The Soundtrack of your Life

Music is a powerful thing. It excites, calms, energizes, and acts as a fortune teller?

Recently, my inner soundtrack has been trying to tell me things. Not creepy, emotional vampire earworm kind of things, but more like a secret codes to my inner psyche. On days I’m feeling confident and optimistic I might get Katy Perry’s “Roar” or Colbie Callat’s “Try.”

On days where things aren’t going so, hot I might get P!nk’s “True Love” where it talks about how much she wants to throttle her significant other.

Occasionally I’ll get a touch of classical. Does it mean I’m feeling refined? Absolutely not.
Photo by Stefany Andrade on Unsplash

So, there are these parties I don’t want to be at

These last two months have ushered me through a whole lot of experiences that I wouldn’t personally choose. Nothing bad, but not my thing. I’m not super social by nature, as navigating the whole social thing tends to be exhausting. This is the text book definition of being an introvert, by the way. We don’t mind being in public or with people, but we find it tiring and need time to rest and recover before doing it again.

This was the song that played endlessly in my head for six weeks:

I’m at a party I don’t wanna be at
And I don’t ever wear a suit and tie
Wonderin’ if I could sneak out the back
Nobody’s even lookin’ me in my eyes
Then you take my hand
Finish my drink, say, “Shall we dance?” Hell, yeah
You know I love you, did I ever tell you?
You make it better like that

Don’t think I fit in at this party
Everyone’s got so much to say, yeah
I always feel like I’m nobody, mm
Who wants to fit in anyway?

“I Don’t Care” by Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber

The first time I stopped to think about why this song might be stuck in my head I didn’t get past the first phrase. “I’m at a party I don’t want to be at.” Most of these social events were formal parties, with dresses and shirt and tie. Unlike any other party, layered on top of being required to socialize with people you don’t really know yet, there’s that added awkwardness of wearing clothes that aren’t terribly comfortable, heels, and makeup. Ick.

So yeah. It was a party I didn’t want to be at.

Chic, lovely, and really not my thing.
Photo by Alasdair Elmes on Unsplash

But, there’s hope!

But then I read down further into the song and saw that there’s this cute moment where the person who doesn’t want to be at the party finally hooks up with their girlfriend and they dance and have a good time.

My dearest hubby makes these events worth going to. Even when he’s super busy with whatever responsibility he’s been shackled with, he makes a point to be sure I’m having a good time. [Thank you sweetie, you’re the best.]

The other song I’ve had stuck in my head is “Sweet, but Psycho.” Fellow authors will understand. Sometimes the stuff that goes through our heads for a story are a little out there.

What was the last song you had stuck in your head? What do you think it says about you?


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Book Review: The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith

I found this book by happy accident. Namely, my book club thought it looked cool, and I love their discussions so much that I am compelled to read their picks. I won’t lie, most of the book reviews from the past year resulted from my book club. You guys rock.

The Story:

Claire is the librarian for The Library of the Unwritten, Hell’s own library for stories that were never completed by their authors. Most of these stories sleep quietly, but occasionally, their characters get anxious and try to escape. On one such escape, a Hero seeks out his author with the intent of inspiring her to finish writing his story, something that is totally against the rules. During his retrieval from the mortal world things go horribly wrong. The angels believe that Claire has the text of the Devil’s bible, a powerful weapon meant to upset the balance between Heaven and Hell. They will do anything to stop her from finding it’s pages.

My Review:

If you’ve read any of my other reviews, you’ll know that I have a weakness for excellent writing. The Library of the Unwritten is one of those books where the reader is continually delighted by a clever turn of phrase or an exceptional description. The most remarkable part of this book is the concepts engineered to make the worlds work together and the elaborate otherness of it all.

The Library itself is such a cool concept. Imagine, you think of a story and perhaps start to jot it down. As you work and think, the people and things in the story take on form and begin to live. What happens when the story is abandoned? Where do those characters go when the end of their tale isn’t written? In this essence, the library is a purgatory for books and everything they contain. They are stuck in limbo and hold all the potential their story has to offer, waiting for the author to pick up the pen once more. For those stories who’s authors have died, the characters who are restless and won’t stay in their books are allowed to live out the eternities in the Damsel suite, a protected place where they can learn and grow however they choose.

Claire is a compelling and complex character who is fairly snarky and has the wherewithal to dish it out. Her accompanying cast are a circus act blend of characters that include fallen angels, demons, a muse, and the people who spring from the unwritten stories.

