What a thrill to visit with historical romance fantasy author Kelley Heckart this week. Kelley has chosen a fascinating topic to explore: the writer's sense of place. How does a setting call to a writer? How does a writer choose a setting for their work? This week we will explore all this and more with Kelley - a great writer and a wonderful friend. Leave a comment and you will be eligible to win a PDF of Kelley's short story, THE ENCHANTED MEADOW and a $!0 Amazon gift card. Welcome, all!
What is your favorite place in the whole world?
Since I don’t travel much outside the United States, my world is kind of small. This didn’t stop me from finding a place I love to re-visit any chance I can. I fell in love with Sedona, AZ, an enchanting place with red-painted rock formations that create a stunning sight in the changing light of the sun. In Sedona, Oak Creek Canyon cuts through lush greenery where dapples of sunlight peek through the archway of trees, glittering and dancing on the water.
Sedona is a unique blend of desert and mountain regions—red sand looks striking against dark green conifers. It’s no wonder this place, touched by the Creator, has vortexes. I have had more than one spiritual awakening here. And I’ve often wondered why I haven’t set one of my stories here.
So, as I was researching Daughter of Night, set in the mountain regions of Anatolia (modern Turkey), I came across a place similar to Sedona. It was a delightful discovery and, of course, this place is used as a setting in my book.
Yazilikaya is a rock sanctuary that was used as a holy sight by the Hittites, an ancient Anatolian people who established an empire in north-central Anatolia around 18th century BC, lasting until about 1200 BC. The Hittites play an important part in Daughter of Night.
Some of the rock formations at Yazilikaya even have a reddish color. The Hittites saw the beauty of this place and used it as a dedication to their gods with sculptural decorations and hieroglyphic inscriptions. A spring of fresh water once flowed through this sanctuary.
Here is an excerpt from Daughter of Night of a scene near the rock sanctuary. Becuille, a vengeance goddess, has been made mortal by Rhea and is now Inaras, a slave to the Hatti (Hittite) royal house. Callileon is a prince of the Hatti.
At the base of a range of craggy hills appeared a paradise of towering red rocks and pine trees in a pleasing blend of red and green. A clear spring sparkled and bubbled beneath the stalwart giants framed by regal pines. Becuille sensed the power of the ancient shrine vibrating through her veins.
He halted the horse, tugging gently on the reins. “This is an open air chamber, a shrine to our gods and goddesses. Someday there will be temples here.” He pointed to the inner chamber.
She wondered why humans wanted to destroy the natural beauty of a place by building manmade temples. “It is beautiful as it stands, untouched by human hands.”
“I agree with you, Inaras. I always wonder if the gods really care for all the temples built in their honor.”
“Some do, I suppose, but here I feel the awesome nature of the gods without the help of manmade temples.” A sense of serenity rippled through her body.
“I have a surprise for you and I think you will like it.” He urged the horse forward past the rock shrines and into a secret grove of oak and alder tucked away beneath a range of barren rock. Green grass and bright yellow flowers found life beneath the sheltering trees. He dismounted and helped her down. She adjusted to standing again, her legs buckling at first. His strong arms held on to her so she would not fall. She felt like she was living a dream and wondered when she would awake.
Callileon left the horse to graze. He escorted her to a seat on soft grass underneath a wide branched oak. Fresh smelling grass, along with the fragrant leaves and flowers, filled the air. The pleasing scents put a smile on her face. She enjoyed being away from the city and all the unpleasant smells associated with a crowded town.
He watched her, arching his thick brow. A crooked smile lit up his face. “You are a complex woman, Inaras, such a mystery.”
“And you are a complex man,” she said with an easy smile.
His expression grew serious, his eyes somber. “If I confess something about myself will you tell me why you were crying?”
“Agreed. You confess first,” she said, hoping he would tell her why it was hard for him to feel love.
“I will tell you something I have never talked about with anyone. You probably wonder why I would tell you, someone I barely know. The truth is since that day in the stables, I can think of no one else but you.”
His gaze appeared truthful, but her heart wrenched with so much deceit.
“I was in love once. At the end of the summer season two years past, we traveled to a nearby settlement. It should have been a safe journey, only in my youthful arrogance I failed to pay attention to our surroundings. We were attacked by a band of Mitanni warriors. She was raped and killed, and I could not save her. I blame myself for her horrible death.” He took her hand and placed it underneath his tunic near his shoulder.
The puckered scar rose like a mountainous ridge beneath her fingertips, the painful memories stored there.
His expression turned somber. “This ugly scar is my constant reminder of that day, the day I failed to save the one I loved.”
Her heart throbbed with pain for him. Her problems seemed so benign next to his. “Is that why you find it so hard to love?”
“Yes.” He held her hand. “Now tell me why you were crying as if your heart would break.”
She hesitated, collecting her thoughts. “I have lost all that I know, the life I had before now,” she said, drawing on her past. “I felt lost and alone. I have no idea why I ended up in the stables, but for some reason it was comforting to me and the tears just fell.”
“We have much in common, you and I.” He gently squeezed her hand. “You were taken from your people and sold into slavery in a strange land. I, too, lost all that I knew. The king was close to my father, one of his vassal kings. They were hearth friends and so he adopted me as a child, but I do not feel like I belong here sometimes.”
“Perhaps we can comfort one another.” The barriers dropped between them. Becuille touched his cheek now clothed in a fine layer of golden beard. She kissed his mouth. Tenderness and passion surged through her body, her heart echoing in her chest in a thrilling tempo.
His hands grasped the back of her neck, pulling her into his arms.
All of the feelings she kept pent up rushed out, and she became lost in his loving embrace. They were no longer master and slave, but two people lost and in need of something to hold on to.
Blurb from Daughter of Night:
Their destiny began in the ancient land of Anatolia.
In 1326 BC, Crete is the last remaining sacred place for the Great Goddess, but changes began to threaten the old gods, the Titans. Forced to become an ally to the power hungry Olympian gods, Rhea hangs on to the secret of the star metal, the one key that would make Zeus and the other young gods invincible. When this secret is stolen, Rhea must find the Dactyl and the goddess who betrayed Her before Zeus does.
Becuille is a daughter of Night, a servant of the Great Goddess created to impart Her vengeance on mortal and immortal wrongdoers. Made mortal by Rhea, she is sent to find the ones who betrayed the Great Goddess. In the land of Hatti, she meets a proud and handsome prince. When love binds her to him, her loyalties are torn.
Callileon, a prince of the Hatti, has closed off his heart to love only to rediscover it in the arms of the mysterious and fiery slave girl he has purchased. He is caught up in a dangerous world of power hungry gods, jealous goddesses and potent magic, which even the Fates cannot steer him away from.
Can two mortals fight the will of the gods?
How to find Kelley:
Kelley Heckart, Historical fantasy romance author
Links to pictures of Yazilikaya:
Thank you for a wonderful visit, Kelley. Please come back and visit with us soon!
Friends, leave a comment and you will be eligible to win a PDF of Kelley's short story, THE ENCHANTED MEADOW and a $!0 Amazon gift card.