Love, Death + Robots Review 2 – Fish Night

Now that I’m back from traveling, I’m continuing to rewatch and review my new favorite obsession, “Love, Death + Robots”. As always with this series, it’s not spoiler free, and I’m not going to be talking about the animation, voice acting, or soundtrack. I’m a writer, and I’m looking at this from a writer’s perspective. I try not to be biased if I like the art style more than others in the series, and just look at the story itself.

So, which one did I jump to today?

Fish Night

Want more? Check out my review on Sonnie’s Edge.

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Continue reading Love, Death + Robots Review 2 – Fish Night

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Forgotten Book Review #1 – All My Sins Remembered

Back in August of 2018, I made plans to start reviewing books found at thrift stores or library sales. It’s 2019, and unfortunately, I’m only just now getting around to this series.

It’s been a while, but let’s get to it!

 

All My Sins Remembered

By Joe Haldeman

Spoiler free review.

Now I know I said I wasn’t going to do any “cult classics”, but since the online consensus was back and forth on if this was a cult classic or not, especially compared to Haldeman’s other successes, I decided to count it for my first “Forgotten Book Review”.

1851148“All My Sins Remembered” tells the story of Otto McGavin, a peaceful man who’s employed with “the Confederacion” in order to protect the rights of human and aliens across the galaxy. What he doesn’t know, is that instead of becoming a symbol of hope, he becomes a Prime Operator, a secret service of the Conderacion that acts as a spy, assassin, and thief for the government. Through a type of immersion therapy, advanced prosthetics, and hypnosis, he’s able to take the form of individuals across the galaxy in order to accomplish whatever mission they throw at him. While he’s great at his job, the death, torture, and horrors he witnesses could cost him more than just his life.

This book came into my life at the perfect time.

Still on a “Love, Death and Robots” high, I was craving more science fiction that explored worlds I hadn’t been introduced to yet. In fact, I even put off reviewing more of that series because I was so involved with this book (see more about this here). Told through three short stories and hypnosis sessions between Otto and employees at the Confederacion, Haldeman brings the reader to worlds and beings that I haven’t seen in any other science fiction before.

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Joe Haldeman

I think the best thing about this book is how seamlessly Haldeman writes Otto into the minds of people he’s imitating. Each time Otto takes on a new identity, you can see how it’s affecting him, and you really believe he’s a man trying to work through two conflicting personalities in one body. I wish I could describe the way Haldeman writes Otto ghosting behind other faces, but it’s something I think readers have to experience in order to understand.

Not only did I enjoy Otto’s character, but I also loved the worlds he was thrown into. While the second story in the series wasn’t my favorite, the first and third were fantastic. Set on planets with bazaar creatures and customs, you can tell Haldeman put a lot of time into world building and developing believable societies.

As much as I loved it, it did have some flaws, however, and there were some aspects that might not go over well if it were published for today’s mainstream audience.

The second story, for example, has a female character raped and tortured. While it’s brief and might not bother some, I can see how someone today could say this as an outdated trope of a female who only was on the page to go through something horrific. It did show how brutal the planet was, and that they had twisted ideas on masculine and feminine roles, but again, for today’s audience, this could be seen as heavy handed.

That wasn’t why I didn’t care too much for the second story, but it definitely didn’t help it. In all honesty, I just thought it wasn’t as interesting as the first and third. It was a little slower and didn’t feel nearly as clever or original, but it didn’t make me put the book down, so no harm done.

I will also say if you’re going to read this book, find a newer edition. The one I had was an earlier print and there were a couple of noticeable typos. It definitely needed another round of technical edits, but the over all storytelling was still good.

Lastly, the technology was never explained. I loved this aspect of the book, because I hate it when an author “explains the magic” and it gets too wishy washy, but another reader friend of mine was a little annoyed because Haldeman didn’t say exactly how everything worked.

I think this is just a personal preference, however. I don’t need to know every nut and bolt that goes into the technology I read about, I just accept that in this universe things happen that wouldn’t work in our own.

That being said, if you’re someone who likes to know how and why things come to exist, you won’t find it in this novel.

So how would I rank this book?

All in all, I’m a little torn on what rating to give. I loved it enough to go through another reading, but I’m not sure if I’d buy it in hardback. I would spend money on it, however, and definitely loan it out to friends (my own copy was even given to someone almost as soon as I was finished).

