The Next Chapter: Progress by inches (and bounds)

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about my progress, or lack thereof, on my writing.

Initiate of Stone

I’ve been struggling to rewrite my first chapter.  I’ve now made progress, after writing, and rewriting it several times.  I really had to go back and decide what it was necessary to accomplish in my opening chapter.

A short list:

  • Introduce my protagonist – Ferathainn, or Fer, is fifteen, and her coming of age is in two moons, at the next goddess festival, Sestaya.  She wants to become an Agrothe mage, and will be the first girl to do so in a very long time, but she chafes under the tutelage of her master, Aeldred.  Fer has been studying from the moment she wakes to the moment she sleeps (except festival days) with Master Aeldred for 12 turnings of the sun through the seasons, but it’s all been mundane. He’s forbidden her from using her innate talent, to speak with the spirits, or souls, of animals, plants, elements, and perhaps even people, like he controls who the spirits speak to …  Fer desperately wants to be initiated so she can start using her talent and learning “real” magick.  She knows she’s capable of more than what Master Aeldred permits her to do.  The process is long and demanding, though, and she will have to make sacrifices.  She loves Leaf, the eleph finiris, or song master, and will marry him on Sestaya as well.  She sees her astara, or soul-lights, in his eyes, something that only the eleph are supposed to see.  She’s not so sure about children, though they seem to be the natural consequence of marriage.  She’s just been so long separated from other girls her age by her studies that she wants something that everyone else takes for granted.  Fer worries that love, marriage, and family will be the sacrifices that she will have to make to become a mage.  She’s determined to have at least love in addition to the solitary life of a mage.
  • The “normal” world – Hartsgrove, Fer’s village, is a “free town” and the eleph and people of Tellurin live side-by-side in relative peace.  It’s an agrarian village that sends tributes to the surrounding, larger, towns and cities to show fealty and secure support in times of need.  The predominant religion is worship of the Goddess Auraya, creatrix of Tellurin.  Every year the season of Vedranya brings deadly storms to besiege the land.  This has been the way of things since the Cataclysm, two centuries before, changed the face of Tellurin and reduced much of Tellurin civilization to rubble.  Fer lives in a small, but sturdy cottage, with her mother and father, Selene and Devlin, a seer and a bard respectively, and her younger half-sister, Aislinn.  She has never left Hartsgrove.
  • Hook the reader – What’s the root cause of Fer’s resentment of her master, the man who could grant her wish to become a mage?  Why does he want to keep her from using her talent?
  • Ask a question (that needs to be answered by the end of the novel) – What is the secret Master Aeldred feared so much he magickally bound Fer’s friends and family to silence?
  • Foreshadow the inciting event – An earth elemental, or nomi, tells Fer the secret is a potentially deadly one though it cannot more than hint at the nature of the secret; she must be strong to face the trials to come.

So I’m slowly working my way through the list without dumping too much backstory or world building on the reader.  Beginnings, why are you so hard?

Some links about beginnings:

On a whim, I’ve signed up for Margie Lawson’s course, A Deep Editing Guide to Making Your Openings Pop, starting May 6, 2013.  She focuses on psycho-linguistic and rhetorical techniques to improve your writing.  My undergrad was focused on rhetoric and I love psychology, linguistics, and brain science, so this looks like it’s right up my alley.  Will let you know how it goes.

I might do the crazy and send my beginning (when I’m more or less happy with it) to Ray Rhamey’s Flogging the Quill to see if it passes his test.  Stay tuned.

Short Stories and poetry

Well, so far, I’ve kept up with Kasie Whitener’s Just Write short story challenge.  I’ve written a completely new short story for each of January, February, and March.  I’m a little behind in April, and may opt for flash fiction to make up the short fall.

The short story that I revised and sent to On Spec in January has been accepted (!)  I am very (like !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) excited about this, even though I know that it won’t be in print until sometime next year.  I’m looking forward to working with their editorial team to whip “Downtime” into shape.

“Beneath the Foundations (original story #2),” my attempt at medieval Cthulian for Sword and Mythos was rejected.

