Getting back into my groove has been harder than I expected.

macbook pro

I had a lot of raw emotion to deal with last week, and to be honest, I let it get the better of me for a while. I’ve tried to slide back into my writing routine, tried to follow my advice and get back to it. I failed. Repeatedly.

Failure is a great teacher though, it tells me all the things that don’t work. For one thing, trying to ignore how sad I was didn’t help. Drinking to excess also didn’t help, it was fun while it lasted, but I have new bruises I can’t account for. The only real solution I found was to confront my feelings and get my butt back in the chair.

Funny how that works, isn’t it? I penned a post about how much I’d miss my cat Chloe. What I didn’t mention was any of the stress induced medical conditions that flared up while I was in my feelings. Those are gross, and I’ll spare you all the details. I’m better now.

And since I’m better, I’m back to my desk and pushing out more words. It isn’t exactly work, but without my muse over my shoulder, it does take some effort. The truth is, it feels good to create, to overcome my inner struggle and produce meaningful content. Even if it’s only meaningful to me and a handful of other people.

So, expect to read about Ashley, Gari, and the other new characters I’ve been writing about lately. There are adventures to be had, strange settings to explore, and new conflicts to resolve. I may not be 100% again, but I’m well on my way.

A change of pace – We, the Gathered Angels

We, the gathered angels

Summoned from on high

Stand to debate

A point of fate

Cast for a certain fly.

You might wonder why angels

Would be concerned with a fly.

It is just that

It influences a rat,

This particular fly.

And why, you ask, would angels,

Worry about a rat and fly?

Because of course,

It spooks a horse

(The rat leaping for the fly.)

Well, what does a horse have to do with angels

Or for that matter a rat and fly?

They you see, are the key

To this poor old farmer McGhee

(The horse, the rat, and the fly.)

Now we’re getting somewhere for angels,

You say as you start to cry

Because of course,

You’re on the horse,

And you’re about to die.

And that’s the talk of angels.

After a long week of sad days, I’m going to get some of that life Tony was talking about…

photo of people doing cheers

I’m going to live a little while I still can. A night out with friends might be just the lift my spirit needs. I’m sure I can find some spirits at the bar at least. 🙂 By the time you read this post, I may already be too happy to read it.

The pandemic has changed a lot of things. This time of year two years ago, I wasn’t worried at all about a virus, social distancing, or getting vaccinated. Now I just hope everyone I come into contact with (drinking or not) is smart enough to stay home if they’re sick. That seems unlikely, but I need to get out of the house for a while.

I love my grandchildren, and we have spent the summer together. But I need some adult conversation that doesn’t require typing. I don’t want to hear about Roblox, Minecraft, or Peppa Pig. A few shots might be in order tonight too. I’ll let you know how things went in my next post!

Yesterday I lost a piece of my heart…

Me and Chloe

Our cat was part of our family.

Just over sixteen years ago, I got a cat for my son. We’d just moved into a new house (where we still live) and I wanted him to have a pet. Cats are independent, pretty low maintenance, and he loves cats. Win – win, right? So I went to the local shelter and brought home a rescue kitty, I can’t even remember what we named him though. He died in my bedroom doorway within days.

I went back to the humane society and looked for another tabby cat as close to what he looked like as I could find. That’s when Chloe found me. She climbed right up into my arms at the shelter. I brought her home and she was as much my cat as she was my son’s. She lived a good long life and we were lucky to have her.

She was mostly a house cat. I’m not much for the outdoors, and neither was Chloe. She’d lay in the sunshine on our front porch, but in all the years she was with us, Chloe only left our yard to go to the vet. She did love to snuggle though, and she spent as much time in my lap as she did anywhere else in the house. I’ll miss looking down and realizing she’d snuck into my lap without me noticing again.

It was hard to let her go.

Last weekend, Chloe went to hide in our basement, which was not unusual for her. What was different was that she didn’t want to come back upstairs. I took her food and water, and checked on her all weekend. But she hardly budged except to use the litter box. Monday morning I found her asleep at the foot of the basement steps, like she wanted to come upstairs but couldn’t make it.

