A Division of Souls Ending, Director’s Cut

As promised, here’s what I call the “Director’s Cut” of the ending of A Division of Souls.  This one’s been in my head for at least two years.  And yes, this was written to fit Failure’s “Daylight”, as expected.

I actually thought about writing a prose version of this ending for the book, but it would have just been extraneous.  It’s a completely visual segment anyway.  So, using my dusty and woefully underused BA degree in film, I decided to instead write this in screenplay form.

Hope you enjoy!

[SPOILERS AHEAD, OBVIOUSLY.]

Continue reading “A Division of Souls Ending, Director’s Cut”

A Division of Souls: The Graphic Novel?

One of my many ideas for the Bridgetown Trilogy, if I wasn’t going to turn it into a wacky multiproduct entity (No, there won’t be any Saisshalé-O’s breakfast cereal, sorry) was to give the books a visual approach.

Part of this was inspired by the frequent comment that my style of writing is very visual.  I went to the Miami Vice School of Writing Cool Scenes Using Music back in the day, and having a degree in film studies from Emerson College, so I’d say that comment is spot on.  It’s just the way I read and write: I see the scene visually and try to describe it that way.

A year or so ago I thought I’d try my hand at laying out the first scene of A Division of Souls, just for the fun of it, just to see if I could pull it off.  In retrospect I could probably rein it in a bit in terms of pacing, but I like how it ended up.  There’s a distinct hint of Dave Sim’s Cerebus in there (specifically latter half of the Church & State storyline), which heavily influenced me back in my college days.

Hope you enjoy!

Continue reading “A Division of Souls: The Graphic Novel?”

March 2017: a platinum celebration

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Hi all!  It’s March 2017 and it’s a platinum anniversary.  Of what, you ask?  Well, it’s been twenty years since I started writing The Phoenix Effect out in the food court at Solomon Pond Mall before my day’s shift at the record store. It’s the anniversary of the Bridgetown Trilogy, after so many failed starts and misguided attempts to a solid story that evolved through multiple revisions and rewriting into the self-published e-books that are now available to the world.

It’s been twenty years since I went from okay, I’ll write something when I have the time or I’m in the mood to a much more productive outlook of I’m gonna write something every damn day even if it kills me, and made the decision to become a serious professional writer.

So!  What do I have planned for this auspicious occasion?  Well!  Glad you asked!  I’m going to have a bit of fun this month and provide you with fun behind-the-scenes stuff related to the Mendaihu Universe that I’ve accumulated over the years — outtakes, trivia, origin stories, pictures, music, drawings, and more.  I may even write and post the ‘director’s cut’ ending of A Division of Souls, which has existed only in my head for at least three years!

And to top it off, I’ll also be releasing the trade paperback of Book 3, The Balance of Light!  W00T!

Hope you enjoy the festivities!

 

 

 

Creating Covers

So tonight I decided to play around a bit with the cover for The Balance of Light, even though it’s still quite some time before it’s going to see ebook or print.  This one was tough, because I had an idea of what I wanted, but looking for the right picture was going to be a tough one.  I wanted something to balance out the blue/yellow night view of A Division of Souls, so I knew it would have to be yellow/blue and morning.  I had the color scheme down, but the picture was the tough part.

I’ve said before that I really love this part of the self-publishing process; I mean, really love it.  Like, to the point that I may possibly do this as a side-job in the future.  I love looking for that perfect shot.  Trying to get the perfect crop balance.  Figuring out whether to adjust the color or give it a bit of an effect.  Playing around with fonts and text placement.

I’ll be honest, it’s like I’m making fake album covers.  It’s something I used to do as a teenager with my mixtapes and the Flying Bohemians tapes.

Let’s take a quick look at the three covers I’ve made so far:

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The cover for A Division of Souls was meant to invoke a few things:  the setting (a metropolis, teeming with people), the time (at night), and mood (tense and mysterious).  It’s also to serve as a tie-in to the very first scene.  In short, my aim was to say: this is what the book’s going to make you feel.

The cover was also supposed to tie in with the other two books, which means that I also had to think ahead:  what were the other two going to look like?  I knew I’d have to keep a few visual motifs going…a city would have to be involved in all three, somehow; the images would need to evolve, just like the story itself.  In this case, I created multiple ‘lightboxes’ in my Shutterstock account and started looking for pictures that would do exactly what I needed them to do.

