Writing Techniques: Multitasking

I’m going to admit this straight up; I cannot multitask. It is a persistent challenge for me.

I also don’t know how people can multitask. I’m not talking about multitasking in everyday life. Like, I can juggle laundry and chores with life stuff and all that…. on a good day, anyway. But I cannot do other things while I’m writing. Like, this is my screen right now:

screen.PNG

I’m watching a UK panel show while writing this blog post. As such, it is going to take me approximately 489 hours to finish this post, because I will inevitably watch something else after this video is done, which will reduce my writing pace to a crawl. And for maximum productivity, I have found that I cannot multitask like that if I want to accomplish anything.

I used to watch TV or Youtube or Netflix or whatever while I was editing or working on a manuscript, but I’ve come to realize that I can’t do that if I want to get things done. I end up paying too much attention to one thing and not enough to the other, and it flips back and forth and back and forth until it destroys my concentration. Even if I do manage to slog through an editing session while catching up on my stories, my attention is never focused 100% where it needs to be, which makes for less than satisfactory results. I can pop on some music to help fuel the inspiration; anything else and I’ll be working at a snail’s pace with frequent distractions. Some people might be able to multitask like that, or watch a movie while working on writing, but I cannot divide my attention in such a way and still produce my best work.

Multitasking by juggling multiple writing projects at the same time, however, is a different story – but still a challenge. Inspiration is fickle, and the well of ideas can run dry after being dipped into too often. For example, I currently have a primary project that is in the revising/pre-query stage, but there are times where I feel burnt out on it; like all my motivation is spent and I can’t muster the right level of attention needed to achieve my best work.

To combat this, I can’t throw myself into a massive new project – if I do that, I’ll get too focused on something new, and alas, I am not an octopus capable of extending eight limbs to divide my efforts in multiple directions. When motivation starts to fray, I either walk away for a bit to clear my head, or I’ll draft out some blog posts. Sometimes, to help encourage myself to return to that main project, I’ll jot down some freewrites about the characters to examine situations in a different way, especially when I hit a wall and don’t know which way to take a particular plotline. Sometimes I’ll re-imagine a scene from a different perspective, to gain new insight on characters and relationships. Occasionally, I’ll work on preliminary stages or snippets for a new project, but I won’t go too in-depth with it – just the framework, to try and get creative juices flowing again. It’s like being a spider with multiple webs, but more work is put into fortifying one web until it is complete, while the others come together at a different pace.

Even if I am juggling multiple projects at once, which is generally the case, the majority of my focus remains on one of those projects… the danger of multitasking can stretch my attention too thin, and have a negative impact on my writing. I do wonder how other writers deal with multitasking – it might be a challenge for me, and effortless for another. But I do know for sure that if I want to do my best, I need to put emphasis on focus, and must minimize potential distraction in any way possible.

SIDE NOTE: I’m taking my novel I’m With You on a virtual book tour via RABT book tours next month! Stay tuned for updates!

Film Review: Dunkirk (2017)

Dir: Chris Nolan
Starring: Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Fionn Whitehead, James D’Arcy, Harry Styles, etc.
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 1hr 47min
Spoiler Level: Light

A lot of the early buzz about the latest WWII drama Dunkirk has called it Christopher Nolan’s best film to date. Considering he’s the man who brought us both critically-acclaimed Inception (2010) and widely-lauded The Dark Knight (2008), that’s a statement that isn’t to be taken lightly. Now that I’ve seen it, I have one thing to say about the monumental praise this film’s gotten thus far; it is 100% deserved, and Dunkirk may well be Nolan’s best so far.

Dunkirk_Film_poster.jpgBased on true events, Dunkirk presents three different timelines (land, sea, and air) within a non-linear narrative that chronicles the journeys of various characters – from struggling soldiers to stalwart civilians – during the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940.

Story-wise, I didn’t find the three different timelines too difficult to follow – it was compelling to see land, air, and sea diverge from and intersect with one another. The timelines are a bit disjointed, and it might take a bit to get used to the switching between perspectives (at one point it’s day, then night, then day again, though less than 24 hours have passed) but the narrative is consistently captivating, and as the timelines merge, it’s intriguing to see how certain characters meet and interact with one another.

The entire cast is strong; newcomer Fionn Whitehead delivers a mesmerizing performance as an Army private desperately trying to survive a relentless wave of peril, Tom Hardy, a Royal Airforce Pilot, evokes powerful emotion even while most of his face is concealed, and Mark Rylance is solid as a civilian mariner heading to Dunkirk to try and save some of the stranded soldiers. No one really stood head or shoulders above the rest, but in that same vein, I don’t think there was a weak link among the cast. Performances all around were impressive, especially considering the sparse dialogue, as great acting speaks much louder when there are no words at all. The narrative is carried by everyone, and even though about 90% of the character’s names don’t get spoken onscreen, it’s easy to get invested.

And for those of you wondering, Harry Styles is fine in it – definitely holds his own against the talented veterans. From what I’ve seen browsing around the internet, I imagine a significant chunk of this film’s box office will come from 1D fangirls, because anytime I’ve looked up anything about this film I have to slog through pages upon pages of Harry Styles swooning before getting anything of use, and there were as many middle-aged history professor type men in the theater last night as there were middle-school and high-school 1D fangirls. That’s not a criticism, though; it was actually awesome to see the IMAX theater in my local cinema close to full for a film that isn’t from Marvel. But I find the voracious media attention Styles has received simply for being in a popular boy band prior to this film is unfortunate because Dunkirk is an ensemble effort, and the other actors all deserve just as much, if not more, attention and praise for their performance.

