Reblog: How To Research Mental Health and Trauma For Your Characters — WRITERS HELPING WRITERS®

The topic of using mental health in character construction comes up frequently in writer’s groups. This blog post, along with Episode 42 of The Rebel Author podcast, (which you can find here), outlines some of the considerations and research avenues writers should explore as they write characters to life.~

Giving a character a trauma or mental health backstory seems like an easy way to add internal conflict to our characters – and it is. But where do you start that research? What should you be looking for? No one likes to read a story and find the writer just plain got something wrong. It…

How To Research Mental Health and Trauma For Your Characters — WRITERS HELPING WRITERS®

Book Review: Lady Anne and the Menacing Mystic

by Victoria Hamilton

*I received access to this title in exchange for an honest review, which I am happy to leave.*

Much of the historical fiction I have recently read takes place in London, so when I saw Lady Anne and the Menacing Mystic is set in the famous and beautiful city of Bath, I was eager to read it. The asserted healing properties of the water, and the resurgence of its popularity in the nineteenth century made for an elegant and engaging backdrop to the mystery. Through the daily routines of the citizens “dependent” upon the water’s curative effects, we are transported into the hierarchy of Bath society with Lady Anne as she visits with her mother in preparation for the announcement of her own engagement.

I had not read any of the previous Lady Anne novels that Victoria Hamilton has written, but that did not restrict my understanding or empathy for Lady Anne or the other characters. The novel can be read as a stand-alone easily, though it may suggest that reading the prequels would be worth it for the story behind Anne and Lord Darkefell’s romance. The portrayal of the lord as dark, haughty, and sympathetic to women of his time who would control some of their independence is skillfully woven into the story as Anne conducts her own rebellions within the close Bath society.

Themes of love, secrets, truthfulness with oneself, exploitation, and societal beliefs are all explored through Anne’s discovery and solving of a murder mystery that involves those close to her. We learn of the complex relationships society demands women maintain, and the depravity they suffer when they do not. Anne treads a fine line between impropriety and inclusion in her goal of maintaining independence and marrying a marquess, to the marvel of her mother and Bath society. It is her tenacity, however, that leads her to pursue an investigation into an untimely death in an effort to spare her friends shame. What she discovers to be at the heart of the deception shakes her definitions of truth and appearance.

Lady Anne and the Menacing Mystic is an enjoyable delve into Georgian society outside London, with all of the decorum and formality of the era. Historical fiction fans will appreciate the complexity and physical description of the city of Bath and its contribution to the story. I recommend it to historical fiction mystery fans who would enjoy a trip outside of London. Partake of the mineral waters of Bath to ease your ailments and enjoy your time sleuthing with Lady Anne!

The Great Collection of the Elemental Families of Huphaea, anid 1830 #10

Hello Everyone! Here we are at episode 10, I’ve made it to double digits! I wasn’t sure if I would be able to keep on schedule, and figured that ten would be a good round figure to judge by, but here it is, and I’m enjoying it a lot, so I’ll keep going. I hope you are enjoying my recounting too. And it is almost August—whoa, how did that happen? Make the most of your last month of summer (for those in the Northern hemisphere, that is). I am slated to return to playing soccer next week, and I just purchased a lovely hammock for backyard reading time with the dogs. It’s been hot here, but so much more comfortable reading in a hammock. I hope you make some time for your favorite activity this week!

Last episode we had a delicious breakfast with Lady Daphne Arborea, and got some indication that going home may not be so easy. Elahna also fell prey to some mischevious tree dryads. She was on her way back into the manor to do some exploring…

**This episode has a lot of descriptive elements that I can’t find pictures of, or draw that would do what I saw justice. My hope is that I can describe it well enough that it comes alive in your mind too. Not so many pics this time, is what I mean. Let your imagination do the illustration, that’s my hope.~

Rosewood Manor’s unique and ever-changing floor

Back in the main foyer, I examined the floor scene again. I blinked my eyes several times because I would have bet my last dollar (if I had any!) that the water in the stream was flowing lazily. Gemstones glittered up at me, daring me to follow them to the reaches of the manor. When I looked up, having made my decision, Aymur was approaching me, a bemused smile on his face.

“What catches your fancy, may I ask?”

“The water in the floor scene, I swear it flows over the rocks. Is it real?”

His smile broadened some, “No, it’s an illusion created by the vitae of the house. Quite realistic, isn’t it? We are never sure what will appear when the seasons change, it’s always different. One autumn it was a giant pile of sugar maple leaves. Try finding the red, orange, and yellow markers in that. We were all cross-eyed for anos!”

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

“Am I really allowed to go anywhere in the Manor? I mean, I don’t want to end up in someone’s bedroom, but I am dying to go up the stairs.”

“Of course, be my guest. Rosewood will redirect you from private quarters anyway, so don’t worry about being nosy. My personal recommendations would be the tiger-eye and aquamarine paths, though.” He stepped aside and gestured toward the stairs.

