Extended Thoughts: Child of the Ghosts

 

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A double post on the first day I’m back? Amazing! Or totally predictable, since I hinted that I’d be doing this in the last post, the shorter version of this review. And I follow through with my recently-made promises! Because then I won’t have the chance to up and forget…

 

Have fun~

 


 

 

Title: Child of the Ghosts

Series: (Book 1) The Ghosts

Author: Johnathon Moeller

Genre: Fantasy (Sword-and-Sorcery)

Release Date: January 2014


 

 

…Child of the Ghosts, the first novel in Johnathon Moeller’s The Ghosts series, is Mistborn minus anything worth reading. But don’t worry, I won’t be referencing Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn throughout this, I just thought it was the most pithy and condensed way I could sum up my feelings for Child of the Ghosts

I added that in for continuity’s sake before beginning this Extended Thoughts session, just to keep things relevant. Unlike my original review this one’s going to be a bit more ramble-y as I talk about not only Child of the Ghosts, but the fantasy genre as a whole.

Oh, and spoilers, naturally. Including a very old Harry Potter spoiler too, I guess.

 

Characters and Their Lack Thereof:

There were no characters worth getting invested in, frankly. The story was so uncomfortably fast and slipshod that I, by the end of the book, didn’t remember most of the characters names, anything about their pasts, or their personalities. And unfortunately, most of the characters who I did remember I did not do so fondly. The primary characters, Caina, Halfdan, and Maglarion, all fit neatly into clichés, rendering them totally indistinguishable from the hundreds of other flat fantasy characters I’ve read. The only potential exception to this rule is Laeria Armalas, Caina’s mother.

To summarize: Caina is the clichéd broken young woman who tries to piece her life back together and change her ways when it’s plot-convenient. Otherwise, she’s totally content to slaughter her way through her fellow human beings without a thought, only to lament for a couple of sentences a few paragraphs later. Rinse and repeat. I was originally going to write, ‘…piece her life back together and change what she doesn’t like about herself.’ Except then I remembered that I have no idea what Caina thinks about herself, if she likes herself as a person, or if she’s concerned with how others see her. Caina, by and large, is a vessel to propel the plot forward and to throw knives. So to be honest, whatever trouble she finds herself in (which isn’t much, creating a dry, arid feeling throughout most of the plot) isn’t particularly gripping because I don’t care much about Caina or what happens to her.

Villain’s-wise Maglarion essentially Voldemort, though he’s opposed by a gaggle of assassins collectively holding the idiot-ball instead of a well-organized grassroots movement of concerned, well-fleshed-out individuals. That’s really about it— he desires eternal life and the death of everybody in Malarae for reasons never explained beyond it just being the evil necromancer thing to do instead of going into retirement. Lord Haeron, the walking, ‘hate me, I’m a scumbag with no redeeming qualities,’ character and painfully obvious sacrifice-to-be in Maglarion’s plans, is precisely as described. I mean, when you make a deal with the devil, you end up either getting through into hellfire or fiddled to death. Either way, it’s a predictable (and thus, largely unsatisfying) end.

However, we can turn to Laeria now after quickly poking fun at Halfdan: I actually thought he was dead, considering how clichéd the rest of the book was, I finished the book and quickly forgot what his ultimate fate was so I just assumed he had gone the way of Obi-Wan and Dumbledore. He did not, however, his entire character and fate just escaped my mind mere days after finishing the book.

So, the character of Laeria Armalas, who is, again, Caina’s mother, represented one of the few potentially deep and interesting character-to-character interactions. Being Caina’s mother, who is none-too-happy with her daughter (for reasons unknown, honestly), brings up the potential for an interesting dynamic with the heroine. For some background, Laeria is a magic-user but is singularly untalented. She, according to Caina, had trouble making a goblet float via her own power, so she appealed to Maglarion in order to boost her strength. Furthermore, Sebastian (Caina’s father) fathoms that the reason why she married him was because Laeria had been kicked out of the Magisterium for generally being terrible at magic; she suspected that Sebastian would rise above his current status and become a lord strong enough to force the Magisterium to accept her back.

