Elements of Setting: Locale

Ciao, SEers! The last time we met, we talked about time. Today, we’re moving on to the next of the four elements of setting: locale. “Locale” is the …

Elements of Setting: Locale
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Poetry Day: Decanters of Eporwil

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(This is a fun poem that I made for a future character.  I haven’t entirely figured out what to do with her, but a key point is that she is connected to these magical decanters.  These are artifacts from the dwarven goddess of drinking, Eporwil.  I decided to add a poem to the concept, which hints at what each one can do.  Enjoy.)

Eleven brews of the dwarven goddess

Who shall drink until the end of times

Ale for summer and stout for fall

Winter lager and springtime beer

A harsh whiskey that could raise the dead

A wine to calms the meanest soul

A spirit forged of burning flame

A rum with no taste to call its own

A brandy that vanishes on the tongue

A smoky red from the dragon’s veins

A sweet ale for an inner view

A mead of power for the warrior’s charge

A fresh liquor for the seer’s eyes

Each drink shall run until last days

For the master of the decanters

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Magic Schools Beyond the Norm

Rill from Black Clover

Two of the anime my son and I have watched are ‘Fairy Tail’ and ‘Black Clover’.  We finished the former and are halfway through the latter.  He loves these series because they have magic.  I enjoy them too.  It took me a long time to realize why I find these series fairly unique in terms of magic systems.  At least, when I compare them to what I’m used to seeing.

First, I’ll do a brief overview of these two examples:

Fairy Tail–  This is a world where a lot of people have magic.  Those who do can get trained and become wizards.  Once they are skilled enough, they join a guild or go solo.  Madcap hijinks ensue.  You have standard elemental stuff, but other things like word magic, dance magic, pulling equipment from a pocket dimension, and metal magic.  Even types that seem similar and somehow different.  So, you never know what’s going to turn up.

Black Clover–  This is a world where everyone has magic, except for the main character, but that’s not important here.  At age 15, a person will go to a ceremony and gain a grimoire, which gives them a type of magic.  There are the basics alongside cooking magic, wool magic, mirror magic, thread magic, ash magic, tree magic, and the list keeps going.  As you can see above, paint magic exists too.  That character can even change his magic to be the opposite element of whatever he is fighting.

So, what is the point I’m getting to with this post?

When writing fantasy, you don’t have to stick with the traditional magical styles.  You can use the elements and other commonly used types as a jumping point, but then you start running in a different direction.  This gives you a greater variety of caster types and you can make battles/adventures more interesting.  It’s not just a flinging of fireballs and lightning bolts like the old days.  The audience won’t know exactly what’s going to be flying around if the casters are so specialized.

The trick here is to think both small and big.  You need to take a single aspect of the world or a general concept.  Then, you need to expand it without hopping into other areas.  For example, taking heat magic instead of fire magic.  You can start coming up with different uses for heat without adding fire.  Starting off simple with heat bolts and heat barriers will get the ball rolling.  Then, you can have the caster creating weapons from pure heat, which bypass armor.  Maybe they’ll create a heat golem.  You’ve now taking a small portion of one element and made it a bigger school of magic.

Doing this does require a lot of imagination and creative bending of nature.  A character may have to get the aspect to function differently that what it normally would.  If someone has dust magic, you wouldn’t expect them to be able to do any damage.  It’s just dust, so maybe blinding and hiding.  This is where an author would have the caster mess with the traits of their aspect.  Altering the density of the dust can make it hard enough for armor even if it doesn’t look like it.  Maybe it can be turning acidic.  You can even have them start conjuring sentient dust bunnies that have actual teeth.  Your imagination can still run wild even with the limitation.

That’s really the gist of this whole thing.  Can’t even deep dive into it because the concept is simple to explain, but the challenge is putting it into practice.  Just sit back and think of a type of magic that you haven’t seen much of before.  If you aren’t sure about something then research it to see what its properties are.  I know, chemistry is the most hated science of high school. (Don’t get cocky, physics! You come in second only because most people get to opt out of you.)  Anyway, the more you learn about something, the newer types of spells that you can figure out.  It doesn’t have to be much, but enough to add some versatility to the new school.  After that, let the magic fly.

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Why Do You Write?

Hey, SE Readers. Joan with you today. Happy first day of February. Today’s post is a bit different, but one all writers can relate to. For me, and …

Why Do You Write?
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The Bedlam Duo Paperbacks and eBooks Available!

Cover by Jon Hunsinger

Cover Art by Jon Hunsinger










Let’s end this on the lesser known series.  Crossing Bedlam and Chasing Bedlam came about from me wanting to write an R-rated adventure.  It takes place in a blocked off, collapsed, dystopian United States.  The heroes are a young woman who evolves into a gun-loving mercenary and her best friend/big brother serial killer.  These books had everything that I didn’t want to put into my other series.  Cursing, violence, pop culture drops, clarity that sex occurred without the actual scene, and poking fun at a variety of real-world groups.  Really got to cut lose when writing these books.

