Tishta the Crystal Orb: Beta Readers – Round Two

After finishing the last edit of “Tishta the Crystal Orb,” I drew two of the six maps for the book, figured out how to include them in Scrivener, and sent the ARC (Advanced Review Copy) out to a couple of Beta Readers. I am so excited, I can barely contain myself.

For the maps, I scanned my pencil sketches into .jpg files. Using PhotoShop, I added them as the lowest layer, then drew over them—with my finger on my trackpad—and added text labels, etc., then removed the original layer. It was tedious and the maps are fairly crude, but they definitely show the landscape and the routes my travelers take.

Adding the drawings to Scrivener was a learning process. I had to figure out how to scale them up to fit the page, then what to do to exclude the title of the page. I ran into an issue when I started updating the .epub files on iBooks on my iPhone (it worked fine on my Mac). It remembered positions from the previous file, and it really messed with the formatting of the pages. Now I know to always name the file something different, so I append versions, e.g., Tishta the Crystal Orb 2.1.epub. I did not have this issue with Kindle, but I think it is a good practice, regardless.

Next up is to finish the other four maps—a friend lent me a drawing tablet to attach to my laptop, which is making things easier—then create updated book versions to send to my readers. I also need to contact a few of the people who did not respond to my initial email to see if they are not interested or maybe missed the email.

I have been trying—only somewhat successfully—to hold off on doing any more editing until after I take the class on creating an audiobook on the 17th (see previous blog post for details). I am really ready to record the scenes again. It is difficult to listen to the current version since I can hear things that should change, and I am not certain if I have already changed them—I did a major edit since they were last recorded.

The value of recording as an editing tool was reinforced over the weekend when I recorded a scene before reading it at one of my reading groups on Sunday. I do this to ensure I can read the whole scene within the allotted five minutes of open mic. There were several places in the short scene where the words caught my ear as not quite right. I made the changes before I read it to my group.

I found a line editor who I will possibly hire. I need to figure out at what point it will make sense for her to read it. Probably not until after I make edits based on Beta Reader feedback, and perhaps not until after I record the book again. All these things are trial and error. Next time, I will know more. But that is life, in general.

Thanks for your words of encouragement and advice. I appreciate it. I should be editing. More later.

Copyright ©2014-18 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.


Tishta the Crystal Orb: Outline Update and Full Edit Pass

Damn, it’s been a month. I made a second pass through the outline of “Tishta the Crystal Orb” to add the point of view (POV) for each scene. So, I read the whole book again. This time, I carefully edited each scene. On the last pass, I started out thinking I should simply outline, but started editing more and more as I went through the book. That was apparent on the current pass—I made many more changes in the first half than the second.

While my focus was on finding scenes to remove that were not moving the story forward—and I did do that—I also changed a lot of text to make the verbs active. For example, “was sitting” became “sat.” An added bonus was this also reduced the word count, by onesies. Other similar edits included looking critically at prepositional phrases to ensure they were required and not just eye candy.

Adding a focus on POV helped me keep the story more in the narrator’s voice and out of people’s heads. I still go there, but more judiciously. Again, this reduced the word count as “Malcan saw Gillan draw her sword” became “Gillan drew her sword.”

On this pass, the word count dropped from 164K words to 155K. Not too bad, although my goal was, and still is, 150K. When I started editing the second draft of Tishta, the word count was 187K, so about a 20% drop. I am happy about that.

My next step will be to engage with my second set of beta readers to see who will have time over the next month to read the book. Of course, I will ask them to report any plot holes or anything that feels inauthentic, but my primary ask will be to let me know where the story feels slow and what, if anything, they think I could remove without harming the story.

On March 17, I will be taking a Hugo House course presented by Brian Callanan, with help from Wendy Terrien, “Understanding Audiobooks: A New Chapter for Writers.” If you are from the Seattle area, you might recognize Brian’s name—he has worked at Q13Fox. He is a voice over artist and can be found on Facebook at Brian Callanan Voice Over & Audiobook Narration. I am really looking forward to this class since I fully intend to record Tishta myself. If you follow my blog, you know that I record every scene. I find hearing the words is one of my best editing tools, and, I enjoy listening to my story.

