Christmas in Boston

Christmas Eve began with me bundled up in front of an Italian bakery at 7:30 in the morning with my mom and aunt, as we stood in line in the twenty-degree Massachusetts air waiting for the bakery to open so we could get some cannolis for the huge family dinner we were having later that night. It was my first Christmas in Nashville and I was spending it in Boston. My Mom, Dad, and I flew up the day before Christmas Eve to stay with my aunt and uncle for the holidays. I’d never been to Massachusetts before and I don’t think I’ve ever been so cold in my entire life; over the ten days we were there, there were times the temperature dropped below zero and I found myself fantasizing about the California sun. I was very glad we spent most of that time curled up in front of the fire watching movies and the Punisher Netflix series.

Still, as dreadful as the cold was, there was something magical about waking up on Christmas morning to snow lazily drifting down onto the winter wonderland that is my aunt and uncle’s backyard. That’s something I’ve never had in California: a white Christmas. I’ve got some vague memories of a Christmas or two spent up in Big Bear with my other aunt and uncle and that uncle’s parents many years ago but while there may have been snow on the ground I don’t think it actually snowed on Christmas day. Of course, spending Christmas somewhere I’ve never been before meant missing a couple of Christmas traditions this year. Stockings and Christmas presents—at least those given between my parents and I—were opened on the Friday before Christmas instead of Christmas morning. There was no homemade coffee cake—a staple in my house for the morning of every major holiday—on Christmas (or New Years) morning but my aunt did make potato casserole—another holiday tradition for my family—for the huge Christmas Eve dinner the night before. Instead of a big ham dinner on Christmas day we had homemade spaghetti with family members from my uncle’s side of the family—whom I had either never met or met when I was too young to remember meeting—and had the big ham dinner—complete with potato casserole and my uncle’s famous Jell-O casserole–with a bunch of that same part of the family on Christmas Eve instead. I missed my cats but did get to curl up with Roger, my aunt and uncle’s pit bull, on the couch a couple of times.

As different as it was from my usual Christmas, I loved getting to have the traditional White Christmas you see in movies and on TV and getting to spend it with family I don’t get to see very often and even meeting some family I’d never met before.

Town Line Tuesday: The Demon of New Salem

Happy New Year! Do you guys have any resolutions for the New Year? My New Years resolution is definitely to post more regularly and to be more diligent in writing The Demon of New Salem. On that note, welcome to the first Town Line Tuesday of 2018! For this first post in the New Year I thought I’d share with you my work-in-progress summary of The Demon of New Salem. Hope you enjoy.

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Town Line Tuesday: Daphne Pendragon Part 1

 

I spent a while trying to figure out what I should talk about in this week’s Town Line Tuesday (shh it’s still Tuesday on the West Coast, it counts). As the first official post in the series, I needed it to introduce this project to you in a way that would hopefully reel you in and keep you coming back every week for more and, in turn, help me stay motivated to write this novel. In that vein, I thought about starting off the series with a summary of the novel… but then it came to me, where better to begin Town Line Tuesdays than where The Demon of New Salem began. Usually when I set about writing a new story I start with a concept, something that sets up the world I’m creating and drives the plot. However, in the case of The Demon of New Salem, I instead began with a singular character. So that’s where we’ll start, with Daphne Pendragon.

 

Part 1: Powers

 

With bright purple eyes and the rather unsettling ability to read people’s souls—everything that defines who they are: their past, their personality their secrets, and occasionally a limited glimpse at their future—through touch, Daphne Pendragon has never had the luxury of believing she’s normal. And yet growing up in a town where any sort of supernatural ability is outlawed hardly affords one the ability to believe she might be special either. To Daphne, her gift—or curse as she sometimes prefers to call it—is something that just kind of is what it is, there is no training to make it stronger or learning how to control it so it doesn’t run her life, at most she can suppress it underneath gloves so it’s not constantly bombarding her senses. So Daphne’s story, unlike many super-powered protagonists’, is not about learning how to use or control her powers, whether to act as some sort of chosen one to defeat a great evil or not (Not. Definitely not. Daphne would laugh in anyone’s face if they tried to tell her she was a chosen one). By the start of the novel Daphne is well-traveled and has already seen and experienced a lot in the way of the strange and supernatural and due to the nature of her powers she knows people, their ins and outs, the good and the bad, something that simultaneously makes it easier and more difficult for her to connect with them—easier for her to know who to trust, harder for people to like or trust her—so she tends to know more than the typical protagonist. Where she is blind, however, is herself. She knows how to use her powers but she doesn’t know where they come from. She’s met a lot of Supernaturals but never in her travels has she come across anyone else like her. She can sometimes see people’s futures but try as she might she can’t quite…. Well what’s the point in having these powers if she can’t save anyone? Daphne’s story is about trying to find out what she is and what her place in the world is. Daphne’s story then, like anyone’s, is ultimately who am I?

