Monday, July 27, 2020

The "One Bad Apple" Virtual Book Tour

Welcome to the One Bad Apple Virtual Book Tour!

One Bad Apple officially releases tomorrow, July 28, but you can pre-order both paperback and ebook copies on Amazon and the paperback from Barnes and Noble (ebook to come).

I hereby present the official schedule for my book tour.  Blog and Instagram names are linked to each blog or Instagram account for right now and, as posts go live, I'll change that to a link to the actual post.

When you stop by a tour post, you'll have the opportunity to enter the giveaway I'm hosting.  And yes, you can enter it more than once!  The more posts you visit, the more entries you'll get.  More about that below.

July 27 Book review at C.O. Bonham's blog

July 28 **Release Day!** Interview at The Sacred and the Secular, review at Meet, Write, and Salutary, and review at @metaphorical_cello

July 29 Interview at Movies Meet Their Match and review at @amandajo8035

July 30 Review at Coffee, Classics, and Craziness

July 31 Review at For the Discerning Reader

August 1 Interview at Meanwhile, in Rivendell...

August 2 Interview at I'm Charles Baker Harris (and I Can Read)

August 3 Book review at Bookshire

August 4 Book review at Ink Calamaties

August 5 Book review at @literately_speaking

August 6 Interview at Coffee, Classics, and Craziness

August 7 Book review at @DebbieDoesBooks

Now, let's talk about The Giveaway!

What am I giving away?  THREE prize packs!

+ The Princess Prize Pack has Charles Santore's "Snow White" coloring book, a Snow White candle from Scents and Scentsability, and a Snow White-themed necklace that includes the words "stand tall" and "wear a crown."

+ The Pioneer Prize Pack has African American Women of the Old West by Tricia Martineau Wagner, an apple-shaped candle from Glowlight Candles, and a Snow White-themed necklace that includes the word "courage."

+ The Cowgirl Prize Pack has Women of the West by Bobbie Kalman, Black Frontiers by Lillian Schlissel, and a covered wagon model kit to build (books are suitable for ages 8+).

You can go ahead and start entering this giveaway right away. When you visit various interviews and reviews over the next eleven days, you'll get to enter it again and again!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I will choose THREE WINNERS on Saturday, August 8, and notify them via the email address they provided to the giveaway widget.  Those winners will have one week to respond.  If they have not responded to my email by Saturday, August 15, I will disqualify them and choose a new winner.

This giveaway is open to US and Canada addresses ONLY.

I'm assuming this is going to get pushed down my blog as I post other things in coming days, so I've also got this schedule right here on this handy-dandy page.  I'll be updating that too as the various reviews and interviews get posted.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Live Chat on July 28 (Ask Me Anything!)

On July 28, aka Release Day for One Bad Apple, I'm going to do a live video chat on Instagram!  It'll start at 3pm (EST) and run for... thirty minutes or more?  It'll run for however long it takes me to answer YOUR questions!

Basically, this is an ask-me-anything kind of deal.  You can ask me questions in the comments on this post OR in the stories in my Instagram account, and I will answer them LIVE, on camera, on that day.  

Questions about what?  Basically anything.  Within reason, of course ;-)  But if you've got questions about my books, my writing habits, movies and TV shows I like, books I like, my hobbies, my insane collection of fandom-based candles -- whatever's on your mind, ask it!

By the way, One Bad Apple is now available for ordering on Amazon!  If you order the paperback TODAY, you just might get it by release day!  And if you order the Kindle version, it'll automatically be added to your reading device on the 28th.  I'm working on adding it to Barnes & Noble for Nook, too.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

"Redemption" (The Mandalorian, Season 1, Ep 8)(2019)

I almost don't want to write this because that will mean that I'm done reviewing all the episodes of The Mandalorian that we currently have available to us.  That feels weirdly final.  Sniff.  

But let's do this anyway.  Ready?  As always, I am NOT marking spoilers, and there are some visual spoilers in this as well as textual ones, so... be ye warned.

What a powerful title.  You know, so many of this season's titles have had a religious bent to them, have you noticed?  "The Sin," "Sanctuary," and now "Redemption."  Interesting.

