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Shades of things to come… Chapter One

So I looked back today and realized it has been almost a month since I have posted anything. With the day job and working on some of the projects that had been back burnered during the month of November I have not taken much time to post anything. I decided I would do something different. The entire point of this blog was to document my experiences of working towards the publication of my first novel ‘The Lost Prophet’ I am have detailed the history of it how my inspirations have come about and the things that have motivated me, in the past I have posted on my personal facebook page the first draft of the first chapter and got some feedback from friends in regards to it. Once I finished the first draft I had close friends give me notes and the second draft of the book was started. So I will now reveal the second draft of the first chapter. Please feel free to provide feedback in the comments.

 Chapter One

Tragedy

The carriage crunched across the fresh snow as it neared the heavy iron gates to Wrexford Castle. James had been lost in the medical files he had been reviewing for the last two hours and did not notice the noise that Arthur and Cecelia made as the house came into view. The two-day trip by coach from London was coming to a close. The Burke Family was one of the oldest and proudest in England. James’ grandfather, The Eleventh Earl of Wrexford, had built his home here on the site of the first Wrexford Castle. The place from which the Burke family had ruled this land hundreds of years earlier. As their coach drove up the main drive to the front entrance James looked up at the towering stonewalls to the multiple gables topped by flechets. James did not have too many good memories of his boyhood home; his mother had been sweet, but it was his father who James feared. Lord Wrexford was a strong man, like his home, imposing both physically and in attitude. James tried his best to distract himself from the memories that swirled up around him as he read. His mother had been pressuring he and his wife to visit for the holidays for several years now and James could no longer blame his wife’s poor health for their absence. His Mother lectured him of the inappropriateness of he and his wife staying away for so long now that Cecilia was well enough to travel. Especially as they lived in London where all of his father’s peers could clearly tell that they would remain in town instead of heading north to visiting the family. It was not that his father was a bad man; that could not be farther from the truth. His father was the most progressive member of the Liberal Party in the House of Lords. He had done much in his time there to advance the position of the lower classes, more then possibly any other member. However his great accomplishments were a constant reminder of what was expected of James and his brother Martin.

As the coach settled to a halt at the front of the Castle’s expansive front entrance way Lord Wrexford’s Porter rushed forth to open the door and assist them.

“Greeting Master James. I hope the trip home was peaceful for you and your family.”

“Thank you, Warren. The weather, while brisk, has not been unbearable considering the time of year. Could you tell Mother and Father that we have arrived?”

“Lady Wrexford is aware of your arrival; Master George has gone to advise her. As to the Lord, he has not returned from his business in London as of yet. I was dispatched to inform Lady Wrexford of the delay in his return and assure her he will arrive in time for dinner on Christmas Night. I arrived not two hours ago myself.”

“You must be exhausted. Go and tend to yourself.” James insisted. “Our driver will be sufficient assistance to aid with our things”

“My thanks for your concern; I will make sure your mother has no need for my assistance. She has had the maids prepare the suite at the end of the south wing for your family.”

“That should be fine. Now go. I will give instructions to my driver and join the rest of the family inside.”

James turned and spoke to the driver quickly, then escorted his family up the steps to the main entrance to the house. Climbing the steps had always intimidated him. He could feel himself tensing at the anticipation. His father’s stern judgment of the way James was living his life and the possibilities of what it would mean to the legacy of the Burke family. The first thing every visitor learned on arriving was the history of the steps. His father would lecture of the placement of the stones that had been the only surviving pieces of the original castle that was destroy in the Norwegian Invasion of 1066. He glanced over to his wife and son. Cecelia had always been enamored of the grandeur of the estate. Like every time before that they visited she was struck speechless by the intense scope of the building. What worried him was the quiet that had settled over his son. Arthur was an enthusiastic, if frail child and to see his normal energy overpowered by the dominance of the estate bothered James greatly.

James older brother Martin and Martin’s adult son George met him in the library.

