Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Notebook: Honorable Men

This is another installment in my Maric di Ascalon series, but is actually a revision of an earlier story I wrote last year, adapted for Maric and Sphaeren. The earlier draft was called "We are Knights". I'd like to see if people think this adaptation works.

"Blood in the Snow" by SadinaSaphrite on deviantART.

Honorable Men

by Blake Tan

The quiet fell among them like an ashen snow. Beneath the breathing, the clink of mail, and the crunching of the white-dusted grass, there was no other sound. Through the silence, Maric di Ascalon spoke, his voice joyless and grim.

“They are not here.”

Around him, the green-cloaked soldiers turned over the bodies of the dead. Most of their faces were ruined and rimed with frost, their bodies leaving pink spots in the gray-flecked snow. The corpses bore the badge of a chained bear on their coats, though whatever armor and weapons they bore had been looted.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Impressions: Skyfall

Slick, sexy and stunning. All three words describe the most recent installment in the James Bond franchise. Daniel Craig reprises his role as Agent 007 in “Skyfall,” facing down death, destruction and the newest (and arguably best) villain since Goldfinger in Javier Bardem’s cyber-savvy terrorist, Silva.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sigils of the Royal Houses of the Northern Realms

As a fantasy writer, I have that unique problem of getting a bit lost in my own worlds. Sometimes I forget that I'm supposed to be writing a narrative and get lost in the colorful histories that happen in the background. This post is a perfect example. The Maric di Ascalon stories take place in a medieval world, one ruled by kings and other high lords. The sigils of these powerful families have always been a subject that interested me.

A few hours ago, I found a program that let me fiddle with and create my own coats-of-arms for these dynasties. Below, for the curious, are the emblems of the royal houses of the Northern Realms, as well as brief explanations as to their symbolism.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Notebook: The Enchantress

I present yet another part of the Maric di Ascalon cycle. Chronologically, this takes place a few years after "The Swordmaster" and in collection will probably sit afterwards too. I'd also like to take a moment to point out that these are in no way final versions and a lot is subject to change. I'm just of the school of thought that perfection isn't everything; I want you, my dear reader, to enjoy the journey of writing these stories as much as I am.
Morgan Le Fay and the Lady of the Lake were both inspirations for this character.

The Enchantress

By Blake Tan

Cold winds encircled the restless band waiting by the edge of the vast lake, shivering despite the layers of wool and fur they wore. They were a ragged bunch, some still bearing the tattered badges of lords they had served or free companies they had fought for, but their eagerness was palpable, despite the supernatural chill that saturated the night air.

“Better be worth it, Quenton,” grumbled one of the mercenaries, shoving their prisoner onto his knees by the banks of the lake. “The bastard killed seven of ours before we could take him alive. Might’ve got more of us too, if not for Elgearne’s shot.”

The band’s leader, Quenton vyr Theiss, a broad-shouldered bear of an Ostian, gave the captive a solid smack on the back of the head. “He’ll be worth it; the king wants this whoreson alive. I reckon he’s in for a worse fate than a hanging or a beheading.”

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Notebook: The Swordmaster

Behold: the first glimmerings of my fantasy magnum opus! I've been working on my own heroic cycle for a long time now -- a lot of that time was spent developing a world that both echoed the familiar themes of the genre while pushing for its own unique identity -- and the culmination of that work is what I am tentatively calling the Maric di Ascalon short stories, set in the universe of Sphaeren.

I'm drawing from many, many sources of inspiration: George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, Andrzej Sapkowski's The Witcher, the Warhammer Fantasy universe, Robert E. Howard's Conan, and various historical and mythical pieces. Hopefully, by combining elements from these great exemplars of fantasy, and both treading familiar ground and cutting new paths, I can tell a story that is both enjoyable and provoking. Tell me what you think!

