Wednesday, May 28, 2014

It's A Fight Scene Day

Remember in the late 90's/early 2000's when your favorite shows would sometimes devote an entire episode just to highlights of earlier episodes to distract from a lack of new material, before Youtube and Netflix ruined that cop-out for them?

Anyways, that's not exactly what I'm doing right now, but, this being my tenth post and all, I wanted to make it special and showcase a few of the fight scenes from my book.


Here's a clip of one near the end of Chapter Six, between father and son:

“I doubt you have worked much with a blade,” Matufinn began, “but not to worry; much more than mere swordsmanship will be tested here.”

Unable to breathe a sigh of relief, Morlen said, “As long as this is the day’s last lesson.”

But in response, Matufinn’s eyes gave a stinging rebuke, “The lessons reveal themselves for the taking, some today even when we were not expecting.”

“We?” Morlen emphasized. But it went unheeded.

“Ready your sword,” said Matufinn, offering no quarter.

Morlen dug his feet, clinging to the steel tightly with both hands as if it were timber in a flood. When Matufinn swung down vertically, he quickly raised it above his head to parry, receiving a blow that shook him to his core, reverberating through now jelly-like arms to his buckling knees. The sword swung again at his left this time, bouncing just a few inches from his head as he darted to block, ringing with a deafening note that numbed his face. Then Matufinn’s blade swept towards his right leg, whose worn out cloth narrowly escaped a new shred as he swung dangerously close to defend.

“Faster,” Matufinn urged as their blades met, thrusting forward now to stab. Sweeping across his front, Morlen knocked the strike aside, leaving Matufinn’s guard open.

“Good. Attack!”

With all his might, Morlen swung down diagonally, connecting with nothing but air as Matufinn dodged so quickly he all but vanished, coming at him again as though to fell a tree with an axe. It took all his strength to block the tremendous blow, staggering several feet backwards from the force.

“Again,” Matufinn spurred him on. “Attack.”

Tightening his grip, eyes like daggers, Morlen charged forward unafraid, aiming the point of his blade at Matufinn while his feet stamped the ground, closer, closer, and then… an airy thrust countered by a kick to his backside that sent him stumbling. Turning around in confused frustration, he saw Matufinn glaring at him with that look he despised so much, trying to make him feel an inner presence he was now at a loss to detect.

“Are you trying to fight me with your sword? With your arms?” Matufinn mocked. “These alone will not help you.”

Morlen grunted scornfully through another advance, swinging the blade his entire arm-span in yet another disheartening empty slice as Matufinn seemed to flow like water around his guard, shoving him aside.

“Do you think your blade is a threat to me?” Matufinn jeered from beside him. “Do you think I will waver beneath the force of your stroke? I am already gone before it is thrown.”

Anger building, Morlen thrust his elbow upward towards Matufinn’s biting voice, hitting nothing yet again as a painful kick to the small of his back scuttled him forward.

“No, Morlen,” Matufinn said sternly.

The day’s throbbing bruises to his patience were finally seeing formidable contenders upon his flesh. He was simply not fast enough, not strong enough. Whatever speed Matufinn demanded he summon, he surely could not. But, he yearned, if only…

Matufinn’s sword swooped in again, its cold clang against his own sending a comforting bolt of gold bursting through the recesses of his soul, offering strength, speed, all that he needed to change, to be better.

He could feel its soft metal cradled against him, pulsing with his splintering breaths. He was not strong enough on his own, not fast enough.

“Morlen!”

Suddenly the flash vanished from his mind as he frantically ducked Matufinn’s blade, barely keeping his ear unscathed. Lunging forward again on the offensive, he held his weapon close against his body this time, anticipating Matufinn’s quick evasion. As though preparing to swing forward, he reared back but only half executed, and Matufinn took the bait, bolting behind him directly in the path of his deliberate strike, which he quickly had to block off-guard. Stumbling ever so slightly, Matufinn tried to pass it off as a sidestep, but Morlen was not fooled.

