When I was eleven I wrote this story about a brother and sister living in a London orphanage with a mom who was a…well, she had a less than reputable past. They were shunned, stuck in the basement all night and it was sad and pitiable and I thought I was a very fine writer indeed.  They eventually got this friend who was sent down to live with them, called Sebastian (I’ve always had a thing for that name, saw what you will) who contracted a fever and in a *very* touching scene…died.  It was the first time I ever cried while writing something (not that it happens often now, mind you) and I was seriously impressed with my own skill.  (The other day I reread “Beth and Oliver” as it was temporarily entitled and was verging on appalled at my own arrogance- it was cute and mildly sad but nothing to shed a tear over.)

All that to tell you that I get kinnnnddd of caught up in my characters– again, it’s probably some form of pride, but I think every writer does it.  I also hate them sometimes.  (I once finished a story because although I had run out of inspiration and hated it, I felt I owed my heroine an ending since I’d bestowed on her an abusive father- I didn’t want her to have to live with that life, even on paper. Yeah….)

But funny thing: because I knew from the start that Roman was going to be the “second guy”– the one Will Scarlet, the St. John Rivers, the Nick Carraway- I wrote him with very little real love in my heart for him.  I never gave him a chance. I realize, as I reread and edit, how unfair I was.  In the brief moments that I did give him that chance (chapter 46 is my favorite part of his, now that I reread it) he’s actually kind of adorable at times.

And now…. *puts on River Song accent* Spoilers!

Roman-

As I do this rewrite, I’m taking the advice of some of my readers and fleshing Roman out a little more- he’ll still be the same person, but now he’s got a past, or at least his family does.  So, a couple of things:

He had a brother and sister.

His brother and sister were killed before he was old enough to remember them.

Hence Natalia is depressed and Nicolai is furious- guess who killed his kids? Not gonna say, sorry.  It’s all coming soon. But he has a motive other than justice for revenge and there’s always been a lot of pressure on Roman.

His eventual craziness is going to be more believable and a little less…crazy.  More just infuriated / a little out of it / jealous.  At least I hope so. I’ve got my fingers crossed that my writing talent will improve by the time I get to those scenes.

Jakob-

I’m so excited! I’ve found Jakob’s place in the book, his role, his story, his relationship with Evy, his entrance and exit points– and I think I’ve got down what he looks like…..Voila!

Daniel Craig…but with reddish-brown hair.  I’ve thought he’d make a good assassin / tough-guy character after being awed by his performances in Road to Perdition and especially Defiance. 🙂  Cool guy.


Natalia-

I’m reworking her a bit too, but she’s going to be in it less than Bekah.  I basically picture her like a slightly less gorgeous Natalie Portman (nothing to do with the similar names). 🙂

So I’ve been stuck for a while, as I intimated in my last post.  But then wahbam!  The other night, an idea sprung to mind.  I’m beyond thrilled.  I know how to save Esmeralda!!!  The answer is not the one I imagined it would be, but that’s possibly because my imagination wasn’t functioning.  The answer is… *drumroll* Nicholai!  Not what you were expecting?  Me either.  Weird, I know.  It doesn’t sound exciting, but trust me….that’s all I’ll say for now, but just know that I have something stupendous planned. 🙂  It involves a lot of development throughout for Natalia, Nicholai, Roman (and the reason for the way he went mad on everyone) and Leopold the First, as well as for Evy, who I find myself annoyed with as a character frequently.  So just be warned- the rewrite and ending is coming, and (I think, I hope, I pray) it’ll be far better. 🙂

Meanwhile I’m editing like mad- I have about 200 index cards, twice as many sticky-notes, and page upon page covered in notes and rewrites and edits…it’s enough to drive a person mad and fill them with delight at the same time.  It’s wonderful, but I kinda hate it at the same time.  Mostly I love it.  I’m a spaz right now because I haven’t been sleeping a lot.  Sorry.  So I’m working on switching most of the names over to Russian and Slavic names, like swapping Aaron to something like Marek or Dimitri, Bekah to Sonia or Tatiana, maybe, Marscel to Mikhail.

