Friday Spotlight: Michelle Picard

Part of the Virtual Book Tour for Surviving Eden, organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Comments on this post, in addition to having the chance to win an autographed copy of Michelle’s first book in the series, Ruling Eden, will also be entered into the tour contest for a special gardening set consisting of a hummingbird feeder, nectar concentrate food for the feeder, and several packets of garden flowers. The other tour stops can be seen here. Remember, the more you comment, the better your chances of winning.

WATER

Everything has screamed at me to write about water. Water is the stuff of life. Human babies are born three quarters water. Between the BP oil spill crisis from earlier in the year, to rising sea levels from polar ice cap melt, to worries about freshwater drinking supply, to wars raged over water rights, to discovering water in space and on other planets, the importance of H2O has never been so apparent. It’s a powerful force, in our earthbound storms and in spiritual meanings of rejuvenation and rebirth.

I’ve recently received some rudimentary sailing lessons to prepare me for a weeklong sailing trip with my family. I’m a bit anxious about it. The sea is one of the last areas in our mostly domesticated planet where mistakes are not easily forgiven. But I’m determined to harness that natural tension during the experience and the part of sailing that feels like the struggle to master the elements.

Choosing a theme of water in future tales both satisfies my desire to write about powerful forces, about gateways, since the surface of the ocean is one big gate to an entirely alien undersea realm, and about issues of letting go of control.

And I may be able to use my sailing experience in my current work even before launching a new water based project. Rachel, my heroine in Ruling Eden and Surviving Eden, my newest release, is all about control. She’s been on her own for so many years she’s perfected the walls she uses to maintain it. But the journey she takes in the Eden’s Court series is about learning how to let go of some of that control at the same time she acquires more responsibility than ever. Two books into the series is a perfect time for me to enhance her sense of letting go–the free fall when we acknowledge there is plenty in life we cannot direct and that we can benefit from stopping the sometimes fruitless struggle to try. If I can grab that feeling on my sailing trip and inject it into her I will be thrilled.

Real life intersects my writing life so frequently. And the results are a powerful tide like force themselves. Has anyone else had the experience of their professional life enriching and complimenting their personal life or vice versa? I always love to get messages if you have personal examples. I can be reached through my blogsite www.michellepicardsblog.wordpress.com or website through contact suggestions at www.MichellePicard.com.

Thursday Spotlight: Michelle Picard

Part of the Virtual Book Tour for Surviving Eden, organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Comments on this post, in addition to having the chance to win an autographed copy of Michelle’s first book in the series, Ruling Eden, will also be entered into the tour contest for a special gardening set consisting of a hummingbird feeder, nectar concentrate food for the feeder, and several packets of garden flowers. The other tour stops can be seen here. Remember, the more you comment, the better your chances of winning.

GATEWAYS

After I finished my fourth manuscript, each one set in very different story worlds, I stepped back and scratched my head noticing similarities. Authors all have them, those predispositions to touch upon certain themes or ideas in our writing. Although I’d written a contemporary fantasy romance, Ruling Eden, a traditional, as of yet unpublished darker fantasy, and a spicier post-apocalyptic story, each world featured a portal or gateway pivotal to that story. Protagonists had to make life-altering decisions to step through these gates to new existences.

Gateways are the perfect metaphor for possibilities of change, second chances, and rebirth. They represent a moment of risk, leaving someplace known and entering the unknown. Very scary. Equally as exciting. In other words, an ideal tool for a writer to thrust a character into new situations. So that’s what I did. In Ruling Eden I took my heroine, Rachel Rieh, an ordinary street tough woman from Boston, and forced her to step through that portal to her new existence, Eden, where she turns out to be the queen of seven supernatural races on earth and the most powerful magical being on the planet. Actually, all she had planned to do the night this fell into her lap was hunker down with a stick of chocolate chip cookie dough, but you know how it is with life’s little unexpected surprises (grin).

