cats, children's fiction, Fantasy fiction

Warriors Update: Omen of the Stars

Warning: I am breaking all my rules about no spoilers. I just have to.

Also, this is probably going to be an extremely long post. Pull out that comfy sofa and grab some tea and biscuits, and a box (or two) of tissues.

Last night, I finished reading The Last Hope, which is the final book in the Omen of the Stars series, which is considered the last “regular” series of Warriors. (Really, it wasn’t, because there were already many plans for super-editions, and the prequel, Dawn of the Clans, which answers a lot of questions about the beginning of this society and its ways.) Anyway, the point is, in Omen of the Stars, storylines and character arcs that have been going on since either at least the Power of Three, or even the very beginning, are resolved.

I hadn’t really planned on reading through till the end of the book last night, but I hit a point where I just couldn’t stop; it was time to find out what happened. And yet, I’d really been dreading reaching the end of this series. For some reason, I found myself outright resisting reading too fast, or too much of one book at a time. I just…didn’t want this storyline to come to an end.

Just one of the many, many fantastic fan-imagined art images you can find by spending (way too much) time on Google.

This is most likely why I spent so much time looking for all the images I included in this post…

Okay, am I actually going to start reviewing now?

Throughout Omen of the Stars, it’s clear that a lot of things are coming to a head. There is an evil enemy gaining power, the Dark Forest cats. They are the cats that were just real, complete (read unprintable swear words here) in life, and when they die — quite often in bloody battle — they don’t go to a nice, peaceful afterlife (which is StarClan) — they go to (makes sense) the Dark Forest.

Dun-dun-dun!
(Dovewing and Ivypool) If only it could always be like this…

As we read through the Power of Three, we’ve been introduced to Lionblaze, Jayfeather, and Hollyleaf, who are siblings (from the same litter, so, littermates). There’s a prophecy about a trio who will rise to become more powerful than any other cats in living memory, and it’s so that they can defeat this terrible enemy. Because there were three in this litter, it’s just assumed that all three complete the prophecy. (Remember what I said about breaking my spoiler rules? Hold onto your hats, everyone; this is just the start.) Turns out…the prophecy is not that simple and clear-cut.

Lionblaze and Jayfeather are part of the trio; the third is a cousin of theirs, Dovewing. They all have special abilities and skills, apparently from birth, and they hone them to become the greatest threat the Dark Forest has ever seen.

And they’ll need all the help they can get. There are several formidable warriors on the villains’ side, and since they died, they’ve been stewing in what they see as wrongs the Clans did to them. So, the bloodthirsty desire for revenge has been growing; and of course, there’s nothing but time for these lost souls…

Oh my gosh, look! …Where was I? Sorry, just admiring the fan art again…

So, of course, the Dark Forest tries to trick otherwise loyal Clan cats to join the wrong side of the Great Battle…

And the worst part, for me, is that StarClan, which has always watched over the living cats, and not let Clan rivalries divide them, has let the Dark Forest encroach even on that.

One of the major issues throughout the books is the fact that the warrior code — which is basically their laws and regulations — is shown to have some pretty big flaws, and it creates tension not only between the Clans, but within the Clans, too. It means that if you belong to, for example, ThunderClan, you can’t take a mate from, say, RiverClan. But do cats from different Clans still fall in love? Of course. Do some cats take huge offense to that type of thing? Oh, my, yes.

A perfect example is when Tigerstar (think WORST GUY EVER) came to power, back in The Prophecies Begin. He decided that all “half-Clan cats” (meaning mixed parentage) didn’t deserve to live. (Yes, I’m talking genocide.) So, needless to say, he had to be stopped. However, it raised the very important question — how many cats kind of agreed with him that half-Clan lineage was dangerous to the society as a whole?

Gasp… Thank you so much for sharing your creations with us, guys, seriously.

So, I completely love it that Lionblaze and Jayfeather are in fact half-Clan themselves. And Dovewing’s grandfather (Cloudtail) actually started out life as a kittypet. That’s right, he was born to a housecat and then he grew up in the forest and became a warrior. But to many, that makes his origins and his blood tainted — and then his granddaughter is one of The Three! Well, guess what — kittypets are more than good enough for StarClan!

