If you are a regular reader here (and you are, right?) then you have probably heard me mention one of my favorite authors, Mindy Klasky. Mindy is not only a fabulous author, writing everything from humorous paranormal romance to traditional fantasy to contemporary romance, she is also an amazing editor (who helped me become a much better writer, back in my early days) and an over-all sweetheart.
She is also, as of this year, an author named Morgan Keyes. (Writing is the only business where they encourage you to have a split personality!) With her newest venture, a middle-grade book called DARKBEAST, written as Morgan Keyes, Mindy has given us yet another author (and book) to love.
This book is perfect for the younger reader, but make no mistake, this book is great for the adult reader too. I hope you'll help me to encourage Morgan in her newest endeavor, and spread the word about DARKBEAST. Just as we did with my contest last week, go spread the word online or click "like" on Amazon, and come back here and tell me you did it, and I will give away a book to one lucky reader. And Morgan is giving one away too--let's see what she has to say!
Many thanks to Deborah, for allowing me to visit and tell you about my middle grade fantasy novel, Darkbeast. Due to the generosity of my publisher, Simon & Schuster, I will give away a copy of Darkbeast to one commenter chosen at random from all the comments made to this post by 11:59 p.m. EDT tonight.
In Darkbeast, twelve-year-old Keara runs away from home rather than sacrifice Caw, the raven darkbeast that she has been magically bound to all her life. Pursued by Inquisitors who would punish her for heresy, Keara joins a performing troupe of Travelers and tries to find a safe haven for herself and her companion.
When Keara strikes out on the Great Road, she doesn't have a lot of survival skills. She isn't a warrior, capable of holding her own in any physical encounter. She isn't a shrewd merchant, able to negotiate her way in any fiscal transaction. She isn't cloaked in the mystery of her religion, protected by sacred vows (quite the opposite, in fact!)
But Keara has a secret stash of knowledge, information so basic to her life that she scarcely thinks of it as an asset. Keara knows herbs. She knows which plants can heal and which can poison. She has mastered harvesting methods and drying techniques. She has memorized growing seasons, even for rare plants that thrive far from her home.
Keara's herblore is a gift from her strict, demanding mother. Even though Keara would be hard-pressed to admit the truth, she has absorbed her encyclopedic knowledge through hard work and constant repetition. Handling herbs has been necessary for most of Keara's life; it's the only way her widowed mother could support herself and her three daughters.
Throughout Darkbeast, Keara walks a narrow line about the power of herbs. It is never precisely clear whether her plants work because she has some magical powers, or because she retains ancient, practical lore. Keara might be reaching out to supernatural strength, or she might succeed merely because she has mastered old, forgotten ways.
While writing the novel, I reveled in this ambiguity. I did not want to give my heroine the "flash" of magical powers – specific spells that she could recite, concrete potions that she could brew. I wanted a greater air of mystery, a resonating note of the unknown.
To that end, I varied the herbs I mention by name. Some, like feverfew, are very real. Others, though, are entirely made up, with properties different from any plants in our real world. Readers unfamiliar with herblore might not know what is real and what is created.
And that's the way I like it. Uncertainty is one of the essential flavors of Darkbeast. As a twelve-year-old fugitive, Keara does not have all the answers about her world. (Sometimes, in fact, she barely knows the questions to ask.) I enjoy putting my readers in the same circumstances, at least part of the time.
So? What about you? Do you find it intriguing when an author creates magic tangential to real witchcraft as it is practiced today? Or do you find it frustrating because it runs counter to your own experience?
Morgan can be found online at:
Darkbeast is for sale in bricks-and-mortar and online bookstores, including: Amazon | B & N | Indiebound
Morgan Keyes grew up in California, Texas, Georgia, and Minnesota, accompanied by parents, a brother, a dog, and a cat. Also, there were books. Lots and lots of books. Morgan now lives near Washington, D.C. In between trips to the Natural History Museum and the National Gallery of Art, she reads, travels, reads, writes, reads, cooks, reads, wrestles with cats, and reads. Because there are still books. Lots and lots of books.