Saturday, 29 October 2011

The Analysis of Sleeping Beauty or How to make Narcolepsy pay!

Good Morning,  I'm using up another one of my buffer posts today simply because I'm still in the middle of organising my notes from Naama and trying to slide some Monty Python jokes in as well.  I'll take this opportunity to say hello to my new followers and add that the official Jabberwockerykiteers hats, uniforms and vorpal blades will be posted as soon as the cheques clear.

Tonight's tale is one of love most true and magics most dire.  There isn't much more to say about it except that once again it comes from the Brothers Grimm who have drawn from several older sources to give us, what we would call, the modern version.

The Story:

A long time ago there was a king and queen who said every day "Ah if only we had a child" but they never had one [1].  It happened one day when the queen was bathing that a frog appeared and said
"Your wish shall be fulfilled, before a year has gone by you shall have a daughter.  Oh and since I've been in here the whole time one of us is going to have to take another bath"
Overjoyed as she is the queen takes the time to have another bath, sans frog, before letting her husband know.

"This is wonderful" exclaimed the king "if it be true"
"It must be true" the queen said "the talking frogs never lie"
"We shall see dear.  We shall see" he rumbled and quietly gave orders to hide the cooking sherry.

But the king need not have worried for a baby was born at the speed of plot and there was much rejoicing throughout the land.  A great feast was ordered and all the movers and shakers of the kingdom were invited.   Naturally the most important of these were the wise women [2] and the king ordered that golden plates be made especially for them.
The feast went well and there was all manner of cavorting, both professional and amateur, taking place.  Eventually the wise women stood up [3] and made their pronouncements regarding the child.

For the most part they went with the easy stuff, she would be loved, beautiful, rich, faithful etc. and just as everyone was looking down at their wrists and wishing someone would invent the wristwatch so that they'd know exactly how long they'd been standing there she appeared!

It was the thirteenth and final wise woman who stood in the doorway, her shadow reaching out toward the throne.  The people looked away in fear and counted the twelve golden plates before hiding under the table.
With a practised ease she moves through the crowd and when the princess gazes up at her face there is only coldness in her returning stare.

"What do you want?" the king demanded
"Want?  Why nothing" the wise woman answered with a casual malice "I was going to pay my respects to the latest addition to the kingdom but it doesn't seem that there is a place set for me"
The king begins to protest but she silences him with a curt wave "but this is neither here nor there for I am here now and also bring a gift for your daughter.  Thanks to the gifts of my sisters she will certainly be the perfect child but I tell you now that child she will remain for on her fifteenth birthday she shall prick her finger upon a spinning wheel and Die!"
The revellers began shouting in uproar but the woman paid it no head and left the gathering at the speed of gatecrasher [4]

Eventually order was restored and the king called for the court jester because if this was another one of his stunts then he'd join the royal swineherd in wearing the royal bootprint.
Then the final wise woman, who was rather miffed at being upstaged by all this spoke up "I may not be able to stop the curse but I am amble to change it.  It shall not be death but rather a deep sleep into which the princess shall fall" just as everyone was breathing a huge collected sigh of relief  she added "and it shall last a hundred years!" [5]

By the kings command all spindles, spinning wheels and instruments of weaving were destroyed and when he recieved word that there were no more to be found in the kingdom he allowed himself to relax and slept soundly in the belief that he had beaten the curse.
What he didn't realise is that you can't fight the narrative and when the princess was fifteen years old she happened to come across a little room at the top of a forgotten tower where an old woman sat inocently spinning away.

"Good morning.  What are you doing?" the princess asked in fascination
"Just a touch of spinning" the old woman replied "would you like a turn?" [6]
Naturally the princess pricked her finger and fell to the ground asleep.  Except it wasn't just her,  the curse spread down through the floors of the castle and everyone present fell into a magical sleep, the castle itself was encased in a dense forest of thorns that grew higher and thicker than any tree.
Noble princes and hero's from near and far attempted to gain entrance but none ever returned.

It might seem as though this is the end of the story, clearly evil has triumphed and all that remains is for Disney to put in some songs and a cameo appearance of the Boss Mouse.   But this is merely the middle and for the proper ending we shall need to fast forward a full century into the future.
For it is only now that the prince [7] has arrived.  The Story of the sleeping princess has passed from news and fallen into legend.  On being informed that he's in the very land where it happened he decided to check it out. [8]

Because the curse itself was winding down to a close the forest was in bloom and he had no trouble moving through it and casually walked through the sleeping castle to the side of the sleeping princess where he awakened her with a single kiss and they did the whole happily ever after thing.

