Wyrdwend

The Filidhic Literary Blog of Jack Günter

WE’LL WORK ON THAT

WE’LL WORK ON THAT

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

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

Time to put on my googles he thought.

He heard a small creak.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Huh?” Steinthal said.

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

Steinthal cleared his throat.

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

The guy seemed to mull over the answer.

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

“What one?” Steinthal asked.

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

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

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

The big guy chuckled quietly.

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

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

Seemingly to spite himself the big guy chuckled again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The big guy looked at Steinthal’s revolver.

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

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

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

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

There was silence again. But no movement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The guy chuckled again. Then sighed softly.

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

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

The machete clattered to the floor.

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

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

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

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

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

“You’ll laugh,” the big guy replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maugham nodded.

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

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

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

“Is what true?” asked Maugham.

“Do you really have friends?”

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

“You know, I’m not really sure.”

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

“What’s that?” asked Maugham.

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

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

From The Detective Steinthal.

Advertisements

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…

HIGH AND LOW FORTUNE – HAMMER, TONG, AND TOOLS

HIGH AND LOW FORTUNE

“You ask me how I know this and I can only tell you what I’ve seen.

High Fortune came upon me like a silent serpent, slithering from behind in such a stealthy manner as to conceal his true intent and to scarcely warrant my attention.

Low Fortune approached me like a titled lord, resplendent all in showy pomp and decorative circumstance, attired in the lofty regalia of finely whispered shadows spun from venomous spider silks.

Low Fortune is, you see my friend, the King of Seeming and the Prince of Cunning Craft yet I advise you eschew his long seducing and ever seductive company. For his court is all fantastic façade and fraudulent fashion and his manner and his manor are both estates of ruin.

High Fortune, on the other hand, wears no glittered crown of kingship nor rankish robes of high office nor encrusted jewels of state, he is as plain of face, as rough-built by effort, and as quiet in nature as if stable bred. Yet if on turning round by chance or calculation you find him standing nearby then reach out your hand quickly and grasp him in so firm a hold that he cannot escape, and never let him go until he promises to bless you as his friend.

Leave Low Fortune, brother, where he dwells, even if he home in temple renown or palace grand, for he is the sure slum-lord of soon-to-be sad misdeeds and the master of all unenviable fools.

Instead set your watch and wait patiently for High Fortune, for one day he will approach you in sly disguise, silent and unannounced, to see what can be made of you if you will ever dare. For he is your steadfast, stalwart, and subtle Friend and the Maker of that Fortune you truly seek.

Low Fortune churns like stormy waves, he ebbs and flows and never settles ought. High Fortune stands alone and trembles not, he shelters and secures all Men of Enterprise.”

from the Kithariune  (link)

________________________________________________

Since the beginning of this year I have been in one of the most productive periods/phases of my entire life as far as the creation of poems, songs, short stories, novels, scripts, and other literary works are concerned. I have recently produced hundreds of pages of new works.
 
Above is a section of my novel series the Kithariune. In this passage the Welsh Bard Larmaegeon is trying to explain the difference(s) between High and Low Fortune to his friend and companion, the Spanish Paladin Edimios. And why he should wait upon the one and avoid the other.
 
Anyone is welcome to comment upon it, of course.

THE LAST TRUE MAN – HIGHMOOT

THE LAST TRUE MAN

Over the weekend I started a new fictional short story. A fantasy of sorts, you might say. This is the first draft. I have made no editorial corrections at all. I thought it would make an interesting experiment for others to see regarding how a short story develops over time and is edited, corrected, revised, etc.

I did not type this by the way. Because of my previously broken wrist my youngest daughter now does most of my typing. (My oldest daughter is already in college.) I write in longhand, she types. I owe her much for that, and I pay her, though it is also part of the life and practical and market skills development section of her homeschooling studies.

Since this story involves a mysterious stranger that the main character entertains and travels with from time to time (I had plotted that into the story from the beginning of my sketches for the work) and a Journey I decided to also link this to the Daily Prompt on WordPress for today

Journey

I will not be posting the entire story here, once it is completed, because I plan to publish it. But the section included here, when I make the necessary editorial corrections and revisions, that I will post later.

The story will also contain within it the poem, He Who Goes Alone. Which I actually wrote for a different purpose but last night I realized fit this story so acutely that I decided to include it as part of the story.

Ladies and gentlemen I give you The Last True Man. (And although he is not really a man, he is True to the end.)

___________________________________

THE LAST TRUE MAN

He lived alone. Once he had a wife, and a son and two daughters. Only one daughter had survived his thirty-third birthday. By that time he was too badly wounded to care for her and had been made permanently lame. Being unable to care for her properly, and his recuperation taking years, he had given her over to the care of his former wife’s sister. He still saw his daughter and her children occasionally, and treated her kindly though she was often in awe and afraid of him. But she did not know who he truly was. To her, as to everyone else, he was simply the old hermit who almost never spoke.

Now he was eighty-seven. Though he did not appear so, nor did he move like an old man. Nevertheless he was still partially lame from the wounds he had received as a young man. For even in his heart, as in his body, some wounds remained and never fully closed such as those injuries and wrongs that claimed the life of his wife, son, and oldest daughter.

So he lived alone. Alone among a set of ancient weathered, discolored, wan stone and marble ruins. Ruins left by a long dead and vanquished race, all of their works toppled and reclaimed by the forest, all except those he kept as a forlorn home and temple of remembrance. Yet to him it was not forlorn or even a ruin. It was the wreckage of another age he had reclaimed for himself. He who went alone.

The ruins stood beyond the horizon of the village in which his daughter dwelt. Though not far. They did not have to stand afar off for all manner of men shunned those ruins and the surrounding landscape, considering them accursed and haunted. None ventured there and aside from young boys filled with that spirit of adventure and exploration that sometimes overwhelms and possesses them view ever came within close sight, to almost all it was a place more imagined than ever observed.

Except to him. Despite the many pitfalls and the shifting rot and the persistent decay that nature worked upon the ancient place he knew it well and almost completely. He even knew of most of the most desolate and new long buried areas. He also dwelt at peace with all but a few of the surrounding creatures, be they large, small, tame, wild, fierce, or gigantic and fearsome.

His means were simple, his desires few, his quaint and modest satisfactions many in his deserted home, and his dwelling austere. He spent his days wandering, exploring and mapping the wide ruins in which he lived, drawing, sketching, mapping, writing and cataloging all he discovered. Many days he would also explore the nearby forest, visiting or entertaining creatures as they would accommodate him, or he they. At dawn he would pray, at sunset sing. At night he would take the telescope he had fashioned for himself and watch the moon and stars.

Sometimes at night he would also sit long in meditation, contemplation, or within the various memory palaces he had created in his own mind so that he could commiserate with the ghosts of his dead family and friends. In this way he would sometimes slip happily into dream and melancholy would leave him until he again awoke. When it might or might not return to him like an unreliable and unpredictable friend.

Or was friend the right word? Maybe Melancholy was his interrogator of habit, like Death was the companion of his more somber dreams and troubled visions. He was never really sure where he actually stood with the steady companions of his loneliness and exile. He only knew that he knew them well, and that they knew him as he truly was. In the center of his inmost soul.

His most steady companion however was his huge dog which so resembled a small bear in size and shape and appearance that some men took it for a strangely colored and tame bear and nicknamed him “Uroldas” or “Bear-Father.”

He built a dwelling of the old stones of what he surmised to have been the still standing remains of an ancient tower attached to the ruins of what was possibly an old wall or gate mount. Indeed he called it his tower and it was there stories tall, consisting of four levels all together, including the level he had dug underground for storage. His tower was part home, part hermitage, part-forge, (for he also worked his own metals and artifacts) and part observatory, and he named it Caerloron, after his dead son.

Occasionally he was visited at dusk, at dawn, or late at night by a mysterious figure in simple robes and a deep blue prayer shawl who would entertain him, or who he would entertain, and often during such visits they would talk long and in a familiar, friendly fashion. Though none else saw this odd visitor for two reasons; he would never approach if the man was otherwise occupied, and secondly due to the isolation and uncanniness of the old man’s dwelling. Which kept almost everyone else at bay in any case.

The man possessed a strange drinking vessel as well. An almost eerily peculiar cup he had recovered from a trove deep in the city, craftily contrived, decorated with bizarre devices and the cryptic letters of a long dead language. For in the future, many centuries hence it was whispered this cup never went dry, but that was just a rumor yet to be born. As for the man when he had first found the cup he had inscribed it with his name, Aelone. St that time he was still a young man and called himself by his name. in the years that followed everyone else forgot his name, and even who he had once been and so he took to himself, “me.” Or “I.”

Rate this:

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

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

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

This will likely be another excellent tool for writers.

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

 

No strings attached.
No e-mail address required.

Brand new and FREE from Steven Pressfield

NOBODY WANTS TO READ YOUR SH*T

…picks up where The War of Art left off.

Nobody Wants to Read Your Shit - by Steven Pressfield

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

.MOBIDownload your free Kindle compatible e-book here!

.PDFDownload your free
PDF e-book here!

We’re giving it away (for a limited time) because we want people to read it. Simple as that.

Want more information or a paperback? Click here.

