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Devil in the Details

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Writing about a culture other than your own can provide more than a few complications. I a pure fantasy setting, the author has more control and, so long as he is consistent, can tweak things a bit and make it work. However, when we use a real culture to base our story on, and where a member of that culture may pick up and read your story, we had better get the details right. Unless…

My protagonist is half-Apache, a native american tribe that lives in the southwestern United States and into Mexico. His father was a tribal holy man and taught my protagonist the ways of spiritual medicine. During this instruction a ritual takes place to help my protagonist find a spiritual guide. The spirit guide helps an individual travel along life’s ever changing path. The spirit guide turns out to be “Snake”. This is where things get dicey.

I had written about three-quarters of the story before I found out how Snake is viewed in the Apache culture. The Apache see Snake as a very negative spirit. Often seen as evil, the Apache people will distance themselves from anything related to Snake. Whether it is the real creature, an image, a vision, or a story, Snake is Very bad medicine.

When I first made this discovery, I began to panic. Thinking I would need to rewrite whole sections to either change the spirit guide to something else, or change his tribe to something that looked favorably on the Snake. Instead of jumping off a cliff, I decided to go ahead and finish the first draft without making huge changes. I tried very hard to not let this knowledge guide the story in any way.

After the required cooling off period once the first draft was finished, I did a quick read through and a second read through where I jotted down the more glaring issues and holes. During the second time through, it hit me that the main character was still a little flat.Along with this I was leaning toward changing his tribal lineage.

Then while I was discussing a similar topic with my brother, it dawned on me that the answer to my flat character was right there. The fact that an Apache shaman has Snake as a spirit guide would add several layers of conflict for the character.

So not counting the major conflicts he faces throughout the plot line, he has to deal with being a half-breed, an Apache with Snake as a guide, and his job makes him walk the line between the normal world and those who use magic.

Now I have a character with more than a little color. Yes, I have to add a few sections to exacerbate and the situation, but it will definitely make for a more memorable character.

This turned out to be one of those details that worked out in the end. However, I am more careful about performing research on areas that I am not 100% sure of.

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And then the trouble starts! A and W Part VII

This is a scene from a story that started as a writing exercise, My Scene. It is a series of flash pieces that are the beginnings of my current WIP.. This scene happens later in the story than the previous posts though it didn’t start that way. It just made sense as I wrote it that it would be more of a turning point.  This will probably be the last installment I post of this story for a variety of reasons. Mostly, I don’t want you to see too much more of it before it starts going into revision.

A quick background: I am Derek Nantan, a North American Marshal in the service of the Pentacle. My territory ranges from the continental divide in the west to roughly Chicago in the east. I was tasked with helping Amy Hatcher, an Oscar-winning actress, by ridding her of a stalker that a local shaman suspects to be a warlock.

The door rolled open a foot on well oiled tracks. Even so, it made more noise than I would have liked. I slipped through the opening and into the darkness beyond. The faint scent of burning chocolate over the smell of horses and manure, told me someone or something was using magic. There was a pale green glow coming from the stables. It provided just enough light so I could pick my way through the vehicles and equipment stored at this end of the barn.  

I passed by the tack room and as I approached the stables, I saw a horse rear up in its stall. However, I didn’t hear any sound at all coming from the stables. I stayed close to the wall on my left side. My stalking walk was all but silent under the worst of conditions so, I was not worried about being heard. The horse continued to buck and crash into the sides of the stall until one of the stable gates opened and a man stepped out into the glow. His shoulders stood above the top of the gate and from that distance he seemed tragically thin. Long dark hair partially covered an angular face as he walked toward me. The grey sweatshirt hung from his shoulders and barely reached the top of his torn jeans. His long strides brought him within a few feet before he stopped and considered me.

“Howdy,” he said with a voice that resembled Lurch from the Adams Family. “Can I help you?”

The air now smelled like I had fallen into a vat of burnt chocolate. The hair on the back of my hands and neck was at full attention. Whoever this was, he was bad news in spades. I smiled and tried to show him I was relaxed when inside, every muscle and tendon was vibrating like a guitar string. I drew power up through the orb in my right hand and prepared a proper welcome if it came to that.