Visually, the film is absolutely stunning – that’s an odd thing to say about a war film, I suppose, but the cinematography (per usual for Nolan) is gorgeous and the film is beautifully shot and edited. Dunkirk is also Nolan’s tightest film to date, as it offers nothing in excess; it’s clean and concise, presenting a well-balanced narrative and a clear picture without delving too deep or dragging too long. Sure, the film doesn’t show too much in the way of blood or gore, but it also didn’t need crimson spills in the sea or severed limbs splayed around craters to convey the horror and cost of conflict, nor does the lack of blood and guts glorify the idea of war in any way. The unseen enemy threat closing in, the stark faces of fear, a foot sticking out from a sandy grave, and the dead bodies floating in with the tide, are all images that stand out long after the credits have rolled.

The music (by Hans Zimmer) and the sound weave together to enhance the intense, knuckle-biting atmosphere. The scream of sirens, the whine of engines, the creak of sinking ships, the wails of dying men, the boom of torpedoes and crash of bombs and the ticking of precious time running out – and at times, silence – all serve to make the events of the film more visceral, more engrossing. The sound of bullets made me jump out of my seat on more than one occasion and honestly, I was so stressed out and tense throughout this film that I forgot to eat my Reeses Pieces. (I’m eating them now, don’t worry).

If it is possible for you to see this film in IMAX, you MUST do so – it’s worth splurging for the price of the ticket. The sound is incredible (VERY loud, but not deafening) and the sweeping shots of the beach and the sea and the dogfights in the air are best seen on a massive screen. My only quibble with the IMAX experience was the dialogue, as it was difficult to discern at times. It didn’t detract too much, since the gist of the narrative is easy to follow, but there were times that I genuinely had no idea what the characters were saying and wish I could have picked it up better. This might be different for the standard version, as it usually is.

I don’t know if this is Nolan’s best, but it is certainly a contender for the spot, and well worth seeing for fans of Nolan and war cinema alike. A sprawling film with a strangely intimate feel, Dunkirk shares bleakness and hope in equal measure, and though countless war films have been made, especially about WWII, there are still so many stories to be told, and Nolan’s put a unique stamp on this one. There’s not much bravado, virtually no soap-boxing, no victory-touting, no medals doled out, and the film doesn’t offer a lot of chit-chat about the horrors and toll of war; it simply shows it, along with the dedication and perseverance of the soldiers who yearn for home, and the civilians striving to get them there. It’s not as gory as Saving Private Ryan or as in-depth as Band of Brothers, but it certainly deserves a place among the memorable high-tier war films.

Overall Rating: 9/10

Writing Rewind #8: Wings of Fate Chapter 5

On our last Writing Rewind excursion, Heiwa and Daisuke discovered they were roommates and Heiwa took a tour of the UNMEI with Sergeant Kahler. Now, the real adventure is about to begin… with training! Will Heiwa’s first training session go off without a hitch? Probably not!

KEY/GUIDE:
Strikethrough = cut out
Highlight = rephrase/reword/awk
Blue highlight = minor additions
DANGER RED HIGHLIGHT= massive cringe

CHAPTER 5 P 1

Sigh. Again, the set up for the chapter doesn’t need to be so… tedious.

CHAPTER 5 P 1 CHANGES

Too much inner and outer dialogue, and can easily be rectified with some slicing and dicing. And the remains of the slicing must be reworked in order to flow better.

CHAPTER 5 P 1 FIXED

There! Set up is effectively pared down and not such a drag. However, there should be a comma after “training” in Daisuke’s second bit of dialogue; didn’t notice that until now. Reading over things multiple times is important, folks. Clearly, I am a bad example.

Next up, Heiwa’s having a jolly old time as training starts under the supervision of Lieutenant Kurokawa and Colonel Berkmann… and by jolly, I mean miserable.

CHAPTER 5 P 2.PNG

*sharpening axe*

So clearly, our protag is having an awful time. But we don’t need to hear about it ad nauseum. Really.

CHAPTER 5 P 2 CHANGES.PNG

The usual changes are emphasized here; less talk, and more clarity.

CHAPTER 5 P 2 FIXED

Much better! Though, really, I should scrap the ComBoards idea.., since tablets are a thing. But they weren’t a thing in 2005, so cut me some slack.

CHAPTER 5 P 3.PNG

Heiwa’s suffering at the hands of Colonel Berkmann goes on for like, 2 pages. So… that needs to be addressed. Because it definitely does not need to encompass 2 entire pages. I am not a sadist.

CHAPER 5 P 3 CHANGES.PNG

I think even more could probably be chopped off here, but basically, we’ve got more of the same old, same old. Colonel Berkmann’s dialogue can be curbed and Heiwa’s self loathing can be slimmed.

CHAPTER 5 P 3 FIXED

Much cleaner, still as mortifying for our hero, and nothing of note lost. I mean, not sure if “drop and give me fifty” is still a relevant punishment, but I’ll stand by it.

Next up, some more suffering for our dear hero, as Colonel Berkmann has pieced together who Heiwa’s father was…

CHAPTER 5 P 4

Blah, blah, blah… again, doesn’t need to be this long.

CHAPTER 5 P 4 CHANGES

Petition to never use “orbs” as a way to describe eyes ever again!!!!!!!!!! GAHHHHH. I dread how often this is going to recur, though I know for certain it will rear its ugly head again…

CHAPTER 5 P 4 FIXED

So, Heiwa’s suffering is much more concise, now! And Colonel Berkmann’s alleged “cruelty” remains intact.

