Saturday, March 31, 2012


To all of the R. A. Salvatore fans...

I am sure this is probably not news to many of the most avid fans, but I thought I would announce the forthcoming book by R. A. Salvatore, Neverwinter.

Neverwinter, Book II of the Neverwinter Nights Trilogy, arrives on shelves July 3, 2012.  You can click the image above to Pre-Order your copy now and skip the rush at your local bookstore.  :)

(taken directly from Barnes & Noble's website without any intention to infringe upon the copyrights that protect it)

With the last of his trusted companions having fallen, Drizzt is alone--and free--for the first time in almost a hundred years. Guilt mingles with relief, leaving Drizzt uniquely vulnerable to the persuasions of his newest companion--Dahlia, a darkly alluring elf and the only other member of their party to survive the cataclysm at Mount Hotenow. But traveling with Dahlia is challenging in more ways than one. As the two companions seek revenge on the one responsible for leveling Neverwinter--and nearly Luskan as well--Drizzt finds his usual moral certainty swept away by her unconventional views. Forced to see the dark deeds that the common man may be driven to by circumstance, Drizzt begins to find himself on the wrong ...


Friday, March 30, 2012

World Building Series: Language Construction -- Part I

Hello Readers :)

I decided to do yet another post within my World Building Series, this time focusing on language construction.  Being a lover of language, especially in Fantasy, I believe this is one of the many elements that sets the genre apart from the rest.

I mean... How exciting is it to open up a new book and find a glossary?!?  I love the challenge and the 'secret' invitation to get inside the head of the author.  How the author forms the language, how it is used by the characters, and how the author incorporates it into the book are all things that make for a stimulating read.  At least for me.

{Please leave a comment on this.  I want to get to know my readers, and not only their thoughts on my posts, but also their thoughts on this in particular.  Having created two different languages for my series The Chronicles of Aesiranyn, I want to also find out if my audience is as receptive of constructed languages as I am.}

I spent years trying to perfect my first language (Jeremiah can attest to this).  At first I got in my own way.  I was just creating words--with truly no fluidity or method of organization.  I even complicated things by trying to incorporate too much complexity into the language.  I was my own worse enemy.

I finally had a breakthrough when I realized I needed to simplify.  A lot.  It was overhaul time, but where to begin?  Sure, the words I created were wicked neat (as we say in New England) and evocative of their true meanings, but there was no cohesiveness to their styles or potential etymology.  I almost scrapped it completely, but I ran across something that changed my outlook on Tolkien's genius and fantasy languages altogether.

 Jeremiah and I took a sojourn to Lansing, Michigan one chilly winter's afternoon and our paths led us to a newly finished outdoor mall.  I can't recall if we went there specifically or happened to stumble upon it, but at any rate, they had one of the largest bookstores I had ever seen (I've seen much larger ones since, but this was a great find for us at the time).  While browsing the shelves, my eyes were drawn to the bright red binding and the title of the book pictured above: The Languages of Tolkien's Middle-earth by Ruth S. Noel.

The image is perhaps too small to read the block of text under the title, so I will oblige all of you with a transcription: A complete guide to all fourteen of the languages Tolkien invented.

Yes.  You read it correctly.  Fourteen!  I figured if it gives me even the slightest inclination as to how he did it with fourteen, then surely I should be able to create at least one!

I read that thing from cover to cover.  Twice.

And then I re-read it with a journal and pen to take notes on all the helpful information it contained.  It is in no way a reference guide to how Tolkien did it, but it contained enough clues for me to discern a pattern and methodology.  And with my journal now full of notes, hints, and questions for me to ask myself about my own language, I decided to jump in head first.

I also discovered something important.  Tolkien didn't create his languages from scratch, he had a little help.  I am not saying that Tolkien wasn't a genius because he didn't create his language from scratch--because he absolutely was one; I am saying that perhaps the fact that he decided to use an existing language for guidance proved his very genius.  Why not borrow parts of a language that already has all of the 'kinks' worked out?  It made perfect sense to me, so that's what I decided to do.

As Tolkien based his language upon Finnish (whether it was just one--or perhaps all fourteen--I am not certain), I, too, decided to structure [at least parts of] my language on an existing one.... well, many, actually.  Parts of my language are derived from Gaelic, parts from French, parts from Latin, parts from Finnish, parts from Hebrew (the list actually goes on, but I will spare you from its entirety).

Also, like Tolkien, I decided to use combination forms of words so that I could create better-formed proper nouns--names of characters and places and important things.  The name of my language itself is a perfect example, so let's take a closer look at that.

The word [pronounced TAY-AHN-GREE-EL] is formed from two combination forms to create a single word:  teang (from the word teangos, meaning tongue, or language) + riel (the word for silver)... which means that the word "Teangriel" actually means Silver Tongue.