As for the story itself, I was hooked right from the start. The idea that there was this librarian who curated unwritten books alone was so interesting that for the first third of the book I simply had to read more to see how all the different ideas were woven together. Don’t get me wrong, the story was interesting, but I think I read more because I was amazed at the creativity of it all – and the excellent writing. I did get a little tired near the two thirds mark, which might have been because I couldn’t relate to the stakes, or that my head cold muddled my brain, not sure which. However, the thrilling conclusion tied everything back together in a pyrotechnic fueled extravaganza that left this reader satisfied.

Recommendations:

This one is tough to place. It’s not a traditional fantasy and skirts into the realm of magical realism. The publisher categorizes it into humorous fantasy, and it was funny at times, but for me that doesn’t fit as well. Is there an existential fantasy category?

I’d recommend this for those who love excellent world and concept building that keeps the reader surprised, you’ll find plenty of it here. Also, for those creatives out there, this is a love letter to inspiration and where it lives when you are off doing other things. Authors especially will enjoy this book because of the many, many references to how we treat our characters, and how they might treat us in return.

However, for those who have issues with the ideology of Heaven and Hell, or of demons interacting with humans, this book will be a problem. There’s some straight up blasphemy in here, creatively used, of course.

I give The Library of the Unwritten a solid 4/5 stars.

Buy your copy here!


Hey, you look like someone who loves a really good read. I’ve got a little something for you. Consider it a tiny gift from me. “Breath” is a short story about Fauna, the original elemental guardian of souls and her journey to take part in the secret her charges possess.

Get your free copy here!


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Valentine's Gifts for the Author in your Life

All hail the corporate money grab that is Valentine’s Day!

Don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of Valentine’s Day. I love spending time thinking of something special to give to a significant other, or figuring out ways of showing appreciation. Having a day for this is a great reminder of something we should be doing all the time.

If your someone special happens to be an author, here are five thoughtful and fairly inexpensive gift ideas of things they will love.

Writing Gloves

Sitting still and working at a computer for hours on end often means cold hands and feet. These cute writing gloves add an extra layer of warmth and charm. Choose from several different writing samples. I have the Pride and Prejudice set and may or may not have my eyes on the Little Prince set.

Digital Recorder

Yes, I know that a phone can do it. But, even with the best of intentions, a phone can be very distracting and unsafe to use while driving. A digital recording device eliminates all the guess work and in most cases it’s as easy as 1) push the easy-to-find button and 2) start talking. I don’t have one of these yet, but I have my eye on this one:

Distraction free writing keyboard

I’ll admit, this is one of my favorite little toys because it’s fun and easy to use. You can bring it anywhere, the battery lasts for months, and it’s easy to transfer text to a computer. I’ve used mine for taking notes at conferences, writing chapters for NaNoWriMo, and drafting blog posts on the go. Note, this particular model is pretty old school and the listings you will find will be refurbished items.

Snarky Writing Themed T-shirt

Every writer needs at least one funny writing t-shirt. I have two. One reads “Hyperbole: the best thing ever” and the other “Authors, always making a scene.” There are hundreds to choose from, but here are a few I found especially amusing:

Book inspired chocolates and treats

Treats and writing go hand-in-hand. A thoughtful gift could simply be a collection of the goodies the author in your life enjoys. I love Jelly Belly jelly beans, sugar wafers, and cheetos. But, if you want to ramp it up a notch, here are a few other awesome options:

If all else fails …

If you’re still stuck, there’s always a gift card. I know for certain that your author has a stack of books on their “I really want this” list. A gift card lets them pick the perfect one that they want right in the moment, or wait until their next favorite juicy title comes out.


I hope these ideas were helpful for you! If you have any other amazing gift ideas, please share them in the comments. I’m always looking for cool new things to try.


Thank you dear reader for stopping by! If you’d like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links.

Jodi L Milner is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Confession: I did not watch the 2020 Oscars

This isn’t a political statement, I’m not claiming wrongdoing from any side. If anything, this year’s Academy Awards had lots going for it. I just wasn’t one of the lots. In past years, the bleak months leading up to the Oscars are the perfect time to watch as many of the nominated movies as hubby and I are interested in. This year we managed to watch a handful of the nominees, by accident.

