Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Bosun Welcomes Moriah Densley To The Ship!


Moriah Densley sees nothing odd at all about keeping both a violin case and a range bag stuffed with pistols in the back seat of her car. They hold up the stack of books in the middle, of course. She enjoys writing about Victorians, assassins, and geeks. Her muses are summoned by the smell of chocolate, usually at odd hours of the night. By day her alter ego is your friendly neighborhood music teacher. Moriah lives in Las Vegas with her husband and four children and this week she celebrated the release of her debut novel, Song For Sophia.

This talented writer is also one of my fellow 2012 Golden Heart® finalist so I am extra excited to welcome her to The Revenge for the first time. Raise your mugs and give a warm welcome to Moriah Densley!

Following My Hero Down the Rabbit Hole

When I created Wilhelm Montegue, I bit off more than I could chew. An autistic savant with a photographic memory and a talent for mathematics and music, he was exploited by the army during the Crimean War as a spy and assassin before being captured and tortured by the Russians. He has PTSD on top of the autism―he’s a mess. It wouldn’t be difficult to have him committed to an asylum, and he has enemies.

Silly pantser me, I was having a ball with my unusual hero until I hit a wall, because A) I know squat about math, and, B) I was only portraying the upside of savant syndrome - the cool genius stuff, like composing brilliant music. Fortunately for me, music is my day job, but that's where Easy Street ended.

When I say hit a wall, I mean everyone who read the first draft hated it. I took the hint. Shedding a tear or two, I hit “delete,” stared in denial at the blinking cursor and white expanse of blank screen . . . then didn't write. Not for months. My hero was so way smarter than me. Composers, literature, and linguistics I can fake, but calculus? No dice.

I had to learn about the Quadratic Table of Residues - sounds like a kitchen sanitation issue to me - well enough to convince readers these brainy thoughts flowed naturally from the character. A normal person observes in approximation: “Falling from three stories is a long way down!” But Wilhelm inherently makes a calculation: “A human body falling one-hundred-sixty feet lands in three seconds.” Sophia, the heroine, inspires his “mathematical erotica” which I did enjoy inventing. The hero assures us the equation is completely viable.

Savant syndrome and synesthesia have always interested me. How can a person be off-the-charts genius yet struggle with a simple limitation? Think Rain Man. Laura Kinsale, Jennifer Ashley, and Lisa Kleypas, to name a few, wrote beautiful stories featuring heroes with some sort of mental disorder. I couldn't get enough of this kind of tortured hero.

You wouldn't believe how generous and candid the autism community is; I found more information than I knew what to do with. My favorite case is Daniel Tammet, a savant with mathematical synethesthia. He describes how he “experiences” numbers. “Five is like a clap on a front door, the sound of a wave against a rock. Six is small, the hardest for me to experience. It's like a black hole, a chasm.” Daniel “sees” every number from 0 past 10,000 in colors and textures. He holds the European record for reciting pi from memory: 22,514 digits in 5 hours, 9 minutes.

I was also inspired by Kim Peek, an autistic megasavant known as “The Real Rain Man.” He memorized nine encyclopedia volumes at age four. A capable reader finishes two pages in about three minutes. Kim Peek read the same text in eight seconds, his left eye reading the right page while his right eye read the right page, and he recalled 98% of the text. However, the simplicity of choosing clothes to wear was beyond his comprehension, and he couldn't fasten buttons.

Over and over I heard similar stories from savants - astounding genius paired with seemingly random disabilities. Prodigy musicians, chess champions, architects - who couldn't tell you how to fry an egg, who don't comprehend sarcasm. I took the most brilliant qualities and the most frustrating limitations I found in real cases, added a dazzling pair of pectorals, and the new Wilhelm emerged.

Not only is his freedom at stake, but he so badly wants to win over Sophia, and doesn’t know how. His genius brain can’t comprehend social complexities such as diplomacy. It was a bit painful as an author to make a character so earnest yet so flawed. Nothing about relationships comes easily to him, and he feels failure very keenly. While he is aware of the opposing forces in his brain, he can’t control them.

