Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Kieran's Demon Horse

Another Kieran story. This one's all dialogue so let me know if it's a little too confusing and I'll add some indicators as to who's talking and all that.

"Why is there a horse by the window?"
"Huh?  You mean in the hallway or something?"
"No, right there."
"There's not a horse in here, Kieran."
"Yeah, there is."
"No, there's not."
"Yeah- Look, it's right in front of you!  How can you not see it?"
"…Okay, um, what does it look like?"
"It looks like a horse."
"Oh.  Um, it's dark brown… no, it's got some red in its fur, and… really creepy red eyes…"
"Why don't you go up and touch it?"
"No! I'm not going to touch it!"
"Why not?"
"Because it's creepy!"
"Okay, fine, I'll go up to it-"
"Kieran, are you being serious?"
"Of course I'm being serious!  It's right fucking there!"
"Well, I'm not seeing it, so unless it can somehow make itself invisible to everybody but you, I'm pretty sure it's not there."
"But it is!"
"Oh, yeah?  Then what's it doing?"
"It's just kind of standing there.  It keeps staring at me and it's got this creepy look on its face.  I think it wants to kill me."
"Why would a horse want to kill you?"
"I don't know, but it sure as hell looks ready for it!"
"Okay, Kieran, think about this.  You're in a top-secret underground facility with cameras, heat sensors, about a dozen different security systems designed to keep intruders out, and there isn't a single trace of damage to be seen in this room.  How the hell could a horse have gotten in here?"
"It's a demon horse."
"All right, look… have you ever hallucinated before?"
"Have you ever had any sort of visual hallucinations before today?"
"Um… wait, you think I'm hallucinating?"
"But… wait, now it looks pissed."
"Kieran, calm down.  Your mind is just playing tricks on you."
"I really don't think so."
"Of course you don't think so.  Your mind doesn't want to acknowledge that what you're seeing isn't real."
"But… oh, shit, it's coming towards us.  Wait, don't walk towards it!"
"It's fine, Kieran.  There's nothing there."
"Yes, there is!  It- oh, wait, it's gone now."
"See?  I told you."
"It's probably just retreated to plan its next move."
"What?  I know I'm crazy, but- oh.  Wait."
"Yeah.  So, you ready to get back to what we were doing?"

"Um… sure, I guess."

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Giving Back


If you haven't read my review of Hollow Earth then you should really consider doing so before you read this. Go do that now. Done? Good.

Anyway, as I said at the end of that review, I thought it was only fair to give back to something that gave me so much joy and excitement this summer, but seeing as I live in the middle of nowhere and trying to return the favor to the authors would be difficult without resorting to being a creepy stalker or just really annoying and spammy on twitter, I decided to go a different route. After all, authors get thanked for their books all the time, but what about the actual books? What do they get? Not nearly enough, that's what, and I want to change that. So, I did the most sensible thing imaginable: I took my copy of Hollow Earth on an adventure*.

But what kind of adventure can one take a book on? Well... hell if I know, but I did it anyway. And it just so happens that I live someplace where adventures aren't all that difficult to find, so let's get this party started!

Exploring the valley!

Walking the dog!


(Watching the dog) going for a swim!

Reading up on the local history!


Walking down the main street!


Realizing how hard it is to take photos with the dog on a leash!


Enjoying the sights (with the dog)!


Admiring the wildflowers!

 Browsing the local Arts Festival!

Watching the annual Rubber Duckie Race (with the proper waterproof gear, of course)!

And since I did read the whole thing above an art gallery (and art is such a big part of the plot in general)...

Admiring the artwork!

Selecting from our gallery's extensive selection of Larson-Juhl® frames!

Doing inventory!

Working on a puzzle!

Staring longingly out the kitchen window!

Working on a puzzle... on a puzzle!


Staring longingly at the kitchen window!


Working on a puzzle on a puzzle on a puzzle!


Working on a puzzle on a puzzle on a puzzle on a puzzle!


Working on a... oh, forget it.


And finally, taking a nice, refreshing nap in the shade.

And thus concludes the adventures of my copy of Hollow Earth. For now, at least (dun dun dunnnn).

*Since I did this before I got my copy of Bone Quill I didn't get to take BQ on an adventure yet. Hopefully this will change at some point in the near future.

Junodog's Thoughts on Hollow Earth

Back when I was a sophomore at Montana State University, I got the chance to take a very enlightening class on film, theater, and media and how to spot what inspired a film. It was probably one of the best classes I ever took, and when I went to the theater-classroom to take the final exam, I was ready. Up until the point when they started handing out the final and I noticed that it had something to do with the French Revolution or something, I was so totally ready. ...Except that I was about two hours late.  Turns out I had mixed up the time of this exam with the exam time for a different class, and I then made my way to the film department in a panic to explain the situation and hope that my professor would take pity on me and let me take the exam at another time.