After the disaster that is the first training session, Heiwa and Daisuke set off for lunch. Naturally, everyone is pissed at Heiwa for his behavior, but one lone wolf strays from the back to befriend them – a young woman named Robin. And they get to talking about the mysterious mission they are on…

CHAPTER 5 P 5.PNG

Repetitive and repetitive, said the New York Times…

CHAPTER 5 P 5 CHANGES

We know about Heiwa’s dreams already – it was discussed in the first couple of chapters. We know Heiwa wants adventure and he believes in myths and legends. That bit doesn’t need to be dredged up again and again in the same way; the reader knows it.

CHAPTER 5 P 5 FIXED.PNG

Better – it illustrates the differences between Heiwa’s and Daisuke’s perspective, without beating the dead horse too much. Plus, some new info gets passed on thanks to our new character!

Last up,

CHAPTER 5 P 6.PNG

The foreshadowing doesn’t need to be so… prominent. It’s already been hinted at, but the point of a hint is to be subtle, and this passage is not subtle.

CHAPTER 5 P 6 CHANGES.PNG

Short and sweet is the key! Most of this segment can be hacked away…

CHAPTER 5 P 6 FIXED

Dun dun dun! What could Dr. Black mean in this shorter, and much more effective section? WHO KNOWS? We won’t find out next time, I can tell you that much. But we will find out eventually!

Next time, Heiwa meets someone very, very interesting… someone who may hold the key to the adventure he longs for.

Top 15 Game of Thrones Episodes (So Far)

WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR ALL 5 ASOIAF BOOKS AND 6 SEASONS OF GAME OF THRONES (AND SOME THEORIES) SO READ AT OWN RISK. 

I started watching HBO’s Game of Thrones almost immediately after season 3 aired – I’d heard so much about the show I had to give in to the temptation and see what all the fuss was about, so I snagged the season 1 and 2 blu-rays from Amazon. I actually binged books 1-3 before watching, as that was the only material covered by the show at the time and I knew I’d never read the books if I went for the show first. After reading, I watched episodes 1-10 in one sitting, and was hooked. I bought HBO Now for the start of Season 5, went to the Game of Thrones Live concert back in March, and I’ve been a loyal fan since I cracked open the first novel. And, as it is with most fans, the wait for a new season and new episodes is AGONIZING.

Show-wise, for reference, my favorite character is Jaqen H’ghar/Faceless Man (followed by Jon, Sandor, Beric Dondarrion, and Meera), my favorite house is the Starks (followed by the Mormonts and Baratheons) my least favorite character (besides the obvious) is Theon, my favorite controversial character is Melisandre, and I am 100% on the Cleganebowl hype train. I also half-supported Stannis the Mannis up until 5.9, and I don’t really know who will sit on the throne at the end of the series, but I don’t think it will be Jon or Dany. I also think Jaime and Cersei are more likely to be secret Targaryens than Tyrion, but I’m hoping that none of them are, I think Jorah is a massive creepazoid in the books but I really like him on the show, and while I generally like (and occasionally prefer) the changes the show has made to the source material (Sansa replacing Jeyne Pool, Mance getting axed, Arya in Harrenhal with Tywin, all the characters getting aged up, the omission of Lady Stoneheart,) the character assassination of Loras Tyrell is a grave books-to-show injustice that is only made tolerable by the performance of Finn Jones, and I hate the way Barristan Selmy’s death was handled; he (and Ian Mcelhinney) deserved way more and I would have loved to see him make it through S6 at least.

So, with the premiere of season 7 only two days away, I thought I’d list my top fifteen episodes. Bear in mind, this list is MY OPINION so please set down the torches and pitchforks.

Honorable mentions:  Winter is Coming (1.1), A Golden Crown (1.6), Valar Morghulis (2.10), And Now His Watch Is Ended (3.4), The Bear and the Maiden Fair (3.7), Two Swords (4.1), Mockingbird (4.7), The Dance of Dragons (5.9), Mother’s Mercy (5.10), Home (6.2), The Broken Man (6.7).

15.) Kissed by Fire – Season 3 Episode 5
Not only do Jon Snow and Ygritte get their “cave” moment in this episode, a pivotal point in their relationship, but Jaime and Brienne also achieve a breakthrough. I credit this episode as the moment where I began to actually appreciate Jaime as a character, as he bares his soul to Brienne and ponders “by what right does the wolf judge the lion?” This episode also gives me hope that Jaime will turn his back on Cersei for good in the upcoming season; it is the first bright spark of Jaime’s redemption arc, the first sign that there is more to him than his bond with his sister, the glimpse of his turmoil over his “sullied” reputation and how he feels about being called “Kinglsayer.” Robb also grapples with dissent among his camp and tries to assert his power by beheading Rickard Karstark, a move that will ultimately contribute to his undoing as he loses the support of the Karstarks and allows unrest to fester among the Northern forces. My favorite moment from this episode, however, is the blazing battle between Beric and the Hound, which culminates in the first on-screen “Lord of Light” powered revival in the series, but I also love Arya’s plea to Gendry that she could be his family, only for him to tell her that could never happen, as she would be “m’lady.” GOD, THE HEARTBREAK.