All of my characters names, place names, and proper nouns are formed this way, the only difference is that the combination forms are usually separated by a "·" symbol--an unpronounced, but needed, separator.  The word Teangriel, of course is one exception and is formed irregularly... though at one point in my world's history, before it was dropped because the two parts of the word became one over time, it existed between the "G" and "R" of the word.

Here is an example of a regularly-formed proper noun :

Quin·riel [pronounced QUEEN-REE-EL] is formed from quin (from quielan, meaning holly) + riel (the word for silver).  You guessed it: the name means "Silver Holly" and is the name of the Tzandas (or, for the closest English term, Princess) of Aesiranyn.

Since this post is getting rather long, I will end it and continue where I left off in a future post.  Keep your eye out for it! :)

Until then,

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Wind Through the Keyhole REVISITED

Good Evening Readers,

As I announced to all of you on February 20th, Stephen King's new book titled The Wind Through the Keyhole is scheduled to hit the bookstores on April 24th.  Also scheduled to hit the shelves is its audiobook companion... with two special treats.

Not only will Stephen King read an excerpt from his next novel, Doctor Sleep (the eagerly anticipated sequel to The Shining due to be published in 2013), but for the first time in over a decade, he will also narrate the entire audiobook.

“I’ve spent a lot of time with the character of Roland Deschain and the Dark Tower universe over the years. Now that I am revisiting that world, it felt like a fine time to lend it my voice,” said King.

Click the image above to pre-order your very own copy from Barnes & Noble.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Harry Potter News!

Hello Everyone!

I am just writing a quick post tonight to announce that all of the Harry Potter books are available on NOOK.

You can pick up your copy (or copies) by clicking the image above.  No more toting around all the books or running to the bookshelf to pick up the next in the series--now you can enjoy all the books in one place on your eReaders.  And, when you buy all the books at one time, Barnes & Noble is offering a 10% off discount.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

World Building Questions: Rules of Majick

  • Where does majick come from: divine source, a tangible energy or resource, the personal will-power of the caster, et cetera?
  • Is the source exhaustible?
  • How does a caster tap into majickal energy?
  • Does it require some rite of passage (investing one's own energy or lifeforce into an object; divine selection or selection of some other kind; specific knowledge/education; creating, being given, or inheriting a permanent connection to the source/energy; successfully summoning a demon/angel/spirit/divine being/et cetera)?  -Or- Does it just happen naturally because of study or as a part of growing up?
  • What things can majick do?  What can it not do?  (i.e., what, if any, are the limitations?)
  • How much is known about the laws of majick? How much of what is "known" is wrong?
  • What does one need to do to cast a spell (an elaborate ritual, recite spell/poetry, combining the correct ingredients)?
  • Are there objects like a staff, a wand, a familiar, or a crystal ball that are necessary or useful to have before casting spells?
  • If so, where and how does obtain these objects?
  • Can any wand be used by any wizard or are they wizard-specific?
  • How long does it take to cast a spell? Can the spells be stored for later, instant use? Do spells take lots of long ritual, or is majick a "point and shoot" kind of thing?
  • Can two or more wizards combine their power to cast a stronger spell, or is majick done only by individuals? What makes one wizard more powerful than another--knowledge of more spells, ability to handle greater quantities of energy, having a more powerful divine being as a patron, etc.?
  • Does practicing majick have any detrimental effects on the wizard (such as being addictive, crippling/injuring, slowly driving the wizard insane, or shortening the wizard’s life-span)?
  • If so, is there any way to prevent these effects? Are the effects inevitable in all wizards, or do they affect only those with some sort of predisposition? Do the effects progress at the same rate in everyone?
  • What general varieties of majick are practiced (e.g., herbal potions, ritual majick, alchemical majick, demonology, necromancy, etc.)? Do any work better than others, or does only one variety actually work?
  • Are certain kinds of majick practiced solely or chiefly by one sex or another? By one race or culture or another?
  • Does a wizard's majickal ability or power change over time -- e.g., growing stronger or weaker during puberty, or with increasing age? Can a wizard deplete all of his/her majick, thus ceasing to be a wizard?
  • Can the ability to do majick be lost? If so, how -- overdoing it, majickal attack, depletion, et cetera?
  • Can the ability to do majick be forcibly taken away? If so, how and by whom?
  • What is the price wizards pay in order to be wizards--years of study, permanent celibacy, using up bits of their life or memory with each spell, a personal sacrifice (killing a family member -- perhaps to absorb their majickal energy), a required daily or periodic sacrifice (say, to a demon), sacrifice/loss/depletion of beauty/looks, et cetera?

World Building Series: The Rules of Majick

Hello Again Everyone,

Welcome to the third installment of my World Building Series of posts -- The Rules of Majick.

