Friday, March 1, 2013

The 24th Pegasus' Of Skies Long Forgotten

We got a little taste of how Equestria was made in the Season 2 episode "Hearth's Warming Eve", and apart from the series opener, it's really the only bit of Equestrian history we know. But what happened before the events of "Hearth's Warming Eve"? What was Commander Hurricane's life like before he met Private Pansy and the other pony tribes?

[Adventure][Dark][Tragedy] • 105,500 words
How far will you go to save your family? Your friends? Your empire? Twenty years before the events of the Hearth's Warming Eve story, long before the pegasi had even met the other two races, Commander Hurricane was a simple farmer in the great Cirran Empire. When the neighboring griffon nation declares war on Cirra and everything it stands for, the young Hurricane finds himself thrown into the middle of a conflict with the fate of his very race put into question. Will he rise to be the pegasus Cirra needs him to be, or will the mighty empire fall to the claws of the griffons?

Hit the break to hear from The 24th Pegasus, and links to Of Skies Long Forgotten out on the ponynet. Don't forget to grab an ebook copy from the Downloads page!

Where do you live?

I live south of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where it gets exceedingly cold and unpleasant in the winter but we hardly see any snowfall. So instead of waking up to a winter wonderland every once in a while, it’s pretty much as if fall just decided that it wasn’t going to go anywhere and just makes the outdoors miserable for three or four months a year.

What kind of work do you do? (i.e. are you a student, do you have a career/day job, etc)

I’m a senior at my high school, just grinding through the day as college acceptance letters start to roll in. Luckily, I’m fairly good at taking care of schoolwork and studying is something I’ve never had to do, so I have plenty of time to either write or pour my life into Skyrim while I’m home.

How did you discover My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic? When did you realize you were a fan of the show?

I really started watching the show in the summer of 2012. I mean, I had already heard about it long before hand, but I never really checked it out.

The first pony-related video I ever saw was “”, and my reactions to that ranged from “dafuq” to “this is actually pretty funny.” I kind of poked around some of the community content to get a feel for why so many people liked the show, until one night my brother and I just said, “Fuck it, we’re going to check this out.” Three episodes later, and I was hooked. I grinded out two or three episodes a day from then on until I was finally caught up with seasons 1 and 2.

Do you have a favorite episode?

Anything centered around Rainbow Dash is my favorite episode. To go into specifics, probably the “Wonderbolt Academy” comes in as my #1, although “Sonic Rainboom” is a close second. Even then, I wouldn’t feel complete if I didn’t mention the season 2 finale and the three Discord episodes we’ve gotten. As the controversy over the season 3 ending simmers down, I think it’s safe to say that I thought it was one of the better episodes of the season.

Who is your favorite character based purely on the canon of the show itself? Would your answer change if you considered the fandom in its entirety (i.e. art, fanfiction, memes, etc)?

The answer to that lies in the above response. Given that the pegasi are the best, it only makes sense that the fastest, awesomest, greatest flier this side of the Mississippi (Maresissippi?) would be my favorite. For the fandom, it only reinforces my affirmation in the superiority of our favorite rainbow-maned flier, and I especially like reading fanfics that hand her a level of badassery that we’ll never find in the show (Exhibits A & B: Austraeoh and Eljunbyro, respectively. Look them up).

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

I’m the 24th grandchild of my Italian grandmother. Those two give you the base of my Xbox Live gamertag, “Da 24th Italian”. It only made sense to swap out the name of one great ethnicity for master race.

Have you written in other capacities (other fandoms, professionally, etc)? When did you first start writing?

I could probably run out of fandoms to name before running out of fingers, much less others that I write for, I watch so little TV. Seriously, the only things I watch are My Little Pony and whatever the hell is on the military channel. My brother likes Doctor Who with a passion, but given that my response to that is “meh, cool story bro”, that’s kind of off-topic (please don’t kill me, Whovians, my calendar is fairly occupied for at least the next week). So no, I have never written for other fandoms before. As for anything else, I wrote a few short segments off and on, starting from when I was around fourteen or so, but nothing I would ever consider worthy of revealing to the public eye. Those works aren’t even complete and, mind you, are damned awful compared to Of Skies.

