HAMMER AND KNIFE

HAMMER AND KNIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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BACK AT IT

I’ve been very busy lately. Lot of travel with the wife, had a severe back injury around Easter, and my daughter just had all four wisdom teeth ganked. But I’ve been working in the background the whole time and I’m back at it now 100% and hopefully my schedule stays clear for a month or two.

Also I’ve started a Patreon account. More about that later as I get it up and running.

MAN HAS ALWAYS BEEN…

MAN HAS ALWAYS BEEN…

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

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

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

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

(My observation for Maundy Thursday.)

I’LL EAT FOR THE SAKE OF EATING

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

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

I’LL EAT FOR THE SAKE OF EATING

(A song for Easter)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IT’S ONE OR THE OTHER

IT’S ONE OR THE OTHER

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

The Detective Steinthal

RUNNING THE TABLE

RUNNING THE TABLE

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

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

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

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

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

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

from The Detective Steinthal

THE CRAFT OF FOREIGN FEATHERSTONES

THE CRAFT OF FOREIGN FEATHERSTONES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thus (and therefore),

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

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

__________________________________________

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

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

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

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

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

THE IMPERFECT BUT IDEAL CHRISTIAN WIZARD

ALTERNAEUS, THE IMPERFECT BUT IDEAL CHRISTIAN WIZARD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

__________________________________

Short Stories involving Alternaeus

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

THE NECESSARY MAN

THE NECESSARY MAN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the Kithariune

KELBRAE AND THE KITHARIUNE

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

To be used as a plot device.

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

KELBRAE, KELBRURAE, and KELBRAE-ILAR

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

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

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

OLD MAN FUNNY

OLD MAN FUNNY

Maugham laughed at the smartass remark, and then said, “Man, I wish I were as naturally funny as you.”

“Natural, hell,” Steinthal answered shaking his head. “My old man bred it into me. Nothing natural about that.”

Maugham looked at his friend quizzically.

“Seems like to me,” Maugham said almost reprovingly. “That there is everything natural about that.”

Steinthal looked at his friend as if considering what he had said.

“Yeah, you got a point I guess,” Steinthal replied. “But you’d just have to know my old man. He bred funny.”

from The Detective Steinthal

THE SECRET ACCORD

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

 

THE SECRET ACCORD

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

THE DARK

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

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

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

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

It’s Normal to Feel Like a Loser

by Michelle Griep

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

After day.

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

Or maybe you’re just a loser.

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

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

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

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

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

KNAVES AND FOOLS

KNAVES AND FOOLS, BOYS AND WIZARDS

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

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

“What is it boy?” Alternaeus asked.


“You are summoned sir.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The boy hesitated but then pointed at the grael.

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

Alternaeus almost laughed.

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

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

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

The boy considered the meaning of the answer.

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

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

The boy nodded slightly, then continued with his inquiry.

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

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

The boy was quiet and pensive for a moment.

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

Alternaeus laughed.

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, lor… yes sir.”

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

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

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

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

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

“I may very well apprentice you…”

from The Wizard and the Wyrdpack

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

Hope you have been enjoying it.

And have a good weekend folks…

IS THERE NOTHING ELSE?

IS THERE NOTHING ELSE?              

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He sighed. Deeply.

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

“Is there then nothing else?” she inquired.

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

Alternaeus the Wizard and the lady Cynewise

from the Wizard and the Wyrdpack

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

YOU CAN NEVER GET TOO MUCH PRACTICE

YOU CAN NEVER GET TOO MUCH PRACTICE

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

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

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

Maugham looked at his friend, then squinted.

“Never assume I guess,” he answered.

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

Maugham looked thoughtful for a moment.

“What are you saying then?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Because someone else tried it on me.”

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

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

“Was it a lady?” Maugham asked.

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

Maugham laughed.

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

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

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

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

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

from The Detective Steinthal

MUCHA NOTHING

MUCHA NOTHING…

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

Sole Patterson, The Lettered Men

I HAVE NOTED

I HAVE NOTED

That, generally speaking, when I am happy and full (of life, love, the future) that I use very simple and physical words. Sun, soil, blood, bone, terms like that. Vague and fuzzy words, but words well known to all and understood by all.

When I am curious, or fascinated, and stimulated in mind or soul then I use very complicated and extremely precise words.