It’s kinda fun, and the more I do it, the more I realize how often those darned (wonderful) Russians pop up in my writing- in my book  The Puppet Queen Tamsin’s dance instructor, who works with her to hide her limp (and with whom she falls in love) is Vadim, (pronounced Vwah-deem- I love that name) and as Russian as it gets with his honey-colored hair, gorgeous blue-green eyes and soothing voice, and in Dichotomy there’s Raskolnikov, the malicious schemer inside Will’s head who calls him “comrade” and says his “w”s like “v”s.  (Unoriginal? Maybe, but a good chunk of the voices in Will’s head come from various pieces of literature, so I think I’m pardoned.)

It turns out I’ve been in love with Russians for quite some time (though not with any of those I know personally, for the record).  🙂

I’m hoping to begin updating Esmeralda again soon. Thanks for your patience, y’all!

(Also, I’m going nuts making collages and folders for all of my characters to kind of get to know the people and scenery better, to plant it inside my head.  So here’s another of my leading man, “played by” (in my head) Henry Cavill. 😉

What do you think of Aaron?  Hate him?  Love him?  Think you’re the only one who “gets” him?  Is he all bad GoodA little of both?  Maybe just too determined, or too block-headed? (Too much of a guy? 😉 )  Bekah loves him, but Evy sees him as two-faced… So what do you think?

I’ve tried to make him as consistent as possible, but as this is a first draft I confess many of my characters have flaws and self-contradictions.  Alas.  But I thiiinnkkk (tell me if I’m wrong) just about every one of his actions can be attributed to determination, always with one goal in sight.  He gives Evy pep-talks and encouragement for the sole purpose of spurring her on- it’s not like he gives her a chance to back down (ever) once she’s in.

I don’t know exactly what Aaron looks like- dark-ish hair, I’m sure of that much.  Kind of tall, though not so much as Nicolai.  Here’s a picture of a guy I think might be about right- what do you think?  (His name’s Peter Facinelli– I don’t think I’ve seen him in any movies, but he was in *argg* Twilight.)

What do you think?  I’m kinda liking him. 🙂

And now- Nicolai.

I have a number of questions about him myself, so I crave your thoughts.  I’m pretty certain he’s very Russian.  (His whole family has Russian names, as I’ve mentioned before, named after my lovely Ukrainian friends.)  He’s tall, far from talkative, kinda melancholy, probably has gorgeous eyes (in my experience, they all do 🙂 ).  But he’s in some ways a somewhat lame character.  Until the death of his son, I was really frustrated with him- couldn’t he think of anything interesting to say?  What was his problem anyway?  Now the fact that he doesn’t talk has a reason, at least.   Anyway, what are second drafts for, right?  (Basically what I’m saying is tell me how to fix him.)

Jakob-

Again, I’m frustrated with this guy.  I wanted someone who had a fun relationship with Evy- hinting at a shady past, telling secrets, maybe some sarcasm- and then… I kinda peetered out.  Inspiration for Jakob’s character = zapped.  Nada. Zilch.  Just not happening.  Now I’ve excused him from the scene as gracefully as I can.  :/  (Quick fact: I can’t seem to escape putting someone bythe name of Jakob (usually Jacob) in my stories, probably because from the moment I was born I had the constant companion of my older brother Jake (Jacob, when we were younger) to lead me in a thousand tumultuous escapades.  So yeah.  I’ve known Jake longer than I’ve known Jesus. 😀 He appears in about half of my stories, though this version was nothing like my brother.)

It’s what you’ve all been waiting for!  Only…I can’t bear to post it.

Most of you know that I finished Esmeralda (on paper; it’s allmosssttt all typed up)! And it only took me 100 days which was pretty cool.  But guess what!?!?!