Also, here's a link to the audio file, with me reading!
In Tolkien's The Children of Hurin, Turin wields the black sword, Gurthang. (Picture by Ted Nasmith)

The Swordmaster

By Blake Tan

The songs of the old oracles name the easterly wind Aes, the eldest daughter of Wodan Sky-Father. They say she flies upon a raven-winged horse, cursed to ride against the fury of the sun god, Aurahel Aelar, whom the elves call Ancestor, for her part in the treachery of Malaketh, who sought to usurp Wodan’s throne. When Aes must ride, the bright fire of Aurahel’s undimmed glory scorches her silver hair and gray ashes rain down upon the world. The oracles tell that it is these ashes that bring ruin and misery to mortal men. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Notebook: Revolutionary Day

Revolutionary Day
By Blake Tan

Carlos Villabuena was born on the west end of Pasaquinas, near the municipal center of Pasaquinas City, in 1952. His mother was the fourth child of a family of seventeen, the oldest daughter, and had met his father, Luis Sanchez Villabuena, when she attended the Santa Clara College for Women in 1946. He was the dashing son of an aristocratic family from the east end of the island, who, along with his like-minded, youthful compatriots with money to spend, liked to roam Metro Pasaquinas for university girls. Rita CorĂ³n had seen him, the handsome principalia lieutenant, smiling at her from across the bar. She smiled back, and the rest, as the Pasaquinos say, is la cuenta que todos saben.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Notebook: Confessional Booth

Confessional Booth
By Blake Tan

“Speak, mi hijo, confess your sins
so the Savior can forgive you,”
says the padre behind the screen.
Amado squirms in the rickety room,
the confessional booth creaking.
His mama had yanked him off the fence
where he liked to sit and admire the schoolgirls
as they marched to the Santa Maria preparatoria atop the hill,
their blue plaid skirts hiked up to their knees,
where the dirt road muddied their brown-flecked black socks.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Why I Preordered XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Strategy games have always held my rather short attention spans longer than most other games. There's a draw that strategy games, whether it's grand strategy (Crusader Kings II), RTS (Starcraft, Company of Heroes), or turn-based (Civilization), that keeps me around longer than a hectic, story-lite FPS or even RPGs nowadays. When I first saw a preview of XCOM: Enemy Unknown in a GameInformer issue many months ago, my interest was already piqued. Now that I've read previews from IGN, Rock, Paper, Shotgun, and PC Gamer, watched the trailers about a hundred times, I thought: "To hell with it! I'll drop the fifty bucks and preorder the damn game already!"

The free copy of Civilization V that went along with the preorder on Steam definitely helped that decision.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Notebook: Garamba National Park

Garamba National Park
By Blake Tan

Twenty-two dead elephants,
including several very young ones,
clumped together
on the open savanna,
many killed by a single
bullet to the top of the head.

A field of massive bones –
ribcages, skulls, meter-long femurs –
a testament to the slaughter.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Notebook: My Red Lady

My Red Lady
By Blake Tan

It’s amazing how much things can change.
Nights I used to wake up in torment, you hanging over me,
a spirit conjured up by my sleep,
white, cold fingers wrapped around my heart,
crushing and squeezing until it fought no more.
I couldn’t let myself heal over. No one else to fit
the wound in my breast, to staunch the bleeding.
All I’d see was your face superimposed over theirs,
golden, brown, or black hair – it didn’t matter –
you were always there. Half a hundred girls
all wearing your face.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Ukulele Songs for Nerds

You may not know this about me, but I am something of a ukulele enthusiast. I've always been interested in the instrument. It's like a guitar, but little and cuter! So, last year I was perusing the local stores in Athens when I came upon a little place called the The Tone Zone where I found a series of ukuleles hanging on the wall in the brightest and coolest colors you could conceive. I immediately purchased one (I named her Lady Violet) and have since slowly plucked my way to learning how to play.

I would like to emphasize that I've had no formal training whatsoever, other than what videos and "how-to's" I could find on the Internet. So, if I sound really bad, please give me the benefit of the doubt.

