A Letter from the Mosevin

Continuing the “Letters from Namora” series, in which Fourteen Stoness people introduce themselves and their world.

This is a letter from the archives of Valdena Filtraikas, a woman who rises well beyond her own expectations and will play a pivotal role in the futures of two nations. In this letter, she is a young student (mosevin) at the viduris, the priests’ training school in the Namoran town of Paret. She is writing to a friend during the summer holidays.


Raimaté, mosevin Ribas,

What do you think of that greeting? I hope it makes you laugh; I couldn’t resist it. Dear Ribé sounds so dull, but Peace be with you, fellow student…I like it! And soon – I hope, if we survive the viduris – soon we’ll start all our letters with our official titles. I can see your letters to me. Raimaté, Zhinin Valdena

I can’t send you this letter today; I’m going to have to copy it over tomorrow, and hope my handwriting is better then. Today my hand barely wants to hold the pen. Yesterday, you see, my father said, “Now you’re home from that school, you can make yourself useful,” and he had me spend the day helping him finish all of the shirts he had to have ready for his customers this week. You wouldn’t believe how many shirts! Ribè, I honestly think we must have made one for every single person in Paret. At least one. I’m nowhere near as fast at sewing as Da, he can work so fast you can hardly see the needle, but I basted and hemmed cuffs and collars all day, and I think my hands might never be the same again. Of course I’m glad Da is such a good tailor, but I’m also glad I won’t end up doing it too…that is, like I said, as long as I survive the viduris.

But that’s enough boring business. How are you? How is Lida village? I’ve been thinking about you so much since the term ended – yes, I know that was only a week ago – and I had to write to you today even though I’ll have to write it again. I’ve been thinking about you being back home, and how good it must be to be there again, when I know you were looking forward to it so much. I’m wondering how things are on the farm, and how your mother and brother are, and whether your brother is as much of a handful as ever. I feel as if I already know your mother and Gedrí, even though I haven’t met them. And the farm too: I think I would recognize it if someone took me there and dropped me blindfolded in your orchard. (And wouldn’t it be funny if they did!)

I wish, you know, that I could be as happy about being home as you are. But then, you could say I never really left it to come to the viduris, since Da and I live right here in Paret. And…well, I probably shouldn’t say it, but I think you already know I’d rather be with you and Nila and Matvé and Andrí than at home with Da. Once I got used to things at the viduris, as long of a time as that took, it started to feel much more like home than home ever did.

I miss you, Ribé. And I wish the summer wasn’t so long, and that it wasn’t almost three whole months until Rudua when we’ll all be back. You said I would have to come visit Lida and see everything for myself. I’d love to, but I don’t know if I’ll ever persuade Da. He has funny ideas, and he doesn’t like the idea of me visiting a boy. (It doesn’t matter that you’re my best friend. If you were a girl…but there you have it.) Maybe, if your mother writes to him, maybe she can do something, but I’ll try not to hope too much.

In the meantime, though, you can write to me, and I can write to you, as long as Da doesn’t make me work on too many more shirts. And there’s Rudua to look forward to. It’ll get here sometime.

I should stop for now. Da is calling and I probably have to help sweep out his workroom. After he’s been working all day, you should see the bits of thread and odd scraps and corners of fabric all over the floor, like a snowstorm.

Write to me soon. Yours,



For more about Fourteen Stones, its world, and its people, please visit the book’s page.

You can get your own e-book or print book from my publisher, or if you’re in the US, a signed copy directly from me: email kfaatz925@yahoo.com for details!

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GNU Terry Pratchett

A friend recently asked me what book(s) I would “un-read” if I could, to get to discover them all over again. This is one of them: Going Postal by Terry Pratchett. (Yes, it might be time to invest in a new copy. 😉 )

As you can see, I’ve read this book a lot. A serious lot. I’m not sure exactly how many times, but it came out in 2004, and I think I first read it in 2007, and it’s probably been once every couple of years on average since then. I would love to be able to read it again with new eyes: I remember how much fun it was to get lost in the story for the first time. At the same time, it’s one of those books where you notice something new with every repeat visit.

