Shaoman: A Spooky Time in Randland and TarValon.Net

In the world of the Wheel of Time, there are many feasts throughout the year, some of them meant to be lighthearted and full of joy, while others are more somber and solemn.  One of these lighthearted holidays, Shaoman, is celebrated on the twelfth day of the month of Shaldine, the eleventh month of the year. Shaoman is particularly geared towards children, who are pampered and given gifts.  And, in many places, groups of children go from door to door singing and are rewarded with small gifts or sweets.

Here at TarValon.Net, we celebrate Shaoman with a Free week, a time in which members from Guests to the Amyrlin come together to celebrate, both on the forums and on Discord. Throughout the site, many of the membership groups edit their avatars and signatures around a common theme.  We also have a tendency to spam and pull pranks in order to add to the light-heartedness.  One of the reasons we do Free weeks like Shaoman is because we want to build up community, and part of building up community is to have fun together.

So, what is the earliest recorded Shaoman festival we have on record in the Main Library? Well, if we go fifteen years back, to 2006, we will see the first themes recorded.  Four of our Community Groups are written as having themes: Blue Ajah were Fades, White Ajah were Black Ajah, Dai M’Hael were Evil Sesame Street, and San D’ma Shadar were the Not So Care Bears.  As we move through the years and travel to 2017, it is there that we see what appears to be the first recorded universal theme for the Shaoman, “Attack of the WitchCloaks.”

Now, we come to this year, 2021, in which the Outreach Activities Team has changed things up. Instead of participating with one’s own Membership Group, we have had a sign-up and our participants are playing on randomly-selected teams. This is something that we are doing on a trial basis, because of community feedback. Having teams, we’re going to have a sort of House Cup competition, and there will be activities that can be completed by the group or individually, to help gain each group points and the winner will be announced at Online Anni 2021!

Be sure to pay attention, even if you haven’t signed up to be on a Team, because there’s fun to be had in watching too.  It’s going to be a spooky time at Shaoman, be prepared!

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TVTT Accepted/Soldiers Edition – What I Want from the TV Show

There have been many reaction pieces to the trailer for the Amazon Prime adaptation for the Wheel of Time. People have shared their hopes for the show while others have shared their critiques of what the trailer have showed us. These reactions have demonstrated what many of us already know: fans of The Wheel of Time have a great love for the series and a desire to see this adaptation done well. We want to see our favorite scenes played out onscreen, to see the swordfights, the comic interplay between the members of the Women’s Circle and the Village Council of Emond’s Field, and even to feel the fear in Shadar Logoth.
Why do we want to experience these events onscreen when we have built them up in our minds and imagined them? Speaking for myself there are a few reasons, the first of which is: I want validation. I want to be able to say, “Yes! That’s how I always pictured it in my head. I’m glad someone else imagined it the same way.” Another reason I want to experience the saga onscreen is because I want more people to like what I like. Some people are more drawn into sights and sounds than they are to the written word; if the sights and sounds of a show or a movie are going to draw someone in more effectively than a book, than get it produced!
As for why I want people to be drawn into the series: The Wheel of Time series has been a part of my life since 10th grade, in 1999. I would bring the paperback books to school and read them before class, after class…and during class when I could get away with it. I would let the words paint a picture in my mind and escape whatever I had been going through in my real life. I also remember the excitement that I had when one of my classmates started reading the books; someone else, that wasn’t a family member, was experiencing the world of WoT for themselves. Again, there was that shared experience.
And here, at TarValon.Net, we know that the desire to share our individual experiences with the Wheel of Time has brought us together. Sometimes, making one’s way through the series can seem like a slog; including New Spring, there are 15 books in the series, and the books are not thin. Other times, we want to voice dissatisfaction with particular characters with whom we do not empathize. Yet, we also want to share our favorite scenes or to say how our favorite character is clearly better than another.
So as we prepare for the coming of the Amazon Prime show, I hope we can all welcome new people into our love for the Wheel of Time. And I also hope that we’ll be able to say, “That scene, I wasn’t sure about it at first, but it really does the books justice.” Most of all, I would like the show to remind us why we fell in love with the series in the first place.

