Nixxa And The General

You guys voted and the result was unanimous! So today I’m posting the first small snippet of my Star Wars themed story, Nixxa and the General, a collection of short stories about a stolen ship-rat who knows nothing but darkness and the menacing man who might just give her the galaxy… Now this isn’t exactly a fanfic because there are no cross-over characters or locales or anything, it’s just more of the basic setting and the sci-fi feel that I don’t usually work with (I’m a historical fantasy romance writer so space is a big change for me!) and FULL WARNING: this is a steamy story so it might be posted on A03 in full instead of my actual analytical blog, I haven’t quite decided yet, but if the response is positive then f*ck it, we’ll just post it here lol! So if you like the intro and want more on the blog itself be sure to let me know in the comments!

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Nixxa and the General

She lay across the bed, her heart beating like a siren in her ears. The silken wisps of silver-grey cloth they’d clothed her in glided across her newly scrubbed skin, touching her in a thousand intimate places yet leaving nothing truly covered. Not that there was any point in hiding her body now, she reasoned, her eyes flickering to the door as her breath quickened instinctively. When would he arrive? this man whose bed she now occupied, the stranger she’d been chosen and stolen for.

The man, whoever he was, would be someone of little importance. That much she knew. Anyone of consequence could afford the experienced beauties of the Courtesan Class, those beguiling women born and bred to give up their bodies in the most carnal fashion. Only men of the lower ranks, soldiers too poor to rise or too cheap to pay, stole women from the bowels of the Dark City. She’d known many who’d disappeared for a day, two, maybe three before returning with a few coins or bruises or stories to tell around the glow of the photon beams. It was too common an occurrence to be frightened of, but still, she’d never been taken. Until now. With hair the color of dirty grease and skin coated in twenty some-odd years of grime, she faded into the blackness of the Dark City effortlessly and was easily over-looked. Or so she thought.

She looked at the pale skin of her exposed wrist. She hadn’t known the color of her own skin until they’d stripped her bare and bathed her to within an inch of her life, scrubbing her places she never thought needed scrubbing. Plunging her in pools of water – actual glistening water – before dousing her with some sort of bubbly concoction that was supposed to clean her from the outside in while the drink they gave her worked from the inside out. She’d felt funny then, itchy as though a thousand insect legs crawled across her, inside her, eating away at something she hadn’t even known was there. Though once it passed, she felt better, stronger than she ever remembered feeling before. Then they’d started over, scrubbing, dousing, and cleaning every inch of her until someone pronounced her clean.

They’d then attacked her hair, meticulously brushing and drying it before pressing one more strange drink into her hand. It was white with a sharp bitter smell rising from the metal cup. She’d hesitated, but the woman giving the orders was unused to being questioned. Drink it, she ordered. She drank. This time it was a needle piercing her belly, penetrating into the very depth of her femininity and she understood without being told that she would produce no children in her lifetime. It was a sudden loss, and not one she felt too keenly, at least not yet. Perhaps she would feel differently when all this was over, but just now she had other things to occupy her thoughts beyond the thought of phantom children she’d never wanted.

Now she waited, alone with her own thoughts in this strange place, so far beyond the world she knew. He was no one, she reminded herself, no one. But the quiet splendor of the room, the softness of the bedding that molded to her, and the pleasing scent that still clung to her skin and hair spoke of wealth, and wealth inevitably led to position, even someone as lowly as she knew this. She wasn’t sure why, but this thought more than any other frightened her. Why would someone with means, with power want a ship-rat for a bedfellow? Who was waiting on the other side of that damnable door?

**********

The door of his chamber opened with a soft whir, illuminating the darkness within, the silence he craved, and the woman stretched across the far side of his bed. He paused, confused until he remembered ordering a woman to be brought to him this evening. He’d been in a temper  and spoke before thinking about the reality of coming home to a stranger in the only private space he had aboard this blasted starship. He bit back a groan, what the hell was he to do with her now. She couldn’t stay here. He wouldn’t allow her fear to contaminate this space, his space. Damn it.

A curt dismissal was on the tip of his tongue when she moved suddenly, rising up on one arm, watching him as he watched her. A dark nimbus of ebony hair fell in gentle waves around her face, sliding down her neck and spilling over her shoulders, a stark contrast to the otherwise paleness of her skin. But it was her eyes that grabbed him, silenced him even before he spoke. There was no fear in their depths, just curiosity, intelligence, recognition, and just the smallest portion of apprehension. She knew him, or knew of him, and still there was no fear. One black brow raised questioningly and he realized he was still in the doorway staring. He stepped inside and the door closed behind him, taking the light with it, plunging them into absolute pitch. Only the darkness wasn’t complete, she marred it, radiating light from her crystalline skin. Stars, but he could see every inch of her.

A familiar tightening pulled from the pit of his stomach. With a silent growl he strode further into the room, tired of feeling like a stranger in his own chambers. She didn’t stir, but watched him. Let her watch. She’d get nothing from him. Let her watch.

 

Alright guys, make sure to let me know if you want more Nixxa and the General on the Whimsical Mutterings page!

Attack Of The Clones: Stolen Moments and A Splintered Soul

No man has ever outrun his fate, and no protagonist either. Anakin Skywalker is young, charming, hopelessly in love, dedicated to his commitment to protect the galaxy and its inhabitants, and is an earnest, loving son. He’s gifted with a lightsaber, vivacious and sweet, with a kind heart not often found in such a harsh galaxy. But he is also Chosen.

No matter who he may want to be, what life he may choose for himself, Anakin’s fate is inescapable. It’s wound around his neck like a noose, choking the light, the love, and the happiness out of him as each second passes. With blood and betrayal and death, he will one day bring balance to the Force and thereby bring to an end the warring, unbending factions of the Sith and the Jedi, with their holier-than-thou dogma and uncompromising restrictions. The Force is neither light nor dark, good nor evil — it is the balance of all things and it demands balance in return, and the cost will be nothing less than Anakin Skywalker’s heart and soul.

