We’re casting the cover model for my next series. She’s young, athletic, the kind of woman who would ride horses. Outdoorsy, redhead, freckles are welcome, and she is tall enough to be seen over the neck of a large dragon. (More on that later.)
We’ve exhausted our usual sources for models, and it is apparent that there is a dearth of lanky redheaded women in my area. Therefore, I’m reduced to seeking out random gorgeous redheads between 18-25 who look like they can handle a gun, a horse, and a dragon. All at once.
I’m proceeding very carefully with this aspect of my next series. Why? Because, while I know I’m legitimately seeking a model, and my artist knows, as does my graphic designer– and my wife (!), approaching young redheaded womenand asking them if they want to model? Well, I think I look like this:
“Hi, I’m a serious artist.”
But what the young lady might hear is, “This is what I drive.”
“Trust me, the van has carpet. For, you know, photography.”
I’ll keep you updated when we find the perfect fit for what is the most interesting character I’ve ever written. She’s tough, funny, and completely free of cynicism even in a world gone to hell. I really love the way she’s turning out.
Now, before I go, have you pre-ordered book four of The Fearless? No? C’mon. You know you want to. Do it for yourself. Do it so I can get a new van help more puppies and kittens.
Welcome back, Heughligans and Caitriots alike! After my initial blog post, I realized I’d been remiss in addressing the stellar musical score. It was poignant, and haunting, and—
“For the LAST time, woodwinds— MORE VERVE!”
1) The music, when done well, effectively becomes another character and augments the setting. Bear McCreary’s theme is superior, and captures an emotional quality that makes me, a male, uncomfortably emotional. If I’d wanted to experience surging feelings, I wouldn’t have married a polite Norwegian Lutheran.*
2) I’d like to thank the wonderful participants in last week’s blog. I received a great deal of funny, charming, witty input. I also managed to wrangle three marriage proposals and one restraining order. Otis– you’ve been warned. No means no.
3) An additional point I failed to mention was the ethereal scene in the stone circle. Look, I’m a four decade geek veteran. I know the entirety of Druidic culture through years of celibacy and playing Dungeons & Dragons. The notion of a group of druids in a modern setting was one of those scenes that could have been wildly successful or sadly tacky. What we saw onscreen was exactly what I envisioned. A blend of whirling shapes, music, natural beauty and mystery all braided together. It was a rousing success, due in part to– once again– the music. Let’s face it, thumping tympani just seem right, primal, and natural. I think the specific music for that scene was a nice hybrid between the old and new. Think “Loreena McKennitt meets Clannad”. I know that had Stevie Nicks been present, she would have been overcome by the driving beat and atmospheric quality of the scene.
“I JUST WANNA SPIN!”
4) In continuation from last week, the hub of Castle Leoch is introduced as a de facto character. It’s big, ominous, and most importantly, it’s not the relatively civilized atmosphere of, say, a home in the Cotswolds. Or a pit full of dragons, for that matter.
“Plumbing? Never heard of her.”
5) The Highlands breed tough, hard people, and Claire begins to understand that the definitions of man and woman have changed during her fall down the rabbit hole. Men are– well, for the viewer, they’re wholly alien. They don’t wear Axe body spray, and they don’t concern themselves with things like manscaping.
6) Claire is incredibly resilient, but the men leading the culture she is immersed within are simply. . . different. The disconnect goes beyond anything superficial. Even things like diet are– let’s say– more direct.
7) As a nurse, and a modern human, Claire understands that within this life, there is a great deal of risk. And for anyone who has ever made the mistake of saying, “Yeah, I know how to do that!”, the lesson is clear: Don’t make yourself indispensable, because then, you become a prisoner who has to casually inform a group of suspicious warriors that their previous medicinal regimen of powdered dung and dandelions may not have been in their best interest. Claire is no shrinking violet, but even the brutality of Scotland is shocking. Jamie’s flogging isn’t the most ghastly moment; it’s the casual nature of violence. But, let’s move on to happier topics for now. As in, the fact that Jamie is being. . .rolled out, incrementally, like a rare car at an auction. And yes, ladies, I know what you’re thinking. Claire knows botany, and you’re willing to learn.
8) The firelight scene is what the audience wanted. Intense, wrenching, and filled with the whole gamut of emotion between Claire and Jamie, the undercurrent is powerful. Don’t look at the mud, and the pain. In our world of immediate gratification, Jamie and Claire are not meant to find each other on Tinder or OkCupid ( THANK GOD). Yes, there is attraction, but it’s more of a flash followed by the kind of simmer that will linger.
9) As a male, let thank whoever cast Caitriona one more time. Two words: Plunging Decolletage. That is all I am currently allowed to say under existing American marital law.
10) Oh, Claire. You’re a seasoned combat nurse. Why did ye imply ye knew anything?
