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Book Recommendation Monday

Posted on January 20, 2020 at 7:00 PM

I like a good fluff historical book that touches on many things. And this one fits the bill. It follows queens including Arsinoe (Cleopatra's sister) to Princess Di and how society/political enemies ruined them.

Book Recommendation Monday: Exit, Pursued by a Bear

Posted on January 13, 2020 at 7:00 PM


Want to be depressed for a few hundred pages? The story of a teenager drugged and raped at cheerleading camp. The rest follows her dealing with the trauma throughout her senior year and how cheerleading keeps her grounded.

Video Game Recommendation Monday

Posted on January 6, 2020 at 7:00 PM

Games one and three are good too (we don't talk about Andromeda), but I love Mass Effect 2. The opening scene is the best I think I have ever played. The main character DIES. The rest of the game takes place two years later after a shady space corporation brings you back to life and your subsequent space adventures — Commander Shepard for life!

TV Show Recommendation: The Witcher

Posted on December 30, 2019 at 7:00 PM

So I went into this show thinking I'd dislike it but was willing to try. The first game is eh. I like plot-driven games, and The Witcher was more meandering than anything and, at times, ridiculously gross/sexist. However, I loved this show. The first episode was decent, but episode two onwards had me hooked. Hooked enough, I am now playing the second game (it's much better) and am on a waitlist for the books at the library. Despite being the titular character, Geralt, the witcher, is more like a side character. The real story is about Ciri and Yennefer. No matter what the critics say, this show is worth it.

2020 Goals

Posted on December 28, 2019 at 7:20 PM


We are heading into a new decade. What is up with that? I fell behind on my monthly goals because I fell into a reading and writing slump as I finished out the semester. So what does 2020 hold?


 

- Actual publishing? I didn't publish anything in 2019 and looking at my current works in progress, 2020 doesn't look great. I am disillusioned with self-publishing and I think it contributed to my lack of ambition to finish anything. So I thought back to the roots of the Death Dealer books. Waaay back in 2006 I wrote the first book in a serialized format on a forum. Even the first draft of Mere Mortal was serialized on Deviant Art. I'm going to go back to that. I've decided to give Wattpad a try with two WIPs. I've already put the plan in motion and will have dates for the start of serialization soon.


- Reading. 2019 was a bad year for reading. There were a few books I devoured, but most I meandered through until ultimately given up. I kept given epic fantasy a try and you know what? If it's not Tolkien, I'm not interested in your sweeping epic. Since I am thoroughly engrossed in The Witcher Netflix series, I do want to at least give the first book in that saga a try, but otherwise my reading goals are not ambitious. Last year I had a Goodreads goal of 60, in the past that hasn't been difficult to reach. However, I still missed it. By a lot. This year I dropped it to 30.


- Freelance. I'm going to have to swallow my disgust and get back on Twitter (@KatieRomanBooks) in the hopes of drumming attention to my freelance work. There's still a possibility I will return to fiverr, but only for extremely short projects of 10k words or less. I enjoy ghostwriting. It has it's downsides and fiverr is not great, but the work pleases me, so the return to fiverr is not totally off the table. Word of mouth helps in bringing in clients. Wink wink nudge nudge, to anyone reading this. Fanfiction can make a great gift, is the last I'll say about it for now.

Rise of Skywalker Episode Review

Posted on December 22, 2019 at 9:25 AM


Three stars


Rise of Skywalker amirite? This review in a word, underwhelmed. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t that good. It was Abrams's ode to the original trilogy without bothering to keep the originality Johnson gave in The Last Jedi. There’s mild spoilers below, but I’ll keep the major ones out.


The Force Awakens was good. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a rehash of A New Hope, but that movie is built on tropes and classic stories so, whatever. The Last Jedi was great. It strayed from the paint by numbers of the first and opened the door for something wonderful. Rise of Skywalker just felt like an apology for its predecessor because people can’t stand new things and we're supposed to hate The Last Jedi or something.


