November is a quiet month, unless of course winter storms visit us. But even the holiday it is best known for, namely, Thanksgiving, can be a rather introspective one. This year as always, I've much to be thankful for, including my fellow Quills who join me today for our topic: "Picture This!" Our goal is to provide you with pictures of people, places or things from our stories. (Be sure to clink on the link at the end of the posts for each of Parker and Robin so as to get the rest of their stories!)
I think we'd do well to hear from P.S. Broaddus first this time around. Well, Parker, what do you have for us from A Hero's Curse?
There are several images and fan art pieces that I really enjoy and that even inspire the way I write. Many deal with Essie Brightsday herself, the central character of both A Hero's Curse and Nightrage Rising. Essie Brightsday is a 12-year old blind girl who has a certain amount of gumption, but still wrestles to find her place in the world. The way artists and illustrators have rendered Essie is both interesting and inspiring.
Interesting, as each image reveals something new about both the artist and the character, and inspiring in that I get to discover new aspects to a character I created.
I'm anxious to hear what Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies, has. Aren't you? Take it away, Robin!
I have a huuuuge collection of images. I will never run out of inspiration from that quarter! I write primarily fantasy, but that doesn't stop me from seeing a science fiction style image and diving off the cliff of "What If..." That happened recently with the short story "Sixes" that I wrote for the Quills' flash fiction challenge.
In my story, Elran's Journey, the main character is the younger son of highly regarded and respected members of the Peerage. In the eyes of society he has everything any boy could or should want.
Finally, I've been busy scrounging around, looking for pictures that will show you things that I had in mind while writing. So, here we go!
It’s interesting how vivid are the pictures in my mind of things I write about, yet how terribly difficult it is to find photographs of those people, places and things, to show others.
Readers of Oathtaker know that early on, the twins, Reigna (derived from the word, “reign”) and Eden, are born. For me, this picture shows a bit of what I had in mind. Of course, one of these infants looks a little more like a boy, and it is true that these infants have the wrong hair color (given that Reigna and Eden as young adults, have copper colored hair). Still, I chose this photo for the overall feeling that it evokes through the following text from the tale:
This was indeed a miracle. No Select had ever before born twins—not one, not ever.
“Easy, Rowena, you can do this.” Half giddy, Mara fought to hold down her grin.
A tear rolled down Rowena’s face as another contraction took hold.
“Almost there,” Mara encouraged. “Almost there.”
After a couple minutes, a final contraction gripped the woman. When it released, the Oathtaker held up another child. She tied off the cord and cut it. Once again she felt a tingling sensation, then the infant’s heavenly scent momentarily overtook her. Although this child looked identical to her sister, her fragrance, a combination of bergamot, jasmine, and orange, with hints of warm musk, differed. Like her sister, the infant took in a gulp of air, but she did not cry.
In danger but with Dixon’s assistance, Mara sets off with the infant twins, seeking a place of refuge. Before long, they come upon the home of Drake and Maggie. Here is what I described that they saw:
The small thatched cottage showed signs of wear. It leaned slightly to one side as though it had grown weary of holding its own weight and rested on one hip. Planters at its windows sported scented violas, while a large flowerpot at the steps provided an assortment of herbs at the ready for kitchen use. The citrusy scent of lemon thyme, the clean smell of lavender, the earthy scent of oregano, the freshness of mint, and the piney aroma of rosemary, filled the air.
I admit that the thatching appears to be missing from the cabin in the photo here. Still and all, this place feels "right” to me. What do you think? Does it work for you?
It's official: autumn has arrived! With it, we Quills will try a new venture: FLASH FICTION. If you're new to the concept, it's quite simple, really. Flash fiction covers a variety of works that are extremely short. Consider the following descriptions (lifted straight from Wikipedia):
To add to the fun, we Quills chose a single picture for inspiration, and here it is!
The pic, entitled Long Walk, it is the creation of Jonathan Bach.
I admit that I rebelled a bit over our selected motivational picture . . . It just . . . didn't speak to me. But then, finally, one thought came to mind. Just one, mind you. So I decided I'd go with it. You'll soon see what I came up with . . .
