Morgon Newquist

“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic.”

Review: A Place Outside The Wild

World War Z meets Rot & Ruin

As a fan of zombies, I’ve recently begun to feel burnout from the glut of zombie entertainment in recent years. I’d heard good things about A Place Outside The Wild, author Daniel Humphreys’ debut novel, however, so when I had a little bit of down time I decided to check it out.

And despite this book’s size (it comes in at 628 pages!) I blew through it in only two days. Dan’s world building is logical, detailed, and interesting. And in a time where doing something new and interesting with zombies equals making them fast (or rage Zombies), he manages to bring something new to the table.

The book is reminiscent of both Max Brooks’ World War Z, and Jonathan Maberry’s Rot & Ruin series, and that’s a good thing. Fans of those works should definitely give this one a try.

5 stars for an enjoyable read, and for breathing some new life (or perhaps undeath!) into an overdone genre.

A Goodbye & A Thank You

Our evergreen photo of our eldest son giving the priest the stink eye at his baptism.

We just got back from the going away party for our Priest. Today was his last Sunday Mass, and he’ll be moving on to another parish.

This makes me very sad, as I adore him. He has always been strong and unwilling to compromise over the Truth. He also is not afraid to make people angry. In age where so many worry about not offending people so their dollars stay in the church, this is refreshing.

He is also the priest that Russell and I converted under. He baptized Russell, and three of our four children.

I would like to tell two stories about him today, but some backstory first.

I left “formalized” religion in high school, after growing up in an unnamed-to-avoid-drama Protestant Church.

There was a rather appalling and disgusting bit of mean girls out grouping going on aimed at my mother while my parents were getting divorced. They treated me badly over it, and treated my sister even worse.  I don’t want to get into details over it, because I do not post my dirty laundry everywhere, but I will mention it happened.

It was also a church that was rather dismissive of its teenagers.  They put age caps on all the kids events at the church, and basically cast us out of them. We were not even allowed to help with them. And there were no events for us. It was like they decided we were the devil as soon as we hit around 14/15 years old.

I saw no reason to continue going anymore. I didn’t want to endure the side-eyes and the whispering. It felt a little like betraying my mother to go, too. That was her church, and to this day it still confuses me why everyone decided to take my dad’s side and run her out. But that’s in the past.

Though not as progressive as it is now, growing up in this particular protestant church, I wasn’t brought up with a firm sense of the faith. Now I can say it was Churchianity…rarely was there any discussion of sin. If you were A Good PersonTM, then you would be saved. It was never explicitly stated either, but somehow I ended up with a sense that I should only pray about the important things – the big things. Some of that came from growing up in the Bible Belt, where there are certain denominations (I’ll also leave them unnamed but you can probably figure it out) that publicly and endlessly beg for prayers for every little thing, which also left a bad taste in my mouth – it felt to me like they were attention-whoring, not honestly seeking prayers. All of this culminated in some weird sort of expectation formed out of churchianity and prosperity gospel – I won’t ask you for anything, God, unless it is really important. And because I don’t ask unless it is really important, he will grant it to me.

Now, I’m going to interrupt all of this right now to say that I know that is not the case now. How could it possibly be so? As our priest has often said, “God is not a vending machine,” where we ask and he provides exactly how we want. But my vague collection of what I had (and hadn’t) been taught led me to feel this way on an emotional level.

Dear God, please save my grandmother.

Please don’t let my Uncle die.

Please help my parents.

Please stop this divorce.

Help me. I am drowning in their anger. Save me from this.

After half a decade of these desperate prayers – when I had never asked for anything else – and nothing changed, I felt lost. What had I done wrong? Was I not a Good PersonTM?

And then they came after me as part of what ended up being the scorched earth campaign of my parents’ divorce, and I was done with it all. None of them were behaving like Good PeopleTM, the ways that it was stressed throughout my childhood that were the Christian ways to behave. I was disillusioned and angry.

I never stopped believing, I suppose.  It was important to me that I get married in a church, so when Russell and I married, we did so in that denomination. But not at my childhood church.

I still went to other churches on occasion. But they did not bring any kind of guidance, and soon even then occasional visits stopped.

