Patricia Reding

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Author Profile

Patricia  Reding

Multi-award-winning author Patricia Reding leads a double life. By day, she practices law. By night, she reads, reviews a wide variety of works, and writes fantasy. She lives on an island on the Mississippi with her husband and youngest daughter (her son and oldest daughter having already flown the nest), and Flynn Rider (an English Cream Golden Retriever). From there she seeks to create a world in which she can be in two places at once. Oathtaker: The Oathtaker Series, Vol. One, won a GOLD medal in the Literary Classics Int'l Book Award Contest, also won an award in the Readers' Favorite Int'l Book Award Contest, and was named a Finalist in the Beverly Hills Book Award Contest. In addition, WindDancer Films has asked to take a look at it . . . Select: The Oathtaker Series, Vol. Two, won a SILVER medal in the Literary Classics Int'l Book Award Contest and earned a Finalist award in the Readers' Favorite Int'l Book Awards Contest. Ephemeral and Fleeting: The Oathtaker Series, Vol. 3, won a SILVER medal in the 2017 Literary Classics International Book Award Contest.

Books

Oathtaker

Science Fiction & Fantasy

An Oath Sworn. A Struggle Engaged. A Sacrifice Required. When Mara, a trained Oathtaker, is drawn by the scent of the Select to battle underworld beasts summoned by the powers of evil to destroy the guardians of life, she swears a life oath for the protection of her charge. Armed with a unique weapon and her attendant magic, and with the assistance of her Oathtaker cohorts, two ancients, and a spymaster, Mara seeks safety for her charge from one who would end Oosa’s rightful line of rule, and from assassins who endeavor to bring ruin to the land. As Mara puzzles to decipher ancient prophecy concerning her charge, as she is haunted with memories of her own past failings, she discovers the price her oath will exact. To renounce her word would be treasonous; to fail, ruinous; to persevere, tortuous. Abiding by an oath requires sacrifice.

Book Bubbles from Oathtaker

What's Happening?

It seems when Rowena birthed the twins, which was an event never before heard of amongst the Select, something unexplainable happened. First, Mara was able to take on both infants as her charges. Now we also find that Dixon, himself an Oathtaker, and Nina--who is not--have also felt motivated to swear life oaths to protect the twins. To their shock, each received Ehyeh's confirmation of his or her oath, in the form of an earthshaking. Mara, Dixon, and Dixon's friend, Ted, are all without explanation. Thus, the story has added to it, a mystery of sorts. For the writer, adding such features complicates the process. When I wrote these portions, I realized I had to tell my readers enough to satisfy them that there would be some sort of explanation coming in the future, while holding back information necessary to build some suspense so that the reader would have the desire to keep going so as to learn more. I like such elements added to the tales I read, as they keep me engaged and challenge me to come up with possible explanations. Have you come up with any for these events?

Danger Follows

Readers may remember Dixon telling Mara early on that sometimes Oathtakers do "what they have to do." He repeated that sentiment recently when he chatted with his old friend, Ted. Now with this excerpt, readers will find a classic example of that principle at play. When Mara and Dixon met Nina, they were so in need of a wet-nurse for the infant twins that they recruited Nina--without first telling her of the danger she could face if she joined them and their cause. But as often happens, the truth wins out. In this scene we learn that Nina knows the twins are Select, has already ascertained that they are in danger, and has determined she will help them anyway. I remember writing this scene and realizing that Nina had already fallen so in love with the infants that nothing could part her from them. That's when she swore to protect them. Much to MY surprise, her oath got the same result as had both Mara's and Dixon's: the earth shook. Whatever is going on here, do you think?

Magic . . . Wands . . . of Sorts

I've been an Apple customer for some time. I ordered my first iPad shortly after they were initially introduced. When it arrived, I was completely mesmerized. "This," I kept saying to people, "is magic!" Indeed, the means by which we communicate with others these days is nothing short of magic. At the center of our technology is the smart phone. With it we can get information about nearly anything within mere moments. Add Siri in the mix and we don't even have to open a device or find a website to get what we need. I have Bluetooth in my car, and recently I was gifted an iWatch. Now while traveling, I just say, "Hey, Siri . . ." and Siri responds, providing for my instant needs--giving me weather reports, finding me directions, or making calls for me. I've discussed before how I think that in fantasy tales, magic can take the place of technology, medicine, and even travel. Here is a classic example: an artifact infused with magic that, like a cell phone, is used to communicate between people who are long distances from one another. I suppose in that regard, carrying an iPhone or iWatch or iPad is like having a magic wand. So, I wonder, do you carry a magic wand with you?

Speaking Without Thinking

Oh, that Lucy! I don't know if I mostly admire her or am mostly frustrated by her. Notwithstanding her (very) advanced years and the experience and wisdom that might (should?) have come of them, she is quick to judge and to speak. At times, her comments seem out of place, such as here when she asks Mara if she's certain there are two infants. Seriously? There is a classic example of speaking without thinking! (Although this exchange does make me laugh every time I read it . . .) Still, speaking off the cuff can happen to those with great responsibilities. This may be because there are times decisions have to be made while the issue at hand is not up for discussion. One's mind thinks through options quickly, and often one is unable to fully assess all aspects of the problem before verbalizing ideas. So, the person's thoughts come out rather muddled . . . Have you ever experienced this and said something truly zany--something actually a bit embarrassing? If so, please share! You never know--your experience could end up in one of my stories someday.

When All Hope Seems Lost

I believe there is a higher power at work in the world. I call that power, "God," although I know others might choose differently. That God exists is the only explanation I find for any number of things I see around me--things that make no sense by everyday human "reason." That is not to say that I expect God to take care of the everyday issues and problems for me. You see, I believe God has already endowed me with sufficient talents and skills to be able to handle a number of situations on my own--and that it is expected I would do so. But life sometimes hands us the unexpected, as well. That is where I most fervently seek God. For it is the unusual event or problem--the situation which would otherwise seem hopeless, the situation about which I (a lowly human being) can do nothing--that causes me to hope for supernatural assistance. In this scene, Lucy experiences a moment of hopelessness. She had done all she could to bring about Rowena's seventh-born, but suddenly it seems she'd lost it all. But then . . . God . . . Have you ever experienced something akin to this?

What is the Meaning of This?

I can hear Ricky Ricardo now, saying, "Luuuccccyyyy!" I think of that whenever I re-read this scene. Here, readers meet Lucy Haven, a woman instrumental in seeing to the interests of the Select over the years. (In due course, readers will learn just how many years!) Lucy is a character that has sometimes proven very exasperating to me. She can be quite difficult--she is demanding, she doesn't stop to listen, she acts on impulse, thinking that she knows the best at all times, and so on. Still, I find that I don't want to dislike her. Interestingly, just when I think I've had it with her, I find that she does something that redeems her in my eyes. It's funny how characters seem to take on a life of their own. For me, Lucy most certain did. For that reason, I never quite know just what she'll do when she happens along a scene . . .

Could it be Magic?

Some time ago, I realized that magic used in a story set in what might be compared to medieval times in our real world, often replaces technology. Those things we rely on today for transportation, communication, medicine, to gain information or intelligence, and so forth, are often the stuff of magic in tales set in pre-industrial worlds. In this scene, Mara and Dixon, with the assistance of Dixon's friend, Ted, discuss what Mara's attendant magic abilities might be. Then, quite out of the blue, something strange happens. Could it be magic? You'll have to read to find out. And do tell, what are your favorite magic powers? What powers do you which you possessed?

Taking Inventory

As the ages pass, information often passes with them. Think of the pyramids and how they were built to such great mathematical precision, with carefully cut stones set at precise cardinal points. They are just some of the mysteries we see but cannot explain. In Oosa, the unexplainable mysteries are not so much about physical things, they are about magical ones. Some lore simply didn't make it through the ages. This means, of course, that those recently teaching new Oathtaker recruits didn't possess full knowledge themselves. So it comes as no surprise that Mara would find some things a bit difficult to accept. Here she discusses with Dixon and Ted, those things that might be evidence of her attendant magic powers, like the ability to sing someone to sleep. But are these her powers? And if they are, what possible use could they serve? You'll have to read on to find out more--but in the meantime, please do share: what magic power do you wish you had?

Didn't They Know the World Had Stopped?

We've all experienced the phenomenon, I'm sure, of suffering some great loss that leaves us feeling as though the world somehow stopped. As I wrote this scene, I recollected a law school friend of mine who told me about her father's death when she was a young women. I actually "stole" her idea here. You see, she told me that, following the incident, she couldn't understand why everyone around her behaved as though all was well, as though things should continue on as they had before. So here, Dixon describes a similar feeling. Have you had this life experience? Does the world ever return to "normal" after such an event, do you think?

5000; 12; 3; 1

We all have them, don't we? You know, those friends we can reconnect with after long silent absences, as though no time passed in the interim. Such is the case here, with Dixon and Ted. It reminds me of a sermon I heard many years ago about friendship. The overall message was about managing our expectations with others. The theme went something like this: Jesus fed the 5000; walked with the 12; prayed with the 3; loved the 1. It is true for most of us. We have innumerable acquaintances with whom we interact regularly (the 5000); that core group of friends and family we know we can turn to in troubled times (the 12); the couple of best and closest friends with whom we can share the more personal things in life (the 3); and the one we're the closest to (the 1). I would say that for Dixon, Ted fits into the 12. What do you think? Does this approach help clarify for you at all, where people stand with you in your life? Is that knowledge of any value to you?

A Wet Nurse

As readers learned earlier, Mara and Dixon set out to find a wet nurse for the twins. I'd always found the term "wet nurse" rather odd and so, while writing, I did some research. It turns out that in days of old, it was common for those of the aristocracy or royalty, to employ wet nurses. One reason was that, since lactation inhibits ovulation in some women, those women who didn't nurse their own children might then become pregnant again more quickly. It made for a good way for other women to support their families. In some places, a wet nurse would live in with the family of the child she nursed--possibly risking her own child's life. As you see, there are many interesting things one might learn in the course of writing. Of course, I have to discipline myself not to get lost in my research when truly interesting facts make themselves known to me, as they did in this case . . .

"When I Get Tall" and "I'm Bein' Haved"

Many writers take notes of all sorts of things they witness or are told about. The idea is that one never knows when a good idea might find its way into a story. While I haven't done precisely that over the years, there are some things I could never forget, like the funny things I've heard or learned about that were said by little people. This excerpt includes two such instances. The first, is when little Patrick suggests that being grown up is what comes with "getting tall." It wasn't one of my children who said this, but I remembered hearing the story. I found that it fit here just right! The other came from one of my daughters. When she was about two years old (and she was a very precocious two-year old!), if she was out of sight and I thought she was being too quiet, I would ask, "Madeline, are you behaving?" She would respond, "Yes, Mama, I'm bein' haved." More than one of the funny things she said as a little one found their way into the pages of Oathtaker. There, they will live on, in posterity.

The Gift of Charm

Time has played hard with the Oathtakers, as a result of which, much of their understanding and lore has been lost. Mara knows that once she committed herself to her charge, Ehyeh gifted her with attendant magic powers, but she is interested to learn more about the phenomenon, from Dixon. Imagine the ability to do some of the things he tells her that various Oathtakers can do. Truthfully, those I find most intriguing include the ability to understand and speak languages formerly unknown, and the ability to take on the pain of another. What about you? What power do you wish you had, or do you wish someone else had so that they could exercise it on your behalf? Also, what do you think: could it be that Dixon actually does have the gift of charm provided by his attendant magic, as he suggests? This little exchange ends up playing a part in things to come, as Mara seeks to determine if that could be true . . . Read on, for more!

Bonds

Most of Oathtaker is told from Mara's point of view, but here we get a look into what Dixon is thinking and feeling. Having lost his charge, having spent long years finding others always wanting something from him, he hopes he has found in Mara, someone he can trust. But he also has some reservations, perhaps a bit of a fear, that he may develop feelings for her that he should not. After all, he has been released from his vow, but she is now subject to hers. And so, he determines, he will take actions that will keep a distance between them. Is it possible, do you suppose, that either or both of them may become one of those who lives in the state of pain that comes from loving someone while subject to his oath? Read on to find out more . . .

Family History

I recall that, before I started writing this story, I questioned myself repeatedly about where to begin. Then one day I realized that no matter where I started, it would be in "the middle." That is, something would have come before, and most surely, something would follow. Going forward, using a variety of storytelling tools, I filled my readers in on things from the past that I thought they should know. Sometimes I provided the information through a character's brief recollection of a past event. Other times, I provided a scene that actually put a character in the past--that is/was chronologically out of order. (I note that I always make sure my readers knew at the outset, that I am doing just that, so as not to confuse them.) But one of my favorite ways to provide facts from the past, is to have one character fill another in by way of a conversation, as Dixon does here. As Oathtaker progresses, some of the information Dixon provides here becomes quite relevant . . . What do you think is the best way for an author to provide important information about the past?

