Writing A Brief History of Real World Magic

A Brief History of Real World Magic-Scenography of the Ptolemaic Cosmography by Loon, J. van (Johannes), ca. 1611–1686. Public Domain through Wikipedia Commons

Scenography of the Ptolemaic Cosmography by Loon, J. van (Johannes), ca. 1611–1686.
Public Domain through Wikipedia Commons

A Brief History of Real World Magic

I am honored to have my essay A Brief History of Real World Magic published by Author and Scientist Dan Koboldt on his ongoing series for writers and fans of speculative fiction called Science in Sci-Fi, Fact in Fiction.

I came across Dan’s blog series last fall when I entered Brenda Drake’s Pitch Wars competition. I found the content provided to be insightful and interesting. For a long while I considered contacting Dan about a submission for this series. I’m glad I finally got around to writing my essay and emailing Dan.

The core of my brief history was an Independent Study I completed as a History major in college at Capital University many, many years ago on the History of Medieval and Renaissance Magic. In researching these ancient scientists and philosophers I found many amazing links to our modern ideas about magic. From Dungeons & Dragons, to Harry Potter and most modern video games, there is a common thread weaving back through history. Sympathetic magic, talismans, dream magic, astrology, and astronomy all factor in to our modern conceptions of magic throughout fantasy culture.

I enjoyed conducting that research and I’m glad to have the opportunity to revisit it and share it now. Thanks to Dan Koboldt for allowing me to do so!

Guest Blog Post-September Fawkes

Today I’m welcoming September Fawkes as a Guest Blogger. Her website is chock full of fantastic writing tips. I highly recommend utilizing her insights as a resource. The advice she offers below is something I’ve found particularly helpful in my writing, though I know I’ve not even scratched the surface or come close to mastering subtext.

First, a little bit about September Fawkes:

September Fawkes

September Fawkes

Sometimes September C. Fawkes scares people with her enthusiasm for writing and reading. People may say she needs to get a social life. It’d be easier if her fictional one wasn’t so interesting. September C. Fawkes graduated with an English degree with honors from Dixie State University, where she was the managing editor of The Southern Quill literary journal and had the pleasure of writing her thesis on Harry Potter. Today she works for a New York Times best-selling author, is penning a novel, and sharing writing tips on her blog, which you can find at www.SeptemberCFawkes.com

Be sure to check out a Giveaway September is doing at the link below!

Take it away September…

Guest Blog Post-September Fawkes

Subtext: *tries to be invisible*

I’ve been seeing a number of stories lately that are lacking in subtext. And honestly, it’s no surprise. writing subtext (or, I guess not writing it) is flipping difficult to 1) understand 2) do. I had read about writing subtext like over two years ago, and only now do I feel like I’m starting to understand it and have conscious control over it. So, I’m going to attempt to try to explain how to do it.

What is Subtext?

The best definition of subtext, in my opinion, is this: subtext is what’s not said; it is what is implied.
Remember my humor post from a few weeks back? I talked about how Lemony Snicket had a specific technique he employed for some of his humor. He states the obvious. And then strongly implies the un-obvious.
So subtext is what is implied. Look at this example of it that I just made up:

Robert, not bothering to raise his hand, spouted out an inappropriate joke.

“Robert, I don’t want to hear that kind of language in my class,” Mr. Henderson said, but the ends of his lips twitched up. “That’s very offensive.” He failed to suppress a full-blown grin.

Here, we can tell that the teacher found whatever Robert said funny, but neither he nor the narrator comes out and tells the reader that. Instead it’s implied by his body language and behavior–what he doesn’t say. What Mr. Henderson actually says to Robert is at odds with how Mr. Henderson acts.

Continue reading

Full Speed Ahead for Nanowrimo

Nanowrimo

Or, National Novel Writing Month for the uninitiated.

I’ve had a great 5 days of writing on my latest project so far. For various life reasons, my writing habit faltered during the early fall months, but I was able to plan and outline to reboot during November. Thus far, I’m very pleased with my success. My word count’s been great every day and I’m enjoying the story that’s forming around my outline. Feels kind of like Dr. Frankenstein bringing a creation to life. Muahaha!

The working title for my latest venture is Pendulum Arcanum. Here’s the Synopsis:

Pendulum ArcanumPendulum Arcanum, a Middle-Grade novel, is Warehouse 13 meets The Mummy.  Daniel Waldera believes Death stalks him every year when school starts. As 8th Grade begins, Daniel is relieved he no longer has to contend with his shadowy stalker from the past. After a terrible 13th birthday, Death once again lurks around every corner for Daniel until Halloween night when Daniel learns the truth behind his annual Back-to-School-Ghost.