I tell you this not to bash my previous churches, really. But to give you the backstory why I was not a member of the unnamed denomination, and why I did not attend a church.

This is not the full story of my conversion, which I will probably write at another time. That’s too much of a tangent for this post. But this is the heart I had in me, even when I was in RCIA to convert to Catholicism. I believed in the faith, and wanted to be a part of it, but I was still afraid and wounded.

As part of our joining of the Church, we were required to have a private meeting with the Priest to discuss why we were joining the church.

And without even really realizing it, I found all of this pouring out of me as I talked to him. I am generally very private and quiet in person – the real world equivalent of a forum lurker, I suppose – but I told it to our priest.

After I finished, he said:

“I am glad you wish to join our faith. But don’t you think, for even a minute, that that couldn’t happen to you here,” he told me.

This might shock most people, but I was immediately enamored of his bluntness and honesty about it. Too many people, especially those in power, are oblivious to those kinds of games and behaviors.

He also said, “I will go to Hell for the toes I have intentionally stomped on since coming here, because I will have none of it,”

And there was none of it, at least to me. And to the extent that anyone is able to control it, it did not happen. He stomped through the parish, breaking up twenty year cliques and their leaders, and with the force of a hurricane declared that he would not accept that kind of behavior anymore.

He always remembered me after that, and in the early days would take care to make sure I was doing well. It was a small thing, but after being essentially written out of the history of the small church I had grown up in, it meant a lot. Especially since our Parish is HUGE.

But the main story, the big one I set out to tell (and decided would be too long for Twitter) is about what this Priest did for my grandfather.

Despite my mother’s family being more than a little Italian, no one in my family is Catholic. I was breaking new ground when I left the protestants and joined the Catholics.

My grandfather was very ill – deathly ill, in fact. Sepsis got into his bloodstream, and his systems were shutting down. He at one time was an interim pastor for his church – he and my grandmother were deeply religious, but also left the formal church when it began to politicize too much, and when his pastor refused to write a recommendation letter so he could go to seminary.

For the previous decade, suffering from some form of dementia and some reoccurring health problems, he lived with my mother, away from his home town. He had no church here, though Russell and I often took him to mass with us to. He was quite fond of our priest, “even though he was a Catholic and wrong about a lot of things.”

After rounds upon rounds of antibiotics, various treatments, and a tracheotomy, he was not getting better. The doctors at the hospital began to campaign to pull the plug on his oxygen, to “just let him die.” They claimed he didn’t know what was going on, and wasn’t “present” enough anymore to be able to make any decisions. They pushed it hard enough that my mother asked for help from Russell, who went to the hospital himself though it was not his family.

Russell went to visit my grandfather, who could not speak at all because of his tracheotomy. He clearly explained what was going on, and explicitly asked him, “Barry, do you want us to let you die?” so it could not be argued with. My grandfather vehemently and vigorously shook his head every time. No. He was not ready to die.

And so Russell defended him, and when they still persisted, he called our priest.

Who came to my grandfather’s aide, despite the fact that he was not a Catholic, and not a member of our parish. There are more than 2600 families in our parish. Our priest is busy all the time. I’m sure there was something else he could have been doing. But he came to help as soon as the message got through to him.

He came into that hospital and shamed the doctors into backing off, and brought the power of the Church with him to end any arguments. He spoke to my grandfather himself, and asked the same questions – and got the same answer. Despite his pain, despite the grim outlook, my grandfather did not want to die.

He even visited my grandfather in the hospital later that week, all on his own. Just to check up on him.

The Saturday at the end of that week, my grandfather’s heart was failing.

And he came to wait with us, and said the commendation of the dying for him. He told us that “he would not abandon a man of God when he was dying,” and stayed with us until all but my mother and my aunt left for the night.

My grandfather died late that night, and then the next morning, before Mass, he sought us out and asked about him. We told him he passed away, and then during the Eucharist, after “for whom this mass is offered,” he said “and also for Barry Nicora, who passed away this morning,”

These may seem like little things, but they were so important to me, especially after being so disillusioned and angry about what happened the last time I needed the support of my church.

