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Monday, April 30, 2007

Book Review: The Dark Dreamweaver by Nick Ruth

I recently received a review copy of this book after wandering through a series of blogs. I found out about this book from one such blog and thought to myself that it sounded really good. So I request a review copy.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book even though it was written for an audience somewhat younger than I am used to. I love Harry Potter, Leven Thumps, and other such novels that are written for that slightly older teen audience--the more versed groups. The Dark Dreamweaver is written, obviously for a much younger audience. The language, while at times a little advanced, is perfect for those 8-13 year olds.
That being said, the story basically is as follows:
David is a young boy from our world. He collects caterpillar eggs with his parents, pretends his a magician (the real kind, not tricks), and goes about life like any young boy does. Then one day one of his caterpillars starts talking to him. This is Houdin, a wizard who has been cursed into a constantly repeating life cycle as a caterpillar--growing, sprouting, dying, all repeated over and over. David soon learns that the dark dreams he keeps having and all the dark dreams plaguing the world are due to a dark wizard named Thane from the world of Remin, where Houdin comes from. Remin is the world of imagination, dreams, and spectrum--the curious magical glitter than allows select few people in Remin to do amazing things. Now David finds himself caught in a battle not only to save Remin from Thane's destructive path, but also to cure Houdin of his curse and save his own world before it's too late...

I found the book to be delightful. It's not a perfect book, and I think that won't matter considering the audience it is meant for. Younger kids aren't too concerned with scenes that move a little too quick. The magic of this world is really interesting too. The idea of having to 'load' wands with 'spectrum' the way you might load a gun is a neat little twist. Some of the characters are great too. Sir Head-a-lot is a guy who can change his appearance by switching his heads. Houdin, obviously, a little caterpillar. And there are more characters too, all lovable in their own way. I couldn't help but find Houdin as my favorite--and I think that stems from reading Leven Thumps some time ago where one of the characters was a talking toothpick.
One notice for this book as that it does have some dark sections to it. It is not so dark in the same sense that Stephen King is dark. There are mentions of some blood, which for me is perfectly fine, and themes that I think might be a little scary. Regardless, I think kids can handle it. It's a powerfully driven tale with swift and well drawn action, interesting puzzles, and a well paced plot.

Good work!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

A Meme of Goals

Alright, so I was tagged for I think the first time for a meme by BlondeSwtP. Apparently what you're supposed to do is list of 5-10 of your wildest dreams, things you want to achieve in this lifetime, and then tag several of your blogger friends, asking them to do the same. Create a link within the post back to the blogger who challenged you. You must also include a link to the original challenge: here!
So my goals are as follows in no particular order:
1) Graduate college with a PhD. so I can talk to people have them them call me "Mr. Duke" just so I can correct them. "It's Dr. Duke." Granted, I want the education too, but I wouldn't want to spend all that time learning without having a couple of arrogant giggles as payment in the end. I don't know what my PhD. would be in mind you. Right now I'm just getting a BA in Literature (with a creative writing focus) and possibly a M.A. in education so I can teach English to college kids and what not.
2) Be a published and moderately successful author. I don't mean Stephen King. He's loaded. I just want to be a recognized author. Maybe win a Hugo or a Nebula. Perhaps the Nobel for Literature. Heck, the Pulitzer would be nice. Okay, maybe that's beyond moderately successful, but I would love to be able to make a living off of writing, and I don't need much to do that.
3) Publish WISB. This is being put up to some serious consideration right now. A lot of expressed that I should attempt to publish it. Even my cartographer who did those lovely maps suggested it and he's someone who deals extensively with the publishing world. So, I'm thinking of how to do that. Lulu looks like a great place to self-publish, but would that be possible? I can't attempt to publish the first novel on its own right now, at least I don't think so. Would a publisher take a novel that is only part of a sequence?
4) Be able to do just about anything I want regardless of how much it costs. Yeah, that's a good dream right? Being rich?
5) Not have to actually work, i.e. a real 8-5 or 40 hour work week type job, unless it involves writing in some way. That would rule really. I hate working and quite honestly I refuse to remain in that sort of repetitive mindless boredom that people seem to just accept in this world. Not me. I want to do something I will enjoy.
6) Have a hell of a lot more time to write and read. Or have a job that will not chastise me for stopping in the middle of a work day to write something down. A lot of my inspiration has come in my little 15 minute breaks at work. I need silence though to write. That doesn't happen much at work I'm afraid. Stupid work.
7) Successfully breed leopard geckos. Simple enough.
8) Not die. Seriously. I know people say "well if you were immortal you'd be depressed at seeing everyone die". Not me. See, I have this mentality that I will get attached to people, but I can also get over it. I mean, really, if someone lives for 80 years, that's a long time to know someone. And I totally want to see the whole world.
9) Gain superpowers or learn how to control magic or get sucked into a magic world just like James in WISB was. Okay, not really a goal, but man it would be cool.
10) Prove or adapt the evolutionary theory just to shut up all those idiots who haven't a clue how science works. At the same time I would make sure not to be like other scientific idiots who try to use science to disprove God, which is in and of itself as retarded as watching the President try to dance African style. This would probably involve me developing a time machine to go back in time and video tape evolution as it happens and also video tape the hand of God turning the little dial to make it all go. Yes, I would have prior clearance with God to do that. We'll have a long talk about it after I become immortal.

And there you have it. So, I am tagging Mr. Bramage, Andrew, and Lindsey on this one. So, do it!

Laters!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Book Review: Cell by Stephen King

It took me a lot longer to get through than I had hoped, and that is not saying I didn't enjoy the book. It was just a rocky last couple of weeks and now I'm behind on a lot of stuff.

Cell is the only King book I have ever actually finished, and also the first book where I got through fifty pages before putting it down. I'm not sure why this is. Perhaps it has something to do with my obsession with zombies and my desire to perhaps one day write the most chilling and thrilling of zombie epics to ever grace the metaphorical screen of literature.
Having said that, Cell is not actually a 'zombie story' in the traditional sense. There isn't much here that is actually cliche or common in such stories. Cell starts out setting you up with the main character--Clay. He's an artist who has just struck a major publishing deal for his graphic novel and is on his way home to let his estranged wife and his son know that things are going to be better. Then chaos reigns. People start freaking out, biting, clawing, and killing themselves and others. Clay is caught in the middle. Here he meets Tom and together they manage to get away. From this point on it is an all out battle for survival. Clay and Tom--and Alice, a young teenage girl--set off to try to escape the fires and insane people that have consumed normal society. As time passes they realize that it wasn't just some random event, but some sort of pulse, some sort of subliminal message that has made everyone who was listening or does listen go nuts, and, to make things far worse, they start to realize that the 'Phonies' are beginning to change...into something...else...

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I'm not just saying that because of my obsession with zombie stories. His writing is perfect for this. He doesn't dawdle around on the issue, or wander in places he shouldn't. He focuses immediately on the characters and draws you into their lives without destroying things with flashbacks and such. Half-way through the book I started to think that this would make an amazing mini-series on HBO or Showtime (not on Fox or one of those normal stations because those places tend to make series crappy after one season...and this book ends in such a point where there would HAVE to be a second season to clear up all the remaining questions).
My only problem with this novel is the way it ends. It felt to me like King didn't really want to finish the novel. Maybe he's going to write another to follow this. Regardless, it leaves you completely wondering whether Clay succeeded in 'finding' his son. Other than this, Cell is an amazing, gripping, and thrilling novel. This is the perfect novel to read when you're home alone and in a slightly dim room where your mind can wander and make you feel like perhaps this could really happen.

