HAPPY PI DAY!
This is a monumental day in history, being 3/14/15, which are the first five digits in Pi. This won't happen for another hundred years, people. I don't know 'bout you, but I'm gonna stay up late (it's Lent, see, so I have to wait until Sunday. Better late than never!) and have a cheery toast to celebrate.
Happy Pi Day, y'all!Of separate note
, I was double-tagged by blogger Miss Melody Muffin of The Splendor Falls on Castle Walls
for a Lord of the Rings tag, and Bella at To Say Nothing of Reality
for a Liebster Award tag, which I have received numerous times and just ain't gonna do exactly as dictated. But do them I shall, after my own fashion.MISS MELODY MUFFIN'S LORD OF THE RINGS TAG:Le Freakin' Rules:
(There's always rules, aren't there? Boring! But must needs be done.
) Link back to the blogger who nominated you
- Miss Melody Muffin Answer questions
- Can do, good buddy! Tag some of your own fellow Tolkienknights!LE QUESTIONS: 1. How were you first introduced to LotR/TH and was it love at first sight/read?
I read The Hobbit when I was 10? Maybe 12? I don't even remember. But I loved Bilbo, and once you read The Hobbit you need to read about MORE hobbits, so I read the Lord of the Rings soon after. Of COURSE it was love at first read. I mean, hobbits! Duh. 2. If you could meet the actors who portray the characters in the movies, would you?
Uh, yeah. "Duh. Stupid." 3. What is your favorite credit song from LotR/TH?
Into The West. I sang it for a singing class, I loved it so much. 4. The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit - which is your favorite? *evil laugh* (And no, you don't actually have to decide. I'm merciful like that. *magnanimous smile*)
Books or movies? Bookwise, they are both fabulous and beautiful, and I love how they each start off so simply and crescendo into epic fantasies that break your heart.
Movies, the Lord of the Rings. Hands freakin' down. Don't get me started on that mess of a trilogy that cast the perfect Bilbo and utterly ruined the rest of the story. I mean, a trilogy? Really? Who needed the elves? Who needed them!? Bilbo could have carried that entire thing on his shoulders (and he would have only needed one movie to do it. Phffhffhfththtt). 5. Who is your favorite all-around character?
Bookwise and moviewise, I always loved Frodo and Sam. Such bold, brave hobbits!Faramir is my absolute favorite, though.
He is so gentle and so forgiving, and I love that about him. (Recently I read the books again, and Merry has joined the list of my top favorites. He was always getting left behind!
Poor little fella.) 6. What is your opinion on Boromir?
I'm the sort of person who hears someone badmouth Boromir and turn on that person in a flash of fangs and fury. Do not speak ill of Boromir!!
I may have to hunt you down and shoot you full of arrows. (I kid, I kid. But seriously...) 7. How many times have you watched the movies/read the books?
I can't even tell you. I never thought to keep track. 8. What book is your favorite? The Return of the King. *Epicness intensifies* 9. Who is your favorite female character (other than your answer to question #5)?
Eowyn. She just wants so badly to have her life mean
something, and I understand that. I understand that a lot. She feels trapped and useless, and her life is just one duty after another. Poor thing. 10. Who is your favorite male character (other than your answer to question #5)? Other
than Faramir? Pffffth! I'm adding him anyway.
Faramir, Boromir, Aragorn, Eomer. Boom. 11. Which of the movies, in your opinion, has the best ending?
The Return of the King. "What can you seeeeeeeeeee.... On the horizoooooooooon!"Imma taggin' no one. Cause I'm a rebel like that. Now, BELLA'S LIEBSTER AWARD TAG! RULES!
(Because you know I'm all about those rules, 'bout those rule, 'bout those rules, just kiddin'.
) Acknowledge the blogger who nominated you
- BellaAnswer the eleven question that the blogger gives you
- Okey dokie Loki!Give eleven random facts about yourself
that's how the hacker figured out my passwords! Nominate eleven other bloggers and let them know. My Eleven Random Facts:
1.) I sent out a query on March 11, 2015.
(Querying agents is scary, fyi.)
2.) I am the kind of writer who writes best when working on more than one story at once - like, I tend to write 2-3 stories at the same time, switching from one to the other with the rapidity of a baleen whale gulping krill. It's my superpower.
3.) I have no idea how quickly whales gulp krill. It just sounded good.
4.) My other superpower is being able to sing stanzas of one song and switch to another song between breaths, again with the rapidity of a baleen whale gulping krill.
5.) I still don't know how fast that is. I'm too lazy to look it up.
6.) I have an unhealthy adoration of Pixar movies.
7.) I am not ashamed to admit I watch an inordinate amount of cartoons and/or animated films. I sometimes feel they contain more depth and emotion than your regular old movie.
8.) I love cheese.
I have to be careful when shopping because I can spend a ridiculous amount of time staring at cheese and picking out far too much than I can eat in a week before becoming sensible and only choosing the top
9.) I like Taylor Swift.
10.) I FREAKIN' ADORED AGENT CARTER!! Who else has watched that show?! Hands up, Marvel fans! I see you lurking out there in the blogosphere. Join the par-tay!
11.) I checked out seven books from the library on Saturday, four I hadn't read before and three of the Attolia series in case I needed a "consolation prize" after reading the other four. Two so far weren't bad, but the third was a real bellyflop. Crossing my fingers that the fourth one doesn't make me fall asleep. If it does, I got Eugenides to back me up
. BELLA'S QUESTIONS FOR THE GREAT AND GLORIOUS MOI: Do you like mint?
I adore mint. It is the bestest, for reals. Have you ever been on a motor boat? Do you like Cinnamon in your Cocoa? Have you seen The Court Jester? Do you write? Do you breathe? Firefox, Chrome, or the Big E?
I laugh and point at the Big E. I tend to go with Firefox these days. When it starts to disappoint, I'll go back to Chrome. Do you read comic books?
