Tishta the Crystal Orb: Part Four Edit Complete

The edit of “Tishta the Crystal Orb,” Part 4: Colmaria took a lot longer than I had hoped. Three weeks seems like an eternity as I make my way through this edit of Tishta. I finished the initial read-through and edit of the five chapters in Part 4, for the most part, in about a week, but found it difficult to impossible to do the recording.  Since I consider listening to the stories as part of the editing process, I couldn’t justify moving forward into Part 5. To record, I need to be at home, and it needs to be relatively quiet—which generally means having the windows closed (and the cats asleep). Even though we’re having a cool July in Seattle this year—we have yet to break 85° F this month—I have rarely closed the windows. In general, Seattle only has a few days over 90° F each summer, so most of us don’t have air-conditioning.

I made some good progress over the weekend, finishing the recording of the second and third chapter. Then, Monday, one of the tasks that has been occupying most of my time resolved itself. In the evening, I finished the fourth and fifth chapters. It was an exciting day!

The scenes in all of the chapters remained in tact. I continue my move toward simpler sentences with strong verbs. I hope I haven’t gone too far with this. It is a practice that I first learned when I was regularly attending the old Louisa’s Café Writers’ Group (now, Vios Café Writers). The group is led by long-time writers (and comrades), Jack Remick and Robert Ray. The two shared many techniques for how to do this, as well as lots of other favorite practices. I didn’t understand what I had learned. After I finished my first draft of Tishta and handed it off to my editor, Anne Bean, a major complaint from her was my use of gerund phrases to begin sentences. These were actually artifacts of long, complex sentences, and my propensity toward using gerunds, in general.

As I went through Tishta’s second draft, I spent a lot of time getting rid of gerund phrases, but primarily at the beginning of sentences. I had not entirely embraced getting rid of most of them from my writing. It wasn’t until the current edit that I realized what Jack and Bob were saying. Not only have I removed most of the gerund phrases—except for judicious use—I have also replaced the vast majority of the words “and” and “then” with a period and a capital letter to start the next phrase. This accomplished more than simply creating shorter, more declarative sentences. It also helped separate the characters’ actions and, in doing so, allowed me to break up paragraphs to describe a single character’s actions.

This example is from chapter 22, “Castle Colmaria,” scene 2, “Is It Really Meant for Bathing?” where Coltan has convinced Mar that baths can be nice. First, this is the content from the original draft:

Finding soap and a washcloth in a nearby drawer, Coltan came back to help her wash. He lathered up her hair and made sure it all got rinsed out when she dunked her head under the water. Then she stood, and he wrapped a large towel around her and lifted her back to the floor. Using a smaller towel, he rubbed her hair, then combed it for her.

This is the current version of the same content:

After finding soap and a small towel in a nearby drawer, Coltan came back to help her wash. He lathered up her hair and made sure it all got rinsed out when she dunked her head under the water.

When she was done, she stood.

Coltan wrapped a large towel around her and lifted her back to the floor. Using a smaller towel, he rubbed her hair, then combed it for her.

Several changes happened here. I mitigated starting the first sentence with a gerund phrase by adding the preposition, “after,” to the beginning. There are other ways to do this, but I liked the flow this approach gave to the text. I broke up the paragraph into three, separating the subjects’ actions. I accomplished this, in part, by getting rid of the “and” in the second to last sentence. This allowed me to put all the rest of the actions with Coltan in the last paragraph. After listening to the recording, I opted to keep the gerund phrase in the final sentence—hopefully, it is an appropriate usage “using” and “then.” I think the sentence was fine as originally written.

Changes like these have been one of the causes of the increased page count in the second draft. Sometimes the word count goes down even though the page count goes up, but, more often than not, both increase. The changes from the first draft to the second that I made to this chapter resulted in the word count diminishing by nearly two-thousand words while the page count went up by four. I realized, to get a true word count, I needed to only include the manuscript itself, and not the notes. This puts me at 175,847 words.

For this edit, I am focused on making changes like the ones above. After I get through Part 5: Into Mondar, I will do one more to look for scenes that are not required to move the story forward. I am fairly certain I will not be able to discern the truly extraneous ones, so I will need to involve my editor—if she is available—to help me with this. Part of the focus of that edit pass will be to scour the text, looking for missing commas and periods. Another thing I will check is how consistently I have separated characters’ actions into discrete paragraphs—I am doing this more regularly the more I write and edit, so the beginning of the book might, again, be out of sync with the writing style towards the end.

My current goal is to finish the current edit pass in a week. The ultimate goal is to be published before the end of the year. The finishing Tishta has moved up in my priorities list, so I feel confident, today, that these are possibilities. Wish me luck.

