Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cinna, The Boy Who Played With Fire

So, in the terrible agony of wanting to find out who is going to play Cinna, I decided to cope by writing fan-fiction. Yeah, I know, I have better things to do. But I don’t have more AWESOME things to do. Thank you, Cinna, for being so incredibly awesome. After the jump to read the story:

Main Character: Cinna

Warnings: A Little Violence

Setting: Pre-Hunger Games

Cinna, The Boy who Played With Fire

I, the son of a Victor, was born on the day after my sister won the 49th Hunger Games. The labor came on so suddenly that my mother and father had no time to fetch a midwife. Born two months premature, I was a sickly, weak child. My parents were not sure I would last the day.

But my mother, with the memories of her time in the Arena fresh in her mind, knew right away what my fate would be if I survived. As the son of one Victor, and the brother of another, I would find myself in the Arena sooner or later.

So my mother did what any mother might do for her child. She hid me. It was not difficult to convince the community I had died shortly after birth. Most premature children did. A funeral was held and the world forgot my parents ever had a second child.

My father, who worked occasionally as a carpenter, built a false wall into the back of my parent’s room. The room he created was perhaps three feet wide and six feet long. At one end, my father modified the fireplace so that the glow could light my hideaway. It was in this room that I spent the first eight years of my life.

Most days my mother would sit and knit just outside my room, with the door half open so she could watch me and talk with me. I knew nothing but this life and was content, in my way. I wondered about the things I read about in the books my father bought for me. I wondered what the wind felt like. What the shining on a meadow of wildflowers would look like. What an ocean sounded like. Yet, I did not truly know what I was missing. But there was one wonder which was my constant companion, that satisfied my deepest desires for beauty.


The fireplace which formed one end of my room was almost always lit, even in the summer when it would grow almost uncomfortably hot. I could lay in the dark and watch it for hours. The way the light danced across the walls and ceiling. The way the tongues of flame engulfed the wood. It was light, and warmth, and happiness to me.

One of my earliest memories is of my sister, face already stretched and thin from her morphine addiction, presenting me with my first box of colored pencils and a stack of drawing paper.

“Cinna, would you draw me a pretty picture? Draw Lara a pretty picture.” I picked up a bright purple pencil in my small, weak fingers, and I suddenly felt whole.

From that moment on, I would spend hours on end drawing. Bright, colorful pictures for my sister, earth-tones for my mother, and charcoal for my father. Of those, my early works, nothing now remains, for they were burned almost as soon as I gave them out. My parents were very careful to conceal any evidence of my existence, as the Peacekeepers of District 3 have always been strict.

But the thing I drew for myself, was fire. It was eternally changing, but still I tried to capture it with my paper and pencils. I would sometimes ask my mother to open the glass front of my fire place, so that I could better examine it. I experimented with prodding the logs and making sparks, burning my fingers countless times in the process. I doubt any child has ever experienced such joy as I did, though.

I remember very little else about my childhood, except for the fact that I believe my father was, even then, involved in an underground, revolutionary movement. Some nights I would hear men’s hushed voices conversing in the room below me. It saddens me to think that I do not even remember my father’s name.

There is a day, though, a few weeks after my eighth birthday, that is forever branded into my memory. Mother was in her rocking chair just outside my room when we both heard a violent pounding on the door downstairs. Mother started and rushed over to me. She knelt to press a kiss to my forehead, whispered a command to be silent, and closed me inside.

I heard raised voices downstairs, a scream and a gunshot. And for the first time in my life, I disobeyed. I found the spring which would open the door from the inside, and crawled from my room.

My parents bedroom was the only other place I had seen, so when I got to the door, I was unsure what to do. I stayed on my hands and knees and crawled towards the stairwell, from which sounds were issuing. Tentatively, I peaked my head around the corner. Below I saw the first human beings, outside my family, I had ever seen. Peacekeepers. There were six of them, all large and imposing, especially to a small child. But they were not what my eyes were drawn to.

On the stone floor of our entry way, lay my sister. She was in her early twenties, but drug-addiction had transformed her body to look much older than that. Yet, she looked young and child-like, lying there with a bullet hole in her temple. My mother was weeping hysterically, kneeling beside my sister’s body.

An argument broke out among the Peacekeepers below. One of them, the leader apparently, was scolding a younger officer for killing my father before they could interrogate him. Then the leader turned to my mother and asked her if she knew who my father’s contact in the rebellion was. Between her sobs, my mother managed to shake her head and choke out one word. “No.”

