Town Line Tuesday: Winter Shenanigans

It’s snowing in Nashville today! So I thought I’d get in the winter spirit and write a short snow scene between Daphne and her partner Hannah for this week’s Town Line Tuesday. This takes place a few years after Daphne’s exile from New Salem and long before the events of The Demon of New Salem. It’s canon-compliant but will probably never be brought up in canon. Also I’m posting this from my phone because my internet went out right as I went to post this so if anything is wonky with the formatting that’s why.

​“Hurry up would you,” Hannah called over her shoulder, “the sooner we find the Winter Court the sooner we can go back to drinking hot chocolate by the fire.”

​Daphne pulled her eyes away from the animal tracks she had been studying—canine if she remembered Adam’s tracking lessons correctly—and grinned at her friend. “What’s the matter? Cold?”

“No” she said, wrapping her arms around her middle to retain body warmth. “I’ll just be happier when we can get out of this damn snow.”

“How can you not like snow?”

“What’s to like? Its cold, its wet, it gets all over everything, its annoying to walk through.” Hannah kicked at the stuff to prove her point. It wasn’t actively snowing but there was still enough on the ground from the night before that their walk through the woods was more of a trudge. Hannah sighed and kept walking. “Let’s just get this over with okay?”

Daphne hurried to catch up. “It is pretty though. Magical even.”

“You sound like someone who never had snow growing up.” Daphne could practically hear the eye-roll in Hannah’s voice.

Daphne shrugged. “We had snow. Not this much, but we had it.” Her lip curled in a half-smile. “My brother and I had some epic snowball fights.”

Hannah was quiet.

“What about you? Don’t tell me you never—” Daphne cut off, eyebrows pinched together in a frown.

Hannah looked back at her, concerned.

Daphne shook her head and nodded for Hannah to keep walking. “Don’t tell me you never had any winter shenanigans.” She slipped her knife out of its sheath. “Snowball fights, sledding, snow angels…” Daphne brushed against a tree, using the tip of the knife to pull a chunk of bark off, “…you can’t tell me you never had any fun in the snow.” She slid the knife back into the sheath and the piece of bark into her pocket.

Hannah’s shoulders tensed up a little, she looked up toward the sky—though not much of it could be seen through the trees. “Of course I did. But I was the only kid in AEGIS so any fun I had I had alone. Most of my experiences with snow were training-related: fighting in snow, tracking, survival, that sort of thing.”

“Huh.”

Hannah glanced back at her. “What?”

Daphne laughed. “Nothing. I just can’t believe I actually had a more normal childhood than someone.”

Hannah snorted. “It’s not a competition Pen,” she said, using the nickname for Daphne’s last name she had taken to calling her lately.

“No, I know I just—” Daphne stopped again. “Yeah we’re going in circles.”

Hannah stopped too, turning to face Daphne. “What’re you talking about?”

Daphne nodded at the small canine tracks heading off into the woods on their left. “We’ve passed those tracks before.”

“We’re in a forest full of animals Pen, there’re bound to be multiple sets of tracks.”

Daphne shook her head. “No those are the same tracks. Same direction, same animal, same size, even the same gait.”

“Okay, then maybe we’ve crossed the same animal’s path twice.”

“Yeah, I thought that too. Still, something didn’t feel right.” Daphne ran a gloved finger over a bark-less spot on the tree closest to her. “Which is why I marked this tree. Just in case.”

“Daphne, look around! We’re up to our ankles in snow, if we were walking in circles we would’ve crossed our own tracks again.” Hannah gestured toward the unblemished snow covering the forest floor in front of them.

Daphne ran a hand through her hair, knocking her hood off her head in the process. “Yeah and we’ve been walking in a straight line not following a path. I don’t know what to tell you, I just know we’ve passed this tree at least two times.”

Movement up in the tree behind Hannah caught Daphne’s eye. “Don’t look now but there’s a fox in the tree behind you.” The arctic fox’s intelligent golden eyes, locked unflinchingly with Daphne’s, seemed to be filled with laughter.

Hannah lifted a well-groomed eyebrow. “What?” she laughed. “Do foxes even climb trees?”

The fox stood from its perch on the lowest branch of the tree, snow-colored fur fluffing out and tail curling over its back as it stretched, a wide yawn revealing a wicked grin of sharp silver teeth.

“I don’t know. This one did. No, wait don’t look!”

Too late, Hannah was already turning. As soon as Hannah’s eye caught on the branch, the fox leapt up and away. The force of the jump shook the branch, dislodging the snow gathered there. Which fell straight down onto Hannah’s head.

Hannah let out a startled yell, her green eyes wide with shock.

Daphne snorted, biting her tongue to keep from laughing out loud.

“Don’t you dare.”