The time it took to throw this one together was surprisingly quick, to be honest.  Looking at it now, I can see a few things I should fix, but for the most part it went smoothly, once I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

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The cover for The Persistence of Memories was a bit trickier, and I think it looks better as an e-book cover than it does as a trade paperback cover, but I do like how it came out.  The same rules applied here…in this case the setting was twofold: it takes place both on Earth and on Trisanda, so I chose to do a ‘satellite’ point of view that shows both the city below and the stars above.  Time seems to be fluid in this shot.  It seems to be late night in the city below, blanketed by the similar blue (not exactly the same but close) of the first book, but in the heavens, time is irrelevant; it’s all light and dark at the same time.  It also creates a dreamlike mood, where you’re not entirely sure what’s reality and what isn’t.

The placement of the title was purely serendipity, to be honest; I did not expect the top two words to be in space and the bottom two to be in the planet’s atmosphere.  It just turned out that way and worked out quite nicely.  Funnily enough, once I’d noticed that, I was torn on exactly where I should place it…the other outtake had the title dropped a tiny bit lower, so the “of” is resting right on top of the gray cloud line instead of hovering over it like it is.

 

I haven’t made a solid decision yet on what the Book 3 cover will look like but this is what I came up with tonight:

tbol outtake 3b

 

I’m still playing around with the font color for the title, as well as the placement of the text.  The picture hints at the metropolis of ADoS, but the mood and the time is different: we’ve gotten through the late night of Book 1 and the witching hours of Book 2, and now we’ve come to the morning after of Book 3.  The yellow of the sunlight is supposed to hint at the yellow font of Book 1, and I’m still trying to figure out which bluish hue would be good for the title (to hint at the blue cityscape of ADoS).

True, it does kind of hint at new-agey books, but that’s kind of the point…the characters and the planet itself has gone through a spiritual awakening of sorts.  And like Book 2, it serves a dual purpose: the physical awakening from that dreamlike state, and the spiritual awakening.

*

One thing I learned early during this process was that I shouldn’t merely look for something that ‘looks cool’, no matter how tempting it may be.  The last thing I needed was to look for something shiny, because I didn’t want the casual viewer to say ‘wow, what a flashy cover’ but not completely connect with it or remember it.  I wanted something unique.  Something that stood out from other covers, not because it was the flashiest, but because it was different. Something to catch their attention because it stood out just enough.

These first three are my first attempts at doing book covers, and as you’ve probably noticed, there are no actual people on the cover.  This was a conscious choice; not only is it because of the large cast, but because I also wanted to invoke the idea that it wasn’t just my characters being affected by the story, but planet itself.

My next couple of projects do involve a much smaller cast, so there’s a very good chance I may use people (or silhouettes) on their covers.  I did a brief Shutterstock search for those and found a few ideas to work with, and I’m looking forward to these when I get to that point.  The main drafts of these stories haven’t even been written yet, or at least not completely, so again this was a bit like creating fake album covers!  In the process it’s giving me something fun to look forward to.

 

 

Everyone loves free books!

For all of July at Smashwords.com, you can get *both* A Division of Souls AND its sequel, The Persistence of Memories, for exactly $0.00!!

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Book I in the Bridgetown Trilogy, A Division of Souls, is currently free.  So if you haven’t experienced the first book in the Mendaihu Universe, have at it and have fun!
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/565782

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Book II in the Bridgetown Trilogy, The Persistence of Memories, is part of a month-long promotion at Smashwords — all you need do is insert the coupon code ‘SFREE’ when you purchase this book and it’s all yours!
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/625392

Hope you enjoy them both!

Meme Extra: F is also for Dylan Farraway

In doing the A to Z Challenge last month, even though I couldn’t come up with anything for X, Y or Z, there were numerous characters and ideas that I didn’t hit, due to something already laying claim to that letter.  So without further ado, here are a few more entries that you may enjoy!

* * *

Dylan Farraway - Kevin Spacey

Q: What is Farraway’s origin?

