Monday, August 19, 2013

The Royal Family

Here, mish mashed and photoshopped to within an inch of its life, we have the lineage of the royal family. Or at least the parts of it that we meet in SIREN.

Note: Vine silhouettes were downloaded from GVL, here, and all awesomeness goes to them for making such cool brushes. Also, I apologize if this is too small to make out all the nitty gritties. I considered posting it in its original size, but that...would have been comically large.

So, as you can see, the nobles that we meet actually come from three significant families. The younger members consist mainly of a platoon of cousins. However, Duchess Lorraine is a blood relative to Prince Aden only (through their mothers--and female relations are hardly important, in the grand scheme of things, amirite?). Princess Ysbail and Lady Rhosyn are related, but are otherwise only tied to the others through Ysbail's marriage to Aden.

The main family name to be concerned with is 'Hightower.' They are the most powerful family in Gandon, and the main source of consternation among the rebels--whom we shall meet on another day.

I realize that this is all rather meaningless if you haven't read the book. should maybe read the book. Lorelei, Once: SIREN.

And with that, I shall set drawing aside. At least until I have caught up to my word count goal.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Duchess Lorraine

Two pictures in one day! Oh, how I spoil you, Internet.

Duchess Lorraine is Prince Aden's cousin on his mother's side. Her family fell to tragedy, and so her uncle, Aden's father, took her in as his ward. Lorraine boasts a political savvy unrivaled by the other characters--she moves with grace, speaks elegantly, and is capable of steering a conversation without seeming to.

But politics don't come into play in a place like the Whisper Wood--where Lorraine and the other Hightowers find themselves stranded. If she wants to survive (spoiler: she does) she'll have to rely on a different sort of game.

I'm putting all of the previous pictures together in a Hightower family tree--just for kicks. I've also thought about posting the lineart, which is sort of neat. Maybe I should put together a SIREN coloring book. XD

For now, though, I need to get back to actually writing.

Lord Esmund

Another drawing for you, readers!

This is Lord Esmund--father of Margaret and Daniel, uncle of Prince Aden, younger brother to the current king. Lord Esmund served Hightower valiantly in his youth, as both a soldier and an ambassador. He was considered to be one of the finest swordsmen in the kingdom. But his best years are behind him, and it seems that little remains for him but to guide the next generation.

If you want to know whether he guides them towards safety to towards destruction, you'll have to read the book.

I'm running out of ways to lead into that. I may have to stop drawing XD

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Lady Rhosyn

Today was a long, sucky day. I called in sick for the fourth time in nearly six years at Dayjob (two times I was also snowed in and too physically drained to dig myself out, one time I was powerfully concussed--I don't call in for the sniffles) which meant I missed my last opportunity to work with First Wife before she leaves for baby-having.

Apparently there's some sort of bug making the rounds in Hometown, so, bleh. Bleh. Bleh.

Mostly I was asleep or being sick. When not engaged in either of those two activities, I watched BBC's Sherlock or Indiana Jones or I toyed around with creative options.

Today's drawing: Lady Rhosyn.

Lady Rhosyn lives among the nobles in Hightower. She is a lady of prominence, but she is easily manipulated--she is too innocent to doubt flattering words, too timid to fight back against harsh ones. Fortunately(?) Prince Aden is fond of her, and Princess Ysbail protects her against the others.

But can an unpopular prince and his bride protect a timid woman from a haunted forest? You'll have to read the book to find out.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Princess Ysbail

In the writing world, I've had a great breakthrough (owed entirely to Wifey!), and I'm getting actual useful work done. I can't tell you how many times* I tried rewriting the beginning of Book 2 to no avail. But Wifey helped me settle it all, and there is a mighty 'HUZZAH' echoing in my brain today.

But art is still fun, and I'm on a roll!

So, may I present Princess Ysbail, crown princess of Hightower, bride of Prince Aden:

 The trees parted. A girl stepped out towards us, stopping Daniel's sword with an uninterested glance.

