Saturday, February 6, 2016

What (Our Children) Are Writing Week: Julia's Not the Only Author in the House

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: When, as a teen, the Smithie told me she wanted to be a librarian, we had a little talk about the financial realities that career would afford her. "If you have a good public library job," I said, "you'll probably have good benefits, but you won't have a large income. You'll need to prepare for that."

"Don't worry," she said. "I have a plan to make money. I'm going to write books."

"That's not a plan to make money!" I, and every published author reading this, shouted.

Reader, she ignored me. Somehow, while working two jobs and getting her Masters of Library Information and Science degree, the Smithie finished the first in a planned trilogy of YA novels. She's polishing up the second draft, preparing to submit it to agents. Rather than giving you the 8,573rd excerpt from  my Work-Not-In-Progress, I thought you might like to take a look at something that's done. She'll probably have the other two books out and have inked a movie deal before HID FROM OUR EYES is on the shelf. That's my girl.

THE FETTERS OF FENRIR is the story of Fenrir, The Wolf who Swallows the Sun, the oldest child of the Norse trickster-god Loki. One of the three harbingers of Ragnarok - the death of the gods - Fenrir was separated from his two siblings and sentenced to live on Midgard - Earth - in his human form, an eternal, unchanging and very bored sixteen-year-old. Until the day he's whisked away to Asgard, the home of the gods, and imprisoned at Odin All-Father's pleasure...

The cell they always put me in was not particularly high security. There was nobody else in the building, of course, for their safety, but I honestly wasn't sure that the doors even locked. They didn't have to. The chain on my ankle would keep me wherever Odin wanted me. If he wanted me in the cell, I was going to stay in the cell.

Bed, chair, pile of blankets, small table with a couple of washing materials on it. Nothing too fancy, nothing too horrible.

“Do I have anything to read?” I asked.

Omaar pointed to the space underneath under the bed. “National Geographic, 1972-1985.”

“That's... a lot of National Geographic.”

“Yeah. Should keep you busy for a while.” He smiled at me, almost like he was kind of sorry I was stuck here.
I dozed off in the middle of an article about African wildlife. Then I woke up unexpectedly in the wee hours of the morning. The very, very wee hours. It took me a bleary minute before I realized what had woken me.

 Footsteps in the hallway.

But not the usual tramp-tramp-tramp of soldier footsteps, or even the lighter, self-important step of the Asgard bureaucrats and politicians. No, these footsteps were slow, and clearly assisted by a cane. Thump, thump, drag. Thump, thump, drag. And another set of footsteps – tap-tap-tap-tap. And a third – thump-tap. Thump-tap.

Thump, thump, drag.


Thump-tap. Thump-tap. Thump-tap.

I admit, it sent a shiver up my spine.

Clearly, events were deviating from the normal routine. I hopped out of bed and put my shoes back on just as my door creaked open.

Three old women stood in my cell.

Two leaned on canes. One was upright. All were a little hunched over. Their faces were weathered, even a bit twisted, but all five of their eyes gleamed clearly. (One was missing an eye. The others might have been missing a few teeth.) Dark cloaks wrapped around their bodies.

I stared at them. They stared at me.

“Hello?” My voice came out squeakier than I had intended. “Um, what are you doing here?”

The tiniest woman chuckled. “You don't know us, but we know you, Fenris-wolf.”

“It's Fenrir,” I automatically corrected them. “And almost everyone in the nine worlds knows who I am.”

“They know your name, maybe, but they don't know you,” the tallest one told me.

“We know your past,” said the middle one.

“Your present,” said the tall one.

“And your future,” added the third.

Now I knew who they were. “Norns. You're the Norns.” The three prophetesses, seers and vision-workers, sometimes appearing as beautiful maidens and sometimes as wise, wizened crones. Just my luck that they appeared to me as crones.

I'd never had them visit me before.

“Are you here to tell me my destiny?” I asked. “Because you're a little late for that. Everyone knows the destiny of the Children of Loki.”

“We are not here to tell you of things that may come to pass,” said the tiny one. “We are here to bring you a gift.”

“A gift, Fenrir-wolf,” echoed the other two.

“A gift?” I pointed to the bed. “I already have all the back issues of National Geographic that a guy could want, so...”

“Do not jest with us, Fenrir, son of Loki!” The tall one pointed a gnarled finger at me. I took a step back. Hey, you try facing down three creepy old ladies who can tell the future and only have five eyes between them at two in the morning. See if you do any better. “Your very life is at stake.”

“Odin All-Father means to kill you,” the middle-sized one said.

Kill me?

“What?” I mean, I knew he hated me and my brother and sister – my whole family, really, dad included – but kill me? “That's not going to happen. I haven't done anything. They control me completely, I'm not a threat or anything-”

“You are wrong, Lokison.” The short one laughed, a dry sound, like a spark making twigs catch flame. “You have been a threat since the day you were born.” 

What do you think, dear Readers? Any advice for the yet-to-be-published author?