Cue drumroll. The ones we ended up seeing were Lion King (2019), Frozen II, How to Train your Dragon: The Hidden World, Klaus, Avengers: Endgame, and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Notice a theme here? We’re all about family friendly movies.

Watching the Oscars when you haven’t seen any of the best picture nominations is like watching the Superbowl when you haven’t seen any of the playoffs. There isn’t that emotional intensity of understanding the struggle. You don’t have any idea how hard people worked to get nominated. You simply don’t know enough of the story to know who to root for.

Add to that what’s been an insanity making busy schedule with large events every weekend for what feels like months, for us it wasn’t worth it. We taught the kids how to play poker instead.

Here’s three cheers to those who missed it, you are in good company. As for me, I plan on watching the following nominees/award winners over the course of the coming year:

  • Parasite
  • Jojo Rabbit
  • Toy Story 4
  • Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
  • Knives Out

Let me know if there’s an amazing movie that needs to be added to my list and why you liked it!

Psst! Klaus was one of my personal favorites this year, charming all around – and on Netflix. Go see it!

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The 100 decisions we make everyday

Hello busy, busy people. I’m glad you made the decision to come hang out with me on my blog today! I’d like to present you with a hypothetical situation. Let’s pretend that you only have 100 decisions you can make everyday. Once you reach 100, you are unable to accomplish do anything else without it being tiring.

You might think that sounds pretty easy. There’s no way you make that many decisions in a day. But, the truth might surprise you. Here are ten decisions that might come up before you even eat breakfast.

  • Should I sleep in?
  • What clothes should I wear?
  • Which shoes should I wear?
  • Do my pajamas need to go in the wash?
  • What do I want to watch/listen to as I get ready?
  • Is today a flossing sort of day?
  • Do I need to make the bed?
  • Is today the day the bathroom needs cleaning?
  • Should I start a load of laundry?
  • Should I check my email?

Anyone feeling a little frantic just reading that list? That, dearest reader, is what we call decision fatigue.

Just looking at this gives me a bit of anxiety.
Photo by Victoriano Izquierdo on Unsplash

My personal journey with decision fatigue

For me, decision fatigue strikes fast and furious and I can clearly feel when I’ve hit the wall and don’t want to have to think any more. Going to a store or to an event is exhausting because there are so many decisions to be considered. Everything from what to wear, to what to talk about with the people I’m with, to what to buy, to what to order, to where to sit, to which class to attend, all stacks up into a huge decision overload.

And just like a pegged out computer, I start processing slower, start lagging and glitching, start making mistakes, and every so often hit the blue screen of death. At this point I either have to call it quits, or hit the reset button and restart.

Having kids hasn’t helped. Take the normal number of decisions you believe to be healthy. If 100 borders on overload, then I’d say around 80 is a safe number. That breaks down to around five decisions per waking hour. Multiply that hourly rate for each kid plus one and you get the decision rate per hour when you’re taking care of kids. For me that number is four (three kids plus me) so when the kids are home from school, I burn through 20 decisions an hour.

Yeah. If I look a little frazzled at the end of the day, that’s why.

No mom, my office doesn’t look like this. Yet.
Photo by Brandon Lopez on Unsplash

Creative decisions don’t carry the same weight

Now, if you are a creative person, there is a whole different batch of decisions that have to be made. For me, I have to decide what my characters are doing, how they are doing it, how they feel about it, where they are, what that looks like, and if there is any external influences, like weather to consider.

Luckily, not all decisions carry the same weight. I enjoy creative decision making so I can run through hundreds of these micro decisions and not feel the strain for hours. But, eventually those story decisions start taking their toll and I hit the wall. Working past that point usually results in bad decision making and it’s best to call it for the day.

Strategies for reducing decision fatigue

Never fear! There is hope out there. There are a few things you can do to reduce the amount of decisions that need to be made on a daily basis. This will free up space for all those creative decisions that you want to be making on whatever project you are working on.

Steve Jobs is famous for always wearing the same outfit. He never has to stop and think what he wants to wear and that frees up head space for the things he wants to think about. There are hundreds of professionals who do the same thing, for the same reason.

Some people eat the same breakfast and lunch everyday. Some create routines around the mundane stuff in their life so they can put it on auto pilot and not have to think about it. Some people buy the same brands for everything they use on a daily basis. Once you realize how much energy you spend on things that don’t really matter, you might want to consider automating the boring stuff in your life as well.

