Game of Thrones Wrap-Up: The White Walkers are stupid and boring, and I don’t want to watch them

Night King

SPOILERS for season 7 of Game of Thrones.

 

Jon Snow is right: the White Walkers are the biggest threat to Westeros right now. Regardless of who takes the Iron Throne, they present a threat to all of humanity.

But honestly, so what?

It’s been clear since the first episode that the show’s end game was going to have to involve the White Walkers somehow. They’ve always been there in the background, slaughtering people and amassing an army beyond the Wall while our heroes and villains were too busy playing musical monarchs to notice.

But if the White Walkers are going to be the focus of season 8, then the show has done itself a disservice. Because the truth is, they’re just not all that interesting. From a viewer perspective, watching Cersei manipulate her way into power and Dany burn it all down with dragon fire is just way more fun.

What do the White Walkers want? To kill people, I guess. We got one glimpse of the Night King in one of Bran’s visions, so we know he was human once. Does it matter? Apparently not.

Even the most sociopathic characters on Game of Thrones have needs and wants and desires: Joffrey wanted power and sexytime with Sansa and Margaery; Ramsay Bolton wanted approval and validation from his father.

And to the show’s credit, Joffrey and Ramsay are both dead, and the remaining characters–even the “bad” ones, are much more nuanced than that. Cersei may be ambitious and power-hungry, but she’s always wanted to protect her children. Now, with all three dead, Cersei’s lust for power is all that remains–even overtaking her lifelong love/forbidden romance for her brother, Jaime. We hate her, but we love watching her. I found myself holding my breath multiple times during Cersei’s tension-filled meet with Dany, Jon, and Tyrion–and then later, when Jaime confronts her after she makes clear she has no intention of honoring her promise to fight the White Walkers. Cersei will do anything to hold on to her power, and with only six episodes remaining, it’s all fair game. Hell, is she even really pregnant, or is this a ruse to manipulate both her brothers? This is the stuff drama is made of.

But with the White Walkers, there’s none of that. They apparently have no motivation besides the mass destruction of the human race. Watching a zombiefied dragon burn down the Wall with blue fire was pretty cool, but it can’t sustain an entire season.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the best White Walker battle we’ve seen so far was in season 5’s “Hardhome.” It was a massacre on an epic scale, and characters that we’d come to care about–even over the course of just that episode were slaughtered. (Wildling Karsi popping up at the end of the scene, now converted to a wight, remains chilling.)

Meanwhile, the White Walker battle in this season’s “Beyond the Wall” just didn’t have the same impact. Aside from the fact that it was ill-conceived and, to be honest, kind of silly (“Let’s go beyond the wall with a dozen men and try to kidnap a wight from an army of 100,000! That sounds like a great idea!”), the tension was never built up in a way that made you believe that any of the main characters were ever really in any danger. Sure, the Priest of Epic Man Buns bought it, but he was so unmemorable that I had to go look up his name. (It was Thoros of Myr, for what it’s worth.)

Compare that to the battle between the Lannister and Targaryen forces in “The Spoils of War.” The battle matters because we care about people on both sides: Jaime and Bron on the Lannister side, Dany and Tyrion on the Targaryen. You may be rooting for Dany, but you don’t want Jaime or Bron to die.

But who cares if Jon Snow slaughters one White Walker or a thousand? Spoiler: no one. (A White Walker has no name…)

Game of Thrones has always been at its best during its character moments. This season, while uneven in plotting, has given us a lot of great character growth. For the final season, I urge the Game of Thrones writers not to focus too much on those White Walkers, and remember why we’re really watching.

 

Beth Woodward is the author of the contemporary fantasy novel, The Demon Within (Amazon; Barnes and Noble). The sequel, Embracing the Demon, will be released in March 2018.

Game of Thrones Finale Countdown: Tyrion needs to check his privilege

tyrion dany

SPOILERS, obviously, if you’re not caught up on season 7.

 

So something’s been bothering me over the last few episodes of Game of Thrones.

After losing allies Olenna Tyrell and Elliara Sand to Cersei’s machinations, Dany attacks the Lannister’s supply convoy as it returns to Westeros. The result is one of the most epic battles in Game of Thrones history. The Lannister soldiers would have been decimated by Dany’s Dothraki army alone. But when you throw in being torched by a freakin’ dragon, the result is…pretty amazing. (Seriously. If you haven’t watched it, you need to do so immediately. And if you have watched it, you need to go back and watch it again.)

That’s not why I’m upset.

In the next episode, Dany tells the surviving Lannister soldiers that they must pledge their allegiance to her, or they will be killed. Most submit. A few refuse. Two of them are Randyll and (the unfortunately named) Dickon Tarly, better known as Samwell’s assholish father and brother. Randyll, in a speech laced with xenophobia and racism, says that he will never submit to a foreign queen with an army of savages. Dickon is less certain than his father, but he’s a daddy’s boy. So they both get torched.

