There's battle lines being drawn.
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong.
Young people speaking their minds
getting so much resistance from behind

Friday, December 16, 2005

The War of the Wren

I’ve been ruminating about this so called “War on Christmas” and how so much of it is a McGuffin to get the proles all riled up and distract them from the real issues. It was while I was thinking about the Older/Traditional/True meaning of Xmas and remembering stories of earlier times when I recalled that in the Middle Ages, at winter’s tide (solstice), it was common for the hunters to go out and kill small birds to crown the local kings with. The wren, in England, was a favorite as the wren was the “king of birds.” So men would tromp through the cold and weather to gather enough wrens and other small birds to create a panoply winged beings to decorate the throne and the king himself. What a great image that is. Cold stone hall, gilded throne and back drop with a crown of birds, and birds hung from string in flight around the throne, the glint of a gilded back drop shining through the smoke haze and candle sputterings.

Oh, and for those of you who object to the “Xmas”, here’s the history lesson. “X”, or “chi” in the Greek, is the letter of the Christ. Xmas is perfectly legitimate shorthand and isn’t disrespectful. In fact, it is truer than the long term Christmas in symbology. While “XR” or “chi rho” is also used, “chi” is the most accepted version.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Story Bone

“The taste of cashews reminds me of Christmas.” When I was growing up we had this candy dish that was ceramic holly leaves formed into a sleigh with runners. Every Christmas it would be filled with cashews by my mother or my grandparents. I remember the look of the dregs of the cashews in the deep green, a fine dust of brown cashew parts and the remnant salt that sloughed off.

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Assigment Update

Well, as was pointed out to me, I messed up. For my assignment paragraph I reused the words "to" and "fully." Well, time for a rewrite.

"Late night train whistle swirls snowflakes trapped by its blast. Paul wakes partially from deep sleep, nestled in dark downy comfort. “There is no railway past town,” memory tells. He comes fully awake after a second, closer sounding. Time’s hollow echo rings through another nearer blow. Sleety snow begins plinking windows with rhythmical rat-tick-tapping to come inside as the ghost locomotive thunders on, running down phantom tracks."

I brought up the point in class that this is an excellent exercise on the importance of rewriting. Just try the exercise, you'll have to rewrite that paragraph to make it work. My guess is that you'll have to rewrite it many times. That is the writing process. While some authors may have the blessings of angels that they can write pristine copy the first time, most of us have sinned and fall short of that grace. Rewrite is your friend. Visit your friend often.

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Assignment 12-06-05

Well, tonight is my writer's group meeting. Every other week our leader gives an assignment, something usually short. This week's task is to write a six-sentence paragraph that has no re-used words. Here's mine for tonight, I used the train bone from earlier.

"Late night train whistle swirls snowflakes trapped by its blast. Paul wakes partially from deep sleep, nestled in dark downy comfort. “There is no railway through town,” memory tells. He comes fully awake after a second, closer sounding. Another nearer blow brings him fully conscious to hear time’s hollow echo. Sleety snow begins plinking windows with rhythmical rat-tick-tapping to come inside as the ghost locomotive thunders on, running down phantom tracks."

Everything but the “Oink!”

It’s said (and it is very true) that we process everything from a pig except the “Oink.” Well, there has to be some value in the oink, and someway to capture it. How would you do that (bottle, distill, cardboard box, blister pack) and what would you sell it for (both remuneration and destination)?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Get ready, there’s a train a commin’

Here in Ohio, we’ve been ripping up railroad tracks and putting in bike trails. We call it “Rails to Trails” and it’s an excellent program. Here is the bone though, what if there is a person who lives close to one of these, and he still hears the train going through at night. Interesting, no? As they say on infomercials, “But wait, there’s more.” If you’ve ever lived near an active train track, you’ll know that after a while, you don’t really hear the train. So why is he hearing the train now? And here’s the twist, this person didn’t live there when the rail track was active. If I write this story I might also bring into it a piece about the “Death Trains” of Gettysburg, which took out the dead and nearly dead after the battle. They only ran at night, and as a soldier in the hospital, you didn’t want to be taken down to the station as it was growing dark.

