A Fairy Tale for My Daughter

One night putting the kids to bed I told them a fairy tale set in the world of my story.  It turned out to be quite an enjoyable story even though I made it up on the spot.  I’ll admit there’s a bit of a moral to this story…at least a somewhat ill-equipped Father’s attempt at passing along a moral to a young daughter who will grow up in a world that places what he believes to be a too-high priority on external beauty.

I decided to write it out and post it here.  I’m really curious to hear what people think.  Please let me know in the comments. Enjoy!

Cloella and the Bells

Many ages ago in the land of Carehn, where the birds fly free in the mountains of what is now Carenthalia, there was a lonely little kingdom nestled at the foot of a great mountain.   In this kingdom lived a beautiful Princess named Cloella who loved to wander the city and see what curiosities it held.  Princess Cloella was truly beautiful and her beauty was so great that the people would ring a bell whenever she neared.  They did this so that others too may come and admire her wondrous beauty.

At first the ringing of the bells was a joyful and wondrous thing to Princess Cloella, a gift to her as much as her beauty was a gift to the kingdom.  Yet as Princess Cloella grew older she came expect this habit of ringing of the bell.  And the expectation became a demand.  The simple joy of it turned into something different.  Not all at once but it happened nonetheless.

Princess Cloella would tour the city and when she would come upon a group of people who did not ring a bell at her passing, she would stare them down until one of them rang a bell for her.  Then and only then would she smile and move along, content that they had now recognized her beauty.  More and more this happened and less and less the people would ring the bell at her passing.  And over time the flowers were dimmer, the world darker, and the air grew chill with as if in reflection of the Princess’ mood.

And so it was that Princess Cloella would walk the city with a deep and angry frown upon her face.  Her coming was like the threat of a storm.  Birds would still, critters would hide and babes would cry.  None would dare ring the bell for such a face, so the people hid.  And their hiding would only make Princess Cloella more angry so that when she finally found someone she would yell at them demanding that they ring the bell.

The people learned to avoid Princess Cloella and one day they started using the bells to warn of the Princess’s coming.  Cloella would hear the bells always ahead of her, as if taunting her.  She would race ahead for them, thinking that perhaps the people were loving her beauty yet again, but always the bell was far off.  Never was it near.

Cloella stalked the city like a nightmare, always chasing the bells.  The people were always afraid.  Cloella was always angry.  No one was happy.  The once beautiful town of Caren became a dreary and somber place.

Until one day she heard a new sound.

In the distance a lute played.

Curious, Cloella walked towards the strange new sound.  It’s gentle tones captivated her and for a time she forgot about chasing the bells.

“Come closer, all are welcome to hear the song.  Freely it is given, freely it is received,” the Bard said when she entered the open square where he played.  He sat upon the edge of a fountain that flowed with the crisp cool mountain water as he strummed upon the lute.  The song was a somber one, much like Cloella’s mood.  Wordlessly it spoke of loss and betrayal, of longing for something far off.

The Bard did not look up at Cloella, nor did he ring a bell for her.  And this stirred her anger and jealousy and she demanded, “where is your bell?  Why do you not ring for my beauty?”

The Bard did not stop his playing when he answered, “I do not have a bell with me, only my lute.  Would you prefer me to stop strumming so that I may shake it instead?”

“It is not just the mere ringing of a bell,” Cloella retorted. “It is a sign of my beauty.”

The Bard continued the song, and said with a wry smile, “And is it the ringing of the bell that makes you beautiful?”  His song became that of a prancing bunny, happy yet timid.

“No,” Cloella said, “obviously not.”

“Obviously,” the Bard agreed.  “Then why are you so concerned whether I ring a bell for you or not?” The tune waited on a single note, waiting to learn whether it should fly away.

“Well…” Cloella said but found she didn’t really have an answer.  “It’s important to me,” she said finally as a little ray of sunlight shone upon her face.

The Bard continued to strum upon the lute.  His song was merry, simple, yet wholesome.  He said, “and if there were no bells, would you still not be beautiful?”

