Archive for January, 2012

Transition

January 31, 2012

Dear Friends: Many of you will recall that in the first entry on this blog, I spoke of Tolkien’s idea about roads: that the same path which leads through Mirkwood and to the Lonely Mountain itself is the one that passes just outside the front doorstep of our hobbit holes; it’s all connected. The journey to far-off lands begins by stepping out through our own front doors.

Some of you have followed this blog since April 23, 2008. Others of you (as occurs in all great stories) have joined us along the way. We’ve marched through 140 posts and 3,598 comments!

And now we have come to a great Transition.

Students of classical mythology will recognize the name of Janus, the Roman god for whom January is named. Janus (also called Janus Bifrons) was the god of beginnings, openings, entrances, doorways, and endings. [January begins the new year but marks the end of the former.] In Roman myth, the place of Janus is secondary only to the place of Jupiter (Zeus).

Janus, the god of beginnings, endings, and doorways

In images, Janus is usually depicted as having two faces: one looking forward into the future, one peering backward into the past.

 We are crossing the swinging rope bridge from WordPress to my all-new, active web site, the new home of the blog. I’ve made efforts to make the new place feel like home to loyal readers. A few things will need ironing out, such as the issue of blog avatars (our snowflakes and quilt squares, to which many of us have become attached). I’m not sure exactly how this will work, but I am inquiring into how our accustomed avatars may be preserved.
 
Anyway, for now, I invite you to cross with me into this realm: http://www.fredericsdurbin.com. It is a brave and beautiful new land. Giving me a web site is like giving a teenager a car. As one friend, speaking of me, put it: “You bleed web content.”
 
Come on over there, and I encourage you to do what it says: sign up to follow my blog. In the future, I’m going to write posts over there, and they won’t show up here. Slowly, we’re going to phase this WordPress blog out, and the new site will be my headquarters on the Web. It’s sad to leave these old digs where we’ve been for the length of a Presidency, but the new place is a brave new world which allows for a lot more. And we all signed on for adventure, right?
 
See you over there! The transition won’t happen all at once, but it’s time to start pulling up the tent stakes. Enjoy the new web site. Explore it. Follow its links. It’s a lot of fun. Try commenting on the new blog location, and we’ll see what happens. And I will try to keep you updated on the transfer of blog avatars!
 
“The road goes ever on and on,
Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the road has gone,
And I must follow if I can!”
 

Quiz, Q and A, Goodreads, and Toponyms

January 14, 2012

I’ve been working over the past week through various channels to prepare the way for the swiftly-approaching publication of The Star Shard. It’s an exciting time!

As part of this initiative, I’ve set up an author page on Goodreads. If you don’t know about the site, this is an unabashed plug for it! Believe me, I’m not a fan of popular Internet time-drains. But I think most of you would agree with me that Goodreads rises above the morass. If you love to read, the site is worth checking out. It’s free, it’s easy to sign up for, and it’s a great way to connect with people who like the same kinds of books you do — or simply to find out about books that you may not have encountered yet. In the first twenty-four hours after I got onto the site and started rating books I’ve enjoyed and marking books I’d like to read, an acquaintance of mine (a friend of a friend) noticed one of the books I’d tagged and was delighted to discover it — he hadn’t known it existed, but he’d been wishing it did. That’s one way the site can work.

Anyway, I’ll end the commercial there. If you’re interested, you can explore the wonders for yourself. I just wanted to bring a couple things to your attention:

1. I wrote a quiz on Dragonfly that (I think) is a lot of fun. It has 13 questions, and some are apparently trickier than I thought — last time I looked, no one had gotten a perfect score. If you’ve read Dragonfly and would like to test your knowledge of the book — or even if you’d like to enjoy the questions and multiple-choice answers, which I had a GREAT time coming up with — then I’d encourage you to get onto Goodreads and take the quiz! I think the best way to find it is to look up Dragonfly on the site, click on the book, and if you scroll down on the book’s page, you’ll find the quiz.

2. Also on Goodreads, I’m leading a Q&A session from now until the end of January. I seeded it with four discussion threads, but discussion members can introduce new ones. If anyone is at all inclined, this is something I’d greatly appreciate your help with! I’m trying to generate a buzz for the new book’s release. If you can spare a few minutes to drop by and ask me even one question, that would help! If people start participating, I think it could get quite interesting. To find the discussion, either search for me on Goodreads or click on my name wherever you see me listed on the site, and on my page, (again) if you scroll down, you should come to the discussion; then just click on the topic you want to follow. If you’re able to help out with this, thank you very much!

