.” Mara held up her hands. “I understand that you don’t want to lock with her. That’s fine. I wouldn’t ever suggest going into a relationship because of obligation, but…” Her expression grew more serious. “Have you ever considered why Hatet bounced between all three of you? Is it really that you’re all so charming and wonderful? Or…” She tapped her finger to her cheek. “Is it maybe that she is one of your oldest friends, and you all started locking without letting her know a thing? And maybe, just maybe, she’s afraid that she’s going to lose her friendship with all of you because you’re replacing her with viskaros?”

“That’s a very Awdawm way of looking at it.” Naatos hesitated all the same. There was no spark or depth of interest when Hatet touched him, and it could not be a one-way sensation between Vawtrians. Which meant that she was forcing this. Some other feeling compelled her.

Chuckling, Mara walked beneath the willow tree with the long silver moss. A small yellow salamander scuttled away beneath the black mulch. “You Vawtrians aren’t so different from us as you like to think. Maybe Hatet doesn’t love you romantically even if one day she could. But she most certainly loves you as family, and I think she’d be willing to do almost anything to make sure she doesn’t lose that. Including convincing herself and you that you need to be together.”

“Hatet will not be replaced. Why would she think that?”

Mara lifted her shoulders as she picked up the basket. “WroOth was her best friend. He’d always told her that he was going to lock at the Festival of the Viskaro after he mastered the red fire dragon form. He told all of you that. Everyone in the cadre knew that. And then he met me…” Mara’s cheeks flushed. “I turned his life upside down. And within less time than she can adjust, here comes Rasha. AaQar gave no indications of interest, then biology shocked both him and Rasha. And then you three decided to become Paras. You are no longer the leaders of the Shrieking Chimera Cadre first and foremost, and so much has changed.”

“Hatet is not insecure.” Naatos shook his head. That was impossible. That woman was capable of greater bouts of fury and courage than few he had ever known. But then…the turquoise dragon she had patterned off WroOth, the thuso, she had based off AaQar’s psigolath, and the silver spear she had designed after his own and so many others. He’d taught her how to make it when she’d asked years ago. Much of who she was was similar to them. “Why not QueQoa then?”

Mara lowered the basket so that she held it straight-armed. “QueQoa is the strangest of you all, Naatos. She wants to lock with you because she wants to be near you. But if she were to lock with QueQoa, well who knows if he’ll always come back? How long was he gone this last time? Thirty-seven years? Thirty-eight? And sometimes he gets that look in his eye…like he’s going to fly away.”

“The wanderlust runs deep through him, but he will always come home.”

“Well, I hope so. I like having my brothers close.” Balancing the basket, Mara adjusted the flowers inside so that they did not fall. “And, so you don’t have to ask it, I’ll go ahead and tell you the reason that she is acting this way and none of the others are. Everyone else here either has their viskaro, or they have family beyond this cadre. Hatet does not. You’re all the family she has. If she loses this cadre, she loses everything.”

Pausing, Naatos pulled back. He had not considered that. All this time it had been right before him. “Your perspective is appreciated. I will deal with the situation then.”

“Do you know how?” Mara asked skeptically.

“Yes.” Naatos motioned toward the door. “Now go.”

Mara left, the long purple ribbons in her hair trailing and tangling as she walked. As soon as she passed beneath the archway, Naatos closed the door.

Almost at once, the door clicked open again.

Mara poked her head back in. “I just have to ask. Do you really know the right way to handle this? Or are you just saying that so I’ll leave? Because you have to know that yelling at her or kuvasting her is just not going to work here.”

“Yes, I know what to do. Go away. I closed the door this thing.”

“Beautiful thing about doors.” Mara laughed. “They open both ways.”

“Not if I lock it this time.”

“Maybe.” Mara leaned against the door. “Anyway, promise me you’ll be sweet with Hatet.”

“Mara…”

“Promise?”

“I promise.”

“Good.” Mara darted in again and kissed him on the cheek. “Come have dinner with us tonight. You have to see what my babies are doing.”

“I’ll be there,” Naatos said.