Pratchett is one of my great writing heroes. I’ve read all of the Discworld books, most of them many times. I have a bookcase of which two shelves are nothing but Pratchett. A friend introduced me to his writing about twenty years ago now, and I quickly got hold of everything I could find. At first, I read them just because they were fabulous stories and I loved getting lost in them. When I started learning about writing craft, it became something a little different.

When I’m reading, sometimes I’m “just” reading to experience a story. Other times, I try to read like a writer. What is this author doing? What makes the story tick? I try to get inside the magic and deconstruct it a little. It never hurts to study someone else’s tricks.

I started studying writing craft around the same time I first read Going Postal, back in 2007. When I tried to read Pratchett like a writer, I gave up pretty fast. There’s just so much to it. Such a brilliantly multifaceted fictional world. So many characters, all of whom you get to know over the course of one book or several. Plotlines that are never a single line, but a bunch of them interwoven and masterfully spun out. As you read, events unfold before you can begin to figure out where they came from or how Pratchett got there: and they work, every single time.

After ten years or so of learning about writing, I got to the point where I could look at his YA series, Wee Free Men and its sequels, and start to understand what he was doing in each of those books. They were a little less complicated.

My favorite of the YA series

I’m still trying to wrap my head around the others. Every so often, I go on a Pratchett kick where I re-read a bunch of the Discworld books. I seem to be starting one of those now. As I read, I keep trying to get a handle on how he does what he does, how he creates these amazingly complex puzzles in such a relatively tight space…and I keep losing track of the intricate craft in the sheer delight of the storytelling. I don’t know if I’ll ever really manage to deconstruct them. I wish I could see an early draft of Going Postal, or any of them really, to compare to the published version. Maybe that would help. (It would also help a lot to know that even he had to fix things along the way!)

Meanwhile, his work is a big touchstone in my library. Though I write fantasy too, it’s very different from his, but his work always challenges me to think about how I can be more precise, more specific; how I can do multiple layers of work in a single scene; how I can bring in threads of plot and have them work together without getting lost in endless verbiage. I don’t know much about how he creates his magic, but I can see a little of it. It gives me something to aim for.

If you’re already a Pratchett fan, you probably know what the title of this post is about. 🙂 If he’s new to you, and you’re curious, read Going Postal. The answer is there, and more importantly, you’ll be glad you did.

As always, thank you for visiting the blog. If you’d like to receive regular updates, including new installments of the “Letters from Namora” series, please consider subscribing!

The Bounds of the World

A “Letter from Namora” video, featuring Galvo Dendraikas, one of Sostavi’s political movers and shakers.

Read the original Letter from the Council

To find out more about Fourteen Stones, and get your own copy, please visit the book’s page. If you’d like regular updates from the blog, please consider subscribing. As always, thank you for visiting!

Life Sketching

How do you stay motivated on a long-haul project? I’m working on this a lot lately during the revision process on my third novel.

I’m one of those (maybe annoying) writers who usually does okay with motivation, at least when I’m caught up in a project. (Between projects is a totally different story. I get “mean” when I’m not working on something, but I’m no good at sitting down and tooling around and seeing what happens. I need a plan, an in.) When a project is in the works, I have trouble keeping some level of life balance, because I usually don’t want to do much of anything else.

This third book, Line Magic, was the first one I started without the benefit of months or years of brainstorming and world-building. The whole process was about seeing what shook out as I went. The writing process took longer than usual, and the end result was a lot rougher than I usually hope for in a working draft. Revision is raising a lot of questions. What were you doing here? What’s the point of this scene? How about this whole chapter? And sometimes, Why did you think any of this was a good idea?

The revision experience

At the same time, something is there. Writing the draft was a fantastic adventure. That excitement is still there, even as I argue with myself over paragraphs and sentences and individual words. (It’s fun when you change a word three or four times, and then put it back to how it was in the first place.) My main character might still be my favorite character of all the ones I’ve worked with. Hanging out with him is a delight, and I remember more about why I like him every time I sit down again and stare at these knotted-up pages.

