Into the Dreaming Imaginative Fiction from Author, Reviewer, and Writing Coach Christine Amsden

True Memoirs of an International Assassin

Austin and I were in the mood for something light this weekend and as if it were planned for us, Netflix released its original movie “True Memoirs of an International Assassin” on Friday.

This movie tells the story of an aspiring novelist working on his first suspense-thriller. Fellow writers, you will particularly enjoy the setup as we catch glimpses of a writer at work. At one point, the characters sit around tapping their feet and checking their watches as the author tries to figure out how the scene will unfold. Loved it!

Then he gets a publishing contract. This part is not realistic, just in case you were wondering, but give it a pass because here’s the setup and it’s really pretty funny: The publisher swore she wouldn’t delete a word and she didn’t. She just added one: “NON” in front of “FICTION” So … this poor schmuck gets kidnapped and carted off to Venezuela where things just keep getting worse.

I really enjoyed this movie. We were even able to watch it while the kids were awake. Note: This movie is not for kids; however, unlike many shows that have unexpected nudity, meaning you have to make sure the kids are behind closed doors and snoring, this was fairly clean. It gave us the opportunity to “chill out” with the kids on chill night — them playing video games while we enjoyed the show.

The laughter wasn’t nonstop, but it was laugh-out-loud funny plenty often enough. I highly recommend.

A Time for Reflection

 

Liberals, Democrats, and Independents: Beware! Now is not the time to charge blindly forward along the same path that led us to where we find ourselves today. Now is the time to STOP and THINK.

Eight years ago, Republicans lost to Barack Obama in a veritable landslide and I distinctly remember hearing Democrats telling them to consider carefully how they got to that point. They did not. Oh, they gave the idea some lip service but ultimately they only gave birth to the “tea party,” a hyper-concentrated version of what they already were. They didn’t learn. They didn’t listen. Then, they nominated Trump and Democrats said, “Surely, this is the end!”
This morning, amidst shock, anger, grief and despair, I see a common theme: It’s time to fight! Now is not the time to mourn, now is not the time to bury our heads in the sand, now is the time to stride forward, ever onward! To save our country from hatred and bigotry.

Whoa! Hold on there. We still haven’t got a clear answer to: WTF happened?

I see plenty of ready answers, especially: The country is swimming in more hateful, ignorant, racist, sexist, deplorable people than we thought.

Maybe it is. But these are still our fellow Americans, part of our system of government run by the people. And calling them hateful, ignorant, racist, sexist, or deplorable is NOT the way to win their hearts. If we learn nothing else from this election cycle, I hope we learn that.

What would happen if we took a moment to listen? Not just to hear and to judge, but to truly try to understand the fears of a nation willing to set aside a hugely qualified candidate in favor of … (leaving out my usual adjectives for the sake of avoiding hypocrisy) Donald Trump?

Among other things, this vote split alarmingly between urban and rural voters. My husband is from rural Arkansas, his family (Trump supporters) still live there, and he has many Facebook friends who share these ideals. Last night, even before it became clear that Clinton would lose, even when it was simply clear that the election would be astoundingly close, we talked about why.

Democrats don’t speak to rural voters, he said. Most of the social programs and changes they want to enact disproportionately benefit city dwellers. And yes, this is partly due to infrastructure problems, but it’s no less true.

Meanwhile, he said, they’re afraid. They already live a life that takes them from paycheck to paycheck, they’re fired up with pride in their own hard work (ie they don’t want handouts), and they’re frankly being talked down to by Democrats. Is it any wonder that when Republicans give them something to fear, that they latch onto it?

I’m still processing all of that and I have no answers for you. Answers are not the point of this post. The point of this post is to implore Democrats to ask the questions.

Some say political discussion is futile, that it can only end in anger, and that no one ever changes their mind. As someone who has changed her mind a great deal over the years, down to some fundamental issues like abortion, gun control, gay rights, taxes, and health care, I know this is false.

But I never. Not once. Ever. Changed my mind when someone insulted me.

Political discussion is, in fact, essential to a free country. But it has to be a discussion, with give and take, with open minds and willing hearts. We have to give one another the benefit of the doubt that being on the opposite side of a political issue does not make someone a bad person.

And I know … believe me I know … that Republicans do it too. But they won. So let’s grow up and figure this thing out the only way anything has ever been figured out: By thinking things through, talking, and listening.

A Dark Day in America

It’s a dark day in America.

