A little gift for the holidays


Hi and Happy Holidays. Some of you may or may not know that I had polished the characters of Mephistopheles and JR over the years with little vignettes written solely for the enjoyment of my friends. I recently came across one of them. It’s just a scene with little rhyme or reason outside of illustrating the standard behaviors of these two.

There is a mention of a third, off-screen character, Oak (Oakley Tree – his parents are to blame for that one). JR’s best friend, Oak is nearly as adept as JR is for getting into trouble, albeit mostly by accident.

Anyway, this is for fans of JR and Meph, I hope you enjoy it.
-R

———


With his ears still ringing, JR tore into the entrance way of the mansion then veered left towards the dining room so fast his feet nearly slipped out from under him. When he reached the dining room he pulled up short, removed his World War II US army helmet, held it to his chest, then let out a slow whistle as he surveyed the scene of devastation before him. The magnificent 16-foot long mahogany dining table that had dominated the room was shattered into a strewn pile of broken planks, table legs, and copious amounts of splintered wooden shards; with ground-zero being the twisted wreckage of an antique iron and crystal chandelier resting where the table center used to exist. The mooring of the chandelier was replaced by a significant hole in the ceiling around which a mixture of plaster dust and smoke swirled. The rest of the surface of the ceiling was chaotically tossed about the room in the form of huge chunks of plaster.

On the far end of the room, at the former head of the former table, Mephistopheles sat motionless – an icy stare transfixed onto JR. At about chest height of his body, which was liberally covered with plaster powder, a raised empty fork was held horizontally in his right hand. Amidst the rubble of the table at Mephistopheles’ feet, was a shattered dessert plate under a partially mangled wedge of pumpkin pie. The front end of the slice was preserved enough to clearly exhibit a missing triangular piece that, at one point, must have rested on the now-suspended fork. This, JR judged, is why you don’t use fine china for daily use. He would have relayed that point to Mephistopheles, but some instinct, probably the survival one, prevented him from doing so.

JR carefully entered the room, gingerly stepping over debris while moving closer to the seated figure of impending doom. If Meph wasn’t here I might have been able to come up with a plausible excuse – well maybe not so plausible – but he witnessed the whole thing, so this is gonna be tricky. He was at a loss for words, but that never stopped him before and it wasn’t going to now.

“Huh, a teensy bit more of damage than I expected. I, um, was hoping you wouldn’t notice. Maybe I should just go get the vacuum and tidy up a bit.”

Mephistopheles began to rouse from his petrified state, at first trying to find a place on the non-existent table to put down his fork. It moved left and right a few times, and for a moment it looked as if he would place it on the arm of his chair, but with a sudden flick of his hand the fork flew out lodging into the wall on his right. He then shifted in his chair into a more comfortable position. He brushed some crumbs of debris from his pants as if it would make a difference. As always, when dealing with the fallout of JR-centric destruction, he began to speak with carefully measured and disturbingly calm, words.

“As I see it, or at least saw it from my vantage point through that now-shattered window, you maneuvered a tank into the courtyard, positioning it so that the turret was aimed at the house. Next, you fired a mortar round which – and here I just have to assume for the moment – obliterated the bedroom directly above us, precipitating the demise of a significant portion of my dining room. So far, correct?”

“Yes. Will that be all?”

“Hardly. But before I commence to cross-examine you, is there any other emergency that I should be aware of? Maybe the house is on fire? Perhaps, sections are about to cave in atop my head?”

“Oh, no, it’s all done with. I think we’re good from here on. You’ve got nothing to worry about.”

“I should be so lucky. To continue – from personal experience, I know asking you ‘why’ is never worth the effort, but I can’t help myself. I’m curious by nature. Why, then, did you fire a tank upon my person and my otherwise pleasant mid-afternoon snack?”

“Oh that,” JR dismissed as if it was an obvious and almost irrelevant fact, “Oak and I were playing and the Frisbee got stuck on the roof; so, I needed to use something to knock it down. You know if you don’t mind me saying, it’s really quite funny when you think about how stuff doesn’t always turn out the way you think it will. You really need to have a sense of humor.”