For me, I tend to wear the same thing when I don’t have anywhere to go. It’s usually a t-shirt and leggings. I do like choosing my t-shirts because it brings me joy. I have the same breakfast and same general morning routine. When I’m in the zone, I can whip through my to do list fairly quickly and leave time for all the things I want to do.

What do you do to reduce decision fatigue in your life? Let’s talk about it!


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Does The Lion King 2019 flirt with the Uncanny Valley?

Let me start out by saying that as a teen, I was obsessed with the 1994 Lion King. Everything thing about it was amazing. In fact, one of the very first CDs I ever bought was the Lion King soundtrack. It’s one of those movies I watched enough times that I can still quote the whole thing.

That said, I was not thrilled that they chose to do a live action version. The 1994 Lion King became a huge part of 90s pop culture. There is so much to live up to that if they fell short anywhere, they would disappoint millions. Including me. I’m a pretty tough customer.

Simba and Zazu (voiced by none other than the ever-amusing John Oliver)

Why we might have an uncanny valley problem

The uncanny valley is a phenomenon found when we try to recreate realistic humans artificially. We usually see this in CGI movies and robots. The idea is that the closer you get to recreating a lifelike human, the creepier it is until you nail it perfectly.

I’ve blogged about this before when I talked about the train wreck that is the live action Grinch movie (which is a super amusing post, if I say so myself) and again when I discuss the concept of the uncanny valley over on my writing blog. That post is far more academic and has graphs. Fascinating stuff.

With animals, the creepiness factor is different, but there is still a general unease when something is off. Finding Nemo cartoonized the characters to be cute and expressive and it totally worked. This new Lion King made the animals photo perfect. In fact, they used live action shots with real animals as much as possible, only adding in the mouth movements when they needed to talk.

For me, this flirted with the uncanny valley. Real animals don’t talk and it’s weird to see them do so in a way that’s super realistic.

Don’t get me wrong, the execution is flawless. The 2019 movie is still a beautiful story of loss and redemption. The music is still the breathtaking tracks from the original movie and has only been adapted slightly to fit this film. And because I loved the first one so much, I started disliking the new one because of the differences and limitations of using live action with CGI.

The Lion King is an emotional story. The characters need to be able to express those feelings. In a cartoon, the animator can exaggerate the facial expressions so that it’s clear what the characters are feeling. In live action using animals we lose all of that and have to infer what they might be feeling using context and body language only. This took away from the experience.

Scrawny Scar and his band of hyenas, ready to drop a hit single

Other significant changes

There were also a few updates to make the movie more politically correct, like removing the Nazi-like imagery from Scar’s big musical number “Be Prepared” and actually having Rafiki speak in Xhosa instead of whatever nonsense words he uses in the 1994 version. I agree with these changes as it shows sensitivity to today’s audience.

But there were also a few script adaptations where key scenes were either shortened, lengthened, or removed. That insightful part where Rafiki smacks Simba in the head and then says he shouldn’t worry about it because it’s in the past – gone. The funny bit where Timon is confused about how Nala wants to eat Pumba while still being friends with Simba – gone.

That lovely five-second bit where Simba flops down and sends a swirl of seeds into the air which Rafiki then finds? They turned that into a three-minute montage where we follow a tuft of lion hair that at one point gets eaten by a giraffe, gets pooped out, and then is transported by dung beetle. Really guys?

Also, the casting. While they kept James Earl Jones as Mufasa, which was an essential choice, they didn’t keep my personal favorite casting, Jeremy Irons as Scar. I get that this might have been a move to make the cast more appropriate for a story set in Africa – but Jeremy Irons performance was amazing and I missed it.

Mufasa! Oooh, that gives me chills. Say it again.

Summing up

I wanted to love the new Lion King like I loved the old one. The story was there, the magnitude of the African landscape was stunning, the voice performances were on point. But, it didn’t hold up to the original. Instead of enjoying it, I kept trying to figure out what they changed and why it felt different. For new audiences, like my kids, this will be their Lion King and they might come to love it like I loved the original.

What are your thoughts? Have you seen it?


