Music Monday: The Dear Hunter’s “Waves”

So last week was so much fun that I couldn’t resist coming back this week and subjecting you to the music I put on repeat and listen to for hours. You’re welcome.

This week: “Waves” by The Dear Hunter. It’s an easy, accessible pick, one of the few songs that, when the outro is removed like it is in the video, it easily stands alone. But the song, like the album it’s part of, is part of a six act story told all through music: the birth, life, and death of a boy known only as “The Dear Hunter.” It’s fascinating, and the music, as expected for progressive rock, is a study in complexity and differing music styles, and if you really want to dig deep into the lead singer/songwriter and the story behind these albums, then click here, but then come back, because you have a song to listen to.

“Waves” is one of those songs that gives me very distinct visuals, and naturally, those visuals don’t line up with the video. That said, it’s a compelling and catchy song, especially in context of the greater album.

Like it? Love it? Hate it? Sound off below!

Reminder: Music Monday is about the music, not the videos. Videos are just the medium I’m using to share the music, and some videos aren’t actually videos at all. Enjoy the songs, but if YouTube forces you to watch some sort of advertisement before you can get to the music, please be patient.

Music Monday: The Black Queen’s “Ice to Never”

That’s right, IT’S BACK! The Music Monday column fell away back in 2014, but my husband was watching videos from The Black Queen, and it occurred to me it’d be fun to bring the column back. Maybe not WEEKLY… I have SEKRIT PROJECTS I’m working on (stay tuned for an announcement on WEDNESDAY!), but every once in a while? I thought it’d be fun.

So without further adieu, take a listen to “Ice to Never” by The Black Queen. The voice you’re hearing is Greg Puciato, who is also the leader singer of Dillinger Escape Plan (one of my favorite band names ever, but Dillinger’s music, while complex and intricate, is an acquired taste) and the supergroup Killer Be Killed. The Black Queen is far more accessible than his heavier stuff, and quite frankly, far more addicting. There have been times when I’ve put “Ice to Never” on repeat for hours, and it’s just one of many great songs on the album.

The video is delightfully retro-eighties, but as always, this column isn’t about the video, it’s about the music. So enjoy.

Like it? Love it? Hate it? Sound off below!

Reminder: Music Monday is about the music, not the videos. Videos are just the medium I’m using to share the music, and some videos aren’t actually videos at all. Enjoy the songs, but if YouTube forces you to watch some sort of advertisement before you can get to the music, please be patient.

Culture Consumption: June 2016

Happy July! The year is officially half over! June brought the first month of Calico in Conversation, which was SEKRIT PROJECT #1 and seems to be going well so far. And this time next month, you’ll be introduced to SEKRIT PROJECT #2, so please, stay tuned to the blog for any announcements.

In addition to working on said SEKRIT PROJECTS, June brought a lot of great entertainment, so let’s break it down, shall we?

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Calico In Conversation: Eye-Candy with Maria V. Snyder

Maria V. Snyder
Maria V. Snyder

Meteorologist turned novelist, Maria V. Snyder has been writing fantasy and science fiction since she was bored at work and needed something creative to do. Over a dozen novels later, Maria’s been on the New York Times bestseller list, won a half-dozen awards, and has earned her Master’s degree in Writing from Seton Hill University where she’s now part of the MFA faculty. She also enjoys creating new worlds where horses and swords rule, ’cause let’s face it, they’re cool, although she’s been known to trap her poor characters in a giant metal cube and let them figure out how to get out.

Editor’s Note: this is part one of a three-part interview. Parts two and three will be published Tuesday June 14th and June 21st, respectively. Also, this interview was originally conducted in March through May of 2016.

***

Now, to get started, I ask all of my interviewees the same starting question, and that’s this: how do we know each other?

We both attended Seton Hill University’s Masters of Arts program for writing popular fiction. I graduated in 2007 (I’m not sure if we were students together? – in my defense that was 9 years ago!). Then in 2008, I returned and am now on the faculty.

1192365I remember some overlap. I got to hear you read from Magic Study as your thesis defense, and I also remember seeing the very early pages in workshop that made up the opening chapter of Inside Out. But my favorite memory is this: attending my very first SHU class when you were handing out bookmarks promoting Poison Study. I saw the cover art and flipped out, because I’d drooled over the hardcover just weeks before in a Barnes & Noble! So tell me: what made you, a published author, apply for the SHU Writing Popular Fiction Masters Degree?

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Culture Consumption: May 2016

Happy June! May was over in a flash, but that’s because I was working my two SEKRIT PROJECTS. One, you already know about: Calico in Conversation! The other, well, stay tuned…. in the meantime, my brain always needs a break from the day job and SEKRIT PROJECTS, so here’s all the culture I consumed in the month of May!

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Introducing Calico in Conversation

I’ve been working on some SEKRIT PROJECTS the past few months, and of the two, one is finally coming to fruition!