It all sounds dramatic as hell, but this is a soap opera in space – if the stakes weren’t truly monumental then why would we even care. And we do care, because despite what he becomes later on, we all can relate to Anakin as he is now – young and in love, full of naïve hope that life can truly be all that he wants it to. It’s heartbreaking watching someone strive to do the right thing and make a difference in their environment knowing that no matter what they choose to do, one choice will never be theirs to alter.

AOTC opens with an attack on Senator Padme Amidala’s life, an act that brings a nervous and frantically excited Anakin Skywalker, now a Jedi Padawan-learner, back into her life. He’s older, more mature and handsome, and she’s as beautiful and defiant as ever. Immediately we all know where the story is going, but there’s a catch: one day, however far in the future, Anakin will become Vader… He will fall to the dark side and although we don’t yet know how or why or what the scope of that actually looks like yet (back in 2002), we know eventually he ends up alone, deep in space, scarred and mutilated, and encased in machinery. So, we’re left wondering… what happens to Padme? What happens to this love we see blooming? How can it all go so wrong?


“I’ve thought about her every day since we’ve parted…” — Anakin Skywalker

It’s hypnotic and disturbing to fall in love with a couple knowing that their future cannot possibly be bright. Their days in the sun are numbered and they don’t even know it yet. Every look, every thought, every gentle touch is one less that they had a moment ago – but we can’t help but to fall for them, just as they fell for each other. In the cool and isolated lake country of Naboo, Padme and Ani are given a handful of beautiful moments and memories before the twisting of the knife begins anew and Anakin is drawn further down the path of fate, this time unleashing his hate and destruction upon a limited populace in retribution for his mother’s stolen life. It’s only a taste of what’s to come but it’s a stark contrast to the waterfall picnics and candlelit dinners of just moments ago. It’s a heartbreaking scene, and it’s there to remind us – and Anakin – that his life is not his own. No matter what we may want for him, Anakin is not ours to save, and he is not his own to govern.

“You’re not all powerful, Ani.” — Padme Amidala
“Well I should be. Someday I will be. I will be the most powerful Jedi ever — I promise you. I will even learn to stop people from dying!” — Anakin Skywalker

The truth is Anakin was born a slave, and although he escaped physical bondage on Tattooine after the events of The Phantom Menace, he remained a slave to the will and desire of the Force until the day he died. And no Star Wars film better encapsulates the inevitability and inescapable nature of Anakin’s destructive fate than Attack of the Clones because in the end, the entire film is a love-letter to a life that could have been, to a love that could have lasted. It’s a collection of beautiful, haunting memories of a life that never truly got the chance to choose and a love that was doomed before it even began.

 

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The Phantom Menace: A Queen’s Victory

Obi-Wan Kenobi may have overcome the epic new darksider Darth Maul in the finale of The Phantom Menace with one of the most powerful songs in the history of film playing in the background, but I think it’s safe to say that the true victory of the first installment of the Star Wars saga is unequivocally Padme Amidala’s. With her unerring bravery, compassion, intellect, determination, and lack of self-sabotaging ego, Padme goes from a young Queen under attack to a bold ruler who negotiates and fights both on and off the battlefield to secure the safety of both herself and her world’s peoples. Even with the accompaniment of two of the order’s most capable Jedi sent to assist her, it is Padme who ultimately formulates the plan to end the Trade Federation’s unlawful occupation of Naboo and while doing so, mend the tattered relations with the other Sentient race of Naboo, the Gungans.

In a series that is so dominated by masculine heroes and ideals, I think it’s incredibly impactful and telling that the prequels begin the origin of the Skywalker saga with the victory of a woman, a Queen. I have no issue with Luke as the main hero in the originals, he’s the one I’ve rooted for my whole life, the man I emulated and hoped to be like. Leia was strong and fierce and amazing, but she is sometimes overshadowed by her twin brother and even that rascal who won her heart: Han Solo. The victories, even the typically more feminine emotional ones, were mostly male accomplishments. So when the first great battle of the new trilogy was won by a girl about my age, let me tell you, it made me feel so powerful, so capable of anything.

“I will sign no treaty Senator. My fate will be no different to that of our people.” — Queen Amidala

And what made it even more impactful was witnessing Padme’s frailty, her fear and hesitation, because not only did it humanize her, but it made her so much more real. Leia was ALWAYS the baddest b*tch in the galaxy and she knew it, but it was nice and important to see the perceived weakness grow into the strength that saves the day.

Over the course of the film, we are visually bombarded with similar scenes of Padme trying to stand her ground and make life or death decisions while her councilmen, pilots, head of security, Jedi ambassadors, senators, and even the lackluster Supreme Chancellor all vie to make their opinion her decision.

Even after being whisked away by Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, Padme is lost and noticeably alone amongst her troupe of male saviors, but she doesn’t let that fear keep her from acting. (Yes, she has her handmaidens by her side some of the way – and yes, they are hella epic – but onscreen we don’t get too much of them.) She refuses to be left behind while Qui-Gon scouts Mos Espa for supplies to fix their ship, and it is her determination to see the world for herself and her curiosity of life outside of her own limited view that leads her to understand the issues of the galaxy at large – which later impacts her decision to remain in the political arena once her term as Queen has ended. She meets with people who have no voice, people who have no choice in their own lives… it’s not surprising that afterward she becomes one of the loudest voices in the room.

“I was not elected to watch my people suffer and die while you discuss this invasion in a committee!” — Queen Amidala

It’s here that Padme meets the only other impactful woman in The Phantom Menace: Shmi Skywalker. Shmi is a slave and an only mother raising an extremely gifted young son on a planet where she is considered cattle to be bought and sold, won and lost to the highest bidder. She easily could have been portrayed as bitter, a spiteful shrew how hates the galaxy for doing her wrong, but instead we’re given a powerful, peaceful woman who sees the evils thrown her way and stands tall with pride and compassion. I have more to say about Shmi, but that’s for another post…suffice it to say, we see a noticeable difference in Padme after she encounters the Mother of the Skywalker line.

