Saturday, May 12, 2018

LDStorymakers Conference Report!

Last week, I went to LDStorymakers writer's conference in Provo, UT, at the suggestion of a dear friend of mine, Chris Jones, who, by the way, has encouraged me to do many good writerly things. Go visit his Patreon page.

Anyway. Storymakers.


I made new friends, took 23 pages of notes and got inspired. I met many wonderful people. I even met Janette Rallison! She taught one of the classes I went to, and I'm a fan.

Her books are funny. 

They're funny enough that even though I'm definitely not among her target audience, I'll STILL read them. I just finished this one.

It's sweet and ridiculous. And funny, of course. Click the picture to see the Amazon description.

Yah. That's pretty great. (The other books I'm recommending are linked, too. Click 'em.)

Janette Rallison is just as funny in person. She's also very kind - she gave me books to give to my students, and even signed them first. 

Janette is also in a new YouTube show for writers called 'So You Think You Can Write'. First page critiques in a game show format. If you're a writer, you might want to watch it. You might even want to submit a page. They're kind, AND they're honest. 

Matthew J Kirby was there, too, and his class on 'Show, Don't Tell' was mind-blowing. Matt writes some of the best historical fiction I have ever read in my life. Buy Matt's books. They're fantastic. I can recommend especially this one.

It isn't STRICT historical fiction. There's magic, too. Which is a bonus, as far as I'm concerned.. But wow, he gets his history RIGHT. He is also a kind and genuine human being, which are my favorite kind of human beings. 

I met A.L. Sowards, too. I had a good talk with her at the signing tables. She writes historical fiction as well. I asked her which book I should start with. She recommended (after talking with me and getting to know me) this one:

Yup. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but I'm going to. That's EXACTLY my kind of book. How did she manage to read me like that? I don't know. Good job, Ms. Sowards. :)

There were so many other cool people, too. I'm going again next year. It's happening. This conference is too good to pass up.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

I Don't Like The New Star Wars, Cause They Betrayed Han

Okay, so, true confession time. I haven't seen the latest Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi. And it's because of golden bathrobes. 

Just kidding.

Really, it's about the many good things about the original trilogy having Bantha crap smeared all over them. 

Luke Skywalker, quitting? Never. He might as well have turned to the dark side. Han Solo, running out on his family and becoming a smuggler again? A CRAPPIER SMUGGLER THAN BEFORE? 

Han Solo came back to the Death Star to save Luke. Then stuck around for the Rebellion for years, because he didn't suck and there was always good in him. He ran out to find Luke on Hoth, risking his life to find his lost friend.

You tell me this is a Han Solo who wouldn't have gone across a galaxy looking for Luke?

He faced death with calm and dignity in The Empire Strikes Back. He comforted Chewie when confronted with being frozen in carbonite.

You tell me that's a Han Solo who would wimp out on his wife and run off to go be a wuss?


Yes, he's a scoundrel. But scoundrel or no, he wasn't a coward. 

Ruffian, pirate, braggart? 

Yes, yes, yes. Guilty on all counts.

Never a coward.

And there is something about the way he faced his death, there, in that scene, and in a few others, that tells me that Han Solo is made of sterner stuff than perhaps the new Star Wars movies would like me and you to think.

I refuse to accept The Force Awaken's version of events. Star Wars has lost its way, and I do not think it shall find it again. I haven't seen any Star Wars films since The Force Awakens. The prequels were bad enough. These sequels are a new level of bad.

I'm sorry if that means that we can't be friends. As for me, it's all right if you love something I hate. My mom loves tomatoes, and she and I are still friends, so... 

I once literally barfed onto my plate when I tried to eat one of these. My mom stopped making me eat tomatoes after that.

Please don't make me watch any more bad Star Wars movies. I might barf.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018


My parents gave me a birthday present early this year. Like, really early...

It's a Rogue RA-090! Here's a crappy cellphone picture!

Had it for a few weeks now, actually. And I've got calluses. And it feels good to have calluses, although it didn't feel super good when I was getting them.

Speaking of crappy cellphone pictures, I dropped my cellphone into the Great Salt Lake. And it still works! It didn't phase my phone in the slightest! It's a cheap ZTE Walmart special, because I can't make myself pay more than $30 for a phone still, but I've been impressed so far.

Here's to cheap stuff that works. :) <raises glass>

Friday, April 20, 2018

Kathleen Duey

Kathleen Duey, a writer who was very, very kind to me when I had just finished my first book, is in need right now.

I adore Kathleen. She has a soul filled with warmth and generosity. I will remember her in my prayers.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Princess Bride - An Open Apology To Buttercup

Buttercup might not have had to swordfight a Spaniard, wrestle a giant, go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line, kill an R.O.U.S., or have to storm a castle as practically a quadripalegic.... but she has the most real struggle of anyone in The Princess Bride

I've given Buttercup crap my whole adult life, because I didn't understand what was really going on, until I taught a lesson about storytelling to my kids at school, using 'The Princess Bride' as my text. 

First, I showed my students this clip.

I teared up at that last bit, because I am so much softer than I used to be.

"Right here," I told them, "This is where the theme of the movie is set up. 'True love conquers all' is our theme. It's the great question. It's the whole point of this movie - to test this idea out against everything the story will throw at it."

Clearly, Buttercup is silly, and spoiled. But Westley loves her.

Westley makes a promise, that he will ALWAYS come for her, and there is nothing to protect that promise but this thing called true love. He leaves Buttercup with nothing but his word.

And then... what happens to Westley?

This is from the original script, courtesy of the IMSDB. 

