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Monthly Archives: September 2011

Seriously? Yet another awesome writing thing that I’ve never heard of before? This is getting ridiculous.

For those of you who have played D&D (or other roleplaying games), the concept of character creation is nothing new. You decide on a race, a class, and some equipment, and off you go on your first adventure. Sometimes you don’t have a lot of stuff planned for that character. You never know if she or he will even survive the first encounter with goblins in the woods, but you try anyway. Poor Jor. He never saw that hydra coming.

Anyway, I digress. Sometimes the character you create is something more than just a one-shot hero. Sometimes you want to feel like you know them better than your best friend. That’s when this kind of thing comes into play. About three years ago, my girlfriend’s brother decided he was going to create a D&D world where we could have multiple characters living in different areas. Then, regardless of where in the game world a session would be taking place, we’d have a character who would, theoretically, be close enough to the action to participate. As we would all be creating multiple characters, we decided one of the best things to do would be to establish a character backstory for everyone. Each player was tasked with crafting his or her characters and their individual histories. What was it that brought each one of them to this exact moment? That was our goal. I greatly enjoyed each of them, and I decided that it was high time that I share a little more of my nerdiness with you. Tonight, I present you with the story of Jack, a wandering scholar a la Indiana Jones.


Forty years ago, there was a small group of adventurers who roamed the world of Taesos, combing dungeons and caverns and castles in far countries to gain the knowledge of ancient civilizations. A man named Dorn was one of their number, and upon his return to his home city of Arnes he married and founded a small private university in the large manor that he built with funds dicovered in his travels. It was here that he began to pore over the information that he and his friends had found. Dorn began to study alongside his students and found that with the right training, anyone could accomplish astounding deeds. His school quickly became known as a prestigious adventuring academy.

Not long after, Dorn and his wife welcomed the birth of twin sons, Jack and Alexi. In an unpleasant turn of events of which not even Dorn know’s the truth, Dorn’s wife fled Arnes with Dorn’s best friend, Georg, and with Alexi, the elder twin. Dorn was left to raise Jack alone.

Jack’s childhood was far from dull, however. Living in an academy that was made to train adventurers was an intense experience. Jack inherited his father’s brilliance and trained every day to increase his knowledge and his skills in all fields. When he reached the age of eighteen, he set forth with a group of friends to seek out his long-lost brother, Alexi. After searching for many months, Jack finally stumbled upon his brother’s trail, deep in the mountains on Nyord’Wrend. Georg, it seemed, was a powerful illusionist who had sensed a dormant power inside Alexi’s mind and convinced the boy’s mother to leave her husband and younger son and join him in a quest for power.

Georg and Alexi slaughtered all of Jack’s companions and in what may have been a brief moment of compassion for his brother, Alexi teleported Jack out of Georg’s hands and back to Nirruna, wiping his memories of Alexi’s hiding place in the process.

Jack returned home distraught that he has failed to rescue his twin. He set about studying furiously that he might find some way of overcoming Georg and freeing his brother, and someday reunite his broken family. Now he is ready. He has set forth from Arnes once more to right the wrongs and dispose of all in his way, regardless of the cost.

I’ve had the opening line for a new short story pop into my head. I’m not sure where it will be going, but it starts like this.

“They’re crawling up the walls again.”

If you were guaranteed an honest response to one question, whom would you question, and what would you ask them?

This is probably the most thought-provoking hypothetical question ever. Maybe it’s my love of philosophy, but I can’t help understanding the quest for truth. I’ve always had a curious, analytical mind, and so pursuing knowledge for knowledge’s sake is right up there with reading Tolkien on my list of favorite things. I can think of a few possible people that I’d like to pose questions to, especially with a guaranteed honest answer. However, I don’t think that I could ever limit myself to one such question, even if I could narrow things down to a single person. There’s far too much wonder in my mind. Most of that started in the building you see below.

Heginbotham Library, Holyoke, CO

My Hometown Library

This is home. Or rather, this was my childhood home away from home. This is a picture of the exterior of the library in my hometown. Now granted, I had two other libraries to access back then, the library in my elementary school, and the library in my jr. high/high school. This one will always hold a special place in my heart. Despite the potential controversy surrounding the man who once lived in this building, he provided the town of Holyoke with a massive trust fund that has been utilized to build/maintain a great number of facilities. Our hospital, high school, movie theatre, and more would not exist if it weren’t for him. The point is that this library, and my many explorations of the building and its grounds, provided me with part of my intense love for books. I still make an effort to return to this library at least twice a year.


