Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Hope of Memory [Update 15] The Distant Finalized

Alright, The Distant has been finalized.  I'm not making any more changes to it.  I managed to squeeze in two more drafts with another read through of the book during the last month and a half, so I'm ending with the Eighth Draft, around 168.6K words (which it's been hovering around since the Fourth Draft).

The eBook version is pretty much done, so now I need to format it for trade paperback, via CreateSpace.  This is a bit more work than I expected, as things have to be done in a certain order to publish the physical version.  So we're looking at a few more weeks at least before publication.  Either way, I'll be glad to move on, I want to get started on writing the third book, Rom Tar.

Oh, and in my last update, I was debating whether or not to have a preview of the second book, Wilders, at the end of The Distant.  I've decided not to do that... I'll let The Distant stand on its own.

After this post, the next The Hope of Memory update will be the publication announcement.  Yay!


First, obviously, the text has to be complete.  Then I have to reformat the entire file with the page sizes, alternating margins, new fonts / layout for chapter headers, etc etc.  It can be a little tricky using MS Word, but if you know how to use the program it's not too bad.

So once that's finished, I make a pdf version which gives me my final page count - which I need in order to start on the cover.  Depending on the length of the book (looks like The Distant will be 500 pages or so), the spine width will vary and my wraparound cover image will need to be adjusted.  So I'll be creating a new cover for that - it will be the same as what I've already posted here on this site, but it may be slightly different (like the background image).

Lastly, I'll have to get proofs to make sure everything looks the way I want it.  Then the book will be done and ready for publication.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Alex Beard Impossible Puzzles - Red Peacock

As I have mentioned in prior posts, my wife and I like to do puzzles, preferably interesting and unique ones.  A while ago we did one in a series called "Impossible Puzzles," based on the art of Alex Beard.  The one we got was called "Red Peacock."

Alex Beard

I had never heard of Alex Beard until we got this puzzle.  Born and raised in New York City, he eventually moved to New Orleans to pursue art, opening a studio there, etc etc.  After Hurricane Katrina hit the city in 2005, he closed his studio and moved back to NYC, but has since return to the Big Easy, reopening his studio and spending time in both locations.

His art style is what he calls "Abstract Naturalism," which involves the use of the Golden Ratio in the abstract lines that form the base of the objects (usually animals) in his paintings.  It's an interesting style that directly influences his line of Impossible Puzzles (of which there seem to be 12).


Now, of course the puzzles are not "impossible."  They can be solved, though they are a bit harder than normal since the pieces don't interlock, aside from the border.  And speaking of the border, it was very cool how the inner edge is straight as well.  It's simply a frame for the main image, with a little bleed over to help you place the initial pieces.

It was tough at first, since the pieces didn't interlock.  We focused on the center peacock and worked from there.  It took a few sessions to put together... unfortunately this is not a good puzzle for a roll up puzzle mat.  Since they don't interlock, much of it shifted around when we stored it, so we lost time moving chunks back together after unrolling.

Not the hardest puzzle we've ever done... but definitely challenging and a nice change of pace.  Once we got a third of it together it grew much easier because we understood the pattern of the pieces (they are cut along the lines in the art).  We'll have to try a different one sometime, since all the others are more mosaic in design than the Red Peacock one.

For whatever reason, I don't have a picture of the finished puzzle.  Sorry.  But we did finish it, for real.


A feature of these puzzles touted everywhere is how you can create your own puzzle designs.  Or in other words, use the uniquely-shaped pieces to create new images and designs.  The way the pieces are painted allow you to do that, without it looking weird.

We played around with it a bit, after completing the puzzle.  We didn't make anything extravagant, but you can see from what we did below, how the art on the pieces can be part of your unique design.  It's definitely a great way to engage a child's creativity; you could not even bother with the actual puzzle, just let people play with the pieces and design.  I probably would have called them "Endless Puzzles" instead.

It says in the box that you can submit pics of your creations at Alex Beard's website, but I couldn't find where.  There's not even a section there specifically for the Impossible Puzzles - the unique URL simply redirects to his main site - so I'm guessing whatever they had has been taken down.  And there haven't been many updates to the site in general over the last year or so.  I wonder what he's been up to?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Wheel of Time [Story] River of Souls (2013)

As I've mentioned in the last few Wheel of Time blogs, a sequence from the final book, A Memory of Light, was cut.  This sequence concerned Demandred and some of what he was doing in Shara throughout the series.  It was cut for pacing reasons, and because Harriet McDougall (Jordan's widow and editor) thought it introduced too many new elements when things should be wrapping up.

Later, Sanderson was approached by Shawn Speakman to donate a story to his Unfettered anthology (to help pay for medical bills stemming from cancer), and was able to offer up the deleted Demandred scenes as River of Souls, a short story.

So here we have it, the last Wheel of Time story.

Before you continue:
  • This is part 18 of my The Wheel of Time retrospective
  • See this blog post for an overview of the retrospective
  • These blogs are most effective with your own re-read of the series

Mysterious Shara

The country / continent of Shara (I would say it's a continent) has been shrouded in mystery the entire series.  Jordan drops little tidbits and hints about it here and there throughout, we see a few Sharans (Graendal kept their rulers as pets for a while) and we definitely get more information once Noal Charin (Jain Farstrider) truly enters the story (in Book 9, Winter's Heart), but the continent is never seen on-screen and Jordan said it never would be at signings and Q&As.  It seemed fascinating and I always hoped Shara would be involved in the storyline somehow, like Seanchan is.  It's their world too.