The Peacekeeper casually discharged a bullet into my mother’s head and she fell beside my sister.

Years of silence trained me well. My tears came without sobs and the scream that fought to escape stayed trapped inside, reverberating through my mind with soul crushing intensity.

The Peacekeepers acted as if nothing had occurred. The leader asked, “Were there any more? Or have we got all of them?”

“That’s the whole family. The man, the woman, and the girl.”

“Check the house, just to be sure there’s no one else here. Then torch it.”

Somehow, those words registered. The terror that filled me at the mere thought of these men finding me was enough to send me scurrying back to my room.

I pulled my door shut with a gentle click, and huddled in the darkness, tears streaming down my face and muscles shaking

Strange footsteps and voices entered my parents room and then left a few minutes later. Still I sat, motionless, trying to make my mind work. It was not until I smelled the smoke in the air that my body agreed to move again. I fumbled for the spring, panic making my fingers clumsy. Finally I managed to get the door open. I grabbed my drawing supplies and crawled out.

The doorway and half the room was already burning. Smoke invaded my lungs and left me coughing. I looked around desperately for some escape. The window was not burning yet, so I wrestled it open. The effort left my small arms shaking, but the fresh outside air gave me renewed energy. A wooden trellis ran up the wall, covered in flowering vines. The distance between the second story window and the ground seemed immense. But the flames were crawling closer as I watched.

I straddled the window sill and placed my bare foot on the top of the trellis. My entire body was shaking, from fear, from exhaustion, from cold. But that first breath of wind on my face was so heavenly, I almost forgot where I was.

I began to climb down. As I got lower the wall grew hot. Before I had time to do anything, I felt a searing pain in my leg, looked down, and saw flames smoldering on my pant leg. My hands instinctively reached for my leg and I fell to the ground. The wind was knocked from my body, but I managed to put out the fire on my leg. My drawing pencils and paper were scattered on the ground around me. My lungs gasped for air as I pulled my precious belongings close and stumbled to my feet.

My knees threatened to collapse as soon as I stood, but I forced myself to go on until I was out of immediate danger. Tall bushes rose up before me, frightening and comforting at once. I dropped to the ground, crawled underneath them, and pulled my knees to my chest.

I wept.

My leg still felt on fire and my lungs hurt from the smoke. And I could feel the pressure of my mother’s lips against my forehead. I tried to wake myself up, knowing this must be some horrible nightmare. But I didn’t wake up. I lay in the bushes and watched my entire life be consumed by flames. And then, I fell asleep.

My heart tells me I spent years under those bushes. But my mind tells me it could not have been more than a day or two. I lay there, as if wishing I’d joined the rest of my family in their last journey.

I was awakened in the black of night by voices. Men’s voices. When I sat up to look around, I could see their silhouettes, observing the glowing embers which used to be my home. Their voices barely reached my ears, but I could tell they were talking about my father. And they were not Peacekeepers.

A debate raged in my head. I knew if I stayed where I was, I would die. But if I emerged and these men were not my father’s friends, they would kill me. My mouth was dry as paper and thinking was difficult. But I knew enough of death by dehydration to know that a bullet was a kinder way to go. So I went to them.

When they heard rustling behind them, they jumped, and drew pistols. I tried to look small and unthreatening.

“Put your gun away, Plutarch,” the older man said. Both of them wore black scarves over their faces, but I noticed wisps of white hair escaping from beneath the shorter man’s hat. “It’s only a boy.”

“What are you about, lad? Wandering around out here? Where are your parents?” The taller man, Plutarch, asked.

It took a few tries before my voice began to work again and I whispered, “Were you friends of my father?”

Instantly both men moved closer, and the older one knelt down to look me in the face. There was kindly, concern in his eyes. “Did your father live here, son?”

If I had been able to cry, at that point, I would have broken down. But there was not enough liquid in my body for tears. I nodded.

“But, sir, he didn’t have a son,” Plutarch said.

“I was a secret,” I whispered. “Mother told me I must be a secret so that I would be safe.”

Understanding registered in the man’s eyes. “Where is your mother, boy? And your sister?”

Thinking of them, my knees grew weak and I wobbled on my feet. The man’s hands reach out to steady me. “They’re dead, sir.” I am not even sure if he heard me. But the answer was obvious. “Water?” I manage to gasp out.