Upon learning he has gained the ability to infuse everyday objects with magic, crafting powerful and sometimes dangerous artifacts, Daniel embarks upon a frightening adventure chased by horrifying spectres known as Drats threatening his friendships, family, and most importantly the entire school! In the end, Daniel discovers he has to make a terrible choice forever changing his life and the lives of those he cares about most.

Soaring of the Bald Eagle-A Memorial

Soaring of the Bald Eagle-A Memorial to Jeff McGlone

 

Losing a loved one is never easy. People all have different methods of coping. Grief takes many forms. My cousin Jeff McGlone left us earlier this week. I still can’t wrap my head around the fact he’s gone. So, I do what I know, I write:

In the eye of a hurricane there is quiet

For just a moment

A yellow sky

I wrote my way out

Wrote everything down as far as I could see

I wrote my way out

-from Hurricane

-Hamilton: An American Musical

-by Lin-Manuel Miranda

 

Losing my cousin is akin to Alexander Hamilton’s survival of a hurricane. I’m still being battered about and I’m seeking the eye for that moment of quiet. The only way for me to survive is to write my way out. I know no other way to honor the man that was my cousin.

Seeing his Obituary online brought it all into stark perspective:

JeffObituary

Died: Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Jeffrey “Jeff” Leon McGlone, of Covington, passed away at the age of 50 on Oct. 20.  He was born at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Fairborn, Ohio, on May 7, 1965. He graduated from Minford High School in Minford, Ohio — where he played football and basketball and ran cross-country — in 1983 and went on to earn a degree in plastic engineering from Ohio University. A Covington resident since 1999, Jeff was an avid fan of the eight-time national champion Ohio State University football team and the five-time Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboys and he enjoyed barbecuing in his free time. A born-again Christian who loved God, he coached in the Newton County Youth Softball League for more than a decade and spent seven years as the league’s commissioner. Remembered as a loving and caring son, brother, husband and father . . .

I have to say reading that made me smile. Mention of the Dallas Cowboys and OSU football would have made Jeff smile too. But, there was so much more to the man and one paragraph alone is not enough to honor the time I was blessed to have him in my life.

As the years went by, we drifted apart When I heard that he was gone I felt a shadow cross my heart

-from Nobody’s Hero a song by Rush

-Lyrics by Neil Peart

I regret the inevitability that as adults with families of our own I didn’t see, or talk to my dear cousin as much as I would have liked. I do, however, take comfort in the fact that the last message we exchanged on Facebook I told him I loved him. Not many of us are blessed with those being the last words uttered to those we care about before they pass.

Jeff was five years older than me. He’s always been a part of my life. He is one of the first friends I ever remember. Jeff was definitely one of the first best friends I ever had as a boy. And best of all, he was my cousin.

Jeff never treated me like an annoying little cousin. I never really thanked him for that, but I never had to. I always loved him like the brother I never had. He always was like my older brother, and always will be.

So many little pieces of my heart and mind were influenced by my cousin, and I’m sure he never realized it. I never thanked him for that either, but again, I didn’t have to. Jeff showed me the joy of playing with Hot Wheels cars. Jeff taught me how to play chess. He taught me how to play Stratego. My love of games derives from the many, many hours we played games together as children, and I’ve been able to share that love of games with my children.

I was never able to beat Jeff at Stratego. I never admitted that, but he always knew, and we could always laugh about it. What I wouldn’t give to lose one more game of Stratego to him now?

Jeff introduced me to baseball cards and comic books. We grew up together cheering on the Big Red Machine in the 1970s and the Dallas Cowboys. My love and fascination of superheroes came from Jeff. I’m glad we saw Iron Man and The Avengers properly brought to life on the big screen even if we didn’t get to view them together. We shared a love for Star Wars as children that carried through our entire lives and I know we both proudly imparted the importance of that mythology to our children.

Jeff was there when I graduated from High School, and Law School. He was there when I got married. He will forever dwell in my heart. He touched my life in more ways than I can fathom, and for that I am forever thankful.

Grasping to make sense of this grievous loss I turned to many words of wisdom, and found little that helped. The world simply didn’t have enough time with Jeff in it:

 

“To what shall I compare this life of ours? Even before I can say: it is like a lightning flash or a dewdrop, it is no more.”

-Sengai

Ah! Summer grasses!

All that remains of the warrior’s dreams.

