Lucas Weismann

The Old Man and the Story

For several years now I’ve had the idea to write a story about the gruff-seeming stoic genuine old guys I’ve had the pleasure of meeting throughout my life. The first of these was my great-grandpa Jack, and the inspiration of my NANOWRIMO project “Another Winter Gone”.

The Challenge i’m finding is that I’ve always seen these people through the eyes of a much younger person and while I hope to get into their heads (And eventually grow up to be one), I find that it’s easier to see these people from the outside.

That does leave me with the tendency to lionize or Mary-Sueify my old-guys, and I am struggling to work on that.

One of the problems is that most of these guys are to the “eff it” stage of life because they’ve already done the things you’d write the story about. That leaves either a Grand Torino-style “unlikely friendship”, or an UP “developers are stealing my house, and unlikely friendship” sort of relationship, really any friendship with these guys seems to hinge on the “unlikely friendship” territory.

I find this ironic in part because as a kid, I often got along better with these men than I did with kids my own age. They were almost always doing something worth doing and were happy to let me assist (provided I didn’t talk too much. I ususally did).

I suppose another way of approaching this sort of story would be in a series of lessons I learned from each of these old codgers, possibly without a narrative thread, possibly with.

Lately, I’ve been working at stretching my skills. Particularly where outlining is concerned. My use of “Fiction Formula Plotting” by Deborah Chester and several other books on the subject is putting me off my comfort zone of bedtime stories, and short stories.

I am doing my best to think of the bedtime story version as the synopsis, or treatment form, and then outlining and fleshing it out from there. For now, re-establishing my writing habit should be good enough.

One of the aspects of writing short fiction I most enjoy is the focus. There is little temptation to clutter the stories with extra storylines, little time to tell things out of order in an attempt to be clever, and it’s easy to figure out who needs the arc and what they want. Perhaps this is something I can bring with me into longer prose.

In any event, over the next few months I hope to take us out into uncharted (by me) waters. I’ll attempt to write anew and hope you enjoy this!


The Story Engine

This week I received my copy of The Story Engine a writing/RPG aid that gamifies the process of coming up with a story concept.  Here is the first set of cards I drew from the decks to build my story.  

The format stuck out to me, even though there were 1024 combinations possible in this draw.  It turned out to be a familiar story, though the consequence isn’t part of the traditional tale…

A swashbuckler wants to outwit or overpower an (immoral) warlord who controls a crown but in doing so, they will have to live the rest of his life doing a job they hate.

Robin has sworn to save England from the evil Prince John who has usurped his brother Richard the Lionheart’s crown. If he does, he’ll be forced back into polite society and have to run the Earldom of Locksley, a life he left behind when the kings rangers tricked him into killing on of the king’s deer.


Situation: On the run, with his band of merry men

Protaganist: Robin Hood

Objective: wants to return England’s throne to Richard the Lionheart, stolen by

Opponent: his brother, the evil Prince John and his henchmen the Sheriff of Nottingham, and Sir Guy of Gisborne

Climax: Will he save the day and be rewarded by being thrust back into the life of ease he gave up when he went on the run?


Here’s a second that didn’t line up with a cl

An unassuming co-conspirator wants to start a war with a facility, but one way or another it will be their last adventure.

Three days from retirement, semi-legitimate private detective Frank gets a message from his partner, Jim.  Jim was captured after discovering what has happened to the missing homeless children and how it connects to Karma Corp’s medical facility on the edge of town.  Can he save his friend and the kids, or will the company retire him?  Permanently.


Situation: Three days from retiring to the boat he’s been dreaming of

Protaganist: Frank Gris 

Objective: has to go to war with Karma Corp

Opponent: Karma Corp, after Frank’s friend Jim uncovered their experiments and how they connect to missing children.

Climax: He’ll either get back his friend and the kids, or be retired by the company.  Permanently.

Possible Genres:  Noir, Modern Thriller, Cyberpunk

One of the things I’m noticing about this process is that it ties in well with the SPOOC format from the Fiction Writing Formula, written by Deborah Chester.  Deborah Chester is the professor who helped Jim Butcher to outline and format his world-famous Dresden Files series of books.

