Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Putting it all in perspective

I recently watched a tape of the original show of Carl Sagan's thirteen-part Cosmos series. Early on in Part One, Sagan takes a hypothetical journey through the universe in a spaceship capable of traveling many times faster than the speed of light. During his journey, he gives what I consider an ingenious discourse on the size and scope of the known universe. One of his wondrous statements is that there are one hundred billion galaxies that contain a billion-trillion suns. The Milky Way galaxy alone contains one hundred billion suns.

Some people yawn or roll their eyes when they hear these kinds of statistics, but I find them fascinating. To me, the incomprehensible immensity of the universe -- which stretches for trillions and trillions of miles in all directions -- teaches us a valuable lesson. We are part of something magnificent, but only a very, very small part.

The late Dr. Sagan said, "The Cosmos is all there is, all there ever was, and all there ever will be."

Isn't that enough?

-- Jim

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The ancient language

Inspired by Tolkien, many fantasy series have some form of ancient language. Or at least, names and places with exotic-sounding spellings and pronunciations. As most fans of fantasy already know, Tolkien was a renowned linguist. And not only that: He spent years and years developing his world and his made-up (based on a ton of knowledge) languages that are so beautifully portrayed in Lord of the Rings.

My fantasy series, which is heavily steeped in Eastern philosophy, also has an ancient language. But I am no linguist. So ... what to do?

I chose to use Pali, a Middle Indo-Aryan dialect closely related to Sanskrit but now extinct as a spoken language. Today, Pali is studied mainly to gain access to Theravada Buddhist scriptures and is frequently chanted in religious rituals. It is a beautiful, poetic-sounding language. There are few laypeople in the world with the ability to translate English to Pali, but I was lucky enough to find one, and she is credited in my acknowledgements.

Here's an example from Book One, entitled The Pit:

Abhiruupaa sattaa, puccheyyam ... ciraayissasi ciram? (Lovely one, I must ask ... how long will thou stayest?)”

Torg paused. “Ye vasanti dure me nissayanti. Eso aham you niyaameti. Nissiiyaami uddham. (Those far away depend on me. I am one who commands. I am needed above).”

Tears fell from the old woman's eyes. “Aham vijaanaami ... mayam vijaanaama. (I ... we ... understand.) Patiyadessami, pana bhavissaama dummanaa. (We will prepare, but we will be highly sorrowful.)”

Me sahaaya piyaa, puna ca me. (Oh, my wonderful friend, so will I.)”

-- Jim

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The possum hunter

So, in my latest attempt to catch the killer tomcat, I put out the trap last night baited with leftover hotdogs from a family barbecue. In the middle of the night, I heard a snap! Then wicked howls. In the morning, my wife and I went out to check. Once again, we had caught something other than our intended quarry -- this time a large, vicious-looking possum with jaws the size of a medium-sized dog. I was scared he was going to attack both of us, but my wife thought he was cute.

"He's growling at us."

"He's just scared."

"Look at those teeth!"

"Don't worry, I'll protect you."

When we opened the gate to the trap, the possum scooted out and ran into the woods, without looking back. Needless to say, we weren't attacked.

The hunt for the tomcat goes on.

-- Jim

Addendum: The following night, I caught a raccoon. But he was good-natured about the whole thing and didn't even growl.

Monday, June 11, 2007

More cat tales

Earlier, I wrote a post about introducing our black cat to our new house and neighborhood. Though he's a wonderful cat, he has some wildness in him from his previous life before he introduced himself to us, and he prefers to spend at least half the day outdoors. So he comes and goes through a little cat door I installed at the base of one of our windows near the back door.

Soon after we moved in, we began to hear some vicious catfights in the middle of the night. Since our cat Woody is a young and muscular 12-pounder, we feared he was picking on one or more of the neighbor cats. One night, after a particularly nasty bout, my wife went outside in the middle of the night and looked around in the woods behind our house. It was too dark to see much, but she did see a black shape come down out of a tree and then run off. She assumed it was a cat that Woody had treed.

The next day, we talked to our neighbors about the cat fights and began to hear a disturbing story. For the past couple of years, they said, a vicious feral tomcat (apparently abandoned by college students who had gone their own way) had been stalking the neighborhood, attacking other cats, dogs (even very large ones), and even people. He was big, orange, and mean as grizzly bear. Uh oh.

