The World in the Satin Bag has moved to my new website.  If you want to see what I'm up to, head on over there!

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Writing Factoid #2

Time for yet another Writing Factoid!

Question by Alex (referring to the last factoid about Leans)
--You say the lean cannot be killed by anything normally possessed by the people of Traea. This brings up two things. One, what COULD kill a lean? Aren't they just sort of spiritual shadows? So where would they go, and how could you kill them? And two, surely there are more leans, I mean the guard at the entrance to Ti'nagal seemed more worried of the ghostly thing then surprised by it being there.

Now, I realize that is a lot more than one question, but since they are all connected I'll address them all!
Yes, a Lean cannot be killed by anything normally possessed by the people of Traea. A Lean can only be killed by some form of magic that is capable of crossing over worlds. Meaning that in my world there are different levels of being. Leans lie on a spiritual level, and therefore can only be hurt by something at that level. In theory, the only thing that can hurt a Lean that would be remotely normal is another spiritual being of sorts.
Yes, they are basically spirits made entirely of shadow with tiny pinpoints of light for eyes. In theory, when one dies it is subject to the same laws and rules of the living. So it goes to the Halls of the Great Fathers for judgment.
Yes, there are more Leans. I can't say how many, but there are more. The guard was actually more concerned because Leans are not tremendously common. Generally all people are a little weary of the spiritual realm. Ghosts frighten us, and so for the same reason the guard was uneasy.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Book Review: Idolon by Mark Budz

I'm going to be entirely honest about this particular book. It was a battle to get through for me. The story is muddled, almost lost in the endless number of POV characters. It's like reading a text book only to find out that half of the information is scrambled in other textbooks and you have to go looking for it. That's the only way I can describe the reading experience for this.
The basic story is not really all that basic. In fact, I can't even tell you exactly what the story is about because the book left me so lost and confused in the end that I still haven't a clue what to think. It's a futuristic world where people can wear specialized 'skins' so that they can look like whoever they want. People can basically look like the celebrities of the past. Something is happening, though, that makes a new type of illegal skin some sort of big deal among people. I still don't get what the big hubub was about it.
So, the book opens with Dijk, a detective. He's at a crime scene where a woman has been found dead. She's wearing some sort of abnormal skin that isn't registered and then we don't hear from Dijk for a while. Now, my thoughts are, if you open up with this character, he really should play a bigger role. Then we learn about Nadice, who suddenly becomes pregnant, but because the laws state that her employer for some reason can tell her whether or not to have an abortion, she tries to smuggle herself out of the country. This is where Mateus comes in who gives her the opportunity provided that she carries something inside her. Now, in this world illegal skins or ripped skins (like ripped music) are the new cocaine. It turns out that this whole immaculate birth thing is happening all over. Pelayo is yet another character, who is looking for information about his lost sister or cousin, I'm not sure which, and his cousin Marta, another POV, both take the spotlight. Marta is the woman that helps Nadice, but we won't get into that. Now, something about this strange skin that is going around has certain folks a little antsy. It's supposed to be so revolutionary that it's, scary. But it's not scary. In fact, there's nothing really bone gripping about this. Those aren't even all the characters--there's Al-Fayoumi, Atherton, Uri, and a bunch of others. I mean there are so many damn characters in this it's hard to even keep track of what the hell is going on. The concepts he's dealing with are so complex that with all those characters the poor reader is sitting by going "what?". Even in the end I was thinking "what the hell happened?". Somehow this strange skin that Nadice is carrying attaches itself to her baby and connects her to Marta, and together they are like a symbiot of some sort and the baby must survive so that it can bring the new skin into the world or something of that nature. I mean, just that alone is so mind boggling to think of that you would have hoped Budz would have stuck with just 2 character viewpoints.
My vote on this is that it is a very poorly written book. The concepts are too deep for a book of so many characters. This is an example of why too many POV's is a horribly bad thing. You can't do it. Too much happens in the story to afford the change of POV all over the place. Even in the end the story jumps back and forth, back and forth. And by the time you reach the end you're so thoroughly lost that you feel like your brain is actually dying.
I really tried on this book, but it was so difficult to read and so mind boggling to just accept that I couldn't even bring myself to believe in what was going on. There was too much. It's like a soap opera crammed into 450 pages. Budz tries so hard to bring human-like life to all the characters, but that just isn't enough room to make the characters important enough. I can't concentrate emotionally on so many characters. Nobody human can.
I think this is the first book on my Awards List that I actually truly disliked.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Writing Factoid #1

Alright, so I have two questions that have been brought up to me about WISB. Feel free everyone to bring on more and more. Anything, just ask! It gives me a chance to create new things and to give all of you who might be interested some fascinating information about my fantasy world. I've also started this today because the book I am currently reading is giving me one hell of a time to get through. It's a terribly hard book to read in my opinion. But, that will come later in the week when I finish reading it!

Now for the first ever Writing Factoid!

Question #1 by Jason of Scribblings of a Madman
--What is the meaning of life? How much planning did you put into WISB?
The meaning of life, obviously, and how could you not know this, is to acquire everything you could ever possibly want in one single lifetime. If you fail, well, then you get sent back here as a gerbil and you have to work your way up life to life until you get back to being a human again and go through the same process. How could you not know that?
Now for the serious question. I honestly didn't put much planning at all into WISB when I first started. I rarely outline to begin with, but in this case I barely even had an idea! I started it as an experiment and it just sort of took off in places I hadn't expected it to. Granted, it's not like I'm super popular like Tolkien or Rowling, but the fact that some people express that they enjoy this story has kept me writing it. That's all that matters to me really, some loyal fans. So, I didn't plan to get very far. I researched blog novels, thought it was an interesting idea, and decided to go with it. So, here we are, some 86,000 or so words later, nearly to the end of the first book.
Now, towards the latter half of WISB I did do some planning. I had to. My world had become so expansive and enormous that I had no choice. I created a map, as some have seen and of which I should put up as a quick link on the right hand column. The map was mostly to give me an idea of where everything was so I wouldn't get things mixed up. I did make a mistake, and the map helped me realize that, and luckily I fixed that. For the plot, I've been thinking steadily about where the characters should go and did some thinking on how they would get there. The Blaersteeds came into the picture right about then. I had to figure out where and why the characters were running. And, so you have the story as it is now.
But that's for WISB. If you want to know about The Spellweaver of Dern, well, you'll have to ask :). SOD is a completely different beast!

Question #2 by Alex (forgive me for not knowing your SmackJeeves page off hand)
--One thing I am intrigued to learn is of the location of the Lean. Will he return and will there be news of the fabled city?
Now, I'm going to answer this without actually giving anything away. Realize that SOD is actually going to be far more complex than WISB. It has to be. I can't stick in James' head anymore because there are alternate storylines now that have to be addressed.
Will the Lean return? At some point, yes. And yes, there will be news of the city beyond the Black Sands, but I cannot tell you whether or not the city actually exists. In fact, because I will writing SOD in about 2 months--which will put us rather close to when WISB first appeared on the Internet--I have to come up with everything that happens. I have to find out if I can actually write from the point of view of the Lean, and if not, what am I going to do about the character? How am I going to convey what the Lean has seen?
So, I can say this: The Lean is moving beyond the Black Sands. The Lean will know the truth about whatever is out there, if anything. And the Lean will return. Leans technically cannot be killed, not by any normal abilities that would be possessed by the people of Traea, so the Lean will return at some point. Whether that be in SOD or not, I cannot say. I don't even know that myself!

So there you have it!
Ask more questions! Even stuff that's not related to the plot! Bring it on!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Things That Irritate Me When I'm Writing

First, is anyone going to take me up on the offer I presented here? Pretty please? Just ask anything at all. Please please please!

