A Star Wars Theory

With the new movie out, everyone is talking about Star Wars. I myself have seen the newest movie twice. Between this and watching the entirety of The Mandalorian in a single sitting, I have been on a bit of a Star Wars kick.

As is tradition in our household (and others), Mom and I watched our way through the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy. Because between the both of us, we needed a refresh. It proved to be quite the nostalgia trip. 

It got me thinking too.

No matter how many times I watched the prequel trilogy, I never understood how Padme fell in love with Anakin. In the firsts movie, she is portrayed as more of a mother figure to him, or at least an older sister. She is strong and very independent, remaining level headed as her life is in danger. There is no hint of any sort of romance there, but you can tell she does care about him. 

Fast forward to the second movie. Anakin has grown exponentially in power and he is absolutely obsessed with Padme. Unhealthily obsessed. The older I get the more it makes my skin crawl, the way he looks at her. It’s almost predatory. As a woman, it would absolutely make me run the other way. 

She even makes it clear she does not return his affections in the beginning. But then she spends more time with him, and the more time they spend alone together, the more she softens. The more she begins to return his affections. He drops some RIDICULOUSLY creepy lines that would send anyone running for the hills, but she doesn’t. It makes no sense.

It’s like the longer he has her to himself, the more she falls under his spell. Literally.

It got me thinking. We have already seen in the newer movies and the Clone Wars and Rebels tv shows, the Force is capable of more than moving things and mind tricks. It can forge bonds between living things. At that time, Anakin had more raw power when it comes to the Force than anyone else in the order. This means there is a good chance he was capable of doing things he didn’t even realize he could do. 

What if he was able to influence other people’s feelings without realizing it? What if his intense obsession with her played on her friendly care for him and, over time, turned it into something else? 

The first time they kiss, you see her kissing him back for a second, but as he starts to lose himself she pulls back. It’s like he lost focus for a second and he is disappointed as she leaves. A few days later, she professes her undying love for him. To hell with the long list of reasons she gave him earlier about why it wouldn’t work. 

This could be off base and I am not arguing that this is what the writers and producers planned. This is something I came up with based on what I know about the franchise to explain something that never seemed right to me. It’s more of a headcanon than anything. And I felt like sharing it. 

Next week we will be back to book blogging. Until then, go live your story. 

Looking Back and Looking Forward

I am going to do us all a favor and see how long I can go without making a vision pun. Because it is 2020 and the puns have been going strong since July.

I do, however, have a lot of things I have been thinking about recently.

It’s difficult not to get introspective whenever a thing ends. Especially when it is a year. A decade.

I can’t even begin to process how much my life has changed in the past ten years. I moved halfway across the country, for one. A lot of good came out of that, but I was also halfway through highschool. Not something I recommend. I lost a lot of friends in that move. I made some new ones too.

I graduated from college two years ago. I built a company’s social media presence from the ground up while managing all of their projects and planning their events. I was the managing editor for a publication for a short period of time. That’s not even counting the various internships I had in college.

I also started producing two podcasts and the beginnings of a potential production company, Pseudonym Social. This is something I never thought I would do. But I have done it, and one of them is doing pretty well. I am mostly self-taught when it comes to audio editing, and I have to say I have gotten pretty good at it. That said, I still have a lot to learn.

That is one of my goals for the new year. I want to learn more about audio editing and sound design. I also plan on producing an audio drama this year. I have more ideas than I know what to do with, but I am going to start with something simple. Something that will be easy to do mostly on my own, that can either be short-run or continue on indefinitely. 

I have other plans as well, but they are a little less certain. Like many other people my age, I am still working on finding my way. I’ve got a metaphorical list of contingencies when it comes to which path my career could take. Some plans are more detailed, some are still in the early stages. 

Every day is a new day, a new beginning. A new chance to start something new and take another step towards the life you want. There is no one right way to do things. Which I personally find to be a huge relief. 

It’s like that saying goes. Where there is a will, there is a way. I have always been one of those people who will find their own way to make what they want a reality. So I keep going. I keep making new plans and new contingencies and new connections. 

The only way to go is forward. I have 362 more days to keep building something I am proud of and keep moving towards the life I want. Because this is my life and I will find a way to get it to where I want it.

What about you? What are your dreams for the year?

Review: Dorothy Must Die

I didn’t ask for any of this. I didn’t ask to be some kind of hero. But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I’ve read the books. I’ve seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can’t be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There’s still a road of yellow brick—but even that’s crumbling.

What happened? Dorothy. They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm—and I’m the other girl from Kansas. I’ve been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked. I’ve been trained to fight. And I have a mission:

Remove the Tin Woodman’s heart. 

Steal the Scarecrow’s brain. 

Take the Lion’s courage.