But when I am melancholy and pensive, or brooding, or sick of something I use very antique and ancient words. And/or words with multiple meanings or encoded words. Words, and terms, and phrases I know that others are not usually aware of or will have to wrestle with or discover for themselves. Or such things (terms, phrases) as I devise myself. As if I am engaged in a sort of literary and psychological or spiritual cryptological enterprise.

This is mainly sub-conscious, and by long habit. I am rarely intentionally attempting it in the act but always am vaguely aware of it as it unfolds and can easily see it afterwards.

But I often wonder…

Does this happen to you as well? Or something like it?

Do you have a different vocabulary for different states or moods, as well as for different genres or subject matters?

It would be interesting for me to know if this happens to or with others as well…

 

THE CHRISTIAN WIZARD

THE CHRISTIAN WIZARD

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

Just in hand manuscript form.

THE STHENICIST

THE STHENICIST

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

Then it will take a really hard turn…

SHE SWEPT THE LAKE: UP WILL COME

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

Avantgardens. Willow effigy by Olga Ziemska.

SHE SWEPT THE LAKE

(Up Will Come)

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

In effigy

Sprang from the Earth
Yet not redeemed

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHY WOULD HE?

WHY WOULD HE?

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

Alternaeus the Wizard

(from The Wizard and the Wyrdpack)

YEAH, I EAT THAT AS WELL

YEAH, I EAT THAT AS WELL

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

Alternaeus the Wizard

from The Wizard and the Wyrdpack

WRITING FOR A LIVING

Yes, You Can Make a Living Writing Fiction! 10 Tips from Elizabeth S. Craig

 Make a Living Writing Fiction: Follow these Ten Steps

By Elizabeth S. Craig 

I’ve been asked by everyone from writers with day jobs to high school students if it’s possible to make a living as a writer.  The answer is easy—it’s definitely possible.  The next question is trickier to answer—how does one go about making a living as a writer?

Although some writers hit it big with a blockbuster book, the rest of us need to work harder and smarter. We need multiple books with multiple income streams to make it.

Here are my tips and best practices for making a living writing fiction.

I’m doing it, myself (if I weren’t I’d definitely be looking for a day job):

1) Write a popular genre that you enjoy reading and writing.

If you’re looking for commercial success, it’s best to choose a genre that’s popular with readers. There are readers who avidly follow new releases in their favorite genre, reading as many as they can get their hands on. Writing for those readers makes discoverability much easier than writing ‘a book that’s so unique, it’s impossible to categorize’ (something I’ve heard a writer say before).

But the second part of that tip is equally important—it’s vital that you choose a popular genre that you enjoy reading and writing.  If you’re branding yourself to a genre, make sure it’s one you know inside and out. This will be much easier if you like reading those types of books.

2) Know what readers expect from the genre.

There are always specific conventions to follow.

Most genres have a particular pattern to them…readers expect to see the stories constructed a certain way. These conventions are helpful because they give us guidelines to follow.

It’s fine to ‘think outside the box,’ but probably better not to start out that way if we’re looking for success. It’s better to experiment after we have a more loyal readership and even then it can be tricky.

I’ve known well-established writers who flouted cozy mystery conventions and suffered poor reviews and angry readers because of it.

If you’re not sure what the conventions for your chosen genre are, step up your critical reading and note similarities in the books. Read customer reviews of these novels on retail sites to see what’s worked and what hasn’t for readers.

3) Write in series.

Readers enjoy reading series and writing in series definitely makes the process easier for authors. With series, we have a set story world, characters with developed traits, and a structure to work from. It’s a terrific time-saver and a way to quickly create more stories without having to reinvent the wheel each time we start a new book.

4) Write quickly.

If you can release at least one book a year, you’ll soon find yourself in a position to make more income.

Having several published books makes it easier to run promotions. You could lower the price of the first book or even make it free. You can give a book away to readers as an inducement to join your email newsletter list.  Aside from the promotional aspect, having several published books gives us more ‘real estate’ and visibility on retail sites.

You can also write faster and more accurately by keeping a story bible for your series, noting any facts that you’ll need to know for future stories (character eye color, style of dressing, lisp, the street the protagonist lives on).

That way you won’t have to take time to reread your own books to research basic facts about your series.

Another way to make the most of your valuable writing time is by giving yourself a short prompt at the end of each writing session to remind yourself where you left off and what you plan on covering next.

