Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Blog Tour: Here Be Dragons by Sarah Mussi - Sarah Talks The Death Zone

It's Once Upon a Bookcase's stop on the Here Be Dragons by Sarah Mussi Blog Tour, and I have not one, but two different posts for you today! Sarah Mussi is stopping by today to continue discussing the various stages of the writing process, and if you come back later today at 1pm, you will see how cover designer Nathan Ryder designed the cover for Here Be Dragons in A Novel Cover Up! But for now, over to Sarah...

(Warning! I think there are some minor spoilers in this post. I've not read the book yet, so I can't be sure, but in reading this post, I found out things I'd rather have discovered as I read the book. So decided if you want to read on or not.)


Here Be Dragons by Sarah MussiHere Be Dragons by Sarah Mussi - Ellie Morgan wants a boy who’s all hers. Just for once, it would be nice to meet someone that Sheila (the cow) hadn’t got her claws in to.

A remote farmhouse on Mount Snowdon is hardly the ideal setting for meeting anyone unless, of course, you count her best friend George or creepy Darren (which Ellie doesn’t). But when a boy, glimpsed through the mist and snow, lures her up to the Devil’s Bridge, Ellie realises the place she knows so well, still has its secrets...

The stronger her feelings for this strange boy become, the more she is in danger: a battle as old as Snowdon itself has been raging for centuries and now Ellie’s caught in the middle.

Something has left its lair.

It’s out there stalking her.

Who ever said true love was easy?

The HERE BE DRAGONS Blog Tour – Post Six: Act 3 & The Climax

Hi there Once Upon a Bookcase! Thanks so much for having me on your blog.

Hi everybody and welcome back to my blog tour to celebrate the launch of HERE BE DRAGONS, book one in my new trilogy: THE SNOWDONIA CHRONICLES!

So far on my blog tour, Sarah has told us (Sarah is interviewing herself) about the process and structures she used to write HERE BE DRAGONS. We have heard about eating mountains of chocolate, waking up dreaming of many headed fire-breathing dragons, worrying if she has hit DEAD STORY ZONE and much more including:
a) The Hook
b) The Inciting Incident
c) The First Turning Point
d) The Point of No Return
e) The Darkest Hour - all in HERE BE DRAGONS!

So what comes next, Sarah, are you still using the three act structure to help you get this story right?

Plot Line Graph
Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

Yes, absolutely!

Right, as you say, so far on this blog tour we've had a look at how I used those classic three-act structures to create drama and order the story-beats in the narrative. Now as we go into the last act – where every demon must be faced, every problem resolved for good or ill, and where all the major players must make their entrances and be delivered their deserts... where the final collision – the crash of the trajectories of the protagonist and antagonists must be described tooth and nail (ah! So that’s why it’s called tooth and nail!) – We must pay even closer attention to story structure – for there will be BLOOD!!!!! And there will be only one victor!

Not much then, eh!

We can liken this stage to the Death Zone that must be passed through on every climber’s attempt on Mount Everest.

Tension Three Act Structure
Image Source (below) - Wiki Commons

Photo Source: Wikipedia
Camp 4, the Death Zone – 8000 m / 26000 ft.

"Camp 4 sits on a plateau resembling a moonscape. You are at the edge of the atmosphere and the sky owns a strange, dark blue colour. It is surely the closest you can get to space on earth.

Only fear remains on everyone's face. People don’t talk a lot. Resting in your tent, feeling weak already, you try to get some sleep as night falls outside. In a couple of hours, you will start to put on your gear for the final part of the adventure – the summit push.

The wall towards the summit is steep and dark, you are in the Death Zone and you can´t help thinking that within the next 48 hours, there is a very real risk that you might not survive."

So Sarah, how are you going to navigate the Death Zone in HERE BE DRAGONS?

In our last blog post we looked at Ellie’s darkest hour (which is part of the second turning point) and how that foreshadowed the third and most important turning point in the story – the climax.

Walt Whitman Quote
Photo Source: Flickr
How I looked forward to that! The climax of the story – when it would all be told, all be sorted and I could get a whole day without worrying about how to rescue Ellie! I think writing is a delicious kind of masochistic torture. As a writer you go through every crisis your protagonist goes through – in a parallel reality of course. And as Ellie was trapped in the Dragons’ den so was I trapped in a deep hole in which I could see no light at the end of the tunnel. How I longed to be able to pull a writerly trick like – Ooow and then she woke up and it was all a dream! I wanted so badly to save Ellie and yet I knew she had to save herself – gosh – so many lessons in that one!

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis CarrollAfter all, I thought Lewis Carol got away with it in ALICE IN WONDERLAND – why not me?

The Greeks did it with Deus ex Machina as I pointed out in my last blog – and if they did – couldn’t I?? Pleeeease – just this once dear readers?

I heard the answer immediately: Nah! Not! No! Never!

So I battled on, hoping that Ellie would come up with a solution.

And did she, Sarah?

It’s strange but she did. I think that if you trust your characters enough, trust their story – that the answers are there inside it – you just have to wait – let the story mature and then one morning you start writing and it happens, simple as a pimple!