Kudos to King!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Writer: 9, Fate: 8

Per usual, I'm beating the pants off of Fate at the moment (well, not really, just barely winning), although that could change at any moment. First, before I explain why I got some points, I want to clarify a few things.
1) Yes, I am going to start up a critique group hopefully next month. It will be through CC and I think we'll have a cap of say 6 people. First priority goes to anyone who reads my blog that is interested (I.E. Andrew, etc.). Second priority is to anyone else that is interested and is SERIOUS about their writing. I don't care the age of the person, just so long as they actually take the art seriously.
2) I was tagged for a meme. I have not gotten around to do it just yet, but will this weekend. I am not ignoring the person who tagged me. Just wanted to make sure that is known. I'm just behind!

Now, for my weekend. My three points come from the following:First, I've been fortunate to get about 80% of all my college costs PAID through free government money. This means I won't have nearly as much in student loans as I had originally thought and that means I won't be in debt for too long after I get my BA and my MA.
Second, I managed to finish my submission to Swords & Sorceresses 22 and Chapter 16 by some manner of luck. And managed to submit said piece to Realms of Fantasy as it was rejected (which is part of fate's points).
Third, I finished my fourth Spanish test tonight and think I did rather well and likely will ace the class and managed to rewrite my essay for my scifi lit. class and hopefully will get an A on that.

No for Fate:
First, my story to S&S 22 was rejected and rather quickly. I'm not sure if that just means their response time is exceptionally fast, or if my story really wasn't what they were looking for (I don't think it's all that bad a story. I like it personally).
Second, I was unable to finish writing and editing my submission for Machine of Death and now need to finish it this weekend, assuming submissions remain open. Long piece, but hopefully a good one that follows the premise of the Anth.
Third, I just found out some rather annoying news. A while back I took a class called "Writing For Publication", which essentially was a class where everyone banded together to raise funds, write, etc. and publish a college sponsored Literary Journal. I submitted "A Tear For Humanity", which was a short story about a man who reminisces about the last days of his childhood before an alien invasion makes him a slave. I just found out that my story was actually cut off by about 8 pages...this means that over the last few years my story has probably befuddled people because it seems like it randomly stops. I'm rather pissed about this because I had thought it was all there. I never looked because I didn't think I had to...

More to come this weekend of course!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Chapter Sixteen: A Glimmer of Something

(Note:  This is not official version and may be removed in the near future.  This do not reflect what is read in the podcast version, nor any other version you may encounter.  I have preserved the rough form for posterity -- or something like that.  This novel has since been rewritten.)

James stumbled to his feet. He was still dizzy from expending so much magic, yet now, unlike in previous times, he could at least see and stand. Dust filled every inch of the pass between the mountains. Darkness covered everything. He could barely see a few inches in front of him. He covered his mouth with his sleeve in an attempt to keep the dust out of his lungs. Still, it found its way into his mouth; he could taste it. He coughed, blinked quickly.
It took him a moment to get sturdy on his feet, though he could not see exactly where his feet were. The rocks beneath him weren’t sturdy, as they never had been since he and the others had walked the pass. Then he took a few hesitant steps.
Something brushed against his foot and clattered. He reached down and yanked back as something sharp pricked his finger. He brought it beneath his eyes, saw a single drop of blood welling up at the end. The drop fell and he knelt down, waving his hands in the air. The dust swirled around his arm and cleared away for a brief moment. There on the ground was his sword. He remembered losing it when Nara’karesh had attacked. He shook away the thoughts. It’s dead now, he thought. Dead and gone forever.