There’s also something about an old-fashioned steam train bringing in a snowstorm. I’m talking blizzard. I can see it in that mind’s eye, but I have no idea what the story is.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Christmas 1914

On Monday, Alfred Anderson passed from this world. Mr. Anderson was the last known survivor to have heard the guns fall silent on Christmas Eve, 1914. For those who may not know, during WW I, the Great War, on Christmas Eve 1914 a spontaneous truce happened along the trenches in France. Nothing was declared, the soldiers on each side just stopped firing at each other. After nightfall singing was heard coming from the German trenches, they were singing Silent Night. The English soldiers across the line responded by singing their own carols. The truce eventually escalated to an exchange of cigarettes, buttons, food and finally a soccer game by lit by flares. When morning came, the war resumed. Mr. Anderson didn’t participate in the soccer game, but he fought until 1916, was wounded by shrapnel, returned to Scotland and married. He was 109 when he died, the last person known to have experienced that extraordinary event. That living memory has passed out of this world.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Conspiracy of Podiatrists

Ever notice how once you've found good shoes, you can never find them again, but shoes you can't wear or that hurt your feet are always plentiful and continue to be made? It's a Conspiracy of Podiatrists. Isn't that a great title? I can see both a non-fiction piece and a horror piece made out of that.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

To be a writer 101

First, you must be a reader. “Do I have to?” I hear the younger crowd say. Of course not, if you have talent and are magnificent you can do what ever you want. However, I have never met a successful writer who wasn’t an avid reader.

So what should you read? You should read the classics, of course. Not all the classics, not all at once, and certainly not all before you start writing; you'd be something like 80 before you started. There are other things you should read. You should read the markets you want to sell to, you should read the criticism of those markets, but most of all you should read what you like. It is most important to read what you like. And if that’s all you have time for, screw the classics.

I’ve found there are two main types of books. As a writer of F&SF, I can classify these by author. The first is Asimov, Jordan, and Tolkien, these are the classics and fabulous reads. They are, however, deadening to my brain. I mean that when I read these authors my mind switches off creatively. I watch my creative output drop to nearly nothing when I’m reading authors in this category. Along with the classics I also lump most research texts, currently I am reading the Blue Book of Fairy Tales. It’s really interesting, and there is a lot of grist for the mill in there. But, again, I’m hardly writing and few spurious ideas are coming. Don’t get me wrong, I like reading authors in this category, but Arthur C. Clarke just leaves me dry in creativity.

The next category, in my opinion, is the best category. This area is populated with authors like Bradbury, de Lint, Gaiman, Brust, and Cook. When I’m reading these authors my mind is on fire, ideas drop from trees like ripened fruit in the fall and smack me on the head. These ideas don’t normally have anything to do with what I’m reading, it’s just I have more creative juice when I’m reading books and stories by these people. I also would like to write like these authors. That doesn’t mean I want to rip them off, I just want my voice to have the same felicity and strength that theirs have. If I could write a yarn like _American Gods_ (which you should read) or create a character and world like the Vlad Taltos stories, I would be in ecstasy

My suggestion would be to fill your library with authors who fit the second category. Get the first group from your town library. But definitely find authors that fit that second category. Again, these aren’t all authors I Would Like to Write Like(tm), but they are the fire of my imagination, and they speed my writing.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story

of that man skilled in all ways of contending,
the wanderer, harried for years on end,
after he plundered the stronghold
on the proud height of Troy.

Here I start a new blog dedicated to my Muse, long may that golden tongue implant in my soul words of strength and virility. I am blessed that my Muse is prolific, while my time for writing is short. So I am sharing some of the wonderful story fragments, the bones, or as Steven King calls them, the fossils, with the wider world. I am also doing this with the full understanding that even if I give 10 writers the same bone, I will hear 10 different stories back. I also hope to share information about my writing here as well. This is a dangerous experiment, I have no idea how my Muse will react.

My postings here are free to use for your own stories, or to kick-start your own writing. I guarantee neither success, originality (I have not researched these to see if they were once someone else’s idea), or that I won’t use them for my own work. I think you’ll see these bones have the capacity to be many different stories. All I ask is that you rephrase the bone in your own voice if you decide to use one.

Caveat emptor. Tempus fugit.