Finally, let’s talk about some interesting words. (Yes, this is a groink, a major change of subject.)

I’ve been thinking lately about the phenomenon of toponyms, those words in our language that began as the names of places (topos is the Greek word for “place”). For example:

solecism — This has come to mean “an ungrammatical combination of words in a sentence; also, a minor blunder in speech”; “something deviating from the proper, normal, or accepted order”; or “a breach of etiquette or decorum.” But did you know that the word comes from the ancient Cilician city of Soloi, where “a substandard form of Attic was spoken”? So a soloikos, an inhabitant of Soloi, was a “speaking-incorrectly-one.”

gasconade — “bravado, boasting” — This word has come from the Gascony region of southwest France, bordering Spain; the Gascons were apparently known for boasting and exaggerating their successes. The word became common in English in the 1700s.

Cimmerian — “very dark or gloomy; stygian” — The Cimmerians were a mythical people “described by Homer as dwelling in a remote realm of mist and gloom.” Another source I found adds that this land was “in the west” (from the Hellenic point of view), and that the Cimmerii (the people there) were nomadic and were mentioned by Herodotus.

laconic — “using or involving the use of a minimum of words; concise to the point of seeming rude or mysterious” — I remember once reading a great story about the origin of this word. When the enormous Persian army came to the gates of the Spartan city of Laconia, the Persian envoy, in an attempt to get the Spartans to surrender, yelled: “If we take this city, we will kill all the men and lead the women and children away as slaves!”

The Spartan general returned the one-word answer: “If.”

As the story goes, the Persians were unable to conquer the city, and they eventually withdrew.

[The definitions I’ve written above are from my Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary.]

What got me thinking about toponyms was good old Dictionary.com, which led me to a couple of these. So, yeah, I guess this is another commercial! In the brief time I’ve been receiving Dictionary.com’s free daily word, I’ve written down several ideas for use in books and stories. I would highly recommend the word-a-day to writers and to anyone who loves words!

I’ll close with a couple more cool ones:

Words such as “sense” and “sensibility,” which have a common root, are paregmenons.

And the shape of a 20-sided die (a 20-sided polyhedron) is an icosahedron.

Yes, I get a little crazy when I haven’t written fiction for too long! I can feel the charge building . . . it’s going to arc any day now, and we’re going to have some lightning!

“The Skin Script”: Author Interview with Stephanie M. Loree

January 5, 2012

I hope everyone’s new year is off to a great start! Happy Epiphany!

The best stories make us feel as we’re reading them, and then make us think long after we’ve finished. We’re chatting with speculative fiction writer Stephanie M. Lorée, author of the newly-released story “The Skin Script” (details below). It was a great pleasure to meet Stephanie in person at World Fantasy in San Diego, and I’m very grateful that she’s agreed to spend a few minutes with us here in “the bloglight”! Her powerful and moving story kept me on the edge of my seat, and it’s my great pleasure to celebrate it on this blog and make more readers aware of this rising star on the fantasy landscape!

Stephanie reviews books and hosts giveaways on her blog (go to stephaniemloree.com), and she co-hosts the blog-challenge of
Write1Sub1 (www.write1sub1.com) with a handful of other great short
story authors.

Here is her OFFICIAL BIO:

Born and stuck in Ohio, Stephanie received her BS in Criminal Justice and works in a cubicle for The Man. She writes speculative fiction and moonlights as a vocalist/pianist. Though she prefers money, Stephanie will work for dark chocolate. Her stories have featured psychic tattoos, talking swords, zombie robots, or Things Which Cannot Be Said. You know, love sonnets. A SuperNerd who loves gaming, technology, good sushi, and bad kung fu flicks, Stephanie’s digital life is available for stalking at stephaniemloree.com.

ON THE STORY: “The Skin Script” is Stephanie’s first professional
publication, appearing in the anthology An Honest Lie Vol. 3:
Justifiable Hypocrisy from Open Heart Publishing. It was released in
November and is available in both print and ebook format from her web portal at http://debrincase.com/ahlvol3/stephanie-m-loree. Buying the anthology (and voting) counts as points for Stephanie toward a book deal as part of the publisher’s annual contest.

So, here’s my interview with Stephanie.

