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.

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.

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

 

Revisions and Writing Resources

Revisions and Writing Resources

Volume I: The Dream of the Sphere is finished and there’s a light at the end of the tunnel on revisions at long last. After a very long haul, working through my lessons from Dave Farland’s Rewriting to Greatness, I’m finally on the last few passes, completing line-editing.

The first 7 chapters are complete out of 23. I’m pleased so far with my creation, and I can definitely say I have a better, stronger book now. With the help of a few readers and their input I’ve made several changes for the better. One major character was totally revamped from the ground up and I’m much happier with that character now. I added at least 10,000 words in revisions, several new characters sprang forth and I feel like my world is fuller and more detailed.

Throughout the process I’ve read, and reread several excellent books which have been invaluable and I would highly recommend to anyone:

I definitely prefer the actual writing process of building worlds, and crafting story to revisions and rewriting, but in the end, the revision process is crucial in making it all come together and I’ve learned a lot that I think will help me streamline the process in the future.

For now, I’m looking forward to putting the finishing touches on Dream of the Sphere, forwarding it to Dave Farland for his input and critique and moving toward submitting it to a publisher. Most of all, I’m looking forward to writing again, free from the yolk of revisions.

 

 

Welcome to Nightvale!

Welcome to Nightvale!

 

Welcome to NightvaleEarlier this week I had the pleasure of visiting the auspicious town Nightvale by way of Cincinnati. The wildly popular podcast is currently touring its live show “The Investigators”. Watching Cecil Baldwin was truly a treat. The man is a consummate acting professional. All the performers in this production were excellent performers and it was fun to see them in person, though, with the exception of Cecil, none looked like I imagine the characters they portray.

 

My only disappointment for the evening was the script itself. I think the writers tried way too hard to make this live show interactive and accessible. I can appreciate the accessibility issue. It’s understandable that they want to grow their audience and not alienate new listeners/viewers. I think they accomplished that goal. However, to me the problem was the story itself just tried to hard to involve the audience. The premise behind the podcast is a radio show. I don’t expect it to be an interactive experience, and I didn’t go to watch it live seeking an interactive experience. This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy “The Investigators”.  Experiencing Nightvale live was a delight. The story was somewhat forgettable and didn’t advance, or add to Nightvale lore in any discernable way. That’s my disappointment.

 

The most intriguing part of Nightvale’s charm is the depth of mythology, setting, characters and description achieved with each episode. Followers of Welcome to Nightvale will readily tell you details about the lives of a multitude of characters. The minutiae is what makes Nightvale such fun. It’s easy to become lost in the lore and dream of picking up and diving into the weirdness. I just didn’t leave the theatre with any new epiphanies or friends from Nightvale.

 

Still, experiencing Nightvale live was well worth the two hour one-way trip and I would gladly give any new live shows a try in the future. Goodnight, Nightvale. Goodnight.

Visions of The Avengers

Visions of The Avengers

I’m anxious to see Avengers: Age of Ultron, in a good way, and a bad way.  The Avengers was my favorite comic book growing up. It’s one of the first books I ever bought with my own money and started collecting.  I was thrilled with Joss Whedon’s take on my Avengers in the first film. It worked really well and Joss obviously “got it”. He maintained a lot of the chemistry and relationships that makes The Avengers special as a comic book.

Admittedly, I haven’t kept up with comic books as much as I’d like as an adult.  Time, money, and life interfered.  But, to me my Avengers will always hold a special place in my heart and mind regardless of whatever has been done to the title through the years.

VisionsNow, my favorite character in Marvel comics has always been Vision.  Thus, I’m having grave reservations about Avengers: Age of Ultron. I truly don’t want Vision and Scarlet Witch to be ruined. Vision has always represented an especially poignant look at our struggle to define our humanity, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Vision has explored how we deal with love, life, loss, and everything in between. I was heartened by the Pinocchio references in the trailers. I’m hoping Joss still “gets it” and doesn’t muck up Vision. We’ll see. . . .

(A few hours later…)

Not a disappointment in the least. If anything, Vision didn’t have nearly enough screen time, but I think the new origin story Joss crafted fits in nicely with what Vision has always been and represented and it melds well with the MCU on screen currently. I was very pleased with Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch in the movie. Again, a lot of potential for character development there. Another great Avengers movie.  Thank you Mr. Whedon, job well done!

Rewriting to Greatness

Rewriting to Greatness

Dave Farland

Dave Farland

I previously wrote that I was taking an online writing class, Writing Mastery I, with Dave Farland, aka Dave Wolverton. I’m proud to say that this afternoon I turned in my last two assignments for that class and now await Dave’s feedback. I can say completing this class has been invaluable to improving my skills as a writer and I can’t thank Dave enough for his tutelage.

Now, I’m moving on in the next phase of my plan to prepare the first book of my Fantasy Series The Sphere Saga to submit seeking a publisher. I’m comfortable with Dave Farland, and have learned a great deal from him. I’m embarking on a higher level online class with Dave called Rewriting to Greatness which is geared toward teaching authors the ins and outs of editing and revising their own work. My goal is to revise my book (The Dream of the Sphere) to make it the very best it can be in order to secure a publishing contract. I’m confident that with Dave’s guidance I’ll be able to develop the professional skills that will help me launch a successful career as a professional writer.

Beginnings

Beginnings

It’s official, I have now submitted a book to a publisher. I searched Writer’s Market 2015 and found a publisher I felt was compatible for my Children’s book: Blacktooth’s Treasure Chest. I may very well never hear back, but that’s not the purpose of this exercise. I’m thrilled to have finally fought past the terror of submitting.

More importantly, in the process I discovered and was able to define for myself my “Brand” as a writer:

“My goal as an author is to create an engaging and fun body of work to sustain a generation through their life as readers of Fantasy: from intelligent chapter books to sprawling epics.”

What George Lucas provided me with Star Wars is what I want to accomplish. Might as well think big! Our children need stories and myths to grow by. Star Wars, Harry Potter, both captured the hearts and imagination of a generation. I seek to create a body of work that will engage a young reader and carry them through a lifetime of immersive fantasy.

Part of my ambition is to appease my own drive to create. Part is repayment of a debt for all the great stories I’ve enjoyed, lived by, and shared with my kids. I want to make stories that encourage people to dream and also allow people to escape. Most importantly, I want to make readers think.

Here’s to a small step on that journey…