Monday, September 25, 2017

Extreme Epicness Alert /// Music Monday #7

Are you guys ready for this? Because today I'm sharing with you an awesomely epic song. You better hold on to something, because you're about to be blown away! (Hee hee . . . I'm proud of myself for that little joke.)

"Impossible (feat. Merethe Soltvedt)" from the Two Steps From Hell album Unleashed
Composed by Thomas Bergersen

Yes, folks, TSFH has done it again. On Friday, they released a new public album! And it happens to be their longest public album to date. It has 56 tracks: 20 normal ones, 16 instrumental, and 20 uncompressed mixes (not sure what that means).

Hearing about this new release made me super pumped, because TSFH is awesome. There's just no denying it. If you haven't heard of them, they're a duo of composers--Thomas Bergersen and Nick Phoenix--who make music for trailers, like Audiomachine. I used to get the two mixed up, but after listening to them both for a while, I can hear the difference in styles. And if you're wondering about the name, the general theory is that zero steps from hell is hell (obviously); one step from hell is Earth; two steps from hell is heaven. I'd be inclined to agree.

This is the only track they've released thus far on their YouTube channel, but let me tell you, it's a winner in my eyes. The cover makes me think this is going to be more of a pirate sort of album, but I'm not sure. I know that Battlecry felt a lot like a fantasy album, so maybe that's what they're doing now?

The song is so great because it's variety of elements in it. It starts feeling very much like the TSFH we know and love with its beautiful orchestra and epic choir. Then Bergersen hits us with a very Celtic-sounding flute-whistle-thing (yes, I know my instruments, so hush) and a gritty electric guitar. I envision grand pirate ships tearing through bright blue waters, cresting waves, a strong wind on their back, fighting off monsters, enemy pirates, and soldiers. 

Then we get some very wonderful vocals by Merethe Soltvedt. I'm picky when it comes to female artists, but she has a voice I could easily listen to. I don't know why, exactly; there's just some ethereal aura about it.

The most unexpected element is the synthesizer that comes on during the last few minutes. It's a really cool addition that brings a unique flavor to the track. The electric guitar comes back, even grittier than it was before, and we get a fantastic conclusion to the song.

While this may sound like a random mix of different styles, in the end, it all works together and sounds natural. I can't get enough of this song. I've listened to it twice while writing this post, and it gets better every time. Battlecry is currently my favorite TSFH album, but Unleashed might be claiming that title.

What did you guys think? Does the music evoke piratey images in your mind, too? Are you as pumped as I am about the new album? (I have to get my hands on it ASAP!) Is TSFH's music heavenly to you as well?

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Sarcasm is Strong with this One /// Humble Beginnings, Part 3

On my last Humble Beginnings post, I asked if you guys wanted to see it become a monthly series. You responded with an enthusiastic "Yes!" So here we are again today. Are you prepared for the roasting? Because things are gonna get hot!


Enough wasting time with long intros. Let's just jump right back into the thick of things.

"Welcome to my humble abode," Warren said.

Is this actually happening right now? How in the world did I think that people would react when they're magically transported to another world? These reactions are so underwhelming, it's ridiculous. I know that these three are soldiers, and they might be able to maintain more of a calm edge, but still! They're human too!

"I'm guessing we're in a different world, up in the mountains."

Oh, really? Is that all? Everything's just sunshine and rainbows? Might as well pull out the ol' picnic blankets and eat some sandwiches, 'cuz WE JUST LANDED IN SOME STRANGE NEW LAND AND WE'RE NOT CONCERNED AT ALL. Pardon my loudness, but I just find this so bewildering.

Tarquin furrowed his brow, which worsened his already ugly facial features. "I thought you would be disappointed in me. After all, my mission is to keep people out of the portal."
"Yes, well, let's remember it was your men who bungled the job, not you. I advise you to get rid of their miserable hides if they fail again."

Just to give you guys a bit of context, there was a scene switch where Tarquin was informed of the Portal Guardians's failure, to which he responded in rage. He summoned this spirit dude to get advice, and they have a little chat. I found this particular part odd for a couple of reasons. First, Tarquin is brutally honest with himself. We're in his head, yet he acknowledges that he is quite hideous! What strong character he has! To put up with that ugly mug must be awfully hard. It's probably why he's single. That, and the whole "keep it secret, keep it safe" thing he's got going on with the portal.

Secondly, it's weird for the spirit to specify that Tarquin's men failed, not him. I mean, in a job, when someone messes up, who does the big cheese blame? The person's supervisor! The supervisor is the one who makes sure everyone's doing their job right, and Tarquin is the head of the Portal Guardians. He should be getting blamed right now, yet he's not. While it is odd, I will admit that it's a nice change for the big, powerful villain (the spirit, in this case) to not be all, "I will kill you if you disappoint me again."

Their arms and legs were huge, and Warren almost envied their muscular chests and six-packs.

