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CROWN OF ICE COUNTDOWN — Day 3: Y is for YEARNING and Z is for ZEST

Well, it’s day 3 before CROWN OF ICE is published! Today I am combining the last two letters of the alphabet — Y is for Yearning and Z is for Zest.

I believe that we all yearn for things — the things that matter the most to each of us. For my characters in CROWN OF ICE, the things that matter vary, but the yearning is universal.

Geometry

For Thyra and Kai, one thing deeply desired is education — they both want to learn as much as they can about math, science, and other subjects. This is not just wanting an education to say they have one. Both are entranced by discovery and new experiences, and their mutual love of learning is one of the things that draws them together.

 

 

 

Which brings us to Z for Zest — the zest for life, for learning, for attempting to reach a goal, is also something that Thyra and Kai share. But so does Gerda — her zest for, and capacity for, love are a crucial aspect of the story. Gerda2

 

 

Another character with a great zest for life is the wolf, Luki. He brings his unconditional love and devotion — and his energy and enthusiasm  — into Thyra’s cold palace and changes it, and her, forever.

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(in public domain)

CROWN OF ICE COUNTDOWN — Day 4: X is for XYLOID

Okay, it’s day 4 of the CROWN OF ICE publication day countdown, and I’m faced with the letter X.

smiley_emoticon_scared_stickerX? What do I do with X?

 

 

 

Well, there is the word XYLOID, which means — “of or like wood; woody”

Stretching this concept EVER so much to make it fit, there IS a scene in CROWN OF ICE that includes a wealthy family who are basically lumber barons — the Strykers.

When Thyra hopes to circumvent Gerda’s attempt to locate Kai, she tracks the girl to the Stryker family estate. Clara Stryker has befriended Gerda, who turned up at their doorstep, exhausted from her journey to find Kai.

Bregentved Manor House, Denmark -- photo by Flemming (Creative Commons Lic.)
Bregentved Manor House, Denmark — photo by Flemming (Creative Commons Lic.)

Thyra arrives just as a ball, given by the Stryker family, commences.  It’s a scene that allows Thyra to interact with Gerda, and also the sorceress Sephia.

This was a fun scene to write, because it brought in magical rivalry, fancy dresses, music, and dancing!

(in public domain)
(in public domain)

 

 

Two Crocus in Snow --orig. photo by Thomas Wolf (Creative Commons Copyright Lic.)

CROWN OF ICE Countdown — Day 5: W is for Winter

It’s day 5 before CROWN OF ICE releases, and today, W is for Winter.

Mountains in the snow. (Public domain)
Mountains in the snow. (Public domain)

An obvious choice, I suppose, considering the subject matter of the book.

But the thing I want to mention about winter is … in most places, it is one of 4 seasons. Of course, some regions have very long winters, but except for a few areas near the Artic or Antarctic Circles, there usually is some type of seasonal change. (Even at the North and South poles, temperatures vary based on seasons).

In CROWN OF ICE, my protagonist, Thyra Winther, fears the coming of spring because it heralds Shattered mirrorthe end of her chance to reassemble an enchanted mirror and the end of her opportunity to reign forever as the Snow Queen. Although she instinctively longs for grass and flowers and other green things, Thyra knows that her only hope of keeping her mind and body intact is to survive as the Snow Queen — which means giving up every season but winter.

But spring invades her icy world, in the guise of a sorceress who has power over green and growing things, and in the breath of life that Kai and Gerda bring into her frozen palace. As Bae, the enchanted reindeer, tells her —

“The thaw will come, Snow Queen,” Bae says, backing away from the door. “And neither you nor your Master Voss can prevent its arrival.”

Thyra refutes this assertion, determined to survive by any means necessary.

But, it is true that spring follows winter, just as day follows night.

Two Crocus in Snow --orig. photo by Thomas Wolf (Creative Commons Copyright Lic.)
Two Crocus in Snow –orig. photo by Thomas Wolf (Creative Commons Copyright Lic.)

And after the frost — flowers.

 

 

 

Gerda6

CROWN OF ICE COUNTDOWN — Day 6: U is for Uncommon and V is for Valor

Today is day 6 — yes, six days before CROWN OF ICE’s release! I’m focusing on two letters today: U is for Uncommon and V is for Valor.

I’m combining these two words because they describe the actions of several characters in CROWN OF ICE:

Gerda6Gerda — Who sets off to rescue a friend armed with little more than faith, love, and determination.

 

 

Kai — Who’s willing to brave the dangers of the Snow Queen’s kingdom in order to save his father (and later, Gerda and even Thyra).Kai

 

 

 

 

Bae5Bae, the reindeer — Whose loyalty to Gerda drives him to fly into deadly storms to protect her.