Okay, enough begging. So I was writing today and I think I have addressed this before, but figure it is high time for me to have a list of things that piss me off when I'm writing. And I mean when I'm actually writing, not sitting down and thinking, but typing out sentences. Here we go:

1) I suddenly have to go to the bathroom really bad. We're talking to the point where I have to stop or I'll pop. This irritates me so much because it often happens right as I'm getting into a writing groove.
2) Somebody comes out and bugs me while I'm writing. This includes friends, family, and the like. I hate being interrupted because it takes me forever to get back into a groove again.
3) Being suddenly overcome with a hunger or thirst.
4) Having something fall on me in the middle of writing. Yes, this has happened. I've had magazines fall on me while typing from the top shelf of my computer table. It was, needless to say, an irritating moment and completely disrupted my writing.
5) Having that sudden moment when I realize that what I'm writing is actually complete garbage.
6) Some song playing in the background comes on that shouldn't be there, but is, and suddenly annoys me beyond reason. I've had this happen too. Somehow a rock song ended up in my classical list. I listen to very mild classical music in the background sometimes because it tends to sooth my mind. So when some hard hitting screamo song that I thought I had deleted shows up it ruins the whole process.
7) Having bizarre windows pop up when they shouldn't. Such as that stupid program. I don't know how it keeps getting on this computer, but every time it does I get annoying windows. Realplayer does the same thing even though the program isn't running.
8) Excessive noise from the other side of the house. You know, things banging, people yapping, that sort of thing.
9) Someone calls me. Now, hold on. I know what you're thinking. "Why not turn off your phone?" Well, sometimes I have important calls I have to answer. So, in theory that someone calling me would be someone of value and interest. Then again, sometimes it's somebody calling me to know what the weight of processed cheese is.
10) Running out of time! I HATE IT!

Now, I'm sure this list will actually grow over time when new things bug the hell out of me, but for now that's it!
So what bugs you?

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Big 100

That's right everyone, I've reached exactly 100 posts! That includes all of the WISB chapters! I'm at 100! Yay! *Dances*

Having done this, I figure it's time for some fascinating news.

I've become the editor of the first Teenage Writers Anthology. This will be a collection of short stories in various genres and poetry chosen from members of Teenage Writers. Check out this post to get an idea of what it is all about and all the rules. And if you are a young writer or writing enthusiast you might consider joining! I'm looking forward to reading everyone's works and picking out selections for the anthology! Look out too for when the book goes on sale :). I'll post links and the like to it.

Also you might have noticed there is a nifty counter over on the right hand side. This will be there for as long as the anthology is open. Eventually I'll take it off. Until that time though, you get to see that nifty looking thing :P.

So, happy 100th for me!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Book Review: Peeps by Scott Westerfeld

I am officially in love with Scott Westerfeld. I do not mean a homosexual love, but I absolutely and utterly adore this man's writing. As some of you already know, I truly enjoyed reading the first book in the Midnighter's series, of which I am going to be reading book two eventually here. Peeps is yet another one of Westerfeld's brilliant literary works. The difference here is that Peeps is a completely new and realistic take on the traditional vampire story. Now, hold on for a second. I know what some are thinking. "Oh no, not another god awful piece of garbage vampire story." No sir, this is not another one of those. In fact this isn't even a vampire story at all.
The story:
Cal Thompson's life has changed forever. He's been infected with a horrible virus during a one night stand after a night out at the bar. But he's lucky; he's a carrier. He shows none of the signs of usual parasite positives--a.k.a. Peeps. He's sane, he's not trying to bite people, and he doesn't have crazy infected rats following him around. But Cal has infected all his previous girlfriends due to not even knowing that he was infected in the first place. His job, as part of a secret underground group known as the Night Watch, is to hunt down and capture these people before their madness spawns more Peeps to terrorize society in the dark.

Now, obviously I cannot give you more detail than that because that would give away far too much about the story. All I can say is that it is far deeper than that. Imagine what your life would be like if you could never resume a normal relationship with someone of the opposite sex ever again?
Once again Westerfeld has put together a cast of amazing characters. Cal is amazing. He's real. He acts exactly how I would expect a person in his position to. Lace too. And there are surprises throughout the story. Just when you think things are going in one direction they take a turn in the opposite. The parasite is, well, rather hardy and versatile.
To add, Westerfeld has been truly kind to offer interesting blurbs on real parasites in this world to add more credibility to the story. Every other chapter has a new parasite to discuss. This isn't a medical journal, but Westerfeld manages to tell you what these real parasites do without making your head spin with medical jargon. Then you start to sit back and think that this horrible parasite in the story could actually exist.
The pacing is spot on too. There was no time in the story that I felt like taking a break. I finished 99% of it this weekend and only read a little on Thursday during break at work. The story kept me intrigued. I found myself going back to or three times in a couple hours even though I had so many other things to do. You start to really connect with Cal.
The ending is rather different too. You do see it coming, but Westerfeld leaves the story open for a sequel--which there is. I'm looking forward to reading that edition too!
This a must read in my opinion!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Chapter Twenty: Of Nor’sigal and the Edge of Reason

(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.)

The lead archer called himself Iliad. He was a tall man, brown hair, brown eyes, and a wide, white, toothy smile that stretched from cheek to cheek. His bow was strung over his shoulder—a light cerise color and carved with gently wavy lines—and he gladly welcomed James, Pea, and Darl to the far shore of the Nor’duíl River.
James learned quickly that Iliad and his men were scouts, in one sense of the word. They were more or less given orders to intentionally cause trouble, at least according to Iliad. James thought it strange that such an order would be given, but he accepted it. Who am I to question a Lord, he thought. It occurred to him that perhaps Iliad was simply told to cause distraction. The location of the Summering Rocks, as he understood it, was the only place for miles that was safe for any man to cross. One could ride north of the Drain and cross there, but that ran into the problem of figuring out how to cross the Drain itself—a rushing and utterly dangerous river that acted as a run off for the overflowing reaches of the Nor’kal River.