When my beta readers have given their feedback, and I have recorded and listened to the story, I will make one last edit pass through the book. Then, I will be ready to share it with everyone.

I am excited to be so close to publishing. I met with an artist this week, Kaitlin Robinson, who has agreed to do the cover for me. She is the sister of a good friend, and I like that—keeping it in the family.

On a recent visit to Third Place Books, I discovered they have a small publishing press. I need to check it out to see if it will be a good option for me to create a physical book. I will have to pick the brains of some of my author friends to figure out the best approach to digital distribution. I still would like to create my own distribution page to go along with my soon-to-be-created author page. That would give me the added benefit of having something new and cool on my CV for my “real” profession, which is software development. I sometimes wish there were about six more hours in a day.

That about sums it up. I will try to post more regularly now. Let me know if you have any comments or advice for someone at this point in their first book. I would hate to miss something that would seem obvious to an author who has already been here.

Copyright ©2014-18 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Flash Fiction: The Last Tokelauan

Tokelau is a very small country, halfway from Hawaii to New Zealand—tiny dots of coral reef in the vast Pacific Ocean. I almost went there once—when I sailed with my husband around the South Pacific—but the anchorage was too iffy. The atolls that make it up are Atafu, Nukunonu and Fakaofo. The total land area is four square miles. About 1,400 people live there.

No significant land is more than six-and-a-half feet above normal high tides. Tokelau is particularly vulnerable to sea level rise. Cyclones are devastating. They wash over entire atolls, killing all the vegetation and eating away at what little soil exists. Survival there is tenuous, at best, but it is where Tokelauans have called home for a thousand years.  They have the distinction of being the first nation in the world to be 100% solar powered.

More Tokelauans live in Wellington, New Zealand, than in the islands. They bring their culture with them, but their government would like to continue to exist. From a conference in Kiribati in 2015: “So the questions related to forced migration because of climate change and rising sea levels are also critical to Tokelau: we need commitment from the international community, .., we need protection for our displaced people, we want to retain sovereignty and our Exclusive Economic Zone.” The question to the world is, where do these people go and how do they continue to be Tokelauan?

I wrote a Flash Fiction story about the not-too-distant future. It is best read while listening to Te Vaka’s ‘Te Namo,’ from their first album ‘Te Vaka.’

The sun rises, at it always does, creeping across the ghost white rim of the atoll. Mele watches its magic turn the lagoon from grey to shades of teal, then returns to kneading her bread. Her gnarled knuckles ache, but the action loosens the joints. She misses the birdsong. She looks longingly at her old clay oven, but there has been no wood to fire it in a long time—and burning is illegal, anyway. When the dough is ready, Mele shapes it into buns—a real loaf would take hours to bake in her little solar oven. Everything has changed.

She remembers running, naked, down to the lagoon—te namo—as the sun rose. She was four or five. She helped her father push the canoe—te vaka—into the water. She was there when he returned, midday, with the fish they would eat for dinner. There are no more fish in the lagoon. When the reef died, the fish disappeared. The sea is too warm, too acidic.

The sea is also too high.

“Mama”—Ione returns from loading the cart—“what are you doing? You should be packing.”

She peers up. How could this middle-aged man be her baby boy? “The bread needs to rise. I’m sorry it won’t be ready before you go.”

Ione squats beside his mother. “We’ve been over this. There is nothing left for us here. We can no longer grow food. The ocean rises higher every year. We have to go. Today. The ship is here. It won’t be coming back.”

Seagulls squawk overhead. They must have followed the ship.

“You pack. You go.”

“Mama, a cyclone is coming. They think it’ll make a direct hit. The island hasn’t recovered from the last one.”

“I remember.”

“Then you know, we have to leave. All of us. That includes you.”

