Favorite Mothers in Books and Anime

I’m a bit late to the Mother’s Day party with this post, but as can be seen on site and its (lack of) activity, late is the order of the day, so here we go!

It’s long been a goal to use this site to talk about the kinds of things I like in media, particularly books and anime, my two favorite storytelling mediums (Video games are third, with live action TV and feature films a distant fourth and fifth), and what better way to kick that off than with a (belated) Mother’s Day piece? Because if it’s one thing anyone reading this has in common with each other and with me, it’s that we all have mothers in our lives. I use the term in the plural not to make a political statement, but rather a sociological one. Whether or not any one of us has a relationship–good or bad–with our biological mothers, we all have motherly figures in our lives who have helped to shape and mold us into the people we are. For better or worse, because not all parents or role models are created equal, and even the best have their failings because we are all flawed creatures.

That said, let’s keep the focus on the positive. Following are some of my favorite depictions of mothers and motherhood in fiction, with an emphasis on anime for the post since that’s what’s coming to me the most at the moment:

  1. Soh-Yon (Beast Player Erin)
  2. Trisha Elric (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood)
  3. Clara Magnolia (Violet Evergarden) with a bonus(!)

Soh-Yon (Beast Player Erin)

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Beast Player Erin follows the tales of a little green-haired, green-eyed girl named Erin as she grows up in a fantasy kingdom and attempts to follow in the footsteps of her mother Soh-Yon, who is a veterinarian for huge lizard creatures called Tohda. The Tohda basically serve as the backbone of the kingdom’s military, their equivalent of horses and war elephants rolled up into one scaly package. Life is good for Erin, who is the granddaughter of the village elder, but all is not as it seems in her idyllic community. Despite being related to the village elder, her mother is an outsider, from a nomadic clan that is not seen in a positive light by the people of the kingdom. She slowly comes to realize this, but through many of her formative years she has her mother, Soh-Yon, to watch her back, to tend to her needs, and to give her someone to look up to. I can’t write more about her without major spoilers, but just know this is one of my favorite anime of all time. It used to be available on Crunchyroll, but I think it’s been pulled down as of this writing, and no one has published it physically or digitally in the United States. A shame, since it’s deserving of a lot of acclaim in my opinion.

P.S. I just realized that the book this is based on is out in English, both in audio and in hardcover. Let’s goooooooo…!

Hey, where’d the green hair go? And that looks like a wolf, not a lizard. Ah, whatever. Still excited!

Trisha Elric (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood)

Trisha Elric - Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood - Image #745384 ...

Trisha Elric is the mother of protagonist Edward Elric and his brother Alphonse. She alone raised Ed and Al after their father Hohenheim up and vanished one day when they were young. They saw him leave, and that was that so far as their father was concerned. (Or was it…? Plot thickens!) Trisha raises the brothers on her own as best she can, always a smile on her face and never a harsh word for the seemingly irresponsible father of theirs who left them in their formative years. Right on up until her death (It’s in the first episode, so it’s not a spoiler!) and in all flashbacks to come, she clearly had nothing but trust and love in Hohenheim, knowing that he was doing something important enough that he had to leave them behind for now. Up until the end she fulfilled her duty as a mother with love, grace, and humility. And occasionally a big spoon or broom for when the smacks needed to get laid down. Am I imagining that last part? Hmm…

For those who have seen the show, I’d love your input on a theory of mine. There’s a moment in the fifth opening of the show (The last “season” or “arc) where we see her approaching what we think is Ed in a dream, before she bends over and extends her arm. Then we cut to Ed who is asleep with a smile on his face. Is he dreaming of Trisha coming back for him, or someone else? I think it’s someone else, and he’s happy to see it. But, hey, that’s just a theory. An anime theory…

This moment gets me every time since my “realization.”

Clara Magnolia (Violet Evergarden)

Violet Evergarden is an anime that, at its heart, is about someone with PTSD attempting to reintegrate into society. Violet, the titular character, is a former child soldier who has just survived her land’s equivalent of World War I, and not without severe cost to body and soul. In the final battle of the war, she lost both arms attempting to protect her commanding officer. Her commanding officer’s best friend takes her under his wing after the war and hires her to work for his company, a mail delivery and letter writing service. The majority of the story follows Violet as she learns to convey the feelings and desires of those she’s contracted to write letters for and, as a result, learns to understand and convey her own feelings. It’s an emotional roller-coaster at times, and the visuals and music are gorgeous. I can’t recommend the show enough.

