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Some Ships Were Never Meant to Sail, But…
So my biggest fans remain my daughter and her friends. I’m actually cool with that; writing is a hobby for me, not a retirement plan. I’m pleased to have been able to bond with Rebecca through my writing projects, and I’m pleased that my books have given her a way to bond with some of her classmates. With the first copies of Oathbreaker heading our way, interest in my novels is on an uptick in Macon, Georgia.
Recently (okay, yesterday) a new friend was first initiated into the Wonder through a gift of book 1, Children of Pride. Somewhere in an early chapter, she made the same reading leap that another friend had made a year or so before in “shipping” the protagonist, Taylor, with her soon-to-be mentor, Danny. This is fascinating to me:
- Danny is explicitly described (while impersonating a teenager) as socially awkward, not too bright, and not very good looking.
- In that scene, Taylor explicitly hopes Danny isn’t developing a crush on her.
- A chapter or two later, it is revealed that Danny is actually over 200 years old and not at all interested in Taylor.
Apparently even that last part isn’t enough to dissuade them from hoping for this ship to sail. (One girl said, “That’s not as bad as Edward and Bella.” Rebecca said, “Don’t you dare compare my father’s novels to that book!”)
I choose to believe the utterly unforeseen Taylor-Danny ship says something positive about the quality of friends my daughter has chosen to associate with. They are the kind of people who look beyond outward appearances. They are the kind of people who aren’t ready to write anybody off too soon.
And I’m actually cool with that, too.
“This Isn’t Your Typical Fairy Tale”
Thanks to Janelle Fila for her five-star review of Children of Pride for Readers’ Favorite:
This isn’t a typical fairy tale story, but it isn’t unnecessarily scary or gory either. It is a nice blend of sweet and caring with dark and scary, but never crosses the line into nightmare scary. I loved the characters and the fact that they always tried to do what was right and honorable whenever they could. Great job!
But you don’t have to take her word for it. Read Children of Pride for yourself!
Amazon Customer Reviews
Amazon has refined its system for customer reviews, as Nate Hoffelder describes in her latest post:
It’s always been easy to post a review on Amazon; simply jot down a few sentences, select a star rating, and you’re done. It’s so easy to post a review, in fact, that it’s also easy to miss important details.
That doesn’t help readers, and it doesn’t help Amazon, which is why Amazon has added more options. In addition to the star rating, Amazon has added extra dropdown menus which invite reviewers to describe the quality of the writing, the amount of sex and violence in the book, and other details….
All in all, this is a good move on the part of Amazon. I’m sure I’m not the only reader who has put down a book in frustration with the writing style, tone, or amount of extraneous sex or violence. By offering specific prompts for these areas of concern, Amazon is helping readers make more informed decisions.
In other words, now would be an excellent time to leave a review of Children of Pride or The Devil’s Due! 🙂
What’s Going On?
Before the Christmas season completely overwhelms me, here are a few random notices about things going on in the world of Taylor Smart.
- The Devil’s Due, book two of the Into the Wonder series, is on schedule for release early next year. Certainly by February 2 (Taylor’s birthday), but earlier if possible. In this book, we’ll learn a little bit more about Taylor’s (biological) family as she and her best friend Jill go on the worst road trip ever.
- I’ve knocked out a short story revealing a little bit of the background of everybody’s favorite pooka, Danny Underhill. I’m sure it will see the light of day at some point, in some form. Stay tuned.
- It’s not too late to get book one, Children of Pride, or to leave a (glowing, gushing, effusive, etc.) review at Amazon.com.
- I have not neglected those who have asked for an Into the Wonder Facebook page. Well, actually, I have—but only until I can decide what I’d want to do with it. What would you like to see on an Into the Wonder Facebook page?
- I always have time to answer fan questions. Dana’s recent question about sídhe politics got a timely answer; your questions will, too!
- Work on the third book, with the working title Oak, Ash, and Thorn, is well underway. This one will have a somewhat different format from the first two, with the plot unfolding over a number of months instead of just a few days.
- Thanks to those who’ve found Children of Pride an enjoyable ride. More is on its way!
Fan Questions: Sídhe Politics
Dana, a faithful reader, asks:
What’s the relationship between Chief Matron and Primus, when they’re not married? and how much power (in a matrilinear society) does the Triad hold, especially in relation to the Primus?
Someone has been paying attention! In the Wonder, sídhe Courts are led by a Triad of (female) “Matrons” and by a (male) Primus, something like a chieftain or petty king. The Triad is related to the “triple goddess(es)” of Celtic mythology such as the Irish war-goddesses Badb, Macha, and Anu, but the idea goes back at least to Roman times, when unnamed “Matres” or “Matrones,” apparently goddesses associated with fertility and family life, were worshiped across northern Europe.