James followed Iliad away and into an open field that stretched flat and open for miles, Pea and Darl close behind. Even bushes were scarce here, and only in the far off distance could he see anything tall enough to be a tree. Browned and dwindling grasses made up the field, a sign of a warm summer to come. He had seen pictures of the valley in California, a place where spring made the landscape look like a beautiful recreation of the green, luscious hills of Scotland. Things looked beautiful there—emerald green everywhere, flowers blooming brilliantly like little beacons of beauty rising from the earth. Then summer hit, and everything seemed to die. The heat was too strong for the grasses that once made the hills green. The fields turned golden brown and unwelcoming, though many found them beautifully. James, however, did not. Only the trees stayed green, and barely at all for they looked duller than they once had. Here, across the Nor’duíl River, it looked like much the same had happened. The wide field looked like a treeless California meeting with a treeless Africa, uniting under one visual banner.
Burs, stickers, and foxtails clung to the Blaersteeds’ fur. Big clumps covered their legs, and not only the steeds, but the archers as well, as if they were little parasitic passengers hoping to catch a ride to the next town.
Nor’sigal sat some ways away in the center of the field. It was a tall place, not in the same sense that Arlin City was tall, but in the way it presented itself. In the center was the keep—a structure that rose up above everything else. The square walls of the city were the lowest structures visible, as buildings within slowly climbed in altitude making the keep seem like the tip of a giant wood and stone pyramid. And then there was nothing else. No city outside of the walls, nothing. Nor’sigal looked like a diamond in the rough. James couldn’t see any farmland nearby. Where do they get their food? He wondered how a city like Nor’sigal—a relatively large city that could house a few thousand people easily—could survive without any farmland nearby.
He decided to consult the etiquette book. He regretted not having used it in a while and imagined if the book were alive it would dislike him for his lack of attention.
In bold, shiny gold letters, gleaming like a warning, was a message that said:
“I regret to inform all of you who have so dutifully supported my work on this particular book, that this will be my last update. It has come to my attention that civilization is falling. It is perhaps a possibility that the future will hold peace once again and I may resume my most respectful of duties. Until such times I will be in hiding, for I cannot risk being taken by the ruthless madman that runs through our world. So, in my final words I greet you with a plethora of new material, the last material. Much is incomplete, horribly incomplete I might add, but it will all serve a greater purpose. I know this, and believe this. Thank you all and may you all be safe in these dark times.”
Then in bold was the date and a wavy lined signature from Azimus Barthalamule.
James couldn’t believe it. He stared at the paragraph, the last words of the man who had created How Not to Be Barbarian, Fifteenth Edition. He couldn’t believe that the world was changing this much. Even the smallest things were going away. He wondered how many others were going into hiding now. Was Azimus the only one? Would there be many others? Yet Azimus had to go into hiding. He knew that much. Azimus knew far too much to end up dead some place. If civilization really was crumbling, then Azimus might have the knowledge to bring it back.
For a while he sat on Mirdur’eth’s back with his eyes fixed on the opening page of the etiquette book. He gently shook his head, incredulity taking him. Then, slowly he reached out and turned the page to the table of contents. Every single section was lit up. The table stretched for dozens of pages, all of which seemed to have appeared out of thin air. Each entry was bold and bright gold. New sections were added in the last few pages—What to do When Your Horse is Nicer Than Your Wife, The Secret World of Illegal Salvaging, Unkempt Men and How to Train Them, and The Proper Care of Elderly Magic Users, among others. He quickly searched for Nor’sigal. He had time as the horses slowly trotted through the browning grass, making sure that Iliad and his men weren’t trampled or left behind.
Finding it, he began to read. First he skimmed through statistical information, everything from how many people lived in the city to how many pigeons could be found at any one time in the city square. He smiled faintly at that. He thought it absurd that anyone would take the time to watch pigeons to find out how many of them were around. Then he found exactly what he was looking for. He dug in, paying careful attention to the words:
“Nor’sigal is special for one very specific reason—it has no need for farmland, domestic animals, and the like. It is self-sufficient because it is the only city in all of Traea that relies entirely on magic. The city itself is built over a crater left many hundreds of years ago by The White Star, the name given to the first of the great warnings from the heavens. Left within the crater were the remains of what is believed to be the very essence of the Great Fathers—a magical entity that can only be described as shiny dust. This, of course, raises questions as to why nobody bothered to clean the dust from the hole before building what is now Nor’sigal, for surely the housewives of the men doing the building would have complained much on this fact. The dust acts as a lubricant and thus prevents the city from remaining completely still in its place. Nor’sigal, you see, is not only special in that magic provides it with instantaneous crops, fresh meat, and grains, but that it never remains still. This explains the common nickname for the city—The City That Never Sleeps—and the alternate name—Sea-sick City. Some say that the city turns with the year, coming completely back to its original spot on January 1st. This, obviously, is completely and utterly absurd, for it has been determined that the movements are completely random and are not based upon gravity, but upon the effects and movement of the magic essence below as it is used and moved. Essentially, laziness has driven the city into movement.
Now, unlike…”
James let the words trail off in his mind.
“That’s insane,” he said in a mumble.
“What is?” Iliad said.
James jumped. “You heard me?”
“Of course I did. It’s my job. I have to see, hear, and move well. We’re sort of, well, special that way.” Iliad didn’t turn to face him. “Now, what is insane?”
Iliad laughed roughly. “Well, that’s not the first time I’ve heard that. It’s a floating city after all. But it works.”
“I guess it does.”
“This world,” Pea chimed in, “is filled to the brim with magic. Remember that. Regardless of how it is used, magic is a part of the fabric of everything.”
“That’s one interpretation I suppose.” Iliad laughed again.
Pea grumbled something unintelligible.
“Now you’re starting to sound like me,” Darl said.
James glanced back. A huge grin grew on Darl’s face; Pea glared.
“Maybe we’ll call you the grumpy one from now on.” Then Darl laughed a loud, overbearing laugh. James thought for a moment that the earth itself would move with the sound of it. Then he, too, laughed.
When they arrived at Nor’sigal James looked closely at the foundations of the city. What the etiquette book had said was not only true, but a complete understatement. Iliad calling it a floating city was much closer to reality. The city moved slowly, but noticeably. Below he could see the crater and the faint glow of what he assumed was the dusty essence. A massive mound of earth below the entire city acted as the only solid foundation that kept it from crashing into the crater. There was a wide gap between the city and the unmoving earth. No man could jump it. It was a waterless moat. At the front was a long bridge made of wood planks woven together in such a fashion that it could flex ever so slightly as the city moved.
Iliad quickly led them onto the bridge and they crossed. The bridge sagged gently, but it held firm. The ear splitting sound of a bird of prey sounded and he looked up. Two falcons, large and rusty red, flew overhead and disappeared beyond the walls. They carried news from Ti’nagal; that much he knew. He only hoped that it was not bad news.
The doors to the city were thick wood and just high enough for the three riders to pass through without leaning over. The doors were small in comparison to the other cities he had been to, but in the center of the wood was carved the Celtic World Tree—a design he had seen before on the gates of Arlin City. It was curved with branches and representations of leaves along the edges. He twisted away from the doors as they entered the city.
The bustling interior of the city was, to his surprise, much less than he had expected. The dozens upon dozens of houses were not in perfect and were not rising in perfect fashion to the keep. There were streets, but along them were homes of all shapes and sizes, some built on top of one another. Behind those was the first row of buildings he had seen, and these were organized. But the lowest level, the level that could not be seen outside of the gates, looked raggedy, as if these buildings were part of the city when it was first being built.
They were led up the first street and soon were surrounded on all sides by buildings. Shadows crept down from above as the sun moved along the sky. Allies were bathed in gray. Then the keep came into plain view. The stone structure was massive. It stood four stories high and was just as thick. In each corner were balconies with crenellated balustrades. Arrow slits were evenly spaced ten to a floor on each side. The roof was crenellated as well and James could see the heads of a couple armored men that walked there. The entrance was a single wooden door laced with strips of iron that opened wide as they approached. A tall man came out of the door. He had a trimmed red beard that was slowly turning as white as his hair and a long dark blue cape that flowed behind him. His face was wrinkled slightly, suggesting that he was well into his fifties. Two armored men followed him.
Lord Falth.
“Thank the Great Fathers,” Lord Falth said, opening his arms wide in a hugging gesture. “James of Woodton. Welcome to Nor’sigal.”
He dismounted fastidiously. Pea and Darl followed his motion.
“Lord Falth,” James said, swiftly remembering to bow ever so slightly.
Pea and Darl bowed inclined their heads.
Lord Falth grinned heartily. “Come, please. We have much to discuss before you must go.”
James gently rubbed Mirdur’eth’s neck, looking the black beast in the eye. Mirdur’eth nodded gently and he walked away from the steed. Iliad dismissed his men, who in turn wandered off.
Inside the keep there was an enormous main room that had been overrun with tables covered in maps. Several men argued in a far corner. James assumed they were military advisors to Lord Falth. There were others sitting and staring at maps in obvious deep thought. Their heads were turned down, brows crumpled, and lips moving randomly as if they were chewing something. Then there were others who stared in disbelief. These men were young, not much older than James and barely men at all. They looked at him as if he were a ghost. He averted his gaze, not wanting to look them in the eye. He had seen that look before when Triska, Darl, Gammon, and Pea had learned the truth about him. Still, the gaze dug into him, even now with all he had been through.
He followed Lord Falth up a dank and cracked staircase to the second floor of the keep. There a hallway ran all the way to the end where another staircase spiraled upward to the third floor. Several doors were along this hallway. Lord Falth opened the second and, after everyone was inside, unintentionally closed the door with a loud bang. He flinched at the sound, but said nothing.
A long, round, cherry wood table occupied the center of the room. Three anthropomorphic black iron oil lamps were fastened to the wall and lit. They depicted strange dog-like creatures dancing on their hind-legs; their flames sent flickering light through the room. Seven stools were laid out around the table and Lord Falth quickly took a seat and beckoned everyone else to do the same. James sat slowly. He looked down at his tunic for a brief moment, noticing the dirt and grass stains, and then turned his gaze upward.
“I saw two falcons fly overhead,” he said. “Has Ti’nagal been destroyed?”
“Oh, not yet,” Lord Falth said, his voice scruffy. “One thing I have learned about the people of Ti’nagal and of Lord Alrith is that they are some of the most resourceful people in all of the Farthland. It will take more than a week to break their outer defenses.”
“What news then?” Darl said concernedly.
Lord Falth turned to Iliad, then to Darl. “Only three wall-breakers remain.”
“…wall breakers?” James curled his brow.
“It’s the name that’s been given to those men who wield the shadow-rams.”
“Unfortunately that means my nephew’s men won’t have much of a time taking them down when they come here.”
Iliad shrugged.
“In any case, three remain of the ten or so that were once there. Once the lava dried Luthien sent in a wave to batter down the walls, since the wall-breakers couldn’t reach them in the first place. That wave was wiped out. You probably saw the traps they were setting. Made quick waste of two thousand soldiers. The second wave failed and fled. The second falcon that came had a message that said there is a general standstill, though Luthien is requesting that Alrith surrender.”
“Won’t happen so long as there is breath in his lungs,” Darl said with a sneer.
“Oh, this I know. Lord Alrith has only surrendered once. In a game of chess. And it was because I cheated.” Lord Falth smiled broadly. “Now, first we must attend to this bizarrely logical plan of Alrith’s. Then, I think I may have a welcome surprise for you all.”
“I don’t think I can take many more surprises.” James peered downward.
Lord Falth nodded sympathetically, his eyes dampening.
Their journey was to commence that very day, and no later. Their Blaersteeds would be re-supplied and blades sharpened. To add, Iliad was accompanying them, for it turned out that of all the people in Nor’sigal, he was the only one that had actually been through the Fire Rim more than once. Regardless of Iliad’s inexperience with the dreaded dead zone, James knew that just having someone who had been there would make things easier. Iliad too had been through the passage beneath the Spyder Range. He would be their guide.
Yet, James noticed, Iliad did not seem at all pleased with this assignment. His arms were crossed and his eyes staring off into nothingness like a zombie. James wondered if there was a sense of shame there, shame at abandoning ones post rather than remaining to fight to the bitter end. But Iliad would be coming no matter what. No man would deny an order from a Lord.
The plan was laid out swiftly. They were to ride to the Fire Rim, across the Nor’kal River via a bridge near the runoff into The Drain. Once at the Fire Rim they would take the Scorched Path, one known by Iliad to lead, generally speaking, in the right direction, if not occasionally becoming muddled and confusing in a land that endlessly burned. Then, according to Lord Falth, it would be smooth sailing to the Spyder Range—or riding, if preferred. James had a strange feeling that this plan sounded much easier than it actually was. He wondered how much time Iliad had spent in the Fire Rim and the reason for it. Iliad looked no older than in his mid twenties, no wrinkles, no thinning hair, and Luthien had, from his understanding, always been hostile. He couldn’t think of any reason why someone would want to go into Angtholand, or through the Fire Rim. Even posing as a traveler looking to spend money wasn’t worth the trip.
Then he found himself suddenly grateful to Iliad. He knew that he, Pea, or Darl, would have no advantage in the Fire Rim. None of them had ever been there, but Iliad had, and that advantage might get them through alive and well and with plenty of time to spare.
“Now,” Lord Falth took a deep breath, having finished laying out the foundations of the plan. “I hope this all makes sense. Iliad will be with you through it all. Is everything clear?”
Everyone but James nodded. They eyed him warily now, and he started to crumble under the pressure. Then he said to Iliad, “How well do you know this path?”
Iliad shifted uncomfortably. He took a long breath and let it out slowly. “I’ve been through it three times in my lifetime. But it has been years since I was last there.”
“Can you get us through alive?”
Another long pause, followed by a slow, gentle sight. “I believe so.”
“Then our lives are in your hands.” With that he nodded to Lord Falth and the meeting was over.
It had not been nearly as long as he had expected such a meeting to be. The sun had hardly moved in the sky from where it had been when they arrived. Lord Falth took them out of the room, down the stairs, and outside of the keep. Iliad excused himself with a low bow and took off behind the keep to where the stables were, visible only by the edge of the thatched roof. Then James, Pea, and Darl were led to the opposite side where one of the large buildings sat with open doors. It was tall and colored rust red. It looked a lot older than it actually was, as James could see some of the planks of wood that were used to make it; they still looked new. There were three floors to this particular building. He likened it to an apartment building in that each floor seemed to have two rooms, each with a window. Yet it was made entirely like a building from medieval culture. It bore no similarities to the massive buildings in New York in the way it was built.
They were led inside and instantly the smell of cinnamon and cocoa filled James’ nose. He paused in a moment of déjà vu. Then the scent shifted to that of ginger, then to jasmine. He sniffed it with interest; it had been a while since he smelled jasmine. Then the scent changed suddenly, as if at random. Jasmine fell away, the after-scents of cinnamon and coca, and ginger, dropped from the air. This new smell was sweet, unimaginably sweet. At first he couldn’t tell what it was for it had been so long since he had smelled it. His mother hadn’t baked them in months. The scent of chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven, still warm and gooey in the center. Saliva welled up in his mouth.
“Now that is a curious smell,” someone deeper in the room said. There were drapes hanging everywhere—golden yellows, reds, browns, and oranges, all intermingling like a family of earthly colors. A figure moved in the back, distorted by the drapes. Then the person came forward and James nearly collapsed on his knees. Tears welled up in his eyes.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Beginning of the End of Something or Other

