Character Interview: Dai

I’m changing things up this week to introduce Dai Meredin, the protagonist of my work-in-progress, Rifted. Here, we meet him through the eyes of a reporter – and learn more about his world than the man himself. Enjoy!


From the Strella Star (Belbrae’s leading weekly newspaper):

Our Lives: Dai Meredin

For this installment, Our Lives reporter Milin Kaen journeyed across the Rift Zone to get a look at life in the Riftlands through the eyes of those who call the frontier outland home.

This week, we speak with a resident whose family name is well-known throughout Belbrae, Sena Dai Meredin – Dai, as he insists on being called by friends and strangers alike, tossing aside the expected etiquette in favor of the casual form of address used in the Riftlands.

Sena Meredin, I’m sure it comes as no surprise to our readers that you were not born or raised in the Riftlands. What brought you there and how long have you been a resident?

Dai, please. I came here shortly after the war ended to visit a friend, and, well, I guess I just never left. So, about 8 years, give or take a few months.

That’s quite a long time. The Riftlands is thought by many to be a crime-ridden territory, filled with refugees and outcasts from both Belbrae and Lolaith. What is your impression?

I think that those people make judgments without having the slightest clue what they’re talking about and that they should stop spouting nonsense.

Oh, you mean my impression of the Riftlands? It’s my home and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s true that we have community members from both Belbrae and Lolaith. They’re all good people who care more about the well-being of their community than about the rules imposed by outsiders.

By outsiders, do you mean the Elder Council of Belbrae?

Yes, I do.

That’s an unusual perspective from someone who has three close family members serving on the Council. What do they think of your choice to live there?

I have no idea. You’ll have to ask them if you want their opinions.

We’ll follow up with them, as I’m sure our readers would like to hear their thoughts. In the meantime, what are the challenges of living outside of Belbrae?

The same challenges that people face anywhere – making sure that everyone’s basic needs are met – food, shelter, safety, and support.

Those are very basic needs indeed that most people take for granted. Surely, being under the oversight of the Elder Council, the conditions here should be similar to those in the Bel.

(Interviewer’s note: At this point, Sena Meredin insisted that we take a walking tour of the Riftland’s only town. We’ll share that tour in a separate report. For now, it will suffice to say that it provided an eye-opening insight into the conditions of deprivation and decline there. We pick up our interview with Sena Meredin’s comment as we concluded the tour.).

As you can see, there’s little semblance between life in the Bel and here. While it may seem, what did you call it… primitive? While it may seem primitive to someone who’s never journeyed further than the outskirts of Estrella, we do what we can to make it a place where all are welcome and cared for.

For this community, that is more important than the things you pointed out as lacking – the shopping districts, the entertainment halls, the museums, the restaurants, and the clubs.

Speaking of those things, as someone who grew up in Estrella, do you miss those niceties?

Like a fly misses a spider’s web. I’d rather see one Riftlands sunset than spend a thousand nights in any of those places.

What do you think your father would think of your choice to live here?

(Interviewer’s note: Sena Meredin declined to comment on the subject. When pressed, he responded with a remark that is not publishable here. Readers, we’ll leave it to your imagination.).

Let’s move on. There aren’t a lot of opportunities for employment in the Riftlands. How do you make your living? The Town Clerk mentioned that the town makes a tidy sum in tariffs from your scavenging efforts. Would you care to elaborate on that?

I do whatever needs doing, which includes looking for any salvageable goods deposited by the rift storms.

Right now, most of my time is spent building additional housing for newcomers and making sure they have what they need to set up their households.

But who do you work for? Who pays your wages?

I work for the community, just like every other resident.

Except for our dealings with the Town Council and by extension, the Elder Council, we manage with a bartering system. If Caly (the head of the community kitchen) needs a leaky faucet fixed, she might offer a pie or cake to the person who fixes it. That person might trade the cake for a few hours of help around their home. And so on.

That sounds like a very convoluted system. Wouldn’t it be simpler to have a cash economy?