Sensing this, Matufinn gave him the faintest nod, face still hard as stone. “Good,” his voice rose. “Now, faster!” He charged forth and struck high, driving Morlen to duck again with a low swing and bitter grimace when the flat of Matufinn’s blade painfully whipped his back in an easy hurdle over the jab.

Quick to regain his footing, Morlen spun around to find Matufinn coming at him again and aimed to meet him head-on, striking only to be knocked aside. Turning once more, he sent sparks through the air with a sonorous clang that blocked the fast-returning blade, then lunged forth with a mighty slam of his shoulder into Matufinn’s chest, throwing a whistling upward slice that took off the bottom inch of his beard.


Here's part of an airborne fight from Chapter Sixteen:

“Down!” Morlen shouted, though Roftome was already well on his way, swooping below the molten volley to see that hundreds of Ferotaurs were resuming their smothering advance against Valeine’s cornered force, giving him a most creative idea as the initial blast faded to thick smoke without having followed their position.

“How would you feel about letting it have a better look at us?” he asked boldly, and Roftome’s pointed head turned upward to send him a suspicious look, one that slowly sharpened to clear understanding of his purpose in such a stunt.

“I feel it would be most unwise,” Roftome answered. “If you don’t keep your head low.” Then, without hesitation, they ascended closer to the approaching dragon, whose immense head cut from side to side through shrouding plumes in search of any telltale movement or scent, neither of which came until they darted directly in front of its face, and Roftome left no uncertainty to tales of his unmatched speed when they whipped around and shot in a flattening dive with the dwarfing predator holding tightly to their trail, its heart-stiffening call of death threatening to bleed their ears, though still unable to stall them as they led it over the snapping enemy masses, which pressed forward thirty yards or so from Valeine and her men.

“Ready… be ready…” Morlen’s voice rose while they bolted vertically down towards the flowing horned tide, feeling cold as the nearing creature sucked in all wind around them.

“Kill them!” blared Felkoth from above. “Kill them at once!”

Hearing the building storm at their heels, Morlen gripped hard to Roftome’s sides and acted quickly, “Now!” he yelled, and Roftome’s wings spread wide to level them out in a parallel run just over the charging line of Ferotaurs as the bubbling jet of flame struck exactly upon their abandoned path of descent, pulverizing scores of foes to ash at impact while obliterating hundreds more while it followed desperately behind their course, which skimmed above as many as possible despite the stifling heat at their backs, creating a high fiery blockade between the city’s defenders and all invading ground forces, whose middle ranks hollered when they found themselves trapped against their engulfed front.


Here's one more, from the book's climactic battle in Chapter Seventeen:

Needing not one second’s rest, Valdis released a deep guttural shout and threw a deadly slash that Felkoth held inches from his own throat with a ringing parry while pushing hard to wedge a gap between them, being shoved backwards himself as Valdis moved forward with a whistling slice of the spear’s base that flew just over his head when he ducked, stabbing out with the Dark Blade whose course Valdis batted narrowly past his flesh with a sweeping vertical block.

Thrusting down to impale Felkoth’s crouched form, Valdis’s attack only touched snow when Felkoth spun sideways to stand again while bringing the Dark Blade crashing down towards his head, meeting the Crystal Spear, which pried the sword wide off guard as Valdis then smashed his white-clenched fist into Felkoth’s pursed mouth, knocking him flat on his back.

Dazed by the unanticipated blow, Felkoth was quick to sit up with a disdainful spit of blood, but Valdis meant to finish him before he reached his feet, swinging the spear’s sharp-horned end like a swift axe for his skull, only for it to become entangled in slick black tufts of hair as Felkoth urgently dodged. Dragging him in like a netted fish, Valdis braced the spear between his left arm and body to pull Felkoth’s writhing head upward and drew a dagger sheathed at his hip, aiming its point for his captive’s exposed throat when Felkoth’s hand darted to take out a knife of his own, cutting his long knotted hair free while whipping his leg around to bash Valdis’s feet off the ground, dropping him with a loud clatter.

