From Medieval to Mellotron: Legendary Ten Seconds band transcends time, inspires writing

As someone who writes novels just so I can time travel to the 15th century, I truly appreciate the inspiration behind the musical group, the Legendary Ten Seconds.

Most authors can name that “special place” that provides the best ambiance for easing them “into the zone” to create. One thing that sets the writing mood for me is a musical backdrop matching my novel’s setting in time.

Legendary Ten Seconds

The Legendary Ten Seconds band, pictured from left are Lord Zarquon, Camilla Joyce, Rob Bright and Ian Churchward

The Legendary Ten Seconds’ three collections of songs about Richard III builds the inspiration I need as I work on Heir of York – a time travel tale of a medieval king living in modern times, the sequel to Rings of Passage.

Through the band’s historically based songs, I am transported to a place where Richard’s life seems to converge with our own 21st century existence. The music is an exotic stew of of medieval, Elizabethan, and folk rock swirling with ‘60s psychedelia and ‘70s progressive influences.

Capturing the spirit
An example of this haunting blend is “Ambion Hill,” a song based on a present-day sighting of Richard III near Bosworth Field, where the king was killed in battle in 1485.

I saw a knight upon Ambion Hill,
His armour did shine in the sun.
He wore a surcoat of murray and blue.
It felt like a dream had begun.

Richard III CD

Richard III CD

Ever since Richard III’s bones were found beneath a Leicester parking lot in 2012, a similar sensation followed Richard III enthusiasts as they traveled to the city’s reburial events in March 2015 – a feeling that Richard was among us. “Ambion Hill,” inspired by a real life experience of Ricardian Susan Lamb, captures it perfectly. (Read about my own experiences in this Perceptive Travel article.)

The Legendary Ten Seconds band was founded in 2003 by Ian Churchward, a multi-instrumentalist and resident of Torquay, Devon (the same English town where mystery writer Agatha Christie was born).

Primary members of the band are Ian Churchward vocals, mandola, mandolin, bass and guitar; Lord Zarquon, Mellotron, electric keyboards, moog, drums and percussion; and Rob Bright, banjo and electric guitar. The band is also occasionally joined by Tom Churchward on melodeon; and vocalists Elaine Churchward, Phil Helmore, Camilla Joyce, and Violet Sheer.

The group’s songs on three albums (Loyaulte Me Lie, Tant le Desiree, and Richard III) are steeped in the events and personalities of the Wars of the Roses, but songwriter Ian Churchward’s earliest historical songs weren’t based on medieval events.

Fascination with history
During the late ‘90s, he was inspired by the album, Bones of All Men, which fused renaissance tunes with contemporary music. “I started to make up my own instrumentals in a similar style,” he said, writing songs “with a historical background – about the battle of Hastings and one about the First World War.”

Loyaulte Me Lie CD

Loyaulte Me Lie CD

At the time, he was a member of an English dance band playing Gaelic-based “ceilidh” music. From this period also emerged two instrumentals, “Tudor Danse” and “Fanfare For the King,” which now appear on the Loyaulte Me Lie album.

His interest in Richard III originated with stories based on English history read in his youth. But it was re-ignited by Channel 4’s documentary, King in the Car Park, about the excavation of the king’s bones.

The dovetailing of myth, reality and coincidence leading to the discovery of Richard’s grave, as well as the important role played by the Richard III Society to raise funds for the project, made a huge impression on him. “It was one of the most amazing things I have ever watched on TV.”

Afterward, Ian read the gamut of Richard III books, starting with Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time, Sharon Kay Penmen’s The Sunne in Splendour and Annette Carson’s The Maligned King.

“I have lost count of the number of books I have read about Richard III,” said Ian. “I had to read as many as possible to give me the knowledge and ideas to write historical lyrics. The books are all absolutely fascinating.”

Inspired by many influences
On top of his love of medieval, renaissance and traditional English music, Ian appreciates the psychedelic and progressive rock of the ‘60s and ‘70s. “All of these styles of music are featured in the songs on the albums about Richard III,” said Ian.

“One of my favorite albums is Piper at the Gates of Dawn by Pink Floyd,” he said. Other influences are guitarists John Cipollina of Quicksilver Messenger Service and Hank Marvin of the Shadows. “I am endeavoring to play my guitar in a similar style.”

He met up with fellow musician Mike Peakman, who professionally goes by the name Lord Zarquon, at a time when their respective groups were disbanding. Together they wrote “House of York,” included on the Richard III album. This also coincided with recording “a batch of songs which had a 1960’s psychedelic folk rock feel to them.”

Lord Zarquon plays  keyboards using the sounds of the Mellotron, an “electro-mechanical, polyphonic tape replay keyboard” (so describes Wikipedia), which is at the heart of classic rock recordings by Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Yes, the Rolling Stones and the Moody Blues, and in the ‘90s, Oasis and Radiohead.

“Lord Zarquon is a huge Moody Blues fan and his Mellotron on the Richard III albums play a very important part in creating a sound that takes the listener to another time and place.”

Tant le Desiree CD

Tant le Desiree CD

To those people who have only passing familiarity with Richard III’s life, Shakespeare’s play seals the deal on the king’s villainous reputation, originally painted black by the Tudors: It is, after all, the victors who write the history books.

The Legendary Ten Seconds band takes a different stance. “To me Richard III is a flawed hero,” said Ian. “He had many good qualities but he also had faults just like any normal person would have.”

“I am not particularly motivated by the thought of changing the mind of someone who believes in his villainous reputation,” he added.

Charitable contribution
Ian Churchward is motivated by the Scoliosis Association (UK), which provides advice, support and information to people with scoliosis and other spinal conditions.

Ian learned about Richard III’s scoliosis from the documentary about the discovery of the king’s bones. It was the same affliction suffered by his wife’s cousin, who “had been a long term sufferer of scoliosis and died the same year that the grave of Richard III was discovered.”

A percentage of proceeds from the Legendary Ten Seconds music sales are donated to SAUK.

For those authors writing novels based in medieval or renaissance history, give a listen to the Legendary Ten Seconds. It might inspire you, too.

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RELATED LINKS

LISTEN or BUY MUSIC
Free taste of the Legendary Ten Seconds music here, and on Soundcloud.
Purchase MP3s and CDs.

WATCH VIDEO
How Do You Rebury a King?
based on events in Leicester, England, March 2015

About the Band
Legendary Ten Seconds website
Lord Zarquon’s website

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BUY MY BOOKS!

Rings of Passage: A Time Travel novel with Richard III

Rings of Passage: A Time Travel novel with Richard III

Rings of Passage is a time travel historical fantasy, with Richard III as the romantic hero. Wizards control the events of history, but a woman’s love transcends all. Available for Kindle and in paperback from Amazon.com.

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Dangerous Reflections: A Historical Fantasy through Time

Dangerous Reflections: A Historical Fantasy through Time

Dangerous Reflections is a time travel historical fantasy set in Edwardian London. After Martie is bequeathed a magic wand from her grandmother, she steps through a mirror into the arms of a powerful wizard and a truly magical romance.

Is the road to a successful writing career really paved with six tweets a day?

I’m an author.

But I’m also a single person who owns her home and works a demanding full-time job that has nothing to do with writing fiction.

All effort I put toward writing and the activities associated with it has to be done in my “spare” time. Those would be the hours that are not devoted to commuting to work, working the day job, house cleaning, cooking meals and eating them, exercising, paying bills and other financial activities, grocery shopping and keeping appointments of all kinds, and having to drive to those places, plus dealing with household disasters, illness and whatever else makes up a life. I haven’t mentioned socializing, because there’s precious little of that. The same goes for sleep.

A rough estimate of “spare” hours remaining after subtracting time for those aforementioned activities a little over 30 hours per week — even though I have no pets, nor a spouse, nor kids.

In the days of yore, before the internet, email and social media, I had enough time to turn out a decent-sized chapter in a weekend.

That is how I was able to write two novels.

Since I was a teenager, I’ve dreamed of being a published author. Now I am. I published a novel (Rings of Passage) in August 2013, and have another novel (Dangerous Reflections) scheduled for publication on Jan. 27, 2015.