The rest of the Lannister army, not surprisingly, decides to bend the knee.

Tyrion spends the next two episodes fretting about this. Dany was supposed to be different than this, right? She’s not supposed to be violent. Maybe she’s going crazy like her father, Mad King Aerys, who burned his subjects to death willy-nilly.

How quickly Tyrion forget that last season, he watched while Dany burned an entire hut full of Dothraki khals to the ground, gaining herself a Dothraki horde in the process. And unlike Randyll and Dickon Tarly, the khals never got the choice to bend the knee. But Tyrion never worried about that.

But I guess I can understand Tyrion’s angst. For better or worse, he grew up among the great families of Westeros. He probably had dinners and play dates with a Tarly or two, and Dickon Tarly looks an awful lot like Tyrion’s own brother, Jaime (who almost died in the flames of Dany’s dragon.) But what irritated me is that we, the viewers, are supposed to wonder whether Dany’s going crazy and/or abusing her power, too. When Tyrion talks to Varys–usually the voice of reason for putting entitled lords in their place–he tries to downplay his concerns by saying he can’t make Dany’s decisions for her. Varys’s response: “That’s what I used to tell myself about her father when he was burning everyone alive.”

Yikes.

But the truth is, Dany has always been judicious in her use of violence. If she’d wanted to take Westeros by force, she could have flown her dragons in and torched the Red Keep a long time ago. She hasn’t done that, because she wants to minimize the loss of innocent lives. And in killing Randyll and Dickon Tarly, she gains an asset she was sorely lacking before: a Westerosi army loyal to her.

But I don’t think the real problem is Tyrion, or Varys…it’s the show itself. The racial optics of Game of Thrones have always been troubling, especially Dany’s story. One scene in particular has always stuck out to me. In the season 3 finale, after Dany frees the slaves in Yunkai, they lift her up on their shoulders and call her “mhysa”–Ghiscari for “mother.” You can still see Dany’s blonde hair and pale skin as the camera pans out, the lone white savior among a sea of brown people. (Fast forward to about 3:55 in the video and then watch until the credits roll.)

For the first several seasons, the show didn’t even have any leading non-white characters. The only ones it has on the show now, Missandei and Grey Worm, are both former slaves who were, surprise surprise, freed by Dany.

Let’s not forget that the show’s creators, David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, are also in the process of creating an alternate history series, Confederate, in which the south wins the Civil War–and they were shocked, shocked I tell you, to realize that people might not think it was such a great idea. (For the record…I think it could be an interesting concept, if executed correctly. I just don’t think Benioff and Weiss are the ones to do it.)

Dany’s behavior–particularly, her use of violence–hasn’t changed much in the last few seasons. Hell, she showed herself willing to burn people alive all the way back in season 1. If it’s a problem now, it was a problem before. But the show never called it out, because it assumes we will care about white people more.

 

Beth Woodward is the author of the contemporary fantasy novel, The Demon Within (Amazon; Barnes and Noble). The sequel, Embracing the Demon, will be released in March 2018.

Game of Thrones Finale Countdown: Will Someone Please Kill Bran Stark Already?

BranStark

SPOILERS, obviously, if you’re not caught up on season 7.

 

Dear David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, George R.R. Martin, and anyone else who might be in a position to make these decisions:

Please, for the love of the old gods and the new, kill Bran Stark already.

I get it. He’s the Three-Eyed Raven now, although–much like Sansa and Arya, I still don’t know exactly what that means. Apparently, part of what it means is that he turned into a gigantic douche.

A few weeks ago, Bran reunited with his sister, Sansa, for the first time in years. He tries to convince her that he’s a basically omnipotent being that can project himself into animals’ minds and is apparently also a raven with three eyes…yeah, I don’t really blame her for being skeptical. But then, in an apparent effort to prove it, he says, basically, this:

Sansa, I was spying on you with my mad omnipotent powers on your wedding night. It was snowing. You looked hot. I watched while you got brutally raped by your husband multiple times. That must have sucked.

Now, imagine that with even less emotion and empathy, and you pretty much have Bran. Apparently, petty human emotion is beneath the Three-Eyed Raven, even when discussing your host’s sister’s spousal rape.

Bran also knows that Littlefinger is up to something–he threw Littlefinger’s season 3 “Chaos is a Ladder” speech back in his face a few episodes ago.