I brought her up, tired to get her to eat or drink, but she was in a daze. She was walking, but unsteady on her feet. I took her out for some fresh air on the front porch, but she seemed confused. She kept walking in circles, no matter where she wanted to go. One side of her body was stiff compared to the other. I’d seen that before in people who’d suffered a stroke.

Off we went to the vet. They did bloodwork, which all came back healthy. Chloe was dehydrated, and just really old. They gave her fluids, and sent us home with antibiotics. We hoped she might snap out of whatever was wrong with her. But that didn’t happen. We watched her slowly deteriorate over the next three days. She stopped trying to walk, even to use the litterbox. We held her, snuggled her, and said our goodbyes.

Yesterday, we knew she was suffering. She purred in our laps, but even that was an effort. I’d never had to put a pet down before, so I struggled with the decision. Eventually, we were back at the vet’s office, but this time, in a small room with a couch to say our final farewell.

It was terrible. One minute she was alive. She was tired, but awake. The next minute, the vet injected a small vial of bluish sedative-laced ‘medicine’ in her leg. Within seconds of the injection, she relaxed and seconds later, she was gone.

Loss is impossible to adequately prepare for.

I knew I loved Chloe, but I was unprepared for the flood of memories and emotions that overwhelmed me. From her first moments in our home, to her last breath in my arms, she was a good companion, for my son and for the rest of our family. I don’t think I’ll have another cat. We’ve taken in strays before, but they were mostly outside cats, we never had another house cat like Chloe.

It sounds a bit silly to write about how much losing Chloe affected me. But it made me think about how I approach loss and grief in my writing. It’s difficult to write about emotions you’ve never or rarely felt. While I don’t wish loss or pain on anyone, I have a new appreciation for making difficult choices when faced with no good options.

I have a fresh wound in my soul that I couldn’t have prepared for, even though I knew Chloe was old and wouldn’t live forever. She’s gone, but she’s also still in our minds, and our hearts. So, as long as we keep those memories alive, she isn’t entirely gone either. Like losing the people we love who live on through us, Chloe is still here for a little while longer.

Are we alone in the universe?

blue and white planet display

Catching up takes us to weird topics…

I had a long talk with an old friend today. One of the topics that came up is something I address in my writing. Are humans the only sentient species in the universe? It reminded me of Arthur C. Clarke’s quote, “Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.” Which is an excellent summation of Enrico Fermi’s famous paradox, probability says we are not alone, “But where is everybody?” It’s been 70 years since Fermi’s comment, and there is still no accepted evidence of extraterrestrial civilizations.

In my writing, I solve the paradox by imagining what that life may look like. I’ve created a number of civilizations who have visited Earth in the past. In my first published short stories, the Renegade Galaxy series, Humanity is part of a small group of interstellar civilizations in the Milky Way. In my fantasy series, Earth is also connected to alien worlds but has played a mostly minor role in their history.

Is there anybody out there?

In real life, Seti (the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence) has yet to find solid proof of alien life. NASA has tantalizing evidence that Mars may have supported life in the past, but has yet to publish anything definitive. I get to bypass reality and speculate, “What if…” in my fiction, but the underlying question remains. Are we alone or not?

The implications are staggering regardless of the answer. Fundamental questions humans have grappled with about why we are here, what our purpose may be, and whether this was all just a big mistake could be answered once and for all. If we’re the center of creation, maybe we are alone. If we’re not, humanity may be more insignificant than we thought. Or so rare as that our sentient nature alone makes us special in the vast void of space.

Maybe it doesn’t matter one way or the other.

Regardless of the answer to Fermi’s question, there is certainty in the stories I tell that we are not alone. Even if we haven’t been visited recently. My biggest practical lesson from either outcome is this: Life goes on. Humans want to live, to thrive, to leave something behind for future generations. Maybe that’s the only purpose we can hold on to with the data we have right now.

