fantasy novels

The Creation of Haedyn: A Walk Through Building an Unusual Character

Jennifer L. OliverI’m excited to welcome fellow fantasy author and WANA-ite Jennifer L. Oliver to my blog today.

Jennifer was born and raised in North Carolina and now lives on Florida’s gulf coast with her husband, two cats, a dog, and multiple fish. She is the author of dark urban fantasy and paranormal thrillers. When she’s not writing, you can find her giggling with her granddaughter and enjoying time with her family. The Unnamed is her debut novelette and prequel to the upcoming novel Haedyn, due out this year.


Being your guest today is such a treat for me, Marcy. Thank you for having me!

Every author gets their ideas for stories in different ways. For me, a story starts out as a character first. Most of them begin as partial images or wisps of shadows, like ghosts floating through my mind. They don’t speak but rather hover in the corners until I coax them to come forward. The more time I spend with them, the more solid and detailed they become. Then they tell me their story.

Haedyn, the protagonist in The Unnamed and main character in my upcoming novel, was different. She walked right up to me and said, “Here I am. Create me.” Who could say no to that?

So there I was with so many options that I wasn’t even sure where to begin. The one thing I was sure of was that I wanted Haedyn to be unique and possess qualities of the strong female leads that I love. I made a list, picked out a few, and analyzed what it was about them that stayed with me.

IllyriaOn the TV show Angel the character Fred (Winifred Burkle) was taken over by an ancient demon, Illyria. Now, as saddened as I was to see the death of such a loveable character as Fred, I was immediately intrigued by Illyria. She was powerful, arrogant, and oozed of superiority. Until she found out that her world was gone and there was no one left to worship her. But that’s a whole other issue.

What struck me about Illyria was her looks. She was different. Unique. From her awkward movements and proper speech to her blue-streaked hair and bright blue eyes, she took otherworldly to a whole new level for me (probably due to Amy Acker’s fabulous portrayal of her). That’s I wanted for Haedyn.

I gave her features that would make her stand out: pale skin, silverish-white hair, and deep red eyes. Humans mistakenly believe she has a rare form of albinism. But it isn’t just the genetic disorder that made humans distance themselves, it’s something else. Something instinctual. It’s that voice that tells our subconscious that we are in the presence of potential danger and we need to be wary. Suddenly I had a full image of Haedyn in my head. It was awesome.

Then I moved on to her personality. At first, Haedyn took on the awkwardness and proper speech of Illyria. She was a loner and didn’t know how to deal with others, human or supernatural. She had complete control over her emotions and kept them buried so deep that she forgot how to feel. She was detached. She was… a robot. Um, yeah, that wasn’t going to work.

I didn’t want Haedyn’s uniqueness to hinder her strength. I wanted her to be affected by her differences but not defeated by them. So I pulled a little from the character Fred, the girl who Illyria infected and eventually took over.

Fred was likeable and sweet, an innocent in a cruel world who had to endure terrible things just to survive. She found the strength within herself to overcome being sent to an alternate dimension and still managed to hold on to her innocence. I wanted Haedyn to have that kind of inner strength, but I didn’t want the vulnerability and naivety.

Which lead me to one of my all-time favorite female leads, Selene from the movie Underworld. She definitely had some influence in creating Haedyn. Selene is a vampire and a death-dealer. She’s strong and loyal. No matter what job she’s given, her elders know she’ll get it done. Death and killing don’t affect her in the slightest—she can’t let it. It’s how she survives in a world full of back-stabbing, power-hungry vampires. She trusts no one and she’s not only smart, but street-savvy. And she fights for what she believes is right, including love. 

Haedyn is very much like Selene in these ways, but she also has the underlying desire to belong somewhere, to fit in. She’s lonely and yearning for a higher purpose—much like Illyria was at the end of Angel. I think Haedyn has a good mix of all the things I like about my favorite female leads. You’ll have to let me know what you think after you meet her yourself in my novel Haedyn, due out this year.

Who are your favorite characters? Have they had any influence in your life or your work?

The Unnamed by Jennifer L. OliverThe Unnamed:

The demon Azazel will stop at nothing to corrupt souls, even if he has to make his own. But in doing so, his process mistakenly creates an abomination more powerful than he imagined: the Unnamed.

A blind albino, Haedyn has never fit in with other children. When she comes face to face with pure evil, she discovers that she’s not even human. She must decide what to do in a world where she doens’t belong.

The Unnamed is a prelude to the upcoming novel Haedyn, due out in early 2013.

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Special Announcement: Registration is now open for WANACon, an entirely online writer’s conference (including the opportunity to book appointments with agents). The conferences runs February 22 to February 23, and you can register for one day or both. I’m currently scheduled to teach a session on Day 2.
Click here to register for both days.
Click here to register for Day 1.
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Have You Lost Your Taste for Adventure?