 

Brief Vocabulary

Awdawms – what we would consider human

Kuvaste – non-lethal battles fought for the purpose of calming tensions and dealing with problems

Locking – process by which adult Vawtrians biologically connect to the one who becomes their spouse, become chemically interdependent, and awakens the sex drive

Neyeb – mindreaders

Para – overseers and protectors of the Tue-Rah

Tue-Rah – an interdimensional portal that connects all the worlds of all creation together

Vawtrians – shapeshifters

Disclaimer: This a rough draft, and an exact replica of this scene may not appear in the final version of this story.

My Actual Writing Goals for November 2016

So I have already discussed that my goal during Nanowrimo is to post actual content rather than just writing it. And I won’t be counting my Wattpad chapters as contributing to this total. (It’s rather interesting that posting to Wattpad is not at all difficult for me. I get at least two chapters published there at a minimum each week.) 

But I am, of course, also working on various projects this month. And, as usual, I have one main one and several that I want to complete. (Some of these titles contain links to where the stories are posted.)

where-gryphons-mournWhere Gryphons Mourn — this is another dream story that I have been meaning to get out there for quite some time. So I am finally getting it done. In fact, my darling and wonderful friend, Stef, created a cover for me, so it looks like I will be writing it and posting it on Wattpad. Isn’t she massively talented? (Seriously, this woman is amazing! Check her out on her website, at Deviant Art, and Wattpad.)

Through the Paintings Dimly — this one is actually almost entirely done so I won’t be increasing my word count much through this, but there is probably about another 3 – 5k that needs to be added in addition to the overall editing. But it will be done and off by the end of the week.

The Insurgent Queen — another book in the Tue-Rah Chronicles, and so, of course, it will get a substantial portion of the word count. I write about 5 – 10k on the main series once a week. In a sense, this is my easiest and most difficult project, but it is the one I adore the most. My soul is always in this series no matter what else I am working on. I really hope that Amelia gets her voice back before the end of this month’s writing. It’s been a good long time, and the poor girl needs to start talking again. (Note: if you haven’t started this series and would like to, you should probably start with Identity Revealed.) 

In Darkness, Cower — now, once again, this story is mostly completed. In fact, it appeared in the Tenebris Somnia anthology on Wattpad. I plan to enter it into the TNT competition, but I want to expand it a little more to reach the 10k word limit. I had to trim it a bit to make it meet the anthology’s criteria. So that will be about 4k. It’s due by the end of the month.

thecelebrityThe Celebrity — this story is mostly completed, but I want to enter it into a competition on November 15 (can’t remember the name of the competition right now). It’s just about 8 k too short though and then it will be up to the required standards.

Untitled Story — I have been tossing around some titles for this story, but I haven’t settled on one. Cruel Frost, Frost Wolf, and Frost Strain are possibilities, but none of them really hit the horror genre nail on the head. The proper title will come eventually. This story is going to be approximately 8k. Another dream/nightmare story that I just want to have done. I may submit it to the TNT competition as well. It may also expand beyond the anticipated 8k.

Just a Kiss — a sweet romance for an anthology. It’s probably going to be about 5k, and it is due by the end of the month. I just have the ideas down for this one, and, in fairness, if another sweet romance story presents itself that fits in with the Christmas season, I will likely go with that. I’ll consider this goal satisfied so long as I have a sweet romance story down.

The Nameless One’s Plea —  This is another story for an anthology, and it’s great because this is part of the Ragnarok Undone novel or perhaps Ragnarok Untold, depending on where the end of the novel comes. It’ll be about 8 k. It’s going to contain some spoilers for the story but nothing too major, and hopefully it will help to draw additional readers to the Ragnarok series.

The Nightwalker Before Christmas —  a dark holiday/horror story that will hopefully stay short and sweet. (I’m really hoping that with this short story focus this month I will be able to do a much better job of keeping stories short and tight.) Hopefully about 3k. The title is a little off for me, but I’ll find a better one later.

Serpent’s Kiss — a fantasy adventure for another anthology that will be approximately 5k. It has to be done before the end of the month, but I have a fairly solid idea of where I want to take it. And if that idea doesn’t work, I’ve got another one that can work for the same title, which is good because I like having a good title.