I highly recommend the books and it’s amazing to see his writing continue to improve over the years.  It’s also clear he outlined the entire story arc.  I’m re-reading his earlier novels and finding hints in books 1 and 2 that show up again in Books 16 and 17.  It’s pretty incredible.

Happy Writing!

Nanowrimo update:

Art Goes Here Cover Art

My novel, the grind is chugging along and I’ve crossed the 30,000 word mark.  (50,000 is the goal for the month).  This process has been a blast so far and it has felt really good to take the time to write more than I ever have in one project as an adult.

I’m doing my best to follow the advice of experienced authors and get that first draft out there and completed.  Then, I’ll try to keep from looking at it for a month and restructure it for draft two.

For those who are interested, it’s a science fiction story about someone who finds himself trapped in a virtual world, forced to grind for gold until he is able to pay off some debts he owes.

The game currency has been accepted in the real world as a crypto currency and even the IRS is taking not.

On top of this, he’s gone and gotten in trouble with some of the factions in the game, making the normal grinding methods difficult to accomplish without being hunted by PK squads (player killer squads made up of misanthropic 14-year old dickheads).

Even with his friends at his side, escape seems unlikely at best, impossible at worst.

And to think, when he started playing Albiona again, his main concern was that he would stay up too late playing games and his performance at work would suffer.


Anyway, I just wanted to share what I’ve been up to and let you know I’m pretty excited with it so far!  Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Six Words

Ernest Hemmingway was apocryphally said to have written the following as a response to a challenge from an acquaintance.  “For Sale.  Baby Shoes.  Never Worn.”  Whether it’s true or not, we’ve had the six-word story as a style and plaything of the english language ever since. Today’s post is the result of playing with this idea.

Wanted: Man who leaves seat down.
Snow.  Shit.  Better grab the shovel.
Flowers blossom, trees bloom.  Allergy season.
Key turns.  Engine revs. Vegas baby!
He should have looked both ways.
The Queen, my Lord, is dead.  <— (not actually mine…)
Against reason, I’ve become my mother.
Murdered darlings. Good writing. Bad parenting.

Not technically a story, but a fun picture:
Hyperflorid loquacious verbosity is for chumps.

Kiev Part 1 – Arrival

Traveling from Den Bosch to Riga was more of an ordeal than I expected.  Because the plan left at 10:20AM, this necessitated arriving by 8am in Amsterdam, which in turn meant that it was imperative that the 6:20am bus not be missed.  As a result, I ended up with a 5am wakeup call in order to properly be ready, with sandwiches provided in part by Katja- due to her incredible skill with the bread machine.

Some day I really need to get the recipe for Katjabroodje (Katja Bread).

I was thinking slowly, being cold and having been on the road for about 16 hours at that point, my thinking was hazy like the fog our twin-prop plane landed in.

Customs was easy as our US passports got us barely an blink before we were stamped and on our way. Not so for the college-age couple who were evening denied entry even as we spoke.

The little red haired girl kept complaining that “we have no monies” as her boyfriend talked via a helpful local, trying to explain heir situation to the unsympathetic guard.

Flew into Kiev from Riga in pea-soup thick fog and was greeted by the driver like you always see in movies. The only other time I remember experiencing something like this was when I first arrived to teach in the Netherlands at the first Crash: The Delft Blues Festival.

At that time, Daire Mac An Bhaird was waiting with a 5 foot-long banner printed on the airport’s banner machine (yes, apparently Schiphol Airport has a banner printing machine.  I was surprised to learn this too).  Of course, part of the wonderful weirdness that made the situation complete was not only the fact that at practically 6’7” tall Daire would tower over any crowd in a manner that is immediately recognizable.  No, the best part was that he was standing proudly displaying his sign holding it over a crowd that did not exist.  Really, there might have been another few people waiting, but in my mind, it was a desolate nobody-but-daire-and-me situation as if there was some other 7-foot blond, bearded giant he might be mistaken for.

I felt like a celebrity.

This was a bit different.  Not only in the quality of the sign- sharpie on notebook, but in the demeanor of the driver as well.  He was short man in his 60s who spoke a little english and was helpful and seemed like might be about to curse in impatience at any moment. This, I would later notice, seemed to be an almost congenital feature of Kievian people I would do business with, from the people at the market, to the entire hotel staff at the Yaroslav hostel, to the street merchant selling berries outside the markets.