“Funny, I had just decided on the tiger-eyes. Thanks!” I headed for the stairs, but then stopped and turned back when I heard Aymur speaking. His back was to me, but no one else was there.

Oh, possibly. I’m sure Aymur did have his own dryads. But I think he was talking to the Manor. His hushed tone was that of scolding a small child, like he was telling Rosewood not to mess with me too much. I remember laughing to myself at that moment, cause here talking to ‘yourself’ with no device in your ear or person present is likely to get you strange looks, but there? Nope, it was totally normal. I was kinda bummed that I couldn’t see the fae spirits, or talk to the houses. But I got used to others doing it around me. It was just one of those things.

My impression the previous night had been that the giant staircase formed the back of the main hall. As I walked, I realized that it occupied the center of the ground level. The forest floor scene continued on past the stairs for a distance equal to the front half and ended in a wall of four sets of leaf-outlined double doors. Arches indicated two more hallways off either side, leading away into yet deeper parts of the manse.

The immense, forked-trunk staircase was so large it exuded a presence. It began as one, split to encircle a third, arrow-straight leader, and rejoined at the landing. The treads were smoothly carved into the heartwood, and revealed captivating streaks of red, orange, brown, and gray. The outer edges retained the craggy bark of an ancient oak. Branchlets wove together to form a balustrade on the balcony and stairway, dotted here and there with the guiding gemstones.

The tiger-eyes took me up the right flight, then right again and along a limbway that included short sets of steps. It ended as a sitting area that faced that arm of Venrood Forest I had seen from the road.

The room was open to the air, with a short knee-wall of leafy branches all the way around, and an increased density of slender twigs as a ceiling. The tawny wicker furniture held pillows in various shades of yellow and pale pink and sat around a woven, goldenrod hued rug. It was breathtaking. I wondered if the sun set, or rose in this direction.

I approached the edge, as close as I dared to go, (being horribly afraid of heights), to get an idea of how high in the canopy I was. The knee-wall rustled and stretched in height, getting taller the closer I got.

Wow! What an ingenious feature!

Of course! There were small children in the Seat, so responsive walls would allow them to be anywhere, no matter their age or curiosity level. I appreciated it as well. The queasiness in my gut lessened and I leaned on the now-chest-level wall, looking some fifty feet or more down. Above me, twice that remained, the leaves shimmering in the late morning sun. Acrophobia be damned, I was going to the top.

Back out in the limbway, the aquamarine markers glowed brighter than any other. I was being baited like a mouse with cheese, but I didn’t care.

Up and up I climbed, the stairs getting shorter and the halls smaller, but clearly ending in rooms or suites. I was still within the branches of the colossal oak, though I knew this particular one would not take me to the very top, it wasn’t tall enough. As if in answer to my musings, the sun-dappled corridor shrank notably in width and the limb ended against a circular, deck-like structure.

The decking grew out of the giant redwood trunk it encircled, the silvery inner wood heavily lined and shining like polished granite. Natural colored nets woven of multi stranded string formed the walls of the radial juncture.

It was like walking inside a pair of fishnet stockings, though I was sure this particular weave would lift an elephant if necessary. With no knee wall here, I fought the sickening urge to look down and kept my eyes on the gems in the center of the floor.

Photo by Andrés Canchón on Unsplash

Several other hallways extended off of the platform in various directions. Redwood trees have a much more radial structure than that of the rambling oak, and because of it, I would not get to glimpse any suites that may be nestled in the giant evergreen.

The markers led me partway around the trunk and then onto an external staircase that spiraled up. I thanked the tree for the hand-sized banister and continued to climb, my stomach in my throat. Three more platforms fell away below me before the branches became smaller and more dense. My legs were aching and my hands shook with the phobia, but I swallowed it down and pushed through the foliage into warm sunlight.

Photo by Hrt+Soul Design on Unsplash

I’ll stop here for this time, cause I remember the feeling I had at the top of that immense tree, and it still wipes me out! It needs its own post, for sure. See you soon! ~

Rosewood Manor is quite the place, right? I suppose it could be a bit creepy sometimes, but it always seemed more helpful than anything. I sure appreciated those responsive walls. I never saw Rosewood in autumn or winter so I’m not sure how it looked when the leaves were off the deciduous trees that made up the manse. Maybe they didn’t fall, but just turned color. It was such a cool place to live, made me wonder about the other Seats, what they were like. Would you want to live in a place like Rosewood Manor? Leave a comment below and let me know!~

Would you like more info bits about Huphaea and places like Rosewood Manor? Then subscribe to Collata ⚡, The Collection of Huphaea newsletter! Nightingales look forward to one email a month that goes a little deeper into this new world, giving some insight or explanation beyond the episodes. Hit the subscribe button below to join the mailing list and become a Nightingale!

©2020 Eleanorah Starr and Quill & Orb Press. All Rights Reserved.