Actually, Of Skies isn’t the first thing pony I’ve ever written. Much of the inspiration for that story comes from a short work that I wrote awhile back just for the hell of it. The ideas for Cirra, Silver Sword, Swift Spear, and much of Hurricane’s backstory are simply polished and refined versions of what I put into that little writing exercise.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Video games out the wazoo. Especially Skyrim, which I’ve had an on-again, off-again relationship with since I got it a little over a year ago. There’s just so much to do, so much to see, that it never gets old. I mean, to start quoting popular fandom content, there are just SO MANY FUCKING WONDERS to explore!

When I’m not in my dragon-slaying virtual reality fantasy world of great adventure, I race go-karts at a local dirt track. I’ve had a handful of wins, but I’ve never won a championship. It takes a lot more skill than what I have to be able to do that.

Who is your favorite author (published or fanfiction)? Do you have a favorite story or novel?

Considering the only things I read nowadays are fanfics, I’d have to pick from the handful of authors that I follow or whose works I’ve favorited. Since I referenced his works already, Imploding Colon is one of my favorites, but my friend LoyalLiar is up there as well. He and I teamed up to meld both our separate storylines into one continuous universe, and since they’re far enough apart chronologically, everything fits real nice. He actually draws a lot of historical references from Of Skies and its sequel, and I help him lay some of the base groundwork for his material. Aside from that little project, though, his stories are amazing, and I’m awestruck with the level of complexity he crafts into his plotlines. That somebody can create a story that comes in at over 200k words long and still manage to tie up almost every loose end in very creative ways is nothing short of incredible. His story, Where Loyalties Lie: Honor Guard, is what actually gave me the final push to a growing surge of momentum to write a story of my own.

Stephen King believes that every author has an “ideal reader” – the one person who they write for, the one person whose reactions they care about. Do you have one, and if so, who is it?

I can’t really think of a specific person that I wrote this for. As for a collective group, I feel like I tend to write for those who enjoy tragedy or who just want to see some violence in our colorful world of equines where everything is supposed to be perfect. Putting in those little touches that show just how far Equestria has come since the time of the tribes is something that I very much enjoy doing, even if it means death and suffering. The motif I’ve been running on for Commander Hurricane’s story is “victory from the ashes of defeat,” which you’ll see once you get into the final chapters.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers, or writers who are struggling with their own stories?

Prewriting is everything. You may think that you have a great story that has to be put to words this instant, but then it starts to fall apart when you get several chapters in and you have no idea how to connect the various plotlines together. Making a prewrite beforehand to organize your thoughts, detailing the characters and their personalities, and listing out the major events and how you’re going to transition between each is very important.

Also, work on writing in chunks. If you try to grind out several thousand words in one sitting, you’re not doing yourself any favors. It helps to write when you have the inspiration to do so as well. I’ve tried plowing through sections of text before when I felt that I should get some work done, and I’ve usually gone back and deleted them later. Coming back with a refreshed and inspired mind, I could tell that what I had written was crap compared to other chapters. So don’t rush it, let it take its time. You’ll know when you’re ready to put your best material to words.

Finally, and I know this is probably advice that you hear a lot, but be persistent and don’t give up. Don’t let criticism take you down, use it to learn how to write better. The learning curve for writing, and especially from going from writing well to writing great, is very steep. Stick to your work and don’t let people take you down, and you can build on the experience to make your future stories better.

And please, please use grammar effectively and spell-check your work. If your story has a good plotline, I’ll follow it so long as there aren’t too many errors in your writing. A few here or there are acceptable, but if the grammar starts to hinder the progression of your paragraphs and sentences, you’re going to lose a lot of support and earn a lot of downvotes, fast. Your work is your child; take the time and effort needed to make it excellent, not just so-so.

What is your typical writing process? (Do you work through multiple drafts, do you have any prereaders/editors, etc?)

Basically, I make a mental list of the things I want to cover in the next chapter, from how it’s going to start to how it’s going to end and what needs to be covered in between. Then I sit on that for a few days (or sleep on it, as it were; I get most of my inspiration at night when I’m trying to sleep). Like I said above, I tend to work in chunks, and since I started branching out my chapters to contain different segments of action (or different points of view in my newest works) I usually write from one set of dashes to another and take a break.

