Tag Archives: kevin hearne

Excerpt from “The Hawthorne Grove”: A Saint Patrick’s Day Writing Gift

This piece is an excerpt from a WIP tentatively titled The Hawthorne Grove, featuring a young girl named Marwyn Killeen, who discovers that her thirteenth birthday brings intangible gifts of magic, and a new world, parallel to the one we live in, along with it. I’ll leave the rest for you readers to discover, but the focus of the story will be on Irish myth and Celtic druid lore from Ireland. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Happy Saint Patrick's Day from the Hills of Tara in Co. Meath, Ireland.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day from the Hills of Tara in Co. Meath, Ireland.

The Hawthorne Grove

Even as a little girl, the moonlight fascinated me. It was cool and rejuvenating compared to the sometimes blistering heat of the sun’s rays. In my dreams every night, the moon didn’t reflect the sunlight; she stole it from the sun, transforming her silvery beams into a veil bridging two places.

I saw my first glimpse of the Otherworld only a few days after my 13th birthday on my way home from my favorite bike trail. The full moon was low enough in the sky that I saw it shining between the massive tree trunks that lined the coast of Northern California. At the time, my parents were vaguely aware that I rode my new 10-speed mountain bike five miles to get to the entrance of the state park, and roam the trails until after dusk. My sister, Phoebe, and I were never given curfews for fear that our “creative spirit” would be crushed by the weight of over-bearing parents. No, my parents stayed blissfully ignorant of the fact that I spent more of the summer with the redwoods than my friends from school.

I rode my bike behind the staggering figure until he stumbled into a clearing that was used for campsites along the trail. Tents had popped up like weeds, invading every free patch of grass not being swallowed by the gigantic winnebagos that this summer’s horde of tourists brought with them. He looked like a gnome, a drunk gnome wearing clothes that were better suited for a Thanksgiving play than hot California weather.

“Honestly, who wears blue stockings and buckled shoes anymore?” I mumbled.

He passed the first couple campsites before “Mr. Gnome-aholic” ran headlong into a tree stump with a sickening thump and then tumbled backward onto the gravel path. I heard him grunt softly as he propping himself into a seated position using the same tree stump.  I quickly dumped my brand new bike on the path, and rushed over to see if he was hurt.

“Oh my god, are you okay?” I whispered.

You can imagine my surprise when I lifted the wool hat from his egg-shaped head to find no bruises or blood despite the loud crack it made seconds earlier. His eyes snapped open when he felt the cool air on his head, trying to cover the pointed ears and wisps of copper hair sticking out in all directions. He grabbed for his hat with long, thin fingers and an empty bottle slipped from his grasp onto the ground.

“It’s okay,” I said, my voice as calm as possible. “I just wanted to make sure you weren’t bleeding.”

“Clurichaun do not bleed from a bump on the head,” he said in a loud,. “Keep your hands off me, child.”

It seemed odd that he would be ashamed of pointy ears, but my only references to gnomes are Disney movies, so what do I know? Guessing by the sound of his accent, I assume a clurichaun is a type of Irish gnome—a pointy-eared, drunken Irish gnome.

“Sorry,” I said, sarcasm resonating in my voice. “I guess gnomes don’t bleed when they get hurt.”

The man jumped to his feet, his pudgy face as red as his hat. He barely reached three feet in height, making his anger more comical than terrifying. It took every ounce of willpower not to laugh at him. No need to make the little guy more uncomfortable.

”Gnome?” he yelled. “To hell with you for thinkin’ I’m one of those blithering eeijits. They be teachin’ you little birds to mock the fae instead of respect us.”

“Mr. Gnome-aholic” wobbled on his leather shoes over to the brown bottle, and glanced over his angular shoulder at me as if I was going to steal his empty recyclable. Maybe he’s an environmentally friendly gnome. Then again, they’re all probably conscious of picking up after themselves if they live in the woods.

With a flourish of his long fingers, the brown bottle shimmered in the dim light, filling with a fragrant liquid and he took a generous gulp before securing the bottle in one of his coat pockets.

“Did you just?” I asked, motioning to the bottle. “Fill that back up without…”

He turned on his heel to face me again, the fury replaced by an unsettling grin on his tiny face. I couldn’t help, but think that he had shown me his little trick on purpose.

“Are you going to tell me your name? Or do I have to guess like Rumplestilkin?”

“Ha,” he laughed, a sharp cackle breaking the evening’s silence. “That wee tale gets me every time. As if a name could cause the world to swallow me up. My name is Sloane, clurichaun of the Northwest.”

The small man bowed so deeply that he nearly lost his balance again, so I reached out to steady him. Once he righted himself, I dusted off the blades of grass indented into my knees, and with the help of the leftover tiki torches, I surveyed the area to find no one in the immediate camp had bothered to check on the tiny man yelling outside.