Yuss. Do you like ice skating? Do you like strawberries and scones? Fantasy or Action Adventure?
Both. But never mind the bread. (Kudos if you get that reference
.) Movies or TV shows?
Both. But never mind the bread. (Maybe TV shows a bit more than movies.)
DONE, DONE, DONE! For your edification:
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KEEP SCROLLING! KEEP SCROLLING! 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Blog: Ink Splot 26
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, Percy Jackson
, Who Would Win
, fantasy books
, heroes of olympus
, kingdom keepers
, lord of the rings
, the chronicles of narnia
, the hobbit
, wings of fire
, Add a tag
Who would win in a fight between your favorite fantasy characters?
I know what MY favorite thing about fantasy books is: fantasy books often have the most exciting, epic, earth-shattering battles. In worlds where anything is possible, magical creatures, logic-defying supernatural abilities, and even nature itself can turn any old argument into a knock-down, drag-out fight to save the universe. It’s so exciting!
Fight scenes in fantasy books always leave me wondering what I would do if I had the abilities or strengths that the characters have. Would I try to save the world, too? Or would I go on silly adventures instead? Probably a little bit of both!
Today’s Fantasy Books Festival post is all about special abilities. Everyone loves a good collision of fantasy universes
, so do a little imagining yourself: who would win in a fight between these fictional characters?
- Maleficent (from the Kingdom Keepers series) or Gandalf (from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series)
- Annabeth Chase (from the Percy Jackson and the Olympians
series) or Hermione Granger
(from the Harry Potter
series)?Dragonet Clay (from the Wings of Fire
series) or Eustace
(from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
) . . . as a dragon?
Who are your winners? Why? What are your suggestions for fantasy face-offs? Share in the Comments below!
Till next time,
— En-Szu, STACKS Staffer
By: Julia Callaway,
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, Dictionaries & Lexicography
, TV & Film
, David J. Peterson
, Game of Thrones
, J.R.R. Tolkien
, lord of the rings
, oxford dictionaries
, Add a tag
By David J. Peterson
My name is David Peterson, and I’m a conlanger. “What’s a conlanger,” you may ask? Thanks to the recent addition of the word “conlang” to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), I can now say, “Look it up!” But to save you the trouble, a conlanger is a constructed language (or conlang) maker — i.e. one who creates languages.
Language creation has been around since at least the 12th century, when the German abbess Hildegard von Bingen created her Lingua Ignota — Latin for “hidden language” — an invented vocabulary she used for writing hymns. In the centuries that followed, philosophers like Leibniz and John Wilkins would create languages that were intended to serve as grand classification systems, and idealists like L. L. Zamenhof would create languages intended to simplify international communication. All these systems focused on the basic utility of language — its ability to encode and convey meaning. That would change in the 20th century.
Tolkien: the father of modern conlanging
Before crafting the tales of Middle-Earth, J. R. R. Tolkien was a conlanger. Unlike the many known to history who came before him, though, Tolkien created languages for the pure joy of it. Professionally, he became a philologist, but he continued to work on his own languages, eventually creating his famous Lord of the Rings series as an extension of the linguistic legendarium he’d been crafting for many years. Though his written works would become more famous than his linguistic creations, his conlangs, in particular Sindarin and Quenya, would go on to inspire new generations of conlangers throughout the rest of the 20th century.
Due to the general obscurity of the practice, many conlangers remained unknown to each other until the early 1990s, when home internet use started to become more and more common. The first dedicated meeting place for conlangers, virtual or otherwise, was the Conlang Listserv (an online mailing list). Some list members came out of interest in Tolkien’s languages, as well as other large projects, like Esperanto or Lojban, but the majority came to discuss their own work, and to meet and learn from others who also created languages.
Since the founding of the original Conlang Listserv, many other meeting places have sprung up online, and through a couple of decades of regular conlanger interaction, the practice of conlanging has evolved.
Conlangs have been separated into different types since at least the 19th century. First came the philosophical languages, as discussed, then the auxiliary languages like Esperanto (also known as auxlangs), but with Tolkien emerged a new type of language: the artistic language, or artlang. At its most basic, an artlang is a conlang created for artistic purposes, but that broad definition includes many wildly divergent languages (compare Denis Moskowitz’s Rikchik to Sylvia Sotomayor’s Kēlen). Finer-grained distinctions became necessary as the community grew, and so emerged the naturalistic conlang.
This is where the languages of HBO’s Game of Thrones and Syfy’s Defiance come in. The languages I’ve created for the shows I work on come out of the naturalist tradition. The goal with a naturalistic conlang is to create a language that’s as realistic as possible. The realism of a language is grounded in the reality (fictional or otherwise) of its speakers. If the speakers are more or less human (or humanoid) and are intended to be portrayed in a realistic fashion, then their language should be as similar as possible to a natural language (i.e. a language that exists here on Earth, like Spanish, Tagalog, or Cham).
The natural languages we speak are large, but also redundant and imperfect in a uniquely human way. Conlangers have gotten pretty good at emulating them over the years, usually employing one of two different approaches. The first, which I call the façade method, is to create a language that looks like a modern natural language by replicating the various features of a modern natural language. Thus, if English has irregular plurals, such as mouse~mice, then the conlang will have irregular plurals, too, by targeting certain nouns and making their plurals irregular in some way.
