I Can’t Get Away From The Wolves

That’s what it feels like, anyway. I’m slogging through Wanderlust Chapter Nine. My heroes are exhausted; tired and aching and scared, already nearing the limit of their endurance, and that’s when the wolves attack. My boys have to find a way to save themselves so they can travel on and complete their quest. My task is much easier. I just have to fix all the sentences, tune up the dramatic pacing, and use the perfect words to describe how it all goes down. I’ve been thinking about it all day, I’ve been working on it on and off, and somehow I’ve barely made any progress at all. My characters feel tired and stupid in this scene (I’m at the part right before the “oh-god-I’m-being-chased-by-WOLVES” adrenaline kicks in) and I feel tired and stupid as I’m writing it. The only good part about this scenario is that, at least, we’re in it together.

When I sat down to my manuscript after a week or so off and looked at my characters’ names, I got a momentary case of the giddies. Like when you’re walking down the street and you unexpectedly see that guy you have a crush on, or when you’re watching that television show and that one character you just can’t get enough of walks on the screen. Vanya and Taniel, I read. Ooh, squealed something inside of me. Really? I get to write about these guys?!

So the wolves are attacking. I’m tired and grumpy, and I want to know when we’re getting out of this stupid chapter. Are we there yet? But I’m on the journey. I’m in the book. I’m working on it—and that’s so much better than the alternative.

-Grace Out

P.S. I’d love to hear about your own projects in the comments section. How often do you remember your excitement for your characters? Would you rather be involved with a project, and frustrated, than not working on it at all? How did you get away from the wolves?

DarkWolfMakley

The Dark Wolf © Grace Makley. Watercolors, some editing in Photoshop.

Games, Writing, and Christmas Photos

It’s two days after Christmas, and here in Maine we’re having a snowstorm. My father took another day off work so he wouldn’t have to drive through the snow to the coast (he commutes over an hour when the roads are clear). Brother can work from home, and he’s here through Sunday. A board game called Middle Earth Quest is taking up our entire kitchen table. Brother got it for Christmas and it’s epic, with like 20 decks of cards that do different things and 10 plastic figures and some more cardboard standups and a gazillion punched-out, printed-on-both-sides, heavy cardboard tokens. Oh, and a rulebook that is 40 pages long. We only got a few rounds into the game last night, but we think it will be fun once we figure out how to play. Here’s the cool video review that turned Brother onto the game in the first place (if you’re into boardgames (or even if you’re not), you should watch these reviews. They’re hilarious): http://penny-arcade.com/patv/episode/middle-earth-quest

It's HUGE!

It’s HUGE!

When my mother came home from work yesterday, she found me sitting on the couch, appearing entirely at ease. “What have you been doing all day?” she joked. And, with a wonderful and rare sense of accomplishment and self-justification, I answered simply: “Writing.” That’s right, sports fans: the Wanderlust train is back on the track. Cruising through Chapter Nine (To the Wolves), to be precise. I’m still overwhelmed by the amount of work to do, and in fact the “Plot and Narrative Issues I Need to Resolve” list seems to grow LONGER instead of shorter each time I check an item off the top, but I just have to finish this draft, and soon. So I’m going to go work on that now. In lieu of any illustrations, philosophical advice, or particularly eloquent bloggery, please enjoy this photograph of our Christmas tree (it’s a much smaller tree than our usual white-pine monstrosities that take up half the living room and are wider than they are tall, but I think it pulled together quite nicely):

MakleyTree

 

*BONUS*

Have a photo of me on Christmas morning modeling some oven mitts.

OvenMitts

 

Merry Christmas. I hope yours was magical. 🙂

Hobbit, Book Two, and Harp

I found out last week that it’s really hard to do multiple blog posts in a week, especially if that week is one of the few leading up to Christmas.

I owe you a review of The Hobbit movie. Perhaps later? Or maybe I will just say this: the things in this movie that were good were really good. In several ways it exceeded my expectations. The things that were not good about this movie, though, were really not good, and for me these things rendered the movie less than a success overall. If you were not bothered by the things that bothered me or were able to set them aside more readily, I am happy for you, and since I’d really hate to ruin the experience for someone else I’m not going to get into any specifics here.