Don’t tell me to have faith in Democracy. Don’t try to assure me that we’ve been through hard times before and come through them. Don’t even tell me to breathe.

Today is a dark day in America, and I need some time to mourn.

There are five widely recognized stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. And I haven’t even started on them yet because I’m still in shock. So forgive me if I need more then eight hours, most of them spent trying to sleep and failing due to nightmares, in order to get to a calm place in my mind.

Today is a dark day in America, and I’m afraid.

It’s not even the politics, although that’s scary enough. It’s the nuclear launch codes. It’s our standing within the international community. It’s the fact that there are serious conflicts going on in the world today that need a serious leader to handle them.

Today is a dark day in America, and I’m heartbroken.

I want to be angry with the millions of Americans who chose a pussy-grabbing racist over an e-mail sending slightly left of centrist but I can’t manage that right now. I’m too sad. Who are we? I thought I knew what America was and what it stood for but I woke up this morning and it turns out, I know nothing.

Today is a dark day in America, and I’m afraid.

This time it is about the politics. The last time the Republicans won such sweeping control over the nation, they destabilized our economy and hiked up the national debt. They still espouse the same principles of “trickle down economics” that caused issues during the Bush years. Also, their ability to affect the Supreme Court will leave a stain on justice that we’ll feel for decades to come.

Today is a dark day in America, and I’m embarrassed.

Donald Trump is a buffoon. Let’s not overlook the simple fact that he is an unintelligible moron who can barely string a sentence together. I almost grammar checked the debates — maybe I should have. Listening to him speak is painful, but it will be a hundred times worse going forward because that voice, the voice will represent our nation for the next four years.

Today is a dark day in America, and I’m perplexed.

Why, America? Why!!!! I mean … no. I have no words. There are no words. Just … why?

Today is a dark day in America, and I’m angry.

There. I finally managed it. Anger. I’m angry with the Democrats for allowing such an unelectable person to win the nomination, especially in a year when America was clearly looking for an “anti-establishment” candidate. We had one. His name was Bernie Sanders and in every Trump mock-up poll he wiped the floor with the man. Clinton barely edged out. And while I could choose to be angry with the voters for weighing her dubious e-mail scandal against the load of horse shit that is everything Donald Trump is and has done in his life, the fact remains that there were warning signs. The truth is, Trump was the only candidate against whom Clinton had the slightest chance, AND SHE COULDN’T EVEN MANAGE TO BEAT HIM!!!!! I’m an independent, and this election reminds me why I consider myself to be an independent despite the fact that I largely vote democrat. If the republicans scare me, than the democrats often disgust and disappoint me. This should have been a winnable election.

I’m angry with the news media … for getting it wrong, for projecting such overwhelming false hope, and for their part in ensuring a Clinton nomination in the first place.

I’m REALLY angry with the electoral college system, which is likely (yet again) to produce a president who lost the popular vote.

Today is a dark day in America, and it’s only just beginning.

The next four years are going to be tough. Hopefully, they won’t be earth-shattering or irreplaceable, but they will certainly be tough. I’m not even sure how to have faith in checks and balances right now, since the constitution’s checks didn’t count on the rise of a party system that would supersede these measures. There are no checks. There are no balances. There are only Republicans.

Today is a dark day in America, and I have the right to mourn.

I will do my level best to regain some faith in America over the coming days, weeks, and months, but don’t push me. Don’t push us. A dream died last night. Think about that before you walk into my wake and tell me to just get over it. Join me in mourning if you will, then give me time and space. That’s all I ask.

Galavant Season 1

If you haven’t seen Galavant, then I’m afraid there’s really nothing on TV today I can use for comparison. It’s musical theatre with some funny bits. The first episode had me laughing harder than I have in a good long while.

The first episode got me on audacity and shock, though, and once that had worn off I found little underneath to sustain the concept.

But it’s 8 20-minute shows so if you’ve got a few hours to kill and are bored with the same old same old, give it a try.

TV Review: Jericho (2006)

Jericho is a 2006 post-apocalypse TV series that follows events in the small town of Jericho in Northwestern Kansas in the months after 23 nuclear bombs go off in cities across the country. As a post-apocalypse fan, I’m not sure how I missed this one 10 years ago, although I did have a newborn at the time so I’ll just let that be my excuse. :)

At any rate, binge watching is the only way to watch TV these days so I watched all of Jericho — 22 episodes in the first season and 7 in the second — in about two weeks. And overall, I enjoyed it! The story was well thought-out, the characters well drawn and acted, and this is big for a fan of the apocalypse — I found it believable. Food was scarce. People were starving. People change (some for the better, some for the worse).

