Saturday, December 30, 2017

Saturday Snippets: Winter Warrior

This month, I spent a good portion of my writing time fixing up a short story from a few years back that involved Santa Claus (or Father Christmas) as a wandering spirit. It was inspired by a friend's defense of the Santa Claus/Father Christmas tradition, and I'm very pleased with the final version. Here's a small excerpt from the beginning of "Winter Warrior":

Snow fell unseen in the moonless night air, each flake making its journey without notice or proclamation. Nick liked the snow on nights like this. It went about its business anonymously, as he did on the best of nights.
Nick was neither angel nor demon, but he wasn’t, strictly speaking, human. To be human, one must possess both body and soul, and Nick was a bit short in the corporeal department. Had been for centuries now. He wasn’t the only spirit wandering the Earth, but he hadn’t met another like him in a month of Christmases.

If you would like to read the rest of the story, head over to Ink & Fairydust and check out their winter issue ("Winter Warrior" begins on page 82).

Thursday, December 21, 2017

ThrowBook Thursday: Top Books of 2017

As the year draws to an end, I thought I would use this month's ThrowBook Thursday to look back on the books that I've enjoyed the most this year. If I've written about the book, I'll link to the post in its description. If not, I'll rave about it a bit. (For the sake of fairness, I'm not considering books that I read for a second or more time this year, else this would be a list of old favorites.)

The Chestnut King by N.D. Wilson

The finale of the 100 Cupboards series. I'll be writing a full review soon, but suffice it to say that this book was immensely satisfying.

Turn Coat by Jim Butcher

I haven't written about my love for this series much, which I hope to rectify in the coming months. I have mentioned it here, here, and here. Turn Coat is the eleventh book in the series, which currently stands at 15 novels, one short story collection, and several graphic novels. A further collection and novel are due out in the next year or two, and Butcher has stated he'll be going to about 20 novels before capping off the series with an "apocalyptic trilogy." So I'm about halfway through the series now, and each book gets better than the last. (Be aware that these books are not for kids or younger teens.)

This book finally resolves some plotlines introduced back in book one (and more in recent books), while still leaving plenty of room for the overarching plot to grow. The characters all behaved as they should while still surprising me as a reader, and (though I didn't catch it as well as I did with Dan Wells' Mr. Monster), I was pleased to see that an inconsistency in a certain character's behavior was addressed in a major way as part of the book's plot. Book 12, Changes, is up next on my reading schedule.

Dandelion Fire by N.D. Wilson

See my review here. A much better (and longer) book than its predecessor. Great for fans of implicit magic systems.

Story Trumps Structure by Steven James

Mentioned here and here. The best book on writing I've read. I recommend it to all writers.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

See review here. A new favorite fantasy I expect I'll reread again any time now.

The Dot and Ish by Peter H. Reynolds

Two picture books that were recommended to me by a fellow author and artist, The Dot and Ish are aimed at children (and adults) who struggle with their art (no matter what form it takes). Though simple, they capture the complex feelings every artist feels at some point in regard to their work (that it isn't good enough, that we have no skills, etc.) and demonstrate that these feelings are roadblocks to be overcome. If you need some encouragement, check these books out.

Phoenix and Ashes by Mercedes Lackey

Series mentioned here. Mercedes Lackey's Elemental Masters series is a loosely connected universe of fairy tale retellings that are set in early twentieth century England (with the exception of The Fire Rose, which is set in California). Phoenix and Ashes is the third (fourth counting The Fire Rose, which is a few years older than the "main" series and not numbered in the series officially despite sharing the same universe) in the series and is a retelling of "Cinderella". It reminded me how good Lackey's stories in this series can be (especially after the disappointment that was The Gates of Sleep). The romance was slowly built and realistic (if aggravating at times) and the magic was pushed in new directions. If you enjoy fairy tales, the time period, or alt-history fantasy, check this one out.

Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal

Mentioned here and here. Another alt-history fantasy set in the early 1900s, this book posits that the spiritism movement of the time was based in fact, and the story follows a group of women with the gift to see into the spirit world as they work with a spy network in WWI. It's tightly written and handles all of its elements (thriller, romance, social commentary) with care so that nothing overshadows its neighbors. If you enjoy WWI narratives, urban fantasy, or alt-history, check this one out.

I Don't Want to Kill You by Dan Wells

See review here. The end of Wells' first John Cleaver trilogy, this book shook me to my core (in a good way). If you like tense thrillers that explore the meaning of humanity, read these books.

A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

Series mentioned here. This book was one of my most anticipated books this year. It delivered in every way I expected. There was a redemption arc (of sorts), lots of magic flying around, and character development for every major character. I may have to reread this series soon. (This series is also not for kids or young teens.) 

What were some of your favorite books this year?

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The (Not So) Subtle Art of "Plantsing"

Recently, Mirriam had a post up about "pantsing" or writing without an outline. Generally, writers are sorted into two camps: plotters (who outline) and pantsers (who don't), but over the years I've come to see myself as something in the middle. A "plantser" if you will. When I mentioned this in relation to Mirriam's advice, another commenter asked if I had anything more to say about this middle ground, so here is some advice for those of you who find yourself needing to plot things out, but not to the extremes that you've seen many plotters advise.

Plan Some, Not All

The largest contrast between plotting and plantsing is the amount of planning you do beforehand. Bare minimum, you should have your characters, the basic setting (don't worry if all the details are missing, but know if you're in city/country, magic/technology, etc.), and a beginning and/or ending in mind before you sit down. This doesn't mean you have to know every character who will show up in the story figured out before you begin. It just means you need to have your MAIN character figured out a little and probably some of the characters they'll meet early on.

Prepare to be Surprised

The biggest joy of plantsing is that you can come into a story that you have pretty well figured out, even if it isn't outlined all the way, and it can still surprise you. Why can it surprise you? Because as you work on the day's chapter or scene, a new character shows up or a piece of dialogue you hadn't considered lends itself to new meanings for the characters involved. Some people (usually plotters) call this discovery writing, and they use it as a way to figure out why a story isn't working or what direction it needs to go in. For plantsers, this is our bread and butter (for full-fledged pantsers, too). If this new character or direction throws off what you'd planned before, that's okay. Remember the immortal words of Leonard Snart:

Reread When You're Stuck

This is pretty good advice for any writer, but I think it applies to middle grounders like myself especially because we tend to have a destination in mind, but can't always remember which exit we took. If you refresh your memory of what's come before, you can better figure out where you need to go next to reach your destination (and yes, sometimes the destination changes).

Be Prepared for Change, But Don't Accept Every Change

Sometimes the new direction you take is just what the story needed, and sometimes you have to back up and get back on the track you originally made. Sometimes you'll know the difference all at once, and sometimes you'll be a few drafts in and think, "Whatever happened to X. That's what this scene needs." Remember, we're plantsers. We do plan things out a little bit, and sometimes the plan doesn't need to be thrown out.