He helped my grandfather die a natural death, the one intended for him, instead of one forced on mankind’s time. He offered his church for my grandfather’s funeral in there was nowhere else to have it. We took him home to Georgia for it, but I still appreciate the offer.

Father Phil, you helped heal my heart by making your parish into a safe place. You showed me Christ’s love, and the selflessness of the Church when you cared for a man that was not of your flock. You are one of the reasons that I am still part of the faith, because I was so timid and wounded when I converted that it would have been easy for me to flee out of fear of getting hurt again.

Thank you. Thank you. God bless you.

The School of Spells and War Comes to Patreon

The School of Spells and War stories are now available on a Patreon launched specifically for the series! I am excited about this change, and I think it will be a great improvement for me and for the fans of the series.

You can find it here. If you’re a reader of the series, please consider supporting me over there.

Some of you might be wondering why I would make this change, and I’ll explain that in just a bit. First I want to tell you about all the extras you’ll get through my Patreon account!

First and foremost, you’ll get all the Alis and Cahan stories in one spot. Every time I post a story, it will be available to read on Patreon. Ebook versions of the story are attached to the post, so you can download your flavor of ebook too. Now you won’t have to go hunt them down on Amazon each time a new one is released.

All my patrons immediately get the first three stories – Down The Dragon Hole, A Midsummer’s Party, and The Cinder Witch for supporting me! That’s $5 worth of short stories immediately.

From here on out, all the Spells and War stories will be released on Patreon first, followed by Amazon a month later. Get them as soon as they’re released instead of having to wait!

There are different tiers, but I’m also going to include world building posts, maps, behind the scenes info, and even extra short stories for my patrons. This is much better than just getting the solitary story download from Amazon.

Each time I release a new story (and only when there is a new story, not monthly!) you’ll get it right away, and for the same price it would be listed on Amazon if you choose the lowest tier of support.

So why have I decided to shift over to the new platform?

The biggest reason is being able to connect better with my readers. Everything I want to share about the Spells and War story is now in one place. All the little world building tidbits, the maps I make, story background can just be posted and you’ll know where to find it. I can get to know my fan base, and you can get to know me.

I can build a wider audience this way, and you can participate in the entire process. It’s not as formal and faceless as interacting with Amazon.

I think this will be a great change. Please consider heading over to Patreon and signing up to support the series! Thank you!

Disney is playing an entirely different game than Marvel or Tor

I decided to write this blog post in response to a short exchange on Twitter, because I have a different opinion than many people on Disney as a company, and where they may or may not be heading. It is often thought to be the teetering giant – just slipping over the edge of the beanstalk, ready to fall to the earth.

This may still be the case, but I think Disney operates differently than every other entertainment company on the planet, and they have a different game that they are playing.

First, there is no doubt that Disney is a progressive company. They don’t even work particularly hard to hide it anymore. But the question is are they converged, and are they willing to destroy their own company in order to virtual signal, lose or insult their base to further their leadership’s political opinions, and put forth lesser quality products to push messages?

I think the answer to that, at this moment, is no. Will it change in the future? Possibly, even probably. But my argument is this: Disney is far more likely to alter their coarse before this happens, to self-correct rather than double down, than most converged institutions.

One important caveat to all of this is that Disney is massive, and full of many different branches, so to speak. Some of them are worse than others. The Disney Channel (as opposed to the Disney Parks, Disney Junior, or the animation department) is far more converged than other parts of the company. They’ve been putting out unwatchable dreck for years. Should one particular branch start collapsing or performing too poorly, they are likely to fix it or kill it. But if not, it is one area of the company, not the whole.

Marvel and Tor, for example, are niche compared to Disney’s multiple market, broad appeal and customer base. Comic book movies are mainstream now, but the base for actual comic books is significantly smaller than the audience for a superhero movie. I am always interested in seeing the new Marvel movie, but I never buy comic books. In fact, the only non-graphic novel comic I have read in its entirety is Rising Stars.

Science Fiction and Fantasy books are an even smaller market. Tor and Marvel have peddled away their base and their money, and now they’re fragile. Even when they were more successful, they could not afford to take a hit the way Disney can. They doubled down on their message fiction, insulted their base, and decided that their fantasy of the market was reality, when it was not.

