Category: On Me


I Dream of Writing

December 31st, 2014 — 8:55pm

From kaitco.wordpress.com:

I’ve been using the Lift.do app for much of the past eighteen months. In addition to helping me make flossing, bible reading, and some form of exercise daily activities, it has also given me a graphical display of my writing activities over the last year.

IMG_3566

Towards the beginning of the year, I seemed to be writing almost daily, but from August through the remainder of the year, I’ve been declining month over month. It’s one thing to have an inkling that one hasn’t been writing much, but seeing it forces acknowledgement. Of all things I aim to correct in 2015, one of the most poignant will be to correct the above graph.

My lack of writing, however, has given rise to an incredible epiphany about myself.

Lately I’ve been growing a bit concerned about the dark and violent nature of my imagination. When left to simply create out of nothing, my imagination always defaults to something dark and dreary. I noticed it with my NaNoWriMo attempt this year where I decided to write about pedophile serial killer seeking help for his deeds. Last year’s NaNoWriMo was hardly better as I simply started with “Once upon a time…” and 5K words in found myself writing a story about a young boy escaping into his dreams as he is being abandoned by his family. I’m still unsure why my imagination, when left on its own, falls into these dark places and that’s something I’ll have to ponder and pray about at another time. This could arguably be to blame for my reduced writing in the latter part of this year, but I know outright laziness when I see it.

I’ve also been having these very detailed recurring dreams which I almost never have. I hate dreaming entirely because I never dream about horses or flying or living a happy life in my elder years. My dreams are almost always just as dark and horrible as my default imagination, but they often include very realistic circumstances involving people I love.

I had one dream several years ago where my mother and I were walking across campus and she suddenly collapsed. I tried picking her up and dragging her to find help and then I noticed that Death was following us. I then proceeded to drag my comatose mother all across campus, in and out of dorms and classroom buildings, trying to run away from Death. I had another dream about a dear friend of mine, who had just been married and was pregnant at the time. I dreamt that I arrived at work and my co-workers surrounded me to comfort me as they told me my dear friend had been killed in a motorcycle accident. That one was so horrible that I actually woke myself up screaming and I had jumped out of the bed and stood around my bedroom for a few minutes before I understood that I’d just been dreaming. These are just a couple examples of the ones that have stood with me over time, so needless to say, I hate dreaming.

My recurring dream, like most of them, can be easily interpreted. I was in college at the time I had the dream about my mother and losing her would have been incredibly difficult for me, at any time really. My dream about my friend occurred because usually when things are going perfectly for too long, I expect something horrible to happen. My recurring dream includes a mixture of current racial tensions in the country and my own frustrations about my life’s limitations. The end doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to me yet, but I’m hoping to forget the dream sooner rather than later.

Despite having a mild understanding of what my recurring dream meant, I started searching online for a dream interpretation forum; something, anything, to help rid me of this recurring dream. In my searching, however, I started to think about what was really bothering me. It’s not the dreams themselves, because I know what they mean, but it’s the fact that I’ve been having these horrible dreams far more frequently than I’ve ever had and they’re recurring.

So, I posed myself some questions. Why was I dreaming so much?? What’s going on in my life that’s causing this? Is it a change in diet? Exercise? Music? Television? What?!?

No answer came to me immediately, so I focused on other things, namely my writing habits as I saw them in the Lift app and then it finally dawned on me: Reduced writing has given my brain no other storytelling outlet and thus, has left all the creative thoughts that used to be spent on a writing project with nowhere else left to go, but into dreams.

It sounds fanciful at first, but I came upon this realization in a slightly empirical manner. As I hadn’t been writing as much I should have been, I initially aimed to fix it by enacting what I called “No Write, No Reddit.” I procrastinate way too much on Reddit and so, I figured that preventing myself from viewing Reddit unless I’d written at least 100 words would kick start my writing and this actually worked. I started writing for a few days and, though it hadn’t occurred to me at the time, I had no dreams during this time. Unfortunately, after a few days, I started to get busy and I stopped writing and Redditing altogether. Then, the dreams started again and then they started to recur and the dreams even included a few slight deviations…almost as if my brain was trying to perfect or edit the dream.

After recognizing the correlation between writing and dreams, I tried to make sure I didn’t go more than 48 hours without some kind of creative storytelling and, Lo! the dreams have stopped. If were really a scientist, I’d test myself further by ceasing all creative activities again, while maintaining consistent diet, exercise, sleep, etc., and then see how long it took for the dreams to restart (and, I still may as that sounds very intriguing), but like I said, I hate dreaming and a simple hypothesis works well enough for me.

I’ve asked God recently about my writing endeavours and had considered giving up the craft altogether to focus on other ambitions, but I think I might have received my answer.

I’m a storytelling through and through. Whether I tell these stories aloud or commit them to the page, they will form and with nowhere else to go, they will internalize and haunt me either way. So, on I’ll continue.

