Archive for 'Seduced By Shadows'

My romantic moment
by Jessa Slade on April 6th, 2009

Currently working on: Redesigning website
Mood: Giddy

This week’s topic here at Silk And Shadows is about “the best romantic scene in a book or movie.”  But I’m unable to compose a sensible response because I’m in love.


Shhh, shh.  Don’t look at him.  He’ll know we’re talking about him.  Tee-hee-hee.  Yes, that him!  My hero!  And he’s so strong, and handsome, and dreamy, and well-dressed.  And he has my name on him!  What’s not to love?

That’s the funny thing about those romance scenes.  They don’t have much to do with reality.    Which isn’t to say that romance doesn’t exist; just that it exists outside of the pesky needlings of reality, such as “So, isn’t your hero smart enough to wear a shirt in the middle of a Chicago November?”

That’s why when a new parent proudly displays her offspring with a cooed invitation to share her delight, your response can never be any of the following:

  • “Well, he has the requisite number of limbs.”
  • “At least he looks healthy.” 
  • “Who’s the father again?”  (For the new author, this translates to “Who wrote this?  You did?”)

No, as the cornered audience, you can only warily reflect that the chemical soup of interally produced painkillers, muscle relaxants and mood destabilizers coursing through mama’s bloodstream turns her into something closely related to a sleep-deprived ninja, and enthuse in return, “Oh, he’s going to make all the girls cry.”

Whether your new love is 8 1/2 pounds of squalling infant or 6 1/4 feet of black leather-wrapped alpha — or the 7-inch cover slick of the aforementioned alpha — of course you know it’s not always going to be perfect, or easy, or even particularly tidy.  But you want that moment of illusion, the surprise and joy.  And you want everyone — no, really, everyone — to feel that same thrill.

Later (say, October 6, 2009) he’ll grow up, take off on his own, hopefully make you proud, and maybe even support you in your old age.  But whatever happens, you’ll always be able to pull out the baby picture and remember the moment you first fell in love.

And because who can get enough of baby pictures, here’s the backside.


No, not that backside…


These are a few of my favorite things…
by Jessa Slade on March 9th, 2009

Currently working in: Revision Hell
Mood: Rather toasty

I’m a big picture person.  I like overarching themes and intricate through-lines.  Writing on that level is like flying with the angels — bright and cerebral, accompanied by the soothing sounds of harps and catered by cupids with Nectar of the Gods.

But a story is really told in the guts.  As in blood and guts, and gutsy decisions.  Scenes are the guts of the story.  You get waaaay dirtier there.  Scenes are slippery and don’t always fit tidily where you put them, and you’re not — according to AMA (Association of Manuscript Assassins) ethics — supposed to use duct tape or a staple gun.  But messy as they are, scenes are where the story is.

Scenes hold the emotion, the action, the energy.  Here are a few of my favorite scenes:

From Raiders of the Lost Ark:


Always bring a gun to a scimitar fight.  The story goes, a strenuous physical fight scene had been scripted between the scimitar-wielding bad guy and Indy and his whip, but Harrison Ford was feeling ill that day.  As a joke, he pulled out his gun and “shot” the bad guy.  Everybody thought it was great, so it stayed.

Whether the story is true or not, the scene is wonderful.  Watching it, I felt my heart race as Indy stood with his coiled whip and the bad guy swirled his scimitar.  Then out came the gun and blam!  The tension was perfectly released with a laugh and a wry thought that, ‘Well, yeah, that sure was smarter. I’d follow this hero anywhere.’


 From Ladyhawke:

I couldn’t find a picture, but remember the pre-dawn scene where Isabeau has bedded down for a night on the frozen tundra with the weary wolf-Navarre?  The sun has not quite risen, but the man is beginning to return from the wolf.  As his dark fur morphs to rumpled hair, she reaches out to touch him.  He lifts his hand to hers…  Then the first rays of the sun shine upon them.  Her fingers become feathers and she burst from their lovenest in a blur of hawk’s wings.

 Oh, the heartbreak.  That suspended moment — without a word said — captures their longing and the hopelessness of their situation.  I perfectly understood the desperation that drove them into their final harrowing battle. 

From The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers:

scene-helmsdeep1 For epic battle scenes (with plenty of guts, of both the figurative and strewing kind) I think nobody beats Tolkien, and Peter Jackson’s vision was a technical marvel (yes, I watched the days of bonus material on the DVDs) and a masterful manipulation of the viewers’ hearts and minds: With such vast forces of evil raised against our heroes, how can they possibly prevail? 

With awesome CG and Viggo’s twisty locks, that’s how!  Bliss!

All of the above, of course, is just a transparent attempt to avoid the real topic this week which is the favorite scene I wrote.  I can’t even tell you why I like this scene, because that would be cheating, since it doesn’t matter why I like it.  Not anymore.  Those guts I mentioned before must now come together to give life to a breathing, lusting, struggling entity quite separate from me.