This is the other thing Tigerstar hates: kittypets. Since Firestar, one of the best leaders ThunderClan has ever had, was born a housecat (Cloudtail is his nephew), Tigerstar has had it out for Firestar from day one. And since The Last Hope really states a lot by its title, you get the idea that not only are The Three going to be majorly needed, but, chances are, so is the cat that was once prophesied to save all the Clans.

(Yes, we mean Firestar. Of course we do. To me, this was really a no-brainer. Some of the other cats are really shocked by just how important a former kittypet is to the salvation of their families and civilization as they know it. A really good lesson about not judging a cat by his origins.)

The all-powerful trio first alluded to in the Power of Three series.

So, as we draw closer to the Great Battle… As a reader, there were a whole lot of cringe-worthy moments. For example — as the Dark Forest (literally) gets their claws into nice cats, and tries to turn them, figuring out which ones may be traitors, and may not be, became priority number one. There were some cats that, if they turned out to be traitors, it would simply have broken my heart. (And of course that of the other characters… Er, really, I know it’s just a story…)

The other big thing was needing StarClan to get it together. In StarClan, there aren’t supposed to be boundaries, enemies, grudges or resentments. There are no separate territories to fight over; no reason to remember your differences. It’s all one big hunting ground, and the cats who lived noble, honorable lives — and that’s most of them — get to enjoy each other’s company and watch over their descendants and the friends they left behind. So when StarClan split, it was devastating. The living cats needed them more than ever, and… Oh, my gosh…

Both sides poised for battle!

But here comes in a very interesting thing (that I honestly didn’t think was that big a deal): the Ancients. (Wow, was I wrong.)

The Ancients are the cats whose descendants formed the Clan system. Their history has mostly been told through Jayfeather’s experience (and some time travel moments worthy of Star Trek). But in The Last Hope, there are some major players from that group that really step up to the plate, in the present time. Just amazing.

And, yes, StarClan gets its act together. Never doubted it. (Okay, for a bit there…)

A montage of some of the big plot points from the other series.

All of the information in the last 4 series have been leading up to this point…

From The Prophecies Begin, when Firestar receives his nine lives from StarClan.

And so, we finally reach the Great Battle…

Before I get into the outcome of that: This is literally what I think of the Dark Forest leaders. (I have never sworn so much while reading juvenile fiction.)

  • “Mapleshade, you witch!”
  • “Darkstripe, you bastard!”
  • “Hawkfrost, you a—–e!”
  • “Brokenstar, you wanker!”
  • “TIGERSTAR!” (read unprintable words here)

Begin major spoiler alert:

Hollyleaf, a lost but not forgotten warrior, who more than deserved a chance at redemption.

Hollyleaf thought she’d naturally be the third cat in the prophecy, since she was Lionblaze and Jayfeather’s littermate. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the truth. And being half-Clan really wrecked Hollyleaf. She made some very bad decisions, and ran away from ThunderClan, and was believed to be dead. Not only is she not, but she saves the lives of others in the Great Battle.

Get the tissues out. There was so much crying last night…

Since I generally only have time to read when Muffin is in bed or eating, I usually end up reading late in the evening or very early in the morning. Sometimes, this means I have to keep my feelings about a twist quiet, so that I don’t wake other family members.

Sometimes at 6 a.m. in my house, you might hear shouted out, “YELLOWFANG RULES!!!”

Last night, the tears flowed freely, and my husband asked me why I kept talking to the book.

(Totally worth it.)

Yellowfang came back to defend her adopted Clan in grand style. The Ancients were just awesome. Warriors like Whitestorm and Longtail and Honeyfern returned from their afterlife to kick serious evil feline behind. So…much…crying…

And Spottedleaf…oh, my, Spottedleaf…

Firestar and Spottedleaf, dear friends in life, dear friends forever.

Spottedleaf and Firestar were close friends — okay, almost more than friends, but Spottedleaf was a medicine cat, and she was supposed to not take a mate or have kits, in order to serve her whole Clan and treat every single cat as family. It’s a medicine cat rule. I think it’s kind of an unfair rule. But Spottedleaf chose to abide by it completely, and she never acted on the love she felt for Firestar. There’s a lot of honor in that. Firestar respected her decision; plus, he fell in love with Sandstorm. It all worked out. And after Spottedleaf died, she kept visiting Firestar in his dreams to help, warn and guide him when he became leader. What she wanted most for him was happiness.