Well, this final ep picks up about 5 minutes after "The Reckoning" left off.  Remember those two dorky speeder-bike troopers (Jason Sudeikis and Adam Pally) who killed Kuill (waaaaaaaaaaah!) and stole the Little One? They're hanging out just outside town now. And they've got Little One stuffed in a bag.

When he wiggles, they smack him.  They're the most awful, horrible, nasty, disgusting creeps.  Yeesh.

One of them wants to see their captive, so the other opens the bag and shows them that cute little green face.  And then they keep poking him and messing with him and being generally awful.

Finally, a rescuer arrives.

Our dear IG-11 (voiced by Taika Waititi), the killer droid that Kuill reprogrammed into a nurse droid, is here to save the day!  Or, start the saving of the day, anyway.

There's a running joke within the Star Wars universe about how terrible all Imperial troopers are at aiming.  Which they played with earlier in this scene, with the troopers trying some target practice and never hitting their target.  They now fail to shoot IG-11 point-blank.  A warped barrel is a fool's instrument, that's all I'm saying.

Rescue complete!

Little One thinks this is a far superior way to ride a speeder-bike.  He can see out now!  Look at that happy little face :-)

Meanwhile, back at the cantina, we are not having a super fun afternoon.  Well, maybe Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) is.

Mando (Pedro Pascal) has discovered there's access to the sewer tunnels in one wall, so Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) and Cara Dune (Gina Carano) try to shoot out this big metal grate that covers the opening.  My dude and dudette, why don't you just shoot the plaster wall all around it???

Outside, the storm troopers set up a very big, nasty gun.  Which I wouldn't have screencapped if it wasn't such a cool shot.

Moff Gideon starts calling out to the three survivors in the cantina.  He knows exactly who they are.  He calls them by name, talking about how Greef Karga is leader of this town.

He knows Cara Dune was a Rebel shocktrooper.

Which means, we begin to realize, that he probably...


Mando's real name.

And he just says it, right out loud like that.

Din Djarin.  That's our dear hero's name.  Now we know.

When he hears his name, Djarin knows who Moff Gideon is.  Because that name ties him to the massacre that killed his parents.  And we go back to that flashback we've seen twice before, of young Din getting hidden away by his parents during a bombardment.

Scared little boy.

Scared parents, saving him.

The battle droid that finds him.  We've seen this before, and we sense this is why he hates and fears droids.  They killed his parents, obliterated his people.

Little Din cowers in fear, knowing he's about to meet the same fate as his parents did seconds earlier.

But no!  Something, or someone, shoots the battle droid and saves him!

It's a Mandalorian warrior, come to save the day, riding in over the hill like the cavalry.

Rumor has it that the guy in this particular suit is none other than Brendan Wayne, one of the doubles for Pedro Pascal (the one who did all the suit work for "Sanctuary").  If it IS him, then this is a really meta sort of scene, with one guy who sometimes plays Din Djarin saving another guy who is currently playing Din Djarin in this scene.

Anyway, I love this image of the unnamed Mandalorian reaching down a hand to little Din.  Literally extending a helping hand.  Literally raising him back up.

This Mandalorian is not alone.  He really is part of the cavalry, come to clean things up.

Or, you know, blow things up.  Same dif, right?

This Mandalorian has one of those flying jetpack things that Din Djarin wished for in a previous ep.  He flies little Din to safety.  We can all see now, can't we, why a little kid would want to join this band of warriors.  Who cares if it means no one will ever see your face again?  These guys are the most heroic bunch of heroes any kid could ever hero-worship.

Anyway, back to Little One and IG-11 and our present problems.

Which problems, I might add, are getting considerably fewer, thanks to IG-11.

He gets a little stalled out, though, so Djarin makes a bold foray out to reach him and bring Little One to the comparative safety of the gutted cantina.  This involves a lot of thrilling heroics that are hard to screencap, though I did manage to grab a few shots of him in deliriously beautiful action.

And by "a few" I meant just these two.

Greef Karga gets in on this, too, and takes out a few troopers himself.

As does Cara Dune, who does the coolest (un-screencap-able) swing up onto the bar to get into action.

But Djarin is still out there shielding Little One and IG-11's retreat.  And Moff Gideon very coolly walks over and shoots him in the back of the head.