A few more general bits of advice if you think you might be more of a plantser than at either extreme:
  • Read Steven James' book Story Trumps Structure; this is literally the best book on writing I have read. It's perfect for anyone who is even a little bit of a pantser, and will probably help even the staunchest of plotters rejuvenate their own writing.
  • Outline your later drafts (assuming you don't start them from scratch); this way you can know just what needs to be changed where and how it will affect the rest of the book.
  • Begin with characters arcs in mind, even if you wind up with different ones later on. Just having an idea of where a character needs to grow can help you start them off strong and dynamic.
  • Don't fret the days where writing takes more than it did yesterday; you're going to have to work through things like Mirriam said in her post.
  • Whatever mode you're in on a given writing day, enjoy it. Whether you're primarily writing from your notes or flying through that new plotline that came to you in the shower, enjoy it. Take your joy from the process, even when the process is tough.
One last piece of advice. Carry a notebook with you everywhere. If that's not practical, use your phone to take notes. Because the biggest thing about being a plantser is that you're constantly telling yourself the stories of your characters, revising the plots and the worldbuilding, and generally making your story stronger. So write down anything and everything that you think of relating to your story; that way you don't forget it and (probably) won't find yourself in the awkward position of not remembering if so and so died in the last draft or such and such's magic suddenly shifted elements.

That's all for today. Thanks for reading and I hope this gives you some direction for your next writing project!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Monday Musings: Survey Results and the Art Giveaway Winner!

The year-end survey is closed, and the results are in! Here are the questions from the survey, along with your collective answers.

Q: Which is your favorite monthly feature?

A: Most people seem to like all the features, with some preferring Top 10 Tuesday and Watercolor Wednesday.

Q: What is your least favorite monthly feature?

A: Most people don't have a least favorite!
Though some chose Saturday Snippets as their least favorite.

Q: What would you like to see more of on the blog?

A: Most people wanted to see more reviews (whether TV, movie, or book), with some wanting more art and some wanting more lists.

Q: What would you like to see less of on the blog?

A: Most people were happy with the current variety, though one person said they'd like to see less art and one said they'd like to see fewer lists.

Q: Have you read Albion Academy?

A: There was a 50/50 split in the respondents between those who have read the book and those who plan to.

Q: Are you subscribed to Inexhaustible Inspiration via email?

A: A 2:1 ratio between folks who check in regularly and those who subscribe. (If you aren't subscribed, but want to be, check out the box on the right-hand side of the page. You'll get a confirmation email; be sure to click the link in the confirmation email or the subscription won't activate.)

Q: How often do you read the blog posts at Inexhaustible Inspiration?

A: Most of you read everything I put up here, which is awesome. Thanks for sticking around!

Q: I'm going to be designing "100 Somethings" next year as part of my artistic endeavors. What "something" would you like to see?

A: This is inspired by Jake Parker's video below, in which he talks about a challenge he set for himself to design 100 "somethings" with a similar style or theme. I offered up several suggestions for what my "something" might be, and the results were a little mixed.

The most-voted-for option was mythical beings, followed closely by playing cards. After that came faeries, cartoon characters, monsters, and wizards (someone out there liked voting for everything, didn't they?) and there was 1 write-in vote for anime/manga characters.

Q: Is there anything else you'd like to tell me or see on the blog (specific Top 10 lists, books/movies to review, etc.)?

A: One person said they'd like to see more manga and anime on the blog (and I need to read and watch more in those areas). Another suggested a Top 10 Webcomics list (which might be less of a top 10 and more of an "I've enjoyed these handful"). Someone else asked for a top holiday/seasonal movies list, which can definitely happen.

And finally, the winner(s) of the Albion-inspired art giveaway are . . .

plovercave and ransom.pendragon55 !!!! Since you two were the only ones who submitted yourselves for the giveaway, you BOTH get art!

I'll be getting in touch with you to figure out details.

Thank you to everyone who filled out the survey. You're the best! Tune back in on Thursday for a look at my top books from this year.

If you missed the chance to take the survey, feel free to leave answers to the questions in the comments.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Monday Musings: The Secret War in the Rankin/Bass Christmas Specials

Last week, I talked about how the Rankin/Bass and said I'd offer up my theory on what the cause of all that wintry magic is.

(Or laugh at me for taking a bunch of animated TV specials so seriously. Whatever floats your goat.)

The Players

In case you've forgotten, I kept track of all the magical wintry folk last week and they are (with their original story/stories in parentheses):
  • Lady Boreal (Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July)
  • Winterbolt and the Genie of the Ice Scepter (Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July)
  • Jack Frost (Frosty's Winter Wonderland or Jack Frost, depending on external or internal chronology)
  • Father Winter, Snip, Gypsy, the snow sprites, etc. (Jack Frost)
  • Winter Warlock (Santa Claus is Comin' to Town)
  • Cold Miser (The Year without a Santa Claus)
  • Mother Nature [as Cold Miser's mother, she presumably holds sway over winter] (The Year without a Santa Claus)
  • Eon (Rudolph's Shiny New Year) [I forgot to mention him last week, but trust me, he fits.]
  • Frosty, Crystal, Milly, and Chilly (Frosty the Snowman, Frosty's Winter Wonderland, and Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July)
  • Santa Claus (Santa Claus is Comin' to Town)
  • Rudolph [via Lady Boreal] (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, though technically not confirmed as a wintry power until Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July)
It's quite a lot. So what are all these wizards, sprites, snowmen, and such doing with all this magic? In my theory, fighting a war.

The War

Why a war? Well, mostly because that's exactly what we see happening between Lady Boreal and Winterbolt in Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July. They seem to be locked in combat over control of the Northlands, but since Santa is later to make his home there (presumably with the Lady's blessing) it seems more appropriate to say they are fighting for control of winter and, by extension, Christmas.

Although we only see Winterbolt and Lady Boreal openly fighting, it's not difficult to imagine that some of these other players were affected by their struggle, if not directly involved. Winter Warlock, for example, seems to be a diminished version of Winterbolt. Eon is certainly villainous and cold-hearted, doing whatever is in his power to prevent himself turning to ice and snow. But others like the Cold Miser seem neutral in the fight, content to be in charge of their own domains without entering battles (aside from his sibling rivalry with Heat Miser). Then of course we have Mother Nature and Father Winter (who, along with his army of wintry folk, seems intent on keeping the world in its proper balance).

The Sides and Their Statuses

So, for the evildoers we have: Winterbolt, Winter Warlock, and Eon. Winterbolt is obviously the Big Bad of the scenario. If he ever had any humanity (doubtful), he lost it long ago. The loss of his power (connected to the Genie of the Ice Scepter) turns him into a tree, with no hope of revival. He is the only villain not to be reformed in the series.