“The Republic doesn’t exist out here. We must survive on our own.” — Shmi Skywalker

The Padme that emerges from Tattooine is more grounded, surer of herself and the actions she must take. She still doesn’t know how to right the wrongs of the Trade Federation, but now she sees the plight of others outside of herself and her people…which in time leads her to Jar-Jar and the hidden strength of the Gungan army. Padme’s decision to appeal to the Gungans showcases the greatest lesson she’s learned since leaving her home-planet: that great evil can be conquered not only by force, but by intelligence and compassion. It is her humility and lack of ego, something she learned to put aside on Tattooine, that convinces the Gungans to help her, and it is only with their combined efforts that they free their planet.

“I ask you to help us… no, I beg you to help us.” — Queen Amidala

This is Padme’s greatest victory: a battle for justice and peace hard-won by brute force and intellect, her compassion for life as well as her passion for her planet, her selflessness as a woman, and her power as a Queen. A true middle-ground, a shade of gray, placed here in the first movie as an example of what can come of later is others follow in her footsteps. I can only hope to see her legacy live on in her grandson, another leader who has the greatest lesson to learn and everything that matters to either win…or lose.

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The Journey Begins: The Phantom Menace

The year was 1999 when the biggest Star Wars event of my young life exploded into existence, changing everything I thought I knew about that galaxy far, far away and the people there who had captured my youthful attention. The Phantom Menace hit theaters in mid-May, a few months shy of my tenth birthday and it was like a gift from George Lucas himself. Fifth-grade was looming at the end of the summer, I was a year into my Pokémon craze and a year out from discovering my next great love – Harry Potter – and I had been a die-hard Star Wars fan my WHOLE life. Simply put…life was good.

It’s funny, because I don’t remember actually being in the theater watching the movie with my mom and little brother, but I do remember coming home and repeating Every. Single. Jar-Jar line to my dad and basically reenacting the entire movie. I was a storyteller even then, and Star Wars was the most dramatic, earth-shattering, mind-blowing story I had ever come across and this new installment was everything I never knew I needed, both as a viewer and a writer myself. To see the greatest villain of my childhood portrayed onscreen as a kid almost my age was astounding, add to that the fact that he was an absolute sweetheart was mystifying. How had this eager, helpful, little optimistic Ani become one of the darkest forces in the galaxy, someone capable of destroying entire worlds and torturing his own family?

And Padme! She was only a few years older than me, but she was already a stalwart queen and a determined, powerful woman I envied and respected equally. I saw her up there, in both her handmaiden and her queenly guise, living out the adventure and I wanted so badly to be her. Leia was always, always, amazing but with her ferocity and quick wit, she seemed so far above me, so completely unreachable to a nine-year-old, but Padme felt like she could be me. She was young, scared, intelligent, and determined, she didn’t know what to do but she was brave enough to try. She made me realize that we all start somewhere, that people aren’t just born Leia’s, but that they can become women like her and that that pathway started now. I’d known Leia my whole life but now I would grow up with Padme.

Not to mention the story itself…suffice it to say, I knew the story of Star Wars. But now there were even more stories, more pieces of the puzzle I had just blindly taken for granted before… and therein lies The Phantom Menace’s greatest gift and lesson. I already understood that there is great power in the telling of a story – A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Return of the Jedi had already taught me that – but The Phantom Menace taught me there is always more to a story, and it’s the way you deliver it, (i.e. telling it in a certain order or a specific way) that elicits totally different responses. TPM didn’t change what happened in ANH, but it changed our entire perception of it. It forced us to ask those simple, powerful questions: how? Why? And it’s those questions that make us realize, we only know half of the story.

I never questioned Vader as the villain in the original saga, he was presented to me as such and I accepted it immediately. But after TPM I could never see Vader without picturing Ani’s face beneath the mask. The story was done, nothing could change Vader’s fate, but Ani’s was still uncertain, and I couldn’t give up on him, the kid who risked everything to help a group of strangers for no other reason than because it was the right thing to do. Ani had a story to tell and even knowing where it was going, I was determined to stay by his side until the very end, to hear the part that no one had ever heard before, the forgotten tale of that little slave-boy who loved his mother with all his heart.

Like I said, in the end you can’t change Vader’s story. Redeemed or not he goes down the darkest path possible and becomes one of the most powerful, terrifying villains the world has ever seen – whether you start his story from the beginning or from the middle. But by beginning in the middle and circling back once the tale is done, we aren’t left with just Vader, we are left with Anakin and that’s the whole point of Star Wars. There is always more to the story, always more to the people we see on screen, whether we want to admit that or not. We can accept Vader as bad simply because he is, or we can understand that he was once a person who made the choice to help people, and that choice led to more choices and those choices led to a path he never expected. We can ignore Anakin’s story if all we want to see is Vader, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. And this is something I use in my writing even now. Readers see the world as the writers choose to display it, I give you the side of a character I want you to see and you judge in an instant whether they’re good or bad or a million shades in between. You judge an entire lifetime with a moment, deciding a person’s fate and worth with my perception of the story as well as the main character’s coloring the entire thing in our favor. And I know you’re going to do it. There is unlimited power in that, and The Phantom Menace taught me to see it.

Now, back to 1999, flash forward three months and school had started again, and I was finally ten years old. Fifth grade was the epitome of my elementary school journey and conclusion of the first part of my young life. Just like in the galaxy far, far away, things were changing, I was gearing up to strike out on a new adventure, with new places and people and situations I could never dream of. It was exciting but hella scary. But for the time being, Star Wars was all anyone was talking about, Jar-Jar was everyone’s absolute favorite character, and I had pod-racer Ani plastered all over my new school supplies. Simply put, life was good.