If you like science fiction, especially the kind that explores new worlds and technologies as well as dives into the human psyche, definitely read this book. If you’re someone who’s a little iffy on sensitive topics, or if you don’t care for technology that isn’t completely explained in the narrative, you’ll want to pass.

This is a good read, and definitely needs to be a book that people remember. If you get a chance, pick up a copy and tell me what you think!

Time to Drop the Title for my Anthology (And Tell You Why this Collection is Different)

More publication news!

Adam D. Jones

I’m always bumping into writers. Conferences, writers groups, random people on the train scribbling out a first draft. (Anyone else notice that almost everyone is working on a book?)

My favorites are the fantasy writers. Rather than being competitive (my foray into the music world showed me that artists can be terrible to each other) the nerds who gather around to talk about our magic systems and dragon names just want to geek out. It’s like finding your tribe.

But there’s something bittersweet about meeting with these kindred spirits. Believe it or not, there are more fantasy authors at a local writing conference than you’ll find on the shelves at Barnes & Noble. There’s not enough room in the mainstream market for all of us, or even a tenth of us.

We’re not (that) bitter. We’re grown ups who know it’s a narrow field with almost no room to break…

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Love, Death & Robots 1 – Sonnie’s Edge

I’m a sucker for short films. Give me bite size portions of big universes, and I can be happy for hours.

I’ve talked about this type of story telling in the past, but now that I’m finally watching Netflix’s “Love Death + Robots”, I’ve been inspired to look at what works, and what doesn’t in each episode, for me.

Now, because I’m a writer, I’ll be looking at the writing side of the episode and what it taught me about short stories. I won’t be focusing on things like the animation or voice acting. So if I don’t comment on those aspects, that’s why. I’ll also be giving disclaimers when it comes to trigger warnings (for extreme NSFW only) within the episode, and you can pretty much assume every entry in this series will have spoilers. Please keep this in mind before reading.

Let’s get into it, staring with….

Sonnie’s Edge

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Trigger Warning – This episode contains talks of rape and rape imagery that I’ll be discussing below.

Continue reading Love, Death & Robots 1 – Sonnie’s Edge

The Importance of Sisterly Love in Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2

If I were to ask you to show me a movie about sisterly love, chances are Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 wouldn’t be it.

Not only is the relationship between Nebula and Gamora a side story, but look at how much these two characters love one another.

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And maybe right now you’re wondering, “Why is she bringing this up? What does this have to do with anything? BRING ON END GAME!”

Fair point, but I can’t get this movie out of my head, so we’re going to talk about it.


Siblings of Shared Trauma

I’ve been on the MCU train for a long time now, but the ride is getting a little repetitive. I don’t pay for a ticket to see them in theater anymore (with the exception of the major cast compilation flicks), and I don’t feel the same passion when the characters keep going through the same arcs (although some of the recent films have left me pleasantly surprised). The movies aren’t bad, they’re just getting old. Because of this, I didn’t go see GotGv.2. While I loved the first Guardians movie, I felt like it was going to be the same as the last one.

I was glad when I finally did watch, it was from the comfort of my own home. I was a sobbing mess by the end. Not only because father/son narratives resonate with me more than mother/daughter narratives, but because for the first time watching a movie, I felt something in how they portrayed siblings.

This movie finally got it. THIS was how I needed to see sisterhood and sister relationships portrayed.

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When I watch other sisterhood movies, the relationships, while tense, never felt real to me. Characters often times fight because one’s better at something than the other, or one sister is the black sheep of the family, or one was even born to save the other from cancer. The fact is, I couldn’t relate. These rivalries were either too petty or too out there.

Then I got to Gamora and Nebula’s fight in Guardians of the Galaxy. At first, I was kind of over it. Nebula’s rage felt displaced and Gamora was just done with dealing with these “temper tantrums”, and then Nebula says this –

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and it felt like someone knocked the wind out of me. This was it. This is what I’d been feeling.

I was left asking, why couldn’t I get this type of sisterly relationship sooner?

To get a little personal, my sister and I grew up during a… difficult time in our family and that’s putting it lightly. Some parental figures were abusive or neglectful, and when my sister was given a way out, she took it. I can’t blame her for this. We were kids, and kids do what they can to survive, but at the time I was crushed. And no movie ever showed that struggle I felt. Maybe I wasnt competing against my sister in hand to hand combat, but we were pitted against one another and had to survive all the same. I was angry, and sometimes I still am, and no piece of media had ever held a mirror up to my situation and said “This is what abuse does to sisters”. At least, not until Guardians vol. 2.

