Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Winter 2012 in Washington and Environment in Story

Yup, it's winter in Washington. And I'm not talking rain. Honestly, it's up to my kneecaps out there now. These are a couple of pictures I took this morning.

I checked my picture folder and the last one I have labeled for snowfall in Washington is 2008. Luckily, I went grocery shopping just a couple days ago, I have all my techie stuff on chargers just in case. And I've backed up my working folder onto my Seagate in case I end up needing to work from my netbook, which has about a 6-8-hour battery life. Oil lamps in place, batteries newly purchased. Think we'll be fine. Snow is still falling, Marley does not want to go out as the snow is over her head, so here we are tucked away inside. Thought I'd do a blog now, just in case reception gets a little funky later.

The forecast is that it's supposed to taper off later, so we'll see. Snow doesn't often last a really long time, usually turns to rain, but that's when it can get a little tricky. I like the snow, not so much on the icy stuff. Makes me glad that these days I work at home. A real good day to hunker down and just get to the writing. Though I just got in a story to edit last night, so may pick that up today and get to the editing.

The other thing I like to do on "special" days like this is go outside and take pictures. Or just stand outside and experience the weather. It comes in handy when it comes time to write about weather, and the look of things, the feel, the smell. Remember it, use it, draw out the environment in story.

Not too long ago I wrote a fairytale-based story, "Poppy Rider and the Glass Shards," which tales place in Washington and then mostly near the North Pole and really cold weather.

Lou opened up the reddish binoculars and gazed off into the distance. As he studied the landscape, he adjusted the sliding brass scale. Poppy saw three beams of red light emit from the instrument and as she watched and Lou adjusted, the beams intersected to form one straight line. He then locked the reading into place.

"Ah, now we have it." He looked at the reading. "The location of the Fantasmic Corridor is always shifting. In this part of the world hardly anything ever stays the same." He held up the instrument. "This is a fantasnigator and helps to fix the current position of the corridor. Now we can be off."

He put the fantasnigator away and then, pressing a button, he started the motor. He expertly steered out into the waters, passing through channels littered with bits of ice looking like jagged shards of white gleaming glass. Poppy leaned over the side to scoop up one of the pieces that looked slightly different from the rest. It appeared to be an actual piece of looking glass.

"This isn't ice, is it?" she asked, holding it up for Lou to see. He slowed the boat, quickly glanced down at the shard in her hand, then out at the sea of pieces scattered across the surging dark blue water. He idled the boat and then donned a pair of round red-colored spectacles and studied the sharp piece more closely.

"Just what I thought," Lou said. "This one is a piece from the goblin's broken mirror. Dangerous and you shouldn't be handling it."

"You mean that magic mirror that Moira told us about?" Poppy asked.

"Yes. Good thing you have your gloves on. If it had cut you, we might have been in for a whole other set of problems." Lou reached beneath the seat and pulled out what looked like a green fishing tackle box. He opened it and tossed the piece inside. "Don't want anyone else coming into contact with it. Then he took off his glasses and turned his attention back to steering the boat out across the water.

The air was brisk, but probably not close to being as cold as it would have been had they tried this in the middle of winter. And, of course, the drug apparently helped with their body temperature.

It was an eerie feeling as they glided through the still waters, the ghostly presence of icy glaciers surrounding them. Lou said they were headed to a place called Snowy Inlet. From there they would trek across the ice to the location of the Fantasmic Corridor.

Poppy saw a white bird soaring overhead, wings outstretched, and she surmised most of the animals blended in almost seamlessly with the arctic environment.

Lou docked the boat and they got out. Poppy had thought there was a barrenness to the environment before--but here it was a stark isolation that went far beyond anything she knew. The land was so vast--open and big and pristine. Beautiful and yet frighteningly desolate.

"Here, take these," Lou said. He handed each of them a set of lightweight black goggles with red eyeglass, similar to what a swimmer might wear. "Put them on when I tell you. It's the only way you'll be able to navigate the Corridor, both going in and coming out.

Thirty minutes later, goggles in place, Poppy was shocked when she suddenly saw a kaleidoscope of colors erupt in front of her eyes. If felt like she was wearing a pair of those strange sixties psychedelic spectacles, except there was only one area where the odd aurora borealis-like imagery appeared. If she looked in other directions she saw white ice and blue sky and water.

"This is weird," Gray said.

Poppy peered down the strange Corridor of undulating lights. She finally realized that there were several entry points along the corridor and each was a different color, yet distinctly at odds from the undulating lights in the sky.

"Do you see them?" Lou asked.

"You mean the portals?" Poppy said.

