A Ramble in Which I Ask for Help

I am not sure where I am going with this post, but then I figure this blog is mostly here for me, so I am allowed to let my mind wander sometimes.

As usual, I am thinking about the craft of writing, the thread of stories, of characters and places and worlds (Earth, and the worlds of imagination).  My WIP takes up a lot of thought and a lot of time, but I am making more progress on it than I ever have before. Not only the actual writing and editing process, but the world-building questions that underpin everything.

Astronomy and calendars have been one focus lately. Did you know that the Mayans (and some other Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cultures) had two to three calendars in order to map time? All the hoopla about 2012 being the end of the world seems to have evolved from the fact that the “Long Count” cycle ticked over to the same length of time believed, by the Mayans, to have preceded the creation of mankind (a more in-depth scholar of these things than I may correct me, but that is how I understood it).

Anyway, I am fascinated by the different ways humanity has found to keep track of the passage of time. Did you know that the Romans changed the length of an hour throughout the year in order to account for what we call “daylight savings?”

In order to stoke my creative furnace, I have some questions I would like you to answer, if you are willing. I won’t steal your ideas (unless you want me to), I just want to get my sluggish brain thinking about these things again. Consider it an idea-bouncing contest. I will answer them, myself, in my next post.

1. Make up a constellation and a brief story for it.

2. What is your favorite holiday (excluding Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Easter) and  why?

3. Name an object you would like to see featured in a story

4. make up a name for a spell and tell me what it does

5. Choose a plant and make up a symbolic meaning for it

6. What is your favorite ghost/folk/scary story (can be humorous or not)


Characters are rummy. So are people outside written stories, though, so I suppose that is as it should be. I like my protagonists and antagonists all to be people I can empathize, and even sympathize with. In that sense, I suppose, I don’t write fairy-tales. There are behaviors that bring destruction or redemption, choices made that could have been different, but the paths are those of people, not symbols. I speak no word against fairy-tales or allegory. I love both, they just serve a different purpose.

One of my favorite characters from Tolkien’s mythos is Smeagol/Gollum. He ain’t pretty, and he’s rarely nice, but he feels very real. He could go either way at his crossroads, and the paths he chooses are understandable, if disastrous for him. His is a very human story, one that is easily recognizable in others, but hard to see in ourselves. I hope readers will see characters in my work that they do not want to emulate, but to whom they can relate nonetheless.

Aaand it is probably time to bring this ramble to a close. I need to go see if the little inch worms that have camouflaged themselves in yarrow petals are still about. My garden sorely needs some care, but at least it is alive, aye?



About jubilare

Just another tree in the proverbial forest. Look! I have leaves! View all posts by jubilare

37 responses to “A Ramble in Which I Ask for Help

  • Amyclae

    Let your mind wander. I like it.

  • David

    Oo, I like this! Give me a little time to answer your questions and have a proper answer; I’m away from the computer at the moment and can’t write much on my phone.

    • jubilare

      Huzzah! I was beginning to hear crickets and wondered if anyone would play along and answer!

      I have one extra question for you, though. How is life in Davidland?

      • David

        Life is, as usual, full of blessings and frustrations. In fact, it’s probably time we re-open a regular email channel for longer chattings. I unfortunately let ours and other email exchanges fall somewhat by the wayside, and I regret that. As it happens, your writing questions in this post gave me a little boost of inspiration that I think will help me put together a writing sample for a job application. The job’s an extremely long shot, but at the worst it’ll still be good practice to apply, as I’ve never had or applied for a creative job before.

        • jubilare

          I’ve been absolute rubbish at e-mail for a while, too, but I’d love a chance to catch up. I’m thrilled to have fed your muse, and I fully support trying long shots. I got my job by applying for one I knew I would not get, and I was right, but they liked me enough that when a job for which I was qualified cropped up, I was already on their radar. :)

  • Rob

    OK. This doesn’t fit your questions (well, maybe, sorta, number 3) but I’ve always thought it would make a great book series to explore the adventures of the apostles as they went their ways into the world after Jesus’ resurrection. You know, the people they encountered, the places they saw for the first time, maybe even the demons or magicians sent to waylay them. It could be a great way to teach and entertain. And, please, feel free to steal if you wish. As I’ve said before, I have NO ability at fiction!

    Hope you’re well!

