Blood Crystal Blog Tour

How exciting to be a part of the blog tour for new release Blood Crystal by Jeanette O’Hagan. I trust you’ve been following along and collecting your scavenger hunt clues (check below for details and today’s clue), along with prizes offered by host authors along the way.

Following on from David Rawling’s tour blog, today I have the privilege of interviewing secondary character from Blood Crystal, Lady Zara. Let’s make her feel welcome.

Lady Zara, thank you for agreeing to speak about the recent events below the mountain. It must be difficult living under the rule of Overseer Havilah, as the daughter of the conquered former leader, Uzza. If you don’t mind, I’d like to ask some questions. I’ll take your haughty nod as permission. No need to glare.

Question one. Overseer Havilah seems to have some ‘interesting’ family dynamics to manage with her sons. What do you think of her as a leader? Does she have the best intentions for the Earthbiter people, or is she swayed too much by the opinions of her boys, especially Putarn?

What do you mean ‘Earthbiter’? Such a strange and rude term. And don’t talk to me about Havilah, a common toolwun with ideas above her station and capabilities. Though you are right about those sons of hers, especially that Putarn – such an unimpressive fellow with a scrappy beard and unpleasant manner, always with an angry scowl. His ideas are simply ludicrous.

Apologies for seeming rude. I’d heard the Forest Folk use this term and thought … well … perhaps we’d best move onto question two. Scrybe Barekia, who repaired the Crystal Heart during your father’s … ah … strategic retreat, seems to have doubts about the crystal’s continued function. Now there are rumours of a sacrifice being required of the ‘true seed’. What do you make of this?

Well! I have no idea what this nonsense is about the ‘true seed’, but both my honoured father and grandfather made it clear that sacrifices are needed to appease the Dark Ones and keep the Crystal Heart functioning. Unpleasant as the thought is, it is surely better than the whole realm dying? I’m not at all surprised these upstarts are having difficulties. When my father puts them in their place, he’ll get the Heart working again.

Oooookay … that seems somewhat … alarming, I mean … Question three. The Prentice twins, Delvina and Retza, often seem to find themselves in the middle of trouble. In fact, I understand Retza’s been quite the hero as far as you’re concerned. What do you think of the twins and their quest to find answers from the Forest Folk?

So they are twins are they? They do seem common and rather blunt, but Retza did defend me and my little brother Jesson against that horrid Javot’s treachery. Excuse me a moment. It was rather distressing incident. Yes, a sip of water would be welcome. Mind you, I was getting the best of Javot. I am quite capable of defending myself and my brother. Still, Retza’s intervention was timely. Some might find him nice-looking and strong for a common prentice.

That wasn’t quite the version I heard from—

As for seeking help from the Forest Folk, going outside the mountain tunnels is unheard of. Even if it’s possible, it seems foolish and perilous. My grandfather warned of the dangers of the outsiders and their covetous eyes on our wealth, which is why he closed off our realm many years ago and forbade all talk of the outside.

I see. Question four. You might remember Forest dweller, Zadeki, from his brief time under the mountain when he was brought there by the twins after being injured. How do you feel about Zadeki and his capacity to shape-shift? Do you think his people will be able to offer answers to help repair the heart? Is this something that worries you?

Is that what that freakish, silver-skinned stranger was called? Zadeki? An outlandish name and so tall, but no chin hairs to speak of. I do remember him transforming into a horrid, big, furry creature with giant paws and great big teeth in the Sunken Temple. Jaguar, my father called it. It gives me nightmares to think of it.

Frankly, I am a little worried. I doubt such savage people could help us and what if they decide to come back to eat us all and steal our treasures? But then, such a foolhardy mission to the outside will surely fail. And, any day now, my father will come back and restore everything to how it should be.

I see. Well, thanks for your time, Lady Zara. I’ll let you get back to … whatever it is you do now you’re a guarded prisoner of the new order.

You are welcome, I suppose. I look after my poor injured brother and think of ways we can escape to my father. I’m not at all concerned with these petty people, certainly not young prentices like Retza.