The historical method: making sense of irregular plurals in Valyrian
A contrasting approach is the method that Tolkien pioneered called the historical method. With the historical method, an ancestor language called a proto-language is created, and the desired language is evolved from it, via simulated linguistic evolution. The process takes a lot longer, but in some ways it’s simpler, since irregularities will naturally emerge, rather than having to be created by hand. For example, in Game of Thrones, the High Valyrian language Daenerys speaks differs from the Low Valyrian the residents of Slaver’s Bay speak. In fact, the latter evolved from the former. As the language evolved, it produced some natural irregularities. Consider the following nouns and their plurals from the Valyrian spoken in Slaver’s Bay:
hubre “goat” hubres “goats”
dare “queen” dari “queens”
aeske “master” aeske “masters”
Given that the singular forms all end in ‘e’, one has to say at least two of the plurals presented are irregular. But why the arbitrary differences in the plural forms? It turns out it’s because the three nouns with identical singular terminations used to have very different forms in the older language, High Valyrian, as shown below:
hobres “goat” hobresse “goats”
dāria “queen” dārī “queens”
āeksio “master” āeksia “masters”
Each of these alternations is quite regular in High Valyrian. In the simulated history, a series of sound changes which simplified the ends of words produced identical terminations for each of the three words in the singular, leaving later speakers having to memorize which have irregular plurals and which regular.
Simulated evolution applies to both grammar and the lexicon, as well. For example, natural languages often derive terminology for abstract concepts metaphorically from terminology for concrete concepts. Time, for instance, is an abstract concept that is frequently discussed using spatial terminology. How it’s done differs from language to language. In English, events that occur later in time occur after the present (where “after” derives from “aft,” a word meaning “behind”), and events that occur earlier in time occur before the present. Thus, time is conceptualized as a being standing in the present, facing the past, with the future behind them.
In Irathient, a language I created for Syfy’s Defiance, time is conceptualized vertically, rather than horizontally. The word for “after”, in temporal terms, is shei, which derives from a word meaning “above”; “before”, on the other hand, is ur, which also means “below” or “underneath”. The general metaphor that the future is up and the past is down bears out throughout the rest of the language, where if one wanted to say “Go back to what you were saying before”, the literal Irathient translation would be “Go down to what you were saying underneath”.
Ultimately, what one hears on screen sounds and feels like a natural language, regardless of whether or not one knows the work that went on behind the scenes. Since the prop used on screen is a language, though, rather than a costume or a piece of the set, the words can be recorded and analyzed at any time. Consequently, a conlang needs to be real in a way that a throne or a 700 foot wall of ice does not.
It’s still extraordinary to me that in less than 25 years, we came from a time when many conlangers were not aware that there were other conlangers to a time where our work is able to add to the authenticity of some of the best productions the big and small screen have to offer. The addition of the word “conlang” to the OED is a fitting capper to an unbelievable quarter century.
David J. Peterson is a language creator who works on HBO’s Game of Thrones, Syfy’s Defiance, and Syfy’s Dominion. You can find him on Twitter at @Dedalvs or on Tumblr.
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The post How I created the languages of Dothraki and Valyrian for Game of Thrones appeared first on OUPblog.
By: Michelina Ouellette,
Blog: Michelle Can Draw
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The pencil drawing for this one is here
, because sometimes it looks better in simple line.
And just because I couldn't make up my mind,
here is the elf in various autumn orc hunting colors.
Earlier this year I played a game mod for Lord of the Rings which had a real good feel to it. Reminded me a lot of the books. You could even be an orc although I ran into trouble. Playing as "Spuds" I was not inclined to do orcish
things. Savage orcs turned on me, and the race of men wouldn't accept me. Stay in the middle and I'd be killed! So Spuds did the only next best thing. Join a group of roaming heroes to fight against the darkness that was coming upon Middle Earth! (Okay I embellished a bit on the end but hey! It did lead to some crazy drawings, of which these are a few.)
I had some more serious Lord of the Rings drawings, but I think they got buried somewhere.
In other news... I'm jumping between paintings, illustration covers, and finishing my studio. More coming soon.
By: Jerry Beck,
Blog: Cartoon Brew
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, Alex Agnatiev
, Art Vitello
, Bruce Woodside
, Dale Baer
, Hank Tucker
, Irv Spence
, John Sparey
, Lenord Robinson
, Lord of the Rings
, Marty Taras
, Phil Roman
, Ralph Bakshi
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What can we learn about the animation industry from this photo of the animation crew from "Lord of the Rings"?
Blog: An Awfully Big Blog Adventure
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, Captain Underpants
, Daisy Meadows
, Dav Pilkey
, Debi Gliori
, Kevin Crossley-Holland
, Lord of the Rings
, Marcus Sedgwick
, Philip Reeve
, reading scheme
, school libraries
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Those of you who have children at secondary school, or are teachers or librarians, may have come across a new(ish) scheme called Accelerated Reader.
Administered in the UK by Rennaissance Learning
, Accelerated Reader is a system that grades books, suggests appropriate reading levels and then monitors pupils' reading by giving them a multiple choice quiz on the book they've just read. The system analyses the quiz responses to show teachers whether the pupil has read the book, and what aspects of it they found difficult (e.g., vocabulary, or higher level comprehension).
If they fly through a couple of quizes, they are rewarded with a higher reading band. They can also collect points according to how long the book was that they read - leading to a total score of words read, and the accolade of 'word millionaire' when they get to the magic 1,000,000 words. They are however expected to stay within their bands - books read outside them, although allowed, do not count for rewards and incentives. For a slower reader, expected to progress at a certain number of books per term, or for a competitive reader, determined to get to the millionaire mark first, this more or less prohibits reading outside the given bands.
According to the National Literacy Trust
, the use of Accelerated Reader in schools does actually get more pupils reading, and increases the proportion of pupils in the difficult teenage years who say they enjoy reading, will admit to a favourite book, and read widely across genres.
My daughter's school has just started using the scheme and the number of pupils taking books out of the school library has tripled compared with the same time last year. It's hard to argue with that kind of boost to pupils' interest in books and there really does seem to be a noticeable encouragement to read through the motivation of online quizes and rewards, particularly for boys.