I’ve been reading the Magic of Recluce Saga since the 90’s

There is a lot to love about Recluce:

Full disclosure: This will not be a review of the books or even a comprehensive review of the series. I hated book reports in elementary school, and I’m not doing book reviews here. all I want to do is share what I like and dislike about this series. Mr. Modesitt has twenty two books on my library shelves, I’m thoroughly invested.

There is a lot to like in these books. If you’re unfamiliar with Recluce, I’ll summarize. The world of Recluce is in an alternate dimension from Modesitt’s Parafaith War. I’ve never read those books, but that’s what all the commentary I’ve read talks about. Two factions from this war made it to this Earth-like planet. An intentional colonization effort by the Rationalist Demons who built the nation state of Cyador, and the crew of a single combat vessel from the Black Angels crash land to build the country of Westwind on the roof of the World.

Strangely, there are already humans on the planet before either group settles there. The new arrivals carve out new homes, although both countries are eventually destroyed. While a few survivors flee to other countries around them. The majority of traditions from both Cyador and Westwind die with them. Chaos and Order, the magic both societies were born from, remains.

Chaos and Order: The Yin and Yang of Recluce

In the world of Recluce, Chaos and Order embody powerful forces controlled by human thought. Chaos is a fiery destructive force used by White Wizards, and Order is a strong preservative force wielded by Black Mages. More powerful than either are so called Grey Mages who wield Chaos and Order together. These two forces shape every significant event throughout the series.

Each book takes a single character and shows the reader pivotal moments in their lifetime. We read about more than eighteen hundred years of the history of this world. The individual hopes and dreams of each character also show the development of nations, armies, magic users, and ordinary inhabitants throughout the world of recluce. Modesitt shows economic, social, environmental, and technological changes to his world from the arrival of the Demons to the eventual destructive balance between Chaos and Order.

Most of the stories initially focused on the continent of Candar. Both Cyador and Westwind were located on this continent. Recluce is a large island off the east coast of Candar, so this choice of setting made sense. Modesitt expanded our understanding of the rest of his world with books set on the continents of Nordla, Austra, and Hamor.

The magic system around which the series revolves, is simple but profound. White magery is powerful at destruction, balanced against black magery that is powerful at preservation. Either can destroy those who use them if taken to extremes. The ultimate order is to stop all motion, while the ultimate chaos consumes all matter it comes into contact with. Used together, the two forces can accomplish even more incredible feats.

Neither Chaos nor Order can change human nature, or our tendencies to be cruel or uncaring of the fates of others. Only good people doing the best they can for one another can make the world a better place. Modesitt’s characters strive to do that, whether they are Chaos Wizards, Order Mages, or Grey Mages.

The Recluce Series showed me how much my reading habits have changed over thirty years.

Despite the great success of the series, and my personal devotion to reading it, the twenty two published books are far from perfect. When I read The Magic of Recluse, I had no idea I would one day write novels. I read for pure enjoyment, and didn’t critique the narrative as it unfolded. I found the most recent book, Fairhaven Rising, impossible to digest without critiquing.

Mr. Modesitt has sold over three million copies of Recluce Books, he can get away with things my critique group would skewer me for writing. The problem for me, is that I have come to expect those things in his writing, and without realizing it at first, I’ve had to edit out my versions of those same phrases and ideas. Maybe when I have millions of copies sold, I can fall back on my heathen, Modesitt ways.

My only real disappointment in the series came from the book, The Wellspring of Chaos. The main character of that book spends a great deal of the first third of the book suffering at the hands of a corrupt ruler’s son. He’s tried, convicted, punished, then released from the local justice system, which is anything but just. Later in the novel he learns that system better than those who administer it, but he never faces off against that system. To a child of the 80’s, it was a missed opportunity to turn the system on it’s head. Damn the man, save the Empire!

A change of pace – Madness Well Designed

uncertain stressed black man hugging pillow on bed

Scribbles whirling in mid-air

Bring tears to my eyes.

While clouds of heavy incense

Cling to my thighs.

Magic all around me

Whispers on the breeze.

It blocks my every motion,

Binding me with ease.