“You pack. Hurry now. You don’t want to miss the ship. I need to put the bread in the oven.”

Ione stands. “I don’t have time to argue.” He goes into the little concrete block house where he was born.

Mele turns back to her bread. The flour will last another ten or twelve days—longer, now that she will no longer need to feed everyone, so maybe a month. She wonders if the supply boat brought more. She places the tiny loaves into the oven and makes sure it is facing the sun.

Copyright ©2014-18 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Tishta the Crystal Orb: Outline Finished

I am ecstatic. I finished the outline of “Tishta the Crystal Orb” today. After cruising through “Part 4: Colmaria” in four days, “Part 5: Mondar” was more of a slog—it took twelve. Granted, at 42,402 words it is 65% longer than Part 4.

Even though, as I have said in past posts, this pass through the book was meant to simply provide an outline, I was hard-pressed not to edit along the way. As I noted each beat in each scene—a technique author Anaea Lay suggested—it seemed prudent to trim the ones I felt were extraneous, especially this far into the book, where I feel more confident that whole scenes are unlikely to be cut. I also could not refrain from rewording, or removing words, where appropriate. At the same time, I ended up adding bits and pieces, where I felt the story would be better with the new words—there is more of this to come after I read through my notes. In the end, I trimmed the word count by 9%, down from 46,521.

While the page count dropped a bit, and the scene count stayed the same, I ended up splitting a long chapter into two, making the break at a tense moment in the story, to add to the tension. This was on the advice of author Elizabeth Guizzetti, after she graciously offered to read my second draft, and provide feedback and comments. This was a good call on her part. I like how it broke up the flow.

My next work will be to analyze the outline, looking for beats or whole scenes that do not move the story forward. Because I know this will mostly affect the first half of the book, I held back earlier on making the copious edits I allowed myself in Part 5. After taking a quick glance at the current revision in .epub format, I could not help myself—I immediately made some edits. It is interesting how I notice things in this format that do not pop out when I read the same thing in Scrivener. It is going to take discipline to finish the analysis before diving into edits like these—that is work for the next phase.

I expect that cutting scenes will be the most challenging thing I have experienced, so far. I have heard stories of authors crying over favorite scenes that dropped to the cutting room floor. I am bracing myself for this inevitability, but I owe it to my readers to provide them with a properly paced book. I am beginning to understand how it can take years to publish a book, and how some books never are. I love my stories. I want to share them. I will do this.

Copyright ©2014-18 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Tishta the Crystal Orb: Part 4 Is Outlined

Only four days since I finished outlining Part 3 of “Tishta the Crystal Orb,” I have outlined “Part 4: Colmaria.” Jury duty has a nice way of providing distraction-free time.

The word count went from 27,175 to 25,465, and the number of pages dropped from 90 to 74. This edit is not meant to reduce these counts, but to outline the scenes, and their beats, in a spreadsheet. Beats are each action or feeling that happens in a scene. Since I am reading each scene fairly thoroughly to identify the beats, I have edited to remove words, or even beats, as I go. That accounts for the drop in words.

In a previous edit, I broke out actions very discreetly. This was useful in identifying what I later learned are called beats. Although very insightful, it left the manuscript with each paragraph containing the actions of a single character. I went so far as to separate the dialog from any sentences around them. This resulted in a lot of one-sentence paragraphs. The second draft—the one I sent to a group of Beta readers—was structured this way, and much longer than it needed to be, as a result. As I have gone through the book since then, I have created more complex paragraphs that include all thoughts, dialog and actions around a single character-initiated action. The dialog in any given paragraph is all spoken by the same character. The number of pages has shrunk as a result, which is good. I think I am happy with this methodology, but need to wait until I next record the book to see how it sounds.