That’s why I felt bad that they never sold and I had to shelve the entire project.  I published two more on my blog since I had them written.  Protecting Bedlam did get fairly political, which is a reason I didn’t publish that.  Hinted that it wasn’t canon when I got to Derailing Bedlam.  Will I ever return to this series?  I have outlines for other adventures, but the lack of sales and only have blog interest means it’s dead unless I become a career author.  That’s not in the cards.  So, enjoy these two outings of my madcap psychopaths who will always be on my mind.


Her breathing ragged from running for so long, Cassidy wipes sweat from her scarred brow and flicks a long, blonde bang out of her chocolate eyes. The decade of unchecked growth has turned the park into a messy forest, which is harder to traverse than expected. Roots catch her booted feet and she bounces off thick tree trunks while focusing more on listening for her pursuers and companions. Crashing footsteps and disturbed squirrels come from every direction, so she chooses the one with the least amount of noise and prays that it brings her out of the wilderness. Cassidy is tempted to draw her gun and make a stand, but she knows the prison guards are only doing their job. More importantly, bullets are not cheap and she is the only member of group who is armed. At least as far as she knows since the seven prisoners could very well be hiding homemade weapons.

Glancing over her shoulder, Cassidy frowns at the bright orange jumpsuits of her panting companions. The six men and one woman stand out in the early morning forest, making it easy for the guards to see them through the trees. None of them have bothered to stop and remove the prison garb, which cost one of their former allies his life. It was a mistake that Cassidy still regrets since it happened when she ran off to distract the guards. Thanks to her stolen uniform, the blonde has managed to send several groups in the wrong direction, but it meant abandoning the others. Sadistic murderers and traitorous thieves though they may be, she broke them out for a reason and every death is lost money and time. She notices that two of the men in the back are still sporting the drying blood and brain matter from the deceased, neither of them caring about the gore.

Without them uttering a word, Cassidy is sure they are hoping the others are killed and act as a distraction. She is surprised none of them have attempted to betray the group and escape in the chaos, but she senses that her insurance is paying off. Strapped and locked to their right ankles, strange devices blink and occasional hum to remind the prisoners that they have to behave. Until they figure out where their unexpected savior has hidden the remote for the small bombs, the escapees have to be on their best behavior. From what Cassidy can tell, this takes a lot of effort for some of them and she can feel their stares boring into her back. Having survived the Shattered States of America for ten years, she has become used to the waves of mistrust and aggression, but these people are on a level that even makes her skin crawl.

Cassidy hears the snap of a branch to her right, drawing her attention to a trio of faint shadows in the distance. At first, she thinks it is a group of guards and is about to veer to the left when a foul smell hits her nose. The stench is sweat, urine, rotten food, and a feeble attempt to cover the other odors with a strong perfume. It is the last smell that gives Cassidy hope since real Wilders would never bother to use, much less trade, for artificial scents. Waving her arm and pointing toward where she prays is salvation, she charges ahead and breathes easier when the others match her pace. A high-pitched yelp is heard soon after she passes the huddled group and she peeks to see one of her companions has kicked a Wilder. His reward is a rusty fork to the thigh, which gives him a painful limp as he continues and grumbles about getting revenge on the smelly scavengers.

Within five minutes, Cassidy sees that they are sprinting over the remains of old baseball fields. Remembering the map she studied before infiltrating Rikers Island, she knows they are heading toward LaGuardia Airport. Once they cross the border, the only way the guards can follow is if they plan on losing the trade agreement they have with the owners. Even if the warden, who she imagines fuming in his office, makes a deal for their return, Cassidy and her new bodyguards will be long gone before they can find ink for the contract. The metallic ding of a bullet ricocheting off a vine-covered pole snaps her back to reality and she races ahead, barely noticing the remains of a fence.

Bursting from the forest, the group finds themselves heading for large containers that have been long abandoned. Bullets fly from the trees and hit the rusty remains of trucks, several of them showing signs of being used for housing. A ricochet strikes the injured prisoner in the chest and he stumbles for a few steps before crashing to the ground. Gasping for air, he tries to crawl after his companions, none of them stopping to help. He is surprised to hear scuffling from one of the nearby vehicles, shadowy faces watching him take his final breath. Attempting to stand and run, the man takes another bullet to the back of head and flops down dead. The guards are leaving the forest, but stop when the escapees make it across the distant street and into the LaGuardia territory. Cassidy waves back at the departing figures and tosses her identification card into a sewer, the expensive item no longer useful or salvageable.

