In which I return to blogging to rant about Willow

Blows dust off WordPress. I need to do some more research about the new blogging platforms, so for now this will work, esp since it’s tied to my website. So hi, website! Been a long time!

As a Gen-X movie geek, I’ve found the 2010s and 20s to be a really amazing time to be alive. I’ve enjoyed the new Star Wars content immensely, Cobra Kai is one spectacular show that really shouldn’t work but completely does (if you imagine it to exist in some strange post-apocalyptic world where apparently all law enforcement vanishes and is replaced by rival martial arts studios), and Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance was absolute PERFECTION (and let me tell you, THAT had a high bar to clear with me, as Dark Crystal is hands down my favorite movie of all time). For this reason, I was very much eager to dive into Disney+’s Willow series. While Willow isn’t in Dark Crystal category for me (nothing even comes close), it was very much a favorite of mine during my middle and early high school years. In addition to many, many viewings, I also read and re-read the movie novelization by Wayland Drew (which, if you can find, is DEFINITELY worth picking up: it contains a LOT more backstory of Fin Razel, Sorsha, Madmartigan, and even Vonkar, the Nelwyn warrior who really got shortchanged in the movie when you’ve read his story). Unlike Star Wars, Cobra Kai, and Dark Crystal, however, the first two episodes of Willow I found very much lacking, on multiple levels.

I want to apologize for the length of time it took for me to finish this, but there were multiple quotes I wanted to confirm, and really didn’t feel like I wanted to watch AGAIN. Sadly, Google failed me because when you search for “Willow quotes” you’re flooded with Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer quotes. Sigh. So there aren’t as many quotes in here as I would like, but I did make a point to confirm I got one word-for-word.

Let me start with the first thing that annoyed me. I’m sure Disney+ was likely looking to draw in a teen audience for this, but I really did not care for so many teens and their drama being thrown at me in the first half hour. I honestly felt at one point that the show was going to be Willow 90210, and if it hadn’t HAD the Willow connection, I would have given up midway through the first episode. So. Many. Teen. Fantasy. Cliches. Teen female warrior? Check. Ne’er-do well princeling? Check. Kitchen maid who wants more out of life? Check. We’re rapid-fire introduced to 5 teens who appear to have major roles to play throughout the series. Imho, that’s too much for a world where most of us are tuning in to find out specifically what happened to characters from the original movie. The general vibe with the teens reminded me how they turned the Elfstones of Shannara into a cliched teen fantasy show a few years ago (I tapped out of that one after season 1). If I want a teen fantasy drama, I’ll watch Wednesday again (now THAT was a fun series that freshly imagined yet honored the original source material!).

Not only is it leaning into the teen fantasy cliches, it dregs up a reference to ANOTHER Disney movie with a story Kit tells that bears a striking resemblance to part of the plot of Brave. Not that it was an original story TO Brave (it shows up in a lot of fantasy stories and folktales), but it seems a little too on the nose to ignore. Which leads me to another issue. It’s one thing to have Easter Eggs, in-jokes, and meta-references to other movies of the genre and era. When done right, they can be very fun. However, the delivery felt less like a wink and more like a plagiarism, somehow, both with Brave, and another iconic 80s fantasy movie.

Willow: Death wouldn’t keep Mads from coming back to you, only delay him a bit.

Sound familiar???
Westley in Princess Bride: Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.

It’s too similar and dissimilar at the same time. It’s tangential to the PB quote, but not delivered in a way that makes it stand out from any other dialogue. It’s clunky, and leaves a taste of plagiarism rather than an homage.

Another minor callout to another movie my husband observed: Elora Danan’s wardrobe closely resembles Rey’s. Given the Lucas connection for both movies, this is likely not an accident. Not necessarily a critique, but another example of pulling things from other movies that the showrunners KNOW this audience will recognize for…some purpose? While I appreciate call-outs to other movies (Cobra Kai does this SPECTACULAR AND HILARIOUSLY in almost every episode), it doesn’t quite work here. And while we’re on the subject of my husband noticing things I did not (although in this instance I have never seen the movie in question) they cribbed from YOUNG GUNS, of all things, in a horse racing off, person yelling something that people think is urging it on and turns out to just be “STOP!!!”