Some quick blog notes. I've added a Shelfari Widget to my sidebar. It will show all the books I am currently reading. Right now it is quite a few, a bunch from the reading list. Also I have a friend who may be creating me a really cool new banner for the header of the site, which I am really excited about.
That same person did a really cool fanart drawing of the attack on the assassins in Chapter Nineteen. Take a look!
I like it because it is fanart for my novel. I'm sort of incapable of disliking it because it is quite cool looking. Fanart is of course welcome here :).

In other news, we are drawing so near the end of this novel it is actually scaring me. I am curious how everyone else feels about finishing novels. This will actually be my first completed novel--albeit not necessarily the first novel that is perfect in any sense of the word. I've written a lot of novels and stopped. I think what is keeping me going on this is the fact that I have fans. There is something really fantastic when a fan tells you they love your work.
Regardless, this is a scary thing. I realize that the story is not finished, since there are other books in the works, but my goodness, it's like sending a child off to college or something of that nature. It's strange that I feel this way. I suppose you could say I have become attached. The characters resonate with me. And they are all so very different and unique from each other--at least in my opinion.

So, for the sake of random interest: Do any of you get a sort of fearful feeling when you are about to finish a work--regardless of length? How do you handle it? Tell me about it. I'd like to hear your stories of emotional attachment to, well, stories!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Book Review: Devilish by Maureen Johnson

I have to admit something to all of you. When I first picked this book up from my pile of award nominees I had very low expectations for it. I thought it was going to be terrible. I really did. I'm not sure why I thought this. Perhaps it had to do with the cover, which, while perfectly fitting for the story itself, would never have grabbed my interest in the book store--not in a million years. This has a lot to do with the fact that the story is more aimed, in my opinion, towards teenage girls. It is, after all, from the viewpoint of a high school girl, dealing with high school romances, friend problems, and other typical teenage dramas. Therefore, the cover had to reflect the target audience.
I am so happy that I was horribly and idiotically wrong about this novel. It was fantastic. So good, even, that at times I wished I had a valid excuse not to go to work. I read it over the course of the last three days (finished it last night), reading at work during break and an hour each night. I didn't want to put it down, but I had to. I wanted to continue on. I wanted to get to the end so bad because I wanted to know everything that happened.
What makes this novel so good? Johnson's writing style, or at least how she writes the first person narrative of the main character Jane. It's that perfect style that tells you exactly what you need to know about the character--she's a teenager, smart, and downright sarcastic and hilarious. Her style is strong throughout. I found myself giggling internally--I don't generally laugh out loud when reading or express much of any emotion...that's just the norm for me.
The story is this:
Jane attends a religious prep school with her best friend Allison. Jane is, well, to put it simply, an academic genius. But she's not without her faults--she tends to get in trouble a lot. Allison is clumsy, throws up when put under pressure, and altogether quirky and odd. Then one day, after a terrible disaster where Allison throws up all over a freshman in the gym, Allison returns to school a completely different person. She's so different that she's answering questions during class, and correctly, she's wearing new clothes and has new confidence. To make things worse, she's just stolen Jane's ex-boyfriend--well stolen is the wrong word, but you get the picture.
Soon Jane finds out that there's more to this sudden change than meets the eye. Allison has done something terrible and stupid--she's just sold her soul to the devil.
The story is, well, excellent. It's strong, flows well, and sticks right to the point without running off in directions that are unnecessary. Jane is an awesome character. She's full of life, spunk, and awesomeness--yes, I used that word to describe her. I found her to be a fantastic character.
There were only a couple times I got annoyed during the novel and this had nothing to do whatseover with the story itself. I think the publisher perhaps misprinted some sentences in the novel so that they are in some ways using the right words, but are grammatically incorrect. I doubt this has anything to do with the author though.
All in all the novel is damn good. It moves fast, has its fair share of twists and turns, and proves to me that I can't judge a book by its cover all the time. Doing so means I will miss out on gems like this. Check this novel it. I think you'll really enjoy it!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Book Review: The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

I'm heading quick into my list. I've already finished off two books on it, and am well on my way into Devilish. So, here is my review of this particular book.I can't say that I really liked The King of Attolia, but neither can I say I hated it. It was so-so for me. One of the interesting things I thought this novel had over other fantasy novels was that it did not revolve around a major military conflict. The conflicts generally seemed to be internal, rather than external to the kingdom of Attolia. In addition to that I found that the world that Turner had created was so believable it was actually real. There is a good reason for this: it is so much like a Greece that never was. There are guns and pocket watches. Think of Greece if it had survived long enough to become an empire much like England became. Can you imagine?
The story is this:
This book takes place some time after her first book The Thief, but stands alone I think. The King of Attolia is an outsider. He's not an Attolian, but an Eddisian from a neighboring kingdom, and not only that, he practically stole the throne. Few respect him, and the Queen herself at one point cut off his hand. But Eugenides must come to grips with the reality of his situation: he is king, whether he likes it or not, and he cannot run away--he must prove that fact to those that are bound to serve him.
Costis is a soldier who has made a terrible mistake. He just struck the King. But to his surprise he is pardoned, and his Captain too. Rather than being exiled he is put under the King's charge as part of the King's attendants. Costis hates the King, and always has. He loves his Queen, but the King is a different story entirely.

That is where the story should have stayed. The problem with the book, a part that makes the story itself a little weak, is that under all of that is threat of invasion from a neighboring kingdom, an uprising among the nobility (Barons), and mounting attempts on the King's life. Now, the last thing worked well in the story. With Costis being a sort of personal guard for the man he loathes, it is an amazing transformation to see how the characters grow through the story. But my biggest beef was that the story focused on something that would seem literally trivial in comparison to the first two subplots. I think trivial hatreds among soldiers is minute in comparison to threat of invasion by a force that the Queen herself knows she cannot repel if the Barons cannot be controlled. So why are we focusing at all on the fact that the King is disliked and has to prove himself? At this point it's almost pointless. Who cares if the King shows that he is worthy of his position, even if he doesn't want it, if by the end of the oncoming war there might not be a King and Queen of Attolia at all? The subplot of war could very well have been left out in my opinion. It only damaged the story.
Turner's writing is solid, except in times when she is intentionally trying to be vague about details. There is a scene in the novel where the King is being attacked by assassins and later in that chapter we learn that the King kills all three, even though he's technically a cripple. Yet, the scene isn't even written. It's almost as if the page was missing that had that action in it. Turner goes on to say that it all happened so fast, but the scene itself shows that the King is being killed. I re-read it a dozen times and still couldn't figure out how we went from King being killed to King killing.
Another issue was the constant jumping around of POV. The only characters I cared about were Costis and Eugenides. Costis is the central character and should have remained the focus. There were a bunch of jumps to characters that weren't really all that important. We didn't need their insights on things because Costis provided enough.
The novel itself ends rather shaky for me. It seems like the novel should have gone on a bit longer in my opinion. It just stopped on a happy note, and that was that. There's no climax, no build up to an ultimate finally. It digs into the story, stays there, and never rises to the occasion.
Other than that I found the novel to be decent enough, if not lacking. Might not be the best novel written, but certainly not the worst. At least the characters and the worlds were believable.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

New Continents in the Works

Yes, the title is correct. I am working on adding new continents to my world. As of right now I have one in mind and it is giving a hell of a lot more trouble than Traea ever did. Traea seemed to flow from my mind without much of a thought, but geographically speaking this new continent is too complex to seem real. I have to bring it down several notches now just to get it to where I like it.

So what does this mean for WISB? A lot. First, the second book already is looking to be off of the mainland of Traea to begin with--though that can change as I progress through the story. A second continent is needed simply because I have way too much in my head for there not to be. I can't put it all on Traea. That would make for a severely compressed batch of ideas and concepts. This second continent I think will incorporate some aspects that perhaps are not so prevalent in WISB as we know it, as well as drawing on some things that I think are quite intriguing but don't get much play in the first book simply because there isn't room for it. And since we know what the title of the second book is--the tentative title anyway being The Spellweaver of Dern--that should give quite a few clues as to what to expect for the second book.

But first, I have to get through book one, I have to put together a portfolio so I can get into the creative writing program at UCSC, read a hell of a lot, keep writing short stories as I am horribly behind now, and try not to get overly annoyed with my grandma as she bugs me left and right to clean and clean and clean so we can sell the house while trying desperately to do all the things that are of the most value to me--basically anything that has to do with writing.

