The Visionary

The other day, I glanced over at Lazy Buns (her actual name, yes; and no, I didn’t come up with it), still in bathrobe and curler mode, and realized I had the same attitude about the world building I had not yet completed for a middle grade science fiction novel I’m writing. There was so much work yet to do, but I was feeling lazy.

“Join meeeeeeee,” Lazy Buns hissed in her best Darth Vader imitation, a voice incongruent with her small stature.

To snap out of the trance I’d fallen into, I turned to some behind-the-scenes DVD documentaries. I’ve mentioned before that I love documentaries on the creative process. I’m particularly fascinated by authors and filmmakers who envision possibilities not previously foreseen, even in the face of criticism. We think of them as visionaries.

The other day, I watched one of the documentaries on the Attack of the Clones DVD. I’ll pause here to give anyone who hates this film the opportunity to judge me for having it (or if you love it, to praise my good taste). . . . Are we done? Moving on . . . in the documentary, George Lucas talked about the challenge of working in a new medium called digital technology. According to this Red Shark News article:

George Walton Lucas, Jr., entrepreneurial filmmaker, creator of Star Wars and Indiana Jones and industrial empire builder, drop-kicked Hollywood into the digital age with the release of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones—the first major Hollywood blockbuster to be shot 100% digitally.

Keep in mind this film came about in the early part of this century. We take digital filmmaking for granted nowadays. But Lucas took a lot of criticism for going the digital route. After all, digital was nontraditional. But nontraditional thinking is the mark of a visionary.

Lucas pushed his staff beyond where they thought they could go to achieve the vision he saw in his head. This was par for the course for Star Wars, a franchise that sailed in uncharted waters when it first debuted.

The Star Wars franchise is very controversial these days. Fans are divided over the current crop of movies, now owned by Disney. And let’s face it, even when Lucas had control of the company, fans complained then too. But few people debate the fact that George Lucas is a visionary writer-director. You can see that if you take just a cursory look at the world he created.

For years I have also been inspired by book authors  like Ursula Le Guin, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, L. Frank Baum, Frank Herbert, Charles Yallowitz, and others whose expansive worlds I’ve visited again and again. They remind me that world building takes time and effort—two words that are contrary to my current lazy bones attitude.

 

 

So I have an attitude to shake off. Here I go—back to researching galaxies, designing star systems and the terrain of planets.

Sigh. I need cake.

What fantasy or science fiction worlds do you love to visit? If you aren’t into either, who is someone you consider to be a visionary?

George Lucas photo found somewhere in the internet. Dune cover from Goodreads, since I can’t seem to locate anything I own of this series. Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie poster from inquisitr.com. Cake from clker.com. Other photos by L. Marie. Pop Hair Pets are a product of MGA Entertainment.

Chillin’ Like a Villain

Lately, I’ve been reading a novel by Timothy Zahn about a Star Wars character—Grand Admiral Thrawn—and how he came to power.

    

Thrawn’s like Machiavelli and Sun Tzu—known for his ingenuity and military prowess. However, if you side with the rebel characters in season 3 of the animated series, Star Wars: Rebels, you’ll have only one word to describe this guy: villain.

I haven’t read many novels in which the antagonist is the main character. It’s interesting that a number of novels this year feature compelling villains or villains searching for redemption. Charles Yallowitz wrote one. A friend who had read other novels by Zahn encouraged me to read Zahn’s latest. And since I’ve written a novel in which one of the main characters is the primary antagonist, I wanted to see what made Thrawn tick.


Thrawn in Star Wars: Rebels

In an interview, which you can read here, Zahn, who created the character, discusses why he made Thrawn so compelling:

Readers like their villains to be a challenge to the heroes because that forces the heroes to bring their best game to the field. The more clever the opponent, and the more difficult the fight, the more satisfying the victory.

I’m down for that! An ingenious antagonist means the stakes will be high, especially when the hero is thwarted at just about every turn.

I’m enjoying the book so far. Thrawn is a fascinating character with a mind like that of a chess grand master. And how nice that this fan favorite is now canon in the Star Wars universe (hence this novel published by Del Rey/Random House).

What brilliant, but controversial characters have you read about (fictional or nonfictional) lately? While you think about that, I’ll move onto the giveaway, which I discuss here, if you missed that post. Thanks to the random number generator, the winner of the $25 Amazon gift card is

Is

Is

Is

Is

Is

(Okay. I’ll stop.)

Laura Bruno Lilly!

Thank you to all who commented. Have a happy and safe Halloween! Are you planning to dress up? What is your costume?

