Writing Echoes

Delijah's Writing Blog

Category Archives: Fiction

Hidden in the Stats

Sometimes it is fun to find out what people Google to get to you, and I was quite surprised one day a few months ago when checking the lists, I found this…

Referring to this post.

I was surprised that someone would look for the title of the post within the blog itself (the archives are easily findable), but I did not think much of it until the other day when suddenly the stats went uuuup in one day, and most of those visits had been to one particular post:

Those visits had come from the US. I forgot to screencap the map, but a couple of days later, said map looked like this:

And while I know that it is the most logical way, as most traffic would come from the US in any case due to the blog’s language and the rate of netizens that come from North America… I just have to ask.

Chase, is that you?

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The Garden (Short Story)

I was walking around yesterday and passed by an abandoned Psychiatric Ward. The garden was all locked and wild, with only a cat visible among the grass. It inspired this little piece, which albeit is a bit darker than the actual garden.

 

 

“Chosen Ones”

I’m open to fantasy like the best of them, I really am. I like obscure prophecies and predictions and crystal balls and all the jazz. But “Chosen Ones” bug me. I think it is because most of the “Chosen Ones” I have found are usually “outsiders” (which in the end just means that they are a form of Mary Sues [link] and that really irks me.

It even does when I run into things like the old TinTin comics, of the Phantom, or the The Beastmaster – in the end we come back to the Caucasian (and in all my examples somehow blue-eyed and blond-haired) male that comes among the “lower rate” humans (or whatever) and basically pwns their asses.

No.

An outsider, a real outsider, is not that much into anyone else’s country, culture or whatever, and I honestly don’t think any deity or so-called Wise Person would have appointed someone who has no clue about what they are doing as “Chosen One” for anything unless it involves heavy-duty language-classes.

Well, I was thinking about all that and I went and wrote a short piece vaguely related to the issue. Just click on the button to get to it ^^

The Last Night of Obon (A Kyoto Tale) background

A couple of posts ago I said that I’d talk about The last Night of Obon (A Kyoto Tale). Here you go, fact and fiction merged together – rather clumsily, to be honest, but it is my third rewrite by now and I want to be done with it.


Obon (お盆) or Obon Matsuri is a festival celebrated in August in Japan when one honours the spirits of the family’s ancestors. Born from the Buddhist-Confucian custom has become a week during which people return to ancestral family places and visit and clean their ancestors’ graves. It is believed that the the spirits of said ancestors come back to the world of the living to visit the household altars. It has been celebrated in Japan since approximately the 1500s.

Gozan no Okuribi (五山送り火), more commonly known as Daimonji (大文字), is celebrated in Kyoto as the culmination of the Obon festival. Five large fires are lit in different areas of Kyoto and are believed to guide the spirits that come visit for Obon back to the spirit world. It is thought that Gozan no Okuribi is older than Obon, and at some point both of them came together.

The fires are lit from east to west starting at 8pm, and each of them has a different meaning. The first of them to be lit is the East (or Right) Daimonji (大文字), with the character 大 (dai = big or great). The second fire is double; it reads 妙法 (Myoho = “the supreme law” in Buddhism). The third is called 舟形 (Funagata) and has the shape of a boat (fune = boat); it is supposed to represent the travelling of the spirits. The Hidari Daimonji (左大文字 = Left Daimonji) has a 大 (dai) symbol again and is the fourth fire, just above the famous Kinkaku-ji. Finally, the fifth fire represents a torii gate or 鳥居形 (Toriigata). All fires burn together for a few minutes and then are put out in the same order they were lit (See the map).

As ancient as the Gozan no Okuribi are the Four Guardian Beasts of Kyoto. Born from human belief and the dust of stars, these mythological beings guard each frontier of the Old Capital. They are the Azure Dragon Seiryu (青竜) of the East, the Vermilion Bird Suzaku (朱雀) of the South, the White Tiger Byakko (白虎) of the West, and the Black Tortoise Genbu (玄武) of the North.

