Wyrdwend

The Filidhic Literary Blog of Jack Günter

THE MASTER AND THE GURU – FIRST VERSE

Since it is National Poetry Month I have been attempting to write one new poem for each day of the month. So far I am maintaining my output despite my other workloads. Because poetry is not only one of my favorite avocations, it is also one of my favorite occupations.

Though some of my new poems have been necessarily short and/or very simple because I have been pressed for time given my other pursuits.

I will not be posting every new poem I write here (on Wyrdwend) because a couple have turned out to be really good indeed and because I shall enter them in contests or otherwise seek publication for those. For instance last Saturday (4/8/17) I wrote one entitled The Carpentry of Dead Men which I thought to be particularly good.

But I will try to post at least one of the poems I have written every week.

With that I give you this poem for this week’s First Verse: The Master and the Guru.

Inspired by something a friend said about “modern gurus and experts” and their never-ending advice.

Enjoy, and have a good evening folks.

Also, and less I be remiss, thank you for your readership and on-going support.

_______________________________________________

THE MASTER AND THE GURU

The Master took me to his forge
A hammer placed he in my hand
The guru with his tongue disgorged
His tales of wondrous, foreign lands,

The Master bade me strike the steel
To work upon it what I will
The guru told me, “sit and learn,”
As he spoke in fitful turns,

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And when I erred throughout my Work
The Master’s hand made me his clerk
But when the guru spoke of truth
He said all things are thus, “for-sooth!”

The Master bade me work again
When failure stained my heart within
The guru said, “Do not lose heart,
All truths to you are but a part (apart)…”

The Master said, “You’ve learned enough,
Now practice til you perfect-up!”
I asked him when that day would come
He laughed at me and sent me home,

My guru, on the other hand
Mentioned not his future plans,
Nor did he bid me practice more
“Just wait awhile, I do implore –
For always there is more to learn…”

guru

In that he marqued, and most profound,
In endless thought I’ve never found
How it is we may surround
An end to knowing, to that ground

Plowed and furrowed, waiting still
For seeds to grow, for crops to till –

The mind it is a hollow hall
Fathomless, without recall

The guru knows this, yes he does
And warrants then his work because,
The Master makes, the guru speaks
The one insists, the other seeks

Solutions that can never end
In anything, but will suspend
That day you come to know at last
That knowing is not action
In this world…

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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.

YEAH, SO EXACTLY HOW DO YOU DO THAT?

YEAH, SO EXACTLY HOW DO YOU DO THAT?

“It’s a question of precisely what is the most ethical possible practice,” Termkin said, apparently annoyed by Steinthal’s relentless and unswerving line of inquiry.

Steinthal stared at him intently, but unreadably.

“Is it?” asked Steinthal.

Termkin seemed puzzled by the question.

“What do you mean?” Termkin said.

“See,” said Steinthal twirling the brim of his hat in his hand, “that’s where I think we both know you’re wrong.”

Termkin furrowed his brow, his expression a mixture of ongoing annoyance and a genuine struggle to understand.

“I still don’t perceive your exact meaning?”

“No, I don’t think you do,” said Steinthal. “And I really didn’t expect that you could. But let me simplify the matter for you. You see I have this theory that everything is always really about morality. And that ethics is just something that lawyers and other no count types like you employ as a cheap legal substitute.”

Termkin seemed to follow Steinthal’s explanation at a slightly slower pace than it had been enunciated. But when he finally caught up he suddenly flushed red and showed his ire.

“Why you smart mouthed son of a bitch!”

Steinthal laughed good humoredly.

“Probably,” he said. “But I noticed you didn’t bother to refute me.”

Termkin mulled on that for a moment before his snappy comeback finally came to him.

“Oh yeah, well exactly how is one supposed to refute you smartass types?” Termkin demanded. “You think you’re always right.”

Steinthal stood up and put his hat on his head. He smiled to himself as if Termkin wasn’t even in the room though he was still staring right at him.

“See, that’s the part about this whole thing that’s easiest to resolve,” said Steinthal. “We are always right. Even when no one else knows it yet. Like you. As for the thinking part, well now, if you ever really bothered with that then I presume you could figure it out for yourself.”

Steinthal tipped his hat at Termkin in a peculiar gesture. “But I’m not gonna lay real money on it.”

Steinthal walked across the room, opened the door and then looked back at Termkin.

“I’d like to say it was nice to meet you Termkin. But, we met anyway. So at least we’ll always have that.”

The he left.

Still full of questions, but certain he finally crossed the right man.

______________________________________________

A bit of dialogue involving my Detective Character Steinthal. I didn’t really get a chance to do a Tuesday’s Tale this week. Too busy. So I’m posting this today instead.

My youngest daughter read it and I asked her what she thought of it and she said, “Dad, Steinthal talks pretty much just like you.”

Which made me laugh.

“Yeah, funny how that works, ain’t it?” I told her…

I FORGOT TO REMEMBER – FIRST VERSE

I started these two things, the first the beginning of a poem, the second part of a set of song lyrics, over the weekend. Don’t know what I’m gonna do with either in the end but since it is Monday this is my post for First Verse.

 

I FORGOT TO REMEMBER

I forgot to remember when nothing was right
How all that we tendered was twisted and trite
I begot a dismembered, ephemeral sight
When divided in terror, Theatron of Rites

The devices, the chorus, the Odeion of Scene
A tyrant all bloodied his thralldom most keen
Our vices within us a kingdom of dreams
Grown pregnant and studied, still starving and lean

A Opera of Staging, performed and preformed
Dispelled in the aging distempered and worn
Our union engaging our spectacle torn
Redundant, abundant, of meaning all shorn…

JUST A MAN

Gonna ditch my damned phone, then ditch my car
I’m gonna hitch my wagon to the brightest star
I’m gonna find the person that I’m looking for
Just gonna keep on walking til I reach the shore
Of somewhere I’ve never been before,
To see what lies beyond this land
To see what happens when a man
Is just a man…

If You Leave – I’m going to try again and link to the daily post. I have no idea if it will actually work.

THE OBSERVATION OF FAILURE

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

from The Business, Career, and Work of Man

MY ADVICE TO WRITERS (and Everyone else)

The other day someone asked my advice on how to conduct myself as a writer. Or actually, to be more accurate, my advice on how they might better conduct themselves as a writer based on my prior experiences. Since writing is basically a “lonesome occupation” requiring a great deal of commitment, isolation (to a degree I’ll explain momentarily), focus, determination, self-discipline, and real work. They were having trouble dealing with the “lonesome” part of the occupation.

I repeat my advice to them here in the case this assists anyone else. Of course this advice could just as easily apply to artists, inventors, poets, songwriters, and even (to some extent) entrepreneurs of all kinds (all of which I am) with but a few minor modifications. So this is my Highmoot for this Wednesday.

THIS IS MY ADVICE

This is my advice after having worked for myself for decades. I’m about evenly matched between being an introvert and being an extrovert. I too do my very best work alone. However I prime myself by going out and observing people. Going to places that are active, like labs, industrial complexes, malls, museums, libraries, city streets, performances, college campuses, Vadding, to shops, exploring other towns, theaters, etc.
I do this for a day or two about once every two to three weeks.  Although depending on my work schedule I may not be able to do it but once a month. Nevertheless I do this as much as I can and regularly schedule such things.
(Aside: One place though I never go to is coffee shops. Everyone there is on their computers or cell phones and the interactions are limited and about all you see anyone doing is staring at a screen. Coffee shops are, for the most part, horrible and pretentious work environments, with people tending to merely congregate together in order to appear to be working, when in fact they are not truly working – they are seeking to socially escape real work by the public appearance of a displayed but primarily unreal act of “business.” On this point I entirely agree with Hemingway, coffee shops and cafes are the very worst places to do any actual and real work, though they give the plastic social facade of appearing to be busy.
The very same can be said to be true about coffee shops as “observation posts” on true human behavior. The types of human behavior evidenced in most coffee shops is unnatural, artificial, pretentious, deceptive, and rehearsed. People in coffee shops and cafes are extremely aware that they are being observed, indeed this is one reason so many go there, to observe and be observed (in a sort of pre-approved, socially accepted and promoted play-act), in the place of actually working. I almost never trust the close observations of human behavior I make of people in such environments. Such behaviors tend to be no more “real” than the work supposedly occurring in such places, and just as artificial as the plastic illuminated screens they seem so utterly devoted to, and the technological implements they are eagerly seen to be worshiping. My advice is to skip such places entirely if you can and go rather to where real work can be done and you can make true observations about actual behaviors, be those human or animal. Places like I mentioned above. End Aside.)

Then I come home and my mind and soul are primed with observations and ideas and stories and poetry and songs and invention concepts and business proposals.

When I’m at home and working, and tire, or am bored, then I go outside and clear land, hike in the woods, explore the nearby lands (I live out in the country), go fishing, track and observe animals, climb trees, cut down trees, cut the grass, etc. I said I do my best work alone, but actually I do my best work alone while doing something physical, and then I work in my head as I labor. Both because it is excellent practice to work in your head as you labor (the bodily labor frees the mind to wander and work) and because working while you labor is an excellent Mnemonics Technique. Sometimes I’ll write entire poems, songs, scenes from my novels, sections of business plans, create prototype inventions in my head, etc., then memorize the same and store them in Agapolis, my Memory City as I am physically laboring and only after I quit and go back into the house will I write down what I created.

