‘Tis said a picture tells a story. In this picture, I see a portal to a fantasy realm. Perhaps a tale for a future book.
Portals in books can take a reader to a parallel universe, another time, or another realm.
In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, the wardrobe is a portal to another realm. With the Outlander series, Diana Gabaldon uses the standing stones as a portal to the past. In my Highland Gardens series, the characters travel through an enchanted garden gate and a faerie mound to Scotland past. In Sea Panther, a wormhole in the Bermuda Triangle whisks the characters to Jamaica past.
What are some other memorable portals from books and movies?
An Excerpt from Sea Panther by Dawn Marie Hamilton
Without warning, the breeze quit. Completely stilled. Kimberly jumped into action, tending the sail while Robert engaged the engine. He shot her a strange unnerving glance as he shrugged into a black linen shirt.
She swallowed apprehensively and moved to stand beside him. “What is it?”
“The compass is going haywire. Spinning wildly.” His tone of voice revealed growing excitement.
Kimberly chewed on the edge of her lip, taut with anticipation. They’d been waiting for something to happen, though she hadn’t really believed the stories. The contents of her stomach shimmied. Was she ready to confront the unknown?
A cool mist advanced, quickly developing into dense fog, which expanded into an enormous semicircle not five hundred yards off deck.
“The RPM’s are dropping,” Robert reported.
The boat slowed to a near idle. Kimberly’s stomach lurched. She glanced at her watch. The second hand had stopped moving. She tapped on the crystal. Nothing.
She reached for Robert’s hand. “It’ll be okay,” she said, lacking true confidence.
Robert squeezed her fingers. “That’s my brave lass.”
The eerie fog swirled, encircling the sailboat yet kept a distance of about three hundred yards. Kimberly glimpsed the clear sky in the center—bright blue with no clouds. It was as if they were caught in the eye of a mellow storm.
Without warning, a large mass burst through the edge of the milky fog to hover about thirty feet above the surface of the water off their port side, throwing a huge shadow. The air smelled different. Like after a thunderstorm.
“What the hell is that?” Kimberly whispered.
“I dinnae ken.” Robert wrapped an arm around her shoulder, pulling her tight to his side.
The elliptical shaped thing began to vibrate. She held her breath. A soft whirring broke the unnatural quiet. Lights on the bottom of the object flashed, alternating between red, green, blue, and white.
Off the sailboat’s bow, a hole opened in the fog, exposing a tunnel of sorts with swirling mist walls. Before Kimberly could blink, the floating object entered the opening and vanished. Just as quick, the tunnel entrance closed.
“Wow. Was that real?” Kimberly asked.
“I am not certain, but I read an eyewitness report within Patrice’s notes describing a similar sighting.”
“Do you think it was a UFO?”
“I hope not. If it was, then this isn’t a time portal.” Robert gave her arm a squeeze.
“It could still be. If the portal could take us back in time, why couldn’t it also bring someone, or in this case, an object from the future to our time?”
“Get rid of anything from the present time.”
As she checked her pockets to ensure she hadn’t accidentally picked up something that didn’t belong in the past, the amount of blue sky overhead shrank to nothing more than a small circle over the cockpit. Then the milky haze overtook even that tiny bright spot.
A fine mist moistened her face, and she tasted salt on her lips. The fog rolled across the deck, thickening and becoming darker and heavier as strands of vapor swirled around equipment and through openings. Visibility declined to mere inches.
Kimberly felt as if chilly fingers reached for her from within the ominous fog. She grabbed Robert’s hand. “Please don’t let go of me. I’m frightened.”
“I will keep you safe.” He wrapped muscular arms around her and pulled her back against his broad chest. “Remember to talk in the lad’s voice you practiced and if we get separated, tell anyone who finds you that you are my nephew, Ian, my cabin lad.”
Abruptly, she heard whispering within the fog.
“Ahoy there. Is anyone aboard?” The disembodied voice made her shiver.
Kimberly pressed tighter against Robert and the heat of his body. “Did you hear that?”
“Aye,” he said, voice muffled against her damp hair.
