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Storytellers Unplugged and Re Designed

September 30th, 2009 Comments off

peaceoutsmallI want to start this post off by giving credit where credit is due.  Many years ago, Joe Nassise e-mailed me and invited me to be part of a new “experiment” he wanted to try.  He called it, no surprise, “Storytellers Unplugged.”  Originally, it was to be a group of thirty genre-related authors, mostly horror writers, who would post in a sort of round-robin form on a “blog”.  Keep in mind that – at the time – blog wasn’t a common term in the outside world.  Social Media was only beginning to make it’s mark in advertising and marketing, and HTML tables were still the standard for web page design.  I was less than totally enthusiastic, but I told Joe I’d do it.  I just didn’t “get” it.  Joe did.

In fact, Joe has been at the forefront of a lot of things I’ve seen slowly become standards, and I salute him for his forward thinking.  I believe we are likely to hear about a few of them in future posts. I also thank him for both conceiving Storytellers Unplugged and for allowing me to share admin responsibilities.  As time went along, we both learned a lot about blogging, managing websites, and WordPress – our chosen blogging platform.

Now Storytellers is moving into a new era.  Joe is going to drop back to the ranks of regular posters, so he’s not going anywhere, and I’m going to try my hand at pushing the envelope with a new format.  The new Storytellers Unplugged is built on the WordPress MU platform.  (Multi-User).  What we have here is a miniature community modeled on WordPress.com – a site where you can not only sign up new users, but you can have as many different blogs as you like.

I’ve separated our authors into their own blogs – you’ll find the links to them on the right of the main page.  This allows readers to find more posts by an author they are particularly taken with, and allows us to more easily back up our content and search it when we want to find something.  It also gives the authors more freedom to customize their content, track the stats on their individual posts, and promote their work.  There’s a lot more coming.

Some things I’m hoping to add include a separate blog with information on different publishers, a podcast channel, a video channel where we can show book trailers and other short video content, a bookstore where our author’s work will be available – hopefully signed – and a section for interviews.  I’ve interviewed many of the folks here on my main website, Glimpses Into an Overactive Mind, and I hope to update those and move them here.  We might also have a blog for excerpts to upcoming work – and could even hold some contests and promotions.  The Net’s the limit, and it’s still fairly boundless – just stick with me.  I want to get all the wheels spinning smoothly and on the right tracks before I start building on the framework.

Comments can be left on the main site now, or on the original post at the particular author’s site.  If you have questions, suggestions for content of for topics you’d like to see covered, please, feel free to include these in your comments.  All of our authors are very interested in your feedback – the comments are what make the “connection” – and the connection between authors, readers, and other creative minds is the entire point of our site.

We’d like to welcome back to the fold author Elizabeth Bear, who was on a Storytellers hiatus for a while, and in a month or so, author Brian Hodge, both of whom have agreed to sign on and re-enter the madness.  This month we will bid fond farewell to Steve and Melanie Tem, though I’m sure we’ll see them around these parts now and again – they have contributed some of the most thoughtful and memorable posts in recent months, and they will be missed.

Welcome new Storyteller Mur Lafferty – who is a master of geek-fu, queen of the Murverse, and whose novels Heaven and Hell were the first two “podioooks” I’ve ever read.  Very lucky and happy to have her on board – she adds another clear helpful voice, a lot of energy and talent, and words.  It’s all about the words.

Anyway, I’ve droned on long enough.  My next post will be on the 31st – I’ve traditionally taken that date as an extra, and my fellow Storytellers always allow it.  I’ll be posting a short story…and then the next day diving into the world of Nanowrimo and National Novel Writing Month.  I’d like to thank the love of my life, and my collaborator in creativity, Patricia Lee Macomber for the cool flying books banner on the main site.  She’s available for graphics work, if you need it, and reasonable (both in price and demeanor … ) She and I have collaborated on stories and a Stargate Atlantis novel due out in February – and on our masterwork, a little girl named Katie who started kindergarten this year.

It’s an interesting time to be a writer, and I’m hoping that Storytellers Unplugged will become an important part of the written world as we move into a new generation of publishing, technology, and stories.