I practice and play whenever I can and have learned a few songs. However, I'm proudest of discovering the chords of songs from Skyrim and Game of Thrones, which I posted to Facebook and now would like to include here, below. Please tell me what you think!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Impressions: Moon Breakers

When you watch Star Wars, do you clap your hands like a giddy toddler when Red Squadron forms up for their assault on the Death Star? Do you want to be Tom Cruise in Top Gun, shooting down enemy fliers like the ace pilot you always knew you were? Yes? Then, Moon Breakers may be just the game for you -- it's space dogfighting at its funnest, and it's really not that difficult to learn.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Notebook: Summertime

You may recognize this poem, or at least parts of it, because it's been posted here before. But this is the most recent draft. All poetry is in a constant state of revision; there is never a final state. That's what I actually love most about the medium. If you want to compare it with the earlier draft, here is the link.

By Blake Tan

I loved this girl in the summertime
and I remember hearing Simon & Garfunkel,
crooning “Bookends” over my car radio,
while I held her hand as she cried.
I tried to comfort her, but like that memorable May day
(when she wouldn’t tell me
how much she hated my friends)
she kept the trouble to herself –
always mysterious, always unknowable.
The odd, warm raindrops blotting my shoulder
the only proof that there was Trouble.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Fest Season Proves Important for Court Street Businesses

Kyle Newport
Eric Sagonowsky

Court Street in the afternoon is nowhere near as busy compared to a fest weekend.
A spring day in Athens, Ohio: the flowers are blooming, the sun is shining, and students are breaking out the kegs for the fest season. From High Street to Mill Street, these block parties dominate the Ohio University social scene, to the displeasure of city and university officials. However, these fests also mean booming business for local restaurants and bars along Court Street and uptown.

Brenen’s employee Kayleigh Brickman said fest weekend involve a lot of preparation.

“You start with double veggies and getting everything extra, extra ready,” she said, “and two water coolers.”

Notebook: Lightning Bugs

It's finals week down here in Athens, and I'm already halfway done. When I got back from my Ancient Rome exam tonight though, there was still something sitting with me, some words floating around in the soup, a few lines I had tucked away for remembering. So, I sat down with my notebook and about three hours later, here's what I got. I'd love to hear some responses!

Lightning Bugs
By Blake Tan

The night heavy with moisture,
the air thick with fireflies,
they flicker and flit, alighting
upon the razor tips of fresh-cut grass
like dim candles ensconced in foggy glass.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Police Cruisers of Athens, Ohio

Kyle Newport
Eric Sagonowsky
The Athens Police Department and Ohio University Police Department have a long history of cooperation.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

5 Films From 2011 You May Have Missed

1. Drive

If you missed this fantastic arthouse film starring Ryan Gosling, then you should stop reading this post, find it, and watch it right NOW!

Done? Well, now you understand why Drive is the number one movie on this list. Gosling plays a heart-melting, mysterious nameless Driver who gets caught up in the criminal dealings in L.A. He does it so well that he doesn't even need to speak; Gosling does about 80% of the acting in Drive with his eyes. The hypnotic soundtrack is also amazing, and I find myself listening to it over and over again. And, folks, don't get misled. Drive is an action film; it may start slow, but when the action hits, it's a non-stop intense ride until the end, all without being gimmicky or corny. It would be a crime to miss this movie.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Notebook: The Battle of Brennoc

While not truly a story, this is something I've been working on. It's something that would probably fit in the appendices of a book. Honestly, I end up writing a lot of this kind of stuff. At this point, my appendices are longer than the actual novel. This particular piece details an important event in the recent history of a novel I've been working on. While this battle is not actually ever visited in the novel, it is mentioned and is crucial in the shaping of many of my characters. So, if you're into this kind of stuff as much as I am, enjoy!

The Battle of Brennoc 
Juvony 1236

After wintering in Pellanmere, Emperor Lucius Arcturus set out with his armies, resuming his Northern conquest. He crossed into the kingdom of Salianburg, into the Duchy of Merovech, with three armies. Lucius led the main force, numbering 50,000 men, while Titus Tullius commanded the vanguard of 30,000 and Gaius Vitellus had the rearguard of 20,000.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Notebook: Don't Ever Settle

Don't Ever Settle
By Blake Tan

The lime green dress had an annoying tag determined to bother her all evening. Fidgeting in the wicker chair, Jessica tried to adjust it surreptitiously, but her other bother of the night just happened to return with the champagne.