(Interviewer’s note: Sena Meredin then made a disparaging comment about this report’s grasp on “reality” that will not be dignified here. However, his comment does give some credence to the notion that polite society has yet to find its way to the Riftlands).

We’re running short on time, so one last question: It’s no secret that your father, Councilor Emin Meredin, campaigned, quite successfully, for the separation of Belbrae and Lolaith. Like the majority of our readers, he felt that our society would be better served by removing those who refused to embrace magic.

He also tirelessly worked to quell internal opposition to the Elder Council, including families like the Wests and Mourntrees. What do you think he would say about your refusal to be his successor in the Elder Council and choosing instead to live in a community that embraces and welcomes the very people he fought against?

First of all, there are no Mourntrees in the Riftlands. If any survived the Aradia Falls massacre,* they went elsewhere. If they’d chosen to come here, they’d be as welcome as anyone else.

As for others you’ve mentioned, they’re no different from anyone else in this town. Living here puts things into perspective. We can’t be at each other’s throats constantly if we want to survive. What would my father think of that? I really don’t care.

*(Interviewer’s Note: Sena Meredin misspoke when referring to the Aradia Falls Uprising, which our readers will recall, was the successful quelling of an insurrection led by the Mourntree family in which the only casualties were members of that family and their supporters).

Well, readers, as you might guess, this reporter’s journey has been an interesting one so far. While I’ve been giving an introduction to the Riftlands, I find Sena Meredin’s attitude far more intriguing and understand now why there was little protest when he declined to take his father’s seat on the Elder Council. Sena Meredin would seem to favor the views of his paternal grandparents and his uncle, Leain Meredin. Let’s hope that Sena Meredin doesn’t meet with a fate similar to theirs.

Look for the next installment of Our Lives for more on this fascinating foreign territory.


Nearly a month has slipped away since my last post. How did that happen? I set reminders on my to-do list. I have ideas about what to write. I even block out time in my week for working on this blog. So why haven’t I posted?

In a word, procrastination. I’ve been procrastinating a lot lately. Despite—or perhaps because of—having a lot of projects going on, I’ve been putting things off. Somehow, I fill my hours with less important activities – watching movies, gaming, listening to podcasts.

Ah, podcasts, one of my favorite ways to pass time without accomplishing much. In fact, I’ve spent a fair bit of my procrastination time catching up on episodes of the Start With This podcast, which focuses on writing and creating. So, how ironic is it that this podcast shined a spotlight on my procrastination?

If you care to check it out, the episode is Anxiety. The hosts bring up an excellent point early in the show: procrastination can stem from anxiety about a project or deadline. Instead of facing the anxiety-producing challenge, we procrastinate by doing other activities. We then further procrastinate by justifying the reasons for our procrastination.

The process goes something like this: I want to write a blog post, but feel anxious about it – what if the readers hate it or, worse, what if there are no readers? So, instead of working on the post, I listen to a podcast about writing, which is ok, because writing relates to blogging, right? Besides, the hosts have excellent suggestions and I find the shows interesting … and so on.

In the meantime, the blog post remains unwritten, even though I should have done it weeks ago. I’ve mastered the fine art of putting off anxiety-provoking work as demonstrated by my recent lack of posts.

So, how to stop the procrastination? The podcast suggests a method I use: set aside a specific amount of time to work on the anxiety-inducing project. When you’ve completed that portion of the work, do an activity you enjoy. Repeat until done.

I’ve also learned to set aside five minutes to worry every day. During that time, I catastrophize by using a method whose origin I have forgotten (but will gladly credit if I recall where I heard it). I ask “So what if [insert worry here]?” Then list one consequence and one alternative resolution.

So what if readers don’t like the post I’ve written? Well, they might not come back. Or they might decide this post wasn’t for them and check back in with the next post.

By framing my worries with the what-if question, I force myself to think about the consequences if my worries become reality. This will either prompt a solution to the problems or, more likely, make me realize I’m making the worry more significant than it needs to be. Whatever the result, when five minutes is up, I set aside the worries for the rest of the day. If I find my thoughts creeping back toward those worries, I’ll make a quick note of the worry and promise myself to give it my full attention the next day.