But I can’t live on the income from writing — not by a long shot. There’s only one paycheck coming into my house that’s paying the mortgage and buying groceries, and that’s from my day job.

And I can’t sit down and write one chapter per weekend. Not anymore.

These days, I have to tend to social media by tweeting, posting, blogging, maintaining my website, soliciting for reviews, sending out emails, maintaining contact with my publicist, book designer and editor, and “engaging my public.” That’s on top of doing all the formatting of my print and ebooks, creating business cards and bookmarks, and a thousand other things that have very little to do with craft, plot or doing the research necessary to write a novel.

Of the 30 hours of “spare” time left to me, most of it ends up as electronic blood, sweat and fear burning down the information superhighway at the speed of hype, which I know will just as quickly become forgotten by the intended audience. When my next spare hour rolls around in the schedule, I’m expected to produce the next round.

Admittedly, I am not all that good at promotion. Like many authors, I’m introverted, and “selling” myself does not feel comfortable. On top of that, there is just not enough time to do it all, or do it well, no matter how hard I try.

Some nights, I fall into bed exhausted from all the trying, knowing that in six hours I have to get up and go to the job that puts bread on the table.

And yet, according to the experts out there, my books will never find an audience unless I put at least two, three or six times more effort into these promotional activities. I must build relationships with fans, make three engaging posts per day to Facebook, tweet at least six times a day hitting all time zones, build circles on Google+, and post reviews to Goodreads and Amazon of other authors’ books in the hopes that they will review mine.

So far, I’ve barely scratched the surface of what must be done, and evidently has been done by successful authors who don’t have the constraints that I do, and loads of time to offer advice.

I can’t believe I am the only author trying to climb this Mt. Everest of expectations while holding down a full-time job and maintaining a house, with a deficit of energy, time or even a rope, to pull me up the mountain.

I’m chasing my dream as best I can. I’m not whining. But I’m also not writing. I’m not enjoying that flow I was once able to achieve when I sat at the computer with a blank slate of weekend hours before me, waiting to be filled with mystery, romance and the love of what I was doing.

I wonder, will writing ever be fun again? I miss that.

What’s in a name? That which we call prose

Coming up with a title for a written piece can be challenging. Some titles pop right into your head, while others require a painful process in which you end up settling for something… finally.

Whether the piece is a novel, essay, song or article, achieving the right balance between the theme of the piece, what you want to communicate to the reader, and what the appeals to the sensibilities of your targeted audience, is not easy.

Too obscure, and nobody gets it. Too obvious, and it’s trite. But one thing is certain: if it’s not catchy, it’s also not memorable. Boring bombs and indifference is death.

Finding the right title for my historical fantasy time travel novel, “Rings of Passage,” did not come easily.

My original title was “Battle Against Time.” Too trite. My next idea was “Shakespeare’s Child.” Too obscure. At last, the members of my critique group, who brainstormed with me, came up with “Rings of Passage” as a play on the phrase “Rites of Passage.” We all agreed it was the best of what we’d thought of so far.

The title of my second novel, “Dangerous Reflections” (scheduled for release in January 2015), popped right into my head immediately after coming up with the concept.

That hardly ever happens.

So here are some techniques I use to find just the right title:

Rhymezone search options

Rhymezone search options

Technique #1: Go for the throat. What’s the most obvious prop, character, archetype or theme of the piece? Include that in the title. I wrote an essay about picking up my guitar again, after not playing it for 25 years. It’s a stringed instrument, so I chose to build the title around the word “strings.”

OneLook wildcards

OneLook wildcards

Technique #2: Twist the obvious. Now that you have that one key word, play with it. Search for phrases that are built around that word (idiomsite.com). Find words that rhyme with it. (rhymezone.com). Think of other people’s well-known titles or lyrics that use that word (rockwisdom.com), and twist it slightly so it stirs people’s memories in that direction, yet is somehow slightly “off.”

For the guitar essay, I took the phrase “absence of strings” (meaning “no strings attached”), but slanted its meaning to imply the opposite of the phrase’s original intent. In my case, not playing the guitar had caused a void in my life.

Technique #3: Bend Google to your will. Use the search engine to discover how many other people have already used your idea—but at the same time, to brainstorm alternatives to those overused titles. Suppose you’re toying with a phrase you like, that captures the essence of your work, but has been used to death. Enter part of the phrase into the search engine, except with quote marks around it. (www.google.com/advanced_search)

Google search with quote marks

Google search with quote marks

Using Technique #3 For my guitar essay title, I entered “<space> of strings”—which allowed for a word in front of the phrase.

This filled in the blank (“____ of strings”) with:

An array
Lord
Rite
Chief
Best
Absence

As another example, I wanted to add a subtitle to my novel “Dangerous Reflections,” which is a historical fantasy about  wizards who travel through mirrors. Using Technique #1, I started building upon the most important device in the novel, a mirror. Using this idea, I quickly came up with “Magic Mirrors” and “Smoke and Mirrors.”

After entering “Magic Mirrors” into the search engine, I immediately discovered this was an overused phrase, and that there was already a fantasy series with that in the title.

I switched to Technique #2. The rhymes for “smoke” produced many results, but they didn’t make sense in context.

But the rhyming word “broke” suggested “broken.” Using the very useful “near rhymes” tool of Rhymezone, this yielded some quirky results:

Stolen
frozen
potent
woven

Perhaps, within other contexts such as poetry, these results would have sparked intriguing possibilities. But they didn’t work for my purpose.

Switching back to Technique #1, I went for a synonym of “mirror.” Thesaurus.com is the go-to website for synonyms, and I use it daily.

With a little brainstorming, I came up with a Biblical phrase from Corinthians (King James Version), “Through a Glass, Darkly.” Many titles have been inspired by it, even a Rolling Stones album, “Through the Past, Darkly.”

Using Rhymezone to rhyme “darkly, “ I found “starkly,” “courtly,” “sharply,” “portly.”

Not quite what I was looking for.

So I went to OneLook, a “dictionary of dictionaries,” and used its “wildcard” function to find words that ending in “ly.” This brought up an overwhelming number of results.

Fortunately, the website gives you the option of narrowing it down to “common words and phrases” and even “part of speech.” I definitely wanted adverbs. This produced an alphabetic list that went on for pages and yielded some possibilities: “blithely,” “boldly,” “timelessly.”

OneLook also offers a key word search of Shakespeare’s works (resulting in this blog post’s title). Or enter a word to “show only matches that are related to this concept.”

I put in the word “light” coupled with the “ly” form, and got some slightly oddball results, including “light-headedly,” sparkly” and “smelly.” Interesting, but definitely no cigar.

So I switched to Technique #3, entering into Google a partial phrase inside of quote marks, “Through a glass” – and in addition to that, outside the quotes, a minus sign (-) in front of the word “darkly” to eliminate matches including that word.

Search hits included “Through a Glass <fill in the blank>”

Weakly
Onion (thanks to the Beatles)
Lightly
Clearly
Daftly
Window
Bible
Brightly

This exercise helps you eliminate phrases that have become trite, and sparks your own imagination by leveraging from what others came up with to think outside the box.

In the end, I didn’t use the word “mirror” or any variation of “through a glass” as a subtitle for “Dangerous Reflections.” I settled for the more prosaic and Amazon-category-friendly, “A Historical Fantasy through Time.”

Even though I didn’t find my subtitle using these techniques, the exercise wasn’t a bust. It stretched my mind, fueled my creativity, and resulted in several ideas and phrases I can use to market the novel.

Useful Links

5 Easy Tips for Terrific Titles by Anna Guerrero

Idioms and sayings

http://www.pride-unlimited.com/probono/idioms1.html
http://www.brownielocks.com/folksayings.html
http://www.idiomsite.com/
http://www.idiomconnection.com/proverbs.html

Dictionaries and word sites

http://rhymezone.com
http://onelook.comhttp://thesaurus.com

Popular lyrics reference by category

http://www.rockwisdom.com/mainpage.htm
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Rings of Passage: A Time Travel novel with Richard III

Rings of Passage: A Time Travel novel with Richard III

Rings of Passage” is a time travel historical fantasy, with Richard III as the romantic hero. Wizards control the events of history, but a woman’s love transcends all. Available for Kindle and in paperback from Amazon.com.