It was at this point (less than 5% through the novel), that I thought Laeria could be an interesting character: her lack of power, weak sense of self (due to her seeking approval from her magical betters), and tumultuous relationship with husband and daughter opens up an avenue rarely seen in fantasy, especially sword-and-sorcery. It’s all too common for the antagonist to wield some kind of tremendous power and be totally unrelated to the hero aside from the, “You two must fight because one is the hero and one is the villain,” idea of fantasy. Yes, that was a subtle stab at the character of Maglarion. But, for Laeria, what kind of emotional and psychological barriers could we see her overcoming and battling with or even using as a shield against Caina’s eventual revenge? Will Laeria eventually conclude that Maglarion isn’t the master she thought he’d be, creating a parallel between him and Sebastian and causing Laeria to go her own way and become a recurring element of humanity to Caina’s life?

I’ll give you a hint; it’s none of those things. She’s killed before the 10% mark when Caina hits her with a fire poker. And come the end of the novel, there’s not a single character that could replace Laeria and be a new character with some actual potential.

And I had hinted at it before, but I want to make it explicit now— the Ghosts, as an organization, are really almost frustratingly stupid. Though, they’re more of a casualty of the plot than they are of bad characterization (though that is also an undeniable factor). For instance, it’s known early on that Maglarion’s bloodcrystal is a huge source of power and is fed by Maglarion’s rituals, implying (even without it having to be explicitly spelled out) that it will continue to grow in power. So, rather than try to kill Maglarion with the deus ex machina spear-of-magic-killing, destroying the bloodcrystal would rob Maglarion of his power and render him easy to kill, provided he didn’t just die on his own from the shock of his power leaving him.

I remember having figured this all out before the ghostsilver spear even showed up— and once it did appear, I spent the next few chapters flipping (metaphorically/electronically) through the next few chapters just to see if I was right.

I was. I wished I had been proved wrong.

And I had hinted at it before with Maglarion and Lord Haeron, the villains in Child of the Ghosts are just so painfully villainous. They don’t behave like human beings with human wants, desires, histories, pain, hope, and joy. I found myself thinking of the two main villains as mustachioed bandits twirling their long black whiskers just because they were that one-dimensionally evil. Which is boring and uninteresting, by the way.

Plot, Tension, and Questionably-Done Stakes: Okay, here’s the thing— oftentimes these heroic/sword-and-sorcery fantasies function on a very simple kind of plot device, the end of the world (or a close equivalent). Most people would rather the world not end, particularly in the myriad of painful ways dreamed up by fantasy authors. However, most people think that way because the world is worth living in and their lives are worth living. And yet, if a story doesn’t instill in us, the readers, a love for the people and place, why should we care about the fate of the world? Starting off a series with the, ‘World is at stake,’ plot device means that there’s really nowhere else to go from there— no villain will be more powerful than the one that threatens all life. So, the character of Maglarion is even more wasted when one considers that The Ghosts is a very large series, and I predict that the villain of each book will wield a similar, ‘destroy all life,’ kind of power. And yet, because we’re being scrubbed clean of the last villain just to have the new one replace him/her, we never get the chance to really learn about the world and its people. Thus, no matter what villain appears and no matter what power he/she is wielding, it’ll never actually make us care.

To wrap that up: We’re never given time to just examine the characters and see them just being people. Ultimately, we come to know these characters as assassins, fighters, necromancers, etc. but never as simply human beings. And yet, even that feels very bland and malnourished. I know I said I wouldn’t reference Mistborn in this, but I think it needs to be said that Mistborn had a similar cast of characters, but its world and magic system were what set it apart and kept it entertaining. Meanwhile, in Child of the Ghosts, I hardly even know anything about the world (a map may have helped) beyond what’s strictly and immediately plot-relevant. And, with no magic beyond the fantasy clichés of necromancy, telepathy, and blood magic, I was never even invested to see what came next out of that aspect of the story.