Here’s a quick excerpt of Rachel’s experience stepping through this portal later in my story as she’s traveling to the dragon realm:

“Walking through the portal mists was as strange as the first time. But now, the mists tried to embrace me, as if they were alive and attracted to the magic in my body. The potential of the universe echoed around me. Other things were out there. I felt it. But the unfamiliar power of the portals defied connection to the earth. I swear some other intelligence reached out and scanned me, seeking to identify the stranger in its midst. My stomach lurched at that awareness, and I exhaled in relief as we left the portal behind”

My character was already dissatisfied with her day to day. Lonely and feeling out of place. Leaving her predisposed to step through into Eden’s Court and her new life. But in the real world, change is mostly scary. Even situations with which we are unhappy are sometimes easier to accept than taking a risk on something new. But what happens if a person is confronted with a physical manifestation of other possibilities? If you woke up with a big old portal shimmering and swirling in front of you, would it be easier or harder to take the risk of change? A gateway is certainly more seductive than the run of the mill invisible, unquantifiable choice a person has to make to embrace change.

Alternately, gates are fortifications of defense or protection. Places we can lock ourselves behind to prevent incursion, whether into a geographic location or metaphorically into our most private selves. Opening them means risk of being invaded. There are a plethora of stories involving protecting the world from invasion by forces locked behind these gates, be it demons or any other BIG BAD EVIL. Heroes and heroines move heaven and earth to keep those gates from falling. They are defenders of the status quo, true, but can be just as noble as those characters that embark on a romantic quest by stepping through a gate. They are equally noble because they are defending all of the messy, imperfect but valuable life of their own known worlds.

I made the image more confusing in my second novel, Surviving Eden, where the transition through the gate itself becomes its own universe, an in between location if you will. It turns into a big scary deal, but you’ll have to read the book to find out.

Many of the paranormal, fantasy and science fiction novels I read are replete with one variety or another of portal or gate. And not just in a traditional sense. Pentagrams, time machines, pyramids, crossings down to underground or undersea civilizations, airports, wardrobes, space anomalies, and even books and paintings. So, here’s my bottom line question. What’s your favorite gate or portal in a work of fiction? Does it represent taking a risk or the defense of hearth and home to the protagonists of that story? Do you have a predisposition to stories with one type of gateway or another?

If you want to learn more about me, my heroine Rachel, the eerie portal she must cross, or my books, Ruling Eden and Surviving Eden, please visit my website at www.MichellePicard.com. And if you have a really cool picture of a gate or portal or whatever you consider a transition point, send it along to me at the contact address on my site. I love to collect these types of images and will post them on my blog.

Wednesday Spotlight: Michelle Picard

Part of the Virtual Book Tour for Surviving Eden, organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Comments on this post, in addition to having the chance to win an autographed copy of Michelle’s first book in the series, Ruling Eden, will also be entered into the tour contest for a special gardening set consisting of a hummingbird feeder, nectar concentrate food for the feeder, and several packets of garden flowers. The other tour stops can be seen here. Remember, the more you comment, the better your chances of winning.

AN OLD DOG DOING NEW TRICKS

Fantasy and paranormal writers frequently try to put a fresh spin on old themes, pulling out the proverbial rabbit from their magician’s hat to find that new take on vampires or shapeshifters or demons or witches or…you get the picture. Since I fit roughly into this genre category, it struck me how easy it had been to create my own perspective on the paranormal characters in Ruling Eden, my first novel. I didn’t try to over think the issue. I simply tried to have fun. The pressure was off because the story wasn’t about any one of these races, but the complex dance between these peoples and the quirky, kick-ass woman who was destined to lead them all.

So yes I had to decide if my vampires could walk in daylight (they can), eat garlic (yes again), drink human blood (yes), be seen in mirrors (yep), were born or made (born from vamp parents) and if they can enthrall with their vampiric powers (uh huh). That part was easy. But what set my vampires apart came directly from my exploration of character. Christian is the vampire brother of the story heroine, Rachel. I knew he had a tortured past. I knew he was a good guy who loved his family. I knew he’d had tragic experiences with love. It was when I allowed his character to drive me that I discovered the twist to his race. In the world of Ruling Eden and Surviving Eden, vampires cannot kill humans. They need them to feed upon, but they are genetically programmed to find it abhorrent to kill mortals. And, most tragically, they can only fall in love with humans and not with their own vampire kind with whom they procreate. Since humans cannot be “turned” and live much shorter lives this generally leads to heartbreak.

