HOW MEDIEVAL THEURGY WENT COMPLETELY WRONG AND HOW I INTEND TO CURE THAT

HOW MEDIEVAL THEURGY WENT COMPLETELY WRONG AND HOW I INTEND TO CURE THAT

Recently I have been reading The Sacred Magic of Abra Melin the Mage, one of the seminal texts on Theurgy and magic from the Medieval Ages. I have a personal library of many of these texts and this book is one of my favorites.

However it also highlights one (or even some) of the great failings of Medieval Theurgy and related forms of “magic.” And as many of you know I have a very different definition of magic than is the popular conception. Which I won’t detail here as it is described in my other writings on the subject and in the books I intend to publish on the matter.

But to return to the question at hand: The failure(s) inherent in Medieval Magic.

Before I describe that however (or one of the two most glaring ones) I must say what Medieval Theurgy actually got right.

First that all “magic” is really theologically and supernaturally based (and this has been the case and the basic conception of Magic throughout human history, up until very recently, Magic is not the result of a parallel force or inanimate source of “magical” energy running parallel to the natural sciences), secondly that natural sciences used to be a part of magic (until it split away and became its own discipline and concern), and thirdly that Theurgy should concern itself primarily with understanding both the world (as it actually exists) and how God created the world to exist in that way, and why. The Fourth conception, the one I will mainly address, that there are Good Beings and evil beings (other than human beings) that exist in the cosmos (regardless of the fact of whether or how often they interact with men) is a point I shall address in a moment.

That is what Medieval Theurgy got right.

Where it went off course, and in this case badly so, is in a related idea but a wholly different sort of practice.

Medieval Theurgy was big on the invocation and summoning of Angels and benevolent spirits, a development hearkening back to ancient times and one I think that was primarily positive. However it was also big on the summoning and invocation of demons and harmful and malignant spirits.

Here are my basic problems with that suspect concept. The summoning of Good Spirits and Angels (those who remained faithful to God, to God’s morality, or were in direct contact with God) is to me primarily a good thing. Medieval Theurgists summoned angels to converse with, to seek advice from, to have transmitted to them God’s Will, to have prophecy or scripture explained to them, to seek to understand the physical universe and creation, to have various phenomena explained to them, to have dreams and visions interpreted, to receive moral guidance, to be healed of injury and illness, to be protected from evil or disaster, etc. All of the things commonly associated with angelic beings in Scripture.

All of this I applaud and think very positive. I wish more people tried this kind of thing nowadays.

Two important side-notes however: I think Medieval Theurgists erred in thinking that simply by employing certain techniques or rituals that they would be able to automatically invoke, evoke, or summon angels (or any other kind of being) and have them respond almost mechanically to such a summons. That is a very juvenile and even idiotic assumption in my opinion. First of angels, like any other creature or being, has a free will. This is obvious and self-evident or none of them would have ever rebelled against God. And secondly if a Theurgist sought advice or action contrary to the Will of God (which I think is very flexible by the way) or malignant in some way then no angel is required to respond in any way.

The second side-note I would make is that God, being the Prime Source of All Things, including Being itself (not to mention angels and creatures), well, God should always be your first point of contact. That just seems self-evident to me – always first seek the Prime Source, not any secondary or tertiary force. And if you can communicate with and/or more importantly understand the Prime Source (which will not always be the case) then stick with that, and if not, then seek other assistance.

And to a Christian the Holy Spirit should always be your first “Being of Consultation, Explanation, and Guidance.” Angels are almost superfluous as a result of this condition and this Being, except as Allies, if direct communication with God and direct Guidance by the Holy Spirit is possible. However I am also well aware of the fact that there are times when it is very difficult to properly discern the will or intent of God, and it seems as if the Guidance of the Holy Spirit in uncertain or confused (if only in our own personal reception or interpretations of what is trying to be communicated to us). So one should always seek Theurgic Communication first with God, and then only if confused, lost, or uncertain, with Godly allies or assistants. Though I also think angels make extremely good allies and will do their very best to truthfully explain and expound upon God’s Will and Nature as they understand it, though no-one fully understands the full Will of God but God Himself.

But all of that being said, and with the caveats explained above, I am in no way hostile to communication with and alliance with angelic and good spirits. Just don’t expect them to be automatons or servile in any fashion or just waiting around to serve you like a paid employee or worse, like a slave. They have an existence independent of you just as your human friends and allies do. They are obligated to you and in service to you in the same way your human friends and allies are, meaning, of course, it is a two-way street of mutual respect and benefit.

But where the Medieval Theurgist really went off track is with the practice of invoking, evoking, and summoning of demons and malignant spirits.

Let me explain the basic idea and concept involved in this odd practice. The ancients (in the West anyway) had an idea of spirits that revolved around the Greek term daemon, which basically meant “spirit.” Now a dameon could be either good or bad, and often was both. Though some tended to be mostly benign and some tended to be mostly malignant. But all were capable of both aspects of behavior, just as one might think of a human being or human companion. In other words a daemon was just like a pagan god (only less powerful for the most part) and open to capriciousness and emotionalism (it was not driven by a Universal or Inherent system of logic and morality, as our concept of God, but only by temporal circumstance or relativistic morality) just as the ancient pagan gods were.

By the Middle Ages, especially with the advent and ascendancy of Christianity and Judaism (and the Triumph of a Monotheistic God who is bound by his own sense of Morality and Virtue) that notion had become split into the idea of angel (being Good Spirits) and demons (being bad or evil or malignant spirits) and of a whole race of beings directly tied to Virtue and another whole race of beings decidedly and intentionally tied to vice. There were also other and more complicated notions involved such as Spirits that were a specific aspect of God’s Nature or of specific Godly Virtues but let’s leave that aside, as it is not germane to the current discussion.

(As a personal sidenote I should also say that I am of the opinion that there are sprits that are open to both good and ill, as are human beings, and that there are specific classes or races of Beings who are definitely and definitively good, such as Angels – a parallel case among men being Saints – and races and classes of beings dedicated to evil for their own reasons, such as is the case with some men – serial killers, habitual violent criminals, tyrants, warlords, terrorists, and so forth.)

In any case the general Medieval idea was that it was acceptable to invoke, evoke, and summon demons or malignant spirits as long as they were carefully controlled, and that the techniques used to control these beings or entities were the same techniques employed by angels and God to control them. That’s a very nice sounding theory, in theory.

My problem with that theory though is threefold. First of all demons and malignant spirits are obviously possessed of their own free will. Or they would not have and could not have revolted or rebelled against God. Secondly even if they could be controlled by some technique or in some fashion then there is no reason to not suspect that at the very least such a spirit would surely attempt sabotage of the aims of the summoner, or would most certainly attempt deception and misdirection in the execution of any “orders or commands” given it by such a summoner. Third I do not believe it is any more possible to gain summoning (or actionable) control over a demon than it would be to gain summoning control over an angel. Each kind of being has an existence beyond us and is not in any way open to manipulation or control unless they voluntarily decide to grant such a thing to another. It seems far more likely and far more logical to conclude that a demon would seek to gain control over another (forced or pact-ful or agreed upon possession) than to voluntarily grant control to another over itself. It is simply illogical to conclude that malignancy exists to allow itself to be enslaved for the purposes of third-party control.

(By the way one of the true differences between the Medieval Magician, Wizard, or Theurgist, and the Medieval Sorcerer or Warlock – and to a certain degree the Medieval Witch – was on this very point. The Theurgist or Magician believed that demons were bad but could be controlled and forced to “do good” through the agency and techniques of the summoner. The magician or Theurgist made “no pact or agreement” – other than demands and commands – with the demon but rather sought control or enslavement of the same.

The Sorcerer or Warlock, on the other hand, did seek to make pacts with such beings in exchange for personal power, wealth, or desire fulfilment. The Medieval Magician believed in alliance with angels but control of demons, the sorcerer or warlock in alliance or pacts with demons – for personal gain – and often in order to harm enemies or to exercise his own personal malignancies or evils, and in opposition to the commandments of God. It is a real and distinct difference, of course, but in all practicality it seems an extremely subtle, and pragmatically speaking, a superficial one. Yes, personally I also would like to be able to control evil and force it to do good. Merely because I so will it. But is that, in itself, not also a form of evil and enslavement, and far more to the point, could I really trust in the results or validity of such an enslavement? Even if I could “successfully” enslave evil, if it were truly evil, could I ever then entrust it? I am extremely doubtful I could. I suspect that this may be one reason God does not seek to enslave evil either. It’s just speculation on my part, but it seems reasonable to me. God could never trust enslaved evil. And neither can I. Though I would see it destroyed.)

Which brings me to my last point in this matter. Whereas I do believe that God can control anything if he so wishes, and that no demon is really a match (on a one to one basis) for most angels or for a Saint or even most truly determined good men (that is to say demons are limited in their power and scope and do not possess the ability to control angels or even men unless this is done willingly or in fear or ignorance on the part of the man) this is not to say that demons are powerless or helpless or under the subjugated control of others. That is to say that God confines the abilities possessed by a demon but he does not enslave demons (force them under his control, rather they fear him if he is provoked and can exercise no natural power over him) or he would have enslaved them already and long ago. If God was in the enslavement business (and he is certainly not, even if that seems illogical towards evil) then he would have reduced demons to mere robotic automata long ago and resolved evil in that way. He could, if he so desired, simply enslave or destroy evil and evil beings and creatures, but he does not, he merely confines them in some ways.

That being the case it makes no sense at all to me to have any truck with any being (or creature) that one knows to be habitually and intentionally evil. At the very best you could only exercise an untrustworthy, suspicious, and limited form of semi-confinement against their natural impulse to do wrong, with the likely sabotage of your true objectives to closely follow, and at the worst you would become the unwitting or willful subject of the manipulations and deceptions of such a malignant being.

Why then attempt such a reckless course as communication and truck with demons?

Well, I think for two reasons. First of all many Jewish Theurgical texts, whereas warning about such dangers, had an idea of demons that lay somewhere between the ancient pagan one of daemons (spirits being both good and bad) and the Christian conception of a demon that is wholly malignant. That is the Jewish Theurgists and magicians and Qabalists and even rabbis understood that demons are malignant (and warned of this fact often) but still felt they could be controlled with the proper techniques or knowledge. And perhaps they are, to a very few, but I have no interest or desire to test this presupposition for myself. I am too naturally suspicious and repelled by the aims of evil. So whereas I do not fear demons or malignant spirits I also have no interest in them and would rather avoid them or if necessary simply cast them away, banish, or exorcise them.

Many Christian Theurgists though, many, but not all, (some were influenced by the Jewish Theurgists and others – and by the way not all Jewish Theurgists thought it wise to consort with demonic forces or beings either) said simply that you should avoid them, abjure them, or eschew and cast them away as a source of power or trustworthy information.

(Or, as Isaac Asimov once wrote in a science fiction story I read as a kid – when the Devil came to his story character to bargain for his soul in exchange for power and long life and what the man most desired, that character replied,

“Why should I bargain with you for long life and success and power and my desires? I shall have all of those things anyway due to my own efforts and with the assistance of God. It will take long but I will owe you nothing in exchange and there will be no real cost to me other than that of patience.”

Indeed. My thoughts exactly. I am paraphrasing the reply of course; I don’t have that old story in front of me. But that was the gist of the response.)