“You need more air in yer bodily humour plumbing!”
11) After seeing that “Kitchen”, you have my permission to scissor kick me the next time I complain about peeling potatoes.
12) So, we get to meet Geillis Duncan. The term “Dipped in Crazy” comes to mind, but let us recall that Outlander is set in a time mere decades after a woman was accused of witchcraft for making an apple dumpling. Seriously.
13) Betcha won’t use the term “hero” for a sandwich again after the asswhipping Jamie took as a proxy. Jamie shines here, taking the kind of beating that made me wonder if blood loss doesn’t lead to undue valor. Note to Jamie: just because you can withstand something doesn’t mean you should do it, unless there is pie involved. And to my horror, I saw no pie exchange hands.
Also– kind thanks to all the nice email and interest in my books. Very cool of you all, and thanks for spreading the word. Feel free to stalk me on Facebook, or my website, or Goodreads– wherever the mood strikes.
Book Four of The Fearless is now available for Pre-order. I’m really proud of this one, the villain is superbly evil and my characters have matured beautifully. Plus, Canadian Warlocks? Check. Ancient evil? Check. A goddess with a *slight* anger management issue? Check, and mate.
Won’t you support my addiction to pie, and purchase several copies today? Do it for me. Do it for the fruit/sugar/flour industries. Do it for moms everywhere, and patriotism, and other important reasons, and throw in the Queen of England and saving the whales while we’re at it.
Cheers for now, friends. We’ll chat about Outlander tomorrow. I address the character that isn’t really a character– but makes you feel like you’re a part of the scene.
Prior to the release of “A Bride of Salt and Stars” next month, I thought I would share one of the critical scenes with you. I’ve been asked “How does the relationship in your books work?” Fair enough. Here’s a scene with Wally (Waleska) and Ring.Wally loves the symphony, and Ring loves Wally. So, they have evening at the symphony hall where they work on their connection, which is– strained? Sometimes? I’m not sure. For this vignette, I drew from an experience at a family funeral. I was listening to the music and wondering— well, read the scene. I think you’ll understand what I was thinking about all those years ago. I hope you enjoy.
Wally and Ring: An Evening at the Symphony
As usual, the symphony was soothing and broken by occasional riffs on the tympani, or deep, mellow honking from the bassoons. I really admired the fortitude of someone who could coax noise out of a woodwind that looked like a construction crane with a mouthpiece. We’d practically oozed into our seats after a dinner of, as Wally requested, steak and red wine, from a small Argentine restaurant that was dimly lit and romantic. After the intermission, as the music wound to its conclusion, I noticed a small, neatly dressed gentleman several seats down and one row ahead. I had seen him before, as he was regular patron. He was memorable because of his natty red bowtie, a look that came naturally to him. At his advanced age, he had lived long enough to see such neckwear fade in and out of favor many times, but his crisp bow indicated that for him, it was a lifelong affectation rather than a fad.
Tears rolled down his eyes as the beginning notes of Claire de lune began to drift across the audience with aching delicacy. Wally squeezed my hand as she too saw the man’s reaction, and then we both realized that the seat next to him was empty, conspicuously so; it had been the place of his wife, and now, like a huge part of his soul, it was open. While the music climbed ever higher in the scale before softening with bittersweet chords, I felt Wally sigh as she placed her head on my shoulder. I wondered, as she did, how long the man had been married to his wife, and how did he go on? When his head bent and jewels of light spangled on his pale, wizened cheeks, I felt pangs of sadness so intense that my breath caught in my chest. I turned to Wally only to find her staring at me with her eyes bright and wet.
“Do you love me that way?” Her voice was soft, nearly a whisper.
I kissed her and she was soft, so tender and unlike Wally that I opened my eyes in surprise. When we pulled slightly apart, I inhaled the cloud of her hair and made a memory there and then.
“I do.” I told her, with some urgency. Images of fifteen years flashed past me and I knew, in the most secret of places, that I hoped I was right.
She smiled, wan but beautiful, and then said in a voice so sad it could break me, “You always were a terrible liar, dear. It is one of the reasons I am yours.”
And that, as they say, is that. More to come this week. Sign up for your Advance Review Copies of “A Bride of Salt and Stars”, which will be sent out this weekend!
Another gift: Book one of the series is free this weekend. Here’s the link.
At the request of a reader, who pointed out the fact that Gyro, the official pet/security team/couch destroyer from “The Fearless” series, is never actually taken to get ice cream. Oh, sure– Ring says they’re going to get ice cream, but it never happens. Let’s rectify this injustice. Without further ado: Feeding the Beast
She wasn’t exactly sure of how it could happen that swiftly, but then, these customers weren’t ordinary. Cara fielded the call personally, since their description of “blood-sucking bugs” fell within her purview, but after an hour of hot, sweaty crawling under and through the property, there had been no sign of bedbugs, unless you consider a partial human hand to be evidence of insect infestation.