I’m always interested in hearing how stories are born. What was the first element of “The Skin Script” that came to you? Was it the characters, the basic premise, or something else?

Truth be told, I was chatting with my critique partner on the phone
when I had a vision of a guy with neon lights all over his skin. I
said to my partner, “What if you could see someone’s soul on their
skin? Like a soul map thingy.” Then I told her she could take the idea
and write it. About six months later, I changed my mind and told her I
was taking it back. She was kind enough to refund my idea, no charge.
Everything else about “The Skin Script” bloomed during the outlining
stage.

Would you care to tell us anything about the sources or inspiration for this story?

There’s a lovely writer named Jodi Henry
(http://jodilhenry.blogspot.com/) who went out and actually *got a
tattoo* while I was writing the piece. I don’t have any tattoos
myself, so I had a lot of questions about the process. Jodi was an
excellent resource. She took pictures, procured a couple pamphlets,
asked the artist lots of questions, and fact-checked the story. I
mean, she got a tattoo for me. That’s dedication.

Additional inspiration came from researching “limners,” a word I
stumbled across by accident. Everything else fell from the recesses of
my brain.

[Interruption from Fred: It is amazing how single words can lead to stories. For any verbivores out there, I would whole-heartedly recommend www.dictionary.com, where you can sign up (absolutely free) to receive a word of the day in your e-mail in-box. I adore it! It’s like, free education and story ideas!]

Now, back to our interview . . .

In Japan, members of the Yakuza (the “Japanese Mafia”) often have elaborate tattoos that cover large areas of their bodies. I’m thinking also of the Maori of New Zealand. For those who haven’t read “The Skin Script,” what does full-body limning mean in the culture to which your characters belong?

In the setting of the story, everyone who is anyone receives a
full-body tattoo (an “illumination”). It’s taboo *not* to have a
tattoo, and they are a sign of privilege and beauty. But more
importantly, the tattoo artists (limners) are able to see the future
of a client, and by inking them, they design and seal that future for
the best. The process starts when a child reaches adulthood, because
the people have found that tattooing a child interferes with their
development. As you can imagine, a limner’s service is expensive (they
are also tightly controlled), and the rich and powerful have much
easier access to illuminations than the poor (called “empties” for
their lack of tats). There is also a sense that the rich in this story
are Mafiosos, and the Yakuza probably had a subconscious influence
while I was writing.

Was this an easy story to write, or a hard one?

“The Skin Script” was probably the easiest story I’ve written. It just
sorta flowed out of me. But it was a pain to edit, and I owe my
critique group a debt of gratitude. They helped me clean up the story
so that I expressed an entirely different world without boring the
reader with details.

Let’s hear it for critique groups! I couldn’t live without discerning and no-nonsense writer friends, either!

The story reminded me of Philip K. Dick’s Minority Report in its exploration of, “If we know the future, we can act to correct it before it happens.” That leads to some difficult moral questions. “Who can define ‘correct’?” “Possessing such knowledge, what obligations do we have? What rights do we have?” You deal with the questions beautifully in the tale, facing them head-on. Without giving away the plot, I’d like to ask: Did you know from the outset what choices your characters would make? Or were you discovering the questions and the answers along with the characters?

Oh boy, no, I didn’t really know a thing. The characters told me. I
drafted up an outline and the conflicting choices I wanted them to go
through, but I honestly didn’t know what the ending would look like
until it happened. My characters often have a mind of their own, which
makes me feel crazy, like the voices in my head really are speaking to
me…

When that happens for me, I usually take it as a sign that I’m doing my job right, staying out of the way.

One aspect of your story that fascinated me was this: normally, we would expect the one with the ability to see and control the future to be in a position of great power. But in your tale, it doesn’t quite work that way, does it?

Ah yes, the limners are the ones with power to see and seal a future,
but none of the power to control their own destinies. They’re bonded
to their owners like well-kept slaves. The story’s protagonist, Jules,
is a limner and “made man” under his boss. Poor Jules doesn’t get out
much. There are laws in place to keep limners under control. As I say
in the story, “You don’t allow fortune-tellers to make their own
fortune.”

Can you remember your first attempt at writing, perhaps when you were very young? What, if anything, was the common link with what you’re writing as an adult?

