Tag Archives: research

Still Devious

Percy the Space Chimp got fed up with all the company and went to the kitchen. Presumably for coffee, but something told me he was going for a walk in the National Forest.

I texted Lisa. “See if you can get rid of, or distract, Conversia and Libraria. Wiki isn’t as old as they are and might not be as devious.”

No idea why it worked, but a tour of Lisa’s closet seemed to do the trick. I’m sure she could make a girlie museum out of that place someday.

I looked across at Wiki. “Got time for a couple of questions?”

She looked up from her iPad.

“I haven’t seen Lorelei around lately, but I keep getting ideas. Do you know what’s happened to her.”

“All the Muses got really busy with the lockdown. People were cooking, painting, all kinds of artsy things. Lorelei started working the night shift just to keep up. She’s been around. Have you woken up with fresh inspiration?”

“Several times.”

“See.” Wiki wrinkled her nose in smile.

“That’s another thing. I love your little smile. How do I describe it if I want one of my characters to do something similar?”

Wiki clicked away on her small iPad. “These days it’s often called a bunny smile. There’s a warning that it leads to bunny lines on the nose as someone ages. Maybe I should stop doing it.”

“Please don’t. It’s adorable. I don’t know where I’ll include it, but probably in the hat series. Don’t know if Joyeux DuPont fits into the next book, or not. Maybe the one with moths if I can figure something out for it.”

“What seems to be the problem?”

“So many problems. I don’t see how a moth would be all that dangerous. I just had a cool victim scene I wanted to use. There seems to be a complete lack of legends or deities that have anything to do with moths.”

Wiki slid over, then patted her beanbag. “Check this out. Calyptra moths have been known to exhibit vampirism. That’s real-world, and ought to be creepy enough for you.”

I sunk in beside her. “Wow! There’s even a North American species. Lizzie’s staked a lot of vampires, so I’m not sure just yet. Why can’t there be a demon or something from Aztec legend.”

She passed me her iPad again. “Check out this story. There’s a legend of The Killing Stone in Japan. It was said to contain an evil spirit known as the Nine Tailed Fox. Just recently, this rock split in half. What if the demon escaped?”

“How’s that help me? I can’t just send Lizzie to Japan.”

“I’m not a Muse, so you’ll have to figure some of it out. Why couldn’t it be a Native American shaman who trapped a demon in a stone. When it breaks, your demon could escape.”

“Huh! The hat lived through a lot of history, so he could explain some of it. I’m just stuck trying to work out all these problems. Moth monsters, the Kentucky Derby, gremlins, a talent competition. Some are going better than others. Lorelei has to have been invading my sleep.”

“Hmm, you’ll have to step your gremlins up for modern times. Lizzie lives in pseudo-St. Louis, right?”

“Yeah, but I never call it out, so I can make up my own streets and parks.”

“Good plan, but you know what is there? The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. They’re one of the major players in the spy game.”

“What do they do?”

“It’s like a warehouse of computer data involving satellite photos, maps, weather, all kinds of things. Gremlins can’t just chew on airplane cables these days and hold someone’s attention. Put them into those servers, and you might really have something.”

“That’s pretty good, and gives me something to think about.”

“There’s more. Look at this video. A guy is playing two saxophones at once. That ought to score some points with your talent judges.”

“Dang. It would, too. I can probably use that, but that story is years down the line.”

“Never too soon for research. I can get Conversia to take you to Japan and the Kentucky Derby. She likes people to get first-hand knowledge for their stories. Maybe interview a few old-timers. I’ll bet Libraria could help you learn Japanese so you could talk with them.”

“That’s the part I can’t do. I’d love to go gallivanting around for research, but I still have to hold down a job. It’s traditional research, or nothing.”

“Check out this Bugs Bunny cartoon. It has gremlins in it.”

I watched the video, and caught myself laughing even after all these years. “That’s awesome. Got any more?”

“Sure. How about some old Kentucky Derby footage?” She clicked away at her device. “Do you know the difference between a Muse and a Siren?”

“Don’t tell me there’s a video for that, too.”

“A Muse shows up to inspire you. A Siren’s job is to crash your career on the rocks of research. Did you get any writing done today?”

“Well, no…”

Wiki pointed at herself. “Siren.”

And there was the cute bunny smile.

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Filed under The Idea Mill, Writing

Something new to share

The word metrics aren’t that impressive today. It came across at a little over 1900 words. Let’s face it, those 5000 word days don’t happen very often.

I’m mostly posting to share some new artwork. I’ve threatened to have Sean Harrington prepare some artwork for the Research Sirens for a long time. They seem to show up at the writing cabin frequently, so I’m going to use the group poster today. He actually sent each one individually as well if I ever want to use them.