Within the fog, someone whistled a jig-like tune. The haze dissipated slightly. Three men dressed in old-fashion aviator gear stood off the bow of the sailboat as if they walked on water. One saluted, and then they all vanished into the vaporous mist.
“Oh. My. God.” Gooseflesh prickled the length of Kimberly’s arms. She leaned into Robert’s strength. “You did see that, didn’t you? I read about flight crews being lost in the forties.”
“I saw.” He gave a gentle squeeze. “I am certain we will see more unusual sights before our adventure is complete. Are you still willing?”
Kimberly took a deep, settling breath. She wasn’t letting him go alone. “Yeah.”
“Good lass.” He brought her down with him, and they settled on a cockpit bench.
The temperature dropped. Her blouse became soaked from the moist air and the cold seeped into her bones. Her teeth started to chatter.
“You’re freezing.” Robert opened the storage lazarette beside them, drew out an oiled canvas jacket, and helped her into the sleeves. When she was snug within the fabric, they resumed position with Robert hugging her from behind.
“Have I told you recently how much I respect you?” Love glowed in Robert’s tone. “How brave I think you are?”
“Thanks for the reminder.”
He kissed the top of her head, brushing lips across her hair. His arms wrapped her within comforting warmth. She sighed with contentment and burrowed closer.
Secure within Robert’s arms, Kimberly dozed until he stiffened. She flipped her eyes open. Not five feet off the starboard side of Night Thrill floated an intricately carved, wooden sailing vessel. The entire ship lay swathed in long strands of clinging seaweed, even the three rows of unmanned oars.
“What is that?”
“A Corinthian trireme…I think.” The boat rammed the side of Night Thrill, tossing them onto the deck. Robert clambered up only to lose balance as the two boats bumped again. He finally got his feet under him and stood. “Dinnae move.”
“Don’t leave me. I—”
The fog twirled, spinning fast, picking water up from the sea, tossing Night Thrill on its side. Long tendrils of kelp wrapped around Kimberly and tugged her away from Robert as seawater rushed across the deck. She reached for his hand, but their fingers slid apart as they both toppled overboard. A strong force dragged at her body, pulling her downward through a spiraling tunnel comprised of the oppressive haze.
She choked on the scream of terror caught in her throat as the world spun.
Time is almost running out. For only a short time longer, Sea Panther is part of a four author collection…
Get your copy before the set is withdrawn. Available at Amazon.
**THIS HAS SPOILERS OF THE MOVIE ARRIVAL**
If you haven’t seen the movie, don’t read this post–yet!
After having just watched the movie Arrival, I am marveling at the story telling. It was mind-blowing, but not in what we were told, not in what we were shown, but in what we weren’t told; what wasn’t shown. In the negative space of the story.
We were given all the facts. Aliens come to our world. A linguist works on figuring out their language. As she does so she has flashes of scenes of her and her daughter. The trick that the screen writers played on us was showing us the first scene in the movie out of context, and then slipping to the beginning of the movie. We assume that the story is linear (since most of the time that assumption would be correct) and therefore that the prologue happened before the start of the movie. It is only at the end of the movie that we realize that it was the end, the future that we were show, and that the scenes the heroine envisions are not flashbacks, but flash-forwards.
The most wonderful thing about the movie, and about any good book, is that it didn’t end when the screen went to the credits. The movie continued in our minds—indeed, we couldn’t stop thinking about it, deconstructing it, discussing it. That is a great story!
I’ve recently been working through Lisa Cron’s book, Story Genius. She posits that great story comes from the journey, the change and the growth of the protagonist. But Arrival has taught me that a great story is not the one that the author writes on the page, but in the dots that the reader puts together themselves.
Give the reader enough information—in the form of scenes—and allow them to connect it into a cohesive story. What the reader will put together will be so much more meaningful, more powerful, than anything the author could have written.
Yes, as I’ve written before, writers can change the minds of their readers by emotionally involving the reader in a story, but it is so much more powerful and life-altering is it when the reader comes up with the meaning themselves. It’s doing, not watching that allows us to learn. It’s figuring out the meaning, not someone telling it to us that gives it power and significance. It’s the negative space, what is not told or shown, where the strength in good story telling lies.