The Guardian Beasts have nowadays become a legend, but they are very much real. However, they avoid being seen as they don’t consider this world “their world” any more. They can however be found in their lesser forms, roaming the city sometimes. The dragon Seiryu can turn into a lizard or a man with long hair and azure eyes with slit pupils, the firebird Suzaku flies as a red bird or walks as a redhead human with claw-like hands; the tiger Byakko can camouflage as a black and white tabby or a man with a long fluffy tail; finally Genbu can show as a regular turtle or a man with a hard shell-like plate covering his back.

The mission of the four beasts is to guard the city from the souls who come back during Obon and whose power is released in the Gozan no Okuribi. They present themselves as targets and protect the foolish humans who call upon the restless souls without realising it. Without them, the bodiless souls would turn upon their descendants and suck the life force out of them.

According to the legends, the Beasts live in their area of the city, from where they fight when Gozan no Okuribi starts.

Seiryu dwells in the lake of Fushimi Inari Taisha to the East (light blue mark on the map)

Suzaku nests in the Kamikawa Temple (no picture I can legally use, sorry) to the South of the city (reddish mark on the map)

Byakko roams the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest to the West (yellow mark on the map)

Finally, Genbu lives underneath the lake found in the Golden Pavillion / Kinkaku-ji Temple (purple mark on the map)

Lately, however, the Beasts seem to be losing power. The Dragon and the Turtle need to sleep the winter away, the Tiger is restless and the Vermilion Bird can’t seem to find a proper place to rest. In this day and age humans don’t believe in them any more. Immortal beings can die if nobody feeds their existence with belief.

The proverbial clock is tickling, and Obon is drawing near yet another summer…

Sources and Credits: Obon [link]; Gozan no Okuribi [link]; Genbu attribution and licence [link]

Disclaimer: Some truth with lots of fiction here. Don’t take to heart.

Akira Kellers’ Social Media’ing

Akira is the supporting character in Retriever. He is quite a geek so he is somehow active on the Internet. I originally made a Facebook account for him, but considering recent policy changes, he might have it erased any time, thus I back-upped it here. I think it gives quite a panoramic on the guy. Enjoy his rants right up till the book’s start-up XD


Akira Kellers

About Akira:
Just your average IT expert ^^

Basic info:
Birthday: 2 February 1983
Gender: Male
Relationship Status: Single
Languages: American English and Japanese
Religious views: Pastafarian

Work and education
Employers: 1-0-0-1 Technical Solutions, LA
University: University of California, Los Angeles
Secondary school: Homeschool

Living
Current location: Los Angeles, California
Hometown: Los Angeles, California

Akira’s Favourites:
Music: The God Machine, XJapan
Books: Comics, Manga, maNga
Movies: Akira, The Matrix, Stargate, X-Men Movies
Television: Star Trek, The Big Bang Theory, The Dog Whisperer, The Walking Dead, Supernatural, Stargate Universe, Stargate SG-1, Star Trek: The Next Generation
Sports teams: LA Lakers, Dallas Cowboys, Tokyo Giants
Activities: Pi Day, Think Geek, Money, Jenga, Binary code, Videogames, Xubuntu, Internet, Coding
Interests: Manga, Comics, Watching TV, Videogames, Hawaii, Computers, Coding
Other: Marvel, Akira (manga), Richard Stallman, xkcd, Computers, Hawaii, Linux, Ubuntu, Fedora, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Dead or Alive 4, Starbucks, Mahjong Trails, The Darwin Awards, Spiked Math, DC Comics, Adventure Writer’s Competition, Windows, Macintosh Computers, Stephen Hawking, Geeks Are Sexy

Recent Posts:

Akira Kellers
Clients from Hell: Client: (lividly) “This needs more blow. It’s not…
June 2 at 9:28pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
Clients from Hell: Client: “Why is this line bigger and bolder than…
June 2 at 9:28pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
Clients from Hell: ClientLast night I dreamed that the site was made out of…
June 2 at 9:32pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
🙂