Cloella thought about it, a frown still upon her face, but she finally admitted, “I guess so.”  And a smile crept upon her face as the sun warmed her skin.

The Bard shouted with joy, “See!  If I had a bell now I would ring it, for now I see the beauty of which you speak.”  And the lute played a happy, joyous melody in response.  “But let me ask you.  If I were to ring a bell, would it change anything?”

Cloella thought about it a moment, a smile still upon her face, and finally she shook her head, “No.  I guess not.”  And she laughed with joy for the first time in quite a long time.  Birds chittered excitedly in the air as they flew to alight upon the roses at the edge of the square.

And she heard the ringing of a bell.

Cloella turned and saw an old woman ringing a bell for her.  The sound of it brought a tear to her eye.  More bells rang as other onlookers gathered in the square.  But as the bells rang Cloella found that their ringing carried a new meaning for her.

She finally said with a heart full of joy, “Do not ring the bells for me.  Instead, ring them for this wise Bard here who has brought beauty back into the world.  And henceforth, let the bells sound for those who bring out the beauty in others, not for those who hoard it for themselves.”

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Of Magical Rules and Multidimensional Expressions

rubiks-cube

I cheated.

Instead of coming up with my own magic system I copied from something else. But I think this will work far better than anything I could have crafted from scratch for this need and there’s no plagiarism involved.

The reason this is such a good idea? I am basing my magic system on MDX, a multidimensional expression language used in data warehouses, and more explicitly in multidimensional cube databases.

Why? Because I can.

Plus, it fits my needs very well. You see, in my novel there is an item which has the ability to transform shape into the exact weapon needed for the moment. There is a rich history behind these items that explains how and why this is possible. I won’t go into that here other than to say that these items are able to pass through several dimensions at once. MDX is a powerful expression language that navigates values and attributes inside a cube database. It works on multiple dimensions of data at the same time. See the similarities here?

With MDX there are terms like ancestor, sibling, children, lag, lead, and parallel period that help navigate through the various dimensions. It’s just asking for some geek to apply that logic to something like, say a magical sentient metal that can cross dimensions. And that’s exactly what I did.

Why, you might ask? Well, I was facing the temptation to solve any problem in the story by adjusting the magic system to fit. Sure that means I can do some pretty cool things, my imagination is quite vivid at times. But it eliminates the tension and conflict. It left me too open to solve problems without any real work. By applying the rules from MDX I am forcing myself to work within an established system. Plus, I’m too lazy to go through all the work to create my own magic system from scratch. Now I have a rigid yet powerful framework in which to operate. If I can’t explain how an MDX expression can be written to solve a given need, then it can’t be done.

If you’re interested in seeing how I managed to put words to this idea, hit the link below for an excerpt.
Severant excerpt

Keep in mind the excerpt above is a draft.

The Silence of …

It’s been silent here for a while extremely long time but I won’t apologize. I’ve been working, creating, building up and tweaking my story. No. I’m still not done yet.
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I do, however, have a confession to add to the above if I am be entirely truthful. That statement was true at the time I wrote it. It’s been several months then. And I haven’t done much during that time.

I did lead a role playing campaign with a few friends (yes, I’m of those) and surprisingly I learned a few things about leadership and writing as a result. But that is not what this post is about.

Instead, I have this one thought: at times, creation is silent. In these times the most creative work may be done when no one but you notices.
In those moments when you are creating, whatever the media, there is something else you are not doing. When you are pouring your thoughts into written words, you are not pouring energy into spoken words. When you are crafting the world of your story, you are not doing the tasks of the real world around you. You are silent to the world around you.

This may be obvious to you, but it was new to me…or at least it took on a new meaning when I considered my absence here. I have been silent here but not everywhere. I have been…creating.

