Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Happy All Hallows Eve!

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!


It’s that time of year when the veil between worlds is at its thinnest, and who better to help us celebrate than the father of horror himself, Edgar Allan Poe?

Believe it or not, when I was first introduced to Poe, it was as a poet. Imagine my surprise, and pleasure, when I discovered he wrote prose as well. The Raven is probably Poe’s best known poem, and what poem could be more appropriate to share on Halloween?


The Raven

by Edgar Allan Poe

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door-
Only this, and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;- vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow- sorrow for the lost Lenore-
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore-
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me- filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating,
"'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door-
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;-
This it is, and nothing more."

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you"- here I opened wide the door;-
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore?"
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!"-
Merely this, and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
"Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice:
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore-
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;-
'Tis the wind and nothing more!"

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door-
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door-
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore.
"Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore-
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning- little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door-
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as "Nevermore."

But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered- not a feather then he fluttered-
Till I scarcely more than muttered, "Other friends have flown before-
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before."
Then the bird said, "Nevermore."

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore-
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of 'Never- nevermore'."

But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore-
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking "Nevermore."

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then methought the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose footfalls tinkled on the tufted floor.
"Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee- by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite- respite and nepenthe, from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil! -
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted-
On this home by Horror haunted- tell me truly, I implore-
Is there- is there balm in Gilead?- tell me- tell me, I implore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us- by that God we both adore-
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore-
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore."
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Be that word our sign in parting, bird or fiend," I shrieked, upstarting-
"Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!- quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted- nevermore!


I really wanted to share a video of Vincent Price reading this poem, but I couldn’t find one with decent audio quality. I’m sure you’ll agree though, James Earl Jones makes a wonderful substitute.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen

No words in the last couple of weeks, so it follows there’s no wordage report.



I think you should know, this is not an isolated incident. This sort of thing happens to me every year about this time. The words seem to dry up in the month of October and I can only assume it’s my brain preparing itself for NaNoWriMo. You know, saving up the words for November.

It’s just so weird – September was such a good month writing-wise. I was establishing good writing habits, making progress on not one but two WIPs, getting some editing done, and then along comes October and . . . nothing.

And of course it doesn’t help that instead of beautiful autumn days where it’s crisp and cold, yet bright and sunny, we’ve had an unnaturally long series of grey, dismal, gloomy days. Sometimes with drizzle, sometimes with high winds. And if that’s not enough to depress a weather driven person (like me) I don’t know what is.

However . . . after a really bad end to last week I indulged in some shopping therapy on Saturday which seems to have revived my spirits somewhat. I have actually decided on my idea for NaNoWriMo this year. I sent a selection of five synopses for potential NaNo novels to a couple of writing buddies, but before I heard back from them I started getting ideas for one of them. And ironically, my friends both picked the same idea and it is not the one I’m going with. LOL

Seeing as NaNo starts at midnight on October 31, it’s pretty safe to say I’ll have words to report next Monday. Maybe even an excerpt to share on Friday. AND I already have a poem picked out for Wednesday from an author who’s better known for his prose than his poetry.

Wait a minute, what’s that? You’ve never heard of NaNoWriMo? You must be new to the blog. It stands for National Novel Writing Month. The best way to describe it is as writers from around the world joining together (figuratively, not literally) to write 50,000 words during the month of November.

It’s free to join and the prize is 50,000 (or more) words you wouldn’t have had otherwise. If you’d like more information and/or to sign up, click on this LINK. And if you do sign up, look me up on their site and add me as a buddy! You won't regret it, I promise. It's the most fun a writer can have.

Writers . . . start your lap tops!


Monday, October 15, 2018

The Double-edged Sword of Nostalgia

It's okay to look back at the past. Just don't stare.
~ Benjamin Dover



Editing:
2 hours 43 minutes

Words from sprints:
Magic II – 0
Wandering Wizards – 1,189

Untimed words:
Wandering Wizards – 411

Total New words:
Magic II – 0
Wandering Wizards – 1,600

Once again my week started out strong writing-wise, and petered out by Friday. I was hoping to catch up a bit on the weekend, but . . .