Aside from just having fun, and letting my characters drive their own species particulars, another key to letting loose my imagination is sliding my focus sideways. Sideways, away from development of specific races based on typical mythologies and instead toward a common creation myth uniting multiple species. That’s what I love. Not creating the sexiest shapeshifters, but creating yummy complex messy interrelations between multiple species. This shift in focus leads to many new ideas. For instance, my angels and demons, arch enemies, yes, but because they used to be one race involved in a civil war, split into two by a pissed off magic leader sick of their infighting.

Many paranormal romances do not do justice to explaining the origin of species. And that’s okay. There’s something to be said for a murky, mysterious past. Life’s like that, full of missing explanations. But when I write I want to write about the meat of what fascinates me most in life—how people are similar, are connected, despite their differences, despite how they struggle in conflict with one another. Why are we in this mess together and what does it mean? So I dig around my mind for new mythologies, enjoy myself in the process, and end with the boon of new, fresh ideas.

If you care to check out my world of Eden and my new look at old faces–vampires, shapeshifters, dragons, faeries, witches, angels, demons—stop by www.MichellePicard.com.

Tuesday Spotlight: Michelle Picard

Part of the Virtual Book Tour for Surviving Eden, organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Comments on this post, in addition to having the chance to win an autographed copy of Michelle’s first book in the series, Ruling Eden, will also be entered into the tour contest for a special gardening set consisting of a hummingbird feeder, nectar concentrate food for the feeder, and several packets of garden flowers. The other tour stops can be seen here. Remember, the more you comment, the better your chances of winning.

THE UNEXPECTED BENEFITS OF CREATIVITY

Five years ago when I began writing RULING EDEN, my contemporary fantasy romance, I never expected anything except, if lucky, to finish my first ever manuscript. That had been my dream. No more, no less. What I found was much more. Not only did I complete the story, which recently took second place in the 2010 PRISM awards fantasy category, the published authors contest sponsored by the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal chapter of the Romance Writers Association, but the endeavor created an entire new network of friends, experiences, learning and creativity for me. With it I’ve come to believe in is the magic of expansiveness.

Opening yourself to creativity opens doors. That one decision to complete this manuscript led me to call the mother of a close friend for advice. She’d published a handful of romance novels a decade before. I was reminded that this lovely lady was not simply a parent of a contemporary of mine, but was a complex interesting woman in her own right who became my friend. In addition she pointed me in the direction of the local chapter of the Romance Writer’s Association. Through my New England chapter I found critique groups filled with people who also became great friends. My life can only be richer for these friendships.

My creativity brought great joy and a lifelong goal fulfilled. It brought me centeredness. It improved my marriage, the romance aspect in my writing adding a spice between my husband and me. It made me more likely to pick up pencils and crayons and paint for the occasional art projects I’d always avoided due to a total lack of visual artistic acumen. It brought pride to my sons in their mother. To this day my oldest goes around bragging about my books.

My creativity brought a new connection between me and my father, a visual artist in his own right. It’s enriched our relationship, for which I am extremely thankful. It has also improved my self-esteem as a variety of fantastic reviews praised my efforts. Traveling to writing conferences has brought me to new cities I had never visited.

In short, I am more interested in life and life is more interested in me. Everybody is creative. Have you ever wanted to take a pottery class? A sewing or knitting class? Learn how to scrapbook? Sat down to write a poem? Ever dragged out old magazines to work on a collage? Do it! The act of creating something is cathartic and soul expanding. I’m happy to predict you’ll have no clue where the path will lead you.

Monday Spotlight: Michelle Picard

Part of the Virtual Book Tour for Surviving Eden, organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Comments on this post, in addition to having the chance to win an autographed copy of Michelle’s first book in the series, Ruling Eden, will also be entered into the tour contest for a special gardening set consisting of a hummingbird feeder, nectar concentrate food for the feeder, and several packets of garden flowers. The other tour stops can be seen here. Remember, the more you comment, the better your chances of winning.