“A Terrible Thing” was rejected by the editors of Tesseracts 17.

It’s too early to have heard back from either Writers of the Future, to whom I sent “The Gabriel,” or In Places Between, to which I submitted “Molly Finder (original short story #3).”

There wasn’t room for my poem “peregrine” on the League of Canadian Poets National Poetry Month blog, but I have subsequently submitted that poem plus two more, “contain you” and “infant crawls,” to Sulphur.

From last year’s submissions, I learned that my submission to Mark Leslie’s Spooky Sudbury will be included in the publication, and my poem, “north of thule” was included in the fabulous Sopphey Vance’s Enhance no. 11.  It’s been a good month (and a bit) for happy dancing!

I’m going to work on something flashy this week to round out April’s short story quota, and set to work on another original for May in hopes of garnering some attention in the Rannu Fund competition.May Submit-o-rama Choice

I’ve joined Khara House’s May submit-o-rama and have committed to 1 submission per week in the Choose Your Own Challenge category.  Rannu will make up only one of those, so I’ll have to get my arse moving on identifying other submission opportunities (!)


Actually finished the BIG critique for my online group and am working on a review of the first 100 pages of another online critique buddy.

Have only three people left to critique for the Sudbury Writers’ Guild before I’m caught up with them.  We’re trying to get our stories and poetry together for an anthology.  I put forward “A Terrible Thing” and “Old Crow,” another short story of mine that was rejected by Tyche Books last year (Masked Mosaic anthology).  It looks like “Old Crow” might be salvageable as a short story, but that “A Terrible Thing,” as editors have said—and I’ve thought—in the past, is really a novel in the making.


A local effort, Wordstock, will be happening June 7 and 8 at the Sudbury Theatre Centre.  This is the first year for the event, and the organizers are hoping to build on what they hope to be this year’s success.  The SWG has a block of time for readings.

I’ve registered for the Canadian Authors Association CanWrite! conference in Orillia, June 12-16, and booked my room in the Orillia campus of Lakehead University.

I’m still waffling about When Worlds Collide August 9-11.  The registration fee is reasonable in the extreme, but I still have to bear the cost of the flight and accommodation.

One reason I’m waffling is because I want to go to the Surrey International Writers’ Conference this year (Oct 25-27).  Domestic flights are sooooo expensive.  Right now, a return to either Calgary or Vancouver for the conference dates is showing as over $1000.  It may be an either/or kind of thing for me.  Or I might just cash in my Avion or Aeroplan points for one or the other flight.  That’s an idea!  Thanks for letting me suss that one out online 😛

I think that’s all the conferencing I can take for this year.  Next year, I hope to add some fancons like Ad Astra.  We’ll see how the financial situation sits.  And my various air rewards plan balances 🙂

Other stuff

Taxes done and refund received 🙂

Am still putting off the decision to move to  I think I just need some dedicated time to devote to research and reflection.

Hope all is well with you and your writing lives.

I’d love to hear from you about your latest literary adventures!

Tonight’s viewing line-up: Doctor Who and Orphan Black!

Tomorrow, I’ll share my thoughts on happiness and how my experiences have influenced my writing in the final instalment of a life sentence with mortal punctuation.

The cadre … or should that be the cabal?

Whatever 🙂  The supporting cast.

Last week on Work in progress: I sketched out the baddies in my novel.

This week, I want to look at some of the supporting characters on the heroic side of things.  I haven’t done detailed written sketches of any of them, so this might be short and sweet!

We’ll start with Ferathainn’s family.

Selene and Devlin

Selene looks like Selma Blair … or vice versa

Selene was a child when her family and the people they were traveling with were attacked.  Only Selene survived, though injured, and was found wandering in the woods by Leaf and Oak, eleph brothers, who promptly took her back to their home in Hartsgrove.  The child could not remember anything, not even her own name.

Willow, sister of Oak and Leaf, named Selene after performing the ritual of shir’authe, the eleph way of foretelling the future of a child.  Willow knew that the girl would be a seer, a talent associated with the moon.  Selene seemed appropriate.