Olga Nunes : We Love xkcd
June 2 at 9:38pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
Yes, lady, there IS porn on the Internet. No, I can’t do anything to keep it away from your kid, that’s YOUR job. I can sell you a cybernanny program though 😀
June 2 at 9:47pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
01110100011010000110010100100000011010010110111001110100011001010111001 (the internet is for porn~)
June 2 at 9:54pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
I guess it’s the Japanese blood in me?
Emoticons | Evoticon – Web 2.0 kaomoji, facemark and smiley Dictionary
June 3 at 4:24pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
Clients from Hell: Client: “Where can I find the site? I want to be…
June 3 at 7:49pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
I love this page. Relaxes me XDD
自分だけの金魚をブログに飼ってみませんか?「ぼくの金魚鉢」は、自由にレイアウトできる金魚鉢ブログパーツです。金魚をドラッグ&ドロップしてオリジナルの金魚鉢を作っちゃおう!
June 3 at 7:50pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
There are 10 types of people in the world: Those who understand binary, and those who don’t
June 3 at 7:54pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
Don’t you love Saturday morning shifts? トス!!( ’ ‘)ノノ⌒●~*
June 4 at 2:02pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
ninjas > pirates
June 4 at 2:07pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
but Samurai vs Ninja???? (I’m still betting on the ninja though…)

June 4 at 2:09pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
Wanna go to Hawai’i…
June 4 at 6:48pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
Clients from Hell: Me: “How can I help you today, ma’am?” Client: “Is…
June 4 at 8:21pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
Clients from Hell: How do you spell….
June 4 at 8:28pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
Japanese terror movie night! [壁]ロ゚)ハッIt’s even better than monsters movie marathon night…
June 5 at 12:15am . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
But first I give you this (^^)

June 5 at 12:17am . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
二日酔い…
June 5 at 10:12am . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
Am I weird for loving this one?
Tug of War – Spiked Math
June 5 at 3:21pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
Try addblock =P

June 6 at 12:35am . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
1-0-0-1 Technical Solutions, how may I be of help? -.-
June 6 at 11:38am . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
*________*
Snow on Mauna Kea in June
June 6 at 2:38pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
Does explain a fucking lot………..

June 6 at 5:47pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
I do too. But only when they are wrong…

June 6 at 11:34pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
OTZ
Nerd Friends [Cartoon]
June 6 at 11:36pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeepy ZZzz(_ _*)
June 7 at 6:06pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers

June 7 at 8:39pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
Clients from Hell: Missing the point
June 8 at 11:13pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
ァ ‘`,、’`,、’`,、’`,、(´▽`) ‘`,、’`,、’`,、’`,、’`,、
Stan Lee is making me a super hero! on Twitpic
Where “me” is obviously not me, but Yoshiki-san

June 9 at 8:26am . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
ROFL

June 12 at 10:38am . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
……………………

June 12 at 10:50am . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
Looking for cheap Hawai’i flights
June 12 at 11:56am . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers

June 17 at 12:47pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
:(){ : |:& };:
June 17 at 8:50pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers

June 17 at 9:02pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
Best Love Triangle Ever

June 17 at 9:50pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers

June 18 at 12:32am . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
ゴロゴロ(((=_ェ_=)(=_ェ_=)))スリスリ

June 18 at 12:36am . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
Negotiated vacations with boss. Hawaii, here I come!!!
June 18 at 10:43pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
ィェィv(゚▽^*)ノヽ(ー゚ )ノヽ(゚ )ノヽ( )ノヽ( ゚)ノヽ( ゚ー)ノヽ(*^▽゚)v
June 18 at 10:49pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
I hear you man

June 19 at 1:17am . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
………. faitooooo

June 19 at 10:37pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
Now I don’t know what to think…

June 19 at 10:41pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
Rolling~

June 19 at 10:43pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
(≧∇≦)ノ彡 バンバン!