I know modern people are not big on memory or Mnemonic Techniques (so much the shame for them), but I learned such things from the Ancients and the Medievals and if you ask me a superb memory and good control over your own memory is a far better set of skills and capabilities for a writer (or most anyone) to possess than a thousand cell phones or a hundred laptops or tablets or even a dozen internets. A good memory increases not only your overall intelligence but is fundamental to establishing, developing, and properly employing an excellent vocabulary. So practice writing or creating first in your head (after all you can do such things even when you have no access to even pen and paper), then fully memorize what you do, and only then write it down. Such exercises are not only important to do (because of what I mentioned above), but will pay many dividends in any of your creative endeavours and enterprises. Rely not just upon mere technology for your best creations and for your most important works, but rather upon what you most deeply impress upon your own mind and soul. That is both where creation begins and where it will be properly shaped and forged and worked into worthwhile and well-crafted final products.

I don’t know if this helps you any in your own creative enterprises but my advice is go out at least once a month, or as often as you need it, and do nothing but observe and generate new ideas. Then let them ruminate and percolate through you and within you.

If you thereafter feel all cramped up and unable to work smoothly then do something strenuous and physical outside. The labor will do you good and also set our mind free to wander. Then when you are primed and relaxed go to work.

To simplify to a very basic formula: Prime + Observe + Labor + Work + Memorize = High End and Valuable End Product.
After the necessary revisions for proper refinement, of course.
REWRITE OFTEN.

But just because you work alone doesn’t mean you are a prisoner of your environment and just because you work alone doesn’t mean you always have to be alone.

Go wander, go labor, go explore, go meet new people, go people watch, memorize, and then actually Work. Don’t just wade into crowds and pretend to work.

Actually Work.

Be extremely good for ya. And it will probably make you a helluvah lot better writer than you’ve ever been before. No matter what you’re writing. And it is awful hard to be lonely, or a slack-ass, when you are actually doing Good Work.

That’s my advice, take it for what it’s worth.

PACKAGES, SAMPLES, AND STOCKWORK – HIGHMOOT

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

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

BRAVE ANNA – FIRST VERSE

These are the lyrics of a song I began this past weekend. It is unfinished but I’m pleased with the start I made…

(painting: please see here – http://www.artbyfuentes.com/commissions/)

BRAVE ANNA

Brave Anna was fair
And thrice did she dare
To be with a man like I
I’d warn her away
Come night and come day,
I never asked her to die

Yet oh she would sing
Of all of the things
Our kisses, our embrace
Beloved
Of the sorrow she’d bring
Unless she could cling
To my heart, enlacing
Her love

Yes, Brave Anna was fair
And dark was her hair
It blew in the sea’s song-breeze
She’s laugh and she’d play
She’d lead me astray
So little was I at ease

Though how she would dance
Left nothing to chance
I was the captive
Not her
All the sorrow she’d bring
When the church bells would ring
Her passing to always
Recur

Brave Anna was bright
With her eyes did she spite
The doubts of a man like I
I’d wish her away
Though never she strayed
Thus did she end her life

Oh yes I would say
Both night and in day
I am a man of loss…

KAL-KITHARIUNE – THOUGHTS ON THE END

KAL-KITHARIUNE

I finally have the ultimate titles for my set of mythic/high-fantasy novels. They shall be called Kal-Kithariune (Or, The Fall of Kitharia). Originally the series was to be called The Other World but I was never really pleased with that. It was only a preliminary and place-holder title anyway.

The Kal-Kithariune shall link back to another myth/history or time epoch called the Kol-Kithariad (or the Rebirth or the Establishment of Kitharia). I have not really decided if the Kithariad will refer to a period of time 300 years prior to the Kithariune (when Kitharia undergoes a Rebirth or Renaissance) or to a period 3000 years prior when Kitharia is first established and founded.

Ideally I’d like to work it out so that the Kithariad refers to the Rebirth of Kitharia, 300 years before its Fall, but realistically I’m having real trouble making that fit and so it may have to refer to the Founding. It may be better to use the Founding as the other reference point anyway, to contrast the Genesis with the Armageddon and End. But I’d prefer the Rebirth. Though that might be impossible.

Kitharia is a both an analogy and a metaphor for America. And all of the Eldeven lands for the West even though the events take place in what would in our world be The Orient (near our Real World Samarkand).

The individual novels in the series will be entitled:

The Basilegate (The Emperor’s Legate)
The Caerkara (The Expeditionary Force)
The Wyrding Road
The Other World (or perhaps Lurial and Iÿarlðma)

The novels will be a tetralogy. Now that I finally have all of the titles, know the plots and endings of all four books, have the languages developed, many of the poems and songs written, some of the maps and illustrations drawn, have hundreds of entries in my Plot Machine and thousands of notes, and about 200 pages of the each of the first two books written I suspect I can complete the entire tetralogy in under 2 years.

This is by far the very most complicated thing I have ever constructed (to date), at least as far as writing goes and that includes a couple of epic poems I’ve written. I first conceived it in 2007 as a single book and I’m sure I have thousands and thousands of hours sunk into it since then. Despite my other workloads.

Eventually I plan to write a set of children’s short stories connected to it and to at least plan out or begin the Kithariad though that will likely have to be passed on to others.

Before I start either of those though I just want to complete the Kithariune and then move on to my other novels, such as my sci-fi series The Curae (which will be every bit as big as the Kithariune), my detective novels, and my Frontiers novels, such as The Regulator and the Lettermen. And I want to complete my literary novels such as Modern Man and The Cache of Saint Andrew. Plus I want to finish my epic poem America. And I want to write some scripts. Not just TV scripts but movie scripts. So once I finish the Kithariune it may be a long while before I return to myth and fantasy, such as after my “retirement” (though I don’t plan to ever really retire).

I have however learned much by writing the Kithariune. I now know exactly how to plot out both long, complex novels and series, and much simpler single books. So the learning and research and study period was worth it alone in that respect. And it should both add to the richness of the Kithariune and to all of the other novels I write thereafter.

THE WORDY WAY – TUESDAY’S TALE

Last night while in bed I decided to write up some new lines for my Western, the Lettered Men.

I’ll do that sometimes right before I go to bed. Got some good stuff done but had to rework some of em this morning. Many of these lines are spoken by Jerimiah Jereds, also known as “Wordy” (the only name his friends call him) because he will either invent words (neologisms) or will twist around old phrases and common sayings in new ways. Wordy sometimes acts as the comic-relief of the novel, which is pretty rough in parts, and sometimes acts as the de-facto Bard of the novel, being a sort of frontier’s poet and cowboy wordsmith.

Now not all of these snippets are by Wordy. But many are.

Anywho I gave my notes to my wife and daughter this morning (before the final rewrites) so that they could look over em and give me their opinion. I heard a lot of loud laughing coming from the kitchen table downstairs as I worked from my office so I reckon I did something right. They both seemed to like what they read.

Also I should not neglect that my mother came down to the house yesterday after lunch and she also reminded me of many of the old sayings and euphemisms of my grandparents and great-grandparents, which were in many ways the inspiration for Wordy.

So here are the final write ups for the Wordy Way. All from my novel The Lettered Men.

_______________________________________________________

“He’d howl like an old hound dog if ya hung him with a new rope.”

_______________________________________________________

“Ain’t really worth mentioning Word.”

“Oh yeah?” said Wordy. “Well half of not really worth mentioning still beats ever bit a nothing all day long. Specially in the middle a nowhere. So let’s just work around with what we got awhile and see where it leads us. Maybe tomorrow it still won’t be worth mentioning, but maybe in a week or two it will be. When we’re sitting our asses by the fire back home.”

________________________________________________________

“You can’t get there from here boys. But if we can just get over to there I bet we can.”

________________________________________________________

“He smells like he smothered a buzzard and kept it in his pants for a keepsake.”

_________________________________________________________

All the boys laughed when they saw him come out of the barbers. All except Wordy. He just stared at Beau for awhile and then he stood up and circled him like a corvus round a scarecrow. “Hmmm-mmm,” he kept humming to himself as he circled.

“Well now, that’s a two bit shave and a haircut iffin I ever seen one,” he finally said. “Way I see it though she still owes ya a dollar in change just to make it even.”

“Dammit!” Beau said testily slapping his hat against his thigh. Dust and hair swirled everywhere. “I told her it didn’t look right to me.”

“Be alright Beau,” Wordy said. “You’re both new at this. She ain’t much of a judge a jug-heads and you ain’t much of a judge a women.”

“Oh, and you is you Wordy sumbitch!” Beau practically yelled.

“I didn’t say that,” said Wordy. “I just seen enough scalpings in my day to know the difference between a brave and a squaw cut.”

The boys all laughed again.

_________________________________________________________

“That whore’s dumber than a plow mule, sure nuff, but she’s still twice as easy to ride. So if you’re gonna plow with her then just cut the reins and let her wander. Save ya both a lotta trouble.”

_________________________________________________________

“He drunk up the sea and spit out Achilles.” (Wordy describing a cowboy that rode into town, got drunk, and started shooting and fighting.)