My attempts to ask his name were rebuffed and he laughed as I gave him mine, saying “yes, I know… internet'” as he waved away my attempt at a question like some bothersome fly.

Not sure what I expected on the way into the City from the airport, but the stretch of car dealerships like those on 494 in Minneapolis certainly wouldn’t be in the top 100 sights I’d envisioned.

Birches lined the highway on either side and served to accent the fog with their gray bark and autumn yellows. Once more, I’m reminded of home. I guess something in me was hoping the vegetation would be somehow alien as we arrived. As if somehow it’s disappointing that the spectating isn’t so obviously different than where I grew up.

It’s not really of course, and if anything, it makes me feel more at home.

Every time we pass a sign in the Ukraine, this feeling is shattered. The Cyrillic alphabet is the preferred one for official things, though the Roman alphabet seems to be in use for advertisements and logos and well… there are enough of those to make any red-blooded american feel at home.

I’m not sure if it’s the fewer billboards on This stretch of highway than in used to, or possibly the fact that they aren’t lit at this time of night seems to make the road a bit more desolate. Or maybe… private is a better word.

After checking in to the Hostel and being given broken instructions on how to do things it seemed the instructions for any given thing were:

  1. (Old man) Do this thing.
  2. (Me) Pause to understand
  3. (Old man) never mind. Do it tomorrow.

This was applied to

1: filling out our passports info per legal requirements.

2: dropping off keys upon leaving (a common custom at most hostels I’ve been to)

3: paying for the hotel

Basically everything was:

Here’s the rule. Never don’t do it. Screw it, do it tomorrow.

I think I like this place.

After settling into our double room (two twins, not a double room…. common in former soviet bloc hostels) we headed down to ask his wife- whose english, he assured us, was far better than his own- for directions to food.

After taking 3 attempts to mime food, which apparently is not as universal as I thought to sign, she gave us a rapid-fire explanation of how to get to either a place with a lot of food options, or an impressive fireworks display. I’m not entirely sure which based on her gestures.

Oh and as we left to find food, I tried to give the keys to the woman at reception, per the instructions painstakingly given to us multiple times by her husband who seemed to alternate between hoarding his words and making it rain… she mimed that we should just keep them until tomorrow.

Fair enough.  IMG 9135

Hell: A primer pt. 3 – The Devil’s Troubles

I closed the door behind me, as the Devil took his seat.

“Okay Nick, what’s going on?” As I took in my surroundings, I was surprised.  The room was tastefully appointed, oak paneling, overstuffed leather couches and a surprising collection of books, DVDs and game consoles that hadn’t been released yet.

“Cheese?” he offered.  I declined.  I remembered too many stories about food in the underworld to take my chances.  He shrugged and popped a mouthwatering bit of prosciutto ham into his mouth, chewed it and swallowed before continuing.  “The problem is overpopulation,” he said.

“Is this one of those ‘As above, so below’ problems?” I asked, not quite sure what he was getting at.

“I suppose, you could look at it that way.” he shrugged, “but mostly, because those above… overwhelmingly end up below.”

“Ahh.” I didn’t quite get it, but didn’t want to appear too ignorant in front of my host.

“So what, this overpopulation is causing stress on your system?” I asked, as he withdrew a pink bottle from his upper right desk drawer and chugged the contents.  Wow.  Shotgunning Pepto-Bismol.  Gross.

“Poor guy must be under a lot of stress,” I thought, sympathetically before realizing it could be an act.

“you have no idea how it used to be,” he complained and I realized his widow’s peak was just a *bit* more pronounced than it had been when we met on the road.  I even fancied I could see some gray in his roots.  “we used to provide a service, Customized Eternal Punishment for the Damned Soul.  We prided ourselves on the creativity and uniqueness of our work.  ‘Our punishments fit your crimes!’ wasn’t just a motto, it was our passion.  But now…” he trailed off and slumped back into his chair.

“You sound like someone who wanted to be a chef, but ended up running a McDonald’s.” I said.

