THE VIPER

THE VIPER (first draft of scene)

Maugham walked back over to Steinthal.

Steinthal asked him, “Who is that?”

Maugham was uncharacteristically blunt, and voluble.

“That is the toughest son of a bitch I’ve ever met in my life,” he told him.

Steinthal almost flinched. He had never met anyone tougher than Maugham and wasn’t much sure he liked the idea.

“Also,” Maugham went on almost to the point of being prolix (for him anyway), “he is meaner than hell and he may even be your equal in cunning and craft.”

Steinthal whistled appreciatively, just barely above the whisp of a dog-whistle. He looked hard at the man Maugham had just been conversing with when suddenly the guy looked over at him. Had he heard Steinthal’s whistle? Steinthal wondered if that was even possible.

The guy rose up from his table and just stood there, unmoving. Was he waiting, just watching, or coiling? He was short, shorter than Steinthal, and wiry, with cords of muscles that stood out up and down his neck. He had a couple of facial scars, one a long straight slice and the other maybe a burn, and sported a multiply broken nose and the look of a man who had been stabbed a few times to the point of aggravation.

He was dressed so that you couldn’t tell if he was a day laborer or an informant. Or both. His clothes looked washed out, as if they could fade smoothly into the backgorund, and like they didn’t quite fit. Or he did. Or both. He carried himself as if he could have been concealing no weapons, or any number of them.

He looked directly at Steinthal and he smiled, only it wasn’t really a smile. It was more like when a snake’s jaw unhinges and its flat lips curl back to swallow something. Steinthal wasn’t really sure if that was for his benefit alone, or just directed at the world in general, but whatever the intent it was threatening, and patiently sibilant – all at once. And about as creepy and surreal a disposition to strike as possible for anything shaped like a man.

Steinthal looked at Maugham and Maugham looked at him.

“Do you know this guy?” Steitnhal asked.

“Yeah,” Maugham said, in his typically taciturn manner.

“Know him well?” Steinthal asked again.

“Well enough,” Maugham replied.

“How?” Steinthal said seriously, more in the way of an interrogation than a friendly question.

Maugham shook his head like a bull being called in from the field. Steinthal knew that that meant and just nodded.

“Anything else?”

“Yeah,” said Maugham. “When we first met I thought you might be related.”

Steinthal furrowed his brow. Steinthal raised his hand horizontally so that his forefinger pointed at Maugham and his thumb pointed back at himself.

“You thought we might be related?”

“No,” Maugham said flatly. “I thought that you two might be related. Why I didn’t kill you immediately.”

“You didn’t kill me because you happen to like this guy?” Steinthal asked, fishing for the reason.

“No,” Maugham said shaking his head as if the question were silly and somehow self-negating. “I didn’t kill you because if you two were related then I wasn’t absolutely sure I could.”

Steinthal nodded, accepting the comment, but was doubtful that was the whole story. It was Maugham though, so what could ya really do?

Then Steinthal looked back over at the stranger. For all he knew the guy was still breathing, but if he was then he showed no signs.
Inside his own mind Steinthal shook his head while watching the guy, but as far as anyone else knew he just stared silently at the stranger.

“Why’d you set this up Maugham?” Steinthal asked. “Couldn’t have been easy to get him to play along.”

“He’s not playing,” Maugham replied. “And no, it wasn’t. But I thought that maybe, just this once, we could use him.”

Inside his own mind Steinthal nodded, but to Maugham he shook his head so that no one else would notice.

“So,” Steinthal asked. “What do I call it?”

“You don’t,” Maugham answered. And it didn’t seem contrived at all.

“Well then, should I approach it, or let it approach me?”

“Yes,” Maugham said. “That should work.”

Steinthal nodded still intently studying the other man.

“Well then,” Steinthal finally said. “Best clear the room. If we’re gonna see what happens.”

But when Maugham made no reply, and Steinthal glanced over to check on him, Maugham was already gone. And when he turned back to look for the other guy the other guy was already in his face.

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ANYBODY

ANYBODY

“Anybody can be ambushed,” Steinthal told her. “By some evil-souled, sneaky, cowardly little sonuvabitch. That is never the victim’s fault. However being naive enough to think that you will never be ambushed, or reckless enough to never prepare for the possibility, that is the victim’s fault. By victim I mean you,” he said pointing directly at her.

“You just got lucky tonight my dear. And that’s good, but that’s all. Cause luck ain’t a plan and there ain’t much of a future in habitual bad habit. So learn from this mess. And next time you be ready to do the killing. Understand?”

She nodded slowly and then looked up at him.

“I understand,” she said.

“Good,” he said. “Because that was the point.”

from The Detective Steinthal

NOT THE REASON I SHOULD CARE

NOT THE REASON I SHOULD CARE

Steinthal looked at the picture. Then he handed it back to Williams.

“What do you want me to do?” Steinthal asked.

“Shadow him,” Williams replied. Steinthal almost laughed at the term then caught himself. Curiosity got the better of humor.

“Maybe I can do it, but who is he, and why would I track him?” Steinthal said.

Williams blinked.

“You don’t recognize him?” Williams seemed truly dumbfounded.

“Why would I recognize him?” Steinthal said flatly. “I’ve never met him or seen him before.”

“But that’s Dale J. Soggs,” Williams responded.

Williams waited to see if the name would have an effect but when it didn’t he tried again.

“He’s the football player! First draft two years ago. Very first first draft,” Williams said.

Steinthal looked at Maugham and Maugham looked at Steinthal and then Maugham casually shrugged his shoulders.

Steinthal looked back at Williams and then, unable to contain HIMSELF anymore, laughed out loud. When he stopped laughing he scratched his neck and shook his head.

“Williams, what do I give a shit if he plays football?” Steinthal replied. “Is that supposed to be your pitch to me? You think I have nothing better to do with my time than watch fucking football? I’m a grown man Williams, not a little school girl. Look at Maugham Williams. You think he’s got nothing more important to do with his time than watch fucking football? You think he’s never done anything more dangerous than fucking football?”

Williams looked up at Maugham. He towered over them both.

“You don’t watch football either?” he asked Maugham. “Guy like you? Big as you are?”

Maugham looked down at Williams, smiled thinly, and shook his head dismissively. Then he went back to chewing his gum.

Williams looked back at Steinthal who was still waiting for a reply to his question. Williams still seemed confused so Steinthal backtracked.

“I didn’t ask you what he did Williams, if you can call that doing something. I asked you who he was and why you want him surveilled. Now who is he that you need him watched? And don’t give me any bullshit about him being a football player because I don’t give a shit. In case you missed it I don’t watch fucking football. And if this is about football then you’re killing your time and my interest. Now who is the man that you want him followed, and why?”

Williams looked stunned, then shook his head and exhaled loudly. He seemed to deflate as he did so.

“They said you’d be just like this,” he finally said.

“Like what?” Steinthal asked almost disinterestedly.

“Straight to the point,” Williams answered.

Steinthal ran his hand through his beard.

“Look, you want a play-runner or a ballet dancer then get another football player to chaperone him around. They can take notes on him, carry his little athletic bag, scrub his cleats, and type up his itinerary. Maybe take him to his pedicure or his oil bath where he can meet his side-chick. Assuming that’s what you’re after. But if I’m going to follow the man then I’m going to know exactly who and what he is and why he actually needs to be followed. Get me?” Steinthal said.

Williams blinked, then nodded. It was completely silent for a moment, except for someone vacuuming up at the far end of the hall.

“Now Williams, now,” Steinthal said. “I’m not here for the psychoanalysis and the ambiance.”

Williams blinked again and cleared his throat.

“We think he,” the team rep began. “Well, we’re not sure, you see, but we think he could be, maybe, a foreign agent,” Williams finally admitted.

This time Steinthal blinked.

“A football player?” Steinthal asked incredulously.

“Well, it’s just that, you see…” Williams answered, but Steinthal set his jaw and shook his head for silence. Then he ran his hand through his beard again, scratched his chin, nodded, and motioned to Maugham. Both men turned and walked towards the door.

Surprised Williams watched them reach the door before he thought to respond.

“Wait a second?” he blurted out. “Are you gonna do it? Will you follow him for us?”
Steinthal stopped at the door and turned to Williams.

“We will,” Steinthal replied.

“Well,” Williams continued confused. “Don’t you want any details on the man? Like where he lives, what he drives, that kind of thing…”

“No, I don’t,” Steinthal replied. “I’ll gather my own intel, and details. Call you in three days.” Then he and Maugham left, walked to the end of the hall, and punched the button for an elevator.

When they were inside and descending Maugham looked at Steinthal.

“Think this is what it appears to be?” he asked his friend.

“Hell no!” replied Steinthal. “No one would.” Maugham smiled.

“Think this Soggs guy might actually be dangerous then?” Maugham asked.

“If he is,” replied Steinthal, “we’ll find out soon enough. But in any case it won’t be because he’s a football player.”

And Maugham nodded and they both laughed.

from The Detective Steinthal

#football #case #foreignagent #writing
_______________________________________________________

I was working on a sci-fi story last night called, The Seas the Skies, when this scene popped into my head about a new case for Steinthal and Maugham. Something I’ve been thinking of doing anyway given all of the crap hysteria about foreign agents and all of the crap about professional football in our modern society. So I wrote this scene instead. First draft. If you’ll excuse the pun.

I’ll punch out the sci-fi story today after my hike with Sam.

Have a good day folks.

HAMMER AND KNIFE

HAMMER AND KNIFE

Hammer and knife
Speartip and strife!
Terror and dread
The Doomed and the Dead!
Helmet and shield
Warmount and weal
To rise and to stand
The measure of man
A line does unfold, and
Another is drawn
The fields are aflame
The brave still unnamed
Blood black and soiled
Desperate we toil
Lords vomit red
Their flesh cold and bled,
Hammer and Knife
Beaten and sliced!
Arrow and sword
Pierced and then gored!
The grunts and the shouts
The moans and the doubts
The rallies and wounds
Shall we be entombed?
We few as we stand
Our fallen in bands
The calls and commands
They litter the land, yet
Exhausted and spent
None must relent, for
My Hammer and Knife
The Wards of my Life
Still fill both my hands
Shall do what they can,
For I fight to the end
Or to grave I descend…

So this morning after walking Sam (my Great Dane) I was practicing with my warhammer and knife when suddenly the following song came to me as I worked. (Not all of it, but the first couple of stanzas.)

Then, after finishing my practice I went to the west deck of my house, and sat in the sun, and imagined a battle and wrote the rest of the piece.

I will publish it as a poem that my character Larmaegeon composes and sings (so it really a song, but sung without musical accompaniment) for his companions right before they go into a seemingly hopeless battle. For in the scene involved they are ambushed and suddenly surrounded.

So this song will go into my novel series the Kithariune.

Since I am now learning the guitar (see here: Fade Away) and am planning on turning to the lute next I am now considering taking some of the poetic works that Larmaegeon and others compose in the novels and writing out the music to such works as well and including those in the novel too. Along with all of the other supplementary material.

I am rather pleased with Hammer and Knife, but if you wish to comment upon it (if it please you or displease you) then feel free to do so.

THE ESSAYS ON GAME (and WORLD) DESIGN

ESSAYS ON GAME AND WORLD DESIGN

I had originally intended to write and post all of these essays in the order listed below. But life, hurricanes, a heath problem with my child, work, seminars, my novels, start-up ventures, college (my children going to and entering college), and attempting to get my work published interfered with that intention.

Nevertheless, on the weekends, I have been working on these essays, poco-a-poco, and most are already finished though not yet posted or published. I’m working on that though.

Most of these essays deal with fantasy gaming, role playing in general, and even specifically with Dungeons and Dragons and those types of games.

My overall ambition in writing these essays is to give the game designer, the game master (or DM/GM), and even the player a basic (and hopefully very beneficial) philosophical and design basis for the construction of their own backgrounds, characters, milieus, worlds, and works (from a gaming and design point of view, of course).

However I believe that many of these principles can also be easily and readily applied to the creation of fictional worlds and systems for genre writers of fantasy, science-fiction, horror, and pulp type works. Therefore these essays can also be looked upon as providing the philosophical and structural basis for fictional world design as well.

At present my total number of Essays on Game Design stands at seventeen (17), with most of these having already been written and the rest already sketched out. However this number may very well increase over time. Actually I expect it to, and eventually I expect to collect and publish all of these essays in a book on Game and World Design.

