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Winnowna, Meet Patrick

Published November 6, 2016 by nruhwald

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Time for a new sneak peak of my upcoming novel The King’s Children. If you haven’t had a chance to meet my main characters Patrick Hood or Winnowna, you may want to do so now.

If you have, read on to see what happens when they meet each other for the first time.

 

Winnowna sat alone at her table in the tea parlour. Scant few others took tea in the spacious room; the resort town popular only in the summer months. The others talked and sipped their tea as if nothing was wrong. They knew who she was. Even in a drastically reduced mode of dress and without her entourage, no one could fail to recognize Princess Winnowna Illusia. Still, they pretended they did not know her.

She stared at her cup of tea, at the reflection of the chandelier in its surface. Her hand shook as she raised the cup to her lips. The next hour or two would decide her fate. After the rebels arrived and signaled their presence, Winnowna would run. Some of them would ensure the guards did not get in her way while others guided her to the docks where a ship waited for her.

Taking a deep breath and releasing it slowly, Winnowna smoothed the mauve satin of her skirt. She would have difficulty running in the voluminous dress and fine shoes, but she could not have worn something more practical without alerting her maid to the fact that she planned to escape.

They would come soon. Winnowna looked out the windows.

A strangeling walked across the roof of the buildings on the other side of the street and a chill of horror swept over her. She considered fleeing deeper into the inn, but she sat and watched him as though caught up into a dream.

Murmurs of concern arose from the other patrons in the tea parlour; some of them stood and began backing towards the exit. Her guard stood stiffly, hands on their weapons. What was this? Strangelings did not brazenly walk the streets in broad daylight.

Winnowna felt her mouth grow dry as his eyes met hers. The strangeling slid down the shingles on his feet, caught the eaves trough before he fell, let go and kicked off a pillar before landing on the street. He must be a strangeling, no human moved with that eerie feline grace.

He began to walk across to the street towards her, but didn’t get far. A group of men advanced on him and soon had him backed up against the wall of a haberdashery. A few onlookers watched uneasily from a distance or quickly ducked into buildings.

Who were these men? Was this the group of rebels she was supposed to meet? They could just as easily be an impromptu gang of concerned citizens. They outnumbered him ten to one, but nevertheless the strangeling did not appear intimidated.

Winnowna picked her opera glass out of her reticule to better observe the scene. The strangeling said something, but she could not tell what. One of the men pushed him against the brick wall.

A knife flashed in the hand of one of the men. The strangeling made a quick, precise gesture, and the knife flew from the man’s hand and struck the wooden sign above the door of the inn. One of the patrons shrieked.

The men backed off, dismayed at how easily their leader had been disarmed. The strangeling walked out from their midst and stalked down the road, back in the direction he had come. He hadn’t gone far before the men started to follow him. The strangeling glanced over his shoulder and began to run. The men gave chase, and were soon lost from sight beyond the window frame.

A breath of relief, the strangeling was gone.

Her guards were still preoccupied, looking out the windows, trying to work out what had happened. She could imagine no better opportunity to escape.

What if the strangeling was still out there?

Winnowna hesitated at the thought, but her choice was clear. Many strangelings awaited her in the gulf. Now she faced only one. And her allies were out there too. She must find them.

She jumped from her seat, hiked up her heavy skirts, and darted for the servant’s door, dodging a maid carrying a tea tray as she ran down the hallway, into the kitchen and finally out the back door into the narrow road behind the inn. Thinking of nothing but ensuring she was not followed, Winnowna ran down the cobblestone street, turned left, right, and right again.

The broken door of an abandoned theatre presented itself as a likely hiding place. She burst through the door, and hurried down a set of rickety steps into the dark and dusty basement.

Winnowna ducked behind a large backdrop, trying to catch her breath. She heard no shouts or running feet in the streets above. For the moment at least, she was free. She giggled. Free, think of it!

It took her over two weeks to accomplish, but now—

A shadow moved in the darkness. She froze. Her eyes searched the cluttered basement, and were met with too many possible threats. Painted faces leered at her out of the dark, and ominous shapes lurked in the shadows.

The princess crept deeper into the room, shying away from a trunk full of gruesomely realistic body parts. She bumped into a coatrack, knocking a rubber mask onto the floor. A hummed tune floated to her, gone almost as soon as she heard it.

She halted, listening intently and watching, but she heard nothing. Perhaps the sound had come from outside?

“They’re coming for you.”

Winnowna whirled at the unexpected voice, her heart convulsing madly in her chest.

The strangeling stood barely fifteen feet from her, his eyes flowing ghastly green like the eyes of a wild animal caught in lantern light. One of the creatures who preyed upon her family for the last three hundred years.

