Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Beautiful Sarah and Hasón

Beautiful People is a series of questions you ask your characters to answer as a way to get to know them better. It comes from the blog Further Up and Further In, which I’ve begun to follow and occasionally comment on.  I first saw this set of question in March. They were repeated again in April (just this past Sunday, in fact). They are questions meant for a couple or pair of Protagonists. So who better for me to use than Sarah and Jason, now known as Hasón (aka the Spanish pronunciation of Jason).

Now, before I start grilling them, there are two important facts for people who don’t know Sarah and Hasón, my Phoenixes of Vervell.  First off; Sarah is from our world, which is on the brink of, and then collapses into, World War III. Secondly; Hasón is from another plant/parallel world that’s similar to our 18th century but without gunpowder. Sarah ends up in his world, which is where their trilogy takes place.

Part One

1. Do they believe in anything that most people think is impossible?

I can’t say that Sarah does, though by the end of the book she believes in things she would have never believed in before.

Hasón doesn’t believe in the impossible so much as hopes that what seems impossible will become possible. He prays a lot to the Gods about this.

2. Are they strong, or the "damsel/knight in distress" sort?

Oh goodness no, neither one of them. They are both people of action, though Hasón thinks things through a bit more than Sarah does. Then again he’s been trained to do so.

3. Do they have a special place? (e.g. a corner in his/her bedroom, under a tree...)

They both feel The Grove is their special place. It’s a ring of Willows with one Dogwood tree and a spring hidden inside. No one else can come into it, even though they’ve tried to share it with other friends.  It’s also where they met (see Part Two Question 1). :}

4. What occupation do they have, or plan on having?

Sarah is an elementary school teacher. She’s following in her mother’s footsteps and it’s also a way for her to avoid the draft (and war). But, she also really cares about kids and in the time of war wants to give them a safe place to just be kids.

Hasón is a Scout, a trained swordsman. It’s not a typical profession for a Nobleman’s son, but he didn’t want to become a Knight due to their arranged marriages. Now he’s a Sergeant and leads his own small group of men, patrolling the boarders of the Kingdom and generally keeping the peace.

5. Describe their current place of residence.

In the beginning of the story, Sarah’s moved back into the farmhouse in which she grew. There, she’s helping work the farm with her father while tending and teaching the city children that they are sheltering from the bomb threats. Once in Hasón’s world... well let's just say that finding a new home is part of the plot. *grin*

Hasón lives in a Sergeant’s house when he’s not on patrol. It’s a simple wooden duplex, with a outhouse and small yard in the back next to the barracks where his men live and the practice fields and what not. My own medieval version of army base housing.

6. Explain their last crisis. How had they changed when they came out of it?

Sarah’s last big crisis was a gang rape. Five guys did some nasty things to her and as a result she had to get a full hysterectomy or die. She was twenty. Afterwards she dove back into taking self defense classes, mistrusted most guys and decided she was glad she had decided to become a teacher. In fact, it was easier for her to accept the fact she’d never be anyone’s biological mom than it was for her to start trusting guys again.

Hasón’s last crisis was being captured by unfriendly kingdom next door. He managed to escape with his men, but not until after they’d been tortured by General Wholawski. Hasón left the fortress knowing just how much pain his body could withstand and how a woman can pull apart friends. His exterior self became a hard shell, but thankfully, he’s still a lovable huggable teddy bear at his core.

7. If they could drive any kind of car they wanted, what would it be?

Sarah would have a red pickup truck. In fact, I suspect she drives her Dad’s, which is probably an old ford. At least she would drive it if the war hadn’t put a ration on gas.

Hasón has no idea as his world doesn’t have cars, but he prefers horseback to a carriage, despite being open to the elements. He likes being able to see around him – it’s the military training.

8. How do they deal with change?

Sarah will moan and groan about it, but she deals. She’s seen a lot of change in her life, with the conversion of the ranch to a farm, her mother’s death and then the war. The war has changed a lot of things like de-modernizing the farm, and the rationing of food and gas.