"Yes, that's it."

"But which one do we go through? And more importantly how do we get back?"

"The goggles will help you to identify the correct gateway in order to return. Once on the other side, walk toward the sun and eventually a guide will meet up with you and escort you to the palace. The passageway you're looking for is sky blue. Just remember that. The other portals will take you to other realms and you don't want to go there. There are different rules to each realm. And it gets very complicated."

"This is just so strange," Poppy said. "I never would have guessed."

Lou turned and smiled at her. "You aren't supposed to guess. That's the whole point. Let's get your gear out of the boat and then you'll be on your way."

It took them the better part of another hour to get things organized and the small lightweight sled repacked. Will donned the harness for the first leg of the trip.

"Looks like you're all set," Lou said.

"How will we get back to you?" Poppy felt panic begin to set in. Lou put an arm around her and hugged her.

"You'll be fine. I'll know when you return. It's my job to know the comings and goings of the Corridor."

Lou hugged and kissed each of them before sending them on their way.

"Thank you for everything, Lou," Poppy said. Somehow within the last twenty-four hours Lou had become an integral part of her family and she hated the thought of leaving him behind.

He grinned. "My part is finished and yours is beginning. But I think it's me who should be thanking you. You're marvelous, Poppy. I'll miss you." His look took them all in. "I'll miss all of you." There was a twinkle in his eye that had Poppy blushing. Well, she had to admit her time in Griesefiord had been quite a rare and pleasant interlude.

Poppy, Will, and Gray headed toward the blue portal that wavered as though caught in a breeze that didn't seem to originate in this world.

"Well, I guess this is it," Poppy said. She took a deep breath and then stepped toward the blue gateway.

"No," Will said as he grabbed her arm and stopped her from being the first to pass through the portal. "I'll go first."

"It doesn't matter," Poppy said.

"It does to me." And then he moved ahead, dragging the sleigh behind him before she could argue further. He disappeared from view and for a moment Poppy panicked as she lost sight of him.

She quickly followed, and Gray brought up the rear. They found themselves in what looked like a long icy tube, the floor slick as ice. Pressure seemed to suck at Poppy, making it difficult for her to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other. Gray squeezed up next to her and grabbed her arm, guiding her forward. It was with a sense of relief that they finally reached the end of the tube and found themselves in a place vastly different and yet eerily the same as the world they had just left.

Once settled into this other icy realm, they removed the special goggles and replaced them with regular snow goggles. The first thing that struck Poppy was the stillness. A complete and utter silence. And then she turned her attention to the sky. Dark swirling clouds shot through with streaks of gold and red. The colors merged and separated, every now and then offering a glimpse of the fierce, almost blinding glow of an odd undulating orange sun.

"Well, I guess we go this way," Gray said as he shaded his eyes and looked up at the sky. "The sooner we're on our way, the faster we finish up and get back."

Weather and how we portray it in our stories is integral, whether it's dry and hot, moist and steamy, cold and wet. The environment must play into a story, into the character's actions, into their physical comfort or discomfort. Into their heightened senses and awareness. How does their body react to the environment? If they are a species other than human what effect does weather have on them? Or does it not affect them at all? Shock and anger, passion and depression, can all play a part on how the environment affects us--our mind and body often responding in unexpected ways. Each person may respond differently. Our body temperatures are not all the same. Just because we're human doesn't mean all respond the same to a given environment. Who is your character? Does she run around in winter without a coat on, like a friend of mine does? Does his temperature tend to run abnormally high? Also, keep in mind that at different times of the day, the weather affects us differently.

In winter, when I walk Marley at say 5 a.m., it's not all that cold, and the sky can be so clear and endless. Two hours later it's like the temperature has dropped significantly. It's freezing. It always feels odd to me how it does that.

When it's snowing I often feel like the noises and sounds tend to be muffled, softer. There's a quietness to the environment, it smells clean and brisk and inviting. It's energizing. But what about later in January when there's dirty snow and bits of ragged ice. There's a different sort of atmosphere.

Never ignore the environment. Make it come alive, weave it carefully and thoughtfully into the story to envelope the characters, and make the atmosphere come alive for readers as well.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Predators and Inspiration [Explicit Content]

You never know when, how, or where inspiration will strike. Amazingly, the inspiration for "Manimal Attraction," started early one morning around 7 a.m. when my husband called me to the kitchen window. "Bring your camera. Quick!" Who knew?

