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In recent posts, I’ve mentioned the role research has played in my upcoming tween novel, Taylor Davis and the Clash of Kingdoms. Today I want to give you a peek into how the creative process merged with that research.
One of the subjects I tackled this time around was the trickster. This is a figure in mythology who accomplishes his goals through the use of wit and trickery rather than physical strength. They are often shape shifters, as well. Anansi the spider is probably the most well-known trickster. Others include Brer Rabbit, Puck from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a variety of mythical gods, and even the fox and coyote characters in many fables.
For Clash of Kingdoms, I wanted a new challenge for Taylor and company. Since Africa plays so prominently in this story, and since the Anansi legends originated there, I decided a trickster would suit my needs very well. So I created one.
Simgali is a beautiful woman with the ability to turn into a white lioness. (Okay, I had to make her powerful as well as clever. It’s no fun to fight a weakling!) One glance at her face will bewitch a man to her will. She’s smooth, agile, and lethal. Her history is rooted in real African mythology, which I tweaked to fit the spiritual rules of my series. Poor Taylor doesn’t fare so well in her presence. I’d like you to make her acquaintance.
Here’s a passage that shows her abilities well. Pardon the deletions. It takes place at a crucial moment, and I didn’t want to give too much away:
Eerie, disembodied laughter rippled around us. It was musical, like the ringing of chimes.
We whipped around to see a beautiful woman fade into sight behind us. She was lithe and long-limbed, with golden skin and blond, almost white, hair. “You thought it would be so easy to slip into the Gray Admiral’s [delete], did you?”
Her voice was as melodic as her laughter. And just as creepy.
“You’re too late, Simgali,” Mike warned. “We already have the [delete] right here.”
She shrugged. It was a beautiful movement. Nonchalant. Hypnotic. “A lot of good it will do you. [Delete, delete, delete]”
Mike never had much of a poker face to begin with, and it failed him now. Not that I noticed. I couldn’t look away from Simgali.
“Bartholomew wanted you to [delete].” She smiled, exactly like the cat that swallowed the canary. “I simply had to give him enough time to set the first strand of his plan fully in motion. By now, nothing will be able to stop [delete, delete]. He will have his war.”
“First strand?” Mike questioned. “What else does he have planned?”
Simgali narrowed her eyes. “You’ll find out soon enough, you little worm.”
I smiled and sighed. She was so beautiful.
“What are you going to do with us?” Elena challenged. “You can’t fight us all.” She gripped her crossbow.
“Do with you?” Simgali sneered. I was in ecstasy. “I don’t have to do anything with you. I’m simply waiting for a telephone call.”
“Then you won’t mind if we leave.” Elena marched toward the door.
There was a rush of wind as the woman sprang, catlike, to intercept her. Her smile grew menacing. “You’ll leave when I say you’ll leave.”
Elena raised her crossbow and fired at the cat woman, who turned vaporous the moment the bolt touched her skin. She solidified into a lioness and slashed a warning across Elena’s shoulder. Elena cried out in pain and smashed the crossbow against the cat’s muzzle. It was a reflexive move that didn’t give even the Trickster’s feline reflexes time to react. I had to credit Elena with some major guts for that one—now that the Trickster was back in animal form and I had regained my senses.
Simgali snarled with rage, but before she could lunge at Elena, Ranofur stepped behind her and wrapped the lioness in his powerful arms.
She struggled futilely for a few moments before shimmering into nothingness and reappearing behind us. Mike sent a knife her way, and I made a few sweeps with Emblazon [his new sword], but the big cat avoided every attempt on her life.
She morphed back into human form and mocked us. “You cannot best me, you fools.”
Ranofur took a swing at her with his mace. She flipped away from him in an incredible back handspring. Elena shot again, but Simgali avoided the bolt with one graceful twist of her body.
I sighed, my sword slipping to the ground. I was completely enthralled.
Mike fired three knives in Simgali’s direction and she deftly sidestepped each one. She laughed again. “Give up? Or shall we continue? I can dance with you all day.”
Taylor Davis and the Clash of Kingdoms will release on January 1, 2014. (You didn’t know that yet, did you?)