Archive | January, 2023

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.