Tishta the Crystal Orb: Answers

I am smiling as I write this. I just finished the final scene in the final chapter of part four—Chapter 25, “Answers.” It has been only four days since I finished the previous chapter, “Questions.” I guess staying home this weekend, instead of volunteering at film festivals, allowed me to spend my time writing. I was a little overextended for the last few weeks.

In “Questions,” the group found some strange goings on at Castle Colmaria, as well as reestablishing some old connections—especially Malcan—meeting some new people, and learning a bit from their encounters. “Answers” doesn’t answer all the questions, but it does answer the biggest question that has been looming since the beginning of the story—where is Tishta? It sets up the final part of the book—Part 5, “Heading East.”

We learn a little more about Malcan’s childhood at the castle, a bit about Coltan’s past—when he has another flashback—and a bit more about Brant, as he recalls living with his mother at Castle Bindar.

Once crucial event happens when Criften finds out where the Orb is—he crosses a line about who to trust and, more importantly, who not to trust—that sets the stage for future interactions with his Master Wizard and with The Council of Master Wizards. It won’t come into play much in this book, but it is an inciting incident for some of the things that occur in the next one, “Into the Wolf Dream.”

Because “Tishta the Crystal Orb” has never been a stand alone book, at least in my mind, I have introduced people, prophecies and events that drive the epic story along.  They will come into play later, as Criften’s team prepares for what I am currently calling “the coming battle.” Part 4, “Castle Colmaria,” was a vehicle for this. Otherwise, it was really a pit stop where my warriors could rest and regroup mentally. For Coltan and Mar, it gave them the opportunity to spend a lot of time together, bonding. When Malcan joined them, it completed a family unit that will continue to exist and flourish as the story progresses. For Criften, it started his path to isolation, even from his most trusted allies.

I am not sure how other authors accomplish setting things up for following books without doing exactly what I have been doing. I have put a lot of thought into ensuring “Tishta” has a solid story, with its own inciting incident, challenges and conclusion, but I already know most of the next story. “Into the Wolf Dream” starts right where “Tishta” leaves off. Some of the major story arcs continue to the end of “Wolf Dream.” It is already one-hundred-twenty thousand words long. Hopefully, with what I have learned while writing “Tishta,” I can have that book ready within six months of publishing this one.

But first, I need to finish this one. Part 5, “Heading East,” is going to have a lot more added, especially near the end. It currently has six chapters defined with twenty-four thousand words over forty-seven scenes. I am sure I will massage it, combining scenes and moving them around a bit. I will also certainly add new scenes. It will be interesting to see how these numbers change. Now that I am paying closer attention to these types of details, I noticed I will need to go back through some of the earlier chapters to do more edits like these. Learning more each day.

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

Tishta the Crystal Orb: Keeping Up the Pace

This week was challenging in terms of finding time to write. Even tonight, I took the time to go to my monthly reading event, Two Hour Transport. I was lucky enough to have the chance to read a scene, although it has been rare when there were actually too many readers for the available time. Last month, I read “Intestines From a Gremlin,” from Chapter 20, “Strong Magics,” which went over pretty well (especially, the part where Criften has Coltan hold the spindle while he measures off a strip of gremlin guts). I decided to follow that up with the very next scene, “See? Magic. Not Tea.” I had to trim out some of the words to fit it in the five minute timeframe. That has been an issue since the length of my scenes has increased, overall, in this revision. I had to speak really fast, but I’m glad I read that one.

I thought I would never make it through the next chapter. Then, I analyzed the scenes. For one thing, there were far too many to be consistent with other chapters. Secondly, it turned out that the first half was about questions and the second half provided some answers. I was able to neatly slice it into rough halves and create two chapters, Chapter 24, “Questions,” and Chapter 25, “Answers.” Neat!

