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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Meme: Five Things I Want To Write

Okay, I'm starting a meme of my own, sorta. I'm tagging anyone and everyone that reads that. Of course it is primarily aimed towards fellow writers, but oh well :P. So it is a requirement that everyone who reads this does it. Mwahaha. Okay, not really, but still.

So here is how it works.
1) Write about the top five writing projects you want to do. Books, short stories, whatever.
2) Post the rules and the link to where you got the Meme from in the first place.
3) Tag people.

Here is mine:

1) Finish WISB, the second book, and third book, and potentially any books that might follow. I'm shooting to finish this in at most three books. If I can do it in two, sweet. And of course I would loooooove to go on for many more books.
2) Write an epic science fiction space opera novel. Not Star Wars epic, but just, well, epic. More politically based space opera. I don't have an idea as of right now. I just want to write one.
3) Write an amazing trilogy of zombie novels that attempts to take a new spin on the genre. I have been wanting to write a zombie novel for the longest time. The problem is in being original in a field that has been bastardized and humiliated by garbage and by legitimately hilarious spoof films (Shaun of the Dead or Biozombie anyone?). That's a dilemma I'm still having. I can't write something I know has already been written. 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later are possibly the only films to make any revolutionary changes to the traditional feel of zombie films, and unfortunately even that is being bastardized by cheap rip-off's and remakes. In the end, if I ever write such a trilogy, I want to turn them into screenplays and start the biggest budget horror film series ever. And Peter Jackson will direct my dreams at least.
4) Finish writing all my short stories that are sitting around in my story bank. Europa Strain, Artemis, Soul For Sale. Then get them published. It's a lot of work :S.
5) Write a PhD. dissertation on something related to dystopian literature. I'm not sure what though. Perhaps a study in the trends and the evolution of the genre as a whole.

So, ha! You've all been tagged!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Chapter Eighteen: The Forest of Gall and the Little People

(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.)

Dawn had come and gone faster than James had thought possible. Little light could push through the canopy to the forest floor. The foliage was so dense that at times they were forced off the raggedy path to get over fallen trees or twisted walls of roots. He hadn’t seen anything like it before. Even in Woodton, where the trees and brush were considerably thick, it would have been easier to travel than here in the Forest of Gall.
The rumble of the earth had long passed away, or perhaps it was that they had traveled far enough now that they could not feel the vibrations. Either way, James knew that Luthien would be marching on Ti’nagal and, despite the two rivers of magma, the city would fall. There were not enough soldiers, nor enough fortifications or weaponry to repel the army of thousands upon thousands.
As it was, they had traveled through most of what seemed to be morning, moving constantly at a northward direction. There were little to no sharp turns, though the path wound back and forth like a slithering snake. Birds and other creatures made miniscule amounts of noise as they traveled, but every so often they heard the cry of tiny mammals, like a pack of bickering squirrels in the distance. But James did not attribute these new noises to anything that Belrin had told them about the creatures that lived here. The calls were not sentient, not as far as he could tell. They were rodent in nature, like some distant and altogether other-worldly relative to the animals he had become familiar with back home. He imagined the little creatures with bushy tails, collecting nuts and hopping tree to tree and screeching whenever a predator or competitor appeared.