I liked him. Irreverent, moody, yet fiercely loyal and passionate. Did the new Wilhelm pass muster?

Turns out I had a hard time finding a home for my unconventional hero. Imagine my surprise on March 26th to hear from THE Julia London, saying I was a Golden Heart finalist. Really? My beat-up, politically incorrect character? I couldn't believe it. I was delighted and honored. *Shout-out to Terri Osburn, fellow GH finalist! Thanks for this cool gig. Harrgh!* “Song for Sophia” is now published - released Monday in fact - and I'm very eager to see what readers think of the characters.

What makes an unconventional character work or not? Do you have a square-peg-in-a-round-hole story too? Join the discussion, say hello, link to a funny cat picture, whatever - leave a comment, and you're entered to win a digital copy of “Song for Sophia.” Winner of the giveaway announced tomorrow, June 7, by noon eastern time. Don't want to wait? Want to make me filthy stinkin' rich? Buy it now on Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com, or iTunes.

Visit http://moriahdensley.com for teasers and sample chapters, plus humorous blog articles on life as a writer. See reader reviews on Goodreads, connect on Facebook,Twitter, or Pinterest. I'd love to hear from you! 

40 comments:

quantum said...

Hi Moriah, welcome!

Autism is such a complex brain condition with so many manifestations. Your book focusses on an extreme case where the sufferer displays extraordinary specialised ability (a savant) balanced by extraordinary vulnerabilities. This sounds like the perfect canvas for a brilliant story. Success with GH also suggests that you did a good job. Sounds like a great read ..... especially the mathematical erotica ..... I could enjoy some of that! LOL

Certainly a fascinating topic for a romance. I'm going to try a sample to check that the style lives up to your charming introduction here ..... no worries, I'll just buy it on Amazon. *grin*

TerriOsburn said...

Thank you for joining us today, Moriah! More than happy to share the love for my fellow GHers. :)

Q - This book is RIGHT up your alley. I hope you like the excerpt enough to give the rest of the book a try.

I can't imagine writing a character this complex. I ADORED The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley so I can't wait to read this one.

Susan M. Boyer said...

Hi Moriah! I can't wait to read Wilhelm and Sophia's story. I love irreverent, moody, yet fiercely loyal and passionate caharacters. Throw in dazzling pecs, and well... :)

Congratulations on your release!!

Leslie Langtry said...

You had me at "I know squat about math." As a total pantser myself, I totally get that. I'm really fascinated by Wilhelm's story! Great post!

Marnee Bailey said...

I love the idea of this character. My brother is on the spectrum and I have great sympathy for those within the autism community. I know my brother had difficulties fitting in, always walked to his own drummer. And 30 years ago, people weren't as aware or tolerant.

Congratulations on the debut, Moriah! Best of luck!

Moriah Densley said...

Quantum - Sounds like you have experience in this field. (cool story there?) I found it a fascinating study topic, but it was more than just research for me. Real people with real lives, their struggles and triumphs - it was humbling. And inspiring. I'm flattered you're interested in the book, and thanks for commenting. You seem a discerning reader; hope I pass muster ;)

TerriOsburn said...

Q is an honest to goodness Quantum physicist from the UK. (He singlehandedly classes this ship up.)

One of my coworkers years ago had an autistic son. They would check books out from the library, read them several times, then when they checked them out again months later, he remembered every word. And he could build anything. Fascinating child.

Moriah Densley said...

Terri - Thanks again for hosting me. This is fun! Ashley's "Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie" is a favorite of mine too, a dyslexic hero who compensated with a photographic memory, right? Also on my list is Laura Kinsale's "Flowers from the Storm." Jervaulx's stroke leaves him with what I would guess sounds like mathematical synesthesia. Both perennial reads by authors I worship :)

TerriOsburn said...

I think the character of Ian was more Asperger's. Difficulties with social interactions and understanding emotions. So well done. I think I read Flowers From The Storm but too many years ago to remember. I'll have to look that up and see.

Writing this kind of character would be daunting for me. Kudos to you for having the courage and doing the hard work to make him come to life.

Moriah Densley said...