 

 

“Name that Beginning” reader challenge: We have winners!

Three months ago, I asked readers to tell me which alternate beginning I should use for my second novel, Dangerous Reflections. Up for grabs were $10 gift cards to Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or a signed copy of my first novel, Rings of Passage.

So congratulations go to Laura, Tammy and Luke as the winners! An email will be arriving soon with instructions on how to claim your prize.

Of those who weighed in, all but one voter picked Beginning 2, with the dissenter choosing Beginning 3. (Beginning 1 had no fans.)

Because I ended up blending beginnings #2 and #3, I threw everybody’s name into the hat (aka the Random Thing Picker), no matter which beginning they voted for, to arrive at the winners.

So thank you to everyone who participated. You truly helped me make this very difficult creative decision.

Dangerous Reflections

Dangerous Reflections:
Wizards in love

Dangerous Reflections is a time travel historical fantasy centered around a romance between Martie, who just learned she is a wizard, and the man who must teach her how to use her powers. The story is primarily set in Edwardian London, when the popular culture of the time embraced the concepts of the occult, magical societies, mediums and meandering upon the astral plane.

Without further ado, I introduce the new beginning to Dangerous Reflections.
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Chapter One
Present Day
University of Western Pennsylvania

With the magic wand tucked in her backpack, Martie knocked on the office door. It fell open a crack, and inside sat the man she most—and least—wanted to see: Professor Cirksena, the only person within five hundred miles who knew anything about the history of English magic.

Her former Ph.D. professor in psychology looked up from his work, and smiled. “Come in, my dear.”

Martie forced herself to step into the office. Her heart raced, not with affection, but fear. Six months ago, she had ended their relationship.

He had praised her thesis. It showed much promise, he’d said. Something sparked when their eyes met. As the weeks passed, Martie had become enamored.

“I have been expecting you.” The professor’s Frisian accent sent a shiver of repulsion through her. Without wanting to, she recalled his hands on her, and his hot breath in her ear. He had a dark sensuality that attracted her – and scared her to death at the same time.

“I heard about what happened to your father and grandmother. I am sorry.”

Besides the stress of being in his presence again, her “second sight” —a peculiar family trait she had inherited from her grandmother—shot off mental flares.

Escape while you still can.

Martie lifted her chin in defiance. “I need your help, Professor.”

Cirksena’s demeanor, with his fine Burberry suit and smug expression, exuded arrogance.

“So formal, my dear? You used to call me Marcus. We were friends once, were we not? And colleagues. I am certain we would have proved Jung’s theory, if you had given us the chance to finish.”

“I am just as sure we wouldn’t have.” Her voice shook. “I’m not here to talk about my dissertation. I’m here because I need your professional opinion. Believe me, it’s the only reason I’m here.”

Cirksena leaned forward. “Is it about your family? Have the doctors made a diagnosis? You found them in that comatose state, did you not?”

Martie’s face grew hot. How does he know so much?

She shuddered internally at the memory of coming home from her university job as a graduate assistant to find her family members unconscious in the living room. After failing to revive them, she had called 9-1-1.

Reaching into her backpack, she retrieved the wand, and placed it on his desk. “What is your assessment of this… heirloom? It belongs to my grandmother.”

“Ah,” was all he said as he picked up the wand.

Alarms went off for her. Martie stared at him.  “You’ve seen it before.”

“What an odd thing to say. I have seen ones like it before.”

She watched silently as he withdrew a loupe from his top drawer, and put it to his eye, examining the wand’s markings. After studying it for several minutes, he looked up from beneath bushy eyebrows, his gaze boring into hers.

What’s going on here? Whereas a moment before, her second sight unequivocally knew Cirksena recognized her Gran’s wand – now it was saying Cirksena spoke the truth. He had never seen it before.

Cirksena did not break eye contact. Martie summoned her willpower and looked away. “Well?”

“What would you like to know?

Martie steadied herself, but could not keep the nerves out of her voice. “After my family got sick, our lawyer delivered this wand to me. My grandmother had instructed him to do that if anything happened to her. He told me our family had been connected to a magical society in nineteenth century England, but that Gran had refused to give him more details.”

A sob caught in her throat, but she repressed it. “The timing of this makes me suspicious. I can’t help but think this skeleton in the family closet has to do with Dad and Gran’s sudden illness. This wand seems to be the key to saving them. But I can’t quite figure it out.”

Martie had no problem  begging when it came to her family. “The doctor says the longer they are in a coma, the less likely they will regain consciousness. Can you help? Will you help me?”

Cirksena’s dark eyes found hers and held them for a moment before returning to his examination of the wand. He weighed it in his hands, and ran his finger over the odd alchemical symbols painted along its eighteen-inch length.

After a long moment, he set the wand on his desk. “I will help you. I expect something in return.”

The thought of owing him a favor turned her stomach to knots. “What do you want?”

“If you agree to my terms, I will rouse Judith and Dr. Harris from their lethargy.” He sounded confident he could do it.

Truth dawned like a red sun rising before her eyes. “You had something to do with their illness.”

“Nonsense.”

Her backpack slipped from her hands and hit the floor with a thud as another revelation occurred to her. “You know my dad because he teaches at the university. But how is it you know my Gran’s first name?”

“I think you had better sit down.”

“You already knew about my family’s connection to magic? How long have you known? The whole time? Even when we almost –”

She did not dare speak that out loud.

Cirksena rose. Martie backed away.

She didn’t have to be a psychic to sense how he much enjoyed this cat-and-mouse game. It was written on his face, evident in his voice.

He gestured toward a chair. “Stay, and I will tell you some of what I know.”

Some of what you know?” The realization he had been manipulating her all along sank in. “That’s right – you came to me about my dissertation.”

A muscle in Cirksena’s cheek twitched.  “So I did. The topic of your dissertation intrigued me. Jung’s investigation into alchemy is an atypical interest for a post-graduate psychology student of this century.”

Martie shook her head.  “It’s more than that. I think you researched my family before you came to this university. That’s why you came.”

Cirksena forced a smile. “That’s ridiculous. I looked into your family history after I became aware of your work.”

This ran deeper than Cirksena admitted. A professor does not do a background check based on a student’s thesis topic. So much for ESP. Why hadn’t she “sensed” this? At one time they had been close – inappropriately close for a student and her professor. Did he have some ability to cloak his intent from her second sight?

Obviously, he wanted something. And he wanted it badly. “Why go to all these lengths to become involved my research? What is so important that you would do this awful thing to my family?”

He was momentarily taken aback by her comment, but did not deny her accusation. When he finally spoke, Martie thought she heard him wrong.

“I want the Philosopher’s Stone.”

“You want what?”

He repeated it.

“You’re being sarcastic.”

He was perfectly serious. “I want you to bring me the elixir of life. ”

Martie’s mouth fell open. “Now you’re mocking me, my work.”

“I believe in your thesis.” Cirksena was emphatic. “I want the stone. I’ll settle for nothing less.”

“We both know there is no such thing.”

“Yet you yourself tried to prove its existence.”

She glared. “I failed. Or I gave up. It was naïve, wishful thinking. You flattered me and I stupidly believed you when you praised my theory in the first place. You encouraged my obsession. You manipulated me.”

“I encouraged you, yes. Because the Philosopher’s Stone does exist. I know who has it. And if you want to save your grandmother and your father, you will find it and bring it to me. That is my price for helping you.”

Martie narrowed her eyes. “I am more convinced than ever that you had something to do with their illness. I will tell the police. They will arrest you.”

“They will do no such thing.” Cirksena settled into his chair again. “This is an odd way you have of asking for help, but I will ignore it.”

Martie’s face went hot and she bit her tongue.

He tilted his head. “Surely the lawyer gave you something besides this wand. Something that explains it? A letter, perhaps?”

His words jogged her memory. “There is a letter. But it doesn’t make sense.” She grabbed her backpack from the floor, retrieved the envelope and handed it to him.

He unfolded the letter and read it aloud.