James quickly took hold of the hilt and picked the sword up. Dust enveloped the blade as he lifted it from the ground, spiraling wildly like the hands of ghosts. He took a few more steps in the dark, nearly tripped.
“Pea? Darl?” he said.
“Here,” Pea’s voice passed like a wavering echo through the dust somewhere nearby. James headed that direction. Rocks slid away under his feet, but he managed to find the tiny man sitting on a large stone that had rolled out of the landslide.
“Are you okay?”
“As good as I can be given the circumstances. And you?”
“Tired…”
“Aren’t we all?”
He nodded.
“About time for some good news.”
“What do you mean?”
“Nara’karesh is dead and the Masters of Arnur have been avenged. Strangely corny, but true.”
Slowly the dust began to settle; James could now see ten feet in front of him. There the silhouette of the Lean hovered and some distance behind Darl sat on a tall stone. James motioned to Pea and then walked forward cautiously.
As soon as he came into clear sight of Darl the old man cursed.
“I’m starting to come to an understanding of why magic users are so incredibly dangerous no matter what side they are on,” Darl said.
James and Pea snickered.
Then James looked back to the landslide as visibility increased. They had pulled from the mountain far more than he had anticipated. The large outcropping had turned into a massive landslide that had narrowly missed him. He remembered now where he once stood, utterly helpless to the corrupted blackness of Nara’karesh. Now the entire width of the pass was filled with rock and dirt a hundred feet high. And somewhere in that mess was the lifeless body of the lyphon.
James sighed with relief at having lost this one burden. Now I only have one thing to worry about, he thought. Luthien and his army. He knew that he could very well be walking into Luthien’s hands if Ti’nagal had been taken, and ultimately to his destruction. Something told him that Luthien had no desire to take him alive.
“Shall we continue?” Darl said, standing and tossing the packs to their prospective owners.
“To Ti’nagal,” James said.
“Yes. To Ti’nagal.” Darl turned and led the group along the pass.
The Lean slipped into view next to James. James glanced to the side, nodded slightly, and returned his gaze to the shifting rocks beneath his feet.
“Again,” the Lean said, “I say that you are mighty.”
“I’m not,” he said, a hint of distaste in his voice.
“As you said before. Yet you tear apart mountains.”
“With help. And again, that doesn’t make me mighty. Power never does.”
“If not power, then what?”
“Integrity and honor…” Darl’s voice was assertive. “Power is left to those who have neither.”
“Do Kings not have integrity and honor because they have power?”
“That depends on how a King uses his power.” James slipped, caught his balance.
“A King who leads and commits no evil act does not consider himself to have power, but rather to be a servant to his people.”
“Yet he commands his people to do his bidding.”
“Yes, but if he gives those com…” he slipped again. “…commands for the good of his people he isn’t using his power for a bad reason.”
The Lean’s form shifted as if its arms had passed through it and returned to their original places. “I see.” Then the Lean blinked away.
“Like teaching a child,” Pea said.
James glared.
“I mean, a very ill-behaved child unlike our fine young lad.”
“You know, you’re not very good at lying.”
“We Erdluitle’s don’t lie. We fib.” Pea stopped, turned and put his hands on his hips.
“Fib?” James gave a questioning look.
“To fib is to lie without intending to get away with it.”
“So, you lie and get caught?” Darl said scruffily.
Pea whirled around, said, “Well I don’t expect someone of your stature to understand the complexities of Erdluitle culture” and stormed off along the pass.
James and Darl continued. Then Darl turned and said, “I think I’ve insulted him.”
“Very likely,” James said, laughing.
Then the two wound their way through the mire of rocks and settling dust.
A few hours passed before they managed to slip out of the pass. Dawn had long since approached providing just a little more light despite the pass being ridden by the shadows of the mountain. Some distance below, sitting like a gleaming gem in a vast green field, was Ti’nagal. It was not nearly as massive as Arlin City, but James got the impression that it could just as easily defend itself. Tall stone walls surrounded the bulk of the city with a single blank wooden door facing east—away from where Luthien’s army would come. Surrounding this wall, haphazardly placed, were many homes. Farmland filled the eastern side of the wall.
James noted there were no massive towers, only a single wooden one that stood just high enough in the center to provide clear sight of everything in the city and beyond as far as the Far’anor River, the same river that wound it’s way through the valleys to Arlin City. Here too, the Forest of Gall was closer, presenting a great green and rust red mass of trunks, limbs, and leaves that ran all the way to the edge of the river. From the mountains, the bustling masses of soldiers, civilians, and the like looked like tiny ants of various colors—silver, black, red, tan. Ti’nagal was preparing for battle.
Another hour went by as they continued down the last stretches of the mountains. The Lean had long since caught up with them and aimlessly glided behind. Before long they had slipped into the dirt streets of the outer city, winding their way to the main gates. There they found the gates to be closed tight and a series of guards atop the walls carrying bows and arrows.
Darl halted at the gate and said, “May we gain entrance?”
One of the guards peered down questioningly and said, “Not so long as you have that dark spirit behind you.”
“He’s no dark spirit. He is a Lean.”
“Which is?”
“He was a spiritual guardian of Arnur,” Pea said.
“The sacred temple?”
“Yes. Before it was corrupted by a beast of Loe called Nara’karesh.”
“We’ve heard that name uttered along the lower farmlands, just near the edge of the forest. The spirits there are restless. Something has stirred them.”
“Much is stirring. We come from Arlin, just before the city fell in ruins.”
He’s being awfully polite, James thought.
“Are you the one they call Darl?”
“Yes.”
“We’ve gained word of your coming here. You bring the Off-worlder with you?”
“Yes, this boy,” Darl indicated James, who started to raise his hand to wave, then remembered what he had read in the etiquette book. It was rude to wave like a child at the gates to any city. “May we gain entry?”
The guard seemed to contemplate the situation deeply. He didn’t speak for several moments, and then said, “You may enter. That spirit remains outside these gates at all times. Is that clear?”
“Quite.”
The Lean shifted and then slipped back, understanding the situation.
“Lord Alrith will be glad to see you’ve come.”
The gates shifted with a wooden creak and then opened slowly, pulled by a series of other guards. They entered through the gates and were met by the guard from the wall, who bowed his head gently to Darl and then to James. James returned the bow. Then the guard nodded to Pea even more respectfully than he had to Darl and James. James thought it a curious motion.
“Lord Alrith waits. I am Belrin. Come.”
Belrin was a tall, burly man, clad in a gray and yellow tunic baring the symbol pf St. Brendan’s Cross on his chest, under which were his two layers of chain mail. He looked much like what Santa Claus would have looked like in youthful days—rosy cheeks, warm eyes, and a constant look about him that suggested good will. He took to the main road that wound ever so slightly uphill to the wooden tower. Two story homes were on either side of the road, and amongst these soldiers stood or sat, slept or lay awake, as if in wait for a battle that would not come for days. Their faces were not smiling, nor were they alight with interest or fear. Their faces were sunken, saddened, and even blank.
Once up the hill Belrin took them into a grand hall. Dozens of stained glass windows depicting Kings sitting upon their thrones ran along the walls. Inside, scurrying about were blacksmiths, arrow-smiths, armorers, and coopers, all working spryly in their various crafts. Piles of swords, spears, and arrows were strewn across one side of the hall. Giving orders in the rear was a man that could not have been more than thirty yet had a stark white beard running to the breastplate of his armor. His face and eyes looked to be that of a man who had barely seen adulthood—fresh and new, no wrinkles, and no scars.
“Lord Alrith, they’ve arrive,” Belrin said.
The ageless man turned and said briskly, “Thank the Fathers.”
“I am Darl.” Darl bowed lower to the Lord.
Lord Alrith paused, then bowed gently. “Forgive me. I had expected a much younger man than yourself. Such is my faulty judgment.”
“I am old, yes, but still young as long as I can lift my sword.”
“Agreed. There is much to discuss. Come, we will eat. Your journey has been long. I must know more of what to expect from Luthien.”
Lord Alrith led them to a dining hall where a single massive table stretched the entire length. At least fifty people could sit at this table and still have the room to dance. Orders were made and food was brought—bread, salted pork, and a handful of apples.
After a few minutes where every one of the four had already stuffed their faces full, Lord Alrith began by saying, “What news have you of Arlin City? The last falcon that reached here only told us that you might come here. I expect similar messages were sent to Nor’sigal and Tík.”
“It has fallen,” Pea said. “Too easily I might add. They were ill-prepared for the might of Luthien.”
“His armies came out of nowhere,” James said. “Almost like they weren’t there, and then they were.”
“Some impossible magic is my guess.”
“And Luthien’s armies?”
Now Darl spoke. “Daemonkind, Shiftkind, Littlekind, Avionkind. You name it and he probably has it in his army. He even commanded a lyphon.”
“A lyphon?! Impossible!”
“So it has been said, yet we have fought it twice, and upon the second time James and Pea sent it to its death under the earth.”
“Seems you’ve grasped your newfound magic well,” Lord Alrith said to James.
He agreed with a nod of his head. “I have a long way to go. Pea has been teaching me. And Darl too. I’ve learned a lot on using a sword.”
Lord Alrith smiled warmly, presenting an off-white set of teeth. Then Darl spoke about Arnur and the corrupted Masters, about how the Lean had come with them, and, most importantly, about the other power that Nara’karesh had mentioned serving. The list of dark things in the land of Traea grew and James began to sense that little good was left. Even Ti’nagal, in its rustic, yet homely appearance, would not stand long against Luthien. He knew now that the few things he had seen that might have once brought him joy or peaked his interest were soon becoming extinct. Here in Ti’nagal, he could already tell by the hurriedness of the soldiers, and the solemn looks on their faces as he passed, that they were preparing for their deaths. Ti’nagal would fall just like Arlin City had and just like the other villages and cities in the valleys had.
A long cold tingle ran all the way from the bottom of his back to his face. His teeth gently chattered and he closed his eyes. Then he pushed all the thoughts away. He knew he had to. I’m only twelve. I’m not supposed to deal with all this. I’m supposed to be playing video games and running around in the park. Not this.
“You look troubled James,” Lord Alrith said.
He shook his head and woke up from his thoughts. “I’m alright.”
“Indeed.”
The man didn’t believe him, he could tell. The look in the man’s eyes suggested that he saw more than most realized.
“So Luthien has launched everything in his arsenal? Man and monster alike.”
All three of the travelers motioned with their heads to agree. James, especially, nodded fervently, the image of the lyphon still fresh in his mind. The jaws seemed to come at him through the dark recesses of his consciousness, only to be knocked away by the memory of the landslide. Then a chilling thought came to James.
“Do you think it’s possible that Luthien could bring more lyphon’s?”
Pea seemed to stall more than the others.
“Is it?” This time he directed his question to Pea. Pea didn’t answer, not with words, but with his eyes. They seemed to say ‘yes’.
“I think,” Lord Alrith said, “that at this point, just about anything is within the realm of possibility. Don’t you?”
“Yes. I suppose so.”
Lord Alrith simpered, and then stood from the table. “Well, Luthien will not be here for another two to four days. I think it best we prepare for your departure on the morrow. Horses will be provided to you. And provisions. Belrin is a trusted guard here and I think his plan for you in a solid one. Speak with him. For now, I must attend to my city.”
“You intend to fight?” Darl said.
“Luthien started this war and I intend to cause him as much grief as possible.
“You could flee. You could take your people, ride to Nor’sigal now before Luthien marches upon this city. Get them to safety.”
“And then what? Wait again for Luthien to come? Our list of allies runs dangerously thin. The Muértland is beyond corrupt and no man has passed through there in a hundred years. Surgard hasn’t the power to defeat Luthien. Not now. Not ever. And where would we find safe harbor in Angtholand? Luthien will not have us. His path now is the destruction of all that move against him.”
“Go through the Black Sands. I’ve heard rumors…”
Lord Alrith scoffed. “Rumors? You would have me drive my people through the Black Sands on a rumor? No. We cannot rely now on rumors and hopes. We must rely on what we can see. The people here can see that our dooms have been sealed.”
“But…”
“It will not be long now before we all ride into the great sky and beyond to the Halls of the Great Fathers and there be given eternal glory. And in the end we will know that we have fought Luthien with every last breath. Trust me. His armies will tremble. The earth will not be free of the blood of his soldiers. We will rend them dead by the thousands before they take this city and destroy what is left of the Farthland!”
Lord Alrith said no more. He stormed out of the room, his armor clanging as he went. Darl rubbed his forehead. Belrin came into the room a moment later, a strong look of surprise on his face after having seen his Lord storming from the room in anger.
“Be still Belrin. He is not angry at me for anger’s sake.” Darl looked up. James saw in the old man’s eyes the look of despair. “Fret not.”
Darl’s eyes met James’, dug into his. James felt every emotion now, as if Darl were sharing them. He could sense the fear and sadness for the people of Ti’nagal. They were doomed to their deaths, there was no refuting that. Luthien’s armies, and his magic, his ever destructive and dark magic, would tear the city to pieces. Arlin city was far better prepared, even on such short notice, to fight the armies of Luthien. And even it fell so easily it seemed. He remembered the towers crashing to the top of the hill, remembered feeling the sadness as he came to grips with how much all of it was his fault. And yet, he had learned now that nothing was his fault. The war would have come with or without his presence.
Belrin motioned for them to follow him, and they did, taking their leave from the dining hall, out of the grand hall, and back into the city streets. From there he took them down a long dirt path to a stable guarded by seven men, each armor-clad and stiff as stones as they patrolled the perimeter. Three horses were strung up there, one black as the night, and two the color of melted chocolate, and each saddled and munching on bails of grain.
“These are Blaersteeds,” Belrin said.
“Truly?” Pea said astonished, coming close to one of the chocolate ones. The horse lowered its head and Pea gently rubbed its nose.
“Yes, true descendants of the first horses to be brought to this land in the forgotten times. True pure blooded Blaersteeds.”
“Your Lord hands these so freely to us?” Darl said.
“They would be destroyed, cut down by Luthien if they were to be left here. And none of my men will ride as cowards. We do not fear death, only the pain. But we will fight and these creatures, as fair and wondrous as they are, cannot stay here to be cut down by Luthien’s men, nor taken by the enemy to be driven down to death in servitude.”
“Then we will take them thankfully.” Darl bowed his head.
Why is he being so polite here? He never treated anyone like this in Arlin City.
Then Belrin took them to the back of the stable where there was attached a room. Bedding had been laid out, as well as several panniers stuffed full for the horses. In the center of the room, surrounded by four stools, was a wood table, upon which lay a map of Traea drawn on animal skin. Belrin took a seat and knelt over the map.
“Where are you sending us on these horses?” Darl said.
Belrin looked up, a glimmer of humor in his eye. “To the only place where it is safe for you.”
“There are no places safe now from Luthien.”
Belrin grinned wide and laughed. “There is one place. Pay careful attention. You all ride to Teirlin’pur tomorrow morning.”
“Teirlin’pur!” James spat.
“What better place to be than where your enemy is not?”
James thought about this, and, as it dawned on him, he gave the widest grin ever in all his time in Traea.
“To Teirlin’pur,” he said.
Belrin grinned too. “To Teirlin’pur!”
Then the two of them laughed loud. Darl looked un-amused.

