Friday, April 29, 2016

Announcement Postponed!

Hey all you lovely peoples!!!
 We are here to announce today that the very Official Winner Announcement needs to be postponed due to the fact that I'm way in over my head with stuff and scheduling, and a sudden trip that can't be postponed... (business, business...!)

 Anyway, because you lovely readers deserve a fun and happy announcement party here on this blog, and because I am simply unable to create that for you today, I'll have to go all dramatic and mysterious on you and say "To be continued... at a later date."

 Like, a week. I'm thinking. (Because I'm going to be gone for 5 days, and then who can tell what condition I'll be in when I get back! Ack! Introvert alert is going off, here!!!)

   So... rest assured that the entries have been noted, the votes have been tallied, the winners have been selected with the handy dandy help of a Random Number Generator.... But you won't get to see them until at least a week has past.

 (Also, please be advised that several of the blogs who had volunteered to be part of the tour actually failed to go live on the day they were supposed to... in fact, haven't yet done so, and so of course none of you could leave comments there. Never you mind, those of you who did go about and leave lovely comments on all the blogs who really were participating in the tour... Your perseverance is noted! Thanks for showing such enthusiasm for the event! We appreciate YOU!!! )

  Anyway, that's probably partially my fault, since I failed to go back and remind (read: pester) all the blogs in advance, so it was left up to each one to be organized themselves.
 (Again, crazy pressured here, so that causes a lot of things to simply slide!!)

   And thirdly, thanks to all of you who have participated in any way in our Print Launch events... we really do super appreciate you all and wouldn't have the heart to do much of this without you.
 So thanks for being there.

   Take care, and think of me these next five days... (Good, happy, adventuring thoughts!!!)


Friday, April 22, 2016

The Print Launch begins!!! *Duh-de-du-dummm!*

  Wow, today is the last day before the Launch officially starts! And the FB party's tomorrow!!!

Ack! HOW did time go bay so fast?!!!

 Oh, well, never mind! We've been working hard with the PR team and we've got a lot of super fun things lined up... with the select help of some

  First things first...
 The Print Launch will be featured on these blogs through the week, and everyone who comments on those posts will be eligible for a selection of prizes and prize packages that will be announced back here on the 29th.

 Thanks so much for the lovely features, everyone!!!

Kelsey Bryant           22nd

Rachel Rossano         22nd
Claire M. Banschbach 22nd
Deborah O'Carroll      22nd
The Editor's Note          23rd
Hope Chapel Homeschool 23rd
The Splendor Falls       24th
Megan Lynn Glass         24th
Kathy Lorentz               24th
Faith Blum             25th

  There has been such a generous response for this and I feel very humbled and blessed by each and every one of the fantastic people behind it all!!! Thank you all so much!!!
   And there can be no doubt that I appreciate it all to the moon and back, and I hope they are all blessed in return for that which they have done!
  I am very grateful for all the help and support from all the sponsors and the authors participating in the Blog Tour and the FB party!!! 24th 23rd

  There's going to be a lot of fun prizes on both the FB party and the Blog Tour comments, so everybody join in on the fun!!! :-)
 Thanks again!
  Elizabeth (aka E. Kaiser Writes!)

Prize Package lists:
 FB Party...

 We've had a lot of wonderful sponsors want to share their products during this exciting launch event, which is just marvelous! Some of these will be shipping from us, others will be shipping from the seller, so be sure to check out what else they offer, because the lucky winner will have the opportunity to have additional purchases  combine shipping with their Prize!
All of these are really at great price points, so you can have some fun and indulgence that is very easy on the wallet!!! 

 (And for a several of these winners, they'll be receiving a wallet to be easy on! Wink )

Snow Leopard Luggage Tag & S.Leop. slim-line Wallet 
5 snowflake charms
Necklace Set

Snow Leopard Luggage Tag & S.Leop. slim-line Wallet 
5 snowflake charms
Bath Bomb (from seller)

Snow Leopard Luggage Tag & S.Leop. slim-line Wallet 
5 snowflake charms

Snow Leopard Luggage Tag & S.Leop. slim-line Wallet 
5 snowflake charms
S. Leopard Card (from seller) 

  Order of the other giveaways is not set in stone. :-)

             ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~      ~

Then for the Blog Tour comments prizes we have:

A prize package of,
Snow Leopard Luggage Tag & S.Leop. slim-line Wallet 
5 snowflake charms


Hair Jewels (from seller)

Snow Leopard print (from seller)

Snow Leopard photo download (emailed from seller)

2 Sets of:
6 Snowflake charms
Plus a dagger charm with each of those.
 (These mailed from us.)

  So... that's quite a line-up of loot that will be heading to someone's house very soon, and you have multiple chances to up the odds it's your house they head to! Wink Each comment on each blog post in the tour will be eligible to win a prize or prize package... so get around and get your mark down with all the participating bloggers!!! Wink

    Take care,

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Many Princes of Demargen

via Pinterest

 While combining elements from several tales, and several versions of those tales, one of the fun ones we definitely borrowed from the Disney version of the Snow Queen, (the recent film Frozen ) is the idea of a royal family with 13 princes. It was too juicy of a tidbit to leave on the table!

  As the "youngest of 13" our boy, tall, dark & handsome Hess of Demargen has a feeling of being "over shadowed" by his brother's achievements.

