Category Archives: Blogs

Spam Comments, Episode II: Revenge of the Cialis Superworms

Today I’ve got a pair of little gems at which you can all snicker.  Without too much introduction, let’s get right into it.  First up is a confused spammer who can’t decide whether he’s looking to buy some boner pills, or sell some boner pills.  Also, he seems confused on the appropriate place for this activity.

“cialis 20 mg can i buy tadalafil can i buy tadalafil

tadalafil over the counter

cialis online where to buy cialis cialis no prescription”

*edited to remove hyperlinks

I think what our friends needs is a little advertising consultation.  Let’s rewrite his ad and help him out.

“Tired of your member flopping around like a bag of water in a sock?

Never fear!  You can buy Cialis right here from shady overseas suppliers!  Is it really Cialis?  Is it powdered mouse bones in BPA capsules?  Who knows?!  Who cares?!  What you need right now is an erection so strong that it will make you pass out whenever you watch yoga videos on YouTube!

When the Romans sacked enemy cities, they didn’t bring a flaccid hose to bust down the gates.

NO!  THEY BROUGHT A BATTERING RAM!

And now you can, too.

So get your Cialis overseas today, because fuck you.

#YOLO”

I think that works a bit better.  Next, we’ve got something kind of weird.  Has anyone ever heard of “superworms”?  I hadn’t.  Apparently they’re the larval stage of some sort of beetle, and people feed them to their pets.  I got this random comment and was curious enough to watch the video.

“The best is How to Breed Superworms: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLNH92q0YWg

The only thing I have to say about this is…how strange.  I was waiting for something wild to pop up, maybe some attack worm bred by the Russians during the cold war to burrow under enemy fortifications and come up from the inside, eating everything in sight and spitting acid vomit over its enemies.  Instead, just some weird dirt-worms people breed to feed to their pets.  It was the most disappointing risky link I’ve ever followed.
My question  is this–why spam this link?  I mean, spam doesn’t just appear from the shadows of the internet the way we all think it does.  People pay shady internet marketers to push their products, so was this from some superworm supplier that’s looking to break into the big-time by advertising on wordpress sites?  Was it superworm lovers who know that the best, and healthiest, option for their pets is a mouthful of crunchy beetle larva?  Maybe they eat the worms themselves.  Maybe it’s some conspiracy by the trans-dimensional Illuminati demons.
Fuckin’ Illuminati.
Time to make some Blue Apron.  Talk at you guys soon.
~D.W.

Proof-Filled Pudding

In the world of indie publishing, there is a metric ton of advice out there for authors on everything from crafting a professional manuscript to “gaming” the algorithms of Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and on into the sunset.  Much of it is good.  That’s the great thing about indie authors–they tend to offer a hand down to those climbing the proverbial ladder once they’ve seen a measure of their own success.  Check out the nonfiction section of Amazon and you’ll probably see a lot of titles about marketing ebooks, or how to leverage this site or that to push your titles to the next level.  It can be very confusing, especially considering that there are lots of people out there who offer the “tried and true system to push YOUR books to the next level!”

I’ve read a lot of it.  But me being me, I’ve never been able to keep a long list of tactical tricks in my brain for marketing purposes.  Keeping up with the changes in Amazon’s business models, or the way that Facebook pushes your author page to people, has never been my strong suit.  I’ve never been a PR wizard, or an SEO specialist.  I’ve never worked at any internet firms or anything like that.  I’ve been a mechanic, a musician, an artist, a soldier, a writer–but never anything PR-related.  I abhor social media on general principle, and don’t spend enough time on any website to get a deep understanding of the way they work.  Maybe I’m kind of a dinosaur.

I can barely manage my website.  Yes, it’s that bad.

When I first published back in 2011, I adopted every trick I could find.  I was new to the scene, and had no idea what I was doing.  I got easily bogged down in minutiae, and taken in by the advice of this writer, or that.  Some good, mostly bad.  My first book (with no comments on the horrible quality) did alright, but fell eventually into the mists of internet obscurity.

When I decided to revamp my writing career, I didn’t count on having any great amount of success.  I decided that instead of listening to the endless parade of advice from authors who were offering it, I would instead adopt a few simple principles, and take a page from the books of some of the great generals in history–Strategy is by far more important than tactics.  A tactic is a short-term thing designed to get you through the moment.  A strategy is a plan of action for the long haul, and I made mine simple.

