Grigor’s not-so Mirror Images

Far to the north, near the Spine of the World, a party of adventurers trudged through the frozen landscape in search of giants who attacked one of the Ten Towns. The group consisted of a mighty, yet simple, barbarian, a devoted dwarven cleric, a noble human and a very clever and studious mage named Grigor Marsk. Prior to leaving town to track the giants, Grigor spent hours upon hours by daylight and candle light pouring over scrolls and tomes ever searching for new spells and strategies for defeating the beasts who plagued that land. With a twinkle in his eye and a sly smile he anticipated the next encounter with the giants. He sorted out a plan that would make quick work of even those formidable foes.

With huge tracks left by the giants, the trail was not difficult to follow. A trio of the monsters camped against a short cliff and the heroes approached from above. Hearts filled with confidence, they did not hesitate to engage their enemies. Grigor cracked his knuckles arrogantly as he began his work. The mage spoke the words of an ancient spell and energy suddenly surged through their loin clothed barbarian who flexed his swollen muscles and gripped his massive maul before shouting an enraged battle chant and leaping into the giants’ camp. Grigor smiled. So far so good.

With the barbarian swinging his mighty maul in an absolute fury below the ledge, the noble among them took aim with a musket he crafted his self and fired off a shot at one of the giants but the shot sailed helplessly wide of any adversary. The dwarf called upon his god for favor in battle and his spiritual hammer appeared and began to smash the giants along with the barbarian. “Excellent, this is going well,” Grigor mused.

The giants roared, toxic breath from their hateful mouths, picked up their enormous clubs and searched for targets. Two decided to batter the barbarian to death while one elected to climb the cliff and look for the being that fired a shot at them from the mysterious mechanical weapon.

The barbarian took some savage hits but stood tall to the onslaught and howled back at the beasts defiantly. He swung his maul with extra speed and might curtesy of his mage companion. From his vantage, Grigor the mage could see the giant climbing the cliff and would have none of it. Mages do not survive blows from a giant’s club. That is for the duller and sturdier adventurers. Grigor did not fret however, clever as he was, he closed his eyes to concentrate and recited the words of a new spell that would protect him. Moments later mirror images of conjurer appeared around him; four images in total. This was intended to confuse his enemies and protect him from attacks. Grigor smiled.

The noble gun slinger fired at the giant climbing the cliff and missed yet again. Grigor shouted at him to shoot the others but the nobleman would have none of it. Who was a dirty mage peasant to tell a member of the aristocracy what to do after all?

The dwarf battle cleric was not about to allow his friend the barbarian take all the glory so he too leaped off the cliff and into the fray wielding his hammer, swinging it at his hated enemies. Together the pair smashed the giants, cracking bones and bruising bodies.

The giants pounded the enraged barbarian, badly beating his body as he pummeled them in return. The third, however, pulled a large bolder from a massive bag and took aim at the mage, Grigor. The mage just smiled knowing his mirror images would give the giant enough targets to consider that the chance of him choosing the actual Grigor was small. The giant reached back and hurled the boulder directly at the unarmored mage smashing him hard on one side. Dazed and wounded, Grigor shook his head and looked at his mirrors who seemed to look back blankly at their conjurer.

The battle raged on. The rifleman fired at the giant on the cliff hitting him, bullet penetrating the giant’s flesh deeply. Grigor shook his head, dismayed his party was not following his expert strategy. The dwarf prayed to his deity and channeled some healing energy into the savage barbarian who did nothing but smash the giants before him with speed and precision. Grigor shouted words of power and magical energy flew at a giant, pelting him with the magic missiles. Satisfied, the mage remained confident that the battle would be one.

With bellows of hate, the giants would not relent and again their heavy clubs pounded the brave barbarian who dared oppose them. The rock heaver took aim once more at the mage and his mirrors. As the dull monster considered his target he was momentarily confused by the number of identical mages that stood beyond, yet in the next moment it seemed as though four of them pointed to one. Not one for thinking, the giant hurled the bolder once more, at the actual Grigor, knocking the poor mage nearly from his feet and injuring him further.

