Excerpt from Eastside Faerie: A (Sub) Urban Fantasy II

While I query Eastside Hedge Witch: A (Sub) Urban Fantasy, I thought I’d start other projects just in case it tanks. But, the story and characters drew me back in. The first book, though it served the purpose thematically of proving Miriam should not run from her problems and accept herself and her magic, was not the end, but only the beginning of her reentry into the supernatural world.

When I was plotting the series arc, I realized that certain plot elements would need to be told from another perspective. I started out with a prologue written from Micah’s point a view. Micah is a relatively minor character in Eastside Hedge Witch, but his own arc affects hers in a big way.

Side and minor characters in a story challenge your main character or provide them with information. What develops next will certainly throw a few obstacles in Miriam’s path, but it will eventually lead to her having a better understanding of things she learned in the first book.



Prologue

The sun Miriam created grew brighter every day, Micah supposed that meant her power grew too. He stretched in bed bathed in its warmth. He got out of bed and practiced unfurling his wings. His back stung as bones and tendons and feathers that hadn’t existed moments before formed in seconds. Light grey wings lined with silvery powder called angel dust filled his periphery. 

Micah’s husband, Shawn, warned him several times not to let the fae of this realm consume the substance. Angel dust was a bit of an aphrodisiac for angels and demons, but got the fairies high off their asses. The last thing he needed around the twins were a bunch of tripping pixies. 

He glanced at the bassinet where the babies slept. Gabriel, the were-nephilim archangel prick in charge, gave the okay for Hanna and Owen to live in the faerie with Micah while he learned to use his power. Anger pricked at the edges of his mind. He didn’t like Gabriel. If it were up to the archangel, Micah suspected he would have executed Shawn for being a decent person, protecting a scared, seventeen year old kid.

The archangel relenting was all Miriam’s doing as was this faerie. Turns out the PTSA mom, always looking out for everyone, was a supernatural freak. A mix of magical races that normally didn’t gel, and one of the most powerful beings Micah had ever faced. 

If she asked Gabriel to jump, he’d ask her how high, when, and if he could kiss the ground she walked on first. Infatuation like that wouldn’t last. The poor widow deserved better. She had so much power and used it all for the benefit of others.

Micah shook his head. He needed to tell her to dump Gabriel. Not only was he infatuated, Shawn suspected the angels wanted to use her against the opposition and was using the sweet lure of the beefcake to reel Miriam in and using her to control Gabriel. It was all going to crash and burn, and Miriam would get hurt out of it.  

 He checked on the twins. Micah should be content, but he missed Babette and Tomi. The big kids came whenever Shawn visited. It had been a trip for them all, learning what their fathers were. What Shawn had always been without telling him.

The sting of betrayal sank deep. He’d tried to get over the secret his husband had kept from him all these years. 

Shawn had known all along it had been Micah who killed his family and neighbors, smiting them with his anger.  

Micah felt his power rise like heat blooming under his skin wanting to emanate outward. He did the breathing lessons and meditation Shawn had taught him. When that didn’t work, he sat for a bit listening to the comforting sound of the twins soft breathing in the bassinet. 

Feeling the urge to piss, Micah left the small bedroom. It would have been awesome if Miriam put in indoor plumbing. If she could create a pocket universe, a toilet couldn’t be too hard. Instead Micah had to use an outhouse. He opened the door to the main sitting room of the cottage and went outside. 

Sprites flew through the air like pretty glowing bugs. The flowers were in bloom, fragrant in the breeze. 

He went around back to the outhouse, ignoring the farm animals. The fae took care of all that. They even cleaned the cottage and disposed of the dirty diapers. 

Under Miriam’s warning, Micah did not allow them to watch the twins, but at least he didn’t have to worry about errant fae taking them. Miriam had made it a rule they could not enter the cottage without his permission. Since she was basically their god, the fae listened. 

He took care of necessities and then headed back around the house. The nice thing about a faerie set up by a witch. Waste was all magicked away somewhere else. When he asked Miriam where all the dirty diapers and sewage went, she smiled and said, “Hell, of course.”

That woman had a real problem with Satan. Shawn suspected it was personal. 

On the way back to the cottage, Micah stopped dead in his tracks. 

Shawn, standing in the meadow at the far edge of the property, took Micah’s breath away. When his husband wiped away his pretense of humanity, his smooth, dark skin possessed an ethereal sheen and he lost any traces of the years that had passed since they met. Magnificent golden wings sprouted from his back. 

In profile, Shawn faced the most beautiful and terrifying creature Micah had ever seen–and he’d seen his share of gorgeous and monstrous fae since moving to Miriam’s faerie. The androgynous being had long black silken hair that faded to tendrils of smoke at the ends. Their wings were gorgeous membranous leather and bone, smoke curling at the tips. More of the seemingly living smoke curled at their feet. The stranger was completely naked except for tattoos and a black wrap covering their hips, that Micah supposed was a loin cloth. The wrap seemed more smoke than material. Like recognized like. Micah knew instinctively this being was no fae. 

Their  eyes, golden glowing orbs, narrowed on Shawn. 

In turn, Shawn snarled something in a language Micah couldn’t understand, but felt as if his husband had touched him. 