What interests me, though, is the banding structure and the rationale behind it. AR uses a computer programme which scans the books and then analyses them for vocabulary and syntax (proportion of complex sentences). The range of banding for the books in a secondary school library is roughly from about 3 to about 11 or 12 for the very hardest books (for a rough idea of what these mean - R.L. Stine's Goosebumps
books are about 3; Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov
has an AR level of 11.1 )
|AR level 3.0|
|AR level 11.1|
More complex sentences and more advanced vocabulary result in a higher banding: and this more or less seems to work in terms of what one thinks of as appropriate progression - nobody is capable of reading Karamazov before they're capable of reading Goosebumps.
But there are two things I think are seriously problematic with the underlying assumptions of this scheme.
The first is a prescription that I think is wrong-headed: that we progress in reading in a straight line - that when we are capable of reading Dostoevsky, we are 'beyond' R.L. Stine. In fact, I think there are plenty of people who might go back and forth between the two and get different pleasures out of each. AR schemes do talk about letting pupils read 'below' their level as occasional 'comfort reads' - but this is presented as a kind of reversion. It's a bit like the idea that we all sometimes need to watch crap telly and eat donuts. It won't enrich our lives but it will give us some 'down-time'. For me, the idea that you are 'slumming it' by reading the 'easier' book is a pernicious one. The lower-level books are not just donuts, they may have all sorts of fabulous and enriching things to say to us as readers - they just do it in a different, though not necessarily less crafted or effective, way.
The second assumption is that the 'straight line' of reading progression is entirely about syntax and vocabulary. And this is where the truly jaw-dropping anomalies of AR banding become apparent. Using the AR website
to check the relative banding of books for her, I was amazed to discover that Alan Garner's Owl Service
is banded at 3.7. By contrast, Dav Pilkey's Captain Underpants
is 4.3. And Captain Underpants and the Revolting Radioacive Robo-Boxers
(presumably because of the number of multi-syllable words) is a whopping 5.3.
|AR level 4.3|
|AR level 3.7|
Bear in mind that the AR scheme suggests pupils are given relatively narrow bands to choose from - my daughter was started on 4.5–4.9. She was too high for The Owl Service
, although she couldn't yet read The Weirdstone of Brisingamen
, at 6.3. If she waited to be able to read the Weirdstone
, however, she would be too high to read its sequel, The Moon of Gomrath
, which is 5.4.
Philip Reeve's Here Lies Arthur (
a fabulous retelling of the Arthur legend from the point of view of a young girl co-opted into helping the bard Merlin, who is presented as a kind of early 'spin-doctor') is 5.6, so she'd reach that well before she was able to read Reeves' knockabout books for younger readers, the Buster Bayliss series (Custardfinger
is rated 6.3).
Meanwhile, she is lucky that her favourite author, Marcus Sedgwick, uses relatively simple sentences, as that means that many of his books are in her range (My Swordhand is Singing
, a complex tale of vampires set in medieval Eastern Europe, is 4.9). However, she's missed out on his Floodland
, which is 3.9, and it won't be long before she's progressed to the point where all of Sedgwick's novels will have to be 'comfort reads', as Kevin-Crossley Holland's magnificent Arthur books already are (4.2–4.3). Never mind - because she can always stretch herself with Daisy Meadows; Kate the Royal Wedding Fairy
|AR level 5.4|
|AR level 5.0|
I could go on - but here is one final one to ponder. Debi Gliori's Pure Dead Brilliant
is a whopping 7.5. This means you won't be able to progress to it till you are too high for The Lord of The Rings
(6.1), and in fact you'd be in the same ball-park band as The Silmarillion
The computer analysis used to grade AR books clearly doesn't read
them - it processes them as strings of words. The more important aspects of books - the ideas, the plot twists, the characters, the emotions, the metaphorical language - all of this is entirely missed. Yet this is most of what makes a book enjoyable, memorable, heart-breaking, what touches or thrills you as a reader. I am immensely saddened by the idea that whole swathes of teenagers are going to flick past The Owl Service
and fail to pick it off the shelf of the school library because it has a black sticker on it (easy) rather than green or purple (harder, higher, more worthy).
Accelerated Reader is beloved of Ofsted, because it produces quantifiable results and signs of 'progress'. It certainly seems to be getting more pupils reading, and excited about getting their rewards and stickers - but it's encouraging at the same time a very quantitative approach to what reading is
, and how we should do it. According to the National Literacy Trust survey, an extra 7% of pupils using the scheme are prepared to say they enjoy reading compared with those that don't use it. I wonder if that's an achievement worth celebrating if 100% of those pupils now think of reading as a goal-oriented activity with 'difficult' vocabulary being the measure of value?
Cecilia Busby writes fantasy adventures for children aged 7-12 as C.J. Busby. Her latest book, Dragon Amber,
was published in September by Templar.www.cjbusby.co.uk@ceciliabusby
"Great fun - made me chortle!" (Diana Wynne Jones on Frogspell
"A rift-hoping romp with great wit, charm and pace" (Frances Hardinge on Deep Amber
How have you all been?
Aside from catching a miserable cold and a 'flu pretty nearly at the same time, I've been good.
Not too much has been happening. I have an agent list going for a manuscript. Once I get an acceptance on that.......I'll let you know.
We watched the Lord of the Rings this week.
I always forget what an emotional rollercoaster that is. I cry every single time over every shattering event that occurs, and over the characters: Frodo and Sam, Merry and Pippin, Aragorn, Gandalf, Legolas, Gimli, Boromir, FARAMIR!!! Eowyn, Eomer, Arwen, Theoden.... If there is someone I can weep for, I weep, and prodigiously.
Fun fact: One of our bestest friends has never read the books nor seen the movies. She has only seen the last Hobbit movie (and let's be honest, friends. Peter Jackson could have done those so, so much better. What was wrong with keeping it just a bit more to the book?!), but anyway, we have told her frequently that LotR was WAY better than the Hobbit. So FINALLY we got her to watch the trilogy with us... the extended edition, of course. REAL fans watch only the extended LotR.
Not only did she cry as prodigiously as the rest of us (and this is a girl who rarely, if ever, cries over shows), but she now wants a cape and has been obsessively pinning Lord of the Rings on Pinterest and is reading the books now.
