So I’m going to finally take the bull by the horns and do what I should have done a long time ago–move this blog from WordPress.com to WordPress.org. (Quick tip for those of you starting a blog–use the .org site from the beginning. It saves a lot of hassle.) I don’t anticipate any problems with transferring my followers over to the revised site, but if you should notice any problems once I’ve gotten everything changed, please let me know. The site may be a little glitchy over the next day or so as I make the switch. I will publish a triumphant update post as soon as it’s done.
I lied. It didn’t take me a few days to come up with a longer post. I had this one mostly drafted already, and just finished it.
I will occasionally be sharing totally geeky posts about my favorite franchises on this blog. You have been warned. And while I’m warning people about stuff, please be advised that this post contains spoilers for the past two seasons of Doctor Who.
So, that being said…
THE TWELFTH DOCTOR IS REGENERATING. NOOOOOO. TWELVE, WE BARELY KNEW THEE.
*sniff* I’m fine. Really. Actually, I did try to brace myself for this news to some degree, as rumors have been flying about it for some time now. It’s been murmured that Capaldi (and his yet-to-be-introduced companion, Bill) were both going to be dropped from the program (sorry, programme) to clean house for a fresh start with a younger Doctor. Grrrr. Nerd rage.
I’m not on board with the idea that the Doctor has to be young; the stellar performances of Matt Smith and David Tennant notwithstanding. This is mainly because I’m a major fan of the Big Finish audio dramas, which show that you can still tell fun and engaging stories with the “older” Doctors of the classic era. However, if we’re talking about failings of the current Doctor Who era…well, I have to admit, it’s had its flaws. None of them are Peter Capaldi’s fault. He’s been phenomenal. But looking back, there are a few things that could have been done differently–and which I hope will be resolved in Capaldi’s final series.
1. The regeneration.
Irritating injections of sexual politics aside, “Deep Breath” was perhaps the best regeneration episode in the history of the revived series–if not the entire series. It handled the difficult transition from Smith to Capaldi with skill and sensitivity, gently reminding viewers who and what the Doctor actually is. He’s an alien, and he’s very, very old. He’s not always going to look like David Tennant or Matt Smith. Despite my misgivings about many of his storytelling decisions, I give Steven Moffat full marks for how he dealt with the Eleven/Twelve regeneration.
Full disclosure: Clara will be showing up in the “cons” list as well. In her best moments, however, she was awesome. Her dynamic with Twelve was delightful and refreshing, finally rising above the threadbare “will-they/won’t-they” romance teasing of previous Doctor/companion pairings. She challenged the Doctor without being irritatingly “sassy”…most of the time. And she delivered some of the best acting in the show’s history, especially in the last couple of seasons.
3. Twelve’s characterization…eventually.
It took some time for the Twelfth Doctor to come into his own. I’ll be addressing that later on. But once he did, he was amazing. I know everyone points to his famous “war speech” in last year’s Zygon two-parter as his finest moment. Not my personal favorite, as I don’t completely agree with the politics involved. I won’t deny it was a moment of brilliant acting. But barring something that surpasses it in Series 10, my favorite Twelfth-Doctor scene will always be this one.
4. Series 9…mostly.
I have some big issues with Series 9, even though I consider it to be the revived show’s best year so far. For the most part, however, it was amazing. Nearly all the stories were excellent, and some significant pitfalls from past seasons were finally averted.
1. The regeneration.
The upcoming one, I mean. I know we’ll get a full series before it happens, and I know three series is really the average limit for Doctors to stick around. But all the same, because of some rocky storytelling early on in the Twelfth Doctor’s era, it feels like he hasn’t gotten his due. Perhaps Series 10 will remedy this…though quite frankly, with the tiresome and redundant Nardole tagging along in seemingly every episode this year, my expectations are not particularly high. I hope we won’t always be looking back on Peter Capaldi’s Doctor Who years with regret over wasted potential.