You can follow us on Twitter as well.  We’re cool like that. We don’t post to the account, but it updates whenever there is a new post on the site – sort of like a reminder.  Also another archive, if you’re the archiving sort…

Welcome to our home.  Enter…of your own free will.

Listen to them…the storytellers of the night…what music they make.

(Okay…I’ll stop)

—DNW

Deep Blue in the Land of the Ladies of the Round (actually rectangular) Table

December 31st, 2006 12 comments

By David Niall Wilson

A local reading group recently took up the challenge of my novel, Deep Blue. I had the distinct pleasure of being invited to the discussion session, and I thought this was the perfect opportunity to share that experience. I don’t have to tell most of you what a thrill it was to sit at a table with a group of people who had actually read my book, or how rare that experience can be.

I’ll admit that going in I was terrified, and there were several reasons for this. First off, all of the readers in this particular group are women. This isn’t particularly frightening in and of itself, but these ladies include my boss, a very intelligent and picky reader, and a group of her friends. I knew none of the others before that night – so I had no idea what their backgrounds might be, in what direction their literary tastes might run, or whether my book was in any way appropriate.

Another problem was that, despite my insistence over time that “Deep Blue” is my best novel, I find that I’ve grown somewhat distant from it. The things I was experiencing when I wrote the novel aren’t as immediate to me as they once were, and taking an analytical approach to the book, I’m not as sure of its quality as I once was. For one thing, the language in the first chapter is pretty coarse, and the overall environment in which the characters exist is fairly depressing. I think that there are some likable characters for readers to identify with, but that they are not necessarily likeable in the early stages of the novel. I’m reminded of some of the books I love by authors like Peter Straub – books where you have to read an inordinate amount of pages before the pace kicks in and you are mesmerized, but knowing the story as I do, I have lost the mesmerized point almost entirely.

Anyway, after getting lost only one time in downtown Edenton, NC, I parked and found Jeanne (my boss) on the sidewalk. We made our way to the restaurant where they meet, got a table, and waited. There was a piano player in the front window of the place, and he was pretty good, though a little loud for conversation. At one point he joined us at the table, as my companions had the notion of fixing him up with yet another of their friends, but this faded as the young man (very talented, I might add) had a girlfriend already, and shared a lot of personality traits with a damp rag. (I’m probably being harsh, but he wasn’t exactly charming…) As I sat nervously, the other ladies trickled in, and I was introduced. My nerves faded slightly as each of them smiled.

We started slowly. They are all close friends, and they have a lot of peripheral things to talk about. These things became part and parcel of the discussion, blending in and out so easily I almost felt like I knew their friends and families before we were done. In any case, I got to sit back, listen, and enjoy being the only guy at a table of beautiful and animated women. Eventually we started talking about Deep Blue, and that’s when it got interesting.

I learned, for instance, why there are birds on the cover of my novel. I used them symbolically in the novel, but hadn’t remembered it. I probably knew this at some point, but the ending of the novel (to me) is about snakes and drumsticks, and I lost the birds in my own pattern. It was noted that I have at least one character I could have done without, that a lot of my characters seem to speak in the same “voice,” and that the action in one particular passage confused all but one of the readers. At least two readers thought that all of my characters were actually dead – or ghosts. Still others thought they were on drugs, or insane. Old Wally, the harmonica playing mentor to my protagonist, Brandt, was not defined well enough. He might have been alive, dead, or somewhere in between, but whatever it was he wasn’t clear enough. There were an inordinate number of passages in the first chapter (the original novelette) involving tears, and the word “pain” was used a great number of times (Maria is a word counter…sorry I forgot the exact number of tear-inducing moments, but it’s a very valid point) All of them approached the book differently, as well as having a different method of preparing for the discussion. I found, for instance, that at least one of them had actually looked up my web site, read my biography and reviews for the book. (Thanks Kate)

None of them disliked the book, though admittedly most if not all of them would not have chosen it from the shelves. They asked a lot of questions about what I was thinking, about my religious background, and about writing. We talked about everything from Nicholas Sparks to Clive Cussler, commented on formulaic fiction and television commercials. For instance, I learned it isn’t just me who finds it ludicrous that an overweight Australian guy who looks a bit like the “PC” from the Mac/PC commercials is the spokesman for a supposedly Mexican food chain (Taco Bell).

