Musings on writing, lessons learned by an aspiring professional, book reviews, movie reviews, an occasional t.v. show review, and unashamed opinion.

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Sample

Figured I'd post a sample of something I wrote nearly two years ago.  Nobody, save my writing group, seems to know what I do.  Probably because I don't talk much about it, or let people read stuff.  It isn't because I'm afraid of letting people read, I just haven't wanted to show anything until it was finished.  Well, this one most likely won't ever be finished, because of a large list of problems.  I really liked it, though.  The character in this bit is one of my favorites I've ever created.  I might have to put him into a different story some day.

If the story seems familiar, it's supposed to.  The idea behind this one was an alternate Europe at the beginning of the third crusade.  Tollard is based on Richard I, King of England.  More famously known as Richard the Lionheart, or Coeur de Lion for the purist.  It was a lot of fun to write.

I've been obsessively interested in Richard and the third crusade for many years.  He was one of the greatest military minds of the middle ages.  Also, a national hero of England... which is funny, since he spent only 6 months of his 10 year reign in England, (the rest of his time as king on the continent) and never spoke a word of english.  At that time most English nobility spoke french.

Hollywood and modern historians love to demonize Richard.  This really pisses me off.  (I had a hard time with the new Robin Hood movie because of the way they portrayed him).  I hate, I hate, I hate when people judge the past on modern principles.  Yeah Richard was a bit of a brute.  But so was every one else in the medieval world.  But if you take the time to read about the period, and understand what drove men back then to do what they did, you might see some of the nobility and heroism in the figures that lived through some of the bleakest times the earth has seen.  I view Richard as a great man.  Not perfect by any standard, but a giant compared to many of his age.

This is why I wanted to write a story based on him.  Also, because his nemisis--Saladin--the Sultan of Egypt and Syria, is one of history's most admirable leaders.  In many ways, Saladin was the better man.  I could talk about these dudes all night.  Too bad there isn't a good movie about them that you can watch to get the jist of what I'm saying.  Oh well.  There's a lot of good books about them... many of them on my shelf.

Anway, here's the bit of my story.  Understand it has seen very little editing, and might read rough in a few places.  Give me a break, I wasn't going to polish it unless I finished the damn thing!  I never had a title for it--a fact that still bothers me.  And for those who might be interested: I wrote nearly 130,000 words before quitting.  I figure it would have taken to 160,000 to finish the story.  (Those of you that don't know, that's a good sized book.  About 550 pages).  Oh, and one last note, I'm posting this under a Creative Commons non-commercial, non-derivative work license.  If you want to know what this means, leave a comment that you're curious and I'll let you know.  The short of it is: If you steal this and try and claim it as yours, repost it with changes you have added, or in any way try to make money off of this, I will find you, break your knees, and rob you of all your riches.  Or at the very least, sue you and deny you as my friend.