*Starting this month, I will be focusing on one Star Wars film each month as we countdown to the final episodic film release in December. And if you couldn’t tell already, we will be starting at the beginning of the story as we know it: The Phantom Menace. I have some awesome posts already planned and I can’t wait to see what others emerge as inspiration strikes and my muse goes into SW overdrive. I hope you join me on this Star Wars adventure and make it the most fun it can possibly be so we can share this year together waiting and reminiscing about all those characters we love to love. This Monday I’ll be watching TPM (again) and doing a running commentary of my inner thoughts and opinions and all that fun stuff and I hope to see you there… I’ll bring the popcorn! – Tara

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Epic Star Wars Women!

I don’t know about you, my starfighters, but I love me some Star Wars! Shocking I know but can you blame me?! There’s epic space battles, heart-melting romance, mystical forces, and characters that exist so vividly that they almost literally leap off the screen!!! You tell me Obi-Wan Kenobi doesn’t actually exist somewhere out in the cosmos and I’m sorry but we can’t be friends, I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life 😉

But seriously, we get so many wonderfully rich, multi-faceted characters from the series and for me as a writer, I appreciate just how “real” they feel. This doesn’t happen with just every story, it takes a certain something extra for characters to truly come alive outside their films or books and I think it’s because they (the Luscasfilm/SW writers) really take the time to flesh characters out. Real people have motivations for everything they do, there are always precedents inspiring their reactions and actions, and perhaps most importantly, no one stays the same their whole life, people are never the same person they were more than once, and SW displays that beautifully (Luke in TLJ). It’s inspiring to see such a well-crafted universe filled with so many diverse characters, and with the books and animated shows (which I fully admit, I’m not completely caught up on yet) they just keep adding to this amazing lexicon.

There’s always a million off-shoot stories I want to see and characters we encounter that I want to follow further, but for today I want to focus on the ladies of Star Wars that I think need more screen/book/etc. time. I’m going to exclude Leia and Rey from this just because I understand we won’t get much more Rey content until the sequel trilogy is finished, and because over the past few years we’ve already been given some awesome new Leia content! So, let’s get to it shall we!

1) Ciena Ree — The female protagonist from Claudia Gray’s Lost Stars, Ciena is such an eye-opening character in so many ways. From the planet Jelucan, Ciena is a woman whose life is dictated by honor and the demands of keeping her word. She begins as a little girl with a dream to pilot the greatest ships in the galaxy and through that desire, leads us first-hand into the life of an Imperial Officer. I always wondered what kind of person would willingly work in such a horrid place as the Death Star, what would make someone think that what they were doing was acceptable? And following Ciena’s story, it opened my eyes to how many good people were manipulated into such a life. We see as she rejects the idea of the Empire doing any wrong because it conflicts with her upbringing of honor above all, we watch as she rationalizes the horrors around her, then finally as she accepts that the organization she’s pledged her life to, staked her life’s honor on, IS the great evil in the galaxy. And I have some interesting ideas on how she can easily enter the SW films themselves…

2) Kendy Idele — A delightful emerald-haired addition in the Lost Stars novel by Claudia Gray, Kendy is originally an Imperial cadet/officer during Palpatine’s reign but after the introduction of the Death Star and the evils she witnesses first hand she heroically switches side and joins the Rebel Alliance! She’s a sharpshooter extraordinaire and X-Wing pilot with the Corona Squadron whose hatred for the Empire rings with such emotional-comprehension that I would just love to see her again in perhaps a novel of her own.

3) Greer Sonnel — Introduced to us as the enigmatic personal assistant to Senator Leia Organa, Greer immediately caught my attention in Claudia Gray’s epic novel Bloodline. There was just something about her that stuck out to me as I was reading, something that I couldn’t put my finger on… She was competent, intelligent, and oddly uncomfortable in the life she was living. For a moment I thought she might be a spy for the upcoming First Order, but then we’re given more of her backstory and we learn that Greer’s story is a little more tragic than espionage-filled.  An up and coming young pilot, Greer developed a rare disease that literally made the thing she trained her whole life for — what she wanted most in the galaxy — the thing that was going to kill her. Han Solo himself (her mentor/friend) asked Leia to take her in and although she knows flying will one day kill her, Greer can’t help but yearn for the one thing that makes her feel most alive. In the end, she chooses to help Leia rebuild the resistance, knowing that once again, evil was stretching across the galaxy. Greer deserves a solo book of her own — perhaps with a dash of romance with her fellow pilot Joph Seastricker! — her tale has the potential to be emotionally devastating: a fierce, intelligent woman who chooses to fight for the greater good, despite knowing that each time she sits in the cockpit she is closer and closer to death!

4) Amilyn Holdo — Introduced to most in The Last Jedi, Holdo actually makes her first appearance in Claudia Gray’s Leia, Princess of Alderaan where she admittedly is the odd one out in sixteen-year old Leia’s new crop of companions on her journey to being named the crown princess of Alderaan. As much as I enjoyed the strong, self-sacrificing woman Holdo became in TLJ, it’s her character in Leia, POA that really struck me as fascinating. Amilyn is someone who knows her own mind and doesn’t feel like she has to explain herself to those around her, she makes wild, often unsettling statements that have an uncanny habit of coming true later in the story. She sees things in a way that Leia (and myself as the reader) cannot comprehend and most of the time she just seems flat-out weird, a kind person perhaps, but definitely strange. But in reality there’s a next-level intelligence bursting from Holdo that I don’t think she knows how to communicate yet, but then again, I don’t think she feels like she has to explain herself, other people will catch up to her eventually (for example her not telling Poe about Crait). And she’s one of the most loyal, brave friends that Leia ever encounters, not only risking her life to help her friend, but standing by her side when Leia faces her first devastating loss. Amilyn teaches Leia how to find and center herself amidst suffocating depression and this is the Holdo I want to see more of!