Raring on all fours to pounce, Felkoth prepared to drive his knife into the plated chest lying before him when Valdis kicked it out of his raised hand and rattled him sideways with the butt of his spear, both of them rolling fast to get up before the other.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Mountains Over Matter

*Seinfeld voice* Ever notice those majestic white-speckled mountain ranges in the background of every epic fantasy movie ever made? Whadda they all go to the same spot in New Zealand and just edit out the frame that captures "Frodo Was Here" written in squiggly letters in the snow?

*Back to me now*

Towering in stoic silence over all the scattered throngs fussing around in commerce and war, never purely decorative, mountains taunt characters and readers alike with beckoning razor-edged paths that wind away from all guarantees of normalcy, up and around the very curtain closing them off from the unknown.

Exemption from worldly snares suddenly permeates a cutting breeze when one ventures high enough, hearing the bustling noise of all below abruptly fade in a deafening quiet that leaves only a pulsing, unrestrained awareness, as felt by my protagonist in this short scene:

"Morlen looked down on the highest peaks as Roftome defied repellant winds, carving their own undisputed domain above winter’s heavy shroud, where all was blue, and warm.

Every tree or hill in whose shelter he’d ever lain knew nothing of such open altitude, with each given ray drunk pure from its source, undiluted by cloud or flake. 

Filling his hands with the rising breath of all mortals inhabiting the earth below, he for one fleeting second counted himself apart from them, invulnerable to dust or decay."

A recurring motif in my novel, like in many epic fantasies, mountains surround my characters' world, some offering open havens for wild, immense creatures where men venture at their own risk, and others where men would never dare go, because those who went before them were never seen again.

But the forbidden, daunting path is always the most interesting...

And the proverbial climb, while coming in many different forms, is essential to any character's growth. My story's hero treads those mountains deep in darkness, too, tearing his skin over burning cold rock that drains the life directly from him while sinister, ancient voices whisper to him from the shadows.

Every painstaking ascent elevates his consciousness, revealing a scheme of bright and terrible forces between which he must find a thriving balance, or be crushed.

And he learns, being one of the few to brave the un-mapped trails on both ends of the spectrum, and come back... no one ever comes back the same.

Friday, May 23, 2014

What Really Happened

My parents named me Charles after my dad's grandfather because, aside from the name's refined masculinity, he was by all accounts a highly cool, strongly built, intelligent guy who busted hump his entire life to provide for his family. Working as a blacksmith (among other trades) in Priest River, ID, he hunted to put food on the table, made shoes for all his children, and was never reputed to lose his temper except on one occasion, when a neighbor stole and sold off their stockpile of winter firewood, before hopping a train to skip town. Tracking the thief to the train before it took off, Charles grabbed him by the ankles and dragged him out on his back, extracted the wad of cash collected for his rightful property and returned home in time for supper, where no one dared even look at him the rest of the day, or so my grandpa's brother recollected.

I remember my dad telling me that one of the stories he admired most about his grandpa Charles was that he rode a mule from Missouri to settle in the Pacific Northwest, an arduous trek through over 1,500 miles and harsh elements that few today could even comprehend. But, years later when I asked my grandmother to expand on that, she told me that wasn't Charles, but my grandpa's maternal grandfather, Michael, who'd immigrated from Italy.

So, in just five generations of stories being told, passed on, and retold within the same family line, two different figures had been melded together, with one being credited the acts of the other.

Comparing this against so many beloved tales and doctrines copied and translated and passed down through hundreds of generations into thousands of different versions over thousands of years, all I could see was the classic "Telephone Game" playing out in a ninth grade English class, where the teacher whispers, "I enjoy reading," into the first student's ear, to be whispered verbatim up and down the rows, and by the time it reaches the ears of the final student in line, he relays back to everyone, "Let's give Roy a beating."