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien with Bilbo BagginsBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

As The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opens, Bilbo Baggins has no desire for adventure. The curious child he once was is gone, leaving only a hobbit who enjoys his food, and pipe, and comfortable home.

The wizard Gandalf and a pack of zealous dwarves invade his house and offer him the opportunity for riches and excitement, along with the risk of death and dismemberment, for which they, of course, won’t be held responsible.

“Can you promise that I will come back?” Bilbo asks Gandalf when Gandalf tries to convince him to help the dwarves take back their home from the dragon.

“No,” Gandalf replies. “And if you do, you will not be the same.”

The same is true of every adventure we take.

No, we won’t face fire-breathing dragons that will very likely incinerate us. We won’t face trolls who want to eat us. We won’t need to outrun orcs who want to cut off our heads.

But the real life adventures can be just as terrifying. Our emotional lives, our very selves, are at stake. And adventures, in fantasies and in real life, are never easy.

His first night on the road with the dwarves, Bilbo can’t sleep for their snoring. The rain drenches him, and he regrets coming. It would have been easy for him to turn back. In fact, Thorin (leader of the dwarves) frequently goads him to, telling him he never should have come.

If we’re brave enough to take an adventure this year, we’ve going to face tests to our resolve as well.

Marriage. Parenthood. Leaving an abusive relationship. A move across the country. A change in jobs. Launching our own business. All the things that are really worth doing. We put ourselves in danger of broken hearts, lost sleep, separation from family, financial tragedy, and humiliation.

Part way in, we’ll probably wish we could turn back. We’ll regret the adventure we’ve started. We’ll be afraid that we won’t make it, and that if we do, we won’t know the person we’ve become.

And if we only look at the risks, we probably will turn back. We need to look at the benefits instead.

Because Bilbo didn’t run away, the dwarves accepted him as one of them, and he, in turn, was ready to give his life for them. Any spouse or parent would do the same for their family. Friendship, loyalty, love, and courage are worth the risk.  

Bilbo learned his own strengths, like his intelligence. In our safety zones, we don’t always know what our strengths are. Sometimes discovering them takes risk.

What’s more, like Bilbo, we’ll prove the people wrong who said we’d never make it. We’ll learn what we’re truly capable of.

What adventure have you taken in the past that you’re glad you took? What adventure are you going to take this year?

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Related Posts:
Do You Believe in Second Chances? What Frodo and Gollum Can Teach Us About Forgiveness
What Lord of the Rings Character Are You?
Beorn’s Honey Cake

Where Did the Inspiration for Shrilugh Trees Come From?

Shrilugh by Myndi ShaferI have a special treat for you today. One of my lovely fantasy writer friends has agreed to visit today and tell us about the glowing trees in her book. I love taking a behind the scenes look (like watching the special features on a movie), so I’m thrilled Myndi agreed to stop by.


Thanks, Marcy, for having me today! I’m tickled pink to be here.

Shrilugh takes place in two different worlds: a fictional version of ours, and another world accessed through a mystical Door atop an old abandoned silo. Originally, Shrilugh was called The Silo Door because I went into writing the first draft with the mindset of the story centering around the Door. Soon, however, the story grew, the plot thickened, and the Door itself became secondary. Which meant I needed to find another name for the book.

The name of the other world is Archethenia. (That’s never mentioned in the the first book for two reasons: the main character, Aydan, never thought to ask, and the secondary character, Rein, never thought to tell.)

Archethenia isn’t terribly different from our own world: its occupants look human (though they’re not). They eat similar foods, have families, live in houses. But it’s a more rustic world – no electricity, no machines. It’s a more formal world – women wear dresses, servants and slaves abound, and there is a social caste.

It’s also a more sophisticated world – though there is little technology like our own, there is a fineness to what they do have. Their carriages are sleek and move with more grace than our automobiles. Their architecture is handcrafted and made with intention, with symbolism carefully integrated in unexpected places. As we get into the pages of the second book (The Darkening, due out late February 2013), we’ll find that they are not quite so limited in technology as we thought – it just looks different than our own.

One of the differences between our world and theirs is found in nature – specifically, the trees. Not all their trees, but one species in particular, called Shrilugh. When dusk settles in, the Shrilugh trees begin to glow, lighting the world around them with a warm, inviting light. Marcy asked me to talk about the inspiration for these trees, and it’s actually appropriate for the season. As I’m tapping away at my keyboard, I’m sitting in front of part of my inspiration:

My Christmas tree.     

Growing up, I was always fascinated by our family Christmas tree. My mom loved Christmas, and our tree would be laden with lights, sparkly gold garland, lights, more ornaments than you can count, and more lights. The woman had a knack for stringing the lights and placing the ornaments in a way that took our tree from looking like the fake that it was to a Glowing Glorious Thing That Deserved Your Awe.

