Thursday, December 31, 2009

Final Thoughts of 2009

So I have only a few minutes of 2009 left, only a few minutes left of the Double Aughts (00's). These are my final thoughts for this year and decade.

I've been thinking about New Year's Resolutions. I like to make resolutions and occasionally I actually do accomplish them. They do give my years a purpose and goal, so I'll continue for next year (later, in my next post).

I want to have my family make a Family Resolution. I checked out "Making a Family Mission Statement" from the library. It's from the Franklin Covey people, but I doubt I'll get my family to sit still and listen to it. Maybe if we have a common goal we will work together better.

I'm not saying that I am dissatisfied with my family, I am very happy with my family. In this first decade of the new millennium we increased our nuclear family by our youngest member. I've been very happy and proud of them.

In this decade I lost my maternal grandparents. I will miss them very much. Now I have no living grandparents, maybe that makes me an adult. I'm going to try my best to keep their memory alive, and to make sure my children and grandchildren know about my grandparents.

I started working for my current employer in 2001. It's been good for the most part, but most importantly it has been the longest time I've worked for one place. In that it has been entirely successful, because that was why I moved to this employer.

In this decade I left North America, first to go to Ukraine for about 3 weeks and then to go to Afghanistan for a year. Combined with the month I spent in the New Orleans area to help with the Katrina recovery, I had some very enriching experiences and memories. I left the National Guard in this decade and I have very mixed feelings about that. I miss being a part of an important team, I miss the service to my country, and I miss the special knowledge I had, but I don't miss leaving my family and I don't miss all the silliness and non-sense that surrounded it.

Well, I only have about 15 minutes left and I want to get ready to be with my family. I will write again next year.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Day 6 - Da Races

Ok, so this is going to take me longer than 30 days since I can't post daily, but here is what the exercise has for Day 6:
"1. Spend 10 minutes figuring out what people who evolved in each major area of your world would look like. Then spend another 5 minutes asking "2. what if this group encountered that group?" Would they fight? Trade? Both? Inter-marry and blend their genetic types? Would they remain largely separate, with pure strains of both racial groups co-existing (not necessarily peacefully)? How would that encounter be brought about in the first place?" [I added the numbers]
The land is called Wispolill (the exercise says not to name things yet, but I need working names). It's the purple continent in the top right corner. It has three areas, that northeast peninsula (Goldland), the northern half of the mainland (north of the tan, desert - called Forestland), and the southern land (Desertland).
1a. The people of the peninsula are the golden people. They are blond, from gold to platinum. Their hair is generally thick and wavy. The men almost never go bald. They have gold to bronze skin. They have gray to blue eyes and long straight noses. They are tall and slender build.
1b. The people of the northern mainland are forest people. They are shorter with dark, thin, straight hair. They have brown eyes and tan skin.
1c. The people of the desert and the southern end of the mainland are very dark skinned with nappy hair. The are tall and athletically built with swimmers' physiques. They have dark eyes.
1d. Gray land mass doesn't have a name yet, but the people of the northern part live in the fjords in small villages like the Vikings used to. The people are barrel chested with thick short limbs and fingers. They are exceedingly tall with round heads, flat, round faces. They're eyes are shades of green from hazel to deep sea green. The have very high foreheads with thin, straight black hair. Their noses are thick and wide, but flat to their faces.
At the time of the story the people of Wispolill are about to spread to other lands, being the only people with a well developed magical system they are poised to conquer.
2a. The people of the northern forest people of Wispolill have had off and on relations with the fjord people. They have fairly easy trade relations.
2b. The Golden people have always dominated the forest people. They look down on them. The forest people developed agriculture, domesticated animals and even mechanical magic first, but the Golden people always exploited their developments.
2c. The southern people have always kept to themselves and prided themselves in their nomadic history. They had trade relations with the lands to the south and the forest people, but they avoided the Golden people. The Golden people tended to treat the southerners as animals and hunted and killed them when they could. The southerners first developed flying machines, airplanes and dirigibles.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Day 5 - Da Map

"Draw out the physical contours of your map, and then identify at least three places that your people might live. You don't need names for them yet-- we'll worry about names next week, when we give our people language. Just draw a dot on the map or maybe sketch a little "house" symbol to indicate that people have settled that area. "

This is the world map for the Heavy Magic story. The actual map is really much clearer. The red dots are the cities. The tan areas are deserts. The white at the top and bottom are the ice caps. Each square is 50 miles by 50 miles.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Day 4 - World Building Scars

The instructions: "Jot down some of the Really Big Land Features you want in your story and just think "what if that were made by...." Write down a couple of causes for those features and scars."