Oi. :P

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Book Review: Recursion by Tony Ballantyne

As part of my reading list for the awards, here is my review of Recursion.
It's not very often that I get to read something as utterly complex as this story. I don't mean complex in that "I don't understand or fully comprehend" in the same fashion as was the case with The Elysium Commission (which was a good book nonetheless). Rather I mean the sheer massiveness of the concepts involved within the novel itself.
The basic story is this:
Herb is a young entrepeneur in a futuristic 'world' (figuratively speaking since in this case there are many worlds within Earth's scope) governed by an entity called the Environmental Agency. He is returning to a planet where he had illegally set into action little machines called VNM's--self replicating robots that can be programmed to create entire cities--only to find that his VNM's have gone haywire and overrun the planet, destroying everything of value. Just when he thinks he might get away with it, being so far from the center of control for the Environmental Agency, an EA agent pops up in his ship. Soon he finds himself in a different sort of trouble as he learns that his accident is nothing compared to what the something called the "Enemy Domain" is up to.
There are two other story lines that run through this. One involves Constantine--set in the past before Herb--who is called a "ghost" because he has imbedded into his mind four other personalities (not the psychological condition, but actual other personalities that live in him as he goes along with his life...they interact and the like). The other is Eva who we find out in the beginning has been planning to kill herself for some time but because the Environmental Agency is truly the nosiest of governments it won't allow her to do it without careful planning. This is set in the past as well. Later on we find her in a mental health facility with a group of people paranoid about something called "the Watcher".
Now the two other story lines run in with the main story with Herb. Both merge in the end with Herb. I don't think it was a perfect merging, it was somewhat flawed and not quite as strong as I would have liked, but it worked well enough to keep me interested in the story from start to finish. One of the things I loved most about this book were the concepts in it. You have VNM's that can build AND destroy, people who have extra personalities that are practically their own people inside of their minds, copied mental entities within sustained 'Matrix' style worlds that are just as alive as the minds they came from, and AI's that have grown and evolved so much that they are actually smarter than humans--for obvious reasons.
All this makes for a very intriguing story. The action was fantastic and I found that I truly enjoyed all the characters, even the crazy ones. I generally don't like stories with so many story lines, partially because I like to delve deep into individuals rather than groups. Luckily I think Ballantyne managed to create very 3-d characters for me. They had fears that were real in the world they lived in. They cried when they were supposed to; freaked out when things went bad. They were, essentially, very human! He does an excellent job taking characters that aren't human and twisting them just so slightly so you might start to wonder, "something just isn't right about you." The twists and turns keep the plot fresh and new. I liked this book very much. It will be in my collection for some time and I expect to read some more Ballantyne.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Chapter Nineteen: Of Goodbye and the Summering Rocks

(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 woke early the following morning. His mind raced with thoughts of the past day as he slowly took in his surroundings. Here the bright sunlight could be seen for the trees opened up like welcoming arms to the blue sky. The fire had been put out and he quickly found that he was not the only one that had awoken. Pea and Darl were nearby arguing over something he couldn’t see. They spoke in whispers, but he could tell from the tone in Darl’s voice that the two were on the verge of insulting each other.
He stood up and let the covers fall from his body. He yawned and stretched. The scent of his un-bathed body wafted over him and he cringed. He sorely missed having a daily shower. It had been days since his last shower—far too long for his liking. Deep down he wished he could go back to Arnur and the great pool of little cleaning beings. The feeling of being one hundred percent clean of all dirt and grime seemed only a dull memory now.
James walked over to Pea and Darl, listening closely as he went.
“What if it’s poisoned?” Darl said, his whisper strong and nearly loud enough to be at normal speech.