SURVIVING EDEN

I’d like to kick off this week of blog posts by introducing myself. I’m Michelle Picard, and I write fantasy romance. I have two books out now in my Eden’s Court series, Ruling Eden and Surviving Eden. I call my stories contemporary romantic fantasy because they’re a blend of the typical first person tough female voice you might hear in urban fantasy, are technically set on current day Earth, but not in any place or city with which readers are familiar.

I loved creating my version of Eden, a realm that is tethered to the mundane world like a balloon floating over the planet tied to the ground by a string. So it has the feel of a fantasy world of its own, yet the benefits of a strong tie to Earth culture including language, norms and mythology. Below is the blurb for my new release, Surviving Eden, which should provide enough of the flavor of the entire series premise to give you an idea.

Rachel Rieh wields enough magic to make a goddess jealous, or so she learned three weeks ago when she thought she was an ordinary, reclusive, and short-tempered gal from Boston. In this second story of Eden’s Court, Rachel, now the new ruler of the Kesayim, (angels, demons, dragons, faeries, vampires, shapeshifters and witches, the goddess-created protectors of mortalkind) finds herself faced with the task of stopping vampire hunters from annihilating the vampire race. Her lover, Gabriel, half-angel, half-demon, stands by her side to help if she can escape her obsession with protecting him at all cost.

Earth is already on the verge of destruction within six months because magic is out of balance. The new threat to the vampires destabilizes the situation more. In her race to save the vampires, Rachel meets Lillith, goddess, creator of all Kesayim and humans, and the one with all the answers to Rachel’s problems. But is the cold-hearted goddess intent on changing Rachel into her image the greater threat to Rachel and everyone she loves?

The action of this story and my previous includes the political and personal scheming and intrigue between seven different paranormal/fantasy races—angels, demons, vampires, shapeshifters, witches, faeries, and dragons. That leaves lots of room to create interesting characters. But what I’ve appreciated more after writing these books is my most non-traditional characters–specifically, the Garden of Eden itself as a character. The Garden is a sentient non-humanoid force that plagues the heroine, Rachel. Yet, it is enamored of her, and aids her to the best of its ability. It’s not above causing mischief, but the Garden enhances her magical kick. It exists as a rich, verdant space of indeterminate size, contracting and expanding as needed, with every type of plant organism in existence. Mythical beasts wander inside its confines like the unicorn, and a little known beast that eats nightmares called a baku.

Below is a brief excerpt from the opening of Surviving Eden that features the Garden.

Walking through the lush beauty of the Garden of Eden was meant to be inspiring, stimulating, a damned orgiastic delight for the eyes. This morning it was only annoying. Mostly because I was late for my first official diplomatic visit to the vampire realm, and fuming because the path through the garden refused to cooperate and lead us to the appropriate portal.

But the garden, its exotic sentience plucking at my mind, riffling through my thoughts and twittering its opinions–always a spine-tingling sensation–preferred to shift its dimensions and keep the elusive portal far from me and my companion. I would have questioned its motive, but I doubted it practiced anything but an amusing propensity for stirring trouble.

The Eden I strode through wasn’t anywhere on twenty-first century mortal maps of earth; more like a parallel realm snapped out of normal space, disconnected long ago by the goddess who created us all. Same as the home realms of all of the seven Kesayim peoples. Unfortunately, the garden had never recovered from its upset over the separation and tended to become testy at the oddest times. Oh yeah, PMS had nothing on this paradise when it got in a snit.

And now I had to negotiate its moody walkways and get to my destination or else. Without all the Kesayim races stable, including the vampires, I had no chance of uniting them to prevent the literal destruction of our world.

I walked faster.

Creating non-traditional characters opens me up to possibilities. These characters don’t have to come close to thinking as we do. A reader will never completely understand them. But it’s a fantasy writer’s dream to play with these entities. Kind of like creating your own alien race, but without any size or shape or physics limitations.

I’d be interested to hear about the most unusual non-traditional character readers have discovered in their book travels. If you think you have one that stands out, feel free to email me at michelle@michellepicard.com and I’ll mention it on my blog. Or just post it in some random comments on my blog at http://michellepicardsblog.wordpress.com.