Concentrate on writing good books, get good-looking covers, and worry about the bullshit later.

I thought about the way that I look for a new book when I want something to read.  I don’t listen to Facebook or Amazon, don’t click on ads, don’t participate in giveaways or contests (though I know some people do).  What I do is probably what most of you do–I ask my friends.  I read descriptions, I read reviews from other readers.  I figured that for my own work, the best thing to do would be to try and write a good book.  If it was good enough, people would want to read it and recommend it.  It’s true that this is a more slow-burn type of strategy than landing an ad somewhere, and it might not net me a million downloads in a few days, but the people who did discover it would probably enjoy it more than if it had been shoved in their face by a pop-up on some random website.

I decided that I didn’t need to be the next George R.R. Martin, I just needed to write something that a few people really enjoyed.  I wanted to be accessible as much as possible, and treat people like people instead of assets to push a product, or ticks on some line graph.  What I wanted was a small group of fans with whom I can talk, joke around, and have a good rapport.  I just don’t have it in me to be anything but generally irreverent, snarky, and completely unprofessional.  I’m just a guy with tattoos.  I could never be some untouchable, suit-draped elitist who looks down on others as a waste of his time.  It’s just not me, and never could be me.  When I think of authors doing book signing events, or live book readings, etc, what I would much rather do is just go out to a pub and have a beer with people.

I never counted on having much exposure, or a legion of fans.  I figured a few people would like what I was doing, but it was probably going to be a niche crowd from the get-go.  Since I changed my business model, so to speak, I’ve not purchased any ads, done any podcasts, promoted posts on Facebook, or joined Twitter hashtags.  The closest thing I’ve done is Fantasy Writer of the Day on Reddit, but that’s totally free on my part, a niche crowd in itself, and it’s an AMA-style interaction between me and subscribers to the subreddit rather than an ad campaign.  Which, by the way, I will be doing again on July 24th.  Look for me there on that day if you want to ask questions, or just hang out and bullshit with me.

Somehow, along the way, the books have picked up some steam on their own.  I say it’s down to you guys–the readers.  You’ve read, recommended, shared, or whatever it is that you’ve done, and slowly but surely something pretty awesome has happened.

When I logged in to check my numbers this morning, I saw this.  I was floored.  There’s a lot of jostling that happens in the Amazon bestseller rankings, and they change from one minute to the next.  One thing I’ve noticed, though, is that all three of my books have slowly clawed their way into the top ten.  For the last six months or so, Child of the Flames and The Knife in the Dark have stuck there consistently, and since The Old Man of the Temple‘s release, it’s been right there beside them, and featured in Amazon’s “Hot New Releases.”

So thanks.  Thanks to all of you who have shared, recommended, talked about them with your friends, or left me reviews.  Thanks to those of you who haven’t, but have purchased and read them all the same.  The past two years I’ve worked hard on them, especially this past year, and it’s wild to see them climbing to where they are now.  I can’t even describe the feeling, and it’s all down to you guys.  I should be studying for my finals next week right now, but I’m cracking a Guinness Nitro for all of you out there who are riding this train with me.  All I did was write them.  You guys did this, and I fucking love you for it.

Much Love and Respect to you all.

~D.W.

Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom

I see you guys out there.  You’re all awesome.  My gratitude is yours.

Guess I’d better get cracking on that next book.  Much love and respect to you all.

~D.W.

Spam Comments are Hilarious

So, I get a lot of spam comments on this website.  I mean pages and pages of the things.  I dread logging into my site because I always have to delete 50 or 60 of them.  I thought I’d make it fun and share one with you guys.

“Hurrah, that’s what I was exploring for, what a data!
present here at this website, thanks admin of this website.”

What a data!

Gotta love that.  I think I’ll keep doing this, ‘cuz I find it hilarious for some reason.

Don’t forget to get your copy of The Old Man of the Temple on April 22nd!

Merry Christmas

It was a dark and stormy night–and a damn rare occasion in Arizona, because it was snowing.  Nothing was laying, but it was wet and nasty, and it was coming down hard.  Yours truly was driving through this mess, with a tired four year old and a truck full of presents.

