Everybody was NaNo Writing

18 Nov

Except for me!

This month has blown by, and I suddenly realize that I’m staring at year-end goals and wondering how I did and how things are going, and what all I need to do to get things in order.

The month started with me doing trades with a coworker so I was pretty exhausted by the end, then we (as in my dad) finally finished that hydroponics room. He didn’t want my help. I was honestly pretty stoked to only have to do FanQuest last weekend. There’s a ton of craft shows that will take place in the coming weeks; the only one we are at so far is at Our Lady of Perpetual Help this coming Sunday from 10-2 on Roblin in Winnipeg, so if you’re in the area swing by and say hi; I believe it’s free admission. If work allows it, I’d like to use some of my stat time to have a little more time off and hit some more shows elsewhere but I’m not going to hold my breath. I have one more shift with the current partner and she’s moving on, we’re getting some new hires on truck but I was just stoked to have full trucks in our quadrant last night.

Fitness-wise I can’t seem to shake the last of this plantar fascitis in the right foot; I am so tempted to go to a ton of massages because I know I got tight calves but, I’m almost thinking I got a pinched nerve or something because it’s just the heel. There’s a ton of things that could be causing it – I kind of ruled out fat pad atrophy, but honestly I’m just annoyed because I wasn’t able to peel off and be as active this summer. The injury to the ankle didn’t help in September. In short I’m annoyed but also to be fair I learned how to make plans for people who have limitations and injuries before, I just wasn’t anticipating making them for myself. Phooey but doable.

Now, considering I was off for the majority of September with that injury you’d think I would be all good and up to date on my editing and writing, but to that I would say: Not so much. I gave myself a loose plan to finish Puppeteers before September, then October, and now I am thinking end-of-year. I like it but I feel like the plot is getting away on me, so maybe that I’ve been neglecting it is for the best so I can go back and reign it in a little. My niece requested a duology so I’ll probably tinker a bit with book 2 while I’m working on something else in earnest before circling back. I am hoping Magus’ Gambit is going to hit my editing deadline (it’s at the editor and I feel confident, but it is a bigger novel and it’s probably not her only task) so the goal right now is to clean up as much as possible so I can start 2023 relatively fresh. There’s no possible way I could fix everything that needs to be done assuming I was given the rest of the year off to be an artist and put in 12+ hour days, because I would start another project as I ‘fixed’ one. The way I see it is that I can finish some stuff that’s lingering and that way, I’ll feel less guilty about chasing after a new idea when there’s something that needs to be done if only I’d focus on it for a few hours. A short story to be edited, a short WIP to be finished, a novel to finish and to allow to percolate, so if I do decide to work on Usurper or Chimera in January, or forge ahead with one of the ideas I have besides obviously Rogue Healer 4.

But let’s be concrete: by 2023 I want to:

Finish Rough Draft of “Puppeteers”

Send in Of Another Skin to an anthology

Finish Clay Heart (Either a short or a novella)

Self-Publish Underman Novella

Start serious rewrites of Usurper with a goal to get it to Champagne by April 2023  

Initiate Self-Publishing for 2023 Novel (Probably Derelict Knights)

I have the edits for Of Another Skin beside me; I am probably going to get it done today and send it in later; the rest will need my attention and with the exception of completely rewriting Usurper, it’s all possible and so I can make more concrete plans in a month.

I’ll also blog about some popular media and whatnot, and see how I do around this time next month and start setting 2023 goals. In the meantime, take care and I hope your 2022 has been better than 2020 and 2021.

Now it’s Personal: Moral Relativism and The Harfoots

28 Oct

I tried to be objective last week, so here’s pure opinion.

I stand by that ROP could have completely omitted the Harfoot story. When I read Game of Thrones in Uni, I actually read all of Dany’s chapters and then I went back and read the rest of the story the way it was intended. I realized her story wasn’t affected the main story; and I’m not the only one because it was resubmitted as a novella and won some awards.

I’m also not going to be grumpy and say that there can be no creative adaptation ever. Sometimes I don’t like the direction or the decisions but see why they did it – there was a disclaimer at the beginning of The Bible TV series, I’m paraphrasing but it essentially said in the opening, “We had to make some choices but believe we stayed true to the spirit of the work”. In this, I agree – old stories tended not to be very character-driven, so sometimes you can make some very different choices and there are times the audience won’t like the direction you take them. That being said, I think it’s very possible to take liberties so long as you get the spirit of the story right.

That being said, there’s a reason that Heroic Fantasy emerged from the Sword and Sorcery tradition. Sword and Sorcery tended to be grittier and more grim; there had to be a more hopeful counterpart. Other people were inspired by Tolkien and wrote their own stories, because there were things they disagreed with or, they had questions. But they weren’t writing in Middle Earth, they created their own stories and games.

The idea that ‘how far you can touch evil’ or these other ideas of moral relativism doesn’t work in Middle Earth. If you want to make something along the lines of Game of Thrones there’s plenty of authors and materials that are like it. Joe Ambercrombie’s The Heroes, or perhaps The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. Neither are exactly the same, but the former was inspired by ASoIaF. Going after Wheel of Time or other stories and wanting to remake them in the same vein as Game of Thrones isn’t true to the narrative and, I think ultimately because you’re being far too allegorical your work becomes dated.  I can watch the Peter Jackson trilogy every year and it feels timeless, whereas if in a few years I rewatch Rings of Power I’m going to have the same ‘Member Berries like when I rewatched Snakes on a Plane a few months ago. Shoot, I like the song, “I see Fire” by Ed Sheeran, but if I’m watching the Hobbit movies, I’m going to be comparing it to the end of Mulan where, I guess they didn’t know how to end it so it peaced out to a boy band. Rather inconsistent and, my nieces love the movie but it always throws me how random that ending is.

Concerning Harfoots

When we first meet the Harfoots, they’re a proto-hobbit who excel at hiding and while some people know they exist, they’re like elusive gnomes who you really don’t want them around, because they’ll steal from you. At first they come across as slightly grubby but charming, but it doesn’t take long for the depiction to turn south.