I hate my ending.  It’s not bad in and of itself, but let’s just say that it builds up to something far grander and then….kaput.  The excitement just dies.  It’s lame.  I hate it.  When I wrote the ending to Betrayal, which I am now editing because it has so very many flaws, I got butterflies at the end.  (Okay, maybe I’m not supposed to admit that, because many of you have read it too…  And maybe you hated the ending.)

The only part I like is that in re-reading it, I sense an unconsciously written nod to Charlotte Brontë in there.  Otherwise…oh, I can’t even think of it without cringing.

So I have a proposition: how about I type it up and before I post it I send it to anyone who’s interested?  Then y’all can tell me WHAT IN THE WORLD TO DO ABOUT MY ENDING!  I mean it- I need help.  Just facebook, tweet, figment-wall-post or email me with your email address and as soon as I get it typed up I’ll send it to you. 🙂

And I mean it- please take me up on this.  I need the advice.  And this means if you don’t want to read my whole dumb ending but you still have ideas for how it could go, I want that input as well! Please.  🙂

I am in love with Russia.  I’ve never been there, but the culture, the history, the revolutions, wars, politics, fashions, fairy-tales, names and language are fascinating to me.  Plus I love winter and snow and fur coats.  😉   Probably one of my favorite novels is Eva Ibbotson’s A Countess Below Stairs.  It gives me a taste for the Russian culture that I can’t seem to rinse out of my mouth.  *shivers excitedly*

Honestly, I don’t pretend to know anything about Russia yet, so please don’t hold me in contempt if you do.  🙂

When my parents were dating and then engaged, 21 years ago, they helped an entire family (as in, the babies up to the grandparetns and all kinds of aunts, uncles, and cousins branching off to every side) of Ukrainian refugees acclimate to America.  They helped them learn English through the Bible, comparing scriptures in each others’ languages, etc.  My mom, who has always been good with linguistics, can still read and speak a little Russian.  So now that these people have children of their own, children my age, I’ve been privileged enough to grow up going to the glorious, splendid, overly-catered-with-luscious-Russian-food weddings all my life.  I love it all- the service is in Russian, and although I understand only a couple of words, I revel in it.  The food is marvelous.  The people are ALL lovely and welcoming (they learn your name and instantly start calling you family).  The food is out of this world.  The weddings are grand, extravagant, joyful and looooong.  Did I mention the food?  I am in love with this culture.  If you can’t tell.

So it happens that I often draw from it.  I don’t know as much as I would like (which I’m working on), but I do know a lot of names- and names are my favorite.  🙂  So here’s the list so far for Esmeralda (the * means I have a friend by this name) –

Roman*

Nicolai*

Natalia*

Jakob

Daria

I mentioned someone named Willem once…

Leopold is eastern-European…

It has been mentioned to me that I might make the Russian theme a bit more apparent, more of the story, and I am thinking that on my second or third write I will do just that.   Honestly that list doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s not only in Esmeralda that I do this.  One of my more recent stories, The Capricious King’s Daughter, is set in a very Russian world- I’m still developing it, but winter is a key component, and the names of the characters so far are Asha, Eduard, Elizaveta, Dessa, Yuriy, Galina, Luba, Ivan, Fyodor, Milek, Georgiy, Efim, Pavel and Sergei.  Haha…yeah, it’s an obsession.  I love Celtic names too, as you’ll know if you’ve read Betrayal.  🙂

:::Daria, the physician (Marscel) ‘s daughter:::

She isn’t a great-big character, but she is definitely one of those that I pictured straight off.  If any of you have seen “When in Rome” (chick-flick, I know) then you may remember the heroine’s assistant at her job, Stacy.  The actress who played Stacy, Kate Micucci, is (I think) adorable.  (I know she has been in other things; I just haven’t seen anything else.)  I find that (perhaps annoyingly so) I frequently mention Daria’s large eyes, her fairy-like way, and innocent appearance.  I guess I can accredit this to how vividly I picture her.  So here she is: Kate Micucci, aka Daria, the physician’s daughter.  (Annnnd I am kind of jealous of her hair- or anyone who looks good in short hair.)