Aquanos Feratu — a tight short story in the horror genre utilizing the breath vampire concept among other aquatic horrors. Probably about 10 k. If I have to prioritize and run out of time to finish projects, then this is going to be set aside until next month. (If I’m not careful with this one, it’s going to get a lot bigger a lot faster.)

Escaping Nowhere I started this novel last year for Nanowrimo, got to the required word count, and it was all quite great. But I didn’t finish it. I’d like to wrap it up, which will probably take about another 20 k. On the high end. It’s fairly easy to write though, and I have good notes to pull me the rest of the way along.

Parnimo’s Prize — oh yes, please, please, let me finally find the right ending for this novella. I have written the ending so many times, but it never quite seems right. I think I’m going to be done with this one within about five chapters at the most.

Now if I get to have my druthers this month, I would also add these. I’d love to also complete 5k SoulMates Pendanteach on The Red Dragon, Cursed, and Ragnarok Undone. 10k on Of Cruelty, Elves, and Sorcery would be fantastic along with completion of Of Course Not, Silas, I Know Best.

I’m also planning to send off my application for the SFWA, query letters for Lunar Realms, and send off a couple other short stories to some other professional markets.

These aren’t all my goals for the month, and I doubt that I’ll make them all. I make my goals difficult to reach and usually almost impossible, so don’t worry. We’ll just see how far I get on this.

In terms of my actual Nanowrimo writing, I’m doing all right. It has been a bit slow because I’ve had to do more editing and legal work than usual, so as of yesterday, I only wrote about 14k. I’m getting ready to settle in for a batch of fiction writing here after dinner. Hopefully that goes way.

Happy Birthday, Amelia Earhart

One of the first steps to knowing a character is to discover the name. When Amelia first appeared in my stories, I was just a little girl. She started off as a young teen with only a few core traits: persistence, discipline, and imagination.

I knew so little about her except for that. Oh! And she was going to fight a dragon. A snarky dragon with a slick wit and shapeshifting abilities. He started out as Giluf (which lasted for a grand total of 2000 words, give or take a few) before he became WroOth, one of my favorite imaginary frenemies. But what to call my heroine?

Amelia EarhartWell, as most young writers, I looked to the people I admired and sought out a name that “felt right.” I can’t explain it, but the name has to feel right for the character. That’s why WroOth didn’t remain Giluf. It just didn’t sound right or work with his character.

About that time, I was reading every book I could get my hands on at the library, including biographies. I wish I could remember the book’s title, but one of the biographies introduced me to an exceptional woman name Amelia Earhart.

Now hopefully you already know about this extraordinary woman. In addition to being one of the best and first lady pilots, she was also a writer and a pioneer. Best known for being the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, she received numerous awards and great recognition. And not all of her achievements were for being the first woman to do something. In some cases, she was the first person to accomplish it period such as her flight across the US with an autogyro. She had her enemies, to be certain. But, despite being generally shy, she didn’t step away from controversial opinions and convicted stances.

Her words of wisdom weren’t limited to flying. Let me share a couple of my favorite Amelia Earhart quotes with you:

  • Never interrupt anyone doing what you said couldn’t be done.
  • The woman who can create her own job is the woman who will win fame and fortune.
  • The most effective way to do it is to do it.
  • Adventure is worthwhile in itself.

And a particular stunner here: Please know that I am aware of the hazards. I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.

Yes, even as an adult, Amelia Earhart’s fearlessness in the face of failure is what most inspires me. I adored flying asAmelia_Earhart,_circa_1928 a child and still do. For a brief period, I even considered becoming a pilot myself (it coincided nicely with my plans to be an international super spy). But that fearlessness causes her to endure in my memory.  So much about her from that relentless choice to be fearless to her love of freedom to her dogged independence resonated with the kind of character I wanted my Amelia to be. The kind of woman, in many respects, I wanted to be.

There will always be incredible movers and shakers in history. Some seek it out and make it their quest. From reading various biographies and pieces about Amelia Earhart, I don’t know that she intended to do anything as great as she did. She followed her passions and fought through the obstacles. It wasn’t that she never felt fear but that she chose not to worry and chose not to let it drag her down. She did the things she did because she wanted to do them, not just because she was trying to change history necessarily. Her disappearance July 2, 1937 shook the world, and popular theories about her disappearance continue to abound.