You never really see this in most media, or at least not main stream action films. When siblings are showed in this light in action/sci fi movies, as children who survive abuse with one resenting the other, it’s usually done with brothers.

When sisterhood is portrayed, it’s almost always in dramas or romance, but for the first time, I was seeing sisterhood in a way I could relate to. No, we didn’t survive Thanos as a father, but we experienced a lot and can’t really understand what the other went through to get where we are today. We very much were Nebula and Gamora, and our relationship still feels like this sometimes. We fight over our experiences growing up away from each other, and yeah, the resentment is still there.

Yet when I watch this movie, I see how both characters experience rage and I realize hey, maybe we’re too different to see the world the same way, but we can find some peace. Sure it’s fiction, but there’s hope that one day the anger will go away and forgiveness will come in.

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And that’s what’s so important about the sisterly love in Guardians vol. 2. It’s not the sweet stuff of tears and drama, it’s a violent rage over unprocessed shared trauma. It’s screaming and fighting because what happened to both of you was too harsh to brush off with swelling music.

The conflict between Gamora and Nebula is an important one that we need to see more of on screen and in books. It’s the story of children who grow up experiencing abuse, and how they recover from it. We need less “Why are you so much better than me?” and more “How can we go on after what happened to us? How can we go back to being sisters? How can we heal?”


Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

If you’d like more about this typ of topic, check out Lindsey Ellis’s video titled “The Complex Feels of Guardians and the Galaxy v.2“, particularly this part here. She helped me process a lot of what I was feeling and inspired this blog post. If you haven’t watched this, please do. In fact, watch any and all of her videos. Even though she talks about screenplay, she knows her stuff when it comes to story structure and character development.

Write Club DFW Submissions Open!

Hey all! I’ve been super busy lately, but I wanted to let y’all know there’s a new writing contest going on where you can win a chance to attend the 2020 DFW Writing Conference.

Write Club Soap 2

“Here’s the ABC’s of how it works. When the submission period opens (Mar 18-Apr 14), you simply send in a 500-word writing sample using a pen name (details on how to do that below). Once the submission period closes, all the entries are read by a panel of twenty volunteers (I call them my slushpile readers). The slushpile readers are a diverse group of avid readers and they each will select their top samples. Their selections narrow down the contestant pool to the thirty writers picked by the most judges. Over the course of the next eight weeks, we’ll hold daily bouts (M-F) right here on this blog – randomly pitting the anonymous 500-word writing samples against each other. The winners of these bouts advance into elimination rounds, and then playoffs, quarter-finals, and then ultimately a face-off between two finalists to determine a single champion. The writing sample can be any genre, any style (even poetry), from a larger piece of work or flash fiction — the word count being the only restriction. It’s a way to get your writing in front of a lot of readers, receive a ton of feedback, all without having to suffer the agony and embarrassment of exposure. How cool is that?

~ D.L. Hammons

Check out DL Hammons’ site for more information!

 

 

 

 

Old Magic in a New World – Writing Warm Up

Here’s a quick writing warm up I did, inspired by one of my “warm up characters”.

I’ll go into this type of writing practice in a later post, but I hope you enjoy my quick scene!

As a disclaimer, the practice of modern witchcraft is questioned as authentic in this piece. I know this can ruffle some feathers, but I want to make it clear that I have nothing against Wiccans, neopagans, modern witches, or any other term you might use to identify as. This is a work of fiction and does not reflect my opinions on those in the pagan or occult community, neo or otherwise. Please take this as a creative writing piece where I explore a character, not a stance on a way of life and religion.

 


 

 

The girls in the corner booth weren’t witches. Despite the tarot cards tossed across the table, thick makeup, and black clothing declaring “daughters of the witches you could not burn”, they were as human as they came. If they had even an ounce of magic in them, they would’ve felt the warlock watching them.

Not that Colvus was surprised. It was rare to find a fellow magic user in the modern world.

He missed the good old days, back when magic was more whispers in the dark and less peace and love. When he was a boy, coming from a magical bloodline actually meant something. Now, every normal human with a grandmother who claimed to be a witch in the 60’s was a self-proclaimed “hereditary witch”. But, oh no, they wouldn’t cause anyone harm, or use their magic for “evil”. They were good magic users.