There have been many fantasy books out there that include their own majickal system--rules, principles, limitations, et cetera--that govern the usage of majick and its consequences... and each with unique answers to specific questions their authors were forced to ask in order to set the basic building blocks for the systems.

Some books that come to mind, just to name a few, are J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series (of course), Larry Niven's Warlock series, and Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea series.  In the first and third series, the majick is driven by language: Harry Potter by a Latinesque (if only that were a real word) language--specific words spoken to evoke specific purpose (Rowling also requires the use of a wand or staff in order to produce the spells); and in Earthsea, Le Guin uses the concept of an original, primordial language by which the creators of the world originally named things. People who learn these names are able to control the things named, an ability shared by both the wizards who study the language, and the dragons whose native tongue it is.  And in the second series mentioned above, the majick is derived from mana--an exhaustible resource in the environment surrounding the caster which can be depleted.

In creating the majickal system for my first series, The Chronicles of Aesiranyn, I asked myself question after question in order to narrow down how my characters would use and manipulate majick and also what the results and consequences of that usage would be.  Like Rowling and Le Guin, I decided to use language (perhaps for the mere fact that I am a self-confessed linguaphile).  I also, like Rowling, decided to require a wand or staff in order to produce a spell (more on that later), and like in Earthsea, the spells are derived from an Ancient (even protected) language that must be learned in order to produce the proper spells.  There are limitations (as there should be), though if the character is a member of the Imperial family, then their limitations are less--and even more so if they are the ruler because their majick is derived from the throne upon which they [figuratively] sit.

My majick system is simple, yet it is complex in all of its different parts. It is elemental majick, of sorts, and it is also broken down into general color categories and then more specific types within the category.  As I mentioned before, the majick in Aesiranyn requires a wand or staff, which is crafted by a wandmaker.  The intended recipient of the wand/staff must make a blood sacrifice, and then the majick within his/her blood chooses elements, which also hold their own majickal properties.  Aside from wands being required, there are other specific spells as well that require other majickal artifacts in order for them to work.  I've probably given away too much... but hopefully it was a teaser for the future readers of the books!   :)

The greatest advantage a writer can have is to know their own world inside and out (without overbuilding, of course), and in order to do that, they must constantly ask questions before beginning to write their stories--and just as importantly, while they are writing it!

Below is a link to the list of questions I asked myself (a page that will remain a permanent resource on this blog), which I am offering to all of you in your own quests for the ever-illusive realm of majick.

As always... any CommentsFeedback, and Questions are Welcomed, Needed, and Encouraged!

Good Luck in this and all of your quests,

Friday, March 23, 2012

Out in Theatres Today!

Hello Everyone!

I just wanted to write a quick post to excitedly announce two films that release today!

For all the fans of Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games Trilogy, your wait is over to catch the film adaptation of the first book.

And for all of those fans of Julia Roberts or adaptations of the classic Brothers Grimm tale of Snow White, the movie for you is Mirror Mirror...

Or, better yet, instead of watching these trailers (although, I am glad you stopped by) get out to your local theatre and see one or both of this year's highly-anticipated films.  And don't forget to bring your best friend or significant other... if you're as lucky as I am, your significant other is your best friend.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

World Building Series: Overbuilding

Welcome Back Everyone! :)

Here is the second installment of my World Building Series of blog posts, as promised, which has to do with the dreaded dilemma of Overbuilding.

Overbuilding can cause serious procrastination for a writer, and Jeremiah can attest that I am perhaps the worst culprit of this--or at least I used to be.  Attempting to perfect my languages was the biggest distraction for me, and in doing so, I never actually got much writing done.  

I had created three separate languages for my first series (a separate languages for two of my races, and an Ancient dialect used for majick), and I was never completely happy with the first two of them.  I kept going back to 'tweak' the languages, at first trying to make what I already had work, and then trying to reconstruct them altogether.  But it was when I finally decided to simplify that I chose to scrap the weaker parts of both, combining the stronger parts of each and forming a universal language for the world instead of separate ones for the two races.  Honestly, a lot of this was decided when I realized that I needed more than two races in my series, which meant possibly creating a separate language for each; and just like that I realized how daunting the task at hand would be and opted to create a unifying language for all the races.  It seems like an easy way out--but I had to ask myself the important question: how much of each language would honestly go into the various books in the series?  Which meant also asking: shouldn't I be spending more time on the actual plot?

I can tell you from experience: just as there are flaws in the world we live in, the world you create for your story will never be perfect or to your liking until you actually write the plot.  Writing the plot irons out the flaws and answers the questions that are left unanswered while you are in the initial building stages.  

Or maybe there are not flaws, per se, but minor issues that arise while writing.  For instance... whereas I was happy with my Ancient dialect used for the majickal system in the series, while writing one of the chapters where the majick system is the most prevalent, I realized that I actually need to 'tweak' and define the language a little further to fit the rules and limitations of the majick.  This type of building where you build it once it's needed--as opposed to overbuilding and never using some of the material in the actual writing--is highly encouraged.  I feel the choice made my majick system more believable and understandable (not only to my readers, but to me as well).