Little did I know that earlier in the day, at some point, someone had backed into my truck and fled the scene like the cowards they are.  Yes, backed into my truck on Christmas Eve and either didn’t notice it themselves–which is possible, admittedly–or scurried away, not wishing to deal with the insurance people.

So there I am, at around 10pm, snow coming down hard, having a lot of odd problems with my truck.  First, the speedometer maxed out.  This wasn’t the end of the world, you understand, but highly irritating.  I pulled over at a truck stop, kid and presents and all, and yanked the instrument cluster fuse, reset the computer, and bam–speedometer fixed.  Problem solved, another victory.

Or so I thought.

See–while I was messing around in my fusebox, I noticed something odd about my truck.  It had a dent in the hood where there had been no dent before.  I’m not one of those types that worries about every little scratch in my vehicle, so I was a little irritated, but it wasn’t the end of the world.  I drive a long-bed 4×4 after all, and that’s not a truck that’s made to be pretty.  What I should have done is investigate this further, but it was snowing, it was late, and I might have mentioned the four year old who was just as ready as I was to get home for the evening.  I slammed the hood down, saw the speedometer working correctly again, and so I set off for home–an hour and a half drive back to Tucson.

What happened, you ask?  Well, it turns out that my truck wouldn’t shift out of 3rd.  This gets me kind of angry.  I’m thinking “it’s got to be something electrical, the instrument cluster is messing up plus the tranny won’t shift out of third; maybe it’s the vehicle speed sensor” and damn near pulling my hair out at this point.  I call my brother, who comes to pick me up, and start mucking around with my truck again in the shitty weather.

As it turns out, the front grill was just sitting in place.  You could take the running lights and just push them right off of the front end to hang by the wires that hold them, and the grill itself was cracked all the way around.  That hood dent took on a new meaning for me.  So did the mechanical problems.

Son of a bitch.

At least at this point I knew what I had to do–claim it on my insurance.  Someone at some point in the day had probably backed into me, and drove away.  That’s how I spent my Christmas Eve to Christmas morning, and tomorrow will be a rental car and tow truck adventure, since the old trusty 4×4 is just sitting on the side of the highway right now.  It really sucks.  I hope they can fix my truck.  I really like that truck.  It’s simple, it’s dependable, and it’s got a nice stereo.  Ah, well.  Life goes on.

So that’s how I spent my Christmas Eve.  I hope all of you had a better holiday than me.  On the bright side, things could have been much worse.  Still–when things go wrong for me, they pick the weirdest times to do so.  Snowing in Arizona, Christmas Eve night, loaded with presents and a tuckered out four year old.  What craziness lol.

Merry Christmas people.  Merry effin’ Christmas.

The Old Man of the Temple Delay

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The Old Man of the Temple is going to be delayed by a few weeks.  Look for it around October 20th.  The release dates for The City Under the Mountain and The Oath of the Blade will remain unchanged.  I lost a big chunk of time at the beginning of the month to sickness and a neck injury, and with school kicking up, it has taken a big slice out of my writing time.

Things are back on track, but as much as I hate to do it, TOMOTT will be pushed back.

Also, as some of you may have noticed, I’ve had some serious trouble with the website lately.  Wordpress has been pushing out its updates, and it always causes some general fuckery with everyone’s sites.  Mine has been no exception.  I’m working it out, but I’m not a techie for a reason.  Hopefully it will all be fixed soon.  Yes–that’s the reason this update is so late in coming.  I couldn’t even log in to the site for a long time, and then couldn’t update it.  It has been a real pickle.  By pickle, I mean a major pain in my ass.

Just a quick update.

Also, for anyone who may be confused about the reasons for the re-vamping of the series, look HERE.

The Warrior-Poet’s Workday

GR1.indd

This is for my peeps over at The Smarter Artist.

There are three gorillas that writers wrestle with all the time–procrastination, word counts, and getting fat.  We spend so much time getting everything just right, then ruminating on what we need to write for that day.  We answer emails, we watch videos, we while away our time dreaming about what it’s going to be like when our book gets done.  We stare at the screen when we finally do get ready, telling ourselves that things are just going to come out when they’re good and ready.  Our asses get wider from the constant pressure we put on them.

Also the snacks.