#FirstDraftProblems

I’ve seen the #firstworldproblems hashtag going around for a little bit and it got me thinking about my own #firstDRAFTproblems:

fwp

  • I’m still struggling to write my first draft…after more years than I can remember.
  • I am tempted, oh so tempted to revise, redo, remake, and rewrite major sections of the story….because I came up with yet another new twist.
  • My fingerertips itch to Backspace and DEL sections that can now be rewritten to fit into the three paragraphs I just wrote.
  • I don’t want to write the scene I’m currently in…I want to write the next one.
  • I don’t have time to write…on my phone, or my tablet, or my computer (even though I can play games on them).
  • I have a blog to maintain…even though this is my third post of the year.

But no.  I have a Nemesis now.  I must progress, advance, always move forward. This is the first draft where I’m just getting the furniture in the room.  I must fill this house with furniture, get it off the truck of my mind.  Yes, I know I will create more furniture to fill previous rooms while I’m offloading in another room.  I have to trust that the story will be better served as a finished mess, than an unfinished collection of miniature, incohesive masterpieces.  I must trudge on and leave the loose ends to dangle.

So what are your first draft problems?  How have you overcome them?

Yes, I’m fully aware that now that I’m aware of this hashtag, there’s a good chance it’s already on it’s way out…that is my #firstworldproblem

(The image in this post came from Know Your Meme, a great place to put off working on your first draft)

I’ve Been A Bad Nemesis

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As you may already know I am an aspiring author. I’ve been working on my story for more years than I can count. And for all of my effort (and more often than not, lack of effort) I have yet to finish the story, let alone get it published. And then recently I did something completely out of character for me.

I recently convinced an author to be my nemesis.

He agreed on the condition that he be the evil nemesis. And so he has promised to be the agent of my destruction. I see this as a good thing. You’ll have to read on to learn why.

Let me start by explaining how this started.  I was listening to a “Do I Dare to Eat a Peach” podcast by Rob Wells and Dan Wells – both of whom are accomplished authors. During the episode Dan referred to his first year of college and I expertly deduced that his first year of college coincided with my own.

This was a shocker because I’ve been telling myself I have plenty of time to grow up and write my story.

But then this guy comes along and shatters my illusions. He reveals to me that authors are real people. They make the choice to provide for their family by writing rather than working in a cubicle.  They strive for and work towards their goals and some achieve them much sooner than I may have expected. And so I have come to realize that I am at that age where some of them may even be younger than me. How dastardly of them!

And this guy, this Dan Wells, has the nerve to write several books (Partials was even set in my hometown on Long Island). He has the gall to be a member on my favorite podcast (Writing Excuses). He has a really cool looking blog with a villainous title (Fearful Symmetry.net). And most nefariously, he is the same age as me! How vile! Does he have no boundaries? Will his torment never end? It’s as if he mocks me with every revenue-producing word!

So I did what any good aspiring author fanboy would do. I sheepishly asked him to be my nemesis.

And then I did…nothing. Too ashamed and awkward to take it any further I sat still and mused about what to do next. And in the time that passed…you guessed it…I still did very little in my battle against my nemesis. And so you come to understand the nature of this post ‘s title. I am a bad nemesis not because I’m a bad person. That’s Dan Wells’ role as the evil nemesis. I’m a bad nemesis because I have yet to engage in any nemesis worthy activity, whether offensive or defensive. So consider this post my first shot in this battle of good vs. evil.

Here’s the catch…I welcome my Nemesis to be my downfall.

Didn’t see that coming, did you?   Here’s why:  my current timeline is not working.  I’m dawdling.  I keep thinking that my written novel is somewhere…out there.  It’s in my future, when I have enough time to write.  It’s out there, where I can sip a cup of coffee at a bookstore and peck away at the keyboard with a steady rhythm.  Basically, my completed novel exists in a TV commercial – because that’s what I’m describing.

And I welcome my Nemesis to destroy that.  Shatter those illusions of the “out there” mentality.  Pulverize the “it will happen someday” expectation.  Make me work for my novel.  May my fingertips bleed and may the keys melt beneath their bloody stumps.  Do your worst, Nemesis, do your worst.  Release more awesome stories, make more intelligent observations on Writing Excuses, and continue to age at the same rate.  