 And—Dorothy must die.

Moment of truth: I have been working on a Wizard of Oz retelling for a few months now. It will likely end up being a five-book crime series, so lots of room for references. I promise to share more details later, but that is not what this blog post is about. 

This book is about another Wizard of Oz retelling. Or, more accurately, a tale of what happened when Dorothy came back to stay. It follows Amy Gumm, a girl from a broken home with an addict for a mother. Her life is definitely not pretty and she would do almost anything to escape. 

Then a tornado comes through and takes her to a very different Oz than the ones in the stories. The land is dying, the people are trapped under the thumb of a dictator, and the Wicked have banded together to return balance to Oz.

I did not expect this book to revolve so much around addiction and neglect, but I can appreciate the way it was handled. My parents divorced when I was little, and my dad was very much an addict when I was going over to his house every other weekend. I experience some of that loneliness that Amy was dealing with on a regular basis. Thankfully, I had my mom and my grandmother. She has no one. 

The world-building is rather bleak, which makes sense in context. Oz, an inherently magical place, is being drained of its magic and so is being drained of life. There are a few places left that retain their magic, mostly because they are harder to access, and that is where the Wicked hide. 

The real beauty of this story is found in the characters. The Revolutionary Order of the Wicked is led by some dynamic, powerful women, all with their own stories. They all have secrets to hide and are not afraid to resort to turning victims into weapons when necessary. War is a messy thing, especially when it is between Wicked and Good.

Dorothy, the Tin Woodman, the Scarecrow, and the Lion have all changed drastically as well. Their descriptions feel so artificial that it is uncanny. These are not the same people as you met in the original story. They have grown drastically, not only in their power but in their corruption.

This story blurs the lines between good and evil in a way that I really enjoyed. Things aren’t as straightforward as you might think. The stakes are high. Actions have consequences. Both sides are not afraid to do things that would normally be considered unthinkable. 

There is also a lot more going on behind the scenes than anyone person realizes. Even the most powerful beings do not have the full picture. They only have guesses, assumptions as to what the underlying causes might be. It leaves for a lot of questions, especially as Amy takes up a new quest in the last few pages. It is the same quest mentioned on the back cover.

To remove the tin woodman’s heart, steal the scarecrow’s brain, and take the lion’s courage.

Then, and only then, she can kill Dorothy and save Oz. 

Or so they think.

Review: A Darker Shade of Magic

A Darker Shade of Magic, from #1 New York Times bestselling author V.E. Schwab

Kell is one of the last Antarimagicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in ArnesRed Londonand officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

I’ve been following V.E. Schwab on Twitter for some time now. Her life revolves around writing and being an author, and I enjoy the peeks she gives us into that world. I also, if you haven’t guessed by now, really enjoy fantasy. 

Picking this book up, I was first intrigued by the idea of multiple Londons. I have seen multiple worlds done before (this isn’t quite a multiverse) but something about this particular iteration caught my attention. There is a finite number of worlds, each with its own level of magic. 

One world has none. One world is teaming with it. One world is tearing itself apart to find more of it. And a fourth that fell to a fate that no one wants to talk about, but you know it had to do with magic. 

I also don’t think I have ever had a book start off talking about the main character’s interesting jacket. Yet the whole thing is the perfect introduction for the main character, Kell. You quickly realize how and why he is different as he takes the reader on a literal journey through the three Londons. A great example of showing versus telling. It also does a great job of establishing the main cast of characters.

I found everything about these worlds intriguing and enthralling. When we finally got the story of the fall of Black London, I was in awe. I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to read that story as well. A lot of time in fantasy worlds, authors don’t take the time to explain how their magic system works. This means in a lot of fantasy worlds, the magic system doesn’t really make sense. I am looking at you, J.K. Rowling.

Before you start yelling at me I would like to state, for the record, that I basically grew up on Harry Potter. I will always love the series. That said, my point is still valid. 

I will save my magic system rant for another day. Because it is going to be a doozy. 

I really like this one though. It feels natural and makes sense in all of the worlds. It is what is called ‘soft magic’, where magic has an organic feel to it. There are some spells and some rules to the magic, but most of it flows naturally. 

Everything about these worlds and these characters has me hungry for more. I want to see more of Lila and Kell, to learn more about their mysterious past and see their friendship grow. They are so engaging and dynamic. They are complex. They evolve. 

I had a coworker refer to this series as a poor man’s Mistborn. Honestly, I don’t see it. This story is great in its own right. I mean, there is a reason that V.E. Schwab is a best selling author. She knows how to weave a fantastic tale in a world unlike any I have encountered before. 

I am curious to see what happens in the future between the three Londons. I want to see more of Kell and Delilah as they find themselves and their place in this wonderfully strange world. I’m also curious to learn more about Black London. I feel like there is much more to the story than meets the eye. 