At one time, I even considered including Amelia Earhart in Tue-Rah. Though it’s not explicitly stated, Amelia Earhart is one of Amelia’s heroes, and she was also an inspiration to Uncle Joe. In fact, it is partially in her honor Amelia Earhart Studio Shotthat Uncle Joe names Amelia that in the first place. However, my initial plans to incorporate the incredible Ms. Earhart have faded. Perhaps one day I will write about her. Her legacy lives on, and many other writers have attempted to tell her story. I don’t want to dishonor her by doing it poorly. Perhaps one day.

Amelia Earhart was an exceptional person who left the world a great deal. Her efforts in aviation opened the skies to many women and inspired countless others. She has many great testaments to her abilities, her endurance, and her successes as well as tributes that come close to honoring her sufficiently. My own Amelia is a far smaller one, but she is a small nod and thanks to someone far more incredible. Happy birthday, Amelia Earhart.

Farewell: Concerning a Grandfather, the Hobbit, and a Story

Grandpa
Grandpa’s eyes twinkled whenever he smiled; he often wore red, one of his favorite colors.

I have been trying for months now to write a small memoir to honor my grandfather, Bob Farlow who passed away in 2008. It’s difficult to summarize or honor the life of a man who has done so much. He was a true Renaissance man, an artist, a preacher, a teacher, a principal, an entrepreneur, a sculptor, a musician, a soldier, a father, a grandfather, and so much more. Knowing where to start has always been the difficulty. I could start with his accomplishments in the art community or with his adventures and achievements. But for me, so many of the stories and so much of what I remember of him all started with one book in particular. Fortunately, recounting this will allow me to honor and thank a few others as well.

The story that started it was the Hobbit. My grandfather supervised my reading as soon as I started, and he always pushed me to read complex books in addition to children’s tales. I often balked at the heavier classics, despite loving to read. I abhorred the Odyssey, and I was probably too young for it. For some reason, I found it harder to read than the various books with Norse mythology or maybe Grandpa just knew it better and was able to make harder quizzes. But he promised that if I finished it, he would let me read a book he was quite certain I would love. We often made bargains like that, and we always kept our word. So I finished the Odyssey on a cold autumn day, and he let me borrow an already well worn copy of the Hobbit.

Books were always an important part of my relationship with my grandfather. Even when I was too young to understand letters, he read with me.

The Hobbit was the first true fantasy novel I ever read, and it awoke a deep desire within me to write fantasy. A desire that has burned for years now, never fading and always strengthening. The Hobbit was the first time I ever engaged so deeply with a book that I wept over the characters. Even now I am not entirely certain what it was that pulled me in and made me so invested. All I know is that I felt and I loved. Bilbo and Thorin were the first lessons I understood relating to conflicted characters who were not entirely good in all respects. And Gandalf was the first wizard I really remembered. I had been writing my own stories for a couple years by that point, but the Hobbit somehow made it all come alive to me and made me want to be a writer all the more.

Given that connection alone, even after more than twenty years, I had a deep love for the story, and I thoroughly enjoyed the movies. Watching The Battle of the Five Armies, despite all the ways it differed from the book, was such a rich experience. I have had a marvelous time, enjoying the film, hosting a party, cooking themed food, and even preparing costumes. It has been the best of experiences which bring both joy and grief at once. The happiness so much the richer for the tears that are shed and the ache of loss that comes with the realization that all that is left are the memories of what once was and the hope of what exists beyond Heaven’s gates.

The film made me realize that I have never wanted to say good bye to my grandfather. I miss him so much even now.  At times, I catch myself wondering what he would say, wanting to talk to him, missing his voice.  The workshop still has his last painting on the easel. Half carved statues packed away. Balsa wood shavings on the floor. The carving tools in neat rows and the paintbrushes in glass bottles. A dozen projects in various stages scattered around the studio. It always smelled of linseed oil, oil paints, Bavarian wax, and shaved Balsa wood. I can still see it all so clearly. It’s been years since I’ve walked into that studio, but the memory is as crisp in my mind as a new book fresh from Amazon.