After I finish outlining, I hope to figure out which scenes can be reduced or eliminated, to pick up the pacing—especially in the first half—as well as to reduce the overall size of the book. At that point, I can realign the moon—I have at least two scenes that depend on it being full—and draw the final version of the maps. I tentatively plan to do one more full edit, looking for extraneous items on my ever-growing list of words and phrases that I “should not use,” or, at most, should use judiciously. I will share that list in another blog.

I am totally stoked about outlining “Part 5: Mondar.” It is where a lot of the action takes place on the way to the grand finale. I made some headway this morning, but then, duty called—I was included in a jury panel, which was my hope during this week of civil servitude. I am excited to see more of the legal process in action and will be more than happy to sit on the jury if I am selected. Tomorrow morning, I will find out. For now, I should get to bed. The six o’clock alarm will sound long before I am ready.

Copyright ©2014-18 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Lessons from the Fledgling Author: Editing Is Hard Work

I am fairly certain I will spend as much time editing “Tishta the Crystal Orb” as writing it. Granted, the editing involves some writing and re-writing, but, damn, the rest of it is very time-consuming. I know part of the reason it is taking so long is that I am a novice. I learn from my experiences, and I hope, that by sharing, you can avoid some of the mistakes I have made along the way—mistake is too a harsh word—and make your editing more efficient.

While attending writing panels at conferences over the last few years, I have heard many views on best practices. Some writers advocate starting with an outline, while others write by the seat of their pants—“pantsers” was a word I learned. The latter style seemed to apply to me, so I did not worry about outlines.

When I started writing, it was because a story was demanding to get out. So, I wrote it. The words flowed freely from my brain through my fingers into my computer. It was very stimulating. All my free time was taken by this single endeavor. I would sometimes write until two or three in the morning, so I would not lose the story. I knew, all along, that I was writing an epic fantasy. I expected to write a trilogy. Our brains are conditioned to this—beginning, middle, conclusion. Star Wars is the prime example.

When I lifted my pen, so to speak, I realized the first book was an epic unto itself. I did not note the word count, but when Scrivener told me it was seven hundred fifty pages—and I had a major section in the middle to complete—I knew I had a problem. The missing part was meant to be that failure of the hero on his way to figuring out how to win. It seemed like an obvious place to rip the first book asunder. And, that is what I did. Then, I had a tetralogy.

In finishing the “new” first book, which is titled, “Tishta the Crystal Orb,” I was cautious to keep it more terse. I succeeded, and the first draft was around eighty-seven thousand words. This seemed appropriate for a first-time author. A fellow writer, Anne Bean, who has done editing, agreed to go through the book. It was a very exciting time for me.

While Anne read “Tishta,” I felt an intense desire to know more about Coltan, my vampire and main character. Somewhere along the line, I wrote bits of his back story, including scenes from childhood and adulthood before he was turned into a vampire. It gave me a good feel for what kind of man he was, and some of the things he had gone through. I had also written the longer story of how he met Criften and was “tamed” by the wizard. I knew some of the pieces of his life between his beginnings with Criften and where the story starts in “Tishta.” I wanted more. I needed to know the story of Coltan dealing with his distress at killing a lover—during a passionate sexual encounter with her, his bloodlust overcame him.

What began as a simple backstory, blossomed into a novella of around fifty-thousand words. A month later, I had five books. Tentatively titled “How to Tame a Vampire,” this book follows Coltan on his journey to Soldur, to meet the wizard, Eido, who specializes in swordsmanship, as well as psychology. In it, Eido guides him as he learns to separate his desire for blood from his sexual passion. In this story, I learned to write explicit sex scenes.

During the first year, when I was writing the originally planned first book, “Into the Wolf Dream”—which is the title of the now second book—I wrote major parts of the final book, “The Golden Key,” and parts of the middle book, “From the Detritus of Evil.” Because so much goes on in so many places—which all need to align for the Coming Battle at the end of the last book—I fill in pieces of these future books as I write. I have easily written over a million words for the complete story.

Because the whole story is so long, authors I know have been suggesting serializing it—breaking it into smaller pieces so I can publish more frequently. This may be the way to go with self-publishing, but right now, I will stay focused on publishing “Tishta” as full-fledged novel.

