Friday, March 27, 2015

Snacks for watching a movie

1. Pretzels. Pretzels are delicious, and the small hard ones are great projectiles for quieting friends who have already seen the movie.
2. Gummy bears. Soft and chewy, these bears are useful stress relievers for those suspenseful movies, as they are easily decapitated.
3. Chocolate. Able to take many forms, chocolate is the perfect snack for any movie genre.
4. Dry cereal. It comes in many colors and flavors, and can help you keep track of how many times the bad guys should have died in a comedy.
5. Beef jerky. Want to make your friends laugh? Copy the dinosaur's rampage through town, with the jerky being your victims.
6. Vegetables. Just cut them into small pieces and provide a dip, and you've got a healthy snack for the movie.
7. Crackers. Whether on their own or with slices of meat and cheese, crackers make for a nice snack that may occasionally annoy your buddies.
8. Rock candy. It'll give you a sugar rush and can come in many different colors, so everyone can have their favorite.
9. Chips. Simple, yet often just right for whatever movie you're watching.
10. Popcorn chicken. These little pieces of chicken are great fuel for really exciting movies, the kind that keep you eagerly wondering what happens next.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Pizza delivery, part XI

Now I know what it's like to be the wick of a candle.
Flames flowed against the surface of Brend's protection spell. In some places, the dragon fire stuck unnaturally to the spell's greenish glass.
"How long will your spell hold?" Callan asked, a hand on the hilt of his sword. Brend shook his head as he muttered another nonsense word, blue-green magic leaking from his staff and moving to the protection spell.
"I don't know. I've never used it against a dragon before."
Callan turned to his band. "Alright, boys. If the dragon doesn't lose interest, we strike. Lorcan, take the left. Seamus, the right. Rafferty, aim for the eyes and wings. I'll take the front." As his men nodded, Callan turned to Brend. "Use whatever magic you think would help drive the beast away."
Then Callan turned to me.
"Alex, guard Brend."
Swallowing, I nodded and looked down at my quarterstaff. I didn't have the experience of Callan's band, so of course I'd be sidelined.
My right fingers itched, followed by a flash of heat. I frowned at my delivery bag. Why Smoky would disagree with Callan's plan?
Shaking my head, I looked up as the flames died.
The dragon rammed its horns against the protection spell, and I jumped.
"Easy, laddy." Callan said, drawing his sword. The dragon roared, another burst of fire splattering against the protection spell. My right fingers ached, and I tapped the delivery bag.
For fifteen minutes, the dragon circled the protection spell. Horns, teeth, claws, fire, the beast's attack never let up.
"Get ready, boys." Callan glanced at each member of his band, then lifted his sword as the dragon struck with its horns. "When it backs away, drop the spell."
Brend nodded, and we shifted into positions.
Smoky's signals rose again in my fingers. An ache that seemed to follow the dragon.
"Now!" Callan charged forward, and Brend barely got the protection spell down before the leader could hit it. The band followed, meeting the dragon's roar of challenge with weapons drawn.
Brend moved back, and I followed. Heat sank into my fingertips as we moved away from the dragon, the ache growing.
"Do wraiths have a thing against dragons?" I asked the wizard.
"Not that I know of." Brend said, lifting his staff and aiming it at the dragon. "Why?"
"I think Smoky wants me to fight it." I flinched as the dragon snapped at one of Rafferty's arrows. A shock bit my fingers, followed by heat. "Well, if you don't want me to fight, what do you want?" I glanced away from the battle to glare at my bag.
A quivering sensation filled my fingers, followed by an iciness in the fingertips that followed the dragon.
"The dragon?" I asked, and the chill flooded my fingers. "What would a wraith want with a dragon?"
The shock of Smoky's laugh, and my aching fingers pulled toward the dragon.
The dragon released a pained roar as a ball of magic smacked it in the jaw. Brend glanced at me. "What is the wraith saying?"
"I think he wants a shot at the dragon.” I nodded when iciness nipped my fingertips. "Yes, that's it. Could a wraith beat a dragon?"
"I don't know." Brend shook his head, sending another blast of magic at the dragon. "Would the wraith turn on you if it was released?"
My fingers went from cold to hot. "Maybe."
There was a shout, and I looked away from the wizard.
Callan was on the ground, with the dragon standing above him.
"Could you beat the dragon?" I asked, and my fingers went numb.
Scrambling at the delivery bag's flap, I got it open as the dragon bit Callan.

