About Lionrhod: Writing In Character
Can Someone Else Write My Bio Please?
Despite that writing is my passion, one thing I've never felt comfy with is writing about myself. Bios! Ugh!
So this time I'll do something a little sneaky. I'll get Willa to write about me instead.
Who's Willa? Let me introduce you to Willa Drejski. She's in the kitchen. She'll be out in just a minute. She's an aspiring witch and writer. Just shy of seventeen, she attends New Paltz High School and --
"Hey! I thought I was supposed to be writing this!"
Oh, right, yeah. "While you're in there could you grab me a cup of tea?" Oh, one more thing, before she comes in, that you'll probably want to know about her. She's not real.
"I heard that!"
We'll have to whisper. Come on over here. Okay. Here's the deal. She's the protagonist of my latest novel, Dark Moon Gates. "Oh, hey, thanks for the tea, Willa. Did you bring any for our guests?"
* * *
Lionrhod thinks she's pretty funny, huh? I can hear her cackling now from the other room.
Hi, anyway! I'm Willa. Would you like a cup of tea? It's mint and sage, from the garden in front of my house.
Just so you know, my last name is pronounced "Dresh-ki," That's right, try a little more trill on the "R." Just please, don't call me, "Dredge-ski." Half the kids at school call me that, and it drives me bonkers.
Mom named me after Willa Cathers, who's a distant relative. I used to hate it (It's just such a typically witchy name, thanks to Buffy and all.) but I've made my peace with it. I even kind of incorporated in my Craft name -- I guess it's okay to tell you--which is Saille, the Ogham (Celtic) name for Willow.
So she told you about our book, right? She keeps calling it "hers." I guess it's a little challenging for a writer to admit that she doesn't do this sort of thing all on her own.
She's asked me to tell you a little about her, so I'll start with how we met. It was just before Sidhe showed up at my door. One Sidhe in particular. I thought he was a madman when he showed up but...well, it's complicated. Anyway, she showed up too, hanging around in my kitchen and watching me make dinner. But she seemed friendly and harmless enough so I made her some coffee and let her hang out and observe from the shadows. She tends to like to lurk and watch. She's actually kind of shy, except when she's on a rant -- which is about half the time.
I still haven't figured out how she got into my kitchen. I know it's some kind of teleportation thing, but I'm working that out. She refuses to share the secret.
What would you like to know about her?
Lion Loves to Write
The first thing most people notice about her is that she's always got her nose stuck in a book. Or a typewriter or ebook screen. Once she discovered the written word, it was hard for her to come up for air. She'll read the blurb on the shampoo bottle if there's nothing else around.
Her mom was a writer too, so she started pretty young, reading some of her mom's stories and commenting on them. (I can relate -- my own mom is a successful Romance novelist.) When she was eight she wrote a really bad and terribly plagaristic story about a pony. (She won't mind my saying that, since she's the first one to admit it.) Her writing could only go up from there!
As a kid, Lion used to help edit her mom's work, and joined the local Writer's Guild at about age 12. (Where she helped to foment a revolution -- but that's a tale for another day.)
She loves to read and write about writing itself. As a kid she and her mom would take turns reading while the other one did chores. One of their favorites (and mine!) wasTelling Lies for Fun & Profit.
Her first sale was a profile piece on an artist, but the one she remembers best out of those early sales was to a Dungeons & Dragons magazine. Out of all the articles they published that issue, the artist got inspired and created a cartoon of her character -- it was really cool too! It was picture of a squid in a fish tank strangling someone. She ran out and got a t-shirt made with the cartoon on it and wore that thing till it shredded from age.
Lion's first typewriter was an ancient manual that she got as a birthday gift when she was thirteen or so. When she made her first sale she was gifted with a Sharp Intelliwriter. It held an amazing -- HUGE -- ten whole pages of memory! (What can I say? She's been around a while.) Now she uses a laptop and is moving back to her desktop as soon as the hubby upgrades it. She carries a notebook wherever she goes, just in case inspiration strikes. She's got a lot of notes on the back of Denny's napkins too!
Some folks say that her genres are a bit scattered. She writes Fantasy -- both Young Adult, and stuff that's geared to the older crowd. She also writes Metaphysical How-To, children's stories and various articles. She's got a Fantasy Romance on the back burner, and the ideas for a Fantasy Horror floating around in her head. She'd like to write a mystery some day too. But what ties it all together is that most of what she writes has magickal elements.
When she starts a story it's usually because she gets a strong visual of someone or has dreams about them. Then she does that teleport thing and pops off to visit and observe them. I'm not sure if it's because she's a wanna-be anthropologist or just nosy.
As a Cancer, she's into understanding emotions -- what gets folks motivated and how they react.