“Oh, that.” Wally, the blonde who favored partial nudity had said, scratching her armpit in a most inelegant fashion and then cocking her head quizzically at Cara. “Sometimes there are parts left over from our other job.” She didn’t elaborate, and Cara didn’t ask.
As Risa, the dark haired member of the pair peered up at Cara, handing her a check for the fruitless search, she hesitated before asking, “Cara Mueller, correct? You’re sort of. . .well known, yes?”
Cara looked at her sharply. “I am—wait, known for what?”
Risa glanced surreptitiously at Wally. “Oh, I guess I can just ask.” She made to continue, but the now acerbic Wally leaped in.
“We think you think our dog does not have enough ice cream. So here.” She handed Cara a leash that resembled a tow rope for an ocean liner, then turned and whistled a short trill. Immediately, the gamboling shape of a dog, if you can call two hundred pounds of anything a dog, came loping around the hallway to deposit himself at Cara’s feet, or more accurately, to cover Cara’s feet and the area around her with his enormous, sleek frame. His expressive eyes quirked upward and every gesture on his comical face said well?
Risa slipped the leash over Gyro, who was surprisingly obedient, and as the quartet walked to the tiny, environmentally friendly car parked in their stubby driveway, Cara realized they meant for her to take the creature, solo, to someone who would presumably have a dump truck of ice cream on hand. Her fears were allayed when Wally pointed south on Sheridan street.
“Next to the Publix. The ice cream store there knows him. They will let him in for his . . . special.” She finished, opaquely.
Still more than a little unsure—after all, borrowing a pet was sort of like using someone’s underwear, in Cara’s mind, she opened the door to her now miniscule Toyota, letting Gyro perform a sort of canine origami in which he not only got in the car, he cheerfully occupied the entirety of the front seat, leaving her a sliver of fabric on which to sit and drive. With a merry wave, Risa and Wally went back inside as Cara fruitlessly tried to attach her seat belt, but after a long moment of comedic attempts and a sour burp from Gyro, who whined and perked his ears even furtherinto the car’s headliner, she pulled out, turned east, and in less than a minute spied what was apparently the only purveyor of ice cream in South Florida who willfully disregarded the need to keep dogs from selecting their own entrees.
Cara felt not unlike Julius Caesar as she guided the regal and now drooling beast to the glass door, but when the diminutive girl at the counter lit up at the sight of Gyro, her doubts faded and they stepped confidently inside.
“Gyro! Hi big boy!” Said the tiny woman, whose name tag read Cat. Apparently, inter-species harmony ruled in the store, because Cara wasn’t afforded a second glance as the entire staff went into a whirlwind of action, scooping vanilla ice cream into an oddly baked waffle cone that resembled half of a football.
At Cara’s raised brow of inquiry, Cat said, “You’ll see.”
Apparently, Gyro dined al fresco, so Cara took the ponderous sundae laden with bacon bits to a small patch of grass, setting it delicately in front of Gyro who sniffed once, crouched on his haunches, and began to eat.
It wasn’t pretty.
In less than two minutes, the bowl itself was being crunched in a series of crackling noises that made Cara very aware of the thin line between wild and domestic, and then, with a grand belch, it was over. Gyro stood, leaned his great head against Cara, his lips quivering from the cold effects of the treat, and nudged her urgently to the car.
A quick note about books four and five in “The Fearless”, as well as an upcoming blog post.
I started running three months ago, and in between gasping like a dying fish, I’ve had some of my most vivid insight into how and where I am writing over the next year. It’s been a superb exercise formind, and I think you’re going to like where we head next.
A couple of “just for fun” posts: Next week, a short story about why Great Danes actually love ice cream, and I am sharing a scene from the next book in which we see how and why Wally defines love. It’s my favorite experience for Wally, and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I savor writing her bittersweet moments.
Until next week, cheers, and be sure to check out the great new review we’re getting on Audible.com for the audio versions. Rebecca Cook, my actress, is nothing short of stellar!
To my haircut, that is. I received an excellent haircut two weeks ago– too early for the Tennessee Valley Author Eventthis weekend, but not quite late enough to merit a full re-do. As a man who likes to keep his follicle business in order, I found myself waiting for a trim at a local chain. I’d waited my turn, about fifteen minutes (very reasonable), but decided that I would go rogue and let my hair run wild and free this weekend. Unfortunately, my wishes were steamrolled by karma. The young woman who cheerfully called my name was professional, attractive, and enormously pregnant. Thus, were I to call off my incipient hair adjustment, I would be denying both her and the baby a small but appreciable amount of income.
She gave me an excellent trim, loved books, and was an all around delight. Let it be known that for me, shame is a powerful motivator, and can even overcome my natural rigidity regarding carefully scheduled Hair Events.