Stories passed down over gulfs of time become dancing shadows whose original sources fade farther and farther behind our sight. Changing hands and marked by more fingerprints from one century to the next, they undoubtedly gather subtle alterations that blur each figure they immortalize with many others, whose acts and words are often wrongly attributed or manufactured in the retelling. 

I used this to pull myself out of a nasty jam with my own book years ago, when it was still coming together conceptually. Initially building it in my mid-teens around elements of Arthurian mythology, I finally came to my senses and realized I couldn't have an organic, rich story that was truly my own if it were indentured to pre-existing characters and plot points.

Taking advantage of this gaping disparity between our presently accepted fables and their vanished source material, I wrote characters who reach with bleeding hands for meaning and fulfillment before their memory becomes distorted and lost, and decided, my story can be "what really happened," that long lost gem we'll never quite know.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Why Fantasy?

Scientists experiment with cloning, stem cell therapy and robotic prosthetics because they envision the human condition extending in a very real framework beyond the parameters and provisions that most would call realistic. One in which a person with cirrhosis or heart disease need only make a withdrawal from their refrigerated safe deposit box at the organ bank, and have their doctor pencil them in for a two o'clock transplant. One that sees amputees fitted with new limbs that respond to neurological commands as adeptly as real flesh and bone, and genes that are conducive to crippling disease de-bugged like substandard programming.

By that same token, fantasy writers want to show the human race what it could, and would do were there enchanted portholes to carry us from one world to another, invisible beings walking beside us since the beginning of time who finally revealed that they're here and pissed off, a fountain of youth to which one must make a Faustian bargain before drinking, eagles to ride, sandworms and sea serpents to flee or harness.

We stretch the elastic human spirit with an unnatural pull, and see what weaknesses and strengths poke out through the threads. We provide our characters a palette of colors that can't be found on our earthly plane, and see if they paint something that can.

And sooner or later every dragon or flesh-eating monster displays beneath its mythical shell the worries and misery towards which we're constantly darting eyes over our shoulders, while every "Dark Lord" seeking a hidden weapon to dominate his enemies becomes a world leader in a crisp tailored suit with his finger hovering over the button. The battles our heroes wage against them, whether ending in victory or defeat, can enrich us here with new tactics we may never before have considered.

My protagonist is born with supernatural abilities, and, repressing them his whole life throughout ridicule and isolation, he becomes hopelessly reliant upon an old treasure that promises all the strength he'll ever need. But, the more he accomplishes, the erratic surge of his inner power conflicts with this dependency, culminating in a final, crushing decision he has to make between the two, with his life in the balance.

Fantasy is what enabled me to build my story's hero, with all his wounds and aspirations, in all his tumultuous relationships with humans and beasts alike, around this question: If you had to decide between all the power in the world, and all the power in you... which would you choose?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Growth In Fiction, Not Fictional Growth

How do I authentically flesh out a human being on paper and take him on a compelling, transformational personal journey when I've only begun my own? Through towering snow-covered peaks, verdant multi-colored forests and deep jagged caves where I've never been? Beset by trials and tribulations I've never experienced?

I endow him with my own shortcomings and fears, put him up against pains I do know very well, send him to all the places I wanted to go but didn't, and let him show me what I've been missing.

Creating characters is like digging for treasure, opening the bejeweled chest buried six feet under and finding it holds a doorway to a secret mine of wonders right next to a sewer. The deeper you delve, the stench gets a little stronger, but it makes your painstaking discovery of beauty beneath the dirt that much more rewarding.

And sometimes, the progress these characters make in their lives becomes stitches and gauze for open wounds in our own.

My protagonist, Morlen, is a son, helping three different fathers along his quest. and each of the story's three central parts is built around his relationship with one of them: The Father Who Hides, The Father Who Weeps, and The Father Who Waits. By acquiring a certain understanding of them, helping them fight their respective battles, he's better-equipped to face down his own demons and forge a path for himself.