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Life is too Short for White Socks

Most days I work from home which means no one outside of my family sees me. My dress code is understandably casual and tends to be a comfortable legging paired with a cute or snarky t-shirt. From a distance, it would be hard to distinguish me from a high school student. Mom, you tried, you really did. If it makes you feel better, I do wear tinted lip balm and mascara in public. When I remember…

If I had my way, I’d never wear socks at all. I’m one of those barefoot mamas and rarely wear shoes inside the home. But, in the winter the floors get cold, and because I spent lots of hours sitting in a basement, my feet get cold too. I’ll usually pull on a pair before descending into my basement writing cave.

The other day, I grabbed a pair without thinking about it. Later in the day I looked down and realized the socks I’d chosen were a pair of plain white ones that had gone grey on the bottoms from use and lost most of their elastic. Ew. I didn’t even know I had a pair of white ones. Seeing these sad worn grey socks made me a little sad too. Fun socks are such a little thing, but they bring a spark of joy.

I recently acquired a pair with happy foxes running around on them. Do they make me happy? Yes, yes they do.

So if you spot me in the wild, check out my socks. And, next time you buy new socks, be sure to find some that make you smile.

Because…

Life is too short for white socks.

Tell me about your favorite pair of socks!


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TV Review: The Witcher, Season 1

It’s no secret that I have a thing for the Witcher Series, so when they released the Netflix series this Christmas, it was like a special gift just for me. I’ll make it very clear for those wondering, I haven’t actually played the games. (I know, right? They’re amazing and I’m missing out. Should I ever find myself with a grundle of free time, I know what I’m doing.)

**Disclaimer** Although I’m a YA fantasy writer, the Witcher is NOT YA appropriate by any stretch of the imagination. This review does not endorse any of the Witcher media by any means for anyone under the age of 18. It’s solidly in the same sensational vein as Game of Thrones with it’s use of graphic violence, explicit content, and language.

That said, it’s a personal favorite universe of mine, so I’m going to review it anyway.

Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia

The story:

The main character, Geralt of Rivia, is a witcher, a mutant human who has been created and specially trained to kill monsters. He has faster reflexes, better vision, and faster healing than a normal man. Because he is different, people hate him and he is treated poorly. Throughout season one, we see him take jobs to deal with monster problems and learn that although he’s really tough, he’s got a good heart and is making the best with what fate has given him.

We then jump to the next storyline which follows Cirilla Fiona Elen Riannon, better known as Ciri, the Cintran Princess. Hers is a story of survival. Her parents were killed when she was young and she was raised by her war loving grandmother, Queen Calanthe. When Cintra is attacked by Nilfgaard, Ciri flees the city and must find a way to stay alive while Nilfgaardian soldiers hunt her.

Then, there’s the much older story of Yennefer of Vengerberg, a powerful sorceress. Throughout season one, we see her journey from unwanted little girl to her coming into the fullness of her power. Sorceresses live much longer than normal people so her story starts much further in the past than the others. In this universe, sorceresses secretly, and often not so secretly, control governments and keep the kings and queens under their thumbs.

Within each episode we follow these three characters in three different time periods. As the season moves forward, these time periods come closer and eventually connect, but until then it’s hard to keep things straight. This happened because the source material is Sapkowski’s books and the majority of season one was pulled from his two books, The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny, which are both collections of short stories.

Politics play a huge role in the witcher universe. Everything revolves around who has power, and who wants power. The sorcerers and sorceresses fight to maintain the peace between countries, using magical means if they must. When things go wrong and people get cursed, or when wars break out and the monsters who feed on death appear, that’s where Geralt comes in. Despite his best intentions, he gets pulled into the politics of the world as those contending for thrones and power try to use him to reach their goals.

Freya Allan as Ciri

My review

I’m not sure if reading the books made watching the series easier or harder to enjoy. I’d already formed ideas about what the different characters were like and knew which ones I wanted to root for. To be fair, the series did an amazing job casting the characters. As for the chopped up timeline, I think having read the books made it harder. The jumps back and forth were far more obvious and I was constantly trying to figure out if they skipped a part I remembered or changed it for the series.

That said, it did make things less predictable and I liked that.

Let’s talk Henry Cavill for a moment, shall we? Casting him as Geralt of Rivia at first worried me because Henry is far too pretty. Part of Geralt’s charm is that he’s got all these scars, each with a compelling story behind it. While I can see the potential for the series to start adding these scars with each season, I really wanted to see Geralt’s distinct facial scar that was a big part of his character in the games.

They also made Geralt more of a jock hero and pulled back when they could have shown how his character is not only well read, but is one of the best skilled witchers when it comes to reversing curses. Maybe this will show up later, but it feels like they dumbed him down, which I don’t like.

