How to Ruin Character Arcs A La Game of Thrones

Note: This post is dark and full of spoilers from S8E5.

Sunday treated us to the fifth episode of season 8 of Game of Thrones, and it left watchers and readers raging. Between Dany activating “Mad King” mode and burning King’s Landing to the ground, Jamie going back to Cersei, and Cersei getting the fastest, easiest death of most characters of the show, it left people wanting. And lighting pitchforks.

Now, let it be clear, it’s not that the episode didn’t go the way I wanted that has me upset, it’s the destruction of the character arcs that has my blood boiling as much as Dany…or any of her victims for that matter. This episode–frankly the last two–have shown a gross break away from the character arcs that we’ve grown to love over the past 8 seasons. In one episode, these fleshed out characters get a 180 makeover leaving us all feeling a bit whip lashed.

So let’s go through and talk about just how our beloved characters were ruined.

Daenerys Targaryen

Yes, ladies and gents, we’re going to pounce on the Mother of Dragon(s) herself first. To begin, I’d like to say that I’ve read an incredible article about how Dany’s fall into madness makes sense, and I suggest you take a look at it. Check out “Game of Thrones”: Don’t be shocked by Daenerys– her King’s Landing turn was very much earned written by Amanda Marcotte.

In summary, in the article, Marcotte explains how Dany’s descent shouldn’t be a surprise to us as George R.R. Martin, and the show writers, have hinted at her fits of rage more than once in the series. From killing the “masters” to free the slaves to frying Sam’s father and brother, Dany has shown she doesn’t handle people disagreeing with her ideology very well.

But, here’s the caveat. Dany started out the series basically as a brood mare for her brother to help him gain power. She was married off to Khal Drogo where she was subsequently raped and taken advantage of until she learned how to bend him to her will instead. She started from the ground up, learning how to find a foot hole in a situation that would otherwise see her as a captive.

Throughout the series, Dany’s main focus has been going to Westeros and claiming the Iron Throne which is her birthright–up until we learn that Jon Snow is a Targaryen of course. She works on building her army through taking command of the Dothraki, freeing the Unsullied by killing the masters, raising her three dragons, and swaying people to her side, all the while fighting to convince everyone that she’s not like her deranged father. Robert Baratheon sends assassins after her when she’s just a girl because of the threat she poses (what if she truly is like the mad king)? And yet she survives it.

Varys makes a point to say that when a Targaryen is born, the gods toss a coin to see on which side it lands. Dany could have become a powerful queen or an evil dictator, and unfortunately, the latter came into play. And it’s maddening. It makes sense that with the loss of Jorah, two of her children, and her best friend, Missandei, that she would go into a spiral of rage, but that doesn’t mean she had to go all Mad King. While she–along with many characters– has demonstrated violence towards those against her, she’s also shown mercy, love, and caring.

The thing that angers me the most is that the writers set it up that the fact that Jon doesn’t want to boink her is what sends her over the edge. Can we please stop the themes of women going crazy because they’re scorned by a guy?

When the Lannisters surrendered at King’s Landing, that should have been it. I would have understood her wanting to go after the Lannister army, and Cersei of course, but to destroy the entirety of King’s Landing along with all the innocent people within? It seems contrary to her character. She’s fought all this time not to be her father. She has one dragon, one child, left, and she puts him completely at risk to take King’s Landing and destroy all of the people. It doesn’t do her character justice. She basically destroys the very thing she’s come to claim. If the city is burnt to the ground, who’s going to serve her? Never once in the series (that I can recall) has she intentionally caused the deaths of children or mothers. And yet here, she destroys every single one of them, and without any remorse.

This isn’t the Dany that we were presented with.

Jamie Lannister

Where to begin? We all hated Jamie at the beginning when we were introduced to him banging his sister followed by him shoving a kid out the window to protect their secret. Great moral compass there, Jamie.