Winter Warlock, in contrast, seems to have traded his humanity for his power, resulting in a cold heart and a somewhat deformed appearance. When Kris Kringle (that is, Santa) shows him kindness, Winter's heart is warmed. His appearance becomes that of an old man. And, most importantly, he loses the majority of his power (and, based on his vanishing from the narrative, his immortality).

Eon, unlike Winter Warlock, is a force of nature (perhaps even of Mother Nature) who is destined to turn to ice and snow at the end of his life (one eon). Like Winter Warlock, he is redeemed when his heart is warmed by kindness and joy (brought about by Happy New Year's unusually large ears, poor kid).

From these examples, it becomes clear that the truest weapon Lady Boreal's side possesses is not power, but something stronger -- joy, hope, laughter, and love. In short, the very things associated with Christmas. This is made even more apparent when we look at the wintry folk on her side of the battle.

Jack Frost, when we see him in his eponymous special, is happiest when he makes others happy. He takes joy in the joy others take in his work. Though often overlooked (see Frosty's Winter Wonderland, The Santa Clause 3, and especially The Rise of the Guardians for more on this theme), Jack is one of the most powerful forces in Lady Boreal's troops. Unfortunately, as we discussed last week, he nearly lost himself to bitterness and a cold heart like Eon and Winter Warlock. After losing Elisa, Jack became jealous of other wintry figures like Frosty (though he never seems to worry about Santa, presumably because Frosty is made of snow, which is part of Jack's purview). By the time we meet him again in Frosty's Winter Wonderland, Jack even seems to be more powerful than before, not only controlling frost, but also wind, snow, and the general temperature. Frosty and Crystal's friendship saves Jack from becoming another Winterbolt, however, and he again becomes a force for joy. (It is interesting that Jack is forced to remember the same lesson in Frosty's Winter Wonderland that Father Winter has to teach him at the end of Jack Frost, namely that there are limits to Jack's power that must be respected.)

Frosty and family get a place in the roster for several reasons. First, Frosty is made of "Christmas snow" and as such is able to be revived even after he's melted away. (We see this twice in the series, once when Santa allows a cold wind to blow into a greenhouse to revive Frosty, and once when Jack Frost returns to keep the Frostys cold until they can reach the North Pole again.) This connection to Christmas and joy in the midst of the cold, dark months is crucial to Lady Boreal's struggle against Winterbolt. Second, Frosty himself is capable of granting life. Although Frosty's own creation is credited to his hat (whose origins remain mysterious), his wife's creation is due to his give of love (there's one of those warm feelings again). Presumably it is Frosty and Crystal's own love that allows Milly and Chilly to exist. But the important thing to remember is that none of the other wintry powers we see is capable of bestowing life to another. That makes Frosty, in his way, one of the most powerful magicians in the Rankin/Bass universe. Too bad he can't go out when the thermometer is reddish.

Santa Claus is a symbol of hope and kindness from his earliest appearance (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer notwithstanding; as I said, we only have Sam's word for Santa's behavior and odd appearance there). Although never explicitly stated (aside from The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, which is deuterocanonical), it's to be assumed that Santa is immortal by the end of the series, even if he can catch cold. Otherwise, he's quite a spry old man (well over 100 years by the series' end), as is his wife. (Incidentally, in Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, Kris and Jessica are the only redheads in an otherwise dark-haired Germanic town. Given Kris' unknown heritage, it is possible that at least he is directly related to all the magical folk populating this post, though there's little enough to base that on.) Though Santa himself has no apparent magic (aside from his long life), his status as a power for hope and joy keeps him firmly on the side of Lady Boreal.

At first glance, Rudolph is just a young reindeer with an unfortunate mutation. However, he learns to cope with his "nonconformity" and turns it into another symbol of hope and light. This is no accident, for as we learn in Christmas in July, his nose is invested with the power of Lady Boreal herself. Speaking of . . .

A mysterious figure barely mentioned in the series (isn't retconning wonderful?), Lady Boreal is seemingly not all-powerful despite her strength. But what's interesting is that Lady Boreal is one of the few powers of nature (she's the Queen of the Northern Lights, and she can bestow magic) to take a side in this conflict. Of the others in her vein, only Jack Frost takes part in the struggle for winter, Christmas, and joy.

Cold Miser, Father Winter and his followers, and Mother Nature all remain neutral, never actively attempting to help or hinder either side. They also do not suffer from cold hearts of bitterness and jealousy as Winterbolt and the other villains do. (Perhaps this is due to none of them being outright villains; Cold Miser is an obstacle at best, an antagonist turned antihero at worst; Father Winter only stays within his domain; and Mother Nature has her hands full keeping her kids in line.)

So What?

What does this theory actually add to the story, aside from some continuity? Well, I think framing each special as a battle for the dominion of Christmas (and by extension, the survival of the best in humanity), adds some weight to some of the sillier specials like Shiny New Year and helps make more sense of the retconning that is Christmas in July. Lady Boreal is forced to protect the world from Winterbolt by introducing other guardians of winter like Rudolph and Frosty. And in the end, the very humans she tries to protect from beings like Winterbolt are responsible for his defeat -- Lily's iron guns and her down-to-earth logic break Winterbolt's scepter and sever him from his power. (Why didn't Lady Boreal think of that?)

Plus, if you're into fanfiction, this theory opens up all sorts of stories that could be written about the War for Winter.

I'm sorry this post has gone so long. Thanks for reading, and let me know what you think in the comments! Does this make the specials more enjoyable for you or does it just distract from their nostalgic value?

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Top 10 Tuesday: Christmas Albums

When Advent comes upon us and everyone else finally starts listening to Christmas music (I never really stop; I just take breaks away from it), I usually pull out some favorite albums to carry me through the season. I used to have only a handful of albums that I'd list as favorites, but the last few years have introduced me to more and I actually have a top 10 now. Here they are, in roughly ascending order:

Chris Tomlin: Glory in the Highest

A very contemporary-sounding album, Tomlin's Glory in the Highest combines old songs and new, and takes some cues from Biblical passages, as in the song below, "My Soul Magnifies the Lord."

Loreena McKennitt: To Drive the Cold Winter Away

With a Celtic album to add some variety, McKennitt's voice conjures up firelit halls and minstrel-led singing.

Emmylou Harris: Light of the Stable

For the country/bluegrass part of me, there's this album. The opening track (below) gets me excited for the season like few others do.

Andrew Peterson: Behold the Lamb of God

Andrew Peterson's Christmas album is so popular that he gets together with other Christian artists every year to perform it in concert around the country. Churches perform the music as their Christmas presentations. If you're unfamiliar with Peterson's work, he writes heartfelt lyrics that often dig into deep issues in the lives of Christians. This album runs the full gamut from the fun "Matthew's Begats" to the traditional "O Come O Come Emmanuel," but the titular song is probably my favorite.

