Writing Echoes

Delijah's Writing Blog

Tag Archives: Wren

Speculative fiction

I’ve decided. My no-so-little-anymore (at over 15,500 words) samurai story is not historical but a fantasy. It also has a title: Kuraokami. Kuraokami (闇龗) is a legendary Japanese dragon and Shinto deity of rain and snow (oh, I need to tell you one of these days about the Shinto book I got myself).

I’ve noticed that in the last eight months or so I’ve been turning a bit towards speculative fiction. I’ve written a short fantasy (Wren), a full-blown Japanese Urban Fantasy (Hyakki Yagyō) and a sci-fi (Erika). I’m even sure that if I try hard enough T could count as fantasy. Now Kuraokami adds to the list.

Until I tackled Wren back in July, I had not written fantasy for years, but I’ve enjoyed it for long. The DragonLance Originals (Chronicles and Legends) were one hell of a drug, devoured more than read during my teenage summers. A bunch of them I used to have in both Spanish and English, though I eventually donated the Spanish ones to a local library. As you can see in the picture, I can almost claim to have a vintage edition, back from when TSR still existed.

Most of my early years’ writing material is – some thankfully, some regretfully – lost due to a misplaced box during a moving across the country, but I used to write much more fantasy than I write now. I guess it is a bit of a cycle for me, coming back to it. I’m cool with it, if my story needs the extra fantasy touch, then it shall have it.

The character who is in fact responsible for everything that happens in Kuraokami is Hisoka, a daimyo’s (Japanese lord) second son. Hisoka is married to the daughter of his father’s general, and is basically… a whuss. He is in love with Hachirou, one of the castle samurai, but he won’t make a move on him at all. As a matter of fact, he completely refuses to let Hachirou even touch him.

Hachirou’s only real friend is Souji, a healer, without any magic power who just trusts his books and his herbs. After becoming the castle “doctor”, Souji ends up exposed to some of the fortress’ darkest secrets, including that the daimyo is sleeping with one of his daughters, Jun, who has a secret herself. Soon, Hachirou starts having dreams about a mysterious woman who talks to him in a cloud of cold and snow.

Hachirou needs to choose now between the path he has sworn to follow, and staying with the man he loves, or leaving behind everything he has born to in order to protect an innocent life and his own soul.

… or something. I mean, I’m still working on it, and boy it needs work. But hey, I am writing it and I’m feeling good about it, and only for that, Kuraokami is worth it ^^

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The 2012 500-words-a-day experiment: Final

The 500-words-a-day experiment ran from 19th January to 30th June, 2012. Originally it was a way to work daily on Victim #14 but it became something else along the way – yes, I am aware that there were four blank days early in February, but sometimes life sucks. Eventually blog posts became part of the deal, since they were writing about writing (note: in the graph, the blog posts before May are counted for the day they were published even if they were written in two different days, since I was not keeping track by then).

This is how the final result looks:

I threw all the numbers together today, and the final count is 161546 words for the whole period, 136902 of them in stories. Wow. I had not counted the whole until now XD” (This makes me remember that I haven’t updated my wordcount spreadsheet since forever, too).

The first thing that calls my attention when looking at this graph is that apparently I am not as irregular with the blog as I thought. Second, I think it is obvious that Victim #14 holds the highest word counts, with those two over-four-thousand-words days.

Some of the Inferno coursework is available [link], as is Autumn Lullaby [link], they are very short one-shots.

I wrote a very silly piece having Kim from Victim #14 meet Aaron and Masaharu from the Retriever universe that did not even get a title. It is a bit strange because I did it for laughs, but I’ve eventually written a lot in the Retriever universe [link] lately, during the experiment I developed Binary, which I did not finish until recently to be honest (more about the Retriever universe to come). I’ve told you about Lifequake [link] and I have mentioned Wren a couple of times [link] but never really ellaborated (*into the list*).

“Terazuma” is a background character in the Osaka Guardians universe [link]; he might not even be featured in the main series, but writing him was fun. Infatuation Trap was a free writing exercise that in the end looked nothing like what I had imagined, and that brought Hyakki Yagyō’s Satoshi [link] back to the front of my mind.

Evaluating the whole experiment I have learnt a few things about my writing and myself:

  • Is relatively easy for me to keep going with the daily-writing scheme when I have something I am actually enjoying and looking forward to work on everyday
  • I have revived a couple of old / zombie plotbunnies with interesting results, none or few expected
  • When I write things I am not convinced about, I don’t enjoy it and I find it more tedious than fun.
  • Even something I love can burnout me if I force it too much. Sometimes it is better to give it a break and come back with renewed energy. Writing Hyakki Yagyō felt awesome compared to the last 2000 words on Binary.
  • My brain is flexible enough to work on two stories / different verse on the same day. However, I need to either focus on writing or editing

In short: it was really awesome, but I am glad I stopped when I did to take a mental break when things became too much and writing too difficult and tedious. I am however wondering if I would have done better having a complete back-up plan and always a story to write without having to force my brain.

Also, there’s a short story lost somewhere in those numbers, I think it is camouflaged as a blog post. It’s about a doggie who makes a trip to the community trash can and brushes the heaven of a four-pounder…

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?