Book Review: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

(Quick note. I have decided to drop the whole 'current reading list' deal. I'm not even following it at this point. I'm jumping around as it is and I've just come into some review copies and the like that are going to take precedent over my reading list anyway. The only list that will remain constant is my awards list...)Philip K. Dick and his lovely work of art. This book is quite a treat. I've never read it before, but heard about it a dozen times. The story is about a bounty hunter named Rick Deckard. What does he hunt? Androids of course. The Earth, as it stands, has become a backwater world after a massive nuclear war that leaves cities in ruins and constant radioactive dust falling everywhere. The people who still live on Earth are lucky to stay alive without going insane, and those are aren't so lucky to keep their normal brains aren't even allowed to leave for other colonized worlds (Mars included). To add, humanoid androids are illegal on Earth. They come from Mars, usually going to extreme methods to escape servitude there to find a new life on the fallen Earth. Deckard hunts these androids to 'retire' them (which is a fancy way of saying 'kill'). The story itself takes place when six androids come to Earth and Deckard is brought on to take care of them.This is a fantastic novel. It might come off as a little difficult for some to come by. Some things such as Mercerism (which is the new world religion of Earth) and the Empathy Box might be beyond a lot of you to really comprehend, as they were for me. I wasn't sure what the whole deal with Mercerism was. Was it intended to be so bizarre that you couldn't believe it? Or are you led to believe that perhaps the people of Earth have just gone so nuts from the radiation that this is the next step? It's strange indeed.
Still, I found the world Philip created to be quite enthralling. It is dystopic--something I am hoping to perhaps place some heavy study in come the next couple years at UCSC. The world is dark. People are not normal. Animals are so far and few between that to have one is a sign of prestige, of wealth, and to have a rare animal is even more prestigious. People are so driven to own an animal that some buy android animals just so they can mimic others.
I recommend everyone read this. It is a staple in the scifi world, hands down.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Stuffs For Us Writers (Part One)

Decided to have a short post of nifty sites, programs, and the like that I have discovered that could come to great use for some of you guys out there.

Freemind
I've already mentioned this program, but it is worth mentioning again. Freemind is a mindmapping program. Here's a picture of one of my mindmaps for a military scifi idea I have--updated from the last one I had shown. (click the image to see larger version)

StickIt
This program I randomly discovered has become one of my favorite little tools. This program allows you to put little post it notes on your desktop. Perfect for keeping track of all the writing stuff I have to do. I love it. It also apparently has a feature where you can send notes to other users provided they are added to your friends list. I haven't used it yet, but sounds like a cool idea to me.
Here is a pic of my desktop with StickIt running. (Click for larger image)

WordWeb
What better a program to have than a portable dictionary on your desktop? Wordweb is an awesome software program that comes in a free version and a pro version ($29). It's a great program to have on your desktop while writing. With a click on the icon in your taskbar you can start searching for a word right away.

What about stationary?
Well, what about it? Are you craving strong little journals and notebooks that can withstand a nuclear explosion and still won't let your ink or pencil smear? Then you should probably be looking into Moleskine's. A little pricey, but when you think about it, it's not a bad deal at all in comparison to the competition. Moleskine notebooks come with acid free pages, a hard cover, threaded binding, a nifty place keeper, an back cover inside pocket for keeping stuff in, and a lovely elastic band for keeping it closed. You can get lined, blank, or even squared pages. There are many sizes and styles too. Check them out. Large: $14.95 Small: $9.95
Now, if you are wanting to go for a cheaper notebook, you can try the ru Journal from Xonex. Now, these are blank paged pocket journals in the same fashion as the Moleskine, only a little flashier and without the legendary reputation. $5.00
Now, I wouldn't recommend anyone go this direction unless they intend to make good use of it. If you aren't very serious about your writing, don't bother forking out the money for any of these items. It falls upon the dilemma of placing value on the item rather than on the writing and really if you aren't serious you might as well be spending $0.25 on a regular every day notebook than one of these.
But if you are serious, I can definitely recommend the Moleskine as a good start. I've enjoyed mine thoroughly thus far.

Critique Circle
I've mentioned this lovely place before, but I have to bring it up again. This is one of the best places to go for online critiquing. It's completely free, but there is a pro account that offers a few more features that in all honesty most of us will never use unless we are in desperate need for an organized system for personal critique groups (something I brought up before as an idea). Check it out!

