Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"What If..." World-building with Michelle Picard

First, thank you Rowena for hosting me here at your Space Snark blog. I’m off on a race through my month long blog tour to introduce my newest release, Surviving Eden. Surviving Eden is the second in the Eden’s Court series. The first of these books, Ruling Eden, won a second place final in the 2010 PRISM awards this past summer. I have an incredible new video book trailer for the new release if you want to stop by my website ( and take a look on my books page for the link.

The basic premise for these contemporary romance fantasies? What if a modern woman suddenly learns she is heir to the throne of a magical realm hidden in our world and the most powerful magical being on the planet? That’s Rachel’s story (my heroine) as she finds herself in charge and fighting to make peace between vampires, shapeshifters, faeries, witches, demons, angels and dragons. All set to the backdrop of the Garden of Eden.

As a fantasy writer, it’s a no-brainer that I’m in love with the process of world building. I dove into my world of Eden’s Court after developing a common creation myth explaining the joint origins of the seven paranormal races and humanity. I decided to blame it all on Lillith. Name sound familiar? As I sought a home for my paranormal creatures for my story and a place to symbolize the nexus of their creation, it was easy to fall back upon the Judeo-Christian mythology of the Garden of Eden saturating western culture. I knew this would be an easy access point for western readers. I like taking familiar mythology and twisting it to make it just a bit uncomfortable or different for my audience. So what sort of research did I do about Eden to bring this altered version of the mythology to my pages?

In Jewish folklore, Lilith was the first wife of Adam, then banished from the garden when she refused to make herself subservient to him. This story does not appear in the book of Genesis, but even for a non-bible scholar like myself, this mythology was floating in the ether around me. In the original story Lilith is made into a demon figure. She is evil and her tale is reminiscent of original sin and women as evil temptresses. I unequivocally reject these notions and instead have seen the use of the name Lilith by modern Jewish feminists as a positive figure who represents the equality of women to men. In my constant struggle to create morally ambiguous villains, I decided to name the goddess who created life on Earth Lillith (slight tweak to common spelling in the myth). Although not originally identified as a villain in my first story, Ruling Eden, by the start of Surviving Eden it is clear Lillith plays this role. Still, I was not interested in buying into the negative picture of Adam’s first wife. Part of the story arc of the series involves the unveiling of Lillith’s motives and the transformation of this character away from a definition as a “bad guy” to a more complexly motivated entity who is invested and cares in her own alien goddess way. I love that type of transformation. I love it when by the end of a story I have no bad guys left. And not because I’ve killed them off.

In addition to concocting my goddess, I made Eden as magical as I could. I littered it with every known plant possible from every climate, gave it an infinite number of climates, made it shrink and expand as needed, and finally gave it sentience. No apple trees, however. This view of  Eden wasn’t based on research. Research is fun, but I wanted to take the nugget of the picture of paradise and expand that in unlimited directions. I wasn’t satisfied with making it a wholly idyllic place either because I love duality in all things. So murder and mayhem happens in my garden and it’s sentience shrieks out in very unattractive ways. It’s a magically powerful place, which multiplies the strength of any other beings’ magic, but my heroine has a love/hate relationship with it.

In my writing, taking the smallest piece of research brings me a long way when I add my creativity to the mix. It’s a jumping off point, but it tickles me to know something lies at the heart of the new idea, like the folklore tale of Lilith. And like a reference I made to angelic beliefs regarding the Tree of Life, with the image of this tree as part of the garden. (One of the paranormal races I feature in the story are angels.)

I hope you enjoy exploring Eden if you take a look at Surviving Eden or its predecessor Ruling Eden. You can find out more about me and my books at Don’t forget to watch my brand new book video trailer for Surviving Eden. As I said, the link appears on my books page on my website. You’ll find all the ways to contact me on the site in addition.

Be well, and I hope you find your own garden to nurture you. But don’t let it be too idyllic. What’s the fun in that?


Rachel Rieh wields enough magic to make a goddess jealous, or so she learned three weeks ago when she thought she was an ordinary, reclusive, and short-tempered gal from Boston. In this second story of Eden’s Court, Rachel, now the new ruler of the Kesayim, (angels, demons, dragons, faeries, vampires, shapeshifters and witches -- the goddess-created protectors of mortalkind) finds herself faced with the task of stopping vampire hunters from annihilating the vampire race. Her lover, Gabriel, half-angel, half-demon, stands by her side to help if she can escape her obsession with protecting him at all cost.

Earth is already on the verge of destruction within six months because magic is out of balance. The new threat to the vampires destabilizes the situation more. In her race to save the vampires, Rachel meets Lilith, goddess, creator of all Kesayim and humans, and the one with all the answers to Rachel’s problems. But is the cold-hearted goddess intent on changing Rachel into her image the greater threat to Rachel and everyone she loves?