Thank you for your support of my Blog, and stayed tuned for the next installment in the World Building Series.  I haven't quite decided between a couple topics, so this next one I will have to leave as a surprise.

Have A Great Night!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Serpent's Shadow by Rick Riordan

Good Evening Everyone :)

During a quick jaunt to the Mall today I happened to pass by Barnes & Noble and saw a poster in the window display for the third installment of  Rick Riordan's Kane Chronicles.  I know I am a little behind in posting this information, as it was announced in January, but Book Three, titled The Serpent's Shadow is set to hit the shelves on May 1st.  You can, however, pre-order your copy now at your local Barnes & Noble or online by clicking the image below.

Book Three of the Kane Chronicles

He's b-a-a-ack! Despite their best efforts, Carter and Sade Kane can’t seem to keep Apophis, the chaos snake, down. Now Apophis is threatening to plunge the world into eternal darkness, and the Kanes are faced with the impossible task of having to destroy him once and for all. Unfortunately, the magicians of the House of Life are on the brink of civil war, the gods are divided, and the young initiates of Brooklyn House stand almost alone against the forces of chaos.

Can't wait 'til May first?  Well, here's a little teaser for all of you:

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Friday, March 16, 2012

ABC Family's 5-Day Weekend of Harry Potter!

For all the Potter fans out there, check out ABC Family's Five-Day Weekend of Harry Potter Movies, showing all but the latest: Deathly Hallows Part II.

Fortunately, Jeremiah bought me the boxed set for Christmas so I can watch them whenever I want :)

Mischief Managed, 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Blizzard Entertainment Announces Diablo III Release Date

Hello Fans!

Although I am not a gamer myself, I know that a lot of you are... so, I thought this post would be helpful and appropriate.
Diablo III
Just today, Blizzard Entertainment announced May 15, 2012 as the Launch date for the highly-anticipated Third Edition of their Diablo RPG series.  If you pre-purchase the game digitally (which you can do by clicking the image above), you can be ready to play the instant the servers go live at 12:01 PDT on May 15th.

Happy Gaming,

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Clarion West Writing Workshop

Hello Again Everyone :)

While researching yesterday's post about George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones, I stumbled across a workshop I had not heard of before, and although the application deadline has passed as of midnight of March 1st, I thought I would share it with you all anyway.

The Clarion West Writing Workshop is an intensive, six-week workshop held annually in Seattle, Washington. The workshop is intended for writers who are pursuing professional writing careers in the genres of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

This year's workshop will be held June 17th through July 27th, and will feature instructors such as:

Hiromi Goto
Gavin Grant
Kelly Link
George R. R. Martin
Chuck Palahniuk
Mary Rosenblum
Connnie Willis

Some more information about the background of Clarion West, cited directly from the workshop's website:
Short fiction is the workshop's focus, with emphasis on science fiction, fantasy, and horror. You should come prepared to write several new stories during the course of the workshop, to experiment and take artistic risks, and to give and receive constructive criticism.

Each week the workshop is taught by a different instructor, each a highly regarded author or editor offering their unique perspective on the field. Class size is limited to 18 students. Instructors work closely with students, critiquing stories, leading class discussions on technique and other professional concerns, and holding individual or small group conferences. Drawing on Seattle's vibrant SF community, the workshop also presents informal sessions with acclaimed area authors.

You will come away from the workshop with essential tools for improving your writing: good writing habits, the ability to analyze and critique others' stories and to evaluate critiques of your own work, and a set of friendships and professional contacts that can last a lifetime.
The names of the instructors for the 2013 Workshop will be posted on July 26th, 2012, and the workshop will begin accepting applications for the 2013 season starting in December 2012.

Meanwhile, for those who missed this year's deadline, Clarion West offers a One-Day Workshop series continues on April 15th with Nicola Griffith, and May 6th with Cat Rambo.  All classes still take place in Seattle's University District and are limited to twelve (12) students, which are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.  Enrollment cost of $125 is non-refundable, and for those who are full-time students, there is a $15 rebate at workshop session.

For more information on any of Clarion West's workshops, please visit their website HERE.  Also, feel free to contact me with any questions regarding the workshops.

Until next time,

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Upcoming Game of Thrones Graphic Novel

Hello Everyone,

Earlier today I received an email from Barnes & Noble announcing March 27th as the release date of Volume One of the forthcoming Graphic Novel adaptation of George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones.