In any case these types of theurgists (those who thought you could control demons or malignant spirits) wanted to control such beings as essentially “forced or enslaved labor.” To do Work. To execute commands and to grant favors. To accumulate wealth or power for the Theurgist. Now even if you wish to do this and your motives and aims are entirely good and beneficial you still face the very daunting and real problems I outlined above.

But even the Medieval Theurgists knew that you could not force an Angel to “do your bidding,” no matter how beneficial your bidding might be. At best you could only request the assistance of an angel (which is fine by me, I cannot force another human being to assist me either, and I cannot force God to act on my behalf, only request such assistance, but that is fully acceptable to me as a fact of life) but you could not “enforce servitude.” But many Medieval Theurgists did believe you could force or enslave a malignant spirit to do as you wished.

Or put more simply, angels and other such allies were for Information (guidance, discernment, and Wisdom), but malignant spirits could be employed for Action (forced or enslaved labor against which they would be powerless to resist).

I think that is a mistake in both cases. You cannot really force demons to “do your bidding” (be it for good or ill – without facing the difficulties described above)) and it is a mistake to think of angels as “Intel only” and not as agents of Action, though the assistance would be voluntarily granted, not given by command.

Nevertheless there were Medieval Theurgists who thought you could control demons and that it was the actions of these enslaved spirits who accounted for the Actions or achievements (or “workings”) of Theurgy.

I think those two propositions and ideas to be entirely in error and wholly wrong in conceptualization.

I think rather that the true motive force or the actions of Theurgy are not achieved by enslaved spirits, but rather by the manipulations of beneficial probability forces (the best possible outcome being caused by the best possible set of operational principles functioning at optimal capacities in each circumstance) within the field of all quantum possibilities. I also think that God and angels willingly assist in these efforts no matter how they are undertaken (by mechanical work, by science, by prayer, by theurgy, by thaumaturgy, etc.), but that these efforts are never willingly undertaken by demons or malignant beings or creatures because evil and malignant beings desire the very opposite outcomes. Not the best possible outcome, but the worst, or the most disastrous or destructive, or at the very least a decided corruption of the best possibilities.

Therefore my personal practice of Theurgy will involve and has involved seeking the best possible outcome in every circumstance (as an operational principle of Theurgy) and will involve benevolent alliances and contact with beneficial allies and forces and beings and creatures. That is to say that I do believe that there is a parallel force to the Natural (or put another way – the Mechanical) Sciences (of which I am a very big proponent) but not that it is demonically or supernaturally based (though I do have great faith in the supernatural, depending on how you define the term) but rather that it is based upon the operational field of Quantum Mechanics – with the underlying intent being, “the best possible and most beneficial and benevolent outcome in every possible circumstance or set of circumstances”).

On the other hand I will eschew and discourage any contact or involvement with malignant beings or forces as I think of them (with good and logical evidence) as sources of curses, not Blessings, and of failure and harm and malignant probabilities, not Success and Benefit and Benevolent Probabilities.

__________________________________

Being a practicing Christian Theurgist I had intended to write this essay some time ago, but delayed doing so as I wanted to go back and re-read some of the Medieval texts I had read long ago.
Now that I have done so, and now that I have written this essay I think that I may very well adapt it and use it as an introduction to my book The Christian Wizard (or Theurgist or Genius).
Anyway I hope you enjoyed this essay and found it useful.
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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 YARDA-LEL (or SEEMING ROD)

The Yarda-lel is an antique, nearly extinct, left-over artefact from the earlier ages of the Eldeven peoples in my novel series the Kithariune. What the yarda-lel actually is and does is described below. It is based upon the design of a real device I first conceived and invented a long time ago and have attempted on various occasions to build for myself but have never perfected (because of sensing issues). I offer it here in a more perfect and perfected fictional form.

 

THE YARDA-LEL (THE SLEEPING ROD)

Yarda-lel (the “seeming rod,” or sometimes the “sleeping rod”) – an antique rod made of gray and yellow yarda wood which vibrates, heats, and hums when danger approaches. Once a fairly typical item used along the frontier among militia and frontier guardsmen (it was not uncommon for every unit or sufficient size to possess a yarda-lel, or “seeming rod”) which was typically carried by and slept with by the commander of the unit, although sometimes it was also used by the sentry on guard at any particular time. For the yarda-lel was also said to be capable of other functions now lost to time and memory. The ancient Sidhel, for example, were said to employ their yarda-lel not simply as “seeming rods” but also as encoded legates and as artefacts to secretly transmit encrypted messages. It was also not uncommon for wealthy or powerful persons who encamped along the frontier or who settled there for long periods of time to possess their own yarda-lel. Some scouts and infiltrators also carried yarda-lel, especially if they operated for long periods of time along and across the frontiers or behind enemy lines.

It was common to place the yarda-lel either under one’s head or to wrap it across one’s waist or chest or to wrap one’s legs around it as one slept in a dangerous or hostile environment. It is said the hum was transmitted through the bones of he who used the rod rather than being heard by the ear. Some legends persist that the yarda-lel could even interrupt and awaken one from dreams and very deep sleep. Possibly even a drugged slumber.

In time, as the frontier was tamed and fewer and fewer overt threats faced the Eldeven folk the crafting and use of the yarda-lel faded. It is said that few, if any, now remember even how to make such a rod.

However antique examples of yarda-lel, even functional ones, still exist as old heirlooms.

Note on translation: the Eldevens, and the Sidhelic peoples in particular, used the term “seeming” in a way that we no longer do, and in a way not known to men. The precise definition of the yarda-lel is the “rod of yarda wood,” but the underlying connotation is that the rod is both seemly and seeming. Seemly in the sense of being proper and of functioning properly (not to be doubted, but rather to be investigated), and seeming in the sense of both appearing to see through deceptions or to anticipate danger, and seeming as in appearing to be one thing (a simple rod of yarda wood) and actually being many things or many hidden things. A transported or polymorphic sort of seeming. They also meant seeming as in the sense of seeming (for a period of time) to give to another those properties they do not by nature possess.

More rarely yarda-lel could actually be translated as sleeping rod or even dream-seeming rod.

THE CHANGES WITHOUT AND THE CHANGES WITHIN

How Self-Publishing Has Changed Authors

As a literary agent, not a day goes by when I don’t encounter the changes in thinking from authors caused by the expansion and availability of self-publishing.

It’s understandable, because there are over twice as many books self-published every year in the United States than are published by traditional publishers.

Traditional and self-publishing generate over one million new books every year in the U.S. alone according to RR Bowker.  Two-thirds are self-published.

According to the United Nations cultural arm UNESCO, well over two million new books are published annually by traditional publishers worldwide.

The Federation of European Publishers reports on the status of book publishing across the continent. They show revenues and traditional publisher title output are generally flat over the last five years, but the number of titles available in print has grown from 8.5 million in 2011 to 22 million in 2015. Digital printing and self-publishing bring more titles to market and keep more in print longer.

However, those 22 million titles generated slightly less revenue in 2015 than the 8.5 million titles did in 2011. Not revenue per title, but total industry revenue.

No wonder book publishing is a challenge for everyone.

Self-publishing has become ubiquitous and is here to stay, but has also created the impression traditional publishing has changed far more dramatically than it actually has.

If you are self-publishing and desire someday to be published by a traditional publisher, you need to change your thinking depending on your intention.

And learn a new language.

How has self-publishing altered the thinking and professional language of authors?  There are five primary areas (and probably more if I think about it).

  • Control – traditional publishing has always been more of a collegial collaboration between publisher and author. Give and take. Negotiation. Honestly, some authors simply should never be traditionally published because of this. They view control as a non-negotiable and will not relinquish it.
  • Timing – You get an idea, write it and publish it as a self-published author. When I tell an author it will take 15-18 months or longer to get a book published traditionally, the stunned silence says it all.
  • Quality of Manuscript – there is no such thing as a finished manuscript. Even if it is edited by three Nobel laureates and chiseled on stone tablets, the manuscript isn’t finished until the publisher says it is. And now you know why some authors self-publish!
  • Length of Manuscript – There is an optimum length of a traditionally published commercial product based on the type of book. Self-published authors write the length they want. A 6,000-word memoir is a thirty-two page free pamphlet, not a commercial book. A 375,000-word novel is generally not commercially viable as a 1,200-page book selling for fifty dollars. If an author cannot tell me how many words are in their manuscript, only it is 200 manuscript pages, they have been completely influenced by self-publishing thinking. Self-publishing is by pages because your costs are a function of the number of pages.
  • Cover Design – The dead giveaway you are a self-published author is you have a final cover, approved by friends and family and ready for print. Covers at a traditional publisher involve input from a dozen people or more who develop covers as part of their profession. Leave your cover at home when talking to a traditional publisher.

So, when I get a proposal from an author telling me they have a 275 page, finished manuscript, need it published in less than six months, and the cover is already done, I know I am about to disappoint them significantly with my reply.

Sweeping generalities can be tricky, but compared to most self-publishing models, traditional publishing is still a slow, methodical, careful and deliberate way to publish, involving many moving parts with creative input from a wide variety of professional people accountable for the long-term financial health of the publisher.

So, if you desire to self-publish and also be traditionally published, be very careful about control, timing, manuscript quality, length and cover design to make sure you use appropriate publisher-language. For self-publishing, the author is in control of everything, which some find very comforting.

Then you learn the hard truth of all book publishing, no matter the path you take:

Half of all published books don’t sell particularly well, but you never know which half.

YOUR BOOKS UNIQUE ANGLE

Identify Your Book’s Unique Angle: One Approach

Mary KeeleyBlogger: Mary Keeley

Last Sunday a church friend and I found ourselves in a conversation about the recent presidential election and potential ramifications thereof. They’re hard to avoid lately unless you’re a mole. The service was about to begin and we needed to get to our seats, but the short interlude of sharing diverse vantage points prompted an idea to share with writers who struggle to identify a unique angle for their books. A fresh approach is a must if you want to grab the attention of agents and editors. Unique angle

Here’s why. A unique angle is one of the first things they look for in a proposal. If it isn’t apparent from the beginning, chances are it won’t get read beyond the first two pages. This is especially true for new writers but also for established authors, because there are no entitlements in publishing. Published authors have to maintain the edge if they hope to get the next contract. So treat the search with a positive attitude because the return will be great.

Your special angle is your friend for these important reasons:

  • It makes your story or your nonfiction book stand out from all those other similar books out there. Think like an editor. Why should he publish your book when there are others already available that say essentially the same thing? Or tell a very similar story?
  • It tells you what to include in your book and what to leave out. Knowing your boundaries makes the writing easier.
  • A fresh new approach makes your book more interesting, which in turn will attract more readers.

But finding that new and different angle can be the hardest challenge in the writing process for many writers.

Here is one approach to help you. Begin by recognizing that the most exclusive part of your book is YOU. You are a unique individual with experiences and perceptions as singular as you are. Dig deep to recall people, personal and worldly events, places, and even objects that made a memorable impression on you over the years. No one else will have an identical response to yours. Use them to your advantage. Ask yourself:

  • Why? Be specific.
  • How? In what ways did it affect your future perspectives, likes and dislikes?
  • When? Was the time and place important to the impression it made on you?