Sinterklaas the Netherlands
The Sinterklaas from the Netherlands was one of many Gift Givers Grandpa hand carved. Replicas were then made from Bavarian wax and hand painted.

Of course, I always think of Grandpa around Christmas. He and my grandmother ran a small business known as Briercroft. He carved and sold various sculptures, the most popular being the Giftgivers. From St. Nicholas to Sinterklaas, he carved, molded, and painted the gift givers from around the world for many years until they closed the business a few years before his death. This Christmas is even heavier for me, and I apologize because this is rather convoluted.

You see, after I read the Hobbit for the first time as a little girl, I decided I wanted to write my own fantasy. My desire only grew when I read Lord of the Rings. But my grandfather and father always encouraged me to avoid mimicking Tolkien. As brilliant as he was, there will never be another J.R.R. Tolkien. What they told me to do was find my own story to tell, create my own races, develop my own world, and honor Tolkien through learning the craft as best I could. And I took that very, very seriously. For me, that story became the Tue-Rah series, but the first book is the one that absorbed the majority of my attention: Tue-Rah Identity Revealed.

I was very young when I first got the idea for Tue-Rah. In this picture, my father had just caught me making battle plans on the site of our new home. Grandpa thought it was funny.

I have been working on it for over twenty years now. My grandfather never worked on just one project. He always had at least half a dozen or more. One day I walked in on him, and he had started plans for a hand crafted sailboat (which he completed and sailed, I might add). He never stopped working, never stopped dreaming, never stopped thinking. But he always had at least one project he focused on. So I followed his example. While I had many stories and many projects, Tue-Rah was my primary focus and will remain so until the entire series is completed. Grandpa always teased me because I never thought the first book was really finished. I kept tweaking it, changing a plot point here, developing a character there, and then overhauling it. The whys and the hows had to be analyzed and satisfied. And I wanted so much for it to be perfect. He wanted me to finish it. He always told me that I would never think it was perfect or even good enough. I said I just wanted to be satisfied with it. In fairness, I was only a very little girl when I wrote the first draft. And so I learned about world building, character development, pacing, and everything else through those pages. As I neared my high school graduation though, Grandpa started encouraging me to consider it finished and leave the first book. “You’ll have plenty of time to tweak with the final edits, and you have the rest of the books to finish.”

I refused to listen. It still didn’t feel quite right. Yet somehow the conversation shifted back to the Hobbit, and Grandpa shocked me when he revealed that the only Tolkien works he had read were Gawain and the Green Knight and Tolkien’s pieces on Beowulf.

Grandpa and Me 05
The fact that Grandpa could listen to my stories and juggle my little sister and maintain his sanity is proof of the man’s strength and resolve.

Given how much the books had impacted me, I wanted to share that with him. It meant…so much. I really don’t know why. We had spoken of it many times, and I had told him all about it. It had never impeded our discussion. Still, I offered to read to him while he carved or painted or sculpted. I had done that for my younger brothers just a few years before. He smiled at that, and we struck another bargain. He told me I could read the Hobbit to him when I finished the final draft of Tue-Rah Identity Revealed before it went in to editors. If he liked the Hobbit, I could read the Lord of the Rings. I agreed. I even joked with him that if I didn’t get it done before they made a Hobbit movie, he’d have to go with me to see it. And while I did not procrastinate, I thought we had all the time in the world.

As it turned out, we only had three years. Grandpa went to the doctor for a routine checkup after he spent the previous day chopping wood with an old axe. And then the news came. He had to have emergency open heart surgery. He was going to be on bedrest for weeks, and he was already fussing about that. He didn’t want any of us grandkids coming to see him in the hospital. So I wrote him a letter to encourage him before or after the surgery, whenever Grandma gave it to him. I told him I was going to read him those books, starting with the Hobbit. I didn’t care that I hadn’t finished Tue-Rah Identity Revealed, and since he would be trapped on the old creaky couch, I knew he’d be glad for the company. I was just putting the books together in an oversized black bag that I used for a purse. And that’s when the phone rang. He was gone. In the space of a second, my grandfather ceased to exist in this world.

