Wednesday Writing Warriors: G. Dean Manuel

It’s been some time since I’ve been able to post a Wednesday Writing Warrior, but today I would like to introduce G. Dean Manuel! He has also allowed me to post a bit of his work, which you can find below the interview.

TSW: Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

Manuel: I’ve been into writing since the 3rd grade. I remember writing a really derivative piece called “A Unicorn Day” that was totally taken from “The Last Unicorn”. Couldn’t stop me after that.

TSW: In which genre do you classify your writing?

Manuel: I’m most certainly Fantasy. And Sci-Fi. Ooooo… Dramatic Fiction also. Wait, wait… Comedy. One second: Slipstream! If you can’t tell, I don’t narrow down. I’m a multi-genre writer and I like it that way. :)

TSW: What books/short stories/novellas/poetry have you published, or what projects are you working on?

Manuel: Well, so far I’ve only published The Tommy Case Files #001: The Dollhouse. Now, there are many things that I give away for free or publish on various websites. Stories like The Twilighman (That also stars Tommy Twilight), Laundry Knights (Also starring Tommy), The Fall of Lord Covington (You gues—actually you didn’t, it’s about a teddy bear).

I’ve got several stories currently sent in to some anthologies. I’ve got a couple that have been accepted. My story, “Grandfather” will appear in Heart of a Child, releasing in March. Another story, “The King’s Road”, will be featured in Unsheathed, releasing in spring. Also you can find my story, “Bounty: Greed”, a Weird West story, featured in the sixth issue of Gathering Storm magazine.

I’m also working on a super-hero fiction called The Crucible, a slipstream story called Lost and Broken, and a supernatural serial killer story called The Shadow Man’s Acoming.

TSW: What is your favorite writing resource, be it a book, website, program…?

Manuel: … This is a super secret, awesome website. http://www.scotranslate.com/ IT TRANSLATES ENGLISH INTO A SCOTTSMAN’S SLANG!!!

TSW: Are you a plotter or pantser?

Manuel: I am a pantser when it comes to writing short stories. I’ve recently become a plotter when it comes to novel length work.

TSW: Can you give us a glimpse into your writing routine?

Manuel: I start with a concept. Something usually very basic. Like what if your psyche was broke down to its component pieces. Then I figure out some characters. Then I let them talk inside my head. They discuss, argue, and laugh. Somewhere in the middle of all that, a story starts to present itself.

One of my favorite characters, that I’ve written, this is a total aside, is a character named Wanderer. Total Pony Express cowboy. Talks about his mammy. Just hold a sec, I’ll get you an excerpt. Ok, back. You didn’t notice, but that took a while. Two deliveries (One food, the other furniture) and a hungry dog later, here is the excerpt from Lost and Broken:

The Wanderer snatched his hat off his head and gave a hoot, slapping the hat on his knee and guffawing scratchily. “Well, did you think the Wanderer is the name my mama came up with? It’s just what the locals call me. I lost my name long ago. I had a mighty sadness take over me for a while until I remembered something my Mammy told me: A name ain’t nothin’ but some dern fool stringin’ together some letters to make some sounds and expectin’ you to answer to it. I reckon if’n you start answerin’ to some other string a letters that make a different bit a noise, then that’ll be yer name. So, I started answering to the Wanderer.”

“But a name is more than that,” he said, searching for the proper words, “it is a shield against the world.”

“Well, that is a mighty poor shield you be havin’ then,” the Wanderer said.

“No, it isn’t a shield,” the soldier said frustrated, “it is who you are, a name identifies you to everyone else.”

“Who you are, you say?” the Wanderer said with a lopsided grin, “so if I named you a dern fool of a pole cat at the beginning of yer life, would you be a fool the rest of your life? Sounds more like a prison cell than anything else! Be glad ya lost yer name that way’d you’d be free!”

TSW: What do you find to be the hardest part about writing?

Manuel: Different things at different times. I don’t find anything hard all the time. Sometimes the characters just aren’t talking. Sometimes they sing. Sometimes it is the plot. Or the setting. Everything at one time or another is difficult.

TSW: What’s the first book that made you cry?

Manuel: Dragons of Spring Dawning. Dragonlance. Flint Fireforge’s death.