Rise of Skywalker introduces too many new characters without giving them enough screen time or personality to make me care. Jannah had potential and it was wasted. Zorri could have been cut, since she was also wasted potential and her scenes could easily have been replaced by already introduced. Rose wasn’t used enough and Hux was done dirty. Characters introduced by Abrams were wasted (see Hux) and it’s just a shame. But seriously, the storyline with Hux from the beginning was great and now, wasted! WASTED!


It also pulls scenes directly from Return of the Jedi. Not in an homage sort of way, but in a “Ewoks watching things explode over Endor yet again” way. I mean come on with that. This little insignificant thing has been driving me bonkers since I watched it. You have simply taken some of the last few shots of RotJ and updated them with Star Destroyers exploding.


And that eleventh hour reveal? The groundwork wasn’t laid well enough for it to have any impact. I didn’t hate the reveal and I see how it could fit in, but it needs more foundation. Not just in this trilogy, but somewhere in the other eight. It’s not there and all I can do is shrug because it had all the force of a wet noodle. 


In general Abrams underwhelms me. Looking at his film credits I am left with very little feeling towards his other works. He wields nostalgia and little else in his more recent movies. His episodes lack originality and that says a lot considering Star Wars is built on archetypes and tropes. A New Hope lacks orginality and that's not a bad thing, it's all about execution and the execution here is middling to poor. 


But I didn’t totally hate it. I didn’t really hate it at all. It does have some emotional moments (mostly involving Chewie) and I’m a sucker for big battles where reinforcements come to help save the day just when all hope is lost. It is a stunning looking movie, whoever was in charge of that deserved more money. And in all three movies the Kylo-Rey story has been wonderful and this had a beautiful conclusion to that. Acting and chemistry was top notch as always. The final battle, the moment when Rey takes control is wonderful.


Is it worth seeing? Yes. Does it have flaws? Yes, more so than the other two, but it does bring the saga to a close in a way that respects the original trilogy.


Nerd Rage

Posted on December 20, 2019 at 8:55 AM

Today I shall speak of something near and dear to my heart. Something I have spent two decades enjoying. Something that inspired me to continue writing. I am talking of course about Star Wars: Expanded Universe. Yes that most nerdy of things which I have indulged many hours into. I have my favorite EU characters (Tenal Ka!), series (Jedi Academy), and I am especially interested in Anakin/Obi-Wan adventures pre-Clone Wars.


There are clearly duds (Kenobi was so terrible, which seems impossible, yet here we are), but there are some serious triumphs (Knights of the Old Republic, yeah it's a game, but it counts). With Disney's acquisition of Star Wars I was hesitant of their handling of EU. Obviously once The Force Awakens was announced I knew EU would be scraped as canon. But you can see clear influences in the movie from EU. Rey certainly shares characteristics with Jaina Solo and Kylo Ren bears a resemblance to Jaina's twin, Jacen aka Darth Caedus. I would even say there's clear correlations between Solo and the Han Solo trilogy (Imperial soldier? Frees Chewie from Imperial slavery? Sound familiar?) But on the other hand the Disney machine should not be churning out books.


I've read (or in one case attempted) four Disney's new canon books and all but one have sucked and it is not the one you'd think.


Leia by Claudia Gray - This piece of unrelenting trash offers exactly one good thing, the introduction of Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern in The Last Jedi). That is it. Leia is made to be a naive idiot in the junior Senate who is totally blind to her parents' rebel activities until near the end, who nearly risks it all for a boy. So a few things. Leia withstands torture not once, but twice. In A New Hope on the Death Star and Empire Strikes Back on Bespin. She has clearly been trained her entire life by Queen Breha and Bail Organa to fight until the last. Leia does not despair. Even when her home is blown away she goes on to make sure no one else suffers. Plus, Lucas had his actors provide some of their own backstory and Carrie Fisher stated that Han Solo was Leia's first love because she never had time. She invested her life into politics and the rebellion. And this book decides the new canon is Leia falling in love and being blind at like SIXTEEN to the actions of the rebellion and her parents' involvement. Ah, hell no. Disney, if you're going to try to pass a turd off as a nugget of gold, at least paint it yellow first. I saw an Obi-Wan/Qui-Gon book just came out, but then I saw this author wrote it and immediately passed. Granted, I'm sure the author can't just go willy-nilly with ideas since this is Disney, but I cannot forgive that love story.


