Friday, October 29, 2010

NaNo prep: Collage

So I was going to do a nice, thoughtful, informative post today, but I worked on this instead:

This is the collage for this years NaNoWriMo story. I still haven't come up with a name that I like, but I think I have my two main characters down pretty well.

My heroine is Cassandra Ash:

Don't ask me why I have wolves around her. I don't know yet. The leaves and flowers are stuff I picked in my yard earlier this year and pressed. The eye is there because Cassandra is a Soul Seer (Don't ask me what that is yet either).

Then we have me Hero Jeremiah Cole:

Jeremiah is the captain of a small star ship (hence the metallic around him). The half cut off face in the corner is Jeremiah's brother Lucas Cole. He's a bad guy and murdered Jeremiah's wife Elenore, but Jeremiah doesn't know that... yet.

I also have a head bad guy, a dead king, Jeremiah's mother-in-law, a power greedy prince, and a mysterious other guy who I think is important, but I'm not sure how.

NaNoWriMo here I come ;-)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

12 songs from my NaNoWriMo Soundtrack

1) The Wind That Shakes the Barley - Dead Can Dance (Lisa Gerrard)

2) Grand Old Lady - Battlestar Galactica Soundtrack

3) The Valley of the Moon - Lisa Gerrard

4) Ailein Duinn - Karen Matheson (Rob Roy Soundtrack)

5) Emmeleia - Lisa Gerrard

6) Space Weaver - Lisa Gerrard

7) Atlantia - Secret Garden

8) Abwoon - Lisa Gerrard

9) What Have You Done - Within Temptation

10) The Comforter - Lisa Gerrard

11) Forgiven - Battlestar Galactica Soundtrack

12) So Cold - Breaking Benjamin

A bit of an odd mix, but it's working for me :-)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Weapon of the Week: Spada da lato

a.k.a. the Side Sword, is an early type of rapier from the 15th-17th century. It was used by infantry against both armored opponents and unarmored. It was also used as a dueling weapon in the 16th and 17th century.

They can be anywhere from 36" to 42" (though I personally wouldn't want a single handed sword any longer then 36") and weigh 2 to 3 1/2 lbs.

In the early seventeenth century rapiers and side swords reached their height of fashion. It was also fashionable to ware as long of a sword as you could. Some even reached the length of 48". Of course a lot of noblemen were getting killed because their swords were too long and clumsy. That's probably why Queen Elizabeth limited the length of the blades in the 16th century.

Though it seems smart to have a long blade, if the blade is too long the weight of the steel makes it slow and clunky. Even if the sword was lighter you have to take into account the angles both of attack and defence. You need to be able to parry an attack to your legs without your sword getting stuck in the ground. And when your blade is a lot longer then your opponent then it is easy for them to parry your attack and clime in closer. Once they are inside the reach of your sword there's really isn't anything you can do.

Like the rapiers, side swords are good for both the thrust and the cut, though primarily the thrust. As a lighter weight weapon it would be a good choice for smaller or lighter character.

Friday, October 22, 2010

When insults had class

I unearthed and old email a friend sent me and thought it was worth posting here. Theses are from a time when insults had class (not just a bunch of curse words thrown around):

The exchange between Churchill & Lady Astor: She said, "If you were my husband I'd give you poison," and he said, "If you were my wife, I'd drink it."

A member of Parliament to Disraeli: "Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease."
"That depends, Sir," said Disraeli, "whether I embrace your policies or your mistress."

"He had delusions of adequacy." -- Walter Kerr

"He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire." -- Winston Churchill

"A modest little person, with much to be modest about." -- Winston Churchill

"I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure." -- Clarence Darrow

"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary." -- William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway).

"Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?" -- Ernest Hemingway (about William Faulkner)

"Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I'll waste no time reading it." -- Moses Hadas

"He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know." -- Abraham Lincoln

"I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it." --Mark Twain

"He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends." -- Oscar Wilde

"I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend... if you have one." -- George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill

"Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second... if there is one." -- Winston Churchill, in response

"I feel so miserable without you; it's almost like having you here." -- Stephen Bishop

"He is a self-made man and worships his creator." -- John Bright

"I've just learned about his illness. Let's hope it's nothing trivial." -- Irvin S. Cobb

"He is not only dull himself, he is the cause of dullness in others." -- Samuel Johnson

"He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up." -- Paul Keating

"There's nothing wrong with you that reincarnation won't cure." -- Jack E. Leonard

"He has the attention span of a lightning bolt." -- Robert Redford

"They never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge." -- Thomas Brackett Reed

"In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily." -- Charles, Count Talleyrand

"He loves nature in spite of what it did to him." -- Forrest Tucker

"Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?" -- Mark Twain

"His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork." -- Mae West

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go." -- Oscar Wilde

"He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts... for support rather than illumination." -- Andrew Lang (1844-1912)

"He has Van Gogh's ear for music." -- Billy Wilder

"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it." -- Groucho Marx

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

5 of my favorite first lines

1. "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains."
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith (yes, it's blasphemy in Austen loving circles, but it is amusing).