The Questions:

  • The Frog:
    Now I'll accept that there are frogs that can talk to people.  This is after all a fairy story and these things have a tendency to just happen.  But the queen just accepted the diagnoses without question.  Where, I would like to know, are Dr. Frogs Qualifications?
  • The Good Wise Woman:
    Why didn't she take the opportunity to take a couple of villages and a duchy or two in return for a good blessing?
    She was probably kicking herself when she figured out what she'd given away.
  • The Country itself:
    Who ruled while everyone was sleeping?
    It really depends on the version that you read, sometimes the king and queen are inside the castle and other times they aren't.  Ultimately it doesn't matter since the aristocracy has long since developed "the rightful king" protocol for just this situation.

    If, by some miracle, they manage to get the throne back without one of those messy civil wars then the royalty will be severely out of touch with modern politics which is an ocean of intrigue at the best of times.
  • The curse:
    Why did everyone in the castle fall asleep when the princess did?
    Sounds like someone didn't pay attention in Curses and Potions class.  Possibly they were too busy trying to get that Potter boy to notice them.

    If everyone knew that she was going to sleep for a hundred years then what was the point of sending all the princes into the thorns?
    Presumably these were second sons who were now a liability rather than insurance.  The smarter of these would have taken the hint and kept on going.
  • The ending:
    This retelling, for want of a better word [9], is based of the Grimm Brothers version of the tale, it doesn't take much digging to find much darker versions out there in the wilds of the Interwood.  However if you remember the prince fighting his way through the thorn forest, past a gigantic dragon and finally awakening the princess with a kiss then you are certainly thinking of the Disney adaptation. [10]

  1. I have to point out that they didn't have one because all they did was lament about not having one when they could have sat down with some racy tapestry and got on with a bit of needlepoint.
  2. The exact personages very with the telling.  I've heard it told with witches, fairies, elves and godmothers.  The point is that these are not the people you want to upset.
  3. Rather shakily I'll admit, the wind had been flowing rather freely.
  4. No doubt with a well timed roll of thunder because if you're going to be the villain in a story like this then you have to have style.
  5. As has been pointed out by those wiser than me.  Good isn't the same as nice.
  6. Spinning?  Turn?  Comedy Gold!
  7. Everyone knew he was special because he was THE prince rather than simply A prince.
  8. Along with Scoob and the gang.
  9. Mangling comes to mind
  10. This one time I'll allow that the Disney version is worth watching.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

MonsterFest Posting Number Two: Yuki-onna

I'm posting early this week because on Friday I'll be off to Naama and much roistering shall be found there.  I've picked up a camera so incriminating photos will be eventually be posted.

Back in the day Foreigner sang about a girl who had a heart that was cold as ice (1).
While we all knew that they were talking to us about our current ex's we let it go because we could appreciate a decent metaphor and we'd already done the whole drunken pining thing and accepted that she wasn't coming back, really.

But what if you ran into someone with skin as cold as ice? Odds are good that you would be in the walk in freezer of the supermarket but there remains an outside chance that you would be in the mountains of Japan and the woman would be Yuki-onna, the snow maiden.
That's the cue for everyone to post things like, "Dur she doesn't look so tough"
Like others of her ilk she enjoys long walks out in the open and leading travellers astray. (2)She will frequently trick people into kissing her or, approach with a bundle that looks like a baby except when the unwary traveller takes it Kathwacco! Instant unwary travellercicle.

To win her love:
Her main story goes along these lines. The party, usually consisting of a servant and his master are toiling their way through the mountains of Japan.  They may or may not be lost when Yuki enters(3)
She kills the master but spares the servant warning him to never tell anyone about what happened today.  The servant agrees and is permitted to return home(4).

Time passes and the servant meets that someone special.things are arranged and many knowing looks are exchanged.  At some point there is the traditional Kung Fu showdown.

"You must defeat me to win her love"
But eventually they get married, have 10 children and there was much rejoicing (5)

However one fateful night when the pair are in bed together the husband looks over at his wifes pale skin that glows in the moonlight and remarks that she looks just like the snow woman he encountered those many years ago.

She gets up and turns towards him. Revealing a face quite different than the one she normally wore.
“I told you not to tell anyone!” she rages and warns him to take good care of the children or she'll make certain he pays before flying out the window. (6)
Usually it ends with a quick note that he was a good father and never saw her again  In a few versions she takes the children leaving him alone and miserable, in another she stays with him.
It all depends on the whim of the storyteller.