Littlefinger was shook up that the youngest Stark knew something he had no way of knowing–but not shook enough to stop sowing conflict between Sansa and Arya. One would think the oh-so-omnipotent Bran might mention to his sisters that Littlefinger is playing them like fiddles, but apparently he can’t be bothered. He’s too busy…being omnipotent? Staring at trees? I’m not really sure.

Bran’s story has always been the least interesting of the Stark siblings, but at least I felt invested in him as a character. But now that character is gone, replaced by the shell that the Three-Eyed Raven seems to be. Unlike the boy he replaced, Raven Bran lacks empathy and humility. (Interestingly, the previous Three-Eyed Raven didn’t seem to be a giant douche. But maybe that has something to do with the fact that he was played by Max von Sydow, an actor who could probably turn in an Oscar-worthy performance doing antacid commercials. I have nothing against Isaac Hempstead Wright, but he’s not Max von Sydow.)

Granted, Game of Thrones isn’t lacking for characters without empathy or humility–Cersei Lannister’s still kicking, for now–but at least those other characters are interesting and fun to watch. Raven Bran isn’t.

To top it off, the transition between scared teenager and omnipotent super-being seems…unearned. Is Bran Stark really gone? Because when Bran initially became the Three-Eyed Raven last season, he didn’t seem so emotionless. Traumatized and frightened, yes, but not emotionless.

So when did Raven Bran, as we know him now, happen? Is this some kind of PTSD thing? That would make sense, given everything that Bran’s been through? Or did the Three-Eyed Raven take over Bran’s psyche and disappear Bran entirely, a la Illyria taking over Fred on Angel. But in the latter case, we at least got some transition, and a heartbreaking death scene for a beloved character. But in Bran’s case…nothing.

Long story short: omnipotence is a plot device, not a character trait.

So please, put us all out of our misery and have Raven Bran tell Sansa and Arya that Littlefinger is playing them. Then have him send a raven up down to Dragonstone to let Jon Snow know he’s about to get it on with his aunt. And then kill him quickly.

 

Beth Woodward is the author of the contemporary fantasy novel, The Demon Within (Amazon; Barnes and Noble). The sequel, Embracing the Demon, will be released in March 2018.

What the f*ck timeline is this, and other questions “Logan” leaves unanswered

 

LoganPoster

I watched the new Wolverine movie, Logan, a few weeks ago, and well…I have mixed feelings.

As a movie, I thought it was fantastic—although at least two of the people in my party were thrown off because it wasn’t what they were expecting. (In fairness, they hadn’t seen any of the previews, which made no secret of the bleaker tone.) It’s a much darker, sadder movie than the previous X-Men films. In a lot of ways, it doesn’t even feel like a superhero movie. The director has admitted to taking much of his inspiration from westerns, and it shows.

But as someone who’s been a fan of the X-Men film franchise since its 2000 debut, I am…confused. And more than a little frustrated. Maybe someone who read the comics would be in better shape, but I found myself wondering what the hell I’d just watched, because it didn’t seem to fit with any of the other X-Men films in the franchise. Not to mention that there was a lot of stuff that just wasn’t explained. Like, at all.

So without further ado, here are the 10 questions that Logan should have answered…but didn’t.

 

 

SPOILERS. NO SERIOUSLY, SPOILERS. I WON’T WARN YOU AGAIN.

 

1) What the f*ck timeline are we in this time?

In Days of Future Past, Logan traveled back in time 50 years to 1973. We can then extrapolate that the “present” sequences take place in 2023. Logan takes place in 2029. So how the hell did we get from that cheery, optimistic ending of Days, to the bleak, broken-down, mutant-less existence of Logan—in just SIX YEARS?!?

It would make sense if Logan took place in the original timeline (i.e. the timeline of X1, X2, and X3). Many of our main characters were killed in X3 (a movie that I know we’d all prefer to forget), and still more of them were killed in the battles during Days, before Logan altered the past. Logan also references events that we know happened in the original timeline, such as Logan’s days as a cage fighter and the battle on Liberty Island.

But Director James Manigold has stated that Logan takes place in the Days timeline—so WTF?

(My personal theory has always been that while Days may have altered or changed some things, we’re supposed to assume that many of the events of X1 and X2 still occurred in some form or another. My primary basis for this: Rogue’s hair at the end of Days still has a white streak in it, her “scar” from Liberty Island, so to speak. If that battle hadn’t happened, why is Rogue still channeling Lily Munster?)

2) What happened to all the other mutants?

Are we really supposed to believe that Wolverine, Xavier, and Caliban are the only three mutants left on Earth? I don’t. So what happened?

We know some things:

*At some point several years before the story started, Xavier lost control of his abilities and killed several people in Westchester (presumably at the school). I believe the radio announcer said that seven people were killed, with many more injured. But still—seven isn’t “all the mutants on Earth.” But presumably, it may have taken out some of our beloved old guard X-Men.