GUEST BLOG: Michelle Picard

This blog is part of a Virtual Book Tour for Surviving Eden, the second book in Michelle Picard’s Eden Court series. In addition to the being entered into our weekly contest, comments on this post will be eligible to win a special gardening set consisting of a hummingbird feeder, nectar concentrate food for the feeder, and several packets of garden flowers. You can get more chances to win by following her tour…dates can be seen here.

“Change is inevitable, struggle is optional.”

I saw this on a bumper sticker last week and it struck me as completely true. And in real life I strive for reducing the struggle and learning to accept, go with the flow, find the mindfulness in all my crazy moments and experience it crisply as I go along for the ride. The ride’s going to happen after all and if I kick and scream against it I might miss something crucial. But should this hold true for my stories and my characters? Without the struggle there’d be nothing to my books.

I’m on my month long virtual blog tour to celebrate the release of Surviving Eden, the second in my Eden’s Court series out at Crescent Moon Press. The series premise runs like this: what if a modern woman suddenly learns she is heir to the throne of a magical realm hidden in our world and is the most powerful magical being on the planet? As with any stories worth their salt, tension and conflict characterize the entire journey, with a few soft moments to catch your breath thrown in between. My first person narrator, the heroine Rachel, struggles against her new role, her new magic, her soul mate attraction to the hero, her destiny, her unhappy past, her magical nemesis, etc… You name it she struggles against it. I’m pretty good at writing characters’ internal angst and she has it big time.

As I look forward to starting to write the third book in this series, continue the story of Rachel and her half-angel/half-demon lover Gabriel, I’ve set a new goal for myself–find more moments for Rachel to experience this mindfulness. She deserves it after all. The surprisingly wonderful thing about being a writer is that we mature as we finish each novel and start the next. Time has passed. We’ve learned some small bit about craft or our writing style and along the way we’ve maybe matured in our individual lives. And my characters are supposed to be growing too. So as I consider improving the quality of mindfulness in my life, I realize I won’t be demolishing the tension, conflict and struggle in my stories if I allow Rachel to pursue this same quality as well. When it boils down to it, rarely does a person live mindfully 24/7. In real life we have a fleeting moment of peace and connectedness and being centered in the present before the chaos of life breaks through and our thoughts, hopes, worries, irritations return. The stuff of our personal struggles. But if I can capture a few moments of mindfulness for Rachel in this next project, then the reader will experience it as one of those in between breather moments, experience the precious clarity and beauty Rachel might find, and appreciate the story even more when she’s dragged back into the drama of her story arc. It creates a contrast all its own. And maybe working on describing these mindful moments on my computer screen will benefit my personal goals.

So I’m going to throw out the story blurb for Surviving Eden. I must say I enjoyed writing it. I miss Rachel and Gabriel. If you like what you see visit me at my sites: www.michellepicard.com, www.michellepicardsblog.wordpress.com; www.thequirkyladies.com and on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/people/Michelle-Picard/100000107670126
And Twitter at: http://twitter.com/RulingEden

There are links to buy my books at both my website and at www.crescentmoonpress.com. The series is available in both e and print formats.

Have a mindful day.

Rachel Rieh wields enough magic to make a goddess jealous, or so she learned three weeks ago when she thought she was an ordinary, reclusive, and short-tempered gal from Boston. In this second story of Eden’s Court, Rachel, now the new ruler of the Kesayim, (angels, demons, dragons, faeries, vampires, shapeshifters and witches–the goddess-created protectors of mortalkind) finds herself faced with the task of stopping vampire hunters from annihilating the vampire race. Her lover, Gabriel, half-angel, half-demon, stands by her side to help if she can escape her obsession with protecting him at all cost.
Earth is already on the verge of destruction within six months because magic is out of balance. The new threat to the vampires destabilizes the situation more. In her race to save the vampires, Rachel meets Lillith, goddess, creator of all Kesayim and humans, and the one with all the answers to Rachel’s problems. But is the cold-hearted goddess intent on changing Rachel into her image the greater threat to Rachel and everyone she loves?