Building Some Bix Sticks



I planned on adding to my worldbuilding/ maps section of my website tonight detailing how to do all the Bix sticks readings, with a follow up post (this one) detailing my process in making them. But, as I’ve never learned from my favorite joke (Q: How do you make God laugh? A: Make a plan.), things did not work as intended, and so we’re going in reverse order. So let’s do some process work with a few readings maybe next week.


But first, why the hell did I decide to make some Bix sticks? Well, firstly, it had to do with the launch of my collection of short stories and myths this week, including the story of where they came from, which I put up last week in another low-effort post. Also, because as I was editing book one for its ongoing $.99 sale the month of August, I was reminded how much Luca used them. In fact, there was meant to be an entire subplot about how they got passed to Caddie and then show up again really late that I need to go through the other books to see if I’ve actually seeded properly to pull out in the last book. As in I’ve planted said seed, but I don’t know if I’ve watered it enough over the last five years for it to properly bloom. And if I as the author forgot about it, perhaps it isn’t really important to the story.

The other reason I decided to make my own Bix sticks (other than I want to start doing quick readings at cons and perhaps on the Twitter machine) is that I’ve been thinking a lot about worldbuilding. In fact, it’s the subject of my next book, which means my cursed writer-brain will not let me focus on actually editing the last book in the series; only what’s in the future. But a core part of my premise on worldbuilding is that we take aspects of the real/ primary world, then filter them through our fantasy conceit (our idea where our constructed world deviates from reality) to create a series of details specific to our world alone. This makes them inherently familiar (the divination system) yet enticingly new to the audience, who is then trying to reverse-engineer the fantasy conceit by comparing the output details to the familiar input aspects.

This will sound less confusing in my book. Promise.

The Bix sticks are my first time to put my worldbuilding theory to test after having come up with it. Up until this point, I’ve sort of been unconsciously applying my theory/ system, and this is the first time I’ve studied it as it’s going on.

And finally, putting this together is sort of fun. So here’s a bit of my process, from conception to finish, just in case you want to make your own Bix sticks. Having done so myself, I’d suggest you save your time and just buy some pick up sticks…

Conception:

I never actually described the Bix sticks in my book in any great detail, only noting that they were different colors and how they landed was important. They were indeed inspired by pick up sticks in that my wife and I were on vacation and picked some up (pun!) around when I was working on book one to entertain ourselves in hotel rooms without cable (for shame!). Being as I am an inherently lazy individual, I decided to keep the suits/ colors fairly minimal, as well as the number of sticks (tarot cards have 78 in a deck, which is just way too many for me).

I used the number four a lot in book one, what with the three Breaths + Blessed, the four strands in Marta’s woven ring, and the core group of characters. Four’s a good number (even if it’s the root of all evil (16) – that’s an inside joke NO ONE is going to get but a few high school friends who don’t even read this blog) in that it also works for the four seasons, four cardinal directions, etc. So basing those off of the tarot suits, I added some traits.

Then came the numbers. There’s 14 in each suit in tarot (plus major arcana), which is just too many. So I decided on just having five in each suit for simplicity’s sake. These I based on time of day, which was supposed to have a symbol for each one until I realized that I would have to try and draw that on a small stick, at which point it became simply lines around said stick.

I also added a single black stick dedicated to Waer, which makes all sticks touching it mean the opposite to throw a little more chaos into the mix.

Then I had to come up with a system for what all these configurations mean. And I wrote it out, but the reason you’re not seeing it yet is because it isn’t fully operation yet. Like the process of making the sticks, it’s still got a bit of trial and error going on. But I’m working on it, and it’s sort of fun, so I can’t wait to show you. But for now you get to see how I stumbled my way through making these damn things.

Execution:

Even though I did my research and knew the bamboo skewers I bought for $.99 need a special dye, I foolishly decided to use food coloring because I’m A) cheap, B) too lazy to go to a hobby store to buy wood dye. Over the next few hours I then learned that wood floats, which is why they make boats out of it, and so keeping them sticks in the dye required some weights.

I then learned that cleaning up, both the kitchen and the body, is less fun than it sounds.

Most of the colors came out alright, but the green needed some touch up, and let me tell you, you haven’t experienced true excitement until you’ve painted five sticks green with a Sharpie (plus one black stick for Waer).

Once they were finally dry, then it came time to put some numbered bands on them. I decided to do three on each stick, one on both ends and another in the middle so it would always be easy to identify them. And I can truthfully say that adding a total of 15 bands on four different sticks (plus all the others) is less fun than painting entire sticks with a marker. But they finally came out, and look good enough for government work.

Then came the testing, which is where I learned that a major part of my predictive system, namely that any sticks at more than a 90-degree angle signified a force working in opposition, didn’t work. Mainly because they never fall more than 90 degrees when you scatter them. So I’m still fine-tuning the process, which I hope to unveil in the next week or so.

So if you’ve got any questions you’re dying to know the future to, watch my Twitter feed over the next two weeks and hit me up when we go live.


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MD Presley is a screenwriter, blogger and occasional novelist… which basically means he’s a layabout. But if you’ve ever got a hankering for some grimdark gunpowder fantasy with a female anti-hero, I have a suggestion...

 

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