The Mandalorian: Spoiler Free Review

My spoiler-free reaction to watching the first episode of The Mandalorian last night:

To start off, can I just be honest? I hadn’t really paid much attention to the rumblings about this show. I knew we’d watch it eventually, we watch all the Star Wars things. But I didn’t watch any trailers, I didn’t do any research, and until yesterday evening I thought the show was a cartoon like Clone Wars or Rebels…. so… clearly I was up on all the happenings. sarcasm 

Also, Mandalorian lore is not my wheelhouse. I think they’re cool and I liked learning more about them in Star Wars Rebels… but they didn’t feature heavily in any of the EU books I read, so I am not an expert on them.

In the tradition of the Original Trilogy, the show actually starts kind of slowly. There are a few moments of tension and some action at the beginning, but mostly, it’s a slow unfurling of where you’re at in the galaxy. There is little dialogue throughout the entire show, and the Mandalorian never takes off his helmet.

Aside: Can we take a moment to talk about the helmet thing? I’ve seen some people complaining about not being able to relate to a character without seeing their face. But here’s the thing. Star Wars has already proven over and over that we can relate to and care about characters without seeing their faces. If we can feel an attachment to droids like R2-D2 and BB-8 and puppets like Yoda and care about what happens to a Clone Trooper or love Boba Fett even though he’s only  in the movies for like 12 minutes, or feel a thrill of fear and despair at the appearance of Darth Vader, then we clearly have no need to see a human face (or any face at all) in order to connect with a character.

Honestly, IMO the only major mistake George Lucas made with the OT was taking off Darth Vader’s helmet.

Okay, rant over.

However, none of these things is a problem.

Because the show, with very little exposition, gently draws the viewer in, inviting them to explore this as-yet-unexplored region of this galaxy far, far away and get to know this stoic character whose face we never get to see. With expert care, the show gives you a glimpse of the Mandalorian’s backstory and it is compelling. With very little script, we are brought to the conclusion that this guy is well-known and good at what he does. With subtlety, we get some moments of humor that assure us he is not a robot. And with one moment of striking poignancy, we see that he is as human as the rest of us, and far more than just a cold, calculating bounty hunter.

This was the most fun I’ve had watching anything Live Action Star Wars since Rogue One. It was everything the new trilogy should have been…. and wasn’t. I, for one, am looking forward to continuing the story next week.

I’m happily giving this pilot episode 5 out of 5 dragon eggs. Here’s hoping the show continues to impress me!

dragonEgg5star

~ jenelle

NaNoWriMo Update: Week 1

NaNo Log Image

Good morning and salutations! The first week of November and the first week of the 2019 NaNoWriMo challenge has sped past, and I thought I’d give you an update about how it’s all been going here at Bag End.

This is only the second year I’ve ever even tried to participate in NaNo with any kind of serious intent. In the past, I have loved the idea of it, but it never lined up well with my writing schedule. Either I had just finished writing a story and was hard at work editing, or I was prepping for a book launch and doing all the polishing things, or various other things. But last year I was actually at the beginning of a project, and this year I know I have at least 50,000 words left to write in my current rough draft, and a goal to finish the book by the end of December… so NaNo is just the incentive I was looking for to help me stay on target.

The first week of NaNo started well.

Day 1: 2,009 words

I pounded out the words on day 1 in an effort to start strong and maybe get ahead so that when company comes for the week of Thanksgiving I don’t have to excuse myself to go write instead of enjoying fellowship with my family.

Day 2: 1,400 words

Not quite staying ahead of the game the way I hoped, but with my extra words on day 1 I was still doing okay.

Day 3: 640 words

NaNo starting on a weekend was rough, as I usually don’t have a lot of writing time on the weekends. They are days I reserve for family, but my super supportive husband is very eager for me to actually finish this book before the end of the year and is making sure I get some writing done every day. I stumbled around a bit and then logged my words, but somehow the site didn’t save the entry and I couldn’t fix it the next day to back-date the words I had actually written on Nov. 3rd no matter how hard I tried to get the site to acknowledge that fact… this discouraged me a bit…

Day 4: 4,530 words

My best day of writing so far. I got caught up, felt like the words were flowing, the story began to unfold nicely.

