Too many Characters? What I wish I would Have Known

16 May

So my beta reader and my niece are critiquing the current project and it’s hilarious how much they disagree. This isn’t new because I used to do writers circles and critique groups until I realized that most people aren’t going to be particularly helpful. People who like emotional gut wrenchers want different things than someone more technically inclined, for instance.

On a side note, sometimes they totally do agree (they both want more Tiffany – I get it guys), I know one of my weaknesses as a writer is that I have too many ideas, but another common criticism is “Too many characters” meanwhile, my niece is fine with me naming just about everyone. She knows that the bartender named George isn’t necessarily important, but it’s nice to know that I’ve taken the time to name him. My beta reader will say, “Robin Hood and his men” and my niece will want to know who some of these Merry Men are.

Compared to epic stories of yore, with modern books we often have very intimate voices and really get to know the characters. I noticed as a kid that we could do multiple retellings of Cinderella because Cinderella in some versions we don’t know much about her personally. We can be very liberal in the characterization and personality of not just fictional characters, but sometimes historical ones as well.

What this ultimately has led to are stories that are very character driven but don’t feel as epic in scope. A trick, for those of us who like epic worlds. For me, I like having it feel like the world exists beyond the characters. One of the appeals of fantasy and science fiction is the feeling like I’m going to another time and place. This is more possible when you have big, chonky books spanning multiple volumes, but let’s pretend that each story I’m talking here should more or less be self-contained. I can’t guarantee that the audience will commit to an entire series every time.

I think what it comes down to is, who is your prospective audience, and what do they want?

I draw influence from many forms of media, and when I look at video games I think often they totally did cater to the audience. The developers were gamers too, so when you’re running around a village, they supposed they wanted the NPCs to have sass and attitude, or make shops that are essentially full of nothing so it feels like there’s places to explore that aren’t one of the places to buy equipment relevant to the game. They knew we’d try to throw chickens at people, so the chickens will attack you in certain games. There’s easter eggs and other things hidden for people who are willing to really explore.

Books aren’t video games and, so it’s important to acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses of the genre. What can take me chapters to explain can be shown in a splashy musical number or even a training montage. On the other hand, we still allude to other things going on when the focus is elsewhere.

My beta reader Ron, bless him, makes it sound like I’m supposed to be giving flair and complicated back story to everybody, and when I have say, a cast of fifteen crew, that’s just not possible. Now, I’m not saying that I can’t have a fifteen book series and we get to focus a book on each of those fifteen people, but at the end of the day, they’re bound to interact with a town guard or someone who is just a bit character in their story. Maybe you want a very cozy, intimate fantasy that goes into the life of the guy who makes the village donuts, but I like epic stories where the heroes travel abroad and meet people and, nothing is worse than the first person the heroes stumble across being just the person they were looking for.

This is where voice intimacy matters. If you’re already familiar with Morte D’Arthur, then you don’t mind if I go into a tangent about an already familiar story told from the perspective of Sir Gawain. My favourite novel is Til We Have Faces: A Myth Retold. It’s not possible to get into the intimate perspective of Orual until I’m familiar with the OG (or at least familiar enough with it) but for some people, they wouldn’t be interested in the story at all, because they want to focus on the love story.

I get it because growing up I was given media that was “Just for me” and I didn’t care for it the way I liked other stories aimed at a different demographic. I didn’t mind having a large cast; I often didn’t care about background knight #4 I wanted a rip-roaring adventure and it made sense that the protagonists had a team to assist him. I read a lot of commentary that complain that modern novels are so big and have often lost their focus; we’re waiting years if not decades because the author decides to go on tangents about side character’s sub plots. Books nowadays tend towards being thicker, but certain audiences eat it up. Again, with video games: If you’re there just to play the game, that’s fine, but you can find really small attention to detail in plenty of games that most people would completely overlook.

How do I know how to do it in a book?

I don’t think there’s any one answer, as I’ve seen younger readers reading books meant for adults and vice versa. I would argue that you need just enough characters to make it feel realistic for them being there, as well as who they would know. Also, cheat like mad where warranted.

When I wrote Ballad, I realized that there are an awful lot of young teenage boys and men who would be cussing like crazy just because they could. The short of it, is that I made some of them who specifically don’t swear around women and children, and make the other characters fall in line. I like punchier, reserved swearing as opposed to some 13 year old edgelord who is taking notes and repeating everything he hears.

To cheat here, translates to, If your character is nobility, they probably have a ton of servants, courtiers, and people who run their castle or whatever. They might know like a handful of them, but not particularly well. A cheat here would be like, “My washerwoman” and have another character name Charlene or whatever. Allude that someone who’s helping the protagonists have older children, but they’re off apprenticing or doing something. They would be extras in a background movie, but they don’t affect the plot kind of deal.

So that means that the heroes aren’t meeting a ton of characters or getting to know people particularly well when they first meet them. I allude that Seth and Lily meet or at least see a character named Colton before being properly introduced the next day, and I have subsequent ideas to have them interact with more characters before they meaningfully interact with them in subsequent chapters, or have Tiffany interact with them and frame them to the reader one way before getting to know them through the lens of Seth or Lily. Other characters they meet for a scene, are named, and are gone for the remainder of the narrative because they no longer pass that way.

When I write a first draft, I write out scenes and about 20-30k in, plot out a storyline, but I don’t worry if I deviate too much. After the first draft, I pretend I need to scale it down, like we’re on budget theater. Can two characters be blended into one? What purpose does this scene have? That isn’t to say I pare everything down, but ask myself what would be cut out or rewritten if someone else was doing a screenplay or adaptation.

When you’re moving around from place to place, like in a story like A Ballad of Wood and String, it needs to feel like the characters are in places with people. So when our heroes are at home in Stagmil, townsfolk are mentioned, the important ones stick and some are fleshed out, even though the focus is introducing the main characters, the plot, and the stakes. When they start traveling, some characters are named, others aren’t. And finally when they arrive at the cursed castle and the city around it, more characters are introduced. Not everyone needs to be given focus right away. For instance, Tiffany meets a page named Oliver well before Lily or Seth do; he’s not named but described in a way that it’s obvious this is the same character. Tiffany’s overloading the reader with lots of information, she’s having a hard time remembering the names of people she’s just met. Oliver is important later in the story, so while Tiffany is coming to grips with the reality of her situation, she’s letting the reader know what’s important (or what she thinks is important) now. Plus, makes for fun reread value later.

Consider also that this is a spin-off of The Mermaid and the Unicorns, a novel written for an older Middle Grade audience. I went out of my way to name important characters, but some characters are their characteristics. For instance, when Daphne arrives in Shelkie’s Bay, she meets people, and some are named, but others aren’t; I allude she’s learning to pretend to be human, so even if she’s introduced, she’s not going to remember everyone unless they matter to the story, but it also feels like the town and world isn’t threadbare and to support Daphne’s quest. There’s a grumpy old man who is at the bakery for his discounted bread and mostly complains about everything, but he gets a quick line or two later while Daphne and Espy are performing for the town, lecturing Daphne their version of the song in question is passable but inferior. Lily runs into him briefly when she arrives in Shelkie’s Bay, and as of right now he’s still briefly whining and complaining.