_________________________________________________________

“He’s a one mare man. True enough. But he’ll go for any stallion what ain’t tied down.”

_________________________________________________________

“Book learning ruined him for anything worth knowin. I wouldn’t trust him none.”

_________________________________________________________

“The mare’s the better horse. He ain’t worth bad oats and barn rats.”

_________________________________________________________

“There ain’t another man like him in the whole lot. Thank God. Can you imagine a whole herd a dem sumbitches?”

_________________________________________________________

“She’s got a face like a sty-sow. But he’s a pot-bellied pig so who cares who slops who?”

_________________________________________________________

“Ride her at your own peril kid. But don’t dismount till ya broke her.”

_________________________________________________________

“Why, do you think she’ll foal on me?” he asked.

“Probably not,” said Wordy, “but she’s so rough you might.”

__________________________________________________________

“Boy’s so slow that he’d hav’ta ride as hard as he could for a month just ta reach the county line.”

__________________________________________________________

“Man knifed three Comanches and a Texas Ranger,” Sole said, “and lived to tell it. So you might just wanna shoot him. In the head. From behind. While he’s sleepin.”

__________________________________________________________

“Maybe he’s just shot so many men by now that he’s plum forgot how to miss. Ever think a that?”

__________________________________________________________

“Man smells like a Mississippi pole-cat, but he tracks like an Arkansas wild dog. Just make sure to keep him downwind and you’ll run em all to ground.”

__________________________________________________________

“He’s slicker than a cold-creek water snake, but not near as warm-blooded. So keep him ahead of ya, but always in sight. Safe plays are always the safest.”

__________________________________________________________

“Sir, your coffee tastes like chickpeas and boll-weevils. Without the chickpeas.”

__________________________________________________________

“Damn Word! It smells like you shit a dead possum and then lit it on fire with pine tar!”

“Yeah,” Wordy said. “I ain’t feeling too well right now.”

“Fine,” Mason said. “But did ya have to spread it around to everybody else like that? You made the local skunks puke.”

Hart Thomas snorted, spit out his chaw, and then laughed out loud.

“Hell Hart,” Mason said, “you was the skunk I was referring to!”

__________________________________________________________

“He’s cotton-brained and toe-headed. You walk a mile in his moccasins and you’ll end up Boot-hilled.”

__________________________________________________________

“Oh, he went to war alright. He just never met a battle worth sitting through or a man his equal at a foot chase.”

__________________________________________________________

“Ah hell Bill, iffin you gave him a new bull and three pregnant cows then in five years time he’d still be a sheep farmer.”

 

Hope you enjoyed em…

 

IN ABSENTIA

IN ABSENTIA

The Courage of the West has failed
Her baser instincts flowered all
Cowardice does now prevail
To reckless seek the servile call

The High Mind of the West is dead
The public rules the Wiser Man
Clamor drowns with fearful dread
The people swoon when tyrants stand

The Sick Heart of the West is ripe
To be grasped in iron grips
By slavish kings, corrupted queens
En-masse it beats, demanded ships

The Lost Soul of the West is held
In graves and chains of government
Shackled like a beast expelled
From hearth and home, forgotten, spent

Prior Wisdom, where are you?
You know what comes, you see this sure
History, you tell us true
The past is future, undemured

Manhood, where do you now lurk?
Subservient to serpent crowns
Truth and Justice – how you lurch
In naked marches to the hounds

Free Men to their “betters” bent
Eager in their fealty sworn
Machines await, infernal sent
Revolt that banner burnt and torn

Honor come not to this land
It is bleak and stained with fear
Dismissed as coin what value can
You hold for men who hold naught dear?

The Courage of the West has sunk
Beneath the Twilight of Our Times
Monsters have arisen thus
The Dawn of Morrow has resigned

I wish that I could say to you
That one man in a million lives
Yet I see no certain clues
I cannot to you such hope give

In absentia of ourselves…

THE TOWER ABOVE

THE TOWER ABOVE

The Tower above, the Earth below
I wandered the world, desiring to know
Where in my heart the frontier did lay
In the sky or the sea, in the night or the day?

Mountains I climbed, Life did I track
Waters I sailed, then sailed them right back
Sands in my hands ran through my fingers
What should I fear, where was the danger?

I’d live forever, forever a boy
Time everlasting, endless and cloy
The sun burned me brown, moon cooled my mind
The stars they did glisten, by God so designed
Happy was nothing – I was Alive!
The world was my oyster, of nothing deprived
Before I was man, I was a boy
Everything Holy, the Hope and the Joy

Fish splashed the clear streams, hawks roamed the air
I could lay in the green grass and anything dare
Nothing was memory, all was yet new
Impossibly certain was all that I knew
Hero I was in the depths of my soul
Adventure and gamble was all I did know
The past hadn’t happened, the future a dream
The present was ever, or so did it seem

The Tower above me, the Earth down below
I’d climb to the crown, how most apropos
For why should I care, the sun never sets
Upon the heart of the boy who will never relent

But I’ve climbed and I’ve climbed and I’ve climbed all my life
I’ve climbed in the cold, and I’ve climbed through the strife
I’ve climbed in the heat, through the dark and the death
I’ve climbed when impelled, and I’ve climbed without rest
I’ve climbed when determined, and when suffering lack
For I’m far too high now and cannot go back
Though the summit is still such a lifetime away
I doubt I can reach it, at least not this way

My hands cut and bloodied, my footing unsure
I question my efforts, my motives obscure
Yet sometimes when weary, I’ll glance far below
To see that young boy with his whole life to sow
And I wonder if warnings might cause him to stop
To stay in his valley, not climb to the top
For I want to just tell him, “The climb never ends,
Stay where you are boy, you can’t comprehend…”

But I see him look upwards, take hold of the stones
And I know that he’ll climb where he must all alone

For the Tower above us, a siren it sings
To the boy down below us who of towers still dreams…

THE YEAR OF CHARACTER

THE YEAR OF CHARACTER

I’m sitting here tonight (last night actually) working on the major characters that will be a part of my fictional book and novel series. I’ve spent much of the past week doing the same.

One invaluable thing I learned from James Patterson’s Master Class on commercial fiction is the importance of ongoing, serialized characters that others adore. I’ve known this intellectually for a long time based on my own reading history both as a youth and throughout my life (John Carter, Tarzan, Spock, Jesse Stone, Sherlock Holmes, Doc Savage, Batman, etc.) but looking back on my fiction writings I’ve realized that it hasn’t really sunken in until now. It had sunken into my mind long ago, but not into my soul. Not until now however. But now, finally, I am fully getting it.

I’ve always been a “Story-First” kind of guy and looking back upon it all I suspect I very much now know why. I was trained and self-trained to write stories through D&D (Dungeons and Dragons) and through game writing in general and D&D was indeed the very most excellent practice and training for story-development. But because I so rarely played and was almost always the DM or GM (Dungeon or Game Master) and was always the one creating worlds and writing the stories I never concentrated much at all upon “Character Development.”

That is to say I always let my players develop and run their characters with as little possible interference from me as I could ever get away with. Therefore almost all character development was in their hands and I become STORY AND PLOT AND WORLD FIRST and in many senses, I just habitually adopted the idea of STORY ONLY. Character-Work was for them, I was the World Man.

Not that I couldn’t write or develop characters, I did have several characters of my own I played and I developed some very complex Non-Player Characters (NPCs) but that kind of thing happened rather rarely compared to my World Building and plot and background elements development and so Character Development became a secondary and almost a background issue to me as a fiction writer and story teller. I realize now that I have for most of my life had this sort of subconscious psychological habit of developing stories in complex detail but sort of letting Character Development handle itself in a laissez-faire fashion when I did not outright ignore the issue.

But now that I realize this fault and oversight in my own writings, and the way I go about writing, I have decided that for me this will be the Year of the Characters. This year Characters and Serialized Characters become equally important to me as Story and Plot and World Building.

This is to be my Year of Character, and the genesis of the development of the Great Characters of my Fiction Writing Career.

This year I build Men and Characters and not just Worlds.

DARK SONG – FIRST VERSE

These are lyrics from an unfinished song I began last week. It’s my First Verse entry for today.

DARK SONG

There’s a dark song in my soul right now
And I can’t shake it anyway,
Might as well just sing along,
See where it goes

Well, there’s a dark song
I hear it on the wind

There’s a dark song
Where are we going?

Can we ever make amends?

Well, I don’t know this road no more
But I know it’s me

Where are we going anyhow?
What do you want me to see?

There’s a dark song in my soul right now
I can hear it far away
I’ve known, I’ve known it all along
We’re on the same road

But to where?

Just tell me that…

To where?

PUBLISHING YOUR BOOK – BOOKENDS

Book Publishing Secrets with S.W. O’Connell, Author of ‘The Cavalier Spy’

Name: S. W. O’Connell

Book Title: The Cavalier Spy

Genre: historical fiction

Publisher: Twilight Times Books

Thank you for your time in answering our questions about getting published.  Let’s begin by having you explain to us why you decided to become an author and pen this book?

