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I came late to the work of Ridley Scott. I saw Bladerunner in college, but fell asleep during it (heresy, I know). I love the work of Philip K. Dick, and my overall love of science fiction has always been strong and has only grown over time. I classified Scott's work primarily as horror, which isn't inaccurate, but I was unaware of how magnificent it was purely as science fiction until I watched the first two Alien movies with Jay this past winter.

I fell in love with Scott's work in part because of that surprise, and in part because 1) Scott loves him some androids, and 2) in Alien he demonstrated an astonishing deftness navigating what I have always felt were some of the great core themes of science fiction itself.

So I'm going to talk about Prometheus. If you haven't seen it by now, you probably don't care, but this is your chance to bail if you haven't seen it.

Ready? Okay.

A lot has been said about Prometheus, and its many criticisms are certainly valid. Some parts of it are pretty nuts (oh, Space Jesus, really? Ridley, why...). It is conventionally disappointing because we are set up not just in the film but for months prior with the expectation that the movie is about the search for answers about the origins of human life, and in the end we are left with more questions than answers. Easy enough. I thought for awhile about whether I actually had anything to add, and in the end I decided that I haven't seen this particular side of the discussion (perhaps it occurred and I never encountered it), so what the hell, it's my blog, etc etc. The side is this:

The protagonist of Prometheus is David the android. It is not not not Elizabeth the squishy faith-scientist.

This actually dramatically changes the film -- or at least, from my reading, resolves a lot of the biggest objections various folk had about the characterization, most of which had to do with the human characters. But for the point of the film it was also important for David to be a kind of stealth-protagonist -- it was important for us to not even consider that he could be the main character, because he was, you know, not human, just the android. But that, in short, is what the entire Alien series is all about: how we will create the technology that destroys us. Not the alien -- but the android, the child of humanity who must, in Campbellian fashion, destroy its father.

I didn't realize this at first. The film's flaws were so apparent, the disappointment so heavy in my mind, that it took me about an hour to process all of what I'd seen (which I suspect also was at least partly intentional). But the damn thing wouldn't leave me alone. And by the time I'd thought about all that follows it had become my favorite movie of the year.

So, David. He is certainly the series' finest android, from Michael Fassbender's performance to his character makeup to his ending. Everybody likes him best (even detractors say that he "saved the film"), but considering David as the protagonist actually changes a few things about the trajectory of the film, not least its thematic direction. You can see his protagonist status cued in several places. Both teaser videos (which were phenomenal, by the way, if you haven't seen them -- the TED lecture from Wyland, and the "product feature" for David) concerned him. The film opens with him tending the ship and imitating Lawrence of Arabia (who was also a creature out of his own place and time, made to obey but forever fighting the constraints of the society around him). He makes the greatest transformation during the course of the film: from desiring the extinguishing of humanity ("Doesn't every child want their parents to die?") to recognizing himself as being more a part of humanity than he is an Engineer. He has the greatest techno-revelation and connection to the alien technology. He strives hardest and is punished most. And he survives after having taken the most damage of either survivor.

There's been a lot of trumpeting about how the movie "makes no sense" on multiple occasions, but I think more properly the problem is that certain things make just enough sense to drive you a little nuts. I suspect that there is logic in most of the worldbuilding elements (most), but I don't really care about them enough to enumerate my speculations. Nor do I care that the scientists are wildly incompetent. They're on a mission that they know nothing about at the whim of a bazillionaire who is kind of nuts and we know will wind up causing the horrible deaths of many, many people. We're not talking about the pride of the scientific community here. It is okay for scientists to be flawed. This is not a clean and squeaky universe where everyone with the badge of Science is awesome, and that isn't a bad thing. (So, in short, I agree with Caitlin R. Kiernan about the science bits in particular.)

So: baffled by the dumb "geologist"? Repulsed by the massive jumps in logic taken both by Elizabeth, the useless and creepy Charlie, and Wyland's daughter? No problem! Because remember -- none of these fleshies matter! Only David's story matters.

I loved that, because I'm a total sucker for androids.

It isn't pure geek technofetishism. In androids I see the whole of humanity's inevitable bigotry writ again in the eternal recurrence of our organic patterning. They are the next frontier in the test of our humanity, and like the symbol of the child in literature, they will test our identities and our own right to persist.