The Primus is a stand-in for fae kings like Finnvara, who is said to have ruled the daoine sídhe from Cnoc Meadha in County Galway.
As I’m imagining it, then, sídhe society is not strictly matriarchal, meaning women are in charge. Rather, it is matrilineal, meaning inheritance passes through the mother, not the father as in the ancient and medieval cultures of Europe. For a frame of reference, many Native American tribes (including the Cherokee) are matrilineal. A person belongs to the clan of his or her mother, and one’s “blood relatives” are counted exclusively in terms of one’s mother’s family.
In Cherokee and other Native American cultures, there is a balance of power between the sexes in which the men are in charge of hunting, war, and diplomacy while women are in charge of farming, property, and family. That isn’t a perfect model of what is going on among the sídhe, but it’s close: The Primus is something like the head of state, conducting diplomacy, leading in war, and generally ensuring that the Eldritch Law is upheld. Meanwhile, the Triad is more like the supreme court, resolving inter- and intra-clan conflicts and handing down decisions on how the Eldritch Law should be applied.
That perhaps explains how power is shared between the Triad and the Primus. Now, to the other part of Dana’s question:
Most of the time, the Primus will be the husband of the Chief Matron or ranking member of the Triad. She, in turn, is the ranking (female) member of the ruling house within each Court. This is what readers see with Crom Cornstack and his wife, Mara Hellebore. (Since inheritance passes from mother to daughter, women never take their husbands’ surnames!) As we will see below, it is also possible for the Primus to be the son-in-law or other close relation by marriage of the sitting Chief Matron.
But the situation is currently different in the Summer Court. The former Summer Primus was Vergosus Bright, who was married to Anya Redmane, the Chief Matron. But Vergosus faded in the 1970s. (The Fair Folk don’t die, as a general rule, but will “fade” when they have grown weary of this world.) Normally, the Primacy would then have fallen to the husband of Anya’s daughter—who would herself become next in line to fill the position of Chief Matron. (There would be a convocation of the house of Redmane to ratify the choice, but most of the time this is purely ceremonial.) Unfortunately, Anya did not have any daughters.
This caused the normal succession to shift to Anya’s cousin Martha and her husband, Ambicatus Bright (the brother of Vergosus—sídhe families tend to be somewhat inbred). Ambicatus would be elevated to Primus, and Martha would become Chief Matron, Anya retaining the powerful position of Chief Matron Emerita.
Here is where things got sticky, however. You see, Ambicatus was publicly humiliated when he fell victim to a rather elaborate prank. Although the perpetrator insists this was not his intention, the end result was that Ambicatus’s reputation was so damaged that it became unthinkable that he should ever serve as Primus. He and his wife went into self-imposed exile so as to avoid being the target of scorn and derision for the next several hundred years.
This left the Summer Court in a mess, as there were no other women of the Redmane line to whom to turn. (Nuala Redmane, the daughter of Martha and Ambicatus, was too tarnished by Ambicatus’s disgrace and only barely held on to her own seat on the Triad.)
At this point of social upheaval, the rival house of Fairchild, led by Dubessa Fairchild, compelled Anya and Nuala, the remaining members of the Triad, to offer Dubessa a seat on the Triad and to name her husband, Belas Wakefire, as the new Primus. This was at least somewhat tolerable in that both Dubessa and Belas had Redmane males in their respective family trees.
Backed into a corner, the Triad agreed to Fairchild’s demand. For the last forty years, the Summer Court has found a way to share power between these two influential families with only a minimum of open hostility.
A Cashless Fae Society?
In Children of Pride, the Fair Folk do not use money and do not understand the concept of “payment” the way ordinary mortals do. How can an advanced society exist without money? The simple answer, of course, is because magic.
This Crash Course World History video provides an alternative explanation grounded in anthropology.
Faery Beliefs on the Isle of Man
The Celtic Myth Podshow has posted a video of Prof. Ronald Hutton discussing Manx faery traditions.
Watch and listen to this fantastic lecture given by the wonderful Prof. Ronald Hutton about the Fairy Folklore on the Isle of Man. As always, not only is the Prof. exceedingly entertaining to listen to, but his gives us some superb information about the Fae history of the Island as well its traditional folklore. He finally regales us with a personal tale to have you in stitches! Superb stuff!
In this lecture Professor Ronald Hutton looks at how the Isle of Man is famous as an island full of fairy traditions: in some ways it may be regarded as having the greatest concentration of them in the British Isles. It therefore seems a good place in which to address the question of what traditional fairy beliefs – those shared by ordinary people until recent times – actually were.