Micah’s pulse raced. His gaze bounced between what looked like a confrontation and the cottage where the twins needed protecting.

Suddenly the shadows extended from the being, like an ominous cloud, swallowing Shawn and the being before they disappeared altogether.

Written material ©Tammy Deschamps

Photo by Bertrand Bouchez on Unsplash

New to this blog? Check out an excerpt from Chapter One of Eastside Hedge Witch: A (Sub)urban Fantasy (book one) here: https://tammydeschamps.com/2020/08/31/eastside-hedge-witch-suburban-fantasy/

Writer Talk: Why Isn’t My Story Selling?

I’ve been alpha and/or beta reading manuscripts for about four years. I read a mix of about fifty to sixty traditionally and indie published novels a year for pleasure. What do some indie novels have in common with not-yet-polished drafts I alpha and beta read? Bad beginnings. Info dumps. Lack of developmental editing.

The way you start your story is crucial to grabbing the readers attention. Therefore, your opening lines and first pages really have to pop. I’ve written a blog post about writing characters who readers identify with. https://tammydeschamps.com/2020/08/09/why-knowing-who-your-audience-is-and-writing-characters-that-those-readers-identify-with-is-the-most-important-thing-you-can-do-as-a-writer/ I also wrote a post about hooking the reader from the beginning. https://tammydeschamps.com/2020/08/14/writer-talk-hooking-a-reader-from-the-beginning/


Don’t Bog the Reader Down with Description:

I recently read an advanced reader copy of a newish author’s story and couldn’t get past the first page. They started with dialogue then went into describing an office and a character, then gave an info dump about the character’s career, childhood, and dating life.

I will not share with you the author or the story because I’m writing this to teach, not embarrass. But, I can give an example of how they should have began the story. (Names and characters have been changed.)

Julie chewed her lip as she watched Alphonso. The big man had been working hard all afternoon on the new delivery of books, and Julie had been there for the show, stealing glances every chance she got. It was torturous to see the two things she liked the most books and her boss, but the sweet kind.

His broad back rippled under his fitted dress-shirt as he cut open another box. He wiped his brow with the back of his hand before unpacking more books. No one said being a librarian would be this sexy, but she doubted other librarians had a boss that looked like Alphonso.

“I’m so pathetic,” she whispered to herself, but didn’t stop watching.

Watching her boss was risky, but about all the action she got these days. She’d keep watching and wishing. It was fine as long as he didn’t know, right?

Alphonso’s dark eyes met hers. Busted! He arched an inquisitive eyebrow.

“Um, I wanted to know if I could uh, break for lunch?”

Alphonso flashed a warm smile. “Sure, Julie.”

Her stomach flipped at the sound of his velvety voice uttering her name. Pathetic. Pathetic. Pathetic. “Um. K, bye.” She rushed out of there before said or did something stupid.

It’s drafty because I wrote it on the fly, but we get that Julie is a lonely librarian and her boss is a forbidden fruit without going into pages and pages of exposition. Assume your readers are smart and can infer from scenarios rather than smothering them with details and back story. If the readers there to read erotica, they’ll relate to wanting someone and not being able to have them. When Julie does get that reward, it will be all the more satisfying.

An editor friend of mine recently shared something she was doing gratis. The author spent three, long paragraphs giving the reader an info dump of their mc’s military background. It read like a sixth grader was doing a book report on a resume. The editor assured me that yes, the information comes into play later, but no it was not necessary to begin the story. She redlined the first three paragraphs and marked the story to begin with the action.

Starting with action does not equate a good story. Several years back, I workshopped the first chapter of a science-fantasy novel I’d written. A literary agent and former editor for a big publishing house was the group’s leader. He pointed out that while the battle scene and the world building I set up was cool, he could care less about what happened because he didn’t know anything about the main character.

I introduced the story with no personal stakes. I realized I’d written a cardboard cutout that went through a series of events and no personal growth. No matter how “cool” of a world you build, the main character has a lesson to learn.

I rewrote the beginning with the personal stakes of my main character and the greater stakes for her team:

Not for the first time, I think that I am cursed as the vitals readout on my ocular indicates the dragonrider is still alive. Regulator Number Six is lying prone in a field stubbled with the stumps of harvested grains, something dark seeps from her midsection staining the rich loam. Her dragon, MIA.   

Dread pools in my stomach as I scan the skies.  Dragon Six circles so high above that he’s a grey speck in the sky, but does not land. His training is overriding his instinct to protect. I feel a modicum of relief. 

I touch one of the invisible threads that connect me to all living beings from my species’ origin world. I follow the thread to examine the strength of the bond between dragon and rider. Threads are intangible things, yet I sense what ties me to everything else as much as the sun beating down on my back.   

At the same time, I monitor the battle still raging in the background through the chatter from my unit in my earpiece. As a unit leader, with fifteen years of service under my belt, I have learned to multitask magic and tech. 

With a mental nod from me through our bond, my own dragon has already taken off and rejoined the unit. One of us should stay in the fight.  

Proceeding forward, I zoom my ocular in on the rider. Her arms are close to her body and legs are not spread out. That combined with no evident parachute deployed indicates the hit that knocked her from the back of her dragon had rendered her unconscious.  