2. "Frey Daly swatted at a fly buzzing her head as her left stiletto tottered on the gravel under her feet.... Dig that, she thought. Hell has a campground."
Wish You Were Here by Lani Diane Rich (very funny book)

3. "You could die here."
Beholder's Eye by Julie Czerneda (Czerneda is a skilled writer with a lovely voice)

4. "It was an odd-looking vine."
Wizard's First Rule by Terry Goodkind (loved this book. Still on the fence about the rest of the series)

5. "Staring down the wrong end of a gun, Tess MacKenzie realized something she hadn't thought was possible: This lousy day could get worse."
Unearthed by C.J. Barry (C.J.'s book are all fabulous *love*)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Weapon of the Week: Halberd

This week we have the Halberd.

The Halberd is a two-handed poll type weapon ranging in length for 4 to 6 feet. They are essentially an axe with a spear continuing out the top. Used for both cuts (with the axe part) and thrusts (with the spear) they made a quiet adaptive and very deadly weapon. Being a poll weapon their range of attack is further out. The extension on the back of the axe made an excellent hook for bringing down opponents on horseback as well as catching up other foot soldiers. A Halberd in the hands of a well-trained master is a deadly thing. Every bit as deadly as a sword or rapier.
Personally I have never tried fighting with a Halberd, but they certainly are fascinating weapons. I would use this type of weapon for medium weight characters or even lighter weight ones with the smaller Halberds.

In Barbara Hambly's book "Dragonsbane" (a book I highly recommend), one of her main characters, Jenny Waynest, wields a Halberd.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Proper care of seedling stories

New stories are like baby plants. They're fresh, beautiful, full of potential and incredibly delicate.

Every story starts the same. You (the writer) find a tiny little seed. It could come from anywhere. A song. A tear. A whispered word. A sunset over the water. Wherever it comes from though, this tiny little seed caught your eye and you picked it up.

Like most seeds it lays dormant for a while. It rolls and rattles around in your brain, then one day, it happens. A tiny little sprout pops up. It's your beautiful story. You just know it's going to grow into a beautiful prize winning rose or a mighty oak tree. And of course, being the proud little story growers that we are, the first thing we want to do is tell everyone we know about our new baby.

Unfortunately this can lead to disaster. Other writers know how fragile newly formed stories can be, but most non-writers don't have a clue. They come stomping into our little story garden often wearing the big clown shoes of “constructive criticism”.

"It's ok, but your heroin seems kind of phony to me."


"Shouldn't your plot be more realistic. This seems awfully cheesy."


"Hasn't that already been done before?"

Stomp! Stomp! STOMP!

Before you know it, that beautiful little seed has been trampled. You may be stubborn enough to keep caring for it. Maybe even write a few chapters. But no matter how well you hide them from others, you will always see the scars.

It's not totally the non-writers fault. In most cases, they are really trying to help. But criticism is not what a seedling story needs. It needs love, care and a little bit of privacy before it can shine to the world. If you absolutely NEED to tell someone about your new baby you need to lay down ground rules with them first.

a) No criticism.
None. Not one single word. Even if it's only a missed placed comma. Nothing.

b) Only positive feed back
If they like something and want to tell you, that's fine. As long as it's not something like "This is so wonderful, if you would only..."

c) No suggestions or further ideas.
This may sound strange, but it's easy to lose sight of YOUR ideas in a sea of ideas from others.
Non-writers can find seeds too, they just don't know how/don't want to take care of them or have the dedication to tend to them until they are a fully formed story. Often times theses non-writers will try to get you to take their seeds for them. Don't do it.
If you want to be polite tell them to write down the gist of their idea in a note book, then take that note book and set it aside until you are done with your story. If there idea is any good (sometimes they are, most times not) then you can take it from there.

d) And finally allow yourself to ignore any and all feed back.
If everyone loves this one idea, but you don't, cut it. This is your vision. Your idea. When push comes to shove, it's your butt in the chair. Your fingers on the keyboard. If you don't like it, don't write it.

Now after all that you must think I'm totally against all criticism in any form. Not true. Criticism is handy and healthy when the time is right. When your little tree has blossomed out into a full first draft, you will need to prune it. You need to climb up into those branches with a good sturdy pair of snipers and whip it into shape. At that point it helps to have someone standing back, telling you the best places to cut.

When a story is young, it can't handle that kind of trimming. Many times you don't even know what kind of plant it is yet, let alone the best shape to trim it to. Give it time. Let it simmer. Then type it out and let your love of this story guide you. Don't think about how you will have to edit all of this later. Just get it down on paper. Then, and only then, it will be big enough and sturdy enough to take some trimming (or, in many cases, major trimming).

