Of Ghouls and Goblins and Other Mischief

First off: shameless self promotion! The first Dreadtime Stories has been posted! The premier Halloween Episode is now live! Check it out here !

This past week has been insane! Everything from Texas Renaissance Festival starting last Friday to tomorrow night's Samhein (pronounced Sow*ween or Sow*wen) gathering has been a whirlwind. So much last minute planning involved with everything that I haven't really had a minute to myself. Fortunately, though, I do now. The boys are both at work and the kitty is curled up next to me while I get a little bit of Blogging and research done. So much to talk about!

TRF was a blast for everyone in attendance I think and, apart from my ass getting kicked by a port-a-privvy, everyone went relatively unscathed. I wanted to share with everyone the gift that I received at Renfest this year. It came from the love of my life and means the world to me. Matt purchased me an Astrolabe. It is about 3in in diameter, made of pewter and is fully functional as a working astrolabe (that would be the picture of what it looks like up there ^ ). So as not to bore you with a full history lesson I will just give you the basic overview as to what they are. I have been fascinated by them since I was in High School and to this day feel a very strong connection to them. Hell, I think even Matt felt the connection I had for it because he walked with me for almost two hours trying to find the goddamn shop again!

"Astrolabes are used to show how the sky looks at a specific place at a given time. This is done by drawing the sky on the face of the astrolabe and marking it so positions in the sky are easy to find. To use an astrolabe, you adjust the moveable components to a specific date and time. Once set, the entire sky, both visible and invisible, is represented on the face of the instrument."

"The Astrolabe was developed at the Greek school in Alexandria about 160 B.C. by Hipparchus. Great scientific strides forward at that time were the result of combining the Greek sciences with Babylonian mathematics. This was all made possible by the conquests of Alexander the Great who established a vast empire throughout the Mediterranean. The Astrolabe was known to scholars from then on, and was used as a slide rule of the Heavens. Direction, time, angles, and the position of the celestial bodies could all be calculated. When Prince Henry the Navigator established his seafaring fleet, he began using the Astrolabe to navigate the ships. For many years, this gave the Portuguese the exclusive ability to navigate open waters, which the other countries could not do. When Sir Francis Drake raided ports along the South American coast he was forced to flee from the Spanish ships. Drake attacked a Portuguese ship and took its Navigator hostage to guide him on his round the world voyage, thus avoiding the Spanish Fleet. All the great voyagers in the age of exploration navigated with the Astrolabe, including Columbus, Magellan, and Drake."

Like Most Astronomical instruments from "The Good Old Days" some people believe that you can map your destiny out with these things. I am a little more practical in the sense that the Astrolabe is just a VERY elaborate compass. You would think that I would be contradicting myself when I told you that the Astrolabe is the symbol for my Spiritual group. In essence, no. I don't believe anyone treats the Astrolabe as having the ability to tell your future or point out where your destiny is pre-ordained. This beautiful piece of work is simply a symbol for us to aide in pointing us in the right direction in times of stormy weather.

I will cherish this gift until I die.

On another note! Halloween is my holiday. From when I was a kid I think I looked forward to Halloween more than I did Christmas (and for a kid, that's saying something). As I got older my ways slowly changed while I was in transition to becoming Pagan. Now that I am and have done all the research I can finally appreciate the origins and meanings behind Samhein, the bastardization it received from the Church in turning it into a day of evil, and well, I can still enjoy a piece of candy or two.

This year will be the second year that we host our Samhein gathering out at Ben's. This will be the first of those two where we will be blessed to have wet enough whether for our mini bon-fire. I say mini because it's only going to be about five feet long and five feet high (before the flames are added). I think that was our biggest worry in all of it. Last year's Burn Ban nixed all chances of us having a fire outside a little metal enclosure. This year we have cleared it with the county sheriff's office and there is no burn ban in effect! So we will Camp out for the second weekend in a row, build a large fire that indicates light in the presence of darkness, welcome the Fae-folk and spirits with ceremony, laughter and song, and just all in all enjoy the Pagan New Year!



Astrolabe information gathered from http://www.astrolabes.org and http://www.puzzlering.net/astrolabe.html respectively


Music as Inspiration

Music inspires (duh, Hoshi), and this goes doublely so for writers I think. I don't think that I have met a writer recently who doesn't have their Ipod on shuffle or isn't listening to a specific mix of music when they write. For me personally I have specific songs and specific albums for each of my stories or each section of a story that I am working on. Usually sad-type music or meditative songs like Krishna Das for depressing scenes or stuff like Nightwish for the more elaborate scenes that I am writing. My taste in music is vast so there is no real end to what I can listen to while I am writing.

