Saturday, December 31, 2022

2022 Favorites

As the year winds down, I'm reflecting on the pop culture I've consumed throughout the year. Below, you'll find my lists of the favorite TV shows, movies, music, and books I've enjoyed. Unsurprisingly, this is genre heavy! None of the lists are in any particular order.

TV Shows

1. Willow (Disney+)

20 years after vanquishing the wicked queen Bavmorda, the sorcerer Willow Ufgood leads a group of misfits on a dangerous rescue mission into the unknown.

2. The Letter for the King (Netflix)

Tiuri, a teenage squire, answers a call for help that sends him on a perilous mission across the three kingdoms to deliver a secret letter to the King.

3. Andor (Disney+)

Prequel series to Star Wars' 'Rogue One'. In an era filled with danger, deception and intrigue, Cassian will embark on the path that is destined to turn him into a Rebel hero.

4. Rings of Power (Amazon Prime)

Epic drama set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien's 'The Hobbit' and 'The Lord of the Rings' follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-earth.

5. Obi-Wan Kenobi (Disney+)

Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi has to save young Leia after she is kidnapped, all the while being pursued by Imperial Inquisitors and his former Padawan, now known as Darth Vader.

Honorable mention: Motherland: Fort Salem. Couldn't leave this baby out, especially since this year's third season was the final season.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Epic Fantasy for Winter Viewing

I like winter for many reasons: snow (when I don't have to drive in it), time off to spend with family, those pine cones that smell like cinnamon, cozy blankets and sweaters, tea and cookies, beautiful decorations. I could go on and on. But one thing I especially love about winter is that I associate it with fantasy stories, whether epic or simply high or other-world fantasy. I'm not really sure why. I think it's because fantasy is my favorite genre and therefore it feels cozy to me, and winter is the season for coziness.

In that vein, here are some suggestions for epic fantasy movies and TV shows to watch this winter.

The Letter for the King
This TV show is from 2020 and is on Netflix. My friend Meredith recommended it to me ages ago, but I only just got to it and finished it. I'm glad I did! The series follows Tiuri, a teenage squire who's trying to follow in his adoptive father's footsteps. On the night he and his fellow squires are going through the trial to become knights, he breaks the silence by answering a knock at the chapel door. Answering the door leads him to a dying knight, who gives him a letter for the king across the mountains. By accepting the letter, he begins a journey that will have change both his world and himself.

Amir Wilson, who plays Tiuri, is absolutely endearing, and I loved watching his character grow. Thaddea Graham, Islam Bouakkaz, Jonah Lees, Jack Barton, and Nathanael Saleh play his fellow squires. All of them are interesting and have satisfying character arcs (although I disagreed with how one of their stories ended). Ruby Ashbourne Serkis has a standout role as Lavinia, a brash and hotheaded girl who joins Tiuri's quest mostly to run away. Their different personalities play off each other really well. 

There's lots to love here! The story feels very Arthurian inspired, and it's set in a world where chivalry matters. In epic fantasy fashion, there are multiple kingdoms, a war going on, and political aspects at play, which is why delivering the letter to the king is so vital. Each episode introduces new things about the world, which ultimately feels familiar in a comforting way.

I will say that I didn't find myself fully invested until the third episode, and it's only six episodes total. Once I was invested, though, I was really invested and finished the show in a couple days. Unfortunately, it's been two years since Netflix released this, and since Netflix likes to cancel things or let them languish instead of investing in them, it seems like this won't get a second season. However! It's based on a book series by Tonke Dragt, and I absolutely plan to check it out.

Sunday, December 4, 2022

The Dew Review: Part 1

I can't remember exactly how it started, but there's a running joke in my Dungeons & Dragons group that I love Mountain Dew (also known as MTN DEW). And, as I tend to do, I leaned into the joke. For a while now, it's been my Quest to try every flavor of Mountain Dew out there. This is my mountain to climb.

If you're unaware, Mountain Dew comes out with a truly astounding amount of flavors. I swear it seems like I find a new one every time I go into the grocery store. Recently, I found the flavor...Fruit Quake

That's right--Mountain Dew with "fruitcake flavor." Let's dive in.

Color: As you can tell by the photo to the left, the Fruit Quake flavor is red, but not quite as red as the Code Red flavor. 

Smell: Mountain Dew Fruit Quake has a fruity, spicy smell. I don't know how to describe it better than that. There is some fruit, and there is some spice!

Taste: Unsurprisingly, this tastes like...fruit-punchy Mountain Dew along with a sprinkling of spices. Although I'm not great at identifying flavors (lol), the closest I can think of is the spice is nutmeggy, sort of like an apple pie. Basically, it tastes like stepping into a Christmas store. Make of that what you will!

Verdict: Better than I expected! I had had dinner right beforehand because I assumed being full wouldn't bother me and I wouldn't want to drink much. However, I found myself sipping this quite a bit during our D&D session. I'm not sure I'd finish an entire bottle, but...I give MTN DEW FRUIT QUAKE a solid 6 out of 10!