Now, I'm sure that when I do get published, every review is going to open with some snarky variation of: "All right, let's just get this out in the open first thing--this guy has some major dad issues."

But that's exactly what I needed to write about: something real, that never completely goes away.

And growth manifests itself like outcroppings carved by time through soil: when characters you introduced as trembling with indecision let firm conviction permeate even one line of speech; when they stride over holes that would've easily sunk them chapters before, bringing others with them; and when you no longer find yourself having to think out the magnitude of what they're going to gain, and see that when it naturally comes, it dwarfs anything you could've prepared beforehand.

What about you writers out there? What were some favorite ways your characters' evolution brought out your own?


Monday, May 19, 2014

A Kind Of Alchemy

Manipulating an arrangement of inner particles to transform a dull, base substance into something pure, noble, becomes the very elixir of life so many artists find perpetually sustaining. By this practice we pry apart our dimming internal constellations and re-order them in a sequence whose altered gravity rejuvenates us as we never anticipated.

Yesterday's dark, looming moons can be whisked away by the orbital pull of today's creation, becoming tomorrow's underlying clusters that new rising discoveries leave behind. What was familiar, chart-able, is broken down and scattered to every empty corner, birthing unpredictable organic links.

Recurring obstruction and unbalanced negativity are magnetically repelled around a core of invention, by centrifugal fields of fresh thinking, while habitual fixation becomes unstable and bonds with flowering arrays of patient focus.

Anything shed is not lost, but re-purposed, feeding the crystalline spread it once hindered across the space between a thousand nothings, revealing the unfurling canvas of an intricate, unified, something.



Saturday, May 17, 2014

That Sweet Lightning

It's that gorgeous girl you've always wanted from afar, ready and willing at your doorstep. She didn't knock. She didn't need to--you heard her saunter up the steps, can feel her boiling expectation when you wrench open the cumbersome barrier to meet her face to face. And in this encounter, you're not clumsy. You don't trip over words. You know what she wants you to say when her lips breathe it into yours, and your synchronous delivery pulls her in tight, her momentum feeding your own till you forget your name, your station, every worldly shackle, and awaken clean, weightless.

It's that secret trail splitting off from steel and stone, past buzzing hives of insult and injury to a place you've seen in a thousand short blinks but never touched. And when you get there, you know there's nothing to follow back the way you came, no prints left behind you'd recognize as your own.

It's that supercharged current lifting you from stifling repetition, careening you crisp with hairs on end over the erected hedges of routine to see an untamed frontier at your feet.

Maybe it strikes so erratically because, were it to become a common, predictable thing, it could be purchased, sold, cheaply induced. Maybe it seeks us when we haven't sought anything in a long while, and the repressed soul, demanding to be heard, sparks and brews the beginnings of a storm.

Some of the most satisfying pieces of dialogue I've ever written hit me in the middle of a monotonous day job. Characters I'd loved and cultivated for years had met hundreds of times in this vivid, clear-cut vacuum to which I could never lend proper sound. And then, one day, as I was pushing around a mop or picking up trash, the lines just came, rhythmic and lyrical with force that refused to be forgotten.

The words were there, buried in fully-fledged throats aching to be coughed free, and only needed me to allow a bit of thunder in to crack the silence.

And, as quickly as it swoops in, it dissipates, leaving you to ride the ebb and flow of new waters that babble in laughter while you search for its immediate return, instead of searching here, now, so far from where you were.

It will be back, when the static is palpable and your inner clouds take on a restless sheen promising to burst.

It will be back.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Everyone Likes A Showdown

I was raised on the humming, spark-scattering clashes between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, could almost smell the dry, electrified tension when Doc Holliday stepped out from the shadows to finish off Johnny Ringo, and felt my stomach tighten and soar beside the Riders of Rohan when they charged down to save Helm's Deep. Needless to say, I'm a fan of storytelling that rears compelling contenders to be pitted against one another, and found it brought an enriching excitement to my own work.