Whether I publish or not, I’m still a storyteller and, if for no other reason than my mental well-being, I’ll continue to tell my stories until the end.

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Revel in my achievement!

March 28th, 2012 — 1:50am

This has absolutely nothing to do with writing or Christianity or anything I’ve talked about in recent months. This is just a personal achievement.

Sunday evening, I decided that it was time to up the RAM on my PC and went to Micro Center since theirs was the cheapest. I’d researched the type I wanted and how much I’d wanted to spend and had even factored the $30 that would be necessary for the folks at Micro Center to install said RAM for me come Monday morning.

Whether it was frugality, procrastination or just plain laziness, I never got to Micro Center on Monday and instead spent the night researching how install RAM. After watching no less than 10 videos on YouTube each describing the same process, I decided that this couldn’t be that difficult to up my RAM from 6 to 16GB and…this evening, I did it! The entire process took roughly 30-40 minutes when I include all the unplugging, looking up a last minute how-to video, saying a few prays about proper grounding for myself, the actual installation and the time praying as I waited for the PC to boot. All in all, not a bad way to spend an hour and voila!

Voila! I've done it!

This process was far too simple to seem this scare, what with the concept of grounding oneself and now my next project will be to revive my old Xbox from it’s purgatory of RROD. If life had Xbox achievements, there would be a “Ba-loop!” and a brief sign near the corner of my eye stating, “Install PC Component for the First Time 200G!”

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A house?

February 2nd, 2012 — 11:14pm

I’ve not written specifically in this blog for a while and I’ve got a great article coming, but until then a post from my WordPress (http://kaitco.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/a-house/) will have to suffice:

For the first time in my life I considered that idea that I should be a homeowner. I actually started to look into what homes would be in my price range before I started to add some logic to it, but I can’t escape the fact that I actually thought about it.

I’ve been anti-house for a long time, but in recent months, I seem to be running out of space in my townhouse; and I really want a garage again. The living room isn’t large enough for all my stuff anymore and I would really like to have a decent sized kitchen again. I won’t be able to afford the kind of house I grew up in yet, but the idea of a little space that’s all my own is starting to sound more attractive than it ever did.

“Now is the time to buy” is all I ever hear nowadays and I’m wanting more than ever to feel like a “real” adult with a mortgage and a car note and all the other debt that the rest of America has. Now, feels like the time.

This idea faded a bit on the drive home, but it’s still there nagging at me as something to consider. That said, just a week ago, I almost dropped 1500 to buy a MacBook just because I wanted one, so I realize I just get caught up in the moment at times.

I had planned on getting more writing done today than I did.

I wrote 1003 words today (dinner with Angel and Anthony that evening.). As far as my writing goes, I’m starting to see what I used to attempt daily as not nearly enough any more. I used to pray daily for 500 words, but now when I see that all I wrote was 500 and I highlight it on the page, it looks like nothing and it’s no wonder that it’s taken me three years to write this book.

All this notwithstanding, I wrote a poem today; probably the first in about five years. It’s not truly “my” poem in the sense that I “was” my character Dana Barrington while writing it, but still, poetry is hard and I’m always lightly amused at the result when it’s done.

I wasn’t going to write any poems at all for this project, but I’ve got Damen and Dana discussing poetry in depth and it won’t feel right without at least one:

The story

How do I tell the story
to someone so young?
Should I lie
Should I weep?
Say nothing?
Keep it deep?

He’ll ask the question
I know it; soon
I’ll take time
I’ll get by
But can I look
In his eye?

How do I tell the story
to someone so young?
I’ll make it quick
We’ll feel our pain
But he’ll know he wasn’t
Born in vain.

I was inspired, and thus my character was inspired, for the poem after reading an Emily Dickinson (If I can stop one heart from breaking) and I don’t think much of it, but it’s done and now I can move on with the rest of the book, especially since I completed Chapter 24 tonight.

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Dear Netflix: I still heart you

July 12th, 2011 — 10:13pm

So, I like many other Netflix users, received a disheartening e-mail today about a change in the Netflix pricing. Now, instead of receiving streaming and DVDs together at one price, each service is offered separately and charged separately.

Currently, I have 5 discs out at a time and I get free streaming for the pretty price of 34.99, plus tax. Starting in September, I will have the same service for 35.98, plus tax…barely a dollar increase for the same service.

The cheapskate that I am would normally be outraged at being charged more for the same service, but if I liken it to cable service, Netflix comes out the winner. For years Time Warner had effectively screwed me over by increasing their prices as much as ten dollars a month for receiving the exact same service, without having reasons as valid as Netflix’s.

What reasons, you ask? How about multi-fold increases in the customer base, all running off the same servers and all needing to increase the contracts with the studios? Sounds like a fair reason to increase a bit for the least profitable services.

What’s not profitable, you ask? How about the people paying 16.99 for 3 discs at a time and also a service that people who have no discs pay for 7.99? If you do the math, it only makes sense to differ the services as the folks paying 16.99 are getting far more than anyone else on line.