“Dearest Martinique – I should never have kept the secret of who you are. Look into the mirror and know the truth. Save Doctor Uncle. He died because of me. You’re the only one who can save him. Save him and he will save us. Love, Gran”

It rattled her, hearing Cirksena speaking the name her grandmother had always called her in his strange Old English-sounding accent.

Cirksena had more surprises. “Judith is your great grandmother, is she not?”

A slight panic thrilled through her. He knew that, too?

“She was born in 1903. She’s 111 years old. She was once a practitioner of magic.”

Martie stared.

“Wizarding blood runs through your veins. You, your father, your great-grandmother—and the grandparents you were never permitted to meet—are all descended from an ancient line of English sorcerers.”

If she expected to hear anything, it certainly was not this.

Cirksena raised an eyebrow. “But your father, Dr. Harris, is a man of science. I have had enough conversations with Martin to know he does not believe in magic.”

Martie’s hackles rose at his easy summation of her father. “See, you don’t know everything. My dad goes by his middle name, ‘Frank.’” It was a childish thing to say. Gran had always scolded her for being petulant. She didn’t care.

He ignored her interruption. “Because your father did not approve, you grew up in a house devoid of magic. But that doesn’t mean you are not a wizard.”

“You have totally lost your mind.”

Cirksena did not flinch. “You don’t have to believe me. I can prove it.” He picked up the wand.

“What are you going to do with that?”

He stood and motioned for her to follow him, which she did reluctantly. He led her toward the back room of his office, to a full-length mirror. “Have you ever read ‘Alice through the Looking Glass’?”

“You’re kidding, right?”

His gaze went momentarily distant. “Wait—there is something missing. Were you not also given a medallion with a five-sided symbol on it? You should recognize it from your alchemical studies.”

She reached into her backpack. The medallion had been stored with the wand, in a wooden box with the Eye of Horus carved into it, but she hadn’t discovered it right away. She pulled out the metal disk, hanging on a chain. “A pentacle.”

“Yes. Put it on,” he said.

“Why?”

“Do you want proof or not?”

Martie reluctantly put the chain around her neck. “You had better get to the point soon.”

He handed her the wand. “Stand before the mirror.”

“What purpose…?”

“Do as I say.”

Martie eyed him warily, but stepped in front of the mirror.

“I know you sense things others do not. You see things others do not. What do you experience as you look into the mirror?”

She gazed at her haggard reflection. The stress was getting to her. She appeared gaunt and thin, and the state of her hair made her look like a madwoman.

A moment later, a “thrumming” sensation vibrated through her body, to the tips of her fingers and toes. “Whoa, what’s going on?”

“You are feeling the magic within you. It is your birthright.”

Startled, Martie stepped away from the mirror. The strange sensation passed.

She breathed deeply to calm herself. “That was weird.” She retreated into the outer office and squeezed her fingers to get the feeling back into them. What was that?

She turned to face Cirksena, who had followed her back. “I want some answers. “You’ve obviously done the research. Who is this ‘Doctor Uncle’ mentioned in the letter? Did Gran have an uncle who was a doctor?”

“It is, perhaps, a nickname she called him,” Cirksena suggested. His expression revealed nothing more. “She knew him when she was a child in London. He may have been a friend of her mother’s. After Violet Morley died, he stood in as her protector until she was adopted by her new parents and immigrated to America.” He paused. “This man was a powerful wizard. But he died  in 1910. Judith wants you to ‘save him’ because she believes she was responsible for his premature death.”

“How can you know that? What did she do?”

Cirksena remained silent.

Martie retrieved the letter and reread it. “What does Gran expect from me exactly? How is ‘saving’ a dead person even possible?”

He seemed to be calculating how much to reveal. “I believe Judith wants you to use the wand to return to 1910 and prevent the wizard’s death.”

Martie threw up her hands. “Time travel? Really?”

Cirksena smirked. “Surely you have figured it out. Judith’s guardian was a wizard. It is he who possesses the Stone. You must get it from him.” He shrugged. “And if you wish to save his life to appease your grandmother, feel free.”

It was Martie’s turn to laugh, albeit weakly. “That’s all I have to do. Go back in time. What about the part you haven’t told me? Such as, how?

The professor’s mirth evaporated. “I will help you. We will work together again.”

“When hell freezes over.”

Martie picked up her backpack and shoved the wand and case into it. She turned toward the door.

Cirksena took a step toward her, as if to prevent her leaving.

She quickly moved away from him. “Do I have it wrong? Is this really some ridiculous ploy to get back with me again?”

Cirksena smiled. “You are very self-absorbed and deluded, my dear, to believe so strongly in your own importance.”

She snorted. “Just checking.”

“You need me.”

She proceeded toward the exit. “Now who’s self-absorbed and deluded.”

He shook his head. “You can’t do this on your own.”

Martie rounded on him. “Watch me.”

He cast a final remark her way. “If you want to save your family, you will be back.”

“Gran believes I can do it. If she does, then I do.” She closed the office door firmly behind her.

*  *  *

Smothered by death.The words looped endlessly in Martie’s mind.

She sat by the hospital bed where her grandmother lay motionless and sheet white. She couldn’t shake the memory of the feather dream. In this comatose state, could Gran be having it?

It was a dream Martie had had for years, beginning the night her mom died. The blinding white light. The sense of being cradled by something primal, something overwhelming, asphyxiating. Like drowning in feathers. When she was little, it had sent her crying to Gran’s bedside in the middle of the night more times than she could count. When Martie was older, Gran admitted to having the same dream. “It’s like being smothered by death.”

The words had branded her mind, and from that moment on, Martie felt connected to her grandmother as she had never been to anyone else in her life.

“Oh, Gran, what will I do if I lose you?” Martie’s voice was barely a whisper. Tears gathered in her eyes and she brushed them away. Her foot caught the leg of the chair, nearly tripping her as she hurried out.

Martie went down the hall to her father’s room, her stomach hollow. Her dad lay as still and pale in his bed as Gran. She sat next to the bed and touched his arm, but there was no response. She found his hand and held it. His fingers did not move.

Her chest ached as she watched his quiet breathing and studied the facial details she had taken for granted when he was up and around. The crows feet at the corner of his eyes, the laugh lines around his mouth—these creased her heart as surely as his face.

She didn’t care that Dr. Martin Frank Harris had lied to keep her safe from her family’s weird obsession with ritual magic. She missed his silly sense of humor, and the strange noises from the basement when he worked on his “perfectly serious” experiments with magnetic rocks. She wanted him back.

The likelihood that Cirksena had done this horrific thing to her family to blackmail her into getting what he wanted—whatever that was—settled upon her like a ten thousand pound weight.

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Rings of Passage

Rings of Passage

Karla Tipton’s first novel, “Rings of Passage,” is a time travel historical fantasy, with Richard III as the romantic hero. Wizards control the events of history, but a woman’s love transcends all. It’s available in Kindle and all e-book formats, as well paperback on Amazon.com and B&N websites.

 

Richard III tour: History inspires fantasy fiction at an ancient church near Bosworth Field

My visit to an ancient church where Richard III prayed on the eve of his death became the backdrop for this transformative scene in my novel, Rings of Passage.” 

(see photos below)

St. James Church, Sutton Cheney

Window at St. James Church

The   door   of   the   church  was   scored  by centuries  of  use  by  the  simple  people  of  his parish. Richard ran his fingers along the scars just as  Francis  caught  up  with  him.

“Dickon.  The hour  grows  late.  This,  of  all  nights,  you  must rest.”

“I’ve  learned  to  do  without  rest.  What  I haven’t  learned  is  why  God  has  forsaken  me. This I must know before I die.”

He  looked  up  at  the  exterior  of  the  old church. Small and squarely built, it had been put up  by  the  Normans long  before a  Plantagenet ever wore the crown of England. A corner of his mouth quirked – and doubtless it would remain so long after.

“Perhaps  here  I  will  find  it.  I  cannot  be swayed from this, friend.”

Francis sighed,  recognizing Richard’s stubbornness in full force. Grasping the large iron ring at the center of the door, Francis pulled. It opened with a groan.