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

Tishta the Crystal Orb: Part Three Edit Completed

Oh my goodness. That was a slog. It took me three weeks to get through Part 3: Travels and Battles, of “Tishta the Crystal Orb.” Granted, it is a much longer section than Part 2: Learning to Trust, but, still, three weeks versus three days? I had a lot going on. At least, in the beginning, the drugs I was taking for the stomach pain last month made me stupid—literally, I couldn’t focus on anything. Regardless of that, I made progress only in fits and starts. I am so relieved to be finished!

As I edited Part 3, I found the writing is more in line with my current style—which is represented at the end of the book—but I was again surprised by how much my writing style has changed so recently. Some of the editing was changes to the way things are presented, but it was predominantly simply rewriting complex sentences into smaller, stronger ones. As I read them out loud—to record them—and then listened, I had to admit I like it better this way. This encourages me to keep it up. I am still looking for that magic place where the book’s writing style is my writing style.

Part 3 is the second longest in the book. Its nine chapters remained after the edit and, although the number of scenes diminished by one, the number of pages increased from one-hundred-thirty to one-hundred-thirty-two. At the same time, I like it that my total word count dropped again, from 187,155 to 186,544.

It was fun going back through these chapters. It is the part of the book where the relationships between my characters start to really solidify. There are also several battles. I love battles. They go through a major failure where they loose two members of their little team—one to a death on the battlefield. Their grief rang true to me, so I hope that means it will speak to others.

Another thing I enjoyed was simply reading the story. I made a lot of changes when creating this draft—I already noted the word count more than doubled. A lot of that took place in this section, so some of the scenes actually surprised me, as a reader. I’ll be interested to see if this delights me again when I make my—hopefully—final pass through the book to ensure all the tenses are correct and the periods are in place at the end of sentences.

This is the part of the story where Coltan starts to feel more like a man. He begins to show a real interest in the well-being of the others in the group—especially Mar, at first—and then, he really falls in love with Gentu. He also has to come to terms with his limitations, in this respect—he is not a man. Criften is good at reminding him of this; Inla certainly does; he almost loses Gentu when the sun comes up. He even reminds himself during a dream where he basks in the sun.

Coltan’s relationship with the rest of the group starts to change by the end of Part 3. Even though he never challenges Gillan’s leadership, Coltan begins to make decisions for the others, and no one questions it. An example of this is when Gentu asks Coltan if they can fight together, and he immediately says, ‘yes,’ without passing it by Gillan first. Malcan readily agrees. This was pretty subtle, but it is an important stepping stone in both increasing his authority among the group, and also his movement toward becoming more human.

The only one whose authority Coltan doesn’t trump is Criften, to whom he is deferential. When Criften tells him he can’t go with Gentu, Coltan pleads with him, then basically pouts before simply accepting it. These two have a completely different relationship—Coltan is, after all, magically “bound” to Criften.

I am looking forward to getting through the next section, Part 4: Colmaria, where we learn a lot about Malcan, and also get some idea of how the monarchy works. It is also the shortest. Hopefully, I can get through it in a week.

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

Tishta the Crystal Orb: That Was Quick

Well. I wasn’t expecting to finish this edit of Part 2: Learning to Trust of “Tishta the Crystal Orb” so quickly. That’s what happens when I get sick. I spend all my time on Tishta, instead of trying to focus on work stuff. On Wednesday, I spent the evening in the ER—stomach pain of undetermined origin—where I passed my time editing. And then, since waves of pain kept interrupting my focus, I allowed myself keep editing during most of Thursday and Friday. If I could afford to work exclusively on the book, I think I would be done by the end of this coming week—only if the stomach pain doesn’t resolve itself and I wouldn’t wish that on myself.

The six chapters in Part 2 are where my characters get to know each other and build up some trust. Again, there were whole scenes that I only vaguely remembered writing—they were new in the second draft—so I had the pleasure of reading them with almost-new eyes.

I consolidated two scenes into other scenes, so the count went to 37 scenes. I still don’t like the way the scenes are split up in Chapter 11: Coltan’s Passion. Some of them are too short, and there are simply too many, at nine. I’ll have to readdress this on the next edit pass.

I guess I’ve been trimming words. The total word count went from 187,965 to 187,155. I was surprised since I have also fleshed out a few places where I was telling, instead of showing. Interestingly, the page count went up by three, but that’s probably due to new dialog—dialog is definitely less dense than when the narrator tells what is going on.

I like Part 2. Criften’s longing to be a simple farmer starts to come through—he never embraced being a wizard—as does some of his relationship with Eido. We learn a lot about Coltan and Gentu’s backstories as they become intimate and share their stories with each other. The children also tell some of the traumas they have experienced. This is the emotional stuff that I like.

Relationships start to solidify here. When someone risks his life to save yours, you start to trust him. This happens between Malcan and Coltan, after the first battle, where Coltan takes a dagger to the gut to protect Malcan. At the same time, Malcan is given a reminder that Coltan is not human. He still doesn’t feel comfortable trusting the vampire.