Grand Admiral Thrawn image from starwars.com. Star Wars Rebels logo from denofgeek.us. Book jacket photos and eerie pumpkin luminary photo by L. Marie.

Thanksgiving

thanksgiving-turkey

Poor Thanksgiving. You often get lost in the shuffle between Halloween and Christmas or Hanukkah, don’t you?

Mostly, you’re lumped into the general autumn scheme of things when it comes to decorating. Well, you are a holiday born out of thanksgiving to God for a good harvest (and for survival) back in 1621. And thanks to President Lincoln, you were celebrated nationally on a Thursday, though you didn’t become an official national holiday until 1941.

thanksgiving-powerpoint-background-5

I’m grateful for all of the Thanksgiving meals I’ve had in the past, where I consumed mass quantities of food, played board games with my family, then vegged out in front of the television, watching football. This year will be a little different. I plan to hang out with friends, play board games, and eat mass quantities of food. (As I said it will be a little different.)

What are you thankful for? My attitude this past week was anything but thankful, though. I received a record number of rejections from manuscript queries—four. I felt like a failure. But some good friends encouraged me (thank you, Sharon, Laura S., and Megan). Someone else did too. A few days ago, I made a quick stop at a jewelry party at the home of another friend. A young woman was there, whom I hadn’t seen since she was a kid.

“I still have some books of yours from when I was a kid,” she said, referring to a series I’d written many years ago, that went out of print within a year. “They were some of my favorite books. They helped me decide to be an author/illustrator.”

Her words made me tear up. How could I have so quickly forgotten the power of reaching even one kid by the written word? How easily swayed I was by discouragement.

Sometimes you have to kick discouragement in the teeth. And what better way to do that than with the giveaway I introduced in my last post? (Click here for the list of books.) At first, I was going to give away just one book. But I decided to give away more than that. It is Thanksgiving (soon) anyway.

I looked at the list of people who mentioned books. Here it is:

Charles (Star Wars)
Penny (Meetings)
Pamela (Meetings)
Karen Gradient (Grace Lin)
Reocochran (Star Wars)
Lyn (Grace Lin)
Nicki (Grace Lin)

Congrats. You’re all getting a book. Please comment below to confirm. Then I’ll need you to email your snail mail address and phone number to lmarie7b(at)gmail(dot)com (or email my primary email account if you know it, which would be faster). If you would prefer that I not have your snail address, please let me know, and we can make other arrangements.

If you commented and mentioned a book, but don’t see your name on the above list, please comment below. I’m going by the honor system here.

thanksgiving-day-memes_13

Seriously, have a good Thanksgiving (if you celebrate it, that is; if not, have a great Thursday)!

img_3882

Rudolph and his gang of unfinished crocheted reindeer discovered a new house in the neighborhood. Perhaps they could spend Thanksgiving here.

img_3884

After booting out the reindeer, the new neighbor, Rainbow Kate, took up residence in her new house. But Kitty invited herself over for a Thanksgiving meal. Chaos is sure to ensue.

Turkey images from latintimes.com and openclipart.org. Thanksgiving image from dvd-ppt-slideshow.com. Other photos by L. Marie.

See You at the Movies?

Happy belated Father’s Day to all of you dads out there. My family and I went to see Finding Dory the other day as a combination Happy Birthday/Father’s Day celebration for my younger brother. A good time was had by all.

Finding-Dory-Poster

While we waited for the movie to start, my sister-in-law mentioned that it was the first movie she’d seen at the theater in over a year. Interestingly, Andrew Stanton, the director of Finding Dory (and Finding Nemo), had a short clip before the movie began in which he thanked the audience for coming out to watch the movie; thus acknowledging that the movie-going experience is increasingly rare for many.

Andrew+Stanton+Premiere+Walt+Disney+Pictures+sketXu1LhUdl

When I was a teen and a younger adult, I hit the movies just about every weekend. I didn’t miss a major movie. But for five of the last six years, I can use one hand to count the number of movies I’ve seen at the theater. Last year, I saw more movies at the theater than I’d seen in years. I saw

 NEMye3g3VuXNQM_1_1   star-wars-the-force-awakens-poster

Jurassic-World-2015-movie-poster   MPW-102782

avengers_age_of_ultron_NEW_POSTER    Ant-Man-Movie-Poster

See? Not a ton of movies. For others, popping a DVD or blu-ray disk into a player was the extent of my movie-going experience. (Wish I’d seen The Martian at the movie theater. Glad I saw it on blu-ray at least.)