After Anne provided feedback that the story was fairly solid, but the characters, places and time flow needed elaboration, I let myself go. After nine months, “Tishta” grew to one hundred eighty-seven thousand words—more than double. I edited it down to one hundred seventy-two thousand.

In the fall of 2017, I called the second draft of “Tishta” complete. I gleefully sent it to several beta readers. The benefit I am receiving from their feedback is immeasurable, and it gives me the confidence to continue. I know the book is too long, and the pacing is too slow in places, especially in the first third, or maybe half. I was lucky to have a published author, Elizabeth Guizzetti, offer to read the story. In a flash—literally, in just over a week—she got back to me with feedback and inline comments. Whoot! Her feedback and criticisms helped me make some decisions about characters and plot. I love the support my local Seattle writing community offers me.

After taking a month to explore editing methods—to help me decide what to cut and where to cut it—I began adding a goal, a conflict summary, and an outcome, to each of my scenes. This was a suggestion from a writing channel on YouTube. It gave me fuel for thought, but did nothing to give me insight into my editing. This ended up being a waste of time.

The idea to document what each scene involves was encouraged by another published writer in my Seattle network, Anaea Lay. She suggested outlining the scenes in a spreadsheet, including a list of each beat—or action—as well as a list of characters and whatever other notes seem appropriate. At the beginning of December, I began using a spreadsheet to outline. It has been a month, and I have gone through the first three parts—as of today. This approach seems like a good one, and I am planning to outline the whole book this way—two more parts to go.

Beside the beats, I am keeping track of the word counts, which nights transpire, who the characters are, and notes about what, of importance, happens. Several things have come out this already. I have become more conscious of higher level story beats, that I hope will help me figure out which scenes are not holding their weight. I also notice who is missing from a scene, or a series of scenes, and think about how or if they should be included. I already kept track of the nights as a means of understanding distances and knowing the phase of the moon. Now, I can see how much time passes not only in each scene, but also in each chapter and part. I hopes this helps identify places where I can cut days out.

I started out thinking I should simply document what was currently written, with the intent of coming back on a later edit pass—after I know more—to decide how to trim things. As I went, I found I was critically reading each beat—so basically, each paragraph—anyway, and started to feel I was wasting time leaving things that I could see needed editing. I might regret this decision later, but I have been reviewing and changing things that I notice. The word count has fallen by about five percent. And, my writing style is continuing to evolve in the process. Since I did not start out editing as I went, the earlier in the book, the less editing took place. The ending of my book always feels more polished than the beginning.

So, that is what I have been up to since I last updated you all. I might not get back here again until I finish outlining the final two parts. I will compare what that tells me with a map I already drew—the map points out that too much travel takes place in the beginning, which was already a red flag—to find the places I should consider trimming and cutting.

Although this has been a long, and sometimes grueling, process, I find a certain satisfaction in editing. Once I get the process down, I believe the next books will be easier and quicker to finish. I will be using the spreadsheet to outline much sooner in the process. It’s all good. I’m learning.

Copyright ©2014-18 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Lessons from the Fledgling Author: There Are Places I Remember

A question came up in one of my Facebook writers’ groups today—is it all right to write about a place you have never visited?

It is certainly best to write what you know, but that is not always possible. In your research of a place, do not forget to understand its geography, what plants and animals live there, and what the climate is like, especially during the time your story is set there. Investigate the local cuisines and dress and other cultural aspects. Then, create a character that is that place (and, now I realize, I should do this). Describe if it is hot or cold, dry or muggy, dusty or moldy, noisy or quiet; how it smells; what colors it is; if the buildings or rocks or whatever are rough or smooth, spiky or rounded. If it is very hot, describe how the air feels entering a character’s lungs, or how their lips dry and crack. If it is very cold, describe how their toes get numb and, the longer they are outside, how the cold creeps across their feet and up their legs. Those are the showing things you can use to describe a place you have never been. It helps if you are describing something you are at least familiar with, even if you have never been to the exact place.