Next, think about how you can use your noted particulars to differentiate your book. Perhaps for assigning a quirk to your protagonist that affects her reactions to events in the plot? Can you also use this to add tension and crises in the story? You might be surprised by ideas that pop up about how to skew your Christian living book’s theme. Even a little bit can be enough to produce a unique angle. Or it might take more thought, but at least you have some tools to work with.

Your personal reactions and impressions are unique to you, but you are not alone in them, so don’t hold back because you think you are a strange exception from the majority. Chances are the reader following you’ve been attracting already feels a connection to your personal impressions in subtle ways.

How did you arrive at a unique angle for your WIP? If you are still working on it, what is holding you up? If you have a different method for pinpointing a fresh angle, please share it.

TWEETABLE:

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ON MAGIC, MIRACLE, THE SOUL, AND THE WORKS OF MAN

ON MAGIC, MIRACLE, THE SOUL, AND THE WORKS OF MAN

I have now either written, created, or started writing all of the books that shall be included in my Paths of the Great Man series of non-fiction books.

There will of course be the three main and general books: The Christian Hero (or Knight), the Christian Wizard (or Magi), and the Christian Saint.

Then there will be the specific texts and works addressing specific ideas, ideals, virtues, and capabilities.

These texts will include:

The Psychinosis – On the Operations of the Soul-Image
The Psychokon – Psikonic (Soul Image) or Psychodynamic Powers
THEOPHOTOS – God Light or Light Work (On the Fundamental Principles of Theurgy and Thaumaturgy)
THE THEURGICON – on Theurgical Theosis
THAUMAPHIA – The Wisdom of Miracles

I have made amazing progress on some of these books, good progress on others, and have barely begun a couple.

I have also started work on a very, very basic primer on the subject matters and principles discussed in these series of books and what they mean and what I mean by employing terms like Magic, Psuchos, Theurgy (God Work), Thaumaturgy (Wonder or Miracle or Marvel), etc. (Generally I mean these terms by their ancient or early Christian meanings and denotations not their later Medieval and modern connotations (such as witchcraft and sorcery). Almost all magic in the ancient and early Christian world was in actuality Divine or religious magic, not as the Medievals and moderns saw/see it as a “force or power – a la the Force in Star Wars” in and of itself. Though that is kind of unfair to the Medievals who did not believe in natural forces of Nature as separate from God as only the moderns see these things.

Plus I suspect I have a very different definition of things like Magic and Psyche (based on early Christian and ancient writings and ideas) than do most people today.

Anyway that is the progress I have made so far.

In any case my intention is to create a set of practical works whereby the Christian layman can parallel the training and work of priests and pastors in their own lives and in the lives of those around them.

But more to the point to better replicate the works (mundane, theurgical, and thaumaturgical) of the early Apostles and Disciples.

HELP A BROTHER OUT IF YOU CAN…

I am somewhat sad and would like your help. Over my lifetime, and since I was a little kid, I have read literature. At this point a great deal of literature.

Every month I read new books in particular categories of study which interest me such as science, religion, art, philosophy, etc. and Literature is one of those categories. Because I have read so much literature over time my choices now wear thin. Very thin.

Recently I got a book called the Literature Book to give me new ideas for novels, books of poetry, etc. to read. To my dismay I found that I have read (at least once and sometimes multiple times) almost all of the works listed in the book including the more obscure works, including most of the great literature in some foreign cultures such as German, French, Italian, Russian, Greek, Indian (India,), Chinese, and Japanese.

I am growing tired of re-reading literature I have already read. (For instance I not long ago finished re-reading Beowulf, the Aeneid, and the short stories of Victor Hugo.)

Therefore I am open to suggestions, even if the work is obscure (such as the Confessions of an English Opium Eater – I’ve read it, it’s in my library, or the Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci – also read and in my personal library) or foreign I’d still be happy to entertain the recommendation. I really like Medieval and Ancient literature (although I will read modern literature of it is actual literature and not just pop culture crap) but I’m growing kind of desperate to put my hands on good literature that I’ve never read before.

If you can help a brother out then I’d really appreciate it…

Just leave your recommendations below in the comments section.

THE OBSERVATION OF FAILURE

Failure is the one thing that modern men are almost always willing to excuse and yet are almost never willing to learn from. No wonder it does them so little good.

from The Business, Career, and Work of Man

NOBODY WANTS TO READ YOUR SHIT (for free – correction, I Do)

Steven Pressfield is giving away a free download of his new book, Nobody Wants to Read Your Shit.
You should download a copy before the free offer expires. I really like and admire Pressfield’s work, both his historical fiction and his non-fiction.

The War of Art was superb. I added it to my personal library. Everyone should read it.

This will likely be another excellent tool for writers.

I can’t wait to read my download of this new book. I’ll start it this weekend. Afterwards I anticipate that I’ll add it to my personal library as well.

 

No strings attached.
No e-mail address required.

Brand new and FREE from Steven Pressfield

NOBODY WANTS TO READ YOUR SH*T

…picks up where The War of Art left off.

Nobody Wants to Read Your Shit - by Steven Pressfield

.EPUBDownload your free Nook/iTunes/Kobo e-book here!

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.PDFDownload your free
PDF e-book here!

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Thanks from Steve P. and everybody at Black Irish Books.

NOTHING EVER CHANGES – TUESDAY’S TALE

NOTHING EVER CHANGES

“Yeah,” he said. “So I’ve heard tell.”

Maugham sighed, then leaned over with a groan and put his head in his in hands for awhile. He rubbed the top of his head slowly as if to somehow comfort his own mind. But it didn’t seem to work.

When he lifted his head back up he looked at Steinthal.

“Do you think it will ever change?”

Steinthal looked at him and then shrugged wearily.

“I suppose that’s entirely up to the people involved. I only know one thing for sure… and even that’s not much…” and then he fell silent.

Maugham waited but when Steinthal said nothing else he just stood back up. It was obvious he was hurt though, so Stenithal moved over and put his arm under his friend’s and around his back and helped him start to walk again.

“What’s the one thing by the way?” Maugham asked as the men made their way torturously out of the ruined building.

“Oh that,” said Stenthal, as if he had just assumed his friend already knew. “Nothing ever changes much when no one ever much changes.”

So they made their way back to the river, dripping sweat, shedding blood, grunting in pain, and limping as they went.

from The Detective Steinthal

PACKAGES, SAMPLES, AND STOCKWORK – HIGHMOOT

Going to attend an author’s conference and seminar tomorrow.

Already have my packages, seminar samples, and stockwork prepared and in order for presentation…

Linear Progression or Scene-By-Scene?

So in writing the Old Man for NaNoWriMo this year I had carefully planned how each section (since the novel is divided into four or possible five long short story sections) would go and how each event in each section would proceed. In a linear, chronological progression. That is how I actually intended to write the book. I’m at over 10,000 words so far and have not written anything in linear progression so far, even though that was my original intent.

In truth though I find that most all of the fiction I write – short stories, novellas, novels, etc. always end up being written scene-by-scene, as they occur to me, and then later have to be stitched together in chronological order. The one exception to that being children’s stories (for very young children, not YA – those I also tend to write scene by scene) which, like poems and songs or the music I compose I tend to write in chronological order or by linear progression.

If it’s a longer work however, like those I listed above, then I always end up writing it scene by scene as the scenes occur to me in my imagination. No matter how hard I try or what I plan or how carefully I outline the book in my imagination it always comes out being written scene-by-scene, or in the case of non-fiction, subject by subject.

Apparently this is simply the way my mind works in constructing long, complex stories. It used to bother me, that I found it so difficult to write a novel or long story chronologically, now it doesn’t, but it has always made me wonder, how many other people approach writing novels in this way?

So I ask you. How about you?

Do you tend to write novels and long stories in chronological sequence, or poco-a-poco, and scene-by-scene?

How does your mind work when writing such books?

Do you find any advantages in either method? Do you find either method nearly impossible because of the way your mind or imagination functions?

Or is there some other method or technique of construction you use other than the two I described above that I haven’t thought of?

CURRENT WORD COUNT: 5056

My current Word Count on my NNWM novel the Old Man is now 5056.

Here is my Summary Page: The Old Man

By the way I am looking for a good Agent(s) to represent my fictional and non-fictional writings, my poetry, and perhaps even my songs in the near future.

To all of the other participants in NaNoWriMo I hope you are doing well, good luck, and Godspeed with your novels.

FIRST WORD COUNT 2373 +

AN ACCOUNTING SO FAR AND A BIT OF ADVICE FOR NATIONAL NOVEL WRITING MONTH

My Word Count output for the first day of NaNoWriMo 2015 and my novel The Old Man was 2373 words plus (I lost count after that because I wrote another scene right before bed). Today, since it is raining so hard and I can’t go help my daughter look for a new car, I plan to have an output of 3000 or more words.

I have also been using the Writing Tools I received in my NNWM writing packet along with my own Tools.

This morning I wrote what I thought was a superb introduction and set of first lines for the science-fiction part of the novel. But I still have a lot of work to do today.

Rather than in order or in linear or chronological progression I seem to be writing the book out in independent scene-sections as they occur to me. Which I’m assuming my mind will knit together in proper order later on.

I am very much enjoying working “sans editing” or by avoiding the editing altogether process as I go. This has made the writing process itself much, much easier. And this may be a better and faster way for me to write in the future, though it takes some mental effort on my part for me to get used to. Old habits die hard.

Also I am not typing anything myself but rather producing the manuscript in long-hand at my kitchen table or in bed. The way I used to write as a kid. Before I got my first typewriter in High School or my first personal computer. I very much recommend this (recently rediscovered) method. It not only produces a superior thought and plot flow, it is much more psychically comfortable than typing or dictating at my computer or office chair, both of which I detest.

Plus as I go back to hand-writing I am once again becoming very quick at it.

Tomorrow I plan to conduct a test to see how quick I am at both methods, composing at my computer, and at hand writing. I suspect I am faster at hand-writing. Certainly I enjoy it more and it is far easier to write in that way.

THE OLD MAN BEGINS…

I’ve cleared my entire calendar for November in order to write my novel for National Novel Writing Month. Aside from some type of emergency, and I don’t anticipate one (though you never really do, do ya?), writing my novel will be my chief priority this month.

So my blogging and other social media efforts will likely lag as a result. So will every other non-essential pursuit as the novel will be my Essential Activity for November. Fortunately I anticipate a very quiet month which will allow me the opportunity to write completely without distraction.

I’ve decided to go with THE OLD MAN as my chosen novel.

I intend to produce between 1500 and 5000 words per day, depending upon the day and the way the story proceeds and progresses. I already have much of the plot, all of the sections, and a few of the scenes sketched out.

Because of my broken wrist I will be writing the novel out in long hand on long notepads and my daughter will be typing it for me. I begin as soon as I’ve had breakfast and I walk Sam (my Great Dane) as it’s been raining this morning and prevented an earlier walk.

Congratulations to all of those pursuing writing their novel this month.

Good Fortune and Godspeed.

See you at the end of the month if not sooner…

THE DANGER from THE BUSINESS, CAREER, AND WORK OF MAN

Part of me greatly adores and admires words, as they are man’s chief means of communication and the primary treasure of his High Word Hoard. Another part of me, an equal part, absolutely distrusts and detests words as they are the means by which far too many men habitually deceive themselves and the rest of the world, and mankind’s primary method of excuse making in order to avoid noble and just action.

