My NaNoWriMo Novel

So I’ve decided. I’m going to attempt NaNoWriMo this year. National Novel Writing Month. Writing a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. This is the first year I’ve been in a place where it sounded like a good idea (click for my thoughts on the subject a year ago). It’s a whole month where I won’t be working on Wanderlust, true, but I’ll be getting great writing practice, learning how to fit writing into my schedule, and maybe even making some writer friends in this area. I think it will be a lot of fun.

And you probably want to hear about the book.

It’s…

Well.

It’s something that I’m personally really excited about, and that I haven’t been able to get out of my head for the past year. Yet even as I’ve been world-building, collecting pieces of plot, and making exciting discoveries about how everything comes together, I didn’t think I’d actually be able to tackle the project for years and years. For a number of reasons. You see, it’s about these two guys. With Wanderlust my main focus right now, it doesn’t seem entirely wise for my secondary project to be ANOTHER story about a couple of guys—even though they (Cor and Tristan) are entirely different characters from Taniel and Vanya, and their story is a completely different sort of thing. The second thing is… it’s high fantasy. Swords and sorcery. Battles and blood. I have read a lot of high fantasy, and it’s one of my most favorite genres, but there’s a lot of it out there, and a lot of it is crap. I… this is probably my own issue, and I’m probably accidentally discounting some really good work, but I have trouble asking people to take me seriously as an aspiring author writing high fantasy when I know there are so many people out there writing books in LOTR inspired worlds with all their made up, fantasy-sounding names and it just isn’t any good. I wanted to establish myself with the urban fantasy, maybe that dystopian kinda book I’m working on, before I ask anyone to take my high fantasy seriously. And this project… It’s not just high fantasy. It’s high fantasy with history, with lore. The actual storyline I want to write deals with the aftermath of the big war ten years before. Beyond that, there’s some really long-ago history about why this [special] [magical] country functions the way it does. And farther back, the mythology. Looking forward, I even have an idea for the thousand years later story when all the magic has faded from the world (… or so everyone thinks!).

And those are the reasons I find my own story problematic for me, myself, right now. They’re also the reasons I think it will make a great project for NaNoWriMo. I need something that I’m not under too much pressure to take seriously, especially if I’m going to be banging out 50,000 words in a month. I also tend to have a really scattered writing style on a first draft anyway, and (not sure if this is entirely kosher with the nano rules, and I don’t really care) I’m giving myself permission to work on the lore, the backstory, all the connecty bits, whenever I want to, even if I’m not sure how they fit into the main narrative. It’s all part of the project, and I’m going to let all of that count towards the 50,000 words. And this really is a project I’ve been putting a lot of thought into, despite everything, and I’m excited to see where it goes if I let myself get to work.

The project. I haven’t even field-tested the title, you know? What if it just sounds dumb? I called it Tredaf back in high school (yes of course this is a resurrected project, but it’s really honestly changed A LOT since then and anyway I’m starting over from scratch) but that’s the name of the magical country and I think the country itself needs a name-change. The current working title is… badadadum… The Legend of the Blood Tog King. Or just The Blood Tog King. And here’s my question; a real, serious question. You can put your answer in the comments. Does it sound dumb?

It’s about this guy, Cor Daggerhand, who is blood brother to Tristan, the king. It’s a country where bonds between people have magical properties, and none more powerful, or more dangerous, than a blood bond. [These bindings are symbolized by tokens, worn around the neck or pinned to clothing. Over many years of use, the word “token” degenerates to “tog”, which now describes the whole concept.] Ten years ago Cor and Tristan won the great war, and Tristan reclaimed his rightful throne. Days after the victory, however, Cor skedaddled, and left his brother and the entire country behind him. Upon his grudging homecoming (the start of this book), he discovers that the past ten years have changed Tristan into someone almost unrecognizable—someone with terrible plans for the nation they both call home. Can Cor battle his own blood-brother to keep his beloved country free? And has the king truly turned evil/gone mad, or can Cor save Tristan from himself?

Someday I will finish this sketch.

Tristan and Cor (an unfinished sketch)

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Writing Marathon Day 4, and Tonight’s Contest Winner

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Looks like we made it to Day 4! I had a great day today. This whole no-sugar diet is actually kicking in, and I feel great. I exercised today, I painted a ceiling, I made a delicious cabbage stir fry, I learned a new salad dressing recipe, I practiced my harp. All sounds pretty good, right? Well…

The Writing Day

This has been my worst writing day on the marathon so far. Chapter 11 is just… well, I said it yesterday: Chapter 11 is a mess. Today I scrawled out a choppy handwritten version of a new scene I’m adding to the beginning. I thought I was adding the new scene to make the transition into an existing scene less boring, but then I realized that the existing scene itself is boring, and it has to go. Eep. This is the first time (in this project, so far) I’ve really come up against the “Murder your darlings” adage (Sir Arthur Quirrel-Couch). In the scene, Vanya tunes his harp and the boys each share something about their past. Not really relevant (sigh), because there will be time for the backstory in the next books. It’s also a “this is how a harp works” lesson, which I put in there because I think are harps fascinating (and also because I know more about them now than when I started writing this thing), but it doesn’t really move the story. Still, removing it was a wrenching decision—and then I had to write this new scene. Not edit an existing one; write a whole new one. For some reason that seems really hard right now, and instead of making myself crazy over it I opted to help with dinner and spend some time with my family and prepare for my harp lesson on Wednesday. I did get some work done on the scene. Today wasn’t a total loss. At any rate, all I can do is hope for a better day tomorrow.