Don't rush yourself and don't let anyone stomp on your dream.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

5 Taxidermy customer comments

1. It looked bigger in the scope
Says the man with the bear that's about the same size as our dog.

2. Do you think it could make it in the record book?
Says the man with the medium sized elk. The answer: No.

3. (When they come pick up the finished mount) Man, I sure remember it being bigger.
This is always with the deer or elk that we've worked hard to stretch and stuff to get it as big as we possibly can.

4. Can you have it done by Friday?
This is followed by us frantically scrambling to get the mount done, turning on blowers to dry it faster, working late to get it done on time. Then we call them tell them it's ready, "Great!" they say. "We'll pick it up in a couple weeks." *facepalm*

5. Can I just take it now and pay you tomorrow?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Roller Coaster

I still can't believe that NaNoWriMo is only 19 days away. I'm going to be the Manciple Liaison for my region again this year (4th time's the charm, right?).

So with that and finishing the first draft of "Beneath a Broken Sky" I'm up to my eye balls in work. But of course that's part of the charm in NaNoWiMo: the chaos. Words are flying, computers are smoking, a million things need to be done and there isn't enough time to do any of them.

It's kind of like when you pass the top part of a roller coaster an the only thing you can do is scream and hang on. Sooner or later this massive thing will come to a screeching halt. I'll be able to look back at all the mountains and valleys I've traveled in lightning speed and hopefully there will be something there I can use to go forward with.

If not, I've still got the rush and the bragging points to say "Ya, I did that."

Monday, October 11, 2010

The gray in between

As NaNoWriMo approaches I'm noticing the differences reactions from both 'plotters' (those who like plotting out their whole book before they start) and 'pantsers' (those who 'write by the seat of their pants' and have absolutely no plan at all).

Plotters are freaking out because the clock is ticking and they haven't even finished their outlines yet.

Pantsers are more laid back, because this is the way they always do it. But even the more hard core Pantser has some concern that when the time comes they will go to their creative well and find it empty.

Whatever you consider yourself (plotter or pantser), the truth of the matter is, none of us are total plotters or total pantsers. We all fall into those shades of gray in between. You can find this depressing or comforting. I found it freeing.

That's one of the greatest things about NaNoWriMo. Plotters are forced to loosen up a bit and just go for it, instead of getting dragged down into the mire of spreadsheets and outlines.

Pantsers are forced to wait until November 1st. All they can do is just sit there and think about their story and what you want to do with it. Maybe even jot down an idea or two.

I found it so freeing when I realized it was ok for a pantser like me to jot down ideas for the ending of my story. It didn't make me any less of a pantser. It just made me a little more efficient. I had a goal. Somewhere to aim for.

Too often we (consciously or unconsciously) lock ourselves into a roll or a cretin type. "I'm a pantser, I don't plan out anything" or "I'm a plotter, if I don't have everything plotted out then I'm hopelessly lost."

The truth is in the gray between. Put aside any label and just try to find what works for you.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Weapon of the Week: Rapier

Time to liven things up by talking about one of my favorite things: how to kill people.

Or more precisely, the tools used to do so.

This week we have the Rapier.

The Rapier is a single handed (meaning you only hold it with one hand) blade used in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. It is a long straight blade, which makes it good for thrusting, but it is also double edged and has the blade mass to make a nasty cut. Rapiers can be warn on the hip, normally with a 'frog' to give the sword the right angle (you need the sword at an angle so your not tripping over it all the time.

The proper way to tell how long of a rapier you need is to put the tip on the ground between your feet and the cross piece (the part where the blade ends and the handle begins) should be right at your belly button. That being said, I wouldn't want a blade much longer then 36 inches. It becomes too awkward and slow.

The rapier is my weapon of choice when it comes to single handed swords. It's not all that heavy, my steel waster (practice blade) is only 2lbs. Though after an hour of practicing it feels much heavier. My sword has a swept hilt (similar to the one in the picture). I prefer the swept hilts. They are not only beautiful, but actually protect the hand quite well. You can find a good number of pictures here.

Of all the smaller swords I think the rapier is the most versatile when it comes to fighting against other weapons and styles. If the balance point is set in the right spot (I like mine 1-2 inches above the cross) then it's fast, but it also has enough power to cut to the bone (and through it if your cut is lined up right). And if it is used with a a dagger in the off hand (the non sword holding hand), then it's quite a force to be reckoned with.

Here we go...

All right. A new day and a new blog.

Lets kick things off right with an intro.

My name is Griffin Asher. As the blog description says I'm a Taxidermist by day, writer by night and I play with swords anytime in between. I've been a Taxidermist for 10 years, a fencer for nearly 7 and I've been writing stories for as long as I can remember.

With this blog I hope to bring some of those elements together. The thing I see the most (and the thing that bothers me the most) are the mistakes authors make when it comes to swords. A sword is not a club that you simply hack away at someone with. In a real fight that's a good way to get yourself killed. There are also many different types of swords and they are meant to be used in very specific ways (that's something I want to expand on in later posts).

But all that's in the future. So hang on, buckle up and check back often.

P.S. If you want to know about something specific, drop a comment and I'll see what I can do.