She tends to feel that observing us "characters" (as she calls us) will show her the way through the story. She's only recently started outlining a vague plot line ahead of time. I think it's doing her some good. Makes her write faster, anyway.
"Our" book. ;)
That's our book over there. You know, the one she calls "her."
It's the first in the Witches Gates Saga. I'm just hoping I manage to survive so I can be around for the second book.
It all started when this gorgeous, but very weird guy showed up at the house. He said he was one of Mom's writing students. Mom hadn't gotten back from work yet, and I wasn't going to let him in. Then I noticed his pentacle earring. Our family is Wiccan. (We're in the broom closet about that.)
Immediately he starts acting strange and furtive, peeking out the windows as if he expects someone's lurking. As soon as my baby brother bounced into the house this guy -- Joth -- got an odd, almost worshipful look on his face, calling Arrie, "the Revealer."
It turns out that my school was infested with Dark Sidhe. They were posing as substitute teachers and trying to figure out the identity of The Revealer who would open the Gates to Faery once and for all. These folks don't like humans very much. They thought we were going to turn their world into a theme park.
So they did the "logical" thing: Came to our world to hunt this kid down before he was old enough to open the Gates. We've got two weeks until the Beltaine Dark Moon to save Arrie, or they're going to sacrifice him and close the Gates between Faery and the humans forever.
Of course if the Gates get closed, all the magick in our world will be cut off. It might even kill off some or all of the plants because the nature faeries that tend them won't have access to that magick.
And Arrie will be dead.
Then Joth tells me that to save Arrie, I might have to make my own sacrifice -- my eyes.
And where to find an epub version.
Dark Moon Gates and Spellcraft Secrets: The Art of Creating Magic Spells Made Easy (plus other books by her) are also available in .epub and other formats via her website at http://www.lionrhod.net/
Check out my Pinterest Board where I'll post writerly and witchy things related to our book.
Where do you start, with character or plot?
Character vs. Plot
It's one of those dragon and the egg questions about which came first, and most writers start with one or the other.
Some writers, like Lion, find a character they want to work with and the plot grows by watching the character interact with their world.
Other writers start out with a particular plot and then go searching for a character to fit into it. I wonder if they do that teleport thing too?
Which is more important to you? Or do you have another idea? Let us know why you voted in the Comments section below.
Lionrhod Weighs the Same as a Duck
Monty Python fan anyone?
Lion's been a witch and Wiccan since she was about nine. She's always been a bit of an oddball. (Not that I can afford to talk!) Much of her childhood was spent haunting the folklore section of her library, pouring over faery tales, mythology and books on subjects like spells, werewolves and vampires.
She also had a strong connection with nature. Her grandma used to babysit her by sitting her in front of an anthill and pouring a bit of colored syrup so they could pay attention to which ants went where. Her babcia (grandmother on the Polish side) was an herbalist and taught her the uses of the many plants that grew in the 200-year old garden of Lion's home.
In the summers she'd visit her aunt, who had a farm in upstate New York. (Right near where I live.) She'd help with the gardening and with the cows, chickens and horses, and spend the rest of her time traipsing through the woods or swimming in the Rondout Creek.
The Book That Brought Lion to Wicca
When she was fifteen, her mom's best friend gave her a copy of The Spiral Dance by Starhawk. Finally, Lion had a name for what she was! She redoubled her efforts to learn about magick and the Gods and Goddesses.
After years as a Solitary, she found her first coven at the age of thirty, and (with all that previous training behind her) soon became its High Priestess. That first path was a faery one. Moving down to Florida, she joined a coven of the Draconian Path of Wicca/Wysardn (There are at least three trads who call themselves "Draconian." What's not to like about dragons?) Around 2002, she formed her own path, the Circle of the Dragon's Crystal Unfolding ("Unfolding" for short) with two of her students. It's strongly based on the Draconian Path, but the "dual ladder" of priesthood vs. magickal studies is handled a bit different.
Her formal title (not that she goes for formal much) is Lady Lionrhod, Mistress Wysard, meaning she's a 4th degree on the witch side and 2nd elevation on the wysard side. (Out of 4 each, but on the Wiccan side the 4th is just an honorary, meaning she's birthed a coven. The Wysardn college is a survival of the Druids and of the court magicians of Europe.)
The title she prefers is "She Who Must Be Obeyed." One of the changes she made when she created Unfolding was to make sure everyone got a silly title, so they wouldn't take themselves too seriously.
The name Lionrhod is an amalgam of Mountain Lion (her primary totem) and Arianrhod, her patroness, the Welsh-Celtic Crone goddess of Reincarnation, Transformation and Spiritual Growth.
No doubt she'll be writing plenty of lenses about witchcraft, Wicca and magick.