There's a visceral satisfaction in the old Gene Pitney lyric about the Western villain Liberty Valance, "When two men go out to face each other, only one returns." Commonly echoed as an effective "final reckoning" between all opposing forces in many stories, this climactic head-to-head generously rewards us with a clear-cut victor to show whether our investment of hope into him/her has ultimately paid off. And when the smoke settles enough to reveal which of the scales is soundly weighed down, and which, despite all its occupant's formidable attributes, is left abashedly teetering, the nail-biting audience has nothing left but to cheer or cry.

The silver-white gleam of gunmetal expertly whipped from holsters on either end of a shrinking divide might as well be a banner that reads, "All right, remember every insult, snide jeer, and maimed/killed family member? Well that's all gonna be settled right now, and it's gonna be loud, and sexy." Just as every screeching clang of swords in a medieval/fantasy duel could be accompanied by subtitles like, "All pain and dishonor put upon me will be rectified by this single, swift strike. Okay, right now I'm just trying to intimidate him while assessing how hard he's gonna come at me. Oh shit, he's coming at me pretty hard. Phew, guess he didn't know I had that trick up my sleeve. Jesus Christ, he's way trickier than I am... maybe all the growth I've achieved over the course of this narrative will be for nothing."

The showdown's only as thrilling as its buildup allows, and the best ones for me are those in which the weaponry and choreography take a backseat to each character's internal strife, and the weight of what they have to gain or lose. Vader isn't fighting Luke as much as he's fighting his conscience, a conflict that gives rise to a powerful inner triumph leaving both on the winning side, and the real enemy beaten. Boromir isn't just trying to kill orcs, but to redeem his corruption and betrayal of the Fellowship. John McClane... well, after awhile, he's just in a wifebeater killing nameless henchmen, looking damn masculine doing it.

Like a lot of epic fantasies, mine culminates in a sprawling battle from which the hero and villain diverge to go one on one, in a cinematic chapter ranging from open skies to a mountaintop, but the action soon becomes secondary to the protagonist's psychological struggle. Whether he'll be flayed open seems inconsequential compared to whether he'll collapse under his own confusion, till he realizes the primary showdown at hand is with none other than himself.

My expectation for readers is that, no matter how the action finishes, a clear winner will emerge. And all I can really say is this: Yippee ki-yay Motha Fu****


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

All The Ghouls Come Out To Play

Call it "writer's block," self-sabotage, or demons... there can often be an ugly, malignant tumor with spines sunk deep into creativity, leeching your inwardly directed energies to turn them against you. "Whoa, he's going dark," you might say. Yes, because such a grueling descent often leaves you with no choice in the artistic process but to see what heights your grasping mind can reach.

Developing my book from a seedling of an idea when I was thirteen into a weighty, epic fantasy took ten years for a slew of reasons: puberty hijacked a lot of my time, then school, growing up, all the while every finger of inner turmoil helped design this growing entity like antibodies for a sickness. In my early twenties, with only eighty-four pages and a bold disdain for anything that would keep me finishing the rest, I packed up and moved to a cheap apartment to tackle the beast head-on.

That was three years before I finally called it "finished" on a momentous day of accomplishment (which incidentally was one year and many rejection letters and stringent rewrites ago).

But those three years taught me a great deal about the misery and remedy that often go hand in hand, always for me like some disgruntled ironclad gatekeeper I'd station in my own way just when the door to advancement looked clear. Every day's writing became an exercise in passing through that jealously barred archway, when many times before I'd find myself circumventing or altogether stalled.

For awhile I managed a thousand words in a session (recommended by Stephen King in his memoir On Writing, by the way) but would often be so burnt out the next morning I wouldn't write much again for a week or two. It took over a year to find a sustainable daily pace, and I settled at 640 words (my closest approximation to two double spaced pages). I wrote the last 250 pages of my book at an average of two pages a day, and each day's writing ranged from around five to eight hours, depending on flow.