 

When I was working on creating Daphne and her powers, I wanted to give her a magical gift that would be simultaneously powerful and almost useless. What I mean is, I didn’t want to give her a traditionally useful gift like telekinesis or spell casting. Anyone can use moving objects with your mind or creating something out of nothing as a weapon, I wanted something that wouldn’t necessarily be useful in a fight but that, in certain hands could still be considered dangerous. In other words, I wanted an inactive power. At the same time, traditional telepathy and precognition are both overused and potentially overpowered—if a character can hear another’s thoughts a lot of obstacles in the plot could be too easily avoided and it’s the same with seeing the future. So in order to create something unique and to avoid the problems of overpowering my protagonist (although admittedly the latter is one I struggle with a bit, I am constantly tweaking Daphne’s power and making sure it works in a uniform, limited way) I began with basic telepathy.

I loved the idea of a power that was knowledge-based rather than strength-based so telepathy seemed a good place to start. But, like I said, reading minds is hardly unique, so I thought about what, besides the brain, Daphne could “read.” What I came up with was, of course, the soul. Reading thoughts is all well and good but anything you found there would be based purely on opinion—when you read someone’s thoughts you’re seeing how they see the world, or, more interestingly, themselves, you’re not seeing how the world or the person whose thoughts you’re reading actually are—but if you read a person’s soul, their very essence so to speak, you see them as they really are for better or for worse. Of course, while more rare than telepathy, soul reading isn’t entirely unique either; I needed something that would make this power uniquely Daphne’s.

In television, when a person with telepathy or precognition’s power is presented, it’s more often than not presented as a visual sense—something the character sees if not exactly with their eyes. Daphne’s gift, however, is a tactile one. Rather than seeing into a person’s soul, Daphne feels it through her sense of touch and I use tactile descriptions to illustrate her power throughout the novel. As an added bonus, being limited to skin-to-skin contact for the power to work helps to keep Daphne from becoming overpowered. Another way in which I keep Daphne limited is that Daphne’s power has a major blind spot. Herself. Daphne can’t read herself in anyone else’s soul: she can’t see how her presence in someone’s life affects his or her life; she can’t see her own future; she can’t see whether the person whose soul she is reading loves her or hates her; and if her life is too tangled with someone else’s in places, she may not be able to get a full reading of them. As I said before, I’m still working out the kinks in Daphne’s abilities as I write but I truly enjoy doing so and I’m really proud of what I’ve managed to work out so far.

One of the reasons I love working with Daphne’s power is that I believe I can use it to create some really interesting relationship dynamics between Daphne and other people. After all, if you know someone inside and out at first handshake there is immediately going to be an imbalance of emotional connection between you and them. I wonder what it must feel like to instantly fall in real, honest love based on knowing someone better than you know yourself with someone to whom you are a complete and total stranger.

Dear Readers

Wow, so the whole “I’m pretty much recovered” from the cold thing was a huge lie apparently. I had about three days of feeling almost 100% better only to instantly get hit with five days of fever, chills, coughing and sneezing pretty much the second I hit publish on my last post. So that was fun. But, barring another whack over the head by the Flu Fairy, I should be getting back to a more regular posting schedule this week starting with a new Town Line Tuesday tomorrow.

