The Best Part of Writing is Making Shit Up

The best part of writing – other than the fame and fortune, right? – is when you’re in the groove and you just start pulling shit out of your ass and it works. All the mechanics of writing are subsumed and you’re free for imaginative play. (You might call it imaginative ass-play.)

I’m writing the second book in The Incorruptibles series now – it’s an “epic gritty” fantasy called Infernal Machines, set in a world that runs on infernal combustion, meaning bound warded daemons power machinery, drive the engines of industry and war.

Anyway, I’ve spent countless hours researching, mapping, thinking about the geopolitical situations, thinking about the racial identities along with cultural differences, fleshing out the “magic” system, working on the organization of the governments and armies (granted I cribbed most from Rome but I had to know the Rome stuff to crib from) and spent shitloads of manhours world building for the first and second novels. Now a good portion of that work is done I’ve moved onto some of the fun stuff:  I’ve begun yanking ideas out of my anus.

It’s kinda like soloing on guitar. Once you know your scales and have down the fundamentals, you can extemporaneously vamp, i.e. pull shit out of your ass.

Some of the stuff I’ve pulled out of my ass lately in Infernal Machines:

The name of the daemon-fired locomotive Valdrossos: 

By late afternoon, we’d come within sight of the steaming iron behemoth that was the Valdrossos. It stood black as midnight and thirty feet tall and was easily the width of eight horses riding abreast, pluming black smoke in a massive column skyward. Looking at that panting black bitch, fueled by malice, I was forcibly reminded that war was coming unless we could prevent it.

I don’t know why, but that name pleases the shit out of me. It just sounds right. Later, I can come up with rationalizations as to its etymology but right now, it’s just sounds right.


A sympathetic daemonic messaging device given to governors, commanders, and other people of importance. The name, Quotidian, is a joke because the device runs on human blood and would quickly exsanguinate any who used it daily.

I extended my hand. Quick as a mink, Cornelius slashed my palm – slashed deep – and snatched up the bowl to collect the blood pooling in my palm. When the senator was satisfied there was enough, he unstoppered the inkwell, added a measure of the ink into the still warm blood and swirled it about. When it had mixed to his satisfaction, he repositioned the Quotidian device on the parchment, unsnapped a small latch on top of it revealing a mouth to what I could only think was some sort of reservoir, and poured the unclotted mixture of blood and ink into the device.

The glow from the Quotidian became more intense, pulsing, and small wisps of vapor emerged and rose to join the blue tabac smoke hanging above us in the lantern light. Then, with a lurch, the device began to move. It slid across the parchment at a furious pace: in its passage it left a trail of ink and blood. The air of the tent filled with a scratching, hissing noise. The thing was writing.

“This Quotidian is paired with Tamberlaine’s own,” Cornelius said, looking away from the device’s movements. He waved his hand Lupina came forward holding the decanter of whiskey and poured him another glass. “In this way are the Emperor’s orders disseminated throughout the Empire, almost instantaneously.”


Bill Bless is my famous poet in this world, a nod to Tim Powers’ William Ashbless. My Bless wrote such masterpieces as Our Heavenly War, His Infernal DemiseValerus the FiendHope and DestructionThe Lives of Odious Men, and many others. But his rival Vinus Mauthew is a swaggering arrogant little jumped-up poet-rake whose first folio The Teats of Fortuna are making waves in upper Ruman society, not to mention the provinces of Occidentalia (the Imperial Reserve Protectorate and the Hardscrabble Territories).

Pulled all that out of my butt. Still, it feels right.

She nodded, thoughtful. Picking up the acetum and some cotton bandages, she cleansed my palm and wrapped it with gauze. “Aemillius says that one’s hands are the truest glimpse into the character of a man.”

“‘He is loud and portentous, yet his hands are soft,’” I said, grinning, giving her one of the most often quoted lines from Bless’ His Infernal Demise. New Damnation’s Cornicen had begun printing that play in serial, I’d taken an earnest liking to it despite my obvious lack of any sort of education. Much to Fisk’s irritation, I’d taken even memorizing some of the more penetrating bits.

That’s all, really. I’m just having a lot of fun fleshing out my world, exploring my characters, and seeing how everything shakes out. I hope, in the end, you all will enjoy it too.

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