She brings her love of magick and her desire to aid others into her daily life, working as a Psychic at a local restaurant and at gigs and conventions in the Orlando, Florida area. She also teaches local classes on various aspects of metaphysics and divination. For more info on her work as a psychic, check out this page: That Scary Death Card: What You Need to Know About This Terror of the Tarot.
Lion's Gardening Tips
Love of the Earth
One of the many reasons me and Lion bonded was because of her love of the Earth. She's a strong proponent of treating the planet as what it is -- the living flesh of the Goddess. She walks her talk, having organized many beach cleanups as the head of the Environmental Committee for her local Wiccan church. Whenever she goes hiking, she carries a bag so that she can pick up garbage she finds along the way. (She even wrote a song about that. Maybe I'll sing it to you someday.)
She adores gardening and back in Colorado when most of her neighbors' plants were stunted by drought, her plants were at least four times as big and thriving. She attributes her success to the double dig method and microclimate creation suggested by John Jeavons in How to Grow More Vegetables. and also to using Mycorrhizae infused dirt. Check out her article How I Grew A Garden In Less Time and Got Bigger Plants and More Veggies Than My Neighbors.
Viewing food as one of the sacraments of the Gods, Lion is a hard-core foodie. You can tell with the way she's always talking about food in our book! It's a Cancer thing!
The Food Network is one of her favorite channels. She cooks Italian, "Polish peasant," Thai, and Chinese mostly, but she'll try her hand at just about anything. She's also working on a couple of cookbooks.
If you're super lucky, you'll get to try her stuffed cabbage. It's made with a die-for sour cream, bacon and tomato sauce, a recipe passed down by her babcia and father.
She shares her passion for cooking with her husband, and the two of them often argue over who gets to use the kitchen first.
She loves baking bread, the scent of the yeast rising, the smell of it baking in the oven, and the whole process in general. She doesn't have much of a sweet tooth, so deserts aren't her thing, though she does bake a mean (and low sugar) apple pie when she's in the mood.
When she's eating out, her favorite foods are Japanese -- especially Sushi! -- Thai, and Vietnamese. She rarely goes to Italian joints, since she says, "I can make better at home." She does love a good pizza, but us New Yorkers are super picky about pizza. It's hard to find a decent slice down there in Orlando. She likes her steak super rare, feeling that the best way to cook one is to, "Show the cow a lit match."
She also brews beers and meads. A while back she made an amazing Elderberry & Flower mead. It was dry with just a hint of sweetness, lighty effervescent, and tasted like fine champagne. (Or so I'm told. I'm under age, so I only got to try the tiniest sip.)
Sicily is famed for their orange trees. Lion's never been there, but she loves this quick and easy recipe and makes it for me all the time. (She's a ravioli junkie!) This sweet and savory dish makes a fantastic accompaniment for steak or chicken or just on its own.
Requires very little cooking.
Serve hot or cold. If served cold, it is perfect for a summer day.
Lion is from the "eyeball" school of measuring, but I'll nail her down for measurements next time she makes this.
Tip: You can use canned black olives, but jarred (or fresh brined but from your deli) taste so much better! Gaia olives tend to be much less expensive for some reason.
Tip: Buy pine nuts in bulk from your natural foods store. Much less expensive than supermarkets.
- Cheese Ravioli, frozen or home made
- Oranges, about 1/2 to 1 per serving, depending on size
- Gaia, Calamata or other black olives, 4-8 per serving, pitted & chopped
- 1/2 to 1 Red Bermuda Onion, chopped
- Flat leaf parsley, 1/2 bunch (Use curly if needed.), rinsed & chopped
- Pine nuts, 1 small palmful per serving
- Arugula, 1 bunch, (optional), rinsed & chopped
- Olive oil
- Grated parmesan to taste
- Olive oil
- Garlic, 1-2 cloves (optional)
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Start the water for your ravioli in a large pot. You'll want it at a full rolling boil before you put the pasta in.
- Tip: Don't add salt till it boils, as this will raise the boiling point and make it take longer.
- While the water is heating, do your prep:
- Oranges: Zest one of the oranges, Peel, de-seed if necessary and chop into 1/2 inch chunks. Reserve any juice.
- Pine nuts: Toast lightly in a dry frying pan, on very low heat. Keep an eye on these as they can burn pretty fast. When golden brown, chop rough.
- Toss together the oranges, olives, onion and parsley in a bowl.
- Garlic: (optional) Slice or mince fine.
- Tip: the smaller you mince or cut garlic, the "hotter" and more garlicy it will taste.
- If using garlic saute it in a frying pan in a little olive oil on low heat, until translucent. Watch it carefully and don't let it brown.