Let’s find out what our blog topic is tonight.

And the winner is…

Celeste. Congratulations, Celeste!

Celeste is a friend of mine from school, and an aspiring author. Make sure you check out her blog! http://www.celestedewolfe.com

Celeste’s entry: What is your favorite genre to read? Is that the same genre you like to write in? Do you think you would ever write outside of that genre? Why or why not? Lastly, what are two genres that you wouldn’t immediately put together, but might make an interesting story?

A genre question! My favorite genre to read is fantasy… or sci-fi. They pretty much do the same thing for me, and they can be difficult to distinguish between. I’m just not interested in books that are completely realistic and could happen in everyday life. I’m not sure why; some of them are really good reads. I understand some people feel the same way about fantasy literature, and I respect that. I think it’s that my inner child just gets so excited about magical harps and spaceships, and also that the best fantasy books speak so much truth about life and humanity. I love them. And yes, I write fantasy. I think I’ve only written realistic fiction for class assignments (although some of those assignments turned out pretty well). Wanderlust is urban fantasy, which, honestly, helps me take it a little more seriously right now. There will be time for writing high fantasy later in my career. I love high fantasy, but I’ve reached a point where I can only take so much of the epic swords and sorcery world-building story with all the made up names—unless it’s really, really good. Right now I’m much more interested in high fantasy that’s about a smaller scale, more individual journey than the save-the-whole-world thing.

I’m also working on a dystopian sci-fi novel that I hope to spend more time on when Wanderlust is completed. It’s my first real sci-fi project, but I’m pretty excited about it and like I said, sci-fi and fantasy pretty much do the same thing for me. I may write some realistic fiction stories in the future, but I don’t see myself ever writing any novel-length projects that aren’t sci-fi or fantasy. My idea box just doesn’t get excited unless there’s something fantastical going on. I also don’t see myself drifting into paranormal romance, which is a nearby genre. I think romance is great when it’s done well, and of course there will be occasional romance in my books, but I’ve realized lately that I don’t like to read books in which romance is the central plot issue. There needs to be something else of substance going on. I’ve also noticed that a lot of the romance in teen reads, even just the romantic subplot, has been annoying me lately. I think this is because I’m almost five years away from teenagerhood now, and it is very apparent that, out here in the real world, teen romances almost never work. I’m so jaded! Maybe that’s something I’ll grow out of again in a few years. And, that’s another thing, I don’t know who I’ll be in five or ten years. Right now I don’t see myself writing outside my genre, but anything could happen. And for the last question; two genres I wouldn’t immediately put together, but that might make an interesting story? Oh, I don’t know. I feel like genre-mashups are actually fairly popular now-a-days. How about a steampunk children’s book? You know, one of the big books with pictures. It may have already been done, but with the right illustrator I think that would be really, really cool.

Thanks for your question, Celeste! And everyone else, don’t forget take a look at The Official Site of Celeste DeWolfe. Celeste, you will be receiving your name-doodle prize in a week or so, and definitely by the end of February.

Have a good night everyone. I’ll see you tomorrow.

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.

Little Reviews

So I’ve schemed a scheme, and I’ve got a Big Thing coming up in a few days—big for me, anyway. I’ve been working hard to earn enough cash to enjoy the Big Thing, and I haven’t even had time to finish the post I’m writing about the wheres and the whys and what it means for Wanderlust. Right now, I just got home from eight hours of housepainting,  and I still have a list of things to do tonight: laundry, packing, cleaning, a little more painting, plus sorting out that real blog post, if I get a chance (I’d like to). I don’t have a lot else to give in the way of writing, so here’s what we’ll do: When I enter in a book at Goodreads, I like to write a quick review, a sort of off-the-cuff attempt to capture my impression of the book. Here’s what I thought of a few things I’ve read in the past few months, all books to which I gave five out of five stars.

The Mystery of Grace by Charles De Lint

This was really good. Shocking and heartbreaking, with just enough grit and grease to balance the themes of fantasy and faith. The Mystery of Grace is urban fantasy at its best.

 

 

 

Zombies vs Unicorns edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier

This book contained many fun and diverting stories. A very good read to pass the time, and some of the stories were surprisingly deep and challenging. Personally, I liked the unicorn stories best (and found the arrogant tone of the pro-zombie editor a little tiresome. Yeah, you like zombies. Do you have to be so insulting about it?).

 

 

Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

This is just as good as everyone says it is. Engaging and delightful and devastating, even if you thought you never wanted to start another one of those epic kingdom-building fantasy series again.

 

 

Pegasus by Robin McKinley

Robin McKinley has done it again. Those of us who played at pegasus-riding and My Little Pony in preschool may find it difficult to take a book titled ‘Pegasus’ seriously, but you can’t skip a book with the name Robin McKinley on it, and the sophisticated creatures in this book called pegasi may surprise you. Definitely give this book a read, but watch out for the cliffhanger ending. I can’t wait for the next book.