Teasers and Appeasers

As of today, I’ve managed to write a little over five-thousand words for Stroka Rezak.  One can imagine that it leaves me rather elated.  I took a break today, but I fully intend to write another five thousand before the week is up — maybe more.  This project is driving me quite bonkers, because I’m constantly fighting the urge to brag about everything I’ve designed for it.  Close to a year or two’s worth of world-building has gone into it, and I’m sure far more will follow.

What I can say, is it follows numerous characters’ stories rather than just one.  I can almost assure you it will be one hell of a wild ride.

To those interested, I recently finished work on what I believe and hope will serve as the prelude.  This will be utilized as the submitted excerpt to be shared with any who would like to see it.  Without further ado, I give you: chapter zero, “In Before the Dawn.”

            It hurt.

            This is not the first time you have come here.

            The voice seemed to seep out of nowhere and everywhere; every syllable rebounded against the agony inside me.  My heart was clutched in an icy chill.  My throat ached and my maw arid.

            This will not be the last.

            I made to move, but in meekest weakness.  I felt heavy and the voice threw me into a sea of surreal sensations.  Things writhed in my nerves, twisted in my skull and wriggled within my stomach.  My mouth wouldn’t open, and I couldn’t feel my fingers.  Either I didn’t want to see, or lacked the sight; veiled.  Every breath brought an indescribable weight; like barbed wires wrapped my insides and sealed my lungs.

            I felt movement, the ground beneath me shifted.  Wait.  That seemed wrong: I was unable to tell what it was; as though I were falling in place, entirely displaced but going nowhere.  Cold iron rested against my skin, a new sensation bled into my nerves; comparable to being soaked in cold water.  It grew through my nerves, climbed my spine and washed over everything else in waves.

            Red swirled into my sight, a distant and fiery-seeming light.

            Squirm and scream, the voice remarked in mirth.  Its tone was deeper than a crevice, echoing in my chest, like it hijacked my heartbeat; warped with an unreal resonance. When you wake, it will all just be a bad dream.

            It cackled.  Why?  What did it do to me?  How had I ended up here?

            A stygian shape slithered into the crimson, a shadow in which all darkness appeared to be draped upon as robes.  My eyes immediately moved to its orbs.  Could they be defined as such?  Every fiber of my flesh sought to scream or flee; to be free of such evil scrutiny, and averting my stare was impossible.

            I felt as though I would be pulled into them.  They were like two circular holes, not spheres, split in the center by a chasm of glimmering alabaster.  Every moment, that slit of silver seemed to expand, shimmering and rotten ribbons of light flailing outward; only ultimately to be swallowed.

            The Evil, as all I decided it could be called, reached for me.  My agony amplified.  Weep and writhe, the world in your eyes is made of lies; bleeding pus at the seams; nothing is as serene as it seems.  You will survive, but when you take your final dive, you’ll return to me.  Free.  It drew away, twisting its body back.  There were other voices now, muffled murmuring made louder every moment.

            The words Evil whispered were nonsense to me.  It admired my condition with amusement, and derived from it a sick, sadistic joy.  I should have seen it coming, but when it chose to strike me; I was still taken by surprise.  Again, a new agony pooled into my midsection; the other voices exploding in volume.  Darkness abated, red withdrew; I saw white and blue – shadowy fog eating at the corners of my sight.

            I screamed; the rush of pain too much, but instead I choked out a garbled noise.  Warm fluid splashed out of my mouth.  The horrible creature remained for a few moments more, but steadily took shape.  Something much less horrific; a face of the world I knew, gazing with concern whilst it pressed a hand against the source of my suffering.

            “She’s awake!”

            “Don’t move, just stay on your back, you’re going to be alright!”

            Wherever I was, I was being carried on a stretcher; through a hallway and brought into a large room.  There were several people there, and I didn’t recognize any of them.  Pain shot through my body again, and when I tried to breathe in, I felt it once more: the “wires” from before.  My head felt numb and I understood now why I couldn’t move.  They were restraining me, but such was my weakness that I couldn’t struggle even if I wished.

            Linen mask-faced figures stepped over and I saw one with a needle.  It filled me with alarm, but I knew that to fight would be futile.  I felt the sharp stab of pain as the syringe pierced my arm, and then the room began to swim.  Shadows rapidly returned as all dimmed.  Fear again.  White grew to be red, and blue gloomed into black.

            And I heard the creature cackle, formed from all who stared down at me; until my eyesight was entirely engulfed.

I’m eager to hear all your opinions on the section above, though I won’t make any apologies for how little is going on up there.  After all, it’s just a teaser.