“Oh, I have a sense of it alright,” he snapped back and then proceeded, “So you used a tank…”

“Yes.”

“… to remove a Frisbee…”

“Yah.”

“… from the roof.”

“Yup.”

“Again, merely because I am keen to know, what, pray-tell, was Oakley’s opinion of your Frisbee solution?”

“Well he thought it was a bit over the top at first.”

“Really? Who’d have thought common sense could exist in such close proximity to you.”

“He thought a rifle could have done the trick and, after some discussion, we figured a bazooka could be the fallback plan…”

“And there it goes.”

“…but we know how you disapprove of firearms, so my options were limited.”

“And that’s all you have to say about it?”

“Yep. No. Wait. Umm, oh yeah, Oak told me that if you caught us I should say I’m sorry. So… I’m sorry.”

“At least I got a heart-felt apology,” Mephistopheles said dryly. “You do know what happens now, don’t you?”

“I’ve got some really good ideas, but I figure you’re not going to like any of them.”

“First, at some point soon I’m certain; the local authorities are going to arrive to investigate. You are going to provide them with a reasonable excuse – and I cannot over-emphasize the term reason-able – as to why the tank I agreed to keep on my grounds for the township while it was being refurbished for a Veteran’s day celebration, was commandeered to remove a portion of this building. And, the word Frisbee had better not enter into that discussion. In fact, I’d rather you get that devious little pal of yours to come up with something. I’d swear he was born part lawyer anyway. Next, the two of you are going to spend the better part of the holiday season and beyond, working to restore all of this,” he waved one hand upward in a circle, “back to its original state. I’m going to hire contractors immediately, but make no mistake; they will have instruction to give you and Oak the worst jobs. Then, once everything is back to normal, we will discuss your punishment. Is all of that clear? Any questions?

“Yes,” JR said as he pointed to the ruined piece of pumpkin pie on the floor, “are you going to finish that?”

A Readers Group Guide

The Devil and the Wolf

  1. Consider the title of the book. What is the nature of the relationship between the two characters as the story progresses? What are the primary characteristics of each? What the similarities and differences between the two?
  2. The author relies upon a handful of locations in this novel. The story opens in the wilds of Montana and then proceeds to a small town in Florida. Why might the author have chosen these locations? Do they have an effect on the narrative? Evaluate and discuss the author’s descriptions of Heaven and Hell.
  3. How is the theme of good and evil presented in this book? What is Mephistopheles’ view of good and evil? Where would you place him on the scale and why?
  4. In chapter Judgment Day (pg. 264), what concepts are touched upon by the author in Jenna’s speech?
  5. In chapter one, Mephistopheles states, “No one gets to know what I know and what I’m thinking unless I say so, and even then, don’t be so sure.” What then, do you think are Mephistopheles’ motivations in this story and why?
  6. Consider the antagonists Eremiel and Nergal. What are their motivations and what might be at the root? How justified are their points of view? Do the motivations of any of the other characters stand out? If so, who and why?
  7. Compare Mephistopheles’ character to Lilith’s. In what ways are they similar and different? While considering the relationship between the two, Lucifer remarks to himself, “She understands him. Of all the beings in creation, this is the one she totally gets.” Although never fully expressed by the author, why might this be?
  8. Choose and discuss some of the relationships between the book’s characters; such as Sachiel and Cassius; Lilith and Lucifer; Jenna, Levi, Delia, and Rob; or Dale and Connie.
  9. Which characters do you feel most positive toward and why? Which do you feel most negative towards and why? Does your perception of any of the characters change over time? If so, which character(s) and how?

Some notes from JR…

JR’s guide to characters from The Devil and the Wolf

Hey folks! JR here. Thought I’d give you a brief summary of the main characters in the book. Let’s start off with the two most important:

Me, JR Wolfe – Smart, funny, clever, good-looking and a jack of all trades. Basically, everybody’s bestie and why not.

