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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Sunday Musings: How Much Should I Tell You?

The other day, I stumbled across a review on Amazon for one of my books. It was a one...maybe two star review on a book I tend to be rather proud of, so I went and took a look. Well, the reviewer had noted a glitch in the continuity. A big one. One I was aware of, my publisher was aware of, and we'd made the educated decision to leave in place. In the book "An Uncommon Whore 2: When I Fall, I reversed the names of Griffin's daughters. Did you notice? A few people did, but not many were terribly offended by it.

This reader was very offended. 

The actual error wasn't made in When I Fall, but in An Uncommon Whore. During the final review of the book, I read over Maya and Lauren's very brief scene and realized that for personal reasons, I couldn't name Griffin's little dark-haired, scarred daughter Lauren. So I changed the names in the final draft, not knowing they'd already sent the book in for formatting.

When the switch was found in WIF, it was early in the life of the book. We could pull it, switch the names back to the version I believed unacceptable and just go forward. Or...leave the inconsistency in place, since An Uncommon Whore had already been out for a long time. I knew I'd catch some flack but decided to leave the names as I intended to move forward with them. Lauren is the blonde, Maya the brunette. That is in the series bible.



The other issue this reader had is a more tricky one, and in series books, it tends to crop up. In this case, she questioned why Griffin (and Maya) never got their eyes and scars fixed. Since there were almost miraculous advancements in medicine, and the seemingly mystical Vash healers, why would I dump my world-building and not have them healed?

That's where the author has to balance what we share on the page with what's in our head. Every character has extreme character development before I start writing. Most of that information never makes it to the page. For example, Belle in Belle Starr is an alcoholic. When she winds up in a bar, that's a very dangerous place for her to be.

Here's another conundrum: Generally I don't tell people too much about what's in store, but for this reader, I did share a few details. Griffin's Eye is a dangling plot line I planned to pick up in Book 4. Its not a major plot line, but it's there.

So now you know. ;)

While I write in fantasy worlds, I try to keep at least one foot in reality. And I try to keep true to a character's psychological make-up and the limits of their world. In this case, Griffin's eye is in his Goal, Motivation and Conflict chart. At this point in the story, there's no real external force on Griffin to change his looks. Helios loves him without question. Even with the patch, the scars and the missing testicle, Griffin Hawke is beautiful in his way. The Somians always get the hots for him. His kids love him as he is. Maya, in particular, relates to him since her scars mirror his. At this point, Griffin doesn't care. So there's no internal motivation to fix it.

But this goes deeper.

During the seven years of searching for Helios, Griffin was working as a mercenary. Every penny he earned went home, to Neo Domus, where the citizens were literally living in the dirt. They were in crisis mode, and he'd have been terribly out of character to give an iota of care to his eye. He had a co-pilot, and in a pinch, Griffin can land or dock a ship. So the eye wasn't an issue.

How about later? During When I Fall, when he was so badly injured? The Vash healers performed miracles...why not heal his eye and testicle?

Now we get down to world building. 



The Vash are organic healers. Its in their DNA. They use psychic abilities to spiritually *enter* a patient's body, to map their nerves, their veins and muscles, on a cellular level. They can coax damaged tissue to heal. In Prince of Faith, they literally save Caius from brain trauma. Within their own species, their skills are almost unlimited. BUT they cannot fix what is no longer there. They could probably smooth scars, but they cannot regenerate missing body parts. They are not omnipotent. They have limits.

There must be limits. No one can be all-powerful. The Vash are powerful in that way, but they are poor fighters, rotten strategists, too kind and they are nocturnal...they burn easily and can't see in bright light. And they can't manifest a body part, no matter how amazing they are.

What about cloning? Or robotics? Well, there's a very good chance that the cloned eye would be non-functional. It would be a massive undertaking with a lot of related pain just for the sake of vanity. Griffin is not vain. Maya is too young for that sort of reconstruction, so its not relevant for this story.