Listen, I’ve been there.  I’m there every day.  I’m the type of person that beats myself up on a constant basis about how much I didn’t get done on any particular day.  For a long time I trusted to the old way–forcing myself to sit in that chair until the damned chapter was done, dammit!  That’s the way my grandfather would have done it–doggedly, until he defeated the book, or it defeated him.  My only system was “GO,” and it had one speed setting that could be described on the whole as “You Could be Trying Harder.”

My system sucked.

A few years ago, something happened to me that forced me to reevaluate my life.  I’m a veteran of both wars, and America-Fuck Yeah 004spent quite a lot of time in combat.  Almost enough time, when taken consecutively, to have a bachelor’s degree in the subject.  Before you go thinking that I got blown up by an IED or something–no.  I made it through my deployments without a physical injury, but was in a minor helicopter accident my last year in the Army that screwed up my back.  The whole thing happened on a training mission–imagine that.  By the beginning of 2014, I was quickly losing the ability to walk like a normal person.  The nature of the VA being what it is, I spent half of that year lying on my back, hating everything about my life, waiting for surgery.  I was on so many pills that I had to take pills to counteract the pills.  Needless to say, life tasted like ten flavors of shit.  Add what people used to call “the soldier’s heart” to the mix, and my entire world looked like ashes.

hospitalThis was my Crucible.  It forced me to confront things.  I’m sure you can imagine.

This is not to toot my own horn, or to elicit sympathy–far from it.  I told you guys all that so you would know where I’m coming from, why I’m deciding to couch things in this language, and what my thought processes are.  I told you this so you would get a better sense of who I was, and who I am.  Every hero needs an Odyssey, right?

Toot toot.

I did finally have surgery, and began a long road to getting things back on track.  Anyone who has ever had back surgery understands the tenuous nature of your body afterwards, and just how much it changes your life.  Suddenly you have to be careful of the things you do, how you sit, where you sit, and for how long.  I remember one instance of having fallen asleep on my brother’s couch, and having to drive myself to the emergency room the next morning, barely able to push the pedals.  I was once a warrior, now laid low by furniture.

Working out is tough.  Nobody wants to do it when it’s an obligation–let’s just be honest.  It’s boring, it’s harder than you’d like, and it takes serious discipline that not everyone has.  For me, pain was a serious concern.  During the first year after my surgery, I was at about 25% operating capacity.  A tough-looking guy–but weak as a babe.  I figured out one enduring truth during this entire period.

People give up when we allow ourselves the pathway to defeat.  We’re pleasure-seeking creatures, and especially creative types.  Especially authors, because most of us are not only creative, but more than mildly obsessive.  Flights of fancy is what we do, and we’re crazy enough about it all to write it down.

defeated

I realized that the only way to succeed was not to beat myself up, to force myself into the chair, or out of the chair.  It was to arrange my life in such a way that I had no other option than to do what I needed to do.  Instead of beating yourself up so hard, trying to mold your character, lamenting the entire time that you wish you could just change, just be better…I’ve been there.  That is not the way.  The way is to change your environment, change the way you structure your day.

You have to Pavlov yourself.  The following is the way I’ve starting organizing my day, based on principles I used in the last year to lose 50 lbs, and rebuild my body into something normal.  This isn’t an all-encompassing system, or anything.  I’m not some motivational speaker promising you the best results EVER with this TRIED AND TRUE method–no.  These are just things I do that help me, and maybe they’ll help you, too.  There’s a bit of a philosophy behind it, but you can adopt some, or all, or none of these things.  Some of you won’t need them at all.  I just thought some of you might benefit from the ideas, and on the off-chance that I can offer a hand…well, I’ll offer it.

First–The Work Day.

1Get up early and take a cold shower in the morning.  I know it sounds crazy, but if ancient warriors could bathe in cold water, then so can you.  If you can’t start cold, then start hot and finish cold.  When I started, I washed hot and rinsed cold.  The end-game, though, is to get to an all-cold shower.  Believe me–it wakes you up and brings your mind into a sharpness of focus that you do not have if you take a nice, relaxing shower in the morning.