I’ve been stressed out about getting everything ready for the holidays and saving up for my first student loan payment (due three days after Christmas). It’s getting in the way of the writing; I haven’t moved forward on Wanderlust in a number of days. I did write 700 words of the first chapter of Wanderlust Book Two last night, though, so I’ve been thinking about the characters. I haven’t told anyone about that Book Two opening scene yet. I’m worried it’s too dark, but I’ve been playing with it for months and it feels really true to the characters and true to the tone I’m trying to set for a second book. Not that I’m even working on Book Two yet—just letting it bump around in my subconscience and dashing down ideas as they come. Eventually we’ll see how it all plays out.

Harp lessons are still going really well; I’ve had three now. I’m working on a lot of stuff and getting better every day. I’ve even played at a few open mics, which was fun and nerve-wracking. How do all these guys with guitars regularly play stuff and sing at the same time? Oh, I bet they’ve been playing their instrument for more than a month. That must have something to do with it. I’m impatient to learn more things and get my own harp and play better and faster, but at the same time I love every minute of playing exercises and chords and even just holding the thing as I tune it (and it’s even holding a tune better than it did when I first got it). About a week ago practicing the harp did begin to feel like work, because I was frustrated on a couple of my pieces and also my hand hurt from doing something else and I was worried that harping would make it worse. This thing, where little things get in the way and make it hard to keep going, is something I recognize from every other instrument I’ve ever tried to play. And yes, I didn’t practice for two days in a row this weekend. But then I did practice and I worked through it and I still love the harp and the sound of it and everything about it. I really think I’ve finally found my instrument, and that I won’t be putting it aside anytime soon.

Hopefully I’ll update again before the 25th, but in case I don’t, I wish you a very Merry Christmas, and I hope you and your family have a delightful holiday season.

-Grace

Tolkien Week Post 4: The Collection

TolkienWeek

It’s stiiiiiiill Tolkien Week! And we’ve had our first contributor. 🙂

M.D. Sanchiz wrote a Tolkien Week post over at her very cool blog. Go check it out!

If you want to join the fun, here’s how: 1.) Take the Tolkien Week banner and place it at the beginning of a blog post. 2.) Link to gracemakley.com (because I made the banner and that’s good manners). 3.) Write a post about anything related to Tolkien (how did you first discover the books? What is your favorite movie interpretation? Any scenes or lines from the book that you find especially meaningful? Do you have a rad Tolkien collection you’d like to show off? Who’s your favorite Tolkien illustrator?). 4.) Let me know about your post by commenting here, and I will happily link to you as part of the Tolkien Week festivities.

My previous Tolkien Week Posts have been: The Hobbit (1977), The Return of the King (1980), and Unsung Illustrators.

The Collection

What better time than Tolkien week to celebrate all the Tolkien things I’ve managed to collect over the years? Here’s the collection. I mostly did a sweep of nearby shelves, without digging too deeply—I could have beefed it up significantly with all the movie posters, but most of them are rolled up in the closet. And yes, that is an official Glamdring replica sword, which usually hangs on a very pretty display plaque on the wall.

TheCollection01

 

Feel free to grab the Tolkien Week banner and share your own collection—or anything else you want to share about Tolkien. I’m running Tolkien week through Sunday, so you still have plenty of time.

Cheers!

Tolkien Week Post 3: Unsung Illustrators

TolkienWeek

Sorry for the delay, folks. We’ll get back to Animated Tolkien tomorrow (there are still the virtues of the Bakshi LOTR to extoll, after all) but tonight will be a short post. To those of you on your way out to see The Hobbit midnight premiere, I wish you luck and godspeed. Also, don’t discuss any of the details with it within my hearing, if you can help it. I’m going to see it by the end of the weekend, but it’s a busy weekend in the Makley household and we’re still figuring out our plans.