So, when it came time to save Sandstorm…Spottedleaf made the ultimate sacrifice.

OH. MY. GOSH.

Firestar and Sandstorm, great mates for all of Firestar’s lives.

More tissues, please.

It was time for Firestar to move on. We all saw that one coming. But it doesn’t feel tragic. It feels right. The Dark Forest was defeated; some of its leaders utterly destroyed (and, man, did they deserve it). A new day dawns for the Clans; so much has been lost, but so much resolved, forgiven, and it’s been proven that they can go on.

As I watch my own kittypet (his name is Toby) sleeping so peacefully on the recliner, I can’t help but wonder, if there really was a Clan system in the woods behind our neighborhood, would he join it, become a warrior, defend their way of life? Would those cats welcome him? Even make him a leader?

The majestic leader of Thunderclan, Firestar.

 

cats, Fantasy fiction, reading, Young Adult fiction

Warriors Update: Power of Three Series

This third sub-series of the Warriors saga was rather different than what I’ve grown used to in The Prophecies Begin and The New Prophecy. Well, in some ways. There are certain things that you’ll always find in every Warriors book — the routine of Clan life, new kits born, apprentices trained, some cats (inevitably or unexpectedly) go to join StarClan. And although I’ve reached the point in the series where new cats are constantly being introduced, and some of my favorites are relegated to supporting roles, at least as a reader I get to visit them, and there’s always the chance to develop new loves.

What’s most, vividly, different about Power of Three is the tone. Secrets are being kept in ThunderClan, and the new narrators really have no clue. Some of that is for their own good (the cats who are keeping the secrets firmly believe that). But the protagonists add many secrets of their own, and this creates an undercurrent of tension that just didn’t exist before.

One of the big reasons for this difference is the change in the location of the Clans. Since they were driven from their home in The New Prophecy, and have to start again in a new territory, their horizons have been broadened. They’ve met new animals and encountered different types of human places or things that they weren’t familiar with. Now they’ve been in their new home long enough that there’s a generation who doesn’t even remember life in the forest, because they weren’t born yet. Despite the Clans trying really hard to keep to the Warrior Code, and carry on the way they did in previous years, some of their old ways are really being tested.

In many ways, I understood why the Clan leaders, deputies, and senior warriors found it important to maintain the traditions and customs from their old home. It kept a sense of stability, of ensuring the future of their society, their families. Although some things had changed beyond their control, this was something that they could decide what happened and how.

There were also many references/throwbacks to the previous series (plural), and it was clear to me that this was considered very important (by the author) to make sure the new cats knew all of their history. A lot happened after they left the forest, yes; but a whole lot happened in the forest. Some cats that we thought had exited the series are back — for example, The Tribe of Rushing Water, the loner Purdy, and most importantly Graystripe.

Now, although I try to stay spoiler-free in these posts, I have to say, in this instance, it’s going to be impossible. One: I really, really feel sorry for Firestar in this series. He’s one of the best leaders any of the Clans have ever known, and he has to worry about his own grandchildren inadverently bringing down the whole Clan structure that he fought so hard to protect and nurture. (Remember what I said about the undercurrent of tension?)

Anyone who’s read through the series to this point understands a couple of very important things: Two:  There are some critical flaws in the warrior code, and it puts a strain on Clan life, and for particular individuals (Yellowfang, anyone? Bluestar, right?). Three:  There is a serious case of history repeating in this series, and it really started to get to me.

Moment of rant: To me, it just seems unnecessary to continue imposing on your society/family rules that appear to be tearing it apart from the inside. Classic example: Four: Firestar receives a lot of flack from the other Clans for taking in loners (in this case, barn cats), and kittypets (cats who used to live with humans). Supposedly, this action will corrupt the “purity” of the Clan bloodlines, and weaken their whole system. While I greatly appreciate that the author creates lots of great discussion points for the reader in this way (allegories for adoption, racism, and prejudice abound), for me, it became a bit frustrating as I read. What about the fact that Firestar is simply compassionate, and in the (not so distant) past, the other Clans know very well they may not have survived the Great Journey to the lake without his compassion?

