Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Ranks of Officers in the Rinadrion Army

So, writing the next great American novel requires worldbuilding, so I drew up the different ranks of officers in the Rinadrion army for your enjoyment. By the way, I'll probably be re-writing my post on Rinadrion pretty soon, so when I do I'll give ya'll a heads-up so you can read the new and improved version.
Questions or anything? Please write them in the comment box below. I'd love to hear what you think!

Lance is the lowest rank. There are three levels of lance: lance minor (lowest), lance master, and lance major.
The insignia of a lance is a red badge on the right shoulder or arm, with one black star for a minor, two for a master, and three for a major. Any lance, no matter what level, has fifty men under his command.

Taje is the second rank. A taje wears a white badge with three red stars in descending size on his right arm or shoulder. He commands one hundred men (one company) and two lances.

A rygin commands four hundred men (a square or quadra). His insignia is four red stars on a white badge.

First Thain
The first thain commands six hundred men. His insignia is a red half moon and four red stars on a white badge.

Second Thain
The second thain commands eight hundred men (two squares or quadras). His inisignia is a full red moon on a white badge.

Third Thain
The third thain commands one thousand men. His insignia is two full white moons and a half moon on a black badge.

Liege is the second highest rank. Generally a liege is the king's son or the son of a high-ranking nobleman. He commands four quadras. A liege's insignia is a silver sword ringed with six white stars on a black badge.

The Commander
The commander directs the whole army by delegation, and rarely goes to war unless the entire army is mobilized. His insignia is a golden sword on a red badge.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

We've Stereotyped Ourselves!

Having been introduced to the online writing world several years ago, I've had time to observe what goes on amongst authors and what they say about themselves. Being the only author that I know personally was rather difficult, or would have been if I had realized that there was a whole world on the internet where authors are encouraged, prodded, and helped by other authors. It's been fun and very informative, and I would never want to put down those people who are sincere and trying to help each other out. However, there are a few things that really do annoy me about authors. There are a lot of stereotypes that they've placed on themselves, for what reason I can't imagine, because generally stereotyping is frowned upon. So here are a few things that authors say about themselves that just don't make sense.

1. Because I write, I'm insane!
I see this one all the time. Even authors that I admire and like say this. Constantly on their blogs they are proclaiming their... lack of sanity? As if writing were something that somehow automatically makes you a good candidate for a mental institution, yet also simultaneously one of the few awesome people in the world. But I've never understood this. How am I insane simply for writing a story? Writing seems to me a much more tame thing than, say, going over Niagara Falls in a barrel or climbing a treacherous mountain. Of course writing can be exciting to the author, but crazy isn't an epithet I would apply to myself or any other normal human being who happens to write. It also seems to me to be a mark of arrogance to act as though we are some special sect of people simply because we write.
As a side note, people are always calling NaNoWriMo crazy and insane. Generally, if I realize that I am doing something only a madman would do, I don't do it. So when NaNoWriMo took a story that originally had something of a plot and turned it into a fifty-thousand-word plotless disaster, I stopped doing it. You might find me on NaNoWriMo, but you won't find me doing it.
But anyways, as a general rule I don't think authors are particularly strange or crazy. At least those of my online acquaintance. I realize that there are a lot of authors out there who probably, in real life, are actually weird, insane, crazy, and should be institutionalized. The kinds who write pathetic, stupid, or wicked books. But I'm not talking about them; I'm talking about a mostly-Christian, moral, normal group of people that includes myself. And you know what? In spite of all the talk of craziness, I haven't really seen it yet.