Blood Crystal Scavenger Hunt (clue #7 below!) will run throughout the Blood Crystal Blog Tour. Each blog will have a reflection or memory related to themes within Blood Crystal – and a related question. The first person to answer all NINE questions correctly will win a $50 Amazon voucher. The runner up will receive copies of both Heart of the Mountain and the sequel Blood Crystal. Follow each post on the blog tour to find the questions & list your answers in the comments on the final blog post of the tour on 28 July.

Next tour blog stop is Adam Collings (Adam does cool stuff like video interviews). Don’t forget there’s also opportunity to win prizes at each blogspot, including this one!

Scavenger Hunt Clue #7: My current work in progress is a YA slipstream sci-fi fantasy novel, parallelling the lives of two young people from different centuries through a peculiar connection. A significant portion of the historical story revolves around mining in Queensland. Mining ventures must entail management of toxic by-products, which historically has not always been done well. An Australian example of an undesirable mining legacy is the pollution of Dee River. What is the name of the mine associated with this environmental disaster?

Blog Post Prize Opportunity: Comment on this post for your chance to receive a copy of one of my YA techno-thriller Blaine Colton trilogy novels, either Integrate, Replicate or Activate – winner (one person who comments who will be randomly selected) gets to choose which novel they receive.

Bio: Jeanette O’Hagan has published fantasy novellas, including Heart of the Mountain and Blood Crystal, short stories and poems published in various Anthologies, including Tied in Pink Romance Anthology (profits from the anthology go towards Breast Cancer research); Poetica Christi’s Inner Child; Brio anthology, Another Time Another Place, Let the Sea Roar, Glimpses of Light and Plan Australia’s Like a Girl. She has practiced medicine, studied communication, history and theology and has taught theology. She cares for her Family, has a Masters of Arts (Writing) from Swinburne University and is writing her Akrad’s fantasy fiction series. You can read some of her short fiction here
connect with her on Facebook or Twitter or Goodreads or amazon or at JennysThread.com or Jeanette O’Hagan Writes.

Core Strength

Redwood2_AdjA character’s quest lies at the heart of any story, with their journey of change driving the plot as they face obstacles to achieving their ultimate desire. One thing that will undermine any character we write is a lack of consistency and a lack of believability. But ever since a recent family holiday in the ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’, there’s something else I’ve been considering relating to character development.

I think most of us are aware that people don’t behave in the way they do for no reason. We all have a history that predisposes us to certain behavioural patterns, deeply embedded in our thought processes and emotions. For example, children who’ve experienced trauma often, in turn, behave in ways that are unhealthy. Trauma makes as much of a wound on the brain as a physical injury. Even experiences that, to an adult, might seem inconsequential, can profoundly affected a child’s (and ultimately adult’s) behaviour and way of perceiving life. It stands to reason that these types of pain-based behaviours can be difficult to manage, but once identified, the brain can be ‘rewired’ over time by making different choices. Each positive choice makes a small change in the brain. And small changes, over time, make big ones.

Something I find frustrating as a reader is when a character whose entire life has been dictated by negative behaviours, suddenly changes, and then the story is resolved. Now, I’m not denying people can experience profound shifts in thinking over short periods of time, or even significant emotional healing, but more often than not, there’s a dogged grappling with pain-based patterns over time, before the positive choices outweigh the negative wiring of the past.

Just as a child can be damaged emotionally or mentally by being forced to grow up too fast, whether that be through exposure to adult concepts too early or, as mentioned above, through trauma, so our characters can come across as weak and untrustworthy if they change too fast, or without appropriate context and conditions justifying that change.Redwood

But how does this relate to our holiday in NZ? While touring, we visited a Redwood forest. The redwood seed had been brought over from America to grow trees to produce wood for use in construction and other such applications. Unfortunately, the NZ climate wasn’t the same as that from which the trees were brought. The trees grew too fast, leaving the inner core soft and unusable for the purpose it was intended.