He looked—nothing like she expected a strangeling to look. Indeed if he hadn’t been a strangeling Winnowna might have thought him handsome. Where were the horns and deadly fangs the stories promised? And he was young; he could not be much older than she was.

He wore a long, dark coat that reminded her of a highwayman, tailor made for him. Actually, it looked like a costume.

He brushed his hair out of his eyes. “They’re coming. I tried to tell your friends, but they wouldn’t listen.”

So those had been the rebels.

“What have you done with them?” she demanded.

The strangeling frowned. As he shifted, the green glow disappeared from his eyes, revealing them to be blue, almost black in this light. “Nothing. I’m trying to warn you. My name is Patrick.”

“Patrick Hood?”

“Yes.” He looked up. “They’re coming.”

 

Thank you for reading, and stay tuned for part two!

Welcome to Desylvar

Published September 19, 2016 by nruhwald

Watch your step, though. It can get weird in here.

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This the first in a series of posts about the world I have constructed for my novels: Desylvar. It seems appropriate that I begin at the beginning, and present you with Desylvar at its most basic level, as everything else about Desylvar is based on this foundation.

Later on, I will tell you about how faerie society works. Personally, I don’t find humans as interesting, but I may write some about them, too. Today, I’m going to tell you about what I believe is the most important question a story-world can answer.

What separates the bad guys from the good guys?

Desylvar is not an “us” versus “them” world. In too many stories, the good guys wear white hats (metaphorically) and the bad guys wear black hats, and everyone lies, kills, and sometimes even tortures in order to get their way. The good guys are not good, they are simply better, or not as bad, as the bad guys.

However, Desylvar is based on moral and spiritual laws (you could call them laws of magic if you like) which apply to everyone as impartially as the law of gravity.

Even if an antagonist in Desylvar were never confronted by a protagonist, that antagonist would eventually suffer personal destruction as surely as if they had injected themselves with a virus. If a protagonist steps over the line, even unknowingly, there are consequences.

Neither are protagonists at a disadvantage because they choose to adhere to these spiritual laws. Those who choose evil often believe they have chosen freedom and power, but this is an illusion. If a human on Desylvar chooses to utilize the power of evil faeries, for a time they may experience great power, and believe they are free to do as they like. Eventually, though, they come to realize they were simply being used themselves, with no greater freedom than a slave.

The protagonists may not personally possess great power, but neither do the antagonists. The protagonists owe their allegiance to someone else with great power, but unlike evil faeries this master does not seek their destruction.

The protagonists are the protagonists because they are in alliance with the one who created those spiritual laws in the first place. The Seelie faeries call this person Eloheim. I’ve borrowed the Hebrew word for God here. So long as said protagonists continue to abide by the spiritual laws (the equivalent of not jumping off a cliff) they are protected. Nothing the Unseelie do can touch them.

This is the most abstract of the posts I’ll be writing about Desylvar, but I think it is also the most important. Some time ago I read a post by a blogger I respect (whose name escapes me), which said that only an experienced writer should attempt to write an allegory in the fantasy genre. Too late.

I don’t think I could write something without expressing myself in it. Although I have discovered how difficult writing an allegory is, I think I have some pretty great teachers in the novelists I read.

Stay tuned for the next post in this series, date TBD, on faerie-circles.

 

Meet Winnowna

Published September 4, 2016 by nruhwald

Hello everyone. This month I would like to introduce you to my female protagonist, Princess Winnowna Illusia, who I’ve recently discovered whilst doing research for my post on plot points is actually my MC. Originally I had written her as a supporting sub-MC to Patrick Hood, but what do you know? Characters do what they want.

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“What is this?” Matilda said severely. “The princess will be announced at any moment.”

Princess Winnowna winced at yet another tug on her hair, trying to catch a glimpse of Matilda through the swarm of maids hovering around her like bees tending to their queen. “It is the collar. Ouch. It keeps catching my curls.”

The maids worked quickly, disentangling the raven locks dangling from Winnowna’s intricate hairstyle, all the while leaning over the voluminous skirt of her dress to avoid marring the jewel-studded silk.

The magnificent costume was her duty to wear, but Winnowna feared she would never be equal to it. The gown seemed to swallow her whole, while the collar snatched at her hair like a pack of malicious pixies.

Winnowna forced a smile when the last curl was free of the ornate metal collar rising up from the shoulders of her gown. “There. Is my tiara straight?”

Matilda tilted her head, studying the ornament. “Yes, Your Highness.”

The trumpets blasted outside, and the herald’s voice echoed in the courtyard. “Her Royal Highness, Princess Winnowna Illusia of the Kingdom of North Caladavan.”