YOU ARE NOT MY SON,” the king said to Tollard.  “A demon impregnated your mother!  And I should cut off your head and feed it to my dogs!  How I wish your brother still lived!”
            Tollard only smiled.  He scratched at his well-kept beard—that turned from red to gold, depending on the light—and stared at Father.  They were nearing the end of their tedious parley, inside the cramped pavilion east of Morton, and Father had said the same many times already.  Tollard had a feeling that it wouldn’t be the last insult he'd receive today.  He had defeated Father’s army and so understood why the old man was so furious.  He tried not to chuckle as the king scowled at him; he didn't want to provoke the decrepit fart into one of his epic tantrums.  King Herral had been humiliated enough already.  “You will release Mother immediately,” Tollard said.  “I want her on a ship sailing for L’Rorche, before the new moon.” 
            “Yes, yes,” Father growled, “I have already sworn to let the bitch go.”
            Tollard bit his tongue and clenched his fists.  If the bastard insults her one more time I will cut off his royal prick and shove it down his throat!  The half-grin on Father’s face made it plain that he knew Tollard wanted to burst into violence.  That would be foolish, though. Because ten armed knights surrounded the king and Tollard sat unarmed.  He had his own armed men behind him—each loyal and brave—but he’d be dead before they could stop Father’s men from driving their swords through his heart.  Angennet family meetings were always enjoyable.
            “I want that Callet fop out of my land before Lenorel is allowed to set foot on a ship!  I won’t tolerate a foreign king and his army in my—”
            “Impossible,” Tollard said, unmoved by Father’s look.  “Moving an army takes time; you know that.  Guy will be out of L’Melles within a fortnight, no sooner.”  Guy could move faster if he wanted to, but he and Tollard had discussed the issue when they had learned Father desired peace.  King Herral was as sly as a minx, known for backing out of promises a day or two after making them.  Tollard couldn’t afford him changing his mind if Guy left Merran quickly.          
            I nearly lost our little summer war, though Father doesn’t seem to be aware of the fact.  I am perfectly happy to let him remain ignorant.  “Guy,” he said, “will begin his retreat when word of our treaty reaches him, but you will put Mother on a ship as soon as you are back in Angelan.” 
Father ground his teeth like a millstone crushing wheat; he often did so when angry.  The sound of it could drive a man mad.  As a boy, Tollard dreaded that awful noise, for it had usually been made at him. 
            “If you betray our agreement,” Father said, spittle spraying from his mouth like sea foam, “I will hunt Lenorel down and hang her from Rochard’s walls!  I want the Lanjen out of Merran!”
            Tollard and Guy had made quick work of Father’s forces when the fighting began, after the last of the spring storms.  The king’s legendary military genius hadn’t been able to stop them from advancing ever northward.  After they had captured L’Melles—the city where Father had been born—the old man seemed to have lost his appetite for battle.  Tollard had been confident that he would ride into Cassendy, capture its ducal capital of Rochard, and laugh from the city’s ramparts while Father sent men to beg him to accept terms of surrender. 
            Damn, Marchelle l’Gouis, Tollard thought.  If he hadn’t blocked Rochard’s approaches... Marchelle will die when I get a hold of him.  Tollard didn’t let men who tried killing him live. 
            He wished, as so often he had during the past months, that the famous knight served him instead of Father.
            “Are you listening to me?” Father bellowed.  “If you betray me, boy, your mother will hang!”
            Now isn’t the time to let your mind wander, pay attention!  “I heard you, Father.  I'll not betray our agreement.  Guy won’t either; I’ll make sure of it.”  Tollard watched as the king’s breathing returned to normal, and the blood drained from his face.  Father was  holding his temper admirably. 
            “This parley is over.  “We have nothing more to talk about,” Father said.  He rose from where he sat at the gilded table and turned to leave.
Tollard felt his own face turn hot as blood flowed to his cheeks.  The man’s arrogance is endless!  What does he think this whole parley is about?  Father knew Tollard would insist on being declared his heir again; the entire purpose of the summer war had been to regain that lost right.  Tollard’s older brother lay in his grave, and so law bound Father to make Tollard the heir.  He already ruled as Duke of Aquias and Count of Tiers, and by God he would be King of Angelan as well!  Even if it meant he had to send Father to the blackest pits of hell. “Wait!  We haven’t discussed my rights.”   
Father spun on him and tried pulling at his dagger, forgetting that like Tollard, he was unarmed.
“You dare demand that of me?  After all the problems you have caused me?  After waging war against me? Why would I let you rule my realm when I am gone?”
            Tollard felt like chewing at the edges of the embroidered carpet that covered the pavilion’s floor.  He was beginning to understand Father’s need to rage uncontrollably.  Did he think  I would forget to bring up my inheritance?  Who would rule Angelan if Father didn’t acknowledge him?  Geoffard?  Joul?  Father and Tollard both knew that the two youngest Angennet sons would be disastrous.  Geoffard had gained fame for being devoid of morals, and Joul courted timidity like a spider hiding in dark cellars. 
            Tollard prepared to yell it all to Father when one of the king’s young pages pushed his way into the dimly-lit pavilion, interrupting their bickering.
            “Pardon, Sire,” the boy said, as quiet as an ugly maid.  “There is a rider with urgent news from the East.”  The sinking sun spilled in through the pavilion’s entrance behind the page, outlining the boy in its fiery glory.
            Father looked to Tollard with open suspicion on his face.  Tollard only stared back, impatient.  “Show him in,” the king commanded, voice as cold as death.  The boy fled the pavilion as though the iciness of the king’s tone could burn him.  Father continued to glare at Tollard as he lounged is his chair across from him.
            Several minutes later, a man with long black hair and a well-kept goatee pushed through the pavilion door into the knight-filled pavilion.  The knights eyed each other as though about to join battle, while Father tried desperately to slay Tollard with his dagger-like gaze.  The man wore a clean, long, blood-red surcoat down to his ankles, a golden sunburst embroidered on its front, with a long-sleeved hauberk beneath its silken folds.  Tollard watched the man pause as he noticed the tension in the air.  A thick leather belt, wrapped twice around his waist, held an empty scabbard.  The man didn’t bother hiding his nervousness about being unarmed.  By his surcoat the man proclaimed himself to be a knight of the Order of Elraine’s Humble Soldiers, or the Knights of Elraine.  Goldhands if one wanted to be derogatory. 
And Tollard recognized the knight.  He couldn’t put a name to the face but knew he had met the man before.  His name isn’t important, Tollard told himself, yet the man’s features nagged at the back of his mind.
            Father supported the Knights of Elraine by sending funds to them and granting lands and incomes, and Tollard supposed that the man had come to beg him for more money.  “What do you want?” Father asked the knight sharply. 
            “Your Majesty,” the knight said as he bowed his head respectfully, “Your Grace,” he said to Tollard, “I bring dire news from Oltreaquiem; the Kingdom of Serlimum has fallen and its king is dead.”

