Sunday, July 07, 2019

Every Villain Needs a Hero

Villains drive the story.  Without them our heroes would just walk in and get the treasure.  Or they'd keep their day jobs and never leave the farm, never run off with Obi-Wan, never enter the ADAA Regional Dodgeball Qualifying match, etc. etc.  However, a villain alone cannot complete a story.  You cannot have Yin without Yang.

So I needed a hero.  My heroes in just about all my previous stories were rather serious types.  This time I wanted something different.  I wanted a trickster hero who was part Brer Rabbit and part Punisher.  I wanted someone younger and more of a smart alec.  But I also needed someone driven by something dark and powerful in their past.  I needed someone set on a bloody goal who could not be persuaded to remain on the farm.  I came up with Conradus de Enghien.

Enghien was (and probably still is) a village in the old County of Hainault in what is now Belgium/Luxembourg.  The First Crusade came largely from French lands and Enghien sounded sort of German even though it was sort of French. I wanted a hero who could possibly be multi-cultural with some exposure to a wider world.

Conradus is a name I found in a list of medieval names in that area and at that time.  It's likely a holdover from Latin and it can easily be shortened to Conrad and that's a familiar sound to modern ears and so that was that.  Name and home town from 'reality', everything else from 'imagination.'  He would be young but haunted by a violent past.  He would be quick with a quip or sly comment but ready to go dark and commit murder in the next breath.  The best heroes are the ones where you're not exactly sure what they're going to do next.

The story I envisaged was a personal struggle between Conrad and Baldwin as they each went after the MacGuffin.  Personal struggles make the best heroic conflicts, by the way.  Darth Vader is just a guy making a bad fashion statement until we find out he's Luke's father.  Therefore, Baldwin had to do something bad to Conrad and what better bad thing than to destroy his family.  This was the connection.  This was the powerful darkness in Conrad's past that would inevitably force the two of them together, locked in conflict that can only be resolved by blood.

And that's how you write a good story.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

The Star Shine, The Blood Rains

The very awesome people at Rogue Blades Entertainment have released Crossbones & Crosses which contains my story "The Stars Shine, The Blood Rains."  Everyone should digitally run out and buy a copy as fast as their fingers can fly.

As always, here are the behind the scenes details.  I took up this challenge on short notice and had to figure out if I could even really do it.  Even though I hadn't written in several years, I was at a point in my life where I was thinking about picking it back up.  So when this opportunity came along I was already leaning towards it.

First thing I had to do was find a story.  Since the subject matter was constrained to either pirates or crusaders, that helped provide focus.  Enter Wikipedia.  Choose 'First Crusade'.  Then start hunting around for the people and events that made up that period of history.  Within five minutes I ran across the part where an obscure, unknown monk finds the Holy Lance (the spearhead that the Roman soldier used to pierce the side of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ while He hung on the cross) but under what are politely called 'suspicious circumstances.'

Like a bolt of lightning from on high, I had a MacGuffin.

Next came characters.  The monk who found the Lance was burned alive shortly after the events of my story and he seemed like a weasley sort anyhow so I needed someone else to center the story on.  None of the historical nobles who fought the First Crusade seemed like good candidates but I did run across the tale of how Baldwin II of what is now the Netherlands and Belgium was installed as Count by impolite means and was otherwise generally an ass.

Now I had a villain.

Every villain needs a hero.  And that guy I'll have to tell you about tomorrow.

Friday, March 01, 2019

This is Happening

Okay, it's been a few years since I've written anything for publication.  I got caught up in life, got mobilized and sent to Africa for a year, came back and followed a job to the Midwest.  So then some time passed.

Now I've written a story set in the First Crusade.  It uses the Siege of Antioch as the backdrop for a simple tale of murder, theft, and revenge.  It's going to be published by the good people at Rogue Blades Entertainment at some point in the near future.

Honestly, it was tough to write.  I had lost a lot of muscle memory and getting back into a writing habit was tricky.  But perseverance and inspiration combined at the right times and I came up with something I like quite a bit.  More details will follow shortly.

Monday, August 08, 2011

While the Morning Stars Sing

Some of you may remember my talking about the story I wrote, "Such Great Faith", about the biblical tale of the centurion's servant who was healed by Jesus. Written from the centurion's point of view and having Jesus with a small speaking role, it was a bit daring and I think it turned out well.

The tough part was coming up with a place to sell it. It wasn't really the type of speculative fiction I normally write as it was more of a straight historical piece. After several attempts it finally found a good home in an anthology from Residential Aliens. I'm pleased to announce that While the Morning Stars Sing is now published and available for purchase. I hope you all enjoy.

Friday, April 15, 2011

What's Up With Lima?