Thank you for your patience,

Kelly Amber

Kelly Amber’s Top 5 TV Shows

Hi there! So last week I came down with a nasty cold and although I tried to keep up with my posts, trying to write while sick is a bit like herding cats where the cats are my creative ideas, cohesive thoughts, and motivation/creative energy; the moment I got one under control another one went running off in its own direction. But I’m pretty much recovered now so I thought I’d post something simple that would let you get to know me a little better. So without further ado, here are my top 5 favorite TV shows (most of these are off the air so I shouldn’t have to worry about spoilers but I’ll do my best to avoid them anyway)

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Motherboxes and Infinity Stones: Or Why Character Development is Crucial

As a storyteller, one of the most important–if not the most important—elements that make up every great story are its characters. If plot is the backbone and setting the skin, characters are the heart and soul of a story. Without interesting, well-developed, loveable (or hate-able), and relatable characters a story is little more than an empty shell. This is a principle I believe wholeheartedly in whether I’m writing a story or consuming it. Plot may be what drives me to pick up a book or start a TV show but characters are what keep me from putting it back down or abandoning it in search of something new. So when the excitement over the Avengers: Infinity War trailer that dropped last week had subsided I was struck with just what, exactly, sets the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far apart from the DC Extended Universe. First, let me preface this post with: I will try to avoid spoilers but if you have not seen Justice League yet (or any of the MCU or DCEU movies for that matter) and want to avoid being spoiled, you should probably stop reading now.

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Town Line Tuesdays: Intro

“This is a really bad idea,” she says to herself, standing before the sign that marks the town line. 

Welcome to the first-ever Town Line Tuesday! What’s that you ask? As I’ve mentioned before, I’m in the process of writing a novel. My first novel in fact. Like many young writers (at least I assume I’m not alone in this), I’ve got a slew of half-started works on my laptop hard drive dating back to my teenage years that for one reason or another (weird half-formed ideas, overly complex plots, plots that are too simplistic, boring characters, etc.) have been abandoned and left to gather dust. The Demon of New Salem, as I’ve tentatively dubbed this project, is different not only because I’ve grown since my first stumbling attempts at writing but also because it haunts me in a way that the others didn’t. This story completely took over my entire college career to the point where I developed a serious case of writer’s block for anything that didn’t involve my main character. Daphne Pendragon, the aforementioned protagonist, is a ghost that follows me wherever I go, simultaneously a comforting presence and an annoying one. I can’t watch TV or read a book without thinking about how Daphne would interact with the characters, when I come across problems in my daily life I often wonder how she would handle them, she’s a constant reminder of this thing I’ve set out to do. All that being said, those previous abandoned attempts taunt me, tell me I’ll forget about Daphne just like I’ve forgotten them. So, to answer your question, Town Line Tuesdays are going to be a place for me to discuss The Demon of New Salem and, hopefully, hold me accountable to actually finishing this novel.

I’ve decided to call this series of posts Town Line Tuesdays because in The Demon of New Salem, the town line that surrounds the fictional town of New Salem, Oregon plays a critical role in the story (plus, you know, alliterations are fun). New Salem’s town line defines the town in more than just the literal it-defines-the-physical-shape-of-the-town sense. It is the mysterious and magical boundary that separates New Salem, a supposed haven for Humankind from the rest of the world where Supernaturals–creatures such as vampires, werewolves, fairies, demons and angels–run rampant as the denizens of New Salem would put it. The town line makes New Salem what it is, it is the town’s very backbone though its origins and the whys and hows of how it works are shrouded in mystery. For Daphne, who is neither human nor entirely supernatural but something in-between, the town line is where she must make a choice: turn around and return to the life she’s built for herself–an admittedly tenuous and unstable one but a free one nonetheless–or cross over the line and face the town that raised her, built her, and ultimately exiled her and maybe find the closure she needs to finally stop running

I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not to do this kind of post, terrified of putting my ideas out there and no idea of what I would even talk about here if I did. Like Daphne, I stand at the town line, safety behind me and the unknown before me and–like Daphne– despite the illusion of choice I’m left with only one thing to do: cross over. I still don’t know exactly what will be discussed in these posts, maybe some small excerpts, maybe some character insights, maybe some world building, probably some discussion about my process, the obstacles I come across and how I get through them (writer’s block sucks y’all), but I’m excited (and scared as all hell) to invite you on this journey with me.