Day 5: 644 words

As I coasted into the latter half of the first week, distractions slipped in, along with a very real sense of, “why do I bother?” I’m not sure where it came from, all I know is that it struck with a vengeance. I grew more and more discouraged as I flailed about for the words and couldn’t find them.

Day 6: 759 words

Discouragement dug a nice little niche in my soul as I began to fall behind. Falling behind is a thing that is dangerous for me when it comes to NaNo, because I get more and more discouraged and that makes it harder and harder to write… a vicious cycle, true, but no less real.

Day 7: 1,859 words

Made back the ground I’d lost because my husband told me to sit down and do a 5 minute sprint. That was enough to get the creative juices flowing and I continued to write for another hour after that, ending the week pretty much right on target with 11,870 words.

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All in all, not a bad week of writing. I wasn’t quite as ahead as I’d been hoping, but the outlook was promising, and the story was tripping along nicely. I am loving getting to know some of these secondary characters from earlier books who are stepping into the limelight and really getting a chance to shine.

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How about you? I’d love to hear about what you’re working on! If you’re a writer, tell me whether you’re participating in NaNo or not and how it’s going! And if you’re not a writer… tell me… what sorts of things do you hope to find in the final book of a series you’ve loved reading?   

~ jenelle

Goodreads Choice Awards: I need your help!

GR Choice Awards

 

The Goodreads Choice Awards have just opened for nominations! For pretty much the first time ever, one of my books is actually eligible to be written-in as a nomination!

‘Twas an Evening in Bethlehem is eligible to be nominated in the Picture Books category.

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Would you consider helping put this beautiful Christmas Book “on the map” by writing it in?

It is SUPER EASY to do. Just click on THIS LINK and then scroll down to the spot where you can enter in the title of a book, type in “Twas an Evening in Bethlehem” and click VOTE.

That’s all there is to it!

 

Note of Importance:

You DO need to be a Goodreads Member or have a Goodreads Account in order to see the “write in” option on the page!

VOTE NOW!

 

~ jenelle

Know the Novel: October 2019

Know the Novel is a 3-part writers linkup series, one for each of these last three months of the year created by Christine Smith. Each part will feature 10 questions about your novel or how the writing is going!

Here were are… on the very precipice of October, about to jump feet-first into November and all the NaNoWriMo craziness….

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(This is actually me… jumping off a cliff… and it fits my metaphor, so…. of course I had to use it!)

I’m joining NaNo this year not to start a new project, but to help motivate myself to finish the one I’ve been working on. That still counts, right? I still hope to write 50,000 new words on this project… I’m just starting already 40,000 words into the novel itself…

Anyway, I always enjoy Christine’s Know the Novel link-up questions, so let’s chat a bit more about Towers of Might and Memory. Telling you about it might also help hold me accountable to actually write, as well, and that’s not a bad thing. (Probably a genuinely needed thing, actually… my writing muse appears to have packed its bags and left the building).

Ahem. So here are some delightful thought-provoking questions are just the ticket to help me continue procrastinating… I mean, gear up for writing the beautiful words and the epic conclusions and all that jazz.

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1. What first sparked the idea for this novel?

This particular novel? Well, it’s the fifth and final book in a five-book series, so… I’m not entirely certain how to answer this question. Originally, the entire idea for this story sprang from the fact that my husband wanted to create a fantasy world and a few characters. That was fifteen years ago. It took him many years before he actually convinced me to write a story in that world, mostly because I was worried that he’d be upset if I got the story “wrong.” This particular story in the series, however, has been brewing for the past two years as I’ve been focusing more on writing the rough drafts of books 2-4.

2. Share a blurb!

No.

Sorry, this is the fifth and final book in a series I haven’t published yet, and blurbs are horrible anyway, but all the blurbs I can think of for this one include massive spoilers… so… no actual blurb for you.

However, I can’t just leave you with nothing so… here’s… my very own Honest Trailer:

*clears throat… puts on best alto narrator voice I have*

In a world where airships are commonplace but electric lights haven’t been discovered yet, team up with a band of unlikely heroes, and a few more likely ones. As Marik and his crew hunt down an artifact that might hold the key to defeating the vile villain intent on taking over the world, the rest of these other more secondary characters must do all the actual fighting.