“It’s worse than that.  I use to arrange the music of the spheres, remember?  Back in the old days, it was Lucifer this, Lucifer that.  I mean, angels don’t have groupies… but if they did?  I’d have been up to my tits in pussy.”

“Jesus,” I said with disgust.  Then softened as I saw him wince and look up as if he was a dog about to be hit.  “Sorry, I said.  But come on Nick, that was pretty crass.”

“I know.” he said, “It’s just that I was THE man when it came to music.  I was literally the first rockstar.  Jagger, Tyler, Elvis?  They’re all pretenders to a throne I had, before the firmament was separated into the sea and sky.”

“So you’re a washed up rockstar who found a new career as a chef and ended up running McDonald’s instead of a high-end restaurant?  That’s rough,” I agreed.

“I don’t know.  I just feel like… ….I feel like I’m just out of ideas.  Nothing new under the sun, you know?”

I did know.  I’d felt similar things myself and it was usually no good people trying to cheer you up.  if anything, their cheer makes you feel more alone and like more of a loser.

“Okay,” I said, “I get why you need someone.  I really do, you get a bad rap, you work hard and no on appreciates what you do.  Now, you’re burnt out and you feel trapped in a dead-end job.  Is that right?”

“Yeah,” he said, “That’s pretty close.”

“so, why me?” I asked, “Like, why me specifically?”

“Because in the last thousand years, since my brother locked me in that God’s Damned bottomless pit after my brother beat me up and stole my key to hell.”

“Brother?  You mean Michael?”

“No.  Half-brother.  Joshua. Of course, dad loves him best, so he doesn’t acknowledge me.  Anyway,” he said straightening up a bit and shaking off the bad memory, “I’m back and I find that humans have started procreating like rabbits and there’s a backlog centuries long.”

“I suppose that was inevitable.” I said.

“Yeah, immortal souls, in reproducing mortal bodies was a problem from the get-go.” he said.  “Dad was usually better at math than this, well at least the concrete stuff.  For the really weird ideas, like imaginary numbers, you need humans.  After all, anything he imagines… is.  We had to get a petition together to prevent him watching the Star Wars prequels.  Can you imagine if he’d bought into that stupid midichlorians idea?  It’d be like magic all over again.  Stupid space wizards.  At least with Star Trek, there’s a chance he’d get the idea that having a chosen “special” people wasn’t so sensible and maybe letting women do something other than incubate babies and mine sandwiches or whatever might be useful.”

“Are you telling me that you, the devil, are a feminist?” I asked.

“whose idea do you think it was?” he asked.  “Do you have any idea how depressing it is, the number of women who come here and find out that their own personal hell is the life they’ve been living… the only difference being that they *could* have done something else if they’d spoken up?”

“Wow,” I said, “that’s cruel.”

He nodded, “sometimes poetic justice is neither poetic, nor just.  I had to do something, if only so that their punishments would vary from their lives… So, will you do it?  Can you fix hell for me?” he asked.

I thought for a minute.  “I suppose so, what’s the pay?” I asked.

“The knowledge of a job well done?” he said.  I thought about it, that was pretty interesting.  And really, I mean… it’s probably safer than accepting anything material from satan himself.

“What assets do I have at my disposal?” I asked.

“whatever you need,” he said, “just let me know what it is and I’ll have it sent.  Anything else?” he asked.

“What is the cost to me?” I asked.  I’m not interested in selling my soul or anything.

Nick looked at me and his voice flattened as he said, “The knowledge of a job well done.”

Test text for dictation software

This post is my first attempt at dictation. So far, I’m using the Dragon NaturallySpeaking software on my 15 inch PowerBook Pro. I really enjoy the process so far, but I’m finding that it feels a little bit odd to have a microphone staring me in the face.

For some reason, I’m so used to writing with typing, or handwriting, that just being able to speak what I want to as if I was talking to another person feels kind of unnatural. I should get used to this ally gone, but this really does feel like talking mice I love the fact that in about two minutes, I have about 175 words. I find myself in a strange situation of having the ability to say whatever I want, and feeling completely blank.

This is the same as writers block, it’s more like writers blank. I feel like writers block is often caused by the feeling that nothing you write will ever be good enough. Writers blank on the other hand, is when you go all deer-in-the-headlights when you have the chance to write something down. It’s not that what I write will necessarily be bad,  it’s more like everything just vanishes into the ether.