The princess stiffened, but raised her chin and prepared to walk out onto the balcony. Soon the memorial ceremony would be over, and she could again try to pretend the sacrifices never happened.

Matilda hurried behind Winnowna and took up her train. Winnowna walked through the gauzy curtains onto the balcony, followed by Matilda and the rest of her courtiers. The crowd in the courtyard below shouted and cheered.

Winnowna smiled and waved to her people. Matilda settled the train on the smooth marble balcony and took her place at Winnowna’s side.

“Goodness,” said Winnowna. “One would almost think they were pleased to see me.”

“Your people love you, Highness,” said Matilda.

Winnowna looked up at the adjacent balcony, where her father and mother stood in attire yet more regal and extravagant than her own. A rare sight, to see them together. In all her life the king and queen had not spent more than a few days per year in each other’s company.

A somber hush fell over the crowd as the dracona majora, chief sorcerer of the Inner Circle, ascended to the top of the podium in the courtyard below, flanked by two acolytes.

Winnowna’s fingernails dug into her palms. The dark-clad figures of the Inner Circle haunted her gilded youth and childhood, an ever-present reminder of the sacrifices plaguing her land, and of the possibility that her turn might one day come.

Sometimes she dreamed of banishing them all when she became queen, but she knew better. The Inner Circle held great power, given to them by the Great Dragon and its servants. No one dared cross them in all of Caladavan’s history, nor was such a thing likely ever to happen. Winnowna did not pray to the Great Dragon as some did, but she knew its power was inexorable.

“People of Caladavan,” the dracona majora’s voice echoed in the crisp autumn air. “Today we gather to remember our lost royalty. The blood-children, sent by the will of the Great Dragon into the terrible waters of the gulf, and there murdered by the monstrous strangeling Captain Harbinger.”

Strangelings, part human and part faerie, were another of Caladavan’s plagues. Fortunately there were but few of them on the mainland now, though there were monsters and full-blooded faeries enough to make up for it.

The dracona majora continued, “On this day, as we remember the blood-children, it is perhaps fitting that I announce one more to be added to their number.”

An uneasy murmur arose from the crowd.

Winnowna let out a slow breath through her teeth. The last two blood-children had been from North Caladavan. Surely it must be time for someone from South Caladavan to be chosen.

“I announce with deep regret, Princess Winnowna Illusia shall have the honour of serving the Great Dragon as the blood-child.”

She grasped the balcony rail. Her blood seemed to evaporate from her body, leaving her cold and hollow. She did not know whether the shriek rending the air came from her own throat or her mother’s.

The crowd’s murmur grew into a roar of anger. The palace guards rushed in to beat back the angry people and usher the dracona majora and his acolytes to safety.

None of this was real, it couldn’t be. She was going to vomit.

Winnowna pressed cold lips together and swallowed hard. She turned and ran back inside, shrieking, “Libby! Get me out of this. Matilda, help me get this thing off.” Winnowna began pulling at her elaborate hairpiece. “Libby, where are you?”

Libby scuttled forth out of the lounge adjoining Winnowna’s dressing parlour. The lady dressed identically to Winnowna. She served as an emergency stand-in for events in which Winnowna was not expected to interact closely with the crowd. In this case, Winnowna had a different purpose in mind for Libby.

The maids worked in a frenzy. Off came the velvet sash, the cape, the jeweled netting from her skirt, the heavy metal collar. Doubtless they did not understand why Winnowna demanded they undress her, but they soon would.

“Libby, once I am gone I want you to run about the palace screaming. The rest of you must pretend to protect her. The guard shall realize their mistake as soon as they catch you, but keep away from them for as long as you can,” said Winnowna. “Matilda, if you would give me the loan of your plainest dress and a cloak.”

“But Your Highness.”

“We discussed this.”

“It was a game. This was never supposed to happen.”

“It is not a game now.”

 

Character Intro: Patrick Hood

Published June 26, 2016 by nruhwald

Here’s the first sneak peak at my upcoming novel, The King’s Children. This is the introduction scene for one of my two main characters. This section and others can be found on my Sneak Peeks page.

 

Patrick Hood leapt over mossy rocks and fallen trees as he sprinted through the moonlit forest. The silver bells on his sleeves and the hem of his long coat followed him with ringing music. Behind him, the hunting party shouted and cursed as they tripped and stumbled in the dark, crashing through the underbrush. Rifle shot smacked into a branch several yards to his left.

Not their worst shot, which said more about the marksmanship of the would-be heroes of Hawestone Village than it did about his ability to evade them.