ESSAYS ON GAME DESIGN

INDEX:

Essay One: Crawling into Oblivion

Essay Two: To Hell With Balance

Essay Three: Where Has All the Magic Gone?

Essay Four: The Heroic Impulse – Where Have All the Heroes Gone?

Essay Five: The Tomb of Myth

Essay Six: Why the World Exists

Essay Seven: Why the Game Exists

Essay Eight: What is Modern Fantasy Anyway?

Essay Nine: Where Has All the History Gone? On Heirlooms, Legacies, and Inheritances

Essay Ten: U Plus (U+)

Essay Eleven: Luck Be Not Lazy

Essay Twelve: The Blood of Uncanny Monsters: Parts One and Two

Essay Thirteen: Scientifica Magica

Essay Fourteen: The Ability Hoard

Essay Fifteen: The Interactive Essay

Essay Sixteen: Where Have All the High Homes Gone: The Heröon, the Hometown, and the Mansion or Fortified Keep?

Essay Seventeen: Where Have All the Liturgists Gone?

THE ECLIPSE OF THE LIGHTLESS MEN

THE ECLIPSE OF THE LIGHTLESS MEN

From the face of the moon do the gods watch the sins
Of the dim absent dreaming in the darkest of men
Do the stars in their orbits, falling to flare
Alight in the cities, or ignite in the air
To illumine the blindness, unruly console
When the blackness eclipses the depths of their souls?

The mirror is silver, the heavens are deep
The eyes of the lightless like death do they sleep
Their tribes all afire, rimmed by the blaze
Yet their hearts are all stone, and their minds all a maze
Where the light cannot shelter, nor sun still abide
No thread to remember, no savior arrives,
For the men who are lightless grow great in their herds
Yet of hope or of Wisdom nothing is heard
An Eclipse of the Silence, the cold and the still
The Furies unfrozen, a debt to fulfill
For the Plague that was promised is spoken again
The Cure long abandoned, a whispering wind,
The masses are metered, each measured alike
For man is as nothing when compassed by night
The Earth is ill-favored, the moon eats her share
The darkness within us escapes to the air –
Though who bothers to repent, or lust for the light
When the lure of the eclipse burns yet so bright?
Encased in our Eclipse who yet occupies
That nature eternal that never can die
Or wonders to wander where darkness is rare
Where men yet make marvels, not terrors declare?
I would I could tell you, I would that I knew
For the lies of the lightless have eclipsed me and you…

______________________________

My poem commemorating the Solar Eclipse in the year of our Lord, 2017, and the current (and constant) nature of man…

I began it around midnight yesterday and concluded it about 0200 hours today (8/21/17).

#writing  #poetry   #eclipse

 

WE’LL WORK ON THAT

WE’LL WORK ON THAT

The place was dark. Very dark, all things considered. The whole house seemed closed off into small compartments. However there was still light streaming in from a full moon by a window to the right of the room.

Precisely why Steinthal had chosen this night. He knew that because of the full moon his night vision equipment could make good use of the available ambient and residual light and he could operate “in the dark” without giving himself away.

Time to put on my googles he thought.

He heard a small creak.

Instinctively he ducked low but something still hit him from behind and from his left. It had struck the top of his shoulder, the backside of his neck and the base of his skull. It was wide whatever it was. And it had only been a glancing blow but Steinthal saw a flash from the impact, heard a ring in his ear, and stumbled forward a few feet. Then as he caught his balance he ran forward another five or six feet and swirled as fast as he could recover.

Someone stood there. A big someone. Big and dark. If it had growled Steinthal might have taken it for a bear. As it was Steinthal thought it might be even more dangerous.

The thing seemed to just pause there as if considering what to do next. Steinthal’s head cleared completely and he started to make for his gun when the shape charged. It came in close almost instantly and surprised Steinthal, not with a jab or a horizontal swing, but with a ferocious right uppercut. Steinthal barely had time to react but twisted some and got his left arm stiffened and intercepted the shot down low. That took most of the punch out but the guy was still so strong that he lifted Steinthal onto the balls of his feet just from the sheer momentum.

Steinthal counterpunched furiously with his right. Hit the guy solidly on the left side of the front of his neck. It should have rocked the guy on his heels, caused him to splutter and choke. He hadn’t hit the trachea but it still would have stunned most men.

As it was the only two things that seemed to happen as far as Steinthal could tell was that it made a sound like the guy had been hit with a wet fish, and the man stepped back one step. He hadn’t even bent over.

Realizing fully what he was now facing, Steinthal swiftly backtracked three or four feet and grabbed his revolver with his right and his combat knife with his left. He had only glanced down for an instance to retrieve his weapons but when he looked up the guy already had a semiautomatic in one hand and a shiny machete in the other. Where the machete had come from Steinthal had no idea but it did impress him.

The guy was now closer to the moonlight. You could partially make him out. Steinthal decided he wasn’t big after all. He was monstrous. But he didn’t look stupid. No, there was a kind of set to his face and a sort of light in his eyes that Steinthal took for real and raw intelligence. Even more dangerous.

There were several moments of tense silence while they pointed their weapons at each other.

“That kind of hurt for such a little fella,” the big guy suddenly said and spit. There might have been some blood mixed in but it was too dark to tell. “What’s your name?”

“Huh?” Steinthal said.

“I said, ‘what’s your name.’ I don’t like having to repeat myself.”

Steinthal cleared his throat.

“John,” he replied. “But most everyone calls me Steinthal.”

The guy seemed to mull over the answer.

“Yeah, you’re the one,” he said as if mentally verifying a fact-sheet.

“What one?” Steinthal asked.

“The one I’m meant to kill tonight,” the big guy said.

“Well then,” Steinthal said. “You’re one up on me. I usually know nothing about most of the people I kill until it is all over.
“Why is that?” the big guy asked.

“Because they tend to ambush me,” replied Steinthal.

The big guy chuckled quietly.

“Well then, are you going to shoot me?” he asked.

“I’d rather not,” Steinthal said warily. “But at this point anything seems possible.”

Seemingly to spite himself the big guy chuckled again.

“I like you.” The big guy said. “You’re funny.”

“Trust me,” Steinthal said. “I’m not trying to be, but if helps any then let’s just go with that.”

The big guy seemed blithe. “Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to snap your neck, but now I sort of like you.”

Steinthal noticed that despite the relaxed and easy going tone of the man’s voice his aim had remained absolutely fixed and his breathing so steady that he seemed motionless. Even while he spoke.

“Yeah, well,” said Steinthal “We all do what we can.”

The guy laughed again. If not for the circumstances then to Steinthal this would have seemed ridiculous.

When the guy finished laughing he said, “Seems kind of a shame now though.”

“Don’t it,” said Steinthal. “But, you know, the guns and all…”

The big guy looked at Steinthal’s revolver.

“I’ve been shot before you know,” he said. “By a lot bigger and more powerful weapons than that. Never killed me.”

“I’ll bet,” said Steinthal. “But there’s always that first time. And I’m pretty damned determined.”

“Also I’m armored,” said the big guy, as if he hadn’t noticed Steinthal’s reply.

“Thanks for the heads up,” said Steinthal. “Now I know where not to aim.”

There was silence again. But no movement.

“Say,” Steinthal finally said. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but I get the distinct feeling you’re not just playing for time here. Do you get the idea that there might be something else going on with this whole affair that neither of us are quite square on? And that maybe we should skip the strangulations and compare notes about in private?”

More silence. But then the big guy shrugged nonchalantly and holstered his gun. It kind of disappeared entirely into the huge black mound that was his chest. But the machete remained. And the guy had never even shifted his gaze.

“Maybe… Probably… Yes. I’ve had that idea for some time now,” he said. “But I didn’t want to make any snap judgements.”

“Yeah,” Steinthal said. “It’s one of the things I appreciate most about you.”

“People think I’m stupid, you know. Because I’m so big,” the big guy said. With a kind of sad resignation that seemed almost fatalistic.

“Well fella,” said Steinthal. “I’m not most people. And whereas you are stupefyingly big, you are most definitely not stupid.”

The guy chuckled again. Then sighed softly.

“You going to lower your gun now?” the big guy asked.

“I’m thinking about it, but, you know, I’m not exactly stupid either.”

The machete clattered to the floor.

“Very nice. Now can you do that with your hands, arms, and most of the rest of you as well?”

The guy smiled in the dark. And it seemed completely friendly.

“Probably not. I come this way,” he said.

“Alright then. I’ll just take your word for it.” And Steinthal holstered his gun and knife.

“Say,” Steinthal said relaxing a little. “Since you know so much about me what say you tell me your name?”

“You’ll laugh,” the big guy replied.

“Well, if I do, then don’t take it personally. I have an excellent sense of humor.”

“Okay then. It’s Maugham,” said the big guy. “William Somerset Maugham. But my friends call me Angus.”

Steinthal whistled. “Well I’ll be damned. I’ve read all your books!

“Yeah,” the big guy looked sheepishly at the ground. “My mother was real big on literature.”

“Nothing wrong with that,” Steinthal said. “But say, you’re a lot bigger in person than you look in the papers. Or the history books.”

“Yeah, I hear that a lot. Well, not a lot. Not recently anyway. Most people don’t read anymore.”

“Yeah, that’s a real shame, ain’t it? But that being what it is I’m not calling you Angus or Bill either,” Steinthal said.

“Well then, what are you going to call me?”

“I’m gonna call you Maugham,” said Steinthal. “Because you remind me of W. Somerset Maugham. If, you know, he had been as big as a damned Angus.”

Maugham nodded.

“What say though we get outta here now Maugham?” Steinthal asked. “Before they send in a troll?”

Maugham shrugged. “Okay. I’m game if you are.”

As they were sneaking out Steinthal said, “Say, what you said back there. Is that true?”

“Is what true?” asked Maugham.

“Do you really have friends?”

Maugham stopped in his tracks and seemed to mull over the question quietly in his mind before replying.

“You know, I’m not really sure.”

“Well,” said Steinthal. “The night is still young. We’ll work at it awhile. Then see what we can come up with. One thing’s for sure though.”

“What’s that?” asked Maugham.

“After tonight I owe you one. If you’ll take friendship as payment then I’ll sure call it square.”

(This is the first meeting between Steinthal and Maugham.)

From The Detective Steinthal.

THE PIXILATED MAN

THE PIXILATED MAN

There are at least two consistent themes running through many (if not most) of my science fiction stories. One is of turning technology (such as data, information, Intel, electrons, etc.) into “solid or substantial things.”

And the other is of people finding multiple uses for a single piece of technology (a design idea I always try to practice when inventing) and of people accidentally discovering hidden or secret functions or uses for common pieces of technology (radios, TVs, satellites, etc).

Well tonight I was studying the etymology of some rare Anglo-Saxon and English words when I ran across this word: Pixilated.

Now pixilated has not the same meaning as our word pixelated but upon reading the definition I immediately saw the parallels. Forward (taking pixelated to its logical conclusion), and backwards (by becoming unpixelated a man becomes, so to speak, also unpixilated).

Pixilated, a very old word, means to be bewitched as if by pixies, or, to be bewildered, confused, charmed, or intoxicated, as if by pixies.

Which made me think immediately of a computer screen and the internet.

I am already writing a story in which a computer and screen basically and accidentally serves as a (Tolkienesque) Palantir-like artefcat. Though it has a second meaning: Palantir the company.

But after reading about being “pixilated” I have also decided to write a parallel story about a pixilated man. Though the way in which he becomes pixilated is by first becoming enpixelated.

Which I think will also serve as a sort of related piece to my Eye in a Distant Sky story.

MAN HAS ALWAYS BEEN…

MAN HAS ALWAYS BEEN…

a morally risk averse creature. Men will certainly do what is right and good when physically forced to do so, or for the pursuit of self-interest, or when they feel truly and personally endangered, or because others insist that must be the case (society, the law, those whom they allow to exercise power over them).

But the percentage of men who will do what is right (or even argue for or wish to do what is right) in every circumstance, and no matter the risk, the danger, or the opposition – simply for the sake of doing what is right – is at least as low as that percentage of men who seek to do harm or wrong or evil simply for the sake of doing harm, wrong, or evil.

(And trust me, there are huge numbers of people so naive and sheltered and willfully ignorant about both life and human nature that they cannot even believe that such men exist. Though they most certainly do.)