I remember looking at that tree, and then looking out my bedroom window at night, wishing the trees that lined the river in the distance would glow too. I was especially fond of a very tall cottonwood, and oftentimes found myself praying with all my child-like might that God would light up that tree, just for me.

When we moved back to Kansas from Hawaii, one of the first things I noticed was how darn short the trees are here. They have to be. The winds that come howling across these plains make it tough for a tree of any height to survive.

Cottonwoods are the exception. They’re sturdy buggers who aren’t afraid of the wind; in fact, I’d have sworn the one I favored as a kid longed for it. While the other trees around it seemed to hunker down and wait out the gales, that tree seemed to dance in it.

The Kansas landscape seemed so brown and desolate compared to Hawaii. Short trees, little water. It could have been a pretty depressing shift, but three things saved it for me: the stars at night, the lazy sunsets, and the cottonwood trees.

One cottonwood in particular. Along Highway 196, between Whitewater and Newton, on the north side of the road, stands a giant. He’s right at the crest of a hill, standing watch over the travelers as they pass by. I like to think that he and the cottonwood of my youth are related somehow – cousins? Brothers?

So that’s how Shrilugh trees came to be – a combination of my love for my mom’s Christmas trees, and my love for a couple friendly cottonwoods. And since these glowing trees (and the mythology behind them) are ultimately central to the plot of the series, it seemed natural to give the first book (and the series itself) their name.

Would you like to own a tree that glows?

Myndi ShaferMyndi Shafer digs tiramisu, the smell of rain, and freshly painted nails. Myndi does not dig stubbing her toe, eating sushi, and formatting eBooks. She lives with her husband, four kiddos, a dog, and a bird, and knows her life is charmed. To learn more about Myndi, visit her website, hang out with her on Twitter (@MyndiShafer), or like her on Facebook (because everybody loves to be liked, right?).

You can buy Shrilugh at Amazon*, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords. And don’t forget to visit Myndi at her blog!

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*The Amazon link is Marcy’s Amazon affiliate link. If you’re not cool with that, just search for Shrilugh on Amazon.

The Hunger Games Movie

This week, Lionsgate released the first full Hunger Games movie trailer. As a huge fan, I’m already counting down to the March 23, 2012, release date, and saving up my credit card rewards points so that my husband and I can see it in theaters. In case you missed it (or are like me and want to watch it multiple times), here’s the trailer . . .

You can also become an official Hunger Games groupie by checking out the following sites:

The Hunger Games Facebook Page – Meet the tributes and keep up on the latest updates.

The Hunger Games Movie Site – Want a counter widget (don’t think I didn’t consider it), sneak peaks, and photos, then this is the place to be.

The Hunger Games Official Website – Find out more about Suzanne Collins, play games, or vote for whether you’ll be supporting Katniss or Peeta.


Saturday Grab Bag

Because it’s tricky to keep up on all the great posts out there, I’ve collected some of my favorites in a Saturday mash-up. Enjoy 🙂

Links for Writers

Getting Primal and Staying Simple with Your Plot – Bestselling author Kristen Lamb gives priceless tips on how to get a visceral reaction from your readers with a plot that’s both complex yet simple.

Writing A Series: 7 Continuation Issues to Avoid – From covers to character histories, Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn points out what you need to watch for when writing a series.

On Your Mark: Marketing Your Novel (Part 1) & (Part 2) – Angela Ackerman of The Bookshelf Muse hosts Janice Hardy, author of three novels, in this series of guest posts full of tested advice on how to market your novel. These tips are as valid for traditionally published authors as they are for indie authors.

Links for Speculative Fiction Lovers

The Immortals Are Coming – Debra Kristi of Sparks in the Fire asks, “Would you want to be immortal if it meant continuing to grow old and watching everyone you love pass away?”

Why Sliders May Be Possible: The Science of Multi-Universes – Alexia Reed of Danger Begins with a Kiss asks “what if” while looking at some interesting scientific studies.

Current Events

A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney – Coleen Patrick looks at the snippets of wisdom Andy Rooney gave to the world in his many essays on 60 Minutes.

Five Leadership Lessons from Steve Jobs – Michael Hyatt calls these leadership lessons, but they’re actually just good life lessons for all of us.

Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Lessons from Steve Jobs – Diane Capri on her blog Licensed to Thrill gives a lovely summary of what Steve Jobs did right in his life, as well as links to the 60 Minutes special and his biography.

The Meaning of Life

Grumpy to Gracious – When you feel grumpy but you don’t know why (or even if you do), August McLaughlin’s blog Savor the Page gives some simple ways to practice gratitude. Her tips help chase the grumpies away.

Beer Can Barriers – Are your problems actually impossible to fix or are they only beer can barriers? Myndi Shafer’s Silly Soapbox takes a new look at our perspective about our problems.

This Week from My Co-Writer Lisa Hall-Wilson

Check out her tribute to Canadian veterans in I Am Not American.