-Basho

My wish for my dear cousin comes from the closing lines of the musical Les Miserables:

 

Fantine: Come with me

Where chains will never bind you

All your grief at last at last behind you

Lord in heaven, look down on him in mercy!

Valjean: Forgive me all my trespasses

And take me to your glory

Eponine & Fantine: Take my hand, and lead me to salvation

Take my love, for love is everlasting

(Valjean joins) And remember the truth that once was spoken To love another person is to see the face of God!

Be at peace ever more my friend, my brother, my cousin. Finally, I simply don’t have the proper words to express the void losing Jeff McGlone has left in my life. For that, I have to turn to the master, Neil Peart from Rush:

 

Vapor Trail

By Rush

Lyrics: Neil Peart

Stratospheric traces of our transitory flight

Trails of condensation held in narrow bands of white

The sun is turning black

The world is turning gray

All the stars fade from the night

The oceans drain away

Horizon to Horizon memory written on the wind

Fading away, like an hourglass, grain by grain

Swept away like voices in a hurricane

In a vapor trail

Atmospheric phases make the transitory last

Vaporize the memories that freeze the fading past

Silence all the songbirds

Stilled by the killing frost

Forests burn to ashes

Everything is lost

Washed away like footprints in the rain

In a vapor trail

Afterimage

By Rush

Lyrics by Neil Peart

Suddenly —

You were gone

From all the lives

You left your mark upon

I remember —

How we talked and drank Into the misty dawn —

I hear the voices

We ran by the water

On the wet summer lawn —

I see the foot prints I remember —

— I feel the way you would

— I feel the way you would

Tried to believe

But you know it’s no good

This is something

That just can’t be understood

I remember —

The shouts of joy

Skiing fast through the woods —

I hear the echoes

I learned your love for life

I feel the way that you would —

I feel your presence

I remember —

 

Portsmouth High School Band of Tomorrow

PHS Band of Tomorrow

PHS Band of Tomorrow

The Portsmouth High School Band of Tomorrow

High School Band Competition season kickoffs today for the Portsmouth Sound. I’m proud to say my daughter has carried on our family’s band tradition, down to playing Trombone, which I played in High School. As such, I’m feeling a bit nostalgic about our good old days in band.

Our Band Director, Billy Watson, touched more lives than he could possibly imagine during his time teaching at Portsmouth High School. His legacy, and that of the High School Band he forged back in the 1970s and 1980s lives on to this day. People still remember the powerhouse that was The Band of Tomorrow. I’m proud to have been a part of the Band of Tomorrow from 1984-1988, and Mr. Watson was one of those teachers that changed my life.

During my marching career, the Fall of 1985 was the pinnacle of PHS Band’s excellence. I only wish my memory and scrapbook were better. I know we won several Grand Championships that year and to this day our 1985 show is the yardstick I use to measure High School Bands. It’s not a matter of vanity to say we were amazing that year. Our performance in Ohio Stadium in 1985 at the Buckeye Invitational was the highlight of band during my time in high school.Buckeye Invitational Logo

In order to overcome the nostalgia plaguing me today I’d like to share the PHS Band of Tomorrow’s performance at the Buckeye Invitational in Ohio Stadium. Set the wayback machine to October 26, 1985 and enjoy a blast from 30 years in the past:

Today, the Portsmouth Sound takes the field to start their competition season. I’m excited to watch them, and jealous in a way. While I would never want to return to high school, the rush of stepping off on that field, and the elation of performing and feeling the musical synergy that can only be produced by marching band and drum corps is an experience that can’t be matched.

In a time when school music programs are pushed aside and continue to falter, I’m glad The Portsmouth Sound carries on our traditions of marching band at Portsmouth High School. I know current band director Matt Swintek instills a fierce loyalty in his students. I can only hope my daughter and the rest of this incarnation of the Portsmouth High School Band value their precious time in band, listen and absorb the positive lessons Mr. Swintek tries to teach them, and most importantly, that they take away the life lessons and work ethic I learned during my time in band.

Times have changed. Marching band has changed, but the ideals remain the same. Mr. Watson always told us “it’s better to shoot for the moon and miss, than to aim for the top of the house and make it.” Still words to live by.

Drum Corps Finals Week

Canton Bluecoats-Kinetic NoiseCanton Bluecoats-Kinetic Noise

 

 

 

I recently had the stunning realization that I’ve been following DCI (Drum Corps International) for 30 years. Felt really old when I made that connection last week when I attended the Emerald City Music Games competition in Dublin, Ohio.

 

What is DCI?

