Creativity is Strange Part 2

fog-08This is the ongoing evolution, or is it a revolution, of a short story that wants to be more.

The Gates of Fire and Ash started out as a lark. A fun concept prompted by a fellow writer. Five thousand words Rachel said. Being a woman it seems odd to say fellow, but that’s English.

Three weeks ago, I posted about my struggles with Chapter 14–I can’t believe it’s been that long–I could blame my one-fingered typing brought on by a spinal cord injury for my slow production but to be honest, I was, at best, a three-fingered typist before the injury.

The truth is my story is fighting me.

The original goal of explaining the evil crowen in Chapter 14 was usurped, and Chapter 13 was revised to do the job. Chapter 14 got our travelers settled in Road’s End and foreshadowed the Fire Cloaks that absorbed Chapter 16. Chapter 15 provided a bit of comic relief (I hope).

Okay, the next chapter, number 17 with a working title of Recon, should be easy I tell myself. Send Dallaya and Royar to gather reconnaissance from a retired guy, Teador, that lives a few miles outside of town so that a major plot point can be revealed. In the meantime, Nantor, a competitor for Dallaya’s affections, will be sent to the docks to show he’s unworthy.

Everything’s going well until our prospective lovebirds stop for lunch and their evil birds of a feather, the crowen, attack. Darn. I’m two-thirds through the chapter, and we haven’t met Teador. But, it’s okay. They’ll get to Teador’s home, get their wounds treated and in the morning we’ll learn the plot point. Nantor can wait until the next chapter.

But, noooo. Teador won’t have it. He insists on joining the quest and Chapter 17 turns into two chapters.

The slog continues. The end is shrouded in fog, and I fear it may be beyond my reach.

(c) 2016 by David P. Cantrell



A Writer’s Thoughts

Random thoughts coalesce,

But fears invade the scene.

I think I lack finesse

For this particular dream.

Visions grow to stories told

By halting fearful souls

Willing to push limits through

Comfort’s silky hold.

Authors target many goals

Some write and rarely share.

A few seek fiscal gain

But find it’s rarely there.

Others for acknowledgement

Most any kind will do

A nod brings a smile

Five stars a groveling fool.

Writers write because they must.

They cast their words a sea

To catch another’s soul

And feed their passion’s need.

(c) 2016 by David P. Cantrell – EWI staff member and contributor.



Scales L-HI’ve been writing a lot of short fiction since I joined Edgewise Words Inn. It’s been a good learning experience partly because of feedback from my co-contributors but also from the act of writing itself.

I like writing, it stimulates my mind. I hate writing, it taxes my brain. Let me explain.

I’m forced to one-finger type because of an old injury. I start writing and thoughts come to mind much faster than my brain can direct my index finger. My mind is a battering ram, breaking through gates to reach the damsel of creativity, but my brain misses keys or hits abd instead of and, as a result I see a red underline which raises a battlement to thwart my efforts.

More times than not, the damsel dies from neglect—she’s a fragile creature.

I often find myself staring at my keyboard, but not the keys. I’m in the zone, formulating an idea. The idea bubbles and boils for a time before my finger is put to work. Once the thought is typed I read it, maybe switch things around and reread it. Too often the thought is crap, I delete it and ask myself: what were you thinking?

Still I plug away and now and then a story gets completed, typically after a few glasses of wine. It’s a great story in my mind, actually perfect, so I give up and go to bed.

Daylight and sobriety reveal many flaws that weren’t visible the night before. Incomplete thoughts and other missteps standout like a scarecrow in a plowed field. So, the first rewrite starts. One rewrite is never enough. Ten rewrites seem to be a minimum unless I work with an editor; even then I need at least five rewrites.

The process goes something like this:
1. Write story,
2. First rewrite,
3. Wait a day or two,
4. Second rewrite
5. Submit to editor,
6. Third rewrite,
7. Re-submit to editor,
8. Fourth rewrite.
9. Want to re-submit to editor, but afraid they’ll never work with me again, so I wait a day or two.
10. Fifth and final rewrite because I’m out of time.

Still, I like writing—no I love writing. I love the stimulus and the people I’ve met along the way among other things. I also love and appreciate reader feedback.

Good or bad, feedback is mother’s milk to a writer. It nourishes our inner muse and keeps us at it. If you golf, you know what I mean, it’s the one shot of the day that makes it all worthwhile. If you’re a seamstress, it’s the garment that blends fit, style and skill perfectly. Enough of the strained metaphors you might be thinking and if you shared that thought with me in a comment field, I’d be as happy as guacamole on a corn chip.

