Meet the Author and Her Characters

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On Sept. 2014 I started working with Mill City Press to publish a fantasy adventure novel. As you see from the title, it’s a dragon tale that takes place in an original otherworldly setting. The story germinated for quite a while and now I am committed to its characters so much that I am 7,000 words into the book’s sequel, as of February, 2016.

The need to record my stories began in my childhood. I can remember the pleasure I felt writing them down on my Olivetti portable typewriter as soon as I mastered enough typing skills in Miss Purifoy’s 8th grade class (never forgot “The quick brown fox jumped over the fence to greet the lazy poodle” but that darn ‘x’ still forces me to hunt and peck).  Puppeteer that I am at heart, I have a strong storyteller gene. I hope it is turned on full-strength so that many more stories emerge from the vault of my imagination in the years to come.

Several adolescents propel the narrative in Malevir: Dragons Return. Nnylf, Azile, Alana, and Kurnan continue their adventures in the sequel. Kurnan, especially, has lived through some hard times and suffers greatly. I’m not inserting a spoiler by telling you that his troubles will challenge his young friends as they struggle to help him. The giant Rocanonom, topic of another blog (Backstory: Rocánonom the Giant) plays an important role in this story, which, as it unrolls, reveals more of the Malevir’s true nature. If you haven’t met these characters yet, you can buy your own copy in paperback or ebook on my website, www.malevir.com. Happy reading.

One of a Thousand Faces

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“There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.” Willa Cather
Yes, Willa, but each re-telling wears a different face and leads us to another place, perhaps never seen before, but somehow familiar. Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with One Thousand Faces and the works of Swiss psychologist Carl Jung propose that all stories, from the latest Star Wars film to Harry Potter’s epic, and Malevir: Dragons Return, present a hero, among certain archetypes. To quote Christophe Vogler, “The theme of the hero myth is universal, occurring in every culture, in every time; it is as infinitely varied as the human race itself; and yet its basic form remains the same, an incredibly tenacious set of elements that spring in endless repetition from the deepest reaches of the mind of man.” (http://thewritersjourney.com/hero’s_journey.htm#Practical)
The hero’s journey involves a call to adventure, a break with the ordinary and every-day that leads to a personal transformation brought about by challenges and temptations. In the end, the hero finds redemption and returns to his origins. The narrative of Malevir: Dragons Return pretty much follows the sequence of Campbell’s “monomyth” theory; but it features more than one hero. Recently, I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Waiting for the previews to end, I wiggled in my comfy cinema seat with the expectation that I was about to see another “guy” film, an adventure story in which female characters would be more a distraction than a vital element of the tale. Instead, I met a cadre of heroes, Finn, Poe, and Han Solo; Rey and Leia Organa—three men, two women all at different stages of their quests.Rey is a tough and resilient fighter with hidden power; she mirrors a character I created in my novel, Azile, the young teenager who becomes increasingly aware of her own powers. Both young women experience a transformation as their characters develop.
Quoting Vogler again: “The repeating characters of the hero myth such as the young hero, the wise old man or woman, the shape-shifting woman or man, and the shadowy antagonist are identical with the archetypes of the human mind, as revealed in dreams. That’s why myths, and stories constructed on the mythological model, strike us as psychologically true.” The Force Awakens’ psychologically shape-shifting Kylo Ren, a diminished version of Darth Vader, and his mentor, the Supreme Leader, Snoke, provide chilling antagonists to our heroes, so like the Malevir as he plots and carries out his designs on Azile and her brother; but you’ll have to read the book to find out how the beast does that.

Illustration credit: Sir Thomas, Knight of the Kind Thoughts Thinking Circle (aka T.)

No Kidding

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Nnylf and Azile, two characters featured in Malevir: Dragons Return, live in Fossarelick, a small village in the Veiled Valley. In many ways, the village resembles its medieval English counterpart, but has no manor house or overlord to impose rules, customs, and taxes. Nnylf and Azile may have played in Fossarelick’s dusty lanes when they were small, but as the adolescents we meet in the novel’s early chapters they have left behind their childish ways. It’s amazing that they have survived their childhood, given frequent threats of illness, injury, and attacks; but magic flows throughout their valley and counteracts what would have amounted to potentially lethal experiences for their medieval analogs.

In fourteenth-century England, boys went to work at age seven and could be punished as adults for their crimes. Men reached their prime in their twenties and grew old in their forties, while a woman was an adult at age seventeen (Chaucer referred to a thirty-year-old woman as “winter forage”). Life in Fossarelick, agrarian and cooperative, by contrast, is less harsh than in “Olde” England, although here, too, children grow up quickly. Their parents need help at home and in the fields. The village’s egalitarian culture has counted on everyone, regardless of gender, to contribute to the community’s survival through hard work and mutual aid.

However, the Malevir’s attacks on the Veiled Valley change that culture radically. Men become dragon-hunters while women and children remain in the village, surrounded by neglected fields and facing daily scarcities, anger, and resentment. In these circumstances, life in Fossarelick shares more of the miseries and inequities of a medieval English village; yet, a few inhabitants of Fossarelick, including the two adolescents, look for ways to restore peace and solidarity to their home. Nnylf and Azile’s search brings them to an unknown part of their region where they meet strange creatures and events that turn their expectations upside-down and alter their lives forever.

 

 

A Tale of Two Novels

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I’ve just finished reading Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, Book One: Childhood, Adolescence (Europa Editions, 2012). One sole point of view, that of the narrator, Lenu, furthers the story. Vacillating between admiration, fear, and envy of her first and dearest friend, Lila, she reveals an intimate picture of life in a poor suburb of Naples, Italy, with all its intricate relationships, codes of behavior, and cultural inhibitions. In the end, we learn how Lenu and Lila confront their personal ‘monsters”–Lenu through her own talent, ambition, and courage learned through her friendship with Lila.

While masking actual motivations–although one can guess at them–the narrator describes Lila’s behavior and thoughts so well that we assume she must be the brilliant friend of the novel’s title. The book’s last chapters upend that assumption and a few more.

I’ve written Malevir: Dragons Return with many points of view advancing the narrative and they all contribute to the reader’s assumptions about its eponymous villain. The book ends on a note of uncertainty, raising questions about the Malevir’s true nature. Driving the narrative with his threats and attacks, the beast terrifies the population of the Veiled Valley. As Aindle, he shifts between different shapes to help him achieve his aims; yet, on the last page, all the reader’s assumptions about his essence crumble. As I work on the sequel. I’m enjoying playing with these open questions, just as I enjoyed the plot twist in Ferrante’s last two paragraphs, which, of course, compels me to read the next one, The Story of a New Name.