Still, it’s often a challenge to sit down again. When I know I’m going to need that extra boost to look at another oh man, what’s this stuff?? section, I’ve started using one of my favorite tricks. It’s usually part of the brainstorming process, but this time it’s helping much farther down the line.

I call it Random Life Sketching. Novels are so much fun because you can learn everything there is to know about your characters. Your protagonist might be an adult on the page, but it never hurts to know about what they were like in childhood, what kind of family they grew up in, what significant moments might have shaped them growing up. Those moments may never show up in the finished story, but they inevitably make the characters richer to write. For me, they also remind me why I like these people so much. Creating sketches that aren’t part of the finished book means there’s no pressure to make them “perfect.” It’s all about play and experimentation.

I’m not a visual artist, but sometimes I experiment with color. This “watercolor therapy” hangs above my desk.

Nicky True, my protagonist in Line Magic, shaped himself as I wrote him. In the novel, he’s an adult in his mid-twenties, a visual artist with an extraordinary gift for drawing which ventures into the magical. If I had done my usual brainstorming for this book, I’d have already had a pile of sketches about what he was like as a boy, when his gifts turned up, who knew about them and when…etc. Now I’m going back and filling in those gaps in my imagination.

The novel is set (mostly) in 1945. For Random Life Sketching, I’m sending myself farther back in time. Nicky was born in the 1920s and grows up during the Great Depression. He comes from a working-class family; his father is an Irish immigrant who works in a textile factory dye house (a fun research rabbit hole). Eleven-year-old Nicky is old enough to be well aware of his parents’ worries about money, old enough to hunt for ways to help. He hasn’t reached his growth spurt yet but it’s already clear he’s going to be tall, a fact that makes his parents wonder how they’re going to keep him in decent clothes. He looks a lot like his dad, Desmond, who might have been an artist too, if he’d had other options. Nicky gets along fine with the other kids, does decently in school, doesn’t stand out in a crowd: except for his quick sensitivity to the world around him, and that remarkable gift when he sits down with pencil and paper. Sometimes he skips out of games at recess to sketch the pattern of light and shade on a sidewalk square, or the angles of rooflines across the street. It did cross my mind that the other kids might bother him about this, but Nicky is also tough and able to defend himself – so they don’t interfere, something that my once-bullied younger self much appreciates.

This kind of geometry would fascinate my young artist.

The sketches I’m coming up with might never end up on a published page, although one of them did turn into a full-length short story. The real gift of them is the return to experimentation and discovery. Nicky can show me what he was like as a boy, and I can take a break from wrestling with the latest what’s this stuff? part of the novel and simply appreciate this new information about a character who caught me from the beginning. I have about eighty more pages of revision to do, into the final quarter of the book. Given how long the rest of it has taken, it’s still going to be a while, but I have a feeling these sketches will help me power through.

If you’re a writer, what helps you stick with projects when they hit the long-haul, painstaking, remind-me-why-I-got-into-this stretches? Please leave a comment if you’d like.

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The Real Sostavi

A reflection on the trip to Spain that inspired Fourteen Stones. My memories of Cudillero, the real town that became Sostavi, capital city of Namora.

The first thing I feel is what I wouldn’t give to do that again. We can’t have exactly the same experience back; if Paul and I were to go to Cudillero again, or to Noia to see the castros, or any of the other places we saw in northwestern Spain, it couldn’t be exactly the same as it was in the summer of 2015. But I can’t help but think that the same magic might still be there to meet us.

Cudillero, on the coast of Asturias. That’s the place we were able to imagine spending a week in, instead of a single night. The town with its houses clustered on the slope that ran down to the harbor. They were like crystals in formation. In the morning, we walked along the narrow streets, too narrow for a car to drive, threading from one level down to the next. The houses were tiny and bright: bright whites, vivid turquoise, raspberry-pink, butter-yellow. There were window boxes overflowing with color. Each of the rooftops made of undulating terracotta tile.

Down at the harbor: the turquoise water, the smell of salt. The sea in Spain seemed wilder and lovelier than it is here, except maybe along the coast of northern Maine. The bustle of the town: shops and businesses open, the little plazas, the voices and footsteps. That morning, Paul met a Romani accordionist and the two of them improvised together, Paul on his clarinet. They had very little common language, between Paul’s English and Alex’s Gallego; my Spanish couldn’t do much to translate. But they played, skirling and dancing lines, the two instruments’ melodies weaving in the bright morning.