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

NOTHING EVER CHANGES – TUESDAY’S TALE

NOTHING EVER CHANGES

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

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

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

“Do you think it will ever change?”

Steinthal looked at him and then shrugged wearily.

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

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

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

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

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

from The Detective Steinthal

THE TROUBLE WITH YOU – TUESDAY’S TALE

“Personally I have never understood the idea that the herd is so all pervasive that you dare not leave it or the pack so all powerful that you dare not defy it. You don’t like the herd, then go your own way. Plenty of places the herd won’t dare go that you can. The pack turns on you then you turn on it. They’ll even be plenty of times you should turn on the pack when it doesn’t turn on you. That’s life.

See, it’s just a herd son, it’s just a pack. Simple as that.

This ain’t rocket science kid it’s just plain old fashioned manhood. And whenever necessary a man stands absolutely alone and entirely unafraid. But don’t pretend with me what I’m saying is so unbelievable you can’t even imagine it.

You’ve imagined it plenty. You’ve just never had the balls to act like a man about it.

So the trouble ain’t them boy, the trouble has never been them. The trouble is you. I know it, they know it, and you know it. Because the trouble will always be you until it ain’t anymore. And then the real trouble starts.

But at least by then you’ll finally be a man about it.”

From The Detective Steinthal

Steinthal talking to a low level informant and petty criminal. From one of the cases of my Detective Steinthal.

 

THE LONELY SCOUT – TUESDAY’S TALE

THE LONELY SCOUT

So today after my walk through the woods with Sam I came home and started work on a new short story. It will be historical fiction and a supplement to my Westerns and it will be about a half-Indian, half-white Advanced Scout for the US Cavalry.
 
He is rejected by everyone, as was the custom of the day, by his white society and by his Indian tribe. Later he goes on to wander much farther West and to form his own settlement of former Chinese rail workers, other outcast Indians, runaway slaves, Mexicans fleeing the wars in Texas and California, and poor whites and others wishing to start over from the Civil War.
 
Eventually he becomes town marshal and then county sheriff until he is hunted down by US Marshals looking to take him in for desertion from his former scout position.
 
Got three pages written just about an hour ago and I’ll post those once my daughter types up the manuscript (still having trouble typing with my broken wrist), but only the intro because I plan to publish the story. Like I said I want it to be a supplementary story to my Western, The Lettermen. Still not sure about the title though, iffin I wanna call it The Lonely Scout or simply The Outcast.
 
My wife and youngest daughter read it and really liked it, and my wife gave me a coupla good ideas for further plot development. My oldest daughter read it and gave it a 9 out of 10 (so far anyway) and then she said, “Writing Westerns and frontier and adventure and detective stories are your favorites.”
 
I like writing a lot of different kinda things, but she may be right. Those hold particular and personal appeal to me…
Manhood is a lost art if you ask me. I hope to preserve it in my writings so future generations can take it up again. Wholesale and unimpeded by whatever we got nowadays.

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…

 

YESTERDAY – TUESDAY’S TALE

SOME OF WHAT I WROTE YESTERDAY (based either on memory of conversations or events of years past or new experience)

I slapped him on the shoulder in a friendly manner and smiled, but I was deadly serious.

“For God’s sake,” I said, “don’t do that. Don’t be a modern man. Be an actual man. Yeah, it’s always hard, and it don’t pay much most of the time. But at least you’ll be alive. Really alive. And in the end what in the hell else matters?”

from my novel The Modern Man
_______________________________

It was as quiet and peaceful and warm and sunny a day as I had ever seen in my entire life. And that was fine by me. I had sure seen enough of all the other kinds of days.

from The Modern Man
________________________________

He topped the small hills that ringed the border to the north and the west and looked out before him. The blue and the green covered the land so thick that he couldn’t see the ground. Not anywhere.

It was an ocean of grass that stretched out forever, with no shore to be seen.

from my novel The Basilegate (Larmageon describing in his own mind wandering the “Blue-Green Sea” just beyond the borders of Kitharia – inspired by my hike in the forests and across the fields today; everything is in bloom and as thick as blood, especially the grass)
_______________________

“My son, as the Lord taught us, you cannot save the world alone. But if you at least set out to try then neither shall you ever fail it…”

from the Basilegate (The Abbot of Studios writing to the Viking Christian convert Drakgarm of Gotar)
________________________

Nothing Works if you won’t.

from the Business, Career, and Work of Man
_________________________

There is no sin in seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. The sin lies in either avoiding pain merely to seek pleasure, or in seeking pleasure by inflicting pain.

from Human Effort

CURRENT WORD COUNT: 5056

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

Here is my Summary Page: The Old Man

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

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

THE OLD MAN BEGINS…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good Fortune and Godspeed.

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

WHICH NOVEL WOULD YOU PREFER?

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

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

13 votes for The Old Man

10 votes for The Cache of Saint Andrew, and

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

COME THE HORIZON – TUESDAY’S TALE

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

 

THE DETECTIVE STEINTHAL – COME THE HORIZON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I knew she was as good as dead…

ACCIDENTS AND HAPPENSTANCE

“So, you think I lived this long purely by accident and happenstance, do ya?” Steinthal said, more statement than question.

He thought about that a moment.

“Well then, since you’re the Detective and have already figured it all out, enlighten me. How did you live this long?” he asked.

“I’ve lived this long because I give only one warning and take only one warning. I suppose this qualifies as your one warning,” Steinthal replied.

“Maybe,” he said looking up at Steinthal and smiling, “but just out of curiosity, what comes after your warning?” he asked.

“Who says I’m giving you a warning? I almost never give warnings. The next time you see me, trust me, you won’t.” And Steinthal didn’t smile.

The Detective Steinthal

 

 

QUOTIEN’S POINT

Had a great idea for a science-fiction short story while walking with my Great Dane Sam through the woods this afternoon.

The story involves Human Beings encountering an alien species while exploring deep space and the encounter (which initially seems innocuous enough) almost immediately leads to conflict and eventual war. At first it seems obvious that humans have the advantage as our technology seems to be far in advance of that possessed by the alien species.

But quickly it becomes apparent that the alien species seems to adapt amazingly fast. Every time humans use a new weapon or weapon’s system against them they immediately start to innovate and counter with the result being that within a matter of a mere few weeks, and sometimes in just a few days, they can produce either a defensive system that basically greatly mitigates or even nullifies human technology, or they develop a superior offensive system based on what they analyze and reverse-engineer of our weapon systems.

In under six months they turn the tide of the conflict and start to defeat humans.

After that human technological systems and weapon systems are quickly attrited or degraded to the point that humans have to begin to rely upon older and older systems and technologies (outdated and outmoded and scavenged systems) just to survive or to continue to resist.

The opposite effect occurs with the aliens however – their technology continues to make astronomical leaps forward in a very short period of time and within a year the defeat and possible eradication of human beings seems a very real probability. The last hope for the humans seems to be the discovery of a form of third party alien technology but eventually it is realized it is too advanced for humans to properly understand and utilize and that even if they could understand and properly employ it any real help the third party device might provide will come too late.

Human defeat therefore seems assured until, that is, the aliens create a technological leap forward so advanced that the totally unexpected happens. I’m going to call the story the Qoutien’s Point. *

I’m also going to integrate this short story into my larger science fiction milieu/universe.

 

  * Quotien’s Point – a future scientific/technological term named for that point at which everything that has come before changes so radically that everything to follow is thereafter forever unrecognizable.

THE BLOOD OF TÔL KARUŢHA – HAMMER, TONGS, AND TOOLS

Continuing on with my short story  THE VENGEANCE OF TÔL KARUŢHA and my prior posts on Conan. I have the entire story written (though not typed) and will post it here in its entirety when I get it all typed as an example of my short story writing ability for agents, publishers, and my followers and fans. For now my previously broken wrist makes typing long periods of time problematic and so I pay my daughter to do it.

For previous entries see here: THE FRAGMENTS OF TÔL KARUŢHA

and here: CONAN, BABA YAGA, AND TÔL KARUŢHA

____________________________________________________

Conan saw the blood seep from the wound of Tôl Karuţha. Perhaps, he thought to himself, it was a trick of the dark and the nearly moonless gloom of the Ophirian night, but that blood seemed unnaturally dark and uncannily sleek to him. As if it were a slick but soiled oil or possibly even the ichor of some preternatural monster rather than the blood of a mortal man.

A guarded growl erupted deep in Conan’s mind, along with a primitive alarm and revulsion of the supernatural that demanded his future attention. Conan resolved to investigate later, when he had the opportunity to observe closely and without arousing suspicion. If he got the opportunity.

At the moment he was in a fight for his life against ever mounting odds, and for all he knew his erstwhile “ally” could desert him at any moment by showing himself more fiend than friend. For now Conan must slay, or be slain, and so he set about him with a fury and a lust for combat and gore.

In satisfying his lust he would be fully sated, for his enemies met him with equal ferocity and far greater numbers.

Time weighed against Conan. Time and numbers. His oldest enemies. His most dangerous foes.

 

THE GHOSTLAND – TUESDAY’S TALE

THE GHOSTLAND

“Within us all there is a Ghostland, but sometimes when we wander in the dark, we become the ghosts of a far stranger land.”