He had no Clew

By: David P. Cantrellgreat_white_shark_image_wallpaper_hd_6

Sandy needed to rest his arms for a minute or two after missing the last wave. He lay back on his surfboard, feet and shins dangling, inviting the shark’s attention. It moved deeper, in slow circles, careful to keep the target in sight. At the correct depth, its massive body turned vertical and its strong tail propelled it, faster and faster until—To Be Continued.


That ending was a cliffhanger. Did you ever wonder where the term, cliffhanger, came from? I did and looked it up at Online Etymology Dictionary ( Here’s a fun quiz based on word etymology.

  1. Cliffhanger, a term for a suspenseful situation, was coined because of:
    1. Window washers working on skyscrapers,
    2. A ritual execution performed by ancient Incas,
    3. A serialized movie called The Perils of Pauline,
    4. Pictographs created by Pueblo Indians.
  2. Clue, as in helpful information, arose because of:
    1. A “clew” of thread used by Theseus to escape the Minotaur’s labyrinth,
    2. An medieval French word “cluett”, a device used to open wine casks,
    3. An Old German word “klug”, meaning clever or intelligent.
  3. Atomic Bomb, as in, big boom, was coined by:
    1. Albert Einstein in a letter to President Franklin Roosevelt during WWII,
    2. H. G. Wells in his 1914 book The World Set Free,
    3. The director of the Manhattan Project, Major General Leslie Groves of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
  4. Pipe dream, a term for impossible or impractical to achieve, was coined because of:
    1. A New York Times reporter’s description of Joyce Jones’ performance of Bach on the US Military Academy’s giant pipe organ in 1911,
    2. A description of the fantasies created by smoking opium,
    3. Diamond Jim Brady’s description of his wife’s, Lillian Russel’s, singing voice in an 1899 interview.
    4. A Groucho Marks line in the 1935 movie A Night at the Opera.

The answers will appear next week.


Not really, that was another cliffhanger, page down for the answers.

1. c. Suspenseful endings have been around since Homer wrote Odysseus. But, serialized movies in the early 1900’s made it an art form. These short movies were the mini-series of their day and immensely popular. Movie goers returned each week to learn the fate of their heroine or hero. The Perils of Pauline had twenty episodes and each ended with Pearl White, as Pauline, in great danger, such as hanging from a cliff above the Hudson River in New Jersey. The scene led the term.

2. a. Theseus, the Prince of Athens, was quite the hero. He volunteered to be sacrificed to King Minos’s Minotaur as a subterfuge, his true intent being to kill the beast of the Labyrinth and free his people. Ariadne, King Minos’s daughter fell madly in love with the brave young man and secretly gave him a clew of thread to unwind as he traversed the labyrinth thus leaving a trail to follow.  There’s more to the story, but should do for the moment.

3. b. H. G. Wells has been called the father of science fiction. He wrote numerous books in many genres, but is best known for his scientific romances, sci-fi today. The Time Machine and War of the Worlds are probably his best known works. He actually used the term atomic bomb to describe a bomb that used fission as its source of power.

4. b. The fanciful dreams prompted by opium were well known for centuries, however the phrase, pipe dreams, was coined around 1870 according to Etymology Online Dictionary. Another source, The Phrase Finder, noted its use by The Chicago Daily Tribune  in 1890. Both source agree that it arose because of smoking opium.

David P. Cantrell is an author and a member of the Edgewise Words Inn staff.

Who Proofed this Wicked Thing?

King_Charles_I_by_Gerrit_van_Honthorst_smWhy is it so easy to see problems with another author’s work? Their run-on sentences leap off the page. A misused word screams at me, their not there. The tense is wrong, had not have. Stop info dumping; don’t tell me that, let me arrive at it. Don’t give background this soon; you’re losing my attention. Dump those unnecessary attributions to the speaker; your reader knows who’s voice it is—does something look wrong? Whose to say?

Self-proofing is extraordinarily difficult. Thoughts mysteriously formed in the cerebral cortex find their way to paper, or its digital counterpart. We read our output and see what we intended to see. We catch some, maybe most, of our mistakes, but we often create new ones in the process—we never get them all.

Proofed, as used above is a misnomer. Long ago, well before printing presses, books were hand written and reproduced by copying an original. An indispensable part of the process required a person to prove that the copy matched the source. The proofreader’s importance grew with the printing press. An expensive production run wouldn’t start until the proofreader judged the typesetter’s galley copy accurate.

But alas, all systems are fallible as the Royal Printers, Robert Baker and Martin Lucas learn in 1631. Their one thousand copies of the King James Bible were widely distributed before discovery of an embarrassing error. King Charles I, King James’ son, fined the printers £300, revoked their printer’s license, and ordered the destruction of the bibles because of the mistake.