“Good to see that you have finally the pilgrimage north.” Martin teased as James entered the room.

“I’m sure you understand that my patients do not allow as free a break for the holidays as the Governors of Inner Temple.” James retorted. “George, mother informed me in her last letter that you have been made a full professor at Oxford. Congratulations are in order.”

“Thank you Uncle James. Grandfather was concern with the decision to remain at Oxford and not join father at the bar, but I have a great future and expect to be chair one day.” George responded.

“The only reason that Father was concerned with you teaching at Oxford was your relationship with Dicey.” Martin explained.

“I have informed Chair Dicey that while I respect his opinions, I will not be involving myself in the issue of Irish Home Rule that he and grand-father insist on sparring over.” George asserted.

“My boy you may have no other options. I was reticent to mention it, but this business that has delayed father in London. He has been asked by the Prime-Minister to meet with Derby, Granville and a man named Peters to lay down a framework for a Bill regarding Home Rule.” Martin stated.

“How does Gladstone expect to convince the House of Commons to vote on such a bill?” George challenged.

“Father feels that now is the perfect time, with the death of Disraeli, Salisbury will not be able to marshal the Conservative Party with enough strength to block passage of the bill.” Martin said, “James, where are you off to? Are you not going to join us?”

“My apologies gentlemen, a colleague of mine has requested that I review the records of a patient and provide him my opinion with the most haste.” James explained as he attempted to retire to his suite to complete his work.

“You will be joining us for dinner this evening James.” Lady Wrexford advised her son as she entered the room.

“Of course Mother, I do have to complete my work however before I might join the rest of you in the holiday merriment.” James said.

“Well once you have completed your tasks I will have Cecelia and Arthur in the study. We will be having tea with Sally and Margaret.” Lady Wrexford turned her attention to Cecelia. “Margaret has been excited that you have final arrived so that you might meet the newest member of the Burke family.”

As much as James was bored with the posing and preening that his brother and nephew were engaged in, his son Arthur had it worse. Due to his age Arthur was relegated to playing in the nursery as the ladies drank tea and talked of the precious baby Ester. Arthur was used to having the full attention of his father and mother at home. He was used to being treated as the center of the household. Sitting back and being treated like a baby and forced to find amusement in baby things frustrate Arthur to no end.

Dinner that night was an amazing affair, full of laughter and good cheer. James was once again amazed with his wife’s ability to charm the people around her.

“Martin am I mistaken or did you serve with this Gordon fellow that is in all of the newspapers of late?” Cecelia asked.

“Yes, I served with him in China many years ago. I am concerned with the situation that he has been involved in as of late.” Martin responded.

“What do you mean?”

“These reports regarding the stand off he is involved in for the last several months. The unit that he has been leading was much farther south that would seem necessary to accomplish their mission. He has shown in the past a clear tendency to extend a mission beyond safe grounds to the detriment of his troops.” Martin replied.

Cecelia could see that Martin’s grave assessment of the situation in Egypt placed a sour mood over the dinner and quickly turned to his daughter-in-law, “So Margaret, have you and George made plans for any additional children yet?”

With the mood saved the remainder of dinner was lit up by talk of family and the future.

The next morning James begged off spending time with his brother and nephew explaining that he had additional records to review for a colleagues that could not wait until after the holiday, he reasoned that to hold up in the study for the rest of the day would make things go faster until Christmas Eve dinner that night.

Arthur was once again trapped with the women of the house and the baby Ester. This did not sit well with Arthur, and several times during the day he tried to convince his Uncles to let him spend time with them. Repeatedly Arthur was informed that the men of the house were involved in important affairs and did not wish to be bothered.

Once again at dinner Arthur was relegated to the small side table that had been set up for him and his baby Cousin. Arthur was convinced that if he could just talk about important things then he would not be stuck with the baby all the time. He could be one of the men of the house.