Heavy Magic:

  1. The world is 1/4 the size of the Earth and 1/4th as old (about 1 billion years). The year is 400 days and the days are 24 hours long.
  2. The three moons were made about 250 million years after the formation of the planet by an asteroid collision. The largest, furthest out is Yellow Moon, which orbits ten times a year. The next is the White Moon, which orbits once every ten days. The smallest and closest in is the Gray Moon, which orbits four times a day. The moons all align on the Spring Equinox so that's new years. There are ten months in a year and four 10 day weeks in each month. You can also tell time at night (or on certain clear days) by the Gray Moon.
  3. Cenotes and circular craters were formed from asteroid and meteorite strikes. There was a great slew of them between 50 million years ago and 10 million years ago.
  4. Aliens landed about 100,000 years ago. They colonized Brownland and brought with them many species that eventually became dominant over the natives. They genetically engineered the people of the Great Old Empire on Yellowland.
  5. The Great Inland Ocean was formed when the mega volcano blew about 10,000 years ago. This destroyed the civilization of the aliens and buried it. Almost none of their artifacts have ever been found. Many of the people escaped, but a very few sailed east and west to establish themselves on Fjordland and Wispolill. None of those people have any memory of the original alien civilization.
  6. About 100 years ago a broken comet struck and started an ice age[strikeout], and also released the energy that would end up being magic.[/strikeout] It caused the Great Old Empire to go into decline, especially on Yellowland (north). Before the ice age the polar caps only touched land in the winters.
Seekretya (the name of the country in the children's fantasy)
  1. Seekretya was once a ley line nexus where powerful magic accumulated. When the scientific method was developed, about 1000 AD in the Muslim world, it started driving magic creatures, items and magic itself along the ley lines. As time went on Seekretya became the ultimate sinkhole for all things magical. The more modern society developed the more it drove things there. Specific events included:
  2. 1492 - When the new world was discovered it forced all the magical animals into Seekretya.
  3. About 1600 - Galileo's work forced all magical races into Seekretya
  4. 1687 - Newton's Principia forced all magical items, the last of anything magical into Seekretya, which at that time became the last refuge of magic in this world.
  5. 1880 - Tesla's work with electricity, and the spread of electricity, led to the collapse of Ley Lines. With the Ley Lines gone, no magic could ever get in or out of Seekretya by magical means.
  6. 1950s - The use of atomic weapons super-charged the magical energy in Seekretya, giving it enough power to avoid detection, and travel by any means. This also prevents any electrical devices from operating correctly in, above or below Seekretya.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Day 3 Mood and Setting; A New Look

Continuing on my world building journey, I'm at day 3.

I actually did this last night, but I had trouble because I have so many fantasy worlds swimming around in my noggin that I couldn't really decide which one to use.

I tend to get an idea and then stories grow from there. Whole stories blossom from tiny acorns of ideas. The trouble with this exercise is that it's a whole tree full of acorns and I was having trouble with whole forests of stories cropping up. I hate to thin.

My other problem is MOOD. This drives stories more than anything else. When I'm in a mystery mood I want to write a mystery. My trouble is, how do I maintain a mood long enough to get the story out?! This is a real problem for me and the main cause of my waffling and not finishing stories.

The first parts of this exercise were taking me all over the mood-map. I couldn't get settled. I have a couple of ideas/moods I wanted to keep and use, but I was being tossed around in the moody sea.