A: Along with Alec and Caren, Dylan Farraway was one of the newer characters in the Phoenix Effect reboot.  I’d originally pictured him as a takeoff of Chief Aramaki in Ghost in the Shell: bald and kind of weird-looking, bound to blow up at his staff on a daily basis.  I soon backed away from that idea and recreated him as an even-tempered, highly intelligent but extremely overworked boss.

Q: How is he connected to the Mendaihu?

A: Well…it’s kind of complex.  But I can say that he’s quite efficient at obtaining and retaining his various contacts outside of the ARU, so he knows quite a few Mendaihu and Shenaihu.

Q: That’s Kevin Spacey in that picture.  Did you base Farraway on him?

A: Actually, no!  It wasn’t until maybe about a month ago that I realized he’d be good at playing Farraway.  Just like when I chose Kathleen Turner as Madeleine Jakes…I had a general idea of what they looked like and how they acted, but didn’t have anyone in mind until recently.

Q: He has quite a close relationship with Alec and Caren.  Is there a reason for that?

A: In general, yes.  Farraway knew Caren’s parents quite well, having come up through the ranks around the same time they were high-level agents themselves.  He was never their chief, but he would work alongside them on many cases, and got to know Caren personally in the process, while she was at the ARU academy.  He’d become Chief Inspector at the Branden Hill HQ around that time, and had personally put in a request to have her assigned to him when she graduated.  So in the process, whoever Caren has worked with, he has connected with.  He was also the one to decide that Caren and Sheila should remain close workwise, ensuring she remained as part of the Team Two setup.

Q: Anything else?

A: He lives not that far from the HQ, actually…he walks to work.  He has a wife, but she unfortunately never made it into any of the stories.  He’s quite aware of Alec’s connection to Vigil; in fact, he deliberately says nothing because he knows it’s a safe and very lucrative connection for them.  He always plays his cards close…even with his agents, he never reveals everything unless absolutely necessary.  He won’t even reveal who his own outside connections may be.  He does have some psionic strengths (he’s quite good at clairaudience and clairsentience), but refuses to use them as a crutch.  He speaks softly, but he can really raise his voice quite loud when need be.  He drinks way too much coffee.

#atozchallenge: W is for Wilderlands

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Gatlinburg, TN – pic courtesy Business Insider

There’s a few passing references to the Wilderlands in the trilogy, though I don’t go into too much detail.  Sometimes Sheila will call Nick a Wilderlander…in other words, calling him a hick.  Other times someone will mention that their family used to go on vacations out that way.  But what is the Wilderlands?

When I was writing True Faith, I knew that this story would take place in a big sprawling city.  I briefly expanded on that in the worldbuilding phase, thinking of how the east coast of North America would have evolved over a good five or six hundred years.  In my world, many of the cities expanded, encompassing nearby communities or creating new ones to become megacity sprawls.  Sort of like Los Angeles or New York City and their surrounding boroughs.  This happens with smaller cities as well, including Boston, Phoenix, San Francisco, and so on; their surrounding cities and towns just became part of the bigger province.

Which left all the small towns in between.  I called these “outpost” towns, basically stopovers between the larger provinces.  Rural living never went away, it just became a little more compact.  Many of the supertiny villages are still out there, of course…they’re just part of the nearby outpost towns now.  In essence, not much has changed too much in terms of livability.  Some choose to live in the outpost towns, such as those doing agricultural work, or have specialized jobs that require a bit of distance from civilization for safety’s sake.  And as mentioned above, most of these towns have a brisk tourism business as well.

Originally in TF, the Wilderlands were thought of as the back of the beyond that no one ever traveled to if they could help it; it was pretty much considered where the outcasts and the criminals hid out.  This changed during TPE, having decided to show it as Earth’s homage of sorts to the wilderness of Trisanda instead.  It’s been that way ever since.

There is of course a bit of New England tied to the idea as well.  Having lived in a small town in central Massachusetts for most of my life, I wanted to include a rural setting in this universe that honestly portrayed what small town life looked like.  It doesn’t show up in the Bridgetown Trilogy, but it will show up in future stories, including the new one I’m working on.

#atozchallenge: V is for Versions

You’ve heard me go on about the various versions of the Mendaihu Universe stories, and how long it’s been since I began it.  And since I have no characters or information that starts with V, I figure I’d post a bit of a timeline of writing the trilogy and its numerous versions, iterations and so on.  I know some of you have read this somewhere before (either my LJ or elsewhere), so I won’t go into too much detail!