“Why would they poison us with one of their own among us?” Pea said.
“Why not? False sense of security!”
Then James was next to them. They looked at him; he looked down and found the object of their argument. Four baskets weaved of leaves and filled with berries of all shapes, colors, and sizes, and other fruits that both looked familiar and unfamiliar at the same time, lay next to the dead fire. There were fruits he knew—bananas, apples, pears, and even kiwis. He marveled at the sight of it. Even in Arlin City he had not seen such a brilliant array of fruits.
“It was left overnight,” Darl said to him.
“Oh?” James mumbled.
Forest folk of some sort. Maybe the Moss People left it. Maybe Brownies.”
“Darl thinks it’s a trap,” Pea said.
“Why would the Moss People poison us?”
Darl grimaced. “Rumors and legends are generally born out of some sort of reality.”
“You honestly think the Moss People would be behind this?” Pea’s voice rose to just above a whisper.
“Or the Brownies.”
Then Darl and Pea were arguing fully again and James tuned them both out. He stared down at the four baskets. Saliva built in his mouth. It all looked delicious, like a perfectly prepared array of the best pickings possible. Would they really poison us, he thought. Why? We’ve done nothing to them.
Just then Tum Tum walked between his legs, yawning and stumbling side to side. The Brownie was not yet fully awake. As Tum Tum reached the baskets Pea and Darl ceased their whispered arguing to watch. Then the little man grabbed an apple, turned with drooping eyes, took a bite, and walked back through James’ legs and to where Tiddle lay fast asleep. The three of them watched intently. Suddenly Tum Tum heaved and began to choke. His eyes went wide; he coughed and hacked, clutching at his throat, teetering this way and that.
Then, just as abruptly as it had all started, Tum Tum stopped and looked at the apple in his hands. He threw it with all the might a little man could muster into the forest and cried out, “Bloody tricksters! That apple is still a day away from being ripe you filthy little…” Tum Tum caught himself, took a deep breath, and brushed himself off. “Humph.” Then he went back to his bed and fell asleep in an instant.
James, Pea, and Darl stared in disbelief. Then James took a peach from one of the baskets and ate. Darl tried to protest, but it was too late. Wonderment came over him as the juices of the peach filled him. The peach was juicy, as all peaches should be, and brought every sensation of joy imaginable from the sense of taste. A little stream of juice dribbled down his chin; he wiped it away. Soon Darl and Pea joined in and they all ate together, reveling in the amazing array of choices.
Several minutes later, or at least long enough for James to realize that the sun was now truly rising from the horizon and spilling light over everything, Tum Tum and Tiddle awoke and took off along the path. Nobody tried to stop them, though James could tell that Darl truly wanted to. Instead, the three packed everything up in a rush and quickly mounted their respective Blaersteeds. The steeds took off without a single command and in no time they were alongside Tum Tum and Tiddle, both of which had taken to singing and playing their fiddles. This time James did not listen. He instead allowed his mind to wander for he had had far too much of their singing the day before and already could feel a headache building above his eyes. He focused on the sky, the trees, bushes, and other plants both old and new to him. His eyes wandered from the dense black hairs of Mirdur’eth to the path before him that had suddenly stopped winding in an out of the forest that seemed impossible to traverse. The path was as close to straight as he could hope, only taking mild turns here and there. The path itself was clear of brush as if it suddenly was heavily traveled. He wondered if perhaps the Moss People or even the other Brownies, which he assumed there were, had some affect on the way the forest behaved. Perhaps they can move it. Maybe they have control over the trees and their branches. He quickly shook those thoughts away. Even in this crazy world that would be impossible. Trees can’t move.
The day dragged on. Tum Tum and Tiddle took a few hours’ break from singing, much to the delight of the rest. The forest seemed endless. By mid-afternoon the trail had taken a gradual turn northeast, but gave no indication that it would open up near Nor’sigal or the river. Their two newest companions were seemingly unconcerned about the apparent lack of an ending. James had hoped that at some point at the end of the day there would be some sign that the forest was thinning out or that they were reaching their destination, but the forest kept on as thick and confusing as ever as if the life of the forest knew nothing whatsoever about how ecosystems functioned.
Night fell. Tum Tum and Tiddle went asleep in much the same fashion as they had the night before and the following morning yet another batch of baskets was left by a fire that had long since died out. This time there was no argument; everyone ate their fill and they set off once again into the forest. Tum Tum and Tiddle hummed now, rather than sang, and James gathered it was because the two Littlekind had run out of lyrics.
After a few hours more of endless forest James looked down at Tum Tum, who was skipping now alongside Mirdur’eth, and said, “Are there many more like you Tum Tum?”
“Enough for an army. And a darn good one I must say,” Tum Tum said cheerfully.
“An army? Are the Brownies going to war?”
“Nope. We’re preparing for the end of the world.”
“What?!” James’ voice cracked, but he maintained composure.
“The end of the world my good friend. It is upon us!” Tum Tum did a cartwheel and grinned up at James. “Don’t seem so rigid. We know of you and your quest.”
“You do?”
“Yes indeed. The Buschgrossmutter saw the futures.”
“Don’t you mean future?”
Tum Tum shook his little head fervently. “I meant futures. Learn to hear. Brownies don’t speak incorrectly. She saw a few. One was the end of the world.”
“Then why are you so cheerful? Shouldn’t you try to stop that future from happening?”
“Well, I suppose we could. But that would require the forest folk to be a little less cheerful about things, and, well, that’s somewhat against our nature. We like things happy! To the end of the world my horse mounted Humankind!”
Mirdur’eth grunted.
“Blaersteed. Forgive me.” Then Tum Tum produced a tiny bottle and two tiny cups, the likes of which could have fit over James’ thumbs. Tum Tum poured bright blue liquid from the bottle into each cup, gave one to James and said, “To the end of the world .” Tum Tum gulped down his share.
James hesitated. He looked into the blue, watching the bubbles as they rose to the surface and popped. Then he drank it and coughed hard. The liquid was strong, and highly alcoholic. His parents had given him a taste of wine before, but this blue substance was far stronger than anything he had ever tasted. It surged through him and he could feel it slipping deep into his belly to be digested. He coughed again. Somewhere in that alcoholic surge there was flavor, but his young taste buds couldn’t taste it.
“Brownie-lixer. Good stuff. Not brown though. Very much the color of clean blue water. But, good nonetheless!” Tum Tum reached out for James’ cup. He handed it down and Tum Tum cart wheeled forward and away, leaving him somewhat disturbed.
How can anyone be so cheerful about the end of the world? Why would anyone want to be cheerful? Why wouldn’t they want to stop it? I would. James couldn’t imagine anyone being unconcerned with what was going on in the world. He wondered how much Tum Tum knew of him and Laura, or about Luthien. Does he fully understand what will happen to his people if Luthien controls all of Traea?
The day disappeared much the same as it had the previous day—uneventful and relatively unhindered. When night came everyone ate and slept near the fire and morning repeated itself. Four more baskets were laid out, everyone ate, and then they were off once more. Five more days went by with much the same effect and James began to feel as though they would never get out of the Forest of Gall. He hoped that Luthien was far behind them still. He hoped that Ti’nagal had stalled Luthien’s armies long enough, and he hoped that the Moss People and Tum Tum weren’t tricking him and his companions.
At mid-afternoon on the tenth day the forest began to thin out. James smiled broadly at this, hoping and hoping that this would mean leaving the Forest of Gall. As much as he liked Tum Tum and Tiddle and the generous hospitality they were providing, he wanted desperately to be in more open terrain. The forest made him feel claustrophobic. He could no longer stand being trapped in the forest. He wanted to move on, to get closer to Teirlin’pur and Laura. The sooner they could reach open ground the faster they could traverse the many miles of terrain ahead.
As he hoped, the forest opened up into a wide field that was met in the distance by the Nor’duíl River. Somewhere northeast was Nor’sigal. James wasn’t sure how far north they had come along the river, but he knew they had to move quickly now. In the forest they had the cover of trees, but along the river there was little in the way of forests. Some cover was there, but not enough to hide them well from any scouts that Luthien might have been sent north.
“Ah, so we’ve reached the end of our participation in your journey,” Tum Tum said, taking a seat at Tiddle’s feet.
“It appears that way,” Pea said.
“We need to move,” Darl said. “We appreciate your hospitality, but we have to go now while we can. There’s no telling how long we’ll be able to avoid other people.”
“Of course.”
“Thank you Tum Tum,” James said.
“Thank you for listening to my songs.” Tum Tum bowed his head. “Now scoot along and remember to come visit when you are through with your magical rescue operation.” Tum Tum waved delicately, princess-like, and then hopped up, did two somersaults and, with Tiddle in tow, disappeared into the woods. Somewhere behind in the maze of trees, bushes, and vines, came the sound of two fiddles playing in harmony.
“Well, now that that’s done,” Darl said, grunting as he did so.
“You’re just upset because he called you the grumpy one.” Pea grinned mischievously.