SW: I had once published a magazine, called Living History. With each issue I wrote a publisher’s letter and often “ghost” wrote a few articles. I found over time that I preferred the writing to the publishing. After the magazine went out of circulation, I decided that I would get to the writing I liked via my favorite reading genre – the historical novel. I grew up reading Thomas B. Costain, James A. Michener, Leon Uris, Wilbur Smith, and C.S. Forrester. Later on, I read many of Bernard Cornwell’s books. I learned a lot about history from those writers. Yet the stories entertained.

Is this your first book?

SW: No, The Cavalier Spy is the second in the Revolutionary War action and espionage series I call Yankee Doodle Spies. I know the name is a bit “kitschy,” but I like it. I plan on eventually writing eight books in the series.

With this particular book, how did you publish – traditional, small press, Indie, etc. – and why did you choose this method?

SW: I went with a small trade publisher, a small press called Twilight Times Books. A friend, the late Lee McCaslin, referred me to Twilight Times Books. He was a published author himself and was looking for a new publisher for his second non-fiction book. When he learned Twilight Times Books published mainly fiction, he referred me and I was accepted and given a contract for the first three books in the Yankee Doodle Spies series.

Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey?  The pros and cons?

SW: Well, I did all the usual things. After my first manuscript was done, I went on line to search for an agent. I also met with Dave Meadows and Michael O. Varhola, both published authors. Dave has written several naval espionage novels. Michael writes popular history, travel and ghost haunting books. They provided me lots of insight and encouragement. Lee McCaslkin did as well. But most of our dealings were by phone and email. I actually wrote a chapter in his book, Secrets of the Cold War. Then began the long and frustrating search for a literary agent. Mostly by luck (or unluck) I found two and had contracts with them. They provided feedback on my writing but it was a bit of drag and die. I would get some generalized comments. After I would address them and resubmit, I’d get more (different) generalized comments. It was clear different folks were reading these, as occasionally the comments clashed. In any case, I never was submitted to a publisher. In one case I was dropped. In the other, I did the dropping. These were not paid agents but fairly renowned New York agencies. I’d rate the experience as extremely frustrating, not to mention nerve grinding, but I did learn from it.

What lessons do you feel you learned about your particular publishing journey and about the publishing industry as a whole?

SW: The most important thing I learned was to park my ego at the door. When you are writing, you have complete control of the world you are presenting. But once you get into the publishing phase, the situation sort of reverses. Editors and publishers now have a legitimate right to comment and suggest changing things. You have to trust them. And you have to let go of a part of the creative process. The author creates a work of literature for people to read. The editor and publisher have to turn it into a product for people to buy. The kind of fiction I write doesn’t really fit the cookie cutter mold.

Would you recommend this method of publishing to other authors?

SW: Yes, I would. I find the publisher accessible and well versed in all aspects of the business. And this publisher supports its writers.

What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?

SW: I’ll say that there are a whole bunch of folks who will shut you down. For them, your work is a business decision.  This is especially true of some f the agencies. I’d say – find your style… your voice, and hone it. But don’t try to change it. I’d also say be very patient…. And keep writing!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

S.W. O’Connell is the author of the Yankee Doodle Spies series of action and espionage novels set during the American Revolutionary War. The author is a retired Army officer with over twenty years of experience in a variety of intelligence-related assignments around the world. He is long time student of history and lover of the historical novel genre. So it was no surprise that he turned to that genre when he decided to write back in 2009. He lives in Virginia.

////////////////////////////////////

Title: The Cavalier Spy

Genre: Historical

Author: S. W. O’Connell

Websitewww.yankeedoodlespies.com

Publisher: Twilight Times Books

Purchase linkhttp://www.twilighttimesbooks.com/TheCavalierSpy_ch1.html

Amazon OmniLit 

About the Book:

1776: His army clinging to New York by a thread, a desperate General George Washington sends Lieutenant Jeremiah Creed behind British lines once more. But even the audacity of Creed and his band of spies cannot stop the British juggernaut from driving the Americans from New York, and chasing them across New Jersey in a blitzkrieg fashion. Realizing the imminent loss of one of the new nation’s most important states to the enemy, Washington sends Creed into the war-torn Hackensack Valley. His mission: recruit and train a gang of rogues to work behind British lines.

However, his mission takes a strange twist when the British high command plots to kidnap a senior American officer and a mysterious young woman comes between Creed and his plans. The British drive Washington’s army across the Delaware. The new nation faces its darkest moment. But Washington plans a surprise return led by young Creed, who must strike into hostile land so that Washington can rally his army for an audacious gamble that could win, or lose, the war.

“More than a great spy story… it is about leadership and courage in the face of adversity…The Cavalier Spy is the story of America’s first army and the few… those officers and soldiers who gave their all to a cause that was seemingly lost…”

~ Les Brownlee, former Acting Secretary of the Army and retired Army Colonel

“Secret meetings, skirmishes and scorching battles… The Cavalier Spy takes the reader through America’s darkest times and greatest triumphs thanks to its powerful array of fictional and historical characters… this book shows that courage, leadership and audacity are the key elements in war…”

~ F. William Smullen, Director of National Security Studies at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School and Author of Ways and Means for Managing UP

– See more at: http://publishingsecretsofauthors.blogspot.be/2015/09/book-publishing-secrets-with-sw.html#sthash.RvabPHmv.dpuf

AN ANCIENT RACE – FIRST VERSE

AN ANCIENT RACE

I came upon myself one day
Hoping there to find
Someone truly great and grand
Some One quite divine

Reflections of me seemed to prove
That I was all I thought
High and noble, quite advanced
Superior, self-wrought

To all the others I was king
At least so to myself
I was different than they were
And twice as good as well

No one could me anything
Was not my Image clear? (dear)
Me to everyone I met
Was what I made most dear (clear)

Then one day I found that I
My mind, my soul, and flesh
Was just as mortal as they were
And now not quite as fresh

The image that I fawned upon
The reflection I adored
Was but of human denouement
And mirrored self-amour

Now no greatness lingers here
No moral high and grand
Except this caution, yet my friend,
Like me, “you’re just a man…”

 

FOR SOMEONE TO PAY – FIRST VERSE

FOR SOMEONE TO PAY

On Sunday morning, as I sometimes like to say, “I awoke to a bright dawn, but the dark night had followed me…” or, variously, I woke to the memory of black things.

I once knew a man, dark as the winter
He went out all green, then grew up ‘mong sinners
A submarine self of dark troubled waters
He wondered, he wandered, but found not the matter
That murdered by day, by night only hidden
By graves buried wrong, all the secrets unbidden
Corpse of the night all twisted and tattered
An uncanny sight, the silence is shattered
Not by a sound for death is still cold
Kin (ken) to so many or so they all told
A heart is a heart if it beats not or still
A man’s inner sin only lives when it kills
For dead men will flower like weeds in the ground
When sprinkled by showers of blood still unfound (unbound)
So in such winters terrible deeds
Flourish like summers of infinite seeds, and
The man who made harvest as green as the grass
Came back with a crop just as black as the last
So he wanders, and wonders, and still to this day
He searches inside him for someone to pay

AN ARMY OF HUN – BOOKENDS

An Army of Hun
Had an interesting idea for a sci-fi story today about a lone operative who has some rather interesting partners. His gear.

The story is about a guy whose nickname and codename is Hun. He operates behind enemy lines in the future. In the future the military becomes ever more and more sophisticated to the point that one man is equivalent to a platoon of soldiers today, and soldiering is no longer soldiering as we think of it but, “problem reduction.” The military has mostly evolved into something almost entirely different in nature.

Hun’s weapon is a “soft weapon” (an idea I picked up from Larry Niven) and an Artificial Intelligence (which humans think they created, but did they?) with far more capabilities than merely weapon functions. His uniform was grown, partially from his own DNA, partially from animal DNA, and is partially nanotechnology derived from his weapon’s AI. It’s also a “soft uniform.” And he has been treated with microfilaments (to small to see) that grow and entwine all along the hairs of his head and body which allow him to use his hairs as both interfaces and a partially organic ubiquitous data and computing system.

Hun has a mascot and companion, which is composed of reshapeable nanotechnology which is also his multi-tool.

And lastly he carries within his body an “Injectable Code” which allows him to directly communicate with all of his gear and equipment via direct neural link (teleneuraltransmission, or TNT), although the code is partially organic and partially alien matter and will break down over time and be digested by the body making it eventually useless (he must be reinjected and the injection must be recalibrated from time to time).

The IC also allows him to do other things he could not ordinarily do, when it comes to information gathering and storage and manipulation.

Anyway, Hun really, really enjoys his work, but slowly over time he has noticed degradation in his natural physical and mental capabilities and suspects the Injectable Code, that it may be altering him genetically, and has also begun to notice that his gear acts weirdly, leading him to one of four conclusions; 1. the IC may also be degrading his gear as well as him, 2. his gear already knows about the IC and is working with it (and maybe his superiors) despite knowledge it may harm or kill him, 3. his gear suspects the IC and is trying to compensate or in some way counteract the effects of the IC, or 4. maybe something else and entirely different is really going on.

I got the idea while hiking through the woods with Sam, near the Dragon’s Den, and noticing blight on trees and the way their growth patterns were being twisted out of their natural shape, and the areas of softness and rot along the trunks and bark. So I thought to myself, what if people had this kind of blight, how would they get it and what would it do and how would you fight it?