The short of this, is that yes, I probably have too many characters from a strictly narrative POV, but I’m not going to worry because my focus when telling epics is to make it both plausible and fleshed out. I can always pull the episodic trick and do another spin off if I think something or someone needs to be fleshed out some more. It’s not the easiest thing to craft a story where so many people feel to be necessary, so the other short is don’t stress out if the story you want to tell feels above your skill level. Do this enough, you start to develop at least some ability in the craft to think it through.


Spring is Finally Here (What Happened? No seriously, what happened??) and Philosophical Meandering with World Building

13 Apr

It doesn’t feel like April on account that we had the usual birthday blizzard, but this round with no False Spring in which for a week in March, we’re all breaking out the shorts and deluded winter’s done. I have been stupid busy with work that it doesn’t feel like mid April; I guess I find out if the strike vote goes forward soonish; we’ll be mandated to work and I’m not against that. One of the few mandates I agree with, actually.

Oh, and Ballad bloated right up and is now a 160k monster. Imma give it to my niece for feedback and I may make some distinct changes, but as of right now I’m happily working on a supplemental novella and the sequel. One scene absolutely needs to be revised but I have my Magus Gambit stuff on the forefront, so Ballad and its sequel are going to be taking a backstep. Honestly I’m probably going to edit some other projects and let it percolate.

That being said, because it’s a spinoff with two planned chonky novels I’ve had to delve into world building; also because I want to write a sequel to The Mermaid and The Unicorns so I might as well do some work. I talk about it below.

Factoring in Religion and Real World Parallels into Unique Fantasy Worlds

C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia is famous for utilizing the character of Aslan as a stand-in for Jesus, but that is hardly Lewis’ only use of real world religion or philosophy in his fiction. If you have a chance to read his Space Trilogy, I recommend them – a little more dry among his fiction, the character Ransom goes to Mars and then Venus, and then has a run-in with Merlin in the third book. The trilogy deals with philosophical matters, with the first two books being about meeting a world that didn’t have a fall quite like ours, and the state of their respective societies. My favorite novel, Til We Have Faces: A Myth Retold, is about Cupid and Psyche from Psyche’s wicked older sister’s perspective. It’s about her possessive love and how she rails against the gods and her perceived injustices. I also recommend being familiar with the source story before you read TWHF, but it’s not necessary.

I think it’s more than possible to talk about religion without making it overt of the defining factor. I recently watched The Windfeather Saga, and it definitely leans towards having a Creator God, even if we’re in an original world and their issues aren’t necessarily the same as the ones we have in our world.

When I’m writing some of my fiction, it’s easy to draw on real-world influences, as books like Rogue Healer and Dreams of Mariposa are set in our world, or if they’re Garnet and Silver, our world exists and others run parallel. I look at other creative properties, and appreciate when the creators take their time to do it right, and so if I’m going to set several stories in this world, I’m going to do it right.

A Ballad of Wood and String is set in a parallel running world, and it’s meant to read like a fairy tale world. I want it to be incredibly friendly for younger readers – in other words, don’t stress out about XYZ factor that would be obvious in a grittier, more real life book: Your princess CAN have Blue Dye Number 14 for her dress even though it’s only possible with synthetic, plus the gowns are pretty and contemporary with certain medieval/fantasy aesthetics. Aaand probably more importantly: If you want a mermaid from your culture they’re splashing around with Daphne and Oshiera no questions asked. You want realism where cultures don’t move around as much and are more homogenized and there’s more real life consequences: Go read Rogue Healer or some of my other books. That isn’t to say that I don’t deal with real issues and it’s all just a silly romp, but it’s not meant to be a cynical take on fantasy.

So my multiple-fold issues with wanting to expand on a story set in an alternative world is once again, stories aren’t told in vacuums. I should at least respect source materials – in other words, I am using kitsunes and jorogumo in A Ballad of Wood and String, but it’s set in a world where I made up rules about mermaids, unicorns, river nixies, and wyverns. I am expanding on what’s already there, but how do I incorporate Japanese Mythology in a world where there’s no explicit Japan? (The answer, is there’s no Jolly Old England or France or whatever either; figure out how the world works and be consistent, often with a blend or my own twist).

I use knights and squires, and as I’m doing research into knighthood, I’m faced with not a quite uncomfortable fact about the warrior class and I couldn’t get away from Christianity and it’s impact on knighting and their codes. I rewatched Kingdom of Heaven – didn’t like it as much as I did when it came out, because it feels like that the characters were either weak or mouthpieces for modern day audiences or even the writers.

Or I could just pull a Legend of Zelda and explain NOTHING until I suddenly need to retcon. Come on, it’s  kind of hilarious.

It wouldn’t be a huge deal if I glanced over ideas but I don’t like pussy-footing around uncomfortable things. I enjoy world building; it’s one of the things that draws me towards fantasy in general. I want it to be a world that’s almost a parallel to our own – influenced by myths and stories from places like England, Japan; some cultures that are the equivalent to Christianity while others adhere more strongly to Bhuddism (oversimplified and friendly, of course), shoot we can look at non-religious philosophies like Stoicism and our calendar and if I want the seasons to run the same. All of it doesn’t technically exist until I explicitly say it does, but I want a reader to feel immersed and like they know the equivalence does. It’s meant to be friendly to young readers, so I want it to feel similar enough to our world. That means if a young reader is into the story, and wants to imagine their culture that I might not have introduced properly, they can phase it in without issue for a fanfic or whatever.

I’m still in the middle of reading the books, but a series I think that does this very well is Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember Among the Ashes, where when we’re dealing with characters like Ifrit and Ghouls, I can tell there’s legend and mythology inspired from our world woven into a world that is distinctly not ours. There’s also other parts of the world that are only hinted upon but feel actualized; like hey, there’s different tribes and systems going on well beyond the focus of the story. I can pull analogies from one culture as being heavily inspired by say, the Romans, but with hints of say, this culture from Greece as well. It all blends into its own thing, but is not so foreign that a given reader feels lost.

So, what do the people of this fairy-taleish realm believe? Do I just keep it intentionally vague or use obvious analogies to distinct cultures and eras? Or, as my creative consultant niece is concerned, when a kitsune takes human form, are they distinctly Japanese? Someone likes Genshin Impact; don’t ask I haven’t played a real video game in years. (You know you’re getting old when you play a playlist of ‘name that video game theme’ and you don’t recognize any of them but your nieces and nephew do).

My short answer is when I say I want to include everyone in these stories and make everyone welcome, that includes worldviews and philosophies I sometimes don’t fully understand by merit of can read about it academically, but miss the bigger picture. I don’t like going for a cheap aesthetic, if that makes any sense.

It would be boring to have a fairy tale world where the characters weren’t like us – but I don’t need to have a word-for-word retelling of our religions and cultures – but I’m not opposed to having characters with a reimagined, fantasy-appropriate culture existing in the same world as it expands. There are no true real-world parallels – there are no Knights Templar, or specific types of Samaurai from a given era.

And before you ask, yes there are Japanese-coded characters in the story beyond just the kitsunes; it’s not as obvious as when I said Espy and her family are black but, the difference is The Mermaid and the Unicorns is a middle grade book and I didn’t want anyone to pretend I meant anything other than what I said.

I have another blog post I was working on like a month ago (that’s when I like started this one, hahaha) but I might switch it up and talk about costumes and designing clothing. I dunno, depends how busy I am but I am on a drawing kick.

Review for The Windfeather Saga – Books and TV Series (First Season)

12 Mar

               I first came across the animation for the show when I was on The Babylon Bee, so while waiting for the animated premier I checked out the first book, and quickly got another copy of the first book for my niece for Christmas. It’s a little on the advanced side for her at nine (she likes chapter books, but I’m a terrible judge because of my own reading at that age) but the tv show recently put a disclaimer that the show is meant for ages seven and up, mostly due to the violence that occurs in the series.

               The story follows the Igiby siblings who are growing up in the remote community of Glipwood, their world has been conquered by Gnag the Nameless and he has sent his fangs, for the most part, lizard men to enforce his rule. Things change one fateful Dragon Day Festival, when oldest sibling Janner is pulled in two directions; he goes after his mischievous brother “Tink” Kelmar and his sister Leeli attacks a fang in defence of her beloved dog Nugget. Attacking a fang has serious consequences, and the siblings discover who they really are, and that they hold a power to something ancient that Gnag the Nameless desperately wants. Their mother Nia and former-pirate grandfather Podo do everything in their power to keep them safe, which involves them fleeing their home once their true identities are discovered.

               The series is divided into four books, and I said on my Goodreads review of the final book that really the first and third books not much happens but it builds characters and the world, with the second and the fourth books being where most of the plot related stuff takes place. I don’t mind because I’ve read plenty of character-driven stories before, and it seems to me that the author wanted a fun, whimsical world in which to let his characters live and breathe, it’s not a terribly original world but it’s a fun one to visit. I think he did put the plot on the back burner because the characters don’t really interact or affect the plot too much until the final book, where a lot of information gets thrown at us. It’s meant to be more about the characters and the themes then about going into the Kingdom and stopping the evil that’s after them, but overall I think it’s wholly appropriate for the target audience.

               And man, does it cater to the target audience. I believe this is meant to be young boys, although girl characters do get to be active, the main character is Janner, who is the eldest son of the last King of Anniera. In Anniera, when a second child is born, the first one becomes Throne Warden, Protector of the King and the Realm. At first this sounds really weird, but then I remember all of those stories where we have crown princes who wish they could be the ones having adventures, and remembering in history figures like King Richard was off on Crusades as opposed to running his own country.

               It makes sense, and even though at the end of the first book Janner is bemoaning, he quickly grows into his role when it suits him, and even Tink is all like, “Wait, he gets to the physically active one?” although there’s times both boys get frustrated with their designations. Janner wants to be like his uncle Artham, who is conveniently written in and out of the story as needed.

               Artham’s a great character and probably the best fighter. Spoilers! So when Gnag the Nameless came to Anniera, King Esben ordered his Throne Warden Artham to get his family to safety. Artham complied, with only Podo’s wife failing to escape. Once the royal family was on a boat, Artham went back for Esben, and the pair were captured. The process of creating fangs was to take an animal and meld it to a human – the most common type are green fangs, which are lizards, but there are grey fangs (wolves) and Esben was melded with a bear, and Artham was tortured until he half way accepted with a Hawk. He didn’t finish the process lapses in and out of sanity, mostly being confused in the first book but he has enough to know to protect his family, even though Podo blames him for the death of his beloved wife and their relationship is strained at the beginning of the novel, with the kids knowing him as Peet the Sockman, a local crazy who seems harmless. He has talons on his hands and doesn’t need a weapon. Both Janner and Tink admire him, and the character with the exception of being around (or sent away) for the sake of convenience, was probably my favourite in the series.

               A lot of the story makes sense if you’re young, but doesn’t if you’re a little older. The family flees to The Green Hollows, where Nia grew up, once the identities of the royal children are known. This time, more spoilers, Tink has been turned into a grey fang which everyone despises, for with few exception, they are bent to Gnag’s cruelty. She is insistent that they go to school, even though it’s implied that they never went to school before, even knowing no one in the school is going to be accepting of a fang. Also at the school, the kids get to choose guilds to specialize in – raising dogs, cooking, sewing, book binding, fighting. It’s meant to be fun more than make sense, so try not to worry about it.

               Overall, I say if you want wholesome values in a story, and you’re not really worried about crazy world building, the series is a lot of fun and emphasizes the importance of helping people as opposed to trying to get what’s best for yourself all the time.

               The TV series I was honestly impressed with the animation style. It’s CGI but it looks like the old claymation stuff. For the most part the character designs are a lot of fun (moreso the fangs than the people) and the backgrounds are beautiful. I liked the voices and the music and in general, I recommend the cartoon.

               The first five episodes easily could have been the entire first book, and certain changes were made in order to streamline events. Rather than telling us how Podo had to return a garden hoe “weapon” or he’d get fined, they showed it. The Igiby children were never arrested after the Dragon Day Festival, and they included a character who plays a role in later books, Sarah Cobbler, to emphasize that Janner knew and cared about her. The final sixth episode in my opinion was the worst because the show runners weren’t sure how to do a climax and it was mostly action, with the final bit of revelation happening towards the end. It’s not a bad episode by any means, but I remember watching the fifth episode and thinking, “They could end it here”. I would have to watch it again to comment on the fight choreography – it’s way too scary for younger children but, the story doesn’t emphasize on violence (although there’s plenty – Gnag sends soldiers and people defend themselves).

               Overall, I say it’s worth checking out at the very least. The second season of the animated show is currently under production, and they plan on having at least seven seasons for four books, so that tells you how much more story they have to cover.

A Ballad of Wood and Strings: Concepts, Follow Through, Revision

19 Feb

    I don’t normally like writing about my ideas because they’ll change but, this is as good a time as any to talk about my concepts, and what all changes. There’s plenty of happy accidents, things I didn’t consider, and really the first draft is me taking concepts and scenes and telling myself the story. Revision and editing is where I go, “And I meant to do that”.

               I wrote The Mermaid and the Unicorns for my niece when she was just starting to read chapter books, knowing it would be years before she was ready for that and maybe I would have a good novel when she was old enough. In that book, Esperanza gets her hopes dashed at the musical academy who, despite being a very talented singer, has no bravado and doesn’t know any sort of dancing outside of jigs, which is not ballet or anything fancy. She wants some alone time to mope, and gets preyed upon by a puppeteer who offers to teach her a few things. Esperanza gets turned into a puppet, and is about to be shipped off when Sean and Daphne stumble across her – not knowing it’s her, they think having a little puppet doppelganger is hilarious – and save her. That’s oversimplification, but Esperanza gets saved so good enough.

               It was a scene I really liked but I was worried was too advanced and scary for the target demographic, 10-12 year olds girls. My niece read the story around eight or nine and loved it. I want to say “The Puppet Master” from Avatar: the Last Airbender was among her favourite episodes, and the idea of humans turned into puppets appeals on multiple levels. It lends itself to horror (what did you do to my body?) adventure, themes of theatre and, though they’re often called Chess Masters, lots of villains are the classic scheming, pulling strings sort.