This one will probably give you a happy ending, but not the Disney ending.  It's important to know the difference.
How to hunt them:
Warning!  This is going to be very dangerous and I advise you not to attempt any of the following unless you are filled with righteous fury at being the continuing butt of the worst practical joke since Loki gave Hod some mistletoe.
  1. You'll need to establish that she is in the area by going out into the mountains and getting lost.
  2. When she appears be exceptionally polite, this will put her off her guard and make it more likely that you are the one she spares
  3. When you arrive home ignore the pretty woman who “just happens” to cross your path. Order that a packed lunch of various coldmeats be made ready.
  4. The next day head up into the mountains and purposely get lost. When the Snow Madain arrives have a nice picnic lunch with her.
  5. Continue this each day until you have won her trust and friendship.
  6. Finally it is time for the hidden sniper to prove his arrogant boasting and fire from his hidden blind.

And there you have it, Congratulations you've just managed to successfully hunt the snow maiden. But as you're putting the chains that you obtained, at great expense, from the Tengu smiths you are struck with a series of revelations.
  1. That you've betrayed her friendship and trust.
  2. That she's an elemental being with the power of Ice, Wind and Snow (7) who only wears human form in order to get close to people.
  3. That you never actually tested the chains in order to make certain that the Tengu smiths made them as strong as they said they had.
  4. That those Tengu have a strange sense of humour.
  5. That she's standing right behind me isn't she?
  6. ...Oh dear.
  1.  or more accurately coooold aaaaassss iiiiiccceee
  2. Because this is what passes for humour in supernatural circles.  If you ever hear of a comedy festival for supernatural entities then run, RUN, very far in the other direction.
  3. Trying to keep a straight face and resisting the urge to wave to the friends hiding behind that tree over there.
  4. The punchline being that when interested parties want to know they'll be asking with many sharp pointy things.
  5. "Yay"
  6. This is the delayed punchline.  Once she's pulled it off a few more times it becomes a running gag.  Oh how I hope someone up there is scoring these properly
  7. the Japanese equivalent of Earth Wind and Fire

Friday, 14 October 2011

MonsterFest Posting - The Valravn.

As it's October and global spooky day draws ever closer I've taken the opportunity to join MonsterFest 2011.  If you want to join then you're welcome to click the button, pick your favourite thing that goes bump in the night and get blogging!

Here's a rather obscure wee beastie that is ever so much fun. If your definition of fun is spreading misery far and wide that is.
The Valravn comes to us from Danish Mythology and means “Raven of the Slain” (1)

Now much of this has been cribbed from Wikipedia and assorted other places around the net but I assure you that the facts have all been checked by my Danish relatives, or at least from my relatives. Who had a Danish at the time. I'm pretty sure it still counts.

This thing sounds awsome.  How do I get one?
In the age of the internet anybody can find or make bombs and cause widespread mayhem (2) but just think how much the other anarchists will respect you if you turn up with a flock of these monsters traveling in your wake.

Pictured: The face of modern anarchy.  Clearly Cliff Richard has much to answer for (3)
  1. Like many things in the ancient world the Valravn is born on the battlefield so you will first need to locate a suitably bloody fray.
    1. A good tip is to watch for Valkyries and familiarize yourself with Wagnerian opera since you'll generally hear the sopranos and the “Hi Yo Ti Ho Yo” song long before you see them(4)
  2. Having located a suitable battle take one raven and feed them the blood of either a Chieftain, a nobleman or a valiant king that has fallen in battle but not been buried.
    1. Opinion seems to be divided on exactly who you are supposed to choose and it's no good watching the other ravens because they'll just eat anyone that happens to be lying around.
    2. One possible solution to this problem is to bring along a jug and a blender in order to make bloodshakes and then feeding it to your chosen raven.
  3. However you manage to do it you'll know instantly because the raven has suddenly acquired the power of human speech.
    1. This step is optional but recommended for those who want a free thinking monster rather than just a talking magic bird. If the Valravn eats the heart of the unlucky dead he gains human knowledge, the ability to perform great acts of malice and a varied range of superhuman powers .
But some people are never satisfied with what they have and even though you've just become the owner of a super powered talking magical raven you still want more. Well that’s just fine because there are two more step before you can truly claim to have created a monster.
  1. Obtain a child, once again opinion is divided as to whether the child has to be your own or not.
  2. Give the child to Dave the Raven, as he wishes to be called, in total defiance of you wanting to call him Quoth, to have the child’s heart and you'll find that, in addition to all the powers he's already got he will now be able to either take human form or the form of a half raven half wolf monster. (5)
It is an unfortunate fact that, thanks to the shocking record keeping of the Danes, the exact method of this monsters creation is covered in deception and opinion on almost every aspect of the Valravn is divided.

This means that the only method of separating fact from fiction is experimentation.
Of course being that this is the Internet I'm certain that there are message boards where you can get assistance and differing opinions are discussed in a calm and totally rational manner.

How to fall in love with them:
Or more accurately how to get them to fall in love with you since the alternative would include copious amounts of leather, beer and certain substances that I, unfortunately, don't get paid enough to speculate about.