Saturday I poured myself a cup of coffee and settled in for a long haul of editing and writing to make up for slacking off towards the end of the week. In the course of procrastinating before I actually got started, I decided to check out the files on a couple of USB sticks that were sitting on my desk. I may have been looking for something specific, like an idea for this year’s NaNo, but more likely I was just procrastinating.

At any rate, I stumbled across a few files that were encrypted – e-journals I kept in the early 90s. The problem is, they were written in WordPerfect (one of the early versions at that) and password protected. I haven’t used WordPerfect in…well, probably not since those files were created.

Apparently two of the files weren’t encrypted because at some point I was able to convert them to MS Word. And there went the rest of my Saturday – rereading those two files. One was from 1991/92 and the other was 1994.

It was pretty trippy, walking down memory lane. And interesting to see what’s changed and what hasn’t. Surprising in places too. While I’d like to say I was hit with a wave of nostalgia for the “good ole days” I really wasn’t. As Henry Wadsword Longfellow once said, “Let the dead Past bury its dead!”

So, I’ll leave the mystery of those encrypted files for another day – that nebulous day in the future when I have lots of time to spare for things like that. Instead I’ll turn my focus to the job ahead, mainly getting as much progress made on Wandering Wizards as possible.

And just to add a little extra spice to my writing life, I’ve signed up for the Speculative Fiction course again – all new workshops.

Last time I posted my in-class work on Fridays, but I think I’ll wait and see the results before I suspend my current 30 Weeks series. Like I said, these are all new workshops and a couple of them are going to be . . . challenging, to say the least.

So no more time for nostalgia, time to look forward.

Friday, October 12, 2018

30 Days Weeks of Writing Questions –Week 4

Several years ago I participated in something called 30 days of Writing Questions – a question a day for 30 days. Since I don’t have anything better to do on Fridays I thought I’d resurrect it, only I’m going to do one question a week. What the heck, if nothing else it’ll be fun, right? And just to make it even more exciting…I was able to locate my original answers, so I’m including them as well. It should be interesting to see if, or how much, my answers have changed.



Question Four:

Tell us about one of your first stories/characters!

Old answer:

One of the first characters I ever created was named Ghia F’ton Banestayju. What a mouthful, eh? She was raised on Earth by a wizardly type old man, who dies before he can tell her who she really is and where she comes from.

The plot is almost embarrassing to admit, but just remember, I was very young! :-p

Okay. Ghia was sent to Earth with her guardian to keep her safe from assassins. Her family was some kind of royalty (I was a little vague on that). After her guardian dies, she feels compelled to visit the Stonehenge where, on the night of a full moon, she hears a strange and wonderful music and dances amongst the stones. This activates a portal that transports her to her home world – Saturn.

See, I told you it was embarrassing.

So here the poor girl is, stuck on an unfamiliar world, not knowing who she really is, and with bad guys after her to kidnap/kill her. That’s about all I remember, other than the fact there was a lot of really weird landscapes she travelled through, like the Crystal Forest, which was a forest literally made out of crystal.

I think a few pages, typed on an antique typewriter on very thin paper, might still exist, but it won’t break my heart if the mice get them. :-)

New Answer

Well obviously not much has changed since the last answer but as I read it over I couldn’t help but notice the resemblance to my Moonstone Chronicles. It, too, features a main character who was sent to Earth to be raised in safety and then returned to her home world as an adult. Although in this case the world she returns to is a magical one, filled with magickal creatures. But it just goes to show, old ideas never die, they just get recycled.

I’m sure there was a story or two that pre-dated my Saturn one, but if so I’ve mercifully forgotten about them and there is no paper record of them.


In case you missed them, here are the previous weeks questions: one, two, three.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Autumn Garden

I wrote these two poems a couple of years ago – more just streams of consciousness, as most of my free verse poems are.