One of things is amazing, is how little you actually say in 364 words when you’re speaking. That might be wrong, it might be more accurate to say that it’s impressive how quickly you can go through 300 words. Writing in my taking a five 10-15 minutes, with dictations usually going much much faster. That means that the barrier to entry has been lowered from a technological standpoint and now more than ever whatever ideas I decided to share with people are at the forefront. There is no struggle to get the words on the page, at least no external struggle.

I certainly think that perhaps for me to actually get serious about writing, and do some work that could sell, might be a good idea for me to find the right partner. Perhaps not somebody who wants to write a book with me, but a person off of bounce ideas. A teammate. The partner. An amigo.

 I guess that means that right now might be a good time for me to start doing some of those exercises that I have brought with me to Europe.

Block Party – 1

I poured a drink at the small folding table with the pink tablecloth. The rest of the people at the party were engaged in conversation and occasionally someone passed by to tell me that it was a big success, or thank me for hosting.  I smiled and nodded, as if listening, but really my mind was on emily.  After all, she was the reason I’d thrown together this whole affair.

Emily Crabtree was the new girl down the street. Well, girl isn’t really right. She’s only 3 years my junior and I’m 38 for god’s sake. But Emily, well… Emily is Emily.  

The first time we met, she was putting her dog into the basket of her bicycle, which was padded with that fake grass used at easter.  The dog was wearing a tiny helmet she’d painted to look like an easter egg and was wearing a sort of charlie brown sweater that made it look like a wispy-haired-yippy-dog-hatchling.

Normally, being a sane person… I’d have found the whole thing to be a bit disgustingly sweet for my taste.  But then, something about the way she clipped her helmet replete with two-and-a-half foot long fabric bunny ears and how she delicately moved her cotton tail aside to sit astride her bike caught the light in just the right way. As she was about to pedal away, I noticed something and called out.

“What?” she said, pulling the earbuds out of her non-lapinate ears.

“I said, ‘I got your nose’” I called.

She looked at me for a second, until I produced a small piece of rubber with a broken string.

“Oh! My nose!” she said, taking it. “thank you!”

“Don’t mention it!” I said, a little too hastily.

“Okay.” she said and pedaled off.

I never did find out why she was dressed like the easter bunny in July, pedaling her schwinn pell mell down the street.  Really, it didn’t matter either.  I was hooked.  Smitten.  If my parent’s had been around, they’d have smiled knowingly and used that playground as they said, “looks like somebody’s got a crush on somebody…”

I smiled, sighed and went home.

That was how we met.

Bob came over two beers in hand and passed one to me.  “Don’t be a water-drinker Bill.  Have a brewsky” I took the beer and thanked him, hating him all the while.  This wasn’t so bad in and of itself, but it was what would follow.  One would turn into 2, 2 to three and so on in a short example of the fibonacci sequence.

Sometime in the next four hours, he’d drunkenly try to relive glory days of the double backflip he used to do when he was a cliff diver at Casa Bonita’s.  About 3/8 of a revolution later, *splash* and sputtering and more posturing to make up for losing face.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  This is just beer one.  Besides, there’s always a chance he won’t be a giant tool this time. 

I don’t know why this is so stressful, usually I have a lot of fun at these things, but today all I feel is apprehension at the likelihood of oncoming embarrassment.  I take another pull on the beer and look at the storm clouds on the horizon. 

Dialogue excerpt

The neon sign of the by-the-hour and always discreet hotel across the street made shadowed bars on her face.  We’d been there for hours, going over the police reports, looking for anything we hadn’t already learned about the case before something inside her broke and the cracks in her facade were starting to show.

“How do you do it?” she asked me, “how do you deal with your feelings when they start to get in the way.  Lately, they’ve been so intrusive… and extrusive.”

I thought about what she was saying.  We’ve all been there.  Hung up on some no-good dame or some boozed-up lout and everyone in our life knows we’re no good for each other.  Knowing that we’re stuck and we can’t get out of it no matter how hard we try; because the heart wants what the heart wants, and like overindulgent parents, we give in to its demands all too often.

