Do You Believe in Magic?

"Magic Abound" © 2007 by Mark Cummins

Magic Abound

[As an aside, as soon as I knew what the content of this post was going to be, you can probably guess (from the title if nothing else) what song has been in my head.]

The Shiny™ came back from Apple, all fixed up with a new logic board (the sound card is apparently integrated), a reseated cable which had come loose, and with the hard drive wiped and re-initialized with the latest and greatest version of MacOS. When I got it home, I cranked it up and the first thing it asked for was for me to supply a drive on which I had backed up with Time Machine, and it took about 2 hours to restore it to pre-problem status. I was back up and running in less time than I thought possible (because I used to use only Windows).

Of course, then I started having to type all those ideas I was flooded with into Scrivener.

The good news is that I finally worked out (I think) how magic works in my Urban Fantasy series (la de da, doesn’t that sound high-fallutin’?). This may sound trivial and ho-hum, but you have to remember that I’ve been writing this thing for the better part of two years and have two novels at various stages of completion, plus ideas for a couple or three more. It’s about time I figured this out.

It uses elements from a lot of things that have come before, and probably isn’t unique, but since I’m not writing a “How to Cast Magical Spells” book and am trying to tell a story within the framework, I don’t intend to actually ever lay out how it works for readers. (Plus, that also gives me wiggle-room for changing it as time goes on. :)

There’s definitely some stuff in here from Babylon 5/Crusade, a touch of Star Wars, a smidgen of Dungeons and Dragons, a healthy dose of ancient Greek mythology, a soupçon of The Belgariad, and a sprinkling of Actual Science™.

Now, here’s my question. Although I need to know How It All Works™ (I’m not going to stop doing that ™ thing any time soon, by the way, so get used to it) in order to have some internal consistency (hopefully), how much does or should the reader ever know? Is it enough to leave it something of a black box, or should I sort of have the characters who can perform magic explain it a little bit as they go, for the reader and/or other characters who are not able to do it (and who therefore ‘stand in’ for the reader)?

I’ve seen it done both ways, and to excellent effect. I think it depends on the writing, but . . . still, I’m curious.


I’m Not Twitching, Yet, Am I?

"The Scream" © 2006 by 7E55E-BRN

The Scream

I’ve been writing like a fool for the last couple of weeks. Once I figured out how to get past the snag I was . . . well, snagged on, it all started to flow, again. I’ve written two complete chapters, started a third, and added copious notes.

And then I ran up against another snag, but this one didn’t have anything to do with writing. Or at least not directly.

I use a MacBook Pro 17″ (I call it The Shiny™) to do all my writing, and I use a lovely application called Scrivener to do it in.

After an ill-timed mishap involving a falling laptop, a cat, a bottle of Coke Zero (Elixir of Life™), and a USB cable (insert your own interesting story here) . . . I think something was a little wonky with The Shiny. It would play sounds if I had the headphones in, but not through the speakers.

Now . . . I need my sounds. I share a house with someone who goes to bed at 8:00 (because she gets up at 3:00 AM for school), so I wear headphones much of the time, but you can only wear them for so long, you know? I mean, ear-sweat is not a topic to discuss in polite company, so I won’t.

On Saturday I took The Shiny to The Apple Store where I had an appointment with a lovely Genius1 named “Mike.” Of course, when demonstrated for Mike, the problem miraculously went away (and the nearby patrons all got an audio demonstration of my abiding love for A-Ha as their 13th album began to play at high volume), in the way problems since the Dawn of Man™ have gone away whenever demonstrated for the person who is intended to fix it. I can easily imagine two Homo habilis dudes sittin’ around the campfire, chillin’, makin’ flint spearheads. Og can’t get it right to save his hairy neck, but when he tries to show Zug, it works perfectly every time. Of course, as soon as Zug leaves, Og can’t make a single correct blow on his flint with the striking stone.

I also imagine this was immediately followed by the first-ever (l)user joke and the first-ever 3-hour wait on a tech support “hotline.”2 But I seriously digress.

Because of all the symptoms I described for Mike, he suggested—gently, I might add—that the problem was almost certainly hardware-related and that even though nothing showed up on a hardware diagnostic he ran, I should leave The Shiny in the capable hands of Apple so that they might fix whatever might be wrong once they crack it open. <wince>

After assuring Mike that I do, indeed, do regular backups (I use Time Machine—as opposed to a time machine, which would be awesome—and it runs hourly, plus I ran it about 11,394 times in the 15-minute period leading up to the time I needed to leave the house to get to the Apple store on time), I handed The Shiny over and . . . and . . . and left it there. Alone. <twitch> <lip-quiver>

He assured me I’d have it back in about a week. Maybe less.

Since all my writing is on there, I have, of course, been absolutely inundated by ideas. Poughkeepsie3 must be practically empty by now.

Of course, on top of not having Scrivener to write in, I have had to go several days, now, without podcasts.

Podcasts, to put it bluntly, are why you have not heard about me on the national news. You know, along the lines of

“Morons! It’s the pedal on the RIGHT!” — Insane Atlanta man

I can’t stress enough how much of a calming influence they are on me. (I might be exaggerating just a bit.)

Luckily, I have a backlog of some podcasts I’m catching up on, and I’m in no danger of running out of them any time in the next week. But this means I’ll get behind on the ones I regularly listen to. But I’ll catch up. I always do.

So, anyway . . . That’s how my weekend went.

(I’m not <twitch> twitching, yet, am I?)

  1. I’m not being facetious or snarky—that’s actually what they call their support techs. I do wonder, though, if there is a clause in the employment contract with Apple that requires all male Geniuses to grow a beard, whether they really should or not. I’m just sayin’. . .
  2. I can only imagine that the poor drummers’ arms got tired relaying the hold music. . . “Short and hairy and young and lovely, the girl from the next cave goes walking upright, and when she passes, each one she passes goes, “Aaaah!”. . .
  3. There is an old story, probably apocryphal, which claims that Harlan Ellison used to get asked the question, “Where do you get your ideas?” just one time too many, and he finally answered, “Poughkeepsie.” It’s been attributed to others, and some stories say it was Schenectady instead. I’d probably say Walla-Walla.

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