(Opening line of The Ghostland) *

Tonight I was walking Sam in the woods near sundown. I let him go ahead of me because I knew about a quarter mile ahead was the fenceline. When I caught back up to him it looked just like he was standing on the other side of a large steel gate and for a moment I thought, “Now how could he have passed through that gate and fence, and how will I retrieve him if he did (since the neighbors keep it chained and locked)? But as I got closer I realized it was just a trick of the light given his color as he stood against the fence-gate near sundown.

Then on the way back I thought to myself, “suppose Sam really had passed right through that gate, how would I have gotten him back and what would that mean?” And that gave me a superb idea for a short story. Which I originally thought about calling Ghost Dog.

Then as I walked on I began to see in my head I saw all of these scenes of places I’ve Vadded over the years. Especially deserted and spooky places I’ve hit at night or while working some case. Except these places and the things in them weren’t as they really are, and some were certainly weird enough just on their own, they were all changed in my imagination. Strange, surreal, and unreal places in which things like a dog walking through a steel gate was, if not normal, at least something that could happen. I kept seeing a Ghostland. And since the story kept expanding in my mind I renamed it Ghostland.

And then I started seeing weird and bizarre events in this Ghostland too. So I came home and sketched it out.

And yeah, I’ve been relistening to the Fourth Tower of Inverness lately too (it’s that time of year after all) but what I saw in my head wasn’t just weird, like the Fourth Tower, it was spooky and bizarre. I think it will make a perfect Halloween story.

IN NEED OF

IN NEED OF

I am in immediate need of the following things:

1. BETA READERS for my fictional writings and novels and (if you wish) the poetry and songs that I intend to publish. I want only brutally honest opinions, and I want a wide range of readers/reader-types. (There will be no pay but I will exchange favors and see to it that you are provided with free copies of the finished works). Confidentiality regarding my writings will be expected of course, and I will restrict my beta readers to maybe 6 to 8 people, but I will treat you right. If you are interested in reading my literary writings, my popular fiction, my poetry, my song lyrics and my other Work then please visit my Literary Blog Wyrdwend at this link: https://wyrdwend.wordpress.com/category/my-writings-and-work/

2. A good, decent, hard-working, and ambitious LITERARY AGENT (to match myself). If you are interested in representing my literary writings, my popular fiction, my poetry, my song lyrics and my other Work then please visit my Literary Blog Wyrdwend at this link: https://wyrdwend.wordpress.com/category/my-writings-and-work/

3. An EMPLOYEE TEAM for my start-ups. (People to run the businesses, handle marketing, and run day to day operations while I and my partners handle funding and investors, etc.) More on that later. If you are interested in reading my business and career writings and in following my start-ups or my consulting and invention work then please visit my Business Blog at this address: https://launchport.wordpress.com/category/my-writings-and-work/

4. A TEAM OF BUSINESS BUILDERS/DEVELOPERS AND INVESTORS (start-ups primarily but we may also handle brokerage and turn-arounds on rare occasions) to be put together to found and profit from new business ventures. More on that soon. If you are interested in reviewing my business and career writings and in following my start-ups or my consulting and invention work then please visit my Business Blog at this address: https://launchport.wordpress.com/category/my-writings-and-work/

5. PARTNERS to work with me on developing and designing (CAD and prototype designs) my inventions and app designs. If you are interested in reading my business and career writings and in following my start-ups or my consulting and invention work then please read my Business Blog at this address: https://launchport.wordpress.com/category/my-writings-and-work/

6. GAME DESIGN PARTNERS who can take the games I’ve designed and/or written and either build physical products out of them or in the case of computer and video games program basic builds that we can use to pitch to game studios. If you are interested in reading and reviewing my game designs and work then please visit my Gaming Blog at this address: https://tomeandtomb.wordpress.com/category/my-writings-and-work/

A brief word of explanation on the above:

Beta Readers – I tend to write my fictional works, short stories, and novels in the following genres: children’s stories, detective and mysteries, espionage, fantasy and myth, historical fiction, horror, and science fiction. My current novel is a high fantasy/myth about Prester John and the Byzantine Empire. I tend to insert a lot of historical and literary references into most of my works. I would not expect my Beta Readers to provide me with detailed critiques or edits, though if you wished to do so that’s up to you. I’m really just looking for basic opinions and do you like the plot, stories, works, etc., and do you have any advice for improvements? As I said I’m open to favor exchanges and free copies of my works.

Also, when it comes to my songs I write the lyrics but I have no real time right now for composing. If you are a composer or lyricist and you wish to enter into a song-writing partnership with me then we will split the credits and your contributions and shares of any successful songs will be protected by contract.

Literary Agent – I want a literary agent with a wide range of interests and one with whom I can develop both a professional relationship and a personal friendship. (I much prefer doing business with people I enjoy.) I want a literary agent who is ambitious, as I am, and one who can help me make my writings successful so that we may both profit handsomely.

Employee Team – more on this later but I’m looking for a good employee team as well as a strong, tight, efficient, and profitable team of administrators, managers, and officers.

Business Builder/Investor/Investment Team – more on this later but I need good people from all areas/sections of the country, and possibly members from outside the US, who can look realistically at start-ups and help develop and fund them into successful enterprises. Backgrounds in brokerage, business building and development, communications, entrepreneurship, investment, and deal-making most desired. But we can also look at other backgrounds. Realistically risk will be high, and loss always possible, but profits should be considerable on successful ventures. This will be both a business creation and development and investment team, sort of like an Investment Club but with a far wider range of interests and with more hands on developmental involvement.

Invention Partners – partners in design and prototyping and product development. We’ll start out with my inventions and maybe yours as well and possibly graduate to taking stakes in other inventions and related businesses if the idea seems solid and viable.

Game Design Partners – people who can take my game designs, and your own, and build programs or physical products out of them. Depending on how much you contribute we’ll take profit shares on sales of the games, regardless of whether it is by the game or we sell the designs outright. As with the inventions your work will always be attributed in the design and protected as a share of profit by contract.

Finally you should know that in working with me my very basic and fundamental Worldview is that I am a Christian by religion, spirituality, philosophy, and nature, a Conservative (with some strong Libertarian leanings) in cultural and political and social matters, and a Capitalist when it comes to economics and monetary affairs.

Therefore I am a disciple and proponent of the teachings of Christ (Truth, Justice, Personal Honor, Honesty, and Fair Treatment of all based on individual behavior are extremely important to me, and I tend to like Charity and Philanthropy), God is my mentor and my best friend, I am Conservative in nature and very much believe in Hard Work and Personal Effort and Individual Initiative and Self-Discipline, and I am pro-Business, Development, Entrepreneurship, and Wealth. I also like to see people exploit their own talents and benefit and profit thereby. I set extremely high goals for both myself and others, and I expect much, but think I am fair and just to work with. I do discriminate and unapologetically so, but not regarding matters of background, class, race, or sex. I only discriminate between good and bad behavior, and between industry and laziness. As a boss or partner I will not long endure intentionally bad or destructive or self-destructive or foolish or apathetic behavior. I am not at all bothered by failure if you seek to improve and advance the next time.

If that all sounds fine by you and you are interested in any of these ventures then please contact me via email or by my Facebook or Linked-In pages or through my blogs or other webpages. We’ll begin Work.

HIGH ILLUSION from THE BASILEGATE

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

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

“You have been often wounded?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“Why?” she questioned.

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

“It is manhood to be often wounded?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She laughed quietly.

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

 

__________________________________________________

A scene from my novel The Basilegate.

OUT OF TIME – HIGHMOOT

I’ve been noticeably absent from blogging lately. I’ve been trying to build myself back up to at least one post for each of my blogs per week.

I’m still recovering from a broken wrist but my main problem(s) at the moment are that I have two start-up projects running simultaneously, I am writing two books (one fiction and one non-fiction), and I have an invention I am trying to secure investors and a manufacturer for.

And I’m looking for a new Literary Agent. A really good literary agent.

It seems like my entire weeks worth of free time is consumed by Monday…

LADY STONEHEART

THE STONEHEART

 
(I wrote this little ditty back when I first read the Red Wedding and the aftermath. But I never posted it. Until I recently got reminded of it.)

The Wedding bleeds Red
When the Butcher is nigh,
The Maiden then said
It all with a sigh,
“My husband is murdered
My future is dead,
Where nows grows Justice
Or vengeance instead?”
Yet chilled be the mother
Cold is the womb,
Killed be the feasting
Still is the room,
Down sinks the young man
Up the Old Thing,
A Lady of Black Doom
Whose Stoneheart shall ring…

 

STILL NO JOY – TUESDAY’S TALE

STILL NO JOY… BUT GETTING CLOSER

I know it’s very little to complain about, relatively speaking, but as a writer I just had the most frustrating night/morning of my life.

I went to bed about 11 to 11:30 last night, totally exhausted, and then rose again sometime not long after midnight. Ideas for my novel were running through my head, a lot of them, too many to just note on my bedside table notebook and so I went downstairs to my office and fired up my computer.

I then worked from shortly after midnight until 4 AM on nothing but the title of the novel series I am currently writing. I know exactly what each of the four books in the series will be called separately but I’ve gone through several incarnations of the title for the entire series and have never settled on anything that seems to really fit. My latest, or the Working Title for the series is The Other World or The Other Worlds, which fits to a degree, but isn’t entirely accurate or encompassing of what the books are truly about.

