Friday, December 30, 2011

The New Year

Happy New Year, everyone. It's about that time. In keeping with the holiday, I decided I'd look it up and see what I could find. I knew the beginning of a new year was, and in some places, is celebrated on different days in different places around the world. What I found out was really rather amazing. Thanks to Christianity, The day of our new year was decided by the circumcision of Christ. I didn't know that. Such occurrences can be put to use in your writing as well, whether Christ is included in your story or not, or whether the event is a circumcision or some other rite such as a rite of manhood. I use puberty as a major event in a life to trigger some occurrence. Since I have quite a bit of magic in my writing, I picked puberty as the time in a young person's life for it to show up; so many things change at puberty. Whether you pick that time of life or not is up to you; your story is yours.

Throughout the ages, the most popular time for the new year revolved around the spring equinox in March, either right on the moment of equal day and night, or at some point shortly thereafter. I'm sure the logic was that being the beginning of the planting season - new life and all that it entailed.

Many middle eastern cultures celebrated the new year as late as April and some even in June. I'm lumping these cultures together so if I screwed something up, please forgive me.

With the influx of Christianity, the popularity shifted to January and it was some time before it finally settled on what it is today.

My point is, it's important to do your research when including holidays, just as it's important to include the logic behind them, even if it's an unconscious logic. Rituals and customs are different in different countries, and they could be no other way.

If you are writing about another world, the same truths must hold there too. Never assume that an entire world will have the very same culture and beliefs, though they may have the same laws. There will always be different religions, different views, and different holidays and customs. This entire world might recognize Christmas but that doesn't mean that they observe it. Just as the new year around the world is accepted as January first, once upon a time, and for completely logical reasons, it was something else.

Never be afraid to add such variety into your stories, just make sure you keep it straight. If you need an outline or notes to do that, by all means keep them. Who knows, they might provide the fodder for a sequel.

Happy Writing

Friday, December 23, 2011


Christmas is an awesome holiday, especially in writing fiction. I Googled it today and found a great post about the history of Christmas - - Christmas is a great thing to include in your story, but research is very important if you're doing anything historical. Even if you're not, it's worth looking into. Christmas has gone through quite a bit of evolution through the ages, and if you write fiction, holidays are something that should be considered as part of your world, and it's only understandable that they should continue their evolution. Of course, what evolution the future holds is in your capable hands.

Holidays came to be for a variety of reasons, few of them of a religious nature, at least to begin with. Of course, that depends on your definition of religion too. In fact, some sort of religion has always been around. Worship of the different aspects of nature were likely the earliest samples. This fact is something you should never neglect in your story. It is small background details like this that add life to your story. Even if it's nothing you actually describe, your character's thoughts and actions will reflect some sort of religious teaching, even if it's no more than superstition.

In my book, King by Right of Blood and Might, I took the Christian religion and crushed it, but as we all know, Christianity does not crush well. Through the whole book, I never mentioned Christianity or Christ, or any known form of worship we are familiar with today. I did however keep the statue of the Virgin Mary, but only by description. The worship was more like meditation than worship, and rather than in some kind of church, I went for an outdoor setting not unlike the early worship of the Greek gods with at best a small temple frame, with or without a roof, where offerings could be left. I also connected this worship to something we might call Mother Nature, but as close as I got to that reference was 'the Mother'. I even gave her a presence, a mind, a purpose. I was curious if I would get any comments about all of this, but I'm not sure if anyone actually made those connections, Harris was a much more up-front character.

I'm curious, you that have read my book - Did any of you notice what I did with religion in my book?

Friday, December 16, 2011

28 Months of Blogging

Yep, it's been 28 months; my how time flies when you're having fun. It's also amazing to look back and see how this blog has evolved over the months. When I first started, I was very nearly scared. I had no idea what to do with a blog. In fact, I kind of stumbled on getting one because of troubles I had commenting on other's blogs. I still don't really know why I couldn't comment then; it's been a long time since I've had such trouble.

Way back at the beginning, the only thing I could think of to share was various scenes from the different stories I've written, but I knew there would be only so many of those I could post without managing to post the entire story, and if I did that, what would be the point of publishing them. All you'd have to do is put the pieces together and figure out the order - haha - talk about putting a puzzle together.

But then I started developing an opinion on various tricks of the trade of writing. I have gone to great lengths to read and pay attention to those I consider in the know, but we all know that eventually it all must find its own nook under our skin and behind our eyes. Now, of late, some of that has started leaking out and onto these posts. I'll never claim to be right. Right is something we all have to decide for ourselves. Just like all the advice we get from beta readers, editors and even publishers, the final decision needs to be our own. The story is, after all, our story.