Not all of them finished the book – there was one holdout – but I understand this is about as close as any book has ever come, so that made me feel good, as well. The last of them to arrive was close to finishing, but just didn’t make it. It was harder for her – and I had expected that it would be for some readers — because of her strong religious beliefs and the subject matter of the novel. Also, it was the Christmas holiday – not the best time to curl up and relax with a book, if you have a family.

Not once was I asked if I know Stephen King, or where my ideas come from (though the subject was discussed in a different context). They were perceptive enough to guess that a lot of “Dave” is in the characters in Deep Blue, and if you know the novel, you’ll know that they gave me a couple of nervous, sidelong glances while wondering just how much of those characters was me. I explained to them about my childhood with a drunken stepfather. He was the one who listened to endless Hank Williams Senior albums and I was the kid in the basement with a guitar thats “action” was so stiff and strings so far off the fret board it was nearly impossible to play a chord.

We talked about patterns. You can’t talk about Deep Blue without those patterns – the ones that run in and around us all the time, slipping into the conversation. Each of them had a different perception of those, as well, and what I learned was something I knew, but had forgotten. A book is very different for every reader, despite the common ground it can create. The experience of writing a book is a very personal, individual one, and so is the experience of reading it. I suppose that the patterns I see in the world, and the words, are the same – that if I look at a painting by Van Gogh, and another person sees that same painting, our reactions will be entirely different.

I had a lot of fun that evening, and hope to do it again one day. When I revise Deep Blue for inclusion in the series / trilogy I’ve planned, “The Chord at the End of the Rainbow,” I’ll be keeping the notes I made after this discussion close to hand (and will reduce the number of times I use the word pain, as well as drying up some tears…and when I’m done you will KNOW who had the hot soup spilled on them). Until then, my thanks go out to Jeanne, Kate, Kristi, Vicki, and Maria. I’d also like to thank you all for the first line of a future book, or story. “You should never mix trampolines and fireworks.” (I think I got that right…Kristi is the one with the trampoline, so she’d know…)

The ladies of the rectangle table told me that if any other brave author who might be able to journey into the wilds of Edenton North Carolina for the discussion might want their books read by this august gathering, they can make contact through me, and I’ll be happy to make introductions.

Until next month,

ONWARD!

DNW

Here’s to Gideon, and Gideon, and…his son Gideon..

November 30th, 2006 14 comments

A Cautionary Tale…

by David Niall Wilson

I used to read books that began with elegant, extravagant endpapers featuring maps, family trees, historical anecdotes, journal entries, or other bits and pieces of the fictional lives of the characters involved. I always enjoyed going over the maps, reading the odd lineage charts and trying as I read along to picture how each person fit into the grand scheme, but as much as I enjoyed it, I also wondered why in the hell the author had gone to so much trouble. I mean, shouldn’t you glean all of this information from reading the manuscript, if it’s written properly?

The answer, of course, is yes. What I’ve learned over the past month, however, is some hard lessons in just why an author might (and likely in many cases should) go to all of that trouble. It is, in fact, trouble that I personally did not go to prior to beginning my current novel project, “Gideon’s Curse,” the novel I’ve labored over during the month of November.

For one thing, I’ve never written a novel that spanned generations of the same family in the way that this one does, or generations in one location. Things that read just fine in the outline (which is reasonably detailed) just didn’t pan out as I’d hoped in the actual first draft of the novel. For instance, if the madness ever grips you to have three generations of fathers and sons named after one another, run far, and run fast. Two Gideon Swayne’s at once has proven more trouble than it is worth, and there are THREE Gideon Swayne’s in the novel – though thankfully no more than two of them have shared chapters and contributed to my headache. Sadly, while I was being clever I also named the daughter and grand-daughter after one another as well, compounding the painful pounding in my pate.

