Temporary Setback

Well, my computer’s hard drive crashed. I had most of my writing files saved to a flash drive, so all I lost were the recent revisions I had made on both I Will Be King and the Angus the Mage series. Fortunately, I hadn’t gotten that far into them, and I still have what I had saved to my flash drive before I started those revisions. Once I settle into my routine for the Spring semester, it shouldn’t take too long to redo them. It is frustrating, though.

A Return to Writing

This isn’t the first time that I’ve taken an extended break from writing. From the early 1980s to mid-1990s, I wrote a lot of poetry and short stories because they could be completed in one sitting. Most of the stories were plot-driven or idea-driven stories of 3,000 words or less. I rarely wrote anything longer than that, and my production was intermittent. Once I started college, I continued to write poetry but more-or-less tabled my fiction because the methodical, analytical mindset that is conducive to success in academia doesn’t mesh very well with the spontaneous, creative mindset that is needed for writing fiction. However, the knowledge I gained from the courses I took provided the foundation for generating a lot of ideas, most of which found their way into the essays I wrote for college. But those essays weren’t enough, and by the time I started graduate school, the creative urge was screaming to be set free. Poetry wasn’t enough to satisfy it, so I revisited a question that had inspired several of the short stories I wrote in the late 1980s: Why would aliens visit earth? A number of short stories followed, and by the time I started my MA in creative writing, I was ready for it. I wrote quite a bit during the two years it took to complete my degree, but that ended when I started teaching. At that point, I devoted almost all of my time to developing the courses I taught, and I barely managed to squeeze out some poetry along the way. After eight years of teaching, my creativity was once again ready to explode, and since my courses were well-developed, I had the time to pursue writing again. Poetry and short stories came first, and a few of those stories evolved into my first novel (The Snodgrass Incident). The Tiger’s Eye was next, and several other novels followed in fairly quick succession. I finally took another break about a year or so ago, and now I’m ready for that break to end.

I’ll be working my way back into writing by revising the Angus the Mage series and the scenes I have ready for I Will Be King. I am approaching the two revisions differently, however, since my objective for the Angus the Mage series is to identify loose ends that still need to be tied up, to tighten up the style for The Tiger’s Eye (I’ve learned a lot about writing novels since I wrote it), and to integrate most of the Prelude of Angst into the earlier novels. Also, now that I know how the series ends, I am considering adding scenes to produce a better continuity of content. If I make these substantial changes, I will republish the series as a revised edition, discontinue Aftermath (its content will be combined with what remains of Angst after the Prelude has been removed), and create a blog post outlining the extent of the changes I have made. If I do not make these substantial changes, then I will simply upload the revisions to the existing series.

My objective for revising I Will Be King is to refamiliarize myself with the characters and plot developments so that it will flow more effectively once I start adding scenes to it. Although I know what the main plot twists are going to be, I generally let the events between them evolve as the characters want them to, and I need to be “in the characters’ minds” to let that happen. Right now, I’m a bit too detached and objective for that, and revising the existing scenes should reestablish my connection with their voices. Since I revisited my earlier writing to help end the previous breaks I’ve taken from writing, I am confident that doing these revisions will end this one.

My next update will be after my Spring classes have started (in about 2 weeks).

It’s Been Awhile….

Well, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything, and that’s mainly because I haven’t written anything of consequence for several months. I usually don’t write that much during the Fall semester, but this year has been completely non-productive where writing has been concerned. I’ve written few poems, and my fiction has been tabled for quite some time. I expect that to change after Christmas, but I’m not sure what I’ll be doing yet. I am still tinkering with the idea of revising my Angus series to tighten up the first book and clarify the sequence of events in the series, and I Will Be King is close to the end of the first section (it’s long enough to be its own book). I doubt I’ll write much poetry, though. so I’m going to add the few poems I wrote this year to what I compiled for the 2017 collection that I never got around to publishing (I should publish it in January), and that might be it for poetry for a few years. As for fiction, I’ll make up my mind about that after I get done with finals and the prep work for my Spring classes. Regardless, I expect to be a lot more active next spring than I was this year, so I should be posting updates soon.