I guess we will have to wait and see in A Gathering of Shadows.

Review: Dune

Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, heir to a noble family tasked with ruling an inhospitable world where the only thing of value is the “spice” melange, a drug capable of extending life and enhancing consciousness. Coveted across the known universe, melange is a prize worth killing for…

When House Atreides is betrayed, the destruction of Paul’s family will set the boy on a journey toward a destiny greater than he could ever have imagined. And as he evolves into the mysterious man known as Muad’Dib, he will bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream. 

A stunning blend of adventure and mysticism, environmentalism and politics, Dune won the first Nebula Award, shared the Hugo Award, and formed the basis of what is undoubtedly the grandest epic in science fiction.

People have been telling me for years now that I need to read Dune. I think it started in response to me sharing one of my story ideas, but I honestly don’t remember which one. I ended up buying it during employee appreciation week (yay extra discount). 

I knew next to nothing about this story when I started reading it, other than a lot of people thought I would like it. I was definitely not expecting the sheer amount of made-up words. Not going to lie, I got so lost in the first two pages that I almost gave up. Half of the words looked like keyboard smashes. 

I kept going though. I decided I would give it until the end of the chapter, and if I still wasn’t following, then I would switch to another book.

Three pages later, I was totally hooked. There were still some things I did not quite get as first, and some that I am a little fuzzy on even now. But the world drew me in and the characters won me over.

The story revolves around the Atreides family. Duke Leto, his concubine Jessica, and their son Paul are preparing, in the beginning, to move from their paradise of a planet to the dangerous desert wasteland of Arrakis. There was far more political intrigue and machinations going on in the background than I expected. That is part of what had me so intrigued by the story. I simply could not put it down.

Considering how thick the book is, I tore through it pretty fast. It probably helped that I had to take my grandmother to the doctor’s office for a minor procedure, so I had 4 hours to sit around and read. Made some good progress too. 

The world-building of Arrakis is far deeper and much more intricate than I have seen in most other sci-fi novels. A prime example is how Herbert portrays the importance of water in this world. The people have designed these specialized suits to help with the preservation of water. The wealthy plant and maintain palm trees on their property to show off how much water they have. The natives view it with a reverence that seems befitting of a desert world.

And that is just on the surface. The further I read the deeper and more complex the world became, both on Arrakis and throughout the universe. There are pieces moving both in the empire and on the planet itself. 

There is also a taste of something that exists in a grey area between science and magic. I could not quite wrap my head around all of the details but I was able to understand the gist of it. It was fascinating, though, to see both the reactions of the characters who did understand what was going on versus those who did not. On my next read through I will definitely be paying more attention to the finer details of how these abilities work. 

If you want a good example of blurring the line between magic and science on a basic, human level, I highly recommend reading Dune. It does a fabulous job of this, as well as world-building. It also provides an interesting look at ecological and environmental issues. I am still fascinated by how the society of those native to Arrakis has evolved to help them not only survive, but thrive in what looks like a desert wasteland. It was very well thought out. 

Basically…

The end of the story had me hungry for more. The world is so rich and the characters have so much going on internally, that I just know there is so much more to come. More machinations. More intrigue. More of that grey area between magic and science to delve into and play around in. 

I know there are five books total in the series written by Frank Herbert, as well as a few more written by his brother Brian. I assume these were created in some sort of ghostwriting fashion. I will do more research on this when I get to them. For now, it is on to a new book. 

If you are looking for a thoughtful, immersive science fiction experience, this is the book for you.

Learning How to Learn on the Fly

When you are creating something, you have to teach yourself how to do a lot of things that you probably never expected to need to know. There is a lot more business behind creative endeavors than one might realize at first. I will definitely dig into this later (both here and on my podcast, An Incomplete Guide to World Domination). For now, though, I am going to share how I learned a very useful skill.

How to learn things quickly.

Step one: know your learning style

Fun fact: different people learn different things in different ways. It’s shocking, I know. There are some people who can pick things up by reading, while others have to have someone explain it. I feel like most people have to actually do the thing themselves to really understand how to do it, but some have to do some research beforehand. A lot of people probably waffle between different styles depending on what it is they are trying to learn.

That is totally okay. The key is, knowing how you learn best and using that to decide how you are going to learn a new thing.

For me, it helps to be able to watch how a thing is done so that I can then go and copy it. I absolutely cannot learn anything technical by reading. I may be able to get the basics, but I need to see it to really get it. 

Step two: make sure you aren’t overcomplicating things

It is really not that hard to make things harder than they need to be. A lot of people think they need to get all of the books and take all of the classes on a subject in order to really understand it. That isn’t always the case, especially when you are trying to pick up a new skill.

