Monday, July 25, 2016

Flora et Fauna: Resemblance to Earth

Some would cry foul on my making the majority of the life on Evandar to be akin to what we find on Earth. It could perhaps be declared the penultimate version of laziness when the number of unique creatures and plants I devise are actually a very small percentage of the life forms that would be found on this world. If it is laziness, then I am going to do my best to make this the most glorious bit of laziness to be found in print.

There actually is a solid reason why I place so much in this world to make it a fantastic parallel to our world. Human beings arose within a fairly specific evolutionary context. While this is fantasy that I am writing and my humans are not going to be identical to those from Earth except by fiat or deus ex machina, I am not comfortable dropping humans into a fantastic world with out any of the evolutionary cohort they developed with. I could just cast such considerations to the wind and spin out my tales with out this often ignored or assumed aspect. Many authors have and done so with great success in their works.

I, however, felt the need to place my human characters into a situation where it was as Earth-like as possible with out being a complete copy. Humans have evolved with specific biological systems in place to process certain things for their survival. These things arose due to a specific set of ecological pressures, which promoted one set of traits over the course of evolution. You can not have a human with out those ecological pressures and traits. You will have something that will be human-like but it will not be truly human.

The world of Evandar is very different from Earth. It has a system of three natural satellites which influences things such as tides and nocturnal conditions. It is in orbit about a binary star system. (The second star is a ultra cool Brown Dwarf star and is not visible due to the glare from the larger main star of the system which is a Main Sequence star, like our Sun.) This also has an influence on tides but the combined effects of the triple moons and the dual stars serves to, for the most part, balance out each other and have oceanic tides that are for the most part like Earth's.

There are arctic, tundra, temperate, sub-tropical, and tropical zones. The continent that Evandar is located on spans a reach between arctic in the northernmost extremes to the tropics in the southernmost extreme. It is but one of several continents of varying size. All of these different climates and their myriad sub-climates (and countless micro-climates) have features both familiar to us and foreign. I do my best to keep the exotic elements in harmony with what we have in the real world so that my fantasy world is at least somewhat realistic. I am still in the midst of deciding the lay out of the other continents and the defining details of the different regions. I don't think I am a fool for following what I learn about Earth's climates and various regions.

Honestly, a good deal of what my exotic life forms are like is based pretty heavily in what sort of exotic life forms we can find in our own world. When we have creatures that live for an indeterminately long lifespan with out human intervention (I'm looking at you, Galapagos tortoises.) and creatures that clearly operate with a human like intelligence but in an alien fashion (ohai dolphins, how are you, you magnificent creatures?), is it really such a shock to consider that creatures of such a nature can be found on another world? Yes, my exotic creatures are strange and definitely alien. But if you take a peek in the ocean's depths or the florid complexity of the tropical rainforests, you can find lifeforms that are no less strange and alien.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Craft of Writing: Music Hoard (Part Two)

Here are some recommendations for people who are writing fantasy. These artists can be found in many formats.

Medieval Music
Mediaeval Baebs
Hildegarde Von Bingen*
Peter Abelard*
Richard I of England*
Guillame Dufay*

Fantasy Soundtracks
Adrian Von Zigler*
Merlin (Movie 1998)
Mists of Avalon (Mini-series 2001)
Braveheart (Movie (1995)
Lord of the Rings (Movies 2001, 2002, 2003)
Phil Coulter*
Jeff and Mychael Danna*

* Composer

This is a good start to the list. I have to sit down and go through my list of albums to figure out what exactly I have here to add. Still, here's a good place to begin.

Craft of Writing: Music hoard. (Part One)

One of my biggest sources of inspiration is music. I have many playlists that I draw off of for different genres that I'm writing in (and as per what mood I am attempting to evoke in the scenes I'm working on). It is a luxury for us to have a world of music available at our fingertips. In the past, I only had the opportunity to listen to what ever was on the radio. Then came Walkmans and cassette tapes (which was a thing when I was a kid, trust me). Suddenly, I found myself at a place where I could listen to pretty much anything I wanted to at any point in time.

When CDs and MP3s came along, it just became even easier to pick and choose what music would be in my playlists for when I sat down to write. I confess, it had me feeling a bit like I was cheating to have all of this brain food available for functionally no effort at all. When the greats like Oscar Wilde or James Joyce sat down to write their works, they did not have music at any time they wanted it. They also didn't have computers, though. So, perhaps I am not cheating as much as it feels like I am some days.

My collection of CDs is fairly prolific and combined with my husband's we have close to 300 albums. We also have a good deal of audio content available to us strictly through the computer, before we go on-line that is. Throw in what you can find on the internet and I think you could say that there is a near infinite variety of music available. (Honestly, I confess that if I wasn't using Spotify, I would be using Pandora. And if I'm not using Pandora, I am going through what I can find on Youtube.)