There's something deep within music that helps to connect a writer to their characters. I have gone so far as to give several of my characters what I like to call "Image Songs", a piece of music that is, in essence, a character's theme. Sometimes the character picks the song, sometimes the song picks the character, but it usually happens if the character strikes me hard enough. The songs can change for the characters as they and I grow. More than likely they will.

So I am posing a question to fellow writers: What sort of music do you listen to when you write? Does anyone else give theme songs to their characters? To their writings? Share it! We can get each other into new tunes!




Creative Writing 101 :: Poetry Exercise

Short post tonight.

I haven’t touched on poetry much in this blog so far, and I would like to remedy that. One of my favorite ways to write a poem is what I like to call The “Olds Exercise” named from the Author Sharon Olds. In one of her books she describes a very unique way of writing poetry. Not only as an exercise but those poems that you write could be tweaked into some pretty cool stuff.

The basic idea of this way of writing is to think outside the box. Take 7-12 random words; you can randomly flip through a dictionary or thesaurus or ask a friend (or multiple friends) to give you words. You must include EVERY word in the poem, and make it mean something. You don’t have to use all of the words in the order they were given, either.

For example

Words given: vivacious, fossa, nuzzling, wink, diminish, monomorphic , inflection, Morgan le Fay, quibble, sotto voce, osmotic, yowl


Sotto Voce

There’s a little place on the back of your neck

that you keep hidden behind tangles,

golden curtains of soft, lucid tresses

an inflection where you carry all your secrets

In that spot you won’t let anyone touch

(A fossa only lovers will know)

I can see a whisper nuzzling its way

sotto voce

through the cooling pours of your skin

and tiny streams of sweat wink

at strands of hair in their way

as if to say, “we know this cryptic code;

but we swore

we wouldn’t tell”

The voices mock the wind—even it can’t stroke the nape of your neck

despite its osmotic tendencies

Soon it, too, will diminish itself, give in

and return to the hand of Morgan le Fay

where it will quibble

and yowl

and force the curtain of fibers back from their shadow

in a monomorphic snapshot of purity—

away from a vivacious laugh

because you know the enigma still stands

Still, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you wear your hair up.


I started back in High School to write ALL of my poetry like this. It gives it a little more edge, makes you take that extra step to reach for a metaphor or simile, or forces you to wrap your idea around something in a way you never would have before. Try it! It’s easy and surprisingly a LOT of fun. Feel free to post your results here or shoot them to me in an email!




The Writer Becomes the Character

My secret (not so much anymore) dream is to break into voice acting. Though I like to stay behind the scenes, be the one pulling the strings, I have always wanted to play on my favorite anime, or something silly like that. I have never gotten paid for any acting work, and quite honestly, I probably never will when it comes to either stage or on-screen production. Radio and animation, however, is what I would really love to try. I got my first opportunity to do so last night.

We were supposed to have a Vampire: Requiem game last night. At the last minute, Matt received a phone call from our dear friend, Scott Johnson. The only thing that I could hear was Matt’s voice saying “ooohhh,” and “oh!” and “ahhh, that sounds fun!” and watch his face light up at whatever prospect Scott was throwing out to him. I could barely contain myself when Matt got off the phone. My immediate reaction was something along the lines of “What was that about? Scott got something going on?”

Turns out, Scott is working with Dread Central to create a series of short radio dramas based off of scary stories. He wrote four already, and needed a cast. The long and short of it—ok, the SHORT of it is that Matt and I jumped at the chance. So last night we went out to Scott's, had some rum and went hog wild with voices for this series of podcasts. Scott will probably be the writer of the majority of them, but I may actually try to tackle one or two myself to see how I could do with the concepts. Even if they don’t get aired or if we don’t wind up doing my scripts, I am still honored to be included in the cast of these. They are called Dreadtime Stories, and will begin to air a week before Halloween (the end of this week, I believe). There will continue to be a new release of these twice every month for at least the next year. Perhaps I can continue to build on my portfolio as an artist, mingle with some people, and progress from there.

I am very excited for the next recording session!

