I NEED MY MEMORY, SORROW, AND THORN!

If you are a regular reader then I'm sure you are already aware, but I'm in the middle of writing my first fantasy novel called Then a Penguin Walked In.

You weren't aware? Well, good news, you can read it while I write it, just go HERE.

Anyway, I have great love for the fantasy genre. In fact, you could say that I cut my reading teeth on fantasy. I mean, from age twelve all the way up through my early thirties, fantasy books were pretty much the only thing I read (apart from Douglas Adams, Stephen King, and the occasional Star Wars book).Yet, to be honest, I don't read much of it anymore.

But then, last summer, I began to get the kernels of an idea for Then a Penguin Walked In, and it got me all nostalgic for the books of my youth. So I've been trying, since then, to go back and read all those old books I'd read many times before. But here's the thing, I'd gotten rid of most of those books long, long ago. So it took a bit of doing, and the local library, to track some of this stuff down . . . and I've barely touched the surface.

There was one trilogy of books that I remember quite fondly: Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn by Tad Williams. Unfortunately my local library doesn't have any of the three books in the series, nor do they have it available in eBook. And so, being consistently broke, I haven't been able to re-read them. Which is a shame, really, because I do recall them being very good.

But it is not to be. Not now, anyway. So instead, I'll just write what I remember from the three books.


Back in the late 80's and early 90's, there was this great little book store in Lawrence, Kansas called The Town Crier.

Once I was old enough to drive I would often find myself browsing their fantasy shelves looking for my next book, preferably a series. It was on one of these occasions that I came across a book called The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams. This was the first book in Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn.

This was, of course, before the internet. I didn't subscribe to any kind of magazines that wrote about the latest and greatest in fantasy. So I could only do what most people did, and still do to this day really: Look at the cover and read the book description.

Well, the cover, though beautifully illustrated by Michael Whelan, didn't draw me in.

The book description however, caused me to take the book home (Don't worry, I paid for it).

This is what it says on Amazon . . . I can't be sure if that's what had been on the back of my book (I'd bought the paperback) because I no longer have a copy (though I may have a book club version up in the attic somewhere).

A war fueled by the dark powers of sorcery is about to engulf the peaceful land of Osten Ard--for Prester John, the High King, slayer of the dread dragon Shurakai, lies dying. And with his death, an ancient evil will at last be unleashed, as the Storm King, undead ruler of the elvishlike Sithi, seeks to regain his lost realm through a pact with one of human royal blood. Then, driven by spell-inspired jealousy and hate, prince will fight prince, while around them the very land begins to die.

Only a small scattered group, the League of the Scroll, recognizes the true danger awaiting Osten Ard. And to Simon--a castle scullion unknowingly apprenticed to a member of this League--will go the task of spearheading the quest for the solution to a riddle of long-lost swords of power...and a quest that will see him fleeing and facing enemies straight out of a legend-maker's worst nighmares!

I remember the book opening a bit slowly. In fact, I believe I actually put it away at one point without getting past the first third of the book. I can't recall. If I did, I'm glad I decided to pick it back up again because it got really good. Really, really good.

From what I can remember of the book, you had this kid named Simon who was a scullion in the Hayholt, the castle of the great Prester John. Everyone called him Simon Mooncalf because his mind always seemed to be in the clouds. Simon is given the opportinuty to work for the castle 'wizard', Doctor Morgenes.

Doctor Morgenes, we find out, is a member of an organization of scholars called the League of the Scroll.

The Doctor is then murdered by an evil 'wizard' named Pyrates, Simon escapes from the Hayholt, and that's when it all starts blowing up.

Following The Dragonbone Chair was The Stone of Farewell and then the final book, To Green Angel Tower, which was such a massive tome that they had to split it in two when they released it in paperback.

I'll be honest here, while I've read the series at least three times, it has been over a decade or more since my last time through, so I don't recall a lot of specifics about the books.

I remember the books being rich with characters, cultures, and races. I lived in these books for a while. I fell in love with the characters and wanted to spend more time in Osten Ard.

And now, looking into it online to get some of the basics for this post, a lot of stuff is really coming back, and I desperately want to give it another read. Stupid library. Maybe I'll try inter library loan, that's never let me down.

There are audio books out there, and though that's my preferred option at this point, they are all too rich for my blood.

Following Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, Williams released a four book series called Otherland, which was Science Fiction, but I feel it needs a mention as it was the first time I strayed from the fantasy world and was an absolutely amazing series. Maybe I'll talk about it at some point in the future.

Wish me luck on putting my hands on these books.

VARIETY SMACK #1 - BRAINSTORMING

As promised on Friday, in celebration of the return to Our Adventure Continues, I am going to be posting my favorite strips along with their scripts.

I start today with the first strip we created.


Variety Smack #1

Brainstorming…

10/2/2011

Harold and Steeven standing together

Panel One

HAROLD: YOU WANT TO DO A WEBCOMIC WITH ME?

STEEVEN: SURE!

Panel Two

HAROLD: WHAT SHOULD IT BE ABOUT?

STEEVEN: A PROUD AND LONELY PEOPLE WHO ROAM THE EARTH, STRUGGLING EACH AND EVERY DAY TO FIND THEIR PLACE IN A SOCIETY THAT HAS FORGOTTEN ALL ABOUT THEM

HAROLD: INTERESTING

STEEVEN: OH, AND THEY’RE RABID NINJA ZOMBIE WILDEBEASTS

Panel Three

Harold just looks at Steeven

Panel Four

HAROLD: HOW ABOUT WE JUST FORGET THIS ENTIRE CONVERSATION

STEEVEN: FAIR ENOUGH


IT ALL STARTED WITH A VARIETY SMACK!