“Mar trusts him. So does Kano, but…” Malcan said.
When he paused, Criften said, “But?”
“All my instincts tell me I shouldn’t.”

The best part of editing this section was it includes one of my favorite scenes, “An Evergreen Grove.” This is where Coltan and Gentu really become bonded to each other, and their love blossoms. Can you imagine making love to a vampire oozing with that vampy sexual attraction?

“Coltan”—Gentu’s breaths came in heavy pants—“I’ve never done this before… with a man.”
Coltan smiled and stroked his cheek.
“Then I’ll show you how it’s done.”

I still feel like voyeur when I read this scene. In the first draft, I didn’t go into much detail. I was not brave enough. While I waited for that draft to be reviewed by my editor, Anne Bean, I wrote a backstory for Coltan. It’s something I plan to release after the second of The Wolf Dream Books, “Into the Wolf Dream.” In it, I gave life to Eido. It enabled me to write the scenes where Criften communicates with him, in his mind. I also learned to write sex scenes, since that’s what most of the story is about—Eido helping Coltan to separate sex from feeding. It gave me a lot of insight into Coltan that I included in the second draft of “Tishta.” And, I became more comfortable writing fairly explicitly about sex.

I’m excited to get into Part 3: Travels and Battles. As the title indicates, there are several battle scenes. I love battles.

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

Tishta the Crystal Orb: Part 1 Editing Done (for now)

I was super excited six days ago to announce I had finished the second draft of Book One of The Wolf Dream Books, “Tishta the Crystal Orb.” I envisioned a quick final edit through the whole book—correcting case; adding missing periods and commas; making sure the characters’ voices rang true.

It turns out, even though I thought I had changed my writing to use fewer gerunds and shorter sentences, I hadn’t. Well, not the way I’m writing now. So, the beginning of the book is in a much different writing style from the end of the book. I guess, I should have expected that. I was trying out new writing skills, and that was nine months ago.

I have made some pretty extensive changes in “Part One: Coming Together.” Not to the story, so much, but to the way I tell it. Even spending every free moment (and some when I should have been doing other things) working on these five chapters, it took me six days to finish. I ended up re-recording every one of the twenty-eight scenes. This is the shortest part, at 71 pages (down from 73, pre-edit). I hope, by the last half of the book, that I won’t have so many of these kinds of changes to make. When I finish this edit, I will circle back to do the edits I was planning to do around syntax and whatever.

One of the nice things about going through these first chapters is revisiting the beginnings. Although much of it is very, very familiar, there are things I added in the second draft that I don’t remember so clearly. It is giving me a chance to experience at least some of the story as a “new” reader might. I still like it. A lot. I think this is a good thing. But, I like it even better with the edits I just completed.

This edit is going to take a while—at least a month, if I can manage to get through a chapter a day—but, I am all right with that. Everything about writing this book has taken far longer than I could ever have imagined. I’m not trying to make it perfect, but I want to ensure it is complete. I am much closer to that than I was at the beginning of the second draft. I feel fairly confident that I won’t be adding much to this revision. I hope I don’t need to, because that will mean I found a hole in the story.

When all is said and done, I love to write. I knew this before I started writing in earnest two-and-a-half years ago, but I never found the time to act on it. Now, I know. It’s something I must do. The more I write, the more I write. It stimulates ideas, even if they’re not for the story I’m currently working on. If I could, I would do it full time. I like it that much.

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

Tishta the Crystal Orb: Escape and Reunion are the Final Chapters

I am giddy.

I would  have called “Chapter 31: Escape” and “Chapter 32: Reunion,” of “Tishta the Crystal Orb” finished many days ago, but, since they are the final chapters in the book, I went through the editing process I normally do when I review the following chapter—because there is no following chapter. I spent the past few days listening to recordings of the scenes in “Reunion.” As usual, it led to lots of edits, including merging one scene into a later scene, to avoid telling too much, too soon.

I spent a lot of time going back over the previous chapter, “Chapter 30: Tishta,” to make sure everything lined up correctly with the final ones. During my review and edit of the “Escape,” it grew way too large. I split it into two chapters. I’m still struggling with placement of scenes in these chapters, but I might have it close now. I’ll have to listen some more to all of “Part 5: Heading East” before I feel comfortable with the current arrangement.

Part of what happened in Part 5 is I added a lot of stories around the Dark Wizards Baldru and Anakru. They both play major roles in the end of the book. I also added a whole new battle scene, which was great fun to write. It changed the original ending quite a bit, so that took some work to polish.