So what’s worrying you? What nagging thoughts are keeping you from what you should do? Tomorrow, try giving them five minutes of your time and attention. Then go and do that thing. Even if you only work on it in ten-minute increments, you will get through it. When it’s done, celebrate the accomplishment of mastering your worries and getting the work done.

Well, would you look at that? Another blog post accomplished. Get out the balloons and confetti!

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on

Critical Condition

I’ve been busy this week working on some critiques. If you’re not familiar with critiquing, it’s the process in which a writer’s work is dissected, examined under a microscope, and returned with flashing neon signs attached every flaw. It is also the process in which writers realize we are not the beneficent creator gods that we believed ourselves to be, breathing life into perfectly formed characters and worlds. Instead, we learn that we’re flawed humans who write flawed plots and flawed characters.

Or at least how it can feel when you’re on the receiving end of a critique. Whatever you do in your life, having a spotlight shined on the flaws in your work can be difficult. No one wants to hear that their pet project has flaws and imperfections. Our instinct is to go on the defensive. We try to explain away the criticisms.

He just doesn’t understand my vision.

She’s getting payback for that time I criticized her new hairstyle.

They’re a bunch of jerks trying to make me look bad.

Whatever your current project is – writing a novel, raising a child, breeding rare orchids – you will encounter someone with a different opinion about how to do it. The criticism might be cruel or kind, helpful or destructive. Whatever form it takes, you might be tempted to dismiss it. If you do, you’ll avoid the pain of criticism, but you’ll also throw away a chance to improve your work.

If the knee-jerk reaction to criticism sounds familiar (it certainly does to me), I want to challenge you to look at things differently the next time you’re faced with a critic. I invite you to give the steps below a try and see if it changes how you feel about criticism. Explaining the process takes longer than doing it, so hang in there to the end.


How often do you find yourself formulating your response before someone else has finished speaking? I know that I’m guilty of this. Sometimes it’s a case of just being impatient. Or it might be that I’m rehearsing my response so that I don’t forget an important point. Resist the urge to do this when someone begins to criticize your work.

Stop and listen to every word they say. Take notice of their tone and body language. Listen as fully as you can. As tempting as it might be, don’t interrupt or walk away. As long as the person is not being abusive or making personal attacks, hang in there until they’ve finished.

Active listening gets easier with practice, but the first few times, you’ll probably fail. That’s ok, just keep trying.

Acknowledge and Understand

You’ve listened and now you’re ready with some snappy comebacks. Don’t. Remember that the idea is to see – and do – things differently.

Let the person know that you’ve heard them. Paraphrase their criticism and repeat it back to them to confirm that you’ve understood it. Ask questions if you need to clarify anything. Listen to their answers.

This is a good time to check for any underlying issues that are motivating the criticism. When your great-aunt Gertie tells you she doesn’t like your homemade meatballs, it might be that she doesn’t like the garlic. Or it could be that she’s comparing them to the meals that she ate on her honeymoon in Italy. Or she could be jealous that you’ve just usurped her position as the best cook in the family. Knowing the motivation can help to take the sting out the criticism.

Thank the person for sharing their thoughts – no, really, thank them. You might think they’re a complete jerk, but do your best to respond with a sincere thanks. Remind yourself that criticism of your work is not a judgment of you as a person.

Assess the Criticism

You’ll need to decide what to do with criticism, but first, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does the person have knowledge or expertise in the subject?
  • Does the person have a stake in your success?
  • Does the criticism reflect your doubts or concerns?
  • Have you received the same criticism from other people?
  • Did the critic provide advice that you can act upon?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s time to take the criticism under consideration. Going back to those meatballs: What if great aunt Gertie is an award-winning chef known as the “Meatball Queen of the East Side”? What if Gertie has loaned you $10,000 to start your own catering business? What if you were already worried that you put in too much garlic into the mix? Worse yet, what if the entire family agrees that the meatballs just weren’t all that good?