5) Breha Organa — The Queen of Alderaan herself people! Leia’s adoptive mother was briefly seen in the closing scenes of Revenge of the Sith and is seen more frequently in Leia, Princess of Alderaan, but there is so much more I want to know about the woman that shaped Leia into the feisty, hero that she is! What was it like for her to raise the daughter of a woman she most likely had met, or at least was a friend of her husband’s? What was it like to know that her child was the offspring of another Queen and a Jedi, the unknown daughter of Vader herself? The fear she must have felt knowing that Palpatine and Vader were out there in the same galaxy as Leia… it makes my heart shudder thinking about it. In POA she mentions that she nearly died while completing her own tasks to be named crown princess of Alderaan, I’d love a narrative of this, or of her and Bail’s courtship in the time before the Galactic Civil War. There’s just so much that can be written about Breha and I think the world deserves to hear more about this epic Queen who defied an evil Emperor!

6) Qi’ra —  Introduced to us in Solo: A Star Wars Movie and in the book Most Wanted by Rae Carson, Qi’ra is the literal definition of an enigma! She’s street-smart, confident, and hyper intelligent, but that’s really about all we know! There’s such a big chunk of time between Most Wanted and the opening scene of Solo, and again between when Han and her get separated and reunited in Solo in which sooooo much obviously happens, and we know the result but not the reasons why she does what she does and chooses what she chooses. Obviously her relationship with Han is fascinating, but I feel like it’s  completely unfinished at the moment and there is more to tell there before he goes and his own way and meets Leia. I have a hard time imagining Han letting go of her so easily, so we definitely need to see what she’s doing with Maul. Whether she comes back in a sequel to Solo (which I would LOVE), or we get a book in her perspective, we need information about this epic new character!

7) Shmi Skywalker — This is the Skywalker woman we need to know more about! Shmi was the original driving force behind Anakin’s teetering to the dark side, his absolute love and devotion to her lead him down a shadowy path when she was taken from him, and I feel like there is so much we can learn from her. What was her life like before Anakin, what was her mental state when she realized what was happening to her (the pregnancy), and what were those early years with just her and Ani like? Did she sense Ani’s potential for great emotion, or wonder if that could ever go wrong? I mean, we have here one of the strongest, most capable mother’s in the Star Wars universe, and we just don’t get enough of her! Personally I would like to see her impact her great-grandson in some way, whether she comes to him in a dream, or like Rey, Ben touches something that holds memories of her and he sees her for the first time. Shmi just embodies steadiness and love and that’s what Kylo/Ben needs!

8) Padme Amidala — Last but certainly not least in my perspective, we are dire need for more Padme in the Star Wars universe! I know she was featured on the Clone Wars television show, but I haven’t seen much of it and what I have seen (while wonderful) still has her as a more secondary character. I’d love to see her get some novels of her own much like Leia, (Come on Claudia Gray, I’m counting on you!!!). Whether we go back to her early years before she was queen, or right after TPM, or those few precious years she and Anakin shared together there is just so much that can be explored. Padme is a strong, intelligent, brave woman and her impact on the galaxy is still felt now in the sequel trilogy. You can see her in Leia, in Ben even, and it’s such a missed opportunity not to see her again. (Yes, I’ve seen that she’s going to be in the new Thrawn novel, but against, that’s someone else’s book, not her own!) Bring back Padme, the Senator, the Queen, the lover of the Chosen One, and the Mother of the future of the galaxy!

And there you have it my starfighters, the epic women of Star Wars that we DESPERATELY NEED MORE OF!!! Were there any that I missed, any that I might have overlooked? Who’s your favorite of the SW ladies? Let me know in the comments! And remember: May the Force be with you!

The Lord of the Rings & Hobbit MASH

Alright my fellow adventurers, time for a blast from the past with one of my all-time favorite games…MASH! That’s right, the future-predicting phenomenon that has foretold the numerous men I am going to marry…you know, one day (though as of now I have currently married none of them, but I live for hope lol), as well as the awesome exotic locales I’m going to call home (again, nothing to show for all this oracular knowledge but I have faith) and pretty much everything in-between. I don’t know if you guys played this in school but this was the one that has stuck with me over the years and I have taught it to not only my younger brother but pretty much every younger cousin of mine as well as any friend I’ve ever had. So I figure it’s time that I bring that wonderful, suspenseful, and miraculous game to you! Now the rules may vary depending on who you’re with, their playing preferences, and just how evil and vindictive they want to be that day, but I’m going to keep it simple. Each category gets three slots to be filled in with answers of your choice and we’ll work from there.

YOU SHALL NOT PASS…WITHOUT PLAYING THIS EPIC GAME!!!

Now as great as this game is normally, my brother and I amped it up a notch (due to sheer boredom) and now we’ve created our own themed versions, including Harry Potter, The Tudors, Star Wars, X-Men, Disney, Pretty Much Anything We Want At The Moment, and of course, The Lord of the Rings/Hobbit! And today, I’m thinking what better than delving into an epic adventure in Middle Earth itself?!

Photo via: lotr.wikia.com/wiki/Éomer

Right off the bat (though you’ll see it lower on the list here, but I’m changing a few things to make it easier for us to play), choose Up or Down and pick a number between 1 and 20. That number is your Tally number. Now I choose Down and my Tally is 15, so I’m going to start from the highest option and count down, repeating the tiers until I hit 15. Whatever option I’m on when I hit 15, that’s my future! (These are just my answers so make sure you write down your own as we go along!)