Well, I, for one, am glad Warren is paying attention to all the right details. These monsters are probably looking to rip apart a few human chumps, but here he is, wishing he had their great muscles. *facepalms* Why . . . why . . . why?!

One stooped down to pick David's shirt up. He sniffed it and snarled in a guttural voice, "Humans."

Great job, guys! I know your parents taught you well. That lesson about not leaving your laundry on the floor? Yeah, that really stuck with ya. You heard someone was coming, and you left David's shirt there as a present for them. Wait, does this mean David is shirtless for the rest of this scene? And also, wouldn't the military uniform look strange to the creature dudes? Yet all they intelligently say is, "Humans." No way! I thought it was an animal. What detectives they are!

The other smirked. "If there are humans, we should talk in the Toreth language."
"Toreth, shmoreth. I don't care a blasted thing about it."

Did he actually just say, "Toreth, schmoreth"? Like, something kindergartners would say? Because I'm sure that really suits his character.

"Now, since I'm in charge of this scouting group, we will not speak Toreth. Is that clear, Wollik?"
Wollik bowed stiffly. "Your wish is my command, your stinkiness."
Guttural sneered. "Have you smelled yourself recently?"
Wollik placed his hand in his hair and put it to his nose, grease dripping off his palm. He grimaced.
"My point exactly," Guttural said with a hint of triumph, causing Wollik to curse.

All right, I'm convinced. These guys, though apparently in a military scouting party (although I think they're more of a patrol), are no better than kids on a playground. And just imagining someone's hair to have so much grease in it . . . *shudders*

 "Let's follow him," Warren whispered when Wollik left. They stepped out of the fissure, David put on his shirt, and they snuck along the trail.

Why? Do they need to follow him? They should honestly find some other way to escape from the baddies. I'm also wondering how they weren't seen. Like, where is this cave located so that Warren can watch all of this, but not get spotted? Must be one of those convenient hiding locations. At least David got his shirt back.

"Aha!" Wollik appeared around a boulder. "So here are the humans." His dark sword slid out of its sheath. "Who's first?"
"Me," Warren said, holding his assault rifle.
The first swing almost took Warren's head. The second nicked his arm. Wollik made a series of jabs that backed Warren to the edge of a cliff. "Any last words?" he asked, stooping down to look Warren in the eyes.

 "I should've shot you with my rifle. Instead, I let you force me to retreat to the lip of a cliff and ask me the most cliché question any fictional villain has ever asked. I regret all of my life decisions."

"Excuse me for a minute," Warren replied. He clambered quickly onto Wollik's shoulders and jumped off, throwing him severely off balance. The big lug tried to regain his balance, but it was useless. Warren slammed the butt of his gun into the back of Wollik's knee. Wollik tipped over and fell off the precipice, arms and legs flailing in the air.

Dramatic, to be sure, but it would've been so much easier if you had just shot him in the head and be done with it.

[Mark, David, and Warren] charged down the path. Mark knew that even though the creatures looked cumbersome, they were probably fast.

This chapter has had so many POV changes that it almost makes my brain hurt. Plus, how the heck does Mark know that they're fast? He hasn't seen any of them run! They could be this world's worst runners, for all he knows.

"I have an idea," Warren said. A wagon was travelling on the road not far from them. The driver hadn't noticed the trio yet. Warren waited until it got closer, then jumped for it. He barreled into the driver, slamming him off the low wagon. David and Mark hopped on. Warren turned the wagon around and slapped the reins. The horse jerked forward, just as the pursuing creatures neared.

The wagon driver hadn't noticed them? Right, that makes sense. How could I be so silly? It's not like Wollik yelled as he fell to his death, or Captain Sarkes "thundered with animal hatred" when Wollik crushed another dude and they both died, or one of the creatures shouted "There they are!" upon spotting the soldiers. Nope, it was clearly a perfectly normal and quiet day.

Mark pulled something from his pocket. David eyed it. "What is that?"
"A slingshot," said Mark showing it to him. "My dad showed me how to shoot it when I was a kid."
The Canadian was loading it when a black-furred animal with sharp horns came hurtling down the main road behind them. The gray creature riding it had his arm back, clutching a dagger, about to throw it. The slingshot released its ammo, the rock hitting the rider's throat. He gasped, and his arm fell. The dagger stabbed the reptror's neck. It thrust its head back in agony, the horns piercing the rider.

Deus ex slingshot. Remember how I mentioned in my first Humble Beginnings post that I had some weird violence issues in this story? Well, although this scene isn't as, ahem, descriptive as others are, it's still a prime example of the problem. Consider the impossibility of the situation. The slingshot ammo strikes the creature's throat. Whereas most people might clutch their neck in agony or something, he instead drops his arm hard enough to stab his mount's neck. The animal then proceeds to gore its rider by thrusting its horns back. Just another day in this story's logic.