As I draw closer, I see her ocular is gone, likely in the field somewhere. I curse under my breath as I scan the empty field for the tech. Recovering the ocular is nearly as important as what I must do. In the hands of the rebels…

A boom and subsequent whistle divert my attention to the forest west of me. I turn and watch as a missile pierces the sky, exploding midair. My unit’s five remaining dragons fly high enough to avoid the shrapnel. The unit dives while the rebels are likely busy loading another missile.  They retaliate with equally heavy firepower. Literal firepower.  Blasting the patch of forest.

 A retaliatory whine comes from another part of the wood and the missile explodes. That was too fast. The rebs couldn’t have run that far and reloaded. My mind reels that they got a hold of not one but two anti-dragon missile launchers and launched a surprise attack without my intelligence network catching wind of it. My spies were good. My main source loyal. 

I push those thoughts and my alarm aside to count dragons to see if anyone in my unit got hit. Still five, including Phime. She is a splash of red in the clear blue skies among her grey brethren and bigger than the rest of the dragons. I want to rejoin them, to end this, but I let myself be satisfied with my dragon taking my stead. 

A gravelly voice comes over my earpiece on a direct comm.. “Number One, Dragon One is riderless…Where are you?” To anyone else, Urduhk, my second in command, sounds pissed. To me, who’s known him my whole life, he sounds terrified.

So nice of you to notice.

“Number Six is down. Fatally wounded. I must,” I pause searching for the right words and take a deep breath. “…do what’s necessary. Dragon One will follow your dragon’s lead.” I’m disobeying protocol, leaving my dragon riderless, but under heavy fire, my unit needs Phime more than I do. 

“Got it. Number one–” The air whooshes from his lungs into the mic in preparation to say something he doesn’t want to, I’m sure. “We can’t open the gate until we’ve neutralized the enemy. If the bond between the dragon and rider breaks, you’re on your own.”

I lift my gaze to the sky again.

Number Six’s dragon is small, no bigger than a commune draft horse, yet the most dangerous creature in the galaxy unbound. Next to the Rhimacord, I think bitterly. I never lose my sense that either species will kill me if I don’t mind my back when they are present.

So far, the dragon is only circling the area, watching for threats. Their bond mate trusts me, therefore, I am not one. 

Yet.

My gut churns. I don’t want to do what I have to do. But, that is exactly why I am here. No one else cares about the humans in the commune or the fallen dragon rider, only securing the gate home. The gates remaining in the Rhimacord Empire’s control is our number one priority. It is drilled into us from the day we step into the Regulator Academy halls to our very last flight.

“I’m aware. I can handle it. I am a Vasphil after all.” I break protocol again by revealing my identity for the sake of a joke only funny between us.  

In my earpiece, Urduhk grunts, then switches to the unit-wide link, giving orders that relay what I’m doing without actually saying it. His gravelly voice is neutral and calm. I know him well enough to know he is anything but calm. Under his hard-ass exterior, he fears for me and the unit. That we’ll never go home. 

I am not calm, either.



There’s a lot of world building interwoven with the action, but it is all part of how it relates to the MC’s personal stakes. She’s fighting a war she doesn’t believe in, but she’s there and doing it for her people. She mistakenly believes if she serves an evil empire, she can protect her people from being like the oppressed. Hmm….you can guess how well that will go for her.

If you’re having trouble with your beginning and finding that right balance of show vs tell, action vs character building, open up your favorite stories and reread the beginning, take notes. You’ll start learning very quickly where you need to improve and this will lead to writing more salable stories.


Written material ©Tammy Deschamps
Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash



















Forward Planning: My Next Project


The idea for my next project came from this comic I saw on Facebook. It was simple as that. I didn’t want to do a Wizard of Oz or Alice in Wonderland retelling. That’s overly done, and I’m not interested in writing children.

I pitched the idea of Dorothy and Alice as private detectives and writing an urban fantasy/cozy mystery mashup series to my Facebook writing group Speculative Twist (https://www.facebook.com/groups/544023183188247). The group gave me a lot of support and encouragement. Many suggested the duo would suffer PTSD after their experience. That gave me more ideas of where I could go thematically with the series and character arcs.

So, while I’m writing Eastside Faerie, the sequel to Eastside Hedge Witch, I’m also going to be doing a lot of research.

In the meanwhile, I wrote a teaser prologue and/or back of the cover blurb to get the creative juices flowing. Here it is:

Turns out, it wasn’t all a dream.
My traumatized thirteen year old brain hadn’t made up the surreal horrors I’d experienced in Oz. When I was in college, I found a newspaper article about a Kansan girl reported missing by her aunt and uncle. The description fit. The names and dates fit.
I confronted auntie Em. She confessed they hid the truth because they had no clue what had happened to me and didn’t want to believe the fantastical stories coming out of my thirteen year old mouth. They were salt of the Earth Kansan farmers, not prone to believe fanciful stories about witches and robots.
But, they’d all seen me drop out of the sky and land in the pigsty, unconscious and broken.
My auntie, uncle, and the farm hands all made a pact that it was best just to go along with my assumption that I’d dreamt it all. No harm. No foul. Right?
Except, that was over a hundred years ago and everyone who could have told me what had happened or why I haven’t aged a day since I hit nineteen are all dead.
At least when I met Alice, I learned I wasn’t the only one and didn’t have to figure it out alone. Together, we started Dot and Al’s Detective Agency. Eventually we’ll figure out what happened to us and why we’re immortals with a few other perks, one missing person case at a time.