                  (off-screen reading)
             Westley didn't reach his
             destination. His ship was attacked
             by the Dread Pirate Roberts, who
             never left captives alive. When
             Buttercup got the news that
             Westley was murdered --

                         THE KID
                  (off-screen, perking
                  up a little)
             -- murdered by pirates is good --

Of course, my students immediately remind me that Westley wasn't really dead. 

"Sure," I said. "You know that. You've seen the movie. But does Buttercup?"

Buttercup doesn't know that. 

Imagine what that is like, for a minute. To have such a promise made. And then to think it is all gone, just like that.

I showed them another clip. It was only 9 seconds, but this line is absolutely crucial to the story.

"Remember this," I said. "Because this is going to come up again later, and it will matter."

It is worth remembering, also, that this is a human reaction to terrible pain. I know a little bit about this sort of pain, and it is easy to want to protect yourself, to hold yourself back from ever being hurt again.

"Pretend," I asked them, "That you haven't seen this story a million times. Does she know Westley is coming back? No. The idea is being tested now. And she's failing the test. And, knowing what I know now, I don't blame her, because we all fail the test. It's the hardest test. Believing that true love conquers all? That's pretty impossible sometimes."

We talked more about the Hero's Journey. The Three Act Structure.

And then we came to the next clip (at least, the next that is relevant to this blog post.)

Pay attention. What did she say before? 'I will never love again.'

What does she say now, that echoes it?

"I will never doubt again."

Buttercup isn't just saying what she's thinking. She's making a solemn promise in both of those scenes. The first one she's hurting so much that she's promising never to love again, never to hurt that much again because it was so awful. But in the second version 'I will never doubt again', she's promising something much, much harder to do -- that she will trust in the power of love to conquer everything. Even death.

Pretty heavy stuff. And it gets heavier, because she fails the promise.


So I've been mad at Buttercup about this before. And maybe you have too.

But as for me, I think I was just mad at myself. Because this is the promise that we fail all the time, isn't it? That theme, that idea, 'True Love Conquers All', it is powerful for a reason. And the reason I think it is so powerful is because it strikes at the heart of something that we know is true without always knowing why - that true love, love without condition, is the most powerful thing in the world. 

But sometimes we get afraid, or angry, or we try to protect ourselves from further pain, and whenever we do that, we're betraying true love.

I mean, yeah. Buttercup straight up betrays her promise. And I think the reason we don't like it is because we've all done that, on some level, usually for much pettier reasons than Buttercup's reasons.

The weight of that mistake weighs on her.

This is easily the scariest scene in the movie. I was WAY more scared of this than of the shrieking eels or the R.O.U.Ses when I was a kid. 

So she goes to try to fix what she has done. To try to make things right. She goes to Humperdinck, and begs for him to send for Westley. 

Only... well... you know what Humperdinck is like. Kind of a tool, putting it gently. And he doesn't send for Westley. He lies to her that he does, but he doesn't.

And then, this scene.

It's powerful.

Why is it so powerful?

Because Buttercup is finally beginning to realize what is real, to correct her mistakes, to trust in true love. With, ah, mixed results. Westley gets... well, killed. Mostly killed. 

Buttercup struggles the entire film to bring herself in line with the theme. FAILING REPEATEDLY.  But you only get to fail repeatedly if you try repeatedly, and Buttercup is willing to try repeatedly, even after realizing how absolutely wretchedly she does at trusting in love. She knows she isn't good at it, and by the end of the movie, she STILL hasn't perfected it.

But man, she tries.

The whole movie, Buttercup is the only uncertain one.

Everyone else knows exactly what they want, and will stop at nothing to get it. Prince Humperdinck wants a war with Guildar. Westley wants Buttercup. Inigo Montoya wants revenge. THEY ALL KNOW EXACTLY WHO THEY ARE.

Buttercup wants only to be loved, and that's the most terrifying thing to want, for most people, because it means being vulnerable to being hurt. Remember, she's surrounded almost the entire movie by people who are utterly incapable of love - Westley being the lone exception among them. Even the sweet and powerless old king doesn't love her. In a moment of vulnerability, she tells him she is planning to die rather than betray Westley in Humperdinck's bed.

And how does he answer?
'Oh that's nice... SHE KISSED ME.'

Call it senility if you want. But no matter what the reason, that isn't true love showing itself right there.

In such an environment, with all that facing me, could I hope to do any better than Buttercup?

Maybe. But maybe not. I don't know.

Buttercup's struggle is the hardest because it's against herself. I will likely never have to storm a castle to save a true love, or stab an enormous rat, go up against a Sicilian, etc. etc. But I struggle against myself every day. And I fail. And then I try again.

In the end, she still hasn't perfected it. And... this time around, it's kind of beautiful to me that she hasn't. Because even though she still isn't perfect, Westley does come back for her, as he promised at the beginning. Even an imperfect trust in true love can still be enough, sometimes. 

I found it... reassuring.

"But that's just silly romantic attachment!" someone might say. To this person, I present the final line of the movie. 

Skip to 1:51.


This story, about Buttercup? The TITLE CHARACTER of the movie? The ideas apply even to old men and their bedsick grandsons. The idea applies to a guy that works at a junior high and the kids he teaches. It applies in every relationship where you're trying to love somebody else imperfectly.

Not just about romantic attachment.

It's about every sort of true love ever. 

"By the way," I told my students, in a quiet but firm voice, after all was said and done. "True love always wins. True love conquers all. It isn't just a fairy tale saying. True love will hold out even when everything else has to wither and die. Believe it, guys. It's the only thing that matters in the end. And I'm going to keep coming back to it, again and again, even when I get scared like Buttercup, because I believe in that idea no matter what."

Just keep coming back to it, friends. Trying again, even when you screw it up. It'll be all right. True love conquers all, in the end, most especially in the struggle against ourselves.