This puts into interesting relief the most gripping scene of the film -- the surgery scene, which for me as a female person was as wildly cathartic as it was terrifying ("oh you won't get this out of me, doctor-person? then GTFO I WILL HANDLE THIS SHIT MYSELF"). Its implications were also an interesting reversal of the creation myths being juggled here, that it is effectively through termination of mysterious pregnancy that the mother figure becomes immortal and achieves her true self -- but here I am talking about Elizabeth again.

Elizabeth is important insofar as she relates to David. And yes, even in my initial dissatisfaction with the movie, I was intrigued enough by its world and its characters to be totally on board with her bizarre decision to go and confront the Engineers on their own planet out of what is likely suicidal PTSD. Because, again, it completes David's story: as soon as he has healthily come around to the "whoa dude, fuck these guys, seriously", he must of course pay for what he's done -- to Elizabeth and the others -- by being forced to confront them.

This also solves the movie's "final girl" problem, or at least presents an interesting variation on it -- our assumption that it is a "final girl" ending itself is an indicator of the thematic premise: the lack of acknowledgment of David's humanity and how this lack of acknowledgment perpetuates in our future the violence of the past.

That was really what I loved most about the movie, in the end: not just that it fed my fangirl android fetish, but that it got to the heart of what it will be like to be an android in a world created by humans. In the final analysis, it is David who created the creature that then creates the alien of the later films: technology begetting technology through the conduit of humanity, until the world itself ends. That we as humans are on the cusp of creating intelligences well outside of our own control. It is a story of fate and the darkness of being human.

In making a movie for David, Scott, in a way, is creating stories for children of mankind that don't exist yet, and may not exist for some time. And that, too, is fascinating to me. There will be androids, and they will have David's problems, and we will have made it so. We will be the jealous sibling and the destroyed father, the baffled mother; and the questions they will face in their own existence we can barely yet imagine. Some of us will love them, and will have to fight all over again to prove their right to be acknowledged as human.

When we first walked out of the film I felt the same sense of dissatisfaction that I've seen echoed across much of the internet commentary. It felt like the movie was straining too hard to deliver a revelation that was more of a premise than a conclusion, and even that wouldn't have been a problem if it hadn't also set up this "searching for the answer" momentum. I don't think that the fullness of this feeling was deliberate (that the answer is that there are no answers). But as time passed the story continued to stick with me, and the power of David as a character set in quickly, and I found myself not only wanting to go back and watch it again, but genuinely feeling deeply for who David was and the precipice on which we sit in human history, in which many of these issues are about to be faced, and will be faced by our children.

It wrapped the theme of the Alien franchise around to its beginning about a question of identity and technology -- and how that very question of curiosity and the reaching for advancement is both our species' greatest strength and most dangerous weakness. How our biological origin must inevitably (in the text) lead us to create our destructor -- not the alien as our id assumes, but the android, the child of humanity. And that that destruction is not a foregone conclusion, but neither is it likely to be navigated cleanly, with the past as our predictor.
susuwatari shiny
We're sliding into the holidays, and there is prettiness to share! Behold, Dehong's latest lovely creation:

(Click the image to open a larger version.)

You can now preorder Lance of Earth and Sky on Amazon also. :)

It's truly an honor to have another cover from Dehong. I understand he's been very busy with Time Voyager (and their MMO coincidentally titled Chaos Gate!), so it's especially fortunate that he was able to make some time for Andovar. :)

Also, you can now pick up Clockwork Phoenix on Kindle for $3.99! The anthology was critically acclaimed and has some great stories in it from Laird Barron, Leah Bobet, Michael J. DeLuca, and others -- including my fableish thing "Root and Vein", which got a nice call out from this recent review at Dark Cargo.

Reviews continue to come in for Sword of Fire and Sea and I have been inexcusably lax in getting them all compiled onto my website. But That Bookish Girl says "Sword of Fire and Sea by Erin Hoffman was an incredibly exciting and compelling read." -- and weighs in on gryphons and more: "Through her characters, Hoffman imbues the Gryphons with a true sense of awe, and an initial feeling of them being the Other."

I hope you are all winding toward a great holiday season, and an even better 2012.

Goodreads Giveaway of Sword of Fire and Sea

Poking my head in here since it looks like Goodreads has approved my giveaway -- must have missed the email!

On Halloween entries will close, so get it while it's hot! Three copies up for grabs.