I've heard several tales about some changes requested by publishers. The worse, I think, was to totally change one of the characters to make the book more marketable. That issue was a long time ago and it happened to someone else, but the change was drastic. A character, like a person, makes decisions and even acts in a certain way largely based on who the character is. If you change who he or she is, they are going to act differently and make different decisions. For instance, if you change a character from a man to a woman (or the other way around), can you imagine what that would do to the thread of a story? Or lets look at another drastic change. Lets change a character from white to black (or the other way around here too). Not to play any kind of race card here, but in most cases, especially in fiction where drama is highlighted, a person of a different race, any race, will make different decisions taking the thread of a story in a totally different direction.

But I digress

As I said, I have an opinion about writing now, though I'm still learning all the little tricks. Recognizing an issue is now fairly easy and in most cases it stands out above the content of the story itself, making it rather hard for me anymore to read books.

Currently I'm reading a delightful story, but there are way too many perfect characters. I am liking it though. I haven't read anything like it before and it does have my favorite element in it - magic.

Ach - I digress again - or did I. Such is the evolution of my blog. It has taken on being my place to post my opinion on some subject or other to do with writing. From time to time, you'll still see a sample from one or another of my stories, and if there's anything you'd like to see in particular, let me know. I do love hearing from my readers.

I hope you all find my blog interesting, and like always, if you have a question or suggestion, I'd love to hear it.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Nueve - an idea

In the interest of enhancing military strength, the Tactical Flight (TF) experiments were initiated. Experiment number TF-1539 was their most promising endeavor; however, the cylinder in which he was grown was too small. So, at the relative age of nine years of age, TF-1539 was birthed. Though programming had been the plan, growing and training would help the scientists to know if this particular DNA mix was worth continuing.

TF-1539 soon came to be called Nine in those first few months of training, and it was soon discovered that he was a very intelligent, very normal boy in everything but his appearance, the most noticeable of which was the addition of enormous, dark brown wings. It was the unexpected size of the wings that prompted his early ‘birth’. They doubled his height when they were folded and stretched to nearly thirty feet when he held them wide.

Once one got past that first overpowering sight, other anomalies could be easily spotted. His arms were the next noticeable difference; they were approximately one third shorter than normal and were displaced to the front of the shoulder joint by the wings that dominated that joint. Though the arms and hands were strong and agile, such tasks as lifting heavy weights were very difficult since the muscle and bone structure around the shoulder favored the wings over the arms.

The next thing one noticed was his eyes; they were overly round and alarmingly yellow. Not so readily noticed as different, was his hair. It covered major sections of his body from the top of his head to the talons on his feet and it was all brown. Though it appeared to be merely hair, in actuality, it was a cross between human hair and soft feathers. Each hair was lined with barbules that held the hair in place next to its neighbor better than hairspray. These barbules faded with the length of hair - wearing off with age. Another detail not easily noticed was the fact that his wings had nothing that resembled pennae or contour feathers. His wings, were made much like a bat’s, stiffened by very long finger bones instead of stiff feathers though he used them like a bird’s wings; his tail was similar, stiffened by long fine bones and manipulated by a muscle structure that went up his back.

During the first months in the lab, Nine wore a loose fitting gown that reached below his knees. From there to the floor, Nine was very bird, though he had five toes instead of four - four toes faced front and one extended back acting like a heel. They were covered with a thick layer of soft brown hair like the hair on the rest of his body. Every bit as flexable as a hand, Nine’s feet could do nearly everything his hands could do, with the exception of writing, since the claws made it nearly impossible to hold a pencil. The claws that tipped each of his toes were hooked under, two inches long and very sharp. They were useless on the hard floor, but promised a sure grip on any other surface and a secure grip on whatever he chose to carry.

Under his gown, Nine was covered with more soft brown hair, but none covered his belly or his genitals - hence the gown. His back, chest and shoulders were heavily insulated against the cold mountain winds. His tail brushed the ground, looking like a wayward piece of material at first glance. Obscured by his chest hair, was the fact that his chest was especially constructed to support the action of flight giving him the look of being barrel-chested - which, in fact, he was.

Over the first year, Nine learned to read, write and do math. He learned military history - intimate military history of each of the military branches. Very little that was outside of a military application, was ever mentioned. He was also strengthened and tested over and over again until his physical strengths and weaknesses were well known.

By the time he was learning about dogfights, he was permitted his first real attempts at flight. His first efforts were in a wind tunnel with cushions on the floor. It was a good thing too, because the gown he customarily wore confused his aerodynamics and caused him to tumble upon landing every time he tried. Doing without solved that problem, but with his belly and privates exposed to the air, flying outside would be very uncomfortable if not debilitating.