So to me the real tragedy of the entire history of man, and probably one of the highest real reasons for his need of salvation, is not that the extremely small percentage of men who are consistently dedicated to doing evil are consistently dedicated to doing evil, but rather that there is such an infinitesimally small percentage of men consistently dedicated to doing what is right simply because it is always best to do so.

(My observation for Maundy Thursday.)

NOT TO BE OUTMARTYRED

NOT TO BE OUTMARTYRED

“And what of the monk Baelwich?” the boy asked.

Alternaeus smiled gently as he moved objects about the table to his satisfaction. To his apprentice he seemed harried in his manner, but also utterly engrossed and happy at his task.

“Baelwich it is hard not to love. He is fearless, and smart, and cunning, and even wise. He is one of the old monks, the ancient kind of monk,” the Wizard replied. “No matter what the high nobles and the rudely ambitious think of him I count him as one of my most trusted friends. Perhaps even, a kind of brother.”

“But he is still considered a young man, is he not? Surely he may even be younger than you. How is it then that you call him ancient?” The boy seemed genuinely confused by the Wizard’s response, or openly curious as to his true meaning. Or both.

Alternaeus halted at this labors for a moment, raised his eyebrows at the question, and looked directly at his apprentice.

“You mistake my meaning boy. He is an ‘ancient kind of monk,’ not in his mortal years but in his immortal nature. He is very much like the Apostles of old in that he fears no power on or in the Earth. His only concern is God and what is Just and Right. Such men are easy for me to befriend, and once befriended, easy to maintain in my heart. Ignorant men may call my efforts fernal-craft and sorcery, but they understand me not at all. For when it comes to what is truly essential in this world, indeed in any world, of all men there is in me no sorcery at all. Only an enchantment with the Truth.”

The boy considered the remark with some seriousness. Alternaeus returned to his labors and worked until his personal expectations were met and his meticulous arrangements fully completed. When the boy saw that the labor of the Wizard seemed finally finished he risked another inquiry.

“What then of the priest Plontius? Is he also your friend?”

Alternaeus looked at the boy somewhat skeptically and scoffed.

“As long as monks and priests are willing to martyr themselves for God, for the Right, and for the innocent then they are the most courageous and admirable of all men, and have my utmost admiration and respect. Such is Baelwich.

Yet monks and priests who watch other men struggle with wrong and will neither physically fight that injustice, nor risk the martyring of themselves to prevent such evils have neither my Earthly esteem nor the friendship of my soul.”

The boy nodded twice thoughtfully at the reply but continued to stare at the Wizard as if he still wished a more direct answer to his questions.

Seeing this Alternaeus said, “To be blunt boy, and to be brutal to your brutishness, I think little and less of the small priest Plontius. He is no friend of mine, and often I wonder if he is even a man at all.”

From the tales of Alternaeus the Wizard

GOODLY EVILS, AND THE EVILS OF “THE GOOD” – TUESDAY’S TALE

Continuing my tales of the Wizard Alternaeus and his apprentice.

GOODLY EVILS, AND THE EVILS OF “THE GOOD”

“I have no satisfactory answer for you lad. Because to this very day, my boy, I am still amazed at those quantities and diversities of important things that evil men will fearlessly attempt over the paltry count of those same things that good men will attempt. Not because evil men are so much more numerous than good men, they are certainly not, if anything they are the distinct minority of all men. Nor because evil men are so much greater than good men, because by both inner nature and by outward behavior, they are not.

No, it has been my perpetual and sad observation that evil triumphs so often in this world not because evil is so irresistibly inconquerable in number, or because evil is so inherently imposing in nature, but merely because men who profess themselves to be good are so very often so very, very afraid.

Now that might very well seem to you like a bleak prophecy about the nature of men in general and the rather uncommon occurrence of real manhood in this world. And to be honest it truly is. But as far as foretelling what you must become, or any man must necessarily be, it says nothing about either of those things by any means.

So, if you have heard and understood all that I have said then this is the only answer I have for you. For all of that, still, be a good boy, and an even better man. For those two ends are very worthy ambitions.

Just remember this though as you mature; be yet far more courageous than most self-described good men.

For to be good without courage is no real ambition at all. And as a matter of fact it is the timid good man who is the certain mid-wife and the sure wet-nurse of most of the goodly evils that men do.”

Alternaeus the Wizard to his young apprentice.

I’LL EAT FOR THE SAKE OF EATING

As some of you know it is National Poetry Month and therefore I have been writing one poem per day.

This is a poem I wrote today for Passover, the Last Supper, and Easter.

I’LL EAT FOR THE SAKE OF EATING

(A song for Easter)

Well I killed for the sake of killing
Then I lied for the sake of lies
When I ate for the sake of eating, and
Drank the wine of the blood-red vine,

Did I watch for the sake of watching
Did I hear for the sake of self
Or did I steal for the sake of stealing
As I took from the Vault of Hell?

Must I feel for the sake of feeling
Can I touch for the sake of lust
Do I taste of the wrong within me
May I speak of the things I must?

There’s an old thing deep within me
I often hear it sing,
Of wonders rare and welcome
High blooming in the Spring,
Yet old as all desires
Deep wandering in my soul
There burns there still a fire
Infernal, black, and cold
It wants to eat the future
It vomits out the past
To lose for the sake of losing
To shoot for the end at last –

Thus does come disaster
Thus does ruin wake, and
Hunger harms my Inner Man
With a thirst I cannot slake;

So I’ll eat for the sake of eating
So I’ll drink for the sake of you
To remember what you ask me
When you told me what to do

Yes, I’ll live for the sake of living
Yes, I’ll give up all that’s mine
Just to eat for the sake of eating, and
To drink of the blood-red wine…

THE FLESH AND THE BOOK

THE FLESH AND THE BOOK

 

APPENDICES, INDEXES, ETC.

Appendices

On the True Size of the Armies and the Battles
On the Great Wars
On Languages and the Variations of Pronunciation
On the Scripts and Writing in Iÿarlðma
On the Art and Architecture of Iÿarlðma
On the Known Lineages and Lines of Descent
On Lifespans and the “Yorluin” (The “Graces” Given)
On the Ancient Eldevens
On the “Great Crafts” (Theurgies and Sciences) of the Eldevens
On the People’s Before (The Pre-Dwelvens)
On the Animals and Creatures of Iÿarlðma
On the Fauna and Flora of Iÿarlðma
On the Climate of Iÿarlðma
On the Lords and Rulers
On the Samarls
On the Eladruin
On the Great Chronologies
On the Histories (Extant and Extinct)
On the Ghans, Folk, People, Races, Tribes, and Nations
On the High Calendars
On the Translations
On the Eons and Epics

Indexes

Poems, Songs, and Verses
References to Other Works in Terra (Our World)
References to Other Works in Iÿarlðma
Important Personages
Great Beasts and Monsters (Oiyluin and the Korreupt)
Geography and Important Places
The Objects

The Marvels and Wonders

The Pre-Dwelven and Pre-Historical Wonders
The Ancient Wonders
The Elturgical Wonders
The Present Wonders
The Prophesied Wonders

The Three Great Myths (Lae-Iÿarl-sel) of the Eldeven Peoples

The Anÿlîsos
The Redelyost
The Earlwé-Iÿarl-Skëma

Magic and Miracle and Science (Theurgy/Thaumaturgy/Technicae and Elturgy/ Sarlementh/Eldarik)

Elturgy and Ilturgy

The War Between Magic and Miracle (Elturgy and Thaumaturgy)

Translations (complete and partial) into English of Selected Eldeven Works

Glossaries

The Wyrdros (The Wyrding Road)

Maps (Antique and Modern)

Other Linkages

_________________________________________

Above you will find a listing of the various Appendixes, Indexes, Glossaries, etc that will be found in my Mythological and Fantasy series of novels about the Basilegate. This material will be supplemental to my novels themselves and will provide the flesh to cover and support the skeleton of the story itself. This will probably be the final form of this supplementary material and with each novel in the series new Appendices, etc. will be added at the end of each book until the last, when all supplementary material will be provided.

Some of this supplementary material is already finished, as a matter of fact a good deal of it has already been finished (in my Notes and Plot Maps), although I may edit and rearrange some of this material into a more refined product. Some of the supplementary material has not yet been finished or has been reworked several times or I have yet to create it.

Although most of this material I have been writing or creating concurrently with the novels themselves.

Eventually, after the novels are written and published, and assuming they are a success, I intend a complimentary books with much expanded supplementary materials but I intend to hand that over to other writers with my notes so that they can write that book while I go on to other works.

If you wish to comment on this material, although it is only an outline, you are welcome to do so.

A special thanks to my daughter Kes who has typed up much of my handwritten notes and manuscripts after my wrist break. Thank you very much baby, your father loves you and you do superb work.

And thank you for the other books and poems and songs and such you have been typing for me as well. You’ve allowed me to proceed apace. And I greatly appreciate that. You’re a superb problem-solver.

SUBJECT MATTERS FOR THE CHRISTIAN LAYMAN

A LIST OF SOME OF THE SUBJECTS AND SUBJECT MATTERS I PLAN TO ADDRESS IN MY BOOKS THE CHRISTIAN HERO, THE CHRISTIAN WIZARD, AND THE CHRISTIAN SAINT

These are more general subjects and not specifically geared towards the peculiarities of any of them. I had planned on further developing these today but my wife needs me to take her to the airport today. These are only recent Subject-Matter additions to the books as they are further developed.

And although these books are addressed to the Christian Layman I think that I shall develop a different term for him/her that shall encompass all of the aspects I mean by Layman, such as: worker, disciple, hero, wizard, (lay or common man’s) saint, and skilled spiritual and psychological craftsman.

I shall have to think on the term first of course, and all that it should imply.

SELF-EDUCATION/AUTO-EDUCATION

DISEASE

INJURY

REST AND RECOVERY

VACATIONS

AVOCATIONS

VOCATIONS

SOCIAL ACTIVITIES

TRAINING

WORK – beneficial, good, profitable, productive, clean

THEURGICAL PRACTICE

THEURGICAL WORK

FORMS OF BENEFICIAL ENTERTAINMENT, RECREATION, AND

HEALTH AND HEALING

RESEARCH AND STUDIES

VIRTUES

NAMES

STEWARDSHIP

RELATIONSHIP TO NATURE

THEORIES

GEAR AND EQUIPMENT

CREATING YOUR OWN OBJECTS AND POSSESSIONS

SUB-CREATION

PURSUITS – ARTISTIC, BUSINESS, FINANCIAL, INVESTED, MENTAL, PHYSICAL, PSYCHOLOGICAL, RELIGIOUS, SCIENTIFIC, SPIRITUAL

TREASURES AND TREASURE HOARDS

HEIRLOOMS

ARTEFACTS AND RELICS

ANIMAL COMPANIONS

PARCHMENTS, SCROLLS, AND WRITINGS

NOTEBOOKS

ANCESTORS AND ANTECEDENTS

CHILDREN AND DESCENDANTS

WHO SHOULD TRAIN TO BE A WIZARD, THEURGIST, OR PSIKONIST

EXPLORATION AND VADDING

GRACES, GIFTS, AND TALENTS

ABILITIES, CAPACITIES, CAPABILITIES, AND SKILLS

ATHLETICS, EXERCISE, PHYSICAL CONDITIONING, AND SPORTS

SACRED SPACES

THEURGICAL SPHERES? AND RITUAL ARENAS

AREAS OF BEAUTY AND LIFE

SIN AND SINCERE REPENTANCE

TYPES OF SIN: INTENTIONAL AND UNINTENTIONAL

THE SEVEN STAGES OF REPENTANCE: RECOGNITION, REMORSE, RECOMPENSE and RESTITUTION, RECTIFICATION, RESOLUTION, REPENTANCE, REFORM

CHRISTIAN LOVE (PHILOS AND AGAPE)

FORGIVENESS: GOD’S FORGIVENESS AND MAN’S FORGIVENESS

WHAT CAN THE CHRISTIAN OR CHRISTIAN LAYMAN TRULY DO ABOUT REAL EVIL?

THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN ON EARTH

THE CHRISTIAN LAYMAN AS MISSIONARY

THE CHRISTIAN LAYMAN AS INFILTRATOR

THE CHRISTIAN LAYMAN AS AMBASSADOR OF CHRIST

THE OPEN WORK AND THE SECRET WORK

REVERSING WRONG

POSSIBLE SPECIALISTS (SUB-CLASSES OR SUB-TYPES)? CRUSADER, EXPLORER, ADVENTURER / SAGE, PROTO-SCIENTIST or NATURAL SCIENTIST, PSYCOPHYSICIAN / SEER, COUNSELOR,

HOW THE CHRISTIAN LAYMAN’S HOLY VOCATIONS SHOULD RELATE TO HIS PROFESSIONAL AND MUNDANE OCCUPATIONS AND VOCATIONS

APPRENTICES, APPRENTICESHIPS, AND DISCIPLESHIP

THE LORD AS THE GREAT MASTER

PROMOTING THE GOSPEL

CONVERSION AND THE LAYMAN’S PATHS

THE LAYMAN’S WEAL

THE WORLD’S WELFARE

THE PROVIDENCE AND PROVENANCE OF GOD

BEING “LED”

YOUR PERSONAL CALLING

OCCULT KNOWLEDGE AND GNOSTICISM VERSUS RARE KNOWLEDGE AND RARELY PRACTICED NOESIS

MYSTICISM AND THE MYSTERIES OF GOD

THE SUPERNATURAL AND HOW IT MAY BE DEFINED

ACTION AND ENTERPRISE

MORTALITY AND IMMORTALITY

YOUR LIFE’S WORK (OPAE VITAE)

SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF GOD

DISCIPLES AND FRIENDS OF CHRIST

HOST AND HOME OF THE HOLY GHOST

IT’S ONE OR THE OTHER

IT’S ONE OR THE OTHER

“Yeah, well now, time might not heal all wounds but it will either significantly assure that you will succeed on time, or dramatically increase the odds that you won’t. Now how that works out precisely is pretty much up to you, but if I were you I’d spend less time bitching about your wounds and more time getting your ass up off the ground so we can succeed in getting the hell outta here.”

The Detective Steinthal

IN FURY AND FRUSTRATION

IN FURY AND FRUSTRATION

The boy stared searchingly at Alternaeus.

“But she will die,” he said urgently.

Alternaeus looked down at the girl and then over to the boy. Then he sighed deeply, but answered stoically.

“It seems very likely to me that you speak the truth,” he told the boy.

“But, but…” the boy stammered in near desperation. “You cannot let that happen, you must not let that happen.”

Alternaeus placed his hand lightly on the boy’s shoulder and shook his head.

“You are now my apprentice. You must learn this lesson sooner, or later, yet I would have preferred you had learned this one thing, at least, by another and more hopeful method.

I am only a Wizard boy. I am not God, or a god. Some things lie far beyond my power. Death is one of those things. True, Death and I are old friends, and on occasion I can persuade him. But sometimes Death listens to no man. No matter who he may be. Or who he might think he is. I have earnestly tried in this case to persuade Death favorably for the sake of the girl. With little effect it seems to me.”

There was a long moment of silence while the boy looked at the girl and made no reply. The owl was preening itself on his wooden stand. It was the only sound that could be heard clearly in the room. Otherwise the entire tower seemed little more than a tomb to Alternaeus.

The boy shook his head in disbelief, but slowly seemed to sense the atmosphere.

“But you are a Wizard…” the boy said, yet his manner seemed more subdued, or possibly even resigned, and his voice was lower and less demanding.

Alternaeus gently squeezed the boy’s shoulder and lowering himself to his knee brought himself down to the boy’s sitting height.

“A Wizard is only a Wizard my son. Sometimes that is the greatest thing in the world – the most grand, and magnificent, and possibly even the best thing in this world. But it is only one thing of a very many possible things in this world. And because of that, knowing what I know, seeing what you see, being aware of what we are aware, and still on occasion understanding that we are powerless to stop what is truly wrong in this world makes being a Wizard a wondrously lonely and a miraculously terrible thing as well.” The Wizard paused and looked hard at the boy to gauge his reaction. But the boy looked only at the girl.

“Do you understand?” Alternaeus asked him at last.

Finally the boy turned and looked at the Wizard, tears welling in his eyes. In a choked and thick voice the boy replied.

“Yes sir… but, no, sir,” he said with a struggle. “Does it even matter? For what good then will it do me to become such a Wizard? What good then has it done for you to become such a Wizard?”

Alternaeus reached over and took the girl’s soft but cold hand and placed it into the boy’s rough but warm hand. Then he answered truthfully.

“I have no answer to give you boy. Indeed, I have no real answer to give myself. Other than the hope that one day, possibly, we both shall know.”

Then Alternaeus rose and walked quietly from the room. He shut the door silently behind him and left the boy and girl to whatever awaited them. It was well beyond his ability to influence now, no matter what he may wish, or what he might do. There was no need to linger, and no point to watch.

Then Alternaeus descended the steps until he came to the floor of the tower where he crossed the gritty stone, opened the heavy oak door and walked out into the bright sunshine. He continued walking and did not stop for several miles until he came to the marshes at the bend of the river where he saw a young songbird flitting about the reeds, tweeting loudly, playing energetically, watching the water for a meal, and perhaps even looking for a mate. It was, after all, early springtime.

Then Alternaeus sat himself down upon a large rock beside the river and clenching both fists in fury and frustration wept like a small child.

from The Tales of Alternaeus the Wizard

RUNNING THE TABLE

RUNNING THE TABLE

“A modern investigation is simply another way of saying that nothing of any real importance will ever be truly resolved, nor anyone of any real consequence ever tried or convicted.

Therefore fuck their investigation. I’m after Justice, and if possible the prevention of future evil. Let them investigate. If they wish to do so. That will keep them out of my way effectively enough.

As for me I have an entirely different goal. And the intent to go with it.

We’ll see in the end who has the most success. But if I were a betting man Maugham I’d run the table.

Because God-damnit, and you know I mean this, I’m gonna run the fucking table.”

And as he listened to his friend a sort of weird and horrific chill ran up Maugham’s spine.

from The Detective Steinthal

THE CRAFT OF FOREIGN FEATHERSTONES

THE CRAFT OF FOREIGN FEATHERSTONES

I thought that I had injured
That with which I thought
Only then to understand
The fault that I had wrought,

My imagination
Turning as it slept
Found itself abandoned
While to other lands I crept,

The hills of high philosophy
The mountains of the moon
The blood of war, the boatman’s fee
(That endless shore, an anchored leevariant line)
Upon these I was hewn,

The craft of foreign featherstones
A science, or an art?
What matter to that one dethroned
Whose will will soon depart?

Clever in the market stalls
Cunning in the wares
What happens when intent appalled
Is taken unawares?

Creation is a fakir’s cheat
The muses whores of fate
Yet man is just an instrument
Come often, or come late,

If he would be a better thing
He must to something else
Bend himself in constant chase
And sometimes so with stealth,

For he commands that lofty globe
Granted him by God,
Yet even so, he must still show
He knows of the façade,

For art is nothing but the world
Dressed up as if were true,
Therefore man has no real art
Without what he first grew,

Within his mind, upon his heart
He wrote, he sketched, he drew
Then he found that thing profound
When nothing yet is due

Thus (and therefore),

Art can nothing to this world
It did not first possess,
Yet turning so with twisted charms
Man does acquiesce

That in himself creation roams
Seeking whom (and what) to eat, but
First that man must eat this world
For him to be complete…

__________________________________________

Usually I post my verse on Mondays. For First Verse.

But I have been very busy lately and have had scant time for composition. Today though a friend of mine mentioned something about “creation” and since he is an artist I went ahead and wrote a poem I’ve been meaning to write awhile on the subject of art and creation anyway.

I have my own definition for the term “featherstone” in relation to creation and art. Or indeed in relation to anything at all.

I use it in this way: it refers to a magical or mythological Xoanon (that falls from the heavens and is taken as a god or carven into an idol and worshiped), to a thing that cannot in reality exist (because it is entirely self-contradictory), to polish away all of the weight of a thing and leave behind only the most opposite (and usually useless) thing, and even to Potmos, and the Residuum.

By foreign featherstone I mean that featherstone not native to one’s self, or that featherstone one must seek out elsewhere or that lures one elsewhere.

THE IMPERFECT BUT IDEAL CHRISTIAN WIZARD

ALTERNAEUS, THE IMPERFECT BUT IDEAL CHRISTIAN WIZARD

Yesterday I relaxed yet still worked upon my Alternaeus or “Wizard novels.”

(Though it seemed more sport and word-play to me than work. Gladly, I can say that about most of my Work.)

Anyway I sketched out dozens of possible stories about Alterneaus the Wizard, who has become one of my favorite characters. Now many of my characters are actually a proxy-me in fictional form. For instance Marsippius Nicea is the warrior in me, Steinthal is me as a detective and infiltrator, Vlachus represents the monk and priest in me, Thrasher the frontiersman and woodsman and Vadder/explorer in me, Tristas the futurist, scientist and God-Technologist in me, and Alternaeus has come to represent the Christian Wizard in me. He is me as a fictional character. Or more accurately as a fictional example of a Christian Wizard. For I, like everyone else alive, am far more than just one thing. But as far as the Christian Wizard goes he is my paragon or ideal example of one written in fictional form.

But also he has become my fictional exemplar of what an ideal Christian Wizard/Genius should be. Therefore his stories are not just stories but provide a sort of Guidebook in Fiction for how a Christian Wizard should behave and conduct himself in various difficult situations. And in life generally speaking.

Although I am writing a non-fiction set of books about the Christian Wizard/Genius/Theurgist the stories I am writing about Alternaeus sort of flesh out how a Christian Wizard should behave in day to day situations, even though the stories take place in an mostly historical Medieval milieu. Yet the techniques and morality Alternaeus expresses should be applicable to any time period. And to most any situation. That is indeed my exact intent in writing these stories. In addition to being entertaining tales in their own right they will also compliment my non-fiction books on the same general subject matter.

The stories will consist of short situational work tales and moral fables about Alternaeus (as a Christian Wizard/Genius) sort of like most of the cases of Sherlock Holmes or the adventures of Conan. They will be arranged into book form but can easily stand alone as well. They will not be dependent upon each other but will build upon each other.

In any case I spent some time this afternoon and evening briefly sketching out the major stories involving Alternaeus and the lessons he will teach through his stories. Some of these stories will be short, no more than a couple of pages, others quite long depending on the subject matter and what the story describes.

Also I have decided that each book of stories in the novel set, and perhaps even each story, will be introduced with a short section of verse from a long poem about Alternaeus, which, when taken altogether will be a sort of Summary in Verse (Summa Versa, or Summa Esse) of all of Alternaeus’ adventures and will contain, encoded in the verse, various lessons for the Christian Wizard.

This will be very similar to what I have done and am doing with the Viking Cats (found at that link). However, in this case, rather than the Poetic Section merely being a retelling in verse of the prose tales, the prose tales will be types of moral lessons, while the accompanying poem will be a sort of encoded form (in verse) of instructional lessons for the Wizard.