Written material ©Tammy Deschamps

Another Draft Finished

I finished the rough draft of Tam Lin: A Modern, Queer Retelling last night and will think of a less on the nose title soon. In the meantime, I’ll send the draft off to alpha readers. They’ll look for things like pacing, tension, seek plot holes, and analyze the character arc. I ended the story with a twist that was at once sweet and kinda terrible, in the best sense of the word.

It’s hard writing a character that you don’t like very much, but sometimes necessary. I love the original Ballad of Tam Lin, but I don’t like Tam Lin the character much. He’s some dude who had to have made some sort of deal with the queen of the fairies to get immortality and supernatural powers. What does he do with his longevity? Cure the plague? Figure out world hunger? No. He hangs around the forest of Carterhaugh, charging women their possessions or their virginity for passing through.

When I started the story, I thought Janet loved him and was a totally badass. Did he really deserve that love? What about the queen of the fae? He was supposed to be her lover, but he was chasing the shiny new all the time. Maybe she wasn’t paying a tithe to the devil but really was just sick of his sleaziness?

With the Tam Lin retelling, I had a larger theme I was working with and wanted to tell it from the perspective of the antihero. A guy who has all this potential and intention for doing something great, but really doesn’t. Tom is that seemingly nice guy who is actually self-centered and goes about fulfilling his needs with little regards to the feelings or thoughts of others, especially women. To men like Tom, women are objects of desire, something for his pleasure, but not someone to be loved or cherished, let alone respected. They’re worth their maidenhead, so to speak, but not much more. Whereas men are worthy of his love and respect. Figuring out how to convey that without making him an outright asshole was difficult.

So, instead of making him a jerk, I put a mediocre dude with some low-key misogynistic attitudes on a Hero’s Journey. I gave Tom plenty of chances to shine, to be better than average, letting it up to the readers to decide whether he actually went through the transformation and change of heart, or if he was exactly the same mediocre dude in the end.


Written material ©Tammy Deschamps

Image by Mystic Art Design from Pixabay 

Test, Allies, and Enemies–A Hero’s Journey Plot Point Featuring an Excerpt from Tam Lin: A Modern Queer Retelling

With a hero’s journey style plot, after your protagonist steps out of their ordinary world and into the new world, they’re going to meet some people along the way. These are little mini adventures that will give your character tools for the ultimate challenge. They’ll get pieces of advice too.

This is an excerpt where Tom gets some valuable advice, he’ll need to heed later.

When they were finished, Fergus pushed to his feet, offering Tom a hand. He took it readily. Suddenly the two men were standing a breath away. The tour guide reached around Tom to wrap a belt with a decorative sporran and cinched it. The younger mans’ breath caught when those same strong and nimble hands lifted to his cheeks. 

Gazing into his eyes, Fergus murmured, accent thick as the heat between them, “Ye dinna ken what ye do to me when ye look at me that way, do ye?” 

“Show me.” Tom rested his hands on Fergus’s narrow hips, parting his lips in invitation and closing his eyes. 

One, two, three breaths and nothing happened

Yet, the heat of Fergus’s ragged breaths fanned his face. 

Tom opened his eyes. “Am I misreading this?” He knew damned well by the poke against his hip he did not.

Fergus pressed into him. “Ye ken yer not. I want to kiss ye something fierce, but Aoife will have both our heads fer holding up the tour.”

A peal of rich, musical laughter, turned both their heads.  “If the tables were turned and I had that fine man in my arms, I’d not care if you were waiting or not, Fergus. Leave me out of it, you coward.” Aoife bounded into the room threading her arm through Tom’s, tugging on it. Tugging him away from her husband. The sudden shock of the hard and firm body to the soft and pliant one pressed against his side was titillating. Again, he pictured himself on her, melting into Aoife. 

“My Fergus was smitten with you from the first moment he laid eyes on you, but he’s a shy one.”

“What about you?” Tom braved to ask.

She made some Irish sound of disgust as they entered the hallway, Fergus close behind. “You look at my man like he’s some Highland clan chieftain with a castle and riches, but you look at me like a scullery maid you want to tup and be done with.” 

“I–I wouldn’t dream–I wouldn’t assume.” He had dreamed. He had a clear picture in his mind of how he’d like to make love to her.

She lowered her voice, “You dirty boy, you sent me the image so clear I could scarcely tell it was your fantasy, not my own.”

“Huh.”

“My big thighs snug around your thin hips, my calves urging you on while you have your way with me.” 

 Shit. That’s exactly what he pictured. Tom blinked. “I–I. Sorry. What?” 

She snorted and glanced over her shoulder. “Tell him Fergus.” 

“Aoife can see every image that pops in yer head, and I–” Fergus tapped his ear. “I can hear yer thoughts as plain as if they came out yer mouth. Don’t tell me Ariel didn’t warn ye of our gifts?”

