Today is my flex day, and it’s nice when they tie into the weekends. I’ll start on my long change when I return to the office tomorrow. Since I work ten-hour shifts, four in a row gets kind of brutal. It’s my back mostly. Not a lot of nice recliners at the office.
During my vacation I had three goals, but only accomplished one and a half. This weekend I finished up that other half, then did a complete read-through of Midnight Rambler. I had a few things to fix, but it’s a fun story.
The hat has to face one of his enemies, and Lizzie finds a boyfriend of sorts. It all goes down during a major storm event that becomes almost a character in its own right.
Those who read all the stories will get hints of something that plays into my next project, but I’m still not abandoning the idea that each story stands alone.
My next move will be to send an email for a cover, internal graphics, and a couple of Lisa Burton posters. I just need to figure out what those might involve.
There were errands and such, too. We went from freezing to 86º in three days. I uncovered the air conditioner and got it running. I still haven’t set up the sprinkler system, but it’s been raining.
I also had to take my truck in for service. That cost me Saturday afternoon, since nothing is just around the corner here.
Old What’s Her Face signed up for a service called Peacock. It’s the NBC version of a streaming thing. I discovered one of my all-time favorite series on there and have been binge watching it. Crime Story is set in 1963. There’s a lot of neon, chrome, old cars, and a wonderful playlist involved. There’s also lots of murders and hits, the rise of a Mafioso, and the cop who’s trying to stop him. Who knows, maybe the Muse will bring me some fresh inspiration from all this.
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.
“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?”
“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.
“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.
Heck, I’ll take it. I made a task list friday night, and worked through 3/4 of it on Saturday. We got in a decent date night too.
After dinner at Old Chicago, my son and I stayed up late playing Borderlands. He also talked me into buying a solo game called Skyrim, and we set that all up. These are probably ancient news to you gamers, but I’ve never owned a game system until this year. They’re all new to me.
Sports wise, Boise State lost in OT, the Diamondbacks lost. Today the Steelers won, and the Diamondbacks also won. Can’t gripe about that result. This time of year is strange for me, because both sports overlap for a month or two. I’m not as big a football fan as I used to be, but I enjoy it. Baseball is my sport of choice. I was able to watch the Steelers game, and one Diamondbacks game. The others were sporadic iPhone score checks.
I got up relatively early this morning, and my parents are still in Alaska. That means no Sunday morning telephone call. I kind of thought I could add new words to my WIP, but that wasn’t to be. My wife got up about twenty minutes after I did, and that doesn’t allow me to write. It’s probably a personality quirk, but I need quiet solitude when I write.
I wound up working ahead a bit on promos and blog projects. It wasn’t what I wanted to do, but it was productive. I now have some promotional posts for Quantum Wanderlust when it releases. All I need for my posts is a purchase link. Honestly, it feels good to be prepared.
I exchanged some texts with my daughter for something I want to add to The Hat. A dress size can be a reasonable part of description. This is coming late in the story, but I also used it to show a bit of character. Lizzie went up a couple of dress sizes, but only admits to one. Let’s face it, she isn’t seventeen anymore.
I have to make a field trip with my paycheck job this week. I’ll be around, and check in when I can. I’m sure I won’t be scarce, but I may be more sporadic than normal. Hope you all enjoyed your weekends.
In other news, the USA always has one active volcano in Hawaii, today we have a devastating hurricane going on, and Idaho had a small earthquake on the eastern side of the state. Add that to all the ongoing wild fires, and the US is a mess. Honestly, it’s a big country. It’s hot and beautiful in Boise this evening. Keep your eyes open if you’re at the northern edge of the USA, you might see the Northern Lights tonight.
We just rolled in from our first 2017 camping trip. We left mid-day friday, because setting up in the dark sucks. Here’s Otto enjoying the sunset while dad enjoys a toddy.
I should probably crop this one down and save it somewhere. He almost glows in that afternoon sun. I didn’t get good pictures of the girls. They move around a lot, and brindle colors are like camouflage in the forest.
The next morning, the weather changed. It rained almost all day Saturday. Otto decided to rest his big, heavy, head on the table while I had coffee.
The plan was to hunt morels, my favorite mushroom. I really had no idea when to go after the goofy winter we had. We went a week later last year, and were almost too late.
Campgrounds have to be booked well in advance, and we reserved our site in January. I told Old What’s Her Face, we were going come Hell or high water. Turns out high water wasn’t too far off. The Payette river is always a violent white river, but the waves were as high as the pavement as we drove by this time.
