Author: C.M. Story
Genre: YA Fantasy
Adrienna Vedica longs to build the creatures living in her imagination. One day, she hopes to sculpt them out of stone, creating great statues like those that guard the Celany village.
She doesn’t understand why everyone seems to disapprove.
It’s only when Tishaan, a powerful man in the high council, agrees to help her sculpt that Adrienna is finally able to pursue her passion. She dives into her work, but creates with such energy she collapses from exhaustion before seeing the final results, giving Tishaan time to hide her masterpieces away.
Her mentor, Sreng—the man she secretly loves—tries to convince her that Tishaan is using her, but she can’t abandon her art. Only when people start showing up dead does she think again. There’s something off about Tishaan…and then Sreng shows her one of her early works.
But something is wrong.
It’s alive. And it’s digging a grave.
Excerpt from Chapter 7, “Sacred Grounds”
The rain woke her up. Small drops blew onto her cheeks and ran down her neck. Overhead, the network of branches shielded her from the bulk of it, but the wind blew the moisture in from the side.
Reluctant to leave, she clung to the stone and looked on the image of her father’s face. Having familiarized herself again with his features, the representation disappointed her. Too still, too stern, the eyes too vacant. This was nothing more than someone’s idea of her father. Looking at it now, she realized it was entirely inadequate. If she had the chance, she would do it over, carve it in a way that would reveal her father’s true spirit.
The rain streamed over the sculpture, pushing dirt trails past the ears, over the cheeks and down the chin. With the edge of her shirt, Adrienna wiped the face clean and then hurried across the grounds and ducked under the largest tree near the center. For a time she crouched there, undisturbed, but then something snapped off to the left. She jumped, senses alert.
The Tucadorr. It could have heard her screams. How could she have been so stupid?
She held her breath, but when the animal emerged, it was much smaller than the beast that haunted her dreams. Like an overweight river rodent it waddled through the bushes, making its way toward her. She guessed it to be about four hands high, its elbows on the ground, paws drawn up under its chin. Powerful back legs sprung forward in hops, after which it would wait, look around, and clack its long nails together.
It had no tail. Gray, wiry hair lay matted with clumps of mud, streams of dirty water pouring off its belly and onto the ground. Strings of drool escaped the side of its mouth. It drew its lips wide, uncovering pointed teeth, and then puckered them forward again. Thick eyes bulged from the side of its head, each eyeball moving independently of the other.
Adrienna stared. The creature was unlike any she had seen before, but still something felt familiar about it. Afraid to move lest she draw its attention, she remained by the tree while it shuffled forward, intent on its path. At one point she worried it was coming toward her, but then it passed by, neither eye seeming to take notice of her. On it went, heading east, stopping after every three hops. Ahead, she saw a dark shadow in its path, rectangular shaped, a shallow depression in the ground. Was this where it sought shelter in the storms?
The animal hurried forward now, no longer hopping but wobbling back and forth at an ungainly pace. The tongue slung about, elbows working like paws over the ground. At the hole it gazed hungrily for a moment and then tore into the dirt, claws slicing, hips protruding into the air. Sloppy mud slung wide behind it, some landing with a slap on other markers. On and on it worked, hopping about now and then to send the dirt another direction. Adrienna watched in horrid fascination. In the time it would take her to bathe, the creature had dug a deep, square hole.
What living person do you most admire?
My mother, by far. She is one of the bravest and strongest people I know. She ended up in difficult situation when my older brother and I were very young, and she had the strength to get us all out of it so we could start over in a new location. For a long time she raised us as a single mom, and after the man I know as my father adopted us, she continued to be someone that I wanted to emulate. I consider myself very lucky to have her as such an important person in my life.
What is your most prized possession?
My health. I’m a health writer by day, which means that I’m continuously reminded of how difficult life can be when you’re unwell. I really feel for people who are struggling with disease and chronic conditions, and am grateful for each day that I feel strong and healthy.
Why do you write?
I’ve always enjoyed writing as a form of expression, I think because I was a shy child who was a little frightened by the world and the people in it, and felt that the page was the only really safe place to “share” my feelings. As someone who was always drawn to music (I started piano lessons in first grade, French horn lessons in fifth), I also liked the musicality of language, and enjoyed playing with words so that they created a certain wave or rhythm.
I didn’t start to get serious about writing stories, though, until I had graduated college with my degree in music education. I moved to a different state, which meant I couldn’t get a job until I took more classes to become certified in that state. I was a bit weary of college, so I chose to wait a bit. It was during this time I bought myself a word processor and started creating stories. I’ll never really know why the storytelling bug hit me right then, but I suspect it was because I hadn’t really found my “voice” in any other place, and something about the blank page called to me. Once I started indulging that longing, I felt a lot more like my true self, and that feeling hasn’t left.
Who’s your favorite writer?
I have a number of favorite writers—to list them all would be to take up far too much space on this blog—but some of my current favorites are Andre Dubus III, Margaret Atwood, Dennis Lehane, Neil Gaiman, Terry Goodkind, Gregory Maguire, and Kazuo Ishiguro.
Tell us about your creative process.
It’s messy! I usually start out with some image in my mind, and a main character, and just write. The first draft is a sort of unconscious spill. When things are going well, I often feel as if I’m just watching a movie in my head and recording the happenings on the page. I can get at some unique ideas this way, but it does mean that I have a lot of work to do in the second draft, as that’s when I have to clean it all up.
Thank you to Avenue Books for hosting me and Rise of the Sidenah!
M. Story has always been a fan of fantasy in all its many forms, including the kind she frequently indulged in during boring lectures in school. She didn’t try her hand at penning her own stories, however, until long after she’d gotten her Bachelor’s degree in music.
Once she sold her first short story, she got a writing job and never looked back. Today she runs a successful freelance writing and editing business out of her home in Idaho, and frequently travels to other inspiring places with her trusty laptop in tow. And yes, despite rumors to the contrary, “Story” is her real last name.
“Rise of the Sidenah” was inspired by gothic architecture, a tune by “The Calling,” and the idea that following the heart may cause pain, but is the only way to truly fulfill one’s purpose in life.
Find more at cmstorybook.com.
Writing & Wellness: http://www.writingandwellness.com/