At first, I was certain that she was like me--a part of the Keeper's realm, though a much higher part of it than I. Dozens of white pearls shone like too-smooth stars in the black sky of her hair, which she bore in long plaits like Rhosyn's. A thin band of gold circled her head. She wore a silver-gray gown which was too beautiful to possibly be comfortable, but which perfectly reflected the color of her eyes.

For the rest, you'll have to read the book!

*I can, actually. Nine. Nine times.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Lord Daniel

EDIT: I've changed the picture, making the clothes darker and more blue-oriented (blue being a proper Hightower's favorite color) because he looked too much like a hobbit before.

First and foremost: A very happy birthday to my older brother, Broseph! You are awesome in all the ways, Broseph. Thanks for being so cool. <3


Another day, another doodle!

This is Lord Daniel, of the House of Hightower. He is the elder cousin of Prince Aden, and Margaret's older brother. Daniel has a lot going for him: He's young, he's talented, he's pretty, and the people love him. He is also very, very aware of all of those things.

Daniel is pretty sure he's the hero of our story. You'll have to read the book if you want to find out if he's right.

Lady Margaret

My little bout with writer's block has mostly been broken, but I still have the drawing bug.

This is Lady Margaret--Prince Aden's youngest cousin. Through no fault of her own, Margaret has never really known hardship. Very little is asked of her, and, due to her doting brother's efforts, she is provided with the best of everything. Margaret is a member of an elite family--she is simply the least valuable member of it.

Margaret is not keen on being told what to do--not by her father, not by her royal cousin, not even by the magical fairy that shows up to guide her to safety. This stubbornness may prove her salvation or her undoing. You'll have to read the book to find out.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


The title may sound a bit pig lattiny, but it's really just my way of saying I've been messing about with art.

I've got a touch of writer's block, which in the past has been greatly assisted by taking other-media breaks. When I was younger* I was ALL about art. I wanted to be a painter, I wanted to be a special effects lady, I wanted to be a comic book artist--ALL the things. For various reasons, I've drifted instead towards the writing thing, which is working out okay.

But mish-mashing the two can be fun, sometimes.

So, tonight, I drew a character from my book, SIREN. I present to you: Crown Prince Aden, of the House of Hightower:

I could pick and nit about what I do and don't like about this picture, but the point is: It was fun to make.

Prince Aden is not the main character in SIREN, but he is certainly important. He is technically the head of the bickering royal family that our siren is sent out to guide, and he is the heir to the Hightower throne. He's rather unpopular amongst his own family, though, and presumably amongst his people as well. He is frequently teased for being girlish and weak, but he refuses to fight back--choosing instead to focus his energy on keeping his family together.

Maybe Aden grows a backbone. Maybe he gets eaten by a poisonous frog. You'll have to read the book to find out.

*I've noticed that some people like to roll their eyes and pish-posh when someone younger than they are references their own younger years. Isn't that silly? I'm only 25 at the time that I'm writing this, but that's still a quarter of a century. That's a lot of time! That's longer than some people ever get! This seems like a topic worth exploring. In another post, maybe.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Inspiration Week: Chapter 1

Hello, internet!

This week, The Larkin Lair is going to present you with a special treat*. Every day, leading up to this day, I put up a post discussing the things that most inspired me as I began writing my series, Lorelei, Once.

Day 1: Sirens 
Day 2: The Forest
Day 3+4: Mythology and the Real World
Day 5: Music

And now, at last, I offer you the first chapter of SIREN. Enjoy!