Darl harrumphed.
James laughed.
The three of them set off at a brisk pace, or rather the three Blaersteeds trotted while their riders held the reins pointlessly. They saw nobody along the river, nor in the distance to the north or south. So they continued on, pushing along the yellow and green field to the river. Tall grasses abruptly gave way to a riding trail, which they promptly avoided, taking to the taller grass on the opposite side closer to the river. They could hear the water flowing from there, bubbling and churning in places where there were rapids or rocks. Here and there were patches of trees and bushes, both tall and short, and in varying shades of green like a giant living painting blended together.
James gently patted Mirdur’eth’s neck, running his fingers through the black mane. He was glad to be clear of the Forest of Gall, but deep down he missed Tum Tum and Tiddle. He would miss their songs, however annoying, and he prayed that one day he would see them again in a time when the world didn’t end. He was also happy to see the sun fully again. They had spent so many days in the Forest of Gall under the thick canopy. Sometimes they had seen sun, and other times they had not. He liked the sun, except when it was extremely hot, yet he knew that once they crossed into the Fire Rim they would not see the sun for days again. He decided to enjoy the warmth while he could.
The Blaersteeds took them many miles upstream. James couldn’t be sure the distance, but he guessed—with a little mathematics thrown in—that they had traveled some forty miles judging from the sun. The sun had crossed through the apex of its curve in the sky to partway into evening. He turned his head to watch the river, bobbing up and down on Mirdur’eth as smoothly as he could manage. Between the occasional trees he could see the water flowing swiftly, yet fluidly. The occasional jut of rocks forced the water to move to the side, creating little rapids, but otherwise, here, the water was relatively calm. The river was clear too, clearer than he had ever seen in the waters of Woodton, where the Stillwater River ran. At times that river could be quite clear, especially in the environmentally conscious town of Woodton. Yet the Nor’duíl River was clearer, cleaner, and altogether purer than anything he had ever seen. He continued watching. He saw fish, spotted and easily over two feet long. Trout, or something related to trout. Maybe I’ll get to fish here one day.
James followed the river behind him, watching the fish pass. Then something glimmering caught his eye and Mirdur’eth grunted and halted. The other two steeds stopped as well. Far behind something reflected bright flashes of light—something metallic. Then more of the flashes appeared, all of which were apart from the first flash giving away that there was more than one something there.
“What is that?” He said.
The lights flashed away revealing four objects or figures, he couldn’t be sure which. The suns rays obscured the view, warping the air in the distance so that whatever the four things were was distorted beyond recognition as if they were hallucinations in a desert.
“That,” Darl said, “is a sign that we need to run.”
“No, James,” Pea said. They would have turned away as soon as they saw us. Assassins perhaps. Coming fast too.”
“Unnaturally fast.” He turned away and peered down at Mirdur’eth. The steed looked him in the eye; he stared into the black pool of the pupil and closed his grip hard over the reins. “Let’s go then.” At that, Mirdur’eth bolted forward, through Pea and Darl. Bel’ahtor and Arna’tu lurched forward a second later and all three steeds galloped fast across the field along the river. James held tight, trying with all his might to move fluidly with the black muscular body below him. Despite his best efforts he could not move perfectly and found himself bouncing harshly. He risked a look back; the four objects were closer and now looked like armored riders on gray steeds.
“They’re gaining,” he said, yelling back to Darl, who in turn peered back.
“Wicked magic! Go!”
The three steeds pushed harder. James could feel Mirdur’eth breathing heavy underneath him. Somehow he knew that the Blaersteed would not be so easily halted; exhaustion would have to take him first.
Looking back he could see that the four riders were even closer. The steeds they rode were visible now, but they weren’t truly steeds at all. Beneath the four armored riders—each with long, shimmering silver blades drawn high above their black armor—were four phantoms. They each had four legs like a horse and ran just the same, but when their hooves touched the earth the legs faded in and out in puffs of smoke, as if they were made of gray remnants of a fire. Smoke poured from their mouths as they breathed, falling away like sand from their bodies. Their eyes were tiny orange embers like stones heated over a fire. James knew now that they were not running from anything entirely human. These riders were users of magic, and powerful magic to be able to conjure horses of smoke that could move at such speeds.
The riders closed in, shrinking the gap now to a mere hundred feet. James looked again, Darl and Pea did too, and at that moment the four riders lifted their swords high above their heads. A loud clap sounded and the blades, shining bright silver as if they were freshly made, became engulfed in fire. The flames wrapped around the blades, writhing and turning about like dozens of snakes.
He faced forward again, no longer wanting to see the horror that was closing on him. Ahead the choppy tree line broke. The shore of the river opened into a flat area on both sides. The water ran slow there, and in the center of the river was a circle of stones each carved into the shape of a hand and each the size of two men.
“The Summering Rocks!”
Mirdur’eth turned and bore into the water. All three steeds were force to slow down against the current. They crossed through the water and into the circle of stones. Mirdur’eth halted. Darl faced the riders who had come up behind, wielding their flaming swords maliciously. Beneath their helms could be seen the wicked faces of four men, Humankind the lot.
“Your wicked steeds won’t come into this water,” Darl said firmly. “Turn back now.”
The riders grinned wide; their teeth were sickeningly white, so white that it seemed completely unnatural. Then they dismounted and began to trudge into the water.
“Prepare yourselves.” Then Darl drew his sword, the metal hissing as it came out of the sheath. James followed suit. “Turn back.”
“Arguing over this is senseless,” the closest rider said, a hissing sound deep in his throat. “Your death…”
James didn’t let the horrid man finish his sentence. He grabbed his magic, formed it, pushed it, and in his mind willed stones from underwater forward. The water bubbled once and in that instant a dripping hand of water and stone appeared and thrust out in a fist. The force of it struck the rider square in the chest and launched the unsuspecting man into the air, out of the river, and hard into the earth. Water doused the flames on the riders’ sword. The sound of metal crunching as the stones, pebbles, and sound bore into the black armor sent a shiver down James’ spine. Then he cut off the magic, breathing heavily.
But the rider stood slowly, brushing away the damage and removing his chest plate. A thick laugh came from the man.
“Dirty trick, boy,” the rider said. “Very dirty trick.”
The three other riders took a single step forward. Then the flames from their swords burst out, reaching at James, Pea, and Darl like serpents. Magic came again through James and he felt Pea pulling too. Invisible force struck the flames and the fire dispersed through the air all around them, pushing off towards the sky, earth, and everywhere. The first rider met up with his companions and together all four converged on the group. Flames appeared again into their blades.
Slowly they came to the edge of the Summering Rocks. Then the rider who had spoken, the leader, took a step into the circle. Suddenly the hands glowed bright, yellow and orange hues pushing outward as if tiny suns were inside them. The riders glanced to one another nervously. Then the leader stepped again. A loud twang, a sound like an enormous pole that when struck rings out the deepest imaginable tuning note, tore into ear drums. Something rustled through the air and in an instant invisible force gripped the lead rider and thrust him high above. He cried out and the other three stared in disbelief. The twang sounded again and the lead rider screeched.
James shifted uncomfortably; Mirdur’eth did too, moving closer to the center of the circle of stone hands. The lead rider screeched once more and then, in a flash of red, he fell from the sky and crashed into the earth on the shore. No sound came from him and from where James sat on Mirdur’eth’s back he could see that the rider’s face had caved in. The other riders took a few steps back; the stones ceased glowing.
Something hissed behind. James turned just in time to feel a dozen arrows brush past him. The wind rushed by his face and he could only catch glimpses of the wood and feathers. The riders pulled upon their magic, but it was too late and they were unprepared for such a sneak attack. The arrows dug deep into the riders’ chests and they crashed into the water. The smoky steeds grunted nearby, then seemed to willingly dissolve into nothingness, the smoke disappearing like a fire dying out.
Then the origin of the arrows became clear. Five men appeared out of the grass on the opposite side of the river. They wore tunics and pants that were laced with gold and brown grasses—perfect camouflage. Each was thin and the leader came forward. He had scars all across his face giving him a menacing look under his gentle smile. Some looked as though they were from battle, and others were small and suggested that the man had plenty of scratches and cuts from wandering in the woods. They were scouts, and sneaky ones at that. James started to think of them as medieval snipers—hiding away in the bushes for days in search of a target or scouting enemy movements.
Then the leader came forward and grinned wide and cheerfully. “Welcome to the Summering Rocks, James of Woodton.”