Even with no updates in months, this blog gets about 2-5 hits a day based on various searches and links around the internets. However, for some bizarre reason, in the past two days I've gotten about 35 hits all from Lima, Peru. Not sure what I did to attract such attention but it's an interesting oddity.

In other news, since I'm here, I'm still waiting on the publication of three stories that were originally scheduled to see print last year. Times are tough in the publishing industry.

Also, for the last several months while in Africa, I've written nothing. I've been pretty busy and with that has come plenty of intellectual stimulation that leaves me wanting to do nothing but vegetate when I get back to my room at night. I will say that in the last couple of weeks I've been thinking more about all the research I did to expand "Love and Revolution" into a full length novel so there may be some creativity lurking just around the corner. We will see what we will see.

Friday, September 03, 2010

The Times, They Are a Changing Again

Some of you may know, and some of you may not, that my life is in an evolutionary process right now. I was effectively laid off back in March and I've been making a living by going to as many Marine Corps exercises as I can. Now it's time to take the plunge and go back on active duty. I'm getting one year orders to Djibouti, Africa. Unaccompanied. Should be fun.

The activity on this blog will decrease. Partly because of the shift in life focus and partly because I'm just not writing very much at this time. I've started up a new blog called Going Afar. (Bonus points for anyone who can figure out the significance of the title.) The main reason for the blog is that I was having a hard time finding any current information on the deployment process and military life in Djbouti. So it's planned as a resource of sorts. Also in my thinking was that this part of my life doesn't really fit into the theme of this blog.

Scriptorius Rex will continue to be updated. I have the three stories which are coming out in the next few months and I'll provide info on them as well as the surrounding processes. Those interested are enthusiastically invited to follow my other blog. It's undiscovered territory for me, albeit thoroughly populated by others, and I'm looking forward to the journey.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Don't Say It's Over

But it is. I'm back in the US of A and Korea is in the rear view mirror. I had a great time and got to see a lot of the same officers from back in March. There was Maj Shin, who was my main counterpart and who I worked with the most, and Maj Baek, who I had the previously described conversation about 'fairy dust' with. We were more comfortable with each other this time around. (One great bit came when I was trying to teach a group of them how to pronounce the word 'collaborative'. It was a hopeless cause from the outset but we all had a good laugh.) The translators were better this time. One of them grew up in California and probably knew more Spanish than Korean. The one from Philly was hilarious to listen to during the briefs and another one studied at Oxford and sounded a bit like John Lennon. The final victory party was a shorter version of the last one, sans karaoke, but it was a better time in general.

It was a bit sad to leave knowing that I'll likely never go back again but then, that's how most things go in our lives isn't it? Now, with that behind me, I'm turning all focus on my upcoming deployment to Djibouti, Africa. I'm learning the history, studying the role of the US military there, and j'apprends le francais.

Life is like a giant book and it's time to turn to the next chapter.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Rules

Rule No. 1: Never post when you're drunk.

Rule No. 2: Never break rule number one unless you've just spent two hours with the ROK Marine Corps, who, by the way, are professional drinkers (like the Russians but without the bitterness), and have thoroughly enjoyed the duck and pork and host of dipping sauces and garlic and peppers and kimchee and beer and soju and a really good whiskey.

This Is the Life

This is where I've been living for the past couple of weeks. The room fits seven but we usually only have a few of us at any one time. The showers are open bay style and they're down the hall. Toilet facilities, sinks, and a big rec room/chow hall at the other end of the building.

It beats a tent.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Words You Never Want to Hear the Four Year Old Say When He's the Only One Answering the Video Call and You're In Korea

"Dad! Why do meatballs explode?"


This is the emblem of the Republic of Korea Marine Corps. The Eagle, Star, and Anchor, mounted outside the HQ building in Baran, South Korea. It symbolizes the fact that allied countries all over the world have forces that are trained to locate, close with, and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Travelling Lighter Than Normal

Let me tell you how to get lost luggage back from the airlines. First you have to go to their service counter at the baggage claim and ask where your bags are. If you're in Pusan, which may be unlikely for you but very likely for me, you look around for someone who speaks good English. Then, and this is the important part, you assume a look of utter amazement while saying, "My bags aren't even in Korea yet?" Then you get a phone number to call and a claim number to reference. Then you shrug and go about your business. Then you spend an unrestful night on a cot wishing you had a pillow while listening to everyone else snore. Then you call the number the next morning, after the clock strikes Business Hours, and find out that your bags are somewhere over the Pacific and will get to Pusan late that night for delivery to you the next morning. Then you give them contact information for whatever military base you're currently staying at. Then you buy a couple of shirts. Then you go about your business. Then you wake up the next morning, feeling less fresh than usual, and call again to confirm that your bags are on the way. Then you wait all stinkin' day and they don't show up. Then you sleep again, with your mood in a downward spiral. Then you get up and spend a few hours trying to find out who picked up your bags from the main gate last night and, once found, patiently wait for them to figure out which van your bags are in the back of. (Hint: It's the van that just took someone to the train station.) Then you wait another hour or two and get your bags back. Then your glasses break.