In one of the episodes, Violet visits Clara Magnolia, a chronically-ill woman in need of Violet’s skills to help her write a series of letters. While there, Violet meets Clara’s seven year old daughter Ann, who has a love-hate relationship with Violet. On the one hand, she’s glad to have a new friend. On the other hand, she hates that Violet is taking her mother away from her when she needs

Bonus – Unnamed Mother (Violet Evergarden)

There’s another mother in Violet who reaches out and comforts Violet in a shared moment of grief. I can’t say any more or show her without spoiling an entire episode, but it’s a testament to both the woman’s strength of character and her motherly instincts that she, in the deepest grief imaginable, would be able to show compassion for another who’s suffering. It’s beautiful, it’s tragic, and I love it. It’s the kind of emotional impact I hope to impart on readers.

This is strength right here.

And that’s it for the moment. There are a ton of other examples I could give, but this post has already gone on long enough. If you’ve made it this far, thank you! Please consider leaving a comment. I’d love to know which fictional mother is your favorite.

In the coming days, look for a link to a newsletter sign-up page. It’s high time I get one going, and it is in the works! For those who sign up, a free novella set in my Necrolopolis fantasy universe awaits! Learn how necromancer Adelvell wound up in the undead city of Necrolopolis, employed as the assistant to the city’s director herself:

“So, how did you end up in this position, Addy?” Ferryman looked up from his ale, his face lost deep inside the hood of his black robe. “Originally someone from the Necromancer’s Guild was favored for the position, but you’re not a member.”

“Addy isn’t a member of the guild?” Mad Molly floated her plump form closer, a fresh tankard in each translucent hand. She set them in front of us. “Am I hearin’ that right?”

I took a long pull to finish my first tankard, then reached for one of the new ones.

“It’s not something I go around advertising, but yes. And you’re right, Ferryman. One of my rivals was a member of the guild, along with someone from the Cult of Mortus.” I shrugged. “In the end, I had the job.”

“That sounds like a story.” Molly’s green eyes glinted with ghostly mischief. “Care to share?”

“It’s a bit of a long one,” I warned. “It starts in a distant city, with a couple of missing pieces of mail…”

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“A Salt on the Rise” is Published

“A Salt on the Rise” has now been published, as part of OnThePremises.com’s 30th Issue. It is the Guest piece, and the tag line the editors came up with for it is a “speculative story about a problem-solving bureaucrat in a particularly complex afterlife.”

I should probably introduce this world a little bit, as it is where most of the stories I’m currently writing take place in, as well as the book I’m going to have finished by the end of the year.

“A Salt on the Rise” takes place on a secondary world similar to our own, but one where magic and fantasy races abound. In this world, one of two things happens to people when they die:

1. Their souls leave their bodies, enter the River Styx, and make the journey straight to the afterlife.
2. Their souls linger, either in their bodies or in some physical object they’re attached to (Rings, swords, etc) and they become part of the undead.

The undead are cursed to wander the earth until they either resolve whatever is keeping them on this side of the veil, or they are exorcised and their suffering souls are utterly vanquished. To keep the undead from becoming a menace on the living and to protect them from the fate of non-existence, the God of Death created a city that sits at the point where the River Styx crosses over to the other side. This is Necrolopolis, a sprawling city of some four million restless souls of various types: ghouls, skeletons, ashlings, mummies, free-floating spirits, even two distinct groups of vampires. All are waiting for their chance to meet with the God of Death to determine what is keeping them here so that they can resolve it and cross over.

But, the wait time is long, and the undead are quite restless. To keep the peace, the God of Death depends on two people: his half-human daughter Grimina, and her full-human assistant Adelvell, a necromancer with a knack for getting caught up in other people’s messes. He may have poor luck (And an even poorer disposition), but this dead-end job in this dead-end town is all Adelvell’s got, and he’s got bills to pay.

