Release Day for Venus Rising!

9781611947526

It’s release day for Venus Rising, and now I can share my super secret news! Persephone is returning as a POV character! She won’t have as many chapters as Aphrodite (it is her story), but you’ll get to see her plenty in the thrilling conclusion of Aphrodite’s trilogy. Enjoy this sample of a Persephone POV chapter below  (if you haven’t seen the chapters leading up to this, head on over to my wattpad page to check them out) and then go get your copy of Venus Rising!

Not caught up on Aphrodite’s trilogy? No problem! Aphrodite is on sale for .99 cents! That means you can get the whole trilogy for eight dollars. 

Aphrodite, sale, Daughters of Zeus, Kaitlin Bevis, Greek mythology retelling, Ares, Adonis

You can also enter to win this awesome tote bag from my publisher.

To enter, please click this link: http://bit.ly/2rpu0bP and sign up for the Venus Rising Giveaway. The winner will be chosen 6/12/17. After the giveaway, new signups will be added to the official Kaitlin Bevis mailing list. If you have any questions, please email us at nikiflowers@bellebooks.com!
Good luck, and enjoy!

Chapter IV

Persephone

IT HURT COMING back to my old home in Athens, Georgia. Nothing had changed in the past year. I hadn’t let it. Even though I didn’t spend much time here, I couldn’t bring myself to sell it. Mom’s priestesses maintained the property, and somehow, they’d made sure it still smelled the same. Floral, of course. My mother and I had always been strong on theme. The house worked well as an emergency meeting place for the Pantheon. There was even an entrance to the Underworld in the backyard.

I ran my hand along the familiar kitchen counter, flicking on the warm yellow lights. Rose-print wallpaper adorned the walls of the bright, open space, and white cabinets lined the room. Mom’s kitchen had been the heart of our home. If I didn’t turn around, I could almost pretend she still sat at the table behind me, flipping through one of her gardening magazines.

Salt and water burned at my eyes as I hunched over the pine countertop, my breathing jagged. Almost twenty years ago, my mother got disgustingly close to the biggest jerk in the entire Greek Pantheon—Zeus. And she’d done it for one reason.

Me. She knew that Zeus always passed on a power that gave his children a fighting chance in a world that didn’t believe they existed—charm. Basically, divine mind control. Gods lived off worship, which was increasingly hard to come by unless you had the ability to look a human in the eyes and brainwash them into doing whatever you wanted.

My mother raised me human without any knowledge of the Pantheon outside what little mythology I learned in school. Her deception had far-reaching consequences on my psyche. But she’d done it for the same reasons she’d chosen Zeus to be my father. Most of the gods had failed to blend into human society, becoming more and more isolated from a world they understood less and less as time went by. And for beings who needed worship to survive, isolation was death, charm or not.

Everything she’d done, every choice she’d made, had been with my best interests at heart. She’d given me the best of her powers: rebirth, renewal, spring—all super-poetical ways of saying I made pretty flowers grow— with none of the responsibilities. Mom had this entire life envisioned for me. One where I got to grow into adulthood as a “human” with all the experiences and rites of passage the upper-middle class had to offer. Then, once she deemed me ready, she’d sit me down and show me all the wonderful gifts she’d given me.

I slid to the distressed wooden floor in a rustle of fabric, clutching my knees against my chest. The faint smell of laundry detergent filled my lungs as I took a sharp breath. It would have been a great life.

Mom couldn’t have known that an old enemy would try to rip us apart. She couldn’t have anticipated that Hades would rescue me. That we’d fall in love. Or through a strange twist of fate, I’d become queen of his realm. She couldn’t have known that Zeus would try to suck the very powers she’d given to me from my cold shell of a corpse to help him take over the world.

But even when her best-laid plans went to hell, she protected me. She’d pushed every iota of power she had into my being, shredding her soul, to give me a chance against Zeus. And now she was gone.

A sob tore through my throat.