A week or so later, we were awakened at 3:30 in the morning by one of the most awful sounds you're likely to hear. It was as if the door to some kind of hellish universe had been opened inside our house. My wife and I (scantily dressed, as you might imagine) raced out in the living room and discovered that my cat was in a life-and-death fight with the tomcat upstairs, right next to our three daughters' closed bedroom doors.

Running around making sounds that would have made Richard Simmons blush, my wife and I managed to corral our cat to safety and then chase the monster out the front door. He had found his way in our cat door and snuck upstairs to make the attack. We were stunned.

Since that episode, the entire neighborhood has come together in an attempt to capture this cat. We've set out every kind of trap, but he's too damn wily. Our cat Woody has stayed inside a lot more, but you can't keep that kind of cat indoors forever. So there have been even more fights. Meanwhile, I've caught one very friendly cat called Patches half-a-dozen times. He's taken a liking to my trap: It's a great place to get a free meal and then snooze until the tall guy comes and lets him out.

When and if this issue is resolved, I'll let you know. Wait ... wait ... I think I heard something by the back door! Yaaaaaaaahhhhhh!!!

-- Jim

Friday, June 8, 2007

Some new additions

Mainly due to suggestions from readers who have visited my blog, I've made a few changes, including the creation of a link that contains an expanded excerpt from my series. This excerpt includes the prologue and the first portion of Chapter One from Book One, entitled The Pit. I hope that most of you will be able to find the time to give it a look. The expanded excerpt can be accessed from the link at the bottom of my home page.

All six books are written, at least through the first-draft stage, but Books 3-6 still are in the revision process. I'm currently halfway through the final revision of Book 3. It's reading smoothly to me, which is encouraging. I wasn't sure how much more work it would need, but as it turns out, less than I had feared. It should be ready to go by the end of June. Then I'll turn my attention to Book 4.

I hope this short note finds all of you well and happy. If so, treasure it. Life is so short. All you can do is hang on ... and live it.

-- Jim

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The first draft of Book Six is finished

The saga is complete, almost 750,000 words all told! Though it will probably end up around 700,000. In terms of length, the Robert Jordans of the world have me beat (no snide remarks!), but my series is quite a bit longer than LOTR, which I believe was under 500,000 words.

Now I'm down to just a few more months of revisions. My publisher already has completed versions of Books 1 and 2. Book 3 just needs one more read-through. But Books 4-6 still need a lot of work.

I cried when I finished Book 6, but I cried at the end of all of them. I guess I'm a sucker for my own endings. Then again, I once wailed over an episode of Andy Griffith, so that tells you something about me. When it comes to the "sob part" of any book, movie, or TV show, my psyche is ready and willing -- especially if it involves any kind of father/son thing.

Otherwise, I cry very little.

I wrote the first word of this series on Sept. 3, 2004. It's probably going to take me until the end of October 2007 to finish all the revisions. I was aiming for three years, and came pretty damn close to making it!

How do I feel? Right now, a little numb. Maybe it won't hit me until I'm really done.

-- Jim


The Death Wizard Chronicles is a sexy, action-packed six-book epic fantasy series: Book One (Forged by Death), Book Two (Chained by Fear), Book Three (Eve of War), Book Four (World on Fire), Book Five (Sun God), Book Six (Death-Know).

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In a groundbreaking paradox, the Death Wizard, a champion of good, derives his power from a source traditionally seen as negative -- death. His nemesis, an evil sorcerer, derives his power from the sun, the benevolent source of all life. Their struggle to control the fate of the planet Triken will take your breath away.

In an original twist never before seen in this genre, the Death Wizard is able to enter the realm of death during a "temporary suicide." Through intense concentration, he stops his heartbeat and feeds on death energy, which provides him with an array of magical powers.

The series also is a love triangle involving two desperate characters attempting to come together despite the machinations of an all-powerful psychopath with incestuous cravings.

Graphic and action-packed, spanning a millennium of turmoil, The DW Chronicles carries readers on a journey they will never forget.

Do you fear death? The Death Wizard does not. Find out why.

-- Please go to for more details.

About Me

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Clemson, SC, United States
I was born in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., but grew up in St. Petersburg, Fla. I graduated from the University of South Florida (Tampa) in 1979 with a B.A. in Journalism. I now live in South Carolina near the Blue Ridge Mountains, a pleasant setting for writing, to say the least. I was an award-winning journalist at the St. Petersburg Times for twenty-five years and I currently work at the Charlotte Observer. I am married with five daughters.

The author

The author
Jim Melvin, a veteran journalist, debuts as novelist.