TSW: What does success look like to you?

Manuel: That scene in Rocky where he makes it up the steps and is standing there with his hands in the air.

TSW: Are there any writers who inspire you?

Manuel: ... Lots. Tad Williams, Kevin Hearne, Sara Dougglas, R A Salvatore. That is to name a few.

TSW: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned on your journey as a writer?

Manuel: That not everyone is going to like you a 100% of the time. That you are doing good if people like you 25% of the time. Hell, if you can get them to like you 50% of the time, then you are doing something amazing.

About Greg Manuel:
I don’t think there is much else I can say about myself… who am I kidding, I could go on and on. But I won’t. Want to find me? You can find me on:
Facebook: @Deantheblogger

Twitter: @courtjester005

Blog: https://writersloungeblog.blogspot.com/

 

And now for some of Greg Manuel’s work:

“You’re Beautiful”

She’s barely thirteen with all of life ahead,

Barely at the beginning, she wants it all to end,

Looking in the mirror, not a kind word ever said,

Young girl, a little confidence I want to send,

She seeing with eyes the world has pulled apart,

Can’t tell she’s beautiful, never knows she’s beautiful,

The world just criticizes and leaves a hole not a heart,

It’s our fault she doesn’t see she’s beautiful, it’s inexcusable.

 

Let me catch you before the tears can start,

don’t even know yourself, how can you hate who you are?

So take  these words and let them find your heart,

Know you’re beautiful, beautiful like a star.

 

Jump forward and now she’s eighteen,

Sees the world through a mask of jealousy,

Can’t love herself and that’s obscene,

life falling within her entropy,

Never sees her worth, she lives in spite,

Tears others down but it never brings her up,

Young lady, you’re beautiful, don’t lose the fight,

now‘s the time to stand up

 

Let me catch you before the tears can start,

don’t even know yourself, how can you hate who you are?

So take  these words and let them find your heart,

Know you’re beautiful, beautiful like a star.

 

Mid-twenties, she’s at the bottom of the glass,

Sex is a tool, because she can’t start forgiving,,

Found a man but he’s nothing but an ass,

He’s punishment, she’s never started living,

Unhappy, sick, bound by the weight of hate,

lost her voice to life constrained in depression,

Believe you’re beautiful, it isn’t too late,

Say it, let that be your confession.

 

Let me catch you before the tears can start,

don’t even know yourself, how can you hate who you are?

So take  these words and let them find your heart,

Know you’re beautiful, beautiful like a star.

 

Thirties now and she’s finally found herself,

Put all the bad thoughts high up on the shelf,

A mother now, she loves everything she is,

She’s found someone and now she’s his,

A little daughter, now she is dutiful,

Please, remind her she’s beautiful.

 

 

Also, here’s a snippet of a short story, “The Heist”, about his character Vincent Fleet: 

Vincent Fleet, the title character of this story, is someone near and dear to my heart. I know this is crazy to admit, but he was a character of mine for a Living Greyhawk campaign. I tried to capture his essence without combining it with any poor D&D tropes. That being said, I had six long and lovely years of playing this character and couldn’t just let him die. He was the character that had the audacity to light a cigar off a fire god’s leg… you can’t let balls like that die. I hope you enjoy and thank you for the read! This story is part of a story exchange, Truly Hunter has written one of her own, “Tempest Moon”, that will be appearing in my blog. Hope over and give it a read!  

                                                                                                          –G Dean Manuel

 

He clung to the wall with the barest of handholds, his strong fingers supporting most of his weight. He looked down, his violet eyes scanning the area quickly and carefully. He was happy to note that not even a tremor of discomfort passed through the muscles of his arms at having to hold him suspended in such an awkward position. That meant that his latest acquisition, the platinum bands that encircled his upper arms with delicate traceries of bulls and bears, had been worth the king’s pieces he had paid for them.

After a few moments he was satisfied that no traps, trips, or alarms would impede his way down the wall. He struck a nimble course down the wall, swinging from handhold to handhold in a rather rakish manner. When he was about 8 ft. above the floor, he pushed off the wall with the balls of his feet, tucking his knees in and twisting. He landed on the floor without even a whisper of sound, the soft soles of his leather boots absorbing all of it. He sketched a court-like bow, waving at an imaginary audience. Sometimes, just sometimes, he wished someone was around to enjoy the skill with which he did things.

