Tying the Knot

By David Belt copyright 2014
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A few years prior to the turn of the century I purchased for myself this beautiful silk runner, which now adorns my office.  At the time, I felt I paid quite a healthy sum for this two by eight foot scrap of carpet, but it captured my eye and arrested my wallet from my heart.  I was in Turkey for the first time, and I felt I deserved an artifact of local culture.  The Turkish knot is slightly different than the Persian knot, so while Persian and Turkish carpets may look similar, to an artist, they are not.  Thus, there is only one place in the world one can acquire a genuine, handmade Turkish rug.

I have long loved my Turkish treasure as a work of unique fiber art, but I received a new appreciation for this work on my most recent trip to Turkey when I got the chance to visit a modern Turkish rug factory.  The word “factory” isn’t quite right as there is very little automation involved in the process of making the rugs.

 

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First, start with the cocoon of the silk worm…

 


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Soften in room temperature water for 30-45 minutes and spin into silken threads.  Once the treads are dyed and spooled in the appropriate colors, the magic can begin…

 

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One knot at a time…

I feel so connected to this brand of fiber art as it is very similar in structure to my own preference of chainmaille.  I fell in love with my rug all over again and nearly purchased a second, until I realized just how much my treasure had grown in value over the years, and rightly so.  I marvel at the skill and patience required to labor for months on a single rug.  I could sit and gaze at this artist for hours as she weaves her craft, knowing I could never reward her enough for the gift she gives to the world.

Home Coming

Home

 

Seven months and three days ago, the USS Carney set forth upon a naval deployment to the Arabian Gulf. Today, she returned to Mayport, Florida bearing myself and over three hundred of my shipmates.

For me, it is a bitter sweet homecoming, as this has been the final deployment of my naval career. Never again shall I sail into harms way, not know when or if I shall return.

To many, this may not sound like such a bad idea, but to one such as I, the release of this burden is heart wrenching. To date, I have lived more days in service to my country then not; it has consumed almost my entire adulthood.

I cannot explain my reasons for dedicating my life to service. It is simply who I am. I do what I do, because I can. The sword is weighty in my hand, but even more so in my heart. As many have paraphrased George Orwell to say, “Good people sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” Orwell’s actually quote was a bit more crass, but his meaning was clear.

I still have many tales to tell from times abroad, but those stories will have to wait for another day. Today, I’m home.

 

 

St Crispin’s Day Speech

He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Saint Crispian.”
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say “These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.”
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages.

This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

From Query to Inspiration

From Query to Inspiration

By David Belt copyright 2014

Two weeks ago, I learned the two most dreaded words in a writer’s vocabulary: Query Letter.

For those who don’t know, a query letter is what a writer submits to a prospective agent or publisher before submitting the manuscript.  A writer may have a Pulitzer worthy manuscript, but without a solid query letter, it is likely no one is ever going to read it.  Thus, I have bled over this 200 word document of condemnation for the last two weeks.  Many mutterings, curses, and revisions have progressed the letter from bad to okay to good.

For now, I am done with it.  The letter is by no means finished, but I have set it aside in favor of a new project.

Leona Wisoker has long been a friend, supporter, and professional confidant with her writing expertise and brutally honest critiques.  I can now add to her list: muse.  While reviewing a draft of the my query letter, she inadvertently gave me an idea for a new book series, set in the same world as my current novel, but told from an entirely different perspective with an all new cast of very different characters.

As I said in my article Infinite Inspiration in Infinite Perspectives, there are no limits as to how or where inspiration may come from or travel to, but when inspiration does come knocking, one must either let it go or follow where it may lead.  This one, I am not letting go.

I plan to write both series alternatively and see which works better.  Maybe they will both help each other.

Thank you again to all who have helped me, and I will let you know how this new project turns out.

Persian Influences

Persian Influences

By David Belt copyright 2013New Picture

As a continuation of last week’s article on inspiration, I’ve elected to share some inspirations I have had based on the culture of the world I am currently in, the Persian Gulf.  When many people think of the Persian Gulf, thoughts of a war torn and violent, impoverished area come to mind.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

The rate of violent crime in the average Persian city is very low, the streets are neat and clean, and entertainment expenses are comparable to U.S. expenses, providing an area rich in beauty and culture.

New Picture (1)I have long enjoyed Persian cultures, and I have drawn many inspirations from them, from my Persian bracelets to my hand and foot flowers to my chainmail belly dancer outfit.

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Infinite Inspiration in Infinite Perspectives

By David Belt Copyright 2013

The world in which we live is an unfathomably complex myriad of chemicals, raging in chaos, while hopelessly trying to find equilibrium.  Without leaving the confines of our own atmosphere we have the availability to observe an infinite variety of events.  Couple that with the more than six billion human beings on the planet and the concept of environmentally varied viewpoints, and you have infinite opportunities for inspiration from an infinite number of perspectives.