Act (or Not)

If you answered no to all the questions in the last section, you’re done. Enjoy your day knowing the criticism is already fading into history.

If you decide the criticism has some merit, use it as an opportunity to improve your pet project. You don’t necessarily need to make every change that is suggested – nor should you try. Make those changes that you feel are the most beneficial.

Dismissing the criticism is an option at this point. If you know that you accidentally doubled the garlic in that meatball recipe, there’s nothing to be done. The criticism may be valid, but you can’t change the dish after it’s cooked. The best you can do is remember the lesson the next time.

Look at you, handling that criticism like a pro. If you’ve decided to try this little challenge, leave a comment or send me a message to let me know how it went.

Until next time!

Work In Progress: Rifted

I have a confession: I am far better at starting projects than at finishing. One of my greatest joys – and woes – in life is that there is so much out there to explore, see, and do. Friends have likened me to a magpie that loses focus when I spot something shiny and new. Kinder friends have mentioned that I let my curiosity steer me to new things. Both analogies are accurate.

This approach extends to my writing as well. I rarely get past the first draft of longer works before starting the next one. There are too many worlds, characters, and ideas to explore. And I have a sizeable stack of unfinished and first drafts to prove it. Having a lot of ideas isn’t inherently a bad thing. It’s the failure to follow through that presents a problem.

So what to do about this bad habit? I am actively working to be more mindful and methodical in my writing process. Holding myself accountable is much easier when other people are following my progress. It becomes harder to set aside a project when someone else is invested in it, even if that investment only goes as far as asking how the project is progressing.

I am also learning to love self-imposed deadlines. They provide a sense of urgency that helps me to stay focused. When I launched this site, I set a two-week deadline to introduce my current work in progress, a novel with the working title Rifted. Being a master in the art of procrastination, I’ve waited until the day before the deadline to write the post. So without further ado, a quick intro to the story:

Forfeiting his birthright and his place in a powerful ruling class family, Dai Meredin creates a quiet life in the Riftlands, a frontier territory on the boundaries of opposing worlds. When the daughter of a war criminal arrives in the Riftlands wounded by an outlawed spell, the search to find her attacker forces Dai to confront his family’s past and the future of his adopted community.

(Rifted, blurb)

The seeds of Rifted were planted with my 2016 NaNoWriMo project. That year’s story, The Heirs of Winter, was my first and only attempt at a novel-length fanfic. Set at Hogwart’s ten years after the Harry Potter series, it told the story of one minor character from the original series and two new characters. While I enjoyed writing the rough draft, I realized that it was not the story that I needed to tell about the two added characters… nor the right fictional world to tell their stories.

For NaNo 2018, I revisited the central theme of the fanfic – what shape does post-war life take for those who were not aligned with the winning side? I kept the essential core of the two characters I’d invented – their personalities, the effects of war on their lives, and their attempts to reconcile themselves to post-war life. The story moved from the Harry Potter universe to a unique world with its own history and culture. The resulting NaNo project was the first draft of Rifted.

I’m working now through the second draft. To return to the analogy from my last post, I am no longer shoveling sand, but attempting to build the castle. Want to see how the castle turns out? Follow my progress here on the blog. I’ll post more about the characters, their world, and the side stories that have happened along the way.

Until next time, read, imagine, and be safe.

First, Shovel Sand

“I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”

-Susan Hale

Beginning a new project can be daunting. Whether building a sandcastle or writing a story, we tend to begin with a vision of the final product. And isn’t it such a flawless result, shining and sparkling like a diamond in the shimmering sun? Cue the oohs and aahs of the onlookers. Hear the polite applause for a job so wonderfully done. Imagine the headlines and accolades praising your work. You’ve succeeded before you’ve even begun. Your spirits soar above this perfect vision you’ve created.

Or maybe you’re the person who envisions a thousand ways that the project will be flawed. You know that every mistake will be gleaming and glinting like broken glass in the mid-day glare. Instead of accolades, you picture the critiques and jeers. You sink into the depths, knowing that it will never be as wonderful as it is in your head.

