Sunday, April 6, 2014

Pendragon: Revisited

Greetings, greetings! (Also: spoilers contained within. You have been warned.)

So. the Pendragon books. The brainchild of D.J. MacHale. I started reading them when I was ten or eleven, and carried through until the very end. And then, after I graduated, I read them again. Admittedly, I found them somewhat lackluster, by comparison to the first read-through. But I expected that. After all, I know all of the plot twists.

But I got a hankering again, not too long ago, and I dove back in from the very beginning: The Merchant of Death.

Here's what I've found, rereading it the third time, and the first time with an authorial eye.

The plot in these books is excellent. I want to point that out. It's all very solid, even if it doesn't make any sense until the very end of the book. The influence of Saint Dane (the antagonist) is, for the most part, subtle. At least on the grand scale on which these battles are fought. A merchant on Denduron, selling the miners the weapons they need for revolt. A scientist on Cloral, not so innocently making a fertilizer that happens to make crops poisonous. A friendly lounge singer with some very shaky mob ties on First Earth.

However, where I find plot falling apart is in the grander scheme. Not that it's a weak plot, at all. It couldn't be a weak plot, otherwise it wouldn't have carried ten successful books. What I've found is that the tension breaks... awkwardly at the end. There's a black moment, where Bobby sees his home territory of Second Eath destroyed. 70,000 people are sent off to another dimension. Or maybe they were killed. Who can say. In his rage, Bobby kills the man responsible. And Saint Dane tells him that was the final test. And he failed.

Now, through these books, we've been asking the same question as Bobby. Why him? Why any of the people chosen for this insane job of Traveler (those people who fight Saint Dane)? How does any of this work. Well... here's where the plot falters, at least for me. The black moment is the end of book nine, Raven Rise. The answers to our series-long questions come within the first five chapters of book ten, The Soldiers of Halla. For me, as a reader, it feels like a climax. We know. We finally have answers. Which makes it hard to then keep reading. Sure, Saint Dane's not dead and Third Earth still has a chance for survival. But we've hit the climax for the series before the climax for the final book. At least, for me, it was the climax.

All that being said, once you get past that and into the actual plot of The Soldiers of Halla, it's a good plot, too. It's just... overshadowed by the revelation of what are easily the series' biggest secrets.

The characters are just as incredible as the plot would suggest. And, unlike in many books, Bobby, the main character, is actually likable. I find that, in most YA books I read, the main character is tolerable, most of the time, with flashes of likability. Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen stand out as prime examples of this. But Bobby is just some scared kid, whipping through dimensions and watching people get murdered. Get poisoned. Fight to the death as entertainment. And you feel for him, because he's a good guy.

The other characters are just as wonderful, too, but, for the sake of being concise, I'll limit myself to just one more: Saint Dane. The shapeshifting, immortal, genocidal, demon traveler. So yeah, he's pretty good at being bad. But that, to me, is not why he succeeds. In fact, I can pinpoint why he succeeds. It's a precise and brilliant moment. He's talking with Bobby (Saint Dane is a very classic, rug-chewing villain in a a lot of ways. The man likes his speeches) and points out that they both tamper with the way things are on the territories. In fact, for a while, Saint Dane had me convinced that he was in the right. The travelers run around, trying to stop him, while at the same time imposing the morals and ideas from their home territories on these other people. Who knows what effect that could have. Saint Dane can see all time and space. He can pinpoint his changes and direct them. He can go at it with precision instead of the potential toxic leak of the travelers. In fact, we even find out, in book ten, that Saint Dane started out with the noblest of intentions.

Of course, they were skewed. And so was he. But he started with a good plan, and he's so damn charismatic even I believed in him for awhile.

All in all, I recommend these books, especially if you're a young adult or you enjoy young adult sci-fi/fantasy. There's some rough writing in the beginning, but he has all the kinks polished out soon enough.

Definitely still 4 stars, as a series.
Voss

Monday, March 10, 2014

Video Gamers: Unite!

So, I put this out on Facebook. I'm also going to put my request (read: plea) up on here.

I'm looking for video gamers for a super-secret research project. This is for anyone who self-identifies as a gamer, even just a little bit. If you could kindly leave me some kind of contact information down in the comments (an eMail or Facebook account would be preferable), I will explain the bare bones of the project. If you're still interested after that, I'll send out the next step in the project to you.