The man on the shore seemed to realize that mine was the last face he would ever see. For an hour, he savored the sight of me, his booted feet pressing down into the mud. The wind blew through the trees all around us, and clouds disrupted the light of the sun overhead, but his gaze never left mine. As our eyes were tethered, I did not move, except where the water tugged at my hair and caused me to drift. I feared that, if I looked away, he would realize where he was and retreat into the woods, freed from my silent call, never to be seen again.
He had come from the depths of the forest as all humans do—without fanfare, without direction. Unlike most humans, however, he did not seem lost. He came directly for the pond which housed my siblings and me, and he peered through the surface as if searching for something. His gaze stopped roving once he saw me.
My brothers and sisters scattered all around, playing the usual game—hands out, lips parted, tittering softly and calling for the man to join us in our swim. But his eyes were mine—and, perhaps only because I had been singled out, I found myself strangely somber. With most of the humans that found their way to our pond, I could tease and cajole with my siblings. But with this man, I did not smile. I did not blink. I met his intense, uninhibited gaze, and I invited him in with silence.
The forest sighed, tousling the man’s hair and stirring the blue lilies that crowded the pond’s surface. The water shifted a little, just enough to take me an inch farther away. The man on the shore followed, shuffling his feet with great care, as if he could tread across the top of the pond and pluck me out into the air. The concentration in his eyes was such that, for a moment, I imagined he would.
My siblings became more excited as the man’s feet switched places again, each step sending ripples out towards us. Only now did I move, parting my arms and offering him a small, welcoming smile. He stilled, his eyes flickering across my features. Then he took three steps closer.
The water was up past his thighs, now. He paused, his hands coming to rest against his belt. This was unsurprising; some chose to undress before their final swim. But he settled for removing his tools and tossing them to the side, back to the shore, and therefore beyond my caring. What happened above the surface of the water had nothing to do with me—that, just as the rest of the outside world that mattered, was the realm of the Keeper.
Faceless, ageless, the Keeper ruled over every leaf, every twig, every sprite and breeze. Everything did as the Keeper willed it to, or it ceased to be. The Keeper’s forest led unsuspecting humans to our clearing, so that we could lead them into the water. Whether our unseen monarch caused this or merely allowed it was none of my concern. I had only one care, one duty, and I was performing it now by gesturing to the lost man, and allowed him another small smile.
Having shed his burden, the man began wading towards us—me—again. His expression was still solemn, almost grim, with none of the playful eagerness that I expected by this stage. He scarcely seemed to see my brothers and sisters, though they were calling for him so loudly by now that it seemed impossible he did not know they were there.
My smile faltered as the man came to a stop, just as he reached the abrupt end of the shallow water, where the pond suddenly deepened. He did not feel for the edge with his feet. He did not look down. But again, he seemed to sense what was coming. His eyes rested on the surface of the water that separated us, then focused back on mine.
He dove in.
My brothers and sister howled with laughter as the man plunged into the pond, sliding down between the long stems of the blue lilies. We gathered together, watching him kick and squirm to get free. Each thrash and tug drove him deeper into the water. His limbs caught in the lily stems. The flowers, which are so lovely and delicate, are unyielding once someone falls into their snare. The man struggled. He shouted—not from fear, but from something else—and swallowed water.
My siblings flitted just out of reach, giggling as they watched him drown. I drifted between them, accepting congratulations with giddy humility. This was an unusual trial—normally we worked together, beckoning and cooing until the humans entered the water. Yet victory was ours. Or rather, it would be soon.
But something was wrong.
The man would not stop fighting. He was so badly tangled in the lily roots that he could not move one of his legs. The last of his air was slipping between clenched teeth, fleeing back to the world above. But he did not grow still. My siblings gave him a wider birth as he thrashed. He raised his head, and caught sight of me again. He twisted, and kicked, and freed one arm.
My laughter died on my lips. The man heaved with his other arm, and his body swung wildly in the water. Ungainly, trapped, seconds from death, he came towards me.
My brothers and sisters scattered. I was too startled to move. I remained, motionless, as the man careened in my direction. His free hand flailed, and latched onto my arm.
That final effort claimed too much of his strength—he was beyond fading now. But his grip was strong.  I could not pull away. I could not pry his fingers loose.
Sparks of outrage caught in my chest, and I looked up to snarl at him. The angry words died just as my laughter had, fading before they could escape.
The light in his eyes was doused, but they still held that strange intensity as they found mine. Only now could I put a name to that light: recognition.
As his grip weakened, I realized that there was no harm he could do to me—not now, not even when he had been up on the shore. I stopped trying to scrape his hand off of mine, and remained where I was, watching with fading pleasure as he lost the wager he hadn’t knowingly taken.
His eyes were gray, and seemed to carry in them some weight greater than any I could comprehend. My anger and even my confusion fizzled. I could not look away. I found my chest rising and falling in time with his final exhale.
He was not old, but he was not very young, either. His chestnut-brown hair was long—I could see how long now that the water was taking it out from its knot. His nose was bent from some ill-adventure I could only guess at. A scar ran from the corner of his mouth to his chin. There were other lines on his face—lines that spoke of years and hardship and, inconceivably, a life.
Somewhere beyond the water, beyond the forest even, this man had lived.
It was some time before I realized that his hand had fallen away from my arm. It was some time later that I realized there was no one inside of those eyes left to stare back at me.
My brothers and sisters were quick to return to their idle games and chatter; they were back to play and nothingness even before our guest had completely faded, even before his hold on me was lost. We care for very little outside of the game—if there is no human to call into the water, there are few things that will occupy our attention, and nothing that is not quickly washed from our memories. Such is our existence, and there has never been call to question it.
Still, I could not turn away. Though they were now vacant, the light in those gray eyes lingered in the memory of mine. I found only a strange discomfort when I tried to pull too far away from the meaningless, empty body. It was several days before I could translate the thought that was drifting up from a depth I didn’t know my mind held—a thought which caused me to linger near the scar-faced man, even as the pond claimed him, even as I knew the time must come when those curious gray eyes must fade to nothing, leaving behind only his pond-soaked bones.
He had known me. And, impossibly, I felt as if I knew him.