Take a breath, she would say if she could see how upset I was now. The kitchen would fill with the comforting smell of hot chocolate brewing on the stove. Her green eyes would meet mine with that look that seemed to pierce through my soul and lay it bare. Sit with me for a little bit. Tell me what happened.

Gods, I would do it in a heartbeat. I wouldn’t even roll my eyes or sigh or run upstairs to call my best friend, Melissa, and complain instead. I’d spent so much time angry with her for not telling me what I was, so much time fighting or outright avoiding her, and now I’d give anything to get her back.

My breath hitched when I lifted my gaze to the empty table. Power hummed beneath my skin, like tiny bolts of static, searching for a way out. I kept my breathing even, trying to maintain some semblance of control. Otherwise, I was going to spin out thinking about the fact that Mom was dead, Hades was gone, Aphrodite was still in danger, everything was breaking apart, and for some reason, the gods kept looking to me for answers.

In defeating Zeus, I’d become one of the most powerful goddesses there had ever been or likely would be again. Back in the days of the Primordials or even the Titans, the next deity would have only been a step or so down the ladder, but since the power of the Pantheon was at an all-time low, it just meant I had further to fall.

The gods really valued power and hierarchy. A triple realm ruler with near limitless power stood high on both totems, so now, I had a bunch of ancient, powerful beings looking to me for leadership. They didn’t care that I didn’t want it. Power and hierarchy trumped all.

But I’d stepped up to the plate, hadn’t I? I banged my head against the hard cabinet, my gaze settling on the roughhewn elm beams running along the ceiling. I’d been a handy pawn to fight their battles, to win their war, so now they’d elevated me to the frickin’ (unofficial) queen of the Pantheon.

Half the time, I thought they looked to me out of boredom. The rest of the time, I felt sure they’d just been so ready to get the world off their shoulders, they didn’t care who the burden fell to.

It hadn’t been so bad with Hades by my side. We’d split our powers with each other equally, which made our marriage bond super intense. Hades and I were in each other’s heads all the time; we could feel each other’s pain. It sounded like a nightmare, but it wasn’t. He was a piece of me, and I of him, but there were limits to even equilibrium.

We both had to be conscious.

My tears were getting ugly now. The sounds emitting from me with each sob didn’t sound human. Without Hades, I felt like I was missing a limb. I’d never wanted any of this, but it had been worth it with him.

The air rippled, stirring against the folds of my long skirt. I lurched to my feet, glamouring away any evidence of my tears as Poseidon appeared with a wave of salt-laced wind. Beside him, Ares dropped to the ground just in front of the kitchen table. He curled in on himself, crying out in pain.

“What happened?” I dropped to my knees beside him, reaching out to touch Ares’s shoulder. Heat seared my hand, and I jerked back in surprise.

“The poison’s still in his system,” Poseidon said quickly. “Teleportation takes a toll.”

That damn poison. Before we’d even realized the demigods were organizing against us, they’d managed to drug three of my people. Aphrodite got the worst of it, but Ares and Artemis had both been dosed. It affected their ability to use powers, so teleportation put them through a special kind of hell. And there was nothing I could do to make it better. Only dig my nails into my palms and watch helplessly as Ares rode out the pain. I dropped the glamour I’d kept on him and broke his bond of fealty to me just in case that helped.

I’d forgotten how intimidating he looked. Uneven, dark bangs hung over eyes that seemed to burn with rage as he recovered. When he struggled to his feet, the faint scent of burning cinnamon filled the air. He stood a head shorter than Poseidon, but his bulging muscles looked positively herculean in comparison.

A leather jacket appeared in his outstretched hand, and he shrugged it on, relaxing visibly when the folds of fabric touched his skin. His token, I remembered Aphrodite telling me.

Tokens were objects from a god’s home realm that could act as a kind of conduit. Instead of struggling to draw power while in a foreign realm, a god could channel their power through their token. Ares was back in his home realm, but his jacket must have still helped with the pain.

