Sunday, January 29, 2012

Poem - Running With the River

I find that a lot of the poetry I write falls into two categories: love or revolving around a child's perspective in some way. That is the case with tonight's poem, Running With the River. I think it is a fun little poem about taking things to extremes to prove something is wrong, yet also cherishes that childhood energy and innocence we all used to possess.


Running With the River

I splashed into the river today
And darted back on the bank,
I sprinted down the winding path
As the river flowed away.
Caught in a moment of stubborn pride,
Determined to prove my teacher wrong,
I chased the water where I stepped
To step in the same spot twice.

The day goes by but still I try
In vain to find the same spot again.
This river runs way too fast;
Yes, even faster than me.
My clothes are soaked to my body,
Oh my mom will not be pleased
But tomorrow I will try again.
It will not get the best of me.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Love for the Fantasy Genre

I've spent my entire life reading books from the fantasy genre. There are countless books and stories that could be classified into this genre, including Harry Potter, Twilight, the Chronicles of Narnia, and the Lord of the Rings. There are many qualities about great fantasy novels that deserve mention, and I plan to highlight a few of my personal favorites.

The first element is the world of the novel. Many fantasy novels take place in a world other than our own, which makes it easy to imagine you are someplace far from the stresses of your daily life. It is easier to believe that dragons, elves, dwarves, trolls, and fairies exist when reading a story that takes place in a world of the author's creation. Many people believe Tolkien to be among the best authors in this genre, and he started by creating a map of Middle-Earth before he put pen to paper. David Eddings goes into great detail in The Rivan Codex about how he created his world with details about all the major nations and their history before he started writing the story.

The second element is a believable magic system (or similar aspect). I've read some stories where it seems like the protagonist, or one of their companions, just so happens to have a magical spell for the situation that they forgot about until that pivotal moment in the story. Fans of the fantasy genre are willing to believe a lot of things on faith. We expect to see new breeds of monsters, races of elves and dwarves coexisting with humans, and some sort of magical power that exists on both sides of the conflict. When a fireball cast by a character on page 33 is a small ball of orange flame and then on page 277 it suddenly is a bright red inferno that wipes out half of an army, we need to know what caused the change and be able to believe it is possible.

Perhaps the best example of putting boundaries on magic comes from David Eddings. In The Belgarion series we are introduced to a magic system known as the "the will and the word" where the sorcerer uses his mind and speaks a command and the magic occurs. But there are two limitations: magic cannot be used to unmake something (it will kill the sorcerer who tries) and using this magic will tire the sorcerer as if he moved it physically.

The third and final element is the heroic quest. I like reading about King Arthur and his knights riding off in search of the Holy Grail. I like a journey that takes a hobbit across the land to the lair of a dragon to do some burglaring. There are almost always obstacles along the way, close calls that add suspense, and opportunity for the growth of the cast of characters. And as long as the object at the end doesn't grant some unreasonable advantage (such as the ability to obliterate all enemies with a single thought) without some sort of restriction (such as only one who wants it but doesn't want to use it can obtain it) then it doesn't ruin the story, so long as it is relevant to the story of the novel in some way.

What sort of elements do you enjoy in a fantasy novel? What things in your favorite book stand out in your mind as the things that make it your favorite?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Story - A Hope for the Future

It has been a very busy weekend! I've had a lot of fun spending time with a great friend, spending time with my fiancée and her parents, playing with two great cats, and reading Wuthering Heights. Add in homework and Church and it makes for a full weekend.

Today I am going to share a short story I wrote in Creative Writing almost two years ago. We had to write a story that used three different narrators, and I've always been happy with how it turned out. It is 2,220 words long, and hopefully you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Feedback is certainly welcome!

On a side note, I'm hoping to begin writing something to enter into the Writers of the Future contest.


A Hope for the Future

            I miss my Anna. She loved me so much and I never knew how to express my love to her. What would she think if she could see me now? What would she say when she saw how far I have fallen? She always knew the right things to say. She could make this all better. No. She would not have even let me get here, had she not left me. She is in a far better place than I am now. Where she is there is no rusty door that creaks every time it is opened. There is no dimming light from a pair of low-burning torches. There is no pang of hunger gnawing at her stomach with each move she makes.
            My back aches so much from sleeping on this clump of straw. You would think these hosts could at least provide some decent provisions if they are going to place me in this room for a while. There is a broken sword over there, my blood dried onto one of the splintered shards. My foot still throbs from the scabbing cut, which gets inflamed each time the cold, damp air hits it. The roof is leaking, even though this room is far underground. I hope I don’t catch the plague. Or worse. That mangy rat over there probably has some kind of disease. It keeps poking its head out of the wall, its beady eyes looking for something.
            “Go away, rodent. There is no food for you here. Why don’t you go away? There is nothing for you in here.”
            The rat looks at me, peering into my soul. It scampers out of its gloomy abode, scurrying into the center of the room. It climbs over a moldy skull near the center. What great décor they have in this room. What is that rat doing? Is it trying to rise to the top of that anvil? SQUEAK! That dumb animal fell down. Why is it looking back at me again? There it goes, trying to climb up the anvil once more. I guess it must learn the hard way that life is full of pain, failures, and loss. Hold on, it made it up there to the mossy surface. To sit and watch me?
            “Why do you keep watching me? I have no food. Are you trying to tell me something? Wait. That gleam. I recognize that look. A—Anna? Anna!”