Relient K: Let It Snow, Baby . . . Let It Reindeer

Though I don't love every song on this album (looking at you, bizarro "Good King Wenceslas"), I do still listen to it a couple of times each Christmas season. This song (one of my favorite Narnia-inspired songs) gets played on repeat. A lot.

Vince Guaraldi: A Charlie Brown Christmas

This is probably the most ubiquitous album on the list. Guaraldi's jazzy soundtrack for the classic Christmas special gets played everywhere, even on the Weather Channel. But just because it's everywhere doesn't mean it can't still bring joy to your heart.

Kutless: This is Christmas

Another contemporary Christian album, Kutless' This is Christmas actually surprised me with how much I loved it. There are songs like "Breath of Heaven" that are given the appropriate amount of contemplation in their vocals. There are also wonderful original songs like the titular song.

Enya: And Winter Came

This album exudes the chill of winter and the warmth of the fireside. It also has one of my favorite arrangements of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" (my favorite Advent/Christmas song) ever. However, my favorite song on the album is actually "White is in the Winter Night":

Ray Hamilton: Jazz on Christmas Eve

This is one of the albums I remember playing every year when I was growing up. This album embodies Christmas and Christmas Eve for me no matter when I hear it.

Josh Garrels: The Light Came Down

This is easily my current favorite Christmas album. It has classic carols, original songs, and a folk-styled sound that speaks to my mellow music-loving soul.

What are some of your favorite songs and albums to listen to this time of year?

Monday, December 4, 2017

Monday Musings: Synchronizing the Ranking/Bass Christmas Specials

If you're at all familiar with Christmas in America, you know that there are some old claymation and hand-drawn animation TV specials that come out of the woodworks this time of year. Rankin/Bass made quite a few of them, and even branched out into other holidays like Easter and New Year's, and more than a handful of them featured at least one of a trio of characters that these specials have (further) established in the public consciousness: Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman, and Santa Claus. A few years back, during our yearly rewatch of many of these specials, my wife objected to the disparity in Jack Frost's portrayal in the second Frosty special, Frosty's Winter Wonderland. I set about thinking up a way to bring this special into agreement with Frost's eponymous special and the seeds of this theory post were planted.

The Rankin/Bass "trinity" of holiday figures

Before I get into this, let me clarify which specials I'm including: Rudolph the Red-Nosed ReindeerFrosty the SnowmanSanta Claus is Comin' to TownThe Year without a Santa Claus, Frosty's Winter WonderlandRudolph's Shiny New Year, Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July, and Jack Frost. I'll also briefly consider The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. These are the 9 specials that feature one or more of the trio mentioned above (along with Jack Frost who's featured in both Frosty's Winter Wonderland and Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July) in a major capacity using the same voice actors and designs (for the most part). I'm not including the 2008 production A Miser Brothers' Christmas even though the designs and some of the voice actors are the same, mostly because I have not seen it but also because it wasn't produced by the original teams and therefore doesn't fit with my theory about how the originals all fit together.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

The original Rankin/Bass holiday special is also one of the most problematic in regards to synchronizing all of the specials. Produced 6 years before Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, it features a Santa not voiced by Mickey Rooney but by Stan Francis; Santa here also has less of his jolly, loving demeanor and participates in the other reindeer's shunning of Rudolph after the shiny red nosed is unmasked. This special is also the only appearance (apart from a humorous cameo at the end of Santa Claus is Comin' to Town) of Rudolph as an adult reindeer. If we wish to view the other Rankin/Bass Santa/Frosty Rudolph specials as being part of the same universe (and who wouldn't?), Rudolph must be dealt with.

My answer to the discontinuities? Sam isn't giving us the straight truth. Yes, the snowman is lying (or at least embellishing). This accounts for Santa's otherwise uncharacteristic behavior, Mrs. Claus's unusually dark hair (she always has white hair after this special), and Rudolph's there-is-no-spoon passage to adulthood. The general story of the song still applies to the rest of the universe (the song even gets a reprise in Shiny New Year), but without Santa's complicity in reindeer bullying.

Frosty the Snowman

The first appearance of Frosty, this special offers little problems for the theory of a single universe. Santa is once more voiced by someone who is not Mickey Rooney, but his appearance here is more in keeping with his later characterization. This special also introduces the idea of Christmas snow being particularly magical, an idea which will return later on. Santa's knowledge of the Christmas snow's magic makes sense once we get to his first full-fledged special.

Santa Claus is Comin' to Town

Only a year after Frosty's premiere, Santa Claus was given the full origin story treatment. I've written before about my love for this special. This is the original special to feature Mickey Rooney in the role, and he'll continue to reprise the role in future Rankin/Bass productions. (As is typical of these specials, it is narrated by someone who figures into the story only tangentially or not at all, but aside from Rudolph that doesn't present any major issues.)

Town also introduces the first major magical character apart from Santa himself: the Winter Warlock (please, call him Winter). Although only a side character in this special, Winter is the beginning of a pretty collection of magical wintry figures these specials will introduce.

The Year Without a Santa Claus

The first special to introduce a narrator who is integral to the story, Year without a Santa Claus represents Santa's dark night of the soul, in which the man who has come to represent the Christmas spirit begins to wonder if his job is worth doing. Rudolph isn't to be seen, but Vixen (who would have been among the adult reindeer in both Rudolph and Town) is present in the more-adorable and sympathetic fawn size. (Perhaps this is the child of the adult Vixen seen in other specials or, more likely, the adult reindeer are a product of the previous storytellers' embellishments.)

Here we meet another wintry figure: Cold Miser (who is presented as the son of Mother Nature and the brother of Heat Miser). Cold Miser is far more ambiguous than Winter Warlock was. He isn't given a redemption arc and is presented as an antagonist or obstacle more than a villain.

Frosty's Winter Wonderland

Frosty's first sequel (and the only traditionally animated one to share continuity with the rest of Rankin/Bass' specials), Winter Wonderland introduces two new characters who are of vast importance later on: Frosty's wife Crystal and Jack Frost. Jack's role in the universe is something I'll talk about more when we get to his special later on.

Rudolph's Shiny New Year

The first of these specials to center on a non-Christmas venture, Shiny New Year delves into the realm of time with its plethora of retired Years, Father Time, and characters like Big Ben the whale who will return later in the series. Aside from being Rudolph's first sequel, this special doesn't add much to the wintery themes of the other specials. It does offer a condensed version of Rudolph's backstory (that conveniently leaves out any complicity in bullying on Santa's part).

Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July

Or, the special that took too long. (It's actually considered a feature film, but it's still bloated.)