I have a passionate love of music. Perhaps it comes out of my youth involvement with choir. Perhaps it comes out of the fact that I have an eclectic set of tastes that I can pretty much always find something interesting. (True fact: the only form of music that I dislike is rap. I may at some point in time find a variety of rap that I enjoy, but I haven't yet.) Perhaps my love of music simply comes from the fact that it has been a part of my life where ever I have gone.

I will confess, my love of music will color much of what I do. I have hobbies that were born out of a desire to manifest some of the images that came to mind as I was listening to something. I have artwork and written material that came from a desire to put into some concrete form the stories that I heard in the music around me. I don't think this is a bad thing. I think that our creative efforts should reflect that which we love as much as they should illuminate that which troubles us so that we may know ourselves more fully.

My library of music may not be as much of an inspiration for someone else. I'm fairly sure that there will be people who will be entirely indifferent to it. That is not a bad thing. That just means that there is something else which proves such a powerful source of inspiration. Once you figure out what your biggest source of inspiration is, gather as much of it to you and reference it often. Your references may not be obvious.

I'm pretty sure that most people reading through one of my stories is not going to pick out what was inspired by medieval music and what was inspired by 90s grunge rock. That's ok, because the references do not need to be made in our work or be recognizable by anyone but ourselves. When we reference what gives us a passionate kick in the seat of the pants to progress forward in our expression, it is mainly for our own sake and the sake of our work. When we feel stalled or as though our reserves are flagging, it is good for us to reach out to draw inspiration from the proverbial well and refresh ourselves by immersion in that inspiration.

I have a music hoard that I curate and adapt to my needs at a given time. Perhaps your hoard of inspiration is something different. Don't hesitate to unlock that hoard and reach into its depths when ever you feel a need for more authenticity in your work. I will tell you that your hoard of inspiration will never fail you. The ideas may take some time to germinate and flower, but the seeds will always be fecund and ready for you.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Iron Lily (Part 10)

Moridan set his boot aside and brushed his hands upon his apron in what Halthor suspected was a habitual gesture. The priest's steel grey hair gleamed dully in the wan light of the chamber. He turned his dark brown eyes to Halthor's bowed shoulders, looking with a sight that was something more of the world that should have been than of the world that was. Where light shone near him, Halthor had the faintest of a shimmer about him. It was as though the glistening, wavering air of the forge was wrapped about the builder. A medallion hung at Halthor's breast from a leather thong that seemed to have a symbol carved that wavered from the simple luck token of pilgrims to a sigil that was familiar to the old priest though he could not recall why.

"The token you wear," the priest said, "How did you come by it?" Halthor looked up. For a moment his eyes widened and a brief look of panic crossed his face. Moridan leaned back in his chair. He turned his cup in his hands as he watched Halthor put on what he had hoped was a blank expression. "You know that I can see the lie as it is told," Moridan said quietly, "You do not strike me as a thief of any sort. What you say here, traveler, remains in these walls." Moridan glanced over at Ewen.

Ewen had quieted when his grandfather questioned the man from the north. Though Ewen was given to gossip and prate about the exploits of his nephews, cousins, and in-laws, he was wise enough to keep silence when priestly work was afoot. As much as he laughed off the solemn duty that was to be his one day and insisted his love was to dally at the water's edge, Ewen knew that his time of lassitude and youthful indiscretion was coming to a close. Odd moments of intuition, like what called him to the river bank earlier, were happening more frequently. Thus, Ewen watched closely when odd things happened about him, such as his grandfather asking probing questions of an unexpected traveler.

Halthor reached up and touched the pendant that the fey woman he had met at the traveler's rest before Wynnwode. "It was given to me by a woman," he answered. Moridan nodded. Under the close scrutiny of both priests and the man who was yet to be of the priesthood, Halthor grew uncomfortable. "She spoke but I did not understand what she said. She met me at the traveler's rest north of Wynnwode. I think she is going to the mountains of the far north," he added. Moridan leaned forward.

"What did she look like?" he asked. Halthor swallowed a mouthful of beer. Moridan raised a hand in a stilling gestures as Halthor opened his mouth to speak. "Did she have eyes of gold and hair the color of a tree's heartwood?" Moridan said, "Bearing an ash bow and wearing a hooded cloak of grey and the pelts of great wolves?" Halthor nodded. Ewen hastily looked away as Moridan's gaze shifted to him. "You were met by the maid Alyrin," Moridan said, "The daughter of our Lord who wanders this land. If he sends her north, it truly is the time that has been prophesied. And you bear the shard of the true world to where it will be hidden in safety."

"Alyrin is a myth," Halthor said uncomfortably, "The maid of Lilies is a child's tale."