So here goes…  Unlike the scenes above, I chose a quieter scene from early in the story, where the heroine, Sera, confronts the hero about her new life as an immortal warrior acolyte possessed by a repentant demon fighting the never-ending battle against evil.

From Seduced By Shadows:

 “Do you really expect me to believe any of this?  That I’ve been possessed by a… a demon?”

“Belief is beside the point.  It is true.”

It was like being told she would soon be killed by a falling piano.  Of course she didn’t believe him.  And yet she couldn’t help looking up.  “Demons don’t exist.” 

“Not corporeally, not in this world.  Which is why it has clothed itself in your flesh.”

The lake wind swirled, and an inadvertent shudder ripped through her.  She wrapped her arms around her waist.  As if she might feel different.  “And what if I’m not interested in sharing my flesh?”

A muscle in his jaw tensed.  “You can cast it out, before it ascends, before it sets roots in your soul and its mark on your skin.”

He twitched back the edge of his trench coat and from the folds of supple leather released a blackened club the size of her forearm.  With a snap of his wrist and the menacing schick of sliding metal, the club telescoped to double in length.  He flicked it outward, and from the thickened, studded end, a blade cascaded out in a series of glittering steel segments, like a cardsharp’s precisely fanned hand almost twice as wide as her spread fingers.

From primitive club to switchblade battle-axe quicker than her stuttering heart could find its beat.

“Oh God.”  She cringed back against the wall. 

“I never got around to naming it.”  He gripped the weapon just below the wickedly recurved blade and tugged up the sleeves of his coat and shirt.

The razor edge carved the cold light, sharper than the look he threw her as he laid the gleaming blade against the inside of his right arm between the inky lines of his tattoo.

“No.”  A sickening beat of horror skipped through her, like when she’d seen the SUV hurtling toward her, about to change her life forever.

The tattoo, not Celtic nor tribal but even more primitive, swirled over his knuckles and spiked halfway up his arm.  Against the black, the skin of his wrist looked tender, veins and tendons standing out in marbled relief.

He stilled, and despite the dread-full thump of her heart, she found her gaze drawn to his.

“Unforgivably melodramatic,” he said, “but effectively convincing.”

He sliced the blade down his inner arm.

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Shocking research
by Jessa Slade on January 12th, 2009

Currently working on: Transcribing chicken scratching longhand notes
Mood: Perplexed — I wrote this?!?

I was never much interested in the question “Why do bad things happen to good people?” It seemed obvious to me: Well, s**t happens.

More confusing was “Why do good people do bad things?” As if I could answer that question when generations of theologians, psychiatrists and weeping mothers haven’t. But poking at it was part of the genesis for SEDUCED BY SHADOWS, the first book of The Marked Souls which comes out in October. In the series, my heroes are possessed by repentant demons. I started reading about demons in mythology and the world’s major belief systems as well as the “demons” of purely human cruelty — genocide, serial murder, mental disorders, slavery.

But I thought those demons seemed a little removed from people like you and me. I mean, most of us will (hopefully!) go through our lives without ever needing a Roman Catholic exorcism. (But if you do, check out Malachi Martin’s Hostage to the Devil: The Possession and Exorcism of Five Contemporary Americans. Not precisely a DIY manual and critics argue the veracity, but it’s a fascinating read.) Most of those metaphorical demons feel safely confined to foreign news programs and made-for-TV movies. Then I remembered a psychological study we learned about in high school.

In Milgram’s 1961 social psych experiment, begun just three months after the start of Adolph Eichmann’s trial as a Nazi war criminal, volunteers were told to administer electric shocks in increasing 15-volt increments to other research subjects when questions on a verbal test were answered inaccurately. The shockees were actually accomplices to the researchers and the shocks were fake. But the volunteers didn’t know that.

Shocking (pun intended) factoid:
Despite simulated screams of pain from the “victim,” 65% of the volunteers continued to administer shocks to the 450-volt maximum (labeled ‘Danger: Severe Shock’ on the board the volunteers used). Only one volunteer stopped before 300 volts. A more recent version of the study (updated, ironically, to decrease potential post-experiment stress on the volunteers doing the shocking) found essentially the same percentages of people willing to pull the trigger on their fellows. If everyone tells their friends and family about this study, maybe the next time researchers perform this experiment, I bet we can lower the percentages a point or two.

It was a study about response to authority, to a voice telling you to do something that you know is wrong. What interested me was the quickness and completeness with which people gave up their brains, hearts and souls to someone else. The volunteers weren’t monsters. They weren’t serial killers or sadists or Enron execs in training. They were regular, normal people — people like you and me.

Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram in his 1974 book about the study, “Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View,” said: Ordinary people…can become agents in a terrible destructive process. If this is so, then perhaps the opposite is true: Ordinary people can become warriors against destruction.

The heroes of my stories wield the power of the repentant demons to save the world. Have you ever had a little voice inside you — good or bad — influencing you? Did you listen?

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