On October 25th, 2011, I was chatting with Harold C. Jennett III (I just call him Harold) on a Gmail chat, and out of the blue he asked me if I wanted to do a web comic with him. He's an artist, I'm a writer, seemed simple enough.

The idea was that we would both come up with story ideas, I'd write the scripts and he'd draw the strips. It was so simple it was akin to genius.

So, of course, I said yes.

We went back and forth on the name but finally landed on Variety Smack.

Two hours later I'd written a script, Harold drew up the strip, I started up a Blogger site, Harold put together a banner image, and we'd posted our very first web comic together.

The strip was black and white with gray tones, but we later went back and colorized the original 12 strips.



After 12 strips we realized that we couldn't keep up. I mean, we didn't really give the web comic a lot of thought, we just jumped in with both feet and started creating. So we stopped.

A year later we found ourselves working together on an 8 page super hero story called Priorities (which I'll need to post over here sometime as well, I suppose). It was as we were working on that book that we decided to get back to the web comic. But this time we would give it some more thought, come up with a plan, and get some strips in the can before we started posting.

That was Our Adventure Continues.


77 strips and 2 years later, we hit the end of what we referred to as Season One. Then we took a break. But the break never ended.

So why am I talking about this?

Well, I'm excited to announce that over two years later, Our Adventure Continues is coming back, and it kicks off with The Mighty Piñata!

So, to celebrate, I thought I'd post some of my favorite strips, along with their script.

All that will start next week. For now, go read Page One of The Mighty Piñata!


BE AFRAID, BE VERY AFRIAD


We all have our own little irrational fears.

It doesn’t really matter what that fear is, they are ours and they are all just as equally important as the next person’s fears.

My step-daughter, for example, is afraid of spiders. Just the thought that over three weeks ago, a spider may have trodden over the very floor upon which she is currently standing gives her the heebie-jeebies like nobody’s business. In fact, her fear forces her to vacate the room, never to return, until a full-blown spider-themed exorcism has been performed by seventeen priests, twelve nuns, and twenty-three genuine African witch doctors.

There are some that might call this a little extreme and would easily brush her fear off as being a little silly. However, be it a fear of spiders, flying, heights, or the combustible engine, we are all afraid of something. So take that “my fear is more important than your fear” stone you’re about to chuck, and stick it somewhere that society has deemed to be a very naughty place.

Would you like to know what I fear?

Well, let’s get the big ones out of the way first.

I have a fear of heights. But here’s the thing, I don’t know if it's heights in general that I'm afraid of, or if it’s just that I know that I'm an extremely clumsy person and that if anyone is going to fall off of a ladder while trying to string Christmas lights about their roofline, well that would be me.

I’m afraid of most anything that is either insect or arachnid. Well . . . I don’t scream like a girl when I see a bug, but I get a general sense of the creeps just seeing them in the house. And they have to be in the house. If I see a spider or millipede or some other creepy-crawly outside just doing it’s thing, I let it be. If I find one in the house, it’s dying in a blinding ball of thunder. See, I’m like those cartoons you see when two guys are fighting and all you see is a moving cloud of dust with fists and feet poking out. That’s what I look like when I attack a bug in the house.

I’m afraid of other drivers. I fancy myself a very good driver. I’m a very defensive driver. If all I had to worry about was me, then I could sleep soundly knowing that I will never get into a wreck or have any type of accident. It’s the other drivers I worry about. I’m afraid that the guy ahead of me in the other lane, the guy that’s coming towards me, is going to suddenly swerve his car into my lane. I further worry that he’s going to do it at the last second to deny me any opportunity to dodge him. I worry whenever I go through a green light at an intersection that someone is going to run the red and slam into the side of my car. It’s a wonder I still get in my car at all.

I have an irrational fear of meeting, and just plain being around, new people. I simply can’t stand it. I warm up to folks after a while, but being around people I don’t know makes my palms sweat like a fat man in a Turkish bathhouse. I don’t even like talking to strangers on the phone and will usually have my wife call the pizza place for delivery.

I’m afraid, and simply unable, to go Number Two in public restrooms, or frankly any restroom that’s not the one in my home, or my parent’s home. I’ve made peace with the restroom at work, like I had a choice, but I simply won’t do anything but sit if there is anyone else in the restroom. I know that some guys are completely comfortable with themselves . . . I know because there have been many a time that I’ve stood at a urinal while the guy in the stall is making explosive noises that smell.

OK, this is taken a much more disgusting turn than I anticipated.

Let’s move on.

I fear left turns, but only in the car. I only prefer left turns when a traffic light or four-way stop is in play. Otherwise I will go miles out of my way to avoid taking a left turn if I can. I typically plan out my route whenever I leave the house to ensure that I can take as few left turns as possible.

I’m afraid of metal. But I’m sure that’s only due to the recent weather and the dryness of the air that turns every bit of metal I touch into an electrostatic shock that can sometimes really hurt.

I’m afraid of spontaneity. Anything that takes me out of my routine makes me want to hide under my bed. It could be anything from a last minute decision to go out for dinner instead of staying in, to friends and family just dropping by unannounced. Thankfully these two examples rarely happen, but I get scared just thinking of the possibility.

I fear the over-curious scientist. I think that there are too many scientists out there with a lot of money looking into things that just shouldn’t be looked into. Do we really need to clone animals? That’s just going to lead to cloning people. Do scientists not read Sci-Fi books? Nothing good can come from cloning. What about this quest for antimatter? What’s that all about? Scientists need to read more comics and Sci-Fi novels. They aren’t just for entertainment . . . they are warnings!

I fear what people think of me. I’m sure this has a lot to do with my general fear of meeting new people. I just want people to like me . . . is that so wrong?

I’m sure I have more fears that aren’t springing to mind. But none are, so I’ll leave it at that.

What are you afraid of?