Be the Centaur of Attention (Part One)

the centaur mentor
Standard

If you want to be the center of attention at a con or costume party, dress as a centaur.

As many of you know, I built a centaur costume for my role in the Ole Olsen production of The Lion, the Wtich, and the Wardrobe.

This was going to be one very long post (a very, very, very long post), but I’ve recently decided to break it up into several smaller post outlining–in detail and with pictures–how to create a walking centaur costume from start to finish.

I recently had someone contact me wanting help creating a costume. There’s so much advice and information to give, it only makes sense to start at the beginning.

43836098

Create your Concept

The first thing I did was what anyone would do … consult Google of course to see how other people mastered this challenging costume.

And boy was I not disappointed … in the number of pictures of finished projects, that is. What was lacking was a detailed how-to instruction. No where in the infinite interweb, could I find a complete guide, not even on YouTube.

When Google and YouTube failed me, I read forums and watched videos to develop my concept.

My DIY project just became a FIOY (Figure it out yourself) project.

It is my personal theory that cosplayers fall into two categories:Those who like to keep their ideas and techniques a secret and those who like to teach others.

Apparently I will be the first person to share a step by step tutorial from beginning to end.

From what I could tell, other people used chicken wire, metal or PVC pipe frames, and hinges for the joints. They then crisscrossed wires from the horse legs to their own legs.

All of their ideas seemed to work …but

9516d67c2cbd432d62818c07745f255d9c1ba75f810303f26a96b69ef32a0cde

 

After trial and error–many, many trials and errors, I decided against chicken wire and attaching the wires to my legs, or using drills or hinges of any kind.

By creating my own design, what I ended up with is a lightweight, walking centaur costume that is fully washable that can be assembled with only one step requiring another person.

What You’ll Need

  • PVC or CPVC piping. I don’t know what the difference is. I just asked the guy at Lowes which one cuts easier. You will only need about two pipes. 1 inch or 3/4 inch pipe.
  • A pipe cutter or hacksaw. I got a cutter for $10 I like the cutter because you can cut them in the house without messing up tables or floors. Got it at Lowes.

IMG_22631

  • PVC pipe joints, tees, elbows, and bushings (I’ve included photos of which ones) You’ll need 4 T’s, two larger T’s, 8 elbows (2 90 degrees, 4 45 degrees), 2 caps, and 2 bushings.

PVC-Fittings-TZZX002-

  • PVC glue (cement glue)
  • Marker (for marketing–duh)
  • Measuring tape
  • 1 inch poly foam. I got a big roll at Hobby Lobby
  • Fabric for body. roughly a yard to a yard and a half or two, depending on how long. (I recommend a spandex, rylon, polyester variety–something that stretches four ways if you want it to move naturally like skin) Go to Jo-Ann Fabrics
  • Material for a harness (I used the material you find on backpack straps). I bought several yards.
  • Black faux leather (for hooves)
  • Panty hose or tights (not for your legs. doesn’t matter what color)
  • Parachute buckles and strap adjusters
  • Rubber chair tips
  • Faux fur
  • Knife
  • Clear tube (optional)
  • Metal wire (optional)
  • Wire cutters (if you use the wire)
  • Fishing wire (10 or 15 pounds)
  • Fake hair or wig
  • Stuffing
  • Batting (optional)
  • Tylenol or Aleve. I really like Aleve for headaches
  • Alcohol (don’t mix with the pain meds)
  • Music or show to play in the background (the longer the better because this could take time)
  • Bandaids for boo boos

boo_boos__eh__by_xxask_mr_chairxx-d5rdk0p

Make sure you have a large area to build this. Remember, you’re making the butt of a horse. You’ll look like a weirdo, so I recommend making it outside where your neighbors can see. Weirding out neighbors will make the project more fun. Also you won’t have to worry about getitng marker, glue, or cuts on your nice floor, carpet, or other surfaces.

Now that you have your supplies, let’s go ahead with the next step.

Measuring

I can’t just give you measurements because how long you make it or how tall depends on your body.

Have you ever been told, measure twice, cut once? Take this advice.

First I measured from where the frame would rest on my lower back to my feet (if you’ll be wearing highheels or platforms for hooves, don’t forget to factor that in. Measure how long you want it and how wide. Make it thinner and shorter than you want the finished project to be. This is only the skeleton. Remember you’ll be adding height and thickness with your foam and stuffing.  I made it waste high so the straps would come around my waste like a seatbelt.

 

Building the Frame

Now you are ready to start making cuts in your PVC pipe. Measure and mark and then just cut.

 

This is the basic structure for the body.

After I laid them out, I attached the pieces with the fittings. DO NOT GLUE.