Naturally you will need to be extra breathtakingly beautiful in order to catch his eye in the first place because until now he's just been concentrating on meeting his Travellers Led Astray and Malicious Deeds Quota for the month.
It couldn't hurt to commit a few of the more epic sagas to memory. Beowulf is pretty much standard but you could branch out into CĂș Chulainn or even The Song of Roland

But Is it worth the effort?
The pursuit of love is always worth the effort. But this does seem rather a lot to go through just to catch the eye of a shape shifting bird.
At first he won't contribute much to the household wanting to concentrate on the band and his drumming (6) but it won't be long before his avian mania for shiny things begins to kick in and he'll begin bringing home many shiny baubles for you.

As a completely random example the crown jewels of England are housed in the Tower of London which is also home to the tower ravens. (7)

Hunting them:
Jumping over to the side of the goodies now.
Pictured: The Goodies.
Boom Boom
Now It may be that the monster is rampaging out of control as monsters are wont to do and it is up to you to put an end to the foul creature (8) that you helped to create, a fact that you're going to keep under your hat for the time being.
The good news is that you don't need any special weaponry for this one, unlike werewolves, who need to be shot with silver and vampires, who need to be forced to sit through Twilight.

"The power of Stephanie Meyers compels you!"
A potential capture scenario would be to use one of the aforementioned epic poetry reciting beautiful maidens to distract him and imprison the beast after she has seduced him. Technically this makes her a fallen maiden (9) but she will join you in selling him to the travelling circus secure in the knowledge that he will certainly won't get free because no circus would ever let their star attraction escape.

Alternatively Dave might leave behind a cloak of feathers when he transforms into human form and if you were to get hold of that then he'd be your, very unwilling, slave in order to get his cloak back. It should be noted that this particular method of shape shifting is more of a Russian Slavic technique and is generally found only in werewolves

The problem is that neither of these methods of hunting are taking into account his powers which are many and dire. In these modern times actual magicians that are practiced enough to best the creature in a magical battle are few and scattered to the remotest parts of the world.

Thus we are forced to turn to modern technology and reveal the L115A3, a sniper rifle with an effective range of 2.5 km.(10) This time the plan is simple
  1. Lure him into the kill-zone with the aforementioned maidens give the order to take him out.
    1. Lets see him abracadabra his was out of that!

  1. Band name #293 – Available for childrens parties.
  2. Band name #294 – I'm thinking it's good for a string quartet that wants to be Ironically hip.
  3. If you're old enough to get this then enable smug mode.
  4. If you only hear the “hi ho” song then you've managed to strike dwarf and I can't help you with them.
  5. Congratulations you've unleashed your first monster onto the unsuspecting world. If used correctly your monster will give you years of trouble free rampaging and widespread devastation.
  6. Can't sing, can't dance. Yep, he's a drummer all right.
  7. I can hear the plot thickening as we speak!
  8. Corvus Corax Lupin Sapiens Erectus. if we want to be incredibly pedantic about it.
  9. Band name #295 – Pretty sure it's a Traveling Wilburys tribute band
  10. 1.5 miles, but you already knew that

Thursday, 6 October 2011

The analysis of Hansel and Gretel or How every problem can be solved with murder.

Murder is a common theme in many stories the world over.  On the one hand it is the ultimate of crimes (1) that one can visit on another.  But on the other hand it is the quickest way to get what you want.
Of course bringing children into the narrative means that it is a tale of the darkest hue.  But does it remain so when the children are the murderers rather than the murderee?
Thus is it with this story.  You'll want some tissues handy for you are about to read a sorrowing tale of witchcraft, cannibalism, gingerbread and, of course, murder most horrid.

The Story:
Our sad tale of woe begins in the forest where there lived a very poor woodcutter and his family.  He had two children who were, naturally enough, named Hansel and Gretal.  If he hadn't had these children then the story would be called "The Story of the woodcutter who had no children"  but probably wouldn't be worth reading.
However I digress, for it happened that his first wife had died (2) and he had remarried but his new wife was not happy with the children being underfoot all the time and often treated them badly, even going so far as to complain to her husband about them.

"There is not enough food in the house for us all.  There are too many mouths to feed!" she nagged "why can't you go out hunting?"
"And risk the hunters union hearing about it?  No chance"
"We must get rid of the two brats" finished his wife and the scene closes on her working on her husband to try and get him to abandon his children in the forest. (3)

But luck is on the childrens side because Hansel manages to overhear the conversation (4) he slips out and fills his pockets with little white pebbles and at dawn the woodcutter takes them both into the forest. (5)
Finally he left them alone and Gretel was frightened (6) but Hansel revealed the path of pebbles which led them back safely home.
When their stepmother discovered that Hansel and Gretel had returned, she went into a rage. Stifling her anger in front of the children (7), she locked her bedroom door, reproaching her husband for failing to carry out her orders. The weak woodcutter protested, torn as he was between shame and fear of disobeying his cruel wife but in the end he led the children out into the forest once again.

