Now that Thanksgiving Is Past

Let me begin your Christmas Season with the One Song to Rule Them All.

You’re Welcome:

Merry Christmas!

 

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Ethical Dilemma!

I sooo wanted to get the Word Count for NaNoWriMo up to 35,000 words this weekend. It’s been flowing, moving daily, and I might even knock out all my notes by the end of writing on Sunday. Or so I thought…

…and then THIS shows up on my doorstep. Oh…thank you Postal Service, for not even knocking at my door. Kate Daniels, you magnificent butt-kicker, can I possibly put this off until I get 3000 words typed?

Priorities.

My Writing Has Been a Struggle For A While Now

Such that I’m at the point of thinking I just need to shelve the Epic Fantasy until I’ve gotten the creative juices flowing again and don’t feel like I’m writing just to finish a project. It doesn’t help that I find myself wondering ‘why am I doing this’? waaaay too often these days.

So when I saw this article on my Facebook feed today, I found myself geeked: http://www.dailydot.com/geek/dreadpunk-dragoncon-gothic-horror-fantasy/?fb=gk

Now, I don’t know how different from Steampunk it *actually* is. Penny Dreadful Steampunk is not uncommon to the genre. And most authors playing in Steampunk (Including myself) have indulged in the dark side of the greasy, soot-rain streets more than once. Let alone when I allowed zombies into my Steampunk (Before the Walking Dead made them cool, I might add.) But when I read this, it definitely sparked the idea mill for the first time in a while. I could do this in an 1800ish Auroriverse setting very easily, actually.

But Gothic Horror in Victoriana? Yeah. I can write this. 😉

Two Days Without Internet?!

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How did I survive?

It was difficult, truth be told. The phone’s data plan is somewhat plundered at the moment. But thankfully, Steam lets me do stuff in offline mode. If Football Manager had been on Origen, there might have been blood.

And I return to the net to get sucked into an argument I don’t need, about a topic people don’t want to understand my thoughts on, with people who end up resorting to personal attacks. Oh well, Social Justice Warriors will always demonstrate the lie beneath their claimed title.

And the Entire First Half of This Season’s ARROW

We were trying to figure out what purpose the Hong Kong flashbacks had.

Huh. Guess we found out with a WHAM tonight. Midnight on the Fire Line-esque indeed. Well played.

Now if the writers on Castle could figure out what THEY are doing by destroying the chemistry they spent 6 years building in Caskett. Because the last couple episodes have been…tepid. Actually, this whole season has lacked. Probably because the ‘cliffhanger’ they were left with was ill-conceived.

Oh, and in my writing. Not satisfied in killing off characters, as I did last night. Tonight I offed a member of my world’s pantheon.

BIG fall.

Insects and Insight

This is a snippet from my Sword, Sorcery, and Sandal Epic Fantasy. Strategos Amuhan, the narrator, is the “Hannibal” of my pseudo-Punic Wars plotline. Which is fairly close to the beginning of the arc here. Enjoy!
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If I would have been forced to describe the last day’s march on Trystwy in a single word, it would’ve been ‘swarmed.’ Never have I seen so many ways to be attacked by relentless, blood-sucking insects. Leeches waited in the swamps our march skirted. Mosquitoes and black-winged moths both descended on us in fast-moving clouds, as maddening as Shahrak Horse Archers. Even Shayla, whose ebullient mood had proven infectious since joining us, frowned and muttered, “Khepra Himself must have planted His seed in this bog.”

As a third mass of bugs appeared, thick enough to conceal the sun, Tiernan dismounted from his horse snarled, “Erebus take this!”

“Run faster!” Spiros taunted. “Maybe we can use you as bait!”

When Tiernan arrived at the bank, he didn’t dive into it, instead he reached into the mud with both hands and slathered it over his exposed arms and face. Clumps rolled down his short beard and tumbled back into his hands. The Thunderbolts hooted, but Shayla leaned forward on her pony like a cat being teased until its rump raises and wiggles. He returned to the ranks with a wide, lips-sucked-in grin that resembled a matron’s toothless effort. Even I found it impossible not to shake my head at the bard.

He had the last laugh, for as the bugs feasted on us, he rode through them without so much as a flick of the finger. When next we passed a spring with sufficient bank, half the host dove for the mud. I found myself tempted to join them, but as Strategos, my duty was to bear every burden without flinching. No matter how trivial it might seem. So I contented myself with swatting those insects that slipped beneath my hood or up the sleeves. With the low shoulders of Shayla’s gown, I knew that she had to be suffering worse, despite her cloak. So I cleared enough space with a hand for me to talk. Then I asked, in a tone I thought gentle, “I’m assuming Tiernan’s remedy is part of your folklore. So why didn’t you avail yourself to it, Shayla?”

She turned up her nose at me and harrumphed, turning her pony around and disappearing into the ranks behind as I gaped until a moth found its way to my tongue. That cost me much in military decorum. Tiernan covered his mouth and chortled. “The Chief didn’t lie when he said taming that one is like saddling the wind. Be thankful she’s infatuated with you.”