Soon, they were traveling on a trail with the edge of a cliff on both sides. Then they were joined by another reptror. The rider urged his steed on, saying, "Faster, you reptror!"
David wondered three things. One: was reptror the name of the species? Two: was reptror an insult? Three: was reptror a name the rider had invented because he was mentally ill?

1: I changed "travelling" to "traveling" here. 2: To say "Faster, you reptror!" would be like saying, "Faster, you horse!" It just sounds stupid. 3: The first guess is correct, the second is logical, but where the blazes did that last guess come from? You put American soldiers to shame, David.

Then they were off the trail and on the rocky beach. The docks weren't far away. But Captain Sarkes and his two remaining soldiers were awaiting them on reptrors. "Attack them! They have their measly little hands on our power rocks. They cannot escape with them!" Sarkes bellowed. By this time, the wagon had turned around and raced the other way. The reptrors gave a mighty roar and thundered after them.

I actually find it quite amusing that Sarkes hollered long enough that the heroes have time to zip away in the opposite direction. It's just a comical mental image, with Sarkes trying to be all threatening and the attempt failing miserably. Though he just informed the soldiers that their wagon has valuable property in it, which definitely falls under the "Not a Smart Idea" category.

A few of [the knights] squirmed or coughed. Invading the mountain continent filled with terrax and reptror wasn't just mad; it was suicidal. Failure was written all over it.
The tall man sighed. "I know it's a huge risk. But we need those power rocks."

I sense a convenient getaway and a win/win situation coming . . .

"Fire!" a voice bellowed. The archers released their arrows. Captain Sarkes' reptror was killed with the first volley. The other two passed it and continued the final stretch of the chase. Some of the arrows from the second attack struck the leading reptror's eyes. The reptror stumbled on a rock and fell head over heels, crushing the rider and startling the other steed. It reared up, the last volley of arrows soaring through its heart. The momentum of the arrows was so great that they flew out of the reptror's back and embedded themselves in the rider.

"And if you look to the left, folks, you will see another wonderful example of over-the-top, illogical violence that fills this story. Not sure what possessed young Josiah to write this kind of nonsense, although I will admit that it might look cool if this were a cinematic scene. More horrifying displays of violence coming in the future!"

On the boat, the tall man strode toward the three. He bowed, saying, "Welcome aboard my ship. Captain Smits, at your service."

PLOT TWIST! . . . With absolutely the best foreshadowing ever!

Oh, gosh. This post virtually consisted of roasting one chapter. I'm going to have to be a little more fussy in the future. Maybe.

I hope you all enjoyed another session of mockery. Tune in next month to get another one! And if you have any ideas as to how I could make these posts even better, don't hesitate to tell me!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Facing the Fear /// A Misdiagnosis Conclusion

Yes, we're here. We've finally reached the end of our journey. It is time to meet the final foe with courage if we wish to continue. Otherwise, we shall remain forever here.

A bit dramatic, I know, but it's true. Should we choose to leave fear to its own devices, we'll never be able to get anywhere in life.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's do a quick recap of the first two posts. In  A Misdiagnosis, I talked about how, when we deal with doubt in our writing, we label it as writer's block. When we do so, we don't treat it properly. Recognizing that we misdiagnose doubt is the first step to stopping it. In Swarm of Doubt, I went over three of the biggest doubts we face as authors: that we're not good enough, that no one will want to read our stories, and that we'll never get published. To identify the enemy is key, because then we know how to take it down.

In the last post, we uncovered that doubt has a power source known as fear. So how do we take on fear to ensure that our writing journey continues and doesn't come to a complete standstill? Let's find out together.


Fear has been around for a long, long time, and to best it, we need to go a source just as old--older, even. That, of course, would be the Bible. When I was thinking about this post, one verse kept swirling in my mind: "Love will never invoke fear. Perfect love expels fear . . ." (1 John 4:18, The Voice)

Could it be so obvious? So simple? I believe it is. The way to break past fear is to know just how much you are loved by God.

Think of it this way. When you were younger, you had irrational fears: fear of the dark, of monsters lurking in your bedroom, of thunder. What did you do in those times when the fright was the strongest? You probably ran to your parents. Maybe they hugged you for a while. Maybe they whispered reassuring words in your ear. Whatever the case, those bad feelings would slip away when you were with your parents. Why then? Why not earlier?

Because you were reminded that you were loved.

God's the same way. When we deal with the crud life throws at us, whether it be worries about our family or career or education, we turn to Him. Maybe not right away, but we do. And when we fall into His embrace, knowing that we're loved and never alone, the fear dies. We trust that God will see us through.

That is the key. We know that God loves us and will look after us. We believe that everything will work out in the end. When we trust Him, we know He considers us more than good enough. We know that He gave us our writing gift, and because of that, our stories will get published, and people will read them.

Do you know just how incredibly much God loves you? The One who fashioned countless galaxies, who invented DNA, who designed the water cycle, who cared about the minute details of all living creatures . . . loves you. With a love so huge we can't even fully comprehend it. Know this love, and you will know peace.