2Get a productivity clock.  I use my cell-phone and an app called ClearFocus.  It goes in 25 minute increments of working with 5 minute breaks.  Every fourth break is 15 minutes long.  During the work period, you put down words, you revise, you edit, you do what you have to do.  No snacking, no distractions.  During the break periods, dedicate yourself equally to getting up and walking away.  You can hover if you have something that absolutely needs to be put down, but if not, get up and walk away.

3During your break periods, do one of the following:  Push-ups, Crunches, Pull-ups, Squats, or a short Yoga routine.  If you can only bang out one push-up, then bang out that one push-up.  Every wall begins with a single brick, so start laying those fucking bricks.  The best thing to do is rotate these exercises so that you do an equal number of all of them in sets that you can handle.  My routine is thus:  75 push-ups one break, 50 crunches the next, 15 pull-ups next, 50 squats, or a short Yoga routine.  Interchange these however you want, and don’t take my numbers for your own goals.  Do as many as you can before reaching muscle failure and focus on the number you’ll do per set and not the total number.  By the end of your day, you might be surprised to have found that you did 200 push-ups, or 60 pull-ups.  Just worry about the sets, though.  Substitute whatever exercise you want, but do something.

4Have a daily word count goal, and meet that motherfucker.  The way I do it is to set a target in Scrivener.  Mine is at least 5k/day of new words, or at least one full chapter of revisions.  Until you meet your daily goal, you’re not done.  If you meet it in two hours, then good.

5If you just have to get up and leave the book alone, go for a long walk.  That’s the rule.  If you take a break longer than the allotted time on your productivity app, then you have to go for a walk for at least 30 minutes.  Also, the time starts back where you left it.  But hey–you’re the boss, boss.

The whole point of this to hack yourself, and I’ll explain the way it has worked for me.  First of all, the cold shower puts you in a state of mind conducive to energized thinking.  You’ll be surprised how, over time, your body feels so different after your shower.  You’ll feel like a marine on an Athenian warship.  Hell, you may even start taking cold showers in the evening when you’re feeling lethargic.  I do, sometimes.  I might be a freak, though.

Secondly, the productivity clock will slowly train your mind to write better, write faster, and write when you command it to do so.  Waiting on inspiration is bullshit–hack inspiration.  When you give your mind hurdles to master, it reacts by adapting.  We’re animals, all of us, and we’re meant to evolve.  Just as genetic populations mold to their environs, we can mold our minds to harness our creativity.  Over time, since I’ve begun using this method, my word count has steadily risen from approx. 800/hr to now around 1400/hr.  It’s not Johnny-paced, but hey–it works for me.  And it’s still going up.

The exercises during your breaks not only train your body, but they wake you up.  If you need energy, the thing to do is not to sleep, or to rest, or to watch that last episode of Game of Thrones again–it’s to do something active.  Besides, even if you bang out 100 push-ups during your break, you’re still left with 3.5-4 minutes of fuck-off time.  As you spend longer doing this routine, your break times will seem like they last forever.  I’ve found myself champing at the bit to sit back down and get started–which is one of the reasons you have to dedicate yourself to getting up.  That reset helps to keep the mind fresh and excited.

Set your word counts as a division of how quickly you want to publish.  I’m a sword-and-sorcery guy, so I’m trying to settle into a three month publishing cycle.  My books are around 130-150k words each, and as long as I schedule things correctly, the 5k/day pace allows me to get things done without worrying about it.  You may have noticed that as your word count per hour speeds up, your work day either gets shorter, or you can elect to get more accomplished.  The whole point of doing things this way is that the ONLY number you need to stress over is your daily word count.  No more stressing as you let days slip by, and you can see the day on the horizon when you’ve got to write 20k words just to make your deadline.  Trust in the productivity clock, Pavlov yourself, and only worry about your 5k.  You will be flabbergasted at the end of the week by how much progress you’ve made overall, and without even noticing.  And you’ll slowly get faster.

warriorpoet

THE RULES

These are things you’ll repeat to yourself when you’re being lazy.  You know what I mean.

1–Don’t be a poon.  Jocko Willinck, a former Army Green Beret and successful podcaster, once said a very direct, and very meaningful quote.  “You know that thing you don’t want to do?  Shut up and do it.”

2–Wars are won a battle at a time.  Pay no attention to the entirety of how many words you need to write before your publish date, only worry about your daily counts.  Small victories amount to a successful campaign.