Arthur slowly worked his way through the dark halls in the middle of the night, but it was not the expansive tree and presents in the drawing room that pulled his attention. Once he was able to sneak down to the main corridor he went to the room directly under the grand staircase, His grandfather’s office. Creeping into the room with a candle clutched tightly in his small hands; it was obvious to him from watching his father at home that the most important things would be in the large desk in the back of the room. Opening the first drawer he saw stacks of neatly organized papers. While his father and mother had educated him well and he could read much better than children two or three years older, the papers and letters that he found in his grandfather’s desk made no sense to him. Over and over again he search through each of the drawer to find something he could understand and talk about to the men in the household so as not be stuck spending any more time with the little baby during the day. Finally all that was left was the large bottom drawer on the right side. Try as he might he could not get it to open. Then he remembered when his father had been unable to open one of his desk drawers at home, he had used a letter opener and pried the lock open. Setting his candle-holder down on the desk he grabbed the ivory handled letter opener. He slid the narrow end in between the desk and the lock of the drawer; he knew from watching his father that it would require a lot of force to open the drawer this way and shoved as hard as he could. The letter opener would not budge. Taking a deep breather he braced himself and again pushed with all his might. Suddenly the letter opener came loose from the lock and Arthur fell sideways, reaching out with his right hand he grabbed at the drawer above to balance himself. The draw opened for a second and suddenly the room was pitched into blackness. His candle had gone out and he was not sure where it was.

With all of the noise he had made, he knew someone would be coming to check soon, so feeling his way as quickly as possible he made his way back to the door and up the stairs to his small room.

Sitting snug inside the drawer of papers the little candle that Arthur had left behind burned slowly; by the time it burned through to the locked drawer below where Richard Burke kept a prized bottle of Whiskey, Arthur was once again fast asleep.

George Burke burst into James and Cecelia’s room almost two hours later.

“Uncle there is a fire on the stairs!”

James and Cecelia quickly roused themselves. Cecelia dashed from the room. James and George moved quickly to round up all of the family members. The fire had already engulfed the main stairs and the back stairs to the kitchens and the servants quarters was filled with smoke to the point of impassibility. The family started gathered in the study by James room as it was farthest from the fire. The large ceilings of the first floor made jumping almost impossibility. As the fire started to engulf the hall cutting them off from the rest of the building, Cecelia came bursting in carrying the baby Ester and followed closely by Arthur, both rapped in heavy travel coats. Stopping for only a moment to place the baby in her mother’s arms. Wielding strength she had never exhibited before Cecilia grabbed one of the small chairs from the writing desk and hurled it through the great stained glass window.

“Warren,” She cried out “Come quickly.”

Looking out at the snow covered lawn below; her cries seemed to be lost in the night air. Suddenly the porter led the staff around the corner of the house and stopped below them.

“The fire brigade has been summoned, My Lady, but the ice on the hill is too thick for the horses to make their way up.” He shouted up at them.

“Warren, the children.” She shouted back.

Turning back into the room Cecelia grabbed Ester from her mother and quickly dropped the child down to the porter standing below her. She turned back to find Arthur scared and crying.

“Mummy, I….I” he sobbed.

“Quiet little one.” She soothed, “You need to remember that every day of your life I have loved you.” Without a second though she wrapped her arms around him and hoisted him out the broken window. Her strength was fading fast and as Warren ran below him she dropped Arthur down. The old Porter tried his best to catch the boy but in the confusion he slipped and Arthur’s right ankle struck a paving stone in the garden with a sickening crack.

“Please hold on.” Warren yelled from below. Turning to his frantic wife Warren instructed. “You and Molly need to take the children and get them to the doctor in town. I don’t want them here for this. I worry there is little left that we can do.”

In the excitement of getting the children out none of them realized how much smoke had filled the room. Trying to catch her breath Cecelia suddenly doubled over coughing.

Slowly the fire caved in one room after another of the upper floors, as the beams below them gave way. It was over two hours when the study in the southeast corner finally collapsed into the inferno. By that time the smoke had long overcome the remaining family member.