They put all their eggs in the progressive basket, so to speak, and after years of slow decline they don’t have many eggs left.  Now their entire approach is based on the idea that SJW virtues are the future, they are the popular attributes, and because they’re right, eventually everyone will see the light. They don’t care if the wrong people don’t buy their stuff. They don’t care that they’re driving away the majority of their base. Both Marvel  and Tor are insisting, to various degrees, that the problem is their customers, not their product.

Disney’s company image, their marketing strategy, is entirely different. They are not pandering to a small, vocal part of the community. They are pandering to everyone.

They are walking the tightrope to be the inclusive entertainment provider to milk every last cent they possibly can out of every group of people possible. And they are good at it. Their strategy is that they want everyone’s money, so they will walk the tightrope to convince everyone that they’re looking out for them. So far they manage it pretty well. They’ll make mistakes, and probably some huge ones. But they don’t go into it blind, insisting that their base prefers different things than it actually does.

They’re king of getting money out of people. They want outliers (progs, gay families, etc) willing to buy their stuff as well as your standard American family, and to have them feel like they should support the company because it supports them.

Disney has been fielding criticisms from both sides of the aisle for years. For simultaneously going too far and not far enough. But somehow they never seem to go far enough in either direction to force people to actually start boycotting them or refusing to buy their products. Have they lost some customers? Sure. But their solid support from all but the fringes of both sides of the spectrum keeps them safe.

One of the best examples of this is the Gay Days at their parks. By refusing to acknowledge them (thus not having to disavow their gay customers or their conservative ones), they’ve managed to get people to pay them money to virtue signal, while not losing the business from their base.

And unlike somewhere like Tor, they know what their paying customers will stand for.  No doubt they’re pushing the boundaries, but if they start losing huge amounts of money, they will backtrack or stop. Their idol is the almighty dollar, not the pillars of progessivism. Notice that most of the SJW characters and story lines from Marvel Comics have been absent from their Marvel Universe Movies.

Also unlike the other companies, Disney has a place in American childhood and family life that they are loathe to forfeit. They will continue to toe the line to keep their hold on this.

Now, this is an argument that makes them significantly more insidious and more of a threat than Tor and Marvel, but that isn’t the point of this post.

Beauty and the Beast is a little bit of a departure from this tactic, though less of one than it seems on its face. I was actually shocked when the articles came out, because Disney normally does not so publicly push pet political points.

However, the “gay moment” was nothing more than a publicity grab on their part. What happened with it? Everyone was talking about it. Everyone was talking about the movie days before release. They even managed to get the religious types to freak out over it – claiming that LeFou ballroom dances with Gaston (he does not), LeFou and Gaston share a gay kiss (they do not), etc. So when the movie itself came out, what was it? Literally ten seconds of Lefou ending up dancing with another man seemingly by accident. They reap the benefits of the publicity, of the prog/gay community coming out in scores to “support” it, and then middle America sees it anyway with their families once it comes out how minuscule this scene actually is. And the religious folks look like overreacting nuts that aren’t even right about what happens in the movie. If anyone should be offended by LeFou and his “exclusively gay” moment it should honestly be the LGBT community, because they are being used for it.

And as for Malaysia banning it and Disney refusing to edit the movie? The top earning movie in Malaysia ever (The Fast and the Furious 7, if it matters) earned roughly 13 million USD. That’s pocket change to the Disney Corporation.

They probably decided that the publicity cost of editing it was not worth the money they would earn in Malaysia, in addition to whatever values they hold. Their brand of being inclusive and accepting is worth more to them than the money from Malaysia. They have carefully worked years to craft it.

Now, if China had decided that the scene needed to go? I bet they would have quietly made the changes.

Disney wants to manipulate everyone and get in their pocketbooks.

I’m not even arguing that they won’t eventually fail, or go too far, or that they are anything other than a progressive company. Their collapse (if it happens) may be quick. But they’ve also recorrected and saved themselves from ruin more than once, though for different reasons than convergence.