My obsession with Drum Corps began while in High School Marching Band. For the uninitiated, Drum Corps is the equivalent of professional marching band. It’s not your typical half-time marching band show and the competitors aren’t high schools. Corps hail from the east coast to the west coast and everywhere in the middle. Every year, dedicated kids age 13-21 spend an entire summer on charter buses, sleeping on gym floors, practicing on a football field day in day out in the boiling sun in order to perfect a show they perform night after night in stadiums across the US. The ultimate goal is to be as perfect as possible by DCI Finals the second week of August, which ends the season.

Here’s a sample from the 2014 Season:

I first saw DCI Finals broadcast on PBS, ah the good old pre-internet days. The first live show I saw was in Huntington, WV at Drums Across the Tri-State in 1986. Since that time, I’ve lost count how many shows I’ve seen live. I first watched DCI Finals live in 1990. I trekked with a group of college friends to Buffalo, NY and back to Columbus, Ohio in a crazy 24 hour round trip by car to watch The Cadets win. I managed to see DCI Finals in Madison, WI in 1992 and in Orlando, FL in 1996. The experience of watching 12 drum corps at the peak of their game compete at Finals is unprecedented. Watching in a cinema, or streaming at home is good, but nothing beats the energy of Finals Live.

Why Drum Corps? My fascination and admiration for the artistry and competitive spirit comes from the philosophy of many corps-competing against themselves night after night to perfect their shows. Having the highest score at a competition, even Finals is great, but the true spirit in Corps that I admire is watching these kids strive to outdo themselves night after night.

The feats achieved by the likes of The Cadets, The Canton Bluecoats, The Phantom Regiment, and The Madison Scouts year after year never cease to amaze. Music, motion, and theatricality on a football field. Nothing like it.

This week marks DCI Finals week and the competition at the top of the pack looks to be fierce. I so wish I could see it live. Regardless, every member of every drum corps is at the top of their game and should be proud of their accomplishments. These young men and women have learned invaluable lessons they’ll rely upon their entire lives. Good luck to all those competing in Indianapolis this week, and thanks for another summer of high quality entertainment.

I highly recommend looking up Drum Corps on YouTube sometime. It’ll be well worth your time. You won’t regret it.

A Weird Al Father’s Day

A Weird Al Father’s Day

Last weekend I spent Father’s Day with my children. Nothing unusual about that. The weirdness came from going to Kettering, Ohio that night to see Weird Al Yankovic in concert:

I hate to admit that I wasn’t looking forward to the concert. Spending about five hours in the car for travel to and from the concert wasn’t fun, but I have to say it was well worth sharing the experience of that concert with my kids. I started listening to Weird Al Yankovic when he first appeared on Doctor Demento back in the 80s. I remember his first albums and first hits. I remember the great music videos when MTV actually played videos. I listened to Weird Al as a teen and loved it.

It’s very cool how Weird Al’s sense of humor and parodies cross generations. The concert itself was very good. My only complaint is the frequency of his costume changes. I get that’s his schtick, and I respect that. The cover during the downtime are a string of videos of Weird Al in various media appearances throughout the years, which was entertaining, but after several breaks it became a bit tedious in my opinion. I much prefer to watch and hear the artist perform themselves, not watch the greatest hits of their media appearances.

As for performance, the band was fantastic and Weird Al is more entertaining than I imagined. He’s quite energetic and puts on a great show.

Though it may sound cliché, or cheesy, the part I enjoyed most was watching my children through the concert from time to time. It was great to share music that I grew up listening to along with music they’ve grown up on.

All in all, I think we all had a weird Father’s Day this year that we’ll all remember.

Writing Mindgames

Writing Mindgames

The past few weeks I’ve been pondering my brain. That sounds peculiar, but hear me out. Since “winning” NaNoWriMo last year and dedicating myself to my writing full force, I’ve managed to establish a writing habit and have been able to write, even if only some brainstorming notes, almost every day. What started me pondering my brain function was the fact that recently in preparing for a jury trial I simply could not write anything not related to my job as an assistant prosecutor. I tried. Despite coming home after long hours I tried, but couldn’t shift gears. Therefore, for the first time in over seven months I went a few consecutive days without being able to write. It bothered me mentally and physically. When I say I have a writing habit, I mean a deep driving need to write. I suppose it’s a healthy addiction at least.

What I’ve discovered over the last week is that writing is good for me and I do need to write. Working in the court system takes its toll despite what television and movies may tell you. Not all attorneys are alcoholics or vigilantes. However, the prevalence of mental health issues in the legal profession is a very real concern. Facing some of the things we have to deal with daily can impact a person if you let it. For me, I think focusing on my writing has become the best therapy available.

