Friday, October 22, 2010

And It's Official!

At long last I can share my good news. And just in time, too, because I'm pretty sure I was going to explode with glee!

As per Publisher's Lunch:

THEODOSIA and NATHANIEL FLUDD  author R. L. LaFevers' trio of YA romantic historical fantasies focusing on teen girl assassins in 15th century France--starting with DARK MERCY in spring 2012 and followed by DARK JUSTICE and DARK HOPE in spring 2013 and spring 2014--each focusing on a different assassin trained at a convent serving the god of death himself, to Kate O'Sullivan at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, in a preempt, in a good deal, by Erin Murphy of Erin Murphy Literary Agency (NA). Rights People represents foreign and translation.

A few more story details from the Publisher's Weekly Bookshelf:
In Dark Mercy, scheduled for spring 2012, Ismae learns she was sired by the god of death, is trained as an assassin, and is sent to court as a spy, where she must choose between serving her dark god and opening her heart to love. Companion novels Dark Justice and Dark Hope, each focusing on a different assassin from the convent, will publish in spring 2013 and spring 2014.

For those of you who stop by my blog regularly, THIS is the Secret Project I've been working on in between other books over the last couple of years. No, that's not true. I've been working on it off and on for over four years. It combines all of my favorite things; dark gods, dark choices, yearning, sneaking, epic romance. And how lucky am I to be working with The Best Editor EVER again. It's definitely one of those Pinch Me! moments in my life.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Of Lightning, Medieval Living, and the Zombie Apocolypse

Boy, it's not every day you get to combine all those subjects in one tiny sentence.

Last night we had the Mother of all thunder and lightning storms. I am not exaggerating one bit when I say we sat and watched bolts of lightning from our front window. A couple of them were within a thousand feet. Intense! And the thunder? Rocked. The. House. Fourteen hours later, we’re still without power, but I learned a bunch of cool things in that time.

~ We will survive the zombie apocalypse, thanks to my awesome husband. He had a generator up and running, camping stoves going, and lots of candles and flashlights. I love a man who plans ahead.

~  Living by candlelight (we didn’t run the generator ALL night, just long enough to get dinner and find the candles and flash lights) is an entirely different experience. This was a great perspective check for me since I’m working on something that takes place in the 15th century. I hadn't realized how much darker candlelight is than electric light, or daylight.  Or how strong the smell of that many candles burning (and these weren’t even the much more pungent tallow candles in broad use back then.) And mostly how there isn’t much to do once the sun goes down. Candlelight is really not sufficient for reading or any close work whatsoever.

Also, how hard is it to get up in the dark and not be able to turn on any lights?? To have to fumble and bumble to the flashlights and use those to light the candles and have to boil water on the camp stove. Oy. (Again, we didn’t want to run the generator too early and wake our neighbors up. Although, come to think of it, they might have wandered over and begged for coffee.)

Anyway, it was a very timely glimpse into the realities of living without electricity.

And an even better shakedown for the Zombie Apocalypse.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Different Journeys: The Innocent

Okay, it took me longer than I thought, but I’ve been stewing on it, plus the whole Junkyard Brain syndrome kind of interfered for a day or two.

The archetype of The Innocent strikes me as being particularly well suited to kids books, especially picture books, early chapter books, and middle grade stories. The innocent lives in a perfect world where all his needs are taken care of and no horrible things have happened to convince him that the world is other than that perfect place.

When a character is the Innocent, his developmental task is to step into a new awareness—to recognize that the world isn’t paradise and his needs will not always be met and, perhaps most difficult of all, that everyone in the world does not exist in order to please him or make his life easier.

It is a classic stage in emotional and psychological development, and it comes to all of us at different times and in different ways and we bump into it in all areas of our lives.

It seems to me it could involve:

  • That moment you realize your parents are not all-powerful or infallible
  • The realization that the sun and moon do not rise and set every day just for you
  • The first time a best friend lets you down or betrays you
  • A treasured, admired older sibling does something horribly wrong or flawed
  • That rude awakening when you realize other people are not there to simply make you happy.

In fact, one could make the argument that childhood is a series of falls from that state of innocence.

I am pretty far removed from picture books these days, but one example that springs to mind is Kitten’s First Full Moon, a classic example of this ‘fall’ from innocence. Kitten is certain that the full moon is a bowl of cream, meant just for her. The book is about how she learns that isn’t the case at all. Can any of you think of picture book examples?