We’re introduced to the main character, Elinor Brandyfoot (Norri) with her friend Poppy and they’ve taken several young harfoots to go steal from a nearby farm. They’re taking berries and other nice food, and you’re sort of sympathetic because at this point, they’re eating live snails.

The hobbits migrate and go from place to place, and when he’s helping the others Elinor’s father sprains his ankle and his entire young family is concerned because they need him to pull their caravan to keep up. The harfoots even have a strange ritual before they start to migrate where they parade around chanting, “Nobody goes off trail – and nobody walks alone.” Then proceeding to read a book concerning everyone who’s died they left behind chanting, “We wait for you”. They’re portrayed as have a very stringent set of rules, but they do take people’s wheels and leave them behind. And not just the offenders – the entire family. (Why the offender just doesn’t tag along and abandon their cart is beyond me, but let’s not talk sense).

Norri befriends the stranger who crash lands in Middle Earth, and I’ll stand by my complaint that the Fallen Angel imagery is intentional, and I’m not impressed considering what Gandalf is. The harfoots are wary, but they tolerate him and get in the way of him learning magic, and every time they’re afraid of him they interfere or do something stupid.

The harfoots aren’t portrayed as a species that does terrible things for justifiable reasons, they seem to do things for the sake of the audience and moving their story line along with little care. I just finished  An Ember in the Ashes by Tabaa Sahir, it shows the grim reality of being part of a culture that is nasty and cruel. There’s no reason for any of what happens in the Harfoot story line, other than to move the story along in the direction the writers want and, it seems lazy and inconsistent.

The problem with the harfoots ultimately is that the director emphasized the ‘burglar’ aspect of Bilbo, when the reality is that the majority of hobbits are rather fond of doing the opposite of an adventure. RoP chose to emphasize how dirty and gross they were as opposed to what Tolkien depicted.

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”

The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

Hobbits like good food and good cheer, and while most of the world goes on without really acknowledging they exist, because they’re not great scholars or heroes or do much of anything that anyone would deem important. They invented golf by accident. The creative direction RoP took them was to make them decidedly thieves who eat snails while they’re still raw and wriggling and abandon entire families when one of their own becomes injured, which only happened because he was helping the others. There are cultures who are like this in real life – but one of the earliest precursors of civilization is how people help their sick and injured. And for a people who have hearts bigger than their feet – why they think they have big feet is a mystery; to them that’s normal – so far the only thing I know about harfoots is I wouldn’t want them migrating near my town.

I could go on but I’ll talk about my grumblings in another post.

If you’ve read this far I’ll say writing-wise I haven’t gotten my edits back from last month, but the novel’s a borderline beast (the longest my publisher wants, but I will write longer). I wish Puppet Masters was done, but it’s coming along. It will need some revision. NaNoWriMo is probably not going to be a thing this year – my goal is to rewrite a project and send it in to Champagne by end of January. It’s possible because it’s mostly done but I need to shorten it.

I have more to get done in the meantime – I found some more anthologies with topics I’d like to submit to, so that’ll be more than enough in the meantime. Rogue Healer 4 will be started sometime in the spring, and I’ll have to pick a project to self-publish. At the risk of reneging next year, I think it’ll be Derelict Knights but, no promises at this point.

Thoughts of Rings of Power

17 Oct

I’ll talk just about the show here, I’ll talk about certain specific aspects with other posts. Paragons, moral complexity, etc. I’m also not going to give my opinions on the deviations from the lore (elves being affected by cold, mithril being key to elven survival, etc).

People have been nervous about Amazon’s giant adaptation from the second age of Middle Earth for years and when it came out, there was controversy about the actual numbers and review boming. We’re approaching the 20 year mark of the completion of all the Peter Jackson film trilogy of The Lord of the Rings, which were generally loved by audiences but were not by the Tolkien Estate. The attempt for Peter Jackson to redo the magic with the adaptation of The Hobbit wasn’t well met with critics or critical audiences, but people like me can shut their brain off and enjoy what’s in front of them. I’m not sure about what rights the showrunners have  –  they have the rights to some characters but not all of it if I’m not misunderstanding, which means they have the rights to adapt The Lord of the Rings but not parts of The Simarillion, so certain characters and lore can be alluded to but not outright named.

               Rings of Power essentially followed battle-hardened Galadriel in the second age as she discovers proof that Sauron, Morgoth’s greatest general, is still poses a threat to Middle-Earth. Her proof is discarded and she and her team of warriors are sent to Valinor, their birth-land and paradise, but Galadriel is pulled back to Middle-Earth to try to wrestle her demons and defeat Sauron and the remnant orcs as they seek to take The Southlands. The elves, meanwhile, are being diminished and their immortality is threatened. Meanwhile, a stranger crash-lands from a meteorite and joins a group of secretive harfoots, proto-hobbits who have not yet established a shire.

None of this sounds bad, but the best example of what someone said was, “And now pretend a ten year old wrote it.”

That’s kind of cruel, but I agree that a lot of the writing in Rings of Power was classic examples of things I did as a very young writer in Junior High and High School. There’s contrivances and things that need to happen, or things just sort of happened and they worked out and we focused on things that weren’t important while more important stuff gets glossed over.

The main character of the show is Galadriel. Galadriel isn’t the powerful sorceress ruling Lothlorien, she is a battle-hardened commander looking for the last traces of Sauron and evil in the land. She’s portrayed as greatly competent, but it’s usually at the belittlement of others and it looks cartoony and we need to be reminded of how awesome she is. One could argue that she is a very young elf and hasn’t grown into the character we are familiar with by the third age, but the problem is that she’s inconsistently written. I think she’s meant to come across as a character who is so driven she is blinded by everything around her, so when she’s inconsistent or angry it’s meant to be her hatred of evil getting the better of her. Instead, we have a character who comes across as rude and angry at characters who would have been her allies, and without the grace and wisdom of a thousands-year old being. She’s inconsistent, telling Halbrand she needs Adar alive but then coming across like a genocidal maniac literally a scene later. Ironically, she was also meant to be one of the characters who saw through Sauron’s manipulations and lies, so in this story, her befriending him diminished her power. (I still think they should have gone the Tauriel route and made her an original character, but I digress).