Inspiration Week: Music

Special Note: Mother Nature threw a bit of a tantrum last night, and rather buffed my internet connection into oblivion. So this post is a day late. But here it is, all the same!

Hello, internet!

This week, The Larkin Lair is going to present you with a special treat*. Every day, leading up to Saturday, I am going to put up a post discussing the things that most inspired me as I began writing my series, Lorelei, Once. Then, on Saturday--which I think we can all agree is the best day of the week--I will post the first chapter from Book 1: Siren.

Today, we'll be discussing music.

I believe that there is at least one type of very real magic in our world: Twerking.

Just kidding!


The right song can change the world that moves inside of you--the one no one else can see. And the remarkable thing about this art form is that it can effect each individual in such different ways. One person might find Korn relaxing, the next might find them vulgar to a fault. One person might find a deeper understanding of themselves in Taylor Swift's lyrics, the next might...not.

I happen to be a very visual thinker. I've met people--other writers--whose thoughts organize themselves as if they are being hammered out by a typewriter. But my ideas are scenes; like clips from a movie that's never been filmed. The act of writing, then, is just me describing what I see, and reacting to the feelings I can sense in my characters, who in turn feel like very real, dynamic, flawed people to me.*

Music, then, is sort of a reverse soundtrack for me: I shoot the music video in my head based on the feelings that the song gives me, and then I write down an explanation for what I've imagined. Does that make any sense? Probably not.

The music inspires the imaginary film which inspires the writing. Is that any better? Again, probably not. It's a bit difficult to explain without getting to lalalacious.

So let's get on to the part where I list the unofficial soundtrack for SIREN. Once upon a time, I carefully selected from my 'Lorelei' playlist a set of songs, which I organized, burned onto CDs, and handed out to my Betas as a special bonus gift to go with the completed novel they were reading for me.

The burned CDs didn't work. But I'll not allow that effort to be wasted!! If you'd like to listen to each song, I'm afraid you'll have to Youtube hunt for them. I'd love to post them up here for you easy listening pleasure, but Blogger just doesn't roll that way, and the site might actually collapse if I posted this many Youtube clips on a single page.