This all culminates it something I’ve been writing and stewing about for the past year or so: positive and negative tension. I wrote extensively on the subject for my thesis work at the end of undergrad, and this book helped me to realize that I hadn’t just been blowing smoke that whole time. Positive tension, essentially, is the feeling created when an author (usually in fantasy, but it’s conceivably applicable to any genre) capitalizes on a kind of aura of invincibility around a character which keeps him/her safe from harm. For a variety of reasons, characters (usually the main protagonist) can become invincible in all but name. As in, they will never die and never become wounded or crippled in a way that cannot later be healed. As a side note, Caina’s inability to have children, curtesy of Maglarion’s ritual, doesn’t count as it does not consistently hamper Caina’s physical or mental health. Fitting of a character like that, when danger does come knocking, the tension created isn’t based out of the question, “Will this character make it out in one piece?” as much as, “What new trick or clever idea will the character use to get out of this?”

The difference between those two is that the latter is wholly unrealistic, turning life-or-death combat into a magic act; we all know that a magician, if he or she is sufficiently skilled, will pull of the trick at hand with no real danger, no matter how realistically the magician may be sawing the assistant in half. Instead, we as the audience, are merely standing by the see how spectacular it all is. Positive tension makes the reader want to see how entertainingly a situation can end, whereas negative tension makes us as readers hope that the situation will unfold devoid of catastrophe.

Child of the Ghosts is made up, down to the genetic level, of positive tension. Even if Caina’s plans and adventures deviate from their original goal (being discovered and having to fight her way out of a tight spot seems like an already-old favourite), there’s never a sense of real danger, merely a short-lived inconvenience that serves to set up the next bit of action. It’s after revelations like this that I’m happy the book was so short, otherwise I likely would have never had the patience to finish it.

As an extension of that last point, I had figured Alistair, Caina’s noble lover, would meet his bloody end— his involvement in Caina’s life would have made it too complicated and would take emphasis away from the constant stream of action that makes up the lifeblood of the novel. So, perhaps undulling cynically, I knew he would have to die, lest he complicate the straightforward-as-an-arrow plot.

Ultimately, the Ultimate Ultimatum: So, we come to the rambling end again. And my position is still unchanged— Child of the Ghosts is too boring, narrow, and devoid of joy for me to recommend. But it’s not offensively bad and is free on Amazon. So I guess there’s that.

Oh, and what I mentioned in my shorter review about the writing still holds up upon a re-examination. Every other line has to be extenuated with a heavy bass note and a martial-arts movie zoom-in just to show how incredibly dramatic every drab, predictable turn of events was.

I’m also reading the next book in the series now. Spoiler alert: the writing style is much the same.

 


 

 

This series was started in January 2014 and there’s already at least 17 books out for it? Christmas crackers, I’ll be reading these from now until Judgement Day…

 

 

Good luck, you brave writer folks!

 

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Rabble Review: Child of the Ghosts

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Well. Here I am again. It’s not flash fiction, it’s not Lorequest, it’s a book review! I’ll be doing more of these in the future. I did a few in the past, mostly about the SomnAgent series and I want to continue doing them, mostly on indie fantasy and science fiction. Because I’m a rabble-rouser and I want to make sure I want to pick fights with works I know how to talk about extensively!

Speaking of ‘extensively,’ I’ll be doing an Extended Thoughts to all of my reviews so I keep myself from babbling on further than what’s warranted.

 

Anyway, once again and as always, have fun~

 


 

 

Child of the Ghosts, the first novel in Johnathon Moeller’s The Ghosts series, is Mistborn minus anything worth reading. But don’t worry, I won’t be referencing Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn throughout this, I just thought it was the most pithy and condensed way I could sum up my feelings for Child of the Ghosts.

But okay, let’s get a little more specific.

Pros: I liked the little bits of voice we heard from the narrating main characters— it helped to outline their personality (tiny bits of it anyway) and made for entertaining little tidbits.

The action scenes were quick, coherent, and got the job done.

It was short. Which, given the list of cons, is a blessing.

Cons: The characters were, by and large, one-dimensional, uninteresting clichés that are already rampant in the fantasy genre. Nothing new is brought to the table in terms of character.

Unfortunately, nothing new or interesting is brought via plot, either. It proceeds in one strictly defined direction and lacks for interesting or thought-provoking twists and turns that would otherwise engage the reader outside of simply experiencing a string of plot-driven events. Combined with the lackluster characters, it makes the entire experience a singularly uninteresting read.