Soon the sun began to take its leave and the light faded. Pea retrieved his torch and lit it with magic. The light shined bright and cast dark shadows beyond its circle. Here the light had places to go, unlike back in the tunnel beneath the river.
“We should set up camp soon,” Pea said.
Darl grunted. “I would be apprehensive to stay the night here in this place. It is too alive for my tastes.”
“It’ll take us a few days to get through this,” James said. “It’s not exactly a straight shoot through the woods.”
“I know, but if we can help it, I would prefer not putting ourselves in a position to become targets.”
“You think there is truth to what Belrin said.” Pea leaned sideways so that he was visible behind Bel’ahtor’s head. James looked back, realizing by this point that he did not have to control Mirdur’eth in any fashion—the animal would walk without his aid.
“I think there is enough truth there to be cautious. If Belrin is wrong and there are no dangerous creatures living here, then we have sprites and the like that might hinder our journey while we sleep. They are mischievous little creatures.”
“As there are everywhere.”
“Let’s just go farther. I do not feel even the slightest comfortable here.”
The Blaersteeds pushed on, passing through brush and long reaching tree limbs as if they were nothing more than minor hindrances. Pale moonlight made its way through the canopy; the sun made its last stand at the horizon before slowly dipping away into the mountains. Stars shined above, visible in rare holes in the forest.
Silence reigned supreme in the Forest of Gall. Night brought with it no sounds other than the soft clacks of the Blaersteeds. Even the strange squirrel noises in the distance were gone, replaced now by nothing. It felt too silent to James. He couldn’t concentrate on anything else. The silence was too abnormal. He had never been in a forest that had no sound in the night. He could remember the owls hooting loud and clear in Woodton. There could be no mistake that this forest in the land of Traea was silent for a very specific reason and he knew deep down that it had nothing to do with there being a lack of night creatures. Something made life here stay quiet; something frightening even to those that wandered in the dark.
A few more hours passed and the forest parted slightly, opening the path fully to the night sky, bathing it in the white-blue light of the moon. James gathered that this might be the closest thing to a clearing in the Forest of Gall. It provided a mere ten feet of open space, but it looked like a fissure in the earth covered on both sides by impenetrable walls of trees. Here Mirdur’eth stopped and refused to go any farther no matter how hard he tried to coax the black steed. He turned back to find that both Pea and Darl were at a standstill too. Darl looked far from happy about it. James thought that at any moment the old man would start screaming at his horse.
But no such thing happened. Darl finally gave up, peered grumpily at James, and said, “Apparently we can’t go any farther.”
James smiled. “These horses have minds of their own.”
Mirdur’eth snorted loudly.
“Sorry, I meant Blaersteeds.”
The steed nodded once and shuddered.
“We’ll make camp here,” Darl said, dismounting and guiding his steed to the center of the clearing. “Collect some wood for a fire,” he said to James. “Not much. Just enough for a small flame.” Then the old man tied his steed to a root that stuck up in a tall curve from the center of the path. James dropped and quickly did the same, though Mirdur’eth shifted uncomfortably. Pea was not far behind with his torch.
James jogged to the edge of the clearing. The light from Pea’s torch cast long shadows here as if there were dozens of Leans all encircled by bright rays of moonlight. He began piling bits of wood—twigs, sticks, and bark—into his arms. There was plenty there near the edge of the forest and before long he had a decent arm full. He returned it to Darl and went back for more. Then one of the trees caught his eye. Of all the tree trunks along the edge, this one in particular stood out the most. Its entire side, facing at his best guess to the west, was covered in a thick matt of moss. The verdant moss was a bright shade of green intermingled with speckles of black, gray, and dark green. Even little shimmers of silver could be seen there. He found himself perplexed by it, not because he had never seen moss before, but because something about the moss seemed unnatural, even somewhat alien. Being one for knowledge and understanding, he reached out and gently ran his fingers on the moss. It was pillow-soft to the touch and smooth like a well polished stone.
Then something surprising happened. As he ran his hands over the moss, intrigued by the astonied feeling on the sensitive edges of his fingers, the mass shivered. Then, before he could think twice about it, two eyes opened—pale green opals that gleamed with the blank stare of a wild animal. They were at eye level and he took a quick step back. The moss quivered again, and then, suddenly, a tiny little creature hopped off of the tree trunk. It stood barely two and a half feet tall and had the shape of a small child. From head to toe it was covered in green moss as if the plant itself was a part of the creature. It looked like a tiny human covered in plant-life rather than clothes. Its eyes, however, forced him to think twice before speaking, for he came to the conclusion somewhere far in his mind that this creature would not understand his words nor his physical movements.
Then, the little moss creature screeched, a sound like a human child letting out a blood curdling scream, and bolted into the forest, hopping and disappearing into the darkness.
James stood and took several steps back from the forest wall. He took a gander left and right, forwards and backwards. There were no other visible trees covered in the thick moss. He made the last few steps to the center of the clearing and stood, surveying the two forest walls cautiously. Darl and Pea were standing next to him.
“I saw something,” he said.
“And we heard it,” Pea said.
“It was a little man. Only covered in moss. A green man. One of the Littlekind maybe.”
“The Moss People. La’laskiné, as they are known among the Littlekind. An old word from the same language we heard in Arnur. It means the People of the Moss.”
“Could they be the things Belrin was talking about?”
Pea shook his head slowly. “Not likely. They rarely speak and purposefully avoid contact with outsiders, usually. They have been known to leave piles of fruit and vegetables for weary travelers. And, they are not too fond of being surprised.”
James caught the hint of a smirk on Pea’s face.
“Back to the fire then,” Darl said.
A small fire crackled to life some minutes later. The Blaersteeds laid down in a large tuft of grass and Pea went to retrieve food from the panniers. When he returned a huge grin was on his little face.
“Tonight we eat like kings!”
Darl looked up questioningly.
“Boiled Fidget Fowl eggs!”
James beamed, then looked at Darl, who seemed slightly put off by Pea’s armful. “They’ll go bad if we don’t eat them now Darl,” James said. “Besides, I think we all deserve a treat.”
“James, my dear boy, you have not spoken truer words before!”
Darl had no chance to protest before Pea began shoving eggs onto sticks. He roasted them on the fire. Soon everyone had their share of the delicious things and James conceded that he could eat no more—four Fidget Fowl eggs was his limit. He hadn’t noticed before how easily the eggs filled his stomach.
Then blankets were laid out around the fire. Darl made the decision to keep watch, taking the first shift for himself. James quickly fell asleep, drifting off into dream world, something which he sorely missed. He had not dreamed of anything good in a long time and now, as happy thoughts filled his mind, he found himself wandering through green pastures under glimmering sunlight. Birds chirped and deer grazed nearby. All thoughts of the pain and suffering around him in the last few days were gone. Now all he could think of was the beauty of Traea before Luthien—the golden fields by Arlin City, Triska’s beautifully scented home, and Woodton, before he had learned of this other world. He saw his parents in his dream, and they came to him with outstretched arms. He hugged them. And Laura was there, off climbing trees in the distance. He waved to her.
Then, his dreams turned to darkness. His parents faded away, the green pastures and golden fields erupted in flames, and Laura was suddenly chained in a mechanical cage. Bulbous shackles covered her hands and wrists, feet and ankles. Her eyes were blank, staring forward as strange rays of blue and gray light covered her head. He tried to run, but every place he turned ended in a stone wall. He looked back again and there was the eye, just as icy blue the first time he had seen it. But this time it was not just hovering in the darkness of a bag. This time the eye was connected to a face—the face of Luthien. He stumbled back, but could not escape. The dream world was too strong. Luthien stood tall, clad in black armor and a long black cloak. His gauntlets were a dark shade of gray, as if intentionally made so that they bore no traces of silver. He had only one eye—the eye that he could see the future with. It blinked and in the other socket was nothing but the black tunnel that led into his head. Luthien reached for him and he fell over.
James woke, but not fully, not entirely. Immediately he pushed himself into paralysis, turning the world around him into a haze. He cried out for Dulien and in the back of his mind he felt the connection come to life.
I dreamed of Luthien.
“I know,” Dulien said. “Your dreams might mean nothing, but they serve as a warning to you. Be careful. Luthien is as frightening as your dream suggested.”
Strange shapes, distorted by his paralyzed state, came into view. He ignored them.
Do you know anything of the ancient language?
Al’na ner’avón ul al’soral la’muért. What does it mean?
For a while Dulien said nothing. His mind was deathly quiet; not even his own thoughts made a sound.
Then, with a long sigh that echoed in his mind, Dulien said, “The one who rides in the shadow of the dead. It refers to…”
“Yes. But I do not know the origins of the name.”
What exactly does it mean?
“Some in this world dwell in dark magic. Some in the light. Some are neutral. Those that dwell in the magic of the darkest of dark are known to walk among the dead, for they are nothing short of dead themselves. Someone who rides in the shadow of the dead is far worse. That person is not dead and is not bound the laws of the dead. One who rides among the dead is one that controls the dead.”
The thought of zombies came into his mind. He’d seen a few films before and he couldn’t imagine someone controlling such flesh-thirsty creatures.
“There are worse things than zombies in the world.”
He agreed, conveying the physical nod in his mind to Dulien. Lyphons, for example. Tell me, you said you didn’t choose me. How did we end up connected like this?
“Most Fearls make a decision. There are some that do not. There are higher powers that command greater respect than the laws of this world allow. So, I did not choose this connection, but neither do I dislike it. I was destined for this, to be connected to an off-worlder. That was the decision of the Great Fathers.”
Was it their decision for you not to ascend into the Halls?
