Close-Up of Anise Swallowtail's Wing

An Evening With The Twins

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Hello dear friends! Stephanie over at Moonrise Book Blog was incredibly generous and invited me to write this character interview for her collection! The interview has gone live as of tonight (here), and I’d love to share it with you (below)!!

In a few seconds, you’ll be meeting several characters. Do not be deceived. While this might seem like an interview about Eiry Callas (our tragic Hero), it’s not. This is a character interview of Gavin and Galen Callas (The Twins). Who are they? They are post-modern Greek deities, underworld twin-gods who’ve seamlessly incorporated themselves into the human world. What motivates them? Chaos. While they could sit down and answer all your questions patiently, they’d rather not. You can discover so much more about a person in an hour of play than you can in a year of conversation… or so some guy named Plato once said.

My approach to these interviews is to always let the characters speak for themselves, so you’ll be reading an interview scene that exists somewhere outside the timeline of the novel. The scene takes place in Eira, the royal city of Tartarus, inside Eiry’s apartments.

An Evening With The Twins:

Close-Up of Anise Swallowtail's WingThe knock at the door came just as Elena was sitting down to a hot cup of tea in her favorite reading chair. It was half past ten and she was alone in Eiry’s apartments. It was the first quiet moment she’d enjoyed all day, and had just pulled the throw over her legs when the sound broke the silence.

Elena held her breath and stayed absolutely still. From the corner of her eye, she watched the door and waited. Hopefully, she’d imagined it. There was a reason she preferred Eiry’s study to the front room with its open archways and antique cases full of artifacts and old manuscripts—the study was small and private.

“We know you’re in there,” came a familiar velvety voice from behind the door, dashing Elena’s hopes of staying under the radar.

Of all the possibilities, the twins knocking at her door meant there was no chance of escape.

Elena was considering her options—and the rare fact that they hadn’t just barged in uninvited—when the doorknob rattled violently. It was followed by the sound of a scuffle behind the door, then a flurry of cursing and fervent whispers. Elena would have laughed, if she didn’t know better. Galen had obviously lost his temper and Gavin had put him in check. 

“Galen’s sorry. Will you let us in?”

Elena jumped in her seat, startled by Gavin’s voice. It hadn’t come from behind the door, but from next to her on the chair. “Jesus, Gavin, you scared the daylights out of me!” Elena turned and glared at him, swatting at his arm. “You already let yourself in, so what’s the point of asking now?” 

“You told me to ask, so I did.” Gavin smiled triumphantly, leaning over the chair’s armrest to place a kiss on Elena’s cheek. He was so pleased with himself, he was bouncing where he stood and humming cheerfully to himself. His chin-length curls bounced along with him and his golden-green eyes glowed softly in the darkness, creating an illusion of innocence that was very far from the truth. “So, you forgive him, right? We need your help and we’re on a super tight schedule.”

Several weeks ago, Elena had a ‘talk’ with the twins about boundaries and the need for knocking. She should have known then that half of it would be lost in translation. “Knock, wait, then walk in after the okay. The order is important, Gav.” Elena shook her head, half amused. He offered his cheek and she returned his kiss, before sitting back in the chair and taking a sip of her tea. “And I’m sorry, but I won’t be able to help you. I had a really long day today and have an early morning tomorrow. Plus, Eiry won’t be happy if he comes home to find y’all here—you know he doesn’t like you guys coming in and out of his rooms whenever you like.” 

“An unhappy Snowflake. How very tragic.” Galen hissed the words into Elena’s ear from behind the chair, his velvet tone sheared at the edges. Elena started, surprised, and he clamped his hand over her mouth before she could yell. When she tried to fight him off, he caught her arm with his other hand and forced her still. “Now now, no need to get all feisty. Eiry’s running errands for our mother, so you and I both know he won’t be home for a while. What’s the harm?”

Elena took a deep breath and tried to stay calm. Being grabbed was bringing back unpleasant memories of the attack in Persephone’s courtyard and she was about to lose it with Galen, which was never a good thing. If she had been sensitive about her personal space before, the ordeal months earlier made her even more sensitive now. She had to remind herself that these were the twins, and she’d come to trust their brand of crazy.

“You should probably let go of her face now,” Gavin whispered to Galen, his eyes intent on Elena’s. She was as stiff as a board and kept looking down at the cup of tea in her hands like she was considering her options. “She looks like she might hit you with that cup. Plus, you’re going to leave marks on her face, and then Snowflake is seriously going to be pissed.”

“Does it look like I care about Eiry’s feelings?” Galen smiled a devilish smile at his brother and then leaned forward, his long black hair spilling over Elena’s shoulder as he ran the tip of his nose along the shell of her ear and up to her temple. He took a deep, shuddering breath and then slowly stepped away, releasing his hold.  

The moment he let go, Elena turned in her chair and smacked Galen across the chest, forgetting all about her resolve to stay calm. The tea went flying, and so did Elena’s cursing. “How many times do I have to tell you to stop sniffing me! And stop being so handsy! You and the rest of your family—”

“Me and the rest of my family, what exactly?” Galen put his hands up and stepped back, a savage smile spreading across his face. It reached his eyes, making them a sharper blue than usual. 