If you want to participate in Tolkien Week (it’s on through Sunday, as far as I’m concerned) here’s how: 1.) Take the Tolkien Week banner and place it at the beginning of a blog post. 2.) Link to gracemakley.com (because I made the banner and that’s good manners). 3.) Write a post about anything related to Tolkien (how did you first discover the books? What is your favorite movie interpretation? Any scenes or lines from the book that you find especially meaningful? Do you have a rad Tolkien collection you’d like to show off? Who’s your favorite Tolkien illustrator?). 4.) Let me know about your post by commenting here, and I will happily link to you as part of the Tolkien Week festivities.

Unsung Illustrators

We all know about Alan Lee and John Howe. We’ve seen their artwork on the DVD cases and in the movies themselves. We’ve bought the LOTR sketchbook, and the How to Paint Like John Howe book (not its real title). We’ve watched all the DVD extended features, and we’re intimately familiar with Alan Lee’s crooked teeth and John Howe’s magnificent beard. We’ve watched them sketching in Hobbiton, seen John Howe trying on armor, sighed over their artwork, and wondered what it takes to bring that amount of vision and artistry to life. We love them to pieces. But they aren’t the only ones.

Jenny Dolfen

YOU CAN FOLLOW HER ON WORDPRESS!! http://goldseven.wordpress.com/

Love, love, love her elves and all her work from the Silmarillion. You can find a lot of it by clicking on the Tolkien button under galleries. My favorite doesn’t seem to be there, I found it at The Tolkien Gateway and am posting it below (source: http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/File:Jenny_Dolfen_-_Nirnaeth_Arnoediad_-_Unnumbered_Tears.jpg)

Jenny_Dolfen_-_Nirnaeth_Arnoediad_-_Unnumbered_Tears

Jenny Dolfen

Nirnaeth Arnoediad – Unnumbered Tears

I love sad and beautiful things, and she handles watercolors so well.

Donato

I only discovered this artist the other day because another artist I follow on Facebook posted this link to a really cool and detailed portrait he did of Tolkien, the man himself:  http://www.donatoart.com/gallery/jrrtolkien.html

Here’s the link to his full Tolkien gallery: http://www.donatoart.com/middleearth.html

His hobbits don’t quite look like hobbits to me, but he’s got some really cool interpretations of key scenes, and I like his portraits of the human characters. I especially love the colors, composition, and staging of “Eowyn and the Lord of the Nazgul”

39″ x 34″ oil on panel
© 2010 Donato Giancola
collection of Greg Obaugh

eowynandnazgulb

Source: http://www.donatoart.com/middleearth/eowynandnazgul.html

 

And that’s all I’ve got tonight—time to finish this margarita and go to bed. Who’s your favorite Tolkien illustrator? And do you have any elaborate plans for seeing The Hobbit this weekend?

-Grace out

Tolkien Week Day Two: The Return of the King (1980)

TolkienWeekIt’s still Tolkien week! Here’s how to play: 1.) Take the Tolkien Week banner and place it at the beginning of a blog post. 2.) Link to gracemakley.com (because I made the banner and that’s good manners). 3.) Write a post about anything related to Tolkien (how did you first discover the books? What is your favorite movie interpretation? Any scenes or lines from the book that you find especially meaningful? Do you have a rad Tolkien collection you’d like to show off? Who’s your favorite Tolkien illustrator?). 4.) Let me know about your post by commenting here, and I will happily link to you as part of the Tolkien Week festivities.

The Return of the King (1980)

In case you missed it, yesterday’s post was about the 1977 animated version of The Hobbit by Rankin and Bass.