(As a writer) I am like a man caught in the grinding maw of some bizarre and fantastic creature who is sometimes angelic, and sometimes demonic, yet always dangerous.

 

WHICH NOVEL WOULD YOU PREFER?

This year I have decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month. And this year I have several good ideas for a potential novel I’d like to write for NaNoWriMo.

However I am trying to solicit the opinions of others on which idea and novel they’d prefer to read. Of the three novel ideas/plots I’ve I’d like to write for this November and that I have personally shown to family and friends so far I have the following results:

13 votes for The Old Man

10 votes for The Cache of Saint Andrew, and

4 votes for The Wonder Webs (all have been kid votes)

So I’d like to ask you, as my readers and internet friends, which novel story would you prefer to read: The Old Man, The Cache of Saint Andrew, or The Wonder Webs?

Right now I’m leaning towards The Old Man but still have a couple of days or so to finally decide. So if you wish to voice your opinion then just let me know. If you want to tell me your reasons that would be appreciated as well.

 

The Old Man – The Old Man is a mixed genre novel/novella consisting of three or four related stories about the same character set in different eras and story genres. In the story the child or children of a deceased man discover some old and unknown recordings which reveal their father in a totally different light and engaged in a fantastic set of secret lives. One section of the book will involve the science fiction genre, another the fantasy genre, another the detective/espionage genre, and the fourth the horror/weird genre. Despite the complexity of the story and the various genres it should be very easy to research and plot.

The Cache of Saint Andrew – The Cache of Saint Andrew is a literary genre novel involving a white man who marries a black woman. Although I did eventually marry a black woman the book is not autobiographical because I first had the idea for the novel in college and began writing it in college and I didn’t marry until I turned thirty, and at the time I began the book didn’t ever expect to marry. The story involves an older established, fairly wealthy white man who marries a younger (college student aged) black woman. The book describes their courtship, marriage, and the things that eventually dissolve their marriage, such as the loss of their first child shortly after childbirth. The novel is called the Cache of Saint Andrew because of the fact that the man, for years, plants secret messages inside the cache of a grave marker at the Orthodox Church of Saint Andrew in North Carolina. The Cache of Saint Andrew is actually the third book I ever started writing and the first one I started writing as an adult, but I put it aside to start my first business. I have replotted it many times but never actually finished it. It will require fairly complex plotting although I already have the main story well sketched out.

Wonder Webs – The Wonder Webs is a young adult book I first started plotting out a couple of years ago in a writing class. It involves a fictional city, park, and zoo based upon Greenville, SC. It involves three main characters, two boys and a girl of late Middle School/early High School age. It also involves a secret “underground world” in which dwell three magical/supernatural spiders who are capable of building “Wonder Webs” or webs that help miracles occur. This book will be very complex to plot because of the characters involved but especially because of the complicated background/world involved, which is multi-faceted.

 

 

 

 

 

COME THE HORIZON – TUESDAY’S TALE

This is a little piece of flash fiction I wrote involving one of my detective characters, the chief one, Steinthal.

 

THE DETECTIVE STEINTHAL – COME THE HORIZON

“You know part of me really would like nothing better than to save everyone. But another part of me knows equally well that to habitually do so only makes people, especially some people, dependent, enslaved, useless, and weak.

It is entirely immoral and unacceptable to abandon the truly helpless and indigent. Yet it is also wholly wrong to save those who should be busy saving themselves.

So I won’t do either because both are evil and unwise. Even God understands that you cannot save those who refuse to change. That’s as true for individuals as it is for groups of men.

See, as much as I’d like to help you I’m just a detective, not a messiah. Therefore I can’t help your friend Sara. I can’t help anyone who won’t help themselves.

And all the evidence here points in just one direction. That boy doesn’t want help, he wants to be saved. From himself. There’s no real cure for that, and there never will be. I’ve got no trick to fix it. There is no such trick. Those are the actual facts I’m afraid, and I never argue with the actual facts. There’s just no future in it. For anyone.

If only he truly understood that. Or really cared. Because either one would probably do.

But he doesn’t and I can’t do those things for him. You know as well as I do he’d rather die before he tries either. I wish I could tell you different, my dear, but I’m far too used to the truth. It would just sound odd and unbelievable to the both of us. So I’m going to spare us both the pain and suffering of a futile effort.

He’s not here speaking to me because he doesn’t really give a damn. And you’re here speaking to me because you do.

As strange as that sounds let that be some consolation to you. Because the truth is he’s not worth you getting killed for, and there will be plenty of others to save. People who will let you help save them.

He’s not one of those people, and you shouldn’t be buried beside him because you’re too stubborn to admit that to yourself.

Live, my dear. That’s the very best help I can give to you. Because if you stay attached to him the way you are now, you won’t.”

I left it there because it was the truth and because it was as good a place as any to leave it.

She sat across from my desk staring at the floor for a long while. Then she raised her face to look at me and her eyes were watery and unfocused, as if she were looking through me and out at something on the horizon she didn’t expect to escape.

She stood up slowly, her breath uneven and shallow and short, like women breathe when they are both upset and resigned to their fate. Then she turned and walked for the door.

When she got to the door she turned the doorknob, pulled the door back slightly, paused, and wrestled with herself as to whether or not to look back at me.

Eventually, with a little shake of her head, she decided that she wouldn’t. Instead she opened the door just enough to slide out it and then pulled it quietly shut behind her.

And I knew she was as good as dead…

20 NOVEL STORYBOARDS TO FOLLOW

20 NOVEL STORYBOARDS YOU SHOULD BE FOLLOWING

20 Novel Storyboards

Ah, Pinterest, you are both the bane and joy of writers the world over. On one hand we can use Pinterest to create stunning visual representations of the world we are creating with our words. On the other hand, we can distract ourselves for hours at a time in the endless sea of images.

But to me the price is worth it. There’s nothing I love more than creating storyboards for my novels. It’s in integral part of my creative process.

I also love following other writer’s on Pinterest, and glimpsing into the worlds they have created. Not only do other author’s boards inspire me and spark ideas, but I often find the perfect image on another writer’s board. (After hours of using the Pinterest search option to no avail.) We writer’s think in the same dramatic way. We’re drawn to the same types of photographs.

So I decided to compile a list of some of my favorite Pinterest storyboards. All of these are beautiful and inspiring. I’m mostly drawn to the historical, romantic, and dramatic, so that’s what most of these boards represent.

While you’re here please leave a link to your book’s storyboard in the comments!

Don’t have a novel storyboard?

No worries, these boards will be all the inspiration you need.

https://www.pinterest.com/bonaventier/the-good-adventurers-storyboard/

https://www.pinterest.com/justlaina/faith-storyboard/

https://www.pinterest.com/highlyblissed/novel-the-mists-of-bellicent-bay/

https://www.pinterest.com/liathaven/storyboard-revenant/

https://www.pinterest.com/rhpottery/storyboard-raven-hill/

https://www.pinterest.com/jasmoon/storyboard-calageata-ii/

https://www.pinterest.com/liathaven/storyboard-the-ones-who-leave/

 https://www.pinterest.com/greywintersong/storyboard-last-summer/

http://www.pinterest.com/highlyblissed/dharma-and-desire-my-novel/

https://www.pinterest.com/rhpottery/storyboard-emily-rose/

http://www.pinterest.com/brennach/storyboard-chief-king/

http://www.pinterest.com/nessacakes52/novel-storyboard-untitled/

https://www.pinterest.com/Lilyjenness/storyboard-noxumbra-manor/

https://www.pinterest.com/moraduial/storyboard-last-ones-standing/

https://www.pinterest.com/jasmoon/storyboard-the-butterfly-bridge-inspiring-imagery/

https://www.pinterest.com/bethgadar/novel-noir/

https://www.pinterest.com/ninthmoriarty/storyboard-kingmaker-ap/

https://www.pinterest.com/sarahallstein/storyboard-the-wanderers/

https://www.pinterest.com/fullnessofjoy16/the-crown-of-life-storyboard/

 

EITHER/OR: THE SELF PUBLISHED AUTHOR

EITHER/OR

With modern men it’s Either/Or with everything they do
You must “kill your darlings” see or they will butcher you
You must “this” or you must “that” but never both at once
There’s no room for compromise, conform, or thus you’re done

In life you cannot do it all, in art you cannot be
(so they say)
You either choose to play it small, or choose you must agree
You’re told this way is for the best by popular decree
For if you vary from that plan then there’s no guarantee

Of course there never was a risk that came with sure success
It’s Either/Or you see my friends, surely you’ll confess
That every piece of sure advice was once just enterprise
If you do not know that word it surely still applies

Now Either/Or is half of chance, I’ll grant you that is true
And both together, certain not, do not success ensue
But if you think that Either/Or by either issues Fate
Then you will soon discover kid that both will come too late

See some things they are right and just and some things they are wrong
And some things they are short, or fat, and some are tall, or long
Now of those things most modern men they treat them all the same
Evil is the twin of Good because they have no shame

Yet many things in life are not so ease-ly misconstrued
Not confused by sorcery they need some close review, and
Of those things all Either/Ors are theories in the air
Either this or never that is just a fool’s affair

The Keepers of those Mighty Gates that tell us all what is
Rarely ever venture forth in battle to enlist, and
If they do they found one way, but many paths are still
Untrodden in the hidden wastes, and through the untamed fields

So Either/Or I say to you, yes, either may be best
But you will never know that friends until them both you test…

 

____________________________________________________________

Actually, I think the writer of this piece made some good and very valid points. It just completely ignored the Or side of the equation.

 

Dear Self-Published Author: Do NOT Write Four Books a Year

Posted: 09/13/2015 1:22 am EDT Updated: 09/15/2015 11:59 am EDT
2015-09-13-1442118989-3335874-Stdtische_Bcherei_Radstadt__book_tower_detail.jpg

No matter what experts tell you, no matter what trends, conventional wisdom, social media chatter or your friends in the Facebook writers group insist upon, do NOT write four books a year. I mean it. Don’t.

Unless they’re four gorgeously written, painstakingly molded, amazingly rendered and undeniably memorable books. If you can pull off four of those a year, more power to you. But most can’t. I’d go so far as to say no one can, the qualifier being good books.

Beyond the fact that the marketplace is glutted with an overwhelming number of books already (many of dubious quality), writing good books simply takes time, lots of it. There’s no getting around that time. It involves learned skills, unhurried imagination, fastidious drafting, diligent editing, even the time to step away, then step back, to go over it all again. And, unless you’re a hack (and we know there are plenty of those out there), isn’t the whole point of this exercise to write good books?

Our most highly esteemed, widely applauded, prodigiously awarded, read and revered authors know this to be true. Donna Tartt, last year’ s Pulitzer Prize winner forThe Goldfinch, took eleven years to deliver that masterpiece. This year’s winner, Anthony Doerr, had written only four books in his entire career before penning All The Light We Cannot See, wisely taking years to craft his stunning tale. The cultishly-beloved Harper Lee had only To Kill A Mockingbird in her catalogue before this year’s controversial release of Go Set A Watchman (which some are convinced was not of her doing). Even others amongst our best, who do put out work on a more regular basis, do so with focus appropriately attuned to the quality of the book, not the depth of their catalogue or the flash-speed with which they crank out product.

