Thursday, April 28, 2016

Taking a Short Break!

Sorry, getting ready to go home for the weekend to celebrate my brother's birthday, so no excerpt today!

And writing a very quick update post, so no picture today, either. Sorry about that! :( Regular posts will resume Tuesday, I swear!

Our family tradition for birthday celebrations usually include going out to eat as a family and decorating the house with streamers and balloons the night before. And, for me personally, they also usually include slacking off work (tee hee)!

(But... I got past the 50-page mark in TVB today, so... that's good, right? And good work deserves a break now and then, right? Like right now, right? Right! Good talk, good talk. -pats self congratulatorially on the back-)

What are some of your birthday/family traditions? Let me know in the comments section below!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Excerpt - TVB: "Xagimn Ocean"



            It was a long walk, and the first half was in silence, but after a while, Isalaina already began to cheer up. It was hard for her to stay upset when she was surrounded by green leaves and blue sky and little white puffs of cloud overhead. She’d taken her hair down—no need to keep it up now that they weren’t at the looms all day—and her hair swept around her face and tumbled over her shoulder like a fountain of gold.
            Jaranin started and forced himself to remain focused. “All right, we’re almost there, so I’m going to cover your eyes now.”
            She smirked. He had a feeling she already knew exactly what his big surprise was going to be. But she nodded. He slipped behind her and covered her eyes with his palms, gently guiding her forward with his voice.
            The wind had picked up, and it shook the crowns of the trees. Fortunately, the rustling of leaves concealed the tell-tale sounds.
            They only had a bit more forest to walk through, and then… they arrived.
            “Surprise,” he whispered as he pulled his hands away from her eyes.
            Sand stretching leagues in either direction, leading all the way down to the gray-green Xagimn Ocean. The waters pounded on the beach in soft rhythm. Far out into the ocean, where the water ran deep, the waves crashed against brown rocks and the grass-topped cliffs. They had spelled doom for any would-be invader’s ship in the past, but they were far enough out that they posed no problem for swimmers.
            Isalaina swung her arms wide. “Oh, Jaranin,” she sighed, taking in a deep, long breath of air. “I haven’t been down to the ocean in… ages and ages now.”
            “We haven’t had the time, what with work,” he smiled. “Thought you might like it.”
            Instantly, she was dropping her seat to the sand, nearly tearing off her shoes. As soon as her feet were free, she wiggled her toes into the sand. “Ahhh… the beach,” she murmured. “You got me the beach for my birthday.”
            He indulged in a chuckle of satisfaction while watching her. Then he bent over to unlace his own boots.
            “Oh, Jaranin, what a perfect gift. Thank you,” Isalaina whispered. She was sitting in the sand, just gazing out across the water. Drinking it in.
            Then, suddenly, she spun to him and grinned. “Last one to the water’s a crayfish!” Isalaina jumped to her feet and broke into a full-tilt sprint toward the ocean.
            “H-hey!” he cawed, stumbling after her only to trip on a lace and tumble face-first into the sand. He scrambled, kicked off his boots, and staggered after her.

---
[Excerpt from The Victor's Blade; all content subject to change.]
Photo by Samantha Scholl. Originally posted on Unsplash.com.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Excerpt - TVB: "Naomi"


Winters passed without much grumble in the village of Sinoa, and Jaranin was sure glad for it.

The fourteen-year-old with the tousled brown hair dared a peek out the whitewashed shutters. A cold but not frozen breeze slipped through the crack. The sun was rising over the eastern hills to the right. Its yellow-gold rays were already melting what few clumps of snow stubbornly remained.

“Jaranin, you'd best shut that window,” he heard a scolding chuckle behind him, “before I call off breakfast.”

He spun to Naomi, grinning. “Aw, but how will I tell the story tonight on an empty stomach?”

“An empty stomach at the Narrisom Festival?” The elderly woman turned from the fireplace with a mock gasp and a wrinkly, cheery little smile. She was a little woman with tiny songbird features. Her white, wiry hair was pinned up neatly, just as it was every day—the better to keep it out of the dough, she said. Or the stew. Or the fruits and vegetables. Or any other number of dishes she was preparing that day. Little wonder she always smelled like warm, fresh-baked bread.