“You’re impossible, the lot of you!” Like a world-class idiot, Elena had played right into their hands. It was always like this with the twins—not a moment of peace. “You owe me a hot cup of tea, Galen, and then the two of you can go back the way you came.” Elena grabbed her now empty cup of tea and stood up from her chair. She shook off the throw, set her cup down on the coffee table and then sat back down, trying her best to resume a calm demeanor. “Like I said, I have an early day tomorrow.” 

“You have an early day every day, and you have another thing coming if you think I’m making you tea.” Galen stared at Elena, defiant as he took a seat in the empty reading chair beside hers. He crossed his right knee over his left, careful not to wrinkle his designer suit, and began to braid his hair. 

“What he means is,” Gavin quickly interjected, dropping to the floor in front of his brother without a care in the world, “we need your help to answer a few questions.”

“Questions? About what?” Elena focused on Gavin and tried to ignore Galen’s blatant staring.

“About Eiry.”

Gavin’s voice was sweet as honey, and his golden gaze pleading. Red flags immediately went up in Elena’s mind. “Seriously you two, I love you and you know I would do almost anything for you, but no. You can ask Eiry himself.”

“I told you, Gav. We should have just tied her up and forced her to talk,” Galen said matter-of-fact, as he tied off the end of his braid. “We would have been done and out by now.”

“We don’t need to use Plan A when we have Plan B,” Gavin reminded him, all business. “Bribes always work.”

“You two realize violence should be Plan B, right, not A.” Elena knew they weren’t listening, but someone had to be the voice of conscience in this group—reason was completely out of the question. “Not that I’m saying violence should ever be part of the plan. And I promise you, I’m above bribes.”

“No one’s above bribes,” the two assured Elena simultaneously, their gazes rising to meet hers at exactly the same time.

Elena hated when they did that. It reminded her of the Siamese cats in Lady and the Tramp.

“Ele, please,” Gavin cut in before she had a chance to say no again. “The interview is due tomorrow. This is our last chance. We’ve tried to persuade Eiry to do the interview all week but he refuses, so we’ve decided to do it for him. We’re just lost on a few of the questions. We’re prepared to give you something of great value. Plus, Eva won’t mind.” 

“Eva? What does Eva have to do with anything? I already did an interview of Eiry for Eva.”

“She wanted another one,” Galen answered with a shrug.

“Something of great value,” added Gavin, doing his best to dangle his carrot.

“Since when do you two do what Eva asks?”

“Since she made us an offer we can’t refuse.” Gavin grinned, bouncing in his seat. “Something of greeeeat value.” 

“Yes, yes. We’re all being offered things of great value. Go ahead and say it, Gavin. Say what you’re offering for my cooperation, because you won’t stop unless I ask, right?”

Gavin stared up at her with a wounded expression, his bottom lip jutting out as if he was about to cry, but he couldn’t keep it for long. He tried his best to hide a grin, as he reached into the back pocket of his jeans and took out what looked like some kind of card or paper. “Voila! A thing of great value.”

“A piece of paper…” Elena remarked, unimpressed.

“Everyone has a price, Elena, even good little girls like you.” Galen flipped over the card in his brother’s hand and smiled. “A baby picture of Eiry. Trust me when I tell you that it is authentic, and only one exists in the world. It just so happens that the one time he fell in battle, cameras had already been invented.”

Elena was speechless. Two seconds ago, she would have bet her life that she couldn’t be bought. Now, she couldn’t imagine a scenario where she turned down that picture. What were a few questions weighed against that? Plus, she’d really be helping Eiry. If she let the twins do this alone, gods only knew what they would say. “You willing to swear by the Styx that the picture is authentic?”

“Cross my heart and hope to die.” Galen grinned, then leaned forward and offered her his hand. “But don’t take my word for it. You’re the best lie detector out there. See for yourself.”

Elena watched him, wary. He’d caught her off guard with his gesture. He’d sworn by the Styx, which was not taken lightly in his family, and also offered his hand, which no one was really chancing these days. “I’ll accept the picture and help you answer the questions. Verification will not be necessary.”

There was a quiet exchange of furtive glances between the twins, before Gavin handed Elena her picture and produced his list of questions.

“Okay, question number one.”

Gavin cleared his throat, his gaze darting back and forth across the page in his hand. It was obviously an email from Eva. Elena couldn’t begin to imagine what the woman had to offer the twins to ensure their cooperation.

What is your most notable characteristic? Eiry’s, I mean…” Gavin looked up at Elena with a beaming smile. “I say his skills with his scythe.”

“I’m better with a blade than he is, so the scythe is out,” Galen scoffed. “I say all that pallor and stoicism. It’s smexy.” 

Elena shook her head, wondering if this was precisely what Eva had in mind when she asked the twins for help. “His perseverance.” The answer was simple for Elena. Eiry had persevered against all odds, even in the face of so much loss. “Next question, Gavin.”

Gavin blinked, confused. Perseverance did not compute. In the end, he shrugged, wrote it down and then continued down his list. “Question number two. What personal achievement is Eiry most proud of? Normally I would go with something battle related, but I really think he’d say his chess skills. The man can beat the two of us at chess even though we’re unstoppable at fidchell. It defies all logic.”