But, you say, I’m not interested in writing Pulitzer Prize winners; I don’t need to be on The New York Times bestseller list; I just wanna see my name up at Amazon and sell a few books to family and friends, and, hey, if I go viral, all the better! They say write to the market, so I gotta write to the market. I mean, look at E.L. James…she’s hardly Chaucer and look what’s happened to her!!

Point taken. Which actually brings us to the point: what is your point?

What’s your point as a creative, an artist; an author? A purveyor of the written word? Why are you here, what is your purpose, your goal as a writer? What do you hope to achieve? Is it fame and fortune at any cost, quality be damned? Or is it about finely crafted work? It’s important to know, to decide, because those principles will guide and mandate every decision you make from there on out.

I bring all this up because I experienced a snap the other day, one triggered by an article from Self Published Author by Bowker titled, Discovery: Another Buzzword We’re Wrestling to Understand. In it, the writer lists many of the familiar instructions toward procuring success as an indie writer — social media, book reviews, networking, etc. — but her very first suggestion to self-published authors looking to get “discovered” was this:

Publish. A Lot: For those of you who have spent 10 years writing your last book I have news for you. You have ten days to write your next one. Okay, I’m sort of kidding with the ten days but, candidly, the most successful authors are pushing out tons of content: meaning books, not blog posts.

In most categories, readers are hungry for new reads, new books, and willing to discover new authors. You’ll have a better time getting found if you continually push new books out there. How many should you do? At a recent writers conference some authors said they publish four books a year. Yes, that’s right, four. [Emphasis mine.]

Wow.

So, her first piece of advice to self-publishing authors wasn’t to put more focus on fine-tuning one’s craft, it wasn’t about taking time to mull and ponder what stories, what narratives, most inspire you to put “pen to paper”; it wasn’t even a suggestion to be relentless about working with professional content/copy editors and cover designers to create the best possible version of your work. No, it was the insanely insane advice to pump out at least four books a year.

And people wonder why there are stigmas attached to self-publishing.

First of all, in looking at her point of reference, I suppose it depends on what you define as a “successful author.” I have a distinct feeling this may be where the disparities lie. Perhaps my own definition is a different one.

When I self-published my first book, After The Sucker Punch, in April of 2014, I had, by then, put years into it, doing all those many things I itemized above. Because I not only wanted to publish a novel, I wanted that novel to be a work of art, a book of depth and merit, one that would not only tell a compelling story but would meet standards of publishing that authors of the highest regard are held to. I wanted it to be a book that would favorably compare with anything put out by a traditional publisher. My choice to self-publish was a result of not having engaged a publisher by the time my book was done and I was ready to market it. It was not based on the notion of joining the “second tier club” where one is unbound from the stricter, more demanding standards of traditional publishing.

“Second tier club”? Yes. As insulting as that sounds, particularly in relation to self-publishing, there is no question that there are two tiers operating in the culture of the book industry. Take a moment to think about it: based on what advice is given to self-published writers, some of which I shared above; based on the”free/bargain” pricing paradigms of most book sellers hawking those writers; based on the corner (quality)-cutting measures required to pump out endless product to meet the purportedly endless demand of those sites and their bargain-hunting readers, “second tier club” is no misnomer.

Where the best of traditional publishers set their sights not only on commercial viability but award-quality work, nurturing authors with enduring skills and profound stories to tell, in a climate that is selective (perhaps too selective) and based on the notion that that level of quality and commercial appeal is a rare and valued commodity, self-published authors are advised to, “Crank out loads of books. if you have to write little teeny short ones to get your catalogue pumped up, do that! Don’t worry about covers; your readers don’t give a hoot about artwork. It’s all about genre, easy reads, and low, low prices! And speaking of low prices, don’t even think about selling your books for more than a dollar or two, because readers who do bother with self-published books are too accustomed to bargain-basement prices to spend any more than that. This is the 99¢ Bargain Circus Book Store, where we push quantity over quality every day of the week!! CRANK OUT THAT PRODUCT!!”

I’ll bet good money Donna Tartt, Anthony Doerr, and other quality writers aren’t getting that same message from their publishers. First tier, baby.

Look, if your point and purpose as a writer is largely related to the numbers — of books sold, of Amazon ranking, of reviews garnered, of Twitter followers and Facebook “likes” — then, certainly; follow the advice of the article quoted about. I know many self-published writers who are, and though I have no idea how well that’s working for them, it’s certainly the prevailing trend.

But if your point and purpose as a writer is to take someone’s breath away, capture a riveting story, translate an idea — whether fantasy, love story, science fiction, human interaction, tragedy, thriller, family saga, memoir, non-fiction — in a way that raises hairs or gets someone shouting “YES!”; if you’re compelled to tell that story so beautifully, so irreverently, with such power and prose as to make a reader stop to read a line over just to have the opportunity to roll those words around one more time, then don’t listen to that advice.

Instead, do the opposite: take your time, work your craft; look for the best possible ways to tell your story and allow yourself time to change your mind, sometimes often, until you know it’s right. Allow your editors time to help you mold your narrative into peak condition. Give your formatters and copy editors time to comb through your manuscript, again and again, to make sure everything is perfect. Work carefully with your cover artist to create the most gorgeous, most professional book cover you can. TAKE YOUR TIME.

Then take lots more to research marketing options; ask questions, weigh contradicting information, and come up with the best possible strategy for your book. Do what you choose with professionalism and without the misguided push to the “top of the list,” that pervasive attitude so rife with desperation and panic. You’re not in a race, with anyone. You are a professional author working your book your way. Be an artist, don’t be a carnival barker. Be a wordsmith, not a bean-counter. Be patient, not hysterical. Transact wisely, but don’t lose your soul in the process.

I know I’m bucking the trend, and certainly there are quality issues and dubious motivations floating around both tiers. It’s also certain that, if you follow my lead, you will not be able to write four books a year, at least not four full-length books. You will write, perhaps, one. But if you do it right, taking time and taking care, you will have written one excellent book. One you’ll be proud of years from now. One your friends and family will keep on their book shelves. One readers across the globe will talk about on social media. One that tells the world, I am a writer and this book is my legacy. Then you’ll go write another of those…and so on.

The rest of it — sales, rankings, reviews, viralness, likes, tweets, awards, kudos, peer admiration… all that? If you do it right, if/when any of those things come, they will be warranted and well-deserved. You can celebrate them authentically, because you did not sell your creative soul to get them. You actually made the far, far better deal.

CLARIFICATION- Because the last thing I want is to insult a fellow author, let me clarify, because it seems to be needed: This is NOT a screed against authors who CHOOSE to publish multiple titles annually (according to many, I’m faulty in assessing that that’s difficult to do well!), nor is it a suggestion that there is only “one way” to do things. In fact, it’s the opposite. The whole point is choice rather than mandate. When the mandate to publish in volume becomes the most prescribed way to reach success, it leaves many authors feeling pressured to publish more quickly and more often than they’d prefer, with some left feeling as though taking the time to craft a book is devalued. Neither should be true. I’m simply championing choice, the personal decisions every author makes about how they’ll reach success. For those who enjoy publishing in volume, who do it well and find it successful, that formula works. But for those who don’t, I’m suggesting forging your own way unshackled from the mandate. That is all. Best with your writing!

Book Tower photo by Herzi Pinki @ Wikimedia Commons

AS I GO – FIRST VERSE

AS I GO…

I became what I wrote
When I knew that I did
But I learned what I didn’t
When I showed what I hid,
Yes I mastered by doing
And not by the knot
That twisted I shouldn’t
Into what I forgot,
Yes I wrote what I was
But became what I wrote
And not just because
The words were the notes,
For I knew that I knew
And I learned what I did –
That my limits were lesser
The less that I hid,

Now I can’t say forever
That forever I’ll know
But I can say with pleasure
What I know I can show,
For time works a wonder
By passing along
What’s learned in the measure
What’s right and what’s wrong,
For often you find
That you thought that you knew
But by doing again
You discover it new,
So when men ask me why
I repeat what I know
I tell them I didn’t
But I’ll learn as I go…

HIGH ILLUSION from THE BASILEGATE

Alatha moved towards Marsippius as he rose. He was naked in the firelight.

When she reached him she examined him closely. Then she took her finger and began to lightly trace some of the many imperfections in his flesh.

“You have been often wounded?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“Why?” she questioned.

“Duty,” he replied wearily. “Duty and manhood.”

“It is manhood to be often wounded?”

“In part,” he said flatly. “Any man without scars is no man at all.”

She stared into his eyes. They were dark like hers. Deep Greek eyes, full of inquiry. Proud Roman eyes, full of purpose. But to him her eyes were inscrutable.

“Perhaps,” she said quietly, “a man should be more than his scars.”

He reached up and took her hand, the finger of which still lingered upon the long jagged white line of an old wound on his chest. The wound of a much younger man.

“Perhaps,” Marsippius replied, “you are very wise among your kind.”

He glanced at the fire. To him the flames in the hearth seemed to burn immensely hot, yet almost entirely silent. He wondered if the fuel of this world burned differently.

When he looked back at Alatha she was once again staring deeply into his eyes. But once again he could not read her mind. He started to move forward to kiss her and then thought better of it.

She did not. Seeing his intent she moved forward and kissed him warmly upon the lips.

Then she leaned back slightly and traced her finger gently across the lips she had just kissed.

“There seem to be no scars here,” she said.

“Illusion,” he said. “There are too many to count. They are nothing but scars. So they seem untouched. Yet…” he added, seemingly almost as an afterthought, “there is room still for a few more, if you so wish.”

She laughed quietly.

“What is wish but High Illusion?” she whispered. So she pressed against him and kissed him again.

 

__________________________________________________

A scene from my novel The Basilegate.

ARE YOU NECESSITY? – TUESDAY’S TALE

ARE YOU NECESSITY?

 

He stood up all wrong to be neighborly.

I looked up at him with a pacific expression to give him a chance to reconsider but he didn’t seem particular to my gentlemanly solicitations. So I followed suit by rising to my feet and placing my hand on the handle of my longknife.

“You know, maybe its age, or maybe its wisdom,” I explained. “Hell, I don’t know, could be a little bit of both at this point I reckon. But I’ve learned over time boy not to push myself any harder than I can stand at any given time, or to act more recklessly than I can endure at any given moment. Unless, of course, necessity dictates elsewise.

So the question I got for you son is this right here: ‘Are you necessity? Do you think of yourself as truly necessary?’

‘Cause iffin you do then I’m certainly prepared to listen to ya proposition, if you’re prepared for my considered reply.”

When he suddenly seemed uncertain and wavering in his deliberations I swung the table out from between us and took to hitting him as hard in the mouth as either one of us could stand. Until he wasn’t no more.

Then I stepped on his face turning it sideways and put the cold, clean, sharp tip of my longknife into his earhole.

“Can you make out precisely what I’m saying to ya now kid, or do I gotta keep pushing my point?”

 

From my Western: the Lettermen

PLOT BOARD FOR THE BASILEGATE – HIGHMOOT

I meant to put this up for Tuesday’s Tale, but work and other things interfered so I’m putting it up here today for Highmoot.

What you see below are the creation materials (or some of them anyway) for my four novels of the Other World, specifically the first in the series, The Basilegate.