If you have never been in snow, felt it touch the skin on your cheeks, made a snowman, or run outside in your bare feet just to see if you could make it to the fence and back, then you will be hard-pressed to be able to describe it. If you have never tried to sleep when the temperature is 90°F, the humidity is 98%, there is not a breath of air moving, and the cicadas are so loud you can’t hear anything else, it would be hard to pretend you know what that feels like. Your readers who have experienced these things, they will know.

Copyright ©2014-17 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Flash Fiction: What th…

A conversation the other day, with a friend, spurred me to write this. I experimented with writing in the first person, which I have rarely used. Then, I changed the story to present tense. This is even more rare for me. While reading it today at Writing Practice’s monthly Writers Read Out, I found it difficult to stay in the present tense. One line, in particular, came out in the past tense every time I practiced reading it, and again, at the event. “We move our conversation to Messenger.” It was interesting. My brain would not let go of the past tense, and “move” always became “moved.” At 332 words, I am not positive it counts as flash fiction, but I do not know what else to call it.

The day starts out peaceful and calm. The wild wind and rain from the previous day moved on. Even though it is cool—we no longer experience real cold—the bright winter sun shines in my eyes. It turns the fall leaves, still clinging to the trees, a fiery gold. Inside my house, it is toasty. Kano lies on his mat with his back pushed against the heater vent—his favorite spot. Kake sits at my feet.

I try to write, but Facebook distracts me. I get into a debate with a friend about whether anything—health care, taxes, sexual abuse of women and children—is important, beyond the threat of nuclear holocaust or global warming, and which would kill us first.

“You’re too pessimistic,” he says.

We move our conversation to Messenger.

I do not know why I am taking such exception on this particular day, but over the past week, the news keeps getting worse and worse. The sea ice in the Bering Sea is the thinnest—ever—at this time of year. A heatwave over all of North America set record highs—and not by small amounts, but eight or nine degrees Fahrenheit—before moving into Greenland, where rain—rain in December!—is melting the glaciers.

To top that, North Korea shot off another missile a few days ago, and Hawaii is testing its air raid sirens, after decades of not being used. I remember the air raid siren tests each afternoon in my little town when I was growing up. How stupid is that, as if the siren would make any difference? I text my friend, “Sure glad I live in a target city.”

“Yeah. No real chance of suffering from radiation sickness.” Then, my friend surprises me. “None of that really matters. We’ll move on to a better place, beyond the pearly gates.”

“Are you shitting me? We’ll just all be dead.”

A bright light. Time to say, “What th…”—the bright light fades to… pearly gates—“…e hell?”

Copyright ©2014-17 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Lessons from the Fledgling Author: Too Much Hair

I keep reading that I should limit—even severely—the descriptions of my characters. Yesterday, I read a 2001 article in The New York Times by the late author, Elmore Leonard, titled “Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle.” It was from their WRITERS ON WRITING series. Point 8 said, “Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.” It went on to say, “Which Steinbeck covered. In Ernest Hemingway’s ‘Hills Like White Elephants’ what do the ‘American and the girl with him’ look like? ‘She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.’ That’s the only reference to a physical description in the story, and yet we see the couple and know them by their tones of voice, with not one adverb in sight.” I would guess, you might envision these characters as white Americans, as I did.

I understand this concept. It allows the reader to become part of the creation of the story—to become vested in the characters. I think it might be outdated. When we let readers create their own images of our characters, they will more than likely view them as white, and probably with light hair and blue eyes. In American media, we are completely conditioned to do so—even consumers who are not white.

My characters are predominantly brown. They come from mixed places and cultures—much like our own America. I feel it is important to make it clear that my protagonist would not be played by one of the Chris’s—Hemsworth, Evans, Pine, Pratt. I would choose someone like Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman. I do not know how to do this without describing him in vivid detail.