2. Sadistic and proud of it!
How many times have I seen authors (Christian ones) bragging about the fact that they love to put their protagonists through the most horrible, awful things imaginable? They act as though putting them through the wringer is something that they enjoy, rather than something they do to further the plot or character development. Even the mildest thing that a character goes through is something that I sure wouldn't want to go through ever in my whole life, and yet authors treat it flippantly. "Yeah, I'm sure not nice to my characters! My MMC's little daughter was killed, his wife was captured by lecherous soldiers, he just found out his brother is a traitor, and to top it all off he's about to have his hand cut off. Poor guy." Um, yeah, poor guy. Understatement of the century, anyone? I don't know about anyone else, but I cringe when I'm reading about horrible things that have happened to characters in books, and I cringe when my own characters have horrible things happen to them. Is it necessary? Yes. Is it fun? Definitely not! Remember, you are in a sense the god of your story. You know everything that will happen and why it happens. God doesn't get a sadistic kick when His people go through trials; the trials are not the end, but the means to the end of sanctifying them and bringing them closer to Him. Similarly, we should be using whatever hardships our characters face for the ultimate purpose of bringing them farther along in their character development and their closeness to God, and we should not, EVER, make light of what they go through. Are they fictional? Yes. Does that somehow make it permissible to enjoy their distress and sorrow? I don't think so. So the next time you're tempted to sound sadistic on your blog concerning one of your characters, think again.

3. My characters are hijacking my story!
This is one of the most ridiculous claims that authors make. Their characters speak to them? Their characters won't stop arguing with them? Their protagonist has his own ideas about the direction the plot should take?
'Scuse me?
Am I alone in being one who has never heard even a whisper from any of my characters in the thirteen years that I've been writing?
Of course it can be difficult to keep a plot on track. Of course characters can be difficult to 'get right' and all that. But I find it extremely absurd to be always talking about our characters as though they were like the imaginary friends some of us had in childhood. I don't talk to my characters; they don't talk to me. Sort of like Tolkien's Entwives. I also think that if we gave up this talk of imaginary friends we might get along more quickly in our writing. I don't have to know what my character's favorite flower is, what his first word was, what her reaction to being suddenly surrounded by purple aliens would be (unless, of course, I'm writing a science fiction where purple aliens are a distinct possibility).
Here is an interesting thing I found out a few years ago: you can control your characters (without promising them chocolate). You can make the plot go where you want it to, if the plot makes sense. Your characters won't rebel, and if your plot takes an unexpected turn it's because YOU turned the plot. If you have a flash of inspiration, then it was from the brain that God gave you, not because you and your characters communicate telepathicaly. You have power over your own writing! How liberating is that? I know, I know, it's more fun to blame writing difficulties on characters, but it lost its humor a long time ago.

4. Forget unsocialized homeschoolers. We're the unsociable authors!
Well, really, here I can only speak for myself. I don't know most of the internet authors. But it seems to me that they do have lives that they live and families that they generally speak to. Their pictures seem to indicate that baths, meals, and rest are not foreign unto them. But if you simply read ninety percent of authors' blogs, you might get the idea that we go to an attic, lock the door, chain ourselves to a desk, throw the key out of our reach, drink coffee or tea exclusively, and subsist on chocolate. Again, I'm talking for myself (mostly), but when I write I find at least a little background noise to be helpful (growing up with a lot of younger siblings may account for this), and I'm usually in an area frequented by members of my family. Not only that, but if I had a cup of tea (I don't drink coffee) beside me, I might take one sip and by the time I remembered to take another sip it would be stone cold. I'm not talented enough to drink and type at the same time, and I have a strange feeling that most authors (for all that they are insane and special) are similarly lacking that talent. Also, it takes me about fifteen to twenty seconds to consume a cookie or part of a chocolate bar. I shudder to think of the state of my health if I had enough chocolate beside me to fill up my writing time (because, believe me, I would not neglect my chocolate!). Another thing is how sticky my computer keyboard would be by the end of half an hour.
I also consider myself to be a fair enough companion for human beings, even while I'm writing. Writing, like social media, should never take precedence over our relationships. It may be fun to joke about ourselves as being unsociable, but I hope that none of us truly is.

