I finished CROWN OF RENEWAL by ELIZABETH MOON

Image

I finished Crown of Renewal over the weekend.  I liked it and gave it 4 (of 5) stars.

Here is the text of the review that I wrote for the Amazon.com Kindle page & Goodreads.com

Having read the entire series, I found this book to be a solid conclusion to the series. I started the series reading in hardcover and finished it via electronic editions. I liked the entire arc of the series and felt like most of the major characters got their time on-stage. I probably would not characterize this book as a good first book in the series (obviously, as it is the conclusion), but the sheer number of characters and their relationships to one another are something that the author (rightly) assumes that you’ve already read and understand based on the previous novels in the series. For that reason alone, if the description of the book’s contents intrigues you in any way, I can’t emphasize strongly enough that you should seek out Volume 1 and then work your way to this book. I enjoy Elizabeth Moon’s writing style and felt that this book is comparable to the others in the series, and more importantly, leaves a couple of the main characters in positions where they could explored further down the road should she choose to visit the world again in a new series. There could have been a little more action–the resolution, while not lacking conflict, is much more on the cerebral side. Some may find the story dull in places, but to me (and I like action) I found that the more subdued finale fit in with the overall tone of the series as a whole.

LibertyCon 2014

Image

So LibertyCon is happening in a couple of weeks.  I debated about going to LibertyCon this year.  I have more time as I’m free for the summer, but in many ways I seem to have less time.  I’m working on my novel (more to come in a following post), I’m working on a short-story that is due at the end of this month (for a contest), I’m revising another short-story that just came back (rejected, but I’ve found another market for it & I’m trying to get it ready), and I really want to contact an artist that I know about seeing if she would be willing to accept commissions to do artwork for some of my stories (I’d really like to showcase her artwork here on the blog as “covers” to my short-stories so that people might be able to get a visual sense of what story might be like before having to plunk down money them to decide if they might like it–sorta’ what covers on books are designed to do).  In addition to this, I’m trying to clean up the house (inside and out), work on prepping for next school year, play games, and yes, rest over the Summer Break.  Last week, I finished four days of intense Personal Development learning how to become a better teacher (considering my school day is 9-4 and the PD was 8:30-3:30, I REALLY and TRULY did put in a full day’s work–I really hope that I can put all the great information to use and really shine this upcoming school year).

I decided that I might be trying to do TOO MUCH and so I wondered if it might not be better to scale back a bit and not go to LibertyCon this year.  After I thought about it, I realized that Chattanooga only has 3 major Sci-Fi/Fantasy conventions: ChattaCon, LibertyCon & Con Nooga.  Of those three, only LibertyCon is a writer/reader focused Con, meaning that while it has costumes, parties, and the like, it is really focused on authors, editors, and artists, the people who create and produce the genre fiction that we love.  Yes, there are actors (rarely) and media-based properties (again, rarely), but this is the one Con to go if you’re into books, authors, and the written word.  All the other Chattanooga Cons are more like traditional cons.  

I don’t like crowds–never have and probably never will.  Therefore, a more specialized con probably fits me more than a larger con would (at this point in my life, at least).  Also, I decided that if I could find one (just 1) workshop each day of the convention that might aid me in my writing, then the con would pay for itself in both information and inspiration.  Friday and Saturday were fine, Sunday, I’m probably going to have “stretch” to find a workshop that fits the bill, but I’m happy enough with the presentations that I went ahead and signed up for it.

Since this will be the first LibertyCon that I’ll attend with a blog, I’ll try to remember to take photos to upload on the blog.  After being somewhat ambivalent about it this year, I’m hoping that it will help me and inspire me.  At least, if nothing else, it will give me three days of SOLID writing time because the short story that is due at the end of the month has 3-5 planned scenes–I’ve only finished scene 1 at the moment.  Looks like I’m going to have to really press and use the downtime during the Con to get words on the page–so maybe I can use it as a mini-writing retreat, if nothing else 😉

Anyone interested can find out more information about LibertyCon by clicking on the link, or you can take a look at some of their pictures on their picture gallery.

Heroes are NOT Bland–A passionate defense of the Hero

E3 is happening this week.  I’m a huge video game player and I will be highlighting things that I”m interested in and talking about them periodically over the coming weeks.

Below you will find the trailer for a game I’m interested in called, Tom Clancy’s The Division.  The trailer is at once both depressing and stirring.  Have a look for yourself:

GameTrailers, has a show called “Let’s All Go To The Trailers,” that showcases effective and evocative game trailers.  You can find their website here:  http://www.gametrailers.com/shows/lets-all-go-to-the-trailers

In the latest episode, “United Division,” one of the trailers that they discuss is Tom Clancy’s The Division.  What concerns me is that they decide that EVERYONE (from the villains–both sets–all the way down to the victim that is being protected) are MORE interesting than the bland heroes.  The heroes, it is argued, are the LEAST interesting part of the trailer.

I cannot DISAGREE more.  It’s probably not fair for me to pick on them because I have seen this sentiment expressed over and over again for the past six to seven years, but the way they expressed this idea just made me shake my head and fixed firmly in my mind WHY I WRITE.