***

I got to the writing cabin early this morning. Temperatures have gotten into the seventies recently, but at 5:30 it’s still pretty cold. Percy the Space Chimp was asleep on the couch, so I had coffee in the kitchen with Lisa Burton my PA and robot girl.

“People loved the poster of my tagger girl over at John Howell’s place this week,” she said.

“See, I thought it was a poster of Hellpox.”

“Let’s face it. I’m the spokesmodel, and it’s always about me to a degree. Besides, readers love my shining personality.”

“That’s true, you always seem to make more sales than I do on these tours.”

“Good to know with my performance review looming.”

Percy wobbled in still wearing his flight suit. “Are we finally going to work on something today?” He poured himself a steaming cup.

“Yeah, but these are hard sections for me. I have to deal with the fall out from your relationship with Buffer, then set up some character growth for you.”

“That’s all crap. Plop me in a star fighter and let’s blow some shit up. Readers like that.”

“They do, but they also like to see you change over the course of the story. You’re defensive about people’s prejudices toward Space Chimps, but you have your own prejudices as well.”

“That’s what makes me charming. Isn’t it enough that you ratted me and Buffer out? Can’t you leave me something of myself?”

“The goal is to have you become a better person amid all the spying and warfare around you. I’m also about to reveal a cool plot twist involving your favorite comic, Agent Golden Gibbon. I just need to decide how the real world part of that is going to come across, then save some for the second book. The guy’s going to need a name, and a description and I have to look some of that up.” We all headed for the writing office.

I froze at the sight. My office had been invaded by the Research Sirens.

Research Sirens

“You really shouldn’t make a move without digging into your new character a bit.” Libraria dropped her book bag on my desk then parked herself in my lounge chair.

“Ugh! Not these chicks again,” Percy moaned.

Wiki patted the side of her beanbag, wrinkling her nose at him in a kind of smile.

“I don’t think Buffer would approve.” He sat beside her anyway.

Conversia guided me to the couch, then sat uncomfortably close. “What kind of character do you have in mind?”

“I’m thinking he’ll use a pen name for his comic, because he’s kind of a spy. I want that to reflect in the name he uses.”

Wiki typed away at her iPad mini. “Thesaurus indicates something like Supermole would work.”

“I can use that as a place-marker, gives him a bit of personality already. Change it later if something better comes along. Supermole writes this comic, but it gives clues as to terrorist events that haven’t happened yet. Leo figures it all out, which gives him a nice spot to shine.”

“What kind of alien will he be?” Lisa asked

“I thought it might be fun to have him be an actual gibbon. I’ve already sold the idea that Space Chimps exist, so why not?”

The sound of nylon on nylon held everyone’s attention as Libraria crossed her long legs. She dropped a huge book on the table before me. “There is some argument, but there appear to be about twenty species of gibbon alive today. Once you read this, you’ll have a better idea of what you need. Once you finish it, I have another one about the fossil record.”

Conversia leaned in until her Afro tickled my ear. “I still hold there’s great value in oral stories. They give a wonderful flavor to the history of gibbons. We can fly to the South Pacific so you can see wild gibbons, then interview the elders who live there for some of their stories.”

Wiki wrinkled her nose then turned her screen to show me a video. “Gibbons are the fastest arboreal animals in the world. Even faster than some birds as they swing tree to tree.”

“I have to use some of that. It would be kind of an adventure to add a chase scene that doesn’t involve cars. Maybe Percy here could swing after him.”

“Are you crazy, dude? I can’t keep up with that.”

“Keep it in mind. Maybe you can drive him to the Cicis for capture later on. First I need to decide how much of a role to give him.”

“I think he would be one of the good guys. Leo and I love Agent Golden Gibbon, and it would be fun to meet the creator.”

“All good ideas.” Conversia wrapped her toned arm around my shoulder. Her perfect manicure tapping over my heart. “I figure no more than six months in the jungle and you’ll have all the gibbon knowledge you need. I can use my recorder for the stories, then you can have Lisa make transcripts once we return home.”

“Look, girls. I appreciate the zest, but I only write fiction. I have to live in the real world, and they’re going to miss me at work if I leave for six months. I have to make some of this up as I go. Besides, Old What’s Her Face wouldn’t like me spending six months in a grass hut with three Sirens and a robot girl.”

“We’re harmless, mostly.” Conversia pressed her bosom into my side.

“You should still ground the story in reality,” Libraria cautioned.

“Okay, how do you feel about a trip to the Boise Zoo. Best I can do. They even have ice cream.”