But this time there was no trail to follow because instead of pebbles Hansel had dropped breadcrumbs which had, predictably enough, been eaten by birds who were now looking happy and well fed (8)
When dawn broke, they started to wander about the forest, seeking a path, but all hope soon faded. They were well and truly lost. On they walked and walked, till suddenly they came upon a strange cottage in the middle of a glade.  and because the huge neon sign that said "This is a trap" had been turned off in an effort to save electricity they had no fear in just walking up to the house and starting to eat everything.

"This is chocolate!" gasped Hansel as he broke a lump of plaster from the wall.
"And this is icing!" exclaimed Gretel, putting another piece of wall in her mouth. Starving but delighted, the children began to eat pieces of candy broken off the cottage.
"Isn't this delicious?" said Gretel, with her mouth full. She had never tasted anything so nice. (9)
"We'll stay here," Hansel declared, munching a bit of nougat. They were just about to try a piece of the biscuit door when it quietly swung open.
"Well, well!" said an old woman, peering out with a crafty look. "And haven't you children a sweet tooth?"
"And haven't you a sweet roof?"
"Well it's gingerbread actually.  Apropos of nothing I do happen to be a witch"
"That's nice" the children said as they gnawed at the boot scraper in the hope that it was some kind of toffee (10)
"Oh, just get in the cage will you?"

To the amazement of all the old woman was a witch and the cage that Hansel was put in was not, as she had said, to stop him sleepwalking.  No, rather it was there to hold him until he grew fat enough to eat!
Gretel, on the other hand was forced to do the housework until the witch decided to eat her as well.

However Gretel pretty much ran rings around the witch and eventually  she got tired of waiting for Hansel to fatten up and told Gretel to light the oven.
 "We're going to have a tasy roasted boy today" (11)
Of course Gretal plays the dumb little girl card for all it's worth claiming that she doesn't know how to light the oven even after several days spent doing all the housework and the incredibly gullible old witch ends up inside the oven.
Just to make certain that she stayed in there the children fastened it with a large padlock (12)

Then they stayed for several days to eat some more of the house (13).  Eventually they found a casket (14) of gold coins (15), which they took as spoils of their victory before setting off for home.
This time luck was with them and on the second day of their journy the saw their father come out of the house towards them
"Your stepmother is dead.  Come home with me now my dear children" (16)
"Look father! we're rich now.  You'll never have to chop wood again" said Hansel opening the casket

And they all lived hapilly ever after. (17)


What happened with the house?
If this house is magically made of gingerbread and other child attracting  things then presumably it's going to regenerate itself automatically.  The witch, after all, is an old woman who can't be running up  and down ladders with gingerbread shingles all the time.  Maybe the kids should have stayed in the house and used it to supply nearby towns with gingerbread and other sweets.  They would have been able to go back to their father with more than just a casket of gold coins.

Exactly how old are these children?
Clearly they are old enough to survive by themselves but young enough that Hansel isn't accompanying his father to work.

Why don't they defy traditional gender roles?
Leaving asid the fact that this was written back when women did the housework and waited for the big strong men to do the big strong manly things (18) You would think that modern retellings of the story would have Hansel doing something other than simply sitting around while Gretel does all the housework.

Granted he was in a cage and but would it have killed him to get a feather duster or let him sort out the books?  It would be nice to think he'd be smart enough to accidentally lose any recipe books titled "To Serve Man" but I'm not going to hold my breath with this kid.

The witches house is only a couple of days away from the woodcutters.  Why didn't they sell the children to the witch in the first place?
It's a horrible thought I know but they were poor and needed the money while she was hungry and needed someone for Sunday dinner.  Clearly they didn't explore all avenues before choosing to abandon their children in the manner of the old country.


So where is the moral in all this?  What is the lesson that we and, more importantly, our children are supposed to take away from this charming bedtime story of child abandonment?
Is there one?  Perhaps it's just a story about things that happened in the past which, as has been noted before, is another country.
A possible moral is that it is not acceptable to abandon your children because your poor.  Except that in this story it totally is.
Perhaps it's that murder is perfectly acceptable in certain situations.
I don't know, the jury remains hung and the only person who benefits from that is the witch.

An interesting point is that it is Gretel that is the one who does the killing.  I bring this up because until their capture it has been Hansel that has been the more active member of the group.  But here at last is a situation that she can not get out of by standing around and being a helpless female.  While she played the card with the witch it was clearly to get her in the best position to close the door on the problem, so to speak.