June 20 at 11:27pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
Clients from Hell: Email correspondence with an older client: Client:…
June 20 at 11:31pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
Clients from Hell – Me: “You’re going to get a lot of people stopping…
June 20 at 11:31pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
Clients from Hell – Staring at computer screens gives me nosebleeds….
June 21 at 3:54pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers

June 21 at 4:14pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
(●ゝω・)ノ【I bow to your greatness☆】

June 23 at 12:16pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
Work was so slow that I beat pinball max high-score and nobody entered the shop while I was playing. FML.
June 30 at 11:20pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
かっこいい ロボット 金魚

July 1 at 12:27am . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
waaaaaaaaaaaant
Think Geek – Cntrl Alt Del Cups
July 2 at 11:01am . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
*____________________*

July 2 at 9:10pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers

July 2 at 10:32pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
So true it hurts

July 3 at 8:29pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
I like pit bulls… and GSD… and rotties! 秋田犬 も

July 5 at 12:10am . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
~●))))☆O=(`_` )パンチ!

July 7 at 11:40am . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
………………

July 10 at 10:42am . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
Storage room cleaning. I hate spiders. 大嫌 =_=;
July 12 at 6:57pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
BUT on the bright side, I got my tickets! Found a semi last minute vacation package and I’m flying for Honolulu in a week! (THANK YOU FOR THE TIME OFF, BOSS!)
July 12 at 6:59pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
memebase was down 0_0 Longest five minutes of my life
July 13 at 6:56pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
meanwhile… in 1001…

July 13 at 6:58pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
*dies laughing*
Atheist Headgear
July 13 at 8:40pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
>D

July 13 at 9:46pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
*prepares resume*

July 13 at 11:16pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers

July 14 at 10:24am . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
Massive facepalm

July 14 at 10:27am . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
CSI:Miami joke, plz

July 14 at 12:10pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers

July 15 at 7:24pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
I wonder if they did this according to the xkcd guy…

July 15 at 7:28pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
Clients from Hell – Would you settle for a metrosexual rainbow?
July 15 at 7:32pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
problem?

July 16 at 5:58pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
DNT: do not tweet

July 16 at 5:59pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
omg yes

July 16 at 7:16pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
……

July 17 at 11:29am . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
*does not comment*

July 17 at 11:42am . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
told a costumer of his vacations and was asked if his passport was ok. Hm… Hawaii is still USA, dude
July 18 at 5:20pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
BUT anyways. Almost ready! My flight is tomorrow morning. Luggage check. Tickets check. I’m taking the laptop, so I should be able to update and show you guys what you are missing
ヾ( ^ω^)ノ
July 18 at 5:22pm .. Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
… YES I am taking sun lotion, and no, I won’t disintegrate if I am exposed to the sun. I won’t sparkle either wtf
July 18 at 5:23pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
sudo apt-get install vacations -hawaii
July 18 at 5:26pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
I’m on your FB, spamming your newsfeed… really, I need a life… or google+!
July 18 at 5:30pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers

July 18 at 5:47pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
I Just Kick Things for No Good Reason
July 18 at 8:49pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
*snort*

July 18 at 8:49pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
OTZ

July 18 at 8:51pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
IS OFF TO HAWAII
July 19 at 11:46am . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
AAAAAAAAAAAND IN HAWAIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII
July 19 at 6:55pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
sat down next to this guy who was playing technologically impaired duck and fixed his computer (I know, I KNOW!). He’s treating me to a beer later in thanks LOL
July 19 at 6:57pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
Is off to the beach. I did not come to Hawaii to stay on FB in my hotel room. I got the best view, btw. And a terrace.
ィェィv(゚▽^*)ノヽ(ー゚ )ノヽ(゚ )ノヽ( )ノヽ( ゚)ノヽ( ゚ー)ノヽ(*^▽゚)v
July 19 at 6:59pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

Akira Kellers
Back, and off again some food and free drinks! Admit it, you guys are dying of envy! AND I will come back tanned. You won’t recognize me MWAHAHAHA じゃね!
July 19 at 9:04pm . Cool • Say Something • Pass it on

The Onmyōdō Affairs Bureau (OABu)


Onmyōdō [note 1] is based on the Chinese philosophies of yin-yang and the Five Elements, introduced into Japan at the beginning of the 6th century along with Buddhism and Confucianism. These practices were later influenced further by Taoism, Buddhism and Shintoism, and evolved into the first formal onmyōdō system around the late 7th century.