It’s also likely that this is the beginning of more incidents like the one surrounding Beauty and the Beast. The movie has made almost a billion dollars worldwide already, and it’s not even been out a month. The stunt didn’t tank the movie. They’re going to see what they can get away with in the open, which is a departure from their past behavior, and it may put them over the edge. Or maybe the average American family becomes desensitized to the entire thing, and continues to pay to see their work as long as the offense isn’t to egregious.

They aren’t putting out terrible products. Beauty and the Beast was a good movie. The majority of what they put out is at least an enjoyable watch. Disney Junior programming is leagues better than any of the other stuff put out by Nick Jr. or PBS, for example. I can watch their releases without feeling like someone is smashing me in the face with a brick made out of progressive politics and message fiction. And I maintain that Disney World is still one of the easiest and best places to vacation as a family with young children (though it takes a chunk from your pocketbook to do it). For now the gravy train continues, as long as they ride the line carefully.

Only time will tell how it all ends. But their strategy is to make themselves as appealing to everyone as possible, and currently, they mostly succeed at this.  And I think they are more likely to change their course in response to lost revenue than anyone else as progressive as they are.

Review: Beauty and the Beast

Spoilers ahead!

I will begin this review stating that I absolutely adore Beauty and the Beast. It has been my favorite Disney movie and fairy tale for as long as I can remember. In fact, I have a novel I’ve been working on for many years named Beast Child that I hope to be able to share with you all in the future.

I fell in love with the live action Cinderella film released several years ago, and so my excitement went through the roof when Beauty and the Beast was announced. If they did Cinderella so beautifully, whimsically, and perfect, perhaps they would do the same with my beloved tale.

Beauty and the Beast is not, unfortunately, as wonderful as Cinderella. However, I greatly enjoyed it (especially several aspects of it) and it was not as terrible of a message fiction mess as I feared it would be. I was worried – especially with a lot of the news coverage in the days before the film’s release. The points, as is common with journalism, were overstated.

First, to address the controversies. You’d have to really examine the film with a magnifying glass to find this groundbreaking “exclusively gay” moment. In fact, I am not entirely sure what it was supposed to be, though I have my guesses. This is good, as I wanted to be able to take my young children to see it. I’m suspecting it was a pure publicity grab to talk about it at all – and already those who care about that kind of thing are decrying how it wasn’t good enough. Otherwise other than some “wink wink nudge nudge” moments it is not a huge influence on the plot.

LeFou is most definitely gay, but not in a way that children are going to notice, and he’s mostly really funny. His character has been expanded well and I enjoyed him.

Belle “being brought into the 21st Century” to be a strong, independent inventor woman (apparently being a book worm isn’t enough anymore) is a bigger problem. And that brings me to the weak link of the movie, which is Belle. Emma Watson, despite her turn as Hermione in Harry Potter, was a poor choice. She is pretty, but not beautiful, and they had to auto-tune the hell out of her voice to make it merely passable. Her acting is good but not great. Many of the weaknesses of the film could have been fixed just by casting someone else in this role. Someone who could take a little of the edge off. Belle actually doesn’t do all that much inventing, so that also seems to be kind of tacked on to deflect criticism about her not being “modern & smart enough”.

I have mixed feelings on Belle as a character in this movie, to be honest. She is kind of an elitist bitch in the beginning of the movie – but in doing this, she is actually given a character arch as well. She doesn’t have much of one in the original film. She grows and softens, especially once the Beast embarrasses her for her inflated ego. I would have preferred that she wasn’t quite so unlikeable during the first third of the movie. This could have been done while still preserving the spirit of the character arch.

One scene in particular was heavy handed and out of place and could have been altered or left out. The villagers dump out Belle’s laundry because she is teaching a little girl to read. It was overly feminist, and literacy in France for women in the 17th century was actually quite high.

Gaston is, quite honestly, the highlight of this film. He is charming, arrogant, masculine, and perfect. I loved watching him. I liked the new bits to his character – like that he is a returning war veteran ready to settle down in life.