Autumn Garden

wind whispers through the dying leaves
the sound masked
by the waves racing each other to the shore
the water beyond is banded
with what I believe are sandbars
too cold to test my theory
I do not yet see
the autumn colours
though everything is muted
sucked dry like the aging season
a handful of blossoms
rallying against the vampiric effect
the ship on the horizon
appears to be moving backwards
would that I could do so too
a butterfly has lost its way
I can relate to that


Autumn Garden II
(from the bench on the boardwalk)

a man in a wet suit
searching for gold

women walking in pairs
the minutiae of their lives
trailing behind them like perfume

a woman with her dog
down on the sand
she unclips his leash
there’s so much joy in his freedom
I must look away

wide empty sand
smoothed out by the wind

the clouds on the horizon
follow me home

I quicken my steps

Monday, October 8, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving!



That’s right, it’s turkey time if you’re Canadian. And if you’re like me and do the big dinner on the Sunday rather than the Monday, then right now you’re in a turkey coma. My turkey was 23 pounds…for five people. Good thing we like turkey, we’ll be eating it for the rest of the month. LOL

I wish I could blame Thanksgiving for the lack of words last week, but alas such was not the case. Monday I wrote a total of 901 new words on Magic II, and that was pretty much it for the week. After that I started to focus on editing Wandering Wizards (8:46 hours). November is just a few weeks away and I really want to have WW as close to being finished as possible before hand.

The progress bar for it took a leap, but don’t get too excited. These were mostly words culled from the original draft and distilled into the new one. But I’ve only got about 24,000 words left of the old draft and as soon as I’ve used up those words it’ll be all new words.

As it stands, I have a couple of scenes I need to write to be inserted into the existing story. I did start writing one of them last week but it started getting too wordy – it was a flashback and while it was information I, personally, needed to know, it wasn’t something that moved the story forward so I’m having to rewrite it.

The other scene is more action oriented, but both scenes were being stubborn about being written. I’m going to have to sit down and work them out with pen and paper. At one time, everything I wrote started out with pen and paper and sometimes it’s necessary to get back to basics. The speed of the Neo is great, but pen and paper slow the process down and let you really think about what you’re trying to say.

So this week there should be some new words as well as lots of editing. You know, unless I explode from eating all that turkey. ;-)

Gobble, gobble!

Friday, October 5, 2018

30 Days Weeks of Writing Questions –Week 3

Several years ago I participated in something called 30 days of Writing Questions – a question a day for 30 days. Since I don’t have anything better to do on Fridays I thought I’d resurrect it, only I’m going to do once question a week. What the heck, if nothing else it’ll be fun, right? And just to make it even more exciting…I was able to locate my original answers, so I’m including them as well. It should be interesting to see if, or how much, my answers have changed.



Question Three:

How do you come up with names for characters (and for places if you’re writing about fictional places)?

Old answer:

The names for my main characters usually come pretty easily – I can’t start writing about them if I don’t know their names. In Driving Into Forever, I knew from the beginning that my main characters were named Hannah and Kelvin. With the story I’m editing right now, Forever and For Always, the name Treasure Beaumont just popped into my head one day and I started writing. I didn’t know anything about her, except for her name.

Secondary characters, however, can be a whole different story. While Hannah’s best friend was named Sara and hung onto her name from the beginning, the character of Nathaniel underwent many name changes until he decided to hook up with Sara in the sequel. She must have a steadying influence on him. ;-)

Kelvin’s brother and his Aunt also went through several name changes. I try not to have my characters have similar sounding names and if I’m stuck I’ll pick a letter of the alphabet and consult a baby-naming site on the internet. This helps, too, if I’m looking for a name with a particular ethnic feel to it.

As far as naming places goes . . . this is much harder for me. I write about imaginary places mostly – different dimensions, different planets – and these are much harder to name. Again, I try not to have places sound all the same, but it’s not always easy. In my on-line serial I name one planet Sigma Alpha IV, which I think I stole from Star Trek. :-)

New answer:

Not much has changed really as far as the answer to this question goes. Most character names come fairly easily to me. I’ve gotten better at naming the secondary characters – I’m able to find the right name for them and stick to it.

