Thursday, October 24, 2013

Professor Taelstrum's first story

I've been working on developing a Steampunk-themed storyteller named Professor Taelstrum, which I'm hoping to take out into the Geek-Con and Steampunk-Con circuit. I've been picking up bits of his costume and writing his backstory, but I tried to retell Love and Madness in this persona and I recorded it.

It's pretty rough, but I think I like where this is headed. Enjoy!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Quality storytelling does actually matter

I'm blogging this here so that I can find it later easily, but I love what this guy does with the Star Wars prequels. Focusing on Anakin over all three movies was a huge mistake and made the stories suck in a colossal way.

Also, teenage Anakin was a dick from beginning to end, so when he made the transition to the Dark Side, there's no feeling of tragedy or loss. The animated series The Clone Wars dealt with this transition much better than the movies ever did.

Take a look at how BelatedMedia rewrites the first two prequels and you'll see brilliant storytelling at work.

What if Star Wars: Episode 1 were good?

What if Star Wars: Episode 2 were good?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Story: Fionn MacCool and the Old Man

I've been holding back on this story because I wanted to use it in a Bardic competition in the US. Since the Bardic competition was this past week (no wins for me, but congrats to Julie D. for winning the Bardic Chair!), I can now post it for public consumption.

I've never told a Fionn MacCool story before, but the more I read about these Irish stories, the more I love them. Mike Burns was the first storyteller I heard tell this story, but Robin Williamson is also attributed with this story.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Epic Statistics

Every once in awhile, I take a look at the site statistics for Shortening the Road. After doing some simple math, I discovered that in the past year this site gets about 250 hits and about 340 page views every month! That can't all be from my Mom!

According to Blogger, my wee blog is clocking in at over 23 000 pageviews since 2008 and my visitors come from all over the world (these are all-time pageviews):

United States
United Kingdom

Oddly, there are more than twice as many visitors from Belgium than my own home country of Canada. Could it be that I'm Big in Belgium and I don't even know it?

Wherever you come from, thanks for stopping by! I would really love to hear from you, so please leave me a comment. If you're on Facebook, please Like my fanpage. And if you'd like to have a copy of my stories for your own listening please, please download my CD!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Rhythm in Skin

So tonight at Madpoetix, I decided to leave my comfort zone and perform my first Spoken Word poem. I was inspired to write this poem after attending Northern Lights Gathering back in February 2013.

I witnessed a concert with a band called Pagan's Folly and an assortment of drummers who jumped up on stage to jam with them. I put the basics of this story together in the moment, but before I could jump up and perform it, the moment passed. Instead, when I got home, I wrote out what I could remember and spent the next few weeks refining it.

The quality of the recording isn't great, but you can still hear everything clearly. I really need to commit this poem to memory and perform it more often. The music playing is called Serpentine Seduction from the CD Tribal Magick by the Dragon Ritual Drummers.

UPDATE: I have titled the poem "The Rhythm in Skin".

 The Rhythm in Skin (2:13) written and told by JD Hickey

Once upon a time, when the world was new
and the skies were so blue
that the oceans were green with envy
In a village beyond the mountains
across the rivers 
deep in the valleys
there lived a people that are long gone today

No one knows where they came from
or where they went
But in the night, the people whisper the stories
Around the campfires, the people tell the tales
About how these magical people lived
But did not die
About how they thrived
But did not survive
Except in the rhythm of words and music and dance

One night, with the moon as their guide
with the fire in their eyes
these people were the first
to stir the lifeblood of the earth
to burst with the rhythms of the mountains
with their hands, their hips, their lips
they sang the songs of the ancients

And they danced to the heartbeat of a thousand drums
They pounded their feet and the mountains shook
They raised their hands to the skies 
and the stars were filled with the lights from their eyes

They shouted out to the heavens above
They sung together to the memories below
And all at once, they came to know
the songs sung by the trees, the grass, and the stones

They ceased to be the people who lived above,
disconnected from their bones
and the many became the few
and the few became the all
they answered the call,
and sank into her depths of her memory

But these people are not lost to history
Because whenever you place drums upon the earth
You can hear the calls of the first people
You can feel the beat of their feet
Their lifeblood becomes a part // of your own beating heart
They demand that you honor their memory

That you fill your eyes with firelight
That you shout out to the heavens above
That you sing together to their memory below

And you dance
upon the drum of the Earth

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Guest Story: Second Chances

This true story was told by Jennifer Ansell-Clark (email) at a storytelling event called Confabulation. The theme was Second Chances.

I'll let Jen do the rest of the talking.