And, we need to talk about The Tribe of Rushing Water — Five: They faced extinction because of their unwillingness to change the way they’d been doing things “forever.” It shows a powerful lesson that change doesn’t always have to be thought of as a bad thing, and that, unfortunately, sometimes if you don’t change, it results in tragedy.

Okay, end moment of rant.

Six: The Power of Three focuses on a trio of new kits-to-apprentices-to-warriors, Jayfeather, Hollyleaf, and Lionblaze. In their search for answers to some of the aforementioned secrets, they develop a very unhealthy habit of forming more secrets, and keeping them from their Clan leader, their kin, and even each other. It causes them to seek out the aid of a mysterious stranger named Sol, and to try to find more information about “the ancients” (cats who lived in Clans before the term “Clans” was coined).

All of this provides many plot twists, and fills in a lot of gaps in the background (that, as an astute reader, I was wondering about…about 8 books back). But it got rather twitchy for me as I read it, because I realized that the warrior code has become more important to some cats than thinking for themselves, and determining how to figure out what’s right and what’s not based on their experience and conscience.

And it’s also, unfortunately, revealed that there are traitors in our midst — and proof comes to light that keeping secrets not only breeds more secrets, but that sometimes the stakes are raised too high as part of maintaining them.

Overall, this was a rather difficult series for me to read. There were several parts that just made me sad — not in the regular way, because a cat had just died, or because something happened that I didn’t see coming. It made me sad because things happened that didn’t have to — it came about as a result of stubborness, pride, or clinging to ways that probably don’t work anymore, or from not understanding what loyalty really means. It made me ache for cats whose lives had been shattered, when there was no need. And for the first time ever, there were deaths that occurred that I honestly felt the individuals brought it on themselves — and we’re not even talking truly evil cats like Tigerstar. We’re talking cats who should have known better, whose hearts should not have turned that dark, and who deserved to have a happier ending.

As I proceed to Omen of the Stars (the last “regular” series), I know there are some very solemn, and somewhat dark, things brewing — but I’m actually looking forward to it, because I know there’s a serious resolution coming, for old wounds that are still festering in the Clans (remember what I just said about Tigerstar?), and that there will be healing for some of my favorites (Bluestar, Yellowfang, Firestar, just to start with), that desperately needs to come to the Warriors.

 

 

Fantasy fiction, The Invisible Moth, writing, Young Adult fiction

Announcements on Publishing (Updates, Changes, and Generally Informative Nuggets)

Image result for publishing

So, after a great deal of looking-into, inward-mental-over-and-around, silent debating and evaluating, I’ve come to the following decisions:

A) Volume 2 will start out its published life as an ebook (available through me, copyright me, basically all me for now), probably by August, but the release date has yet to be determined. (I shall request a small donation for this service, but every order comes with a free copy of my short story collection if you wish!)

B) In the interest of increasing sales and exposure with less work by myself, starting most likely by winter, I will be switching my choice of printing/distribution companies. This will mean a reprint of Volume 1 (more on that in a minute), as well as then eventually Volume 2 will be in print (and probably new editions of ebooks will one day come to fruition, too).

Image result for announcement

C) I will be on the search for an artist to design my new covers. (This will extend to Volumes 3 and 4 as well.) I’m after a volunteer (since I can’t guarantee payment), whether it be a graphic artist, paint illustrator, or photographer (who would absolutely receive full credit for their contribution). Starting soon, I’ll be holding an open contest for my cover person! So keep your eyes peeled for that.

One reason for all of these changes is the cost factor; another is time; another is certainly keeping my stress level down. For those of you who have been around here for a while, it probably won’t be much of a surprise to hear me say that I really don’t need anything else in my life to stress me out. Doing the shipping myself is a bit tricky; I can handle it, but if I don’t absolutely have to, I’d like to take that option. Same goes for marketing; while that’s sort of an inevitable part of being an independent author, having greater exposure on the website of an actual store or company would help a lot in this area.

Related image

When I started this whole endeavor, I knew very little about self-publishing, and being able to find a local company that was so patient and calm about helping me through the learning curve was, in my view, invaluable. I am so very grateful for having that opportunity. But also, now that I know a lot more, I feel more equipped to broaden my horizons.