“You.” His eyes flared when they landed on Poseidon, and his voice darkened with the fires of rage. “You left her.”

“She’s still there?” My voice rose in panic, and the power clawing beneath my skin surged, seeking an outlet. A metallic taste filled my mouth, and I realized I’d clamped down on my tongue.

“I tried to get her!” Frustrated waves churned in miniature against the pupils of Poseidon’s sea-green eyes. “That demigoddess must have taken her when she teleported the whole island. I—”

“When she what?” The lights above my head flickered.

Poseidon’s fist clenched with irritation when the ground began to rumble. He drew in a breath, no doubt ready to say something scathing, but then he caught the look on my face.

I wasn’t doing this on purpose. My teeth ground together as I struggled to regain control, blood thick on my tongue. Aphrodite was gone. Trapped on an island with my husband while the demigods did gods knew what to them. An island we no longer knew the location of, because no one had stopped to ask if demigods could teleport. Including me!

How could I have been so stupid? The rest of the gods made their assumptions out of arrogance, refusing to believe anyone mortal could ever reach their level. I was supposed to be different.

“Easy.” Poseidon stretched his hands in a soothing gesture.

“Easy?” Ares surged toward Poseidon. “Easy! Do you have any idea what they’ll do to her? What you’ve left her to?” What—” He paused, seeming to notice the dishes rattling inside the white cabinets.

I sucked in deep breaths of rose-scented air. A lightbulb shattered above my head, glass raining down on the wooden floor.

“Persephone . . .” Poseidon was beside me in an instant, reaching out, but I jerked away before he could touch me.

I hated him. I hated him for hurting my mom all those centuries ago. For staying alive and strong when so many other gods died. For being one of the only people she could turn to for help during the final months of her life. For not stopping her dying. For looking at me the way he did. Like I was the only thing he had left of her. Like I meant something to him. He wasn’t allowed to grieve my mother.

Wood groaned and glass shattered as every door in the house flew open in a gust of damp wind. Oh, gods, I was ruining it. The one place I could still see her. Gasping for composure, I took my hatred for Poseidon and buried it. Like it or not, he was one of the only gods left, and I needed his help. “What do I do?”

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The Horror Genre

Book cover for The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne, #amwriting, #amediting, book review, how to write, how to editThe horror genre goes beyond life and death and explores the fates worse than. The mind-hack, as Dan Wells would say, that you are trying to evoke in your reader is a sense of fear and dread. According to Shawn Coyne, the key scene in any horror story is “the victim at the mercy of the monster” moment, and the thing that set the story in motion is the attack of that monster, real or otherwise, that forces the protagonist out of their safe zone.

The object of desire in horror tends to be survival, both in the literal sense and the coming back from the edge of sanity sense. When the protagonist doesn’t care about their own life, a small child, woman, or dog tends to be thrown into danger to spur the protagonist into action.

That antagonism between the forces of good (or neutral) and evil are king, and the antagonist must, according to Coyne, always be evil. An evil that can’t be reasoned with. The horror subgenres tend to be broken down by the way the story explains the monster. Reminder, these subgenres can mix and match within or out of the horror genre. You can have a romance with a horror subplot, and you can have a horror with a romance subplot. It’s all in how the writer divides it.

Subgenres

  • Uncanny – The forces of evil in the story cannot be reasoned with, but they can be explained. Think serial killer plots.
  • Supernatural – These are stories in which the monster isn’t “real” or explainable. Possessions, hauntings, vampires, werewolves, those kinds of monsters fall under the Supernatural category, but in my opinion, this is where the most genre bending occurs. If you have a supernatural villain in a fantasy setting where werewolves are totally a thing and everyone knows it, then the werewolf if uncanny, not inexplicable.
  • Ambiguous-  The reader can never be quite sure if it is the supernatural at work or not. These stories tend to question the protagonists sanity on a deeper level than the outsider looking in a supernatural story. The Babadook is a good example of this. Was there really a monster, or was the monster symbolic of the mother’s depression?