Christmas in July is the Avengers-style team-up that caps off the bulk of the franchise. All three big names are present (Santa doesn't get a name drop, though) and the mythology of Rudolph's nose and Frosty's origins are built up some more. Frosty's wife Crystal makes her second (and so far as I know, last) appearance in any medium, along with their snow-children, Milly and Chilly. (That's some magical Christmas snow, if snowmen can reproduce. *ahem*)

The most interesting aspects of this special center on Rudolph's nose. It is revealed (*cough*retconned*cough*) that Rudy's nose was blessed by the heretofore-unheard-of Lady Boreal, the Queen of the Northern Lights. When the evil wizard Winterbolt (unrelated to Winter Warlock, so far as we know) breaks free of her enchantment, Lady Boreal places her power in the newborn Rudolph's nose as a way of preserving the power to defeat Winterbolt. Winterbolt, by the way, wants to reclaim the territory wherein lays Santa Claus' domain. Because jolly old toymakers equal certain doom or something.

This special also sees the return of Jack Frost, still on good terms with Frosty after his reform in Winter Wonderland. Jack's breath is used to keep Frosty and family chilled on their return to the North Pole at the story's end. It's a nice nod to the previous special, as is Big Ben's help in getting Jack's attention.

Jack Frost

After giving the character a minor role in two specials, Rankin/Bass finally gave us an origin story for the icy sprite. Until I started writing this post, I hadn't realized that it was actually one of the last holiday specials Rankin/Bass produced. Other than The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, it's the last special in this universe, with only some lesser-known specials like Pinocchio's Christmas coming in between. Because it's the last, Jack Frost could be viewed as a retcon of the previous appearances of the character. However, I'd like to present my original theory (which is what started all this).

In Jack Frost, Jack is one of a number of sprites and spirits in charge of winter weather under the fearsome Father Winter. He falls in love with a human woman and begs for Father Winter to make him human. Jack is able to defeat the local villain and acquire all the arbitrary accouterments of humanity but fails to win his lady love's heart, and so he returns to the realm of the winter skies. Although the narrator of the special, groundhog Pardon-Me Pete, makes it seem that Jack never lost his sense of playfulness, Jack's (chronologically) later appearances in the series say otherwise. Some time after he lost his chance at love and humanity, Jack seems to have become bitter and jealous of anyone who gained praise for winter (see Winter Wonderland, though it seems that Santa Claus escapes Jack's notice, perhaps since he isn't specifically associated with snow and ice*). After he encountered Frosty and learned that there was still joy for him in the world, he regained his playful and kind-hearted nature, though the change to his voice was permanent.**

* Incidentally, this theory began because my wife didn't like Jack's mean-spirited appearance in Winter Wonderland and (not realizing this special came much later) I attempted to reconcile the two. She didn't like my theory much better than my reason for making it.

** Why didn't they just have Paul Frees reprise the role for Jack Frost? Why?

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus is not entirely incompatible with this shared universe we're exploring, but it must be considered an alternate version of history much as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is. Life and Adventures follows a similar structure to Town -- Claus is raised by elves or fairies, learns to make toys as a way of spreading joy in a gloomy world, and eventually sets up his gift-giving on Christmas Eve with the help of elves and other magical folk. But hey, every expanded universe needs a good alternate universe story, right?

This post has already got to be longer than I anticipated, so I'll save my theory about all the winter magic flying around for next week.

Are you a fan of the Rankin/Bass Christmas specials? Which one's your favorite? Let me know in the comments.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Monday Musings: Magical Knitting and Christmas Crochet

I mentioned last month that I'd picked up knitting and crocheting again after a long break, and I wanted to share the projects that have stemmed from that renewed interest.

First up, some fingerless gloves/arm warmers in the style of Gandalf. I made these to go with the wizard hat I mentioned in last month's post. They turned out well (and I even had someone pay me to make a pair for them).

Here's the full outfit (with different long-sleeved shirts underneath to try out the effect of the greys). The staff is an actual walking stick I trimmed and tidied up from a hickory branch that fell in our yard a couple years back. I really like the effect of the hat with the gloves and the staff. I need more opportunities to wear this outfit.

This picture also includes my Remus Lupin scarf that fits in well with the grey theme.

A few years back, I misread the song title "I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" as "I want a Hippogriff for Christmas" and this year, determined to make good on the increased awesomeness of my malaproped title, I crocheted myself a stuffed hippogriff (complete with Santa hat). Samwise, of course, declared it his almost immediately.

Samwise loved the hat for the hippogriff so much, I made him his own Samwise-sized Santa hat. He didn't think it was very interesting, but his cousin did, so it wound up staying at his house.

Do you have any projects you've completed recently or have in the works? Tell me about them in the comments!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Monday Musings: Dandelion Fire Review

A couple of months back, I reviewed the first book in N.D. Wilson's 100 Cupboards trilogy. Today, I'm taking a look at the second book in the series, Dandelion Fire.

Dandelion Fire picks up the story in the weeks after 100 Cupboards wraps up, and although Uncle Frank has failed to follow through on his promise to seal up the cupboards once again, Henry has no desire to go exploring any more. While he's curious about his otherworldly origins, the aftermath of his fight with Nimiane of Endor has left him satisfied with life in Kansas. He could stay here forever  and be happy with his newfound friends and family. Even a strange dandelion burning away his sight isn't enough to keep Henry from wanting to stay.

Unfortunately, Henry's adoptive mother has other plans, and has sent an official letter through her lawyer that Henry will be brought back to Boston after the 4th of July. In a desperate attempt to find out where he comes from and where he belongs before he loses his chance forever, Henry embarks on a dangerous mission through the cupboards. His journeys will take him through many doors and dangers, and his friends and family are coming along this time.

Dandelion Fire wasn't nearly as slow to get moving as 100 Cupboards, though I did struggle with it at first. After the initial excitement, there is some floundering about as characters get into place for their parts in the rest of the book. However, this book fulfills the promise of adventure and excitement that the initial premise offered. We see other worlds in living, vibrant detail. The magic and politics of the world only hinted at in the first book come into the forefront. Henrietta finally grows as a character (after a moment or three of her previous foolhardiness). And many characters mentioned or hinted at in the first book are given full space in the cast and given their own arcs that fit into both the overall plot and the arcs of other characters.

There's still the sense of things being left to implication and inference throughout the book, even with all the exposition Wilson offers. The final climax in particular operates on an intuitive or implicit form of magic rather than an explicit "Deposit Ring A into volcano B" arrangement. I loved the way the magic just fit into the world without the need for a bunch of exposition and setup, but those who prefer a harder magic may find themselves frustrated. All in all, I found Dandelion Fire to be a vast improvement over 100 Cupboards and cannot wait to dive into book three, The Chestnut King.