Within, the walls glowed, bathed in the light of a multitude of candles. Stretching to the ceiling were the colored glass windows that in daytime colored the interior of the church, but at night receded into shadow. The vicar hovered near the altar, his face anxious. He had faced a steady stream of knights who had come this evening to make peace with God.

Other than the priest, the church was empty.

Richard nodded to Francis, who stayed by the door to keep others out. The king did not want to be disturbed.

Under the vicar’s watchful eye, Richard knelt before the altar. The priest consecrated the bread and wine, ministering to his king who, in the eyes of Deus, was but a mere mortal.

But Richard could not open his heart to God. Even now, forgiveness would be denied.

Why have you deserted me, Lord?

Richard spoke the prayer that brought him the most peace: “De beato Juliano. Cum volueris pere res afflictos relevare captivos redimere in carcare positos…”

But he could not concentrate. The memorized words flew from his mind like startled birds. And though he knelt before God, Richard could only think of Anise.

Forgive me, my love – I judged you by my own besmirched soul. I accused you when you were without guilt. My ignorance brought you only suffering – ’tis this I abhor most of all. Dear Anise, wherever you are, know that even hours before my death, I would give up my kingdom to be with you.

A sense of peace flooded his soul, causing him to gasp. He sensed Anise nearby. Was he imagining it? Or had she heard his thoughts? He choked back a sob. “Anise?”

Richard remembered he was not alone. He looked at the vicar and saw the priest staring fearfully at something to Richard’s left.

He followed the man’s gaze and knew why he was frightened. In the aisle, a mist had gathered. Glowing with an otherworldly light, it spread out before him.

Richard’s senses expanded as the power of the magic ring on his finger thrummed through his arm. Opening to its insights, a presence filled him up.

Her presence. Anise. Richard got off his knees and rose to his feet.

His pulse raced as he watched the mist take human form, and now recognized her face at its center.

In his mind, he heard her speak – but could not make out the words.

He sensed her struggle. She wanted to tell him something. He could feel she was weary.

And she began to fade. Don’t leave me, Anise!

He thrust his arm into the glimmering mist, reaching for her – and caught hold of a hand that wavered between two worlds, one moment solid and the next, spirit. The shock of her presence filled him. She could not come to him, but was confined in some place that would not let go.

Where in God’s name is she?

Richard’s mind numbed to everything but Anise – and at last he heard her.

So… tired… cannot go on… must tell you…

She was giving up. Her exhaustion coursed through him. Richard was losing her. I must not… lose… her.

Clinging to the tendril of mist, using what power he could glean from the ring, he fought for her. He pushed back the weakness that sapped her strength, lending her his will and his strength – and his love.

As her spirit rallied, the otherworldly light grew brighter. He could discern her features more clearly now, her eyes hollow with weariness, her full lips, her dark, flowing hair.

She said his name, not in his mind only, but spoken aloud, “Richard.”

From the corner of his eye, Richard saw the vicar backing away in terror.

Anise tried to speak, but no words could be heard. Richard concentrated, opening his heart, drawing her into himself. Her thoughts, her emotions, her soul, joined his.

He knew the eternal blackness she experienced, and sensed her weariness. Without words she told him – she could not hang on. She had tarried too long in that place.

If he let go now, if he lost her, it would be forever. She could not return.

Then all became clear. Richard knew how to save her – to save them.

Clinging to her insubstantial hand for all his life, he shouted to the vicar, “Marry us!”

The priest held up his hands, shaking his head. “N-no, Your Grace – ’tis evil!”

“You fool! ’Tis a miracle! If you don’t marry us, she will die!”

Still the priest refused.

Richard was furious. There was no time for this! With his right hand, Richard felt for his scabbard, and made ready to draw his sword.

“Do you deny your king? As I am your sovereign Lord, I demand you marry us, or be cut down upon this altar.”

The vicar’s eyes widened.

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Rings of Passage

Rings of Passage

Rings of Passage” is a time travel historical fantasy, with Richard III as the romantic hero. Wizards control the events of history, but a woman’s love transcends all. Available for Kindle and in paperback from Amazon.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Why did Shakespeare throw Richard III under the bus?

Dedicated to a fellow writer from my newspaper days, who inspired deliberation on this topic through his blog, “A Year of Shakespeare: 38 Plays, 365 Days.”
Richard III and Shakespeare
Why did Shakespeare throw Richard under the bus?

Some of the assumptions I make here may be false, however it is based on a fair amount of research, some of which I did while researching for my novel, Rings of Passage. I don’t claim to be a Shakespeare scholar. Experts out there take issue, please, if you will. Let’s get this thing cleared up.

Why did Shakespeare throw Richard III under the bus?

  • Political fear

Shakespeare wrote Richard III during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and so his portrayal of Richard is sometimes shrugged off as “toeing the party line.”

Elizabeth’s father Henry VIII dispatched Yorkists whenever he could get away with it. On flimsy charges, he beheaded Richard’s niece Margaret (countess of Salisbury,  George, duke of Clarence’s daughter) when she was 68 years old. She was hardly a threat.

He learned his hatred of Yorkists from his father, Henry VII, the founder of the Tudor dynasty, whose hate was grounded in the reasonable fear that his kingship was both undeserved and usurped.

If you had Yorkist leanings during the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII, you had good reason to be afraid.

Yet Elizabeth the First did not share the hatred of her father and grandfather. She was a moderate in government and tolerant in religion. She enjoyed the theater, earning the disapproval of the Puritans on her own counsel.

According to Lisa Thyer, author of “Shakespeare Life and Times/Intro to Shakespeare’s life and Historical Context”:  “Theater was often used as a covert forum for political criticism: …some may have remembered the swinish face of Henry VIII, and all in the audience knew that it was only under special circumstances that they could publicly share the thought that monarch was a swine.”

Criticism of the Tudor dynasty embedded in a dramatic performance would not be cause enough for Elizabeth to eliminate a playwright, whose work she most likely enjoyed.

To toe the line of the current political climate is not a convincing enough argument for  Shakespeare’s trashing of Richard III.

  • Chasing the fame

How many tabloids have jumped on the bandwagon to destroy some celebrity’s career for the sheer purpose of selling more copies? Could the Bard’s motivation have been opportunistic?

Although Richard III is one of Shakespeare’s earliest plays “preceded only by the three parts of Henry VI and perhaps a handful of comedies,” according to Wikipedia Richard had been dead a century by then, give or take a few years. Richard’s “dark” reputation had already been convincingly painted against the backdrop of the “Tudor Myth*.”

The rehashing of that old chestnut wouldn’t have gained a playwright much traction unless he happened to be Shakespeare. Like all great writing, he took an old idea and told the story in such a compelling way that it became new again.

It’s the universality of this theme, molded by the deft hand of a genius, that propelled Richard III to the top of the Elizabethan drama charts.

If there was any bandwagon jumping, it was because Shakespeare knew he could use the legend of Richard’s evil to drive home the idea that, in the karmic scheme of things, crime doesn’t pay. Shakespeare was not adverse to cozying up to his audience’s preferences, however (more on that later).

  • Poetic license

By the time Shakespeare penned Richard III, he had already written three historical plays Henry VI, parts I, II and III.

While researching the intrigues of British royalty, Shakespeare wasn’t looking for truth. He was looking for drama. And something deeper.

Shakespeare grew up on the morality plays popular at the time of his youth. These plays, and the classical dramatic tradition of unity and decorum learned as part of a grammar school education, provided the foundation for his work. Along with his contemporaries, Shakespeare blended old morality drama with classical theory to develop a new secular form for the English Renaissance.

In a nutshell, this new form of drama resonated on an emotional level, but also incorporated themes dealing with the human condition and destiny. And despite its ambiguous themes and complexity, this new brand of drama should be universally understood, not only to the educated elite, but also to ordinary people.

Because of the speed that authors had to produce plays at the time, and the Renaissance theory that  tragic plots should be grounded in history, Shakespeare turned to source material typically used by playwrights of the time: Raphael Holinshed’s 1587 Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande.

Among the sources Holinshed used for Richard III was Thomas More’s unfinished, The History of Richard III.

