A Look into the Heart of a Guardian

This post is hard to write. But I wanted to share with you the inspiration behind Tellen, in the Comstock Chronicles.

As far as the human aspect of Tellen goes, much of the credit goes to my husband. He is the joy in my life. He has a love for the earth that is hard not to admire. From growing berries and corn to seeing our grass and trees flourish, he has the epitome of a green thumb.

Much of these characteristics found their way into the creation of Tellen Ramforth. Other things, including some of his flaws and things that set him off also found their way into this character. All of this combines into a person that feels real.

But we can’t forget the skin changer side of Tellen.

The wolf side of our favorite Earth Guardian came from my dog and best canine friend, Rio.

I found my dog on a craigslist ad from a shelter a few towns away. He was a six week old puppy that had been dropped off and they were looking for a new home. I went to bed that night unable to stop thinking about the puppy in the listing. I felt so compelled to reach out and see if he was still available.

So the next day I did. Longer story short, I drove home with a puppy that looked weak and likely to not make it to the end of the day. He didn’t make a sound. Not even a whimper. I started to wonder if his voice box didn’t work. But the more love I gave and the more weight he gained, his little pig-like tail got curlier by the day.

Nine years fly by and I find myself in tears as my beloved dog closed his eyes for the last time this past week. Yet, every time I cry, I also find myself thinking of every wonderful memory he gave me. He embodied love for all who were part of our family. He was the protector of my children when they played outside. He guarded my chickens from coyotes and other critters. There were also those moments when he would jump in the creek and stand right next to me to fling water off his coat. And yet, I loved every moment I got to share with this dog her stole my heart from the beginning.

Thanks to this beloved dog, the motto “Love, Family, and Honor” came into being. If you have a canine friend, take the time today to sit down and give some of that unfailing love back to those who give it so freely. You never know if you’ll get the chance tomorrow.

Vanessa Thurgood

Vanessa is the author of the Comstock Chronicles and loves hiking, running, and exploring the mountains that make up the scenery in her books.

What Makes You Feel Connected to a Character?

One of the best opening lines I’ve read recently was:

“This job’s going to kill me.”

The Midnight Thief ~ Livia Blackburne
To read my full book review click here

This line hooked me into the story so fast that I was a hundred pages in before I realized it. Having a great opening line in a story is crucial to readers wanting to keep going. But IMHO it isn’t the biggest thing.

For me, what really drives a story is the author’s ability to take a fictional person and make them human. Those characters have the potential to become so real that you don’t feel like you’re reading. It’s more like you’ve become part of the story with them.

That is my hope as I continue to share my books with the world. And today I wanted to share my process for crafting my characters.

When creating my main characters, I ensure that they:

  • Have something special about them. (i.e. special skill, unique ability, unconquerable determination, etc.)
  • Have conflicting characteristics.
  • Have something to lose
  • Are proactive vs. reaction. The are the driver of the story and MUST take action in one way or another.
  • Are likable or redeemable

If I can hit those five points I have a great start to my character. The next phase is to do some of the following:

  • Must have a difficult problem/situation to solve.
  • Something worthy or desirable to gain
  • An interesting flaw (fatal flaws)
  • A terrible secret
  • A compelling enemy
  • Powerful or good at what they do
  • Terrible situation

Once I have a good enough feel for who my character is that I can get inside their heads, I head over to 16personalities.com and take a personality test from each Point of View character’s perspective. This is where the magic happens. If I know what my character’s positive and negative personality traits are, I can begin crafting scenes that allow them to struggle and see how they come out of it.

For example, I know that Nienna (who is an Advocate personality) cannot stand to see other people hurt. She will do everything she can to help those around her. When she’s overwhelmed; however, she will silently disappear. Being around too many people is over stimulating and it can make it feel like its hard to breath.

We can also look at Tellen (Logician personality turbulent) who likes order, rules to follow, and expects his pack of Pathfinders follow suit. When he runs into a problem he can’t solve right away, he becomes unsure of himself, and struggles with his self-esteem. He can be easily jealous and holds a grudge.

a digital art image of a man with curly black hair, olive skin, and a black outfit worn by characters of assassin's creed. He needs to hold a sword in his hand and have magic green sparks around him.

I hope you enjoyed this shallow dive into how I create the characters for my books, and if you’re a writer, come join me and my students as we go more in-depth on this and other topics!

Have a great week friends!

Vanessa Thurgood

Vanessa is the author of the Comstock Chronicles. She loves reading and writing and sharing both with you. You can follow her on Instagram to stay up to date with new releases and other news.