I let my writing take me where it wants to go. In this case, the Aldashi warrior, Freyl, plays a key role in how it ends. He will now have a presence in the next book, “Into the Wolf Dream.” For me, it balanced out the addition of Keldra, Baldru’s apprentice Dark Wizard. She will take over some roles in that book that I didn’t know who was going to play. I’m not sure yet what Freyl’s impact will be.

Another new character I added was Landru, who is a Dark Wizard that ends up with some holes in his body after encounters with Coltan. I already have some ideas for him in Wolf Dream, as well. It’s always interesting to me when I add a character, and suddenly something in the future resolves itself. I was really excited for this to happen in this book, so there is continuity in the long-range story line instead of creating new characters to fill the roles.

All this character development and world building have take my word count from 87,528 to 187,965. I had no idea. I like it so much better now. The hard part is going to be trimming out the unnecessary words and scenes. Like tearing a hole in the fabric of my soul. It will be a good exercise for me.

I will stop writing about Tishta now, so I don’t give anything away. My next step will be to read the book from cover to virtual cover. I might do this while listening to my recordings. I haven’t decided yet if that will be the most useful way to spend my time, or to simply read it. I might need to do both.

Now that I am one large step closer to actually publishing, there are a lot of other tasks to be completed. I’m just starting to focus on that list, which will include deciding if and when to have my editor review it, providing a vehicle for my Beta Readers to download a copy of the book, getting my cover artist set back up (and getting the artwork completed), drawing maps (which I think I might be able to do on my own, at least for the very first edition), diving more into marketing and brand building, and figuring out how to convert my audio recordings into an audio book. It’s a long list and this is definitely not everything I need to do.

One thing I’ve been struggling with is what name to publish under. Up to this point, I have been using my given and family names. I have thought about the options, including using my initials instead of my given name, but I have always been me. I need to make up my mind about this before I move forward with creating more social media. Up to this point, all the book stuff has been on The Wolf Dream Books social media—@TheWolfDreams on Twitter; The Wolf Dream Books on Facebook; of course, this blog. Many authors are encouraging me to create author accounts. I’m not certain how I want to manage that. Lots to think about.

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

Tishta the Crystal Orb: Tishta

Three weeks ago, I was ecstatic when I finished the previous two chapters, “The Aldashi Plain” and “The Aldashi,” in two days. With only two chapters left to finish, the end seemed very close. Then, life reared its head, and I was unable to write—except for brief moments—for nearly three weeks. It was excruciating. On Friday evening, I let the floodgate loose. I wrote until well past midnight. Every free minute on Saturday—when I wasn’t doing laundry or giving the house a well-needed cleaning or cooking—I was writing.

It turns out that the break gave my mind the chance to flesh out the final chapter, which was lacking in the first draft. So, a lion’s share of the writing on Saturday—perhaps 12000 words—went into capturing that and filling in places in previous chapters to support the new ending. Once I landed on those details, the missing pieces in the current chapter, “Tishta,” filled themselves in.

One significant improvement was in the stories of the two Dark Wizards who are competing with Criften for Tishta. In the beginnings of the book, when these two are mentioned, the scenes were very short. Later, they got longer, but still weren’t nearly as long as the ones involving my main characters. In these two chapters, their roles in the story gained a lot of significance. The scenes about them became just as verbose as the ones for the main characters.

I actually added a new character—a novice Dark Wizard—giving me a device through which to explain how dark magics work, and a little more about the magical talents and how they work. Children are a wonderful addition to stories—they ask question and have to be told things they don’t know. I’ve used my three main child characters to do just this, throughout the book. It was nice to have a child on the other side. She filled a void. I had to go back four chapters to add her in. I know how she will fit into the next book, and she helped flesh out some parts of it that I had skimmed over during its first very rough draft.

In “Tishta” itself, beyond all the new scenes with the Dark Wizards, I changed some of the story to fit better with the way the characters have developed since the first draft. I added some things that definitely weren’t there the first time around.

Coltan does something fairly rash that jeopardizes the mission. I added this because he makes a decision based on emotions that he would never have done in the first draft. I hope it shows his humanness coming through. Later, Criften lights into him. It is an unusual behavior for the wizard, but I wanted to show a reflection of how tired and stressed out he has become. I like this better than the way I kept him aloof and distant throughout the first draft. This time, as I fleshed him out, I made him more approachable, but, ultimately, he needs to keep himself a little distant from the others. He feels the entire weight of the decisions to take his people into dangerous situations. It is also the start of him withdrawing into himself, which will continue in the next story.

Some things I have been paying close attention to are how many days have passed, what the season is (and, so, how cold it is and how long the daylight lasts), and the phase of the moon. I know when it should be full and bright, and if and when it should rise, if it is not. This makes me more comfortable in the world—I pay attention to the phases of the moon in our real world. While writing this chapter, I realized I was missing a river. Once I added it, right where it should be, the story changed a bit, and it became an obstacle to overcome. It also provided a definite border—as definite as a river can be—for the Aldashi Plain. I like how it helped create the scenario for another encounter my heroes face as they escape back to The Plain.