Now, someone like me at the higher echelon of Netflix service barely feels in the increase at all. In fact, it feels like a decent and expected increase for the cost of service and I don’t remember this big a stink when the previous year’s price increases came to light. That said, if you were paying just 16.99 for 3 discs at a time, you have been rather hosed, but seriously…why are people losing their minds over this? Did no one ever expect that Netflix prices were eventually going to increase over time?

It’s unfortunate that if you originally paid less than $20 for an awesome service that you now have to pay a whopping 8 dollars more than you did two months earlier, but when you consider the alternative, you are still paying far less than you did for cable.

If you are pressed for cash, then decide what you use more. Are you really taking advantage of all three discs at your house at the same time you stream movies and TV shows? If not, take advantage of one of the brilliant other offers available, like 1 disc at a time for 15.98, for example, and stop crying. If you do use all three discs and stream like crazy, then be advised that the gravy train stops here.

I, however, not being cheap when it comes to my Netflix love, feel very little of this new chain of events and, honestly, if a price hike is what it takes to keep Netflix service great and keep them from moving their call centers to abroad, I’ll pay an extra dollar or eight any day.

1 comment » | On Me, Politics

The Potter’s House

March 20th, 2011 — 11:57pm

I wasn’t actually listening to the song tonight as I wrote but I thought the title fitting for this post. I’ve always adored the song because the lyrics just help me see that there’s always “someone” to help me in dire matters:

Verse 1:
In case you have fallen by the wayside of life;
dreams and visions shattered, You’re all broken inside.
You don’t have to stay in the shape that you’re in;
the potter wants to put you back together again,
oh, the potter wants to put you back together again.

Verse 2:
In case your situation has turned upside down,
and all that you’ve accomplished, is now on the ground.
You don’t have to stay in the shape that you’re in;
the potter wants to put you back together again,
oh, the potter wants to put you back together again.

Chorus:
You who are broken, stop by the potter’s house.
You who need mending, stop by the potter’s house;
give Him the fragments of your broken life,
my friend, the potter wants to put you back together again,
oh, the potter wants to put you back together again

Vamp:
Joy in the potter’s house.
Peace in the potter’s house.
Love in the potter’s house.
There is salvation in the potter’s house.
There is healing in the potter’s house.
There is deliverance in the potter’s house.
You’ll find everything you need in the potter’s house.

Ending:
The potter wants to put you back together again,
oh, the potter wants to put you back together again.

I went to church today and even got there a little earlier than I have in the past and I realized that when I’m struggling and depressed, for some reason the last thing I ever think of is turning to prayer to help “put me back together again.” I have my little prayers throughout the day or if I’m ever contemplating that one day, I’m going to die and transform into another state of energy and existence, but when I’m in most need of real, focused prayer, my mind is on everything else. I can never sit down and really think things through and have a full “conversation” with God to guide me through the frustration.

However, this is really just a personality flaw in that I hate asking for help…from anyone and this is the reason why it is important that I always attend church and make Sundays a day of rest. It’s only by going to “the potter’s house” that I feel complete again and can see everyone of my struggles and troubles in the proper light. I’m not sensible enough to pray the way I need to when I need to, so I need to go somewhere specific to forcibly give my thoughts the clarity needed to make strong decisions and still remain a child of God.

My struggles with first-job: totally insignificant. My priorities true priorities have not changed since before my career began to make these upward strides and I know I can’t allow first-job to deter me from them. I need to get back into the Word and read like I want to learn again and I need to shift my focus on being the writer I want to be. I’ve got too many distractions swimming around me and as hard as it is to say it, I’ve got too many “worldly” people in who I turn to instead of turning to prayer.

I wrote 305 words today (last words:then it’s one less thing you have to worry about) and every one of them was made only by the grace of God. I need to remember this every time I write and I need to renew my focus on not just getting through this era of my life as I march onward to my life goals, but to march onward as a Christian. So, I’m going to take the fragments of my broken life and hand them to the Potter because only He can put me back together again and make me Dorienne I’m meant to be.

1 comment » | Jesus, On Me, Writing

In vain

February 28th, 2011 — 2:29am

Pasted from my wordpress.com (since I’m not talented enough to create for two blogs right now):

One of the more fascinating things about writing a novel is crafting the personalities and voices of the many characters that appear on the page. What I find simultaneously enjoyable and frustrating is the physical act of creating dialogue that I could never even imagine myself saying.

In Damen, this comes about most often while writing Corey. Corey is crass, blunt and curses like the proverbial sailor, yet when I write dialogue, I often need to whisper the words back to myself to make sure they make sense, and when a character is so unlike myself that it’s rather sickening, I feel dirty even writing what he would say. That is to say, I used to feel dirty when writing Corey’s dialogue. I’ve now grown accustomed to it and can easily separate my own voice from Corey’s. Damen, however, is far different.

