21 September 2020

Music Monday: Lex

 [Spoilers for Rift, continue at your own risk.]


I know, Imagine Dragons again. Is it my fault that their music is PERFECT for the movie adaptations in my mind? Hardly. 

I had all but forgotten that I had this song on my playlist while writing Rift. I mean, any time you are writing any kind of fantasy novel, a song titled Demons is bound to be in the mix somewhere. But I took a second and really listened to the words today - this is Lex, all day long. Is he a monster? Is he Alex? Is he real?

[Really spoilery bit:] Lex struggles not with a lack of memories but with memories that he can't trust. He is anyone that has a past that has been purposely (or not) forgotten, who suddenly has to deal with the recurrence of who/what he used to be. But for him, it's worse - are any of those memories, good or bad, real? Or is he just an algorithm that has become self-aware? And through all of that, he feels so bound to Em - regardless of why he feels that way - that all he can do is try to protect her.

Anyway, this song is for Lex...please enjoy this version with another contender for my fantasy movie score, Halsey.


Demons

Imagine Dragons


When the days are cold

And the cards all fold

And the saints we see

Are all made of gold

When your dreams all fail

And the ones we hail

Are the worst of all

And the blood's run stale

I want to hide the truth

I want to shelter you

But with the beast inside

There's nowhere we can hide

No matter what we breed

We still are made of greed

This is my kingdom come

This is my kingdom come

When you feel my heat

Look into my eyes

It's where my demons hide

It's where my demons hide

Don't get too close

It's dark inside

It's where my demons hide

It's where my demons hide

When the curtain's call

Is the last of all

When the lights fade out

All the sinners crawl

So they dug your grave

And the masquerade

Will come calling out

At the mess you made

Don't want to let you down

But I am hell bound

Though this is all for you

Don't want to hide the truth

No matter what we breed

We still are made of greed

This is my kingdom come

This is my kingdom come

When you feel my heat

Look into my eyes

It's where my demons hide

It's where my demons hide

Don't get too close

It's dark inside

It's where my demons hide

It's where my demons hide

They say it's what you make

I say it's up to fate

It's woven in my soul

I need to let you go

Your eyes, they shine so bright

I want to save their light

I can't escape this now

Unless you show me how

When you feel my heat

Look into my eyes

It's where my demons hide

It's where my demons hide

Don't get too close

It's dark inside

It's where my demons hide

It's where my demons hide

18 September 2020

Putting on my Confessor Face: on Terry Goodkind and Inspiration

Read this one, I mean it.
Yesterday I learned of the death of an author that had a profound effect on me as a wanna-be fantasy author, Terry Goodkind. While I did not read everything he wrote, I did read the entirety of the Sword of Truth series. A review of this series never made it to my book blog, Well Read, but I wanted to do an overview here, and tell you why I believe this to be an important series to read.

I am one of a few, I'm learning, who write fantasy but aren't really fans of the "classics" in the genre, such as - steady yourself - Tolkein. I loved the Hobbit when I read it in 4th grade (age 8/9) but I moved on immediately to try to read The Fellowship of the Ring. While I'm sure both of my parents thought me to be a reading prodigy and sort of a genius, that book fell flat with young Nancy and I will admit that I never picked it up to try again. To this day I have read bits here and there and seen the movies, but I just couldn't.

If you look at my list of life changing books, the genres are all over the place: Wuthering Heights (with a modern understanding of the problematic parts), The Historian, The Percy Jackson novels. It was probably not until I discovered The Sword of Truth series, at the recommendation of a good friend and fellow gamer, that I had the idea that I might like to write novels. I had written other books in niche genres, but you know that feeling when you are reading something and you think that either you wish you could live in that universe or "I wish I had written this?" Both of those applied to Wizard's First Rule.

As I said in my Facebook post about Goodkind's passing, "the Mother Confessor, the Seeker, the Mord Sith, even Darken Rahl were such well rounded characters, dancing right up to the edge of being a Mary Sue (Richard) but not faling into that trope." We all want to write the character that saves the world. Goodkind reminded me that you can do that as well as show all the trials and tribulations leading to that win, and still have the story of the everyman at the end of the novel - or series. 

In addition to my life as a writer, Goodkind has also influenced how I think about my life as an interpreter. I have blogged before about how much I identified with the character of the Mother Confessor, Kahlan, in respect to my DayJob™ and interpreter decorum here:

Terry Goodkind has quickly become one of my favorite authors, and he describes in his Sword of Truth series a character who serves as a judge of sorts...she is called a Confessor, and he talks about her wearing her Confessor's face. I do that. I wear my Interpreter's Face. Impartial. Objective. A mask. The line "sometimes I wish someone out there would find me" rang out to me, causing me to recall those times that I stood outside the huddle of support, wishing for someone to hand me a tissue or take my hand in comfort...but remaining quietly in the background, Interpreter's Face on.

and here:

I've compared this before to the 'Confessor's face' that author Terry Goodkind created for his character, Kahlan Amnell, in the Sword of Truth fantasy series. Confessors are women that are born into a magical sisterhood and have the ability to discern truth from lies (by basically taking over the mind of the person and leaving them a slave to the Confessor, but that's beside the point here). From Temple of the Winds:

Kahlan was wearing her Confessor's face: the blank expression that showed none of her feelings.