He did, and he was very nice about it in the email he sent, saying that these things happen and not to worry. I did pretty well on the exam when I actually did take it, and everything worked out nicely, but there was still a slight problem: I was going to have to train myself to double-check things better. I mean, he had said the date for the final several times in class and it was written pretty clearly on the syllabus, but somehow I had gotten the time for my other class's final in my head (which wasn't even at that time; it was moved to some other random time for some reason that I can't remember) and it was so deeply set in my brain that I didn't even think to check it.

Well, it's been four years since then and I think it's safe to say that that part of me hasn't changed one single f&#*ing bit bit. Only this time, instead of mixing up exam times, I got the Hollow Earth series by John and Carole Barrowman mixed up with Exodus code and, up until I finished reading Hollow Earth a few months ago, was under the impression that it was going to be a Torchwood novel. It was only when I was about halfway through the book that I began to suspect that I had gotten confused again.

On the bright side, I can't say I was disappointed about this little realization. On the contrary, I was relieved, because as much as I loved the book, it would have made for a really bad Torchwood side-story. It definitely belongs in a universe of its own, and I wish I'd realized a lot sooner that it was, in fact, in its own universe (and a pretty kick-arse universe at that), because that had been one of my biggest concerns about the novel, and it literally wasn't going to be a problem AT ALL.

Anyway, that being said, here is my review of the first two books in the series: Hollow Earth and Bone Quill. Not going into detail in this post to avoid spoilers, but I'm sure I'll get into a more detailed, spoilerrific review at some point.

1. Premise
This one's pretty easy. The basic idea behind Hollow Earth is that some artists are capable of more than just making beautiful pictures - some (known as Animare) can use their imaginations to literally bring their paintings to life, and there are others (known as Guardians) who can use their imaginations to do... well, the kind of telepathic stuff that Professor Xavier does, except I don't think there's telekinesis involved. As with a lot of other super-awesome-mind-blowing abilities that people have in a modern-day setting, there's a society that exists to protect these people from the world (and in some cases, protect the world from these people), and of course, there are a bunch of bad guys who want to take this wonderful ability and use it for their Purposes of Nefarious Evil or something like that, and so we have the opportunity to experience action, adventure, drama, suspense, humor, and all that other stuff that people like in their books. Definitely a solid premise in my opinion.

2. Plot
So, we have a premise, but what about the actual story that happens in the book(s)? Hollow Earth focuses on a set of preteen twins named Matt and Emily who, unlike anyone who came before them, have the abilities of both Animare and Guardians, and this is a matter of concern for a lot of people because nobody really knows what could happen with these two. Let's just call them the Harry Potter Jesus figures of the story - the children who are Special and who have Magical Abilities That Nobody Else Has and maybe throw something about destiny in there for good measure, I dunno. They are at the center of the story, and they have people trying to protect them, some other people trying to protect the world from them, and yet another group of people who want to use them for their Purposes of Nefarious Evil. Not the most original plot in the world, but then again what is? Besides, there are plenty of original elements in this story and the way the story unfolds makes it stand out so all in all, the focus on our Harry Potter Jesus twins works out pretty well, especially since...

3. Characters
...The characters in this series are realistic. A couple of them do come off as two-dimensional at times, but I think this can be largely attributed to the fact that they're not the focus of the series and there isn't really enough space for them to develop without distracting from the main story, so it doesn't really detract anything from the series as a whole. The ones that do get developed are just... damn. I particularly like the way the twins develop through the first two books. Matt especially grows a lot, and while I definitely like Emily better as a character, Matt goes through some realistic changes and, by the end of the second book, redeems himself by going from a gratingly obnoxious little numbskull (though I do cut him a little slack because he is only twelve at the start of the series and let's face it, kids do some really f*&^ing stupid sh*t sometimes) to learning from his mistakes, expressing genuine remorse, and essentially reforming into a better human being, while still retaining all the aspects of his personality that make him who he is. He is definitely somebody I can see existing in real life. Emily, on the other hand, reminds me of what I was like as a kid - cautious, easily worried, and not always sure of how to balance that with the urge to be, well, a kid. The two balance each other out pretty well and their relationship with each other reflects that. I'll go into detail on the other characters some other time, but let's just say that the characters make the story one that's more than worth reading.

4. Other Random Things That Aren't Really Reflective of the Quality of the Series But Did Affect How Much I Enjoyed Reading It

  • This story takes place in the UK. Which isn't at all surprising when you consider that the authors are siblings who spent the first part of their lives in Scotland, but I'm an American and I got pretty annoyed with myself when, about 40 pages into Hollow Earth, I realized I was reading all the dialogue in an American accent. Sure, it doesn't affect the story at all, but I WANT MY BRAIN TO APPLY THE PROPER ACCENTS TO ANYTHING I READ GOD DAMN IT. *cough* Moving on...
  • I read the entirety of Hollow Earth, and the second half of Bone Quill, upstairs from my family's art gallery/framing shop. The first half of Bone Quill I read in the gallery (waiting for someone to stop by after hours to pick something up, but still). Pretty fitting when you consider what the story's about.
  • I am still awesome at reading things really quickly while still absorbing what's being read. I finished both books within 24 hours of starting them, and I've gotta admit I'm feeling pretty smug about that.
  • The cover art's pretty sweet for the American hardcover editions. Illustrator Nigel Quarless deserves a lot of credit for his work.
And I think that covers the basics. All in all, I enjoyed both Hollow Earth and Bone Quill and I look forward to the continuation of the series. More importantly, I loved being taken on an adventure this summer. So much so, in fact, that I thought I'd return the favor.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Sneezy Death

After thinking about it for a while, I've decided to just go ahead and start posting some of my fictional stories on here. Most of them will be about Kieran, the character I've been working on the most recently, and with that said here's a little teaser/intro/thingy. Enjoy.