WARNING: There is some strong language in this tale

Second Chances (7:35) written and told by Jennifer Ansell-Clark

Monday, February 25, 2013

True Tale: La Maudite

Last Sunday, I was telling tales at Hurley's Irish Pub in Montreal. Mike Burns usually tells tales on the last Sunday of each month, but he was away in February and he asked me to fill in for him, and I was more than happy to do so.

I was able to record the entire show and, with some minor editing, I ended up with some fine recordings. Today's story post is an original piece which takes the form of a personal story. I've been telling this story for years in my social circles, but now I present it to you.

This is a pre-amble (or pre-ramble) to the telling of my version of La Chasse Gallerie, which I posted a version back in December of 2012. For those of you who do not know French, "Maudite" means damned and "La Chasse Galerie" means "The Bewitched Canoe" or "The Flying Canoe".

WARNING: I do use a curse word in this story, but it only happens once and is used for effect.

Maudite (2:11) written and told by JD Hickey

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Volcano

About a month ago, I was invited to take part in Matt Goldberg's Confabulation, which is a storytelling event where the stories must be true. This month's Confabulation theme was Science.

As  soon as I saw the graphic for the Confabulation event, I had the story. I had never told it before, but I knew it was time for it to be told.

True stories are not usually my thing, but I'm lucky that my artistic community has events that challenge me to find, craft, and perform the true tales from my own life. This is my third appearance at Confabulation, but it's the first time it's been recorded.

Before I present the story, I want to give a shout-out to my cousin Andrew O. and David K. who witnessed this story and reminded me of some of the details from that day.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Chapter 3: The Secret

Previously: Chapter 1: The Watching Woods, Chapter 2: The Cleansing River

Khaman was enjoying the silence of the morning walk back to the village when heard it before he saw it. Technically, he didn't see it so much as he experienced it. The sound was overwhelming and it blurred his vision. His face went instantly numb, but  his body went into a defensive stance, even as he tried to regain his footing in the soft snow. With a gloved hand, he cleared his eyes of the wet snow, but more snowballs were headed his way and he braced himself.

Using his staff, he batted away the remaining white projectiles, although a couple still grazed his hair. Such deadly precision, he thought as he scanned the trees, trying to see his attacker. His staff obliterated one snowball, but a spray of wet snow hit him in the face, obscuring his vision again. His hands went up instinctively, trying to clear his eyes when he heard an ungodly howl.

Elder Khaman knew all the calls of the creatures of the wildwood, but he had never heard such a mournful wail. It was deep, yet shrill, and it was close, too close. He was reaching for his knife when the creature barreled into him, knocking him to the ground and his staff flew from his hand. The creature roared as its claws pummeled his chest. He put up a gloved hand to push the beast away, but the glove flew off and Khaman's bare hand connected with the bare face of the beast and he felt warm skin.

He rolled away, got his bearings, and finally saw Emilie as she crouched before him, teeth bared and tears streaming down her face. Her face was already turning red from the slap he had given her, blood flowing from her nose, but she didn't seem to notice. "What are you doing? Stop!" roared Khaman, reaching for his staff.

"TRAITOR!" she howled and launched herself at him. Khaman abandoned his staff and caught her outstretched hands, twisted around, and wrapped her in his arms. Emilie tried to bite him, but his winter hides were too tough, so she wrestled and fought his grip in vain.

"Calm yourself, calm yourself," whispered Khaman. "You do not understand, but I will explain." Emilie went limp in his arms, but now they both wept. The shaman relaxed his grip, but still held her close, cradling her as he did for his own children years ago.

"How can you expect me to understand," Emilie said, looking away from him, focusing on the staff that still lay in the snow. "I saw you feeding that Jotun, speaking to it as if it were a friend and not the monster that has killed so many of our tribe." Khaman could feel her tense up at the memory of it, but he only held her closer.

"I knew this day would come, when I would be discovered. It has been a difficult secret to maintain, but of all the people to learn of it, I am relieved it is you Emilie." With one hand, he gathered up some snow, packed it into a lemon-shaped ball, and dabbed her face, cleaning off the blood. "After watching you grow into the woman that you are today, I am confident that you of all people will understand."

With the stream gurgling in the background and a light snow falling all around them, he told her. He told her about how, months ago, he was traveling back to the village after one of his meditative retreats when a sudden storm flashed overheard. His ears were still ringing from the thunderclap when lightning struck the tree not 10 feet from where he stood, and then he blacked out.