I have several “name the baby” sites bookmarked and when I’m looking for a name I often consult them. This is especially helpful if I’m looking for a specific kind of name because you can do searches by ethnicity.

Places are still kind of iffy though. In my Elemental series, two of the stories take place on the same world, which I don’t think I gave a name to. And the fourth book also takes place on an unnamed world, although I had a lot of fun naming the five major mining operations.

The magical world Jessica finds herself on in the Moonstone Chronicles is also unnamed. However, I have maps to keep track of where she’s been and where she’s going, and I’ve been naming places and rivers as I go along. Some of them are pretty lame names, but they’re names nonetheless.

Come to think of it, my Seven Realms series (which is still mostly in the planning stages) is also taking place on an unnamed world. And the realms themselves have names like: Desert Realm; Ocean Realm; Forest Realm . . .

Hmm. Looks like unless someone is actively looking for a specific world, none of my worlds have names. Maybe I should look up one of those name generator thingies online and get working on that. :-D

In case you missed them, here are the previous weeks questions: one, two.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight

This poem has a lot of sentimental value for me – it was one of my mother’s favourites. She died when I was thirteen and I remember a few years later, when I was in high school, trying to find a copy of it for an English assignment. This was before the days of the internet and Google. ;-)

At any rate, I wasn’t even sure of the title and had no idea who wrote it, but I went to the local bookstore (our town was small enough that it had only one) and the lady there not only knew the poem, she found me a book that included it – the joys of living in a small town.

It became one of my favourites too – I loved the romance of the story it told. The author, Rose Hartwick Thorpe, was only 17 when she wrote this poem, and although she went on to write other poems and stories, it still stands as her most memorable.



Curfew must Not Ring To-night
Rose Hartwick Thorpe (1850–1939)

SLOWLY England’s sun was setting o’er the hilltops far away,
Filling all the land with beauty at the close of one sad day,
And the last rays kissed the forehead of a man and maiden fair,
He with footsteps slow and weary, she with sunny floating hair;
He with bowed head, sad and thoughtful, she with lips all cold and white,
Struggling to keep back the murmur,—“Curfew must not ring to-night.”

“Sexton,” Bessie’s white lips faltered, pointing to the prison old,
With its turrets tall and gloomy, with its walls dark, damp, and cold,
“I’ve a lover in that prison, doomed this very night to die,
At the ringing of the Curfew, and no earthly help is nigh;
Cromwell will not come till sunset,” and her lips grew strangely white
As she breathed the husky whisper, “Curfew must not ring to-night.”

“Bessie,” calmly spoke the sexton,—every word pierced her young heart
Like the piercing of an arrow, like a deadly poisoned dart,—
“Long, long years I’ve rung the Curfew from that gloomy, shadowed tower;
Every evening, just at sunset, it has told the twilight hour;
I have done my duty ever, tried to do it just and right,
Now I’m old I will not falter. Curfew, it must ring to-night.”

Wild her eyes and pale her features, stern and white her thoughtful brow,
As within her secret bosom Bessie made a solemn vow.
She had listened while the judges read without a tear or sigh:
“At the ringing of the Curfew, Basil Underwood must die.”
And her breath came fast and faster, and her eyes grew large and bright;
In an undertone she murmured, “Curfew must not ring to-night.”

With quick step she bounded forward, sprung within the old church door,
Left the old man threading slowly paths so oft he’d trod before;
Not one moment paused the maiden, but with eye and cheek aglow
Mounted up the gloomy tower, where the bell swung to and fro
As she climbed the dusty ladder on which fell no ray of light—
Up and up, her white lips saying, “Curfew must not ring to-night.”

She has reached the topmost ladder; o’er her hangs the great dark bell;
Awful is the gloom beneath her, like the pathway down to hell.
Lo, the ponderous tongue is swinging, ‘tis the hour of curfew now,
And the sight has chilled her bosom, stopped her breath, and paled her brow.
Shall she let it ring? No, never! flash her eyes with sudden light,
As she springs, and grasps it firmly—“Curfew shall not ring to-night!”