5. In conclusion.
So, to sum up: Insanity isn't something that most people are proud of, and in and of itself writing is one of the quieter talents. Unless you dictate your work to a scribe, writing is done by putting pen to paper or finger to keyboard. One of your characters may be insane, but that doesn't make you crazy. If you are insane, then I would expect that your writing would be unintelligible gibberish and your profile picture to be of someone in a straight-jacket.
Sadism in regards to protagonists (or any character, really) is, frankly, disturbing and probably isn't the best testimony for a Christian to be putting out there. Put your character through whatever you (don't) like, but don't like it!
Your characters and plot, just like a Disney Princess's destiny, are yours to control. You make the rules (within the bounds of God's Word, of course), you set the boundaries, you create the characters and the world and you think up the plot. If you are having trouble, don't bribe or cajole your characters, take a step back, ask God to help you, and think about how to solve the problem. I've done it before, it's worked, it can. be. done.
If you are unsociable with your family, don't be! God gave us a desire to write, but He also gave us family and friends. Real people. Don't neglect them, and don't joke about neglecting them either (especially if you really are). It's fine to set time aside to write alone by yourself. It's not fine to shut yourself away from everyone for ever.
Finally, writing doesn't make you special. God has given you a certain talent, just like He's given other people other talents. Writing is one among many, and it isn't necessarily better than being an artist, an engineer, or a doctor. The way to set yourself apart is not to be an author, but to be a good author to the glory of God. And even then, pride should never factor into our attitudes about ourselves.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Four Feathers -- A Book Review

Well, hello everyone! It's been a really, really long time since I posted. But I'm here today with a review of a book by A. E. W. Mason: The Four Feathers. No, it's not a play on The Forefathers or anything. It is set in the late 19th century, when the British ruled much of the Soudan and Egypt. Harry Feversham comes from a long line of soldiers, stretching back to, apparently, the 1600s. Of course, Harry's father naturally expects that his son will follow in his footsteps and bring honor to the family name. But Harry is terrified of being a coward, and though he joins the army, when the call to arms comes he resigns his officer's commission, believing that no one will know the reason. Unfortunately, three men of his regiment find out and on the night of a ball to announce Harry's engagement to Ethne Eustace he receives three white feathers. When Ethne sees them, and he explains to her what has happened, she gives him back her engagement ring and adds a fourth feather from her fan. Harry leaves, determined not to come back to England until he has done one thing for each man that gave him a feather to prove himself and to atone for what everyone believes is his cowardice. In this way he hopes that Ethne, too, will take back her feather, though he tells her nothing about his plan.

I really loved this book. In fact, Mason's writing is several notches above the typical books you read written in the late eighteen and early nineteen hundreds. He's not worried about spoonfeeding his audience, and he is willing to make things complicated without immediately explaining what is going on. Not only that, but his characters actually have character. They are very well-rounded. Ethne is a strong and courageous girl, but she has her weaknesses too, as becomes apparent. Harry, though the book isn't written from his perspective, is very well done as well. Even Harry's father, who might be the closest to a caricature in the book, does not act in exactly the way you might expect such a man to act when Harry informs him of the feathers and his resignation. Another thing I liked about this book is the romance. Both Harry and Ethne are fairly undemonstrative people, reserved and quiet. They feel deeply for each other, but they never kiss or pour out gushing flatteries and declarations of undying love. I like that. I like it a lot.
But perhaps my favorite part in the whole book is the section where Harry tries to rescue Captain Trench (who sent him one of the feathers) from the House of Stone in Omdurman. I don't want to give spoilers away, but the descriptions of everything are just fantastic. I was drawn in completely from first to last. One thing is certain: Mason definitely had a gift not just for telling a story, but for writing one. And The Four Feathers is not the only book where he proves this, though it may be the best. I may post a review of The Courtship of Morrice Buckler sometime soon, as well as other books by Mason as I read them. However, I give this book five stars out of five (with a warning: there are some instances of the use of 'God' in a way which is not reverent; but these are fortunately not too numerous).