To make him a character all on his own, I gave him “life” by giving him small pieces of my own personality. Since Damen is not an autobiography, however, he is a completely different person with a voice and history all his own. I go to church often (not as often as I could and should, but we’re all Christ’s works-in-progress) and I try to thank God for all His gifts every day of my life. Damen, on the other hand, rests somewhere on the line between agnostic and plain atheist. So much has happened in his life that make him doubt that a creator could have any hand in the machinations of his world and the fact that he has had none of the religious reinforcement that many others his age would experience, has tainted him even further against God and all religion. And so, he when he swears (and when he’s still reeling in Corey’s influence, it’s very often), Damen will often use the Lord’s name in vain.

My mind and heart make great conflict over this. The mind says that words on a page are simply that and as long as I don’t go around screaming “Godd***t!” all the time, I remain clean. On the other hand, the heart that helped me walk out into the church aisle years ago, crying as I went to the altar to join the church, knows that it is wrong to use the Lord’s name in vain in any context. If I’m writing it, I’m saying it, even if I do skip over those words and phrases as I whisper dialogue back to myself and thus the battle continues.

This reminds of when my 16 century Brit-Lit class was studying “Faustus” and the effect of being an actor in the play during a time when folks were far more religious than they are now. The actor playing the titular character would have to call upon the devil to make Mephistophilis appear and whether one is acting or not, there is still that innate worry of “calling upon the devil.” While I have stopped blatantly swearing and using God’s name in vain years ago, the mere acting of writing such dialogue is difficult to the point that I go through four or five waves of typing and backspacing as I decide whether or not to have Damen think “Jesus Christ!” in a moment where he is clearly not praying. Even typing that last sentence used to get across my point gave me pause.

I can’t say that I’m completely indoctrinated as I have only come to the church in the last five years and had written off myself as an agnostic prior to that, but I must say, each time I’ve got a choice between staying true to my character and saying what I know to be wrong to say, I struggle…a lot.

I wrote 626 words tonight (his first extracurricular conversation about a novel since his father had passed) and when a moment called for Damen using God’s name in vain, somehow my heart took control and I’m glad I found a better way to say I wanted. That said, I’ve still a lot of Damen’s character to unleash and eventually, I’ll be pressed with the same battle again.

Comments Off on In vain | Deep Thought, Jesus, On Me, Writing

A good start

January 4th, 2011 — 12:18am

With only laying out just two major goals for myself as of 1/1/11 (be a better child of God and write every day), I think I have done a decent job so far: I managed to get to church on Sunday and I’ve written something every day.

I suppose now is as good a time as any to set some real goals for myself, though not for the year, but for just the month. A year is a really long time when you think about it and so much can change in a year. Houses could be bought and lost, weight could be lost and gained again, families could be shattered or started…a lot can happen in just 12 months. So, since I am desiring a change (one of them being the current theme of this blog and the state of DorienneSmith.com), I think the best way to set goals is to create some realistic ones and follow-up once a month to make sure I’m on track.

This month’s goal, on top of the other aforementioned daily ones, is to get a least a twenty minute workout at least once a week. It doesn’t sound like much, but after this weekend, I realize I may need to start slow.

I was playing Kinect with my little cousins Friday night and Saturday morning I was in so much pain that I could barely move. At first I thought it was just some new side effect of a caffeine headache, but then slowly I realized that it was just moving around with the Kinect the previous night. I have been so sedentary these last five or sixth months that just fifteen minutes of activity that I used to be able to do at a moment’s notice was too much for me. I was worn out after the first round of games with the kids and, while I’m no spring chicken anymore, there’s no reason that just a little physically activity should leave me in paralyzing pain the next day. It’s time to stop the madness.

A workout a week is barely anything at all, but I at least have the plan to place what I need to go straight to the gym after work in my car so that I’ll have no excuse. Hopefully next week, I can stretch it two weeks and maybe even add a new goal, but if I can just manage this through January, I can look back on the start of this year proud of what I tried to do for myself.

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A new year

January 1st, 2011 — 11:59pm

Pasted from my wordpress.com:

I made it to see another year! Go me!

I was just going to post something to have something entered, but then I thought, “Dorienne…you know you need to write something today.” so I did. I got through exactly 1200 words and decided to break my mid-point in Chapter 7 into Chapter 8 after all, especially how I ended the previous part. It just read like the end of a chapter.

I wasn’t able to finish the laundry or about half of the full cleaning that I wanted before I left for Watch Night service last night, but I at least got the laundry sorted and the house straightened to the point that it feels clean, even though there’s a ton of dusting, etc. that needs to be done. I would have done some work today, but after trying to fight the headache, shakes, slight hallucinations and nausea that come with trying to detox from caffeine, I pretty much got nothing accomplished except for my 1200 words. I also played Kinect last night with my little cousins and, given that I hadn’t done any real exercise in close to two months, every single muscle in my body is screaming. It took me half the day to figure out if the pain was just from running around the house or if it was a new piece of the caffeine withdrawal, but when I remember all the running and jumping I did with the Kinect, I got completely psyched to get mine on Monday.