Elena nodded, pretty sure that wasn’t the right answer, and turned to Galen. “What say you?”

“Probably when he won the gold metal in solo synchronized swimming at the last Games. I didn’t think he had any real talent until then.”

Elena stared at Galen, stupefied. “We’re going to go with saving me when I was a baby. Next question.” Photo or no photo, Eiry should thank his lucky little stars that she was helping.

“You’ll like this one, Ele.” Gavin’s index finger stopped halfway down the paper. “What is Eiry’s most meaningful possession?” He let the question linger and then looked up from his paper to stare at her, pointedly.

“Ummm, No.” Elena shook her head and turned to Galen with a sigh. “Spit it out.”

“A stuffed elephant Lucian gave him, after he fell in battle.”

Galen’s response was deadpan, leaving Elena to wonder—but she knew that way lay madness. Even if such an elephant existed, which it most certainly did not, Elena doubted Eiry would want the whole world to know about it. That meant that Elena needed to come up with a better answer than Gavin’s. She tried to think back on the past few months, but no one possession stood out. In the front room there were piles of artifacts and curios Eiry loved, but Elena couldn’t say any of them were his most meaningful possession. 

The twins were staring at her impatiently and she was about to give up, when it hit her. “The coins,” Elena whispered, more to herself than the twins. “The ones he chooses for an heir when they die.”

The moment Elena said it, there was a heavy silence. When she looked over at the twins, neither one of them would look at her. Galen was playing with his braid again and Gavin was preoccupying himself with his piece of paper.

Elena cleared her throat and pressed on. “Next question, boys.”

Gavin reacted slower than usual. He seemed to read the question to himself several times, before finally looking up to meet Elena’s eyes. “What brings Eiry the greatest joy in life?

“Elena,” Galen answered with unusual haste, turning to face her in his chair. He watched her quietly, then smiled—a smug, arrogant smile. “He’s a miserable shit, but even I can see you make him happy.” 

Elena quickly looked away, then down at her hands on her lap. She could feel the heat rise to her cheeks and hated how embarrassed she felt. Galen’s sudden candor, self-serving as it was, certainly didn’t help. “That one’s not going in there. Keep that one out of the interview. Okay, Gavin?”

Gavin nodded quietly and then continued with his next question, neither agreeing or disagreeing with Galen’s statement. “What is Eiry’s greatest fear?

Elena spoke up before any of them could answer. “Failing to protect the Heir. Next question.”

What is Eiry’s biggest regret?

“Gavin, are you serious? Is this really what Eva sent?” Elena was suddenly furious.

Gavin nodded and pressed his lips into a thin line. He looked uncomfortable, something Elena had never seen.

“I’m not making these up,” Gavin replied, proffering the page in his hand. “You can see for yourself.”

Elena shook her head and gently waved away Gavin’s hand. She was frustrated by the question and had taken it out on Gavin, when he was obviously just the messenger. “I’m sorry, Gav. I didn’t mean to get upset with you. It’s a touchy subject and Eva knows that. Anyone who’s read the book knows Eiry’s biggest regret—not being able to save 38 heirs. That number includes me. Make sure she prints that. Next question.”

How would Eiry define a perfect love?” Gavin asked, his voice high-pitched by the time he got to the last word.

Galen snorted out loud and barely tried to hide it. 

“We’re done,” Elena snapped. “You can tell Eva that she can work with the answers she has. She’s an author. I’m sure she can be creative and make do.”

Gavin pushed himself up on his knees and crawled toward Elena. Once he was kneeling in front of her, he pressed his palms together as if he were praying. “Just one more, Ele. I’ll skip that last one, okay? I promise. We just have to get six answers or we won’t meet our end of the bargain.”

“You shouldn’t beg, Gavin. It’s unseemly,” Galen chided his brother.

“You always make me beg. What’s the difference?” Gavin glared at Galen, made a vulgar gesture with his hand, and then turned to face Elena with a smile. “Tell us a secret about Eiry that no one else knows.

“He watches Project Runway when he thinks no one’s looking.”

 

 

Festes Sant Bartomeu : Soller, Mallorca : August 24, 2014

Festes Sant Bartomeu

Since late August, I’ve been promising to post my photographs of the closing of the Festes Sant Bartomeu. My apologies for the delay, but the photographs are finally here! I sincerely hope you enjoy them.

Just a little bit of background, the festival took place in Soller, Mallorca between August 22nd and 24th. I was told by my relatives that the festivities close every year with an enactment that somehow involves fire. I wasn’t sure what to expect, to be honest, whether it would be actual fire or fireworks. It turned out to be the latter, and it was unlike any fireworks display I’ve ever seen. I’m so glad I was able to see it. If you ever find yourself visiting Soller, Mallorca in late August, I recommend seeing the closing of this festival (make sure to pack an old pair of jeans, a long sleeved shirt and something to cover your hair, if you intend to join in the fun!).

A quick note before you dive into the gallery, please stay tuned in the following weeks for more indie reviews, writing updates, an ebook giveaway (October), and a Butterfly Crest Blog Tour (November).