  But he has no idea that the twelve older than he once endured a harrowing brush with Fairyland, (the plot for the upcoming Twelve Dark Knights) when he was too young to be involved with their activities.
 They never talk about it, putting it resolutely behind them, and yet, there is a distinct feeling that Hess has "been the lucky one", to have missed that. And they "protect him" from knowing about their scare, and near doom; assuming that being ignorant is similar to being safe.

 In the end, that is never the case, and Hess himself feels the sting of unfriendly Fairyland when he is maliciously poisoned with the potion known as "Devil's Mirror"... beginning a journey that will harrow his soul, too.

 Coming from a family of five kids, but having a background of friends who had up to ten/eleven children, I really enjoyed getting to get my hands deep into the family dynamics of a sibling set that ranges over twenty years.

 Our own family had a wide range, so while the youngest was only #5, she was 5 when the eldest was 19, so the life experiences were very varied between them.
 She often felt "left out" of things, simply because she wasn't even born when things happened in the older kid's childhood memories. It took her until she was into her early twenties to feel like "she belonged" as part of the family... the she had "earned her place". (She is a sweet, thoughtful type who everybody loves, so no one else viewed her in that way at all! Only herself.)

   On the flip side, the eldest in our family felt like everybody younger than her had it "so much easier" and we all "abysmally failed to appreciate it."

 As the middle child I can unequivocally state that each end had it's advantages, but after struggling with my own place in the family for years I'm now extremely grateful for where the Lord put me! He knew exactly what lessons were important for me, and set me where I could get a good view!
 (Thankfully, I'm actually not too bad at learning from others mistakes, so that's convenient!)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Crown of Noran

 As an artist/writer I am very visual, so when I write a description of something in my books, I tend to have a mental picture of it very distinctly.

  But on the flip side of the coin, as an artist, bringing something like that to life is tough, because I'm my own worst critic!

 Since very few things make the transition from the written word into a visual representation; it just doesn't matter too much.
 But with this series we went ahead and did a lot of art work for it, and so I was able to bring to visual life many of the pieces I'd described in the books. This was a lot of fun, and also a challenge, because I wanted to make sure to "hit the nail on the head" perfectly!

  One of the major pieces that has a lot of importance in the culture of Noran, (but regrettably doesn't get a too much lengthy focus in the book!) is the Crown of Noran.

 This is more than just jewelery, of course, since it carries with it the weight of power and centuries of tradition. But I also wanted it to be uniquely beautiful, and not duplicating what is usually "Accepted Fashion" in crowns.

 As a jeweler and historian I have long been particularly intrigued by old-to-ancient examples of precious metal working... and crowns are a great example of that.

 But there was no historical crown style that fit my idea, and so I invented it completely.
  The back-story on this crown is unique, in that it was not made by mortal hands, but instead pulled from the very mountain's depths by the nearly-mythical Stone King as a symbol of the joining of the first royal couple and their right to rule.

 (Note on the Stone King: Although trolls are a staple in Norse legends, they are usually bad, and also linked with "dark magic" which I didn't like at all. So I took a slightly modified take on the idea by following Tolkien's example in his Ents -as opposed to the Greek tree-spirits of very heathen origin - and I made Stone Ents. Basically. The old ones speak slowly and are very wise, whereas the younger ones, at merely a couple hundred years old, are much more quick, and also foolish. I didn't invent a new name, but went with a generic "Stone Folk", since it seemed logical the people of the area would suffice with something simple.
 In the scene were Girta first meets them it is evident that she has heard of Ents, and likens these to that elusive people. The reader is thereby free to assume that the story loving Girta may indeed have read the tale of the One Ring somewhere in all her library of folklore.)

 The Stone King played the matchmaker in the long ago union that started Girta's line; and did an extremely quick job of it, since being non-mortal he has other abilities to call on then most hopeful matchmakers.

 Anyway, to form the crown I researched my "based on countries" of Norway and Sweden, and drew inspiration from their mineral resources. Since the new king of Noran is actually a captain from Svesser, the Stone King scattered pink stones representing Svesser in among the blue stones to represent Noran, - the new couple's henceforth home - and joined them all on Noran silver.

 I wanted a very organic feel for the silver as well as the gemstones. So it was clear from the first that the gems should be rough, uncut by jeweler's, but in perfect crystal shapes they come in.

 I was a little stumped for reference on the silver base until I came across an ingenious Etsy seller who casts precious metals in molds form from twigs she gathers. I nearly hyperventilated with joy as I stared at her earthy-inspired creations, and I really tried to reduplicate the look of her pieces with the strands of silver.
  In the end, the Crown of Noran is one of my favorite pieces of jewelry...
     If I could have one "prop" from the Thaw: books it would be that!

Monday, April 18, 2016

DIY Wolf Fight

What about the wolf fight? I've heard that is uniquely realistic, and inspired from experience?