This is the first published Necrolopolis story, but it is not the first published Adelvell story. If you enjoyed “A Salt on the Rise” and would like to get a glimpse of our hero prior to his tenure as Grimina’s assistant, check out “Lost in the Mail” in Third Flatiron Publishing’s anthology Astronomical Odds. Also be on the lookout for other announcements. I had several short stories making the submission rounds, and if/when any stick I will let you know the where and when.

A Whirlwind of Stories – 09/30/17

Man, yesterday was a crazy day. I had to finish my touch-up edits on two new short stories, and then go back over a couple of older tales. All four had to be sent off by the end of September 30th, and with company over both in the morning and in the afternoon, that made for a tight schedule. My fault for letting the month slip away from me (My earlier post about PUBG is pretty damning, I know), but I think it all worked out in the end.

The first tale is “Necromotion” and in it a necromancer boards a root train in order to bring an undead client out of hostile elven lands. What is a root train, you ask? Well, it could be a glorified turnip truck, or it could be something completely different. I submitted that to the Fantastic Trains anthology, so if it makes it there you will find out! Well, regardless of where it lands, it will eventually be published. Either out there, or here. This story is part of a larger group of tales, some of which have already found publication. It is part humor, part mystery, part action, and all snark from the first person protagonist.

The second is “Divine Rescue” and it is set in the Ruma: Dawn of an Empire pen-and-paper game universe. Ruma is an alternate, fantasy version of Roman times where the Greek and Roman gods walk the earth and magic reigns supreme across the land. In my tale, a group of heroes enter a blasted wasteland in order to rescue someone left behind at the fall of Mount Olympus. This is a straight-up action tale, as heroism is the name of the game in this world.

The third is “The Sky has Fallen!” and it is a Cthulhu Mythos take on the old Chicken Licken/Little story featuring Foxy Loxy as the unfortunate protagonist. I wrote it years back and have recently gone through it again now that I have a slightly better idea on story structure and pacing, so I hope it has new legs and wings. Kathy Steinemann’s The Writer’s Lexicon really helped out with this one, and the other one.

The final one I will not name, as the place I’ve submitted it to prefers to keep things anonymous so as to facilitate blind judging. I will say it is a resubmission to the same place. The first was bounced back – I think – because of formatting errors due to my switching between OpenOffice and Microsoft Office. The original file got screwed up somehow and I had to end up dumping the story into a plain text file, then copy it back over into Microsoft Office and go back through to format paragraphs and other things in order to get it all right again. I also altered the beginning a bit in order to get into the action a little quicker, so I hope it will do well. Once again, the Writer’s Lexicon helped immensely with this tale. I will be writing a review of that pretty soon.

 

The first tale is a Necrolopolis short story titled “Necromotion” and in it

The more I work at this whole self-employed thing, the more I realize you need to be a master of your schedule. Without discipline, things can fall apart quickly. At the least, they can get tossed by the wayside and then you scramble to catch up.

Story Acceptance: On the Premises Guest Position

Last month I submitted a short story to OnThePremises.com’s 30th themed contest. The particular theme had to revolve around the word or concept of “Community.” I spent some time trying to see if there was a way I could twist the word around in some unique way, but then I decided on a more traditional plot, if in an outlandish setting: a clash of communities within a city, and how the city responds to it.

That’s where we get “A Salt on the Rise.” It is a fantasy story about a necromancer who has to resolve a dispute between the mummies and the ashlings before they tear apart the city of the restless dead. The story did well, but didn’t quite make it into the final ten submissions that go on to compete for the top three slots. But, editors Tarl Kudrick and Bethany Granger enjoyed it enough to want to feature it as a guest piece, after helping me to clean it up a bit first.

I’ve taken them up on the offer, and look forward to receiving their edits. Their criticism has already been invaluable: back in the spring I wrote a story tied to this same world and characters, and it placed close to the top 20 or 30 of 200 or so entries. It was a lot closer than I’d ever gotten in an entry for On the Premises, so I paid the $15 for constructive feedback. They wrote back with a two page breakdown of what wrong with the story, and also what went right. This allowed me to go back and evaluate that particular story, but it also helped me better nail down this particular setting, the characters, and my narrative voice.

I will post about the editing process with Tarl and Bethany either later this month, or after the story is released close to October 15th.