Q, (May I call you "Q," sir?) I'm glad Terri introduced us AFTER I wrote the post, otherwise I would've been too intimidated to do the job. So, you read romance? Or you hang out online with romance writers? A brilliant man with impeccable taste. Marry me?

And Terri, that little boy sounds like a sweetheart. I'm also impressed by the caretakers of autistic children. Not an easy calling, of course.

Maureen said...

Kudos on your nomination and publication! Sounds like a daunting book to write. Math? I'd totally flake. I can make up history for what I write but math? It's math!

I think unconventional settings are more my thing then characters. And situations. Then toss in the conventional character!

Welcome to the ship and I'll meet you in Anaheim!

quantum said...

Moriah, I would be honoured if you would call me Q. Only my romance reading/writing friends call me that!

Marry me?

In the quantum world one can exist in many places at once. In this universe Mrs Q may have something to say. However, maybe we could meet in a parallel universe? I will carry a copy of your book so that you can spot me. Be sure to run if you don't like what you see! LOL

Sounds like you have experience in this field. (cool story there?

I'm interested in aspects of brain research, consciousness and perception. On the theoretical side for example, medical intuitives are able to see the healing energy flows within the body. These appear to be electromagnetic in nature and I'm interested in treating the conductive pathways in the body (which go right down to cellular level) as a massive fractal antenna which can transmit and receive. This could help to explain a great deal.

Like you I'm also interested in the human dimension. I have spent much (spare) time trying to teach an ADHD child to read. It was immediately apparent that the child thought in terms of pictures, as her interpretation of stories was always very visual. Unfortunately her attention kept flipping away from the lessons to random phenomena that seemed to pop into her mind, which was extremely frustrating.I would write short stories for her to read, using her limited vocabulary, and personalised for her, which I like to think helped.

Glad to say we got up to a basic level of reading and she is now making good progress at school.

She still likes me to write stories for her

Moriah Densley said...

Another '12 GH finalist - Hi Susan! <3 Thanks for commenting. Fellow admirer of pecs here. Wilhelm chops wood as a stress reliever, so you can imagine...

Moriah Densley said...

Hi, Leslie! And you had me at "Glock." I simply HAVE to read your books. My alter-ego is an undercover agent - these must be right up my alley. Especially love the heroine wearing a LBD (Little Black Dress) with what appears to be an Uzi? <3 Thanks for commenting. I love your blog!

Moriah Densley said...

Maureen, thank you! Save me a place at your table at RWA in July. I'll bring the chocolate! P.S., What kinds of unconventional settings? Now I'm curious!

P. Kirby said...

Hiya Moriah. I'm totally fascinated by your hero. Could be that it appeals to the geekish side of me, the idea of being gifted in one way--math and science--and utterly clueless when it comes to social interactions. Me, I'm all about science, but spend most of my life with my foot in my mouth. I read somewhere that it's possible a lot of so-called geeks are on the far end of the autism/Asperger's spectrum.

And...I can totally relate to being a pantser.

Sin said...

Congrats on your debut and on being a GH finalist!

I really like characters who are unusual. I like stories about characters who aren't at all what they seem and are less than perfect in every aspect. I think that's what makes characters seem real to readers. The story of your hero is very interesting to me. I think a lot of people don't know much about Autism/Aspergers and shy away from trying to understand.

As a pantser myself I can relate to hitting the delete key. I do it often. I get these ideas that I write out like a possessed person only to realize it can't work in the end.

Does anyone else find it extremely hot when Q starts talking science? Q your brain is sexy. Mrs. Q- so so lucky.

Moriah Densley said...

Q - It's a date, then. What, how about the 11th dimension? Or if you've transcended M-theory, I'll need directions :) I'll be wearing the snarky t-shirt that reads: "Schrodinger's cat is dead."

So, forgive my ignorance of the proper terminology, but you're studying healing at the electromagnetic level? So would [eventual]practical applications include treating neural/spinal injuries, or more like cellular diseases such as cancer? Or is it more psychological, such as understanding synesthesia and such? If you could manipulate/redirect electromagnetic impulses in the brain, I imagine you could do almost anything. It sounds fascinating but my understanding is so limited; apologies if I'm way off base.