This morning I realized that I was trying to use this exercise to pull me "outside the box" and make me think of things in a new way. The trouble with this is that I have no trouble coming up with ideas, and often they are all very different. What I need is focus and decisions. Sometimes it feels like I'll loose something if a choose a certain path. I want to go down all paths at once.

I think I need a new way to approach these exercises. I have two fantasy story lines I want to pursue: "Heavy Magic" and a children's Christmas-y/bedtime story line.

Heavy Magic is a story line I've been stewing over for a while. I want the flavor, or mood if you will, of Richard Corben's Den; and Conan and Burroughs as imaged by Frank Frazetta. Basically I want to write a fantasy story with lots of sex and magic, a story that has all the eroticism of the old pulp sword and sorcery, but told in a modern way and with a more favorable view of magic. It has gritty realism without wallowing in the blood. It's mysterious, dark yet hopeful.

The children's story is a lot different. I want that to be warm and fuzzy, lush and rich, homey and inviting, teaching and challenging, difficult yet attainable.

With all that in mind I'm going to move forward on those two paths for my world building, to make a world for each of those story lines.

BUT FIRST, I'm going to post what I did last night when I was originally thinking about this exercise, then I'll post what I think using this new approach.

From 30 Days of World Building:

"Write down four words that fit into that feeling: two adjectives, a verb, and a noun. Now return to the page with your list of climates and emotions. Do any of them match up? If they do, you have your climate. If not, try to find closest-match words.

If you spend 10 solid minutes thinking about this and still can't decide, pick two climates that express moods you like. You can make up your mind later, and you can even build your world with both climates containing equally probable sites for your story."

And this is what I came up with (again, this is without regard to my story lines):
1. ADJECTIVES: Mystery, frustration, challenge
2. VERB: Grow
3. NOUN: Quest

1. Temperate Rainforest/Far Eastern Beaches, Great Plains, Great Lakes
2. River
3. Temperate Rainforest

Alternate (totally random):
South Atlantic Seaside / Desert

Here is my new version:

Heavy Magic
  1. ADJECTIVES: Sexy, Dangerous, Magical, Larger than life, Erotic, Powerful, Action-packed
  2. VERB: Swashbuckling
  3. NOUN:

The climatic responses are:

  • High desert
  • Arctic
  • Temperate rainforest
  • Nordic fjord (they aren't all from my previous list, but if I go from the feeling to the places that's what I come up with).

Children's Fantasy

  1. ADJECTIVES: Cuddly, warm, fuzzy, lush, rich, inviting, homey, difficult, attainable
  2. VERB: Teach
  3. NOUN: Challenge

The climatic responses are:

  • Green valley
  • River
  • Smokey Mountains
  • Temperate forest

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Day 2 - Baby It's Cold Outside

"Your exercise for today is to jot down ten plot devices that relate to weather, and what you think they do to the story." From 30 Days of World Building.

The phrase "plot device" makes me cringe, but here goes:
  1. Blizzard - slow the heroes down and isolate them, blind them
  2. Monsoon - make the roads impassable, make the heroes put up tents, flood the caves and dungeons. Will the river flood, can the heroes stop it?
  3. Sunny day - make travel quick, make the heroes yearn for adventure
  4. Tornado - (rash of tornadoes) make the heroes dodge them, try to use the weather to their advantage and as a weapon against the enemy
  5. Hurricane - Make the heroes anxious, batten down the hatches, be they on land or sea. In the eye they try to hurry to get things done or reinforce what has shown to be weak.
  6. Tsunami - Make the heroes run to higher ground, maybe make the bad guys take advantage of the confusion. The heroes will come back and try to help those caught in the wave
  7. Sudden Thunderstorm - cut the plans short, allow short bursts of vision as the bad guy tries to take advantage of the situation and the good guys try to find shelter
  8. Freezing Rain - makes everything dangerous by degrees, slowly icing things up so that they don't work, will it end or will the heroes find shelter soon enough or will everything go bad?
  9. Fog - Quiet and foreboding. You need a friend in a fog that knows the area well enough to get around blindfolded. Can the friend be trusted? Can you move quietly enough to get past that guard?
  10. Heat Wave - Don't move a muscle, maybe it will be cooler that way. Everything slows down, need shade. Travel at night, hunker down under shade in the day.
(I gotta get me a new photo from the blizzard of '79)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Day 1 - Turn Left to Go Right

There are some among you who will cry, "Stick to ONE thing and finish it!"