Run

On Book Reviews – Run

Hello everyone. I’m back state-side. My vacation was perfect, but I came home to a very difficult and unfortunate situation, which is why there was no activity on this site last week. For the past 15 years, I’ve had the pleasure and honor of having a little black cat as my constant shadow. I lost her last Tuesday, and I’ve been trying to find my way ever since. Suffice it to say I haven’t really felt motivated to do much of anything (other than eat ice cream). I promise to post the photographs of the St. Bartholomew Festival soon. Until then, I wanted to leave y’all with my most recent indie review. I read “Run” by Becky Johnson during one of my quiet afternoons in Mallorca.

Run
Written by Becky Johnson
5 out of 5 Stars

“Run” by Becky Johnson is a fast-paced, heart-pounding, visceral journey that takes the reader from distant observer to unwilling prey in a harrowing 126 pages. The first thing I should note is that I don’t normally enjoy first-person narrative and my genre preference very rarely leads me outside of the fantasy or paranormal realms, but neither predisposition (usually deal breakers for me) were an issue with this book. The first-person narrative was not only enjoyable but imperative to the experience, and the storyline was so gripping that I quickly lost track of my usual need for something otherworldly.

The book opens with our narrator and main protagonist, Charlotte Marshall, struggling to find her muse. Under contract for her third book, with looming deadlines and only a blank page to show for it, Charlotte suddenly recalls a news story from 20 years before. This seemingly innocent recollection leads Charlotte, and the reader, down the proverbial ‘rabbit hole’, setting off a 26-day chain of events that will change Charlotte’s life forever.

As a reader, I really enjoy being pleasantly surprised. “Run” did that and more. I had no idea what to expect when I began reading, but once I started I couldn’t put it down. The narrative drew me in completely, and I was determined to see it through as fast as I could. What I loved most about the journey was Charlotte’s quick thinking (lord knows that with those odds, I wouldn’t have been able to put two coherent thoughts together) and the book’s ending. As someone who spent several years as a prosecutor, I really appreciated the way Becky Johnson chose to end her story. In fiction as well as real life, we often forget about the scars left behind after a story ends.

You can try a free sample of Run on Amazon
You can follow Becky Johnson’s blog “A Word at a Time” here.

Arabian Baths, Palma de Mallorca. Image by Eva Vanrell.

A day in Palma

Arabian Baths, Palma de Mallorca. Image by Eva Vanrell.
Arabian Baths, Palma de Mallorca. Image by Eva Vanrell.

Spent all day walking around Palma de Mallorca. I saw a few things I hadn’t seen before, including the Arabian Baths. I went expecting something involving water, but they were actually steam baths. They used burners beneath the floor to create the steam, and the rooms were scented by burning rosemary.

Sunday’s closing of the Saint Bartholomew festival was really great. I got some pretty good shots, but I’ll need some time go through them and a steady internet connection to post – so please stay tuned.

 

 

Days Unknown

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Soller, Mallorca. Image by Oskar M. Pérez.

Days in paradise? I think it’s my fifth. I’ve lost track of time!! I can’t remember the last time that happened (although I have a sneaking suspicion it was probably the last time I was here). I haven’t gotten much writing done since the first day, but who’s keeping track? Time spent with family, an evening art festival (there is amazing art here in Mallorca), incredible food, a day at the beach… and so much more to come. This weekend is the Saint Bartholomew festival. I’ve heard about it for years, but never been. I’m told the festivities close on Sunday with an enactment that usually involves fire and participants dressed as demons, so let’s hope I can get a good shot of it to share with y’all!

Rokula-banner

On Book Reviews – Rokula

Hello! Sorry for the radio silence of late. Between the day job, writing, promoting, getting things sorted out to go on vacation and reading, I haven’t had a chance to check in as often as I would like. Several posts ago, I reblogged an interview given by Courtney Wells, founder of Fringe Fiction – a Goodreads group dedicated to books published by indie and small press authors. As a member of the group, I have met some really amazing people and have found some of the “hidden gems and diamonds-in-the-rough” the group is devoted to. As I was writing a book review a few nights ago, I thought to myself that it would be great to share those books with you.

A little note before I kick off my adventures in book reviewing – keep your eyes open for some new posts in the next few days. I’m going on vacation to my favorite place on the planet (a small town in Spain where my grandfather is from) and I hope to be able to share a few pictures with y’all when I do (*crossing my fingers that the wifi connection will work*). And now, without further ado…

RokulaRokula (The Rokula Saga, Book 1)
Written by Sarah Roberts and Robert Gartner
4 out of 5 Stars

Sarah Roberts and Robert Gartner’s “Rokula” is a modern fantasy set in a world thirty years after the discovery of monster-kind. Subjugated by the Coven and treated like third-class citizens, monsters struggle to survive in a world where technology and force of numbers has given mankind the upper hand. The story’s reluctant hero, Drake “Roky” Rokmonov, a vampire and once proud warrior General in centuries past, now dances for the masses in the arena at the Coven’s behest. Aloof, proud, but resigned to his circumstances, Drake fights as the Coven’s pet champion to survive, until a storm that’s been brewing for decades breaks and he suddenly finds himself the unlikely hope of all monster-kind.