“You poor boy. He must have been hiding out here ever since the fire, Plutarch. Can you carry him? He’s such a small thing. We’ll get you some water, child. Don’t you worry.” The man’s voice was soothing and his eyes were kind.

Still, I shrank back when Plutarch tried to pick me up.

“What is this, child?” The older man pointed to my drawing materials which were pressed to my chest. “Do you like to draw? You come with us and we’ll take you to a place where we’ve got some fresh paper and pencils you can use. Would you like that? And we’ll get you something to eat and drink, too.”

Reluctantly, I allowed myself to be scooped up into Plutarch’s arms. I may have fallen asleep, but the next several days are a blur. I know that Plutarch Heavensbee and the old man whose name I never learned, fed me, clothed me, and cared for me till we reached the Capitol. Thinking back on this, I am not surprised I remember little. My mind must have been in the most severe state of shock a person can endure.

The Capitol, with all its thousands of colorful glamourous people, was the polar opposite of my life before the fire. The most coherent thought I remember having about The Capitol, in those early days, was how much my sister must have loved this place. With all the colors, and bright lights, and wealth, it must have been like a dream to her morphling eyes. I cried myself to sleep every night for years, thinking of her.

When we got off the train the old man disappeared from my life. Plutarch took me home the first night and then took me to a orphan school in the morning. As I would learn later, most of the children in the home were not truly orphans. They were mostly bastard children of the wealthy Capitol citizens. Plutarch was kind enough to imply he was my father and footed the bill for my education.

And for the next ten years, the orphanage was my home. It took me years to adjust to being around other people and I never fit in with my fellow students. I was always a thin, delicate boy, and didn’t care for the amusements of the other residents. Many times in those early years I would hide under my bed, desperate to feel safe and enclosed. Once again, my only solace was in my art. I exceeded all of my peers when it came to all kinds of art and now that I was out of my dark room, the world was my canvas.

I avoided ever drawing fire, though.

Plutarch would come to see me every so often. He rarely mentioned his work with the rebellion, but he would remind me that it was my job to reach a position of distinction. Infiltration. I was to reach somewhere of power so that when the rebellion needed me, I would have influence.

On my eighteenth birthday I left the school with all my possessions in two large cases. In the six years since, I have gone from a humble intern, to lead stylist for one of the Tributes in the Hunger Games. When my application was accepted I thought long and hard about which District I would request. I placed fourth in the competition, which meant I would choose fourth.

There would still be nine Districts in the pool.

But before I chose a District, I decided to consider the costumes I might design for each. I went through Districts 1-11 and though each sketch was beautiful, nothing was truly inspiring or moving.

When I started on the costume for District 12, a lump rose in my throat. My fingers moved without my direction, drawing something I never wanted to draw again.


And it was perfect. The figures which grew up out of my paper were clothed in living flame, not the dreary coal dust of years past. It was a spark to set flame to a nation. It was something I knew better than anyone else. Something I could pour my heart and soul into, despite the pain it caused. If the District 12 tributes wore those costumes, they would never be forgotten.

I had called the Head Gamemaker, Seneca Crane, before I realized what I was doing.

“Crane, I’ve made my decision. I want District 12.”

Monday, April 11, 2011

Why Mockingjay Was the Best Way For "The Hunger Games" To End...

I always have a hard time answering when people ask me if I liked Mockingjay, the third book in Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy.

Does anyone 'like' brain surgery? You might be glad that you had it, but you don't enjoy it. Does anyone 'like' having their emotions put through a meat grinder? Can I really 'like' something that brought me (and so many characters that I love) so much pain?

And yet, I can't tell people I didn't like it, either. If you have read the first two books in the series, it is absolutely imperative that you read the third as well. I feel like if I tell people I didn't like it, they will not want to read it. And that is the opposite reaction I want them to have.

And that's why I was so happy this week, when I finally found a word to describe how Mockingjay made me feel.


Mockingjay is a book of raw emotions (and that is only compounded if you go without sleep to read it, as I did). I have heard lots of complaints people have made, and I'd like to address a few of them here.

First of all, people have complained that Katniss, the main character, spends too much time hiding, or is too compliant, or is too emotionally unstable. But I would ask them one thing. Who wouldn't be?

Sure, it's nice to read books about characters rising up against all odds and becoming the leader that their people need. But that is, in some form, wish fulfillment. We would like to believe that we could do the same. That when life has knocked us down time and time again, we would still be able to rise up and lead.