But, as the seasons progress, we get to see him and Brienne together and learn that he killed the Mad King to save King’s Landing. He didn’t want to see people burn to death, so he stuck a sword in the man and became the loved and hated King Slayer. Through their relationship, we see a softer side of Jamie. He loses his hand protecting her. He swears to fight by her side during the battle against the Night King. He abandons Cersei (granted, she gave him a death threat) because he doesn’t believe in what she’s doing and how she’s hurting the people. He meets Bran again and tells him that he’s not the same man he once was. And then Jamie shows even more growth by being with Brienne and bedding her, treating her like a woman rather than some object. He even says he’ll stay with her while the battle at King’s Landing happens.

And then…he finds out Dany is going to kill Cersei, and he does a 180 and runs back  to Cersei.

Wait, what?

Didn’t he just get a death threat from Bron that he’s been hired by Cersei to kill Jamie and Tyrion?

Oh, but no, your sister and bed buddy is in danger, so let’s forget the woman that you fell in love with, and new moral compass, and race your butt right back to King’s Landing. Right before Dany massacres everyone.

Nice.

The debauchery of Jamie’s character continues when he sees the devastation that’s happening at King’s Landing and he does nothing to stop it. Jamie, the King Slayer, the man who murdered the Mad King to save the people, just shoves his way through the crowd to get to Cersei. He fights, and almost dies by, Euron to get to her. And in his final moments, he holds her, comforts her, and confesses his love for her as they’re crushed by rocks.

BY ROCKS.

So much for not being the “same man.”

This is not how you end a character’s arc. He literally had everything going for him at Winterfell, and even after Bron threatened him, he had no intentions of going back. But the moment he hears Cersei is in danger, he throws all his morals aside and rushes to her. Hell, he’s demonstrated more loyalty to Tyrion by helping his brother escape the cells than he has to Cersei, and he still chooses to be with her rather than to fight at his brother’s side.

Bad call, writers. Bad call.

Tyrion Lannister

I was rooting for you, sir, I really was.

First off, what happened to the “I drink and know things” Tyrion that we were treated to in the first few seasons of the show? A man of witty words, fascinating quips, and enough intelligence to lead an army into war at the Battle of Blackwater Bay. He became Hand to Dany and seemed to remain the same Tyrion for awhile.

And then season 8 happened.

Suddenly, Tyrion has turned into a bumbling fool who can’t anticipate what’s going to happen in battle. He’s constantly apologizing for his mistakes to Dany, underestimating his sister and her supposed good will, letting his brother go and run back to Cersei (thus betraying Dany), and selling out Varys which he’s never once done before.

Varys has been one of his closest companions and a fellow adviser through this all, and yet when Varys demonstrates his hopes of Jon being the one on the throne, Tyrion rushes to Dany to let her know and Varys pays the price. Granted, it’s treason. It makes sense. But since when has Tyrion had an issue with treason (ie. killing his father on the toilet, freeing his brother, turning against the Lannisters, etc).

No, we’re left with a man half the character he once was (no pun intended), and with little intrigue and all hot air. Tyrion’s character hasn’t been done justice whatsoever, and while I do appreciate that he did try to save the people of King’s Landing, if he’s so smart, he probably should have realized his queen wasn’t going to listen to him and go bat-shit crazy, destroying everything he knows and loves.

Tyrion, my friend, you know nothing.

Jon Snow

First off, pet the damn dire wolf, Jon Snow.

There, I said it.

Okay, I think we can all agree that Jon is very much Mr. Broodypants who doesn’t have the best battle tactics, and craves to be the hero. Even if he doesn’t want the Iron Throne.

We’ve spent all of Game of Thrones getting to learn the honorable Jon Snow. Friend to Wildlings. Killer of white walkers. The mighty warrior of the Battle of the Bastards.

The knower of nothing!

Okay, scratch that last part, at least until season 8.

I’ve cheered for Jon up until this point. He’s demonstrated leadership in his fight against Ramsey, and his quest to capture a white walker to convince Cersei to follow them into war (even though he was probably a fool to believe she’d actually do it). And despite his poor battle tactics in the fight against the Night King, he’s at least stayed true to his character. He wants to defend his people and the North. He wants to protect all of Westeros from these demons.