Captured by relentless phantoms

That overwhelm my mind

I sink a little deeper

In madness well designed.

Haunted by familiar faces

I walk my past again.

By some arcane mystery

I relive each forgotten sin.

The curse of ruthless furies

Bearing grapes of wrath,

Forcing me to account

For the steps along my path.

Yet I speak no words of penance;

In life, I will no solace find.

For regret has no meaning,

In madness well designed.

Welcome to the crossroads, traveler…

photo of pathway surrounded by fir trees

As I inch closer to 365 consecutive blog posts, I’ve spent a lot of time looking back to plot my course forward. What should I do next? What worked or didn’t work in the last year? What options will I have to make the most of my time? I still don’t have answers to all these questions, but I’m working on it.

In the next few months I plan to write at least four distinct short stories. Two I’ve already started, with Gari on Torthal, and the Explorers Club. I’m entering writing contests with each of them, and hope to build up diversity in my work. Winning any of the contests isn’t really the point for this exercise but it would be nice to place.

As the seasons change, I get nostalgic and restive. I want to hold on to the easy pace of warm summer days, but look forward to a quiet house to write without distractions. Part of me is always looking back even as I try to decide where to go next. Janus, or my idea of that august Roman deity, is never far from my thoughts about coming and going.

A year ago I had an unfinished idea for a book, and little faith that I would ever finish it. Now I have a completed, edited, and polished manuscript. It turns out, that was the easy part. I’m still querying, still writing, and still building up towards whatever future writing may bring me. The one thing I’m not doing while looking back is regretting the steps I’ve taken along the path. My writing journey continues.

Creativity is stagnant in a vacuum…

silhouette photo of woman

Writing is my passion, but I also like to collaborate. I love to share ideas and work together to make something none of us would have created alone. I don’t get to do that nearly as much as I’d like. My critique groups come close sometimes. Their focus is building up a single work by one author at a time. I want to try something new.

In my experience, writing is often solitary. We have to reach out after the work is drafted at least to get feedback from others. I’m not talking about that kind of format. What I envision is a more collaborative effort from the start. I’m not entire sure what this will look like, but here’s what I have so far. I’d like to set up a video call, with about four or five other authors, and share a google doc to work on.

The work would probably be best among authors of the same genre. I’m primarily a fantasy writer, but have some science fiction leanings, too. I can’t be the only person to think of this, but I haven’t found another group like it in my limited search for a good format. If anyone has a good example or a place to look that I haven’t come across, please reach out!

That brings me to the crux of this post, I’m looking for other writers to join me. If what I described sounds interesting, or you have more ideas to make it better, I’d love to hear from you. Maybe it doesn’t sound right for you. But if you know someone who might be interested, please share this post with them. You (or they) can comment here, email me at SteveAnderson@thesorcerersrealm.com, or find one of my social media profiles (Twitter, FB, Pinterest, Tumblr, or LiknedIn). I’m out there, looking for collaborators!

Magic might look like a (Super) natural disaster.

silhouette of fireman holding hose

In my debut novel, Fantastic America, that’s just how the international TV News coverage begins. Ashley Monahan is on hand to make a live report as Salt Lake City, becomes a focal point for magical energy unlike anything in recorded history. Experts scrutinize events like it around the world, government agencies, and private citizens alike. None of them understand what they see.

These events are only the beginning of a longer period of change that humans have not seen in thousands of years. The return of magic also heralds the return of creatures of myth and legend, along with people who can use magic. Magic is inherently dangerous, even to those who can wield it. Magical creatures or any creature empowered by magic can be deadly.

The earliest news from magical event sites make no mention of magic at all. Modern society is so far removed from all things mystical, that no one reporting on the events recognizes magic. Even after hordes of zombies appear, the scientific (and medical) communities find it impossible to admit magic is at work. Only Ashley’s reporting finally breaks through the modern sensibility that magic might be responsible.