A Resource to Help You Choose the Right Job for Your Character + Giveaway!

** The links should be live now for the contest and Contributed Occupation list**

Hi everyone! Today I have something fun to share…a special chance to win some help with your writing bills. Awesome, right?

Some of you may know Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi of Writers Helping Writers. Well, today they are releasing a new book, and I’m part of their street team. I’m handing the blog over to them so they can tell you about their Writer’s Showcase event, new book, and a great freebie to check out. Read on!

Certain details can reveal a lot about a character, such as their goals, desires, and backstory wounds. But did you know there’s another detail that can tie your character’s arc to the plot, provide intense, multi-layered conflict, AND shorten the “get to know the character” curve for readers?

It’s true. Your character’s occupation is a GOLD MINE of storytelling potential.

Think about it: how much time do you spend on the job? Does it fulfill you or frustrate you? Can you separate work from home? Is it causing you challenges, creating obstacles…or bringing you joy and helping you live your truth?

Just like us, most characters will have a job, and the work they do will impact their life. The ups and downs can serve us well in the story.

Maybe you haven’t thought much about jobs in the past and how they act as a window into your character’s personality, interests, and skills. It’s okay, you aren’t alone. The good news is that The Occupation Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Jobs, Vocations, and Careers is going to do all the heavy lifting for you. (Here’s one of the job profiles we cover in this book: FIREFIGHTER.)


To celebrate the release of a new book, Writers Helping Writers has a giveaway happening July 20th & July 23rd. You can win some great prizes, including gift certificates that can be spent on writing services within our Writer’s Showcase. Stop by to enter!

Resource Alert: A List of Additional Jobs Profiles For Your Characters

Some of the amazing writers in our community have put together additional career profiles for you, based on jobs they have done in the past. What a great way to get accurate information so you can better describe the roles and responsibilities that go with a specific job, right? To access this list, GO HERE.

Happy writing to all!

The Great Collection of the Elemental Families of Huphaea, anid 1830 #9

Hello Everyone! Greetings, and I hope you are all well. It’s been a very warm, humid week, but since we are in mid-summer here, it’s to be expected. Good news is that the pool warmed up quick 👍🏼🏊🏼‍♀️. Things here continue to open up from lockdown, thought it appears I will have to wait to play soccer again. I’m hoping for the fall, (please…).

In other news, my incubator has been working overtime, chickens and turkeys have been hatching like crazy! Here’s a dose of fuzzy cuteness…

all of these guys hatched yesterday!

How is your summer (or winter, for my Down Under friends) going? I won’t keep you from it, so let’s continue with the story. Catch you soon!~

When we left Elahna, she was on her way to have breakfast with Daphne Arborea, matron of Scion Arborea. I think it has already been mentioned, but they are kinswomen of the Queen of Eflary, Halesia. We’ll return to following that spectacular floor, shall we?

The red circles led me off the main foyer to the left, out a side door of glass embedded with autumn leaves. It swung wide as I approached, revealing an immaculate arbor of wisteria in full bloom.

wisteria arbor*

The heady fragrance of the flowers and the drone of thousands of giant, yellow and orange bumblebees accompanied me down the lane to a high-walled rose garden.

A rectangle of perfectly manicured boxwood enclosed hundreds of roses, some sprawling artfully over rocks or benches, others blanketing their arbors in a rainbow of monochromes.

Photo by Liana Mikah on Unsplash*

I’m pretty sure I even saw blue roses. Like delphinium blue roses.😮

In the center, an oval stretch of turf held a bright red sofa and a few tea tables with chairs.

A woman, with silvery-blond hair twisted into a long braid that hung over her shoulder, sat at one of the tables. Her sleeveless tunic and leggings were a calm shade of lavender, and her gauzy wrap matched my shirt. She raised her eyes from the scroll in front of her and smiled, but did not stand. I approached the table slowly, wondering if I should bow, but she interrupted my thoughts.

“Ah, hello Elahna. Forgive me for not rising to greet you. I stumbled out in the forest with one of the children and my ankle is painful. Not an opportune time for the Orderly to be out of town. I’m Daphne Arborea. Elements be.” She raised her left palm in greeting as I was becoming accustomed to.

“Elements be. Thank you for allowing me to stay in your wonderful house and helping me to get home.”

“I wish I did have some help to offer you. My niece the queen is asking the Scholars currently in Irillo to provide you with what they know, but alas, I must say that previous Passers have never found a way back. They assimilated into our world and continued living their lives. I apologize for the abrupt news, but it is something you should ponder on your way to Irillo.”

“But please, sit with me. I haven’t eaten yet either and it is mid-morn already. Would you prefer coffee or tea?”

“Tea, please.”

Yes, that was upsetting news, and not what I expected to hear. It was very discouraging to think of not ever going home, but then again, part of me was all for it. I wasn’t in the best of places in my life at home, maybe a completely new start would be refreshing. But unnerving too, because I didn’t know any societal norms, or customs of this land. At least when you travel to other countries here on Earth, you can Google it and get ideas of what to expect or look for. I had nothing. NOTHING. Well, I had learned a proper greeting with the palm out thing, and a different word or two, but that was about it. Yeah, I was pretty concerned.