Nebula and Andre Norton Awards Announced

As usual I am behind. But here they are. (Note: this means I can read just about anything except the actual winners from my previous lists at any point in time. I'm happy about that because I can bounce around and have some freedom :P. And yes I do intend to get a review up, but unfortunately Recursion is taking me a while to read. It's decent enough though.)

Best Novel (Nebula)
Best Novella--Burn by James Patrick Kelly
Best Novelette--Two Hearts by Peter S. Beagle
Best Short Story--Echo by Elizabeth Hand
Best Script--Howl's Moving Castle by Hayao Miyazaki, Cindy Davis Hewitt, and Donald H. Hewitt

Best Novel (Andre Norton)
Congrats to the winners!

Friday, June 01, 2007

My Silly Mistake

I'm an just as prone to mistakes as everyone else. Why? Because I'm a human being and thus am not born with the almighty powers of God or a god or a demigod or some such infinitely perfect being that is incapable of being fallible.
My silly mistake was this. During the entire course of writing WISB I have not once taken any notes on the world that I have been building. I've not written down extensive information about the characters, the cities, etc. Why is this important? Because I have so much information in the novel itself that it is actually getting a little difficult to keep track of it all. So I've started keeping a database of information using EverNote, a nifty little note taking program. I'm still far far far behind, but so be it. At least now I will be able to keep track of everything. It will all be written down neatly! In a strange way it will be like a personal wikipedia site! Except it's not online, obviously. I am way behind though in regards to everything that has happened in my world. I've only just begun to brush the surface and I think once I finish the first novel I will take about a month off to do two things:
1. Get everything written down in my EverNote file so that I have an amazing reference guide not only for myself but perhaps for my readers. We're talking extensive stuff here beyond what is actually written. Yes, I'm a Tolkien wannabe, but I'll be nice enough not to cloud all of you with mindless dribble in the actual story because, well, you won't need it. My main focus in WISB is the characters and how they interact and develop in this fantastic and altogether unimaginably bizarre world.
2. Prepare to write book two, which is tentatively being called "The Spellweaver of Dern". I'm not sure why, but I thought of that title and long time ago and it just stuck. I think originally I had intended it to be some sort of offshoot series of WISB, but I liked the named "spellweaver" so much that I incorporated it into WISB and ultimately into this set of books (whether that be two or three in total). My goal is no more than three books right now. I don't want to have some massive series that could potentially run into time problems. But, this is all for a later discussion.

So, this is something that will be happening towards the end of summer, which would put me at about the one year mark for when I started WISB if I manage to get everything written by October. In theory I should have it all written and up on this site by August, assuming nothing horrendous goes wrong--you know, like my car explodes or something of that nature. This also assumes my family will give me the time to actually finish writing this novel without me having to explain why I need two weekends out of the month to sit down at my computer. Then again, my family is crazy and will never understand that aside from wanting to become an English teacher I also want to be a writer and doing so requires excessive amounts of time not only to read, but to write and practice the craft. This is why I started WISB in the first place--as an experiment. Fortunately, this experiment has been mildly successful from my viewpoint and therefore has been kept on for over half a year now.
Anywho, I am rambling.
More to come this weekend :P