As always, I recorded all the scenes, plus all the changes in previous scenes. For me, it was an exciting read. As I listen to them, I’m sure I’ll find some things to change—it is my best editing process—but for now, I just want to listen to this new chapter. It’s been too long since the last one. Beyond spending all day Saturday writing, I’ve spent the best part of yesterday and today finishing this chapter, and now, I need to get some other work done. One. More. To. Go.

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

Tishta the Crystal Orb: The Aldashi

Well, this has never happened before. After finishing the previous chapter, “The Aldashi Plain,” in a day, I’m writing the very next day to say I finished chapter 29, “The Aldashi,” of “Tishta the Crystal Orb.” What an exciting way to celebrate #WorldBookDay.

After only two more chapters. I’ll be done with the edit. That is a big motivator to just sit down and finish it. I anticipate these final two chapters will take a fair amount of work. I will very likely come back to the Aldashi chapters to make tweaks and add details about the Dark Wizards, for whom there is not a single scene.

By this point in the book, the relationships between my characters have grown. They trust each other. They know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They are ready to pull together for the final push.

I like this chapter, along with the pervious one, a lot. It provides a respite for the group before they head into the most dangerous mission they have been on together. They have time for introspection. Especially, Coltan.

In the previous chapter, when the group entered The Aldashi Plain, Coltan battled with a repulsion spell—meant to keep demons from crossing the plain. While Criften was able to mitigate its effects, it told Coltan, in no uncertain terms, that he is a demon—not a man. I don’t think this would have bothered the Coltan who joined the group at the beginning of the book. He was a vampire. He had accepted that fact centuries earlier.

But something happened along the way. He was accepted into a group—which became a family. He remembered how to love. He developed a friendship with Gillan, and showed he would support her as the leader of the warriors—instead of trying to usurp her—when she lost her confidence and was was ready to quit. He and Malcan—whose ancestry includes vampire hunters—became brothers. The most profound was the relationship that formed between the vampire and a little girl—Mar. She showed him unconditional love, and even adopted him as her father.

In “The Aldashi,” when the group arrives at the Aldashi encampment, Coltan faces a whole camp full of people whose main purpose in life is to keep demons out of the plain. The Aldashi warriors stare at him with mistrust. When everyone else has dinner together, he is shunned from sitting at their fire. Everything reminds him that he is not a man.

Two of my favorite scenes fall back-to-back in this chapter—”Keeper of the Prophecies” and “I’m Not a Man.” In the first, Malcan rides alongside Freyl, the leader of the Aldashi warriors. Freyl does not understand Malcan’s relationship with Coltan. Here is a snippet from their conversation.

A quarter of an hour passed before Freyl asked curiously, “How can you stand to travel with a demon?”
Malcan took a calming breath. He glanced at Freyl. He decided he wasn’t being malevolent.
“He doesn’t really act like a demon. I’ve stopped thinking of him as anything but a man.”

In the very next scene, Coltan talks to Malcan about his thoughts since arriving on The Aldashi Plain.

“It reminded me, I’m not a man. I don’t want you to forget that. If anything happens to Criften—if his taming spell goes away—you have to protect the others.”
“Nothing’s going to happen to Criften,” Malcan said emphatically.
“Listen to me, Malcan,” he went on intently, just above a whisper, “I need to be able to trust you on this. You have to promise me that you’ll kill me. I don’t want to hurt any of you.”

By the time my readers get to these chapters, I hope they can understand the conflicted emotions going on in Coltan’s mind. This is the message I’m trying to present: the outsider—the other—trying to find his place.

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

Tishta the Crystal Orb: The Aldashi Plain

I blew through chapter 28, “The Aldashi Plain,” in a day. Right now, it might be the shortest chapter in the book, “Tishta the Crystal Orb,” although, I am very likely to add one or two scenes to include my Dark Wizards. I just don’t know what they would be right now. So, I am moving on to the next chapter.

On the Aldashi Plain, Coltan is faced with his demon-ness. Throughout the book, up to this point, he has been treated more and more like a human, and he has started to feel less like a demon. The acceptance he got from group, especially from Mar and Malcan, let him feel that way. Reminders that he is a demon will be a recurring theme throughout the rest of the book. Maybe that is why I liked writing this section so much.

Coltan is not the only character going through self-doubt. Malcan continues to struggle with his PTSD. Primarily, he is afraid he will let Coltan down again, but, if he does, it will put the mission to retrieve Tishta in jeopardy. Criften is dealing with his own self-doubt. He made a decision to defy his Master Wizard and The Council—he doesn’t trust them. He has lied and kept his knowledge about the location of Tishta a secret. He is following his instincts—which is one of his characteristics—but that doesn’t preclude him from questioning his own decisions.