So here is the magic of the family tree in the outlining of a novel. If you intend to cover several generations of the same family, it’s a good idea to know who was what to whom, who loathed, loved, left and lingered, and during which generation. This also leads into the second half of the lesson I am learning, which concerns the passage of years and the associated dates. Balanced against the family tree, the generations have to make some sort of sense, and if you have one generation living very long, and another for only a short time, you have to make sure that the associated decades in history coincide properly with what you’ve created. In reality, you can probably get away with fudging this, but if you have astute readers who trip even one time over a short wall of inconsistency, you are in trouble. Once they discover one problem, they start worrying over all the others. They point out what they’ve discovered and ask questions, and before you know it everyone is aware that you have a generation spanning 115 years and another that only lasts twenty.

I’m not saying that my own situation is that bad – that is an exaggerated example – but the point is that careful planning can seal the weak seams of such a plot and make the writing easier and less of a headache for all involved. For the author, it provides a structure to follow that requires no instant, on the fly ciphering, and for the reader it prevents those insidious “read bumps” that break the train of thought and send you off on a tangent, trying to calculate in your head just how old Aunt Edna ought to have been to have eighteen children if she was married only five years, and did she have quints, or what?

The first important feedback I got on this novel came from our own Janet Berliner, who explained to me that she wasn’t able to fix a time in her head – in years – that this novel takes place. At the time it wasn’t something I’d considered, but when I realized that my novel has to stretch back to just after the Civil War, and that it has to stretch forward far enough that Mexican migrant workers are picking cotton in North Carolina, the problems began multiplying quickly (as did the generations). When did tractors appear? When did the black freedmen give up their jobs and work to migrant workers? When did North Carolina become more tolerant and integrated?

I was able to research a lot of the answers to these questions after Janet asked them, and I patched some holes in the novel as I went, but I know already that I have to go back, do the family tree, create a timeline, change some names, and flesh out some details I noted, but did not worry over in the first draft. These things could have been avoided, had I paid attention.

To summarize, since I tend to ramble. If you are writing a novel involving one or more families that spans generations, you need more than just an outline to make life simple. You should try sketching out a rudimentary family tree. You should read a little on the time periods that the novel spans. You don’t need a lot of detail, but if you can toss in the right president, or mention that Bob and Earl down the street had the first color TV in town, you can do wonders to anchor your work in time. It isn’t in how much detail you provide, but in the well-placed and accurate details. Most readers are astute enough to fill in their own version of a given time period, if you are in turn clever enough to let them know just which time period it is…

And so, here is to Gideon Swayne, and Gideon Swayne, and Gideon Swayne, and the two generations of Desdemonas. Here’s to a novel outline that had three generations and stretched (in original outline form) from the Civil War to modern times. (Some old, old cotton farmers, I assure you). Here’s to lessons learned.

I reached my 50, 000 words on the 29th of November this year…and the novel is progressing nicely. It now stretches from 1868 up into the early 1950s. Tractors had just become staples of the richer plantations, and workers still picked most of the cotton by hand.

And I? I shall drop back in time and into their world and see what has become of the good Reverend Swayne and his grandson. In time, I’ll let the world in on it, and when I do…rest assured…the dates will mesh, the names will make sense, and it will be a better book for the trouble…

Onward!

DNW

30 Days, 50,000 words… How, and Why?

November 1st, 2006 17 comments

by David Niall Wilson

This isn’t going to be a really lengthy entry. Since my fellow Storytellers graciously granted me the 31st of October for my short story, I feel kind of odd following up with another piece of my own. Still, November looms, and with November comes a phenomenon known throughout the writing kingdom as “Nanowrimo,” or, more formally, “National Novel Writing Month.” As a regular participant in this event, I wanted to mention it at least once here at Storytellers, and to lend it my own perspective, for what that’s worth.

The concept is simple. You go to the website – www.nanowrimo.org – and you sign up. The event takes place between midnight on Halloween and midnight on the 30th of November. The idea is to commit to writing at least 50,000 words of fiction during that period. Thirty days. 1,667 words a day for a month, without fail.

Depending on how you describe it, this can seem intimidating, impossible, or not too big a deal. For those of us who blog regularly, for instance, as I do over at deep-bluze.livejournal.com – 1,667 words a day isn’t all that intimidating. If I cut back the journal a little and use the time before work and on my lunchtime, I can produce that many words easily. The more important question is – then – why would anyone do it?