But this is the truth. Katniss was a 17 year old girl who had gone through more trials and witnessed more atrocities than almost anyone could possibly understand. She was never a person who could stand in front of a crowd and inspire people with her words. Could Ms. Collins have made The Hunger Games the story of how Katniss became that person? Sure. But she didn't. She made it the story of how Katniss led, not by changing who she was, but by holding on to who she was. The way Katniss behaved was how almost any sane person would in her position. And, in my opinion, Suzanne Collins did an excellent job of making us feel just how unstable and damaged Katniss was by the events of the past year.

Another complaint I have heard is that the book was too depressing. Or that Ms. Collins kills characters unnecessarily and lazily. In part, I would agree with these people. Mockingjay was, in large part, a depressing book. And several beloved characters died for, it would seem at first glance, no apparent purpose.

I certainly didn't expect it, but I was just one more person who sometimes forgot just what story Ms. Collins was trying to tell. And in part, I don't think anyone really knew what story she was trying to tell until Mockingjay came out. The love-triangle between Katniss, Gale, and Peeta is certainly one of my favorite parts of the books, and in the waiting between Catching Fire and Mockingjay, it was easy to blow that part of the story out of proportion. The focus of Mockingjay was where it should have been. On war. On how we, as humans, deal with pain and terror. On how there is hope even in the darkest night.

The Hunger Games, overall, is a story of war. And in war, there are tragic losses. It breaks my heart to sound so cold about that fact, but it is one of the things I really loved most about Mockingjay. In the final climax, I could feel the booby-traps around me, ready to activate at any moment. I felt transported to the Capitol. Like I was running through the streets with these characters whom I loved so dearly, knowing that at any moment, any one of us might be dead.

It's a feeling I truly cannot say I've gotten from any other book, ever. And Ms. Collins did that by doing a few very unpopular things. Killing one character in particular. If you blink, you'll miss it. One minute (character's name) is there, and the next (character's name) isn't. People who've read it know who I mean. Thinking about (character's name), and seeing certain quotes from the final chapter of Mockingjay still cause a reaction of almost physical pain, from me. I would give a lot to have one more scene with said character. A chance to say goodbye. But the truth is, war isn't Hollywood. Real life doesn't feel obligated to give someone a good 'death scene' or be sure that their sacrifice was necessarily 'meaningful'. And Suzanne Collins captures this perfectly.

That is the story of Mockingjay. Life isn't fair. Pain, and fear, and loss strike at all of us. War takes life indiscriminately. Anyone can make a difference.

And in the end, when war, and bloodshed, and revolution finally cease, those who are left can pick up the pieces. In the end, life, love, and happiness still survive. Mockingjay takes us to dark places, some of which upset fans greatly. But without those moments of painful realism, and pure raw emotion, the conclusion would have fallen flat. Only the depth of pain and tragedy that we went through, could allow us to experience the true triumph of the characters who survived so much.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Fictional Valentine's Celebration!

Warning! Ooey-Gooey-ness follows!

I got this idea from my new friend Brianne (her blog is therewebe.blogspot.com). She made a list of her favorite couples in honor of Valentine's Day, and since I wasn't doing anything else to celebrate the holiday of love, I figured I would write my own. With one small twist. None of the couples on my list are real people...

Yep, story of my life. But hey! This is a blog about fiction, right?

So here are my favorite couples in several different categories:

My Ideal Couple:

Walter & Ashley from the Dragons In Our Midst Books are about as perfect a couple as could possibly exist (except for the fact that she's two years older than him, but whatever). Walter is hilarious throughout the books, but really matures as the series goes on. They start off their relationship not on a BAD foot, but not really on a good one either. Their banter is the best thing about the entire series... As I think you'll find in many of the couples on this list, banter is a must. :)

Sweetest Couple in the History of the World:

Is this one kind of cheesy? Yes. But Prince Arthur and Guinevere from the BBC's Merlin show are just amazing. Taking the traditional legend (where Guinevere is a princess from a neighboring kingdom) and turning it on its ear, Gwen is a servant in Camelot in the BBC's show. Arthur falls for her, but has to keep it a secret, as his father would either have her executed or banished, if he found out. Gwen honestly makes Arthur a better person. She shows him a perspective that he never experienced, growing up in wealth and privilege. Yep, they're perfect together, and there's nothing anyone can say to make me think otherwise.