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Sounds From A Spinning Wheel – Review of Tellings of the Wheel, Vol. 1

When listening to Tellings of The Wheel, Vol. 1, I would characterize it as thematic, not just in regards to the theme of The Wheel of Time as a whole, but also in that the music for each song feels appropriate. All of the songs on the album draw me in and I think to myself, “Yeah, I can see this.” From the opening of “The Wheel Weaves” until the closing of “Far Dareis Mai,” there is progression and love; progression in the story line and love for the content, for the source material.

The song “The Wheel Weaves” pulses with intent; it has a direction, it’s a song that leads. But the conclusion conveys that there may be more to the story than we originally thought. Which to be fair, with the Wheel of Time, we saw that play out. It reminds me of the Prophecies that were discussed in the series: they foretold what would happen, but it didn’t necessarily play out in the way we expected. This song says to me, “Come with me, you won’t regret it.”

Then we move into some character songs, the first three of which could be described as archetypes — “The Sheepherder,” “The Trickster,” and “The Blacksmith.” “The Sheepherder” starts out with a longing, a desire for more; the character wants life to be exciting. “The Trickster” conveys intelligence and mischievousness, and a sense of unpredictability. Whereas, “The Blacksmith” is powerful and cautious at the same time. One can gather from “The Blacksmith” that the character wants to be gentle and deliberate.

The next two character songs are “Egwene” and “The Wisdom.” “Egwene” illustrates a character with purpose, who knows what she wants, and yet, is apprehensive. One can really sense a nervousness about Egwene from the song. On the other hand, “The Wisdom” demonstrates a serenity, which while comparing that to Nynaeve in the first book can be comical — to describe her as serene — it is very definite that serenity can come from knowing one’s role and how one fits into the community. Nynaeve definitely knows how she fits within Emond’s Field. So, the serenity that “The Wisdom” conveys makes sense to me.

Jumping ahead to “Trollocs,” “Shadar Logoth,” and “Machin Shin,” one can find the danger, the threat, within all of these songs. They all convey evil and tension within their chords. The threat from these beings, from this location, is palpable. To be quite sure, I never want these songs to be the overlay in my life, as beautiful as they are.

Tellings of the Wheel, Vol. 1 is a work of art. While I only mentioned a few of the songs, each and every one conveys a love for The Wheel of Time. Clocking in at 40 minutes, 13 seconds, the 23 songs, go by quickly, but one can still be immersed in the music. If you love the series, I would highly recommend you listen to this album.

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Sounds from a Spinning Wheel – Profile of Christian Szczesniak



As I was listening to Tellings of the Wheel, VOL. 1, in preparation for an installment of the Sounds from a Spinning Wheel series in which I review music inspired by the Wheel of Time book series and, in the future, written for the Amazon Prime series, I thought it would be neat if I could talk with the composer and musician who created this album. So, I did what all normal people would do, opened the Twitter app, and Tweeted at Christian Szczesniak. Thankfully, not only did he answer, but he was very gracious in my request for a conversation. And so, we messaged back and forth, and set up a time that we could talk.

On one level, I had seen that he is a prolific musician but at the same, I was oblivious to the fact that he is an accomplished, prolific musician, until I spoke with him. After all, his guitar playing can be heard on Celine Dion’s “A New Day” album, as well as Edwin’s “Another Spin Around the Sun”. He stated that after he met his wife, he stopped touring. And, in 2001, after signing a contract with SONY ATV Canada, he began to gravitate toward advertising, film, and television; his music can be heard on “The Great Food Truck Race”, “Flip or Flop”, “Alaskan Bush People”, as well as the Nickelodeon show “Mysticons” (and his music for the episode “The Coronation” was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award). Christian is also proud of his work on “Mysticons” because of the LGBTQ representation in the show. So, given all this background, what is his connection to Wheel of Time? He has composed two albums inspired by The Wheel of Time book, Tellings of the Wheel, Vols. 1&2, and Rob Christianson, known for his artwork based on the Wheel of Time was a very vocal advocate for Christian to be composing the music for the Amazon Prime Series. Obviously, this is a person who has a deep affinity with and love for The Wheel of Time.