Their father on the other hand is an interesting case.  He is obviously upset about abandoning his children in the forest, so much so that he has broken out of his usual submissive persona and killed his wife who, having gotten her way, is still finding things to fight with him about.

As for the witch it is difficult at the best of times to side with a cannibal but this is someone who built a house out of candy.  Think about that, the amount of insurance that this structure would need would be gigantic. The bribes to the various council members to allow such shoddy and unsafe materials to be used would have  likewise been huge.  Personally I am not at all surprised that she tries to eat children.  It's because she probably can not afford any real food.


  1. Not counting downloading copyrighted music.
  2. It isn't important exactly how she died.  She was just dead all right?  This story doesn't work if she's still alive, maybe she died from "Runningoffwiththehandsomeprince" syndrome.
  3. "We could arrange marriages for them dear"  "No!  They must be abandoned in the forest!"
  4. An interesting point here.  if she is "forever" nagging the husband to abandon his children then why is it that Hansel is only now taking note of it?  Perhaps it is less a case of forever nagging and more a case of "we should abandon them in the forest" "All right"
  5. And most normal people would have taken them down to the police station or even to another part of the forest to set up house away from the insane stepmother
  6. Presumably because she's a girl and girls can't do anything like, oh I don't know be mass murderers, Elizabeth Bathory, or do anything outside the kitchen, Amilia Airheart
  7. Why exactly?
  8. Cloud, Silver lining.  I know it doesn't help that much but it's the thought that counts.
  9. I know it's a trap but do they have to be such pigs?
  10. For the record?  it wasn't
  11. I am slightly concerned about the use of the word "We"
  12. Nothing ruins a dinner party like having the main course escape.  A terrible faux pas all round.
  13. With a dead body in the oven?  I mean yes she was a witch but come on people think of the hygiene of it all
  14. Presumably a small jewelry box rather than the other kind but it could easily go the other way in this house
  15. The real kind not the chocolate ones
  16. "Did you kill her dad?  It's all right if you did.  We've discovered how fun murder is as well"
  17. Except for the witch who was burnt alive.  The stepmother who died under suspicious circumstances and the policeman who had to investigate the whole affair.
  18. Like getting the spider out of the sink

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Insecure Writers Support Group Day Post

So I've put my blog down for the Insecure Writers Support Group and by a major coincidence it just happens to be posting day today. But since I'm not very well practiced in this as yet it is more than likely that this will end up as a huge angst fest. That's why the second part of this post is for those of you out there in Internet land who don't want to read my whining (1)

I started writing to get the huge thoughts from out of my head and allow them to make way for education which was considered to be more important at the time.(2) and have managed to knock heads with many different genres, but Fantasy seems to be my niche and for this I blame David Eddings, Terry Pratchet and, naturally, JRR Tolkien among others.

The fact that I haven't had a television in a very long time has helped a lot. When I began flatting I was so broke that I couldn't have paid for the remote, let alone the whole TV and so I did without. Eventually I did look at buying one but passed it over when I read what was on and realized how little any of it was worth watching or even mattered. If there was anything that I desperately wanted to see then the video store was going to be my best friend.

Moan Moan Moan. Plug the book already!:
Harts Change is the first in the Hart Trilogy, with the second being Harts Blood and the third being Harts War, is an epic fantasy of loves lost, found and war! All of it set against the backdrop of a world gone mad!

However at its heart, as with all stories worth the reading, it is about people, the choices that they make and the consequences which leads to another choice.
It deals with the return of magic to a world that had long ago given it up and when the magic happens it changes the face of humanity with everyone being transformed into centaurs (3) for reasons that remain classified at this time.
Suffice to say that the death toll is immense and every aspect of society is affected in some way. The barons fight amongst each other and much scheming (4) is done because there are always those eager to seize power through any means.
The Beggar King sits uneasy on his throne as he discovers that not everyone under his rule is as loyal as he had thought.

But the story doesn't start with The Beggar King. It starts in a dungeon cell with an ex thief who is about to become an ex person. Evelyn Oneeye is the personal guard of one of the barons and for a personal guard to be caught spying on another baron is a very bad thing indeed.
Especially when that Baron has allied himself with the Ambian Invaders. 
Especially especially when that baron just happens to be your ex husband. 
Especially especially especially when you and your lover drove him through the streets on your wedding night.

Through circumstances too numerous (5) to recount here she manages to be elevated to the Tinkers (6), who are an elite group with unquestioning loyalty to The Beggar King.

