Keeping perspective – when orks fight

The young reader’s short novel I am working on right now is progressing nicely. I manage to get a a little writing in every day. This helps me keep my momentum up while letting ideas simmer and brew in the back of my mind for the next day’s typing. I rattled out the lines below as part of last night’s writing. They are still an early draft, but I am quite pleased with the pacing and growing tension.

“If I had a moment to think about it, I would have one last forlorn thought for my axe. Instead, I scoop up Grork’s sturdy steel shield as I dash past it. It was forged by the finest Steel Ork smiths of Krimlork. It isn’t pretty to look at, but is almost as tough as basilisk scale. It is also heavy, which is perfect for what I have to do next. I brace my shoulder firmly against it and duck my head low. Another step carries me into the creature’s side.

The impact rattles my tusks. It is like I have charged into the very mountain wall beyond the tent. After what feels like an eternity later, I hear the creature grunt from our collision, and we begin tumbling to the ground. Our trajectory takes us over my father’s cot. I briefly catch a look of complete surprise in his eyes as he glimpses both of us sailing over his bed space.

We land in a heap. I try to roll to my feet, but I get tripped up in my father’s things. The creature is much quicker than I am despite its enormous bulk. It springs upright and grabs a hold of my chest with a massive paw. It is also apparently much stronger than I. I struggle in vain as its vice-like grip begins to crush my throat and ribs. It rears its other mighty hand back, its fist clenched and ready to cave in my head. Despite the infamous thickness of our skulls, I suspect this beast will have no more difficulty squashing me into a pulp than it would a grape.”

I’ve always been one to see things from outside the box, so when I decided I’d write a fantasy-themed book, I approached things from a different direction. There are tons of stories out there that relate the epic accomplishments of the likes of dwarven, elvish, and human adventurers. I haven’t really found anything about the world as seen by orks. This is my attempt to populate that space, and generate a new set of adventures.

Writing a story is an endurance event

Persistence pays off, even for Orks.

There’s still a lot of work that has to get done, but as the illustrations roll in, and I close in on my draft’s last few chapters, I get a sense that persistence will pay off.

I plan to keep posting excerpts on a periodic basis. If you have any thoughts or comments, please let me know. I will incorporate any helpful feedback, making it a stronger, more legible offering.

Little boys in the rain can turn a short walk into an epic trek

It has been raining all day. Wide puddles cover vast swathes of the roadway. The mild but unrelenting rain creates countless miniature geysers casting a myriad of ripples across each shallow pool. Gushing rivulets stream down the steep hill that runs by my house, washing away the layer of sand that has accumulated on the road over the course of an icy winter.

It is nice to feel Spring’s gentle approach. It is still cold out, but much less so than even a few days ago. My wife and I need to take a hike down to the corner store to withdraw some funds from the ATM. We decide to walk down despite the rain. It will be good to stretch our legs and get a little exercise. Besides, it is less than five minutes away by foot.

We dress our child up in his rain jacket, hitherto confined to the closet for an excessively long winter. It is my son’s favorite article of clothing after his rubber boots. Together, they create a fearless little beast who craves nothing more than intense hydrologic experimentation.

We are usually spared much of these effects, as he usually gives up on walking a minute or so after having cleared the driveway.Today is different. This morning, he decided to follow along for a long walk, tromping along for orders of magnitude more time than is his habit before asking to be picked up. It was overcast but not raining at that time, so he assiduously followed along. His little legs were apparently fully recovered from his hike this evening for our walk, so he decided to hoof it with us.

The second walk is different. There is so much water to explore. It is everywhere. Better still, it’s falling from the sky, making the puddles dance and grow, and feeding the small rivers pouring down the hills. Magical!

And so, our five minute walk stretches out into ten, fifteen, twenty. The toddler stops at every puddle to inspect it, squat down, shuffle his feet, and splash. He turns around and runs back to a previously explored puddle to ensure that it is still as he left it. He sometimes even runs to spots that are covered in a mere sheen of water and vigorously attempts to create a splash. A true explorer and experimenter.

We all made it back soggy and a little cold, but in high spirits. The expedition to the corner was worthwhile.