I’ll be honest sometimes one of the main reasons you lose something in adaptation is that depending on the style of the writer, you can be in a character’s head but it doesn’t always translate well on screen. A training montage can take several chapters but you can put some appropriate music and show brief clips, and get the same idea across. Lots of books are written in the first person so you get their perspective, but it doesn’t always show the exact same way the author presented.

A better writer could have shown that Galadriel has PTSD or is on the very edge of falling into darkness or something interesting – but right now Galadriel comes across as Always Right and The Best Rider or Swordfighter or whatever we need. I don’t blame the actress I blame the writing; and like I said you don’t have to explain everything to the reader but there needs to be some payoff in the story and not just her being a simultaneous amazing hero and victim rolled up into a neat package. If Galadriel is damaged like she alludes to with her ‘best friend trying to exile me’ there should be some literary payoff there that shows it.

And this poor writing comes across just about everywhere. Things happen because they need to happen, and the audience is treated like we’re stupid for questioning what’s going on. I think because the showrunners wanted to tell a massive story they started with the idea that they needed multiple story threads and they didn’t spent much time developing anything with its own unique edge; you see similar costume designs and ideas running in areas that should have been secluded and have their own aesthetic.

Characters notwithstanding, dealing with Adar is the best part of the show (the good guys are dry to put it mildly) and Adar turns out to be one of the first Uruks, or elves that were twisted in darkness and he could no longer stand by as Sauron used his children. Orcs are a twisted version of elves and their nature is corrupted, but he points out that they are also creations and worthy of life. Their goal is to have a homeland where the sun doesn’t burn them. They’ll kill and destroy to get it, but it’s a very simple motivation and given how the good guys act around the orcs, it’s kind of understandable. The orcs were mistrated by Morgath and Sauron, and elves and humans kill them on sight. The sun burns them, but they want a world they can live in.

Character-wise the most enjoyable part of the show for me was getting to the dwarves. Now, I think I have a soft-spot for dwarves and the plot around them meanders and whether we talk about contrivances or teleporting it doesn’t make sense, but I like the character dynamics of Elrond, Durin and Nissa. Contrivances aside, and I’m not saying I like the part of making the Mithril the key to the elves’ survival, spending time with the dwarves was easily the most enjoyable part of the show.

The part I liked least was the parts with the harfoots. The story with the harfoots was meant to build up another potential Sauron figure and it falls flat. The Harfoots themselves aren’t likeable as characters and a people. It could easily have been infused in the second season with the introduction of more characters. I know that I said I wasn’t going to talk about my issues with the lore, but I’ll throw this out: I really didn’t like that they made Gandalf have fallen-star symbology or that they made the Harfoots eat live snails. These were deliberate choices I think the showrunners were trying to shove down our throats, and No thank-you we don’t want any more caravan-abandoning, off-trail death-mocking, distant hobbitses. I don’t care if we get the introduction of what will be a very old friend.

The show ultimately wants us to be familiar with other material and doesn’t respect the average watcher’s intelligence. Want to hit your characters with a pyroclasmic flow? Let’s argue that Galadriel and Arvondir could survive it because they’re elves. Let’s go a step further and say that it’s magical. You can’t burn the buildings down and have the humanoid characters be okay. Pompeii is famous for what happened and it happened so quickly, that people didn’t stop what they were doing if they didn’t see it coming. This could have been a moment where Halbrand did something to indicate he wasn’t completely evil at this point, or have Galadriel or some other character do something to lessen the blow – like Arwen (really Elrond and Gandalf) making the river sweep away the Ringwraiths in Fellowship. Instead, we get people covered in ash and the world is on fire.

Now, a final bit that’s come out this week was that the showrunners wanted a slow burn and this is all just set up for what’s coming.

I’m a chick who reads really long series without issue and really like that it takes a long time to get out of the Shire in both The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies. I love me some good backstory and really enjoy reading and writing prequels. I roll my eyes when I’m criticized that it takes a long time for the story to get set up, and I’ll grant I’m not a perfect writer but I don’t mind other authors taking their sweet time with the pacing.

Years ago a friend and I were chatting about the silliness in the second Hobbit movie, and he told me he didn’t mind stretching out a kid’s book into three because he liked spending so much time in Middle-Earth. We’re the demographic where we don’t care so long as the story is good and it seems that the set designs and costumes were done with something resembling love and care.

I did watch the first episode with my dad. He hasn’t been keen to watch more. My nieces and nephew I think have lost interest after watching a few episodes.

I think this is the veneer for Tolkien’s work, because it’s trying to portray moral relativism as opposed to good versus evil. It wants you to know these are elves when they don’t act like elves, and they think that the audience is dumb and that readers aren’t saiting their appetites that were inspired by Tolkien by reading other books that have done it better than Rings of Power.

Fix your writing. Know what you’re writing, and what deeper philosophical themes your author is about before you do adaptation. Listen to Tolkien Scholars and hire people who love the work; they can answer better questions about philosophy and lore than I ever could. But fix your writing.

Why I care about the quality of the writing

10 Oct

I got one more episode to see of Rings of Power – I think the general consensus is the show is massively suffering from weak writing. I’ll wait until I see the final episode before I talk about it, but here’s a little preamble. I admittedly can be a bit of a jerk when I R&R anything. I also can admit when something is or isn’t for me, or conversely when something isn’t as good as it could be but it’s up my alley. I don’t mind that you like stuff that I don’t.