While writing When I Fall, I felt that every single primary character in the book was suffering PTSD. In Griffin's case, he was finally in a safe, stable environment, and suddenly, he was re-living the horror of the Landaun attack. He'd been widowed, saw the public torture (and presumed execution) of his best friend and forced to witness the torture of his daughters. His own pain was a side-note in the psychic agony he suffered. What was vital in that book was his journey toward acceptance of the tragedy of his life, and faith in Helios and his future. During When I Fall, his missing eye was irrelevant.

No, that's not true. Like many of us, we cling to our scars and our mementos of pain. He looks in the mirror and he never forgets what was done to him. When he looks at his daughter, he can't forget what happened to her. Those scars are his sigil. To him, they shout: Never Again! Never Forget! Yet at some point, Griffin will have to let that go. He will have to address Maya's scar someday.

And that, my friend, is Maya's story.

 I can explain these things in the comfort of time elapsed, but the review would have stung if I'd read it earlier. It shows me that I did not do an adequate job of showing why Griffin's eye wasn't important in the story. I wasn't clear in my world building. I should have looked at An Uncommon Whore more closely on the release day. Those are my errors and we all make errors. Hopefully, I will learn from this one, and not assume that every reader is going to read my mind and know why a story element wasn't expanded on or addressed.

And those are my musings for today. :) Hope you have a great weekend! If you're curious about When I Fall, you can pick up a copy here:

http://www.amazon.com/When-Fall-Uncommon-Whore-Book-ebook/dp/B005UREUJU

And its on SALE!

Happy Tails!

Belinda


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

There Are Gods Among Us!



The Tenth Muse is now available to pre-order at Pride Publishing! You can order both the e-book and the paperback early, right here:

https://www.pride-publishing.com/author/belinda-mcbride

The Aphrodite Project is a brand new series at a brand new (to me) publisher! This series is a contemporary fantasy, where we follow the adventures of young Greek gods and Aphrodite's attempts to keep them from exposing the existence of the Pantheon to unsuspecting humans. This first case is all about her own son, Eros:

BLURB:

In a wicked game, the God of Love falls to his own arrow, and a gentle scholar learns how dangerous knowledge can be.
Aphrodite has had it.
It was bad enough that her son Eros walked a fashion show in drag, but did he really have to show the entire world his wings? Desperate to rein in the impulsive young god, she recruits the scholarly muse Rees to lure him back to Olympus until the scandal dies down.
After hundreds of years, Eros has finally located the reincarnation of his former love, Psyche. The only way to her heart is through fame, so the God of Love plans a daring campaign to win her back. Yet the closer he gets to Psyche, the more he’s drawn to a geeky young professor who came crashing into his life.
Eros drags Rees into his wicked world of high fashion and risqué parties, only to expose him to danger from an unexpected source. When Rees’ secrets come out, they threaten to destroy Eros’ love for him. Yet when Rees is kidnapped, Eros is forced to turn to the woman who set this catastrophe in motion—his mother, Aphrodite.
Reader Advisory: This book contains some scenes of kidnapping/captivity and graphic scenes of death and violence. This book also contains references to/discussions of rape.



EXCERPT:

