Haiku

Daffodils spring forth
The sun shines through budding leaves
Yet the cold wind blows
#NationalHaikuDay

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Apparently, due to the cadence of the English language, haiku doesn’t work so well with the 5-7-5 structure of traditional Japanese haiku. It ends up feeling stiff and choppy. There is also supposed to be a pause either after the first line, in the middle of the second line or at the end of the second line. Mine could conceivably be said to have a pause at the end of the first line, so maybe it’s “OK” haiku.

The master Basho said, “On your lips a thousand times.” I haven’t even said this one out loud thrice. And I haven’t revised it. I do understand what he means, though. As I write my book, I not only read each scene out loud, I record it. It’s amazing how much I hear when I play it back, that I don’t see when I read silently and I don’t hear when I simply read out loud. It is my favorite form of editing

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Tishta the Crystal Orb: Denalton

Twelve days after I finished the previous chapter, “Answers,” I finally finished Chapter 26, “Denalton.” I had a lot of distractions going on over the last two weeks, including my Mom having surgery. It turns out, I understand writer’s block now. This is the second time it’s happened this year, although, this one wasn’t nearly as bad.

I was so excited to start into Part 5, “Heading East.” It starts the warriors heading toward the object of their journey. I thought I would dive right in and be done in no more than a week. That’s not what happened at all. The first scene was a bit of a struggle as I completely re-wrote a scene that had been torn asunder when I moved a significant portion of it to earlier in the book. Once I figure out it needed to actually be two scenes, with a mostly new one leading into the bulk of the remains of the original one, I was able to write that new scene. The harder part was writing the second scene.

In the original draft, this scene included the telling of the rather long story about Tishta’s origins. It needed to be told much earlier to help set the stage for the journey. As I tried to re-write the scene, it still seemed to need a story. I decided it should be a story about the original hero, Actalim, from The Great Battle, which took place centuries earlier. I felt like I couldn’t write a legend about Actalim without writing some of his backstory. So, I dived into that. While it was a good thing to do, it ate into the limited time I had available for writing. It was frustrating to have the novel sit idle for days on end.

Last night, after spending two days with my mother while she recovered from her surgery, and not getting any writing done, I was feeling really depressed about my progress. This morning, I wrote the legend. It didn’t even take that long, once I got going. I guess I just needed a few hours to focus on it. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. If I ever write a book about Actalim’s adventures, I think it can follow this story pretty closely. It’s a legend, anyway, so some of it would be incorrect or exaggerated. When I wrote the little backstory that I did, I could see how it could suck me in to writing a whole story around Actalim. I’ll probably need to write more of this before I’m through with these first Wolf Dream stories.

Once I finished the second scene, I blew through the other three scenes in a couple hours, including recording them and doing a first edit. As I go through the book, I’m adding backstories. I did this in a couple of places in these scenes, especially for Coltan and Malcan. I also included more speculation about a new prophecy I introduced in the previous chapter, and had Malcan be reflective about the legend that he told in the second scene. I like that Malcan is not just the keeper of prophecies, but also of stories.

I currently believe this chapter is complete, although, in practice, I know I’ll jump back here to make updates and modifications as I move through the next chapter. I  may also need to add a scene with dark wizards, but I don’t know what it might be right now.

I’m back to being happy about the progress and hopeful about the next chapter going more smoothly. I’m also back to having fun writing the story.

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

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.

Tishta the Crystal Orb: Finished Part Three!

Well, I did it. I made it through the last chapter of Part Three: Travels and Battles, Chapter 20: Strong Magics. I’ll have to see if there might be one or two more scenes to add here, or if they fit better into the flow of the next chapter. I’m really excited to be moving forward.

I added three entirely new chapters to this section, plus many new scenes in the existing chapters. It was good to flesh out some of my secondary characters, especially Gillan, and to a lesser degree, Toran and Gentu. I also made Criften more interactive with his people, as well as having him communicate with Maglin and Eido, sometimes sharing his fears and concerns that he doesn’t share with his warriors.

I like the way my characters have evolved from the first draft. They feel more real to me now. The children received a lot more attention from the adults and also from each other. The first death among the group happens near the end of part three, and I gave the adults a chance to express their grief. I think, early in the next chapter, all of the children will get a change to talk some more about what happened and deal with their own grief. Coltan will also be dealing with the loss of his lover, and I need to include how he copes with losing his sexual outlet, as well.

In part three, I found numerous ways to include backstory and exposition about things like how magic works in this world, what it means to be a wizard or a witch, why my main antagonist hesitates to strike out at my wizard, and how people don’t always get along or even like each other. One of the complaints my editor, Anne, had about the first draft was everyone got along to well all the time. I hope I have been able to make their relationships a little more real.