It was about ten in the morning in Munich when Travis Braun got a frantic text message from his good friend and charge, Kieran White. By the time Travis had gone to the nearest U-Bahn station, taken the U-4 to Boehmerwaldplatz and sprinted to the front door of Kieran's apartment building, it was around ten-thirty. He was relieved when Kieran buzzed him in - a sure sign that the young man was still able to move around and control his actions - but he still walked briskly up the three flights of stairs to the front door of the studio apartment Travis had found for Kieran six months before. The door was open.

"Kieran, you okay?" Travis asked as he entered the apartment, shutting the door quietly but firmly behind him. His query was not answered immediately by the small bundle of blankets on the bed in the corner, but when Travis did get his answer, it was loud and dramatic.

"ACHOO! Do you really think I-" Kieran sneezed. "-would have texted-" He sneezed again. "'I think I'm dying' if I was-" Another sneeze. "-okay?"

Travis bit his lip to keep from laughing. He was still concerned, but considering he'd never heard Kieran sneeze this much in the seventeen years they'd known each other, whatever had sent the adolescent into a panic was not without its comical merits. "What's up with the sneezing fit?"

"I don't know," Kieran said before letting out another sneeze that caused him to hit his forehead on his knees, which he had pulled up to his chest shortly after Travis arrived. "Motherfucker! I just know that-" He sneezed. "I feel like shit and I'm scared."

"How exactly do you feel like shit?" Travis asked, picking up the small trash can on the floor and using his sleeve to shove a massive pile of dirty tissues into it. "I mean, besides the obvious."

"I just... I can't really breathe, and I know this place has never exactly been a sauna but it feels way too cold in here, and..."

Travis waited patiently as Kieran went through another sneezing fit. He was still waiting for whatever it was that made Kieran think that he was dying, because so far it sounded like the kid just had a cold.
"I've gone through about twenty packs of tissue since I woke up this morning, and I feel like... I feel like shit, Travis, and I'm really, really scared."

Travis frowned and held up the trash can for Kieran to throw away the newest wad of dirty tissues. "Could you give me a little more to go on here, bud? Because right now it sounds like you've got a cold."

"But it's not- I mean, I've never felt this bad before, how could it just be a cold when I'm this- Achoo!"
Travis let out an irritated huff. He was used to Kieran being, well, strange, but to have the kid go into a panic about a cold was just a little too ridiculous for him. "Kieran, you're not going to die from a cold. Calm down, buddy."

"It's not a cold! It feels so much worse than that that-"

Travis sighed as he waited for the latest sneezing fit to end. "Come on, I've had worse colds than this and I'm still around. You'll be fine."

Kieran looked up at Travis with incredulity. "You... you've seriously had worse than this?"

"Sure. Haven't you?" Travis asked.

Kieran shook his head.

"Well, how's this compare to the last time you had a cold?"

Kieran was quiet. Travis waited patiently for the pre-pubescent young adult to answer, but after a couple of minutes he let out a groan and said, "Don't tell me you've never had a cold before."
Kieran shook his head. "I can't remember ever getting one before. I mean, maybe I did when I was little, but-"

"How the hell could you have made it this long without catching a cold?" Travis asked incredulously.

"I don't know! I- um, hm. Come to think of it, I can't remember ever getting sick, period."

Travis blinked. "Seriously?"

Kieran looked up at him. "Well, yeah. I mean, sure, I've felt sick before, like when Mr. Shithead tried to see what constituted as poison for... well, whatever my species is, but I don't think there was ever a time when I couldn't trace my physical state directly to something the lab people did to me."

Travis was dumbfounded, but only for a moment. He had been warned about something like this, after all. "Okay, look, I think what's happening here is that you just caught a cold for the first time in your life. You're panicking because it's a new experience, but I promise you it won't kill you as long as you just take it easy and take care of yourself."

"But, but why now?" Kieran asked. "I mean, I know the lab was sterile and all, but I did get to go outside and-"

"You've probably just got a really damn good immune system," Travis said. "I'll check with Jethrow on that and see what he thinks, but I'm guessing this is a result of the meds."

Kieran frowned. "I really don't get this."

Travis patted the boy on the back, stood, and headed for the door. "Don't worry, you're just experiencing the same feeling I've gotten every time I talk to you. You get used to it eventually."

He exited the apartment and closed the door just in time to avoid being hit by whatever Kieran had decided to throw at him. It looked like he was in for a long day...