“Rokula” is an original and entertaining monster mash-up, with a great spin on familiar horror characters and a solid storyline. The writing was well executed, the plot creative and complex (just the way I like it), and the characters well developed. The beginning of the story felt a little choppy to me because of the constant alternating between narrators, but that’s of course just a matter of personal preference; the switching back and forth made it a little difficult for me to really get a good feel for the main characters until I was almost in the middle of the book. I definitely think the beginning would benefit from a little clean up, so that the rhythm/transitions feel a little smoother. That said, “Rokula” was a really entertaining read, with a cast of characters I won’t soon forget (Drake, of course, was fantastic, but I have a soft-spot for Hyde, Merl and Lucy). And I’m happy to say that I won’t look at a kaleidoscope quite the same way again (it’s always a beautiful thing when a story changes the way we see common place things).

You can try a free sample of Rokula on Amazon

Fringe Fiction GR Group: Where Indie Spirits Find Good Reads and Good Neighbours

evavanrell:

Hi all! This is an interview given by Courtney Wells, founder of Fringe Fiction, my favorite group on Goodreads. If you’re a Goodreads member, come on by and say hello, or check out Courtney’s blog, Libra Obscura, for her indie book recommendations!

PS – Sorry for the radio silence of late. A lot going on. I’ll be posting an update soon. Cheers!

Originally posted on Artsy Fartsy Copyediting:

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It’s never been easier to be a self-published author.

At the same time, indie authors have to tread an extremely tough road to hawk their wares in an overstuffed market.

It’s a bit like looking down the rabbit hole.

Sad fact? Blatant reality you have no hope of overcoming?

Perhaps, but wherever there is despair, people will always find a way to fill the vacuum.

Goodreads (GR), for example, is a great place for authors to hang out with readers, promote their books and develop a community.

Of course, it’s also a place where you can quickly become lost in all the choice and discussion.

How do you separate the wheat from the chaff? And how do you get people to notice your novel amidst all the convos and topic threads?

For starters, you need to find a group you honestly like and make relationships with real people. One such GR group I’m a…

View original 1,155 more words

finalist-shiny-hr

Happy news

finalist-shiny-hrHello all! Just a quick status to share some fantastic news. I received word late last night that The Butterfly Crest has been selected as a finalist in the Readers’ Favorite International Book Award Contest! It made the cut in three categories (Fiction – Fantasy, Fiction – Paranormal, and Fiction – Supernatural), so please keep your fingers crossed for me and the little beasties!!

Oh, and if you happened to miss yesterday’s interview of the immodest Mr. Muse, you can take a quick look here.

Ohara

The Writing Process Blog Tour

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“Bullfinch on Flowering Plum” by Ohara Koson

Hi all! Patrick Wong, author of Balancer, invited me to participate in The Writing Process Blog Tour.  For those unfamiliar with a blog tour, they are chained posts where authors answer a few questions and then tag other authors to keep up the chain the next week. For those unfamiliar with Patrick, he writes Young Adult fiction with a paranormal twist.  His debut novel, Balancer is about a teenager who has the power to balance Life. You can find Balancer on Amazon here.

And with that… here we go.

What am I working on?

I’m currently working on the follow-up to The Butterfly Crest. This will be the second book in The Protogenoi Series. It has a title already, but I’m going to wait a little while longer before revealing it (just in case). I’m three chapters into Book Two (as we’ll affectionately call it for now), and I’m waking up early in the mornings to get a few hours of writing in before I have to go into the office.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

The Butterfly Crest is an epic fantasy set in modern times. Its storyline is heavy on mythology; different world mythologies in particular. What sets it apart from other works in the fantasy genre is its treatment of those mythologies. The story follows Elena, a human woman who suddenly finds herself in the middle of a Greek myth, in a world where human belief can create or alter the divine. It is a world where all faiths (past and present) are real, and their mythologies are weaved into one mythos.

My plan (and I sometimes deviate from plans, so please don’t hold me to this later) is to include at least three major mythologies in each book. In The Butterfly Crest, you meet the yōkai of Japanese myth, post-modern Greek deities, and the Tuatha Dé Danann. The appearance of yōkai in American fiction is pretty sparse, so including them as a major part of the story was one of the most enjoyable aspects of writing the book.

Why do I write what I do?

My characters compel me to.

How does my writing process work?

This one is a loaded question for the obvious reasons, but also because my writing process has changed from Book One to Book Two. I wrote The Butterfly Crest while I was on hiatus from my legal career. After doing the initial research and preparing a pretty detailed outline, I started to write. I would wake up every morning, dress comfortably, prepare my writing nook and make myself a pot of tea. I would then write for at least 8 hours. If I was having trouble, if Mr. Muse abandoned me, I would sit and stare at the screen until it came. I did this every day of the week. I took the weekends off in the beginning, but towards the end the writing started bleeding into my weekends.