One of the undertakings for me was to decide how and where to include something about Coltan finding a sexual outlet. His training with Eido—to separate his lust for blood from his lust for sexual gratification—included him feeding no less often than once a week, or maybe ten days, as well as satisfying himself sexually every day or so. Learning to be a wolf provided him a way to feed without harming people at all. I’m fairly certain that he has not fed on a human—except for that one time in Haliton—since he learned that skill. Before Coltan became involved with Gentu, he would steal off by himself to masturbate or occasionally slip away to bite some poor farmer. In Part 4, “Castle Colmaria,” the group spends most of their time at the castle. In this chapter, I added a brand new scene, “He Went Out,” where Coltan makes a trip to a brothel. In the next chapter, I will add something to deal with his need to feed.

Other than that addition, the scenes in this chapter remained relatively in tact. One addition was a fairly detailed description of Elizan, Petran’s wife, when she is first introduced. In the original draft, I didn’t include much in terms of descriptions for any of the characters. This time through, I rectified that. With Elizan, I even had Gillan speculate on where she was from based on what she looked like. I think it was a good opportunity to describe more about the different ethnicities in the various regions, as well as reinforce what some of the main characters look like and where they are from.

Because I made Gillan’s role as the leader of the warriors much more apparent in this revision, I changed the scene where Malcan goes to visit his brother to have Gillan—instead of Toran—go along with him and Coltan. Again, this reinforces something about the character. I am glad I made this change. In the original draft, I just randomly picked who accompanied Malcan. I knew I wanted Coltan there, but I think it was my own bias that it would be the men who would talk to Belcar—the general in charge of the armed forces of Colmaria—that led to my choice of Toran. This time, it is Toran who is left behind with the children. This feels much better.

As usual, I did a lot of flipping back and forth from working on the scenes in this chapter to making changes to the previous chapters, while looking ahead to the next one. It is a real endeavor to keep all the ducks in a row. Whenever I add or move a scene or partial scene, I have to carefully ensure it doesn’t end up out of sequence with other events. As soon as the troop is back on the road, I will have the added task of watching the phases of the moon again, so the nights are appropriately dark or bright. One upcoming scene, in particular, requires a full moon. I should start lining up the days to enable that.

My usual practice includes recording each of the scenes before I call the chapter finished. This chapter was no exception. I think a lot more about what I have written when I read it out loud. Saying the words and then listening to them utilizes different parts of the brain from writing and reading silently. I am sometimes blown away by how difficult it can be to read my own writing. It frequently forces me into breaking up sentences that are way too long and complex. Now that my ear is attuned to listening for gerund phrases, they stick out. I usually quash them. The ones I keep are rare and usually very short. “Having regained his composure, Brant took the cookie,” or “Being fairly drunk, Tulcar rambled on for a long time about sons and responsibilities.” It looks like I am doing a pretty good job avoiding these little beasts. I had to go through many scenes to find these two examples.

I am very excited about diving into the next chapter. It is the final chapter in Part 4. Once I finish that one, the end is in sight, although, Part 5, “Heading East,” will offer its own challenges. I know there is a big chunk of words to add between the wizards’ battle and the end of the book. I can’t wait to write that. It will be fun to do some actual writing instead of constant revisions.

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

Tishta the Crystal Orb: Another Week, Another Chapter

This week was a good one. I finished another chapter. In chapter 23, “Good Food and Kitchens,” I added quite a lot of relationship details. I like it when my characters share their feeling and emotions with each other. I hope it all comes through in my writing.

Criften continues to share his emotions, especially his fears and insecurities, with Maglin. More of his magical abilities are exposed, like when he overhears a conversation between one of the dark wizards and a spy at the castle. What he learns guides some of his subsequent behaviors, but has him questioning his own motivations. At the same time, we learn more about Baldru and his relationship to Rahl. I added a whole new scene for that conversation.

Large parts of the chapter were salvaged from my first draft, although I think all of them were expanded or had new interactions added to them. Late in the chapter, I added a second new scene between Criften and Maglin where she gives a report on Gentu, and Criften relays a message from Coltan.

Since I started exposing these conversations, it has added an unexpected richness to the story beyond giving Criften a vehicle to express his deep self. It has been fun to see Maglin’s character become fully fleshed, especially since she has a physical presence in the story now, so the reader knows what she looks like and some of her behaviors.