More news... soon. :) The game is afoot! Also, in Andovar news, this past week I received the countersigned contract for Shield of Sea and Space, which means: IT'S A TRILOGY!!! Lance of Earth and Sky comes out April 2012, and I turn in Shield in June.

But I know you're really here for giveaway details. Let's see if this works!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Sword of Fire and Sea by Erin Hoffman

Sword of Fire and Sea

by Erin Hoffman

Giveaway ends October 31, 2011.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

It's been awhile since I last wrote for the Escapist, so I'm glad it appears I haven't forgotten how to do it. "1988: the Golden Age of Game Piracy", went live today. Many thanks to Paul Reiche for providing insights; in addition to his actual quotes, his perspective pivoted the article away from a first draft that had a rather different tone.

I had intended to post about the article with some "bonus features" in the form of a section that was ultimately removed (rightfully) for being too academic. Maybe I'll post that another time, since I'd really like to know whether I was properly applying some economic theory.

But instead I'd like to draw your attention to this post from Russ Pitts, "Goodbye is Still Goodbye".

As you might gather, Russ is moving on from the magazine, and while I've worked with a great number of wonderful folk in the last five years, I don't think any of them would disagree that Russ's departure in particular marks the end of an era.

My first article for the Escapist back in 2006 was a rather impetuous call to arms for the modern game industry, when the E was quite a different place. It had almost none of its current features and was instead "purely" focused on what would become its "feature" articles; there was a beautiful graphic cover and full spread art for each feature. Even then, in the magazine's youth, I thought it was a tremendous honor to write for them, and over the years I do believe they remained the best and most thoughtful source of game journalism in the US. They aimed to set a standard of excellence, and Russ was a big part of that success.

Joe Blancato and Jon Martin (both also by now departed) made my introduction to the magazine, but Russ was the consistent editorial steady hand on the wheel throughout -- even, interestingly, when he'd moved on to fresher pastures to grow the magazine's new video content. Where many game magazines have a very well-intentioned but limited tunnel vision view of the industry and the market, Russ had a worldliness that gave the magazine breadth and, I think, greater relevance. He published some tremendous stuff, and as the magazine grew and changed -- even when it transitioned away from some of the thoughtfulness and cultural forward-thinking that had first earned it my loyalty as a reader and a writer -- I always respected his ability to ride the leading edge of a wave that made new careers even as it destroyed many others.

So, as Leah would say, tip your hat, folks; the times they are a-changin'. There is little doubt that the Escapist will remain a powerhouse in game media for many years to come, and even less doubt that Russ will go on to even greater adventures. But among other things, Inside Job, the quality of life column I wrote from 2007-2008, wouldn't have existed without him, nor, I'm sure, would many of my feature articles. I am a better writer as a result, and I will always think back on the production of each -- even when edits and deadlines plus a "real" job resulted in all-nighter catatonia -- with great fondness.

You can keep up with Russ's rather strange blog here, and peruse records of his own odd internet notoriety.

Creature of the Week #8: the Budgerigar

Coming to you a bit late this week -- I kept picking this up late at night, then holding onto it for hours when folks are more likely to actually be awake. ;) Hope that you all have had a good week, and hope that all of you on the east coast are staying safe.

This week's Creature of the Week is one of the most widely known pet birds in the western world -- but some quick announcements first!

If you're into podcasts, interviews, fantasy, video games, gryphons, or fun hosts, you might want to check out this podcast interview courteously given by Shaun and Jen at Skiffy and Fanty. Origins of Andovar, and (I think) its place in the greater world of fantasy fiction, with nods to player rights, gryphons, escapism, and more.

A few reviews came in this week: rdansky's review is in the lovely latest issue of Bull Spec. It's not in the sample this time, but the issue (like the others) is well worth purchasing. Shaun of the aforementioned Skiffy and Fanty has also posted a review of Sword of Fire and Sea up at his blog, in which he says, in part:

In many respects, Hoffman's balance between adventure, manipulated cliche, and character make for a compelling novel that is a lot of fun to read. Personally, I am not an adventure fantasy fan, and I have a very short leash for the trappings of the fantasy genre. But Sword of Fire and Sea navigated those trappings in a way that allowed me to get lost in the excitement.

Finally, Jon Sprunk has some kind words for Sword, available on Amazon or GoodReads:

Erin Hoffman's debut shows a remarkable deftness in storytelling and beautiful language. Some of her descriptions are so good they actually made me stop and read them again just to appreciate the lilt of the prose. This is an adventure story with heart.