“Hush about it now. The others will hear. And mind how you speak. The Americans won’t understand you,” Aoife warned. She then released Tom’s arm, taking her warmth and lemongrass scent bounding down the steps with her. 

Unwilling to let her go and desperate to apologize for making her feel like meat, Tom took two bounding steps before a hand clamped onto his arm, yanking him back. 

A look of harsh warning filled Fergus’s erstwhile serene face. “Didn’t Ariel warn ye? Never chase anyone or anything through a door, lad. Ye never ken what’s on the other side.”

Written material ©Tammy Deschamps

Photo by BRUNO EMMANUELLE on Unsplash


https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08HX91MYD

The Hero’s Journey Plot Rundown

The most important thing you must remember about any plot is that a good plot is a series of events that teach a lesson. Without that lesson learned, the story will come off as hollow and formulaic.

The Hero’s Journey Plot

The Set Up/call to adventure

Every story must start up in the character’s ordinary world. I’ve written a post about the most important thing you can do as a writer and that is writing a character that readers can identify with. You can do this by giving them a relatable set of circumstances. Family and friends the character cares about, and the interpersonal issues that go along with those relationships, are usually relatable cross-genres.

Usually the character is missing something. There’s a lesson to be learned. The story happens when those issues are amplified by external forces pressing the character to make choices that will lead to consequences. The character will learn from these consequences, eventually going through an internal change.

Here is my setup for Tam Lin: A Modern, Queer Retelling– https://tammydeschamps.com/2020/08/24/excerpt-from-tam-lin-a-modern-queer-retelling-chapter-one/


Denial


Or, refusal of the call. This is when the protagonist doesn’t think they’re in the wrong and want to keep everything as is. They challenge the problem by ignoring there is one.



Meeting with Mentor



The mentor doesn’t have to be a wise old person (sorry Gandalf, Dumbledore, and Mr. Miyagi). It can be literally anyone who knows the lesson that the protagonist must learn. The mentor intervention could be a single line or scene, encouraging the main character to go on a path that will teach them what they need to know.

Here is an example: https://tammydeschamps.com/2020/08/24/the-heros-journey-style-plot-and-how-i-used-it-for-tam-lin-a-modern-queer-retelling-excerpt-from-chapter-two/

Crossing the threshold

This could be literal or figurative. The protagonist could go on a journey or start taking dance lessons. Whatever new world the character dives into will teach them and hopefully change them.

Here is an example: https://tammydeschamps.com/2020/08/25/a-whole-new-world-a-heros-journey-plot-point-featuring-an-excerpt-from-tam-lin-a-modern-queer-retelling/

Tests, Allies, and Enemies

This part can also be called “fun and games” in other guides to plotting. This is where the protagonist meets the people who will help teach them the lesson the character needs to learn. What the character learns here will aide them in the future. This part of a story is where you’ll place foreshadowing for the ultimate test.
The character, at this point, will use the opinion that needs to change to guide them. This way of thinking will not, and must not, go well for them. They can have false victories here if it ultimately sets them up for disaster and a reason to change tactics later on.

Find an example scene of this plot point: https://tammydeschamps.com/2020/08/28/test-allies-and-enemies-a-heros-journey-plot-point-featuring-an-excerpt-from-tam-lin-a-modern-queer-retelling/

Approaching the Innermost Cave

This is the point of the hero’s journey where they enter a place where the character must do something dangerous or challenging: attempting a rescue, an escape, or obtaining an object. They are deep in enemy territory at this point.

The Ordeal

This is where the protagonist faces their biggest challenge. Their personal and story stakes are the highest at this point. It’s do or die. They cannot go back to their old life or way of thinking, this point has to forever change them.

In most myths and legend, the hero dies, metaphorically or for real in the ordeal. However, the ordeal is also a place of rebirth. The protagonist comes through this challenge with greater understanding, or some sort of power that will help them through the rest of the story.

Reward



The enemy is defeated. The hero has won the ordeal and is changed inside and out. This is where the protagonist gest some sort of reward for learning the lesson. It can be an object or prize. Whatever. They’ve won. Kinda.


The Road Back

This is the reverse of the push beyond the ordinary world. The hero has learned the lesson and must now return to their daily life. This is a point where the protagonist must choose between his or her personal objective and a higher purpose.



The Resurrection

Not the resurrection of the hero, but the resurrection of the enemy. The hero thought everything was safe and good, but this is where they have one final test. They will come the closest to death (literal or figurative) at this point.

The return Home

The hero has learned all they needed. This is where they resolve their issues and live their happily ever after–or happy for now. The hero will be changed, successful, and have some form of proof of their journey.


(Featured excerpts from Tam Lin: A Modern, Queer Retelling are from the rough draft and are for an examples only, they may not be copied or reprinted without the express permission of the author. The excerpts are also subject to change in editing and revisions and may appear altered in the final draft of the novella)


©T.J. Deschamps
Image from Pixabay

Tam Lin: A Modern, Queer retelling is available for preorder here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08HX91MYD

Hero’s Journey Plot Point The Threshold and How I Used It in Tam Lin: A Modern, Queer Retelling


In all myths, the hero goes to distant lands Sometimes to several while on their quest. It’s when they venture out from their everyday life and into fantastical settings or into any unknown. It doesn’t have to be filled with monsters, but it has to be a place that challenges what they believe in the beginning of the story. Tom’s belief is that the only way to have a committed relationship is to be out and public about it. He believes a ceremony is what proves commitment and love. His way of thinking is about to be challenged.