Years later, a young bard came to Hartsgrove.  He recited his poetry and sang his songs.

And John Butler would make an awesome Devlin

Devlin also collected stories though, and was particularly enamoured of the eleph.  Leaf was finiris, or a song master, and like a bard, finiris practiced not one, but as many of the arts as they could learn.

Though he moved on, Devlin returned often, using Leaf as his excuse, but spending more and more of his time with Selene.

Eventually, they married, but soon learned that they could not have children.  When a pregnant noble woman appeared, then ran away, shortly after giving birth, Selene and Devlin decided that they would adopt the child as their own, but they’ve never told Ferathainn that she is not theirs.

In Tellurin society, it doesn’t matter if a child is adopted or not.  The people who raise you are your parents, and fostering is a common practice.  It wouldn’t be a shameful thing if Selene and Devlin did tell Ferathainn, but they don’t.

Master Aeldred

Walt Whitman reminds me of Aeldred

The old mage was a wanderer.  He’d had his degree from the King’s university, but loved research and unearthing lore.  It was coincidence that he was in Hartsgrove the Sestaya that Ferathainn was born, but as a mage, he had the right to take part in the infant’s shir’authe.  He was simply pleased to take part in an eleph ritual.

The eleph could see nothing of the baby’s future though, except Leaf, who saw his astara in the baby’s eyes.  Selene immediately took exception to this, since Leaf was already over a hundred suns old.  It seemed perverse, and no matter what assurances Leaf offered, Selene could not be appeased.

When Aeldred finally took the baby in his arms, he could sense the power in her.  It was like nothing he’d ever felt before.  To those assembled, he merely said that the child had promise and that he might be induced to stay and take her on as a student when she was older, if she wished.

Aeldred is afraid of Ferathainn, though.  Afraid of what she might become and of his inability to control her.  This he never spoke of either, not even to his colleagues back in Drychtensart, who all wondered that he’s taking on a girl as a student.  Aeldred did what he thought was best for the girl, though, and taught her in the Agrothe tradition.  He does not gawk or wonder at her talents, though inwardly he quakes.  If she does not think she is special, if she submits to the disciplines of the Agrothe, then it is likely that she will not become the monster he fears she will …


Devlin loves Selene, but he always wanted a child of his own, and when Willow proposed a liaison, he was definitely interested.  Willow made it clear that she had no love for him.  Lust, yes, but that was a passing thing.  If she could get the idea out of her mind, she’d never have reason to pursue the bard afterward.

In an unusual move, Devlin and Willow approached Selene.  Devlin would only proceed with her approval.  Even more strangely, Selene gave her consent.

Willow hadn’t suspected that an eleph and a Tellurin could have children together, but was pleased to discover her pregnancy.  Devlin doted on his child and unofficially adopted her into his family.

Emma Stone as Aislinn

As she grew older, though, Aislinn never exhibited an interest in his music the way Ferathainn had.  She didn’t dance and she couldn’t carry a tune in a basket.  She was what we might call a girly-girl.  She loved sewing and making her own clothes, doing her hair up in fancy styles, and giggling and gossiping.

Unfortunately, her eleph features marked her as strange.  Parents didn’t take kindly to their children fraternizing with the half-breed.  She had nothing in common with either Devlin or Leaf, did not take an interest in Oak’s scouting and hunting, or in the kishida (eleph martial arts), and she didn’t like getting dirty like her mother, Willow, who spent her time either tending her fruit, or brewing, fermenting, and distilling it into alcohol.

Aislinn’s shir’authe revealed that she could be a bridge between the eleph and the Tellurin.

Leaf, Oak, and Willow

Brad Pitt with silver hair could be Leaf

These three eleph are shuriah, or outcast from their people.  Eleph society is very rigid and those that do not abide by the rules are ostracized.  In Elphindar, where the eleph originated, there were no other people.  Being shuriah meant death in all but a very few cases.

Tellurin is full of people, though.  It’s crawling with Tellurin (named for their land), but is also populated by other races: the okante, grunden, blinsies, and favrard.  The dwergen and dwergini live beneath the mountains.

