Death and dying in literature is the hardest part of being an author


“No one knows whether death, which people fear to be the greatest evil, may not be the greatest good.” – Plato

I know I broached this subject before, but it’s really knawing at me, especially now. I am almost done with my third novel of the Forever Avalon series–the end of the first trilogy–and death is hovering around me. I don’t know about other authors, but for me, death is the hardest part of writing. For the past 10 years, I have put my heart and soul into my writing. These characters, that I have so lovingly created, are like family to me and having to kill some of them to move the plot along can be quite difficult.

Some people find comfort in death Helen Keller said, “Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there’s a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see.”

Then there are those you want to see dead. Sure, it’s easy to kill the villains, because they’re the bad guys. They’re the ones you want to be foiled, thwarted, even destroyed by the end of the book. To them, death is just the means to an end in their quest for power, fame or dominion over others.

I think J.R.R. Tolkien summed it up best in The Fellowship of the Ring. He wrote, “Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”

Below is an excerpt from The Dark Tides which demonstrates how death moves the story along; but also, for me, it was one of the hardest pages I’ve ever written. I was in tears as I wrote this part of the story, which is why I want to share it with you now.

* * *

With a wave of her hand, Lady Heather gave the signal as two airships descend from the night sky toward Emmyr. It was the Reaper and the Flying Fancy. Ropes were lowered down for the remaining pirates and goblins to ascend. Captain Avery was lowered down from the Fancy
on a platform for Morgana and Lady Heather to ride up on.

Heather handed Bowen off to one of Avery’s men to hold. Cadhla desperately reached out for her son, who cried as he tried to reach for his mother, but to no avail.

“Heather please, don’t do this!” the Queen pleaded, “Take me instead, just leave my son; please leave him alone! It’s me you want, not him.”

Heather walked over to the Queen, strutting over the dominance of her enemy. “Now why would I want you? I mean, what good is a dead hostage,” she said as she plunged the Dagger of Koram into Cadhla’s chest. Th e Queen fell to her knees, unable to breathe and unable to speak. “The Queen is dead …” Heather shouted sarcastically as she pulled the dagger out.

“… Long live the King!” Heather mocked young Bowen, giving him a curtsey. Cadhla fell backwards to the ground. Hunter tried to help her but he could barely move. He was only able to lift her head gently onto his lap. He wept for Cadhla as his gaze shifted to Bowen as he is hauled
up to the waiting ships.

Avery walked up to the Gil-Gamesh, still being held by the goblins. He drew his sword Crossbones as he approached Bryan, placing the blade under his chin. He lifted the Gil-Gamesh’s head up so he can look into his eyes, cutting a deep gash from his chin to his cheek.

“It would be spiteful to take your eye like you did mine, but you might just need that to find the broach for Morgana,” he cursed the Gil-Gamesh. Without warning, threw his sword at Nevan, plunging the blade deep into his chest. Nevan slumped down onto a shocked Sarafina
and young Thomas.

“You took my right eye, now I took your right hand,” Avery said as he walked over to Nevan and retrieved his blade, leaving Sarafina in despair next to her dying husband. “That’ll do for now!” Avery sheathed his sword and joined Heather and Morgana on the platform.

“One month Gil-Gamesh, until the next new moon … Bring my broach to Idlehorn or your young King dies!” Morgana promised. The platform rose up to the Flying Fancy. As the platform moved, the Dark Tides effect on the people lessened and the people slowly began to recover.

Explosions were heard from the port as the people looked down to see Avery’s ships fire on the port and shipyard, destroying the ships and parts of the port itself. Th e fires burned on throughout the city, leaving everyone in shock.

But the only sound that could be heard was the cries of little Thomas Forest as he spoke his first words to his dying father.

“Daddy …SKU-000941753 Daddy please get up! Mommy, tell Daddy to get up! I’ll say anything you want me too Daddy, just please get up!” the little boy cried, repeating it over and over again. Nevan smiled. He finally heard his son call him Daddy. It’s the last thing he heard as his life faded away.

* * *

The Dark Tides is now available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iUniverse.

Writers are some of the worst serial killers (in literature)

evil-personifiedWhat does evil look like? That’s a question that has dogged people for centuries. When you look back through history, images of Vlad the Impaler, Adolph Hitler, Charles Manson and Osama bin Laden come to mind. Then again, so does Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahlmer and Jim Jones.

I’m in no way saying I’m an expert on evil, but as a writer, you have to be able to dip into the darkness once in a while. How can you create a villain for your story without knowing the evil that lurks inside?

For most of us, evil falls back to the representation of the incarnation of evil … the Devil, Satan, Lucifer, Prince of Darkness, etc. Some writers try to make him sexy, human-like, attractive and appealing. I could never think of the devil that way.

I was raised a Southern Baptist, so I was taught that evil began with Satan; from his rebellion against God, to the temptation in the Garden of Eden and the first murder by Cain.

Evil, to me, is the absence of morals; a complete incapacity to see the difference between right and wrong with a total lack of remorse. When I watch news reports of James Holmes, the man who killed 12 people in the movie theater, I see the face of evil. They’re trying to call him insane, but I believe insanity is just the mind of a killer justifying their actions. It’s evil, pure and simple.