“Oh, Eros…you fucking little son of a satyr…you’d better not—oh…ohhhh—”
Rees staggered back from the anachronistic machine on his studio workbench and pressed the heels of his hands over his eyes. He was firmly caught between swearing and laughing hysterically. Because what he’d just witnessed on the computer… He was grateful to be alone. It was bad. Very bad.
When Zeus finds out about this, lightning bolts will fly.
He shook his head in resignation and returned to the laptop his sister had brought him. He wasn’t sure what powered the thing, or by what magic it connected with the human world, but he’d fallen in love with the device on first sight.
But now he was cursing the screen. Because he didn’t want to witness Eros’ mind-bending, skull-crushing, cross-dressing misadventure. Still, he bit a knuckle, leaned closer to the monitor and almost stopped breathing. Rees had never met Eros in person, but was familiar enough with his image to know that the man moving down a long stage wearing nothing but women’s underwear was the darling son of Aphrodite, who just happened to be Rees’ mother’s closest friend.
It was like a train wreck, as the humans would say, and Rees couldn’t look away.
Eros sauntered, his body wrapped in a complex black corset, his privates barely hidden behind a filmy triangle of black silk. His muscular ass was bare and pale as that of a marble statue.
“Eros, I don’t know where in hell you’re hiding your balls, because they must be big as a Minotaur’s.” Rees felt heat in his face and knew he was blushing.
The camera cut tight to the god’s beautiful face. He looked wicked and sexy under a glistening mask of elaborate makeup. Bolts of silver and blue slashed across his face and down his neck. His long blond hair defied gravity, standing in a wild halo around his head.
His legs were buckled into black leather boots that rose to his thighs.
And he was wearing a bra.
Rees groaned again, chagrin mingling with reluctant arousal.
The air crackled with power as Rees’ sister entered the room. He didn’t turn to look at her, still mesmerized by the computer.
“By Hades’ whiskers…is that Eros?”
Rees nodded. “Yes. I think this is happening now.”
“Rees, that’s the Dark Angel’s live telecast. It’s one of the biggest fashion shows in the world!” Like his other eight sisters, Calliope spent most of her life walking among humans, whispering inspiration in the ears of artists, writers and musicians. She was frighteningly familiar with human culture.
“Do you suppose he hijacked that outfit from one of the girls? Because I know damned well that there’s never been a male Angel before.” She leaned down, looking closer at the screen.
As if in answer to her question, the camera panned back, showing a stunned audience and a parade of beauties who looked angry, resentful and outraged. In the audience, one particularly lovely woman was laughing helplessly.
“That’s Rosalinda, she’s one of the top models in the world. It’s nice to see her laughing.”
He kept an eye on the screen as he spoke to his sister. “Calliope, how likely is Ares to find out about this? Unless I’m way off, Eros is using his own wings. He’s just charmed the color to black.”
“Gods.” Calliope went sober. “When Ares gets hold of his son, he’ll make the maenads look like Orpheus’ maiden aunts.”
At the mention of the ill-fated god, Rees went breathless. He felt slightly sick. The brutal death of Orpheus was now a legend, one made resonant in its horror. The maenads were bad enough, but frighteningly, Ares was worse.
“Ares.” Rees shook his head. “He comes here sometimes, badgering warriors into rebirth. I’ve kicked him out more than once.”
“I don’t envy you.” Calliope gave a delicate shudder. “When he holds a grudge, he holds it close to his heart.”
On the screen, the shots faded to a scrolling list accompanied by music. Putting Ares from his mind, Rees studied the names, committing them to memory. Calliope reached around and closed the lid of the machine, and he glared at her. With a final glance at the computer, he followed her to the balcony that looked out over the streets below and leaned forward, resting on his elbows.
Strains of music rose on the sweet air, gently competing with the song of myriad birds as they flitted from tree to tree. Laughter echoed as the residents of the Elysian Fields wandered, serene in their eternal peace. There was no rebirth for Rees’ people, no more sadness and pain. They’d learned all they needed from their earthly lives and had chosen to drink the water of memory. They chose Paradise.
Everything was perfect here. Except when Ares came around to muck it all up.
Calliope tilted her head, peering at a handsome man below. “Is that Archilochus the Poet?”
“It is. I was pleased, though puzzled, that he opted to remain here.”
His sister laughed merrily. “Given that irreverent poem about abandoning his shield, I’m sure he still has Spartans after his head.” Her smile was slow to fade. Clearly she had a fondness for the poet.
“He does tend to stir strong emotion…even here.”
“That’s your kind way of saying that he pisses people off.” She squeezed his arm gently.
If there were reincarnated Spartans after Archilochus, he’d be fairly safe here, though he’d eventually become bored. Warriors and adventurers rarely chose the Elysian Fields. Hercules, Achilles and Jason had all chosen Hades and rebirth. Men and women of passion returned to their rocky human lives, leading Rees to one conclusion—life in Paradise was dull. He had no doubt Archilochus would eventually petition Hades for rebirth.
Rees looked down at the residents of heaven and had an epiphany—he did not belong in the Elysian Fields. Those men and women had struggled and fought for their peace. In all his existence, Rees had faced no decision more difficult than what shade of blue to paint the sky or which turn of phrase most perfectly described the serene beauty of Athena.
And he didn’t particularly like Athena.
He sighed heavily. What to do? He’d once approached his aunt Aphrodite about working on Earth with the hunters she employed. That hadn’t gone well. Aphrodite had politely considered his request then moved on to visit his mother, leaving Rees feeling rather silly. When she had men like Zagerus the Shadow working for her, what need had she for a second-rate muse?
Rees was an ornament. He was lovely to look at, gifted at entertaining and always said the right words at the right time. His skill with the sword and bow were flawless, though he’d never seen battle. His strategic abilities were legendary…in the chess circles. He knew nothing of the other world, yet he ached to learn, to prove himself.
“Brother?”
Barely hearing his sister, he turned and stared behind him, into the rooms where he lived his endless life.
His studio was a vast, airy space peopled with exquisite statuary and colored with paintings and frescoes. Walls were lined with books ranging from truly ancient scrolls to the latest literary offerings from Earth. A large set of double doors opened into a small amphitheater where he lectured.
One wall held his most cherished possessions—a collection of ancient lutes, many too ancient and fragile to play. Not that he’d ever tried. When he held the lute, his usually skilled hands went numb and stupid.
“Rees?”
“Calliope.” He took her hands in his and leaned in to kiss her soft cheek. Like all his sisters, she was beautiful. Exquisite. After all, the Muses were the inspiration for some of the greatest minds ever to have lived. Their faces graced paintings by great masters, their forms were immortalized in marble. Words describing their beauty danced through the years in verse and song.
He led her to a low chaise, and with a wave of his hand, a tall glass of wine appeared, its surface beaded with chill water. She took the glass and sipped, pleasure brightening her face. They sat quietly, for they’d existed so long in harmony that the siblings simply enjoyed each other’s company. He gazed at her in appreciation, taking in the soft golden curls nestling around her face and neck and the gentle brown eyes that were the mirror image of his own.
Those eyes were sad.