The Gender Genie
This site has been passed around quite a bit I think, but I find it rather interesting to allow this little web app to attempt to figure out whether you are male or female based on a sample of your writing. Go on, give it a try. Take a short story or chapter from your WIP and throw it in. According to the site (using Ch. 14 as an example) it says that I am male by a margin of almost 1,000 points (which isn't saying much really).

The Official Seal Generator
This has absolutely nothing to do with writing, but I couldn't help but put it in. It's such a nifty idea. This site allows you to create a little seal with a whole slue of options. I made a couple below. Go ahead, put them on your website. It's not my attempt at shameless promotion...not at all. Honest. Okay, it is, but I think it's completely adorable how you can create these little things.

Go on, put it on your site, wrap some HTML tags back here on them, and there you go. Or just look at them and say they are pretty.

Enjoy!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Chapter Fifteen: To Ti'nagal

(Note:  This is not official version and may be removed in the near future.  This do not reflect what is read in the podcast version, nor any other version you may encounter.  I have preserved the rough form for posterity -- or something like that.  This novel has since been rewritten.)



Hours passed and the morning slid away into afternoon. The sun rose high in the sky casting short shadows along the mountain face. James slung his freshly washed pack and all his other items over his shoulder. His sword was tied snugly to his pack and he looked longingly at the wall of trees ahead. Ti’nagal lay far below the mountain, to the east. He wished he could see it from where he stood. He knew the risk of going there. If Luthien is there, he thought.
James had not quite gotten over the horrible battle, and he knew that it would take far more time than a few hours, and more than a warm and soothing bath, to clear his mind of all the horrors and fear than blew through him like a torrent of wind. Yet he refused to see his reaction as abnormal. He had seen far too much death in the last couple of days to believe that he was weak. I’m only twelve.