The image is fuzzy, and he was across the yard, but he looked pretty big, and sometimes common sense kicks in--I wasn't going outside. But the zoom picked up pretty well--enough to inspire a story which morphed into "Manimal Attraction." My thought was that he might be a hybrid. But with me have absolutely no experience with this predatory population, I wasn't certain. Looking back now, especially after having visited "Wolf Haven," the sanctuary that's nearby, the head does looked pretty coyote-ish. But he was not small. There's a wildlife sanctuary behind our house and the information says there's at least one coyote that we apparently have as a neighbor. I did call to report the sighting. Never did get a call back. Oh well, everybody's busy.

Anyway, back to the writing of "Manimal Attraction."

My first draft started out something like this:

It was by accident I saw him that morning. Big. Gray. Powerfully-built. His thick silvery coat gleamed in the early dawn light. He lifted his head to scent the air. Ears tipped forward, alert to the presence of any danger. Powerful shoulders and haunches. It appeared as if he thought all of the world belong to him–very much an alpha male secure in his dominion.

And that's what I saw outside my window. And I called it, "The Wolf." First drafts are after all, just first drafts. It morphed, of course, and things changed as I started to get into the story and the "what-ifs" and scenarios that writers tend to consider. And my muse had her say. The first lines of the story ended up starting:

“She’s the third one,” Sheriff Taggart Este said as he squatted down to catch an identifiable scent, his coyote shifter instincts fully engaged. It was there, just like with the others, but subtle and slightly elusive.

Yup, Taggart ended up being coyote, not wolf, and not a most loyal species perhaps by any means, nor is Taggart particularly trusting. But Taggart is extremely loyal to at least one other resident of Rapture Bay. That person is the mayor, and he's a wolf shifter by the name of Lash MacKenzie.

And the other complication. Abigail Pembroke was back in town to deal with her grandmother’s death. Abby—Lash’s former lover—descendent of the third Harmony—Lucinda. A woman Lash had not forgotten. Nor had Tag. Nor could they ever. She was a Harmony and now that the elders were dead it would be up to Lash, Tag, and Abby to take their place. Whether Abby wanted to or not.

Trust me, Abby doesn't want to return to Rapture Bay. But trouble's come to town, and on the winds of a series of murders, Abigail Pembroke returns to town. Abby, who hurt Lash deeply when she left. Coyote's don't forgive easily.

Abby could feel him close by. Not just him, the other one was near as well. But it was he who came first, he she was grounded to before the other.
Distance may have diminished the connection, but now that she's back, he's something she's going to have to contend with, and it's not going to be easy, because they're the last Harmonies left, and no one else has a hope of helping the residents of Rapture Bay.

Remember that line in the first draft? Yes, it made it's way into the final story, but you won't find it on the first page.

Morning came all too soon. Coffee. God, did Abby need a full pot of it right now just to get her going. And then she made the mistake of looking out the kitchen window.

He was standing there—truly a primal statement. And he was making it to her. She trembled, almost dropping the coffee mug as she stared at Lash, unable to take her eyes off him. How close she had come to shifting last night. Not that she’d ever allowed herself to shift before, she’d always fought the most elemental—that most innate call of her blood.

Big. Gray. Powerfully-built. A breeze ruffled the thick, gleaming silvery coat in the early dawn light. He lifted his head to scent the air. Ears pricked forward, alert to the presence of any danger. Powerful shoulders and haunches. His stature said the world belonged to him—very much an alpha male secure in his dominion.

Except he was in Abby’s backyard.

But it means more now. Now, we know who, and what he is, and we are connected to him.

But what about Taggart? How's he going to handle all this? His first loyalty appears to be to Lash--but what will he do to protect him? How far will he go? In this scene, he's all coyote predator.

Tag circled his desk and walked to Abby. He sensed her fear, her desire to retreat. He admired the fact that she stood her ground and faced him down. He purposefully stepped into her space. She stepped back. Something dark and dangerous reared its head inside him and he found himself herding her back to the wall.

Sexual heat surged through him. He knew Lash needed her—they both did in order to secure the barrier. But there was more to it than that. He yanked the handcuffs from his belt. Before she knew what hit her, he had her cuffed to the rack where his hat rested above, right next to his coat.

“Tag, what are you doing? Let me go.”

He drew closer, inhaled her scent.

“Did you fuck Brice just to irritate Lash?”

“Damn you, no. It was only lunch. He invited me.”

He slowly began to undo the buttons of her blouse and revealed the soft skin beneath. “Did he,” Tag murmured, his full attention on the pretty, soft skin he was revealing. “I wonder what he has in mind? Do you like him better than Lash? Maybe it’s not that you like him, but that he’s safer. Is that it? Did he convince you to go upstairs with him? Did he spread you out on one of those beds and eat you for dessert?”