The taste of bread. The shops so close together, intimate as hugs. The rich yeast scent of a panadería, timeless with its baskets hanging on the walls and bread piled in bins, modern with its refrigerator offering soft drinks in bright bottles. The long golden loaf of bread with its hard crust and soft white center, poking out of a brown paper sleeve. Tearing off pieces to eat as we walked across the sunny plaza to the nearby church. The shouts of children playing soccer and the ring of the ball against ground and sneakers. The intense whiteness of the sun on white concrete. The cool darkness inside the church.

It was nothing like home. And yet it woke my imagination and gave me dreams that came to life in a story, and to a part of me, it is home. What I wouldn’t give to go back and see it again.

Music-making at Cudillero harbor


Excerpt from Fourteen Stones, chapter 14:

In the sun, Sostavi Harbor was a spread of turquoise crowded with fishing boats and the pleasure craft of the city’s wealthy. Above the water, on the hillsides, the light turned the city’s buildings into clusters of white crystals. Ribas breathed the fresh cold air off the water and remembered why coming here had been worth it. […]

When he was eighteen, he’d had to come to the coast to see for himself what Kenavi had seen, what she had gone out to meet, when she walked into the water to offer herself to the old gods. He had seen the ocean in pictures and read countless stories and texts about it, about gentle Kenavi and rebellious Klaya both, but Ribas had still had trouble imagining those “fields of water” and believing in the power and authority of the gods of sun and wind and water.

When he saw the ocean, he understood. An infinity of water stretching away to the horizon. Waves rolling in, rearing up, crashing against the sand in a heartbeat huge enough to belong to the whole world. The size and power of it all took Ribas’s breath away. He had wondered, many times, what Kenavi had actually felt on the day she decided to lay her life down. The stories all said she did it with pure courage and self-sacrifice, to earn the reward the old gods had granted her. Ribas himself had always thought she must have felt afraid, even if only a little, even if she didn’t want to admit it to herself. When he saw the ocean, when he stood on the sand and let the wind tug at his clothes and rake through his hair, he knew he had been right. She must have been afraid, but she had also given herself to that water gladly. She had walked forward into that enormity and let it swallow her. In that moment, she had felt joy. Ribas knew it because he felt it himself.

Now, after he and Maryut and Gedrin took in the harbor, they went back up into the heart of Sostavi. Shoulder-to-shoulder houses and shops lined the narrow cobblestones streets, so close together you couldn’t see daylight between them. […] Some buildings had third and even fourth floors added: you could see the join work that linked new stories to older ones, like stacking books in a pile. Houses on top of houses, weaver’s shops with grocers above, wine sellers perched above jewelers. The shade of the buildings felt like a burrow.

It was Tretdina, Third Day, which at home would have meant a quiet village square as everyone went about their usual business. Here, people seemed to have time to run in and out of shops, gather in groups to chat, stop to buy apples and roasted nuts and tea from vendors with their carts and baskets. To Ribas, it felt like market day in Lida, except the market spilled into every street.

[For more about Fourteen Stones, including purchasing info, please visit the book’s page. If you’d like to receive regular blog updates, please consider subscribing. As always, thank you for visiting!]

Letters from Namora

These last few days have been a little hectic, so I’m shamelessly borrowing from myself for today’s post. You might have seen some of my recent “Letters From” series, in which some of my favorite Fourteen Stones characters are featured here on the blog, in their own words.

These letters are new content, rather than excerpts from the book. I’m having fun coming up with them every week, spending extra time with the people I’ve come to know so well and sending more “threads” of the story out into the world.

I’ve also been working on turning the letters into short videos. Learning Canva – still a work in progress – has been a good challenge for a media Luddite like me. So today I’d like to share two of the finished products, which I’m pretty proud of.

Please enjoy these two very short trips to Namora. 🙂 If you like them, please feel free to share this page or the video links!