Lord of the Rings and Hobbit MASH

M = Mordor
A = Angmar
S = Shire
H = Helm’s Deep

Mates:
1) Fili
2) Faramir
3) Eomer

Mode of Transportation:
1) Bill the pony
2) Rustobel Rabbits
3) Lothlorien Boats

Color:
1) White
2) Green
3) Silver

Journey Beginning:
1) Rohan
2) The Shire
3) Rivendell

Journey’s End:
1) Grey Havens
2) Gondor
3) Dale (pre Smaug)

Weapon:
1) Sting
2) Wizard’s Staff
3) Gimli’s Battle Axe

Occupation:
1) Shield Maiden
2) Herbalist
3) Queen

Race:
1)Woman of Rohan
2) Rivendell Elf
3) Hobbit

Nemesis:
1) Sauron
2) Sarumon
3) Witch King of Angmar

Ally:
1) Gandalf the grey
2) Galadriel
3) Aragorn

Creature:
1) Combat Ram
2) Misty Mountain Ravens
3) Brego the horse

Wizard or High Elf of Choice:
1) Radagast the Brown
2) Gandalf the Grey
3) Galadriel

Quest:
1) Aid the Fellowship
2) Rescue Merry and Pippin
3) Escape from Mirkwood

Lifespan:
1) Old and Happy
2) Grey Havens
3) Die saving Middle Earth

Wealthy
Poor

Beautiful/Handsome
Plain

Alright guys, let’s count down…

.

.

.

I got all the third options! Oh, there’s some great choices here, so let’s see… that means I’m going to marry Eomer (hells yeah) and travel exclusively by silver Lothlorien boats (I feel fancy already!), and my journey will begin in Rivendell and end in the lovely town of Dale (PRE-SMAUG!!!). My weapon of choice is going to be Gimli’s battle axe, and my occupation is Queen so I figure we’re right on track here (I look absolutely AMAZING in a crown), and I’m going to be a Hobbit! My nemesis is the Witch King of Angmar himself and my ally is Aragorn – who I’m thinking may not be the best for this particular foe, but hey I’m willing to give it a chance. My animal ally is Brego the Rohan war horse and I’m great personal friends with Galadriel, the Lady of Light herself — maybe that’s where I get the Lothlorien boats from! It never hurts having friends in high places! And let’s see, my quest is to escape from Mirkwood Forest (damn, where’s Bilbo when I need him?!) and I ultimately die trying to save Middle Earth. Dammit Aragorn, did you get me killed while fighting the Witch King in Mirkwood Forest?! Ah well, you win some you lose some. I’m going to be fabulously wealthy – which makes since I suppose since I am a Queen – and I’m also beautiful – not that that matters considering I am so clearly awesome. And Eomer and I call the Shire home, so I wonder if that makes me Queen of the Hobbits or if we just summer there when we get tired of Rohan? Either way, I call it a damn fine life!

Photo via: http://lotr.wikia.com/wiki/Aragorn_II_Elessar

Make sure you tell me in the comments what the future holds for you my fellow adventurers! What daring deeds will you do, what friends and enemies will you have? Play the game and find out! And a big thank you to J.R.R. Tolkien for writing such an AMAZING work of art!!!

And be sure to check out the Harry Potter version of this game on my other blog channel Moonstonemaiden!

The Star Wars Women We Need More Of!!!

I don’t know about you, my starfighters, but I love me some Star Wars! Shocking I know but can you blame me?! There’s epic space battles, heart-melting romance, mystical forces, and characters that exist so vividly that they almost literally leap off the screen!!! You tell me Obi-Wan Kenobi doesn’t actually exist somewhere out in the cosmos and I’m sorry but we can’t be friends, I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life 😉

But seriously, we get so many wonderfully rich, multi-faceted characters from the series and for me as a writer, I appreciate just how “real” they feel. This doesn’t happen with just every story, it takes a certain something extra for characters to truly come alive outside their films or books and I think it’s because they (the Luscasfilm/SW writers) really take the time to flesh characters out. Real people have motivations for everything they do, there are always precedents inspiring their reactions and actions, and perhaps most importantly, no one stays the same their whole life, people are never the same person they were more than once, and SW displays that beautifully (Luke in TLJ). It’s inspiring to see such a well-crafted universe filled with so many diverse characters, and with the books and animated shows (which I fully admit, I’m not completely caught up on yet) they just keep adding to this amazing lexicon.

There’s always a million off-shoot stories I want to see and characters we encounter that I want to follow further, but for today I want to focus on the ladies of Star Wars that I think need more screen/book/etc. time. I’m going to exclude Leia and Rey from this just because I understand we won’t get much more Rey content until the sequel trilogy is finished, and because over the past few years we’ve already been given some awesome new Leia content! So, let’s get to it shall we!

1) Ciena Ree — The female protagonist from Claudia Gray’s Lost Stars, Ciena is such an eye-opening character in so many ways. From the planet Jelucan, Ciena is a woman whose life is dictated by honor and the demands of keeping her word. She begins as a little girl with a dream to pilot the greatest ships in the galaxy and through that desire, leads us first-hand into the life of an Imperial Officer. I always wondered what kind of person would willingly work in such a horrid place as the Death Star, what would make someone think that what they were doing was acceptable? And following Ciena’s story, it opened my eyes to how many good people were manipulated into such a life. We see as she rejects the idea of the Empire doing any wrong because it conflicts with her upbringing of honor above all, we watch as she rationalizes the horrors around her, then finally as she accepts that the organization she’s pledged her life to, staked her life’s honor on, IS the great evil in the galaxy. And I have some interesting ideas on how she can easily enter the SW films themselves… but that’s another post entirely!

2) Kendy Idele — A delightful emerald-haired addition in the Lost Stars novel by Claudia Gray, Kendy is originally an Imperial cadet/officer during Palpatine’s reign but after the introduction of the Death Star and the evils she witnesses first hand she heroically switches side and joins the Rebel Alliance! She’s a sharpshooter extraordinaire and X-Wing pilot with the Corona Squadron whose hatred for the Empire rings with such emotional-comprehension that I would just love to see her again in perhaps a novel of her own.