The Force Awakens Novelization by Alan Dean Foster - Up until this one, I had read every novelization. I actually enjoyed the prequel ones a lot, but this book. I gave up several chapters in. I may as well have just read the script. Details were sparse, internal monologue was boring and sparse, it just exists as some sort of wormhole where interesting character development goes to die. Let's be honest, Star Wars is pretty straight forward, especially the prequels, good vs. evil, Hero's Cycle, etc. The joy I got from the novels was it added depth that wasn't always present in the movies. If you're barely going to expand, don't bother.


Princess Leia the Comic Book by Mark Waid - It was just forgettable. Something about rounding up the survivors of Alderaan, people who were from the planet, but not on it when it was destroyed. There was some conflict about a kidnapping? I don't know. I also don't care. At least the Leia in this stayed true to the Leia we all know and love. However, this is Leia. I should be able to remember more than “it takes place after A New Hope.


Queen's Shadow by E.K. Johnston - A preface on this one. I read one other Johnston book, Exit, Pursued by a Bear, about a rape survivor coping with her trauma. It didn't have a plot, the plot was the therapy and getting on with life, which given the subject matter makes sense (it’s a good book, read it). This plotless writing is not how a Star Wars book should be. The plot was Padmé and her loyal decoy/handmaiden, Sabé joining the Senate....and, that was kind of it. There's some mention of the Trade Federation on trial for their actions and how there were death camps on Naboo during the blockade, but there's also a lot of wasted potential. A review on Amazon from library reviews "Johnston offers readers a plot-driven science fiction tale chronicling Padmé Amidala Naberrie's transformation from the Queen of Naboo to its representative in the Republic." Ha no. Plot-driven indeed. The weird thing is, I liked this one the most. There was a lot of double speak and politics and in Phantom Menace I actually liked Amidala. Not Padmé, Amidala. She's naive, but still carries herself well. So getting the backroom politics was interesting. I just want more plot. It doesn't have to be an action plot, just beef up the politics. Johnston is a good writer and I bought her other Star Wars book and will probably read her next Amidala book. But if this just OK book is the best I can say about the new EU, then there's a problem.


Disney has a cash cow and they're clearly trying to bring new fans into the fold. However, a thing hardcore fans have loved for decades is the EU. Mara Jade is among the most beloved Star Wars characters and she didn't even appear in a movie. Same for Admiral Thrawn (who is now canon apparently and Timothy Zahn is still his writer so high hopes there). If Disney wants to milk this even more, they should be looking to expand on "Legends" and create new book series in the same vein as EU. I try not to be an unruly, bitter Star Wars nerd, but among my first writings were Star Wars EU fanfic. I hold the canon in these "Legends" very close to my heart and I will nerd rage about it until someone pries my keyboard from my cold dead hands.

 

Fiverr

Posted on November 22, 2019 at 6:40 AM

I had to deactivate my fiverr account and at first it was like a dagger in my heart. I liked fiverr, or more specifically, I liked all the writing I got done. I have felt creatively blocked for so long. I have so many half finished projects it constantly feels like I'm a backed up drain. Too many ideas, not enough time, so nothing gets done. Nothing was getting done before fiverr and hopefully now I'll just pick something and finish it. Then onward to the next and finish that. Now that I'm in the habit of writing hours every night.

 

But on to why I deactivated fiverr despite liking it. There are some major flaws with fiverr, like, I haven't slept in months flaws.

 

1) I have to work for peanuts to deliver something that should cost double, at least, for the time I put into it. I was working way, waaaay, under minimum wage. But the fiverr model is built around the $5 gig. And sellers are rated by how much they sell, ranging from No Level to Level Two. As a no level seller, who is going to pay a lot without the reviews to back up the work? No one. That's who. I worked with some really cool people. Don't get me wrong, I had a few repeat customers I looked forward to working with, but like, I'm only human. In order to be visible I needed to be cheap and get reviews. The only way to do that was be constantly booked. And I do mean constantly. Since I joined I've gone maybe one or two days without an order in my queue. Which, great, but also. I have a fulltime job (and now school). In order to complete everything by the deadline I routinely got up at 4 or 3:30am to work. Then go to my normal job by 7am. Get home around 4:30pm to exercise and eat. Work from 6-9pm. Sleep. Repeat. That left no time for hobbies. Weekends were spent catching up on shit. I'm. So. Tired.