To conclude, I'd like to quote Ambrose Bierce, who said, "A person who doubts himself is like a man who would enlist in the ranks of his enemies and bear arms against himself. He makes his failure certain by himself being the first person to be convinced of it." These words are so true. Doubt is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you believe it's true, it will be true. Don't fall for the lies. Believe you're immensely loved. Trust that the future is a good one.

Face the fear.

Fell the giant.


And that's the end of it. What did you guys think of this series as a whole? Should I do more of these inspirational posts/series in the future? What about this particular post? Any thoughts?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Music Monday #6

Welcome back to another Music Monday post! Cue the fanfare!

Today, I present to you one of my favorite songs from the third soundtrack I ever bought. (The volume on the video is a bit low, so you may need to turn your sound up.)

"In the Beginning" from The Bible
Composed by Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe

If you didn't know, The Bible was a TV series that aired a while back. You may recall the controversy of the devil supposedly looking like Obama. Anyway, the directors were able to get not only Hans Zimmer to score the music, which alone is impressive enough, but also Lorne Balfe. Balfe has worked with Zimmer on numerous projects and is a fantastic composer himself. I'll eventually feature some of his stuff on my blog, because he deserves the attention.

I picked this album up at a local bookstore, and at the time, it wasn't quite my style. I had loved The Dark Knight Rises and Man of Steel, but this soundtrack had a different flavor to it. However, I instantly fell in love with "In the Beginning." There's something that's just quite beautiful and actually reverent about it. I mean, close your eyes and imagine the world being created by God with this music playing. You'll see what I mean pretty quickly.

You may recall that I enjoy making playlists for my stories. Well, back when there was the Five Enchanted Roses contest, I used this track as the love theme for my two main characters, Bella and Byron--Beauty and the Beast, respectively (and obviously, I imagine). I used it for one of the most poignant scenes between them, so that's another reason for why the song has a special place in my musical heart. I also used it for the end scene of my Five Magic Spindles entry.

Don't really have anything more to add. I hope you guys enjoyed the track as much as I do. Have a good rest of your Monday . . . or whatever day you're reading this!

So what did you think of the music? Did you find it awe-inspiring? Have you seen the TV series? If you have, was it any good?

Friday, September 08, 2017

A Writing Excerpt + An Apology

So I've got a busy rest of the week, and I needed something easy to post about, because I have to prepare it ahead of time. I figured, "Why not share a writing excerpt?" One might argue that I already do that with my Humble Beginnings posts, but that's awful writing. I need to prove that I'm actually good at what I do.

Before I get to that, I have to offer an apology. Lately, it's been taking forever for me to respond to comments. I've also been meaning to show some consideration and check out your blogs. But, to be completely honest, these last few weeks have been really hard. My new job's tough, and not because it's full-time. I could handle that. It's things like waking up at 5 in the morning and coming physically (and often mentally) wiped that make it difficult.

I'm sorry for not replying to comments as quickly as I have, and for not checking out your guys's blogs. Please have patience with me. I'm still struggling to make work and writing and family and relaxation and friends all fit together. Thanks for understanding. Hopefully things will look up in the future.


On to the real reason you came to this post! You know that old story of mine I've been roasting once a month? Well, I've said in at least one comment on the first post that I have plans to reboot the story and write it much, much better. Depending on how well it does once it's published, I plan to do some spinoffs that take place in the same world. I thought I would share with you guys what I wrote a couple of years back as an excerpt--of sorts--of one spinoff. I simply titled The SkyRing Tournament. It's not perfect, but it isn't completely horrible either.

May you all enjoy this little look into my fantasy/technologically advanced world that I really need a name for. (I also apologize that the formatting ends up looking weird. Blogger and Word don't really like each other all that much.)