In a YA or adult book, it seems as if this type of journey might work for someone who’d led a relatively perfect and charmed life and met their first hardship. Other than that, once Innocents get past about ten, we tend to think of them as narcissistic. ☺ Even so, that journey from self absorption to self awareness is a powerful one. As an adult, however, it also requires a high degree of willful denial and a determination to NOT see in order to maintain that pretense. But lord, we’ve all met adults who were stuck there. I think the big difference, though, in dealing with the Innocent in an older book is that you have to take them farther on the journey moving them into and through other stages (which I’ll talk about in the future.) They can’t end simply with the realization that they are not the center of the universe, whereas a kids’ book could conceivably.

So what then, would the steps be of an innocent’s journey look like?

Act One:
Ordinary World—show the protagonist either using people or being oblivious to their needs.
The Precipice—hint at fall or minor fall, the catalyst provides the initial crack before the entire fa├žade begins to crumble.
The Fall—protagonists eyes are painfully opened to the realities of the world

Act Two:
Coping mechanisms- denial, band aid fixes, attempts and adjusting shallow surface behavior. To learn that we've been fundamentally wrong is painful so there is some denial, as well as guilt, fear, shame, all those horrible feelings. 
Tip of the iceberg—the crack created by the initial fall spreads until the whole world/situation is different. Cannot go back to the way they were at the beginning of the story. (midpoint) 
Regrouping—Now What? Moving through the full chaos of the real world with eyes open.

Act Three:
Evolve or Die (metaphorically, at least) Trying to re-understand the world with this new awareness; attempts to adjust, either through solving the problem or shifting behavior. First couple of attempts fail or, even better, make things worse.
True understanding and acceptance—either of the world the way it is or human frailties
Integration—something that shows he’s truly absorbed all this and moves through the world in a new way.


I think one of the things that makes accepting that fall so difficult is, to accept it, we have to realize our own culpability in what has transpired. Obviously to a much, much smaller degree in kids still developing normally through those stages, but even they have to accept that they were wrong. I think that’s why kids sometimes have such a well developed sense of ‘when I was little” even though the event they’re talking about might have only have happened six months ago. It’s a way to disassociate with the embarrassment one’s younger self brings them.

The kinds of things that motivate the innocent are fear and need. Probably pretty basic needs on Masler’s scale: need for safety, whether emotional or physical, the need for shelter and food and someone to care for them.

What do you guys think? Do you see other steps or ways to move through that journey?
Can you think of any good examples of books or movies in which the hero is an innocent?

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Junk Closet Inside my Brain

You know how every kitchen has a junk drawer? And most houses have an entire junk closet? Well, my brain has one of those. I’d like to think it was small, like a drawer, but the truth is it is much more like one of those giant closets in cartoons. The ones where you open them and forty years worth of odds and ends and collectibles and, well, JUNK, threatens to tumble out.

The sad truth is, I am the mental equivalent of a pack rat.

The thing is, I have no idea why stuff gets stored in there. Stupid, unimportant stuff that should have been tossed out years ago. And I have no clue as to how it’s organized. I don’t understand why all the things I really want to remember, need to remember, aren’t stacked neatly inside that closet like they should be.

Even worse, sometimes that mental junk closet gets so stuffed with my mental detritus that it leeches out to take over my entire brain and I suddenly find I can make no mental headway on anything until I take some time and clean out that mental junk closet.

That’s what I’m going to do for the next three days. Sift through some of this stuff clogging up my gray cells.

Hm. I just realized that would make kind of on interesting characterization/world building exercise. What’s inside your protagonist’s junk drawer or closet? (Does the world they live in even have such a thing? What would their equivalent be?)

::peers cautiously into my own junk closet::

Mine has boxes of Christmas ornaments, old vinyl records we never use any more but can’t quite bring ourselves to throw away, slot cars from a racing set my husband had when he was a kid. Some blank, Styrofoam balls I got for a craft project we never did, vacuum cleaner bags for a vacuum we no longer own, six years worth of Easter baskets, a telescope we can’t quite figure out how to work, end rolls of old wrapping paper, a Brazilian luck/charm/wind chimey thing my mother brought back from her travels.

Junk closets might be a fabulous, concrete way to show a character’s good intentions, failed dreams, and stuff they can’t let go of…