This is something that can take as little time and effort as you want. You're free to back out at any point. Or you can get deep into it right alongside me and see what we can discover. Either way is fine, so don't feel pressured that, if you participate, you'll be forced to spend hours each day doing this. I want it to be fun... a fun research project. Yeah. That's not an oxymoron at all...

So, if you're interested, shoot me a comment down below, or on Facebook. Hoping to get some bright, smiling faces,

Voss

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Radcon 6B: Report

I returned, and I'm finally functional, again. Sort of. I wrote yesterday at any rate, which is a pretty good general sign of life. I think. Heck, I'm not a doctor, so I guess I can't say for sure.

But, as someone who is either functioning and alive, or a zombie, I have to tell you: this was a CON this year. Big time.It was also a pretty different experience for me. Now, this is not my first time on panels. That's not what was strange. This was the first year I didn't really go to any panels. I hit one on coffee roasting, but the only thing I heard about writing all weekend is what I heard in my panels and what was hit on in the green room or by my traveling companions.

And that was okay with me. More than anything, this con sparked something. A lot of us said it. This Radcon was really different. 2014 is going to be a year of opportunity, for those brave enough to reach for it. This year has been inspirational. It brought out artistic sides in people that they didn't really know they had.

I'll use my brother-in-law as an example. For the past few years, he's been floundering artistically. He doesn't see any value in any of the work he can create. So he goes to con. We have a good time, order some Round Table Pizza (god, is that stuff good), go through the dealers' rooms. And then, at the end of con, we go home.

The next day, he tells me that con gave him a personal 180. He's ready to start making things and doing things. Why? Because he went to con. He saw that there are people who actually would enjoy the things he makes. He sees that there are people his age and younger already starting out on creative careers. Like con does to everyone, it charged him up, got him ready to do something. Anything.

Not to say that this convention was all some philosophical wonderfest where we sat around in togas discussing the universe. It wasn't, believe me. It was a damn blast, is what it was. I mean, where else (besides the now defunct Quark's in Vegas) can you go to the bar and order a Romulan ale? Not many places, is what I think.

We wandered the party hall, wandered around the shops, just generally wandered, to be totally honest. Even with my foot in agony (I was crippled up something fierce), I can look back on this convention fondly (although my bad attitude from my pain may or may not have made me something of an asshole that first day... maybe).

Even our bad experiences weren't entirely bad. We had a fire alarm pulled the second night. My friends were in 10 Forward, I was in the D20 Girls' room. We eventually found each other and we decided to go check the sliding glass door on our dealer's room. With 2,000 plus people wandering around, you can't be too careful. Just as we started walking, they let us back in. So we rush over to the room and, yes, it was open a bit. Nothing missing, though. We realize that we forgot to bring our promo table in from the outside, though. So we do that. I'm holding the door. In comes the table.

And in come these two girls we don't know. I figure they're lost, and they'll walk back out. Then one of them screams 'Oh, books!'

We immediately clear the way to the merchandise. Believe me, they were a lot of fun. And they bought a book, which is always nice. But, as soon as they left, we all burst out laughing. It was awesome. It also told us that we really need to keep our room open longer next year. Book people stay up late. Go figure.

So, that was Radcon 6B this year. As always, it's a great convention. There's a reason I go every year, after all. And, if you're in the area, I suggest dropping in next year. Especially if you've never been to a con. This is a good one for beginners.

Happy trails,
Voss

Friday, February 14, 2014

Con-Tact

Date: February 14th, 2014 Ano Domini

Location: A single-wide trailer in Eastern Washington.

It's raining outside (as opposed to raining inside). The ground is still wet and squelchy from the four inches of melting snow. The world around me is... somewhat less than quiet. Filled with the meaningless noises of children.

But I sit in the captain's seat, hands on these keys, knowing this may be my last message to the living world. Today, in mere hours, I intend to set foot in a strange and very different environment.

Radcon 6B.