When I was 3 or 4, I wrote my memoir as a gift for my mother. It
started, “On August 4th, I was hatched.” My mom raised exotic parrots
at the time, and I’d seen baby birds born. I just assumed I came from
an egg. The common link? I still have to ask my grandmother how to
spell “hatched,” and I’m hoping I really did come from an egg. My
wings better grow in soon. Also: fantasy. I lived in the fantasy
worlds of Tolkien and Lewis and Grimms’ Tales. I still do.

A memoir at age 4! I love it! I determined to write a phone book at about that age, so you were way ahead of me. I got my parents to spell out the names of all our friends and relatives, and I painstakingly copied out their phone numbers. Then I looked at it and literally whacked myself on the forehead, and I groaned: “I can’t read!” That was a severe obstacle, until I got to kindergarten.

Tolkien, Lewis, and the Grimms! Yes!

Is there a particular element or aspect that you think the best fantasy stories have? As a reader, what do you read for?

The best fantasies have realism, which may be an oxymoron, but it’s
true. Characters should be real. The settings or themes should analyze
a part of our real world (though you may not know what you’re
analyzing while you’re writing it). Real people and real places aren’t
all of one thing, but a combination of many things: good and bad. I
like to see a lot of “gray” in books, characters with dubious
morals/agendas, or when an author turns a trope on its head. Realism
gets me emotionally involved in a story, connecting me with a
character, and that’s essential to any good book.

I couldn’t agree more! Do you prefer rough drafts or revising? Which part of the process is the most fun for you, or does it depend?

Revising, hands down. Even though “The Skin Script” was the opposite for me, I have a much easier time editing a piece than I do dumping words on a blank page. First drafts intimidate me. This is likely because I started my writing journey as an editor for others, not a composer of my own stories. I’m most comfortable with a red pen and a grammar hammer.

I think both first drafts and revisions have their separate joys and challenges, but I do see what you mean. With the revision, you know you’ve got something. You’ve got a certain level of “good” guaranteed, because it’s there, and you can focus on making it better.

Do you typically do a lot of editing, or do your stories come out nearly finished the first time?

Since I have such fear of the first draft and love to edit, I tend to
write very slowly, taking particular care with each sentence’s
structure and sound. This annoys the crap out of me, as I’d love to
vomit forth thousands of words every day. But I can’t. My writing
process is simply a slow one, and I’ve been told my work needs little
editing by the time I send it out. I don’t think this is a good or bad
thing compared to others, it’s just how I work.

Cool! Do you write your first drafts on paper or at a keyboard?

Keyboard. I’m a techie, and my handwriting is horrid. I can’t imagine
writing a book by hand. I’d never have survived pre-printing press
days.

Are there any writing tools that you’re fond of? Hardware, software, a particular type of pen?

All my work is written in GoogleDocs so I can access it from work,
home, or on the go. I’m in love with Wikipedia and
Dictionary/Thesaurus.com, and I highly recommend a program called
FocusWriter (http://gottcode.org/focuswriter/) for distraction-free
writing when needed. Oh, and I use Speak Clipboard
(http://www.speaktools.com/) to hear my stories in robotic voice (no
inflection lets words speak for themselves) during my editing process.

Also, coffee. Best tool in a writer’s toolbox, besides gin.

Some of the best editors I know read things aloud before turning a final draft loose. Thanks for those resources!

Would you care to describe your favorite writing space or situation? For example, most of my writing so far has been done on a computer at a kitchen table, usually in the evening or late at night, with people moving around, talking, occasionally interrupting me, but nothing demanding my attention other than the writing. How about you?

The deli in my office building. Lots of people around chit-chatting,
me and my critique partner sitting at a corner table with our laptops,
typing furiously, hot coffee and salad bar near at hand. We call them
our “writing luncheons.” It’s not where most of my writing happens,
but it is my favorite. I work best when others are around. Peer
pressure, maybe.

Could be peer pressure (since you mention a critique partner who also writes), or it could be the comfort of human presence, since writing is such a solitary activity. I love it when people are near, but are letting me concentrate.

What has been your best, most thrilling moment so far as a writer?

When my first publisher called to tell me I’d been accepted. I ended
up listening to the voicemail (which I saved) and jumping with squee,
giggling my head off. Not my finest moment, but fun! This is followed
closely by whenever I write “The End” at the bottom of a first draft.

Did you ever receive some particularly BAD writing advice from a well-meaning teacher, friend, etc.?

I wouldn’t say I’ve gotten BAD advice, but I have gotten CRUEL
feedback. Sometimes you need tough love, but there’s a difference
between a constructive critique that improves your writing, and a
destructive critique that does nothing but tear you down. You really
have to develop thick skin in this industry, and I got my armor early
on.