Tell Me About Rowena

The two Oathtakers, Mara and Dixon, have determined that they'd best work together. But there is much they don't know about one another. Here, Dixon begins to tell his story. He includes information about his family, friendships, and prior commitments to the Select. As he does, readers get their first glimpse at facts that suggest there may be something more between these two. Although Mara's oath forbids her now from committing herself to another, Dixon's smile mesmerizes her. Cautious, she dismisses the thought. But don't you wonder where this might be going?

Tell Your Story

We've all experienced situations that caused us to take an instant dislike to someone upon meeting him/her. Sometimes, we seem to read deep signals--almost warnings. Other times, we just . . . get it wrong. The circumstances may simply have brought out the worst in the other person at the precise moment he/she entered our life. Such was the situation with Mara and Dixon. When they met, she was frightened and feeling overwhelmed. He was angry with others, as well as with himself, felt guilty, and was mourning Rowena's death. The two would either have to come to an understanding, or they would need to part ways. Here we find the means they used to try to get to the next level: Mara asks Dixon to share his story. Do you think that, as a result, things will change between them? Perhaps. After all, sometimes all we need to do to find our way forward with another, is to take a look at things from that person's perspective. What do you think?

Groundshaking

Those following along discover here that Mara, having had enough of Dixon's behavior, was able to get through to him. Not only does he apologize for his behavior, but he concedes that he blamed her for something he actually believed was his own fault. With his confession, comes an unexpected oath--and an even more unexpected result. Whatever do you suppose this all could mean?

Enough is Enough

I so enjoyed writing this scene! Mara and Dixon have been traveling for days now, in their efforts to keep the infant twins safe. But Dixon has been . . . difficult, to say the least. Here, Mara shows us a bit of her spirit when she decides she's had enough. Do you suppose this is the end for them? Read on to find out more!

Taking Cues

Have you ever noticed how much of your communicating with others is done through non-verbal cues? Consider the meanings behind the lifting of a brow, a scowl, a flash of your eyes toward another. We writers are often told that we are to "show" our readers, not "tell" them. This scene was fun for showing fear--and for showing how someone might "read" that fear, through their translation of nonverbal cues. Here, Mara senses the fear in her and Dixon's captive. Moreover, she is able to identify--precisely--what it is that the man fears. As the reader moves on, she will discover that Mara's abilities are in part, perfectly ordinary. But there may be another element in play here--Mara's attendant magic. Read on to find out more.

Paying With One's Life

Although Mara has contemplated, since swearing her life-oath to protect the twins, how it could change things for her going forward, she'd not given much thought to what the oath might demand of her. Here she comes to terms with the fact that to protect the infants, she may find it necessary to take the lives of others who threaten their well-being. This is a profoundly difficult concept, yet true on some level, for us all. Consider, for example, how you would react if someone put your life in danger. Or, what might you do to protect your loved ones who depend on you? Could you take the action necessary to save them? "Pull the trigger," as it were? Here, Mara's eyes open to the full danger and reveal some of the potential cost of her oath. Will she meet the challenge? Could you?

Outright Violence

As a non-violent person, I find violence to be one of the hardest things to write about. There is something dark, sinister, about getting into the head of a thug. Also, as a writer, I must allow the scene to play before me in my mind, often in a loop so that I can catch little details. Sometimes I have to play it in slow motion. Then I note details, like blood shimmering in the light, or its spraying out and leaving a "grotesque crimson spider web design." I never know at the outset what will catch my attention. Will it be a drinking glass that falls to the floor and lands "in a crescendo of broken bits of glass?" Or, perhaps it will be that an old man, when shaken, might look like a rag doll. While Oathtaker does not include many scenes of outright violence, I felt this one was necessary, as with it, I sought to establish the evil of those pursuing Mara and her new charges. What do you think? Did I succeed?

The Hunt is On

I must say, it is fun to write about "the bad guys." It can be daunting at times, as well. To do so, the writer must allow her mind to go to places and to contemplate events that she'd never do in her real life. Added to that, the writer must let loose, a sort of movie in her mind, complete with all the gritty detail, then capture those images in words for the reader. Here I ran with a scene that is not gruesome, but it does introduce some of those characters who required that I go to some of those places in my mind at a later time . . .

Their Cause

In building a fantasy world, the author must create an environmental background, a history, and a magic system. Then there are themes of a social order, legal standards, and so forth. With this excerpt I introduced Oosa's main opposition--Zarek of Chiran, and his evil ways. Interestingly, the ideas here are some I've had from time to time about issues in the real world. When the powers that be mess with the natural order of things, the result is "imbalance." Here, Dixon shares his conclusion that Zarek intends to use that imbalance to build his military might . . . Now, that would be a daunting idea if applied to the world in which we live. Would it not? What do you think?

Perseverance

With morning comes the reminder that the Oathtakers must hurry if they are to get the twins to safety. In this regard, this story mimics other fantasy tales with the concept of a journey ahead. Still, as they say, "life is a journey." So, whether "life imitates art" or "art imitates life," it should come as no surprise that we readers continue to enjoy a story with a challenge . . . So it is that I included this aspect in my fantasy tale. Of course, the way includes--as does real life--obstacles to overcome. Perhaps this is the most rewarding aspect of a tale like Oathtaker--the concept of a quest, a challenge, and the need to persevere and to overcome. We can all identify with that. Can we not?

Temporary Refuge

It is interesting when I go back to read something I've written, what thoughts go through my mind. I remember working hard on the first paragraph of this excerpt to discuss the concept of "smell" without repeatedly using the same words. Then there is the description of Drake. I still like the idea that his hair sticks up, looking as though it has "somewhere it would rather be going." And I can see him with the idea that time told its tale on his face. Enter Maggie--and Mara's thoughts about how short and round she is. I hoped these little bits about the old couple would make readers care for them. Next comes Mara's embarrassment at discussions of a personal nature. This I used to show a base part of her nature--that she is innocent in some ways. As to Dixon, he holds a newborn properly. (So, perhaps he's not so bad, after all.) Finally, this excerpt includes some foreshadowing. Clearly, there is something about Dixon's family background that is yet to come. And why are Chiranian women who are pregnant or have newborns seeking refuge in Oosa? As to Mara's memories--what is she stuffing? Overall, this one little scene sets the stage for numerous things to come.

Run!

Readers will recall that Mara, frustrated by Dixon's overbearing nature, reminded him--emphatically--that the twins were her charges. So it should come as no surprise that she tries to do everything for herself, including carrying the newborns, one strapped to her frontside, and the other in a basket. It seems that both she and Dixon, possess a streak of defiance, of stubbornness. These are traits that over time, will serve to hinder--and to help--each of them. That seems true of people in general, doesn't it? Those things we've developed that help us to survive can become hindrances when/if we take them too far. In any case, Mara and Dixon's rough start continues to play out here as they run to find safety for Mara's new charges. But when she allows Dixon to slip Eden's basket from her arm so as to assist her, the softening (albeit minimal) begins . . .

The Chase

From time to time I read a work that opens with a scene that includes people who quickly disappear from the story. Occasionally that happens after the characters have (somehow) already endeared themselves to me. (Those situations frustrate me.) When I wrote the opening for Oathtaker, I decided not to tell all in chronological order because to do so would mean opening with those who were of lesser importance to the overall journey and who ultimately, would disappear from the story. Still, I wanted to open with something catchy. Consequently, I opened with an action scene starring my main character. Later then, I introduced the culprits who'd caused her such difficulties in that scene. Those villains are back in this excerpt, intending to complete what they'd started earlier on.

Background

Here we find Gadon, a villain vulnerable to the arts of a beautiful woman. I suppose one could find this idea non-unique, but the older I get, the more I appreciate about the ways people fail. They are the same old things, over and over again, are they not? It is rare to find, when looking for the root of how and why someone went wrong, that it was anything more than a desire for something else--something more. And the paths people take to reach for those goals are equally predictable: drugs, alcohol, criminal conduct, and so on. Such it is that Gadon wants more--to do as he pleases. In the process, he gets caught up in the wiles of a woman--and something more--something bigger than the both of them.

Magic Trinkets

For me, the best part of a fantasy tale is the use of magic. I've long held that in those stories placed in pre-industrial worlds (such as is Oathtaker), magic takes the place of technology. It may allow for faster communication--whereas today we rely on cell phones and the like. It can allow for quicker transport--whereas we rely on trains, plains and automobiles. It can even provide access to information, unlike our reliance on the internet and all the tools and resources that go with it. Here, the use of a grut tooth to protect one from a grut attack in the future, is a bit akin to the use of a vaccine. The idea was a complete surprise to me when I wrote this part of the story, as I had no idea it was coming until the words tripped off the ends of my fingertips. Similarly, Mara was surprised since, as the reader will discover, the number of Select in Oosa had been reduced as a consequence of a long period during which they'd been the subjects of assassination attempts. Accordingly, during that time, the Oathtakers' training had fallen out of date. Thus, Mara had no idea of the power of the trinkets. It's a good thing Dixon was there . . .

Time to Hurry

Dixon seems petulant here and a bit condescending, but as the story progresses, it becomes clear that in fact, he is hurting. The loss of Rowena, his charge, will change his life. Although now released from his oath, free to begin his life anew, his long-time connection with her has been severed. As he grieves, Mara begins to get a picture of what her own oath means for her future. Even so, the two must hurry. Although the twins are protected by a magic web for a time, those who've followed Rowena to date, will not give up. It is interesting that by this time in my writing, I knew that the story had taken a significant turn from what I'd initially expected. I thought Mara's coming upon Rowena and the birth of the twins would be a preamble of sorts for the story to come--of the twins. But Mara and Dixon would not let go. They insisted that I tell their story instead. I am so very glad that I did!

The Reality of her Death

With the death of Dixon's charge, Rowena, Dixon was released from his oath. He was free to begin his life anew. Not having physically aged in the years during which he'd served her, he was uniquely situated to face the world with youth and vigor. But he now also possessed added wisdom that came with experience. As Dixon's reaction shows, to an Oathtaker, the idea of starting over was directly related to the suffering of a significant loss. Here we see that it is one that Dixon will mourn for some time. My thoughts with this passage were to give readers added insight into the workings of the Oathtakers--and perhaps to foreshadow some. Might Mara be one of those who, in time, discovers the pain of loving someone while subject to her oath?

Character Independence

I find it interesting how my characters--from time time time--simply take-over. It's as though the simple idea I have of them somehow brings them to life as independent, thinking beings. Consequently, at times, they act out in unexpected ways. In this scene, when Mara and Dixon first meet, things do not go well. Mara is recognizing the reality of what is to come with her new duties as Oathtaker to the infant twins. She is frightened of the unknown. In the same moment, Dixon, having just lost his charge, Rowena, is hurt, grieving. He feels responsible--guilty even. When I wrote this scene, I knew that each of them needed the other, but they seemed to find that truth difficult to process. So they acted out, as people in the real world often do, with bitter words and accusations. Now, when I read this passage, it feels true to me. I'm glad I didn't try to force something on my characters. In the end, they really did know best . . .

An Oathtaker's Blade

Ahhh, how I love magic! Don't you? In this tale, when an Oathtaker completes his training, he receives a blade that possesses magical qualities that will live for so long as the blade's owner lives. The blade: (1) will never miss its mark; and (2) will never take the life of another Oathtaker--except that if a blade was used against its own owner, it would result in his instant death. These magic weapons play a crucial part in The Oathtaker Series. When I prepared the cover for Oathtaker, I found a blade through an online retailer that had the look that I wanted. I purchased it, took photos of it, and then sent them to Phatpuppy Art--my cover designer. (Do check out the amazing work at www.PhatpuppyArt.com!) Those pics were then used for the blade in the hand of Mara, the Oathtaker who is pictured on the cover.

Oaths and Confirmations

Imagine a world in which the very earth responded to one's spoken vow. There could be no question that the words uttered had great impact. This thought led me to the use of the "confirmation." It is a physical phenomena--an earthshaking--in response to an oath. When it occurs, the Oathtaker knows, without question, the import of her promise, and she knows that from that moment on, she is bound to something greater than herself. Once again, this concept takes on a life of its own in this tale . . . Indeed, as the book blurb indicates, Oathtaker tells of: An Oath Sworn. A Struggle Engaged. A Sacrifice Required.