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Filed under Muse, Writing

How to not get anything accomplished

I wound up at the writing cabin not really knowing what I was going to do. Lisa was ready in her spacesuit, and Percy the Space Chimp seemed excited.

I opened the project, which still needs a name. A transition scene forced me to take things a little slower. We managed around 200 words.

Lisa pinched the bridge of her nose. “You’re about to have company.”

“How do you know?” Percy asked.

She pointed at herself. “Robot girl. I’m patched into the doorbell camera.” Lisa headed for the door before they could ring.

I hoped beyond reason that Lisa could get rid of them. Maybe buy me a box of Girl Scout Cookies. Didn’t work out that way.

Consultia and Libraria barged into the room. They were followed by Wiki, who peeked around her sisters and wriggled her fingers.

“Oh, no! I have a project in the works. I don’t need the Research Sirens right now.”

Consultia, a stunning black girl in a scoop-necked dress, said, “I disagree. You have two hat stories in the can, and you’re working on a space opera that could take a couple of years.”

Blonde bombshell Libraria peered over her glasses. “You need something else brewing. Your fans are going to want something unique before the space opera is ready.”

Wiki pulled out her iPad Mini, touched an app, then a huge beanbag chair in the shape of a panda head appeared. As she flopped in the seat, her red A-line bob danced seductively. “I’m ready. What are we researching?”

“That’s a cool app,” Percy said.

Wiki wrinkled her nose, then patted the chair beside her for him to sit down.

Consultia put an arm around me. Hair from her huge ’do tickled my ear. “We should talk about Detroit.” She steered me toward the couch.

“It’s just a loose idea. All the abandoned homes and businesses might be the site for an adventure.”

Libraria leaned back on the couch, then crossed her legs over my lap, leaving one stiletto heel dangling. “Characters?”

“Well, I thought I might use junior high aged kids. A boy, and a mixed race girl to explore all the buildings.”

Wiki wrinkled her nose. “It could be like Indiana Jones, and the abandoned parts are their temples.”

“I like that. I’ll need a McGuffin of some kind.”

Libraria pulled a gigantic book from thin air. “The complete history of Detroit. After you finish it, I can find you some others.”

Wiki held up her iPad. “How about this court case. This couple stole all kinds of things from the National Archives. Your kids might go looking for stuff that was never recovered.”

Percy leaned over her shoulder for a look. “That was fast.”

“Sirens are magical beings.” Wiki handed him one of her friendship bracelets.

Conversia ran a manicured nail down my chest. “We should go to Detroit to see this with our own eyes. You’ll need foils of some kind, and we can visit street gangs, druggies, and politicians. I can lead a dialog amongst you so you can get all the data you need.”

“We could explore the Detroit music scene while we’re there,” I suggested.

Libraria glared over her frames. “Wrong story.”

“Okay, but how will this be one of my stories? I don’t see science fiction, fantasy, or paranormal fitting in here.”

Consultia said, “Something will come to you. We can stay in Detroit for a few months if we need. Maybe I can get you an appointment with the Nain Rouge.”

“Who?”

Percy shot to his feet. “Wait, wait, wait! What about my story? You can’t just abandon me.”

Lisa brought in coffee and mugs for everyone. “That’s their trap. They crash an author’s career on the rocks. Craig knows this.”

Wiki frumped. “Sounds kind of mean when you say it like that.”

Lisa put a hand on her hip. “We aren’t going to Detroit, and he’s not reading that huge book. In fact, we’re going back to the space opera and letting all this stew for a few months. There’s probably a story here, but he can’t go away forever to research mindless things you might throw in his path.”

Conversia let my head bounce across her bosom, landing in her lap. “Killjoy.”

“I like you girls. I really do, but he has to stay on task. He’ll think about it. I promise.”

Libraria swiveled her legs back to the floor. “I’m sure there’s a nice champagne brunch somewhere near a quality shoe store. Are you coming?”

Lisa looked at me as she fidgeted.

“Go ahead. I’ll hang out with Percy and we’ll see what we come up with.”

Squeee!” Lisa dashed from the room to change her clothes.

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Filed under Muse

Long Weekend

Like most of you, I had a long weekend. Old What’s Her Face had to work, so I wound up left to my own devices.

At one time, I talked about making sauerkraut again. She bought me some from the store. It isn’t the same concept, because I wanted to make it. It still made for a tasty supper with a Polska kielbasa. Might have to break down and make some anyway.

I worked on edits, and sent something to my crit group. They were all off this weekend, too. I never expected a rapid turn around, and I hope everyone had a good time. Since publication target is late winter, there is plenty of time.