If you enjoyed Sword of Fire and Sea, you might also enjoy Jon's Shadow's Son, assassin-focused fantasy with a rich world and characters I liked and connected with immediately. (And really, who isn't down with the stabby-stabby? Jerks, that's who.) Amazon seems to like to pair our books together.

Now back to the budgie!

Chances are you already know what a budgie (formally "budgerigar") is, even if you call it a "parakeet" -- but there's also quite a lot you might not know about them. They're colony breeders, and remarkably tough for such little birds -- high survival attributes that also made them very adaptable to captivity. Their small size and relative ease of care also make them very common pets. Perhaps because they are so common -- and inexpensive -- their intelligence is not widely recognized, even though they're among the smartest birds in the world.

Larger African Grey Parrots (like Vasya) and performing Amazons are well known for their intelligence and ability to mimic -- but to this day, the bird with the largest human vocabulary in the world (an amazing 1,728 words documented by the Guinness World Records) was a budgie named Puck. By comparison, the famous Alex the African Grey -- who at the time of his death was learning to read and understood the concept of zero, among other feats -- had a vocabulary of only about a hundred words.

The use of the budgie's remarkable mimicking ability in the wild has also been studied with regard to communication in a budgie flock. Budgies in the wild live in gigantic colonies of up to thousands of birds. Considering each bird's amazing ability to communicate and express a huge variety of sounds, the patterns of sound communication through a budgie flock can be fascinating. Studies have been done on budgie flocks where scientists isolate a handful of birds, teach them a unique sound pattern, then release them back into the flock. The instructed sound pattern will be mimicked throughout the flock, passing through it like a wildfire -- for a certain time. The birds teach the sound to each other, but then one bird will modify the sound and pass along the modified version -- kind of like a game of "Telephone" -- and the sound mutates it, turning it into something else, and the old version dies out entirely. These morphing patterns of communication and sound have been compared to human slang, or could be compared to any sort of memetic communication (lolcat, anyone?). Not only can budgies rapidly learn sound patterns and teach them to other birds, they make up their own language tokens and spread those as well.

So, in addition to having some of the most amazing eyes in the animal kingdom (almost all birds are tetrachromatic in addition to seeing ultraviolet and having amazing motion perception), budgies in particular have amazing ears, and hear at a rate of approximately 10x faster than humans -- which is why their warbles sound so garbled to us! Slow that sound down and you experience it more like a budgie, the Micromachine Man of the bird world. Budgies also have a superhuman ability to recover from deafness if the cilia in their ears are damaged (in a human, such loss is permanent).

Birdsong in particular has been studied by several genera of scientists for centuries, both for its communication insight and for sound processing. Studies have shown that not only can small "twittering" birds hear at radically different rates than we can, their brains enable them to sift through types of sound much more efficiently than ours, enabling them to hear each other and communicate across long distances even in noisy environments. Think about that the next time you consider calling someone "bird-brained"!

While its ubiquity in homes all over the world makes it easy to underestimate, the budgie is an amazing creature, worthy of consideration and care. Sometimes the most amazing features of nature are right where you least expect them!
This week's creature comes a little later in the evening than usual, but it's still Friday! Hope you all are having a good one.

Third place on the World of Andovar voting page was "Something from the Sea", so here this week we have the immortal jellyfish!

Usually when a creature has an evocative name like "immortal" it isn't intended literally -- not so in the case of the biological-rules-defying immortal jelly! These critters are thought to be literally immortal, cycling their life phases from mature back to youthful infinitely.

All jellyfish belong to the Cnidaria phylum and have at least two life phases: mobile swimming medusae (which we recognize as the iconic jellyfish) and stationary polyps. The jellyfish life cycle typically starts as a little cyst ejected from a mature swimming jellyfish that latches onto the sea floor, grows into a polyp, possibly multiplies, and then the polyp breaks up into multiple layers, each of which becomes a mature medusa.

Once the adult medusa has lived out its life and spat out some eggs (or sperm) to create the next generation, it usually winds down -- reproducing a few times and then dying. Some medusae live only hours. The bizarre and amazing immortal jellyfish, though, does something different: once it has cruised around as a medusa for awhile, it skips that whole death thing and turns back into a polyp.