I think this is going to be a very fun and interesting story to write. And I’ll add it (the idea, technology, etc.) into the general background of my science fiction Curae Universe.

GOOD LORD, I DID IT

I’ve been having to spend a lot of time on the internet this past weekend, yesterday, and today (time I would have rather spent doing other things, but this was necessary) rearranging the work on my literary blog so as to make it easier for agents, publishers, business partners, investors, etc. to locate my work in a single locale.

I did have my stuff scattered about on various “categories” on my blog(s) but that was apparently making it hard for agents and others to review my stuff. So on each blog I created a new category entitled: MY WRITINGS AND WORK

Now anyone can find anything I have created, written, or posted on my blogsites with a single click. This should be much, much more efficient and useful.

But it has been hard work to go back through all of my old posts, locate my work, and collate it into a single on-line collection.

So it has taken days (literally) of search, edit, and reorganize. But I’m halfway done with Wyrdwend, my literary blog, and as of now my new category/collection contains 88 pieces of my work. Including such things as my short stories, poetry, children’s stories, children’s books, songs, invention sketches, business articles, criticisms, scripts, graphic novels, essays, novel extracts, game designs, etc.

Whatever I have so far put up.

I figure when I finally finish with my archives by the end of the week the category/collection/link will contain about 160 or so pieces of original work.

Once that is done I’ll do the same for all of my other blogs, including Launch Port, Tome and Tomb, and the Missal.

By the way here is the collection link: MY WRITINGS AND WORK

THE IRON GATE: PART ONE – BOOKENDS

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

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

But this is only the first part of the chapter.

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

THE IRON GATE: PART ONE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE SNUGGLE MONSTER

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

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

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

THE SNUGGLE MONSTER

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

 

 

THE ALLUSIONS OF THE OTHER WORLD

Lately I have been compiling the literary allusions that will appear in my Other World novels and inserting those allusions at the appropriate places in the plot structure of MY books.

My novels will have allusions to many previous works of literature but rarely will I quote or mention by name or source the allusion. Rather I will take the allusionary reference from the original source of literature and rewrite it to fit the events of my own novels, yet, nevertheless, the allusions will be there encoded within the works if you know what to look for or if you are familiar with the passages from the original works.

I will include allusions to the following works, among others:

A Song of Ice and Fire, GRR Martin
Acts of the Apostles
Aeschylus (various plays)
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
Beowulf
Book of the Fallen
Chronicles of Narnia, CS Lewis
Elric of Melnibone, Michael Moorcock
Harry Potter, JK Rowling
Icelandic Sagas
Jonathan Strnage and Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke
Kalevala
Le Morte De Arthur, Tennyson
Lyonesse, Jack Vance
Oz Books, Frank Baum
Siegfried
Shakespeare: Henry the IVth, and MacBeth
The Gospels
The Silmarillion and Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
The Song of Roland
The Torah
The White Stag
Thomas Covenant Books, Stephen R Donaldson

 

As an example of how I intend to insert such allusions into my own novels here are two illustrations of my process of my process:

The Aenied, Virgil

Original Line: “Sleep! Sweet gift of the gods… It was the time when the first sleep invades languid mortals, and steals upon them, by the gift of the gods, most sweet.”

My Line: “And where will you go now?”

“I would lay down upon the ground and go to my death if I could, but failing that I would go to my dreams.”

“To your dreams? And who will you meet there?”

“I do not know, but this is too much and I must sleep. For I am weary and if God himself finds me in my dreams may he finally gift me with forgetfulness of all I have seen and done. That alone would be sweet and meet to me now.”

The Worm Ouroboros, Eddison

Original Line: “There’s musk and amber in thy speech,” said Juss. “I must have more of it. What mean they to do?”

My Line: “Musk scents your voice with something strong and dank, but amber seals and occludes your real meaning. Speak clearly to me now or I will slice open the rank resin of your speech with my keenest hunting knife and peer into your throat to smell for myself your true intent.”

THE SORCERER’S TONGUE

THE SORCERER’S TONGUE

The Sorcerer’s tongue an adder crawls
To slither through the hearts of men
A viper coiled in roils of lies
Seduces all with poisoned ends,
The Necromancer of the Age
Raising up deceit and death
From tombs and tomes by ruin lost
Has given form and stirred cold breath,
Enchantments webbed and eldritch spun
Like spiders creep across the mind
So even men who seem themselves
Are slaves to him, enthralled like kine,
Hades vast and oceans deep
Are hidden in his crafty art
The conjured word is as he speaks
A servant dim and set apart,
The warlock’s gloom – bespoken like a spell
Has snared the fool and baited traps
To line the road of Truth along which
Even brave men cannot make their maps,
The Waystaff of the Witch’s word
Has charmed the Wise with venoms dark
Bound in blood men sound in every other way
By sound of him fall all unnerved
Their manhood washed away in flood,
The alchemic base of rank and rot
Has made a potent portion of regret
Yet who still speaks of deeds begot
When dread by sorcery yet abets?
The Witch’s teat, the serpent’s tongue
Eidolons frozen in the soul
Glams and dictums (dicins) doom us all
Who should by wit the Witch atone,
We have fallen all and one
Under shrouds envoked by terms of fraud
Cultic does the lie allure
Guile the noose of little gods,
If we will not soon this wrong dispel
Cut out the tongue that binds us so
Then sorcery shall be our gaol
The price of prison be our soul.

THE HARD STUFF from THE LETTERMEN

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

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

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

From my Western, the Lettermen

MAN WORKING

For the rest of this week I will not be posting any original content to this blog or any of my blogs. Recently, due to my work schedule and other obligations, I have had very little time to work on the overall construction and the technical aspects of my blog(s). I had planned to complete those aspects of my blogs long ago but other things kept interfering.

So this week I have decided to spend the entire week finishing my originally planned construction-plans of my blogs to make it easier for agents, editors, publishers, and other songwriters and writers to find me and to communicate and work with me.

To that end I will spend the rest of the week finishing my original plans and retooling this site.

As I said, as it stands now I plan to add no more original content this week so as to finally finish my original designs without interruption or any more delays.

However you can still find a great deal of useful content in the various Categories already present on this blog, and on the Categories of all of my other blogs. Just pick the categories that interest you and browse at will. Uncategorized will allow you to find everything.

I will also be sharing useful articles, content, and posts I find on other sites as I run across them and time allows. But most of my time this week will be spent on blog development.

Thank you for being a Reader and Follower of my blogs, I appreciate your patronage and hope you find my blogs enjoyable, entertaining, and most especially, useful.

ANCIENT AFRICA, THE ORO, AEZANA OF AKSUM, AND THE RUINS OF THE DEFFUFA

As some of you know my youngest daughter recently asked if she could do a special study on some of the Ancient and Medieval kingdoms of Africa as part of her homeschooling studies. I readily agreed as I like the subject myself and she just finished a great course of study on archaeology. So this seemed like a natural extension of her previous study set.

Well, I got as much good material together as I could from our local library system, which admittedly has little decent material in the way of books on Africa (any part of Africa, especially African history). What I could get though I got. Most of the books – I wasn’t too impressed with except for a very excellent book on the early spread of Christianity throughout northern and eastern Africa called The Blessing of Africa, which I had previously read myself in my studies for the priesthood. (One day I intend to help found churches in Africa. Or refound is perhaps a better term since much of Africa was Christian until the Muslim invasions and slave trade.)

As I said many of the books were less than stellar but the video materials I got were quite good and since I’m here at the house alone today I thought I’d look at one of the videos on the Lost Kingdoms of Africa. I’ve watched two episodes so far, one very good one on the Nubians and Cushites and a truly excellent one on the Ethiopians and the Aksum Kingdom.

The guy who is the host or moderator is obviously a black Brit archaeologist (given the accent) who nevertheless tends to dress something like an American cowboy and definitely does not like desert environments. He’s got that cold blood of the Brits I guess. It’s very amusing to listen to him say over and over again, “Man, I have never been so hot!” He’s an eclectic character, and his manner of dress, speech and aversion to heat make me laugh. Nevertheless he is bright and a good host and the show explores some fascinating places and investigates some interesting history.

One thing in particular that I learned regarded Ezana the Ethiopian (Aezana of Aksum), who was educated by two Syrians who had become shipwrecked in Ethiopia. One of the Syrians was a Christian monk (Syria being the first Christian kingdom in the world – most of the entire Near East and much of Africa being Christian before the Muslim invasions) who converted Ezana and Ezana become the very first Christian Emperor of Ethiopia.

Considering his background, the size of his kingdom (which was quite impressive), the number of Near Eastern, Arabic, and Christian states it was in contact with, and given the novels I am writing I cannot help but think that Ezana was at least one chief aspect of what would later become the historical template for the Prester John myth.

Ezana converted to Christianity, expanded the empire considerably, instituted educational and religious reforms (similar to what Charlemagne and Alfred the Great would later do in France and England), imported people from all over the nearby world as advisors, and expanded trade. He was also the first to mint Christian coins, interesting since Syria was the first Christian kingdom, and he had been educated by a Syrian.

There is a character in my Other World novels, a man by the name of Erasto Qwara, and he is a primary character in the party of the Oro (Moonshadow), which is a rough analogue of the Byzantine Basilegate. The more I study Ezana though the more I think that some of Ezana’s attributes will be adopted into the character of Erasto.