While it was wonderful to have Joanne Whalley back as Sorsha, many of her decisions seemed very out of character for the warrior we knew in the movie timeline. Why, for example, did she put her teen daughter into an arranged marriage with someone from Galadorn? I can’t imagine Sorsha, who married a commoner (Madmartigan) with no major political repercussions (she does still appear to be in charge), forcing this marriage for…why? I didn’t get the impression that there’d been intense political intrigue or threat of war with Galdadorn that would require an alliance of this magnitude. What purpose does this marriage serve? Also, given that the marriage is supposed to take place TOMORROW, Kit seems way too calm, especially given her feelings towards Jade (btw, that was one thing I do applaud the show for doing: establishing from the get-go that a main character was gay rather than dragging it out for episodes or never fully answering the question at all). The arranged marriage just doesn’t make sense when we consider Sorsha’s character, and seems to exist only to check off another fantasy cliche box.

Talking parenting decisions from Sorsha brings us to Elora Danan. In flashbacks we see Sorsha and Willow disagreeing over how and if she should be trained in magic. Which is all well and good and sets up some good, believable conflict, but “forget all you know” seems to be the show’s mantra: both for the scriptwriters and the viewers. What has been forgotten? Fin Raziel. Raziel would have had MUCH to say about how Elora should be raised and trained. Assuming she has died by the events in the show (she was very elderly by the time she was transformed back into human during the events of the original movie, after all) BUT the fact remains is she was alive at the very end of the movie. Not only alive, but able give Willow a grand sendoff, a sendoff in which Sorsha is shown in a lovely dress (an annoying change from her armor, honestly, but that’s another rant). So, Bavmorda’s defeated because of this child. Raziel is part of getting this child settled with her adoptive family and …apparently gives no advice or input as to how she should be trained? Now that Bavmorda is defeated, Raziel is the most powerful sorceress. You can’t convince me that she wouldn’t have had her own opinions as to how Elora should be raised, and would have imparted those opinions to Sorsha, Willow, and likely Madmartigan as well. Maybe she would have agreed with Willow’s position as stated in the show, maybe Sorsha’s. I could see that going either way. BUT, Willow or Sorsha would then have had Raziel’s opinion to cite during their arguments with each other! And what about Cherlindria? How did it happen that the two people most vested in this child apparently sought no other opinions? Maybe they did, and that will come out in future flashbacks, but right now, it had me yelling at the screen.

Now for Elora Danan. I will say, the first real surprise I had was when Dove/Brunhilde (hah!) was revealed to be Elora, I did NOT see that coming! I’d thought that Madmartigan had taken her far away to hide; it really was only logical thing that would keep him away all those years (although now I’m curious WHY he’s been gone, and if Val Kilmer will make a surprise appearance). It made sense, though, and I was mollified at her blonde hair when it was revealed that it was dyed (undoubtedly to aid her concealment). I bought that she was hidden in plain sight, where Sorsha could keep a close eye on her, and she be raised without any attention. HOWEVER, she’s been raised as a kitchen maid, and has the GALL to say to Kit, Sorsha’s daughter, “You’re not the boss of me, Princess. Not out here.”

No. Just…no. There is no WAY that a servant would talk back to one of the highest ranked people in the castle that way. She is WAY too contrary towards Willow as well, who should be viewed as an authority figure, or at the very least someone who can tell her more about who she is. She hasn’t been shown to be be particularly rebellious a personality before her true identity is revealed, and habits die hard. If she’s truly meant to be in hiding, her kitchen foster mother would have REALLY impressed upon Elora at a young age proper servant etiquette. She argues with Willow teaching her magic in a manor that wouldn’t be out of character for Kit, but rings completely false for Elora. Elora’s attitude towards the royal family should mirror Jade’s more (who is one character I do want to see more of!), instead she comes across as a near-spoiled brat.