Yes! That one makes me laugh, because of the story behind it. I wrote that scene in Prince of Demargen where the timber wolves play a pivotal role and it was one of the most intense scenes for me to write, (among many, because with this story I just didn't include a scene unless it sucker-punched me a little some way or another.) But this wolf fight scene especially plays against the backdrop of some of childhood's integral fears: the night, the snow flurries, nobody can see: and then there's these wolves stalking the characters. In the back of these characters minds they fundamentally know that the pack is really after their horses, (in real life, wolves will go for horse meat above most other domestic animals) but these predators will take anybody they can get, of course. And the people aren't going to abandon their horses in mountain forest; so the one character rushes out to bring the fight to them, and ends up in a dagger-vs-fang fight. Knock down drag out, very rough and tumble as you might expect, going hand to hand with a wild animal.
 I wrote that as authentically as I could and then when I later received that piece back from my editor she commented that it felt so real. She said, and I quote: "Wow. This is so thrillingly scary. How did you imagine what a wolf fight would be like???!!"

 Check out Prince of Demargen's pinterest board for some scary wolf fight pictures!

 It'd been some time since I'd written the scene, and so I had to think about it for a moment. And then I just laughed, because I could link that the memory of writing that scene directly with the memory of a certain dog I had as a teen. He was a magnificent animal, I've rarely seen anything more athletic than he was. He was a Karelian Bear Dog, so for anyone who knows that breed they'll immediately understand. I raised him from a pup and worked hard to train him... he was incredibly smart but one of the most arrogant dogs I've ever experienced. He was just an "untamed spirit" kind of thing, and although he loved me, he didn't want to do what he didn't want to do. No matter how much I wanted him to do it!
 And worming him was something he flat out didn't want to participate in. I would literally have to wrestle him to the ground and fight with him physically until he finally surrendered enough to take his wormer and swallow it. After the first few times I left the wormer with a sibling, and got the wrestling fight over with first. He knew exactly what was about to happen so we'd roll all over the yard and he'd resist until he finally gave up. Then I'd get the wormer handed to me and then we'd have a few more struggles, and then I'd get him to swallow it.
 All the other dogs took it fine. They didn't like it, but it was just something you swallowed and then you were done with. But with him, it was always a point. Never ever just said "Okay, fine" from the get go. Always was a "I refuse!" tussle.
  This was an extremely exhausting process for me, and I always emerged totally played out... we came to respect each other deeply, that dog and I, for he knew that I would refuse to give up longer than he would and so I always got the 'last word in' so to speak.
 And I was really the only one he'd listen to, because I had proven to him that I wouldn't give up, and so in most other things he'd do what I said. I never underestimated him; he wasn't "obeying me"... he was just "siding with me".
  He was an amazing dog and an amazing experience, and I truly believe that any wolf would be fairly similar to what he presented. Possibly less athletic, 'cause that dog was super-powered and like a canine version of Spiderman. From what I've seen of wolves they are looser jointed, and so would be slightly less "quick twitch" muscle... but then dealing with a wild animal attacking would color the situation a little differently as well.
  But I think the situation, while fictional of course, is feasible: wolves attack by slash and run, they don't "close" with their prey (the way a bull dog is famous for, never letting go) So once you did close with them, they'd be pretty uncomfortable, and mostly trying to get some distance, while of course trying to slash with their fangs as they did it.
 If you were able to get their head unable to reach you well, then you could conceivably defeat a wolf with only a dagger... so long as you weren't worried about getting hurt yourself. You'd have to be all in, totally invested in the fight, or else you'd pull back and it'd surely escape you.

Sunday, April 17, 2016


Tompte, (a short history of Thaw's most important horse)

Okay! Well, you've picked a fun subject today!
 This is the back info on Tomtpe, the most important horse in the Thaw books. At least he knows that he is. You see, he is not just any horse, but a very special horse. He belongs to a prince of Demargen and that makes him a royal horse. Or a royal's horse, if you want to be picky.
 Tompte thinks there's not much difference between the two.

 Okay, so the quintessential Prince Charming's horse is of course white. Always white. 
 The war leader's horse is black, and also the bad guys horse.
   A lot of time the girl's horse is a yellow or beige color...
  But the prince's horse is always a white/gray.

 (For those of you less into horses than some, "gray" is a color pattern that actually isn't gray all the time. In fact a horse that is a "gray" is invariably born dark, (whether that is black, brown or chestnut) and then as they grow their hair "grays out". Different graying-genes have different time-spans; some family lines start going white as young as two years old, while others go slower and so retain some color late in life. These slow-gray-ers make for the gorgeous dapple-grays and steel-grays that will hold that phase of the pattern for several years.
 In the end, though, they all end up white. 
 Like a snowy haired old man or woman, "white" horses are rarely born white. They are grays.

  Some slow graying genes can actually hold onto the mane and tail color for a long time, and it is the last to go. On others it goes white right away. The gray gene is probably one of the most baffling and untrackable horse colors for equine geneticists to figure out... and they haven't gotten it coded yet.
 So it remains in the realm of "horse sense" and those still in the business of buying and selling horses rely on their own experience and the long history of horse-trading stories when dealing with grays.
   How long will they hold their color? Will they be dappled? Or that worst of all fates; flea-bitten? 
 A fleabitten gray is generally a horse that was born chestnut, and even though its hide goes white, specks of if stays red. This is considered among the least attractive of grays, and not at all prized.
  There is a stack of horse trading lore dealing specifically with grays, how some unscrupulous traders can "color" dapples onto a white horse to make it look prettier and fetch a higher price, or to make it look younger for the same purpose. 
 But that is not our subject today.)