Here is where that perspective comes in.

For me, Nanowrimo has become an annual jump start. In 2004 I was leaving an author / agent relationship that had irritated me beyond measure. I had a ton of half-finished projects, a lot of frustration, and I needed ‘something’ to get me motivated. Someone suggested I try Nanowrimo. I thought about it for a while, and then I took the plunge.

For me it isn’t enough just to do it. I set up a Yahoo e-mail group so people could read along with what I was doing and give me feedback. I chose a novel that my daughter (14 at the time) could read along. I outlined the book chapter by chapter so I knew what I was going to write and when. All of these things were positive motivators for me, and they paid off. In the month of November, 2004, I wrote “The Mote in Andrea’s Eye,’ now a hardcover from Thompson / Gale and about to be re-released in Large Print. The book was turned in in December of 2004 and sold in February of 2005.

At about the same time I completed the book, I signed with my current (and as far as I’m concerned permanent) agent, Mr. Robert L. Fleck of Professional Media Services (and don’t think I didn’t have doubts about an agency named PMS!). Over the next few months, I used the discipline I built up during Nanowrimo to finish three more of my incomplete novels and to rewrite two others. It was a revitalizing experience, in other words, and it helped me to re-examine some of my writing habits. It didn’t hurt my opinion of the process when I sold the novel.

Last year, then, November rolled around, and I decided I wanted to do it again. In September I started working on outlines, piecing one together, and then another. Eventually I decided I’d combine two things I wanted to do, and I wrote the outline for a novel titled “Vintage Soul.” There were a couple of reasons for this.

When I wrote novels in the shared “World of Darkness” for White Wolf Publishing there were rules. Vampires did certain things, werewolves did certain things, you were expected to flesh out the world of the game with real characters, but I always wanted more freedom. Don’t get me wrong, I have fond memories of the vampire Montrovant, and of Kli-Kodesh (Holy Vessel in Hebrew – garnered from a consultation with a Rabbi) and even of butting heads with some editors (like our own Rich Dansky) over bits and pieces I’d created. With “Vintage Soul,” though, I planned a novel that was in the “vein” of what I’d done at White Wolf, but at the same time was all me. I created a possible series character, Donovan DeChance, and again I had a Yahoo group for people to read along as I wrote the book. That novel isn’t sold – yet – but I think it’s some of my best work, and, again I wrote it in 30 days.

This year I’ve not written as much as planned. Life happened. A lot of things have gotten in the way. That said, I intend to use the month of November to help fix that. I’m going to write a novel titled “Gideon’s Curse,” one that is tentatively sold – but that I think is one I have to write now that the outline exists whether it’s sold, sells down the road, or sits in the filing cabinet. It’s a story of North Carolina, the swamps, prejudice and heroism – and walking dead. It’s a good Halloween follow-up novel, and I intend to start writing it – well – today, this being the 1st.

Before people jump in with their standard sound clips about Nanowrimo, writing too fast, word counts don’t matter, etc…I’m not here looking for approval. I’m not here suggesting this is something all writers should do, or even suggesting it’s the best writing exercise since sliced bread. In fact it can be discouraging, daunting, cause you to write more quickly than you probably should – there are up and down sides to anything like this, but it’s something I do every year, and I wanted to mention it…and to put out a general thanks for the support readers have given me in the past.

If you are intrigued and want to follow along, just send an e-mail to:

Gideons_Curse-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

See you all in December, and maybe I’ll be able to report on the process in my next installment here.

ONWARD!

DNW

The Window

October 30th, 2006 14 comments

By David Niall Wilson

The window looked out over mean streets and dirty dreams. Smudges of soot, wind-blown grit, and splatters of the last things to go through the minds of bugs and birds alike coated the multi-colored panes, creating subtle shifts in the original artist’s intent. What had once been a multi-hued peacock had taken on ghost-images of other creatures; what had begun as a leafy tree dripped with the streamers and ornaments of time.