While I'm anxious to hear what you think of my take, for now, Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies, is up first!
The mages—along with the history books and a dozen or so scouts—had professed their absolute certainty that the Shader Needles no longer held any power.
Either they lied, or the maggots had figured a way to put them back in operation. Cleaved nearly in half, my flitter wrapped around the base of one pitch black, sword-like spire. Shock chased after shock. First, came the shattering of the sky like a thousand shards of lightning. Struck, I hustled earthward, out of control. Glass jangled and metal shrieked. Unimaginable pressure and the sensation of tearing preceded the remainder of my flight—without the benefit of the flitter. I met the sand with ferocious force. Finally, and most astounding of all, came the realization that I still drew breath. Each inhalation burned like a hot poker, but by all rights, I should be dead.
Sprawled in the needle's dubious shade, I processed the fact that I'd been thrown clear before my little flying machine slid down the length of the spire to smash to splinters against the ground. If I died, who would stop the poison spreading from the decaying city?
Next is P.S. Broaddus, author of A Hero's Curse. Accustomed to Parker's ready wit, I'm expecting a laugh or two. Or maybe things will go another way entirely. Hmmm. Well, let's find out . . .
The Prophet and the Assassin
Landships are usually a safe way to travel the dunes. Unless it's a "clanker," built from parts of the old combustible engines. They can't go high enough to escape the desert sands that come out of the south like a solid wall of death. But it wasn't the time of year for storms.
I've dreamed of starting over. I've dreamed of a fresh slate. It's a myth. You can't start over. The memories remain. The command remains.
There is no fresh slate for the living.
Finally, here's my flash fiction story.
Her Golden Hair
I had no choice. I had to leave her behind. Still, the ugly hands of guilt and grief, like the twin jaws of a vise, squeezed my heart.
I couldn’t count the times she’d saved me. I could only hope I’d prove as faithful. She deserved that . . . and so much more.
How could I have been so reckless? I’d heard the rumors of pirates having invaded the area—and all from highly reputable sources, no less. Still I’d insisted on doing things my way. I alone was responsible for my foolhardy pride, my selfish desire to be the first to arrive, my rash behavior.
The vise crimped tighter.
It wasn’t like time was so short that taking the shortcut to Aeiron had been necessary. How could I? I’d had no right to risk her safety along with my own. I’d had no right to act so heedlessly.
The vise pinched tighter still.
Shame motivating me, I marched through the barren landscape, hoping the obelisk-like figures dotting the way ahead led to civilization—to help. I vowed not to stray from them. I’d need to find my way back, even after my tracks disappeared, the consequence of mist-like swirls of sand that billowed in the air all around. Tiny granules of it coated my throat and clogged my airways. My warrior training would be of no value here, as no weapon forged of steel could defend against such an insidious enemy. I coughed, then took a swallow of water from my canteen, wishing I could rid my conscience of the responsibility of what I’d done as easily as I could clear my throat of sand.
Try though I might, I couldn’t get the picture of her—of her golden hair, nor the last sound I’d heard her make, out of my mind.
After the pirates had forced our crash, she’d only been conscious for a few short minutes. Trapped and with a metal shard protruding out from between her shoulder and neck, I’d laid my head next to hers. Willing her to be strong, my hands cradled her neck. Within seconds, her blood covered them—and likely would remain there forever—in my imagination at any rate. Her eyes, mahogany pools, bore into mine as she silently pled for help. I stroked behind her ears, touched her wet nose with mine and patted her head. With that, my faithful canine companion whimpered before losing consciousness.
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In Black Lightning, by K.S. Jones, readers meet Samuel, whose mother was recently killed in a car accident. Because Samuel’s father disappeared some time ago, the boy is deemed an orphan. Although his mother intends for him to live with his grandfather, Samuel’s uncle’s wife has different plans for the boy. All this leads to Samuel’s running away and eventually ending up in another world where surprises and challenges await him. When Samuel experiences a test of faith in himself, he learns not to give up on his dreams—even when others have told him that something is impossible.