Seeing as it's the Christmas season, and Winter Solstice today particularly, and everywhere is lush with the MAGIC of the season I can't help the pull of wanting to write fantasy.

I know I haven't finished my mystery novel, but I have plotted it all out, the characters have been very friendly and helpful to me, and I really do want to write it and love ready mysteries. I know I can and will return to it, it has no insurmountable flaws (do you hear that The Larch, I'm thinking of you now).

Anyhow the Fantasy Muse has mugged and kidnapped the Mystery Muse so I'm going to have to obey her (and secretly enjoy it). I have a two pronged plan. I want to write children's fantasy so I'm going to be writing and sharing short stories here with that bend. I feel guilty about not telling my youngest the same type of stories I made up for her older sisters anyway.

The other prong, if you will, is driven by a site I found today, 30 Days of World Building. I'm going to be following the advice and exercises there and post the results here. To show you my earnestness, I'm going to post Day 1 here and now:

Climatic Zones and the Feelings They Invoke:
  1. Temperate Rainforest - mysterious and magical
  2. Rocky Mountains - beautiful and cold, distant and unapproachable
  3. Smokey Mountains - hidden meaning, ancient and guarded, wise
  4. Great Plains - vast, open, boring
  5. California Seaside - surf fun, dangerous
  6. Southern Atlantic Seaside - gentle fun, old
  7. Far Eastern Beaches - exotic and mysterious, longing, wishful
  8. Low Pacific Islands - sandy, warm, crystal, pure
  9. Great Lakes - surprising and helpful
  10. River - stretches off into the unknown distance, but helpful
  11. Swamp - hidden danger, soggy and sad
  12. Dry Riverbed - disappointment, broken promise
  13. Desert - Hot, uncomfortable, unwelcome, lost
  14. Tropical Forest - tiny close danger
  15. Arctic - wet cold but full of life
  16. Antarctic - desert cold almost unimportant
  17. Open Sea - vast with many pop-up surprises

Monday, December 14, 2009

Not Firing on All Cylinders, or Dancing with the Muse What Brung Me

I'm missing days. I write on some and not on others. I'm still working on The Boys of St. Leonard's, but I can't get to it every day. I WILL finish it, but it may take longer than I expected (or planned).

I did figure something out about myself. I'm mostly interested in antique mysteries. I'm not talking about historical mysteries. Those are stories set in the past. No, what I'm interested in are stories written a long time ago, but that were contemporary at the time. Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Nero Wolfe, and M. Dupin are all favorites of mine.

I had flirted with writing an historical novel this November, but I went with the Boys. I think next time I'll write the story I was thinking about with a detective that is a WWII vet.

I'm guilty of writing some of it today, so the least I can do is share the snippet.

Captain Thomas Selfridge – WWII Disabled Vet Detective

"So, glad to be home for Christmas, Tom?" Uncle Vernon sipped punch with a ridiculous smile on his face.

Tom Selfridge grunted as he shifted his weight on the kitchen stool, "Not really. There's still a war to be won."

"But Tom, you did your duty, you gave an eye and your right arm." Vernon grimaced, he was not drunk enough to see that he had offended the veteran.

"It's just my hand, and that doesn't really matter to all those boys who lost and are loosing their lives does it?" he stood. He was a tall man who had grown lanky in the service of his country. He was sun-leathered almost as dark as the uniform he wore. He insisted on wearing a mustache, even though it came in too blond and sparse. He eyed his uncle with his remaining pale gray eye. Then he softened.

The older man was round and soft from good living, but he had a good heart and loved his family. He had never known war, nor hunger, but he had worked honestly and earnestly his whole life.