The first person to consistently call him Nueve was the woman who cleaned his room and took care of him in other personal ways such as seeing to it that he took a bath every day - she helped him with extremities that he couldn’t reach. She also helped him overcome his clothing problem. Out of llama skin that was as brown as his hair, she made him something like an apron. It covered his belly with a wide belt that tapered to a buckle at his back. It was padded with brushed cotton to protect against chafing and cushioned with a layer of down to add warmth. In front, the belt extended almost to his knees, the last three inches of that distance was the combed hair of the llama. She had done some creative decorating of the front by braiding designs into the brown hair, occasionally working in colorful beads. It was a fine piece of work and Nine took to wearing it all the time.

Once Nine had mastered take-off and landing, he got his first introduction to outside. He was given specific directions in which he could fly with the promise of punishment if he disobeyed in this. Though he was not a disobedient boy, he had been punished severely for any transgressions. Something as big as flying in the wrong airspace would be a very big transgression - all the films and histories that covered flying in enemy airspace had taught him that. Being just a fledgling, Nine couldn’t begin to defend his airspace, or protect himself from such an attack. He had no desire to test his luck just yet.

With the vastness of the open air he was given, he had no problem keeping within his boundaries. Each time he flew, he was told to rehearse the dogfights of specific filmstrips, learning the maneuvers though he couldn’t hope to match the speeds. He did so gleefully, pushing his limits every chance he got. He also took to watching the birds in his field of view, which was, happily, quite far. Nine was able to spot something as small as a falcon on the wing at upwards of a mile distant - something that pleased the scientists very much.

In an effort to imitate those larger birds, Nine tried to land in the top of a large tree. He had been unprepared for the movement of the tree in response to his weight and the branch he had chosen did not support him. The tumble had been a hard lesson, but one he had fortunately been able to walk away from. With his wings torn and strained and two toes broken on one foot, Nine was unable to fly back home or walk very far.

Nine wasn’t missed until it was too late to look for him, but he was quickly found the next morning. When he was permitted out on the thermals again, he had no desire to land in the tops of trees - rock outcroppings were plentiful.

One thing learned from his fellow flyers, was hunting. Though he was unwilling to hunt his fellow hunters, Nine decided to take a basketball up and use that as a target instead. He quickly found out that a round ball was difficult to hang on to when caught at those kinds of speeds so he switched his toy to a stick - sometimes they broke, but they were easier to catch and hang on to and there was no limit to sticks. He didn’t give up on the ball though - he could kick it, launching it far further than he could throw a stick and if he did it high enough, he had time to make several attempts at catching it. His sharp eyesight enabled him to spot any balls he missed entirely, and most of the time he was able to retrieve them. All of these efforts sharpened his tactical flying skills and spotting small objects far better than anything the scientists could come up with, so he had a bottomless supply of balls.

By the time Nine was sixteen relative years old, he was consistently called Nueve. He considered himself highly skilled at aerial acrobatics and he was beginning to test the authority of the scientists who controlled his life.

He was given fairly loose reign over his day as long as he came around every night and was there whenever the scientists wanted to test him in some manner. In return, they added a room to the top floor of the building especially designed for him. It was very spacious inside and all four walls were mostly window made out of Plexiglas for strength. There were two large sliding doors on either side of the room that accessed a wide railless balcony. His room could also be reached by normal people through a roomy stairwell in one corner. Nueve could use the stairs too - there was enough room to accommodate his wings as well as his feet, but he preferred to fly down to the ground from one of his balconies. The room was also equipped with a roomy bathroom and any equipment he might need in order to work on his lessons.

Late one evening, after a cramped day of lessons and, then frustrating exercises endured through the heat of the day, Nueve took flight from his room to cool off and enjoy the sunset. Just before the sun was completely hidden by the glittering horizon of the far away and forbidden ocean, Nueve heard a shrill call that didn’t sound like anything he had ever heard before.

Using his ears to their avian best, he circled closer. He had chosen to fly in one of the forbidden directions in order to have a better view of the coast and the sunset. By now, he knew the restriction was because of the town still fifty some odd miles away, but he figured if he couldn’t see them, they certainly couldn’t see him.

The shrill noises continued, but they weren’t as desperate as the first sound he had heard, though there didn’t seem to be any less fear, and for the first time he thought he heard words. As he got closer, the light was fading, but he still had a couple hours of sight left before he would be forced to land. He spotted a person clinging to the face of a cliff dangling from two scarce finger holds and one toehold; the other foot scrabbled for some purchase, but found nothing.

As soon as he saw this person - the source of the shrill cries - Nueve spotted another standing looking over the face of the cliff.

“Help! Help me!” cried the person on the face of the cliff.

“Fall, why don’t you,” said the person at the top of the cliff. “You should have minded your own business. Mr. Luis doesn’t want his doings known by just anyone.”