As more creatures appear and the first hints of magic users reach law enforcement, the truth becomes impossible to ignore. Phantom animals that disappear, fires that burn without consuming any fuel, shadowy monsters that fade into the night, and ghosts that hold conversations with the living are just the first signs of change. Folk remedies and mystical guidance once thought superstitious becomes essential to survival. No one ignores the spreading weirdness for long, as paranormal bumps in the night become actual menaces to society.

Welcome to Fractal, the universal prime world.

an abstract design

I’ve been taking on writing challenges lately. My last foray gave me Torthal, and the mysteries outsiders have been unable to investigate. I spent most of July developing that story into an ongoing series. This month I’m starting a new adventure, the Centriole.

The Centriole is a building, but it’s also home to the Society for Exploration. They are a social club of interdimensional explorers, scientists, and adventurers. Together the Explorers have mapped, sampled, and catalogued trillions of worlds. In some cases they have acted as diplomats on behalf of their far more advanced civilization to other primitive cultures.

The Centriole exists in more than one dimension, but physically, it exists on the planet Fractal. The origin of the club’s charter members, and the original source of civilization throughout every iteration of the universe since they began keeping track of big bangs. Fractal is a ‘folded’ planet. The technology that allows a single building to house the Explorers Headquarters allows Fractal to house trillions of sentient beings.

Fractal is a unique world, connected to many other planets throughout this universe and many parallel realities. Through the Centriole and the Society for Exploration, the number of worlds connected to Fractal has continued to expand for hundreds of Universal Cycles. The destination of the latest expedition to leave the Centriole through it’s interdimensional Dive Chamber is a primitive backwater planet in an otherwise unremarkable galaxy called Earth.

A change of pace – Point of View

time lapse photo of stars on night

To be among the stars,

Shining as they shine,

Blazing with all their glory.

But alas, I am no star.

I do not so shine,

Nor blaze so fair.

I am no warrior Mars,

Nor a Venus so fine.

I have but a dull life’s story.

Getting nowhere and going as far.

I do not so shine.

Bloated with tons of water,

Feeling weighted by the tons

And sickened by this filthy air.

But oh, to be as the stars!

Vibrant with life and hotter –

Hotter than any other suns.

Instead I stand in the dread sun’s glare.

Look there, my child raked with scars;

Even she so shines.

All around me others beam.

Only I produce no light.

Why can’t I project a stream?

Poor Mother Earth, locked in eternal night.

15 things I’ve learned from blogging every day for a year.

crop unrecognizable woman writing goals for upcoming year in notepad

1 – I really can come up with 365 things to write about. (Even when I’m sick.)

2 – I can never predict what will resonate more with my audience. Sometimes it’s a post about writing, sometimes it’s a poem. So I quit trying. I write and hope my meandering ideas are enjoyable to my audience.

3 – Research is critical to sharing authentic experiences. It is also a dangerous trap that can consume more time than the research is worth. It is better for me to research before I write than while I’m writing, but sometimes I don’t know what I need to research until I get to that point in my writing.

4 – Editing is best done after filling the sandbox. I need to throw everything I can think of onto the page before I start to polish anything. Most of the time I’ve found my best ideas come during the editing phase once I have a deeper appreciation for the characters, setting, and plot.

5 – Writing habits are a double edged sword. You can develop a terrific writing routine that works perfectly for you. If that routine is disrupted, it can ruin all your progress. I have to be flexible, and kind to myself if I don’t accomplish as much as I planned.

6 – Inspiration comes from literally everywhere. A song, a book, a movie, a TV show, a conversation, or any number of random thoughts can inspire me. Even weird dreams can spark my imagination in ways I hadn’t expected. I try not to close myself off to any avenue of inspiration.

7 – Hope, my muse. She is a generous but fickle mistress. Hope can give me everything I need, or withhold any words she might otherwise share. I still have to write whether she is cooperating or not. The only way to do that is to settle in and write. Procrastination won’t help, waiting for her to come along won’t work either. I have to write. Sooner or later she’ll peer over my shoulder and add more of her influence to what I’m working on.

8 – Updates about what I’m writing are more interesting to me than to my readers. They want a finished product, not my gushing excitement about the latest chapter or short story I am writing.