    

By the way- I remember when Daria is telling Evangeline about Leopold studying with her father the physicians’ art, she says something about what an apt student he was, and it says that she “sighs wistfully” if I remember my wording correctly.  I toyed with the idea of her having a kind of crush on Leopold, who she would have, in a sense, grown up with / in the shadow of.  However, I know I left that phrase in there, but I decided against it.  Perhaps, in my rewrite, I’ll add a bit of Daria feeling like she never measured up when Leopold was around, or looking up to him a lot.  I don’t know, those are just ideas.  I’d love your input.  🙂  As you know if you’re caught up, Daria later teases Evangeline about Leopold, with no hard feelings.  So…pardon me for the inconsistency.

I know that some of my readers really like Roman, but…I’ve had such a specific purpose for him from the beginning that it’s hard for me to feel any warmth toward him.  Yeah, it’s sad (his fate) in a way, but I can honestly say I didn’t mourn his loss.  However, I always pictured him as quite a charming (and handsome? Yes.) feller.

He’s cute and all, rather charming, jealous, passionate, driven- maybe a little too driven?  Anyway…

For moral reasons, I don’t watch Glee, but I ADORE the concept and love that someone has made a musical series (musicals are kind of my favorite thing ever).  I also listen to just about all the music off of youtube from it.  And I thikn Chord Overstreet (Sam) is adorable.  That’s how I’ve pictured Roman since the very beginning, though I’d like to tell myself I wasn’t just trying to come up with a character who looked like this.

So here he is, Chord Overstreet (sick name, right??) aka Roman.

So the name of the post is rather self-explanatory.  Here’s what I basically saw Evy’s gown as (the one she wears when she goes to warn Leopold of the assassination).

The image got a little squashed and of course my drawings are never really proportionate, but oh well.

So as I’m writing Retribution or whatever I end up calling the final version of the second installment of Betrayal, I finally have the opportunity to introduce y’all to Muriel!  You have no idea how excited I am!  She was mentioned, of course, as Aidan’s pretense of a “girlfriend” at court when he was working behind everyone’s back (*sniff*) when Aimee thought he was in love with her instead.  However…y’all never got to meet her! Because I know you were just dying to. Not.

I actually knew better what she looked like than most of my main characters, partially because I pictured as I did the venomous gal by the same name in The Reluctant Heiress by Eva Ibbotson (one of my all-time favorite books).  From the moment I named her she was there in my head, formed from head to toe; even the way she talks.  And that’s, I suppose, because she isn’t really original.  Muriel is, y another name, basically a copy of Dagmara Dominczy, who I know from The Count of Monte Cristo as Mercedes.  (Do I need to stop drawing inspiration from that movie for my characters?  Probably.)  Anywho, I think she’s gorgeous, and she really IS Muriel.  So when I finally get around to finishing Retribution, perhaps I’ll post a bit.  She’s already in the fourth chapter, and boy, do I have a plot for her. 🙂

      

On a similar note, her uncle, my villain, looks like this:

So she was bound to be a looker, right? 😉

I suppose I can share a bit of what I’m working on with her, though it’s bound to be a bit choppy as it’s first draft and I haven’t worked on my poor hero’s story in far too long.

***

I turn back the way I came, away from the royal apartments, deciding to return to Patrick and request some back-up.  If we kill them all hastily it will be relatively quiet, but that’s only possible with more than one man.  At least it will be quick.  Before anyone can fetch help, we’ll have Brother in our custody.

I hear soft footfalls behind me and, expecting that the ever-silent Aidan has met with similar difficulties to mine, I turn.  It isn’t Aidan though.  The figure that approaches me, silhouetted in the moonlight that comes through the hall’s window, is that of a girl, slight of build and clad loosely in a dressing gown.