The interesting thing about writing is how difficult it is to get started when I haven’t written in a while, which explains so many of my lulls in 2010. I only went about 3 1/2 days without writing and I had to listen to only instrumental music to help my mind focus before I was able to construct a sentence. Previously, I’d go three or four weeks without writing anything and would then be surprised that I couldn’t get motivated to write anything worthwhile. I suppose one of my main lessons of 2010 was that I have to write every day. Even if it’s just a quick 200-word blurb, I have to get those juices flowing.

Well, it’s a new year and a new opportunity to get things done. In 2011, my goals are God and writing. If I can keep those things in focus, I’ll do just fine.

A PS to myself: I’ve got waaay too many drafts sitting on this blog. 2011 will see far more posting at this blog. πŸ™‚

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Dorienne, age 26

September 15th, 2010 — 8:59am

Throughout most of 2009, I ran around in a frantic tizzy about getting old and turning 25. There were so many things I desired to do before getting “old” and, yet, it was happening nonetheless. Despite all the planning and scurrying, I managed to accomplish very little by my actual birthday and started to get depressed because of it.

For most of this year, I feel as if I have wandered around in a fog, reacting to life instead of progressively taking hold of it.

As this September brought another time of deep reflection, I began to once more grow sullen about what I presumed to be my lack of accomplishment throughout age 25, but in my hours of reflection, a thought occurred to me.

Instead of age 26 being another year of prospective failure, this past year has been the year when my career (backup as it is) has really taken the strides it should be taking.

Age 26 also marks 5 five years since I was saved.

Though I was baptized at age 7, I wasn’t really saved until I was 21, on the floor of my apartment, on my knees praying for Christ’s blessings and all that He could do for me. It was in that dark hour that I found Christ and that was five years ago.

So, instead of being upset about what I didn’t get accomplished, I will go into this time of reflection remembering how far I’ve come. I am not the person I was five years ago and I do not want to be that person again. I am stronger from what Jesus has sent my way and I know that ages 26-30 will bring more challenges to make me even stronger in Christ.

πŸ™‚

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91-Books – Lost Tribe of the Sith series

August 20th, 2010 — 2:44am

From http://blogs.starwars.com/kaitco:

The Challenge! http://blogs.starwars.com/kaitco/2
The Review:

Scale:
πŸ˜€ – The Force is strong with this one.
πŸ™‚ – I’d read it again.
😐 – Meh…
πŸ™ – I have a bad feeling about this.

Lost Tribe of the Sith by John Jackson Miller
My rating for the series as a whole: 😐 – Meh…
Precipice: 😐 – Meh…
Skyborn: Between πŸ™‚ and 😐
Paragon: πŸ™‚ – I’d read it again.
Savior: πŸ™ – I have a bad feeling about this.

I decided to review all four books in one set since the e-books were so short. It was difficult to come up with a complete rating for each one since one book was on the low side of “Meh…” and another was almost a four-star effort, but I stand behind my shrugging humph as I think upon what I have read.

While I liked some better than the others, the series fell a little flat for me, both in mechanics and in general storyline. What bothered me the most was that there was not a proper balance between “show versus tell” throughout the entirety of the series and, while “show versus tell” is something with which many writers suffer, I came into this series expecting far more from a seasoned author like Miller.

Right from the start, I was thrown into a completely unknown landscape with very little to help me grapple with what I was being told and that, more than anything, brought out my old skepticisms about science fiction literature. A part of me feels like any reader should be able to pick up any book about the galaxy far, far away and should instantly be able to fall into the novel without little to no background knowledge. With Precipice, there were several times in that first chapter where I had to keep backing out of the novel on my Kindle to make sure I was reading the first book in the series. I was completely lost!

Granted, my Star Wars knowledge is limited, but I honestly thought I needed some kind of Star Wars concordance by my side to help me understand what I was reading. Perhaps it is just because I am still fairly new in this journey of mine, but I think that strong storytelling about this universe should assume only a few things: 1) That the reader has at least watched some of the films and 2) Even if the reader has not seen the films, he or she at least knows that there are Jedi and Sith, there is the Force and that lightsabers come in several colours and can cut everything. Unless the novel explicitly picks up after another series, there should be few if any assumptions made.

In Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, was it helpful to have watched or have read the novelization of Episode 4? Of course! That’s why the cover had “From the further adventures of Luke Skywalker…” in bold letters at the top. The reader knows going into the novel that if the name Luke Skywalker does not ring a bell, he or she is going to miss a lot of the novel.