9 – Querying is my greatest struggle. Writing a book, or a series of short stories is easy. Finding a publishing professional who believes in that work, and will work with me to build a business relationship together is far more difficult. I’m still searching.

10 – New work is always going to come from sitting at my desk. Even if I scribble a note for later, or jot down ideas on my phone. The outlines, timelines, and actual prose comes from planting my butt in the chair and writing. Nothing else will substitute for that.

11 – Reviewing where I’m at is helpful, but only to show me what else I can accomplish. I can’t navigate in reverse all the time, planning where to go based on what I’ve already done works. I won’t limit my vision based on where I’ve already been either though.

12 – Using the real world versus my version. Early on while I was writing Fantastic America, I got a lot of feedback about setting my books in a different version of the real world that didn’t use actual living people, businesses, and so on. I resisted. That was in my mind, part of the appeal of the stories happening in a contemporary setting. Once I embraced the idea, my version of the real world made the story better. I was free to manipulate the world we all know and fit my story into better settings, with better characters, and a history that preserved my ideas.

13 – Poetry has been my communication style of choice since I was in high school. I drifted away from it, but always circle back to some couplet or another. Sharing my poetry has not always been a great experience. Friends and family may love my words, but I’m convinced professional poets are on a different level than most humans.

14 – Writing during the pandemic. Lockdown hasn’t felt all that constrictive. I’ve gone where I wanted to for the most part, and done the same kinds of things. I’ve lost friends to the virus, but for the most part, I’ve stayed safe. I wouldn’t wish the kind of suffering it causes on anyone.

15 – People love lists. One of my go to blog ideas is to write a list of things people might enjoy. This post is one of those lists, in fact. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. As I close in on 365 posts in a row, I thought it would be a good idea to examine more than just how these posts were viewed. I enjoyed writing it, looking for details from other blog posts to create it, and sharing it with the folks who follow my posts. Thanks!

Familiars in the Magic Unleashed series.

There are six kinds or schools of magic in the series.

In the world of Fantastic America, wizards of the last magical age created familiars. These were human followers who were drawn to serve a specific wizard. Each kind of wizardry has a ritual for this purpose. In general, the wizards and familiar entered into a pact. A magical contract where the wizard empowered a newly created familiar with abilities from their kind of magic. In return, the familiar was linked to the wizard and pledged allegiance to them and their interests.

Each kind of wizardry created a specific kind of familiar. Life wizards created paladins who defend life and impose order. Sorcerers created apprentices who seek knowledge above all else. Aqueous wizards created water warriors who prefer to spend their time beneath the waves. Necromancers created obedient fiends who stalk prey for their cruel masters. Lithic wizards created beast lords who in turn, bonded to one or more land dwelling animals to protect their wizard. Fire wizards created hellions to burn away weakness and sow chaos.

All familiars created this way have a single overriding mission. To protect and serve their wizard. The pact that empowers them continues till the death of the wizard or the familiar. Though in practice, the familiar often died at the same time or just before their wizard. The ritual that empowers them does not remove free will from the familiar, but it does subtly influence their behavior.

In the world of the Magic Unleashed series, wizards have yet to re-discover familiars and their empowering rituals. Readers won’t encounter their fist familiars until book two of the series, Midwestern Magicians. Like familiars of old, those with a calling will seek out a wizard and make a pact. Their power comes at the price of unswerving loyalty, but it is one they are willing to pay.

I run out of ideas for posts…

person with difficulty and questions in studies

Coming up with interesting topics every day has been exhausting. Sometimes, I’ve needed help. I’ve scoured other bloggers posts for ideas, and read lists of their favorite topics. Not all of that has helped or made into this blog. But I have managed to get a post of some kind rounded up for almost 365 days in row now!

That may not be a huge accomplishment, but I’m excited to cross it off my writing bucket list. I have no idea if I’ll post that frequently after I pass the one year mark, but right now I’m leaning towards cutting back to one post a week. Maybe special posts for special events or announcements. That makes more sense to me.