We’re gonna stick with Rankin and Bass for another day. They made The Hobbit, it was great, lots of people liked it, even if the wood-elves looked like ogres (seriously). Then, in 1978, Ralph Bakshi makes his animated version of The Lord of the Rings (which we’ll discuss in a day or two). But this movie ends at Helm’s Deep, not even all the way through the second book of the Trilogy. Enter Rankin and Bass to save the day! In 1980, they released The Return of the King, a movie  that steps in roughly where Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings leaves off. Remember how I said The Hobbit is an animated children’s movie with a great soundtrack? Well, they tried to do the same thing with The Return of the King. The obvious problem here is that, unlike The Hobbit, The Return of the King isn’t actually a children’s story. The result of this awkward combo (serious plot + singing orcs?) is entirely laughable.

kingAnd that’s what you should do. You should laugh, and keep laughing. Don’t cringe or cry, because what’s the point? And if you laugh long enough, you might work your way around to finding some real delight in the ridiculous sincerity of this lovely little film.

For examples, you may return to the same playlist I linked to yesterday, this time with animation included. I once found this entire film on youtube, but those days have passed (the days have gone down in the West behind the hills and into shadow…) The last time I watched it was more than a year ago, when a gentleman I was seeing managed to procure it for us via internet download. It’s probably high-time I purchase an old VHS copy or something.  Anyway, by far the most representative track is ‘Where There’s a Whip There’s a Way‘. What is it about this song? It must be that disbelief, that, “Wait, is this really happening?” feeling you get when you’re following Frodo and Sam through Mordor and suddenly there’s a chorus-line of orcs. The funny this is that the lyrics are even inspired by the book. “Where there’s a whip there’s a will, my slugs,” says the orc slave driver (Lord of the Rings page 941). It’s a catchy tune, and its placement (and very existence) is hilarious. It’s one of those things that, any time you encounter another person who knows what you’re talking about, the two of you simply can’t help breaking into a rousing rendition, complete with whip sound effects. Basically this song, which is sort of an abomination, is also a beautiful thing, and the world would be just a little less fun without it.

I genuinely like all the music in this movie. It opens with Glenn Yarbrough’s rendition of ‘Frodo of the Nine Fingers and the Ring of Doomanother nod to the book; in the chapter The Fields of Cormallen when the quest is completed, a minstrel of Gondor begs leave to sing and says, “I will sing to you of Frodo of the Nine Fingers and the Ring of Doom” (Lord of the Rings page 965).

I’m running out of time for deep analysis and would like to post this before the day gets any older, but both ‘The Bearer of the Ring’ and ‘The Towers of the Teeth’ are songs with some real foreboding in them. Amongst all the silliness, there’s something in them that catches at the heart.

That’s all we have time for today. More Tolkien topics to come—please stay tuned! And if you have anything to say on any Tolkien-related matter, please use my banner and join the Tolkien-week festivities (details at the top of this post).

Has anyone else seen the 1980 Return of the King? I’d love to hear from you in the comments, whether you share my delight in the movie or find it too silly to take.

Tolkien Week Day 1: The Hobbit (1977)

TolkienWeek

I tried to do a single post on the merits of animated Tolkien films, but it got away from me. Instead, to celebrate the release of the first new Hobbit movie on Friday, we are going to do a whole week of Tolkien posts. Participation is encouraged! If you feel inspired to do a Tolkien post this week, let me know and I will link to it here. You may also use my Tolkien Week banner, if you’d like. If you do, just be sure to link back here. And if Tolkien isn’t your thing, never fear—regular blog posts will resume next week.

The Hobbit (1977)

The_Hobbit

Does anyone remember this film? It’s by Rankin and Bass, who are also responsible for The Last Unicorn and the animated version of The Return of the King (which we’ll get to in a day or two.)

I find this film entirely charming. Go into it with the proper expectations (it is an ANIMATED CHILDREN’S MOVIE) and you will find a beautiful little film that hits at the heart of The Hobbit story. I confess I haven’t actually seen it for a number of years, but one of its most valuable and enchanting elements is the music, performed by folk singer Glenn Yarbrough. I found a youtube playlist of the entire soundtrack, which has only ever been released on LP. Go check it out!

(It should be noted that this playlist goes directly into songs from The Last Unicorn and The Return of the King.)