               So it was no surprise when we were talking about books she likes that she wanted a story that focused on the puppeteers. I myself had an idea about a brother and sister who were turned into puppets and broke free, needing to restore their bodies – the original idea was one of the puppeteers with the woman who turned Espy who escaped, but I digress. Now, my niece is a teenager reading more mature books and also wanted to tie in to the middle-grade book. I’ll be the first one to say, “You don’t have to read one to enjoy the other” but I wanted the tie-in to be there, as much as possible having a book meant for 10-12 year olds can tie in to a book meant for a more traditional, 13+ YA audience.

               My niece also had a list of other story suggestions, including: Duology (most plays have two acts, I can work with that) a betrayal by a character who likes being a puppet or at least what was going on, and have characters from the previous book make cameos – she was thinking of Daphne, Esperanza and Sean. My other niece, when I was pitching out ideas at the coffee shop, didn’t like any of the names I had for the main heroine (I named the brother Seth, it’s a joke that won’t translate easily) I think my front runner was Fern, and when I explained that I wanted a natural sounding plant or woodsy name, my younger niece suggested Lily, which somehow suits the character more than I anticipated. Maybe she grew into the name or I made another subconscious association; I’m not sure. As a general rule, I don’t like to have major heroines have the same letter of my first name or share major physical characteristics – we’re all guilty of it at one time, shaddap – so honestly I think the name went from placeholder to definite. Tiffany, on the other hand, was 100% “Tiffany is a medieval name but you wouldn’t think it”.

               The weird part was how all three siblings have really biblical names. Lilies are associated with Easter, and Tiffany is short for Theophania, another word for Epiphany. Seth is the third child of Adam and Eve, and even the father Elias has a really strong biblical name (usually it’s thought to be a variation of Elijah) – leaving the mother, Sylvia (Sylvester and Sylvia both mean forest) as the only one really more tied to the natural and woods. All these ideas about life and atonement, in a world that wouldn’t necessarily have Christianity, actually helped resolve an issue I had later when it came to another major character’s death. (I’ll talk about this issue in another post. Hallo, Narnia).

               How I started was I wanted to make it possible to track down the person who turned someone into a puppet, and I thought about what I’d already established. So if possible, I wanted to make at least either the brother or sister have a realistic skill when it came to tracking, roughing it and generally speaking, not be babes in the woods unable to function. I figured because they were young, both would be more realistic. Siona, Terrence’s husband, was implied to help hunt unicorns before she married Terrence, (implying she was the virgin, her skill set was never specified) and she was the one who had access to horns to help Daphne. I figured Seth and Lily’s parents were once big game/magical game hunters, retiring to have a boring life where the siblings are all craving something more exciting. They diversify in what their actual desires and problems are, but it’s a launching point. I never explain the change of heart, but Siona was in awe of Unicorns the previous book and, I figured they didn’t realize what they were doing until after the first successful hunt and stopping anyone else from taking a horn was a good back story. Disgraced, the hunters retire to some town where no one knows who he is and raises his children in peace, and rumors circulate that he was a coward (Implying Sylvia had nothing to do with it, lest the truth surface) as opposed to refusing to do what they knew was wrong. Teams were usually used in the fabled old Unicorn Hunts, so I decided to expand on that; I made the father Elias the tactician and most like a ranger, and made the mother Sylvia the lore expert and scholar.

               Elias has PTSD and Sylvia struggles keeping him well as well as raising teenagers, but she’s the one writing down what to do and how to handle various magical creatures, which proves invaluable when the theatre masks come out and start to transform people into monsters. She doesn’t have any notes on humans turned to wood and string, but given their skillset, it was more than enough to make the trio of siblings capable in a strange world.

               From there I diversified skillsets.

               Tiffany gets the short end of the stick, being the sibling in need of rescue but, it’s pretty obvious that she’s also making the best of a terrible situation and isn’t sitting in the corner weeping. She’ll be more balanced in subsequent drafts. I also plan to use her viewpoint more in the second book.

               I gave Lily a mandolin early on because my one niece plays the flute, the guitar, the harp, and probably is dabbling in something else. This turned out to be super important and why she’s targeted, even though Seth and Tiffany play it as well (family instrument) I figured an instrument that could be played as well as sung at the same time would be best, as well as one that could transported easily. The woman in The Mermaid and the Unicorn played the piano, and used it to weave her spell. On the run, she needed something… or someone… to do it for her. Lily also studied some swordsmanship and fighting with one of the town recluses, so even though all three siblings could play the mandolin, Lily was the best option to use because she could put up the biggest fight. Lily’s the dutiful oldest sibling.

               With Seth I cranked out hunter skills. Technically the sibling are shepherds, but Seth is most likely to leave Lily in the field and Tiff to do the more house and nearby chores and wander in the forest. Lily and Tiff are more dutiful, and Seth was most likely to be a creative problem solver and his archetype is leans towards trickster as opposed to standard hero. My original thought was to make him and Tiffany twins so they were both the same age but, I liked the idea that the midwife said, “Tiff was supposed to be born first, but he distracted her and pushed her out of the way at the last minute. She’s never quite forgiven him.” He refused to learn from the swordmaster, caring about his reputation, but he still paid attention to what Lily learned. He’s more diversified; he’s a little quick on his trained shots but can throw axes and use a sling, as well as climb and repel and forage better than anyone.

               In TMatU, Daphne encounters a wyvern in the mountains during her quest that is driven off, its fate is unknown. I figured if people from a town or village would be distracted by a monster stealing their sheep and potentially threatening their farms, they might overlook a stranger who came into town. Their father leads a team but the siblings ultimately kept out of the hunt for the wyvern (Seth goes but is brought back, he’s reckless but really it’s by his being there makes his father focus on protecting Seth not the hunt) and both Lily and Seth are resentful about what it’s all about: Protecting people who can’t help themselves. Sylvia knew if it was about the prize she would take the oldest two and have Tiffany sent to Taralee, but stays behind to keep the villagers safe because she knows how to lessen the chance the wyvern will return – unlike humans, wyverns can fly and move quite far in a short amount of time. Both Seth and Lily are among the best people who could protect the villagers if the wyvern comes back, but neither are happy about the situation. Strange woman stumbles into town, and the real plot starts; the woman gets to know the villagers and asks Lily to learn a piece of music that gets stuck in her head, and felt completely taken over when a mask was put on her face. She knows it’s not logical, not right, and goes back, into a trap. The story launches with Seth and Lily following after the woman, who has transformed their friends and little sister into puppets, Seth a free puppet and Lily still with a song she can’t get out of her head, following her before the trail goes cold.

               Oh, and they have a kitsune with them too.

               I then had to think about why someone would want human (and other) puppets – especially when I implied in the previous story a girl like Esperanza was valuable. Young, pretty, with a good singing voice – and at the same time, this is a YA novel for my niece, so rather than just wizards who wanted slaves or whatever I had to come up with a story. And that isn’t to say that it wouldn’t have been enough to just sell them to unsuspecting theatre folk.

               The original idea was that there might be someone who was dying and better off as a puppet and wanted others like them to populate the world so they wouldn’t be the only one. I sort of used this but expanded on it – one of the major characters would have been dead in a few more days without intervention, so someone who cared about him helped bring the curse about the castle. He can’t prove anything but is immensely aware that in a way, he was lucky about the curse, and new puppets come and go – ripped from their lives he has an immense sort of survivor’s guilt on his shoulders. I also wanted there to be a bigger, more sinister motive, so I ran with “You are not the reason for the curse. Your loved ones were manipulated too – before they ever had strings to pull.” My original idea was once the curse was lifted, this character would die and he’d rather have that than live his life as half-life enchanted object, realizing it wasn’t his fault that people had theirs uprooted on his behalf yaddah yaddah and make peace with it.

               Then it occurred to me: Target audience.

               I never played Final Fantasy X, but it is infamous where the main character, upon finishing the quest, disappears from existence; he essentially dies. Several years later, a sequel came out where it was clearly aimed at female gamers, and if you did a perfect play through, I think twice, you could bring him back. I think this is a good example where the creator wanted him to stay dead for creative purposes; bringing characters back from the dead is often done cheaply, and I want there to be consequences. The stakes are real.

               I mentioned the idea of killing off the character in question and my target audience (niece) wasn’t happy. But thematically, I’d already thought it through so I didn’t care, because I thought it would hammer down on tragedy and comeuppance. Thinking about it, and the reader, I’m not opposed to killing him off, but not  way I originally planned. Given the other characters, I found a plausible way to keep him alive and even fix his problem. Plus, there’s a whole other book that needs to be written. So as of right now, end of the first book, he doesn’t make it out unscathed, but I have a whole other book to write. I have ideas, and as of right now, I need to revise a few more scenes so I can leave it alone. I thought I’d be taking a break from it and working on something else, but who knows? I for one like it when series are written like they’re meant to be two parts, so maybe I’ll hammer out quite a bit of the next story before I get to the hard edits and more revision.

               It feels like I am giving away a lot, but really it’s a WIP and there’s so much I haven’t gotten into. Subsequent drafts will have significant name changes, characters, ideas and themes explored. Ron says there’s too many named characters, but really it’s just supporting cast. One thing I know for sure is that the beginning concepts sometimes have hidden meanings I don’t understand myself, and I surprise myself. My favourite so far, is that many of the puppets who are knights have motifs on their armor: we have a justice-seeking crescent knight, one has a boar, another has a hawk, etc. I threw Wolf on one of the main ones who’s uber important to the plot because it’s almost a cliché, but then it occurred to me: These main characters are sheepherders, and his designated role is Wolf.

               Also, did I mention there’s a kitsune?

               Foxes vs Wolves

               Let’s play.

Review for Puss ‘n Boots: The Last Wish

30 Jan

The first movie I’ve seen in a theatre in about three years: of course it’s an animated feature.

 I didn’t see Shrek when it came out but when it came out on VHS (I belieeeeeve Shrek came out in 2001. Yeah, VHS and Blockbuster; I was there 3000 years ago, Gandalf…) I remember seeing Shrek 2 in theatres, and enjoying it so much I went twice. It remains one of my favourite comedy movies to this day, the people involved went extra when they didn’t have to. I mostly didn’t like the third movie, didn’t bother with the fourth, and wasn’t a cat owner at the time the original Puss N Boots spin off came out. I saw it when someone loaned me the movie when I was up in McCreary (no cable – all I had was what I could rent or people would loan me and I was broke, so I took what I could and was stuck doing On Call), and it was okay – a little more family friendly than Dreamworks films I tend to enjoy, like Megamind but, I also haven’t seen the vast majority of their line up. Parts of Trolls and How to Train your Dragon, sure – you have to remember while I have nieces and nephews and will buy them stuff about the movie, I can go a long time trying to piece together clips I see here and there when I’m hanging out with family. I tend towards more indie and weird animation.

 I wanted to see The Last Wish because the fight animation looked boss and you probably know by now that I love animation. The faces of the people in the background have really improved too – granted we’ve come a long way since the original movies came out but the people look well animated and the general colors were great, even when someone was meant to be ugly like Jack Horner. I was in no rush to see the film and then I heard that the villains weren’t the usual sympathetic complicated sort, and I got interested in seeing that the story deals with fear and anxiety, and how to deal with it. Also, am working on fight choreography for Puppeteers – oh, I’m sorry, we have a name now – you can read it at the end of this post, back to the review.

My professional focus is on dealing with PTSD and that’s not what this is, as Puss is on his last life and Death is Literally coming after him, and he has to deal with the fear for his own life. He goes from being unstoppable and arrogant with the realization that death is an unstoppable force and Puss is not invincible or as spectacular as he thought he was. This leads to him sinking into depression and an identity crisis, even when he goes back to his old life he realizes he’s changed.

Overall the colors are really pretty and the vast majority of the designs are great. When the story goes extra, it really does. Overall the story is mostly family friendly – I’ll have to watch it with some of the younger nieces and see if they get overly scared when the wolf shows up. I figured I knew the ending already – and I was sort of right, but it didn’t happen the way I expected. The story, is that there’s a dark forest with a wishing star, and you need a map to get it and get that wish. It’s a race to find out who will get what it is they desire most, like I said mostly family friendly but it does push the boundaries and there’s some minor naughty language, one of the points I burst out laughing was when the heart of the movie, Purrito, starts getting bleeped out. It’s the nicest cussing out I’ve ever seen.

Personally I thought the Jack Horner bits were hitting close to home for my style of writing, especially when the good impression of a bad impression of George Bailey shows up in the form of his conscience. (Baby, unicorn horns. Aaaaaah – if you read The Mermaid and the Unicorns, you can probably guess why it’s doubly funny for me) Honestly, I found that the parts with Puss, Kitty and Perrito were the family and nice bits, I enjoyed hanging out with the other antagonists, be it Goldie and the Bears or Jack Horner basically being evil and not bothering to give any reason other than because. In an era of Grey Villains and relative morality, thank you. In an era where we’re all cynical and trying to be edgy, Perrito’s unyielding cheerfulness is a reminder that no matter what bad things happen, happiness and joy remains a choice and not a matter of what circumstances occur to you in life. Parts are cheesy but ultimately, given the tone of the story, it works. At one point, Perrito calms down Puss by being present, and I find when I’m dealing with people going through crisis, empathy is an incredibly powerful tool.

It’s not Shrek 2, but it’s definitely one of the best titles in that line up. If you’re on the fence, go see it. I am hesitant to take younger kids to see it, but I honestly never thought the Shrek Franchise was originally intended for small kids like Pixar films.

In other news, it’s really cold out there. Something like -40 with the windchill. Sounds like a good day to do some baking and work on A Ballad of Wood and Strings, Official Title until I change my mind.

Titles are funny for me; Tower of Obsidian was “Historical Fantasy in Ireland” until about halfway whereas I came up with Dreams of Mariposa relatively quickly, but at the time I think I was too busy for working on the book for long periods of time, so when I had to go do real work I would day dream and come up with ideas. Some projects are on the back burner of my mind for a very long time, so it’s easy for me to come up with a title while they’re waiting their turn. A Ballad of Wood and Strings is the first book for The Puppet Master Duology, again I don’t know if this’ll be Master of Puppets or Trickster. A bit of a mouthful and not sure it’ll stick, but I have the sneaky suspicion I’ll keep working on the project and refining. It’ll still need work and when I go back I sometimes am appalled at what I thought was great yesterday, but it’s all part of the process.

By Any Other Name

23 Jan

Tower of Obsidian Launched Ebook it’ll be 10 years ago coming up early February. I hate that it took me so long to do follow-ups, but hey a girl needs a good job and it’s not like I sat on my hands twiddling my thumbs. I do need to fix the stuff up that I wrote in the meantime, but it got me thinking about why I chose to write Tower of Obsidian and stick it in our past.

I also promised I’d talk about Not-England and Vaguely-France last post.

The two series that comes to mind that I either am reading or just finished The Ranger’s Apprentice or The Bonemender Trilogy, but these two children’s authors aren’t the only ones that do this. Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Lions of Al-Rassan is very similar, as well as A Song for Arbonne, while other stories like Ysabel or River of Stars feels like they’re either in our world or set in the historic past during a specific era.

There are certain advantages of doing it this way – for instance, A Song for Arbonne there is no Christianity, instead Kay used a different sort of religion that makes more sense for the story he is trying to tell us. Another reason this is useful is it allows the author to tell a story appropriate for the audience, but at the same time, those familiar with this era can expect similar customs, climate.  For instance, in Ranger’s Apprentice, Battle School was a way for select boys to become knights. The purist would say this wasn’t how it worked, but it works for the target audience, and there’s allusions to our world – the use of bows is legendary among the people from Araluen, particularly the rangers, and while rangers as a concept is enshrined in fantasy the English were renowned archers. The Skandians we interact with are basically Vikings, and are renowned warriors in close contact, but even when a raiding party returns with an absolute ton of bows they have no idea what to do with them. One or two you could write off – but in Gaul they are speaking French and in the fourth book, we meet the Tamujei, eastern riders who excel at conquering and battlefield tactics- AKA, Mongols. It gets the young reader interested in learning more about them while knowing this isn’t real – but it’s not so dissimilar to our world that people get lost or bogged down.

That being said I think some stories are better being served in our world – or at least a version of our world.

For instance, The Pyrdain Chronicles really utilize Wales as a setting. If the story was set in once upon a time, far far away in a land that didn’t exist, I’m not convinced it would have that same cultural impact. It explains away the fantastic – it’s bittersweet, at the end of the series, all of the fantastic elements of the world leave, but the myths and stories remain and are remembered as intrinsic to cultures and their echoes still remain to this day.

So, what are the various options, and what one is best for the story?

There’s no one answer – I for one foolishly assumed when I came up with the general plot of Tower of Obsidian putting it in Ireland at the end of the Viking era would be easy compared to building a brand new world – oh how naive I was. It wasn’t that I wasn’t willing to do the research – it was I had no idea how much I didn’t know setting out to write such a novel, and I picked an era I was interested in and a culture I consider my heritage.

Let’s examine a few different options. We’re not talking about flavour or feel = like is it a high fantasy, or more of a science fantasy, but what sort of world it is, and what sort of rules apply. I’ll probably forget one, so feel free to comment below:

Slipstream  -the most “literary” insofar as it’s typically the one most acceptable. Do the fantastical elements exist, or are they all in the character’s heads/delusions? Think Crow Winter by Karen McBride.

Urban Fantasy – I think of it really as fantasy which exists in up to date times, as I’ve read several “Urban Fantasy” where huge chunks take place in a rural setting. Thunder Road by Chadwick Ginther.

Portal Fantasy – People slip from one world to another, typically the protagonist comes from our world where things are ordinary and goes somewhere where things are quite different. Examples of this would be The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis or Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

Alternative History Fantasy – I always consider this more along the lines of “how would the world be different if X existed”? So in other words, how might the world be different if we had technology X earlier, or in the case of fantasy, something existed that would have huge implications. An example is His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik.

Alternative World Fantasy – this is usually my favourite go-to to read because it leans into world building. We’re not on Earth, we’re in Hyrule or Westeros or maybe I’m just playing Golden Axe II. You may say, “What about Middle-Earth or Rand-Land?” and I’ll bring you to

Extremely past or Futureish Earth– Some authors take advantage that we think written history only goes back 10000 years, so they’ll set up a kingdom/world that took place say, 30000 years ago and ultimately blew us back to the stone age and that’s when our ‘written history’ began. I put Wheel of Time here, because there’s plenty of hints that it could be our future – my speculation of course. Something like Conan the Barbarian exists here.

**I am going to count any story taking place on a much-future terraformed world as this. If we were to make Mars liveable without technology – say give it an atmosphere and they blasted themselves back to the medieval era, they are effectively on a future-earthen “Colony”.

Vaguely Historical Fantasy  – this is where I’ll stick Ranger’s Apprentice. A purist will point out flaw XYZ – that didn’t happen. “Women couldn’t be couriers and a common boy like Horace could never be a knight”. “But we’re not really in England – it’s Araluen” “It’s bloody well England!” “Is it though? Because Horace couldn’t be a knight and Alyss couldn’t be a courier…” “…shaddap.”

I think this is a great option where there’s a story you want to tell but it’s not 100% historical. This could be things like literacy rates or the rights of women in that era.

Historical Fantasy –  It’s England or France or whatever, but instead of the pixies or dragons being myth they’re really there. They’re good at hiding from historical record, or they all went away. It’s been forever since I’ve seen Dragonheart, but this is pretty much it – we done killed all the Dragons. Way to go.

I’d put most fairy tales here even though they occur, “some kingdom far away long long time ago” because stories aren’t told in vacuums. Perhaps they’re like 1001 Nights were Aladdin takes place in China, but for exotic purposes only, it’s definitely reading like it’s still taking place in the Middle-East. Just reading the title, Hansel and Gretel you know that these characters and this story likely originated in Germany, even though it’s rather vague as to when or where.

As for where you should put your story, I don’t think there’s any single solid answer as to this or that being better, just an alternative. There’s strengths and advantages with putting your world in a familiar setting – or going out and creating something new and different for the reader to immerse themselves in. I think the popularity of beginner writers utilizing fanfiction is a testimony that there is comfort in using a familiar setting as opposed to a true open canvas, where you have to come up with calendars, climate, cultures, history etc.

For the Record, My Books:

Tower of Obsidian: Historical Fantasy

Dreams of Mariposa: Future Earth

Rogue Healer (Witchslayer’s Scion et all): Future Earth

The Mermaid and the Unicorns: Alternative World

Garnet and Silver: Urban Fantasy and Portal Fantasy, probably leaning slightly more towards Portal.

This is my larger, published work. Just because you’re well known for something, doesn’t mean you have to stick with the same ‘type’ again and again.

Also, guess what chick also just finished her rough draft of “Puppeteers”? This one, right here. It needs a better title, needs work, probably another scene or two to bridge it, but I just wrote the climatic battle sequence and man, I’m happy. Clocking in at just under 97k, I can tell when I’m done revising and making the characters… good, it’ll be probably in the 105k range. Of course, the niece wants a duology… *le sob* I’ll get to it, have to figure out an approximate story line for part 2 so I can give hints and allusions.

Maybe it’ll stop snowing and I can make it to Pinawa and visit my parents. We’ll see.

The Bonemender Trilogy by Holly Bennett

21 Jan

Set in vaguely France during medieval times, Gabrielle is adopted and raised as a princess, having a unique ability to heal. She has a hard time finding love despite being beautiful as there’s something off about her, and when she thinks she does find love with Feolan, an elf, she worries that she’ll die and leave him broken hearted for the centuries he has left to roam the earth. She pours herself into her duties as a bone mender and learns more about herself.