Erasto, while recovering in Egypt from combat injuries decides to join the Oro to try and discover, almost precisely as the Basilegate is trying to do, why so many odd and unexplainable things are happening in our world.

Before that however Erasto has a vision, or a dream, or a mystical experience in which he is instructed to go to Alexandria and from there to Constantinople.

But while watching the video today on the Nubians I discovered that they had built a large, room-less and solid, very impressive mud-brick temple or ritual building (part of a large ritual complex at Kerma) called the Deffufa. It reminds me of nothing so much as the Ziggurats in the Near East, but it is far more oddly shaped.

Originally I had planned to have Erasto’s vison occur one night while he lay alongside the banks of the Nile, the vision echoing Abram’s vision of God when he called God a “Horror of Great Darkness.” But now I think that I will rewrite that scene to make it so that Erasto’s vision occurs while he sleeps one night alone on the top of the Deffufa, and that instead it will far more closely resemble Jacov’s vision of the Ladder or Stairway to Heaven.

Also, since later the entire Oro will have a very eerie experience with the obelisks at Karnak in which the obelisks ring like gongs and then produce weird music and a spooky voice I think I might also work in as a prelude something to do with the “Rock Gongs” of Cush and the cobras of the Split Egyptian Kingdom.

So, it seems my daughter’s homeschooling project has actually turned out to be of enormous benefit to the plot and historical research of my novels. I’m quite glad she chose this particular course of study.
Well, that’s enough research for one day so I’m going to go play Metal Gear. Have a good evening folks.
By the way, below is a brief character description of Erasto Qwara the Ethiopian, and his position in the Oro (Moonshadow).

 

Erasto Qwara – born in Axum, the third of six children, Erasto grew up following his family tradition of soldiering. At fifteen he became a Christian Soldier and rose quickly through the ranks, so that local officials were soon sending him as an escort and emissary to foreign lands, such as to the courts at Egypt. Smart, driven, and self-educated Erasto learned six African tongues and was soon able to read and write Koptic, Greek and Latin as well. Because of his linguistic skills and general education by the age of 19 Erasto was made commander of a unit formed to escort diplomatic missions throughout the Nubian kingdoms, along the coast of east Africa, into the tribute states of the Arabian Peninsula, into the Near East, and also into Egypt. The farther afield Erasto roamed the more types of people he encountered and he soon discovered that he loved to mix freely with people of different nations and races. Developing a personal interest in trade Erasto also was soon gaining experience as a trade representative in addition to his diplomatic and military skills. Born into a devout Christian family Erasto nevertheless had no interest at all in religious matters until traveling in Egypt he discovered an early copy of some of the works of the Philokalia written in Koptic. Reading it eagerly Erasto became a devout Christian and returning to Axum began to study under Aksumite Christian Masters. Erasto remained a solider but also developed a strong interest in interpreting scriptures from a Monophysitic point of view, and became such a skillful writer, fluent interpreter, and powerful debater on Christian doctrine that he soon earned the nickname, Qwara, the Cushite Christian (even though that was a misnomer). At the age of 25 Erasto was assigned to escort a trade and diplomatic mission to the Byzantine Empire by way of Egypt and the Mediterranean. At sea his ship, along with several others, was attacked by Sicilian pirates and many on his ship were killed. Erasto was severely injured in combat and had to return to Egypt, where as a result of his injuries he was retired, but allowed to retain the rank of Commander as a Christian Soldier. While recovering in Egypt he studied with Kopts in Alexandria to become a Christian Cleric and within two years was ordained. After ordination he was returning to Axum but stopped at Karnak where he met Addo and the other members of the Moonshadow.

THE CAREER

Yesterday I spent most of the day writing client reports, preparing presentation materials for a speech, creating new documents for my Business, doing research and so forth.

Whereas I often greatly enjoy my business there are also times I grow tired of it and so today, after lunch, I will spend the rest of the day plotting out the last two novels in my fantasy/Myth series The Other World, drawing maps, and creating materials for by books.

I look forward to this with a great deal of enjoyment.

There are also times I greatly enjoy my Career.

NOT THE WAY

Friday, December 12, 2014

How NOT to Query an Agent

Working for a literary agent, definitely has its moments of hilarity. My most recent reason to LOL? I was pitched to.

Yes. Me. The administrative assistant. And here is the crazy part: I was pitched a manuscript to an email address that really isn’t really common knowledge. And on top of that: I don’t get the query emails. That goes to a completely different person.

So why did it come to me, you ask?

I have no idea. Which prompted this post: how NOT to query a literary agent. Sharpen your pencils; get out your note pads, this is going to be riveting (and maybe save you the embarrassment of making easy, amateur mistakes)

  • You hear it everywhere. You’re about to hear it here too: READ THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES ON OUR WEBSITE. Yes, I just used about every function on the Word program to emphasize that statement. Seriously, all your problems will be solved if you take a few minutes to get these few facts straight. When you do, you’re a sight for sore eyes for those of us who get the queries (or shouldn’t get the queries as the case may be…)
  • Don’t put your entire chapter outline/back cover copy/reasons why you wrote this story in the query letter. Take an hour (or two) and Google query letters. Figure out how to write a good one. Have a critique partner give it a once-over (at the least). This is your first impression. It needs to be a good—GREAT—one.
  • Don’t tell the agent that you are going to be “the next NYT bestseller” or “Nicolas Sparks” or “Janet Oke”. Yes, these things just came through in a query letter that landed in my inbox. And if you are going to claim to be the next hot name, please be sure to at least spell it right.
  • Don’t tell the agent that you need them to publish their book. Um, excuse me, but duh. Be humble when you approach an agent. They have a ton on their plate. Usually many, many authors that they are managing their books and careers. To take the time to read your next best synopsis is a chunk of time out of their day. Realize that it’s not all about your needs and frame the tone of your query accordingly.
  • Don’t give your life story. The reason why you wrote the book. The story behind the story. Nothing. Don’t go there. Stay away. The agent doesn’t care. Now, if he/she picks up the book, reads it, signs you to their agency and you become friends, well, then yes, you probably will tell them the why behind the book. But right now you’re not BFFs, you’re strangers. You wouldn’t walk up to a handsome stranger-dude at a cocktail party, stick out your hand and tell him all about your dog dying when you were four, right away would you? Of course not. Don’t do that to the agent you are querying either.

Yes, that’s a lot of don’ts. Believe it or not, these all came out of a query letter I should have never gotten this week. So: read the guidelines. Write a pithy, word-catchy query. Have a great product to share with the agent. Be humble. Be patient. Email the right person and you won’t become an illustration on some agent’s blog anytime in the near future. 😉

THE SECRET PLANET KILLER AND THE INVERSIS

In the past couple of days I’ve had two excellent ideas for science fiction stories/possible novels/novel technology components.

1. Last night, while soaking in a hot bath, I had a great idea for a science fiction story involving a planetary kinetic kill weapon employed by an alien species. I haven’t worked out all of the details yet but the weapon is so effective because it is first projected at the planetary (or planetoid or moon, etc.) target as a near massless object at near light speeds and only within reaching a certain distance from its target does it decelerate rapidly regaining its original mass.

At this “transformational point,” or “weaponizing kenesis point” (kenesis being a term incorporating both kinetic energy and genesis or transformation point) the near massless projection becomes massive again (reabsorbing its original mass which it had been projecting ahead of itself as a gravitational anomaly) and it slows by conversion to about half its original speed, but because it transforms near the target and is still traveling at such tremendous velocity (which increases as it moves into the gravitational field of the target) it is almost impossible to defend against.

The only way to detect it is in energy form as a near massless projection and as a gravitational anomaly traveling in a tightly constricted area immediately preceding the projection. But neither of those would be able to be detected by the target until the projection reconverts to a massive state near/at the target site.

To detect it you would have to both understand what you are perceiving and it would have to pass through or by an early detection system, such as a DEW Line. In effect it would be a secret or stealthy planet killer and kinetic kill weapon which could be projected from almost any direction/angle against a target and unless detected by a pre-existed warming system it would literally impact against a target before the target was even aware of its’ presence.

Needless to say this weapon would be terrifying to anyone against whom it is employed and extremely difficult to successfully defend against.

I have a couple of ideas about how others might defend against such an attack but I’m only just now sketching them out.

I also have an idea of how the weapon itself might work, but that is all entirely theoretical of course.

2. This afternoon, while walking through our woods with my children and my dog Sam I had another idea for a piece of very advanced technology. What the device would do is disrupt the gravitational field around smaller volume massive objects, like White Dwarf stars, Pulsars, Neutron Stars, etc. causing the gravitational fields they produce to rapidly oscillate and fluctuate.

The point of such a device is to create fluctuations so intense that many of the higher level energies (x-rays, microwaves, etc.) and exotic particles being produced or ejected or radiated or compressed by the lower order observational event horizons in and around such objects can be freed for practical use. The same or a secondary device is then used to harvest, contain, and utilize these gathered energies, including the associated gravitational waves produced by the initial fluctuations.