     Lord Richard Burke had made a later start back from London than he expected and was not looking forward to the lecture from his wife for spoiling the first family Christmas diner in years. When the messenger found his carriage they were already making their way back as quickly as possible. By the time the sun had reached its peak that cold Christmas day Lord Burke finally arrived home to find his only two surviving relations, his grandson Arthur and Great-granddaughter Ester had already been sent to the hospital to recover from their injuries.

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HELP!

A lot of things to get caught up on now that it is Dec. First NaNo results. I completed the first draft of my NaNo novel on Nov. 24th. Six days early, total of 50,131 words.  In the end I produced an average of 2088 words a day, that includes several not productive days and one that I completely took off. I think the book has some merit, but will need significant editing and a lot of punching up of the humorous parts. Also in Nov I had the honor of a piece that I wrote being included in the 30 days/30 adoptions series over at Portrait of an Adoption. For any of you who do not know the blog it is famous for Katie the Star Wars girl from several years back and the author has just released a book on Bullying. The post was featured on Nov. 19th and in Jan of 2013 the entire series will be featured in the Huffington Post, which I am really excited about.

So with NaNo over for the year I am putting aside that story for a while so as to give myself a fresh perspective on it later. I took the last week of Nov off from writing as I just started a new day job and wanted to focus on that. So I need to now decide what it is that I want to focus my energy upon. I have several projects that are in different stages of completion and I could use some feedback on what to spend my time on.

Sceal Casia – I am halfway done with the second draft of book one, and about one-quarter of the way through the first draft of book two. Both will require a lot of research as book one needs more historical detail and book two needs more technical details.

Fey Fyre – serial story regarding a Fairy/Vampire war. I have written five parts and had just started on part six before November started. Not sure about how long it is going to end up. I have a bunch of stuff that I want to get into it before I wrap things up.

Hugo North – I short story series about a cosplaying four-year-old who goes on adventures with his trusty dog. My wife gave me the idea to try to get me to write something lighter than the novel. I have done about half of the first story.

Nowhere Man – Originally a series of short stories about a amnesic who is recruited by the NSA, it has since become a short film that I have interested a local independent film company into doing, I just have to get the script for it done.

Battle of Khasire – Independent Film that I plan on doing on my own. I have the script almost completely finished, but I want to polish it up a little. I came to the realization while working on NaNo that this story takes place in the same world several hundred years later.

Untitled Non-fiction book – I have always wanted to write something on paganism, but never had a subject jump out at me as good for a book. Recently an idea struck me about mythology and harnessing it to change your life. It is going to be a combination of self-help book, spellbook, original versions of classic myths and literary analysis.

Please leave a comment and let me know which exactly you think I should be working on. I look forward to receiving some feedback.

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NaNo Update Week Two

So it has been a week since I last updated in regards to my progress on NaNo and the novel tentatively entitled the Adventure of Eunice. So how has it been going? I was off to a big start the first few days of the month and was well ahead of my daily word goals, which was helpful because from the 5th through the 9th this week I had so many things going on that I was having trouble getting even the normal rate of 1667 words a day done. Today however I was able to get back to some solid writing. I was able to put away over 4k words today and get the story back on track. below I have shared a snapshot of the status page from NaNo.

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What’s Going On?

So here we are less than one week remains before the start of NaNoWriMo. So I am going to do a quick wrap up on all of the other things that I have been working on that I will be putting aside for the month of November. Some projects I have been working on for quite a while and others I have just started out on.

Trilith Magazine – Still trying to figure out all of the technical issues so that I can make it as amazing as possible. I have posted several of the fiction pieces that I have been working on for it to the blog for the magazine. I also have several things posted to the Facebook page. If you are interested in seeing where this is going then feel free to follow either of those.

Fey Fyre – This is a series of short stories that I am writing for Trilith Magazine. I had written the first five and I have a lot of great ideas that will be following in December of this year. The first two parts are up already up on the Trilith Blog and the third will be up in the next couple of days.