In the meantime, here is a poem I wrote earlier this year after a tornado went through town. It wasn’t much more than an F-2, but it did quite a bit of damage to roofs and trees. My apartment was on the edge of the debris field, and there was damage to houses on the next street. It was a rather peculiar experience….

Funnel Vision

The gray-black finger of god
stretching down from the clouds
like a broken swizzle stick
stirring up a dry martini
or Aunt Millie’s playful tickle
stirring up a cloud of giggles
stirring up a cloud of debris
coming straight toward me
twirling, whirling, coming
straight at me, twisting,
turning, laughing,
raining, crying,
praying.

© 2018, all rights reserved.

Poems #11-13: “Nightcap,” “Wasted,” and “Whispers in the Night”

I know it’s been a couple of months since I posted anything, but there wasn’t any reason to give an update until now. Even so, this won’t be much of one. I spent the past few days proofreading what I had written for I Will Be King in the hopes that it will inspire me to write more. We’ll see if it works. I’ve written about a dozen poems since my last update, so I’m including a few of them in this post. I sorted through the poems I’ve written since 2014 in case I decide to publish second editions of my earlier collections, but I haven’t integrated them into those texts yet. There seems to be quite a bit up in the air at the moment, but at least I’m feeling like doing something again. Anyway, here are the poems:

Nightcap

Stay
or go?
Stay or go?
Stay? Go? Go? Stay?
A simple choice. Profound consequences.

© 2018, all rights reserved.

Wasted

Time
saved in
a beer bottle
is lost

forever.

© 2018, all rights reserved.

Whispers in the Night

When darkness falls hard and fast and deep,
I hear your muffled call slithering through my sleep
past the demons’ dreams etching scars upon my soul
to ease the wretched screams slipping past my firm control.

© 2018, all rights reserved.

Story: “Portents”

Okay, here’s the story. Let me know if you like it.

Portents

“It is a sight to behold, My Liege,” Basil said. “A trophy well worthy of you.”

“Indeed,” Lord Arak said, his eyes surveying the small village of Hyd. It was far from impressive, but at least the bridge would give him easy access to the lands beyond. Still, something kept him from giving the order to attack. What was it?

Was it the wall? No. A low earth wall like that was child’s play for his trenching machine. It would plow through it in moments, and his men would follow in its wake.

Was it the villagers? They hid behind that wall like mice scurrying away from the sun. A rusty spear or dented helm poked at the sky here and there, but they wouldn’t last long under the force of his army’s swords. Those swords were forged from the strongest iron that could be wrought, and as sharp as the wizard could make them. From what he had seen so far, they were no match for his army. It was the largest army every raised: over three hundred well-armed, well-trained, experienced soldiers. It had cost him several fortunes to amass that army, but they had paid for themselves a dozen times over as village after village fell at their hands. This village would fall, too, once he gave the order. So why didn’t he?

A bare head poked out of its hole, and the image of a wolf spider leaping upon its prey filled his mind. It was a disturbing image, one that left him unsettled and uncertain. Were there more men lurking in the shadows than he had seen? Was he leading his men into a trap?

His brow furrowed, and his tongue slowly scraped the back of his teeth. He had squashed many wolf spiders in his time, both with his foot and his army. Even if every dwelling in the village held a dozen armed men, his army would defeat them. There would be casualties, of course, but there always were, but his men would prevail in the end, and the village and its treasures would be his.

His lips tightened as a ghost finger tickled the small of his back and crept slowly up his spine? It was not the first time he had had felt that touch, and it had cost him dearly before he had learned to trust it. Now….

“My Liege,” Drake prompted, “the men are in position.”

Lord Arak nodded, but he could not bring himself to give the order. There was something….

“Bring the soothsayer,” he abruptly ordered, turning on his heel and briskly striding to his tent. As he walked, he absorbed the sharp stench of sweat mixed with the sweet taste of oil, he let the lilting clink of the muffled joints in his armor smother the soft murmur of his soldiers. They were eager to act, and his uncertainty was beginning to settle on them. He couldn’t have that: an army that wavers was an army ripe for defeat.