    • jubilare

      If someone could pull it off with skill, that would be a fascinating read. I fear it’s not in my wheelhouse, though, at least at present. It would take so much research to get the bones of the story right, from actual historical events to cultural accuracies. What needs to happen, I would think, would be a collaboration between a skilled historical fiction writer, a fantasy/sci-fi writer, and at least one historian who specializes in that time period.
      I’m only one of those things, and not the most important of the three for that type of project. Now, allegory, I might be able to pull off, but that is something different, again. Like Tolkien, and others before me, I like the idea of “applicability.”

      A friend lent me “The Bronze Bow” which is, apparently, a YA novel set around the time of Jesus’s ministry. I’ve yet to read it, but I am curious to see how it represents the time, place, and events.

      I am still stupidly busy, something I need to fight against, but otherwise I am well. How are you?

      • David

        I remember reading (and liking very much) “The Bronze Bow” way back in junior high! Don’t know how it would hold up now, but at the time it seemed like a neat mix of historical adventure and Christian values. If you read it, please let us all know what you think!

        I think my favorite historical adventure set during Jesus’ ministry is “Ben-Hur,” the Charlton Heston film. I haven’t seen the famous silent version that preceded it, nor read the book, but they’re on my lists.

  • Rob

    Funny. I picked up The Bronze Bow a month or two back at our library’s book sale. Haven’t read it yet either, but it looks pretty good.

    Doing as well as an old guy can expect! I’m vertical and breathing . . . God is good!

  • Bill

    Our local ghost is named Sukey (rhymes with rookie) Short. She’s the only ghost I believe in.

    According to the story Sukey was an old black lady who lived alone. All of her neighbors were afraid of her, believing her to be a witch.

    One cold winter evening she must have discovered that the coals in her fire had gone out, so she set out to get some from the people who lived around here, to use to restart her fire. But no one would open the door or give her any. They were afraid she would use them to cast a spell on them. She went from house to house, being turned away at each place. Finally she started walking back home. The road here was being built at the time and she stopped to rest, sitting on the stump of a tree that had just been cut down. Someone found her there the next morning, frozen to death.

    Since that time her ghost has haunted this community. These days the story seems in the process of being forgotten but when I was a boy many of the old-timers had stories of having seen her and of the things attributed to her over the years. I saw her once when I was a boy (or saw something that I believed must have been her).

    • jubilare

      Thank you! That is a classic form of ghost-tale, and very sad.

      I was a little confused, though, when you said she was the only ghost you believe in. Do you mean the only specific ghost you believe in? Because it’s a strange idea, to me, to think of someone who believes there is a ghost, but only one in the whole wide world. Come to think of it, that premise in and of itself is the seed for a story. :)

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  • emilykazakh

    I’m not sure how I missed this, but I saw your post today & read enough to stop & come back & read this one! I’m totally going to do this today!
    I’m so excited! I was just thinking this week that I missed blogs like this. They help so much. Thank you!
    p.s. how are you?

  • Love The Bad Guy

    Well, I took forever, but I’ve finally responded to your questions! ^_^

    1. Make up a constellation and a brief story for it.

    Up there, do you see it? That’s Maedia – The Bride. She was stilted at the altar and feared her beloved had been stolen by Death, so she threw herself to the heavens to be reunited with him. Only there could she see the truth – her betrothed, far below her, in the arms of another. That cluster of stars? That’s her heart, shattered into a thousand pieces.

    2. What is your favorite holiday (excluding Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Easter) and why?

    I’m afraid that Christmas is the only holiday that holds any true value to me. Most of the others that I can think of right now are only good for a day off work…

    3. Name an object you would like to see featured in a story.

    I like anything with mystery to it – an alien artefact; something ordinary that holds unknown meaning to someone; a puzzle that needs to be solved.

    4. Make up a name for a spell and tell me what it does.

    Fuoco intra – a wicked curse that causes the victims’ bones to burn like fire.

    5. Choose a plant and make up a symbolic meaning for it.

    In days of old, people would plant morte duis at the doors of their enemies. The petals, as dark and silky as pooled blood, were said to be a bad omen that would attract Death himself. To have the flowers at your door was to invite ill will into your home.

    6. What is your favourite ghost/folk/scary story (can be humorous or not).

    I’m partial to a good video game, so I’m going to veer slightly off course from a scary story to a horror game – namely, the Outlast game. There are two things that I find brilliant about this game: the atmosphere, and the characters. The former is an intense formation of understated music, limited visibility, and an awareness of pervasive threats. The latter consists of a delightful variety of psychopaths, terrifying both in physical appearance and in actions.

    Sorry for gushing about something only slightly related to your question, but Outlast leapt so vividly to mind when I saw the word “scary”; I just couldn’t think of anything else!