A Clash of Kings is done. What a way to follow the first volume, Mr. Martin. Well played. However, I’m taking a brief vacation from Westeros right now. That’s right. A Storm of Swords is on hold. If I’m not careful, I’ll be done with A Song of Ice and Fire before Halloween even gets here. Besides, my copies of A Storm of Swords and A Feast for Crows are in storage. I have friends I can borrow them from, but ideally I’ll be unpacking all of my stuff somewhere by the end of the week. In the meantime, volumes 2 & 3 of Read Or Die, Matthew Pearl’s The Poe Shadow, and the two most recent Artemis Fowl books are in the queue right now. Hopefully by the time I’m ready to get back into A Storm of Swords, I will be settled in my next home, and I’ll be ready to do some heavy-duty writing. In the meanwhile, I’ve been doing some tweaking to the arrangement of pages around here. Hopefully any broken links will be repaired ASAP. Peace!

For Sonia M.’s latest challenge, we were asked to write a fairy tale. In the spirit of building up the world in which some of my other microfiction pieces occur, I’ve crafted for your enjoyment a library fairy tale. Here’s “The Library.”

Once upon a time, there was a young girl named Ilyana, who loved to read more than anything else in the world. She’d heard stories about the library, but she’d never seen it in person until today. She’d expected something grand, and she was not disappointed. Towers soared upward, fingers reaching for the sky above. Tethered to one was a large airship, and she could barely make out the letters on its tailfin designating it “Bookmobile.”

The girl’s eyes were wide in amazement. Magic. It had to be. Electricity surged up and down her spine as she stepped timidly through the archway. Ilyana looked closely at one of the walls nearest to her and gasped in shock as she was struck by the realization that the entire building was made, not of brick, nor marble, nor wood, but paper. Millions upon millions of tomes, countless numbers of volumes of books, were housed here, within a structure made of their own kind. Spider-thin writing crackled across the parchment surfaces of the floors, columns, and ceiling, the words of long-forgotten authors lending strength to the library, binding the pages together with ink.

Nervously eyeing the guards who stood near the reference desk, she approached the wizened man and woman who co-occupied it.

“And what can we do for you today,” they asked her in stereo.

“I…I came to get a library card,” she whispered, barely audible.

“Ah, a new mind to fill,” the librarians replied. “We’ve been waiting for you, Ilyana.”

She gasped. “How did you know my name?”

“We are librarians, dearie, we know everything. We knew that you would be coming to us today, and we knew that you would be seeking this.” In unison, the two elderly librarians reached out, holding a small gilded piece of parchment between them. It had Ilyana’s name on it in a curved script, more beautiful than she’d ever seen it written. “You’ll want to go that way,” they added, gesturing to a long spiral stair.

“Thank you!” Ilyana grinned, taking the card and dashing off for the stairway. It seemed to go on forever, but the books and pages that composed it lent a spring to her every step. Finally, Ilyana reached the top of the stairs and found a single door, her name carved in the lintel. A small slot stood in the door, just at her eye level, the golden words above it reading “Library Card Here, Please.”

Placing her new card in the opening, Ilyana watched as the door slowly swung open to admit her. A voice from the books whispered “Welcome, Ilyana…” She knew then that this room was hers, and hers alone. She took in the walls and the books that covered the shelves. It was just for her. One book beckoned to her, and she opened the book to those first magical words. “Once upon a time,” it read, “there was a young girl named Ilyana, who loved to read more than anything else in the world…”

Ah, George R.R. Martin, how the words of House Stark express my joy for the coming season. Granted, winters in Colorado don’t last for decades, like they can in Westeros, but that doesn’t mean that they’re anything to be feared. Rather, I embrace the cold and snow. Winter has always been my favorite season. I think that, as a writer, I thrive in the gloom and the chill that descends upon the state. I think it’s beautiful and poetic to see frost coating everything. It provides the perfect excuse to sit down with a nice drink (I hope to be stocking up on supplies for White Russians, personally), and curl up to read or write. I plan for great progress in the months to come. Colorado will be seeing real winter weather soon, as the snow already coating the top of Pikes Peak pointed out to me yesterday.

Winter brings with it my favorite holiday: Halloween. Honestly, any excuse to get dressed up in crazy costumes and eat a lot of candy works for me. I suppose that you could say that Halloween is a fall holiday, but it’s close enough for me. It will also, hopefully bring new employment. I could readily find myself seasonal employment in the retail world, though I dread that part of things too. I’ve worked one Christmas in retail, and I assure you, it was less than pleasant. When you have to work until 4 on Christmas Eve before beginning your four hour drive to see your family, and you have to be back to work on Boxing Day, it makes for a mildly stressful holiday experience.