            It is so dark down here. I bet there is a minotaur or a hydra down here somewhere! This guy has such strong armor. I wish I had a sword like his! Oh, the door is so loud when it opens! I can’t stop laughing; that door is going to make this such a great room to stay in! We get our own torches in here too? Listen to that fire crackle as it burns! It just popped, too! I hope they don’t let those torches burn out. What is this old guy in here staring at? Oh! It’s a rat! I should give him a name!
            “Come here, Hercules!”
            “Who is Hercules?” the old man responds.
            “The rat, of course. Like you would be Hercules.”
            “That rat has a name, and it certainly isn’t Hercules.”
            “Let me guess! I love games like this! Is it named Squeaker?”
            “No, it’s—“
            “Oh that is such a nice name!”
            I move forward, calling out to Anna to tell her what great eyes she has and how pretty her fur is. The old man shivers and his eyes get red. I think he might be about to start crying, so I skip over to his bed of straw and tumble into the one next to him. Loose strands of straw fly into the air and I laugh, grabbing a handful of the straw. I roll over to throw it at the old man, but his expression gives me pause. His eyes haven’t left Anna, tears streaming down his cheeks.
            “It’ll be okay. I bet we’ll have all kinds of fun staying here,” I comfort him.
            “I don’t want to have fun,” he mumbles. “I just want my Anna back.”
            “She is right over there. Here, I’ll bring her to you.”
            “Not the rat. My daughter.”

            “Oh, I didn’t realize,” the boy answers.
            “It’s okay young one,” I reply in a somber tone as I fight to hold back another torrent of tears. “I miss her so much, ever since she left ten years ago. She was all I had left, ever since my wife died to give her life.”
            “I bet she is out there somewhere, thinking of you. She knows how proud you are of her and how much you still care.”
            “I can hardly believe my ears; such sagely advice coming from one so young. Is there hope left yet in Pandora’s Box after all? Long ago I believed that it had left the world, along with all the other forms of good, leaving behind evil to corrupt us all. The good in my own world left when my two women departed from me. Rachel blessed my life with her love, and then as her final loving act she gave me our Anna. I missed her so much, but I raised Anna as best as I could. But for ten years now I’ve simply gone through the motions of living without ever truly experiencing life. My world ended the day she left me.
            But now this child is consoling me, when it should be me who should be shielding him from the bitter fate that is undoubtedly awaiting him. Why else would he be here?
            “Come here, grandson. Sit on my lap and tell me about your family.”

            He calls me his grandson and wants to know more about me and my family. He looks so sad and lonely, as if he hasn’t had anyone for such a long time. Ten years seems like forever. I can’t wait to be ten! A few years from now and I will be! I think he needs a hug. He wants someone to talk to; I can sense it.
            “My momma left weeks ago and no one knows where she went.”
            “Poor child. What was she like?”
            “She was so strong and beautiful. There was never a guy good enough to take a place beside her. I never met my dad; she told me he was a very powerful man.”
            “You never knew your father? Just like my Anna never knew her mother.”
            “That is okay though, Grandpa. My mom was a good enough parent to be both. Just like I can tell that you were.”
            “Do you have any other brothers or sisters?”
            “Just me and my mom. That is all I have ever known. We’ve moved from place to place all the time, so I have never really had a home. My home was wherever we were, so long as we were together.”
            Tears fill the old man’s eyes and I reach up to brush them away. He has lived such a sad, lonely life the past ten years. He has forgotten how to live; how to experience joy. He has spent his life feeling lost without his family. I will be his family now. I will help him remember the joys of living; the experiences worth having. I will show him the happiness in all things!
            “Look at the light of the moon creeping through the cracks on the wall. It makes the moss seem to grow, like the stars in the sky.”
            “Yes, child. I can see it now!”
            “Look at the shadows dancing on the wall behind you. Look! I’ve made a lion! Rawr!”
            An uncomfortable sound escapes the old man’s lips, and it takes a moment for me to realize it was laughter. It has been so long since he last laughed that his body has forgotten how to laugh. It takes little time for him to remember; however, and soon he mimics my shadow lion. Our fierce animals wage war on the wall, laughter from us both echoing in the background.