Mephistopheles – pronounced Mef-i-stof-eh-lees. Say it like, “let me check for fleas”. But, if you ever meet him, call him Meph – he hates that. He’s some devil guy that tells, long boring stories. Your basic killjoy.

Jenna (leader), Levi (skeptic), Delia (heart), Rob (id) – Meph calls them the Scooby Gang. I call them my Flamigos (Florida Amigos). By chance, they get pulled into the story and end up representing all of humanity.

Dale and Connie Carina – Your basic low-lifes. Two scheming people who are out for themselves. (True, some might say that last sentence could describe Meph and me, but we’re lovable. Well, I am.)

Sachiel, Cassius, Raphael and Gabriel (cameo appearance) – A bunch of angels who turn out to be pretty cool.

Eremiel – Another angel who turns out to be not cool. As it happens, he was right about Meph’s schemes and somehow that made him the bad guy. But that’s okay, because I think he wanted to dissect me or something. As I said, not cool.

Lilith, Lucifer, Belial, Nick – A bunch of Meph’s friends from Hell. That Lilith is a hoot.

Nergal – A ruthless power-hungry devil. I really, really didn’t like him.

There are other humans, angels, devils and demons, and I don’t want to dismiss them. They’re kind of like spices and herbs added to a dish, but you really don’t have to invest in them for the story’s sake.

Happy reading all. Hopefully seeing you again soon,

-JR

New Book(s) in the works…

Okay, probably not the best thing to do, while working on one book a couple of weeks ago, I took a little break and then started on another one. Lately, work (yes, the day job I shouldn’t quit) has been a bit over the top, so I haven’t had as much evening/weekend time free as I usually do. However, that should lighten up soon and I’ll get back to the two.

I’m not overly worried, if trying to write both at the same time becomes too much, I’ll just take the time to jot down as many notes as I can and put one on the back burner (maybe not the best spot to place a book though).

One story line follows a team of psychic investigators, who stumble across a very real and dangerous entity. The difficulty in this one, so far, is crafting the comedy, so I have to step back from it often.

The other story line had been a vague notion floating around in my mind for a number of years. It’s my version of the story of The Garden of Eden, and yes, it takes place in the same ‘universe’ of The Devil and the Wolf.

On both I’m only working through the first chapter right now, doing some dialog exercises to get a better feel for the characters and tinkering with a subplot or two.

So that’s what’s what lately.

A Writing Exercise for Characters

Until very recently, I wrote as a hobby distributing my stories (the ones I was happy with) to my friends. However, when I decided to take on something of novel length, I found myself challenged in a number of ways, but foremost had to do with character interaction.

I would say more than 75% of my story ideas initiate with an imagined, comic, interaction between two or three characters. Once that’s established in my mind, I begin to fill in details about them including their current situation, back story, goals, etc. A general sketch was all I needed for short stories and the situation was sufficient to develop the brief plot line needed.

As I wrote my novel, I found myself occasionally unsatisfied with some of the secondary characters rapport. Given that dialog is my favorite thing to write, I found this especially frustrating. So I decided to take the time and create an exercise to help me get to the core of the personalities and how they mixed.

So here’s what I did:
I took them out of the story and dropped them, as it were, into common settings to see how they would get on. Situations such as, cab driver and passenger(s); complaints desk/customer service call, jury deliberation room, Christmas party, anything that would pop into my mind. Off to the side, as a guide, I kept a brief list of character features under each name.

I then just started writing the loose dialog that might occur for any of those situations. Not a lot was necessary. I also didn’t have to care much about identifying who was talking, I knew that. But I did pay attention to possible body language (very important). I just kept it going for maybe a page or so, switched to another scenario and repeated. Some were easy, some weren’t – the difficult ones, I stopped so as not to waste time. The easier ones were usually revealing enough.

This helped me get a firmer footing to develop better dialog within the story. I hope it works for you, if you find yourself in a similar situation.
-R