SEVEN DEVILS by Florence + the Machine
When the novel is made into a movie by Joss Whedon, this will be the song they use for the previews.

BIRD SONG INTRO by Florence + the Machine

ASSEZ VIF-TRES RYTHME by Lucia Micarelli
I love the mischievous sounds this woman can create with strings.

ROSIN THE BOW by Ashley MacIsaac
If you've ever wondered what the difference between a violin and fiddle is...listen to Ashley's music, then listen to Lucia's.

UNRAVELING by Alela Diane
 Alela Diane, aside from having the best name ever, has such...feely music. Wholesome, simple, gentle, but lingering. She's not paying me to say this, by the way.

AURORA (EXCERPT) by Lucia Micarelli

ELEMENTS by Lindsey Stirling
If I were to attach an instrument to our siren's identity, it would be the violin, and Lindsey Stirling would be playing it.

FLOAT by Flogging Molly
This is one of those songs that, the first time I heard it and every time since, seizes me by the throat and shakes me down for stray tears. It is highly appropriate for the rebel characters--the Meridian Archers--in SIREN.

MOON AND MOON by Bat for Lashes
Throughout the novel, our leading lady, the siren, finds herself alone--even once she's surrounded by the human characters. Bat for Lashes has a very lonely, echoing sound that fits these moments perfectly.

THE HEART OF THE SEA by Flogging Molly
Same as 'Float.'

HUMAN by Oh Land
Oh, Oh Land. Whenever I start to lose track of the siren's voice, I listen to Oh Land. She has that sweetness in her voice, and a sort of innocence even as she sings of some slightly darker subjects.

TAKE ME BACK by Kongos
One of the favorite characters in the book is, in my mind, inexorably linked with this excellent band. Some of his better lines come directly from their songs.

COSMIC LOVE by Florence + the Machine
This song directly inspired a stargazing scene that I rather love.

BEFORE THE END by The Levellers
Another heartbreaking but strangely hopeful song that belongs to the Archers.

WOLF & I by Oh Land
This song may as well be the anthem of the siren and her favorite human.

WING-STOCK by Ashley MacIsaac
This song is what brought the Meridian Archers to my mind--I saw them quite clearly, though their backstory didn't follow them until a while after.

SLEEP ALONE by Bat for Lashes

HOWL by Florence + the Machine


WHAT THE WATER GAVE ME by Florence + the Machine
This is the song that made the siren who she is. She is very much designed to look like Florence Welch, and without this song, she would be a very different character. I'm pretty sure that Flo is a modern siren, herself.

*I recognize that when I talk about my own writing, I sound more like a loon with imaginary friends than anything else, but I don't apologize. That's just how I roll.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Inspiration Week: One-Two Punch

Hello, internet!

This week, The Larkin Lair is going to present you with a special treat*. Every day, leading up to Saturday, I am going to put up a post discussing the things that most inspired me as I began writing my series, Lorelei, Once. Then, on Saturday--which I think we can all agree is the best day of the week--I will post the first chapter from Book 1: Siren.

And, oh, my. I must apologize. Dayjob got a touch hectic and I forgot to post my blog for one day. To make it up, today will be a double-shot!

Mythology and the real world.

Obviously, mythology is made up of...well, myths. But if I learned anything from watching 'Bones' before they brought in Booth's dumb drama-filler doorstop of a Newsy girlfriend, it's that the word 'myth' comes from the Greek 'mythos,' meaning word.

Thanks, Bones.

I loved you. Trusted you. You repayed me with a solid season of blatant relationship delay.

But mythology!