So I feel like we accomplished something this weekend.
In the meantime, I'm going to going the way I'm going and hope I figure out how to make more time in a single day. I need a TARDIS and some timey-wimey magic, I think.
Until my next emergence...
By: Katrina DeLallo
Blog: The World Crafter's Inkspot
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So guess what?
I've been writing queries! (Shameless call out to authors who write killer queries - if you'd like to take a gander and tell me what you think about it, hollah! I'd love the input
.) My BIG plan is to start submitting to agents. This was my BIG plan last year, but that fell through, so THIS year the BIG PLAN will happen.
I have two FINISHED MANUSCRIPTS!!
I have a list of agents THIS BIG!
So prayers are much appreciated.
Other than that, nothing's happening around here except fandoms.
I don't know what happened. Once upon a time my only fandom was the Lord of the Rings. Than, BAM. Avengers! Doctor Who! Leverage! Flashpoint! Grimm! Prison Break! Sherlock! Psych! (And a couple others that aren't exactly "fandoms," but shows I like. Like Sleepy Hollow. Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares. Those shows.)
Other than THAT, I feel like I live a very boring life.
I did make some beautiful corsages at work yesterday. That was fun. I made a set - a boutonniere and a corsage - that reminded me of My Little Pony, because of the pink and purple. This one:
I have been reading some.
I read ALL FALL DOWN by Ally Carter:
The Writer's Digest Guide to Query Letters by Wendy Burt:
I feel like I need to work on my author platform.
I feel like I need more time.
Anyhoozle, that's my life in a nutshell right now. Wish me luck for Valentine's Day. I'm going to be a snarling purple minion by the end of next week, after working a six-day work week.
Kay, that's all.
By: Katherine Langrish
Blog: An Awfully Big Blog Adventure
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I was asked by a fantasy and science fiction survey what I thought were the weaknesses of the two genres. This is a bit like being asked in a job interview to identify your own personal weaknesses – one doesn’t want to admit to anything. But in the end I replied ‘Poor characterisation and an over-reliance on magical and scientific hardware.’ I don’t think this was unfair. As a teenager I gobbled up Isaac Asimov’s ‘Robot’ and ‘Foundation’ books, and Arthur C. Clarke’s many and various space odysseys, but what I loved was the vast sweep of the black canvas they both painted on – prickling with stars and smudged with dusty, embryonic galaxies. Against that background, the human characters in their books were unmemorable. I’m trying right now, and I can’t think of even one of their names.
As for fantasy, the same thing applies. The world is often more important than the characters. I don’t think I would recognise Colin and Susan from Alan Garner’s brilliant early fantasies, if I saw them in the street. Even in ‘Lord of the Rings’, characters are more often conveniently defined by their species (elf, dwarf, hobbit etc) than by personality. Could you pick Legolas from an identity parade of other elves, or Gimli from a line-up of other dwarfs?
You have several wonderfully memorable science-fiction/fantasy characters on the tip of your tongue at this very moment, I can tell, and you are burning to let me know. I can think of a notable exception myself: Mervyn Peake’s cast of eccentrics in the Gormenghast books. I’ll look forward to your comments... But moving swiftly on, I began to think about memorable characters in children’s fiction – which as a genre, like science fiction and fantasy, tends to be strong on narrative. Does children’s fiction in general, I wondered, have characters that walk off the page?
So here, in no particular order, is a partial list. Mr Toad. The Mole and the Water Rat. Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore and Tigger. William. Alice. The Red Queen. Oswald Bastable and Noel Bastable. Arrietty, Homily and Pod. Mrs Oldknowe. Dido Twite. Patrick Pennington. Mary Poppins. Mowgli. Long John Silver. Peter Pan. Ramona. Huck Finn. Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy. Puddleglum. Pa, Ma, Laura and Mary. Stalky. Moomintroll, the Snork Maiden and the Hemulen...
All of these characters, I would argue, are so strongly drawn that once you have met them you will never forget them. I will bet that for each of the above names (so long as you’ve read the books) you knew instantaneously who I meant, and had a picture of them in your head and the ‘flavour’ of them in your mind, just as if they were real people. These characters have a life beyond the page: not only is it possible to imagine them doing other things besides what their authors have described, it’s almost impossible not to believe that in some sense they possess a sort of independent reality.
There are many good books in which characterisation is not very important. Fairytales have always relied on standard ‘types’: the foolish younger son whose good heart triumphs, the princess in rags, the cruel queen, the harsh stepmother, the weak father, the lucky lad whose courage carries him through. This is because fairytales are templates for experience, and they are short: we identify with the hero, and move on with the narrative. Fairytales are not about other people: they are about us.
But the crown of fiction is the creation of new, independent characters. Though Mr Toad may share some characteristics with the boastful, lucky lad of Grimm’s fairytale ‘The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs’, he is nevertheless gloriously and individually himself. Huck Finn is more than a poor peasant boy or a woodcutter’s son. Children’s fiction is a fertile ground in which such characters can flourish.
Visit Katherine's website at www.katherinelangrish.co.uk
I dreamed last night that I was accompanying a woman around, who needed my help, who was, indeed, in the grip of a severe emotional crisis. This wasn’t surprising, since she was composed of slices of chicken breast that needed to be reassembled. I spent a little time pondering this after I woke up, but it didn’t solve any of my current plot problems.
You might well say that it wouldn’t, but it’s odd how often solutions do come out of dreams. In many cases (like the chicken-slice woman) I’d find the solution by reflecting on the symbolism. In her case it could signify some sense of inner fragmentation, perhaps, but this doesn’t ring any bells with me. Leave her aside, however, and I can often jump from a dream about a tidal wave full of horrible fish to realising that my character’s repressed feelings about something or other must now leap out and grab her (or him) round the throat. Sometimes there’s no apparent connection at all, but thinking about the dream gives my imagination a nudge nonetheless, the dream has geared me up, maybe?