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Saturday, February 6, 2016

First Friday in February

I had an adventure last night, but I lost Internet and couldn't share as it was happening.

First, my sister likes to fry food and will put pans of grease in the oven (!! I know!!) till the oil cools. Which is a fire hazard, so I generally take them out and discard the grease.

Last night, I poured the grease into a container and washed the pan, forgetting to seal the container and take it to the trash. And yes, Levi and Pai Mei had a bacon fat snack. Since Levi is prone to Negritudes and they're both old, I was up worrying about them and their gurgling bellies.(so far, so good) 
 About eleven o clock I heard all sorts of banging and crashing at the neighbor's house. We live on acreage so I couldn't see what was happening, but I did notice flashlights in the darkness...and then fire near my fenceline. Fire that accelerated very fast. So I hustled my sick dogs back in  the house, grabbed a flashlight and marched out there in my pajamas and sweatshirt.
 Oh...BTW...they also have a grow out there. So my courageous move was a little stupid.

I got to the fence and there are about ten young people...maybe high school seniors, and they've dumped a truckload of pallets at the back of their property and were building a massive bonfire.

I told them that I was NOT happy about bonfires near my brushy property in the middle of the nigh and made them swear they had a hose. (I doubt they did)  Then I marched back to the house and texted a friend with Cal Fire to see if it's legal to have a bonfire in February.

As it turns out, it is and since they were polite and not noisy, I opted not to call the sheriff. Today I will report them for burning treated wood, which is illegal.

So yes, up till the wee hours, checking on the fire and walking sick Siberians.

Who are now fine.