There are only two issues with him in the movie: 1) Belle and Maurice’s treatment of him in the beginning of the movie is atrocious. It’s like the movie forgets that he has not been established as the villain yet – he is arrogant and entitled, but he hasn’t actually done anything wrong. He doesn’t throw Belle’s book in the mud, he doesn’t harass her about reading – he is honestly attempting to woo her because of her personality and her beauty. And she is a complete bitch to him, as if he was as oafish and offensive right off the bat as he is in the animated film. Later on, Gaston goes out to help Maurice when he asks (instead of throwing him out of the tavern) and Maurice is an asshole to him. This bothered me, because in that universe, he might have been a little arrogant, but he had done nothing to deserve that treatment except apparently the cardinal sin of being attracted to someone who wasn’t interested in him. 2) The changes to his death scene are anticlimatic and he deserved better.

The film is beautifully romantic, from Maurice’s sad and quiet mourning of his wife, to the separated Cadenza and Garderobe, Lumiere and Plumette, and finally to Belle and the Beast. Their connection is much better done in this expanded version of the story. I love that it starts with the Beast teasing a haughty and offended Belle about not actually being as well read as she thinks she is. In an age where so few movies are romantic (especially not most “romance” movies) I appreciate that writers didn’t shy away from making the movie that way.

Some of the tiny story details added or expanded on are right on point. The addition of the servants losing more and more of their humanity as the end of the curse nears adds a wonderful dimension to the film. The scene where the last of their humanity vanishes and they “turn into antiques” despite their victory against the villagers is surprisingly moving.

The castle and its grounds being in eternal winter is a nice touch. And my personal favorite was perhaps one of the best of these additions – the shuddering and breaking of the castle every time a rose petal falls. Several plot holes from the original are closed – as part of her curse, the Enchantress makes everyone forget about the Prince, the Castle, and its inhabitants, including their own family members that were working in the castle.

The visuals are stunning, and I like the period feel – right down to the white powdered wigs in the beginning. The character design of the castle servants is really neat as well.

The new songs are a good addition, particularly the melancholy “Days in the Sun”. I still prefer the Beast’s soliloquies from the original broadway show to “Evermore”, however. Evermore is a touch emo for me.

Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellen are two of my very favorite actors, and like I told Russell…Ewan McGregor singing Be Our Guest is about one of the only things that could make me like that song. (Yes, I love Beauty and the Beast but hate Be Our Guest. Well, I don’t hate it any longer, but the most I can ever summon for it is “meh”.)

So my final verdict: I enjoyed it significantly more than I thought I would, but it was not as wonderful as I hoped it would be.

Coming soon, a refutation of the common, snide criticisms of the Beauty and the Beast story.

My Top Five Disney Villain Songs

This is a fun little post I was thinking about as my kids and I listened to a Disney villain song collection in the car. It was a little random and missing some good ones, but it got me considering it.

Here are the best Disney Villain songs, ranked by me.

#5 Be Prepared – The Lion King

This song on the list was almost a given, as The Lion King is one of the best of the Disney animated films. Scar (with the exception of Ursula, who was originally Triton’s sister, a relationship removed from the movie but restored to the stage musical) is family to the characters he is destroying. He is kills his own brother in order to be king, and is completely willing to also permanently psychologically damage (and then kill) his own nephew for it too. Jeremy Irons is perfect for this song, and it is ominous as he plots the coup of the royal family. It’s also full of Nazi imagery, which should terrify today’s snowflakes looking for swastikas around every corner.


#4 Mother Knows Best – Tangled

I almost ranked this one higher – it was a little bit of a struggle, but the next song is a little shocking for a Disney song, even a villain, so this one ended up at #4. Mother Gothel kidnapped the baby princess Rapunzel to use her magic hair to stay young and beautiful forever, and has kept the child locked up in a tower her entire life. This song is the epitome of feminine abuse – catty comments, underhanded jabs, and most of all, scaring and manipulating a young woman to stay completely dependent on her. She is crushing Rapunzel’s self confidence and self reliance, all so she can be beautiful. Take note at the end of the song, when Mother Gothel tells Rapunzel “I love you most” she kisses Rapunzel’s hair and not her.