At that time onmyōdō was a mixture of natural science and occultism, mainly recognisable by the practitioners’ fortune telling ‘abilities’; by judging auspicious of harmful signs present in nature, some Buddhist monks presented themselves as able to predict good or bad fortune for the human world. At that time, the general activities carried out by the practitioners of the primitive onmyōdō were: astronomy, calendar-making, time-measurement, divination, studies based on observation of nature, prayer and spirit-appeasing. Many of the practitioners were Buddhist monks – usually able to read and write Chinese.

The 7th century saw how members of the Imperial Court started believing that divination might be helpful in the process of decision making and in the 8th century the first Bureau of Onmyōdō was formed. The Bureau of Onmyō was responsible for overseeing the divinations of Onmyōdō, astrological observations, and the creation of calendars, as well as preventing ordinary monks to practice astrology and fortune-telling.

Onmyōji [note 2] was one of the classifications of civil servants belonging to the Bureau of Onmyō in ancient Japan’s political and economic system. They were the professional practitioners of onmyōdō, usually specialists in magic and divination. Their court responsibilities ranged from tasks such as keeping track of the calendar, to mystical duties such as divination and protection of the capital from evil spirits. They could divine auspicious or harmful influences in the earth, and were instrumental in financial transaction.

During the Heian period Japan came across the first unworldly imbalance. It is believed that yōkai [note 3] enter the human world through cracks caused in reality by earthquakes, so the cause might have been the Great Jogan earthquake of 869. It is also known that many yōkai feed on human fears, and that those shape their forms. It became the onmyōji’s duties to fight the yōkai, thus limiting the practitioning to those with mystic power. A new specialised onmyōji figure emerged – those in charge of rituals to placate the souls of the dead to prevent or fight yūrei and onryō [note 4] and fighting yōkai.

In the 10th century Kamo no Tadayuki and his son Kamo no Yasunori made great advancements in onmyōdō, astronomy and calendar science, and tutored Abe no Seimei, who is believed to have been the most powerful onmyōji of all times. Among Abe’s feats we find introducing the use of shikigami into the art, his ability to imprison and control yōkai for different purposes, and the writing of several books, among them the ‘Senji Ryakketsu’ [note 5].

Following the decline of the Imperial Society, halfway through the 19th century, Onmyōdō was officially forbidden as a superstition and the current Onmyōdō Affairs Bureau (OABu) was formed, as one of the Secret Departments under the Service of Japan. In a modern world that can predict weather, measure time, and that has proven that divination and foreseeing techniques are not reliable, Onmyōji’s tasks are focused in yōkai and yūrei/onryō control, as well as investigating any non-channeled or accidental explosion mystic power explosion. It is also part of the OABu’s duties to study the old text and separate legend from fact regarding yōkai, legends, folk tales and accurate historical texts.

With the raise of technology, Japan has seen a decline on those able to practice Onmyōdō, while at the same time a rise on accidents caused by uncontrolled power getting out of hand – lack of belief leads to lack of knowledge, not lack of power. Furthermore, the Great Earthquakes that have hit the country in the last twenty years seem to have made the number of yōkai increase. The OABu, thus, is seriously understaffed.

At the moment, the Director of the Onmyōdō Affairs Bureau is Fujimoto Satoshi. He, and all the men and women that serve under him, are committed to keep Japan safe from any unworldly or supernatural threat.

Current logo of the OABu

Notes
Note 1: 陰陽道 ‘The Way of Yin and Yang’ [back]
Note 2: 陰陽師 [back]
Note 3: 妖怪 ‘ghost, phantom, strange apparition’: supernatural monsters in Japanese folklore. The word yōkai is made up of the kanji for “otherworldly” and “weird”. Japanese folklorists and historians use yōkai as “supernatural or unaccountable phenomena to their informants” [back]
Note 4: Ghosts [back]
Note 5:占事略决’The Summary to Judgements of Divinations’ [back]

Disclaimer: The Onmyōdō Affairs Bureau is a fictional Japanese entity created for my story Hyakki Yagyo. Historical notes created with the ever helpful Wikipedia [link]. Likewise, Fujimoto Satoshi is a fictional character.