There are only three chapters left. I am so excited! In the next one, we meet the plains folk. It includes my favorite scene in the book. Then, on to the climax and resolution. The addition of the new dark wizard apprentice, Keldra, has helped me formulate some ideas on how to make the ending more satisfying—it was one of my editor, Anne Bean’s, comments from her review of the first draft of “Tishta the Crystal Orb.”

I like the way adding darker characters makes the story come together. The first time this happened was when Coltan walked into the story—he surprised me. He paved the way for the whole story and stole the limelight from Malcan. I purposefully added Contara to add some conflict when my characters where getting along all too well. Keldra might do the same for the ending. I can see how she will cause conflict for The Others starting really soon and continuing into “Into the Wolf Dream.” Never be afraid to add new characters.

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

Tishta the Crystal Orb: Invasion

Whew! Another slog to finish chapter 27 of “Tishta the Crystal Orb.” I spent a large part of my writing time going to NorWesCon40 last weekend, so spent it listening instead of writing. I believe these events are well worth the time. During my edit of “Invasion,” I made many changes to the last chapter, “Denalton,” to tie the two together. I probably added more new stuff to “Denalton” than I did to “Invasion”—although the current chapter required all its editing.

The new writing has been fun, but challenging, to add to the story. There have been some new interactions within the main group, but the biggest part in these chapters was adding a lot more story around one of the Dark Wizards, Baldru, who has been hounding them.

Working from some notes, I added a totally new character—an apprentice for Baldru, called Keldra—as well as giving some more personality and description to a couple of other wizards that work with him. Keldra surprised me by turning out to be a girl—in this world, girls don’t tend to be very powerful as wizards, usually becoming witches, which is a totally different thing. Baldru looks right past that. She can conjure demons, just like him. He is ecstatic. They were featured in two new scenes.

I knew Baldru kidnapped Gentu, but not how he pulled it off. When Keldra joined the story, I found the answer. With Keldra joining his forces, Baldru can put up quite an army of demons. This will help towards the end of the book, where Criften and Baldru get into it—but, that’s getting ahead of myself.

In “Invasion,” I expanded Coltan’s interest and concern over Gentu. In the original draft, after Gentu goes off to be with Maglin—due to his injury with the poisoned dagger—Coltan didn’t do much grieving. It was something my editor, Anne Bean, found lacking. I’ve added quite a bit about it in this version. It helps that I also added Criften’s communications wth his allies, Maglin and Eido. Coltan now regularly checks in with Criften to see if Gentu is getting any better. He’s also very upset when he finds out he was kidnapped. I think it adds a lot to his story, and to the story in general. Gentu’s rescue is becoming a larger plot point and I have plans for it to interfere with Coltan’s judgment.

A fun scene that I added to this chapter was “Not Your Servant.” In it, I show the interaction between the god, Rindahl—currently inhabiting the body of a young boy—chastising his wizard, Anakru, after he sends him on a task.

Anakru turned to Rindahl. The god held his eyes. His orotund voice shook the wizard.
“I am not your servant to bow to your beck and call.”

I like the incongruity of the apparent young boy having a deep, resounding god’s voice. Even the choice of the vessel in which to make himself corporeal is telling. When gods inhabit humans—or whatever—in my world, they can’t just pick anyone they want. It’s someone weak, and it’s difficult for their wizards to keep them there. This is also true for Rahl. Baldru works hard to keep the god in the eunuch’s body, and he can only maintain him in Gentu for short periods of time.

It’s demanding to keep track of all my characters and what rules apply to them in this world. I keep copious notes. I write backstories. I try to ensure that if a character comes from the same region as another character, that they share similar names, physical traits, customs and speech patterns. I work way ahead in the series to ensure the things I know are going to happen will still make sense when we get there. I don’t know how much other writers do this. I always knew this would be an epic story, so have taken great care with it. I’ve heard stories about publishing a first book in a series and then abandoning the series because some key point was overlooked in the first book. I am doing everything possible, within some constraints—time being the most crucial one—to make certain that doesn’t happen to my story.

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

NorWesCon 40: Over the Hills and Far Away

I spent all day yesterday, April 14, in writer’s panels and workshops at Norwescon 40. It was intense and exhausting, but time well-spent. I attended three workshops, seven panels and a reading in the twelve hours I was there. Except for an hour break to eat a burger at six, I was in meeting rooms all day.