Head spinning and body aching, Grigor fell to one knee and tried to reason out what was wrong. He looked around him and in fact his mirrors were still there, yet the giant had not been fooled by them in the least. They even seemed to shrug at him as if to suggest they also didn’t know what was wrong.

Below, the barbarian smashed one of the giant’s knees bringing him low while the cleric blasted his war hammer into his face, caving his skull and ending his miserable life. They turned to the other giant next to them and started hammering away at him. The noble marksman took aim and fired again at the foe on top of the plateau, once again hitting the beast, bullet burying deeply into the creature’s chest causing him to wail in agony.

Sensing that his life was nearly over, the badly wounded giant drew another boulder from his satchel and looked to take one of his enemies with him to the grave. The mage watched as once again the monster took aim at him, hoping his mirrors would finally confuse the beast. The giant glared at the group of copies and noted that four appeared to gesture towards one yet again. The giant, strength failing, launched the rock at the mage. Grigor’s eyes grew wide and he froze while he watched the rock hurl towards him. His mirrors watched as well, unconcerned. The mage held his breath and closed his eyes anticipating the end. A deafening crash rang in his ears and he was certain the boulder had smashed him. Another moment passed however and the sounds of battle below continued so he slowly opened his eyes. He was still living. The rock lay next to him and his mirrors smiled at their master and raised their thumbs simultaneously in approval. Grigor was not impressed.

The mage decided he could not remain on top of the cliff and was convinced his mirrors were in league with the giants. He slid down the cliff on his rear end so as to prevent the fall from killing him and remained prone while he cast yet another spell to injure the giant below.

Another blast from the rifle ended the giant on the plateau and with his friends dead and his body badly beaten the final enemy chose to flee from the heroes. He turned tail and ran away only to be chased down by the hasty barbarian and smashed once more with the heavy maul, splitting his spine and bringing him face down into the frozen ground.

Victorious yet bloodied, the heroes celebrated. All except Grigor, who glared at his innocent looking mirrors, wondering why his illusion was so unsuccessful in confusing his foe. There would be many more hours studying his scrolls and tomes to try to understand why his mirrors were so disloyal to their own conjuror. Perhaps some team building was necessary to bring them together?

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Battle of Beasts

A fantasy writer’s metaphor for the conflict in Charlottsville

The charred-wood arena was located in a remote land; far from the regulating eyes of the legionnaires. The fights that were held there were illegal, but also the most fantastic of all, and so many risked arrest and banishment to travel to the hidden site, beyond the woods and carved into a mountain, as legend has it, by dragon’s fire. Indeed the rock jutted inward from the otherwise regular contour of the mountain in jagged edges and teeth-like points. The arena itself appeared somewhat like the snarling mouth of a serpent snapping at its prey. In its throat monsters and men battled to the death.

The arena was run by despicable men. Men who cared nothing about right or wrong, only about money and prestige. They profited off the deaths of heroes and slaves, champions and beasts. They did not value life in the least; only coin and fame. With this goal in their hearts, they captured or lured many types of souls with promises of mercy for their families or wealth for their pockets, yet most promises went broken. Still, the bouts did not go unfilled and the seats did not remain empty. Many gathered for glory, entertainment and wealth.

This particular evening there was a fascinating match. The owners of the arena managed to capture an ogre and pit the foul beast against a troll, and equally disgusting creature. Both were very strong yet also heinous. All were intrigued by the fight which was about to begin.

A pair of men, who placed bets of the opposing beasts sat next to one another with goblets of ale apiece. Each were officials from a nearby kingdom; lofty in position and authority. Though the arena was forbidden, they did not hesitate to participate in such sport, confident that the regulation did not apply to those meant to enforce such social constraints. They delighted in the spectacle and enjoyed seeing the hoi paloi risk their lives for a small purse of coins. Their names were Lords David and Vanne.