Friday, March 20, 2015

How to hide from a dragon

1. Stay inside. Dragons do not usually enter houses, though they have been known to set them aflame.
2. Keep something between you and the dragon. If the dragon doesn't see you, it can't eat you.
3. Don't make noise. Dragons can hear very well, so don't breath too heavily.
4. Try not to wear perfume. Dragons have an excellent sense of smell.
5. Avoid startling the wildlife. Nothing says, "look over here!" like a flock of bird suddenly flying away.
6. Endure the gross stuff. Creepy bugs crawling over your shoes is preferable to a dragon eating you, shoes and all.
7. Don't panic! Sure, the dragon is moments away from discovering your hiding place, but that doesn't mean you should make it easier by trying to run away now.
8. Be willing to sacrifice your stuff. When hiding from a dragon, you don't have time to grab everything you own.
9. Know your dragon species. Understanding that an aquatic dragon will be attracted to water allows you to rule out any hiding place by the river.
10. Don't give up. Should your first hiding place be discovered, don't quit. Do your best to get away and find a better place hide.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Pizza delivery, part X

Smoky the wraith is a mischievous pest.
In the three days since realizing that we could communicate, Smoky has experimented in what sensations he can use.
My right fingers suddenly itched, and Lorcan smacked my quarterstaff out of my hands and lightly jabbed me in the stomach with his quarterstaff.
"Pay attention." He said as I coughed. The former cook wasn't a gentle teacher, but he'd agreed to take Devlin's place in training me.
Static danced through my fingers, the itchiness fading.
"Sorry." I said, shooting a glare to where my delivery bag sat a short distance away. Lorcan shook his head and picked up my quarterstaff. Tossing it to me, the bout began.
About halfway through, a surge of pain filled my fingers.
"Ow!" I backed away,and Lorcan paused. The pain didn't subside, but shifted to my pinky as I moved over to my delivery bag. "What do you want?"
The pain increased, and all my right fingers trembled.
"What is it?" I looked up at Brend's voice, to see the wizard moving toward me.
"Smoky sent pain into my fingers, and hasn't stopped." Turning, I shook my hand.
The pain shifted to my thumb.
I frowned, and turned back toward the bag. The pain shifted back to my pinky.
"It almost seems like he's using the pain to point at something." I said, and an iciness joined the pain. "Yes."
Brend looked around. "Where is it pointing to?"
Holding out my hand, I turned until the pain filled my extended index finger. "There."
The pain intensified in a sudden burst as a roar thundered from the direction I was pointing.
"Dragon." Lorcan said, and iciness filled my fingers as Lorcan turned and headed to where the rest of Callan's band was resting.
"I thought we went through the forest to avoid dragons?" I said, picking up my delivery bag and slinging it over my shoulder. Brend nodded, though his attention was focused on the direction the roar had come from.
"We avoided the main migration, but it is possible that a dragon was thrown off course."
Great, maybe I could add dragon to the list of creatures that have tried to kill me.
"So what do we do?" I asked. Brend shook his head and lifted his staff.
"Go join the others. I'll cast a protection spell."
Nodding, I turned away from the wizard.
Upon reaching the others Callan met me. "So your wraith can sense dragons?"
An icy nip, though the pain remained. "I think so. What are dragons like?"
"Big, flying lizards that breathe fire and will eat any person they come across, should they be hungry. During their migration, the beasts are terribly grumpy. Hopefully our wizard will be able to shield us from the beast."
The pain in my fingers intensified, then vanished as a dark splotch appeared in the sky.
Brend reached us, his staff spluttering its blue-green magic. Smoke rose from the staff, rising into the air above us and remaining there. Soon, all I could see above us was smoke.
Brend uttered one of his nonsense words, and the smoke curved down around us. Flickering into a greenish haze, the smoke solidified into something that looked like glass.
Through the greenish glass, the dragon's approach was obvious.
How a glass shell would protect us, I didn't know.
Callan's band was quiet. As the dragon drew closer, its actual size surprised me. About the size of an elephant, the creature was covered with dark scales. It had four horns, the top two jutting straight out, while the lower two curled down and forward.
The dragon was fast, covering the distance far too quickly. The sound of its wings beating was terrifying as it circled above us.
The the beast dived, landing where Lorcan and I had been practicing.
Its head twisted at the end of a long neck, searching the area.
Then it turned, narrow eyes gazing straight at us.
The dragon roared, shooting flames toward Brend's protection spell.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Ways to build an interesting character