“No, that was my own. I chose to live among those that stay within the middle. A third realm exists for those of us who do not wish to be dispersed into the heavens. At least, for a time. I chose to stay here to serve a greater purpose. And so I have.”
So, you’re not dead, but you’re not living? A mental image of agreement passed through him. So, you’re sort of like the undead?
“Think of me as un-judged.”
Light flashed in his mind and he knew immediately that Dulien had gone elsewhere. The world came back to him, shadows and all. His vision cleared and he found himself face to face with the same creature from that night—a Moss Person. At first he thought he was still in a dream, but then it dawned on him that this was real. It breathed cold on his face and he let out a yelp. The Moss Person jumped back, made a chittering noise, and knelt low to its knees cautiously. James sat up. There were dozens of Moss People all around the camp. Some were tall, some short, and all under three feet. They looked at him with their wild eyes, watching him with interest as if he were a newfound toy. There was another creature too, one that was not a Moss Person. It stood a mere twenty inches high. It had brown fur all over its body, except its feet, hands, and face. Two giant deep chocolate eyes, a short nose, and two large ears that stuck out slightly from the sides of it head all gave James the impression that this creature was some sort of relative to the Bush Baby. It had a tail too, long like a cat.
“Pea!” he said. Pea sat bolt upright; he could see it in his peripheral vision. “Darl!” The old man did not get up and when he looked over he found that Darl had fallen asleep at his post, sword dug into the ground and head resting on the hilt.
“I’m getting rather tired of this waking up to surprises bit,” Pea said.
The sun was now climbing over the horizon, making it early morning. There was light in the clearing and the fire had gone out some time ago.
The Bush Baby creature came forward, chattered with the Moss Person that James had met earlier, and then raised its arms out. It walked too human for his liking.
“It seems you have startled the little people of the forest, and the forest itself. You must bring a terrible omen to them,” it said with a masculine voice. “I am Tum Tum. You have already met Tiddle.” He chattered again with the one named Tiddle. “You come to the forest bearing gifts.”
James got up. “Gifts.”
“Why else would you drag three horses into the Forest of Gall? Certainly not to escape some ill fate.”
He gulped. “Yes, actually.”
“Goodness. Well that changes things.” Tum Tum looked back to his companions and said something in the strange chitter-chattering and screeching language. “My good friends here think that it would be prudent to sing you a song. But I find that rather rude considering we have not been formally introduced.”
“Forgive us,” Pea said, “we are not familiar with this part of the world. I am Pantifilus of the Farthland, or what remains of it. But you may call me Pea.” Pea bowed.
James bowed also. “I am James.”
“And where might you be from young lad?”
He wasn’t sure how to answer. Should I tell the truth or lie? He decided it best to say, “I am not from any place that you would know.”
“Well said. Now, shall I sing a song? It is custom.”
James looked at Pea, who shrugged. “Sure.”
Tum Tum cleared his throat, as did the collection of Moss People. Then the Moss People hummed the bass line, a smooth and melodious sound like a tiny section of cellos. Tum Tum began:
“In the land of trees where all is green
There live such people as them and me,
Under starry skies and gentle wind
We sing this song with joyous glee.
Tum Tum Little they call me here,
‘A Brownie man’ do they declare!
‘Tiddle the Wink does he befriend
Both as clean as the rivers fair’.
Tum Tum is me and I’ll be sure
That what they say is true today
For surely you would like to stay
With Tum Tum Little the pure and gay!
And to all of you the people claim
‘Tum Tum Little is the same
As the grassy knolls and Mossy Maids
A gent all ‘round that never fades’.
‘Tum Tum Little and Tiddle the Wink
Are friends to all in the em’rald brink.
Little Tum Tum and Winking Tiddle,
Listen now for their faddle fiddle’.
Then Tum Tum and Tiddle each produced out of thin air golden fiddles and emerald green bows. The two of them struck their fiddles and began playing a folksy duet, fast paced and utterly complex. James found himself bobbing to the song and soon the humming Moss People were clapping. Tum Tum’s legs began to move and soon the Brownie was dancing back and forth as he played. Then, in a single bound, Tum Tum flipped backwards and landed on top of Tiddle’s head and together they played the last few beats of the song. The song ended with a de-diddle-diddle and a loud ‘hey’ from the entire group.
James and Pea both clapped. Tum Tum hopped down and bowed along with Tiddle. Then James looked over at Darl, expecting now that the old man would be up and severely angry with himself for falling asleep. But Darl was in the same position as before.
“I’m surprised he’s still sleeping,” James said. Pea looked up at him and he tipped his head toward Darl.
“Oh him?” Tum Tum said. “No, he’s just under the spell of the Moss Maidens. Tiddle here determined he was the grumpy one in the group.”
“I’d say that Tiddle has a good eye, but I think it is pretty obvious who has the temper,” Pea said, laughing.
“Will he be alright?”
Tum Tum skipped over to where Darl sat and flicked the old man in the ear and played several off key notes on his fiddle. “Yup, perfectly.”
“You can’t be the strange creatures the people of Ti’nagal were talking about.” James crossed his arms.
“Us? Oh, well I suppose it would be. What do they say about us in that place?”
Pea jumped in. “That you warn travelers and become violent when they don’t leave.”
“Well that’s a half-truth if I’ve ever heard one.” Tum Tum skipped back to the center. “I think the folks that tell those lies forget to mention that they refused to listen to our songs and so we banished them from the Forest of Gall. Perhaps they didn’t want to have the blame placed on themselves. No matter, your passage will be a wonderful journey indeed!” Then Tum Tum held himself up by his tail.
“It was a nice song,” James said.
“Nice? Only nice?”
“Better than nice. Beautiful. Wonderful.”
“That’s more like it. Now tell me, where are you off to?”
“Nor’sigal. As soon as we can,” Pea said.
“Goodness, you should find a better place to visit than that dreadful old city. A city of plump wealthies as I say. Perhaps you could come visit Buschgrossmutter. She would be pleased to meet outsider folk.”
“I’m afraid we have to decline your invitation.” Pea bowed gently. “We have prior engagements in Nor’sigal unfortunately. They cannot be changed at this time.”
James nodded agreement, then said, “We could come another time. As soon as we are done with our journey.”
“Make it a promise?”
“I promise I’ll come.”
“I promise as well.”
“Good! Then shall we wake the grumpy one?” Tum Tum dropped from his tail and clapped his hands.
* * *
Darl had not woken happy, and James didn’t blame him. Learning that you have been put under a spell is not easy to take, especially if you are the grumpy type. When Darl woke his first instinct was to draw his sword, but the result of this movement were farcical trips, stumbles, and falls, until Darl landed face first with both hands clasping the hilt of his sword between his legs. The Moss People howled with laughter; James couldn’t resist.
Darl stood now, glaring in such a way that suggested that he thought he could peer at them all simultaneously. James and Pea quickly explained what was going on and Darl, in all his grumpiness, stomped away to pack the Blaersteeds. He didn’t say anything at all.
“Well,” Tum Tum began, “the good news is that he’s incapable of causing damage to anyone upon waking up. The bad news is he’ll likely be upset for the next few days.”
“Oh, I don’t think so,” Pea said. “He’ll be grumpy for the next few weeks at least. He won’t forget this for some time.” The two little men grinned wide. James laughed.
Some of the Moss People had wandered off into the forest, while some remained behind to see off the strangers. Tum Tum was the most energetic about it all. Tiddle was excited, but not to the point of dancing, which was what Tum Tum was doing. The Brownie bounded back and forth, strumming some strange melody on his fiddle, humming, and whistling. He made a circle, flipped, and pitter-pattered like a ballerina. Occasionally Tiddle would join in and together the two looked like a pair of Irish River Dancers.
Then the Blaersteeds were packed and on their feet. The three of them mounted their steeds and continued their journey with Tum Tum and Tiddle bouncing around below; the remaining Moss People dispersed into the forest. A thin smile was planted on James’ face; he couldn’t help being overjoyed at the change in their journey. Here he had songs and joyful creatures, unlike anywhere else he had been before. There had been joy in Arlin City, but now all of that was gone. Everywhere he went he knew that Luthien was behind him. He wondered if Luthien would come into the Forest of Gall. It seemed pointless to him. The forest couldn’t be controlled, not by Luthien at least. It was too large a place to be controlled by anyone, and the creatures that lived there would be unhappy with the evil that Luthien would bring. Whether or not the Moss People or Tum Tum and his fellow Brownies, wherever they were, could fend off an attack by Luthien he couldn’t say. He didn’t know how many Moss People or Brownies there were, nor what other Littlekind lived in the forest. But at the same time he knew that Luthien would not send an army trudging through a forest as thick and uninviting as the Forest of Gall.
Tum Tum quickly took to singing again, even though he did not have his miniature choir of Moss People. Tiddle hummed along sprightly. It seemed as though Tum Tum was making the songs up on the spot and James took to listening to the words with great intent.
“A’wandering, A’pondering
The sweetest sounds of All.
Think a ‘lil, speak a ‘lil
Here in the Forest of Gall.
A’ziggityzag, A’raggitytag
For hope we rise so tall.
Take a gander, at ol’ Oleander,
His eyes can show the way.
Silly be me and silly be you
To wander night and day.
A’speak a peep, A’speak a weep,
And ask me what they say.
‘A’goodly time, A’woodly time
For all who wander the trees.
With herald bells, with barreled dells
We sing this song of threes.
A’dip a’doo, A’zip a’loo,
We sing this song of sprees’.
The songs went on for hours. Though James wanted to listen, after a while he could not. His head began to hurt. Tum Tum had no concept of time as far as James was concerned, nor any limitation to his vocal chords. Tum Tum sang and sang, merrily and joyously as if he had no worries in the world, and then, stopped abruptly as Darl, having bit his tongue to save against irritating the little Brownie, began setting up a fire. Tum Tum and Tiddle were both asleep before the rest; not a single word was spoken about it. The two simply laid down and slept.
After a small dinner James too fell asleep, this time without his frightening dreams. He slept softly, waking whenever something cried out in the night or the fire crackled, but ultimately he slept without fear.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Book Review: Midnighters--the Secret Hour by Scott Westerfeld