5) Self publish.

I write three series, all of which started out with a trade publisher.  I’m continuing two of them independently.

That’s because I realized that I was making more money by self-publishing than I was by publishing at Penguin-Random House…with fewer self-published books.

6) Publish well-edited, well-designed books.

Happy readers make for repeat readers. Make quality part of your brand.

Self-publishing, it’s said, is a misnomer. It takes a team to create really solid products.

7) Make your published books work harder for you.

  • Have your books available in print as well as digital. Use both CreateSpace and IngramSpark to maximize your international reach.
  • Expand into audiobooks.
  • Make your books available in foreign markets and subscription services through distributors like PublishDrive, StreetLib, Draft2Digital, and Smashwords.
  • Get your books in libraries through OverDrive, Baker and Taylor Axis 360, and Bibliotheca CloudLibrary through the previously mentioned aggregators.
  • Accept paid public speaking gigs to talk about your books and your writing process.

8) Continue learning about changes in the publishing industry, better promotional methods, and emerging markets.

Invest time reading blogs that inform self-published authors, such as:

9) Be responsive to criticism.

Read your reviews, especially the critical ones.  If enough readers comment or complain about a particular aspect of a character or your stories, consider making a change to strengthen your books and make them more appealing to readers.

10) Work smarter instead of harder with marketing to open up more time to write.

Promo can eat up time better spent writing. Make a focused list of promo areas you want to pursue and then mark the time to research, create, and implement on your calendar (Facebook ads, BookBub, etc.)

But also consider working smarter and setting up strategies that will help you in the long run without the continuous investment of time.

  • Tweak keywords and keeping book metadata consistent for better discoverability.
  • Link to your other books in your back matter.
  • Make sure to have your newsletter signup link in a variety of places, including your email tagline, website sidebar, back matter of your books, and Facebook page.
  • Inform your newsletter subscribers whenever you have a new release.

This approach won’t appeal to all writers and isn’t right for all writers. This type of production schedule is intense and multiple releases each year can create pressure for the writer. It can take a while to see significant returns…it’s usually a slow build. But for those of us who’d rather write instead of pursuing a day job—it’s worth it in the end.

***

What other tips have I missed for writers interested in writing fiction for a living? And thanks to Anne for hosting me today.

By Elizabeth S. Craig (@elizabethscraig) February 19, 2017.

Elizabeth writes the Southern Quilting mysteries and Memphis Barbeque mysteries for Penguin Random House and the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink and independently.

She blogs at ElizabethSpannCraig.com/blog  and curates links on Twitter as @elizabethscraig that are later shared in the free search engine WritersKB.com. Elizabeth makes her home in Matthews, North Carolina, with her husband and two teenage children.

(Note from Anne: Follow Elizabeth on Twitter! Her “Twitteriffic” links are the best way to keep up with the publishing industry that I know! )

 

BOOK OF THE WEEK

Fall to Pieces: A Southern Quilting Mystery

When a quilting event falls to pieces, Beatrice works to patch things up.

Dappled Hills quilters are eagerly anticipating new events at the Patchwork Cottage quilt shop. The shop’s owner, Posy, has announced ‘Sew and Tell’ socials and a mystery quilt group project.

But one day, instead of emailed quilt instructions, the quilters receive a disturbing message about a fellow quilter. When that quilter mysteriously meets her maker, Beatrice decides to use her sleuthing skills to find the killer before more lives are cut short.

OPPORTUNITY ALERTS

Creative Nonfiction magazine seeks TRUE personal stories or profiles about people starting over after a failure or setback. Up to 4000 words. Paying market. $3  submission fee. Deadline June 19, 2017

C.G. JUNG SOCIETY OF ST. LOUIS ESSAY CONTEST $10 ENTRY FEE. Theme: Memories, Dreams, and Sensualities. They are looking for personal essays that add something unique to the conversation about Jungian ideas. Winners will have the opportunity to read their essays at our conference, Jung in the Heartland: Memories, Dreams Sensualities, October 2017. Winning essays published on the website. 1st Prize: $1,000. 2nd Prize: $500. 3rd Prize: $250. 3,500 words. Deadline: May 1, 2017.

LitMag pays up to $1000 for short stories! $250 for poetry and short-shorts. No reprints. They don’t consider work that’s previously been published either in print or online (including personal blogs.)

