Happy Tolkien Reading Day!

Tomorrow is one of my favorite days of the year: Tolkien Reading Day!

Part of me regrets not spending every spare moment of the week on a Lord of the Rings marathon, but part of me feels that what I’ve been doing with my free time is just as appropriate.

It’s been hard to peel myself away from Breath of the Wild. Whenever I have a spare moment (and my husband isn’t playing it), I’ve been exploring the vast landscape and basically doing all I can to save the world one quest at a time. (Fortunately, the times when my husband is playing mean that my writing doesn’t completely suffer.)

However, such fantasy would never exist without Tolkien’s influence. I happened across a Newsweek article that said as much. (Check out “How J.R.R. Tolkien Redefined Fantasy Stories” here.) Tolkien didn’t invent fantasy, but his works defined the genre. It simply wouldn’t be what it is today without him. Which means that the game that I’m playing would be nothing like it is without him.

As usual, though, I’ll give pause to read my favorite passage (and likely more than that when it’s all said and done). There’s something so beautiful about the climax in The Return of the King, Book VI, in the last part of chapter 3 and the beginning of chapter 4. After everything that the characters have endured, this is the moment that changes Middle-earth forever. (And for anyone who’s read The Silmarillion, you know just how long this conflict with Sauron has been going on.)

The Fall of Sauron

One of the best parts : )

So here’s to this year’s Tolkien Reading Day, the anniversary of the Fall of Sauron, and Tolkien’s lasting influence on our world.


Why I Believe in the Oxford Comma and a Tidbit on Van Gogh

Today’s post feels very random, but these two links are too fascinating to pass up so why not post them together?

The first is on the importance of the Oxford comma. While some prefer to drop it (and I don’t judge), I prefer to use it for its clarity. As it turns out, the use of the comma has been helpful to some dairy drivers get overtime pay. Read more about that here. (Warning and apology: There’s a smidge of language in it.)

The second is about the Impressionists, specifically Van Gogh. If you thought “Starry Night” was a cool painting before, you’ll never be able to think of it quite the same way. It appears to capture fluid dynamics in action. Read that article here.

And since the video mentioned in the article isn’t linked, it’s here.

Enjoy!

What do you think of the Oxford comma? Are you a fan of “Starry Night”?


The Artistry of Breath of the Wild

It’s been a little over two weeks since The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild came out, and I’ve been loving it. There are so many things that I could talk about — and most of them, spoiler-free — but there’s something that really struck me as I was playing last week: just how beautiful the world is.

Now that I’m learning to paint, I have a new appreciation for the aesthetic. To date, all of the games have had things about them that are beautiful, but the way that this world comes alive is so different than anything I’ve experienced before. The environment changes with the weather and time of day. The animals respond to my footfalls when I get too close. The sky is as dynamic as the real sky.

The most stunning moment I’ve had so far was atop a cliff. I had to gather arrows and take a picture of an enemy down below. (One that killed me several times with one hit! Thank God for all the auto-saves.) Then I had retreated to safety above. It had been raining lightly, and the rocks had even gotten slick.

I turned around to see if the monster below had chased me, and I found the most dazzling sight instead.

A double rainbow and a sunset.

 

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A picture of an in-game picture hardly does justice to the original beauty of the moment.

I’ve never seen anything like it in a video game. It was absolutely stunning. Once I’m more proficient in painting on my own, I want to recreate this.

This is one of the coolest parts about Breath of the Wild. These sorts of beautiful moments aren’t a rarity. They happen all the time. It definitely is the most beautiful video game I’ve met so far.

 


Musings on Storytelling

Story inspiration comes from everywhere. A trip to the grocery story. A conversation with a friend. People watching at a restaurant. But one of the most inspiring sources are often the stories I love most.

Obviously, Tolkien’s Middle-earth has had a huge impact on the stories I write, but it’s certainly not the only source. In fact, right now I’m playing through one of them: The Legend of Zelda. (And, yes, this means that Breath of the Wild is shaping up to be better than I anticipated.)

Like with The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars and so many other great tales, it all starts with someone who starts off (usually) rather ordinary, finds that he (or she) is the answer to a desperate need, and goes on an adventure to fulfill that need. The call to adventure, the selflessness of heroism, that touch of magic… they’re all the things that I love in a story.

One of the things that I think is most interesting about Zelda is the storytelling. According to The Hyrule Historia, there is a timeline and the stories do fit together. However, I have always had my own view on it.

Cultures around the world tell the same story over and over again. Tales of creation and great floods, faithfulness and betrayal, heroes and sacrifice. And that’s how I’ve always seen these stories. The hero and the princess face incredible evil and defeat it. It looks different every time it’s told, but it’s always, in essence, the same story. And that’s okay.

After all, that’s what we do. The stories come in different shapes and sizes, but most of the stories are retellings of things that have been told for years.

Years ago, I worried about this, but a CS Lewis quote fixed me of that fast: “Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”

That, and seeing that Zelda tells the same story over and over again and somehow it never gets old.


The Little Strawberry That Could

I’ve had a vegetable garden for several years now. Some years have been better than others, and this one looks like it has promise.

There are only two plants that have survived for several years now. The first is a rosemary bush that has been there since the beginning. The second is a very stubborn strawberry plant.

Three years ago, the strawberry made itself at home on the edge of the garden. It never got particularly big and critters snagged most of the fruit before I could, so I decided not to add more in the ground the following year. However, the strawberry wasn’t ready to be done  yet.

At the end of the season, I cleaned out the dead plants, and we began preparations for the next round. The one strawberry was still alive, so I left it alone and waited to see what happened.

Since it was fruitless that season, I decided to take it out so I could give something else its spot. The roots were deeper and thicker than I anticipated (which made me feel a little bad), but enough of it came up that I thought it was gone.

I was wrong.

By halfway through the season, it had grown back. It didn’t produce anything, but it is the most determined little plant I’ve ever seen.

This year, the season is just starting and that little plant is still there. This time, there’s a little surprise.

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A tiny white flower. Hope for a harvest. A symbol of dogged determination.


Adventures in Art: Daily Bread (or, The Doubleheader)

Burnt sienna has arrived, which means I have a new world of possibilities at my fingertips.

This weekend, I decided to go back to the first lesson that required the color: bread with butter. I had every intention of just painting it, but my weekend soon turned into a doubleheader.

Evidently, I haven’t really talked about painting, so even close family didn’t know that I was doing it. When my mom saw the poppy, she decided she wanted one of her own. Needless to say, I enjoyed playing with those colors and shapes again.

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Back to the Beginning Again (or, Returning to Novel #1)

After deciding that the steampunk/fantasy/sci-fi novel needed some time to simmer, I spent a little time trying to decide where to head next. However, the answer was a bit inevitable. It’s time to return to the world of Carrick that I’ve been working on since middle school.

The latest draft was version 9 (with at least fifty saved drafts between all of the versions… never mind the early ones I deleted years ago), so I opened it up and started reading to get my bearings again.

I expected plenty of cringing. After all, this story has sat for two years, and I’m just used to that. However, this has been an unusual experience. The more I read, the more I’m impressed with what’s on the page.

I can’t remember if I had intentions of adding more to the story the last time I worked on it — adding supplementary story between the characteristic letters that the story has been made up of all along. I thought about adding some third person parts to expound on the story. Now, though, I’m not so sure. Is it better as a group of letters or does it need more?

I suppose the only way to know is to finish reading the draft and then start experimenting from there. I’m just glad that I’m still happy with it 25 pages in.

Have you ever tried mixing POV’s (first and third person) before? Have you read stories that do? Or do you prefer sticking to one POV?