Lord David, smile beaming across his face leaned over to Lord Vanne who he was already very familiar with and stated with confidence, “This troll will defeat the ogre easily! I’ve put much gold on that! It will be a glorious battle!”

Lord Vanne grimaced, “I wouldn’t be so sure. The ogre is a savage creature. Deadly. I put my coin on him.”

“You know nothing,” David scoffed, “Trolls are ancient creatures. They’ve roamed the lands murdering and destroying peasants since before civilization. They’ve lasted this long, they’ve learned to survive anything. This orge is no match.”

“You are ignorant in the ways of ogres, clearly,” Vanne countered, “Ogres are stronger and more savage. While the history of them is shrouded in mystery, their results speak for themselves. None can best them. The ogre will tear the troll limb from limb.”

As they debated the virtues of the beasts, the monsters were released from their cages and set loose in the arena. For moments they were confused, each looked about and saw all of the spectators. Each howled at them and roared with stinking breath detectable throughout the circle. All held their breath and coughed trying to escape the stink of the combatants. With attendants pushing the beasts with poles and trying to anger them, they finally noticed the other. They did not hesitate to attack, each recognizing the danger in his opponent.

The foul creatures rushed toward the center and collided as two boulders sending an earthquake throughout the arena and a deafening crack like the snapping of a giant trees. Each monster howled in pain as bones broke in the collision. Undeterred they attacked further through a grapple. They bit and clawed and kicked at one another.

Blood, spit, hair and teeth were flying in all directions as the two hideous creatures battled for their very lives. Meanwhile, the crowd roared in approval.

Lord David was confident his favored monster, the troll, was winning. “You see this Vanne, you fool? The troll is the better beast by far! Surely he will win!”

“You must not be watching the same fight,” Vanne replied, “It appears to me that the ogre is much more powerful. There is conviction in his attacks. The troll will succumb to his savagery any moment.”

“Nonsense!” bellowed Lord David. “Your ogre is done for. Trolls cannot die except by fire. The ogre will never prevail.”

The lords yelled at the top of their lungs at one another trying to convince each that they were correct to back their particular brand of monster. Neither budged but stubbornly held their convictions.

The ogre and troll grappled with equal strength, each unable to manipulate the other into submission. Both monsters dug deep into their pain and anger and battled on. As they struggled for control of their enemy the troll tripped and stumbled backwards. In his fall, however, he pulled the ogre with him and threw the beast with all his might into the side of the arena.

The monster crashed through the wall separating the spectators from the combatants and several who were cheering on the battle were injured. Screams of terrified mortals filled the air as the ogre, confused and blinded by hatred, clawed and punched those near him. One by one he murdered those men who moments earlier cheered him or his opponent on. They were not as gleeful now that they were part of the fray.

Guards with spears sped into the arena, some to block the troll, who regained his footing, from engaging the ogre any longer, others to try to coax the ogre from his attacks on the crowd.

The ogre would no be deterred. He relentlessly attacked those around him and the number of dead rose quickly with blood and limbs spraying from the epicenter of the attack. The heinous monster left a trail of death as he moved through the fleeing crowd.

The troll was mollified for a moment as the spears thrust at him gave him pause, but he was far too angry and hateful to be calmed by a few guards and when he backed against the wall he looked up and decided he could leap upon in. With a roar and a mighty jump, the troll bound to the top of the protective wall and stared down the helpless crowd. He hopped off the wall and into the crowd of people and tore through them like he evil counterpart did on the opposite side of the arena. All were in peril.

Lord David blamed the ogre, “Your stupid ogre caused this mess! Now look at what’s happened! People are being murdered by that dull monster and you were naive enough to support him.”

Naturally Lord Vanne saw the scene very differently, “You imbecile! That hideous troll you so brazenly backed threw the ogre into the crowd. It is the troll’s fault that these people are dead.”