Pea and Darl stood by, looking to where the mountainside declined to the east.
“We should be able to reach Ti’nagal tomorrow evening,” Darl said, running his hands through his beard. “You are welcome to join us.” Indicating the Lean.
“I have nothing left in this sacred place. And I would not wish to remain here knowing that my guard has fallen and the place I was bound to look after has become a corrupted bough of carnage.” The Lean shifted as if wind passed through him.
“Very well.” Then Darl started off into the trees. Pea and James followed and the Lean simply glided through the shadows, appearing here, disappearing there, and reappearing again.
This time there was no path to follow. Darl had to push his way through the brush and bushes, trampling anything else that got in his way. Birds chirped in protest; squirrels and other small animals scurried away as their hiding places were crushed to the ground. James didn’t like it, destroying things along the way, but he realized that there was no other way through the woods that would lead to Ti’nagal.
The woods, however, did not last long. Soon the trees and brush broke away to expose a mishmash of rock—boulders dozens of times larger than James, cliffs that fell to regions unknown, and farther below a massive chasm that divided the mountain into two pieces. Beyond he could see a short field that stopped abruptly as an immense tree line formed—the Forest of Gall. Ti’nagal lay some distance away where the mountains blocked his vision. He knew there were rivers there too, many that Luthien would be forced to cross to take the city.
James had not read about Ti’nagal in the etiquette book, but he got the impression that it was not a large city—not like Arlin City. We can’t stay there long. Luthien will destroy that place too. How much of his army survived the battle in Arlin City? How many will survive Afeir? There were other places in the valley too, he remembered. Nirlum sat not too far from Arlin City, and there were villages throughout the entire valley. Those villages would be burnt to the ground in minutes.
He shivered the thoughts away. He couldn’t think about it anymore.
Darl guided them down the hill at a fast pace. James slipped and fell several times; Pea luckily had the strong hands of someone far bigger than him—namely James—to catch him in his moments of inelegance. The Lean had the easiest journey of them all seeing how he could neither be affected by the physical world, nor could he affect it. He simply glided along, occasionally passed in and out of shadow, and seemed otherwise unhindered by the foreboding journey.
High noon passed and the sun rested above the point of the mountain behind them. Darl paused every so often for no more than a few minutes. James, though despising the journey and wanting to collapse and take a breather every moment, refused to stop for too long. Ti’nagal would not be visible for hours and he didn’t want to get lost in the dark trying to find it.
Hours glided by as if they were minutes. Darl avoided the crack down the middle of the mountain, instead cutting across the mountain face to the eastern side. The occasional sprout of trees forced them to take a longer route, but slowly, and surely, they reached the bottom of the mountain into grassland. Far off was the Forest of Gall and James came to realize just has massive it truly was. The trees were tall, larger than the redwoods back home he had become familiar with. They were so tall that their twisted limbs and branches made them look almost as if they were living beings. He imagined them with faces just as twisted.
Darl allowed them to rest for a moment and James, though anxious to get on with the journey, gratefully took the opportunity to site down. Darl passed the pouch of water around and everyone but the Lean took their fill.
James felt stronger now, more so than when he had first come to the Farthland. Something had happened to him, and he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. Perhaps it had to do with his mentality on the whole situation. Regardless, he began to sense that his endurance had increased and it couldn’t have been entirely from all the physical strain he had been forced to deal with.
“We need to move soon,” Darl said. “Ti’nagal could easily be a day and a half journey from here.”
The Lean appeared next to James. James flinched, still not used to the spirit’s constant random presence. Then he calmed and looked at the Lean questioningly.
“I am sorry for your suffering,” the Lean said.
James didn’t say anything; or rather he didn’t know what to say.
“You have endured what many, even soldiers, have not. That makes you mighty.”
He shook his head. “I’m not mighty.”
“Mmm,” the Lean knelt over into his shadow, “perhaps not now, but soon you will be.”
James looked away and said, “Did you ever have a name,” in an attempt to change the conversation. I don’t want to hear about how well I kill or how great I may be, he thought.
“I believe I once did. But that was a long time ago. Leans often spend millennia alone. We lose touch with who we once were. I cannot tell you my past, nor how long I have been in Arnur. Nor can I tell you anything of the history of Arnur. I simply exist and bare no knowledge of the past.”
“That’s sad.”
“How so?”
“You don’t remember the things that are most important. Who you are, where you came from, your own name.”
“They are trivial things.”
He juddered in disagreement. “No. Who you are is more important than what you do.”
“Who are you?”
“What do you mean who am I? I’m James. You know who I am. It’s you I’m concerned about.”
“Your name defines who you are?”
“No…” he stopped and curled his brow.
“If your name does not define who you are, then who are you?”
He leaned back and dropped his chin. He tried to think of the words to explain, but none came.
“Don’t be too proud about stumping him,” Pea said, apparently having heard the entire conversation, grinning wide. “He has book smarts, but I think his logic is a little skewed.”
“I am incapable of feeling proud.”
“Shame.” Pea inclined his head and gently tipped his hat. The little man still held onto what little civility he could.
“My logic is just fine; it’s this crazy world that makes it seem skewed.”
“Yes, of course. The crazy world that defies so many rules.”
“Exactly.”
“I’ll tell you this. If I were to come to Earth with you, could you say that your commuters…”
“Computers,” James corrected.
“Computers, yes. Could you say that I would find them logical?”
“No. You don’t know how they work. They would seem like…”
“Magic.”
James saw Pea’s point. “Yes.” Pea was right. Magic seemed so illogical and bizarre, but to an outsider so would the technology he had come to adore. Computers and websites would be like invisible forces and winds guided by song.
Pea, satisfied with his point, nodded his head and walked away. James could tell he hadn’t insulted the little man, but at the same time he thought maybe he had. Instinct, he told himself.
James turned back to the Lean. “So you can’t remember your name?”
“No.”
“Then we’ll have to come up with one for you.”
“I don’t require a name to exist.”
“No, but it would make talking with you a lot easier.”
“Very well.”
James looked away and examined the grasslands before him. What do you name a spirit? He twirled ideas around in his head. Names came, but none seemed right. Finally he decided to give it a rest, told the Lean he would come up with one later, and stood up. He didn’t want to sit any longer. He was tired, but not too tired to stop moving closer to Ti’nagal. Darl seemed to understand his intentions and in a matter of seconds began walking through knee high grass.
The Lor Range split right in two to create the enormous valley where Arlin City and Nirlum sat—though the people of the Farthland pluralized valley for no real reason at all. They were on the opposite side of the eastern most split of the Lor Range, which jutted out for several miles into a blunt point. Opposite of that, nestled in a miniature bay of mountains, was Ti’nagal.
James guessed that they had at least fifteen miles before they would be able to see their destination. The sun had already begun to creep behind the mountains. Long, deep shadows stretched across the landscape and what remained of the sun’s light shined dark orange on the horizon. He took a moment to peer back to where Arnur stood; only he could not see the sacred place. Who is Zagra? What did that Master say in that strange language?
James was grateful that the grassy floor along the mountains was relatively flat. He didn’t much care for the rocky terrain they had been taking. His feet felt the same.
When night had finally fallen, the stars began to shine, and the moon slowly made its presence known in the distance, Darl halted the group. They had stopped just near the tip of the blunt projection of mountains. There Darl started a small fire from the branches of a group of nearby bushes, produced a handful of food items and began cooking a crudely simplistic meal.
“I’ll take the watch tonight,” Darl said.
Nobody argued.
“And since you all hated my cooking last time, I’ve prepared warm salted meat and some roasted vegetables instead.”
Pea made a face. Darl tossed a potato at him.
“You’re welcome to cook your own meal.”
Pea harrumphed. “Yes, well I imagine if I could bring an entire banquet I wouldn’t be walking this rather deadly path.”
“And you’d likely be dead.”
Pea glared at that, took his share of the food and resigned to munching in silence on the opposite side of the fire. James, too, grabbed a slab of the meat and two chunks of something that looked like a carrot. He chewed the meat and winced. The salt overwhelmed the flavor of the meat. He shook off the feeling and wolfed down the rest of the meet before slowly chewing the carrot-like chunks he had been given. When he bit down he realized that they weren’t really carrots, but could easily be in the same family of vegetables. They tasted like carrots in the beginning before becoming like a potato. The flavor was dull, but he ate anyway.
When he had finished Darl moved away from the fire so that he no longer sat in the light. James put his pack under his head, curled up, and tried to sleep. He watched the flames as they flickered randomly, sparks shooting up and disappearing into the night air in a mock representation of the cycle of life. His eyelids became heavy and he fell asleep.
James began to wake and first considered slipping away to speak with Dulien, but it occurred to him that he had nothing to say to the spirit of his Fearl and instead he allowed himself to come fully into the conscious world.
Dawn had not yet arrived, and wouldn’t arrive for a few hours. Night clung desperately to the last moments before the sun would force its way over the horizon and present itself in all its bright glory.
He sat up and groaned as he stretched his neck. Then he noticed that the fire had been put out, leaving behind barely smoldering embers.
“Shhh,” Darl said harshly in a whisper.
James made eye contact. Darl pointed to his eyes and then out into the darkness of the grassland. He turned his gaze and tried to see whatever it was Darl wanted him to see. In all the black he could barely make out the dark shapes of the mountains, let alone where they begin and where the grassland became forest. Then something shifted, a shadow, a blade of grass, or something else. He squinted. It moved again. The motions were swift and sly, almost catlike, but he still could not make out what it was.
James gasped as the Lean sprang into existence next to him, visible only by his beady white eyes. He managed to stifle it, but was unable to avoid the stern glare of Darl.
“Lyphon,” the Lean said. The Lean strained with his voice, trying as much as possible to keep quiet. The task was more difficult it seemed for the Lean; James could tell. For a spirit with no true control over the physical world, whispering was nearly impossible.
“Are you certain?”
“No, but it is a monstrous creature. Blood runs from its maw and flesh dangles from his claws. It is not yet aware of your location.”
“We’ll have to face it.” Darl slunk back and produced his sword.
“Neither of us can use magic on it,” James whispered, indicating Pea with a slight shift of his arm.
Darl nodded.
“There is a pass not far from here,” the Lean said. “Just between the first and second mountains.”
James cringed. The Lean’s voice was too loud. He feared that the lyphon might hear and discern their exact location. “Is it safe?” He tried to lower his voice to give the Lean a clue.
“I do not know. It was safe a millennia ago.”
“I say we risk it Darl,” Pea said, also in a low whisper. “If anything we might confuse the lyphon, perhaps get it lost in there.”
Darl seemed to ponder this, though James could not be entirely certain what expression found its home on the old man’s face in the dead of night. Light breathing and the occasional sigh were the only indicators that Darl was in deep thought.
