Gonna Lose Those Wishes

So I’m thinking. What if a genie granted me three wishes, but they had to all be writing related? (Maybe it’s not a genie. Maybe it’s Jean Auel). What would I ask for? You have to be careful. We’ve all seen the guy who wished for a million bucks and ended up in a deer herd.

What would I want?

I have all the writing tools and software I need and paper’s cheap. I like doing my own thinking so a plot generator that only came up with bestselling story lines isn’t it. I might enjoy a home at the beach in which to write, but I’m not sure the genie is going to go for that. I’ll put it on my list to ask, though.

Time would definitely be a maybe. Plenty of time to write without distraction. But then again how would the genie provide that? He might kill off my entire family for instance or maroon me on a desert island with just a generator and computer or maybe just a pen and a case of yellow tablets. Nope. Too risky.

Money to support my lifestyle while I work would be good, I guess, but I’ve always taken pride in earning my own way. Still, the older you get the more way you want. Yep. I’ll keep that one, but I’ll be sure to phrase it tightly. I’d like to win the Megabucks is no good because It might be for a hundred thousand dollars and have four hundred winners. Hmmm. Can’t be just getting the money because maybe I discover a briefcase with a couple of million dollars in unmarked bills. We all know how that can end. No? Don’t go into fiction writing.

I guess that’s it. It just can’t be done. I’ll have to give up at least two of the wishes. Maybe one of my daughters want them.

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Why the Sun Revolves Around the Planet

Some of my readers are aware that I am working on a Steampunk Epic in which the old magic is giving way grudgingly to the new technomagic. This is a myth from that world.

 

In the earliest days of our world the Altmages were in their infancy and they lived alongside humans, giants, dwarves, shapeshifters, and all manner of creatures both intelligent and dumb. The planet was thinly populated, and those early Altmages wandered from place to place perfecting their different magics and using them to help those who needed it. They became known far and wide as benefactors, and it was during this time that certain people began to worship them as gods or at least demigods. Some of the Altmages accepted such worship as their due. Others sought to eschew such silliness while still others used the gullibility of the masses to their own ends.

At this time that the sun did not rise and set as it does now. One side of our world was always light, one side always dark, and a narrow band around it was always in perpetual twilight. On the light side the growing season never ended and the land was perpetually green and abundant with life. On the dark side nothing grew but bitter fungus and the darkness was given over to vampiric creatures who preyed on the unwitting who ventured there or deep enough into the twilight regions to be attacked. After a time the population on the light side expanded to a point at which—even with Altmage magic—it was difficult to feed all the masses, and farmers began expanding even more into the twilight regions and depredations upon them increased exponentially.

In this time an Altmage appeared calling himself The Destined, for he purposed that his entire reason for being was to end the scourge of the vampires and to make the entire planet suitable for living. With this in mind he had turned his pursuit of magic to that of a source of light that mimicked the sun, and perfecting such he took to traveling far and wide on the dark side of the world burning the infernal demons wherever he found them. Whenever he destroyed one of their lairs he placed another of his magical lamps there to assure that the vampires would never returned, and he planted seeds of various plants within the glow of the lights.

But a world—even half a world—is an immense place, and even Altmages—who were longlived indeed—grow old. Eventually The Destined realized that he could never destroy enough lairs or kill enough vampires or create enough forever lamps to spread life to the entire dark side of our world, and he despaired. He was contemplating the work he had done and the futility of his dream when he became aware of a presence just beyond the veil of his lamps. A pair of deep crimson eyes glowed there, staring back at him malevolently.

“I do not fear you, Beast,” he called, shaking his head. “I will come for you soon enough. If this was your lair everyone here is dead and will remain so.”

A long laugh rattled the air like glass clattering within glass.

“Do you think the Undead fear death, Altmage?” said a voice as harsh as sand.

“We all fear death.”

The laugh again.

“Then you know so little of the people you murder. I have lived a thousand of your lifetimes. I have seen all there is to see and done all there is to do. Why should I fear death? It will be an adventure when it comes.”

“Step into my light then,” said The Destined, “and I will see that it comes swiftly to you.”

“Perhaps I am closer to doing that than you know.”

“Stop talking then and wasting my time.”

“Do you know to whom you speak?”

“A beast.”

“To you perhaps, but here I am called Sirus.”

The Destined grew still, for he had heard the name muttered by dying vampires, seen it written in their horrid script on a thousand cold stone walls.

“The King of the Vampires?”

“You may call me such. My people refer to me simply as Master.”

The Destined edged a little closer, but as he did so Sirus seemed to flow away back into the darkness.

“What is it you want here?” asked The Destined.

“A truce.”

“A truce?” said The Destined, chuckling. “Do think I would make a truce with vermin?”

The red eyes squinted, and for a moment The Destined thought that the King of the Vampires was about to charge into the light after him.

“Do you think you can destroy us all?” asked Sirus. “You must see the futility of that quest. We are as the grains of sand on the beach.”