I got a late start and arrived at the DoubleTree by Hilton Seattle Airport, in SeaTac, Washington, just before ten. The parking lot was full, and, rather than go looking for parking elsewhere, I did valet parking. It cost $30—I’ll plan better next time. The hotel is a great venue for the conference, with lots of rooms for the panels and other attractions. The location is good for folks flying in—it is right across the street from SeaTac International Airport—but a little inconvenient for people getting there from Seattle. It would take nearly an hour-and-a-half for me to use public transportation to get there—versus twenty-five minutes by car—requiring transferring in downtown Seattle from the bus to light rail, then walking a fair distance once I got to SeaTac. I sometimes think the transit system is rigged in favor of forcing people to use cabs or Uber instead of mass transit to get to the airport.

I arrived at the conference checkin just in time to get my ID before my first panel started. Checkin was a breeze—I had printed and signed my consent form before arriving—with a very short wait in line. After another quick stop to confirm my workshops, I found my way to the conference rooms.

“Story Form, and the Pros and Cons of Each” was my first panel. It was moderated by Mark Teppo. The rest of the panel included Caroline M. Yoachim, Peter Orullian, Nancy Kress and Esther Jones. The discussion was about different forms of narrative fiction—novel, flash, short story, novelette—and how they are similar or different. One of the points everyone agreed on—no matter the length of the story—was that the ending is very important, so put a fair amount of work into it. The beginning is also very important. Everyone agreed you need to pull the reader in, pretty much immediately. You’ve got three paragraphs to hook the reader (or agent), or they’ll move on to something else.

Keyboard - 8

At eleven, I attended my first workshop, “Escaping the Cage – Write a Short Story”, with Patrick Swenson. It was an intense hour going through several exercises that are meant to set the stage, provide a middle and follow through to a conclusion, for a short story—all within an hour. “The Cage” refers to the predicament plaguing your character at the start of the story. We spent five minutes writing this before moving on to “The Escape,” where we wrote for another ten minutes about how the character makes a first attempt to get out of “The Cage.” The first attempt is a miserable failure and might even make things worse. “The Quest” comes next, with fifteen minutes of challenges and learning, including another failed attempt to solve the problem presented in “The Cage.” In part four, “The Dragon,” the hero comes face-to-face with the problem and has the know-how to kill it, either figuratively or literally. We took twenty minutes to complete this. As a wrap-up, we spent the final five minutes on “Home,” where the hero is validated at a homecoming—the awards ceremony at the end of the first Star Wars movie is the perfect example of this. I ended this workshop with a skeleton of a short story about a character I am going to add in the third of The Wolf Dream Books. It is by no means complete, but I will flesh it out and, hopefully, make it into a real short story. I haven’t figured those out yet, so this workshop gave me some tools to make progress there.

Keyboard - 3

My noon hour was spent in another workshop, “Fear and Writing in Les Genres,” presented by my friend, Evan J. Peterson. Evan writes a lot of speculative fiction, including a lot of horror. His about-to-be-published book, “PrEP Diaries,” is decidedly non-fiction—in it, he describes how PrEP is changing what it means to have safe sex. He moderates “Shriek: Women in Horror,” that explores the roles of women in horror films. He co-moderates the monthly film series with Heather Marie Bartels at Naked City Beer. In the workshop, he explored the “Three Levels of Scare”—attributed to Stephen King—Easiest – revulsion, gore, torture; Intermediate – actual horror, that moment when what you were afraid would happen, is happening, or confronting the fear thing; and Most Difficult – suspense, or horror not yet faced (being chased or whatever). After some discussion around what type of horror an author is trying to present, based on which audience is being engaged, we moved on to some examples of very short works. This was followed by a couple of exercises that helped the students come to grips with their own fears about writing. This workshop segued into the next panel nicely.

Keyboard - 9

In “Horror’s Role in Perpetuating Fear of the Other,” Arinn Dembo moderated a panel, which included Tegan Moore, J. F. High, Evan J. Peterson and Jason Bourget, in a discussion about how minorities—of all kinds, including racial, religious, disabled— have been portrayed in horror as the evil. This has been done both openly and through metaphor and allegory, to create an Us vs. Them narrative. The panel talked about how that has rippled out into a larger cultural narrative. The often mentioned “Get Out” is a new horror film that turns this upside-down, portraying the Black person as the victim, and the whites as crazy, evil monsters. Kudos to writer/director Jordan Peele for the care he took in the making of this film. All the panelists agreed that, when writing horror, great care should be taken to not perpetuate the tropes and stereotypes that have been used in the past.