It made him sick.

He gulped his black coffee to feel something other than anger, ignoring the burn down his throat as he watched the girls giggle over the cards spread across the table. It was a disgrace. If they did that when he was their age, they would’ve been burned alive. Their whole families would’ve! Nowadays, they acted however they wanted with their pretty pewter pentacles and fake crystal rings. It was a free country and the worse thing that would happen to them would be a couple of dirty looks.

We should teach them a lesson.” The voice of his familiar cut into his thoughts.

Colvus considered the suggestion as he put his lips to the cup again, hiding his murmur. “Not right now.”

He almost forgot the creature was there. It was an easy thing to do. The demon had been with him since he first touched magic over ninety years ago. The weight of him on his shoulders was almost nonexistent after carrying him for so long, even as uncomfortable as it was. Tiny talons dug into his shoulders as the salamander-like spirit leaned over to lick the rim of the cup still poised in the air.

“You’re no fun.”

Of course he was no fun. He was the voice of reason; the spirit was invisible and had no consequences.

The fake witches let out another shrill burst of giggles, each high pitch laugh a knife between his ears, interrupting his thoughts.

Disgusting, he grimaced. They’re laughing on the graves of great men and women, playing at witchcraft without knowing anything about the power they were trying to tap into.

Colvus hoped they got burned by it.

“More coffee sir?” the waitress asked, distracting him from the scene in the corner.

She was the reason he was here, with her crooked smile and always on her toes to fill a half empty cup. He owed her a favor, even if she didn’t realize it.

“Please,” he smiled, holding his mug out. “You’re always so good to me, Danielle.”

She gave a flirty smile, but it was lost on him. He was over a hundred and fifty years old. A twenty something wasn’t his type. Sure, he still looked like he was in his late thirties, but that didn’t get rid of the fact that he needed someone a little more grown up.

“Only because you’re my favorite customer.” She winked as she went back behind the counter.

“Her?” The spirit in Colvus’ ear scoffed. Colvus tried to wave him away like he was shooing a fly. “Don’t ignore me! Why her?

“She’s the last descendant of Torvald.” He murmured, looking down at his book. “If I’m ever to pay his bloodline back, it’ll be through her.”

“She’s not even touched by magic,” he snorted. The great red salamander crawled down his arm and curled up on the table to watch the human behind the counter. “Are you sure she’s Torvald’s bloodline? He was more powerful than you at one point. I expected better from his blood. ”

Colvus gave him a cold glare, turning the page of his book, but not responding.

The spirit smiled with green eyes the same color as the warlock’s, his thick forked tongue coming out and flicking at him. “Fine. I will give her a gift. But you will pay for it later.”

As if he didn’t know that already. That was the rule of his spirit. Favors were repaid with favors, even if they were done for other people.

Colvus watched the spirit slid down the table with the ease of the amphibious creature he resembled and moved with an uncharacteristic speed for his thick tube body up to the counter. It always impressed him when the spirit worked. In all his years, he didn’t understand how demons pulled the strings of the world they lived in, no matter how many books he read or mentors he found.

Not that there were very many books or mentors left these days.

Colvus frowned at that and took another sip of his coffee, watching the spirit’s porous hands weave red threads from thin air, one leading up around the girl’s throat, another heading out the door. With a tug, the girl coughed, more tiny threads coming out of the spirit’s hands now. He braided them carefully with the other silk-like strands in his free palm, the gossamer glowing brighter with every jerky movement. When he was finished, he gripped the thread going out the door, took a smoky breath, and pulled hard.

Whatever happened on the other end, Colvus couldn’t be certain, but he knew the spirit started something in motion. With another firm tug on the braided middle strands and a determined nod, the spirit slunk back to him, his gaze hungry as he eyed the giggling girls in the corner and curled back up on Colvus’s shoulder.

“Is it done?” Colvus asked him, turning another page.

“What do you think?”

He nodded and went back to his coffee, still aware of the spirit’s focus on the girls.

“Do you think you could take another apprentice again? It’s been so long.”

He didn’t respond, the request was one the spirit already knew the answer to. When Colvus stayed quiet, the spirit sighed out a puff of sulfur.

“Too bad. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a decent sized lunch.”

