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Monthly Archives: January 2011

Someone has to die.

I just don’t know who, yet, but I know that it needs to happen. There are going to be several people I could choose from. Actually, now that I think about it, there’s one that I could kill off far more easily than the others. It depends on how I end up introducing him…this could get far more interesting than I’d initially planned. At any rate, the characters need to feel the presence of death, one in particular. I know I’ve been keeping a lot of the plot under wraps, but it will suffice to say that one of the characters (I’m tentatively naming him Arsus) needs a smack in the face to remind him about what it means to be mortal. In this case, said smack will arrive in the form of a dead comrade. It won’t be anything heroic. It won’t be some noble sacrifice. It won’t even be a crowning moment of sad… “I am a leaf on the wind.” Not like that. It will just be factual. People die. Call it morbid, if you like. I call it gritty realism. It will set up for a very nice parallel later on in the story, so it’s not without purpose. It’s just that if I explain it at all (within the confines of the story, not the blog, dear reader), it loses it’s initial “WTF?!” impact.

How much of my life should I pour into my work? Rather, how much should art reflect reality? I ask myself this because many of the questions I’m going to be having characters ask will be questions that I have asked of myself and of others close to me. It’s not strange to me to have these characters be full of curiosity. I mean, part of that might be because I’m still very curious about them and their world. They’re taking me by the hand and guiding me, showing me their secrets, things they don’t even fully understand, as of yet. I like this part of the creative process. It’s a stage of growth for me, both as a writer and as a person. It’s a journey of self-discovery. I’ve said this before, but it’s something I’m realizing more and more as I’m venturing from Dhe’sku’va to Dhe’laza with Arsus and his companion, a man named Rime. These two, as my protagonists, are rapidly endearing themselves to me. I’ve only recently met them, but I know that their stories are going to be told through me. Hopefully by the time their journey is complete, the great Sand Sea will be safe to traverse for all, and the record of their story will be less confusing than this (though certainly more serious).

Some people are probably going to look at the blog and wonder why I have links EVERYWHERE. To answer the question, I will just say that it’s because I spend too much time reading posts like this. I like to share things that I find on the internet, but I’m no chain-mail spammer. I hate forwards (especially when I get the same one multiple times from people in my family), and I hate the idea of sharing useless stuff with people, but sometimes…sometimes I find something so hilarious (at least to me…) that I HAVE to share it with somebody. It’s a strange desire. There are some things that remind me of inside jokes, and so those have to be at least discussed with someone else who shared in the adventure that led to the joke that led to the laughter at the random stumbleupon discovery, like the one I had Wednesday morning. There’s also the fact that blogging software makes link embedding so ridiculously easy that I don’t even have to have brain functionality to use it. It’s fun! 😀

I’m trying to be patient. It’s been a weird couple of days. We lost my grandpa’s youngest brother, my great uncle, Wednesday evening. He was a man with whom I shared a name, and that was something that I always considered incredibly significant, despite the fact that I was not, actually, named for him. I didn’t know him as well as I would have liked, and I feel an extra tinge of guilt for having made excuses not to call him over the last week and a half. Now it’s too late, and that really hurts. I’m doing better now than I was a day ago, though. I’ve got some of the best friends in the world, and they’ve all been doing everything they can to get me back to my usual level of enthusiasm and energy.

On a positive note, my business cards should be in soon. I can’t wait. I’m tired of scribbling contact information for people on receipts and whatever else happens to be handy. No more, sir. From now on, it’s going to be recycled paper (because I love the environment, despite my 30 mile-per-day commute in my 29 year-old car) with a logo of my own design (because I’m creative!) and a quote from William Butler Yeats. “Let us go forth, the tellers of tales, and seize whatever prey the heart long for, and have no fear.”

So I put most of my time off yesterday to use reorganizing my bedroom/office in my apartment. I think it turned out well. My makeshift computer desk is now far more accessible, and I don’t have to sit on my bed  to really put it to use. All in all, it’s a far more utilitarian setup. Granted, my bed is now about a foot further away from my door, so that’s going to take some getting used to when I come back to my room and I’m about to pass out from booze/exhaustion. Oh well. It’s worth the cost of adjustment. I have a setup now that will allow me to be a lot more productive. It may be that I’m just feeling well rested from the back to back days off, but who cares. I’m raring to go right now, and I’m not going to complain about feeling motivated.