Oh, also, whenever someone says “Never” or “Always” when talking about writing, they’re lying. What they mean is, “Until you know the rule, don’t break it.” There are no nevers/always in the craft.

Wow, that’s well-said! Everyone would do well to go back and re-read your answer. Then go back and re-read it again!

I remember one specific moment when I was critiquing a manuscript for a writer friend, and I realized I was criticizing him for not being me. I was finding fault because he wasn’t doing something like I would have done it. I’d like to believe, and I do believe, that I’m over that now . . . that I let other writers be other writers.

Which authors do you love? Who has been a big influence on you, and whom are you reading now?

I am a Jim Butcher fangirl. Someday, I will meet him, buy him a beer,
and talk nerdy with him. His stories made me fall in love with Urban
Fantasy and inspired me to write my own. I’m also a huge fan of Holly
Black, Neil Gaiman, Lauren Oliver, George R.R. Martin, and Ray
Bradbury. I’m currently reading Patrick Rothfuss’ THE NAME OF THE WIND, and Richard Kadrey’s SANDMAN SLIM, in addition to the number of shorts I read in magazines: Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, and Fantasy & Science Fiction are my favorites.

Imagine that, 150 years from now, you’re being discussed by a panel at the World Fantasy Convention. “Stephanie M. Lorée was a writer who . . .” What would you like to be remembered for?

…was a writer who conquered distant galaxies and ruled kingdoms with her mighty kung fu.”

Really, my goal is to entertain the reader. If you’re not having fun
in my stories, then I’m not doing it right. I’m not looking to jump on
my soapbox and endow you with deeper meaning, or wow you with my literary prowess. If you take away a deeper meaning or are impressed with my literary skills, all the better, but I just want you to have a good time. In 150 years, I’d like your great-grandkids to read my book and say, “Wow, this was awesome.”

Again, brilliantly-put! That’s exactly why I got into this. I want that future kid to be sitting under a tree, or with his/her knees propped against the edge of a desk, and to be engrossed in some world that came into our world through my fingers. I don’t care if the kid thinks about my name or not. It’s the world and the story that matter; it’s the reader’s enjoyment. Hear, hear!

What’s next for you? Can you tell us anything about what’s in the works?

I’m currently on contract for an RPG tie-in anthology, wherein I’m
contributing a story about a gun-toting widow who reincarnates seeking vengeance for her dead husband. I’ve got a YA fantasy novel in the pipeline featuring cannibal spirits and prehistoric bears. There’s also the dozen or so short story ideas floating in my head ranging from cyborg time-cops to obsessed golems and Italian steampunk sorcerers. Should be good times.

Greatly appreciate the interview, Frederic, and all your readers for taking the time to read!

Stephanie, the honor and pleasure are most definitely ours! Thank you for being here!

Naming the Gargoyles: Awards Ceremony

January 4, 2012

Welcome to a new year of the blog! We’re gathered here on this wintry night to give a heartfelt THANK YOU to all those who set their minds to thinking up pairs of names to fit these gargoyles:

The soon-to-be-named gargoyles watching the new year sweep around the prow of the blog

But before we get to the contest results, here are some fascinating statistics about the year-on-the-blog we’ve just come through, courtesy of WordPress. (These are provided automatically by the blog, so it’s up to the viewer how much to trust the accuracy. They seem reasonable enough.) Let’s go in reverse order, in keeping with the suspense-building of the evening. First, these are the awards for most popular posts. I assume the number of views/visits determines the “popularity,” though strangely, that’s the one statistic WordPress doesn’t tell us.

MOST POPULAR POSTS of 2011:

5. October Sun (written October 2011, 83 comments)

4. Artsy Stuff Going On (written January 2011, 128 comments)

3. Transition (written April 2011, 134 comments)

2. The Winchester Mystery House (written December 2009, 18 comments)

1. More Views of Niigata (March 2011, 151 comments)

I believe the reason for that post’s being #1 is that it was just after writing it that I left Japan and the tsunami struck. That post got revisited a lot as people were trying to figure out if I was all right, and where I was. Recently, a friend of mine living there wrote that the disasters of March 2011 have “set Japan back a hundred years” in many ways, and that things will continue to get worse for the country before they get better. Let’s keep all those who are suffering in our hearts and in our prayers.