On the windowsill, a goblet sat – iridescent blue with a peacock drinking at a fountain. A trinket of no worth grown precious with the years. His fingerprints stained the rim.

The interior of the attic chamber bore similar strokes from time’s brush. Spider’s webs had gone to cobwebs and, clotted with dust, dropped away to chase about the floor and lodge in the corners. More webs had grown to take their places; more spiders had joined their talents to the whole. The skeletal remnants of chairs, tables, and old cane-back rocking chair, and a dresser canted to one side where a leg had broken, or been removed for some arcane purpose, the rolled carcass of a heavy, Persian style rug, and a chest; all of these things cast shadows across the floor that congealed near the center in a colorless pool of gloom.

In the dust, his footprint remained, like a skeleton built of ash beneath a shroud layered years. The touch of a moth’s wing would brush it away, but it remained.

The chair seat was thick with dust. The dresser held nothing but torn and shredded bits of cloth and wood that had once been home to a family of mice, also dead and gone. Passed on. The rug was ruined. Mold had wormed its way in and out among the threads. Rot had set in; the once vibrant colors and patterns had grown into one another so that if someone gripped the end and unrolled it, the carpet would disintegrate, leaving nothing but a damp, foul-smelling mulch. Its only hope of survival was to be left alone, and even that was falling prey to entropy.

The knots on the twine that bound the rug held their own against time. They were careful knots, tied with care. He thought rolling the rug would protect it.

When the sun reached the proper angle, beams of colored light pierced the shadows and fell on the chest so that the raised image of a cross, surrounded by roses, could be seen. It was blackened with age and mold had grown into the deeper recesses of the carving, but the image managed to convey both beauty and mystery. The base of the cross came to a point that, if followed, led to a keyhole. The wooden frame was banded in hard iron, corroded and ancient, but with the sort of time-defiant strength born of careful craftsmanship.

His grandfather gave him the chest. It came from the war – the Old World – magic places far away. He left it in a special place when he, himself, was called to war, and he told no one about it.

Once the rug had covered the floor, carefully arranged to protect the polished hardwood from the monotonous motion of the rocker, and the compressed weight of a full dresser pressing down on four narrow legs. The table had held food, and wine, books and papers and notebooks with words sprawling across their surface. When the attic room was new, the window had been clear glass, winking at the daytime and midnight black skies in turn like a giant, all-seeing crystal eye.

The room came to him in a dream, and he kept it. It was built from bits and pieces of stories – stolen images from old movies – and fine words. It was woven of the sound of Cellos, deep and low, and the high, magnificent voice of a violin.

An ink bottle, dried and stained, sat on the table, though the way the shadows fell it was sometimes hard to see it. At times, in fact, it seemed not to be there at all. A broken pen lay beside it, exsanguinated dreams clotted on the nub. None of the paper remained. The books, the pads, the reams of sacrificed trees had been hauled away, rotted, fallen to dust or burned for meager, uncertain warmth in the “between” times. Between then, and now. Between sunlight, stained glass, ink and dust.

Sometimes the barrier between worlds is very thin. Sometimes…

Far below, the creak of a door shivered through the stagnant air. Cobweb animals shifted in their corners. Ink dust slid off the table like hourglass sand. A foot scraped on the stairs and echoed across years. The footsteps drew nearer, then nearer still and suddenly his hand was on the knob, turning back the hands of time. Or stopping them.

He stood in the doorway for a long time, surveying the ruin. Then, with a heavy sigh, he stepped through the door, closed it behind him with a snap that cut away the world, and glanced up at the window.

He couldn’t see through it. The soot and smudges had deepened the already dark colors of the glass. The peacock’s brilliant plumage fuzzed and faded, smeared with years. The sun hung motionless above the skyline. He stepped to the window and rubbed the elbow of his jacket on the glass. It came away dark and smudged, but did little to clear his view. The grime was mostly on the outside. Still, he glanced out and down, trying to fill in the odd gaps in the streets below from memory as the colored glass diffused the images.

He put his hand on the glass absently, as if he’d placed it there only moments before. When he turned away, he lifted it to his lips. The wine was rich and red and stained his lips. Colors erupted in slow motion from the center of the window and crackled outward, sloughing off grime and stains and years and painting the room in all the colors of the rainbow.