Writing Book Two has been completely different. I’m juggling writing with managing my own law practice, so I can’t dedicate 8 hours a day, 5+ days a week to writing. Now, I wake up every morning at 5 a.m. and write until 7:30 a.m. I have an outline, but not nearly as detailed as the one I had for Book One. The process is much looser this time around, since all the groundwork has already been laid, but the allotted time slots bring their own brand of problems (you can read about my disgruntled writing elves here). Being “in the mood” to write wasn’t an issue before because I had the luxury of time, but now, if Mr. Muse acts up and his mood lasts more than two and a half hours, there goes my writing for the day. Stopping mid-scene (because of the allotted time) has taken some getting used to. The process is slow going, but I’m having a ball with it (when the writing elves are happy).

And with that, I’m passing the torch to author Ben Starling, an Oxford grad who is passionate about marine conservation and boxing, both of which are central themes in his upcoming novel. He is currently Writer in Residence for Mirthquake Ltd., a production company that advocates for ocean health and welfare. Check out Ben’s blog next Monday, July 7th!

Happy Reading!


This week’s image is “Bullfinch on Flowering Plum” by Ohara Koson. Ohara was a Japanese painter and printmaker of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and part of the shin-hanga (“new prints”) movement.

Utamaro2a

On the reality of fictional characters

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Beauties Under an Umbrella by Utamaro Kitagawa.

Sometime last week, somewhere in the middle of My Adventures Post-Publishing, I read a blog post by Tracy Cembor that’s stuck with me ever since. In her post, Geek Week: How Real Is Fiction?, Tracy asks: Do fictional characters really exist?

In Tracy’s own words: “If readers know who characters are, what attributes and desires they have, and feel the emotions from their experiences, then how can we say in the way that our mind perceives things, that they aren’t just a little bit ‘real’?”

Tracy’s post stuck with me for two reasons: (1) my past experiences with literary characters (those created by other authors, as well as my own), and (2) it reminded me of something my Philosophy 101 professor said 16 years ago that would ultimately be the catalyst for my own creations.

Now, I’m going to paraphrase here, but my professor’s sentiment was something like this:

The question ‘Does God really exist?’ is misguided. The fact that people believe in something, live their lives in accordance with it, makes that *something* real. 

That sentiment stuck with me. It hovered in the back of my mind as I finished college and went on through my professional education. It gave birth to a premise that would ultimately become the foundation of my fictional writing. In Elena’s world, human belief alters the divine; what begins as abstract can have very physical manifestations.

I think the same can be said about characters. They may not be corporeal, may not exist in the physical sense, but their influence can be substantial. All I have to do is point to Atticus Finch to demonstrate just how powerful an influence a literary character can have. He is literally the epitome of a good lawyer. He is the standard to hold yourself to, and yet he does not physically exist. His influence is so strong that when I took the bar exam in 2004, you were not allowed to use his name as your chosen exam name (I’m presuming the reason was because that many people would choose it).

Tracy is spot on when she says: “The characters in our favorite stories are not two-dimensional paper cutouts; they are fully formed personas with hopes and dreams, wants and desires, strengths and weaknesses… When circumstances (and authors) conspire against them and the you-know-what hits the fan, readers worry for their safety. And when they experience the loss of friends and family, we are grieving right there beside them.”

I was working as a prosecutor when Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince was released. Several of my co-workers and I were reading it at the same time. One morning, everyone arrived at work with red swollen eyes and dressed in black. Without a word, we knew; we had all finished the book and were grieving for Harry’s loss. I have no problem admitting I was also grieving for my own loss.

So, do fictional characters really exist?

To me, 100%. I hold many of them in close esteem. Atticus Finch influenced my choice in career. Jane Eyre my view of passion and independence. Elizabeth Bennet my appreciation for integrity and wit. Simon from Lord of The Flies the importance of being comfortable in your own skin. Those characters might not exist in the physical sense, but their influence can be quantified and seen. They teach us lessons we might not otherwise learn, and inspire us the way historical figures might.

As for my own characters, the more I write about them the clearer they become. I know them as well as I know myself; can verbalize, in Tracy’s words, their “hopes and dreams, wants and desires, strengths and weaknesses”. A thought popped into my head last night while I was going to sleep. I saw the book sitting on my nightstand (Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations), and wondered what books, if any, my characters would have on their own nightstands. The answers came so fast that all I could do was laugh about it:

One glance at any of my Pinterest boards and you’ll be able to get a clear image of their personalities; their likes and dislikes in ways I can’t expound on in my books. The more I explore those personalities, the more excited I get about sharing their stories with you.

I’ll be exploring those personalities further on July 14th, when I participate in a Meet My Character Blog Tour and answer questions as one of my characters. On June 30th, I’ll also be participating in a Blog Hop, which are chained posts where authors answer questions; this particular one is about our writing process. So please stay tuned!

Last but not least, this week’s image is “Beauties Under an Umbrella by Utamaro Kitagawa. Utamaro was an Edo period ukiyo-e artist, famous for his portraits of female beauties known as bijin-ga. I love the richness in color and detail of this particular piece.

The Butterfly Crest – A Book Review

Originally posted on Mama Bear Musings:

The Butterfly Crest (The Protogenoi Series Book 1)
by Eva Vanrell
Butterfly Crest

AMAZON SUMMARY

Between the shadows of the human world, a war as old as time is being fought. Ageless pantheons scheme to obtain or keep control, provoked by the weight of human belief which has altered the realm of the divine.