The section in the middle is for support–also to hold the foam in place (we’ll cover that more later).

Next I cut out the legs.

To make the legs, I drew an outline of the legs and cut the pieces so that when they were jointed, they would make a shape like that of a horse.

Fit all the pieces into the fittings and do a trial walk. DO NOT GLUE.

As you can see, the front of the skeleton is held together with 90 degree elbows while the back has T’s. This is so you can attach the legs. I’m not sure if you can see in the pictures, but the big T’s are for the legs. This is how I created a joint so the legs move back and forth. Because the big T’s are larger, They fit over the little T’s. I put a piece of pipe through to connect them and put a cap on the end so it doesn’t fall off. What I like about the way I did this is that it requires no screws or drills or hinges. If for some reason, the costume breaks, it is fixable. If you use a hinge or screws, once it breaks, it’s harder to fix. The picture on the end shows the bushing that you attach to the big T so that the fitting will hold the smaller PVC pipe (that way you only have to use one size pipe).

I hope this helps you get started. The next post will show you how I sculpted my costume using foam and stuffing.

If any of these steps are confusing, or if you  need a deeper explanation, please contact me in comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

Stay tuned.

Fictional Fridays #17

Standard

I just wanted to share this delightful post from my latest follow Nandini, who I found via a meet and greet posted by Smorgasbord. I thought this was a great way to find more blogs to follow. I highly recommend you check out the meet and greet here. https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/07/16/welcome-to-the-party-meet-and-greet-some-new-bloggers/

Pages That Rustle

Who thought holidays could be more stressful than the months I have to attend college? Strangely, I find myself having no time to do the things I want to finish and having all the time in the world to complete TV series in record time during my semesters. Another example of time being a vindictive creature, I suppose. Putting aside selfish concerns for a bit, I decided to write something, anything, to take my mind off of things. Here is the result (Incidentally, it fits this week’s Friday Fiction with Ronovan Writes Prompt Challenge #33 – Favourite Food).

View original post 844 more words

Boycotts & Books

Standard

I think one of the most overwhelming things to do in life is spend a gift card at a book store.

Yes, it is possible to be overwhelmed by a good thing.

The money/book ratio is always off. There is never enough money on the gift card to buy all the books you’d want to read, so you want to make sure you pick out a good one.

too-many-books-so-little-time.gif

This task becomes even more overwhelming when the gift card happens to be the last gift card I ever received and ever will receive from my mother.

I just felt like it should be used to purchase a special book.

With Mother’s Day being this weekend, inconveniently and tormentingly close to my mother’s death, I have decided to avoid all stores that sell Mother’s Day paraphernalia … which just so happens to be every store. I miss her and I want to buy her a present. I can’t, so I don’t want to be reminded that she won’t be here this holiday.

Due to my Mother’s Day boycott, as you can imagine, it was really hard to find something to do or somewhere to go during my lunch break. So I drove around for fifteen minutes before remembering I still had a gift card from my mother from Christmas.

Since I miss her, I thought this was either a really good time or a bad time to spend it. It was really a coin toss, so I decided to chance it.

So began the overwhelming task of picking out a special book.

I found a few series I’d like to try: John Gwynne’s Ruin series and S.M. Stirling’s Change series.

I also batted around getting my own copy of Empress by Karen Miller so I wouldn’t have to sneak my sis’ copy whenever I want to read a passage.

I ended up getting a new copy of the Silmarillion. Yes, I already have it, but I hate the cover of the copy I bought (and that was the least ugly cover at the time).

I found a copy that matches my copy of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

My mom wasn’t a fan of Tolkien or fantasy for that matter, but she’d be happy I got something I really like and will treasure forever. Now whenever I read it I’ll think of my mom … and how much she didn’t like Lord of the Rings.

For those of you who will be acknowledging the holiday, have a good one. Hug your moms. Srsly. I still remember my last hug. It was worth more than all the books on my shelf. If it’s Sunday, and you’re reading my blog, leave your computer right now and go spend time with your mom!

 

 

Fight of the Fandoms

687474703a2f2f696d616765732e6669727374636f766572732e636f6d2f636f766572732f7573657271756f7465732f6d2f6d61795f7468655f6f6464735f62655f657665722d31333836312e6a70673f69
Standard

While everyone else on the Interweb is arguing about Batman vs Superman or Iron Man vs Captain America, I’ve been making my own matches.

I keep up with a lot of shows, and one thing I always do, aside from ship (I ship everything), is pair off different people to see who would win in a crossover tournament. I’m not talking about DC vs Marvel or Goku vs Superman (Goku would win–no question). These are my picks for cross-fandom fights.

Let the battles begin!