Have you seen Arrival? What did you think? Have you read any books that had negative story telling in that way? What did you think?
My author friend, Terry Spear, challenged me to write a short, very short story inspired by a holiday picture of my choosing for her blog . I’m also sharing the wee tale here. If you’ve read Just Wait For Me from my Highland Gardens series, you met a young lad named Tevin in the epilogue. He appears again in the upcoming novella, Just Within a Highland Mist, coming Winter 2017.
In A Red Mug and a Christmas Kiss, this very short holiday tale, Tevin is all grown up and working as a Santa’s helper for the holidays at Foxgloves, the garden center owned by his mother, Jillian, and her two partners…
A Red Mug and a Christmas Kiss
by Dawn Marie Hamilton
Melinda had always wanted to be a Santa’s helper. At twenty-five, it seemed like a silly childhood dream.
Snowflakes danced on the breeze, landing on her cheeks and the tip of her nose. She shivered and sipped from the red ceramic mug she’d just purchased at the garden center’s gift shop along with hot cider. The owners of Foxgloves were Scottish and all the greenery was decorated with tartan ribbon and bows.
Wandering past rows of Christmas trees, the sharp scent of fir, along with apple and cinnamon from the cider, reminded her of Christmases long past. She missed her family. Felt alone in this new mountain town.
In the center of the display garden, a Christmas village had been erected. Young men, dressed in kilts and tunics and wearing elf hats, used hand puppets to entertain children waiting their turn to sit on Santa’s lap and give the white-bearded man their Christmas wish lists.
Melinda couldn’t help but ogle the guys’ muscular legs exposed to the chilly air. She’d be covered in goose bumps if she—
“Lass, would you be so kind as to help me with a medieval skit?”
She lifted her gaze from a firm pair of masculine legs, up a tight body, to very kissable lips that broadened into a grin. Blue eyes glinted with humor. Heat burned her cheeks. And it wasn’t from the steam rising from the red mug.
“Aren’t you cold?” she blurted. “I mean, of course, I’d be happy to help.” Gosh. She sounded silly.
“My name is Tevin,” he said.
“Mine is Melinda.”
He handed her a puppet depicting a faerie princess and another a fair maiden and introduced her to the crowd as Santa’s Helper Melinda. She then joined him in an improvised skit where the faerie princess bestowed magic powers upon a warrior who slayed a dragon and won the hand of the fair maiden.
The children clapped.
“That was fun,” she said as they walked away from the Christmas village to a secluded picnic table.
“It was.” He pulled a flask out of his sporran. “I’m finished for the night. Would you care for some whisky?”
He poured a small measure of the amber liquid into the red mug and handed it over. She sipped the drink and smiled. How could she let him know of her interest in him without feeling a fool?
Tevin took the mug from her hand and drank from the spot her lips had touched. “I like the taste of your lips. May I?”
The intent glowing in his eyes near to burned her. Her stomach shimmied. Still, she nodded.
His arm encircled her waist; drew her close. The touch of his lips against hers was soft. Gentle. Stole her breath. Became demanding. She dropped the empty red mug into the snow and wrapped her arms around his neck, surrendering to the magic of his Christmas kiss.
Meet Tevin as a lad…
While you are reading this, I am in London going to the Christmas markets and museums. Before I got on the plane however, I made sure to finish my next lycan book and get it put up for preorder. I know you’ve been waiting for Gwen Quiet Thunder’s story and here it is. I hope you fall in love with this couple like I did.
Available for Pre-Order Now!
Coming December 26, 2016
Book Twelve of the Siberian Volkov Pack Romance Series
Cross-Over to Shadow Walker Romance Series.
Gwen Quiet Thunder has fought against her Lycan roots her whole life. She didn’t want anything to do with the wolf inside her and couldn’t fathom finding a mate in a Lycan. She thought all Lycan men were like the boy who terrorized her while growing up, mean, cruel, and aggressive. So when the mating bond snaps into place with her future brother-in-law, there’s only one thing to do. Run.