External Conflicts and Goals

Book cover for The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne, #amwriting, #amediting, book review, how to write, how to editExternal conflicts deal with conflict outside of your protagonist. That’s the villain, the earth quake, the monster. Your character may grapple internally with how to handle the conflict, but the object of conflict itself is not happening in your character’s head.

External goals are the obvious goals that drive the story forward from the inciting incident on. Ralph’s medal, destroying the one ring, ect. It’s a tangible item or other person that’s easy to identify, and while it drives the plot, it’s ultimately secondary to the intangible changes made within the protagonist along the way.

That tangible object and conflict is going to vary genre by genre. In an action story, it’s going to be the villain and the thing central to the villain’s plan. In a love story, it’s going to be the character of desire, in a crime story, it’s going to be the criminal, often with the object being sought a victim whose time hasn’t yet run out.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll get into the external conflicts from several different genres that are outlined in Shawn Coyne’s The Story Grid, along with some examples of my own.

Things that I do when I should be writing

I am working through my page proofs for Venus Rising. Theoretically, this is the easiest part of the publication process. All I’m supposed to do is read through and make sure there are no formatting glitches. It’s too late to change content, the copy edits are finished, this is just a last look through.

But it’s the last look through! If I  miss something now there’s no going back. Everyone will see the mistake in print.

So…I’m procrastinating. It’s amazing the things that feel like they must be done right now when you have work you’re nervous about doing. Here’s the last few things that my brain has demanded must be accomplished now.

  1. Writing this blog.
  2. Getting organized for girl scouts next year by researching all the possible brownie badges, figuring out how many meetings to dedicate to each, and setting a calendar complete with lesson plans for each troop meeting for the 2017/2018 school year. (OMG, I am officially crazy)
  3. Send long, rambling emails detailing my plans to the poor, unfortunate adults from my daughter’s brownie troop.
  4. Consider ways to improve my daughter’s school. Do they know there’s an eclipse coming on a school day in August? Maybe I should connect them with this business that sells really cute, cheap, eclipse glasses. Maybe the eclipse should be a PTA event.
  5. Write up detailed plans and send them to the unfortunate members of administration and PTA
  6. Consider all that’s wrong in the world and how it could be fixed. Write long, rambling letters filled with ideas and plans to all the appropriate politicians.
  7. My house should probably be clean.
  8. Groceries would also be good.
  9. You know, Bella’s room should be reorganized. When was the last time she played with this? Let’s list everything for sale on craigslist.
  10. Realize a lot of these toys are educational and could be used in fun learning activities. Come up with a detailed summer curriculum and schedule for my daughter by researching all the fun events happening in Athens, all the camps we’re considering, travel plans, and academic skills.

Someone send help….

 

Plot Driven VS Character Driven

Book cover for The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne, #amwriting, #amediting, book review, how to write, how to edit

In The Story Grid, Shawne Coyne takes a moment to discuss the differences between plot driven and character driven stories. In brief, a plot driven novel focuses on external problems whereas character driven focuses on internal problems. It’s very tempting to divide these into hard and fast categories, like saying all natural disaster movies are plot driven because the conflict is external.

That’s just not true. For example, look no further than zombies.

Zombies are Man VS Nature in its rawest form. Replace zombies with forest fires, earth quakes, tidal waves, giant meteors hitting the earth, or insert natural disaster here, and you’ll feel the same sense of hopeless dread against a force that can’t see reason and cannot be stopped.

Some zombie fiction is almost entirely plot driven, like World War Z. In others, the zombies themselves are almost window dressing to large scale, character driven dramas, like The Walking Dead.