And then he finds out his lineage, and suddenly Jon is just incapable of reason. He blindly follows Dany to fight at King’s Landing, pushing men who are already exhausted from the fight against the Night King. He doesn’t necessarily agree with her tactics, but she’s “his queen” and he’ll do what she says. In the fight against King’s Landing, he at least gets back some of his honor and tries to stop his people from killing the civilians, but it’s like he’s lost any sort of power or sway that he actually has over the situation. No one is listening to him (unless they’re running from the fire-breathing dragon). And despite warnings, he just blindly follows along. Like a sheep led to slaughter.

I don’t want his character to end this way, not as a puppet to Dany or to his own ignorance.

Maybe he should have stayed with Ghost and Tormund in the North.

This is what you get for not saying goodbye to your dire wolf, Jon.

 

Independent Bookstore Day, April 27th

On Saturday, April 27th, the country celebrated Independent Bookstore Day! For the past five years, independent bookstores have thrown parties, offered treats, featured guest authors, created kid events and scavenger hunts, and so on and so forth. This one-day national party is meant to celebrate each bookstore’s uniqueness and get people into the stores instead of buying books exclusively online.

Iowa was no exception. Prairie Lights Bookstore had treats and special items available for people who stopped in during the day. The Haunted Bookshop had special deals on books. Next Page Books had giveaways, delicious coffee and treats, and tickets for the Music of Harry Potter at the Paramount Theatre in Cedar Rapids. I mean, who wouldn’t want that?

I spent my day as one of the featured authors at M and M Books, a lovely little place in Cedar Rapids that I’ve learned to call home. Owned and operated by Bill and Ursla Lanphear, M and M Books is a beautiful place to bring community together. It’s run by incredible staff who really care about their customers, authors, and each other. In the past year, they’ve featured author signings, author readings, and book clubs. They’re always evolving, finding out what’s best for them and the community, and I can’t wait to see where they go from here.

Saturday, though rainy and cold, didn’t exactly put a damper on things. The store was filled with amazing treats (some made by Dana Beatty) and dozens of gift baskets ready to go out to customers who signed up for the newsletter or bought books at the store.

Sweets
Picture by Dana Beatty
Gift baskets
Picture by M and M Books

Local author Jane Melloy and illustrator Mary Campbell showed off their books in the morning, followed by a lovely appearance from Prima the Alpaca who looked stunning even in her wet coat.

Prima

While Prima busily greeted guests at the door, author M.L. Williams and I presented our books at a table and talked with a great group of locals. I had such a wonderful time sharing information about my story with new people and talking with a U of I student both about my writing process and The Iowa Writers’ House and The Writers’ Rooms. And of course, I always enjoy spending time with M.L. who, despite his grumbling, is one of the nicest people I know!

Myron and Erin

Also, my skull pen holder was a huge success. Who would have thought that a care package gift during my first college course, After Hamlet, would be such a big eye catcher.

Pizza was provided for everyone near lunch time, which was much appreciated and unexpected. Bill and Ursla really know how to take care of their guests!

Finally, Andrew Ridker, author of The Altruists and the big headliner, wrapped up the day with an incredible discussion about his book and a signing session. If you haven’t had a chance to check out The Altruists, go to his site and take a look. I loved his reasons for writing it as it definitely speaks to my generation.

Randy

So, despite the sleet and snow, it was a wonderful day, and I can’t thank M and M Books enough for all their hard work and their dedication to local authors. This is truly a great bookstore, and I hope that if you’re in the Cedar Rapids area, you’ll take some time to stop by and say hi. You never know what treasures you’ll find on their shelves.

How to Tick Off an Entire Genre

I’m sure you all can guess where I’m going with this. Yes, I’m going to talk about #cockygate, the bane of the Romance world at the moment.

I’m sure you all can guess where I’m going with this. Yes, I’m going to talk about #cockygate, the bane of the Romance world at the moment. If you’re unfamiliar with what’s happening, here’s a brief summary. Romance writer, Faleena Hopkins, decided to trademark the word “cocky” to protect her brand. This has led to her sending out cease and desist letters to authors who use the word “Cocky” in the title of their books. You can imagine how many authors are being affected by this. She claims that it’s easy enough for these authors to just change their title. They can still keep their reviews and everything. She just wants to protect her brand. If you want more in depth information, check out the Guardian post here.