3–Movement clears the mind.  When you’re stuck, when you’re frustrated, the best thing to do is go for that long walk, or do a 30-minute Yoga session.  The Spartans knew this, Yogis knew this.  We have forgotten.  Remember.

4–Take time to pay the Muses.  I’m non-religious, but I do something I call “Yoga for Dionysus”.  Mostly it’s because I’m a nerd, but part of hacking my mind is adding in a bit of reverence for the process.  I sacrifice something on the altar of the universe in thanks for my inspiration.  I know it’s anthropomorphism.  I know it’s dumb.  You don’t have to do it, but it helps me to remain grounded.  And hey–Yoga’s good for you.  This can be anything, though.  Dedicate your run to the gods, read a book and absorb some culture, go to church if you’re religious, whatever.  Spend some time cleaning your apartment once a week, just do something.

TAKE THINGS FURTHER

If you want to go even deeper, integrate a fast into your daily life.  This is all completely optional, but this part is especially optional.  I know not everyone is a freak like me.  One thing that I do is only allow myself to eat during certain hours of the day.  There are many mental and physical benefits to fasting, you can read all about them on the interwebs.  There are many ways to do it, though, and most revolve around having a window within which you allow yourself to eat.  Outside that window, it’s all water for you, bub.  Try the following:

16 hour fast/8 hour eating window

18/ 6

20/ 4

You can also mix in 24 hour-long fasts, but its all up to you.  Believe me, though–integrate the 20/4 eating habit with the workday outlined above, and you’ll start to lose weight without having to slice out a huge chunk of gym time every day.  Fasting works much like everything outlined above–the more you do it, the better at it you become.  Plus, eight hours of your fast will be sleepy-time, anyway (depending on your own habits).

Maybe some of this crazy stuff will help someone, and maybe I just spent forever typing this for no reason.  This is my sacrifice on the alter of The Smarter Artist, though.  This group, and the SPP guys, have helped one salty war vet get his shit together, so a man wishes to give something back.  Maybe it’s a metric ton of crazy, but maybe it will help someone.  It has certainly helped me.

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Much love and respect to you all.

Diodorus Siculus FTW

snctryref
In keeping with my current fascination with Greek mythology (perhaps because I’m currently taking a really good class on the subject) we’re going to talk today about the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi.  For those of you who don’t know her–and I’m using the term ‘her‘ to refer to a position and not an actual person–the Delphic Oracle was a very important figure in the ancient world.  Even kings and conquerors visited the Oracle–the Pythia–and heeded the prophecies which she handed out.

One such story is the story of Croesus, the King of Lydia.  Croesus was one of the richest people known in ancient history, and was apparently wealthy enough to warrant his own epithet in common language–someone would be said to have been as rich as Croesus.  Croesus wondered whether he should go to war with Cyrus the Great, who was unifying lands that would soon become what we know as the Achaemenid Empire–or the Persian Empire.  Cyrus deserves ten posts dedicated completely to him on his own, but he’s not the subject of today’s little rant.  Croesus, before making such an important decision, visited the Pythia to ask for her prophecy.  The Pythia responded with something like “If you go to war, you will destroy a great kingdom.”  Croesus gathered his forces, went to war with Cyrus the Great, and was subsequently crushed.  The Pythia had given him a truthful answer–it was his own kingdom, though, that he destroyed.  Other famous visitors to the Pythia included Lycurgus, Solon, Philip II of Macedon, Cicero, and the Emperor Nero.

How did one petition the Oracle to receive a prophecy from Apollo?  Let’s see if I can simplify it.

First, the applicant had to purchase a sacred cake at a fixed cost, and leave it on the altar outside.  From there, the applicant moved inside and sacrificed a goat, or maybe a lamb, carefully guided through the process by the priests.  Once the sacrifice was made, the petitioner was allowed into a room where they could hear the Pythia speak, but not see her.  The Pythia would have the question posed to her by the priests, who would interpret her ramblings from the state of enthousiasmos (“divine enthusiasm”) and translate them into the form of an epic poem, which would be presented to the petitioner.

delphivaporsThe Pythia, on the other hand, had her own preparations to make.  She either bathed in, or drank from, one of two
“sacred springs” at Delphi in order to purify herself.  She chewed, or maybe burnt, Laurel leaves–the sacred tree of Apollo–to prepare herself to receive the god.  She then went into an enclosed space, and climbed onto a tripod which sat over a chasm, breathing in “sacred” vapors that would send her into the trance-like state.  Plutarch described the vapors as being “sweet,” and even described an instance where the Pythia died as a result of too much divine inhalation.