Like those magnificent redwood trees, a character can be fleshed out to look every bit the part they’ve been developed to play in a story, but if they don’t go through challenge- or condition-appropriate growth, a reader won’t buy it. I think you’ll agree, there’s something about a character’s inner struggle that builds convincing inner strength, developing rapport with a reader. I do love stories where characters rise above overwhelming odds, but let’s ensure we give our literary heroes opportunity to develop sufficient core strength to make the distance.

Veils, Halos & Shackles – A Voice for Change

Picture a defenceless child being dragged from their home by members of their community – people they trust and love. They scream as they are held down, and again as a cruel blade pierces their skin. They beg for help as their beloved mother looks on in tears, immobile. Everyone gathered hears their pain, witnesses their shame.

And no one

did anything

to stop it.

These are some of the concluding lines of my poem Severed from the Veils, Halos and Shackles (VH&S) anthology. This statement translates the wave of helplessness I experienced upon reading an article on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), written by an aid worker in Africa. I knew about FGM, was aware it happened, but reading that article as a young mother made the practice horrifyingly personal.

My heart broke for the child who had been assaulted. Worse, there was nothing I could do to change it for them. Images plagued my mind, playing out the attack, watching the little one’s terror, hearing their cries. It challenged my comfortable existence, safe from such atrocities. Out of these roiling emotions I wrote Severed.

That was many years ago, well before the remarkable VH&S project had been birthed. What difference could one poem make? Yet, I felt I must pen those words.

vhs_coverfbThen, thanks to visionaries Charles Fishman and Smita Sahay, poets worldwide were invited to contribute to a unique work focussed on the empowerment of women by sharing stories of the oppression against them. Through Charles’ and Smita’s persistence and dedication, VH&S came to have form and eventually found a home at Kasva Press, Israel.

One could say each poem is just one of hundreds in a single work. One could say this poetry anthology is one of countless others. But in May 2015, while VH&S was still going through the publication process, Nigeria banned FGM. What a timely reminder of the need for this publication and the power of using one’s voice to instigate change. Other countries are gradually following suit in banning the practice of FGM.

To quote from the VH&S site:

Veils, Halos & Shackles aims not only to make a statement, but to make a difference—to shock, to startle, and above all, to inspire.

On her recent blog post, editor, former psychology academic and writer, Nola Passmore, reflected on her VH&S poem Petals, a reminder of hope in the midst of destructive abuse and pain. Our fellow South East Queensland contributor, gifted poet and author, Catherine Sercombe (also writing as Mazzy Adams), will follow this post on her blog on October 5, in anticipation of our online launch on October 8. Like the dozens of poets who have contributed over 240 poems to VH&S, each of us have a voice. Yes, we alone are only one, but one voice can apply a balm of healing words. One voice can inspire others to speak up. Over time, one voice can change the world.

Culture and Controversy

Cindy 14Today we have a Cindy Williams joining us, author of novel The Pounamu Prophecy, which was released October last year by Rhiza Press. (Which also happens to be my publisher, too. 🙂 ) She’s going to share some insights about her novel, so let’s welcome her. Thanks, Cindy.

 

‘So tell me about this controversial book you have written,’ the announcer asked me during a recent radio interview. I would have stuttered in shock if I had not spent the morning at a cafe with the lovely Iola Goulton discussing this very issue!

I don’t do controversy. I am exhausted by my son’s love of ‘debating’ which I see as arguing; I wither in the face of disputes about politics and religion; I almost always stay silent in the face of dogmatic opinions about nutriton that, as a dietitian, I know are misinformed.

The first hint that The Pounamu Prophecy might be controversial pounamuprophecymedwas when a member of my mother’s book group commented that I was ‘brave’ to write such a book. What was brave about telling a story about a piece of New Zealand’s history that few people knew, I wondered. It wasn’t until I recently travelled to New Zealand to do a few author talks that I saw the discomfort of some people as I spoke of the injustices that the Ngati Whatua tribe suffered over the past 100 years.

‘Don’t talk too much about that stuff, Cindy,’ advised my mother. ‘The book says it well. Let it speak, not you.’ It was wise advice. I adjusted my talk and encouraged the audience that New Zealand, despite its past failings, is an example to the world of how two cultures can live well together and celebrate the best of both.