Whatever your mindset, you will eventually stop daydreaming and crash-land into reality. A reality in which you have only thought about what you want to do. Your vision of the project – perfect or flawed – doesn’t exist here. Neither do the imagined praise or criticism. Here, in no-nonsense reality, you must do something more than envision your result. There is work to do. A lot of work.

I keep the quote from Susan Hale tacked to the bulletin board above my writing desk. When I’m staring at a blank page, it serves as a reminder that I have to pick up that shovel and move some sand. A first draft is the moment when an idea moves from a daydream into the external world. It is a declaration that you’re willing to invest in your own ideas. Look here, world, the first draft shouts, I intend to do this thing.

As Hale implies, the first draft is not the time to focus on the finer details. Don’t worry if the main character doesn’t have a name yet. Don’t fuss if you can’t remember what the antagonist should say in chapter four. Above all, don’t be concerned about mechanics and grammar. Misspelled words? Write now, spell-check later. Proper punctuation? Forget about it. Plot holes that you could sail a ship through? Aye captain, full steam ahead!

Perhaps writing isn’t your thing. Maybe you’re into the visual arts or music. Or your big idea is a new business, a family reunion, or a charity fund-raiser. Whatever project you have in mind, I want to encourage you to pick up the shovel and move some sand. Don’t let the fear of failure – or of success – keep you from making the attempt. Focus on your idea and let go of the imagined responses.

Don’t be surprised if you end up with a shapeless pile of sand that doesn’t resemble your original vision. Shoveling the sand doesn’t produce a finished product. It produces a foundation. There will be time later to sculpt out the towers and turrets. Trust the process and yourself. You’ll build that magnificent sandcastle.

But first, you must shovel that sand.

An Introduction

Ever find yourself wondering about the untold stories when you read a book or watch a movie?

Does your imagination come out to play, taking you to imagined places?

Do you believe in the power of stories to entertain, transform, and educate?

If so, pull up a chair and relax awhile. We may have a few things in common. But first, an introduction – Hello, my name is Kit Bellamy and I’m a writer cleverly disguised as a responsible adult.

A Quick Tale of this Website

On New Year’s Eve in 2014, I sat down at my desk to begin the work of creating this website. My goal: create an online space to share my passion for storytelling and writing. My fingers barely grazed the keyboard when my cell phone rang. When I answered, my doctor greeted me.

I’d like to say that he called to wish me a happy new year. Instead, he used words like cancer, aggressive, and rare. You know – all the things that you don’t want on your mind as you prepare to ring in a new year. And so began a long series of health battles, including a second, unrelated cancer.

Spoiler alert: I survived to tell the story. I survived, in part, because I don’t have the good sense to stay down when I’m knocked to the ground. I am stubborn and tenacious when I set a goal for myself. Goal number one: survive. Goal number two: launch this site.

First goal accomplished, I turned my attention back to this project. Enter a new virus that turned the world upside down. Still, silver linings appear when you stop focusing on the darkness of the clouds. The necessity of staying home during the pandemic has provided an unexpected gift of extra time. Finally, progress made!

The Next Chapter

Now that the site is up and running, what can you expect when you wander back this way?

  • Shared inspirations – The things that spark my imagination. It could be a book, a photograph, or an odd find at an antique store.
  • Observations on life, death, and all points between – Life happens while I’m writing. I’ll share the bits that I find thought-provoking or inspiring.
  • Glimpses into works-in-progress – Not everything makes it into a novel. You’ll see character sketches, world-building, and side stories from the current project.
  • Shorter works – Poetry, flash fiction, stand-alone short tales, and other brief pieces.
  • Items related to the writing journey – There’s more to writing than putting pen to paper. I’ll share some of what goes on behind-the-scenes.

So that’s it – a quick, and hopefully painless, introduction. Thank you for taking the time to check out the site. If you like to read more, kindly scroll down and hit the Follow button. Until next time!