That left me with my side project. I’ve gone over the first few chapters more than any others I’ve ever written. Right now, I’m pretty happy with them. I’m introducing main characters in two different locations, but they finally managed to come together before the weekend came to a close. We entered space, traveled across part of the galaxy, and committed an unintended murder. Now one of the characters has to run, and it’s reason enough for everyone to wind up on the same ship.

I’m going with five main characters since this is likely going to be a trilogy. Five, or thirty, main characters, depending on how you count the clones. It’s complicated. (You guys know how my imagination comes into play.)

As I get acquainted with the characters, some personalities are starting to develop. There have been a few crass remarks flung around. This might sound strange, but I always have an idea of who they are, but as they interact on the page it develops more than I roughed out.

I managed a pretty good bit of emasculating dialog. I kind of like how it came out. Former lovers are something I’ve never written before.

All told, I probably added about 7000 new words to it. Can’t keep calling it “It,” but I don’t have a title yet.

The Muse is torturing me with this future story for Lizzie and the hat. I like to plan ahead, but this one is about five down the line. Seems a bit excessive, but I can’t seem to stop her once she starts inspiring. It involves a twist on some Asian mythos. Things like the afterlife, spirits, and reincarnation. I already have a list of magical artifacts and creatures going. I dedicated some time to research because it’s so interesting. I already have a few humorous things in mind, so that’s positive.

Outside of that, I have Asian pears running out my ears. I’ve been eating them all weekend. They keep pretty well, so I may have to claim part of the vegetable crisper. For now, I’m leaving them on the tree. Works for now, but isn’t a long term solution.

That’s about it. It’s time for supper, and some more Asian pears. Hope all of you enjoyed your weekend, too.

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Filed under Writing

Just a clicking away

I got to the writing cabin at a decent time this morning, then made my way to the paranormal office. I rolled the top of Patty Hall’s old-fashioned desk back, then opened my document.

Lisa Burton, my robotic personal assistant walked in.

Lisa Burton

“Ta-dah! Ready for work, Captain.”

“Yeah, um… We finished that one, remember.”

“You’re here to do edits, though, right?”

“I’m going to wait until August. Let it clear my mind a bit.”

“The raven of Doubt will be so disappointed. He’s been super excited to help you.”

“He can wait, too. I’ve been working on something for Lizzie and the hat. It’s fun, and keeps me busy.”

“Does he become a pirate hat?”

“No.”

“Great, then I have the wrong outfit. What should I be wearing?”

“Nothing special. I need some help with research, and you’re faster than I am.”

She took a seat on the couch. “Okay. What do you need?”

“Well, we’re back to witchcraft in this tale. Every one of the witches has a different base for their magic. I need you to find some things I can use.”

“Like elements and stuff?”

“Yeah, but not completely. There’s plant magic, death magic, weather magic. Maybe one can have art magic.”

“What about Lichtenberg marks?”

“What the hell are those?”

“People get these elaborate scars when they’ve been hit by lightning. They also show up in lawns, and even wood. Turn on your iPad and I’ll bring them up.”

“Those are cool. They almost have to be magical. I can work with that.”

A knock came at the front door. “Probably your Amazon guy. Get rid of him, and let’s go to work.” I flipped through the images while Lisa got the door.

When she returned, she had guests. Consultia, Libraria, and Wiki, the Research Sirens.

“Okay, I know you ladies are good, but I have words to write.”

“Nonsense words, if you don’t have some facts ready,” Consultia barged into the room. Her giant Afro bounced as she clacked across the floor, then sat on the couch, crossing her long legs.

Libraria followed in her sexy librarian garb, stacked her books on my coffee table, then took a seat on my desktop.

Red headed Wiki wiggled her fingers in hello, as she sat in the wing backed chair.

“If you want to know about Lichtenberg scars, let me set you up with some interviews. It would be best if you could see them in person, and consult with a doctor,” Conversia said.

“I can book us tickets to Congo,” Wiki said. “Lightning strikes there more than anyplace on Earth.”

“I can’t go to Congo. Besides, that’s dangerous.”

“How will you really know unless you experience some of these things?” Libraria asked. “The smell of ozone, the explosive feel.”

“All I need are the scars. I don’t intend to write a lightning storm.”

“We might find a fulgurite,” Wiki said.

“What’s that?”

“It’s a stone configuration left behind after a lightning strike.” Libraria opened one of her books. “See.”

“Those are cool. I can use those in the story.”

Wiki looked at her iPad Mini. “If you’re willing to fly on standby, I can get some good rates.” She turned it around and held it by the Pop Cap on the back as if I could see that far.

“All five of us?”

“You and Lisa,” Conversia said. “We have other methods and can meet you there.”