“Hi, I’m looking for Ramone,” I said, not wanting to give him any real names.

“That’s me,” he said as he smiled and took a step toward me.

He began to stretch out his hand towards me when two things struck me. First, his hands were much too large for his frame. And two, his teeth looked like they had been sharpened with a file.

“I don’t think so,” I said as I took a step back. 

His hand flashed up toward my throat. Somehow he had gotten much closer to me than I remember him being. My orb pulsed and my left hand caught his wrist a few inches short of his target. The speed and strength the orb provided was barely enough to keep him away. His eyes flashed red as he glanced down at our interlocked hands. His fingers straightened and instantly grew into foot long talons that tore through my shirt and plunged deep into my shoulder. The orb fell from my hand as all feeling drained from my right hand. I pushed with my left hand which still held his wrist and twisted away. The talons shredded the front of my shirt and tore lines across the flesh or my chest.

He chuckled as I looked down at my ruined shoulder. My orb lay on the floor between us. The talons were gone and he motioned for me to come to him. I took the opportunity and drew my knife. Made from meteor metal and enchanted by the kachinas, it was the other gift my father gave me the day before mother murdered him. With my right arm all but useless, I held the knife in my left hand with the blade forward to give me a little more reach. 

“Come mageling,” he said, looking at the orb. “Was it you who called me?”

“Who are you and why are you here?” I asked, trying to by some time.

He smiled and circled to my right. “I told you. I’m Ramone and someone called to me.”

He moved so fast, I barely had time to bring the knife around. His left hand with talons extended, tore into my right thigh. My knife caught his arm as he went past me and sliced a gash from his wrist to his elbow. Unfortunately, the knife blade caught on a bone and was ripped from my hand. His unnatural roar shook the beams of the barn. He spun and back-handed me across the forehead. The force of his blow snapped my head to the side and stars exploded before my eyes. I felt myself hit the ground. Pain flashed down my arm as I rolled over several times trying to get some distance from my attacker. I looked up through foggy eyes to see walking toward me. He seemed bigger from this angle and talons had replaced both of his hands. He flexed his left arm and dark liquid flowed from the wicked gash my knife had made.

“Time to die, mageling,” He said, as he raised his right hand to strike. 

I squirmed to get my left arm out from underneath me and bring it up in a feeble attempt to block the oncoming blow. My hand came free from beneath me and bumped into my orb. I grabbed it and looked up again expecting the talons to rip my head from my neck. 

When you are in a struggle for your life, time slows down. Maybe it’s adrenaline. Maybe it’s heighten senses. Either way, It is amazing to experience.

The muzzle blast from a large-bore rifle fired in an enclosed space is painful. The sound of the blast hit my ears as the chest of the man standing over me exploded over my head. Before he could react, a second explosion tore away a portion of his right shoulder. The force of the second round spun the man away from me. I looked at the direction of the barn door and saw Ben levering another round into a Winchester lever-action rifle. The taloned man looked down at his wounds and screamed with rage as a third bullet hit his thigh. He turned as if nothing was wrong and charged toward me. Ben’s Winchester roared again but the bullet missed its mark. That was okay because he had given me the time I needed.

My orb pulsed in my hand. The sound from the rifle’s muzzle blast was created by waves of energy moving outward from the gun. I redirected that energy through the orb, condensed it, shaped it into the form of a bighorn ram’s head and sent it into Mr. Talon’s chest just as he was about to eviscerate me. At that range, I could hardly miss. The full force of the spell hit him. All of the air and most of the blood in his lungs exploded out of his mouth and sprayed me with ichor. The force of the spell propelled him up and slammed his back into the steel I-beam that supported the barn’s roof twenty feet above the floor. The ominous crack of vertebrae shattering gave me a moment’s hope as the crumple body dropped back to the floor. 

I rolled to my knees in time to see Ben fire another shot that missed. Looking back at where the body had landed, I was dumbfounded as the man slowly stood up. I heard more cracking, as if bones were grating across each other. I began to gather energy in preparation for another spell. He made it into a crouch and glared at me. He hissed and ran toward Ben and the door out. I sent a burst of energy to create and barrier across the barn to trap him but I misjudged his speed and wall went up behind him as he raced toward Ben. 