#3 My Lullaby – The Lion King II

So this is a movie that has mostly been relegated to the dustbin, as it was one of the direct to video sequels of the late Eisner years at Disney. I haven’t watched it again as an adult, but it isn’t too bad if I remember it correctly. It has had a tiny bit of a resurgence lately as they’ve chosen not to totally trash the canon from it; Simba’s daughter Kiara is in the new television show The Lion Guard. The music in it is actually quite good, and this song is one of the reasons.

The plot is that several of Scar’s followers were expelled from the Pridelands by Simba, including Zira and her three children. Her youngest son, Kovu, was chosen to be Scar’s successor. She is singing him to sleep in the song My Lullaby.

The corruption of a child, and her celebration of violence and wrath also make it noteworthy.

#2 Friends on the Other Side – The Princess and the Frog

This is The Shadow Man – Dr. Facilier – trapping Prince Naveen with voodoo in The Princess and The Frog. Keith David’s talent makes this song, as does the willingness to be explicit and creepy with his shadow summons. He is tempting both Naveen and his manservant Lawrence with their heart’s desires – money and respect. I also find it noteworthy  for using the temptation of a gamma – a cowardly man who cannot stand up for himself wanting to take the power and respect of another man. He thinks he deserves what Naveen has, despite never making any effort to improve his own lot in life.  He would betray and destroy Naveen in order to get it.

“In your future, the you I see…is exactly the man you always wanted to be,” sings the Shadow Man as he shows Lawrence a card with him as the king, abusing his master.


#1 Hellfire – The Hunchback of Notre Dame

With the exception of #3, this is likely to be one of the songs on the list that has been heard the least. The Hunchback of Notre Dame is – generally quite rightfully, I feel – scoffed at for the “Disney” changes made to Victor Hugo’s classic novel. And on the other side of the divide, many Disney fans didn’t like it because it didn’t have the requisite happy ending. But the music in it is incredible (Don’t believe me? Go listen to it). The musical, which changes the plotline to be at least slightly closer to the original story, also has amazing music.

Rumor is that Roy Disney gave the creators permission to push the envelope and do something different with this movie, and in Hellfire, you can see it. It is an intense song about Frollo condemning Esmerelda to eternal fire for not returning his affections.  


That is my ranking of the Disney Villain Songs! There are a couple of good ones (Poor Unfortunate Souls, Oogie Boogie’s Song, and The Mob Song, for example) that just missed the top five. What are your favorite Disney Villain songs and why?


Even Cinderella Had Haters

This is a post that’s been rolling around in my head for a while that I’ve been meaning to write. I think it is important to remember. I try to keep it as a sort of mantra (along with the tagline from the live action movie, “Have Courage and Be Kind”).

I like most people on an individual basis. I’m not a saint, there are some I can’t stand or don’t want to deal with. I’m generally unconcerned with whatever they choose to do with their time or attentions.  I can also see most people for the interesting and good things about them, even if I don’t want to be BFFs.

I spent a rather embarrassingly long time of my life naively thinking this is how most other people were. It is not.

It does not matter how charitable, how smart, how kind – how completely and generally unoffensive you are as a person. Someone will not like you. Someone will take shots at you, try to tear you down, or just make your life uncomfortable. Maybe it’s because they are bitter and hate everyone. Maybe they are jealous. Who knows?

The crabs in a bucket theory is real. Many (even most) people actually behave this way. You won’t escape their cruelty, jealousy, or dislike, even if you try to be nice and try to make everyone like you. Hell, sometimes the act of trying to make everyone like you makes someone hate you. It’s impossible.

You will not make everyone happy. Everyone will not like you. The end.

Cinderella was kind, beautiful, courageous, helpful, and loving. And even someone – her steprelatives – hated her. In fact, they hated her because of who she was. There was nothing for her to do about it.

If not even everyone loved Cinderella, a perfect fairy tale heroine, they will not all love you.

I get it. It is hard to accept. I still struggle with it, particularly because I am rather mild mannered and make a concerted effort to be kind. I have been a people pleaser for most of my life.

But it still hasn’t made me universally beloved. All her wonderful qualities did not save Cinderella from her stepmother and stepsisters.

Be who you are – whoever that is, and stop worrying about everyone else. It’s hard to do. I am trying to become that way. But I am sure it will make my life better.

