alanajoli: (mini me short hair)
This guest blog is a first for Myth, the Universe, and Everything, as the following is an excerpt from an original short story by friend of the blog Andrew Schneider being hosted at my home page, Virgil and Beatrice -- the first piece of fiction written by someone other than me to be hosted there.

Andrew and I have worked together on a number of projects, from the old Empty Room Studios days to Living Kingdoms of Kalamar and Living Forgotten Realms. He's a heck of a writer, and, tomorrow, he's launching his career as a self-published novelist with not one but two titles: Undercaffienated and Overexposed: The Tale of a Coffee Shop Princess and Nothing Left to Wish For, with a cover designed by the exceptional Sarah Schanze. (That's the cover featured here.) The following short story excerpt takes place before Nothing Left to Wish For; I hope you'll click through to the full story and check out the full novel!

You can learn more about Andrew's books in an interview with John "Ross" Rossomangno, another fellow D&D writer. And now, without further ado, Andrew Schneider!

andrewnovel
--

"Cool, With Plenty of Water"
by Andrew G. Schneider

It was a simple task.

Haul and cleat, steady the sail. "Six points to spinward, Mr. Harris." Steady my old bones on the rail and watch the arm of the galaxy stretch away into the sky. "We're to swing wide round that dune."

"Aye, aye, Mr. Briggs." Not captain, never captain, even if it's just the two of us.

I close my one good eye and listen to the sand playing over the hull, the cold wind cutting through my clothes. We're a small craft, nimble and smooth. Just me and the pilot, Jase Harris, though there's space enough for three.

"Ware starboard!" Mr. Harris sings out.

The bulk of the sky goes black behind the prow of a fat freighter, speeding through the deep valleys between the dunes. She's running dark and fast in the middle of the night, low and heavy on a dozen blistering thrusters. Contraband. Smugglers for sure.

"We have right of way, sir?"

A mammoth wedge of wood, steel, and sail bearing down without care or cause. She'll run us down and burn the evidence.

"Right o' way, Mr. Harris. That's the spirit." The kid's got talent. Got what it takes to be the best pilot in the Endless Desert. "Let's show these smugglers some proper piratical courtesy."

"Sir." Mr. Harris grins, his fingers dance across the wheel. Our little ship groans, her thrusters spin high and hot and we're rising, up and up. I throw my weight hard against the rail for counterbalance as we cant sideways, skate the side of the freighter and score a gash in her flank she won't soon forget. Skip off her tail and let a smattering of shots and shouts follow us into the sky.

Then the freighter's gone and we're left high and lonely. Naught but the wind for company. "You ever been to the Crescent Cities, Mr. Harris?"

"No, sir. Can't say I've had the pleasure."

"Then hand off the wheel and step lively, port side down." I call it one of the wonders of the world. A jewel, nestled in the broad bosom of the Endless Desert. Viridian. Tourmaline.

They call it a lake. A body of water as large as I've ever seen, sickle shaped and calm enough to flip the stars on their face. Trees and farms hug the outer edge and the inner rim, holding off against the ever-present sand. Here and there, like the bones of some buried giant, towers stretch up out of the green; wizards' playgrounds. Bah, wizards and their flying carpets, always reaching for the stars.

Seven cities, seven ports, and seven thousand ships in and out every day. Landing lights dot the sands, calling me home. "Drink it in, Mr. Harris. Topside's too pricey for the likes us. We'll be berthed down under."

Aye, my bones ache on nights like this.

Read the rest of the story at Virgil and Beatrice.
alanajoli: (mini me short hair)
I'd like to welcome Sarah Schanze, also known as depleti, back to Myth, the Universe, and Everything. Sarah was a huge help with pointing people to my Kickstarter, and now she's got a Kickstarter of her own that I'll let her tell you about in her own words. You can check out her original guest post, about mythology in her excellent webcomic (soon to be print, we hope!) Thistil Mistil Kistil here.

Please give her a warm welcome -- and then go contribute to her Kickstarter!