Top Commenters of 2011:

I’m not sure of the accuracy of this list, because it counts comments according to the names people go by; if, for example, you use a varying sentence for your “name,” such as “I am difficult to count,” your comments wouldn’t be attributed to the same person. So I think this has an impact on who is really #1. But anyway, here’s the automatically-counted ranking:

5. jhagman (57 comments)

4. Daylily (63 comments)

3. Morwenna (64 comments)

2. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake (111 comments)

1. Chris (174 comments)

Thank you all! We’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: it would not be the blog without you who comment. Long may the hearth-fire burn beside our virtual Table Round!

“I want a name!” . . . “So do I!” . . . “Get on with it, then!” . . . “Yes! Get on with it!”

Very well, then! Without further ado, let’s go to Fred’s Short List. Every name that everyone thought up was delightful, interesting, and fun to read — I can’t thank you all enough for the fun we’ve had over the past couple weeks! It was tough narrowing it down, but what follows are the names that I thought all deserved extra careful deliberation.

 
Fred’s Short List (in no particular order):
 
Urim & Thummim — (Preacher)
[Nothing like some Old Testament for antiquity, power, authenticity, and holiness!]
 
Rosencrantz & Guildenstern — (Mr. Brown Snowflake)
[The rose has its place in Christian symbology, and I like the fact that the other includes “stern.” And you can’t go wrong with Shakespeare!]
 
Gutter & Spout — (Binsers)
[I like the double meaning on “Gutter” — that’s one tough gargoyle!]
 
Lilith & Phantastes — (Binsers)
[I have these books on my shelf, too!]
 
Bjarg & Fell — (Swordlily)
[I love it when sound reinforces meaning, and vice-versa!]
 
Scry & Ruin — (Swordlily)
[I do love it when verbs are brought to bear! These are highly gargoyle-appropriate!]
 
Victor & Hugo — (Spam Man)
[These are pretty self-explanatory. In the spirit of full disclosure, I believe these were used for the names of gargoyles in a Disney movie; but I didn’t set any rule about originality.]
 
Maveth & Tsalal — (Shieldmaiden)
[My apologies for changing the forms back to the originals; I like them better! Please refer to the previous entry to review Shieldmaiden’s explanations of these. They’re well-researched!]
 
Roc & Hardplaz — (Scott)
[Woe to the evil spirit that gets between them! Little bit of Sinbad’s adventures thrown in there, too, with “Roc”!]
 
Turgor & Gygax — (Scott)
[These are names from our D&D campaign. Turgor came from turgor pressure, studied in our science class, and I always thought it should be a Dwarf name; and Gygax is the name of the inventor of D&D, Gary Gygax.]
 
Guard & Ian — (Swordlily)
[I love the fact that Ian is actually a name!]
 
Me & You — (Lance L.)
[Simple and direct.]
 
Gem & Eye — (Shieldmaiden)
[Additional to the Gemini pun, “Eye” makes a great name for a watcher!]
 
Doygan & Thurgur — (Hannah)
[I don’t know the significance of these names, but I like the sound!]
 
Strunk & White — (Philip)
[During some move over the past years, I lost my copy of Strunk & White — but I used to refer to it all the time!]
 
Irk & Vex — (based heavily on an idea of Shieldmaiden’s)
[Verbs again! Very nice verbs for gargoyle names! I like the shortness.]
 
Toss & Turn — (Shieldmaiden)
[Shieldmaiden suggested these as Untoward names, and have you ever heard any better names for Untowards?! When I do write the sequel to Dragonfly, I hope Shieldmaiden will let me use these! That precisely captures the character and spirit of Untowards!]
 
Nick & Nack — (the mysterious “E”)
[Another nice, short pair; very good for gargoyles-as-bookends!]
 
Sword & Sorcery — (Morwenna)
[I love this pair! If the gargoyles were in a bookstore, they should have these names and watch over the sword & sorcery section!]
 
Merry & Goround — (Morwenna)
[It would really be fun to write about gargoyles with these names! “Merry” is good for its irony, and “Goround” speaks for itself!]
 
Gog & Magog — (Jedibabe)
[Cool! This was also one of my first thoughts. Apparently there’s a lot connected with these names beyond the Old Testament, too, which I’m mostly unaware of.]
 
Fister & Twister — (50% from Swordlily)
[This goes along with my Bouncer & Trouncer. This is probably what the goblins call the gargoyles, like they call Orcrist and Glamdring “Biter” and “Beater.”]
 