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Conceited Elitism (aka “Why I am a Better -insert here- than you are.”)

Let’s talk about something running rampantly throughout modern society.  Elitism.

Professionals of any field know the burning rage conjured up when encountering the “elitist know-nothing,” but we can always take comfort in being able to sock them one in the face, if need be.  Writers, editors, bloggers, and forum-goers have no such pleasure.  This gets considerably worse when reputations are thought to be on the line.  Yes, yes, I’m well-aware that internet reputations are scarcely what they seem — ever.

Arguably, the most odious of all seem to come from “role-playing communities,” of which I’ve had the great fortune to be part of on many occasions.  In any sort of gathering, there are inevitably going to be those who want to show off.  With swollen prides and bloated egos, role-players will brutalize the English language in countless ways, then judge others based upon self-designed criteria for “skill.”  I could, in length, blabber away on all the things I believe are the fine points of role-playing; but in the end, I acknowledge only one thing as a genuine “rule.”

In using the imagination leisurely, there is no correct or wrong way to play a role; only creativity.

Not very many — that I have met, at least — would agree.  In striving to demonstrate their superiority, elitists might argue concepts such as an absolute necessity for perfect grammar, spelling, punctuation, and all the glorious rules of the English language.  They will often demand such “levels” of skill be exemplified in the form of essay-sized posts, full of: beautiful, poetic terminology only seen in Old-English tomes — while also attempting to utilize the thesaurus so brutally, it becomes another language entirely.

Some of these things are very attractive to me, personally.  I wouldn’t be entire opposed to using all of them, it would give me a wonderful opportunity to learn some new words, see what little tricks others employ when stringing words together, and also relax my compulsive need to correct every mistake I spot.  Unfortunately, it is usual for the idealists that incorporate them to vehemently push the rules onto others like a religion, refusing to so much as acknowledge anybody else not a part of their fanaticism.  That is something I will only partially be opposed to, and only because I hold a terrible grudge against proselytizing.  I respect those who have a great passion for their hobbies, as long as they never insist theirs to be the only “proper” way to enjoy it.

So, why do I bring this up?  Excuse me for digressing: in these communities, you have the elitists, and then you have what I refer to as the “pseudo-elite.”  Pseudo-elitists are simply people who have become entirely blind to their own faults, and though they share the mentalities of the self-declared elite, they are scorned by both sides.  These “false elite” can be compared to the bourgeoisie; also known as the French upper-middle class.  They attempt to lord over others, pointing out everything wrong with someone’s works, while raising theirs upon pedestals of fools’ gold.  While emulating the elite, they fail to actually replicate the skill of those they attempt to be.

A perfect example comes from another blogger; something I read a long time ago.  Mind you, this is not their own writing, but a sample of something they-themselves have witnessed:

“You shouldn’t use said too often to say what a character has said when he is saying something, especially if you can identify the speaker in another way,” Ken said smugly.

“Is it better if find other words for said?” the editor pontificated questioningly.

“No,” said Ken knowingly, “it’ll just sound like you broke out a stegosaurus to try and help your writing; right after you mentioned the pecker shaker.”

“I guess I’ll just go back and try to figure out what followed the butt before the dick of the time travel clock,” the editor mused confusingly.

“Oh, and be careless when using adverbs because that’s not really showing, it’s still telling” Ken said approvingly.
–From the blog of Divertr Publishing, on “Proofreading”

Although not an exact depiction of what you find among the “pseudo-elite,” it does allude well to the kind of things they’ll do.  If you’re not feeling rather dumbfounded after reading the quote, I want to shake your hand, slap you, and then shake your hand again.  This particular article by Divertr Publishing demonstrated how spell-check can be heavily abused, as can the thesaurus, in order to create the illusion of “superb writing.”  For those who are unfamiliar with the majority of terms, they might be impressed.  For the educated eye, the first big word to be used — “pontificated” — is going to be as much a punch in the face as the worthless, repetitive filler-words in the first two lines.

What does it mean, to “pontificate?”  Let’s have a quick look, over at our good friends, “www.dictionary.reference.com.”  It looks like the closest definition to the use here, is “to speak in a pompous or dogmatic manner.”  I see, so the editor in the quote above is asking the question quite insultingly?

Wait, but Ken doesn’t seem to notice the disrespectful tone, and presumably answered very listlessly.  Now the editor is confused?  What?  Somebody hit rewind, I think I missed something.

You see, kind reader, how the confusion nigh-literally bleeds out of the script and leaves us all puzzled?

Another prime example, and something far more familiar, is the self-contradicting business letter Divertr Publishing shows to the blogger’s readers, found here.