__________________________________

Short Stories involving Alternaeus

A Cup of Seasoned Blood Held High and Close
A Summer’s Still Frozen Tomb
A Tincture of Tantrels, Thiggers, and Thieves
Alternaeus and the Afflatable Axeman
Alternaeus and the Ageless Alchemist
Alternaeus and the Ancient and Infinite Desert
Alternaeus and the Apothecary of Arcadia
Alternaeus and the Architect of Always
Alternaeus and the Assentuary
Alternaeus and the Barbarian Scout
Alternaeus and the Cauldron of the Ken and Kithmen
Alternaeus and the Cunning Craftmaster
Alternaeus and the Eldritch Occultist
Alternaeus and the Fateful Forge
Alternaeus and the Forest of Forever
Alternaeus and the Greek Philosopher
Alternaeus and the Harrowed Hide-Man
Alternaeus and the Hermit Saint
Alternaeus and the Hoary Hoardsmen
Alternaeus and the Invisible Merchant
Alternaeus and the Jewish Physician
Alternaeus and the Knight’s Errant
Alternaeus and the Limitless Librum
Alternaeus and the Long and Lamentable Pilgrimage
Alternaeus and the Loom of Longing
Alternaeus and the Maiden’s Moon
Alternaeus and the Man to Come
Alternaeus and the Minstrel’s Tale
Alternaeus and the Mountain of the Magae
Alternaeus and the Pipe of Splendrous Price
Alternaeus and the Plate of Plenty
Alternaeus and the Prince’s Philologist
Alternaeus and the Quidnunc
Alternaeus and the River of Everywhere
Alternaeus and the Roman Engineer
Alternaeus and the Satyrion
Alternaeus and the Serious Syrian
Alternaeus and the Seven Spjallsangers
Alternaeus and the Son’s Last Sun
Alternaeus and the Stalwart Shire-Reeve
Alternaeus and the Surreptitious Sorcerer
Alternaeus and the Theokardia (Heart of God)
Alternaeus and the Thespian’s Thunderstone
Alternaeus and the Unchanging Thing
Alternaeus and the Unknown and Wondrous Ruins
Alternaeus and the Village Pugilist
Alternaeus and the Warrior Monk
Alternaeus and the Wightwright
Alternaeus and the Wild Woodsman
Alternaeus and the Withered Witch
Alternaeus by the High Sea
Alternaeus on the Ocean of Eternity
Echo No More
His Brandish Blade, Before and Beneath Him
Invention and the Erstwhile Industry
Salt and Cloth and Ashes
Slurry of the Norsemen
That Glass that Looked Upon Us All
That Language Long Lost to Man
The Battle of the Earnest Men
The Book, The Bell, the Candle, and the Corpse
The Cleverly Hidden Tax-Taker
The Clock of Hard and Holy Water
The Colorful Cap of the Cloistered Clergyman
The Crucifixer’s Conundrum
The Day of Lost Things
The Dog, the Owl, and the Fish of Christ
The Fall That Rose Above Itself
The Gamboller’s Gamble
The Grail of Living Waters and the Grael of the Drowned Men
The Hapless Hagiographer
The Hearthland and the Foreign Firepit
The Hospitaller’s Honor
The Insistent Incense of the Incensed Man
The Lord’s Last Avenger
The Lotus-Eater’s Lamp of Little Oil
The Lover’s Lonely Lock
The Lute that Wept When the Women Sing
The Madonna’s Terrible Tears
The Mistaken Martyr
The Mnemonic Mansion of the Mind
The Mosaic of No-Man
The Mystikal Map of the Other World
The North-African Acolyte
The Novice of Necessity
The Parchment of the Buried Pearl
The Port of Many Merciless Plagues
The Proverbial Provencial
The Rod of Earth and the Rood Above
The Ship Saved by Sedition and Circumstance
The Sirens of Sumorsǣte and the Persistent Polymath
The Skalding of the Bitter Bard
The Stars Are Distant, Our Troubles Near
The Templar’s Torment
The Theurgist and the Thamuatugist
The Tower of Intemperate Times
The Undiminished and Unbroken Staff
The Deflowered and Uncaring Spring
The Virtuous and Valiant Layman
The Wandring Ghost
The Warmth of Winter
The Wise-Man’s Secret Heart
The Wizard and His Wyrdpack
The Wizard Who Would
The Wizard’s O’erwhelming Wyrd
The Wizard’s Withy Wand
Wendel’s Wanderlust

THE NECESSARY MAN

THE NECESSARY MAN

Vlachus laughed at his commander and freely drank of the dark wine.

“Spoken as a true soldier. But let me speak as a former farmer and a monk of God. There is much pleasure, my friend, in the creation of new life. That is indeed true. Yet there is an even greater joy in the fostering of it.

Any man may plow the field, and enjoy the swift and sweet sweat of that labor. Yet only the True Husbandman labors long at the profit and the produce of the fruit. Sow where you can commander, but gather where you may. And if you see another field untended and the crops therein languishing to fail then are you not lawfully allowed to step into it that field and harvest what was already planted so that they are wasted not? Indeed, are you not obligated to do so?”

Marsippius looked at Vlachus in consideration of his speech, but then opened his hands as if in supplication or supposition to the priest.

“And what of you?” Marsippius asked. “Are you unfit to reap what others have sown? Are you not also obligated?”

Vlachus handed Marsippius the wineskin. Marsippius immediately noticed how much emptier it seemed. Then Vlachus wiped his mouth upon his long decorated sleeve, rubbed his hands briskly together, placed them closer to the fire and glanced admiringly upwards at the bright alien stars. Finally he looked back across the flames and drifting smoke at his friend.

“Oh, I am certainly fit to reap and even still to sow,” Vlachus said, his long untended beard casting weird shadows in the firelight and making his face seem momentarily made more of ethereal questions than earthly answers. “Nevertheless I am a monk. I would make a far better grandfather I think than a sire. This child though needs a father. A real father, truly known and knowing. You are an excellent, if sometimes uneven commander of men, Marsippius Nicea. Furthermore I suspect that you are already a fine father as well. And would be so again if necessary. The question you must ask yourself is this: are you now the necessary man?”

Marsippius sighed and rubbed his scarred sword hand through his now lengthening hair. Vlachus’ gaze seemed to him extraordinarily bright and perceptive in the uneven light of the struggling fire.

“You are also, I have seen, an unfailingly honest man,” Vlachus said. “So, if I have spoken in error of you then correct me now.”

Marsippius studied the monk’s face for a long while, and then his gaze fell back into the fire. He would not say what he saw there, and he did not answer his friend.

Vlachus of Armenia (The Myrelaion Monk) to Marsippius Nicea, Commander of the Basilegate

From the Kithariune

KELBRAE AND THE KITHARIUNE

This (concept, idea) actually occurred to me as a dream this morning right before I woke. It will now go into my various novels about Iÿarlðma (the Kithariune).

To be used as a plot device.

And it will likely go into my various games and role play games (in modified form, of course) to also be used as a plot device.

KELBRAE, KELBRURAE, and KELBRAE-ILAR

Kelbrae is a certain type of secret writing used in Iÿarlðma that is usually inscribed upon parchment in Eldeven ideographic or pictographic symbols (and far more rarely in Elturgical glyphs) though theoretically it can be inscribed on almost anything. It usually consists of raised letters or symbols not unlike a pictographic form of human braille. However by running one’s hand over the Kelbraec script pictures or symbols or ideas are transmitted directly to the mind of the “reader” rather than “reading Kelbrae” being a process of touch interpretation of letter or word symbols, as with braille. Kelbrae is usually written in an open or visible script (rather than in Elturgical glyphs) though it is still Elturgical in nature and therefore only the intended recipient or reader can usually “read” or interpret it. Others who attempt to read it either envision nothing in the chamber of their mind or sometimes they receive false or confused notions of the real message contained in the script.

If the message is important enough the Kelbraec script can be written in Elturgical glyphs which are rendered invisible or camouflaged from anyone other than the intended recipient of the true message. Kelbrae constructed in this way can be usually be placed onto almost any object or item and can even be written in such a way as to fade away entirely or even to destroy or dissolve the object onto which it has been placed once it is successfully deciphered or the message successfully transmitted to the proper recipient. Kelbrae formed in this way are called Kelbrurae.

There is a final known form of Kelbrae called Kelbrae-Ilar. Kelbrae-ilar is typically constructed and written in such a way as to transmit a deception or falsehood even to the intended recipient or reader. It is designed specifically as a trick, a delusion (sometimes as an actual illusion), or as a form of trap. As a trap the Kelbrae-ilar will sometimes not only convey false information but may also confuse or erase the memory of the reader, convince the reader a false message must be true, render the reader temporally paranoid, sicken or disease the reader, curse the reader, or the message or object upon which it is written may even catch fire or explode. Ilar means, variously, to malign, a secret, to blacken, or a thorn.

AND THEN THEY ATE

AND THEN THEY ATE…

“You know what I’ve always loved most about you?” she said reaching for his hand across the table. “You never judged me. You always just accepted me as I am.”

He accepted her hand, and held it gently but shook his head dubiously.

“No, my dear,” he said flatly. “You are entirely wrong on both accounts, and could not be further from the actual truth.”

She withdrew her hand in surprise, a deepening frown creasing her puzzled brow.

“What do you mean?” she said nervously.

“I mean I judged you constantly,” Steinthal said. “I still do. That is what I do. I watch people. I study people. I come to understand a person, and then I judge them. In a brutally honest fashion. I judge everyone this way, including myself. You are certainly no exception to the rule. As a matter of fact there are no exceptions to the rule.”

“Oh,” she said hollowly.

He looked at her intently, staring relentlessly into her face for a moment, and then continued.

“I am no modern man,” he said, as if reading the barometric pressure on a gauge before a storm. “I do not believe in the ‘man without judgment.’ The man without judgment is simply another term for an absolute fool. I am no fool my dear, and when it comes to judgment I attempt to do something far braver and much more vital than avoid judging people, I seek to judge them accurately and in truth.”

She looked down at her plate as if suddenly uncomfortable, or in shame. There was a long pause while she tried to think of what to say. Not knowing how to respond she whispered out loud and to herself,

“What must you think of me then?”

He nodded slightly, though she did not see it. He waited a moment to see if she would say anything else or look up but she did not.

“Since you asked I will tell you precisely what I think of you and how I have judged you,” Steinthal replied, accepting her unintended cue. “I adjudged you in this way. I never accepted you as ‘you were,’ and I will not in the future. Furthermore I judged you not for what you were, but for what I fully suspected you could be. I did not take you for how you appeared, but for how it appeared to me that you could be, if you ever decided you would. And as far as I can see, you did. And did rather well at it. Does that really surprise you?”

She looked up again and stared at Steinthal, but whether more in shock or gratitude neither was certain.

This time he offered his hand across the table.

“I like to think of myself as a very good judge of character,” he told her. “And of potential. I would not waste my time or effort with or upon anyone who did not demonstrate an aptitude for both. So, do not prove me wrong and I shall not have to judge you otherwise. And that will be more than enough for me, assuming it is enough for you.”

She looked into his eyes and could find no hint of guile, or of misdirection. He seemed perfectly sincere. And it occurred to her, maybe for the very first time, just how perfectly sincere he usually was.

She reached back across the table, took his hand, smiled, and said softly, “I think I love you.”

He gently squeezed her hand in reply.

“I am aware of that,” he said.

She kept smiling but sighed with a deep resignation.

“Though you truly can be something of a real bastard.”

“I am aware of that as well,” he said, smiling in return.

Then he dropped her hand and took up his fork. He pointed it at her.

“But how bout we eat now and save the romance for later? After all we have the entire evening, and this meal is hardly the limit of my current ambitions.”

She laughed and took up her own fork.

And then they ate.

from The Detective Steinthal

________________________________

Note: this was not the scene I had intended to write tonight, but my router blew out and that delayed me working on the other scene and since this one seemed to flow kinda nicely I just worked it instead.

THE SECRET ACCORD

My opinion is this. A man’s true Word-Hoard isn’t just what he knows, for not all coins are of the same weight and measure. Rather his true Word-Hoard is what his treasures will buy and sell, and often and uppermost, in secret…

 

THE SECRET ACCORD

I dug a Word Hoard
Connate and wide
To bury the Wealth
That often abides
When the Weal and the Wisdom
That cannot be spread
By exchange in the markets
Still dwells, it is said,
In the bed of Procrustes
Asleep for awhile
In dreams made of amber
For this mind of exile
Has mastered the tongue
Of the treasures beneath
Subterranean efforts
In caverns replete
The facade of the fashion
A looking-glass hall
Where the hordes
Glom the gilt-work
And the herd is a-stall
There’s an ark, and an archway
A cup dipped in brass
For written upon it
Inscribed is a task
In proesy a notion
An omen you say
That word is prophetic
Indemic, assay
What you will
Of what cannot be termed
For the fire is sire
As the Worm of it turns
Broken and paltry
Forgotten and lost
The Latin beneath us
The Greek at all cost
The Wales of the Harlech
The Angles at Wrox
Gold-banded the cold Danes
With the Norsemen at bay
All did they answer
More did they say
Of the Word-Hoard we carry
When tarry we will
At the heart-spring
Of language
That flows from us still
Neath that Selenic moot
When nothing may be
‘Cept the terms that you loot
When demanding you seek
To be understood
In the things that you know
When the other is clever
Ingenious and bold
Having bled in his efforts
To get a Word-Hoard
He can share with his brothers
With a secret accord.

THE DARK

I’M NOT A LOSER, BUT I DO KNOW THE DARK

You know, it’s funny. I never actually feel like a “loser.” I have absolute confidence in my own capabilities and talents. No worries for me there. Never have been. I don’t face personal doubts about myself. I have limits, I know them well. I have many extraordinary abilities. I know that too and precisely what they are. I also understand that usually my extraordinary abilities far outweigh my limitations.

On the other hand I do often feel like the Batman sitting atop a gargoyle 60 stories up in the pouring rain on a cold, moonless, pitch black night completely unnoticed and scanning the city for some sign of life. Which is exactly the way it is supposed to work when you’re the Batman.