I have more projects coming up too. Gari in Torthal is continuing his journey. As the plot has expanded, I’ve needed to rewrite his introduction story in, “Gari and the Pox”. Expect an update for that when I have it polished up. I’m working on some new short stories unrelated to Gari or my Magic Unleashed series. The ideas are still percolating, but I’m excited to share more about them as they come together.

I’m also still querying agents for Fantastic America. The process is torturous for me, but I’m a glutton for punishment, I guess. My critique group is also still writing and critiquing. We added a new member this week, so I’m excited to read her work. I have plenty to keep me busy at any rate. And I’ll have more to post about now that I have all these projects coming together.

This weekend reminded me that human connections are the most important part of my life.

happy ethnic guests carrying bride in white dress in countryside

Outside of my writing life this weekend, two of my friends lost their husbands, one of my dearest friends got married (I helped!), and I re-connected to a family member I haven’t heard from in years. It really drove home how crucial relationships are. How humans relate to each other is the major draw for readers of most fiction. Connections are literally what gives life meaning. It’s easy to lose sight of that, but not too late to remember.

Loss of a loved one is tragic, and my friends have to grieve that loss with their children. There are no words that can console a loss like that. All I can do is give them space, help out with other things they still need to do but can’t, and hope they can regain some version of happiness on the other side of their tragedy.

This post may be shorter than most, as I’m still chatting with my niece. For every darkness, I hope for a brighter event to balance it out. Family and friends aren’t the focus of everyone in the world, but they are my main focus outside of writing. Having a chance to mend broken connections, and strengthen others has made my heart happy today. I hope everyone who wants that chance can enrich their lives, too.

A change of pace – Call to Your Land

city sunset water skyline

Call to your land,

Before the walls are built.         

We the people are outcasts.         

Cast out by your rules.

The same rules that protect you,

Force us from our homes.            

Call to your land,

Before time runs out.

We the people are searching.

Searching on the streets.

The streets are all you’ve left us. 

You’ve left us nothing at all.      

Call to your land,                  

Before your towers topple.          

We the people are coming.           

We will rewrite the rules.          

You have the right to remain silent,

Though thistles choke your fields.  

Call to your land.                  

Lest it cry out to you.             

We the people are listening.         

Your land is all that matters.      

Your rules forbade our living,      

But your land will take us in.

Call to your land.

Magic has been here all along…

earth wallpaper

Magic, or the potential for magic, is always present in the world of my debut novel, Fantastic America. Even in the bleak times of no magic, there are means (some more abhorrent than others) to work magic. The majority of these means are difficult to achieve, or unpredictable in nature. This is especially true considering most of the knowledge was passed down in spoken form. Writing actual magical instructions poses numerous dangers, some more obvious than others.

Still, magic is powerful, when it works, even in the bleak times. Traditions from all over the world have persisted, despite the dangers their knowledge represented, with wildly different mystical practices. Most of these groups adopted some form of secrecy to maintain their legacy. Few of them retained a full understanding of magic in the absence of flows from other worlds.

The return of those magic flows to the modern world, brings a new dilemma to people who still hold any magical knowledge from long ago. They must decide whether to remain in hiding or reveal themselves to the world at large. For most, enforced secrecy is too integral to their identity, and sustained magic is too new to reveal themselves. However, the best laid plans of mice and men…

Summer is slipping away…

macro photography of black sunglasses on sand

Summer in Iowa is a little different from the season I grew up with in North Carolina. There isn’t as much shade in the middle of farmland as there was under the pine forests I wandered in as a child. That said, Summer is still my favorite season. Seeing it draw to a close is bittersweet for me this year.

Until this year, my son spent the season with us before going back to school in Colorado. This year he’s more focused on the next steps in his life and I’ve missed him terribly. In his absence, the house has been filled with grand children, there have still been hours of pool parties, and visits by friends. Cook outs, story time by the fire, and our annual Fourth of July party also bounced back from the pandemic.