Now, that one is the rage-inducer for me.  I offer my sincerest sympathies to all of those who have been contacted by that business.  As soon as the “pseudo-elite” begin to offer their “esteemed services,” I’m ready to foam at the mouth.  I do bare some ill against the publishers, but I can do nothing but fully acknowledge their legitimacy.  Those other editors, cited in the letter, I will completely ignore and likely forget the existence of, within a few days.

In concluding my lengthy rant, I implore the readers to never pontificate “the right way” to write.  Offer corrections where they are wanted, or have a genuine education on how to before you make the claim of literary papacy.  None of us are without mistakes, and under no circumstances should any of us be teaching others how to make mistakes.

Phylogeny of Fantasy Races

Have I ever mentioned that I really like detailed worlds, and more so those that manage to blend realism with fantasy?  Well, here is something that becomes infinitely important in the the management of those two.  It’s also a much easier way to do some world-building, once you have all the necessary knowledge to properly utilize.

Genetics… a fun subject, and for some, a hobby to study.  For those of you who do not know, phylogeny is the historical tracing of physiological development for a species, as well as the explanation of biological functions, how they came to form in a species, and tracing the gradual extinction of traits or new mutations.

For animals, this means an explanation of why they have things like sharp teeth, thick or light fur, or other such things.

But, for humans, this means an explanation of traits like skin-color, facial structuring and shapes, and the likewise.  These are almost always the effects of things like environment, diet, and except for a rare few, typically come as a result of changes to the surroundings.

Let’s take, for example, my favorite people.  Semites — which refers distinctly to the Middle-Eastern ethical peoples; although in common days are more widely thought of as referring to the Jewish people (of whom there are many ethic lines, not simply one, and it is considered very disrespectful to refer to Jews as a singular and separate “race.”)

A few very common traits to the Semitic people, are: dark skin, pronounced nostrils, and very often bold lashes.

The dark skin is very easily traced to the very constant exposure to sunlight, the body absorbing the light and thus causing differences in the pigments in order to compensate for sunburns and ultraviolet-rays.  It is also better suited to distribution of heat across the body, making it much easier for life in the desert and adaption to the extreme temperatures of day and night — the skin-color to actually retain heat better, allowing for compensation against the chills of the desert night-time.

Skin color is incredibly important in regards to the sunlight in an environment, darker skin-tones best for hot and very-sunny regions; while a more pallid tone pulls heat better and intensifies the rays of the sun.  The body will always try to best prepare itself for reception of heat, although the human ability to craft clothing lessens the power of these traits.  Thicker-haired skin aids in warmth, whilst thinner hair will actually serve the purpose of “heat-sinks.”

We move on to the trait of the wider nostrils, which is best noticed as a common feature of people living in hotter areas or at a higher altitude.  The reason is as simple as breathing.  Hot air is more difficult to breathe, and the wider nostrils also help regulate the ability to inhale and exhale; likewise permitting the body to better cool itself.  Higher altitudes have lower levels of oxygen, thus permitting the nose to draw in greater volumes of air to compensate.

Finally, let’s take a look at eyelashes.  Much like whiskers, eyelashes act to shut the eyes whenever they receive the slightest touch — thus warning the eyes that an object is near them.  This is incredibly useful in regions where there are lots of sand, because in the slightest and weakest gust of wind — sand is going to be going everywhere; a palladium against something going into your eyes is irreplaceable in such situations.

Put these three traits together, and you can easily determine that this is the physiological strain of those best suited to living in the desert — hot, constant sunlight, and sediment rarely not whirling about in the air.

When creating a fantasy race, or even creatures, consider their environments and then research into the real-world equivalents of things best-suited to living in those kinds of environments.  Remember though, the much more adapted to specific environments anything might be, the less adaptable they’ll be to opposite environments.  Sentience and the ability to craft are the only things which permit a living creature to be exempt from such rules, as they can manufacture their own compensations.  This will slow the process of evolution, however.

Simply something to consider when building your world straight from scratch, yet still yearning to leave it entirely believable.  Well, maybe not entirely, but definitely a little bit more.

~A
Heretic Fox

Day Hundred-or-Something; Sheesh I gotta keep up with these . . .

Hello, everyone!

I usually find myself puzzled at what to write, on blogs. Somehow I picked up the trait of never distributing my opinions. Well, today I thought of something I felt strongly enough about to share.

Biased writers.

I think I’ve made mention earlier that a regular hobby of mine is to get with a close friend or two and role play. One of my best friends — whom I’ve pretty much watched grow up — has gotten into college. It makes me feel like my beard ought to be a great deal grayer. I’m not so quick to say I had a hand in his upbringing, but I do look on with pride at his capabilities.