Hugin & Munin — (Gabe)
[We have ex-Norse mythology buffs on the blog, and we have experts who stay current . . .]
 
Sky & Ward — (Swordlily)
[I like the mileage we get out of “Ward” on this pair!]
 
Fast & Furious — (Catherine)
[These would also be good Untoward names!]
 
Modi & Magni — (Catherine)
[I like the spelling and the sounds!]
 
Altar & Ego — (Daylily) [Apologies to Daylily: I changed the spelling of her “Alter” to make it fit the church they’re on top of! I think it might be hard to watch for centuries atop a roof if your partner was named “Ego,” but gargoyles are made of stern stuff!]
 
Gloria & Agnus — (Daylily) [Apologies to Daylily again! I changed her finalized “Agnes” back to “Agnus,” which she got it from; but I agree that it would be pronounced the same as “Agnes.” These gargoyles are sisters, and their surname is Dei.]
 
Goth & Roman — (Kate M.)
[Nice!]
 
Bernardo & Ubertino — (Rich H.)
[Pulchra (mumble, mumble) innocentubera!]
 
Chris & Brown Snowflake — (jhagman)
[You have to love his reasoning! See previous post!]
 
*&^%$$&^!  &  #@#%^&! — (Chris)
[Yes, I can hear gargoyles saying that! Those are the greetings they give to evil spirits who approach the cathedral, particularly when it’s sleeting and the wind is out of the north and the pipe organ needs tuning.]

Our esteemed panel of advisors to the contest judge

 
Now, here’s the difficulty: I’ve studied these names up and down, back and forth, around and around, and many of them are so good that I cannot say one pair is clearly better than the others. You have outdone yourselves and have proven this is indeed a Table Round in more ways than one: there’s talent all around it!
 
HOWEVER, I did arrive at a way to determine two winners — and I believe two among you are deserving of special honor in this contest. So two of you are going to receive ARCs of The Star Shard. Just take a look at who made the short list more than anyone else. Shieldmaiden, with her long, deep thought and painstaking research is there four times! And Swordlily, with her amazing ideas, is there no fewer than five times!
 
So I believe that a close second place goes to Shieldmaiden, and first place goes to Swordlily! Congratulations to the two of you! And thank you all — truly, thank you all — for the incredible flood of fantastic ideas!
 
Perhaps we will never know precisely what the gargoyles’ names are; perhaps their truest names are kept forever in secret, so that no evil spirit may learn them and thus (according to the beliefs of some) gain power over them. Or perhaps their names are as numerous as the raindrops on the sloping roof, as unpronounceable as the moanings of wind around the clerestory. We now know a good many more of their names than we did when we started.
 
If you want to know my best guess, I will tell you. But like all of you, I can do no more than guess. The watchers, after all, are gargoyles, and gargoyles (like their cousins, the grotesques) are an ancient and inscrutable folk.
 
My best guesses are these:
 
Appall and Harrow
 
Appall: “greatly dismay or horrify”; from Latin origins, a verb meaning “to grow pale” gradually came, winding its way through Old French and Middle English, to mean “to make pale; to horrify.” In my story “The Gift,” first published in Mooreeffoc and later in Cicada, the gargoyle’s name was Appall. I always wondered if he had a partner, and what the partner’s name might be.
 
Harrow: “cause distress to”; this one is via Middle English from Old Norse and is obscurely related to the Dutch word hark, meaning “rake” — an implement pulled over the ground to harrow what lies beneath its teeth. In medieval Christian theology, there was “the Harrowing of Hell” — the idea that when Christ was crucified and descended into Hell, He defeated the powers of evil there and released the victims that had been in torment, awaiting His coming.
 
So that is what I think the gargoyles’ names might be; but who among the living can say?
 
Well-played, everyone! Well-played indeed! We will have to do something similar again sometime! Once more, thank you all, and congratulations to the winners!
 
 

"Appall?" . . . "Maybe. Who's asking? Harrow?" . . . "Maybe. Maybe not. What's the news?" . . . "Evil things are afoot." . . . "I guessed as much. Another night of watching, then." . . . "Aye. And a day to follow that." . . . "North or south, what's your preference?" . . . "Much the same to me." . . . "Well, then, let's get to it." . . . "Let's."

 
 (I’m late saying this, but Happy Tolkien’s Birthday! [January 3rd])