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Actually I have 1200 to 1500 pages of research materials (mainly historical but also containing other materials) for all four novels already, most of it on CD or DVD and on computer files on my main work system. The rest is in hard files, collected notes (post it notes in the big white container that say BOOK I), in my notebooks and sketchbooks, outlines, timelines, etc.

I laid all of that out on Sunday and had my youngest daughter take pictures of it. This week I am taking all of that material, my chapter outlines for the first book (Basilegate), my notes, etc. and transferring it all to my Chapter and Plot Board. You might think of this as a Case Board by which I’ll run the plot and structure of my novels (in this case, the first in the series) as they progress. I already have about a hundred or so pages of the first novel finished, and various sections of all of the novels completed (as first drafts anyway), not counting the various scenes I have sketched out for each of them. My overall aim now is to collate and compile and arrange all of these scenes and what I already have written into a coherent and consecutive and consequential novel storyline, and thereby push on to finish the first novel while simultaneously arranging all of the other serial plots.

In this collection you will see all of my files, notes, the plot board itself (before being arranged), notebooks, research materials (on CD and DVD), some of the maps I’ve created, and the poems, songs, and music I’ve written and arranged to be included in the books/novels.

(You might ask, “Why does he have the AD&D and 5th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guides as apparent research materials?” Simple, not for the research itself, but because these two books are the best fictional writing guides I’ve ever read. Anywhere and on any fictional subject. If you are a writer and you do not have these writing guides then you really should, they are simply superb and extremely useful for all kinds of story arrangements, including plot arrangements.
You might also ask, “why the harmonica?” Well, because I often like to play the harmonica when I become stuck on some aspect of the story. It helps me think.)

Once I’ve gotten everything fully arranged and up on my Plot Board in proper Order I’ll take a new set of photographs and post those here too. I’ve been working on this novel series for years now, and as a general idea for a decade or more, but I’m finally in a position to push on and finish all four books now. I’m now satisfied that all of my major research and preparation work has been properly conducted and finished and I’m now ready to finish the novels without anymore large-scale or wholesale plot revision. Just minor tinkering at the edges left really, and then the finished writings.

Which is a big relief to me as I intend this novel series to be one of my Magnum Opae (one of my major Life Works – I literally cannot say Magnum Opera as that construction seems wholly silly and inappropriate to me in English).

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NEVER AND FOREVER – FIRST VERSE

NEVER AND FOREVER

So you never cross a frontier.

What is that to me? What is that to you?

So you perpetually bend the knee.

What is that to me? What is that to you?

So you cower for forever from everything around.

What is that to me? What means that to you?

So you never attempt some Great Thing, or much of anything at all.

What is that to me? Why is that anything to you?

So the world is as it is.

What is that to me? Who will change it now?

So you are just as you seem.

What is that to me? Who are you, to you?

So you live and breathe.

What is that to you? And what is that to me?

So evil grows and thrives.

What is that to me? Where are you then found?

So corruption long abounds.

What is that to me? When do you ensure?

So you are just as you are. So I am just as I am.

So the world burns near and far, so it seethes, and so it drowns.

What is that to me? What is that to you? What is that to us?

Yes, what is that to us?

And, what is that to you?

THE IRON GATE: PART ONE – BOOKENDS

This is part of a draft chapter from my book The Basilegate (from The Other World novels). Rather than explain or detail the background I’ll just let you read the story for yourself.

This chapter begins at the Iron Gate, winds through what today would be modern Russia and ends along the frontiers of the Byzantine Empire.

But this is only the first part of the chapter.

I will be serializing parts of this novel here, on Wyrdwend. For Bookends.

THE IRON GATE: PART ONE

He passed through the Iron Gate and none bothered to oppose him. Why should they? Death would come soon enough.

He had seen men watching him as he stumbled past them, had noticed them as they studied him, pointing, or whispering to themselves. He had seen the guards; skins burned dark by long life lived outdoors among the frontiers, their flesh the color of fine but sanded clay. He had seen them take notice of him, and realizing that he was alone, and doomed, had seen them finally turn away or gaze on at him in curiosity, but not in fear.

He staggered forward, impelled more by main force and force of will than by any desire to make any kind of camp, or achieve any end, other than the one he suspected lay not long before him. He was a mass of Northern muscle, and in a more carefree age, a mass of unconcern. But not this day. Not this hour.

He was a mass no more, except of wasted flesh, blood-clotted black and clinging to limbs still driven hard, but all a’quiver. His clothes were ragged, and perhaps more threadbare than he. His boots were tattered, consumed with holes by hard wear and patches from long poverty. His cloak was gone, it covered him no more. His helm was likewise long ago departed. His armor, what was left upon him, did creak and hung loose and much abused. His single weapon, his langsax, was chipped and knotted, bent at places, it’s sharpest tip now broken blunt. His skeg axe was missing, already lost a’field from many days before. His sword was shattered, having given its last service long before he himself had been likewise cleaved from himself, run to ground by desperation and long flight at night. His spear had been splintered along the banks of a river he had long traveled, but never heard named. And with it went his last hope of war when he found himself numbered among the doomed of his watch.

His shield had long lasted, but round at the edges it had been burst sharp through the center, till like the timbers of a battered prow it had been smashed to pieces, along with the spine of his arm. At that blow he had staggered, a man drunk with too much of the wine of close combat, and toppling like one of the frigid giants of old he had crashed from the cliff into the gelid waters below. And this, this fall from manly grace and the unnatural fire of a ferocious battle he could not have won, into the cold of the waters from the earth underneath, this had stilled his heart with shock and preserved his life with a flood of harsh ice. But only for a moment.

The cold had slowed his wounds, made blood freeze in his veins, made him sluggish, numbed the bright agony of his broken arm and shattered knee, had helped to staunch the long gash torn through his calf, had wearied his mind so that death approached slow and as bedraggled as he. The river had turned him, tossed him, oriented him away from his companions, and his brothers at arms. Yet deep in the recesses of his darkest thoughts he knew they were no more. Colder even than he. Once men, and large, and well made, trophies now to despoil.

He pulled himself from the waters, a mist of stinking furs and wounded flesh, injury the common lot that ran the entire life-course of his body. He was insensible of the pain of his catastrophe, or perhaps it is better to say that he was nothing but hurt. So much harm inflicted that he could no longer mark any particular pain, but rather pain seemed all he was, and all he wished to end. He tried to stand, collapsed, breathed hard and harshly, his mouth steam rising like that of a newborn calf, his stance no straighter or better. But he grimaced, and would not relent. He stood, and staggered, and felt something rend inside his leg each time his knee did make to support his weight. He shed his cloak as a serpent would his elder skin, in long and frustrating effort, it peeled away from him as if in regret and with the anchored weight of besoaked hide. He grunted. He stuttered. He could not speak, groans his only tongue. He rested, sought to scan the horizon with his eyes, the land having been made flat again by the time the river had disgorged him like a misspent meal. But his vision was blurred, dim, closed in and frozen. It extended no farther than his imagination, and his imaginings were all of darkness, and dread.

The sun made to collapse in the West, behind mountains he could sense in the distance, but not see with his eyes. The warmth of the day, what small comfort it had given, was already fading, his own heat wasted and stolen by the drench of his baptism by water and trial by ice. He made to the tall grass, then fell to the dry ground, rolling and coating himself in the dirt as he could, hoping it would absorb the wet and help dry his shaken frame. A frog scampered by and he caught it with his unruined arm, and tore off its head in his mouth. The cold blood was warmer than his and the skull of the frog he did gnash in his teeth as he chewed. The sound comforted him. He could still eat, and he could still kill. Therefore he could still live if the long night would let him. He found he was hungry, and that the gnaw in his guts did wear hard, and began to grow and inflame, and as it did so, so did his limbs. And the ache of his body was far worse than the hunger he felt. But as he ate he regained some lost measure of hope, and there settled into his mind a new will to press forward. He tore off one of the back legs of his catch, and then the other, eating slowly, watching the night fall. Then he pulled out his langsax from his battered belt, and used the blade to slice open the belly of the frog and he did, as he could stand it, smear the blood and the entrails of the thing onto the deep gash in his calf, and along the break in his arm, where the bone did protrude from the mottled blue skin. For he had been told in times past by the Rus that if he smeared the blood of a beast upon an open wound then the clot of gore would help seal his own cut, and help knit it together and scab it clean. He did not know if this were true or not, but he was full for the moment and it seemed foolish to him to waste the entrails by tossing them aside.

He slept uneasily for awhile within sound of the river, crackling sounds sometimes startling him, as if the ice sheets from further upstream were still washing down and clashing against each other to shatter like frosted glass. The dew came down and reminded him again of the damp that still covered him, causing him to shiver while shards of sweat and frozen drops did run along his back from time to time.
He was cold beyond reckoning, but with the rise of the moon he took once more to stand, and after several tries he regained his feet. He moved West, into the darkness, towards the mountains he had felt in the distance. Towards the land that the Rusmen had told him could not be conquered. Towards the land of the Roman, and the place they called, the City of God

SUMMARY PITCH OUTLINE – HAMMER, TONGS, AND TOOLS

It’s Thursday meaning Hammer, Tongs, and Tools.

For the past few years I’ve been developing Tools to assist me in my career as a fiction writer, songwriter, and poet. In preparation for pursuing those careers.

I have decades worth of Tools regarding my business-careers as a business, copy, and non-fiction writer, and inventor (and as a poet, I’ve been a poet since I was about age 8 or so), many of which I have been posting to my Business Blog, Launch Port.

But here in Wyrdwend I’m going to start making it a habit to post some of my more useful Writing Tools in the form of Templates. I’ll arrange them all into a sellable book, or e-book, or workbook, something like that, maybe in a year or so. I’m too busy right now.

I’m giving you permission to use these tools, or to use them as idea-generators to make your own. Tools, as opposed to actual Works, I consider more public property than proprietary or personal intellectual property. Yeah, in book form I’d consider them mine, but in this form, if you find them useful, then use away.

Each week, barring some unforeseen exigency, I’ll be posting a different Tool, or a different kind of tool (writing, songwriting, poetry, etc.) that you can make use of in developing your own works. Some of these tools I modified from tools suggested to me by others, some contain partial information or design components from other sources, many are entirely my own creations.
To start I give you a very, very simple and easy to use tool. Nevertheless it should (if properly employed) contain vital and succinct information about your Work (Book or other Major Work) that you can use as an elevator pitch, to formulate a written pitch, or to simply keep the fundamental and primary elements of your work clear, distinct, and easily marketable.

SUMMARY PITCH OUTLINE

Opae (Title):

Date Begun:

ONE SENTENCE DESCRIPTION OF BOOK:

ONE PARAGRAPH DESCRIPTION OF BOOK:

ONE PAGE SYNOPSIS OF BOOK:

TWO TO THREE PAGES FULL DESCRIPTION OF BOOK:

KAZUO ISHIGURO

I mostly agree… and I’d read this.

Ten years after the publication of his last novel, Kazuo Ishiguro has come out with a new book, The Buried Giant. A former winner of the Man Booker Prize and considered one of the best British writers alive today, Ishiguro is a master of the understated. His works feature narrators that speak so simply and so plainly, they appear to have almost no affect at all. Still, their stories are dark and poignant, and it’s often not until the last few pages of an Ishiguro novel that we realize how deeply we’ve been moved.

