I hope you are ready for the awesome and the epic. I hope, when you glanced at the title and the cover to your immediate right, you gasped and hurried over to GoodReads to add this to your TBR pile as the not-so-subliminal messaging suggests. DO EET!!
Okay, I see you need a little nudge, a bit more convincing. Well, I've got all the convincing you'll need. Let's start with the first 3 chapters preview posted on TOR. Go ahead and read it and tell me you're not salivating to read more, and why can't it be September already, and damnit, why'd you have to show me that and make me WANTS THE PRECIOUSSSSS?
I tried to warn you. I did. Never doubt me again.
You want more? I've got more. Go back to TOR and see the related article that shows how the artist and author and publisher dialogued back and forth to come up with the cover art. Warning: it's a bit *ahem* graphic in the "yep, he went there" kinda way. Just sayin'. Still, it's worth the read and you get to see all the gorgeous artwork of Jason Chan.
One of the things I loved about this article is how each element was carefully weighed and featured on the cover. For example, the title, STORMDANCER is given a "steampunk" feeling. Having lived in central China for a year teaching English after college (yes, I lived in Zhengzhou City, the capital of Henan Province, and I speak basic Mandarin), I'm down with all things Asian, and I noticed right away that the "M" in the title looks like the character, "Tian" (As in, Tian An Men, literally "sky safety gate", the famous square in the capital of Beijing.) I thought this was a cool easter egg to find, since the griffin is from the sky and the title is heavily related. Well done, Jason Chan!
So, now that I've whet your whistle, here's a peek at the full cover artwork, courtesy of Jay Kristoff and Jason Chan for your viewing pleasure. If you click on it, the link goes to all the other versions and sizes of this coverart. It's truly breathtaking. Seriously. I get way too fanboyish about this cover. Thankfully, it's the first of a SERIES, so we'll have more cover art to love and fan art, and other lovelies, which brings me to the reason for my post.
This post is my official submission to WIN the VERY LAST ARC of STORMDANCER by Jay Kristoff, Mr. Badass himself. The BAWWSSMAN threw down and said if we make something awesome for him, he might Quid Pro Quo and swap out the annotated, autographed and possibly doodled copy of STORMDANCER for our troubles.
Me Haz it? Please? (artwork submitted by @LunasLibrary here.
And, since the contest runs until the end of July, 2012, I guess you'd better get yourself a beret and a set of paints or some hotness to knock my entry off its shiny pedestal. Just kidding. Don't you dare, or I'll have to kill you. Sadly, I'm not kidding. Nor am I above bloodshed when it comes to a book, and Mr. Kristoff's is one that only comes around once in a very long time, and I am not going down without a fight. I will get out my Tanto if I need to. You've been warned.
Okay, so here's the deal: It's a YA Japanese style Steampunk blah blah blah blah blah blah blah....
What's that, you say? You stopped listening after you heard "Japanese" and "Steampunk" used together in the same sentence? Your jaw literally dropped to the floor, and you may have whacked your head on the underside of your desk/table/whathaveyou on the way back up, and you thought for a moment, why didn't I think of that???
Well. I've read the first three chapters repeatedly, and it got me all pumped up and stoked and I was all: I could do a picture of the moment when the griffin (Baruu) and Yukiko (the MC) first meet. Too bad there's two oni (Japanese blue skinned demon) lurking and one just threw Yukiko into a...go read it for yourself! Then come back here and finish reading.
Okay, so I did draw a sketch of this scene and it turned out okay. I know it's totally amateurish and there are problems with the sketch, but I spent a long time on it, and I knew I could clean it up more once it was in full color, too. But, without further ado, here's the first sketch:
Now, if you want to see that in different sizes, click on the "My Flickr Account" tab at the top of this page and you can click through all the sizes and see all the details. Enjoy! While you're there, you might have noticed the full color version, my final draft using colored pencils as my medium of choice. (read: because I totally suck at photoshop) You can see the color version here:
What motivated me to draw this was when I read the three chapter excerpt posted online and while I was reading, I visualized the moment Yukiko and Baruu first meet and their eyes catch one another. It's easier to see in the full sized version. What was powerful to me was the way that Yukiko had just been thrown against a tree trunk and had cracked her skull and was ragdoll tossed on the ground beneath the oni demon. Baruu swoops in and is all, "oh, no you dih-ent!" and attacks the oni. I had to draw this moment. I hope you like it.
I was especially pleased with the oni's loincloth being a tiger hide, which adds tension in the scene and motivates Baruu to more fiercely avenge Yakiko's injury. Read the first three chapters to see how he kicks oni demon ass. Here's a hint: his eagle beak and claws come in handy, coupled with his tiger fierceness...well, you should read it and see for yourself.