Have You Seen: The 10th Kingdom

I am about to start running a couple of new “series” here on this blog. This post is the first of one of them. “Have You Seen” will be for me to share various works of writing, music, movies or television that I enjoyed but aren’t always super well known.

The first of these is The 10th Kingdom. I bring it up because we are currently watching it with my son. It has been a while since I’ve watched it, but it’s holding up quite well.

This was a TV miniseries originally released in 2000, and that is when I saw it the first time, too. I happened to be staying with a family friend while my parents were out of town. They were recording it…otherwise I might have never even known about it. It was not seen by very many people, it seems. The show wasn’t even rereleased on DVD until 2013, after it had been unavailable for quite some time.

It’s more than 150 years after Happily Ever After…and again the nine kingdoms are in upheaval. Prince Wendell White (the grandson of Snow White) is preparing for his coronation. The escape of his wicked Stepmother from prison is endangering him and his entire kingdom.

The story follows Wendell, and his unlikely companions – Wolf, a halfwolf escaped convict, and Virginia and her father Tony, New Yorkers.  After Trolls invade their apartment looking for the runaway Prince, they must escape through a magic mirror. New York is the mythical 10th Kingdom, only reachable by magic mirror.

It is a fun, tongue in cheek paean to fairy tales, with a good story to match. It happens to have two of the more impressive villains from fantasy shows from the aughts – the Evil Queen and her Huntsman. The Huntsman is unrelenting, calm, and intimidating, while the Queen hits all the right notes to be a truly feminine villain. Virginia, the female lead, is neither a manic pixie dream girl nor a badass flippy girl fighter. She is a normal girl, a waitress…slightly self absorbed, wary, and defensive, but not too bitchy or unsympathetic. It is refreshing for both Virginia and the Queen to be interesting and strong in their own way, without covering them with a veneer of masculinity. Long before Sad Puppies, when I was eleven, the pair of them made an impression on me because of this.

I don’t want to give away too much of the story (though I think I will analyze it and/or some of the characters in a later blog post), but I present it for your watching consideration.

Each character has a definite arc, the setting is fun, and the story works well. The writers manage to hat tip most of the well known fairy tales without being too excessive about it.

It also has one of my favorite TV openings of all time:

So if you’re looking to watch something during the cold winter months, this one will occupy several nights. And as an early aughts production, you won’t get beaten over the head with message fiction, either.

The Cinder Witch

The Cinder Witch has been released! I am remiss in posting this as it happened right around the holidays, but the third School of Spells and War story is finally out. You can purchase it at Amazon. It is also available on Kindle Unlimited!

Months ago, Alis joined with her new friend Cahan to fight a dragon beneath the School of Spells and War. Now she fights something altogether different: fame. Worse, her newfound notoriety has resulted in a mission to the far north. As if it weren’t bad enough that it’s so cold, she also finds herself in a tiny village whose residents innately distrust spellcasters of all kinds. Yet they tolerate her because she comes with Cahan – and because something is threatening their children. Can Alis and Cahan save them?

Please enjoy this 45 page story that is the next installment in the series.

More stories, and a big announcement about the School of Spell and War stories as a whole, will be coming soon. Please stay tuned!

A Midsummer’s Party


I am pleased to announce that the next short story in the School of Spells and War is now available on Amazon for 0.99! You can purchase it here exclusively through Amazon. It’s also free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers!

It’s Cahan’s birthday and Alis didn’t know it! Now she has only a matter of hours to choose the perfect gift for him. But what do you get a man like Cahan? The answer involves shenanigans and BREAKING THE RULES…something that Alis has never done!

A Midsummer’s Party is what I’ve come to calling an “interlude” story – shorter than the novellas, just a fun one-shot adventure with the characters.

Down the Dragon Hole, the first story in the series, is free on Amazon until tomorrow, so you might as well pick that one up if you haven’t started the stories yet! The School of Spells and War is a fun, slightly tongue-in-cheek tribute to the old sword and sorcery stories. I’m humbled that it has been compared favorably to the wonderful Terry Pratchett. Check it out if you’re interested!

You won’t have to wait long for more Alis and Cahan either. The Cinder Witch is coming down the line soon!

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