Out she swung—far out—the city seemed a speck of light below,
There ’twixt heaven and earth suspended as the bell swung to and fro,
And the sexton at the bell-rope, old and deaf, heard not the bell,
Sadly thought that twilight curfew rang young Basil’s funeral knell.
Still the maiden clung more firmly, and with trembling lips so white,
Said to hush her heart’s wild throbbing: “Curfew shall not ring to-night!”

It was o’er, the bell ceased swaying, and the maiden stepped once more
Firmly on the dark old ladder where for hundred years before
Human foot had not been planted. The brave deed that she had done
Should be told long ages after, as the rays of setting sun
Crimson all the sky with beauty; ag├Ęd sires, with heads of white,
Tell the eager, listening children, “Curfew did not ring that night.”

O’er the distant hills came Cromwell; Bessie sees him, and her brow,
Lately white with fear and anguish, has no anxious traces now.
At his feet she tells her story, shows her hands all bruised and torn;
And her face so sweet and pleading, yet with sorrow pale and worn,
Touched his heart with sudden pity, lit his eyes with misty light:
“Go! your lover lives,” said Cromwell, “Curfew shall not ring to-night.”

Wide they flung the massive portal; led the prisoner forth to die,—
All his bright young life before him. ’Neath the darkening English sky
Bessie comes with flying footsteps, eyes aglow with love-light sweet;
Kneeling on the turf beside him, lays his pardon at his feet.
In his brave, strong arms he clasped her, kissed the face upturned and white,
Whispered, “Darling, you have saved me, curfew will not ring to-night!”

Monday, October 1, 2018

Uphill and Down

Some days I feel like Sisyphus, some days I feel like the rock.



Editing:
0 hours 0 minutes

Words from sprints:
Magic II – 1,289
Wandering Wizards – 979

Untimed words:
Magic II – 425

Total New words:
Magic II – 1,712
Wandering Wizards – 979

I’m starting to notice a pattern. My weeks always start out good, but after Wednesday all bets are off. Last week I got zero editing in and while it doesn’t really make a difference for Magic II it certainly mucks up the progress for Wandering Wizards.

During one of my word sprints I started writing a scene in WW where one of the characters was having a flashback, and when I continued the scene later on I felt like a lot of this scene was just padding – how important was it to the story? That’s the point where I should have buckled down to some hard core editing.

Instead I switched my attention to Magic II, which is why I have twice the words written for it as I do WW. Because M-II is still in the first draft stage, there’s not a lot of editing to be done – I’m saving it for when the draft is completed. Tempting as it is to edit as I go along, I think it would be a wasted effort because I’m not following an outline, I just know where the story is going and let the characters take me there.

For instance…the male main character was having a drink at the club with his friend after a game of racquetball and suddenly remembered he was supposed to meet his mother for lunch. I didn’t even know he had a mother! And I knew he was rich, but she apparently owns the hotel they were having lunch at.

I missed my poetry post last week – I just didn’t have the energy. Thursday I got one sprint in, and that was it for the week. I don’t usually expect to get much done on Fridays – it’s a busy day for me – but Saturday is my big editing day. This Saturday, however, I was on the road to Huntsville to a wedding and we didn’t get back until 8 or 9, and who feels like editing at that time of night?

Yesterday got off to a slow start, as most Sundays do. The daughter and her family come to dinner on Sundays, so my afternoons are usually spent getting ready for that. This leaves the morning for writing related “stuff.”

I spent some time in my office straightening up – now that the cooler weather is here there’s no reason I can’t be spending more time in there – and then I did something I rarely do. I got my Monday blog posts written and scheduled.

That’s right, it’s Sunday morning as I’m typing this. Normally I’m typing the post for my other blog late Sunday night or, more often than not, as soon as I get up on Monday. And lately this post has been done later in the morning. And there goes my writing time on Monday mornings.

But now I have no excuse for a lack of numbers today. Time to push that rock.