“I know your tricks. Lure unsuspecting authors onto the rocks of research so they don’t get anything accomplished. I write fiction. It has to be plausible in the story world, not factual. You’d have me so far down the rabbit hole I’d never come out.”

Libraria looked over her glasses, and my heart stopped. She leaned over and kissed my forehead leaving me with a face-full of cleavage. “But it’s such a sweet rabbit hole.”

“Uh-huh. Whatever you—”

Lisa snapped her fingers in my face. “Come out of it. You know their tricks, but they can be helpful. Just focus on what you need.”

“What I need is something written by a guy named Cotton Mather. He’s like the patron saint of a group—”

Libraria returned to her books and selected a gigantic tome. “I brought his entire collected works. You should read all of it, so you have a better understanding, and can choose the best part.”

“How did you know I’d want— Nevermind.” I flipped through the pages. “Oh, Hell no. I need to base something off his words. My readers would shoot me if I wrote like this.”

Conversia leaned forward in her scoop-necked dress. Tiny bits of glitter flashed in the light against her ebony skin. “It was a long time ago, and people were pretty flowery back then. I know three historians who can give you a real feel for his time and role back then. Maybe even a trip to Williamsburg.”

I closed my eyes and calmed myself. “I’m writing about Lizzie and the hat again. I only need references to a few things, and a snippet or two. It’s their story, not his. They are outside observers to this world, so they don’t need to know how everything works.”

Wiki turned her iPad around once more. “He had silly hair.” She wrinkled her nose in an adorable silent laugh.

“You can stay, and you can help, but I’m giving Lisa total control. If it goes too far, she pulls the plug. I don’t have months to fly all over the world for something that might be two lines in my fiction. Even though you are fun company. Agreed?”

Libraria slid into my lap and leaned her head on my shoulder. “Agreed. Shall we get to work?”

***

Needless to say, today wasn’t one of those word-count giants. I did learn some fun things that will show up in Good Liniment.

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Filed under Muse, Writing

A bit of writing work today

Today wasn’t intended for new words. I had some writing messes to clean up, so that was my big goal.

First, I’ve had critique samples for Lunar Boogie for a week. While there weren’t any huge changes to make, there were a lot of small things. I find it too hard to focus on weeknights, so today I took up the challenge.

I also needed to get another submission ready for my group. I bounce back and forth, so this time they get to see Lanternfish. I worked on the next chapter for about an hour, including checking with an online editing program before sending it out. It’s out, so I’ll get to learn if my married cons still have what it takes to carry a chapter.

Only after taking care of all that, did I turn my attention back to Lunar Boogie. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I had some issues with the ending of the story.

As a recap, I wanted to end this one on a down note which provided for a bit of character growth for Lizzie in the next book. I wound up ending it on a major bummer and wasn’t happy with it.

Last weekend, I added a scene and it kind of helped, but still wasn’t what I needed. Remember, these are partially comical in nature, so they really can’t end on sour note.

Today, I threw caution to the wind and added a bunch of material I was saving for the opening of Good Liniment, the next book in the series. It wound up requiring a chapter break which caused the last two chapters to be short ones.

This required me to research crystal therapy and come up with a name for a pot shop. All in a day’s work, right?

I hate to sacrifice some of the stuff from the next book, but think it probably works better here. Basically, Lizzie’s parents made an appearance earlier in the book via FaceTime. At the end, Lizzie goes to California to spend some time with them. Alone, without the hat.

As far as what I included, Lizzie spent this time with her mom, and she is a genuine C. S. Boyack character. I will have to come up with some additional material for Good Liniment, but I can handle that. I can also have Lizzie spend some time with her father who is running for State Senate.

What I enjoyed is how Lizzie is an amalgamation of her mother and father. I never planned this and it just happened. This is one of the fun things that keeps me going as a writer. Lizzie is hard working like her father, but lives paycheck to paycheck as a musician and hangs out with some strange characters. She isn’t quite as stoic and dedicated as her dad, but isn’t as batshit crazy as her mom either.

Lizzie’s mom helps add a laugh or two after the bummer moment. I think moving the material to Lunar Boogie was the right move.

I need to turn my attentions back to Lanternfish. I left James on the high seas the instant before the opening volley of a huge sea battle.

I hope all of you have power and water by now. That you’re warm and safe. Drop me a line and let me know what’s going on.

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Filed under Writing

Ugh! A day of distraction

Old What’s Her Face went to Nevada to visit her brother. This has become an annual thing for Super Bowl weekend. We aren’t that big of football fans anyway, and it’s no big deal.

I looked at it as an advantage, and intended to make the cannons roar and come up with more root monster antics. Lanternfish is my primary project right now, and it’s time to add some words.