Celebrated novelist Daniel Abraham (who has also adapted Martin's Fevre Dream) and illustrator Tommy Patterson bring Martin's epic fantasy series to life in this hardcover graphic novel in 240 full-color pages.  Below is an excerpt from the upcoming publication:

The morning had dawned clear and cold, with a crispness that hinted at the end of summer. They set forth at daybreak to see a man beheaded, twenty in all, and Bran rode among them, nervous with excitement. This was the first time he had been deemed old enough to go with his lord father and his brothers to see the king's justice done. It was the ninth year of summer, and the seventh of Bran's life.

The man had been taken outside a small holdfast in the hills. Robb thought he was a wildling, his sword sworn to Mance Rayder, the King-beyond-the-Wall. It made Bran's skin prickle to think of it. He remembered the hearth tales Old Nan told them. The wildlings were cruel men, she said, slavers and slayers and thieves. They consorted with giants and ghouls, stole girl children in the dead of night, and drank blood from polished horns. And their women lay with the Others in the Long Night to sire terrible half-human children.

But the man they found bound hand and foot to the holdfast wall awaiting the king's justice was old and scrawny, not much taller than Robb. He had lost both ears and a finger to frostbite, and he dressed all in black, the same as a brother of the Night's Watch, except that his furs were ragged and greasy.

The breath of man and horse mingled, steaming, in the cold morning air as his lord father had the man cut down from the wall and dragged before them. Robb and Jon sat tall and still on their horses, with Bran between them on his pony, trying to seem older than seven, trying to pretend that he'd seen all this before. A faint wind blew through the holdfast gate. Over their heads flapped the banner of the Starks of Winterfell: a grey direwolf racing across an ice-white field.

Bran's father sat solemnly on his horse, long brown hair stirring in the wind. His closely trimmed beard was shot with white, making him look older than his thirty-five years. He had a grim cast to his grey eyes this day, and he seemed not at all the man who would sit before the fire in the evening and talk softly of the age of heroes and the children of the forest. He had taken off Father's face, Bran thought, and donned the face of Lord Stark of Winterfell.

There were questions asked and answers given there in the chill of morning, but afterward Bran could not recall much of what had been said. Finally his lord father gave a command, and two of his guardsmen dragged the ragged man to the ironwood stump in the center of the square. They forced his head down onto the hard black wood. Lord Eddard Stark dismounted and his ward Theon Greyjoy brought forth the sword. "Ice," that sword was called. It was as wide across as a man's hand, and taller even than Robb. The blade was Valyrian steel, spell-forged and dark as smoke. Nothing held an edge like Valyrian steel.

His father peeled off his gloves and handed them to Jory Cassel, the captain of his household guard. He took hold of Ice with both hands and said, "In the name of Robert of the House Baratheon, the First of his Name, King of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm, by the word of Eddard of the House Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North, I do sentence you to die." He lifted the great sword high above his head.

Bran's bastard brother Jon Snow moved closer. "Keep the pony well in hand," he whispered. "And don't look away. Father will know if you do."

Bran kept his pony well in hand, and did not look away.

His father took off the man's head with a single sure stroke. Blood sprayed out across the snow, as red as summerwine. One of the horses reared and had to be restrained to keep from bolting. Bran could not take his eyes off the blood. The snows around the stump drank it eagerly, reddening as he watched.

The head bounced off a thick root and rolled. It came up near Greyjoy's feet. Theon was a lean, dark youth of nineteen who found everything amusing. He laughed, put his boot on the head,and kicked it away.

"Ass," Jon muttered, low enough so Greyjoy did not hear. He put a hand on Bran's shoulder, and Bran looked over at his bastard brother.

"You did well," Jon told him solemnly. Jon was fourteen, an old hand at justice.

It seemed colder on the long ride back to Winterfell, though the wind had died by then and the sun was higher in the sky. Bran rode with his brothers, well ahead of the main party, his pony struggling hard to keep up with their horses.

"The deserter died bravely," Robb said. He was big and broad and growing every day, with his mother's coloring, the fair skin, red-brown hair, and blue eyes of the Tullys of Riverrun. "He had courage, at the least."

"No," Jon Snow said quietly. "It was not courage. This one was dead of fear. You could see it in his eyes, Stark." Jon's eyes were a grey so dark they seemed almost black, but there was little they did not see. He was of an age with Robb, but they did not look alike. Jon was slender where Robb was muscular, dark where Robb was fair, graceful and quick where his half brother was strong and fast.

Robb was not impressed. "The Others take his eyes," he swore. "He died well. Race you to the bridge?"

"Done," Jon said, kicking his horse forward. Robb cursed and followed, and they galloped off down the trail, Robb laughing and hooting, Jon silent and intent. The hooves of their horses kicked up showers of snow as they went.

Bran did not try to follow. His pony could not keep up. He had seen the ragged man's eyes, and he was thinking of them now. After a while, the sound of Robb's laughter receded, and the woods grew silent again.

That was when Jon reappeared on the crest of the hill before them. He waved and shouted down at them.