Coming to a small booth outside a former rent-a-car building, the blonde shows the wrinkled man in a tuxedo her pass. The yellow, crinkled paper is taken by shaky hands that fumble to get a key off a hook. Not wanting to waste any time, Cassidy jogs through the building and sheds the top of her stolen uniform. Enjoying the touch of air conditioning on her bare arms, the yawning blonde tosses the shirt into a trashcan and is vaguely aware of the female prisoner snatching it up. The woman can have it since Cassidy has no intention of returning to Rikers Island and is still amazed her escape plan worked. Even more impressive is that she managed to get eight other people out of the prison and only two died after reaching the coast. As she hurries across a parking lot and climbs the stairs of a parked airplane, the tired woman wonders if anyone would believe she pulled off such a wild stunt.

Leaving the six prisoners in the cabin, Cassidy goes to finish changing in the cockpit and locks the door behind her. It is a welcomed luxury to put a barrier between herself and the primal aggression that wafts off the others. Having rented out the winged apartment beforehand, she finds her bag is still stashed behind the captain’s chair. Changing into her favorite pair of jeans and a black, sleeveless shirt, she pauses to put her weapons in all of their familiar places. A black handgun is tenderly caressed and strapped to her hip, a few experimental draws making sure it is in the perfect position. She dangles a dented, silver locket in front of her face before giving it a kiss and putting it around her neck. From the bottom of the patch-covered duffle bag, Cassidy pulls out a black pea coat and puts it on even though it is early summer. She adjusts it so that an old bullet hole is over her heart and fixes her hair, a mask of calm confidence coming over her face as she prepares to speak with her companions.

“What the fuck happened!?” Cassidy shouts as she opens the door and steps on a blood-oozing finger.

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Top Post of 2022: The Quokka!

(This little guy came in first and won so many hearts.  Originally posted on April 3rd, 2022.)

Hello again for another animal.  This one is the ‘World’s Happiest Animals’ because they always seem to be smiling.  They aren’t afraid of people either, so there’s a trend to get a selfie with them.  Of course, they live in Australia, so you can’t do it that easily unless you’re a local.  What are they?

The Quokka

Now, this is a type of wallaby, which means they’re a marsupial.  They are considered vulnerable for the following reasons:

  • Loss of habitat
  • Mostly the introduction of dogs, cats, and foxes to their habit.  These aren’t their normal predators, so these animals have weakened their populations.  Foxes are apparently the biggest issue for them.

Here’s a site with more info.  QUOKKA!

Since they’re a type of wallaby, they’re a subspecies themselves.  So I won’t have different types.  Means more pictures of them in general.  Enjoy.  (All images found in Google Image Searc.)

And let’s not forget some videoes.  The second one is very informative.

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The Last Drive Tour with Annette Rochelle Aben.

I am happy to be with fellow Michigander Annette Rochelle Aben to discuss The Last Drive. You can visit Annette’s post HERE. Annette can be described…

The Last Drive Tour with Annette Rochelle Aben.
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Hi SEers! Denise here to talk about when a story hits some unexpected roadwork and comes grinding to a halt. The ideas and words flow until that one …

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The Living Fossil: Tapirs

I’ve been wanting to do a post for this animal for a long time.  We have the Malayan Tapir at the Bronx Zoo and they’re relaxing to watch.  It’s such a fascinating creature because it looks so unique.  So, what are they?

Tapirs look like a combination of a boar and an elephant.  Yet, they are more closely related to horses and rhinos. They are a very ancient species, which originated in North America during the Eocene era.  These days, they are found in South America, Central America, and Southeast Asia.  Still, they started here and haven’t changed much over the millennia.  This is why they’re called ‘living fossils’.

All four species are currently endangered.  This is due to them being hunted for meat and deforestation.  This SITE has a lot more information on it.  To be honest, I think we all know how this goes at this point.

Let’s check out some facts:

  • Tapirs have a prehensile snout that they use to grab food from trees.
  • They are great swimmers and use their flexible nose as a snorkle.
  • They are the largest land mammal of South America at 300-700 pounds.
  • Calves are colored similar to fawns for camouflage.  It is sometimes called a ‘watermelon’ pattern. They get their more solid colors as they get older.
  • Another nickname is ‘Gardeners of the Forest’.  This is because they eat a lot of plants and travel far distances.  This allows them to deliver seeds of one plant in a new area to create more biodiversity.
  • They have four toes on their front feet and three on their back feet.
  • Tapirs are pregnant for 13-14 months and only give birth to one calf.
  • The name ‘Tapir’ comes from the Brazilian word for ‘thick’.  They are called ‘Badak’ in Indonesia, which is the same word for rhinos.  They are called ‘P’som-sett’ in Thailand, which means ‘mixture is finished’.  Supposedly, the last one is because it is believe tapirs were created from leftover animal parts.
  • A group of tapirs is called ‘a candle’.