We've seen Din Djarin knocked on his back a lot in these eight episodes.  By blurrgs, by jawas, by the mudhorn, by a team of traitors, and now by Moff Gideon.

Cara Dune hauls him back into the cantina while Greef Karga covers her.  Oh, and they get IG-11 and Little One safely inside too.

She lays Djarin down on a slanting board or something, maybe an overturned table?

Cara tells him he's going to be fine, he just "got his bell rung."  But her hand comes away slick with blood from behind his head.

Remember what a terrible liar she is when it comes to comforting wounded/dying people?  Yeah, Djarin's not buying it.

She starts to take off his helmet, but he stops her.  He knows this is it.  But this fight isn't about him.  This is about saving the Little One.  He tells her, "You leave me. You make sure the child is safe."  Well, if that doesn't make a body fall in love with him all over again, I don't know what would!

Little One looks appropriately confused and concerned.

Djarin gives Cara his mythosaur charm.  If she takes Little One into the sewers and finds the other Mandalorians, the charm will ensure they'll protect the Child.

And now, guess what?  The storm troopers have a flamethrower.  Now, ordinarily, I am a fan of flamethrowers.  But only when they're wielded by people on my side.  This whole the-bad-guys-have-the-flamethrower deal is highly uncool.

The cantina quickly becomes an inferno.  I have a great fear of fire, especially of burning to death, so this part feels VERY BAD AND SERIOUS to me.

As if I needed another reason to love Cara Dune, she uses her own body to shield Djarin from the flames.

He insists she take Little One and leave while he covers their retreat.  He insists, "Let me have a warrior's death.  This is the way."

And that's when Little One stands up.

That flame thrower pours in more fiery death.

You know how I love silhouettes.  Just bask in the glory of this shot, will you?

Din Djarin has spent eight episodes rescuing and protecting and saving Little One.  And the Child has saved him once, from the mudhorn, when his guardian was flat on his back and about to die.

Once again, Djarin has been knocked on his back by a foe he can't defeat.

He looks over, all that fire reflected in his beautiful helmet.

And that little baby that he's changed his whole life for stands right there and saves him.

Greef Karga can't believe his eyes.  Little One didn't just stop the fire, he shot it backward out that door and caused a considerable explosion.

All tuckered out, he falls down on his behind.  But he did it.  He saved them.

Well, I mean, for a minute.  Still a lot of fire going on in there.

Djarin begs Cara to take Little One and go, and she does.  As does Greef.  They head off into the sewers to find the other Mandalorians.  Cara makes IG-11 promise to bring Djarin's body.

Once they're gone, IG-11 kneels next to Din Djarin, the Mandalorian who once shot him in the head to save the Child.  Djarin assumes the droid will kill him, whether out of malice or mercy -- it makes no difference which.  "Do it and get it over with," he says.  "I'd rather you kill me than some IMP."

But IG-11 is not a hunter droid anymore.  He was reprogrammed.  Djarin doesn't think IG units can change, but... we've seen Djarin change so much himself.  And IG-11 is kind of a foil for him.  A mirror, really.  Djarin hides behind metal armor, protecting himself with its anonymity and the way it makes others fear him because he's so unknown.  Whereas IG-11 is made entirely of metal, and others fear him because they know exactly what IG units are.  Or are supposed to be.

Anyway, IG-11 starts to remove Djarin's mask.

Djarin pulls a blaster on him.  And you know what?  I wish I could capture sound like I can pictures because the way his voice is wobbling and wavering all over the place is so amazing and gives me all the feelsy feels.  He's dying, he knows it, and he's stubbornly going to hang onto his precious creed all the way to the end.  "Try it, and I'll kill you," he says.  He'd sound so menacing if his breath didn't hitch up and his voice didn't waver right in the middle of that.

Haltingly, he explains, "It is forbidden.  No living thing has seen me without my helmet since I swore the Creed."

The first time I watched this ep, I was bouncing up and down with anticipatory impatience right here, because I could see the loophole.  No living thing.  Din Djarin, you sweet, honorable fool -- don't you see the loophole?  And I was SO SURE that not only was this episode going to give me my Mandalorian's real name, it was going to reveal his face too.