 

Drogo vs Rollo

These men could be brothers from another mother. Just look at the pics. They’re even making the same face. Not only do their names rhyme–well, kinda/sorta, but they both rock that long hair/beard combo, have body paint and/or tattoos, and forgo wearing shirts (possibly to show off the tattoos). And those are just the visual similarities. They both have arranged marriages to prominent women (whom they can’t talk to because they speak another language), hot tempers, legendary warrior status, an interest in power and destiny, and have both been referred to as “savage” while being hailed as one of the finest warriors alive.

So which of these men is really the finest warrior alive?

I don’t think you need a prophesy to predict who wins this match. I’m going to roll with Rollo.

I can hear you disagreeing through the Interweb. I know that Drogo has that long braid that suggest he’s never been defeated, but come on, look how fast man hair grows. He grew that braid in two years tops. In all fairness, we don’t get to see him fight, just a raid here and there and that one knife fight that awards him his lethal boo-boo. Rollo has a lot more on screen battles to base this victory on.

Let’s look at Rollo. Whether he’s fighting with his brother, against his brother, with his brother, or against him, he’s hard to stop. He fights–as Odo puts it–like a wild bear. Jumping shield walls, lifting men on spears, thwarting war machines. He even gets trampled by six horses and thrown off of a wall and still lives.


 

Catherine De Medici vs Cersei Lannister

This has got to be my favorite crossover match. This is a battle, not of brute strength, but of wits. Both are masters of manipulation and poison–and fashion. These ladies look like they raid each others’ closets or shop at the same store. With wavy gold hair in intricate updos and flowing red gowns, they look like they could be mother and daughter. Aside from the fact that they both rock red dresses, they have very similar personalities: they’re smart, cunning, snarky Queens who love to drink wine and get their way.

Their greatest commonality: They would do anything for their sons … anything.

I hate to say it, but once again, my vote is not for the GoT character, but for Catherine. Even when she’s caught, and she’s seldom caught in her own webs, she gets her way out of it. She certainly wins more than she loses. I don’t know that I can say that for Cercei. Catherine gets away with murder, lies, attempted murder, adultery and far worse. She just has a lot more power and influence than Cersei.

And you’d have to be nasty to beat Cersei. I think Catherine’s cut out for the task. I mean, she bought Narcisse’s horse, gave it to him as a gift, and then killed it and served it to him as a steak. That’s pretty cruel. I’d hate to think what she’d do to Cersei.

This next one is for fun of course


 

Jaime Lannister vs Luke Skywalker

Because the one armed thing and the sister thing.

It might not even be a fair fight since Luke has the force and he just has to force stab Jaime with his own sword. With regular blades, Jaime would win, but I think the force and my vote goes to Luke on this one.

So what about …


 

Jaime Fraser vs Jaime Lannister

I didn’t pair these two off just because of the name. No doubt this would be one of the sexiest cross-fandom fights. Two men fighting face to face, smolder against smolder. To be honest, I’d be just as happy to see them kiss. But on a serious note, I do think they would be pretty evenly matched. However, I think due to having more polished skill, Jaime would win, one handed or not.

Ok another one for fun


 

Ned Stark vs Boromir

The resemblance is uncanny. Gee, I wonder why.

Prepare for the greatest meme war–or sword fight.

Let’s look at what they have in common. Both fight with big swords, both are played by Sean Bean. Both die. Really ’nuff said.

I think Boromir would win almost simply for being younger. Not only that, but going off of on-screen battles, look at all the orcs Boromir kills. Ned can’t even get a hit on Jaime.

I know you all think I’m biased against Game of Thrones at this point. So let’s just pair off another and see if he wins or he dies.


 

Samwell Tarly vs Samwise Gamgee

Everyone needs a Sam.

I’m sure Martin wasn’t at all influenced by Tolkien when he invented this character. cough, cough …

This might not sound like a great fight. They don’t look like much and they don’t have a lot in the way of self confidence, but they’re loyal and stalwart. Endanger the ones they love and they’ll show you what they’re made of under that huggable exterior.

So who Sams better?

To be Frank (or should I say Sam) I think Samwise would win. Look how brave he is in Mordor, especially when he takes on all those orcs alone to rescue Frodo. I don’t think Samwell could survive Mordor. I do, however, think Sam could handle the black, though I think he’d miss the taste of strawberries and Rosie.

It’s time for a three way


 

Katniss vs Hawkeye vs Legolas

These are the most notorious archers in all of fandom. Let’s see who’s the most bad-ass bowman–or woman.

I haven’t seen all the Hunger Games movies, but I like Katniss, from her braid to her rebellious, independent nature. She is a survivalist, but can she survive this three-way match?