And of course I wouldn’t have gotten very far at all without all of you. I remain so intensely grateful for and humbled by all the winning reviews, the support on social media and blogs, the encouraging word of mouth that has helped build me a solid base from which to increase my empire — ahem, I mean, to share my work.

Image result for change

So, when I have the digital version of Volume 2 (Mach 1.0) ready to go, I will let everyone know! I’m aware that several people are very excited for this sequel, and I’m excited to see the initial responses!

Related image

cats, children's fiction, Fantasy fiction, writing

Out of the Wild

Or…my (most likely only) attempt at a Warriors fanfiction…

The woods beyond his housefolk’s garden just seemed intimidating to Toby. For one, he didn’t like to get his paws wet, so he didn’t want to stray too close to the lake. For another, the Twoleg place where his housefolk and their neighbors lived was familiar, comfortable, and safe. At the lake, and in the woods, there were strange animals, and they could be dangerous to kittypets like Toby.

He had heard stories of wild cats living out there, in groups of fierce fighters, not afraid to defend their hunting grounds with tooth and claw. Some of the other kittypets, the brave ones who wandered further than their gardens, and even over the Thunderpath, had seen them. A few had even talked to these wild cats, who called themselves Warriors, and lived in a way most kittypets could never imagine.

But sometimes kittypets went to live with them. When the lake flooded several seasons ago, and some of the Twoleg families had to move away while their nests were being repaired, Frankie and Jessy from down the road had to seek shelter with the Warriors. It was the group called ThunderClan who took them in when their Twolegs had to leave the village. Jessy came back, and then went with her family to a town by the mountains. But Frankie stayed with ThunderClan. He came back to visit every now and again. Except he called himself Stormcloud now.

“Warriors have different kinds of names from kittypets,” he’d explain to anyone who gave him a confused look.

“Can you imagine?” said Rascal, who lived next to Toby. “Having to catch your own food, and sleeping outside in leaf-bare?”

“It’s not so bad,” shrugged Minty, who had stayed with Jessy and Frankie (er, Stormcloud) in the woods after the flood. “The Clans stick together, look out for each other.”

The Warriors hadn’t always lived by the lake. They had come from a forest far away; they had made a Great Journey to reach their new home here, after their forest was mostly cut down to build a new Thunderpath. The thought made Toby sad. He couldn’t imagine having to leave your home in that way, so quickly and against your will.

Because of that, and because some of the wild cats had helped kittypets after the flood, Toby felt sympathy, compassion, and a sort of respect and awe towards the Warriors. He knew Minty felt he wouldn’t be alive without their help.

But still, Toby wondered, if it was him, forced out of his cozy nest, having to hunt for himself, and sleep under the stars, in all kinds of weather, would he be all right? Would he ultimately choose the life of a Warrior, or return to the life he knew?

“One of our greatest leaders was born a kittypet,” Stormcloud told Toby one day. “His name was Firestar. He died before the flood happened, before my time with the Clan. But the stories they tell about him! How he was just like us, living with a Twoleg family and eating their food and wearing a collar. But then he left his housefolk near the old forest, and went to live with ThunderClan, and after many moons he became their leader. He led them through attacks from their enemies, and sickness, and on the Great Journey… He saved them so many times, and they were lucky to have him looking out for them.”

Would he able to do that? Toby wondered. Could he ever be a leader like Firestar?

If the Clans allowed kittypets to become that powerful, maybe they truly weren’t that bad.

cats, children's fiction, Fantasy fiction

Lessons to be Learned from Reading Warriors

Bluestar and Spottedleaf

Lesson 1: Reading this series isn’t just for kids. Yeah, it’s categorized as juvenile to YA, and you’ll find the books in the children’s section of the library and the bookstore. But just like really great children’s literature is supposed to do, this series covers a variety of tough topics that, unfortunately, some kids will have to face, in ways that are developmentally appropriate, without talking down to the reader or trying to force them to understand.

There are allegories galore for racism and prejudice, adoption, divorce, being born out of wedlock, breaking the law and criminal punishment. And these books don’t sugarcoat at all when it comes to death — the cats die from old age, from disease, in childbirth, from accidents and even murder. The reason it’s considered “okay” by the powers-that-be in publishing is because the descriptions of such incidents are limited to what most pre-teens can handle reading, developmentally. And the reason I, as a parent, approve of it is because, sadly but factually, life can be really stinkin’ hard, and some of this stuff will happen to someone you know, and learning healthy ways of coping with it is important.

