Ellie James Guest Post: About those Dragonflies…

Special thanks to Ellie James for yet another great guest post on Just Us Girls. If you're unfamiliar with her, check out our interview with her back in May and our review on her book, Shattered Dreams.

It’s happened four times now. I’m at a book signing and someone comes up to me, usually with a hesitant, slightly glassy look in their eyes. Lowering their voice, they tell me they’ve always loved dragonflies or that they have one that visits on special occasions, or maybe they collect dragonfly art—or they’re wearing a dragonfly brooch. And they always say, “you know why…don’t you?”

Or maybe it’s the reader who sends me a note, directing me to their dragonfly-themed blog, or the interview questions, all wanting to talk about the dragonflies…. 

But here’s the thing. I didn’t know. I didn’t sit down to write a story with a heavy dragonfly-motif. I didn’t plan a dragonfly theme. I didn’t even know that much about dragonflies, except that they often darted and buzzed the pool in the evenings.
But then I’m writing Shattered Dreams and I reach this key place in the story, this place where my main character, Trinity, a sixteen-year-old orphaned psychic, is given a talisman that had once belonged to her mother, and suddenly I’m describing a dragonfly.
No forethought. No pondering or considering. No planning. The dragonfly appeared all by itself—and if there’s one thing I’ve learned over my years writing, it’s that those unplanned things in stories, those gifts, as I think of them, are always the most pure, organic elements there are. They always occur when they’re supposed to occur, and they change everything.
I’ve learned a lot since that dragonfly first showed up in the story. I’ve spent hours researching and exploring dragonflies. I’ve spent more hours watching the dragonflies play in the twilight of my backyard. I’ve bought my own talisman and found myself doodling dragonflies all over the place, including a foggy shower door. And now I know, I know why the dragonfly appeared in my series about a teenage psychic, and I know why the amulet passed down from mother to daughter could have been nothing else.

Agile and graceful, poised and powerful, beginning their lives in water and ending them in air, dragonflies symbolize change and the recognition of the deeper meaning of life in almost every culture, every civilization, in which they are found. They embody transformation and renewal, illusion . Worldwide, dragonflies are recognized to have a strong association with light. They both reflect and refract. They change colors depending upon the angle of light or shadow, and in doing so they inspire us to explore this power, that of light, to transform and usher in positive life changes. Additionally, they are a creature of the water, like all creatures of the water symbolizing the subconscious mind and deeper thoughts. They  bare strong associations with dreams and desire.

But let’s get back to the transformation thing for a second. It’s not just transformations within life, but from life. To many Native American cultures (as well as many other around the world), dragonflies are the souls of the departed, hovering close before moving on. The stories are everywhere. All you have to do is go out to Google and look up “dragonflies and death.” This is the main thing readers want to talk to me about. The stories they want to share. Stories about the loss of a loved one and the sudden, mysterious appearance of a dragonfly. A dragonfly where one has never been seen before. A dragonfly where there shouldn’t be one. A dragonfly that appears at just the right moment, and leaves only when a new strength, a new balance, has been achieved.

It’s all pretty awesome.

Here’s a story I ran across over and over:
 In the bottom of an old pond lived some grubs who could not understand why none of their groups ever came back after crawling up the stems of the lilies to the top of the water. They promised each other that the next one who was called to make the upward climb would return and tell what happened to him. Soon one of them felt an urgent impulse to seek the surface; he rested himself on the top of a lily pad and went through a glorious transformation, which made him a dragonfly with beautiful wings. In vain, he tried to keep his promise. Flying back and forth over the pond, he peered down at his friends below. Then he realized that even if they could see him they would not recognize such a radiant creature as one of their number.

The fact that we cannot see our friends or communicate with them after the transformation, which we call death, is no proof that they cease to exist.
  To many, dragonflies represent a reminder that death is not an end, but rather, a change, part of a larger, more intricate cycle, a transformation that requires a higher form of communication.

I worked as much of this as I could into the Midnight Dragonfly books, in particular the third book, Fragile Darkness. Here are two of my favorite passages:

“She always said they’re the souls of those who have come before us,” he said, and then his hand was there, slipping by mine to finger the greenish crystal in the center. “Darting by to see that we are safe, and to remind us of what is to come.”

“Like the dragonfly, you are of two worlds, two realms, the here and the now, while still being connected to the mysteries of the Universe. You are both light and the reflection of light. You see beyond what your eyes show you.”

Look around you. The magic, the mysticism, the transformation, is everywhere. 

About Ellie James
Most people who know Ellie think she’s your nice, average wife and mom of two little kids. They see someone who does all that normal stuff, like grocery shopping, going to soccer games, and somehow always forgetting to get the house cleaned and laundry done.
What they don't know is that more often than not, this LSU J-School alum is somewhere far, far away, deeply embroiled in solving a riddle or puzzle or crime, testing the limits of possibility, exploring the unexplained, and holding her breath while two people fall in love.
Regardless of which world Ellie’s in, she loves rain and wind and thunder and lightning; the first warm kiss of spring and the first cool whisper of fall; family, friends, and animals; dreams and happy endings; Lost and Fringe; Arcade Fire and Dave Matthews, and last but not least…warm gooey chocolate chip cookies.

 You can follow Ellie on Facebook 

Her next book, FRAGILE DARKNESS, is available from Griffin Teen November 27, 2012. 

About the Midnight Dragonfly Series
Glimpses. That’s all they are. Shadowy premonitions flickering through sixteen year old psychic Trinity Monsour’s dreams. Some terrify: a girl screaming, a knife lifting, a body in the grass. But others--the dark, tortured eyes and the shattering kiss, the promise of forever--whisper to her soul. They come without warning. They come without detail.

But they always mean the same thing: The clock is ticking, and only Trinity can stop it.

Find out how in Shattered Dreams, Broken Illusions, and Fragile Darkness, available from Griffin Teen!


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