On at least one occasion, a major plot component was given me by a dream. This was years ago, when I was working on a novel for adults The Mountain of Immoderate Desires, and I took a nap in the afternoon because I wasn’t feeling very well. I woke up with a start, with my heart thumping, and a sense of terror, while a voice spoke to me: ‘You have come a long way to end outside a Chinese city wall.’ When I’d recovered from my fright, I thought: That’s it, Lily, the character in my novel has been abandoned outside the walls of a Chinese city, and she almost dies there. Of course I wasn’t taking exact dictation from the dream, but it was pretty apposite, and I was very pleased with the nudge from my subconscious.
I have other, less helpful dreams, in which I am writing a novel which, I know, is the same as one already written, and have this moment of horror when it gets through to me. Or else I’m just writing a different novel from the one I’m actually working on, and I know it’s rubbish. Then there are the strange published novels that pop up in my dreams, books I’ve written that I don’t recognise – and usually they’re not up to much, either. I have no hesitation in ascribing these dreams to the insecurity of the writer’s life, and I wonder if other writers have them?
Some dreams come, recognisably, out of a particular writer’s plot-bag. I dreamed the night before last that I was Death’s granddaughter (though not at all like Miss Susan) and subsequent to the End of the World – which was, however, only temporary, for reasons perhaps known to Terry Pratchett – I had to tidy up all the mess people had left behind them. I remember making beds – literally, I had to staple ticking onto divan covers and assemble mattresses (such is the quaint verbal literalness of the dreamer’s mind) clearing up kitchens, weeding gardens – for as long as the world stayed ended, the beds stayed tidy – and then the Last Trumpeter appeared again and played, presumably, the Reveille. And everyone got up and the world un-ended. The interesting thing about this dream was its close attention to plot and thematic consistency, whereas most dreams jump from one plot to another like a grasshopper making its way across the field. I also woke at the trumpet, and heard my alarm going off.
And not so long ago, I dreamed I was watching the hobbits arrive at the Bridge in Rivendell. They came there, not on ponies, but in an old VW dormobile, the kind that was painted all over with flowers and CND symbols. They had to leave it in the car park (National Trust, of course) and run up the marked trail to the river, and when the Black Riders arrived in pursuit they came in a stretch limo and got out, all dressed in dark suits and dark glasses like Mafiosi. This surely indicates a distinct cultural connection between The Lord of the Rings and The Godfather.
Quite a while ago, there was a quote on an ABBA blog fr
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Read his previous post, 10 Ways World of Warcraft Will Help You Survive the End of Humanity!
By Robert M. Geraci
Scientific American recently rocked the Internet with its editors’ piece “Death to Humans! Visions of the Apocalypse in Movies and Literature” but, in doing so, have missed half of the fun. In an article where the sublime (The Matrix) meets the atrocious (The Postman), the chief problem that SciAm’s editors suffer is that, to be honest, they do not know what an apocalypse is.
Threats to the world are not apocalyptic. In one of the apocalyptic texts par excellence, the Book of Revelation, the world isn’t just going to end…it’s going to transform in radical fashion (admittedly thanks to the seven seals that FBI and ATF members thought were marine mammals when David Koresh quoted them, the many-headed beast, and the whore of Babylon who will be drunk on the blood of the martyrs). Despite all the trials and tribulations, the end of the world is a good thing: it will end with the establishment of a wondrous new one.
So, how about some more apocalyptic films and books?
R.U.R. (1927; play) – Robots plan on killing us all. But after they’ve finished their noble work, they will explore an earth purged of, umm, us.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968; film and novel) – In Kubrick’s and Clarke’s classic, David Bowman gets sucked into a galactic hotel and comes back a “Star Child” who can toss aside nuclear weapons as though they are paper airplanes. A new world shall dawn in the warm glow of the cosmic baby’s power.
Dark City (1998, film) – After John Murdoch psychokinetically conquers the aliens who have enslaved humankind, he remains stuck in a spaceship but uses its powers to provide himself with a West coast paradise where he will spend the future with a lovely woman whose memories have been tailored to match his own.
The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955 and 2001-2003; novels and films) – When two hobbits (one deranged and well past his prime, the other just twisted and tired after a noble quest) struggle at the flaming precipice of Mount Doom, they inaugurate a new world. In the end, lava purges the forces of evil and the friendly hobbits have a fighting chance to spend eternity blowing smoke rings and cheering for fireworks.
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (2004; novel) – Cory Doctorow paints us a future where we can spend an infinity in Disney Land, rejuvenating our bodies and, when necessary, restoring our minds to cloned bodies in the case of, well, an accident. And the line at the Pirates of the Caribbean ride won’t matter because you have an infinite amount of time to wait.
Accelerando (2006; novel) – After the machines take over the solar system, predicts Charles Stross, we can always ask a divine
By: Hannah Moskowitz
This post has nothing to do with writing and absolutely everything to do with being a writer.
The stereotype of a writer--the middle-aged man pounding feverishly at a typewriter, cigarette in his mouth, sending hard-copy manuscripts to his agent and protesting the change of every word--has yet to catch up with the reality of what being a writer entails today.
We are not locked in our attics alone. We are not even the romantic writers of the '20s, drinking coffee and discussing literature. We are a legion of overworked, underwashed normals, pounding away at our laptops and shooing the kids to the next room.
And more importantly, we are not alone.
If you are reading this blog, you have obviously already met at least one other writer (hello there.) Chances are, I'm not the only one. Agent, editor, and writer blogs, facebook, forums like Verla Kay and Absolute Write, and God, above all Twitter, mean that, at the very least, most writers are at least a friend of a friend of yours. The term 'networking' is so appropriate here, because, in actuality, we--writers, publishing professionals, book bloggers--are a net. A web of interconnected people.