When you’re a writer though… well, the dark is not your friend.

It’s Normal to Feel Like a Loser

by Michelle Griep

So you’re writing a novel, la-de-dah. Typing away like a rock star. Day after day after day.

After day.

And then, out of nowhere, whap! A horrific thought slaps you upside the head, yanking you out of the story and paralyzing you so that your daily word count takes a serious nosedive. Suddenly you wonder if you’re an author, that maybe all the things you write are just slobbery bits of drivel bubbling out of you. Panic sets in. Perhaps you’re not a for-real writer. Maybe you’re an impostor. A poser. An orangutan mimicking kissy noises in front of a mirror. Or worse — maybe the zombie apocalypse really did happen and you’re nothing but a body operating on rote memory because shoot, if you read what you’ve written, those words certainly look like a person with no brain wrote them.

Or maybe you’re just a loser.

Never fear, little writer. I’m here to tell you that you’re not a loser. You’re normal. Every writer hits this point at some time in every single manuscript they write — and sometimes more than once. Hating your writing and feeling like pond scum is par for the course. Why?

Because creation is the process of making something out of nothing, and that something takes blood, sweat, and tears to mold into a beautiful masterpiece.

Think about this . . . Babies don’t pop out of their mothers all smiley faced and swaddled in fluffy rubber ducky blankies. They come out screaming and howling, all mucked up with oobie-goobies and require a good cleaning and lots of love. You don’t think that mom had second doubts during the heat of labor? She’d have packed up and gone home at that point if she could.

That’s how it works for your story, too. Don’t pack it up. Press on through the birth pains. Push out that ugly story so that it can be cleaned off and wrapped up into a beautiful book cover.

The only way out is through, folks, no matter how you feel. Take your hand off your forehead (yes, I see that big “L” you’re making with your forefinger and thumb) and get those fingers on your keyboard instead.

KNAVES AND FOOLS

KNAVES AND FOOLS, BOYS AND WIZARDS

Suddenly Alternaeus looked up to see the boy standing beside him. How long the boy may have stood there patiently waiting for him to finish or may have attempted to summon him from his numinous labors he knew not.

He looked back down at the grael. The roiling and lotic liquid was lentic and smooth again, untroubled and clear. Not a shadow lingered, not a ripple disturbed the surface or the depths. It was as if the grael were one more and without any apparent transition a spotless and terrene lens by which to view our naïve and evident world. Or at least some sort of polished glass to see blemishless to the bottom of the Black Sea. From whose distant waters Alternaeus had filled the grael.

“What is it boy?” Alternaeus asked.


“You are summoned sir.”

“By whom, to where, and for what possible reason?”

“I know not the reason sir, I am but a boy,” he said. “But it is by the lord Drew and by master Iter, and to the main hall and hearth. They wish to converse with you, I think.”

“I see,” Alternaeus answered. He rose stiffly. How long had he sat hunched over the bowl this time he wondered?

The boy stepped back with that certain kind of awe reserved for children in the presence of people they considered dangerous or miraculous in some way.

“Did I disturb you sir?” he asked Alternaeus with unfeigned reverence.

“What?” the Wizard asked. Then realizing the boy’s intent he smiled sympathetically and said, “No more so than usual.”

“What I mean is sir, were you able to finish? I waited as long as I dared to signal you as I feared you might be deep in some vital craft I cannot understand,” the boy said in a hushed tone. “But my masters demanded you come quickly.”

Alternaeus placed his hand lightly upon the boy’s shoulder.

“You did well lad. However you reacted. Though I was merely in my private communions. Nothing more. I will come with you shortly. I need merely drain this grael and wash my face and hands. Wait for me at the door.”

“Yes sir,” the boy said, but he did not move.

Alternaeus noticed his non-compliance and motioned for the boy to speak again.

The boy hesitated but then pointed at the grael.

“Is your cup enchanted? Or is this more a cauldron for mixing poisons and curses?”

Alternaeus almost laughed.

“I mix medicines, not poisons. And that requires a mortar, not a cup. Also I never curse anyone or anything. Well, only once have I ever done so. And that ended very badly. This then is neither a Warlock’s cauldron nor a Wizard’s cup. This is but my grael.”

“The Lord’s Grail!” the boy said too loudly and in shock.

“Lower your voice boy, and no, not the Lord’s Grail,” Alternaeus answered firmly. “Though I would certainly pay all I have or know to but discover and examine it for a short time. No, this is but a far less impressive thing. This is my Grael of Spirits.”

The boy considered the meaning of the answer.

“Do you then call up and speak with the dead sir?” the boy whispered, conscious of his manners this time, but still awed. “That seems very impressive to me.”

“Perhaps to you it might.” Alternaeus said. “But, no, you err again, but only from inexperience. I do not call up and speak with the dead, or with any spirits. I am forbidden to converse with or to seek the counsel of the dead or of any spirit not of this world. I merely watch them, and mark their habits, and from time to time see what I may learn by my observations.”

The boy nodded slightly, then continued with his inquiry.

“My mother, sir, says that those who practice traffick with the dead are damned and should be avoided at all times. For the good of my soul. Should I therefore avoid you?”

“Your mother is wise,” Alternaeus answered. “It is a hard enough thing and a complicated enough thing just to try to understand the living and those who inhabit this world. One should not place too much emphasis on the actions of those in other worlds. Their behaviors and motivations are indeed very hard to read, their worlds are yet alien to us, and we can know little of their true intent.”

The boy was quiet and pensive for a moment.

“You are a very strange Wizard sir,” he said after a while.

Alternaeus laughed.

“You think so? Then help me boy to drain this grael and to return these waters to their proper vessels. Your masters await us and my strange assistance.”

“Yes lord,” the boy said with a slight bow.

“And never call me lord. I am no man’s lord, and have no desire to be,” Alternaeus insisted.

“Yes sir,” the boy replied. “But I am not a man,” he then protested as an afterthought.

“You come much closer than many men I have known for far longer.”

“Yes, lor… yes sir.”

Alternaeus pointed out the vessels for storing the waters and when the boy had fetched them they set about their task. Then, after completing their work the boy walked to the door and Alternaeus ritually cleaned his hands and face in a small pewter basin.

“There,” he said. “Let us now see what lord Drew and master Iter require of me. Then, after that is concluded, you will return to this chamber and explain to me how and why you know such much for a mere serving boy, and how your language has flourished so being as you are so often surrounded by knaves and fools.”

“Yes, sir,” the boy answered doubtfully. “But if I do will you promise not to hex me?”

“Oh, I may do far worse than that,” Alternaeus said craftily.

“Sir?” asked the boy, his eyes widening in surprise.

“I may very well apprentice you…”

from The Wizard and the Wyrdpack

Note to my Readers: Recently I have been moving between my main novel, this novel, my detective novel, and writing short stories. So I’ve been posting here some of my work as I have been creating it. Just been in one of those moods.

Hope you have been enjoying it.

And have a good weekend folks…

IS THERE NOTHING ELSE?

IS THERE NOTHING ELSE?              

“You look very young to be a Wizard I should say,” she replied confidently, and yet quite demurely.

“Yes, well,” Alternaeus said, staring at her searchingly for a moment. “I’ve never been as young as I look my dear. Or as young as I desired to be. But some things are not within our mortal sphere of action, choice, or circumstance. Though once, long ago it now seems, I was almost young enough to wish to remain happy for a while. But, as with most things, Fortune did not favor me.

I suppose, now that you have made me reconsider my unlikely fate, that my lifelong argument with Fortune is perhaps the chief reason I became as I you see me now.”

“Sir?” she asked. “Mayhaps I do not fully comprehend. You seem to me the very most fortunate of all men. Kings consult thee, lords fear thee, wise men seek thy company, men of war avoid vexing you, high and low churchman both look upon you with some measure of real wonder, women seek thy weird but alluring charms, and I have even heard that demons and many other forms of diverse spirits bow before thee and thy power.”

He placed the instrument he held back upon the table very carefully, as if he exaggerated in his own mind some memory of it, and then turned his attention solely to her once more.

“Indeed, my lady. If only men were what was said of them then our reputations would be our lives. And our portion in life. But we do not so easily gainsay Good Fortune, or Evil Fortune, or our unsleeping and jealous God.”

She smoothed the folds of her gown, moved closer to him, touched his hand and looked studiously into his face.

“Are you indeed only a man, sir Wizard?” she asked him questioningly.

He sighed. Deeply.

“I am, in both nature and in deed, only a man, my good lady,” he answered sincerely.

“Is there then nothing else?” she inquired.

“Indeed,” he whispered wistfully. “Is there nothing else?”

Alternaeus the Wizard and the lady Cynewise

from the Wizard and the Wyrdpack

https://www.artmajeur.com/en/art-gallery/amelni/258892/663-jpg/7539862

YOU CAN NEVER GET TOO MUCH PRACTICE

YOU CAN NEVER GET TOO MUCH PRACTICE

“Maugham, do you remember that time a few years back when I drew my revolver on you and shot you in the face with a blank round?”

“Hell yes I do,” said Maugham. “Scared the shit out of me. I thought you were really going to shoot me.”

“I did shoot you, you idiot. Just not with a bullet. But tell me, what lesson did you draw from that?”

Maugham looked at his friend, then squinted.

“Never assume I guess,” he answered.

“Then you drew the wrong lesson. The real lesson was ‘always assume.’ That the other person is dangerous. Cause they are.” Steinthal countered.

Maugham looked thoughtful for a moment.

“What are you saying then?”

“I’m saying that just because she is pretty and sexy, and nice, and smells good, is fine in bed and is maybe even sincere doesn’t mean she won’t shoot you in the face. If she needs or wants to. As a matter of fact maybe she already has and you’ve been too busy or too stupid to notice.”

Maugham looked thoughtful again. That’s twice in one day Steinthal thought. Hat trick coming?

“Yeah, I guess love will do that to you,” Maugham finally conceded.

“Or being pussy-whipped by the wrong woman,” Steinthal said. “Or, even the right one. Take it from a man who knows.”

Maugham nodded as if he agreed, at least in theory. After a moment or two of silence though he turned sinister to look straight at his friend.

“By the way. I never asked you Steinthal. Why did you shoot me in the face with that blank?”

“Because someone else tried it on me.”

“They shot you in the face with a blank,” Maugham asked, kind of surprised.

“Not exactly,” Steinthal said. “They tried to shoot me in the face with a live round. Luckily they missed.”

“Was it a lady?” Maugham asked.

“Hard to say,” Steinthal replied. “You never really know about that kind of thing nowadays, do ya?”

Maugham laughed.

“So then, you were trying to forewarn me?”

Steinthal smiled broadly. Then he clapped his friend on the shoulder.

“Maybe. That, or I just needed the practice. You can never get too much practice shooting someone in the face.”

“Yeah,” said Maugham kind of wistfully. “I’ve had the same thought myself once or twice.”

Steinthal smiled again. But this time he kept it to himself.

from The Detective Steinthal

MUCHA NOTHING

MUCHA NOTHING…

“A man ain’t much without his tomorrow. But he’s absolutely nothing without his yesterdays.”

Sole Patterson, The Lettered Men

THE CHRISTIAN WIZARD

THE CHRISTIAN WIZARD

I now have about 75 pages typed of the Christian Wizard with about half that raw text and the other half notes for section and chapter development. But I have much more done on it already.

Just in hand manuscript form.

THE STHENICIST

THE STHENICIST

I’ve been thinking about this for awhile now. I’ve started a new sci-fi story I’ve entitled The Sthencist. It will take place in the future and for about 2/3rds of the way through it will seem like an interesting (but not a spectacular) Mundane Science Fiction story.

Then it will take a really hard turn…

GOOD NIGHT LADIES…

GOOD NIGHT LADIES…

“Oh, I understand you completely madam, but, perhaps not in the way you presume I do. You see the thing that may disturb me the most, it certainly repulses me the most, about you supposedly ‘civilized people‘ is that you are always unfailingly polite, and extremely well-mannered, and pretentiously and profusely diplomatic. Your high ideals are on constant display for all to hear, and although I rarely see them or detect them in actual action, I must say they get a whole lot of airplay on rebroadcast.

On the other hand the pointless wrongs you people encourage, the self-absorbed misdeeds you recklessly commit, and the evils you so callously allow strike me as rather atrocious. Just. Fucking. Atrocious.”