Naomi wiped her flour-covered hands on her apron. “Don’t think I’ve ever heard such a thing. Not when there’s thick potato soup from Mrs. Carpenter, or sweet preserves from Mrs. Elvinbard, or honeyed cakes with snowdrops on top from me.” As she spoke, she ladled thick, golden honey over a pan of her famous cakes.

“No, Jaranin dear, I think you’ll be just fine without piping hot porridge and warm, crumbling scones.” She plucked a long fork off the table and brandished it at one of the golden-brown scones that were baking on the fire-rack. Poke! The fork slid out quick and clean. “Ah, and speak of the thing, these are done. Jaranin, the big plate, please.”

The aroma was overpowering. Jaranin’s stomach growled. “And fresh butter, too?” he chortled as he saw the full butter dish sitting next to the plate in question.

“Of course! Can’t have a scone without some nice, melted butter. Plate, dear.”

He’d been entranced by the sight and smell of the food. He handed the desired platter to Naomi. “Looks like it’ll be another lovely first of spring,” Jaranin murmured with a smile. Suddenly, he couldn’t wait to kick down the door and race outside. The air would be fresh and morning-crisp, and in just a few more days, the trees would start to bloom.

“Ahh, Sinoa,” Naomi sighed wistfully, plucking the scones off the rack and stacking the platter high. “There’s nothing quite like the springs here. Close enough to hear the ocean, but not too close like the city of Embraeth where you can taste the salt in the air. And the flowers. Every year, I can’t wait for those hyacinths to bloom on our doorstep. Or the lillies-of-the-valley out back.”

She peered over her shoulder at Jaranin and winked. “But that means the rains are comin’ too, and then you’ll be happy to be inside at the loom.” Once she’d set the platter of scones on the table, she stirred the bubbling pot of savory porridge. She nodded, apparently satisfied at its thickness. “Now for the bowls, m’dear.” He handed her their two wooden bowls, and she ladled the porridge up to the brims. “All right, now sit, sit.”

Jaranin chuckled, knowing from years of experience that this was the most help he was allowed to offer. Naomi wouldn’t stand another cook in her kitchen. She was its sole reigning monarch.

And it showed.

Naomi deftly flicked a spoon into each bowl, hung the ladle on a hook on the mantel, grabbed her mittens, and swung the porridge pot from the fire to the table. And not a single drip of porridge to be found anywhere except inside the bowls.

Jaranin whistled. “I don’t know how you do it, Naomi.”

“Same as how you learned to tell stories even better than the ones I used to tell you, m’dear,” Naomi replied sagely, beaming at him. She tapped the tip of his nose affectionately. “Years and years of practice.” She then turned and drew two cups of water from a large bucket in the far corner of the room.

“Now, sit.” Naomi bobbed her little head up and down before flitting to her place at the table. “Breakfast is ready.”

---
[Excerpt from The Victor's Blade; all content subject to change.]

Photo by Andy Chilton. Originally posted on Unsplash.com.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Cut Scene - TVB: "In the Rain"

Since I'm now working on writing TVB instead of just planning it out, I'll probably be posting a lot more excerpts over the months to come.

As I post this, I'm in the process of reviewing chapters 1 and 2, which I wrote yesterday. While I was reading/revising, a cute little impromptu scene between Jaranin and Naomi developed while Naomi prepared breakfast. This particular scene-within-a-scene didn't quite fit the focus I wanted for the first two chapters, so I decided to cut it... but I liked it so much, I wanted to share it with all of you.

So today, please enjoy a little "extended version clip"!


“Looks like it’ll be another lovely first of spring,” Jaranin murmured with a smile. Suddenly, he couldn’t wait to kick down the door and race outside. The air would be fresh and morning-crisp, and in just a few more days, the trees would start to bloom.