 

1993, October: Doing laundry, reading Ray Bradbury’s Zen and the Art of Writing for inspiration, and trying to make sense of my stagnated writing career.  Contemplating writing/drawing a comic zine, writing a novel, or a screenplay.  The Infamous War Novel still burbling away in the back of my brain.  Having watched the first two Gall Force anime OVAs recently, I decide that maybe writing science fiction is the way to go.

1993, 26 November: Vigil is started.  My first attempt at writing SF is promising, and yet doesn’t get too far.  Possibly focusing too much on trying to maintain the mood and my prose is sadly nowhere near what’s unfolding in my head.  Spend a few months working more on the worldbuilding, timelines and possible plot ideas in between my Day Job (register jockey/shipping clerk for Harvard Coop, Longwood branch).  Also noodling around with a non-genre story, Two Thousand, which is my attempt at writing a coming-of-age novel.  Listening to a lot of music, barely getting by on meager paycheck.

1994, July: Still noodling around with various ideas.  Still juggling writing and Day Job (Brigham’s Ice Cream; I can still make you a killer milkshake frappe if you ask nicely).  Hanging out over at my girlfriend’s apartment on South Russell more than my own because it’s got AC and it’s across the street from my job.  She and I have been semi-seriously playing around with various ideas growing out of Vigil.  One hot and muggy evening I take an as-yet-unused idea of a character popping back in from an alternate reality and decide to use that as an opening.  This sparks more conversation about where the story should go, and True Faith is born.

1995, summer: Girlfriend is spending the season back at home with family.  I’m now living in an apartment out in Allston, still juggling my writing and my Day Job (various positions at a Sony Theater).  Start playing around with an extensive worldbuilding idea connected by multiple novels; the Eden Cycle is born.  Decide that during my copious free time and lack of funds I will use my gf’s computer (Windows 3.1!) and transcribe all my writing thus far, in addition to writing new words for TF.  Due to various unfortunate circumstances, I move back home with parents at the end of the summer.

1996, April: Somehow despite my sad state of finances, I manage to get a tax return.  I decide to spend it (and a few extra funds from family) to buy myself a used PC.  It runs on Windows 3.1 and has a monochrome CRT monitor, but that’s all I need.  I continue with the transcription project while juggling day job (local radio station!).  By the end of the summer I move the PC from my bedroom down to my parents’ basement, which becomes my writing nook for the next nine years.  Make various attempts at practice words at least a few times a week to get myself used to daily writing.

1997, 9 March:  No longer speaking to now-ex-gf, True Faith having stalled due to same (and having run out of decent plot ideas anyway), decide to start over from scratch.  Some elements of Vigil and True Faith — and very small dregs of the Infamous War Novel — are saved, reimagined and completely repurposed into a new story.  Make a decision to get to Day Job (HMV Records) an hour early to hang out in the mall food court to write longhand.  Writing finally turns into a daily habit that never goes away.  The Phoenix Effect is born, with nearly all new characters, the Vigil team now hiding in the periphery.

1998, August: Now writing during the daytime and transcribing the new words at night when I get home.  TPE is finished by month end.  Begin my first attempts at submitting to various publishing houses, with no luck whatsoever.  That doesn’t bring me down, though…I decide the best thing to do is to keep writing.  Numerous false starts on a sequel longhand while working on more TPE revision.  New novel beginnings, major worldbuilding changes.

2000, summer: So much revision, so little to show for it.  Feeling frustrated, I decide that a major rewrite of TPE is in order.  I’ve come to the conclusion that the prose is extremely weak and thin, that I hadn’t expanded that much from the longhand original.  Instead I decide to completely rewrite the story, expanding on every single scene and discarding a hell of a lot of chaff.  A Division of Souls begins.

2001, April: A switch in shift at Day Job (Yankee Candle) now gives me a truckload of time to work on writing.  Now dedicating two solid hours to new words on a daily basis.  Major expansion on worldbuilding, new characters, and planning out second and third book in trilogy.  My Day Job has a bit of slow time here and there, enough for me to brainstorm a few scenes or chapters ahead on scrap paper so I’m well prepared by the time I head home to write it.