Well, Hawkeye does have those massive forearms, some awesome moves, and he does shoot Loki out of the sky–even though Loki does catch the arrow before it explodes (crying foul on that one). Surprisingly enough, he does run out of arrows. Could this cost him the win?

Legolas runs out of arrows too, but look how much better he compensates. Legolas doesn’t even need his bow. It just makes him look good. Who needs a bow when you have batshit badassery. Everything Legolas does is awesome and sometimes just plain ridiculous, from taking down an oliphant like it ain’t no shit to riding a bat. Whether stupid or awesome, no one does it like Legolas.

I really think the odds would be in Legolas’ favor.


 

Eowyn vs Lagertha

I put these two together for the obvious reasons. For starters, they’re both shield maidens. That alone makes them worthy opponents. They’re both also amazing fighters who don’t let any man hold them back. Not to mention they both have awesome blond hair and are loyal to their families.  I’m really not sure who would win. Eowyn does kill the Witch King, which no man can destroy, but Lagertha has killed … a lot. To be honest, this one I’m leaving as a draw.


 

Oberyn vs Rey

These two are very different, but I picked them for their fighting styles. They both fight with staffs or spears. The scene in Star Wars where she’s bashing those guys with the staff reminded me of Oberyn fighting the Mountain.

So I thought, which of them would win in a battle of staff vs spear.

Even though Oberyn uses poison to his advantage, Rey still has the force, and a natural fierce fighting style.

So … in this case, even though he’s a master, I’d say Rey. She seems to share Oberyn’s passionate temper, and could easily be one of his daughters. Being a sand snake would certainly suit her considering where she lives. She’d easily fit into the Game of Thrones universe sans force.


Daenerys vs Hiccup

I know, I need a Daenerys show down. I couldn’t think of who to put her against. In all honesty, she doesn’t fight for herself so much as she has an army and dragons to fight for her, so I’m going to put her against another dragon user. Let’s just do Daenerys vs Hiccup.

Since the dragons do all the work, technically this fight should be called

Drogon vs Toothless

Named after Drogo, he’s the troublemaker in the bunch. He’s also larger and more aggressive than the other dragons.

Even though Toothless has a history of taking down larger, stronger dragons, I think Drogon could take him. He certainly doesn’t stand a chance if all of her dragons join in the fight.


Merlin vs Gandalf

For obvious reasons: they’re wizards.

To judge this fight, let’s look at their powers.

Most of Merlin’s spells seem to be like a force push. Other times he moves objects, often to make them fall on his enemies. He can also disguise his appearance and summon a dragon.

Alot of Gandalf’s spells are similar from the force pushes to the summoning animals. Though Gandalf summons eagles. He can also emit light from his staff to light a path or fight shadow foes. He can also … perform exorcisms?

Wizard powers seem to be a little confusing, but I’m going to bet that Gandalf is the more wizardy wizard.

This last one is just a tease


Stormtroopers vs Vogons

Here you go, the worst shots in the universe will come face to face to … miss each other entirely.

The win goes to whoever lands the first shot.

Well, looking at the on-screen bullseyes … the Vogons have one hit in the entire movie. The stormtroopers have made a few more hits, and just like the Vogons, nonefatal

So the worst army in the universe goes to the Vogons.


I hope you enjoyed the list. Let me know if you agree/disagree. What are some more awesome cross-fandom fights?

 

Life, Death, and the Immortal Four

grey-havens
Standard

Today is Tolkien Reading Day. As always, there is a theme. This year’s theme is life, death, and immortality.

Morbid, huh … or is it?

Many of you may be thinking this is a far cry from last year’s theme of friendship, but I think it goes hand in hand and strikes a very similar chord–though maybe a more solemn tone.

We know that Tolkien’s relationships influenced his writing, but do we realize how much their deaths did as well? Read any of his books and you’ll find themes of immortality/mortality, death/life, and loss. The Lord of the Rings quickly comes to mind, but themes of loss and death can be found in even his lighter works, such as the Hobbit.


 

The Immortal Four

Tolkien was greatly inspired by the lives and deaths of his friends and members of his writing group, The Tea Club Barrovian Society (TCBS).

tolkien_pals

The members were Tolkien, Robert Gilson, Christopher Wiseman, and Geoffrey Smith. Like Tolkien, they were all academic, philosophical, poetic, and artistic young men, and they became very close friends.

Several of the members died during the First World War in battles that are said to have inspired the wars of Middle Earth, particularly the Battle of Somme, which was a gruesome battle that took thousands of lives and ruined the landscape. This was supposedly and very possibly the inspiration for Mordor.