“Ahh, Sinoa,” Naomi sighed wistfully, plucking the scones off the rack and stacking the platter high. “There’s nothing quite like the springs here. Close enough to hear the ocean, but not too close like the city of Embraeth where you can taste the salt in the air. And the flowers. Every year, I can’t wait for those hyacinths to bloom on our doorstep. Or the lillies-of-the-valley out back.”

She peered over her shoulder at Jaranin and winked. “But that means the rains are comin’ too, and then you’ll be happy to be inside at the loom.”

“Not if the rains start at dawn,” Jaranin chuckled. “Or the evening, after work. Isalaina and I always get home as soaked as fish in a pond.”

“And I always find that so odd,” Naomi observed with a warm, knowing little smile, “since Isalaina wove those nice thick cloaks for you both.”

He innocently pretended not to have heard her. “Oh?” Jaranin asked as his hand strayed toward one of the honeycakes on the edge of the baking rack.

“Indeed,” Naomi nodded soberly. “In fact, oftentimes when I glance down the lane, someone is trying to hold an extra cloak over her head…”

Diversions didn’t work well when they diverted your own attention. His head began to fill with thoughts of last spring: walking in the pouring rain with Isalaina, both of them playfully shoving his cloak over the other person’s head, Isalaina laughing so hard she could barely breathe. Her eyes sparkled and she simply… glowed.

Naomi’s voice broke through his thoughts. “And don’t think I don’t know that pilfering distraction trick, young man. Though it seems your attention’s on something other than honeycakes now.”

Jaranin suddenly felt his face getting warmer, and it wasn’t because of the fire. “W-well, you said the scones were done, eh? Time for breakfast!”

---
[Cut scene from The Victor's Blade; all content subject to change.]
Photo by Mike Kotsch. Originally posted on Unsplash.com.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Excerpt - TVB: Prologue

Guess what, everyone?

I finally finished my planning projects.

So guess what I just wrote up?




Prologue

It was cold that night, she thought to herself. The wavering fire in the hearth cast a pale, dying glow. Wearily, it stretched across the dark house, trying desperately to bring life and warmth. But this home, much like the fire, had lost its spark long ago. Outside, the world was silent. Inside, even the shadows were muted.

A single small form lay curled up on a mattress of thick, plush rugs. One little head buried deep beneath a pile of blankets, shivering in the night.

“Come here, Jaranin,” Naomi finally whispered. Her chair and her body creaked as she rose, drawing her seat closer to the hearth.

Immediately, the little face peeked out from the blankets. So he had been awake. Just as she’d thought. His large, brown eyes were wide and sad.

Even he could feel it. The poor, sweet babe. No more than three, yet facing this

The child slipped out from beneath his covers. His bare feet tapped softly on the wood plank floor. He clambered up onto her lap. Then he gratefully snuggled close to her body.

She wrapped her arms around him, stroking his soft, tousled brown hair. “Shh… shh, child.”

Naomi rocked him gently. She began a sing-song whisper, “Once upon a time…”

Once upon a time, there was a very brave man. His name was Lexirous.

He lived in a city far, far away. It was a city with marble walls, white and smooth, and it glistened in the moonlight every night. But the city’s people did wicked things. All except the brave man, Lexirous.

Lexirous was wise as well as brave. He knew that the wicked deeds of his city would not go unpunished. He warned the people, saying that a great evil would come to destroy the city.

But Lexirous did not want the city to be destroyed. So he forged a sword—a powerful sword—a blade that would defeat any enemy.

He called it the Victor’s Blade.

“Naomi?” came the feeble, hoarse voice of a woman from the adjoining room.

Naomi quickly set Jaranin down onto the floor, then hobbled toward the half-open door of the bedroom.

The patient attempted to call out again, “Na—” but the name was choked off by a violent, wracking cough.

“I’m coming, dear. I’m coming.”

* * *

Jaranin sat on the floor for a bit. He watched the half-open door. All he could do was sit and watch. He wasn’t allowed in the room any more to see Mama. Naomi said it was because she was ill. He didn’t know what ill was, but Mama sounded sad. Naomi sounded sad. It made him sad, too.