Now to the title character. While it was AMAZING to see Warwick Davis back in the role that made him a fantasy movie icon, and I’m very glad they brought him in on the first episode rather than pulling a Luke Skywalker in The Force Awakens, I felt the comedy was played up too much for most of his scenes, and not in a good way. He went through all the events of the original movie to basically become a charatan sorcerer for his village? Sorsha even flat out says to him “You’re not a great sorcerer.” And honestly, we don’t know yet if he is a great sorcerer, despite Willow claiming that. IS Willow only a slight of hand magician who can pull off disappearing pigs? Or did he learn greater magic at one point? After two episodes, I honestly can’t say, and I’m not sure yet if that’s a narrative flaw or a purposeful misdirection (which would fit the slight of hand magic angle, honestly) from the writers. Am willing to keep watching to find out, but the Nelwyn village scene was almost painful-cringy to watch. The finger test was particularly stupid. It really only works if the candidate has not heard the question before!!! The riddle is the point, not THAT specific riddle! In the movie, I got the impression that it was a riddle set by the High Aldwin for a ONE TIME THING, because really, anyone who witnessed the ceremony (which the whole frigging village did!) would know the answer if it was used year after year! What earthly purpose does calling for a test that is so simple if you’ve witnessed it or, as the village has, heard of? Elora Danan has NOT heard of it, so it COULD be used in her case, but the whole village knowing about it and calling for it seems strange. It would have set better with me if Willow posed a different, but similar, riddle.

Final nitpick (for now): WHY is Airk now pronounced as Eric?? One syllable. Airk. That was yet one more thing that yanked me out of the fantasy world: changing the pronunciation to a much more common name.

So. Will I keep watching? Yes…? I think? I do want to see where they go with this, but so far, this is no Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. That completely captured the spirit of the original and gave us new characters to love and I was willing to follow them anywhere. Willow, in comparison, misses the mark in favor of some clunky shout-outs to other 80s movies and lackluster new characters.

New writing exercise

I’ve been taking a break from longer works to explore a new medium for me: ABC books.  I’ve been playing with different ones and find the process rather fun and challenging.  I can often crank one out in an evening or two, so I feel like I’m being productive.

I do wish I could write macros.  I’d write one to generate the entire alphabet in “A is for” format.  As it is, I’ve just been opening my last manuscript and deleting all the words for each letter.  Doesn’t take THAT long, but it is a smidge annoying.

I’m not just listing random words or even words within a theme.  I do pick a theme, but I try to use them to tell a story, imagining what an illustrator might do with these clues.  It’s a nice exercise in brevity and simplicity.

For a writer, I’m not that good at coming up with specific words.  I’m horrible at Scrabble, Boggle, Quiddler, any word game.  I spend a lot of time at these sites:

With Word Hippo I use the “What is another word for” function a lot, since I know what MEANING I want, but can’t always think of a synonym beginning with the appropriate letter.  

Phrontistery I love for the wonderful obscure words, AND that it lists the definitions right there.  So many sites I ran across would give you a list of words by letter, but no definitions!  Downside is the words here are rather obscure, but why not stretch kids’ (and parents’!) vocabulary?

No idea if these will go anywhere, publication-wise, but at least I’m having fun!

In other news, I FINALLY emptied the last box in my office!  Hope to resume my recap of the great office redesign soon.




Change of Pace

At the beginning of the month I found out that I didn’t even place an honorable mention in the writing contest.  That was, I will admit, a blow.  I was so sure that I was going to at least make it to the finals.  That really shook my confidence.  After moping for a little while I decided that I needed to break myself out of my comfort zone.  I’ve become too dependent on applying to work-for-hire projects that I felt like I was forgetting how to write my own stories.  I decided to shake things up and declare March my own PiBoWriMo (Picture Book Writing Month).  A friend suggested that since March contains “Pi Day” that I should call this PiPiBoWriMo.  That appealed to my engineering side, so it was thus named.  My personal challenge was to a) complete, roughtly, a picture book each week and b) come up with a picture book idea each day during the month of March.