Write non-fiction? Impakter Magazine is looking for non-fiction articles and interviews (1000-3000 words max) in 4 verticals: Culture, Society, Style, Philanthropy. Articles about politics are also welcome but need to meet the magazine’s standard of high-quality content.  The magazine publishes daily (except week-end) and each piece attracts 10-40,000 viewers (in majority college-educated millennials). No submission fee.

Publish with the Big 5 without an agent! Forever Yours, Digital-first Romance imprint of Hachette is now taking unagented submissions, from novellas to sagas (12K words t0 100K words.) No advance. 25% royalty. Professional editing, design, publicist. Print books over 50K words.

ROMANCE AUTHORS! Here’s a list of 31 small presses that specialize in romance and do not require an agent for submissions. Also compiled by the Authors Publish Newsletter.

25 PUBLISHERS YOU CAN SUBMIT TO WITHOUT AN AGENT. These are respected, mostly independent publishing houses–vetted by the great people at Authors Publish. Do check out their newsletter

TRUE TO DETAIL BUT OPEN IN SCOPE

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

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

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

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

February 20, 2017

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

by

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

THE STAKES

Fotolia 97731354 M

“The biggest risk is not taking any risk.”

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

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

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

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

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

Are you all in or not?

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

Your readers would not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Steven James

NOT MUCH A’NOTHING FOR NOBODY

Yeah, indeed, I agree with much of this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Isolated Writer

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

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

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

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

Please bear with me as I tell a short story.

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

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

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

It made sense.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how do you overcome the dreaded Isolated Author Syndrome?

Help someone else defeat it.

 

SOME ADVICE

February 13, 2017

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

by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PROS AND CONS

Should I Join a Professional Organization?

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

When investigating professional organizations, I recommend asking yourself questions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your turn:

Are you a member of any professional organizations?

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

What professional organizations would you recommend?

 

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.

THE OUTCAST TALE

Thursday, January 26, 2017

When God Gives You a Story Nobody Wants by Robin Patchen

As an author and freelance editor, I’ve had the privilege of knowing and working with a lot of writers, and I’ve discovered most have one at least one thing in common: a sense of urgency to publish.

Since the majority of my writer friends are Christians, I’m not sure if the rush is unique to Christian authors or universal among all, but I do suspect that believers may feel a bit more hurried, what with the need to get the message out there and share the truth with the world.

Would that we were all so eager to witness to our neighbors, but I digress.

Whether you’re published or not, you may feel a sense of urgency about your writing projects. Maybe you worry that somebody else will come along with the same idea and beat you to it. Maybe you worry that by the time your book reaches your audience, the perfect opportunity for your message will have passed. Or maybe the worry is more personal than that. After all, none of us is getting any younger.

With the explosion of indie publishing, impatient writers don’t have to wait any longer. All it takes is a few clicks of the mouse, and you can load that book on retail sites, making it available to your adoring public.

You can indie publish, but should you?

I’m not knocking the process. I’m indie published myself, so I consider this a valid option. The question I want to tackle isn’t whether or not you should take this route. The question is when. Even if the Lord handed you the story, the image for the book cover, and the title, that’s not proof He wants you to rush out and throw it on Amazon. Not sure I’m right? There’s plenty of biblical justification for waiting:

  • Abraham was told he’d have a son and then waited 19 years before little Isaac was born.
  • Biblical scholars estimate David waited 10-15 years after he was anointed king before he finally ascended to the throne.
  • The apostle Paul didn’t begin preaching until more than a decade after his conversion.

I’m sure there were times when Abraham, David, and Paul felt the waiting was unnecessary and wished God would hurry it along. Abraham and Sarah did hurry their promise along. We know how that turned out. David not only waited but, for much of that interim, had to battle just to stay alive. The time wasn’t wasted, though. Lessons are learned in the waiting. Patience, perseverance, and faith, of course. But I suspect some of those lessons were more basic than that. For instance, David learned how to be a leader others were willing to die for. If he’d been crowned sooner, he may not have become the greatest earthly king in Israel’s history.  After all, he began as a shepherd, lowly and obscure.

Maybe you have a book you believe needs to be published. Maybe it’s a book you think the Lord gave you, and maybe it even came with a promise. If so, be patient. The anxiety fluttering in your stomach when you think about this project—that isn’t from God. When you pray and trust, you’ll be filled with peace, not worry. But if you force your way through doors He hasn’t opened, the anxiety will likely grow. And the book will not have the impact it could have if you’d remained in His will.