One? Or Two? Or is it One For Two?

I originally wrote this scene with Rowena bearing a single child, but something wasn't right . . . Interestingly, even after I was a few hundred pages into the story, I kept thinking that I had it all wrong. There was not one child born--there were two. The idea nagged at me, refusing to let go. Then, one day when my eldest daughter was reading for me, she came to me and said, "Ahhh, Mamma?" "What is it?" I asked. "I've been thinking," she said. "Oh?" "Well," she said, "I don't think there's one baby. I think there are two." I will never forget that day. Somehow, she'd determined exactly what I had considered. Convinced that those fleeting but persistent thoughts that I'd had were indeed correct (as was she), I went back and rewrote everything to accommodate for twins. In the end, I can't image the story going any other way!

Signs and Scents

The funny thing about this portion of the story is how true it rings to something I recall my mother having said when I was little--about women who screamed out while giving birth. I also remember those classes my husband and I took before the first of our children was born. We mothers were taught to focus our energies. I guess the coaching must have worked. When my third and last was born, a dear friend was with us in the delivery room. As she tells the story, I pushed--once. She says it was so intense that during that time, she could have gone to the grocery story, had her nails done, and etc. . . . I still laugh whenever I think of that. This excerpt also reflects on the few things I knew for certain when this story began. One was that the group of people known as the Select, those who'd carried the words of life and wisdom through the ages, would be easily identifiable. Specifically, each would sport a birthmark that would designate that person's standing amongst the Select. In addition, each would exude his or her own unique fragrance. Here, the Oathtaker, Mara, encounters these things for the first time ever. They continue to play a crucial part in the story as it unfolds.

New Encounters

Readers . . . meet Rowena. Let me take this opportunity to say a little something about "names." I think they are very important. I believe that every time you call someone by a name, you are reinforcing the thing that it means. So, for this story, I wanted to stick--for the most part--with real names that had real meanings. I know there are fantasy aficionados out there who think that all fantasy stories have to include the use of odd and often unpronounceable names. Typically they include apostrophes, and "hard" consonants, like K's and X's. But, I reject that theory. I cannot tell you how many times I've picked up what looked like a great fantasy, then tossed the book aside the minute I discovered that it included the use of such names. I'm sure I've missed some great stories, but I read for pleasure. I won't go through the trouble of sounding out a name every time I read it. Thus, in general, I use easy, "real" names in my stories. For my purposes here, "Rowena" worked. I've found various meanings for it, including, "fame," "joy," and "fair." Based on the description of this woman, "fair" seemed "fair." Don't you agree?

Rowena

Readers . . . meet Rowena. Let me take this opportunity to say a little something about "names." I think they are very important. I believe that every time you call someone by a name, you are reinforcing the thing that it means. So, for this story, I wanted to stick--for the most part--with real names that had real meanings. I know there are fantasy aficionados out there who think that all fantasy stories have to include the use of odd and often unpronounceable names. Typically they include apostrophes, and "hard" consonants, like K's and X's. But, I reject that theory. I cannot tell you how many times I've picked up what looked like a great fantasy, then tossed the book aside the minute I discovered that it included the use of such names. I'm sure I've missed some great stories, but I read for pleasure. I won't go through the trouble of sounding out a name every time I read it. Thus, in general, I use easy, "real" names in my stories. For my purposes here, "Rowena" worked. I've found various meanings for it, including, "fame," "joy," and "fair." Based on the description of this woman, "fair" seemed "fair." Don't you agree?

Meet Rowena

One thing that I tried to do with Oathtaker, was to introduce a single new character at a time whenever that was possible. I wanted to be certain that readers knew who that person was by name, what his or her position was, etc. Here, when Mara enters the hut, she is caught once again by the sweet smell she'd made out earlier, from time to time. For those following my Bookbubbles and who've already read about the importance of scent to me, it should come as no surprise that the one Mara picks up on here happens to be fashioned after one of my all-time favorites--Herve Leger by Herve Leger. But who is the woman to whom this scent belongs . . . ?

Doorways

What better way to end a scene than with a door opening, but with no information as to what is on the other side. Or, imagine a bend in the pathway ahead, around which you, the reader, cannot see. I know that when I read, such set-ups force me to keep going. Thus, I admit to using this little trick, from time to time. Occasionally, I've even "ended" a scene in the middle of a conversation, or at the moment an unidentified person joins in, or when someone is just about to reveal something of the greatest importance. I do so intending to encourage my readers to ask: "What? What's next? Who is it?" or some such thing. I know these things work for me when I read. Do they work for you?

Battles

Continuing with the opening scene, Mara battles the underworld beasts. We begin to get glimpses into the lack of information generally known--even to those who are trained Oathtakers. The suggestion here is that much has changed in Oosa, and that knowledge has been lost over time. So it is, that Mara has questions about the strange manner in which the underworld beasts disappear.

Training

I didn't know much about the Oathtaker story before I started writing--but I did know that members of the Select would exhibit unique traits. In my early religious training, I was taught that prayer rises up, like a sweet smell to the throne of God. I also learned that praise does much the same. I put those thoughts together, deciding I'd include a group of people called the Select. When each of the Select earns the Good One's (also called Ehyeh) (God's) favor, he would begin to emit his or her own unique and exquisite fragrance. In my mind, it is like their constant "prayer" rising upwards. It was fun to play with this idea, as I ascribed to each of the members of the Select, one of my favorite fragrances. The person described here, who readers will meet later, has the scent of Herve Leger, by Herve Leger. If you've never experienced it . . . you should!

Calling

I didn't know much about the Oathtaker story before I started writing--but I did know that members of the Select would exhibit unique traits. In my early religious training, I was taught that prayer rises up, like a sweet smell to the throne of God. I also learned that praise does much the same. I put those thoughts together, deciding I'd include a group of people called the Select. When each of the Select earns the Good One's (also called Ehyeh) (God's) favor, he would begin to emit his or her own unique and exquisite fragrance. In my mind, it is like their constant "prayer" rising upwards. It was fun to play with this idea, as I ascribed to each of the members of the Select, one of my favorite fragrances. The person described here, who readers will meet later, has the scent of Herve Leger, by Herve Leger. If you've never experienced it . . . you should!

Fragrance

I didn't know much about the Oathtaker story before I started writing--but I did know that members of the Select would exhibit unique traits. In my early religious training, I was taught that prayer rises up, like a sweet smell to the throne of God. I also learned that praise does much the same. I put those thoughts together, deciding I'd include a group of people called the Select. When each of the Select earns the Good One's (also called Ehyeh) (God's) favor, he would begin to emit his or her own unique and exquisite fragrance. In my mind, it is like their constant "prayer" rising upwards. It was fun to play with this idea, as I ascribed to each of the members of the Select, one of my favorite fragrances. The person described here, who readers will meet later, has the scent of Herve Leger, by Herve Leger. If you've never experienced it . . . you should!

Research

When I write, I always keep four windows open on my desktop: the first, to the document I am writing; the second, to a document that keeps track of all my characters, places, and so forth (for my ready reference); the third to a great online tool, the Visual Thesaurus, for when I'm searching for that "perfect" word; and finally, the fourth, is a window for searching the net. Whenever I come upon something I don't know how to readily identify or describe, I can go right to my search window and put in what I'm looking for. For this part of the opening scene, I needed to know the sounds that a horse in fear, might make. I discovered that they "snort" and "scream." That was helpful. As to this encounter between the grut and the gelding, I ended with a description showing how awful the beasts were, as they left of the gelding, only bones and "tufts of hair that drifted in the air."

Beasts

Don't those grut sound interesting? I had fun describing these underworld beasts. I used phrases like "covered with hair, smoky black in color and coarse as wire," and "bulging red eyes oozed thick black mucus" and "three rows of teeth," to make them more ominous. Of course, added to their physical horror, was their stench. Anyone who's ever smelled so much as a dead mouse can identify with the "smell of death." Here, Sinespe identifies the underworld. In seeking a name for the place, I discovered that "sine spe" is Latin for "without hope." I don't know if it is correct, but I pronounce it as SIN-ESS-PAY. In The Oathtaker Series, Sinespe is the world of the hopeless and the dead.

Scent

People who know me and who read Oathtaker are not surprised to find how much I rely on "smell" in the story. I read once that our sense of smell is located in the most primitive part of our brain and that it can evoke powerful memories. I know it does for me. So, it should come as no surprise that I enjoy wearing different fragrances. One thing I've done repeatedly over the years is to purchase a new fragrance before going to a special event, or on a trip. While away from home, I wear it everywhere. When I return home and wear the same thing, I find myself suddenly transported to those magic places I visited during my travels. I also purchase new fragrances for special people before their special events--like weddings. My daughter-in-law still tells me that the perfume I purchased for her wedding day (Vera Wang's Princess), transports her back to that day whenever she wears it. Likewise, I picked up a bottle of Lancome's Est Belle la Vie, before she and I traveled to NYC a few years ago. We both wore it during our trip. Now, whenever she smells it, she returns--in her mind--to all the wonderful times we had in the city.

Unexpected Events

Meet Mara, a young trained Oathtaker who finds herself pulled from everyday events into an unusual situation. I sought to create suspense in this opening scene, with the unexpected stilling of the forest, the sensation Mara felt of being watched, and then the sudden howling that sounded out. If you've ever experienced entering a noisy forest, only to have it go instantly and completely quiet, you know how eerie that can feel. The use of the word "grut" to identify magic beasts sent to pursue and destroy members of the Select came about unexpectedly. I couldn't use the name for any real living creature, as those referred to here would prove to be quite different from any in our world. Thus, I decided to use a word that had a guttural, gritty feel to it. The made-up term "grut" seemed to do the trick.

Backdrop

I struggled with whether or not to just dive into my story, determining in the end that it might prove helpful to provide a backdrop for it. Since the main focus of Oathtaker is what it means to say you are going to do something and then to follow through on your word, no matter the cost, I decided that this introduction would prove helpful. Up front, readers learn that an Oathtaker sworn to protect one of the Select, is bound to his oath. He is unable to follow other interests, desires, even loves . . . until he is released. At the same time, I wanted to make it clear that the Oathtaker received something in exchange for his sacrifice. In addition to the magic powers endowed upon him, the Oathtaker would not age for so long as his charge lived. This concept brought in the idea that something good will come of an oath freely given and abided by.

Ephemeral and Fleeting

Science Fiction & Fantasy

A Lost Freedom. An Ephemeral Existence. A Profound Mystery. After Mara and her charges, Reigna and Eden—the ranking twin members of the first family of the Select—discover the twins’ unparalleled magic powers and then move to the palace of the Select at Shimeron, they return to the City of Light. There they train with the Oathtaker forces, preparing a response to the ongoing threat from Zarek, the evil leader of Chiran. But when a traitor in their midst discloses their plans to visit the realm’s border for a closer look, they are captured and imprisoned. Stripped of her Oathtaker’s blade, Mara soon discovers that an unknown power bars her ability to use her attendant magic to escape, or to free the twins. As Mara’s magic dreams endeavor to inform her of events to transpire, as her cohorts labor to decipher ancient prophecy, as the twins learn of the power of a magic artifact they carry, and as Lucy struggles to uncover the traitor in their midst, Dixon’s rescue attempt takes shape. Meanwhile, Zarek’s son—the twins’ cousin, Broden—seeks to assist his father’s prisoners. But before he can do so, Mara discovers that the loss of her charges is only one painful outcome that could come to pass. Escape is impossible; survival, questionable; loss, inevitable. And yet . . . things are not always what they seem.

Book Bubbles from Ephemeral and Fleeting

The Spitting Image

It's been a long time coming to get Reigna and Eden to this point where they meet the first of the sisters--Vida. Vida, who is Rowena's (the twin's mother's) firstborn enters the room complete with her unique scent of the Select. Like all the other scents, this one is fashioned after another of my favorite fragrances, namely, Chanel's Chance. In any case, Vida seems as happy to meet her sisters as they are to meet her. I look forward to the chance to introducing more of the sisters into the story in the future. Although I settled on their names (Vida, Asmeret, Diella, Pina, Tivona, and Adamina) some time ago, I really know very little about any of them. So I wonder, have you any great ideas for personality traits that any of them might possess? You never know--your ideas could end up in my stories . . . That could be fun--and I could credit the reader who shared the idea. What do you think? Any takers?