The main question people have about her action is, why? Why trademark a particular word? She says that 1. her readers are complaining that, since so many people use the word “Cocky” in their titles, they’ve been accidentally buying the wrong books. Apparently looking for the name of the author on the book isn’t enough. 2. She says people are stealing her ideas and book covers. She’s a business woman trying to make money and protect her brand.

Needless to say, there are a lot of problems with this. First of all, when you force authors to change the title of their books, it’s not just a simple task. Authors, especially indie authors, spend a lot of money on marketing. Bookmarks, sites, posts, posters, etc, all carry their title. Changing it on the book means changing it in all of those other locations. Reprinting costs a lot of money, not to mention it can confuse their current readers. Why suddenly change your title? It’s hurting authors financially, and honestly, it’s scaring those who may not have money to deal with the legal ramifications of using this newly trademarked word. She’s also attacking those who already published books with the word “Cocky” in it well before her paperwork was filed.

Second, she claims that she’s just trying to help people with her writing, and that the other authors are being ridiculous for attacking her (summarized from the youtube video, “Middle aged indie author has meltdown” which Hopkins forced to have taken down, ie “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Faleena Hopkins”). Honey…all writers work to help people in some way or other. Whether it’s to entertain them, distract them, or just make them feel good about themselves. She’s not the only one who writes to help people, and it’s very ignorant to think otherwise.

In this fast-paced world, we see so many examples of people stepping on the heads of others in order to rise above the crowd and make themselves known. As authors, we have a responsibility to support one another, to show compassion. The last thing you want to do is screw over another author, which is exactly what Hopkins is doing. By trademarking this word (and the font, although she wasn’t supposed to be able to trademark the font itself), she’s damaging many other authors. Amazon has gotten involved and started to remove titles as well because of her trademark, which only appeared on May 1st.

This of course has the Romance community in an uproar. The Romance Writers of America are working to right this wrong and protect Romance writers. What a way to damage your literary career.

Now, I’d like to note that she’s been receiving threats, as have her cover models, readers, and anyone associated with her. I don’t condone such threats, I want to make that perfectly clear. But, I don’t respect what she’s doing, and I feel for the authors who are struggling to keep their work up while she throws around her cease and desist letters.

What this comes down to is, when you’re working on publishing, try not to harm other authors in your quest to become famous. We’re all trying to make a living. We’re all trying to share our stories and touch our readers. I think the writing community is a very loving one, so long as you don’t go out of your way to destroy fellow authors. There are other ways that you can protect your brand. Trademark a series title rather than a single word, for example. That will still help you, but it won’t screw with so many other authors.

Endeavor to be kind, not a bully. And yes, I will call her a bully for attacking other authors and demanding they remove their titles. I truly hope that the RWA manages to correct this injustice.

To the authors who are struggling with this, know that I support you. Stay strong, and show off your books proudly. You deserve to be heard and seen.

How the Iowa Writers’ House Gave Me a Home

Each time someone thanks us for the IWH, my heart warms. I’m not just living for me any more; I’m living for the community.

When I graduated from Cornell College in 2009, I was hopeful that I would find a writing place to call my own. I thought I’d find many writing groups or opportunities to get my manuscripts critiqued. But, after a few years of searching, I couldn’t find anything that fit my needs. The closest was the National Novel Writing Month group lead by Marie Raven in Iowa City. I started to connect with other people like me, but something was missing.

In December, 2014, an amazing woman named Andrea Wilson met with a group of NaNoWriMo writers to talk about an idea she had for a writing organization. She presented it as a non-profit organization meant to help writers find their tribe and lend support to the literary community. I was excited. This was the first time someone had approached me with the very thing that I was missing in my life.