What I will find on this planet, I can guess, but I can't say for certain. The only guide I have is a few sheets of paper I put together beforehand and the official guidebook I will receive at the entry station. Beyond that, I am lost. There may be alien viruses, and there are almost surely hostile lifeforms. My only hope is to avoid them both, and I may well fail at this mission. Even worse than that, part of my mission is to try the local food and drink. It may kill me, but I must fulfill my mission.

If this is the final time I have contact with another human being, do me a favor: tell my friends and family I love them. And make sure nobody ever gets my recipe for cheesecake crust.

Voss

TL:DR: I'm going to Radcon 6B today. My schedule is available here. I'd also like to point out my terror at spending essentially an entire weekend in the company of Kay Kenyon. Hopefully I don't make a complete ass of myself.

Voss

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Cleanliness

When I was in middle school, more than a few times, I was called Suzie Homemaker. No, it didn't offend me, but it's definitely a bit of a preface for what comes next.

I cleaned today. You see, I do this, every now and again. When i can't come up with anything to write, or I just can't get up the gumption to work on my latest project, I clean. I clean like crazy. Today, it was my bedroom. I (finally) removed the rolls of Christmas wrapping paper, put the sheet and comforter back where they go, straightened out the curtain, boxed up all the excess.

And, as always, it helped. Too many things needing to be done make it impossible for me to get anything done. So I cleaned. I created a blank slate, both in my mind and in my surrounding space. I was able to find peace and zen and all that stuff. Okay, maybe not complete zen, but a good enough imitation that I can actually stomach the thought of leaving the real world for the story world again.

So, troubles with that creativity? Grab a rag and get your Cinderella on. I bet you $0.67 it helps.

Voss

Friday, December 27, 2013

Addiction

I have a slight problem.

I'm addicted to TV Tropes. Not, like, seriously. But a bit? Yeah... I'm a bit addicted.

Of course, there are worse things to be addicted to, like heroin or American Idol. But still, my TV Tropes addiction is becoming problematic, at least as far as my bandwidth usage is concerned.

But I can't stop. If you've ever been there, you understand. If you haven't... well, maybe you'll make it out alive. You see, TV Tropes appeals to me as a fan, yes, but more as a writer. These are my tools, these are things I can use and, often, I find inspiration. I get inspired to try new things, or revamp old things. I figure out how to work out my latest dilemma.

If you haven't been, give it a go... if you thin you're strong enough.

Voss

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Plea

Come on in and get yourself a cup of coffee. I think we need to have a talk.

It's okay. Don't be shy. And don't be scared. But this is a talk that we need to have. Right now. It's about something kind of important.

It's about you. It's about being a full you, a happy, complete you. And, to do that, you need to find yourself a creative outlet.

Now, let's skip all the resistance and the whining and complaining. Because I'm write. Everyone has a creative outlet. You may not realize it, but you do. Singing, dancing, writing, drawing, sculpting, painting, welding, jewelry making. These are all creative things, things that pull from a deeper part of your soul.

When was the last time that you sat down with that deeper part of your soul, though? When was the last time you two had a good hug and ate a whole Whitman sampler? Maybe it was yesterday. Maybe you do it a lot. If so, you're free to skip off into the daisies with my blessings.

If not... well, have a cookie. You need to stick around.

You see, it doesn't take much. Just give that creative bit a little room to breathe. Every day. I mean it. Fifteen minutes every day, at least. More when you can afford it. I want you to commit to that. Fifteen minutes straight. Not fifteen minutes spread over five commercial breaks, or fifteen minutes when you go to the bathroom throughout the day.

It's not a lot, but it's vital. Because that part, no matter how much neglect you throw upon it, won't die, and won't be silent. And, when you're eighty and you finally 'have time' to create, to feed the part of you longing to spread its wings and embrace the glory of the universe, when you actually focus on that... you have to dig it out. It might not be dead, but it's going to be weak, and you'll realize that you don't have time to nurse it back to health. That maybe, if you'd played with it just a touch, just enough to let it know you cared, you wouldn't be here now. Because you won't regret not having worked more, or missing the winner of American Idol Season 78 1/2. You'll regret not doing what you loved. What you still love.

So please, for yourself, find a way to create. If you're reading this, promise me that you'll start a blog, or keep a journal, or grab a sketch book. Set up a YouTube account and sing or act or make cartoons. Do something for that creative part of your soul.

Please.

Voss