Beauty in the Beast
by Emily-Jane Hills Orford
GENRE: fantasy/science fiction
Priya, a name that suggests beautiful. Amell, a name that suggests all powerful. One is a beautiful young lady; the other a beast. Their paths have crossed before, only Priya doesn’t remember Amell from her past. Or does she? And what does it all mean? The Amell she meets is part beast. So are the others at Castle Mutasim. Is she one of them, too? How can this be? What manner of creature would experiment on other living creatures, to mutate them into something bizarre and, sometimes, downright dangerous? Priya has to know. She wants to know. And she wants to make things right.
“Amell,” she screamed. “Amell. Help me.”
She was pinned in a hunk of metal, the world around her growing darker by the minute. And it was cold. Bitter. Bone-chilling. A soft tongue licked her cheek. Whines and a warm breath slipped into her ear. Bear. Her three-year-old mutt, a Border Collie-Black Lab mix. Black and white. Full of love and mischief. Her strength in a time of need. Like right now.
She had rescued Bear. A puppy tossed in a dumpster. Left to die. The two were inseparable. Now, she was failing Bear. And they would die.
One final scream, “Amell.”
“I’m so sorry, Bear,” she whispered.
As she slipped into oblivion, she felt a fog of confusion slither through her brain. Who is Amell?
Who am I?
By Emily-Jane Hills Orford
When I teach creative writing (for any age group), this is one of the first exercises I ask of my students. It’s also the last exercise. Why? It’s quite simple, really. First of all, as writers, we are constantly being asked to provide author biographies. This, of course, is written in third person. However, we also need to define ourselves from a more personal perspective, in first person. By defining ourselves as writers, we strengthen our writing resolve and we come to the stark realization that this process of “who am I?” is an ongoing, multi-dimensional, ever-changing exercise. Everything in the world is in a state of flux and so are we as writers. As writers, we have to know who we are in this big, diverse world before we can ever begin to place ourselves and our souls into everything we write.
So, who am I? I am a writer. Therefore, I am immortal. Pretty powerful words for one such as I, relatively unknown (for now, but that will change, I hope). I am a storyteller, a descendant of many storytellers, a passionate believer in the simple fact that life is a story just waiting to be told. All that a life story needs is a writer to believe in the story, to believe in its worth, to write the story.
I come from a long line of storytellers: my parents, my grandparents. They were all wonderful storytellers. My grandmother (we called her Gran) was an exceptional storyteller. Everything in her life was a story and she made her life into a story. She was cute, too, always starting her story with the line: “You know, Jean” (if she was talking to her daughter, my mother) or “You know, Emily” (if she was talking to me). We always knew that a story was coming when Gran said those special words: “You know,” especially when it continued with: “You know when I was your age…”
Gran didn’t live with us. In fact, she lived in another town, about an hour-and-a-half away. She would come to visit about once or twice a month, taking the bus and, most likely, talking all the way to whomever she sat beside. (Needless to say, we heard everything about her traveling companion as soon as she stepped off the bus.) She would stay with us for several days, talking nonstop from the moment she arrived until she walked out the door, of course, always starting with, “You know”. One time, as she was leaving, she turned to Mom and said, “You know, Jean, maybe next time I visit we’ll have time to sit down and chat.” And this statement after a week of long, nonstop, storytelling, all starting with, “You know”.
In the end, yes, we did know a lot of Gran’s stories. By the time she was into her nineties, there were some stories that we knew better than others because she kept repeating them. It was at that point that I chose to write down what I remembered and to question Gran as much as I could to capture the other stories that she had shared so often in the past. I didn’t get them all and I’m still kicking myself today that I didn’t make a more permanent recording before she passed away. Sadly, some stories have been lost. Gran did keep a journal. We found some of them, dating as early as the 1920s, during her courting years, and others as late as the 1970s and 80s when she was doing a lot of traveling. There must have been more; but they are long gone. Gran believed in traveling light through life, a strong belief that you can’t take it with you so why keep it at all.