Did I like the show? Absolutely. Was it a good show? It had it’s challenges, but in all it delivered on what it promised. The costuming, sets, dialogue, and fight choreography were all excellent.

Almost forgot to mention Dandelion! Because despite everything, Geralt really needs a friend.

Recommendations

I’ll repeat myself here, The Witcher is not for kids. If you love a fantasy story that’s more complicated and doesn’t shy back from the uglier sides of life, you’ll probably like it. All of you who loved Game of Thrones, this will scratch that itch as well, with the added benefit that there is less gratuitous violence. The characters are compelling and complicated and the different stories interesting and unpredictable.

For sensitive viewers, proceed with caution. While the violence is justified, they do not shy back from showing some pretty gnarly wounds and death. They also have a tendency to jump cut to fairly intimate scenes without warning, which is jarring at times. Geralt has a favorite swear word that he uses enough that if you don’t like it, you might not like him.

I give Netflix’s The Witcher, season one 4/5 stars


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Finding answers in silence

We’re all busy

Who believes they have way too much to do and not enough time to do it? Raise your hands. Yep, even you all in the back of the room multitasking as we speak. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

If you ask anyone what they are doing, regardless of what they say, the gist is that they are busy. If they aren’t busy, then they are really busy, and, if you’re lucky, you’ll find someone who is truly experiencing that life-swallowing sensation of being extremely busy.

I get it. There’s a lot to do. Like A LOT. Some of it is necessary to survive, like earning a living enough to keep the heat on and food in the fridge. Some of it is important, like making sure clothes are clean and some of that food is actually good for you.

Then there’s the stuff that’s actually not important, but we’ve assigned importance to it. You know where I’m going with this. Things like compulsively checking social media and trying to get lots of likes on that cat picture you posted. You know the one.

Now this is the kind of silence I’d love. Anyone have a boat I could borrow? Or a lake? Photo by Daniele Levis Pelusi on Unsplash

Taking a necessary break

For the last five weeks I’ve stepped way back on my social media posting because of one really terrific reason, my kiddos were home. Year-round school has a handful of benefits, most of which stem from reducing the number of kids in already overcrowded classrooms. Allowing mom to run her authoring business isn’t one of them. Something had to give.

In the past, I’d fight to keep the same posting schedule in addition to all the other authory things that needed to get done. It always resulted in frustration and anxiety. This time, I let it slide. While I enjoy interacting with strangers and the practice can be helpful to help people find my books, in terms of effective marketing and producing more books, it falls last on my priority list. When the kids are home they are my first priority. After that comes all the other stuff, like staying on top of deadlines and making progress on my new books entering the world this year.

The funny thing about social media is that it’s an all consuming affair. Trying to stay current with everything means you have to check it constantly. The urge to scroll for another few minutes, to post, to interact, to like, to be liked, and so on – can eat you alive. It even sneaks into bed with you as ideas for posts creep into your thoughts as you drift asleep. The energy and time this requires can’t be measured – except that you get less done during the day and can’t figure out why.

Be still and let deeper thoughts flow through you like a breeze, you might be surprised what you find. Photo by Samuel Austin on Unsplash

Lessons from the silence

What did I learn? For starters, no one really missed me. My noise was just more noise in an already noisy place. My followings and numbers and all those statistics that geeky folks like me like to track didn’t change or plummet. The world didn’t end.

What did happen surprised me. In the quiet space left in the wake of stepping away from social media, I had the freedom to consider if all that posting was doing me any good in the long run. My normal posts had no goal other than interacting. It often felt like talking into a void and hoping to be heard. In my hurry to make noise, I missed a huge piece of the puzzle – creating a way to continue the conversation once I found someone who wanted to listen.

My goal is to find like-minded readers who love the same things I love and more importantly, keep them happy and supply them with more stories and books that they will enjoy. Now, my efforts are refocused to help those readers find me. What that means is that I will be sharing more of my shorter fiction to more people – including you, dear readers.

I will have to return to the noise of social media, it’s inevitable. But, now I feel like there is an end goal in sight and a plan in place. I’m no longer making noise, I’m seeking connections.

A whole post about Silence and not one mention of this guy? This must be remedied. By the way, does anyone know why are there tally marks on my arm?

What will you find in the silence?

Have you ever dared to step away and see what happens?