I ran through terms and titles after terms and title with still no joy and nothing availed. I felt like I had been awakened with a purpose but everything I thought of remained frustratingly just of reach and meaning.

At almost four o’clock I sat back in my office chair, cold, tired, and defeated. It was kinda like working a scientific experiment and everything I tried got close to a solution, but eventually all iterations failed.

Finally I looked to my left and saw my new copy of the Poetic Edda and thought to myself, of course, “I’ll use a title something like the Eddas,” suggestive, but not all encompassing or limited. Because for a very, very long time I’ve wanted to use a title like the Aeneid, or the Odyssey, which would be perfect if not for the fact that the books are not really only about one character, even Prester John. So I thought, maybe something like the Eddas?

So I began reading one of the Eddas (about Odin testing himself against the wisest giant) and a later one about Thor dressing as a Freya to recover his hammer by deception. But still nothing specific came to me.

 

At last I put the book away because I was too tired to continue, my brain simply wouldn’t function, but I was still too frustrated to give up. So I began asking God to help me title the series with the perfect title, something I’ve done before many times, but everything he seems to show me in language seems just beyond my perception. As if it is something beyond my own language.

At that point I fell into a kind of trance which was almost a blank mind, but not quite. It was like I was sleeping in darkness but all around me, in the background, I could hear voices whispering and saying things but I couldn’t quite make out the words or exactly what was being said. It was more like images trying to take on the form of words than words forming images. And they were all in the background and still hazy or shadowy. When I came out of that finally it was about 5:00 and I still had nothing specific except the suggestion that maybe I should invent the terms and title I wanted in another language, perhaps in Sidhelic or one of the other Eldeven languages.

Then I was struck by the idea that maybe there should be multiple titles for the series, each expressing a different aspect of what the books are about and each from a different viewpoint, but settle upon a single version for publication.

 

So I began developing this idea, one title each, each title being in a different language. Each title expressing a different aspect or focal point for the series. Such as a title concerning:
  1. The Main Character or Person – Jhonarlk, or Prester John
  2. The two (or 3 actually, though you never get to see the Third World, only hear of it) worlds involved, something along the line of the Other Worlds
  3. The Weirding Roads (central to the story and implying much, much bigger things than simply a Road between worlds)
  4. (The Fall of) the Vanished Eldevens – the penultimate event of the series and the seeming point of the entire tale, but not really the point of the tale
and 5. The War of…

 

Only one of these terms will be attached to the books but all of the terms will be spoken of in the books as being different histories covering the same events. And I’ll include little excerpts from these “parallel histories, “ (and I may speak briefly about their authors) each implying a different aspect or idea-set about what really happened and what the tale was really about but I’ll settle on one title for the series. Most of the histories will be in prose or in narrative form, as mine will be, but at least one will be in poetic form (probably the Lay of the Fall of the Vanished Eldevens – English translation, not the Eldeven term) and most of the poems in my series will reference that history as poetic extracts.

But I’ll not write full versions of those histories, only hint at them and include extracts from them and those versions will also have some alternate versions of the events in my book.

 

I’ve therefore, because of last night/this morning written a little author’s introduction to the series.

(The claimed author will not be me, but will be a man by the name of Wyrdlaef, a seemingly very minor character in the books who follows Larmaegeon to Constantinople and then to the Isle of Avalona and after the destruction of the Other World returns to our world and secretly writes his account of these events and hides his books in an Irish monetary which then eventually makes its way back to the Other World. )

The introduction is very rough so far but goes something like this:

“These books recount the history of the Great but Invisible Wars that took place on our world and upon the lost world of Iÿarlðma in the years of our Lord 797 to 835. At that time an ancient and noble but since vanished people fought alongside Man for the fate of the Earth and Heavens and the preservation of their own kingdoms. Great these people were but of what their true nature, like that of man, a created being, or like the very angels in flesh, or like some entirely other thing I still cannot tell, though I lived among them for a long time. Five accounts there were of these events, that I know of, but to my knowledge only my brief and poor and incomplete account remains. But if all were told as it truly happened then, as was said of our Lord, not all of the libraries of the world could contain those accounts for the splendour and wonder of the tale. These books then, my account of these fantastic and horrid events, I call the Fall of the Vanished Eldevens and they speak as well as I am able of the final encounter and friendship between Man and the Eldevens against many ancient evils and monstrosities I still do not understand. For it has been said, with good reason and as I witnessed with my own eyes, that the Eldevens were entirely destroyed by their enemies, wiped from the face of their world, with those small numbers of survivors who did escape driven into the wilds to be hunted to extinction by their remorseless enemies. But I have also heard, from both the seers of that strange people and from the prescient prophets of our own devout holy men that one day, far into an uncounted future, Man and the Sidhs of the Eldevens would once again meet as friends on the shores of yet other distant and undiscovered worlds, and that God would have mightily blessed and enlarged us both. Of that time, if it ever comes, if it is ever true, I shall see nothing, for I shall be long dead and buried. But I hope and pray that my account survives, and that perhaps this prophecy is real. For everyone would be the better for it…”

Wyrdlaef (the Wanderer)

THE NECESSARY TRUTH – HIGHMOOT

“The necessary Truth about them is that, in the end, all modern men will do exactly as they are told, but not a one of them will ever do what is truly necessary.”

From: The Curae

ARE YOU NECESSITY? – TUESDAY’S TALE

ARE YOU NECESSITY?

 

He stood up all wrong to be neighborly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

From my Western: the Lettermen

NOT A CONCERN – BOOKENDS

“You know, you’re not the first to react this way. A great many people seem very frightened by the fact that I am not frightened. However I am not in the least frightened by the fact that they are frightened by that. As a matter of fact it greatly encourages me when I meet people like you.

You’d be really frightened if you knew just how much.

Steinthal (The Detective)

THE SCALE OF YOUR WORK

Amazon Pays $450,000 A Year To This Self-Published Writer

Jay McGregor

CONTRIBUTOR

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
The London Book Fair lands on an unusually sunny three days in the capital. The scorching rays – rarely seen at all, let alone in April in the UK – seem at odds with a closed-off indoor book fair. But that hasn’t stopped scores of page-turner enthusiasts scouring the giant exhibition centre’s main floor, looking for publishers to schmooze, books to buy and advice to receive.

It’s the advice from authors who’ve ‘made it’ that seems to resonate most with attendees. Seminars and workshops are scattered in between the stands – all packed with a baying audience that fire off seemingly endless questions. They’re all trying to piece together an escape route out of the doldrums of full-time work.

One man, Mark Dawson, has a queue of wannabe writers lining up to speak to him as we sit down for an interview. Dawson is one of the self-publishing success stories that Amazon likes to wheel out when journalists like myself come knocking. But Dawson’s success isn’t down to simply publishing his crime-thriller series and hoping for the best.

Dawson has become an entrepreneur. With the self-publishing platform, he had no choice. The tactics he employed to promote his series aren’t game-changing, or even particularly clever, but the scale in which he implemented them is what made the difference.

To date he has sold over 300,000 copies of his series about an assassin called John Milton. Dawson says he pocketed “ six figures” last year and he’s on course to make much more this year. And he’s got plans for bigger and better things for this series outside of print form.

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.

PLOT BOARD FOR THE BASILEGATE – HIGHMOOT

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

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

11208678_938773776168638_72562664_n (1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

11120073_938773959501953_772409254_n

THE IRON GATE: PART ONE – BOOKENDS

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

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

But this is only the first part of the chapter.

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

THE IRON GATE: PART ONE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SUMMARY PITCH OUTLINE – HAMMER, TONGS, AND TOOLS

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

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

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

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

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

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

SUMMARY PITCH OUTLINE

Opae (Title):

Date Begun:

ONE SENTENCE DESCRIPTION OF BOOK:

ONE PARAGRAPH DESCRIPTION OF BOOK:

ONE PAGE SYNOPSIS OF BOOK:

TWO TO THREE PAGES FULL DESCRIPTION OF BOOK:

THE PLACE WHERE… HAMMER, TONGS, AND TOOLS

I completely concur. Place is every bit as important as plot. And some places are every bit as profound as any plot. And some places are inseparable from plot.

In short place is not only a tool of plot, it is the anvil on which it is truly shaped.

Before You Can Write a Good Plot, You Need to Write a Good Place

Author Linn Ulmann makes the case for the importance of here in “Something happened here.”
Doug McLean

Linn Ulmann spent her childhood trailing her famous parents as they traveled the world. As the daughter of director Ingmar Bergman and the actress Liv Ullmann, two legends of 20th-century cinema, her “home” shifted time and again. The one constant was a Swedish island, Fårö, where she returned each summer to visit her father.

Now, she’s fascinated by the way our surroundings shape us. In her interview for this series, the author of The Cold Song used a short story by Alice Munro  to illustrate the way setting drives her writing, and how place and memory help dictate the stories we tell.

The Cold Song concerns a cast of characters affected by the disappearance of Milla, a 19-year-old au pair working in a coastal town south of Oslo. After two years, her body—and the grisly manner of its death—is uncovered by three boys searching for buried treasure. With this act of violence at its heart, the novel explores the unexpected ways a crime haunts people who knew the victim, inflaming their secret sources of guilt.