I can admit how uneasy I feel when I’m writing scenes that involve such acts of evil. In the wedding scene of my latest book The Dark Tides (caution, spoilers!) when Morgana Le Fay returns to Avalon, she and her compatriots kill many friends of the Gil-Gamesh. I cried as I wrote this chapter of my book. It was hard to write but a necessary part of the story.

I could never imagine doing something like that and here I was, writing about it as if I caused it to happen. To have that kind of emotional impact on me demonstrates just how writers are capable of tapping into the heart of evil.

Authors can be, at times, the worst serial killers in history. I’m sure Game of Thrones fans feel that way about George R.R. Martin. We must tap into that evil without succumbing to it ourselves.
I always thought the best portrayal of evil was done by Al Pacino in three very different roles. As Michael Corleone in The Godfather, Tony Montana in Scarface and as the Devil himself in The Devil’s Advocate. You looked in his eyes and knew there was a man in there but it terrified you none the less.

We can demonstrate the evil in man, in society, in what we write; but when you do that, there always has to be hope. Hope is the saving grace for the writer. Hope means that evil can be overcome, it can be conquered. Evil may win the battle, but hope means they will lose the war.

The Dark Tides is now available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iUniverse.

The Death of a Friend – An excerpt from “The Dark Tides”

I can honestly say I never really thought about death or dying until I started writing my novels. I’ve experienced death before, both my grapndparents as well as friends and shipmates, but not in that way. Even as a Sailor, deployed in harm’s way, it rarely crossed my mind because I always felt “if it happened, it happened.” Yet, when writing my novels and having to kill off characters that I created, I couldn’t help but break down and cry as I typed those pages. I couldn’t just kill characters on a whim, even for the sake of the story. I breathed life into them, with every stroke of the heyboard, and it was difficult for me to actually have to do it. This is just one of those examples from “The Dark Tides.”

The inspiration behind the character, the "real" Lt. Charles C. Taylor, USN, Flight Leader for Flight 19 that disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle on Dec. 5, 1945.

The inspiration behind the character, the “real” Lt. Charles C. Taylor, USN, Flight Leader for Flight 19 that disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle on Dec. 5, 1945.

Bryan could sense the sadness. The normally cheerful and sassy women were somber and tearful. He was quickly directed to Madam Sonjay’s personal room where Sir Charles had been taken too.

Charles lay in a large bed, covered in heavy quilts. His bandages were soaked with blood as Madam Sonjay sat next to him, dabbing his head with a cool compress while giving him sips of good Elvish wine. Like the girls in the brothel, Madam Sonjay was sad and upset but she tried not to show it. Her fancy dress was covered in blood as the Gil-Gamesh surmised she was the one who tended to his wounds.

When Madam Sonjay saw Bryan, she kissed Charles on the forehead before leaving his side. “I’m sorry milord, I did the best I could, but without a proper doctor I’m afraid that my best won’t save him,” she told Bryan, her eyes tearing up as she broke down and cried. “I tried everything I could to keep him alive until you got here, I just wish …” Madam Sonjay stopped as she became inconsolable. Bryan tried to comfort her in her grief.

“It’s alright Minerva, it’s not your fault,” Bryan told her. “Thank you.” He gave her a kiss on the forehead before walking over as he sat down next to Charles. Charles coughed as he opened his eyes and glanced at Bryan.

“You took your time getting here,” he joked. “How’s the little stray doing?”

“She’s fine, sends her best,” Bryan said as he leaned in to Charles. “I wish I had gotten here sooner though, it must have been a helluva fight.”

“Those Brood … They’re big and ugly, but stronger and smarter than regular goblins, if that’s even possible,” Charles sputtered. “You need to be prepared when you meet them.”

“I will, don’t worry about that right now,” Bryan reassured him. “You can help me put together a strategy once you get back on your feet.”

Charles coughed again, a little bit of blood trickled out of his mouth. Bryan wiped it away. “Don’t bullshit me Chief. You and I both know I’m not going to make it.” Bryan sat silent, trying to contain his emotion. “Don’t feel bad Bryan, I’ve had a good life …” Charles added. “I’ve lived a lot longer than most expected. It’s just my time.”

Bryan clasped Charles by the hand. “No, it’s not …” he cried through the tears. “I still have so much more to learn from you.”

“You don’t need me to teach you anything more Gil-Gamesh. You’re more than ready to survive whatever Avalon throws at you. Besides,” Charles said as he gasped for air. “I want to see my parents … My family again. Now, I finally … finally … can …”

With his last breath, Charles Taylor died … A Naval Aviator and a Knight of Avalon. Everyone in the room bowed their heads in silent prayer. Some of the girls broke out in tears. Bryan let go of his friend and folded his hands across his chest before he reached up and closed his eyes.

He stood silent, alone in his thoughts. When he turned to the others, they looked to him for guidance and comfort. Bryan couldn’t find the right thing to say as the words escaped him.