  1. I confess I might have been hoping for another tidbit of "Hid From Our Eyes," but thank you for this special treat.
    Advice for the yet-to-be-published author? Best of luck and keep writing --- I'd love to read the rest of the story.

    1. Yes. Still hoping for the next Clare and Russ magic.

  2. Love it. Keep up the good work, Juliasdotter.


  3. I love that picture of her... TA DAH! it says. And this excerpt is delightful. Love the norns. Gubble bubble...

  4. Advice? Just keep on writing! Maybe she could give some of us advice. Being a fan of mythology, this hooked me from the outset. Well, that and the fact is it well written.

    Best of luck to her, Julie. She's got talent.


  5. What fun! A joy to have two writers from this wonderful family.

    Now Julia, get back over to your computer and finish that book--your fans are getting impatient!!!


  6. Advice? Put as much care and effort into your marketing materials--the query--and maybe let Mom read those over--she's had a little bit of success getting published! ;-) Best of luck, Smithie!

  7. Sorry to disappoint, Joan! But later this month, I'm going on a writer's retreat to - TAA DAA! - Nantucket! Again, thanks to my wonderful agent. I'm planning on giving the book a good swift kick in the pants while I'm away.

    The Smithie's been part of my marketing team since she was nine, folding newsletters and putting on stamps! Who knows, if her career takes off, I may wind up working for her. :-)

  8. This is brilliant, Julua. Say congrats to Smithie. I think she's got a hit here.

  9. This leaves me wanting more. Thank you for sharing. I am definitely going to read the series.

  10. Just keep at it. That's what people tell me. Mythology is big right now, so who knows? Great snippet and best of luck to the Smithie!

  11. Love this. LOVE It's very natural, and feels right, like a really good story. Hurray!

    I just wish i had seen your face, Julia, when she revealed her plan to make money. BWA HA HA. But! It could happen. oxooo

    Hurray! (from LAX and boarding soon…)

  12. And we will ALL be on her marketing team! xo

  13. Yes.
    Hurry up and get these published so we can all enjoy them!

  14. I think the Smithie is one smart cookie. She follows her passions and makes her dreams come true. The mythology of the book interests me, as I'm sure it will lots of others, and I like her main character, Fenrir, and I like her writing style. I predict she will do well with this book. Julia, kudos to the Smithie for setting her course and knowing what she wants.

    Smithie reminds me of my son, who insisted on getting a philosophy degree, despite the dire outlooks of employment, which have proved to be rather too accurate. But, he called me last week and told me that he has been working on a book (I always thought he could be a writer and he had said he would write someday) and proceeded to share its opening with me. I was blown away. We believe in our children and want them to do well, but when they actually do what they say they can and what we think they can, it's quite mind boggling that, hey, that's our kid.

    Now, Julia, go to Nantucket and work, work, work. We are so hungry for Hid from Our Eyes!

  15. I'll join the cheering section! Yay! Do it. Forget about money. Money isn't important.

  16. That snippet hooked me. I want to read the rest.I am surprised at how many YA stories are also appealing to us MAs.

  17. What fun! Tell the Smithie congrats on all her hard work, and I predict success. (And maybe even money:-)) I love the voice and the mythology, and I'm really enjoying YA books these days.

    But, Julia, go to Nantucket and finish the damned book!!! I want to read it! I miss Russ and Clare! And I want to see that baby born!!!!!!

  18. I wish I had been strong enough to ignore my mother's advice not to become a librarian and write. Kudos to the Smithie for having the gumption and following her dream! Looking forward to both books!

  19. My first student job in graduate school was as technical librarian's assistant. I liked it and had a great time working after hours where I had the keys to the room where they kept the microfiche of the Dead Sea Scrolls. So by doing these things I discovered a place where I could do interesting work, and I did for a few years. It's possible I was profoundly lucky, but I don't think so. I think I found the best available information and possibilities for writing in jobs like that. Other students did similarly while others identified books and boxed them up or sent them for repair, or created new computer identifications. They got little more than a paycheck. My mother-in-law was a physicist and engineer. She also worked as a technical librarian and writer of very interesting stuff that she couldn't have done without finding more to do in a library besides making data entries. I think that things that appear to be mundane can have hidden advantages. And for a writer, it could be a bonus environment. If you don't worry about money you can take advantage of opportunities that are there. Be happy first. Work, write. Get the most out of each thing you do. If you are a student at Smith you are blessed with enormous opportunity, forever.

  20. What a delight! I'm not one bit surprised that your Smithie is ever as brilliant a writer as you are Dear Julia! I look forward to reading what you both publish- How very neat !

  21. What a delight! I'm not one bit surprised that your Smithie is ever as brilliant a writer as you are Dear Julia! I look forward to reading what you both publish- How very neat !

    P.S.- Ditto Deborah Crombie! FYI- I am ensconced with Deb Crombie's books- in love with this author - working on #9 in the series!

  22. I'm hooked as well! It's crucial to me that I care about characters, and it's hard to define what makes that happen, but even from this snippet, I CARE, and want to know what happens next, and why I'm impatient for _Hid From Our Eyes_ also.