A little too high brow for you, or maybe you think I’m just spouting nonsense.

Try this: Reread a book you have previously enjoyed.

I guarantee you will notice new elements you did not notice before.

How can that be if the book didn’t change?

What changed was your perspective between the two readings, and that difference in perspective allows for new inspirations.  We are constantly being affected by the world around us, and those effects alter the manner in which we perceive the world.  Among the greatest of these effects is that which we perceive as art.  I have said before in my article, Art in Three Dimensions, that art is any medium which affects us on an emotional level, thus changing our perspective of the world.  Art imitates life because it affects us in the same emotional ways that life does.  We take those effects and draw new inspirations enriching our own lives.  We then perpetuate the effect by sharing those inspirations with others.

The result: Infinite Inspiration in Infinite Perspectives.

As many of you know, I am an active duty US Navy Sailor.  My active duty has currently carried me to the USS Carney (DDG 64), half a world away in the Persian Gulf.  One of the greatest rewards of my job is the opportunity for inspiration from perspectives I would never be able to experience, otherwise.  History is repute with artisans inspired by perspectives received during service.  J.R.R. Tolkien wrote the framework for what was to become Middle Earth while serving as an officer in the British Army during World War I.  Johnny Cash wrote some of his most famous songs while serving in US Air Force in Germany.  But this article isn’t about the opportunities of service.  It’s about seizing the opportunities available to each of us, drawing inspiration from our own unique perspectives, and sharing those inspirations with the world.

Over the next the six months or so, while I travel in my duties, I will share with you those unique perspectives which inspire me.  For example:

On my way here, I caught a glimpse of the moon.  It was the same moon I have looked upon all my life, but I had never seen it full, from 30,000 feet, on clear night, while flying over Egypt.  The moon was so bright in contrast to the starless night that it looked to me like the sun, set against a black sky.

(Grainy picture and double image are due to the movement of the plane and double paned safety glass.  It looked much better in life.)New Picture

The Horror of Horror Writing

by David Belt copyright 2013

With the holiday approaching, it seemed appropriate to share a recent writing woe I’ve had as my characters march with leaden feet into a haunted forest.  There were ghosts and zombies and danger lurking behind every tree, and the worst part… I had no idea how to write horror.

I felt totally out of my element here, so I turned to the best resource I know, Stephen King.  When asked why he writes horror fiction, Stephen King responded, “What makes you think I have a choice?”  I always thought this was a humorous response, but lately it has provided me with an epiphany to my own dilemma.

Choice, the ability to reason and make life steering decisions is fundamental in all higher lifeforms.  This measure of choice is a control that guides us all in our daily lives.  For example, one chooses to go to work.  Some would say that isn’t a choice, but it is.  The consequences are weighed and the choice to go work is delivered.  So, what happens when a foundational aspect such as choice is disrupted?

Horror.

When asked what makes a great hero, author Alan Wold responded, “A hero is the one who when everyone else runs away, he chooses to stay and face the danger.”  We herald our heroes for the choices they make, and we equally berate horror characters for their implacable decisions, but what if the horror character’s seemly poor choice was the result of a removal of rational choice?

The next conundrum: how does one go about removing something so fundamental as rational choice?

Fear.

Fear is the one compulsion beyond any other that will push a person to heights where reason cannot follow.  My final epiphany: Frighten your characters, and they will do the irrational, and you will have horror.  This marvel of thought only profited me a new problem: How do I frighten my heroes?  They are heroes after all.  They are ones willfully running into danger.

Marianne Williamson wrote it best, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”

So, I delved deep into the psyche of each character and pulled forth that deepest fear, that element of themselves they could not hide from, and the result was chaos, the party fractured, characters died, survivors questioned the rational of their choices and even their own sanity.  The result was horror.

A Final Faire Well

Last weekend, I bid “fare thee well” to the Medieval Fantasies Company at Greenhill, outside of Roanoke, Va. For the last three years, I have had the distinct pleasure of serving their Royal Majesties, Sir Blackwolf and Dame Dagrny, and this was my last faire before relocating south to Florida. To commemorate these glorious times, I presented Her Highness with a special rose, uniquely crafted just for her, and to the newest member of the royal family, Princess Belle, I presented an armored princess bunny rabbit.

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Belle Bunny

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The weekend proceeded marvelously with record attendance and the first ever woman’s division at the Highland Games. Now, I’m all for women in the highland games, but what is that woman doing in a kilt!

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The festivities concluded in a knighting ceremony at which time Sir Bunny was knighted.

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Thank you Medieval Fantasies for all the great times. I will miss you all.

In A Few Words

By David Belt copyright 2013

As I conclude my first novel, I am continually fraught by new challenges. As of last week, I had five scenes to write. I wrote six scenes this week, and now, I have four scenes left to write. If anyone can figure out the math on that, please let me know.