My wife was cold all day, and decided to stay at camp. It turned out later that she must have gotten some kind of bug. She was thrilled to get some down time for reading though, so that’s a win for her.
I headed out on my own, and went directly to my best spot. I admit, I was starting to have some doubts about my chances about halfway there.
Landmark summit was white with snow. My spot is down the other side, so I went there anyway. I got lucky, because it was well below the snow line.
This isn’t to say the hunting was any good. I managed very few, but in true form; find one and there is always more than one. I gathered six big ones at one point.
When you hunt morels, you walk very slowly and look down. They aren’t colorful like Easter eggs, and I’ve even found them between my feet before. This method of hunting is why I nearly stepped on an elk calf hiding in the deadfall.
Let me tell you, when you’re all alone, in bear country, and something the size of a small pony jumps up under your feet, it wakes you right up.
False, or snow morels were out in abundance. These look almost brainlike, and vary from tennis ball to softball in size. You don’t eat this kind. There are at least three in this photo, and even they are hard to spot.
I’ve had times when I could fill coolers with good morels, but it’s been a few years. This year, I managed about half of one net bag. I have enough for a couple of nice steak toppings, or a couple of outstanding omelettes, but that’s it.
I heard they were finding them by the truckload out of Idaho City. That’s where the big fires were last summer. I just like the area we went. I like camping there, I like the mountains. I can always find a few this time of year, but I may have to make a day trip to Idaho City to keep my supply up.
Mushrooms are really a mycelium that lives underground. Remember these are a fungus, and not a vegetable. The mycelium looks like a giant cobweb. To keep things simple, I’m going to call them roots.
The edible part of any mushroom is it’s reproduction attempt. It’s not a lot different than an apple in that regard. Morels have one strange habit that a hunter can take advantage of. They invest a lot of time growing in a particular piece of ground. When that ground is damaged somehow, they panic and send up more mushrooms in an attempt to reproduce as their last act on earth. I think they’re drama queens, because the underground system can be huge, and there is one honey mushroom in Oregon that’s documented as covering several counties. Still, their strange habit is a bonus for a hunter.
Fire is the big one that everyone knows about. Deadfall trees do the same thing, and that’s where I look. I’ve found them down in the root balls before, but they’re usually ten plus feet from there. Remember this root system is pretty big. Someone blades a dirt road, I look there too. A woodcutter gets stuck, or leaves deep tire ruts in the woods, same thing. I spotted this little beauty at a deadfall.
This one appears to be a yellow morel. I also found black ones, and few of the little grey fire morels. They’re all good eating, and I wasn’t picky. I mentioned my stretchy net bag a few paragraphs ago. This is me attempting to be a good steward of the resource. Mushrooms don’t have seeds, they have spores, and distributing them is the goal of the fruit. I carry a net bag in hopes that if they are dropping spores, I will leave those spores on the forest floor.
Otto and I went on a couple of big walks through the campground when I got home. He did his “bulldog ambassador to the world” routine, and met quite a few people and dogs. He absolutely loves everyone. It was fun meeting another bulldog in camp. She was white, and had on a cute little raincoat. It was raining, so I didn’t get a picture of them.
I don’t want the girls to get left out, but I didn’t get a good photo. Here is some kind of bulldog version of tug-o-war using a stick. They might call it push-o-war, since they’re backwards.
It's time to revisit the old Idea Mill. This involves a selection of stories I've gleaned across the Internet, and feel like they could make some great speculative elements in your fiction.
For those who want to kick the Muse a little harder, The Idea Mill is a category in my sidebar. Being as this is the 27th edition, you can probably find something to use in one of your stories.
The first story involves a chemical cocktail that settled over London. The amazing part is that it happened in 1952. There was a smaller event documented in the 1960s.
Basically, it was cold. An inversion settled over the city, and everyone lit their coal stoves. I'm a few years (okay decades) removed from high school chemistry, but I know temperature and pressure can influence the outcome.
I dug a bit deeper, and found where scientists were able to duplicate the process in a lab. It appears the perfect cocktail left behind a cloud of sulfuric acid. Officially 4000 people died, and it may have been as high as 12,000 because not all deaths were immediate. The city officials didn't even know it was happening until the florists ran out of flowers for funerals.