A Little Photo Inspiration for Your Day

Before I was an author, I was a photographer. I did weddings, family portraits, headshots, and product photography. However, my favorite was and still is landscape. Today I want to share some of my favorite shots over the years. These outdoor excursions helped build the world of the Guardians from rocky mountainsides to lush forests and rugged desert.

Sneak Peek at THE QUEEN OF THE NIGHT

Today I’m sharing the first chapter of THE QUEEN OF THE NIGHT. I don’t have an official release date for this book yet, but it will be soon. I hope you enjoy!

***Note: This is a new first chapter for those who’ve read the additional material at the end of THE RAIDER’S CURSE.

PROLOGUE

Alturis 1285; Nienna’s third year as a student at Alturis University

Stars glittered like diamond dust between the double milky band that dissected the firmament. Nienna’s third-year cartography class held session on a small island’s rocky shore in the middle of Lake Alta. They were learning to use the stars to create their latest map.

She’d rarely stayed up so late; however, the view of the celestial brilliance above was worth it. The night was deep enough that most of the noise and bustle from the city had gone to bed. Crickets and frogs sang their chorus to the hum of a thousand waterfalls.

Nienna’s professor, Serian Kettle, stood in the center of her students, waiting. A three-foot wide plant in a pot rested next to the striking woman. When Nienna asked about it, the professor only gave her a wink.

“Quickly, class. Finish your assignments and turn them in. We’re entering the deepest part of the night, and I promise you won’t want to miss this.” The bangles on Kettle’s arms jangled as she adjusted her purple teaching robes.

A frantic Annalynn scrawled on her parchment, handing in her assignment just as the professor gave the last call. When her friend found a blanket and settled in next to Nienna, she opened her mouth, likely to share more gossip.

“Ready, class?” Professor Kettle asked.

“So Uriah said—” Annalynn began, but Nienna held up a hand to stall her friend.

“Tell me once we’re on the ferry. I want to pay attention.”

Annalynn scowled.

There was no moon tonight, though Nienna swore her professor smirked as her eyes landed on the pair. The teachers and students only knew Nienna as Nina Rostock, a wealthy merchant’s daughter. However, Kettle often gave her the impression of knowing more than she let on.

“Good. Now, who remembers the coordinates for the Four Pillars? You should have marked that on your map.”

“Which Pillar?” a student asked.

“Nice catch,” the professor said. Her smile had grown. “The North Star.”

“It’s 90.274 degrees north by 79.121 degrees west,” he recited.

“Correct,” Kettle said. “Who can tell me why we call this star and its companions the Four Pillars?”

Nienna spoke up. “Because they’re the only stars that remain in their positions all night. They create the foundational compass used in mapmaking.”

“You’ve been doing your homework, Nina. Yes, the Four Pillars never waver in their positions in the night sky. If one star did this, it wouldn’t seem so odd. But to have four stars remain stationary strains credibility. And yet here they are. Who knows the story behind these stars?”

Nienna had never read about it, and apparently, neither had anyone else.

Kettle pursed her lips. “Our folklore is withering away because of superstition. The taboo topic can land you a night in the bricks. For this reason, we’re here on this island tonight.”

Several hushed whispers broke out. Professor Kettle waited until they’d died down before continuing.

“As of this moment, our class has officially ended. You must zealously guard the information I’m about to share. We must keep this knowledge alive, although not at the expense of your career or your life.”

Nienna’s full attention was on Professor Kettle now. If their class was officially over, this could only be one thing. No wonder the older students were mum when she asked why this class was special.

“The most ancient and consistent accounts state these stars represent the four Guardians who created this world.”

Few topics interested Nienna like the Guardians. Though none were more dangerous. After the collapse of the Comstock empire, no one could openly speak of them except to curse their names. After centuries of this, knowledge of them withered, making it hard to discern between fact, fiction, and outright lies.

“Aros, the North Star,” Kettle was saying, “created the sky, wind, and weather. Serene, the West Star, ripples her light like the water she formed. Fiora, the South Star, has a reddish hue like the fire that keeps us warm at night. Then there’s Tellen, the East Star.”

Hissing and quick curse words accompanied this name. A few students took three fingers and dragged them crosswise to ward off evil. Owen, her elder brother, had given her many sleepless nights with tales of this Guardian beneath blanket forts as children.

“Tellen is perhaps the most notorious of the Guardians, despite giving us the soil, plants, and animals,” Professor Kettle said.

Nienna shuddered as Kettle said the name of the Earth Guardian again. He was the reason the Comstock empire collapsed a thousand years ago, nearly taking the Tellidine kingdom with it. Tellen’s name was synonymous with black magic.