*Transigen—a.k.a. the bad guys—manipulated the food and water supply so that no new mutants had been born in 25 years.

*The skeevy bad guy with the southern drawl also implies that at one point, Caliban used his abilities for Transigen to help them track down (and presumably kill) mutants.

But c’mon. ALL THE MUTANTS ON EARTH?!? I’ll say it again: it’s only been six years since Days, when everyone was happy and healthy and not dead.

LoganLaura3) If no mutant babies had been born in 25 years, how come no one mentioned that at the end of Days of Future Past? Shouldn’t they be a tiny bit alarmed about this?

The youngest mutant on Earth would have been 19 at the end of Days. Someone should have noticed the oncoming extinction of mutants by this time.

And for that matter, who the hell were all those students at the Xavier School at the end of the movie? If the youngest mutant on Earth is 19, who are they even holding classes for?

4) Is it really the adamantium making Logan sick and impeding his healing abilities?

We’re kind of left to make up our own minds about this. But really, it could be something else? Maybe a malevolent agent that Transigen released? Maybe a delayed side effect of time travel?

5) If it is the adamantium, does that mean that Laura will have the same problems in the future?

And possibly at a much younger age, since she was implanted so young?

6) Will Laura be able to grow with all that adamantium fused to her skeleton?

Because it kind of makes sense that she wouldn’t. I kept expected her to start shouting at Logan, “Do you know why I know how to drive? Because I’m really 37 years old!”

LoganProfessor7) When and why did Xavier lose control of his powers?

Again, we’re left to our own devices to make assumptions. “Neurodegenerative disease”—dementia, maybe?

8) Who or what is in Canada?

Is that where all the other mutants went? Did some of our heroes manage to escape? The pessimist in me says that it would be a fitting ending for this bleak entry into the series if nothing was in Canada, that it was just a bedtime story to give hope to the last surviving mutants. But obviously, Eden existed, Laura’s friend and fellow genetically engineered child mutant was talking to someone on the radio.

9) Why didn’t the other child mutants help out in the climactic fight sooner?

No wonder Transigen abandoned the “let’s genetically engineer children as weapons” program—these kids suck as weapons. I mean, I get it, they have consciences and don’t want to be used as weapons and all that. But when people are literally trying to kill you, you can make an exception! Instead, they seemed perfectly content to let Laura—who will probably be scarred for life—and Logan do the fighting for them, not jumping in with their own awesome mutant powers until Logan is on the verge of death. Seriously, guys, if you had done that 10 minutes earlier, maybe Wolverine wouldn’t have been impaled. #stupidkids

10) Seriously, why do I even bother to follow the continuity?

Because no one else in this franchise ever seems to bother. *Sigh*

The Cost of Being Healthy

Mom pic

My mom, my brother, and me, a few weeks before her death.

I don’t get political on this blog generally. But something has been eating at me recently, and I have a story I need to tell.

For most of the last 17 years of her life, my mother didn’t have health insurance.

You see, my father died in 1997. He was the sole breadwinner of the family; my mom hadn’t been in the workforce since before I was born. Funny: he worked as an actuary for a health insurance company. He’d devoted his professional life to the industry. They still kicked my mom, my brother, and me off the rolls before his body was even cold. My brother and I got health insurance coverage through CHIP, a government-subsidized program that provides health insurance to low-income children.

But my mom was a different story.

My mom had rheumatic heart disease, a lifelong side effect of a bout of rheumatic fever as a child. The disease caused damage to her mitral heart valve. She’d had two open-heart surgeries, the first around 1979 to remove scar tissue from around the valve, and the second in 1992 to replace the valve altogether with an artificial one. After the second surgery, she would spend the rest of her life on blood thinners. She had to get blood tests to ensure her blood was the right consistency. (Too thick could cause the artificial valve not to function properly; too thin could cause her to bleed out from a minor wound.)

So my mom was pretty much the walking, talking personification of a preexisting condition. Although she was only in her late 40s when my dad died, she could not qualify for most health insurance plans. The ones she did qualify for were just too expensive–over $1,000 a month, she told me.

When it’s a choice between having health insurance and feeding your kids, or having health insurance and keeping a roof over their heads…I guess you can figure out what choice she made.

As a 50ish woman without a college education, my mom had a difficult time finding jobs. When she did find them, they were mostly either part-time or temporary–and, naturally, didn’t offer insurance.

So she did what she had to do. She paid for her health care out of pocket. Doctor’s appointments, blood tests, medication–it all adds up. She put off unnecessary exams and testing.