Here be Dragons~

Here, where here is a Place Holder For The Name Of The World In Which Wren Happens who am I kidding, it is called, The World of Esk, be Dragons. The kind of dragons who are smart, able to use magic and have opposable thumbs in the giant claws of their front paws. Let’s talk some about them. There are eight families of dragons and a degenerated race that is not intelligent in Esk.

Each dragon has its own personality, and no families of dragons are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ by default. Each family has different survival strategies and characteristics though.

There are two kinds of Air Dragons, depending on their preferred climate and colour. Sky Dragons are usually blue. They have powerful wings and favour living on the highest mountaintops in warm climates. Their cousins the Ghost Dragons are similar but favour the coldest weather conditions – Technically they should be “Ice Dragons” but… no universe name jumping XD

Fire dragons and Volcano dragons are your proverbial fire-breathing dragons. They live in caves in tropical or volcanic areas, where it is very warm. Some of them enjoy baths in geysers and acidic pools. The fire ones are red and have wings and the volcano ones are black and wingless. Both families are considered the Ember Dragons

Sea dragons, the intelligent group in the Water Dragons, live in salt water – they are rarely found in fresh water because they prefer living in deep trenches. They love hunting marine monsters for sport and food. They actually have wings and are capable of flying short distances.

The family of the Earth Dragons is the most heterogeneous. Forest dragons are usually green, though the colour palette goes from brownish to yellowish. They usually live in forest-covered mountains in warm climates, and are known for their fondness of small smart creatures. They usually favour contact with humans, elves and trolls, and enjoy collecting gold, coins, magical objects and rich fabrics. They are known to become furious if someone tries to steal their richness but are open to negotiating and bartering. Sometimes they send wannabe barters into ‘quests’ to obtain something that the dragon wants in exchange of an object they possess.

Stone dragons are wingless. They have a long body without wings and are any colour from the earth’s palette. Sometimes they can even look metallic. They live in lairs excavated in pure rock and favour mountains with waterfalls and areas with rivers and lakes. Unlike the Sea Dragons, however, they can’t breathe underwater.

Sand Dragons live in deserts and have wings – desert humans’ legends say that sand storms are caused by Sand Dragons mating, though this is just a legend. Sand Dragons are brown or brown/red, sometimes grey, in colour. They can fly long distances and occasionally are found in caves built in mountaintops.

Dragons in general can use magic. They have an ancient language for magical spells and each cluster has its own language depending on the area they inhabit. Most of the time the languages are close enough so different dragons from opposite areas of the world would be able to understand each other if they cared to. They usually don’t since dragons are lone creatures.

Fledglings are hatched in big caves, usually per group: most fertile dragons come together for the event in an area. Females lay the eggs and males spay them. For a few weeks all of them live together in those caves, sharing habitat – and getting into each other nerves – until the eggs are hatched. Then the older generation comes to take the hatchings away for rearing. The nursery areas vary depending on the species, but usually there are remote places where the young ones are safe from possible predators. Dragons are considered adults when they reach around 50 years of age.

How the Swamp Dragons came into existence is a mystery. They resemble dragons in everything but intelligence. Surprisingly seem able to use some rudimentary magic. They don’t have wings, but opposable thumbs and are able to manipulate objects. Some theories say that they are degenerated dragons, others that they are primitive dragons that have not yet developed. As their name indicates, they live in swamps and are very dangerous creatures.

As we’ve seen, there are winged dragons and wingless ones. You can imagine the wingless dragons as the typical Chinese-style dragon:

The winged dragons are more the western style. The problem is that is not easy to find pictures of the kind of dragon I had in mind to use freely. Thus you get an awful sketch by me next (and yes, I know it’s 2D… I’m not good at drawing, mkay? (I even left you the parchment look, just imagine it’s a study by a mage or something XD)

This one to be exact is a Sand Dragon who goes by the name of Granite and who shows up in Wren. Granite lives in a mountaintop, which is not common on his species and has a huge treasure of gold, jewels, Grimories and magical objects. He indulges in beef – usually cow, which he hunts from nearby valleys. He has green eyes and quite a bit of a sense of humour. His magical strength is among the highest due to his age – he is very old… but I can’t tell you more ^_~

My poor drawing skills don’t show it, but the Sand Dragon’s body is based on a Velociraptor mongolensis [link]. The front paws have opposable thumbs so the dragon is able to manipulate objects, and the rear legs are clawy like an eagle’s. The body is short and packed with muscle, and the wings are leathery like a bat’s, sustained by hollow bones like birds have.