“There are far too many of you I will admit that.”

“What if I helped you to thin the herd?”

“Why would you do that?”

“Let us say that not all my people admit my mastery, and I would start afresh.”

“I do not pick and choose my prey. They are all the same to me.”

“I did not assume you would.”

“What is it you propose then?” asked The Destined, still glancing around for a means of attack.

“There are other weapons than the one you wield.”

“I am aware of the weaknesses of your kind,” said The Destined, “but they are none of them as powerful as my light and too difficult to administer to more than one or two at a time.”

“Think,” said Sirus. “Why is your world and mine different?”

“We have the sun.”

“Indeed.”

“I am powerful, but not powerful enough to create another sun.”

“Then use the one you have.”

“What? How?”

“Set it to spinning about the globe. That way the entire world will share darkness and light. The light will surely kill most of my people, but the darkness will shield those of us who survive and we will adapt.”

“I’m still not certain how this helps you even if there were a means to accomplish it.”

“I grow weary of the world as it is, and I would change it to something it has never been.”

“You would be able to spread throughout our lands when it was dark.”

“And you would be able to hunt us anywhere on the planet when it was light and be safe behind your lamps when it was dark.”

The Destined considered that. The light side was becoming overpopulated and underfed even with all Altmages could do. Perhaps it would be better to have an entire world even if vampires shared some of it, rather than to have one side dead and the other side dying. There was always the possibility of eradicating the vermin after the deal was brokered.

“How then would you accomplish this miracle?” asked The Destined.

“Know you not that the sun sits in a pocket in the sky?” asked Sirus.

“Everyone knows this,” said The Destined. “The sky is a great bowl and the sun rests in its own cup.”

“Not a bowl,” said Sirus. “A globe which mimics the one we both stand upon.”

“So?”

“All that is required is to strike the sun hard enough, and it will be dislodged from its pocket and begin to revolve around our planet.”

“You seem to think we Altmages are all powerful.”

The laugh again.

“If I believed that you would certainly be poor proof of it.”

“Do you have some notion of just how this feat might be accomplished then?” asked The Destined.

“Know you that Mount Kennesah erupts once a month?”

“So?”

“If it were to be plugged, might it not eject stones high enough to strike the sun?”

“Why should I believe that it would?”

“Because when it originally erupted it struck the sky, creating the pocket into which the sun has become locked.”

“How would you know this?”

“Because I witnessed it.  I was not born a vampire.  I was created one by the foul gases which poured out around Kennesah then. Now it is endemic in my people, but it was not always so.”

“How would we plug a volcano?”

“You must convince your other Altmages to aid you.”

And in the end that was how it was done, although it took a lot of arguing to convince other Altmages to trust the King of the Vampires. In the end a thousand gathered around the caldera of Mount Kennesah, and they brought with them enough boulders from around the planet—levitating, rolling, dragging—to fill the entire volcano. Then they moved to a safe distance and waited.

When the volcano erupted with a massive vibration that sent them all crashing to their knees and covering their ears it indeed blew enough detritus skyward to drive the sun from its cup and set it racing around the planet as it does to this day. It also sent a blast of ash and fiery heat out in all directions so that all the Altmages gathered there and all other life for hundreds of stadts in all directions was wiped out. It is true that the sun killed the vast majority of unsuspecting vampires as it came suddenly upon them, but it is also true that it was only a matter of time before those who survived—including the Vampire King, Sirus—adapted to the new days and nights and once again predated on humans. There are those today who believe that vampires were always a myth, others who believe they were long ago hunted to extinction, but they are neither. They live among us to this day, and while you can hate them for the vermin that they are, you must thank them for the gift of day and night.

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A little of this. A little of That

I have often been asked how I develop writing ideas. It’s a fair question, but it’s too often followed by something along the lines of “I have this brilliant plot for a novel. You write it, and we’ll split the profits.” I generally say something like, “I have this awesome idea for an invention. You turn it into a real prototype, get all the testing done and find someone to license it and I’ll split those profits with you.” Anyway, ninety percent of people who approach me with plots don’t have one and have no real concept of what one is.

For years I have been an organic writer. I do what Stephen King describes as excavation. I start digging into a story and keep digging until it’s all dug up. That’s the way I’ve written every one of my thrillers and nearly one-million words of the epic steampunk series I’m currently at work on. I will occasionally take stock and step back before I lead another of my characters down that deadly one way street and muse up another way for them to go. Sometimes I even have a pretty good notion of where the story is going to end up before I’m three-quarters of the way through, but quite often that doesn’t tell me how to get there, and I just keep writing and hoping.

I use a wonderful program now called YWriter and I highly recommend it both because it’s awesome (I like it MUCH better than Scrivener) and because it’s free so you know I’m not plugging it for profit. I also now often play around with another program called Idea Spinner which is a very low budget and no frills way of getting the creative juices flowing in regards to arcs and plots and scenes. Ywriter, of course, I use daily. IS probably once a week to once a month. Try them. They’re great.