A Sense of Community

One of the things I most love about the Oathtakers, is the sense of community they seem to have and share with one another. In Volume One, readers spent time with Dixon and Basha as they renewed their old friendship and caught one another up on their lives. Likewise, here we get a glimpse at both Lucy's and Dixon's longtime friendship with Clarimonde. I suppose this comes of their sharing a common goal. Some people share a valued history through their having gone to college together, or law school, or basics training, or a for an overseas deployment. The individuals in the group aren't always the closest of friends, but they share something with one another that they don't share with anyone else. As a consequence, they can understand one another on a unique level. What organizations or situations have you experienced like this?

Countrysides

Every writer knows what a challenge it is to keep so many balls up in the air at once. Every line depends on where the characters are, whether they are standing, sitting, or moving, what they are wearing, if it is day or evening, and/or spring or fall. Those may seem small and incidental issues, but a story doesn't always come about by the author's creating each piece from the beginning to the end in one pass. Stories change and grow. Sometimes pieces have to be moved around. For this story, I had to so some serious calculations about seasons and seasonal changes. This scene was originally written for summer weather, but I had to change it to a fall day. While rewriting, rather than changing the countryside completely, I decided to keep most of what I'd had. To do so, I had to show this portion through Mara's imagination--as a vision of what the place might be in spring or summer. Consequently, I didn't have to do a great deal of rewriting. (Whew! One more ball caught out of the air before it fell to the ground . . .)

More Life

Oh, the fun I had in naming Reigna and Eden's elder sisters. I searched for names that meant something relating to their birth order. For example, Vida, the eldest, is named because Vida means "life." As the firstborn, Vida opened her mother's womb. As a firstborn of the Select, she is also responsible for overseeing life at all stages and to protect it. (You may recall this from the discussion about birth order and the responsibilities of member of the Select from Volume One, Oathtaker, when Mara first visited sanctuary in Polesk.) Perhaps in the future I'll share the meanings of some of the other sister's names. Do you consider the meanings of names? Have you ever named a child? Did you look into the meanings of names then? It has always been an important issue for me because I know that over time, as I call my child by his her her name, I am repeating that meaning. I want it always to be one that brings power and goodness. How about you?

Fresh corpses

Things are amiss in Oosa, witnessed by the fact that those who are a part of the entourage here, currently on its way to the palace at Shimeron, find problems in the Ethanward area. Specifically, they earlier found young people with plans to join the succedent in Chiran--and now they discover the bodies of children in the area. Whatever could be going on that would leave so many children orphaned, out on their own, and meeting danger? Do you suppose the Oathtakers will tolerate that? But whatever are they to do? You'll have to read on to find out!

Blades and Names

I've discussed the importance of names in the past. This time, I thought I'd make note of the fact that the magic blade that each Oathtaker possesses, has its own name. When the story began, I knew Mara's blade's name was Spira. My intention was to draw a connection between it and the idea that it possessed its own sort of "spirit." At the time I wasn't yet aware that every blade would be named, but as the story progressed, that became apparent. By the time the third volume came around, I'd named several blades. Each time, I wanted to bring out some key feature of that person and/or his or her mission. I decided that to do so, I would use Latin terms--or things close to them. So, here you read that Jerrett's blade is Fortitudo--for fortitude. Being the monstrously strong man that he is, I suppose that should not come as a surprise. Dixon's blade is Verity--for truth; Basha's is Honora, for honor; Lucy's is Vivacitas--for life; Velia's is Justise for justice; and Trumble's is Amora, for love. In this volume three, you will meet additional Oathtakers, at least a couple of whose blades will also be named. Did you catch these connections earlier? What do you think of them?

Various Personal Relationships

With an epic fantasy tale, over time, the cast of characters grows. Some are in most scenes, some pop in now and again. For those in the continuing stream of events, an author needs to keep a lot of things going at once. Those in different personal relationships experience things relating to the relationship in their own unique way. But outsiders also see the goings-on. If the author ignored the little bits about those events that people notice about others on a regular basis, the story wouldn't ring as true. But just as it is true that life gets more complicated as more people are added to events, telling a story to reflect that also gets more complicated. Here, we see the ongoing conflict between Marshall and Chaya--and we also note that it has not gone unnoticed by others, including Jerrett and Velia. Somehow when I read these events, they seem more accurate because the story includes bits about the relationships of those featured--as well as something about the perceptions of those looking in on them. Do you agree?

When You Can't Save Another

Many problems that people face can be resolved with a handful of twenty (or fifty!) dollar bills. But when that won't work, when someone chooses to do something harmful to themselves--as Trixie and her friends did in the paragraphs leading up to this exchange--they will do as they choose in spite of you. Hence, a saying I've used many times over the years: "You cannot save someone from himself" (or herself, as the case may be). If a person you care for chooses a bad course, you can listen to his woes, offer advice, suggest options to try, and/or sympathize with him. But you cannot stop him. People are free to destroy themselves. You cannot sit by someone's side every minute of every day to be certain she doesn't use that substance, or engage in that activity, or put herself in that dangerous situation, and so on. At first blush, this idea might make you feel helpless. But resting on the truth--that you can't stop someone else--can free you. It can allow you to stop obsessing over things, wondering what you could have done differently. So when I face these things, I do what I can--and then I step back because, in truth, I know that I cannot stop someone else. Do you agree?

The Descendants

In past BookBubbles, I've mentioned that The Oathtaker Series includes parallels to some real life people and circumstances. I don't know if you recognize from any real life events, "the men in black," also known as "succedunt," or the "descendants" described in this excerpt, but in my mind, clear similarities are found on the world stage. This enemy, which has no regard for life, finds its entertainment in torture and force. They harbor no disagreement. I wonder, why do they cover themselves--including their faces--in black? Clearly, it is not to hide their identities from possible punishment. I know this because Zarek who is their leader capable of exacting punishment, is in agreement with them and their ways. For my part, when I see or hear about someone covering themselves up like this, I always think it's because they are ashamed. What do you think?

Taking On The Pain Of Another

I'm not sure what prompted me to give Velia the power to take on the pain of another, but there you have it . . . It seems unusual for a "super power." That said, when I consider the relief someone could experience if someone else took away a burden they carry, I think it is one of the most important powers of any of the Oathtakers. It seems to me that when we empathize with others, we "feel" for them. This is usually an emotional thing. Yet, as a parent, sometimes I've felt actual physical pain when one of my children has suffered an injury. It is a horrible thing to experience . . . That said, maybe it wouldn't be as bad if I knew that by feeling the physical pain myself, I was giving relief to my child. What do you think? Is the ability to take on the pain of another a super power you'd ever want? Is it one you think you'd ever use? When?

Birdie, Sugar, Echo, and Trixie

In the past, I've discussed the use of names in my stories. My first rule of thumb is that the names I choose to use must be readily identifiable--or at least easily pronounceable. I've suffered through far too many works not knowing how to say someone's name, to make that same mistake. I don't want my readers to trip over a character's name every time that party shows up in a scene. While writing, I've also made up a few names. I've done so when I didn't want to draw any real "relationship" or "connection" between a particular character and the meaning for a name I might otherwise have given that person. That said, most of the names I use are real. When writing this scene, I remember looking for names for the four young and irresponsible characters, that were playful, un-serious. I was especially interested in using real names--or common nicknames. The first one came simply. After that, they got progressively harder. I wanted them to sound a bit flighty, but I didn't want them to be too extreme. What do you think? Did I manage to suggest a lack of maturity with these girls by giving them the names Birdie, Sugar, Echo, and Trixie? What names might you have chosen?

The Men in Black

Oh Felicity! What an incredible talent she has for seeing things and yet, how difficult a time she has expressing those very same things to others. It's fun to write this character because she is (as has been said of her) rather spritely. Yet, while a young woman, she is nevertheless, very childish. Here she acknowledges--or introduces, if you will--an element or source of danger that is coming the Oathtakers' way. The "men in black," she calls them. I'm curious: do you know of any present day characters on the world scene who do not want truth and life shared, who harm others, and who might be deemed "men in black?" I'd be curious to know . . .

Making Adult Friends

I've mentioned it before, but it bears repeating. I love watching the friendship between Mara, Basha, and Velia. As three Oathtakers, they have many things in common--including, at times, how they see the world. Perhaps it's because they share that bond that they expect Chaya might share a similar one with Nina and her sister, Erin. It is true that those three are all Chiranian-born, and it is true that they know what it is to be enslaved. However, there are also significant differences between them all. For example, Nina and Erin are quite a bit older than Chaya. Moreover, they've lived in freedom--and in the company of the Oathtakers--for a much longer period of time. I, for one, will be interested to discover where this goes in the future . . .

Same Facts, Differing Conclusions

I find it interesting how different people can hear and/or see the same things and yet, can come to differing conclusions as to what those things mean. I experienced this in a rather drastic fashion recently when I served on a jury. I realized that as the only lawyer on the panel, I was likely to (and did) pick up on things the others did not. Even so, I was fascinated with the differing conclusions that people came to from a presentation of the same facts. In this excerpt, Mara can't share too much with her two best friends, as she's sworn to secrecy, but she does suggest that when it comes to Lucy, there might be more than meets the eye. Have you ever discovered something truly new and unusual about someone who you'd known for a long time that completely changed your view of that person? I sometimes find that even looking at a photo of someone from 30 or 40 years ago can give me an entirely new view of who that person really is. It seems that each person in our life can serve up a constant fare of unexpected thoughts, feelings, and meanings. You think?

Filling in the Blanks

I remember writing a Bubble some time ago, about how when I first started writing, I was troubled with the issue of "where" to begin. But then one day it came to me that wherever I started--I was sure to be "in the middle." That is, things would have happened prior to that point in time and most surely, things would follow in the future. I realized that when there were past events that needed to be included, I would have to find a way to weave them into the story. Sometimes, I knew what those events were. Other times, they came about as the story progressed. As to the flits, I always knew that they were able and willing to sacrifice themselves for Ehyeh's cause, so Mara's learning of this did not surprise me. What will be interesting for me to learn in the future, is how that willingness to be sacrificed might play out. There are so many ways it could go . . . Have you any ideas about it? If so, please--do share!

Laying the Groundwork

One of the best parts about writing an epic fantasy story is that what a reader may consider a small and insignificant fact at some point, might actually be a part of a long-term plan, so it can end up playing a critical role in the future. But sometimes, even that can change! In this excerpt, Mara and Basha talk briefly about Trumble, and his charge, Felicity. Readers of Oathtaker, Volume One, will recall that, aside from Hattie's infant daughter, Claire, not a single infant escaped Lilith's murderous visit to Polesk back when the infants were young. Initially, I thought that the role played here by Felicity would be Claire--that infant now grown into a young woman. Oddly, I had to change that. Why? Because I knew that "Felicity" was the right name for this character--and I had to go with that. So, since Felicity wasn't Claire, I'm looking forward to discovering two things in the future: (1) what Felicity's future holds, given that her name means "happiness," while she has, of late, experienced anything but that; and (2) when Claire is going to re-enter the story, as I fully expect she will. Somehow, I know my subconscious is working out the details even now . . .

True to Life

Now and again a scene plays out that is so familiar, it makes me laugh. There is something deeply satisfying about a group of friends enjoying the company of one another, whether in silence, in humor, in pain, or for pleasure. I love the girlfriends, Mara, Basha, and Velia, together here. As fellow Oathtakers, they share much in common. Yet, each is also quite unique. Mara is in charge of the two most important members of the Select, while Basha is Oathtaker to Therese. Meanwhile, for Velia, parenting is currently her primary concern. Mara and Velia are both married, while Basha is the only one of the three who is single and has always been so. (That said, the storyline has indicated her interest in Trumble . . .) Still, there is a connection the three share that is deeper than their current life situation. In my experience, friendships like these are born of hardship--of pain--and sometimes of fear. That was certainly the case for these three, all of whom met while Mara tried to get the infant twins to safety those many years ago. The bonds such experiences create can be lifelong and permanent. What do you think? Did your closest friends come to you in your times of ease? Or in times of need?

Family Life

I actually went back when I was nearly done with volume three, and added this scene. Now I laugh every time I read it. You see, I mention from time to time that Jerrett is one of the favorites of the compound children—even though he has a tough exterior. Inside, he is loving and caring. Having had a difficult youth, he seems drawn to helping little ones. I enjoyed getting to draw a picture of him here as a family man—a father. I couldn't forget, however, that Jerrett is still a bit of a rebel. Notwithstanding the life changes he made some years back, he tests the boundaries. His playing with his boys seems to bring a bit of that out. But my favorite part of this scene was that I got to use yet another real-life experience. Unable to pronounce the word, "ridiculous," a young man I know, when he was a little boy, used to say "ri-di-cli-ous," emphasizing the third syllable. Every time I read this scene, I recollect what he was like those many years ago. Do you ever do that with stories of children you know—your own or others you are close to?