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Mr. Garbage Man, I hate you

When I was about six or seven, I had two goals in life: 1. become a missionary 2. have a meaningful, successful career as a garbage man.  Sadly, I was never able to check off goal number two.

Why, Mr. Garbage Man, do you have to insult me so?  Two Tuesdays ago--two normal trash pickups ago--you, for whatever reason, didn't empty my garbage can.  It happens, I know, like when lame holidays are on Mondays.  Isn't that why you work in the prestigious field of waste management?  It's hard to beat the benefits of public jobs.  This I know.  That's why I didn't get too upset about my trash two Tuesdays ago... no matter that there wasn't a Monday holiday that week.  Perhaps you only thought one took place.  I'm a patient man, one missed trash day can be forgiven.

This Tuesday, like as in two days ago, I took my trash out to the street at 8 am, thinking that for sure it would be picked up this time.  I mean, there wasn't a Monday holiday the day before, and even a garbage man can't be stupid enough to think two Monday holidays in a row had come and gone.  Boy, was I giving too much credit to Mr. Smelly Pants.  You forgot to pick up my trash again!

Look dude, I don't know who the hell you think you are, but my garbage frickin stinks!  You've got to take it to the discarded-treasures-damned landfill!  Remember that message I left you last week?  The one where I got your emergency answering machine?  Yeah, your machine said I'd hear back from you asap.  I didn't.

I left another message for you last night.  It wasn't so patient this time.  In fact, I think I called you some rather colorful names.  I can only be patient for so long.

The saddest part about all this is that I won't be able to refer responsible young men to your line of work.  I mean, think of how much I loved you as a kid.  There's no more love for you now, Mr. Garbage Man.  Not in this house.

You'll find my garbage piled on the hood of your truck if it isn't picked up within the next day or two. Have a nice day.  :)

That's all.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011


When someone asks me what my favorite book is, I have a hard time answering.  I like a lot of books.

A couple of days ago I was coming home from the World Science Fiction Convention with my writing group pals.  We talked about all sorts of serious topics... Ha!  More like Tony and I drove the girls mad with our juvenile humor.  Bad jokes aside, we did have some nice conversations.  Late Sunday night, somewhere between Elko and Salt Lake, we started talking about favorite heroes or villains.  That led to favorite books, antagonists, characters, series, etc.  It was fun to talk with friends as passionate about stories as me.

Anyway, point is, the conversation made me think a lot about favorites.  I wish I could remember exactly what I said so I could just repost the wisdom I'm sure spewed forth from my mouth, at the end of a mind-numbingly long car ride, but I can't.  So I have to think about it some more.  I did want to list some favorites, though, and then maybe go into greater detail about them on later posts.  (mostly i'm listing these for myself since nobody reads this thing yet!)

This brings me to Dune.

Frank Herbert was one of the greatest genre authors to publish in the last century.  (The evidence is that Dune is the highest-selling sci fi book of all time, Lord of the Rings being the highest for fantasy).  I read Dune for the first time in junior high.  Found it in the school library.  I had read Ender's Game before, and a few other sci fi books that I can't remember, but it wasn't until Dune that I fell in love with speculative fiction.  I can't even describe the sense of wonder that I felt imagining giant sandworms, a planet covered in sand, tribes of men surviving in a harsh climate by drinking recycled pee.  And the spice!  Herbert made a good case for drug use, I'll tell ya.  (Kidding.  But he did write Dune while on speed--learned that from Dave Wolverton).

I've reread Dune every couple of years since.  I'm pretty sure I read my first sex scenes in the later books in the series--Heretics of Dune, and Chapterhouse: Dune.  I took my time reading those naughty bits.  What fourteen-year-old boy wouldn't?  Since then, I've come to understand that Frank Herbert, rather than being some old pervert, was a man who thought deeply about important issues affecting humanity.  He wrote about the power of love and the emptiness in one's soul living life without it, the disastrous effects of addiction, the dangers of ecological tampering.  Also, the consequences of fanaticism.  These things went way over my head when I read Dune for the first time.  They are things I ponder now, every time I listen to, or flip through Dune's pages.

