Alright, y'all. I'll admit. When it comes to making villains for my books, I'm not exactly the best. Let's take a stroll down memory lane for a bit.
First up, in Where the Clouds Catch Fire, we have Konar the Mad. My 13-year-old self decided that the best way to portray this villain was to make him an evil, psychopathic warlord with no regard for human life. Did I pull it off? Probably not. But I'm pretty sure that the rest of the book makes up for it.
Next up, Where I Stand. At first glance, you might think that the villain is Nokkvi Hrodolfson, the soon-to-be Chief of Darsidia. But you're wrong. It's Alva, the little old doctor lady who, if I were smart, would have made a cameo in Where the Clouds Catch Fire. Fortunately, though, I really do think she's a better villain than Konar. She's in five or six scenes, while Konar is only in two. And besides, she actually has a decent, quasi-logical motivation. Konar kills and otherwise harms people simply because he can. Alva, albeit misguidedly, is trying to protect future generations from another Konar.
But Book 3...I'm looking forward to the villain in Book 3.
The main villain in Book 3 earns the nickname of Grima. You might recognize the name from Lord of the Rings, and I can almost assure you that J.R.R. Tolkien and I drew inspiration from the same place. Grima or grimr or something like that (Norse is a weird language) means "mask," "shadow," or "phantom."
And my Grima is all three. First off, this person wears a mask. His mask is actually a sock--a Viking sock, which is more like an Ace bandage. They're called winningas and were used by some soldiers in World War I, if you'd like to research them on your own time. (On a related note, did you know that some Vikings had socks built into their pants? That's right--Vikings walked around in footsie pajamas. Don't seem so tough now, do they?)
Mask, Check. Shadow. Check. The first time Grima is spotted, it's by (spoiler alert for Where I Stand) Tarin McNeil--who thinks he's just seen a ghost. Grima is always able to disappear on a moment's notice and never leaves tracks.
Oh, and he's an excellent archer. He could shoot a fly off a rotten apple at fifty yards.
But the best thing about Grima, in my opinion, is that he's not what he seems to be. I can't get into more detail without spoiling Book 3, but trust me. You'll like it. In fact, I'm pretty sure that Grima is my best and most complex villain yet.
I hooked you. I'm sorry. Book 3 won't be available until...2022? Maybe? Anyway, until then, let me know if you liked Konar or Alva better as a villain in the comments below. God bless you, dear readers, and Happy New Year!
'Twas the night after Christmas, and all through the room,
Lots of old tissue paper and gift bags were strewn.
The stockings were thrown on the floor without care.
They once had held candy, but now only held air.
The children all screamed as they jumped on their beds--
The candy and cookies had gone to their heads.
And Mom with her coffee, and Dad with his beer,
Slumped down on the sofa and tried not to hear.
When out in the yard, there arose such a clatter,
Dad threw on some pants to see what was the matter.
Away to the window Dad stumbled and yawned,
Then grabbed his old Samsung that once fell in a pond.
What should he see by the light of the moon?
Trash on the porch, and a pair of raccoons.
"Now, beat it! Now, go 'way! Now, scram, both of you!
Now, leave us! Now, buzz off! You stupid raccoons!
"Get off of my porch! Get off of my lawn!
Now, go away! Go away! Go away, all!"
Then, with a scurry, the varmints climbed down
The old wooden staircase and disappeared without sound.
And Dad gave a sigh, as he grabbed a Bud Lite--
"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"
Wow! Christmas Eve already! Somehow, this doesn't feel right. It feels like it should still be November or something. But, y'know, I'm sort of glad that 2020 is almost over. It was a rough year for a lot of people. I've been lucky to escape with only a few missed social engagements.
Our church has been doing an Advent devotional on our app. (Yes, it's sort of a big and high-tech church. We have our own app.) Hope, peace, and joy were the central focuses of the first three weeks, and this week, I suppose we're talking about Christ Himself. And the Sunday sermons discussed each week's theme, too.
This is where things get--humorous? One of the main pastors at our church is a very serious individual. He got a degree in political science before he realized he was called to the ministry, and he told us once that he only got a single B in his entire college career. He also said that, to this day, he considers going back and re-taking that class so he can have a perfect GPA, if that explains anything about this individual. Anyway, he was tasked with talking about joy.
I attended the 9:00 service, and as I arrived at 8:55, I wondered how on earth this pastor was going to talk about joy. I wasn't sure that he'd ever experienced it. Hearing this sermon was sure to be like listening to Lukas McCamden talk about sex and romance. A purely philosophical discussion with lots of big words and no emotion except for wholehearted devotion to Christ.
The sermon was about patience. And it was a surprisingly good sermon, too.
But it got me thinking. Maybe, with everything this year has been, we're not supposed to talk about joy. Maybe we're not supposed to be happy. After all, so many people have lost their jobs, homes, businesses, or loved ones over the past nine months. Maybe the people on the radio singing "Go Tell It On the Mountain" are the only ones who are supposed to be smiling right now.
I learned a very important lesson about joy when my grandmother died. She was gone, and perhaps I missed her a bit (we weren't close), but I still felt joy. In fact, I was glad for her. On earth, she'd been very ill with COPD and a failing memory. Now, she was in heaven. Healthy and whole.
Maybe that level of joy isn't possible for everyone to experience, and there certainly is a time for grief. But even if we've lost something or someone this year, we don't have to let our circumstances (or someone else's circumstances) dictate how we're supposed to feel. Besides, as Ma Ingalls always said, "There's no great loss without some small gain." When I was little, my dad went through a patch without much work. I didn't realize we were poor. I was just happy that Daddy was home and able to spend more time with me.