With a novel, I am free to allow my characters to meander toward the plotted end. I have no specific word limit. So if the characters want to put off fighting the lich to sit around the campfire, talking about their feelings, so be it. When it comes to shorter works, however, one cannot be so liberal with the plot flow.

It is said that brevity is the sign of a skilled writer. It takes both talent and study to say more with fewer words, and here are a few tricks that can help keep the word count down.

Tell, don’t show. For many of you, this advice may sound backwards, even blasphemous, but showing the details of an event takes a lot more words than telling the reader it happened. When done correctly telling can be just as effective, if not more so, than showing.

Show: There were no words to be spoken. The night was theirs, and they wrapped their arms around one another, sharing all they had with each other.

Tell: Wordlessly, the couple embraced and rapture became them.

Blitzkrieg Description. A technique employed masterfully by Stephen King which gives a full description in only a sentence or two. Lengthy descriptions rack up the word count and slow down the pace of a story. In his novel, On Writing, King says to pick three or four physical details, at most, and let the reader’s imagination fill in the rest.

Limited Cast. This one is simple. The fewer the characters, the less there is to write about.

Third Person Omniscient Point of View. Both First Person and Third Person Limited POVs have narrowed views of the world. These shadowed scopes can cause the same scene to take longer to describe than in Omniscient.

The options of writing styles are as varied as snowflakes. Writers are only limited by what lies dormant within their own minds. Be ever mindful of the audience, the plot, and most importantly, the submission guidelines. Time for me to go back to my novel. Until next week, happy writing.

Surprising Characters

by David Belt copyright 2013

My favorite moments in books are when character do things I don’t expect. It is often the long play of events, late in the book, in which a plot twist changes the course of the adventure. Maybe a villain is revealed in the ranks of the heroes, or a villain grows a conscience over a particularly distasteful act. I often applaud the works of writers when these delightful surprises arise, but the more I write the more I realize that many of the surprises I so enjoy are not planned by the writers.

Some of the most amazing character surprises I’ve had lately have come from my own characters. The more I write the more my characters seem to take on a life of their own. At times, I feel less like a writer, dictating the action, and more like an editor, reading about my characters exploits.

When this first happened to me, I was rather annoyed that my characters weren’t doing what I wanted. As this trend periodically continued, I learned to tolerate the characters’ arrant behavior and eventually enjoyed the opportunities they have taken to surprise me. It’s been a strange journey, but I’ve learned to trust my characters, so I give them a little more free reign in their actions and enjoy reading the surprises.

Putting Your Mark on the World

by David Belt Copyright 2013

Some of the very best writing advice I have ever received came not from any of many talented writers I know in the industry, but from a business major I knew in college. We were chatting before class started, and I mentioned the idea I had for the book I am now days away from completing. At the time, I had not yet started the novel, and he asks me, “Before you start: What makes your work different from all the others out there? Why would anybody want to buy your book?”

I realize he was asking this question from a business stand point, but the query holds true regardless of the motive. “What makes your work different from all the others out there?” At the time, I didn’t have an answer for him, but I do now. I have made it my life’s mission to put my mark on the world that is my own, and not just in writing, but every way that I choose to express myself.

When I first starting doing chainmail, I refused to setup shop and sell my work at shows until I had something no other mailer had done before. After nine months of toiling, I finally ‘perfected’ my chainmail flowers. The original version has gone through a number of revisions since then, but I was satisfied at the time that I had created a unique piece, worthy of remembrance. And it worked. The owner of that very first flower is a nurse at the doctor’s office I visit when the need arises, and she decorates her office desk with the chainmail flower, because she says it brightens her day. For me, there is no greater compliment than to know I have made an impact on another person’s life through something I created.

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As I venture now, deeper into the literary world, I am using that same mentality. I want to write what no one else has written before. Unsatisfied with the standard literary points of view, I fashioned my own. I wanted the reader to travel along and imagine themselves present with the characters. I asked myself, if I were there, what would be noteworthy about the scene, who is there that I know, how would I learn about those that I don’t know, and how would I understand the events unfolding before me. To that end, I created the Observer. The Observer is the third person (limited) narrator of the story. The Observer is invisible and partly telepathic in that the Observer can read surface thoughts. But the Observer only knows what is being observed at that moment, no future and no past. This gives the reader the opportunity to be present with the characters and learn about the world as it unfolds.

Reading should be more than simple entertainment. When the book is finished, do the readers look back and say, “That was a great ride,” or do they look forward and say, “The next ride will be even better because of what I learned here”? I want people to read my books and be better for it. In that, I can happily say that I have already succeeded. There is a dear lady who has been beta reading and peer reviewing my novel as I write it. She was a bit behind and took an opportunity while on vacation with her family to catch up. Every night as she put her children to bed, she read to the entire family from my book. This family ritual has continued and still continues as they are all eagerly awaiting the final few chapters. Her sixteen year old son even added my book to his summer reading list for school. If I never sell a single copy, I’ll know I already made a positive impact in someone’s life. And that makes all the difference.