The one time she did find a job that offered health benefits was 2003. She got a job at a bank. She was so excited! She finally started getting all the check-ups she’d been putting off. But a few months into the job, she ended up in the hospital. The new medication her cardiologist prescribed to her was too expensive–over $90 a month, even with insurance–and she’d stopped taking it. When she was admitted to the hospital, her resting heart rate was over 200 beats per minute.

Several months later, she slipped and broke her wrist quite badly. She had to have surgery to get it fixed. Having surgery was complicated for my mom. They had to take her off the blood thinners beforehand to make sure she didn’t bleed too much, necessitating around-the-clock monitoring. Then afterwards, they had to keep her in the hospital as they restarted her blood thinners until her levels got back to normal. In total, she was in the hospital about nine days.

While she was in the hospital, she got a letter from her employer. She had exceeded her allotted amount of sick leave–two weeks. Since she had not been at the company for a year, she was not eligible for unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act.

They fired her. Her final termination date was, ironically, the date her surgeon cleared her to go back to work.

 

Mom pic 2

My mom in New Orleans, the year before she died.

Thankfully, her insurance from the bank did cover her surgery and hospitalization, since the injury happened while she was still insured, as well as physical therapy afterwards. But when her mobility didn’t return to normal and her surgeon recommended a second surgery, that was not covered. My mom didn’t get the second surgery, and she never did recover full mobility in that wrist.

 

Even with insurance, she amassed a lot of bills from her surgery and hospitalization. I think I remember her telling me that it totaled around $6,000. It took her years to pay off the debt.

My mom was excited when they passed the Obamacare law that prevented insurers from denying coverage just because of a preexisting condition. But she would be eligible for Medicare coverage before Obamacare came into effect. In October 2013, she celebrated her 65th birthday. For years before that, her doctors had been urging her to get an EKG. She’d been putting it off, waiting until it was covered by Medicare.

She never made it that far. She died just two weeks after her birthday. The cause of death was “acute cardiac failure.” I’m still not exactly sure what that means, except that it was her heart and she had heart disease that wasn’t being monitored as much as her doctors recommended.

For the rest of my life, I’ll wonder whether having health insurance could have prevented her death.

So when I hear a comment saying that poor people just need to choose between getting a new [insert luxury item here] and having health care, it pisses me off. Because basically what you’re saying to me is that my mom didn’t deserve to live.

We were what I’d call “borderline poor.” We never had to water down ketchup and call it tomato soup (although I know people who did). But we were financially insecure. My mom budgeted well enough that our needs were always taken care of, but an unexpected expense–like a $350 car repair or a $175 plumber visit to fix a leaky toilet–could set her back months.

Even with insurance, health care is ridiculously expensive. A visit to a specialist may be a $50 deductible. Blood work might cost $75-$150 above and beyond what insurance will pay. X-rays will probably be about $150. An ultrasound might be something like $200; an EKG could be closer to $400. I know, because I’ve had all of these tests done–all with employer-provided insurance coverage.

I’m in better financial shape now, so I was able to pay all these costs. (I don’t know what I would have done if I’d been in an accident or gotten sick, and I had incurred all these costs and more at the same time.) But not everyone is so lucky.

As long as health care is a for-profit business, our health outcomes will never be as good as other countries. And don’t lie to yourself: our health care outcomes are not good. Take a look at this article from Forbes, published in 2014. Specifically:

Equity: The U.S. ranks clear last on measures of equity. Americans with below-average incomes were much more likely than their counterparts in other countries to report not visiting a physician when sick; not getting a recommended test, treatment, or follow-up care; or not filling prescriptions or skipping doses when needed because of costs. On each of these indicators, one-third or more lower-income adults in the U.S. said they went without needed care because of costs in the last year.

One-third. More than 33% of adults are skipping health care because they can’t afford it.

We spend much, much more money than other countries on health care, and we’re still sicker.

One of the main arguments I’ve always heard against a government-subsidized single-payer health care system is that the quality of our health care system would deteriorate. But look at the facts. Among other first-world countries, we’ve got nowhere to go but up.

Every time a discussion about health care or welfare or government aid comes up, I hear someone talk about the people who “abuse the system”–those people they met who were living in the projects, getting food stamps, but still managed to have the nicest clothes and cars and electronics. Hell, it’s even people who have been poor who do it, so quick to point out that they weren’t like other poor people.

Let me add my anecdotal evidence to others’ anecdotal evidence: that has never been my experience. My family was just doing the best it could to get by. And when my mom had the audacity to spend money on “little luxuries”–Christmas presents for my brother and me, a new television to replace the broken one in our family room–those were never the thing preventing her from obtaining health care.

Also, let’s just ignore the fact that many consumer goods–electronics in particular, but also food and clothing–have come down in inflation-adjusted dollars over the last several decades, while the costs of health care have continued to go way, way up.