Shaking off such unhealthy ruminations he focused back on to the task at hand. Such thinking got thieves caught, he thought darkly. Though, he mused as he glanced up the almost 40 ft. to the window he had climbed from, he was a maestro at work here. He let a warm sense of pride suffuse him as he pondered how easily he had scaled the outer keep walls, the inner curtain walls, the keep walls, and then down the walls of this great hall. He had won his way through to the great hall of this slumbering keep without alerting a single guard, dog, or whatever other manner of creature the keep’s residents may employ.

Of course, it wasn’t really pride he felt, he admitted to himself as he exited the hall, carefully dipping from shadow to shadow, drawing the hood of his cloak up. His cloak seemed to match the quality and depth of the surrounding shadow, making him nigh invisible to any but the closest of inspections. Not that most of the big races would have even noticed him even if he wasn’t cloaked in shadows. Vincent barely stood 3’2”, and most big races, especially humans, ever looked that far down. Hell, he had seen 70 winters pass, give or take, and still most acted as if he was a child! Of course, hardly anyone got to see him as he looked now, he thought with a smile. His body was festooned with a horde of magically enhanced equipment, worth more than most kingly treasure rooms. That is not to say that he was some charlatan, only boosted to his level of skill through the use of magical enhancement! Far from it. As a young lad, he was taught to use every advantage open to him, and his skills had afforded him many advantages over his 70 years!

Besides the boots and cloak, he wore black woolen pantaloons that were tucked into his soft leather boots. A black silk shirt and spidersilk gloves hid the rest of him from view, his head concealed by the shadowed recess of his hood. His eerily violet eyes seemed to float within a pool of blackness. As he made his way down from the great hall, he started mentally going over the map in his head. He knew that the room that he wanted was very close, that is part of the reason he had chosen this entry point. He walked briskly down the hallway, making two quick turns then stopped abruptly, the hairs in the back of his neck standing on edge. He didn’t immediately see what had put him on alert but he had been doing this too long to ignore such a feeling. He stood frozen as if made of stone, his only movement the slight adjustments of his head as he scanned the walls, floor, and ceiling. He looked around warily as his initial sweep of the area produced nothing that would have warranted this feeling of unease. He was about to chalk it up to one of those times that his senses were in overdrive when a shadow caught his eye. It wasn’t that it was out of place, more that it was too big. As he studied he noted that shadow was deeper towards its end rather than its beginning. He closed his eyes, letting his vision slip into the spectrum that allowed him to pierce the darkness with ease, revealing the tight packed sigils of the ward that was inscribed within the wall. He studied it carefully, not yet moving until he had ascertained that it would be set off by him breaking the line that it drew across the hallway.

Now, most thieves were trained in the basics of lockpicking and trap disarming by their local guild. Now few individuals ever took it beyond there, most content to be pick pockets rather than second story men. Few were the elite thieves that could deal with all the mechanical traps that seemed to proliferate in this modern age. (Vincent naturally blamed the gnomes, but then Vincent seemed to blame the gnomes for most things these days. Not that this time he was far from the truth, for the gnomes of Formaggin’s Hall, the great dwarven hold, were tasked by their dwarven lords to seek better ways to protect the vast treasuries that resided underneath their mountain. But really, Vincent just liked blaming gnomes.) Now, amongst those elite few, only a handful of masters existed that could take apart a magical trap, and among those, Vincent could count on one hand the number that could bypass this trap, leaving no evidence of passage. Of course, Vincent was one of those fingers. Vincent agile hands worked their way across the magical ward, marking without touching the contours of the trap. He closed his eyes, reaching out, feeling the energy contained within the arcane sigils and deftly redirecting their flow. He smiled, opening his eyes once more, to look upon his work. After a moment’s inspection to make sure that there were no other surprises, he shook his head, quietly clucking in disapproval. If they wanted to keep their valuables, why didn’t people protect them better? Of course, he thought, not many were there that were prepared to challenge the likes of Vincent Fleet!