14.) Fire and BloodSeason 1 Episode 10
Whenever I think of definitive images and moments from Game of Thrones as a whole, one of the first scenes that comes to mind is the closing shot of this episode – Daenerys, the Unburnt, with her trio of freshly-hatched dragon babies and a bowing Khalasar around her. It is, effectively, the “rebirth” of Dany after she loses her husband and unborn son and becomes the “Mother of Dragons,” among about a thousand other titles. This episode also features the fallout from Ned’s death, with Robb and Cat mourning his loss and Cat declaring they will kill the Lannister’s for what they’ve done, Sansa very nearly ending Joffrey before his reign of terror can pick up any traction, and Yoren rescuing Arya by disguising her as a boy and taking her on the road north with some other Night’s Watch recruits, including Gendry, and Jon’s escape from Castle Black foiled by his new friends, who encourage him to stay true to his vows. Plus, we’ve got the “DAKINGINDANORF” speech vol.1, which still gives me chills upon subsequent re-watches.

13.) MhysaSeason 3 Episode 10
The Season 3 finale is a standout episode all on it’s own, despite following perhaps the most shocking and heartbreaking episode in the series up to that point. I guess some folks consider this one of the “weaker” finales, and I understand where that viewpoint comes from, but I think that’s mostly because it gets overshadowed by The Rains of Castamere. This episode features the first signs of Arya’s changing character after witnessing her dead brother being paraded around with his wolf’s head sewn onto his body, Bran’s foreshadowing tale of the “Rat Cook” and their encounter with Gilly and Sam, Tywin’s amazing ownage of his sadistic grandson followed by his cool demeanor when explaining his motivations for the Red Wedding and continuing cruelty toward Tyrion, our last view of Gendry (for now), Jon confessing his love for Ygritte post-betrayal to which she promptly shoots him with three arrows, and Dany being hailed as “mhysa” by the freed slaves of Yunkai. All in all, it’s a great episode that suffers from placement; it follows one of the most horrific and powerful episodes in the series, but still stands tall on its own. On a recent rewatch, I did notice one interesting bit of dialogue… when Davos is arguing for Gendry’s life, Stannis muses, “What’s the life of one bastard boy against a kingdom?” and Davos replies “Everything.” He was referring to Gendry in the moment, but could it also imply… Jon? (I’m sure I’m not the first to notice this; I’m not that clever.)

12.) The Laws of Gods and MenSeason 4 Episode 6
There is one major reason for the inclusion of this episode over it’s successor, Mockingbird; Tyrion’s trial. It’s such a defining moment for Tyrion’s character and his relationships and it plays out with such conviction and tension that it’s easily one of the highlights of the series overall, and perhaps Dinklage’s best performance on the show so far. His speech at the end, where, after suffering Shae’s betrayal, he demands a trial by combat and eschews the safety of being sent to the Wall after a basically guaranteed guilty verdict, is pure genius. The rest of the episode is great as well, with Yara’s failed attempt to rescue “Reek,” Davos’s appeal to the Iron Bank on behalf of Stannis, and Dany’s realization that ruling is not all about conquest and honor, but the main draw is the trial, and it remains one of the most pivotal and dramatic moments in the show’s run, even though it hasn’t got any bloodshed/murder or physical altercations.

11.) The Lion and the RoseSeason 4 Episode 2
I think there’s one major reason why fans love this episode… and that is the long overdue (and satisfying) demise of everyone’s least favorite sadistic boy king, Joffrey Baratheon. Written by GRRM himself, this episode delivers on multiple levels; it’s visually gorgeous, the music is sublime, the acting is stellar (per usual) and it’s almost sad to say goodbye to Jack Gleeson, who, despite playing one of the most hated and vile characters in television history, did so with such amazing skill and talent that it’s hard not to love him a bit. This episode is vindicating, has great music, costumes, and dialogue, and the entire wedding segment is a testament to effective narrative structure. It’s great to watch  over again so you can try to pinpoint the moment where the plan to murder Joffrey is put in motion.

10.) The Mountain and the Viper – Season 4 Episode 8
For the record, I mostly consider Mockingbird (the previous episode) to be of comparable standing, partly due to Lysa’s plunge through the Moon Door, but mostly because of Oberyn’s speech and his offer to become Tyrion’s champion at his trial by combat, which I consider one of the best monologues/moments in the entire show. BUT, The Mountain and the Viper contains the epic showdown between Oberyn and Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane, which propels it above its predecessor. The entire trial by combat is an edge-of-your-seat spectacle, with a very Thrones-style conclusion, as victory and vengeance seemed to be in Oberyn’s grasp…only for his head to end up smushed like an egg between The Mountain’s fists. Though that’s the major event in the episode (and a gruesome highlight of the season) this episode’s also got the Darth Sansa reveal, the banishment of Jorah from Dany’s squad, and Reek’s “performance” as Theon Greyjoy. R.I.P, Oberyn – but major kudos to Pedro Pascal for a memorable performance with a shocking and soul-crushing conclusion. I didn’t love Oberyn in the books, but Pascal just about stole season 4 with his portrayal as the suave Dornish prince.

9.) HardhomeSeason 5 Episode 8
Though this episode as a whole is great, the main draw is the White Walker and Wight invasion of the wildling camp at Hardhome. The moment where Jon’s Valyrian steel sword clashes with the White Walker’s spear is my favorite moment of season 5 overall – I know season 5 gets a lot of flak, but it’s hard to argue against the greatness of this episode (and the two that follow it). I was on the edge of my seat for the entire second half, watching as the wights savaged the camp and tumbled over a cliff in a zombie avalanche, closing with the shot of the Night King staring at Jon and lifting his arms, raising his massive Army of the Dead, now enhanced with hundreds of new wildling recruits. This episode has some other great moments, like Dany’s “break the wheel” speech and her allowing Tyrion to serve as her adviser, but the battle at Hardhome is a standout scene for the season (and the series), rivaled only by Dany’s fleeing Meereen on Drogon and Cersei’s walk of atonement in the following two episodes.