Grieving is normal, and acceptable, and will help you to go on. Maintaining a positive outlook isn’t just New Age malarkey; it really does lighten your mood and your thoughts and gives you hope and strength. When you lose someone or something, you don’t have to be bitter or resentful. You can choose to honor their memory by loving others the way they loved you. Many cats have to face that, and seeing how some of them carry on is wonderful.

Lesson 2: The choices we make don’t just affect us, they affect others. 

In life, there are many instances when we’re not sure what’s the “right” thing to do, and often it’s not as clear-cut as don’t steal that watch or don’t cheat on that test. Forbidden love is a recurring theme in the series, and it’s not forbidden because “that cat is a majorly horrible jerk, they will break your heart and leave you completely shattered”; it’s forbidden because they belong to a different Clan. It equates to: “I don’t want you to see that person because they’re not from our city/religion/ethnic group.” It goes back to the metaphors for prejudice, and where it comes from, and that it may not be right or wrong, but many people live by it, and may not even realize the impact it’s having on their culture and their family.

Choosing to go against the crowd, when you believe it’s right, can also be daunting, but sometimes vital. When the Clans needed to find a new home and it required a long journey to get there, all four groups, so used to living separately, had to put aside their rivalries and work together to survive. Think about the Caucasians who have stood up for the civil rights of minorities in North America, even when their neighbors and colleagues didn’t understand or agree. Teaching kids that thinking for yourself, and sticking to it, is so valuable.

Lesson 3: There are many different ways to love and be loved. 

Firestar and Spottedleaf

Friendships, romances, marriages, family relationships — all this is love, just in different degrees and varieties. While there’s a very good chance you wouldn’t say you love your bratty little sister who threw a block at your head and won’t stop singing that annoying pop song, of course you do love her. And your spouse will often grate on your nerves, but that doesn’t mean you regret choosing them to share your life. This lesson is presented in a good way for kids to understand; the littermates frequently have squabbles (some of them pretty big), but they know blood forges strong bonds. Some of the pairs of mates (translates to married couple) face tough times, but it’s always clear they still care about each other. Even the concept of unrequited love is addressed; whether you decide to remain friends with someone who is interested in someone else, or whether you hold a grudge; one path leads to finding happiness, the other, well, not so much.

Lesson 4: Don’t dwell too much on the past. Live in the present. Be hopeful for the future.

Regret is a powerful emotion, one that often tears apart entire lives. If you keep beating yourself up for something that you can’t change, all it does is drown you in sorrow and make you bitter and irritable and makes others worry about you. Is regret a difficult thing to live with? Of course. But you don’t have to let your past mistakes define your future.

There are many cats that make decisions that later result in disaster. Sometimes the decisions were made impulsively, without thinking through all the possible consequences; other times the cat was very aware of what making the choice would mean, but they felt it was worth the risk. And more often than not, the decision was a difficult one, and the factors weren’t straightforward right or wrong, good or bad. Basing how you feel about yourself the rest of your life on what you later feel you should’ve done in one moment can be dangerous.

Lesson 5: It can be hard to figure out who to trust; listen to your instincts.

Throughout the series, a common theme is good cats versus bad cats. And we are not talking clawing the furniture and using the rug as a litter box. We’re talking cats who choose to lie, betray, brainwash, and murder their way to power and control. Most of the good cats can see these nasty pieces of work for what they are a mile away. But others aren’t so sure, and they need convincing, and unfortunately, that can lead to really awful things happening. And there’s one cat, a stranger who appears suddenly about halfway through the third series, that’s really hard to figure out. Is he an ally or an enemy? He’s clever and charismatic and easily gets other cats to listen to him. But the cost of believing his treachery runs high. Three of the main characters very nearly get ensnared in his web of deceit, and when they realize what he’s really up to, they not only blame him, but themselves. At least they saw the truth before it was too late.

Lesson 6: Sometimes life will not be what you expected; that’s okay. You can still make the most of the hand you’re dealt.