Linn Ullmann is the author of five previous novels, including Before You Sleep and A Blessed Child; her work has been translated into more than 30 languages. She spoke to me by phone from her home in Oslo.


Linn Ullmann: When my father died six years ago, and we were selling off his property on the island of Fårö where I grew up, I kept a diary in a big, black notebook. It was a strange thing: a book that mixed notes on practical arrangements with ideas for the new book I’d started writing then. (This book was a mix of the book I did eventually write—The Cold Song—and another book I didn’t write, about the death of a father.) The notebook was a reading diary, too. In between meetings about the funeral, and what to do with his things, and how we were going to bury him, I was reading Alice Munro.

I’ve read her in many stages of my life. I love the way her voice just sucks you in, the way her stories walk you as if to the unexpected edge of a cliff, towards moments that—in their violence or sense of life-changing possibility—are like sudden free fall. During that time of mourning, I’d written down this passage from her story “Face”:

Something had happened here. In your life there are a few places, or maybe only one place, where something has happened. And then there are the other places, which are just other places.

This quote—“Something had happened here”—resonated so much with me. I found it very moving because of where I was right then: starting a new book, having just lost my father, in the only place I had ever really called home. At the time, this was a very desolate island with a few sheep farmers living on it. Fårö was my home until I was three years old—and though I moved very, very many times, I returned every summer for the rest of my life, until my father died. These lines struck me on a profoundly personal level, and I had no choice but to write them down.

I’ve just re-read the story now, and am again blown away by it. It’s impossible to retell a story by Alice Munro, because there are so many ins and outs and digressions, before everything comes together in this surprising, magical way—but this is a strange love story about a boy who has a wine-colored birthmark over half his face. As a child, he’s friends with a girl about his age. Twice, she tries to make her face look like his—once, using red paint, and again later in a more permanent, devastating way. She does this out of love, or a destructive thing that love can sometimes be: “I love you so much that I want to be you.”

There’s so much else in this story, which gives the whole broad arc of the narrator’s life. We learn about his relationship with his father (who, moments after his son is born, remarks, “what a chunk of chopped liver”). We learn about his career as a successful radio actor, before TV—an industry his birthmark bars him from—takes over broadcast drama.  But what sticks, in the end, is the moment in the basement of the childhood home where the little girl splashes red paint on half her face and says, all hopeful, “Now do I look like you?”

At the time, this gesture deeply wounds the boy, and his family interprets it as an act of terrible, mocking cruelty. The two children are never allowed to see each other again. It’s only as an adult that he learns—the afternoon of his father’s funeral—that she later used a razor to cut his same mark on her face. This act—of fidelity? Of shame? Of atonement?—casts the moment in the basement in a totally different light. Perhaps she was a person who identified with him so completely, that she was willing to trade her unblemished face for his. The narrator begins to realize that exchange in the basement was a crucial moment of his life; even though he didn’t realize it at the time, it may have been the closest he ever came to having his marred face looked upon honestly but without reproach, with something like love.

There’s no big sign saying Here’s the turning point. There’s no Sliding Doors scene that tells you, “Here’s the big moment!” But by the end of the story, we sense that this is what matters most to this character, as he looks back. After the revelation at the funeral, he decides not to sell the house where he grew up, where the exchange in the basement happened, as he had planned. Instead, he lives inside it for the rest of his life.

In other words, he comes to see that the childhood house will always be his reference point, his stage of greatest significance. I think it is this way for many of us: There is maybe one place, when we look back, where something happened. Or only a few places. “And then there are all the other places,” Munro writes: important too, but not distinct, not above all else. Those precious few settings where something happened are where meaning resides—they contain the story, they are the story. Yes, I think that, to Alice Munro, story is place—the two are that deeply connected. You do not have a story of a life without an actual place. You can’t separate one from the other.

I think that’s why she’s intensely local in her fiction, like many other great writers (Faulkner, Joyce, and Proust come straight to mind). Munro’s stories unfold in remote places in Canada that I’ve never been to—but in these geographically small places, whole worlds play out. The best writers provide a sense of events unfolding in this specific place, a place that informs and feeds the characters and events. What comes first: the place or the story? The story or the place? With great fiction, it can be impossible to distinguish.

I’ve been a reader of authors who have a strong sense of place, because in my own life I’ve been somewhat placeless. I always traveled as a kid, and went to a new school every year. I lived in New York, I lived in Norway, I lived in Sweden—we travelled around, we moved, and I continued doing that into my adult life. I have been something of a placeless person—so I try to find that in literature, I guess. I seek out books and authors who are very place-specific. For me, in a way, the experience of sitting with a book is the closest thing I have to “home.”

And this reminds me of another Munro line, from her story “The Bear Came Over the Mountain”:

There are places that you long for that you might not ever see.

Some places you never actually experience yourself, but are always important in your life anyway, even if you never go. Places you learn about through literature and other people’s stories can take on intense personal significance, as Munro’s Canadian hamlets have for me. I have this second quote written with the lines from “Face” in that big, black notebook; I probably wrote them on the same day. Somehow, I feel like these two passages—because they are about place in literature, and where things happened, whether a physical place or interior place—are what Munro is all about.

In my own work—the way I actually write—place plays an essential role, too. A choreographer I whose work I love, Merce Cunningham, was once asked, “How do you start a dance?” He said, “Well, you have to begin by showing up.” I think that’s brilliant, and it goes for writing, too. You can have all these novels in your head, all these characters and ideas, but if you don’t actually show up to your writing day—the physical place where you get the work done— you have nothing.

The characters, too, need to “show up”—the story needs to happen somewhere. Again, Munro: “Something happened here.” That line could be the epigraph to everything I write. The “here” is every bit as important as the “something happened.” For me, the two cannot exist without each other; setting and character respond to and inform one another.

When I begin writing, I need to have a place.  It can be a small: even a single room, though I like to be able to see the layout, the colors, the objects inside. I need to have that stage so that my characters have a place to move around. If I can develop that sense of place—and that other crucial quality, the narrative voice—then I feel sure I will find a story, even if it takes some time.  If I don’t have the place, and I don’t have the voice, I’m writing without a motor. It all becomes just words. But once the voice comes, the “here” comes next, and then the “something happened”—what we call plot—follows from it.

In this way, writing becomes a listening experience—a way of being responsive to what you have written, and letting it guide you. Some writers say “the characters come to me,” or the “characters become alive to me at night.” Bullshit. I don’t believe that my characters are alive. But the process requires a form of artistic listening, of understanding the consequences of the decisions you’ve made. If you are lucky enough to find voice and place, there are real consequences to those choices. Together, they limit the possibilities of what can possibly come next—and they help point the way forward. Your role, then, is to not stick to your original idea—it is to be totally faithless to your idea. Instead, be faithful to voice and place as you discover them, and to the consequences of what they entail.

That’s why it’s often more fun fumbling around with notes and good ideas before the writing actually starts—it doesn’t require as much intensive listening. Most writers start out thinking “I’m going to write about such-and-such grand idea.”  That’s fine when it’s all up in your head. But the minute you start putting words down, you begin to confine yourself to certain possibilities, and you must be prepared to abandon what you thought you were writing about before.

There is a Norwegian novelist who says “Writers must beware of their own good ideas.” You have this great idea, and then you start writing—and maybe something happens, and your voice starts taking you places. But if you start to think, I’m going away from my great idea, I have this wonderful idea! I need to get back to my idea—you stop following the consequences of the place and voice you’ve chosen. This is a mistake. You see a lot of decent books and plots that are fantastic—the writing might even be really good—but still somehow feel completely dead. I think that’s because there’s a great idea, a compelling premise, but a lack of honesty that can only come from listening closely to your writing. Those beautiful moments when you’ve just got to put the book away for a while because it’s so intense—we have a Norwegian word, smertepunkt, which literally means “point of pain”—can only come from this kind of honest listening. And Alice Munro is an absolute master of it. She dares to take the consequence of a voice, and a place, and follow them to where it takes her.

Place dictates who we are and how we see—this is true in life, as well as fiction. I see it in the way my father wrote about his first impressions of Fårö in his autobiography, Magic Lantern:

If one wished to be solemn, it could be said that I had found my landscape, my real home. If one wished to be funny, one could talk about love at first sight …. This is your landscape, Bergman. It corresponds to your innermost imaginings of forms, proportions, colours, horizons, sounds, silences, lights and reflections. Security is here. Don’t ask why. Explanations are clumsy rationalizations with hindsight. In, for instance, your profession, you look for simplification, proportion, exertion, relaxation, breathing. The Fårö landscape gives you a wealth of all that.

He decided because of the shape and the light and the proportions that this was where he was going to live and work. And that place is the central place in my life, too. I think probably reading these Alice Munro stories right after his death was why I copied over those quotes. They struck me—because he was dead, and also because I was mourning the fact that I was also losing my place. The island, the house on it, that’s all going to disappear now—and all the memories there, too. You cannot separate memory and place. There are certain places, if we go there, either in our writing or in reading or in life, that conjure up our deepest memories. And memories are all about who we are.

