Click, Click, Snap!

So at any given time, I have a number of stories forming in my brain and existing at different stages of doneness. The most immediate story is the one I'm querying at the moment. After that is the one I'm actively writing. Third comes the one in the "hopper," the one that shows the most potential to be written and completed after my current story is finished. The story in my hopper right now is titled SAVASANA (CORPSE POSE). I really like the idea of it, but I struggle at how it will differentiate itself from my other stories. And then, today, while I was at Old Sturbridge Village, I realized a mistake I had been making. Changing that mistake caused a number of other pieces to fall into place, and while I'm standing outside the Townes' house, the first paragraph pops into my head.

I was told that the smell of old books was pleasing. Tanned leather mixed with iron gall to offer an olfactory testament to the passage of time. Due to the unfortunate circumstances of my birth, I had no sense of smell. Even so, the books of the Sofia athenaeum were something to behold. Shelves lined the walls from floor to ceiling, laden with vellum, parchment, and leather-bound tomes. Tables stretched the length of the room to sit twenty. Desks filled alcoves, large enough only for one. Boys lurked in the shadows, jumping at a raised hand to appear with fresh pens or a cross-referenced volume. Girls floated on cotton slippers, armed with rags and feather dusters. Wherever we men of learning abandoned a room, they came to erase the memory of our passing.

I love that moment when things just fall into place. I have a much greater sense of the setting and how the characters are going to interact within it. This'll be an interesting one when the time comes.

Musings and Other Thoughts

My wife and I have resumed our Christmas tradition (after a year off due to the economy) of spending a few days up in the White Mountains at a bed and breakfast. Nearby is one of New Hampshire's historical covered bridges. They're historical because these things are over two hundred years old. And I drive my car over them. Yup, that's right, Henry Clay and I have traveled over the same covered bridge (and shame on you if you're an American and don't know who Henry Clay is; history->repeating and all that ;)).

There are covered bridges in other states, but they don't interest me as much. There's something about the aged Appalachians, not so high as the Rockies but higher still than your normal hills and over a minor gorge is a covered bridge, wood cut and laid down centuries before, still viable today. And why is that? Because it's covered. I swear to god, that's the actual reason. It's not some marvel of engineering (well it is, but it's not like the guy was a time traveler or something). They covered the bridge and the planks were protected from the environment and thus have endured. That is awesome.

That is so awesome that I want to write a portal story where a covered bridge is a gateway to the past. I know portal stories are cliche, but I don't care. I love covered bridges.

While on this vacation, my wife read a book that's being turned into what looks like a cheesy movie. She insists I'll like it, but what she describes to me, it sounds kind of cliche. High schoolers acting like high schoolers, evil casters acting like evil casters, Southerners acting like Southerners. Nothing really challenges role expectations. Still, she insists I'll like it. I'll put it at the bottom of my to read pile so I can forget about it.

She did say something that piqued my imagination. She mentions how the Southern bitties don't like the Daughters of the Revolution.

Light bulb!

You always get stories about popular groups with global Machiavellian schemes. Masons, templars, illuminati, etc. What if all those organizations warred and defeated each other and now least organizations battle each other. Daughters of the Revolution versus the Sons of the Confederacy. Knights of Columbus versus the Elks versus the Rotary. What kind of plots would these organizations advance and who would be the unlucky bastard to get stuck between them?

Hell, Flip it on its Ear

I'm reading Tad Williams' DIRTY STREETS OF HEAVEN. Not only is this the latest novel from one of my favorite authors, it is officially the first novel I've ever paid more than $9.99 for, without some kind of asterisk attached1.

Williams does a wonderful job building out a recognizable Judeo-Christian angelic hierarchy without necessarily committing to Judeo-Christion affirmation2. Watching the bureaucracy and power games played out by Heaven and Hell not only against each other but also against their own foot soldiers adds a lot of layers to the book. I wonder how much research Williams did ahead of time and how much is just pure imagination woven together by an expert author.