Olivia Wilde as Willow

In the west, government is sparse and centralized in a few of the larger cities.  In between, people live largely as they choose.  So it was that Ashandrel (Willow), Duriel (Oak), and Faliel (Leaf) found a small community where they could live peacefully with their neighbours so long as they contributed to the sowing and harvesting at the area farms, and contributed to the livelihood of the village.

Leaf saw his astara, or soul lights, in Ferathainn’s eyes.

Orlando Bloom could be Oak

Only eleph are supposed to see them, and only in the eyes of other eleph.  Still, destiny cannot be denied.  He is even more mystified when Ferathainn sees her astara in his eyes, but he is grateful.  He would never have disclosed his feelings for Ferathainn had she not returned them.

Shia and the anogeni

Once, the anogeni were the hands of the mountains, the fingers of the seas, but eventually, they became their own distinct people.

They resemble pygmies in stature, but have large, child-like heads.  Their eyes are large and they do not have hair, but their ebony skin is covered in a kind of down.

The anogeni way is one of love.  Everything has a spirit, and they respect the spirit of every thing.  This is how they work what others might consider magick: they ask nicely, and usually the spirit is willing to help.  They shape stone and wood, and the core of their spiritual practice centres on twelve sacred plants, or askhiwine.  These particular plant spirits are very wise, and teach lessons.

Essentially, they are shaman.  The anoashki, or great mystery, is their grandfather, the living spirit of the world.

The anogeni find Dairragh after the fall of Gryphonskeep.  He is dead, but these remarkable people bring him back to life and try to teach him the anogeni way.

The anogeni are born with all of the memories of their predecessors.  Between that and the lessons of the ashkiwine, they have a great many prophecies, and Dairragh figures into a few of them.  So they determine to save him, and try to make him a champion.

Ella and Kaaria

Really, I should reserve discussion of these two figures until I talk about the deities of Tellurin, but they are part of the cabal that help my heroes, so I’ll say a few words here.

Ella is all that is left of the goddess Tryella after her brother tried to murder her.  Kaaria, an air elemental, and her sister Naia, a water elemental, rescue Tryella, after a fashion, but the best they can do for the wounded god is to put her into the body of an yrne, or giant sea eagle.

While she can still speak, nobody but Kaaria, Naia, and their other rescue, Auremon, can understand her.  She has a little prescience, and is very long-lived, but beyond that, she is mortal.  A Tellurin with a bow and good aim could kill her.

She’s been desperately trying to find some way to prevent her brother from escaping his prison.  If he gets out, everyone is going to suffer.  No matter what she tries, however, it does not seem to change the outcome.  Even Auraya’s attempts to raise the Kas’Hadden, she fears, will not be sufficient to defeat Yllel.

She does see the face of a girl, though.  Ella’s not sure whether the girl will play a role in her brother’s defeat, or if she’s not a greater danger altogether, but she figures that she will need all the help she can get.

Kaaria is helping her track down the girl, but when they do, it’s almost too late.  In desperation, Ella diverts Eoghan from his destination at the Well of Souls, to save the girl, and she and Kaaria try to prepare both Eoghan and Ferathainn for what is to come.

Kaaria and her sister aren’t native to Tellurin.  When Auremon tore the Way Between the Worlds between Tellurin and Elphindar apart, they were two of the beings pulled through it into Tellurin.  Elphindar was a dying world, and they were grateful to have a new home.

The living spirit of the planet spoke to them and has recruited them to help him bring back his original children, the akhis.  Ferathainn and Dairragh have a role to play in that drama too.

And that’s it for this week 🙂

I’ll be moving on to more legitimate world-building activities after this, I promise!

Have a great weekend.

Character sketches part 1: Ferathainn Devlin

Warning: this is a long post!

Last time on Work in progress: I’d discussed the starting point for world-building.  For me, character leads to story, leads to world.

So for the next bit

I’m going to share some of my character sketches.  Most of this won’t appear in the novel per se.  It’s mostly back story, but you’ll see how the plots and sub-plots evolved from my characters.