3) Greer Sonnel — Introduced to us as the enigmatic personal assistant to Senator Leia Organa, Greer immediately caught my attention in Claudia Gray’s epic novel Bloodline. There was just something about her that stuck out to me as I was reading, something that I couldn’t put my finger on… She was competent, intelligent, and oddly uncomfortable in the life she was living. For a moment I thought she might be a spy for the upcoming First Order, but then we’re given more of her backstory and we learn that Greer’s story is a little more tragic than espionage-filled.  An up and coming young pilot, Greer developed a rare disease that literally made the thing she trained her whole life for — what she wanted most in the galaxy — the thing that was going to kill her. Han Solo himself (her mentor/friend) asked Leia to take her in and although she knows flying will one day kill her, Greer can’t help but yearn for the one thing that makes her feel most alive. In the end, she chooses to help Leia rebuild the resistance, knowing that once again, evil was stretching across the galaxy. Greer deserves a solo book of her own — perhaps with a dash of romance with her fellow pilot Joph Seastricker! — her tale has the potential to be emotionally devastating: a fierce, intelligent woman who chooses to fight for the greater good, despite knowing that each time she sits in the cockpit she is closer and closer to death!

4) Amilyn Holdo — Introduced to most in The Last Jedi, Holdo actually makes her first appearance in Claudia Gray’s Leia, Princess of Alderaan where she admittedly is the odd one out in sixteen-year old Leia’s new crop of companions on her journey to being named the crown princess of Alderaan. As much as I enjoyed the strong, self-sacrificing woman Holdo became in TLJ, it’s her character in Leia, POA that really struck me as fascinating. Amilyn is someone who knows her own mind and doesn’t feel like she has to explain herself to those around her, she makes wild, often unsettling statements that have an uncanny habit of coming true later in the story. She sees things in a way that Leia (and myself as the reader) cannot comprehend and most of the time she just seems flat-out weird, a kind person perhaps, but definitely strange. But in reality there’s a next-level intelligence bursting from Holdo that I don’t think she knows how to communicate yet, but then again, I don’t think she feels like she has to explain herself, other people will catch up to her eventually (for example her not telling Poe about Crait). And she’s one of the most loyal, brave friends that Leia ever encounters, not only risking her life to help her friend, but standing by her side when Leia faces her first devastating loss. Amilyn teaches Leia how to find and center herself amidst suffocating depression and this is the Holdo I want to see more of!

5) Breha Organa — The Queen of Alderaan herself people! Leia’s adoptive mother was briefly seen in the closing scenes of Revenge of the Sith and is seen more frequently in Leia, Princess of Alderaan, but there is so much more I want to know about the woman that shaped Leia into the feisty, hero that she is! What was it like for her to raise the daughter of a woman she most likely had met, or at least was a friend of her husband’s? What was it like to know that her child was the offspring of another Queen and a Jedi, the unknown daughter of Vader herself? The fear she must have felt knowing that Palpatine and Vader were out there in the same galaxy as Leia… it makes my heart shudder thinking about it. In POA she mentions that she nearly died while completing her own tasks to be named crown princess of Alderaan, I’d love a narrative of this, or of her and Bail’s courtship in the time before the Galactic Civil War. There’s just so much that can be written about Breha and I think the world deserves to hear more about this epic Queen who defied an evil Emperor!

6) Qi’ra —  Introduced to us in Solo: A Star Wars Movie and in the book Most Wanted by Rae Carson, Qi’ra is the literal definition of an enigma! She’s street-smart, confident, and hyper intelligent, but that’s really about all we know! There’s such a big chunk of time between Most Wanted and the opening scene of Solo, and again between when Han and her get separated and reunited in Solo in which sooooo much obviously happens, and we know the result but not the reasons why she does what she does and chooses what she chooses. Obviously her relationship with Han is fascinating, but I feel like it’s  completely unfinished at the moment and there is more to tell there before he goes and his own way and meets Leia. I have a hard time imagining Han letting go of her so easily, so we definitely need to see what she’s doing with Maul. Whether she comes back in a sequel to Solo (which I would LOVE), or we get a book in her perspective, we need information about this epic new character!

7) Shmi Skywalker — This is the Skywalker woman we need to know more about! Shmi was the original driving force behind Anakin’s teetering to the dark side, his absolute love and devotion to her lead him down a shadowy path when she was taken from him, and I feel like there is so much we can learn from her. What was her life like before Anakin, what was her mental state when she realized what was happening to her (the pregnancy), and what were those early years with just her and Ani like? Did she sense Ani’s potential for great emotion, or wonder if that could ever go wrong? I mean, we have here one of the strongest, most capable mother’s in the Star Wars universe, and we just don’t get enough of her! Personally I would like to see her impact her great-grandson in some way, whether she comes to him in a dream, or like Rey, Ben touches something that holds memories of her and he sees her for the first time. Shmi just embodies steadiness and love and that’s what Kylo/Ben needs!

8) Padme Amidala — Last but certainly not least in my perspective, we are dire need for more Padme in the Star Wars universe! I know she was featured on the Clone Wars television show, but I haven’t seen much of it and what I have seen (while wonderful) still has her as a more secondary character. I’d love to see her get some novels of her own much like Leia, (Come on Claudia Gray, I’m counting on you!!!). Whether we go back to her early years before she was queen, or right after TPM, or those few precious years she and Anakin shared together there is just so much that can be explored. Padme is a strong, intelligent, brave woman and her impact on the galaxy is still felt now in the sequel trilogy. You can see her in Leia, in Ben even, and it’s such a missed opportunity not to see her again. (Yes, I’ve seen that she’s going to be in the new Thrawn novel, but against, that’s someone else’s book, not her own!) Bring back Padme, the Senator, the Queen, the lover of the Chosen One, and the Mother of the future of the galaxy!