By April 2015, the Iowa Writers’ House opened its doors to the public, and the workshops began. The first one was a Travel Writing workshop with the amazing Michele Morano. Suddenly, I was in a class with people who loved writing and an instructor who shared her soul with us through her memoir. My spirit felt renewed, and I was filled with joy again.

I started to help the IWH, acting as a data coordinator and gathering e-mails of people who joined. That alone helped me realize I wasn’t alone. In October, 2015, we had a booth at the book fair in Iowa City. Many people came out to talk with us about our organization, and I realized just how much Iowa City needed this.

077

How much I needed the Iowa Writers’ House.

For the longest time, I didn’t feel I had a purpose. I walked ambled through life, working, going home and writing, and that was it. Suddenly, the IWH gave me the breath of fresh air I’d been missing. It gave me purpose and the opportunity to help writers find the support they needed. I could offer people hope and a safe writing environment.

Each time someone thanks us for the IWH, my heart warms. I’m not just living for me any more;  I’m living for the community.

I never had a writing tribe when I was growing up. I was very much alone and didn’t have writer friends who could support me, my dreams, and my craft. The only community I found was online, and that’s not always the same as sitting in a room with motivated people. Now I’m proud to say I have a community I can call friends and mentors. I have people I can mentor as well, and that’s one of the best ways I think you can give back to fellow writers. You can motivate them and give them a safe place to work.

You can give them a home.

In January, I had the opportunity to lead a Room through the IWH with my dear friend Alex Penland.  I chose the Violet Realm, a Room focused on teaching people about science fiction and fantasy writing. I was nervous at first. Was I knowledgeable enough to teach people the craft? Six months later, members are still coming, joining, and asking for more. We have varying ages in each session from teenagers, to adults, to seniors. The father of one of our teenagers even thanked us for making his daughter feel so welcome.

unnamed
Copyright: Seth Missiaen

It’s working. People are finding the support they need, and I’m part of that. I’m part of this organization that gives writers hope and the drive to continue their craft. Even more, now I have hope that I might one day join my fellow writers on the shelves.

The Iowa Writers’ House gives me purpose, and I hope that as the years go by this will grow into something that can help not only Iowans, but every writer who needs to find a literary home and family.

Thank you Andrea Wilson for helping me find a writing community.

 

Review: Mahogony: A Love Letter To Black

LLTB

I’ve decided that I want to start writing reviews of local writers or books that I really enjoy. I’m going to kick off this series with the chapbook “Mahogany: A Love Letter To Black.” Written by Heather “Byrd” Roberts, a poet, performer, and teaching artist in Chicago, this chapbook tells a very deep, emotional story. It is a journey through her life, echoing both the tribulations and the joys she’s experienced.

Heather graduated from Cornell College and received a Bachelors in Special Studies in Performance Art. She also received a Masters in Organizational Leadership from St. Ambrose University and a Certificate in Spoken Word Pedagogy from Concordia University-Chicago. Currently, she is the Programs Associate at Young Chicago Authors (YCA). YCA is a literary non-profit in Chicago that focus on cultivating more than 10,000 young peoples’ voices through writing, publication, and performance education. She is also a member of the Poetic Forum Collective that has reoccurring shows at Stage 773 in Chicago.

I met Heather at Cornell College in Iowa, and I have always been impressed and amazed by her writing. After I helped found Wordsmiths, a creative writing group on campus, she founded Lyrically Inclined, a poetry/performance poetry group. She has carried on with her amazing talent to create “Mahogany: A Love Letter to Black.”

I absolutely adored this chapbook, and I had the honor and pleasure of being one of her editors. The poems are raw, honest, and powerful. I grew angry at the injustice that she described, and it made me understand more just what she has gone through over the course of her life. Her language is beautiful and tantalizing. It’s easy to hear the heartbeat in each line of poetry, her heart beating to the rhythm of her words.

I highly encourage you to pick up this amazing piece and check Heather “Byrd” out on her facebook page. You can also visit her website to learn more about her and her journey.

To purchase “Mahogany: A Love Letter To Black,” you can find it here on amazon.

Congratulations on your success, Heather “Byrd”!