Born in 1478, More was 7 years old when the Battle at Bosworth took place. As a boy, he lived for a time in the household of Dr. John Morton, who was Archbishop of Canterbury under Henry VII, and one of Richard’s bitterest enemies. Morton’s conspiratorial machinations against Richard eventually helped put Tudor on the throne.

More’s account of Richard’s life was interpreted through the prism of Morton’s anti-Richard propaganda, which was then reiterated in Holinshed’s Chronicles, which provided the plot for Shakespeare’s play.

Morton’s hatred filtered through Shakespeare’s pen dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s turning Richard into an evil and unredeemable monster who murdered children.

In his quest for drama and theme, Shakespeare had no use for primary sources that proved otherwise.

Even if Shakespeare knew that Richard III could not have perpetrated the crimes he was a accused of, he didn’t care. In Henry VI, Part II, Shakespeare has Richard killing the Duke of Somerset, when in actuality Richard was only three years old.  In part three of Henry VI, Richard is seen participating in the Battles of Mortimer’s Cross and Towton.  In fact, Richard was 8 years old and living in Burgundy.

Shakespeare’s motivation was not to exonerate, but to exploit plot twists to amplify his theme.

As with the character of “Vice” of whom Elizabethan audiences would been familiar from the morality plays the fates turned on Richard in the end**.

“Fate versus free will” was popular with audiences influenced by the growing Calvinism of the Elizabethan era. Inherent was the belief in historical fatalism, in which individual historical events are determined by God, who often punishes evil with (apparent) evil.

Shakespeare used Richard’s “reputation” as the perfect vehicle for conveying this idea.

Does that make him a toady to the Calvinists? I don’t think so. Still, he wasn’t beyond playing to the preferences of his audience.

Yet it is done so brilliantly. Can’t we forgive him?

I never really doubted that Shakespeare’s real motivation behind Richard III was artistic. I need not have taken the journey, just to come to the conclusion I had at the beginning.

However, I have learned much, and do not regret the trip.

And finally…

  • Conspiracy theory

In a nutshell, there are serious scholars who believe “William Shakespeare” was an identity assumed by a member of the nobility, Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, to enable him to write plays and sonnets anonymously.

If Oxford was Shakespeare, he would have had strong motivation for painting Richard III’s reputation black.

Prior to Richard’s reign, the de Vere family had been stripped of nearly all its land holdings, after John de Vere participated in the Battle of Barnet in 1471, against the Yorkists. Richard’s elder brother, King Edward IV, confiscated, and then turned around and granted to Richard, all of John de Vere’ s property.

Was Shakespeare’s most famous play written by de Vere out of some kind of revenge?

Food for thought.

My Sources
Footnotes:
* Tudor Myth: Political propaganda promoting the Tudor period of the 16th century as a golden age of peace, law, order, and prosperity; and the Yorkist period of the15th century, including the Wars of the Roses, as a dark age of anarchy and bloodshed.
** Richard was God’s curse on England in punishment for the deposition of Richard II in 1399, which formed the basis for the conflict between the Yorkists and Lancastrians and sparked the Wars of the Roses.

Author Christine Elaine Black discusses her creative process

When I heard about Christine Elaine Black’s novel “A Rose for Lancaster” from our mutual acquaintance, author Cara Bristol, I had to read it. Set in the 15th century, the romance between Blanche and Giles takes place after the defeat of King Richard III, who is the hero of my novel “Rings of Passage.” Based on our novels, Christine and I are on opposite sides of the Wars of the Roses! When I read “A Rose for Lancaster,” I was immediately charmed by the story. Blanche is a Yorkist and Giles a Lancastrian. They rise above their political loyalties to be together. In this interview, Christine discusses her writing life and her love of history.

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Christine Elaine Black’s links:

A Rose for Lancaster

“A Rose for Lancaster”

Author Biography
Blog
On Twitter

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Christine Elaine Black interview

Karla: At what point did you know you wanted to be a writer? Was there an event, or a comment someone made to you, or an experience that made you think, “Hey, I’d like to write.”

Christine Elaine: I started writing to encourage my daughter’s foray into the storytelling world. I intended to write for her (which I did) but then I enjoyed it so much I kept writing and delved into the romantic historical genre.

Karla: Do you have a very early work that you would like to reinvent or get into shape to share with the world? What is it?

Christine Elaine: I have quite a few projects that are finished but ‘rough,’ and that means finding time to re-read, edit, re-shape and publish. If I had unlimited time I’d likely have it done by now but life in the real world calls to me. It’s a constant give and take to be an author.

Karla: When you write novels, do you use an outline, or are you a pantser (flying by the seat of your pants)?

Christine Elaine: I start with an idea. I love ancient Rome and found it difficult to source a romance book in that time period. The idea for Maximus sprang into my head and I started writing the story without much plotting. The characters took over and the story fell into place. Although I write ‘romance’ which is typically as story dealing with the relationship of a couple central to the plot, I like to add many other characters to embellish the plot. Since trying out the self-publishing market I write slightly outside the romance box to include a few of my favourtie secondary characters. It’s fun!

Karla: What is the MOST important to you? Plot? Character? Setting?

Christine Elaine: A really great story is the most important to me. The characters add to that of course and I love them all, even the mean ones in a strange way, but story is important. The characters need angst and conflict to make us care.

Karla: How scheduled are you when writing?

Christine Elaine: For a number of years I wrote late at night. Parents will understand the reason for that! It was my time to relax and spend in a constructive, creative way. Lately, I’m learning a whole new world of blogging, tweeting and Facebooking and that’s eating away at my writing time.

Karla: Where do you write? Is there certain music you have playing in the background? A favorite room, desk or chair? Are you like J.K. Rowling, and write in a coffee shop?

Christine Elaine: I use the Mac (family room) or the PC (home office) and prefer silence if I can get it. I’ve never written when I’m out and about in the real world. Too many distractions for me.

Karla: Are the stories that you write different from those that you read? For instance, romance versus humor.

Christine Elaine: I’ve read a lot of historical fiction. If I could write like the authors I idolize that would be a dream come true. Let me give you a few examples:

Colleen McCullough’s Roman series (a tour de force)
Jack Whyte’s Camelot series (incredible)
Bernard Cornwell’s Viking series (amazing)
Pauline Gedge’s Egyptian works (mesmerising)
Jo Graham’s Numinous World series (fantastic)

As you can see, I read a list of heavy hitters in the literary world! I couldn’t begin to compare myself to career authors.

Karla: Is your creative process something you sweat over? Or is it something you trust to “kick in” as soon as you get started.

Christine Elaine: I don’t have any issues with the creative process. If I need to take a break from a particular scene, character or book, then I switch to something different or go for a walk. Often I write prolific amounts and edit or switch things around as new and improved ideas come to me. It’s hard to hit the delete key on work but in the end it can be for the best.

Karla: If you have a troublesome plot issue, how do you solve it? Is there a method or a meditation you turn to solve the problem?

Christine Elaine: I sleep on it. Often I go to bed thinking about my characters and imagine them in situations, working through problems or having conversations. I don’t dream about them as some of my fellow writers have said they do, but I run scenarios in my head.

Karla: What advice would you give to new authors who are trying to find their voice and their stride?

Christine Elaine: The best advice I can give is network with other writers and look for feedback from trusted or well-meaning friends (including virtual friends). I posted some work on a few writer sites before publishing and it helped to chat with others in the same boat and exchange views on each other’s work. Ultimately, though it’s a growth process and some find it easier than others.

Karla: I couldn’t agree more! And I want to thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your insights with us. _____________________________________________________

Rings of Passage

Rings of Passage is now in paperback!

In other news… “Rings of Passage” is now available in paperback through Amazon! It would make a great Christmas gift for the bookworm in your life.

Author Cara Bristol discusses the writing life and her new erotic sci-fi romance, “Breeder”

Cara Bristol was one of my earliest writing colleagues. We were eager and fresh-faced journalism grads from different colleges. We ended up at the same suburban newspaper, writing for the society section (typically called the “soc page” in newspaper jargon). We wrote wedding copy and covered women’s clubs, but both of us had bigger dreams. Funnily enough, at that time, none of them had to do with writing novels. And now we’re both doing it.