As part of my great rearrangement, I dug into my old notebooks. I managed to find nearly every page I’d ever written about one of the critical locations in the novel, Dhe’laza, the City of the Mountain Vale. This is a small, isolated city, located in a small valley surrounded by mountains. It’s a beautiful place, but it hides some dark secrets. It’s also the initial goal of the main characters in the story. As such, it needs to be one of the most well-planned locations that I am going to be describing. Within the pages I found in my notebooks, I found some of my details on the city, the governing body that rules it, and the people who reside within its walls. I’ve collected these pages and assembled them in a binder that’s going to serve as my main guide to the world I’m building. This is my great achievement today.

As I have said in an earlier post, I’m on deviantART as well as here. I’m all over the internet, remember? I’m going to close my relatively short post today by sending you this, just in case you ever want to see some of my other work. It resides here. Now to work.

Today was the first of two consecutive days off. It’s been good. Some time with the girlfriend and her family, a nice lunch out, and some genuine relaxation. I’m not sure how I am going to react tomorrow, when I realize that I don’t have to go to work. It won’t be a bad thing, that’s for certain.

Now, just because I’m not working doesn’t mean that I’m not being productive. Far from it, actually. I’ve been, as today’s post title might hint, building a world. I’m intrigued by the procedure. I’m beginning to flesh out some details of a setting I created in college and then clarified a little more as part of a sociology project. I’m trying very hard to keep this from becoming cliché. I want it to be realistic. I’m quite grateful to my sociology class , actually, because it focused on various cultures and their different takes on communities. This gives me a lot of room to work. Various villages and city-states are going to be present in this story. Some are going to be areas of great focus. Others will merely be referenced in passing. Regardless, each one needs to be unique in order to have some value in this world. If each one of them can prove it’s own significance to me, then they can/will stay. The characters who inhabit these places will be under similar scrutiny. Call it perfectionism. I mean, it’s worth it in the long run, if it makes the story better. Maybe there will be one or two little things out of place, just to see if my readers are paying attention.

Without getting into too much detail (no spoilers will be found here, dear reader), the world I’m crafting is one set in another system, far beyond Earth. I’m intentionally avoiding any references to Earth, at least whenever possible. I want the people of my world to have nothing to do with Earth. It’s completely irrelevant to what I’m writing, and will therefore, be without mention, unless it becomes absolutely critical. I don’t predict this event.

Despite the distancing from Earth, the characters are human. Or, at least, they are mortal beings with some great resemblance to humans. Maybe an ancient colony, populated and forgotten thousands of years prior to my story. Either way, they have no idea where they came from. As far as they’re concerned, they’ve always lived there. No real explanation necessary. It’s not like anyone else has done that before. No, I’m not talking about George. As much as I am a Star Wars fan, there’s a lot better sci-fi out there.

I’m afraid I may be overextending myself. I’m about to wrap up one D&D campaign, as I’ve said, and I’m going to be starting playing in another as soon as the former one ends. In addition, I’m running a Star Wars Saga Edition game for some of my friends who are still in college down the road. While this is fun, it’s kind of stressful. There are reasons I don’t generally DM. Situations like this least among them. I’m doing these things in my free time, on top of work and hunting for a 2nd job and trying to write a novel. Oh well, I suppose. I’m young, after all. Now’s the time to make mistakes, while I can still bounce back from them. Besides, all of the extra random shit I do just serves as inspiration for characters and plot events. Let me tell you, you could write a novel about 90% of the customers you get in retail. It’s a strange world. All the better to populate my fictional one with these kinds of people, right? I mean, honestly, who would ever come up with some of these kind of things on their own, without some basis in reality?