I started writing young so I had a lot of questions no one I knew could really answer. How much should I describe setting? How often do I need dialogue tags? How do stop doing this thing that even I find annoying? Writing well is hard. Some things are easier than others and over time you improve, and some stuff is pretty subjective.

I wrote my first series in High School, I took writing classes University, both for credit and beyond, but I’m not the best writer on the planet.

I never claimed to be, nor do I think I ever will be. I care about language, but I don’t enjoy grammar and lexis the same way other people do. I usually write at the level I would want to read, and there’s certain things I like that other people don’t, so I will irk some people. There’s trends that are technically fine and I don’t care for. Honestly, that’s the reason my first book came out and you had to wait a few years for the next book was because people were criticising that Tower of Obsidian could have been written better.

I’m not making excuses about the editor or I never got to travel or I’m not as well read. Tower of Obsidian’s not my first novel, I have a degree and I went to classes where they didn’t want me there. I doubled down on my ability to do story craft. I also started my career in paramedicine, and I don’t want to whine but it’s honestly been a struggle. It’s not been the easiest mentally and the cracks are starting to show.

That being said, you don’t have to be the best artist in the world to make that comic or paint that picture because then we wouldn’t have much stuff being produced. I also think people need to take chances and not everything works, but one bad batch of dialogue or a stupid scene won’t wreck a book for me. What I found unforgiveable was going to all these classes and being told that my preferred genre, science fiction and fantasy, was trash.

I don’t need to defend it – better authors than me have done so.

My job is to hold my writing and other media to a higher level.

So when I’m talking about how things could be better, the response is often to attack the person (ad hominem) or previous works as opposed to the actual criticisms of the work. Sometimes, I see hit pieces on problems that didn’t exist but companies want to stir up controversy or talking points to garner interest. Example:  “Well we haven’t seen strong female characters before” and I’m like, “You mean, like Ellen Ridley? Oh, you don’t like her? Sarah Connor? By the way I’m named after a Star Wars character.”

When Disney released the sequel Star Wars Trilogy, people were attacking each other because of issues that weren’t there. “Well the OG trilogy was inconsistent, and the prequel trilogy had some terrible lines of dialogue”.

If I was hand-picked to carry on the legacy of something that popular, I think I should strive to do better as opposed to strapping on what is deemed the weakest parts like armor. Saying, “Well this was weak dialogue and this was cheesy” is fine, but that’s not an excuse for me to have weak dialogue and, depending on the tone, we may be Space Opera or more along the lines of Rogue One. I complained that the sequel trilogy did Finn dirty. Know who agreed with me years later? The actor.

I have one episode of Rings of Power left, so when I complain about things like, “How come the Pyroclastic Flow destroyed buildings, but we see people untouched?” or “If Twenty years are the blink of an eye to an elf, why is Durin getting disinherited instead of telling Elrond and Gil-Galad they’ll mine the Mithril when he’s running the show?” it’s my writer brain. Thing is, you don’t need to have a writer brain to think about things you see in the media that don’t make sense.

I think ultimately what needs to happen is to admit not everything that glitters is gold and, people aren’t wrong for pointing it out. Pointing out problems in a work doesn’t mean that you dislike it; any more than me saying, “This is the best part of the song” means I dislike the other parts.

Review of The Lunar Chronicles / Authorish Stuff

5 Oct

I’ll talk about Rings of Power soonish. We only have two episodes to go for this season. Personally not a fan but we have two to go, so let’s wait for it. I was willing to say “it’s poorly written” but I’ve seen enough stuff in the background and even some that’s understated that I think it’s done intentionally. Know how I I’ve said, “Respect your audience” again and again? Yeah, don’t serve the audience crap and say we just don’t understand or hate or have unrealistic expectations. Stuff I like I will talk about the weak bits. It’s not all negative that I have to say, but let’s just say that bad writing is a cardinal sin in my books.

I am jacking up the price to The Mermaid and the Unicorns on October 7, so get it now while it’s on sale.

Now’s the time to start planning for NaNoWriMo. Honestly my edits for Magus Gambit took longer than I expected, so I’m still not done the Puppeteers book, but I’ll get there. I got my portable keyboard back so I can work on it at work again in full force; right now what I’m honestly thinking of is fixing up another story to send to Champagne for the end of the year as opposed to writing Rogue Healer 4. I have a two book lead and honestly I could just spend time fixing stuff and sending them off to Champagne, but my priority is to get Magus’ Gambit edits done so the book can launch in the spring.

The Lunar Chronicles written by Marissa Meyer first novel Cinder came out in 2012, and I was surprised because I thought that Twilight influenced the cover and by this time there were already movies about those sparkly vampires. I think the hype about Twilight was still pretty much raging, and I’m pretty sure later novels were also influenced a little by The Hunger Games, which wasn’t a bad thing but it’s kind of neat to see things that were trendy and how trends have since changed. The first book Cinder was on my radar for a while, but then last year my niece wanted the box set for Christmas. It was slow going and I never got the box set, but she has all the books and she devoured them, so I requested the first book via library, although she probably would have loaned them to me if I asked nicely. On a side note, we were chatting about books that were obviously influenced by media that she wants to read, but let’s get on with the actual review.

The books are about four fairy tale stories reimagined in a cyberpunk setting, starting with Cinder (Cinderella) a cyborg mistreated because of her half-cybernetic status who finds herself at the center of a plot from the Luna, the former Moon Colony turned hostile nation, who developed a terrible disease which is wreaking havoc on Earth. When the Lunar Queen Levana produces a cure, she agrees to give it for a marriage-alliance with Earth, and it’s hinted that she only wants the hand of the young Emperor so can use his nation as a launching point for Lunars to invade Earth. And she very much wants the cyborg-mechanic Cinder dead, and not just because she’s stolen Kai’s heart.