 As we were saying, the Prince's horse must be white, and although at first I thought I might break the mold and give our prince a different colored horse, Tompte soon shook his head decidedly and insisted that he was white. And all white, having grayed quickly and thoroughly, so that although he is still in his prime, (what Tompte considers to be his prime, at any rate; around eight or so) he is pristine-ly white, as befits a prince of Demargen's royal house.

 Because you see Demargen has a reputation to uphold. With twelve dashing, gallant princes ahead of him, all Hess's brothers have set the bar high in military exploits. For though the known world has not had a war in almost a thousand years, the art of war has been kept alive with jousts and robust competitions, which Hess's older brothers loved dearly and did very well in. 
  The reputation goes back further than that, though, for old King Leopold in his day, was a force to be reckoned with on the field as well. 
  And so Demargen must keep up its chin and shine its buttons, because even though long ago it lost it's claim to the then empty Noran throne on a battlefield, it is not to be trifled with now. Or ever.

 So Demargen cadets train harder than any other kingdom's cadets. Demargen officers salute snappier, and with more meaning, than any other kingdom's officers. And Demargen princes are drilled in the school of honor and ability, turning out thirteen perfectly polished princes to unleash upon the world; which receives them in various ways, but is invariably impressed with their military precision. 

 And Tompte is a part of that, of which he is duly aware.
  And though his boy may attend the Noran coronation on his own, he is not alone. For he has a prince's horse, who knows his duty.

 This horse turned into quite the character as I was writing, he just sort of developed his own "voice" even though of course he can't speak. But looking back on it, I realize that the horse from my past that was channeling onto the page was just such a beastie... a half Welsh, half Percheron that was 13 hands tall, mostly white and as full of importance as a horse can get. 
 His name was "Buddy", which if he would have understood English he certainly would have objected to. He probably would have insisted on being named "Prince" or at the very least "Duke". 
 Perhaps "Charger" would have been a better name for him, since there was nothing that could stop him. 
 He rode and drove, and pulled a wagon as if he'd been born to it. (Which of course he partially had, on his Percheron half.) He had a hitchy little trot that just wouldn't give up, flicking his white feathered hooves with each step, he looked the part of a proud harness horse.
 He was just about six inches too short to be the sort of impressive he was aiming for! 
 But he was cute as a bug... with a deep, Percheron jaw and a nice Welsh muzzle... arched white neck with thick wavy white mane flowing over it. 

 But he was a good horse.  At eleven years old, I learned to ride on Buddy, and even though he had all the heart in the world, his pulling horse build wasn't designed for speediness. My brother would race away from us on his Arab mare, and Buddy and I would be left loping along in the dust. And then we'd run out of dust, for even that had settled by the time we came along. 
 But I was never worried with Buddy because he never bucked, didn't spook... he was so solid and confidant he never met a worry. And he always knew the way home, even if I didn't.

   He was so coordinated he could stand on an ice-slicked sloping path... and run in place to keep from falling down. Seriously, this was actually witnessed one winter... he just moved his feet so fast he didn't have time to slip, until he could edge himself off the icy patch.
 This degree of dexterity is referenced in Prince of Demargen when Hess asks Tompte to jump back over a wall onto the road toward him, and Tompte does so from a standstill. It takes great coordination for a horse to do that, not to mention great back muscles.

 Buddy could gallop away fully hobbled; tie his front feet together and he'd simply left them both of the ground at once and hop off like that. Pretty soon he was literally galloping around doing that, so the decision was made to side hobble him. Most horses move their lateral feet in opposite directions and so tying left hind to left front effectively stops them from going too far.
 Not Buddy. He took maybe half a day, and then figured out how to "pace", moving both laterals forward at the same time.
   We liked to keep him in the yard where we lived at the time in the mountains, so he could eat the grass down. But he kept turning mobile on us, until we finally ended up tying his front feet and a hind foot.
  That kept him restricted... poor Buddy. Not even he could figure out how to lift all three feet of the ground at once. Though he did try for some time, just in case.

 His antics were so amusing and impressive, that we soon let him go completely, where he could charge about the place as he liked. He enjoyed this very much, and the sight of the little white horse grazing tranquilly along the creek-bed below the house was like something out of a fairy-tale. Then he'd get the notion to gallop up the trail to the barn, all rounded neck and floating mane and rat-a-tat-tat thundering hooves on the forest path. He seemed to enjoy showing off his freedom to the other horses in the pens.

  Buddy is a memory horse that will not be forgotten... and his indomitable spirit, good looks, physical prowess, and quirky character lives on in Tompte, (who is taller, like a riding horse should be.)
 But he too would make a white vision of loveliness grazing lush spring grass along a gurgling creek in a tiny mountain valley.

  And there the both shall ever live in our dreams.

 (Scroll through the Pinterest boards for more inspiration for the Thaw books!
  Winter's Child board.

  Winter Queen board.
   Prince of Demargen board.)

Saturday, April 16, 2016

From Whence Came the Roses

When we went back to Anderson's original Snow Queen tale one element that really jumped out was Snow Queen, roses show up in many others including the Red Shoes, (not one of my favorite tales!) at the end when the angel shows up in the room with the girl, (now footless) and also pious; and touches the walls and ceiling with a rose, transforming them into a church.--

the repetition of roses within the tale. -- This wasn't just confined to Anderson's

 So... roses were a major theme in Anderson's mind, and they definitely come out in the Snow Queen. First the childhood friends Gerda and Kai either play together in their rose gardens, or lean over the rose planted window boxes in their second story bedroom windows.