The Genius Crucible

available at Amazon.com

The Genius Crucible (available at Amazon.com)

A year ago, I was exposed to my first real experience editing a novel. I lovingly and patiently wrangled words and wrestled phrases into a greater level of cohesion for my father on his first outing,  The Genius Crucible. I discovered that this was in fact an enjoyable experience. Although I have been dealing with mountains of paperwork in my day job, there is certainly something special and delightful about using words to bring imagination to life rather than simply fuel the fires of bureaucracy. Here is a short excerpt for your reading pleasure:

CHAPTER ONE: 2015 Karimui, Papua New Guinea (PNG)

Snakes; God I hate snakes. Even a garden hose can scare me. I hold a strong contradiction when it comes to snakes. I inherently fear them. I startle when my subconscious mistakes an unnoticed stick along a trail. A primitive part of my mind thinks it’s a snake, but I also feel they are beautiful critters. I can only marvel at how they locomote, all so alien and exotic. It’s as if my conscious mind can admire snakes, but my subconscious mind is scared the hell of them.

My consciousness seems to identify a gnarled stick on the trail as a piece of art, an image of interest and wonder. My subconscious, though, notices it first, not as a stick, but as a Papuan death adder ready to expunge my existence. Such thoughts are inevitable when one marches through the jungle in the dark.

When the moon escaped from the clouds, I can see massive cumulous clouds rapidly building from the Papuan Gulf as they advance toward the Highlands like an army of huge siege towers electrified by Tesla1 himself. I hope the damn moon will stay out since the trail is covered with kunai and kangaroo grass. Although not tall, the slender and sharp leaves made a nice knee-high tunnel along the trail, perfectly suited to hiding snakes; big and dangerous ones, like Papuan pythons and taipans.

Why can’t they just have garter snakes in PNG? Aren’t they scary enough on a rainy night, in the middle of nowhere, with a dying headlamp?

I had never hiked on a New Guinea trail at night alone. The batteries of my headlamp are failing again and thoughts of snakes are exploding in my mind. This isn’t merely some kind of joke my brain is playing on me; snakes in New Guinea are a real threat. I wish my subconscious mind wouldn’t continually remind me of the string of possibilities lying below my next step because I wish to think about the big event. I met Nara today.

Stubborn fool; the people of Dibe village insisted that I stay the night since all sort of demons are out on rainy nights. Wawi, my translator, afraid of demons, refused to do this hike with me tonight. Negabo village is a long way off, but luckily, there are no big rivers to cross. Damn mossy logs for bridges.

Right now, everything is scary. Hell, this morning Wawi found a small but deadly black scorpion in my boot. How did he know to look in my boot? I have a doctoral degree, yet I’m an ignorant blockhead when it comes to this environment. The jungle is so beautiful, so ominous and aloof, and for the naive, so dangerous. The rainforest is like its snakes, its miraculous birds and in fact, its people. The jungle is mysterious and foreboding.

As I trudge on with all my senses set to high gain, I think: What the hell am I going to do when all my spare batteries are used up and my headlamp dies?

About a mile earlier, before the clouds started building, I shuffled under a casuarina tree, awakening a roosting mob of large fruit bats which, in unison, abruptly lifted en masse, reminiscent of a hat being removed from the head of the tree. The sudden burst of powerful wing beats from this swarm of great bats startled me. It was as if the giant Grendel had jumped out of the jungle. It appeared that they felt safe roosting as a horde.

Safe from what? I wonder. Is there something else I should be worried about this night besides snakes and falling into a ravine? A cassowary maybe?

I make no claim to be knowledgeable about tropical rainforests, but I do know enough that it wouldn’t be good for me to blunder off the trail and into the jungle itself. To the uneducated, the jungle is like the gaping black abyss at the outer edge of a coral reef or a dark alley in Bagdad. One wants to return quickly to the safety of the known.

Even at noon, if I wandered in more than six or eight feet, the fractal geometry of the vines, the massive buttressed trees and profuse understory would give me no clue as to a heading, a bearing. I would rapidly become disoriented by its great abundance. It’s all diffused light in there, no obvious sun, as a piss ant in a thick hairbrush. Even if I could climb into one of those giant trees, I could never get to the top to see anything anyway.