It seemed like an eternity before Darl finally spoke.
“We take the pass,” Darl said. “Can you go ahead and check if the pass is still safe?”
“I would get there no faster than you would. I cannot materialize where I have no been before.”
Darl grunted quietly. “Let’s move…”
None of them hesitated. In less than a minute everything was packed tightly, packs were slung over shoulders, and swords drawn. James carried his sword delicately, the image of the carnage in Arnur still fresh in his mind. He wasn’t sure if he could defend himself again like he had there, but he knew he would have to at some point.
Walking in the dark, even though some light filtered in from the moon beyond the mountains, proved to be far more difficult than James had anticipated. Even Darl seemed to have trouble. Bushes seemed to come out of nowhere; rocks seemed to pop up from the ground to grab at unsuspecting feet. Twice James nearly toppled over managing to save himself only by thrusting is sword into the ground. Darl and Pea faired no better. The enormous shadow of the two mountains, between which the pass nestled, looked like hulking black forms reaching for the sky, their points like two hands placed together in a praying stance.
The pass, unlike the gold path to Arnur, presented itself brightly, or rather darkly, in between the mountains. It stuck out like a sore thumb as soon as some glimmer of light hit it. It was not like any path James was familiar with. Though little light reached it, he could tell that both walls were curved and relatively smooth as if they once formed a circle. And indeed they once had. The ceiling now found its home in pieces on the floor, leaving the path open to the night air and the pitch shadow of the mountains. James surmised that the path would only be fully lit at noon when the sun rested straight overhead.
James tripped over a rock and this time could not stop himself. He landed hard on his stomach on another rock and felt his sword slip from his hand and clang loudly to the ground. No berating came, though he had expected Darl to whirl around on him to sling every imaginable insult his direction. I’m lucky this time, he thought.
He stood up and delicately worked his way around the rock. He took baby steps until his foot hit his sword. It clanged and he grabbed it quickly. A heavy hand slapped him in the back of his head. He winced, but didn’t say anything.
James concentrated on his footing. His eyes somehow had adjusted enough to the point where he could at least see the dark forms of the rocks before he stepped on them. This allowed him to maneuver around large ones, but he could not avoid ones that risked coming loose, and as a result he found that every step was a shaky one.
An hour passed, or at least what he thought was an hour, and a single shine of light filtered through the sky painting it a dark blue. The sky gradually grew brighter finally bringing form to the pass. Dawn approached at a crawl. James smiled internally, but on the outside he could express nothing but concern. With light coming through the pass, any creature could easily see them. Darkness had both been their friend and foe.
The Lean disappeared for a brief moment. Before he could blink the Lean reappeared next to Darl.
“It still follows,” the Lean said, rising up and down as he passed over the rocky terrain. “Not far, but gaining.”
Darl grumbled. “We’ve no choice.”
“Right,” Pea said.
Darl dropped his pack hard on the ground. “Pea, I want you behind James and I. We’ll keep him busy so you can work your magic.”
“There’re plenty of rocks for me to use. So long as he doesn’t move too fast…” Pea trailed off and placed his pack gently on the ground next to Darl’s.
James let his pack fall to the ground as well and gripped his sword fearfully. He had faced the lyphon before and it had instilled such fear in him that even the thought of having to face it again brought chills. The wide toothy grin was still fresh in his mind. Regardless, he raised his sword, ignoring the weight his subconscious tried to add to the weapon.
“Don’t lunge,” Darl said to him. “Just keep it back. Let it make the first mistake. We have the upper hand so long as we have numbers.”
He nodded.
The lyphon appeared through the shadows farther down the pass. It walked like a giant house cat, its muscular shoulders rippling with each step it took. Blood dribbled from its mouth and struck the ground, seeping into the earth. Soon he could hear its claws clack-clacking on the rocks and the familiar wet pant. The lyphon walked, apparently content to move at a slow pace rather than wasting energy.
“Turn back where you came from,” Darl said with conviction, sending his voice in an echo through the pass.
The lyphon did not stop; rather it continued forward until it stood twenty feet away. Then it began to pace back and forth while watching with its two wicked cat eyes. James thought he heard the creature laugh, but second guessed.
“Hand over the boy and you can go on your way,” the lyphon said.
“Are you the one they call Nara’karesh?”
“I have been called that.”
“And you are a beast from Loe?”
“Yes.”
“Then I cannot give you this boy. Not so long as I still live.”
Nara’karesh made a vibrating wheezy sound—a laugh of sorts. “You cannot defeat me.”
“We have once. And we will again. We are prepared now.”
Another wheeze. “You defeated me in closed quarters. Here,” Nara’karesh looked side to side, “there is open ground. Plenty of space to move. I ask this one last time, as a request from my master and a show of good will. Give me the boy and you will be spared.”
Darl stood firm. James shook, but maintained his composure to some extent.
“Then your fates have been decided.”
With that Nara’karesh leapt from its rock and bound at an amazing speed up the side of the pass, curling around and coming up from behind James through the shadows that still held control over the sun. James turned just in time to face the creature and held his sword at the ready. Nara’karesh raised its bulk and lashed forward with a claw. It struck his sword, but he managed to get it back up just as Darl lunged forward with a strike. The beast fell away and circled again. This time James knew what to expect and turned smoothly and faced the creature again. Claws slashed at him, he dodged, batted the arms away, but before Darl could come in for a strike the beast jumped back.
The earth suddenly shook. James wobbled and regained his balance. Nara’karesh laughed louder this time.
“The earth is so easy to corrupt here!” Another shake.
“The blood from his mouth,” Pea said, levitating a large jagged stone nearby, “it’s from Loe. He’s corrupting the earth.”
Nara’karesh raced forward again. Pea let loose his stone. It flew like an arrow through the air, but the beast rolled sideways effortlessly and continued forward. The stone hit the ground at such a speed that it shattered and sent shards in every direction. James covered his face as bits slammed into his arm and body. He grunted as a few left scratches and small cuts in his skin, then he pulled his arm down and found the beast jumping through the air, claws extended and bloodied mouth wide open like a gaping hole of putrid death.
James brought his sword up, but too late as Nara’karesh knocked it from his hand and pushed him to the ground. Another stone launched through the air, but the beast easily moved aside with a long cat-like leap, perching for a brief moment on a tall pointed rock outcrop, then slipped into a series of shadows and moved across the center of the pass in a blur of black fur.
James marveled at the lyphon’s speed. He had no questions now as to how the creature had managed to sneak up on all the soldiers in the Lord’s Keep in Arlin City. Now he fully understood just how dangerous this creature was.
He scrambled to his feet and followed the creature with his eyes as it made a wide arc around them. His sword was lost somewhere in the shadows. Then the creature stopped and took a couple steps forward and paused.
“You realize the pointlessness of your actions, don’t you?” Nara’karesh said, stepping forward once more.
Darl turned to face the creature, having apparently lost site of it. “Nothing is pointless if it serves a good cause.”
“And in your death you would be serving a good cause?”
James searched for his sword again, but it was nowhere to be seen.
“If my death serves to stall Luthien in his insanity, then yes.”
“So be it. I will take pleasure in cleaning the flesh from your face.” Nara’karesh washed a dribbling dark tongue over its lips.
James quivered, then looked above the lyphon. There just above where the pass became mountain, embedded deep within the rock, was a protrusion of stones. He eyed it for a moment, then turned ever so slightly to Pea and said, “Follow my lead.” Then he mouthed the words ‘look up’, hoping that Pea would be able to see the motion in the dark.
“Why do you serve Luthien?” he said. “What’s in it for you?” He pulled at the magic in the back of his mind, yanking huge torrents of it and hoping he wouldn’t pull too much. As he did this he slowly moved back and farther down the pass, placing a little more distance between he and the lyphon.
“I do not serve Luthien. I only serve the one who seeks to use his power.” Nara’karesh moved around to the center of the pass, taking elegant strides. “I have free reign in this world when opposition is put to rest. Free reign to do as I please for as long as my physical being can survive.”
Magic whirled to life behind him; Pea had caught on to his plan. Almost enough, he thought.
“So you seek to disrupt the balance between Loe and the Halls of the Great Fathers for your own selfish reasons,” Darl broke in.
James glanced at Darl. He’s in on it too.
“Loe is a lovely place,” Nara’karesh took a quick step forward and grinned as the three flinched and moved back. “I’m afraid it has grown quite stale in these last few decades. I am keener to fresher meats, ones that have not been tainted by judgment.”
A sudden acute sense of his surroundings sent James’ mind into a spiral. His magic and Pea’s were sending throbs of whirling energy around him. He could feel it through his fingertips pulling at the very depths of his mind. There’s so much.
Nara’karesh roared with phlegm filled laughter, the sound of which seemed to shake the earth, or perhaps it was simply the overload of energy pulsing through every tip of his body that gave him that sense.
“You cannot use magic on me, not unless you wish me to consume your soul. This is pointless.”
Magic overwhelmed him now, brimming over his senses like a cup filled too quickly with bubbling liquid. Then, when he could hold on no more he said, “This magic…” pausing, shaking and nearly toppling backwards, “is not meant for you…Nara’karesh…” Then he released it, guiding it with the help of Pea like an arrow into the protrusion of rock, his hand raised weakly, curved. He could not see the energy rippling out of him, but he could feel each wave as it tore through him with no care for his body. Yet, no pain affected his senses, only a sense of relief. The resonating sound of invisible force slamming against rock blew down through the pass like wind. His hair flittered back, sand and dust pushed into his eyes.
Then Nara’karesh realized what his intentions were and looked up just in time to see the entire outcrop rip out of the mountain and come crashing down in an avalanche of rocks in all shapes, sizes, and colors.
The complete look of surprise on the lyphon’s face made James smile even as he fell backward. He held tight to his vision with what little energy he had left. He had to see the outcome of his efforts.
Nara’karesh turned, genuine fear deep in its blood-red eyes. It roared a blood splattering, wet and ear splitting roar akin to a lion and a bear combined. The lyphon bounded forward, fear and vengeance clear in its snarling face.
The entire weight of the mountain seemed to crash down into the pass. A wave of rocks careened into Nara’karesh. It cried out in vein—a deep whimper like a massive dog. Rocks rived the creature from the ground. Dust, like a wall of darkness even darker than the near lightless world of the pass, washed forward.
Then complete and utter darkness overcame him—darker than when even the moon could not shine its light into the pass, darker than when the moon could not shine at all. It was darkness unlike any he had experienced for here he was awake and conscious of his surroundings.
The dust forced its way into his lungs. He coughed, and then covered his face. The rumble of rocks still sounded, echoing seemingly forever down both ends of the pass. He lay there with a hint of satisfaction and the feeling of paralysis as all his energy finally left him and he found that even thinking about moving hurt.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Maps!