But, wait, there's more! I knew I'd have to do more than toss a friggin' bag of sand on the pedestal and snatch the ARC and beat a path out of the temple before the walls come crashing down all around me. I've got more STUFF to share with you. More things that might get you to thinking you might just be able to best me with a Tanto, given I'm only a white belt in karate, or you can totally rock photoshop, or you write poems and songs like a BAWWSS, or you can promote STORMDANCER like nobody's business, etc. etc. You get the idea. Right? Well, peruse the rest of this post and see if it doesn't inspire you to crack out a set of charcoal sticks and your favorite artpad or some such nonsense. After all, it's the LAST ARC and it's all MINE!!
At least, I sure hope it is. Please, please, Mr. Kristoff! I'm not beneath begging. Plus I'll totally review it and post reviews all around the internet and blogosphere and tell all my followers to do the same and click the like button on your Amazon preorder page right here, like I already did on both versions, too.
I thought a recipe would get us all in the mood to read a few poems of mine with strong connections to STORMDANCER, and traditional music for your listening pleasure. By the way, if you listen to the music while reading the first three chapters, it's like, BOOM! There it is. The music is the famous "Butterfly Lovers," A tragic story of ill-fated lovers. Check it out:
As for the recipe, I've scrounged jasmine tea and jasmine shortbread cookies to fill you while you read. And, afterward, let's discuss ideas for awesome Steampunk themed weaponry, shall we? Yes, we shall!
So, one of the great aspects of this novel has had my mind whirring with anticipation over the idea of weapons in feudal Japan (how I picture the setting of STORMDANCER) and the descriptions I found in the first three chapters. The one that springs to mind:
I practically ran to the store to buy out their entire supply of Depends Undergarments. So, it got me thinking. Perhaps Mr. Kristoff wants to use this for an upcoming giveaway. Design your own ideas for steampunk meets Japanese weaponry. And, GO!
I had a few ideas of my own. My top favorite is like a portable, hand held helicopter blade that looks vaguely similar to this, only motorized, of course:
Also, the handle would be at a 90 degree angle to the blades to make the motorized part functional. What, you're still here? You want to read my poems? Seriously? Wow. I'm flattered. Okay, so here they are:
Phaedrus Throws Stones
“For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror.” —Rainer Maria Rilke
, I busied
myself with Tang Dynasty poems China
writing no words to you in English for six months.
Now leaves in their death-brilliance blow cold against the door.
I hear you calling from the sky—the face of God—you with your clouds
carved in granite, volcano bursts in suspension over Praetorian eyes.
I am digging my toes in the last green grass before spring, thankful
for another chance to try and find what Phaedrus searched for in all
his travels—something about pleasure in the journey, not the destination.
You take steps which seek the dust shaken from the sandals of the apostles
while I read about the drunken state Li Bai sought before writing
his elegant bambooed verse. I can see him in his boat cursing at the moon
whose cycle refuses to turn the tide or fit itself neatly into dynastic poetry.
Of course you know how fickle a woman the moon is, her orb a granite breast
reclined across the sky. If you would listen to Phaedrus, you would hear
the word of his testimony bleeding like stones draped in moonlight.
I think of Stephen, the first martyr, who cried out crimson as stones
laid down prostrate before the sky, whose gentle kiss raised him to paradise.
The Root of Supplication
I wake with the taste of jade
in my mouth. The monk has returned
to his mountain, fingertips stained with questions.
In the countryside the lotus root grows,
rows of graves alongside vast fields of rice.
Echoes rise, prayers the root has spoken for centuries.
What is your reason for existing here and now?
I try to teach myself to speak
another tongue, drunkenly stumbling from
the mouth of this towering pagoda. When will you listen
for the wind passing through this shadowed
valley, bending each grain prostrate in the thickening mud?
I cannot find another sky or peak from which I may shout questions to God.
Perhaps you know His answer already.
And, for those of you who stuck with me to the end of my very long (read: desperate for this ARC) blog post, I think you deserve something truly mindblowingly awesome, and there's already been a lot of that, so I've got to really BRING IT here at the end:
Here's artwork done by the amazingly talented GENZOMAN. You can see more here.
Okay, so what did you think of the first three chapters? Are you hooked? Did you think "meh" and ran for the hills before I take you down? Share your thoughts in the comments below. Also, if you've got an entry, or an idea or inspiration, share it in the comments as well. I'd love to hear your thoughts, and I hope you'll all be just as blown away as I was by this amazingly fresh read I can't wait to get my hands on.
If you'd like to enter a challenge, click the link here and do so by the end of July. Good Luck!