--

Hey everyone! My name is Sarah Schanze and I recently launched a Kickstarter to get my webcomic Thistil Mistil Kistil printed into a collected volume. Alana was nice enough to invite me to plug it and talk a bit about the comic, so here I am!

TMK is a fantasy adventure webcomic featuring Vikings, Norse gods, weird magics, and weirder creatures. The story focuses on Coal, a recently deceased warrior, who has to complete a quest for Odin in order to reach his promised afterlife. Things get tricky quickly since Coal needs Loki’s help to complete this quest, and it’s not clear how helpful Loki actually is.

One thing I’ve tried to do with TMK is show some of the more historical aspects of Vikings and the time period they lived in. While researching I was really surprised at how far Vikings actually traveled, not only to plunder and raid, but also to settle. Because of this, most of the main characters aren’t warriors, but characters originally from other lands. There’s Hedda, a Christian slave kidnapped from Ireland; Ibrahim, a young Muslim scholar from Al Andalus; and Arne, a found Native American child raised in Iceland. Of the main protagonists, Coal is really the only one that most might consider a “Viking”.

tmk_alanapost_kids_flat

Chapters of TMK also occur in places other than Scandinavia, such as Scotland, Ireland, Spain, the city of Constantinople, and of course Iceland and the “New World”. Not to mention the more fantastic places like Asgard and wherever Loki actually lives.

While I try to remain fairly close to historical sources, I do take some liberties. Funnily enough, my greatest liberty is taken with the myths themselves. Since they were all written down by biased sources and heavily edited, I don’t feel all that bad taking some myths and changing them around. So if you think you know where TMK’s story is going, you might find yourself surprised. Maybe.

If TMK seems like something you might enjoy, please take a look at the comic, which is free to read! If you like that, maybe think about pledging to get your own printed book. To sweeten the pot, I created an original bonus story just for the book about how Loki met Thor and ingratiated himself with the Aesir.

Thank you so much for reading! And thanks, Alana, for letting me ramble.
alanajoli: (mini me)
One of the interesting things about running the Kickstarter is seeing where the donations come from -- not just meaning people (I recognize the majority of the names on donations, and I am incredibly grateful that some many people from so many different parts of my life believe in this project), but websites. The Kickstarter dashboard shows where people linked from to get to the Regaining Home Kickstarter. Almost 40% of the pledges don't have referral information, but I thought this was an interesting rundown of some of the other percentages:

  • Almost 33% of my donations have come linked from Facebook

  • Around 10% come from somewhere inside of Kickstarter's system (and most of these are from folks I don't personally know

  • About 3% come referred from LinkedIn

  • I make up about 4% from Livejournal, my homepage, and twitter

  • The most surprising: a full 3.5% came referred from the fantastic web comic, Thistil Mistil Kistil by Sarah Schanze



Loki, from TMK by Sarah Schanze

Sarah, I owe you cookies or something. Thank you for sending your readers my way -- and thanks to everyone who's been spreading the word on Facebook. Clearly, that's working!
alanajoli: (Default)
For the last two years Lora Innes of The Dreamer has spearheaded the Comic Creators Alliance, which raises funds to end human trafficking. In the past two years, I've discovered two incredibly awesome comics through the fundraiser: in 2010, I found an awesome comic that deals with the American Civil War, Dovecote Crest. This past year, I discovered Thistil Mistil Kistil, a compelling story that features characters from Norse Mythology with a distinctive art style that I love. I corresponded with creator Sarah Schanze and asked if she'd like to talk about using mythology for her comic -- I did a little jig when she said yes! So, without further ado, here's Sarah. After reading her blog, check out the comic from the very beginning. You won't be disappointed!

--

My name is Sarah Schanze, and I write (and draw and color, etc.) a fantasy webcomic called Thistil Mistil Kistil. It’s about Vikings and Norse mythology and follows a fifteen-year-old boy (who happens to be a dead warrior) named Coal on a quest for the gods. To complete this quest he needs the help of none other than Loki the Trickster. Coal and Loki then embark on a journey (with a somewhat living ship no less), picking up a few stragglers along the way.