The world, people (meaning, the culture of the population at large, not individual characters), and system of magic is, at best, vague and sparse in details, or, at worst, clichéd. For a non-spoiler example of the latter, necromancy and blood magic are the prime evils in this novel, which has been done by some many, many other fantasy series (virtually every one that springs to mind which employs said magic).

The writing itself is often stilted and clumsily constructed. Too often will a small ‘twist’ happen in a chapter and, judging by the formatting and pithy writing employed, it will be played off as being of tremendous import, practically warranting a ‘bum bum bum!’ sound effect. Which seems campy to say in a review, but it was campy to read many times over in a book, as well. It gave everything a strange aura of silliness that was hard to shake.

Overall: I can’t say that I liked Child of the Ghosts, nor would I recommend it, though it is generally inoffensive. Which may just be a more diplomatic way of saying, ‘bland, drab, and generally dull.’

 

Child of the Ghost’s Amazon link for those who are interested: http://www.amazon.com/Child-Ghosts-Jonathan-Moeller-ebook/dp/B0052Q9WFQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1458623012&sr=8-1&keywords=child+of+the+ghosts

 


 

 

Not sure how I feel about this new post-constructor page on the site. Too big, white, and open-ended. It’s like starting a new piece of writing and realizing that your mind is completely blank. Except, that never happens to me, because I still never get writer’s block!

Ha! Anticlimax!

 

Good luck, you brave writer folk!

 

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Daily Prompt 4: “By the Dots”

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “By the Dots.”

 

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I think I’ve been meaning to do one of these for a while but nope, just getting to it now. I really wanted to do that magical creature one but decided that extrapolating on a fantasy magic system I devised surrounding the power of words in a novel being transformed into real spell power (nepotism, you say? What’s that?!).

 

Maybe one day!

 

 

Have fun~

 


 

Title: By the Dots

 

Prompt: “We all have strange relationships with punctuation — do you overuse exclamation marks? Do you avoid semicolons like the plague? What type of punctuation could you never live without? Tell us all about your punctuation quirks!”

 

It’s really no surprise that I love dashes. These “-” and these “—” are brilliant little buggers. I always just use them as a kind of escape mechanism to make any kind of sentence I like- for instance I can just fashion other sentences onto earlier ones to make them seem like they’re conjoined but semicolons are far too rare for my liking. Besides, “-” lets me make snide remarks whenever I feel like it. Given that’s how I talk, just with more stuttering while my brain tries to find the right words and more mumbling as I make said remarks, it just seems natural to me. And I love to write as I talk because it lets me be unrealistically accurate with what I’m trying to say in conversation and I get to reach an audience where I won’t constantly be interrupted by the world around me as I’m wont to be!

 

Oh I love commas, too. Did I even need to put a comma in that last sentence? Who even knows!? I certainly don’t. But that’s part of the fun for me as a writer and for my editors. They have to work for their money to weed out all of the ill-placed and poorly-used commas! If they can survive the comma jungle then they can say they have edited something of mine.

 

Plus my drive to write dialogue in a such a way that it seems as realistic as possible helps, too. I really want to write a book one day where most conversations have at least one “um,” like,” or “er,” in them. Because that’s what we all talk like, right? Well, at least we young’uns do. And doing that in my medieval books would just seem weird if it was as prevalent as it would be in a more “modern” book. Even though people were far less educated back then, it just seems wrong to foul up their language- or I’m just overthinking it.

 

But I still managed to sneak that “-” in there after all!

Yeah, this’ll do.

 

 

THE OTHERS

 


 

I probably could have included italicizing and bolding as things I do way too often, too. But those technically aren’t punctuations, even though I use them to establish EMPHASIS. See how much more effective that was? The caps-lock was just added for special effect.

 

It may have also made you just read that in Josh Peck’s voice if you’re one of my contemporaries.

 

You’re welcome, by the way.

 

 

Pingback:

<a href="https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/by-the-dots/">By the Dots</a>

 

Good luck, you brave writer folk!

 

 

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Friday Fictioneers: Warm Breath

 

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Friday Fictioneers? You mean Saturday, right?