Few things make me happier than to find a great read for a middle-grader. The reason should be obvious: there are so few of them. Yes, at times one stumbles upon a good story. But rarely does one stumble across a great story that is also well told, and therefore, appropriate for recommending to middle-grade readers. I was delighted to find just such a thing with Black Lighting. In it, K.S. Jones provides her readers with a suggested and intriguing connection to the Native-American culture. Best of all, the story, which is told as a fantasy of sorts, includes elements with an almost sci-fi bent. If you’re looking for something for your middle-grade reader, check out this Literary Classics award winner, Black Lightning.
Thank you, NetGalley, for this opportunity to read and to review, Code Girls.
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It should come as no surprise to learn that woman played extraordinary roles in assisting the U.S. armed forces during WWII, but having an actual account of some of the roles they played is quite unusual. Liza Mundy offers, in Code Girls, an interesting history of the (primarily young) women who helped to break the communications codes of the axis powers. I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about these women and especially appreciated the account of how they set up entirely false units and communications to assist with keeping the plans for the Normandy landing on D-Day a secret from the enemies of the U.S. and its allies. For anyone interested in code-breaking in general, and in learning more about these times, I highly recommend Code Girls.
In the past, when I noticed time flying quickly by, I’d comment with things like, “It must be due to the holidays,” or “It must be the season.” I’ve long since learned, however, that it is always the season for being busy. And so, as the calendar moves to September and autumn approaches, we Quills return once again with our thoughts on “books we love.” (How it is that we actually find time to read them remains one of the greatest mysteries of all time.)
First up this time, is Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies.
I really love chatting with my readers, and in a recent email exchange someone recommended a book for my Flinch-Free Fantasy list: The Dragon and the George, by Gordon R. Dickson.
Hey! I’ve read that!
About a million years ago…
I recall liking it, and the foggy memory tickled my brain until I had to go pick up a copy and read it again. It didn’t disappoint. True, the style is dated and it took a little too long for the real action to start, but what a fun read.
A modern couple is transported into another version of our world. The kicker? Our hero ends up in the body of…
Now let's turn our attention to P.S. Broaddus, author of A Hero's Curse. Take it away, Parker!
The Hardy Boys series is formulaic and simple, and often plods into the cliche. I couldn't help thinking however, how well they build their mysteries through the story. While bland, they get the formula right. I just finished a second one in as many weeks, and it was a good study in the structure of the genre. While I may not want to copy The Hardy Boys series when writing my own mystery, there's value in internalizing the genre, the beats, and the structure on display. You've got to know the rules before you break them and I love that the series feels like a set of training wheels for writers. Fun, whimsical, dated training wheels.
But I didn't come here to talk about The Hardy Boys. I've actually been ruminating on a story I just finished that involved an old man and a big fish...
Finally, here are my thoughts.
Recently, I read Robin Hobb’s Liveship Traders Trilogy, consisting of Ship of Magic, Mad Ship, and Ship of Destiny.
While I wouldn’t say I “love” these books, exactly, there are parts of this series that I very much enjoyed—so much so that I quickly read them one right after the next.
I liked the set-up of the Bingtown’s oldest families and I loved the concept of the liveships. As for the characters, I appreciated their diversity. That said, I found that while Althea was often in the spotlight, she wasn’t one of my favorites. Neither were any of the others in her family—with the possible exception of her nephew, Wintrow. In fact, I found that some of the worst characters in terms of their morality or lack thereof, were some of my favorites. I thought the pirate, Kennit, was well drawn, and Hobb offered a believable story as to how he came to be the man he was. I also rather liked his woman, Etta. She was ruthless and cruel, but there was something vulnerable about her at the same time. I did find a fair amount of repetition, although I appreciate that such can happen in a series. Finally, I discovered as I have with various Hobb’s characters in the past, that some are frustrating “whiners,” including Althea’s niece, Malta, by way of example.
All that said, I appreciated the concept of the dragons and how they played into the story (although I didn’t care much for the time spent with the "serpents"). I also found that I couldn’t buy into the concept of the “dead dragons” who clearly lived on. So . . . there’s that . . .
In the end though, I recommend this series.