The Lords continued to argue about who’s fault it was and who was misguided in their support of their respective monsters. Meanwhile the evil beasts murdered any they could get their claws on, included the pair of lords who did not have enough sense to flee when danger approached. They were more concerned with blaming one another than saving their own lives. In the end, dozens were murdered and the beasts escaped and fled into the night.

Kings denounced both beasts eventually and passed decrees outlawing such arenas and the beasts they forced to fight therein. But alas, little changed. The charred-wood arena was rebuilt and once again was a place for the hopeless to seek fame and fortune. Others like it thrived across the land. All the while ogres and trolls roamed the countrysides murdering peasants and destroying towns.

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Sarah’s School

Sarah shifted in her reclined chair, suddenly aware of cramps in her neck, arms, legs, back. Her eyes hurt and it was difficult to see the screen in front of her, gripped in her hands. She tried to look around the room and get a better sense of her surroundings. She could see other people but could not see much beyond the glow of other screens and the reflection in their users’ eyes. She whimpered like a puppy as she wiggled to try to get free, but the chair did not allow for much movement and was designed to keep her, and those like her, seated and in the best position to use her phone.

Before long an attendant strode up to her chair. “Is something the matter Miss?” the attendant asked in a high cheerful voice.

“I just don’t feel right,” Sarah explained.

“Oh I see. Do you need something to eat or drink? Perhaps an energy drink? Some more lava chips perhaps?”

“I don’t know,” Sarah whined. “I just don’t feel right. I feel like something is the matter. I just don’t know what’s wrong.”

“Is there something wrong with your phone? We just upgraded it to the latest model. Isn’t it pleasing to you?”

“No, it isn’t my phone. I don’t know. I’m just not right.”

“Hold tight then dear, I’ll call someone who can help. Please remain seated. School isn’t out for a few more hours yet.”

“Ok, thank you,” Sarah murmured and watched as the attendant walked away from her. Sarah thought for a moment. She looked around but that didn’t seem to help her. She looked down at her phone. There were already dozens of notifications scrolling one after another. She saw a notification that Diego sent her a text. She opened it.
Hey! You there? it read.

Sarah read it a few times. It didn’t quite make sense to her for a moment. It was as though she had fallen asleep and just woke up from a dream. Then she remembered, Diego was her friend.

She texted Diego:
Hey
I’m here
What’s going on?

Diego:
What do you mean?

Sarah:
Where are we?

Diego:
In school
Duh
Where else would we be?

Sarah:
What are we doing here?

Diego:
Are you ok?
You’re acting weird.
Hey, it’s your turn on Battle Words, I’m still crushing you lol

Sarah stared at her phone. There were constant notifications about messages and games and updates but they seemed suddenly overwhelming. She didn’t quite know what to do with them all. She began breathing rapidly and her heart was racing. She tried to get up but didn’t seem able to sit up in the chair, reclined as it was, and couldn’t seem to move her arms or legs enough to gain any leverage. Worst of all she didn’t seem to be able to put her phone down. She twisted her head left and right and screamed.

Just as she started screaming a technician arrived at her chair. “Miss Sarah, please calm down. Here, take this,” the technician held out a pill and a glass filled with a colored beverage. “It’s sweet, it will help you swallow and this will help you relax. I’m sorry you got so upset. I’m here to help,” he assured her in a soft and soothing voice.

Sarah took the pill slowly and examined it carefully before placing it on her tongue and swallowing. Already she began to breathe a little slower. She closed her eyes and everything was black for a moment before her senses returned and she was confident that she was indeed at school. The technician noted her breathing and knew she would be fine.

“There. Much better now,” he began. “For the report however, I need to ask you a few questions. What is your name?”

“I’m Sarah.”

“That is correct.”

“Do you know where you are Sarah?”

“Yes, I’m at school.”

“That is also correct. Very good. And what were you feeling when you had this short attack moments ago?”