The seed of Fer

When I started my hand-written draft all those years ago (egad), in that first spiral-bound notebook (which I still have, thank you very much), the character and novel were both called Rain.  I’ve mentioned a bit about this in my various draft discussions.

She was born in the rain on the eve of what I then called storm season.  Also, her key incident (see K.M. Weiland’s post regarding the difference between the inciting and key incidents here), the destruction of her village, death of her loved ones, and rape, all occur in the rain.  So it was a metaphor for her plot and transformation.

Initially, I had a lot more going on with her.  Her trauma also included being blinded by a random lightning strike, being impregnated, and subsequently aborting.  Looking over those early notes, I realized that it was a bit much.  I brought the amount of drama back to what was still a fairly loud roar, and moved forward with that.

In future reviews, I changed her name to Ryane, and then had her choose another name for herself after the devastation of her village by rearranging the letters: Rayne.  Though I thought it was clever at the time, and that name stayed with the character through a number of abortive attempts to work on the project, but it wasn’t until after I picked up the bits and pieces of what might become a manuscript that I started researching names and decided on Ferathainn, one of several Irish words for rain.  That’s when she really started to come together for me.

The sketch

Name: Ferathainn Devlin

Nickname: Fer

Birth Date/Place: Almost 16 years ago in Hartsgrove, freetown of Tellurin

Character Role: Protagonist

Age: 15

Race: Tellurin … actually half-eleph, but she looks Tellurin and has no idea she was fostered/adopted

Eye colour: Green

Hair colour/style: Long, wavy, red.  Often tied back/braided.  After she receives the broken spiral brand on her forehead, she cuts her hair so that she has a thick fringe of bang to hide it.

Build: Tall, slim, but toned.  5’ 10”, 140 lbs.

Skin tone: Pale with freckles that multiply in the sun.

Style of dress:  Simple dresses with shifts beneath, sometimes with hose to accommodate her training in the kishida with Oak.

Characteristics/mannerisms: Plays her fingers about her mouth in thought.  Feels her teeth through the skin.  Chews her lips.

Personality traits:  Single-minded, stubborn.  Loves to learn and find new experiences.  Enjoys the feeling of accomplishment, and the praise that accompanies it.  Physical, active, but backed by intelligence and long years of training in the Agrothe magick disciplines.  Restrained by that same training, naïve, unworldly. She is eager for initiation because she knows she is capable of more than what Master Aeldred lets her do.  Raised Faithful and obsessed by the state of her soul.  She takes liberties that she can justify, but feels terrible guilt afterward.  Otherwise plagued by same issues and insecurities as all young women: men/marriage/sex/children, wanting to find her own identity/way, break free of her training and conservative upbringing, defy destiny …

Background:  Raised by Devlin Singer (Brythoni), bard, who settled down when he met his beloved Selene (heritage unknown) who was in turn raised by the eleph of Hartsgrove when her family was killed by bandits, a seer.

Devlin is fair-skinned and brown-haired man of medium build and with dark blue eyes.  Selene has black hair and brown eyes.  She is petite and doll-like.  Fer bears little resemblance to either.

Ferathainn’s birth mother is actually Aline of Gryphonskeep (nee de Corvus).  She had an affair with Halthyon Morrhynd and fled her husband’s displeasure when he discovered she was pregnant.  She found her way to Hartsgrove about the time of Ferathainn’s birth but would not say anything of who she was or why she had come.  After Ferathainn was born, Aline ran away and returned to Gryphonskeep. She never spoke of the child’s fate.

Aline is Parimi and is the parent that Ferathainn received her colouring and appearance from.  She is a woman of commanding presence: the flaming red hair, the flashing green eyes.  She descends from the de Corvus line, from whom the first Kas’Hadden was chosen.  Talent for magick runs strong in her family.

Halthyon is eleph and aside from her talent, she has inherited nothing from him.  She looks almost entirely Tellurin.