For now this is all I’ve thought about dragons, albeit summarised.

Have I ever mentioned I like dragons? Cause I do.

Reef Elf Anatomy

Long ago there was this movie named Waterworld [link]. A lot has been said about it, including that it almost wrecked Kevin Costner’s career. Won’t go into that. The idea is that there has been some kind of cataclysm and the earth is almost 100% covered with water (they say it’s the poles melting, but that’s physically impossible, there’s not that much frozen water). The main character is a mutant, since the human species is adapting to its new environment developing gills to breathe underwater.

In case I am being too geeky here, gills are the breathing structures that fish have. They are composed of very delicate filaments that take care of the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the water. They are the fish equivalent to the alveoli in the vertebrates’ lungs. I’ll spare you the biology details, you can read up on them here [link].

The problem I’ve always had with Waterworld is that while some animals have adapted gills to be able to stay emerged (and even breathe through them to some extent), they need a great humidity to remain functioning. Basically, not to dry out and fall. Amphibians are generally slimy and on the smallish side to keep that humidity; furthermore few animals are truly simultaneous amphibians.

Enter elves. Yup, elves. Pretty humanoids with pointy ears. Think LOTR [link] or Dragonlance [link]. Okay, let’s be honest. Think Dragonlance. Dragonlance had sea elves. Really. Guess who was hooked (three guesses and first two don’t count). Nothing was ever explained about their anatomy, but as far as I remember they did not have gills. That meant that they breathed in water as they breathed air.

Which biologically would not work, unless they did the lung equivalent to throw up every time they emerged. Ew.

Let’s imagine for a while. Let’s think… Coral Reef Elves anatomy (Reef elves for short). Reef elves are not featured in any fantasy world that I am aware of (read: I’ve been making this up as I go =D) and the presented facts are only based in my imagination and loosely interpreted biology. I am sure that there are 1001 reasons why this does not work, but I had a blast doing it. I’ll try to keep the big words to a minimum too.

The first point is separate the emerged and submerged breathing. Let’s say that the emerged process (i.e. breathing air) is identical to the human one. You know the drill. Take a deep breath. Keeping it simple, air comes in through nose/mouth, goes down the throat arrives in the lungs, oxygen in, carbon dioxide out, exhale, and air comes right back up the same way [link].

To keep the lungs dry while breathing underwater we’d need an independent breathing system.

A reef elf breathes air the same way a human does. How do they breathe underwater? The first step is filling the nasal cavity (1) with water and close the throat (2). A ring of muscles contracts and relaxes depending on the environment (haven’t quite figured this one out yet. Pressure maybe? I am thinking that the original contraction/relaxation is voluntary and the muscle just stays that way, but I like the pressure/involuntary angle too.)

The nasal cavity of a reef elf (1) is bigger than the human one, and is filled with gill-like structures. The teeth (3) and the jaw are smaller than in a human, as is the tongue (4). The front base of the skull (5) which has a name for sure, but we agreed on not too many big words, is wider than in the human, and spongy, intertwined with blood vessels to carry out the gas exchange. The frontal lobe of the brain (6) rests upon it, like in a human. Thus the oxygen-rich blood reaches the brain first and then is pumped towards the rest of the body.

The elf breathes through their nose. The gills in the nasal cavity (1) and the muscles in the inner part of the throat (7), draw the water in. The gills trap the oxygen and let go of the carbon dioxide, and the water is exhaled through the mouth. This has to be a continuous effort, or at least much faster than the air breathing, since the cavity’s capacity is much smaller than the lung’s capacity.