If you read 100 Cupboards and wanted more of the story or more from the story, definitely check out Dandelion Fire. It taps into an older style of story and magic much like Uprooted did for an older audience.

If you've read Dandelion Fire, let me know what you thought of it! Do you agree that it improved on 100 Cupboards?

Thursday, November 16, 2017

ThrowBook Thursday: The Inkheart Trilogy

When I was planning out the topics for this month's blog posts, I had hoped I'd be finished with To Green Angel Tower before this post so I could wrap up my Osten Ard reread series.

Alas, it was not to be.

Instead, today's post is brought to you by recent conversations that have inspired me to reread yet another series (though the actual rereading is probably not happening just yet).

I've talked about my love of Inkheart and its sequels in the past but I want to talk about it just a little bit more today. Specifically, the five things about this series that have stuck with me and make it a series I will still fan out over today.


First things first, there's this little gem of a character. At times a hardcore wise man and a ruddy coward, Dustfinger is one of the series' most complex and sympathetic characters. He is also the center of one of my favorite character arcs in fiction (it's up there with Zuko's redemption in Avatar: The Last Airbender). Also, he's one of those characters who was perfectly cast in the film adaptation, even if the movie itself wasn't quite as good as I'd hoped.

The Magic

From the name (Silvertongue, like Loki) to the effects (bringing people and things from books to life), this is just such a beautiful magic system and I love it. And the best part is that the magic doesn't get stale from book to book. Funke adds something new to the story each time and keeps you guessing.

Brendan Fraser's Audio Narration of Inkspell

Why they didn't get him to read all three books, I'll never know. He's Funke's choice for Mo, and he captures the character so well in this narration (better even than in the film, I think). The library copy that I listened to was super scratched in places, so I wasn't able to listen to it all the way through, but it's still ingrained in my memories of reading this series for the first time. If you can listen to Inkspell, DO.

The World Grows with Each Book

This is the ideal situation for any series, but the Ink trilogy is a prime example. The abilities of the Silvertongues are given depth and breadth in each installment. The villains get stronger and darker, and the heroes are pushed to grow in new ways. (Dustfinger may be my favorite character in the series, but he's by no means the only character to change and grow as it proceeds.)


Book-obsessed, no-nonsense Elinor is the queen of the adult characters in this series. She is rarely shaken (and when she is, she's perfectly believable and still quite capable when the shock is over). My least favorite thing about Inkspell was how little she factored into the story, but Funke made up for that by bringing Elinor along in a big way for Inkdeath. Helen Mirren did a fine job in the role for the film, but the way she's described in the book I always pictured Imelda Staunton, which is nice since I always like her when she's not playing Dolores Umbridge and I'd love to see her take a stab at playing Elinor.

Have you read the Ink books? What are your favorite parts? Tell me in the comments! And if you haven't taken the survey to influence future content on Inexhaustible Inspiration and enter to win some Albion-inspired art, go here to do so.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Monday Musings: My Literary Twin(s)

I recently knitted a pair of arm warmers designed to look like Gandalf's in the Middle-earth movies. In the conversations that followed my sharing about this on Facebook, Mirriam mentioned that Gandalf was her literary twin. Several other friends joined the conversation, offering up their own literary twins -- the characters with whom they most identified. I was surprised so many people had given this matter some thought, and confessed that I did not know who my literary twin would be (I do however have a birthday twin who is a wonderful human being).

So I thought about it. And thought about it. And thought about it some more.

And here we are, with me still not having a single fictional character who is my "twin."

I have many.

Hear me out, though. I have dozens, if not hundreds, of favorite characters -- characters I enjoy watching or reading, characters I would want as friends, characters I identify with in small and large ways. But very few of those come close enough to me (or how I see myself, which may or may not be the same thing) to be called my twin. Other people have suggested (at various points) that I am like Samwise Gamgee, Frodo Baggins, Bilbo Baggins, Reepicheep, Alphonse Elric, and Alyosha Karamazov (I still need to read that book). But these characters aren't always how I see myself (though I do identify with a couple of them, as you'll see).

Shasta (The Horse and His Boy)

One of the reasons The Horse and His Boy is my favorite Narnia book is that Shasta is the Narnian character with whom I identify the most. His encounter with Aslan and the revelation that his life has been guided from beginning to end (even when he had no idea who Aslan was) is the most comforting scene in Narnia for me. Shasta has a strong moral center, and when he's put to the test he drops all self-concern in order to bring the news of Rabadash's attack to Archenland and Narnia.

Steve Rogers/Captain America (Marvel comics and films)

According to the Myers-Briggs personality types, Steve Rogers is an ESFJ (like me) and he's pretty much the pinnacle of what I aspire to be: someone who stands by his morals no matter what. He protects those around him and stands up for those who are weaker. He doesn't give up on his friends no matter what.

Alphonse Elric (Fullmetal Alchemist)

When a college  friend of mine first told me that I reminded him of Alphonse, I hadn't seen a single episode of the Fullmetal Alchemist franchise. Years later, I've seen both anime adaptations and read the manga, and I feel honored by the comparison. Al is a caring brother who does what's right even when it holds him back from what he wants most. He doesn't give up easily and he

Samwise Gamgee (The Lord of the Rings)

This one shouldn't be any surprise, either, as Sam is tied with Gandalf for my favorite character in The Lord of the Rings. He's stouthearted, loyal, and (along with Bilbo) another ESFJ character. He's not afraid of adventure if his road takes him there, but his heart belongs in the Shire. Don't come between him and the places and people he loves, and don't underestimate him because he seems small and simple.

Merlin Pendragon (Albion Academy)

Of all my invented characters, Merlin is the one who carries the most of me in him -- at least outwardly. He has the curly hair I wore long in college, wears flannel shirts even in the South, and generally wants to help and protect people, even if he isn't a physically imposing person. He's grown into his own self over the years, but he'll always be one of those characters I identify strongly with because he carried so much of me in him at the start.

What about you? Are there any characters you identify with in fiction? Do you have one literary twin or lots of them? Let me know in the comments!

By the way, if you haven't already, go here to fill out a quick survey about what kinds of content you'd like to see on Inexhaustible Inspiration in the coming year AND be entered to win some original Albion Academy-inspired artwork.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Inexhaustible Inspiration Year-End Survey and Art Giveaway

November is almost halfway over and I'm taking a look at how the blog has done this year. If you've enjoyed any of the posts I've put up this year, I hope you'll consider taking this quick survey to help me know what types of posts you enjoy most (so I can make more of them in the future). If you take the survey, you'll also be entered into a drawing for some Albion Academy-inspired artwork created by yours truly. Thank you for your feedback and your continued presence here at Inexhaustible Inspiration.

Create your own user feedback survey

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Top 10 Tuesday: Things I'm Thankful for This Year

It's November, which means everything Christmas Thanksgiving is upon us. In that spirit, this month's Top 10 is all about thankfulness. Let's get rolling!