Then he was gone again.

Jory rode up beside them. "Trouble, my lord?"

"Beyond a doubt," his lord father said. "Come, let us see what mischief my sons have rooted out now." He sent his horse into a trot. Jory and Bran and the rest came after.

They found Robb on the riverbank north of the bridge, with Jon still mounted beside him. The late summer snows had been heavy this moonturn. Robb stood knee-deep in white, his hood pulled back so the sun shone in his hair. He was cradling something in his arm, while the boys talked in hushed, excited voices.

The riders picked their way carefully through the drifts, groping for solid footing on the hidden, uneven ground. Jory Cassel and Theon Greyjoy were the first to reach the boys. Greyjoy was laughing and joking as he rode. Bran heard the breath go out of him.

"Gods!" he exclaimed, struggling to keep control of his horse as he reached for his sword.

Jory's sword was already out. "Robb, get away from it!" he called as his horse reared under him.

>Robb grinned and looked up from the bundle in his arms. "She can't hurt you," he said. "She's dead, Jory."

Bran was afire with curiosity by then. He would have spurred the pony faster, but his father made them dismount beside the bridge and approach on foot. Bran jumped off and ran.

By then Jon, Jory, and Theon Greyjoy had all dismounted as well. "What in the seven hells is it?" Greyjoy was saying.

"A wolf," Robb told him.

"A freak," Greyjoy said. "Look at the size of it."

Bran's heart was thumping in his chest as he pushed through a waist-high drift to his brothers' side.

Half-buried in blood stained snow, a huge dark shape slumped in death. Ice had formed in its shaggy grey fur, and the faint smell of corruption clung to it like a woman's perfume. Bran glimpsed blind eyes crawling with maggots, a wide mouth full of yellowed teeth. But it was the size of it that made him gasp. It was bigger than his pony, twice the size of the largest hound in his father's kennel.

"It's no freak," Jon said calmly. "That's a direwolf. They grow larger than the other kind."

Theon Greyjoy said, "There's not been a direwolf sighted south of the Wall in two hundred years."

"I see one now," Jon replied.

Bran tore his eyes away from the monster. That was when he noticed the bundle in Robb's arms. He gave a cry of delight and moved closer. The pup was a tiny ball of grey-black fur, its eyes still closed. It nuzzled blindly against Robb's chest as he cradled it, searching for milk among his leathers, making a sad little whimpery sound. Bran reached out hesitantly. "Go on,"Robb told him. "You can touch him."

Bran gave the pup a quick nervous stroke, then turned as Jon said, "Here you go." His half brother put a second pup into his arms. "There are five of them." Bran sat down in the snow and hugged the wolf pup to his face. Its fur was soft and warm against his cheek.

"Direwolves loose in the realm, after so many years," muttered Hullen, the master of horse. "I like it not."

"It is a sign," Jory said.

Father frowned. "This is only a dead animal, Jory," he said. Yet he seemed troubled. Snow crunched under his boots as he moved around the body. "Do we know what killed her?"

"There's something in the throat," Robb told him, proud to have found the answer before his father even asked. "There, just under the jaw."

His father knelt and groped under the beast's head with his hand. He gave a yank and held it up for all to see. A foot of shattered antler, tines snapped off, all wet with blood.

A sudden silence descended over the party. The men looked at the antler uneasily, and no one dared to speak. Even Bran could sense their fear, though he did not understand.

His father tossed the antler to the side and cleansed his hands in the snow. "I'm surprised she lived long enough to whelp," he said. His voice broke the spell.

"Maybe she didn't," Jory said. "I've heard tales . . . maybe the bitch was already dead when the pups came."

"Born with the dead," another man put in. "Worse luck."

"No matter," said Hullen. "They be dead soon enough too."

Bran gave a wordless cry of dismay.

"The sooner the better," Theon Greyjoy agreed. He drew his sword.

"Give the beast here, Bran."

The little thing squirmed against him, as if it heard and understood.

"No!" Bran cried out fiercely. "It's mine."

"It be a mercy to kill them," Hullen said.

Bran looked to his lord father for rescue, but got only a frown, a furrowed brow. "Hullen speaks truly, son. Better a swift death than a hard one from cold and starvation."

"No!" He could feel tears welling in his eyes, and he looked away. He did not want to cry in front of his father.

"Lord Stark," Jon said. It was strange to hear him call Father that, so formal. Bran looked at him with desperate hope. "There are five pups," he told Father. "Three male, two female."

"What of it, Jon?"

"You have five true born children," Jon said. "Three sons, two daughters. The direwolf is the sigil of your House. Your children were meant to have these pups, my lord."

Bran saw his father's face change, saw the other men exchange glances. He loved Jon with all his heart at that moment. Even at seven, Bran understood what his brother had done. The count had come right only because Jon had omitted himself. He had included the girls, included even Rickon, the baby, but not the bastard who bore the surname Snow, the name that custom decreed be given to all those in the north unlucky enough to be born with no name of their own.