Oh, Clara. Talk about wasted potential. The problems with this particular companion actually stretch back to the Eleventh Doctor era. First, we got fantastic performances from Jenna Coleman as two wonderful characters who each could have been phenomenal companions…followed by her official debut as a companion who was little more than a glorified MacGuffin. Then she underwent some improvement in Series 8, only to fall into the threadbare trope of companions treating their boyfriends like dirt. Then she finally turned fantastic in Series 9, butproceeded to become such a Mary Sue that the whole plot revolved around her when it really should have focused on more important things (*cough*Gallifrey*cough*). The worst part of it is, her exit in “Face the Raven” would have been utterly perfect were it not for her return in “Hell Bent.” Rose Tyler all over again.
Breathe, Kyle. Breathe. *restrains himself from launching into yet another rant about “Hell Bent”*
3. Twelve’s characterization…initially.
Given all the obvious risks involved in introducing a very different Doctor, it’s a shame Steven Moffat chose to give Twelve such bizarre, off-putting character traits in his debut series. Specifically, his outright rudeness to people who didn’t deserve it and his weird, never-explained anti-soldier bias were very problematic. It took me a long time to warm up to Twelve. I’m not sure I actually started to like him until “Last Christmas” (an under-rated gem, in my opinion). As a fan of even the less-popular classic Doctors, I’m perfectly okay with the Doctor having character flaws. But he’s the Doctor. There was no point in baiting people with that weak “Am I a good man?” character arc in Series 8. We all knew he’d end up proving himself to be the decent guy he’s always been. Big waste of time.
4. Series 9…partly.
I think most people would agree that the main arc of Series 8 was pretty pathetic. To this day, Missy’s plan still makes no sense to me. Plus, that year, we got yet another one of Moffat’s humongous retcons (“The Master invented the concept of the afterlife! The Silence were responsible for all human advancement! Now let’s never speak of these massive revelations again, or discuss any influence they might have on established canon!”). But to be honest, Series 9 wasn’t much better on this front. The “Hybrid” arc, overall, was a big fat disappointment. I’m all for ambiguous resolutions when they’re done properly, but this one wasn’t. An arc revolving around something as massive as the return of Gallifrey should have culminated in something much more satisfying than “Hell Bent.”
I just ranted again, didn’t I? Oops.
The most frustrating thing about Steven Moffat’s writing, in my opinion, is that he’s got a knack for creating fantastic characters and an unfortunate tendency to bog them down in convoluted plotting (River Song, anyone?). As a writer, he shoots himself in the foot time and time again. He’s better at writing one-offs (like “Blink”) than big, over-arching stories. That’s not to say I won’t miss him as a showrunner, but ultimately I think I’ll miss Peter Capaldi as the Doctor even more. I hope that Series 10 will avoid past mis-steps and prove to be a fitting send-off for this exceptional actor.
Your thoughts? Feel free to share below.
I’ll bet you didn’t even notice I was gone.
I generally try to avoid “Still Alive” blog posts, for two reasons. One, they are usually lame excuses for not having posted in a long time, followed by another long pause in posting, then more excuses. Two, they cause that song from Portal to get stuck in your head. (Personally, I don’t consider that to be a bad thing, but others may disagree.)
In this case, however, such a post is justified, as I am finally recovering from a nasty cold. Hence, the twice-a-week blogging schedule that I was so proud of has been derailed this week. But as of today, I am officially back. Tremble in fear, ye evil spirits of unproductiveness.
I hope to have a more substantial post finished in the next few days. In the meantime, enjoy this picture of me and my dog, taken in the happy days of yester-week before I was stricken with the plague:
I’m extremely grateful for all the positive feedback The Beast of Talesend has received since its release. Several people have been kind enough to write in-depth reviews, and I’d like to highlight a couple of them here.
What would you do if every fairy tale you knew was not only real but also wrong? If all the stories were even better than the ones you’ve heard? That’s this book. Complete with vivid places, entertaining and well rounded characters, hilarious one liners, insane plot twists, and magic, The Beast of Talesend has it all! It made me laugh and scream and be utterly terrified at moments.
OMG, I love this book. … The world that the author creates is very unique…and interesting. The characters are atypical, and nicely written… All the humor was dry and sarcastic… a fav of mine. And it works well in this setting too. I mean, we’re in a fairytale land and they’re poking fun at some of the most beloved and well-known childhood fables (Snow White, Beauty & The Beast, etc)…And at the same time the author reworks them to provide some new and interesting twists. Bottom line, the book is an amicable fantasy adventure that doesn’t take itself too seriously and it’s all the better for that reason.