Current Overall Favorite Couple:

I know not everyone likes them, and they are often made fun of *cough*Rachel*cough*, but I really do adore Peeta and Katniss. And if you don't know what they're from, look it up. I pretty much can't wait until they cast them in the movie, and if they mess it up, I will be furious. Peeta and Katniss are amazing together and their story is so beautiful (in a really horrific sort of way). Anyway, I love them.

Favorite Couple that I Don't Want to be a 'Couple':

Remember what I said about banter? Helen Magnus and Nikola Tesla from Syfy's Sanctuary have the most wonderful banter ever! He's completely in love with her and she likes him, too, but I'm not sure if I actually want them to get together. It's almost better when they are not getting along. I don't think I could handle it if Tesla permanently gave up his dream of ruling the world, and Helen gave up trying to stop him... (Of note, these two are the oldest couple on my list...they're both over 130 :)

Favorite Couple Involving a Nerd:

Connor has really matured over the four seasons of Primeval, and Abby has a lot to do with that. But he's still a nerd underneath. These two are just adorable together, especially when Connor's being a dork! And a bonus? The actor and actress are engaged in real life!

Favorite Couple I Forget About (For Some Reason):

I don't know why I don't remember Chuck and Sarah more quickly. Seriously, they're on one of my favorite shows, Chuck, and yet they don't come immediately to mind? Still, I do think they're a wonderful couple. I'm so glad the writers have let their relationship evolve, instead of playing out the eternal will they/won't they thing forever. They're actually engaged!!! I hope they pull off a wedding before the show gets canceled...

Favorite Couple that Makes Me Want to Rip My Hair Out:

Logan and Veronica (from Veronica Mars) are the most obnoxious couple ever. Seriously, if they were trying to fight/make each other insane, I don't think they could do a better job. Logan in general makes me want to yank my hair out, because he's such a dodo-brain, but Veronica should know better. They are completely in love with each other, they just have too many issues to see it.

Favorite Animated Couple:

Ok, this one is a tie between Flynn and Rapunzel from Tangled, and Beauty and the Beast from Beauty and the Beast. :) Beauty and the Beast has always been my favorite Disney movie, and I really can't bear to see them replaced, but Tangled was sooo good! Flynn and Rapunzel were too cute for words. So, they're tied.

There you have it folks! If you made it through that, take a cyber-cookie. I will now swear off all mushi-ness until next Valentine's Day...

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Logan Echolls: Changing Perspectives

If he were real, Logan Echolls and I would not be friends.

In fact, it wouldn't even be close.

When I started watching Veronica Mars a few weeks ago, I won't say that I didn't like Logan. In fact, despite the fact that pretty much everything he did was morally reprehensible, I was rather fond of him. He was funny, and his banter with Veronica was charming. ("Annoy, little blonde one! Annoy like the wind!") Aside from that, though, there was not much to like about his character. He was the spoiled son of a millionaire actor who attends all the underage drinking parties, etc. You know the type.

Knowing what I know about where the show eventually goes, I kept waiting for them to show a different side of Logan. But what they did instead was much more, well, much more powerful, in a way.

Revealing the 'good side' of a generally bad character has been done so many times it can easily be cliche. It often manifests itself in a peculiar weakness that hearkens back to a characters past in some way. The memory of a mother's face. A young boy who reminds a villain of his dead brother. All can be moving, when done well, and achieve the desired effect of endearing us to a character who isn't all that endearing, otherwise.

Logan's case is different, in that, he is not actually a villain. Merely a rather unpleasant character. But the idea is the same. If a character is going to be likable, whether 'good' or 'bad', there is one key thing that must happen. Viewers (or readers, in the case of books) must be able to sympathize with the character.

The episode where Logan's 'moment' happened started out like any other. He was a jerk to a homeless veteran at a gas station, then tried to pay the guy to participate in a boxing match the next night. A few days later, video surfaces of Logan cheering on two homeless guys to beat each other up at his late night 'fight club'.

His actor father, Aaron is embarrassed by his behavior, and frankly, livid. Not because of what it says about his son's character, but about how bad that looks in the PR department. It was then that we get the first taste things are not right in the Echolls home, when Aaron shoves Logan onto a couch in their living room.

In an effort to fix this PR nightmare, Aaron and Logan drive to a homeless shelter to serve supper to the residents, news cameras and reporters in tow. (Of note, on the way there Aaron talks to his agent on the phone about an eight figure contract for his next movie.) Logan puts on a great show for the cameras, serving food and giving a beautifully scripted apology in front of the cameras. The father and prodigal son embrace, both smiling with happiness, before Logan announces that he cannot hold in the news any longer.