"Merry Christmas Uncle," Tom patted him on the arm and moved away to gaze out the window at the snowy Chicago street in his own anguish.

Friday, December 04, 2009


I missed a day yesterday, I was thinking about the Boys, but I didn't actually write anything.

I took off Monday through Thursday with the idea that I could finish the book and get some Christmas decorating done, BUT I ended up painting and stuff because our first floor renovation isn't done YET.

We are THIS close to being done enough to bring up the tree and stuff, but I still have some things to do and now I'm back at work.

None of this helps the book.

Let me give you the first chapter and let me know what you think.

The Boys of St. Leonard’s

Chapter 1 – The Nightmare

The screaming woke Clovis Murphy from a sound sleep.

He heard it again, glanced at the clock, 2:00 AM. He was out of his bed and his room like a shot. He crossed the dorm suite common room in a single stride and opened Nick’s bedroom door. The window was closed and the light was off. Clovis turned it on and saw Nick sitting bolt upright, staring straight ahead and panting.

“You okay buddy?”

Nick’s breathing slowed. Clovis looked down where he thought Nick was staring, at the stumps below his knees, but Nick was just staring straight ahead. He was covered in sweat.

Clovis sat on the edge of Nick’s bed, “Buddy?”

Nick took a deep, ragged breath and glanced up at Clovis, then looked forward again.
“Was it Iraq?”

Nick breathed out forcefully. “I’m okay.”

“You want me to do something, make you some tea?”

“You make tea?” He laughed.

“Well, if you don’t want…”

“No, that’s fine. Thanks for coming over. Sorry I woke you. I’ll make some tea. You want my special herbal?”

“If that’s what you’re having. I can start the water boiling.”

“Boiling? You don’t boil tea.”

Clovis gave him an angry look.

“I must be fine if you’re mad at me. Hand me my feet, would you?”

Clovis smiled as he handed Nick his prosthetics and went out to get the tea set out. When he went into the common room there was a knock on the door. It was Juan Vega the seminary student who was their floor RA.

“You guys alright in here?” He was in a ratty green robe, tee shirt, boxers and slippers.

“Fine, just nightmares.” Clovis answered as Nick walked into the common room.

“Oh good. I didn’t know with you guys, I mean, I mean you guys have been doing some strange things, I mean with the investigating stuff, you know.”

“I know.” Clovis said.

“I’m making some herbal tea, would you like some Juan?”

He took a step in the room and threw himself in one of the lounge chairs even before he said, “Yes please.”

Before the water was ready La Bamba started playing from somewhere inside Juan’s robe. He struggled to find his phone, wriggling his bulk in the chair until he found his pocket and phone.

“Juan Vega, yes. Yes. What? Now, I mean now? Yes ma’am. Ok. Right away. Ok, thank you.”

“What is it?” Clovis asked.

“You guys know Chet Reese?”

Before Clovis and Nick could answer, Juan blurted, “He’s been found dead!”

“Dead?” Clovis asked.

“I have to go down and identify the body, do you guys want to go with me? They’re still at the crime scene. You guys investigate stuff, maybe you can help the cops.”

“I don’t think so.” Nick said.

“What?” Clovis turned to his roommate who was leaning near the electric tea kettle.

“We weren’t invited, and we don’t investigate death. Death isn’t a game or a tourist attraction.” He turned away.

“Still, I would really feel better if you guys would go with me. I’m kind of nervous around cops, you know it’s a Latin thing.”

Clovis gave him a cockeyed look.


Clovis raised his eyebrows and pointed at his ebony face and short dreadlocks, “Don’t try to play the race card with me.”

Nick chuckled over the kettle as it whistled.

“Ok, right, well, you guys know the campus cops and they found him on campus. Would you please come with me?”

“Okay,” Nick said, “at least let me put together some travel mugs first.”

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Stay on Target, Stay on Target

I have a serious itch to write a fantasy story. I need to finish my mystery story, but the Christmas season and our new decor in our house are driving me towards fantasy. My muse is dressed all in yuletide garb and is dancing to a carol. How can I write a noir-ish mystery with all that going on?