 

2) Fiverr's rating system is kind of BS. Fiverr has a breakdown on how to gain levels as sellers. You need to maintain a 90% on communication, delivery, no cancellations, user rating, and while that's not a terrible system to have in place, you cannot miss a message. I wasn't able to respond to someone for over 24 hours and my rating dropped from 100% to 88%, so below their required average. There is an out of office feature, but it didn't seem to make a difference to my score, beyond I got dinged slightly less when it was active for not answering for a day or two. I get that fiverr is trying to protect buyers from potential scam artist sellers. However, fiverr doesn't seem to do much to protect sellers from potential monster buyers. No, I take that back, they only allow buyers 10 days to leave a review after the close of a sale. So if a buyer ghosts the seller and comes back four weeks later to complain, they can't leave a bad review. This happened to me due to a miscommunication and I'm glad that buyer can't ruin my rating for deciding to ghost me for a month and then say I didn't do what they asked.

But I cancelled two projects due to burnout near the end and lost my level one rating after working so hard and busting my ass to get it in the first place. There is very little leeway on fiverr, it expects you to dedicate your life to it. I say nay. My full-time job doesn't even make that demand of me. 

 

3) Fiverr takes 20% of all revenue. Ok, I mean, I didn't expect them not to take a cut, they are also running a business. However, 20% on their famous $5 gig is $1. And then, and THEN, they take 20% on tips. I received some very generous tips that fiverr took 20% of, which come on. You couldn't make that like 5%? I still have to pay taxes on this shit at the end of the year. But then, when you withdraw your funds, there's a processing fee on top of that. So that $5 is really more like $3.50 in the end. I busted my ass for $3.50.

 

So, to stay visible and competitive, I had to take two-three jobs at once. Most were $5 gigs (bless all the wonderful people who overpaid because they understand the broken model and didn't take advantage). It takes me about 40 minutes to write 1,000-1,200 words, depends on if I need to do extra research as I go. I can type faster if I know exactly what is being said, but there are whole minutes in those allotted 40 where I'm just like "words are hard." But 40 minutes per 1,000 words is about 200 minutes per 5,000 word story (3.3 hours). Which at $5 is about $1.67 an hour. I'm just doing this math now and oh boy this is depressing. I worked for $1.67 an hour on my basic gig.

 

I was aware of the downsides to all this. Math aside, but I knew $5 was way under what I should be making. Way under even the worst writer should be making, but I did it anyway. And I did enjoy the work, but it is not feasible to continue at this pace with school. I have barely worked at all this week. I have been too burnt out. In order to catch up on fiverr and homework I have to work about ten hours on my day off. Nah. It's not worth it.

 

Will I go back to fiverr? Maybe? Probably not. I can't make a living there. Not without some super high rating in place, even then, I don't know. It's not really worth the ball busting need to be competitive. I am keeping my writing services page open with revised payment information because there are some repeat customers I am going to continue to work with, but it will be a million times less stressful. Moral of the story? Follow your dreams, but don't turn them into a living nightmare.


Bojack Horseman - There's a Reckoning Coming

Posted on October 28, 2019 at 9:40 PM



I meant to put up these blog posts on different days, before I watched season six and after, but due to a truly bizarre emailing mishap I couldn’t access the BEFORE blog post until today. So they will be appearing together. Why? Because they’re both ready and I’m already on my laptop, that’s why.


Before Watching

Bojack's last season dropped. I haven't watched it yet. I have stupid homework to do. But I did want to reflect on the previous five seasons.

When I first started watching, my general response was "what the fuck am I even watching? This isn't even funny." But oh, I was wrong. I made it through the first episode with lukewarm feelings, but Netflix has that insidious autoplay feature. And then I met Neal McBeal, the Navy Seal, and the deadpan delivery of the whale newscaster that followed had me hooked. It was utterly absurd, but amongst the absurdity was a reflection on society. It was weird.