 Later when Gerda is searching for her friend she comes to a house where the lady wants to keep her, so the lady makes all her roses go underground so Gerda will not see them and remember the friend she's searching for. Gerda's tears wakes one the bushes and the rose comes back topside, and tells her that Kai is not buried, for it would have known if he was in the ground. (Anywhere, I guess... the ground is a lot more communicative than we suspected, apparently.)

 So, roses had to play a part in our tale as well... and as I wrote they began to unfold into a sort of symbol of our Princess Girthild's enthusiasm and zest for life in spite of life's obvious drawbacks. Early in the story "Girta" plays in the garden alone, trying to walk the stone wall of the rose beds. She slips and falls headfirst into the thorny bushes, but when her Nurse pulls her out and scolds her Girta appears more disappointed in her failure to complete the challenge than the fact that she is scratched and her dress torn.

 So here they could be viewed as symbolizing life, and possibly illustrating one of the chief differences between the royal sisters. Ilise focuses mostly on the painful, sad parts of life and draws away more than she should, hiding from it all.... while Girta disregards any risk, ignores the possibility of downsides, and rushes headlong into life, blithely certain that her force of will alone will make things turn out right.

 (Both are of course quite wrong, but how they come to deal with that is another, longer, story.)

 Later nurse sets Girta to snipping blossoms as a distraction, and Girta is enchanted with the prospect of going all over the castle giving roses to all the guards.
 (This childish eagerness to distribute gifts could be seen as more than a simple pastime, perhaps the roses are standing in for the love that Girta wishes to receive, and so she hurriedly hands it out to anyone she can reach?)

 When Girta leans over the castle wall and sees young Kai, she throws him roses too... she doesn't differentiate at all whom she reaches out to. (This could be seen as foreshadowing... unknowingly desperate to be loved, she gives it eagerly without the usual precautions.)

When another boy visits Girta eagerly fetches roses for both Ilise and the visitor, blithely handing Ilise a red rose and the visitor a yellow one. Ilise, conditioned to Girta's excitability, simply accepts the gift, but the boy rejects the yellow rose, citing the thorns. Girta is dismayed, but the repercussions of the boy's act will echo long into adulthood for him.

 Later, when she is grown, both she and Ilise are presented with golden jewelered roses, their petals gilded with enamel to look like perfect reproductions of  the original.
 Ilise receives a white one, the color of innocence, purity and sincerity; but unconsciously mirrors the cool frosty world in which she exists. To her the gift means little, it is simply a trinket presented by a visitor.

Girta's is crimson red; the color of fire, exuberance, and of course, passion. This rose begins to take on more and more meaning in her mind as the tale progresses, until the reader could almost think that she sees it as the return on all the roses, and love, she gave away throughout her childhood. They have come back to her, condensed into a rose that will never die, a love preserved, forever.
 Toward the end of the tale her view on it changes again, but if there is one thing consistent about Girta, it's changeability.

 Later, when Girta is hotly pursuing her search, she comes to the Rose House, which we left with exactly that name. It seems logical that a lady so devoted to growing the flowers would happily christen her home in the same vein. When further along in the story we encounter the only inn in the nearby village of Rasnaburg; called "the Rooster and the Rose", it is not hard to imagine that the lady of Rose House also owns the inn. Possibly this fascination with the flower is a familial thing, since the inn and the house have most likely worn their names for several generations.

 When at last Girta hotly discards the crimson enamel rose, it is a gift she will not receive again. In time she will recognize it on the gown of another, and she herself will receive a rose of a different color. It is true that sometimes the things we are so certain will make us happy are the very things we throw away, but then can their loss truly sting if they were not really meant for us? One beautiful thing can be admired by many, but truly belong only with the perfect match.

 And Girta's zest for life is not done yet, not by a long shot.
She is much more than any color of rose, and her check-mate is yet to come.

 (Scroll through the Pinterest boards for more inspiration for the Thaw books!
  Winter's Child board.

  Winter Queen board.
   Prince of Demargen board.)

Friday, April 15, 2016

Dealing with the Spiritual in Fiction: Paranormal... and Fairytales

Dealing with the Spiritual in Fiction: Paranormal... and Fairytales

 Although there is a growing trend for fiction that involves major spiritual beings, (it's called Paranormal, and has been hot in publishing) most Fantasy titles stay clear. (Somewhat. Lines are blurring everywhere, but I'm talking generalities.) Fantasy and Fairytale genres tend to lean more toward the "magic is the power" way of thinking... (which, personally, I'm not super comfortable with, either.)
 That's one reason why I was so surprised to find heavenly influences featuring so prominently in the tales of Hans Christian Anderson, an author whose writings I had never really cared for. Giving them a new look in researching my latest series, I realized how heavily Anderson opted to have angels appear in his tales.
  Think of the Red Shoes... (have you read that story? Talk about gruesome! Ow!) At the end the penitent girl (now footless) has turned her heart so pious that she wishes above all things to go to mass, an angel appears, touches the walls and the ceiling with a rose (what is it with roses and Hans Christian Anderson?) and the room becomes the church, with the girl seated right in the middle of the worshiping congregation. (At least the version I read. In others I hear she dies of joy. Fun stuff, Anderson!)