“I’m not sure. I felt very strange. I felt like I wanted to get up. Or that I should be somewhere else. I didn’t really even know where I was for a moment and I didn’t know what I was doing here.”

“That must have been terrifying for you.”

“I was.”

“But you know where you are now? You know what you’re doing here?”

“Yes, I’m at school.”

“Yes of course, we covered that, but what are you doing here? What is your purpose here?”

“I’m here to play and use my phone.”

“That’s right. Very good. Is everything ok with your phone? We recently upgraded you to the newest model after all.”

“Yes. I like it very much.”

“And is there anything you are dissatisfied with? I see here,” the technician was studying from a tablet he held in his hands, “that you have downloaded several apps that you haven’t used yet.”

Sarah looked at her phone. The notifications continued to scroll by. “Oh, I’m sorry. I’ll make sure I use those. I just got confused for some reason and didn’t know where I was or why I was here. I remember now though. I’m at school, and I’m here to use my phone to play games and chat with friends.”

“Very good. All is well. I’m glad you are ok now. Continue to relax and please go back to using your phone. The country needs you at your best you know. A break in usage could mean a break in our economy or heavens forbid, make us vulnerable to attacks from foreign governments.”

“I know. I’m very sorry.”

“No worries, Sarah, everything is back to normal. Enjoy the remainder of class.”

“Thank you, I will.”

Sarah settled back into her chair and gripped her phone with both hands and began to pound the brilliant touch screen with lithe fingers, desperate to catch up with the missed messages and neglected games.

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The Sureshot Excerpt: New Bow, New Challenge

Another preview as I finish up editing. Coming soon!

When he reached his forest cabin, a hawk which looked very much like the one he admired before, was perched atop Durbar’s smoke house. Durbar halted in his tracks and greeted the bird with surprise. The hawk spread his wings as if bragging to the woodsman, called to him in his shrill piercing voice, then leapt and climbed in the free air, riding the wind away. Durbar smiled. “I see you my friend,” he whispered. “Teach me to fly.”

Durbar started a fire immediately upon returning. It was already getting dark outside and he was hungry. He skinned and cleaned the rabbits he killed earlier. Slowly and mindlessly, he cooked one of them, staring into the fire. The flames leapt and danced about in the stone hearth, mesmerizing Durbar. The fire seemed alive as it danced before his eyes; its heat warmed Durbar’s face. He enjoyed the feeling the fire gave him. It helped him feel alive. He knew he needed more fire and decided that he would travel to Harmon and meet with the pretty-boy prince he found in the forest. He had no idea what he was getting into, but he was willing to find out.

The meat was finished but Durbar wasn’t hungry anymore. He went to a chest that lay at the foot of his bed. From it, he retrieved his tools. From a mount on the wall, he grabbed an unfinished bow, which he had been working on for several months. He sat down in front of the fire and continued smoothing out the edges of the nearly completed staff. The weapon was cut from a piece of blackwood; from the tree that he buried his father under. For several hours, he worked diligently on his bow adding the final touches to the magnificent weapon. Finally, he was satisfied with the piece of wood. He went back to the chest and retrieved a fine silk bowstring. Such string was hard to come by in Dirka, and Durbar traded two fine bows, three quivers, and several furs for the thin string. He strung his bow with it, took his knife, and carved “Adar” in the grip of the weapon.

“Now you will hunt again, Father,” Durbar announced, with determination in his voice, and a hint of sorrow.

Bow in hand, Durbar grabbed an arrow and stepped outside to test his weapon. The bow was five feet tall, nearly as tall as he was. The dark-colored wood made it bold in appearance. Its curve was elegant; the grip was perfect for Durbar’s large hand. He notched an arrow, held the bow down, and closed his eyes listening intently. The mountain air was cold. It nipped at his face, and the wind laughed at him as it rushed by. The sun was setting in the west, which threw a deep red glow on the trees it was slipping behind. The breeze blew through his hair. He caught the sound of an animal moving in a nearby bush. Durbar opened his eyes as he raised his bow and aimed in the direction of the creature. He saw a skunk sniffing around in a large shrub. Durbar marked it but raised his aim just high of the little beast and fired his arrow with amazing speed into the trunk of the bush above the animal. Frightened, the skunk ran off as quickly as he could and Durbar retrieved his arrow. He smiled to himself and thought, I hope you are ready, Durbar.