I also equate this idea to reading The Lord of the Rings. Is it helpful to have read The Hobbit and have some understanding of who Gandalf is and what hobbits look like? Of course! Yet, Tolkien does not jump into the story assuming the reader has read what was actually a prequel of sorts to his masterpiece. If I sound like I’m ranting a bit, it is simply out of the frustration of not having any idea what was happening for close to a full chapter and one of the longer ones in the novel, at that. I knew next to nothing about who I assumed was my protagonist, names were being dropped left and right to the point that I was truly turned off by what I read.

Honestly, imagine watching Return of the Jedi without ever knowing a thing about Star Wars and picture the opening scene. Two random robots are walking in the middle of some desert, you have no idea who they are, where they are or why the little one beeps instead of talks, and the one that is talking keeps referring to some guy named Luke and something else about a princess. Even the opening scroll would not help you get far and the rest of the film would make no effort to explain anything to you. This is acceptable in ROTJ because it is a part of a trilogy so assumptions can be made. I had nothing to help me understand whether or not Lost Tribe of the Sith was a part of another series, I was thrown a lot of names in those few pages and, thus, I was frustrated.

My frustrations were also deepened by how the novels flowed. Far too much detail went to facts that did not make a difference by the end of the series, whereas characterization were, in most cases, left to basic summaries.

In Precipice, was it really necessary to read about every single muscle Korsin flexed as the Omen crashed on Kesh? Did the reader really truly need to see each facet of Keshiri life before getting on with the rest of the story? Likewise, why was the reader simply told about the history between Korsin and his brother instead of allowed to see a part of it before their jump to hyperspace and the eventual crash? This is where the balance between “show versus tell” comes into play. Far too many scenes in the novel were shown when they could have quickly been told and vice versa. In my eyes, if the author was going to spend eons describing what could be summarized, then the novellas should have been great epics of detail from every character down to the last sparkle of the rocks on Kesh.

Once I moved past the initial shock of being thrown into a novel with a back story I may never learn and the long spans of description that came to nothing in the end (seriously, several thousand words were spent on the crash alone and it made not one bit of difference how the ship crashed in the end), I did enjoy many aspects of the series that caused me to think of the Sith on a deeper level and encouraged me to continue with the novels on my list.

Precipice
As I said earlier, the beginning caught me off guard, like a Chemistry mid-term on something the professor never covered in class, and there were several times in the novel where I was shouting to myself, “Let’s get on with this! Somebody bring out a lightsaber!” That initial boredom was quickly overshadowed by the Sith themselves.

The idea of “pureblooded” Sith was completely new to me and utterly fascinating. These red-skinned people had somehow interspersed with humans and other species creating other Force-sensitives, but in a sense, not as attuned to the dark side as a pure-blood Sith would be. The only part that dampened my new-found intrigue with the Sith were some of their conversations.

“‘What’s the third choice?’
Gloyd’s painted face crinkled. ‘There isn’t one. But I figured it’d cheer you up if you thought there was.’
‘I hate you.’
‘Great. You’ll make someone a fine Sith someday.'”

Some of the discourse between the Sith sounded almost ordinary and just as balanced as the Jedi, albeit in a slightly more sarcastic light. I had always imagined that the Sith were a mysterious and magical sect so bereft of the normalcies found in non-Force sensitives that they were barely capable of holding almost jovial conversations like the above quote. This view has also been reinforced by what I had seen in the films and in Clone Wars. I suppose, however, that this runs with the idea of what Anakin was screaming at the end of Revenge of the Sith; the Sith are just as “normal” as anyone, depending on a certain point of view.

The idea that the Sith ran in a gamut of shapes, sizes and colours was the complete “Oh wow!” moment in the book. Again, the films leave one with the perception that any Force-sensitive being is human since it takes a humanoid form to hold a lightsaber and, ergo, master the Force. I was delightfully surprised to “see” the array of Sith colour; from the pure-blooded red Sith, to every other colour in the rainbow. It was like viewing the world through John Lennon’s Imagine, but then brought back to your senses by the fact that they all carried “evil-coloured” lightsabers.

Further fascinating for me was the concept of something as basic as drug use in the GFFA. Korsin’s brother is an addict and I found myself sympathizing with his plight, regardless of the fact that I have had no similar experiences in my own life. That said, I also find that the more I read, the more the GFFA begins to mirror real life, but in a manner that makes the characters appear simultaneously down-to-earth and still like the wayward warriors they are.

In the end, though, the Sith did live up to what I expected Sith to do and I had to hold back a cold laugh at the callousness of the protagonist in the last chapter. What I enjoy most in an anti-hero like Korsin is whole-hearted evil and cruelty. It does not due for a villain or the protagonist’s character to be wishy-washy or grey. What Precipice confirms (at least for me) is that the Sith are evil, but some are clearly more evil than others.