It depends on the change with Hasón. He thinks a lot, internally running through the various ways to deal with it before selecting the one he wants. Essentially, change is just another mission to conquer. The amazing part is he can do it quickly, which is why he’s a good leader.

9. If they had to amputate one body part, which one would they choose?

Sarah would choose her hair, and if that didn’t count she’d go for a pinky toe. Easy to get used to having and easy to hide in shoes or show off in tevas for amusing conversations.

Hasón would give up his sword arm so he could retire from the Scouts and spend the rest of his life with Sarah. And if the Gods won’t let him do that, he thinks Sarah’s idea is a reasonable one.

10. What would their favorite be at the local coffee shop?

Sarah would probably order a French Vanilla, light, extra sugar, from the local Dunkin Donuts. Starbucks would be too pretentious, though a good chi from her hometown coffee shop always hits the spot.

Hasón would have no idea what to do with coffee. I presume his land probably drinks tea like the English, so I suspect, if Vervell has small cafes, he’d order a nice black tea... No, scratch that. Apparently, he prefers light green tea. Go figure.

Part Two

1. How did they meet?

Sarah’s best friend had just moved away and she didn’t want to deal with her brothers that day (she has four, all older) so she slipped out to the Willows behind their house.

Hasón, disappointed no one would spar him with his new shiny and sharp sword, went into some woods to fight imaginary foes and rescue damsels in distress. He stepped under a Willow tree and found Sarah.

They became best (imaginary) friends, almost immediately, as she joyfully joined in his game, but not as the damsel in distress mind you... at least not one without a few tricks up her sleeve to get herself rescued.

2. How do these two deal with conflict?

They both face it head on. Sarah might be more stubborn, but Hasón is well versed in the way of compromise. He rarely yells though, and would rather think it through and let Sarah rant and rave before throwing in his two quinnies (Vervellean cents). After all Sarah isn’t completely illogical and she often has good points hidden in her ranting.

3. Do they have a special song, phrase, item, or place?

If they had a song it would be “Some Where, Out There” only they technically are not ‘sleeping underneath the same bight star’. They definitely have a place though – The Grove – the place I mentioned above where they met and played, and later just talked.

4. What kind of things do they like to do together?

They like to just be together and talk about whatever comes to mind, or hash out whatever is in their thoughts. Only, it’s mostly Sarah doing the talking. Hasón loves to listen to her and be near her. He wants to wrap his arms around her, only there was a limitation to the Grove where he couldn’t actually touch Sarah. Once she’s in his world, he’s not all sure what he should do.

5. Describe their relationship as a whole in 3 words or less.

Skeptical true love

:} Cathryn Leigh

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Name Thyself, ye Witty Chapter!

In reading a blog post by Sierra Godfrey about 1star reviews, I got a little random in my commenting and mentioned trying to figure out “how to translate my ability to flip to the section I want in a paper book” to my Kindle. This then linked to the thought that people should use chapter names rather than chapter numbers.

I don’t know if naming my chapters this is something I would have done without having joined Protagonize. But, there’s something about having the Chapter title box, with the little saying “This is the title of your chapter. Make it catchy!” that makes me want to use words more than numbers.

And let me tell you, adding chapter titles with a hyperlinked table of contents and it’s pure magic! I have used my tables of contents many times A LOT. Most pf the time I”m looking up information to make sure I’ve remembered something correctly. Without those chapter titles I’d be lost. Even with them I’m sometimes a chapter or two off, still better than randomly guessing.

So now that I’ve exposed their value (to me at least) how does one come up with Chapter title? Sad to say they don’t name themselves, so why don’t I step through some my chapter titles, both good and mediocre, maybe some bad.

Firstly, some things to keep in mind: 
  • Strike a balance between hinting and giving away what happens in the chapter.
  • Stick to three words (not counting words like the, in, on, and, a, etc.).
  • Make it catchy! Similar to bullet one, but now it’s purpose is to make readers keep reading.