“Oh, class, look!” Kettle exclaimed.

Everyone craned their necks to see what the professor was pointing at. “It’s the Queen of the Night. Her constellation just appeared in the northeast quadrant of the Pillars.”

“The what?” Annalynn asked.

“Surely you’ve heard of the most infamous thief Tellidus has ever known,” Kettle said.

“Why was she so infamous?” a boy asked.

“According to legend, the Queen of the Night robbed Tellidus of half its wealth while halting nearly every industry, from logging to masonry to farming. She was also a favored servant of the Earth Guardian.”

Nienna knew this. Every history book her tutors gave her said as much. The Comstocks instilled a hatred of the thief in every generation.

“They never caught the woman until our king and founder, Saul Comstock, took up the hunt. He beheaded her for her crimes. Or so stories say.” Kettle gave them a sly grin. “I believe the thief still walks among us.”

Nienna stared at the professor. Then something strange happened. A dozen blooms on the potted plant opened on the dark green foliage, shimmering with white light. The petals unfurled, casting their brilliant glow on the professor.

“When the Queen of the Night appears in the heavens, always between Aros and Tellen, this plant opens its blossoms,” Professor Kettle said. “It’s called the Queen of the Night flower. It only blooms while the constellation remains in the sky. The smell is intoxicating, making it irresistible to night feeders.”

Sure enough, several bats and moths swooped in to drink the sweet nectar. Even one hungry hummingbird appeared, took its turn at a flower, then zipped away faster than before. The professor picked a shimmering blossom and brought it to her nose.

“These flowers are unique from other flora in these woods. They offer the drinker enhanced vitality, whether human or animal. While this flower can enhance your abilities, the effects wear off after a few hours. This will leave the drinker weak and ill.”

Nienna leaned forward to get a better view of the flower. They reminded her of bloodroot blossoms with their golden center.

Kettle continued. “Those who ingest the nectar repeatedly, especially within a brief time span, will find their lungs shutting down. The nectar will rob the person’s ability to breathe if not treated quickly. Just like a thief in the night.”

Those students closest to the plant scooted a safe distance away.

“The white glow of the flowers is also unique. When we dry them to harvest their bioluminescent qualities, the color turns gold. This is why they’re used in the summer solstice celebration inside the sugar globes.”

Talk of the summer solstice sparked a fresh wave of chatter among the students. Professor Kettle waited until the whispers quieted before going on.

“To return to their namesake, some stories say the thief changed into a bird, flying away before Saul could execute her. As Tellen’s tears fell, these flowers sprang out of the ground. Others say her death caused the fall of the Guardians.”

Nienna studied the glowing flowers. Pockets of white light always appeared around the gorge late at night. She’d always thought they were groups of people going for nighttime hikes. Now she realized they were these flowers.

Professor Kettle bent to inspect one of the biggest blossoms. “For all we know, the Queen of the Night is a grand story. Likely made up to explain the constellation and this magnificent flower.”

A few of the class members tittered. Most myths were just grand stories. Why should this one be any different? However, the longer Nienna stared at the potted plant, she was certain the truth existed somewhere in Professor Kettle’s story.

She brought her eyes back to the constellation circling above her. There were many unanswered questions about the Comstocks’ past.

Nienna sighed. What she wouldn’t give to know the truth.

Thank you for reading. This text is copyrighted material. No reproductions or copies may be made without the written consent of the author.

Book Review: The Midnight Thief

As I was trolling through my libraries bookshelves recently, I came across THE MIDNIGHT THIEF by Livia Blackburne. The cover intrigued me and the book blurb carried a lot of promise. It didn’t disappoint. But before I dive in, here is a recap of how I structure my reviews:

  • Plot Structure: How well the story was put together.
  • Character Development: Level of growth a character achieves and how well the author makes them feel “real.”
  • Language: Level of swearing, innuendos, verbal abuse, and other triggers.
  • Violence: Level of fight scenes and gore.
  • Sexual Content: Level of physical intimacy.

Now for the review.

THE MIDNIGHT THIEF is a Young Adult novel about a girl named Kyra living on the streets of Forge, scraping by as a thief for hire. Her latest job, to steal a ruby from a rich man residing on the main wall of the castle, turns out to be more of a test. After she is unable to locate the ruby, she returns to her friend and the man who hired her with a few other trinkets to prove she got in and got out.

As the story progresses, we discover the man is the head of the Assassin’s guild, most thought extinct. He hires her to do some thievery for him with the promise of better pay and steady work. Soon, Kyra is in over her head, and is desperate to get out. The question is whether she gets out of the guild alive.