8.) BaelorSeason 1 Episode 9
Season 1’s penultimate episode is the first major gut-punch in the series, and the first solid realization for (non-reader) viewers that life in Westeros is not about the good guys getting their happily ever after and honor winning over underhanded, scheming politics. Our stern, stalwart northern hero Ned Stark’s head gets lopped off at the command of a vicious boy king, and the “game of thrones” officially begins. I read the books beforehand, so I knew what was going to happen (plus, he’s played by the amazing Sean Bean, so clearly he wasn’t long for the world) but it didn’t make the blow any less painful. And while that moment is easily the defining point in the episode, there are some other great moments as well; Tyrion’s game with Shae and Bronn, Robb’s victorious return from the Battle of the Whispering Wood, Jon and Aemon’s conversation about love and duty, and Daenery’s fateful decision to turn to magic to try and save Drogo’s life. This episode marks the true launch of the series; after Ned falls, the pieces are in place for the War of the Five Kings to start and set off even more mayhem.

7.) The Rains of CastamereSeason 3 Episode 9
I’m not ranking this episode highly because I like what happens in it, because I don’t. Robb was one of my favorite characters in the books up until the fateful wedding of Edmure Tully and Roslin Frey.  I mean… watching it back, Robb totally had it coming, but it doesn’t make the event any less devastating. As soon as the cello churned out the first notes of the ominous song, I knew the Red Wedding was upon us, and still found myself getting emotional watching it all play out onscreen – largely because the acting in this episode is on point. Massive credit to Michelle Fairley (Catelyn) and Richard Madden (Robb) for making me sob and bringing such a horrific scene to life, and also to David Bradley (Walder Frey) for making me want to rip his head off and chuck it in the Trident, and Maisie Williams (Arya) for her portrayal of such anguish at getting so close to her family, only to have her hopes slashed savagely out from beneath her. It’s a slow burn to a massive bomb, and the entire framework of the episode functions as the set-up to the dramatic, heartbreaking close, and the final wail of a mother as she watches her son breathe his last. This episode is one of the most definitive episodes of Game of Thrones, and one of the most shocking moments in television history, and it doesn’t get any easier to watch upon multiple viewings.

6.) The DoorSeason 6 Episode 5
This episode was the “Red Wedding” and “Ned Beheading” for the book readers, since Season 6 was the show’s first major foray into material that has been speculated about, but is not yet released in book form. The “Hold the Door” moment was the first major instance on the show (there have been some smaller “OH SHIT” moments and surprises) where my jaw dropped and I said, “Oh my god” and then eventually wept like an infant. As soon as I realized what was happening I very nearly screamed “OH MY GOD BRAN YOU LITTLE SHIT”, but, for the sake of my neighbors, I refrained. After all, the “past is already written, the ink is dry” and clearly, Bran had to do what he did because it had…already… been done, I guess? This episode marks a turning point for Bran, as he realizes his actions have had an effect on his life (and the lives of those he cares about) for far longer than he anticipated, and he is the reason for “Hodor.” Bran now must become the Three-Eyed Raven, much like Jojen predicted way back in season 3. But mad props to Kristian Nairn for his performance; he only ever had one line, but he never said “Hodor” the same way twice and was easily the most lovable character in the series, which made his last stand all the more crushing. Other than that, we have Sansa’s angry confrontation of Littlefinger, another tearful goodbye for Dany and Jorah, the first instance of Varys being rattled as he and Tyrion meet with the priestess Kinvara, the crowning (and near drowning) of Euron, and Sansa gifting Jon with a new “Ned-esque” cloak. But really, this episode’s strongest point is the “Hold the Door” moment, and it, like many other moments on this show, is not any easier to watch the second or third time.

5.) Battle of the BastardsSeason 6 Episode 9
This episode tops a lot of folk’s lists, and for good reason. I consider this episode’s major strengths to be the directing, cinematography, special effects, battle choreography, music, and the fitting curtain call for Westeros’s most sadistic bastard, Ramsay Bolton – not even his supporters from House Twentygoodmen could save him. Weirdly enough, I was almost more hyped up by Dany’s epic conquest of the Masters of Slaver’s Bay in the opening of the episode, with the amazing track “Reign” playing over it. This episode is stunning in a multitude of ways, particularly the visual, but I actually found the writing to be a bit weaker, with some dubious character actions that, upon rewatching the episode, appeared to be concocted to create a sense of tension or drama that could have easily been avoided or shouldn’t have happened at all. Like… run in a freaking serpentine pattern, Rickon, my god. But regardless of nitpicks, there are some incredible moments in this episode, such as Jon standing his ground and drawing his sword as the mounted soldiers barrel toward him, Jon nearly being smothered in a pile of bodies and scrambling soldiers, the Knights of the Vale charging in to save the day, and Sansa striding away with a smile as Ramsay screams behind her. It’s an amazing episode and worthy of “GoT Episode 9” infamy, but I do think it’s a tad overblown.