The Hunt for Fiddlestix – A short story inspired by a friend of mine. It was originally written for submission to Fairy Magazine, but the photos were not large enough for publication in print. I plan to use it in the first issue of Trilith. If you are interested in reading it, I have it posted over at Trilith.

The Strange Adventures of Hugo North – Earlier this month my wife challenged me to write a story about a young boy dragged off by a kite. I am working on page three and I still have not gotten to the meat of the story. I have some ideas that I am really happy about. Not sure what I am going to be doing with this story, but it has been fun to write.

Scéal Casia – I have finished most of the second draft of the first book. I am also working on the second chapter of the second book. I am still planning on having the first book released sometime in 2013, but I don’t have a set date at the moment.

NoWhere Man – This has morphed from a series of short stories into a series of short films. I have a local film maker who I am working on figuring things out with now in regards to how to get this done.

Non-Fiction – I will be bloging both here and at the Trilith Blog, and I will be doing a guest post on a another blog sometime in the month of November, I will post more about that when I have the exact date it will be running.

But as I said before I am putting all of that aside for the month of November. What am I going to be working on is my Novel for NaNoWriMo.

Adventures of Eunice – I have not done a lot of planning for this, I don’t want to hamper the flow of the writing. I want to be able to toss in any silly idea that comes to mind. I picture this as a cross between Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. Eunice is the son of a goat herder that stumbles onto a huge adventure which he is neither prepared for or able to deal with.

So here I am prepared to take the plunge over the edge into the abyss that is NaNoWriMo. Once you are over the edge the only option is to fly. For the next several weeks I will be posting about my progress and my feeling about how the process is going. It could be a frustrated post, a happy one, or just loose rambling but I suspect that it will be interesting.

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What a long strange trip it’s been (Final Part)

So this is the wrap up of my little history of how I got from where I was to where I am now. From now on out it is simply looking to the future. So here I was with my story about a worn out, tired and emotionally exhausted man who has made many bad choices in his life who now finds himself the father of an 11 year-old boy. And more the place that he took that boy. The village in the wood where magic still existed and the old way of life.
I started to back track and figure out who the people in the village were, the founder, the teacher, the blacksmith and his nephew. And then I asked myself who is the founder, how does his story begin, and that is where I found Arthur Burke and the story of his life. The story which is the first book in the Sceal Casia, The Lost Prophet.
When I approached writing the overall plot the first time I treated it as if it were a short story and wrote what has become my initial outline. I broke that outline up into four parts and started the outlines for the individual stories that would make up the books. I went from a page and a half outline to five, not four, two to two and a half page outlines for the five novels.
I had finished the first two outlines, and we finally made the move from Maine to the sunny skies of Florida, and as I progressed further in I realized that I had way to much time and information back loaded in the story towards the last book that I would have a tough time cramming it all in. I then realized that I had an obvious break in the story that I could move from one book to another.
Once I finished the outlines for the individual novels I looked at what I had written and realized that the story that I was trying to tell was a generational one, about the experiences of four individuals as they try to make their way in life and deal with the relationships with their fathers. How this has effected each of them. All but one has been raised with out a mother and each has a father or father figure in their life that will try to raise them properly and at the same time deal with the mystic forces that are pulling them all to a greater destiny that will decide the fate of the twenty-first century.
So in the Fall of 2011 having just changed jobs and finding myself with significantly more free time I finally got down to the real work. No more planning or dreaming I began writing the Lost Prophet.  The full draft took me from Sept 13th 2011 until April 8th 2012. First draft complete and sent off to beta readers.
That brings the story full circle to when the blog began. Now my goals included editing, I have completed the first five chapters of the second draft, type setting, and cover design. And just generally spreading the word about the book. I originally announced that my planned release date was going to be Feb 1st, and I did an entire post about stressing over that. I now know that it will be impossible for me to have everything ready by then, especially since I have been taking a break from working on it to do other writing. So for now the date for release is TBA 2013.