The series was already finished with season two when I started and you can bet I binged the hell out of them. I honestly didn't know when season one ended and season two started as I plowed through. I've watched through the series a few time, the most recent season being the exception and that's simply been due to lack of time. I recommend the series to everyone, even though I know it's a hard sell and it's not for the easily offended.

Bojack is an asshole. He is constantly making selfish choices that hurt everyone connected to him. I want to hate him, but I can't. The writers do such a good job of making Bojack a truly flawed individual. He is selfish and he can be cruel to his friends and I won't give him a pass for his treatment because he is mentally ill. Bojack is profoundly depressed and doesn't seek treatment, he doesn't get a pass when he has all the access and privilege to get help. And yet, I still feel for Bojack. He's easily discouraged. He wants to be good and he wants to be happy, but he's held back by his own failures and he is constantly getting in his own way. The episode "Stupid Piece of Sh*t" gives us a look into Bojack's head. And his inner thoughts mirror so many of my own. I simply cannot hate Bojack because I understand his struggle.

And the punches just keep coming. Bojack loses a lot of people. Some who he burned his bridges with, others who enabled him and who he also enabled, and each one is felt. Even the dementia and death of his mother is felt despite the abusive relationship Bojack has with her. Sarah Lynn's death is especially painful as we spend an episode hearing about her broken dreams only to have her die from an overdose at a place she loved talking about fulfilling her dream of being an architect. I'm not crying, you're crying.

Despite all this, there's so much to laugh at. Todd alone is hilarious, even if nothing else funny ever happened. Todd. But also, Vincent Adultman, three children in a trench coat passing as one adult man. He did a business, goddamnit! There's countless sight gags. Almost the whole "Underground" episode is hilarious. Jessica Biel (the real Jessica Biel) creating a new society of underground celebrities in a postapocalyptic scenario is pretty great. And the continuity is fantastic. Bojack stole the D from the Hollywood sign in season one. It's still not restored and everyone is still just saying "Hollywoo."

I am sad this is the last season. I love this show. It has consistently been good and rewatchable. I can't say that for a lot of shows Netflix has.



After Watching


I've seen the term on a few reviews about this season and I've got to agree a reckoning is coming.

I didn't realize Bojack's final season was being broken up into two parts, but there's a lot of threads to explore, so I'm glad it wasn't crammed into 8 episodes. Bojack has hurt a lot of people over his five seasons and in the eighth episode we don't even see the main characters, but rather the people who he's hurt. Kelsey, of course, Gina, obviously, but it's Hollyhock's scenes that comes as the most shocking.

Hollyhock meets Pete, who talks her down from an anxiety attack at a party. We cut back and forth between the lives of those Bojack ruined with his addiction, his selfishness, and all his untreated issues. Slowly we come to realize we know Pete as he recounts his prom where his girlfriend had to get her stomach pumped because an older man gave them bourbon. Pete is Penny's friend from New Mexico and this is Bojack's biggest, most shameful secret. All signs point to a reckoning for Bojack. Reporters are closing in on what really happened to Sarah Lynn and Hollyhock is about to learn what happened in New Mexico. Sweet, little Hollyhock who Bojack loves and holds in esteem and cares how she views him, will learn about what happened with Penny on prom night.

It is going to be brutal whatever happens. Bojack is finally getting things together. He's out of rehab. He's making positive choices in his life. He's ready to move forward, but the past isn't ready to let him go. Bojack, while being embroiled in his guilt hasn't truly made amends for his actions. He lied about Sarah Lynn's OD and that he wasn't with her, egging her on. He has buried New Mexico, hoping it never sees the light of day. He hasn't come clean about what really happened when he assaulted Gina. He's moving on, but as we see from the eighth episode, the victims of his abuse have not. And having Pete there, recounting prom in New Mexico, is a reminder there are people beyond the oft seen/mentioned cast that suffered for his actions.