I can keep harping on this subject…but I should get writing.

[Incidentally, this whole nemesis business was inspired by Brandon Sanderson claiming that John Scalzi was his nemesis. In fact Sanderson states that Scalzi is his nemesis but he’s not Scalzi’s nemesis in a sort of teenage-drama way. So this concept of being an author and having a nemesis has been indelibly imprinted upon my brain in some convoluted twisted manner.]  

The Idea’s Journey

If you’re paying attention then you have noticed that there have been very few posts this year. Unlike my previous episodes of blogular neglect, this period has been filled with some actual progress on my story. It has been a somewhat intentional hiatus during which I have focused solely on the story, rather than writing about the story – a sort of back to the basics, if you will.
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Granted, I have not spent my entire time pecking away at the keyboard. I have two young kids who demand and deserve my attention. But still, I’ve made some interesting observations during this time. And since this blog chronicles my journey to becoming an author, it fits that I share them here:

1. When I worked one of my ideas into the story, my first thought wasa “I actually did it!” Then, that feeling quickly turned to guilt and trepidation. I realized that I had spent so much time focusing on the idea, that the transition from idea to written scene left me a little unnerved.

What if I didn’t do justice to this idea? Was it really ready to be firmed up and written down? Did the idea need more time, maybe another year or two to germinate?

But then I kept writing and more of my insubstantial ideas found solidity on the screen. Only then did it finally dawn on me…this is what actual progress feels like. The moral? Don’t be afraid to act on your idea. An idea that spends all it’s time as only an idea is a kid with a learner’s permit who never drives a car. Go. Drive.

2. The pace increased significantly once I overcame that fear of the germinating idea. At the same time the quality of the actual writing decreased. And yet I was okay with it. I heard the first draft described as the act of simply moving furntiture into the room. It doesn’t matter that they’re not in their final locations, or that the room isn’t decorated.

The point is to get the furniture in the room.

3. I still have a lot to learn and my ideas aren’t always the best. But I’ve adapted my goal to be one of completion, rather than perfection. A friend shared his story with me and it struck me that he had so casually written a story while I have been trudging through for years. Perhaps that’s my process…perhaps I try to make it too perfect the first time around.

But a perfect idea that is not yet written cannot be perfected.

It must be written. Drive. Move that furniture.

Perhaps there are some life lessons to be had from these points as well. I’ll leave it up to you to make the connections. I’ll also leave you with a teaser for the next post, which is already underway…it involves my new Nemesis.

StorySmithing the Kid’s Rite of Passage

I noticed something about the importance of the slide while playing with my kids this evening.  It occurred to me that every kids learns – nay, they yearn – to go UP the slide.  Once they learn to go down, they strive to go back up.  No one teaches them to do this.  It is an obstacle that they identify on their own, and they must conquer it.

Perhaps this is the first rite of passage of kid-dom.  Or at least it’s the first one that I’ve noticed.  Regardless, my daughter struggled to climb up the slide, her feet slipping on the smooth plastic.  And then, at last, her footing held firm.  Her hand grasped the top.  She made it.  She was so proud when she conquered that 2 foot hill!  And I was proud of her.

To me, it represented a turning point in her young life.  One where she will see an obstacle or a problem and choose to attack it on her own.  She saw.  She conquered.  I hope this gives her the confidence she will need in this often cruel world.

imageFrom a story standpoint, I must think about what rites of passage exist in the world I created:

  • What rites are universal, and at what ages?  
  • How does culture and nationality affect the rites of passage in this world I’m writing.  
  • How have the hostile forces shaped the rites?
  • What unique environmental, political, and socio-economic forces exist in this world that would have shaped various rites for those who live there?

I have one main character that drives the story – what rites did he go through as he grew up?   I have a unique opportunity to craft a rite that can potentially help drive the main point of the story.  I must think on these things.  

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