In the Karimui there’s nothing except dense tropical rainforest and a few highly scattered villages. My only hope would be to chance upon a randomly running trail, and that could take many days. My tropical quest is rapidly losing its appeal, and my mind keeps bringing up scary scenarios. But then again, I met Nara today. I met Nara.

Hearing the menacing roar of an approaching tropical downpour, a traveling waterfall, my eyelids tightened. Oh man, here comes the rain! This evening’s drenching. Great! To top it all, I’ll next be attacked by Indians.

The Seven Steps to the Perfect Story

Any author worth her or his salt has probably laid eyes on Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth and is familiar with the concepts relating to the The Hero’s Journey, which one should incidentally avoid using as an excuse for writing a poor story, or risk the wrath of Autotelic.

The CMA (http://www.the-cma.com/images/openmagazine/201210/seven-steps.png) has distilled the work into a brilliant infographic and tossed a few more tidbits in to optimize helfulness:

The Seven Steps to the Perfect Story

I love it! I just wish my printer could cleanly pump this graphic out so I could pin it up on my wall.

Writing Tips: Make Maps (Interior)

Writing Tips: Make Maps (Interior).

Shannon Thompson provides some concise thoughts on the usefulness and process of drawing maps of the interiors of buildings she uses to bring her stories to life.

I agree that such organization is useful, particularly once a story gets to be well-populated with a variety of locations, or when those locations are revisited infrequently. Being able to keep the continuity of details helps sell the story and prevents doubt from creeping into the reader’s mind, thereby helping to suspend disbelief.

On toddler negativity – When “no” becomes versatile than “smurf”

My child has progressed to a new stage in his verbal development. Although he mastered complex, high-payoff words such as ‘chocolate’ almost half a lifetime ago, and recently managed to run out a string of new and amazing words including “ready” and “awesome”, simple words still appear to elude him. “Fox” is obstinately reduced to “Fok”, and “yes” has never evolved beyond “uh-huh.” Very teenagerly of him.

He did demonstrate some aptitude with “no” early on, although this was not his first word. In the past two days, though, his linguistic proficiency has degenerated to little more than a prolific application of “no” lavished to any imaginable purpose. Now that he seems to be coming down with one of the cyclical youth plagues that tirelessly incubate at daycare, he appears to have only one possible solution to any issue:

Me: “What’s wrong, kiddo? Why are you so grumpy? Are you hungry?”

Him: “No.”

Me: “Are you cold?”

Him: “No.”

Me: “Do your teeth hurt?”

Him: “No.”

Me: “Do your ears hurt?”

Him: “No.”

Me: “Can you touch what’s bothering you?”

Him: “No.”

Me: “All you want to say is ‘no’?”

Him: “No.”

Ugh. The next couple days will probably be long ones.

Moonfall

Is that the Moon falling?

Yesterday evening, I took my son for a stroll to the local park. It’s still covered in thick layer of snow and ice, but that doesn’t stop the little one from loving taking the short walk down the hill to vent some energy there. Thanks to the lengthening days, the moon shone brightly in the still-bright sky.

One of his favorite things to do is to push the stroller along. He still isn’t very tall, but  seems to pack some serious strength in his little arms and legs, so he can really get it rolling quickly. He stopped suddenly and looked over his shoulder towards the sky.
“Moon! Tombé (fall!)” He shouted out in a bilingual mix of fevered excitement and mild concern.

With this, he turned his attention back to the stroller and took off at a brisk clip.

Thus began a prolonged stretch of running, stopping, looking at the sky and shouting “Moon! Tombé”  Surprise tinged his voice each time. I imagine he pictured himself running away from the falling Moon as Indiana Jones did from his giant boulder.

Being the great father that I am, I did not disabuse him from this notion. I want to see where his active imagination will take him. Eventually, we made it to the park where he had a grand old time playing in the snow-encrusted slides and tossing (well, carrying them over to my feet) snowballs at his old man. Some time later, it started getting dark and it was time to go home. As we were packing up to leave the park, he looked up to the sky once more and pointed. “Moon, Papa!” He smiled,  laughed, and hopped into his stroller.

I guess he knew the sky wasn’t falling after all.