You can read more reviews of The Beast of Talesend—and buy it for just $0.99!—on Amazon. The book’s average rating is currently five stars.
Happy February, everyone! I have a lot of new blog posts planned for this month, but this one’s just going to be a quickie.
I’m excited to announce that I’m going to be at the Realm Makers conference in Reno, Nevada this year (July 27-29).
Given that I’ve met a lot of fellow writers recently who are regular RM attendees, I’m really looking forward to meeting them there in person. I’ve reserved a table to sell paperback copies of The Beast of Talesend, as well as a couple of other books I may happen to have published by that point. I’m allowed to sell three, and ideally I’d like have at least three done by the end of July, so we’ll see.
In addition to selling books, I have been asked by the leadership of the conference to give lessons in the Official Plot Hole Resolution Happy Dance (patent pending). Please contact me if you wish to reserve a slot in the class. Hurry, though, because those slots are going fast…
Okay, maybe they didn’t ask me to teach a class. Not THIS time, anyway.
If you’ve never heard of Realm Makers, it’s an opportunity for Christian writers of sci-fi and fantasy (even SFF that doesn’t fall under the “Christian fiction” label) to get together, learn more about the craft, and have fun. I’ve never been before, but it sounds awesome. If you’d like to join in, you can register here. Hopefully I’ll see you there!
A forest looms over Bardun Village. Nobody goes in. Nothing comes out. The secrets in the oaks remain hidden until a mischievous escapade thrusts Martin and Elodie behind the silent trees. Separated and lost in a tangle of fantasy, they discover more than animals roam where the woods grow wild.
“Is he dangerous when he’s mad?” Martin asked.
“That all depends on how you feel about getting turned into a tree.”
This is just one of the many lines that had me laughing out loud as I read Nate Philbrick’s latest fantasy novel. It was quotes like these, posted on his Twitter feed in the days before the book’s release, that made me eager to read it in the first place. When the launch date finally arrived, I was not disappointed.
Where the Woods Grow Wild is a story about two kids getting lost in the woods, and the various unusual creatures and people they encounter there. The formula is a time-honored one, but the plot, characterization, and storyworld are wholly unique. Nothing happens quite the way you expect it to. I won’t spoil any plot twists, but suffice it to say there are a lot of them. The whole book is infused with a delightful, whimsical tone in the vein of “Over the Garden Wall” – though that’s not to say there aren’t dark moments as well. Mr. Philbrick handles both the light-hearted and serious elements with equal skill. The protagonists are all likable and realistic, with believable reactions to the predicaments they find themselves in. The most refreshing aspect of the story was Martin and Elodie’s relationship. It’s taken as read from the beginning that they’re in love, and while their relationship is tested by the story’s events, their interactions never become maudlin. They’re best friends just as much as they are boyfriend and girlfriend. I found myself cheering for Elodie in particular as she braved all manner of setbacks in order to rescue Martin from an unthinkable fate. (Elodie is awesome. And by the end of the story, she’s even more awesome.)
I’m very pleased this charming book is the first in a series, as I began missing its characters the moment I finished it. Buy it today. You won’t regret it.
I want to thank everyone who has responded so positively to the launch of Book 1 in the Beaumont and Beasley series, The Beast of Talesend. I'm thrilled that people have enjoyed it, and I'm looking forward to sharing more stories in this universe.
So, without further ado, it's time for some announcements!
The world of the Beaumont and Beasley series is big. Really big. Pretty much every classic public domain work of fiction is real there, and the consequences of all those stories have played out and mixed together to form a rich, intricate universe. As a result, there are a lot of new stories to tell – some about the characters and settings introduced in The Beast of Talesend, and some about completely different people and places.