In The Buried Giant, an elderly couple sets off on a journey through a mythical England populated by ogres, dragons, knights and giants. Axl and Beatrice are in search of their son, whom they can’t quite remember how they lost. This is because the inhabitants of The Buried Giant’s mythical world suffer a collective amnesia, a ‘mist’ that keeps them from holding onto certain memories, both personal and historical. As we travel with Axl and Beatrice, the novel asks us what memory (and forgetting) means to a person, to a couple, to a society. In many ways, the book is surprising (The New York Times calls it ‘a departure’), but it also showcases some of Ishiguro’s most essential qualities as a writer: subtle prose, a dreamlike atmosphere, and powerful questions about loss and memory.

I sat down with Ishiguro in Knopf’s office early on a Friday, just before it began to snow. We talked about his writing process, collective memory, Inglourious Basterds, and his new novel’s recent role in the conversation about genre.

Chang: Each of your novels is so unlike the one that came before it. The Buried Giant has surprised a lot of readers. Can we talk about what influenced you while you were working? What books were you reading, or drawing upon?

Ishiguro: Well, I did a great deal of research and read quite a lot before I wrote the book. But I don’t know that the books I read during the actual writing process necessarily have much to do with it.

I find that when you’re writing, it becomes quite a battle to keep your fictional world in tact. In fact, as I write, I almost deliberately avoid anything in the realm of what I’m working on. For instance, I hadn’t seen a single episode of Game of Thrones. That whole thing happened when I was quite deep into the writing, and I thought, ‘If I watch something like that, it might influence the way I visualize a scene or tamper with the world that I’ve set up.’

Chang: It sounds like the planning stage and the writing stage were two very separate parts of your process.

Ishiguro: Yes, it’s really when I’m planning the project that I actively look for ideas and read very widely. I spend a lot of time planning. I’m quite a deliberate writer in that way. A lot of writers I know just work with kind of a blank canvas. They feel it out and improvise on it and then they look to see what kind of material they’ve got.

I’ve never been able to do that. Even at the start of my career, when maybe I would have been a little more reckless. I’ve always needed to know quite a lot about the story before I start to write the actual prose. I’ve always needed a solid idea before getting started.

Chang: How do you know when you have a solid idea?

Ishiguro: It’s got to be something that I’m able to articulate to myself in about two to three sentences. And those sentences have to be compelling, much more than the sum of their parts. I should be able to feel the tension and emotion arising from that little summary I’ve created, and then I know I’ve got a project to work on. With The Buried Giant, for example, the starting point was something like: ‘There’s a whole society where people are suffering some sort of collective, and strangely selective, amnesia.’

Chang: And that was the summary you had in mind before you sat down to the page?

Ishiguro: Yes, but that’s not quite enough for an idea. That’s more of a concept. I guess if I had to write the next line of the summary, it would be, ‘There’s a couple who fears that without their shared memory, their love will vanish.’ And then the third line would be that the nation around them is in some kind of strange tense peace.

Alright, so I didn’t literally write those sentences down, but that’s how I start a project. I start with something quite abstract like that, and then I start to plan and do my research.

I tend to read quite a lot of non-fiction around the themes I want to explore.

Chang: Are you fairly careful about curating what you do read or think about while you plan a novel?

Ishiguro: Not necessarily. For this book in particular, I read a very good Canadian book called Long Shadows by Erna Paris, It was written in the early 2000s and documents her travels, looking at the various kinds of brewing or buried trouble. There was also Postwar by Tony Judt, and Peter Novich’s The Holocaust in American Life.

Now, those nonfiction books went into it the research part, but I find that almost anything around that point can be influential. Around that stage is when I’m most sensitive, or most open to influence. Almost every movie I see, every book I’m reading, I’m thinking: ‘Is there something here that might nudge me toward an image, or an idea, or even a technique?’

I remember I happened to be watching Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds at a formative point. There’s a long scene where the American guys are in a German bar, pretending to be German soldiers, and they’re playing this game and speaking in bad German, and it goes on for this incredible amount of time. You know it’s going to end in some terrible violence, but it goes on and on.

That seems to have nothing to do with my book. No one would detect Tarantino as an influence while reading The Buried Giant, but I thought it was such a great way to deal with an explosion of violence. You actually don’t have to spend a lot of energy on the violence itself. It’s the lead up, the tension. So, yes, I’m quite open to reading or hearing or seeing anything at that point in the process.

Chang: What was behind the decision in setting The Buried Giant in a mythical, medieval England? Did you know this would surprise people the way it has?

Ishiguro: Often the setting comes quite late in the process. I usually have the whole story, the whole idea, and then I hunt for the location, for a place where I can set it down.

It’s sort of like I’ve wandered into people’s countries without knowing where I’ve landed.

So I’m a little bit naïve, maybe, about what the finished thing will look like in terms of genre. It’s sort of like I’ve wandered into people’s countries without knowing where I’ve landed. And after I’ve been there for quite some time, someone says ‘you realize you’re in Poland now.’ And I say, ‘Oh really? I just followed this trail of stuff I needed.’

I didn’t wonder how people would define or categorize The Buried Giant until it was done. And then as publication approached, I started to see it from the outside. I’d been so absorbed with trying to get the thing to work from the inside.

I did think about setting it in a very real contemporary, tense situation. I considered Bosnia in the 1990s as a setting, and well, I thought about Rwanda but didn’t consider it for too long, because I feel unqualified to write about Africa. I know so little about African politics, African culture. The disintegration of Yugoslavia I felt closer to, because I live in Europe. These massacres were occurring right on our doorstep. I wanted to look at a situation in which a generation (or two) has been living uneasily in peace, where different ethnic groups have been coexisting peaceably and then something happens that reawakens a tribal or societal memory.

Chang: What made you ultimately decide on this more distant reality?

Ishiguro: Well, if I had done that you’d be asking me why I was suddenly interested in Yugoslavia, and if I have relatives that used to go there, and what do I think about what Milosevic did or said on this or that day.  It becomes a completely different kind of book. Some people write those kinds of books brilliantly. It’s almost like reportage. They’re very powerful and very urgent books.

Maybe in the future I’ll feel compelled to write that kind of specific and current book, but right now I feel that my strength as a fiction writer is my ability to take a step back. I prefer to create a more metaphorical story that people can apply to a variety of situations, personal and political.

Setting the book in an other, magical world allows me to do that. Every society, every person even, has some buried memories of violence or destruction. The Buried Giant asks whether awakening these buried things might lead to another terrible cycle of violence. And whether it’s better to do this at the risk of cataclysm, or whether it’s better to keep these memories buried and forgotten.

The same question applies at the personal level, say, in a marriage. When is it better to just leave certain things unsaid for the sake of getting on together? Is there something phony about a relationship if you don’t face everything that’s happened? Maybe it makes your love less real.

Chang: Do you feel that the conversation about genre boundaries, which has been a major focus of the book’s reviews and press, has taken away from these questions the book is asking?

It’s a much broader conversation, isn’t it? What do we call fantasy?

Ishiguro: I didn’t actually anticipate that there would be so much attention paid to the genre of the book. I read Neil Gaiman’s review in the NYTBR which opens with the words, “Fantasy is a tool of the storyteller.” It’s a very interesting piece that, in a way, is much bigger than my book. It’s a much broader conversation, isn’t it? What do we call fantasy? What do we call sci-fi? I guess the subtext is that mainstream fiction and literary fiction look down on fantasy tropes but, as Gaiman argues, those tropes can be very powerful, and they’re part of an ancient tradition. There were a couple of other pieces that appeared like that. And of course, there was a bit of a spat with Ursula K LeGuin. Although, she’s since retracted what she said on her blog, which was gracious of her. I think it’s a much larger dialogue she’s been involved with in the past with authors like Margaret Atwood, for example.

I think the positive side of all of this is that it is quite an exciting time at the moment in fiction. I do sense the boundaries are breaking down, for readers and for writers. Younger readers move very freely between genres and between what used to be fairly strict categories of ‘popular’ and ‘literary’ fiction. My daughter and her generation, for example. They were quite literally the same age as Harry and Hermione when the first Harry Potter book was published. In a way, they kind of followed that whole storyline in real time, year by year.

For that generation, one of the coolest, most exciting things to happen in their young lives was reading books. Of course, now they read widely just like any person interested in literature, but their foundation, their love of books is based on Harry Potter, Philip Pullman—that whole explosion of very intelligent children’s literature that they grew up with. It’s very exciting, I think—this shift in what constitutes ‘serious’ fiction.

Chang: Even though The Buried Giant has arguably nothing to do with Japan, I love the way there’s still something Japanese that comes across in its style and tone. Are you very conscious of language and tone when you are writing or does that come more naturally?

Ishiguro: At the beginning of my career it was quite deliberate. A Pale View of Hills was set in Japan. My characters were Japanese, so of course they had to speak in a Japanese kind of English. And in An Artist of the Floating World, the characters were not only Japanese but they were meant to be speaking in Japanese even though it was written in English, so I spent a great deal of energy there finding an English that suggested there was Japanese being spoken or translated through. Maybe some of that effort has stayed with me. I use a formal, careful kind of English, but to some extent that may just be my natural or preferred way of using the language.

For example, the butler in Remains of the Day is English, but he often sounds quite Japanese. And I thought that was fine, because he is a bit Japanese.

Chang: Right, that’s one of the brilliant parts of his character.

Ishiguro: In The Buried Giant, I wasn’t thinking consciously about Japan or Japanese, but the priorities of the language, I suppose, are still the same. I quite like language that suppresses meaning rather than language that goes groping after something that’s slightly beyond the words. I’m interested in speech that kind of conceals and covers up. I’m not necessarily saying that’s Japanese. But I suppose it goes with a certain kind Japanese aesthetic; a minimalism and simplicity of design that occurs over and over again in Japanese things, you know. I do like a flat, plain surface where the meaning is subtly pushed between the lines rather than overtly expressed. But I don’t know if that’s Japanese, or if that’s just me.

GETTING MEDIEVAL

Wow. While doing my research this morning I just happened  (if you believe in that kinda thing) to run across Jeri Westerson’s Literary blog.

I have read several of her books, and as a matter of fact Shadow of the Alchemist was the last I read. I consider her one of the very best historical fiction authors (male or female) working today. I highly recommend her works, and her works have also influenced my own writings. So she is my Highmoot post for the day.

Here is the blog address: Getting Medieval

Here is her latest blog entry:

 

THE SNUGGLE MONSTER

This is my post for Tuesday’s Tale. It is part of a series of picture books I have written or am writing, such as the Cuddle Monster and the Tickle Monster aimed at young children who have had to endure some horrific trauma, such as war, violent crime, terrorism, death of parents, orphaning, or some disastrous and difficult medical situation.

The books will of course have a wider application as well, but that is my primary purpose in writing these books, and the primary audience for which they were created.

This one is called The Snuggle Monster and my Great Dane Sam gave me the idea for it. It is not the entire book, but an extract.