Starting with the Power of Three series, there are constant allusions to a trio of cats that will rise to become more powerful than any other, former or current, in the Clans. While this makes for great reading, in terms of exciting plot points and character arcs, it’s also very clear that these cats didn’t ask for this power, and it’s a weight on their shoulders. When you possess a skill or ability or condition that you can’t quite explain, or wouldn’t even see as a benefit, this can be a hard road to walk. Others may expect certain things of you; you aren’t sure you can deliver. Maybe you’re not even positive that you want to try.

Try. Just do the best you can. It’s all most people will expect of you. And in the end, you’ll probably not only pleasantly surprise them, you’ll really surprise yourself.

Fantasy fiction, Young Adult fiction

Why I’m A Fantasy Reader And Writer

Some people just don’t understand the allure of fantasy fiction, either reading it, or watching it in movies, and certainly not writing it. While I could spend quite a bit of time feeling sorry for them  getting them to see how wrong they are  discussing the literary tools of employing a fantasy world for addressing real-life problems, I want to be rather self-centered today and focus purely on what I love about this genre.

There are nasty monsters hiding behind the trees, and we need to know how to fight them. “Remember, if it bleeds, you can kill it.” (Bobby in Supernatural).

  • Yes, I’m aware that actual trolls, ogres, evil sorcerers and the like won’t really jump out at me while I’m getting the mail (probably not). But the real world is (sadly) full of terrible stuff, and while I can’t fight all the bullies, injustices, and wrongdoings on my own, I can take inspiration from those who fight (and win) in fantasy stories.
  • Harry Potter became “the chosen one” not because he was specifically designed or fated to kill Voldemort, but because he took control of his own destiny and made the choice to defend the innocent, be brave, and stand up for what was right in the wizarding world.
  • Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings was destined to be king of all Middle Earth, and this was no small task. He could have run the other way, but he knew he couldn’t abandon his friends and the love of his life to the darkness of Sauron. Basically he stared down the whole army of Mordor with only the faith that he was about to die for the right thing.
  • Almathea in The Last Unicorn chased the Red Bull into the sea, in spite of knowing full well it would probably kill her. She’d been human for a long time, and she could have decided to stay in that form, accept the love of the Prince, and forget that she ever knew about the trapped unicorns. But she didn’t; she returned to her true form, and stuck to her plan to rescue her kind.

Believing in the possibility of an unseen world makes everyday life less boring.

  •  No, I don’t think that the next wardrobe I open will actually lead me to Narnia, or that if I fall down a hole I’ll wake up in Wonderland. In some ways, I wouldn’t want to. But I refuse to cut myself off from all the fantastic possibilities — for example, that there’s an afterlife, Heaven, time travel, angels, other dimensions — by nailing my beliefs down to only what’s tangible on planet Earth.
  • So many of us get bogged down by the humdrum routine of work, school, errands, chores, sleep, and repeat. Maybe it’s because I’m autistic and I think differently from most people, but I just can’t stand the idea of that being all there is to life. I’m not hurting anyone by hoping that the Doctor might really exist or that guardian angels do follow us around (not even myself).

Sometimes, even in a corrupted world, we can have a happy ending.

  • June in Legend fought against a dictatorship that wanted to execute the boy she fell in love with. Even after she decided it was too dangerous for them to be together, she managed to save his life, and although it took a long time, they were able to find happiness, separately and together.
  • Harry Potter lived and married Ginny Weasley (excellent choice).
  • Firestar survived the battle with BloodClan, took Sandstorm as his mate, had two awesome kids, three really great grandkids, and a darn cool son-in-law. He gave each and every one of his nine lives for the Clans’ survival, and went down in Warriors history as one of the best leaders ever.

Constantly looking for magic in the back of your mind makes you appreciate the little things more.

  • When I see a beautiful sunset, a rainbow, or a spectacular natural wonder, I’m in awe. The majesty and complexity of creation is truly astounding and, in a way, magical.
  • I have a different definition than some about what constitutes a miracle. The first time my autistic son spoke a full sentence without prompting, I saw God right there in my kitchen.
  • Animals really like me. Somehow I seem to be the cat whisperer. Maybe that’s one of my superpowers.

What if you actually are a secret chosen one/superhero/the next Merlin?