Saturday Fictioneers just doesn’t roll of the tongue the same way, I guess though. Not like that’s going to stop me from being a day late, though!

Actually, I would have posted this yesterday, but because WordPress operates on some heathen time where it’s always tomorrow at only 11PM, I decided not to. It wouldn’t have changed anything in my submission date but I just wanted to write my bigger, more important stuff instead. Totally worth it.

 

 

Have fun~

 


 

 

Image Copyright:  C. Hase

Image Copyright: C. Hase

 

Word Count: 100

Genre: Horror/Realistic Fiction

Title: Warm Breath

 

 

It was a strange little B&B all the way out in nowhere. Irish countryside and rain gave the place a cold and close feeling. The owner was a throaty man who breathed way too loudly.

The colossal fish-tank in the lobby caught my attention almost immediately. The detail was amazing, including a beach with matching small tree and rusted ship chain. There was even a shipwrecked skeleton amongst the sand. It almost looked real in its accuracy.

The owner’s breath was suddenly very close to my face and murderously warm.

And I suddenly realized that I really shouldn’t be there.

 

 

 


 

 

What’s with WordPress being really janky? Yesterday, the comment system totally botched my story for Flash! Friday and now I can’t get the blue frog to post into this entry. I mean, I’m sure it’s probably nothing and I’ll have it sorted off after using the traditional, “Turn it off then on again,” method of fixing something.

You know what Sci-fi technology I don’t see enough of? A kind of helmet or headset that lets you talk directly with computers. That certainly would make it easy to micromanage resources and fix problems as if you were just rearranging Legos.

It would also make these darn magical boxes a little less frustrating. That is, until the headset itself starts acting up. So then you make a headset to talk to the headset and then the bird is watched by the birdwatcher who is watched by the watchman and so on and so on until oblivion.

Thank goodness I’m not a scientist.

 

 

Good luck, you brave writer folk!

 

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Five Sentence Fiction Double Feature: Sick and/or Dying + Making Noise

 

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Why hello there. It’s been a little while, hasn’t it? I’d like to think it has been. Well, for the last few days I certainly have not been idle, I just haven’t been here. Well, I was sick for part of it. Sick with both a pretty nasty cold and a slowly-worsening case of senioritus. The fact that spell-check doesn’t acknowledge that word disgusts me. Well anyhow, I think (I think) that I’m very nearly done being sick. So now it’s just a matter of navigating all of the rest of the stuff in my life to keep my blog updated. And boy do I have some things to maybe share but in the meantime, here’s a special DOUBLE FEATURE of Five Sentence Fiction, one based on how I was feeling yesterday and one on how I was feeling the day before. Suffice to say, the height of my sickness was on Tuesday. And yet, the story based around Tuesday ISN’T the one about sickness.

Weird!

 

Have fun~

 


 

 

Word of Inspiration: Isolation

Word Count: 131

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Title: Sick and/or Dying

 

Here’s something nobody tells you about being sick; people like to ignore you. Just because I’m probably highly contagious and I may have physically coughed up a lung once (but I can only do it twice, I mean I only have two of them) doesn’t mean I want to just stay in bed all day. Hidden benefit to being sick though— you can just guilt a lot of your friends into helping you and they wouldn’t dare say no to you unless they just want to prove how terrible they are at friendship and life. What do you mean you won’t run to the store and buy me Nyquil, oranges, two more pillows, a personal fan, and a baby ferret? You know what, I’m probably okay enough to just get myself.

 

 

ALTERNATIVELY

Word of Inspiration: Isolation

Word Count: 153

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Title: Making Noise

 

There’s noise coming out of my windows— not from the outside but from the inside. The noise is leaking out from my room and it’s the sound of keyboard clicks, shutters clacking, whispering and yelling and laughing and longing, and thoughts put to paper and screen and whiteboard. It must be deafening because nobody can look up from their walking in the streets to even look up to see where it’s all coming from. And I can see them from my window (I have seen their looks and haste before, you see) and I remember those looks from men and women in suits holding invisible gavels as they stand over the sentencing bench of my life. I have been making noise my entire life and now that the university falls away around me, I can see that the noise I thought was being loud enough to deafen was just falling upon deaf ears.