The sun inched up and speared floating dust motes as they floated across the room – tiny planets adrift in a momentary galaxy. He followed the light with his gaze. He saw the table, and for just a moment it held his gaze. The ghost-images of a bottle, a pen – but no. There was nothing there. The chest caught and reflected the dim light. The corners of his mouth twitched, and then actually curled upward, just for an instant. He crossed the room in two strides and dropped to his knees beside the box. In that instant, he was certain he smelled Camel cigarettes caught in old flannel; remembered from long lost nights stealing his grandfather’s oversized pajama shirts to sleep in, or riding in the battered Volkswagen that bore them to battle with bluegills and bass.

Other voices echoed in the back of his mind, but he ignored them. Horns sounded. Elevators rose and fell and the hum of a thousand fluorescent bulbs snapping to life in a thousand tiny cubicles hissed and whispered. A woman’s voice, too high and too shrill, pounded at him like waves on a beach, and closed his eyes. He reached out and traced the rose and cross on the box with his index finger.

“Abra Cadabra,” he said softly. The words were another gift from his grandfather, part of one of the stories that waited in the back of his mind. He snapped the fingers of his right hand and a key appeared. There was no audience, but he smiled and nodded, as if taking a bow. He slid the key into the lock on the chest, turned it, and gripped the lid. Offering a silent prayer to whoever listens, opened it.

He lifted free a small black bottle. The ink was thick and black. The label simply read…words. He set this aside and lifted out the pen. The nub glittered in the light from the window. That light was brighter, but he hardly noticed. The dust motes had disappeared, as well. He placed the pen on the floor beside the ink and reached into the box for the final item.

It was a sheaf of paper, white and empty, nothing but potential. He stood slowly, grabbing the pen, and the ink. He turned to the table. There was a soft glow of multi-hued light. He glanced at the window and smiled. The peacock winked back at him. The tree behind the plumage had come to life with greens and browns. The dresser stood on four good legs, and the rug covered the hardwood, nearly touching the walls on every side, it’s pattern complex and intriguing, glowing with captured light.

He sat at the table, opened the bottle, and dipped the pen. He tapped his lip thoughtfully with his index finger, caught just the right image from his dreams, and began to write. Beyond the window, the world hovered and fretted. Icy, numbing talons of reality raked at the walls and scraped the colored glass. Words dripped from the pen, and the hours passed. Until the light faded, and he could not see to follow one word with another.

He sat for a while in the darkness. The moon tried to cut through the colored glass, but it was pale and when he tried to write by that light, the words were washed out and gray. He capped the ink, lifted the paper and the pen, and carried them reverently to the chest. He carefully set aside the pages he’d filled, and placed the rest in the chest. Then he returned the bottle, and the pen, and closed the lid. The lock snapped tight, and he slid the key out of sight with a wistful flip of his wrist.

He stepped to the window and undid the hasp that locked it tight. It slid up easily, despite its age. Already a sheen of dust coated the table, and the dresser had canted to one side, but he paid no attention. He slid his hand out the window, high above the streets, and released the pages. The words floated on the evening breeze, larger motes in a larger universe, seeking other eyes. Seeking release. He took a last sip of the wine and placed the glass on the windowsill, where cobwebs already bound it to the wood.

He closed the window, flipped the latch closed, and stared through the grime encrusted glass into the pitch black of the night. Then, without a backward glance, he turned away, walked to the door, and pulled it open, stepping through to the stairs leading down. The door closed behind him as he descended. Already the traffic and the voices, the TV in the next room and the screaming laughter of the neighbors had begun to cut through his heart.

He looked up once, and thought of white birds, made of paper, soaring into the clouds.

31 October, 2006 © David Niall Wilson

Who Wrote That, Anyway, and Hey, It’s Pretty Good!

September 30th, 2006 13 comments

By David Niall Wilson

One of the oddest sensations I have experienced as a writer is discovering a passage in one of my novels, or a short story that’s been sitting around for a very long time, and discovering it for the first time. That seems unlikely, I know, but it’s something that happens on occasion, and it can be an eye-opening experience.