An ancient prophecy speaks of a human woman who will alter the course of this divine war, a descendant of a Great House mired in misfortune and blood, whose history was shaped by the cruelty of the gods.

On a day as unremarkable as any other, Elena Vicens, a young woman living a seemingly ordinary life, receives a letter about a deposit box belonging to her mother, nineteen years after her mother’s death. When this letter sends her on a journey halfway across the world from New Orleans to Japan, Elena unknowingly comes into possession of a cursed…

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On happy and unexpected occurrences

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“Peonies in the Wind” by Sakai Hōitsu (1761-1828), Edo Period.

It’s been 16 days since The Butterfly Crest launched, and I don’t think I’ve stopped for even a second. I knew my plate would be full the second everything went live, but I couldn’t have guessed the full extent of it.

The work is never-ending. I had a game plan, but every time I finish a task three take its place. I’m learning something new with every click of the cursor, and the process seems to reinvent itself every day. That being said, I’ve enjoyed every second of it. The pace might be a little insane, but connecting directly with readers, and other writers, has been a joy. I received my first reader email halfway through the week, and it was from the mountains of Turkey!

I’ve been thinking about what to write (it’s hard to pare down the experience), and the first thing that comes to mind is the incredible support I’ve received from friends and family. I’d given the book to less than a dozen people before its launch (to assist in the revision process), and all of them went out in full force to spread the word. They’ve shared and promoted the book through social media almost as tirelessly as I have. They are fully invested in the book’s success, and I’m in complete awe of them. There’s also the ones who are doing exactly the same thing, without having been part of that peer review group, and the ones who, in spite of not owning ereaders, downloaded apps, purchased the book, and are reading it on their phones (which I can tell you from experience is NOT an easy task) and spreading the news. There aren’t sufficient words in the English language to express my gratitude for their support.

And while I’m on the topic of supportive friends and family, I can’t leave out the unexpected gift I received in the mail. On Tuesday morning, I arrived at the office to find a package waiting for me. The box had the logo of a tea retailer and weighed very little, so I imaged someone had sent me some tea (which for me is like gold). When I opened the box and removed the tissue paper, what I found wasn’t tea. Staring back at me was a white butterfly crest, in a sea of black crepe silk. It was a haori, a kimono jacket, with a singular butterfly kamon at the nape of the neck. Kamon is the Japanese word for a family crest, and the inspiration for the name of my novel. One of my dearest friends had sent me the gift to commemorate the launch of my book. And once again, there weren’t sufficient words in the English language to express my gratitude.

Which brings me to the topic of butterflies. In the email I received from Turkey, the reader described an experience she had with a swallowtail butterfly while she was reading the book. In that moment, I realized how powerful a symbol it can be, that it had resonated with her in the same way it resonated with me. I have to admit that I’ve never quite looked at a butterfly in the same way again, since finishing my book. What’s incredible about it is that I didn’t set out with the intent of the butterfly becoming the symbol for Elena’s journey, or mine for that matter. It was just one of those happy occurrences while I was writing. Now, I can’t imagine this journey without it, and every time I see one (yesterday afternoon in my backyard or the photo of one a friend posted on Facebook this morning) I can’t help but feel completely at peace. The experience of writing my first novel, of fulfilling that dream, and publishing it has been transformative, and the butterfly, for me, has become a symbol of that transformation (in the same way it was for Elena, and in the mythos of different cultures throughout history).

Speaking of Elena, it’s been a huge relief to see the warm reception she’s received as our reluctant heroine. When you’re writing a story with a large supporting cast of divine creatures, who are forces of nature in their own right, you can’t help but worry that the voice of your human protagonist might be overwhelmed. Even in my head, the cast of beasties fight for room on the page while Ele usually just sits back, but it looks like that contrast resonated with readers. Both of the editorial reviews the novel has received have commented on Elena’s strength as the protagonist, and I’m thrilled about it.

Which brings me to the second editorial review—The Butterfly Crest has received another 5 stars! I can’t think of a better way to close out this post.

Reviewed By Kathryn Bennett for Readers’ Favorite:

The Butterfly Crest by Eva Vanrell takes us between the shadows of the human world where a war that is as old as time is raging. A long-told prophecy says one human woman will change the course of the divine war and one day Elena – a seemingly regular woman living a normal life – gets a letter about a deposit box in her mother’s name. This letter and the contents of the box are a cursed inheritance and send Elena on a journey that could only be considered mythical and unbelievable. She must make choices to see where destiny takes her.

This is a great story that merges two different realms almost seamlessly into one another and makes a complex story entertaining and compelling. The action was fast and the pace of the book was perfect. Elena is a fantastic character whom I found to be intelligent and strong, but who has to find her way in an impossible situation, giving her even more depth as well. Eva Vanrell has created a strong story with a beautifully strong female main character, in a world and with a story line that is imaginative and unique. I have read many fantasy style stories that offer a similar version of wars that have been going on for all time, but this has been by far one of the most well thought out and well put together plots. If you are looking for a read for the summer that will have you hooked within the first pages and hold your interest until the very end, leaving you wanting more … then this is your book.