Warning --since this is a PG blog-- the following contains explicit mention of body parts!!!  (Clinical terms)

Moonlight filtered through the windows of my bedroom, softly draping Gabriel’s naked body as he lay next to me on his stomach. His thoughts seemed to be somewhere else entirely. I loved how the pale light played along his flawless limbs, his smoothly muscled body. The silken sheets teased my already sensitive skin. I let my thoughts drift away from my gnawing guilt as I avoided discussion about my date with Colin. As Gabriel relaxed by my side, his aura glowed bright with his pleasure.
I’d given up on trying to shut-off my perception of auras. The dizzying visuals superimposed over everyone’s bodies were now becoming familiar, natural. Gabriel’s included the outline of a pair of wings jutting from his back. Their ghostly image had been present even before he manifested those wings for the first time during his battle with Michael in council.
Tonight was no exception. With downy feathers tucked magically away inside his body, a trick he alone of his angel counterparts could accomplish, his aura reflected their shining outline. The shadow wings were almost as lovely as the real thing.
I couldn’t resist running my fingers down the raised skin on both sides of his back while I lay beside him, my head supported by elbow and hand. I’d convinced myself Gabriel felt shy about the wings. I’d only seen them twice, including the time they manifested. But his hesitation to show them to me hurt. Perhaps he didn’t fully trust me. I dismissed that thought as ludicrous, but it still nagged at me.
My light tracing of the soft, barely perceptible tissue ridges sent pleasant tingles into my hand. His body tensed under the movement of my fingers and I felt his discomfort in the contact. Disappointed with his response, I stilled my fingertips.
“I won’t touch them if you don’t want me to,” I whispered into the hushed night of the room, holding my breath for his reply.
After a moment he relaxed, as if he’d fought through his initial hesitation to some decision. “Please continue,” he said, voice sleepy. “It feels good.”
I smoothed the ridges once again, delighting in the tiny shocks sparking into me. Gabriel’s voice bounced out into the moon-touched room, filling the space with its rich tones, surprising me with its serious intent. “When I was a child I fell asleep most every night dreaming of wings. I hated being born without them.” He paused. “The dream died long ago and I never thought to gain them. Yet… Here I am.”
My breath hitched hearing the pain of the memory in his cautious words. He sounded surprised to be speaking them. Guilt flooded through me for forcing him to expose himself to this hurtful past. Every day he walked into that negotiation room to manage the talks between the angels and demons. It was one thing for me to insist on facing my own memories head-on; another to see someone I loved forced into the same.
Gabriel caught my eyes before I could glance away. “I recognize that look on your face,” he chided. “You are blaming yourself, again.”
I kept my gaze on the window, the shadows of the garden just outside, wishing I could hide the waiver in my voice. “Don’t badmouth a little good old-fashioned guilt.” I tried to joke away his point-on comment. I swallowed past the lump in my throat and the will to give my smart-mouth rein died a sudden death. “My decision puts you in that room with them everyday.” I removed my hands from him, unable to continue my caress.
He shifted on his side, reaching his hand to cradle my face. “Being in that room may be frustrating, but it is valuable to me as well. I feel less need to run from them.”
My indignation surged on his behalf. I wanted to insist that he never ran, but hadn’t I accused him of the same weeks ago? My words had been to the effect that he’d bought into their crap about being an abomination. I’d wanted this experience for him--a chance to put to rest the ghosts that haunted him. I just hadn’t counted on how witnessing his pain during the process would shred my heart.
He smiled as if he’d recognized the play of thoughts and emotions running across my face and valued them. “I did run, in my own way. But being forced to watch the angels and demons confront their issues, I feel less like I am some shameful secret that must be denied.”
“I’m sorry this hurts you,” I blurted, my words choking me. I hated how out of control my emotions became with him. I valued my control.
His voice roughened with irritation. “You never forced me into the room. It was my choice, if you remember.”
“Yeah, but--"
“Do not make less of what I do by claiming responsibility for that choice. I survived hundreds of years making my own decisions before you were even born.”
Gabriel’s tone made my hackles rise for just a moment before I remembered his pain. He had a point, but I wasn’t about to give up on blaming myself in this matter. Call me masochistically stubborn.
His momentary anger dissolved, shifting into an all too different mood. His fingers moved in a caress of my cheek. He was a master at distracting me when he wanted and I’d sullenly noted before how most of the time this was a good thing. “Besides,” his voice lazed, “I need your mind focused elsewhere. It has always been my fantasy to make love to a woman with wings wrapped around us, brushing along our bodies.”
My mouth quirked up as my nipples tightened. “Any woman in particular, or will you just put out a personal ad? Wanted: female with wing fetish. Only those already butt naked need apply.” His chuckle tightened all things lower on me and I shifted on the bed, anticipation licking my skin.

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RowenaBCherry said...

Fascinating, Michelle. Thank you for sharing a glimpse into your research and writing.

Barbara Monajem said...

Interesting blog. When I study the motivations of the bad guys in my stories, often they turn into good guys in their own way. Not always, though! Sometimes they're completely unredeemable.

Michelle Picard said...

Thanks for having me, Rowena. It was fun. And I know what you mean Barbara. Even if I don't save my bad guys at the end in every case, at least I have compassion for them. Thanks for commenting.

RowenaBCherry said...

Hi, Michelle,

It was a quiet day today, or else busy elsewhere. Do be sure to check back, because there may well be more traffic later. There usually is.

I hope your tour is going really well. Where will you be tomorrow and Friday?

Andrea I said...

I like hearing how authors go about their craft. Congratulations on the new release.

Michelle Picard said...

Rowena--Thanks for the good wishes on the tour. I'm at Naughty Mommy Reviews and Junk tomorrow and Authors by Authors on Friday. Folks can check in at my blogsite to get the correct links.

And thanks Andrea for your congratulations. It's amazing the many different ways writers go about this stuff. And sometimes funny how alike we are.