After sleeping in for a few hours, I went to the writing cabin and built a fire in my office. Lisa usually has the place all warmed up for me, but she’s still making art for Grinders.

Once the bite of cold mellowed, I opened my iPad and went to work. I’m on the downside of one adventure, so this is kind of a recovery section. I usually fill those with planning and assessment of what they accomplished, maybe something about their next move.

These can be slower to write, because there are no cannonades or magical adventures. It’s all about traveling. This time, I elected to minimize most of it and simply get the crew to their next location.

Since their plan is to restock both Lanternfish and La Girona, there isn’t much to go over. It isn’t like they have massive goals for this stop.

It’s going to be a surprising turn of events for them in Giapon. (Pseudo Japan.) That also allowed me to shorten up the planning phase.

That’s when the knock came at the door.

“Lisa, can you…” Oh yeah. Nobody here but me.

I opened the door to find a tall, leggy blonde in a linen skirt suit. Her hair dangled down to her midsection. She looked over her glasses at me. “Looks like you could use some help.”

“Libraria. Where are the rest of the Sirens?”

“Oh, we’re all here.” She spread her hands and wiggled her fingers.

Conversia, the gorgeous black woman wore a gold scoop-neck top that… well she should have been at the Grammys with some two sided tape, moved in from the left. Her Afro hair danced in the breeze.

Little Wiki, the redhead, stepped to her right. Her hair still had a sequence of different reds buried in it, and was in an A-line that looked like it had been chewed into shape by gophers. She wore striped stockings that ended just before her frayed denim shorts and a sequence of friendship bracelets on both arms that rivaled the stockings for color. She made her odd wrinkle-nosed smile and wiggled her black fingernails. “Hi. Can we come in?”

“Kind of cold out here,” Conversia said.

I couldn’t help myself from looking. “Yeah, I see that. Come in.”

Conversia smirked and winked. They all came inside, then made their way to the office beside my fire.

Wiki flopped on the couch while Libraria checked my draft. Conversia turned her fanny toward the fireplace.

“This isn’t bad,” Libraria said. “You need to add some depth when you get to Giapon. Giapon is the name Portuguese sailors gave the country that would become Nippon or Japan of today. You’ll need setting, weather, people, architecture. Everything. What do you have planned next?”

“They aren’t going to scoop up supplies and just sail on. That would be a letdown for my readers. I figure the leader is going to take them in for his own amusement, but they’ll be almost prisoners until he gets bored with them.”

“Emperor, Shogun, Gosanke leaders???”

“Uh, huh. One of those.”

“Oh honey, you really need our help.” Conversia moved in, uncomfortably close.

“Well. Nearly the whole world is at war. There’s the one the Lanternfish crew is headed for, but there is one between Giapon and Di Guo Quishi that Serang is most familiar with.”

Wiki turned her iPad Mini around to show us. “There were fifty-one different Shogun. Some of them didn’t live too long, but it might be a great source of names.”

“Where are they going to make port?” Libraria asked.

“I’m way ahead of you. They’re going to the Eastern side of the islands away from the the local war. I wanted somewhere toward the north so they could dip in and out. I chose Mito.”

Libraria reached in her handbag, searched through something, then produced a book that was bigger than the bag itself. “This is the complete history of Mito from the ice age through today. You really should read the whole thing.”

“How did you fit that in there?”

“We’re kind of special.” She guided me to my chair, then sat on the arm beside me, placing the book in my lap.

Conversia sat on the ottoman, then leaned way to far forward. “I think we should go to Japan. Nothing like conversing with the locals to get a feel for things. Take in the smells and colors. You can read the book during the flight.”

Wiki turned her iPad around once more. “Look at these beautiful gardens. I’d like to see those. It says they have an ancient aqueduct that’s still in use today. Oh, all that has to go in your book.”

“No it doesn’t. I’m not writing a travelogue. This isn’t even supposed to be Earth. It’s just based somewhat on real places. If I want to place a volcano there, I have every right.”

“Did you know there are two different kinds of volcanoes?” Libraria asked.

“Yes. And stop that–”

Wiki turned her device around once more. “There is a shield volcano and–”

“Stop! Please. All I need to do is snitch a few things to make the world realistic. Then I can add in some fantasy elements, and move my story ahead.”

“What kind of fantasy elements?” Conversia asked.

“I don’t know. We haven’t really dealt with ghosts and such yet.”

“Excellent choice.” Libraria lifted the book from my lap then slid herself into its place. “Japan has some terrifying ghosts. There is one called Funayurei who are the ghosts of those who died at sea. They approach ships and ask for a ladle. If someone gives them one, they will scoop seawater aboard so fast the ship will sink.” She produced another book. “Then there are the River Boys. They look like turtles and are tricksters who can drown people. Oh, and Tsunami Ghosts are horrifying. I’m trying to keep things nautical for you, but we can look further if you like.”