“Beautiful reception, isn’t it?” Maxwell said, all smiles with his bleached teeth. “Therese looks gorgeous.”

Jessica glanced at the center table and she had to agree, Therese looked the picture of bridal bliss. The price of her shoes alone must have been obscene, not to mention her one-of-a-kind gown, the imported French champagne and caviar, and the ceremony at St. Luke’s Chapel by the beachfront. A girl could get the wedding of her dreams if she was marrying the CFO of one of Wall Street’s rising stars, even in this economy. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

My Two Cents on Season Two of 'Game of Thrones'

If you don't already know, Game of Thrones, HBO's stunningly dark and gritty fantasy, adapted from George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, is returning for its second season tonight at 9 PM. And my, what a great season it promises to be.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Notebook: Drifting

Here's another poem from the portfolio. I decided to try embedding a video/audio file of me reading this poem. It should be up relatively soon. Enjoy!


Thinking about her is like a belly flop.
As the memory of the Godiva curls atop her head
floats past the pool of my vision,
I can feel myself jumping,
launching my body from the spring-board,
a human rocket
shot from Bobby’s backyard mortar,
kicking off my sandals as if they were my smoke-trail.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Notebook: His Room

The third poem from my final portfolio from winter quarter. This one is about the passage of time and a boy's room. It's a bit longer of a poem. Tell me what you think!

His Room

I. The Before

The room is empty space
all four corners vacant
of sofas, tables, lights,
Michelangelo must have felt the same
when he gazed up at the vaulted ceilings
The weight of all the apostolic succession
glowering down at him – waiting.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Notebook: Sailing with No Wind

Another poem from my final portfolio. This was one of my favorite ones to work on because it's based on a true experience from the summer of 2010, the summer before college. It was a great time and I hope this poem really captures that story. Enjoy, and tell me what you think!

Sailing with No Wind

We glide across the lake,
the water green from bubbling algae
and wandering strands of duckweed
as if mustached alligators were swimming about.
We race our friends’ canoes,
taking turns standing at the bow,
pretending to be Kate Winslet
though no one wanted to be Leo.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Notebook: Tongues

Winter quarter is pretty much over and I wanted to share some of the poems that I included in my final portfolio. This poem is called "Tongues" and if it's a little bewildering, don't worry! I think it's supposed to be. I'd love to hear what you think!


A coiled, yellow snake sleeps inside my mouth,
in the hollow back of my throat.

Sometimes it remembers,
somehow, the tropical, muggy mess
somewhere in the Pacific,
where the other serpents first articulated
their hisses.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Notebook: Summer

Hey, reader. It's been a while, I know. I've spent a lot of time elsewhere on the Internet, keeping busy with the life, but I thought I'd swing by my poor, dilapidated blog and leave a gift for those faithful followers who actually decide to check out Half-Blaked every now and then.

The following is a poem I wrote for the poetry workshop class I'm taking this quarter. I have to admit, this has been the best class I've taken at Ohio University yet. I've learned so much about writing, poetry, and myself and have grown as a writer so much already. And it's only midterm week!

Anyways, note that this poem, like all my poems, is a draft. It may be edited, changed, deleted (hopefully not this) at any whim. Poetry is living art and the best writing comes with revision. Please, enjoy it while it's here and tell me what you think! I mean, I'm baring my soul here!


I love a summer girl whose feathered tresses,
like a gilded crown atop her head –
straw spun into gold –
strangle my finger.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

I Want to Be a 'Mad Man'...

Not really, but I have been watching the show for the past week and I just cannot stop. There is a certain glamour and allure to the high life Mad Men presents as typical of the '60s, mired as it is in the blood and sweat of sexism, racism, and other numerous -isms. The characters are terrible, terrible people, but they are so transfixing to watch.