The books mostly follow this plot while incorporating the stories of Scarlet (Red Riding Hood) Cress (Rapunzel) and Winter (Snow White) and in my opinion they’re the sort of YA science fiction that makes sense to the level of their audience. For instance, Cinder is a cyborg which is a reduced half-status that technically renders her as property, so she’s the one working to support her family (step-family) but she doesn’t get to keep the fruits of her labor. There’s a microchip embedded in everyone and Cinder can’t buy or do anything without being tracked, but it’s really only there for a plot level induced story; I didn’t think it was bad but it occurred to me more than once that, when characters were leaving in a marketplace in a hurry, that they were worried that they’d be flagged as being in a plague area when, there should have been markers and sensors on everyone and it would have logged purchases and who was at what table at what time, even if people were just passing through without making any purchases, the governments would easily have been able to access who was in the area. Same thing a book later when Wolf and Scarlet are traveling by train, and they have to jump to avoid being quarantined. You would be automatically flagged because your ID would have been registered while being logged. Compound this with Cinder being a fantastic mechanic and Cress being a great hacker (and not unrealistic given their respective situations) it just made me curious when they didn’t really talk about how other people would have circumvented the systems in place. There is a black market for microchips, but it’s really to accentuate the plot and not talk about how criminals would really have gone around the system, but I’m digressing so let’s move on.

For the most part the stories were fun although I think they were a little dragging, but once again I think that they were written with their target audience in mind: That is, younger teenage girls who wanted the heroines to be like their friends and get to know what’s going on in their minds. I don’t know why we don’t see more cyberpunk aesthetic aimed at this market; I took my niece to go see Alita: Battle Angel when she was 12 and given the amount of fan art and stories I’ve seen like this, I think lots of young people like the feel of the world and anything cyberpunk easily makes for a decent ‘I must rise against the system’ feel. One could argue that’s because these were character-driven and could have made for much tighter novels, but I think what made the books really work was that the author slowed down to make us care about characters and her reimagining of their stories. I think my favourite novel was Cress where she took a ton of liberties with the story, but it was still recognizable that this was the story of Rapunzel. I think it’s also at heart about the relationships and these girls finding their respective princes. The girls are very different from one another personality-wise; and it’s kind of refreshing to see more fragile personality types contributing to the adventures when it would have been really easy for the more practical and bold characters to do most of the action sequences.

If I had to criticize, I think it’s something very similar that the author herself complained in that she made the Lunar Gift too powerful. I’ve experienced this problem before, and while she introduced the concept of shells (Lunars without the gift and also immune to manipulation) it honestly raised a lot of questions. For the most part, it’s royalty and the thaumaturges that have the strongest use of the gift, and while some people are selected because they’re easily to manipulate (guards, for instance) it strikes me as something that could be a problem in Lunar Society in general – it’s sort of gone into because at one point, Levana is badly burned and scarred because her sister took control of her, and that seems like something her parents should have anticipated (not so much the burning but children being children they don’t always forsee the consequences of their actions. Imagine being mad at your brother for ripping the head off your dolly and you make him run full tilt into the wall and give himself a concussion). Because they can control one another, not having a bioelectric signature gives away a shell, but it just felt like it was a major issue because it came across in the first book more like fairy glamour – they can make you see what you want, and even manipulate emotions. By the end Lunars were able to seize control of people and make them do whatever they wanted, including self-harm and suicide and even rape. I would have explained it that only a select few such as thaumaturges can manipulate the body, but given the advantages the majority of Lunars would have over Earthens, if there was prejudice against cyborgs all Lunars would be treated very suspiciously. It could have even been a status symbol to leave the sector if someone had a gift, and an aristocratic family could lose a member if they weren’t able to perform at certain levels. What we got was the rich aristocracy living posh and making themselves uber attractive and the commoners slaving in the outer sectors, giving it that Hunger Games vibe.

I think the big issue for me was that Levana obviously wanted Emperor Kaito so she could launch an invasion on earth, but the other leaders of Earth were all like, “I guess this is for the best” and sat on their hands. While Luna is developing biological weapons and enhanced soldiers, it’s also heavily implied that the Lunars are vastly outnumbered. The arguement is that they’re not willing to do anything because they have the antidote or that no one else is developing technology to block the Lunar Gift and I don’t understand why at least one leader would be all like, “We’re going to start putting holes in your pretty domes and watch the air leak out until we have what we want.” It culminates with Kai even giving a similar order himself – destroy Artemesia if things go south – he’s really doing everything to get that antidote, but it seems to me that waiting on a teenage Emperor while your people are dying on mass – and he has to marry the evil leader who set wearwolves on your people – I know the plot isn’t about what other world leaders would do (and quite frankly, most world leaders aren’t elected so they might not really care about their people) but here’s what I imagine the American regulars would be like, let alone the guys elected to office. For whatever reason, they’re hillbillies a la King of the Hill:

 “So yer sayin’ that really hot Moon Queen’s got the cure we’ve been inconvenienced with for the past decade?”

“Eyup.”

“But even though roughly 300 people die every day she won’t give it up unless she marries that pretty boy overseas?”

“Eyup.”

“The inexperienced teenage Emperor who just got thrust into his position and is still dealing with the death of his father?”

“Yup.”

“And the Moon Queen just launched some lycanthropes at the white house?”

“They got dropped outside of the city and made the commute even worse.”

“But tens of thousands throughout the country are DEAD? Well, maybe not our country we have freakin’ lasers and such.”

“Eyup.”

“Why haven’t we invaded the moon again?”

“I suppose it’s ‘cuz of them Lunar Whiles. They get in your head.”

“We have androids, don’t we? Things that can’t get taken over?”

“They have the vaccine we need.”

“Yes. Well, we have the air they need to survive and I think they can spare a vial or twenty if they want to keep those shiny glass domes up there intact.”

“But my gran wants to watch the royal weddin’. There’s all the rich folk from all over the world gatherin’ and it’ll be a spectacle. She also thinks the lost heir to the throne’ll show up and this whole ‘enslave earth’ thing will blow over, it’ll be fine.”