We are taught as interpreters to do this - to an extent. We are conveying communication and by necessity that involves emotion, so I am never that 'blank,' but it is not MY emotion you are seeing. It should never be my emotion.

So I am properly mourning a life that never, ever, intersected with my own save through a recommendation heeded, a book series read/consumed, and inspiration sought and given. Thank you, Mr. Goodkind, for sharing your work with us and inspiring us to go forward, better understanding ourselves and our world.

In your light we thrive. In your mercy we are sheltered. In your wisdom we are humbled. We live only to serve. -part of the D'Haran devotion to Lord Rahl, Sword of Truth series.

16 September 2020

Notes from Exile: That Author Life, Tho

Looks like I've worked at Waterstone's before, eh?
I recently took part in an online vendor showcase for Beach Bound Hounds, an event that I used to attend every year when I had greyhounds. As a result, I now find myself swimming in extra book stock, so I'm trying to find ways to make it pretty.

The yellow tote in that photo (and the one beneath it) is filled with BOOK SIGNING BITS AND BOBS and copies of The Nature Walker Trilogy and the Tales of the Forest War. I've stacked the rest of the stock waiting to be autographed and mailed out on top, and I think it creates an interesting visual representation of my career (hee hee!) as a writer. 

The closest book to the camera is Proud Racer: An American Greyhound in Yorkshire, written in 2011 about my two years in Keighley but told through the perspective of my greyhound, Daisy. I JUST got that delivered TODAY because indie publishing cares not for deadlines nor my own sudden realization that I had no copies of it on hand. That's my beautiful Daisy's eye, there on the cover- which if you will indulge me a bit of self-promotion, is one of the best covers I have ever designed. Or maybe that's just me. Anyway... To me now, that book reads like it is telling someone else's story. 

Just behind it are copies of Bryn's book, Clobberpaws, and Ciaragh's book, Clobberpaws, Too! and there are only a few of them (that I found, y'all, what are the odds?). The Irish Wolfhound Association of the Mid South blew me away last week ordering all the stock I thought I had and enabling me to make a donation of over $200 to the Heather Burns Memorial Fund for Veteran Hounds. I blogged about my friend Heather's death last week, and IWAMS set up this fund to help adopters and foster homes take in the hounds most dear to her heart, the seniors and those with medical issues. I'm just glad I could do something to help - though it doesn't come close to repaying all the help that Heather and IWAMS have given us since we brought our big girls into our family. Wolfhound STRONG.

Along the back, there are copies of Rift, Scorch (Tales of the Forest War), and Guardian (the last in the Nature Walker Trilogy) and I am looking at them like the Waterstone's Bookseller I was when I lived in the UK. I used to love days when I could just hang out in the stacks and look at all the books on the shelves. Now, that isn't a shelf, but it motivates me to do more/write more/be better so that one day that will be the shelf in a bookstore where the Nancy E. Dunne books are.

I'm still home, I'm still working remotely, and the pandemic rages on as people take unnecessary chances and chose not to wear masks. But this week I am happy and overwhelmed with the little writer life that I've created, and that makes a difference.

PS-no word back yet on the pages request I got as a result of #PitMad back at the beginning of September, but if nothing comes of it that won't end me. I feel that, for the first time in a long time, I'm doing what I'm meant to be doing, and that is enough for now.

14 September 2020

Music Monday: Love in the Time of Arcstone

Oh, this one is hard not to make spoilery. So hard. There are several interesting relationships in Rift, and this song - to me - speaks to all of them. I have long been a fan of Florence + the Machine, but I heard the original version of this song for the first time while writing Rift. It grabbed me around the heart and wouldn't let go - one of those times you hit repeat on Spotify, you know? Florence's voice is magical and ethereal, and this particular version reminds me of everything from how Em is in love with the night sky in Arcstone, to Valentin's terribly complicated heart. Enjoy, and make sure you look up the original and add it to your playlist. You will not be disappointed.