I feigned a blink as we resumed our march. “What convinces you she is?”

“Gods Amuhan!” His chest quivered. “Her eyes never leave you. Even now, she watches your back. Her hand ‘accidentally’ finds yours whenever it can, and brushes your arm or leg when it can’t.”

I tucked my head further into my cloak to hide my blush as another cluster of dried mud fell from the bard’s smirking face. “But you knew this already. Because while most Gods have favored you, Telas did not. You’re no better lying than the child caught with a chunk of bread from the oven.”

Snickering, I looked back at Shayla. Her head turned and dipped, like she was unaware of where I was. But before I returned my gaze to the road, her golden eyes belied the claim of disinterest. “Yes I did know,” I affirmed. “Though hearing you say it encourages me. One never is quite certain if a man’s heart isn’t playing tricks on him when it comes to the affection of a woman. Still, there’s something strange about her family.”

My bannerman’s face narrowed into a line. So I leaned a hand on my knee. “Let me guess: You know because it echoes the story about why you left your mother’s people?”

Tiernan winced. “I’d hoped you hadn’t seen my reaction to your analogy.”

“I did, comrade.”

After glancing over his shoulder to ensure Shayla’s pique hadn’t passed yet, the bard said, “Lord Amuhan, I’ll tell you my story. It’s up to her to tell you how close it is to her own. But I’m certain the same law is involved.”

“What law is this?” I drummed a finger on my thigh. Then flicked at another mosquito.

“Our people have a custom when duels are fought. To prevent retaliation, the victor must take the surviving spouse and any children into their own family.” His eyes flicked to Shayla again.

“That explains why she and Carii are so different in temperament and looks.” I stroked my chin. “So the Chief became her husband to guard the daughter. And she took up her training because Shayla possesses talent as well.”

“Probably,” Tiernan conceded. “I was accepted among the Lexovi because of my Mother’s talent. She had birthed me before becoming Beien Ciall to them. But another challenged and defeated her. All such duels are to the death. If there isn’t a death blow, the victor carves out the loser’s heart. “ He paused and cleared his throat, and I glimpsed a sheen over the big man’s eyes.

“And by law, you had a new mother,” I finished.

He nodded grimly. “Understand, most of the time, such ‘adoptions’ go well enough. However, in my case she didn’t want a ‘half-breed’ for a son. So I became an outsider in truth. And if a boar’s tusks were laced with poison, would any think to look before I died?”

“No, they’d never know,” I replied with a shake of the head. “They’d assume you succumbed to the wounds. So how did you—?”

“I’m not a bard because I have a strong voice and love to collect stories that can be put to song,” he answered dryly. “Mother taught me much of herblore and natural remedies. She also taught me a good deal about ritual magics.”

My eyes rounded. “Why didn’t you say this when Toi was poisoned?”

Tiernan shook his head. “You forget, he walked away. We thought it little more than a scratch. It wasn’t until the Priestess couldn’t heal him that she even thought to look for poison. By then, Toi was already dead. Besides, the chemist seemed to do a thorough enough work in identifying it. And I had never seen it before either.”

I closed my eyes and remembered the yellow ball and black bile extracted from his body. The bones broken from convulsions and contorted expression on his face as the poison killed him. There wasn’t a pit in Erebus deep enough for his murderer. And I wasn’t certain the order to kill me had come from Davos either. “I appreciate you telling me this, Tiernan. It couldn’t have been easy.”

“I’ve gone this far in disclosing the ways of Mother’s people,” the bard said with a deep frown. “You should know, even if Shayla were Carii’s birth daughter, eventually the two would become rivals. And only one could remain in the tribe.”

I hung my head. Rain Dancer sensed my distress, mincing his steps as I looked over first one shoulder, and then the other for the wilder woman. I caught a glimpse of her blond mane near Captain Spiros at the front of the Hundred Hands. A stab of jealousy pricked my side, though if I had been the newcomer, I’d be as curious as Shayla to learn of the new cultures.

“The condor was hers? Or Carii’s?”

“Hers,” Tiernan answered without hesitation. “She’s the curious one. And the birds are already bound to her arms.”

I pivoted and made an interrogative grunt. He shook his head. “Now I am getting perilously close to discussing secrets Mother made me swear I’d never share. If she wishes, Shayla will explain herself.”

With a sigh, I answered, “For an explanation, this isn’t helping me understand her very much.”

Tiernan chuckled. “Lord Amuhan, I may be a bard. And I certainly know the ways to woo women. But I’ve never made claim to understand them.”

I laughed so hard, I nearly swallowed a mosquito.

Another Interesting List

So Paul Goat Allen over at Barnes and Noble’s book blog (we won’t ask about their future here), made a list of the 20 best Paranormal Fantasy series. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/the-20-best-paranormal-fantasy-novels-of-the-last-decade/

It’s not an altogether bad list. I’ve read most of the series, and there’s a couple I *want* to that I haven’t had the time yet.