After that, I send it away to my editors to give it a look over, but most of the editing I handle on my own. I don’t go easy on myself either; I usually go through three or four editing sessions and try to shake out as much crap as I possibly can before posting it on to FIMFiction.

What inspired you to write Of Skies Long Forgotten?

I covered much of this in an earlier answer, but I guess I’ll rehash it here. The inspiration for Of Skies came from an earlier untitled and unfinished work that revolved around similar concepts, mainly a modern-day Cirra that Rainbow Dash interacted with. I took a lot of that Cirra’s history and expanded on it, rewriting it to fit in the time of Hurricane. Transferring several of the characters between works, I started with a pretty good base to build upon and to run with. However, I will note that the history of Cirra in Of Skies Long Forgotten is very different from the history of the Cirra in that untitled work of mine.

As for where the inspiration of that untitled work came from, it comes from the “Hearth’s Warming Eve” episode from the show. After watching that, I started to question what exactly made the pegasi the militant tribe that they were in the show. From there, the Cirran Empire and Commander Hurricane’s backstory were born.

Plus, FIMFiction is surprisingly dry of good Commander Hurricane stories, and I felt like I saw a neat niche to take on as my first semi-professional writing experience. So, while trying to avoid sounding cocky or smug, I feel like I’ve created one of the better, more-detailed works on Hurricane’s life.

Did you run into any tough spots or challenges when writing Of Skies Long Forgotten?

My biggest challenge was learning how to write well. Since I had never exposed any of my previous works to the public eye, I had a big learning curve to climb as I wrote. It does show a little in the text, as I feel the later chapters are much better than the early ones. By the time I finished Of Skies Long Forgotten, I felt like I had a fair grasp on language control and my own, well-defined writing style.

The second challenge I ran into was trying to get the story published to Equestria Daily. The first time I sent it in, it came back with a lot of revisions that needed to be made before they would consider it again, plus a strike. Luckily, the prereader who evaluated Of Skies provided a nice list of errors to fix, so I was able to get to work on those right away. From there, I sent it in again and got it approved, pending some minor revisions that needed to be made. So, Seattle_Lite, if you’re reading this, thanks for your help in getting me off the ground.

When you set out to write Of Skies Long Forgotten, did you have any specific messages or themes in mind?

The basic theme was how history changes with the passage of time. The ponies in canon accept the Hearth’s Warming story as absolute fact, but I find it hard to believe, as much as we are dealing with a show filled with talking horses. I wanted to unearth a much darker story that would have been forgotten either with the passage of time or perhaps Celestia’s own doing, and show just how much hardship and sacrifice it took to make Equestria what it is today. All in all, Of Skies was essentially the prequel to Snow and Shadows, my current story that focuses on the events of Hearth’s Warming.

In short: don’t take what you hear on the news for fact, kids. Question it a little and try to figure out what’s really going on.

Where can readers drop you a line?

You can either PM me or comment directly on my stories. If you ask me a question, I will respond to it in one way or another. I enjoy interacting with my audience more than anything else. It gives meaning to all the numbers and statistics associated with my stories.

Also, you’re welcome to join the group “The Price of Loyalty.” It serves as the collab group page between me and LoyalLiar, and you can ask us questions about both our stories in their respective threads. We’ll get back to you with the answers to whatever you ask, although whether those answers will satisfy you is another story entirely.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I’ve said it a few times now, but after you’re done reading Of Skies Long Forgotten, make sure you check out LoyalLiar’s Where Loyalties Lie stories. Even if they’re HUGE chapters, they’re well worth the time you put into them.

Also, there’s nothing that annoys me more than an uninvolved fanbase. Please, for the love of Celestia, as well as the pantheon of Cirran gods, comment with your thoughts, and if you favorite the story, take the time to hit that little thumbs up as well. Having 132 favorites and only 76 likes is something that drives me crazy.

That’s it. I hope that you take the time to read my stories, and that you’ll enjoy them. To take a page out of Commander Shepard’s playbook:

“I should go.”

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