I always wondered if it really was my place. That became the big dilemma in the years after my father’s death: Was it my place, or was it his place? Places are always complicated in that way.

The island is not a place that says “Love me. Look how beautiful I am. You’ll be happy here.” It is not a place that tries to charm or seduce you. It’s beautiful in its starkness, in all its different rocky greys. There are old stone formations, called rauks, that are millions of years old. Red poppies grow in the summer. In the winter, there are countless shades of white. The surrounding sea, the Baltic Sea, is a broken sea: it’s losing oxygen, is filmed with algae on it, and very still. A dead ocean. It’s beautiful, but severe. The nature and the temperament of the whole, stark place—yes, you might fall in love with me, but I don’t know if I’m going to return your love ever. I know that I love the place, but I don’t know if the place loves me.

With some of the greatest loves you have, that’s the dilemma you have to live with.

THE SECRET WIZARD

I had an excellent idea today for a new fictional short story while on my morning walk through the woods with my Great Dane Sam. (We got soaked, by the way, in a rainstorm, nevertheless the rain was mostly warm and it was quite fun.)

Since I am writing a non-fiction book about Christian Wizardry that I call, cleverly enough, The Christian Wizard, the idea occurred to me this morning to write a fictional story about a young boy at an archaeological dig (at a cave on a Greek island) who accidentally discovers the tomb of long dead man, the tomb being filled with the artifacts and paraphernalia of the dead man’s life and craft.

For a reason the boy cannot immediately explain he decides to keep his discovery a secret and plunders the tomb for all he can recover: scrolls, books, artifacts, relics, tools, and devices, etc.

Upon close inspection of the find and the remains he discovers that the buried man was a Christian Wizard (not at all like a fictional wizard) who lived in the 8th century AD. The story proceeds from that point and will be called The Secret Wizard, and it will contain in background many of the ideas expressed in the Christian Wizard, only in fictional form, and disguised as metaphors and similes and symbols.

THE GRASS IS DEAD

I disagreed with him on many things. I thought him an outright fool on more than one issue and occasion.

(Yes, yes, I know how literary “icons” and the modern intelligentsia and the types of men who believe politics to be the answer to all existence – human or otherwise – like to cluster around each other to breathlessly and mutually glorify their own supposed genius. But I am far more skeptical of “modern genius” in all its many fictional forms. As a matter of fact I rarely see any real evidence of the supposed “modern genius” of self-styled “modern geniuses,” and their numberless cohorts, ever, or at all.)

But narrowing his views down to the strictly literary disciplines I did often agree with him on these scores: there is a new illiteracy (not in the inability to read and write, but in the poverty of having ever read or written anything of any real value at all), and letter writing is dead and with it much of higher human writing.

Otherwise the Grass is dead too. I doubt it will ever green again.

Günter Grass, Nobel-winning German novelist, dies aged 87

Author of The Tin Drum and figure of enduring controversy
Günter Grass

Monday 13 April 2015 05.38 EDT
Last modified on Monday 13 April 2015 09.40 EDT

The writer Günter Grass, who broke the silences of the past for a generation of Germans, has died in hospital in Lübeck at the age of 87.

German president Joachim Gauck led the tributes, offering his condolences to the writer’s widow Ute Grass. “Günter Grass moved, enthralled, and made the people of our country think with his literature and his art,” he said in a statement. “His literary work won him recognition early across the world, as witnessed not least by his Nobel prize.”

“His novels, short stories, and his poetry reflect the great hopes and fallacies, the fears and desires of whole generations,” the statement continued.

Tributes began to appear within minutes of the announcement of Grass’ death on Twitter by his publisher, Steidl.

In the UK, Salman Rushdie was one of the first authors to respond, tweeting:

The Turkish Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk had warm personal memories: “Grass learned a lot from Rabelais and Celine and was influential in development of ‘magic realism’ and Marquez. He taught us to base the story on the inventiveness of the writer no matter how cruel, harsh and political the story is,” he said.

He added: “In April 2010 when there was a mushroom cloud over Europe he was in Istanbul and stayed more than he planned. We went to restaurants and drank and drank and talked and talked … A generous, curious and a very warm friend who also wanted to be a painter at first!”
A life in writing: Günter Grass
Read more

Grass found success in every artistic form he explored – from poetry to drama and from sculpture to graphic art – but it wasn’t until publication of his first novel, The Tin Drum, in 1959 that he found the international reputation which brought him the Nobel prize for literature 40 years later. A speechwriter for the German chancellor Willy Brandt, Grass was never afraid to use the platform his fame afforded, campaigning for peace and the environment and speaking out against German reunification, which he compared to Hitler’s “annexation” of Austria.

Grass was born in the Free City of Danzig – now Gdansk – in 1927, “almost late enough”, as he said, to avoid involvement with the Nazi regime. Conscripted into the army in 1944 at the age of 16, he served as a tank gunner in the Waffen SS, bringing accusations of betrayal, hypocrisy and opportunism when he wrote about it in his 2006 autobiography, Peeling the Onion.

The writer was surprised by the strength of the reaction, arguing that he thought at the time that the SS was merely “an elite unit”, that he had spoken openly about his wartime record in the 1960s, and that he had spent a lifetime “working through” the unquestioning beliefs of his youth in his writing. His war came to an end six months later having “never fired a shot”, when he was wounded in Cottbus and captured in a military hospital by the US army. That he avoided committing war crimes was “not by merit”, he insisted. “If I had been born three or four years earlier I would, surely, have seen myself caught up in those crimes.”

Instead he trained as a stonemason, studied art in Düsseldorf and Berlin, and joined Hans Werner Richter’s Group 47 alongside writers such as Ingeborg Bachmann and Heinrich Böll. After moving to Paris in 1956 he began working on a novel which told the story of Germany in the first half of the 20th century through the life of a boy who refuses to grow.

A sprawling mixture of fantasy, family saga, bildungsroman and political fable, The Tin Drum was attacked by critics, denied the Bremen literature prize by outraged senators, burned in Düsseldorf and became a global bestseller.
Günter Grass is my hero, as a writer and a moral compass
John Irving
Read more

Speaking to the Swedish Academy in 1999, Grass explained that the reaction taught him “that books can cause offence, stir up fury, even hatred, that what is undertaken out of love for one’s country can be taken as soiling one’s nest. From then on I have been controversial.”

A steady stream of provocative interventions in debates around social justice, peace and the environment followed, alongside poetry, drama, drawings and novels. In 1977 Grass tackled sexual politics, hunger and the rise of civilisation with a 500-page version of the Grimm brothers’ fairytale The Fisherman and His Wife. The Rat (1986) explored the apocalpyse, as a man dreams of a talking rat who tells him of the end of the human race, while 1995’s Too Far Afield explored reunification through east German eyes – prompting Germany’s foremost literary critic, Marcel Reich-Ranicki, to brand the novel a “complete and utter failure” and to appear on the cover of Der Spiegel ripping a copy in half.

His last novel, 2002’s Crabwalk, dived into the sinking of the German liner Wilhelm Gustloff in 1945, while three volumes of memoir – Peeling the Onion, The Box and Grimms’ Words – boldly ventured into troubled waters.

Germany’s political establishment responded immediately to the news of Grass’s death. The head of the German Green party, Katrin Göring-Eckardt, called Grass a “great author, a critical spirit. A contemporary who had the ambition to put himself against the Zeitgeist.”

“Günter Grass was a contentious intellectual – his literary work remains formidable,” tweeted the head of the opposition Free Democratic party, Christian Lindner.
Günter Grass in quotes: 12 of the best
Read more

The foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was “deeply dismayed” at the news of the author’s death, a tweet from his ministry said.

Steinmeier is a member of the Social Democratic party, which Grass had a fraught relationship with – after campaigning for the party in 1960s and 70s, he became a member in 1982, only to leave ten years later in protest at its asylum policies.

“Günter Grass was a contentious intellectual who interfered. We sometimes miss that today,” SPD chairwoman Andrea Nahles said.

While there were plenty of tributes recognising Grass as one of Germany’s most important post-war writers, social media users swiftly revived many of the controversies of his divisive career, bringing up his membership of the SS and his alleged anti-Semitism.
Advertisement

Speaking to the Paris Review in 1991, Grass made no apology for his abiding focus on Germany’s difficult past. “If I had been a Swedish or a Swiss author I might have played around much more, told a few jokes and all that,” he said. “That hasn’t been possible; given my background, I have had no other choice.”

The controversy flared up again following by publication of his 2012 poem What Must be Said, in which he criticised Israeli policy. Published simultaneously in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the Italian La Repubblica and Spanish El País, the poem brought an angry response from the Israeli ambassador to Germany, Shimon Stein, who saw in it “a disturbed relationship to his own past, the Jews, and Israel”.

Despite his advanced age, Grass still led an active public life, and made vigorous public appearances in recent weeks. In a typically opinionated interview for state broadcaster WDR, which he gave in February after a live reading from Grimms’ Words, Grass called his last book a “declaration of love to the German language”.

He also talked about how the internet and the loss of the art of letter-writing had led to a “new illiteracy”. “Of course that has consequences,” he said. “It leads to a poverty of language and allows everything to be forgotten that the Grimm brothers created with their glorious work.”

