Empty Nests

Empty nest syndrome is when your children grow up and leave home, leaving their parents alone in the family nest. I believe writers have the same emotions when they come to the end of a character. At the moment, the last in the Strange Sagas of Sabrina Summers is at the editor. I feel as though she has gone away to university and will return to make a few appearances with her bags of dirty laundry in the holidays before that’s it forever. She’ll be back in the new year for me to finish off the formatting and implement any changes the editor suggests, then she’ll be published.

So, how can I deal with my “empty nest”? Well, Autumn Pugh is already being developed but I still can’t let go of Sabrina and her friends. And so, welcome Sabrina’s little sister! When I spoke to a group of Gifted & Talented students in Lincoln, NZ a few weeks ago, one child asked for stories for younger readers. I took her request seriously, and Sally Summers is on her way!

She’ll be starring in her own short story soon, but who knows – she might have her own books too.

Oh yes, one more thing – Merry Christmas!

Witchy Wu

I’ve recently been asked about Witchy Wu, the out and out baddy of the Dralfynia sagas, and why I made her a Chinese shaman instead of a Grimm Brothers witch. The name popped into my head first, and I looked up the meaning afterwards. According to Wikipedia, a wu is a Chinese shaman who is a spirit medium practising divination, prayer, sacrifice, rain making and healing in Chinese traditions, dating back over 3000 years. Like European witches, they can use powers for good (healing) or bad (sacrifice). In the case of my character, Witchy Wu starts her life at school planning to use her powers for healing, but after a specific event (detailed in The Uncomfortable Glass Slippers, which I would hate to spoil here), the taste of her bitterness becomes so strong, only the taste of sugar (and children) can temporarily relieve it.

In effect, I’ve combined the mythology behind two types of witch; as a writer, I wanted to flex my creativity and develop a character that was an evolution of the ones in stories I grew up reading, making the books bi-cultural. The more I have written her, the more I adore her! Of all the characters in this trilogy, she is the one I planned the fate of first. I hope you like what happens to her!

Words, Words, and longer words

A reader who is almost 13 recently asked me about the third word in “The Uncooperative Flying Carpet” which is “slanted”. I explained it meant that the rain came down in a slant because of the strong wind, but it started me thinking about extending readers by including words they haven’t come across before and using the context to work out the meaning. I chose to use mostly short and familiar words so that readers aged 8 to 12 would enjoy the story, but I left in a few longer words too, such as “noxious”. This was a deliberate decision because I realised that when I was growing up, my own vocabulary was extended because of the books I read. Like many pre-teen girls, I knew that “Titian” was a word used to describe red hair, because some descriptions of Nancy Drew  used that word. I had to wait a bit longer before I realised he was a real person, mind you! So anyway, I hope that some of my readers get to learn some new words or new uses for old words 🙂

Planning the Second Saga

While I am waiting for the first Saga to come back from the wonderful editor Sarah Nisbet (http://www.inkshededitorial.com/) I have started plotting the middle saga of the Dralfynia trilogy. At the moment, I am at the “what would happen if …” or “what would this character do if …” stage, which is very exciting. I am also choosing the traditional fairytale characters that the team of Sabrina, Olive, Persis and Rory become on their return to Dralfynia, and hope I am thinking ‘outside the square’ with some of my ideas. No spoiler alerts, though, because it’s all at the preliminary stages.  This trilogy has made me reflect on how popular the traditional stories are again. TV shows such as Grimm and Once Upon A Time, movies such as the upcoming Cinderella as well as old favourites such as  Enchanted (one of my personal favourites because my stepdaughter loved it when she was six years old and so I’ve watched it dozens of times) and Ella Enchanted, and newer movies like Into The Woods, Snow White and the Huntsman, and Mirror, Mirror are evidence that we still love a wicked witch, stories with magic, and good overcoming evil. There are plenty of twists on these stories which date back hundreds of years, but the Dralfynia Sagas are, I believe, the first trilogy where people from the modern world have to understand what it’s like to cope with being a fairytale character.  Some amazing actors have played the wicked witch and I wonder who would be a great choice for Witchy Wu!

 

What’s in a name?

I recently had a question on my amazon author page, which I thought I would share. I was asked about the inspiration for my character’s names, and I know that many writers also struggle to choose names that really suit their characters. I even downloaded a great app to my iPad Air which gives me the option to roll a pair of dice again and again until I name I like comes up. In the first Dralfynia Saga, I spent a long, long, time picking the right names. For the family name, I knew I wanted something seasonal to fit in with the other two book series that I have under development (my teen girl detective Autumn Pugh, and my mother and daughter detective team, the de Winters Women) – Summers was an easy choice. As for Sabrina herself – well, the Latin name for the River Severn is Sabrina, and that’s the river that flows through Shrewsbury, my hometown. Also it means “from the border” but the reason for that will become clearer as the Sagas progress! The same goes for Rory (which means “the red king” and fits with his red hair). Olive and Persis are named for my late grandmothers, but both are great, strong and unusual names making a come back. Other names honour family members, and the di Kristi royal family celebrates my favourite crime author when I was growing up – Agatha Christie. As for Bridget Bishop? You definitely need to Google her to find out why I chose her name. It might give you a clue about what Melas is an anagram for. And Dralfynia? Another anagram – see what you come up with 🙂