After Book 13, Towers of Midnight, I despaired of anything Sharan being featured.  Then came Book 14, A Memory of Light... and a Sharan army, led by Demandred!  I've gone over this in the blogs for Book 14.  But I'll repeat, I loved the sudden reveal and inclusion at the end.

In River of Souls, we get more info on Shara than ever before.  However, given the introduction to the story by Sanderson, much of it (terms, names of places, etc) is from his own imagination and not Jordan's notes.  So as he says, the high-level events are canon, but the specifics are not.  Either way, it's a fun read, and everything he came up with fits into the little we know of the culture; nothing felt out of place to me.

The Grand Tapestry

What I liked is how differently the Sharans see the world that we're only familiar with from the viewpoint of the Randland / Seanchan continents.  Instead of the Pattern, they call it the Grand Tapestry.  Channelers are enslaved and kept separate from the rest of the population, tattooed in such a way that you'll always know who they are.

They also have their own prophecy, that of the Wyld, the Dragonslayer.  The Sharans believe this person will save them from the Dragon (Rand, of course).  Demandred essentially comes in and begins to fulfill their prophecies, freeing slaves (called The Freed) and rising in power, until he has to journey down into Angarai'la, the River of Souls (a gorge with a river leading to a "holy" cave), and return to become the Wyld.  He also knows that there is a male sa'angreal from the Age of Legends down there, which is what he is really searching for.

The Prophecies of the Wyld

From the story, it seems that Demandred fulfilling the prophecies of the Wyld was somewhat of a mistake at first.  His intention in freeing slaves and such was to create chaos (Book 6, Lord of Chaos, anyone?).  Later, he appears to fall in love with a Sharan (Shendla) and take the prophecies seriously, for it will bring him Sakarnen and an army of Sharans for the Last Battle.

Side note: In A Memory of Light the sa'angreal he finds is called Sakarnen.  Here in this story what he finds is a cup-like object called D'jedt, also known as the "Scepter" in the Age of Legends.  He combines it with some rod he already had, and I'm guessing this combo he named Sakarnen later.

I'm totally thinking Holy Grail when it comes to D'jedt / Sakarnen.
No surprise, when much of WoT references our myths and legends.
Credit Lairich Rig.

This whole storyline is fascinating.  Sanderson's intent was to make Demandred somewhat sympathetic, to show that he didn't have to be defined by his single flaw: absolute hatred of Lews Therin.  During his time in Shara, he could have had a different life with people who cared for him... but his hatred overrode all.

Sanderson notes in the introduction that there could have been an entire series focusing solely on Demandred's life in Shara, on how he rose to power and fulfilled their prophecies of the Wyld, just as Rand rose to power and fulfilled the prophecies of the Dragon on the main continent.  Now how awesome would that be?  Jordan talked about "outrigger" and prequel novels - things like the story of Tam al'Thor finding Rand on Dragonmount, or Mat and Tuon returning to Seanchan to restore the Empire - but something like this would have been much cooler to read, as opposed to the single taste that we did get (New Spring, which was mediocre).

To Hide or Not to Hide

As I mentioned in the second half of my blog for A Memory of Light, now that I've read this story, I'm a bit torn on Jordan's treatment of Demandred's storyline.

On one hand, it would have made for an awesome counterpoint to Rand's story throughout the series.  Learning about this other land along the way, anticipating the day when Demandred finally reveals himself...

On the other, though, part of the fun of reading the series is constant mystery and guessing when it came to unknown lands and the activities of the Forsaken.

I loved learning more about Shara in the last book and this story, but in the end, I have to concede Jordan made the right decision.  Wondering where Demandred has been the entire time was one of the great mysteries of the series.  It gives you something to talk about and getting readers to do that is a mark of a great writer.

However... Jordan could have maybe given us a little more on Shara during the main storyline.  Just a little.  That's my only gripe.  I want to know more!  That's another mark of a great writer, by the way.

Is It Worth Buying?

I will admit that I bought Unfettered solely for this story, because I'm that much of a WoT fan.  And I will, eventually, read all the stories in the anthology.  But if you're not a hardcore WoT fan, you're not missing much by skipping the story.  As I said before, it's fairly short (13 pages) and you can thoroughly enjoy A Memory of Light without it.

I personally wanted more views into Shara, so it was a no-brainer for me, hardcore fandom aside.  But I do find it interesting that I seem to have more to say about this story than the entire first book the series, The Eye of the World.

Either way, if you're interested in helping Speakman pay off his medical bills, or are a fan of short stories in general, it's worth buying.  There are a number of big names in here, with a variety of stories, so surely there will be a half-dozen or so you'll like.  And the book itself is well-crafted, one of the better-looking hardbacks I've bought in a while.  It's also available in a wide variety of eBook formats.

Purchasing options can be found on the Grim Oak Press website.

So thank you, Shawn Speakman, for giving us one more glimpse into the world of The Wheel of Time.

Cover and interior illustration art (the icon for this blog) is copyright Todd Lockwood.


Retrospective Conclusion


Book 14 – A Memory of Light – Part 2
Book 14 – A Memory of Light – Part 1
The Wheel of Time is Complete
Reference  The Big White Book
Prequel – New Spring
Book 13 – Towers of Midnight
Book 12 – The Gathering Storm
Book 11 – Knife of Dreams
Book 10 – Crossroads of Twilight
Book 9 – Winter's Heart
Book 8 – The Path of Daggers
Book 7 – A Crown of Swords
Book 5 – The Fires of Heaven
Book 4 – The Shadow Rising
Book 3 – The Dragon Reborn
Book 2 – The Great Hunt
Book 1 – The Eye of the World
Retrospective Overview