Today, I'm happy to announce two spin-off series of short stories which will interweave with the core Beaumont and Beasley series, expanding on the world-building details the main books introduce. The first of these series, Tales of the Afterlands, will delve into the history of Nick and Cordelia's world by retelling old stories in new, sometimes surprising ways. These works will serve as prequels to the Beaumont and Beasley books. For example, the first installment is set hundreds of years before The Beast of Talesend, and describes crucial events that lead up to that story:
Tales of the Afterlands, Episode 1:
The War of the Three Bears
Pippa Devereux has three main goals in life. First, to get people to stop calling her "Goldilocks." Second, to avoid getting turned into anything by the evil fairy Ariane. Third, to keep from starving to death. Even if it means eating some very cold porridge she finds in a seemingly abandoned cottage in the woods.
However, someone stops her before she can take a bite – a bear. A talking bear named Benno. Who says he used to be human, and begs for her help to save his family from a terrible curse.
Pippa usually doesn't help people, and she definitely doesn't help bears. But thanks to the intervention of a conscience she never knew she had, she ends up reluctantly using her skills in thievery to steal from Ariane herself.
But the fairy is not ready to relinquish her hold on Pippa's land, and her dark schemes are more far-reaching than anyone realizes.
Goldilocks is about to start a war…
The second spin-off is called The Adventures of Crispin Beasley, and will revolve around the escapades of Nick's younger brother. The events of The Beast of Talesend have left Beasley Investigations without a detective. This series seeks to answer the question, "Can Crispin manage to fill Nick's shoes now that Nick isn't capable of wearing shoes?" The first story ties up some loose ends from The Beast of Talesend and gives Crispin a new and rather unusual sidekick.
The Adventures of Crispin Beasley, Episode 1:
Crispin Beasley and the Waters of Yesterday
Crispin Beasley has only ever had one lesson in magic. Despite this, he's pretty sure he's ready to use his powers as the new face of Beasley Investigations, defending the city of Talesend from the forces of magic and mayhem.
His brother Nick, however, disagrees. And given that Nick is eight feet tall with very large fangs and claws at the moment, challenging his opinion is not the wisest choice.
However, when a plan by Nick's new partner Cordelia to restore his humanity goes horribly wrong, Crispin finds himself Talesend's sole defender against a surprising and formidable enemy.
Fortunately, he does have one ally.
She calls herself Death…
And finally, here's the synopsis for Book 2 in the Beaumont and Beasley series:
The Stroke of Eleven
The Palace of Basile is not haunted by ghosts. It is a ghost – drifting through space and time, appearing at random, and leaving unexplained disappearances in its wake.
Nick Beasley and Lady Cordelia Beaumont have some experience with mysterious, dangerous castles. However, they have no interest in investigating Basile. After all, it's got nothing to do with their ongoing quest to turn Nick from a monster back into a man.
But when an ancient and powerful society called the Nevercircle takes Nick and Cordelia prisoner, they are plunged into the mystery of Basile against their will. They find themselves honored guests at a most unusual dance, along with various other investigators of magical phenomena – most of whom really ought to be dead by now.
Before long, Nick and Cordelia discover a terrible truth behind the tale of Cinderella. A truth which threatens to tear time itself apart and destroy the Afterlands completely.
Because in the Palace of Basile, midnight never comes…
These synopses are subject to change as I finalize some plot details. Watch this space for more announcements in the coming weeks, including release dates, cover reveals, and additional story teases. Thanks for reading!
The bullet journal: a simple, adaptable system that helps you to manage your time and your to-do list.
Sounds nice and friendly, right? And yet, when you google how to actually engage in bullet journaling, you are immediately presented with approximately 16 kaskillion pictures of elaborate, color-coded notebooks that look as if they were designed by Rembrandt. You’re also bombarded with a lot of unnerving terminology – “future log,” “collections,” “signifiers,” etc. A few minutes of skimming pages like these can easily throw you off the whole idea of creating a bullet journal.
Author’s Note: I’m not knocking people who take the time and effort to make artistic-looking bullet journals; so there’s no need to send me angry letters written in breathtaking calligraphy and framed in washi tape. However, I think it’s important that people feel free to make ugly bullet journals. The bullet journal system really is a fantastic productivity tool, but some people can use it more effectively when they don’t set out to make it look nice.
So, without further ado, here’s The Ugly Bullet Journal Method (patent pending). Oh, and just so you know, the abbreviation of “bullet journal” is “BuJo.” Sounds ridiculous, but it saves wear and tear on the vocal apparatus.
Step 1: The notebook.