  In the Snow Queen Anderson again employs heavenly messengers; at last reaching the Snow Queen's icy palace, Gerda prays and her breath takes the form of angels who resist the snowflake guards and allow her to enter.
 Although I'm not a fan of Anderson's works -- they are much too rambling and with no through-line whatsoever, not to mention very little of the fascination many other fairytales command-- I was uniquely intrigued by his marriage of angels and fairytales.
 It made me rethink some of my positions.

 I am rather on the conservative end of speculative fiction, I feel that while there are many vistas spread wide open, some are totally out of bounds. The recent rash of paranormal is definitely one of those places; for me, I feel it plays lightly with things that are very serious and very much beyond our ability to know. Demons are nothing to be trifled with, and angels cannot be translated into human terms and then danced about like puppets on a string.
 The seemingly popular "star crossed angel/demon lovers" theme is gravely ill informed, since biblically it would seem evident angels, as Chirst says "neither marry nor are given in marriage". Since marriage is the appointed place for love as the "star crossed lovers" definition would have it, then angels are not composed with that as an option. In fact, since they are truly spiritual beings, it would only make sense that they would have no level that mirrored the animal-like aspects of reproduction at all... we mortals are near to the other mammals on this earth being all born of creation, but angels are spirit beings and would be as intrinsically different as light itself. And just as light can never, ever get wet; no matter how much water it goes through, it simply has no physical state.
 So too, I believe, angels must, (if capable of such a "free choice" notion as "love",) must function fully in agape love, as an extension of the Father whose face they see continuously.

 Anyway, I take spiritual realities very seriously, and will be the first to admit that I am in no way capable of actually knowing what is going on in that invisible realm. But since it's so important, I'm reluctant to make wild stabbing guesses and turn it into a plaything to twist in the hands of my imagination.
 It's serious stuff, and I respect it as such.

 So previously I had gone with the route of not having anything "angelic" in my tales, since I wasn't sure where crossing a line might happen. (I realize others have run hog wild, but I'm still responsible only for me.)
 But as I approached the middle of this story, with it's origin's distinct inclusion of prayer and angelic assistance, I began to wonder. What do we know about angels? How might they possibly work? And even if we don't know, is there a way they could be handled in the realm of fantasy that might bring them respect from minds in our own world?
 "Angelos" simply means "messenger" in Greek, and as I read the only trustworthy tome (I feel) we have on angels, it becomes obvious that they are all over the scale. They had different jobs, different ways in which they interacted -- or didn't -- with mortals, and certainly different appearances.
  Like drastically different! The description of the ones that guard the Holy Throne... I tell you what, I've got a great imagination, but I cannot for the life of me concoct a mental picture of that.

 Since there are so many types and kinds of them, I was uniquely struck by the passage in KJV Rev. 16:5 that says "...I heard the angel of the waters say..."
 Our understanding of exactly what something like that means is necessarily imperfect, but what about just as a jumping off point for a obviously fictional world and a fairytale setting?
 If there is an angel of the waters in real life, then might not there be angels for the seasons? In a fairytale, couldn't that be a way that the Creator of that world might work His will in that realm?

 In the end I decided to go ahead and accept that as part of the world that was emerging in my writing, and as soon as I did it opened up so many new opportunities for the story to point more openly toward Ultimate Truth. I think it was a necessary part of the tale, and I'm glad I went with it.
  Whether I'd include angels into any other of my worlds, I can't say. I'm still reluctant to tread too far over a line on this subject, and so I think I'll stay on the cautious side of careful.
 But this did open up some places that I hadn't gone before with my own perspective on our world, and I have to say that I'm humbled and a little amazed how the pursuit of writing can bring us deeper into the understandings of even such a little thing as the magnitude of ignorance we have on the forces arrayed in our favor as children of the Most High King.


Thursday, April 14, 2016

Ice Maidens in Real Life

In the Thaw books the princess Ilise is a "winter's child", an answer to her barren parents' long years of

prayer for a baby.
 When they share a moment of closeness amid their sorrow and build a baby out of snow, they whisper secret plans that can never come true of the daughter they will never have.
 "I would name her Ilise." The king says, "I read it in a book. It is from the southern lands, and it means blessed."
 The queen drops a sweet tear on the snow baby in her arms, and the little snow figure disappears.
 Then a soft voice of the Winter Angel tells them that their prayers have been answered, and their Ilise, their blessed one, will be born next winter. "And she will be a special child."
  Overcome with joy, thus starts a fairy-tale that has unexpected results for the royal couple.

  Their child is pale, perfect, and lovely. Studious and proper, she is does everything just as she ought and there is no room for improvement on this delightful gift.
 But as her parents cuddle and coddle her, just how "special" the Angel meant becomes clearer with the years, and she goes from tracing the frost on the window to making it, from showing off her talents with pony ice sculptures to ice automatons, to the full blown fortress of ice that she eventually immures herself completely inside.

 Her story is too long to share here, but she is not the only one who freezes those around her and  shuts herself off from the world.

 There are those among us, though born of less fairy-tale means, that have the power to psychologically "freeze" those around us, and we too retreat into our towers and refuse to come out.
 Although in the real world this has limited repercussions compared to Ilise's dramatic problems; it is still not healthy and we need to find ways to release the grip of ice on our hearts and learn "how to thaw".