So, what great reads would you like to share with us?
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No One Needed to Know, by D. G. Driver, opens when Heidi (who so wishes she’d been named something more fitting, like “Storm”), and her brother, Donald, engage in a make-believe battle on a “boat” set that sits in the midst of their local park. Right off, the reader learns something interesting about Heidi who, in response to Donald’s question about whether he’d stopped the bad guy, tells him, “No.” She can’t explain why her “impulse was always to turn him down,” yet it was. Soon, the reader discovers that Donald is not your “typical” 16-year old. Rather, his learning disability means that Heidi, his younger sister, is already ahead of him in some regards. Her awareness of that fact is growing in her pre-teen years, and with it comes her frustration with his behavior—behavior she cannot fully understand. Seeking to engage in more “grown-up” ventures, new troubles take hold for Heidi, as she discovers that Donald is bullied. But in her attempts to help him, she too becomes a victim of harassment. Fortunately for the both of them, Heidi eventually provides the means for building a bridge toward understanding--for herself and for others.
D.G. Driver offers middle grade readers a lesson in bullying in her award-winning, No One Needed to Know. Having been bullied herself as a girl—because she had a “differently-abled” brother—Driver quickly gets to the heart of the matter. When someone stands out as “different,” often others may not know how to speak, what questions to ask, or even how to act. Driver’s story illustrates for both the young and the not-so-young, that bullying is never acceptable, and that a better understanding will likely bring about better results.
August is upon us and we Quills now turn our attention to our favorite songs to write by—our top 10, that is!
I thought I'd go ahead and share first this time. My fellow-Quills, Robin and Parker, have thoughts to share with you as well, so keep reading.
I thoroughly enjoy having music playing while I write. It can create such an emotional environment. Sometimes it’s presence makes for the difference between my simply feeling something internally as I write it—and actually laughing out loud--or perhaps even weeping. I find that my tastes tend—for writing purposes anyway—toward the melancholy. Thus, here are my top 10. As a bonus for you, in most instances, they are not just for single song titles. Rather, they are full soundtracks. So, here goes--
In addition, I would add almost anything “Celtic” and/or from Enya. Here's where Spotify and Pandora come in handy.
These tunes and others like them help to set my mood and to keep me creative.
What about you? What ideas do you have for me that I should add to my list?
Next up is Parker. That's P.S. Broaddus, author of A Hero's Curse.
Imagine a busy journalist's bullpen, with phones ringing, reporters talking, laughing and yelling, screens flashing, and papers occasionally flying. I can write there. A busy mall, with the flurry of shopping and eating. I can write there. A quiet office, with nothing but the occasional hum of the air conditioner or the click of the printer. I can write there. So long as the environment doesn't demand my personal attention and intervention, I can write. (It's harder to write at home with the boys running around my desk - they aren't just noise. They necessitate intervention).
So when it comes to music, I can write to a lot of things. Pandora Radio might be tuned to a Mumford & Sons or Lumineers station, or country, or Christian radio. Like many writers, I do enjoy instrumental music. Something with a cello is sure to be listened to with favor.
Then there are a few select songs that I turn on, not as background noise, but as a part of my writing process. Songs that run through my blood and sometimes even shape the story as I go...
Read more at http://www.psbroaddus.com/2017/08/04/a-drift-of-quills-writing-musically/.
Finally, Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies, has some music-inspired ideas for us.
I write better when there is music playing.
I dream better.
Music is powerful stuff. Thanks to my mom and older sisters, I grew up listening to a wonderful variety of music. Sadly, not a one of us can play any instrument but the stereo. But just like with my reading and writing, I gravitated to certain genres of music.
When I’m writing, that selection narrows even further.
I need music with no words—unless the words are…
more at http://robinlythgoe.com/drift-quills-muse-department-music.