Suddenly her serving man snorted. Or scoffed. It was difficult to say which but otherwise he remained unmoving and at attention. Steinthal carried on as if he had failed to notice.

“So please excuse me if I decline any further excuse to endure your company. I suddenly feel the need to take a hard, dirty shit. And probably a long shower.

Good night my dear. Good night ladies.

Let’s not do this again, real soon.”

Steinthal placed his untouched whiskey glass back upon the silver serving plate, tapped the phone in his trouser pockets, then turned and walked for the door.

Just before reaching it he turned again and bowed graciously.

“My apologies. That was rude and somewhat misleading. I’ve reconsidered. Let’s not do this again – ever.”

Then he left.

The Detective Steinthal

SHE SWEPT THE LAKE: UP WILL COME

The other night a buddy of mine posted this image to my Facebook page wondering if it would interest me. It did. And so I wrote the following poem to accompany it.

Avantgardens. Willow effigy by Olga Ziemska.

SHE SWEPT THE LAKE

(Up Will Come)

She swept the lake
A conjured doom
She rose in haste
From threaded looms
The twisted vines
Across the stones
Did thrash and twine
As if alone
She wailed her torment –

In effigy

Sprang from the Earth
Yet not redeemed

An omen of an ancient kind
A living curse, a knotted sign

Evoked in vengeance
Shaped by awe
Of blood resent
And rootless gnawed

Some witch has woven
Of her spite
A kindred soul
To seek delight

To haunt and drive
With fearsome rage
Another down
Into her age

For up will come
That from our souls
In weaving wrong
Is all foretold

And birthing it will
Monsters mold
Of longing hot
And hatreds cold…

WHY WOULD HE?

WHY WOULD HE?

“I should think the answer would be self-evident, even to you. Why would I wish to have adventures only in my mind when I should have them with my body and soul as well? In his own mind a man is always but an unchallenged and untested king upon an imaginary golden throne of plenty. But to thrive in the world about him he must be something far greater, far more cunning, more dangerous, and far more wise – a Wizard of Many Things.”

Alternaeus the Wizard

(from The Wizard and the Wyrdpack)

YEAH, I EAT THAT AS WELL

YEAH, I EAT THAT AS WELL

“I do not simply ‘let things go as they will’ my friend. That is not my way. That has never been my way. Rather, I gnaw at things until they crack and I can reach the marrow. Then I eat that as well.”

Alternaeus the Wizard

from The Wizard and the Wyrdpack

THE SHERIFF AS CHIEFTAIN, AND THE CHIEFTAIN AS SHERIFF

THE SHERIFF AS CHIEFTAIN, AND THE CHIEFTAIN AS SHERIFF

I was studying folklore and legend and myth and history last night when it suddenly occurred to me that a sheriff is really just the hold over from the local ancient (Anglo-Saxon) Chieftain. Except modern sheriffs tend to be elected (and are therefore popular chieftains again, in most cases) rather than appointed, as in later Medieval times.

Don’t know why it had never occurred to me to think of sheriffs as chieftains before, especially given the etymology of the word, which I knew, shire-reeve, but it didn’t. Not at least in the truly ancient sense of chieftain, not as a king-thane but as independent local Chieftain, who must approve of and support the king for the king to reign. That is, my idea of sheriff was sort of stuck in the Christian era/Medieval concept of sheriff as king-thane (kingsman) and had not truly stretched back to “ancient chieftain,” as both law-keeper and judge, and local ruler, or chief (high man).

Why do I mention this? A few reasons. This made me think of the recent (that’s right, believe it or not this was only a few weeks back in time) dispute between sheriff’s all across the country and the Obama administration. Of how the sheriff’s were moving more and more and once again to the idea of being “local law chieftains” rather than merely king’s men or king’s servants. Except in many big cities, of course, where you are far more likely to have sycophantic court men (king’s men) called police chiefs anyway. (Not independent Chieftains, but king’s chiefs, or king’s-law chiefs.)

Secondly, and far more importantly regarding my own ideas, I have been wondering how to work in to my own fantasy novels a truly powerful underground movement of sheriff’s (not the modern idea of a sheriff, but the far more ancient one) who both oppose the government and take it upon themselves to act as a front line militia and frontier’s force against border invaders and skirmishers – as a prelude to a far more extensive and permanent invasion by enemy forces. These sheriffs (they won’t be called sheriffs, but the idea will be the same) will operate both in defiance of the appointed local, state, and kingdom governments and in a manner of real desperation because they know exactly what is coming but can’t convince the urbanites and city-dwelling governments what truly approaches. Therefore they must operate much as the Rangers did in Tolkien’s work (who if you ask me were a sort of militia sheriff/guerrilla force who operated with the knowledge of and supposed sanction of the government but often against government wishes) to try and lessen or perhaps redirect invasion routes but are desperate for full support which they are mocked for by the urbanites/governments (and real governments are always truly urbanite undertakings as rural areas don’t need governments they only need assemblies, sheriff’s, and citizen militias) that scoff at their concerns.

Third, I have for a very long time been working into my fantasy novels the idea of a Lone or Wandering (Circuit) Sheriff, a guy who takes it upon himself to wander about areas of the frontier to conduct spying missions and ambushes against enemy forces and enemy skirmishers and criminals and to keep the local peace. This guy is entirely self-appointed and a vigilante (not in the modern sense of the term but in the ancient, Roman Vigilant-sense) and is a combination of the ancient sheriff idea described above, a spy, a frontiersman survivalist, a scout, and a peace-keeper. Much as the Regulators here in SC were in the pre-Revolutionary War days.

Many people consider this man a hero, others an outright thug or at least a dangerous nuisance (especially city dwellers and those in government). He will be both one of the heroes and the anti-heroes of my novel(s). But more and more I am now moving away from the idea of him being a wandering “sheriff,” and more and more he is becoming in my mind a sort of intentionally self-appointed and self-exiled frontiers Chieftain and Vigilant. Along the lines of the true Vigilants of my novel (in the Byzantine empire) but on a far more local and personal scale. For these Vigilant Chieftains (and I need to invent a name for them) are entirely self-appointed independent operators who will work with no one else.

They often warn of and pass along what they learn and discover to those in authority or those who can make best use of their Intel but they refuse to submit to any authority or methods but their own. They are in many ways the very most true of all the “Chieftains.” Though they have no clan and no tribe and no one to lead but themselves. They are “all-duty” and “complete loners” on the frontiers.

TRUE TO DETAIL BUT OPEN IN SCOPE

I agree, generally speaking. Although the very best historical fiction (and I read a lot of historical fiction, it is one of my favorite genres to consume) is both highly accurate on the specific details (historical dialogue, terminology, true events, etc.) and extremely interesting on those many things and characters beyond the actual historical circumstances.

That is to say that to me the very best historical fiction is highly accurate regarding the actual history but subtly and expansively literate and fictional regarding those events and situations and characters that occur beyond the scope of, or outside the true nature of recorded history.

It is accurate as to real history but speculative as to those things that occur beyond the scope of recorded history.

It is like a microscope to actual history but more like a radio telescope as to those things that exist beyond visual range.

February 20, 2017

ASK THE AGENT: DOES A NOVEL HAVE TO BE HISTORICALLY ACCURATE?

by

Someone wrote to ask, “What is the author’s responsibility to the facts when writing a historical novel?”She noted she was writing about historical events, but wanted to know if she could change them. In a related note, someone else asked, “What is the ethical line between historical fiction and history?”
As I’ve said on previous occasions, I don’t think there is a line connecting fiction and history. Really. A novelist who is creating a story and weaving in actual people and events probably owes some debt to the reader to try and get the basic historical facts correct, I suppose (though even that is a questionable supposition, and many authors have altered facts and dates in order to tell a better story), but a novel isn’t a textbook. It doesn’t have a restriction that “you must have all your facts correct” or “you must accept the commonly held notions about a character’s motivations.” The author is inventing a story to entertain, or to explore themes and motivations, not to teach history.

So, while I wouldn’t create a story in which the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor on July 11, I see nothing wrong with an author creating a story depicting an interesting twist — that Roosevelt knew about the attack ahead of time, or that the attack was a rogue group of Japanese military, or that it was all a mistake done by aliens who were looking for Hawaiian shirts and a great recipe for mai tai’s.

It’s a novel. You can choose to tie events closely to historical facts, or you can choose to recreate history as you see fit in order to entertain readers. Have a look at the Quentin Tarantino movie Inglourious Basterds — in which the patrol sent to kill Nazis take out Adolph Hitler and the entire leadership of the Nazi party in a fire they set in a movie theater. (Um, for those who didn’t pay attention in history class, it didn’t happen exactly that way.) And… so what? It’s a story, for entertainment purposes rather than for education. Tarantino could have had Hitler taken up into a UFO with Elvis and the Loch Ness Monster, for all I care.

I once had an author write a novel is which Sir Thomas More (the Man for All Seasons) was not the heroic man of integrity he’s been made out to be, but instead was depicted as a violent, ultra-Catholic despot who liked to bed teenage girls and seemed to get a kick out of hurting people. (Um… just so you know, there’s historical evidence for all of that. It may not jibe with the most common depiction of him, but it’s certainly there if you care to research it.) Some people, including the editor assigned to the manuscript, were pretty upset with that particular depiction of More. The editor claimed it was defaming a saint, and she couldn’t be part of that. Um… fortunately, the publisher stepped in and reminded her that this is a novel, and if the author wanted to she could turn Sir Thomas More into a bloodsucking vampire from the planet Koldar if she wanted to. You see, fiction writers want to get the basic facts correct, but part of the fun of fiction is that you’re creating a new story world.

So with fiction, it’s the story that counts, not the accuracy of the events. Again, it’s nice to get some of the basic time and date stuff correct, but if we all knew the deeds and motivations of historical events there would be no need to explore them further. A novel allows us to consider alternative interpretations — that Richard III was actually a good guy, or that Robin Hood was a self-absorbed twit, or that Robert E. Lee was not the military genius he’s been made out to be. All of those ideas have been played out in bestselling novels, and they all helped push forward some interesting dialogue while entertaining readers. Sometimes the ideas pitched in the novel are daft (Oliver Stone’s movie JFK was filled with tripe and innuendo), other times the ideas can be reasonable (take a look at Josephine Tey’s fabulous The Daughter of Time). But what your readers care about most is that the story is interesting, emotional, and readable. Not that it’s correct in every detail.

Do you agree? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. 

 

THE STAKES

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“The biggest risk is not taking any risk.”

It’s a quote you may have heard before, and likely it resonates with you because you know that sometimes the greatest adventures lie just beyond the choice of risk.

This is true in life and it is also true for characters in fiction.

Without some measure of risk, a character cannot experience true growth. Without growth, there’s no adventure. And without adventure, there’s no story.

If you’re a writer and you feel like your story is just not escalating or growing your character, then follow the advice below. Excerpted from my latest release, Troubleshooting Your Novel, here are a few thoughts on raising the stakes for your character:

You’re playing a game of cards, and the stakes keep getting higher.

Are you all in or not?

The most intriguing and compelling characters aren’t the ones who play it safe and hedge their bets, but the ones who gamble more than they can afford to lose. A person who never risks will never know the sting of loss. Some people might say he’s better off because of that.

Your readers would not.

Let your character take risks—and sometimes, let him get burned.

The stakes are simply who gets hurt, in what way, and how deeply if the protagonist fails to accomplish his goal. Always consider the consequences: what disaster will befall him in this scene if he fails in his pursuit?

If nothing vital is at stake, why would it ultimately matter if he loses?

And here’s the key: The stakes need to be high enough for readers to care, but also believable enough for them to buy into what’s happening.

Because of the narrative force of escalation, you’ll continue to raise the stakes as the story progresses—not necessarily in terms of how many people are affected, but by how deeply the failure or loss impacts the main character.

So, while it would certainly raise the stakes to plant a bomb in the middle of a stadium filled with fifty thousand fans, it’s not necessary to put that many people in danger. Depending on the story, that type of scenario might come across as completely unbelievable. But putting the life of the one person he loves on the line would make it personal and it might be all you need.

The higher you raise the stakes, the more you strain credulity. This is one reason thrillers are often longer books—they have incredibly high stakes, so the writer needs to take the time to set up a world in which those stakes are not just believable, but inevitable.

What’s at stake in your story? Justice? A relationship? Someone’s sanity or well-being?

Life itself can be at stake, the future of the planet can be at stake, and so can the destiny of the entire universe. (I’m not sure you can raise the stakes much higher than that. But if you can make it believable, go for it.)