I found this book for free on the Amazon Kindle store, and I thought I recognized the title because my dad had watched a movie which I vaguely remembered being called The White Feather. However, he had watched an old 1939 version which was called The Four Feathers, which he had liked. So I watched it. Let me warn you, if you want to watch the movie, READ THE BOOK FIRST. I am serious. Otherwise the movie won't make a whole lot of sense to you. Not only is it very shallow on the character side (the characters don't talk much and when they do, they are completely different from those in the books) but many of the names have been changed. For instance, in the movie, Ethne Eustace becomes Ethne Burroughs, and her brother (she doesn't have a brother in the book) is one of those that sends Harry a feather. Not only that, but every single one of the elderly British gentlemen look exactly the same. They hardly have enough screen time to become distinguished one from the other, they all wear exactly the same clothes and exactly the same mustache, and they all have exactly the same voice. There are a lot of problems with the movie, which annoys me because the book wouldn't have been hard to transcribe semi-faithfully to the screen. And the ending? The ending is S.T.U.P.I.D. And the big battles between the British and the Dervishes? They are just there to take up time which should have been used to develop the characters, because not one single battle takes place in the book. Seriously.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Twice Tagged

Ok, so Lostariel tagged me the other day, and now I've been tagged by Ithilwen, so I'll combine both tags into one massive post. Fear for your lives, friends. You will be deluged by random and probably pointless facts about my life and personality, but it will be FUN. I hope. So, on to the tags! First, since each tag requires I post eleven facts about myself, I'll post TWENTY-TWO facts. After that, I'll answer the questions they gave me, which will be twenty-two questions. BUT I'll only give eleven questions to the people I tag, by combining both tags into one, since both are for the same tag game. If that made sense (which it probably didn't).

Twenty-two facts about myself which I've never shared with another living soul. Feel honored.

1. I love Julie Fowlis' voice. You are really missing out if you don't know who she is (and I listened to her way before Brave came out).
2. Karen Matheson's 'Fear a Bhata' and 'Ailein Duinn' are two of the most beautiful Gaelic songs I've ever heard.
3. I watched 'The Patriot' for the first time about two months ago. I didn't like all the blood :-/
4. I have lived in Jacksonville Florida since July 1st of this year.
5. I follow 42 blogs.
6. I met my dear online friend Kate in real life in June.
7. My favorite scene of all three Lord of the Rings movies is when the Rohirrim come to the top of the hill overlooking Minas Tirith, Theoden rides in front, and they charge down the hill to THE BEST music ever written.
8. My mom's favorite scene is Gandalf and the Balrog in the Mines of Moria. 'You shall not pass' and all that. Which I admit is an epic scene. Probably my second favorite :D
9. My brother William and I are the only ones in our family who like onions on our hamburgers.
10. There is no beverage replacement for iced sweet tea.
11. I dislike superheroes in general, but find some parts of the first spiderman movie to be funny (actually, I've only watched parts of it). Maybe someday I'll write a post about why I don't like superheroes.
12. This was my first year participating in the Narnia Fic Exchange. I panicked last month because I thought the entries were supposed to be finished on June 28th, three days after I'd received the prompt. Of course, it was actually July 28th. That happens to me a lot.
13. I am soon to be a member of a Primitive Baptist Church.
14. I finished reading the unabridged Ivanhoe about a week or two ago, and really enjoyed it.
15. I read the Lord of the Rings when I was ten.
16. I don't like the new movie versions of Prince Caspian or The Voyage of the Dawn Treader at all. I think they are a disgrace to the name of Narnia.
17. My sister Emma can sew a dress in a day and a half (or less).
18. My favorite meal would probably be roast beef (really tender, where it falls apart) with gravy, biscuits (my great-aunt Mildred's recipe), corn, sweet tea, rice, and carrots-and-onions cooked in roast beef gravy.
19. I've been to Seaworld several times in my life.
20. I would like to stay on a mountain in the Swiss Alps during the spring some day, maybe for my honeymoon. Well, that's what dreams are for!
21. We have a cat who reminds me of a tiger: it is always attacking us, it never sits still, and it's been like that since we brought it home when it was just a tiny kitten. It doesn't like me. The feeling is mutual.
22. I find it very difficult to sleep when there is any light at all in the room.