- If using the arugula (optional) toss it into the olive oil/garlic mixture at the last minute and allow to wilt slightly. Then lift it out of the garlic mixture and If you're not using garlic, don't bother with this step - the arugula is perfectly fine as is, without wilting. Instead just put the arugula in with the orange mixture.
- Make your dressing:
- In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil and any reserved orange juice at a proportion of about 2/3 oil 1/3 juice.
- Add in the sauteed garlic (optional), orange zest, and salt & pepper to taste and whisk again. If the oranges weren't particularly juicy, add the juice of 1/2 to 1 orange. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- When the ravioli water has boiled, add in salt and a bit of olive oil and cook as per package directions or about 5-7 minutes for fresh ravioli. Cook until al dente.
- Toss the ravioli with the orange mixture. Drizzle with the dressing. Top with chopped pine nuts and grated parmesan cheese. Serve.
- To serve cold: Toss the ravioli with a few drops of olive oil so it doesn't stick. You can put the dressing in with the orange mix if you want, but don't add either of these to the ravioli until ready to serve, so your pasta won't get soggy. Refrigerate everything. When ready to serve, top with the pine nuts and parma.
Pit Bulls and Other Critters
Passionate about animals, Lionrhod is the proud mommy of two devious cats, Squeaky and Raz, and three adorable pit-mix rescues, Zen, Bushi and Karma.
Both cats happen to be black, but that wasn't on purpose just because she's a witch. Both cats adopted her. (She's mostly had stripey brown cats in the past.)
Of the pits, Zen is a Boxer mix, Karma, a Dane mix, and Bushi seems to have some sort of shepherd/herding dog in her blood.
Zen and Squeaky are both Lion's familiars.
Squeaky was as stray adopted by a roommate. He wasn't terribly loved at his home.until Lion moved there. Within days they formed an inseparable bond. Lion credits him with nursing her through the pangs of a painful divorce. As of this writing, this feisty kitty is thirteen years old and taking every possible advantage of his elder years. ("You ARE sharing that with me, right Mommy?")
Zen (full name Heisenberg, after the physicist) was saved from potential sale as a bait/breeding dog. As the runt of a litter belonging to a soon-to-be-deployed soldier, his life was in danger.
Lion was determined that her new dog wouldn't get "spoiled" and sleep in the bed. That vow lasted all of about 1/2 hour.
Zen is strong and fierce when needed, but possesses a gentle nature. One of his many nicknames is "Mommy's LoveGuard."
To this day, Lion is still annoyed about how many folks offered to purchase Zen from her. "You don't sell your family. Yes, he's absolutely gorgeous. Yes he's got the best temperament ever. They think hes a commodity. To me, he's my best friend." ;
Because she is owned by such a (wrongly) maligned dog breed, Lion is devoted about pit bull education. She says, "It's not the dogs that are the problem, it's their owners!" (Well, some of their owners.) She's quick to point out that Sergeant Stubby (a pit, of course) was the most decorated military dog of all times, and saved his platoon on numerous occasions.
During the 19th century and well into the 20th, the pitbull was the dog of choice for many families, and was known as the "nanny dog" because they were used to protect small children. In fact, Petey of Little Rascals/Our Gang was a pit.
It's the all-American dog, and during WWI, was used in pro-American propaganda. It's the only breed to have been on the cover of Life magazine three times.
Pits are never human-aggressive unless trained to be so by their owners. Since they originated as fighting dogs for entertainment, it was imperative that they be safe for their owners to handle, so any human-aggressive dogs were culled from the lines. We witches don't believe in "sin" the way most folks do, but if anything is a sin, it's taking the extreme loyalty of these dogs and using it to make them fight. In fact, the reason these dogs have been used in fighting is precisely BECAUSE of their loyalty. A pit will fight and die for their person and do it gladly.
The plan in Colorado was to establish a rescue for pits and other large breed dogs, as well as unwanted farm animals and elderly critters. Her hubby named it the CRITTER Project. They're still hoping to do that, once they can move back home. Meanwhile Lion is in the process of figuring out how to start a pet food pantry so that families in need don't have to give up their beloved creatures because of poverty.
Before they moved back from Colorado to Orlando (they were forced to move because of her Mom-in-Law’s Alzheimer’s) Lion and her hubby were raising yaks for wool and dairy. Yes, real Tibetan yaks! I got to visit them while she was out there. The herd mother was a bit ornery, but one of them, Zoozoo, was an absolute sweetie. All four would line up at the edge of the corral and eat treats right out of your hand!
Cougar photo by Neil McIntosh CC: BY-SA via Flickr
All other photos by Lionrhod
Lion and I would love to hear from you about any of the subjects above. Or just say hi! if you want. Also you can ask me questions about witchcraft, Wicca and magick and I'll answer them if I know the answer or get Lion to if I don't.