So what happens now? Bojack is terrible, the show doesn't sugarcoat it. His flaws are pointed out and in rehab Bojack even says he is responsible for his own actions. No one ever forced his hand. Bojack is sympathetic and hateful, weighed down by guilt, with a desire to do better, but held back by his own anger and pettiness. He's complex and while I want Bojack to answer for his multiple crimes, I also want him to keep moving forward and not fall back into old patterns when he is forced to face the reckoning of his own making. Whatever happens, Bojack is going to be rocked to his core and the remainder of the season is going to be dark and heartbreaking. Not just for Bojack, but for his friends and family.



About Penny


Quick recap for those who haven’t watched season 2 in a minute.

Bojack takes his friend, Charlotte’s, daughter, Penny, to prom when the boy she likes doesn’t ask her. He dances with her on top of a water tower. Afterwards she approaches him to have sex. She says it’s all on the up and up because seventeen is the age of consent in New Mexico and she didn’t drink like her friends so she’s not being coerced due to alcohol. Bojack tells her no, she doesn’t want it even if she thinks she does. Bojack then goes to Charlotte, asking her to run away with him. She turns him down and tells him to leave in the morning.

Bojack climbs onto his yacht where Penny is waiting. He tells her to go to bed, dismissing her a second time. Charlotte heads to bed and goes to see Bojack when she hears a sound only to find Penny in his room, in his bed. Nothing happened, but Bojack is left wondering if he would have done something if Charlotte hadn’t walked in.

We don’t know if Penny persisted and went into Bojack’s room or if he changed his mind and asked her to, but the one thing we know is Bojack never, EVER, puts the blame on Penny. Not once does he utter “she came onto me first!” in a weak defense of himself and his actions. Bojack knows what he did was wrong and he knew Penny was too young to make a truly informed decision about sex. He’s the adult and he knows better and he knows he messed up. What happens is upsetting, to say the least, but I do like that the show makes sure Bojack and the audience know, this is in no way the fault of the seventeen-year-old girl. It doesn’t matter that Penny went to him, what matters is Bojack let it get to the point it did.

I’m interested to see if the end of season six fills in that blank of how Penny ended up in his bedroom, or if they leave it unknown. I like the idea it’ll be left unknown because it really doesn’t matter if Penny persisted or Bojack asked her to his room. In the end what matters is she ended up there.



It wasn’t all sad


It was filled with its usual brand of absurd and serious.

Todd is a nanny! To Untitled Princess Carolyn Project. We also meet his stepdad, who doesn’t understand the majesty of Todd and his hijinks, but maybe he will.

Diane gets fat! This is a good thing because it means she's taking her antidepressants and making positive changes in her life. Also her new boyfriend is adorable.

Judah and Princess Carolyn are reunited. When she fired Judah I was gutted. She is so often surrounded by needy idiots. Judah was calm and efficient, acting as her right hand. His return as her right hand makes me extremely happy.

All the Portillo's sight gags. I can't. Also, Diane getting on the Cottage Grove line is hilarious. However, unlike what Guy says, she's not screwed. They were at State/Lake when she got on. She's in the Loop, she just needs to get off at the next stop and transfer to the Blue or Orange line, depending on her airport. Come on, Guy.

Margo Martindale is back! This, this is the most important thing to happen.

October Goals

Posted on October 1, 2019 at 8:20 PM

September Goals:

-Survive? My MFA program starts September 23rd. Well, I'm still upright. So that's good.

-The final book in Kendare Blake's Three Dark Crowns series is out today! I preordered it and will be finishing it before classes start. Sweet mother of mammaries. This book. This is the first series in a very long time I looked forward to and this book was awful. If you follow me on Goodreads you can see my muted rage about it. I have not unleashed the full force of my rage on the internet, but some days I scream into a paper bag, so you know, healthy outlets for anger.


October Goals:

- I want to try to write 1,500 words of my own works a week. And by that I mean words not related to school, work, or freelance stuff. I got ideas, just no time, or if I do have time I want to binge watch Bob's Burgers...again

- I found the book Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold randomly (apparently it's the second book in a series...?) It's long, but so far in Chapter 3 I'm interested and I'd like to finish this behemoth before the library reclaims it.


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