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Your moment of truth is the day that you say “I’m not scared”

So this is going to be connected to my last post, my neurotic rant, a little bit. I have been a little stressed about the solitary aspect of writing and how it does not feed my need for connections with others.  That being said I also have another influence that has been rolling around in my head for the last couple of day. Another blog that I read, Xenogirl, talked about judging your own work not based on how old you are, but how long you have been writing fiction. Now if anyone has been reading my blog from the beginning they will be aware of the fact that while I have been writing fiction since my early twenties, I had a large section of time in my late twenties and early thirties that I was not writing on a regular basis.

I realize that I am too hard on myself a lot of the time and I expect more from myself than I am able to deliver at this point in my life. Does that mean I should stop trying or reaching for the stars. No, but it does mean that I should cut myself a little slack and remember why I love to write and the fun of it. I know that as long as I keep pushing forward and refining my skills as a writer them I will reach my goals in time. Maybe not tomorrow or the day after but I will reach my goal because I will accept no other outcome.

This brings me to my latest decision and the subject of this post. After telling myself that I am already overloading myself and that I don’t have the time to do it, I decided that I am going to give NaNoWriMo a try.

Those of you who are not aware are probably sitting there saying “He is doing what?” NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. It is every year during the month of November. Participants are challenged to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. This requires averaging 1,667 words a day everyday for the entire month. No editing, no changing just writing a novel in 30 days. So now I am going to be editing ‘Lost Prophet’ (second draft is half done), starting up a web-magazine, starting a new full-time job in the next couple of weeks and I am writing a third novel.

I am hoping that by putting no constraints on this new novel I will be able to recapture the love of writing. I am going to try and channel my goofy and silly side, and hopefully find something that reflects the qualities of Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams.  I have decided on the Title of Adventures of Eunice, the main character is going to be Eunice a hapless looser who falls in and out of trouble. I am not doing any outline or character developement before Nov, but I know a lot of planning will be rolling around in my head.

So feel free to follow along, I will probably be doing updates on here, but I can be found on the site here. And as for the status of Trilith I have posted the second part of the Fey Fyre series. Please any comments are greatly appreciated and if anyone wants to follow-up and ask how I am doing on the word count please let me know.

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There’s no reason to worry, There’s no reason to doubt

So I am going to take another detour today and try something different than I had originally planned with this blog.  Last week I had posted a story that was written by my wife and myself early on in our relationship.  I had some feedback that was positive, but I also noticed cases where people were liking the post, but no one had clicked on it to read it.  Now either this mean that there is a problem with WordPress’ software or people are liking post with out actually reading them.  I wasn’t sure what to do about that, then later in the week I came across a post in regards to people liking blogs just so that the writer of the blog will feel the obligation to like their posts back.  In essence a giant echo chamber where people are liking each other out of obligation and not due to the quality of the work.

So what does this mean in regards to what I want to do different with my blog this week.  I am going to turn it over to the people reading.  In the comments section below please feel free to ask any questions, about me, my work, any of my previous blogs.  If you have something that you would like for me to discuss in a future blog please let me know.  I know that odds are I will got few if any responces, but I need to feel like I am connecting with even one or two real people.

So please ask away…

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What a long strange trip it’s been (part 5 leaving Virtue)

So I have talked a lot over the last couple of months about one of the definitive events of my life as a writer.  That was the chance that I had to meet and get to spend time with the creators of Virtue Publications at the first Philly Comic Fest.  I am going to wrap up my retelling with this installment.

Now let me start by saying that as a life long comics fan and hopeful creator, this was an amazing opportunity to be involved with a company that was starting from the ground floor.  It was truly a dream come true.  But there is nothing more lonely than being a writer without any published work sitting at a comic booth.  There is a truth to the fact that comics are a visual medium and when fans want to check out a new book from a company that they have never heard of, they are looking at the art work that is done.