Too often in the past few years, I’ve heard the term “Shades of Gray,” to reference characters who are flawed and who are complex and who have both good and evil inside them.  It is commonly argued that these are the current “models” that we should base our heroes on, but I couldn’t disagree more.  In many instances, these characters are not heroes.  Heck, they’re not even anti-heroes.  They are straight up thugs and villains, given one or two “heroic” traits and then paraded as people who we should feel sympathy for and who we should root for in stories (Walter White from Breaking Bad, I’m looking directly at you).

These are people whose actions most of us would abhor should we encounter them in real life, but critics adore them and cite them as “complex characters.”  They kill, they lie, they cheat, they skirt rules, or simply break them, and yet, they are the pillars around which we hang our stories.  I first noticed this villain as hero in the genre world after watching Pitch Black several years ago.  I won’t spoil the movie, but it definitely falls into this category.

Yet, the hero is SUPPOSED to be the one who struggles.  To do what is right even though you are under intense pressure is FAR MORE interesting TO ME than to do what is wrong because it is quicker and easier and watch the results of those actions.

At any time, a character can give up, take the easy way out, but once that character does, then the character gives up any sense of agency. They become a pawn of their addictions, afflictions, abuses, and the critics adore them for it.  However, a character that is a pawn is a character without agency.  A character without agency is one that is manipulated by the plot.  We call those stories Deus Ex Machina–God from a Machine.  The writer intervenes to save his characters.  When we have villains that masquerade as heroes, the heroes lose their agency–their ability to struggle.  They suffer–and that is where the sense of drama comes from as we watch them go from excess to excess–but do they actually struggle?   How can they when they’ve all ready given in to their baser natures?

As much as I like Jason Bourne and Matt Damon’s portrayal of him, I dislike the lack of portrayal of him earning his abilities.  In the first movie, he was a superman with INNATE abilities.  We never saw him earn them, we never saw him STRUGGLE to get them.  We learned later who he was and that caused him to suffer.  However, I felt (and will always feel) MORE for Luke Skywalker than Jason Bourne.  I SAW Luke sweat as Yoda trained him.  I SAW him fail as Yoda tried to inculcate a sense of “faith” into him and watched as he failed even as Yoda succeeded in raising the X-Wing fighter.

And yet, it was Luke who had to make the HARD choice to face Darth Vader again, knowing what he knew about Vader.  It was Luke who, having lost his own hand, realized just how close he was to following Vader down the same path, it was Luke, who understood that faith that Yoda had taught him could be applied not just to Luke’s abilities, but also to a person, Vader.  The whole story hinged on Luke surviving and making HARD CHOICES.  Yes, those chose are HARD, but necessary.  I don’t remember once Vin Diesel’s character in Pitch Black having to make a HARD CHOICE.  Everything was given to his character, everything was easy.  Life isn’t easy–everything is a struggle–and I thought that critics wanted COMPLEXITY.  It seems to me, that a truly complex character is one that must struggle and fail and struggle and fail until they finally “get it” and struggle and succeed.  How complex a character can one truly be if they never struggle and all we see is the suffering of a character that is in a spiral?

I see the allure of the villain as character.  Everything is easy.  Just follow your heart’s desire and everything will either be given to you and you’ll be awesome (Bourne) or everything will spiral out of control and we’ll enjoy watching the fall (Walter White).  Yet, to me, this type of character and (by extension) this type of fiction doesn’t appeal to me because nothing in my life has EVER been easy.  This then is the most unrealistic type of fiction (even more so than genre work) because it is a lie that I can see through, and how can a fiction that one can see through tell me anything about the world I live in?  Isn’t that why we, as writers, work so hard to hide the fictions that we write–so that we can then reveal the TRUTHS about the world we live in?

So, Schedule . . .

. . .  And this is why I try not to predict how long things will take.  My goal was to update the blog on Wednesdays and Sundays, but this just isn’t going to work (for now).  I’ll try smaller updates mostly daily and see if this works better.  So, without further ado:

Goodreads.com: So, thanks to my story being published in Fae, I’ve now become a Goodreads “author.”  I’m not a very active social media person, but I’ve ALWAYS gravitiated  to any place that has books or sites that make books their primary focus.   As such, I’m trying to learn my way around the Goodreads site and familiarize myself with all that I can do there.  I’m adding more and more of my collection to the site, writing reviews, and rating books.  I’ve even discovered that I can add my writing there.  Unfortunately, putting new writing there would constitute publication, so you’ll probably see things that I’ve previously published go up on that site, but it’ll probably go there first before it goes up here on the blog.  Their editor is a lot easier to use for uploading stories.  I would highly encourage BEGINNING writers to check out that feature, but remember: once you post it for EVERYONE to see, you’ve used up your First Publication Rights.  From there, you can only sell Second Publication Rights (Reprints) and those typically earn you less money and there are fewer places to market reprints.  I also encourage anyone interested in books to come, look around, and see what’s available.  While you’re there, come take a look at my author’s page:  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8167142.Sidney_Blaylock_Jr_

Like this blog, it is a work in progress, but I’ll be adding on to it over the coming months.  Hope you like!