It's entertainment, yeah, but it also effects our world in very real ways. Our traveling methods would be nothing without stellar navigation, and young sailors might struggle learning 'big dot, little dot, slightly smallish dot to the left,' but they can usually handle sailing towards 'Ursa Major.' Some very important lessons are taught through fairy tales (true beauty is on the inside, be kind to the weak, invite EVERY fairy to the Christening). It even bleeds into race relations, oddly enough. If someone with dark features is born into a family of light featured's probably because their Great-Great-Grandpa had an affair with a seal.

I am speaking, now, of the selkie babes.

Ireland, Scotland, and parts of Wales apparently have a bit of a seal problem. The problem being that sometimes seals whip their skins off and reveal the hotness underneath, and poor fishermen are just sort of helpless against that hotness. If a man steals a seal's skin whilst she's bathing and either hides or burns it, he gets to keep her as his wife. She'll be, like, the best wife ever! Unless she finds that skin again. Then she lickity-splits back for the sea, abandoning her husband and any children they may have had.

Don't pretend you're not aroused.
There are variations to the story, of course, because that's the way lore works--in some cases, the selkies CAN be loyal, and they're more a victim to the pull of the sea than a flighty fancy. And it's not just the men folk--ladies get in on the seal action, too. One version of the story says that a woman, unsatisfied with what her own species has to offer, can summon a hunky man-seal up from the depths by shedding seven tears into the ocean. That's so romantic and vaguely sensual it makes me want to rip a bodice off a mannequin.*

 But the idea of being half-seal (even half-transformed-seal) is icky. Know what else is icky? Having dark skin. Gross! Pork a dark-skinned person, and you might as well be porking a seal. You don't want YOUR kids to have seal blood, do you? So maybe just don't risk it.

That's the lesson taught by the story of the selkie babes, at least. There are similar stories for toe-headed children born into dark families--they were touched by fairies. Red-heads born in certain areas during the middle ages were at risk of being labeled witches, vampires, and/or werewolves. Same deal with freckles, birthmarks of any kind, or mismatched eyes. Colicky babies might actually be changelings--if they have a fondness for sweet things and are freaked out by iron, you should probably just...y'know, test them with fire.

A lot of these ideas have died down, but the myths persist, and so do many of the attitudes. Being different in any way means being something other than properly, dare we say it, human.

And I really wanted to reflect that in my world.

The two main countries that we hear about and/or see in Lorelei, Once are heavily inspired by England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. There are the Hightowers, who we meet in SIREN as a bickering noble family, and the rebels who oppose them. Each group responds to the forest very differently--some try to make bargains with (or even to trick) the denizens of the forest, some are more willing to be guided, some are dismissive of the whole affair.

This is partly because of their stations in life (there are members of high royalty, members of lower royalty, and then the dirty dirty rebels with their leathers and furs and weapons and such), but mostly because of how their homelands deal with the spiritual side of their world. Where one character comes from, fae lands are within neighborhood barbeque distance. Some others have the stranger things in life blended into their own, and as a result have a healthy respect for it all.

One--and I won't say which one--is a selkie babe. And being raised in a world that saw her as unclean, simply for having been born, had a definite effect on her attitude towards...everything. Her opinion of her country, of other countries, and of herself is very much tied to that one myth.

Which I wouldn't even know about, if First Wife hadn't explained to me why she was darker than the rest of her incredibly Irish family.

According to her grandfather, anyway.

*But not off of an actual man or woman. Bodices are fancy and expensive and I don't think that would be a great way to start any date. It would definitely put an end to one, though.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Inspiration Week: The Forest

Hello, internet!

This week, The Larkin Lair is going to present you with a special treat*. Every day, leading up to Saturday, I am going to put up a post discussing the things that most inspired me as I began writing my series, Lorelei, Once. Then, on Saturday--which I think we can all agree is the best day of the week--I will post the first chapter from Book 1: Siren.

Today, we're going to explore the setting of Book 1.

One day, any day, you go for a walk.