So here I was with the only thing to do would be to write something to pass the time.  Unfortunately nothing is worse for my creativity than a blank page.  At this time I was still trying to refine my narrative voice by writing short stories when I was stuck on a project that I was working on.  So with only one sentence going through my head I decided to write it down on the page in order to get myself started.

“What am I doing here?”

I rolled that sentence around in my head.  I kept asking myself where would I be that this would be the most obvious thing to be going through my head.  I ran through several options but finally decided that my main character/narrator was a man sitting in the waiting room of a Ob/Gyn office.  I then asked myself why would this be a bad place to be.  The character is sitting and waiting for his wife as she gets a check-up after she has had a miscarriage of their first child.  At this point things started to flesh themselves out.  The idea that the husband and wife were not talking.  The fact that they both were holding on to anger at each other for the death of the child.  I wrote this story in probably less time than any other story I have ever written in my life.  And it was the best thing I had ever written up to that point.  It is a story about grief and anger, about punishing yourself as you lash out at the world.  And more than anything else it is about the slap in the face that wakes you up to how you have been treating those that you love the most.

I returned home at the end of the convention and immediately typed the story out on my computer and saved it, printing out a copy for me to keep.  This was the first time I had ever written something that could be considered literary fiction.  A story about people, not vigilantes or detectives.  Not Heroes and Villains.  A small story that talked about the horrible things that the characters go through on a human scale.

I really didn’t have much contact with Virtue after that.  They never did to the best of my knowledge release any issues of Ventures of the Virulent.  While I have never strayed very far from my love of speculative fiction and detective stories.  This is the point in my life that I first saw what I could do when I wrote stories about the people first.

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Inspirations & Mentors

One of the things that I have always thought that was seriously lacking in the modern world was mentors and apprenticeships.  Being able to work for a master of a trade and learn your craft from them.  the passing down of skills that could make you a success in the world.

I have learned as I have grown older that Mentors and Apprentices don’t always take on the forms that we recognize.  For those that do not know me I am many things two of which are a practicing Pagan (Druid) and a Meade Maker.  The crafts for both of which I learned my earliest lessons in from an ex-girlfriend of many years ago named Sara.  At the time I would not have called her a mentor and their are many things that I have learn in both areas since my break up with her, but in the purest sense she was truly a mentor to me.

Today I came across a story in a blog by the Author Mark Evanier where he related the story of the first meeting of Author Ray Bradbury and EC Comics & MAD Magazine Editor Al Fledstien, who adapted many of Bradbury’s short stories into comics.  The meeting occurred at the 2002 San Diego Comic Con during a panel Mark hosted with Ray and DC Comics editor Julius Schwartz.  Mark had planned to have the two meet for the first time but needed to steer the conversation toward comics.  When asked about his history with Comic-Con and it’s growth Ray decided to talk about his personal history with comics.
RAY BRADBURY: When I was nine years old, Buck Rogers came into the world. October, 1929. I was immediately in love with that comic strip and I started to collect it every day of my life for three months. I stopped collecting that because the kids in the fifth grade made fun of me. That was 1929, the beginning of the Depression. I listened to these kids and I tore up the comic strips. It’s the worst thing I ever did because three days later I broke into tears and I said to myself, why I am crying? Who died? And the answer was me. I killed myself. I’d torn up the future. I listened to these stupid people. So I said, how do I cure this? I went back and collected Buck Rogers strips for the next seven years, every day, and never listened to one more stupid sonofabitch after that. And that’s why I’m here. I collected Prince Valiant and all the various comic strips, and Tarzan drawn by Harold Foster in 1932. Incredible work. And when I published my first book in 1947, I sent a copy of the book to Harold Foster with a note saying, “You’re one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, and I love your work and I love you.”