 I know this because I am/was one of them. A middle child finds it easy to feel forgotten, and a quiet one simply retreats further within.
 I was "the smart one", so while I couldn't make others feel "put in their place" through my athletic prowess or my charismatic personality, growing up I was often tempted to "put the chill" on someone simply by upstaging their incorrect information/ or pointing out a truer fact that cut their argument off at the knees.

 My family is rife with choleric personalities, so for someone who hates conflict (which I truly do) I found myself in that kind of hot seat quite a lot over the years. Since I didn't have the roaring fire of a powerful personality on my side, I had to reach for other ammunition, and since logic and facts were respected in my house, my intellect became my archery squad.

 Many of the fights never should have happened, but like most families, our parents were elsewhere and childish tempers raged... even well into the teens. (Actually, cross that out, because they still do from time to time.)

 Anyway, my point is that where some of my siblings grew fire, I became an expert on ice. I would shut down, tune out, and my words were my whip as I responded to my perceived attackers. I never let them see they'd hurt me, because that would give them the victory. What I don't know is if I ever hurt them. One of those things we'll never know, the "might have been".

 (To my credit I was always the "peacemaker" of the family, so I didn't let my strengths carry me away as drastically as I could have, since I was always in the back of my mind calculating how hard to recover from each barbed word would be.
 The ones with lethal hit points I generally choked back and kept in the arsenal.)

  I always thought of myself as the "good guy". After all, it wasn't me raising my voice and getting red in the face. My pulse would race, but my lid never flipped.
  It wasn't till I was in my late teens that I began to see just how damaging the "cool cucumber" bazooka could actually be; not so much to others... but myself.

   The more instances I saw of my kind, the more I noticed it could get very out of hand; so distanced from the world that some of us had quit feeling anything. Or had at least convinced themselves so hard that we believed it.
  As I assessed other people I met, and it became evident that whatever reason we had originally started to "shut down and tune out" as a defense mechanism was generally long gone, but the response was still there, shutting us down.

 Sometimes we were snippy and trigger-happy, jerking off shots at anyone below us within reach of our "freeze". We were showing the world that we were better than it. We were untouchable. We didn't need friends and we didn't care if you knew it.

 Even with a general desire to be liked and accepted, our "ice veins" couldn't be thawed, and our habits were chilling everyone around us.

 Others of our ilk had turned inward to the point that we stopped interacting at all, maintaining a stony-cold silence throughout any event; distanced by a gulf so wide that mountains might as well have towered in it.

 As an outsider I could see that what while we were cutting ourselves off from present joys, those past hurts were trapped inside our ice towers with us, as stinging today as they were the first time we faced them.

 As many different reasons we all had, almost all of them were in our far past. Whether the insults were real or imagined, from a wrong turn in a basically normal childhood or from real abuse in various forms, we were all now trapped by the very thing we believed was protecting us.

 And we had no clue how to melt it and step out of that cold prison.

 I didn't. I remember wishing I could react in a different way, even picturing the whole thing, but in the end I didn't have the courage or the strength to even try.

As I studied our collective problem more and more I finally came down to a base, fundamental truth.
 It was a form of pride that made us unable to release our cages.

  And all pride is selfishness... and so the first step was fighting myself, the worser parts of me that whispered "They hate you anyway, don't give them a chance to hurt you."
 "Nobody likes you, and why would they? Show them you don't need to like them, either!"

  The path to a better self is always strewn with ugly battles... and those various monsters seem to rear up again and again long after you think they're dead. But in the end they do get dead-er, and the inner warrior grows strong enough to withstand their weakened darts of doubt and shame.

   We "ice maidens" and "ice men"; we have so many things going for us. Invariably, we are strong, determined people with intelligent minds and an ability to focus that can be a massive benefit. But when our strengths are used against us, we flounder and freeze into a pillar that is stuck in the middle as life blossoms all around us.

 It still hurts when my attempts to be friendly are shot down, or when someone I love says something the stings. But I've learned how to thaw, and that's allowed me to be open to new warmth as it shows up, as well as the old hearth-fires that bond family members in palpable affection.

 I don't know how many others out there share my strengths, and my weaknesses, but I'd love to be able to touch their hearts and inspire them to melt, too.

 The universal laws apply to this as with any strangle-hold selfishness may be exhibiting itself through; and so the same rules can kill it back:

  Sincerely apologize as soon as possible after you realize selfishness scored a point.
A true, authentic apology is so hard to do, but think of it as kicking selfishness in the teeth. I tell you what, that little monster takes a major hit every time you go the distance to genuinely apologize and then make it right with a honest heart, and the next time the scenario rolls around it hasn't got nearly as much power over you, by a long shot.

 Ask those you know can help, when you need it.
 I've learned how to ask for affection when I'm feeling distanced and like no one likes me, instead of allowing selfishness to say "If they loved me, they'd know." Even though we may pride ourselves on reading others ( a trait "cool cucumbers" major in) a ton of people aren't that observant. (Besides, give yourself the benefit of the doubt. Maybe you don't know all the time, as much as you think you know.)