Mischa Sokolov, Siberian Lycan is thrilled to find his future sister-in-law is also his mate. She may be having some problems accepting the inevitable, but he never expected her to run and put an ocean between them. The more he tries to connect with her, the more she pushes him away. But Lycans only get one heartmate and mate for life. He’s going to have to prove to Gwen that she can trust him with her heart or lose the one woman meant to be his.
Now Available for Pre-Order:
I’m in the process of reviewing my editors comments on a new short story/novella. It’s the bonus story in my Merry Men Box Set #2 (which will be available December 15th).
In Box Set #1, I included the story of how the parents of the hero in one of the books in the box set met, so I thought it would be fun to do that again. The problem is that to write this story I had to learn all about the treaty negotiations between France and Spain at the beginning of the Napoleonic War. That would have been fine. I love history. But I didn’t just have to learn what happened, I had to figure out how a negotiator would have actually conducted his negotiations. I had to figure out all of the nuances in this delicate task and the underlying political consequences of each move.
I had to learn all about the politics at the time and how treaties are actually negotiated! Ugh! I am not a politician. I don’t like politics all that much. It’s really slippery stuff. But in order to write a convincing, authentic story I had to have an idea of how these things worked and how people who engage in politics (and treaty negotiations) think. Once I did that, I had to make sure that the story wasn’t actually about the politics (because, lets face it, you don’t want to be reading a dry recounting of a pretty minor treaty negotiation, you want to be reading a romance novel!), but about the people.
It made me start thinking… as writers, we actually have to know a lot about things work. If we’re going to have someone murdered in a book, we have to know exactly how it happens, how the blood spurts, how it feels to hold a gun, or sword, or whatever the murder weapon is in your hand and how to wield it. Just how hard is it to slice off someone’s head? Well… actually, it’s really hard. There’s a lot of bone and tissue and tendon in there that you have to slice through. Why do I know this? Because I’ve written about it, so I had to learn about it.
I’m beginning to think that if people knew how much research goes into every novel, they’d have a lot more respect for writers. We become experts in whatever it is we’re writing about. We need to be in order to write convincing stories.
How is it then that writers are dismissed and thought of in the lowest possible terms? We know how to kill you. Er… I mean, we know a lot of stuff! 🙂 History, medicine, politics, law, you name it, if a novel has been written about it, that author had to know that subject pretty darn well. No wonder the authors I know are so intelligent–intelligent enough not to get upset when our work is dismissed as frivolous.
So, what is your specialty? What could you write about? Or what have you learned by reading a great book?
The fifth tale in the Highland Gardens series
Coming Winter 2017
Published Books in the Highland Gardens series:
Available at Amazon.
National Novel Writing Month starts in just a few days. For many writers, their normal writing life stops so that they can participate in this annual ritual of trying to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. For others, they see this as an opportunity to finally get to work on that book they’ve been wanting to write for years.
Since I write full time anyway, I rarely participate in NaNoWritMo (as it’s called). But this year, although I’ve gotten a head start, I’m in the process of trying to get a book done within the month.
My impetus isn’t just for the fun of it, or to see if I can do it, but rather because I was asked to write a book for a particular series and given a deadline of December 1. Luckily, I was also give two extra weeks and a word count of 25,000 instead of 50.
That being said, I will actually need to have the book done before the end of the month so that it can be edited and ready to be published by December 1–most people who participate in NaNoWriMo just try to finish a first draft, not have a book ready to be sent out into the world by the end.
So far, I’m managing to write 1500-2000 words a day, so I’m hopeful that my book will, in fact, get done on time.
So what exactly is this this quickly-written new book? Something completely new to me–a time-travel, paranormal, gay pirate romance! Yes, I was asked to write an LGBT pirate romance.
As I said, I’ve got a good start on it! Check back next month and I’ll tell you how I did, and hopefully by then I’ll even have a book description for you!
So, are you going to participate in NanoWriMo? If so, are you ready?