I watched in helpless horror as the man barely slowed down as he went past Ben, talon raking across Ben’s neck. Ben was scrambling to reload the Winchester and didn’t see blow that separated his head from his neck. He probably didn’t feel it. His head fell forward and his body slowly toppled to the side. I slumped to my side. My shoulder and leg burned. My head throbbed. I closed my eyes.

If you are interested in reading the previous scenes, check them out at, Actress and the Warlock Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IVPart V, Part VI. .

 
 

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The View of the Room

Control Center

Since I didn’t have an pictures of my writing room when I posted Room to Write, and Several of you expressed an interest in my domain, here are a few to give you an idea of what it is like.

I also work from home on occasion so the multiple monitors come in handy. When I’m all set up with two laptops it looks like NASA’s Mission Control in Houston.

 **Note – The little sign in front of the desk next to the picture states, “You call it daydreaming…I call it multi-tasking.”  The sign on the wall next to the window states, “If you are agitated and confused, my job here is done.”

Power and Wisdom

The top two images in the Bev Doolittle print are called “Guardian Spirits”. I had the opportunity to purchase the originals when I lived in Colorado. However, I was poor and living in an apartment. Each of the originals was four feet square! The cost was well out of my league. if I even got the opportunity, I would buy them now. Yes, it is a real bison skull minus the black horn caps. I can feel the strength of the spirit behind those eye sockets. 

Inspiration Wall

Items that have special meaning, memories, and dreams. I have a fondness for owl pictures. This group of books are only very small a sample of my reference library. The cuirass on the floor to the left has a date of 1735 inscribed inside. It was a great auction find. All in all, it is a peaceful writing space full of inspiration that fires my imagination whenever I sit down to write.

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2012 in Other Strangeness

 

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Room to Write

Twelve years ago, my wife and I purchased our current home with the idea that it was a blank canvas that we could make into our own. All the walls were white. Okay off-white, the previous owners were all chain smokers. Fixtures were mostly gold finish and worn out. The carpet reeked for dogs and cigarette smoke. The yard was a mess with sparse grass and one lonely peony in the back yard. So a few months ago we finally began work on the last room, my study/writing room.

I asked the CEO of my domicile what she wanted to do with this room. Her reply stunned me, “Whatever you want to do. It is your room and I want you to be happy with it.” God bless this woman who let’s me live with her!

Immediately, I started to fantasize about all sorts of interesting, and expensive, things we could do to give me the room of my dreams. However, she doesn’t call me “The Dream Squasher” for nothing. I am the CFO of the domicile so I am well aware of what I can and cannot spend. So, many of my dreams vanished into a puff of smoke. 😦

That’s okay, I am a list maker so I started to make a list of necessities: Desk with ample room to spread out notes and journals, comfortable chair, laptop computer with external oversized monitor and external keyboard, shelves for books that I cannot part with, oak 4-drawer file cabinet (new purchase), stereo system and wide variety of music (that’s a whole different post), soft overhead lighting, views of our backyard waterfall garden and side yard japanese garden, and a bulletin board for story-boarding.

Then comes the accessories (no new purchases): Bison skull, prints by Bev Doolittle, swords and knives I have made and collected, longbows, quivers and arrows, collection of Native American pottery, portrait of the CFO in his renaissance costume, medicine bag, antique cuirass, English war hammer, various (fantasy, Celtic, Native American) sculptures, and most important a photograph of the CEO.

It took about two months to finish it but it is now my very favorite room in the house. Unfortunately, I have been unable to use it much due to other life altering events keeping me away. The good news is the sea has calmed somewhat and I am spending more time in my new sanctuary. The words are beginning to flow more freely.

I still write during my lunch hour but I find myself daydreaming about sitting behind the three feet of oak and listening to my favorite russian composer. Ah…pure bliss.