Logan speaks, almost tearfully, about what an excellent example of generosity his father is and boldly announces Aaron's 'plan' to donate half a million dollars to the food bank. Everyone cheers, including the reporters who have caught every word on camera.

The episode cuts away for a while, tying of Veronica's side of the story, before coming back to Logan. I think that final scene was so powerful because of how unexpected it was to me. We see Logan open a closet full of belts and carefully select one. My biggest suspicion, frankly, was that he was planning on hanging himself (though how that would work, since he's in the rest of the series, I'm not sure).

But instead he takes the belt his has chosen and carries it to his father's study. That's when I realize what is happening, though I can hardly believe it. Logan removes his shirt and the door is discreetly pushed close before the sharp sound of impact is heard.

I have seen a lot more disturbing things, frankly, but that one left a hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach. What caused that? Well, as I said before, I think the unexpectedness of it really drove it home.

Then there is the fact that Logan was not being punished for misbehavior. Name a law and Logan Echolls had probably broken it. He was being punished because he was going against his father and had cost him half a million dollars (that frankly, Aaron could well afford to lose).

And last, it adds a whole new angle to Logan's character. A man does not beat his 17 year old son with a belt for the first time. It had certainly happened before. Aaron Echolls was far from a stable man. I can only imagine what kinds of problems a child growing up in his house would experience.

It is amazing how drastically a scene with no dialogue that lasts no more than a minute can change everything. How much it can say about a character. How suddenly, Logan Echolls' story can become one of my favorites.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Why you should read the Alcatraz series...

There is one reason you should read the Alcatraz books, by my all time favorite author, Brandon Sanderson.

They are more epically awesome than Dairy Queen Blizzards. Yes, this has been scientifically proven.

What? You're not going to take my word for it? Well, then, I'll just have to persuade you.

If you are looking for an exciting new adventure, with fantastical technology, a cast of humorous characters, and a surprisingly 3-dimensional lead character, look no further! What makes the Alcatraz books stand out, though, is all of the narrator. I think writers, especially, will find these books laugh out loud funny, because of all the rules that Sanderson breaks on purpose. And, of course, he starts with the first sentence.

So, there I was, tied to an altar made from outdated encyclopedias, about to get sacrificed to the dark powers by a cult of evil Librarians.

Guess what? I have read all four of the currently published books, and I have yet to reach the part of the story where he is actually about to be sacrificed by the evil Librarians. As the narrator, Alcatraz, so kindly explains later in the first chapter...

You may have noticed that I began my story with a quick snappy scene of danger and tension-but then quickly moved on to a more boring discussion of my childhood. Well, that is because I wanted to prove something to you: that I am not a nice person. Would a nice person begin with such an exiting scene, then make you wait almost the entire book to read about it?...Of course not.

And this is just the first of the literary rules he breaks. The others? Addressing the reader directly (He does it ALL the time, and it's the best part of the book!). Drawing attention to your writing. Making it hard to read in places (in book 4 he wrote a whole chapter where everyone spoke like they were in Hamlet). And generally breaking other conventional rules. But all of these things are what gives the book it's charm!

What other series contains even a few of the following things: Evil Librarians. Jokes about Shakespeare, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Wheel of Time. A narrator who tells you it is important to act out what you are reading. Fake last pages to punish people who look to the end in books.

Yeah, I know. Your brain is going to explode from the awesomeness of it, isn't it? There is only one solution. You must go buy these books right away, starting with book one, Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians. Trust me. You won't regret it. Click here! The paperback is only $7! And don't you dare be dissuaded by the fact that it's a kid's book. That takes nothing away from it's awesomeness.

And now, just to give you one more incentive, here is one of my favorite passages from the entire series:

Some people assume that authors write books because we have vivid imaginations and want to share our vision. Other people assume that authors write because we are bursting with stories, and therefore must scribble those stories down in moment of creative propondidty.

Both groups of people are completely wrong. Authors write books for one, and only one, reason: because we like to torture people.

Now, actual torture is frowned upon in civilized society. Fortunately, the authorial community has discovered in storytelling and even more powerful-and more fulfilling-means of causing agony in others. We write stories. And by doing so, we engage in a perfectly legal method of doing all kinds of mean and terrible things to our readers.

Take, for instance, the word I used above. Propondidty. There is no such word-I made it up. Why? Because it amused me to think of thousands of readers looking up a nonsense word in their dictionaries...