Breakfast was served, and though I saw no servant take note of the beverage preference, two cups for tea and a larger pot accompanied the meal.


“How did you do that, I mean, how did they know I wanted tea? You asked me, but no one came after that until the food did.”

“Oh, you must have so many questions!” Daphne laughed a clear, knowing chuckle. “I have a couple of tree dryads who carry messages for me. I can tell you don’t see them, since one is almost sitting on your head right now.”

tree dryad, possibly*

At that, I looked up and around, and perhaps I felt a faint flutter of a tiny breeze on my forehead, but I couldn’t be sure. There were things around me that I couldn’t see… uneasiness rose again.

“Come now, you little mischief-makers. That’s not fair, she can’t see you. Go along and help the bees gather nectar for the hives. You can carry three times as much as they can.” She made a slight shooing motion with her hand, and resumed her attention on our meal and conversation. “How was your night, did you sleep well?”

“Yes, thank you, I did. Though I did have an odd encounter with a young boy that has made me nervous.”


“Last night on the way to my room after the performance, there was a young boy and a woman in the hall in front of me. The boy looked absolutely terrified of me and cried to his mother something about me taking her with me when I went home. The woman hushed him and hurried him away, but then I found this in my room this morning with the fresh clothes. I suspect the boy must have left it, cause it says the same thing he did last night.” I took the child’s note out of my pocket and held it out to her.

As she read it, I continued, “It made me wonder what a Passer is, and what they may have done to be feared so. If I’m to be blackballed and I have to live here from now on, I need to know what sentiments I may face.”

Her brows pinched slightly and she pocketed the note. “I am very sorry Lignan had an outburst like that in front of you. He is so much more volatile than most Arboreans, because of his Spark blood. You will travel with his matris, my grandautris Ivy, to Irillo in the morn. Lignan is her older child and he is very attached to her, despite being almost of age to declare a House. Rosewood has already chosen him, however, and it will fall to me to direct his attention to his abilities and their applications. I’ll be the villain in that play for sure.”

A contemplative look crossed her fine features and I surmised young Lignan was the source of consternation for the Scion matriarch.

I dug into the gloriously fluffy vegetable omelet on my plate, closing my eyes and savoring the depth of flavor that exploded in my mouth. Vegetables here delivered tastes far beyond the best organics at home, and herbs somehow added layers of flavor to the dishes that made them whole-mouth experiences. I had yet to dislike anything I had consumed, and I know some things I wouldn’t have touched normally had crossed my palate, like mushrooms.


I didn’t care, it was all heavenly.

The mini corn muffin was light like a spongecake, and the butter full of rich cream. The orange juice would have been termed a smoothie on Earth, it was so thick, and the color was a true orange, not a watery yellow. It was worth staying here for the food alone!

I opened my eyes to find Daphne watching me with a small, quirked smile, but she didn’t embarrass me by commenting on my reverie.

“To answer your question, Passer is the term we give to people who pass through the ways unknowingly, like you. No one knows how or why it happens, but as I said, none in our history have been able to return from whence they came. Perhaps the Scholars know more, but I would start considering how you can sustain yourself here in our land.”

Well, it appeared that my landscaping and horticulture talents would be useless, if there was a whole family with actual plant magic. It would certainly take some thought.

“What other kinds of magic are there? Or rather, what would someone without magic be able to do?”

Daphne clearly pondered that thought as she buttered her corn muffin.

“There are many people who do not have magic here. The vitae can only be drawn on by those with Elemental blood. However, we are charged with maintaining the Balance, so we work with and aid the Ungifted. I’m sure you can find a place in a trade, perhaps even in Maarran.”

“What is Maarran?”

“I do suppose you haven’t had time for geography, have you?” I nodded to that, as my mouth was full. “This continent of Huphaea is divided into two countries, Eflary originated as the elven land, and Maarran as the human land. Each still has rulers of the Elemental Families native to that country, but they are by no means purebloods. We all coexist and cohabitate freely and for the good of the Balance.”

“I see. How do you know where someone is from?”

“Does that matter? Well, yes, sometimes it might, I suppose,” she answered her own question and continued on.

“House and Scion names indicate lineage in Elementals, but Ungifted usually identify by the lands they live in. For example, we are in Gaiist territory, as my overarching Family, but Cragbend is the Seat of the Scion Arborea lands, which are within House Florian lands. An Ungifted would be as specific as they needed to be. Someone from Cragbend would say they were from Arborea lands. Someone from Sagebridge, though, would say Florian.”

“That does make sense. It would make more sense if I had a map, though.”

“There is a wondrous map in Irillo, in the Scholar’s Seat. Make sure Halesia takes you to see it.”