And there you have it my starfighters, the women of Star Wars that we DESPERATELY NEED MORE OF!!! Were there any that I missed, any that I might have overlooked? Who’s your favorite of the SW ladies? Let me know in the comments! And remember: may the force be with you!

Top 5 Canon Star Wars Novels

Alright starfighters, let’s start this blog off right! Now as much as I love the Star Wars movies themselves (and my stars and starships do I LOVE them!), they admittedly only span a certain amount of time with my favorite characters and plot points. They only have so much time and most people don’t care enought to invest in a seven or eight hour movie, but dammit I’m greedy and I want to know more! I mean there are so many questions that need to be answered!!!

What was Leia doing before The Force Awakens? What was it like for her being a teenage senator responsible for millions of lives while also becoming one of the most reknowed Rebel Leaders? And what in the galaxy drove people to join the Empire, how did they justify working in that environment?!

I could go on forever but I think you get my point 😉

The films give us so much, but they can’t be everywhere at once. That’s where the books come in! Now I’ve been reading Star Wars books since I was in the fifth grade and found the Jedi Apprentice books at a school book fair by accident, but for this list I’m going to narrow my favorites down to the new wave of canon books that have been released since The Force Awakens was announced.

So in no particular order, I present to you… my favorites!

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1) Lost Stars by Claudia Gray — Lost Stars is the first of the new-wave books that I came across and absolutely loved! It’s always risky for me picking up a SW book that is centered on characters I’m not familiar with since for me at least, SW IS its characters and I get very attached to specific people, but this book was a revelation! Set in the early years after the rise of the Empire we follow two young pilots as they chase their shared dream of flying the best ships the galaxy has to offer. Ciena Ree and Thane give us an inside view of what it was like growing up during Palpatine’s reign and how the Empire conned the best of its citizens into a life of dishonor. From backwater worlds, to imperial academies on gleaming Coruscant, to the Death Star itself, and even the bridge of a Star Destroyer during the final battle of Jakku, this book takes you on one wild ride with two protagonists who are deeply in love but fighting on opposite sides of one of the biggest wars the galaxy has ever seen. The stakes are high and love and honor are on the line!

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2) Bloodline by Claudia Gray — Leia is one hell of an epic woman, let’s just make that clear. Princess, Rebel Leader, Spy, Senator, she wears a lot of hats. But what does she do when she’s not out rescuing Han Solo from Bounty hunters and Hutts or saving the Galaxy from the stranglehold of the Empire? What does a warrior like her do when the battle is finally done and the war won? Get back to work to make the galaxy a better place, that’s what. One senate meeting at a time. This book sets us down a few years before TFA in a time just before Leia’s world comes crashing down around her. You can’t help but feel a near-suffocating desperate hopelessness while you read this one knowing that unbeknownst to our beloved Princess, she is witnessing the birth of the next great evil in her galaxy and possibly the end of her relative happiness in life. This book beautifully walks that fine line of telling it’s own story and subtly setting us up for the first sequel film. It’s breathtaking and heartbreaking. Leia’s strength shines as strong as ever, but we see the cracks starting to form around her. A battle is coming, but can she see it in time?

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3) Last Shot: A Han and Lando novel by Daniel Jose Older — I WANTED NOTHING MORE THAN TO SEE HAN AND BABY BEN/KYLO TOGETHER AND THIS BOOK DELIVERED!!! Ahem… Sorry about that, but as a Kylo fan I was desperate for more information regarding his life, especially relating to Han and while that isn’t the entire focus of this book, it is a wonderful part of it! Baby Ben and Han are just soooo precious and I demand more content with them! But all that aside, the majority of this book is set in varying points of time with Han, Lando, and a few other rather frightening characters while they race against the clock to fix a deadly mistake they both made in the past. As someone who is easily spooked by the thought of a robot apocalypse, this book actually scared the hell out of me at times. Honestly. There is some creepy sh*t going on, and while it was sometimes hard to follow with all the jumps in time, when it comes down to it this book PERFECTLY captures Han and Lando’s respective voices. It was almost uncanny. Really, excellent job!

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4) Most Wanted by Rae Carson — As someone who LOVED Solo: A Star Wars Story, I was eager to delve into the lives of Han and Qi’ra before we see them escape Corellia in the opening scenes of the film. What were their lives like in that murky underground gang, what were they to each other really, and perhaps most important to me, who is this Qi’ra girl? This book answers all these questions and so much more. Fast paced and thrilling we meet these unforgettable characters before they actually become the characters we know. Han isn’t the Han we see in ANH or even Solo yet and Qi’ra is just as compelling and beguiling as she was on-screen. I was left with the sensation of knowing these two people so much better but still having no idea how their story together will ultimately end.

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5) Leia, Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray — How does one top Bloodline you ask? Well let me tell you! This book IS Leia as she becomes the rebel leader princess we all know and love! Coming of age to be named heir to the Alderaanian throne, Leia must prove herself to her parents, her people, the galaxy at large, and most importantly to herself. Witness a girl who knows nothing but the strength and power of love as she starts to discover the hardships of those around her and struggles to find a way to help that won’t result in more devastation. This is the Leia I never knew I needed, this is a princess who isn’t as confident, isn’t as sure how to accomplish all that must be done, but still has that fiery determination to try. There were moments I literally gasped, moments I squealed in delight, and moments like reading the very last line where I felt such devastating despair at all that was about to come for one of my favorite SW characters 😭

And there you have it my starfighters, my top five favorite canon Star Wars books! I have a few more on my to-be-read list (The Aftermath trilogy) and a few that I liked just fine but these are the ones that really gave me those wonderful, epic SW feels. What about you guys, which of the new canon novels do you like best? Is there one you’d recommend I read? Let me know in the comments and remember: may the Force be with you!