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2012 in Other Strangeness

 

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Pipesmoke

This page has been sitting in my Musings and Odd Thoughts tab for a while. With all that has been going on around me of late, I thought a truly personal post was in order. So, for those who have not read it previously…

 A curl of blue-grey smoke climbs lazily toward the star-filled sky. My lips make contact with the well-worn pipe stem. As I begin to draw on the stem, the glow reflecting from the bowl onto my thumb, lets me know that the fire within is healthy. The warm bowl guards my hand against the crisp evening air. The heat from the ash feels good. The hot flavor washes across my tongue. It tastes sweet, tart and bitter all at once. The pungent aroma snakes up my nostrils. The smell is friendly and warm. It reminds me of other nights in other places. As I pull my mouth from the stem a few tendrils of smoke escape into the moonlight. After a pause to relish in the experience, a ring of smoke rises gently from my mouth. It floats skyward. A moment later a blue-grey arrow shoots up through the ring. The arrow mushrooms beyond. The ring widens and begins to dissipate into the night.

The sweet assault on my senses soothes the frustrations of the day. Worries and irritations float away on a thin rising column. They are replaced by peaceful relaxation and a warm feeling of contentment. Each inhale seems to draw me further into a state of mellow solitude. With each exhale comes more relaxation as my tensions are expelled on a smokey jet.

It is a time of contemplation. It is a time for prayer. It is a time of thanksgiving. It is a time to enjoy and reflect on the good things in life. It is a time to appreciate those things that we have and give thanks. Far too often we ask for things and far too seldom do we take time to thank the Creator for all that is done for us. This is also a time to listen. Listen to the crickets chirping in the bushes. Listen to the wind moving gently through the leaves overhead. Listen to the yapping of coyotes in the distance and the whippoorwills one tree away.

I pull again on the stem. A billow of sweet smoke rolls skyward. It swirls across the first quarter moon and then disappears. I truly am grateful for the many blessings that have been bestowed upon me. I have good health, a wonderful wife, a nice house, a good paying job, and my beliefs in a greater power. Every new day is special because it is different and has its own surprises to offer.

Far too soon the bowl is empty. It begins to cool in my palm. I carefully scrape the inside of the bowl to loosen the remaining contents. I rap it gently on the heel of my other hand. The leftover ashes and unburnt mixture fall to the Earth. They came from the Earth; it’s only natural that they return there. The pinholes of light in the night sky beckon me to take one more long last look before going back inside. A smile crosses my face as I say goodnight to the spirits.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2012 in Other Strangeness

 

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Recent Woes

To begin, I’m going to take a page from a Blog I follow: Writing By the Numbers.

Number of family members or close friends recently diagnosed for or treated for cancer:     6

Number of hours sleep lost due to the above:   More than I can count.

Number of hours spent writing on my novel in the last two months (excluding this blog and a business trip):    6

As my brother told me before going into surgery, “God has decided now is a good time to test us.” He then added, “After I wake up, whatever you do, do not make me laugh.”

Yeah right! He knew better than to expect that.

You see, I try real hard everyday to laugh. It might be a joke a friend e-mails to me, or a favorite sitcom, or my wife being her crazy self. But, sometime during the day I will find a way to laugh. I believe the main reason my wife and I are well into three decades of marital bliss, is because we laugh together everyday.

Please do not take it that I find anything amusing about the statistics listed above, quite the contrary. These are people I would take a bullet for and it tears me up everyday that they are in pain. However, I have seen first hand that, “laughter is the best medicine.” Laughter tends to dry the tears and heal the broken heart. Medical research has shown that laughter is one of the best stress reducers.

Many times, as a youngster, my mother would get mad at me. When she finished yelling at me, I would begin to laugh. She would become more angry and I would continue to laugh until finally she would shake her head and start laughing with me. I did not laugh at her anger. that would have been foolish and probably ended with me sitting on a sore butt for a few hours. No, my laughter was a defense mechanism. It was how I tried to diffuse the situation. When I lost my mother a few years back, I cried until I started to laugh. It was her way of getting back at me.

My writing has suffered and I’m okay with that for now. I know “this too shall pass” and soon I’ll get back to the keyboard. So, hug your family and do something fun. Tonight, I’m going to open a bottle a snazzy beer. put the cat fight from Puss ‘n Boots in the DVD player, and ROFLMAO!!!

Tomorrow’s a new day.

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2012 in Other Strangeness

 

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