All This and Heaven Too

Florence + the Machine

And the heart is hard to translate

It has a language of it's own

It talks in tongues and quiet sighs

And prayers and proclamations in the grand days

Of great men and the smallest of gestures

In short shallow gasps

But with all my education

I can't seem to command it

And the words are all escaping me

And coming back all damaged

And I would put them back in poetry

If I only knew how, I can't seem to understand it

And I would give all this and heaven too

I would give it all if only for a moment

That I could just understand

The meaning of the word you see

'Cause I've been scrawling it forever

But it never makes sense to me at all

And it talks to me in tiptoes

And sings to me inside

It cries out in the darkest night

And breaks in the morning light

But with all my education

I can't seem to command it

And the words are all escaping

And coming back all damaged

And I would put them back in poetry

If I only knew how I can't seem to understand it

And I would give all this and heaven too

I would give it all if only for a moment

That I could just understand

The meaning of the word you see

'Cause I've been scrawling it forever

But it never makes sense to me at all

And I would give all this and heaven too

I would give it all if only for a moment

That I could just understand

The meaning of the word you see

'Cause I've been scrawling it forever

But it never makes sense to me at all

No, words are a language

It doesn't deserve such treatment

And all my stumbling phrases

Never amounted to anything worth this feeling

All this heaven never could describe

Such a feeling as I'm healing, words were never so useful

So I was screaming out a language

That I never knew existed before

09 September 2020

On saying hello, knowing you have to say goodbye.

 

IWAMS members in the St. Patrick's Day Parade, Charlotte, NC. March 2018.

The Irish Wolfhound community lost one of its fiercest warriors, defenders, and supporters yesterday with the death of Heather Burns, a member of the Irish Wolfhound Association of the Mid South. Heather worked tirelessly to find placements for IWs that needed rescue/rehoming. She possessed a wealth of knowledge of the breed: history, temperament, health concerns, etc. I've put this picture up even though you can't see Heather and Mark in this shot, it is representative of who she was and why those of us lucky enough to have known her are grieving today.

This was the day before she drove our Ciaragh all the way from her home in NC (almost VA) down to us here in Greenville. Hubs came with me to the parade this time to watch from the sidelines and brought Willow-Pickle along for the ride so she wouldn't have to stay home alone. If you look right in the middle of the picture you will see her, straining to get out in front of all those long-legged wolfhounds because she was the security for the IW contingent. Simon happened to run into Heather along the parade route (I had already taken Bryn to the line-up point) and, being the force of nature she was, she managed to convince my 6'4" Yorkshireman and our snappy little terrier mix to come with her and join the parade. "Willow can be a Wolfhound today," she told him - which is exactly what Willow believed in her heart already. 

You see, that was Heather. In a world of kennel clubs and rare breeds that could foster a sense of elitism and snobbery, Heather was there to make sure that everyone felt welcome at the table - at HER table, the Irish Wolfhound table. I was already familiar with her because she not only saved my bacon and my sanity plenty of times as we were raising Bryn, but she found members of Bryn's extended family that we didn't know about, like her litter brother, Barley, and his family, Tamara and Marc. Or Bryn's older sister Keira and her mom Stacie. Heather knew everyone and everything, and if she didn't know something you'd better believe she would find out for you.

What I knew from the time that I met her was that she had cancer and that it was terminal. She told me with a smile on her face and in her heart that her plan was to outlive the IWs she had (at the time I think there were three) so that when she passed, her husband wouldn't have that to deal with on top of everything else. Heather NEVER thought of herself first. So I knew that as I was saying hello to her, I was also getting ready to say goodbye. She was one of those warrior women that you just thought would live forever.

Go raibh cead míle maith agat, one hundred thousand thank yous, to Heather, for taking me under her massive wing and teaching me how to be a good mom to Bryn and Ciaragh - and for your example of strength, compassion, and love. I hope that your first stop was at a clear pond where your hounds were waiting.


Please visit my album in the Beach Bound Hounds Vendor Virtual Showcase, currently happening through 14th September 2020, to purchase your copies of the Clobberpaws books - 100% of the total sales of Clobberpaws and Clobberpaws, Too! paperbacks will go to the Irish Wolfhound Rescue of the MidSouth's Heather Burns Memorial Fund for Veteran Hounds, created to support foster homes and adopters of hounds that due to age/illness are difficult to place.

07 September 2020

Music Mondays: Opening Scene, Rift (Arcstone)

For the first Monday of a new month, I thought I'd leave the Orana Chronicles behind for a moment and talk about some of the music that inspired scenes in my latest release, Rift. Now, this novel is about a gamer who longs to live in her MMORPG rather than in her real-life but finds out that it may not be all it is cracked up to be.

I had a less intense opening for my first chapter, and then I heard this song by The SIDH. I turned it up, called up an image in my mind of Em in the landscape of the game, and the first scene wrote itself right in front of my eyes. The novel now opens with the main character, Madelyne, running through the game Arcstone as her avatar, Em. 

I thought of how it used to feel for me to run my "toon" through those richly drawn CGI worlds in the years when I used to spend a lot of my time in several MMORPGs. There was always music playing while I was gaming, and the same was true for me writing for Madelyne/Em. Just as I would enlist Imagine Dragons for the soundtrack for the Orana Chronicles, I feel like The SIDH would be just the thing for Arcstone.