And I was right.  IG-11 pulls an Eowyn.  He is no man.  He gently pulls off that helmet, and we finally get to see the face behind the mask.  A battered, suffering, ordinary face.  My goodness, he's had a hard day.  The poor darling!

We get to see his face for twenty-four seconds, while IG-11 administers a bacta spray (yeah, the same goop that they used to heal Luke Skywalker and that Darth Vader used to take baths in -- handy stuff, it seems!) that will heal him in a matter of hours.

So, gonna stop for a minute here to discuss myths.  And the structure of myths.  Because Jon Favreau and the other writers for this show are drawing heavily on the classic myth structure of storytelling, as did George Lucas before them.  And a major piece of most stories that use the myth's structures is the Death and Rebirth scene.  As James N. Frey says in his marvelous writing guide The Key: How to Write Damn Good Fiction Using the Power of Myth, "The hero's death and rebirth are a powerful motif, perhaps the most powerful and important event on the path the hero travels.  In this motif, the hero 'dies' in the sense that he or she will no longer be the same person; during the death and rebirth something about the hero's character changes forevermore" (p. 195).

Din Djarin has had two death-and-rebirth moments already.  First, when the droid almost killed him as a child, and a Mandalorian rescued him, thus starting him on his own path to be a Mandalorian.  And second, back in "The Child" when he was dying in battle with the mudhorn, only to be saved by the Little One.  His change there was to start wanting to protect and keep the Child himself, though it took time for that change to become complete.

This time, it's even more dramatic.  He comes back from the brink of death ready to not only protect and keep the Child, but parent it, raise it, and ultimately give it back to its own family if he can find them.  His relationship toward the child turns from selfish (wanting to keep it safe and keep it his) to unselfish (wanting to love, parent, and ultimately give it up).  We'll see that come more into focus soon.

IG-11 brings Djarin down to the sewer tunnels, where they find the others and start hunting for the Mandalorian cadre.   All of which is very, very dark and hard to screencap, even with Djarin's helpful little headlamp.

If you click on these to make them bigger, you can probably see them somewhat.

Anyway, instead of finding the Mandalorian warriors, all they find is a big pile of their armor and helmets.  Which is appropriately creepy and chiling.

Din Djarin, getting stronger every minute and able to walk by himself again, is understandably upset about this.

Really, really upset.  He accuses Greef Karga of having had the other bounty hunters do this.  Greef denies any knowledge of what has obviously been a purge.

And then, the Armorer (Emily Swallow) appears.  She absolves Greef of any guilt -- when the Mandalorians helped Djarin escape with Little One in "The Sin," they exposed their whereabouts and brought this war upon themselves.  It's actually all his fault, in a way.

The Armorer recognizes that Djarin has changed.  And she declares that he has earned a clan signet.

A mudhorn.  He and the foundling Child are now a clan of two, bound to each other by Mandalorian law until Djarin can find Little One's blood relatives and return him to his home.

Djarin gets kinda pleased and shy about it, it's so sweet.

And now it's time for us to move on, especially because Cara is tired of being on baby duty.  And, you know, there are Death Troopers hunting us down and stuff.

Before we leave, the Armorer offers Djarin a Rising Phoenix.  The jet pack thing he has always wanted.

He accepts, obviously.  I mean, who turns down a jet pack?

The Armorer sends them on their way and remains behind to continue salvaging Beskar from the armor of those fallen Mandalorian warriors.

A bunch of storm troopers find her and think they've stumbled on easy pickings.

Don't you love her helmet?  Oh man, it's so beautiful and fierce.

Another dimly lit, fast-paced fight scene that's impossible to capture.  It's SUCH a good one too.  The Armorer has such lethal grace.

This final, victorious shot of her is giving me goosebumps.

Okay, so the rest of us go find the lava river that flows under the town.  Because building a town over a river of lava was totally a smart thing to do.  That's never going to go sideways.  Ahem.

We find a boat, and we get in the boat, and we pole our way down the river.

Light at the end of the tunnel!  We're saved!

Um, not so much.  Djarin's infrared thing in his helmet reveals that a whole lot of storm troopers await us.

I know this is really dark, but it's a beautifully composed shot of everyone in the boat.  I hope you can see it.