Girlfriends in Packs of Three

I don't know what it is about me, but I've often found that my closest "girlfriend relationships" have come in "threes." Yes, often people have "a" best friend and anyone else who tries to break into the fold is considered something of a divider. In my personal experience, however, I've had situations where it was a group consisting of myself and two other women that made a pact of friendship: there has been no element of jealously about who the others spend time with, or what one might do for another. When we are separated for a time and come back together, it's as though we never left. Like Mara, Velia, and Basha, we share stories and memories and laughs in our pack of three. How have you traditionally experienced your closest friendships? As one-on-one? Or in smaller groups?

Nonverbal Communication

As volume three plays out, the cast of characters has become rather large, indeed. I like that I know them all so well now. Interestingly, when I write, I often "watch" a scene play out in my head as I quickly try to get down what my characters saw, heard, and said. This scene introduces the idea that Marshall and Chaya--who met in Chiran in volume two--may be in for some rocky times. She just wants to be near him. Meanwhile, he seems to be trying to put distance between himself and her. What do you suppose happened? Without giving anything away, I can tell you that something transpired that the reader saw (or heard or read or whatever!) earlier, but probably thought little about. Eventually, the mystery of Marshall's behavior will become clear. As the author, I found that this is the way the circumstances played out between these two. In real life, had I been in Chaya's position, I think I would have asked Marshall early on: "What is the problem?" But then, I am not Chaya--and Chaya is not me. How about you? Do you let things stew? Or do you try to resolve them as quickly as possible?

Jerrett and his Wolf, Bane

I didn't know anything about Jerrett before I started writing this series. Even so, he quickly became one of my favorite characters. I especially enjoyed when he found in Select (Volume Two) that he shared a magic connection with Bane. But it wasn't until Jerrett went to the City of Light with him, that he discovered that Bane was not a dog, as he'd thought. Rather (as Lucy wasted no time in pointing out), he was a wolf. Somehow adding an animal into the list of characters helps to make things more realistic for me. Maybe it's because I've had one or more pets around during most of my life. Regardless, I somehow "trust" a story more when it includes an animal--a pet. What do you think? Do they add an element you appreciate? Or do they make no difference to you?

Nightmares

It doesn't matter how many times I read this scene, I still find it as touching as it seemed to me when I first envisioned it and then set the details down. For Mara and Dixon, the first of the Oathtaker stories centered on finding a place of safety for the twins, while the second related to Mara's attempts to recall her past and Dixon's pain in thinking he may have lost her for good because she couldn't recall anything (including their love for one another) as a result of her accident. Finally here, in book three, we see the couple in a quiet moment together. I'm happy that Mara had Dixon's strength and insight to turn to in her time of fear. Still, I wonder, with all this talk of children, could there be some foreshadowing going on? What do you think?

All I Need

Like many couples, Mara and Dixon want a child someday, but not necessarily "now." Imagine if the only option you had for avoiding pregnancy, was one that could eventually make you truly barren. Or imagine if your use of it could actually be the life of a child who would otherwise (without the interference of your use of it), live and grow? We are fortunate to live in a world with so many options, but we sometimes fail to appreciate that even those options come with a price. Frequently, I see articles discussing the health effects of different types of birth control commonly used in the real world. What would you do if you were Mara and you faced the same risks that she is facing? Chance future infertility? Or chance the taking of the life of your unborn?

Loss of Choice

It's true, isn't it? Choosing not to do something is an entirely different experience from not having the option to do it at all. To have options and to make a choice between them still leaves you feeling at least somewhat empowered. But to have your options removed can be devastating. Like Mara and Dixon, many couples choose not to have children, at least for a time. But for some, the conditions are such that they have no say in the matter--and that can be heartbreaking. Here, Mara appreciates that although she and Dixon have chosen not to have a child in the past, she wants to keep her options open, going forward. I think this is true about many things in life. I guess that's why I believe in a social and political system that allows people the freedom to speak, to think, to worship (or not), to choose their employment, to select where they will live, to spend their money as they see fit, and so on. How about you? Do you agree? Or are you one of those very few who would prefer to simply have someone take care of things for you?

Open Forum

I recall that from the beginning (in Volume One), Lucy always headed meetings by standing in front of everyone. By contrast, when Mara held meetings, she sat in the midst of the other attendees so as to encourage them to participate and to share their thoughts. (This always reminds me of how in the Arthurian legends, the table used for the knights' meetings was round--so that no one sat higher or before the others. Nonverbal details of this nature can profoundly affect outcomes. Don't you agree?) Here, although Mara stands before the group at the compound, she reminds the others that they are in an open forum. Her purpose is to get her cohorts to look for Nina's daughter, Carlie, and thereby, to bring some small peace of mind to Nina. Fortunately, Lucy has already created a trinket that will help the volunteers to communicate back with the group. Readers get to see in this scene, the manner in which the compound residents have learned to live and to work together. Even so, things are about to change, as the twins are now the official leaders. Further, the group is preparing to leave the compound for the palace of the Select at Shimeron. Still, I suppose there is one thing we can be certain of in life, and that is--change.

Necessary Things

No one was more surprised than I was when Lucy readily and willingly gave up her former position of authority (real or imagined) with the group by inviting the twins to head the meeting in process here. Her opinion of the two young women changed dramatically following their journey (in Volume Two) into The Tearless. Of course, changes don't happen over night, so I'm sure we haven't seen the last of Lucy's overbearing ways. What do you think? Do you believe people can change? Fundamentally, I mean? Or are they destined to remain largely the same throughout time, forever repeating the same mistakes and relearning the same lessons? For the most part, I believe they can change, even fundamentally, but that it is a long and slow process, subject to mishaps along they way. I guess you'll have to keep reading to find out how successful Lucy proves to be.

Good Eats

Oddly, some of the most fun I have when writing, is when the subject of food makes its way to the forefront. I love to think about tasteful new concoctions the characters might enjoy. Most often, as I did here, I pull on something I've made myself in the past. In this scene, I used an old favorite--a variation of a pasta dish I make. First I take brie and semi-freeze it so that I can grate it. Once done, I add in olive oil, garlic, scallions, fresh basil, a bit of lemon zest, Kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes and so forth. I let that combination meld for a bit. Later, I boil noodles, drain them, and then while they are still hot, I toss them into the cheese mixture. The end result is almost sinful. One night awhile back, I thought it would be fun to try the cheese mix with some good crunchy bread. So, I got a good loaf, sliced it, added the cheese concoction on top, and then put the slathered slices under the broiler. Goodness, I'm making myself hungry now. Try it for yourself! I promise you won't be sorry!

Growing Up

Just a short while back, the twins found themselves struggling to get the least little concession from Lucy. You may recall that when one of the camp guards looked for them one day for Lucy (back in Volume Two), he told the twins that they would have to tell Lucy for themselves, what they would and would not allow. He suggested that they may have to tell her more than once--but that no one else could do the deed successfully. It seems Lucy heard them, as here she concedes that she's changed due to what the girls did, and that they, in turn, have truly grown into their own. Have you experienced that with young people? Maybe your own children? It can be a scary situation, as when you recognize that you no longer have much to say about their choices--unless they invite you to share your thoughts. On the other hand, bringing them to the point where they are able to take care of themselves, are willing to make their own decisions, and then take the responsibility for them, was your goal all along! Do you agree?

Blessings and Curses

It's true, isn't it? Sometimes the things we are most blessed with can be the source of the most pain for us. Living in a place in which my needs are largely met, and in which I enjoy the liberties and freedoms to pursue my dreams, I find on occasion that my blessings can be the source of difficulties. Curse: My cell phone runs out at the precise wrong moment. Blessing: I have enough to afford a cell. Curse: My job takes me from my family (and writing!) more than I'd like. Blessing: I have a job. Curse: My children are growing away from me. Blessing: I did my job, preparing them to live their lives as adults. Why do I identify the "curse" in each instance first? Because I want my focus, in the end, left on my blessings. What do you think?

Magic Happened

With all a writer's intentions to use magic wisely and well, sometimes the unexpected happens. When Reigna accidentally called Lucy back to life--unaware in advance that she had the power to do so--Saga died, as a consequence. Had Lucy shared crucial information with Reigna in advance, that might not have happened--but of course, she couldn't have anticipated what Reigna would do. I think Mara is trying to spare the possibility that others will lay blame at Lucy's doorstep when she keeps the details to herself. Here she tells Nina that "magic happened." Is that like saying "stuff happens" or . . . ? What do you think?

Life Connections

Mara and Nina have shared a couple of decades together; their lives are indeed "connected." Still, emotions are individual. What a person feels at any given moment won't necessarily make sense to others. That said, those people we find ourselves closest to, are often those who can empathize with us. In this scene, Mara, having been a mother to the twins, does understand the pain Nina feels. Even so, she cannot allow Nina to shame her into going to Chiran to try to rescue Carlie because she appreciates that such a job would be better left to others. Have you ever had someone blame you, or try to shame you, for not taking action when you knew it would not be wise to do so? Do you argue the point? Or do you let the other person express her feelings without comment? It takes strength to do the latter, for sure.

A Mother's Pain

As a parent, I've learned of the pain that can come with being unable to shield my child from some hurt. It's a combination of helplessness, and fear, and guilt. I recall just days after my oldest (my son) was born, dreaming that my little one was in need of me, but that I couldn't get to him. Waking, with hot tears spilling, I received a message that wasn't exactly audible, but that was as real and true as though it had been. The simple words went something like this: "You might as well prepare yourself right here and right now. In this life, things will happen that will be out of your control. Try though you might, you simply will not always be able to be there in his times of need." It was a difficult thing to take in, but I knew it was true. Over the years, I've shared that experience with other new parents, especially when I find one who is unable to let go--even just a little. You see, I believe that we must. If we do not, we will suffocate our children--to their detriment. If we do, we may expose our children--to their detriment. Nina is experiencing some of that pain in this scene. Put another way, she is experiencing what we call "life."

Could this Be Foreshadowing

Mara and Nina have quite a history. Mara saved Nina, and Nina helped Mara to save the twins. But years have passed since those early days when Lilith sought the twins, planning to kill them. Now Nina also has children of her own and as a consequence, perhaps, divided loyalties. Even so, Mara knows her old friend wouldn't want the twins endangered. Here she appeals to Nina's greater sense of honor. While doing so, she revisits a painful issue for herself: the fact that she's had no children of her own. Hmmmm . . . Could this be foreshadowing? What do you think?

He'd Best them All

The writing of Volume Three of The Oathtaker Series differed in one significant way for me as a writer. That is, that I gave glimpses from time to time into the life and times of an evil presence. I do not identify the party until near the end of the tale. I've found it interesting that at times, readers were surprised that the issue did not resolve as they'd expected. Do you do this when you read? Draw conclusions and find the evidence that supports your position? If/when you discover you guessed wrong, do you go back over the details to confirm that the story worked that way? I know I do! And because of that, I had to make certain sure along my way that the details all added up . . .

The Demanding Gift

Imagine if, in exchange for an oath you took, you received special magic powers. Suppose part of the price of those powers was to give up choices for a long while into the future. And suppose that the gifts bestowed upon you set you apart from those around you to such a degree that you'd never be able to live life in quite the same manner as they do. This is the dilemma that Lucy faces. Gifted with eternal youth, she will never grow old with those she loves. Would you give up one for the other?

You Could Be Free From All This

Much of the workings of the Select and their Oathtakers is actually provided in this short segment. As those following the series know, when an Oathtaker swears a life oath to protect a member of the Select, he receives in return, attendant magic, and continued youth. For an Oathtaker like Lucy, who had served a seventh-born of the Select, that continued youth would last for the remainder of her days. Although not immortal, she would no longer age. Here, Mara suggests that since Lucy's charge is deceased, she might want to follow another path--as Oathtakers have traditionally done. Lucy refuses. It seems her service is her first choice. Would you agree?

Loving

Once, many years ago, someone explained to me why she thought her marriage had not worked out. She said to me that the hadn't loved him "enough." That always stuck with me. When this scene then unfolded, the words seemed so appropriate, although I wonder if they are true. Lucy held to her original vow, so it seems she loved something "enough." What do you think?

Memories

It is always fun to write about the portions of the story that help to set up everything that is yet to come. Here, readers will learn a bit more about Lucy. Yes, she can be overbearing at times, but her heart is in the right place. Like so many, she feels a responsibility for events--even when she may not be the cause of those events. I enjoyed writing this scene between Mara and Lucy. Interestingly, the two have spent decades together, yet until now, readers haven't seen much of them together. It was fun to learn a bit more about their relationship myself! Odd how that happens . . .