“I’m Marwyn Killeen, teenager of Myer’s Flat.”

“Well met now, aren’t we?” Sloane said, his tenor voice slurring the end of his sentence. “Since you feigned an interest in my well-being, you may take me to the nearest vineyard.”

“Well, Fruitlands is on the way to my house.Would you prefer my back pack or the front of the bike?”

A huff escaped Sloane as he said, “Do you take me for a pet? I shall ride in front.”

I shrugged my shoulders and picked my bike from the gravel waiting for him to climb on. Who am I to judge? The backpack would be a safer option, but he has so much pride for such a little person.

“Suit yourself,” I said.

With one hand on his hat, and the other holding the handlebars between his legs, I pushed the bike back onto the dirt path towards home.

“So if you’re not a gnome,” I said, “What are you?”

Sloane turned to face me with a wide grin more mischievous looking than the Cheshire cat. It stirred something in me–a kind of acceptance that he recognized something within me that I didn’t know I had. If it was meant to reassure me, it didn’t.

”Ah excellent question, my dear, but that answer you will have to earn in time,” he said, his voice soft and secretive all of a sudden. “Even if your hair does not burn with power, there is something in you, child.”

The way he talked was so strange; even with his strong Irish accent, he sounded as if he belonged in another era. Since we weren’t going to reach my neighbor’s vineyard for at least another two miles of back roads, I figured I might as well keep the conversation going.

“What do you mean my hair doesn’t burn?” I asked, glancing down at my brown curls. “If it burned I wouldn’t have any.”

He must have enjoyed the confusion on my face because the next high-pitched cackle knocked him off balance and almost fell from the handlebars onto the ground.

“You have much to learn about the world, little bird,” he said once he regained his composure.

*****

There you have it, folks. A glimpse into a new story that’s been brewing in my mind since I started reading The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne. By the way, you should check out the first book in that series, Hounded, if Celtic or other major myths interest you.

As a writer, I appreciate any thoughts on the overall feel or impression of the story/characters. I know I want to write the story, but I also would benefit from knowing if people want to read it.

Before I forget, here are a few kitty pictures to start off the day. Happy Reading and Writing!

Bengal cat! Love her!

Bengal cat! Love her!

"I lay between your legs because it makes you uncomfortable. You're Welcome."

“I lay between your legs because it makes you uncomfortable. You’re Welcome.”

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Not So Trivial Pursuit of the Perfect Book: Pop Culture Edition

Hello, my minions!

I mean lovely blog readers and internet surfers!

I mean lovely blog readers and internet surfers!

Welcome one and all to the first ever edition of Not So Trivial Pursuit, a series of blog posts dedicated to the finer points in making a novel truly loved by its readers. Anything from what I’m struggling with in my current work in progress to what excites me about my favorite series.

The further I get into Dollhouse Daughter, the more I discover the complications of writing a novel set in modern day United States. While the novel began with an even more complicated setting (Revolutionary War era London), the ultimate debate dawned on me:

TO POP CULTURE OR NOT TO POP CULTURE

That is the question, so to speak. It may be an issue for the rewriting/editing process, but in the midst of my creative flow the question kept popping up. Is a pop culture reference a good choice here? Will readers understand  or even care that the yellow umbrella  in chapter 3 is a vague reference to How I Met Your Mother?

Some of the best novels that I’ve read over the years have used pop culture both to enhance the novel and add a distinction to the characters. One of the most recent examples is The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare, where the “mundanes” use pop culture references that characterize the Mundanes and Shadowhunters as two groups of young adults coming from different worlds. It makes it easy to distinguish the characters with the use of pop culture, and it sometimes gives insight into the author.

While I can’t say much for Cassandra Clare’s love of pop culture, I know the author of one of my favorite series brings pop culture in from his own life. Kevin Hearne is a self-titled comic book collector and nerd, which makes him one of the most qualified authors to use pop culture in his writing. His book series, The Iron Druid Chronicles, is graciously populated with so many pop culture references that in any other setting it may be overwhelming. However, Hearne uses them in a purposeful and entertaining way.

Atticus O’ Sullivan is the 2100-year-old Druid that the series is based on and he has had plenty of time to acquire the knowledge of popular culture during his stay in the United States. From The Big Lebowski to Shakespearean insults, Hearne holds nothing back, and as a fan girl I appreciate his efforts. I have tried to space out my reading of the reading; well, space it out as well as my paltry willpower goes.

At the same time, Hearne is the prime example of how pop culture can add layers to a character. Atticus is 2,00o years old, and to conceal his identity he must blend in with the times. In this case, he must blend in with the nerdy subculture most 20-something’s hold near and dear to our hearts. It also makes it easy for us, as readers, to dive into a story rich with mythology and Celtic lore.

