Cathy Hester Seckman of Calcutta has written for publication since 1985, and has thousands of newspaper and magazine articles to her credit. She is a professional indexer, and has written more than 150 indexes, including the one for Ohio Day Trips (released this month).
Her Young Adult time travel novel, Weirdo World, was published by Cool Well Press in 2011, and Arcadia Publishing released her hometown history, East Liverpool, in 2015. She has also co-written two novels and an anthology.
Warp and weft must cross, or there’s no cloth…
The orderly threads of Druyan’s life are dyed the colors of duty and obedience: to father, mother, family, husband, custom. So she does not whistle up the wind, though she knows she has the gift. So she pretends that Valadan is only an old black horse, not the fabled Warhorse of Esdragon her grandfather Leith rode. She marries a farmer, and weaves fine cloth from the wool of his sheep.
Now a wild thread intrudes into the tapestry of Druyan’s quiet life: raiders from across the Great Sea, pillaging the towns of the Duchy of Esdragon, make her a widow. One raider, captive, offers the chance to save all she holds dear—her farm at Splaine Garth and the lives on it, her freedom from forced re-marriage, the land of Esdragon itself. But Kellis is a tangled thread of secrets, guilt and enchantment, not to be trusted.
Druyan has spent her life doing what others said was right. Now, obedience may cost dear. Storm winds will come to her call—but will she dare what she must, to save Esdragon?
This is the book that made the Long List for the Tiptree Award, in 1993. And I heard about that late in 2017, when someone googled me and mentioned it offhandedly. I was with a major publisher, you would think it would have been mentioned to an author at the time. Bemusing. But it’s great to know the book reached people. At the time it first came out, there was no social media, and few reviews of genre books. I knew it got at least five printings, but I really had no idea whether anyone was reading it, liked it. It still went out of print, despite having the best cover art of any of my Del Rey books—I saw the original Don Maitz painting in the World Fantasy Art Show, and was appropriately blown away. It’s the book I’d be happiest to live in, myself.
That said, I really didn’t think I was doing anything unusual—or Tiptree-worthy—when I created Druyan. I have always had female characters who respond strongly to being told what to do: Elisena in Wizard’s Destiny simply lifts her chin, and Tristan steps back to watch the show from a safe distance. Lowise in Thistledown cries “No!” and runs away. Kess in The Prince of Ill Luck will cry “No!” and hand you your head. I was very intentional about following up Kessallia with a woman who would have driven Kess absolutely crazy. Druyan, as youngest daughter to her father’s succession of three wives, has always had endless people with the right to order her behavior: father, mother, all of her older brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, husband. “You can’t have that horse.” “Women don’t whistle up a wind.” “Don’t open that root cellar.” “Don’t ride out to cry a warning.” “Don’t trust strangers.” Druyan is used to backing down, to saying “yes” when she means “no.” And then…I put her back against the wall. I made her…not Esdragon’s last hope—but the rider of the Warhorse of Esdragon. And I watched with delight to see when she’d finally be forced to say “No!”
I had to recreate a digital file of a book done originally on my IBM Selectric, preparing for the novel’s re-release, and some of the editing is wondering why I didn’t choose this word over that…well, what’s effortless and endless and undo-able on a computer was another thing entirely on a typewritten manuscript.
I could tell that when I wrote The Wind Witch, I had only woven on my Better Homes & Gardens 18” rigid heddle loom, as I had not yet purchased my floor loom, a vintage Union 36 carpet loom. (I call her Penelope, after my favorite mythical weaver. Which makes the rigid heddle, which travels easily, Odysseus, of course.) So I gave Druyan a loom I had seen in the Otter Creek Store, but had not woven on.
Now, I have much more weaving experience, and any weaving in this book is informed by that. My Union loom is pine or possibly maple. Druyan’s is cherry, and has eight harnesses where my Union has two. That’s why she can weave fancy patterns I can only describe. She has a small wheel for spinning flax and a Walking Wheel for wool-spinning, besides her drop spindles.
I have never actually spun on a wheel, but my drop spindling is worlds beyond what it was in the 1990s. I am a veteran of two Spinzillas now, and have gone from ¾ of a mile spun and plied the first year to a mile and a quarter—the Derby distance—in 2017s week of handspinning. Since discovering the Lake MetroParks FarmPark in Chardon, Ohio, I’ve had access to fleeces of all sorts, which I process and dye and spin. I love spinning Jacob wool, and a Cheviot-cross that’s a new ram for the FarmPark flock.