The roar was deafening.
Selyth looked around at the crowd. It was bigger than what he had expected, and he wasn’t sure if he liked that. It either means more people to witness my greatest victory . . . or more people to shake their heads at my worst failure.
He glanced up at the box where the Elites would be sitting. It was higher than the regular stadium seats, and the glass was tinted. He had no doubt that his father was watching from within, eyes like flint, staring mercilessly. He could practically hear the old man prattle in his head, “You must carry the family’s legacy in the tournaments. That’s what I was born for, and that is what you were born for as well. Even your son will one day be born for the very same thing.”
Selyth shook his head in disgust. SkyRing Tournaments required something more than most people had. It demanded more balance, more leg strength, more articulate control of one’s body. There was a sixth sense involved, a knowledge of subtle changes in the air currents and such. The training regimen was something that was to be devoted to if someone wanted to have a real chance.
He picked up his shoulder pads and put them on, over his gray shirt that was like leather chainmail. His pants were identical in color and were just tight enough so that they wouldn’t flap in the breeze. He grabbed his helmet, gave it a once-over, then nodded with satisfaction and donned it.
He glanced at the two items left: a broadsword and a knife. Weapons weren’t exactly mentioned in the rules, but pilots who played dirty brought them along. They would attack others, and so if those being assailed really wanted to survive, they had weapons for defense. Most of the time, they were just in case. Occasionally, they were needed, and Selyth could only recall a few tournaments where things became bloody. Tournament Officers were on standby, but it would be wise to still pack a blade.
He lifted the sword. Not too heavy . . . Balanced properly . . . He noticed the family crest on the hilt. A magnificent, dark blue bird of prey, known as a lyrak, stretched its wings proudly, beak raised almost haughtily. He spat on it and thrust the sword into the ground. I hope you saw that, Father.
He grabbed the dagger and attached the sheath to the inside of his right boot. Then he waited. Soon, an amplified voice boomed, “Contestants, bring your SkyRings to the starting line!”
Selyth flipped the gear switch on his SkyRing, which put it on hover mode. Once the disc lifted off the ground, he pulled it up and pushed it along in front of him. He left his station and walked to the two poles that held a banner in the center of the stadium.
The stadium was a massive, circular structure. The seating area was six feet off the ground and enclosed the whole arena. A glass dome could be raised if the weather outside didn’t suit the tournament, but such was not the case today. Selyth admired the stadium as a technological masterpiece, but he had grown to hate it over the years.
Depending on how today played out, he might never step foot in it again.
It was the last race in the tournament, and there were ten finalists. Eight were human, including Selyth, but the other two were different species. One was a creal, about four feet tall with leathery wings and skin the color of scabs. Eyes like that of a weasel darted around. Well, that one’s an interesting specimen. If I remember correctly, the creals keep to themselves.
The second was a terradox. Three black horns protruded from the back of his head and curved upward. On his neck, twin nostrils that resembled gills flared. He hoisted his SkyRing over his head, as if it weighed nothing more than a sack of flour.
The gray-scaled creature glanced at him, smirked, and kept walking. Selyth shook his head. Competition will be stiff today, you can bet on that.
He arrived at the starting line and lowered his SkyRing just enough so that he could climb on. His boots, which had rubbery soles that made for better grip, fit into the sockets at the center, slightly lower than the rest of the SkyRing. He opened a panel in front of him on the raised edge of the SkyRing and pressed a button. Clamps locked over his boots, holding them in place and ensuring he wouldn’t fall off easily.
The announcer, who was standing on a platform opposite the box for the Elites, was silent until everyone was on their SkyRings. Then he thundered, “Welcome to the final SkyRing tournament of the season!”
If the crowd had been deafening before, it could surely blow off one’s ears now due to the sheer volume. Selyth’s helmet did little to block the noise. It’s a wonder my ears aren’t wrecked . . . Then again, I don’t recall any pilots who have had their hearing go because of the tournaments.
The announcer let the yelling run its course before he began introducing the racers. Selyth ignored most of the names until he heard, “Nyk-graash of the creals!”
The crowd cheered, not as loudly as they had before but still a decent noise level. What does Nyk-graash mean . . . C’mon, remember your Toreth lessons. Ah, yes, it means “the stranger” or something. Wonder why he was called that. Selyth knew a former pilot who once said that the name of another racer could reveal a lot about them.
“Zunvix of the terradox!” The crowd howled wildly at the name, especially the section where several terradox were sitting. Zunvix means . . . “he crushes.” Pleasant. I’m staying clear of him; I’ve got no need for him to do any crushing of me.
“Selyth Lyrakan!” the announcer bellowed. Please, don’t say my name like that. You make it sound like an obscenity. The crowd didn’t think so; in fact, they cheered loudly for him, louder than they had for Zunvix. The terradox slowly turned his head toward Selyth, eyes narrowing. He snarled quietly, baring his teeth. I don’t want to see what you just ate, thank you.
After the remaining two racers had their names shouted out, the announcer said, “Jets on second hover!”
Selyth moved the gear switch to the next position. The second hover mode allowed the device to rise the maximum limit of ten feet; if one wanted to go higher, he had to activate the fly mode. The four jets on his dark blue SkyRing droned as they maintained the hover. He kept still as he waited for the others to be done. SkyRings were controlled by movement, and that’s why not many could use the rings properly. One of the other contestants was fidgeting a bit, causing his ring to rock back and forth.
“Ready?” the announcer asked. Upon the racers nodding, he continued. “Then . . . GO!”
Selyth leaned a bit, putting his weight to the front, and his SkyRing shot forward. He raced straight toward the opposite side of the arena, zooming over the trimmed grass and hard turf. Once he was close to the edge of the arena, he shifted to the left. The SkyRing turned left, and he began the first lap.
He quickly took note of the other racers’ locations. One was in front of him, and the others were close behind. Zunvix was in the middle of the pack, and Nyk-graash was the head of the group. Selyth knew that pilots in the lead were the first to be attacked, so he slowed and let most of the pack pass. He kept his distance from Zunvix, who glared at him suspiciously.
After the first lap was complete, hatches in the ground opened, and the powerful fans beneath blew hard. The contestants rose higher until they were about twenty feet off the ground, a comfortable viewing level for the crowd. The fans would continue to blow until the number of laps—unknown to the racers—was complete. Then a couple of fans would begin to power down. Only an experienced pilot would sense the change in air currents and use those fans to get low enough to pass underneath the banner.
But while the actual tournament was going on, the officials controlling the fans could shake things up with by adjusting the airflow even just a little. And you better be ready for when that happens.