Good Things, Right Things

My stories have reasserted the principle, from time to time, that doing a good thing is not the same as doing the right thing. For example, if you give too much to an able-bodied person, eliminating any struggle from his life, you could hamstring him from actually developing into the best person he could be. Likewise, if you give so much to a needy person that she loses sight of what it takes to provide that blessing, she might take advantage of it and not truly appreciate it or its source. When we do these things and people come around expecting that we'll continue to provide for them--at times, we've no one to blame but ourselves. If we "create the monster," we may just have to deal with it in the future. Here, Lucy mentions this principle to the girls once more, reminding them that just because they can do something, does not mean that they should do something. Do you agree?

The Price to be Paid

In my mind, stories that allow for certain characters to have magic powers, require some limitations on those powers. Sometimes they come in the form of consequences that will transpire if the magic is exercised. You see, if the character faced no such dilemma, it would be too easy for the "good guys" who possess extraordinary powers, to "win" in every situation. Don't you think? Yet the moral dilemmas that may come when one exercises magic, as this excerpt mentions, are sometimes more compelling than the physical ones--and they can make for interesting storyline twists. Do you agree?

An Incredible, Unique, and Extraordinary Power

(I'm delighted to share this Bubble today upon learning that Ephemeral and Fleeting has taken a Silver Medal in the 2017 Literary Classics International Book Award Contest--joining Volumes One and Two as LC award winners!) When I first started writing this tale, I was in a quandary. I knew I needed to inform readers of the twins' unique magic abilities, but . . . in truth . . . I didn't know what they were. Strangely, as this scene unfolded, I went back to some old notes I'd written years prior. It seems that while my conscious mind had no idea at the time, I'd resolved the issue several years before and had merely forgotten what I'd planned. I was elated when I found those notes--and fortunately, they helped to set up this entire story. Here, Reigna discovers her unique magic powers. What do you think of them? What magic power do you wish you possessed?

Second Chances

As stories reflect the real world, this scene follows with a common situation: a wrongdoer requests forgiveness from her loved ones. Sometimes it's easy to carry a grudge. But when the odds are stacked against you from outsiders, interesting things can happen. Often, people are willing to set aside their differences so as to pursue their common goals. That is just what we see here as Mara confirms to Lucy that they've forgiven her past behavior. What do you think? Do you find forgiveness an easy thing to give? Or a difficult one? Why?

Dead or Alive

It is interesting that before I started this tale, I knew the opening scene. I knew it was Lucy who was dying--though I wasn't really ready to let her go. Though I struggled with it all, there was no question that I had to tell the story as I knew it to be. What a relief when, in trying to resolve a related problem, I looked back into some old notes. Written probably six or seven years prior, they provided the answer to two dilemmas, both presented in this scene: (1) the powers of the twins; and (2) Lucy's death. No one could be more surprised with the result than was I. You'll have to read on to find out more.

Been Good to Know You

Some of the most fun scenes to write are the opening ones. This one was particularly so for me, as I'd watched the proceedings numerous times in my head before it finally came to the time for me to put the details down. It seems there is some prevailing "wisdom" that the best ways to start a work include with a birth or a death. Interestingly, without pre-intentions to do that, I have in fact, done that on a couple of occasions. What do you think? Do such events cause you to want to keep reading? In what ways do you like stories to open? Please, share your thoughts!

Familiar Friends

When I wrote Volume One of this series, I made a conscious effort to whenever possible, introduce only a single new person at a time. I wanted my readers to be able to grasp the general essence of someone before moving on to another person. It worked very well. (I know that when I start a new book, if I don't get an opportunity to get familiar with the characters one at a time, I'm forever confusing who is who, or forgetting them entirely!) With Volume Two, I decided that I should re-introduce each character, if only briefly. To do that, when someone entered a scene for the first time in the book, I reminded readers of a key fact about that person. But Volume Three was an entirely different matter. While I would never--could never--have used this approach at the outset, I decided that readers at this stage just wanted to immerse themselves in the story, to quickly return to the characters they'd grown to love. And so it is that in this very first scene, there are numerous parties in attendance. What do you think? When starting a new book or series, do you like to meet the characters one by one?

Saying "Good-bye" to Characters

It is so exciting that Ephemeral and Fleeting has finally gone "live" and is ready for readers! I'm anxious to hear what they think of the opening scenes. These very first paragraphs were so fun to write--and so frustrating at the same time. I knew even back while writing Volume Two, that this was the opening for Volume Three. I knew what was going to happen, and to whom. I saw the blood . . . but I wasn't ready to say "good-bye" to the character here. Sometimes our tales take us to unexpected places. Still, I had to follow my instincts . . . For those who've been following along, I must ask: who do you think this is lying on the floor, bleeding and dying?

SELECT

Science Fiction & Fantasy

A Challenge Met. A Calling Sought. A Faith Required. When Mara, Oathtaker to the ranking twin members of the Select, suffers an injury, her charges—Reigna and Eden—seek to determine their callings, while Dixon suffers over the potential loss of his beloved. As their allies disperse in response to a growing threat to their homeland, and as the forces of evil set out to destroy them, the twins journey across The Tearless, where in fulfillment of prophecy, they face three challenges. A single misstep may bring them to ruin; perseverance, to glory. To triumph, they must first believe.

Book Bubbles from SELECT

Artistic Temptations

It's a temptation that is difficult to resist: the desire to make characters who are morally lacking, also appear physically unattractive. Of course, there are times in real life when physical attributes can tell us about character. Sometimes they tell of positive things. A person with clear and lovely skin is likely someone who takes care of herself. One with huge biceps probably works out a lot and--in that regard at least--is disciplined. In this scene though, we meet a man who is short, has unhealthy looking skin, broken veins on his nose, and dark puffy circles under his eyes. Translation: here is someone who takes little care of himself and who leads a life of . . . excess. Is it unreasonable then to conclude that he might care little for others? So maybe my inclination (at least from time to time) to mold an unsavory character into one who is also physically unattractive, is not wholly off the mark. Of course, this discussion begs a question: is beauty more apt to follow moral strength or is moral strength more likely to be found where there is beauty (or vice versa)? What do you think? I'd love to know your thoughts.

Ignorance as a Tool

In most of history, it has been the case that the masses (or significant portions of them) have been left intentionally ignorant because it is easier for those in power to control ill-informed and/or uneducated people. The empire of Chiran is fashioned after those old ways. Zarek and his ilk do not want the common person to have much information. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Joseph warns Jerrett here not to let the Chiranian guards know that he can read. Our real world has changed so that many people in many places can actually read these days. Do you think, however, that there are other ways to keep them ignorant--to control them? Do you suppose that controlling the type of information they have access to could be of benefit to those in power? Do you suppose that to allow information to be exposed--but only when it is bent in favor of those in control--that those in power are benefitted? Do you see anything of that sort happening in our world today? If so, who do you think is doing the controlling? Politicians? The media? Schools? Others?

Mere Mortals

This may seem odd, but here goes . . . I'm concerned for our youth, and that for too many, no one discusses with them, long-term consequences of their actions. Many are taught that their time here is short, that they are beholden to themselves only, and that nothing will come to them after death. They are taught that it is acceptable for someone to have chosen whether they would even make their debut into the world, and that once here, their presence has fouled the earth because they use too much of everything (paper, fuel, space, etc.) . . . Then they are taught that when they pass, there is nothing more. In short, they are "mortal," by which I mean perishable, terminal, irreconcilable--which is the case for the Chiranians here. So, I wonder, if this is taught, why wouldn't people act out in ways that harm themselves and others? There are no consequences, after all. By contrast, if people were valued from their very beginning, and if they were encouraged to give and do and be their best, do you think their behavior would change? If they believed they were more than mere mortals--that what they did had lasting effects--might they rise to being better people and doing better things? Maybe?

Heathens and Thugs

For most Oosians, information about Chiran and those who occupy that neighboring realm, is slight. Even Oathtakers like Ezra, Marshall, and Jerrett, know little of the place and its people. Joseph's story here begins to fill in some of the details about the soldiers under the control of Chiran's evil leader, Zarek. As heathens and thugs, these men have little regard for human life. Indeed, they are content to bring about pain and suffering. In a similar fashion, the world in which we live is inhabited by violent people. When watching or listening to news reports, one could conclude that there are more of them, than there are of good and kind people. But of course, that is not so. Sometimes I have to pull back from watching and listening to world events so as to be able to put things back in perspective. Do you ever experience that? How do you handle it?

Smiling in the Face of Difficulties

I admit I'm not very good at it--at smiling in the face of difficulties, that is. I know people who joke through adversity, but I'm not one of them. The closest I came was while in labor with my middle child. (I was blessed to have had eeeeeaaaassssy deliveries!) When she was minutes from making her debut--which was a couple of hours since we'd arrived at the hospital and less than six hours since my labor began--the doctor arrived. Having developed a terrific personal relationship with her, I greeted her even as she shone a light on the subject. "They're not showing a moving in there," I said. Also in the room was my husband, a long time family friend and my 9-year old son. (My friend was there to help with my son. I'd gone through a series of classes and things with him in advance so that he knew what to expect, but so that he could be there when his little sister arrived!) In any case, everyone laughed. Even so, aside from that incident, I've not generally been lighthearted during difficult times. Here, Joseph is--as is witnessed by his gratitude that his facial burns were healed so that he wouldn't disappoint the ladies in the future. How about you? How to you act in stressful times?

Healing

Whenever I write about one of the Oathtakers in the process of healing someone by virtue of that person's use of magic, I think of the power of faith. I've known people who have claimed miraculous healing--the kind that occurs with the laying on of hands. I've also known those who've experienced healing by virtue of modern medicine--and that is no less miraculous to me. For that matter, our system of modern medicine can even cure things with a pill. That too, seems like true magic! Still, the very idea of being able to put hands on someone to ascertain what is amiss and then to be able to resolve the problem is one of the kinds of powers I would like to possess. I have people in my life who I really wish I could heal. Do you? In fact, can you think of a time you wouldn't use the power to heal if you had it?

The Local Pub

I love visiting Ezra's place, The Clandest Inn, with its friendly pub that the locals--as well as travelers who carry news and information--frequent. Whenever a scene is placed in it, it seems there is some activity going on, such as "magicians" engaging in some slight-of-hand, ballad singers, or in this scene, a pantomimist. Someday I'd like to do a music contest at the inn. I've not yet worked out how that would fit into the greater story, but everyone loves a good musician and a good contest. Right? I think that would be so much more fun that what we see today where the average "local bar" comes complete with a number of large screen televisions used to provide entertainment to the patrons. For my part, I like the personal touch of the performers that readers will find in Oosa. What do you think?

Friends and Enemies - or are they Frenemies?

Oh, the power of spirits. Yes? When under the influence, people don't always behave as they otherwise might. As an outsider looking in, I've seen situations that felt quite similar to the scene presented here. Ezra wants no trouble in his tavern, while two visitors nearly come to fisticuffs. Funny, isn't it, how while those patrons are under the influence, they go from friends, to enemies, and back to friends again in just a matter of seconds? Fortunately, while I've seen tensions rise in a public place, I've never seen them get out of hand. I've always wondered when watching old movies, how things can go from calm to chaos the moment the first punch is thrown. Have you ever witnessed such a brawl? Been involved in one? For my part, if I truly believed one was about to break out, I'd probably vacate the premises--quickly. (I'm not adventurous enough to stick around, I guess.) How about you?

Compliments

In my opinion, one thing an author should have a solid understanding of, is her limitations as to her understandings of those of the opposite sex. For me, I find that I don't often delve into the deep thoughts of men. The truth is that I find men to be quite different creatures from me. I don't purport to know how they think--with perhaps, a few exceptions. In my experience, they are moved by beauty and they appreciate when others recognize the beauty they are able to attract. Here, Jerrett and Marshall pay Ezra the high compliment of finding his wife lovely to behold--and Ezra repays Jerrett with a compliment about his wife (Velia) in return. Whenever I read this passage, I think about the physical beauty of some of my characters--and particularly of some of the Oathtakers. I don't want to give the impression that every Oathtaker is flawless, but I do mean to suggest that the life each lives comes through in his or her physical appearance and presence. There is a peace, and a deep understanding of life, that comes from an Oathtaker's commitment to Ehyeh and His ways. I'm sure you've experienced something of this nature yourself. Yes? That those who live disciplined lives seem to exude something greater? Do you agree, or no?