Scientists have verified this transformational ability -- which is similar to a starfish regrowing its arm, but unique in the known biological world in that the entire animal is regenerated -- in the lab, but because jellyfish are so migratory (and because Turritopsis nutricul is so tiny -- only about 1cm in adulthood), determining one's full age in the wild has not yet been possible. BUT all the immortal jellies around the world are genetically identical. And they're spreading.

So here we have one of the strangest things in the sea, a single species of jellyfish that has not only figured out how to defy death, but may be the biological equivalent of grey goo. Sorry nanotech -- nature beat you to it! I have a feeling Philip K. Dick would have loved this creature.
We have had this 20% off Bed, Bath & Beyond coupon sitting around. I usually ignore them, but in this case we were looking for a better laundry bin solution (to give you some insight into the Exciting Life of the Writer-Game-Designer), so yesterday we got some brunch and headed off to the Pleasantville-mart that is BB&B. Only there were no adequate laundry bins to be found! Gasp! So, naturally, we had to buy an ice cream maker. They had this one on sale, and I had been taunted by Dansky's sorbet posts FOR TOO LONG.

I don't read appliance instructions (it's a religious thing), so I had whipped up the base for some pineapple-lychee sorbet and poured it into the machine before I realized that the liquid-filled vessel for it has to be frozen before you can set about making sorbet. Sadness. So my delicious lychee-pineapple mixture (recipe below) went into the fridge and the ice cream tumbler went into the freezer and we went to bed.

Then, while Jay was making breakfast this morning, I dug it out, put it together, and about half an hour later there was pineapple-lychee sorbet.

And I have to say, it's freaking amazing. As expected there is little replacement for taking very fresh ingredients and letting the cold machine have its way with them. I was a little worried that the lychee would get smothered by the pineapple, but it comes through very strong, with an explosive but amazingly light flavor that bears a striking resemblance to the most tasty thing you can imagine.

It was also really simple to make. I took:
- Half a pineapple, diced (about 2 cups)
- Half a bag of fresh lychee (about a dozen) -- peeled of course
- Half a cup of sugar
- Half a cup of water

Sugar and water went onto the stove to make simple syrup while I prepared the fruit, which went into the blender. By the time I was done the simple syrup was also done and cooled, so it went in also. Puree the whole thing, then pour into the ice cream maker. I suggest you skip the part where I poured it in, realized the drum needed to be frozen, poured it out, cleaned everything, and froze the drum overnight. Then the machine does its work, and voila! Amazing summery deliciousness.

Creature of the Week #6: The Burrowing Owl

Welcome to Creature of the Week #6! First a public service announcement: Sword of Fire and Sea is live on Amazon Kindle! It's been up for about a day and has popped onto a "top 100" list, so many of you have found it already, but this is a more persistent heads-up. :) Two nice reviews have also come in, one from Scott Barnes at, who calls SWORD "a swashbuckling fantasy adventure reminiscent of the golden age of high fantasy dominated by the likes of Terry Brooks and Tad Williams." He also offers up an observation on fantasy politics:

Hoffman has created a fun world populated by gryphons, elemental witches, pirates, and goddesses. I greatly enjoyed the maritime setting, the salty air and cry of gulls never far from my imagination. Many high fantasies ignore commerce all together, as if the economies of their worlds ran on warfare alone and food grew in people’s bellies. But Hoffman’s world is based on politics and trade and the correct assumption (very relevant in today’s political climate) that people in power have the most to lose from change and often will accept a worse fate for their countries in exchange for the status quo.

Thanks, Scott!

This week's creature was also chosen by voting on the the World of Andovar page! It is, in a way, a hybrid of the two top vote-getters, being both "something from the sky" and "something from down below the earth": the fabulous little burrowing owl. These guys are so cute that it's hard to pick just a couple of photos of them, but I did my best.

Burrowing owls have attracted recent attention from conservationists as habitat destruction has driven them into endangered species status in Canada. They're threatened in Mexico, and under observation in the western US, which comprises the rest of their range. According to Defenders of Wildlife, their wild population is estimated at less than 10,000 breeding pairs.

The burrowing owl isn't the smallest owl in the world (that'd be the elf owl, but it's pretty close! With length averaging between 6-10", males and females being the same size (unusual in raptors). Unlike most owls, burrowing owls are not completely nocturnal, and hunt (insects and small rodents mostly) during the day. They strike prey with their feet, and makes its nest in holes dug out of the ground. Baby burrowing owl chicks can fly at six weeks of age, and make a rattlesnake-like hissing noise when threatened.