He saw his first advantage: a male racer who seemed to be a touch off-balance. Selyth thrust his body forward, and the jets swiftly boosted to the top speed in hover mode. He zipped right by the man, close enough to almost clip the racer’s SkyRing. The pilot was caught unaware, and he tipped to one side. The SkyRing was thrown completely off-balance and spun like a leaf in a most violent storm. Selyth couldn’t afford to watch anymore, but he knew that if the pilot didn’t regain control soon, a Tournament Officer would bring him back to his station.
A moment later, the announcer shouted, “Loug is out of the tournament!” Thought as much. Today probably wasn’t his day. But will it be mine?
Up ahead, there was a skirmish going on. Two of the contestants were grappling each other fiercely. Their SkyRings bumped multiple times, and they had descended a ways. Selyth saw a disaster waiting to happen and pulled himself up. The SkyRing lifted just high enough to pass over the fighters. The two men jerked, startled, and moved away from one another.
Selyth kept an eye out for any more signs of trouble brewing in the tournament. The first few laps were essential in finding who was weakest, who was strongest, and who was most likely to crack sooner than later. He figured Zunvix would be the stiffest competition, and Nyk-graash would be a slippery little eel to catch. Another male pilot and the solitary female opponent also looked as though they would be tough to beat. The others, he wouldn’t have to worry about.
After several laps, in which he passed two racers and stayed ahead of the four behind him, he saw his instincts were correct. Nyk-graash seemed to be clutching a stout club next to his tunic. As he passed the man in the lead, he swiftly lashed out. The movement was but a flicker. The club struck the man in the back of the knees. The pilot toppled and almost fell out of his SkyRing. He should’ve checked his clamps to see if they were faulty.
Even though the man didn’t fall, he lost control. A black-suited Tournament Officer on a steely gray SkyRing raced to his side and grabbed onto him, keeping him steady. The Officer led him toward his station, and soon the announcer called out, “Kritom is out of the tournament!”
Two down, four behind that won’t catch up, and three ahead that will be hard to pass.
“Lyrakan!” Selyth spotted the woman heading toward him, a gleaming axe in hand. He recognized her in that moment. He had taken first place from her in one of the earlier tournaments. Now she wants revenge? Well, sorry, sister, but that’s not going to happen.
The woman threw the axe, which whirled at him in a deadly arc. He twisted to one side, and the axe nearly grazed his shoulder. He balled a fist and, when the woman was mere feet away, launched an uppercut. The woman’s head jerked back from the impact, and she careened through the air away from him. He glanced back in time to see the woman surrounded by Officers.
“Ushani has been disqualified!” the announcer bellowed. Yeah, but now my hand stings like Lurkem himself has sunk his fangs into it. The crowd yelled his name, obviously impressed with his theatrics.
He took stock of the situation again. The two racers who had been fighting before were at it again. They’re a lost cause, squabbling with one another. Now where are the other two back there? Both pilots passed him with a burst of speed. Oh look, there they are. Nyk-graash was in the lead, with Zunvix on his tail.
Suddenly, he sensed a shift in the air currents. Feels like . . . ocean waves. He dipped down a little. Get ready to crest the wave. At what he deemed the right moment, he jabbed himself forward and shoved his arms back to gain a bit of momentum.
The wave caught the other two human pilots off-guard, but he coasted right between them. At the top of the wave, he bounced up, causing his SkyRing to jump with him. The crowd thundered at the sight, nearly drowning the announcement that the two racers behind Selyth were out of the race.
More waves were coming, and he repeated his moves. He was quickly gaining on the remaining two racers, who weren’t handling the waves as well. Zunvix had gotten ahead as Nyk-graash clumsily traversed the boiling air currents. Selyth pulled up alongside and noticed the creal was switching the club to his left hand.
Geyser of air coming up on the right. Selyth lowered himself, and the SkyRing ducked down. A blast of air shot up on the right, propelling Nyk-graash to the side. Not giving his opponent a chance to reorient himself, he rocketed back up to the normal level and aimed a nasty elbow at the creal. Nyk-graash blocked the move with a wing, but he was still pushed back. It was all Selyth needed. He dove ahead, blazing back up to maximum speed and barreling toward Zunvix.
The terradox glanced over his shoulder and howled. One of his hands reached for something Selyth couldn’t see. He grabbed his own knife and readied himself. The moment he drew up alongside Zunvix, the pilot attacked. Selyth held up his knife to shield himself from a heavy overhand blow with a short sword.
Zunvix growled with a deep, hard-edged voice. “Fool of a human. My glory awaits. You will not be winning this tournament.”
“You think your victory is assured? You should think otherwise. You want glory as a tournament champion, and I want to escape the wrath of my father for a while. Who do you think has a stronger motivation?”
Zunvix’s unibrow lowered in thought. Selyth lunged with his dagger, knocking the sword out of the terradox’s loose grip. Then he pressed forward, moving ahead of Zunvix, who snarled curses. I need to get away from that lug. When is the tournament going to finish? Then he felt a slight change in the air flow. On the left . . . on the far side of the arena. They’re making us cross the longest stretch of ground possible.
As he approached the spot he had guessed would allow him lower himself back onto ground level, his body tensed. Don’t be nervous; there’s only a couple thousand people who could see you mess up. He rolled his eyes and nearly missed his target area. Biting back a vile curse, he shoved his weight down on the left. The SkyRing turned sharply, and he straightened.
He realized he had miscalculated by a small margin. He was partially on the dip and partially off. If he stayed there, he risked losing control of his SkyRing. He leaned to compensate, and the SkyRing slid into the dip. He was off-balance by a tad, and regaining that balance cost him precious seconds to maintain his lead.
He took off again, but his wrist was grasped firmly. Zunvix scowled at him, showing his black gums. “I will not allow your family to win yet another tournament.”
Selyth tried to pull away, but the terradox refused to let go. Zunvix’s arm muscles tensed visibly, and before his mind could totally catch up, Selyth was tossed away with the ease of someone throwing away a dirty article of clothing. His SkyRing struck the ground and rebounded. That’s not supposed to happen! The SkyRing hit the turf again, but it didn’t bounce this time. He tumbled along, boots still clamped onto the bottom of the machine.
He came to a stop just in time to hear, “Zunvix has won this season’s tournament!” The crowd bellowed, no doubt also booing Selyth and his embarrassing failure. Then the announcer shouted, “Nyk-graash has come in second place!” A moment later, “Waujy has come in third! Everyone else has lost . . . including our very own Selyth Lyrakan!”
Selyth groaned. He opened the panel on the SkyRing and pressed the button inside. The clamps let go of his feet, and he pulled himself out. He peered at the gear switch. Why is it on the off position? That sneaky terradox! He must’ve used his free hand to turn off the hover mode just before he flung me.
He turned to see he had landed just outside his station. The sword was still thrust into the ground, the lyrak mocking him. Spittle gleamed on the blade. Selyth groaned again at what he knew was coming once he got home.
Father will be furious.