2002, Summer: Finishing up ADoS first draft and starting on a bit of revision to include a recently created conlang for the universe, Anjshé.

2002, November 11: Begin sequel, The Persistence of Memories, and finish the first draft exactly one year later.  The Balance of Light started a day or so later with its original name, The Process of Belief.  It starts off well…

2003, summer: Worried…TBoL has stalled and I’m starting to lose track of where I want to go with it.  Day Job (still YC) starting to lose its luster due to management and work shakeups.  Still, I soldier on.  Start in on Love Like Blood just to keep myself busy.  Work on TBoL is in fits and starts at this point.

2005, March: Move down to New Jersey, and my writing habits start wavering due to a lot of (quite positive!) personal events.  Day Jobs include office temp work, a significant change from years of physical work.  At this point I think I may have lost the plot, literally.  Can’t quite figure out how to finish up the story.

2005, December: Another big move, this time out to San Francisco!  First apartment on Stockton Street, with my desk facing one of the bay windows.  A few years of dithering between projects like LLB and other ideas, while keeping the trilogy in the back of my mind.

2008 into 2009: I decide to share what I have of the trilogy on a friends-locked blog, partly to share it with a few beta readers and also to give it another serious read-through after far too long. By the time I finish the posts in late 2009, we move to our current place and I know exactly how to finish it.  I return to my old YC habit of plotting out a few chapters/scenes ahead of time and working on them.  At this point it feels like forever since I’ve written anything of import, so I’m quite excited!

2010, January 14: The Balance of Light and thus the trilogy is finally FINISHED!  Yay!

2010 – 2015:  A few years of other projects, but many, many months of reading, rereading rerereading, rererereading, etc, the entire trilogy, to become so familiar with the entire story again.  Much revision, rewriting, adding new scenes, getting rid of some old ones, editing, getting some beta reading commentary.  A hell of a lot of background work.  My writing style and quality finally seems to be going in the right direction again.

2015, summer:  Thinking it might be a good idea to self-publish the series.  I’d done a lot of research on it, weighed the pros and cons, and felt it would be the right step to take.  Immediately started an intensive revision/edit of ADoS with the aim of release on 3 September — the date the first scene of the book takes place.

2016, April 15:  The Persistence of Memories self-published!

2016, April 26: …I spend far too long typing this up for a silly but fun blog challenge, but prove to myself once again that it was so worth sticking with the project after all these years.  🙂

#atozchallenge: U is for Nehalé Usarai

Q: What is his origin?

A: Nehalé Usarai [neh-HAH-ley ooh-SAH-rye] one of the few non-Vigil characters that survived nearly every single iteration of these stories, all the way back to the late 1993 original.  His name and background evolved numerous times over the years, but his role in the entire story remained the same for the most part: a catalyst.  In Vigil he was to be a violent anarchist; in True Faith he was an Edward Snowden-esque whistleblower.  He was a not-so-violent anarchist in The Phoenix Effect.  And finally in the Bridgetown Trilogy, he became the spiritual leader we all know and love.

Q: How is he connected to the Mendaihu Universe?

A: Aside from the obvious connection in the very first chapter of A Division of Souls, he feels he has the role of Reluctant Shepherd.  He’s conflicted; on the one hand he fully believes it’s his responsibility to help usher the newly awakened Mendaihu and Shenaihu towards their own enlightenment…but on the other hand, he doesn’t want them to become blind, passive followers either.  Because of this, he likes to work behind the scenes.  He continues to be a catalyst in this respect, preferring to inspire and instigate changes instead of performing or enforcing them.

Q: He’s an exceptionally strong Mendaihu, given his actions.  What’s that background?

A: I go into it very briefly in ADoS; in his youth he was chosen by Mendaihu Elders to have accelerated training, due to his naturally high spiritual strength.  For a time these Elders would bring the young initiates to a small outpost village west of Bridgetown, where they’d go through various exercises and projects to show how well they could utilize their abilities.  Nehalé not only showed promise, he surpassed all expectations and became one of the youngest awakened Mendaihu of his time.  He chose not to be an Elder, however, instead being a mentor for others who are in the process of awakening.  This is how he met Anando Shalei, and why the two men remain close friends.

Q: Is he based on anyone in particular?