Sounds like you made good progress with your ADHD student. If you've got her hooked on stories and progressing in school, that's victory! Learning to adapt rather than "fix" - wise teacher :)

I have several dyslexic music students, and I'm mildly dyslexic myself. (I see figures in reverse, and numbers "move" in my vision, as do solid blocks of monochromatic text. Concentration usually corrects it, so again, it's mild. But Algebra class was a hoot, and so was my unfortunate summer job as a bank teller.) Anyway, my dyslexic students are also very visual, and we've had success linking musical principles such as note-reading and rhythm studies to visual cues. Flashcards w/ images, using color-coded symbols or highlighting the music in colors to aid visual delineation. Sometimes it's as simple as writing a symbol instead of text - drawing a pair of glasses with a note symbol on the music instead of writing "watch the notes here." It's thrilling to finally find a solution for a dyslexic (or otherwise challenged) student. These learners are so often brilliant; they just need to learn a different way. Hats off to you for taking on such a difficult case. Earned your wings with that one :)

Sorry for the mini-novel.

TerriOsburn said...

We have no limit on comments here. Write away!

Sin - I'm with you. Smarts is sexy. Especially when Q is showing them off.

I had a friend in HS who was dyslexic. She had two teachers for parents so had many coping skills by then, but typing class was a hoot. Teacher knew so when her typing looked like some alien message from outer space, she'd just nod and pretend it all read perfectly.

Moriah Densley said...

Hiya back, P. A fellow geek and pantser? I like you already. Hmm nom-nom, I'm accustomed to the taste of my foot too ;) A brilliant mind often straddles the boundary of insanity, right? Sometimes it crosses over. Like John Nash? Beethoven. Einstein seemed endearingly eccentric. I think we should claim genius eccentricity, P. Could get away with so much... And you'll have to fight me for Q's [alternate dimension] affections. En guarde!

Moriah Densley said...

Oh, whoops. It's Sin I'm fighting over Q. En guarde! (Although I bet P. has a thing for Q too. Don't we all?)


I LOVE flawed characters, in fact, I think I love characters other readers might call unlikeable or unheroic. Same as you - I like them REAL. People screw up, right? Even good people. It's redeeming them I find interesting. And you're right about autism (or any psychological issue) scaring people. I wonder how readers will like my hero, or not . . . Thanks for commenting, and it's lovely to meet you, Sin.

Moriah Densley said...

Terri - your friend must've had a severe case. I imagine a keyboard is a dyslexic's worst nightmare! Glad she had savvy parents. Too many parents of dyslexics think their kid is lazy or stupid, and therefore the child believes it too. Hard to undo the damage, even when someone finally says "Hey! You're dyslexic, here's how to cope." I love my dyslexic students - they think outside the box, are super creative, and will probably grow up to be famous designers or writers, or something.

TerriOsburn said...

This friend was very smart but also very creative and artistic. In a Catholic school filled with student who looked like Stepford kids, she stood out. I never made the connection with the dyslexia, but that makes more sense now.

She'd taught herself to speed read by skimming pages, but trying to type from sight was the problem. If she wanted to type something from thought, she was fine. Typing what she saw on the page is when things got weird.

Moriah Densley said...

Terri- So interesting. Really, stuff like this fascinates me. There's usually a way around the problem, and that's an intriguing process too.

I imagine you weren't a Kool-Aid-drinking Stepford kid either. Imagine you have some stories to tell too. heh. You were probably the troublemaker :)

Oh! And congratulations on your happy happy news! I'm so excited for you. Are you announcing it yet, or did I just step in it?

TerriOsburn said...

Nothing to announce yet. LOL! But it'll be posted here when it's for sure!

I actually did grow up drinking Kool-aid, but I wasn't a Stepford kid. I was an 80s headbanger in a school full of preppies. Holes in my jeans, skulls in my ears, hair up to Heaven. Though everyone had hair up to Heaven in the 80s. And always a Romance (usually Fabio on the cover) sitting atop my books.

I doubt any of my classmates would be surprised to know I eventually went on to write them.

Moriah Densley said...