Every so often, I come across something that is so useful, I have to share it with my friends. In this particular case, I’ve got the following chart. This was photocopied from a mouse pad my father used to own, and I still use it today, some five or six years later.

London Review of Books Alternate Key Chart

Stupidly Useful Thing #239

I can’t count how many times I’ve referred to this chart since I began my college career. There’s something absurdly refreshing about knowing how to type ß in the middle of a conversation in German, or to toss a little © at the end of some product description. Fantasy writers rejoice at being able to type all of those crazy spellings you’ve loved since you first sat down to read The Hobbit. Don’t know how to pronounce Ÿnwœ? Who cares. Make it up as you go along. Enjoy it.

I’m writing a fairy tale right now, for the next entry in Sonia M’s monthly writing challenges. It’s very likely, in its present state, to continue to build on the literary world that I’ve begun to craft in several of my previous entries. If all goes well, it will be up tomorrow, or even later tonight. Until then, I’ve still got a lot to do. I’m trying to find a place to call home still, even if it’s just short term. I don’t like having to rely on everyone else to shelter me. It’s already been nearly 3 weeks. I’m going a little crazier than usual. Oh well! Whatever gets those creative juices going, right? Anyway, winter will be here soon. More reason to revisit Ryuk, one of many characters I created for D&D games who would utilize cold-based weaponry and tactics. My necromancer I’m crafting now is his daughter, and she’s got a bit of a legend to go on, but other than that, she doesn’t realize who her father is/was. “Then a champion came from a frozen land, with ice in his breath and a scythe in his hand.”

I’m pretty sure that most of my readers already know how much I love J.R.R. Tolkien. The other day, I came across this, a brief piece that just proves even more awesomeness on the part of the man behind some of the greatest fantasy ever written. It’s not just that he was a phenomenal writer. It’s also that he was an incredible man. It would be an honor to be able to call myself comparable to a writer who has inspired me since I was in kindergarten. I’m also pretty excited about this picture, and the upcoming Hobbit films.

I think that some of you might be interested in reading this article as well. It’s pretty relevant to most of us, since the vast majority of us are writers, after our own fashion. It was originally sent to me from V, and number 13 on the list struck me as exceptionally relevant, since I’m her editor/publicist-to-be/leech of money from my soon to be famous friend, etc. I know that she’s going to do well. I’m hunting down some possible REAL editors for her at the moment. It’s good to keep busy, and have a few different options for writing projects, and I’m happy to help out someone who’s so far ahead of me in the novel-writing game.

I’m always looking out for new words, or old ones that have fallen into disuse. When I was taking classes on early literature, I absolutely loved studying Beowulf, because our professor was incredibly passionate about the language. He also taught my class on Chaucer, and I’d never met anyone quite like him. He loves to talk about his visits to Westminster Abbey to have chats with “Geoff.” His love for the language of Middle English and its predecessor showed in every lesson he taught. Because of his classes, I’ve rediscovered my own love of languages, and so, when I first heard this song, the first thing I did was look up a word that was unfamiliar to me: skald. Thanks to wikipedia, I learned that skalds were Scandinavian poets/bards, and they were responsible for most of the earliest known Norse poetry. Personally, history aside, I think it’s an awesome word. Toss in the historical aspect, and it just gets better. Skaldic poetry also includes one of my favorite concepts ever, the kenning. Now V and I have discussed this at length, but the kenning is a metaphor, usually hyphenated, found especially in Scandinavian verse, such as Beowulf. One of my favorite examples of a kenning is used to describe a character’s vast knowledge and ability to speak eloquently. “That noblest of men answered him; the leader of the warrior band unlocked his word-hoard.” Is that not the best way to show off someone’s sheer skill in speech?

Is it too much to ask to be able to want to write something like that?


Okay, finally calming down a little bit. It’s been a damn good weekend. I got back yesterday from Nan Desu Kan, and what a time it was! I got to meet Vic Mignogna, the voice of Ed Elric, and star of one of the greatest anime series of all time, Fullmetal Alchemist. He was incredibly cool, singing during panels, giving hugs to all of his fans, and staying late to make sure that everyone who waited in line for his autograph got to see him. Definitely worth the time. On top of that, I got to meet Michael Sinterniklaas, the voice of Dean Venture, and Leonardo in the newest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, from back in 2003. Awesome weekend. I’m already preregistered for next year’s con, and now it’s just a debate of which character(s) to cosplay as.  I can’t wait!