The first to die was Rob Gilson. In a very heartfelt letter sent to Tolkien by Smith you get a good sense of the strong bond and deep connection that the members had for one another.

My dear John Ronald,

I saw in the paper this morning that Rob has been killed. I am safe but what does that matter? Do please stick to me, you and Christopher. I am very tired and most frightfully depressed at this worst news. Now one realizes in despair what the T.C.B.S. really was.

O my dear John Ronald what ever are we going to do?

Yours ever.

G. B. S.

Not long after, Smith died as well, leaving only Wiseman and Tolkien. In this letter to Tolkien, Wiseman grieves the loss of their members while declaring that death cannot end their ideas and goals.

…there will still be left a member of the great T.C.B.S. to voice what I dreamed and what we all agreed upon. For the death of one of its members cannot, I am determined, dissolve the T.C.B.S. Death can make us loathsome and helpless as individuals, but it cannot put an end to the immortal four!

The immortal four is the perfect epitaph, because though they died, they lived on in Tolkien’s memory and in his writing. Their ideas, discussions, and Smith’s words, “May you say things I have tried to say long after I am not there to say them.” inspired Tolkien to write The Silmarillion and other stories of Middle Earth. We wouldn’t have The Hobbit or the Lord of the Rings if not for these men.

So essentially what I’m saying is the death of his friends gave Tolkien a kick in the butt to start writing. He certainly felt the pressures of being one of if not the soul survivor of the group. Tolkien’s burden of carrying their stories, their memories, and their ideas is clearly comparable to Frodo’s burden of carrying the one ring. I have to wonder if Merry, Pippin, Frodo, and Sam weren’t inspired by the immortal four. There were four hobbits and four members of the T.C.B.S. Coincidence?

2.png


Tolkien’s Immortality

I don’t think we’ll ever live in a world where people aren’t familiar with Tolkien and his books. While no one can live forever, like Tolkien’s elves, he certainly has achieved immortality in its most obtainable sense.

Anyone will tell you, Tolkien lives on because of his books. Another way he lives on is through his friends, family, and children.

Christopher Tolkien (3rd and youngest son) is said to be the most like his father: a soldier, scholar, writer. Of all of his four children, Chris was probably the favorite. In one of Tolkien’s letters, he refers to Chris as a “special gift” to him, “in a time of sorrow and mental suffering.”

Just like with the Immortal Four, you can see where his relationship with Christopher inspired his works.

Chris completed his father’s writing just as Frodo finished Bilbo’s writing in the Lord of the Rings.

Without Christopher’s efforts, the Silmarillion would never have been finished. This act in itself speaks of immortality. If someone else picks up the story where you left off, then does the story end?

Which reminds me of something Bilbo says, “Don’t adventures ever have an end? I suppose not. Someone else always has to carry on the story.”

Indeed, Tolkien is immortal, even in death, because of the love his son has for him. Chris loves him so much infact that he is very protective of his father’s works. He wasn’t particularly fond of Jackson’s films, so it’s very unlikely that we’ll see a Jackson adaptation of the Silmarillion. sigh …

5520432.jpg

Speaking of Peter Jackson’s films. Whether or not Chris thinks they measure up to the integrity of his father’s work, they are helping to preserve Tolkien’s memory by rekindling an interest in his writings and creating new fans of his works.

Even when Chris Tolkien dies, Tolkien will live on because of his fans. His work continues to inspire readers even to this day. With holidays celebrating Tolkien (such as Tolkien Reading Day) it’s practically impossible for Tolkien to be forgotten.


 

Life, Immortality, and Death in Tolkien’s Works

This would be a never ending blog post if I listed all of the stories that have to do with life, death, and immortality. However, if you’re looking for a passage to read to observe Tolkien Reading Day, you could read Boromir’s death, The end of the Return of the King where Frodo sails west, The Appendix: Story of Aragorn/Arwen, Thorin Oakenshield’s death, the story of Beleg and Turin, The Story of Glorfindel, or the story of how Aule created the dwarves.

I chose a story that combines all three: life, death, and immortality. This Tolkien Reading Day, I’ll be reading chapter 24 of the Sil where Elrond and his brother Elros are given the choice which kindred (man or elf) they will join. Elrond chooses the side of the Firstborn and remains immortal while his brother chooses to be a king of humans, thus forsaking his immortality–though he does live for 500 years. I can’t think of a better chapter to read than one where characters literally have to choose between death and immortality.


 

The Story Must Continue

Tolkien’s life was full of loss: his mother died at an early age, his wife died before him, he lost many friends to war. This is why he is so able to successfully articulate the feelings of loss in his writings: The death of Beleg, of Boromir, of Frodo.