He stopped, crouching in a patch of tall ferns growing beneath an ancient oak. The bells fell silent as the strangeling hid motionless in the dark, watching his pursuers. All of Caladavan might seek to punish him for being half-faerie, but his heritage had its benefits as well. His vision at night, as well as his hearing, was as good as any wild animal.

The hunters stopped, panting, to listen for him.

“You can’t hide from us, strangeling,” their leader shouted into the night.

On the contrary, Patrick could have escaped them easily enough. He knew his eyes would light up green with reflected light from their torches and he waited for them to see it.

They stomped around in the leaf litter, huffing like a herd of confused bulls. Perhaps he overestimated their powers of observation. He waved an arm, and the resulting jingle drew their attention.

The pack resumed their chase with a blood-thirsty howl.

Patrick darted out of the ferns, his coat ringing merrily.

Oh what they would do to him if they ever caught him. He could almost smell their murderous intent.

He caught a long willow branch, and used it to swing over a perfectly ordinary clearing in the woods.

When he landed, he jogged a short distance away and waited. Presently he was rewarded by the sound of cracking branches and profuse swearing.

Two days ago, the men had carefully dug a deep pit in the forest, and smoothed the sides to make climbing out next to impossible. They painstakingly laid long, interlaced branches over the top, and covered it with leaves to render the trap invisible. Patrick had watched them from the forest canopy, nodding appreciatively at their ingenuity.

Apparently they hadn’t recognized their own handiwork in the dark, and the trap they had so carefully created snared only themselves.

 

Thanks for reading. This section and others will be permanently available to read in a Work in Progress page on my blog. Part 2 of this excerpt is available here.

The King’s Children will be released, completely free for your favorite ereader, in the summer of 2018.

 

This is Me…Again

Published June 23, 2016 by nruhwald

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To follow-through on my previous post regarding motivation, I am going back to the Blogging Fundamentals course I started and I’m actually going to do it this time.

As such, this is my introductory post revisited.

I’ve been blogging for almost three months now, and I’m quite pleased with my success. That being said, my blog looks much different than I originally envisioned it, and not just visually. I originally planned to have an edgy philosophical/theological/writer blog, but my first set of posts came off as intellectual.

Nothing wrong with that, but not as I planned. Things really took off when I started blogging about writing, however, so I think I’ll stick with that. A writing blog, with occasional theological/philosophical undertones.

The key is to consider what the purpose of this blog is. I wanted to be able to connect with people and build a following, before I asked them to fork over some money for my latest novel.

I’ve realized that I want people to get to know me as a writer. Not necessarily every other thing I think about.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about allowing people to get to know not only me, but my work as well. With that in mind, I am in the process of creating and/or adapting some short snippets to feature on my blog. The equivalent of teaser trailers, I suppose. Soon you, my readers, will be able to meet some of my characters.

How soon? Oh I don’t know. Currently I’m in the contemplative stage of this process. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Experiencing the Unknown

Published May 10, 2016 by nruhwald

IMG_2177As I mentioned in my last post, experiences are key to developing ideas for your writing.

One of the formational experiences that helped me create the world I now write in was the road trip I took with my sisters to Vancouver Island.

The absolute highlight of that trip was our whale-watching trip.

We donned fantastic orange jumpsuits. I imagine they were designed to keep us alive should we have fallen into the icy Pacific water, but they also succeeded in making us feel ridiculous.

The trip was amazing. I love the sea, experiencing the rolling waves and all the creatures that live there. We saw sea birds, and chubby seals resting on the rocks. The highlight of the trip was undoubtedly the whales.

Our boat hung out with a pod of gray whales, and I was in awe of the size and gentleness of these creatures. Such powerful creatures could have escaped into the ocean depths or even sent us all to a watery grave if they became annoyed by us. Yet they seemed indifferent, if anything.

But one gray whale swam within feet of our boat and looked up at us..In that moment, I felt I had met at least one member of the ocean world I have always been so fascinated by.

Meeting the unknown is a crucial part of building a fantasy world. We create and explore worlds out of our own imagination.

It is easy to think that in this age, there is no more room for exploration. But the world is no less filled with mystery, just because someone else has already experienced that mystery. Fantasy writers need to be acquainted with the unknown. How can we create the experience of something entirely new if we have not ourselves experienced and met with the unknown?

Therefore, we must go out and seek encounters with things we have never experienced before. We must broaden our imaginations by broadening our experience, and store up feelings of wonder to relate to our audiences.

 

Photo courtesy of my sister. This is one of the gray whales we saw on our whale watching trip.