Almost all of these songs feature Tolkien’s actual lyrics from the books. My father read The Hobbit out loud to my brother and me when I was very, very young—and when he read the book, he sang the songs to the tunes from this movie. For me, the songs on this playlist ARE the songs from the book. This version of Over The Misty Mountains Cold, especially, encapsulates much of the utter magic that the works of Tolkien seemed to me during my childhood. Here’s the track (the Misty Mountains song is preceded by the song the dwarves sing to tease Bilbo as they clean up after their meal): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4TysZL6YiA&list=PLC00BB6EBF33B103C&index=7

Listen to this track all the way through, and you will also encounter John Huston’s voice as Gandalf, reciting directly from the book the story of Smaug and the Lonely Mountain. I have no complaints about Ian McKellan’s Gandalf whatsoever, but the timbre of John Huston’s voice is so rich here, and so transporting.

(As an addendum, I have some reservations about the upcoming Hobbit movie, but the performance of Misty Mountains from the first trailer is one of the things that gives me hope.)

There is also a song on this sountrack that never made it to the movie: Old Fat Spider. It’s a pretty loose adaptation of the song from the books that Bilbo sings at the spiders in Mirkwood, but I find it rather delightful. Something about the pacing;  it feels like Yarbrough might be slightly out of breath and running away from spiders as he sings. There is also something very satisfying about the sung lyrics, “Attercop! Oh Attercop!” I always figured the Attercop insult was a bit of nonsense, but trust Tolkien to do better than that: it’s actually from an Old English word for spider, and it still survives in the Yorkshire dialect today: http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-att1.htm

All in all, I think this old movie is an excellent adaptation of The Hobbit, and it shouldn’t be completely discounted just because there’s a shiny new film on the loose. Even the song lyrics that don’t come from the book at all, like those of The Greatest Adventure (Track 1), seem to capture the heart of the story; of what it is to be a small person who suddenly discovers he is capable of great things after all.

The greatest adventure is what lies ahead,
Today and tomorrow are yet to be said.
The chances, the changes, are all yours to make.
The mold of your life is in your hands to break.

 

Links and Things

There isn’t much to report today, although stay tuned: this blog will be having an event next week. I’ve never had an event before. I think it will be fun!

To tide you over, here are some things I found on the internet that I thought were cool. Maybe you will think they are cool too!

beastlyworlds

New favorite WordPress blog! This artist has a really charming style, and she makes comics that are funny and adorable. Especially check out her illustrations of the kids from Game of Thrones.

Writing Excuses

A really cool podcast that I found from a link in this post at This Page Intentionally Left Blank. I listened to the most recent episode of the podcast (by clicking the link at the right of the Writing Excuses page you can get it to download directly to itunes. It’s free) and I found it helpful and intelligent. Also, each episode is under 20 minutes.

The Story Shack

This is a really cool online journal, most notable in that it publishes an illustration with every single story. A lot of the stories are fun, and there’s some really great art.

 

I had a brief band practice this morning followed by a dentist appointment. This afternoon I am going to spend some hard time writing, and also doing the laundry and perhaps excavating the floor of my bedroom (it’s pretty bad, but every time I think about cleaning I slink off to my study to write instead. So am I procrastinating on the cleaning, or HIGHLY MOTIVATED on the writing?) Tomorrow I finally have my second harp lesson(!), followed by more band practice and then Tucker’s Pub open mic. I will be debuting the harp at Tucker’s to play chords on “Downeaster Alexa,” so wish me luck! We’re also doing Mumford and Sons “The Cave,” so I think it will be a fun set.

-Grace out

Taniel

Sketch of TanielA stylized sketch.

Taniel is one of the main characters from my upcoming novel, Wanderlust. His face is a little too thin here, and he looks slightly elven—no doubt a result of my current Tolkien kick.