Other consequences – aside from the obvious presence of the gills:

  • Small mouths, pointy chins
  • Smaller mouths have less space for saliva glands, thus when on dry land, elves need to drink a lot
  • The enlarged mouth cavity and bones (1 & 5) take brain space, thus the brain is slightly smaller than the human brain. Most of the functions seem to be reassigned and there’s no apparent different in average intelligence between humans and reef elves. The smaller frontal lobe’s consequences are:
    • Reef elves lack the sense of smell, and some have limited taste
    • Reef elves have low sexual drive
    • Reef elves are less mentally flexible than humans
    • Reef elves are little spontaneous / enthusiast (well, this seems to extend to forest and land elves anyway)
  • The skull is more fragile in general than a human one, a punch to the face does much more damage

This system, however, means that reef elves don’t talk underwater, as there’s no air making the vocal cords vibrate. So how do they communicate underwater?

A random fact about reef elves is that they usually have long hair. Many humans believe that they actually breathe through their hair. This is because elvish children are usually brought up on dry land and they haven’t grown their hair yet, as long hair is identified with adulthood.

Stay tuned for a post on reef elvish society (or not, this was the product of an insomnia night XD). Still have a bunch of things to figure out.

Why am I such a nerd, again?

1000 Words Flash Fiction Promo

Retriever Feedback from the Adventure Writer’s Competition Panels

The Adventure Writer’s competition [link], for which I wrote Retriever sent a critique of the book, rather uplifting one:

Panel # 1: The prologue left me a little flat, but once I got into the story proper I was swept along. I really like where the story is headed – just needs polishing.
Panel # 2: Your opening paragraph is fantastic, except for the one part of the first sentence. I’ve never heard of someone snapping his tongue, and I’m not sure what that means. I stopped in the middle of reading to try and picture what that might look like. As a general rule, don’t force the reader to stop while they try to puzzle out something you have written. Maybe Aaron Yen could show his distaste with a different gesture.
Competition director: Look – this has great potential. Unfortunately, you scored in the middle of the pack technically and that kept you out of the Top 5. This is good – polish it and move forward.

When I wrote to the Adventure Writer’s Competition & Panel Director to thank him for his time, he replied this:

You have great potential – know that and move forward!!

While probably he was just being polite, I also got “scores” on several topics:

  • Opening/Prologue / Chapter One: Does the story start at the correct place, with an interesting,intriguing hook? Is there a good introduction of characters and plot? Has the writer revealed enough information, or too much too soon?
  • Setting: Is it clearly defined without extraneous detail? Is there a sense of time and place?
  • Characterization: Are they skillfully developed, multi-dimensional, and believable? Can you emphathize with the hero/heroine? Is the villian evil? Are their actions motivated?
  • Plot Line: Is the plot line interesting, unique, skillfully developed?
  • Dialogue: Is it natural? Does it move the story? Is it distinctive to each character? Is it appropriate to the genre? Is dialogue well- balanced with the narrative?
  • Narrative: Is it necessary, interesting? Does it progress the story? Is it the character viewpoint rather than the author-intrusive?
  • Pacing Does the story flow smoothly? Is every scene essential to the story? Are there highs and lows of conflict?
  • Motivation: Is the motivation genuine and not contrived? Is it compelling?
  • Point of View: Is it clear and concise? Are transitions smooth and the changes logical?
  • Style / Voice: Is the writing vivid and evocative? Is it special, unique?
  • Relationship: Can you feel the tension, magic, excitement? Does the relationship progress at a satisfactory rate?
  • Mechanics: Grammar, punctuation, and spelling
  • Format: The format follows generally accepted guidelines

Each topic was rated on a 1-10 scale and my “score” was a 6 for all of them except for the “Relationship” bit (5/10), which was supposed to be awkward anyway, giving me a total of 83 points out of 150… which is not bad for a novel written in three months. The general “grade” was:

Good – some structure needed

I shall keep trying, and doing it harder ^^

Check out the excerpt for Retriever here if you don’t know what I am talking about:

ETA: And so my dear beta feels vindicated, the highest score was 108/150, and I would be fourth if these had been the only factors at hand – which they were not, obviously XD