THE SNUGGLE MONSTER

Once upon a time there was a Snuggle Monster.
He was made of dreams, and hopes, and wishes and a thousand other things that last forever.
Sometimes he was brightly colored and shone in all the colors of the rainbow. Sometimes he was the color of pure gold, or brightest silver, like the moon when it is full and pure and the night sky is bright blue like a sea of polished sapphire.
Sometimes he was of colors no one has ever seen before, except those who needed him most.
Sometimes he was invisible to all except to those he visited when no one else was around.
Once upon a time there was a Snuggle Monster, and he was very, very old.
He was as old as time and creation itself, but he never aged, and never outgrew the children who called upon him when they needed him most.
For he was giant indeed, and big as the far away mountains, and often even bigger, but he was also small and quiet, as small and quiet as a tiny and silent mouse that fits within your pocket to travel with you wherever you go…

 

 

NEW PUBLICATION SCHEDULE

NEW PUBLICATION SCHEDULE

Recently I have been involved in a number of different projects that have left me little time for blogging. I have been writing the lyrics for my second album, Locus Eater, I have been writing and plotting my novel The Basilegate, I have been putting together a crowdfunding project for one of my inventions and one of my games, I have been helping with and compiling material for my wife’s new career as a public speaker, and helping my oldest daughter prepare to enter college. In addition I have been speaking with and seeking a new agent. I have even been preparing a new paper on some of the work of Archimedes and what I have gleaned from it. Finally I have been preparing my Spring Offensive, which is now completed.

All of which have kept me extremely busy.

However I have not been entirely ignoring my blogging either. In background I have been preparing a much improved Publication Schedule for all five of my blogs, my business blog Launch Port, my design and gaming blog Tome and Tomb, my personal blog The Missal, my amalgamated blog Omneus, and this blog,  Wyrdwend.

Now that most of these other pressing matters are well underway and on an even keel this allows me more time to return to blogging.

So below you will find my new Publication Schedule which I’ll also keep posted as one of the header pages on my blogs.

So, starting on Monday, March the 15th, 2015, and unless something unforeseen interferes this will be the Publication Schedule for this blog every week, including the Topic Titles and the general list of Subject Matters for that given day. That way my readers can know what to expect of any given day and what I intend to publish for that day. I will also occasionally make off-topic post as interesting material presents itself.

 

Wyrdwend – 11:00 – 12:00 AM

Monday: First Verse – Poem, Song, Music
Tuesday: Tuesday’s Tale – Short Story, Children’s Story, etc.
Wednesday: Highmoot – Reader Discussions and Commenting, Reblogs
Thursday: Hammer, Tongs, and Tools – Tools, Linked In, Essay, Non-Fiction, etc.
Friday: Bookends – Serialized Novel, Graphic Novel, Script
Saturday: The Rewrite – Reblog best Personal Posts, Review
Sunday – Sabbath

 

THE HARD STUFF from THE LETTERMEN

“Sometimes kid the well really does run dry. And when that happens there ain’t no sense in pumpin the handle til your palm bleeds or in dipping in a different bucket.

You just let the well fill fast as the well will fill.

The Truth of it is that everything else is purty much beyond your powers of persuasion anyhow. That’s just the way it works in this world. Learn that and even the hard stuff will likely soften after awhile. Even if it don’t, you will.”

From my Western, the Lettermen

A MAN OF COURAGE from THE LETTERMEN

“Monk, I don’t expect there’s a man of honor among us. That ain’t even the question the way I sees it.

The question is, ‘Is there a man of courage among us?’

Cause if we got that much we at least got a chance. Otherwise all this whining and moaning and bitching and complaining don’t mean shit to me. And it won’t mean shit to the rest of the world neither.

Eventually every man has gotta decide for himself, “Am I talking my manhood up, or am I just talking it away?'”

An argument among the Lettermen concerning what really makes a difference in this world.

WRITING FOR E-KIDS

As someone who writes books for kids, and enjoys writing books for kids, I both enjoyed this article and found it quite useful.

How to Create Picture Ebooks for Kids

Picture ebooks

Today’s guest post is by Laura Backes of Children’s Book Insider and Picture eBook Mastery.


Until recently, creating ebook versions of children’s picture books was something publishers reserved for their best-selling authors and illustrators. If you wanted to self-publish a picture ebook, you either needed to be a whiz at writing code, or you paid an ebook creation service to do it for you. (That said, it was possible to find a few services targeted toward publishing books for kids on Apple devices, such as Book Creator.)

Last September, Amazon released KDP Kids’ Book Creator, which allows the average Joe to create illustrated children’s books for the Kindle and upload them directly to Amazon. These books can be designed in the landscape format (to mimic the layout of print picture books) and can include text pop-ups that enlarge the text with a tap or a click, making it easier to read.

Side note: Using the KDP Kids’ Book Creator means you’re publishing through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program. You can choose from several royalty structures within that program, and also choose whether or not to be included in KDP Select, which gives Amazon exclusive distribution of your ebook for a certain time period in exchange for marketing perks.

While the KDP Kids’ Book Creator still has a few rough spots (which Amazon is presumably ironing out in response to user feedback), it’s a good start. Those of us who have worked in children’s publishing for years recognized this move for what it was: a game changer.

Just how much has Amazon’s new free software changed the game?

With the release of the Kid’s Book Creator, as well as the Kindle Fire HD Kids Edition tablet, Amazon is investing in illustrated ebooks. And they need content.

So now comes the big question. Are you ready to ride this wave?

Not every self-published picture ebook will make it. Many will slip into oblivion as soon as they’re released.

Does Your Book Have a Fighting Chance?

Here are some positive signs.

You have a book that appeals to a niche market. Often publishers reject a manuscript simply because there isn’t a big enough audience to justify their expense to bring it to fruition. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the book shouldn’t exist. You’ll just have to make an effort to directly reach the consumers searching for the specific topic in your book.

If your story features a child with certain food allergies and how he must navigate snack time in preschool, you can write guest posts for parenting blogs that focus on these issues, or even blogs about nutrition and cooking. Many mommy bloggers welcome guest posts about all aspects of child care, and you can mention your book in your bio.

You already have a good online following. Jessica Shyba’s popular blog Momma’s Gone City, featuring photographs of her toddler and puppy at naptime, prompted publisher Jean Feiwel to offer her a two-book deal. Naptime with Theo & Beau was published by Feiwel and Friends in February, with a huge social media campaign using the hashtag #theoandbeau.

Could Shyba have chosen to self-publish the book and do the same thing? Sure. These days, authors and illustrators reach readers directly via their blogs, Twitter feeds and YouTube channels. Even if your blog is attracting the kind of people who would buy your picture book, you still have a potential customer base.

You want to begin establishing yourself as a professional author or illustrator. Waiting for an agent or editor to say yes can take months or years of submissions. Getting two or three picture ebooks out now means you’re working on creating a name for yourself and building a platform. If you do these books well, and market them smartly, you can build a reputation that can lead to more opportunities and possibly traditional book deals.

You have taken the time to study your craft. The quality of your work will be compared to those authors and illustrators who appear on the bestseller lists, so it must stand up to the scrutiny. Take classes in picture book writing and design, attend workshops, join a critique group, hire a professional editor. You want, and need, for your book to garner five-star reviews on Amazon, and not just from your mother. 

Why Your Book Might Not Make It

Your book has been rejected 25 times and you’re tired of submitting. Self-publishing won’t fix the flaws in a manuscript that had received nothing but form rejections from editors. Nor will it camouflage an ill-conceived story or writing that doesn’t appeal to the intended audience. You first need to figure out why the manuscript was rejected, and fix the problem.

You don’t have a solid marketing strategy. Complain all you want, but there is no way around it—if you want to sell books, you’ve got to market. And this goes for authors who are traditionally published as well. Don’t expect to post a link to your book on all your friends’ Facebook pages and call it a day.

You lack quality illustrations. This is crucial if you want your picture ebook to attract an audience. Remember that your first sales tool is your cover, and your second sales tool will be the first two pages of your book if you have Amazon’s Look Inside feature. If your illustrations look amateurish, the overall impression you’re giving potential customers is that this is not a professional product.

If you’re not an illustrator yourself, get the best illustrations you can afford. Start by checking the rates of some experienced illustrators. You can search the Illustrator Gallery of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, or find freelance illustrators at sites like elance.com.

If you decide to design your own illustrations, it’s wise to take a graphic design class so you learn the basics of font choices, image placement, and how things fit together best on a small screen. And speaking of the smaller screen, remember that the images should be clear and without too many tiny details so they can be easily viewed on a Kindle or iPad.

At the very least, the biggest hurdle toward successfully self-publishing picture ebooks doesn’t need to be the technology. Trust me, the KDP Kids’ Book Creator software is easy to use. Hundreds of authors and illustrators have already taken advantage of this opportunity, and are selling their books on Amazon—and they’re not all young upstarts who could use an app before they were potty trained!

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Laura Backes

For 25 years, Laura Backes has published Children’s Book Insider, The Children’s Writing Monthly. She is the co-creator of Picture eBook Mastery, an online course on how to use the KDP Kids’ Book Creator software to produce, upload and market picture ebooks on Amazon. To get her free, four-part mini video course, “Yes, You Can Publish a Kindle Picture eBook!” go to www.pictureebookmastery.com/yesyoucan. Laura can be reached through writeforkids.org.

THE FOUR WORKS

I’ve been working today on the “Four Types of Work“, loosely based in basic design on CS Lewis’ The Four Loves.

Already have basic definitions formulated and the main chapters arranged and outlined. Unlike Lewis’ book though it will be based far less on thought experiments and spiritual and theological intellectualizations than on pragmatic application.

HORSE MIGHTY FOR HARM

From the Worm Ouroboros, by E. R. Eddison, which I have recently been re-reading. I love that book and it is, no doubt, one of the greatest books of fantasy/myth ever written. Pure poetry in prose, and often, outright song:

She took the heavy volume with its faded green cover, and read: “He went out on
the night of the Lord’s day, when nine weeks were still to winter; he heard a great
crash, so that he thought both heaven and earth shook. Then he looked into the
west airt, and he thought he saw hereabouts a ring of fiery hue, and within the ring
a man on a gray horse. He passed quickly by him, and rode hard. He had a flaming
firebrand in his hand, and he rode so close to him that he could see him plainly. He
was black as pitch, and he sung this song with a mighty voice–

Here I ride swift steed,
His flank flecked with rime,
Rain from his mane drips,
Horse mighty for harm;
Flames flare at each end,
Gall glows in the midst,
So fares it with Flosi’s redes
As this flaming brand flies;
And so fares it with Flosi’s redes
As this flaming brand flies.

“Then he thought he hurled the firebrand east towards the fells before him, and
such a blaze of fire leapt up to meet it that he could not see the fells for the blaze. It
seemed as though that man rode east among the flames and vanished there…”

THE HEART WILL ROAM from THE ENDLESS FRONTIER

“Son, the heart will roam where the heart will roam. It may have no worthwhile destination at all, yet still it will attempt the journey. And if it thinks it may eventually find a better land to inhabit than what it now knows then there is no ocean vast enough, no desert barren enough, and no forest dark enough to turn it back upon itself.”

A short bit of dialogue from my book The Endless Frontier in which an old Mountain Man explains to a young man that the human heart was built for frontiers. All kinds of frontiers…

BOOKS ON THE MARKETS

Just finished ordering the latest copies of the Writer’s Market and the Songwriter’s Market.

Only cost me seven bucks. Because I had Christmas cards I had never used.

Now all I have to do is order the Agent’s Market and I’m set for the year.