the-martian-poster

This year, I’ve seen Captain America: Civil War twice (took my niece the second time), Zootopia, and now Finding Dory. I hope to see several others on my list—like Doctor Strange; Rogue One: A Star Wars Story; Suicide Squad; and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

zootopia-poster-01   captain-america-civil-war-movie-poster

A number of factors work against my desire to go to a movie theater: higher prices; films that are all style and no substance; and rude moviegoers. In one movie theater I attended, a group of teens talked loudly and ran around the theater until the manager threw them out—halfway through the movie. So I usually head to the cheap theaters, reserving the first-run experience for the movies I want to see the most. And I tend to see movies I really want to see, rather than take a chance on an unknown the way I used to do. (Same with books, sadly.)

movie-theater-items-hi

(By the way, many critics declared that Jurassic World lacked substance. Though the characters were underdeveloped (and some were downright annoying), the movie’s entertainment value made up for the lack of substance—at least for me.)

I miss the days when my good friend who lived next door, my brother, and I would look at each other and say, “Let’s go to the movies.” And then off we’d go without a second thought. Back in the day, Spielberg movies were always a draw for us, along with those of John Carpenter, James Cameron, Ridley Scott, and others.

I also miss some of the element of surprise. Nowadays, with incessant internet trailers that give too much away, and people blabbing spoilers on social media, you practically know everything about a movie before you walk in the theater. To maintain at least some of the surprise, I tend to avoid watching more than one trailer for the movies I’m determined to see at the theater.

Still another thing I miss is having a slate of movies to choose from with well-developed plots, dialogue, and pacing. Instead, we might get one good movie and several well-this-is-sort-of-okay-though-it-is-a-dumbed-down-adaptation-of a-well-known-book/inferior-remake/sequel-of-a-better-film. That’s why I love the adage at Pixar: “Story is king.” (They also have the twenty-two rules below.) I wish many studios believed that.

Pixar's 22 Rules of Phenomenal Storytelling

How many movies did you see at the theater last year? What do you like or dislike about the movie-going experience? What movie are you excited to see this year?

Brooklyn movie poster from movieposter.com. Jurassic World movie poster from dvdreleasedates.com. Inside Out movie poster from movieweb.com. Finding Dory movie poster from screenrant.com. Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie poster from inquisitr.com. The Martian movie poster from flickeringmyth.com. Zootopia movie poster from film-book.com. Captain America: Civil War movie poster from shockya.com. Movie theater clip art from clker.com. Pixar rules from gsartfactory.blogspot.com.

Happy Holidays 2015

024Well, it’s almost Christmas. As the well-known song goes, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.” While some might not believe that sentiment, I hope you’ve managed to avoid holiday stress. Perhaps like me you said “bah, humbug” to all of the holiday gift-buying rush-rush-rush and instead rushed to a theater to relax and watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens unfold onscreen. (In case you’re wondering, I loved it.)

star-wars-the-force-awakens

This is the time of year when even enemies think peaceful thoughts toward each other.

009

Based on the color of their light sabers, you can tell to which side of the force Kitty and Jordy belong. But despite their animosity toward each other, they wish you a joyous holiday season.

What’s also great about the holidays is the way total strangers extend holiday greetings. Like today. As I fought my way through the driving rain (happy winter) to head into the library, a guy who looked very much like Santa Claus (except without the red suit) announced to me that Birmingham, Alabama had a temperature in the 80s. “Ho-ho-ho, Merry Christmas,” he added, probably in acknowledgment of his resemblance to Santa. Of course I checked the weather in Birmingham when I returned home. Since he was off by twenty degrees, obviously he wasn’t the real Santa. Still, it was nice of him to spread holiday cheer like that. I would never have thought to look up the weather in Birmingham, had he not mentioned that city.

Has anyone spread holiday cheer to you in an unusual way? If so, please share your story in the comments below. In the meantime, I wish you the joy of the season. May peace reign in your heart this week.

nativity-baby-jesus-christmas-2008-christmas-2806967-1000-5581

P.S. The pattern for the tree at the beginning of the post can be found here. The pattern for the tiny star at the top of the tree is here.

Nativity image from priestsforlife.org. Star Wars: The Force Awakens logo from hngn.com.

How to Really Win the Holidays

I’m very late getting this post  out, having been offline for three days. Obviously, I’ve returned! 🙂 But I said I would announce the winners of the book giveaways today. Better late than never, eh?

If you’ve watched TV at all recently, you’ve probably seen some of Best Buy’s recent “win the holidays” campaign. You can win by purchasing gifts of technology at—where else—Best Buy. The clear winner of course would be Best Buy, who would significantly add to its coffers with your money.

bby-stock-best-buy-logo

But I’m sure you know how to really win the holidays. With the angels proclaiming peace on earth and goodwill toward men (Luke 2; consult A Charlie Brown Christmas, which comes on TV every year), you can extend goodwill toward people. How?