He also remained critical of western policy in the Middle East (“now we see the chaos we make in those countries with our western values”), and talked about how his age had done nothing to soften his political engagement.

“I have children and grandchildren, I ask myself every day: ‘what are we leaving behind for them?’ When I was 17, at the end of the war, everything was in ruins, but our generation, whether for good reason or not, had hope, we wanted to shape the future. That’s very difficult for young people today, because the future is virtually fixed for them.”

THE BRAIDS OF STRANGULATION AND THE DEAD ROADS – HIGHMOOT

THE BRAIDS OF STRANGULATION AND THE DEAD ROADS

I meant to post this yesterday, for Highmoot, but I was out of the office.

Had an odd dream night before last about a set of murders that woke me up at about 4:00 this morning. In the dream there was a living, malevolent force which, and I kid you not, had twisted the hair of three girls into a weird, almost supernatural looking set of complex braids which I could tell from looking at had been “encoded” in some way. I only saw the partially disentangled braids after the murders had occurred at the various scenes though, so they were altered from their initial appearance. Apparently all three had visited the same salon where the braids had been twisted. Somehow, as the girls slept (all young, in their mid-twenties, and all lookers with no apparent other connections between them) their “braids” had become animated and strangled them in their sleep. All of them however had apparently awakened during the strangulation process. Except for one girl, the braids had slithered down her throat and slowly suffocated her.

Well, upon waking and thinking on it awhile (it was a very weird case and left me with an uncanny and disturbing feeling – you know, like when you’ve witnessed some evil at work and it takes awhile to dissipate) I realized I could use the same idea in one of my Other World novels. So I sketched out the possible scene and here is what I got:

The Samarl of Samarkand (who we would call Prester John) invites emissaries from all of the surrounding people and races to try and get them to ally together (for the first time in thousands of years) against a common enemy and threat he has foreseen. He even openly invites human representatives from the Byzantine empire who have accidentally ended up in his world.

While staying in the capital city and in the palace of the Samarl the ladies of the dignitaries are “attended to” out of courtesy – entertained, feted, etc. including being provided with free clothing for the upcoming counsel (which they are also invited to attend) and having their hair decorated and perfumed. Seven women are invited to be so attended, but one demurs, just out of a sort of uneasy instinct and because her people do not want to be beholding to, and are suspicious of, the Sidh, the Samarl’s folk. On the third night after their arrival all six women are murdered and dead, five by strangulation and the sixth by having been suffocated, all by their own magically woven braids (called Balial – which before this time are considered highly decorative, enchanting, and a sign of great prosperity and Good Fortune). I’ll save the how for both a political and Ilturgical (sorcerous) mystery later in the book.

The woman who refused to be attended survives, of course, but one of the women, the one who had been suffocated by swallowing her own braids, her husband was first killed by his wife’s braid. The murder incident causes a huge uproar in the capital, and a near Civil War breaks out, with some of the represented peoples either fleeing the city out of fear or outright and immediately refusing alliance, suspecting the Samarl or his supporters. A riot breaks out in part of the capital that takes another three days to put down.

This of course has almost exactly the effect that the conspirators behind the episode had envisioned.

But it gets worse. As those ambassadors who have either fled the city or decided against alliance return home they are misled by still more sorcery (Ilturgy) to take “Dead Roads or Dead Ways” (called Iaklits) as their pathways. The Iaklits are actually old and ancient roadways, long abandoned which no one but criminals now use, and even then rarely (because they are considered both useless and haunted), but to the emissaries they seem to be the normal and proper roadways, because of the sorcery and illusions lain upon them.

Upon coming to the still elaborately decorated but partially ruined Chavoeth (a series of ancient bridges that had once crossed mighty rivers) the parties momentarily hesitate and there is a debate. Confused because they don’t recognize the old bridges, but misled by the enchantments and not wanting to turn back they decide to cross. But as they reach the centers of the bridges the illusions fade and the bridges collapse killing many under the rubble but also drowning quite a few in the stinking morasses and fens and pits which the Chavoeth now span. A few survive from each party to tell the tale of both the strangulation murders at Samarkand and of the Iaklits and the traps at the bridges.

None of which has a happy effect upon the efforts of the Samarl (Prester John) to form a Grand Alliance against the approaching enemy.

But all of this happens due to the naiveté of the Samarl and the Sidh, and the other Eldevens (the related Peoples), to understand both what they truly face (they have bred war out of themselves through a long period of unchallenged peace and have become incredibly soft and unsuspecting) and the conspiracy within their own midst. Then rather than recognizing these potential dangers they begin fall to Civil War among themselves completely ignoring the real enemy, both the external one, and the one worming it’s infectious way through their own culture and government.

The Strangulation Braids and the collapsing Bridges and the “Dead Roads” therefore are not just events, they are also underlying metaphors for these facts and weaknesses.

I’m gonna write up a couple of drafts and samples containing basic work-outs of these scenes, maybe starting tonight, but for now I have a nest of wasps to kill and then I’m spending the day with the family.

Have a great day folks.

BOOTIN UP LIKE A BOSS- TUESDAY’S TALE

This is the beginning of a short story about one of my detective characters. Well, he’s really a Deputy Sheriff acting as Sheriff while the real sheriff recuperates from a car crash as the result of a felon fleeing across county lines. This is my Tuesday’s Tale. I give you, Bootin Up Like a Boss.

BOOTIN UP LIKE A BOSS

“What are you doing?” she demanded.

He stopped tying his laces to look up at her.

“I’m bootin up like a boss,” he replied.

“What does that even mean?” she said, exasperated.

“It means, ‘I’m bootin up like a boss,’” he said evenly.

“But you are the boss!” she said loudly.

He went back to tying his laces.

“Funny how that works, ain’t it?” he said.

She paced around the room impatiently.

He finished lacing his boots tight and stood up slowly but gracefully and then he stomped both feet to see how they fit.

“Yeah, that’ll do…” he said out loud to nobody in particular.

She turned to look at him.

“Can we go now?” she pleaded.

He looked at her patiently and then walked to the coffee pot and poured himself a cup.

“When I’m good and ready. I ain’t really finished bootin up yet,” he said. “When I’m proper ready then I’ll let ya know.”

He sat down at his office desk and drank slowly from his cup of coffee. To himself and to all appearances he was alone in the room. Lost in his ruminations.

After five minutes or so he had completely drained his cup. She had tried to interrupt him several times during this interlude but he had silenced her with a single wave of his hand each time. Twice he had raised his hand an instant before she spoke, anticipating her attempts.

When his cup was empty he placed it before him on the old and weather-beaten desk, both palms cradling the still warm ceramic mug.

“Yep,” he said. “That was mighty gratifying.”

Then he stood, walked over to the high-rack and took off his field hat. He twirled it around in his hands a couple of times, running his finger along the brim as if testing it for something. Seeming to be fully satisfied with his investigations he finally placed the hat on his head, slightly askew, then took it back off, ran his fingers through his hair and settled it more evenly upon his head.

“I reckon that’ll work,” he said as if to himself.

Then he turned and looked at the woman as if seeing her for the first time.

“You ready to go now,” he asked, both casually and impatiently.

“What in the hell are you talking about!” she replied heatedly, her face reddening.

“I’m talking about doing my job,” he said as if her reaction puzzled him.

He brushed past her in a long legged stride and as stepped outside he said, “Lock up behind yerself. I ain’t yer housemaid ya know.”

He strolled out into the bright sunshine, looked around him a bit, and then crossed the street once he heard her hurrying up behind him.  That’s what bosses did…

(to be continued)

KAZUO ISHIGURO

I mostly agree… and I’d read this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GETTING MEDIEVAL

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

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

Here is the blog address: Getting Medieval

Here is her latest blog entry:

 

A LITTLE MURDER STORY

A Little Murder Story – I was working on this in my mind on my way home from town one night about 11:30 or so. It has some rough language in it, and if that offends you then skip it. (I’m not a big fan of rough language myself just to have rough language, unless it is a matter of realism, then it doesn’t bother me at all.) I couldn’t write it in the car and didn’t have my tape recorder, so I had to reconstruct it from memory. Might not be exactly what I saw in my head, but it’s pretty close.

A Murder Story is as close as a title as I’ve got, but I kinda like that, so I might just stick with it.

It isn’t the full story, as I plan to publish it. But this is my Tale for Tuesday’s Tale.

Enjoy.

_____________________________________________________

“Man, you say that shit to me again and I’ll kill your punk ass.”

I sighed. Deeply even.

“Sure kid, I have a bad case of the ‘you scared me already.’ How bout we just go back on point now?”

“I told you, I ain’t got shit to say to you.”

I pivoted. More outta habit than necessity.

“Alright then, let’s try this. I’m gonna wave my left hand in the air and you’re gonna try and track it with both eyes at once. If you can do that it’ll prove to us both that you’re smart enough to do that.”

It took him a second, but I waited through it.

“Mutha-“ he stepped towards me with his chest bowed out, hands by his side, so I raised my left hand and when he looked I hit him in the mouth with my right. He rocked back for a second, kinda stunned. So as he was still figuring the right I elbowed him across the nose with my left arm. He sat down on his knees looking up, his mouth open.