Seriously though, it’s quite an enjoyable series. If you’re a hard core science fiction fan questioning how they have artificial gravity on Artemisia, I’ll advise you that this is character-driven and meant to be enjoyed by audiences getting their feet wet in the genre. If you nitpick you’ll be unsatisfied, but if you’re looking for a book for a teenage girl, try it.

Final Week For The Mermaid and The Unicorn Round up and The Problem with Uber Powerful Characters (Finally)

23 Sep

 Enter to win the GC, not to mention the ebook is on sale this week. I’ll announce the winners next week.

Joanne Guidoccio

Sandra’s Book Club

Jazzy Book Reviews

Enchanting Reviews

Eye-Rolling Demigod’s Reviews

Superman needs kryptonite. Captain Marvel needs to be sent hitherto unknown so she’s not around to solve all the problems in End Game. When you’re fighting the boss, he’s a beast. When you unlock him as a playable character, it’s like you unlocked a different skin with weird stats but is not at all like the boss that took you forever to beat.

For me, making a super powerful character and not using them sparingly is like throwing time travel into my fiction. It can be done well, but I need limits. If I can travel back in time again and again, I can fix my mistakes. One of the things I had to learn when I played Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, was that if I ‘died’ I could hit the rewind button if I had enough sand. I could only go back so far, and sometimes you’re rewinding yourself just to watch yourself succumb to the same bad jump or injury.

I’m not saying it’s always hard; when I played FFIX Captain Beatrice was uber-powerful, and honestly you knew you were in for it when she was the boss, because even if you win the battle the cut scene is her knocking all surviving party members to 1 hp and in the story you lose. One of the best parts was when she joined Steiner and they toned her back, so that there was still a challenge in the game. She was treated like a bonus character, and we really only got to use her for like ten minutes out of a 20ish hour game. Sparingly, this worked.

When I watched Rings of Power, it’s like the showrunners forgot that Middle Earth was saved by the most unlikely of creatures, hobbits. There are powerful elves and heroes of men; wizards and dwarves. If you were to rate them physically, the mightiest of hobbits is probably up there with the weakest of men. A small detail in Return of the King is when Aragorn charges at the Black Gate, Merry and Pippin are the first to run after him, and are quickly overtaken by the other soldiers, and hey they’re little they got short legs what did we expect.

I think a big case being made is that the contemporary heroine’s journey is so much different then the hero’s, and it’s not always a good thing. You can read up on Joseph Campbell’s work, and you’ll see that it’s very familiar because it’s used in the original Star Wars and often used in Disney’s newer films.

You can watch videos discussing it, but in a nutshell, with the heroine’s journey, it’s not that the heroine needs to go on a journey. She’s already awesome and is being held back, usually by the dubious ‘patriarchy’ and needs to break free and show them who’s boss.

Thing is, this isn’t really a heroic arc so much as a tragic one. Don’t believe me? It’s the same with Anakin Skywalker.

Born a slave, he was rescued because of his miraculous abilities. From a young age, he was able to do more than anyone else. He was almost not trained because the council worried they couldn’t control him. He grew up fearful, angry and resentful, and was silently being groomed by the powers of darkness who saw his potential.

The duel of the fates in Episode 1 was a battle in which Maul was defeated and still won. Qui-Gon was the only one who could have raised Anakin properly, as a father he never had and he could have guided him and protected him. Obi-Wan did the best he could, and I’m not downplaying his skills or his character. He was Anakin’s brother, and brothers aren’t the same dynamic as a father/son one. I’m not saying brothers aren’t important, but without reading into any more lore or backstory, Qui-Gon was going to train Anakin whether or not he had permission. Obi-Wan is probably my favourite character in the series, and he was probably fine to train Anakin in the ways of the Jedi, but he wasn’t ready to take a hurting person and do what needed to be done.

Read what I said again two paragraphs ago. Anakin is only free because of his powers. He’s better than anyone else in terms of pod racing or flying or building, and he knows. The council accuses him, as a child, of being fearful. What child wouldn’t be nervous in his situation? The people who are kind to him are manipulating him. Obi-Wan is his brother to whom he aspires to be, not his protector who doesn’t care if they’re bestest buddies that day. Fathers discipline, brothers squabble.

It’s a tragedy of the highest order, and I think a lot of villains who stay with us have motivations that stay with us because we can relate to them. A character who thinks they are being held back, not given either the acknowledgement or the love that they think they deserve, and feels that they’re always in the right?  

But Leia, the Jedi Council was corrupt. And what if someone does want to write about their corrupt society?

I’m going to classify myself as a Casual-Plus Star Wars fan. I don’t watch Clone Wars but I have played Lego Star Wars that involves the characters, usually as a third or when I was watching kids. I buy graphic novels and other stuff for kids who like it come Christmas or Birthdays. I haven’t read any of the EU which got nuked when Disney bought the franchise, but I’ve seen bits and pieces of it. More over though, I listen to people talk about popular culture and trends because that helps me as a writer.

I’m not saying you can’t write about a corrupt society, but most people who hate their evil king or whatever still tend to love their land, their people, etc. You can love your country and criticize your government at the same time.

This is getting long enough. I’m not saying you can’t have powerful characters. I’m saying that if you decide to deck out your characters in cool attributes and not really think about the story or the theme, it’s probably going to suffer. If your character can easily defeat a dragon, the dragon is no longer a threat. You’ll need to magic up something they can’t handle, and in my experience, it’s a lot easier to give someone limits in the first place than to have a convoluted reason as to why Earth’s Greatest Champion is unavailable to use the thing they used during last week’s episode.

Week 3 and Respect the Lore

18 Sep

 Third Week Round Up – This week is the last week to enter the draw to win a GC. Thank you so much to everyone who’s hosted, reviewed, and did a girl a solid sharing.

fundinmental

Westveil Publishing

Read your Writes Book Reviews

The Pen and Muse Book Reviews

Long and Short Reviews

This week was a lot of fun because I got to pick my own topics quite a bit.