I’m up by mid-morning and writing or working on my photography and will continue to do through the day, but I seem to be more prolific in late afternoon. I try to maintain a minimum of one thousand words a day, but that can go all to hell. In any case I do try to give myself at least an hour or two to read a day to recharge the battery. I read everything from fantasy to horror to history and most often have three to five books going and some on my Kindle.

By eleven I’m back in bed with my wife and two dogs…. But the muse never stops.

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A Day in the Life

I got this idea from one of those “101 Things to Write About on Your Blog.” What a load of hooey. Does anyone here really care that I take my one cup of coffee with one cream and one packet of Truvia? Do you care that I weigh myself every morning before my shower on my wife’s grandfather’s office scale from his practice and that for some damned reason (although I have lost 45 pounds in six months) I have hit a damned plateau at 177?

Are you all on the edge of your seats to learn whether I begin writing in the morning or how much time I waste on Facebook (way too much, way damned too much. Working on it.) or are you more interested in my routine? I have none. I sit at my computer and try to drag myself onto a blank page and make something work there. Sometimes the muse strikes and pages flow. More often I have to drag the muse kicking and screaming from her lair (a very dark place in the very far recesses of my brain). More often than not I get to lunch without one word having eked out onto the screen, but never fear, I shall return.

Then it’s afternoon, and I begin to feel the pressure. The day has not ebbed but it is waning, and like my own mortality I sense the death of the day the way a doe senses an approaching coyote.

And so I type.

Surprisingly quite often I later discover that what I have forced out of myself is rather good. Not publishable, but the kernel of something that can be reworked and revised and maybe even salvaged in the end. And I am one of those rare birds who enjoys the editing process more than the creative process. I actually love tweaking the prose, cutting characters who evolved only to lead to dead in plot twists, polishing until it gleams. And after years of working with professional editors I am not surprised or befuddled or chagrined when they come back to me (or quite often my stalwart agent, Peter Rubie, does) with a trunk full of changes. But that’s getting away from my day.

Typically by five PM I am ready to walk away from the day’s social media and writing and editing and get down to what I really love, cooking dinner. Does it shock you to learn that I have been the chef in my family for over thirty-five years or that my daughters once ran up our stairs shouting, “Daddy! Daddy! Come quick! Mommy is trying to cook!”?  I can whip up everything from fresh marina with meat balls to ribeye roast with baby potatoes in butter to Coq a Vin, all self taught in order to survive.

Then it’s time for some reading and Jeopardy. I’m not as good as I once was but I’m as good once as I ever was. I know most of the questions. They just come slower to me than they once did. I’m okay with that. Getting older beats the hell out of the alternative.

A couple of stiff martinis or bourbons and it’s time for bed.

See you tomorrow.

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My Most Magical Place

What’s the best vacation you’ve ever had?

My entire family is Disney NUTS. We would live inside WDW if we could. In fact two of my daughters worked there for years and one daughter met her husband working in Downtown Disney. So it will come as no surprise to anyone that my favorite vacation ever took place there.

While my wife and two youngest daughters have been there almost too many times to count (and we almost always stay at Port Orleans Riverside—previously Dixie Landings, damned change…) I had not reunited with my oldest daughter from a previous marriage until she was approaching thirty and I had never met my grandson. Thankfully that settled out, and we are good, I’d say great, today.

But it was only last year that we managed to herd all the cats and got all three daughters and one son-in-law and my grandkids together at one time for nine days in the most magical place on earth.

My son-in-law was skeptical, but like 99% of first timers he left a believer already talking about a return trip. If you  have never been there is no way to explain it other than magical, and I highly recommend that you stay in the park. People often find that with transportation etc. it’s hardly more expensive and you never step outside the magical aura.

That’s mine. What’s yours?

 

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My Mind is a Terribly Wasted Place

Sometimes I just think funny thoughts. Like what show from my childhood would I like to bring back? Now, why in the world would I want to do that? Maybe because back then we had three channels and there was always something to watch. Today I have two hundred and waste way too much of my life surfing because there is nothing worth tuning into. So…

Maybe Wild Wild West. The show was fast paced, funny, with quirky characters and neat sort of Steam Punk sci-fi that was well ahead of its time. Jim West was a childhood hero, and I often wished for some of the great toys he used to pop out of my own bootheels.

Or Hogan’s Heroes maybe, partially because my own father spent time in Stalag Luft 1. He would sit there and shake his head and remind me over and over that the Germans weren’t that stupid and that the show was not really like any prison camp then chuckle at Schultz.

Gilligan’s Island I hate to admit to. I mean, come on, it’s possibly one of the stupidest sitcoms ever produced. But it was funny. Give me a break.

Then there was Bonanza. Just great casting and story telling, and no one seemed to wonder how four men could get themselves into so much trouble every week. THAT’s the mark of great writing.

Those are mine. I’ll probably think of a few more. What are yours?

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