Evelyn and Toryan:
I'm working on introducing the romantic interest through the novel, Evelyn lost Tobias, her lover, about 5 years ago and with the great change taking her son she is very much alone in the world, save for Horrible a dog that she rescued from the fighting pits.
But Captain Toryan is an Ambian and they are the enemy. Still their journeys together bring them closer and eventually they come together (7), I'm toying with the idea of allowing them to live happily ever after at the end of the series but I don't think it's going to happen because Happy Ever After is just a way of saying “I don't know what happened next.  Everyone was happy forever  now go to sleep”

But certain schemers in the church are busy blackening their names up and down the country because they want to get their hands on the weapons of the ancient champions. Loves Regret and Shapers Bane because people understand the power of symbols such as these so it's only a matter of time before everything kicks off there.

The Church:
For a long time the church was simply a quick organisation that I had put in place with a few vague guidelines simply because, in earlier versions it wasn't that important, then I glossed over it by saying it's an evil organisation. Then it became the big bad of the series until I actually sat down and thought about it. To say the organization itself is evil was wrong. Like anything else in life there are a wide range of priests and acolytes ranging from the good to the bad. The problem is figuring out exactly who is who.

The New Moon: (8)
Something that has been on the forefront in everyones mind is the appearance of a second moon in the night sky. So far it has done nothing except sit there freaking everyone out but that's only because I haven't thought of anything to do with it yet. Because of the immense global effects this will have it needs to be researched throughly which is only another argument against the damn thing.

But here is my current list of Moon questions.

The Hard Science:
  • Orbit of the new moon in relation to the old one
  • Phases of the moons
  • Length of Days/Months/Seasons
Global Effects:
  • Ocean Tides
  • Plant and Animal life - How do they adjust to the new schedule?
  • The New Moon = more light = shorter days and longer nights (which are not as dark as they used to be)
  • Affect on seasons
  • Astrology
  • Star Signs
  • Horoscopes
  • Divinations
  • How do people explain the new moon?
  • What do people call the new moon and the new seasons and the frequent eclipses?
  • Old Beliefs - Moon Child born in full moons light. How does the new moon affect this?
  • Worshippers of the new moon perhaps suppressed by the church
  • Would the suppression give rise to an inquisition?
  • Would the suppression be used to crack down on anything the church considers heretical?
  • How are songs dances and poetry etc affected?

So what have I learned from all this?
For one thing I've learned that I really hate this question. It makes everything feel like a sitcom ending with everyone waiting around for the laugh track.
But for what it's worth here's what I know. If you are dreaming up epic battles, torn hearts, plans, plots, schemes, the rise and eventual downfall of ultimate evil then don't worry about being neat and tidy. Don't buy into the image of a lone writer tapping away on his ancient typewriter because, seriously have you ever used those things? I have a great respect for those that had to use them.

Where was I?
Oh yeah, the image, that whole typewriter thing is what a writer does but it isn't what a writer is. All you need is something to write with and something to write on. Scribble down your ideas and get them down because I guarantee that if you tell yourself you'll remember it then you'll be left with a punchline and no setup.

So here's my refrain.  Take lots of notes and do the research, even if it means making it up but stick to the rules of the universe that you've created.

  1. Strictly speaking you're in the wrong place for whining anyway. We  Bloggers are supercool,  It's the LiveJournal writers that are the whiny ones.
  2. The jury is still out.
  3. Ensuring that the only people that come out of this with a smile are ten year old girls.
  4. With requisite moustache twirling and evil laughter.  I would have included a bad guy musical number but we're not doing the Disney version
  5. not to mention implausable
  6. Up until recently I was calling them Kingsmen. Now thanks to the power of Greyskull they have become Tinkers for reasons that I hope will, eventually, become clear. For now just roll with it.
  7. Said with raised eyebrows over a cup of tea.  THAT kind of together.
  8. Nothing to do with Twilight although I had my doubts about that as well (ba dum psh!)
Part Two:

The following is from the dusty archives of Harts Change. This is the stuff that has either been rewritten or chopped out entirely. I don't like to throw stuff away so it all goes in here on the basis that it will be useful, in one form or another.

These were written in a much earlier draft back when Tobias, Evelyns husband, was going to be alive, thus making a perfect lovers triangle between him, Toryan and Evelyn. Ultimately though I pretty much merged his character with Toryans and he survives as a fond memory of true love.

The first meeting between Tobias and Evelyn.
Scene: In which we find out exactly how a common guard managed to catch the eye of a Knight Baronial's daughter.

The court buzzed around her and about her, only natural of course as she was presented to the king himself tonight. But now the air inside the court is stifling and her father is looking the other way. Stepping out into the night gardens is a tiny act of defiance in the face of conformity.
Inside her father jokes with someone that she should have been introduced to but she doesn't care. The night gardens are a much talked about feature of the royal city and not one that she intends to miss. Here and there she passes couples, whose world does not include her.