I nodded. She took this as leave to continue her explanation.

“There are two other Houses and eight other Scions within the Gaiist Family. And then two more Families within Eflary– the Flamels and the Aeros. The same number is true for Maarran, but they have a Family with water magic instead of our fire Family for Balance.”

“Oh, hopefully I will just pick up some of it as I go. But I get the point. I remember Fife questioned me with a bunch of names when I told him mine, I had no idea what he meant.”

“What is your second name?”


“Oh, certainly. That could suggest several Houses and Scions. I’m sure you will acclimate as you go. I should ask, how well do you ride?”

“As in a horse?” She nodded. “Fairly well, though it has been quite a while. Horses are only for pleasure riding on Earth, mostly.” I grimaced a bit, recalling how sore I would be after a day in the saddle. “How long is the ride to… er– Irillo, is it?”

“A day and a half usually, but not less than a day. Depends on the pace. You should visit the stables so my horse master can select you an appropriate mount. In the meantime, please explore Rosewood and the lands, and even town if you like. Dinner will be at octdecca erdur.”

“Oh! Yes! I have been meaning to ask about time here, how many errr-durrs are there in a day?”

Daphne sat back in her chair with her cup of tea in two hands. “There are septduary erdurs in an anar. It’s half octa now.”

“Ok, thank you. And thank you for this lovely meal and conversation.” She smiled and watched me leave, I could feel her gaze on my back. More than that, I had an idea that her dryads decided I was fair game again. Minute tugs on my hair and silver ear hoops rattled my composure. I hurried back through the buzzing arbor.

Which would you rather have- black flies or mischievous dryads you couldn’t see? I quickly learned the fae spirits were extremely devoted to their chosen Elemental, but that they delighted in tormenting Ungifted. Some people here think living with ghosts or cockroaches is bad? Try living with things that you can’t see, but can hide all of your clothes overnight! Makes putting out bug bait not seem so bad…

nuisance flies or dryads?*

I’ll leave it there for this week, that was a long segment, but Daphne gave me a lot of information to process. And next time we will explore Rosewood— now that’s a real treat!~

Wow, Elahna just found out that she may not be able to get back to Earth. How would you feel about that? Would you be dying to get home, or content to start fresh, if it came to that? Drop a comment below about how you would react to the news that Elahna heard from Daphne. What would you do?

If you want an extra peek into Huphaea and Elahna’s journey, subscribe to Collata ⚡, the Collection of Huphaea newsletter. Once, maybe twice a month, Nightingales get an exclusive snippet from my memory of my time away. Click the button below to join the Nightingales, I’m looking forward to welcoming you!

*Photos used are from pxhere or unsplash as free for use in the public domain.

©2020 Eleanorah Starr and Quill & Orb Press. All Rights Reserved.

Reblog: Sharing Something I Do Not Do, But Should… 4 reasons to carve out designated writing time — Uninspired Writers

One of the most frequent tips I hear from writer friends is to have designated writing time. I have yet to get there. I know that I should, but with dogs, gardens, a farm, and household chores, I’m lucky if I can fit in half an hour for some cardio exercise in the pool I painted, since soccer is still in lockdown. There are the days when I get in a zone and have to finish a scene, so I take those days and run with them. Then I’m able to parse out that time spent over the next several days so I don’t feel guilty about not writing. Yeah, totally vicious circle. So see if any of this post resonates with you, and be a more time-organized writer than me 😉.~

Writing required commitment, but it’s not always easy to find time in ourbusy lives. Yet, if it’s something we want to pursue, it’s something we have to do. Recently, alongside fitting writing in whenever I can, I’ve set aside designated writing time. Two hours on a Sunday, when I shut off from the world and […]

4 reasons to carve out designated writing time — Uninspired Writers

The Great Collection of the Elemental Families of Huphaea, anid 1830 #8

Hello Everyone! I hope you all are well and staying safe and healthy. Summer is in full swing here, since the last post I have finished opening the pool and am back to swimming laps in preparation for soccer starting back up. How is the re-opening progressing where you are? Are you thinking of travelling this summer at all? I’m doing the mind travelling route, taking off for other worlds in my head as I write these CoH chronicles and the subsequent novel(s). I’ve also taken up firm residence in Victorian London, thanks to the historical fiction audiobooks I escape with when I’m weeding and walking the dogs. Sherry Thomas’ The Lady Sherlock Series has been fabulous to listen to, if you are a fan of that genre, I strongly recommend it!

When we last saw Elahna, she had been left at the spectacular Rosewood Manor by the Bluebirds and she knew she would be heading to the capital city of Irillo sometime soon. There had been another performance, and then an awkward encounter with a boy. Elahna was pretty nervous about this ‘Passer’ thing. Let’s see how she is in the morning…~

a sunlight alarm*

Warm sunshine streaming through leafy shutters brought me awake. At some point I had crawled under the covers and nestled into the cloud-like pillows. Branches woven together formed an intricate canopy in russet and olive hues above me. Leaves framed the edges where scrollwork would normally appear, and gauzy light blue material filled the gaps mimicking the sky. I hadn’t taken the opportunity to appreciate my accommodations last night, my unrest had been too immediate and I had even fallen asleep in my clothes. I rubbed crusty sleep from my eyes and scanned the room then, examining the contents.

Every piece of furniture appeared to grow out of the floor, walls, or ceiling, depending on what it was. Bright dyed cushions in blues, soft yellows and russets decorated the chairs. The bed dressings mirrored the color choices in summer weight blanket and linens.

Time. What time was it? I hadn’t had a chance to figure out how many erdurs were in the days here yet.

Come to think of it, I hadn’t even seen the moon in this land yet. Was there one? At that thought, so many other questions flooded my mind that I had to get up and move around to dispel them.

That was when I found the water system in the bathroom—you had asked about water earlier.

The sink emerged from the wall as a curved basin of lighter colored wood.

Two curved hollow branchlets hung over the sink. I touched one and cool water started flowing, and was immediately absorbed when it hit the basin.

not quite right, but on this idea…*

It was mesmerizing to watch. I touched the other, and warm water flowed. These trees would certainly consume huge amounts of water to support all of these leaves and structures; a built-in recycling system, created out of the tree itself, made perfect sense. The lighter-colored wood of the basin must be the tree’s xylem, its water conductive tissue. Ingenious.

On the opposite wall, a shower area was designated. The shower head faced down from the ceiling in the center of a lattice work not unlike the bed canopy. The walls were constructed of layers of leaves, which funneled the water to the same light-colored xylem floor. I was grateful for the warm water after fighting battles for two nights during the Bluebird’s performances.

When I emerged, wrapped in a thick fluffy robe that resembled cotton (though not any cotton known here), I found a new set of clothes on the chair aside the purple door. A folded note sat atop them. My new name on the front and the message inside were written in fine script:

~Please follow the red circles from the main foyer to my garden to break your fast. I look forward to meeting you.~

– Daphne Arborea

Hmmm, was this a summons? I didn’t enjoy the idea of being summoned, but I was a guest in her house. Maybe I could ask more questions about this house. Maybe she would explain what a Passer is and how they are viewed.

Honestly, at that point, I wasn’t sure what ‘Passer’ meant. I assumed it meant something about how I had come here, but then that also meant there had to be more people who had come here from Earth. Had that gone badly in the past and now Passers were feared? I didn’t get that feeling among the Bluebirds, but once we were here in Cragbend, the sentiment was different. And certainly that boy last night had been scared.

Speaking of that boy, along with Daphne’s note, there was also a thrice-folded piece of paper, obviously torn from something else, with a note written in a childish hand on the inside:

Please don’t take my Mamam with you when you go back to your home. I would miss her a lot, I love her so much. Please just go back home yourself and leave her with me.
Thank you,
Lignan Arborea

I knew it was the innocent plea of a scared child, but it was the stories that fueled the fear behind it that made me uneasy. I decided to take it to Daphne and ask what was going on.

The new garments were similar to my borrowed ones, but with dark green leaf patterns embroidered into the light green linen. Being a tree-oriented family, I wasn’t surprised. My stomach rumbled and I proceeded out the door to meet Daphne Arborea.

Now that I was looking for them, I discovered a entire crayon box of colored shapes and circles on the floor, all going in separate directions, like breadcrumb trails of cereal winding down the halls and up the stairs. Upon closer inspection, the colorful bits were actually gemstones, gold, and crystals set into the wood floor as part of the nature scenes beneath my feet.

gemstone markers with gold nuggets in Rosewood’s floors

In the vast main foyer, where the original house remained, the floors were of the same patterns, the only difference being the noise my sandals made as I walked.

The effect the scenes created was like walking on an iced-over stream with gems set in the streambed, or a rocky forest path with colored trail markers lining the edge. It was so realistic I kept waiting for wet feet, or pebbles between my toes. I remembered what Raga said about Rosewood Manor always changing and wondered if the floor scenes did too.

I should stop here, so that next time we will meet with Daphne Arborea, matriarch of House Arborea. Stay tuned and don’t miss episode #9!

So, a floor inlaid with gemstones and gold nuggets as markers? What kind of place is this, right? I’ll let you in on something, gemstones are pretty commonplace in Huphaea. There are four Houses concerned with obtaining and working with them, so you can imagine what they produce. We will meet them later on, I promise!

How about the Manor itself, and what do you think Daphne Arborea will be like? Let me know in the comments below, don’t worry, you’ll find out soon!

If you want an extra peek into Huphaea and Elahna’s journey, subscribe to Collata, the Collection of Huphaea newsletter. Once, maybe twice a month, Nightingales get an exclusive snippet from my memory of my time away. Click the button below to join the Nightingales, I’m looking forward to welcoming you!