This book is fast paced with plenty of action. The violence is not overdone and neither is the language. Kyra is a strong character, proactive in her decision making, and compassionate. She’s everything we hope for with a female protagonist. The antagonist, James, is equally thrilling with his unyielding temperament and prowess as a leader and fighter.

The only spot in the story I felt the ends were still loose was during Krya’s final battle with James. It felt a bit forced to make the ends meet and predictable. However, this fact didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the book as I came to the ending which left me with plenty of questions on how things will shake out in the next book called DAUGHTER OF THE DAWN. (Please note: I have not read any of the following books in this series, but when/if I do, I will post their reviews on the blog).

Overall, I would give this book 4.5 stars and would put a reading level/ maturity level at high school age. The rankings below are on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being poor or none, and 10 being high or excellent.

  • Plot Structure: 8 – I thought in general the book came together very well, if following a bit of a prescribed cause and effect structure.
  • Character Development: 7 – Krya went from a lowly thief to one willing to take risks to save her friends. Good character growth was demonstrated throughout.
  • Language: 3 – language in general was mild.
  • Violence: 6 – Animal attacks, murders, and mishaps were prevalent. Luckily the author does not go into great depth in details.
  • Sexual Content: 3 – There is definitely some attraction between Kyra and James that comes through most of the book, but nothing really comes of it. Kyra kisses another man.

If you’re looking for a next read, I would check this one out. But be warned, you will stay up late reading if you get started on it, so plan accordingly. 😁

For a full book description, you can read the Amazon blurb below. If you check out this book, dm me on Instagram and let me know what you thought, or you can comment belowe.

As always, keep reading my friends and I’ll catch you next week!

Vanessa Thurgood

I’m a Young Adult Epic Fantasy author who loves to read as much as write. I strive to write clean and exciting books for anyone looking to escape in an adventure in lush landscapes and love recommending other books I think you’ll love.

Subscribe to this blog to stay up to date on my latest recommendations.

THE MIDNIGHT THIEF by Livia Blackburne

Intrigue prowls around every corner—and danger is a way of life—in this arresting YA fantasy novel.

Growing up on Forge’s streets has taught Kyra how to stretch a coin. And when that’s not enough, her uncanny ability to scale walls and bypass guards helps her take what she needs. But when the leader of the Assassins Guild offers Kyra a lucrative job, she hesitates. She knows how to get by on her own, and she’s not sure she wants to play by his rules. But he is persistent—and darkly attractive—and Kyra can’t quite resist his pull.

Tristam of Brancel is a young Palace knight on a mission. After his best friend is brutally murdered by the Demon Riders, a clan of vicious warriors who ride bloodthirsty wildcats, Tristam vows to take them down. But as his investigation deepens, he finds his efforts thwarted by a talented thief, one who sneaks past Palace defenses with uncanny ease.

When a fateful raid throws Kyra and Tristam together, the two enemies realize that their best chance at survival—and vengeance—might be to join forces, even as their loyalties are tested to the breaking point.

Find it here on Amazon, or check with your local library.

How do your cartographer skills measure up?

Several years ago, when I finally wrote the story living in my head, I set about doing on what typical jobs women had back in the roman through middle ages. I’ll admit, it was pretty paltry. Most societies only allowed women to raise children, run a household, and weave cloth.

The only bright side I found came from the Greeks in Sparta, who encouraged the women to exercise like the men. The biggest reason they got to do this, however, was because it produced healthier babies. Go figure.

Then when we get to the middle ages, you can find stories of women taking up the sword either in defense of themselves or their people, or out of revenge. But most of those women, at least from their depictions, were very brawny and often considered outlaws. So what is an author to do with a female character with a smaller build and enjoys her femininity?

Thank goodness I can across some text that stated in the middle ages through the renaissance, they sometimes hired women who were good at drawing as cartographers. Thus, Nienna Comstock finally found her profession.

Almost four years after that point, I needed to see what the land around Tellidus looked like. I wish I would have done this when I first wrote book 1. But as my mother-in-law always says, “Hindsight is always 20/20.”

I grew up in the mountains and thought I knew how the landscape fit together. However, I found that certain things that I thought worked in my world ended up not working at all and had to be scrapped.

After a month’s worth of work, here is your first glance at Nienna’s world.

Before you click away, I need some help. This world I’ve created does not have a name! I’m asking readers to either comment below, send a DM on my instagram, or email to author@vanessathurgood.com with your suggestions on what I should name my world. If your suggestion is accepted, You’ll get a shoutout in the updated version of THE EARTHSPARK when the final product is released.

Sounds like a deal?

Until next time, my friends!

Vanessa Thurgood