Their father understood as well. "You want no pup for yourself, Jon?" he asked softly.

"The direwolf graces the banners of House Stark," Jon pointed out. "I am no Stark, Father."

Their lord father regarded Jon thoughtfully. Robb rushed into the silence he left. "I will nurse him myself, Father," he promised. "I will soak a towel with warm milk, and give him suck from that."

"Me too!" Bran echoed.

The lord weighed his sons long and carefully with his eyes. "Easy to say, and harder to do. I will not have you wasting the servants' time with this. If you want these pups, you will feed them yourselves. Is that understood?"

Bran nodded eagerly. The pup squirmed in his grasp, licked at his face with a warm tongue.

It was not until they were mounted and on their way that Bran allowed himself to taste the sweet air of victory. By then, his pup was snuggled inside his leathers, warm against him, safe for the long ride home. Bran was wondering what to name him.

Halfway across the bridge, Jon pulled up suddenly.

"What is it, Jon?" their lord father asked.

"Can't you hear it?"

Bran could hear the wind in the trees, the clatter of their hooves on the ironwood planks, the whimpering of his hungry pup, but Jon was listening to something else.

"There," Jon said. He swung his horse around and galloped back across the bridge. They watched him dismount where the direwolf lay dead in the snow, watched him kneel. A moment later he was riding back to them, smiling.

"He must have crawled away from the others," Jon said.

"Or been driven away," their father said, looking at the sixth pup. His fur was white, where the rest of the litter was grey. His eyes were as red as the blood of the ragged man who had died that morning. Bran thought it curious that this pup alone would have opened his eyes while the others were still blind.

"An albino," Theon Greyjoy said with wry amusement. "This one will die even faster than the others."

Jon Snow gave his father's ward a long, chilling look. "I think not, Greyjoy," he said. "This one belongs to me."

I have yet to read any of the five books in the 'A Song of Ice and Fire' series but I plan to soon... especially after reading the above excerpt and seeing a couple of episodes of the hit series on HBO.

Until Next Time :)

P.S.  I just want to say Thank You to all my followers... please spread the word and keep the comments coming :)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Importance of Music

Hello Everyone,

As I sit here in Pembroke, North Carolina--Home of Jeremiah's tribe, the Lumbee--preparing for an exciting night of music at The River People Music & Culture Festival, I am inspired to write a post about the importance of music not only in my life, but in my writing, as well.

Lumbee River
A lot of times, as I sit down to write, I turn on some relaxing Piano Music, some Soft Jazz, or maybe some inspiring sounds of the American Indian flute to clear my mind and focus my thoughts. I tend not to--or at least try not to--listen to any type of music with lyrics.  Being in Choirs and Vocal Ensembles all throughout my life, I often sing along with whatever is playing, which is very distracting when I'm trying to write.

Music is such an important part of my writing.  The type of music I am listening to can definitely be seen through my writing.  At least it's obvious to me when I am doing edits.  I frequently change the type of music I am listening to depending on what type of scene I am writing.  For instance, if I am writing a battle scene and listening to a ballad or a piano sonata, my battle scene will most definitely turn out dull.  So instead, I will change it to a march or perhaps a turbulent concerto.

Though I do highly suggest listening to music while you write--sometimes pure silence can be just as distracting as too much noise--it does come with precautions.  On occasion, as I already touched on above, I've noticed (while editing or just reviewing a section of text) that I chose the wrong type of music to listen to while writing.  While going through the edits for my latest manuscript I found some:  a majick duel which should have been vibrant and action-filled was instead lethargic and not as colorful as I had intended; or even reading through an argument scene that climaxed way too quickly, I then instantly remembered that the piece I was listening to while writing it did the same exact thing.

I have found a handful of artists particularly ideal to listen to while I write.  The following (in no defined order) have similar song styles that coincide with my mental focus--and so I recommend them to you to check out for yourself:

Karen Marie Garrett
Ann Sweeten
Brian Crain
Yo-Yo Ma
James Horner
John Huling
R. Carlos Nakai
Sergei Rachmaninoff
Gustav Mahler
Jeff Johnson & Brian Dunning

There are many more that I listen to, of course, but those listed above are listened to most frequently.  In addition to these albums, I also listen to a lot of Internet Radio--specifically GotRadio - Piano Perfect.  To listen to it for yourself, click the link.

Keep Writing,

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Description: Animals in Fiction & Animals in Life

Hello Everyone,

I apologize for the lack of posts over the last few days.  I started a new job, and they have had me scheduled every day since Wednesday--even a double on Monday.  I will try to keep my posts as regular as I can with my new job and schedule.