This is when Tom arrives in Ireland. I’ve been to Ireland myself about a year ago (sigh. I miss travel). There’s a lot to take in as soon as you get off the plane at any international airport. I could have spent a long time on details of the setting.. So, I kept the details pertinent to what I noticed as a traveller and what would propel the plot, ie Tom’s story, forward.

Here’s an excerpt from Chapter Three:

The signs in Irish on top then English at the bottom was the first noticeable difference when he debarked the plane into the airport. Tom scratched his head, staring at the rope maze leading to several glass encased stations and everyone else seemed to know where they were going. Non-EU would likely be his best bet as the right line to get in, but tightness in his chest wouldn’t let him move forward. 

“Um, excuse me.” He tapped a fellow passenger from his flight–a thin, petite woman likely in her early sixties with cropped hair and smile lines etched at the corners of her eyes. “I don’t speak Irish. What did she say?”  

“She was speaking English.” Laughter peeled from the woman’s mouth, rich and warm. “Sorry. I understand your predicament, I do. I couldn’t understand a word Tennessee folk said. I spent nearly two weeks, repeating myself, saying ‘Sorry?’ like that was all the English I knew, and I was apologizing for it.” She laughed at her own joke. 

Tom smiled at the woman’s attempt to lighten the mood, but his chest grew increasingly tighter as he waited for her to get to the point. “So–the announcement?” 

“She said that the luggage will be delayed twenty minutes. Typical of this airline, if you ask me. I got to get on to my queue.” She pointed out where he had been about to head before the announcement. “That’s your queue. Mind the fair folk while you’re here. They have an eye for the lonely and lost, especially a fine looking man as yourself.”

“Mind the who?” Tom asked, but he wasn’t really listening.  

“Nothing. Having a bit of fun.” The lines around the edges of her eyes deepened. “The Tuatha Dé Danann have long gone to Tír na nÓg. Ireland is just as modern as the states. No faeries will snatch you up.” 

His jet-lagged brain couldn’t interpret half the words in the last sentence. “Huh?”

“Never mind. Oh–Don’t kiss the Blarney Stone. It was a toilet, you know.” She patted his shoulder, offering a wry smile that twinkled in her eyes. “I best be off.” 

Still bemused, Tom waved at the cheerful, strange woman as she walked away, and he got in the growing line.


Written material ©Tammy Deschamps

Photo by Andrew Ridley on Unsplash

The Hero’s Journey Plot Point The Mentor and How I Used It for: Tam Lin: A Modern, Queer Retelling–Excerpt from Chapter Two

Since I’m working on a modern retelling of a myth, I’m using a hero’s journey style plot. The very first plot point is called a call to action (or adventure). I posted Tom’s call to adventure here https://tammydeschamps.com/2020/08/24/excerpt-from-tam-lin-a-modern-queer-retelling-chapter-one/ . Usually the call to action/adventure for a myth is some sort of quest, but in Tom’s case, it’s a trip to Ireland to discover his family’s roots. I briefly mention Tom is adopted and knows nothing of his biological family’s history.

The next plot point is where the hero denies or refuses the call for some reason or another. I didn’t post that part because I’m only posting excerpts, not the entire story, but it’s happened. Tom said no to the trip.

In this excerpt, our hero Tom seeks advice about his relationship. In myths, after the hero denies the call to adventure, they meet or seek the advice from a mentor. In Hero’s Journey style plot, the mentor encourages the hero to answer the call to action or adventure. (Note: I’m a big comic book geek and had a little fun with the Sage One’s name in this scene.)

Excerpt:


Tom finished his fourth IPA, swimming in the floaty-tingling of mild inebriation. Across the high-stool table, sat a stout man with a well-groomed, salt n pepper beard and coke bottle bottom glasses. Professor Xavier kept his hair in the same close-clipped academic style he wore since 1984. Instead of a tweed jacket with elbow patches like most men in their sixties, the professor wore a purple UW hoodie and fitted black jeans. Tom was sure his former professor, now employer and confidant, paired those with sensible shoes.  

“Then he said, ‘I’m out.’ Packed all his things and left. And, I just stood there with my brochures.”

His former professor folded his hands on the table. “Thomas, I have never given relationship advice, I have to say something here. Mr. A., as you call him, has every right to be worried. He’s a foreign-born, Black, Latino living in a time of the greatest progress and the greatest regression in civil liberties in American history. He comes from a community that’s even less accepting of queers. Coming out is harder for him than it was for us, and you’re not right to push him on it.”

Put in that light, Tom’s anger deflated. “What should I do?” 

“Write him an apology letter, acknowledge you come from a position of privilege and that you have no idea what it’s like to be him, but you’re willing to be his ally if not his man, and, my good friend, write it from Ireland.” Professor Xavier smiled as he lifted his IPA, sweat beading on the bottle ran in tiny rivulets dripping on the table. “I don’t care who bought the trip. You’d be a fool to pass up the opportunity.”