 

 

 


 

 

Yeah, something else nobody tells you about being sick is that it makes everything else seem a thousand times worse. And what’s even more terrible about THAT is that if you’re stressing about things that are actually bad then it just makes you feel even more sick. It’s a horrible cycle of destruction that is only solved by a timely intervention of Advil, sleep, and good luck.

At least two of those things you can get at your local pharmacy. I’m not telling you which two they are.

 

 

Good luck, you brave writer folk!

 

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Friday Fictioneers: Abyss

 

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It really is a strange phenomenon that as soon as I come home from college, even if it’s for only a few days, I completely neglect to work very hard on my blog work. I had even written this and the Five Sentence Fiction a day ago and yet here I am, a week later, still ironing it out for today.

Consistently inconsistent is a good way to describe a lot of my work ethic as soon as I come home, strangely. I think it comes from the fact that, with no friends around me to do such horrible things as enjoyable socialize with me,

 

 

Have fun~

 


 

 

Image Copyright: Lauren Moscato

Image Copyright: Lauren Moscato

 

Word Count: 100

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Title: Abyss

 

 

Dad left for the oil rig five years ago. I sent him letters for four years, one every week, asking how he was and what he thought of the pictures of me graduating from middle school, starting high school, winning the Science Olympiad, and so on and on. Then, mom finally convinced me to stop sending them. I’d like to think the day dad left, he just opened the front door and fell into an abyss. It’s not a happy answer but at least it’s something.

I’ve decided to go to college for a Sociology degree; Dad always hated Sociology.

 

 

 


 

 

I’m really not entirely happy with this one, regardless of how much I mull over it. It just didn’t stick out as having the same punch as some of my more favoured ones like Battle of Dinnerplate 6 and Remembering History. Granted, if I had the space of a few more sentences, I probably could have added something a little more surreal or symbolic to such an odd sight as a door with no floor.

But alas, them’s the 100-word breaks.

Now, if you excuse me, I’m going to continue preparing for the all-day ham-obliterating affair that is Easter.

 

 

Good luck, you brave writer folk!

 

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Five Sentence Fiction: Gateway Drugs

 

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It’s true, it’s all true. What you are about to read is almost frustratingly true. It really has developed into a kind of addiction and I don’t there’s a single one of us who are feeling of the pull of said addiction that could say that we’re unhappy with it.

Which makes it seem like I’m going to be writing about some kind of extremely disreputable debauchery. Well, depending on your interpretation of success and if you have any kind of respect for monetary success, it may be some kind of pure weightless debauchery in your eyes.

But I doubt that very much, given the site I’m on.

 

Have fun~

 


 

 

Word of Inspiration: Entrance

Word Count: 173

Genre: Creative Non-Fiction

Title: Gateway Drugs

 

The amount of times I have heard the term “gateway drugs” thrown about like softballs has reached into the realm of new and theoretical numbers. Well, what nobody had bothered to tell us impressionable children was what exactly constituted a “gateway drug”— we thought they would just be the obvious things: green leaves that looked like mold, powder that you swear was actually salt, and really anything in a hypodermic needle found outside of a doctor’s office. But nobody had ever thought to tell us about the most addicting, most soul-strangulating drug of all, the one of black letters printed onto white pages. White pages we named ourselves and black letters of our own creation— twenty-six different letters spun in infinitely different ways so that what one of us wrote, nobody else did. I walked through the gateway f this drug when I looked back at what I written for the first time in those infinite black letters and found that I had never known real happiness until I had known real addiction.

 

 

 


 

 

Is Outlander any good? Does anybody know? I’m “watching” a little bit of it in the background now and I can’t make heads or tails of it. I feel like once watching Game of Thrones and reading Song of Ice and Fire, I can’t get as much into medieval books or shows (LOTR doesn’t count because it’s a movie and it’s beautiful) unless they’re really harsh and realistic. Then again, Outlander is in the early 1700’s, yes? Maybe I’ll just wing it. Worked with Downton Abbey, I guess.

 

Good luck, you brave writer folk!

 

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