Daphne couldn’t help it. She cackled, shoulders shaking with uncontrollable laughter as she hunched over, holding her stomach.

Hannah huffed. “It’s not that funny!” She furiously swiped at her head and clothes to rid herself of the icy wet clumps.

“Y-your face!” Daphne could barely catch her breath enough to get the words out.

Hannah glared. “You think this is funny huh.”

Daphne struggled to breathe. “Hilarious.”

Hannah’s lip twitched. “I was pretty shocked.”

“Should’ve seen your face.”

“Oh yeah? Did it look something like this?”

Frigid wetness hit Daphne square in the face, sobering her instantly.

Hannah giggled. “You’re right. That is hilarious.”

Daphne smirked, bending to pick up a clump of snow, shaping it as she stood. “This means war.” She pulled her arm back to throw, only to be hit in the back of the head by a snowball, startling her into dropping her own.

She whirled around to find the fox sitting on a log, washing its face as if completely oblivious.

Hannah about choked on a laugh. “Did the fox—”

The fox lowered its paw and grinned a very un-foxlike grin.

“I don’t think that’s a fox,” Daphne said, taking a step backward, slowly moving her arms behind her back.

The not-fox’s gold eyes glinted. It jumped, quicker than the eye could follow, hit Daphne straight in the chest knocking her over backward into the snow, her arms instinctively going up to catch her attacker. For a second, Daphne found herself staring up into the grinning face of a young girl underneath the hood of a fox pelt. Then, in the wink of a golden eye, the girl was gone.

“You alright?” Hannah stood over her, holding out a hand.

Daphne clasped Hannah’s glove-covered hand with her own bare one, letting Hannah pull her to her feet. “I think we found the Winter Court,” she said.

“Too bad she got away.”

Daphne shrugged and bent over to pick up the glove she had dropped right before the fey jumped her. She could still feel the eternal cold, slippery playfulness and flickering shadows of trickery prickling under her skin, knew the way home like it actually was her home. “Did she?”

Hannah barked out a laugh. “You got a reading? You sly fox!”

Daphne snorted. “You’re terrible.”

Hannah shoved her. “Please, I’m hilarious.”

Daphne hummed. “You keep telling yourself that.” She pulled her glove back on. “Come on, sooner we find the Winter Court the sooner we’ll be drinking hot chocolate in front of the fire.”

Town Line Tuesday: Flashbacks

The Demon of New Salem opens on Daphne Pendragon struggling to put her life back together a year after a devastating loss shattered it like glass. When we meet her, Daphne has already had enough adventures to fill a whole series of novels, but it is here, picking up the pieces, trying to rebuild what’s left of her life, making the decision to return to New Salem after ten years of exile, where Daphne’s story really begins. Still, all those untold adventures are a huge part of Daphne and good, bad, or so ugly they need to be buried so deep they’ll never see the light of day, these stories make Daphne who she is and they all (or at least some of them) deserve to be told. And because Daphne keeps her past locked up as tight as she possibly can (not to mention the fact that her telling these stories to another character would be clumsy and impractical from a writing standpoint) the only way these stories will (probably) get told is through flashbacks.

Originally, I was going to insert flashbacks where they were needed and in no particular order. Truth be told, this probably would’ve been easier to write—albeit messier and perhaps even confusing to read. Instead, after much internal debate, I’ve decided to use flashbacks to tell a second, cohesive story that will run parallel to Daphne’s present. This is hardly a new or original idea but it is definitely how I should’ve been using flashbacks from the start. Initially, however, I didn’t want the flashbacks to play such a huge role in the story, I wanted them to slowly reveal some of Daphne’s past in pieces and then move on. In some ways, this might’ve worked better—at least, the original flashbacks I’d already written were put in in response to certain triggers in the main story and in at least one instance I referred back to a flashback in a later unrelated scene and now that the flashbacks are being rewritten certain questions answered in the original flashbacks will have to be left for later books (yes, this is hopefully going to be a series but I refuse to think too hard about that at least until I get book one written) and certain present scenes will probably have to be re-worked to fit the new flashbacks. Sometimes writing is a straight line… and sometimes you get messes like this. Oh well. It’s a good thing I love it.

Then, of course, there’s the problem of needing a cohesive story to tell through flashbacks that works with—and runs parallel to—the main storyline. It took a lot of contemplation and deliberation but, in the end, the answer was actually pretty obvious. If The Demon of New Salem is about Daphne trying to rebuild her life, what better secondary story to tell than the story of how it fell apart? Through flashbacks, you’ll see Daphne’s last AEGIS (secret vigilante organization, possibly more on that in a later post) mission before everything falls apart. It’s a storyline that, though I didn’t plan it, connects with the main story arc in a critical way. Funny how that happens sometimes.

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.

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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