When he regained consciousness, he could feel the weight of the tree on his chest. He struggled to get out from under it when he noticed a second tree falling very slowly towards him. All he could see were the tree branches and the sky behind them, but there was something odd about how the tree moved. When it settled on the ground, the leaved covered him, but the branches seemed to avoid his head, as if the tree was being ... careful how how it lay on the ground. That's when he noticed the foot.

It was a Frost Giant's foot, connected to a very large, very alive Jotun. He saw it turn on its heel to walk away from him, only to return in a few minutes with an expanse of brush, brambles, and bushes which were placed on top of trees. Khaman tried to cry out for help, but suddenly the sky was hidden from view and all he could see were two giant blue eyes. The Jotun stared at him intently, then softly shook his head before disappearing from view.

Khaman managed to place couple of thick branches under the tree that was upon him, easing the pressure on his chest, but held his breath when he felt the tremors. He could hear the boughs around him cracking and a guttural growling filled the air. Suddenly three Frost Giants walked into view. Because Khaman was so well hidden, the Jotun took no notice of him. They gestured and shoved each other when a fourth Jotun appeared. The four of them seemed to discussing something when one of the Jotun uprooted a tree and struck another Jotun across the head. There was a brief struggle, the Jotuns stood suddenly and barked, which Khaman realized was laughter, and strode off into the woods. The tremors from their strides soon faded away.

Khaman could not see what had happened to the Jotun who was struck, but after what seemed like hours, the bleeding Jotun reappeared and removed the brush, brambles, and trees, and then collapsed upon the ground. Now freed, his first thought was to run, but as he watched the blue blood pour down the Jotun's face, he could not will himself to move and his instincts kicked in.

Keeping an eye on the unconscious giant, he removed his pack and took out a blanket. He cautiously approached, but froze when the giant's eyes opened and watched him. He summoned up his courage and moved forward until he could place his hands on the giant's face. Soon, his blanket was soaked in Jotun's blood, but  the shaman used his healing herbs and called upon the Gods for blessing. He noticed that the Jotun's eyes were closed now, and although his breathing was labored, it was steady and he smiled when he realized the Jotun was asleep.

The smell of roasted meat shook the Jotun from his sleep. There was no sign of the human, but the  smell of fire and food was intoxicating. The Jotun struggled to his feet and followed the smell until he found the shaman seated by a fire near the river roasting a stag on the open flame. When Khaman saw the Jotun approach, he faced the giant, bowed, and backed up slowly. The Jotun fell upon the deer hungrily, consuming it in almost two bites, and spit out the bones. When his gaze fell upon Khaman, the old shaman bowed to the giant, who then returned his bow and then walked off into the woods.

"Since then, we've met once or twice a month  and formed an odd, but I believe, sincere friendship," Khaman chuckled, amazed that he even uttered these words.

"So it saved your life. The Jotun saved your life," Emilie muttered, bewildered. "How can that be? It is not possible."

"That's why I thought and I was there," he smiled. "Not only did he hide me, he fought to protect me from the other Jotuns. I have spent the past months trying to understand why, trying to understand him, trying to really understand them."

"Do you speak the language of the Frost Giants?" asked Emilie.

"Not very well," chuckled Khaman. "But by using symbols and gestures, we've both found a way to speak to each other. Even though it is challenging, we've both learn much from each other. There is much we misunderstand about each other."

Emilie crawled out of his embrace, stood up, and stretched. The snow was still falling, but the late afternoon sun pierced the clouds with sharp rays. "So now what do we do?" she asked, looking towards the village. "The people need to know what you know about the Jotuns. They need to know the truth."

"I don't know," frowned Khaman, retrieving his gloves and staff. "So much of our history, our mythology has centered around this idea that the Jotuns are crazed, evil creatures. This is not an idea that will be easily forgotten and if we approach it the wrong way, the people may turn on us. The violent history with the Jotuns runs deep."

Emilie knelt by the stream and plunged her hands in the icy water. She could feel the heartbeat of the land coursing through her skin, but this time it made her feel tiny and alone. Everything she thought she knew was thrown into question and a tiny seed of despair formed in the pit of her stomach. She pushed it aside and faced the shaman. "I know what it's like to be misunderstood and feared. We cannot ignore the truth because it's difficult to face. It's what you have always taught us."

"Truth, but there's another problem," said the shaman, planting his staff in the snow. "And now it has become your problem as well, Wolf Girl." Khaman placed both his hands on Emilie's shoulders and held her gaze. "You and I need to find a way to end this Jotun's life, and in turn, save our people."

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This work by John David Hickey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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Copyright© 2010 John David Hickey