Despite that, he seemed to have an optimistic attitude about death with descriptions of white shores and a land of ever green. He seemed to view death as a beginning, not an end.

While I don’t share his sentiment, I find his attitude regarding death to be very hopeful and optimistic. I hope that’s the feeling you’ll come away with this Tolkien Reading Day.

Please share and comment below. Let me know what you’ll be reading today. Will you be reading a passage with the theme of life, death, or immortality?

 

 

 

 

The Non-Biased Sister Review

title2
Standard

It’s obvious why friends and family shouldn’t leave reviews. They over complement, they aren’t the target audience, and they’re totally subjective. I like to think this doesn’t apply to me. I’m very objective, and I don’t sugar coat my opinions, especially when I edit. I want my sister’s books to be awesome, which means sometimes I have to be cruel to be kind. Not that I make her cry or anything. If anything, she thinks I could be harsher.


 

In light of today being the start of the Kindle Countdown Deal for The Wizard’s Gambit, I’ve decided to post my totally non-biased sister review.

symbol-color


Story

I’m not going to give a synopsis. If you want, it’s here on Amazon. What you want is my opinion, so here goes.

To sum it up it’s like if Hunger Games meshed with the Lord of the Rings. Representatives from every race and Kingdom battle to the death in search of a hidden item: an item that will give the champion power over all the other races. The competition is the result of a wizard’s last ditch effort to make everyone get along. However, a solution is only ever as successful as the plan–and considering he didn’t give it much thought …

I like the story, personally. It’s based around just enough fantasy tropes to be familiar, but it’s not overly predictable. You might think it is at first: a man with a mysterious background, a blacksmith, a prophesy, wizards, etc. I know what you’re thinking, a blacksmith with a mysterious past must fight to win the competition. After defeating all of his enemies he is found to be the one true king.

Trust me, it’s not that predictable. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. And if you think you have it all figured out by the end of book one, just wait for book two to pull the rug out from under you.


 

Characters

There are a lot of characters in this series. Not quite as many as Game of Thrones, but pretty close. This is not a complaint of mine, as main characters and major supporting, minor supporting, and so forth seem to be clearly identified. Also, there aren’t too many POV’s. Only main and major supporting get POV’s.

Even though they derive from tropes, they are all her own creations and not borrowed from the bookshelf.

For those of you who thought Pig was a funny name, meet Mongrel. Mongrel is the main character. My sister worried he would be annoying and “too nice,” but to be honest, I think he’s dorky and fun, kind of like Chris Pratt. I’m bored of reading about dark, brooding, bad-ass anti-heroes who seek revenge and murder without emotion. This isn’t to say that Mongrel isn’t flawed. He’s not your traditional good guy either. He isn’t noble, wise, and always right. He’s a relate able good guy, the kind that wants to help and do right, but blunders and missteps along the way.

Following Mongrel on his quest are some familiar and like able characters mainly based around your typical trope fantasy quest types.

  • Elves: Instead of the noble, wise, magically gifted archer, we get a cowardly social climber who is inept at fighting and using magic.
  • Dwarf: Little Hammer is almost your standard issue dwarf: she’s stubborn, gold-hungry, elf-hating, and booze-loving. But I can’t imagine a dwarf being any other way. This is what we’ve come to love. Nuances make Little Hammer original. For once we get a woman instead of a man. The name system is interesting too. And she doesn’t carry the standard issue ax. In fact, most of the dwarves carry their own special weapons.
  • Humans: We actually get a variety of humans in this parody, not just Caucasian. The characters skin tones range from the very light to the very dark.
  • Ogres: What can I say? To summarize: Not like an onion. Not like Shrek. More like Ludo.
  • Wizards: Not so much like Gandalf, but more like Radagast or Merlin from The Quest for the Holy Something or Other. They’re in charge of keeping order, but sometimes they need to pull their heads out of their hats.

As far as my favorite character, I’d have to say it’s Margo, the apprehensive wizard in training. She’s shy and unsure, but she is certain of one thing: Mongrel is the only one who can unite the seven kingdoms. What I think I like about her (aside from the fact that she’s my secret ship) is how much I related with her when I was her age. She’s awkward and undecided about her future while the future of the world hangs in the balance. She’s just noticing boys and missing home and worried she’s made the right career choice. Who wouldn’t relate with that … except for maybe that bit about the future of the world hanging in the balance. But to be honest, I related with that part too. I was in my teens when the two towers were attacked. After that, even though the entire world seemed to be at war, I still worried about my own problems: family, college, leaving home, boyfriends. That’s how the mind of a teenager works.