It's not often that I read an entire book in practically one night. This isn't to say that I don't enjoy other books that I have read, but it does go to show that any book I read in one night is perfectly written to allow such a thing to happen.
This is the case with Midnighters--the Secret Hour (Book One in the series if you must know). I don't think I could be any happier with it. It was fast and well drawn. It didn't bite off more than it could chew (though certainly with the concepts behind it it certainly could have).
The story is basically this:There is a secret hour between midnight and midnight. It's an hour that only those born at midnight can experience and it can only be experienced in Bixby, OK. For this hour everything else is frozen, except the shadowy creatures that live there. For the four Midnighters in Bixby, everything seems to be going normal. Each of them has a special talent. They don't bother the creatures and the creatures don't bother them. That is until Jessica Day moves to town and the shadowy monsters there suddenly become violent. The question is, why all of a sudden? Why would her presence cause this? And what can they do about it so that midnight is safe to roam again?

To put it simply, this is a fascinating book with wonderful characters. Dess would have to be my favorite character, simply because she is so weird, but the entire cast is rather spellbinding. Westerfeld has created a very interesting mythology for his world. The plot moves smoothly. The characters develop very well and there is even a little romance, which for characters in their mid-teens (that 15-16 age) worked perfectly. It was not your usual romance, but that lovely high school bubbly romance that we have all come to expect from kids these days. Even the change of viewpoint each chapter worked out well, and I am one to be very weary of changes in POV. But for Westerfeld it worked. This is a fascinating book that tells a powerful and intriguing story. As I said, few times do I read a book straight through. This book I did.

Another Meme (...this time about eight things)

So, I've been tagged for this by Lee Carlon, oddly enough. Actually, I have to state a public apology to Lee for my complete idiocy. A long while back I had stated that I had added his blog to my blogroll, when in actuality his blog was meant to go up there but somehow eluded me and was left out. I feel like a complete turd for having said "it's on there" when it really wasn't. So, for that I apologize.

Now for this Meme of Eight. Here are the rules:
1. Each player starts with 8 random facts/habits about themselves.
2. People who are tagged write their own blog post about their 8 things and post these rules.
3. At the end choose 8 people to get tagged and list their names.
4. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged and to read your blog.

(Note: I'm breaking rule four because I don't feel like leaving comments...yes, I'm that lazy)

1. I am continuously upset with myself for throwing away my high school education as if it was worth less than the cost of an apple. Thankfully I have fixed the mistake and am going to college, but I still kick myself over my stupidity and lack of respect for how important an education can be. (I graduated HS, I just didn't go to real college because I couldn't)
2. I used to hate Coca-Cola when I was kid and drank only Pepsi. Now I hate Pepsi and drink only Coca-Cola.
3. I once tricked a friend who hated fish into eating some fried croppy (or crappy?) by telling him it was chicken. He ate three full pieces before his sister ratted me out. Needless to say his hatred of fish went away.
4. I'm afraid and not afraid of spiders and other insects. I don't instantly freak out when I see a spider, but at the same time I'm not one to sit there when one is crawling on me and go "well look how cute he is". Generally I'm fascinated by them if they aren't touching me.
5. During senior year of high school my English teacher gave the class a project to come up with our own poetic version of Beowulf. (Sit back, this is a bit of a story). My friend and I got together, did research on ancient England, came up with a plot, etc. and spent a good week and a half coming up with all the necessary information to do it properly. When it came to names, though, we hadn't a clue what to do. It came down to me telling my friend that he needed to come up with a name for the monster. I pestered him until he finally I just said "let's just call it penis", this being because penis is a comical word among fellow high school kids and had come up numerous times in class. My friend had a spark of genius and cried out "Sipen!" And so it was that all the characters, except for one, were named by scrambling names of genital-related objects (Navagi, Doldi, Umscrot, Teprosta Dalgn, etc.). Then I started working on the story. I made considerable effort to, I thought, keep it very old sounding. The teacher had the expectation of about 5-10 pages from each person or group. We turned in 33, including a title page. It might also go to note that on that title page we indicated that the names were inspired by a fellow classmate and the teacher for a moment thought that we were making fun of her, when in fact she was a great help in coming up with the names. Honestly it is one of the best projects I have ever had and am still proud of it to this day!
6. Whenever I remember a dream it is 99% of the time about zombies. For some reason I am having visions of a future where I must lead mankind to survival from an invasion of zombies.
7. My zombie dreams are some of the most amazing and vivid dreams ever. I actually love them to death and wake up smiling after I have one.
8. I have more pets than most people. (Fish don't count as pets). I have 11 leopard geckos (Angel, Cheese, And, Grim, Not Yet Named, Hubert, Humphry, Noodles, Melly, Taj, and Majal), three common musk turtles (Larry, Curly, and Mo), a beard dragon (CheChe), and a crested gecko (Tim).

Now for who I am going to tag! (If you have already done this ignore the tag).
Dane Bramage, Andrew, Lindsey, Heather Harper, and Eric (of Quantum Storytelling).


Friday, May 18, 2007

Philip K. Dick Award Winners

Apparently I am completely blind to what is going on in the writing world. So last month the announcement was made in regards to the winner of the Philip K. Dick award:

Congrats to Moriarty! So, I will soon be working on the Philip K. Dick award nominees, reading Spin Control last of course. In due time!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Elysium Commission by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

I recently won this book as a signed copy and have been really anxious to finally read it. I'm not sure why. I have not read any of Modesitt's work before, but for whatever reason I just want to get into this book quickly.
Now I need to premise this review by saying a few things. First, this book is going to be well beyond the average scifi reader. Second, I can say this because it is well beyond me. The concepts in this are so deep and sound that if you are not prepared to grasp them you probably won't until halfway through the novel. This is not to say that it is a bad book, quite the contrary, but it is saying that this book is probably going to turn off a lot of less hardcore scifi readers out there. If you love hard scifi, you will likely love this book. If you love Modesitt, well then that is self explanatory.
The basic story is, well, not very basic. In fact I'm not going to bother trying to provide a self-written synopsis, but I'll instead put up the one on the book:
"A brilliant scientist on the planet Devanta has created a small universe contiguous to ours--and a utopian city on one of the planets. The question becomes, though, a utopia for whom? And why is a shady entertainment mogul subsidizing the scientist? More critical than that, does this new universe require the destruction of a portion--or all--of our universe in order to grow and stabilize?
Blaine Donne is a retired military special operative now devoted to problem-solving for hire. He investigates a series of seemingly unrelated mysteries that arise with the arrival of a woman with unlimited resources who has neither a present or a past. The more he investigates, the more questions arise, including the role of the two heiresses who are more--and less--than they seem, and the more Donne is pushed inexorably toward finding himself a pawn in an explosive solution and a regional interstellar war."

See how complicated that is?
Now, I really did enjoy the book once I got into it. At first it was rather difficult because of the language and what seemed to me to be very French influence. The story moves along very much like a detective story. I enjoyed the characters very much. It was strongly written and Modesitt has created a very fascinating world that I would be interested in knowing more about. That being said, some of the things I didn't like were more or less little pet peeves. I thought the ending was rather forced. I won't ruin it for anyway, but it just seemed so, well, quick, and I didn't quite understand why Donne had to be a part of it if it were seemingly so simple. I also found the sections where Modesitt switched viewpoints to one of the antogonists to be rather annoying. This is written in first person, so the first few times he does this it is hard to tell if we're in Donne's head or someone else's. Eventually it all pans out, but those were some things I didn't like.
All in all I think it is a well written book. It's not one of my favorites, but at the same time I can't say that I didn't enjoy it. The detective story really had me wondering how Donne was going to figure it all out.
So, if you are into really hard scifi, give this one a go.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

A List of Somewhat Important Facts

So I found this meme over at Lindsey's blog. Sounded interesting and it will be an interesting insight into my little writing brain:

1. Do you outline?

For the most part no. I don't make long outlines like many writers do. I feel like doing so takes away all the magic of the story for me. I no longer want to tell that story because nothing is new. It's all set in stone.

2. Do you write straight through a book, or do you sometimes tackle the scenes out of order?

This really depends. If there is a scene that is eating at the inside of my brain I will write it down in advance. For the most part, however, I stick to writing straight through. It's not very common that I take the other route.