4.) The ChildrenSeason 4 Episode 10
There’s a lot of season 4 on this list… mainly because it’s my favorite season, but I also believe it is the most well-rounded season thus far, with multiple standout episodes that are the epitome of what Game of Thrones is about, and The Children is a big example of that. Stannis swoops in with reinforcements to intersect with Jon’s storyline and saves the Wall from the wildling invaders, and Melisandre stares with keen interest at Jon Snow through the flicker of a mass pyre. Though we lose Jojen, Bran and co. (I call them Bran and the Flakes, but it never caught on) finally get to the tree where the Three-Eyed Raven resides, and Bran is told he will never walk again, “but you will fly.” Dany chooses to lock two her dragons away, symbolic of a mother parting from her “children” in the attempt at some greater good. Tyrion realizes the true extent of Shae’s betrayal, and we discover that Lord Tywin doesn’t “shit gold” after all. We see the Hound vs Brienne fight, and, as the Hound lays dying at the base of the cliff, pleading with Arya to have mercy on him, I actually cried – which I never would have expected, but Rory McCann’s performance is utterly moving, even in its crass gruffness. The final shot of Arya on the boat heading toward Braavos as “The Children” plays in the background is a phenomenal end to the season, even though it’s the first season-close not to feature a valiant Dany and her dragons. For me, this is one of the strongest episodes in the series and the dramatic finale to what I still consider to be the show’s best season in terms of plot development and character evolution.

3.) Watchers on the WallSeason 4 Episode 9
More or less the “Helm’s Deep” of Westeros, Watchers on the Wall is a full-scale battle with drama and action that could rival any fantasy film, despite being just a single television episode. The cinematography and choreography in this episode is mind-blowing, but for me, the greatest moment in this episode is when Grenn and a few of his other Night’s Watch brothers face down a charging Giant whilst reciting the Night’s Watch pledge, holding the gate though it costs them their life. I also sobbed when Jon sees Ygritte again and smiles at her, only to watch as she’s pierced by an arrow by Olly, vengeance for the death of his father. The battle fades away around them as they say goodbye and Ygritte delivers her final, heartbreaking “You know nothing, Jon Snow.” The brothers of the Watch put their lives on the line to defend a realm that shows them significantly less regard than they deserve, and they do so with valiance and courage. There’s also great character development in this episode, with Jon and Alliser Thorne striking a note of truce in the face of pending battle, Sam swearing for the first time as he defends Gilly, Grenn’s last stand, and Ygritte’s faltering thirst for revenge in the face of the man she loves.

2.) BlackwaterSeason 2 Episode 9
I very, very nearly put this episode at #1, as it honestly is my favorite in the series (tied with Watchers on the Wall.) I think the pacing in the episode is phenomenal, the effects are astounding, the writing is incredible, the music (the Lannister themes fused with Stannis’s)… everything comes together to weave an amazing battle and a story as powerful as a burst of green fire. Tyrion’s epic speech, the Hound’s offer to save Sansa, Bronn’s single arrow, Sansa’s calming efforts toward the other ladies and her sick burn of “just as I pray for the king’s” at Tyrion, the tavern sing-a-long before the battle, the freshly-combined Tyrell and Lannister forces riding to the rescue, and Loras donning Renly’s armor, all combine to make a stellar and engrossing episode, even though it only takes place in one location. Each character shines in this episode, be it for their moments of valor or cowardice or both. My favorite moment in this episode is… well, it’s hard to pick, because there are far too many great ones to pare down.

1.) The Winds of WinterSeason 6 Episode 10
This episode isn’t my favorite, but I still consider it to be the best episode in the series. The “Light of the Seven” opening sequence, with the music from Ramin Djawadi, the performance of the actors, and the stellar direction of Miguel Sapochnik, is sheer brilliance, from the first plink of the piano to the bombastic demise of the Tyrell family, the High Sparrow and his little sparrowlings, and a bunch of innocent folks who just wanted to spend their morning seeing a trial and got blown up instead, while Cersei watches from afar with a smug, silent smile. Obviously, it’s difficult to follow such an explosive moment, but the rest of the episode is no slouch. The pivotal “tower” reveal – with Bran weirwood visioning the truth of Jon’s parentage – was handled so effectively and beautifully that I’ve teared up every time I’ve seen it since. From the renewed “DAKINGINDANORF” rallying, the reveal of the Citadel’s library, Cersei’s coronation and Jaime’s conflicted face as he watches her sit the Iron Throne, Arya’s vengeance on the smarmy Walder Frey for the role he played in the deaths of her family, and Dany finally setting sail for Westeros, this episode has no slow moments, has a ton of big events all one after the other, and is framed in such a way to make the wait for season 7 all the more unbearable. This episode flows like a poem; smooth and beautiful with flawless rhythm. It is the declaration that Winter is Here, and it does so in marvelous, jaw-dropping, and visually-engrossing fashion.

Luckily, we don’t have long to wait now… on Sunday, season 7 begins, and hopefully there will be some titles swapped around on this list come episode 7.7!

Worth 1000 Words #10: Reese

On a Wednesday night in 2007, I received a cryptic text message from my older sister while watching the latest episode of Lost. The message contained only one word.

Meow.

Some time later, I was dozing off on the couch when my sister returned home and deposited something furry onto my lap. I opened bleary eyes to see a small, mewling tortoise-shell kitten blinking at me.

That is how we came to own Reese. Technically, her full name is Reesie Lynn (my sister is to blame for that abomination of a moniker, we had exactly 0% input) but we have more or less only ever called her Reese. Sometimes, I call her Kit-Kat. Just to be contrary.

IMG_20170629_102725_202.jpgI think Cat People are Cat People for a reason. Cats are often thought of as fuzzy companions who don’t require constant attention; they’re adorable, not terribly messy, and can provide some warm, cuddly comfort on bad or rainy days. But Reese apparently has never read a single page of the “cat manual” because she doesn’t act like a standard cat at all; though Reese does provide ample fodder for my instagram, because she is cute, if nothing else. And if you think I can’t babble on and on about my cat for 1000 words, then think again!