Old Friends

Ezra is actually one of my favorite characters. An innkeeper and spymaster, he knows how to move information--and how to maintain confidentiality when it matters. When Jerrett and Marshall visit him here, it seems like his life has gone on exactly the same as it has for the past number of years. Yet readers will soon discover the actual changes that have come his way. It's interesting when writing and skipping a period of time, how it can become necessary to fill in some of the gaps for readers. That happens because readers know that even though a particular personality hasn't been around or awhile, things didn't remain the exact same for that person in the intervening time. After all, the one constant--and perhaps the only one constant--we can always be certain of, is that things change. Do you agree?

Playing With Words

Every once in awhile during the writing process, something will trip off the end of my fingers in a way that leaves me . . . stunned. I wonder then if I'd known the issue all along subconsciously, or if the synapses in my brain just suddenly--in that moment--made a connection that worked for the purposes of my story. Whenever I run across the name of "The Clandest Inn," I find myself contemplating that issue. When I wrote this piece--in the moment of writing--it just . . . came out as the "right" name for an inn run by a spymaster. What do you think? Does it fit? What would you name such an establishment?

Thinking Poorly of Parents

Every time I read this portion of Select, I'm struck by what I see as Marshall's wisdom when he says (at the end of this excerpt): "Children may believe unsavory things about their own parents, but they never want to hear others speak negatively of them. A child's sense of self is closely aligned with his knowledge of what others think of his parents." I believe Marshall is right here, as I've seen this play in the past. Whenever I've witnessed a child hearing something less than positive about his or her parent, I've seen them respond in one of two ways. One is to "come to the rescue" of that parent--perhaps even disagreeing with something they've said themselves about their own parent in the past. The other is to remain silent. I've always felt that in those moments, that those children are internalizing the criticism--that they are wondering if it also applies to them. Indeed, I think children whose parents are well-liked think better of themselves than do children of parents who are not so well-liked. What do you think?

Looking the Other Way

Continuing along in this conversation between Marshall and Jerrett, I find myself thinking back. I truly cannot recollect a time when I thought I knew of a child in danger, and that I failed to take action on his or her behalf. It is interesting though, how easily it can be for people to blind themselves to truth because facing it can cost them so much--and in particular, in their relationships with others. I'm not sure that Marshall is insinuating here that Rowena had remained blind because she wanted to get along well with her sister, Lilith. I think he's more concerned that he might have looked the other way for too long. Perhaps that's why he still hears the echo of Broden's scream in his mind. What do you think? Was he right to wait until he felt the facts were confirmed? Or should he have stepped in sooner? How would you have handled things with Lilith?

Limitless Evil

When I read this excerpt, I think of the evil that Lilith exercised. She was responsible for the deaths of many--and the things that she did all seem to boil down to one basic principle: she had no regard for the lives of others. I wonder at times if she was amoral--that is, if she was simply unconcerned with the rightness or wrongness of something. Or perhaps she understood what was right and wrong, but simply didn't care. Over time, I've come to appreciate that for a person to behave as Lilith did, she must think very little of herself. This is true even though that person presents herself to all the world as though she cares only for herself. What do you think? What if, following the early signs that Marshall discusses here, someone had intervened. Might the future have been different? Have you ever found yourself in a position of wondering if you should intervene? How did you handle it?

Premonitions

I love attendant magic! Even as the author, I'm fascinated with the fact that different Oathtakers have different powers. Of course, this can add genuine difficulty in the storytelling . . . For example, if I need a person incapacitated for some period, due to an injury, I can't have that person in the company of an Oathtaker with the power to heal. That is unless, of course, there is some reason why the person with the power to heal is unable to exercise that power for the time being. Here, readers learn more about this power of Marshall's. It is one I had to fashion as something he did not exercise so much as one he "experienced" from time to time. I wonder, is this power to see possible future events one that you would want to have? Not me! Aside from the trouble I can anticipate coming of certain events, I really don't want to know the future. I'm afraid I'd spend my life grieving over things that haven' yet transpired, or wishing time away and failing to find the value it in--just so that I could get to a time of celebration. What do you think? Is it a power you'd like?

Duty Calls

Whenever I think about Marshall, I feel a deep sense of sadness. All he ever wanted to do was to serve Ehyeh and to protect the Select. But as Lilith was his charge, the road he set out upon was a very rocky one, indeed. Marshall's story makes me ponder the difficulty that some people face when they are bound to do one thing, yet feel a strong moral obligation to do another. For example, this has happened on occasion in history, with those in uniform. Imagine knowing you are responsible to follow orders, and then that you are faced with one that is so contrary to what is humane, that you find it impossible to follow. From the outside looking in, we can say that the person has the greater duty to do what is right, but we must never forget how difficult that could be. It's food for thought . . . something that perhaps we'd all do well to ponder on from time to time, as it may prepare us, gird us, to act correctly ourselves when the time comes.

To an Author's Surprise

Every time I read the end of this scene, I'm reminded of the surprise that it was to me when the words flew from my fingertips to the screen before me. Mara isn't generally one who moves me to laugh. She's more serious. Perhaps that's why she catches me so off-guard here. In this moment, when she tells Dixon that she'll hunt for their dinner because she's the better shot of the two, it seems she's coming to grips with her predicament--that she's buying into the fact that it might take some time for her situation to improve. At the same time, there seems to be a softening to her exterior. This is the first suggestion since she lost her memory, that she is interested in forging a friendship with Dixon. I like this playful side of her. What do you think?

Recollections

Ultimately, an author's characters are entirely separate and "living" beings. They emerge from the ether, yet each comes complete with a past, a personality, and his very own world-perspective. Just as you get to know a "real" person, an author gets to know her characters, over time. By the time this scene played out, I was extremely comfortable with Mara and Dixon. I could follow their thoughts and conversations easily. Here, Mara is her typical cautious self. Likewise, Dixon follows his natural inclination to try to protect his loved one. Both must exercise patience with the other, as the true facts unfold. Have you ever, like Dixon here, found yourself in the position of having to keep things from someone close to you? Things you believed they would be better off not knowing? I experienced that when I raised my children. My goal was to prepare them to face the world and all its glory, yet I also needed to prepare them for some of the ugliness that would, in time, be thrown their way. When young, they were capable of understanding and coping with just so much. In some ways, what I did to protect my children and their innocence was similar to what Dixon does in this scene. How do you think you'd have handled this situation?

Misunderstandings

Using the concept of the loss of memory in this story gave me the opportunity to reflect on Mara and Dixon's initial meeting. In many ways, the encounter in this scene is similar--in particular on her part. Given that he is unknown to her--just as he was when the two first met--her natural inclination is not to trust. Consequently, it seems that no matter what he says, she finds a possible alternative meaning. Have you ever had someone in your life who consistently expected the worst from you and so, was continually at odds with you? I have. Sometimes it comes from a first impression. In those circumstances, it's quite difficult to say or do the right thing so that I can move beyond the barrier that the other person has put in place. Here, Dixon works around Mara's barrier by throwing her own words back at her--and it works! Have you ever done that? How did things turn out in your case?

Start at the Beginning

There are times in life when telling others things could cause problems. Sometimes, the less said the better. Other times, the failure to state something may itself be deemed a falsehood. Here Dixon, feeling compelled to follow Basha and Theresa's earlier warning, chooses not to give Mara too much detail. This seems somewhat difficult for him. Perhaps it's because Mara's base personality didn't change even while her memories fled her. That is, she's still focusing on problem solving by "starting at the beginning." I can identify with this aspect of her personality. I think I share this characteristic in common with her. When confronted with a problem, I typically want all the details before I address specific issues. (Maybe it's the lawyer in me. ?) Do you know anyone who has a particular way of approaching problems? Do you? How does your way compare to Mara's?

Time Travel?

Of course, this story does not include any time traveling, still I found Dixon's response to Mara's inquiry to be interesting. As she's trying to figure out their geographic whereabouts and asks where they are, he's thinking that what she really needs to know is how long she'd been unconscious. Thus, he asks her if she doesn't really want to know "when are we?" Have you ever awakened and wondered "when" you are? I admit that it happens to me almost daily. As I keep a rather odd schedule, I frequently awaken wondering what day of the week it is, as from there, I can figure out if I need to get up right away, hurry to prepare for work or some other commitment, or if I can sleep in. That state between sleep (or unconsciousness in the case of this story) and wakefulness can be confusing. Don't you agree? Do you ever ask yourself "when" are you?

Asking for and Accepting Help

I notice when reading this scene how difficult it is for Mara to ask for help, and then to accept any more of it than is absolutely necessary. I've come to appreciate over the years that while I look for opportunities to be of service to others, and while I may regularly offer assistance to others, one of the most difficult things for me to do is to ask for help for myself. I don't know if this is an issue of pride (as in "I've got this. I don't need help!"), or if I'm always certain that others are more in need than am I, or if I think that others are simply more worthy than am I. Even so, I've tried to teach myself over these past few years is that--especially when it comes to my own (now adult) children--I need to learn to ask them for help from time to time. It is good for them to be of service, rather than always to be on the accepting end of things. Also, it's good for them to see that it is "OK" to request assistance. Is this a generational thing, do you think? Do you find it hard to ask for and/or to accept help? What do you attribute that to?

The Paralysis of Worry

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where, due to concern over someone or something, you found yourself paralyzed? There is a feeling of knowing that there may be things you ought attend to, but cannot find the energy to do, unique to such situations. What kinds of things send you in a spin, unable to focus on a task or to see it through? Do you shut down completely? Or are you one of those who, like Dixon here, can at least find the energy it takes to cover the most critical issues? I find myself more like Dixon in these situations, but the energy required for anything comes in fits and starts and mostly, I am unable to concentrate. I gather up enough strength to see to a task and then fall back and wait again until I must act again, at which time I will once more try to summon the necessary energy. How about you? How are you in an emergency?

Emergencies

My preparing this Bubble comes at an interesting time, as I just returned home yesterday with my husband who spent the last six days in an ICU unit at an area hospital. For reasons unknown, he experienced a medical emergency that the doctors are unable to identify the cause of--at least just yet. The first few days of this experience had him in a semi-aware state. He couldn't recall from minute to minute what had happened, although he remained generally aware of his surroundings. It is a frightening thing to watch someone try to put pieces together. Even now, I'm re-telling him details from a week ago that he's heard repeatedly over the days, but doesn't recall. And so it is that I don't have to imagine the fear Dixon is experiencing in this scene. I've just lived it. How about you? Have you ever had a similar experience? It tends to re-connect you with the things of most importance: family and loved ones. Don't you agree?

Dangers Ahead

With Mara having lost her memory of her status as an Oathtaker, and of all of the training and skills that entails, she nevertheless takes a shot at the mountain lion that pursues her and Dixon. To her surprise, she successfully brings the beast down. Interestingly, Dixon mentions that she is a "sure shot." This was one of the first things Mara ever told him about herself. Although initially something he didn't believe, he came to appreciate the truth of that fact. In some ways, this scene brings me back to the opening scene of Volume One, when Mara successfully took down an entire pack of grut--otherworldly beasts intent on destroying Rowena before she could birth the twins. Here, however, Mara is shocked to discover her talent. Perhaps as a consequence, within moments, she passes out. One can only wonder what her subconscious is doing with all the information . . . What do you think? Will she awaken with a fully restored memory?

Softening

When Mara and Dixon first met in Volume One, they were at odds, but eventually found their way through to understanding, friendship, and more. Here, with Mara having lost her memories of all those years, they are starting over. While she's been distant until now, he seems to be winning her over, a bit at a time. Her softening toward him feels very real to me. Have you ever had to reacquaint yourself with someone? Maybe it came after a time of estrangement due to distance, or disagreement. Learning how to trust again can be difficult when one's memories are intact, so I can only imagine what it is like for someone who has no recollection of having trusted in the past. What do you think? Is trust freely given? Or is it earned?

What Are Your Powers?

I recall when writing this scene that Mara asked Dixon what he'd told her before about his other powers, and then asked once again, "What other powers do you have?" I realized in the moment that the two questions were different--and I found it amusing that Dixon caught that fact. (Characters really do take on lives of their own.) As you see here, Dixon responds by asking Mara if she wants to know of his other powers, or she wants to know what he told her the last time she asked the question. I suppose in truth, this reveals a bit of my lawyer-training--something I found quite useful in the writing process overall. In this instance, I had to expose the fact that there were two quite separate questions before Dixon. Then, while I didn't want him to come across as non-responsive, I thought it would be fun to add a bit of an edge to his demeanor since, to Mara, he was little more than a stranger. Yet, I didn't want him "scary," either. What do you think? Did I succeed?

