Saturday, September 14, 2013

Shared History--In Fantasy and the Real World

As an author, it is so fascinating to see a developing story lead me in directions I never intended. This is especially true with fantasy. Not only do the characters tell me what they should be doing and correct me when I do something stupid, but I see an entire world develop right in front of my eyes. I see rich vistas unfold before me—landscapes and villages and races. It is such a joy to behold.

With Whispers from Forbidden Earth (soon to be released by Helping Hands Press), there are two vastly different worlds: Earth and Eversong. One is familiar to the reader, Earth, but terrifying and strange to the protagonist, the young elf Strum stranded there. The other world, Eversong, is fantastical place to the reader, with its ancient races of trolls and pixies, elves, and gnomes, its lavender trees, its dragons and magi. But it’s Strum’s world, a world he fights to return to.

The worlds are vastly different but there’s a shared history hinted at within the story, a shared history more fully revealed in the sequel. That’s exciting to me as the author and totally unexpected. It is so exciting to have the story reveal itself to me, to share stories it wants me to know.That shared history caused me to start thinking recently about my own history. 

I’m a proud 2nd generation Italian born in America, both my mother’s and father’s family coming to this country in the early 1900s. To me, it’s so important to keep the old traditions alive, to follow the old recipes that my mother uses and her mother before her.

It’s that identity, tied to the old world, that I want to keep alive here, not only for me, but for my children and the generations to come.  I love the Feast of the Seven Fishes celebrated Christmas Eve. I love Soppressata and Capicola, Prosciutto and Fontinella cheese.  Here’s a recipe for a northern Italian dish called Bagna Cauda (translated: Hot Bath). We make it on special occasions, and anyone who loves dipping Italian bread into oil and garlic, will LOVE this. I guarantee it . . . or I’ll send my cousin Guido to your house to educate you on the finer points of Italian cuisine. :-)

Bagna Cauda
Cover bottom of pan or skillet with olive oil
6 large garlic cloves, chopped
Simmer garlic in oil until brown
25 oz sardines (in olive oil)
18 oz anchovies (in olive oil)
(We follow the rough ratio of 1 oz anchovy to 2 oz sardines)
1 stick unsalted butter

I prefer using Roland's sardines and anchovies

This sauce is served in a pot for everyone to dip vegetables into. Serve it with chunks of crusty bread and your favorite  raw vegetables.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Whistling in the Fog

The release date of my mid-grade novel, Whispers from Forbidden Earth, is fast approaching. WOOT! The journey has been VERY long and now that the culmination is approaching, how do I feel? Ecstatic? Nervous?

Try numb.

As a professing Christian, I look at many aspects of life through the lens of my faith, a lens that is a bit foggy at times. Here’s what I mean. First, I believe everyone is born with talents and gifts to use in life. Clear-cut. Second, I believe God guides our steps. That’s where the fog roles in. 

I am thankful to the folks at Helping Hands Press for seeing the potential in my story and agreeing to work with me. But, this is not the way I envisioned it. I’m sure most first-time authors dream of landing an agent and signing a six-figure contract with a major imprint for the next blockbuster novel. I did.

Facing the daunting, mind-numbing, maddening subjective world of publishing, and after receiving 14 “Dear author, sorry your work doesn’t meet our needs. Best of luck.” rejection letters from agents, I decided to submit to HHP after the success of others in my critique group. I know 14 rejections barely scratch the surface. But, with agents rejecting 99.5% of everything they see, and hearing stories of first-time authors being rejected 30, 50, 100 times, I wasn’t willing to spend a year or so playing the game. A part of me feels at peace going with a small press, but another part wonders what could have been. I made the decision, though. For better or for worse, I made the decision, and I have to trust the path before me is the correct one.

A year ago this week, I embarked on a vacation of a lifetime. I, along with two close friends, participated in a seven-day rafting trip through the Grand Canyon with Western River Expeditions. OK, what does this have to do with writing? Be patient. :-)   It was the most unbelievable experience. For seven days, I witnessed the power of the Colorado River. I saw a glorious ecosystem unimaginable from the small glimpses most visitors get from the South or North Rim.

Now to tie the threads together. Rafting the Grand Canyon was my decision. People have died rafting there. Many people. One young woman drowned just a couple of weeks after my trip. The risks never entered my mind. This was a trip I’d wanted to take for so long, nothing would stop me. Right before we shoved off on the river, our head guide gave one final warning to the sixteen guests on the raft: If anyone has second thoughts about the trip, get off NOW. Once we start, there’s no way out or back for seven days.

I faced the unknown on that trip and had a blast doing it. I trusted our guides. I trusted their skill and experience. I trusted them with my life. I was nearly tossed from the raft on Lava Falls rapid, but man, what a ride. Enjoy the pics!