Skyborn
By the time I came to Skyborn, I had imagined I could not be shocked again by another onslaught of information I did not understand, but once again, I was proven wrong. Within the first few hundred words, I was wondering if I was reading a story within the same series. The beginning of Skyborn was packed with so much mundane detail that I was certain that The Lost Tribe of the Sith was just a collection of short stories that were in no way interconnected. Of course, by the end of the second chapter, I finally saw the connection, but much of the second book of the series left me a little muddled.
Since I was unable to see how Adari and her Keshiri people related to the Sith, I found myself, again, wondering when the author was planning to get on with the actual story. Like in Precipice, detail upon detail was lain upon the reader, this time about the purple-skinned Keshiri and their view of the world, when much of this could have been summarized rather quickly without hurting the story.
When considering the novel on whole, Adari’s characterization frustrates me almost as much as my initial confusion in Precipice.

“Adari had never felt shame for all those hours she’d spent searching the creek beds, or for finding more interest in the shards of a shattered stone than in her children’s first words.”
Initially, I was not intrigued by Adari as a protagonist. She did not reach me on a “womanly” level or otherwise and I think what made this most apparent was the description of her love, or lack thereof, for her children.

Adari had her children simply because it appeared to be the appropriate thing to do and had no love for them. Even the Sith love their children, so what does this say about her? I cannot see her apathy towards her children as a more masculine quality either. It just feels fake and unbalanced. I am one of the last people to stigmatize the role of women in literature, but I have rarely seen the aloof mother done properly where some kind of vice was not involved and, even in Moth Smoke, one of my favorite novels, the author was discussing a woman who cared for little outside of herself. Adari obviously cares about rocks, but she just disregards people.

Adari is presented as more level-headed that the rest of the Keshiri, but lacks the outright selfishness necessary to make her behaviour to her children and her people believable. That is not to say that a lack of a maternal instinct is tantamount to selfishness, but for something that is so ingrained in womanhood, there needed to be more than just a few lines telling the reader that Adari did not love her children or motherhood.

Adari’s heresy trial, while somewhat amusing with its Scopes Monkey Trial meets Star Wars storyline, has incredibly little to do with the actual plot. Her chief “prosecutor” is given a plethora of detail and back story, but Izri Dazh plays no part in the overall story.

“‘But you know that all that is Kesh came from the Skyborn,’ Izri said, jabbing his cane in her direction. ‘Nothing can be born of Kesh anew!’
She knew; every child knew. The Skyborn were the great beings above, the closest thing the Kesh had to deities.”

Most of the first chapter was downright boring. Seriously, this was my Kindle note from this part of the story:
Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith #2: Skyborn (JOHN JACKSON MILLER)
– Note Loc. 104 | Added on Tuesday, August 10, 2010, 06:38 PM
this story just got a million times more mundane. really? we are just reading about a darwinesque stone trial? even when described in the context of another world it has been done so many times it is simple and inane.

I suppose Izri plays the Dr. Zaius in the story, but he shines brightly for a long while before fading into inconsequence.

This is not to say that Miller could have summarized everything about the Keshiri by saying, “All folks down in Tahv-ville believed in the Skyborn a lot, but Adari, who lived just north of Tahv, did not.” but all the detail just became overbearing.

What would have made an incredible story would have been to make it one complete novel, where the first chapter showed the reader what was happening to the Sith, the second chapter discussing Adari and the Kesh, the third including more information about the Sith on Kesh and so forth until Adari meets the Sith, bringing the two parallel stories together.

I could not help but notice, however, the glaring dig at religion Miller inserted into this story and, while I would like to see his ultimate point being that science can break down anything in the universe into matter, energy, space and time, a dig is still a dig no matter how annoying.

What I did enjoy was when Adari met the Sith. Miller did an outstanding job of presenting how the Sith would appear to someone who knew of nothing outside of her terrestrial bounds and this was where the overflowing detail was finally put to good use. The reader got to “see” the Sith precisely how Adari saw them which helped paved the way for the third and, in my opinion, the best novel of the series.

The second half of the novel is what kept me drifting between two ratings for the whole book. While the first half was drab and grey, the second was full of life and colour, much like in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy steps out of her Kansas home into the beautiful land of Oz; the two halves are like night and day. By the end of the book, I found myself, again, wishing that Miller had made this one continuous story.

Paragon
While I found the italicized trips into Seelah’s memory a little heavy-handed, I think Miller did a good job with the memories and with the third novel altogether.

There was more of a balance between “show versus tell” in the third than in any of the others and, even though, Miller did include irrelevant details in this book as well (again the memories), the details did not distract one long enough to wonder where the author was going with the book.

At this point, the groundwork has been laid and all that is left is story. I did find it difficult to believe that the Sith were still earnestly attempting escape after fifteen years on Kesh, but their actions were exactly what I had expected of them; a lack of justice for the voices of the weak and a complete sense of power and control. Fascinatingly enough, the one I had thought who would feel the most comfortable overpowering a Force-lacking species, was the one most anxious to still leave the planet.