To keep it moving at a brisk pace I caught him by the shoulders, bent him back double, and slammed his head back into the chewed up pavement. Hard enough his skull bounced. Then just to be sure I grabbed him by the sides of the head and did it again.

While he flirted with a concussion I rolled him over onto his stomach and cuffed his left wrist (I had been watching him, he was definitely a southpaw) to his right ankle. He was kinda fat and big boned so it was a bit of a stretch for us both, but I had come prepared for all contingencies. Sure, they always looked funny that way but then again it usually did wonders for cooperation. This guy looked like he’d at least try and dance under duress, once he was moving again, but ya just never knew. Nine outta ten times this setup did the trick.

After that I rolled him onto his side and watched for signs of life. Sure enough he began to display a few. So I pulled out my knife to firm it up a little.

“Okey-dokey, here we go city bang-bang. Now you do believe in blood at first sight? Right? Cause I think this is the part where you tell me all about how you’re gonna saw my head off with my own knife, rape my mother, eat my dog, and commit all of the other higher level functions you’re so expert at. Boo-yah and brimstones! Or, on second thought, we can just skip that part, if it’s all the same to you, and you can go ahead and tell me who murdered the girl. I mean I’m sure you’re frightful and all but that’s my real interest. And I’m salaried, so sooner is better.”

“Man I din’t kill no little girl.” His lip was already swelling and the blood around his nose was already blackening. That would be useful in a minute or two.

I started to step over him and when I did he tried to use his right hand to catch my leg. So I stomped on his hand. Hard. He groaned, I smiled.

“I thought we had a working negotiation. But I guess we’re still gonna hav’ta work out a few mutual misunderstandings. I’ll go first if you don’t mind.”

I kicked him in the solar plexus and all his breath ran out in a huff. I think he also started to cry a little. Sometimes I had that effect on certain people.

“Isn’t this exciting? Now first of all, I said murder, not kill. And secondly I said girl, not little girl. So clearly we’re still having definitional difficulties. But we can work that out. Let’s start over, for old times’ sake.”

I bent down and took my knife and cut his cheap windbreaker off him. Then as he caught his breath I cut his sweatshirt off too.

“Wooo-weeee. That really looks cold. Old Man Winter sure does bite iffin you give him a reason, don’t he? But that’s okay, I just had coffee and a hot Danish. I’m good for an hour or two.”

He spat and cursed some. Wiggled on the icy ground. I waited politely for him to finish.

“Boy, that was an illuminating display. Thanks for that. I’m gonna write that down for later, but for now you just try and track with me for a moment, won’t ya? See, you seem to be under two unfortunate misimpressions about our situation here.

First, I don’t have a murder warrant out on me, nor have I ever done time for a previous murder conviction. Bet you’re wondering if it’s because I’ve never killed a man, or if, unlike you, I’m just good enough to have never gotten caught. Well, we’ll get around to that part later this evening, during the entertainment interlude.

And I guess the second problem is, although I’d think it might be kinda obvious by now, even to you, that I’m not exactly what you’d call a real cop. Maybe I’ve never been a real cop. If we have time tonight we might get around to that part too. Just for giggles.”

“Man, I’m telling ya I ain’t KILLED NO GIRL!” He practically roared the last part and for the first time in our whole brief relationship he said it sincerely enough that I knew he really wanted me to believe him.

“Isn’t that sweet? We’ve finally reached the stage where you care what I think. Or think I care what you say. See, we can make progress. All we gotta do is really work at it awhile. Eventually we’re even gonna get at the truth.

But before that I’m gonna take my knife and cut off your pants. And just before you’re shivering so hard you go numb all over I’m gonna cut your balls off. You’d be surprised at the amount of truth that causes to spill out of a man. So hold on tight now, we might hav’ta go around the block a couple of times before you finally figure out where we’re headed. But I promise ya, it’ll be well worth the effort when we finally get there. And if at any time you wanna take a shortcut then just let me know. Like I said, I’m salaried. So the quicker we get at the truth, the better for everybody. Especially you.”

Then I took my knife and went to work.

It didn’t take long. I’m pretty good at my work.

100

I’ve read the vast majority of these books. A few, about seven, I have not.

Some I regret having read at all, they were a complete waste of my time, like Catcher in the Rye, and I’d never read them again.

Some I have read more than once, such as Crime and Punishment or One Hundred Years of Solitude, some I read annually because they are that good, such as the Odyssey, and some I read continually and in different languages, such as the Bible.

This would not be my list, certainly not my order, but it is a fairly good list.

100 books everyone should read before they die (ranked!)

woman reading on bed with a dogjamelah/Flickr

Happy National Reading Month!

To celebrate, start working your way through this list of 100 Books To Read in a Lifetime, as voted on and ranked by users of Goodreads, the largest book recommendation site on the web.

Amazon, which owns Goodreads, had its editors agonize over their own list, but the two turned out very different.

Here’s the full, ranked list:

  1. “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee
  2. “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen
  3. “The Diary of Anne Frank” by Anne Frank
  4. “1984” by George Orwell
  5. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling
  6. “The Lord of the Rings” (1-3) by J.R.R. Tolkien
  7. “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  8. “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White
  9. “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien
  10. “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott
  11. “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury
  12. “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte
  13. “Animal Farm” by George Orwell
  14. “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell
  15. “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger
  16. “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak
  17. “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain
  18. “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins
  19. “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett
  20. “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wadrobe” by C.S. Lewis
  21. The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck
  22. “The Lord of the Flies” by William Golding
  23. “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini
  24. “Night” by Elie Wiesel
  25. “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare
  26. “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle
  27. “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck
  28. “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens
  29. “Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare
  30. “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams
  31. “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  32. “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens
  33. “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  34. “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley
  35. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” by J.K. Rowling
  36. “The Giver” by Lois Lowry
  37. “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood
  38. “Where the Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein
  39. “Wuthering Heights” Emily Bronte
  40. “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green
  41. “Anne of Green Gables” by L.M. Montgomery
  42. “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain
  43. “Macbeth” by William Shakespeare
  44. “The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larrson
  45. “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley
  46. “The Holy Bible: King James Version”
  47. “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker
  48. “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexandre Dumas
  49. “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith
  50. “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck
  51. “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll
  52. “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote
  53. “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller
  54. “The Stand” by Stephen King
  55. “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon
  56. “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” by J.K. Rowling
  57. “Enders Game” by Orson Scott Card
  58. “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy
  59. “Watership Down” by Richard Adams
  60. “Memoirs of a Geisha” by Arthur Golden
  61. “Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier
  62. “A Game of Thrones” by George R.R. Martin
  63. “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens
  64. “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway
  65. “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” (#3) by Arthur Conan Doyle
  66. “Les Misérables” by Victor Hugo
  67. “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” by J.K. Rowling
  68. “Life of Pi” by Yann Martel
  69. “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  70. “Celebrating Silence: Excerpts from Five Years of Weekly Knowledge” by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
  71. “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis
  72. “The Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follett
  73. “Catching Fire” by Suzanne Collins
  74. “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl
  75. “Dracula” by Bram Stoker
  76. “The Princess Bride” by William Goldman
  77. “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen
  78. “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe
  79. “The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd
  80. “The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel” by Barbara Kingsolver
  81. “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez
  82. “The Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger
  83. “The Odyssey” by Homer
  84. “The Good Earth (House of Earth #1)” by Pearl S. Buck
  85. “Mockingjay (Hunger Games #3)” by Suzanne Collins
  86. “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie
  87. “The Thorn Birds” by Colleen McCullough
  88. “A Prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving
  89. “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls
  90. “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot
  91. “Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  92. “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy
  93. “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien
  94. “Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse
  95. “Beloved” by Toni Morrison
  96. “Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut
  97. “Cutting For Stone” by Abraham Verghese
  98. “The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster
  99. “The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  100. “The Story of My Life” by Helen Keller
Jarrad Saul

Travel and Lifestyle: Jarrad Style

Mephit James' Blog

From one GM to another.

Kristen Twardowski

A Writer's Workshop

The Public Domain Review

The Filidhic Literary Blog of Jack Günter

Art of Shaima Islam

Fantasy Art and Illustration

Fantastic Maps

Fantasy maps and mapmaking tutorials by Jonathan Roberts

Matthew Zapruder

The Filidhic Literary Blog of Jack Günter

Susie Day | children's author

books for kids about families, friendship, feelings and funny stuff

The Millions

The Filidhic Literary Blog of Jack Günter

The Public Medievalist

The Middle Ages in the Modern World

The Filidhic Literary Blog of Jack Günter

Clive Thompson

Journalist, author, musician

terribleminds: chuck wendig

Chuck Wendig: Freelance Penmonkey

Researchers in the world

Travel the world, meet researchers

The Last Word On Nothing

The Filidhic Literary Blog of Jack Günter

The Missouri Review

The Filidhic Literary Blog of Jack Günter

The Normal School: A Literary Magazine

The Filidhic Literary Blog of Jack Günter

The Ploughshares Blog

The Filidhic Literary Blog of Jack Günter

Eclipsed Words

Aspire to inspire others & the universe will take note

%d bloggers like this: