Hello Darkness my old friend….

I had a conversation with my friend the other day about the songs that have the most meaning to us. He was able to name his pretty quickly… but I had trouble doing the same. Originally, I leaned towards “S.O.S. (Anything But Love)” by Apocalyptica because of the experiences of my life. But I really do not want to be defined by just the relationships that I have had, so I started to think about it more and really try to define who and what I am. This tends to end badly due to my rather negative self image… but I think I am largely past that.

The song that started this whole conversation was the Disturbed cover of Simon and Garfunkle’s “The Sound of Silence” and my feelings that this song written in 1964 is profoundly relevant even in today’s society. We just worship a god of LED instead of Neon (smartphones, etc). I love “The Sound of Silence”… though I admit that I had never paid attention to it beyond the first two lines until I heard it in The Watchmen during the Comedian’s funeral scene. But since then, I will randomly go on tangents where I listen to it on repeat for hours. It makes me cry. Every time. The cover by Disturbed is utterly beautiful by the way, and I totally recommend it. It’s at the end of this post if you want to listen.

As I was listening to it tonight I realized why the song gets to me so much. It reminds me of how I always felt about Los Angeles. A city of millions, yet everyone always seemed so isolated… so absorbed in their own lives. Neon signs and billboards everywhere, selling everything. Graffiti everywhere with bits of true art mixed in now and then. I had a flashback of a school trip somewhere and looking at downtown LA in the distance from the freeway, and feeling depressed just seeing the concrete jungle. I saw people walking with heads focused on phones. People in cafes on laptops. Elevators and public transit where no one talks to each other. I always wanted to change it. Tried to be friendly. It usually went well. I felt like I made a difference in people’s days by just saying hello. I got smiles. I connected and reminded them they were human beings, if only for a moment.

In my realization of how much the song reminds me of home… yes, I still think of it as home… I thought again of how much I miss it. And then I realized that, ironically, the song that has the most meaning to me was the one that started the whole conversation.

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My thoughts on human potential

So I recently went on a trip to Washington, D.C. with Ben and our friend Kaleb. As part of this vacation, we paid a visit to the Holocaust Memorial Museum. Now, I consider myself a historian. I’ve studied the Holocaust, I’ve seen the images and the videos, and I had a pretty good idea of what I was in for when we walked inside.

I was not prepared at all.

I firmly believe that there are place memories. Locations and objects involved in events so powerful that they can imprint on people interacting with them years later. The artifacts at the museum have those memories and the curators pulled no punches in the exhibit’s design. I broke down in tears twice.

The Holocaust is seen by many as the darkest chapter of human history… some teachers actually teach it that way. Undoubtedly, however, while it is one of the darker parts, it is not alone on a pedestal. That is the truly tragic part. Never Again is the slogan of those who acknowledge the horror of the attempted genocide of the Jewish people, but it is still happening in the world. The museum also had exhibits on the Khmer Rouge and the current events in Syria. The main exhibit includes a quote from Hitler about the Armenian genocide and how no one made a big deal of it, even in the 1930s. These are just four examples of genocide that have occurred in the last century… only 100 years!

Humans are beings full of potential. We have the capacity for boundless compassion and kindness, but we are also capable of the harshest cruelty. It is something that people forget, or do not really understand. Yes, this thing happening right now is horrible, but it is not the first time humanity has done this. Why is anyone surprised? We only care about the things that are relevant to us, the tragedies happening right now. The Nepal earthquake is supplanted in the news feeds by riots in Baltimore because this is the American media and they think that because it is closer to us, we care more.

I want to say that the Holocaust was the darkest chapter in our history, but I cannot. Because that would lessen the horror of the genocides that came before and after. It implies that something that bad can never happen again, and thinking that way makes us unwilling to see the signs should that not be the case. I will not allow myself to be blinded like that. The horror of that period is something that should never be forgotten, but should never be dismissed as the worst, or the last genocide. It is a stark reminder of the darkest depths of human nature, to be sure… and we should study it, and be aware of it, so that we can recognize it and never allow it to happen again.

I want every student to pass through that train car and feel the pain and fear that I felt resonating in the wood. I want them to understand the horror, but I want them also to realize that this did not happen in a vacuum. The Holocaust was not the first genocide, nor the last. That it was not even the most successful (thankfully). I want them to realize that such a thing can and inevitably will happen again, and the only way to stop it is to not be ignorant of it and to not remain silent.

Genocide happens when we allow ourselves to see groups of people different from us as “The Other”… when we deny them our common humanity. The separations we create: gender, race/ethnicity, nationality, orientation, religion, ideology… they allow us to distinguish ourselves; but they can also be used to divide us. It is part of the lessons on the Holocaust that was forgotten… that the Nazi party was able to do this because they created the idea of the “Other”… that Jews, Roma, Homosexuals, and other groups were less than human, that it was okay to kill them. It is sickening to even think about. Western societies have seen decreases in antisemitism since the Holocaust, but that is on the rise. Discrimination against minority groups is getting worse in many areas. We have active attempts at genocide going on right now throughout the world. When does “Never Again” become a reality? When do we start realizing that slaughtering people for being different is wrong?

We, as human beings, have the potential to end this. The question is, when will we?

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Right… I have a blog

Not that anyone reads this. It is more of a place for me to just write out my thoughts and be a nerd.

Let’s see… wedding was good, honeymoon was a cruise to the Caribbean and lots of fun. Money has sucked since then and nothing else has changed. So yeah, real world life sucks balls.

In the world of writing, things are nicer. The Chronicler had a fiction contest a month ago and I took third place! Why do I care? It was judged by James Sutter, the head of the Pathfinder Tales line at Paizo, so I got feedback from the guy who is in charge of the entire fiction line. Also, the story I submitted was virtually unedited and had no revision at all, so getting third place and the feedback that I did was amazing. I’m currently working on my rewrite for the next Anthology. I just have to get past the writer’s block and Dragon Age addiction first.

In hockey news, Penguins are doing well. Overall, I am now okay with the new coach and his program. Fleury got his new contract, so I am happy.

Ok… off to play more Dragon Age. The next game comes out in about a week, so I have pretty much written this month off for creativity already.

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Jitters and other things

So you know that blog or two I posted about the wedding planning? Yeah, I got tired of dealing with that shit. We planned a wedding in a few weeks and are flying out to California on May 12th to take care of it. Because of stupid red tape, we won’t know the exact date of the wedding until we get there but it’s either the 13th, 14th or 15th.

I have been mostly calm about the whole thing, aside from fighting with my mother over stuff… but I had a panic attack over it the other day. It is a major change and the crash of “What ifs” hit all at once. I am good now, but gods I feel bad for my friends that have had to put up with me.

I won’t lie and say that there is no part of me that is sad about not having a more conventional wedding with the white dress and all that. But Ben and I have never really been conventional in our relationship, so it really isn’t surprising. Still, he is acting almost like he could not care less about the whole thing (aside from getting annoyed at everything) and that kinda hurts.

In other news, my short story “The Price of Knowledge” was accepted for the PDF version of Wayfinder #11. It’s a short story set in Cheliax that ties into the Ministry of Historical Accuracy. Being a historian, I thought the existence of such a thing and it’s role in the Empire of Cheliax was fascinating. I wish that it could make it into the actual print version, but one step at a time, right?

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Valiaiyanna: Inspiration via Music

So I was listening to “The Earth Prelude” by Ludovico Einuadi and got an image in my mind of something from the backstory of my character for Reign of Winter… three pages later, here it is. It’s been awhile since I’ve gotten hit with inspiration like that… I’ve missed it. Do take note that this is essentially unedited so it isn’t perfect.

Valiaiyanna’s Story

Her eyes stung as she looked down at the body of her mother. The elven woman’s snowy hair stained with blood and earth, blank eyes staring up at the heavens. Aiyanna Caeliovan tried to fight the urge to cry, but felt the bitter tears leaking down her cheeks anyway.

She did not deserve this.

The caravan had been set upon just after nightfall. The roads through Belkzen had always been dangerous, but in over eighty years they had never seen a raid like this. Father had rushed to the front to help the humans keep the worst of the orc raiders’ forces at bay. She and her mother had remained near the back to help heal the wounded and get the children to safety. They were supposed to be safe there! But there was no safety when the orcs sprung out from the rocks on the side of the road. There were no soldiers when mother shoved her under one of the wagons along with the children. Cries from the caravan guards sounded as they fought towards them, but it was no good.

Aiyanna had watched in horror as the axe blade bit into her mother’s side just as the magic she was weaving released. Fire flashed and she had to hide her eyes, had to protect the children. Heat flared and the roar of the spell surrounded her, drowning out the screams as the orcs burned. When the smoke cleared, mother was on the ground… not moving. Aiyanna couldn’t breathe. Sounds of their fighters grew closer. Her father’s anguished cries at seeing his wife on the ground echoed through her mind. Mother was a healer, but her last act was to kill… to save her daughter and the children of the humans that had taken them in all those years ago.

The ground rushed to meet Aiyanna as she collapsed beside her mother, the sobs wracking her body. If only she had not frozen! If she had climbed out from under the wagon and fought, then maybe mother would still be here. Footfalls crunched behind her, causing Aiyanna to look up. Her father, his gore-splattered breastplate now removed, though his own white hair was caked with orc blood. She turned away, running a hand along the delicate point of her mother’s ear. The tears came so fast that they blinded her.

“I could have saved her, father! I could have fought with her! I could have…,” she gulped in air between the sobs, “I could’ve—”

“No, child.” Her father’s hand gripped her shoulder, turning her to face him. Through the tears, Aiyanna saw the elf’s face was somber, his blue eyes dull with grief. “She made her choice to save you and the others. It is my fault—I should have stayed to protect the two of you.”

“Zubrail needed you at the lead wagon,” she glanced towards the caravan’s leader. The Varisian looked grim as he helped drag the dead orcs out of camp.

“Zubrail is just a human, you and your mother are my family! We left the clan to stay together!” His voice was filled with anguish and guilt. Aiyanna took her father’s hand in hers.

“The caravan is the only clan we have now, father. You did nothing wrong.” The tears were slowing in the face her father’s display of emotion.

“Neither did you, Aiyanna,” he whispered.

It seemed like all movement in the camp ceased as the elder snow elf embraced his daughter. Aiyanna knew they did not expect such behavior from him. The tears rushed back to her eyes as they mourned the loss of her mother. It was just the two of them now… mother was dead, and Azria gone.

“Azria…,” Aiyanna pulled back to look at her father. “She will want to know.”

Her father nodded slowly. “Yes… I assume she would.”

It had been a long time since the young aasimar they had taken in and raised as their own had left with the ranger that had brought her to them in the first place. She had been like a sister to Aiyanna in their youth. Yes, she would want to know that the woman she’d called mother for nearly a decade was dead. Aiyanna had no idea how she would write that message.

“I believe her last letter said she had settled in Taldor,” Aiyanna mused. “A town called Heldren.”

Her father nodded as he rose to his feet. “I will speak with Zubrail about getting you some supplies and an escort in the morning.”

“Wh—what? Escort? Are… are you sending me away?” Aiyanna felt her heart contract again.

“Not like that, daughter,” he shook his head. “News like this should be delivered in person. I am sending you to Taldor to speak with Azria.”

“But I know nothing about Taldor!”

“We knew nothing about anywhere else before we went there,” he quipped. “Taldor is much the same.”

“It will not be the same without you and mother.”

“You will have your sister. She can guide you better than I can.”

Aiyanna looked back at her mother’s body. The others in camp had left the two elves alone in their grief, but she could see them waiting to take the body to the pyre they were building for the others. She would be alone for the first time in her life once she left this place. It terrified her. Aiyanna was considered grown now, had even taken the first steps in following her mother’s path by calling a patron to grant her magic. But right now she felt like the same scared little girl that had curled up next to her mother and cried as they fled the Crown of the World with a different caravan. She would give anything just to hear mother’s voice once more… to tell her she was sorry… that she loved her. She could sense her father shift his weight as he leaned closer.

“She was so proud of you,” his soft voice brought the stinging to her eyes again. “You have always been so strong… you will be fine. Desna will watch over you, and your mother with her.”

Aiyanna bit her lip to keep the tears from falling once more. “I—I will miss you, father.”

“And I will miss you, too; but this is not goodbye… only farewell. If the town is not too bad, perhaps I will join you and Azria later on.”

“You would leave the caravan?” Aiyanna was incredulous.

“We shall see,” he had regained his composure at last. “Come, let’s allow the others to take care of her now.”

Aiyanna knelt once more by her mother, brushing her lips softly across her forehead. For all the rage and sorrow that still churned inside her, it was time to be strong for her father… and for herself. She could not be that little girl anymore. Rising to her feet again, Aiyanna nodded to Zubrail and the others before turning to walk back to the wagon she had shared with her family. Nothing was the same anymore, and she doubted it would ever be again. She would have to take on her hidden name once more, for it was bad luck for outsiders to know a snow elf’s true name. Perhaps too many had learned it here. Either way, Aiyanna Caeliovan would cease to exist after tonight.

Valiaiyanna Snowrunner would have to see this through. At least for now.

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Wow, it’s been awhile… Happy New Year!

So the chaos going into my last semester at school put this blog on the back burner for sure. Let’s see…

“My Shadow” did indeed get into Volume III and I love the artwork on the cover yet again. You can now get the books via donation to PathfinderChronicler.net instead of having to go to a convention to get them, which is nice. The site is currently down for some reason so I will have to check in and make sure they know about it.

Student teaching went well. My students at the local junior high school loved me and I felt really sad that I had to go, but I had to leave so that I could finish my student teaching… in Ireland.

Ireland rocks by the way. I totally want to go back.

But for now, I am home, I’ve graduated with my Masters and now I need to find a teaching job and get back to writing. Currently working on some stuff for Cobalt Nightmares. I missed Volume IV of the Anthology, but I had no good ideas anyway. I have a few now, but none have really been developed enough to be submitted.

Oh well, new year, new chances right?

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The Book Arrived!

So yeah, my copies of the Pathfinder Chronicler Anthology Vol II arrived in the mail on Tuesday and I immediately freaked out and squealed like a small child. I fully admit that I am way too excited over all of this. Also, I  learned that my second story is up for consideration in Volume III so I have to crack the whip on myself and get that all edited.

I’m still getting used to seeing my name in print like that

I have only skimmed the book so far because of how busy I have been… of course immediately finding all of the typos that slipped past editing. It happens, especially in small publications like this, so I am not too upset over it. Hopefully “My Shadow” will fair better with the extra attention it is getting. I’ve spotted a few errors, but I am waiting for the first revision from Ted before I go to town on it. Supposedly it will be up today. It has to be finalized by April 20th so I really hope that we can get it done. I’ve already changed this story so much, and I really like how the plot progresses. The only thing that I really think needs work is the word choices, as it really seems too simplistic to me. However, my recent foray into field experience for teaching has shown me that perhaps that is not the case. I never really noticed just how large my vocabulary was until I had to explain to the senior class president of the school I am assigned to just what “opposition” means.

Gods, I wish I was kidding when I typed that.

Back on track. I really hope to have some more free time once editing is done to sit down and actually read the rest of these stories. I edited some, and read many others, but I haven’t seen the final forms of any but my own so I am eager to see how they turned out. I made a small suggestion on the Facebook page for the podcast Know Direction, one of the big Pathfinder podcasts, to perhaps talk about the book once they get their copies from the various conventions that they will be going to this summer. They actually replied and said that they probably would, though were unsure how much time they could devote to it along with their other reviews… such as from the Pathfinder Tales line (the actual novels… which I would love to write for one day). I figure even some brief press will end up being a boon for Ted and the others thanks to their upcoming plans to help fund future volumes. At the end of the month they plan to add a section on the Chronicle website to allow for donations that could help remove the financial burden from Ted’s personal bank account. It also will allow people to purchase posters of the cover art, copies of previous books (which will be nice for my friends that now want copies) and possibly other stuff. I think it is a great idea!

I mean, this artwork is GORGEOUS!

I mean, this artwork is GORGEOUS!

It also allows me to get a copy of the first volume since that was only available at PaizoCon. Not sure if I will do the posters, I suppose that depends on the price. The artwork on Vol II is really neat so I am considering it. The one thing that does concern me is that I don’t know how many copies of each item will be available. Ted said that there is only one case of the first volume left and he is not planning to have any more printed. On the one hand, I totally understand that. However, if there is a large demand for it, I do hope that he will consider changing his mind on the issue. His goal is to make the Anthologies self-sustaining after all. It is rather difficult to do such a thing when you primary audience gets a free copy at PaizoCon. The big advantage there is that most Pathfinder fans can’t make it to Seattle for the convention, or to the others that they are able to make it to… so as long as it is out there in their minds it should help drive “donations.”

I am fairly certain there is some legal reason why he can’t just call it selling. Probably because it is non-profit or non-canon. I should ask him. Either way, I should also make sure that Ryan and Perram over at Know Direction are aware of the planned “donation page” so word gets out to their listeners.

I really am hopeful about all this. If “My Shadow” gets into Vol III, I think I might have a legitimate shot at getting an actual novel taken seriously by publishers. Of course, first I have to actually finish one. I don’t know which of the many ideas floating around I would do, but two publishing credits will definitely help get my foot in the door!

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