1. Give them a purpose. Characters that have something to work toward have a reason for everything they do, and for those things they don't do.
2. Have them act. A character who sits around doing nothing can quickly become boring. A character who is actively working throughout the scene more easily keeps your attention.
3. Let them think. When the moment is right, let the character think about their situation. Don't monologue (unless the character is a super villain), but have their thoughts bring the reader a greater understanding of the character.
4. Get them in trouble. How does your character react to trouble? Are they the perfect student who is horrified at being sent to the Principal's office? Or are they the one who charges recklessly at the werewolf so that others can escape?
5. Let them be afraid. What a character fears shows us a part of who they are. How they handle that fear shows us what they can become.
6. Show us what they love. If the character loves something, show it to us. If we see the character's care for that object (or person) then we may grow fond of it as well, and stick with the character when that love is endangered.
7. Don't hide their flaws. A perfect character is dull. A character who makes mistakes, suffers setbacks, and has their faults brought out to the open is a character who has the potential to grow. Let them rectify those mistakes, learn from those obstacles, and face their own weaknesses. And when they've defeated those flaws, reveal more.
8. Let them interact with others. How does the character change when others are around? What role do they slip into when holding a conversation? The way the character acts around others can reveal a lot about themselves.
9. Give them time alone. During those quite moments, a new side of the character is revealed. What do they do when no one is watching? What masks are removed? When the character is alone, do they long for companionship? Or do they rest, lowering their guard just enough that the fragile creature within is exposed?
10. Let them have fun. There are times when the character needs a moment of laughter, a break from the trials they've faced. Let them have that moment, that chance to remind us of the person they were at the beginning of this journey.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Pizza delivery, part IX