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On my first editorial review

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This week continues to be a whirlwind of activity, but I wanted to take a second to share with everyone the first editorial review of The Butterfly Crest. Hope you find it helpful! It certainly put a smile on my face. What I found most encouraging about Ms. Madhavan’s words was that she was able to hear Elena’s voice over the demands of her supporting cast (deities can be a handful, trust me). And now, without further ado, here’s the review:

Reviewed By Mamta Madhavan for Readers’ Favorite – 5 stars

The Butterfly Crest by Eva Vanrell is a fantasy filled fiction that is contemporary and exotic. Elena Vicens’ life takes a turn when she receives a letter one day regarding a deposit box belonging to her mother. This letter comes to her nineteen years after her mother’s death and the letter sends her from New Orleans to Japan. She finds herself in possession of a cursed inheritance and the story takes off from there. Readers find themselves in the midst of legends and myths, the strangeness of everyday life, a human woman who will shape the outcome of the divine war and, amid all this, Elena must choose her own destiny.

It is an intriguing, imaginative and very original story with many layers and that makes it a compelling read. It moves between the tangible and intangible, giving the story a surreal feel and keeping readers guessing about the outcome. The narration is descriptive and gives more clarity to the plot. It is an exceptional read. Elena is an interesting character that has been portrayed vividly and wonderfully. Her presence dominates the story throughout, holding the plot together. There is a mysterious vibe in the theme, enhanced by the description of Elena’s character.

The shifts in the story that occur between the two locations and the afterlife give it a new dimension and make it an even more attractive and exceptional book to read.

 

Utamaro

On going public…

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The Courtesan Ichikawa of the Matsuba Establishment by Kitagawa Utamaro

Truth be told, I don’t even know where to begin. My mind is a jumble of too many thoughts. That said, I’m just going to jot them down and hope they come out coherently. If they don’t, my apologies.

Moving onto the first thought…

After much toil and four proofs, it’s official — The Butterfly Crest is now published. It’s been distributed to the various eBook retailers and should be available at all of them within the next four weeks. It is available now through iBooks/iTunesAmazon Kindle and the Bookshop. Barnes & Noble should have it listed in 2 to 4 weeks. It will also be available through Kobo, Oyster, Copia, Scribd, Gardners, Flipkart, Baker & Taylor, and eSentral. Keep an eye out for the Goodreads listing, which should be up soon!

If you’ve heard that announcement before, I apologize for the repetition, but I wanted to put it up as a regular post (not just a status).

Moving onto my second thought…

For the past 14 years, my cast of characters has existed in the aether. Their world was limited to the mind of the author and a single reader. That audience has expanded slowly these past 3 years, to include a few brave souls who took a leap of faith and believed me when I told them I could write (they knew my passion for it, but passion and ability are two very different things). Now, Pandora’s box is wide open. My cast of beasties (and trust me, you’ll understand why I call them that once you read) has gone public and there’s no turning back. They have shaped and colored my life these past 14 years, and if they can do a fraction of that for you, bring you the smallest bit of joy, then this journey was well worth it.

Which brings me to my third thought… how much we, as authors, put of ourselves into our books.

I never thought publishing would make me feel vulnerable, but I have to admit it did so immediately. A click of a button and suddenly (relatively speaking), your work is out there for the world to see. Yes, you expect and try to prepare yourself for criticism, but that isn’t really the flavor of vulnerable I’m experiencing right now. I poured my heart and soul into this book, and left a large part of myself in it. As you read, you’ll experience the obvious things, like my passion for mythology, my awe for Japanese culture, and my obsession with ancient Greece; but what about the not-so-obvious things? It was Plato who said, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” In my case, you can substitute play with my writing. Just an hour of reading, and you’ll know more about me than you would have working beside me for five years. Of course, you won’t know which parts are me, exactly, but that doesn’t make the experience any less intimate. That intimacy might be almost entirely one-sided, but the act of sharing it is deeply personal, and a little terrifying.

What makes that deeply personal and intimate act worth sharing brings me to my fourth and final thought…

I love to be affected by what I read, and in writing I aim to do the same for my readers. As long as my words reach you, I’m satisfied. If you are able to escape, to laugh, to cry, to feel and connect with my characters, then my hope has been realized. Sales, numbers, platform—those things are necessary, but they aren’t the reason I write. The reason I write is made clear when my mother calls me defiant, refusing to read on because she can’t differentiate between me and a character; or when a friend calls to tell me he thinks of my book now every time he drives by the New Orleans Museum of Art; or when another friend uses my own characters to encourage me (“Cataline would approve,” indeed!). That is the reason I write, and those moments will be how I measure my success moving forward.

As a final note, today’s image is Kitagawa Utamaro’s “The Courtesan Ichikawa of the Matsuba Establishment.” Utamaro was an Edo period ukiyo-e artist, famous for his portraits of female beauties known as bijin-ga. His work reached Europe in the mid-ninteeth century, and even influenced the Impressionists. The reason I chose this image, other than the obvious fact that it’s quite lovely, was because of the detail in the fabric (it reminded me of a fusuma door I describe in my book).

 

The Protogenoi Series

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