  • Well, I don’t know about you, but I hope I’ll be ready. If the Doctor shows up and needs my help, or a secretive guardian starts following me to begin my training (think Buffy), I’d be shaking in my fashionable boots, but willing. If I’m chosen, then presumably I can do it.
  • A major part of the story is that we’re never sent into battle unprepared. We’re given the ability to blow up our enemies, or the best Elven sword ever, or at least a Sonic Screwdriver and the heart of TARDIS (which is not to be underestimated).
  • The downside is that you’re facing almost certain death. What’s the option? The whole world burning down? How do you want to be remembered? That you went down fighting for your loved ones, like Professor Lupin and Tonks, Gandalf, Bluestar and Yellowfang and Firestar, like the Doctor?

Go for it. Believe in yourself.

 

children's fiction, Fantasy fiction, movies

Moana: A Review and Some Thoughts

Image result for moana

So, although we’re a little late to the party, we watched Disney’s Moana last night, and it did not disappoint.

In recent years, I have shied away from Disney films, mostly because I don’t like watching yet another sub-par movie produced by a studio whose best decades appear to be behind it. It makes me sad; especially as someone who (like most of my generation) grew up on the Disney classics (not just the European fairytale adaptations, but also such brilliant pieces as Fantasia, Alice in Wonderland, and Lady and the Tramp). After the extreme letdowns of Frozen, Zootopia, and Inside Out, I was ready to run the opposite direction from Disney/Pixar, and make my family exclusive Dreamworks viewers.

When we saw the trailers for Moana, and White Fang said, “Let’s give it a try,” I silently groaned.

Note to the preview people: Please stop making *such* cheesy trailers that do not do the actual movie justice.

I cried at least 4 times before the end of this film. Moana is amazing. Not only is the animation the complete, utter zenith of current technology and talent, the intense inner beauty of the story that permeates every single scene should move even the more jaded adult viewer. There are so many glorious individual moments, in character interaction, developing backstory, foreshadowing, and personal growth.

Image result for moana

And can we just talk about our heroine for a minute here. The title character and protagonist is DA BOMB. Daughter of the village chief, Moana isn’t just beautiful and smart, she is a beautiful soul, and she is intuitively smart — she doesn’t simply retain knowledge and put it into practice well, she figures things out with her heart. The true absolute gorgeousness of this young woman as who she is makes me cheer and hold out hope for the future of humanity.

Moana is not a damsel in distress. Nor is she a clever girl who still ends up getting rescued by the guy. Unlike any Disney movie I’ve ever seen before, Moana becomes the embodiment of the power to change her circumstances and lead her people. (I feel my chest swelling with feminine pride even as I write this sentence.)

The female icons in this story are incredible. Moana’s grandmother; her mother (who shows unwavering faith in her daughter); even the island goddess; they’re all excellent examples of what and who little girls can grow up to be, whether they choose a traditional or pioneering path.

Let’s focus on the story itself for a bit. The messages of never giving up, of redemption and forgiveness, are powerful. The inner strength Moana must summon to continue her quest is awesome. The inclusion of Polynesian legend and culture feels authentic and interesting. This is not another “politically correct” grab at the diversity platform — this is simply a tale of a Hawaiian tribe and part of their history.

Image result for moana

And the PIG. After the unbelievable cuteness of this fictional pig, I may be giving up pork products forever. 

The music wasn’t just fun — it was relevant to its part in the story, it was well-produced, it was moving. (That’s another refreshing departure from my more recent experience of Disney.) And of course the animation of the ocean, the stars, the mountains was all breathtaking.

I have never been to Hawaii; I have often considered going (particularly after Lilo and Stitch — just without the aliens). But now I really want to go, and I think I’d be seeing this island paradise with new eyes — not merely the eyes of a European descendant who spends a lot of time in a rather cold climate; but as a tourist who can appreciate the rich and layered beauty of the landscapes, the culture, and the lifestyle. (That’s the real win for increasing tolerance, by the way.)

Image result for moana

So, if you’ve already seen Moana, good for you. If you haven’t — rent it from Netflix (as we did), request it from your library, grab it from Redbox. Skip the popcorn this time; acquire some coconuts and bananas and mangoes. Gather the kids and grandkids round, and let this tale encourage them to go after their visions of the future.

Just one last note in my gushing about this film — can I have the pig?

Image result for moana