There is one thing that's nagging at me, though. For all the questions put forth of how this works or that works, what do they do and why do they do it, one underpinning facet of our real life mythology is the understanding of God and the fall of Lucifer and those cast out of heaven that populated hell. That's a very Christian bit of religious mythology and one that isn't questioned in the book at all.

In fact, anyone writing angel stories (and they've exploded the last few years--so much so that I've abandoned my own fledgling idea for an angel story) seems to keep this one line consistent. God created the angels, Lucifer rebelled, there was a war among the angels, and the rebels lost. They were cast down into perdition to burn for all eternity.

But here is this book with all these wheels within wheels and political maneuvering and propaganda. Wouldn't it be interesting if Lucifer hadn't rebelled at all? If the Christian mythos of the fallen angels was all propaganda by the true victors?

There were five archangels: Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, and Lucifer. Lucifer was the proudest of the lot and thought himself equal to God3, so he rose up. But what if that's not true. What if he was the only one faithful. What if the archangels conspired against their creator and Lucifer was the scapegoat. The angels rose up, God was cast out of heaven and imprisoned in a shadowy/fiery pit (depending on your leaning toward the Judeo or the -Christian). The four archangels then spun their propaganda to the various choirs and armies and angels and the story spread. You might have the whole hierarchy of heaven operating on the perverted instructions of a long-absent deity.

And you might have that scapegoat spending the rest of his immortality dealing with the repercussions of everyone thinking him a monster and a traitor all the while he remains faithful and trying to free God from his prison.

I don't know what dealings he would have on earth to accomplish this goal, but that's where the story would likely take place, at least in part. And his name would be Luc. If I ever come up with the larger details of this plot, I will make it into a story.

1 I paid more for A DANCE WITH DRAGONS, but I split the cost with my wife, so really it only cost me $7. I paid more for THE MAGICIANS AND MRS. QUENT, but I used a gift card so really it only cost me $2. And I paid more for's TINY BOOK OF TINY STORIES, VOL. 2, but that's an enhanced eBook and if a book comes with videos, I'm cool with breaking my ten-dollar limit.

2 The main character at one point makes the astute observation that perhaps their understanding of heaven is only framed in a context that they understand from their experiences as mortals4 and that if they had been Hindu in life, they wouldn't have been given such Judeo-Christian terminology. That was interesting. I'd like to see that explored further.

3 A number of stories change his motivations to him feeling sorry for the lot humans were given or some other reason for breaking his fidelity to the highest, but originally it was just a matter of pride. One of the seven deadly sins.

4 I know the author gets to make the rules, but given the various shootings lately and the frequent use of the word angel, the pedant in me feels obligated to point out that angels are separate beings from humans all together and no one alive, according to current religious mythology can ascend to become an angel. That's like a dog aspiring to become a cat after it dies. Sainthood is the highest reaches for a human. Angels are something different. That's why Alan Rickman doesn't have a dick in "Dogma".

Magic Through Tragedy

My wife and I watched the movie From Time to Time last night. The blurb sounded interesting enough, a boy returning to his ancestral English manor finds he slips back and forth between his current time and the past, deciphering the secrets of the ghosts that still live there. I didn't realize until it started that it was set during World War II. The opening scene sees the young main character sitting on a bench at a train station, waiting to be picked up. This struck me as powerfully similar to THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE as well as other English WWII-set stories like Bedknobs and Broomsticks and what have you.

Magic feels right when set in this period. It was a time of loss and upheaval, trial and depredation. It was a time when imagination was the only thing that could alleviate the tragedy. And that got me thinking.

What if magic is real but it's not limited by the normal tropes like technology or the loss of youthful innocence. What if magic is dependent on tragedy? Wherever you find pain and suffering, magic may manifest itself and the worse the suffering the more powerful the magic. An abusive father terrorizing his family? The mouse in the wall can talk. A deranged warlord causing a world war? The wardrobe leads to another plane of reality.

So we see these old tales of Euro-centric magic and think it folklore of years gone by. But what if the modernization and general improvement of life there means magic disappears? What if you'll find your new magical stories in Sudan or Afghanistan or Myanmar?