Very, very rarely is a story 100% character or plot driven and successful. A viewer/reader/whatever has to care whether the character lives or dies to willingly follow them through the zombie wasteland. How much they care is a sliding scale. But there has to be something, otherwise the entire plot falls flat. Conversely, stories that exist almost entirely in a protagonists head, a protagonist without some kind of external goal, are incredibly boring. (We’ve all had to read those issue books in schools).

All stories balance character and plot as a driving force to pull the reader through the novel. How much of each is going to depend on audience, genre, and the writers personal preferences. But both sides of the equation have a lot to teach an aspiring writer.

Character Goals

Book cover for The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne, #amwriting, #amediting, book review, how to write, how to edit

Every character starts a story with a goal. Example: Rapunzel wants to see the lights, Ralph wants to be a hero, Hiccup wants to prove that he belongs in his Viking village. But what your character wants and what they need are seldom the same, and the thing they want is a misguided attempt to fill a need. In most cases, your characters goal is external, but it reflects an intangible desire they can’t quite say.

Ralph’s external want is a medal, but it’s driven by an internal need for acceptance. But acceptance of others isn’t nearly as important as him accepting himself. Once he accepts and becomes proud of who he really is, everything else falls into place, and he realizes the medal never really mattered.

Shawn Coyne breaks this down into plot lines. Storyline “A” is the external want the character is after, storyline “B” is the abstract need they are trying to fill. The very best conflicts (which drive the story) occur when the two conflict. Example: Ralph gets his medal, but at what cost? He feels even worse about himself than he did when the story starts.

The conflicts can occur on a few levels.

Inner conflict. This is your character’s fight with themselves. Example: Ralph’s inner battle with himself as he struggles to come to terms with the fact that he is a bad guy, but that doesn’t make him a bad guy.

Personal Conflict. This is your character’s struggle with other people. It can be with an antagonist, but it’s often also with those they care about. Example: Ralph and Felix goals are in conflict with each other. Ralph needs to leave the game to get his medal, Felix needs to get Ralph back to save the game. Vanelope and Ralph both need the same medal to accomplish their goals, they resolve their conflict by teaming up, but are soon in personal conflict again when Ralph tries to save Vanelope from herself. King Candy and Ralph have a personal conflict, clearly, and the two fight to the death in the climax of the movie.

Extra-Personal Conflict is a conflict with something larger than an individual or yourself. For example, in Wreck it Ralph, Ralph has a personal conflict with Felix or Eugine, but he has an extra-personal conflict with an entire society that sees him as a bad guy and treats him with disdain. An extra-personal conflict tends to be with society as a whole or a force of nature. A natural disaster or zombie story narrative is an extra personal conflict.

So breaking this down further into the five major conflicts, you’ve got…

Man VS Self- Inner conflict

Man VS Man- Personal Conflict

Man VS Society- Interpersonal Conflict

Man VS Nature- Interpersonal Conflict

Man VS Technology- Interpersonal conflict

Most stories contain a mix of inner, personal, or interpersonal.

The First Act

Before I get into the next chapter of the story grid, I’m going to deviate a bit to give some important background.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, most stories start with a slice of the protagonist’s life. In the heroes journey this is called “the ordinary world.” The slice of life (or beginning exposition) establishes some very important things for your character.

Who they are.

What is normal (because you can’t appreciate the abnormal until you know what has changed).

What they want.

What they have.

What they can lose.

There’s a reason one of the first lines of the Pixar story spine is “Every day….One day…”

I put together a video talking about what needs to be established in the slice of life for a creative writing class that I’m taking. Note: I know that the scene from Lilo and Stitch is not actually part of the slice of life, but it was either that or the first 15 minutes from Up, and I wanted to be a productive human today.

Once the slice of life is established, the next major plot element is the inciting incident. This is the incident that kicks off the story. This is often tied to the call to adventure, but not always.

Here’s a few of my favorite examples of inciting incidents.