Think in terms of “or else” and “if … then.” For example, “We have to accomplish this or else [the terrible consequences will come to pass].” Or, “If we don’t accomplish this, then [the terrible consequences will come to pass).”

The security or well-being of any aspect of the character’s existence can be at stake. Ask, “What part of her would die (in a literal or a symbolic sense) if she fails?”

Defining the stakes will also likely help you define your premise, which is usually a combination of stakes plus dilemma. (However, don’t think that you need to do this before you start writing your story. Often, the premise will only become clear to you as your story develops.)

The more specific the tasks, timing, and consequences, the sharper the story will be.

—Steven James

NOT MUCH A’NOTHING FOR NOBODY

Yeah, indeed, I agree with much of this.

My overall advice though is this. (And it has always been this.)

Live an extremely active life which includes plenty of getting out in the real world, socializing with real people, and physical exertion. Get out in the sunshine – hike, chop down trees, box, lift weights, haul stuff, work the land, observe, discover, record, take note. I always do my best work, both physical and creative (writing stories, poems, songs, inventing, making scientific discoveries, etc.) while busy at other things or engaged in physical activity.

Then I memorize those things in my head (excellent and stimulating mnemonic practice) to write down or record later. I prefer to write absolutely alone and undisturbed, sure, but I best initially compose, create, and work out of doors, among nature, animals, and God’s great creation (the very best source and inspiration for sub-creation), while at physical labor, or among other people at fascinating and fun enterprises.

That entirely alleviates “loneliness” and “isolation,” keeps you physically, mentally, psychologically, and spiritually fit and happy (and I am immensely happy), and makes your work far more fun and meaningful. It will also likely keep your socially fit.

I for one cannot imagine any attempt at “isolated or inactive (passive, static, sedentary) creativity.”

That, to me, would be entirely self-defeating and the thought of that kind of “creative practice” both revolts and repulses me. (It’s not so great for your Word Hoard or your knowledge base or business reputation either.)

Also, get out into the Real World and do something worthwhile and really important. And keep doing those things for your whole life. Then you’ll have something decent and interesting to actually write about.

Writing, you see, ain’t really a singular profession about a set of mental obsessions. It is a peculiar expression of why life should be approached obsessively, and professionally.

Live only in your own head and that’s not only the only thing you’ll have for yourself, it’s the only thing you can give to others. And that ain’t much of nothing for nobody…

 

The Isolated Writer

In general, writers do not do their best work in a group. The very nature of creative writing is a solitary pursuit, but without taking great care, can morph into a feeling of isolation. And this can occur whether an author lives in a quiet rural town or in midtown Manhattan. (The one in New York, not Kansas)So, how does an author, feeling isolated and alone stay motivated? How do they develop and maintain a marketing platform on their own? How do they maintain their creative edge when most of their time is spent in relative solitary confinement?First and foremost, they need to continually hone their skills. This agency has many resources available on our website and Steve Laube heads the Christian Writers Institute, providing anyone with mentoring through classes offered and great information.  www.ChristianWritersInstitute.com

But how do you overcome the feelings of isolation and loneliness which afflict so many authors? When you need someone to hold up your arms, what do you do?

Left unaddressed, isolation can lead to discouragement, creative-paralysis, and a myriad of other bad things threatening to stop writers of all experience levels in their tracks.

I am going to suggest a course of action counter to what you might think.  To “zig” when you expected to “zag.”

Please bear with me as I tell a short story.

Over thirty years ago I attended a people management seminar. It was a broad ranging presentation over several days with some excellent teachers. About a hundred people were in this particular group.

Breakout groups were for new managers, refresher skills for experienced managers, those at government offices, non-profits, public corporations, etc.  I still recall some of the presentation material today as very helpful.

I clearly remember one session on developing employee worth and self-esteem. The presenter’s approach emphasized the need for a manager to first have a high level of self-worth and personal confidence and once they had a “full reservoir” of each, distribute them to their staff.

It made sense.

But as we learned how to develop a high level of self-worth, I recall thinking their approach was different than my Christian faith would have directed. It pointed to somewhat “artificial” means to puff up one’s self rather than anything of depth.

After all, repeating “I am good, I am great, I am wonderful” only goes so far.

In a breakout session, we went around the table giving our impressions of the material and I mentioned the concept of giving and receiving (never mentioning the Bible or Jesus).

You want to feel appreciated? Show appreciation. You want to feel loved? Love someone.

I suggested if a manager wanted to increase their own sense of worth, they should focus first on improving the worth of others.

The stunned silence around the table combined with the apparent appearance of antlers growing from my head (based on the looks I received) proved I was suggesting a foreign concept.

Of course, as believers we do give from our abundance as God has lavished his grace on us, allowing us all to give others grace from his overflowing supply. But I felt this level of theological discussion was too much for this particular business seminar!

So I just kept it simple at the “Give much, receive much” level, which was confusing to anyone committed to a “Get first, give a little” strategy.

Let’s consider author isolation in a similar counter-intuitive manner:

  • If you need encouragement, encourage another writer. Read the books of people you have met at conferences and correspond with them.
  • If you need mentoring, start by mentoring young writers (middle school students are a good start). You don’t need an MFA to mentor a twelve year old in creativity. Teaching is the best form of learning.
  • Register and attend a writer’s conference with the specific purpose of seeking out an isolated, discouraged writer (even if you are one) and offer to be their accountability/encouragement partner. (As opposed to going to a conference looking for someone to do this for you.)
  • Help another writer establish their author-marketing platform.
  • Help shape someone else’s work.
  • Start a writer’s group and devote yourself to others’ growth.
  • Start a creative writing group at your public library.
  • Start a writing group in your church.
  • Connect with homeschooler groups to discuss creative writing.
  • Recommend other authors’ books to your friends.

When you spend time helping someone else, your own writing,
creativity, sense of purpose and value improve exponentially.

The more you focus solely on yourself, the less you will grow.

So how do you overcome the dreaded Isolated Author Syndrome?

Help someone else defeat it.

 

SOME ADVICE

February 13, 2017

ASK THE AGENT: DO I NEED AN AGENT IF I ALREADY HAVE A BOOK OFFER?

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Someone wrote to say, “I’ve been offered a contract on my novel. Since I don’t have an agent, should I seek one at this point? And if the agent accepts, should he or she still receive 15% of the deal, even if they didn’t market my book or secure the deal for me? Would it be better to have the agent simply review the contract for a fee?”

There’s quite a debate about this issue. I suppose many agents would say, “Sure — call me!” They’d be happy to get 15% for a deal they’ve done no work on. But my advice would be to think long term. Is there an agent you like and trust — someone you want to work with in the long term? If so, call him or her. Talk about the situation. Explain that you’ve already got a deal. The agent may be willing to take less in order to work with you. They may review the contract for a fee. They may have some insight into your situation. But don’t sign with someone just because you think you need an agent and someone is willing to say yes. If, for example, you’ve got a $10,000 advance coming, make sure it’s worth the $1500 to have the agent assist with this contract. Sure, it may be worth it — if you’ve got a complex situation, or a novel that is going to be made into a movie, or a potential bestseller… those probably call for a good agent to get involved.

That said, it doesn’t really seem fair to me to take the full comission for a book I didn’t sell, though not everyone in the industry agrees with me. You can always talk with a contract-review specialist, who will review your contract for a flat fee (usually somewhere in the $500-to-$1000 range). You can also talk with an intellectual property rights attorney, but be careful — they’re generally paid by the six-minute increment, and their goal is often to keep the clock moving. The longer it takes them, the more they are paid, so don’t agree to this without some sort of ceiling on the cost. And make sure you’re talking with a lawyer who knows publishing contracts, not someone who is used to doing real estate contracts or Grandma’s will. (I know of at least one author who paid more to have a top-flight entertainment lawyer review the contract than they were paid in advance dollars.) Generally speaking, your family lawyer won’t have enough experience to really help you with a publishing contract. Again, I’ve noticed a pattern among some agents to claim they can help you if you already have an offer on the table. That may be true, but check them out… you may not need an agent on this deal, but perhaps could use some help on the next one. Still, congratulations on getting the book deal, by the way.

Another writer asked, “Should I worry about a literary agent who turned me down, but suggested I work with his editorial service?”

Absolutely you should worry. Here’s how this commonly works — you send a manuscript to an agent, who says, “I really like this, but it’s not ready. However, we have an editorial service here who can help you. For just $1500, they’ll get this proposal ready for us to represent…” The agent sends you to his editor friend, then pockets half of that “editorial fee,” so he or she is making money off the author. That’s a total violation of ethics for literary agents (and I’d argue the reason we’re seeing some agents do this is because we’ve had a group of people jump into agenting who don’t really know what they’re doing). The Association of Author Representatives has a clear canon of ethics printed on their web page which precludes an agent from doing this very thing. It’s ripe with potential for abuse. It’s why I keep a list of editors I trust close at hand, to recommend to writers who need help, but I don’t have any editors on staff, don’t try and sell authors editorial services, and don’t get any sort of kickback if I do recommend someone. My advice: If an agent tries to cross-sell you some other literary service that charges you a fee, stand up and walk away. You can find a better agent. The same thing goes for an agent who tries to sell you their marketing assistance. There are too many scam agents who are basically trying to sell editorial or marketing services for a fee, rather than trying to help you place your book.

And another author had this situation: “I signed with an agent, but wasn’t happy. I fired that agent, and moved on to another. But now my first agent is claiming that anything I ever talked with her about is her responsibility! She claims that if I ever get a publishing deal for the projects she represented, she is to be paid the agent’s commission. Is that legal?”

This is an issue I just can’t fathom. I understand getting paid if I’ve done the legwork — let’s say that I’ve worked with an author to develop a project, showed it to publishers, and started to get some interest. If the author hears about it, fires me, then approaches the same publishers to try and get the deal and save themselves the 15% commission, I should still get paid. I state in my agency agreement that if I’m working with a publisher on your behalf, I’ll still get paid even if you fire me and do a deal with them within a year.

But I’ve seen this a few times lately — an agent claiming that if you EVER sell the book they represented, they’ll still get paid. To me, that sounds like a scam. I’m not a lawyer, so I cannot give legal advice, but I would think this would be awfully tough to have stand up in court. My advice: read any agreement carefully before you sign it. If the agent has a clause that’s incredibly restrictive like this, ask to have it altered.

Okay, I’m just working through a bunch of the questions people have sent me. What have you always wanted to ask an agent?

PROS AND CONS

Should I Join a Professional Organization?

Thinking about joining a professional organization? This post is geared to the writer who has decided what type of books to write and wonders if memberships would enhance the proposal. Those who are undecided would be better served by attending a few conferences as a nonmember to discern career direction.

When investigating professional organizations, I recommend asking yourself questions:

Can I afford to join? Some organizations keep dues reasonable. Others are pricey. Dues often increase. If the math doesn’t work for you, don’t join, at least not at this time in your career.

Do I have time to participate? If you are already overburdened with work and family life, unless you can reorganize your calendar or drop other activities, now is not the time to join.

What conference opportunities does the organization offer? If you join an organization that offers, say, a conference in Hawaii every year and you will always feel uncomfortable with the expense and time needed, this might not be the right organization for you. But if they offer convenient local chapters where you can participate, then this organization offers promise.

Will I meet the right editors and agents through this organization? Visit the organization’s web site. Most will have either the past year’s or current conference plans posted. Do the editors, agents, and mentors specialize in or are they knowledgeable about the books you want to write? Look until you find a conference with the professionals who will be the most helpful for you to meet.

Does the organization cater to my career plans? Look for organizations with a mission to grow the writer you are or wish to be.

Will agents and editors be impressed by memberships? I take memberships into consideration but I never accept or decline based on memberships. What the membership tells me is that this author has connections, or at least the ability to be in contact with other authors writing similar books. These relationships are helpful on both a personal and professional level for the author. Membership also says that the author has taken steps to shore up a career and didn’t just write a book on the fly and hope for the best.

Can memberships hurt my career? Years ago, I received a submission listing so many organizations’ acronyms that if the author had been an active member in each, she’d have no time to write a grocery list, much less a book. I asked for elaboration, but never received any.

Please be focused and thoughtful before joining any organization. And remember, the membership is for your personal and professional growth. Enjoy!

Your turn:

Are you a member of any professional organizations?

What is the biggest benefit you see from joining professional organizations?

What professional organizations would you recommend?