One thing that has been missing over the past few weeks (or longer) is new fiction writing on my part. I wrote the introduction to Gari on Torthal, and am rewriting that. Otherwise, I haven’t put nearly the effort into new writing that I expect. I plant my butt in the chair as always, but I’ve worked on other projects. I’ve caught up on critiques, read books on my TBR, and found every other excuse to keep busy without writing new material.

The end of Summer means the house will quiet down again. Kids go back to school, my wife goes back to teaching, and maybe the solitude will help me get back to what I love, creating new adventures. The characters are there, my muse is patiently waiting, and new worlds await my fingers on the keyboard. I’ll be sorry to see the cold weather return, but I’ll be glad to get back to the strange company I keep with my stories.

Writing habits can be good or bad.

person writing on white paper beside white ceramic mug on brown wooden table

I write every day. At least the post for this blog. I may not post here every day for the rest of my life, but I’m almost to the end of a 365 day cycle. I wanted to prove to myself that I could write original content every day for a year. Like Bruce said, “I see this as an absolute win!”

Most days, I also work on other projects. I still have my toes in the water for Ashley Monahan and Fantastic America, and more than that in Gari Garcia in Torthal (a project that is changing as I write it). I also read and write critiques with partners in a couple of groups each week. So I’m never far from my keyboard for long.

Good Habits are helpful.

That brings me to the topic for this post, the habits you develop as you write can help or hurt your writing. Every author is different, like every person is unique, but there are a few constants in writing that I’ve found helpful. There are far more that I’ve found distracting or harmful, but I’ll get to them in a minute.

The first helpful habit to get into is the most basic advice I give throughout all my posts, write. Put your butt in a chair (or on the floor or stand if you have to) and put words on the page. Daily. It may help to write at the same time every day, structure is great for many writers. But I write at any time of the day or night that suits my lifestyle. Each to their own in how you live and fit writing into that life. Just write.

I need peace and quiet to write, my wife and I have a lot of grandchildren here in the summer, so that time is precious to me. If you need quiet to focus on your words, find some. Children sleep, pets sleep (we have four dogs and two cats), and devices can be silenced. There have been times, I had to get work done but couldn’t wait for quiet to fall at our house. Headphones and music is a good substitute for me, at least it masks the majority of the chaos around me.

Bad habits can ruin the best of intentions.

Procrastination is my kryptonite. The worst excuse I make about writing is to put it off for some other task, or to find a reason I can’t put words on the page. Most of it is nonsense, and this is true of most of the procrastination in my life. Once I am in motion to get something done, it takes far less time and effort than I built up in my resistance. But that brings me to another point, resistance.

Resistance in writing usually has another source. I hesitate to write a scene I’m not completely comfortable with, or tackle a project I haven’t thoroughly examined in my mind’s eye. Uncertainty can manifest as doubt, it can cause delays or avoidance (for me) to even attempt to write. So I spend some time examining where resistance is coming from.

Outlining helps me overcome this problem, I can settle the doubts with a plan and get words on the paper. They don’t always survive, but effort build momentum, writing and rewriting move me toward completion. Even if the words are terrible, I’ve found what doesn’t work, and can write something else till I find something that does work.

Find what works for you.

Develop your routine with what you want to accomplish in mind. I have a different mindset for ‘exploratory writing’ on a new subject versus the sandbox method I use while writing the first draft of a novel (pile everything you can into the sandbox edit it later). Both of which are different from blogging, writing poetry, or editing work that needs more attention. Only you can find the methods that fit your writing style.

Maybe you need to shut off devices, close browser windows, and tune out the world around you to do your best writing. Music in the background (or other noises) may help you. Turn off your phone, or set a timer if you think you might write for too long (gasp!). Read blogs to find other suggestions, for every problem you encounter, another writer ahs probably written about their experience along the same line. Help is out there, if you seek it out.

Ultimately, my advice is unchanged. Write. Write well. Repeat until you have something to share with the world. Find people and places to share. Then write more and share that, too. Writing can be solitary, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, I’ve found the best of my writing came when I planned to share it with the world. You may find the same thing.