Tom wasn’t angry anymore, but he also wasn’t ready to apologize. He should take Ariel up on his offer and have a little fun in Ireland. “The flight’s tomorrow at 4:30 am. Are you going to drop me?” 

Professor Xavier looked at his watch, fiddled with the digital screen. “Go home. Throw some clothes, your laptop, and good walking shoes into a backpack. I’ll lend you my European outlet converters. Text me when you’re ready to leave.” He made a shooing motion. “Go on, I got the check.”

“But what about–” 

“I’ll hold your position. Thomas, this isn’t a trip to the San Juans. You’re going somewhere steeped in history. It’ll be good to have seen the places you teach about. Your family’s personal history. The novel you’ve been meaning to write is on the Emerald Isle. Go.”




For more information regarding the Hero’s Journey plot:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Heroesjourney.svg

Written material ©Tammy Deschamps

Photo by Clemens van Lay on Unsplash

Available for preorder here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08HX91MYD

Excerpt from Tam Lin: A Modern, Queer Retelling–Chapter One

While I’m querying Eastside Hedge Witch, I thought I’d post excerpts from my current WIP. This one is based on the Ballad of Tam Lin. The original Beauty and the Beast is loosely based on Tam Lin, so is Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses.

In the original ballad, a young woman named Janet plucks a rose from a forest in Carterhaugh, Scotland. An elf (or fae) Knight named Tam Lin appears and tells her to stop picking roses from his wood and how dare she even come around without his permission. Janet tells him she’ll do as she pleases because her daddy is the lord of the lands. Still, she finds Tam Lin hot and takes him for a lover. The big problem with that is that Tam Lin is already the fairy queen’s man.

Janet ends up pregnant. When her father suspects she’s carrying a baby he presses his knights to find out which one got her pregnant. Janet is having none of that. Instead of letting her father marry her off to just any old dude, Janet tells her father she didn’t take no mortal idiot to bed, she found an elf knight with an awesome horse and all sorts of cool stuff.

She doesn’t go begging Tam Lin to marry her. She goes back to the wood looking for an herb to abort the child. She’s not ashamed of their union, but she can’t raise a kid without her father’s support. Tam Lin begs her not to kill the baby ‘got between’ them. He tells her he used to be human. Then he says that the fairy queen is going to sacrifice him to the devil as a tithe. He says if she pulls him off his horse and holds on to him until he turns into a coal, then throws him into a well, he’ll become a man again.

Janet literally has to hold on to her man to keep him. She does and that’s where the story ends.

My story takes place five hundred years after Tam Lin’s true love rescues him from the fairy queen. It is the story of their last living descendent and his own run in with the fae:


Here’s an excerpt from Tam Lin: A Modern, Queer Retelling:


This was it. 

They were breaking up.

What was a skinny, ginger, word nerd, ghostwriting to make ends meet, doing with a professional baseball player/model let alone asking for more, Tom asked himself. His throat tightened and tears pricked the back of his eyes. He regretted what he’d said last night as he watched Ariel swipe a large hand over sculpted features, pausing over his mouth as if the big man had to physically hold back the words until he found the least hurtful ones. 

He could kick himself for admitting he wanted a commitment, wanted a promise of some sort that this was for the long haul. Ariel had a perfect blend of looks: strong nose, long-lashed eyes, high cheekbones, killer jaw, and full set of shapely lips, and the body of a bronze god. Ariel was kind and sweet, and had the best stories about growing up in ‘el campo’ of the Dominican Republic. He listened well and was smart enough to appreciate some of Tom’s more esoteric writing.

Why did Tom have to fuck it up with asking for some sort of public commitment?  

Instead of speaking the words Tom didn’t want to hear, Ariel reached a well-muscled arm behind himself and pulled a letter out of his back pocket. He handed it over. Face unreadable.

Tom eyed the envelope suspicious and somewhat surprised the talkative athlete would hand the writer the Dear John letter when he didn’t admit he was in a relationship publically, yet. In a day and age anyone could take a photo of the letter and post it on social media, it would be a risk. Ariel trusted him, which would warm Tom’s heart. What did that trust mean if it were all going to end anyway?

Ariel’s supple mouth spread in a teasing grin, and then he let out a raucous chuckle. “Dude, it isn’t gonna bite. Go on. Open it, papi.”

Tom let out a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding and crossed the living space of the apartment they sublet from one of Ariel’s friends to his desk. Among bobbleheads of his favorite science fiction, comic book, and anime characters, and haphazard piles of books, Tom found a letter opener one of his professors gave him upon graduating from the MFA program. Along the seam of the letter opener, an inscription read, “Bearer of Glad Tidings.” A joke on the professor’s part because it was King Arthur’s fabled sword in miniature. Back when writers and publishers sent letters instead of emails, the professor had used the letter opener on envelopes containing more rejection letters than acceptance. He gave it with the note that he hoped Tom would have better luck with it. Tom used the Excalibur miniature to open bills but now sliced open the envelope with satisfying precision. 