Another thing that I like is that there are multiple villains. The problems aren’t caused by one person, but by at least one rep from every kingdom. Most of the leaders of the kingdoms are pretty villainous, especially Empress Eiko, Lord Lindolyn, and Walder. my favorite villain is probably Gwyndor–or Gwyn for short. He’s pretty determined to win the competition and doesn’t let anything stand in his way.


 

My Favorite Scenes

There isn’t a scene I don’t like. If there was, she would have cut it.

I think one of my favorite scenes is where Mongrel enters the city. It’s told through the viewpoint of Jared the gatekeeper.You truly get an idea about how odd Mongrel is through the eyes of this average Joe. For some reason this scene is just dripping with humor. One of my favorite lines is where he notices Mongrel is barefoot (I told you he was odd) so he decides to “bypass the customary “‘oo goes there” to confront the issue at the forefront of his mind, “Ain’t yer feet cold?”

Another favorite is where the kingdoms introduce their competitors and they all start arguing and bickering about what’s fair and who is breaking the rules. It just really shows how petty they all are and how easily situations involving everyone get out of hand.

I also like many of the battles, especially the show down between Eiko and Walder and the North tribe vs the elves where they start summoning their animals with their amulets. It’s like a pokemon battle gone awry.


 

The Humor

My sister and I have very similar taste in humor, so naturally I’m going to like the humor. Heck, I wrote some of the jokes. I’m even mentioned in the acknowledgement section of the book where she credits me for the “horrible insurance jokes” that either “saved or ruined” her story.

The humor isn’t in your face or slap stick. Most of the humor is situational or from the dialogue. The style is definitely reminiscent of Monty Python or Terry Pratchett though I would say more American and modern.

I like that the humor is often used to make a point or poke fun at a trope. For instance, we’ve all read fantasy books where it seems wizards and other magic users have incredible power, but don’t seem to utilize it to defeat the villain. Margo summarizes it well:

“The problem with wizards is that they never fully utilized their powers, at least not when it came to something important. Levitate a chair, transform an inanimate object, gift human speech to a cat–useless tricks for no purpose whatsoever! What good was magic when it couldn’t be used for something meaningful, like stopping a war, perhaps?”

One of my favorite humorous lines:

“Consider these events: the crowning of a king, the dethroning of a dark lord, and the invention of the fish taco; what do they all have in common? … All of these events occurred, by the will of destiny, with the help of a wizard.”


The Cover

The Wizards Gambit ebook cover

They say never judge a book by its cover, but come on, this cover is awesome. I’m going to take a little credit for this one. I doodled the idea on a piece of paper and gave it to my sister, who explained what she wanted to her cover designer–and BLAMO–she got an awesome cover.


 

Flaws

All books have flaws. The book’s pace might be a little slow, but to be honest, I wouldn’t call it slow. I would call it comfortable.

They say a book should start when the action starts, but you do need to understand the character and their world before it’s threatened by the conflict.

I get that readers are becoming impatient, but I’m sorry. I want some setup. I’ve read too many books where I’ve just been introduced to the main character and by paragraph two–BAM–they’re being attacked, a dog dies, or something explodes . Too much.

This was a concern of ours during the editing phase, but to be honest, I’m not sure what to cut that wouldn’t detract from the story. I’d say, like Quest, the main quest doesn’t get started until about 20-30 percent of the book, but that doesn’t mean the story isn’t moving forward. In all fairness, it does follow the traditional formula: introduce main character, show their world and what’s at stake, introduce conflict, main character refuses the call, something happens to make character follow the call, and action.


 

There you have it. My honest opinion. If it sounds like a story you’d like, now ‘s the time to order your copy. Better hurry, because the countdown has already begun. Just three days!

tumblr_nf3ksv1aXo1u0k6deo1_500.gif

 

Most Romantic Songs in Fantasy and Sci-Fi

Fixerupper
Standard

I’m no love expert, but I do consider myself to be a pretty good judge of music. Since Valentine’s Day is this weekend, I thought I’d share my favorite love songs from Fantasy and Sci-Fi.

As the World Falls Down: Labyrinth

Despite what you might think, I didn’t put this song on the list because of Bowie’s recent death. I’ve actually had this post drafted for a while but decided to wait to post it until closer to Valentine’s Day.

For the record, I don’t consider this a romantic movie (unless you count the disturbing attraction that Jareth has for the much younger Sarah or the creepy uncle attraction of Hoggle). Either the song is a wink to the illegal attraction that Jareth has for the MC or–like many of the songs Bowie wrote for the movie–it just has nothing to do with the story and is a complete deviation from the plot altogether. Regardless, listening to this song gives me a similar feeling that I get while listening to Boyz II Men  “I”ll Make Love to You.” It’s the lyrics–the ones Bowie articulates anyway. He can be pretty hard to understand at times.