I present to everyone who wishes to see the maps of Traea. First is my original hand drawn map. It's a little difficult to see, but good nonetheless.
Next is the final version done by a lovely professional cartographer by the name of Steff Worthington
Hope you all enjoy the image. Click it to see the full version of it of course!

Let me know what you all think! Note on all these maps. Clicking them will take you to a larger image. You can then expand those images. In Firefox it should show as a magnifying glass with a + in it when you put the cursor of the image. Just click and it will expand.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Subplots: How Much Is Too Much?

It has occurred to me as I attempt to catch up on the novel posting that something I should discuss is subplots. I have been lax on the whole writing thing, and that is partly my fault and partly the fault of fate, which will be in another discussion of course.

As for subplots, I find that sometimes I start adding in so many of them that it gets to the point where I have to ask myself "how much is too much?" At this point it is literally impossible for me to, in a decent enough fashion, end WISB in one novel. I could end it, but it would mean the novel itself would be of a caliber I wouldn't be proud of and I don't think my readers, as few as they are, would be all that interested in a terribly shortwinded attempt to tie up all the loose ends. As such, we'll just have to carry those over into a second book and see what happens from there.
Do any of you find the same problem with your subplots? I have quite a few going in WISB. Thus far the main plot is James trying to save Laura and get home. There are just too many subplots to name, and most of them are in the form of questions as I haven't fleshed out enough of the ideas to adequately give an idea of the direction they are going.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

I Must Apologize...

I am not going to be able to get the chapter up this weekend. I'm trying, but the following is the cause of my inability to write:
Yesterday was actually a good day. I drove down with my friend to UCSC to visit the campus. I've decided I want to go there. We went, we came back, all was well. The lady at my work had a pair of geckos she wanted me to take from her stepson, so when we got to her house on the way home I went to go get them. One of the geckos had died, so they had buried him, and the second one which they had said was just "a little thin" turned out to be far worse. This is what is causing me grief and preventing me from finishing the chapter (I have 8 pages written...but it's not enough).This animal is in the worst condition I have ever seen one in. I own 11 of this specific breed (Leopard Gecko) and have had my fair share of issues, but nothing like this, and in fact I would never let it get like this. This is unacceptable in my opinion. The animal has a disease called "Metabolic Bone Disease", which basically caused deformities in its bones. It also has a lot of other issues which I can't name, and who knows if it has parasites. Its legs are the shape of U's. He can walk on them, but barely. His jaw and face are deformed because of a lack of calcium and MBD. He has saggy skin and his tail is just skin and bones. Here is an example, but not nearly as bad as this little fella is, of what a healthy leo should look like, and an unhealthy one:
You can obviously guess what a healthy one looks like. The unhealthy one in the picture has MBD. You can see the deformities.
The leo I took has swollen shut eyes, one of which it managed to open and looks to have some sort of terrible eye infection. I'm surprised the poor thing can even lift its head.
This is what has caused me so much grief in the last 12 hours. I am in a horrible position right now. This animal is suffering. I should put it to sleep. There is a very very very very very x infinity, remote chance this animal could survive, but most doors are looking towards death. I am sick to my stomach thinking about this because I hate the thought of putting animals to sleep. And EVEN MORE SICK to think that this animal shouldn't have to be because if it had been cared for appropriately, taken to the vet MONTHS--yes months, not days, weeks, but MONTHS--ago it would likely have lived a very healthy life. It's tearing me up inside because I cannot stand the thought of putting animals to sleep. It hurts so much. I've had to do it once and it killed me, but in that instance it wasn't from neglect. The animal was attacked and I had no choice. This animal was neglected! It was left like this for months to suffer and get in this condition.
So I apologize everyone. I will do everything I can to get two chapters up next weekend, or try to get this chapter up in the middle of the week.
...

Friday, April 06, 2007

Book Review: The Elder Gods by David & Leigh Eddings

David Eddings has earned himself a very strong reputation as a great fantasy writer. I am familiar with his earlier work simply because I have heard of it, but have not had the opportunity to read it. I imagine, though, that for those that are a fan of his work, this particular novel will read as less than amazing.
The four god siblings--Zelana, Veltan, Dahlaine, and Aracia--are on their way to going back to 'sleep' so that their counterparts can return to run the world for a while. But things have gone haywire when a long told event begins to take place. That-Called-the-Vlagh has begun assembling its armies and now wishes to control the world. But That-Called-the-Vlagh has begun in Zelana's domain first, where her people are nothing more than Native American-esque people who possess no technology whatsoever. Zelena finds she must convince her siblings and the people of their domains to help aid in the oncoming war.
(That is a severely diluted synopsis...quite frankly there is way too much going on for me to post an accurate synopsis without giving everything away).
The Elder Gods is not necessarily a terrible novel, but it is a severely lacking novel. The story begins much like a mythological tale would, which essentially is information the reader doesn't necessarily need at first. We generally can grasp the concept of multiple gods without need of explanation, and again we don't need an explanation of who the bad guys are from the start. Such information should be learned by the main characters.
The characters in this novel are varied. Some of the best characters should have remained the main human characters, but unfortunately Eddings goes off on some characters that really aren't all that important at all. Characters of note are: Captain Sorgan Hook-beak, Longbow, and Rabbit. There are secondary characters I liked too--Eleria especially. Now, Eddings runs into a problem I've mentioned before in reference to other books: he has way too many character viewpoints going on. Three would have sufficed, but Eddings switching POV not only in the beginning half, but in the second half as well. There is no clearly defined main character. Zelena, who starts as the main character, suddenly falls off into no-man's land and doesn't even get the benefit of being important towards the end of the book. Hook-beak, who should have had a greater presence, has the same issue towards the end as well. Rabbit, who we know about for a while and suddenly are thrown into his head, gains a presence half way through the book rather than having one earlier. I liked Rabbit, but the problem was that he wasn't really introduced until Longbow speaks to him. This POV jumping and what not really hurts the pace of the novel.
Another issue was that Eddings constantly has characters retell the same information to other characters. Rather than just saying "He told Hook-beak what Eleria had mentioned to him" or something of that nature, he goes on for huge paragraphs having the characters tell the information. This happens over and over until the last 30 pages when characters stop doing that and he simply does what I mentioned in the quotes. Why all of a sudden? I don't get it. But it wastes valuable time and space to have the characters do this over and over.
One thing I did notice about this book is that it is written almost as if it were intended for a younger audience. The language indicates this very much. That isn't a bad thing, but it does play out in how the individual characters speak, which comes off as somewhat unbelievable. Characters with huge reputations likely would not speak like 10 year olds.
Last of my issues was with the battles. I'm going to spoil this for everyone because I want to. Towards the end all these people from other continents have been paid to come out and fight the battle. Nothing bad happens to the army as it travels across a wide ocean. Then again, when they begin to fight the enemy, which is supposed to be somewhat of a hive mind, first a massive flood takes place that kills the first wave. Then a volcano explodes and kills the rest of the Vlagh army. Very few good guys actually die, which is disturbing because Eddings tries to make it seem like the Vlagh is actually rather sneaky, which would make for a rather prolonged and arduous battle. Needless to say, EVERYTHING GOES RIGHT FOR THE GOOD GUYS. Where's the conflict? Shouldn't something go wrong? Shouldn't something be hard?

Now, I've rambled on and on about this book. I personally would not recommend this to anyone unless you are a die hard Eddings fan. It is probably not even close to his best work. So, read at your own risk.