I’ve seen too many books brought to the light through indie publishing that weren’t mature enough, weren’t seasoned enough, weren’t ready to be there. Instead of jumping ahead, trust that when God wants you to publish your words, He’ll make it clear. He’ll open the right doors and lead you to exactly the right the people who can help make it happen.

In the meantime, move on to other projects. Build your newsletter list, learn new marketing strategies, make connections with other authors. Mostly, keep learning, keep growing, and keep improving your craft.  It may be that if you come back to that project in a year or two, you’ll realize you can make it shine.

I speak from experience. The Lord gave me a book almost four years ago. It’s the only time I’ve ever felt one of my stories came from God, and, still, it was the hardest book I ever wrote. I believe that with the help of a great editor, it can be my best book. But that story has been pitched and pitched, and nobody’s interested. I write and publish other books and help other authors do the same while that book languishes silently on my laptop. When I pray about it, I don’t have a clear direction. I don’t feel free to indie publish it, and no acquisitions editor has shown any interest. So I wait. The last thing I want to do is treat His gift with haste and carelessness. I trust that God has a purpose in the waiting and a plan for the story He gave me.

The Lord may make you a promise, give you a vision, or impart to you a message, and then ask you to wait. He’s been doing it for thousands of years, and He’ll keep doing it today. You could choose to be like Abraham and Sarah and rush ahead, or you could trust God’s timing, which is always perfect.

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:

Your book needs a unique angle to get agent and editor attention. Here is one approach to finding it. Click to Tweet.

Here is one approach to help identify a unique angle for your novel or nonfiction book. Click to Tweet.

GOOD SOLID ROMAN PROGRESS

I have recently made good, solid progress on The Roman Way, The Christian Wizard, and a few other non-fiction books I am currently writing. My set of novels, The Kithariune, proceed apace as well. That being especially true for the Basilegate.

(a superb drawing of a Roman soldier on march by I know not who – follow the link)

So I am very pleased with my progress on these fronts.

In addition, and recently, I have turned out two new children’s books, such as the Kuddle King (picture book level) and a couple of poems which please me and that may be inserted into my novels.

Now I must secure good agents and editors for my work.

Today my wife is off on an assignment for her company, my oldest daughter is back in college, my youngest child is visiting museums in NC, and so I am here alone at the house and may work entirely undisturbed and uninterrupted. So I am going to make good use of my time.

I have been listening to old rock music and opera this morning and that has also put me in a mood to songwrite/songwright. So if I have time and some good ideas strike me I will be doing that as well.

And the weather terrifically good for both working and for training out of doors. So I will have a heavy and productive but relaxed day of both.

Have a good day yourself folks.

THE FISH WHO KNOWS

THE FISH WHO KNOWS

I was recently (last year) listening to a set of lectures on ancient Anatolia and the professor mentioned a record of a particular set of “tame fish” who resided in a temple or palace (can’t remember which now) that one could call to (orally) and they would swim up to you. (As you might call a dog.) They were famous and widely known of. Records existed of them. These fish were considered sacred. And even intelligent.

Anyway they gave me an idea-set for a set of fish to be included in my trilogy of novels the Kithariune. The ideas are as follows. These fish are owned by the Sidh or the Lorahn (haven’t decided yet) and are extremely ancient and well known. They are also considered sacred and intelligent. They can trigger highly accurate but confusing prophetic visions and dreams if they bite you upon the finger but their bite is extremely toxic and often kills those whom they bite. Therefore few ever risk such a prophetic vision except in extremis, even the Samarls who are said to be usually immune to both disease and poison. Because even if the fish cannot kill a Samarl they might still put one in a coma or make him extremely ill, perhaps even for life. So the fish have not been used to stimulate prophetic visions in many centuries.

However, according to legend and myth, there is another way the fish can stimulate prophetic visions. And that is to kill, cook, and eat one. (Eating one raw will kill a person but eating a cooked one usually only induces an illness.)