I stalled for time by lighting a cigarette, then I spoke.

“I guess, mostly I have years of not trusting initial impulses and remembering that emotions are just that.  They are clues to a situation, but not the situation themselves.  Sometimes they’re red herrings. Sometimes they’re important clues to a case you’re not working on at the moment. Clues are the stool pigeons of the subconscious.  Occasionally useful, always suspect.”

“huh, you really fit the type.  the guy who open this agency order you from a catalog or something?”

I smiled wearily at her.  “you asked.  I never said I wasn’t some two-bit stock character.  You’re the one projecting all this depth on me.”

“Thanks,” she said, “I’ll remember what you said.”  Then she walked out the door into the night.


Original context:

friend asks:

how do you handle your emotions? because right now mine are kinda intrusive and extrusive
I respond:
I guess, part of it is that I have years of not trusting initial emotional impulses and remembering that emotions are just that.  They are clues to a situation, but not the situation themselves. Sometimes they’re red herrings. Sometimes they’re important clues to a case you’re not working on at the moment. 
Emotions are the stool pigeons of the subconscious.  Occasionally useful, never to be trusted.

Hell a primer: pt 2 – The Gates

…continued from part 1

As we walked past the gates, I noted they were simple and unordained.  Not at all what I’d been given to expect from Rodin’s famous sculpture.  I looked at my host inquisitively and he shrugged.

“We didn’t get Rodin,” he said as a chill breeze whipped past.

“oh that is mean,” I said, as I shivered off the cold.

Old Nick smiled his toothy, charismatic grin, “Right? I spend a lot of time trying not to give people the ‘devil they know’.”  We bypassed the line of people stuck shivering outside the velvet ropes next to a red carpet and I noticed some D-list celebrities waiting miserably as a fat man with headphones and a neckbeard seemed to be enjoying himself immensely.”

“What’s his deal?” I asked, pointing to the bouncer.

“He’s on loan from above.  We’ve managed to pervert the whole ‘last shall be first’ thing by playing the ‘as above, so below’ card.  My favorite part is that when their managers try to get them special treatment, they get pushed farther back in line.”

“So, part of his heaven is making people stand in line waiting to get into hell?”

Satan shook his head at the foolishness of mankind, “yeah, but he’s not totally immune from the knowledge that even with power the ‘cool kids’ can’t stand him.”

“But wait, do they know they’re still outside hell?”

“yeah.  We’ve combined the whole ‘anticipation heightens the experience’, with letting their imaginations run wild so we can figure out the most appropriate punishment thing, plus everyone born outside the UK hates waiting in line.”

“So what do you do to British celebrities?” I asked.

“We make them cut line without allowing their apologies to come out.  A lifetime of conditioning makes them fight it.  Oh and we make them think they’re being disapproved of by other people they’ve never met.”

“You know, last time we spoke you seemed to be frustrated at your reputation, but here you seem to enjoy it.”

“Well, I am the just reward of the sinner, am I not?  So how could I also be the great tempter?  That would be like a District Attorney working entrapment to get more cases.”

“Oh yeah, and they’ve got a special punishment” he said, but refused to say any more on the subject when I pressed him further.

We walked right past them behind a group of nobodies and made a left to a counter where a small bespectacled demon with reading glasses on a pearl strand.  She looked up and her look of utter non-reaction at her boss showing up unexpectedly indicated that if she hadn’t had a hand in designing the concept of the DMV, she had been a dedicated student of their dark art.

“Hello Agnes,” said Old Nick.

She grunted and handed him a clipboard, “Fill out the forms completely, and when you’re issued your don’t let it out of your control for any reason.  You will not be issued another.” she said, in the tones of a flight attendant giving a safety demonstration.

“You guys get a lot of visitors here?” I asked.

“Not really,” he said.  “Just another way to add red tape and misery to anyone trying to game the system.”

“I have to hand it to you,” I said, as we walked in “You really know your business.  Why was I invited here? Surely you don’t need me to spread word of how things work here, that would only complicate things further.”

“Follow me into my office,” he said, “I’ll explain when we’re away from prying eyes.”

(For the story about how I first met the Devil by the roadside, read ‘Every Soul is For Sale’)

Scroll To Top
Skip to toolbar