But I’m going to conclude with this: yes, I realize there are people who abuse the system, who take freebies and handouts wherever and however they can get them. But even if someone is abusing the system, taking advantage, whatever, do they deserve to die?

Because that’s what this comes down to. The widowed mother who can’t afford to buy her medication. The recent college graduate who can’t afford health insurance and then gets into an accident. The minimum wage worker who has two jobs and still can’t afford to go to the doctor to get his stage four cancer treated. The real death panels are when you have to play Russian Roulette with your own health because you can’t afford not to.

That’s the cost of being healthy in America.

Word Constipation

 

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Do you like it?

 

So…Embracing the Demon. Dale, book 2.

I’m frustrated.

The good news is, the book is coming along. I’ve got about 40,000 words right now. I’m not stuck, and I don’t feel like I’ve written myself into a corner. My editor read a good chunk of it, and he’s happy with how it’s coming. This is good news. When we were working on The Demon Within, I basically had to rewrite the book from the original manuscript I submitted to him. Then after his feedback on the rewritten draft, I still had to go back and gut the entire middle section. It was an arduous process, and there were days when I felt like giving up completely. I figured maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a professional writer. For perspective: I signed my contract with California Coldblood in May of 2014. I submitted the final manuscript to my editor in November of 2015. Even after that, there were copy edits and minor changes, but I was mostly out of it by then.

That’s not what’s going on here.

This time, I did a lot of the work up front by writing an extensive outline of the story ahead of time and submitting it to my editor. As much as my pantser heart hated to do it, I have to admit that it is helping considerably, especially now that I’m truly in the middle section of the story (which has always been the hardest part for me). Whenever I get stuck, I just refer back to the outline. I’ve got a map to give me directions.

The problem I’m facing now is that the story is not coming fast enough, and because of that, I’m looking at the very real possibility that Embracing the Demon won’t be out until 2018.

When I sit down to write, I average about 1,000 words. On a good day, I might be able to push it closer to 1,500 or 2,000. On a bad day, I might only write a few hundred. Some days, I don’t write. I’ve heard so many writers give the advice to “write every day, no matter what,” but that has never worked for me. Writing is a job–on top of my other, full-time job. I love it, but some days, my brain just needs a break. Other days, I just don’t have time to write. Maybe I’m busy at work (the full-time job, the one that currently pays the bills) or I’ve got other appointments that don’t bring me home until late. Most weeks, I’m averaging about 4-5 days of writing time, 2-3 days off.

I know this about myself, though, so I know I should have started sooner. I was very burned out after finishing The Demon Within–and then once I’d recovered enough to write again, I was smack-dab in the middle of buying a house and wedding mania. But even beyond that…I got married in July. I didn’t start working on the outline until October. That’s on me, I know.

I’ll also be the first to admit that I’m not so great with either time management or focus. I’m distracted easily, and tend to fall down the internet rabbit hole too often.

The first draft of The Demon Within was about 100,000 words; the final was about 85,000. Then you need to factor in time for rewrites–which probably won’t be as extensive as they were on the first book, but there are still going to be scenes where my editor says things like, “Add more cool weapons” or “Be more descriptive.” In order to get Embracing the Demon out this year, my editor would have to upload it sometime in the next couple of months. You don’t have to be great with numbers to see that the math doesn’t work out.

I follow other writers on Facebook and Twitter who says things like, “I wrote 10,000 words today!” or “I only wrote 2,500 words today, I’m so disappointed in myself.” To which I’m like, WTF?!? I don’t even know how it’s physically possible to write 10,000 words in one day, and 2,500 words would be a great day for me!

Mostly, though, I’m just oozing jealousy. I genuinely don’t know how one can manage to be that prolific, especially with a full-time job (or kids, or family obligations, or volunteering, or pets, or whatever).

I wrote faster back when I was living on my own, but back then I had fewer demands on my time and distractions. It’s so much easier to write when you have no life!

But, since I have no intention of giving up my husband, my family, my friends, or my cats anytime soon, some mitigating strategies are in order.

–I’m going to be deactivating my personal Facebook account soon. It’s temporary, and I will reactivate when my draft is done. My public author page will stay up, but it’ll probably be less active. This is both for my mental health as well as time management: ever since the election, Facebook has been a hotbed of political activism and discussion. Which is great, but it’s causing me stress I can’t handle right now.

–Twitter will stay up, but again, I may not be around as much. (Twitter has never been my poison.)

–I’m going to try (emphasis on try) to start getting up early in the morning before work to write. I’m not a morning person, so this will likely be the biggest struggle. But I’ve done it before.

–I’m going to try to get to the gym more. Doesn’t directly have anything to do with writing, but it clears my head and makes me feel better.