            The chains rattle with each forced step. My limbs freeze in resistance but the repeated jabs in my lower back never fail to get me moving forward again. I am able to recognize the moldy limestone surrounding us as we descend deeper. I am almost back to my room. The unbearable stench of this escort will soon be removed from my presence. I can hardly wait to be free of their leering gazes. Lost in thought, my fierce defiance collapses momentarily and I begin to move under my own free will. One of the goons speaks, breaking my trance.
            “Looks like the wench remembered how to walk.”
            “Wonder if she knows any other tricks?”
            I choose not to dignify them with a response. Even if my lips could part to form the words, it would just provoke them into action. I’ve had worse done to me than these two slobs would want to do; I would just have to suffer through their two minutes of clumsy groping. I stop walking and once more a sharp pain shoots up my back. The comforting pain of resistance. The door to my room creaks open and rough, calloused hands fondle me briefly as one of the men shoves me through the doorway. I fall to the floor, unable to catch myself completely with my shackled hands.
            My first awareness is of the fact that I am no longer alone in my cell. There are unexpected cohabitants in my room, although I cannot see them yet. My eyes squint as I attempt to grow accustomed to the brightness of the room. The door slams shut and a key turns in the rusted lock. The cool air feels comforting on my skin. I exert a fraction of my diminishing strength to get up onto my knees. I take a quick scan of the room and, if I could have spoken, I would have screamed.

            The boy makes me feel thirty again. I can’t recall the last time I ever felt so happy. Not since Anna left, for sure. We laugh and tell stories and, as I am telling him about the time when Anna stole a fish, the door groans open. Two greasy men in uniforms force a young woman into the room. Her arms are chained together behind her back and her scant clothing is torn in so many places. Her face is bruised horribly and her jaw has been broken. Both eyes are swollen and her nose is jagged. Poor girl.
            She struggles to her knees and looks over in our direction. I cannot see her eyes, but for some reason I think I have seen her somewhere before. Probably just my imagination. Blood is crusted on her skin around most of the tears in her clothing. I have the urge to go and help her. The young lad shoves off my lap, tears in his eyes. He has such sympathy for such a young boy. He helps her to her feet and I remove the sleeve of my shirt, dipping it into a pool of water on the floor. I softly scrub, washing away the blood on her skin as she rests her head on the boy’s shoulder.

            She looks so different. She has aged years in the weeks since she has been gone. My mom, here, in this room with me? I cannot believe it is truly her! She seems so sad. So hurt. I love her so much. I can see she wants to tell me something. Why won’t she just tell me what she wants to say?

            Poor little Gareth! What is he doing here? He shouldn’t see me like this, but oh how his presence gives me renewed hope. A reminder that there is still something worth living for. If I give in now the future of our country is doomed to the tyrannical hands of the Emperor. I can’t be the one to let that happen. The life of my son, and the children of so many others, could be altered if I am weak. I will persevere.
            How quickly my own blood recognized me and came to my aid! Yet the other has not yet pieced things together completely. He senses, I can see that much in his eyes. It has been a long time since our paths last crossed. His mind is struggling to realize. Hold on—I sense a change. The torn cloth has dropped from his hand; tears of recognition fill his eyes. Yes! You know me! Say it and believe!
            “Anna? My daughter, Anna?”
            “Grandpa!” my Gareth cries out. We embrace together, the first time all three of us have come together. There is so much I need to tell them but my mouth won’t move. Tomorrow I face my execution. They will need to be strong, like I will be tomorrow. The Emperor will see that he can take away my life but, not even for a moment, can he rid us of what we believe in. May my death pave the way so that Gareth, and the children of countless others, can have a better tomorrow. The time for change has arrived.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Poem - Thoughts Upon Two

Today I have decided to show my softer side and share a love poem with you. I am lucky to say that I finally met the woman I was created to spend eternity with, and she has helped make me a stronger, more complete person. She has pushed me to limits that I never imagined possible within myself, and I have become happier and healthier in the two years that we have been together.

I am counting down the days until July 14, when we will be married and begin the next stage of our journey together through life. I think back upon the person I was before she came along, and I am blessed to have the path of my life intertwined with hers.

I can never thank her enough, nor ever express the love I have for her with words. There is no word to describe the magnitude of affection that I possess. She has been the object of many poems over the two years, and will continue to be for the rest of my life.

I dedicate this poem to my future wife, Nicole Tyler Millard:


Thoughts Upon Two

Two people, together two years
Filled with far too many joyous
Memories the two have shared.
The power of two, it’s symmetrical
Applications evident in so many things.
People adorned with a multitude of twos:
Two eyes, two ears, two arms and legs;
Two hands, two feet, two lungs, two hemispheres.
Small wonder the number two is so vital
To measure as a landmark. Two people
In love, born from two parents, stemming
From two chromosomes; a joining of
Two families while two hearts beat
Uncontrollably in the presence of each other.
Shall I love her for too long? If it
Be two days I should consider myself lucky
For the two rotations of the Earth we
Shared. If it be two months I should
Deem them the best spent weeks in recent
Memory. If it be two years I should
Consider myself blessed to have known
The joys found in her presence. If it
Should be for two lifetimes that, too,
Would be such a wonderful life to have
Spent, as two people united by love.