It was so hard to comprehend. That all that was left was the memory of those calloused hands and twinkling eyes. That there would never be another debate over what constituted literature or whether a particular color was burgundy or crimson or which translation of Philippians was the most accurate. That there would be many Thanksgivings and Christmases, birthdays and celebrations he would never see.

Grandpa's Grave
It doesn’t feel like it should be real. Grandpa traveled so much that I might be able to pretend he has merely been away on a very long trip. But I can’t…

I still remember his body in that casket. So lifeless. All that had once been there. Gone. The twinkle in his eyes. The fidgety energy that never faded. To see someone who was so vital and strong placed in a box and arranged like a doll with too much makeup and no smile…it was wrong. It was so wrong. That spark of the divine, the incredible spirit that had made him so much…it was gone, leaving only a silent shell behind. I could barely breathe when I looked at him; I wanted so much for it to be no more than a horrible mistake, some nightmare I could push away.  But it was not so.

At the funeral, the pastor asked me at the last minute whether I wanted to write a poem and read it at the funeral. He didn’t mean any harm; I think he just forgot to talk to me sooner. When I said I didn’t have anything prepared, he insisted I could speak off the cuff and share my heart. But I refused to trot out my grief and paste random words on it. The loss cut through my soul, eating it like turpentine eats through paint. And to just come up with something in less than fifteen minutes the way I might to honor a speaker who arrived unannounced at a club meeting felt blasphemous. It wasn’t just reading a Scripture verse Grandpa had loved or playing a song he adored. It was about reaching into my soul, digging through the morass, and finding some fitting way to honor and remember him. And that could not be done in such a short span. Any poem or snippet I wrote would be clumsy and forced.

So when it came time, I sat in silence, my hands in my lap. I did not know what to say.

We buried him in another church graveyard down in Shelbyville some hours away. I still had a copy of the Hobbit in my purse along with my notebooks with scene drafts for the Tue-Rah series and some other stories. I tried writing on that car ride, but my writing reflected the state of my mind. Distant and jumbled. So I read instead. I don’t remember which section. I think it was when the dwarves arrived or perhaps when they met Beorn.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA
It’s very well worn by this point. This isn’t the same rose that I was given at Grandpa’s burial, but it is similar. A student who didn’t realize the significance of the book to me grabbed it and pulled out the flower petals without realizing how delicate they were.

I still have that same copy of the Hobbit. Grandma gave it to me along with a number of other beloved books. It is so fragile now I can barely turn the pages without tearing them. The binding has all but fallen away, and masking tape secures it at key points. I pressed the rose petals from my grandfather’s burial in those pages. An accident destroyed the rose petals, but the book survived. It’s in the bookshelf next to my desk.

Finishing Tue-Rah Identity Revealed and sending it to an editor just before the Battle of the Five Armies came out was bittersweet. Grandpa would have teased me for taking so long, but he would have been pleased, I think. I hope. He would probably tease me all the more if I told him that I still think it needs tweaking and editing, but at least I now feel satisfied that it is the whole of the first book. I have shed so many tears. Watching the movie only intensified my feelings. While it was not perfect and quite different from the book, the movie was a fitting end for my favorite fantasy novel of all time, the story I wanted my grandfather to hear, and a tearful farewell to Middle Earth, one of the few fictional worlds where I gladly escape time and time again. But it was like coming to the end of a journey and realizing that one of the people I thought for certain would be there isn’t there at all.

There was so much good in this movie. I noticed even more when I watched it a second time. Peter Jackson did an incredible job making the world come to life yet again, and I will always be so grateful that he gave me the chance to return to Middle Earth and see that world in film yet again. The actors were phenomenal. The funny thing though was that when I first heard about the movie’s production, I couldn’t really imagine the chosen actors in the roles. I was familiar with some of them from other pieces, and they were talented. But they did not match the characters in my mind. Yet after I watched An Unexpected Journey, I realized they were the perfect choice. It was quite incredible to see beloved characters from a story I treasured come to life in a way so unlike what I expected and yet so perfect that I cannot imagine anyone else. Even though I knew the story well, I leaned on the edge of my seat. I have never wanted a story to deviate from its conclusion so much as I did there. The characters made me feel as strongly as I did the first time I read the book, and I wanted so much for them to live happily ever after. There was no more chance of that though than of my grandfather surviving the final stroke.