Keyboard - 10

My third writing workshop, “Diversity and Narrative Voice” was with Nisi Shawl. She is a well-known author and writing teacher—see WritingTheOther.com for current classes—whose debut novel Everfair, is a finalist for the 2016 Nebula Award. For the discussion, she introduced the things that define “other”—Race, Orientation, Age, Ability, Religion, and Sex (gender). These are the elements of character to consider when writing about a character that is not “the unmarked state,” which is to say the dominant paradigm. In general terms, this implies white, but could also mean male, age twenty-five to forty, christian—whatever the “default” image the general audience would assume. The narrative voice is also a consideration when writing about “the other.” It is usually written in our culture’s “unmarked state.” Be mindful to ensure that this voice conveys and facilitates the inclusionism you want to portray. As an exercise, students wrote a scene based on a photograph, first from the perspective of one of the characters in their work in progress, then from either a different character or from the original character with one or more of their defining factors changed, e.g., a young man, then an elderly woman. I noticed the scene perspective changed drastically from my vampire seeing the location in my photo, to my little girl experiencing the same place at the same time.

Keyboard - 16

“Shady Characters” was a fun panel. Besides moderator Raven Oak, the panel included Kat Richardson, Tod McCoy and PJ Manney. In it, we discussed what goes into the creation of scoundrels, tricksters and rogues, and why they are fan favorites. In general, a writer needs to be careful not to make the hero too “clean.” All characters have flaws, so don’t leave them out. They add complexity and conflict to the character and to the story. One example of this was Princess Leia in the original Star Wars movie. The panelists agreed she would have been a lot more interesting if she had at least one flaw. An interesting part of the discussion was around whether the scoundrel is being  malicious or selfish, or if he believes his actions are necessary, whether or not he considers them “good.” All characters believe they are the hero.

Keyboard - 1

“Writing LGBTQ Characters in the Post-Patriarchy” was my next panel. It was moderated by Dean Wells. The panelists were Evan J. Peterson, Sienna Saint-Cyr and John (J.A.) Pitts. It was an interesting discussion around the rather sudden influx of “the other” in modern media, including writing, stage, film, television, ads and, to a lesser degree, comic books. The panel suggested it might be partly due to societal changes, but also changes in media, which have allowed unbridled creativity and access to media on the internet. Early instances of inclusion were noted to have presented those outside the norms of the last century as clowns or villains, but today, those same characters have become part of the fabric of storytelling. They are simply part of the story and might even occupy the coveted position of main protagonist.

Keyboard - 11

I decided to take a break from characters to attend “Outlining for Pantsers.” Manny Frishberg moderated the panel which also included Evan J. Peterson, Jude-Marie Green, John (J.A.) Pitts. It was interesting to me that the three panelists who don’t regularly outline before they write all expressed a desire to try to do so more often, and the one who always outlines, Pitts, wanted to do less of it. I am definitely a pantser, but perhaps my lack of outlining can be forgiven, since I am so new to the art of writing. I understood all the reasons Pitts gave for why outlining is a good practice. He comes up with a beginning and a solid ending (of course, this could change), and then plans out where the major plot points should occur. Then, he fills in some details about each one, develops  characters, and creates the world. It seems like a good way to go and I might try it sometime. The other writers had practices similar to mine—although they all have a lot more experience in story structure than I do—and come up with an idea, start writing, see where it takes you, come up with a likely conclusion, then just fill in things as they come. This process, in my own writing, was wonderful for me—to see the story unfold before my eyes. Now, I am learning what parts of the story are missing. Editing the first draft has been a long and arduous process. Outlining might help some of this.

Keyboard - 7.jpg

My final panel was “Diversity 101,” moderated by Sheye Anne Blaze. The other panelists were J. F. High and Evan J. Peterson. This was more about educating people about diversity, in general, as opposed to a discussion about how diversity appears in media. Both Blaze and High are Indigenous people, and both talked about their own experiences of not seeing people like themselves portrayed in media—and, if film characters were Indigenous, they were almost exclusively portrayed by white actors, some great examples of which are Johnny Depp’s portrayals of both Raphael in “The Brave” and of Tonto in “The Lone Ranger.” This led to more talk about appropriation of culture. Interesting to me, some of the audience weren’t familiar with this concept. The panel moved on to women, briefly, then to gender and sexual orientation. Again, an audience member was unfamiliar with some of the terms, such as cis. Since both Blaze and Peterson are not cis, they were able to talk about the issues of being part of “the other” in this regard. It was a good, safe place for people to share what they had experienced with others who were looking for the information.

Keyboard - 2

When J. F. High told us he was doing a reading just after my last panel, I decided to stay for a while longer to hear him read. He was originally planning to read something more current, but the recent events in Standing Rock—where ancestral bones were intentionally bulldozed—had shaken him. He decided to share his short story, “NDN Bones,” which is part of the Spring 2016 “Hot Mess” anthology. I’m glad I stayed. His story is about communing with ancestral bones. I could hear the emotion and respect in his voice as he read. It was a moving experience.

Keyboard - 4

I had a great day at Norwescon. It was my first time attending this conference. I wish I had the time to go again today and tomorrow, but family calls. If you’ve never been, try to make it out there before they wrap up tomorrow afternoon.

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