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. There, 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.
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!
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 phenomena. 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 . . .
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?
I posted a Book Bubble today for Volume One of The Oathtaker Series, that included funny sayings I remembered from little people in my life. This post, for Volume Two, includes something I've said myself, 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 are 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 is exactly how they react. 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?
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?
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?
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 . . .
"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?
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?
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!
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?
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 . . .
Select: The Oathtaker Series, Volume Two, has now followed in the steps of its predecessor, Oathtaker: The Oathtaker Series, Volume One, as a Literary Classics award winner. Also, both placed in the Readers' Favorite contest. What makes an award winner, you might ask? It is difficult to say, as contests vary. However, of those contest winners I've read, books that place are stories that grab you attention and keep you turning pages. Try out Oathtaker and Select for yourself! Oh--and I would be honored if you would leave a review for me!
I was delighted to learn earlier this week, that Select: The Oathtaker Series, Volume Two, is an award winner in the Literary Classics International Book Award contest. Consequently, I thought I would share the opening scene from Chapter One. 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!
Yes, you must hurry! Currently, you may enter for your chance to win a virtual stocking filled with e-copies of the multi-award winning Oathtaker: The Oathtaker Series, Volume One; Select: The Oathtaker Series, Book Two; and more! Brought to you by A Drift of Quills. Go to www.PatriciaReding.com to enter! Hurry! Hurry! Contest ends at midnight, December 18, 2016.
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 powers of evil to destroy the guardians of life, she swears an oath for the protection of her charge. Armed with a unique weapon and her attendant magic, and with the aid 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.
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 recollect 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, do you think?
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?
In truth, I always found the term "wet nurse" rather odd, so I did some research. It turns out that in days of old, it was not uncommon for those of the aristocracy or of royalty, to employ wet nurses. One reason was that, since lactation inhibits ovulation in some women, those who didn't nurse their own might become pregnant again more quickly. Often it was a good way for a woman to support her family. Still elsewhere, the practice was for the wet nurse to live in with the family of the child she nursed--often resulting in risk to that woman's own child. As you see, there are many interesting things to learn in the course of writing. Generally, I set up things on my desktop Mac with one window open on my project, one with a search engine for quickly confirming anything from the spelling of a word, to the parts of a bird's feather, and one for www.VisualThesaurus.com (a truly unique thesaurus!). Of course, I have to discipline myself not to get lost in the course of my research when truly interesting facts make themselves known to me, as they did in this case.
Often writers give would-be writers the advice of taking down notes of all sorts of things they witness or experience. 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 one never forgets, like the funny things that little people say. This excerpt includes two such situations. The first, when little Patrick suggests that being grown up is what comes with "getting tall," was actually not one said by any of my own children. I remembered the story, however, and found that it fit right here. 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 I thought she was being too quiet, I would ask, "Madeline, are you behaving?" She would respond, "Yes, Mama, I'm bein' haved." She always said the funniest things, at least of couple of which found their way into Oathtaker, where they will live on, in posterity.
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!
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 . . .
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 something else would surely come later. 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, 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?
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?
We've all experienced situations that caused us to take an instant disliking to someone upon meeting him/her. Sometimes, we seem to read deep signals--almost warnings. Other times, we simply . . . get it wrong. The circumstances may merely 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. Don't you agree?
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?
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!
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.
Although Mara has contemplated, since swearing her life-oath to protect the twins, as to how it would 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 those who depend on you and whom you love? Could you take the action necessary to save them? "Pull the trigger," as it were? Mara's eyes here, open to the full danger and reveal some of the potential cost of her oath. Will she meet the challenge? Would you?
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?
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 . . .
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?
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?
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.
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 . . .
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.
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.
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 . . .
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!
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?
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 . . .
Ahhh, how I love magic! Don't you? In this tale, when an Oathtaker completes his (or her) training, he (or she) receives a blade that possesses magical qualities that will live for so long as the Oathtaker who owns the blade in question. As a result, the blade: (1) will never miss its mark; and (2) will never take the life of another Oathtaker--except that it would cause instant death to the Oathtaker who owns a particular blade, if that blade was used against him. These magic weapons play a crucial part in Oathtaker. 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 their amazing work at www.PhatpuppyArt.com!) Those pics were then used for the blade in the hand of Mara, the Oathtaker pictured on the cover.
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.
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!
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.
It is interesting how, when coming upon a new environment, we can take in numerous details in a split second. Here, Mara, having just killed the grut, is no doubt a bit shaken, yet because of her training, she quickly assesses her surroundings. Then, upon meeting the woman in the cabin and discovering that she is in labor, Mara quickly turns businesslike. Readers here begin to discover that I turned a couple of things upside-down in this story, such as the "laws of descent" in that in Oathtaker, it is the seventh-born and not the first-born to whom power is left, and that this story tells of a seventh-born daughter and not a seventh-born son, as in tales of old.
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?
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 . . . ?
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?
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.
Times have indeed, changed--and for now, the time is ripe for another "giveaway." Currently, you may enter for your chance to win a copy of Oathtaker on Goodreads. The entrance deadline is March 15, 2016. Find out more at http://www.patriciareding.com. Oathtaker is also listed along with many other books for giveaways from Readers' Favorite. Go to https://readersfavorite.com/book-giveaway or to readersfavorite.com (and then click on the banner on the left side of the home page that reads "Monthly Book Giveaway!"). There you can register for your chance to win numerous books, as you choose. Both Oathtaker and Select are included.
The young Oathtaker, Mara, knows some of the dangers of the grut and she knows how best to take them down. I had fun with this section, particularly in suggesting that one good target would be the center of a grut's chest--to reach its heart--"if indeed, it had one." Readers discover here that Mara is considered a terrific shot, but even then, she must use care not to come into contact with any of a grut's bodily fluids, as to do so would mean almost certain death.
An Oathtaker would never know when he or she might be called on to assist a member of the Select. Here, readers will learn that trained Oathtakers come prepared for the unexpected--and that they carry numerous weapons with them--including the unlikely, such as poisonous herbs. Having done a bit of herb gardening over the years, I've learned something about a number of them, including that they can be used for anything from healing (rosemary for a headache), to sleeping (chamomile for a before-bed tea) to killing (foxglove, for example). I had fun years back, doing a rather exhaustive study of herbs one could grow that were so dangerous that they could kill. It's amazing what dangers people have in their own backyards of which they are largely unaware. Readers here are also introduced to the Oathtaker's blade, a unique weapon about which they will learn more in due course.
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!
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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