Inside the envelope were several travel brochures for Ireland. Advertisements for tours with pictures of castles and ruins, lakes, and lots of green rolling hills and for villages and cities he’d never heard of. On the cover of a pamphlet for Ulster Extras Tours, a man who looked like he could star in a show about highlanders or vikings caught Tom’s attention. The man had dark silky hair, tons of jewelry like an 80’s rock star, and long lean-muscled body that looked like it could easily wield a sword or guitar. Next to the Irish Adonis, a petite, red-haired woman with ample proportions held a shield and sword. Her short plaid kilt revealed muscular legs, pale as ivory. Tom had never labeled himself gay because, on occasion, a woman like that would turn his head, and he’d just melt for her. 

A woman like that had brought him together with the man that hovered nervously nearby. Kelsey had served as a bridge, but she’d been exhausting and demanding, talked over them whenever they went out. She treated what happened in the bedroom like her fantasy scenario. 

Ariel and Tom had found themselves doing dinner or movies without her, enjoying each other’s company.  Kelsey lost her original allure, and Tom had found himself wanting it to be just him and Ariel all the time. For weeks, he’d worked himself up to ask Ariel if they could be not exactly exclusive, but that their dates stopped including Kelsey. Fortunately, he never had to have the conversation. 

Kelsey announced she’d moved on to another triad the day Ariel proposed they all move in together. So, instead of the three of them sharing the apartment and each other, it became the two, and it had been fantastic.    

 An airline boarding pass fell from one of the brochures. One boarding pass with his name on it in bold print. Tom sifted through the rest looking for Ariel’s ticket but only found a meal voucher and something regarding pre-paid travel insurance.   

He furrowed his brows, unsure of what this meant. “Are we going on vacation?”

“Remember how you found out you weren’t German like your adoptive family after all? I got this cousin who does ancestry stuff. I gave her that test you took. She’s set up a whole trip. Except, the movie extra tour. I booked that. I thought you might like a break from history and have some fun.”

It had to be the most creative and considerate breakup Tom had ever experienced. He felt like someone sat on his chest and sprayed vinegar in his eyes. He took a deep breath, but it didn’t help. His voice cracked when he asked, “Alone?”

Ariel bit his lip, brown eyes puppy-dogging. “I can’t go, pap-o. I got spring training.” He grasped Tom’s shoulders, thick fingers pressing into the smaller man’s flesh. There was so much strength in those hands, but the hold was reassuring, not threatening. Ariel’s feelings were always so clear. It was almost as if he could superimpose them on Tom’s. Right now it seemed as if Ariel was reassuring both of them it was going to be okay. “This is an opportunity to learn about your people. Who knows? You might come up with a story or two while you’re there.” He smiled, broadly, revealing perfect white teeth. “Imagine all the men in kilts like on that one show we watch.”

Tom’s gaze landed on the brochure with the highlander-looking man and redhead. “It’s Ireland, not Scotland.”

“They film historical flicks there, Mr. Pedantic.” Ariel pressed his full lips to the tip of Tom’s nose. “Flip as many of those kilts you like and have some fun.”



Written material ©Tammy Deschamps

Image by Susann Mielke from Pixabay


To hear a lovely rendition of the Ballad of Tam Lin:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3yTEUnyYDA


Buy Tam Lin: A Modern, Queer Retelling here:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08HX91MYD

What Writing a Short Story in a Day and Publishing it on Amazon Taught Me

My long term goal is to eventually own a small press that helps fledgling writers break into a very competitive industry. I realized while I’m writing and querying my work with publishing houses, that I might want to try my hand at self-publishing.

What happens when you write a story, do your own editing, formatting, cover art, and do not pay for advertising? You get on what one of my author friends calls “the friends and family plan.” Your friends, the tried and true ones, at least, will buy your story, but no strangers are going to pick it up.

One of my friends said that this isn’t ever going to make a front page of Amazon even if you search for the title because it has a naked person on it. It is an artfully covered naked person, but naked, nonetheless.

My first mistake was labeling it erotica. Yes, there’s sex, but it’s more about the main character and supporting character’s unhappiness with their choices in life and love. Candace fell in love with the wrong man and completely lost her identity as a stay-at-home mom. Memnoch fell for a charismatic leader, followed Lucifer into a rebellion and was sick of his job as a cross-roads demon bargaining for souls. Instead, he bargains for Candace’s adoration. He knows this will damn her so it’s still technically doing his job, but he’s upfront about it. There is an explicit sex scene, but erotica, it is not. Candace finds salvation not only of her life, but her sense of self and her soul in Memnoch’s arms.

If it were erotica, it would be centered around the sex and the affair with the demon, but it’s more about Candace gaining the courage to no longer live a lie. The theme is it’s never too late to undo mistakes and change our lives, no matter how deeply enmeshed we are in the consequences.

So far, the story has had complete read throughs of all 35 pages on KU, so at least I’m keeping my friends and family engaged. The story has also received at least five outright purchases. Thanks, big spenders!

The benefit of having written it under a pen name is that whether it does well or not, Adoration is not associated with my other work…Unless, you’ve read this article.

Have you self-published with and without an editor? What was your experience?





%d bloggers like this: