Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Announcing... Albion Academy!

*Camelot trumpet fanfare*

Today it is my great pleasure to host author Elijah David on the book tour for his novel Albion Academy.  Eli and I first met through our mutual friend Mirriam Neal, but we didn't really 'connect' until a Facebook discussion on Arthurian Legend, during which his Albion series was mentioned.  Today, we've come full circle, with Eli here to tell us what parts of Arthurian Legend have intrigued him the most over the years.

Welcome, Elijah!

Thanks, Arielle, for having me here today.

Albion Academy features a variety of creatures and beings from myth and legend, from Djinn to Valkyries to mermaids to Faeries. But the foundational legend for the book and its sequels is the Matter of Britain—the story of King Arthur and his knights. The book started with an idea about Merlin Ambrosius, and even after I moved on from him, I still had a Merlin at the heart of the story: Merlin Pendragon (because why suffer from the burden of one legendary ancestor when you can have two?).

Over the years, I’ve made it no secret that Merlin Ambrosius —that is, the Merlin of legend—is one of my favorite fictional characters. Disney’s The Sword in the Stone first introduced me to this magical man (and indeed, he was one of few male magicians in the movies I saw as a child, something which vexed me greatly) and he has remained one of the primary attractions of Arthurian legend for me to this day.

For those of you who don’t know, Merlin as we know him today is a composite figure of at least two men, one a military and political figure (Ambrosius) and one a prophet or madman of the wilds (Myrddin or Merlin). When Geoffrey of Monmouth penned his pseudohistorical History of the Kings of Britain, he combined these two figures and made his own contributions to both Merlin’s and Arthur’s stories. In the oldest stories, Merlin is a figure of mystery and danger, much akin to the Fae who populate the legend of the Celts. He is both wise and mad, powerful and shifty (not unlike Merlin’s older alter ego Droon on the BBC series). But while Merlin’s roots are wild, I’ve always taken the view that he is more like the portrayals from Disney, Hallmark, and T.H. White—beneficent, if a little unhinged at times, and always holding his country’s (and his student’s) best interests at heart. The aid he offers to Uther in seducing Arthur’s mother has never made sense to me in any iteration; it always seems against Merlin’s character, the same way Arthur’s slaughter of the May Day babies has always seemed out of character. (Incidentally, these two events are addressed at a later point in the Albion books, with at least one character attempting to “set the record straight”.)

But while Merlin is the center of my own Arthurian obsession, he is by no means the sole star in the constellation. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; Mordred and his arc of deception, manipulation, and betrayal; Morgana le Fay (regardless of whether she’s related to Arthur); and the Fisher King and his connection to the Holy Grail (to name just a few) all make their mark on me, my storytelling, and the Albion Quartet. The Knights of the Round Table, Gawain among them, become an integral part of the story as well as the mythos of the series; Mordred is a full-fledged antagonist with his own agenda; Morgana—well, I won’t say much about her for fear of spoilers; and the Holy Grail’s existence and appearance are touched on at some point in the story. The prospect of Arthur returning to rule in Albion’s greatest need has also fascinated me. I think Gargoyles did a fine job with this idea during its Avalon arc, though I’ve always wanted there to be a continuation of the series that explored what Arthur did after he walks off the scene. We’ll see if the Once and Future King makes any appearances in Albion Academy’s sequels. I won’t say no, because characters like him tend to push their way in just to spite me.

As you can tell, the magical and villainous have attracted me most in Arthuriana. That’s probably due to my imbibing copious amounts of fairy tales, both Disney and otherwise, and having a mind and heart for fantasy and epic storytelling. If you can point me to a retelling of the Arthur stories that captures these characters and quests in a new light, I’m there in a heartbeat.

Are there any characters, quests, or conflicts in the Arthurian legends that keep you coming back for more? I’d love to hear about them!

Thank you, Eli!  You can find out more about Elijah David and his books on his blog: Inexhaustible Inspiration.

Now, take a look at this shiny cover. 

Is a Djinni just a trickster? Can a wizard only learn magic? Must a Valkyrie always ferry the dead?

For Mortimer, Merlin, and Bryn, it seems the fates have already written the ends of their stories. When Mortimer asks unorthodox questions, the Djinni Elders exile him to a human school of magic—Albion Academy. Merlin's friendship with a mortal only increases his mother's determination for him to live up to the heritage of his ancestors. And Bryn's prophetic sisters outright declare that her fate is tethered to Mortimer, Merlin, and the mysterious door in the school's basement.

As the three of them struggle against the constraints of their families' expectations, they find themselves inexorably drawn into a conflict that encompasses rogue Faeries, dangerous mortals, and sorcerers hidden in Albion Academy itself. Defying their fates might be the only way they survive their first year at . . .

Albion Academy.

Albion Academy is available from Amazon in both PAPERBACK and KINDLE format.

Valkyries, Djinni AND Arthurian Legend?  Sounds like a win-win to me!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

What Books I Would Sacrifice....

A couple of weeks ago my sister Dessa read this tag aloud to me from her friend Keturah’s blog, then proceeded to follow it back and hop around to many of the other bloggers who had filled it out and read those aloud.  We laughed, raised shocked eyebrows once (throwing THE HOBBIT at a professor??), and laughed more.  Then Dessa filled it out and tagged me.


#1: An Over-Hyped Book
Situation: You are in a bookstore when the zombies attack.  Over the loudspeakers you hear the military announce that over-hyped books are the zombies' only weakness.  What over-hyped book will you chuck at the zombies?
Yeah, I’m with Dessa.  TWILIGHT.  What a travesty to the world of books, and how excruciating to see the effect these have had on the world of teenagers AND the world of writing.


#2: A Sequel
Situation: You are caught in a torrential downpour and you're probably the type who melts when you get wet.  What sequel are you willing to use as an umbrella to protect yourself.
Wow, seriously?  Melts in a downpour?  Nothin’ melts me, baby; not even Hades himself!
But for the purposes of the question... Chasing Shadows by Ashley Townsend.  I didn't read the first book, but you can read my review of this one HERE.  It frustrated the tar out of me.


#3: A Classic
Situation: You're in English class and your professor won't stop going on about a classic that "revolutionized literature".  Personally you think the classic is garbage and you decide to express your opinion by hurling the book at his head.  What classic is that?
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.  I’d heard it lauded for years and eagerly pounced on it a decade ago at a used book store.  I brought it home, tore into it, was a little disappointed at the beginning but kept going, hoping it would get better....  At the end I closed the cover and stared at it as though I had thought I was opening a box of doughnuts only to find out it was croutons.  WAIT, THAT'S IT???  THAT'S WHAT ALL THE HYPE WAS ABOUT???
It was profoundly disappointing.


#4: A Least Favorite Book
Situation: You're hanging out at a bookstore (where else would you be?) when global warming somehow manages to to turn the whole world into a frozen wasteland.  Naturally, your only hope of survival is to burn a book.  Which book would you not regret tossing into the fire?
Aside from the illogic of the question.... oh hmmmm.  Lori Wick’s English Garden series.  Mind. Numbingly. Stupid.
Also, one of the main reasons I almost never read Christian romance anymore.


#5: A Series
Situation: There's a flooded stream you have to cross on your quest and you can't get your feet wet.  Which series (oh yeah, btw, you brought your whole bookshelf and also probably local library with you) will you use as stepping stones?
The Mortal Instruments.  Gosh, that series’ poor writing made me so mad, especially given the fact that it could have been fantastic had Clare put as much focus on the mythological aspects and worldbuilding as she did the ridiculous, soap opera teen drama.  Seeing these books drown after I had crossed a swollen stream on them would do my heart good.

I tag Mirriam, Kate (when she starts blogging again), Elijah David, Tom, Jessica, Kiri Liz, and Carolyn... plus anyone else who wants to answer.

What books would YOU sacrifice?  Take the tag off to your own blog or tell me in the comments!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Super Secret Project Debut

I've been waiting to announce this project for nine months and the time has finally arrived.

In March of last year I was growing increasingly more frustrated with some indie books I had been reading that frankly, stank.  The plots were good, the characters had potential but the writing was AWFUL.  It was a problem I had been seeing more and more often in the writing world, not just with indie books but also with traditionally published books.

One day, apropos of reading a couple other creative writing websites, I started to think, "If they can do it, why can't I?  They don't have exactly the kind of content I'm envisioning anyway, so why couldn't I try it?  It would be a way to give back to the writing world which has given me so much."  Teaching subjects I love has been a passion of mine for years but until that moment I hadn't actually seriously considered just up and doing it.

When I mentioned this idea to Mirriam- who often had to listen to my venting about bad writing- her response was instantaneous approval and support.  She told me that she'd been thinking for months that I would be good at teaching/coaching creative writing.  Her response blew me away and when I told Kate the idea later that day, I was shocked for the second time when she reacted similarly.

I began scribbling ideas and drafting posts.  Over the summer I chose a website host and discussed graphics.  Slowly but surely my idea began to take shape in reality.

The process wasn't without its hurdles: delays and setbacks in design and strong self-doubts about not actually being good enough or would people listen to me if I didn't have a college degree or an author reputation, to name a few.  Through all of this Mirriam, Kate, my mother, and my sister encouraged me to keep going.

It's been an exciting, sometimes nerve-wracking journey but finally earlier this week, I pushed that big shiny 'PUBLISH' button on this website.


Huge, from-the-bottom-of-my-heart thanks go to the people without whom I would not be writing this post:
My mother - who spent hours making all of my graphics and working with me until I liked the results.
Mirriam - who never let me give up and kicked me when persuasion didn't work.
Kate - who was my never failing encouragement and always ready with examples of why I should do this.
My sister Dessa - whose blunt comments about being more than happy to share my teaching abilities with people she thought needed them always made me laugh.
The handful of people who I told beforehand and who said, "Hey, that's great, yes, you should do this!"

I hope you enjoy reading the site and Happy Writing!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Dandelion Moments

I'm a very focused, driven, intense person.  I like every day to be full of work and accomplishing things.  On the days when I haven't accomplished much 'work' I'm frustrated with myself and go to bed feeling annoyed.

I often forget that living isn't always about what you've managed to accomplish in terms of what knowledge you've gained or what you've done.  It's also about taking time to enjoy the journey, to have fun, and to laugh.  Enjoying the journey isn't usually about spending an hour+ a day doing something considered 'fun'.  It's the smallest things that bring the full realization of just how amazing life can be.

Remember all those times as a child when you would keep your eye on a huge dandelion flower and carefully wait until it was just the right ripeness to pluck and blow the seeds to scatter on the four winds?  Some of the seeds would fly far away at once while others would hover nearby until an air current caught them and you would watch it as long as you could, musing on where it would land and whether it would take root or die.  It was such a simple occupation but it brought immense joy and a vibrant awareness of the richness of life.

Life is full of those dandelion moments if you only know how to recognize them.  Times where you force yourself to stop, take a break, and just absorb the atmosphere and what's happening around you.  I have learned that those mini-breaks are vital to maintaining one's equilibrium. 

A few of my 2016 dandelion moments:
~ Yielding to my 4-year-old brother when he begged me to take him on 'just a little walk around the driveway, not even on the road' even though my mind was screaming at me that I had a blog post that absolutely MUST be finished that night and I was running out of time and even typing like Hamilton might mean that I wouldn't finish in time.  Kids are more important than blog posts.  It was a fun walk.

~ Braiding my horse's mane while I made sure she ate her wormer-coated oats and enjoying the play of the strands through my hands.

~ Pausing for a few seconds at a friend's FB profile picture to appreciate how the color of their shirt brought out the color of their eyes and how skillfully their makeup was applied that day and what a pleasing overall aesthetic the picture was.

~ Taking a moment in the middle of the afternoon to just pray and thank God for the gift of a friend and for getting the chance to talk serious subjects with that friend for a few hours.

~  Receiving a card and a tiny rubber dragon in the mail and stopping for a few moments of just cradling it in my hand and smiling over the hidden, symbolic meanings in the gift.

~ Making a new friend via Pinterest because I took three minutes to send this person a message about how much I liked their storyboards.

~ Smiling hugely because a random someone from the other side of the world liked one of my first photos on Instagram.

~ Getting a picture text, replying with one phrase, and having the other person squeal because you know each other so well that she knew you would understand the picture without any explanation.

~ Going for a twilight hike alone in gently falling snow.

~ How warm it makes me feel when someone I barely know wishes me Merry Christmas.

~  How much it meant to me when people I only spoke to occasionally throughout the year messaged me at the end of the year and told me that they were grateful for me that year.

Take time to pause and blow the dandelion seeds.  Your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health will thank you.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

I Dreamed a Dream of... Publishing

For years my dream was to write unique fiction that broke the mold.  C’mon, what author doesn’t dream of that?

Books that made people THINK.  Books they couldn’t forget because they made them stop and ask themselves hard questions or brought up issues they couldn’t concretely answer without searching their souls.  Books that were rich in world building and had a varied cast of characters that danced across the stage like the Swan Lake ballet.  Historical fiction that inspired the reader with the urge to know more about the history behind the story.  Fantasy that was unique without being uncomfortably weird or mind-numbingly cliche.  Political thrillers that evenly balanced a relatable human approach with the politics.  Thrillers that didn’t sacrifice character development for action.  Stories that combined all of the above.

I still dream that dream and labor to someday attain it.  But now the dream has grown longer, wider, grander.

I dream of an indie publishing company with high standards of quality.  Small, but by no means accepting of lesser quality work simply because it is smaller and independent as opposed to being big and having the traditional label.  A press that holds all its books to a high standard of good writing and editing.

Of uniting independent (and possibly even previously published) authors under an imprint that will come to be known for excellently written fiction with strong ethical and moral themes but without necessarily being ‘Christian’... for the reason that, even though I am a Christian and support literature in which faith plays a huge part, I’ve read several fantastic books that are not overtly Christian and yet had some amazing, thought-provoking moral and ethical questions.  Often, I feel like the label ‘Christian’ on fiction only targets a certain audience and I dream of a wider reach than that.

Themed short story collections, or series of books by different authors but one common theme.  Reviving well written, fascinating historical fiction that doesn’t have to be full of sleaze to engage a reader.  Books that make history live again for people, while presenting an accurate picture of life in that time period.  Fresh retellings of mythology whose tapestries glimmer with the golden thread of the vast history behind various mythologies.  Science fiction and science fantasy that keeps alive in people the hunger to explore the stars themselves.  Fairy tale retellings set in other cultures and unique genres.  Urban fantasy that isn’t the next Twilight or Vampire Diaries or Teen Wolf.  High fantasy that isn’t trying to be Lord of the Rings but that breathes a fantasy world on a grand, epic scale.  Thought provoking psycho thrillers that don’t have to cross the line into horror to make people sit up and take notice.  Historical fantasy that reignites interest in well-known eras.  Political, action, and espionage thrillers that don’t make people’s eyes glaze over three chapters into the book.

In addition to publishing original, new fiction; I dream of republishing some older works from the public domain; there are many books that currently lie under the dust of time but deserve to have a second life being read and appreciated.

I dream of feeding readers with books they’ll love or enjoy while assisting authors to bring the best version of their book to the public.  Beautiful, unique fiction from all genres that engages the mind and soul.

Books that are as sharp as a sword and forged to endure.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Quote Queste: January 2017 ~ A Heart Doesn't Have to Stop

Quote Queste is back!  Hopefully shinier and fresher than ever... though in reality no rules have changed and only my enthusiasm is left to burnish the shine. 

1. Take the quote below and write a short scene based on it.  It can be a scene for a story you're currently writing, one you plan on writing in the future, or you can make up characters solely for this challenge.
2.  Post your scene on your blog, with the banner from the top of my post and a link to my blog.
3. Come back to this post and leave a link to your post in the comments so the other participants and I can read your scene.
4. Have fun!

Happy Writing and here's to a promising New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

New Years, New Beginnings

A new year is beginning and in common with several other bloggers revamping their blogs this month, a new look and style are coming to TSF in 2017.  Here's some of what you will see in the new year....

~ I will be posting hopefully twice a week, in one of three categories:
  • Writing = the writing craft, snippets + news of my writing
  • Academia = character/movie/book analyses, historical people I find fascinating, people who have inspired me, random research-related posts
  • Lifestyle = basically everything else

~ I will rarely be answering tags.  I’ll answer the questions sometimes and if it’s a writing tag I’ll probably answer it but not the usual pass-around tags.  I just don’t have the time, though I’m grateful for all of those who’ve thought of me when passing on tags and/or awards.

~ Quote Queste is coming back!  The first week of each month I’ll post a quote prompt, you take it and write a scene, then come back here and leave me a link to your post.  I eagerly anticipate reading your scenes!

~ For a personal blog, I don’t post very often about myself (which is weird...and rather defeats the idea of a personal blog, doesn't it??) but if you want a taste of what the Muffin is like, you’ll finally get one.  Posts about my interests, my opinions, ahem possibly a few rants ahem, and a few random For Your Information About Me posts.

~ Are there any topics you'd particularly like to see me cover?  What are your 2017 blogging plans?

Monday, December 26, 2016

She Would NOT Have Smiled: A Rogue One Review ~ Take Two

Today I welcome my mother to the blog to give us her review of Rogue One.  Welcome, Mom!

When I saw the trailer for Rogue One, I had high hopes for this fill-in drama in the Star Wars saga; hopes that it would be an elemental piece of the puzzle that would direct the emotional connection to the story in the right direction.  Rogue One was an opportunity to take us back to the beginning of the telling of the saga, the place where we were with A New Hope.  But it failed to do so.

From the opening crawl of that original movie, we already have the skeleton of the plot for Rogue One.  All that was left was to give life to that story by providing us with characters that would draw us in, give us a reason to cheer for the rebellion and hate the Empire, and then leave us with sorrow over losing them, but Hope for what was to come.

Nope. Nada. Zilch.

I will not bore you with a rehash of all that was wrong with the writing, (and possibly directing?) of this film, and how that materialized in the main characters.  You can read THIS POST for all of that.

What I do want to give you, is a perspective from someone who saw the original trilogy ‘in the day’, and who, HAD to go to YouTube and find the beginning of A New Hope, (yeah, still don’t like calling it that), to make sure that I knew that I knew what I knew.

And what is it that I know??

Princess Leia would not have smiled.

What???????  What in the blue blazes does that have to do with anything? you ask.

I happen to think that it has a lot to do with it.  It is the final character scene of a movie that has just spent all of its time trying to tell you that an epic, control of the universe tug of war has just been initiated through the fact that a handful of rogue rebels have stolen plans to the Empire’s greatest weapon of mass destruction and died in the process.

But the Princess Leia, a galactic ambassador, none-the-less, smiles.  A Disney Princess kind of smile.  (Carrie, looks like you are in.)

We are supposed to believe that this is the demeanor of the courier burdened with the task of transporting those vital plans back to the rebel base, and who, as we know from the ‘next’ part of the saga, is very quickly captured by none other than Darth Vader, and calmly, seriously, and rather boldly, points a blaster at three, yes, I said three, storm troopers in a single-handed attempt to draw attention to herself and allow the droids, C-3PO and R2D2, to escape.

Yeah.  When she was handed those plans ……She would not have smiled.

Because, you see, although the Rebellion did now have hope; and they did have courage, which had just been displayed and bolstered by not only winning a battle against the Empire, but also by the fact that they did have the plans to the Death Star, everyone, I repeat, EVERYONE connected with the Rebel Alliance knew the gravity of the situation.  They were in the midst of enemy territory, they had to get those plans back to the rebel base, and they all knew that Darth Vader was going to show up eventually.  That appearance wound up being sooner, not later, as we have his destroyer materialize from hyper space and board the Rebel ship before Leia even has the plans.  Princess Leia received those plans, ‘just in time’, and she knew Vader would be after her once her ship began its voyage.

Princess Leia is the connection that we have to the rest of the story.  And we cannot believe that connection when the demeanor of the character is so drastically different from the end of Rogue One to the beginning of A New Hope.  Honestly, I could have lived with the other character issues, which is really a lack of a persona for most of them.  But to take a main character of the saga, and alter her to this degree, and then try to tell us this is the part of the story that leads into one of the greatest space battles of all time?  Seriously!  As one sister of a friend put it, “Star Wars failure/Disney win”.

Because that’s what it felt like.  A Disney fairy tale that consists of all kinds of tragedy, but the pretty princess is happy in the end.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Rogue One: A Travesty Reviewed

It was 8:30 at night and I had just barely arrived home from the theater.  Mirriam had waited up for me and pounced on me with those words when I came online.
“AHAHAHA yesssssss,” she replied. 
I’ve paraphrased here but in a nutshell, this was the bulk of our sentiments about the eagerly anticipated newest Star Wars movie.  Like me, she adores the Star Wars saga.  It’s of my all-time favorite stories ever.  But we sat there for twenty minutes and ranted over the disappointment that was Rogue One.

I did not love the movie.  I didn’t even really like it very much, for a variety of reasons, but all coming back to the central point that there was not nearly enough emotional connection with the characters.

It was a flat movie.

The plot itself was good- as far as the plot points and how it ties into the overall Star Wars saga.  But a basic plot is never enough to carry a story.  The characters must make the plot come to life and it’s their chemistry with each other that carries or does not carry a movie, or even a book.  Familiar faces Mon Mothma and Bail Organa from the prequel trilogy returned as did Darth Vader, Moff Tarkin, and Red Leader from the Original Trilogy.  Unfortunately, while Vader gave a classic performance, the new characters were flat and un-inspiring and not even Bail Organa and Mon Mothma did well with their roles.

I felt no emotional connection whatsoever with the characters.  I’m used to not feeling as much emotion in a story as someone else might, but even my mother ranted over how flat the story was.  Rogue One is a suicide mission.  You already know everyone is going to die- the title crawl of A New Hope told people as much 39 years ago- so Star Wars fans enter the theater knowing that most of these people would die.  Everyone else figured it out pretty quickly.
  And yet, at the end of the movie, as Jyn and Cassian hug each other and wait for the approaching death, I was not feeling moved nor did I feel the satisfaction tinged with sadness in reaction to deaths sacrificed willingly in a greater cause.  I felt irritated and annoyed and was already mentally listing how many writers I know who could have written the movie better.  [There were at least four names.]

We should have seen the tale of a survivor who didn’t give a green fig for the rebellion vs. a man who had been fighting for the Rebellion his whole life, their opposite views juxtaposing and clashing... until their conflict became a magnetic force driving them toward each other as their opposing small-picture/in-the-moment and big-picture-future viewpoints melded and they realized they needed each other; as Jyn came to believe in hope and the Rebellion and the greater good and Cassian remembered that love and belief in people counted for something and that once they lost sight of that, the Rebellion would be no better off than the Empire.

Instead?  Instead the scene shifting was choppy with sidewalk flat dialogue and speeches, zero character chemistry that told you things without words, and no overall, grand, binding theme.

Jyn couldn’t care less about the Rebellion.  All she cares about is surviving and keeping her head down.  She agrees to take the rebels to Saw because it serves a purpose for her, too, not because she actually believes in or cares about any of the reasons given her.  Over the course of the movie, she supposedly comes to believe in The Cause of the Rebellion to the point where she leads a voluntary strike team on a suicide mission for the sake of the galaxy.

Cassian believes in the Rebellion but twenty years of being a soldier in its cause have hardened him, evidenced by him coolly shooting an informant and escaping in the melee, his calm acceptance of the charge to kill Jyn’s father (even if he doesn't quite agree with the order) and then his single-minded determination (at first) to carry out his mission.  He doesn’t trust Jyn, he thinks she’s a whiny brat, he regards her as a necessary nuisance, and he would love to drop her somewhere and not see her again.

Then, after a few short, stilted conversations with her, suddenly he cares about her.  On Eadu, he doesn’t pull the trigger to shoot Galen, he is desperate to call off the Rebel starfighter attack, and he races pell-mell to save Jyn on the platform.  WHY.  Theoretically, it’s because he’s slowly been realizing that killing a person without being sure of the facts behind the reason to kill them is wrong.  OR because he’s come to care for Jyn, who is a bit of a lost puppy.

BUT NONE OF THIS IS SHOWN OR EVEN HINTED AT.  It’s implied but it’s badly implied.

Or how about Jyn’s speech to the Rebel Council where she repeats Cassian’s words: ‘Rebellions are built on hope.’  After having rejected the words earlier, speaking them now is supposed to signify her growing belief in them and (for the viewer) a triumph in the change in her.  Instead, it’s eyeroll inducing and feels Mary-Sue.  In fact, more than once I mentally contrasted Jyn with Rey and was annoyed that Jyn was coming across as more of a Mary Sue than a well-rounded female lead.  

After she leaves the room, and determines to go to Scarif on her own even if no one else goes with her, all the sudden there are twenty+ men willing to follow her on a suicide mission.  She’s shown no convincing change of character so far, but we’re supposed to believe that they aren’t just there because they believe in and trust Cassian but also because they trust her.  Did I miss the memo on how to earn trust?  The transformation of Jyn was too rapid and shallow to be believable.