    • jubilare

      No worries! Questions like these take time. :)

      1. Ooo… Nice.

      2. Tell me about Christmas, then.

      3. How about a book from Death’s own library that is blank until its secret is discovered? ;)

      4. ouch… does it burn as in destroy? Or just hurt like blazes?

      5. Ah, you invented a plant, too! A curse plant, and I love the name. Twofold-Death? It should be considered extra cursed if you kill it, though, or touch it, because otherwise people would just root it out and toss it away. It’s symbolic meaning would probably be “you are marked for death” which is wonderfully threatening. Mobster flower. :D

      6. No apology necessary, though I fear I can’t go check it out. Horror videogames traumatize me. I can barely handle some horror films (and can’t handle many) much less a horror tale where I am personally involved, as with a video-game. I’m particularly interested in ghost-stories and folktales (and video-games and other media can qualify, though the type of creepy found in a Outlast is probably different from what I am seeking) because I am trying to work on the voice for my WIP which is supposed to have more of a ghost-story feel than it does at present.

      Thank you so much for answering! This is so helpful in prodding my monstrous muse. If you will give me permission, I plan to eventually post the answers I get from this inquiry. Is that ok?

      • Love The Bad Guy

        Yeah, that’s fine with me. :)

        (P.S. I’m with you on horror — there are very few horror films I’ll watch, and even fewer that I enjoy, and I refuse to play games like “Outlast”! Instead I watch playthroughs on YouTube, preferably when I’m alone. Otherwise people hear the strange squeak I make whenever I get startled!)

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  • palecorbie

    1) The raven, a dark parch on the sky with nothing but the bright point of one corvid eye and a thin shimmer of feathers in the black. Would have been the helper-spirit of the first blacksmith, gifted to the same by the first shaman, but cared more for stealing shinies and prying things apart than helping with the work and eventually fled to the top of the sky-tree to avoid the Smith’s wrath after breaking something important (creating the spray of shiny over the rest of the heavens).

    2) American much? Not that we have other officially recognised holidays over here save May Day…

    3) [wonders if nonsapient undead – and thus jiang shi and/or vampire watermelons – count as ‘objects’] A genuine trade-grade barbarian tea brick.

    4) Expellyureathra – causes targets under area of effect to need to pee badly. Can disrupt entire military units, especially if aimed at COs.

    5) Gorse – resilience, fighting spirit

    6) O Whistle and I’ll Come To You My Lad/The Tale of the Shifty Lad, the Widow’s Son/SKELETON

    • jubilare

      1. Star-raven… I like it very much. I hope to make a post of the different responses to these questions. May I include yours?

      2. Not at all! ^_^ I simply name holidays that I do not want to hear more about, as they are ones I am very familiar with. It is not surprising that those would all be holidays celebrated in my country. Notice that I do not say what people ought to choose from in telling me about their favorite. I would absolutely love answers about holidays that are completely unfamiliar to me, or ones I have never even heard of.

      3. Object objects, and what on earth is brick tea?

      4. Fantastic! Not only weaken the enemy, but embarrass them as well…

      5. Very apt, from what I understand.

      6. I’m familiar with the first of those, but who wrote the rest?

      • palecorbie

        ‘Nuh! If you like.

        I tell you, your Hallow’s Eve and mine are quite different things, though as for foreign festivals I am charmed by the way Mexicans celebrate All Souls’ (the Day of the Dead). Scandinavian Midsummer festivals are fun, too.

        An ancient form of quasi-currency traded about by Eurasian nomads back when black tea was super-prestigious (my current obsession is Siberia, thanks partly to Sky Dog). Wikipedia will tell you more.

        Also useful for disrupting powderkeg civil situations, and practical jokes.

        Many’s the time I’ve seen the yellow flags of gorse raised over deep snow, spears to the fore…

        Highlands Traditional and Ray Bradbury. The Shifty Lad is more a dark (but hilarious) folk tale than a ghost/supernatural/super-scary story, but you just said ‘folk tale’, so…

        • jubilare

          Thanks ^_^

          Aye, but I am somewhat familiar with several different All Hallows, and Christmas *ducks because of expected sheet* traditions, and am looking for a different angle, if that makes sense. Ah, fire is always a good idea for holidays. XD


          The former might be a little dicey…

          *nods* I feel the same way about many of the plants in our cedar glades, not from snow, but because bare stone is a challenging soil.

          Thanks, I will check those out.

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