  • Albion Academy is published. There's nothing like knowing you've created something that's out in the world for people to enjoy.
  • NarniaWeb continues to bless me with friendships, memories, and news about the Narnia films. (Yes, children, The Silver Chair is happening.)
  • I've been able to work on my art this year -- written and visual. It's been a blessing to express myself in these ways and to learn more about the forms. It's also been nice to just be somewhat consistent with creating.
  • Samwise and Jeana (and our cat Pumpkin) continue to light up my life every day. I'm immensely thankful God has allowed me to have these people in my life.
  • My immediate and extended family have been around a lot this year (I'm sure Samwise has nothing to do with this) and I've been able to see my brother and his bride move forward in their season of life in many ways this year.
  • My Internet friends (not just those I know through NarniaWeb) have shared their own artistic and faith journeys this year, and it's been great getting to know them all better.
  • While technically being a memory/blessing from last summer, the NarniaWeb Canada Moot is something that's really been a boon this year as I'm able to look back on memories of that week and remember the joy of having everyone together again.
  • We've been able to get to know some of our church family better over the last year and strengthen some relationships that were already in place. I'm grateful for such loving and supportive Christians in our lives.
  • Stephen and the others who brainstormed the idea for Lorehaven brought me on as an editor, and this digital magazine is going to be amazing, guys and gals. It's been a fun journey seeing the book reviews and other pieces filing in, and I can't wait for you all to see the finished inaugural issue early next year!
  • I've kept up with my blog writing in the midst of all the rest, and while that may seem like a small thing, it really is something I'm glad of. I wasn't entirely certain I'd be up to it, but 10.5 months later, I'm still here every week.

What are some of the things you're thankful for this year?

Monday, November 6, 2017

Monday Musings: Why Disney's Sleeping Beauty is NOT Aurora's Story

Sleeping Beauty is one of those Disney films I love to come back to again and again. It has beautiful animation, humor, and some interesting magical characters. But over the years, I've come to think of it less as Aurora's story and more as the story of fairy politics. This belief was only reinforced by our weekend attempt to introduce Samwise to the movie (he was about as interested as he is in anything not Moana, which is to say very interested for about 5 minutes and then sporadically interested when he wasn't playing with toys).

Exhibit A: Her (In)Active Role

This is something a lot of people criticize about Sleeping Beauty: its protagonist . . . doesn't do much in the film. She sings, she wanders the woods while the "dears" prepare a birthday surprise, she meets a man, she submits to having her life turned upside down, and then she falls under the spell of the villain. She also has the fewest lines of dialogue of any Disney princess ever. She simply doesn't have a large role in what is ostensibly her story.

(I would argue that part of this problem is caused by the film's deviance from the main plot to indulge in some unnecessary--though still enjoyable--humorous sequences such as the fairies' birthday preparations and the argument between Kings Stefan and Hubert over how soon Aurora and Philip should get married. What Aurora's unnamed mother thinks we're never told.)

Exhibit B: The Fairies Do Everything

From Maleficent's arrival at the christening to the good fairies' aid in Philip's climactic battle, there's no doubt that it is the magical beings who make the world move in this story. The good fairies (specifically called "the 3 good fairies" as if there are only 3 good fairies to be found) are given exalted places at the royal gathering. Maleficent is well-known enough that the monarchs could have invited her, but chose not to (a serious breach of etiquette in those days if they didn't want to court open war)*. The fairies are given enough weight in the royal circles that without hesitation (though not without sadness), Stefan and his queen send their infant daughter to live with the fairies for 16 years. Every major plot development in this movie happens because of fairy magic (Maleficent's curse, Philip's freedom, the sleeping castlefolk, Maleficent's defeat, and yes, even Philip and Aurora meeting--he only stops because of her beautiful singing, which if you recall was Fauna's gift at Aurora's christening).

* In fact, you could argue that this was an ulterior motive. Remember in the christening scene when Maleficent arrives? She is cool and collected and willing to overlook the fact that she wasn't invited until Merryweather adds insult to insult and says, "You weren't wanted." Merryweather knows this isn't the best thing to say, but can't (or doesn't) resist the urge to let Maleficent know what she thinks of her. It's entirely possible that the good fairies (their influence being so mighty in these parts) convinced the king and queen not to invite Maleficent so they could have some excuse to bring a stop to her at last. They claim Maleficent's powers are far beyond their own, but somehow they still are the key powers in her defeat. They adjust Maleficent's curse from death to sleep and then give Philip everything he needs to defeat Maleficent--including the sword that kills her and the spell that sends it flying to her heart. So how exactly is Maleficent beyond them? It must be that they require a human champion to fight for them, and what better motivation for that champion than true love?

A further bit of evidence for (at least one of) the fairies being a bit more powerful and insightful than they let on, even to each other, is the fact that they leave her alone before sunset. Fauna asks later why they left her alone, but Flora (always the idea-generator and sort of self-appointed leader) says they'll give Aurora some time alone because she's so grieved by losing her unnamed suitor and her life in the woods. They know Maleficent is looking for Aurora (though perhaps not that their magic duel earlier led Maleficent to their newly abandoned cottage), and yet they leave Aurora unattended with minutes to spare before the curse is completely avoided. Why do this if not to push Philip into battle with Maleficent?

All that being said, I think a quick note about Philip and Aurora's love story needs to be added. This romance seems typical of the classic Disney trope both Enchanted and Frozen poked fun at.

However, it deserves mentioning that Philip is the one who is set on marriage. It isn't Aurora who is completely swept away by her suitor but Philip who is swept away by her. Aurora only wants to see him again, to introduce him to the dears, to see what might come of this chance meeting (which seems to take only moments, but which the timing of the sun tells us lasts for a few hours if not most of the day). Philip charges to the castle to tell his father he's going to marry this wood sprite or peasant girl or whatever she may be. (Though if Aurora had thought to ask his name before he asked hers, we might have been saved some nonsense.) It's possible that Philip's determination is part of the magic of Aurora's enchanted voice (which would explain why the fairies were so determined to keep her from meeting people, if Maleficent's search and Aurora's being betrothed to Philip weren't enough). Philip even gets in a little jab at tradition while he's at it.

Sleeping Beauty is still a Disney film I enjoy, and I will definitely come back to watch it again (hopeful that next time Samwise will be more interested), but as I grow older I'm beginning to see the flaws in the story (I can't really find any with the animation).

What do you think of Sleeping Beauty? Is Aurora a weak character or is the story just not written around her like we've always thought? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Watercolor Wednesday: Halloween and the End of Inktober

October is over, and so is Inktober. Here are the last 9 of my Inktober drawings, along with a watercolor sign I painted as part of my Halloween costume (also pictured). I'm moving Watercolor Wednesday up a week this month because the months when first Tuesday and second Wednesday fall in the same week are always harder to keep up with blog-wise and because I don't anticipate a lot of painting getting done this month apart from Christmas gifts that I can't share until after they've been received.