Using my grandmother’s journals and my mother’s memories, I wrote Gran’s story, calling it Personal Notes, the heading that I found on one of the notepads that contains her journal entries. My grandmother’s stories and my mother’s stories, which I have also just recently published in a creative nonfiction book, F-Stop: A Life in Pictures, are important stories to share. My mother was a very energetic and creative individual. She raised a family, taught elementary school, did countless creative projects and inspired a whole generation of like-minded creative individuals. Her photography was her forte and I called her story F-Stop, using the lens adjustment of ‘real’ cameras (before digitals took over) as a metaphor for her life. In fact, F-Stop could be a metaphor of anyone’s life, as we all go through our lives making adjustments as we go along.
These stories, my stories, can be defined, described as creative nonfiction: writing a story about a real event, a real person, a real life. Writing, after all, reflects our lives, our individuality, our personalities. Writing, (whether it’s fiction or nonfiction) is about us, ourselves.
Perhaps the ideal of writing what we know, writing about ourselves, our families, our lives, will not guarantee manuscript sales. However, it does guarantee that, in our writing, we are true to ourselves. We have to remember that what we write is permanent and we should ask ourselves if we want future generations to read, to really read, all that we have written. If we can truthfully answer ‘yes’, then we have found our inner voice, our writer’s voice.
I have to believe that I am being true to myself as I venture from one story-writing adventure to another. The world is full of stories just waiting to be told. On a recent CBC radio interview, I was asked why I thought my mother’s story was so important, why my mother’s life was so significant that I should write an entire book. When I was submitting my grandmother’s story, years ago, I frequently received rejection letters from big-name publishers telling me that they would only consider a biography of a famous person. My argument since then has been, how many books do we really need about famous people, when there are so many un-famous, more than ordinary, extra-ordinary, beyond the ordinary lives whose stories should be, need to be told. These are the stories that make our world, which define our world and our lives; these are the stories that describe who we are. Extra-ordinary people – we are all extra-ordinary, we all have a story to tell, our story.
Our word, our written word is eternal. As we reach out to find our inner voice, our own unique, individual voice, we might ask, what is it that makes a life so special? For me, all life is special. Neither my mother nor my grandmother was rich and famous. Perhaps the ‘special’-ness of these people is the simple act of someone believing in them enough to write that person’s story, making that special person immortal, as are you and I as writers.
Who am I? I am the characters in my stories, mostly the protagonists. I am Priya, the beauty in my recent fantasy novel, Beauty in the Beast. Like Priya, I am strong, thoughtful, caring; I am a beautiful person inside and out, and I’m bold and creative. I am also Kat, Priya’s sister-in-law, the cat-mutant who is ever insightful, observant, strong and, also like Priya, caring. I even have some of Susan’s qualities (she’s the Sasquatch, D’Sonoqua, another mutant that’s somehow related to Priya). Like Susan, I’m introverted, but also caring to those around me, caring in a quiet sort of way, not wanting to seek attention or accolades.
I might be somehow connected to other characters in my book, but Priya is the one with whom I feel the strongest connection. We both love to create; we love books, tearooms, history, and music. We love that special baby grand piano that we inherited from our childhood home. But I’m more than the characters in my stories.
Who am I? I’m a daughter, a granddaughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, teacher, mentor, student, friend, a lover of dogs and a person of many creative talents. I am what I create; I am who I am. Who am I? I’m Emily-Jane Hills Orford, author of many books, needle artist, collage painter, gardener, and so much more.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Emily-Jane Hills Orford is a country writer, living just outside the tiny community of North Gower, Ontario, near the nation’s capital. With degrees in art history, music and Canadian studies, the retired music teacher enjoys the quiet nature of her country home and the inspiration of working at her antique Jane Austen-style spinet desk, feeling quite complete as she writes and stares out the large picture window at the birds and the forest. She writes in several genres, including creative nonfiction, memoir, fantasy, and historical fiction. http://emilyjanebooks.ca
Emily-Jane Hills Orford will be awarding a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.a Rafflecopter giveaway