Why am I hesitating?

The thought drummed through his ears unanswered until the soothsayer arrived. The soothsayer had wandered into his camp not long after he had begun his campaign, and the old man’s advice had ensured several victories. What he said now….

The soothsayer’s gnarled knuckles wrapped around his crooked staff like the talons of a falcon clutching its prey. His face, pale and wrinkled and draped with stringy white hair, lay hidden in the deep shadows of his robe’s hood. Not even those keen ice-blue eyes broke through that darkness, but he knew the old man was watching him. He stopped a few feet away, bowed slightly as if he wished to claim equal status but knew better than to do so, and his voice—raspy from age but firm with wisdom—whispered from the shadowed cowl. “My Liege?”

“Cast the stones, Soothsayer,” Lord Arak ordered. “Tell me of this battle.”

“My Liege,” the soothsayer answered, bowing once more. His hand slid into his sleeve like a snake recoiling to strike, and the ghostly fingers tightened their grip around the bones between his shoulders.

An ill omen comes. The thought came unbidden to him, but once made, he knew its truth with such certainty that he sucked in a sharp breath. His shoulders shuddered as if a burden had suddenly departed, and he fixed his eyes on the old man’s hand. The soothsayer held the stones loosely in his palm as he whispered the familiar incantation. A shimmering, fog-like gray-blue aura encircled each of the seven stones as the old man clenched his fist around them. His voice grew stronger as he beseeched the gods for knowledge of the upcoming battle, and his head tilted backward until the hood of his robe fell upon his shoulders. The long, straw-like white hair fanned out, and his ice-blue eyes rolled backward until only the whites showed. His nostrils flared as he sucked in a sharp breath and exhaled it past his few remaining teeth. A moment later, he tossed the stones in the air.

Lord Arak watched the stones tumbling through the air, their colors shifting from the gray-blue to—

He sucked in an aborted breath as the ill-fated red-black stones settled on the bare ground.

The irises of the soothsayer’s eyes slowly returned as he eased his head forward, pausing oh-so-briefly to gaze upon Lord Arak before hovering over the ill-fated stones. A bony finger straightened as he pointed at one of the stones and softly said, “The stones foretell betrayal, My Liege.”

“Betrayal!” Lord Arak harshly spat at the stones. “Who?!” he snapped, the uneasy feeling congealing into something tangible, into something he could direct at someone. His hand tightened on the hilt of his sword as he waited for the soothsayer to answer.

The soothsayer studied the stones for several seconds before slowly shaking his head. “They do not say, My Liege. They speak only of a betrayal on the horizon. Whether it be in this battle or the next, I cannot tell. I only know that if you do battle with this village, the betrayal will come.”

“If I do battle with it?” he repeated. “And if I don’t?”

The soothsayer’s hand gathered up the stones, their red-black glow shifting to gray-blue shimmer that squeezed out between his fingers. He tossed them lightly in the air, but when they landed, the red-black aura had returned. “The betrayal will but be forestalled,” he answered. “It will happen during the next battle or the one thereafter.”

A traitor, Lord Arak thought. Who can it be? His mind whirled. He couldn’t believe his men could betray him. They were loyal to him. They trusted him. They had followed him into battle time and again, and he had led them to victory after victory. He had rewarded them handsomely for their efforts, and they had praised him in return. They had no reason to betray him.

Who can it be?

He was still discarding one possibility after another when the soothsayer softly interrupted his thoughts. “My Liege?”

He looked sharply at the soothsayer and prompted, “Yes?”

“The betrayal is not a certainty,” the soothsayer answered. “There is a way to avoid it.”

Lord Arak’s eyes narrowed. “You know the one who will betray me?” he demanded, the first sharp tickling of the ghost’s fingers returning. “Tell me who it is!”

The soothsayer shook his head. “I cannot, My Liege,” he answered. “Knowing who will betray you will but hasten the betrayal; it will not prevent it.”