A: Not really, and I think he’d rather like it that way!  His early incarnations had him more talkative and abrasive; I think I may have seen him being played by Denis Leary, who was big box office at the time.  The TPE and Trilogy incarnations are more laid back, more pensive and reserved.  In fact, Nehalé is one of the few characters that I’ve never been able to completely visualize.  I’ve always seen him as a typically tall Meraladian, somewhat gawky; strong but definitely a beanpole sort of guy.  He’s not one to focus on his physical image all that much, so he’d be one of those guys you’d lose in the crowd.  The only reason he doesn’t is that so many others in Bridgetown know him by spirit signature.

Q: Anything else?

A: The ‘i’ at the end of his name denotes that he’s a distant cousin of the Usara clan.  Even the strongest Mendaihu have day jobs; Nehalé, up until the beginning of ADoS, worked for DuaLife as a Re-Gen (reconstructive genetics) Therapist.  He’s a philanthropist who likes to give to local shelters, churches and community centers.  He can be quite stubborn at times, often to his own detriment.  He’s performed quite a few awakening rituals before the one at the beginning of ADoS, but none as strong or as wide-ranging as that, and he’s not even sure if he has the ability to ever do it again…in fact, he feels he may have caused irreparable damage to his spiritual strength after pulling that off.

#atozchallenge: T is for Trisanda

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boreal forest, Canada

My original idea of Trisanda (trih-SAHN-dah) was that it was a forest planet.  Inhabited but not even close to Earth’s population at this time.  There’s evidence of civilization, of course: there are buildings, halls, chapels, houses, and so on.  Most of them are settlements of maybe no more than ten to twenty thousand people spread out over a good number of miles.  You could very well argue that my first thoughts of Trisanda was that it was an entire planet that looked like New England!

It’s more built up than that, of course.  There are cities as well as villages, forest lands as well as tropical ones, and so on.  In a way, think of it geologically as a possible Earth if we hadn’t evolved into a messy, dirty and somewhat irresponsible Industrial Age.  Trisanda is what Earth would be if we’d kept nature quite high up there in importance when it came to our cultural, communal and productive evolution.  [Not to say I was going to turn it into a political diatribe on ecology, far from it.  I admit to not being entirely well-read on that, and didn’t want to go in that direction anyway.]

We make multiple visits to Trisanda during the Bridgetown Trilogy, but for the most part we stay near a community called Bann Dassah (bahn DAH-sah).  That’s an extremely important spiritual center for the Trisandi, including a great meeting hall*, a Landing Field**, a Meeting Table near that***, and a wide path that leads toward the center of the community.  Bann Dassah, just like all the other communities, also has a spiritual leader of sorts, who acts both as a seer and as a teacher; her name is sehndayen-ne emha Eprysia Kaalen [ey-PREE-see-ah KAY-lenn], often known to many as Ampryss (a conjunction of ’emha Eprysia’).****  She too pops up from time to time in the trilogy.

As this planet is extremely spiritual in nature, a visitor is able to sense a marked difference in the spiritual energy around them, even if their ability isn’t the strongest.  It too works on a similar yin-yang balance; this world is the starting point of the Mendaihu-Shenaihu balance, as well as its imbalance.  It too reacts with equal force to whatever might be done to it or is taken away from it.  Many consider Trisanda and Gharra (Earth, that is) two planets with a related spiritual balance as well.  Therefore it’s considered an extremely holy land and its visitors give it the most utmost respect.

 

* – The meeting hall is mentioned many times in the books, but I never quite made it there.  It may show up in future MU stories, however.  We do visit a massive living quarters nearby in The Persistence of Memories, however.

** – Landing Fields are dedicated clearings where Lightwalkers can arrive safely on Trisanda.  Each field is partitioned into circular segments with shorter grass, with the sigils of the various Trisandi clans set into them with darker wheat-colored stalks.  You’ll see these quite often in the trilogy.

*** – Meeting Tables take various shapes, depending on how each community has them set up.  Bann Dassah’s is a long, continuous table that takes up most of the field.  Feasts are prepared twice a day, every day, regardless of weather.

**** – Anjshé vocabulary lesson time!  Sehndayen-ne (sen-DEY-en-ney) = teacher. Emha (EY-mah) = general feminine title (i.e., Miss, Ms., etc)…the masculine title would be edha (EY-dah).