Twelve-year-old Helga has more danger in her life than most beasts her age—Wrackshee slavers after her, a vicious attack by bandits that nearly kills her, a race against dragons pursuing her, and leading a daring rebellion to save her life and rescue friends and family from the insidious WooZan. And that is just the beginning. But what do you expect when you are a young beast who just can’t see the stupid rules of the world making any sense? Helga can’t accept things as they are and ends up taking on not just one, but two all-powerful, supreme tyrants in two different realms.
Helga never intended to lead a revolution. It just sort of happened because she wouldn’t go along with the “rules of normal” that keep tyrants in power and entire societies enslaved. Beginning on a dangerous quest to solve some mysteries in her own past, Helga leads her quirky comrades on a journey that will not only forever change them, but upset ancient civilizations.
As an author, I’m drawn to eccentric, unexpected characters: those who surprise because they hear a distant galaxy, see a different music, create their own fragrance rather than get hooked on a soundtrack; the child who has her own ideas about how the emperor is dressed; the lunatics and rebels who tell stories on the boundaries. Helga’s unusual story will take readers to worlds they never imagined—definitely a whole new ride.
Time and again, the unconventional heroine and her eccentric comrades overcome ominous tyrants and black-hearted slavers, not by battling to the last beast standing, but by being the first beast to think differently.
Helga: Out of Hedgelands is divided into three books which introduce the epic saga of the Wood Cow clan and their role in overturning centuries of slavery and tyranny. This story will continue in additional volumes of the Wood Cow Chronicles now in development. Over the series of current and future volumes, the entire history of the Wood Cow clan, the fall of Maev Astuté, and the coming of Lord Farseeker to the Outer Rings, will be told.
I asked author Rick Johnson what inspired the geographical locations in his story. Here is what he wrote:
As I create characters in my work, I begin with the principle that a good story is, essentially, a fabric of reciprocity between character and place. Reciprocity is an immensely powerful yet beautifully simple concept. A good story is a web of connections among a set of characters and the settings they inhabit.
It takes a relationship among characters and settings to sustain a story; an overly powerful and dominant character alone will not suffice to create a successful story. Extremely active development of a certain character can only be successful so long as there is a suitably receptive partner, or partners, responding to the action. Often we do not appreciate, however, that setting and place also function as “characters” in a great story. I would argue that stories which honor the principle of reciprocity between characters and settings—engaging the powerful way in which setting can enrich and amplify characters—offer richer, more sustainable foundations for complex storytelling. Reciprocity rules. Characters and settings with a richer array of potentialities, powers, and possible opportunities and challenges create a richer fabric of interactions in the story.
The simple mathematics of possible relationships means that richer characters, interacting with interesting settings, create greater potential for complexity in a story line. Potential for complexity, in itself, does not necessarily mean that a story is “better.” However, potential for complexity is a basic requirement for an enduring series of stories, or an extended storyline.
The places I write about in the Wood Cow Chronicles are now known only from the ancient and fragmentary manuscripts that have survived the ravages of time and been recovered by the author. 😉 In bringing those former times to life for modern readers with only ancient texts to go on, the author has had some places in our world in mind as inspiration.
Those places include the following. Click on any of the links to explore these places further. You will not recognize any of these places specifically in my stories. Rather, they provide a palette of images; types of cities, villages, and neighborhoods; and interesting natural environments. However, familiarity with the places may suggest to readers the inspiration for some of Helga’s settings.
Cities, villages, neighborhoods:
I am a native of the Great Plains, having grown up on a farm in the Platte River Valley of western Nebraska. I love the wild beauty of the Plains and nearby Rocky Mountains–the too hot, too cold, too empty, too full of life extremes. Typically, the awesomely diverse and the awesomely stark are much the same, even as they are different. Although I have lived in Michigan, North Carolina, and British Columbia, the western plains, mountains, and desert are in my heart.
As my day job, for over thirty years I have been a faculty member and administrator in higher education. Teaching broadly in the liberal arts, including creative writing, my professional publications include educational materials, poems, and 28 stories for young readers. During my spare hours, I have also collected and carefully studied the records of former times upon which the Wood Cow Chronicles are based. It is my privilege to bring this astonishing saga to light.
The Wood Cow Chronicles have been researched and written with the irreplaceable assistance of Barbara, my beloved wife of more than thirty-five years, and our children. Indeed, the essential research into the history of the Wood Cows has been conducted during the odd hours of family reading and storytelling “around the campfire” as we say–even when there is no campfire! This research continues and grows richer as our family expands across generations and continents.
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