Chances are when you are starting out, you don’t need to know how to do everything. It is okay to start with the basics and learn from there. 

Part of this ties in with the whole knowing your learning style. Some people (like me) can pick up new skills on their own time using the resources available to them without investing any sort of money. There is a sort of self-discipline and level of organization required for this. And a lot of stubbornness.

I also know some people who need the structure and organization and the deadlines that come with a classroom environment. It forces them to stay focused while making it harder for them to be distracted. That financial investment makes it harder for them to give up part of the way through. 

If this is you, may I recommend looking into continuing education classes at a community college, or online courses? These can be more affordable while providing the structure you need.

Step three: find your people

There is a good chance, if you are reading this, that you are about to embark on a creative endeavor of some sort.

If so, I cannot stress enough how important it is to FIND A COMMUNITY. There are communities everywhere for whatever kind of thing you are looking to create. The key is finding your people and sticking with them. They will give you the support you need when going through the hard times as well as proving to be an incredibly valuable resource. 

I am currently a part of two different audio fiction podcast communities through Discord. A lot of the people on there have been doing this a lot longer than I have. They also know a lot more about the tools and technicalities of audio editing than I do.

Having those people who I have a connection with that I can ask questions and advice has made a huge difference.  We talk everything from sound design to foley work to resources to production timelines to scriptwriting to current projects to Patreon to how to create an LLC and track business expenses. We also like to goof off and talk about road trips to conventions.

Find your people. They will make your life so much easier and so much better.

Step four: free tutorials are everywhere

For someone who had no idea what they were doing starting out, I have gotten pretty dang good at audio editing. I’m also pretty good when it comes to designing graphics through Canva. Did I study either of these things? No. 

I taught myself. Using YouTube.

Seriously though, YouTube is great for learning how to do things. There are countless tutorials covering everything you could possibly want to know made by professionals. If there is anything you need to learn, you can find it on there. It may take some digging, but it exists.

There are also people who do free webinars where not only can you learn things, but you can also ask questions. You can even watch live streams of people doing things to learn how things are done.

Either way, there are a plethora of free resources out there that you can use to pick up new skills or figure out how to do something before you go investing money in a class.

Step five: libraries, meetups, and more

This one kind of depends on your area, but it is still worth looking into.

Libraries are not only home to plenty of books that you can check out and use to teach yourself things, but they also often host regular events. These events are not just about books, but about learning. They have these events listed on their website or their social media accounts (if they have them). 

My personal favorite is Meetup.com. I have had an account there for a while now. It is the perfect place to find local social groups as well as more professional/educational groups. I highly recommend creating an account of your own. A few of my groups are social but I’m also in some for social media, WordPress, and podcasting. This is a great way to meet in a neutral area with a group of people with similar interests and learn something new. 

Basically, there is a whole host of ways you can learn something new. Just remember to not overcomplicate things. Don’t let your own lack of understanding stand between you and trying a new thing. Take that first step and you will eventually find your way. If you get lost, there are plenty of people you can ask for help. 

The question is, what are you going to learn next?

One Video Every Creator Needs to Watch

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sz4YqwH_6D0&t=39s

A friend of mine shared this video on his audio drama Discord server earlier this week. At first, I ignored it because sometimes the people on there can be super snarky. Then I started seeing other people responding to the video. So I watched it. And it was a giant kick in the butt.

We all go through this. We all deal with it. The toolbox fallacy. That constant fear of failure that keeps us from doing what we want to do until we have everything just right. Everything has to be perfect before we show it to anyone. Before we bring it into being.

I suffer from this myself. Constantly. I agonize over blog posts. I overthink my short stories. I rarely showed any of my writing to anyone. 

It was not until recently that I finally found the courage to just do it. Just get started. Move forward. Create my art and live my life one step at a time.  I started one podcast. And then I started another. I’m looking into audio dramas now. I spend most of my time talking to my people about doing things they are passionate about, both on and off my podcast.

I still have my days where I worry that I am not good enough. Where I worry that my plan has failed, that all of my work has been a waste. Where I start to wonder if maybe there is something else I should be doing.

On days like that, I rely on my network. My tribe. The group of people I have surrounded myself with, who support me in my creative endeavors. They are creators like me. Dreamers like me. Without them, I might not have the strength to keep going. Having that creative community keeps me going when things get tough. 

A lot of the time, the only thing between where you are now and where you want to be is your own self-doubt. We are our own worst enemies. We need to learn to set aside these silly rules we have made for ourselves about how things are supposed to be. 

Sometimes you just need to start creating and figure everything else out as you go. Trust me when I say, you never know what you will find along the way.

But, you don’t get anywhere unless you start. So just start.