We get to know Eido a little bit through Criften’s conversations with him, but he doesn’t manifest physically until later in the series—he lives in far away Soldur-gan. It’s going to take more than an attempt to retrieve Tishta to necessitate him making the journey. Besides, Criften has successfully found and recovered it in the past with a smaller crew than he has at his disposal in this book.

This chapter sheds light on Brant’s past and he’s not very pleased about sharing it. In the aftermath, though, his relationship to Malcan solidifies.

As I have worked my way through this chapter, I found myself reading forward into the next chapter—and even revamping one of its scenes before I remembered I was only visiting—to make sure my timelines stayed reasonable, and also to keep the storylines consistent with what is supposed to happen next. I also spent a fair amount of time reworking the previous chapter to get everything to line up better with this current one. I am positive this type of back-and-forth editing between the chapters in this part will continue until my travelers get back on the road.

I still find my audio recordings of each scene to be an invaluable resource for catching odd phrasing, repeated words and things that are out of place or time. I also really enjoy listening to my story, which I think is a good thing. I read blogs by other authors who complain about having to read their scenes over and over, to the point where they hate them. I wonder I would also feel this way if my only means of editing was by reading—or, conversely, if these other writers would find the same joy that I do in hearing their stories read to them out loud.

I listen to my recordings constantly—in the car, at the store, when I’m walking and even on the bus, if I’m not able to write. Once I identify something that I don’t like, it catches in my ear every time I hear it, until I fix the text and make a new recording. It takes a lot of time, but I don’t watch TV, and I rarely read anything outside of technical journals—even though the writing community encourages me to read more in my genre—or news articles.

I’m pretty confident I will be writing in this space again by the end of this week. I’m in the groove again. It feels good.

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

Tishta the Crystal Orb: Moving Along in Part Four

It is with a certain amount of relief that I am writing here again today. I finished editing and rewriting the next chapter of “Tishta the Crystal Orb” this week. I have been looking forward to being in Castle Colmaria for a while now. The group arrived in chapter 22, “Castle Colmaria.”

The structure of this chapter remained mostly in tact, so getting through it was relatively easy. My creative process also seems to have kicked back in, after the distractions of the last month, and that makes me feel a lot more encouraged about finishing the book. I think I might have increased the number of words by around thirty percentage, which is also encouraging.

It has been a while since I read these scenes, and I felt like I was with my travelers as they approached the castle. I felt bad that Coltan, who was cooped up inside the wagon, had to miss it.

“As they came around a rock outcropping, Castle Colmaria suddenly came into view, radiant in the golden glow of the late afternoon sun. It was spectacular—prominently perched high above the valley on a bare, rocky bluff. Its tall walls were made of dark grey stone, and the turrets were a lighter grey, with pennants and banners of every color on their tops, waving in the warm autumn breeze.”

This was one of my better description from the first draft and it didn’t change much from the original. I did add a lot more description of the people the group saw. I included what the uniforms of the castle guards looked like, as well as how the fine clothing the royals and nobles wore differed from the what the guards wore. I also described the King in much more detail, which was really lacking in the draft. I like it better now.

I enjoyed reading the private scenes with Coltan and Mar. He bathes her, as if bathing his own child—nothing between an adult and child is more intimate than that. It is here that Mar really starts to become Coltan’s daughter, and he, her father. It is something they both desperately needed. This time through, I included how this stirred some things up, emotionally, for Coltan. I added a scene where Gillan—elegantly dressed for the banquet honoring the group’s visit—triggers a memory for Coltan, of his wife. I learned—when I wrote the very long backstory about his first visit to Soldur-gan—that Coltan was prone to these dives into his repressed memories from before he became a vampire.

Backstories have given me a lot of insight into why my characters behave the way they do. I highly recommend them as a way to develop characters—and, who knows, you might find another story worth sharing.