“Help me! Oh god, please help me!” cried the girl on the cliff.

Nueve had never met a ‘girl’ before though he knew several women. Their words helped Nueve decide his next action. He had never killed before, but this man deserved it. Though he had never been taught this in so many terms, instinctively, Nueve knew that women and children needed to be protected. Someone who would kill a woman was too dangerous to allow to continue.

Nueve continued his circle, swooping as if to catch the man as he had learned to catch fish from a river. Instead of catching the weight of the man, he kicked him over the edge of the cliff and sent him plunging onto the rocks far below. He didn’t scream his death - the blow likely broke his neck; if not, he at least was not aware of his fall.

Then Nueve circled around tightly and came at the girl and the face of the cliff. He took the brunt of his weight on the cliff before grabbing the girl and falling away. She was stunned as she was buffeted into the rock face by the unorthodox landing that was not a landing, so she was unable to fight for her life as the claws of his feet and his hands gripped her legs and arms and pulled her tight to his body.

He tumbled away from the rock face then righted his trajectory. Flapping hard, Nueve clung to her extra weight tenaciously. He didn’t fear dropping her, but he was unwilling to dangle her upside-down from his feet; it would make landing highly dangerous for both of them.

Straining hard, he managed to attain the top of the cliff again. By then his passenger was beginning to stir. Moments before he landed, she let out a breathy “Oh my god” and stiffened up.

Between the two of them, their landing was only slightly clumsy - no one was hurt and neither of them fell.

Released to her own balance, the girl took another couple steps before turning to see where the huge wings had come from. “Oh my god,” was all she could say as Nueve rubbed his screaming shoulders.

At his first clear view, Nueve could see that the ‘girl’ was several years older than he was, though she was smaller and younger than any other woman he knew.

“Who are you?” she asked in a shocked voice, then followed it with a rapid “What are you?”

“I am Nueve, and I am what I am,” replied Nueve. “Are you safe here? I don’t think I can carry you any further, but I could go for help.”

“I’m fine,” she said as she looked closer, trying to get a better look at him in the waning light. “My pack is right over there. I can move about a mile from here and camp for the night. Then I think I’ll leave the area completely. Where’s Etienne? I’d rather not run into him in the dark.”

“If you mean the man who wanted you to die on that cliff, he took a dive and I didn’t try to catch him.”

It took her a moment to understand what he had just said and she rushed to the edge of the cliff to look down. It was too dark to see anything at the bottom.

“I have to go,” said Nueve. “Will you be okay?”

“Yes, yes, I’ll be fine, I’ll be fine.”

She seemed preoccupied, but Nueve could see no alternative and it was rapidly becoming too dark to fly. He launched himself off the cliff only a few feet away from her and heard her gasp with surprise. As he circled around to head home, he could see her white face searching the sky for him. He knew he was invisible to her in this light.

The next day, he flew high over the cliff and watched as men with ropes repelled down to recover the body. The girl was nowhere to be seen. He wondered what her name was - he had forgotten to ask.

Friday, December 2, 2011

If Only... What Future for Me?

As I follow the successes of my internet friends, sometimes I say to myself 'if only'... If only I had chosen a different publisher. If only I had picked a different book to publish. If only I would use Lulu or CreateSpace, or even SmashWords. But when I think back on the choices I've made, I know I would have done nothing different. Living in the wilderness has it's drawbacks - I know, I've said it before, but I really like my life, and my biggest choice was to give up my life for the publishing and advertising career, or simply plug away as best I can. All things considered, I guess I'm not doing too bad. I have a book out there, and #2 is finished (#3 is stubbornly residing behind a writer's block mountain). I also have a book coming out in March, and #2 and 3 will follow, so in a couple more years, I'll have 4 books out there.

I've also submitted a story to another publisher, though I haven't heard back from them. This one to be an eBook one day soon, I hope. And let's not forget my blog novel. Chapter 97 just went up today and there's only 117 chapters total. That means, sometime in April, it will be complete. I'm wanting to publish it then and sell the book for a maybe a couple bucks - some people don't like reading from a computer screen. I'm also thinking about closing the blog and charging for people to read it then, but I'm not sure how, or even if, that can be done. I don't plan to charge much - a dollar or two maybe. I would really like for someone to tell me some more about that - even if you think it's a bad plan. Reader feedback is invaluable - at any rate, I don't want the blog to just drift off into the aether.

Also, would you all like me to start another blog novel when The Fortunes of Magic is complete? Would you read one with longer chapters? That's the biggest reason I chose this book for a blog - the chapters were so short. My other stories average five to ten pages in length, that's two to four times longer than the average page length of this one. It's funny how a book will do that, just fall into chapter lengths, though I admit I aim for it to a certain degree. So tell me what you think. I really do love hearing from you.