Now, recalling my college days, I handily bullshat (copyright) my way through a few papers longer than that in the two or three hours before they were due, and got A's. So why was this frequently such an excruciating endeavor? Because I wanted it, and needed it, and loved it more than anything, and my inner "gatekeeper" never looked too favorably upon anything of that sort.

Delving into the creative waters, I dug through many protective layers that often take shape to enable a person to go about his/her daily business without feeling naked and breaking down, and was left completely vulnerable to every bad memory and negative thought, which skulked like schoolyard bullies daring me to just try and pick up something fun to play with.

It was usually rough sailing when the session started, and I'd find myself looking down at the little word counter every few minutes, silently cheering when I passed the 140 mark, which could take an hour or two. So many initial rushes of excitement for a new idea or elegant sentence were immediately accompanied by impulses to feel disheartened, guilty, about anything, anything that could stop my momentum and keep any new discovery at the fringe.

But then, I found, despite a handful of days when I just couldn't crack through that wall, the more desperately I fed my passion, it fed me back many times over, until I reached this euphoric state in which no neurotic stone in my path warranted even half a thought, the bad forcing me to rip out the good for hours without stopping.

I almost always woke up the next morning feeling hungover even when no alcohol was involved (though sometimes I drank after my writing was done), because the wheel would keep spinning and spinning in my mind when I tried to sleep. But I rolled out of bed, listened to music for a few hours to relax and prep, and did it all again.

And at the end of each day when I put in my two pages, looking back at paragraphs that took ten times longer to write than read, I knew I had beaten the hell out of the worst kinds of things, and became more and more immune to every snare I could possibly set.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Peeling Away The Tablecloth

"What's your book about?" is a perfectly warranted, reasonable question from anyone who's just heard that you devoted the last ten years to writing one, and I hate it worse than, "What do you do for a living?" or, "A kid just puked on the playground, can you go take care of it?"

My rambling impromptu response is usually along the lines of: "Well, it's a fantasy... I don't know if you like Lord of the Rings... it's kind of in a similar setting, but I classify it more as a literary fantasy because it focuses mainly on the psychological growth of the characters, you know, how they overcome their own demons and obstacles..." meanwhile I can see each and every character giving me the finger behind my blinking eyes.

I don't go up to parents and ask, "What's your kid about?" and force them to reduce years of tender, loving nurture and rewarding (though sometimes agonizing) results to an illuminating one-liner.

Then comes the book's title, A Facet For The Gem, which elicits a similarly exaggerated look of interest and wonderment, because it would be impolite to just blurt out, "What the hell?" Again, I explain, "Well, it's like the title: 'To Kill A Mockingbird,' where it's alluded to in the middle, and then at the end kind of comes as a revelation to the protagonist." And, again, the transcendence I achieved so many times while writing it is sold shorter than a two-hour Miller High Life buzz.

Writers write, I'm sure, because at some point we realized it made us better than anything else did. In that realm we could weave an elegant tapestry out of overwhelming discord, whereas in most others, we might as well have chronic arthritis. We withdraw from wherever we feel underrepresented, and regenerate in the shadows.

And even the most mundane experience can be piled high with symbolism, like two days ago, when I was helping my uncle TC set his dining room table for the family. He said it was such a shame, because it's a very nice table, but hardly anyone ever gets to really see it because it's almost always covered to prevent any stain or scratch. Feeling overloaded by connections to Plato's Allegory of the Cave and many others into my own life experience, I just smiled.

But thinking about it more, I knew that was what my book is about: people letting what is most immediately observable blind them to far greater underlying possibilities; scraping free of their tedious, hollow confines and discovering richer substance on the other side. And knowing, too, if that ever becomes commonplace, there may always be something even better to discover.