A Letter from the Zhinin

Read the original Letter from the Zhinin

A Letter from the Orchard-Keeper

Read the original Letter from the Orchard-Keeper

To find out more about Fourteen Stones, and get your own copy, please visit the book’s page. If you’d like regular updates from the blog, please consider subscribing. As always, thank you for visiting!

A Letter from the Farmer

Continuing the “Letters From” series, in which Fourteen Stoness people introduce themselves and their world.


Write a letter, my brother says. Letter? I say. Letter about what? I don’t do that kind of thing. Haven’t in years, not since my wife Virta and I got married and she moved out here to the village. She used to live in Paret, you know, which is the only thing like a city around here. Back then, of course, we did write to each other. Now I’m out of practice.

My brother – that’s Ribas, the zhinin, you met him – he says that I should talk about life here in Lida. Anything you want to say, he says. So that people will know why they should come and see it for themselves. I point out he wrote about Lida already. (I saw that letter of his, and you should take my advice: when he says he doesn’t have a gift with words, don’t listen.) He says, Your take is different from mine, Gedrí. Just try it, will you?

When your brother is older than you and used to taking care of everyone, you don’t have a whole lot of choice when he asks you to do a thing. (He’s also a know-it-all, but nobody else had better say so, at least not in my hearing.) You can argue with him how you like – and believe me, I know how to argue – but it slides off him like straw off the end of a pitchfork.

So. My take on Lida.

Well, I’ve lived here all my life. The farm, which belongs to me now, was my mother’s. You’ve met her too. Ribé and I were born there. The old house is where my family and I live, but to me, the fields and orchard are home. When I was a little boy, Mama and Ribé between them could hardly ever get me to sit down and do dull inside things like mending and scrubbing. If there was any outside work to do at all, digging or weed-pulling or fence-patching, I’d be out there in even the worst weather, usually lugging tools practically as big as I was.

I’ve never worried about winter…

I’m not much different these days, grown though I am, with two children of my own. When Virta married me, she didn’t know much about farming life. I’ll tell you, anyone would be proud to see how she’s taken on the work and learned to love the open spaces, the earth underfoot, the rhythms of plowing and planting. Me, I never did imagine doing or being anything else, so you could say she had to take me as I was or not at all. Some days I look at her, in one of her plain working dresses that she’s embroidered with the kind of fine work she always loved, and I wonder all over again that she decided I was worth it.

What else about the village? If you visited here, you’d have to have a meal at the Sheaf and Barrel. That’s the inn, the only one we’ve got, and we don’t want for another. The innkeeper, Seldo, is an old friend. He’s also one of the two best Capture players in the village – as I should know, because I’m the other. Since you aren’t from Namora, I don’t suppose you know how to play Capture. If you did, though, I’d say you should join one of the matches that go on at the inn some quiet winter evenings. People bring their own boards and pieces and play whoever wants to challenge them. The inn fills up pretty quick, with players and those watching the games and passing cider around. Things usually end up with me and Seldo in a drawn-out battle. Those are the best kind.

I’ve managed to go on a pretty long time here. Seems to be enough to satisfy my brother – though now he tells me I might have to write another letter sometime. I’ll tell you, he knows how to make a nuisance of himself.

For now, while I can, I’ll sign off. Yours,

Gedrin Silvaikas

The Whys

These days, I’ve been doing a lot of revising. Right after the New Year, I pulled out the draft of the novel I wrote last spring and summer. Taking another look at it has been teaching me a lot.

I loved writing this book. It started out as a short story that I wrote in response to a contest prompt. One of the contest’s judges commented that they thought it should be a book, and they hoped I would try writing it. I’d never based a novel on a story before (although I’m going to try it again, pretty soon), and had no outline or plans.

Jumping in and winging it, figuring out my main character and his life as I went, was hugely fun. I often put a lot of pressure on drafts. (“If you’re going to spend this much time writing, it’d better be good!”) This time, I had no expectations going in. It was all about seeing what shook out, and it was wonderful.

This novel had a soundtrack of songs that helped me get unstuck. I listened to this one on repeat.