So, let’s get a picture of each species and some fun videos.

Baird’s Tapir

Malayan Tapir

Mountain Tapir

Brazilian tapir

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Goal Post: End of Another Quarter

The second quarter of the 2022-2023 school year has ended . . . Time is going by quickly, but it’s also dragging.  Not sure how that’s possible.

Anyway, I have to admit that I didn’t get much in the way of writing done after last Saturday.  I did hit the 1/3 mark of Darwin & the Demon Game.  Wrote chapter 5 in one day and then rested with the intention of tackling chapter 6 on Sunday.  I don’t know what went wrong.  My brain was foggy and unfocused.  I had sinus pain and my anxiety was blipping.  All I managed to accomplish was part of a section, which took me all day.  I even stopped mid-paragraph because my mind and body just wouldn’t function like it did Saturday.  I’m hoping to finish it today while my son draws.  Maybe I’ll finish chapter 6 this week and have the ability to finish 7 and 8 next weekend.

Still, I’m kind of confused and worried about what happened.  I woke up Saturday after a great night of sleep.  Ate well and even got my car into the shop for an oil change.  Sunday was supposed to be easier with more sleep and no errands/chores.  Instead, I woke up feeling anxious and brutalized.  I’m wondering if I still have long covid issues because it felt like one of my bad days during the summer.  The weather can be triggering things too and it was pretty nasty out.  Oddest part is that writing tends to wear me out more than anything else.  I don’t understand why even though a friend suggested that I probably burn more energy writing than doing other low-thinking activities.  Doesn’t help that I think I’m a hack right now and hate everything I do.

My week was fairly busy too.  My son had late appointments on Monday and Tuesday as well as 3 tests to study for.  It wasn’t until Wednesday night that things almost settled, but I’m back on the summer camp hunt.  Hoping that one I look at today works out.  Again, this added stress and broke my focus.  It made it that I couldn’t muster the desire to write, blog, bike, or do more than take a shot of Zzzquil and crawl into bed.  So, it wasn’t as productive a week as I’d hoped.

Work was easier though.  At least, the students had half-days.  I didn’t get to go home early, but it meant a few extra hours to decompress.  Next week is back to the usual schedule, which isn’t bad.  The students I work with are great and make my day go by quickly.  I get home tired and use the last of my energy to help my son with his homework, but the exhaustion is for good causes.  He shouldn’t have many tests coming up since the new quarter just started.  Still, you never know what’s coming.  Best to brace myself for anything.

My anxiety has gotten better.  Only had one night of panic attacks and three mornings where I felt like my skeleton was trying to escape through my mouth.  Sounds rough, but it’s progress.  I still haven’t found the best time to take the calming pills since they make me drowsy.  Tried in the morning once and it had me dizzy until noon.  Night isn’t worthwhile since the Zzzquil works better.  Experimentation will have to do until I find time to get to a doctor.  Time is limited and the next big thing is to get something on my car handled.  I was going to do that this weekend, but I needed to go somewhere.  Next weekend should work out better.

Wish I had more to excite people with.  Nothing to talk about as far as sales go and I still haven’t decided on how/when to publish the Darwin series.  With my other books not selling at all, it’s hard to justify paying for cover art and taking large chunks of time to edit the books.  I remember being told long ago that the best way to keep selling books is to keep publishing, but that was a lie.  Once ‘Legends of Windemere’ stopped, the majority of my audience left.  Only a handful of people cared to try ‘Ichabod Brooks’, ‘Bedlam’, and ‘War of Nytefall’.  That’s why it’s had to muster any confidence for my next series.  The whole thing has me questioning my abilities, decisions, past, and . . . Well, everything about myself.  Yeah, I know this will earn some optimistic platitudes, but I feel like saying it here.

Television hasn’t been much either.  Still slowly working through ‘Fruits Basket’.  I didn’t get far because of all the appointments that forced me to eat a late dinner.  Then it was get ready for bed and pass out within 30 minutes.  That might have been part of the problem since the food didn’t have much time to digest.  This coming week doesn’t have any late night appointments, so I should be able to shed a good amount of anxiety.  Fingers crossed there.

Goals of the week:

  1. Sleep better.
  2. Help son with homework.
  3. Investigate more meditation and calming techniques.
  4. Write at least one more chapter of Darwin & the Demon Game.
  5. Finish the April blog posts.
  6. Bike at least twice this week.
  7. Prepare more tax stuff.
  8. Puzzle time when too stressed.
  9. Order some manga from the library to read while stuck in an office for 4 hours in a few weeks.  (Long story.)
  10. Maybe a Super Bowl meme post for the 12th to get it off my mind.
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