Callan's band is anxious, and it's my fault.
Or more accurately, it's because of Smoky the wraith.
It's been a week since I trapped him in my delivery bag, and we haven't been attacked since.
Not even by the killer rabbits.
Now, I don't mind not being attacked. That first day in the forest was exciting enough. But Callan's band is full of experienced adventurers who have traveled through the forest before.
According to them, being attacked is a normal thing in the forest.
"There's the end." Callan called from the front, and an eagerness filled the men.
At least the lack of attacks cut half a week off our journey.
"How's your hand?" Brend asked as he matched my pace. I lifted my right hand and looked at it. You'd think that week would be plenty of time to get used to constantly chilly fingers.
"Still the same. Any tests today?" Flexing my numb fingers, I looked at the wizard. Since capturing Smoky was a first, Brend had been recording everything he thought might help us understand the wraith.
And possibly get rid of it.
"There is, but it is necessary." He motioned ahead, where the trees were thinning. "What happens when a wraith is taken out of the forest?"
I frowned. "Aren't there wraiths outside the forest?"
"None. Or at least, none that anyone has ever seen."
I let out a sigh, and rested my right hand on the delivery bag. "Well, if Smoky's going to come out on his own, it will probably be then."
Brows furrowing, Brend tilted his head. "You named the wraith?"
Rubbing the back of my neck, I glanced away. "Carrying around something that wants to kill you is a little easier when that thing has a name."
We paused at the edge of the trees, where Callan stood waiting. "You ready, laddy?" Callan asked, offering a confident grin.
"What'll we do if it comes out?" I asked, and Callan's grin faded.
"We'll do our best to ward it off while you run away from the forest. If you get far enough, hopefully it'll give up." He said, and I forced a nod. From what I'd learned, that wouldn't work.
But a false hope was better than none.
"Well, no use putting off." I said, gripping the delivery bag's strap with numb fingers. Inhaling, I strode forward.
After several steps, nothing happened.
My hand loosened, and I released a breath. Looking back, I waved at Callan and Brend. They moved forward,  and I turned to head toward Callan's band.
Another step away from the forest.
Heat coursed through my right fingers, and I screamed.
The chilling numbness was gone, replaced with a blistering fire the made every movement agonizing.
Yet like the cold before it, this heat filled only my fingers.
Only where Smoky had touched.
Blood pounding, I shuffled forward another step. The fire grew hotter, and I expected flames to visibly engulf my hand.
"What's wrong, Alex?" Brend's voice seemed muffled.
"Fingers are burning." The words escaped between clenched teeth, and I forced another step forward. Smoky hadn't come out of the bag yet.
Another step, more agonizing heat.
"I'm not turning around." I glared down at the delivery bag and took another step.
The heat vanished.
I stumbled as the pain faded, knees hitting the dirt.
"You alright, laddy?" Callan asked, his voice reaching my ears clearly.
"They've stopped." I said, unclenching my hand. The heat was gone, and the cold hadn't returned. I stared at the delivery bag, wondering.
"Smoky, can you control it?"
A nip of iciness in my fingertips, followed by an uncomfortable heat.
"It answered me."
"What?" Brend asked, and I met his wide gaze.
"The heat vanished when I said I wouldn't turn around, so I asked if Smoky could control it. I'm assuming a bit of cold followed by heat was its way of saying yes."
A flash of heat. Then after a moment, there was another nip of iciness, and then the heat.
"Is that maybe?" I asked as the sensations faded.
The icy nip returned.
"Does icy fingertips mean yes?" I looked away from Brend to the delivery bag. The iciness returned, a little stronger. I flexed my hand. "So a bit of heat means no?"
Icy fingertips.
I looked at Brend. "Has anyone talked to a wraith before?"
The wizard shook his head. "I've never heard of this. We didn't even know they could communicate."
Callan offered me a hand. "Will it let you continue away from the forest?"
Taking the hand, I stood. "Smoky?"
Iciness filled my fingertips, followed by a flash of heat.
"I got a maybe." I said, shrugging as we started toward Callan's band.
"Will it let you leave if you continue to carry the delivery bag?" Brend asked, and immediately my fingertips grew icy.
"I need to write this down." Brend said, giving the delivery bag a long look before shuffling through his bag.
"Does the beast still want to feed on you?" Callan asked. A long moment passed, then heat filled my fingers.
Glancing from Callan to the bag, my eyes narrowed. "Are you lying?"
A shock like static electricity coursed through my fingers, followed by the icy nip.
"I think it laughed at me." I looked at Callan, and he shook his head.
"Well, at least its presence helped us get through the forest faster."
And now that I knew the wraith could communicate, maybe I could convince it not to eat me.
Though I wasn't sure I could handle another bout of static laughter.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Ways to draw attention

1. Be fun. Having fun with whatever you're doing can help others to enjoy themselves as well.
2. Be confident. Confidence is something that draws people in.
3. Be friendly. A friendly person is often easier to approach, and they can be easy to include in activities.
4. Be knowledgeable. When you can provide answers, people with questions are likely to talk with you.
5. Be bold. Don't wait and just watch others have fun, but be willing to step outside your comfort zone and join in.
6. Help others. At times, helping others can draw attention. But the main focus should always be on the people you're helping, not on being seen.
7. Be surprising. Doing something that people don't expect can get their attention.
8. Do something well. When you are skilled in something, people tend to notice.
9. Be eloquent. Being able to hold a conversation well can draw people to you.
10. Be kind. Kindness doesn't always draw much attention, but there are times when the attention of one is more important than the attention of many.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Pizza delivery, part VIII