At this point I’m calling this device the Inversis. Or that is what humans will call it. It is basically a very advanced exotic energy and particle harvester that operates by creating intense gravitational fluctuations in massive stellar bodies.

Theoretically the same device could be used to create temporary fluctuations in the outer gravitational field (near the outer edge of the event horizon) of a black hole as well.

In real life such a device would require so much energy to operate, even when concentrated upon a relatively small area of the overall target that I cannot in all reality say that it would actually produce and harvest more energy than it consumed.

But at this point it is only a sci-fi story idea anyway. So I don’t have to worry about real energy costs or anything like that right now.

At this point I plan to incorporate both of these ideas as working models for technologies to be included in my Curae series of science fiction novels.

In any case it has been a nice weekend for good ideas.

WITH PLEASURE

Got a rejection letter from the American Scholar saying that they had received my poetry submissions which, “we have read with pleasure” but that they couldn’t publish me because they were currently not accepting new poetry submissions.

Which is a lot better I suppose than receiving a letter that says, “Hey pal, you kinda suck...”

(I’ve never received a rejection letter that says, “you suck,” or “you stink,” or “you’re no good,” but just give it a little time. It’s sure to happen sooner or later.)

SKILL-LESS from THE BUSINESS, CAREER, AND WORK OF MAN

Skill can be taught, talent cannot. Yet talent unmastered is skill-less at best.

THE WATER OF UNDERSTANDING

I think that to a large extent the man has a real point. If you don’t get out and live life how can you possibly write anything worthwhile about life?

Important observations require that you actually observe important things occurring.

If all you do is spend all of your time taking courses to learn technique then you’re just making observations about observations. All you know is merely academic. You’re just navel-gazing.

Yes, you should definitely learn good, solid techniques. That is part (though only part) of your responsibility in being a good writer. But you should also be out in life observing it as it really is and living it so that you will have something true and real (rather than merely artificial and imagined) to say about it. The modern idea that writing is (or should be) an entirely detached and intellectual pursuit is not only repugnant and irrelevant, it’s also just plain silly and unrealistic.

The larger part of your time ought to be spent in living life and writing on that, not learning writing as a substitute or replacement for never having lived.

Experience is the fountainhead of observation, and observation is the Water of Understanding.

Creative writing courses are killing western literature, claims Nobel judge

Horace Engdahl swedish academy nobel prize literature judge
Horace Engdahl, of the Swedish Academy, in Stockholm. Photograph: Fredrik Persson/AP

Western literature is being impoverished by financial support for writers and by creative writing programmes, according to a series of blistering comments from Swedish Academy member Horace Engdahl, speaking shortly before the winner of the Nobel prize for literature is awarded.

In an interview with French paper La Croix, Engdahl said that the “professionalisation” of the job of the writer, via grants and financial support, was having a negative effect on literature. “Even though I understand the temptation, I think it cuts writers off from society, and creates an unhealthy link with institutions,” he told La Croix. “Previously, writers would work as taxi drivers, clerks, secretaries and waiters to make a living. Samuel Beckett and many others lived like this. It was hard – but they fed themselves, from a literary perspective.”

Engdahl, who together with his fellow members of the 18-strong academy is preparing to select the winner of this year’s Nobel literature award, and announce the choice on Thursday, 9 October, said it was on “our western side that there is a problem, because when reading many writers from Asia and Africa, one finds a certain liberty again”.

“I hope the literary riches which we are seeing arise in Asia and Africa will not be lessened by the assimilation and the westernisation of these authors,” he added later in his interview with Sabine Audrerie.

Engdahl told the French journalist that he “did not know” if it was still possible to find – as Alfred Nobel specified the prize would reward – “the most outstanding work in an ideal direction”. Today’s winners are usually 60 or more years old, he said, and are thus unaffected by the changes he described in the life of today’s writers. “But I’m concerned about the future of literature because of this ubiquity of the market. It implies the presence of a ‘counter-market’: a protected, profound literature, which knows how to translate emotions and experiences”…

A WRITER IS JUST A WRITER…

I think that is true in part. I never wanted to be a writer, per se. That is I am neither enamored of writing, or of being a writer. That is I never woke up as a kid or as an adult and said to myself, “I want to be a Writer! That’s all I’ve ever wanted to be my whole life...” That’s not me at all. I know a lot of people apparently feel that way, they think it a cool or important profession, in the same way some people think being an actor is some great thing. I do not. Not in and of itself anyway.

I think of it far more as being a very careful observer of important things and then a recorder of those things so that those observations will not have been wasted. That is to say that, to me, neither the writing nor the writer is as important as the far more important things being observed.  Though you want both the writing and the writer to be excellent at their various tasks.

However, the important things being observed need a good and reliable method or technique of being recorded (in this case writing) just as much as they need methods of solid and careful and accurate observation.

In that way I will imitate other writers, by studying their solid and worthwhile recording techniques. Just as in being a detective I have long studied solid methods and techniques of proper observation and analysis of what I have observed.

But I’m not in love with the idea that writing is either a cool profession (it may or may not be an important profession, that just all depends upon both the writer and the writer’s subject matter and observations on that subject matter), or that writing is some sort of special or important activity in and of itself. Because it is not.

I am a writer but a writer is just a writer. The things I write about, if they are of any importance at all, will long outlive me. Because if they are truly important they should…

BEING PASSIVE from HUMAN EFFORT

Being patient and peaceful in the midst of adversity can often be Great Virtues. Being passive in the face of anything is, more often than not, merely a vice.

WHERE WOULD I GO – a song

I thought that I would be alone
Then found myself with you
My heart was just a helpless thing
That passed away like dew
Beneath the sunrise of your love
Yes, you know it’s true
Beneath the sunrise of your love
What did you do?
I need you too

I thought that I would find myself
Without a child or wife
Sure that nothing but myself
Would ever be my life, but
Then you took me in your hand, and
Took me as I am
You made me better than I was
Made me a better man
Than long ago
So long ago

Help me now to understand
Help me now to live
Help me now to take these things
And grow them as you give
Yourself to me
Yourself to me

I’ve always been a lonely man
That never bothered me
You never know how far to go
If you have never been
My soul was just a wanderer
That never had a home
Until you took me in my dear, and
Now I never roam
Where would I go?
Where would I go?

I’ve always said and it’s still true
That somehow this would work
That sometimes it would be a breeze, and
Sometimes it would hurt, but
Either way, just name the day,
I won’t be going far away
From you
I’m not alone
Alone with you
No, not alone
When I’m with you

So help me now to understand
Help me now to live
Help me now to take these things
And grow them as you give
Yourself to me
You’re all I need

Yes, all I need

THE CURSE OF BAD ASSUMPTIONS (about EVERYONE ELSE)

I very often agree with Pinker’s insights and criticisms, especially regarding linguistic and intellectual matters. And in this case I think he has a point as well. At least in part.

On the other hand the equally weighty criticism of this critique of the audience is as follows: 1) it assumes that every reader and audience (or even a significant proportion thereof) is ignorant, whereas in fact literacy is at an all-time global high, and most people intentionally ignorant of a particular subject matter would not be reading your words in the first place if they truly were, 2) it assumes that your insights, definitions, and assumptions (as a writer or supposed expert) about a particular subject matter are the correct ones (and that in itself is a patently false and often easily disproven position), and 3) it assumes that the writer himself is a sort of knowledge expert (as modern men wantonly and ignorantly define the term “expert“), and few things are both as personally disgusting to me and as effortless to successfully dispute as the idea that the majority of writers are expert (modern or otherwise) on any given subject matter in any way at all. (Of course I could easily marshal other such arguments against the “curse of knowledge” premise, – sounds awful scary doesn’t it, but that is enough to work with at the moment.)

In other words just because you are writing on a given subject matter, or feel yourself qualified to write upon a given subject matter, is not evidence of any kind that you actually are qualified to write on a given subject. That shouldn’t stop you, and indeed it won’t stop most writers, and throughout history has never stopped most writers, but it should at least give you symbolic pause about your own expert assumptions about your own supposed expertise.

I do not in any way assume my audience is automatically ignorant or uneducated on any subject I write on or they read on, I do not assume that even if they were ignorant (of either a term or an idea) that they could not easily rectify this situation themselves with a modicum or research and effort, I do not assume that my writing will be “bad” merely because my audience’s intellect does not soar to my vaunted levels of erudite elocution and elucidation (interject here the proper level of sarcasm you feel might be warranted by this comment), and I do not assume that merely because I am well educated on a subject that either my conclusions, theories, or definitions cannot be incorrect. Those would be wholly unscientific and ridiculous assumptions on my part about both myself, and you, the reader.

This is the multitudinous, pretentious, and totally self-fabricated bullshit of the modern writer, modern literary theorist, the modern “expert,” and the so-called writing coach. (Or indeed almost any kind of modern coach.) It is everywhere and reflexively repeated as the common and self-evident wisdom of all good writing – Dumb it down boys and girls for you are the rarefied mental wonder of the ages whereas your reader is the dim-witted lackey who struggles to pace himself against your enlightened – whatever it is you are so dammed enlightened about (and it must be something important, after all, you’re a writer – so Hooray for you Einstein)!