When I finished the draft, I was really excited. The story had taken on all kinds of layers. I adored my main character. Putting the project aside was really difficult, because I wanted to keep hanging out in that world.

Looking at it now, with a little more distance, I can see how many corners I cut. When I didn’t know what to do, I’d put something down and plow ahead. I didn’t think too hard about precision or fine-tuning. Now I’m finding entire placeholder sections, and other parts that feel like scaffolding without masonry. There’s lots of sloppy language, and lots of “clunkers,” as I call them: awkward transitions, extra verbiage to trip over.

About a third of the way through, I hit a chapter that left me thinking good lord, what a snore! As I slogged through, trying to see how to fix it, I wondered if, really, I’d come up with much of anything workable in this book at all. Maybe I’d tried to do too much with all those layers, and it was like mixing too many colors of paint: you didn’t end up with a rainbow, just a sludgy mess.

I’ve stuck with it, mainly because I do still love this character, and hanging out with him feels like solid ground underfoot. I don’t know if this story will ultimately shape up into anything that it feels right to share. I’m about two-thirds of the way through the revision now, and when it’s done, it’s probably going to go back into a folder for a while. Sometime later, I might take it out again and look at those spots where I know something still isn’t right.

Another favorite song from the drafting soundtrack.

With my first two books, especially To Love A Stranger, I felt a lot of pressure to finish-and-publish. What else would justify all that time? This time, it feels okay to put in these hours dickering with a puzzle. In revision, I love figuring out where the problems are and how to smooth them out. Every one of them teaches me something I can keep in mind for next time. This story took a bunch of risks, and uses some devices that maybe, ultimately, can’t work. That feels okay too. If I can’t fix them, I can still learn from them.

This experience is reminding me why, at the end of the day, I do this work even when no results are guaranteed. Storytelling always just feels right. Doing it keeps me grounded in who I am. Every project has some kind of joy in it, a motive power that keeps me coming back.

One of these days, maybe this current main character really will make his way into the world, whether in a version of this book or in some different story. That might be a while from now. Meanwhile, he makes me smile, and I’ll enjoy the time I can spend with him.

As always, thank you for visiting the blog. For automatic updates, including installments of the “Letters From” series featuring Fourteen Stones’s people, please consider subscribing!

A Letter from the Council

The next in our series of letters from Fourteen Stoness people. Here, a member of Namora’s governing Council introduces himself and Namoran politics.


Galvo Dendraikas, at your service. I am a sventin, one of the seventeen members of Namora’s ruling Council serving our leader, the Tavin. I have been here in our capital city, Sostavi, for many years. You could say that when it comes to the braided, woven, and often simply tangled life of our leadership, I am as near expert at following and parsing those threads as one can be.

You wish me to speak of Namora’s government. On the surface, it’s simple indeed. Our Tavin is the head of Namora, presiding in Sostavi’s Great Circle House. You have heard from my colleague Ribas Silvaikas, who spoke of the life of a zhinin in a small village. As Zhinin Ribas is to Lida’s Circle House, so the Tavin is to Sostavi’s Great House, and therefore to all of Namora. We seventeen on the Council support our leader and assist in all decision-making and intricacies of government.

So far, so simple. But you might be able to imagine that where seventeen come together to discuss and debate, simplicity quickly vanishes into a mist on the edge of memory. Of course, not all of my colleagues would agree. Some would say the term “mist” is misleading. Others would speak of the treachery of “memory.” Still others would contend that “vanishes” is far too dramatic. And so on: I believe you understand.

For me, navigating the dance of Sostavi politics has been a life’s work. I have had little else: no marriage, no family, few real friendships. Once, many years ago, I did have a close friendship I valued very much. My own actions put an end to that, which remains a source of lasting regret. I have shared the details of that with two people only, and will not repeat myself here – at least not now.

I come from Laiva, the capital city of Namora’s Pajura region. The move from that city on the coast to Sostavi, which is the city on the coast, felt quite natural to me as a young man. I believed Sostavi would be familiar. It was not. In splendor, elegance, and sheer busyness of life, no other place can rival our capital. The Great House, which, some believe, is where our Goddess Kenavi lived as a mortal woman, has no equal among the many Circle Houses throughout the country. My first years here were a slow process of finding my footing, while hiding my confusion and presenting the right face to the world. In the end, I was rewarded with this place in government, which is all an ambitious man might aspire to.