 

Luki, the wolf  — who is willing to do anything, even give his life, to protect his mistress.cropped-800px-WolfRunningInSnow.jpg

 

 

Thyra face 2

And Thyra, the Snow Queen — whose fight for her own survival slams up against her growing awareness of the need to protect others.

 

 

 

 

 

Young Thyra

CROWN OF ICE COUNTDOWN — Day 9: T is for Thyra

Day 9 of the CROWN OF ICE publication countdown brings us to — T is for Thyra.

Thyra Winther is the protagonist of CROWN OF ICE. She’s brilliant, tough, and, above all, a survivor.

She’s also a deeply damaged individual who hasn’t known love since her parents died when she was a young child.

Young Thyra
Young Thyra

Thyra was a sensitive child, but years of isolation and mistreatment at the hands of a scheming foster mother and an ambitious wizard have forced her to freeze her heart and dull her emotional responses.  She is unusually adept at mathematics — a talent that has aided her attempt to reconstruct a shattered enchanted mirror. Her logical mind and practical approach to problems have been her salvation in a bleak, inhospitable, world.

 

 

She does not seek out opportunities to do harm, but will not hesitate to use her power over snow and ice to protect herself or her interests.

Her greatest dream is to be able to learn as much as possible about math and other matters, and she envies Kai Thorsen’s opportunity to attend university.  She would dearly love to travel the world, but is forced to remain within the bounds of her snowy kingdom — unless the wizard Mael Voss sends her on specific missions.

Thyra is trapped by her role as the Snow Queen, yet the alternative — to become a mindless,

Thyra, age 17
Thyra, age 17

bodiless, wraith — is so horrible that she fights any obstacle that will prevent her from achieving her goal. Facing the loss of the few things she values — her mind and her ability to learn — she is willing to do anything to reassemble the mirror and remain Snow Queen forever.

 

 

 

CROWN OF ICE COUNTDOWN — Day 10: S is for Snow

It’s ten days before the release of CROWN OF ICE, and we’ve reached the letter “S”.

So, of course — S is for Snow.cropped-snow-white-queen-flakes.jpg

While writing CROWN OF ICE I had to think about all the different ways I could describe snow, ice, cold, and other ubiquitous weather elements in a story about a Snow Queen. Although a few scenes in CROWN take place outside of Thyra’s wintery kingdom, a great deal of the book is set there. That meant a natural limit on my descriptive options.

Which was not a bad thing, because it made me really have to dig deep and come up with new ways of describing things — a good way to avoid clichés!cropped-Snow-and-Ice.jpg

In writing  my books, I try to put myself into each scene to the point where I can see, smell, hear, feel … In other words, to immerse myself enough to describe the scene fully. Writing about a kingdom sunk in a snowy sea was a challenge, but a very interesting experience.

snowflake 8Hopefully, I succeeded in drawing a picture in words that will convey the Snow Queen’s icy kingdom!

 

 

CROWN OF ICE Countdown — Day 12 — Q is for Queen and R is for Royalty

Today is day 12 before CROWN OF ICE is released. So I am bundling the letters Q and R — Q for Queen and R for Royalty.

Hans Christian AndersenOne of the interesting things I discovered while researching “The Snow Queen” and Hans Christian Andersen, is how Andersen felt about royalty.

In many fairy tales, the main characters are princes, princesses, kings, or queens. Not so in Andersen’s tales. Raised in a lower middle class home, Andersen was more a man of the people than a court insider. Although he garnered royal patronage over time, his literary fairy tales rarely focus on royalty. When they do — such as “Emperor’s New Clothes” or “The Princess and the Pea” — it is often for satiric effect. Most of Andersen’s protagonists are ordinary people, such as soldiers, tradesmen, or village girls.

In “The Snow Queen”, Andersen’s main characters are two rather ordinary young people — the boy, Kai, and the girl, Gerda. His queen — the Snow Queen — is more a representation of winter and the power of ice and snow than a real person.

In my novel, CROWN OF ICE, I chose to keep Andersen’s focus on “ordinary” people. Thyra Thyra face 2Winther, the Snow Queen, is actually a village girl who’s been transformed by a wizard. Although her intelligence and strength of will are not exactly “ordinary,” she does not start life as a royal, nor is she secretly some “chosen one” who’s heritage is yet to be revealed. She is just another village girl — except for the little matter of her extraordinary intelligence, her skill at mathematics, and her indomitable will.

I like exploring the world of fantasy from the perspective of those who are not royal, or of the highest rank — perhaps why I love J. R. R. Tolkien’s use of Hobbits as main characters. Part of my enjoyment of such tales is that It’s the “ordinary” people/creatures who achieve great things, perhaps helped by “royals” and perhaps not. At any rate, I have always loved stories that include characters who are more like the general run of humanity, and this has definitely influenced my writing.