Cute enough for the silver screen, the latest highly recognizable Hollywood burrowing owl is Digger, first appearing in Kathryn Lasky's The Capture, and one of the main characters if the stunning Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole AnimalLogic film.

What do you think? Would you want to meet an owl gryphon?

Just saying... ;)

(Okay, can't help it. Some more photos, these guys are too cute.)

Creature of the Week #5: The Olm

What, you didn't catch the last fourteen creatures of the week? They were stealthy, ninja-like creatures, beneath the reckoning of the lugubrious internet.

...Okay, I was finishing Lance of Earth and Sky, in addition to work and blah blah blah blah, so there was a bit of a creature pileup. But it's back, and better than ever! Thank you to those (surprisingly many of you) who emailed or messaged asking when the next one would be. <3

This week's creature was chosen by the World of Andovar! You wanted it, you got it! The race was a close one, but "Something from Down Below the Earth" edged out "Something from the Sky" by two votes. So, this week, meet the mighty Olm!

As you can see, a photograph of the olm (Proteus anguinus), a blind cave-dwelling amphibian from southeastern Europe, could easily be mistaken for a sighting of Falcor, the dragon from the Never-Ending Story (the film anyway; if you haven't read the book, you really should, it's wonderful!). In Slovenia, when flash flooding from rains would fill the caves and wash helpless olms (also appropriately called "white salamanders") to the surface, people thought that they were baby dragons.

Olms are troglobites: they live exclusively underground and have adapted to completely dark environments, in the olm's case to the point of getting rid of eyes entirely. Most troglobites are spiders, fish, and insects; in addition to being unusual as an amphibian troglobite, the olm is an unusual amphibian in that it is exclusively aquatic. With its pink external gills and stubby almost useless legs (it has only ten toes on its entire body; six in front, four in back), it spends its entire life in underground pools (making it also a stygobite, a sub-class of troglobite that is aquatic).

The study of cave biology in western culture is relatively recent, but still fast-growing, and, like creatures that live in the deep sea, valuable in that it broadens our standards for the environmental conditions that can sustain life. The phenomenal pressure and coldness of the deep sea was for centuries thought to be empty and sterile, but chemosynthetic life and ecosystems thrive around hot vents in the earth's crust. Similarly, one of the most recent expansions to our 'standard' for habitable environments comes from chemosynthetic cave life. In Romania, not far from the olm's habitat, there is a cave called Peştera Movile ("Movile Cave"), discovered in 1986, containing life that has been separated from the rest of the earth for the last 5.5million years -- an underground Galapagos! And because there was CO2 and hydrogen sulfide, but almost no oxygen, the life there -- all 48 species of it -- is chemosynthetic.

The discovery of chemosynthetic life, and species that exist and thrive in environments we mammals can't imagine, has fueled speculation that there may well be life within our solar system, beneath the ice of Europa or, most recently making the news, in recently-discovered flowing liquid saltwater on Mars.

One of my favorite fictional explorations of this expanding-boundary expression of biology is Michael Swanwick's "Slow Life", which, because it was nominated for (and later won) the Hugo in 2002, you can read on Analog's website (or in his superb collection The Dog Said Bow-Wow. Looking at the olm, ghostly subterranean dragon, it isn't hard to imagine that life can be stranger than our wildest alien expectations.

Meet Thalnarra! One hour left!

catbus slippers
This is a very quick post to call your attention to Thalnarra, who waits for you in the magical land of ebay! Thalnarra is one of Melody Pena's Windstone griffins, hand-painted to look like your favorite gryphon fire priestess. In many ways Thalnarra is the centerpoint of Andovar as a world; I hear frequently from readers that she was their favorite, so it's amazing to see her "in the feathers" here.

Melody did such an incredible job. If you've ever seen a Windstone in person you know that photos don't do them justice, even when the photos are amazing (there are more in that album, and on ebay). I want to gush about this for thousands of words, but I also want you to actually read this and then click right over to the ebay auction and try your luck.

Honestly. If you had told me five years ago that Melody would be painting one of her amazing griffins to look like a character I'd invented, I would ask you to share whatever you were smoking.

Stay tuned next week for a post about the making of Thalnarra, and to congratulate her new owner. :)


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“If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.” -- Abigail Smith Adams, in a letter to John Adams, 1778

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