What girl wouldn’t want a man who promises to place the moon within her heart and the sky in her eyes while painting her mornings of gold and leaving his love in the stars. So many beautiful celestial references–which I’m a sucker for.

I’m not a huge fan of this movie … I’ll just pause a moment and let you get it out of your system.

696d6bac-c76b-43ba-a4bb-5b5e6e0b7b5b.gif

As I was saying, I’m not a huge fan, but I thought the scene where she’s in the dream world dancing with Jareth was just fabulously fun to watch with the masks, the costumes, Sarah’s hair, and all that Bowie glitter. I kept thinking what a neat cosplay this would be.

Well, if you love Bowie and 80’s love songs, you’ll just “fall” for this one.

Aniron: Lord of the Rings

This song doesn’t need English lyrics, or maybe it’s the absence of English lyrics that make it so moving. You don’t have to speak elvish to understand the meaning of the words.

It’s just so tear-jerking beautiful. Not a surprise since the song was composed and sung by Enya and conducted by Howard Shore, creators of some of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard (says the woman who ran out and bought every Enya cd after hearing this song).

The song is the official love theme of Aragorn and Arwen and can be heard during their love scene, which is a little trite, especially because of their stilted dialogue. However, the romance hardly feels forced because of the song. Omit the music, and you just have two people stiffly facing each other exchanging bad dialogue. Total scene saver.

Tell Me Now: King Arthur

King Arthur is a B movie with an A movie soundtrack. If the screenwriters wrote the movie half as well as Hans Zimmer wrote the music, we’d have a contender for Gladiator or the Lord of the Rings.

To be clear, this is a list of my favorite romantic songs–not romances. The Arthur/Gwen ship was just dreadful and forced to put it kindly, but this song … it just reverberates with feelings and emotions I really don’t think were conveyed by the actors.

What do you think? Tell me, tell me now if you like this song.

That’s All I’ve Got to Say: The Last Unicorn

Poor Prince Leer didn’t know what to say or do to win the love of the Lady Almathea, so that’s what he sang about. What a beautiful, heartfelt song it ends up being for a man who said words were not one with him. Though if he was looking for the right words, he could have borrowed some from Jareth though it sounds like he may have tweaked some lines from Forrest.

62722787

This is just one of those songs that makes me all warm and sappy. If a man ever sang this to me, I’d marry him in a heartbeat.

That’s really all I have to tell you about this song. That’s all I’ve got to say.

As Long as You’re Mine: Wicked

This counts as fantasy right? Anyway, I’ve never seen Wicked, but I don’t have to in order to love, love, love this song. It’s just so sexy. You can tell they want each other badly.

untitled

How can you hear this song without imagining two people locked tightly in each others arms? To be honest, I was a little let down when I finally watched the video. The scene played out a little awkward compared to what I imagined.

This is my favorite song from the Broadway. Yes, even above Defying Gravity. Norbert Leo Butz and Idina Menzel are such a sexy vocal pair–better than when she sang with her husband (cheating bastard–also not as good a singer as Norbert).

Princess Bride: Story Book Love

It would be a crime to exclude Princess Bride from any list having to do with love, considering this movie is all about love, twu wuv, that will fowow you foweva and eva …

This song completely captures the movie’s heart and style. It’s as heartwarming and tender as the film’s happy ending.

It’s one of my favorite love songs of all time. Needless to say, I own it on iTunes, and I will be playing it this Valentine’s Day.

A Love Before Time: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

If this was a list of my top favorite romances, Le Mu-Bi and Yu Shu Lein would definitely make the list; however, this is a list for songs, and as you can see, their song makes the list.

This is a song about love transcending time and death. I dare you to listen to it without being moved. If you aren’t, you have no soul. How can you not be moved by cello music. From the first instrumental note, I was sold. The chords, the lyrics, the instruments. Did I mention the cello? I’m a sucker for cellos.

Then You Look at Me: Bicentennial Man

I’ve never seen this movie, but as a huge fan of Celine Dion, I’ve heard this song–at least a hundred times.

Is it any wonder it’s a romantic song. Written by James Horner and Will Jennings–the writers of Celine Dion’s more memorable hit, “My Heart Will Go On.”

If you haven’t heard of this song, it’s because the movie was a flop, and Celine’s (far inferior song) “That’s the Way it is” was a huge hit on the radio at the time, so sadly, this one was not played on the radio, but included on several of her albums.

If you haven’t heard it, I encourage you to. I think you’ll find it just as memorable as many of Celine’s other hits.

Well, there you have it. Those are my favorites. Which are yours? Any I left off the list?

To all of my friends and followers, have a wonderful Valentine’s day.