I’ve never been a picture book writer.  When they’ve been required for classes I’ve always found them INCREDIBLY difficult to write.  They’re so hard to write and write WELL that I’ve always found MG and YA better suited for the stories I wanted to tell.  But I wasn’t moving anywhere on the YA I’m currently working on, so I wanted to change things up.  I gave myself permission to be absolutely HORRIBLE.  And boy, did I need it.

My first week’s attempt was horrible.  Awful.  Disastrous.  I think.  My crit group hasn’t had a chance to look at it, but I find it rather silly and stupid.  Perhaps with editing it might be improved, but the point was to keep going with the picture books and don’t look back.  I’m glad I didn’t give up after that first horrid attempt because I’m quite pleased with the book I’m writing now (and hope to finish by the end of today).  It’s a very different book from the first, and one I don’t think I could have written before being a Mom.  The first one, yes, I totally could have written pre-Mom days.  This new one, though, is obviously influenced by reading so many picture books to the Wyrmling.  The reading aloud has made all the difference, I think.  That’s something I don’t often “get.”  Not just because I didn’t use to read aloud, but also because I speed read and don’t “hear” words in my head as I read.  I’m really liking this one and might end up submitting it to a magazine when finished.  

So.  The point of this post.  If you have a big setback, especially on something that you felt very confident about, try to shake yourself out of your comfort zone.  It’s worth it.  Always.  


The Great Office Redesign: Molding

I will admit, I’m overly fond of gingerbread.  Not just the yummy cookies or cake-like bread, but detail, detail, detail.  I’d been drooling over the molding below for YEARS (ever since my husband started work on our library; whose development I think I’ll blog if I ever finish the office saga!) and with my office, I had an excuse to buy it!

If you hadn’t guessed by now, my favorite color is purple.  So I used a purple wood stain for the molding.  Here is a picture of the molding before and after: 



And here’s a nice close-up:


I never stained wood in my life until my husband re-did our dining room.  There’s something very soothing about it: you spread the stain on thick with a foam brush, then take a rag and wipe all the excess off.  I believe I did two coats of these and was glad I did, as the second coat really made the carving pop.

Once the stain was dry, my husband took over and nailed it to the window:



I’d like to take a moment to interject how LONG this project took.  The pictures of the stained wood are from August 13, 2012.  The pictures of the molding on the window was October 27, 2012.  Office perfection does not happen overnight!

Now, if you look closely, you’ll see that there’s a second, plainer strip of molding around the window.  That is because, when we put up the rose molding, we realized that it did not entirely cover the gap between the window and the wall (the old molding was wider).  My brilliant husband had the idea to add a second, narrow strip of molding.  It was a happy accident, as I think it looks a lot nicer with it! Alas, I don’t have a before picture, but here’s a picture of the doors:



I love it!  The only problem is, I like LOOKING at the window molding so much I haven’t had the heart to put up any curtains, and it’s a year and a half later!




After a long absence, we now resume our recap of redesigning an office/writing space.  Last entry I did about this covered removing wallpaper.  What comes after stripping walls?  Why, covering them back up, of course!  In this case, covering them up with purple paint.



And, in the case of the closet, pink!



I felt like I was inside a Pepto-Bismal bottle when I was painting this.

Immediately after painting the walls, I began covering up my lovely purple paint job with cabinets.




Because the office is so small, I’m having a horrible time getting a picture that really captures the cabinets.  I love them.  They’re a simple white laminate from IKEA that was very easy to install.  They have adjustable shelves, which is a MUST for any shelving system I use.  And because they’re so plain, I’m finding it very easy to tape pictures to them, so any wall space I sacrificed, I gained back with usable cabinet doors for decorating.  I’m a bit of a fantasy picture junkie, so they’re getting covered quickly.  I’ll post pictures of those later, since I’m trying to keep my picture posting chronological, even if the posts move back and forth through time.  As you can tell by the dates on the photos, those are all from WAY back.  Right now, my office is 90% completed (just need to have my husband make a window box for plants and for me to paint the doors) and I’m still moving in.  I emptied the LAST BOX (ok, I didn’t find a home for everything, as the mess on the floors and countertops attests, but the boxes that lined the hall and our sitting room WERE OUT AND EMPTIED!  And then the VERY next day I came back from my in-law’s house (we’re getting ready to sell their house and are clearing things out) with three big boxes of fabric and other craft materials.  Oops.   