Back in February, I put up a side bar: Authors I Know. The purpose of this was to bring some recognition to the writers who labored in the trenches with me and have managed to get out there and get their wonderful words in the hands of the public. This post gave me an idea: why stop there? Why not highlight them individually? And how would I do that?

The result: Calico in Conversation: an organic interview where I would start off each interviewee with the same question, and then see where the conversation takes us.

So it’s with great excitement, and some trepidation, that Calico in Conversation kicks off next Tuesday, June 7th, with part one of my interview with Maria V. Snyder, author of the recently published Night Study, and one of the most prolific authors I know personally.

Yes, you read that right: PART ONE. Maria and I got into chatting so much that the interview has to be broken into THREE parts, so expect additional installments on Tuesday June 14th and Tuesday June 21st! Then in July, I’ll move onto another author. In August, yet another author. And so on and so forth until 1) I get bored and/or 2) I run out of authors to torment.

I won’t claim to be a professional journalist or interviewer, and I suspect my skills will sharpen as time goes on. But it’s great to get back in touch with these friends and colleagues of mine to talk shop, motivations, inspirations, and what life looks like outside of writing! I hope you’ll have as much fun with these interviews as I have, and if you’re wondering who to expect in the future, just take a gander below: if you have any questions for these fine folks, you can either comment here for me to slip them into the interview, or comment when the interviews go live for the authors to answer themselves!

Stay tuned!!!!

The Different Interpretations of Princess Leia

bloodlinefinalposteronline-1jpg-19d5fc-720x959So yesterday, I posted This is NOT a Review. When my husband saw it on Facebook, he asked, “So you didn’t like the book?”

That’s not what I meant, not at all.

What I meant is that it’s like someone taking U.S. History, or even World History as I was taught, and suddenly telling me it’s pretty much WRONG, and THIS is how it all really happened, and how it all really happened bears little resemblance for what I’d held as true for 20+ years. Like the some of people really existed, others didn’t, but what I thought happened isn’t even close. Even the names of locations are different!

But guys? Star Wars: Bloodline is a really good book. Like really, really good. Compelling characters, emotional stakes, and sneak peaks into what really shaped the people who know and love (and love to hate) into the characters they are in The Force Awakens.

Razors_EdgeIt’s better than Martha Wells’ Empire and Rebellion: Razor’s Edge. Wells is a great writer, but I was rather ambivalent about the story and the characterization of that now “Legends” title.

Which was far better than Dave Wolverton’s The Courtship of Princess Leia, which one would think would be ALL ABOUT LEIA, but instead it’s about the men fighting for her. I mean, seriously? Why didn’t they get a woman to write that book?

But being a woman doesn’t guarantee you get Leia right. Wolverton’s book was LIGHTYEARS better than Vonda N. McIntyre’s The Crystal Star, which remains the worst Star Wars novel I’ve ever read (not including the novelizations of the films).

These books above? These are the books that I’ve read (there’s a period from 2005 through 2012 where I wasn’t reading the Expanded Universe, sorry folks) that I remember being Leia-centric. And if I think really hard, I’m not even sure The Crystal Star was very Leia-centric: but the parts of the book that are seared in my memory because I hated them so much? All focused on Leia’s plot line.

Courtship2Leia, I’ve found, is an incredibly difficult character to get right on the page. I’m not sure why. But I have yet to read a Leia-centric book where I think, NAILED IT. It may have a lot to do with the fact that we all see Leia a little bit differently, and while I think we can all read a description of who and what Leia is based on the movies, I think translating that to the books is different for everyone, and I realize I’m particularly picky.

I wonder if it has to do with the fact that for so long, Leia was really the one female character of substance in the Star Wars universe, at least from the films? Does that add an extra layer of difficulty in translating her character on the page? Because Leia had to be ALL WOMEN, and ALL WOMEN are not the same.

Claudia Gray does a great job, but I still had disconnect. For all of the reasons I mentioned yesterday, and also because I wasn’t picturing Leia post-ROTJ, but rather Leia pre-TFA. And while I think it’s meant to be more pre-TFA than post-ROTJ, I couldn’t quite get her visage nailed in my head, nor her voice — her voice in particular was very hard to hear, and I kept hearing Carrie Fischer’s gravel from The Force Awakens. Perhaps I was meant to hear that particular gravel, and this is just the part of the transition of getting used to the way things are, rather than the way things used to be.

The_Crystal_StarI wonder if I’m going to be so picky about Rey’s voice, when it’s time for her to star in her own spin-off novels? I hated how Alan Dean Foster wrote her in the novelization for The Force Awakens (and I hated how he wrote Leia too). I know I was super-picky and protective of Jaina Solo back in the day, and to a point, Tenel-Ka Djo, Tahiri Veila, Mara Jade, Mirax Terrik Horn, and Winter Celchu. I’ve always been so protective of the women of Star Wars and how they come off on the page, and I don’t have enough fingers to count all of the times I felt the characters were written wrong, or badly, just to shoe-horn them into a plot that made no sense of their character (not that the guys are exempt from that kind of mishandling either). I’m still bitter about Jaina’s characterization in the Dark Nest trilogy, let alone how they treated her love life overall in the EU.