Day 23: The Kitsune Girl (Urban)

I really had a hard time with this one, but I'm pleased with the fox tail.

Day 24: The Anti-Vampire (Urban)

Another character sketch from Ashes and Dust, this was one of the prompts I stretched the most, as the character I drew is actually a vampire. But given his role in the plot, I figured it was close enough.

Day 25: The Cursed Knight (Forest)

One of the quicker drawings I did for Inktober, this one turned out well enough. I like the feeling of a quick sketch that it has.

Day 26: The Sorcerer (Fairy-tale)

This character should ostensibly be from the Albion Quartet, but I haven't figured out who he'd be yet. I based him off Frollo from Disney's Hunchback, but wound up with someone closer to the Joker.

Day 27: The Beast (Forest)

Another chance for more not-yet-written characters. This is the beast from Swanlight. (Also, I just realized I misnumbered this drawing and the next in my sketchbook. Oh well.)

Day 28: The School Bully (Urban)

By this point, if you couldn't tell, I was really losing steam. I got my flu shot last Thursday and between  the blah feeling of the day after and the general worn-out feeling that comes late in any month-long challenge (be it NaNoWriMo, Inktober, or what have you), I just had to push through and do something. I didn't feel like doing a person so I drew a snake-person.

Day 29: The Grim Reaper (Fairy-tale)

I had grand ideas to try a new take on this prompt, and in the end I fell back on Death as he appears in Terry Pratchett's Hogfather.

Day 30: The Huntswoman (Fairy-tale)

Another simple drawing. I wish I'd had more energy to put into this one but I was just glad to have drawn. I couldn't bear the thought of getting this close to the end and not completing the challenge.

Day 31: The Unicorn (Urban)

I went a little simpler with this one but the main idea for it (a unicorn as a jazz musician) has been brewing most of the month. It was probably partly inspired by my reading Peter S. Beagle's The Unicorn Sonata earlier this year.

My first painting in a few weeks was a sign for my Halloween costume. I didn't get too elaborate, but I did play around with mixing my oranges, greens, and browns/blacks. The pumpkins on the far left were done using orange paint straight from the tube, and the rest were mixed with various reds and yellows, some mixed on the palette and some on the page. All the browns and greens for the stems and leaves were mixed up, and I'm most pleased with the far left's stem because the color was just what I wanted.

Here's the costume in full. (For those who don't get the reference, I'm Linus from It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.)

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Saturday Snippets: Oz and Fairy Tales

October is almost over, so it's time for more snippets. These come from There's No Place Like Home? (my NaNo novel from 2015, newly finished) and from "Paper and (T)horns" (my modern Beauty and the Beast retelling).

From There's No Place Like Home? 

The kalidahs who had been sent to the front gate had expected an angry mob. Not quite torches and pitchforks angry. More like billy clubs and Molotov cocktails. At the very least, they had been anticipating an unruly assortment of people led by a towering, charismatic man, perhaps wearing a mask, who would shout meaningless mantras over a megaphone.

Instead, the leader appeared to be a small girl with a fire in her eyes most of the kalidahs had long since forgotten.

Hope. Righteous anger. Determination.


While the crowd behind her—and the kalidahs in front of her—grew ever more restless as they waited for something to happen, the girl simply stared into the heart of the Westford mansion with that fiery-eyed gaze of hers.

“Remember your training,” said the head kalidah, trying to inspire the others to fortitude. He knew that their hearts were starting to bend beneath that fiery stare, even as his own did.

“Sir, we were just handed sticks and told to mind the gates.”

“And we will do it splendidly,” said the head kalidah, though he knew deep down that already they had been too long waiting. It would not take much to let the crowd in. Whatever signal the girl waited for, he hoped it came soon.

He was tired of standing still.


And you’re sure this is going to work? Teddy thought, his lungs still working too hard to try talking and running at the same time.

There’s a 75.823 percent chance of failure, replied Crow, but with the number of variables in play, that number could easily slide up or down by as much as 38 percent.


Isamu and Tik-Tok circled each other, their eyes locked. Isamu’s face, taut with concentration, revealed more than he wanted it to; Tik-Tok’s revealed nothing. Even his glances seemed devoid of emotion, neither hopeful nor anxious. They simply were.

At last, Tik-Tok dove at Isamu’s right, a blade extended in his hand like a deadly finger. Isamu twisted away from the knife, his left hand coming up to catch Tik-Tok’s other arm, which Tik-Tok had swung in after the feint, intending to slide its knife between Isamu’s ribs. Isamu broke Tik-Tok’s grip on the second blade, plucking it from the air and bringing it up to parry the first. Tik-Tok caught Isamu’s knife hand, and Isamu caught Tik-Tok’s. The Empty and the Kalidah faced each other, knife points inches away from death.

“It seems the question of who walks away has come down to whose will breaks first,” said Tik-Tok, plying a little more pressure on his knife hand without relenting in his grip on Isamu’s.

“And how can you have a will when you care about nothing?” Isamu asked, breathing the words out with as little effort as possible.

From "Paper and (T)horns"

“The how of a trick’s just the shop talk,” said the boy. “It’s as boring as having your dad explain how a math problem works or your sister go on and on about what her newest poem means.” He said this last word with a melodramatic flair of his arms. “But that’s not what makes it interesting. That’s not what makes it good.”

The student on stage nodded their approval of the table’s normalcy and descended the steps to the audience, their classmates and teachers applauding louder than necessary.

“What makes it good, then?” I asked, grateful the roar of applause died a little before it could reach my box.“The why,” the boy said in a tone that marked me as the slowest adult he’d ever explained anything to in his life. “If a poem’s good, it’s because the poet wrote for a reason. If a math problem is interesting, it’s because it has a function. If a magic trick is good, it’s because the magician has a thundering why running through his chest when he performs it—something bigger than him or the trick or the stage. Something to give the trick the power to astound his audience.”


“Why are you really coming to all my father’s performances?”

I took a minute to consider. I had to be honest with myself as well as Molly. Had my reasons for coming changed in the last week? I couldn’t deny I had more than one reason now. “If you’d asked me last time we talked, I’d have said the trick.”

“And now?” Though her tone was arch, her expression was remarkably sincere, her eyes hopeful, her mouth sweet.

“The trick,” I answered. “And you.”

The sincerity of a moment before vanished behind a mask of scoffing. “Is that supposed to be flattery?”

“It’s supposed to be honesty.”

Thanks for reading! Next month I will probably be deep in edits for Albion Apparent, but if I can get some more work done on "Paper and (T)horns" I will bring you some snippets!