Secondly, some examples, 2 from each book of my Phoenix Trilogy

  • Scouting – As the title of the first chapter of the first book of the trilogy I feel it’s meh. It states what’s happening, but nothing really to pull us into the story.
  • Ambush! – Book 1 is rife with titles like this one. It tells us exactly what’s going to happen in the chapter, and while it doesn’t give the outcome, it does spoil the surprise.
  • Sarah and the Four Bears – I like this one because it gives reference to the story she ends up telling Bears children, maybe it could be better, but I liked it.
  • Amber Waves of Pain – I like this one for many reasons. There’s lots of layers to it, though the simplest is that Sarah is in pain an ends up dreaming of the grain farm she grew up on. It’s a title that clicks about halfway through the chapter; just like a good book title. (Plus I love titles that make me think of songs) :}
  • A Tour and More – Obviously there’s going to be some description in here, but what is going to be the more? Not a bad attempt at making the reader keep going. In fact I’m tempted to read the chapter because I’ve forgotten what the more is.
  • Playing Telephone – I like this one for the juxtaposition of the modern invention in an archaic world. (That and it was one of the few decent titles I could find that weren’t song related, like Wheels on the Cart.)
So there you have it; some examples of chapter titles. I’ve given my opinions on them. What do you think about them?

:} Cathryn Leigh
P.s. There’s still a part of me that loves the Moomin Tolls chapters that also contain a summary, but I wouldn’t use those in something that wasn’t a kids book. Using them, while writing. to outline your next chapter however... Now that proved useful for writing my 2011NaNovel, The Nurie. :}

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Anca in Auschwitz

Tuesday I was wondering what I was going to blog about. I thought about seeing if I couldn’t outline how I was going about my edit process for Watching by Miriam Joy. Then I thought about posting up some responses to Beautiful People. But, after I got home and had the kids in bed there was only one thing I wanted to do...

Finish reading Anca’s Story by Saffina Desforges (Amazon US). And now, I’m going to relay it to you as I fight back the tears.

The cover, and of course my post title gives away the fact that this is a Holocaust story. The author’s don’t hide that fact from, nor the fact that it’s about three children who smuggle themselves into Auschwitz, that concentration camp that anyone who has paid attention to history class should know the name of. And from my recollection it was touted as the worst of all of them.

The story doesn’t start there of course, but rather in mundane classroom of the modern age, supped up with high tech gadgets, and a frail old lady asked to come in a relate her tale to slumped teens who probably all think Vampires should sparkle *scoff*. That is until Anca asks them if they have lost a parent and then tells them that she lost hers at the age of 12. Her father was executed in front of her and her mother... well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out.

Make sure you bring tissues. I suspect if I hadn’t taken three separate occasions to read the whole book I’d have been bawling by the end.

The Holocaust isn’t a pretty time in our history. But it is something that must be remembered. I’ve been horrified and fascinated by it since my Fourth Grade teacher read Devil’s Arithmatic by Jane Yolen. I followed that up by reading, and then watching, The Diary of Anne Frank in middle school.  In high school two busloads of kids, including me and my friend, the Rabbi’s daughter, were shipped to the theater to view Schindler’s List.

Now I add Anca’s Story (Amazon UK) to my list. I am glad I did and I hope they get a movie deal with a director who knows what they are doing. That way those who won’t read can be exposed to the tale. A tale I feel worth every tear I cried, and all the ones I didn’t.

:} Cathryn Leigh

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Tag! No Backsies! Please...

Well I’m out here in sunny Florida, enjoying the warm weather and recuperating from a friend’s wedding (three nights of parting – I can’t do it as easily as I used to). Anyway, earlier in the week/last week maybe, Miriam decided to tagged me with a blog chain letter. Normally I ignore chain letters, but I’ll go with this one as it makes my life a little easier. AS I said I’m on vacation at the in-laws with the kids. So, here are...

The Rules
  1. You must post the rules – check
  2. Post eleven facts about yourself on the blog post – Do I have to?
  3. Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post, and then create eleven new questions to ask the people you’ve tagged. – Really? I make no guarantees on the quality of the questions.
  4. Tag eleven bloggers, however, you can break the rules and tag fewer  people if you want. Make sure you hyperlink their names/blogs. – I’m going to do less, that’s for sure.
  5. Let them know you’ve tagged them! – Right. I’ll do my best.
  6. Have fun! – Um okay. But isn’t that what my vacation is for?