If you're looking for a good old adventure story, Dune's a great read for that too.  It hits on so many different levels of enjoyment.  When I was young, I loved reading about Paul Atreides.  Now that I've grown up (a bit, anyway) I find that I'm more interested in Duncan Idaho.  Both are among the most memorable characters in science fiction.  Paul for his plight to become a duke and avenge his murdered father, and Duncan for his unadulterated loyalty to a family who gave him a place of honor among them.  I can only dream of writing characters like these.

So there's one of my favorites.  I've got plenty more.  It'd be fun to have a dialogue with others about theirs.  But I don't have any friends.  Aww... (That read this dumb blog, that is).

Maybe one day.

That's all.

The Maze Runner

First off, this is a spoiler-free review of the book.  Don't want to ruin anything for readers, (I really hate when people do that).  I'll discuss a few minor spoilers at the end of the review.

I liked The Maze Runner, (from now on referred to as TMR).  It was a fun read.  Dashner did a great job at pacing this book.  Almost every chapter ends with a cliff hanger.  If you like books that make you feel like you have to keep reading, this is the book for you.

TMR is the first book in a trilogy, set in a near-future world.  The main character, and only POV (point of view) character is Thomas, a sixteen-year-old (he thinks) boy.  The story begins with Thomas rising up an elevator-like box, into a compound enclosed by hundred-foot walls.  He doesn't remember much other than his name.  

Thomas quickly finds out that he is one among many boys sent to this place.  He finds out that there is a pecking order to they way things are run, and that he is definitely at the bottom... even beneath a plump, goofy kid named Chuck.  And he finds out about the maze--the prison that surrounds the boys' compound.

The older boys have been in the maze for a couple of years.  Since then, they have been trying to find a way out.  There are a few problems, though:  Grievers, (machine monster things) daily moving walls, rules enforced by the older boys that, if broken, can result in death, and a bunch of other dangers Thomas doesn't even know exist.  Despite all of this, Thomas is certain he needs to be a maze runner--one of an elite group of boys that go into the maze every single day, running marathon lengths to try and find an exit.  

This is the type of book where you know almost nothing until the end, and then more mysteries are hinted at to set up the sequel.  If you hate being left hanging, don't read it!  But the sequel is out, (The Scorch Trials) and the third and final book comes out this fall.  

Thomas isn't your typical YA protagonist.  He's not some angsty whiner who hates everyone.  Sure he gets mad when the other boys don't tell him things, but he is quite pleasant as a teenager. 

I liked this book.

*SPOILERS* (You have been warned)
Some of the swear words Dashner used kinda bugged me.  Klunk wasn't so bad, I actually liked this one because of its explanation of the sound poo makes when it hits the toilet.  Shuck, though, and shuck-face, shucker, shuck off, (you get the idea) drove me up the wall.  Shuck is pretty much the f word without the f in front.  I don't think there was an explanation given for this one.

The reason I disliked the fake cusses wasn't because Dashner made up a few words.  That's actually a good thing to do to if you're writing science fiction or fantasy.  It helps readers know they're visting a world different than the one they exist in.  I disliked the words because I felt the author was trying to walk a line between using and not using strong language.  I'd prefer one or the other.  Probably no cussing, since it's YA.  Lay it on me if it's a book for adults.  Maybe if shuck didn't sound so much like the f-bomb I wouldn't have been bothered.   
I certainly don't approve of raunchy, explicit language in stories... mostly.  I'll keep it to don't for this post.  I can debate it later.  But I think there are certain words an author doesn't need to use.  The F word is one of them.  GD is another.  Taking the Lord's name in vain actually offends me more than anything.  So writers, please don't use those.  That still leaves a whole lot of 'strong words' that are usable.  I'll refrain from listing them.  Ya'll know what they are.  

Okay, got off on a bit of a tangent.  Time to bring it back.  TMR had a few other things that cheesed me, but I don't want to sound negative.  I LIKED the book quite a bit.  It surprised me.  The plot itself never surprised me, only how much I enjoyed it when it was done.  I saw the girl coming from a mile away.  Of course there had to be a girl for Thomas to have some sort of romantic relationship with.  I thought at first that there might be another maze of all girls, and the two compounds would meet up at some point.  I was wrong about that... kind of, but I knew a girl would appear.  

Conclusion: if you haven't read TMR yet, what are you waiting for?  Go get it; buy it, rent it, or steal it from a relative.  You'll be glad you took the time to dive into its pages.

The Maze Runner gets 3.5 stars out of 5.

That's all.