Now of course, in HERE BE DRAGONS, I can't give away the entire plot because that would be a spoiler, but what I can do is show you an excerpt from the mind-frame of my heroine during her Act Three dilemma’s when everything is hanging – one wrong move: you lose…. the things that she brings to mind that help her to get real, help her build up her mental resilience and strength to face that Shadow of the Valley of Death – her own particular Death Zone in Act 3 – and ACT (with the right move, of course).

Because in the end she must DO something and that one action must turn the tide of events, reverse her luck… if she is to succeed in her goal.

Here’s the excerpt:
"I saw what would happen: the mountain would collapse on Henry, and he would be pinned beneath it…
Henry wrestled, but he was towed nearer to where the white dragon could drag Snowdon down on him. I drew in my breath. I closed my eyes. I screamed out, ‘NO,’ so loudly it left my throat rasping.
George tried to turn my face towards his. He murmured: ‘Easy, Ellie, easy.’
Roughly, I pulled away. On an impulse, I shot forward, jumped out from the alcove and stood exposed for a split second. Then my brain kicked into action. They were fighting over me, weren’t they? So if I fled, if I ran towards the cave mouth, if the dragon thought I was escaping …
I must make him believe I’d get away, make him chose between burying Henry and losing me.
So I ran.
‘No,’ screamed George. But I broke free.
‘NO!’ screamed Henry."
And in that one action, she achieves her goal! (Though there is another twist – I have to tell you.)

What other things did you have to consider when writing Act 3, Sarah?

Well, I had to have a setting that had resonance at that point and throughout the story, I had to have all the main players on stage. I had to be sure each one of them got their just rewards and I also had to stay true to the mythology of the mountain. No easy task. And, of course, I had to include lashings of tension, action, emotion and the equivalent of the Shootout at OK Coral!

Also not to forget, I am writing a trilogy, which for me is a totally exciting and scary task! So I not only had to finish Book One: HERE BE DRAGONS properly, so that it stood alone as a complete story – but I had to seed in enough foreshadowing strands that could be picked up in book two – so the second book, HERE BE WITCHES, could get off to a flying start and build upon strands that have already been embedded in book one!

Piece of cake, I hear you say!

Pound Layer Cake
Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

I wish!

So at this point in Act 3, it was really important for me to start thinking about what was going to happen in books 2 and 3!! And that is quite interesting, because you never know if a publisher is going to actually pick up the whole trilogy or whether they're just going to go for book one and wait and see how that does, before going for the others…so you have to write book one as a kind of stand alone story, and not leave the strands for the rest of the trilogy hanging – but yet, they have to be there – so it's quite a task to get through the Death Zone in any story, let alone the start of a trilogy.

I'm very lucky that Vertebrate, after they'd read HERE BE DRAGONS, and agreed to publish it, also wanted to commission the whole of THE SNOWDONIA CHRONICLES trilogy, so all the hard work that I put into book one – all those foreshadowing things could then be relied upon to create story for books two and three – thank you Vertebrate, you are the greatest!

So are you going to give us a taster of how the story will develop?

Well… um… I think I already did give you a tiny li’l taste… At the very end of HERE BE DRAGONS, fast forward two months and in the Epilogue there’s a hint of things to come... Here’s the excerpt…

"I think it was as I broke out of the cloud bank above the valleys that I turned to look up towards Garnedd Ugain. I think. I couldn’t be sure. Everywhere was thick with morning mist, but through the dawn, standing in the vapour, on that place we call Lover’s Leap, was a figure, a shape blurred by the distance, blurred by the sunrise.
I’m sure I saw a figure.
There in front of Garnedd Ugain on the very rim of the great knife edge, way above Llanberis Pass. That dangerous place that Mum and I call the Devil’s Bridge.
There he was, the figure of a young man poised on the edge of the abyss.
I rubbed my eyes. Was it really? Maybe just a trick of the light? A memory? Rays from the risen sun dazzled me. By the time I’d looked again, new banks of mist had swirled down.
My heart started pounding.
I peered through the mist again.
But then this is Snowdon.
Yr Wyddfa.
The great Snow Den of the Dragons
Here anything can happen..."

But if you want more watch out for my next and last blog post on Notes from the Slush Pile!

And here is magical Mt Snowdon, my inspiration!

Mount Snowdon
Photo Source: Wikipedia Commons

Thank you all so much for following my Book Blog Tour!
Thank you so much, Once Upon a Bookcase for having me :)

Thank you, Vertebrate, my awesome publishers :)

XXX Sarah

Mwahaha: The only thing I haven’t blogged on in how I wrote HERE BE DRAGONS is the denouement, the settling of accounts in a satisfactory way either for good or for bad, the summiting of the mountain and descent to the other side – watch out for my last and final blog on HERE BE DRAGONS – coming soon!!

The People's Book PrizeOh and if you loved these blogs and the story of Ellie don’t forget to Click HERE to vote for Here Be Dragons in The People’s Book Prize!



Thank you, Sarah, for such a great blog post! As I said above, come back to Once Upon a Bookcase at 1pm, for a Here Be Dragons A Novel Cover Up post to see how the cover was designed!

Here Be Dragons Blog Tour Banner

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