A good story leaves something to be inferred, something hinted at that readers must think about or figure out themselves.  It does not draw a skeleton and leave readers to put the muscles, flesh, tissues, skin, and clothes on the person.  That’s an outline, folks, not a story.

Jyn and Cassian had absolutely fantastic opportunities for chemistry, they had great chances to bounce off of each other and instead, it was like eggs hitting a wood floor every single time.  Contrast them to Han Solo and Princess Leia - Leia held a strong belief in the Rebel Cause, Han only cared about getting paid.  Their feisty arguments became a pop culture legend.  While no relationship could or should be the same as theirs, Jyn and Cassian had a fantastic chance to spark off of each other, instead of each just looking vaguely at the other in many of their scenes.

K2S0 on the other hand was one of the few characters who was good.  His snark, his banter with Cassian and later Jyn, plus his commentary on events all made for a memorable, delightful character.  Ironic, no? that one of the most emotive characters in the movie was a droid, theoretically incapable of emotion.

Chirrut is blind but has a strong faith in the Force, evidenced by his constantly chanted mantra ‘I am one with the Force, the Force is with me’.  His high degree of attunement to the Force and his belief that good will eventually win provides grounding for the other main characters, but it could go no deeper than a certain just-below-the-surface point because the chemistry between everyone else was non-existent.

Baze, on the other hand, had great chemistry with Chirrut.  Holding more faith in his gun and what his eyes tell him, he often scoffs at Chirrut’s seemingly blind faith and confidence in the eventual victory of right.  Yet, he is ever at Chirrut’s back ready to defend his best friend and himself.
  The two bicker good-naturedly, they argue over faith and belief, but they balance each other perfectly, as shown by the scene in which Chirrut sets off down a rocky path under a pitch dark sky pouring rain to go after Jyn and protect her if need be.  Baze scoffs ‘Good luck’ after him.  Chirrut retorts calmly, ‘I don’t need luck, I have you,’ and Baze huffs and follows him.  There is chemistry there: it’s a partnership, a relationship vibrant with their very opposite personalities.  

Now contrast their first scene with Jyn and Cassian’s dialogue on board the ship before leaving for Jedha- when K2S0 was complaining about Jyn having a blaster but not him.  Cassian asks Jyn where she got the blaster, she returns an evasive answer and the scene moves on.  It's vague and unsatisfactory.  Whereas when we meet Baze and Chirrut, we’re told in dialogue that they are Jedi Temple guardians, but now that the Empire has stripped the Temple of its invaluable crystals, there is nothing for them to defend and they stir up trouble instead.  This is borne out by their involvement in the fracas started by Saw’s guerrilla terrorist fighters.  Instantly, we feel a kinship with the oddly-matched pair and we’re hoping that it’s not just a one-time appearance; that these two will be around for a while and we can learn more about them. Sympathy, curiosity, interest are all immediately present.

The other secondary and minor characters weren’t much better than the two leads.
Bodhi was a decent character but again he wasn’t given enough depth for one to really feel properly attached to him.  He knew Galen, he wanted out of the Empire, he wanted to fight for something he believed in and he fought hard to be someone worthwhile.  But the way this came across was all surface emotion, it didn’t go beneath that.

Saw had enormous potential that again wasn’t elaborated on.  Why was he so vicious against the Empire?  We are told that he broke with the Rebellion because they weren’t radical enough for him.  But the wrongness or rightness of his actions is never dealt with, nor are the reactions of the Rebel leaders toward him- aside from him being an inconvenient annoyance who they need at times.

Galen was stilted, lacking the passionate character undertone that signified both the depth of pain he’d been through as well as the iron determination to fix what he had done wrong.  His death scene was a good attempt but it wasn’t poignant enough to motivate painful, sad emotion.

Krennic was... Krennic was boring.  Instead of being worried about how he would obstruct the mission, what his actions meant for the Rebels and whether he’d be suitably punished in the end or not, he left me wanting to smack him and push him into a puddle to see if he’d stomp and throw a fit about it.

Vader was excellent, although his body language and walk differed a little, which was only natural considering that a different actor was wearing the suit this time around.  His sass is unchanged and he lit up the screen in his brief appearances.

Mon Mothma lacked the emphasis her character had had not just in A New Hope but also in Revenge of the Sith.  She might as well have been ordering pizza for dinner as telling Jyn she could not sanction a mission without the full approval of the Rebel Council.