3. Do you prefer writing with a pen or using a computer?

Depends. When I'm in a massive writing groove and the words are coming out of me in droves, then I prefer to be on my computer because I can type a lot quicker than I can write. Sometimes, though, I find that writing by hand is so much more enjoyable. It all depends on my mood and what is going on in my head. My short story Death By Poking was done primarily by hand. Bits and pieces of WISB were too, though the majority is done on the computer because I have to put a lot of focus into it and do a lot of research here and there.

4. Do you prefer writing in first person or third?

This is going to sound weird, but I hate first person, yet I write in it quite often. It's a strange feeling. I think perhaps I am growing an appreciation for it, but it used to be where I actually despised first person novels. Now, I write and read in both. I still hate first person and tend to be turned off by short stories written in first, but I think my hatred for it comes from reading a lot of very dull stories told in first person. I personally like first person for humor because you can convey humorous situations through the character better.

5. Do you listen to music while you write? If so, do you create a playlist, listen randomly, or pick a single song that fits the book?

Sometimes. Mostly I'll listen to classical or orchestrated stuff (such as soundtracks and the like). When I'm really tired of music or my concentration is lacking I will listen to silence instead. I never really make playlists, not really anyway. I only have one playlist and it consists of all my classical and orchestrated stuff. Usually I just put my list on shuffle.

6. How do you come up with the perfect names for your characters?

I used to use a program called EBoN (Everchanging Book of Names), which is fantastic for a few reasons. One, it comes with a library of thirty or so languages that it creates names from. Two, you can get new libraries from other users. And three, you can affect how it will create names by fiddling with the phonemes and the like.
For the most part I sit in my chair and start speaking out names to myself until something grabs me. This is also how I started coming up with the language of my world as I started to notice in the names of places some very common aspects. Thus begins my endeavor to create a functioning language without going insane or screwing it up (which I already have twice and have had to fix).

7. When you’re writing, do you ever imagine your book as a television show or movie?

Sort of. I don't imagine it as a full show or movie, but I do imagine scenes as if they were playing like movies in my head. I like it that way because I tend to see nifty details I might otherwise be blind to.

8. Have you ever had a character insist on doing something you really didn’t want him/her to do?

Who hasn't? A story I wrote a while ago started off as two kids just sitting around doing kids stuff. I never expected that the secondary character would turn out to be the villian of the story. He went from being that sort of innocently evil child to a complete madman. It was wild.

9. Do you know how a book is going to end when you start it?

Yes and no. I know where the characters will be and the very very very very last scene, but I have no idea how the characters are getting there, or if that future will be the same when I reach it. The story evolves as I go.

10. Where do you write?

In bed, at work, at school, in my car (yes, while I'm driving, I have a digital recorder), and anywhere I can sit down and concentrate. I carry a little book for notes with me just about everywhere I go just in case I come up with something fascinating.

11. What do you do when you get writer’s block?

Kill people. Not really literally, but sort of literally. I play computer games if I'm really in a slump or need to stimulate my creative juices. If feel sort of snagged and need to clean out my head I go read. Mostly it's computer games. For me they do wonders. It's completely mindless, it makes my brain reboot, and I don't have to think too much while playing.

12. What size increments do you write in (either in terms of wordcount, or as a percentage of the book as a whole)?

At any one time, not more than a thousand words (usually). Over the course of a day I can churn out 10,000 if I'm really into a story. Usually I get around 2,000 or 3,000 in a day. Then again, that depends on what I have time for and how much my brain is willing to spend on creative thought.

13. How many different drafts did you write for your last project?

Death By Poking: One
Irlgem: Two
Soul For Sale: Three
Artemis: Two

14. Have you ever changed a character’s name midway through a draft?

Not that I can remember. I'm sure I have.

15. Do you let anyone read your book while you’re working on it, or do you wait until you’ve completed a draft before letting someone else see it?

Technically yes. WISB is obviously unfinished and only edited as much as I can edit it in the course of writing it. The novel is not actually finished. I'm writing it as I go. So, a lot of people get to read that. For the most part I don't let people read unfinished work, except in critique groups, in which case it's finished but not finished at the same time. If that makes sense.

16. What do you do to celebrate when you finish a draft?

Nothing. I don't celebrate such things because I know I have to get to editing soon. If anything I'll start another story.

17. One project at a time, or multiple projects at once?

Multiple, but ultimately unrelated projects. I can't have two fantasy novels going because I will get information confused. I am only writing one novel (WISB) and writing/editing several short stories that are mostly SF.

18. Do your books grow or shrink in revision?

I've not finished a novel yet, but in regards to short stories they tend to shrink.

19. Do you have any writing or critique partners?

A long time ago I did, then that fell apart for various reasons. I've started up a new critique group and have been active in the past on Critique Corner.

20. Do you prefer drafting or revising?

I prefer writing. That's it. To write includes all aspects, so I enjoy it all.

I hereby tag Heather Harper!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Brilliant Ideas From My Lax Brain

So, I was thinking over the last day and a half. This is a monumental event for me because I don't usually think. Of course I'm being entirely goofy, but regardless, I have an interesting thought.

I would like to throw up to anyone and everyone who reads my novel or anything related to my novel in progress, or anything at all about my writing, this nifty thing I'll title "You Ask / Writer Answer".
So, if the title isn't giving it away, here is what I thought of. Anyone at all can ask me just about any question about WISB or any other writing. Put it in a comment, throw me an email, and so long as I can answer it I will in a blog post. Obviously I can't tell you how the novel will end, or what will happen here or there, but I can give you details, talk about characters, inspiration, and most anything else.

So, ask away!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Chapter Seventeen: Of Ti'nagal and the Forest

(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.)

“Listen closely,” Belrin said. “There is no room for error.”
James leaned over and peered into the map of Traea. His gaze became fixed on Teirlin’pur. This is where we are going, he thought. What will it be like? Will it be a frightening place just like its ruler? Will we be able to get in without being caught? He pushed the thoughts away and looked back into the now serious eyes of Belrin. Darl leaned in too, grumbling something incomprehensible. James could barely see the old man’s lips move under the scraggly white beard.
“You must go north of the city. There you will find a path through the Forest of Gall. It will not be an easy path, but I believe you can pass through relatively unhindered.” Belrin waved his hand over the forest. “This area will not be pleasant, but safer than trying to go east and slip by Luthien’s army. Not much is known of the forest other than it lives. In some manner of speaking.”