You know the safe path, of course. You're not stupid, not like the children you hear about in old wive's tales--and you know better than to traipse into the Whisper Wood. Even if it is clearly a shortcut to your destination. Why, you can see the other side of the path from where you're standing. It's just a little zip through the misty woods--and they're not even misty today!--and you'll have cut out half a day's journey.

That's not stupid at all. You're not like the children in the stories--you're not looking for candy houses, you're just being practical.
Looks legit!
It should be five, maybe ten minutes at most. You cut through the very corner of the Whisper Wood--it's hardly even the Whisper Wood at all!
Maybe a LITTLE misty.

It has grown rather dark, but that's just the trees overhead, choking out the sun. Trees do that. And those sounds--it may seem like voices now, but that's just your mind being silly with the name of the place. You know that it's only wind.

But your shortcut does seem to have stretched out longer than expected. Because you're wiser than the dumb children that get lost in fairy tales, you know that it's time to head back. A simple matter of finding your old path, following it back, and then accepting some good-natured ribbing from your friends and family for taking twice as long as you should have on a simple errand.

"Really, how long does it take to buy new shoe buckles?"

That is the moon. You set out in the morning for a little walk and now that is the moon, watching you, inching across the sky faster than you are running through the forest, desperate to find a way out, to find some sort of shelter, to escape the whispers. And that is all they are--whispers. Not shouts, not cries. But whispers. From beneath bushes, hiding behind trees, nestled in your ear.

It's not just whispers anymore.

There are lights, but there is nothing friendly about them. They dance in the shadows, teasing you, drawing you close only to wink out the moment you reach them. And then, when all is dark again, the whispers return.

Just as you are ready to lie down, to accept whatever comes for you, the sun rises.

You need many things: Food. Rest. Water. But you know better than to stop now, and with the return of the sunlight, you find the strength to keep walking.

You find a clearing. There, you see the sweetest thing ever to manifest in any wood, haunted or not.

As you lower your head to take what must be the greatest drink you have ever had, you could swear there was music in the air.


Many, many other works of literature have employed the idea that there is something magical about nature--and that forests and woods are where the faeries live. Hauntings are popular in wooded areas, too.

I was once floundering for an idea--I needed something to write. Anything. I had just accepted that the book I spent three years working on was not going to make it to the next stage of the publishing world (namely, agent interest) and I was feeling supremely uninspired.

A friend of mine--also a writer--suggested I deal with some of my memories. He particularly enjoyed the ones I'd shared with him about running wild in the woods of West Virginia--usually barefoot, with Broseph, experiencing a sort of freedom that you just can't get with proper adult supervision. These are happy memories, and probably made more feral by my imagination than they actually were in reality.

But I was, as suggested, in rather a dark mood. And so as I sat down to write about these childhood jaunts, the images in my head turned a few shades darker. I saw the forest as something immense, carved from shadow, intimidating and hungry.

I saw the children running through the leaves as happy, yeah, but also pale. Yellow-eyed. Sharp-toothed. And absolutely delighted when they convinced a stranger to chase them into the woods--ultimately leading them into a shimmering black pool. The waters would turn, and rather than the stranger, another pale child would emerge. Yellow-eyed. Sharp-toothed. And ready for another chase.

I rather liked the idea, and so the forest--which would eventually be named the Whisper Wood, was born.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Inspiration Week: Sirens

Hello, internet!

This week, The Larkin Lair is going to present you with a special treat*. Every day, leading up to Saturday, I am going to put up a post discussing the things that most inspired me as I began writing my series, Lorelei, Once. Then, on Saturday--which I think we can all agree is the best day of the week--I will post the first chapter from Book 1: Siren.

It seems fitting that we start with the title creature, don't you think?

"I love -*glub glub glub*"
The siren, in one form or another, has always been woven into the fabric of human imagination.

That may seem like an overly bold statement to make ("Try Siren Cereal! Nothing compares! Ever!") but think about it: every culture has that creature in the dark--the one that calls out, luring innocent (or not so innocent!) people to their demise. Sometimes the lure is a familiar voice. Sometimes it is a smell, or a light.