A few days ago, while scouring links on the internet and researching for my upcoming post, I decided to take a break and do a bit of research for my current manuscript, and while perusing through the resources in my library, I stumbled upon a book that I had not picked up in quite sometime.

The book, Elements of Fiction Writing: Description by Monica Wood, is an instruction guide on how to write better description; most of its information is straight-forward, and of course the old adage of "show don't tell" appears many times, but otherwise, it is definitely worth taking a look at--and possibly even picking up at your local bookstore.

On a side note, however, I stumbled across something within her book while thumbing through its pages, and I wasn't sure to what extent, if any, I agreed with her advice.  Chapter Eight in Monica's book deals with 'Special Description Problems' and the first of the four sections in the chapter talks about how to describe animals.

Below is the very excerpt from that section, with which I have many issues:
If you decide to include animals in your stories you are probably an animal lover.  If you are an animal lover you probably share quarters with the world's smartest dog, the world's prettiest cat, or the world's most talented parakeet.  Perhaps you talk to your animals as if they understand you.  And who knows, maybe they do.  Please remember, though, that what works in life doesn't always work in fiction.  Your eight-year-old Siamese might fetch your slippers, but a reader might not believe this of a fictional cat.  So, as you are booting up your computer or sharpening your pencil or looking for your lucky pen, remind yourself that animals are not furry people, no matter how much you adore them.
Plainly stated, she goes on to tell her readers to never describe their animal characters with humanesque qualities or characteristics.  To me, that is just complete hogwash!  Fantasy writer aside, I still believe animals possess a soul and conscience.  Every single pet I have owned has exhibited a personality of their very own--and very unique to them, particularly, not of their breed in general (as Monica tends to suggest).  Now I am not saying they were furry humans (though I've always treated my pets as members of my family), but I am saying that all of my pets have had very distinct personalities all their own.

{26 August 2003 - 26 October 2009}
Our Siamese cat, Sébastien, had quite the personality.  A personality that was very intelligent--self-aware and aware of everything else around him--and very much unlike any other cat I have owned (though they have also had very unique personalities).  To merely call him a cat--or label him as a typical Siamese--and not describe his personality would only do his memory and his life injustice. He was very vocal, often 'talking' to me and Jeremiah.  He knew to always ask before jumping up into our laps if either of us were sitting in the chair or on the sofa; he would let me know if his litterbox needed changing (with a disapproving glance and a nagging howl!); and he had a child-like curiosity, always watching, studying, and learning our every task.  He would even sit and watch TV!  Sébastien also could tell if either Jeremiah or I were upset or sad (it was rare, so it definitely wasn't learned behavior).  He would get up close to us, look straight into our eyes, and then lay (more of a plop, actually) his forehead against our necks just under our chins, as if he was attempting to comfort us with a hug.

When Sébastien was diagnosed with kidney failure and we saw his health fade from us, it was very difficult to watch.  I had to administer fluid injections daily via a catheter into the back of his neck (where there was little sensitivity); it killed me to do it, but the alternative was an even worse fate.  He knew it, too.  He knew that if he didn't get the injection, that he would feel like crap.  In no time at all, he learned to willingly jump onto the window sill to receive the injections (Jeremiah knew how much he enjoyed sitting in the window and looking into the backyard and suggested that it would be a serene spot for him) and patiently wait.  His liquid iron vitamins, on the other hand, I could never get him to take.  I guess, with those, he never saw their purpose or their benefits.

In the days before Sébastien's condition worsened to the point of no return and we were forced to euthanize him, he said goodbye to me--letting me know that he was in pain and ready to pass on.  I remember lying on the outdoor sofa on the deck (one of his favorite spots), and he jumped up near my face to be closer to me.  He looked into my eyes, like he would do if ever I were sad, and gave a soft mew.  I saw the tears in his eyes right before he plopped his forehead under my chin.  He stayed like that for quite sometime... until my own tears had subsided, and when he finally lifted his head, I knew it was his way of saying goodbye.

You can argue with me all you want that it was just normal animal behavior, and you can attempt to tell me that an animal can never have human qualities, but I think by casting a huge net of generalization over animals within fiction and saying that one should never describe them as furry humans is as broad as saying that one should never attribute animal qualities to humans.

Fantasy genre aside, do you think writers should describe animals (pets) with humanesque qualities?  Or do you, like Monica Wood, think that all animals are without human-like qualities and should never be equated to such?  I would love to read any and all of your comments on this topic.

Until next time,

P.S.  For those who are fans of the Paranormal:  On several occasions since Sébastien's death, both Jeremiah and I have felt him jump onto the bed and kneed the blanket with his paws before lying down--just as he always did in life, and we have both heard his meow many times--I have even, before finally gathering the nerve and emotional strength to throw out his litterbox (used, in the same state in which he had left it), heard his howl nagging me to clean it.
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