About that Lore Thing

I’m listening to a lot of people go on and on about Galadriel in the RoP show, and there’s a substantial deviation about what people are griping about and what people are pretending they’re griping about.

My nephew was telling me on Saturday, among other hilarious things (it was a really, really fun conversation on our way to the bookstore), that people don’t like RoP because of racism, so I’m letting him watch and decide for himself if he likes the show and I told him elves can have short hair or be black or whatever, but people should like or not like something and be okay with it for better reasons than that, but also to respect that other people will or will not like things he feels the opposite way about, and that’s okay too. (Also coming up was that I needed to write books that don’t suck so much – he’s not really a fan of Mermaids or Unicorns, give ‘im a few years and he’ll be ready for my other books). When we got to the bookstore the conversation turned to Lego, which both my nephew and older niece have grown out of, but his younger sister, is still quite excited for.

There’s always going to be people complaining that Waif-Fu is a thing. I’m not here to argue; the more removed your movie is from reality, the less I care. I’m more than cool with tiny little Yoda being the most badass character on one ‘Verse and pointing out Hobbits are kind of adorable little mascots in another who also saved Middle-Earth and helped take down the Witch King.

The real problem is that fantasy is treated by outsiders where anything can happen and so they completely forget what the established rules of the universe they’re entering are. People have compared Oz to Wonderland, and while there are similarities, I was telling my niece that my problem with “Heartless” by Marissa Mayer is that the plot would have worked better in a world like Oz; so Heartless as its own book is fine but Heartless as part of Wonderland, just isn’t wacky or odd for me. Now, I’m not saying authors can’t look at a work and change things (Wide Sargassio Sea), the real problem is saying, “It’s fantasy we can do whatever we want HAHAHAHAHA why does everyone hate these creative choices?”

Lore is whatever you did to establish what the rules of your world are. Is it basically our world with one or two things off? How would these things fundamentally change the world from our own? For instance, let’s pretend some people have abilities other’s don’t, like X-Men or Avatar: The Last Airbender. How do the non-powered people deal with people who can easily overpower them? How might our culture and change if human beings became immortal? Science fiction and fantasy is not just a setting, it asks questions such as these and runs with them.

Wheel of Time’s  world is all about if human beings got to use magic, split between the biological sexes, and suddenly only one gender can use it safely. Not every culture embraces the use of magic, in many cultures it became taboo but, in just about every culture, gender lines became more rigid because this was a fundamentally important no matter if you embraced or feared the use of the One Power.

One problem is when you establish something and then you go out of your way to pretend that never happened. I complained about FFVII last week, so here I am whining about Tinkerbelle this week

Tinkerbelle’s Origin. Then they decided like three movies later to give her a twin sister

Leia, what do you care about Tinkerbelle?

I don’t get summoned to the basement to defeat the boss during holidays much anymore, but I have zero qualms watching a movie with the kids, and so I’m asking those of you who make content for children nicely Don’t treat kids like they’re stupid, my nieces noticed dagnabbit. I don’t expect a lot of depth, but this sort of stuff makes the franchise look sloppy.

What if it improves the lore?

This is a Your Mileage may vary thing.

I was getting my butt beat in chess by the same medic a few years ago so I was looking up chess openings and I learned a move called En Passant. It came up in conversation, but I didn’t like the rule because that’s not how my grandpa taught me. The other medic went home and looked it up because, he didn’t learn that move growing up either. We agreed it was legit but neither of us ever played it because that’s maybe a thing in France, but not our neck of the woods.

That’s what it’s like going into an established universe and changing stuff. When you enter a house of cards, you need to find out what the house rules are, and can’t claim half way through the night, hey I’m playing by another set of rules for this round. If you want to play a variant, you establish it ahead of time. That’s why it’s okay that dragons in this movie are mindless monsters and in this other one it’s voiced by Sean Connery and quite pleasant. And I don’t mind that my family technically cheats all the time in Scrabble, it’s in house and we let anyone entering from outside read the dictionary to their heart’s content but, if I were invited to play Scrabble at your house I’m going to play by the same rules as everyone else.

The real problem here isn’t that Galadriel is too powerful. Glorfindel (Sir Not Appearing in The Film) killed a Balrog so there are very, very powerful characters.

Galadriel shouldn’t be acting like a human teenager reamed out by Elendil. “We need to have these forges done by spring” makes no sense for immortal beings. Having a festival singing, “Everyone sticks together, and nobody’s left behind” and immediately having an event that’s almost for surely condemning a family with an injured family member being left behind?

Be consistent, yo.

The minute anything can happen, because it’s fantasy and elves aren’t real LOL the stakes are no longer there and your audience can’t engage the same way. The story becomes inconsistent and can quickly become nonsense. The odd rule break here or there, depending on how it’s handled might be okay, but to me that’s like me wanting to break a fundamental rule of grammar before I understand what I’m doing. A really, really good author might be able to pull it off but, me, more specifically me when I was just starting to write? I’m going to annoy readers and, unless I prove that I know what I’m doing, they’re probably not going to tolerate what looks like a fundamental misunderstanding of the source material.

Blog Tour Week Round Up and The Problem with Entering Science-Fiction and Fantasy Fandoms

9 Sep

Our Town Book Reviews

The Faerie Review

Jerry’s Circumlocution

Two Ends of a Pen

BIbliomanaic Aza

Hope. Dreams. Life… Love

Just a quick update: Ankle is not fractured. Sore, and my mummy took away my car.

This was supposed to be about “Uberpowerful Characters” but let’s just talk about science fiction and fantasy fans and, why you do not mess with the lore.

I played final fantasy video games on the PS1 when I was in junior high and high school. I whined when FFVIII came out and the characters were hyper-realistic, not manga-style inspired. Then FFIX came out, and I whined that they were cutesy and chibi, not realistic.

There’s no winning here.