*All images not my own are from pxhere or unsplash as free for use in the public domain.

©2020 Eleanorah Starr and Quill & Orb Press, All Rights Reserved.

More Musings from the Land of Audiobooks

Don’t mind the messy desk, please…

Ah, my three ubiquitous companions. These devices have the singular ability to be able to accompany me ANYWHERE, something my dogs cannot do but would if they could.

And they also take me anywhere in time and location. So while I may be head down weeding furiously around blooming perennials, my mind thinks I am in 1918 London solving mysteries alongside Maisie Dobbs, or inside the mind of Sherlock Holmes as ‘he’ is portrayed by Sherry Thomas in late-Victorian society. The power of story never fails to amaze me.

I have always loved reading aloud, I’ve done it for years to my dogs on hot afternoons or late evenings to settle us all down. The stories leap off the pages into the fore of my mind, becoming more real the more I speak. I’m not sure if that is the case for everyone, but I would almost be sad if it were not. I wasn’t sure if listening would provide the same experience for me and I am thrilled that it has. Hours weeding in the hot sun in messy gardens fly by, while the dogs’ walks become calmer too. I am able to fall into the story almost as if I were holding the book myself.

Recently, I began listening to the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. I was unsure about the time period, pre- and post-WWI London, but library availability was scarce, so I took the chance. When the book was done, I returned it and looked for the second in the series (I think there are fifteen so far) immediately.

The second book, however, changed narrators, and I was a bit crushed. Now I understood about readers following narrators.

The first narrator undertook the tale in a pleasant, hopeful voice easily associated with a younger female. The male parts she infused with a warm and caring tone befitting of Maisie’s father and mentor. I was attentive to the dialogue especially, learning for future reference.

The second book, Birds of a Feather, features a crisp, more sophisticated and controlled narrator that took several chapters to get used to. I actually considered stopping listening because I was so unsettled. However, I continued, as I was well into the story by then, and I’m glad I did.

By the end, I thought it actually a brilliant decision on the producer’s part to change narrators (if that was the case), for Maisie’s character had undergone many changes as well, thanks to the war duty she saw. The Maisie who emerged from medical duty in France was harder, leaner, and inquisitive in a more pointed way than before. The new narrator had nailed this sentiment, I felt, with her clipped speech patterns and deeper tones.

And yes, I do have the third book on hold to listen to when it becomes available 🙂. From looking ahead though, I will hear a third narrator and I hope she is as insightful as the other two have been.

I’ve picked up many pointers just listening to the different narrators in my short time consuming audio stories. All food for thought as I continue to practice reading and differentiating characters to my dogs on these lazy summer days. I’m priming for the best performances I can give!~

Do you evaluate the narrators of the audiobooks you listen to? What things do you notice and what will make you stop listening? I’d love to know while I’m learning this craft, leave me a comment below!

The Great Collection of the Elemental Families of Huphaea, anid 1830 #7

Hi Everyone! Hope you are all well as we pass the midpoint of June. Wow, time does fly. One fun fact about Ereth and Huphaea is that we share the same sun. The day length, therefore, is still the same for Elahna, but it is divided up into more ‘erdurs’ than twenty-four. How many more? Stay tuned for that, she will find out in an upcoming episode (which I need to write! Gah! Time!).

When we left Elahna last week, she was still with the Bluebirds, but they were heading to Rosewood Manor for a performance that evening. Shall we find out what happens next?

Rosewood Manor loomed in front of me, grown over and through by enormous trees that denied the sun once you entered under their canopy. Inside, the walls, arches, and columns of the cavernous corridor were a mixture of gray and tan stone embedded in trunks and limbs. Staircases were hewn from multiple leaders and branches wound into railings. Complex lattices of leaves and branchlets formed doors and window shutters. The Seat pulsed with energy and felt warm and alive to the touch.

Because of course, it was.

It was the most amazing structure I had ever seen. I gaped. I couldn’t help myself.

I wish I could draw it for you. Yes, there were lights and hot water, but I don’t think they were electric. Probably vitae powered. It was such an incredible place, especially for a plant lover like me.

Aymur Arborea greeted us in the grand main foyer. He reminded me of a smaller version of Paul Bunyan. But not clad in plaid. The backs of his hands were rough and lined like beech bark and his eyes were a brilliant green.

“So this is the Passer?” That word again. “Elahna, is it?”

“Yes, sir. Pleased to meet you. Elements be.” I raised my hand, palm out, as I had seen others do.

“Elements be, well met. Fife has told me your story as he knows it. I admit, I am intrigued. I sent a bird to my kinswoman, the Queen, for advice on the matter. She replied to send you on to Irillo and perhaps the Scholars can help get you home. For tonight, though, be our welcome guest at my mother Daphne’s request and enjoy the Bluebird show. In the morning we will discuss travel.”

“Thank you, sir.” I nodded in respect.