Jaranin toddled back over to his bed. He grabbed a blanket in a big fist. Then he dragged it over to the fire. He was cold.

He pulled the blanket over his head and sat right in front of the fire. The fire was pretty like this, but also sad. It wasn’t jumping up and happy like when it was very, very hot. Now it was sitting, like him. And it was quiet. It wasn’t popping and crackling.

He heard Naomi and Mama talking, but they were too quiet, so he couldn’t understand what they were saying.

He was sad Naomi couldn’t finish her story tonight again, but that was okay. He remembered the rest. He liked this story very much.

“An’ just like Lyexirus said, evil came to tha city…”

Many years passed. And, just as Lexirous had said, a great evil came to the city.

No one could defeat the evil, no matter how hard they tried. Swords could not pierce him. Shields shattered when he touched them. No weapon could harm him.

But then, Lexirous left the city gates to fight. The Victor’s Blade was in his hand.

The evil recognized the blade, for he had seen it in a vision. He asked Lexirous what he planned to do with the blade.

Lexirous replied,

“I am the protector and rescuer of this world. I was chosen to fight you. I have forged the blade of your bane. My purpose is blessed. And now I will end you forever.

“For only by my blood will the Dark be slain…”

Jaranin rocked back and forth on his heels. He watched the last little coal in the fire. It used to be orange. Now it was red. And soon it would be black.

The house was cold and quiet.

Jaranin looked back at the door to Mama’s room one more time. Naomi had closed the door now. Naomi didn’t usually close the door.

Mama had been in bed for a very long time. Naomi said it had been many, many months.

He wondered when Mama would be able to play with him again. He hoped soon.

She seemed very tired since she coughed so much… He would pray that she slept well tonight.

He looked back at the fire. The little coal had suddenly gotten very bright. It was pretty!

Then it went out. Now it was black, and there was no more light from the fire.

It was so quiet.

---
[Excerpt from The Victor's Blade; all content subject to change.]

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Anticipation... and Anxiety

Have you ever been simultaneously excited and terrified about a task you're tackling?

Where does the fear come from, for you?

I think for me, the paralyzing terror usually comes from fearing I'll screw it up. Because if it's something I'm excited about, it's something I actually want to do. And if I want to do it, I want to do it well. To the best of my ability. Perfectly, if I can.

And therein lies the terror of screwing it up: perfectionism. For me, that manifests as a mantra that says, "If it's not perfect, it's worthless. Or at least pretty crappy."

I think you can see how that translates to my writing, especially when working on The Victor's Blade. I care about it so much. I mean, I've been working on it since I was eleven years old (and then some, if you've read all the Origin posts). I want it to be good--actually, I want it to be great, because I see it has so much potential. But I'm also scared it won't realize that potential. I'm worried that my writing abilities still aren't good enough to take what The Victor's Blade is in my head and accurately transfer that into words on a page.

I've experienced that "talent gap" most frequently with drawing. I draw and sketch here and there, but my taste for the art is so much higher than my ability. I can picture what I want to draw in my head--even envision it in the glory that other artists would draw it--but my skills aren't anywhere near good enough to realize that dream. I can draw it, but it won't turn out as good as I'd imagined it to be. I haven't practiced drawing enough; my skills aren't to the same level as my tastes.

I worry it's going to be the same case with my writing. So the closer I get to actually writing a new draft of The Victor's Blade, the more anxious I'm getting. Even though I know it won't be a final draft, writing a brand-new draft with all these years of new plans feels daunting.

I feel like Rapunzel from Disney's Tangled. All her life, she's waited for the chance to step outside the walls of her home and discover the meaning behind the magical lights that appear on her birthday every year. It's her dream. And it's been her dream for so long that, once she finds herself minutes away from the light show, she's scared.

"I'm terrified," she confesses. "What if it's not everything that I dreamed it would be?"

Or, even if it is, she continues, "What do I do then?"

"Well, that's the good part, I guess," her newfound friend, Flynn, replies. "You get to go find a new dream."