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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, a Romeo and Juliet story?

Two households, both alike in dignity, In the Galaxy, where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.

I couldn’t help it. With the whole ending sequence the way it turned out to be I had to explore this idea that Rise of the Skywalker might be, in fact, a retelling of Romeo and Juliet. Star Wars is space fantasy at it’s most dramatic, so it totally fits here on my blog.

I’ll say this early on, this time I will be sharing spoilers so read at your own risk.

The obvious parallels

There are two forces in Star Wars, the way of the Jedi and the Dark side. As a generality, the Dark side has teamed up with the first order and has been a controlling force behind all their goals of expansion and dominion. The Jedi have always sided with the Rebellion, trying to keep a balance in the Galaxy and to shield innocent planets against unfair rule and taxation.

Montagues and Capulets = Palpatines and Skywalkers

In Rise of Skywalker, these two forces are embodied in two characters, who are the last surviving members of two powerful households and also the last reservoirs of power for both the Dark side and the Jedi. In the course of this movie, Rey learns that she is in fact a Palpatine. Kylo Ren is the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa – who as we remember was Luke Skywalker’s sister, making Kylo a Skywalker.

Let’s not forget a vital piece of information. Emperor Palpatine (despite being apparently vaporized during Return of the Jedi) wasn’t, in fact, dead. He’s still powerful and is still calling the shots behind the scenes in the First Order. He is the Montague. As the head of the more powerful house, he is irritated that the lesser house of Skywalker is alive and causing problems.

Kylo and Rey are compelled to be together

If there is to be a true comparison to Romeo and Juliet, there has to be some form of doomed relationship. Enter Kylo and Rey. If you classify obsession as a form of romance, then yes, Kylo is obsessed with Rey. He’s so obsessed, that he can form a force-fueled connection to her where they can interact with each other. Rey feels the connection to him as well but she fears what it means. This doesn’t stop her from ultimately going off on her own to face him.

Can we talk about the death scene?

The thing that makes Romeo and Juliet memorable and tragic is in the climax where a misunderstanding leads to the death of both of them. In the end of Rise of Skywalker, we see something achingly similar. Emperor Palpatine, now a stick puppet of his former self, wants to convert Kylo and Rey to the dark side and continue on his legacy. Throughout his life, he’s tried multiple times to get whoever has the strongest power in the force to strike him down and complete their journey to the dark side. Here it’s no different.

Rey faces him and refuses to strike him down. Knowing that she will never bend, regardless of what he does, he changes tactics like he did with Luke in Return of the Jedi and instead tries to kill her. This results in him gaining some of her power and making it possible for him to regain his former glory without dying. Kylo rushes in, fights briefly and bravely, and is swiftly dispatched off the side of a cliff and is presumed dead.

Here’s where our Romeo and Juliet bit comes in. Rey, believing Kylo is dead, knows she must destroy the Emperor and enters into an epic dual with him. With both Skywalker lightsabers, she deflects his lightning and manages to kill both him and herself in the process.

But alas! Kylo survives the fall and returns to the scene too late. Rey is gone. In the same vein as Romeo and Juliet, he tries to reverse the effects of Palpatine’s lightning damage by infusing her with his own force. This is the equivalent of taking the same poison. He is successful in bringing her back and they share a lovely brief moment, before he dies – finally finding redemption.

The rest of the story

While the elements listed above mirror Romeo and Juliet well, the rest of the story most certainly does not. The Rise of Skywalker had a big job to do. There were so many storylines that needed to find a sense of completion that this movie was destined to be complicated. Here’s a list:

  • Defeat Emperor Palpatine, the power behind the first order
  • Resolve the conflict between Kylo and Rey
  • Restore balance to the force
  • Give Luke a chance to redeem himself for becoming a bitter hermit in Last Jedi
  • Show all our favorite characters getting what they deserve.
  • Give Kylo a chance to be forgiven for the pain he caused his parents
  • Restore Rey’s lineage and missing past
  • Have one last epic space battle to end them all
  • Let us say one last goodbye to Leia

Did I miss any? Yea, probably. Like I said, it’s complicated and lots of these resolution points involve dead people. But, they did a brilliant job in weaving all this together without needing a single senate or lengthy (boring) council scene. Kudos to JJ Abrams and his team for making a brilliant end to a powerful story.

As for you dear readers – What did you think about the movie? What parts stood out to you as especially well done or interesting?


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