So, what're we going to do?  Can't go back up the lava river.  Can't stop floating down it, either.  We're going to have to shoot our way out and hope someone survives to take Little One to safety.  That sounds fun, right?

So, this ep is titled "Redemption," and I have to wonder who it refers to.  I don't think it's Din Djarin or Cara Dune or Greef Karga or Little One.  None of them redeem themselves for a past action.  None of them buy something back, which is the literal meaning of "redemption."  I think it's all about IG-11.  Initially created as a hunter droid, a killer, he's been turned by Kuill into a nurse droid, but the fact remains that he has hunted and killed.  He hunted the Child and was only stopped from killing it by Din Djarin shooting him through the head.

And so it's IG-11 who redeems himself from his past actions, who buys Little One's life back with his own.  He steps out into the lava river, which starts melting his feet.  He strides forward, ahead of the boat.  I start to get tears in my eyes.

He walks forward steadily, purposefully.  Unrelentingly.  He tells Din Djarin that this is not sad because he can't die, for he's never been alive.

We've loved enough droids in the Star Wars universe to know that we love them anyway, and we will be sad anyway.

He strides out, into the very midst of the storm troopers.

And he saves all his friends.  He reverts to his original programming that said he must self-destruct if captured, just like he kept threatening to do way back in the very first episode.

Djarin and Greef watch.

The Child and Cara watch.  They honor IG-11 by witnessing his heroic, selfless sacrifice.

He did it -- they're safe.

Well, you know, except that Moff Gideon is still out there, flying around in his Tie-fighter.

Guess who has a jet pack now :-D

Here follow many thrilling heroics in the sky that are utterly impossible to capture, sigh.  Except this one great shot of Djarin perched atop the Tie-fighter.

The Mandalorian is victorious.  His enemy plummets from the sky.

Yay!  (I mean, except for the part where we're all ridiculously trusting of that fall to kill a bad guy.  Y'all need to watch more movies.  Never assume your enemy is dead unless you SEE that he is dead.)

But anyway.  Greef Karga presses Djarin to stay, rejoin the Guild, start making top dollar on all the best quarries.

No can do.  Gotta get his ward back to wherever it came from.  Sorry.  No hard feelings.

I love that he hooks his thumbs into his belt here.  It's just such a cowboy thing.  Greef offers to wipe Cara's official record so she can work security for him, which she thinks sounds peachy.

Little One continues his mission to subdue the galaxy with his cuteness.

Well, he's got one conquest already.

Iconic shot of him peeking over his new dad's shoulder.  I got a jigsaw puzzle with this picture on it.  Alas, it was a terrible puzzle.  Pieces just refused to behave like jigsaw puzzle pieces ought to.  We did it once and then gave it away to unsuspecting strangers.

Um, anyway, here we are, back home on the Razor Crest.

Little One chews on his new favorite toy.

Djarin is suspicious, like all parents are when their kid has something in its mouth.

Aha!  It's his mythosaur amulet.  Yeah, that seems like a good teething toy.  Go ahead and chomp on it, kid.

Here's the Mandalorian rolling his eyes at me because I'm being sarcastic.

Off we go!

We fly off into the sunset like all good heroes at the end of a western, leaving behind a town that's better than it was when we found it.  I mean, probably shot all to bits, but better off for us having come shoot it up.

Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd some jawas decide to strip that downed Tie-fighter of anything usable.

But SOMETHING scares them off.  Something that's suspiciously similar to a lightsaber, except that people on this planet don't know what those are.

Yeah, Moff Gideon lives to plot evil another day, complete with what the internet tells me is the Darksaber and something very important to Mandalorian culture.  So we can now start speculating about what season two will do with this!

Ahh yes, tightly directed by Taika Waititi.  I could become a fan.

Sharing some final concept art from the credits because hey, this is already a massively long post, so why not?  This ep was written by Favreau himself.  I'm definitely a fan.

This is my favorite bit of art from all the end credits of all the episodes.  It hearkens back to the moment I first fell in love with Din Djarin, when he swung that gatling-gun-like blaster into action in the very first episode.

So.  Um.  That's it.  That's all I have.  Now I just have to sit here and wait for October.  And hope and pray that they really do start up the new season then...