In the case of the Ancient Greek sirens (and a few others that I know of), the siren's call was a song.

Particularly, it was the song of Persephone.

See, one of the origin stories for the Greek sirens (being the Greeks, what with their communal authorships and all, there are several different versions) told that the sirens were once the handmaids to Demeter's daughter, Persephone. When Persephone went missing (either kidnapped or seduced or just boot-knocking with Hades), Demeter gave the sirens wings, and commanded them to find her daughter. When they failed (boots be a'knockin'), Demeter cursed them.

Of course, everything turned out okay for Persephone, Hades and Demeter, but the sirens were still cursed. Greek Goddesses don't play.

"I'm home! And with no consequences!"

Of course, some authors ignore this story entirely, and the sirens just happen to be monsters who like tormenting humans. The song THESE sirens sing is all prophet-y, the better to torture sailors with the lives they are missing in exchange for duty or adventure.
"La-La-La! This will make a few terrible movies someday!"

Beyond the Greek stories, sirens exist in many forms. Sometimes they are still called sirens--sometimes they are Rusalka, the sexy Russian water sprites, or the Huldra, who could be kind but would kill a man right up if he didn't satisfy her during their coupling, or Mermaids, who think drowning horny things is hilarious.

"Get your ass. In this water. Right now."
Of course, the noisy water sprites aren't always malicious--or, at least, they aren't always evil by nature. In "The Ring" (best known for operatic music stings regarding Valkyries) there are the Rhinemaidens: three sisters who make casual mentions of an unseen 'Father,' but who mainly exist to guard a powerful golden ring. Which is stolen by a...jilted leprechaun, I guess.

Don't sexually frustrate little men. They may steal your life's purpose.
The Rhinemaidens are probably my favorite part of the play--and it includes Valkyries. Come on. They're just these random ethereal creatures, doin' what they do, and they seem so removed from the drama that unfolds around them. And why wouldn't they be? Humans come and go, flicker in and out of life, but the Rhinemaidens' world never changes. Except for that bit with the ring. But even then, they just trust that it will come back to where it belongs.

And full circle, back to the Greeks, we have the Nymphs.

Seen here, having a friendly chat with Hercules' boyfriend.
These are the original bathing beauties: sprites who not only live in but are so attached to nature that, should their area be damaged, they just...die. They freaking die if they are removed from their home by any means!

But they existed in a time when such a thing was incredibly rare. Humans had their areas--cities and cathedrals and whatever--and nature was its own thing. You didn't touch it. You avoided it if you could. Because it was full of territorial monsters.

Except the nymphs--and in many cases, other cultural 'sirens'--weren't actually monsters. They just didn't comprehend humans as anything to be bothered with or protected or even taken notice of. Very rarely, a human would enter the domain of the magical creatures, and then they were fair game. It wasn't a matter of doing evil, or an instance of malice. It was just the natural order of things.

Look at those happy faces. The baby is the only one that looks capable of violence.
I took bits and pieces from all of these in the creation of my sirens--as well as adding bits and pieces of my own touch. There are rules for these sirens--rules they aren't even fully aware of, but which they obey simply because that's what they do. I gave my water babies a sort of silly innocence--yes, they seduce humans into their watery graves, but they don't see it as anything even remotely wrong. It's a game. They're basically kittens playing with crickets--except that they glow, love the water, and the crickets are unwitting humans.

Final note: I have seen some people get rather huffy over the fact that sirens, mermaids, and harpies have been blended together over the last few centuries. Mythology nerd that I am, this doesn't bother me. I think it's worth noting the distinction, but do you know what else is worth noting? Science accepted the link between mermaids and a certain living sea creature, to the point that 'Sirenia' is an actual animal classification.

"La-La-La! Give me a carrot!"

*Okay, it may not seem incredibly special now, but when I'm rich and famous and have tattoos this will be neat to look back on.