–After I finish the draft of Embracing the Demon, I’m going to work on some things that aren’t Dale-related. I love Dale, but I’ve been in her head exclusively for way too long now. (The last non-Dale project I worked on was in 2013.)

–And if it does come down to delaying the publication, I’ll have to think about some things to put out in the meantime. Short stories? A Dale novella? A non-Dale novella? Deleted scenes? (God knows I’ve got plenty of them.)

I know that building a writing career is a long process, and it feels better to have a plan. But right now, I’m still grumpy and frustrated with myself. Damn kids. Get off my lawn!

 

Gilmore Girls: What the F*ck Happened to Rory Gilmore?

gilmoregirls

Just finished watching the four episodes of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, and I feel the need to rant.

SPOILERS AHEAD!!! Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Okay, first of all…there is a lot to love in the revival. Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel are in top form as Lorelai and Rory, and the supporting cast seems to have slipped back into their old roles quite comfortably. (Particularly Liza Weil as Paris Gellar, who steals every single scene she’s in. I wish she had been featured more prominently in the series.) And Kelly Bishop was, as always, pitch-perfect as Emily Gilmore. Because of the real-life death of Edward Herrmann (who played patriarch Richard Gilmore), Bishop was given a meatier and more complex storyline than she ever had in the original series. The scenes between Graham and Bishop were the best in the revival–and yes, I’d even say, better than the original series. They had me both laughing and crying multiple times. If either Graham or Bishop don’t pick up an Emmy nod for their roles, I will be very disappointed.

But then there was Rory. What the hell happened to Rory Gilmore?

Before I go on, let me caveat this with some of my own personal biases. I am around the same age as Rory. I, too, was the nerdy, ambitious girl with awkward social skills. I also loathe the stereotype that millennials just can’t get their shit together because they were awarded too many participation trophies growing up. Every time I hear it, I grind my teeth–and then remind myself that Paul Lynde was singing that he didn’t know what was wrong with these “kids today” back in 1963, so obviously this suspicion of “youngsters” isn’t a new phenomenon.

Anyway…

In 2000, Rory Gilmore was introduced to us as a hard-working, intelligent, driven 16-year-old beginning her time at a competitive private school. She later becomes valedictorian of her class. She gets accepted to both Harvard and Yale, but chooses Yale because it’s closer to home. Then after graduation, she gets offered a job as a reporter embedded with Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.

Fast forward to 2016. Rory is adrift. She’s doing freelance work in the journalism industry, but she cannot find a more stable position in the industry–or even manage to find regular freelance work, for that matter. She tries several things, including writing a biography of an erratic British feminist and taking over as editor for the Stars Hollow Gazette (for NO salary!) before deciding that her calling in life is to write a memoir of her and Lorelai’s life.

Sadly, her personal life is in even worse shape. She’s dating a guy named Paul, who is so unmemorable that she literally cannot remember to break up with him. She’s also having an affair with her ex-boyfriend, Logan, who is engaged to a French socialite.

Seriously?

Now, it’s not like Rory hasn’t stumbled in both her personal and professional life before. Once upon a time, she cheated on her first love, Dean, with bad boy, Jess. Then Jess left town, and she lost her virginity to Dean–who was married to someone else by that time. On the professional front, a bad performance review during an internship causes her to steal a boat, get arrested, and drop out of Yale. Talk about an overreaction!

That said, while she was losing her virginity to married guys and stealing boats, she was in her late teens and early 20s. I think most of us did some stupid things when we were that age.

But young Rory was, for the most part, exceptionally mature and driven. Thirtysomething Rory seems to be anything but.

And this is my main complaint: I think Amy Sherman-Palladino got it wrong. The trajectory Rory took just doesn’t seem to make sense, given everything we know about her.

Rory has spent almost a decade working in the ultra-competitive, ever-changing journalism industry. She’s been published in several prestigious publications, but she can’t manage to get freelance work? She goes to an interview with a Buzzfeed-esque website, but she doesn’t even have one pitch ready? I was never convinced that journalism was the right path for Rory. But after nine years, she wouldn’t have stopped and said, “Maybe this isn’t working out for me. Is there something else I can try instead?” Rory was intelligent and driven and, oh, by the way, pretty much the epitome of class privilege. But she hasn’t been able to figure out something better than groveling to write articles on spec about waiting in line?

I can be a little more sympathetic to her ongoing affair with Logan. Who wouldn’t want someone who makes them feel good and still treats them like they’re at their best, when Rory feels anything but. What I don’t understand is how the child of a single mother who got impregnated as a teenager would, apparently, forget to be on birth control. (Could she not afford her Obamacare premium?) Not to mention the fact that she and Logan are both sleeping with other people,* so wouldn’t you be worried about STDs? Honestly, Logan always seemed like he’d be a petri dish of venereal bacteria to me.