Reese has never been much of a cuddle-buddy; the only time she ever feels like snuggling is at night, but only for about an hour before she gets bored, and she typically only solicits one person to cuddle with before departing back to the bowels of the basement so she can get the couch covered in fur. She loathes being picked up, and in order for us to trim her nails, I have to wait until she is asleep or groggy, then scoop her up when she is vulnerable – often, this results in being kicked in the chest/nose/throat when she inevitably rebels. She refuses to meet strangers, and I suspect some family members might not even know we have a cat, since she won’t show her face in the presence of visitors. My best friend house/cat-sits for us whenever we go away for any length of time, and during a 10 day absence, it took 4 days for Reese to be in the same room with her, and even then, she rubbed her head against my friend’s hand while hissing at her. So, claiming that Reese is fickle would be a drastic understatement. When I went away to college, it took several days during each school break to get her used to me again; I had to endure lots of dismissive tail swishing and scrambling away before she deemed me worthy of her good graces again.

She loves to sit outside on the enclosed patio and cackle at birds and bunnies, either because she wants to be their friend, or she wants to eat them, I’m not entirely sure. She greets me at the door every day when I get home from work or wherever, usually meowing her head off as she gets my black pants covered in her fur. I like to think that it’s because she misses me when I go away, but I’m fairly sure it’s because she’s just hungry. And boy, she’s perpetually hungry. She expects to be fed at around 5/6AM every morning, since there’s a couple of super early-risers in the family, so now, she’s accustomed to a schedule and there’s almost no chance of everyone being able to sleep in – not if Reese has anything to say about it. When she’s hungry, she is vocal. And then, even after breakfast, she expects snacks. Several of them. She also thinks she can trick us into feeding her more if she begs and whines at each person in the family, but fortunately, we are able to see through her ploys. It’s a wonder she isn’t shaped like a bowling ball with how much she tries to eat, though we’ve managed to regulate her diet well, despite her best efforts. Reese also loves to distract me while I’m trying to write; at the moment, she is sitting beside her food bowl and staring at me. She will not break me, though. I am steadfast – I can resist the food-mongering wiles of any cat, no matter how cute! Though, I must admit, she is especially “awwww”-worthy when she chases the laser-pointer around the living room.

A few months ago, I bought Reese a new bed; a nice quality one that I was able to snag at a great discount. Did she appreciate my generosity? NOPE, she actually prefers the comfort of a cardboard box, or a plastic bag laying on the floor. Her idea of a five star resort would be a kingdom of boxes and bags. We actually have fashioned a “cardboard apartment” of sorts for her to use, and she loves it. She’s a creature of simple comforts, I suppose… she did eventually warm up to her new bed, and it is now positioned on the floor beside my bed, so when she gets fed up with me, she has somewhere to escape to.

Reese is not a typical cat; but she’s my cat. She doesn’t like cuddles, but to be totally honest, neither do I, so it works out well. She’s an introvert, and can sometimes be downright obnoxious with her constant appealing for food, but she occasionally shows off her softer side. If I scratch behind her ears or she rolls over to let me pet her tummy, she might even deign to purr a bit, like a fuzzy motorboat. Sometimes, during her rare affectionate moments, she will rub against my legs, even when I’m trying to walk up the stairs… I refuse to believe it’s because she wants to trip me, though, sadly, that wouldn’t be much of a shock. I often suspect she’s the furry offspring of some feline version of Satan, but even if that’s true, she’s my furry offspring of Satan, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Writing Rewind #7: Wings of Fate Chapter 4 Part 2

Let us continue our slog through my decade-old manuscript! Our unlikely hero Heiwa has bid goodbye to his family and is now aboard the UNMEI, still hoping for his chance of a lifetime! Who will his roommate be? What are the rest of the commanding officers like? Let’s not tarry… it’s time to resume our ADVENTURE!

We’re picking up right where we left off, with Heiwa venturing to his room assignment.

KEY/GUIDE:
Strikethrough = cut out
Highlight = rephrase/reword/awk
Blue highlight = minor additions
DANGER RED HIGHLIGHT= massive cringe

ch4 p2 p1

*eye twitches* So much needless detail and suspense for literally the smallest thing. Heiwa discovering that his roommate is Daisuke should not take half a page.

ch4 p2 p1 changes

Ah, it’s axe time! My favorite time! Some of this dialogue also needs to be shaved down and reworked, as Heiwa and Daisuke don’t need to be saying the same thing a bajillion times. And that awful reference to Heiwa’s “jade eyes” is going in the trash heap.

ch4 p2 p1 fixed

Honestly, I could probably trim even more from the first paragraph, but this version still builds on Heiwa’s anxiety without going horrifically overboard. The dialogue is pared down, and cleaner. And let’s not mention the odds of Heiwa and Daisuke actually ending up as roommates… I took some liberties. Stranger things have happened.

Next up, we’ve got…

ch4 p2 p2

Alright, alright… there is no way that Heiwa and Daisuke would be permitted to just sit on their beds as the airship is taking off. That can’t be appropriate safety regulations in any instance.

But, along with that, there’s a myriad of other things to change! GOD, WHAT FUN!

ch4 p2 p2 changes

Trim, trim, trim, cut, cut cut, and tweak, tweak, tweak! There’s a lot of clunky wording to be reworked, and details to be changed.

Also, I’ve got a recurring issue with dialogue tags having a descriptive adverb , when a new word can just be used. So, “said excitedly” can become “crowed” or something similar, and it gets the same point across in a more effective way.

ch4 p2 p2 fixed

Ahhhhhh, much better! And boy howdy, I am going to get sick of changing the “V” in “von Schneider” to lower-case every single time it comes up, but it must be done. This is my penance.