No longer was his step as jaunty as it had been just moments before. He was an extraordinarily skilled, arrogant bastard, but even one of his skill could find himself dead if he did not take things seriously at times. And if that ward upon the wall was any indication, now was one of those times. He began scrutinizing the walls more intently, alert for even the slightest indication of something out of the ordinary. He was slightly disappointed when he realized that the ward probably was the breadth of the powerful defenses that protected this man’s treasure. Sadly, it was a rare occasion when he would be challenged during a heist but luckily he was very deficient in many other parts of his life, so challenges did abound.

He had almost returned to his jaunty pace, seeing the door of his destination when he noticed the slightest shimmer in the air in front of him. He stopped, his cautiousness returning tenfold and examined the corridor he was in. Crossing the corridor, nearly invisible to the naked eye, was a spider web about 6 feet across and almost 10 feet high. Each strand was nearly an inch in width and Vincent had to fight down the rising panic as he calculated the size of the spider that would have spun the web. It wasn’t that he was particularly scared of spiders, but everyone would be scared of spiders the size of a dog, he mused. His hand darted down to the kukri belted at his side, sliding it soundlessly from its sheath. He rolled back his sleeve of his other arm, revealing a bracelet hidden beneath. He spoke an arcane command word under his breath, causing an oval of force to wink into existence, about the rough equivalent of a buckler upon his forearm. Vincent backed away slowly from the web, scanning left to right, up to down, trying to locate the owner of the web. He had begun life as a denizen of the Deep Realms and knew a thing or two about giant spiders and gave a silent prayer to the gods of chance that this one would be of a more mundane variety.

He wheeled quickly, cursing in the same breath that he had just prayed in, instincts honed too perfectly to ignore telling him that the spider was behind him. He groaned inwardly as he watched the spider step from the wall, its body solidifying as it left the protection of the stone. He quickly sheathed the kukri he was holding, knowing it would avail him naught against the likes of a spirit spider, drawing instead a bone bladed dagger that had a slight ethereal shimmer to it. He may not be the most skilled fighter in the boundaries of Witchhaven, but he was certainly one of the better prepared.

The spirit spider eyed him balefully, its long legs clicking upon the stone floor of the hallway. Vincent was almost taken by complete surprise, barely dodging out of the way, as the spider spit a web at him. He rolled into a wary crouch, prepared to launch himself once more if needed but the spider seemed to have grown bored of the game and was closing the distance between them.

Vincent rolled backwards, the spiders forelegs coming down on the spot where he had been. When his hands met cold flagstone, he pushed up, easily springing back to his feet. He immediately lunged forward, dagger held in a reverse grip, his blade biting deep of a foreleg. The limb fell to the ground then dissolved into ethereal nothingness. The spider chittered angrily, shocked that his blow had connected. It existed between two planes, the physical and the spirit, and it took a specially enchanted blade to hit it with any surety.

The spider attacked in wild abandon. Vincent ducked and weaved around the viscous blows. The combat had an eerie surreal quality about it. It took place in almost complete silence. Vincent was barely a whisper on the cold stone and the spider’s pointed legs only made the barest of clicks upon the flagstones. The spider was fast but Vincent was faster. He was patient. The spider finally over extended itself, a reaching blow with its good foreleg. Vincent masterfully flipped over the sweep of the leg, landing silently on his feet.

Vinnie struck, an overhand blow at the second leg, severing it at the joint. The spider’s balance faltered. He didn’t wait for it to recover and kicked out at it. The blow coupled with the loss of its leg caused the spider to tip to the floor. Pressing his advantage, Vincent gripped his dagger in both hands and plunged it into the exposed underside of the spider’s maw. It sank deep. Vincent held it until the death throes of the spider weakened and finally ceased all together. Like the severed limbs, the spider’s body dissolved into a pile of ethereal dust.

Vincent took a moment or two to access his situation. Wounds could be missed in the heat of battle. Adrenaline had a way of hiding pain. Vincent felt confident that no blow had been struck but he liked to be sure. He was wearing a mithral chain shirt with a mithral undershirt. The main piece was elven and the undershirt was dwarven. Each was exquisitely crafted. The elven chain shirt he had won at the tables playing against an elven swordmaster. He had to have it resized but it was worth it. The shirt had saved him more than he cared to admit. The undershirt was a marvel of dwarven craftsmanship. The links were so tiny it was more woven than forged. It had stood between him and a sword blow a time or two too.

