Monday, October 26, 2015

Rise Of The Sidenah by C.M. Story

Title: Rise of the Sidenah
Author: C.M. Story
Genre: YA Fantasy

Adrienna Vedica longs to build the creatures living in her imagination. One day, she hopes to sculpt them out of stone, creating great statues like those that guard the Celany village. 

She doesn’t understand why everyone seems to disapprove. 

It’s only when Tishaan, a powerful man in the high council, agrees to help her sculpt that Adrienna is finally able to pursue her passion. She dives into her work, but creates with such energy she collapses from exhaustion before seeing the final results, giving Tishaan time to hide her masterpieces away. 

Her mentor, Sreng—the man she secretly loves—tries to convince her that Tishaan is using her, but she can’t abandon her art. Only when people start showing up dead does she think again. There’s something off about Tishaan…and then Sreng shows her one of her early works. 

But something is wrong. 

It’s alive. And it’s digging a grave.


“Yes. I want to pass. Of course I want to pass.”
Sreng looked more intensely into her eyes and she turned her head away, afraid he was reading her thoughts again. “Do you know why you want to pass?”
She nodded.
He waited, but she said nothing more. “It’s best if your motivation is…” He paused. “Well, if it is coming from, or tied to your future, your place in Celany society.”
Adrienna had to concentrate to keep from rolling her eyes. Now he was going to tell her she mustn’t hope for something between the two of them. He had said as much at other times, though always with this hesitant, roundabout language. All to live up to Celany standards, she knew, some code of conduct that as far as she was concerned made no difference, especially if she passed the trial. So he had trained her? How did that make their connection forbidden? She looked away, but he continued.
“I am concerned.” He clasped his hands in front him and squared his shoulders. “Concerned your current focus may not serve you at the arena, when the Interrogator is challenging you. You need a crystal clear image in mind, one that reflects who you will be once the trial—”
“The Tucadorr.” She lifted her chin and centered her gaze on his. “I saw it. Yesterday.”
He started as if she’d slapped him.
It was a desperate move, a way to get him off lecturing her, but she relished the surprised look on his face.
She pointed to the edge of the lake.
“Here? You’re certain?”
“Olwyn crossed to the inlet. I was on the bank, waiting for her. At first I was resting, but when I looked up, it was there, staring at me.”
Sreng fingered the scabbard hanging from his belt. “It just stood there?”
She nodded. “When Olwyn came back, it disappeared.”
His frown deepened. “Did it look the same?”
“Exactly.” She paused. “But it was a long time ago.” She waited, hoping he would assure her the Tucadorr was one of many, a single creature belonging to some species roaming in large packs on the other side of the twin peaks. The first one was an aberration long gone by now. The one she spotted on the other side of the lake was a distant relative, if that. But he said nothing. No words to suggest the one she had seen wasn’t the very same lone creature that still haunted her nightmares. 
“You told me it was dead,” she said.
He walked to the opening of the cave and looked down on the water. He seemed to be searching for it. “I was sure it would not return.”
“I thought you killed it.”
He leaned against the rock. “So did I.”

Stephen King Coffee Table Book Inspires the Story of a Sculptress 
One day at the library many years ago, I picked up a coffee table book by Stephen King (who wrote the text) and f-stop Fitzgerald (who took the photos) called Nightmares in the Sky. I was doing some research at the time for a middle grade story about gargoyles, and just happened to run across this great resource. 
Despite the scary title (part of King’s contribution, no doubt), I found the book fascinating. Fitzgerald had taken a number of pictures of gargoyles throughout Europe and the United States. To me, the sculptures seemed magical instead of scary, the endless variety of artwork in stone beyond what I had imagined was ever accomplished in Gothic architecture or during any other period.
It was that book, and a bit of imagination, that inspired my novel, Rise of the Sidenah.

Who Made the Gargoyles?
As I looked through the photographs, I got really curious. Each gargoyle was so different, unique, and amazing in its own way.  
Who were the artists behind these magnificent stone carvings? 
That question set me on a different quest than I’d been on before. I had been looking for the gargoyles themselves, but suddenly I was interested in the creators who made them. What inspired one artist to carve a dragon, another a monkey sort of creature, and another a kind of haggard dog with its ribs showing?
I discovered they were called “stonecutters,” and back then, they were just as common as painters and musicians and writers. These were the artists who carved the statues, shaped the columns, and formed the cornices. They used chisels and mallets to fashion the stone as they wished, each putting his own unique stamp on his creations. 
What must it have been like to be one of these individuals? 

All Artists Make Mistakes
I’ve been a musician all my life. I play the French horn in the symphony to this day, which means I know how stressful it can be to be an artist. If you have a solo, for example, and it’s in the middle of a beautiful symphony, the last thing you want to do is mess it up. 
I wondered: What if, while carving, a stonecutter made a mistake? Did he have to start over? Rethink the design? Try to cover it up somehow? 
As I thought about these things, my main character, Adrienna Vedica, came to life. She’s a talented but flawed young woman who wants nothing more than to be a sculptress. Unfortunately, she lives in a society where the talents of a stonecutter are not valued as much as those of, say, of a teacher or farmer. But carving the white stone is all Adrienna wants to do. 

How Far Should You Go to Fulfill a Dream?
How many risks should one take when chasing a dream? The real stonecutters feared only making their clients unhappy, or losing their jobs. For Adrienna, the stakes are higher, because unbeknownst to her, she has a special talent. 
When she carves the magical white stone, it comes to life. 
(You can see where this came from. I mean, who can look at a gargoyle without imagining it looking back?)
For the longest time, Adrienna is unaware of this. She carves with super-human power, and collapses when she is done. That gives her mentor, a conniving man, the chance to hide her sculptures away. It also allows him to take advantage of Adrienna’s mistakes, and there are many. Like any young artist, she needs time to practice and learn, but unlike a canvas tossed aside by a painter, or a manuscript burned by an author, Adrienna’s mistakes live to haunt her, and those she loves. 
How far should a person go to follow her heart? I imagine some of the stonecutters may have been nervous about how others would see their creations. Yet they let their imaginations lead them, and the results are still there for us to view today. 
In learning more about their work, I was inspired to create a character who did the same, but under much more dangerous conditions that put her and her family at risk. 
Would such a path be worth the consequences? 
I’ll leave it to readers to decide.  

C. M. Story has always been a fan of fantasy in all its many forms, including the kind she frequently indulged in during boring lectures in school. She didn't try her hand at penning her own stories, however, until long after she'd gotten her Bachelor's degree in music. 

Once she sold her first short story, she got a writing job and never looked back. Today she runs a successful freelance writing and editing business out of her home in Idaho, and frequently travels to other inspiring places with her trusty laptop in tow. And yes, despite rumors to the contrary, "Story" is her real last name.

"Rise of the Sidenah" was inspired by gothic architecture, a tune by "The Calling," and the idea that following the heart may cause pain, but is the only way to truly fulfill one's purpose in life.

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