At Ferathainn’s birth, the eleph could not see her destiny (Ritual of Shir’authe).  Leaf fell in love with Ferathainn at once, saw his astara (soul-lights) in her eyes.  This freaks Selene out.  Willow was disturbed by the infant’s undecipherable fate.  Aeldred was able to sense her potential and determined to watch her.

Early in her childhood (just over 3 yrs), Ferathainn was precocious in the extreme.  She spoke with the wind, animals, and plants.  It was apparent that this was not the imaginary play of other children but a genuine communion.  She seemed to understand things other children, even eleph children, could not grasp.  It was at this time that she was dedicated to Aeldred, an elderly Tellurin Agrothe mage.

Aeldred is Brythoni, but descended from the Saxon.  He is in his seventies but even he has forgotten exactly how old he is.  He is a little soft tending to the portly.  Wild white hair and beard that he rarely pays attention to.  He is unkempt in general in that endearing, bumbling professor kind of way.  He has dedicated his life to research.  He knows about the sourcerous past of the magi, but is reluctant to expose Ferathainn to the more radical teachings of the sourcerors.  As he trains her, he fears what she might be able to do, what she might become, and withholds this vital knowledge from her.  He does not tell her how extraordinary her talents are.

Later, (approx. 11 yrs) Ferathainn was betrothed to Leaf.  She comments on the ‘funny lights’ she sees in his eyes and he practically faints 🙂  Tellurin aren’t supposed to see the astara.

Her life is largely proscribed by her training until The Black King’s army devastates Hartsgrove.

She learned Devlin’s talent for music and loves to sing and dance.

One of her rebellions was to get Oak to teach her kishida.

Devlin dotes on her.

Selene is more of a friend/big sister than a mother.

Aeldred is more of a parent than either of them, and that’s saying something 🙂

Ferathainn has one younger half-sister, Aislinn, who is daughter of Devlin and Willow.  Devlin and Selene are still devoted to each other.  Selene had foreseen that Aislinn would be an important leader and bridge between Tellurin and Eleph communities and consented to the liaison. Also, Selene and Devlin were unable to have children of their own, which was why they were so happy when Fer was abandoned in Hartsgrove. Devlin still craved and child of his own blood.

Internal conflicts:  Fer’s need for revenge, fostered by Yllel, drives her to track down and confront Khaleal, who she sees as the author of her tragedy.  Her preoccupation with sin grows as the number and severity of her transgressions does.  Ferathainn has been protected and restricted by her training all her life.  She has to find her inner power and unlock her true abilities to defeat The Black King.

External conflicts:  The twisted god Yllel seeks to subvert Ferathainn to his cause, or failing that, to destroy her because he sees her as a powerful piece on his mother’s side of their cosmic game of strata (chess).

Khaleal, as soul-slave to Yllel must attempt to destroy Ferathainn even though he knows she is the key to freeing his people of Yllel’s tyranny.

Dairragh of Gryphonskeep hates Ferathainn because she is a mage.  As his world is shaken, that conflict transforms into what he thinks is love.  Then he learns that she is his half-sister and her father, his mortal enemy.

Eoghan falls in love with Ferathainn but serves Auraya, who proves to be a jealous mistress.

Halthyon seems to serve Yllel and The Black King, but wants to find the child he’s never known.  She is the only person he considers worthy to be at his side when he ascends to godhood.

Vedranya, the season of storms.

What I think Fer looks like

This is my first attempt at sketching her, and I’ll have to warn that it’s unfinished.  Hardly any shading or detail, no inking to define the lines, and no colour (I like Prismacolor pencils, and blending them with turpentine when I really go at it).  It’s a basic pencil sketch, so as I thought, it didn’t really come out in the scan very well, but you get the idea (and no, Margaret, those aren’t flaming turds in her hands – she’s levitating stones).

When I’d finished the drawing and had a look at it, I immediately thought of two actresses: Scarlet Johansen and Angelina Jolie.

Now I’m not saying that Fer has to look like this, only that this was the image that emerged when I tried to draw her.  And now you know why I didn’t pursue a career in art 😛

Some people might think this a strange way to start world-building, but my process (so far) starts with my characters.

Let me know what you think and if this is of any value to you.