Twenty-two answers to twenty-two questions.
Lostariel's questions:
1. If you could meet your death at the hand of any fictional character, who would be your worthy opponent? Well, that's kind of hard, since I don't really want to die at the hand of a good guy because that would mean I was a bad guy, and none of the bad guys are worthy opponents (in my humble opinion). Reepicheep, I guess (this answer suggested to me by a sister). But of course he would kill me because he thinks I'm an enemy, not because I really was one.
2. What kind of character would you be in a science fiction epic? I would be the amazing person who saved the world singlehandedly and... oh, wait, that was someone else. I would be the person trying to avoid trouble as much as possible but still resisting the bad guys when I could; I might fly a rescue spaceship or work as a nurse if there was a war. (My sister says she would be a droid.)
3. If you decided to be a super villain, would you win? Why or why not? No, of course not. Evil always loses in the end. But of course, I don't want to be a super villain anyways, or even a minor one.
4. Pick a plant - tree, flower, herb, or something else flora. Now character sketch: What is his/her personality as a human? Oak. He would be venerable with a gray beard and make wise statements to all his grandchildren. He would be the one everyone looked up to.
5. What's an unpopular opinion you hold about music? Uh oh. I hate Contemporary Christian Music with a passion. I hate rock music, and rap music, and most country music. <hides>
6. What do you do with notebooks/sketchpads/journals/diaries/similar once you've filled them up? I save them and read through them at times. But I haven't written on paper for who knows how long. I'm definitely a child of technology ;D
7. Your doorbell rings. Surprise! It's me! What is your first thought/action? How'd you know my address?!? OR Hi! Nice to meet you!
8. What book/movie/show do you love that you wouldn't recommend to anyone else? None.
9. You offer a shivering eight-year-old stranger your coat. She smiles at you, and you're not sure if it's a nice smile or a cruel smile, and runs away. You stick your hands in your pockets only to find something in them that wasn't there before. What is it? A ticking time bomb that is magical, so the police and even top scientists can't defuse it. When it blows up, I am sent to another world.
10. What is the loveliest voice to fall asleep to? Meav ni Mhaolchatha's 'The Waves of Tory' or Karen Matheson singing 'Fear a Bhata'. Or maybe boy choirs singing in Latin.
11. Did you ever get excited when you found out two people you know (or know of) know each other? If so, who? I'm sure I did/would have if it ever happened, but at the moment I can't think of an instance like that.

Ithilwen's questions:
1. If you could create a mythical creature using different elements from a dragon, a wherewolf, a phoenix, a gorgon, and a hydra, what would it be like? It would be a long, lithe wolf-bodied creature, with two dragon heads, two phoenix heads, two gorgon heads, and one wolf's head. All heads would be able to breathe fire, and if you looked any of them in the eyes, you would be instantly turned to stone.
2. You are walking down a road, it is deserted, and a storm comes out of nowhere. The rain is pouring up and the lightning is coming from the buildings. What is causing this, and what do you do? A powerful sorcerer is trying to kill me; fortunately, I was given a cloak of invincibility in return for a kindness done to an old woman.
3. Would you rather watch the movie, or read the book? In most cases, I'd rather read the book first and then, maybe, watch the movie.
4. You look out you window one day and are completely shocked and overjoyed to see someone standing on your lawn. Who is it, and why are you so excited? My online friend Kate, whom I've only seen in person one time, and who lives over a thousand miles away. I'm so excited because, well, it's Kate :D :D Oh, wait, you mean she's not really there? <goes into weeks-long depression>
5. Your best friend has to move to another country, but you will be able to see each other once every year. What would you  think about this? Well, at the moment it's not much different, since we live so far away, but I would be extremely sad that we'd definitely only be able to see each other once a year. But at least there's email and Skype!
6. What is your opinion about the hopelessness of the Hunger Games series? Or do you not think it hopeless? I think it's hopeless because there is no God in it. None at all. No mention of Him, even in swearing (that I know of). He is just completely absent. And so even if 'good things' happen, without God it's all empty and vain and death is the ultimate end.
7. You can only watch one movie for the rest of your life, but you can choose. What movie would you pick? Oh, dear... hmmm. Well, does Lord of the Rings count as one movie? If it does, then LotR all the way! If not, I honestly can't think of a movie I wouldn't be able to live without. I mean, I could live without Lord of the Rings, but it would be hard ;) Sorry, but my brain is shutting down in the area of awesome-movies-I-have-to-have.
8. Which would you rather, having your life saved by a super villain, or your death brought about by a super hero? I would rather have my life saved by a super villain so that I could go on to bring about his defeat, even if I just played a small part.
9. If you could choose one super power, what would it be? To be invisible at will.
10. If you could be best friends with a mythical creature from any book or movie, who/what would it be? A winged horse, definitely. Like, Fledge from the Magician's Nephew.
11. If your answers to all of these questions were erased and you had to rewrite them, and you couldn't remember your original answers, do you think your rewrite would be completely different, somewhat similar, or the exact same as before? Why? Probably about the same as before. I'm not just randomly choosing answers :D