I never actually promised I'm a good food/drink critic! But maybe you'll stick around for part 2, whenever it comes. :)

Monday, October 24, 2022

NEWS: Anthology Kickstarter


Tales of Monstrosity: Monsters, Myths, and Miscreants

An anthology of urban fantasy and horror stories about lesser known monsters of lore told with a creative twist.

I have a story in this upcoming anthology from Cabbit Crossing Publishing, and the Kickstarter is now LIVE! Check it out! There's even a reward where I'll edit one of your short stories (up to 5,000 words). 

The Kickstarter will be live until November 23rd. Help us reach our goal and get this book out into the world!



Thursday, August 18, 2022

NEW PROJECT: A Matter of Perspective, a D&D Adventure

I did something new in July! I took an online class about writing an RPG adventure through the Storytelling Collective and then took a stab at actually writing an adventure. The fruits of my labor (which took a little longer than a month thanks to a planned vacation and an unplanned bout of illness) is a one-shot adventure called A Matter of Perspective

In a sleepy countryside village, a commoner asks an adventuring party for help in finding his son, who’s been taken by “the witch on the hill," a dragonborn sorceress who keeps to herself. As your adventurers brave the obstacles put in place by the sorceress both on the way to her house and inside, the story--and the supposed rescue mission--grow more complicated.

A one-shot adventure for a party of level 5-6.

If you're interested in my process or want to hear more about the adventure I wrote, get in touch! I'm happy to discuss it. Since I started playing tabletop role-playing games a few years ago, I've noticed they've opened up my creativity and rejuvenated my love for the fantasy genre. I'm hoping to branch out from novels and short stories into games more, starting with small projects like this adventure, and one of my long-term goals is to write my own campaign setting.

 Find A Matter of Perspective on DM's Guild by clicking the button below.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Giveaway Time!

Since my birthday is coming up, I wanted to spread the love a little bit. I'm giving away one paperback copy of each of my books! Enter below!

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

BOOK REVIEW: In Blood and Duty Bound

Erin Bales and I attended the same grad program, although we weren’t in the same cohort. However, Erin was in my very first workshop, where I got to read ten early pages of this manuscript. I don’t even remember what the pages were about, but I know I liked them a lot. What I do remember is telling her that I trusted her as a writer, and that still holds true. Throughout the read, I wasn’t always sure where plotlines were going, but I was happy to be along for the ride.

In Blood and Duty Bound features multiple points of view and storylines. Renn, one of the main characters, is the youngest princess in the Morovide royal family and the fourth in line for the throne of Ombratos behind her mother and her three older sisters. She’s overlooked by her mother, the queen, and in love with Dallan, who’s engaged to her oldest sister, Solena. We spend a bit of time seeing Renn’s typical life before the plot kicks in and she’s tested as a princess and as an individual.

Parneo, her twin, is gifted in alchemy, which is the world’s main magic system and based on blood. The Morovides are literally bound to the Ombratos throne via their blood. Healing charms and the like are activated with a drop of blood accompanied by an incantation. Like all the other male twins in his family line, Parneo, because of his talent with alchemy, is prone to the madness that tends to accompany it. This plays a minor part in the story with some major implications.

Getha, my favorite main character, is a royal guard training for the varo, the elite force who protect the members of the royal family. She’s a very straightforward person with tunnel vision toward her goal. It’s always interesting to me when characters like this are forced to pivot when something unexpected demands their attention. Since this is the first book in a series, I’m very much looking forward to how she develops as a character.

Helenia provides the third main point of view and easily the most morally questionable and interesting. While Renn and Getha are youngish and idealistic, Helenia has more experience with life, specifically its disappointments. Dallan’s aunt, she’s from the island nation of Tithen, which has a revolutionary history. Especially intriguing is her relationship with Mayve, her sister-in-law and former wife of the ruler of Tithen.

Which brings me to two of the things I find most effective and refreshing about In Blood and Duty Bound—its female characters and their relationships with each other and with other people. Until we get to a point in the fantasy genre where having a majority female cast is as normal as having a majority male cast, I think it’s worth drawing attention to that. Renn, Getha, and Helenia are all complex people with clear motives, strengths, and flaws, and their relationships shape who they are and affect their actions. The book is at its strongest when Getha and Renn are together. In the interest of not spoiling anything, all I’ll say is that I look forward to seeing where the story takes them.

Like many epic fantasies (including my own!), there’s some pretty intense world-building in the first hundred or so pages. Consequently, I found the book a little slow to start, but I find a lot of books slow to start, so take from that what you will! That said, the world-building pays off, and the intertwining of all the storylines near the end is satisfying.

Ultimately, this has a ton of what I like to see in the genre and some surprises to boot. I’d recommend this for any reader who likes fantasy, especially epic fantasy, and for readers who enjoy books with female main characters. This was one of my favorite reads of the year so far, and I’m very much looking forward to the second book in The Final Queen of Ombratos series.