I didn’t include any scenes from outside the group in this chapter, with the one exception of Criften calling out to Eido after Coltan’s episode with Gillan. The travelers were adjusting to being in a new place—living inside for a while again—and learning how to dress and behave as guests in a palace. Mar even wore a dress for the first time.

I already have a few ideas for adding some intrigue to the next chapter—Baldru has said, after all, he has spies at the castle. I’m sure Rindahl must, as well. It just didn’t seem to fit in this  chapter. I may change my mind after making my way through the next several scenes—I always seem to spend a fair amount of time massaging the previous chapter as I make my way through the next one. It’s been a gleeful visit for me, so far. I’m looking forward to the banquet, although, I know Malcan isn’t.

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

Tishta the Crystal Orb: First Step Into Part Four

This was a really tough month for me, in a number of ways that all seemed to interfere with reviewing and adding to “Chapter 21 – South to Colmaria” of “Tishta the Crystal Orb.” It’s no coincidence that I started having a lot of distractions after I finished the previous chapter on January 20. That was the day a majority of the distractions started—and they haven’t let up, I’ve just learned to integrate them into my life and manage them. It’s not that I haven’t been reading—a lot—or writing. It’s just that the reading hasn’t been of SciFi or Fantasy—although a lot of what has been going on seems much like dystopian SciFi—and the writing has been either in Facebook posts—mostly in private or secret groups—or on my personal blog, or in my new diary.

It has taken a lot of effort to assimilate the goings on of the new administration without normalizing it—because, it is not normal. I suppose it could be considered fodder for future writings. I have to look on the bright side.

Along the way, I tried to write. The first week was a total loss. I was a deer in the headlights. I went to marches and rallies, I called my congress people, and I read and read and read. I learned which news sources I think I can trust, which ones lean left and right, and how far. I used up all the free views on all the major newspaper feeds—The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Seattle Times, to name just a few—and discovered other, online-only sources including Dan Rather’s Facebook feed and another one called News And Guts. Entirely too much information to ingest in such a short period of time.

The second week, I closed the Facebook tab on my browser except during meals. That weaned me from the addiction. I didn’t want to shut it out completely because it has become my primary source of news, and there has been a lot to keep up with. I am still using that as a tactic when I start spending too much time there. I thought Twitter was an equal issue, but found I don’t need to close that tab. I use its Trends to key me into what might be interesting, but it isn’t near the draw that my Facebook newsfeed is.

I started spending more time writing. My writing. On Tishta. It turned out that I had a lot to add to the previous chapter, as well as this new one. I didn’t have anything about Toran and Gillan’s handoff of Gentu to Maglin in the first draft—Maglin was just a character Criften talked about occasionally, and Gentu just disappeared after he left the group. After I added the second witch, Inla, it gave me the opportunity to resolve an issue I wasn’t sure about—how and when Gentu would end up in Mondar—and Inla being close to the border makes that easier now.

I also didn’t deal with the grief of Contara’s death in the first draft and I added some more about that to both chapters, including a new scene between Malcan and Brant where the boy asks what happens after someone dies. I showed—instead of telling about—Coltan’s grief at Gentu leaving, including his distraction while teaching the children and his not paying attention to how tired the other adults were becoming. Some of the descriptions I added, especially about the magics Criften uses to stabilize Gentu, I am quite pleased with. When I read the new scene that exposes this at Two Hour Transport last week, I got a good response from the audience, and comments afterward. I think I got that one right.

Overall, I am adding a lot more interactions between characters, and showing their increasing concern for each other. I like this part of writing. It exposes more about the characters and allows their little community to grow stronger as they help each other through some pretty tough times. They are going to need that strong bonding to get them through what is to come.

Although I still have outstanding notes on this chapter I will need to resolve, I’m ready to call it good enough for now, and to move on to the next chapter. I will definitely come back to this one to make some additions, but I need to see what happens next with some of the characters to better understand what those additions should be. I hope the next chapter doesn’t take a month to finish, or this is going to be a much longer slog than I was expecting. Wish me luck.

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