“You know the scoundrel’s name!” Lord Arak growled, moving swiftly forward to take hold of the old man’s bony shoulders, barely noticing the crunch of the stones beneath his feet. “Tell me!” he ordered, giving the old man a violent shake.

The soothsayer winced, and then rasped out his answer, “My Liege, if you insist upon continuing this ceaseless war, the betrayal will come. The only way to avoid it is to end this war today. If there are no more battles, there can be no betrayal.”

“Ha!” Lord Arak barked. “I cannot—I will not—do that!” What will my men do without war? Idleness will drive them to it, whether I send them into battle or not. Without me holding the reins—

The old man gulped, and a sigh shuddered through him. His body grew still, and his placid blue eyes looked into Lord Arak’s with such sad compassion that he released him. “I am sorry, My Liege,” the soothsayer told him, “it is the only way.”

Before Lord Arak could respond, a sudden, deep pain erupted in his chest, just below his ribcage. He reflexively stumbled backward, and his hand fell upon the haft of the dagger that had somehow punctured his armor. He looked down, and his eyes widened. My own dagger!

“Yes, My Liege,” the soothsayer sadly whispered. “I am your betrayer.”

Lord Arak dropped to his knees. “Why?” he managed to whisper.

“The stones,” the soothsayer softly said, moving closer but still staying just out of reach.

Lord Arak forced in another breath, trying desperately to fight back the blackness closing in around him. His eyes fixed on the soothsayer as he gasped, “What?”

“I cast them long ago,” the soothsayer told him as Lord Arak collapsed on his side. “They brought me to you. They told me you would wage endless war, and sorrow would follow in your wake. They told me a time would come when your destruction could be stopped, when I could stop you. That time is now.”

Lord Arak blinked for the last time, and as his eyelids slowly settled into place, the soothsayer leaned down to whisper in his ear, “You should have listened to me, My Liege. You had enough. Hyd—”

Enough? Lord Arak thought. There’s…

“—is—”

never…

“—my—”

enou…

“—home.”

 

© 2018, all rights reserved.

Poem #10: “Returnee”

It’s been awhile since my last writing update, but there wasn’t anything to report. I wasn’t doing any writing (poetry or fiction), and the poems I had written earlier in the year had nearly run out. I wasn’t even thinking about writing until about two weeks ago, and even then, there were only brief moments and a few ideas. I tried to follow up on one of those ideas about a week or so ago, but it just didn’t work. The character’s voice felt artificial and the writing was forced. It didn’t feel natural, and the story petered out. I tried again a few days later, and the same thing happened. I still like the idea, so I will probably go back to it at some point, but the story wasn’t ready to be written and I wasn’t ready to write it. Then, a couple of nights ago, I woke up with another idea and jotted down a few notes about it. It ruminated, and this morning I wrote the short story inspired by that idea. What’s encouraging is that, even though it didn’t flow as easily as I would like, it didn’t feel forced. Writing it reminded me of how it felt when I was writing short stories in the late 90’s and early 00’s. Most of the stories I wrote back then were short, idea-driven stories that could be completed in a few hours, and this one is like that. I might post it in a few days, after I revise and proofread it, but for now, here’s the only poem I have left from the ones I wrote earlier in the year:

Returnee

A change of pace;
.     an old routine;
An open mind;
.     the same old scene;
A brand new world
.     rearranged;
A new beginning
.     with familiar friends.

© 2018, all rights reserved.

Confirmation of the Fizzle….

An historic moment just happened in the NCAA tournament: a 16 seed beat a 1 seed for the first time in its history. What did CBS do? It kept it on the game it was broadcasting. In the past, they would have switched games for the last 2 minutes, but no more. I was even surprised when they showed part of the 16 vs 1 game during the halftime of the CBS game because they’ve done almost none of that recently. Well, except for the Auburn game because it’s Charles Barkley’s alma mater and they were razzing him about it being a close game. The halftime shows seem to be more about him than the games nowadays….