All this notwithstanding, Paragon was far from perfect and some of the same questions I had about the ability to “see” using the Force while watching ROTS, sprang up in this story as well. In ROTS, I found it amusing (for lack of a better word) that the Jedi, who could sense the slain souls of fallen Jedi half a galaxy away, could not sense a Sith lord sitting just a stone’s throw away from them, i.e.: Yoda sits directly across from Palpatine in the beginning of AOTC, but other than simple mistrust thrown at any politician, there is no sense that Yoda senses a real disturbance in the Force. In Paragon, I see marked similarities, though on a smaller scale.

Ravilan, a red Sith and from my limited understanding, a pure Sith, should have been able to “feel” or interpret the Force with far greater accuracy than any of the humans around him. Why Ravilan could not see or sense Seelah’s murders on a Force-limited planet like Kesh is just mind-boggling. As soon as I had read that Seelah oversaw all births, I assumed she was doing something naughty and this intuition was without anything that came out of her past memories; this was based solely on her character in the past two books.

Adari’s character seemed a bit shunted to the side for the greater part of the story and I could not help feeling slightly betrayed considering the amount of time spent on her in the previous book. I also did not like, or perhaps I simply did not understand, the end and Adari’s newfound desire to return the Keshiri lifestyle back to its roots. In hindsight, this was just the beginning of what would become a truly mundane end to the series.

Savior
This novel was what almost brought the entire series down a complete notch for me. There are so many issues that I could probably take up the remainder of my blog space complaining about it, but instead, I will focus on characterization.

Adari Vaal began as the wayward heroine to the series and, robbed of what could have been an incredible rise and a fantastic level of depth, Adari’s character was left lifeless and bland. There were several points in Skyborn and Paragon that Adari seemed to have some promise, but in the end, she was simply wasted.

What caught my attention most in Skyborn, infuriated me most in Savior. Skyborn presented the reader with an Adari who was the heretic, the mother to children she barely loved, and the geologist who would rather spend her time examining rocks than interacting with her own people. How and when and, better still, why did she develop these feelings of patriotism about her homeland and her people?
I was at no point struck with the sense that Adari particularly cared for her own people and Korsin’s fascination with her throughout the second and third books gave the perfect setup to have Adari either run away with the Sith should their help arrive or overthrow Korsin to set herself up as the supreme leader of her people. Good God! She had ample opportunity!

She reunited the Skyborn with the Keshiri; Adari could have, should have, claimed herself queen/empress/Skyborn Elect/whatever over her people and, if she harbored some understanding of injustice, why not use her newfound power to overcome the Sith and bring her people into a Kesh Age of Reason? The Keshiri are so numerous that they don’t have a number to count their population. Surely, amassing an army devoted to their Keshiri-Skyborn could have helped take down the Sith. I am not saying it would have been easy or bloodless, but anything would have been better than what came of Adari in the novel.

Adari’s plan was comical in its inanity. What it proved was that she had learned nothing from spending twenty years amongst the Sith. She had spent years in their inner circles and, even if she was not Force-sensitive, she surely could have learned enough about the Sith and the ways of the dark side to come up with a plan better than what was presented. Were the Sith not a resourceful people? Could they not, knowing that food and shelter were just a ways off, have fought and clawed their way back to the mainlands eventually? She spent a minimum of ten years drawing up plans and the idea to “strand” the Sith was best someone with inside knowledge could create? It is unthinkable!

Adari’s character had so much promise and yet it was all for naught. Even worse were the open questions that will never receive answers. Why devote an entire novel about a single character and her view of her world only to have her dissolve into mediocrity in the end? Why would a character with such spirit and so out of sync with the rest of her people, even want things to go back to the way they were? The reader was told a million times that Korsin thought the world of her, but why? We were not shown anything out of the ordinary about her other than what was given before her encounter with the Sith and yet, somehow, we are left to decipher what specific actions of Adari endeared her to Korsin. I just can’t stand it when great characters are just wasted; it is like they are brought to life with a real purpose, but laid to rest never realizing their full potential. I may not have been able to immediately associate with her, but Adari’s character had great potential to become like the Sith, yet the antithesis of them at the same time.

What was probably most disappointing about the last book and the series as a whole was that the series did not leave me feeling like I was further enlightened in the Star Wars universe. There are likely other series I kicked off this list since Lost Tribe of the Sith made the cut in my first glance that would have been far more gratifying, but it will be a long while before I even get to them.

Unlike with the first two books on my list, I don’t feel like I have learned anything significant from the series. Since I was reading about completely foreign characters who were not developed as well as they could have been, I felt nothing when reading about their deaths or banishments. There was nothing more than a, “Okay…I guess it’s over, now.” when I got to the end. Actually, it was more of a “He’s going to end it like that?!?!?” but either way, I was not pleasantly surprised as I had been with the last two. It was evitable though; there was no way I would be able to read 91 books without coming across a few that did not settle well with me.

Oh, well…Onto Darth Bane: Path of Destruction!

Truth be told, I have already started Darth Bane: Path of Destruction and am loving every minute of it, which is what made it so difficult to come back to these, but on I trek! πŸ™‚

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