“In some manner of speaking?” Darl said, his voice coming out in mocking groans.
“Much more than mere animals dwell within the far reaches. We hear the sounds of beings neither human nor animal. Beings sentient, screeching a language that we cannot understand and will never understand. No one has seen them, whatever they are.”
“Are they dangerous?”
“Only to travelers who do not leave when warned.”
“But you said you can’t understand what they say,” James said.
“They block paths, drive away horses, even Blaersteeds, and put out fires. Mischievous little creatures the whole lot.”
James wondered what could possibly live in the forest that could be such a nuisance. He thought of the native peoples in the Amazon and how easy it was for them to hide from explorers, at least those that had no great buildings or statues to boast with. He wondered if such peoples had warned the first explorers, or if they had become violent when their warnings were unheeded.
“Now, when you reach the eastern side of the forest you need to travel north along the Nor’duíl River until you reach the Summering Rocks. The water should be low enough for you to cross without a raft. The current should pose no problems. Nor’sigal is immediately east and should take you no more than half a day once across.”
“What if we’re followed or Luthien has scouts along the river?” Pea said.
Belrin looked down at Pea, and softly said, “Then you ride hard through the Black Tundra to the Black Sands until the Blaersteeds buck you or you pass out.” He looked away and continued, “Lord Falth is expecting you at Nor’sigal, or should be if our falcon reached him. He’ll be able to tell you what to expect in the Fire Rim.” His finger glided over a long flame colored line on the map.
James listened intently. He made a mental note to remember every detail. From Nor’sigal they were to travel north over the Nor’kal River, across the plains beyond and into the Fire Rim. There would be their hardest terrain—fire, marshlands, bogs, and clouded skies. The fires had raged there for centuries. He had read about it in the etiquette book. Ashes filled the atmosphere like water in a cup, falling in flurries of gray, brown, and black—a Christmas of dark colors. Nothing survived there. The trees that had once made a home there had long since died and become fuel for the fires. Powerful magic had been used to force the burning remnants to drive straight up into the sky to protect the lands beyond. No magic could stop the fires. They burned with such unnatural intensity that those who had tried to put them out failed miserably.
He worried if they could make it through such terrain. It seemed so utterly impossible even for the Blaersteeds. Making camp there would only hinder them further. He knew they could not stand the polluted air for long without becoming ill—or without dying. There was little he could do to protect his lungs against such a terrible onslaught.
From the Fire Rim they were to take a slight northeast path above the Spyder Range to the Pahn’drys Valley that sat north of Teirlin’pur, split by the center of the mountains there.
“There is a path there,” Belrin said. “It sits along the mountains. It leads under the earth to a spot just north of Teirlin’pur. Be as common as you can. You don’t want to draw attention to yourself. Luthien and his people do not know who you are. It’s not a heavily traveled path, but neither is it entirely bare or forgotten. Try to seem like simple travelers and you should have no problems passing through and gaining entry to the city. Luthien is evil, but he still runs an empire that needs to support itself. Teirlin’pur will not so easily turn away potential customers.”
James drew an imaginary line on the map to help him remember the path that Belrin had set out for them. The journey didn’t look remotely easy. He hoped they wouldn’t run into any scouts; he prayed that they would make it to Teirlin’pur in one piece.
“We think that your friend may be kept in the northern towers. Let your Blaersteeds rest at this point. When you find your friend you must ride nonstop to Sempur. A ship will be there that can take you off the mainland.”
“Where do you propose we go?” Darl said angrily. “Gallivanting across the ocean hoping that any stop we make won’t lead us to capture?” His arms were crossed.
“The Wunder Isles.”
Pea choked. “Are you mad?”
“Quite possibly. But no more mad than the sea captain who will agree to take you across the waters to Ra.”
Darl spat on the ground. “The worst part of this is it all makes sense. Slip in undetected, steal the boy’s friend, and then flee to a place where not even Luthien is crazy enough to follow.”
“Better than maneuvering through the Black Sands on rumors that there is a great city somewhere beyond.”
Darl agreed with a single nod of his head. “What is the name of the ship?”
“The Luu’tre.”
Darl seemed to contemplate this name. James thought maybe the old man had heard of it.
“Who runs it?”
“Captain Norp.”
“And he is expecting us?”
“No. But he won’t be difficult to convince. Captain Norp is somewhat of a renegade and a thrill seeker in Angtholand. He holds no real allegiance to anyone, except for those that can present him the appropriate challenge.”
“We leave in the morning?”
“Yes. First hour of sunrise.”
“So be it.”
Belrin stood. “I’ll leave this map here. Forgive me, but I must attend to the city. Defenses must be put in place.” Then Belrin left the room.
James spoke first, breaking the silence. “What’s the plan?”
Darl leaned back his head and sighed. “We follow the path given to us.”
“You can’t be serious!” Pea said.
“You and I both know he’s nothing but serious. I agree with him.”
The little man dropped his jaw. “You’re both insane. There are no paths through the Fire Rim in the north. You know that Darl. We could be wandering there for days.”
“Any other paths would lead us to Luthien,” James said. He shivered at the thought of running into lines and lines of soldiers, and shivered even more as the thought of a hundred lyphons marching across wide expanses of grasslands forced its way into his mind.
“Darl…” Pea pleaded with his eyes.
“We take the way presented to us.”
Pea stormed out of the room and could be heard mumbling and muttering outside. James leaned his head onto his hands and looked down at the map. There’s little cover for us if we go south. No huge forests. Nothing like that at all. We’d almost be out in the open for miles. He too saw that what Belrin had suggested seemed logical. Luthien’s empire would be open with much of its army fighting so far away. Luthien needs money and resources. He needs to keep his people happy. They would have overthrown him by now if he couldn’t do that.
He thought about Laura being trapped in some strange place—the towers in Teirlin’pur. A quick flip through his etiquette book showed that there were eight northern towers, all of which were dwarfed by the two that once stood in Arlin City. One of those eight was the cage that held Laura, or so Belrin had said. The fact of the matter was that Laura could have been anywhere in the city, or not there at all. But he refused to believe that she was dead. He’d known her far too long to think of such things.
Darl studied the map for a long while; James did too to some extent, but he found that he could only study the landscape so long before his eyes began to droop with boredom. He eventually left Darl behind and went outside. He found Pea near the Blaersteeds stroking the nose of the same chocolate colored one from earlier.
“Beautiful creatures. Magnificent in all their beauty,” Pea said. “Look at them. They are descendants of an age long lost. Regal beyond measure.”
James looked up at the two other Blaersteeds. The black one looked back at him and a chill ran up his spine. Something about the darkness of its coat made him uneasy. He slid alongside Pea to the second chocolate Blaersteed and gently raised his hand. It looked at him as if trying to size him up, then abruptly turned around to expose her behind to his face.
“Apparently she dislikes you.” A faint sound of something gurgling forced James to take a few steps back. Then the Blaersteed defecated. He looked to Pea, who grinned. “Very rude, but nobody ever said that Blaersteeds had manners.” The grin grew wider.
He turned his gaze to the black Blaersteed. Its eyes were pools of water bathed in nothing but the darkness of night. Its mane glistened eerily. Again he shivered. It took him a moment to gain the courage, but he managed to force his legs to guide him to the last Blaersteed. He raised his hand. The black animal sniffed him. For a moment he thought it would explode in fury. Then, to his surprise, it lowered its nose under his hand and rubbed against him. He stroked it gently at first as if afraid this gesture of good faith was a trap. Looking into the deep pools of its eyes he suddenly felt calm. Waves of relief came over him and he couldn’t quite explain it.
“I think she likes me,” he said as he stopped stroking the black steed to look over at Pea with a smile. The Blaersteed grunted and bumped him in the back with its nose. He toppled over.
“Yes, I can see that!” Pea guffawed. “That’s a he by the way. Unlike normal horses, Blaersteeds don’t go on a rampage when females are present.”
James stood back up and glared at the Blaersteed, which in turn seemed to curl away in childlike innocence. He started to stroke its nose again; the steed nestled against him and the two eyes closed.
“Have you ever ridden before?”
“A few times,” he said. “I’m not an expert though.”
“Neither am I. I have shorter legs.”
Food was brought on a round silver tray—fruit, bread, and dehydrated fidget fowl meat. James left the Blaersteed and ate, along with Pea and Darl. Nobody spoke through most of the meal. Each took their share, chewed, swallowed, and drank without as much as a word. James understood how dangerous this journey would be, yet he knew now that he was willing to die trying to save Laura. Pea had already pledged loyalty to him. But he did not care for the idea of bringing anyone else on a mission that had a high likelihood to fail. But I won’t fail. I can’t fail.
Finally he broke the silence and said, “Are you familiar with the people of this city Darl?”
Darl stopped examining the map that was still on the table. “Why?”
“You’ve been, well, nice to the people here.”
“I once commanded Lord Alrith. We fought together over the city of Passing.”
“What happened?” He saw the sadness in Darl’s eyes.
“A rogue force from the Muértland had set its sights on Passing, killing everything they saw along the way. I commanded an army of five hundred men and we went to meet the enemy there and to build up the cities’ defenses. I misjudged the enemies’ numbers, and their intelligence. In the end the city was taken. Many of Lord Alrith’s friends were killed, and one of Triska’s sons. I’ve been paying for it for decades now.”
“I’m sorry…”
“It was my mistake. Not yours. This is why I am unwilling to disrespect Lord Alrith nor any of the men that I once commanded that now live in this city.”
“I see.” He didn’t press the matter.
It seemed to James as though the day was running in fast forward. He practiced magic with Pea, further learning how valuable his powers really were and how strong he could make himself when he applied it with his sword fighting. A third lesson with Darl proved to be worse than the first two. He came out of it feeling as though his arms were jelly. Darl had waited to stop the lesson until James could no longer defend himself. James never laid a single blow on Darl. At one point he thought he had come close, but in actuality Darl had purposefully made it seem that way just so he would make a horrible mistake and overcorrect his swing. The result was a nice sideways tap on the back of his neck. He hit the ground hard and that was the end of the lesson.