03 September 2020

On being ever so slightly...PITMAD...


Today I am pitching this manuscript on Twitter as a part of #PITMAD and if I have anything shy of NUBS on the ends of my hands by 8pm tonight it will be a miracle. Photoshop sometimes helps me keep my mind clear while I'm writing, so I made this little teaser graphic to keep me on track - and now even looking at it is making me nervous.

02 September 2020

Notes from Exile: Whistle and Hum

Daisy Mei Mei and me in Wales, August 2011
Y'all, I think I have officially lost my mind. I will give regular Lettuce readers a moment to STOP LAUGHING.

I've been working hard on getting paperback copies of Daisy's book, Proud Racer: An American Greyhound in Yorkshire ready for the virtual signing event for Beach Bound Hounds that starts this Friday. It was originally published by Lulu, but I wanted to move it over with the rest of my work on Amazon and I waited FAR TOO LONG to do that. So I have been scrambling. 

Along with that scrambling has been a whole lot of reminiscing and remembering and for the most part it has been a good thing. I've thought about how her eyes would just about fall out of her head each night when she had her vanilla ensure and Life cereal combo that we used to keep weight on her near the end - and been able to laugh at the eyes rather than fixate on it being "near the end." I'm almost ready, three and a half years later, to put the red duvet cover back on the bed. It has a permanent place in the stitched pattern where she used to sleep, because she was like a marlin on a hook and could never get comfortable right away. I have no idea how many stitches she pulled out to get it JUST RIGHT.

But today, either I have manifested my need to have her in my life again just a hair too much or I've officially gone round the bend from too much isolation in the time of COVID. Today, as I was sitting here at my desk working, I heard the girls winding up to sing. Not an unusual occurance - for Ciaragh it LITERALLY takes me tapping my foot on the floor or a beep sounding on one of my devices, and the Canine Tabernacle Choir is OFF TO THE RACES.

Ciaragh started with some whining that Bryn soon matched in pitch and the BARK/WOOO verse that the wolfhounds sing became part of the tune. Willow-Pickle has her own verse to sing, the melody, if you will, over the percussive sounds of Ciaragh and Bryn. Hers starts with a GRRRRRRRR and then builds into the most soulful and musical ROOOOOOOO. All of that was happening.

And then, I swear - on my life and those of my dogs and my husband and whatever else you need - I heard a very distinct fourth voice join in the chorus. It wasn't a bark or a roo or a growl, it was a hum (those of you with sighthounds may recognize the noise I'm talking about, it usually precedes the roo/howl). It continued and then stopped, replaced by some high pitched whistles just before the others fell silent. I should have recorded it, but all I could do was sit with my hands on my face, Home Alone style, as my jaw dropped. Tears filled the edges of my eyes.

I have had seven greyhounds in my life since 2000, and all but two of them would throw their heads back and roo with angelic grace and ear splitting pitch. (Well, 2.5 - Hunky couldn't so much ROO as he could WOO but it was still a similar sound.) Lizzard would sort of make a sound like Bea Arthur yelling at you after smoking a pack of cigarettes. More WAAA than ROO, and very scratchy. She barked (every day at 4:30 ON THE DOT because that was dinner time) more than she sang. 

Daisy didn't sing. She would hum alongside the others, seemingly unsure of her own voice and slightly unnerved if she was in a large pack of hounds that were all singing. If she got too nervous (or annoyed, as we discovered when Willow-Pickle joined our pack), she would make this loud whistling noise through her nose. It was very high pitched and in a staccato rhythm for the most part, though some of those long, sustained whistles linger in my memory - and probably my eardrums.

I heard my Daisy "sing" with the other girls today and it made my heart happy. It may have been my imagination, but it was real enough. Thanks, Mei Mei. Give the other 6 head butts and licks for Mommy, okay?

 

Signing Event: Virtual Showcase for Beach Bound Hounds!


I have been invited to join the virtual vendor showcase that Greyhound Crossroads is hosting this year since their signature event, Beach Bound Hounds, was cancelled due to COVID-19. I invite you not only to grab a signed copy of the books in my back catalog, but to find unique and wonderful merchandise for you or other dog lovers in your life, while supporting the work that this group does to place retired racing greyhounds in homes in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. This opens to the public on September 4th - search FB for BBH Vendor Virtual Showcase. See y'all there!

Books available for signed paperback purchase:

Proud Racer: An American Greyhound in Yorkshire

Clobberpaws and Clobberpaws, Too!

The Nature Walker Trilogy: Wanderer, Tempest, and Guardian

Tales of the Forest Wars: Ignite and Scorch

Rift: An Arcstone Novel

Music Monday: Lex