I wonder how it is that Tolkien and Lewis set about creating the layout of their respective worlds. Both of these men created realms in which I spent hours on end in my youth (and even still today). I think that there’s something to be said about the absolute physical structure of the worlds. They both have an incredibly firm foundation, and I think that a good portion of that lies in maps. Tolkien especially loved them. He knew exactly where everything was in Middle Earth, and how far different places were from one another. He knew Middle Earth better than anyone else ever will, even if they devote their lives to it. Honestly, do you know how far it is from Cirith Ungol to Near Harad? Yeah, neither do I (not without relying on one of Tolkien’s own maps). I want to have that kind of an intimate knowledge of the world I create. I want to know my world so well that no one can read something and tell me that I screwed it up. It’s MY world, dear reader. My own. My precious…

What crime is great enough for a deity to be stripped of his powers and bound to mortal form? What act is great enough for him to gain them again? Is it enough for a god to recognize at last the desperate search for truth within one of his most fervent followers? Or must there be more? If someone came up to you and claimed to be your god, trapped in mortal form, would you believe him? Can a mortal win the heart of said god? Why would he/she need to try? Is prayer and devotion enough? What is faith?

These are just a few of the questions I’ve been asking myself over the last week. My concept for the novel is taking me on a lovely journey of religious self-discovery, since it centers on belief/disbelief. It’s been an interesting time. The thing is, I’ve always been considerably more liberally-minded than most of the rest of my family, despite my Catholic upbringing. Additionally, I’ve been far more accepting of ideas from outside influences. This has led, not to a complete rejection, but to a serious contemplation of my faith. It’s been rough, honestly, considering what’s been going on in my life over the last year. I’ve finished my college career, lost a grandparent, found my first real-world job, lost my favorite pet, started some new traditions, and managed to make some new friends while accidentally alienating others. It’s been an interesting year, to say the very least. I consider that everything happens, not necessarily for a reason, but that it happens, regardless. I am hardly the person now that I was then. I have to consider this to be a good thing. If I don’t, I’d lose faith in myself.

I am greatly looking forward to Monday and Tuesday this week. Why? Simple. It will be the first time I’ve had two consecutive full days off of work in almost 4 months. I’m not complaining about having work, mind you. I’ve got rent and student loans to pay, after all. I’m quite happy to have a job, especially since it allows me to be near books nearly constantly. I’ve always liked to be somewhere where I have books nearby. All the same, it’s a little exhausting to have only one day off at a time, especially when I’m working retail during the holiday season. I still can’t believe I survived all of that. Yeesh.

TLDR version: I’m tired, looking forward to time off, and questioning long-held beliefs. I feel I’ve finally stepped into the shoes of this character. I’ve just got to decide what kind of shoes those are going to be. Personally, I like sandals, depending on the weather. Otherwise, pirate boots are totally the way to go.

Side note: I’m wrapping up an amazing D&D campaign that has spanned the last (nearly) two years. It’s going to be sad to say goodbye to these characters. My character is a half-orc barbarian/dragon shaman who has devoted his life to being the scythe-wielding avatar of death for a white dragon. Should he survive this final battle, he will return to the frozen north lands as a barbarian king, uniting the various orc tribes under his banner, with the frostwind virago, Ilyana, by his side as his queen. It’s been a good run. I’m reluctant to set down the character sheet, but I’m ready for the chance to play some of my other characters again.

Anyway, I’m going to wrap things up for now, but before I go, I’ve got to return a favor to a good friend, who recently linked to here through her own blog. If you like this, but would prefer something in a bit more of a rambling flavor, give it a read. She and I tend to bounce ideas off of each other whenever we get together. We’re like the Inklings, only with less fame (thus far) and lame American accents. Ideally, someday we’ll both be famous, and this blog entry will be somewhere in the Library of Congress, for posterity. Goodnight.


And back to the blog.

Here I am again. After managing to somehow survive work today, despite a crazy man who claimed that I stole the $5 change I was supposed to have given him (a quick count of the cash register proved him wrong, thankfully), I am back at home. It’s nice to be able to come home to the apartment after a long day and finally get some dinner and a drink or two.

I’ve been spending a good deal of time thinking about this story I’m writing. I kind of wish I had more of it planned out in advance, but at the same time, I like to think that my first journey into this world will be far more similar to that of my future readers. Ideally, this means that I will be able to keep things from becoming too overwhelming/confusing for anyone other than myself. I want people to know how it felt as I was creating this world. I want it to feel lived in and rugged, but inviting to people who’ve never experienced anything quite like it (ideally, this will be all of my readers).