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Every now and then I hear someone say that she is not a fan of “fantasy.” That always makes me chuckle, because I’m fairly certain that if asked, most of the people who say that would admit that the stories they most enjoyed (whether reading them or watching them in movie form) over the past years, will include a healthy number of stories with some element of fantasy/magic. (Examples include the Pirates of the Caribbean stories, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Lord of the Rings, and so on, and so on!) In truth, these are the stories that seem to capture the greatest audiences. So it is that A Shift Toward Prey should certainly find its place among readers. This Literary Classics award-winner, provides a new world, a cast of intriguing characters, some political nuances, a healthy dose of life lessons, and more!
Natalie Allison introduces readers to a world divided into two halves—one forever enjoying the light of the sun, inhabited (for the most part, anyway) by humans, and one never enjoying the sun’s light—inhabited by the Shifters—those who may change back and forth between their human and animal forms. With war about to erupt on both sides of the divide, the adventures begin. The humans, looking for potential allies and acting on rumor, journey to the Everdark. Meanwhile, inhabitants of the Everdark prepare themselves for an invasion of a species that their legends warn may be incredibly dangerous. Caught up in the political machinations in the Everlight, is Matthias. His counterpart on the Everdark side, is Chiari. Each reaches for understanding of the world of the other, while being drawn into a series of dangerous and exhilarating adventures. Lovers of fantasy, take note. You’ll want to follow this series!
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In my experience, the hardest age group for which one can find engaging, well-written stories, is middle-grade—and in particular for the third-fourth grade or so. These young people have moved beyond baby stories and picture books. They want magic and adventure—and their parent’s want things for them that are well-written, in full sentences and with the limited use of slang, and so forth. Well, young readers and their parents will be delighted to find The Six, by K.B. Hoyle. Drawing parallels with stories that came before, such as The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, this adventure finds six young—new—friends off on an adventure. Unfortunately for Darcy, a recent reduction in her family’s economic situation means that she will give up her former summer camp days at Gregorio’s Equestrian Camp. Instead, her family visits a camp in Michigan. A couple of long time acquaintances of her, including Samantha, have vacationed there before. Sam intends to show Darcy around and introduce her to her other camp friends, but Darcy isn’t all that interested. As these things tend to play out, the two are thrown together, along with a few additional young ones, when they happen upon a magic place guarded by gnomes.
As a child, I loved mysteries, magic, and adventure stores. As a parent, I looked for those elements in stories for my own children. Often I found that the stories themselves were spellbinding, but they weren’t really written for young ones to read for themselves. Sometimes this has to do with the style of the writer. Other times, it has to do with a lack in subject matter—or at least in the “purpose” of the story. Not so with K.B. Hoyle’s works. Here young ones will find subtle, but powerful reminders about kindness, honesty, self-inspection, inclusiveness, and more. If you’re looking for a good read for your young one, look no further than the award-winning, The Six.
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My 21-year old daughter mentioned to me the other day, the difficulty she has in finding “girl super-hero stories” for the little one she nannies. We talked about how girls will read stories with boy-heroes, but how if they never read those with girls heroes, the subliminal message seems to be that there are some things that will not be available to them in this life. Well, I’m happy to know that Carmela Dutra offers up a little girl “super” hero, in Little Katie Goes to the Moon. You see, Katie would love to visit the moon to find out if there really is a man there. Soon, she and her puppy, Smudge, prepare themselves for their trip, complete with space suits that will keep them warm and that will allow them to breathe. Then, comes the blast-off!
One of the things most fun about children’s books is what can be taught to inquisitive little minds while they are being entertained. With her award-winning Little Katie Goes to the Moon, Carmela Dutra teaches young ones some facts about the moon, comets and satellites; what the “ground” of the moon would feel like under your feet; lunar laser ranging experiments; some famous historical astronauts; distances and gravity; and even moonquakes. In the end, upon discovering that—of course—Katie and Smudge, were playacting in her backyard, I was reminded of a conversation I had (several times, actually) with my son some years ago, when he was a preschooler. He told me that he wanted to go to the moon someday. I smiled, nodded, and said, “That sounds good. Just don’t move too far away from home. Okay?” Likewise, Katie visits the moon, but she eventually determines that it is time to return home. Fortunately, along the way, she accomplishes what she’d first set out to do when she discovers that the dark spots on the moon do indeed make it appear as though there is a man in the moon!