So, for my novel, I thought that it would help my readers to get to know me as a person as well as my characters. Cassie, my MC, is a Japanophile (new word, learned while watching King of the Nerds on TBS). In other words, she loves all things Japanese or about Japan. This ranges from anime, manga, food, and even an unhealthy obsession with Hello Kitty. It’s something a general audience is familiar with and the sub-culture can relate.

Although there is a heart-wrenching fear whenever I think of how badly this whole pop culture reference thing could go, I think of one of my newest and most favorite authors. Fiona Skye is a rising star in a sea of urban fantasy. Her novel, Faerie Tales, follows a modern day exhibition of the magical world to humanity. Skye’s MC, Riley O’ Rourke is a fierce, in-the-know reporter, who just happens to be a werejaguar. Skye and Riley are the perfect example of a blossoming author using pop culture references to reinforce the strength of her characters and the intelligence of her audience.

I caught on fairly quickly with Skye’s light use of pop culture. It was just enough for me to get Riley (who is from Pittsburgh, so I felt especially close to her when she mentioned the Penguins) and the world in which she was living.

Ultimately, it was the help of Skye’s recently published book that convinced me pop culture was the best option for my novel. It doesn’t have to scream 2011 with the top 40 hits and the latest model of cell phone used, but I do think that my readers will benefit from the little easter eggs. I mean, who doesn’t want to get a line from Doctor Who in the middle of the book they’re reading. I know the geek inside me does!

So, we’ve established that using pop culture can be both beneficial and potentially hazardous if used too much or without purpose. I think I can place references in there, like the yellow umbrella, without it ruining the entire piece. It makes sense that someone who is immersed in the geek culture would transfer that love into their work. Why else would authors like George R.R. Martin be selling millions of books if his love of Tolkein didn’t show through his writing?

I don’t have to commit to everything or nothing right now. It’s not the “revise until my brain falls out phase” of editing or the part where I change out the crappy words in my book for much better choices. Right now it’s just establishing who I am as an author and how that voice should show through in my writing.

At this moment, the trivial use of pop culture is important to how I weave my story because without it, I lose the fundamental quirks that make my characters and my world different from the hundreds of books being published as we speak. In that sense, this could be a life changing decision for me and my manuscript.

For those of you writers out there with a setting of Earth, modern times, what do you think about pop culture references. Important or Trivial? A lot or A little?
I would love to hear what you think, so please comment below. Of course, that is after you check out my cute kitty pictures.

Who doesn't love a kitty reading a book!

Who doesn’t love a kitty reading a book!

Had enough of my super cute cat yet?

Had enough of my super cute cat yet?

Happy Reading and Writing!

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Even For a Writer-Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Reading?

Let me preface this post by saying, I am a certified bibliophile-lover of books, reading, and the process of making stories. Almost every waking minute I’m thinking about the books I want to read and the ones that I want to write. In my dreams, the books I love blur together into a giant collage of characters, scenes, and magical worlds. So, when my beloved Stephen King gives the following advice, who am I to disagree?
Courtesy of http://izquotes.com/quote/102677
Certainly not one of his dedicated constant readers, who marvels in the wonderment of his writer-ly glow.  But question him, I shall. In the paraphrased words of Socrates–  “Question everything, and then once you’ve questioned everything about your life, question the reason why you read so damn much!” Okay, maybe Socrates just meant to question all aspects of my life.

From the facebook group Fantasy and Sci-Fi Rock my World

From the facebook group Fantasy and Sci-Fi Rock my World

Yet, I feel compelled to bring up this subject because it has been bothering me for months. I love reading so much that if I go a day without reading, I feel like I’ve missed out on a part of my life like kissing a loved one or forgetting to pick a child up from school–it’s THAT important.

As a writer, one of the most important skills I need is to read and take away different tips or style from which I can improve my own work. At the same time, reading is so much more than simply finding out how to write well or form a good story. It’s about the passion I have whenever I find a book that truly speaks to my soul, one that makes me excited to wake up and read every day.

From the facebook group Fantasy and Sci-Fi Rock My World

From the facebook group Fantasy and Sci-Fi Rock My World

So, it shouldn’t be an issue that I read in almost all of my spare time, each time I sit down to eat, I have to read. There are times where I could spend hours lost in a well-conceived fantasy world and feel accomplished at how far I’ve gone, but does reading more often than writing help or is can reading too often be used as a way to procrastinate what you’re writing. Even now, I’m thinking about the next Game of Thrones book, the third installment of a childhood book series that I purchased months ago, or quickly buying the book for my next assignment.