The thing is, there weren’t any springs found at Delphi that ran through the temple, nor was any chasm discovered at the site.  Scholars long believed the tales to be fanciful, perhaps to try and explain the trance-like state into which the Pythia would put herself.  Reading some of the papers, the words scoffing at the idea of “sacred vapors” practically get up off the page and sneer at you.  The quickness with which ancient sources, like Plutarch, were dismissed is wild to read.  One such account by a man named Diodorus Siculus–a Greek historian who visited the site at Delphi and wrote about it–were completely shat upon by the establishment.

A summary of what Diodorus Siculus had to say about the Pythia at Delphi:

“In Diodorus’s narrative, it was this chasm, and the powerful vapor that emerged from it, that led to the initial discovery and installation of an oracle at Delphi. He recounts the story of how a goatherd noticed that
his goats, approaching a particular hole on the mountainside, started to shriek and leap around. Goatherds began to do the same when they approached, and also began to prophesize. The news of the spot spread and
many people started leaping into the hole, so “to eliminate the danger, the locals appointed one woman as prophetess for all. They built her an apparatus [the tripod] on which she could be safe during her trances.”

~From Oracle, Princeton University Press

portrait_man_bce_050-025_2_mus_hamburg.428x0-is-pid7313Diodorus Siculus came along, talked to the locals and said “look everybody, this girl is basically just getting high.”  Scholars have long discounted his story as fanciful, saying that he probably had trouble imagining that the spirit of the god of Apollo could enter the Pythia, because Greeks had strange notions of the spirit–a lot of mental back-flipping to explain away his account.

The funny thing is, in the year 2000 a group of scientists published a *study in Geology magazine about the site at Delphi.  As it turns out, Delphi sits at the center of two fault lines, and has been a hotbed for seismic activity since ancient times.  There were recorded earthquakes there in the past.  The scientists were able to not only identify the faults with modern technology, but determined that a spring probably flowed through the Temple of Apollo at one time, and that a chasm probably did run through the Temple of Apollo.  Furthermore, though scientific methods, they determined that the rocks beneath the Temple of Apollo at Delphi produce a gas called ehtylene.  Ethylene was used as an early anesthetic, and can produce feelings of detachment and euphoria.  In higher doses, it can cause mania and death.

The kicker?  Ehtylene has a sweet smell.  It was also found in natural springs near the site.

The Pythia on the Tripod-by-H.Leutemann

Just imagine this one staggering fact–the fate of kingdoms, of empires, was partly decided by the ravings of an old woman who was sitting in an enclosed room huffing gas for most of the day.  This is why I love history.

It took just over two thousand years, but in the end, Diodorus Siculus was vindicated.  Turns out his story makes a lot of sense, and is further backed up by the writings of Plutarch on the matter.  So raise a glass in the man’s honor sometime, he deserves a libation or two.

*The link goes to Nature magazine, but it’s a story about the same study.

In case you missed it, Child of the Flames is now available on Amazon Kindle.  Get your copy today!

Omophagia

maenadI’ve been thinking about this lately, so I figured I’d write some of it down.  Maybe you guys will find this as interesting as I do.  Maybe you’ll just think I’m morbid.

I want to talk about the Maenads.  Now, some of you are raising your fingers in the air, saying “Hey, I remember those from True Blood!”  Some of you might know more about them than that, and might be saying “Aha!  He’s talking about the crazed followers of Dionysus!”

True, and true.  More than that, though, I wanted to write down a few stray thoughts I’ve been having about their rituals, especially the culmination of their rituals.  Let’s go into more detail–bloody, gory detail.

So, Dionysian rituals were famous for being revels of complete abandon.  In fact, that was sort of the point.  There are lots of festivals dedicated to Dionysus, now, and they were varied.  Before someone decides to flay me for leaving out the City Dionysia, or dithyrambs, or the fact that they were the origins of Greek tragedy, I know–but we’re not talking about all of that today.  Though, I suppose my penchant for writing fiction has its origins in Dionysian ritual.