World-Building: a Fantasy Writer’s Primer

Published May 5, 2016 by nruhwald

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In my last post, I shared why I write fantasy, now I’m going to tell you a bit about how I do it. Many writers of fantasy and even science fiction set their novels in unique worlds they have created. This process of creating these worlds is called world-building.

Apart from writing super-emotionally charged scenes at the climax of the novel, world-building is my favorite part of being a novelist. Like all creative processes though, it can be messy and a little frustrating.

Here’s what I’ve learned along the way.

Don’t Start From Scratch

There are few things more frustrating than trying to will an idea into existence. The harder you try, the less creative you’re going to be. Ideas have to grow organically.

Personally, I can’t imagine waking up one day and saying “today I’m going to come up with an idea of a new novel.” I usually have a backlog of ideas, and one of them is more insistent about existing than the others. However, ideas do have to start somewhere. For me, they usually come out of daydreams.

My latest novel, The King’s Children, began as the tragic backstory of a character I liked to daydream about. Today, neither the backstory nor the world the character inhabits bear any resemblance to my original ideas. The only thing that is remotely similar is the character’s personality, and the fact that his backstory is tragic.

Daydream

So if you can’t just clench your teeth and pop out a story, what do you do? The key, as my heading suggests, is daydreaming. Telling yourself stories in your head.

Again, not something you can will yourself to do, but if you are a creative person you probably know under what circumstances ideas usually come to you.

Most of my ideas come to me either during quiet moments (like on the bus or while gardening), or during experiences. Such as going to the movies (story ideas seem to be contagious), the zoo, hiking, or traveling. Seeing or experiencing something out of the ordinary seems to spark ideas for me.

A lot of the inspiration for the setting in The King’s Children comes from the road trips my sisters and I took to the west coast of Canada and the US.

Seeing how fog banks look, hearing the ocean under different weather conditions, smelling the ocean, it all contributed details that help the reader experience the world I’ve created. These road trips also gave me a lot of time to stare out the car window and think about the story.

Cultivate

Daydreaming doesn’t necessarily fill in all the holes or provide the all necessary details you need to make your plot seem realistic and your world feel real. Sometimes when I’m building a new section of my story world, something will feel artificial. This is usually an indication that I’ve left an important question unanswered.

My plot for The King’s Children required the king of North Caladavan to send his daughter on a voyage that would almost certainly lead to her death. In fact, when tragic-backstory-badboy-hero idea met crazy-voyage idea, my novel was conceived. But it needed much more than that before it was ready to survive outside the womb of my mind, if you will.

The obvious question (which I completely overlooked for many drafts) was why the king would send his daughter on such a stupid voyage. My initial answer to that question, “the king said so,” was not enough.

The real question I had to answer was: in what sort of society would it make sense for a king to send his daughter to her death? Not that everyone would agree with the way things are, people almost never do in the real world.

But how was it possible?

In the course of answering that question, the country in which my story takes place gained its own history, culture, worldview, religions, cult leaders, etc etc.

I didn’t figure that out all at once, of course. But just knowing what the question was seemed to spark new ideas. At the question-discovering stage, I like to use a pen to get things out of my head and onto paper where I can look at them. Which brings me to my next point.

Write It Down

And with enough detail that you will remember what you were talking about when you wrote about it. Not only is this a memory aid, but physically writing your problems or ideas down on paper will help spawn news ones. Hopefully ideas, not problems.

However, whether you write down an idea or not, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. That’s probably okay.

You’ll come up with a lot of ideas over the course of daydreaming. Many of them you will never use but you’ll nevertheless learn things about your story through them. Ideas are spawned like little embers. Some of them flicker and die and some of them catch fire and grow.

Naturally, this only applies to the big-picture stuff. In the course of world-building, you will want to write down the specific stuff. Like the dates of important events, and the names of places. You may even want to figure out how your world’s calendar system works and write that down too. If your years have numbers, at what point did your civilization start counting?

If you write about more than one civilization in the same world this gets more complicated because they may not keep track of dates the same way. In which case you will need to make a master timeline for yourself which incorporates both civilizations. This will only matter if you write over a long timescale, and if these different civilizations interact with each other.

One Final Point…

Most of this world-building is for the purpose of creating a living, breathing world in your head so you can show parts of it. Within the novel itself, what is “off-screen” only implicitly exists.

For instance, as you go about your day-to-day life, you don’t think about the history of your own country. Neither should your characters.

What is happening now is a product of how it got that way, so it does affect your characters even if they don’t think about it or even know about it. Knowing how your world got the way it is will help you flesh out details and bring it to life, but don’t give your readers a history lesson unless they need it. Even then, keep it short.

 

By the way, the image in this post is a picture I took of Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany.

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