You might be interested to know that the title of Children of Pride comes from Manx cloan ny moyrn, which can be translated something like “children of pride” or “children of ambition.”
Trinity Syndrome, or: What Was I Thinking, Writing a Female Protagonist??
Tasha Robinson laments the loss of many Strong Female Characters (a term she acknowledges is “more a marketing term than a meaningful goal”) to what she calls Trinity Syndrome:
For the ordinary dude to be triumphant, the Strong Female Character has to entirely disappear into Subservient Trophy Character mode. This is Trinity Syndrome à la The Matrix: the hugely capable woman who never once becomes as independent, significant, and exciting as she is in her introductory scene.
I’ll be the first to admit I have a lot to learn about writing female characters—which is kind of sad, since Children of Pride and its coming sequel, The Devil’s Due, are chock-full of them! Readers can decide if I’ve written “strong” female characters. Following the checklist Tasha provided, I’m at least on the right track. At any rate, I’m at least fairly sure I’ve written interesting female (and male) characters: motivated, complex, fallible, and, on some level, familiar.
The concluding paragraph is an excellent diagnostic:
So maybe all the questions can boil down to this: Looking at a so-called Strong Female Character, would you—the writer, the director, the actor, the viewer—want to be her? Not want to prove you’re better than her, or to have her praise you or acknowledge your superiority. Action movies are all about wish-fulfillment. Does she fulfill any wishes for herself, rather than for other characters? When female characters are routinely “strong” enough to manage that, maybe they’ll make the “Strong Female Characters” term meaningful enough that it isn’t so often said sarcastically.
Southern Fantasy with No Stereotyping
Thanks to Harriet for bringing out something in her review of Children of Pride that I felt was very important to get right:
I love that this is a fantasy tale that originates in the South and there is no stereotyping!
If all goes well, she and others will be able to enjoy more stereotype-free southern (especially Louisiana!) fantasy perhaps by the end of the year.
Sneak Preview: “The Man in Black” (4)
He scowled at Taylor and broke into a trot.
Taylor gasped and started to run, but he was too fast—faster than should have been possible. In an instant he had grabbed her by the arm and pulled her off the path and into the trees. She tried to scream, but he clamped his hand tightly across her mouth before she even knew what was happening. She tried to kick, but he was too strong.
He threw her onto the ground. As she looked up, the stranger was standing nearly on top of her. Something about him had changed, and not in a good way. He was still tall and dressed all in black, like undertakers always dressed in the old Westerns her Grandpa Miller liked to watch. But now she could see he was carrying an empty burlap sack in his hand. What most concerned Taylor, however, was the man’s face.
His skin was mottled gray with splotches of pink, and his bushy unibrow made him look like he was wearing a fur-lined sun visor. His teeth were yellow and misshapen. There was a hard, brown wart on the end of his chin.
“Easy does it, chica. I don’t want to hurt you,” the man hissed.
He grinned a disgusting, toothy grin and reached toward her. Then he fell back, bowled over by dog that had appeared out of nowhere. It was lanky and medium sized with a tapering snout and short black fur. A Labrador retriever?
The dog chomped down on the strange man’s right hand, the one that held the sack. He fell to the ground, roaring in anger and pain, but the dog didn’t let go. It growled and shook its head back and forth. Taylor inched away and hid behind the nearest tree. Something in the back of her head told her to run, but she couldn’t convince her body to cooperate.
Uncle Waldo threw off the dog, which yelped as it hit the ground. He rose to one knee, nursing his arm.
Somehow the dog disappeared, but in its place crouched Danny Underhill. “Back off!” he yelled. Uncle Waldo growled. Taylor’s head swam.
“Oh…my…” she whispered.
Danny sprung forward, and this time Taylor saw him change. In midair, his face lengthened into a muzzle. His body shifted, compacted. His khakis and red polo shirt were overrun with sleek, black fur, and his hands and feet turned into paws. By the time he bowled into the stranger, he had turned back into a dog!
Uncle Waldo rolled on the ground, trying to regain his footing. The black Lab grabbed the tail of his coat in his teeth and held on tight. His eyes glowed like there was a fire inside his skull and his eyes were glass windows tinted yellow.
The stranger pulled himself out of his coat. The dog—could this really be Danny Underhill?—spat it out, growled, and bared his fangs. Uncle Waldo lifted his hands to shield himself from the next attack. And attack Danny did. He pounced on the stranger again. This time, the man with the sack took a bite to his throat and fell back bleeding. He shouted in fury, then threw the dog off him and scrambled away.
By this time, Taylor was hyperventilating. She sat on the ground at the base of her tree as Danny, who had once again turned into Danny, ran to her.
“Are you alright?” he asked.