Norse mythology is popular. It’s in comics, movies, books, video games, you name it. Its characters are re-imagined and recreated by different people every day. There are several other webcomics out there taking inspiration from the same source I am – as well as a big blockbuster movie based on a comic book character whose entire world was ripped right out of the Eddas (Thor). Lots of other people have ripped things from these Eddas, including me.

My interest in the mythology started with the history. I did research into Vikings for some other thing not related to comicking, and the culture and the world spoke to me. I read about what the people wore or ate or how they were buried before I read about the mythology. I’d already known about Loki and Odin and Thor just from random browsing on the ol’ Wikipedia. After reading specific Wiki articles, then books, then the Eddas themselves (the Poetic and Prose Eddas respectively), I decided to incorporate the gods and myths into the vague story idea I had with Coal.

But then I ran across a problem, or at least a concern. I felt taking characters -- like Loki -- and using them as my own personal characters for my own personal story ran the risk of people waggling a finger at me and comparing my interpretation negatively to the original. I even worried about reading other people’s interpretations of the characters for fear I might come across a reinterpretation like my own. I’m happy to say that, so far, neither concern has actually materialized, but in the beginning it definitely colored how I thought about the story. How could I make my version unique?

(Chapter 2, p. 22)

As it stands now, Coal has to find three pieces of the gods’ weapons before his quest is over and everything is hunky-dory. When I first started, he had to find seven pieces (maybe even nine) since seven and nine are magic numbers. He also forced some demon-dog thing to help him, and this demon-dog thing was related to Loki. Originally I didn’t intend to use the actual Norse gods as anything more than side characters, Loki included.

Then, after brainstorming and whittling, I decided to just bring in Loki as a mainstay. He’s the most intriguing character from the myths, and probably the most popular thanks to his sly ways (and coercing Thor to dress like a woman). He’s often the antagonist, the sidekick, the loveable jerk, or the hapless victim, but he never seems to be a hero. In the myths he’s the villain, a representation of chaos and evil (as all the jotnar were), so it stands to reason he’s more an obstacle than a throughway in most retellings.

Then there’s Ragnarok. Whether or not the myths were skewed by Christianizing monks, Ragnarok is still our basis of the end of the world in Norse mythology. Loki plays a pretty big part in it. While he’s shown for most of the myths to be on the gods’ side, he fights against them in the last battle. The biggest reason for this, in the myths, is simply that he was always a bit evil to begin with. He’s a jotun, a giant, and that race is considered the embodiment of evil and destruction (no matter how many of their women the Aesir married and slept with).

When I was figuring out TMK, I struggled with this particular aspect of Loki’s character. In the stories it’s simply written that Loki became bitter and angry. It’s not understated, it’s spelled out for you. I couldn’t really do that in the comic. I wanted to show, or at least allude to, more subtle reasons for his growing bitterness. This involves a departure from the myths, establishing a different personality, and incorporating elements hardly mentioned in the myths–like Sigyn and Angrboda, the two women in Loki’s life. They’re given only a passing mention in the Eddas, but who knows how they could have impacted Loki’s development?

When TMK begins and Loki makes an appearance, it’s kind of obvious (or I hope it is) that he’s not some exuberant prankster out to make everyone miserable. Those myths he’s famous for happened in his younger days. In TMK, he’s matured. He helps Coal throughout the story, and becomes a parental figure to Coal and the other secondary characters. The real difference between TMK Loki and other Lokis is that he is a parent. He feels that responsibility. The third chapter has him going home to his wife and kids, and he obviously loves them and cares about them. He’s a family man; he’s an adult. He’s grown up. He’s changed. I can’t go into the reason behind those changes without spoiling the story, but he has changed nevertheless.

The fact he has changed is what makes him unique in Thistil Mistil Kistil.


(Chapter 3, p. 4)

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Alana Joli Abbott

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