Truth is this is merely a modern conceit to the modern man about what he assumes about the modern mind. That being his own mind. The modern man thinks himself smarter than everyone else and he does so without even a hint of self-irony or self-reflection. And this is, to a very large extent, why modern man is as modern man so obviously is.

I am no dammed “modern expert” on any subject matter and have no wish to be. I hold forth on probabilities as related to reality as best I can determine such things, I do not hold forth on my own expertise. To hell with that, and the probabilities entailed by it.

Modern writers often border perilously close upon the idea that subject-matter knowledge makes their writing automatically admirable, correct, useful, and illuminating. It only makes their writing informed. At least informed about what they are informed about. Which may or may not be correct. But they assume that just because it is informed this is the same as being correct. Whereas I know human nature and psychology far too well to automatically make any such laughable assumption about any information presented to me on such a flimsy foundation of validity – informed and correct can lead to entirely different conclusions about reality. I’ll let you guess which one is likely to prove the more accurate of the two approaches, because Truth be told, I suspect you don’t need my help at all.

See how that works?

I have no more automatic respect for the supposed genius and infallibility or absolute correctness of a writer, any writer, including myself, than I believe most actors give Wise Life Advice.

We (writers of any kind) like to think ourselves brilliant and Wise. Truth is we’re a dime a dozen and that’s intelligence and Wisdom on the cheap. Sure enough.

I always try to keep that in mind when examining my own ego and assessing my own writings.

The Source of Bad Writing

The ‘curse of knowledge’ leads writers to assume their readers know everything they know

Updated Sept. 25, 2014 12:06 p.m. ET

Poor wording drains vast sums of money from the economy, writes Steven Pinker. Nick Cunard/Zuma Press

Why is so much writing so bad? Why is it so hard to understand a government form, or an academic article or the instructions for setting up a wireless home network?

The most popular explanation is that opaque prose is a deliberate choice. Bureaucrats insist on gibberish to cover their anatomy. Plaid-clad tech writers get their revenge on the jocks who kicked sand in their faces and the girls who turned them down for dates. Pseudo-intellectuals spout obscure verbiage to hide the fact that they have nothing to say, hoping to bamboozle their audiences with highfalutin gobbledygook.

But the bamboozlement theory makes it too easy to demonize other people while letting ourselves off the hook. In explaining any human shortcoming, the first tool I reach for is Hanlon’s Razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. The kind of stupidity I have in mind has nothing to do with ignorance or low IQ; in fact, it’s often the brightest and best informed who suffer the most from it.

I once attended a lecture on biology addressed to a large general audience at a conference on technology, entertainment and design. The lecture was also being filmed for distribution over the Internet to millions of other laypeople. The speaker was an eminent biologist who had been invited to explain his recent breakthrough in the structure of DNA. He launched into a jargon-packed technical presentation that was geared to his fellow molecular biologists, and it was immediately apparent to everyone in the room that none of them understood a word and he was wasting their time. Apparent to everyone, that is, except the eminent biologist. When the host interrupted and asked him to explain the work more clearly, he seemed genuinely surprised and not a little annoyed. This is the kind of stupidity I am talking about.

Call it the Curse of Knowledge: a difficulty in imagining what it is like for someone else not to know something that you know. The term was invented by economists to help explain why people are not as shrewd in bargaining as they could be when they possess information that their opposite number does not. Psychologists sometimes call it mindblindness. In the textbook experiment, a child comes into the lab, opens an M&M box and is surprised to find pencils in it. Not only does the child think that another child entering the lab will somehow know it contains pencils, but the child will say that he himself knew it contained pencils all along!

The curse of knowledge is the single best explanation of why good people write bad prose. It simply doesn’t occur to the writer that her readers don’t know what she knows—that they haven’t mastered the argot of her guild, can’t divine the missing steps that seem too obvious to mention, have no way to visualize a scene that to her is as clear as day. And so the writer doesn’t bother to explain the jargon, or spell out the logic, or supply the necessary detail.

Anyone who wants to lift the curse of knowledge must first appreciate what a devilish curse it is. Like a drunk who is too impaired to realize that he is too impaired to drive, we do not notice the curse because the curse prevents us from noticing it. Thirty students send me attachments named “psych assignment.doc.” I go to a website for a trusted-traveler program and have to decide whether to click on GOES, Nexus, GlobalEntry, Sentri, Flux or FAST—bureaucratic terms that mean nothing to me. My apartment is cluttered with gadgets that I can never remember how to use because of inscrutable buttons which may have to be held down for one, two or four seconds, sometimes two at a time, and which often do different things depending on invisible “modes” toggled by still other buttons. I’m sure it was perfectly clear to the engineers who designed it.

Multiply these daily frustrations by a few billion, and you begin to see that the curse of knowledge is a pervasive drag on the strivings of humanity, on par with corruption, disease and entropy. Cadres of expensive professionals—lawyers, accountants, computer gurus, help-line responders—drain vast sums of money from the economy to clarify poorly drafted text…

I TOOK MY GUNS

My latest song. It will have a decidedly Western flavor. It’s a vengeance song – avenging a set of murders.

It’s unfinished but I plan to finish it tonight.

I TOOK MY GUNS

I took my guns to town with me
Riding rough like the wind
I came home too late to help
My neighbors were all dead by then

The night was cold the wind was hard
The fires burned, the coyotes roamed
My horse was spent but I was not
Murder and mayhem I won’t condone

Take your guns wherever you go
Take your guns so they will know
Take your guns whenever you ride
So you don’t have to abide
No more a this…

My gut was empty, my heart was stone
You don’t kill men in their own homes
Their ghosts still whispering in my ear
“Find them, get them, be what they fear”

Well the streets were barren, empty, dark
Everything stabled, doors all locked
Except for the Dead Pony
My revolvers both cocked

Take your guns wherever you go
Take your guns so that they know
Take your guns wherever you ride
So you can set right
The wrong that they did…

I swung down from the saddle
The streets were all mud
My horse stood his own ground
We both wanted blood

I kicked in the door, there he sat cold
Smiling and toothless, nursing his drink
I shot off his mouth
Cause whiskey ain’t cheap

BABY FINGERS (The Secret Song of Lord Petyr Baelish)

BABY FINGERS

(The Secret Song of Lord Petyr Baelish)

Well, I’ve got baby fingers
They are a lot of fun
All the ladies tell me
I need much more than one

They’re tiny and expensive
I count them every day
I keep them well adorned you know
So that they always pay

Merchants try to watch them
Lords they try to weigh
Yet every dawn they’re different
I’m keeping it that way

“Why have baby-fingers?”
I am often asked
Why tiny baby fingers
Are the best for all my tasks

“Why not Little-Finger?”
That is what you’re called;
Maybe that is true for you
To me that name appalls

You see my baby-fingers?
I use them every one
Baby fingers hide those deeds
That I would never shun

For such baby fingers
My grasp is dreadful long
They hold to all my secrets
Which I’ll sell you for a song

Well see my baby fingers?
I’ve got them on my hands
They redraw all the borders
To map out all the lands

All the women tell me,
“Child, you are so small…”
Yet it never matters
They come when fingers call

My crafty baby fingers
Are slick and full of guile
With such baby fingers
I often will defile

Watch these baby fingers
Build castles in the mud
Sometimes when they’re idle
They like to play in blood

They sometimes smell peculiar
Pay that never mind
They’re not your baby fingers
That odor’s likely mine

My cunning baby fingers
Know their poisons and their knives
Garrotes they weave aplenty
Oh so many lives!

My creeping baby fingers
The gentlemen know not
Their wives are playing with them
Like hangmen with their knots

So I’ll just keep them working
You’re too slow for all my tricks
I thought someone would notice
But my fingers never prick

So my restless baby fingers
Will just crawl up to the top
You never gave them leave to pause
Nor reason yet to stop…

SO MANY MEN – from DIVINE SOPHIA

So many men think that if only they lived in a good and just world then they too would be by nature and in all things good and just. Not realizing, or not wishing to realize, that it is not the world that so makes the man but the man the world.

TIME RUNS BACKWARD – unfinished poem with neologisms

Time runs backwards as I age to taunt the pretense I presage
A quiet evening gathers force against the efforts I endorse

I build, I dream, I recreate, alluring hope I’m not too late
I treasure up those goods I keep yet still comes on that endless sleep

Protean made, a crown of gain, is nothing more than shadows slain
For time runs backward like that dawn that shall soon cease to carry on

A starless night, a moonless sky, an Earth devoid of my reply
This versive current of the clock has made of me a thing to mock *

Awkward does my every care seem amplified – a blind man’s snare
Bound within me I’m unknit, my ledgers lost, my tack unfit

Nostic lies the length of me, consumed in doubt and dread defeat *
For time speeds backward like the flight of birds of prey who track my plight

What matter if I shape the world so tightly is my soul so whorl’d
That I can never free myself from ravage, ruin, or dispel

The loss I suffer while I decay, my aims in life all led astray
I raise, I reach, my fall is great, the night comes on, I woke too late

Drommund grows the darkened eve, when will not this soon relieve *
For time bleeds backward like the wound that to cure is all immune…

 

versive *to be both poetically metered and twisted or torsioned into an aversive design or subversive shape

nostic * to be physically exhausted and unable to continue yet fully aware and sensate

drommund *to race through the world in a reckless and violent or suicidal manner

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