He pulled out his jackknife and cut the fragile material of her bra, baring her breasts. He heard her inhale sharply. It wasn’t fear, it was desire, and the scent of it permeated the room.

He watched her breasts rise and fall with each deep breath. Dusky nipples puckered, so dark against her honeyed skin. He looked into her eyes. She looked at him, no fear evidenced in the wide stare she gave him. He fitted his hands to her narrow waist.

He dropped to his knees and as he leaned in he moved his hands to the hem of her skirt, slowly lifting it until he revealed her panty-covered pussy. He inhaled loudly, taking in her scent.

Things are definitely heating up in Rapture Bay, all because of one glimpse of a dangerous predator out my kitchen window.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Immortal Love and Mortal Humans

Currently reading the book, "Vampires" by Joules Taylor, and came across this like that got me to thinking.:

"The love of a vampire goes on forever, but the life of a human being is all too short."

I thought of the "Highlander" movie with Christopher Lambert and how Connor lost his loves through the ages due to human mortality. How do you address mortality in stories of the paranormal and supernatural?

I looked back at my story, "Body Parts," which deals with a Frankensteinian theme of a man, Athan, created by a couple who are scientists, Cornelius and Sheba Ransom. Thus the relationship is even more complex because this couple are not only his makers, but his lovers and his mentors. Athan refers to them like this:

“The Ransoms? They were my makers. They were my lovers. They were my family. All that I am is because of them.”

Sheba and Cornelius are mortal and through Sheba's journal we see the progression of their lives, the fragility of their mortality as Athan remains unchanged. Here's a passage from Sheba's journal regarding her concerns for her husband and for Athan.

"I am so very tired. Athan tries to bear the brunt of the responsibility on his shoulders, but there is only so much even he can do. Cornelius listens to no one.

I feel his mind has gone but there is no way to have him institutionalized. Even for the ramblings of a crazy man, someone might believe his words and seek to discover the truth. I cannot allow that to happen.

It is midnight once again and I cannot sleep for the decisions I have had to make. It tears my heart out but we have come to the end. I must do it for his own protection. I never would have thought it would come to this, but there is no other choice.

I can no longer remember my life before Cornelius, before the time I became his assistant. I cannot imagine my life if something were to happen to him. I could not go on. Not without him. I must see to his safety and that no more harm can be done, not only to him but by him.

Athan is for the most part self-sufficient and can take care of himself as long as he remains on the estate. I have taken care of matters so that he will be well cared for no matter what happens to us. Since his creation he has never left the grounds, except to go to the town. The outside world would never understand him and I fear would treat him ill. He must be protected at all costs. I do not wish to see him harmed. Because of this I will take steps to be certain our research will never come to light.

Two hours ago, he came to me and we discussed what must happen in order to protect Cornelius and our life here. Athan has taken it upon himself to prepare apartments in the west tower. He is seeing to the installation of the locks on the doors and the windows. There is no other way. I can’t stand the thought of it, but there truly is no other way to protect Cornelius from himself. Oh, God, how has it come down to this?

In youth we do not foresee the end. We think we shall continue forever. As Athan will do. He is the perfect embodiment of all we hold precious--youth, freedom from disease, and immortality. In Athan we have created perfection.

He came to me tonight and we spoke of what needs to be done both to contain Cornelius and to secure the estate. All through dinner we listened to the rantings of my husband, knowing we must bide our time for the moment. Tonight he is again to meet with the body thief to procure another corpse for his twisted deeds.

I sometimes wonder if it is Cornelius who has changed, or is it me? Is it that Athan fills all the void places inside me and I have no wish to delve further? Have I become too content with what we have achieved in Athan?

Sheba's responsibilities, her goal to tie up loose ends, weighs heavily on her shoulders. Her needs and her relationship to Athan have altered over the years from that of creator/nurturer to dependent/nurturee. And what of Athan? Can he understand human emotion? Korrie, a young research who has come to the Ransom estates to study their extensive library as that very questiom

“Do you know what love is, Athan? Outside of the primality of your instinctual drive for sexual intimacy? Do you understand that Sheba loved you? Have you ever loved anyone?”

He dropped his head forward and she couldn’t see his expression. He was quiet for a long time. Then he looked at her, and she saw the flashing emotion in his eyes. “I looked it up once. In the dictionary. I have felt protective of Dr. Sheba and Dr. Cornelius. I know I would have given my life to save them. I have felt lust for the lovers who have come to me for satisfaction. I have been grateful to the ones who have allowed me to expend. I have felt sadness at the deaths of those I have cared for.” There was a question in his eyes when he looked at her. “I don’t know if this is love or not. It seems sometimes to be such a fleeting, fragile emotion, elusive to me in some way. I don’t know if I can use just one word to describe my emotions for the people who have passed through this immortal existence of mine.”