So now, the safety regulations have been somewhat addressed, and the whole take-off process is condensed down into a more succinct passage.

For our next selection, let’s go to…

ch4 p2 p3

I’m not sure Sergeant Kahler got his point across well enough. He only said the same thing four times.

The main issue here is wordiness, per usual, so my proposed changes are…

ch4 p2 p3 changes

The last bit dwells too much on Heiwa’s thoughts on Dr. Black, just like Sergeant Kahler dwells too much on his threats in the first bit. Plus, the same issues that crop up again and again need to be fixed…

ch4 p2 p3 fixed.PNG

Much better! Shorter, sweeter, and to the point… er. I guess. Anyway, it’s shorter; that’s the main point.

Lastly…

ch4 p2 p4.PNG

What a SHOCK!!!! There’s a female commanding officer!!!! God, so progressive. Anyhow, point is, the shock needs to be toned down, because it isn’t a huge deal in a futuristic scifi epic – it should be expected, or, at the very least, not a massive, jaw-dropping stunner. It shouldn’t even be a big surprise today, honestly.

Plus, lots of other things need to be amended.

ch4 p2 p4 changes

So much to fix… exhaustion setting in… we’re in the final stretch of this chapter, now. Must. Not. Give. Up.

Here are the changes in place!

ch4 p2 p4 fixed

Daisuke’s oohing and aahing is toned down a bit, the wordiness is rephrased, and some of the other dialogue is tweaked. Also, no red highlights this time! That doesn’t mean much, though… there’s still plenty of cringe here, just on a smaller scale.

Alright, so that wraps up chapter 4! Next time, we get to officially meet Colonel Berkmann, and Heiwa attempts to make a good first impression during training. Will Colonel Berkmann have some kind words for Heiwa? Probably not, but you never know! Stay tuned next time for Wings of Fate, Chapter 5: The Colonel’s Words.

Film Review: Beatriz at Dinner (2017)

Dir: Miguel Arteta
Starring: Salma Hayek, John Lithgow, Connie Britton, Chloe Sevigny, etc.
Runtime: 1hr 23min
Rating: R
Spoiler Level: Super lite

After viewing this film, I’ll say one thing for certain; I am so glad that I was not invited to this dinner.

Beatriz_at_Dinner.jpgBeatriz at Dinner follows the titular character, an employee/massage therapist at a cancer treatment center, who ends up staying for dinner at a client’s house when her car fails to start. Beatriz attempts to navigate the evening while reflecting on her personal circumstances and how they compare and collide with the wealthy lives she is surrounded by, ultimately creating tension between her and powerful businessman Doug Strutt.

The film follows a relatively simple premise, and is buoyed by the stellar performances from the cast. Hayek is brilliant as Beatriz, the central character, and capably delivers a range of tangible emotion, from quiet, tempered despair, to deeply-rooted resentment, to cautious hope for the future. Lithgow is irritatingly good as Doug Strutt; I love Lithgow, but definitely felt that he needed a good punch in the face for this role. Britton, Sevigny, Amy Landecker, Jay Duplass, and David Warshofsky all play their parts as poised, simpering, shallow, occasionally frustrating, and yet multi-layered members of this dinner party. Each character could easily be a real person and each actor delivers a convincing and thought-provoking  performance with complexities that make it difficult to really hate any of them, with perhaps the exception of Lithgow. Everybody knows somebody like each of the dinner guests, and that is the strength of the film; it is a believable tale, with believable people and a relevant message. Even the “bad guy” isn’t just a standard corporate suit caricature; he’s got layers, like an onion. But the film is mostly carried by Hayek; the camera follows her every move, analyzes every tiny facial expression, and navigates her story, though it never really delves deep enough into her psyche to give us a clear picture of Beatriz’s motivations or the underlying reasons for her conflict with Strutt. There are clues left, and theories that can be woven together to make some semblance of an answer, but much of Beatriz’s psyche remains a mystery, even as the film draws to a close.

Since the film takes place predominately over the course of a single dinner, the pacing is a bit slow, but there is enough happening that the progression does not feel like a tedious drag. The tone is fairly balanced, and the dialogue is believable; I feel like I’ve heard people having similar conversations and discussing similar topics, but the writing did not feel tired or overdone. The tension in the film is also palpable; as the dinner drifts into different topics and controversial statements, the awkwardness and discomfort is real. There were several parts that made me squirm in my seat, as the discomfort was practically radiating from the screen. It’s a film that creates a very definitive mood, and it succeeds in it’s ability to generate a realistic atmosphere and emulate situations and characters that could very well exist in the world today, and probably do.

Unfortunately, the film’s efforts at subtlety occasionally miss the mark and fall more ham-fisted than is intended, or fly too far beneath the radar to be thoroughly detected. Overall, the film utilizes a commentary that is easily applicable to the world today and features an extremely prevalent message about society/money/greed, and for the most part, it comes across beautifully, but there are moments where the film picks up steam only to abruptly lose momentum and grow aimless. The end also left me with more questions than answers, and though I think films that stir up questions and make the viewer wonder are often a good thing, Beatriz at Dinner raises a few too many ambiguities and the conclusion comes across as “unresolved.” However, for the performances and the commentary alone, the film is definitely worth checking out, though lingering mysteries and dangling threads might leave you more frustrated than appeased. But if you’re looking for an action-based thriller with a quick pace, then this dinner party isn’t for you.

Overall rating: 8/10