Journey through lands you haven’t discovered yet and try to keep from biting your fingernails as everything seems poised to topple down and all your heroes face their worst nightmares… and might possibly die. But we can’t tell you whether or not they do, because the book isn’t written yet….

Okay… you read that in the Honest Trailer guy’s voice, didn’t you? Bonus points if you did!

3. Where does the story take place? What are some of your favorite aspects about the setting?

The book takes place in Turrim, the fantasy world my husband created many moons ago. Most of this book centers in Vallei (a region that hasn’t been featured so far in this series and that I can never spell correctly to save my life…. there. Vallei… with two l’s… sounds like “valley” can I remember that now? Probably not, let’s be honest, I’ve got too many things in my head to remember how to spell the names of things I ACTUALLY MADE UP!) and Dalma (which readers will recognize from book 1).

I’ve really enjoyed exploring Valei, which is a sort of Asia/Russia blend when it comes to culture and architecture. My main characters have to go there to find an artifact that is crucial to defeating the villain, and Marik and Raisa especially will face some of the ghosts from their past, as both of them are from Valei. I love describing Valei, with its winding rivers and single mountains jutting up into the sky, the villages they visit there are quite different from one another, as one is a wealthy area due to some tourism and the fact that it has no value as a tactical location and has been mostly left alone by the Igyeum soldiers, while the other village has suffered greatly.

4. Tell us about your protagonist(s).

Well, you met Marik and Raisa last week.

A few of my other protagonists are:
Grayden and Wynn, best friends from the small village of Dalsea who made it into the Military Academy earlier in the series. Grayden is an extravert with an impish side, but he is also diligent and intent on doing well in his studies. He works hard and plays hard. Wynn is more of an introvert, seriously bad with the people-skills, and has some obsessive tendencies, especially when a building or engineering project captures his imagination. He can easily get lost in his studies and is grateful to have a friend like Grayden who will often pull him away from whatever project has consumed his attention and force him to do other things like eat and socialize.

Beren Adelfried, a new friend they met as they traveled to the Academy. Beren is good-natured, huge, and friendly, but when he has a mission he’s all business, which can cause him to clash with Grayden at times when he feels Grayden isn’t taking things seriously enough.

Then there’s Dalmir… a strange, old man who has spent a lot of time all by himself in a tower. When Grayden breaks into his tower, Dalmir emerges to find the world has changed rather a lot during his self-enforced exile. Not much is known about Dalmir (well, not much at first, by book 5 you should have a pretty good idea of his personality, character, and back story, but since that contains books 1-4 SPOILERS I won’t say anything more about him here except that he’s kind of a grump, but he has good reasons for it). Sorrynotsorry.

I have lots more, but those are the most important ones.

5. Who (or what) is the antagonist?

The antagonist is a powerful man with some terrifying powers and weapons at his disposal. An egomaniac with a penchant for world dominance… this guy is cunning, patient, and severely lacking any sort of moral compass.

Okay… maybe not QUITE Jafar level.

6. What excites you the most about this novel?

Finishing it. Not just finishing the drafts, but having the whole series FINISHED and ready to hand to readers. I am so excited about these characters and this world and this story and I am anxious to share it with readers. There’s just…. so much still to do… lots of pieces, SO MUCH EDITING and putting it all together is a bit… terrifyingly overwhelming…

7. Is this going to be a series? standalone? something else?

Oooh! An EASY question!!! This is the fifth and final book in my new series.

8. Are you plotting? pantsing? plansting?

I’ve been plotting this story to varying degrees of intensity. Book five has had the loosest outline so far, which was causing problems once I had gotten a little ways into the story. However, Derek and I went to a nearby coffeeshop recently and worked together to do some more intense outlining of the big, overwhelming middle of this book. There are still things I don’t know, and I always enjoy leaving a little wiggle room so that the story can jump outside the boundaries of the outline if it wants to and take off dragging me behind… every story I write tends to come together differently. Some write themselves, others require an intense outline… it just depends on the story, really. This one has been mostly a plotted story.