"No," Moridan said, "Alyrin's sign is what you bear on your arms. It is the sign of the royal house that will bear the true scion of the Light Father. Your arms, they are more than mere weapons. They were forged by her own hand and bear in them the grace of the true born children of the gods. Alyrin was diminished by her forging of these weapons." Halthor thought about the hammer hidden in his goods.

"The maid of Lilies fashioned six weapons. The first was the war hammer that ever strikes true and faithful to the blow its wielder seeks. The second and third were the twin axes that remain ever sharp despite what they strike. It is said that they may cut even stone. The fourth was the iron stave. It is a curious thing that looks to be but a willow switch but when carried to battle, it becomes a mighty stave that is light as a switch to the one who bears it but strikes hard as a rod. The sword of Grace was her fifth weapon. The first blow kills a man where the second revives him. And finally is the shield of tears. No one knows what gifts the shield of tears bears. It was said that its name came from how it was quenched in the tears of the maid. Only the man that bears the sword of Grace may bear the shield of tears."

Moridan looked at Halthor. "You carry the daughter of the maid at your hip. I'm sure that her son is still carried by the warder of Wye's heir. It was said that the twins would be parted when the heir to the hammer came south. Which tells me that you carry the hammer and your sire does not walk this world any longer," the old man sighed, "The sword of Grace is in the city of Memmin. Count Olerand holds it. It is said that his luck is cursed for it. I do not know if it is or not. Only that he holds it."

"How do you know this?" Halthor asked. Moridan picked up his cup and took a deep drink. He watched as his grandson looked down at the floor and his eldest son keeled the pot, checking to see if the fish soup was finished. Moridan looked over at Halthor. He thought about the tale passed down through his family. They were forbidden to take up the trade of metal craft. Some of the relatives in the extended family thought it because ill luck plagued their efforts when it was attempted, for a few notable relations attempted the trade and died an unpleasant fate for it. The eldest of his family had for at least seven generations told him that the Banished God cursed them when Ewen Black lent his forge to the maid of the Lilies.

"Ewen Black met Alyrin on the road from Memmin when he was driving an ox cart with a load of ore from across the far waters. The maid of Lilies spoke to him of a wonder that awaited him in Hyle. He followed her here and found that his forge was ready for him to set to work, though it was the deeps of night when he came and his apprentice was fast asleep. That night, when all was quiet and hushed with snow, as it is now, Alyrin said that he was to midwife her children. The hammer and forge sang their song through the longest night," Moridan said as he raised his eyes and looked over at young Ewen.

"Dawn came and the maid of Lilies gathered the weapons in her arms. She left with a blessing on Ewen's line. She promised that his sons would ever stand in favor with the Light Father, beloved as his own children," the old priest continued, "When Alyrin left, the black priest of Hyle cursed Ewen's forge for what he had done. Fire burned it and his house to the ground, killing Ewen's bride. Ewen's grandfather, the priest of the Light Father, brought Ewen and his sons Edrich and Tammen into his house." Moridan looked from his grandson to Halthor. "I am the son of Edrich's line. As are Mavora and my grandson Ewen," Moridan explained. "Like our ancestor, we have done what we could to tend to Alyrin's children, where we might find them."

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The writing process goes crash.

(Yes, the title of this post is an homage to Calvin and Hobbes. The hilarious chaos of that comic seems particularly appropriate right now. Look up the book The Scientific Process Goes Boink. It's good for a laugh.)

The last few weeks have had me getting sunburned, overheated, and exhausted as I run around after the kids. I hit the end of the day with enough mental focus to look at stupid cat memes on Facebook and possibly come up with a snarky comment or two. It has been rather demoralizing, to be perfectly honest. I feel like I have hit a pot hole in the road that is big enough to eat a small fleet of Buicks and still have room left over for a couple of tasty BMWs.

I have had several days where I have done no writing at all. I just sit and stare at my piles of papers and feel like my brain is oozing out my ears. It is a decidedly unpleasant sensation. It is not quite as disgusting to me as the feeling of a bead of sweat rolling over my eyelid but it is a very close second. I have been looking at some of my older notes and trying to assess how to work details from plans I had written up literally a decade ago into things I'm doing now.

Some of the past material is very rough and I cringe as I look it over. The original idea of a single book that glosses over pretty much all of the story to create a contrived romance that featured a love interest based on a romanticized version of a guy I was emotionally involved with is probably the worst of it all. The rough draft of this 'book' was literally six pages of single spaced Courier New font at size 10. I still am a bit chagrined when I look at the thing. I have saved this, however, to remind myself how far I have come. But, that original really is awful.

Pokemon Go! is filling up my Facebook feed almost as much as Camp Nanowrimo. The picture below demonstrates my connection to this phenomenon. It is the closest I can come to boiling it all down to a single image.

This is my best impersonation of the LOLWUT pear to date.