We know the same people. The truth is, this world feels very big sometimes, and God knows everyone is talking about writing a novel, but when it comes down to it--the people who are really out there, querying, editing, submitting, representing, accepting, rejecting, publishing, copyediting, waiting...well, the truth is, there aren't that many of us after all.
Which is why the act of being a professional writer has come to mean much more than it used to. Fifty years ago, all most writers had to do was avoid getting arrested and not respond to bad reviews.
You have a much bigger job to undertake. And it's stressful, and it's scary, but it can also be one of the most rewarding parts of this job. Somedays, my writing is absolutely shitty, and the house is a mess, and I'm crying because I can't find my socks, but I have 557 blog followers and I said something funny on Twitter today, so at least this day isn't totally for the birds.
You may think that I am the worst possible person ever to talk about how to be a professional. I'm loud and I'm obnoxious and I had to edit about ten cuss words out of this post so I didn't offend Nathan's sensibilities.
Yep. That's me.
But I'm hoping all that will make me easier to listen to, because when people think 'professional,' they a lot of the time think boring, sanitized, safe. And that's not who you have to
be. I'm living proof over here. And I knew from the start that I was taking a big risk, but I hoped that people would find me interesting and remember me.
It's worked pretty well so far. And that, kittens, is the real reason you want to get out there and put on your professional face. So that people will remember you.
Now that I'm done babbling, here are some guidelines. How to be a successful professional writer, by yours truly. And these are not big, life-changing rules. These are just tricks. Tricky little tricks.
--GET ON TWITTER. I don't care what your objections are. I objected too. But it is hands-down the best way to connect with people you would never have the balls to approach any other way. You can follow someone, which causes them no pain or trouble whatsoever, and you can talk to them in a completely neutral, undemanding way.
--READ ABOUT BOOKS. What do Hunger Games, Twilight, Lord of the Rings, The Da Vinci Code, and a hell of a lot of other books have in common? Answer: I haven't read them.
I'm not proud. But I know I don't have nearly enough time to read as much as I should, so I make a point of reading *about* books I wish I had time to read. Know enough about popular books to be able to fake your way through a conversation. I can discuss Twilight with the best of 'em.
By: Maryann Yin,
Blog: Galley Cat (Mediabistro)
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, Charles Dickens
, Gerald Dickens
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, John Keys
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, The Hobbit
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New Zealand activists are fighting to keep filming for the upcoming The Hobbit adaptation in that country, the same place where Peter Jackson filmed the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. According to these passionate protesters, “New Zealand is Middle Earth.”
The Guardian reports that Warner Bros. executives will decide this week if the shoot will be in New Zealand. Prime Minister John Keys will personally oversee the negotiations, hoping that producers will make a decision in his country’s favor.
The article adds: “A dispute over pay and conditions led producers to hint that they might move filming to another country. Carrying banners proclaiming ‘New Zealand is Middle Earth’ and ‘We Love Hobbits,’ a reported 2-3,000 people gathered in New Zealand’s capital, Wellington, and other cities such as Auckland and Christchurch in advance of a visit by executives from the studio Warner Bros.”
New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.
The Books! This Week!
First up, one of my blog readers is an editor in Egypt, and as there aren't many/any agents in Egypt (but there could be), she's hoping to work as a virtual intern at a literary agency to learn more about the trade. I know we're all rooting for Egypt after the revolution, any agents out there who could help her out?
There was a very interesting discussion over at All Indie Publishing triggered by the always-interesting Zoe Winters. The topic: Do 99 Cent E-books Attract the Wrong Kind of Reader? Now, at first blush, your answer might be, as John Ochwat put it on Twitter, "If readers are wrong, I don't want to be right." But Zoe's thoughts are worth a read in full. Does the price affect a reader's loyalty and the perception of value? (via OtherLisa)
Is all publicity really good publicity? Well, according to a study spotted by The Millions: It all depends. For established writers, bad publicity can hurt sales. For new writers: Bad publicity actually helps.
Very smart editor Cheryl Klein has self-published a guide to writing called SECOND SIGHT, definitely check that out!
The New York Observer took an anthropological look at the "Assisterati," the collective of extremely smart assistants who are reading many of your queries and performing essential tasks behind the scenes at agencies. And yes, the "Assisterati" Twitter account was started just a week later.
What do you get when you take an author's first novel, which is the first sale by her agent and the first acquisition by her editor? Well, in this case you get THE TIGER'S WIFE by Tea Obreht, currently the toast of the literary scene.
In writing and publishing advice news, guest blogging at Pimp My Novel, Brad Philips offers nine ways to give a better reading, Finslippy gives advice on attending conferences, and agent Rachelle Gardner had three great publishing mythbusting posts here, here and here.
And in so wrong it's right news... real life re-creations of romance novel covers. (via Stephen Shankland)
This week in the Forums, March Madness is so on, can social media self-promotion be a bad thing, an authors for Japan benefit auction, the Great Gatsby mansion is going to be
Blog: Children's Books, and Other Cool Stuff
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By: David D Bernstein,
Fantasy Book Reviews
1) Where The Wild Things Are -This picture book by Maurice Sendak and a very popular book. I highly recommend it if you did not read it yet. The book is a classic and has been for years. It was published originally in 1963 and won the 1964 Caldecott Medal for most distinguished picture book of the year. When a boy named Max misbehaves his mother sends him to his room where his fantastic journey begins. After his journey he comes home to discover that barely any time had passed even though his trip seemed to take place a very long time. This book is a wonderful read not only for children but adults as well. It explores the possibilities of other worlds and so much more.
2) The Egg- This picture book by M.P Robertson is less known, but also a great read. It was published in 2001 by Dial books. It is about a boy named George, who one day discovers a huge egg under one of his barn chickens. When the egg is warmed and hatches a dragon is born. It is then when George's adventure begins. His adventure takes him for a special training and eventually to another world where dragons live. The book has amazing illustrations and a great fantasy story line that any child or adult will enjoy. It is a great read for everyone. Make sure to look for this book and to share it with your children in the classroom or by a sizzling fire.