I hate when I read a novel and get overwhelmed with crap. I like something I’m reading to be accessible with a minimal level of extra effort required, especially if it’s the start of a series. If it’s a writer I’ve read before, there will be some level of tolerance. If it’s something that I already know, again, there will be tolerance. After all, “A Clockwork Orange” is still one of the best things I’ve ever read, despite the crazy dialogue and narration that goes along with the story of Alex and his droogs. I don’t, however, tolerate this kind of writing when it’s done pretentiously. If someone takes the trouble to create a language, they should make it useful, not just throw it in your face to say “OOOOO, look what I came up with!” Everything should have a purpose. Don’t give throwaway details. Make people question the intent of every line of dialogue, every description of every lamp and every passing dog. Create a visual that your reader can not forget. Forge something truly memorable. That’s my goal. I want to give my readers text that they desire. I want them coming back to my book every couple of years after they first read it and have them find something that they didn’t notice the time before.

At any rate, it’s time to write something before I fall asleep. As conviction becomes content, I shall post more.

In an attempt to get a step closer to being a real writer, I’ve started this blog. One  of my best friends has already done this, and I’ve found that her work has greatly influenced my desire to write something worthwhile. To this end, I’m going to be posting here once a week or so, at least to get started.

This project is my first serious attempt at putting a cohesive novel together. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years. I mean, I even put myself through four years of college to get better at writing and editing. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that the characters I’ve wanted to write about for years finally introduced themselves to me. That sounds a little strange, but you see, they weren’t really characters until then. They were concepts. They were ideas that I liked, but they were not ready for the world. Now they’ve grown. They’re not quite yet ready for everyone to see just yet, but they’re ready for me to start to tell their story. I’m ready to tell their story. It’s going to be quite the journey for all of us. I’m going to force myself to write for a while at a time, even if it’s just jotting down some more concepts, bits of dialogue,  or even just a sentence or two that I like. It’s the whole process of writing that really does me any good. It’s not that EVERYTHING I write will be golden. Far from it, in fact. But if I do not write, I will never have anything to sift through to find that little bit of shiny.

I’ve written poetry before. Quite a bit of it in the last couple of years, in fact. That’s part of what keeps my deviantart page occupied, and I think I’ll keep that there, in it’s own place. This is going to be different from that. Most of it is complete rubbish, in my opinion, but there have been maybe a dozen that I actually really like, to the point of sharing them at poetry slams and open mic nights. It still terrifies me. Even with my background in theatre and public speaking, my legs still tremble every time I stand up to read a piece I wrote. I think it’s a matter of reading something aloud to a crowd that has so much of my own emotion placed into it. This is going to be vastly different from my poetry, though the final project may incorporate some bits of verse. The whole point is, though, that this is going to be bigger. Even as an English major, the biggest paper I’ve ever been required to write was about 15 pages. I want this to be at least 300. That’s only 20 or so times the amount of pages as the longest piece I’ve ever written. How hard can it be?

Okay, I’m kidding myself there. I know that it’s going to be a challenge. The benefit of having written lots of things in the past, however, is that I can pull bits of inspiration, character, plot, and even setting from some of my short stories and essays I’ve done. I’m setting a goal today. I want to write a minimum of 500 words per day. More than that, and I can reward myself for a job well done. If I can continue to produce stuff at that rate, I’ll up it. It’s going to depend on my free time and state of employment.

At any rate, it’s time for me to do some real writing (no offense intended, fellow bloggers). Before I go, I’ll again take a page out of my friend’s book and explain the title of this blog. You see, some time ago I found a photo of several swords sticking in the ground. They were worn, rusted, pitted, and had clearly been there for some years. The extreme angle of the photo, however, made them seem absolutely massive. Every time I see this photo, I feel utterly insignificant. After staring at this image for several minutes, I began to envision a long-forgotten society to whom these giant weapons had been just that: the weapons of giants. Maybe they wandered out of the world. Maybe they died. For whatever reason, they left their swords embedded in the earth. Centuries later, a new race of (far smaller) people find them, and are utterly bemused by their presence. They are a mystery left behind by people far different from the people who inhabit the world in which this story will occur. There is some great fantasy in the making, here, my friends. I’ll share what I can with you. Hopefully some day I can take you to where you can gaze out over the valley and see the swords of the ancients for yourselves.