Yes, it really is that amazing the whole way through.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader

So, my dad and three of my siblings went to see Voyage of the Dawn Treader at midnight on Thursday night (or rather, 12:01 on Friday morning) and I really enjoyed it! In some ways it was my favorite of the three Narnia movies to date, but in others, it was the weakest. Without spoiling anything, lets just say that one of the added storylines (not from the book) was a little weak. It just didn't work all the way for me. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoyed the movie, but I was not happy with some of the changes they made. Along those lines, I decided to rewrite the story in a way that would fix all of the film's issues. At least for me. Mind you, this is only a quick fix; with more time I could do better. But I would have had no issues with the movie if the basic story had gone something like this...

(Warning! Here be Spoilers! But if you've read the book, I tried to be vague with the movie-specific spoilers.)
(Second warning, the writing is kinda rough on this. I just did it for fun, and didn't feel like putting too much work into it.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader:

Edmund and Lucy, formerly King Edmund the Just, and Queen Lucy the Valiant, are staying with their cousin, Eustace. A fact neither of them is very pleased with. While the siblings are having a nice talk in Lucy's room, Edmund notices how 'Narnian' a picture of a sailing ship looks. Edmund has a nice monolouge about all of the amazing things he did when he was king, before Eustace interupts to mock their 'childishness'. Eustace tries to say something clever, but every time he does, Edmund says something infinately wittier. Then the picture comes to life, and they fall into the ocean of Narnia, as Prince Caspian's ship, the Dawn Treader, is passing by.

Edmund, out of the kindness of his heart, saves Eustace from drowning, while help from the Dawn Treader arrives. They are hauled aboard, and everyone bows to the returned King and Queen. After honoring them, Prince Caspian obviously hands command of the ship over to High King Edmund, who ranks above him. They sail for a while and Edmund takes advantage of the time to beat Caspian repeatedly at swordplay and give first aid training to all the deck hands, all while knitting socks to donate to children orphaned by WWII.

They reach Terebinthia, and the Dawn Treader send a boat to shore. They are worried, because things do not seem to be right on this island town, and soon their fears are confirmed. They are captured by slave traders who rule mercilessly over the common people of Terebinthia. Edmund alone eludes capture and single handedly rescues the entire crew of the DT, along with Caspian, Lucy, and Eustace, from being sold as slaves.

After freeing the slaves, Edmund finds out about an evil green mist which comes from the east, and sets out to vanquish it.

They sail to the next island, and after doing most of the work himself and teaching all of the crew the ancient, deadly, art of Kung Fu, Edmund leaves Caspian to watch over Lucy, and falls asleep.Unfortunately, Caspian, who had eaten a very large dinner and drank several glasses of wine, falls asleep on duty, allowing the Dufflepuds to kidnap Lucy. When the camp awakens, Caspian regretfully informs Edmund of his failure. Edmund stalks off to find his sister, deeply irritated by Caspian's failure to be competent.

Everything turns out all right, and Aslan meets them in the mansion where he warns them of the tasks to come. He especially warns Edmund of the trials he will face, and encourages him to stay faithful to what he believes.

They sail to the next island where Eustace is turned into a dragon, an Edmund is the only one who believes at first, trying, out of the kindness of his heart, to see that Eustace is well cared for. Later, Edmund, followed by Lucy and Caspian, find a magical pool which turns everything to gold. Caspian and Edmund are severely effected by the pool, and they start shouting at each other. Edmund makes several very good points, but everything Caspian says is false and malicious.

After Edmund snaps himself out of it, entirely on his own, he appologizes to Caspian. Caspian, though, seeing the truth in Edmund's complaints, bows to him, and again declares him High King of Narnia.

They leave the island, which Eustace flying behind the ship. At the next island, Edmund figures out the way to stop the green mist, and they sail off to the Dark Island to fight it.

The fight scenes here are too epic to describe accurately, but they involve lots of Edmund doing awesome things, like the hag and werewolf scene from the Prince Caspian movie.

Then, in a total Crowning Moment of Awesome, Edmund defeats the temptations of the White Witch, who continues to haunt his mind, destroys the sea monster and saves the ship just in time. Eustace does his thing, and then they win.

After finding Aslan's country, Aslan makes a point of telling Eustace how wonderful he was, and commending him for standing firm in his beliefs, despite the fact that his betrayal from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, still haunts him. They go back to England, and there are five minutes devoted to talking about what happened to Edmund next.