College does interesting things to people. It makes them realize that there really is a world out there. And quite frankly, that world sucks. The pride of an ephebe is not easily swayed from pursuing a path it declares. He has taken a particularly great shine to democracy and the liberty to choose who governs us. It shows. In all of our games together, he now strives to bring down the organizations of yore; royalty brought to their knees, powerful religious organizations stripped of their power, and the free man made to realize that he has all the power he should ever need — right at his fingertips.

However. . . he has demonstrated an issue commonly arising amongst writers of every kind. Author bias.

We’re taught in basic English courses that there is no better way to convince somebody of your written opinion other than to provide genuine and powerful evidence to back it up. This is crucial in debates, too. I never liked competitive debates or answering essay questions in black-and-white viewpoints. Maybe it’s because I’m Jewish, but I have at least three opinions from different directions about everything. Or no, I guess that comes from being a philosopher? *Groan.* Well, before I start to bore you with off-topic badinage, let’s get a few things straight.

A writer is the all-powerful force of the worlds we create. Ultimately, it is we who decide what happens in a story born of our ink and toil. Ask me, however, what I think an artist is, and I will tell you: to show us the world through the eyes of someone else. I often feel like a writer is gifted best with the ability to truly share the thoughts, feelings, and senses of anything. Why then, would we want to command the characters we design, instead of only being their voice?

We are observers in our own creation. The characters aren’t just things we’ve imagined. When we write for them, we give them breath and their world comes alive for them. Isn’t it just, to give them a world as vibrant as our own? Case in point, democracy has done great things, but it is only as strong as the weakest human moral. A religious organization with too much power can be a terrible and frightening thing, but for every fanatic, there is someone amongst them who wants only to do good in the world. Kings have come and gone, and many of them have been cruel, greedy, or barely considerable as human beings. Yet in the presence of a good King, his followers have a living being to put their faith and trust in — a man who will be their strength in times of war and their prosperity in times of peace: not a faceless coalition of aged men and women who have learned how to tell us what we want to hear, so they can tell us what we want to do.

Every coin has two sides, even if they’re made to look the same. For a book — no, for a world that comes alive every time a reader sets their hands upon our works, the same should ring true. Don’t you think so?

Rant-fully yours,
A – HereticFox

True Horror

Today… I would like to get a bit serious, again.  Previously, I wanted to try keeping as much of the first week blogging a positive one, as possible to do so.  However, like the subject to be discussed, it cannot be outrun or “outgunned.”

All of the greatest pieces of art, be it visual or literary, can be looked at in the same way we gaze upon a foggy mirror.  They are reflections of something, fogged and often times difficult to interpret or truly understand by eyes other than the artist’s.  These reflections can be of things buried inside the artist’s mind, or simply a transcription of their perspective.

Recall, for a moment, that I mentioned in my first blog-post, how I draw upon intangible sources for strength and willpower whenever I find myself in a slump.  Well, my dear readers, it has great significance on the present.  I find that a devil of the blues is wrapped around me, an icy grip on my spirit and its jagged teeth gnawing at the back of my mind.

Wisdom and a debt keep me rolling forward, with my head up and my focus set forward.  Guilt has shackled my ankles, however.

Take a moment, dear reader, to shut your eyes and call to mind: who do I know with ADD?

Does it feel anti-climatic?  Such a long, suspenseful, and dramatic build-up to an apex as seemingly minor as ADD (attention deficit disorder)?  Maybe a little disappointing?

Let’s explore why this could be considered an element of horror that the greatest writers can only scarcely dream of.

Imagine that you cannot focus upon any single thing for long.  Something else adds itself to your mind in an instant and quickly chases out the previous epicenter of your attention.  Doesn’t seem like any sort of big deal, you’ll just complete the new objective and then return to the other one.  Prior to finishing it, something else jumps in to take its place, just as it had stolen you away from its precursor.  When you get right down to it, “ADD” is unbelievably appropriate; because things keep on adding into your mind, but never subtracting from it.

Picture the book you’re reading.  You’ve just gotten to the last chapter, but now you come to the strange epiphany that you want to write.  Getting started on that writing, you’re halfway through the project and come to the conclusion that it’s time for a break.  You sit down to watch TV.  The love of your life, whom you discovered a month ago, comes to join you.  Oddly, you don’t feel interested in them anymore.  A day later, you have broken up.  There are no tears for you, but your lover is nearly insane with heartbreak.