“Are you lost lady?” although his clothing was obvious quality they were quite untidy
“Not at all. I was simply admiring the flowers”
“It's a fine place for lovers” his leer is most ungentlemanly “if you'd like I could take you walking through the gardens”
“No that's, that's fine” her attempt to mimic the commanding tone of her father fail miserably “I should get back to the court”
As she turns to leave the man, who is certainly no gentleman, grabs at her wrist roughly “You're not going anywhere girly”
“Let me go!” this time it comes out as a command but he only laughs
“Let me go! Oh let me go”

“You should do what the lady asks” a new voice cuts in and the owner stteps out of the shadows
“Go to hell” he says belligerently
“As you wish” her hero quickly snatches at the ruffians own arm and soon has him on the ground with his arm twisted around the mans neck [note: the full nelson, while effective in real life isn't going to leave Toryan with a hand free. The one I'm thinking of is a judo hold Tome pomtiddly something.  This is only going to come into play if he needs his hands free for something.  Have a headbutt in there somewhere because headbutts mean action!]
The man manages to get free somehow
“You bastard!” he pants “do you know who I am?”
The guardsman advances and the man gives way “unless I miss my guess you're the one thats been bribing the old guards to turn a blind eye to your activities and it is my distinct pleasure to arrest you” They scuffle again but the ruffian again gets the worst of it and this time there is no question of escape “are you unharmed lady...”
“Esteele, Evelyn Esteele, I'm fine...” she returned his own pause [note: no she didn't that's stupid]
“Captain Tobias” he glances down at the man who has begun struggling again “now I've no doubt that you've got friends”
“I do!” the man squeaks “powerful and influential ones! You can kiss goodbye to your career good captain”
Tobias rolled his eyes “My apologies lady it's best to get this speech out of the way before they start giving out any useful information. Now as I was saying. I've no doubt that you've got friends, as you say, of power and influence, who will no doubt help you escape justice in some clever way so think on this. If anything happens to the Lady Esteele then it will mean a duel between the pair of us and I guarantee that on your best day you are not going to be as good as I am on my worst day”
“You can't threaten me like that!” the man yelps
“I don't think I threatened you” Captain Tobias said
“I didn't hear anything” confirmed Evelyn
“I'm certain that I would never threaten a prisoner who's going the right way to getting a damn good kicking if he doesn't stop wriggling around” [note: don't use this I've pinched it from somewhere]

“Will he really get away with it?” she asked as the man was led away by a pair of trustworthy guardsmen
“He'll get a rap over the knuckles” Tobias confirmed “the nobles have a way of looking after their own”
“Yes. They do. Have you finished with my daughter captain?” the coldness of her fathers disapproval suggested very much that he shouldn't have started with her
“I am Sir Knight” Tobias bowed slightly stiffly owing to a few bruises and if he were nervous at all he didn't show it.
“Then continue with your work guardsman. Daughter come with me and don't go wandering off again”
As she meekly followed her father she looked over her shoulder and waved to the captain who returned it hesitantly.

Evelyn and Tobias part two
Scene: Time passed as time is wont to do and the pair found that their unlikely friendship had blossomed into the tree of love [note: aww] they are forced to sneak around her chaperones in order to see each other but like all lovers they fail to notice that people have been talking. In the middle of a visit her brothers kicked down the door and, holding Tobias off at the point of a blade they brought Evelyn back to her father, Sor Esteele. He gives her the news that Cole Trailin, the kings newest baron, has requested her hand in marriage

Heavy rains lashed the stable walls, lightening and thunder spooked the horses but the people inside took no notice.
“Why can't you understand that I love him father!” she'd asked the same question before and just as before he gave the same response
“You're too young!” his fist slammed against the stall “too damn young to know what love is!”
“You're too old to remember” she counters harshly “if ever you felt it then you've forgotten long ago

Sor slapped her face “there's not a day that goes by that I don't remember your mother. But this! Sneaking around behind my back”
“We had to!” her tears have never failed to melt his heart before today “you wouldn't give him the time of day because he's not noble born. But he's a good man”
This time he remained a stony cliff “good man he may be. But he's not good enough for my daughter”
“Mum would have welcomed him”
He shook his head and turned away. “ Your mother was a remarkable woman but she had strange ideas”
“Like giving people a chance?” [note: could we lay it on any thicker? Not without special equipment]
“You'll soon forget your Captain. The Baron Trailin has agreed to overlook your wild streak and has presented himself as your husband”
“I don't love him! I love Tobias”
“Come now, what happened to giving people a chance? At any rate you'll be joined with Trailin come the full moon” he gestured over his shoulder to her sycophantic brothers, afraid to offer any opinion that would not be approved of “take her to her rooms and see that she stays there this time”