I’ve been wanting to write this blog for a while, but every time I sit down to write about this subject my thinking points go careening off into the glaciated (well, these days not-so-glaciated) peaks of the Wallowas and I decide that maybe it’s a better use of my time to go ride the horse and then sew a quilt or work on a book. So I do that instead of writing the blog.
Then, later, as I’m drowsing off, the points come galloping back, demanding my attention. Granted, the sense of place in writing isn’t the only blog topic that wakes me up when I’m trying to drop off into sleep (or mugs me in the middle of a road ride), but sense of place in writing the topic I grabbed on today.
My recent visit to Portland slammed home hard that awareness of how I use sense of place when we went skiing. These days I don’t get up on the Mountain much, except to visit with my friend Phyllis or the occasional ski trip during the spring ski season. We’ve been holding out for the much less expensive spring ski passes the last couple of years, the ones that pay for themselves after two visits. Some years we go over Hood at least once during the summer to go back to Enterprise, or visit people in Bend before going to Enterprise, but last year wasn’t one of those times. So when we drove up the Mountain and we got into the big cedars near Tollgate Campground, I immediately had the flash of “This is Medvara” when I drove through that grove of old cedars around the rocky point protruding into the Zigzag River. Ever since I started working in the Goddess’s Honor world, that little section on Mount Hood has always been in the back of my mind when writing the Medvara sequences in the Goddess’s Honor books, just like the big Ponderosa pine forests bordering the great grassy ridgetop flats and deep river canyons of Wallowa country inspire the Keldara and Clenda settings.
That cedar grove has always meant Medvara, even when the nation had a different name. Alicira had a major confrontation with her nemesis Zauril there, nothing that’s been put into the books (yet). Further down the river is where Rekaré kills her father Zauril and becomes Medvara’s new Leader. Even though the grove had no influence or appearance in the new Goddess’s Honor book, Challenges of Honor, it’s still an influence.
Of course no one real-world inspiration of a fantasy world setting maps 100% on that fantasy world. Even authors working in realistic fiction with real-life settings will fudge small details of a location to make the story work, though less so than someone working in fantastic fiction. I’m no exception to that rule, though my sense of place can be a bit bizarre and weird when I’m putting together a story. While most of the settings in the first part of Pledges of Honor are drawn first from Northeastern Oregon/Southeastern Washington Wallowa/Palouse country, there’s one section with a hot spring that comes from a real-life hot spring visit in Southern Oregon many years ago, in similar rugged country. And the Dry Line is more than visible when you drive westward on Interstate 84 toward Portland, as you enter The Dalles.
The mosaic of place in the new Goddess’s Honor book, Challenges of Honor, is much more fragmented. While Challenges has some scenes in Keldara and Clenda, most of the action takes place in Medvara and then in the southern reaches of the Saubral lands between Medvara and Keldara. But most of the story takes place in Medvare-the-city, a location shaped not so much by places I’ve been as much as pictures. The Leader’s House in Medvara is a rambling edifice made of wood, with several wings and courtyards that probably owe something to McMenamin’s Edgefield Manor as much as anything else, perhaps with a nod to another McMenamin’s property, the Kennedy School. It has gardens (hello, Rose Test Garden and the Ladd’s Addition rose garden) and shrines as well as a Great Hall. Because it’s on the confluence of the Saktrin and Chellana Rivers, and Challenges is a summer book, it is hot, muggy, and smoky from forest fires (and I should have emphasized that element more but alas, I just don’t write summer settings well).
Then events take another swing, and we end up in a horseback pursuit through the sagebrush desert, culminating in a battle fought in a small river meadow at the bottom of a steep canyon. I recently made a trip down to the area that inspired that setting, and got several pictures of some of the settings as they would look in the spring. That said, I also found more settings that will be playing roles in future writings–not just in Goddess’s Honor but in my Oregon Country and other weird/alt-history Western fantasies.
I’ve tried to find an appropriate label for what I’m wanting to do with this world, because it’s definitely not classic faux-European setting. Ruling structures are one thing that I don’t want to play around with too much simply because those changes don’t fit the story I’m wanting to write. The settings, however, are flexible and fascinate me. I’ve been collecting settings and site impressions for years. They may not always come across in my writing, but I can travel somewhere that’s inspired a story and had that sudden sense of place–this is Medvara–flash across my awareness like driving through that grove the other day did.
Of all my works, I’d have to say that Goddess’s Honor is the one most driven by place impressions, with the Netwalk series running a close second (at least the early books). We’ll see what the books to come bring to the table.
I don’t know. What do you think?
Apologies for the shameless shilling below, but I’ve got more work coming out soon and book babies need pretty new covers!
Like my work and want to buy me a coffee? Ko-Fi link here: http://ko-fi.com/joycereynoldsward
New Releases Currently Available:
Challenges of Honor: Change is coming eleven years after the events that transformed Katerin Healer into Katerin ea Miteal and catapulted Rekaré ea Miteal to the Leadership of Medvara. Katerin’s daughter Witmara grows stronger in magic while studying under Alicira, Katerin’s cousin and Rekaré’s mother. Rekaré struggles with her mixed feelings toward her leadership and her daughter Melarae. When a challenge to Rekaré arises from a recent Daran Empire exile, Chiral, as Alicira’s health fails, Katerin must choose between remaining obscure, or fully claim her role as a Miteal. The Seven Crowned Gods have their own agenda. What are the consequences of thwarting Chiral’s schemes, and why are the Gods meddling now? Katerin and Rekaré are faced with many challenging choices but not all are honorable—or wise.
Books to Read Universal Link: https://www.books2read.com/u/3L9PN7
Netwalk’s Children: NEW EDITION WITH NEW COVER! The mysterious war machine device known as the Gizmo is getting restless and trying to use Melanie’s daughter Bess and her nephew Richard as a means of escape from its confinement. Meanwhile, problems arise with potential rogue Netwalkers tied not just to Melanie’s past but to her parents and the original capture of the Gizmo. Can Melanie work with her estranged Netwalker grandmother Sarah as well as Bess to stop the Gizmo and deal with past shadows that threaten to dominate Bess’s future?
Books to Read Universal Link: https://www.books2read.com/u/b5nw63
Learning in Space: Bess and Alex: Bess Fielding and Alex Jeffreys are committed to a future in space with Bess’s family company, Do It Right. But that future comes with a steep learning curve in a place where the simplest mistake can be deadly…and not all those mistakes are naturally caused. Being a leader in new space technologies doesn’t stop sabotage from happening, however. As one of the leading production companies in space, Do It Right can be a target for the disgruntled and the ambitious. Nonetheless, Bess and Alex learn more about space and each other, until…good times come to an end….
Books to Read Universal Link: https://www.books2read.com/u/38gYVL