Was this the first government ordered recall? I’ll leave that question to others, but I know that Charles’ defense of the Bible’s purity didn’t save him from a premature death. The Rump Parliament executed him for treason at age 48.

Proofreading is fallible because we see what we expect to see. The compositor in 1631, typesetter today, saw what he expected. The corrector, proofreader today, saw what he expected. But neither saw what wasn’t there. A small but important word in Exodus 20:14 didn’t appear where it should have. A few, perhaps eleven, copies of the faulty books survived. Known as The Wicked Bible, The Adulterous Bible and The Sinners’ Bible they are very valuable today.

I have to wonder who saved the errant books from the king’s wrath. Perhaps, like Gideon’s tucking Bibles in nightstands, female occupants of small rooms above English pubs kept copies to comfort and amuse their visitors. In case, you haven’t looked it up, Exodus 20:14 shouldn’t read, “Thou shalt commit adultery.” Not is a powerful word.Wicked bible

Copy editing is the proper term for what most of us call proofreading. Actual proofreaders, the ones that work for the big guys, spend their time making sure text looks good on a page. Copy editors make their corrections and suggestions long before proofreading begins. They have the knowledge, experience and, bless them, temperament to deal with self-righteous authors that think they know everything. Even if they do know everything, they don’t see everything.

David P. Cantrell is an author and a member of the Edgewise Words Inn staff.

Meet Vera Rubin

Writing a novel requires an author to make many decisions. Where a scene is set might seem like an easy one, but can actually be difficult and require a good deal of research. I once spent two hours trying to find the right location for an amateur astronomer’s perfect home-based observatory. The mountains of New Mexico near Las Vegas were my choice. Las Vegas, NM, not NV. I didn’t know there was another Las Vegas. It wasn’t an earth-shattering discovery, but it was interesting nonetheless.

Even character names can require research. Let’s say you’ve set your murder mystery in a quaint up-state New York village. It wouldn’t do to have your serial killer share a name with the village’s mayor. I researched Korean names to make up a name for a sinister corporation. Did you know Young, also Yeong, means brave, and Jang Young Sil was a 15th century scientist and inventor? Well now you do.

Scientific and technical subjects require a good deal of research for me. I don’t want my novels to reveal how ignorant I am. While researching Disturbance: The Vetting, I met a very fascinating woman, Vera Rubin.

vrubinVera was born in Philadelphia at Temple University Hospital in 1928. She was the second daughter of immigrant parents. Her father immigrated as a young boy from Lithuania and became an electrical engineer. Her family moved to Washington, D.C. when she was ten. By eleven, she was fascinated with stars. She watched them from her bedroom window intrigued by how they rotated during the night. She learned to recognize meteors and could draw maps of their paths; by the time she was in middle school, she’d built her own telescope. She didn’t care about the constellation names; it was their movements that captured her attention.

In high school, she got a dose of the macho nature of science. Her physics teacher, Mr. Himes, barely recognized her existence and rarely talked to her. He certainly didn’t provide a nurturing environment. When she shared her joy at getting a scholarship to Vassar, he said she’d do okay if she stayed away from science.

She didn’t stay away. She declared for astronomy at Vassar and received her degree in three years. She applied to Princeton’s master program in 1948, but received no response, not even a catalog. Women weren’t admitted to Princeton’s astronomy program until 1975. She enrolled at Cornell and completed her masters in 1951, and received her doctorate in 1954 from Georgetown.

During her studies, she made observations of galactic movements and noted they weren’t distributed randomly, which was the accepted belief at the time. Her PhD thesis argued that galaxies clumped together and rotated around unknown centers. Her thesis was controversial and not well received. She, and a talented instrument maker, Kent Ford, made hundreds of observation regarding the motion of the Milky Way. The Rubin-Ford Effect is named after them.

Rubin moved to the less controversial topic of galactic rotation and again up-ended accepted belief. Her work showed that galaxies were rotating much faster than traditional physics predicted. Ultimately, her noted discrepancies led to the concept of dark matter.

Don’t confuse dark matter with the tremendous mass of black holes, they’re not the same. Rubin’s work implies some kind of unknown matter is influencing the orbit of galaxies. We can’t see it; it doesn’t collapse into stars, but we can see its influence. Some calculations indicate dark matter may be ten times more massive than normal matter.

I’m very impressed by the accomplishments of Vera Rubin, particularly given the male dominated environment she’s had to live in. Vera has received numerous prizes and acknowledgements, but not the Nobel. She is still active as far as I know. There is even a grass roots movement to get her a Nobel in 2015 and a Facebook page to like for that purpose. Click here: Grass Roots Movement

An Oral History Transcript Dr. Vera Cooper-Rubin, Also see her Wikipedia article.


David P. Cantrell is an author and member of the Edgewise Words Inn staff.