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I Hate Editing

I’m supposed to be editing my final draft. I hate it. I would rather blog about how I hate editing than edit. So, here I am.

It’s good though. I’ve come a long way. I literally used to argue with my teachers, who only wanted to make me a better writer, that I didn’t need to edit. Then I’d get my papers back with tons of red ink on them. Seems I should have edited and drafted. Lesson learned. In my 20s I was still reluctant to draft and edit. I was so excited when I finished a story that I didn’t care about drafting. I just wanted people to read it. Now I’m older. Slower. Closer to life’s end. So I’m editing and drafting more.

For my final edit, as I mentioned before, I’m reading the entire draft out loud. It is super effective actually. Reading aloud lets me hear how it sounds. Duh, right? But it’s great! When I read silently my mind skips over all sorts of mistakes to make sense of the passage (it’s a legit brain thing, our minds want to make sense of stuff) and besides, I wrote it, I know what I meant. But that isn’t good enough.

I figured an editor would be able to iron out any errors in my writing, but again as I shared before, that didn’t really work out either. So, after much research, I concluded that it is best to be a good self-editor besides working on the writing. So here I am, reading my own story to myself.

I highly recommend it though. I edited plenty of lines that I would not have noticed otherwise. If your story sounds good read out-loud, then it sounds good.

Try it!

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Goodbye July

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

July was a great month for me as a writer. I finished the final draft of The Sureshot and managed to blog at least twice a week, every week, for the entire month on each of my three blogs. Both were goals and I am proud to announce that I accomplished them. I racked up some impressive “stats” for me at least and so I’m celebrating and thanking everyone who read my posts, my poems, my work and even more so those of you who “liked” or commented along the way. I’m looking forward to more months of writing and blogging and one day doing this full time. Cheers!

If you liked one of them, you may like others I post.

Writing: https://thesureshot.wordpress.com/

Poems: https://poemsnoonecaresabout.wordpress.com/

Parenting: https://1superdad.wordpress.com/

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The Story Grid

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This last year I read the “Story Grid” by Shawn Coyne and it was invaluable in a few ways. I highly recommend any writer or aspiring writer to read it as well. It absolutely helped me feel more secure in my writing and more than anything, make my story telling more efficient and more effective. Here’s how:

In “The Story Grid,” Coyne lays out the effective pattern that all stories need in order to impress and entertain the reader. He makes the case that every story, no matter the writer or the genre, has essential elements that must be present. Have you ever read a story and then told yourself it “just didn’t work?” I sure have. Coyne’s book helps to sort out those issues that keep a story from working. I felt like I sort of had those things sorted out but it was fantastic to read about those elements from an accomplished editor. Besides, the grid helped me identify one obvious problem that kept my own story, “The Sureshot,” from being great. Problem identified, fixed and now I’m less likely to commit the same mistake in future.

Coyne broke down all levels and elements of story telling and how to be a master of them. The information is invaluable. He uses several stories as examples to help the reader understand effective story telling with “Silence of the Lambs” as the anchoring story throughout. He even broke the book down by chapter and element with the speaker in each and even the times author, Thomas Harris, used italics. It was all amazing information.

Since reading “The Story Grid,” I revised and rewrote “The Sureshot,” learned to use the foolscap outline for more effective story writing and to tweak some other things I do to improve my writing. Again, if you want to be a writer, I highly recommend this book. Get serious and check out the story grid.

He also has a website with great information:

http://www.storygrid.com/

 

 

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