Night approached and James once again returned to the black Blaersteed, petting it on the nose, running his hands through the soft mane and enjoying the company of the beast he would have to ride for the next long while. He gazed at the city and all its changes. Lines of pikes had been raised up along the outside of the walls to provide additional protection against any ladders that might be used. Ti’nagal had the fortune of being a city built around a walled city, making it difficult for the walls to be torn to the ground. James remembered the giant rams of black smoke. Ti’nagal would not be an easy target for such weaponry. The main gate had been fortified ten fold and traps built throughout the outer city. There will be a lot of bloodshed here.
James slept near the black Blaersteed, propping his body against the hay on the ground. When he awoke his first instinct was to speak with Dulien, but just as had happened before he decided against it. He still had nothing to say to his Fearl. The light that had once shined so brightly now seemed to disappear, but he could feel that none of his magic was lost. As his abilities grew, the mark dimmed when he pulled on the magic. He guessed that this meant he was relying less on Dulien’s ambient energies now than he had before.
He had awoken with the dark of night still heavy in the sky. Morning was not far away. Darl and Pea were awake as well and at some point in his sleep someone had packed all their things onto the Blaersteeds and brought them to stand in the road. Both swords were sheathed—his alongside the black steed. In the dark he could just make out a figure.
“This is Bel’ahtor,” Belrin said, coming just far enough out of the shadows to show himself. He released the reins from one of the chocolate colored Blaersteeds. The steed gently clack-clacked over to Pea. The horse leaned down and Pea gently rubbed its head. Then Pea climbed up the side of the horse by the reins, only able to do so because of his light weight. In a matter of seconds the little man was firmly fixed on the saddle. James marveled at how tiny Pea actually was. The people of Ti’nagal had fixed Bel’ahtor with a modified saddle that fit between the little man’s legs, somewhat, but on the giant Blaersteed Pea looked like a tiny child in a pair of slightly ragged, yet halfway regal looking clothes.
“This is Arna’tu.” The second chocolate horse was let go. This time Darl did not remain still, instead he stepped forward, took the Blaersteeds’ reins and inspected the animal. At first the steed protested. Darl spoke soft words and the animal quieted. Then Darl, too, mounted his horse.
“This steed is the last male in the Farthland. His name is Mirdur’eth.”
The black steed pulled away before Belrin could release the reins. It strode up in strong motions and lowered its head to eye level. James smiled and Mirdur’eth pushed against his chest as if playfully trying to push him over. Then he took the reins, put his foot into the stirrup and lifted himself up. He failed miserably, only managing to get his leg halfway over the saddle. He tried again. Failure abounded. After two more tries he resorted to clambering up the side like someone rock climbing a steep cliff face. This time he placed his butt firmly in the saddle and took the reins. He leaned over next to the two flittering ears and said softly, “Sorry. I’m not too good at this.” Mirdur’eth rocked his head up and down, bearing his big horse teeth. “No need to make fun.” James patted his newfound animal friend on the back.
“I’m sorry that our time has been so short lived,” Belrin said. “You know the direction you must go?”
“To Nor’sigal,” James said,
Belrin inclined his head. “Lord Falth will guide you further. He’ll have more time to spare than we do here.”
“Thank you.”
“We’ll do our part. Find your friend and get her to safety. Now go.”
James didn’t have to motion for movement; Mirdur’eth instantly turned and headed down the road towards the gates. Bel’ahtor and Arna’tu followed. They stayed exactly five feet behind as if Mirdur’eth was their leader.
Darl yelled backwards at Belrin. “Kill them by the thousands!” His voice was powerful and respectful—the voice of a friend.
“That we will,” was Belrin’s response. Then the three of them were out of site.
“What are we going to do about the Lean?” James said as the gate came into view. “He can’t come with us.”
“No,” Darl said.
“Why not send him elsewhere? He has the luxury of being adept at moving in and out of places we cannot,” Pea said in such a way that seemed to goad James and Darl into inquiring further.
“You sound like you already have a plan.” James looked back.
Pea only grinned.
“Would you mind telling those of us who cannot read your mind?” Darl turned grumpily.
“Since James and I seem to be the only ones left out of the loop in regards to rumors, why not have him glide his way through the Black Sands. He can confirm if there really is a city there, or anything there at all. He doesn’t require food or resources, he can just go on and on and on until the sun comes and goes, and goes and comes.”
“Not a bad idea.” James grinned back at Pea.
“Well, we Erdluitles are…”
“…full of good ideas. Yes, we get it.” Darl gently tapped on the sides of Arna’tu; she trotted forward a few paces.
“Well that was quite rude and uncalled for…”
James simpered.
They trotted up to the gates, which had been opened wide for them to pass through. Once through they halted where the shadowy figure of the Lean floated. The Lean looked up with those two pinpoints of light.
“I cannot ride by horseback,” the Lean said.
“You won’t have to,” James said.
“Then how will I follow?”
“You won’t. We need to ask you a favor. Can you go across the Black Sands?”
“What purpose would that serve?”
“I’ve heard rumors of a city,” Darl said. “A great city. If you can confirm that, it could be an ally against Luthien.”
“We need all the help we can get.” James waited patiently for the Lean’s response. The Lean shifted with the wind.
“Then I will go. Where will you ride?”
“To Nor’sigal.”
“Then may you be safe in your journey.”
“Thank you.”
Then the Lean disappeared. Some distance away at the edge of the outer city James thought he saw the shadowy figure reappear and begin to glide.
Mirdur’eth led the group. James refused to take any control. It seemed as thought the Blaersteed knew exactly what was going on, and where to go. They passed through the outer reaches of the city. There were no people here, all of which had been brought within the city walls. James likened it to a ghost town, though he had never been to one. There was an eerie quiet to the place now. He gathered that a lot of that eeriness had to do with the coming of dawn. The western horizon was dark, but a faint glimmer of light, dark blue as the depths of the ocean, steadily grew. The colors were distorted as if thick mist filled the air—waving and shifting.
Once outside of the city the Blaersteeds took off at a slow trot. James bobbed and bumped. He hadn’t ridden enough in his life and he had a horrible feeling that he might be hurting Mirdur’eth, or at least causing the black steed unnecessary discomfort. He focused on the pattern of the movement. Rhythms ran through his mind and slowly, though not in any expert fashion, he managed to minimize his bumping, causing himself more discomfort than his steed.
They reached the edge of the Forest of Gall in a matter of minutes, though James thought it was longer. As Belrin had said there was a path, worn and beaten by nature, but still visible. They halted at the edge to take one final look back. Lights had been strung up within Ti’nagal. There were crews working early to make the final changes to the cities’ defenses. James bowed his head in sorrow. He was thankful he had not become too acquainted with any of the inhabitants there, much like he had in Arlin City. He knew that his heart could not take the hurt that the death of a close relationship would give him.
There was silence, complete and unhindered. No sounds came from the forest, not even of birds. The forest slept like the living ecosystem that it was. Nocturnal creatures, wherever they were, remained silent in their wanderings for food.
Then a loud crack sounded. The Blaersteeds shifted uneasily; a single vibration passed through Mirdur’eth to James’ body. Another crack came, this time so loud that James thought that the inside of his head were making the noise. Stronger vibrations came and he could actually see the movement of the earth.
He turned to Darl, but before he could speak a tremendous boom tore through the air. He could hear the individual waves pulsing as the sound crashed into his ears. A flash of red light lit the grasslands and Ti’nagal. When he finally turned he saw that the peaks of the two mountains, where nestled the path they had taken only a day before, had exploded, shooting flames, black billowing smoke, and molten rock high into the sky. Great chunks of the mountains were pushed out by the force of the explosion, crashing down to the earth with immense force. Torrents of fire-red lava spewed outward and rolled down, creating fast flowing rivers of blistering heat. It all happened so fast, a matter of a minute. He watched the lava roll down towards Ti’nagal, and then at the last minute it split as if by an invisible rock barrier. The rivers rolled around the city and outside of the farmlands, and then merged together once again in a straight arrow track towards the Far’anon River.
The two mountains, now volcanoes, continued to pour their black fumes and molten rock into the air. Another explosion shook the earth and flaming rock shot high into the cloud cover. The force pushed the rocks in an arch, sending them far across the landscape. Then rocks began to fall in their direction. His eyes went wide and he turned Mirdur’eth as fast as he could and tapped his heels against the black sides. Strong horse muscles pulled him onto the path and through brush and branches. Behind he could hear the galloping of the other Blaersteeds; he didn’t glance back. Huge boulders tore down through the forest canopy, splintering like glass into a thousand pieces. Flames erupted as the rocks were torn apart by the sudden change in temperature.
Branches slapped James in the face, but he did not falter. He let Mirdur’eth push on and on. He had forgotten how to move fluidly with his steed, and didn’t care any longer. Exploding missiles rained down in every direction until, finally, it all stopped. He could still hear the rumbling of the mountains in the background, the rumble of the earth as it emptied its core onto the landscape. The forest had become alive too, birds and animals crying out in surprise. A few birds fluttered away above. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, trying to calm his heart. There were scratches on his face; he could feel them. His arms ached from being pounded by branches. But he let go of all the stress and opened his eyes. Then he turned his torso to look at Pea and Darl. Both looked overburdened with adrenaline.
“That’s a first,” Pea said. “Not seen anything like that in, well, ever.” The little man breathed heavy, gulped.
“At least the city wasn’t destroyed,” James said.
“No. Damaged, but they’ve skirted death thus far.”
“Luthien will have a harder time taking the city with that river of fire there,” Darl said. “The corruption of Nara’karesh is complete. And it has failed its master completely.”
“Our last laugh. Not its.” James faced front, leaned over and gently rubbed Mirdur’eth’s neck. “Good work.” The black head swung up and down twice—a nod of agreement.
Then they were moving again, slowly this time, but still pressing forward into the Forest of Gall. Behind the earth, like a burping child, let out the remainder of its internal pressure, letting the last rumbles fall away with the coming dawn.