You can turn any notebook into a bullet journal. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or expensive. That being said, some notebooks have design features that make bullet journaling easier. The best one is the Leuchtturm1917. You don’t have to bother learning how to proununce that, but if you’re interested, it’s LOY-schss-ttt-oyyym-NYNE-tien-seh-vahn-TIENN. The useful thing about this one, from a BuJo perspective, is that it’s got a ready-made index and numbered pages. These things are important elements of the BuJo system, so it’s more convenient to not have to make them from scratch. The Leuchtturm comes in lined and dotted editions. Dotted is better if you want to sketch or do other creative stuff in your journal, but lined works just as well.
You’ve got two choices of vendors for the Leuchtturm – Amazon and BulletJournal.com. If you buy from the official BuJo website, you get a black or green notebook with “Bullet Journal” embossed across the front and with a guide to the BuJo method printed inside. This model also has three bookmark ribbons, unlike the regular Leuchtturm, which only has two. This version costs $25.
The extra bookmark, however, is the only really thing the “official” notebook has going for it. I’ve deviated from the original method extensively, so I don’t need the guide, and neither will you if you use my method. Also, the store on bulletjournal.com seems to run out of notebooks pretty often – as of today, they’re out of stock again. Amazon, meanwhile, offers a more standard Leuchtturm for $20, in a variety of colors. Like I said, if you don’t want to shell out that kind of money for a notebook, it’s not essential. But the features of the Leuchtturm do make things easier.
For this post, I’m using photos from my Bullet Journal (one of the officially-branded Leuchtturms) and from a Moleskine cahier notebook. Moleskine cahiers are really too small for bullet journaling, but I’m using one as a prop because if I show pictures of everything in my Leuchtturm, you’ll see spoilers for the Beaumont and Beasley series. Trust me, you don’t want that. 🙂
Step 2: The key.
The key is a list of “signifiers” – which are the little symbols you’ll use in your bullet journal to mark tasks.
In the photo, you’ll see the signifiers from the official method plus two more I added myself. These symbols are really just a dot with lines drawn through it in different ways. When you create a task for your to-do list in the BuJo, you draw a dot and write the task name next to it. Then, later on, you draw lines through that dot to turn it into another symbol depending on whether the task is completed, postponed, canceled, etc.
If you draw an “X” through the dot, that means the task is completed.
If you turn it into a forward-pointing arrow (>) the task is “migrated” (postponed until tomorrow).
If you cross out the task, it’s canceled.
And those are really all the symbols you need for bullet journaling. Of course, there are others in the photo, but the only one of those I really use is the “note” symbol. If you draw a line instead of a dot, that signifies a note-to-self rather than a task that needs to be done. Some people draw a circle for events, but I usually just do dots and think of them as tasks (what else can you call a dentist appointment, after all?). You can draw an asterisk next to the bullets tasks that are high-priority if you find it helpful. “Explore” (an eye next to the bullet) is for things you want to research further later on, and “inspiration” can be used to designate new ideas. None of these are really essential, however.
You can invent additional signifiers of your own if you want, but I’d advise against having a lot of them. It can make the whole BuJo system get very tiresome very quickly if you’re trying to keep track of an entire alphabet of symbols. It’s better to stick with the most basic ones.
TL;DR: Use a dot in front of tasks, then turn it into an X if you finished the task or into a > if you postponed it.
Step 2: The index.
If you have a Leuchtturm notebook, this is done for you already. If you’re using a notebook without a built-in index, just leave yourself four or five blank pages at the beginning of the book so you have enough space to make an index from scratch.
The index works the same way indexes have been working ever since they were invented several million years ago, with one small modification. You’re not always going to know how many pages you’ll need for a given item in your journal, obviously. So when you run out of room, you just continue it further on in the notebook and add an appropriate page reference in the index. Note my entry for “January 2017 Daily”, for example. I reserved pages 6 and 7 for this team, but ran out of space. So I just continued it on page 37 and added that page to the index entry.
The index may seem excessive when you first start a bullet journal. After all, how hard is it to just flip through the notebook until you find what you need? But I can testify that the journal gets filled with a wide variety of things very quickly, and it’s handy to be able to find a given page without having to hunt for it.