Please secure your own mask before helping others

As you can probably deduce by the length of time since my last post, I’m a smidge overwhelmed at the moment.  I have resumed writing (yay!) and also joined a second critique group.  I’ve been with an in-person critique group for years (we’ve gone through a couple evolutions, but some of the core people are still there) and really enjoy our every-other-week meetings.  Sometimes we meet at a house (usually mine), sometimes we Skype.  But it’s face time with fellow writers, reading stories that I want to help nurture and grow so they can be sent out into the world and make loads of money for my friends and I get a note in the acknowledgments.

A couple months ago, a former professor of mine said she was starting an online critique group.  I leapt at the chance to join this; she runs a wonderful class and I was really looking forward to getting feedback from her and the other people she invited to join.  However, I soon found what I’d long suspected: online critique groups are not for me.  I like being able to talk about the stories; trying to compress everything into “Track Changes” on Word and a couple paragraphs just wasn’t working for me.  I managed to keep up with the critiques, then got very overwhelmed with things in September with various life events.  I kept having to put off and put off writing the critiques and the longer I did so the more they weighed on my mind.  I couldn’t write because I felt guilty not responding to people who’d offered me such wonderful feedback with wonderful feedback of my own.  I spent two hours today holed up in my office working on critiques and still have two more to go.  I came to the conclusion that, even if feedback is reciprocal, I can’t take on too many critiques.  

So with a heavy heart I emailed the online critique group and explained that I was unable to continue with group, at least at the present time.  I do hope to rejoin at some point in the future; we have a LOT going on in our lives now, plus I am staring at the contest deadline.  But if the purpose of a critique group is to help with your writing, what good is it if you get so overwhelmed with other people’s manuscripts that you neglect or, far worse, are unable to write your own?   I’ll finish up these last two,  because they weigh on me so much I find myself incapable of working on my own things, and then return to my own work and my ONE critique group.  Two is just too many.

Changing Channels

I’d been slowing down on one project (the one with a deadline), finding it harder to produce more words each day.  I’d only been working on it for the past ten days, since I’d had limited writing time.  Tonight I had a little more time, so I decided to hop between it and another story.  Eureka!  Things started flowing more easily.  I really should have at least two projects in rotation.

I don’t know why it took me so long to try this technique.  I’m never content with one thing when it comes to entertaining my brain.  I always read at least three books at a time.  I prefer listening to music on my own because I’ll start listening to one song, then decide to skip to the next.  I should have known that the output of my brain would function better on multiple channels, since that’s how I prefer my input.

Writing Work-Out (cue theme from “Rocky”)

Writing is a lot like exercise.  Who am I kidding, it’s EXACTLY like exercise (except I’m FAR more likely to write than work out).  During the month of July I’ve written every day, with July 4 being my only day off.  That is the most regular I’ve written since before I gave birth, almost 3 years ago.  Over the past couple months, I’d started writing again, but it was irregular and the words weren’t always coming.  Lately, though, three things happened. 

First, I found a project with a deadline.  Deadlines are ALWAYS good for me.  That’s why I love work-for-hire projects so much and why I ended up with three degrees in writing: I blossom under a deadline.  Self-imposed doesn’t work, but give me something that someone ELSE gave me (someone in the writing world; alas, my husband or friends or family won’t work!), and I will meet it. 

Second, I found not just one, not two, but THREE projects to work on!  Only one has a deadline, so that’s getting my full attention, but for a few days, I was actually working on three books at once.  That wasn’t nearly as confusing as it could be, especially since all of them were very different.  I actually found it refreshing: if I got stuck on one, I’d just flip to another one, write a bit on that, and then switch to yet another once I got stuck, and then keep bouncing around.  I doubt that would be a good process for me all the time, but for a few days it was fun.