And that's how you get lost luggage back from the airlines.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I Left My Bags In San Francisco

I suppose when you travel as much as I do it is bound to happen to you. Of course it would be better if international travel and military exercises weren't involved.

I arrived in Seoul only to find out that my luggage did not. Since we were delayed out of Seattle to SF, and I had to hustle to make my flight to Korea, my bags didn't make it with me. So now I have a connecting flight to the south end of the peninsula followed by a bus ride out to another location only to wake up with no fresh clothes or uniforms tomorrow and get a ride right back to the airport in hopes that my bags finally show up. I imagine things will work out just fine in the end but I'm not sure how tonight's going to go. I have a sleeping bagless cot waiting for me in some tent somewhere. The potential for misery is high for this Marine.

But hey, if it was easy, anybody would do it.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Writing Lessons From Inception

Inception is an outstanding movie. In a time where we get nothing but films about a group of similar people shooting/killing/blowing up a group of similar bad guys it is very nice to see something a little different. This is an excellent and suspenseful action thriller that is both smart and moving. The visuals are awesome and the plot moves with just enough complication to keep you interested the whole way through.

It's a fascinating aspect of the plot that is the focus of this writing lesson. The technology that gets the characters into each others' dreams is never explained other than by one line of dialogue: "The military developed this so soldiers could train realistically and not actually hurt themselves." That's the extent of the technobabble. What I love about it is that the technology really is irrelevant when you think about it. The characters believe in it. They use it and it works and it follows a few rules and that's it. That's a smart way to write the script because it saves you all kinds of time and effort to come up with something plausible. While you might think that is important, I would submit that you are just opening yourself up to trouble when someone starts to pick apart your system. Much easier to just remain mum and let the rest of the story work in your favor.

Anyhow, go see Inception. You'll thank me for it later.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Oh, The Fun You Can Have!

Today was Capitol Hill day for my class at the National Defense University. Luckily it was not too terribly hot like it had been last week because we started with a mid day walk from Union Station, past the Capitol building, and a couple blocks more to a restaurant for lunch. Then I had to scramble off and find Jay Inslee's office for a quick courtesy visit. He was between meetings but took the time to shake my hand and we chatted about the military and my upcoming assignment to Djibouti. Very nice, engaging fellow. Makes me wish he wasn't a Democrat.

Then I spent some time in the Senate visitors gallery and watched some proceedings regarding the Transparency and Disclosure Act. Sitting above the Senate floor is like Disneyland for a political science geek like myself. At first there's just some staffers shuffling paperwork around at the various tables up front. Then John Kerry walks through and goes into some room behind the chamber. Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid come in and discuss something for a while. Then the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell gets up and starts in on how awful the bill is that they're considering. Then Schumer gets up and talks, without looking at his notes, for fifteen minutes about how wonderful the bill is. Then, hold on to your hats folks, Senator Reid calls for a roll call vote for cloture! I'm thinking: AWESOME!

Before you know it, all the Senators start filing into the room, chatting amongst themselves, and getting the clerk's attention as he reads the roll. It's funny, but in the Senate they don't have fancy electronic voting gadgets. They just hold up their hand to the clerk and point up or down as they're walking by. My Senators, Cantwell and Murray, spent some time talking with each other before Sen. Cantwell started messing with her Blackberry and walked off. Al Franken walked in, milled around, voted, and left. Of course, the highlight of the afternoon was John McCain walking in, voting, and walking out. Fourteen seconds of my life I'll never forget.

With all this action in the Senate, I figured going over to 'that other body' would just be a let down. So, it was time to get the metro back to the hotel.

What a day!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Pentagon Memorial

This morning, before sunrise, I took a walk to the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial. I'm not sure why, but things like this really must be done very early in the morning. The site has the standard list of names etched in granite and then a large area with individual memorials sweeping up out of the ground with running water beneath them. They look a bit like benches but somehow it just doesn't seem right to sit on them. As I walked the grounds I noticed they are all arranged in parallel straight lines that point towards the rebuilt area of the Pentagon; there's a noticeable difference in shading of the new stone walls. It was somber, quiet, and with the sun coming up over the building, fairly awe inspiring. 184 people lost their lives that day, among them was only one Marine. Judging from his birth date I have to assume he was a crusty old retired jarhead with a story for every day he was in the service. After staring at the Pentagon for a few minutes, I found his memorial and sat down for a spell just to rest my feet.

I figured he wouldn't mind.