Also, note that my handwriting is atrocious. This is the Ugly Bullet Journal Method, remember.
Step 3: The future log.
I’ve seen people use the future log in a variety of different ways. I tend to think of it as a “big picture” view of projects I plan to complete over the coming year. I put long-term goals in it for each month, which I’ll break down into smaller pieces as I move on to the monthly and daily lists in my journal.
Some people add a lot of stuff to their future logs all at once. I don’t, because my life is somewhat unpredictable and I don’t like having to cross out a bunch of stuff because something unexpected threw off my schedule. It’s up to you how much you want to put into this ahead of time. Just think of it as the “top level” of your bullet journal. This is where you make your big plans for the future.
I recommend reserving about six pages for your future log. You cold break it up into multiple pieces using the indexing method I discussed earlier. However, with this particular item it’s more convenient to have everything in one place, if possible, as it’s a kind of road map for the rest of your bullet journal.
Step 4: The monthly log.
This is the area in which I deviate the most from the original BuJo method. Most bullet journalers draw a complete calendar page for their monthly log, with a grid of days. I’ve never found this to be particularly helpful. I tend to plan out my month week by week instead of day by day. Plus, drawing the grid over and over again takes a lot of time and effort. So, what I do is just put down the four weeks in each month and list my weekly goals under each one. My “weeks,” however, are not perfect 7-day periods – you can see that I’ve included the last few days of January as part of Week 4.
This is the next level down from your future log, where things are more specific. For example, in the future log I put down “Publish Beaumont and Beasley Book 1,” while in the monthly log I’ve got the smaller components of that task, like editing the draft 50,000 times.
Step 5: The daily log.
The daily log is the lowest level of your bullet journal, where all your day-to-day tasks go. It’s also where you’ll be making the most use of all those x’s and >’s. Each morning, you should make a list of your tasks (drawing from the long-term goals in your future and monthly logs), and then review them at the end of the day to see which ones you completed and which ones you had to migrate (put off until tomorrow.
When it comes to bullet journaling, the daily log is where the magic happens. (Not literal magic, unfortunately, but one can’t have everything.) These pages are what help you keep track of everything you need to do on a given day.
You may ask, “Why can’t I just use a to-do list app on my phone or tablet to keep track of my stuff? Why go to all this bother?” It’s a sensible question. Here’s my take on it – when I use one of those apps, it’s a lot easier for me to let things slide. It’s a psychological thing. When I can delete an unfulfilled to-do list, making it seem like it never happened, I don’t have as much motivation to get my work done. When my daily planner is an icon on my iPad screen, one that I can easily ignore, I tend to forget it’s there. Programmed reminders and notifications end up becoming annoyances that I turn off. But when I have a physical notebook sitting on my desk, something that can’t be erased, deleted, or switched off, I’m more inspired to use it. It gives me a sense of completion to check off items in pen on a piece of paper, and it encourages me to get on top of things when I have to keep rewriting migrated items day after day.
Granted, not everyone may agree with me on this. If electronic mediums of task-planning work better for you, that’s great. But I think the psychological factors involved in bullet journaling are helpful for a lot of people who otherwise have trouble keeping up with their work.
Step 6: Collections.
Simply put, collections are anything you put in your journal besides logs. They can be brainstorming notes, plot outlines, sketches, exercise plans, and so on. Just stick ’em in and mark down their page numbers in the index.
And that’s it! Sorry this got lengthy, but I’m hoping it made the bullet journaling process a little less scary for those of you who want to give it a try. If you have any questions, or if you’ve got your own ways of streamlining the BuJo method, I’d love to hear them! Feel free to share in the comments.
*digital downloadable cookies only, sorry.
Just a reminder that the 5-day free promotion for The Beast of Talesend starts today! You can download and permanently own the e-book at no cost to your personage if you buy it at any time before January 23. After that, it will go back to the regular price of $2.99, but it will still be available free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers.
I’m still working through some technical difficulties with regard to my author page on Amazon, as well as linking the Kindle and paperback versions on the same page. However, I do now have an author page on Goodreads! It’s a little bare at the moment; but you can still connect to me on that site now if you want. I’ll be updating it very soon with more stuff.