First of all, I’ll quibble with the title. Paranormal Fantasy is Department of Redundancy Department. Fantasy is, by definition, outside (hence Para) the normal. Paranormal Romance works as a genre, because Romance (while having its own mash of fantasies) can be this OR otherworldly. Fantasy, even when it’s a world “like” ours, isn’t. Now I get what he means, he’s mashing “Paranormal Romance” and “Urban Fantasy” together because the two are often difficult to distinguish. Fair Enough. But they are not so fungible as to mash their titles together.

Second, I’ll quibble with the #1 spot. Dead Beat is *probably* the best Dresden Files, and he was trying to only take 1 per series. That’s fine. However, there’s no way DB is not the high point of Urban Fantasy. Period. Full Stop. It practically LIVES on the TV Tropes Crowning Moments of Awesome page. Right down to this iconic image: http://media.tumblr.com/e9433d5a9a17ef41b7617f34163f4e32/tumblr_inline_mlpna1ldsh1qz4rgp.jpg Yes. This is Dresden Files. Sorry, Kim Harrison’s Hollows is a very good series. But it has no moment even approximating this…oh as amazing as the picture is, it forgot the one man polka band keeping time.

Third, how in the world is Kate Daniels NOT on this list? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNsrK6P9QvI

No really. Impressive character growth, fantastic relationships. Great plots, intense action. The series is amazing, and has everything Urban Fantasy fans should expect. And if you want a Distaff counterpart to Harry, it’s Kate. No question.

I could also make a case for MLN Hannover’s Black Sun’s Daughter and Benedict Jacka’s Alex Verus. But to me, the glaring omission is Kate Daniels, as IMHO, it’s the second best Urban Fantasy you can buy today, behind Harry Dresden.

Still, not a *bad* list, perse.

Change This Title to “Since 2005”

And it’s closer to right. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/21/disappointing-series-finales_n_5514671.html?ncid=txtlnkusaolp00000592

I can’t argue with most of the list. The final season of Lost literally destroyed my enjoyment for the years before. Of course, the article makes the popular canard of saying J.J. Abrams was still involved with the show then. He wasn’t. Alias, a show he was involved in the entire run, had a very good finale, IMHO. 

What’s the difference? Well, it’s not a matter of difficult mythology. Alias had its Rimbaldi myths, which dominated most of the early seasons, and then slid into the undercurrent of early Season 4, when they rebooted the show. But the finale bathed in it, right down to using Sloane’s quest for eternal life against him. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-XJyk6qIos

BTW, Jack Bristow’s line in that scene is one of the greatest lines I’ve ever seen. And he was right, Sloane trapped in Rimbaldi’s tomb forever. Poetic Justice on the ultimate scale. How is that for a perfect finale? Oh yeah. There was still Sydney’s finish. Which was almost as satisfying.

Lost? Well. Not everything can make as much sense. But at least it could’ve answered half its own questions.

But my choice for ‘best finale ever’ has to be Babylon 5’s “Sleeping in Light.” A quiet, emotional piece that even in repeated viewing wrings manly tears from me. The choices they’ve made have consequences that cannot be avoided. But Sheridan, Delenn, and Babylon 5 itself has changed the galaxy in every way they could hope. It is the opposite of the expansive, explosive Alias final act (though the station gets a big boom). And yet no less rewarding.

And that’s why, compared to the ones on the list, they worked. Those finales were honest with their characters, worlds, and the fans who had invested in them. They gave real payoffs in return, and answered the key questions of the story. That’s what a good ending should do. To me, that’s why I’ve never bought the argument against the Scouring of the Shire in Lord of the Rings as a proper ending. The readers don’t see the events of the story through Aragorn and Gandalf’s eyes. But through those of the Hobbits. And we have every reason to see they are capable of solving their own problems now. No longer hiding from the world of men or easily cowed. It’s important to demonstrate the growth of our heroes. 

A proper ending provides resolution. If it can leave another story to tell beyond that, all the better.

Honestly Compels Me to Admit

That with the World Cup having begun, even though I’m only a few chapters from the end of the Third book of my Sword, Sandal, and Sorcery, that it’s very likely I might still be not-quite-finished with it at the end of the tournament. 😛

Hopefully I’ll do a little better than that. But I actually went backwards today…yeah. You know that moment when you realize the part you’re writing doesn’t match what you planned from the previous time the PoV appeared? whoops! 

I should be able to fix that. But I’ll need to focus a little bit. Which with Spain and the Netherlands about to play, it’ll take a little bit. 😉

 

My Very Cool Birthday Continues

Rachel Dudley, a friend of mine on deviantArt made this render of Yalissa Sabet, the female lead from my Epic/Pseudo-Hellenistic Fantasy series.Image

It’s an insanely accurate render. 

 If you like it, the print can be found at: http://rachel-dudley.artistwebsites.com/featured/yalissa-rachel-dudley.html?newartwork=true