Fast forward, and I’m in University, and the Compilation of FFVII starts milking us for all we’re worth and, I belonged to this I’m going to say, sassy pants group of CloudxTifa supporters who were really bonded by a love of sarcasm. I never played it, but Crisis Core came out, and we were all whining. Not because we hated Zack or that he had a bigger role to play than the original story let on.

No, the original character Genesis was rumored to be Sephiroth’s equal. Several members of my faction were mostly laughing that he was based on a musician, but in general we weren’t having any of it. Mostly, because that threw too many holes in the original story. Sephiroth was head and shoulders better than anyone else, there was no indication of any near-rival in universe. I never played Crisis Core or Before Crisis or really anything besides watching Advent Children and Last Order, the best I got is I’ve seen some clips online.

So when you’re dealing with people complaining about changing the lore – we fans complain about it. Like, a lot. Ad nauseum. I chatted with several of my friends from those days who played the FFVII remake, and they’re pretty blunt and honest about what game mechanics they liked, what stylistic choices they didn’t.

And I know it’s not easy to want to defend a property/show. When they put out trailers for Kingdom Hearts II, the Aerith fans were a little panicky, because the voice actress they picked for Aerith was… not the best, and this is around the time that Advent Children was coming out. Same actress.

Saying this character had weak voice acting or that costume or set was inferior to something else we saw is normal. It’s what we do. It doesn’t mean we hate something or it’s stupid, it’s that we talk and gripe a little.

So when I enter an established fandom, I kind of expect someone there who will complain and talk about the brilliance of what was done before, or talk about the original adaptation from back before I was born.

Straw-manning your opponents and pretending we don’t like something because it’s different… yeah. We’re going to grumble no matter what you do. I grew up on a diet of Mad Magazines and the Naked Gun Films, which basically made fun of the stuff I enjoyed, so us poking fun and making memes, that’s just part and parcel of the fandom. It’s not everyone – some people are purists, and I have been corrected by two panelists at at a convention for daring call Endor a planet (It’s a MOON!) but most of us will turn our brains off so long as the lore is mostly consistent.

Then there’s these fans.

Week One Round Up / More on Adaptation

6 Sep

Sorry for the delay – yesterday after my pre-work nap, my ankle decided to swell up and I can barely put any weight on it.

Literary Gold

Andi’s Middle Grade and Chapter Books

All the Ups and Downs

Fabulous and Brunette

The Avid Reader

Give some love to The Avid Reader, because no matter what I try I can’t share her link on Facebook. I talked to Marianne about it, she said it’s an ongoing issue Facebook will not resolve.

Also, I need to learn to stop sending pictures with my articles, no one ever uses them.

Here’s that picture of the kelpie referenced in today’s blog about ten fearsome water creatures:

And above is the size difference between humans, great whites and Megalodons. Artist rendering but you get the idea.

So I know on Facebook I said I would not watch Rings of Power until I saw my dad, but he’s not coming in this week and I go laid up with the ankle so I watched the first two episodes, he doesn’t seem particularly keen. I’m going to give my opinion after I see all the entire first season, all i wanted to say is yeah, there’s problems but most people are distracted by how beautiful everything is. Try not to stress out about it; I was chatting with someone I knew from Highschool and I used the analogy of Wicked! The musical as it relates to the original books of Oz. Now, I was a reader and I watched this anime cartoon as a kid. I’m not calling myself an Oz Purist, but I can enjoy Wicked! for what it is (I have never seen it, no, but I read the books) but I don’t understand why people get all antsy about discussing movies, saying you’re a phobe or an ist when it comes out, then like a year later we can all agree the writing on the New Star Wars movies was not its strong point.

As a kid Return to Oz scared me; this one was almost as bad when we got to the gnomes but, I don’t think anything is going to scare me as much as that Princess stealing heads.

Anyway, I will reserve judgement on RoP but will point out that there wasn’t enough that they did have to expand on the lore… but really they changed around a lot of the lore anyway, so it felt very picky-choosy what they wanted to follow. Now, it’s more likely than not we’re not going to get a big reveal – adaptations, especially movies always seemed dumbed down from source material, I think a big part of that is audience expectation. I do find it a little frustrating when people look at the film version as the canonical one, but that’s a rant for another day.

When it rains it pours

22 Aug

Doing another online book promo tour. I’m going to book another tour for another book, but I’m going to be busy. The tour starts a week from today and I just got the list of who needs what, so my apologies to the blog hosts you are a very high priority and your articles will be sent in a timely manner. Honestly a lot of these articles are fun so it’ll be a pleasure.

Vacation went by too quick and I could work every day if I wanna. I really don’t wanna and want work to hire people. They’re making excuses and whatever at this point. So far I haven’t been kayaking at all this summer, but the good news is kayaking can easily be done into the fall, I just need to get a trailer or a roof rack and figure it out.

Got the edits back for Magus’ Gambit, and I have the biggest first world problem ever. The sub-story was left me unsatisfied, but it’s a 135k novel and I didn’t have time to really do more with it. The editor’s right, but all of my ideas to fix it feel less cerebral and like I should have fixed it a while ago because it was sent to the publisher like two years ago. Don’t worry about the creative one over here; problem solving is my speciality and I’m already solving it without doing it, if that makes any sense.

Finally writing wise I’m at 65k for The Puppeteer Book, yes I know it needs another title but waaah. The original plan was to write 1k a day and have a roughish draft by September; which would work if it was still in that 75k range where I thought we were going, but this is feeling heavier so my honest guess is 90+ to even 100ish.

Plus I have a short story for an anthology that needs editing, other projects that need editing, and I need to hire an editor if I want to self-publish something next year; I’m having fun with this so I think it’s a good idea. I got the articles as priorities, and for the most part they’re light, but still good to know that I’m going to be busy for the next little while. But, if you missed us at Shelmerdine’s, we’ll be back next month and selling the books again at the Farmer’s Market, I think it’s September 17 but I’m not looking at a calendar. I won’t be sneaking off midsale to do anything online, and I actually have a full Saturday off, so I’ll be there.