Why Must a Favorite Character Die? Or, why Authors have Murderous Hearts.

When I’m watching a movie, especially thrillers or films with plenty of characters, I’m always looking for the ‘dead meat’ , or DM’s for short. DM characters are usually primed to attract our sympathies but are guaranteed to be bumped off somewhere before the end of the movie. It’s kind of a predictable, watch-for-it moment, but it still gets me every time. After all, I cared about those characters. They snaked their way into my heart with good deeds and decent, good-guy actions until I had no choice but to feel their loss, regardless of whether I saw it coming.

Movies reveal their DMs more easily than novels which, due to the differences in length and form, take longer to unfold and may include more subtle character detail. Still, almost all engrossing fiction has a character or two who will meet an untimely end. Remember Little Women?  Louisa May Alcott breathed life into a cast of characters, made us love them all, and then killed off  beloved Beth. I can think of hundreds of examples, as probably you can, too. Nearly every piece of literature features the death of a beloved character. In fact, when you think of it, we writers are a murderous lot. Fellow writers, hold up your hands.

In a recent book club meeting, one of my readers asked why I felt it necessary to kill off a certain character. I felt on trial, she was that unhappy with this character’s passing. She liked that person, identified with the personality, and hoped to become reacquainted in a future book. I explained that, in fictional terms, I was only doing my job. If you’re not experiencing real human emotions, if you don’t care about the people you spend time with inside the covers of a book, the author hasn’t hooked you.

But, all that aside, what turns a writer’s heart to murder?  The simple answer is because we must. In many cases, we love our characters, too. They emerge from our imaginations in some alchemy of creativity and intense observation, and almost like children, we watch them develop. In my case, I don’t give  birth to a character to see him or her die, but as the story world unfolds, often someone must. Writing, like art, should move you. Readers want to laugh and cry so that, when they turn the last page of the fictive world, they feel as though they’ve experienced something authentic.

Were you moved? Did you shed a tear? Good, because I did, too. I promise never to take a reader anywhere I wouldn’t go myself.  Rest assured that while you cry over the demise of a favorite character, I did the same while bumping them off. Otherwise, I am guilty as charged.

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The Anatolian Goddess with Vultures was Real

Goddess Kilim

An Anatolian Goddess with Vultures Kilim

The Anatolian Goddess with Vultures in  The Warp in the Weave actually existed, in as much as goddesses exist anywhere, any time. She was beyond ancient. In fact, she was most likely neolithic. 

In 1958, one of the great archaeologists of  the twentieth century, James Mellaart, discovered the remains of  an ancient city known today as Çatal Hüyük in central Turkey. It remains as enigmatic and controversial today as it did then. Though not as old as Jericho, the size and scope of the civilization it reveals continues to challenge all we thought we knew about so-called primitive cultures.  There was a goddess with vultures? She played with birds and cats?

Discovering such a find (not his first, by the way) helped elevate Mellaart to the status of Schliemann in the eyes of some. He held the seat as head of the esteemed British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara and published widely (readers of  the Warp in the Weave     take note: Eva held a similar position). Then, as is the case with many great people , he found himself at the center of a controversy that continues today.

One such firestorm concerned the Goddess with Vultures Herself. Though carvings of a goddess figure were discovered in Çatal Hüyük, Mellaart claimed he viewed the motif of the Goddess painted on the walls of the ancient site, paintings that disintegrated before they could be properly scrutinized, even though they  were recorded in drawings by Mellaart and his team.  The Goddess reigned with panthers, vultures, and other elements that Mellaart believed to be the origins of  motifs enlivening the Turkish Kilim such as the one pictured above.

“So, how controversial is that?”, you may think. Plenty. We exist in a world that holds photographic evidence in the highest regard, irrespective of digital enhancements that challenge reality. An archaeologist who cannot verify sources or prove a hypothesis irrevocably, is suspect . Even a brilliant man with an impressive resume like Dr. Mellaart can be shot down and professionally ruined.

Like my Dr. Eva Friedrich in Warp in the Weave. On the other hand, just like Eva, James Mellaart did end up snarled in another controversy.

More on that story next time….

Judging a Book by its Color

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One of the antique Turkish rugs that caught my imagination with that red

I confess that my love for color and pattern means I begin imaging a cover and its dominant color scheme long before I begin writing the book. The cover appears at the edges of my mind, slowly taking shape and form until it glows like a vision in my brain.

Covers matter, colors matter.  For this latest one, I saw red, literally, but the first book in my Crime by Design series was awash in blues and cool greens to conjure the Atlantic ocean, which flowed throughout Rogue Wave.

Volume 2, fittingly enough, features that rich Turkish red, since a background of rare Turkish textiles contributes to the setting. I even researched how the artisans obtained that hue, which turns out to be a mix of sheep’s blood and a natural mordant. That a color can last without fading for hundreds of years amazes me.

I began collecting textiles while in Turkey, thinking how they’d make an excellent background for my cover. Besides hanging out at Istanbul’s Islamic Museum of Art, I brought home five kilims and one carpet from the first voyage. But the central motif–that enigmatic Goddess with Vultures motif–appeared to me much later. It turns out that she is so ancient , her story begins far back in the Bronze Age.  And that, my friends, is a true story best left for another post.

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Warp in the Weave Published!

WITW kindle cover

Warp in the Weave is now live on Amazon!  Come share the journey in book 2 of the Crime by Design series.

Brief synopsis:

Against the panorama of Central Turkey’s underground cities and ancient caves, magnified by its rich textile and cultural heritage, two women follow a trail that leads deep into the prehistoric past, hurling them against competing ideologies, and the mire that is the black market antiquities trade.

What Phoebe discovers along the way is more than just about ancient shrines, missing relatives, and love betrayed.  She finds that what’s at the heart of the human weave may be the pattern that illuminates everything that matters.

This fast-moving suspense blends intrigue, humor, and romance against a textile-rich world interwoven with archaeology, ideology, and one woman’s quest for the ultimate truth.

Available Amazon now