With the spider dead, the web had itself disintegrated. Vincent hummed silently to himself. Things were going quite well. He should be done with this job ahead of schedule and be able to catch an ale at the Hooded Lantern, his favorite tavern in the area. Nothing barred his way from there to the door to the treasury room.

He paused and didn’t immediately approach the door. Something didn’t feel right and Vincent knew it wasn’t the time to let his arrogance get the better of him. His keen eyes scanned the area. It took him only a moment to notice what was out of place. There was a carpet laid out in front of the door. Vincent smiled. He imagined that this man had gotten tips on protecting his valuables from a book entitled “How to protect your valuables for idiots”.

He carefully pulled up a corner of the carpet. He stuck his hand underneath and confirmed his suspicions. Pit trap. Vinnie opened his pack and withdrew his climbing kit. He took a couple of spikes from the kit. Strategically placing them along the scene, he tested to make sure that the trap couldn’t be sprung. Once sure, he turned his attention to the door. He closed his eyes and ran his fingers over the door and frame. When his tactile inspection yielded nothing suspicious, he opened his eyes. He gave the door a once over with his eyes then turned to the door lock.

Vinnie snorted. Could it really be this easy? It was an exceedingly difficult lock but not the most difficult he had encountered. Much easier than he expected. He inserted his tension bar into the lock and with a small bit of wire he manipulated the tumblers. He felt them fall, one after another with satisfying clicks, until he finally turned the tension bar and the door released from its frame.

He withdrew his tools and immediately threw himself into a roll left. He was scant inches in front of the blackjack that was arcing towards his head. He twisted in the middle of his roll so that he ended facing his adversary. His hand disappeared within one of the hidden recesses of his cloak and threw the bottle secreted within. The man reacted without thinking and caught the bottle. Vinnie grinned at him and whispered, “Taramos.”

“Dragon’s balls,” the man said as the bottle spewed its noxious contents right at his face. He caught the cloud squarely in the face.

Vincent moved forward and caught the man before he fell boneless to the floor. He was surprised to realize he recognized the man. Valnos of the Blade he was named. A decent second story man and enforcer for the street gang the Nighthowlers. He considered his situation as he retrieved his bottle. He didn’t kill unless absolutely necessary. Besides, the Guild frowned upon such actions. Vinnie satisfied himself by patting the Blade down and retrieving his Guild token. With it, he could extort Valnos for a favor.

He decided he would have to hide the unconscious body. He grabbed Valnos by the arms and drug him to the nearest storage closet. He dumped him unceremoniously within. The potion he had used would keep him unconscious for at least fifteen minutes. Vincent planned to be long gone before he woke up.

Opening the door to the vault room, he made a quick scan of the contents and gave a low, appreciative whistle. He deftly pocketed a few choice gems that he appraised at middling worth. Nothing worth more than 200 king’s pieces. Harder to trace that way. Jewelers tended to recognize gems of a certain value. They ended up with names. Vinnie didn’t need that kind of attention.

He reminded himself that this wasn’t a personal shopping spree. He was hired to breach the treasury of this small keep for a specific item. It was time that he retrieved it. His employer’s instructions were very specific at this point. Just like he was told, there was a trap door in the northwest corner of the room. The door in the floor opened easily when Vincent uttered, “Karnos.” So far, just like he’d been told.

He descended the ladder into a small cave-like vault. These items within were supposedly items of no small arcane power. His instructions at this point were to only retrieve a mask. Remove nothing else. Vinnie located the mask quickly and removed it. It was a small thing, made of some pliable material. It was made to fit over the face, covering eyes and nose. He stuck it in his pack. He abided by the contract and took nothing else. But it was hard. Vinnie’s hand reached out to touch things of its own accord. He mentally reeled it in. Considering this was a vault of magical treasure, he couldn’t be sure what all this stuff did or how dangerous it was. Prudent thing would be to leave it. For now.

So, he climb back up to the now less stellar treasury room. He stole a few more things on his way out, to make himself feel better about leaving the magical hoard downstairs.

 

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