I’m going to talk about Vaguely-France in another post because Ranger’s Apprentice is set in Not-England. It’ll be fun I promise.

I am reading The Ranger’s Apprentice Books and this came up as ‘recommended’ through the library and I can see why – similar age groups though this story leans towards higher fantasy but I’ll get to not it always being a good thing later. The variant covers to RA have that ‘let’s put people in cloaks’ vibe, so snark snark; I am a prissy artist at the end of all things but this gave me elementary and middle School Vibes. In my Rogue Healer series, I have characters who heal by touch and I like to see how other writers handle this. I want to be able to write middle grade so I need to read it; so if you’re wondering why the influx of books for younger readers on my Goodreads, that’s why.

The first book is about how despite being loved and cherished, Gabrielle doesn’t fit in. Despite being raised as a princess, she has a super rare healing ability and heals warriors on her father’s battle fields, she also learns how to make elixers and tonics to help ease suffering. She’s also 27 and not married, which I wouldn’t care if she was a commoner but she’s a French princess and I found it odd that, especially later in the series, that “I’m not good enough for you” was a thing. I could understand if she scared the crap out of people with he powers but given the villain in book 2, you’d think one of them wouldn’t care and stick his witchy-wife in a tower now that he has ties to royalty. Things change when she meets Feolan, an elf warrior. They have forbidden feelings for each other but at the end of the first book we find out she’s really a lost half-elven princess and thus while she might not have as much time as he does, they can still be together for a good few hundred years.

Normally I love high fantasy elements but it seems thrown in there and the stuff I actually love – world building – seems to be glossed over. Eventually in the third book we get to religion, and it’s generic, “Help us, oh gods! Any god will do.” If there’s a pantheon, it might be a point of conflict if the elves believe differently or maybe calling on the god of healing would be better than the goddess of wine. Anyway, adding in elves when effectively it’s a way to make Gabrielle’s powers sort of make sense but at the end of the day it’s not much different than giving a girl a generic monster boyfriend and giving him attributes that make him better than everyone else, then throwing in, “And you’ll stay younger and beautiful for longer too because you’re now also part of that world.” It’s idealization but it’s not a deal breaker.

Second book Gabrielle is still awesome and Feolan now worries he’s not good enough for her, but we need more tension so the second book deals with her younger brother Tristan and his love for the excellent archeress Rosalie, whose father somehow thinks marrying her off to a man twice her age is a better match than the dang prince of Almost-France. Why? So LaBarque doesn’t set his house on fire. Labarque is kind of like the Sheriff of Nottingham from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves without the charm. Again, for the target audience it’s fine; I suspect a big part of writing for kids is not glamorizing slimy toads.

I had a teacher who loved his movie and I had to read the novelization in our Advanced Reader’s Book Club in Junior High. Alan Rickman is the best part of this film, BTW. I for once have seen the parody much more.

LaBarque causes trouble but really Tristan is so awesome he just has to be there to save the day while Gabrielle and Feolan struggle with how perfect the other one is. Seriously, Tristan is so great he is barely in book 3 and still saves the day in that one too.

The final book, everyone is happily married and Rosalie is expecting her third child with Prince Tristan, Gabrielle and Feolan have yet to have any mostly-elf babies so now we need a new couple. Strangely, it’s Gabrielle’s other niece and nephew and her niece’s young beau Luc who are kidnapped by pirates. This audience-avatar realizes her intended fate and this is the most adult the series gets when she realizes she’ll fetch a high price because she is a virgin princess. It’s up to Gabrielle and co to save them and this time, the villain is competent and Tristan isn’t available for most of the book.

This one was the best story by far, even though it feels quite a bit different than the other two. They emphasize Yolanka, a woman who’s sister met a similar fate ten years ago, and besides being a love interest for another character had a motivation other than Help Gabrielle.

I think what I liked about this story was that it used the plague and used it mostly realistically because it made the villain’s actions understandable and didn’t weaken him. He goes to sell his merchandise (why he isn’t ransoming them back *#@$&^% but enough about me) the port is under lock down and not only does this give everyone time to save them, but it made for everyone using their brains to perform the rescue, and there was a very real consequence to be paid by going that route. Unfortunately towards the end Gabrielle ends up needing to perform an emergency tracheostomy on Feolan, but I’ll give it a pass even though she chose laryngeal obstruction over issues with the alveoli, but that’s the medic talking. For the target audience, it’s fine.

Overall the series isn’t particularly great fantasy but it’s safe and a good introduction to it for younger readers. It doesn’t push any limits and it’s a little predictable, but I think this is a series I would hand to a young girl who likes elements of fantasy but doesn’t want that hard twist. Gabrielle is a softer but mostly relatable heroine a lot of young female readers would likely idealize, so if you’re looking for something for someone in that intermediate reading zone, I say go for it.

Merry Christmas and Here’s to a Blessed 2023!

19 Jan

I worked a lot during the holidays (Christmas Eve, Christmas, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day) and I’m excited for a tour off of vacation later this January. Blah blah blah work is dumb but I’ve been off this tour because I’ve been sick most of the month. I thought I was better last tour, but either it came back or something else hit me when I was down (Not C—- I am borderlining on Strep. I think I may be a strep carrier) but I think at long last this is finishing up. I was supposed to be a lot further ahead on everything and go ice skating at Pineridge Hollow last weekend, so I don’t have time to be sick any longer.

If you are following me on Facebook or Twitter, you know I got the offer for Titan’s Ascent with Champagne Books. I want it to be a series, but if Rogue Healer ends at trilogy I will be happy. I know I said it’s a prequel series, but that’s where Usurper comes in. I think I’m a good enough writer to finally handle the main project the way it was meant to be, but easier said than done.

How I did for end of the year goals:

Finish Clayheart (Nope!)

Edit another book (Nope!)

Self-Publish Underman (Nope!)

Finish Puppeteer Book (Nope!)

But… all of the above can be done relatively fast, with the exception of Puppeteers, because let’s face it it’s a novel and I can tell I’m going to goof around and cut ideas and put them into the second book. The good news is it’s coming together and I really like it. Given that I thought it would be in the shorter to regular novel length and now it’s over 100k, it’s now regular plus.

To put it into perspective:

Tower of Obsidian was just over 110k

Dreams of Mariposa was 77k

Witchslayer’s Scion was around 135k.

I’ll talk book length and all that in a different post; the short of it is that fantasy tends to be more weighty than their other genre counterparts, but I’ve read plenty of literature that’s pushing big lengths too. Different projects require different lengths; Magus Gambit and Titan’s Ascent are both floating around 130k which is as long as Champagne really wants to go, so I’m honouring that.

I can probably get all of the above done by the time I’m done my vacation in January. Now, assuming that Titan’s Ascent won’t be a thing for a few months, I can then focus on other projects. Clearly a signed project with a deadline and everything will take precedence, but there should be time before I get into those edits.

The other goals I had were fitness and finance – my plantar fasciitis is getting better finally (I suspect it’s actually moved on to heel bursitis, but even that is clearing up) and I’ve been working out pretty consistently. I read somewhere that carbonated beverages affects arthritis – now whatever is in my toe is probably that and I don’t drink that much soda besides as mix, so I’ll just have to make daiquiris. Finance could be better but I’m not any worse off – well, other than I bought a car but I knew I had to replace my previous one.