What I’m describing, for me, is a sort of dislocation, where I find something I wrote a long time ago, in a lifetime far away, that has lost it’s direct connection to my brain. That’s the only explanation that makes sense to me. I find a file, for instance, on my hard drive, for a story I vaguely remember writing, and open it. I sit, enthralled, reading it from end to end, and I can’t for the life of me remember writing it. I can’t remember where the words came from, what was connecting inside when I structured sentences – it’s eerie, fascinating, and more than once it has steered me back onto a proper track.

This happened recently with the novel that I’m currently working on, and the experience set off some alarm bells in my head – like that sharp slap to the cheek you see the hero get now and then in a movie. The one that brings him back to reality and points out obvious facts he should have been aware of all along. Over this summer I’ve been in a writing funk like I’ve never seen. The events of the past few months have altered a great number of things in my life that I previously considered stable, and my writing has not fully settled into the new world I inhabit. It’s like a dog, circling a soft pillow bed a hundred times to try and find that one little crease that tells it where to finally settle in and get comfortable for the long haul.

Back to the point. I’m writing a novel titled “The Orffyreus Wheel,” which is being serialized on Amazon.com. At first, I found this to be very liberating. The segments being published are about three chapters apiece, between seven thousand and ten thousand words each, and they run for a month or more before the next segment comes due. I finished my basic outline long ago for an agent I no longer work with, and I had written the first few chapters as a partial, so I started out with a safety cushion. Over the next few months (most of 2006) I cranked out the sections, keeping one ahead of the deadline at all times, which gave me a couple of months for a safety net.

The problem is that this has led to some disjointed creative processes. Breaking off on one project, going to others, then coming back for three chapters and moving on proved to be a bigger challenge than I thought it would be. Passions shifted, other projects took over my mind…but still, I was handling it pretty well.

Then came June. I won’t go into the big sob story about losing my job and the summer of stumps – all of that has been chronicled over at The Deep Blue Journal and really, it’s pretty much behind me now (the bad time). The problem is, there was a serious disconnect on the novel during the summer. I still wrote a page or two here and there. I managed to finish part VI and get it turned in, and I’m nearly done with part VII, but here’s what happened.

I opened the file to read it the other night – the last chapter I wrote, plenty of action scenes – fast paced stuff writes quickly for me. I read it, and I really, really enjoyed it. This actually caused physical shock. Part of the depression I’ve had over the last month or so has been associated with this book – with the dislocated way I’ve been writing it, and the lack of passion I felt for what I was doing. This was apparently so prevalent that I literally put it out of my head and wrote on auto-pilot. The writing is good – it’s solid – and after reading it, I found that I had gotten my enthusiasm back. It’s weird, because now it’s like I’m collaborating with some other guy – the guy who wrote that chapter while my brain was away on vacation. It should frighten me, I suppose, but hey – I’ve always been good at collaboration.

The day after I read that chapter I was working on something else…and had an epiphany. The ending, which has eluded me – the way to tie the past segments and present day segments together – fell into place in my mind and winked at me. It was a magical moment, and I have that guy to thank for it – that guy who writes pretty well even when abandoned by his mind, his gut, and his imagination. I remember him from some of my White Wolf novel writing, when the last thing in the world I wanted to do was finish those books, and he did them for me. It’s good to know he’s still around.

Now and then I find things he’s written in the past – words I don’t recognize, but get the honor of being proud of anyway…it’s nice to have an invisible friend who likes the same things.

Yesterday, found that all of the effort hasn’t been wasted. Apparently, “The Orffyreus Wheel” is the number one serialized novel in the Amazon program for the year 2006. In the serials section of the best-seller list at Amazon it’s holding positions 2-7. Not bad for a novel written largely in different times and existences, strung together by magic and collaborated on with some guy I rarely meet.

If you are interested, you can find the book at This link – Part One

I’ll be turning in part VII soon, and writing the conclusion, which I believe will be one of the tightest endings I’ve ever come up with. If you see that guy running around who looks like me, and writes through fire…thank him for me. I hope I don’t need him again, but I’m glad he’s there.

ONWARD!

DNW