What did you think of the excerpt, dear readers? Is this a story you'd be interested in reading? Do you have any questions/comments/constructive criticism? I'm all ears!

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Monthly HapPENings: August

Guys, I'm doing it. I am finally starting a monthly sum-up post. Doesn't that just make you so excited?!

*awkward silence followed by a bit of coughing that's even more awkward*

Well, I'm happy to be doing these. And I included a pun in the title, so that makes it even better. I also apologize, once again, for getting this post up late. I think I'll just stop saying sorry at this point and inform you that if I don't post on Friday, it just means I'll post later in the weekend instead. Now that we've got that out of the way, let's hop right in!

(But I will also mention that I forgot to make a picture for this series, so that'll have to come in later posts. I may as well just throw in some kind of summery picture here.)


August started out with a bang for me. My family had left our home on July 31 to go on vacation, and let me tell you, it was a lot of fun. I had needed to get away from work and take a moment to just relax. I can definitely say that's what happened. Whereas we've done a fair bit of shopping on previous holidays, this year we decided to only go out twice to shop. I think that helped make the vacation feel more relaxing.

A few highlights (at least, ones that come to my tired mind right now) from the holiday are in order. At a bookstore we went to, I bought the book Wrath of the Storm by Jennifer A. Nielsen, the last book in a trilogy. I thought I owned the other two, but when I came home, I found out I only owned the first book. It would've been nice to remember that earlier, but at least I got a hardcover book for cheaper.

Another highlight was when we went for lunch on one of our outings. We were planning on getting ice cream later, so I decided to get a plate of appetizers. You could choose four different kinds, so I had French fries, onion rings, mozzarella sticks, and chicken fingers. I expected it to be small, but lo and behold, I got a big plate heaped with food. Needless to say, I had to pack some of it up.

I also bought five games for my New Nintendo 2DS XL, so I was quite happy about that. Other things I purchased were a couple of books and movies, candy, two LEGO sets . . . not much else. But my favorite moments were ones when I just hung out with my family. That's what made the vacation so great. It was nice to relax with my parents and sisters, with no rush for anyone to go anywhere. We could take things at our own pace and enjoy each other's company. (To get a more detailed look at my holiday, my youngest sister made a post about it from her perspective.)