My protagonist, Thyra Winther, may be the Snow Queen, but she is also a village girl. She has been transformed and given power, but she has not lived a life of ease and luxury. This is important in relation to her character and the tone of the book. This is not a story about royalty. It’s a story about an ordinary girl who learns — through great struggle — to become extraordinary.

 

CROWN OF ICE COUNTDOWN — Day 15: P is for Polar Bear

It’s day 15 before CROWN OF ICE releases and this day it’s P for Polar Bear.

In my novel, a powerful sorcerer has used his magic to transform animals into servants. This includes bears, rabbits, foxes, and other wild creatures.

Polar Bear -- photo by Ltshears, 2010. shared via Creative Commons Copyright
Polar Bear — photo by Ltshears, 2010. shared via Creative Commons Copyright

I hope readers feel the horror of this. Taking animals and turning their paws into hands, for example, is a dreadful act.  Without changing their true nature (other than keeping them under an enchantment that prevents the predators from eating prey) this transformation leaves the animals trapped in a type of nether world. They cannot be what they are meant to be, yet also cannot truly comprehend their new situation.

 

 

Like the animals, my main character, Thyra Winther, has been transformed into something she was never intended to be — the Snow Queen. While some might envy her magic, she struggles to balance her human nature with the powers that have been forced upon her. She doesn’t mind wielding her magic, when necessary, but neither is she entirely given over to it.

In his passage from CROWN OF ICE, Thyra speaks about the transformed animals, but her words could apply to herself as well:

“Bae’s standing in the paddock when I ride into the yard outside the stables. His liquid brown

Polar Bear Mother and Cubs -- photo by Alastair Rae. Shared via Creative Commons Copyright Lic.
Polar Bear Mother and Cubs — photo by Alastair Rae. Shared via Creative Commons Copyright Lic.

eyes follow my every move as I dismount and hand Freya’s reins to a waiting groom, a polar bear whose fur-backed hands tremble slightly. I read pain and confusion in the bear’s beady black eyes. It’s the expression that all our animal servants wear—the questioning look that asks why they’ve been ripped from their natural state and transformed into creatures neither fully humannor truly animal. I look away.”

 

 

 

 

CROWN OF ICE COUNTDOWN — Day 18: O is for Obsession

Today is Day 18 before CROWN OF ICE’s release, and it’s the day for — O is for Obsession.

Mael Voss 3The character who’s truly obsessed in CROWN is the mage MAEL VOSS.

Voss is a dangerous wizard, and much older than he appears. He’s been able to extend his life using his magic, but he has never been able to piece together the shattered enchanted mirror that could grant him even more power. It’s the reason, over many years, he’s stolen young girls from neighboring villages and carried them off to his ice palace to be transformed into the Snow Queen. He needs their hands to reconstruct the mirror — for the mirror, wielding its own magic, rejects his touch.

Unfortunately for these young women, Voss only allows them until their eighteenth birthday to complete this task. As Thyra Winther, the current Snow Queen, explains:

” …Voss was no fool. He’d create no creature whose power could challenge his own. He added a Wraith1draft of poison to his spell. The girl who reigned as queen had to reassemble the magic mirror before her eighteenth birthday. Fail, and she was transformed into a bodiless wraith, doomed to forever wander the halls of her former palace.”

This is the future that awaits Thyra, unless she can reassemble the mirror, and satisfy Voss’s obsession. Little wonder she’s determined to succeed at any cost!

 

 

CROWN OF ICE COUNTDOWN — Day 21: N is for NORTH

On day 21 of the CROWN OF ICE publication day countdown I would like to highlight —

N is for NORTH.

Winter Landscape by Cornelius Krieghoff
Winter Landscape by Cornelius Krieghoff

Since CROWN OF ICE is a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen”, its setting must be in the North. Specifically, Scandinavia.

However, since this is a fantasy, I decided not to identify a specific country. Elements and images of Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Iceland influenced my descriptions.

 

 

Brudepars Amager by Johann Julius Exner
Brudepars Amager by Johann Julius Exner

I also didn’t mention a year, although through the context it is definitely the early to mid nineteenth century. (This fits, since “The Snow Queen” was first published in 1844).

 

 

 

Not all of the landscape is lost in a permanent winter.

Farm House in Finland, by Harri Blmberg
Farm House in Finland, by Harri Blmberg

 

 

 

 

 

 

But of course, the Snow Queen’s palace is surrounded by a wilderness of ice and snow:

Mountains in the snow. (Public domain)
Mountains in the snow. (Public domain)

 

Fantasy and Science Fiction Author