There is no need for any of the nobles to sense that something might be going on, Patrick told us.  “I’m sorry if I disturbed you, my lady,” I say casually, “I hope I wasn’t too loud; Brother has some business I need to attend to.”

“Raoul?”  I know that voice…  The girl steps forward, out of the blurry moonlight, staring at me.  Her hair is different than I remember, long and loose instead of the tightly pinned curls I’m used to, but I recognize her immediately.

I exhale nervously.  “Muriel.”

 

Long ago I made it my goal in life never to be nervous around women.  I’ve managed pretty well, too-treating them gallantly or even sarcastically sometimes, taking on the joviality that my father always wore in public.  I hold onto a hope that it’s the only thing I’ve taken from him.  This practice has always served me well, until recently when I started fumbling more often, usually when something involved Aimee.  But with Muriel it has always been the same: I always stutter, bumble, and feel intensely awkward around her.  First it was because she was absolutely perfect: flawlessly beautiful, with hair that might very well have been spun from a midnight sky, eyes like the stars that fill it and a complexion like cream.  She’s impossible to find fault with.

More recently, however, my discomfort has come from the knowledge that Aidan was using her as his ticket into fashionable society as his lady.  Now, faced with her here, both reasons roll together into one to make me sweat.  My collar is suddenly too tight as well.

“What are you doing here, Raoul?  I heard- I heard that you’re with the loyalists.”

I don’t know how to respond.  If I say yes, will she scream for the guards?  If no, will she believe that I’m working as a spy, or whatever story I end up telling her?  Should I tell her I was coming back to find something in my rooms?  I must stand there looking like an idiot for a long time, because finally she says, softly so that I hardly hear, the last thing I’d expect.

“Don’t go back to Ishmael, Raoul.”  I look up sharply at her.

“He’s your uncle…”

“I don’t care.  Tell me if you can find a wickeder man.  Do what I’m not able to, fight for the Alloy, and the real queen.  Don’t make a mistake.”

I’m too stunned to speak for another couple of seconds, no doubt adding to my idiot act.  Then I manage to blurt out, “You could join us?”

But she shakes her head slowly, eyes on her feet.  “I can’t.  They’d never accept me, and I wouldn’t blame them.  Why should they do otherwise?  I’m in direct relation to their enemy.  You don’t understand, Raoul.  Not everyone would be eager to invite me into their company, no matter where my heart lies.  I suppose it’s better this way since it means you’re all on your feet.”  She shrugs, and although my palms are clammy in my usual nervousness, I see her as small and imperfect for the first time.  She’s just a prisoner, as Ariel was, only in a different way.

Am I being too trusting?  Is this an act?  I try to be suspicious of her, but it’s difficult.  She doesn’t pull tears, doesn’t flirt with me.  Nothing to infer she’s begging for my sympathy and trust.  Then she shrugs again and turns to go.  “Don’t go back,” she whispers once more, and is gone.

So.  Leopold.  I think he has even surpassed Aidan, which I never expected, as Aidan was the hero in my first completed novel, and you usually can’t top that.  But Leopold is coming along fairly nicely as well, I have to say.  At least, I like him, and so, it seems, do my readers.

I have actually had a fairly clear vision of what my current leading man looks like from the beginning.  One of my favorite movies is The Count of Monte Cristo (2002); I just don’t really like the old one very much.  The character Albert was one of particular annoyance to me until the scene where he gets kindnapped (then he gained a little respect from me), mostly because…well, he was a fop.  And kinda weird.  And his cravat was too tight.  But anyway…guess what?  He grew up.  And to my surprise, he did so in a very attractive fashion.  So ever since I saw a picture of the new and improved Henry Cavill (known better now for movies like Immortals), I was fixed on him as a character- I just didn’t have a story for him yet.  Esmeralda, and the character of Leopold, supplied that.

            

So what do you think?  I like the first picture best; I think the expression is better.  Isn’t he good for Leopold?