Disclosures

It was interesting when writing this scene to think about how two people would act--one wanting more information and the other cautious about disclosing pertinent details. Somehow the process of trying to keep things secret can make a person's behavior suspect. I know, for example, when someone is trying to keep something from me that I start to doubt everything they say. In this scene, Mara is finally asking questions, but Dixon is left unable to answer them. I wonder how this will play out? Will she start to doubt everything he says? Or will she take it all in stride? What do you think? How would you react?

So Near Yet So Far Away

We all know the feeling, I'm sure, of having someone who is close to us seem terribly far away for one reason or another. Sometimes life just hands us a multitude of tasks. Our "busy-ness" keeps us disconnected. Other times, we assume we understand what another is thinking or feeling. It is a dangerous trap to be in, but not an unfamiliar one. Here Dixon looks for any sign that Mara's memories have returned. I know how difficult it is when someone I care about doesn't remember a specific event that was meaningful to me. I can't imagine what it would be like to discover that they'd forgotten me altogether. To be close, yet so far away, would be deeply painful. Don't you agree?

Memories

It is interesting, when writing a series, how little things from one story will pop up unexpectedly in another part of the tale, down the line. I used to to think that all those occurences were planned--not the accidental stumbling upon the odd bit from time to time. But now I know that as I get to know my characters more all the time, and as their memories are my own, the strangest little things will enter the story from time to time. I think those bits add authenticity. Here, the twins are recalling a special blade of Mara's to which they must both have some feelings attached. Do you ever find yourself thrown back into past memories over the sight of some small object like this?

Come Back

It may seem a bit odd when, compared to our world, we discover two young women so wanting the company of those who've been like parents to them. Still, one must remember that Reigna and Eden have lived a very sheltered life, having rarely left the compound over the years. Now they prepare to set out to discover the world for themselves. It is a scary prospect to do something new and different--to take an action you know leaves you vulnerable because there is no longer a safety net in place for you. Have you ever done that? What is the scariest thing you did as a young adult that may, in the end, have changed the course of your life?

Overkill

As the twins pack for their adventure, they review the items they've collected. Included with all the practical bits they'll need to live on the road for a time, are the weapons they'll require if they're to be appropriately armed. Here readers will quickly deduce that Reigna is the more "warlike" of the two, while Eden's preference is to avoid conflict. Even so, they both have a sense of humor, witnessed here when Reigna sarcastically comments about the unlikelihood of one's defending herself against a sword with a simple knife. I'm with Reigna on this one. How about you?

A Bit of Humor

This is the first scene in which readers start to get a solid glimpse into the personalities of Reigna and Eden. I was surprised to discover that they use humor as a coping mechanism. Frustrated with Lucy, they nevertheless are able to find a lighter side to her manipulative and controlling nature. Specifically, here we see Eden, like Mara who raised her, as she succumbs to sarcasm. What about you? Do you use humor in trying circumstances? Do you know others who do? Does it help? Or only exacerbate the problem?

We're Not Children

Some time ago, I prepared a Bubble for for Oathtaker, Volume One, that set out the text relating to when I first introduced Lucy Haven to readers. I mentioned how she can be difficult, but that I don't want people to dislike her. This scene sets a great example for Lucy's general behavior. All too often she fails to see things from the perspective of those around her. Yet, when all is said and done, as the last paragraph from this except shows, Lucy really does have everyone's best interests in mind. Would that she could soften her edges a bit. Yes? Do you know anyone like this? How do you handle these difficult personalities?

Regaining Favor

By way of background, in Volume One of The Oathtaker Series, readers learn that each member of the Select is born with a unique birthmark, designating his or her birth order. Each also exudes his own mesmerizing scent. (I fashioned the scents after some of my favorite fragrances!) When the child reaches the age when she might do things contrary to the Good One's intentions (that is, when she first exhibits "willful disobedience"), her birth sign and scent will disappear. They will not re-appear for that person until some time after she reaches the age of accountability (roughly 14 years old, or so), and does something that demonstrates her loyalty and commitment to the Good One's words and ways. Here, the twins discuss how they long to regain their signs and scents so that they may take their rightful places as the ranking member(s) of the Select. What do you think are the signs of disobedience in a child and when do you think they first appear? Also, what do you think about the age of accountability? Is 14 about right? Or . . . ?

Meet Broden

When I started writing the Oathtaker story, I didn't know that the character Broden was going to come along. But at one point, it just seemed to "fit." In Oathtaker--Volume One, readers learned that Broden's mother, was Lilith. Lilith was sister to Rowena, the twins' mother. It was Lilith who tried to kill Rowena and later, the twins, as infants. Readers also learned that the father of Lilith's child was Zarek, the evil leader of the neighboring realm, Chiran. Rowena took Lilith's child from her when he was an infant and sent him to Lucy, who then raised him at the compound. Here, finally, that child now grown, Broden, makes his debut. But why did Rowena take him in the first place? You'll have to read on to find out.

Discovering Mara's Secret

Reigna and Eden are in for the surprise of their young lives. Having believed their Oathtaker, Mara, merely needed a bit of respite, they now discover that in fact, she has lost her memory. She doesn't know who they are and she doesn't recall her duty to see to their safety. I suppose the closest I could compare this to would be if my parent suddenly forgot who I was. (I suspect the children of those who suffer from Alzheimer's would appreciate that feeling, but I have not experienced it.) I suppose, were that to happen, that I might want to get away myself. So I wonder . . . might the twins contemplate doing just that? You will have to read on to find out.

The "Middle"

When I first started writing, I had to get a firm hold of a few concepts. Without them, I was crippled and couldn't even begin. For starters, I had to acknowledge that no matter where I began, I would be in the "middle" of something. Events led up to the opening event, and events would follow. Next, I had to realize that there is "nothing new under the sun." In practice, this means that I may suggest/create a new color that no one has ever seen before, but I can't suggest/create that "color" exists if readers don't already identify with that phenomenon. You see, they have to be able to compare whatever I do, to something they already know and understand. Finally, I could have an idea at the outset, where my story would start and end, but in the meantime, there would be a fair amount of the "middle" to tell. With this scene, the true "middle" of this story is introduced, as the reader is provided the knowledge that going forward, they will be following a few lines of thought: the traveling of the various compound residents, and the prophecy that Fidel mentions and its significance. The key to the middle of every story is to keep things pertinent and moving toward its final resolution . . .

Family Dynamics at the Compound

Every family has its own quirky members, and the makeshift family of the Oathtakers and Select living at the compound is no different. Such an array of personalities! Of those in this scene, Jerrett is one of my favorites. A man of powerful strength, he is nevertheless one of the children's favorites. It has been fun to watch him evolve over time. Another interesting compound resident here is Adele. She ended up with Mara in Volume One of The Oathtaker Series quite by accident. At the compound, she became the favorite resident cook. It's always fun to include her in a scene since it usually means that I get to envision some interesting food selections! I like to see and smell and taste the food I read about. How about you?

Keeping Someone a Baby For Too Long

This post includes something I've said many times over the years, about a subject I've seen play out time and time again. That is, that sometimes parents, teachers, and others, treat young people as though they're unable to think for themselves, do for themselves, reason out the appropriate reaction to a situation, or otherwise. In truth, I believe that when little is expected of a young person, that the person will react exactly as expected. However, young people will rise to the challenge if allowed. In other words, if more is expected of them, they will deliver more in response. Hence, my saying: "The only thing worse than making a child grow up too fast, is to keep her a baby for too long." What do you think?

So Long As You Go With Me

Things are about to heat up, as Dixon prepares to take Mara away from the compound, in the hopes of keeping secret, the fact that she has lost her memory. Here he, Basha, and Therese, keep things covered up by interrupting others, when necessary. Imagine their concern when they hear Mara about to ask little Calandra who she is! Even so, they manage. Dixon, ever hopeful that something will suddenly bring Mara's past back to her, is heartbroken when she does not respond in her usual manner. For truly, without her memories, Dixon is mourning the loss of his beloved. How about you and your loved ones? Are there things you say and do with one another that you will most miss when they are gone?

Preparing to Travel

In light of Mara's insistence that she should return home, Dixon, Basha, and Therese, arrange for Dixon to take her away. Their main goal is to keep Mara's loss of memory from Lucy. Here Dixon makes plans with Jules to see to details at the compound while they are away, while he hopes--expects--to return soon. This portion of this scene lends some insight into Dixon's relationship with others at the compound. They've lived and worked together there for two decades, and they share concerns for one another and their families. Thus, Dixon cautions Jules to keep careful watch on the camp so as to protect the twins, while also continuing his search for his missing daughter. So . . . nothing could possibly go wrong. Right?

Practicing Deceit

Although Mara suffers from amnesia, some of her genuine personality still shines through. Thus, recognizing that he won't be able to stop her from heading "home," Dixon agrees to help her. Clearly, she seems reluctant to put her trust in him, but in the end, she agrees to the plan. Once she does, Dixon must come up with a story that the twins will accept. This is where practicing deceit can become so complicated. One must find a way to tell a falsehood that others will believe . . .

Keeping Secrets

"Oh, the tangled webs we weave, when first we practice to deceive." (Canto VI, XVII) Here the set-up of the story continues, as Dixon determines that Mara's condition--her amnesia--must be kept secret from Lucy. He fears Lucy would arrange to have Mara removed from her position as Oathtaker to the twins. But what comes of this, you can only imagine. After all, they all live together at the compound, set apart from the outside world. How will Lucy react to their leaving the compound? And what will the twins do when she's suddenly taken from them? Ideas, anyone?

The Set-up

I admit it: the most fun scene to write for any story is the one that is the set-up for all that's to come. Here, readers discover just where this tale is headed. Mara, having fallen, suffered a concussion. Worried for her, her loved ones tended to her needs for days while she remained unresponsive. But no one expected what might occur upon her awakening . . . Where, oh where, do you suppose this is going?

Answers to Prayer

Following Mara's injury, Dixon seeks solace at sanctuary. When Therese tells him that Mara is finally awakening, he rushes to her side. Theirs is a love that was not meant to be--that was forbidden--or so it seemed. But a special magic exception allowed for their union. Indeed, they are uniquely "right" for one another. Other than Lucy, there are no other living Oathtakers, to their knowledge, who'd ever served a seventh-born of the Select. Thus, they are set apart in that they will both remain "forever youthful." So it is that Dixon's fear of losing his beloved, goes beyond the norm. Read on to find out more.

The Evildoing of Others

A principle often mentioned in my tales, is that one should not take on blame for the evildoing of others. There seems to be an epidemic these days, of those who act out badly or illegally, blaming others for their actions. When I was in law school, we studied the law of torts. One element for finding someone responsible for a tort, is "causation." Questions like these are commonly discussed: Was this result the cause of the action? Was it the proximate cause? Was there an intervening cause? A superseding intervening cause? But for this, might the event have occurred? And so on. For example, if you leave your car door unlocked and your keys inside, and someone steals the vehicle, runs away, and harms another, are you responsible? Should you have anticipated the criminal act of another? While for the most part, the law seems representative of society's overall expectations, there remains a deeper issue: should not the person who takes the evil action, be held responsible for it, notwithstanding such other factors? I ask these questions because in this excerpt, Basha reminds Dixon that he should not do so. What do you think?

The Stage is Set

With the second book in this series came the issue of how to introduce characters who were also part of Volume One. In the first book, I took pains to, whenever possible, introduce a single character at a time, giving readers the opportunity to get to know that person before springing another new personality on them. But with Volume Two, the idea is that most readers will also have read Volume One (or will, at a minimum, have read through the nine-page synopsis of Volume One included in Volume Two). Still, there are a number of people coming and going. Thus, I provided where it seemed necessary, a bit of the history of some people as they entered this scene. Here readers will also learn what has transpired in the past two decades. Where did Mara go with the twins after escaping with them? Where have they been all this time? To Lucy's compound, of course . . . But as Mara's injury shows, the place is not as safe as they've all believed. So now, read on to find out if they will be staying there . . .

Danger at the Compound

Times have changed for the Oathtakers since the end of Volume One, but some things have stayed the same: Mara's charges remain in danger. Here, she and Dixon, along with some of their friends--both long-time and new--seek to hold the interlopers off. As readers will learn (and one of the concepts I most enjoy), the Oathtakers who've sworn to protect the twins, are gifted with "continued youth." Thus, while gaining in wisdom and insight, they remain as physically strong and able as the day they first swore their oaths. (Would that we could live that way!) No one could expect what comes to pass . . . Follow me to read more and to get more of the backstory to Select!

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