And for those viewers concerned about getting into a show that was canceled 7 episodes into season 2 I will say this — it comes to a conclusion. AN abrupt conclusion, but a conclusion nonetheless. I can definitely see why people have been wondering about someone else picking up the show or maybe just making a movie, but you’re really not left hanging.

My biggest reservation regarding this show was that one of the main characters, a shady man who spent much of his time sending and receiving obscure messages, was not clearly explained for far too long. The “is he good or bad?” question can only work for so long, and as the first season dragged on I was expected to care a great deal about what happened to him without an answer. This, more than anything else, gave the show a feel of dragging.

On a positive note, though, I really did enjoy the characters and the way different people responded to the situation. Plus, characters died — not quite in a George R. R. Martin sense but in a way that really drove home how fragile life would be in such a situation.

I recommend this to fans of the apocalypse.

Defining Freedom and Power: A Rebuttal

In a recent blog post, Christopher Nuttall, author of the bestselling Schooled in Magic series (which I proudly edit), made some assertions about Freedom and (Women’s) Rights. In it, he has this to say about my own Cassie Scot Series:

Cassie Scot is a squib, if I may borrow the Harry Potter term. She’s the daughter of powerful magicians – and sister to several more – but she has no power of her own. And this has inevitable consequences.

Throughout her four books, Cassie is constantly objectified. Not in the sense that she is treated as a sex object, but in the sense she is constantly treated like a minor child. She is powerless in her community. Her very safety depends on protection from her parents; later, when she loses that, her (eventual) love interest makes decisions for her, meddles freely in her life (sometimes without telling her) and generally continues the tradition of treating her as a cute but wilful child, rather than a grown adult in her own right …

And the hell of it is that he (and her parents) has a point. Cassie may act like a confident adult, but it’s based on other people, rather than on her inherent power (she has none) or human rights (she has none of those either). She is staggeringly vulnerable. And so is Julianne. And so were far too many women throughout history. The powerful women were often the ones who were born to power, like Queen Elizabeth.

Now let me just start by saying that Chris and I don’t see eye to eye on many things. Luckily for the both of us, I have no problem speaking my mind and he’s happy to work with editors who challenge him, whether he ends up taking their advice or now. This is the mark of a successful author/editor relationship, IMHO. :)

To give his article some context: In his most recent novel, Past Tense, I made some comments about a primary character that seem to have been echoed by at least some portion of the reading public. Due to editorial privilege, I won’t go into details past those Chris himself mentions in his own blog post. Yes, I said that Julianne was weak and unconvincing as a character. She came across to me as a symbol more than a person — a representation and amalgam of that which has plagued women throughout history.

From a literary perspective, this opinion isn’t a death sentence. Plenty of characters in plenty of books have been more symbolic than anything else. It’s a valid literary technique.

As an author, I shy away from that particular literary technique almost to a fault. Honestly, I spend so much time trying to make sure that my secondary and tertiary characters have clear motivations (at least to me) that it takes me at least a year to write a book … when I’m on form. If you’re in the market for fantasy you can rely on coming out every few months, check out Christopher Nuttall’s work, which involves creative world-building, clever twists, and a bit more focus on his main character. :)

The point is, Chris and I didn’t see eye to eye on this particular issue. And when he wrote a blog article explaining his perspective, he cited my own work (with my permission) as an example. When I okayed this blog article, I did warn him that I would have my say!

Cassie Scot has no magic. She lives in a world of magic. On a very superficial level, this makes her powerless.

On a very superficial level.

The #1 theme of this series of books was this: There is more than one type of power and more than one way to be powerful. Cassie herself didn’t understand this at first. Her family and her love interest didn’t understand this at first. And really, it’s a challenging thing to get your mind around.

In a world full of magic, wits, courage, and a bit of attitude can become a form of personal power.

Let’s go back to Chris’s points: That Cassie was treated as a minor child, that she had no power or human rights, and that the only power she did have came from the family that surrounded and protected her.

First of all: Yes, Cassie was treated a bit like a child. Because the people in her life thought she couldn’t take care of herself, because they thought they had to protect her, they overstepped — especially her parents and her love interest. Cassie had to prove to them that she could stand on her own and that she could be a value, something that she would never have had to do had she simply been born with magic like her many brothers and sisters.