All of these thoughts are easier than the revisions I just received from my mentor. Therefore, I pose the question: Is there a thing as too much reading?

Most people, including my inner self would say: No, you can never read too much, especially when it benefits your writing!

While this is incredibly true, I have to draw the line somewhere because I’ll spend the rest of my life making outlines and planning my beautiful ideas as I read other great works. It is high time I set a limit on myself. Since I have ample time once the school year is over, it’s time for me to crack down and say no to my pleasure reading. It’s one thing to read to learn and another to hide behind other authors to avoid my own work.

Please feel free to share your ideas on whether you think there is a limit to reading as a writing, especially if it allows you to procrastinate your own writing.

Now that I am on the topic of reading a lot, I must confess there are some hilarious quirks that us bookworms have. At a birthday party last weekend, I was making conversation with some new acquaintances and besides sharing our recently read list, we discussed how people approach us while reading. There is a very delicate way to talk to someone who is immersed in a book. Personally, I feel it is impossible to get my attention without enacting some type of weird primal rage while I’m reading. I read during my lunch at work, which sometimes means I’m reading at my little cubicle. I’ve only had interruptions a few times, but one of co-workers apparently received a very unhappy look when asking a work-related question on my “reading time”. As unintentional as the face may have been (because I didn’t see the horrified look I gave him), it goes to show how truly absorbed I can become in a book. Here to help put this behavior into perspective is another lovely photos from the Facebook group Fantasy and Sci-Fi Rock My World, who has supplied almost every photo I have used in the blog today.

From the facebook group Fantasy and Sci-Fi Rock my world

From the facebook group Fantasy and Sci-Fi Rock my world

Now if we could mass produce this lovely sketch to all of the world I’m sure many readers would be less like to be interrupted and no longer turn into feral creatures caught in a corner. I may be over-dramatizing slightly on that last bit, but the meaning is the same. Sometimes, there are books so fantastic, so mind blowing that we forget where we are and why shouldn’t we?

At times, my life is both scary and boring. Why should I be brought back into the realities of my impending revisions, assignments, and Monday mornings before I’m ready to leave the next Kevin Hearne or Neil Gaiman book? I shouldn’t! If you see a wild bookworm tucked away, leave the poor creature be. Spread the world, save the wild bookworm from extinction by letting them read. They will eventually come around.

From Fantasy and Sci-Fi Rock my world on facebook

From Fantasy and Sci-Fi Rock my world on facebook

Another very present issue is finding a comfortable position to read in. I have found it is much harder to find this with a physical book than using Nook on my phone. With my phone, it isn’t as heavy and even the thinnest paper backs are heavy when you’re holding them up. Here is another diagram to explain what I mean.

It’s like a stressful, non-exercise yoga. Someone (mainly engineers and physicists) need to design a chair specifically for long-term reading. So many chairs would be purchased! And they should probably have a tea/coffee dispenser, too. Just to make sure the reader is always stocked. Feel free to take my idea as long as I get a chair free of charge once it’s invented.

from the facebook group fantasy and sci-fi rock my world

from the facebook group fantasy and sci-fi rock my world

It’s both difficult and thrilling to be a reader and lover of books. People today still associate book reading with  obligatory school assignments and other non-enjoyable things like learning or singing showtunes (all of which can be incredibly fulfilling if given the chance).  However, one thing remains clear. For those of us who caught the reading bug early on, we know the best kept secret of all.

For me, it’s an escape and a lesson. I can escape to a world I’ve never experienced, people I’ve never met, but more importantly escaping into the deepest parts of me. Books help us to learn about ourselves in a world where anonymity and fake identities rule. It is a chance to be the princess or the knight without having to worry about someone telling you it’s not your place in the world. You can be whoever or whatever you want inside your favorite book.

From the facebook page Fantasy and Sci-Fi Rock my world

From the facebook page Fantasy and Sci-Fi Rock my world

All in all, readers seem more able to take on the world because we’ve been so many more places. How can you compare seeing the Empire State building when you’ve been to Mordor, King’s Landing, Idris, Tír na nÓg, and share them with people you’ve never met. Reality is such a tiny place compared to the vastness of fiction. Although this post began as a reason to reign in my reading craze, it is always important to focus on the reason why books make me crazy. They are powerful items, bound in paper and magic, with one purpose: to take you to a place where your imagination runs free.

I want to take the time to thank my wonderful friend Denise Drespling, who inspired me to write about questioning myself as she questioned hers in her first blog post. You should check her out because she is clever and talented. Check out Writer’s Block: Is it all Just Crap?

I leave you now with many thoughts and one last hilarious picture. Happy reading and writing my loves!

From the facebook group Fantasy and Sci-Fi Rock my world

From the facebook group Fantasy and Sci-Fi Rock my world

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