At least, it’s all I did aspire to, when I was young and believed I knew what mattered. As I have grown older, I have come to find – often to a return of confusion, and sometimes regret – that life has more shadings than I knew.

Namora is a beautiful place. The most beautiful in the world, many of us would hold. Although, in fairness, many of us have seen little of the world apart from our own towns and cities. Few are curious about what lies on the other side of our little country’s boundaries. There are some exceptions, and I, in my steadily advancing age, am proud to number myself now – I was not, as a young man – one of them.

I wish to know more about the world. I am glad, in fact, to know that there is more “out there” than I once imagined or cared about. I would like to learn about other places and people. Surely, a lifetime of navigating Sostavi politics is useful training for other complex weavings. Many of my colleagues on the Council do believe that the world is simple, in that Namora is the center of it. With however much time is left to me, I wish to challenge myself to see more clearly.

I have spun enough words here for the time, so will close. Yours in the peace of the Goddess,

Galvo Dendraikas


[For more about Fourteen Stones, its world, and its people, visit the book’s page. Please consider subscribing to the blog to receive future letters and posts.]


I know I’ve been posting a lot about my book lately. Today’s post touches on it too (sorry!), but I’m thinking about the bigger question of creativity, and why this particular book, and the process it went through in getting published, feels like a real benchmark for me.

I’m a trauma survivor. Only recently, I’ve started taking ownership of this fact and how it affects me. I grew up in an unsafe environment, and for a long time, I told myself that I just needed to be strong enough to leave all that behind. It “shouldn’t” affect me anymore. It especially “shouldn’t” mean that some things are hard for me, when they might not be for other people. Things like taking care of day-to-day deadlines, managing a tight schedule, and juggling a regular job and home life. For me, emotional overhead can lead quickly to overwhelm and shutdown.

It’s taken me a very long time to realize that some things just are hard for me, and the only way I can get better at them is to honor where I’m starting from. Many trauma survivors deal with a blurry sense of identity. We were often told, somewhere along the line, by someone who had a lot of power over us, that we weren’t who or what we were supposed to be. We had to change and silence ourselves to survive. Then, if we get to place where we’re free, we feel lost. “Who am I really? Is that okay?” When you’re focused on survival, you don’t have as much space to grow. When you’re told you shouldn’t be who you are, you learn to distrust yourself.

For me, writing has been a release, an affirmation, and a survival tool. I was always a voracious reader. Stories and storytelling helped me survive. As an adult, it’s still taken me a while to honor my identity as a writer. When I was first learning the craft, I knew how much I wanted to do this work and how right it felt, but at the same time, I never lost the messaging that this was something else I “shouldn’t be.” Calling myself a writer felt uneasy and shameful. It doesn’t anymore: this is who I am, and I’m glad.

Fourteen Stones, as a fantasy in a created world, is such a pure product of my imagination that it was incredibly tough to believe it might be worth other people’s time. Its journey to publication was another kind of test: finding the path that felt right, as different as that path looked from what I’d thought I “should” want. (Yes, there’s that word again.) It has been amazing to see this story coming into its own, finding readers who are glad to spend time making the trip to Namora and Lassar. The printed book looks so different from my computer-screen original that when I look at the pages, I have to stop and remember that yes, this is my story that I wrote. And…wow.  

That’s why this book feels like a turning point in my professional life. It’s exactly the story I wanted to tell. My publisher presented it as beautifully as I could ask for. Trauma survivors often struggle with owning their voices after learning to silence themselves for so long. It’s hard for us to recognize that we have a right to our truths, and a right to share them when we need to. I still struggle with that every day, but Fourteen Stones has been an important step in recovery.

I’m hoping to find ways to use storytelling to help other people like me, who are reclaiming themselves. Meanwhile, moving forward after Fourteen Stones feels like coming into greater ownership of myself and my voice, and that means a lot.

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