One of the reports that stuck with me involved a movie theatre that gave refunds because the patrons inside the building couldn't see the screen because of the cloud. Read the article here.
I'm shocked that this went on in the 1950s and 1960s. To me this screams steampunk, which calls for a Victorian setting. I'm relatively certain this happened then too, but probably wasn't as well documented.
I don't know about your areas, but inversions happen all over the American West. I think you could probably tailor this to some kind of chemical warfare. It might lend itself to a mad scientist story pretty easily. It might even make a good origin for your superhero story.
Out next story should get filed under the “What Me Worry,” category. It appears that scientists have recovered a 17th century strain of smallpox virus from a Lithuanian mummy. My understanding is the goal is to determine when smallpox first jumped from animals to humans. Read this story here.
Okay, I understand the curiousity of scientists, but I'm an author. What could possibly go wrong? It's my job to make something go wrong. The obvious idea is that an older strain isn't influenced by the vaccine. These things mutate and evolve rapidly. It gets loose and kills people on a global scale before your CDC hero can come up with a solution.
This one can also be the basis for a biological weapons story. It plays right into some kind of zombie tale for those who love them. You can easily change the settings to make things more creepy. Maybe a catacomb type environment where the mummy is discovered.
Finally, we have a dinosaur discovery. This one involves a small Dino called coelurosaurus. Scientist found a tiny section of its tail preserved in amber, and this section has feathers. The feathers aren't flight worthy and it seems like they are more like marabou feathers used in boas. Traces of color are still there, and it seems likely that blood is available too. Here is one of many stories I saw on this one. Link.
Obviously, this could lead right into a Jurassic Park type story. But what if it led to designer pets and a battle for the coolest Christmas present of the year. Add in some militant animal rights people, a patent battle, perhaps a greedy Kentucky Colonel type who thinks they're finger lickin' good, and you have a story.
So part of the Idea Mill shtick is for me to rough out a corny story using all three elements. Let's see what I can come up with:
It's the Christmas season, and colorful coelusaurs are the must have gift of the season. The patent battle is settled, and Dino Labs is mass producing these pets to meet the demand. Meanwhile, across town scientists are researching the ancient strain of smallpox virus. It gets loose on the city, just as the biggest inversion in history descends. The polluted cocktail mutates the virus into something unstoppable. People start dying by the thousands. The coelusars are not completely immune to the disease, they get sick and their eggs are mutated.
Soon the city is overwhelmed with new and nastier dinosaurs, and the humans are too sick to fight back. One brave Kentucky Colonel has a solution, and his solution is finger lickin' good. Eating the Dinos provides an immunity to the virus, but getting one isn't as simple as it sounds. The Dinos think we're finger lickin' good too.
I think that outline fits the traditional bill for these posts. What would you do with one of these elements? Tell me in the comments.
Holy cow! It’s cold here. I’m writing this at 4:00 PM and it’s a sweltering 18 degrees Fahrenheit outside.
I’ve been following a blog from New York State, and she has five feet of snow in her yard. They have another two feet predicted. I guess I’ll quit complaining. I had to shovel my father’s roof for him years ago to keep the house from collapsing. (My own roof was steeper and shed the snow.) When I finished I actually walked off the roof without the aid of a ladder. The roof snow plus the ground snow was high enough.
I suppose I’ll quit complaining about my weather, but snow and temperature are not the same thing. On the plus side, I have a beer mug outside that I keep hitting with a mist bottle. Frosted beer mug for me tonight.
Today was a day of bouncing. I have a top secret project I’m writing something for, so I centered my time around that. I write for a bit, then read two chapters of a book I’m engrossed in. I’ll probably make one more lap through both before calling it quits today. This way both things are getting done.
I spent a little time on positive daydreaming. I have a plot issue to sort out, and this is actually my method. No notes, lots of daydreaming, and exchange emails with my writing buddy. I’m almost there, but it might take another week. Then I have to modify my outline/storyboard.
Things are getting accomplished in bits and pieces. When payday comes around I need to pay an invoice for cover art. When I get around to editing it, Will ‘O the Wisp is going to have an awesome cover.
It sounds like a lot, but it’s all fun. If I had my way this is what I’d be doing for a living. Alas, I still need a paycheck job and all the benefits that come with it. Tomorrow is another work day.
With all this inclement weather it’s time to curl up with a good book. That’s what I’m doing on lap two tonight. If you need a book, I could make a suggestion or two.