But to take this a step further and assert that in the end she still has no human rights and no power other than that which is handed down to her by the community in which she lives is to misunderstand the role society plays in ALL of our lives.

Another theme in the Cassie Scot series is: No one can do it alone.

*I* don’t have any human rights that aren’t handed to me by the United States government and protected by a (sometimes fragile seeming) representative democracy built on the will of the people. My powers and human rights are further defined by my social affiliations, my husband, my skills, and my own personality.

There are women today, right now, in THIS “free” country who are not free. There are victims of all kinds of things — abuse, mental illness, fear, degradation … there is a slave trade still going on in the world today!

Power is more complex than the law. It’s more complex than society. It’s more complex than culture. Power is all of that and it’s our own personal energy.

Going the other direction, you can go back throughout history and find many examples of women who, despite their lack of status in the eyes of the law, were powerful cornerstones of their own community. Or at least a power in their own families.

Cassie Scot is not the type of woman who lets herself be walked upon. Even in a world where she almost doesn’t seem to belong, she’s got too much fire to let it happen. And that is why I love her. She’s not me — I’ve often told readers this — she’s who I want to be. In a world where I sometimes feel powerless to change the things that matter most to me, Cassie has shown me a truth that was immortalized in the Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

That’s power. Strong women (and men) throughout history have known it.

You, Me, and the Apocalypse: Watch at your Own Risk

I just finished a riveting 10-episode series that aired on NBC last year called “You, Me, and the Apocalypse.” It takes a run-up to your typical asteroid-destroys-the-earth and fills it with strange, exciting characters and insane twists. All counting down to the moment of truth, the moment foretold in the series intro: A man ends up in a bunker deep under Slough (England) with a most unlikely group of companions.

Were this show to have a second season, I would give it an enthusiastic 5 stars. However, as the creator has claimed (wrongly) that the show came to a logical conclusion, I must simply say, “Watch at your own risk.” Because you will be at the end of episode 10, frantically searching the internet for news of season 2. I mean, surely they couldn’t end it THERE? Not at a logical conclusion but at a veritable cliffhanger?!?!?

Alas, yes.

So if you want to enjoy a wild ride, give it a chance. Just don’t fall off the cliff at the end!

Madison’s Song Gets a Double Win at Global Ebook Awards!!

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Madison’s Song scored big in this year’s Global Ebook Awards, taking home not only the silver in its category but also earning the first-ever Dan Poynter Legacy Award. The Legacy Award was added this year to remember Dan Poynter, the founder of the Global Ebook Awards, and it is given to the best fiction, non-fiction, and “best of” entries. Madison’s Song won for fiction.

And if, like MadisonsSong_medme, you hover over the idea that the book earned second place in its category and first in overall fiction, I would just say this: Fantasy/Contemporary does not fit Madison’s Song like a glove. It was just the most reasonable category from a list of worse options. It’s hard to place cross-genre fiction on bookshelves, into marketing categories, and into prize categories. Which is why I feel so honored by this new and unexpected recognition in the form of the Legacy Award.

Thank you to all my fans for your support, to my publisher for standing behind me, to my beta readers, to my editors, and to the judges at the Global Ebook Awards.

Season 4: Orange is the New Black is Back!

After a disappointing third season of the unexpectedly amazing show, “Orange is the New Black,” I wasn’t in a rush to watch season 4. I noticed it was available, but I was in the middle of some other things and then I went on vacation and then … well, I finally started it a couple of weeks ago.

And all I can say is … Orange is the New Black is BACK! Better than ever. Honestly, season 4 is the best season so far, with more ups and downs than I knew what to do with. From the very first episode to the very last, I loved it!

So, one of the problems with season 3 was Piper’s insane new power trip thing. Well, that got worse but then … well, she’s not really the star of the show anymore.

The prison itself continues to reel from the management of its corporate overlords, culminating in an event that will shock you. Meanwhile, race relations are worse than ever, tension between inmates and guards is worse than ever, the crazy inmates are crazier than ever. And oh yeah, Alex kicks things off by killing someone and getting an education from another inmate in how to dispose of a body. So, that was fascinating. :)

If you were disappointed with season 3, forgive it and move on! I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

If you haven’t watched Orange is the New Black at all … where have you been for the past 4 years?????

Now Available in Trade Paperback!!

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