“Those are wonderful,” Conversia said. “The Tsunami is recent enough we could probably interview people who’ve seen the ghosts to get an idea of what they’re really like.”

“Okay, you ladies need to slow down. I know your game is to crash me on the rocks of research so I never finish my trilogy. Still, it’s all pretty interesting.”

“That’s the spirit.” Libraria ran her French tipped nails through my hair. “You’ve got a lot of reading to do.”

“I know my way around a kitchen. I’ll make us some coffee.” Conversia’s heels clacked away.

Wiki turned her iPad around once more. “Do we want these airline tickets, or not?”

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I came up short

I knew writing time was going to be at a premium this weekend. My ultimate goal was to break 30K words on Lanternfish, but I didn’t make it.

I’ve been stealing an hour here and there in an alternate room, and it just isn’t the same. I’m a firm believer that all progress is progress, so I have some of that to keep me positive.

A big part of my slower pace comes down to logistics. I’m dealing with a fantasy world in Lanternfish, but ships don’t just sail from point to point. Even with James’s sextant, there are weeks and months involved in moving the ship.

I have them with an easy appointment to make with the Prelonian Navy, but too much time on their hands. They decided to go chasing information about a new enemy in the war, but still need to make their rendezvous.

I like the extra tension this brings, but I’m writing myself into a corner to a degree. They need to visit two or three places, but still make the appointment. There are going to be delays with piracy, exploring, and more.

It’s easy enough to “magic” my way out of this issue, but that isn’t fair to readers. Even with James’s sextant there have to be rules. It has a limited range, even though it’s much greater than other ships can sail in a day.

They’re going to be doing some exploring in what is similar to the South Pacific. Since this is a fantasy world, I don’t have to place all the islands exactly like they might appear on Earth.

Now a bright author might just back up and change the time of the appointment to allow for all this exploring. I could do it, but I want to challenge myself. I’m even toying with the idea of being at the rendezvous point late. This could add some extra tension to the series. What sort of disaster could this lead to? (It is book two of a trilogy, so a bit of tragedy is allowed.)

There are other forces at work here, too. I have a tropical storm hinted at that will cause some delays and diversions. So I have partial information they need on two different islands, plus a tropical storm, and a tight deadline they have to make. Let’s face it, there needs to be some piracy going on here too.

One fun bit today. I included a mermaid in my story. I swore to avoid traditional monsters and legends in this tale, but there she was. She isn’t like anything you’ve likely seen before. She’s about 90 feet long and towers above the ship when she visits. She could easily pull them down to the depths, but is a benevolent creature/person. (For a change.)

In my mind it’s a good time to go back to the paycheck job. Some of this stuff tends to work itself out during the commute. I may have to adjust my outline a bit to make it all come out the way it should.

Lanternfish spent the entire first book without having everything they need. It involved crew, guns, munitions, etc. I’m also thinking about what it might do to the crew to have too much. How motivated might they be to assist in the war when their hull is overflowing with treasure? People with nothing to lose see the world differently than those who have more than they’ll ever need. It’s an interesting concept if James has to hold the crew together in face of this new challenge.

Again, putting it aside for a week often brings more clarity to issues like this. I may even have a solution in mind, but need some time to work it all out.

That was my writer’s weekend. As a couple, we managed date night at Old Chicago and I sampled the seasonal beers. We also rented Godzilla King of the Monsters, and I really liked it. I like the way they worked in the fever theory of global warming. The theory is that living creatures get a fever when they’re sick to kill off the bug that’s causing the problem. In the fever theory, Earth is the creature, global warming is the fever, and we are the virus that’s making her sick. This theory has been around for a long time, but it was cool that the film went with it.

For those of you who get a holiday, I hope you’re enjoying your Labor Day. For everyone else, I wish you a happy Monday whatever you’re doing.

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Kinda quiet around here lately

Must be summer. Everywhere I pass through on the internet has been pretty quiet. This includes blogs and social media too. Summer is usually like this, but it’s pretty noticeable this week.

It’s the work week right now, so I don’t have a ton to say. I did a bit of interesting research. It may not make its way into the current story I’m writing, but it might. If it does, I may change it up do one degree or another. It’s fiction, I’m allowed to do that.

The topic was black magic in Sri Lanka. I’ve dug into voodoo, hoodoo, and witchcraft over the years, but nothing from the Pacificish area.

Most of their practice seems to center around curses. These are more public than I expected them to be. Basically, you go to a temple, tell the priest what you want, and he sets you up.