    • Instead of texting, call or visit a friend or family member—especially someone who lives alone or suffered a recent loss. Maybe you don’t know what to say. But your presence is more valuable than words.
    • Buy someone homeless a hot meal. You’ve probably seen this viral photo, which involves a woman doing just that. Think of the impact you can have. A hot meal might seem like a drop in a bucket compared to an ocean of need. But it’s an act of love that will never be forgotten.
    • Make a card or a gift for someone. Remember how excited you were when you were a kid and could hand off the paper chain or wreath you made? Recapture the fun and wonder by making a gift for someone.

Happy Foot

This is a Happy Foot coaster I’m making as a gift (pattern by A.D. Whited of Enchanted Hook).

  • Instead of stressing about where you can find that bobble-head figure from the Star Wars franchise (Toys R Us or Target by the way—you’re welcome), take a hot chocolate break. I know. Easy for me to say. I don’t have an 11-year-old who is dying to get a storm trooper bobble head. But I know some would love to chat about the movies or shows over a nice cup of hot chocolate.
  • Give an animal friend a treat. Even if you lack a pet, you can still give to the animals around you. The orange tabby who lives in the area likes to stop by for tuna. (Though he’s very finicky about brands. He won’t eat the dirt cheap kind.) If you have a garden that rabbits and deer enjoyed over the summer, relax. You’ve already given.

Another way to win is to get free stuff. So let’s get to the book giveaways: All We Left Behind by Ingrid Sundberg

ALLWELEFTBEHIND Ingrid Sundberg Author Photo

and Heading North by Andy Murray.

Andy Photo 12294646_10153732827966740_3177437019818522964_n

The winner of All We Left Behind is

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Carrie Rubin!!!

The winner of Heading North is

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Laura Bruno Lilly!!

Winners please comment below to confirm.

Best Buy logo from slant.investorplace.com.

Children’s Book Week: Spread the Joy of Reading

Hope the Fourth was with you and you had a pleasant Cinco de Mayo! This week is special in still another way. May 4–10 was officially designated Children’s Book Week by the Children’s Book Council. You can read more about this literacy effort here.

2015_poster

Children’s Book Week poster illustrated by the awesome Grace Lee

I love the idea of a week dedicated to promoting books for kids. After all, A Wrinkle in Time, a book written for kids by Madeleine L’Engle, is what started me on the path to becoming a writer. I was eight years old when I read it, because of the significant adults in my life. My parents were, and still are, readers. They read to fairy tales to me at night and provided books by Dr. Seuss and P. D. Eastman to encourage my brothers and me as we learned to read.

18131  197084

Caring librarians also were stalwart champions of books. My elementary school librarian introduced me to Madeleine L’Engle’s books and many others. Also, the children’s librarians at the branch library I frequented in Chicago helped me come home with armloads of books (like Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White).

stacks-of-books

As I think of such an abundance of books, I can’t help thinking of a scene in the 1996 movie adaptation of Matilda by Roald Dahl (I read the book too), when Matilda discovered the joy of checking books out of the library. She brought home wagonloads. I didn’t have a wagon, but I usually brought home quite a few books each week.

tumblr_mhsk3ctuWS1r94hg9o1_500

Mara Wilson as Matilda

I love recommending books to kids and teens. So I can’t help feeling sad when kids tell me they don’t read books at all. Some are so swamped at school, they have little downtime at home. Others are nonreaders by choice now, though an occasional book series like the Harry Potter (J. K. Rowling), the Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins), or Divergent (Veronica Roth) captured their attention for a little while. Still, I remain an advocate of books in their lives, even if they are content to avoid them.

unademagiaporfavor-new-releases-children-book-young-adrult-august-2013-scholastic-new-edition-Harry-Potter-and-the-Deathly-Hallows-rowling-cover-kazu-kibuishi

Book cover by the equally awesome Kazu Kibuishi, who has a wonderful graphic novel series—Amulet. See cover at the end of this post.

This week—or any week—you can be a children’s book champion. Even if you don’t have an opportunity to recommend a book to a kid, you can pick one up for yourself. Connect with a book that makes your inner child sing.

002

Even supervillains read.

Great books to introduce to a kid:

20578979 18405519

22836574

What was your favorite book when you were a kid? What book, if any, would you consider to have been very influential in your life? Why?

Children’s Book Week from usatoday.com. Mara Wilson as Matilda from hellogiggles.com. Most book covers from Goodreads. Harry Potter cover from unademagiaporfavor.blogspot.com. Stacks of books from blogs.hpedsb.on.ca.