---
Rakozy, Greg. Photograph. 2015. Tony Grove Lake, United States. Unsplash.com. Web. 12 Apr. 2016.

Tangled. Dir. Nathan Greno and Byron Howard. Perf. Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, and Donna Murphy. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, 2010. Blu-Ray.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

On Canon - Pt. 2 of 2: The Question

Whew. Okay. Could you tell I got a little fiery talking about the Star Wars canon yesterday?

Canon, not cannon!

I'll try to keep it cool today.

So Star Wars changed its canon. And it got me angry, because I felt that in doing so they had erased content, characters, and stories by simply labeling them "non-canonical."

But what is canon? And does it even matter? Those are two questions that the video I mentioned yesterday, What is Canon?, tries to tackle.

In fiction, canon is the "official" version of a sequence of events--what "really" happened, so to speak, in the story. Questions of canonicity typically abound in large-scale fiction (see Star Wars or, as the video mentions, Dr. Who) where the universe has been created by multiple writers over a variety of media, sometimes including books, movies, TV series, comic books, etc. Sometimes, the events in these media will overlap: a book may discuss the same event that a TV series episode touches on. And, should these two accounts of this event conflict with one another, it brings up a question of canon: which series of events actually happened in this fictional universe?

Let's look at Star Wars again as an example. But fair warning--there will be SPOILERS about Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens for the three of you who still have not seen it. And spoilers from the EU, I guess.

In the Expanded Universe (before Disney purchased LucasFilm and changed what was considered canon in the Star Wars universe), everyone's favorite giant, furry Wookiee, Chewbacca, dies in an attempt to rescue one of Han Solo's sons. Han mourns deeply. "[T]he death of his battle-brother and dearest companion would stick with him forever" (Wookieepedia, "Chewbacca/Legends").

But in The Force Awakens, it's not Chewie we see die--it's Han. In a cruel twist of fate, the roles have been reversed. And since The Force Awakens is canon, this means that Han Solo never mourned the loss of Chewie. Chewie was the one to survive Han.

But the story where Chewbacca dies (the book is The New Jedi Order: Vector Prime) is still out there. It hasn't ceased to exist. People can still enjoy reading this story, even if it's technically not what "really" happened in the Star Wars universe any more. Heck, even so, it could be what "really" happened in your version of the "canon"--your "headcanon," as many like to call it here on the interwebs.

So if we can all have our own interpretations and preferences of "what really happened..." does canon really mean anything at all?

I'm really curious as to how you guys feel about it. Really, let's have a chat about it in the comments below.

For me personally, canon matters. That's due to my personality. I'm a little anal about timelines and chronology. So as soon as someone explicitly says, "This is what really happened," then that's what really happened. Sure, if I hate it I might try to write my own ending. But I'll never be able to forget that whatever I create that contradicts the canon... It didn't really happen. To me, that makes my version of the story interesting... but it loses a great deal of potency. It goes from the realm of possibility ("This could have happened") to the realm of denial ("I refuse to accept reality"). So I can try to have my own headcanon, sure. I can say that I like the universe in which Chewie dies better than The Force Awakens and decide that, in my mind, Han Solo is still alive. But I will never be able to shake the nagging feeling that it's not what happened. That by choosing my headcanon over the official canon, I am essentially saying that I refuse the reality of that universe.

But I've done enough yapping. Let's discuss it and really dig deep!

---
Works Cited:

  • "Chewbacca/Legends." Wookieepedia. Wikia, 18 March 2016. Web. 06 Apr. 2016.
Photo by skeeze. Originally posted on Pixabay.com.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

On Canon - Pt. 1 of 2: The Rant

[I started writing this post and then realized it was going to be way too long to do in one go, so consider this Part 1 of my exploration of the concept of canon. Part 2 will be coming out either tomorrow or Thursday.]

I recently discovered (and have become addicted to) NerdSync's channel on YouTube. They mostly discuss superheroes in comics, but they also touch on a lot of philosophy and storytelling. One such storytelling video that caught my eye was this one: What is Canon?