The bills are due, and for the last week, you’ve been working hard at your job to earn that paycheck.  But in the last couple of days, you haven’t even gone into work, because some alien adversity towards going someplace familiar again this week.  Your boss calls, worried you’ve been in some sort of accident, but finds you’re alright; you’ve just dropped everything you were working on for no discoverable reason.

Imagine you have children, they’re depending on you to survive.  Your mind has established a brick wall between them and you.  But wait, there’s more than that.  They seem to have totally forgotten you’re even their parent, simply disinterested.  Now, with a strange and detached sense of horror, you’re witnessing as they drift aimlessly between jobs, school, and even relationships just as you did.  Like a perpetual plague, the cycle goes onward.

Does this sound terrible?  Naturally, it might.  ADD creates the pseudo-logical conclusion that you simply cannot allocate your interests onto anything for a particularly long period of time.  For me, it creates an extremely heavy weight of guilt.  It was on the evening of my birthday, that I was reflecting on this sort of existence and coming to the conclusion that I will never quite be capable of holding a job, relationship, or other permanent direction of thought.  Being able to recognize this makes it rather depressing.  I found myself wondering whether I could somehow cut this inability to focus out of the burdens of others by removing myself from the equation.

Such speculation brought me in full circle back to the realization of how selfish such a course of action would be.  And so, I drag my dressed-in-blue cold devil along and try to continue.  Besides, I wouldn’t be able to stick to the idea. 

But, how is it that I am able to focus on writing?  That’s a two-faced situation.  On one side, it is a form of escapism.  You have less to worry about in the world of your imagining, where the most dangerous thing is merely forgetting to hit the “save” button.  On the other end of the deal… I’m not published, yet.  Aspiring to be an author since I was nine and writing stories since I was able to hold a pencil, one might think I’d have been able to produce something, no?  Interest is very fleeting for me, and boredom comes quickly — no matter how glorious the idea.

Though this has been an exhausting post, beloved reader, before I hit “publish” and retreat behind the lines to work on my writing, I wish to leave you all with an additional piece of insight.  You need only let your imagination sculpt the scope of it.

What is the difference between ADD and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder)?

Well, the hyperactivity means it’s far, far faster.  Breaching the mind, the inability to control your attention infects the body as well.  The process of a week is broken down into minutes at best, and on top of being unable to focus your mind, you cannot focus your body into one direction.  It’s almost comical, really.  Of course… dolls we make dance, with strings they could never break, are comical too.

In fact, it’s almost like a demon, spirit, or spell has wrestled away their control, no?

~A
Heretic Fox

Day Two

So, between yesterday and now; I made a farrago of observations.  Normally, I keep these little realizations to myself, but through the marvel of modern science and technology, the internet has provided me with a blog to wave around such tidbits.  Reader, beware, you’re about to get a look into the mind of the Heretic Fox.  Proceed with caution, my friends.

Last night, I was writing out the plot-line for what I hope shall be the first in a long and wonderful series of novels.  A good friend rang me up and asked if I was interested in hitting the movies.  Naturally, we did and a good time was had by all two of us.  We went to see the lovely Kate Beckinsale shoot and blow things up in Underworld: Awakening.  In 3-D, in fact.  It was fantastic.

The previews, however, gave me an epiphany.  From Hollywood, it doesn’t seem like anything truly unique is being released anymore.  Rather, we have remakes of everything from Clash of the Titans (which has, admittedly, done a 180 turn in its success thanks to the remakes) to live-action movies of Yogi Bear (ow, my childhood!) OR they are recycling the same storyline into everything.  The few exceptions are the odd movie or so like the relatively new Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.

For writers, I’m assuming that the task is potentially more difficult.  So many ideas are being reproduced and duplicated, it has started to feel a little discouraging.  Is the age of uniqueness and originality starting to take a step back?  Is that even so necessarily a bad thing?  For horror and fantasy writers, I imagine it could be either.

From my perspective, it seems easier for an audience to become bored or disinterested in elements of horror or fantasy that they’ve seen before, but at the same time it’s hard for new creations and ideas to take root and gain a fanbase.  Vampires, for example, are almost always going to have a greater following than I believe my Qama or Salidu will.  In fact, my Mhortae will probably only end up being speculated on as a variation of the vampire genre rather than to be acknowledged as their own category.

However, I’ve also come to realize that vampires, werewolves, and unicorns will now and always have diehard fans.  Some of the things people are fans of might cause me to question the thought-process of the world, but then again; I’m notoriously philosophical about the littlest things.  If there’s a marvelous story to be told using tried-and-true — if expatiated — elements, then I cannot imagine myself complaining.  Underworld and Resident Evil are still very fun movie-series.

~A
Heretic Fox