*I am assuming Logan is the father of Rory’s baby because, both timing-wise and story-wise, he makes a hell of a lot more sense than Paul the forgettable boyfriend or the unnamed Wookie.

As any good Gilmore fan knows, the last four words are the four words, the very ones Amy Sherman-Palladino planned from the very beginning of the series. And I get what Sherman-Palladino was trying to do. Everything comes full circle. When the series started, Lorelai was a single mom without the involvement of the baby’s father, and now Rory’s facing the same fate. Lorelai and Rory have parallel stories.

Except Lorelai and Rory, for all their closeness, were never the same. Lorelai was the flighty wild child, while Rory was more grounded and serious. Lorelai was endlessly talkative, while Rory was quieter. Lorelai blew off school, while Rory was always studying. Lorelai got pregnant at 16, while Rory didn’t get pregnant until 32–not a teen pregnancy by any stretch.

But by 32, Lorelai was raising a teenage daughter entirely on her own. She was the manager of a successful bed and breakfast, and on her way to owning her own business. Meanwhile, at 32, Rory can’t even manage to find her own underwear.

I just don’t buy it.

 

 

New “Star Wars” Poster–and a Rant

Disney has just unveiled the official poster for The Force Awakens.

Cue Beth geeking out.

Cue Beth geeking out.

Here’s what I’m seeing here:

OMG, EVERYONE IS BACK!!! There’s Han and Leia and Chewie and R2-D2 and C-3PO and…wait, where’s Luke?

Daisy Ridley as Rey is front and center, with John Boyega as Finn right beside her. She looks incredibly badass. Love that! She also very strongly resembles the Skywalker women, particularly Natalie Portman as Padme. Coincidence? Probably not. (Just hope she’s a stronger character than Padme. Natalie Portman deserved so much better.)

The way Kylo Ren looms over all of them…very interesting.

Is that another Death Star?

But here’s my rant: I discovered the new poster on this Yahoo article. Scroll through the comments section (which one should probably never do if one wants to keep one’s sanity), and you’ll discover comment after comment of racist, sexist garbage, basically all equating to the same thing: “How DARE they make a Star Wars movie with a female lead and a black lead!!! Damn you, PC Hollywood liberals, diversifying everything I hold dear!!!”

It burns me that in 2015 we still see and hear this garbage. Listen up: casting women and minorities in larger, more prominent roles isn’t an attempt to “PC” the movie; it’s an attempt to get with reality. And the reality is, guess what, women and minorities exist! And many of us have been dying to see representations of ourselves on screen.

I am a woman who loves science fiction and fantasy. I have also loved Star Wars for a very long time. If Rey gets to take a more prominent role in the new trilogy, even the lead, that would be AMAZING! Honestly, in the pre-Katniss era, who were the female leads of sci-fi/fantasy? Ellen Ripley, of course. Sarah Connor, maybe, although she always played second fiddle to her own son. Leia got to do some cool stuff, but she was never the lead of the movie. To make matters worse, the big thing most people remember is Leia in her slave-girl gold bikini, when she was held captive by Jabba.

Is this what comes to mind when you think of Princess Leia? Yeah, I thought so.

Is this what comes to mind when you think of Princess Leia? Yeah, I thought so.

And if John Boyega as Finn is the lead–which was my speculation upon seeing the second teaser trailer a few months ago–that’s also amazing. I recently had a conversation on Facebook about this article discussing why Hermoine Granger was cast as white in the Harry Potter films. The answer, I think, should be obvious: our media and culture assumes everyone is white unless proven otherwise. And in some cases, we take it a bit farther and assume everyone should be white unless proven otherwise.

The leading roles in the Star Wars universe have all, up until this point, been playing by white actors. So…a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…they had exactly the same racial dynamics as we do in the United States in the present (or 1977/1999)? Really? Not all heroes have to look like blond-haired, blue-eyed Luke Skywalker. Good for J.J. Abrams for figuring that out.

And you know what? I’ll cop to doing the same thing. When I read a book sometimes, I have to check myself, because I’ll assume Character X is white, and then get caught off-guard when a description tells me something else. But I realize that this is my own failing, and it’s something I try to work on.

Representation is important. It helps to eliminate the “otherness” of other cultures, races, religions, sexualities, etc. It also helps you broaden your horizons and realize that not everyone is exactly like you.

The bottom line is this: if you write off a movie, or a book, or a TV show, because the main characters don’t look like you…that’s on you.

Look, the new Star Wars movie may suck–God knows, the prequels did. But it won’t be because of the race or gender of the lead characters.