The video really interested me for a variety of reasons. First and foremost was due to the recent surge of interest (or re-interest?) in Star Wars.

I'm sure most of you know already that Disney purchased LucasFilm (the film studio that brought us Star Wars) from George Lucas in 2012. While I had my fears about Disney owning Star Wars, I've had mixed reviews on the results. It wasn't as bad as I expected... except for how Disney chose to deal with Star Wars's Expanded Universe.

For many years, people had been creating content that went beyond the events of Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. And not fanfiction--I'm talking real, published comics, novels, games, and more that created an "Expanded Universe" that went well past the movies and TV series--forward and backward in time. They didn't contradict the events of the movies. They took the Star Wars universe that the movies had initially conceived and literally expanded it by adding characters, storylines, wars, history, cultures--you name it.

I only dabbled in the Expanded Universe, but I fell in love with its vast scope. I also liked the idea that, although never officially sanctioned by George Lucas, he gave some of the stories some nods of approval. But I also liked that more often, the fans had essentially formed their own canon--their own idea of what really happened in the Star Wars world. Because they loved Star Wars so much, they polished up what they deemed as inconsistencies in stories written and/or produced by Lucas. And then they added so much to it.

But in 2014, two years after purchasing LucasFilm, Disney announced that, in the words of Business Insider writer Steve Kovach, they were "rebrand[ing]" the Expanded Universe "under the 'Star Wars Legends' banner." ("Disney Is Going To Nuke All The 'Star Wars' Books And Comics Fans Have Been Enjoying For Decades")

Even as a soft-core Star Wars fan, I was mad.

I did appreciate the fact that Disney wasn't just burning all these EU media as heresies but were instead trying to archive them as best they could. And I understood that Disney wanted to be able to make movies the way they wanted to (and not be locked into following the Expanded Universe storylines).

But the fact remained that this was a slap in the face to the fanbase who had fallen in love with the Expanded Universe and worked so hard to maintain continuity in the Star Wars universe--which was no easy thing to do. In my mind, by tossing the entire Expanded Universe out and simply labeling it as "Legends," Disney took away all of the power of those stories. "They're fun and interesting... but readers should note they do not reflect the official storyline..." as Kovach put it.

"Fun and interesting stories..." but nothing more than that. Just legends. Things that never took place. They suddenly weren't part of "the official storyline."

The Expanded Universe wasn't just a collection of fun little stories that can be made into myths. The EU included stories of how Luke Skywalker fell to the Dark Side and then returned to the Light long after his fight with Darth Vader was over. They discussed how Luke found true love in, ironically, the form of an assassin sent to kill him, and the struggles their children dealt with many years later. With the EU gone... all of that was suddenly erased.

I think the best way I can show you what this all meant, for me, is to toss a link and a couple pictures your way.

Here's a snippet of an article on Wookieepedia that relays all EU information on the Zabrak species. It describes them in startling detail: biology, typical appearance, personality (both what was common for their species, as well as how others often perceived them), and even a condensed history of their people. The article is over 1,600 words long and four single-spaced pages in a Microsoft Word document:


But the EU doesn't exist any more. It's no longer canon. It's just "legends."

So, here's all the collected information on the entire race of the Zabrak that is now considered canon:


Including the text from that infobox on the side, this article is 133 words long. It's only 85 without.

If each word was a single letter, you could tweet this article to a friend--with room to spare.

It reminds me of a phenomenon in the Star Wars universe itself--a wound in the Force--the loss of something great, which sends out painful echoes of what once was.


---
Read on with part two right here.

Works Cited:
  • Kovach, Steve. "Disney Is Going To Nuke All The 'Star Wars' Books And Comics Fans Have Been Enjoying For Decades." Business Insider. Business Insider Inc., 25 Apr. 2014. Web. 5 Apr. 2016. "Zabrak." Wookieepedia. Wikia, 2 Apr. 2016. Web. 05 Apr. 2016.
Photos taken from Wookiepedia.