The End.

Anyway, as I said, these would have been quick (but effective) fixes. I would like to try to actually rewrite the plot in a serious way, but this was more fun. Honestly, if the movie really had gone like this, I would have died from happiness. So it's probably best that it didn't. :)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Nanowrimo: VICTORY!

I did it! Wahooooo! 50,000 words in 30 days!

Ok, I'll spare you all my running around and screaming from the rooftops, because frankly, I'm rather embarrassed about that. Now that the first draft is done, I am looking forward, rather nervously, to the long haul of actually getting this book into something I would let someone else read. And it isn't even close, right now. But before I look ahead to all of that craziness, I'd like to take a minute to tell you about the craziness that has already passed-some of which happened during Nanowrimo, and some of which happened before.

I have been working on the story called 'Dark' since last December, when I finished Dark (the first book in the series), if not before. And when I say 'working' I mean thinking about it. Because, like my dad always give me a hard time about, I rarely write things down. Even story ideas. Most of them bounce around in my brain, colliding with other ones, and sometimes sticking together in exciting ways. The only things I physically wrote down were as follows: "Arrow captured in riot; meets up with gang leader. Whispering room (ellipse shaped room where whispers can be heard at the foci)"{I came up with that last idea while taking geometry} All written on a piece of scrap paper, shoved into my writing notebook. And this didn't even make it into my story.

So I thought I would walk you through some of the steps that did influence my story, even though they were never written down.

First, I should explain that I use a lot of music to give me plot inspirations. No one who I explain this to really understands, but I find it very helpful. I think I get this from the fact that I watch a lot of Fan Videos on YouTube and telling a story with music has become almost a habit to me. Here is an example I found. I do the same this as this person, only with my stories, instead of TV shows (if that makes any sense at all). Warning: This loaded in really poor quality by default. If you want to really appreciate it, put up the quality to at least 360.

With that in mind, here is a particular fanvid for Firefly/Serenity that definitely influenced my story. I hadn't seen Firefly or Serenity at the time and when I saw this video, for some reason I got the idea that River (the girl in the video) was the villain, even though she didn't really want to be. That influenced my character, Bruna, a lot, and really informed her arc through book one (Dark), and Dusk. Warning: Same as before. Bump up the quality before you watch.

The next big plot inspiration that I got from YouTube came courtesy of a scene from a show I have never watched. Knowing what I did about the show (from a blogger read who likes it), I totally picked up on the tension. I watched this video over and over for several days, and finally realized that it needed to be in my story. The only problem? I didn't have a character that fit Damon's role. I played around with the idea in my head for a while, and finally decided to turn my insane (sort of villainous) child, into an insane (quite villainous) young adult. And thus, Svein's character was born, as was one of my favorite subplots!
Sorry, this one wouldn't embed. Click here!

Ok, enough YouTube. Now for the crazy things that happened during Nanowrimo. Honestly, I can't list them all, but I'll give you the major ones.

The one that surprised me most was the fact that my 'main character', who's storyline I started with at the beginning, was such an utter disaster. As I said before, I had been planning this storyline for quite some time, and had everything that was going to happen worked out. No one was more surprised than I when it blew up in my face. So I had him abducted, and forgot about him. Well, not actually forgot. Just, set him aside for a while until I have time to give him the major attitude adjustment that he needs.

Most of my other 'plot deviations' were pretty small. There was the two page college football tangent that I went on a few weeks ago. It honestly wasn't more than that, since the story got on track again as soon as I started writing. On Sunday a friend of mine actually asked if everything was all right with my story, considering the Boise State loss Friday night. Surprisingly, everything was alright. Had the story not been going fairly well at the time, thought, there probably would have been some sort of mass genocide. It would totally have fit my mood.

Then, at the end of the story, my favorite character from the Wheel of Time books, Mat Cauthon, decided to stop by. I was writing a scene and couldn't stop myself from thinking how awesome he would be in it. So I put him in it. Surprisingly, he actually ended up playing a pretty important part in the plot, and turning into a character that was not really that similar to THE Mat, except in looks.

There is your taste of the crazy things that go on inside my head. Nanowrimo was crazy this year, mostly due to the fact that we had so many things come up. But the important thing is to never give up, and get the words written in whatever way you can. And I did that. Now I just need to wait for my Nano Winner's shirt to arrive, so I can show it off to all you people!