And if you, like me, have been lucky--don't feel pressured to feel sad or solemn just because so many other people are. When things get better (which, rest assured, they will), it would be a very sad thing if all of humanity had forgotten what joy is.
That said, I've crocheted an afghan for my mother, and I need to find a gift bag big enough for it. And I need to wrap presents for both my friends. And practice my timpan...I uploaded a video on our Facebook page, if you're interested in learning more about it. Or hearing its dulcet tones. I'm quite proud of the way it's turned out.
Anyway, merry Christmas, y'all! Have a blessed day!
During my first therapy session (I really do need to book another one), I was asked, "Do you have any obsessions?"
I tried to think. "Well," I responded, "if I don't know the name of a character, I can't think about anything else. It doesn't matter if I'm not going to write the book for ten years. But I'm pretty sure that's a normal writer thing."
The fact that this obsession was never brought up again means that OCD is the least of my worries.
I left out one important detail that my therapist probably doesn't care about. I forgot about another thing I have obsessed about. The Irish timpan.
Yes, yes, another timpan post. I'm sorry. But this time, I actually have a development. And a confession.
I've made my own timpan.
Technically, my dad made it. He was the one who operated the table saw, spread the wood glue, and set the clamps. I was in charge of giving him dimensions and buying materials. But it's finally done. Eight months and probably $90 later, I own an extinct instrument.
My confession is that I've probably made it wrong.
First off, the thing is shaped like a cheese grater. It's about an inch narrower at the top than it is at the bottom. The tuning pegs are on an extension of the top cross-piece, so I'm not sure I'm playing the right notes. The bridge is too close to the finger-hole and I'm pretty sure the Irish didn't attach their strings to a cabinet pull. I don't even know if the original timpan had a fingerboard. It probably did. Mine doesn't.
But it's a timpan, and I can play it. Sort of.
I'm trying to learn how to play "Good King Wenceslas." I've been too lazy to learn a piano song for Christmas Eve as tradition dictates, so I picked a song within the narrow range of the timpan and learned it. I'm still learning how to use the drone string, and I can't get the E-string tuned right.
You see what I mean about obsessions? Now you know how my brain works. It's a mess. I frankly don't know how I've managed to pass as a normal human being for the past twenty years. I'm part Mad Scientist, part Absentminded Professor, and part Data the Android, with a little bit of Pioneer Girl thrown in for good measure.
Anyway, once I'm good enough at playing my timpan to do so without embarrassing myself, I'll post a video. For the time being, please tell me something you've obsessed over in the past. God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to Like us on Facebook!
School is out. Work is slow.
All my days are spent alone.
I tell myself I'll get stuff done,
Like taking my dog for a run.
I'll straighten my entire room.
Then I'll dust and vacuum, too.
At noon, I'll make some homemade lunch
Or cookies with a perfect crunch.
I'll practice hard for worship team,
I'll fix the shirt with a broken seam.
I'll finish making Christmas gifts--
Cross everything off my to-do list!
Next thing I know, it's half past ten.
I'm in my jammies, still in bed.
To myself one more lie I say:
"I'll do it all some other day."
It was fun knowing you.
Part of me will miss you.
But part of me left you long ago
and so our parting is bittersweet.
I remember catching fireflies
And eating candy after church.
I was so proud of my first crocheted chain
And my Silly Band collection
And my first two paperbacks.
Legally, I have two years' experience with you.
I have a job, a diploma, and a paid-off car
But I don't know if I should tip at the deli
Or what to say to a dead man's wife.
It doesn't matter what I've done.
After two decades, I feel I should have done more.
Moved out. Kissed a boy. Worked a nine-to-five.
But no matter what God has in store for me
It's been a good run so far.
To be honest, I've never really liked sci-fi that much.
It all started when I was maybe six years old. One of my favorite pastimes was cracking open the door to my parents' room while my dad was watching the History Channel. I'd sit there and watch Modern Marvels or How It's Made until the commercial break, and sometimes I'd even watch the commercials depending on how interesting they were.
One of those commercials was for a show about alien abduction. It scarred me for life and I was even terrified of the little green three-eyed things in Toy Story. It took me several years (and a few episodes of Star Trek) to get over my fear of aliens.
And then I decided that reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy would be fun. And I was right.
Some books you read because you love the main character. Not this book. Protagonist Arthur Dent is about as bland as a stale English biscuit, but since he's the sole survivor of the destruction of earth, he's the only guy we have to root for. He's not alone, of course. He's joined by the criminal Zaphod Beeblebrox, President of the Galaxy, his human girlfriend Trillian, the depressed robot Marvin, and Ford Prefect. Ford is a hitchhiker with a fondness for alcohol and an overall likeable personality, and is quite possibly my favorite out of all these characters.
What really sells this book, though, is the writing style. Author Douglas Adams does a phenomenal job of making the reader laugh with well-timed jokes and narrative improbabilities. The plot, the characters--everything except for possibly the setting--is like the cracker upon which you spread the Nutella of Adams' imaginative jocularity. And by "imaginative," I mean something less like a daydream and more like a memorable acid trip.
When you stop reading this book, it's not necessarily the characters you'll remember (although a few of them are notable for multiple heads or personality disorders). And that's alright, I suppose. While I believe that having strong, likable, and memorable characters is the most important part of a book or series, Adams proves that the opposite is true as well. In fact, fans of his work started Towel Day in March (I hope to participate next year) in honor of a simple paragraph.
Well, duty calls. Long story short, it's a good book. Read it. Laugh with it. Don't panic. And always know where your towel is.
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.