9. Name a few things that makes this story unique.

I’d like to think that a lot about this story is unique. Airships AND wizards. Robots/magi-tech AND genetic manipulation. A few spoilery spoilers that I can’t divulge here but happened completely by accident (as in, some big AHA moments I never intended to write until I realized what had happened). A world with 6 distinct and varied cultures (which has necessitated a CRAZY amount of research and world-building, but I’m confident it will have been worth it). And a cast of characters who couldn’t be more different from each other if they tried…

10. Share a fun “extra” of the story (a song or full playlist, some aesthetics, a collage, a Pinterest board, a map you’ve made, a special theme you’re going to incorporate, ANYTHING you want to share!).

How about the opening scene of book 5? I’m pretty sure this shouldn’t include any spoilers (though it does contain characters I haven’t introduced or mentioned anywhere else in this post…):

“What is it, Thorben?” Nadia asked as her husband came into the house, his face pale beneath his golden beard. “What did the messenger have to say?”

Thorben Adelfried crossed the room and slumped into the large chair next to the enormous, double-sided stone hearth that proudly stood in the center of his massive living room. He rubbed his hands across his face. Nadia, sensing that something was terribly wrong, crossed the room and took his hands in hers. 

“Tell me,” she said, her voice quiet and calm.

“War.”

The single word fell from his lips and thudded to the floor like a heavy stone. Such a small word, and yet with its utterance Nadia understood the lines of sorrow and weariness etched in her husband’s face. He had worked so hard to prevent this day from coming, he had spent the majority of his adult life on the Council working toward that end, and yet it had arrived anyway. She knew how tirelessly her husband had strived for peace, all the while doing everything he could to protect the alliance of Telmondir with the other council members. Her thoughts flew through everything that had happened in recent events: the long hours spent in the forge with Keene and Daegan, the trips to the shipyards, the arguments at the Arxis meetings, the messages back and forth to Langston and Roshana, the urgency of raising up new Defenders to fill the ranks of their own army, and even years before that, there had been the agonizing decision of whether or not to accept the Igyeum’s apparent offer of friendship when it introduced the airships and cynder technology to the world. The Council had argued over that long and hard, but Thorben had convinced them that the benefits outweighed the potential risks, pointing out that if they had the technology, at least they could be better prepared to defend themselves against it should the necessity arise. In light of all these things, Nadia understood, as only a wife can, that in this moment, he felt like a failure, that his every effort had been for naught.

But as much as she ached for her husband in this moment, Lady Nadia was not one to brood over what could not be altered. She knelt before her husband, pulling him into her embrace. For a long moment she held him, letting him know in the only way she knew how, that she still believed in him, and was proud of everything he had done to prevent this outcome.

After a long moment, Thorben sighed and Nadia released him, looking up into his eyes. “Tell me what the messenger said.”

Thorben grimaced. “The message comes from Marik. The Ar’Mol has mobilized his army and is marching against Dalton. The Igyeum plans to attack there with its full force.”

“How do they know the Ar’Mol’s intended target?”

“Because we infiltrated their base and learned secrets the Ar’Mol did not want us to know.” A new voice at the door made both Nadia and Thorben to whirl about. Illuminated in the doorway stood a tall, ragged figure. Two shorter figures flanked him.

“What…” Nadia gasped as the tall figure stumbled through the doorway, his features growing recognizable as he moved away from the harsh back-light of the sun. “Ioan?”

“Greetings Aunt. Uncle.” Ioan lifted a weary hand. “Forgive me, I had hoped to arrive sooner.”

“Ioan!” Thorben and Nadia both leaped to their feet and hurried to usher the young man to be seated.

“Are you injured?” Nadia asked in concern, noting the thinness of his face. “Or ill? What happened to you?” She craned to look out through a window, her heart lurching when she caught no sight of her son. “Where are the others?” Her gaze caught sight of the two other figures still hovering uncertainly near the door and she beckoned to them. “Please, come in,” she urged.

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Well, now that you know precisely nothing more than you did before about Towers of Might and Memory…. I think I’m ready to tackle NaNoWriMo and try to get pretty close to completing this rough draft. I hope you enjoyed reading my extremely vague answers. Are you an author? Are you joining the NaNoWriMo challenge this year? What are you currently working on? If you’re not a writer, then what are you reading/planning to read in November?

~ jenelle