Cara featured me on her blog the day my novel “Rings of Passage” came out in August, and now I’m interviewing her on mine. What goes around, comes around – and now we have come full circle. Upon the Oct. 15 release of Cara Bristol’s first erotic science fiction novel ,”Breeder,” I asked about her life as a writer, how the creative process manifests when she writes, and some challenges she must face juggling real life commitments and her art.

(see interview below)
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"Breeder"

Read an excerpt below

“Breeder links:
Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Breeder-Cara-Bristol-ebook/dp/B00FX7L5FO/
All Romance eBooks (ARe)
https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-breeder-1318747-340.html
Loose ID
http://www.loose-id.com/breeder.html
Author’s website
http://carabristol.com/
Twitter  @CaraBristol
https://twitter.com/CaraBristol
Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/cara.bristol.3
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Cara Bristol interview

Karla: At what point did you know you wanted to be a writer? Was there an event, or a comment someone made to you? Or perhaps an experience that made you think, “Hey, I’d like to write.”

Cara: I’ve always enjoyed writing. The students in high school would complain about having to write term papers, but I secretly enjoyed the assignments. When it came time to choose a college major, I chose journalism because it involved writing. I liked journalism. I love writing fiction.

Karla: What were your earliest written works? (Poems, short stories, songs, essays, novels)

Cara Bristol BiographyCara: Well, the “earliest” is a 30-page mystery I wrote in the fifth grade. Professionally? As a journalism and public relations director, I’ve written numerous newspaper articles, brochures, annual reports, newsletters, press releases. I wrote (and published) my first erotic romance in 2009. I now have 12 erotic romance titles published. Most of them have been released in the last two years.

Karla: What made you to decide to write a novel, in particular?

Cara: I enjoy the freedom and creation of writing fiction. My preferred format is the novella, but I let the work decide the length. I’ve written short stories, novellas and novels.

Karla: Do you have a very early work that you would like to reinvent or get into shape to share with the world? What is it?

Cara: The work I would redo has been published. If I could, I would rewrite Unexpected Consequences, the first book in the Rod and Cane Society domestic discipline erotic romance series. I would make the heroine less naïve—although I really enjoyed that aspect of her personality when I originally wrote it.

Karla: What is the MOST important to you? Plot? Character? Setting?

Cara: Character. But, of course, all three are important because they are so interwoven. Character drives plot, plot creates character and setting affects then both. But I write romance because I find relationship dynamics fascinating. Put the right (clashing) two characters together and the story practically writes itself. For example, in Body Politics. I sent a diehard feminist on a blind date with a Dom who likes to spanks his women. In Breeder, an Alpha Commander falls in love with slave he is forbidden by law to want. Can you see the conflict?

Karla: Do you write genre fiction or literary fiction? Do you think there is a clear delineation between the two styles? And if so, what is that?

Cara: I write genre fiction (romance), in several subgenres: erotic, paranormal, domestic discipline and science fiction. I see literary fiction and genre fiction at two opposite ends of the continuum. One is black, one is white. But in between, it grays and becomes hard to tell them apart. But my fiction is definitely on the genre side.

Karla: How scheduled are you when writing? (9 to 5, when you have an assignment, when the inspiration strikes).

Cara: I am very scheduled about my writing. I work (write and promote) seven days a week. I am usually at the computer by 5:30 a.m. That said, I rely a lot on inspiration. Even when I’m not at my computer, I’m usually thinking about my writing.

Karla: Where do you write? Is there certain music you have playing in the background? A favorite room, desk or chair? Are you like J.K. Rowling, and write in a coffee shop?

Cara: I have a lovely, dedicated home office that is mine, mine, mine. (I used to share an office with my husband). I do not write to music, I find it distracting.

Karla: Are the stories that you write different from those that you read? For instance, romance versus humor.

Cara: No. My time is so limited that I read strategically. First priority is my genres. Second priority is authors I know. Third is everything else.

Karla: Is writing your job or your hobby? If it is a hobby that has turned into a job, are there drawbacks to this?

Cara: Writing is my job. What no one realizes until they get into it is how consuming a writing career becomes. It’s insidious! When I worked in corporate PR, I didn’t work seven days a week, nor did I bring work home. Now I write at home and writing and home life bleed together. Writing/editing occupies about 50 percent of my work time, promotion the other 50 percent.

Karla: Is one successful novel enough, or do you see yourself as a “career” writer?

Cara: If you were only in it for the money, and you hit it out of the ballpark like JK Rowling or EL James have and earned gazillions, perhaps one novel would be enough. But those authors not even good examples because they both wrote series. You can never rest on your laurels because for 99 percent of authors, eventually the sales from any one book drop. And even if I hit megastatus, I would probably continue to write because I love it so much. I am driven to write. If I hit it big, I might not write as much, but I would still write.

Karla: Are you a tortured artist? Is writing therapeutic, cathartic or simply fun?

Cara: Fun. I’m not the least bit tortured.

Karla: Is your creative process something you sweat over? Or is it something you trust to “kick in” as soon as you get started.

Cara: I had one book that I sweated over and if that’s what writing was like for me all or most of the item, I wouldn’t be a writer. I have learned to trust that inspiration will come.

Karla: If you have a troublesome plot issue, how do you solve it? Is there a method or a meditation you turn to solve the problem?

Cara: Often I find that switching POV helps. Other times, it helps to think about the problem when I am in “nonwriting” mode, i.e. away from my desk such as taking a shower or walking. I get a lot of ideas around 3 a.m. too.

Karla: What advice would you give to new authors who are trying to find their voice and their stride?

Cara: Stop trying to find your voice and tell your story.

Karla: How do you blend other parts of your life (family, day job, etc.) with writing? What challenges arise?

Cara: I don’t have another day job, so that’s not an issue, but blending writing with family and other commitments is an issue. I’m still working on that. I know some authors who have day jobs and small children at home and I have no idea how they do it.

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 “Breeder” excerpt

If not for the sneeze, Dak would have exited the musty, dank corridor. But the muffled sound caught his attention. When he squinted into the darkened cell, he spotted a female crouched on a straw mat in the corner. He hadn’t noticed her on his way into the Breeder Containment Facility; the habitation unit had appeared empty.

Dak turned to the BCF director and sighed. “What about her?”

The beta’s already crooked mouth drooped farther in distaste. “My apologies, Commander. You don’t want that one.”

Sival’s disparagement piqued Dak’s interest. The director’s opinion had proven worthless; none of the breeders he’d preselected for inspection had rated close to satisfactory.

“I would like to see her,” Dak insisted.

“Very well, Commander.” Sival saluted and opened the habitation cell with a master entry card. Dak stepped into the small enclosure. The director followed, and the metal gate clanked shut.

The naked female drew into a tighter ball and tucked her face deeper into the crook of her arm. Other breeders had preened as soon as they’d noticed him and his chest-insignia identification. He wasn’t just an alpha. He was the Alpha.

This breeder’s lack of respect and failure to adhere to Protocol by acknowledging his presence struck him as odd. Dak frowned. “Is she mentally deficient?”

Sival tightened his lips. “No, stubborn, ill behaved. She would not befit an Alpha Commander.” He nudged the female’s hip with the toe of his boot. “Rise to your feet.” She did not respond, and he moved to prod her again. Dak forestalled him with a wave and grasped the female’s arm.

“You will stand.” He hauled her upright. She averted her face, so he grabbed her chin and forced her to look at him. Tangled hair the color of black heating stones fell back from an oval face to reveal eyes like the Parseon moon. The glimmer of intelligence that sparked within the violet depths aroused his interest more than anything else he’d seen so far.

Nature had bestowed the Parseon people with an exceptionally strong immune system so that they rarely required medical intervention, but breeders by nature were weak, and so many of the ones he’d seen had seemed dull or ill or both. This one’s skin, when unsmudged by grime and dirt, probably glowed like the pale sands of the Ospian Sea. He supposed, as breeders went, she wasn’t unattractive, although the stench emanating from her was. His beta would throw a fit if he dragged such a creature into their domicile.

“Why is she so filthy?” he asked.