Research indicated blessings and curses run about 50/50. There is no stigma against someone who would cast a curse. In Sri Lanka you should expect to be cursed fairly frequently.

It involves saying words upon a coconut, that’s been affixed with a burning thingie, similar to a candle. (More research is required.) Then the curser has to go outside and throw the coconut, with the flame, on the ground and smash it.

Most temples have a special rock in place for smashing coconuts. Throwing them into sand likely doesn’t produce the required result.

I’m assuming they remove the husk for this process, or it would never smash.

I had to stop to sleep, like I said, it’s still the work week. The last bit I found said there is no counter cursing. Apparently the coconuts won’t rebound upon the caster. You have to go to the temple and have it blessed away.

Honestly, it sounds like a good racket for the temple. Sell both curses and blessings, and keep that line moving.

I designed some characters once who worked upon this principle as a kind of con game, but I’ve never found a home for them. She sells curses, he sells cures… I’ll figure out something for them one day.

It’s possible to weave in some tiki masks, a flaming coconut smash and cast some kind of spell. Like I said, it’s fiction, so I can massage it a bit.

Or I could break out my old blender and some rum and invent something called a flaming coconut smash and curse myself.

Looking forward to Friday where I might find a bit more writing time.

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Daydreaming and research

Today is the last day of my vacation. I’m pretty sure to be behind at the office, and that’s gnawing at me. I have a fantastic staff, and I’m sure they covered for me, but there are some things I have to handle myself.

I’ve reached a point in my current project where I need to daydream about the next section. This seems to work better for me than freewriting my way through. Because of this, today is a day for distractions and research. I may even take a nap this afternoon.

Part of my research involved digging up the 1972 pilot episode of Kung Fu and watching it. Anything I gleaned here would be for a potential future project, but it could have some minor impact on my current story. If nothing else, it’s a good distraction. I may have to check out a few more episodes. They’re absolutely dated, and don’t have the settings of modern martial arts films, but that can be remedied in whatever I write.

I also did some more research on cannons; siege cannons in specific. These things were not portable, and most of them gained permanent placement as harbor defense weapons.

The most common way of naming these things is based upon the weight of a solid shot. This means a cast iron ball. I found several resources, and different eras and countries did things differently.

My better resource involved the standardization of British cannon sizes. Prior to this, the guns were all unique, and it made for a supply disaster. They came up with weights from four to forty-two pounds.

My story is a fantasy of sorts, so I don’t have to follow the exact rules. I like the pattern involved though, so kept to the references of a gun as being an eight pounder, or an eighteen pounder.

I also researched black powder mortars. These were used in the 1800s in both field and siege models. They fired shells as opposed to shot, meaning they were explosive. Cannon of that era were also capable of firing shells. Obviously a shell will not weigh as much as a solid shot, but I kept the naming convention anyway. Research is important for bringing bits into the story, but not if it overwhelms the story.

I’ve given you the general idea of how big these things were, now let’s talk about siege guns. Imagine a muzzle loading cannon that fires a 1080 pound shot. It took 200 pounds of black powder to fire it. (Who got to lift the ball into the gun?)

Siege mortars also existed. The biggest ones fired a 137 pound shell nearly two and a half miles. Remember the shell weight is lighter than the shot weight. This might be classed as a 200 pound gun.

This is where writing a fantasy helps. Most of this data is from the 1800s. The era I’m writing about is earlier than that. It most likely would have fallen back when all the guns were unique. I took the liberty of massaging a bit. This way they can capture guns and munitions with a reasonable hope of being able to use them.

There were rockets back then too. Those are even referenced in our National Anthem. (USA) These were usually inaccurate fizzling devices that proved pretty worthless. Their best hope was to start a fire somewhere. I wove a couple of those into my story, and made them just as worthless as they sound.

I had the privilege of visiting Fort McHenry when I was in Baltimore years ago. That’s where the song lyrics came into being. It was bombarded with ship born mortars, and I got to see some shell fragments. The advantage to mortars is they fly over a wall and blow up inside the fort. Cannons don’t do well against earthen forts.

Don’t know why I decided to share all this with you today, but maybe some of you will find it interesting.

If you managed to read this far, I have one more piece of data. There are two Lisa Burton Radio shows scheduled for July, and one who asked for a special date in August. That’s it…

Lisa needs more guests, and I would love to get a few in the works. I’m not going to run out her sign shaker image this time, because last time I got too many responses. Authors started to get mad and dropped out after I did 100% of my part. There are still half a dozen shticks out there somewhere that the author never responded to.

If you have a new release, or are planning a push, drop me a line and maybe we can get you on the schedule. It’s been a pretty popular spot and I’d like to keep it available for everyone.

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