Terri- Talk about a sense of vision. Not suprised to hear you were/are a rebel. I can totally see it <3 And we all had pretty gnarly hair in the 80s. I try to block out the memory...

TerriOsburn said...

Own the big hair, girly. A lot of ozone died for that hair. LOL!

Maureen said...

Again, I thank all the gods above that the major hair influences of my life came from the 60s...

As for unconventional settings? Well, Tortuga, pirate haven, with iPods, blenders on the bar and matchmaking kraken.

Or there is the future where 99.9% of the human population is gone...and warlords battle for supremecy...when they don't visit the valley and share Starbucks...

Or there is the alien world where humans and aliens live side-by-side, fellow abductees of another alien race...

Wait! How about the future where aliens live underwater and the military industrial complex have fooled everyone into thinking the only way to survive is to surrender all freedom...

Or...!

;-)

quantum said...

Moriah, all my physicist friends will be so envious when I tell them of our assignation in hyper-space. Don't worry about the 11th dimension. Some of us think that string theory may not have all the answers! Just make sure that you go through the double slits. LOL

A detailed electromagnetic theory could unify the different 'energy therapies', putting them on a sounder scientific basis and allowing development of these therapies to become vastly more powerful treatment techniques, much as you suggest.

Very interesting approach to music teaching. The secret to good teaching is definitely to 'get inside the student's head' and understand how the student perceives the world.

If your book is successful, as I'm sure it will be, their could be a whole series of similar books waiting to be written!

Lovely to meet you.

Elisa Beatty said...

Oh, yes, you got Wilhelm so so right (and Sophia too!!). They're fabulous, meaty, powerful characters and the emotional chemistry between them was tremendous. It's a fabulous read!!!!

TerriOsburn said...

Hey, Elisa!! You're so lucky that you got to read this already. That is a GLOWING review. I can't wait to get my hands on this one.

MsHellion said...

I am all about creating heros that are square pegs. Lucifer. Ben the married guy. My Western whose hero is a scholar and has about as many survival skills as Monk. I have a problem with creating heroes that are actually heroic. It's a curse.

Can't wait to read your book! Welcome aboard the ship and hope you're back for many happy returns! :)

Kay Hudson said...

Moriah, I love out of the box characters and situations. So glad you stuck with it and brought Wilhelm to life. Looking forward to adding him and Sophia to my Kindle.

TerriOsburn said...

Hiya, Kay and welcome aboard! Definitely wouldn't say this sounds like your run of the mill Historical.

I'm going to have to break down and get a Kindle. Guess the hold out could last only so long.

Moriah Densley said...

And now you all see why I adore Elisa. I didn't even have to pay her to say that - she's just super nice. Thanks for stopping by, Elisa! xoxo

Moriah Densley said...

Thank you for the warm welcome, Ms. H - A girl after my own heart. Ooh your heroes sound interesting! More please!

Moriah Densley said...

Kay - Thanks so much for visiting and commenting! Sounds like you gave Terri the nudge that might have convinced her to go digital. I've been s-l-o-w-l-y getting used to e-books. Granted, an e-reader is not as cuddly as a paperback, and not as bathtub friendly, but there's something to be said for carrying around an entire book collection on a little tablet. Still, once my book releases in paperback, I'm going to buy a big stack and lovingly stroke them for hours on end.

Di R said...

Hi! Sorry I'm late.

This book sounds amazing! I love stories where the characters have learned how to embrace their challenges and forge their own way through life.

I love when Q explains his theories. I always feel a little smarter because it makes sense. I concur that Mrs. Q is a very lucky lady.

I'll download your book before I pick my mom up for her doctor appointment.

Di

Mackenzie Crowne said...

Late to the party, as usual, but just wanted to say this story sounds fascinating. I love smartly flawed characters and discovering the way an author uses those flaws to drive the story around unexpected curves. Congrats on your debut, Moriah.

Mac

*waves Hiya at the crew*

TerriOsburn said...

Thanks for stopping by, Mac! We're pirates. We're always late for something so no problem. I'm not very good at writing flawed characters so I can't wait to see how Moriah uses those flaws to bring Wilhelm to life.