“She refuses to bathe.”

As Dak scrutinized her facial features for shape and symmetry, he noted little imperfection or dysgenics other than her lack of hygiene and her gender. When cleaned up, she would please the eye, but to bear his sons, it mattered more that she be healthy and strong.

He released her face, stepped back, and assessed her from head to toe. He exceeded the height of most males, alphas included, while she stood smaller than the average female.

The top of her head failed to even meet his shoulder. She was thinner than other breeders too, although her chest bore an abundance of fatty breast tissue. In the chill of the cell, her nipples had puckered to hard points. Despite the coolness, he was experiencing a rise in temperature. A dormant lust chose that moment to kindle, causing heat to coil in his abdomen and groin. He could not remember the last time he’d experienced such a spontaneous reaction—if he ever had. With the pads of his fingers, he probed the sides of her neck for swollen areas. The way she trembled under his touch aroused a sliver of sympathy. Breeders lacked courage, and uncertainty frightened them. Not all alphas and their betas treated breeders well. If he chose her, she would be adequately fed and housed. His command consumed his time and energy, which left his beta alone for long stretches. A breeder would relieve Corren of household chores and provide him with a physical outlet as well.

“What is she called?” Dak asked.

“Her sire named her Omra.”

Peace, it meant.

He parted Omra’s lips with his fingers and slipped a digit into her mouth, running it along her upper gum line to check the solidness of her teeth. At a flash in her eyes, he jerked his hand away a centisecond before she snapped her jaws together, so that her incisor only grazed the tip of his finger.

Sival’s face reddened. “Commander, I apologize. I will have her flogged.”

“Unnecessary. I will take care of it.” He unclipped the sudon from his belt.

Lucky number 13

Book of Omens

This little book bought off the supermarket aisle rack when I was a kid scarred me for life.

A few days ago, we experienced Friday the 13th. This reminded me of a conversation I had with my friend:

“Do you have triskaidekaphobia?” asked True. “Or maybe you have friggatriskaidekaphobia?” She likes saying long words at the speed of light. (She also says “acetaminophen” so fast that my brain turns the last few syllables coming out of her mouth into “Muhbluhblah.”)

“Do I have what?”

“Paraskevidekatriaphobia. The fear of ‘Friday the 13th’.”  True, who used to write for Air Force newspapers back in the day, once wrote an article about Friday the 13th.

I shook my head. “Nope… the number 13 is lucky for me.”

I’m as superstitious as they come. When I was 13, I picked up a 25 cent “Omens” booklet from the rack at the grocery store checkout stand. It scarred me for life.

Some of the words of wisdom from this little book: “If you wish to live and thrive, let a spider run alive.” That’s not advice to be taken lightly by someone with arachnophobia.

And here’s one: “See a pin, pick it up, and all the day have good luck. See a pin, let it lay, bad luck all the day.” (The bad luck being that you get a pin stuck up your foot.)

It’s considered unlucky for lovers to be photographed together. Based on how many marriages end in divorce, this has some merit: think of all those wedding photos!

And this: “White spots on the nails foretell wealth. It’s also said they signify lies.”  Well, duh. How do you think the person got the wealth?

But back to triskaidekaphobia. The superstitions to avoid bad luck are ones I follow faithfully. I don’t walk under ladders. I throw spilled salt over my left shoulder. I say “rabbit” every first day of the month when I wake up.

However, my relationship with the number 13 is quite the opposite.  I don’t avoid it. I celebrate it. For me, 13 brings me good luck.

Here’s an example. I’ve been a Rolling Stones fan all my life  – since I was 13. In 2006, I went to my 13th Rolling Stones concert, which was in Las Vegas. When the band came onstage, Mick Jagger announced, “This is the13th time we have played in Las Vegas.”

Later, I realized my hotel room at the Tropicana was on the 13th floor (labeled the 14th, but I wasn’t fooled by that old trick). My flight out of Vegas was on Nov. 13, and it was smooth and non-stressful.

That entire Vegas trip to see my favorite band, shared with two of my best friends Beverly and True, was magical – and it was wrapped up in memory paper patterned with the number 13.

Sometimes, one person’s triskaidekaphobia is another’s triskaidekaphilia (say that fast 13 times).

That thing that most people fear? It might be just  the thing that rocks your world. Your fascination with the Black Death or Jack the Ripper or vampires, might be the very thing that sets you apart from the crowd and brings you luck.

As the brilliant psychologist Dr. Carl Jung once wrote, “To confront a person with his Shadow is to show him his own light.”

Don’t be afraid of the differences within you that make you strong, even if they’re a bit scary.

Even if it’s the number 13.

Now what was I going to blog about again?

Writer’s write. And in this day and age, writers blog.

When I found out my first novel, “Rings of Passage,” would be e-published by Lazy Day (lazydaypub.com) on Aug. 22, I realized there’s no getting around it. I’d have to start a blog, and soon.

At that moment, a rush of blog topic ideas flooded into my head. My mind’s eye read the story leads; my mind’s ear heard the phrasing of the sentences. There were a dozen blog topics on my idea tree, low hanging fruit, waiting for me to pick them and put them in a blog pie.

But first… I had to clean the kitchen.

There were chores, errands, maintenance, my crises, other people’s crises and, you know, a day job… that all had priority. So I didn’t write a single one of those ideas down. I never even made a mental note.

Now the time to write is here. I’m staring at the blank screen. The errands are done, the crises solved, the kitchen cleaned. But those wonderful, ripe ideas? The low hanging fruit that was so appetizing a week ago? All of it is lying on the ground beneath the tree, rotting. I can’t even tell what kind of fruit it was.

How I wished I’d written one of them down.

There’s no rhyme or reason as to why ideas dump themselves on you all at once, at the most inconvenient moments, when you’re near neither pen and paper, nor computer keyboard. What’s the deal? You’re driving. Or in the shower. Or it’s in the middle of the night, and you’ve dreamed it.

In those situations, there’s only one thing to do: you have to remember it. If the idea really reaches out and grabs you, you will. The Old English epic poem of Beowulf  – all 3182 lines of it  – was passed by oral tradition through the centuries by traveling poets who kept the whole thing in their brains. Okay, I’ll admit modern-day minds aren’t trained for that. If you can look it up in Wikipedia, why memorize it, right?

Sometimes we still need to do some mental shorthand.

Back in ancient Greek and Roman times, people didn’t have computers. Sometimes they didn’t even have papyrus. They used the method of loci, also called the Roman Room technique, in which they put the details of what they wanted to remember within the rooms of a building they knew well. To recall it later, they would mentally walk through the rooms and retrieve the memory. It’s where  phrases such as “in the first place,” originated.

My method isn’t nearly as elaborate. To use a simple example, a grocery list, I will memorize the fact that there are five things on the list. Then beside each of the numbers in my head, I list the item I have to buy. So when I get to the store, and I only have four items in the cart, I have something to associate it with. “Wait, what was #5? It was right under #4, Chef Boyardee Pizza Kit.” (Yes, really.) “So it must have been, um, mozzarella cheese?”

When it comes to remembering an “idea,” though… now that’s tricky. Say I’ve had a dream that sparks a great idea for a story. And it’s in the middle of the night, and I’m going to be unconscious again in, like, 30 seconds. I have to grab onto the one magical thing that has me believing it would be a great tale (at least to my addled, half-asleep brain) and make a mental note, lickety-split, and then…

zzzzzzzzzzzzz

Because I’ve made that effort, there’s a 50/50 chance I’ll remember it. There’s also a 90/10 chance that the idea is crap. For some reason, great ideas in dreams don’t turn out to be so wonderful in the harsh light of day.

Occasionally they do. And for that reason, it’s worth the effort.

Sometimes, you don’t even have to make a mental note.  Every once in a while, the universe lays it all out before you, fully formed. The idea is so freakin’ unbelievably, amazingly great, that it haunts you. It tracks you down, day after day, year after year, and sticks pins in your brain. You couldn’t forget it if you wanted to. Your job is write it down.

Lately, I’ve been re-reading Stephen King’s insightful, “On Writing,” and he describes the experience:

“Good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”

So what was I was going to blog about again?