Additional images:

The Girls | The Guys | Scott | Tabby | Me | Matt |Clint | Heather | Becca | Derek




Creative Writing 101 :: Critical Success

Describing combat in any story can be difficult. It’s hard to stay away from the usual things that you would say in describing the situation like “He swung his sword and cut his opponent’s arm” Or “He raised his gun and fired a shot”. The reason I mention this is because with the new D&D campaign that I am running, the first few juicy sessions will be very much combat oriented. I have my players all investigating a series of caves, in which, of course, there is plenty of bloodshed to be had. I want to try to encourage them as players and as characters to play up the violence. I’m trying to keep them away from the simple aspects of “I attack this orc with this spell” or “I throw my dagger at him”. Juicy combat only works when there is juicy description involved.

A few things that make a difference in the kind of combat that you are writing have to do with the following:
• Is it a comedy? Will there be bantering back and forth from the combatants?
• Is it a dark scene? Maybe it should be night out.
• It could be raining
• Snow is a great background to emphasize blood
• Maybe it’s a bright and sunny day and you kill off a character when the sun is shining
• High noon duel?
• Who/what is the character fighting? Zombie? Ailien? Lion? Antagonist?
• Does the character have remorse for doing harm to who/what he’s fighting?

A LOT of factors such as the ones above make a difference here. I have noticed in my own personal writing that I do tend to have quite a few of my fight scenes in the rain. For me it makes it more dramatic sometimes (other times it may have been raining all day anyway and my characters just decided that enough was enough and they were going to settle a score right then and there).

I do have quite a bit to say on the topic of fights in stories, but I am not nearly as prepared to sufficiently cover that subject as I would like to be. So, for your reading pleasure (if you so desire) below is an excerpt from my Novel-in-progress, Ethereal Heart, where Valantis takes on the remnants of an zombie-like man.

Another growl surfaced in the vampire's throat. He reared back and with a shaking fist made contact with the creature's flesh. Its face contorted backwards with the blow, pieces of loose tissue sticking to Valantis' knuckles when his hand separated from its jaw line.

Ari took an uncertain step back at Valantis' yell but made no move to flee the scene and find safety. The creature gave another eerie pain induced howl and then snarled at Valantis, pushing at him with a burst of inhuman force. His boots skidded across the snow as he struggled again to find his footing and his attention was now focused solely on his opponent's strength. An uppercut was the Vampire's next strike, the blow hitting right where a human's trachea would have been.

The creature finally tore its gaze away from Ari and regarded Valantis with a slightly tilted head. It seemed to decide that the vampire was more important at the moment than getting the girl and that, perhaps, if he destroyed the former he could attain the latter. The creature howled and dove at Valantis, all of its fury now directed towards the vampire.

Valantis snorted, "About time," and crouched low to the ground, locking his legs as they were ready to spring upward towards his challenger. His fist uncoiled, now stretched with claws out sharp. He released his power and jumped straight at the creature, poised to strike when the moment came.

The monster met him head on lashing out with its fists, its strength and speed surprising. The vampire winced as the creature clashed with him, its fist striking him in the gut. Valantis' breath was thrown from him but not before his own blow was felt on the monster. His nails scraped against flesh, tearing muscle from bone with unexpected ease.

Though the monster seemed obviously pained, the loss of flesh did not seem to hinder it much and it held up its arm, muscle dangling. It sent its next hit towards Valantis' face, aiming to claw at the vampires eyes.

He lifted his chin in time, the blow caught only the corner of his eye as its claws ripped downward, leaving a long gash that trailed to his jaw line. Valantis cursed and reared back, shaking his head and trying to get his bearings before he lashed out again. The creature, snarling, moved in once more, this time intending to take a bite out of Valantis' shoulder.

Instead of his shoulder It received his hand in Its face. Valantis' palm pressed roughly into what was left of the creature’s nose, his long fingers compressing ever so quickly against Its temples and forehead. With a roar the monster struggled against him, falling to its knees. Above the little skirmish the skies raged a battle of their own as hail began to pelt the sidewalks and the wind whipped furiously, carrying off the continued cries of Ari calling for an end to the fight.

Ice shot sharply against them both, Valantis' rage blocking out any pain that the large pellets may have caused when they scraped against his body. He snarled and narrowed his eyes, his grip becoming ever tighter on the monster as he aimed to crush its skull with all the force left in him.

Ari gave a final screech and, when neither Valantis nor the creature heeded her, she brought down a bolt from the sky to strike between them. The stunned creature lurched backwards, reeking of burnt flesh. The bolt had hit closer to it than it had to Valantis.

The vampire slid backwards, catching himself on the icy concrete with one hand as he kneeled to not lose his balance. The creature gave a final sneer then, feeling that both of his evening's battles were futile, he turned and disappeared into the night.