Things happened in the story before each of these events, but for most, that was establishing background. You could argue, for instance, the inciting incident for Big Hero 6 was Tadashi dying, or Tadashi convincing his brother to try nerd school. Or in Frozen, Elsa being born, hurting Ana, getting locked up, or for Wreck it Ralph, the anniversary, the creation of the game, ect. But the difference between those instances and the inciting incident is that they are used to set up the slice of life. Elsa hurting Ana was used to explain why she spent every day locked up and was afraid of her powers, not to explain why she froze the kingdom. Tadashi dying could arguably be considered an inciting incident since Hiro’s personal goal was revenge for his death, but Tadashi dying isn’t what kick starts the story. It’s this moment when he activates Baymax, and Baymax realizes his microbots are active. Until this happened, Hiro didn’t know his brother needed to be avenged. Instead of kicking off the story, Tadashi’s death explains the slice of life. Why every day, Hiro sat in his room, isolated from his friends, until one day….

The inciting incident isn’t what establishes the character’s goals, that’s what the slice of life is for. The inciting incident is the thing that sets them on the path to achieving those goals. In Hiro’s case, what he wants (revenge) and what he needs (to connect with someone and grieve) are two very different things, but this moment is what puts him on the path to achieving both.

After the inciting incident, the story truly begins, and that moment is called crossing the threshold. This is when they leave the ordinary world, their slice of life, and everything begins to change.

Here’s some of my favorite examples.

Character goals tie into act one in a big way, so next week, I’ll be sharing what the Story Grid has to say about establishing character goals.

 

Arch Plot, Mini-plot, and Anti-plot

Book cover for The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne, #amwriting, #amediting, book review, how to write, how to edit

According to The Story Grid, the next step after establishing your stories genre is to establish which type of plot structure  you will be using to drive the story forward.

There are three.

The Arch Plot, which is what most stories will fall into. This is your classic plot, the heroes journey, the quest story. Even if your protagonist isn’t setting off to destroy the ring, they have a goal they are striving to accomplish by the end of the story, and the same basic beats exist story to story.

The Mini-Plot focuses on much more internal conflicts. Bottle episodes fall under the category of mini-plot.

The Anti-Plot  throws away all the rules of story telling. The narrative can be fractured, reality and time up in the air, the protagonist doesn’t change. It’s post-modernism at its finest.

For most writers, the arch-plot is your go-to story. There’s an occasional mini-plot thrown in there on the literary end. Anti-plots I can’t help you with. I was exposed to many throughout my years in college, and I always found them to be pretentious. Maybe that assumption was a defense mechanism because nine times out of ten, I just straight up didn’t get the story. But I really don’t see myself coming around on the anti-plot structure.

Can you think of any examples of stories that fall into these three plot structures?

Genre Conventions and Obligatory Scenes

Book cover for The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne, #amwriting, #amediting, book review, how to write, how to edit

In the Story Grid, Shawn Coyne talks at length about the conventions and obligatory scenes in different genres. Writing Excuses Season 11 goes into this as well.

Every genre has conventions. “Specific requirements in terms of the story’s cast or methods in moving the plot forward” (Story Grid, 47). The crime thriller is going to have a crime committed, a detective to solve it, and a criminal to commit the crime. A romance is going to have two characters fall in love with each other. Those facts are the conventions.

Obligatory scenes are the specific way those conventions are carried out. For instance, in a romance novel, there’s a first kiss scene. In a hero’s journey there’s the darkest night scene.

The fact that genres and conventions have obligatory scenes doesn’t mean that every single darkest night is the same or every conventional character is the same. It’s the way authors take what’s expected, what’s required for a genre and change it to fit their story that makes the conventions and obligatory scenes work. That moment in Inside Out where Joy is stuck down in the pit sobbing over Riley’s memories works even though a darkest night has been done in literally every movie and story ever written before. But you couldn’t take that moment and put it in something even similar. It wouldn’t have worked in Wreck it Ralph for instance because his darkest night had to feature him wrecking something.