Pigs
My grandfather always found it ironic that his hog paintings from rural Indiana life were always among his most popular and highly awarded. He said it was how God kept him humble.

To say that it was sad is an understatement, but the most perfect thing of all was the ending. Billy Boyd’s song, “The Last Goodbye” was heart wrenching and beautiful at once. Listening to that play while watching the penciled illustrations appear and fade on the big screen was hauntingly appropriate. The artistic style reminded me of my grandfather’s. Soft pencil strokes across parchment paper, filled with expression and movement with lead that could so easily be smudged by a wayward brush of the hand. I stayed until the end, wrapped in a soft red pashmina, listening to each word and note until they faded away.

The song is true in many respects. I know I cannot remain forever in one place. I know that I must away. There is so much more to be done. I will never stop missing my grandfather. I will never stop loving him. He was a good and godly man who seized life in every breath he drew. If he were here now,…

In many respects, it was the end a long time ago. But this is not my last goodbye. Not to Middle Earth. Not to my grandfather. But it is time to say farewell. For now.

So to all those who were involved with the making of the Hobbit films as well as the Lord of the Rings, from the grips to the lighting experts to the cooks to the directors to the actors and everyone else, thank you. You brought the story to life in a beautiful way that I will always remember. You put faces on characters I have loved for years and made the world seem as real as I always hoped it would be. I cannot read it now without seeing your interpretation, and I am grateful it is one I can love just as much as the books.

To Tolkien, thank you for creating the stories in the first place.  I will always treasure them, and they will always be part of my library and my heart. I cannot imagine fantasy without your stories. You brought me such joy and comfort so many times.

Grandpa and Me 07And to Grandpa…I finally know what I want to say…. Grandpa, I love you, and I will never ever forget you. I wish so much that it had been different and that you were still here. There are so many things I wanted to share with you. So many times when I wish with all my heart that you were here. That when I come home you would be there. That I could have shown you that I really did finish Tue-Rah Identity Revealed. And so I could just tell you one more time how much I love you, how much you mean to me, and how you inspire me even to this day. I will see you again, and I am so blessed to have known you. But I still miss you, and there will always be tears when I try to say goodbye.

Death of a Beloved Character

 

For me, one of the hardest things to do is kill off a beloved character, but sometimes, there’s just no other choice. Sometimes the plot simply demands it.

This isn’t giving away too much of Tue-Rah Identity Revealed but there is a minor spoiler. Cohsaw dies. He actually dies in the second chapter, and…guess what…he stays dead.

For a lot of readers, this is probably more of a sad event. It’s not that big of a deal. The fact is that they don’t really know him at this point. They’ll get to know him more as the story goes along, but at the point of his death, he’s a casualty of the villains. But for me, killing off Cohsaw was heartbreaking. I sobbed.

See, as a writer, I know everything about Cohsaw. I know that his favorite color is blue. I know that he hates eating carrots and ibza roots, but he does because he believes it makes him stronger. I know he has a crush on Opali, a Machat girl who is three years older than him. And I know that the thing he wants most is to make his dad, one of the most proficient and well known prophets of the Machat, proud. He’s a young man of deep principles and convictions, and his commonsense doesn’t always shine through. When he believes that something needs to be done, he does it.

All of these little things add to his character for me. I know that he has a little scar on the inside of his elbow from when he tried to cut out some of his Machat markings and failed. And the reader is never going to know most of these details.

But I don’t think that that makes the details wasted in any sense. After all, I know these things about him, and, even if I don’t explain them, they’re implied. Little details tend to work their way into a story without the writer even realizing it. They provide information for the overall flavor. They say that only 90 percent of the worldbuilding ever goes through. That may be the case.

The one thing that is true is that when you invest so much in the creation of these characters, their deaths become so much more intense and painful. I wanted to save Cohsaw. I wanted him to be able to have that happy future that I wanted for him. But he never will. He needed to die to move the plot forward. And just because it’s painful doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to happen. So here’s to Cohsaw and all the other beloved characters that writers have to off. It’s one of the hardest things, but may it always improve the story.

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