Bail Organa was too lighthearted.  This is a man who lived through the Fall of the Republic, who raised one of the only two hopes to eventually defeat Darth Vader and who has gone for nineteen years covertly helping rebels while he pretends to be a part of the Empire.  His wife is a queen and has ruled a planet for at least two decades, his adopted daughter is a diplomat, he knew Anakin Skywalker, Obi Won Kenobi, Padme Amidala, Mace Windu, Yoda.  The greatest Jedi and statesmen of their time.  Of all of the Rebels, he and Mon Mothma had the greatest realization of the gravity of their situation.  Yet his lines are delivered with light smiles and barely any heaviness behind them.

Do I blame the actors for the pancake flatness of the movie?  No.  From what I’ve seen of Felicity Jones’ acting before she’s a decent actor, Donnie Yen is an amazing actor, and I’d love to see more of Diego Luna’s work- because his facial and body language could be fantastic given the right script.  It takes a lot for any character of Mads Mikkelson’s to feel stilted, but Galen was.  Jimmy Smits was fantastic in the prequels and in other works but here it was like he kept trying and just couldn’t quite reach the correct level.  Which tells me that it’s definitely a writing issue and possibly a directing issue, and has nothing to do with the actors themselves.  Had they been given better dialogue and overall script and possibly a better director (I don’t know much about this director so I can’t say this for sure, but I suspect he had something to do with it feeling like a flop), they could have made one heck of a movie.  But they weren’t given enough to go on.  A movie can stand or fall on its actors but it also sinks or floats based on who’s helming it and the writing in Rogue One was pathetic.

The space battles were okay (and the hammerhead ramming was genius and fantastic) but most of the dialogue was taken right from A New Hope.  I did enjoy the tiny touches that tied it to ANH such as: Red Five being shot down, leaving that call-sign open for Luke to use a few short days later.  All of the Easter Eggs were fun, but they should have been the icing on top, not the cocoa in a chocolate cake.

Music, sets, scenery, and cinematography were pretty good but all of them were far eclipsed by the horrible writing.

At the end of Rogue One, people should have felt an elated triumph engendered by the Rebellion and galaxy now having a chance to defeat the superweapon, mixed with a deep sadness and realization of the price paid for that chance... not ‘oh. well. that was okay.’

And lest you want to say ‘well, you’re just very picky and hard to please anyway, you never think anything is good enough’ allow me to point you to the other SW posts coming soon to my blog, because I love most of the other Star wars movies and The Force Awakens was fantastic- as I’ll illustrate in my follow-up post contrasting Rogue One with TFA.

I was thrilled I got to see the movie- I had not expected to see it in theaters, so I was euphoric when Mom surprised me with the tickets and I will always be grateful and overjoyed that I got to see it- but as far as Star Wars movies go, it was a travesty.

[Also, this should hardly need saying, but in case anyone needs reassurance, yes, we can still be friends even if you liked and/or loved Rogue One.]

Friday, November 25, 2016

Black Friday Book Deals!


It’s that time of year. The time for buying presents, making wish lists, and planning New Year’s Resolutions. If any of those activities involve books for you, Indie Christian Authors has a perfect event for you.
From Nov 25 (that’s today!) through Nov 28th, more than 70 independent Christian books are on sale. You can find free shipping$0.99 ebookspackage deals, and more! And if your budget is depleted from Christmas shopping, they’ve got you covered with some freebies!
Think 70 books is overwhelming? Narrow it down and find the perfect books for you or someone on your Christmas list by using this quiz to generate a customized book list.
What awesome reads of 2016 are you grateful for? What books are you looking forward to reading in 2017?
A note on the Ebooks Only page. All books are listed as "Sold Out." This only refers to paperback copies of these titles. Please click onto the product pages to find descriptions and links to discounted or free ebooks. Also, some of the authors this year chose to not sell their paperbacks directly through the site. Those books are also marked "Sold Out" but if you click them open, you'll find a link to the site where they are on sale and a discount code for you to use at check out.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Leah E. Good and Kendra E. Ardnek for their work organizing this sale, and Hannah Mills for her fantastic design work on the website graphics. Hannah can be contacted at hmills(at)omorecollege(dot)edu for more information about her design services.