I believe I’ve posted the most drawings of Vanya, the blonde one, and spent more time talking about Vanya than Taniel in this space. I did create Vanya first, and he is exceptionally dear to me—but Vanya never worked as a character until he had Taniel. Vanya is a sort of mysterious man-child, a wandering waif with a harp. This works as an archetype, as an idea, but in terms of story he needs someone to engage with. Wanderlust is written in very limited third person, and we see the whole story through the eyes of Taniel. Taniel’s thoughts provide readers with an access point to Vanya, and to the story. He is Vanya’s sine qua none; without him, Vanya could not function as a character and, indeed, Vanya could never embark on the adventure of a lifetime that is chronicled in Wanderlust. They didn’t know it, but before they met each other both Vanya and Taniel were waiting for their lives to begin.

And there, I’ve talked about him all in terms of Vanya again. It’s a little inescapable, as they both exist for each other. Yet who is Taniel?

He is a band manager when the story begins, having turned to the business side of music when he decided early on that he didn’t have what it takes to become a professional musician. He has worked very hard for a very long time, and most of his life centers around work. He doesn’t have very many friends. He is health-conscience, rule-abiding, and something of a scholar. Though prone to panic and quick bursts of anger, he has always felt most comfortable with himself when he has someone else to take care of. He is an orator, a dreamer, and a teller of stories, but he was forced to be practical very early in life, and he needs the influence of Vanya to re-discover his creativity and appreciation for the beauty and magic of the world.

Does that whet your appetite? Knowing this much about Taniel, would you pick up my book and read more?

Updates and Oddments

I’m preparing an actual blog post about an actual topic, but it will have to wait a few more days. We’re in an uproar here, by which I mean we are all sitting around in our bathrobes with cups of coffee, but we do have to leave in a few hours. We’re going to Boston tonight, to see our excellent and admirable cousin play The Pirate King in an MIT production of Pirates of Penzance. Since it is (it is) a glorious thing to be a Pirate King, this is something we really could not miss.

I’ll give you some updates—it’s all I have time for.

Harp: Still GOING WELL, although since our car was in the shop I had to cancel Wednesday’s lesson. I have the two songs my teacher gave me memorized, and I can play them at a fair speed. I can also play nearly all the songs from Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and I also know the chords to Billy Joel’s Downeaster Alexa and can even play them nearly up to tempo, and I almost have all the verses memorized. My harp teacher is sending me new music, and with any luck I shall see her next Friday so she can tell me all of the things I am Doing Wrong. I am hungry for that new music. I am still playing every day, but for the last week it hasn’t really felt like a challenge.

Wanderlust: I am cruising through chapter 8, and I really feel that the end (of this revision) is in sight. The writing may be questionable in the later chapters, but at least the plot was mostly hammered out by the time I wrote them. I have a theory this will make revision easier. Thanks to a comment by Lady Higg on my last post, I may have come up with an entirely different format for the stories-within-stories. This is both exciting and scary, because it will require working back into chapter one AGAIN.

Also, a big thank you to The Literary Man for being my 70th follower mere minutes after Tuesday’s post begging for one more follower to round out the number. As you will notice, the counter now reads 75, so thank you to ALL my new followers. Your presence here is very much appreciated.

And now, I will give you one more thing. A few weeks ago, when I was mired in chapter 4 of Wanderlust and didn’t think I would ever get out, I began a crusade of finishing things. Knocked out that cross stitch I abandoned four years ago in a single afternoon. Finally made some progress on that doll kit I got for christmas about ten years ago. It was very satisfying to work on these small projects because my big project was so overwhelming. I also finished an old drawing on the back of my bedroom door, the side that faces into the hallway. A long time ago, I began to draw a picture of Vanya on it in white chalk or oil pastel. When I tried to wash it off I discovered it was almost definitely oil pastel, which makes sense as the drawing dates from the era when I tried to use oil pastels for everything. Since the drawing wouldn’t wash off, I decided to finish it. It looks a little silly, because I was working from a very old drawing, but I’m attracted to the way the pastels (I used chalk pastels to finish it) fade into the wood. Since I didn’t feel like finishing up the lower anatomy, I hung the large version of the Wanderlust cover (printed out for my senior show) on top of the pastel image. I like the finished result; the pastel drawing functions like an echo of the actual book cover, and its close interaction with the wood grain of the door gives it a magical, dreamy feel.

Pastel Vanya on wood door