So, one person in the court catches one of the fish, kills it, eats it, and has a set of prophetic visions. However because the fish are considered sacred, because they are very long lived, and because they are considered intelligent it is a crime to kill one. On the same level to the Eldevens as to kill a person. And supposedly a curse is inflicted upon anyone who would dare kill one of these fish. But the curse does not stop there but also extends to the entire group of people who are supposed to be the caretakers and guardians of these fish. Another later attempt is made to exterminate and wipe out all of these fish when the visions occur because the person who ate the fish is afraid the other fish might impart the knowledge of his identity to others.

In any case there will be an ongoing sub-plot (which later develops into a major plot point) about this fish killing, the prophetic dreams, and the accompanying curse. And the Eldevens will have to find a way to either thwart the visions and curse, or to avoid them because the criminal who committed this act resides deeply in the court of the Samarl and because he is a spy.

Later in the story/plot it will be discovered that these fish are tied to the Sidhelic and Eldeven Cult of these Sacred (Prophetic) Fish which is itself tied to the underground Fish Cult of Jesus Christ among the Eldevens. (The Fish being an early and secret sign of Christ among the cult of the first Christians.)

The Sad and Superficial Countenance of Modern Man

“Desperate to dwell forever upon the perfidies of the past they endlessly recreate the very same within themselves and so never breed a worthwhile future, or an offspring fit for life”

Scene: The Sad and Superficial Countenance of Modern Man, from my play, Modern Man

AN END WILL COME ANON (I AM RESOLVED)

AN END WILL COME ANON

Unresolved I nothing did
Resolved at once I swiftly bid, but
Finding other ends so hid
Within the beam, and bound amid
I resolutely, God forbid,
Discovered not what cause undid
What cunning tactic
Could not Cure, what resolution
Did procure, does thinking thus
Make sure allure, or do our thoughts
Our acts abjure when Time
Is counted Friend or Foe,
Does it matter, do you know?

Or is this best solved in the Heart
Some never do, some flaming start
Yet those who finish, finish true
Brook no excuse, all pleas eschew
When they start they set off hot
Then burn until most have forgot
But in their souls no fire dims
They seek a crown, and seek it grim
They go on, and on, up to the rim
To end what ere they first begin
While others speak, they act
And act, and act again…
In habit so unlike most men.

You ask me what has most import
The time, the nature, or the sport?
I tell you that it matters not
It matters what you’ve yet begot
While others to their fallen lot
Pause to rest, and then do squat
For good – though good be ill
To carry on no more, still,
Stillness is their end:
So yes, the question solves itself
If any will but hear it well,
The start is vital, this is true
The middle hard to labor through
Yet if you but continue on
While others drop,
Their motives gone –

Your end will come, and come anon…
Resolved, your aim is true.

 

(Written as my answer to being resolved for 2017)

ALL THE SURFEIT EMPIRES OF THE EARTH!

TO OUR FULL MEASURE:

“Now nearly at an end are these, our feckless days of famished feasting, and hard upon us now is come an hopeful age of high and happy labor that shall rightly crown our approaching enterprise with gilded glories still to swell the ceaseless vaulted realms of heaven, and mark for all time this yet unimagined era, when we, fit with industry prodigious and unknown to long sleeping history, sure o’erwhelmed all the surfeit empires of the Earth!

MIRACLE OF THE TINY TIDBIT

MIRACLE OF THE TINY TIDBIT

Got up this morning and wrote a rather nice little children’s Christmas story about something my daughter said to me last night about not having enough wrapping paper to wrap all of the Christmas presents. That all she had left to wrap with were “tidbits.” I kind of took her anxious kiddie complaint, turned it around, used the real definitions of the term, and made something different out of it. Because it was far too good an idea to waste.

I’m calling it the, “Miracle of the Tiny Tidbit.”

I like it when my kids give me story ideas.

Now I get to spend the rest of the day working at things I like to do, as well as training and lifting weights before the Christmas holidays. So, a good time all around.

Plus it is sunny and pleasant in my neck of the woods (a little cool but very nice) and looks like a forecast for a very nice Christmas eve and Christmas day.

Meaning I get to break out all the good presents with my kids and my nephews come Christmas day. Be a kid myself.

Plus, next week, I’m going to see Rogue One with my daughter and her boyfriend before she goes back to college. So, looking forward to that as well.

Well, best get to work and to working out.

Have a great day folks.

A COUPLE OF NEW THINGS

I’ve started a new literary short story entitled, The Long Lonely Estate of Daniel J. Despair, and a new children’s book called, Tea and Ticklebiscuits.