When a lot of rustling sounded behind me, I spun around with my quarterstaff.
"Whoa, laddy!" Callan stepped back to avoid my swing, and I heard Brend grunt. Lowering my arms, a shaky laugh escaped me.
"Sorry, guess I"m a little jumpy." Planting the end of my quarterstaff and leaning against it, another laugh escaped. After almost half an hour on my own in the forest, I was so glad to see familiar faces.
"It's alright, laddy." Callan grinned as he studied me. "It looks like you did well on your own. How'd you escape the al'mi'raj?"
"The killer rabbit? It ran away right before the smoke appeared." My right hand tightened around the strap of my delivery bag, its numb fingers scarcely feeling the fabric. I was worried about my fingers still being so cold, but other then the chilling ache and numbness, my hand still worked.
"What?" Brend moved forward, movements stiff as Callan's face palled.
"There was a shriek, and the killer rabbit ran away. Then a cloud of smoke showed up."
Brend's eyes darted around, searching the trees surrounding us. "Did it see you?" There was an urgency in his voice as the wizard raised his staff.
"Yes, and it followed me." Both men turned ashen at my words, and unease twisted in my gut. "It's okay though, I trapped it in my delivery bag."
Brend took a step back, his eyes widening. "You did what?"
"Why're you still carrying it then?" Callan asked, gazing at the bag with disbelief.
"It's scary smoke, but I couldn't leave my delivery bag behind."  Having made the choice to keep my bag, I wasn't about to abandon it now.
Despite the fear I could see as both men stared at the bag.
Callan looked away first, running a hand through his hair as he shook his head."Have you ever heard of something like this?"
Brend shook his head, gaze never leaving the bag. "Never. It should have killed him."
Though I knew that the smoke could have killed me, I couldn't help frowning. "What is the smoke?"
Callan shook his head, one hand on the hilt of his sword as he looked around. "We should head back to the path. Brend, explain what he caught while we move."
The wizard nodded, and we started through the undergrowth.
"The shriek that frightened the al'mi'raj was from a hunting wraith. The smoke you described is a common form wraiths take." Brend shook his head and looked at me. "I've never seen a wraith, and hope I never do. Wraiths mainly feed on remnants, but if they find a host, they won't stop feeding until the host dies."
Glancing at the delivery bag, the chilling ache in my right fingers seemed to grow. "Remnants? Remnants of what?"
Brend shrugged. "We don't really know. But once a wraith chooses it's prey, nothing can keep it away. That's why no one travels through this forest without a wizard. We can lure wraiths away from the path with our magic."
I looked the trees, hesitating for a moment. "What happens if you get touched by a wraith?"
"The touch of a wraith is worse then a winter storm. The affected part becomes deathly cold, and never rewarms. and it ties you to that wraith. Once a person has been touched by a wraith, no other wraith will attack them. That's assuming the person lives long enough to meet another wraith, because if a wraith was close enough to touch you, then it was close enough to feed." Brend's voice faltered at the end, and I turned to meet his suspicious gaze. "Did it touch you?"
I held out my right hand and wiggled my fingers. "As it went in the bag, it slid across my fingers."  I tried to smile, though the look on his face made it difficult to. "So if people are usually killed shortly after being touched by a wraith, what happens if they aren't killed?"
Brend's gaze flickered down to the delivery bag, and he shook his head. "I don't know. No one has ever captured a wraith before, let alone one they'd been touched by."
That was great. The smoke was a creature that could frighten wizards, and I was stuck with mine until it killed me.
"What would happen if I left my delivery bag behind?"
"I don't know. Perhaps the wraith would remain trapped, or it might sense your disappearance and break free to follow. This is unknown territory."
I sighed, then gave a soft laugh. "Well, maybe if I leave the delivery bag behind when we get the wizard who brought me here to send me home, the wraith won't be able to kill me."
Brend gave a small smile and shrugged. "Maybe. Just try not to open that bag until then, alright?"
I nodded, a real smile appearing as we broke through the last of the undergrowth and stepped onto the path to rejoin the rest of Callan's band.
So I had a creature that wanted to kill me in my delivery bag.
At least it was a delivery I didn't have to complete.