Archive | Uncategorized RSS feed for this section

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.

Now it’s Personal: Moral Relativism and The Harfoots

28 Oct

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

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

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

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

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

Concerning Harfoots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

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

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

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

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

Thoughts of Rings of Power

17 Oct

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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