In the last two chapters, especially, I showed how an angry Gillan copes with her grief while trying to maintain her position as leader of the warrior. It’s a lot of pressure and she deals with it by keeping things inside until she starts snapping at people, especially Coltan. I put a lot of myself into this. I remember doing similar things while I was dealing with the terminal illness and death of my husband. I hope some of it comes through as authentic for readers.

I also have my vampire dealing with his anger at his master, Criften, when he’s losing his lover. The question I’m trying to elicit is, how much free will does Coltan actually have? I have exposed more about this in other writings, both back story and things in the next book, but I thought it was important to include some of that in this book.

I’ve got lots of new ideas for things that need to be included while the group visits the castle, so that should be fun, but that doesn’t come for at least another chapter. Currently, there is only one chapter before they arrive there, but I think that might turn into two by the time I add details about what happens to Gentu, Toran and Gillan as they travel away from the group to take Gentu to Maglin (and my new character Inla—I’m still deciding how much she can be trusted, and that’s what Maglin will have to discover).

I hope I can get through the next part a little faster than this one, but I think there is quite a bit of content to add. I’ll know more soon. I had planned to be done with part three by the end of last year, so I’m three weeks late getting started on part four. I adjusted my expectations to be finished with the edit by the end of March.

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

RustyCon34 or What I Did On My Weekend

In January, each year, Seattle has a little SciFi and Fantasy convention, RustyCon. This year—its 34th—it was held January 13 – 15, 2017. The theme was “A Gathering of Guilds.” Hundreds of people gathered over the three days to express their love of science fiction and fantasy through events like games, costuming, an art show, writer’s panels and readings by authors from their latest works.

Special guests included Robin Hobb, a fantasy novelist known for Assassin’s Apprentice, Michaela Eaves, an artist and author, and Bill Doran, a professional prop maker. After having the chance to hear Hobb read from her new book, I had the good fortune to spend ten minutes alone with her, during which she validated my writer’s voice. I expressed my concern that the fantasy writer’s voice had changed in the years since I was a heavy reader of the genre–many new books I’ve read or heard part of have a very different feel from what I remember. My voice is similar to Hobb’s—she called it the fairy tale voice—”once upon a time…” No experience can compare with a novice listening to a master of her trade.

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Robin Hobb reading from ‘Fool’s Assassin’

I wandered through the game room, the art show and the marketplace, where I learned all about armor. I talked to an artist who draws anime and he shared some tools of the trade with me, like a flip book app on his Nintendo device for making animations.

Mainly, I went for the writer’s panels, of which there were plenty. If I had chosen to, I could have filled every hour of the conference with a different panel, usually being forced to choose between several. As it was, I went to thirteen over the two days I was in attendance. They covered diverse topics such as online publishing; world creation; writing characters—women, villains, powerful protagonists and antagonists; and sex—keeping it real, how far to go, relationships outside what might be considered ‘normal.’

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Robin Hobb, G R Theron, Tom D Wright and Shannon Dilley on the Creating Your World panel

Because the convention is so small, the panels were intimate gatherings of three to four panelists and a small audience ranging in size from ten down to one, me. In the smaller ones, it became just conversations among writers. I saw the same panelists on many of the panels, so got to know a few of them over the course of the two days. It was enjoyable.

One person I had met before was Elizabeth Guizzetti. She was one of the guest readers at a monthly writer’s group I frequent, Two Hour Transport, which meets on the fourth Wednesday of the month at Cafe Racer in the University District of Seattle. They have an open mic followed by two invited guest readers. The genres are SciFi and Fantasy. I love to read from my book at the open mic–five minutes in front of a live audience. The guest readers are icing. It’s so much fun to have people like Guizzetti come to share with us, and to hear their works with their own voices. She read from her indie-book, “The Grove.”

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Elizabeth Guizzetti, John Lovett, Sienna Saint-Cyr and Rebecca Birch on the Bechdel Test panel

Guizzetti was on four of the panels I attended. Other frequent panelists I saw were Rebecca Birch, John Lovett, Timothy Trimble, Anthea Sharp, Tod McCoy, Tom D Wright, G.R. (Grant Ryddell) Theron, Sienna Saint-Cyr, Manny Frishberg and Richard Gilmore. They all had different things to add that enriched the discussions.

I’m so glad I got to meet and get to know all these storytellers. A number of them talked about going to NorWesCon (April 13 – 16 in SeaTac, WA). I hope to meet some of them again when I attend it and other local conventions.

Thanks to the dedicated organizers of RustyCon. I know it was a huge amount of work to put this together and run make a success.

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