History is subjective, seen through the eyes and felt through the heart of whoever was there. For this story I had the privilege of interviewing an elder of the Ngati Whatua tribe. He was eight years old when the government burnt down his village to ‘tidy it up’ for Queen Elizabeth’s visit the following year. There were tears in his eyes as he recounted what had happened. It was a perspective few people, including myself, had heard. It was a story worth telling.

‘If one of our people had written this, many would dismiss it as just another sob story, ‘ he said. ‘But when a Pakeha (non-Maori) writes it, it has credibility.’

IMG_2035So here was the reason God had arranged for me, a Pakeha girl married into a Maori family, to write it. A purely Maori perspective might stir up resentment and anger, slashing open old wounds with no remedy or hope of reconciliation. A purely Pakeha perspective might defend itself with stories of less than honorable actions of some Maori. (I remember hiding every lunchtime for a year in the school toilets terrified of the big Maori girls who bullied me. A few years later when we moved to the mostly Maori part of town behind the pub, they would offer me cigarettes on the school bus and I knew I was ‘okay’!)

I believe, as followers of Jesus and if we are open to his leading, God uses our background, our experiences, our strengths and our weaknesses to write the stories he knows will bless others. I have realised that the novel I am currently writing will be even more controversial than the last and it is driving me to my knees in prayer every time I write. Isn’t that what He wants? For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor 12:10)

Cindy Williams lives in Sydney with her husband and teenage son. As a child growing up in a culturally rich part of New Zealand she enjoyed writing, not copious screeds, but short intense pieces that brought tears to her eyes and made people think. She marvelled at the power of words to inspire far beyond the intentions of the author. Then she became a dietitian – all science and seriously researched facts. She completed a Master of Public Health and a Graduate Diploma in Communication and spent many years encouraging and inspiring people to live a healthy life. She writes a nutrition blog and is working on her second novel, set in first century Israel. She teaches scripture in schools, and swim and cycles. She is also studying for a Diploma of Theology and trying to improve her abysmal French!

You can contact Cindy via her website or cindy[at]nutritionchic.com

 

A Bit of Perspective

PerspectiveI stared at the screen of our main PC and watched the hard drive icon disappear. It couldn’t be good by anyone’s description – and even worse as an author in the last stages of editing a manuscript.

I’d actually been trying to do the right thing by backing up the files, but apparently it was beyond the poor PC’s capacity. So I called in our local IT guru. His diagnosis, ‘So … how important were those files?’

Interestingly, when a hard drive health check was run, the computer rated itself fantastically, even though it was stuttering its way through each assessment. This got me thinking. How often do we get caught in unhealthy cycles in life, but don’t have the perspective to identify it?

You’ve probably heard mention of us knowing ourselves best. But at times, I think we can really miss it. Sometimes life just sneaks up on us and gradually we find ourselves in less than positive circumstances, not living to our potential. Other times a crisis might rock our world and, over time, we slip down a darkened road that leads to nowhere. Even if we identify non-beneficial habits, often we can’t work out quite how to change things – or even what needs changing.

As a writer I see this frequently in manuscript development. You write your heart out, read it back and revise your work, until it seems of a quality standard. Then someone, either a reader or editor, revises it and points out a minor ‘bad habit’ or plot inconsistency, and you wonder how on earth you ever missed it. Worse, you start seeing the same trait in all your work!

Just like the computer, we’re not always so great at self-diagnosis – in any area. It can be all too easy to ignore personal (or writing!) challenges, toxic habits and less than positive life choices. (Or is that just me? 🙂 ) But where does that lead us long term?

Whether it be in writing or life, we really need to built a network of trusted people in our world who have healthy insight and enough ‘care factor’ to help us stop doing wasteful loops based on a faulty self-diagnosis. These might be friends, family or wise professionals, but if we can’t think of at least two people who fit this role in our world, maybe it’s a prompt to reach out and start building new, healthy, connections.

Reaching out calls us to be brave, vulnerable, and willing to invest time and energy into that relationship. Over time, we can also become that person for someone else, building a positive way forward together.