3) Sweep Dreams- This picture book came out in 2005. It is by Nancy Willard and Illustrated by Mary Grandpre. It was published by Little Brown and company. It is about a man who fell in love with a magical broom. The mystery started when the lady at the register had no idea where this broom was from. Since it had no cost on it she gave it to the man as a gift. The man never used the broom to sweep and this made her sick. As soon as started using her to sweep the floors and etc.. the broom became very happy and danced outside in the street. A bad man saw it and kidnapped her. As the book goes on many magical adventures take place. I believe children will get right into the story. The book has all kinds of wonderful pictures that almost everyone will enjoy. Please pick up a copy.
1) The Phantom Tollbooth- I read this wonderful book back in elementary school. It was written Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer who I had the pleasure to meet and talk to a few months ago. It came out from Random House in 1961. I love this classical book that teaches many things to children. It is about a boy named Milo who is bored of everything in his life. One day a tollbooth mysteriously appears in his room. Milo drives through it in his toy car because he has nothing better to do. This leads him to a different world. It is here that Milo's whole view of life changes. he takes on several amazing quests and meets fantastic creatures including a ticking watch dog named Tock. I loved this classic fantasy book as a young lad and I truly believe your son or daughter will as well.
2) The Book of Time Trilogy- I got a chance to read this Trilogy on my trip to FL. You can look back at my older posts to read more about it. It includes three books: The Book of Time, The Gate of Days and The Circle of Gold. They are by Gullaume Prevost and were translated by William Rodarm. The books originally published by Gallimard Jeunnesse in 2006, 2007 and 2008. The English- language translations were published by Arthur A. Levine books in 2007, 2008 and 2009. Cheryl Klein was the wonderful editor who worked on this wonderful Fantasy Trilogy. The books are about Faulkner family. They could be any ordinary family on the outside, but they have many secrets. Sam Faulkner a 13 year old boy discovers a sec
See The Fellowship of the Ring Extended Edition in theaters for one night only TONIGHT, June 14! The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers will show on June 21, and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King on June 28.
From the press release:
The events will begin with a new and personal introduction for each film from The Lord of the Rings™ director Peter Jackson captured from the set of his current film, and The Lord of the Rings prequel, The Hobbit, and will be immediately followed by the Extended Edition feature presentations which altogether include nearly three hours of additional feature footage carefully selected by Peter Jackson.
For more information and to purchase tickets:http://ping.fm/6Ulqh
The Lord of the Rings: War in the North is a new action-RPG set in Middle Earth that takes place during the War of the Rings but concerned with the action in non southern front places. LIke Eriador and Rhovanion.
Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
That’s right! Carn Dûm, baby!
Distributed along with the game will be a 2 part comic book! Produced by DC it will be written by Brian Wood! This is totally exciting, but to get it you must pre-order the game at Toys R ‘Us for part 1, or buy it through Amazon, with part 2.
According to WB, gamers will gain access to parts 1 and 2 of the comic by pre-ordering War in the North at Toys R’ Us, while Amazon is offering part 2 only. There’s currently no word where the comic will be made available, though DC’s ComiXology app is a logical choice. There’s also no word on a specific release date, pricing for the comic for those without pre-orders, or whether the series consists of more than these two chapters.
For this part, Wood explained his part of it on his blog
THAT SAID it was a fun job. I wish I could have written more than the 16 pages of script I did, but like I said, its not up to me. I love LOTR and nothing would make me happier than to write a regular comic for general release. But as far as I know, and I’m only going off the info in the above links, this is a digital-only incentive promo comic available to people who pre-order the video game from Amazon or Toys R Us.
We would give anything to see Brian Wood write a comic book called DAIN OF THE IRON HILLS.
Or ELLADAN & ELROHIR: ARNOR RANGERS.
Colleen Doran would draw either of those in a heart beat,
What would be your favored LoTR spin-off comic?
By: Claudette Young
Blog: Claudsy's Blog
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Taking a day away from usual activities helps to restore a semblance of order to one’s life. Perspective is gained. Appreciation is elevated. New knowledge filters through the mind to lodge in memories.
Yesterday was a day of exploration into places unknown and challenging facts known. For me, it was also a time to take away snippets of useful information; the kind used in a twisted kind of way for story elements and character development. Those are the kind of relaxed and fun days that begin with one purpose and turn out as gold mines. Also, the experience felt much like going home to my dad’s family for the day.
We met up with friends, Sister’s distant cousins, in a small-town restaurant about an hour south of our locale. We had a nice lunch before heading south again to their home in an even smaller town. Our entire purpose for going on this jaunt was so that Sister could shoot the eclipse in an area where she could get good water-reflection shots.
During our scouting adventure, I was taken to places I’d never seen before; places that had escaped my notice when I’d lived in the area twenty years ago. As well, the cousins constantly pointed out places that related to their family histories.
“So and so built that ranch. Who is the latest owner, honey?” Cousin #2 asked as she pointed to the left to a grouping of buildings amid lush pastures. “The original barn’s gone now, of course.”
Gravel roads, dust flying from under the wheels of passing ranch trucks and cars, we made our way from reservoir to reservoir; each with points of interest. On the first we found swans that had been introduced to the waterways. The second, though smaller, was far more serene, more relaxing. Native ducks, muskrats, gulls, all played in the placid water. Further into the hills, we found rock chucks guarding their homes and new calves cavorting among adults.
At last we wound through forested hills up to MacDonald Lake, nestled in the Mission Range; a smaller lake than it used to be, only because it isn’t allowed to fill up the way it used to years ago. The deep teal, crystalline waters, surrounded by pine-covered slopes, beckoned to us. Trails radiated from its sides for the explorer who would challenge grizzlies in the area for prime fishing spots.
From the south-end approach I could only envision one scenario. I saw a scene straight out of
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