How about I aim for the above projects to be done besides me being fru-fru fro puppeteers for end of January, and for 2023 (Writing/Artsy):

Learn to draw horses well

Rewrite Usurper and send it to Champagne.

I asked my publisher what she’d like, and she gave me a few ideas for a Wish List, so let’s see if I can’t do that.

Self Publish Derelict Knights (Novel). If Magus’ Gambit goes ahead for Spring, then we’ll post Derelict Knights for Fall. If MG is later in the year, just have it ready to go but wait at least 3 months for it. I’m honestly cool waiting for 2024.

Start Either Puppeteers 2 or Rogue Healer 4. Or just kind of do both.

Find three shorts markets with ideas that interest me and submit the shorts I write for them. (One is already done!)

Revise Puppeteers Draft. This will take a while; assuming I finish it during vacation I like to let the drafts percolate for three months then go back and be hard on them.

I think I also found a decent publisher for my steampunk MG books, so get that done for their submission window, which is the summer.

Busy busy, plus like I said I need to get over the sniffles.  Take care in the meantime.

Musketeers and Yay for Editing

15 Dec

Second round writing this. My Computer is acting up, but the short of it is I ain’t letting anyone touch it until I send Magus’ Gambit back to the editor. I’m at the tedious part and I doubt we’ll have it done before end of the year, which is the goal, but I’ll have my part done and that’s all I can expect. I made a huge breakthrough figuring out a motivation for the main villain for that Puppeteer book while I was doing laps at the pool this week, and I’m pushing 90k. I thought it would be a 90k novel, now my guess is around 105. I may pull some bits out for the second book (niece requested a duology) but I did send out that short and before I got MG back I thought the goals were doable. If I had to pick, MG wins and then I’ll finish Puppeteers as opposed to Clay Heart or working on Underman. I have some time off in January, assuming work will not honour my stat days, so I might push to clean up everything in January then do the Usurper rewrite. I’d prefer to get it done and fired off before summer so I can laze about on the Lazy River in Pinawa, but we’ll see.

If you live in and around Winnipeg and have a chance, go see The Three Musketeers at MTC. I haven’t been to a play or a movie in a theatre in probably three years, but it was really well done.

 I was supposed to take my sister but I ended up taking her daughter, but she loved it and we talked before and after the show about the reality for adaptation of the stage as opposed to movies and books. My niece loves to act, but she is also showing interest in directing and was curious because she had a very minor piece of fight choreography in a performance she did earlier this year, so it didn’t occur to me until later that she was very interested in a show with multiple swordfights often involving large amounts of the cast.

I almost spoiled something for her during the intermission because it doesn’t occur to me that she wouldn’t be familiar with the story in some form. Now, not all adaptations are that good (The one with Mickey Mouse really does its own story) but I love me some swashbuckling.

Want to see Charlie Sheen playing the priestly one?

How about one with heavy fight choreography?

A strangely steampunk one?

A BBC Miniseries?

The anime one that was probably my first exposure

How about Barbie?

Don’t worry, if you don’t like any of those there’s another one coming out next year.

Thing is, there’s been so many adaptations that I’m always curious what direction they take it, what plot points will be kept and which will be ignored. This isn’t unique to theatre – I’m not a connoisseur of the ballet by any means, so typically I’m not seeing multiple of the same show, but it’s fascinating to see how certain roles have changed over the years, and how especially something famous like Swan Lake the original plot is Odette dying, to Odette’s curse being broken and true love conquering all.

It got me thinking about adaptation and expanding on the story, and how Henry Cavill left The Witcher seemingly to play Superman (he’s out, apparently) and I joked that maybe he left because of the way the show runners were taking the story.

I think I was on to something. There has been massive backlash and fans want the adaptation to be more faithful to the story line and, I’ll be the first one to admit that things don’t necessarily translate super easily from one medium to another. But I also haven’t watched the second season of The Witcher.

This is because

  1. I heard from someone that it deviated from the books. Out of all the stories, I’d say Blood of the Elves was the weakest and I cared for it the least, but I figured I would watch it when they had their silly romp and got back to the story (the story overall I enjoy).
  2. I don’t have a Netflix account I tend to sponge off the work account or when I visit other people. We are pretty busy and when I have down time, I’m working on other projects – both professional and personal, so watching a silly fanfiction is a low priority.
  3. I’m the person who will binge your book or tv series really quickly. Trilogy took ten years to develop, sell and put out? I prefer not waiting until Next Week to find out what happens.

               The stage adaptation of The Three Musketeers was faithful, even though certain liberties had to be taken and not everything translates well to the stage. I didn’t take pictures during the performance, but here you see how a wooden set was them making the use of their space – and we were in times in a tavern, the streets, a covenant and a castle with nominal set pieces, such as benches and chairs being moved in for that scene.

My niece and I talked about costume design and how sometimes things need to be exaggerated so people at the very back of the theatre can still see what’s going on. We often don’t talk about the advantages of the theatre – namely that the performers can often somewhat interact with the audience and little mistakes and glips make it fun to watch the actors improv.

               I think the problem with a lot of adaptations or expansions, often do the lazy thing. They take an IP and now that they have the fans, insult the original works and then try to serve up ‘something better’ which often isn’t.  It might be trendy or it might be that the showrunner wasn’t given the greenlight for their own project – but they were given a chance to adapt someone else’s work, and therefore want to put ‘their’ spin on it.

               I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to do a deconstruction in an original work, but I think what needs to come first is a fundamental understanding of the world view and what the author or director was going for. The problem is doing a continuation of the original work and deconstructing it – you’re essentially insulting the fans for liking it.

               And that isn’t to say that parodies are necessarily a bad thing. I’ve said it before, but the best parodies tend to love their source material. I really enjoy The Lord of the Rings movies, so I have no problem sending silly memes making fun of little things in the story.

               But when you make something that’s mean spirited, it really shows. For instance, the series Magical Girl Friendship Squad was universally hated by everyone – and I’m not a fan of Magical Girl shows so I have no skin in the game – but ignoring the bad animation, it seemed to be more about taking lazy pot shots than anything. When I was looking up this, I stumbled across people making videos that explain that there are media that do a successful deconstruction of shows like Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura, but the idea was to take an Original Idea, not for someone to take the original and shatter the original people loved until it was an unrecognizable mess of apathetic pablum.

               There are ways to keep telling the story, even if it means taking some chances. Circling back to The Three Musketeers, another movie I enjoy is The Man in the Iron Mask. It’s set much after the events of the novel – decades, the four main characters have all moved on with their lives, but duty calls and they once again answer, though it leaves one of them pitted against the other three. But rather than deconstruct the swashbuckling and heroic antics of the source material, it builds upon the original story’s legacy and asks what sort of mission would be of the importance to drag three heroes out of retirement.

               Instead of knocking down other authors or creators, I for one enjoy building on the ideas other writers have set out. I get inspired by not only writers, but costume designers and musicians and dancers. Do I criticize or think some tropes are bogus? Absolutely. I’m just going to use enough tact that you’re going to have to do a little bit of work to connect the dots.

               I’ll try to post before Christmas. In the meantime, stay safe out there.

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.