Now to most people this would be a sweet story about the inspiration of one of the greatest American writers of all time, but several weeks ago I read a story in a book called ‘The Barbizon Diaries’ by James A Owens.
I’d agreed to do a signing at Comicon for one of my favorite galleries, Every Picture Tells A Story.  About an hour into the signing, the owner, Lee, came over to where I was sitting with the other authors and told me someone wanted to buy my book.   I responded with a puzzled look (be cause that was, after all, why I was sitting in his booth), and he smiled and pointed to the other end of their floorspace.   “It’s Ray Bradbury.”   I jumped out of my chair and flew over to him.   “Ray!” I said. “It’s
James Owen!”   He took my hand (with his left) and shook it.   “James! But you do comics! This is a book.” (I’ve sent him copies of StarChild for years — to which he always responded with a counter-gift of his latest book.)   “Now I’m doing books, too!” I told him.   “It’s a beautiful book!” Ray told me. “I want to buy it ! Right now!”   “I have one for you,” I said, and hopped back to my chair where I had a copy with a dragon drawing already done. I signed it to “Uncle Ray ”, and handed it to him.    “It’s such a beautiful book,” he said again. “Your drawings are wonderful! I can’t wait to read it!”    “I hope you like it,” I told him. “You’re one of the reasons it exists. Thank you for the inspiration.”

Once again I can hear my reader saying this is a great story, but what does that have to do with anything.  That is going to require the telling of one more story.  This one of a much more personal nature.  In the fall of 1993 I was visiting my family in central New Hampshire.  My older brother and I drove over to the mall in North Conway because they were having a small comic book show.  Dealers from around the area had set up in the food court to sell comics.  My brother had just graduated from Massachusetts College of Art.  His interest in comics was based on the art and he found a book that had some of the greatest art that either of us had ever seen.  It was called Starchild #0, it talked of myths and legends and stories as great things that change the fabric of the world.  And it changed the way I looked at Stories.  I have had the amazing joy of corresponding with James A. Owen several times in the last year or so and even though we have never met face to face, I consider him a great inspiration on my work and life.

And now I see I am part of a great tapestry of inspiration that stretches from James Owen, to Ray Bradbury and to Harold Foster, and I would suspect back to Edgar Rice Burroughs and from him I suppose Rudyard Kipling.  I have to wonder if somewhere there is a battered copy of The All-Story magazine from Oct 1912 with a hand written note saying  Rudyard, You’re one of the reasons it exists. Thank you for the inspiration.  Edgar.

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What a long strang trip it’s been (part 2)

Last we left I was mourning over the crap of a novel that I had tried to write, most of it was forced.  The characters development was minimal, the plot line was force and artificial.  My dialogue was poor and most importantly it read like page after page of someone trying to pad their word count.
I still had a dream though and I wanted to be a writer.  I knew that the work that I had produced was not of a quality that I could sell, but the only way to write better is to write.

So I order to try to hone my skills I decide shorter fiction was a better way to go.  I kept a micro-recorder and started dictating ideas into it.  I would keep a journal with Ideas for stories, and write about whatever would come into my head.  But one story was my primary focus.  With the help of my younger brother Brian, who at the time was all of Eleven year old I developed a character called the Mask.  Picture a cross between Robert Langdon and The Shadow.  Overall a pretty cool character and not a bad concept.  I was going for a modern pulp feel to the stories having just gotten into characters like the Shadow and Doc Savage.

Brian would help me with the plot for each story and then I would sit and do the writing.  In all we produced three full stories and outlines and ideas for several more after that.  I had developed a ghost/love story and built up several supporting characters.  Some of them from a more reluctant hero mold, but I was slowly putting together this psuedo-pulp universe for myself.  A don’t remember if any of those stories were ever submitted to anyone but none of them have ever been published.

At the same time I was spending a lot of time on-line on AOL.  It was the first time we had a computer in the house that had internet access.  While browsing I came across a group that was making plans for the release of a line of independent comics.  The guy who was starting it up wanted to release an anthology book with several stories from different creative teams and hopefully then release some of them as monthly books.  The company was called Virtue Publishing.

Problem was I didn’t have a story

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