When I got back home, I was hired by a local concrete factory to work there full-time. I worked my last couple of weeks at my part-time pump attendant job and began working at my new one. It's been interesting, to say the least. Becoming adjusted to the labor is tough. But hopefully that'll pass soon.

On to the media side of this month!

Bookish HapPENings

I actually read five books this month. Five books! That may sound lame, but you wanna know when the last time I read five fiction books in one month was? July . . . of 2015. Yeah, it's crazy, I know.

I finally finished this series while on holidays, and . . . wow. Just wow. When I read the first book, I wasn't sure if I could get into it. But the second book had me hooked, and now I love this series. Unfortunately, right now my brain isn't recalling enough about this book to give a proper review, but it was a great conclusion to the series. I adored the awesome characters and themes, and the way the series came full-circle--in a sense--on the last few pages. If you haven't read Overstreet's books, stop wasting time and go do it. He's got a different writing style than most, but I like it. His stories are well-worth the read.

While on holidays, I prefer to read books I know are going to be good. I took a risk with this one. I'd picked it up in the past and didn't finish it. I tried it again, because I had seen the fourth Uncharted game being played. And while this book wasn't bad, it wasn't great either. It was mediocre, which doesn't do the franchise justice. Like, the first chapter had no bearing on the rest of the story, other than the fact that it introduced Nathan Drake to us and allowed him to get some money to use for the main adventure of the novel. Plus, swearing was frequent, although it was never extreme. So consider this the book version of a summer action flick that's not much to write home about.

So several holidays ago, back in 2013 if I'm not mistaken, I started reading the Artemis Fowl series. It was bizarre, to be sure, but I enjoyed it. Well, at least enough to read the second book, which heightened my interest. I came to love these books even more as time went by, and I waited to read the final book (whose cover got me wanting to read the series) on holidays. I ripped through this story so fast. It was an epic and surprisingly emotional end to the books. Like The Ale Boy's Feast, the series comes full-circle with the end of the last chapter. I should actually do a review of this series sometime, because if you haven't read it yet, you need to!

The sequel to the amazing book called Knightley Academy, The Secret Prince is just as amusing and suspenseful as the first book. And both books are such fast reads. Honestly, they're pretty much perfect. But here's the thing: as I was zipping through the story, I was worried. This book had been published in 2011 . . . and my library had no other books in the series. So I eventually got the end, which left loose threads and a desire to keep reading the series. Except there's one problem: THERE ARE NO MORE BOOKS! Do you know how much this frustrates me? Six years is plenty of time to write one more story to wrap up the series, but nope! Why do that when you can leave all the fans hanging? Some people might argue that there really isn't a need for a third book, but with the twists in this story, I'd say that we seriously need another! . . . I need to vent about this to someone.

What got me hooked on this story is its premise. There's a comic book called Malice, which always seem to showcase kids who've gone missing. And when Seth and Kady's friend disappears, they begin to dig deeper and uncover something deeper and darker than what they first thought. I'll most likely post a review about this story in a different post, but I loved the unique formatting of this story. The creepy/horror also really captivated my interest. I'm glad I decided to pick it up, and I'll definitely be reading the duology's conclusion, Havoc, in the near future.

HapPENings on the Screen

I've seen this movie before, but my youngest two sisters hadn't. We had recently read the book, so we decided it'd be fun to compare it with the movie. Tracey joined us, and we watched it on our vacation. It was just as enjoyable as I remember it being. In fact, I'm even going to make a post sometime soon(ish) contrasting the book and the movie.

I watched more episodes of season 2 with my sisters. I have to say, the show's definitely getting better as it goes along. I'm digging the character arcs of the main characters, particularly Rumpelstiltskin's, since he's my favorite. I'm also getting close to being done!

I'm watching season 2 with my parents and two younger sisters. It's fun seeing the episodes again and noticing different things. Plus, we're getting to some super intense stuff, so that's a bonus too. Have I ever mentioned the villain of this season is really creepy? Because he is.

I actually watched the first Pirates movie twice this month. First, I watched it with Chloe when Tracey and Kaitlyn were having a day in the city. She loved it so much, she wanted Kaitlyn to see it too. So we watched it a couple of weeks afterward, and now they're fans of the series. I look forward to seeing more of these movies with them! They're so fun and epic, and it's easier to understand the plot when you watch them more than once.

Writerly HapPENings

Nothing in this category, sadly. I do have stories I need to write, but I didn't find--or make--the time to do any writing this month. Disappointing. I plan to do better in September.

Well, that's all from me. I'm sorry if this post seemed rushed, because I tried to get it up as quickly as I could. I plan to do better next time. Let me know if you've got any tips or suggestions.

What did your August look like? Have you read any of these books or watched any of these movies/TV shows? Did you do better than me in the writing category?