“God, Athan, every time I’m near you, when you speak to me, when I listen to your words, I feel like I ‑‑” How did she tell him she fell deeper in love with him each time she was in his presence? He was the most fascinating and sensitive person she had ever met in her life.

“What, Korrie? You feel what?” He leaned across the small, circular mosaic table and pressed his lips to hers. It wasn’t a demanding kiss; it was soft and seductive. His large, warm hand cupped her jaw, a finger stroking along the lines of her chin. She was hypnotized by the odd lightning of his expressive eyes. “When I am with you, so deep inside you, I feel the frantic beating of your heart. I think this connection I have with you is something so special, so unique. It is a feeling, a peace, I have never known before.”

“I feel it, too, Athan,” she whispered. "

Korrie is young, another researcher who has come into Athan's life. She is mortal, just like Dr. Sheba, and he starts to fall in love with her. He understands the mortal frailty of humans, he understands that he has become something of a caregiver, a sentinel. Dare he love too deeply? His relationship with Korrie is different from what he had experienced with the Ransoms. He has learned to have a care for humans and unlike Frankenstein's monster he does possess a moral compass.

In Sheba's last days Athan cared for her fragile body with tenderness and compassion, even as he dealt with Cornelius's lost of clarity and fractured mind. Sheba's entry in her diary speaks of her relationship with Athan, an immortal created through science and alchemy whom she is emotionally attached to and dependent on. Though advanced in age at this point, Athan still makes her feel cherished and loved.

"They still come to Athan in the garden. I seem to live vicariously through them now when I watch the heat of their passion beneath my window. Particularly on those nights when he has just been infused by the electrophasm treatments and the electrical impulses surge through him deliciously. I remembered well the stunning shocks of ecstasy as we made love.

This body and heart can no longer stand up to that much voltage and so I am a voyeur now, and I remember how it once felt to have him inside me that deeply and to feel the jolts as he spent into my womb. I long for those days when he made me feel as immortal as he.

Yet he has not forsaken me entirely ‑‑ he will not allow it. And he still looks at me with love in his expression. Just last night, before he left for his laboratory to induce the electrophasm treatment, he came to me.

Without a word, but the look of determination in his eyes.

“Tonight,” he said, as he lifted me from my chair and carried me to the bed, “I will be inside you.”

I shivered with anticipation as he peeled back the layers of my nightgown. For this night I don’t feel the frailty of my body as Athan looks at me with passion and love. I allow him to do as he will, to again make me feel like a desirable woman in his arms.

“You are beautiful to me, Dr. Sheba. Never doubt your importance to me.”

I felt his hot, moist lips on my body and the flutter of passion blossomed inside me. Frail I may be, but the desire has not lessened. He took his time as though learning my body for the very first time, just as we had learned each other so many years ago. I twined my fingers into the locks of his thick, resilient hair. God, he was beautiful and would always remain so.

He reached for a bottle in the drawer of the nightstand and I smelled the scent of the special lavender oil he had created in the lab.

I flew above myself as he applied it liberally to my pussy and I felt his thick fingers press inside me. My beautiful Athan.

The scent of the lilacs reminded me of the garden and if I closed my eyes I could feel my youth and the moist earth beneath me as Athan entered me slowly.

He took a chance by allowing himself to bleed out the electrical energy and coming to me at his lowest ebb, but before he applied his treatment. He did this for me, so there could be no chance of a stray surge stopping this frail heart of mine."

And after Sheba's death he spends many year alone without the anchor of love and guidance, until another scientist walks into his life. Korrie, who is very different from Sheba. Korrie is drawn to the Ransom estate through the passionate entries in Sheba's journal.

Again, Athan will be presented with human mortality. Dare he take the risk of loving another human?

As a writer, how do you deal with mortality in your paranormal and supernatural stories? As a reader, what do you like to see when it comes to the human condition versus immortal quotient? Handling the mortality issues can give a whole other layer and character dimension to story in my opinion. There is a very fragile balance whether it's a vampire, a faerie, a superhero, or some other larger than life creature. When dealing with humans it involves many complications and complexities, a possible heartbreak. Bringing someone "over" should never be an easy decision or a simple journey. Like any birth, death, and rebirth, there is pain and refashioning attached to the evolution of humanity.