Note On the Map

I want to make a quick note to any that might be so deeply into WISB. The map itself is designed, on my part, in reverse of where everything actually is. West on the map is actually East. I designed the map not really thinking about direction, but more about the placement of things. I likely will change this in the story at some point--making Teirlin'pur sit on the east or something of that nature. Right now, though, the correct way to look at the map is in reverse. West is East. East is West.

Most likely I'll just talk to my cartographer and have him invert it.

Edit: I lied. I have gone through and fixed all the directions so the map is correct. It was actually less work than asking my cartographer to waste four hours trying to invert the map and make changes to the Aor River so it winds the correct way. So, really it doesn't change anything to the story. It just means some minor scenes have been changed. I'll be reposting all the changes. Don't worry, unless you're so into every minor detail of WISB it shouldn't even affect the story for you.

Punctuation: A Writer's Worst Enemy -- Semicolons

It has come to my attention that one of the things I should really address in my blog is punctuation. I was recently reading work from a lady in my lit. class and it occurred to me that the semicolon is the most misrepresented punctuation there is. George Orwell once shunned it because he considered it an arcane piece of the English language. To some extent we would have to agree with him because it is a rather old and rarely used item. There is good reason for its lack of use: people generally don't know how to use it.

A semicolon is, in some ways, a super comma. Unlike the comma, however, you must have two independent clauses. What is this bit about clauses? A clause, to put it simply, is a sentence that contains a subject and a verb. An independent clause is a sentence that is a complete thought. A dependent clause is one that does not complete a thought and requires additional information to do so.  Example:
Fighting in the old restaurant = Dependent
They were fighting in the old restaurant = Independent
Notice the difference?

Now, in regards to semicolons, you need two independent clauses. You can't say:  
She was a happy girl; smiling all the time.
That makes no sense because the first part is independent, but the second is dependent. It requires additional information to make it a complete sentence. The following would be correct:
She was a happy girl; she smiled all the time.
Two complete clauses (sentences).  Generally speaking you always want the two clauses around the semicolon to be related. Notice how the above example has a happy girl who smiles. Both are related to her happiness. Sometimes you can get away with it, but for the most part you should stick to having the sentences stick together. Besides, if you have a sentence that is unrelated it probably should be on its own somewhere anymore.

Just remember this the next time you want to use the semicolon. It can be your friend if you use it correctly; it can also be your greatest enemy. If you use it poorly it is a sure fire way to end up in that slush pile or in the garbage can. Editors generally do not like flashy punctuation; semicolons can be seen this way if you use them a lot. It's a clear warning when your use of the semicolon is incorrect that you are not developed enough in your writing for publication.  I personally love the semicolon. It's a cool piece of punctuation I think.

So, that's that!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Final Critique Group Update

Officially we are not doing it through CC anymore because I'm not going to ask Andrew or anyone else to subscribe to the premium account there. It's not fair to you, especially since this is just starting up and there isn't a definitive guarantee it will last for a year or forever for that matter.

However, I did a little research and found that we can do critiques in MS Word without a problem. It takes a minute to set up some quick keys for the two commands we'll likely be using--strike through and comment. So, for those that were interested (Andrew for example) send me a direct email so I can tell you how to do these quick keys. And then we'll start doing it via email and just send each other documents. Would anyone be opposed to having a mailing list that makes discussing stories easy amongst one another? A very low key list. Just something that only the members would send to one another. Not advertised so there would be no spam.

So please email me in regards to the critique group.

And another post will go up later this evening on the evil semicolon--which I am quite fond of but people tend to use incorrectly on a consistent basis.

CC Updates

I have just discovered that the premium membership at CC only allows me to start a private queue for all of you to use who don't have premium memberships that will only let me post to the group and not you. This defeats the entire purpose of the group obviously. So I'm wondering now a few things. The reason I really enjoy CC is because of the 'inline critique' template, which makes critiquing super easy online. I don't think it fair to ask people who don't use CC to go off and pay for a membership, but at the same time I don't know of any place that offers an easy way to critique. The only thing I can think of is sending things to one another via snail mail, but I completely understand why nobody wants to do that. There isn't any way I can think of to snail mail without giving away addresses. I don't have a P.O. box, but I'm also completely unworried about anyone knowing where I live really, at least in regards to a critique group. But, again, I understand if nobody else likes this method.
So here are the options I have right now:
1) Everyone who wants in gets a premium membership ($34 dollars for a full year, $24 for six months) . It isn't really a lot of money, but for some of you who are full time students it is. It's a commitment that I can't ask any of you to make. That would be unfair.
2) We say "screw CC" and go elsewhere. I don't know where to go that will give us at least some way to organize our critiques, nor where we can get that 'inline critique'.
3) Someone tell me or teach me how the heck they can easily do critiques in word with whatever crazy feature they use. (Someone mentioned this to me. This would mean we could just send MS word docs, or RTF files to one another and do it that way. Perhaps start some sort of mailing list or whatever for it. This would mean not using CC of course, but I probably could utilize my premium membership for doing a real good run through of WISB since I am considering publishing it). And there has to be some sort of quick key for this otherwise it will make clicking around take way too much time.
4) Someone give me another idea of what the heck to do about this. I'm a little lost here.

So, does anyone have any ideas?