 And finally, be open to the idea of rejection/pain.
Westley says "Life is pain, Highness. Anybody who tells you different is selling something."
 While that may be true, life isn't all pain, and if we run into hurtful spots, a better way to deal with it instead of clamming up and scrambling back into our tower is to say "I can weather a bit of pain. This isn't going to kill me, I am stronger than this."
 Growing up rural, in the mountains and plains, on farms and ranches, we kids got used to pulling splinters our of our hands, skidding our knees across gravel, falling off of horses and getting our toes stepped on by hoofs large and small. The first time shocked us, but we soon adapted and would be more concerned about getting on with our plans or bragging rights than how much it hurt.
 Why can't we be that way with emotional hurt?
 In the end, we should be in such a hurry to do our next thing the "slights and stings of fate" should be no more than a temporary knock.

 And finally, we should always look to our Great King as our source of importance, not whether the world likes us or not, approves of us or not, or even loves us or not. The more we battle selfishness down into it's hole and put a lid on it, the clearer we are able to see that our Maker is the only One who matters... and our relationship with Him is our best and greatest alley.

 And with Him we can never be alone.

(P.S. Disclaimer: those out there that are "Fire hearts" have their own problems, and they need to take care of that. Don't let their behavior tilt your boat... we are responsible for our own vessel sailing straight, so just do our best with "fire ships" that could temporarily sink us. Charting a course for clear water is not the same as freezing over and sitting completely still. Please don't confuse the two! )

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Inspiring Noran

Photo from Pinterest.
 The Snow Queen, the Snow Maiden, Schneekind, Snegurken... tales from Germany, Russia and
Scandinavia, share the deep rooted psychological fact of Winter as a major player in life.
 Although those countries have a great deal of differences in real life, they are much the same backdrop in their fairytales, and so they were easy to combine since their settings could be superimposed on top of each other without even a hitch.

 As a kid I loved those stories of the Swiss Alps, the Sammi herders, about Norwegian children skiing to school through snowy pine covered mountain slopes. (Did you read the article on the Sammi in Nat'l Geographic? I devoured that article very slowly, already picturing what the sentences described. It was sort of a "deliciously scary" type of thing because I really hate being cold, and yet the entire article was basically about people who are totally fine with the cold and do all sorts of stuff in it. Still, it's always fun to add to one's research, and I definitely pulled the colorful knitwear from the Sammi photos. All of them seemed to be a combination of blue, white and red in zig-zag or star patterns.)

 Not only have I had access to a rather large body of true tales and books set in Scandinavian countries, but I've spent several childhood winters in the high Northern Rockies, as well as one in northern Minnesota. Although I'm not a fan of winter, (and so I didn't use the cold so sharp it hurts the inside of your nose, 'cause that's just painful to even remember)  I did use the squeak of snow underfoot and other small things that I've experienced.
 The mountainous aspect was fairly normal for me, since I lived in a mountain environment for several of my formative years, (complete with a ranging herd of dairy goats that had to be escorted by my older siblings due to predators: yes, it was straight out of Heidi!) Transporting the assortment of facts and impressions from books into my own experience, the whole of Noran, Svesser and the Reindeer Lands to the north of them were almost "native heath" to me. I really didn't have to go far.

 One of the tidbits I picked up in a book about sailing was that during the "age of sail" when tall masted ships ruled the seas of the world, those masts almost invariably came from Norway. The pines there grew tall and straight, important for masts, and were tough and springy in their fibers, which was also pretty important. In fact, it was said that much of the exploration of the islands around Australia was in pursuit of a new land that might be rugged enough and north enough to grow that kind of pine, either native or introduced. But that never really panned out, and the gold standard in ship's masts remained pines from the mountain slopes of Norway.
 As a way of slipping that air of history in, I have made the timber industry and shipbuilding major aspects of Noran economy and trade. (Though this is not a story about trade, so I didn't get to use it much.)

 Since this a fairytale and no fairytale is complete without a castle, and it's mimicking Europe, and they have lovely castles there, I got to play with the fun part of that. I try to leave the names and important histories of side players out of the narrative, because it just tends to clunk up the flow. But I do like to know about them, and when appropriate drop it into the conversation, since the people who live there would be far more likely to say "Rasnaburg" then "the town near Rose House."
 So Noran's capitol city is Loslow... (since I adore the way Oslow sounds, but of course can't use real names here. So I indulged in the guilty pleasure of tweaking it just a smidgen, and "Loslow" sounds pretty neat to me, too.)
  Up the coast and inland some ways is the town of Rasnaburg, with the Rose House not too far away. It is owned by a matronly lady who has at least one son and who owns the only inn in Rasnaburg, and possibly much of the rest of the town as well. It is at this inn, "the Rooster and the Rose" that the search party stops to rest after a "just missed it" episode with the Princess Girta.
 The lady who lives at Rose House has a fascination with roses, for her rose gardens surrouding her house are her pride and joy, and she is not at all pleased when the serving girl says Tompte is chewing on the rose bushes.
 Her fondness for the flower shows in the title of the inn... and possibly it is a family trait, for we can assume that the inn has worn that title for several generations.
 This is exactly the sort of place where a small important person gets to thinking they have a greater scope than they do, and in Winter Queen we find the lady of Rose House playing a role as contagonist to Girta, and hoping for some slight reward for her troubles.
 As it is, she is harshly disappointed, but then you'd have to read the book to get the full story on all of that.

 (Scroll through the Pinterest boards for more inspiration for Noran, and the Thaw books!
  Winter's Child board.

  Winter Queen board.
   Prince of Demargen board.)

 What do you think of when you think of a Northern country?