Screen Shot 2017-11-17 at 14.48.07

Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman – Photo: Paste Magazine

In the first scene of “Tishta the Crystal Orb,” Coltan arrives.

“He was a large, muscular man, about the same size as Malcan—but that is where the similarity stopped. His dark walnut hair was neatly cut to just above his shoulders. As he turned, one wavy lock fell over his brow, above expressionless brown eyes. His hand ran up over his head, integrating it into the rest of his hair. He wore a well-tailored black riding coat, and black boots that came halfway up his calves—he looked like a gentleman, out for an evening ride.”

I attempted to do a couple of things here—and maybe it is too descriptive. He is a big guy. Even though he is traveling, he keeps himself neat and clean. But, I also described his wavy, walnut-colored hair and brown eyes. Later, I describe his skin.

An issue one of my early readers had was that I described everyone’s hair in the first two chapters. But that is where I introduced the majority of my main characters, and there are a lot of them—eleven, at least. That was a lot of hair. I have since removed some of those descriptions and put them in later chapters—I still think it is important to note that it is not blond and straight. Well, actually, one of them is currently golden-haired, but I need to make her darker to fit in with the place she is from, as well as make her physically more similar to her cousin, who is another one of travelers.

Even Malcan and Brant, the two fairest among the group—with blue eyes—have dark hair. Brant’s is black. Malcan’s is dark auburn.

My lead warrior, Gillan, and her side-kick lover, Toran, are from a place where everyone is what we would call black. Their skin is very dark, their eyes are nearly black, and Gillan’s black hair is softly curled. How can I not describe at least some of that the first couple of times they are introduced?

“Shortly after the sun passed its zenith, Gillan slowed her horse while she removed the cord that bound her black hair. She shook out the curls before retying it.”

In the same scene, I described the boy, Kano. While he is not black, he is… well, I’ll let you read it.

“She was surprised to find a young boy, no more than eight or nine, sitting in a ray of sun.

His clothing, skin, and even his long, straight hair, so nearly matched the color of the russet and tan stones around him, he almost blended in with them. Laying beside him were a quiver of arrows, a bow and a small pack.”

Again, I think it is very important to describe him in this much detail when he is introduced, and not let the reader envision him as a white boy.

Ever since I first pictured my very large warrior, Toran, I have seen Isaiah Mustafa in my mind. If I was casting Tishta as a film, Mustafa would probably be my first choice, although, he is a little old to play my 30-year-old warrior. One night, a couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of eating dinner with Mustafa. Toran embodies a lot of Isaiah—big, handsome, beautiful smile, polite, deep booming voice (not the Old Spice voice).


Isaiah Mustafa with Michael Rosenbaum at 2015 Echoes of Hope Celebrity Shootout Hockey Game – Photo: Ramona Ridgewell

Interestingly, in all of the early descriptions of Toran, I just discovered I do not describe him beyond how large he is. Now, I wonder if my readers assume he is as dark as Gillan, since they are a couple. And, I wonder if my transposition of Mustafa onto my character made it so I found no need to describe him. Writing about things like this always seem to lead me to some new revelation. I shall undertake an investigation of all descriptions of Toran.

I am interested to know how other writers overcome the assumption of their readers that their characters are white. Let me know in the comments.

Copyright ©2014-17 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Elizabeth Guizzetti’s “The War Ender’s Apprentice”

The War Enders Apprentice (Chronicles of the Martlet Book 1)The War Enders Apprentice by Elizabeth Guizzetti

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Elizabeth Guizzetti weaves a delightful tale of wars, politics and intrigue across seven worlds in her new novella, “The War Ender’s Apprentice.” Her characters are engaging and nicely portrayed. I was especially taken with Eohan as he tries to figure out how to exist in his new world as apprentice to a War Ender. I went to bed, but couldn’t put the book down until I finished it. I felt like my child self, hiding under my blanket with a flashlight—I kept expecting my mother to come in and tell me it was past my bedtime. A fun, quick read.

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