Fife clapped a strong arm around my shoulders. “Ah, you’re in good hands now, fla, Madame Daphne’s a fine hostess. I wish you luck in getting home, and if you don’t, perhaps we’ll meet again.” He winked and raised his palm. “Elements be.”

“Thank you so much, Fife. For everything. Elements be.”

And just like that, I was an outsider again. I did want to see Fife and the Bluebirds again. I felt indebted to them for their acceptance and help. I could only hope if there was a next time, I would be in a position to repay them somehow. I had a feeling debts were part of the currency in Huphaea, or at least in Eflary.

The Arboreans made me welcome in every way possible, but they couldn’t hide the furtive glances. ‘Passer’ was tossed around behind hands or whispered into pointed ears. The unwanted attention increased through the meal, and I was glad to see the show start.

No, the people weren’t nasty or anything, but it was like being the new kid in school. Uncomfortable.

Oh yes, the show was magnificent. I was just as exhausted as the night before. My brain spun with new legends and song impressions. Haha! I only wish I could tell you some, I mostly remember images and sensations. I wouldn’t do them justice.

The hall emptied, Bluebirds heading back to their camp, and Seat residents seeking their quarters. I wandered down the corridor I had been shown when I passed a woman and a young boy. The boy shrank back from me, clutching his mother’s leg and hand as though I might steal him. “What if she tries to take you back to her home with her?” he wailed. “No, Mamam, you can’t go!”

“Hush, Lignan! Don’t be silly! Passers don’t steal people. I’ve been called to Forelore and so has she, it only makes sense that we travel together. It’s time for your visit with your pater anyway. He’ll be here tomorrow to get you. Stop your whining, you are too old to cry about such things.” She flicked a quick glance at me and marched him away.

I quickened my pace, counting the doors on the right to the fifth one. It was deep purple. I yanked it open and then closed in one motion. Locating the bed through my teary eyes, I flopped face down and let out my fear until I fell asleep.

It wasn’t my finest moment, for sure. I was just glad to be out of the whispers and didn’t want to think about what that boy meant. This is a good place to stop, and I promise the next day is much more upbeat!

Can you imagine how Elahna felt after hearing the boy’s outburst? She has had an amazing two days though! Leave a comment below and let me know what you’d be thinking at this point- would you want to go home, or stay?

Remember to subscribe to Collata, The Collection of Huphaea’s official newsletter! The next issue is coming out very soon, so keep an eye on your inbox if you are already a Nightingale. If not, hit the subscribe button below and join Eleanorah’s troupe!

©2020 Eleanorah Starr and Quill & Orb Press. All Rights Reserved.

My New Obsession: Audiobooks. What took me so long?

I’ve mentioned in a previous post that I want to get into narrating audiobooks. As I investigated more about narrating, one of the most frequent tips was—listen to audiobooks yourself to get an idea of the different approaches narrators can take.

Photo by Findaway Voices on Unsplash

This advice made all the sense to me, but still a part of me resisted—the same part of me that prefers to read a physical book over an e-book on my iPad.

I continued to hold out, reading aloud for myself, formulating my own strategies of how to voice different characters. And then of course, COVID happened.

My TBR pile of physical books dwindled, though I am never technically out of things to read, I couldn’t go get what I wanted to read anymore. My library is well-connected with digital reading resources, so I started exploring what was available.

I was thrilled to find Good Omens, but only once I downloaded it did I realize it was in audiobook form. I paused for a moment, but then decided to give it a go, because after all, I listen to a billion podcasts on many topics, so why not try it? And really, I should anyway.

Suffice to say that was a month ago, and I’ve gone through six books, with two in progress. It is fabulous, I’m totally hooked! Why did I wait so long?

I listen when I’m in the car, when I’m walking the dogs, when I’m eating breakfast, when I’m gardening. I’ve even had to stop listening to the books to catch up on the podcasts I keep up with regularly.

And I have found all of that advice to new narrators to be true—listen and find out what you like and what you don’t like, because a voice and a style MATTERS.

My nephew and I learned this first hand while tackling his 7th grade English COVID-school work. He chose a series of books to read for the story analysis section they were doing, in audio form. The first book’s narrator was a man with clear diction, great pace, enough difference in the characters to make it interesting, and clean production. Sadly, the second book featured a woman with a strong accent, who spoke fast, misspoke words often, and you could hear every page turn or movement she made. It was awful, bad enough that the story lost our interest. We even decided to complete the assignments with what we knew already, so that we didn’t have to hear it anymore. A real shame considering we wanted to know the outcome of the story, being one book in already.

I have found that listening to audiobooks prods me even more to narrate myself. I should have known though, once I started that I’d be hooked. I think it was part of the opposition, honestly, that resistant voice that says “Uh oh, this could be dangerous.” I gotta listen to that voice more often, be quicker with my inner rebel to accept the challenge. Oh yeah, and I did just buy an Kindle, too. Let the electronic consumption begin!~

© 2020 Quill & Orb Press. All Rights Reserved