Colvus still didn’t speak. Maybe it was his old age, maybe it was the growing suspicion that he was the last one of his kind left, but he was tired of letting his spirit have his way with humans. What was the point anymore?

“Here it goes.” The spirit caught his attention again.

A man, maybe in his early twenties, walked in and went right to the girl behind the counter. Colvus couldn’t make out the conversation, but it was clear she was a giggling mess by the time she was writing something on the boy’s hand. Colvus looked at the spirit quizzically.

“You got her a boyfriend?” he asked, ignoring a glance from one of the patrons as he talked to what the human would see as an emptiness above his shoulder. “I meant get her a new job, not help get her laid.”

The spirit hissed a giggle with a smile. “You should’ve been more specific.

Overshare Hour – Goodbye 2018

In spirit of shaking off the old, I’m taking one last minute to reflect on the past year before saying goodbye for good.

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An accurate depiction of my entire year.

Honestly? 2018 was an off year for me. I had a lot of self doubt, a lot of insecure thoughts, and a lot of seeing other people achieve things when I just felt kind of stuck. At the same time, I also got published for the first time, my extended family grew by 5 babies/future babies (3 more due this year), and I found someone who’s considering publishing Flightless. It was a year filled with growing pains.

One of the biggest changes was, for the first time since I graduated high school, I didn’t have a 9 to 5 job. Sure, I was still getting a little bit of money from a few commissions/updating my dad’s social media for his business, but that sort of thing doesn’t take as much time as a “real job”, so I rarely count it. Those are both things I enjoy doing that I happen to make some money now and then with, but not something I have to focus on every day, with a boss to answer to. I’m not complaining, I consider myself very lucky in this aspect, however it made me focus on myself, my writing, and what my plans were for the future.

The problem was, I had no freaking clue what my plans were. I wish I could tell my younger self that by the time you get closer to 30, you suddenly get some cosmic knowledge and things just make sense, but they really don’t.

And oh boy, it was hard. Being forced to only spend time with yourself, when you thought you knew everything you could know about who you are, is HARD. That being said, I think I needed to do it. I put a lot of my self worth on how other people view me/the work I put out in the world, even if that work is just a 9 to 5 job, and without the recognition that I was doing a good job, I felt like what I did didn’t matter. It started messing with my head, and even my husband was shocked when I came to him crying because I felt like people who mattered the most in my life didn’t need me. I kept asking myself, how did I know if I was good enough if I wasn’t working and contributing to other peoples’ lives somehow? I wasn’t bringing home a paycheck, I wasn’t putting everyone else before me, I wasn’t focusing on a career, so how, HOW could I be contributing?

I had no idea how little I valued myself if I wasn’t working and bringing home a paycheck. 

After some very long talks with friends and loved ones, I slowly began to change my thinking. Instead of seeing the only thing I could provide was a dollar sign, I started focusing on just being there for people, including myself. I sent letters, like paper and stamp letters, to friends and family, I worked out more, I got back into writing, and traveled with my husband and our dogs in our camper van. I cut toxic people out of my life and started telling people when things hurt me instead of just pretending like I had to be okay with everything everyone did, or else they’d leave me. It was painful, don’t get me wrong, but that kind of pain that comes from any change.

And yeah, I still cried because it sucked, but when I was done, I somehow felt stronger.

All in all, I’m happy 2018 is over with, because I was getting a little down there this past year, however I definitely needed to experience it. My husband’s favorite saying is “iron sharpens iron”, meaning we have to go through hard times to become what we’re meant to be, and damn there was some emotional sharpening this past year.

Now I’m ready for whatever 2019 brings. Even if it’s shit, I’m ready for it.

Feature Artist – Booublik

I love to work with artists. Not a big shocker to those of you who’ve been keeping an eye on me for awhile, but to those of you who are just tuning in, this is one of my favorite past times.

Usually, I’m trading artwork or writing them up character profiles, but sometimes, when I have some extra cash, I’m lucky enough to hire one.

When I hired the duo, Nord and Foxy, I was so excited. I’ve been following their artwork for a little while now, and the storybook style they have always made me think of a high fantasy short story I have tucked away in my files.

They captured the scene beautifully, and now that I got permission to post it, here’s the finished product.

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If you’re looking for an artist to commission, please consider them. They did an amazing job and the scene turned out exactly how I imagined it in my short.

 

Hope you all enjoy their work as much as I do!

Author. Blogger. Traveler.