Now for the ...
Eleven Facts
  1. I got braces the summer before Fifth grade (year 6), right before I participated as a Dragon in a mummers play, at Pinewoods Dance Camp (Family Week).
  2. The year before that I got bifocals due to a stigmatism in one eye that made it hard for me to refocus from near to far and back again (I refused to wear them and didn’t start wearing glasses full time until college).
  3. I married my third boyfriend, whom I also consider my first.
  4. I think my kids handpicked the genes they got because there’s no way randomness would have created two such adorable kids from my hubby and I.
  5. I believe in Unicorns.
  6. All the surgeries I’ve had were related to my mouth – a gum graph, removal of six teeth (including two baby teeth that hadn’t fallen out yet), a root canal, and wisdom teeth removal.
  7. I’m having a hard time thinking of eleven facts.
  8. I had to be dragged from my laptop to go take a walk with my daughter this afternoon, as I’m still trying to recover my ‘quiet time’ I could use a day by myself.
  9. TV is a major distraction for me. I have a very hard time ignoring it, even when the volume is off, the images will still attract my eye. There is no way I can go to sleep in front of it like many people I know.
  10. I’ve sewn my thumb with my sewing machine once, but I didn’t have to go to the emergency room.
  11. I stepped on a rusty nail two weeks after I’d gotten my tetanus shot, which was also two days before I went to Summer camp for two weeks.

And now I must...
Answer the Questions Posed for Me
  1. What is the largest object to the right of the computer or other device on which you are writing this? – A restaurant sized red wine glass. Hey I’m on vacation. At home It’d be a china hutch.
  2. What was the last book you read? (Not finished. Just read.) – Anca’s Story, which is very emotional (I’ve cried nearly continually since chapter 3), and very awesome.
  3. Do you name inanimate objects? Yes, I mean who hasn’t named a stuffed animal!
  4. What was your response to receiving the message that you’d been tagged? (Be honest.) – Not again! / Do I have to? Or something along those lines.
  5. Do you have any pets? – Not yet, but there is a dog in our future, and  maybe a cat.
  6. How many projects do you have going at the moment? – Do I really have to count, because it will probably depress me? I’ve got at least three writing/revising projects. One critiquing project and then there’s the sewing projects that are progressing even slower.
  7. What are you supposed to be doing instead of writing this post? – Nothing, as far as I know, maybe socializing, but I’ve no interest in watching TV. I hate TV, it always takes up more time that you want it to.
  8. How long have you been blogging? – Good question, I’ll look that up as soon as I go to post this, but definitely less than a year. Yup, it will be a year come mid June.
  9. Do you play any musical instruments? (Vocals count.) – Not officially, but I do sing to my children every night, using songs I learned from chorus.
  10. What is the last piece of orchestral music you listened to? – I have no idea, but it was last week on the XM radio.
  11. What is the oddest objects you can see right now? – A cookie tin being used to hold my nana-in-laws medication (it’s a big cookie tin and a long medication list). Though I suppose the bear rug/wall hanging that’s ‘sitting’ on the antique couch might be weirder.

Now I need to write my own...
  1. What was the last drink you had, or may be drinking right now?
  2. What is your favorite food topping?
  3. Do you prefer dogs or cats, and if neither, then what?
  4. How far are you living from where you were born?
  5. How many places have you lived for more than one year?
  6. When you write these questions, will you tailor them to the recipient(s)?
  7. What would you do if you found a bear rug in your living room?
  8. If you could ‘live’ one book (or movie) what would it be?
  9. What’s the best gift you’ve received so far?
  10. Pick one location that you would love to drop everything and go visit?
  11. What do you think should be everyone’s top priority?

Whew and now I must find some people to pass this off to. I can’t do Miriam, since she tagged me. Out of fun I’ll do Charley so she can be double posted and then... Naw, I won’t bother anyone else.

Just an FYI, I think this may be the last ‘chain blog’ I do.

:} Cathryn Leigh