But when I talk about disconnect, that has very little to do with how well the book is written, and every much to do with how much time I’ve spent getting to know these characters outside of the movies. You’d think that it shouldn’t be a problem: after all, superhero stories are told over and over and re-told and re-launched ad nauseam, and nobody bats an eye. But those aren’t the stories I keep revisiting. And fan fiction often does the same thing, but I don’t read much of that either, let alone a fanfic canon long-lasting enough to create what is a essentially a parallel universe in my fandom.***

So Star Wars: Bloodline is a really good book. And no, I don’t miss the EU so much as I miss the familiarity of it, despite characters getting run into the ground. I’m happy that writers have a clean slate from which to write, I really am. As I said yesterday, as long as they’re written as well as Bloodline, I’ll happily keep reading.

*** = Now THERE’s a fanfic idea, as we see how this new trilogy shapes out: take the best parts of both canons and combine them into something entirely new. And I’m sure someone out there’s going to do it.

This is NOT a Review: Claudia Gray’s BLOODLINE

Bloodline-coverThere’s a weird disconnect, reading this.

Don’t get me wrong: I was REALLY looking forward to it. So much so that when I finished reading my last book (Ken Liu’s The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories) the Saturday before Bloodline was released, I didn’t start anything new because I wanted to open the box on Tuesday and start reading immediately. I’d heard high praise for this book, and I really didn’t need convincing to give it a go, as I had adored Claudia Gray’s Lost Stars, and couldn’t wait to see some pieces of the story filled in between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.

So what’s the problem?

I’ve run into this with the comics, even before the Expanded Universe was relegated to the Legends line: the problem for me is that the stories about Han, Luke, and Leia that take place during the original trilogy and all those years after Return of the Jedi?

I’ve read them. It doesn’t matter that it’s no longer canon (or, lately, that it is): I have read so many takes on Han, Luke, and Leia and their lives and thoughts before, during, and after the original trilogy that it’s hard to read anything with fresh eyes. It’s even more disconcerting to now read about the official canon of Han and Leia’s marriage, when I’ve got the EU take firmly lodged in my brain (as well as the EU take on the New Republic, and Luke’s Jedi Academy, so on and so forth). It takes up a lot of real estate, and it’s not something that’s easy to wipe away.

1484724984.01._SX450_SY635_SCLZZZZZZZ_Am I an EU purist? Oh hell no. I’d fallen out of love with the EU long before Disney bought Star Wars, because I got tired of Luke, Han, Leia, and their families never getting peace, of never having a happy ending. I got tired of what felt like soap opera-esque machinations that took place in order for there to be GREAT CONFLICT. I was, in fact, relieved when Disney said they would ignore the EU and make that a Legends canon and start afresh. Star Wars, as a franchise, needed that do-over, and I applauded the decision whole-heartedly.

Yes, that meant saying good-bye to Mara Jade. To Jaina Solo. To other characters I’d known and loved. But it also meant saying good-bye to the machinations that kept them in turmoil, and I could live with that.

I loved The Force Awakens. Wait, let me clarify: I loved the film, but I hated the novelization with a passion.

And you know what?

I read Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath. Loved it. Read Claudia Gray’s Lost Stars. Absolutely freaking adored it.

You know what The Force Awakens, Aftermath, and Lost Stars have in common?

Those aren’t the stories of Han, Luke, and Leia. Yes, the original three play important roles in The Force Awakens, and that’s wonderful. But the two books? Those characters are ancillary, allowing brand new characters to step into the limelight and shine. The Star Wars universe is so very vast, and there are so many stories to tell within it. Those are the stories I haven’t been reading for twenty-plus years. Those are the stories that I find I’m craving now.

aftermath_new.6.red_That doesn’t mean I won’t read the books about Han, Luke, and Leia, even if Bloodline taught me that I miss having the map of the galaxy in the front of the books, with planet names I’ve grown to know and recognize. I miss knowing what the universe feels like on the page, miss having a specific timeline to refer back to (oh, sure we have the START of a timeline in the new books, but it’s not very specific, not like the old one was). I miss knowing exactly where Han, Luke, and Leia were in their lives, even if I disagreed with a particular author’s take on their characters.

I love learning what happened to make the universe into the place it is in The Force Awakens. And as long as the books are as well-written as Gray’s Bloodline, I’m going to keep reading to keep learning more.

But it’s going to be an adjustment. It’ll take time, and probably a lot more books before my brain stops comparing the now official canon to the old one.

As Yoda says, I must unlearn what I have learned.

Culture Consumption: April 2016

Happy May! Good lord, I don’t know where April went. Actually, I kind of do: training to walk (not run) my very first 5k, and then prepping for a Regional Meeting that I was basically hosting. LOTS of stuff on my plate in April, so in some ways, I’m glad it’s over so I can unwind. I did, however, manage to squeeze SOME fun things in, so without further adieu, here’s the Culture Consumption for April!

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