Give your thanks to Dionysus, you pitiful little mortals.

The Maenads were the crazed female followers of Dionysus, the priestesses of the god of the grapevine.  They were known by the animal skins they wore, the wreaths in their hair, the fact that they danced barefoot, handled snakes (they got there first, Pentecostals), and the thyrsus–a rod wreathed in vines, and topped in leaves or pinecones.

maenad

The Maenads went up into the hills to perform wild rituals by the moonlight.  In short, imagine a bunch of intoxicated, crazed women dancing until they’ve worked themselves–and everyone else–into a frenzy.  The whole point was to reach something called ecstasis, a religious fervor so great that it sent everyone into a state of abandon.  At the height of this fervor, an animal would be tossed into the center of the crowd.

There, it would be torn limb from limb by hand, and eaten raw by the frenzied mob.

This practice is called omophagia.  Now, the weird thing about this practice is that it’s not exclusive to the worship of Dionysus–or his Roman counterpart, Bacchus–it actually turns up in different places all over the planet.  In places where primitive tribes have been met with more advanced chroniclers, there have been rituals described that bear striking resemblance to those of the Maenads.   Dancing crowds, intoxication, abandon, and at the height of the rituals, no matter the details–omophagia.  In Divine Madness, there was a scene described in Africa where a ritual took place that bears such a startling resemblance to those of the Maenads that I had to read it twice.  One horror story even mentioned a woman who, at the height of her religious fervor, tossed her baby into the crowd, where it was subsequently torn apart and devoured.

Frightening.

Most people regard the practice as having arisen from Dionysus’s birth myth–that he was ripped apart, but born again.  But others believe that Dionysus was the representation of something older, something more ingrained into the human psyche.  Dionysian rituals represented a return to the primitive, a regression to something more brutal.  What strikes me as odd is how often the practice pops up in history, and throughout cultures who haven’t heard of one another.  Does it serve some purpose in society–perhaps an evolutionary release valve of our more brutal instincts, like an ancient version of the Purge?

K12.12Dionysos

I’ve become really intrigued with Dionysus.  His worship was so varied in scope, and so wild in its extremes.  On one hand, you’ve got the origin of Greek tragedy, and a god who relishes in the heights of human creativity.  On the other hand, frenzied mobs ripping apart animals with their bare hands and eating them raw–the depths of human depravity.

Another interesting aspect was how afraid the Romans were of the worship of Bacchus.  They outlawed his cult, and sought out those who practiced the rituals.  There are all sorts of wild stories about the worship of Dionysus/Bacchus.  Alexander’s mother was apparently a follower of Dionysus, and there’s even a story that the wife of Spartacus was a priestess of Bacchus, though I’m not sure of the second’s credibility.

So, yeah.  I just wanted to take some time to share these weird little thoughts with you.  I really don’t know why.

~D.W.

Child of the Flames

Coming August 1st

Coming August 1st

Child of the Flames is coming this Monday, August 1, 2016.

It will be released on Amazon at $0.99.

It’s a story of revenge, of tragedy, of triumph.  And it’s got blood, swords, and magic.  What more do you need for a good story?  It’s been a long time coming, and now it’s finally here.  I know you guys are just as excited about it as I am.

I know a lot of you have already read up to The City Under the Mountain, and may not want to start back at the first book.  However, Child of the Flames is not The Sentient Fire.  It’s a new book through and through.  While many of the same things happen (you can’t revise and not hit the plot points) they happen a bit differently, and to characters who are much more three-dimensional.  In short, The Seven Signs is maturing a bit for it’s relaunch.

You can certainly just pick up at The Oath of the Blade when it comes out if you want, and you won’t miss anything, nor will you be confused.  But, if you’re like me and you re-read the entire Game of Thrones, or Wheel of Time, every time a new book came out because you forgot a lot of the story…

Child of the Flames will be enjoyable for you.  It’s like re-reading, only with new writing 😉

(You guys should know that I love you–that’s the first time I’ve ever used an emoticon, after years and years of refusing to do so.  I broke my prohibition for you, ‘cuz I love ya)

So look for Child of the Flames on Monday.  You won’t be disappointed.