Christian Szczesniak was born in Washington, D.C., USA, in July 1970, and as a young child, the family moved to Toronto. At the age of 13, he started playing guitar, and from the ages of 14 to 20, played under Eli Kassner (Canadian Classical guitar teacher and musician). At the age of 18, he got a job at Smith Way Books. Initially, Christian was a fan of Terry Brooks, but two years later, The Eye of the World was published, and he was an early fan of the series, and that has carried through since then.

In our conversation, we discussed the decision to give Thom a guitar instead of a harp, in the Amazon series, and Christian said he supported that decision because he thinks it works fine and is adaptable. He also stated that he would not use the music he has composed for the two volumes of Tellings of the Wheel, as he does not think this music would be adaptable. Instead, he would write and compose new music for the show. He also stated that if he had been chosen to be the composer for the series, or is tapped in future seasons, that this would be the single most significant moment of his lifetime and would not know what to do afterward.

Christian also remarked that one of his favorite things about the “The Wheel of Time” is that each character is unique and well developed. This remark came out of our discussion about which character we see ourselves as or would like to be like. Christian admires Lan a great deal, and your humble writer sees himself more as Basel Gill.

Mr. Szczesniak continues to compose music; his most recent release is named “Textures of Fear”, released in April 2021, which he describes as a soundscape. His next project is Textures of Sci-Fi. I did ask Christian what his dream was, and his response was to go to Prague, and play in the Prague Symphony Orchestra, with his dad conducting. Ultimately, Christian is concentrated on making good music.

I am thankful for Mr. Christian Szczesniak’s willingness to take time out of his day to speak with me, as well as agreeing to have a profile written on him prior to my reviews of the Volumes of Tellings of the Wheel.

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National Craft Month



In 1994, the Craft & Hobby Association designated March as National Craft Month in order to help people “rediscover and learn about the benefits of crafting.”[1] As with many other organizations, the Association rebranded in 2017, as The Association for Creative Industries. This organization bills itself as the “premier trade association for the global creative arts products industries. AFCI is committed to its vision of a healthy, vibrant and innovative community that enriches people’s lives through crafting and other creative activities.” [2]

What is a “craft” though? Some may equate it with a particular skilled trade such as being a carpenter, while others may think of it as “The Craft,” the 1996 movie featuring Neve Campbell. There are many, many different perspectives on crafting, but according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the first definition is: “skill in planning, making, or executing;” while the second entry is “an occupation or trade requiring manual dexterity or artistic skill.”[3] This definition covers quite a wide array of activities, and so can be an indication that crafting communities are very inclusive.

In the community of TarValon.Net, we are holding a year-long project named The Great Charity Hunt, in which members are encouraged to contribute in some fashion to particular charities or causes. Each month there is a challenge, and it so happens that the challenge for March synchronizes with National Craft Month. March’s challenge is to “use your crafting skills in order to create as many cage liners/cuddle pads as possible for your local animal shelter before March 31, 2021.”[4] So, not only is March’s challenge a way to utilize one’s skills, it is also used as a way to help out local animal shelters.

At the Tar Valon Times, we would like to encourage those who enjoy crafting to show off your skills and your progress to the world. Of course, at TarValon.Net we have two forums in which to do so. First we have the “Hand Crafts” forum, in which there are discussions about “crafty pursuits;”[5] and secondly, we also have the “Costume/Cosplay” forum,” a place to discuss the making and wearing of costumes!”

Whether you pursue crafting as more of a hobby or whether you have your own business, the marking of National Craft Month is important: crafting brings with it benefits. So, craft away!

[1] National Day Calendar – Craft Month
[2] Creative Industries
[3] Craft in the Dictionary
[4] Heroes of the Horn – March Challenge
[5] TarValon.Net Hand Crafts Discussion Forum

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