Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Discussing my *cringe* award winning novel one more time at the request of my editor

The spring edition of the Stoughton Press has hit the streets. I posted two articles this time, but I'll begin with this one.  

What happens when you blend murderous whales, an orphaned fawn, and tattooed dragons? Award Winning Magic.

Stoughton resident and the Press’s own Creature Feature writer, Rebecca Ferrell Porter brought home Silver in the 2014 Wishing Shelf Independent Book Award on April 1st for her second novel, Cairn: A Dragon Memoir. “I knew had written something unique, but I never expected this,” Porter said. The respected European award, unique in its own right, celebrates and fosters the next generation of readers. Organizers have teamed with enthusiastic teachers and willing students in and around London, England. The entries become part the curriculum as the kids hone their critical assessment skills. Each book is graded on editing, theme, style, and cover. Once the finalists have been determined, a smaller, select group campaigns for the medal winners in what the organizer has termed a heated battle. Each finalist had its champion, but in the end, Cairn: A Dragon Memoir won enough votes to capture Silver.

While written for fantasy fans of any age, Porter chose to enter Cairn: A Dragon Memoir in the teen category. “It seemed a natural fit because I write what I term cozy fantasy. That is to say a story where the characters take center stage. I keep the plot tight and spinning with action, but little or no graphic violence occurs. To be fair, this story is built around a series of murders, but I didn’t find it necessary to describe every wound in titillating detail. Cozy fantasy focuses on the character and his or her journey toward change while adding a final element, humor. When I read, I want to enter the heads of the characters, feel what they feel, laugh when they laugh, and cry when they cry. That’s how I write; I don’t know any other way.”

Porter began her writing career a few short years ago, and although the craft has a steep learning curve, she’s already gaining the attention of her peers and gathering fans around the globe. “Over time, I’ve developed a system that works for me. My goal is to infuse every scene with images chosen to stimulate the senses. I want the reader to feel as if she has stepped through a portal. The breeze is heavy and she brushes her hair out of her eyes as the scent of the meadow swirls up from her clothes. In the next nest, the soft snore of the dragon calms her as the sweet juice of a stolen plum drips from her chin. It’s a deeper experience honed by the creed of show not tell (the golden rule of good writing).

In Cairn, readers find a world dominated by dragons as Porter spins a new legend built around the natural phenomena we call the Northern Lights. As in all good legends, unexpected and secretive characters appear. Porter introduces us to Aurora, a complex Elemental wielding magic strong enough to send cosmic ribbons of light across the hemisphere. It wouldn’t be right to say more here, but Porter saves some of her strongest imagery for these chapters.

“It all begins in character development. If I can’t see the character in my head, I won’t be able to share the experience with the reader. It’s an intense process. Aurora stepped out of my imagination several weeks before I began writing Cairn. I still remember the moment I met her. It was late at night when I should have been sleeping, but her face, her voice, her honey scented hair all combined into an image so strong, I literally ran to my notebook and sketched her features for hours. Other times, a character I thought to be minor pushes through as I write. Kes, the dragon Scribe was one such character. Her sacred duty is to preserve the memories of the clan in both stone and flesh. She’s a bit frightening and her confidence is unparalleled, but she’s pivotal to the plot.

 “Your inscription is elaborate. It will take time. I may tire and stop to rest, but once started the inscription must be completed.” She [Kes] raised her hand to reveal a flight feather, stripped to the tip where a flake of diamond winked in the light.
He was shaking despite his best effort to control it.
“Some have died, but only a few. You are strong … your heart, pure. You will survive, and I will be remembered as your Scribe. I thank you for this opportunity.” He felt the pressure of her hand resting on this throat.
Just get it over with, he thought.
She inserted something under a delicate scale at the base of his throat, and began prying it up. The pain was excruciating, but he focused on his breathing. He would not cry out. One by one, his scales were lifted, dozens of them until he thought she was removing them all, but he felt her carving away just enough scale before she would gently press the remains back into place. He tried to ignore the stream of blood that grew into a river as even more scales were ripped away.

“It was fun to slip into the head of the dragons, and it a strange way, I miss thinking in dragon, but I’ve moved on to the third book in the Legends of the Aurora trilogy.” With this win, Rebecca Ferrell Porter has earned the title AWARD WINNING AUTHOR, and it’s helping to open doors, but in the end, she’s only concerned with writing a damn good story.
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