Third, I committed myself to writing EVERY day.  100 word minimum.  Hard on some days, but I seem to be able to count on getting a bit of writing time every evening, either after hubby gets home and can watch the Wyrmling, or just after Wyrmling goes to sleep.  Many people swear by writing first thing in the morning, but that does NOT work for me.  Never has.  I’m finding that the more I write every day, the easier the words come.  I’ve set a 100 word min, but, as you can see by my writing spreadsheet below, I exceed that almost every day by more than double.  I scheduled out the deadline project to write 100 words every day so I’d be finished by Oct 1 (which would give me time to revise), but, as you can see by the numbers, I’m currently at 2,347 words and min goal by this date was 800.  Whoohoo! 

Not sure how long I’ll be able to keep this up, but it’s working for now!



Date Beginning Word Count Ending Word Count Words for Day Goal Worked On
07/02/13 0 810 810 100 Notes, Chapter 1
07/03/13 810 1038 228 200 Chapter 1
07/04/13 1038 1038 0 300  
07/05/13 1038 1272 234 400 Chapter 1
07/06/13 1272 1480 208 500 Chapter 1
07/07/13 1480 1613 133 600 Chapter 1
07/08/13 1613 1819 206 700 Chapter 2
07/09/13 1819 2347 528 800 Chapter 2

Inspiration in Work-for-Hire

Since 2006, about 75% or more of my writing time and energy has been spent on work-for-hire projects in a shared world.  While I do regret that I don’t have as much of my “own” stuff built up to give my agent (I really don’t have anything other than what she has polished enough to send out, so I’m scrambling these days, working on both a sequel and tossing around a new story idea I’ve been considering for a while), I don’t regret taking on work for hire at all.  Writing these projects is interesting, because, rather than just sitting myself down at a computer and starting to write a story and researching things as they come up (in my current WIP, I’ve had to make notes about researching the layout of lands surrounding abbeys, what root vegetables grew in medieval England, and whether or not church services were conducted in languages other than Latin for the common folk), I instead start with something that someone else has written.  Sometimes it’s a detailed book summary from which I need to write sample chapters.  Other times it’s looking through maps, timelines, and, best of all, books. 

I often describe my first book, Bronze Dragon Codex, as being able to write fanfic and be paid for it.  I’ve never quite seen the point of fanfic, why write something that you didn’t own rights to and get published?  But when the opportunity to write a book for childhood favorite series came up, it was SO much fun to look through my old books and atlases and read the new books and invent a story in that world.

I have that chance again, perhaps.  I’m still deciding if I want to do something I found out about recently.  I don’t know if I should take time out from my “own” work to chase after something that, in the end, won’t be mine.  But as I print out information and dig old books out of my library, I feel that thrill again, the same thrill I had when I first began researching for Bronze Dragon Codex.  Time will tell if the thrill stays enough for me to write something for this possible new project.

Work in Progress Wednesday

Going up early, since I don’t think I’ll have a chance to upload tomorrow.  I’ll resume the saga of the office redesign next week, hopefully, but for now, I just wanted to share what I did today.

I have a whole Pinterest board for my office/craft room ideas. I was very intrigued by the photos of filing cabinets transformed by modge-podge and paper or fabric.  Only problem: I didn’t have fabric that I wanted to use on file cabinets, and my plan of using scrapbook paper failed when I realized a standard size sheet of scrapbook paper isn’t big enough to cover an entire file cabinet drawer.

I then thought of contact paper.  It would be fairly inexpensive and MUCH easier to work with.  I went looking on Amazon and ran across this.  Oooo!  I had a solid floral pattern in mind, but the idea of the black filing cabinet showing through intrigued me.  Today I tried it and was completely blown away by the results:


I LOVE IT!  Can’t wait to do the others!  I’m now wishing I’d thought of this idea BEFORE I bought black filing cabinets, because I’d love to see something like this in my office.  Oh well, I’m quite happy with how things turned out!