Now, for the eleven questions that I am supposed to ask my victims the people I tag.
1. What do you think about R. L. Dabney? Have you ever heard of him before this question was asked?
2. Which is your favorite: The Children of Hurin or The Hobbit?
3. If you had to name one of your children after a fictional character, who would you name him/her after?
4. What is the first 'big book' you remember reading?
5. Have you read The Silmarillion? What did you think of it?
6. Have you ever read any of C. S. Lewis' non-fictional works, such as Mere Christianity?
7. At what age were you saved?
8. Do you keep a journal? How regularly do you make an entry?
9. Would you rather fight a zombie or an orc?
10. Look in a mirror or take a picture of yourself. How would you describe yourself to someone who had never seen you before so that they would recognize you?
11. Do you find notes in a Bible to be helpful or a distraction?

The people I tag are (I'll warn you beforehand that it won't be eleven):
1. Ezra @ Shadow and Glory because everyone tags James but doesn't remember he has a brother ;)
2. Kate @ A Room of My Own because I don't think she's ever been tagged, and she deserves it :D
3. Bernadette @ Mundburg and Ink because not enough people follow her very fun and funny blog.
4. Trav @ Musings of a Strange in a Strange Land because she doesn't post often enough.
5. Heather @ Magical Ink because if she's been tagged before, I don't remember it.
6. Nichole @ Pen and Parchment because she writes some really thought-provoking posts.

Aaaaand, I'm going to change the rules a bit (it's the new thing to do when you've been tagged!).
1. If you are tagged, you can either write eleven facts about yourself and answer the eleven questions on your own blog, or you can just answer the questions here in a comment.
2. If you do decide to make a blog post of your own, you don't have to tag anyone else if you don't want to.
3. Have fun :D

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Fall

I wrote this a while back, and thought ya'll might enjoy a look at the Fall in my world of Heszeret-Alacta and the beginning of the races of men and dwarves.
Tell me what you think!

And after these things Enderel took of the mountain stone and carved out of it giantish men and giantish women, and breathed life into them. And he set some of them in Enderellia, to tend the gardens and fields there. And the rest he commanded to multiply and bear children on earth. He set also a stairway by which they might come unto Enderellia and rest there at times from their labor upon the earth.
And it came to pass that the giants multiplied, and were increased in riches and in pride. And they spake unto their brethren in Enderellia of all that was in their wicked hearts to do, even to assail the Great City and to cast Enderel from his throne. And at a set time they approached the City, but it was fast shut and they could not enter. And as they beset the gates to force their way, a wind came up from the east and the west and tare asunder the cloud, dividing that part on which the City stood from that on which the giants stood.
And they cursed Enderel and were greatly angered that their devices had thus been thwarted; and while they were so doing, a great storm came up, and lightning struck around them and they were thrown out of Enderellia to the ground.
And many of them repented of their wickedness, and pled with Enderel that they might return to the City, but he forbade them.
And the giants in whose heart was still rebellion came to the stair and climbed. But, lo, five hundred steps were rent from the midst of the stair, and they could go no higher. Therefore the giants departed, and sought out dark arts of magic to repair the stair that they might again assail the Great City.
And from thenceforth the children whom the giantish women bore unto their husbands were small in stature, and none surpassed the height of seven feet, although formerly the least among them was of twelve feet.
And there was great mourning among the giants who repented, for the broken stair, and for the wrath of Enderel.
And the giants were no longer as brothers, but were divided into clans, each clan warring against the other. And they were scattered over the face of the land; and there was no more peace.