Writing fiction allows me to work toward and hopefully achieve a mental equilibrium. I have to admit it’s sometimes challenging to work on an appellate brief using legal reasoning and the side of my brain, then coming home and switching over to the right brain to create characters, dialog and plot story arcs. Alas, that’s why I need to write. I need to be able to balance the opposing forces between the hemispheres.

Something Rotten!

Something Rotten!

I discovered Something Rotten! during the most recent Tony Awards broadcast.


I was a History major in college, and I focused on Medieval and Renaissance history. I immediately fell in love with this musical and purchased the Cast Album. I’ve been listening to quite a bit over the last few weeks.

Oh, how I wish I could get to New York to see this production in person!

I can’t help think of my Medieval History class in college at Capital University, long ago, in a . . . (I’ll stop there. Don’t want to owe Disney any royalties). Our magnificent professor, Kay Slocum, had never seen Monty Python’s The Holy Grail. Our class introduced her to it and convinced her to watch it on VHS (I said it was a long time ago!) in the media center of the university library. We had a great time and it made for a wonderful educational and bonding experience.

What’s not to love about the entire concept of Something Rotten! The cast album opens with Welcome to the Renaissance setting the premise of a musical in Renaissance England, the time of William Shakespeare, who also figures prominently in the storyline.

The Black Death always makes me laugh. (Not a phrase you hear, or get to say everyday) Will Power is a riot and Christian Borle’s Best Featured Actor Tony was well-deserved.  The entire cast album is just plain fun. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

A Farewell to Kings

A Farewell to Kings

Rush Clockwork Angels Tour
Rush-Clockwork Angels Tour-Columbus, Ohio 2012

June 8, 2015 Rush played Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio opening the second leg of their R40 Tour marking their 40th Anniversary as a band. I was privileged to take my wife and two children and share a special evening with Alex Lifeson, Neil Peart, and Geddy Lee. Given the recent articles, interviews, and rumors, this is most likely the last major live tour Rush will undertake, so for me the evening was bittersweet at times.

I write this post as part review, part ode to the biggest musical influence in my life.

I’ve been following Rush since 1989 when a college buddy introduced me to the band. Once you hear these three masters play live your life changes, at least mine did. That first concert during the Presto tour hooked me for the rest of my life. Though I admittedly didn’t yet know the lyrics, and probably couldn’t understand most of them either given Geddy Lee’s high-pitched wail, there was magic in their music. Rush is the epitome of professional and they are truly masters in their craft.

For the past 26 years, I’ve not missed any Rush tour; I’ve seen at least one concert on each tour since 1989. Last night I overheard a guy behind me talking about the spiritual experience of watching “The Boys” live, and I couldn’t agree more.

Throughout college and the course of the last 26 years, Rush has provided a soundtrack for my life. My kids have grown up on Rush music. The Rush 40 concert was the third I’ve shared with my daughter, the second with my son, and they’re both under the age of 15. The guys sitting next to us complimented me on bringing my kids to share the experience, and there were quite a few families in attendance at that concert. Musically Rush reinvents itself every album they record. Lyrically, Neil Peart composes some of the richest poetry there is and the stories and philosophical thought packed into those words are all a part of me, and always will be. It’s impossible to fully express the effect Alex, Neil, and Geddy have had upon my life.

The Rush 40 concert was remarkable. The setlist, which travels back through time as a retrospective of their body of work is close to perfection. The only thing that could have improved upon what they played last night for me personally would have been the addition of at least one song from Hold Your Fire, but that’s a minor point. Hearing  Jacob’s Ladder, then an abbreviated version of Hemispheres and 2112 with Xanadu thrown in for good measure was a dream come true. If this is in fact the last time I get to see Rush perform live, they did not disappoint. Their performance last night was Rush in peak condition and they still sound better live than any band should ever have a right to sound.

Thank you Alex, Neil, and Geddy for your creativity, your professionalism, your work ethic, your sense of humor, and most of all for sharing your talents with me for all these years. I’ve learned many things from you three gentlemen, and I’ve been able to teach my children many things from your music, and your example as human beings.

“I hear their passionate music
Read the words
That touch my heart
I gaze at their feverish pictures
The secrets that set them apart

When I feel the powerful visions
Their fire has made alive
I wish I had that instinct —
I wish I had that drive”

Mission from Hold Your Fire

Lyrics by Neil Peart