Tuesday, December 15, 2015

What I Learn From Playing the Villain

Confession: Sometimes I get angry and frustrated about things beyond my control. I also have moments when I feel unjustifiable anger or jealousy towards another person. It happens. I'm human. But, I have a few coping mechanisms. Would you like to know what they are? It's kind of embarrassing....okay I'll tell you.

I have an "I don't care" playlist. This is the list of songs that I play when I actually care a LOT about what is happening in my life and I would like very much to not care. It is the list I play when I feel rebellious. When I'm tired of being reliable and I want to take a last minute personal day...or five. When I really want to give someone a piece of my mind but I can't do that because I'm an introvert and....yeah. When I've had to listen to someone I completely disagree with go on and on about their opinions as if they were facts set in stone.....

I need to calm down, I'm getting angry.

*deep breaths*

Okay. Anyway, this playlist mostly consists of villain songs. My husband says I turn scary when I start to play this list. All my pent up drama comes out and I become a little too animated when singing the villains part.

Here are a few of the songs on my list:

Mother Knows Best Reprise -- Tangled (great when you're feeling snarky)
Poor Unfortunate Souls -- Little Mermaid (she's such a great villain!)
Little Girls -- Annie 2014 (when I've had a particularly challenging day of teaching)
Defying Gravity -- Wicked (I'm going to soar above the drama)
In the Dark of the Night -- Anastasia (getting dark now, I want to hurt someone)
Be Prepared -- Lion King (Roar!)
Brand New Day -- Dr. Horrible's Singalong (I didn't even like this movie because of the ending. I'm REALLY ticked off when I play this song.)

Yes, most of these are Disney songs. Isn't that sad? My rebellion is listening to Disney songs. I really need to rethink my life.

Anyway, when I'm ticked off at the world I like to play these songs and sing along with them. I become the villain. Then I calm down, regain my dignity and become the rational human being most people know.

Why do I feel such release in singing the angry words of villains? Maybe because I can relate to each of these villains in my anger and frustration.

Mother Gothel -- she's afraid of losing control so she manipulates
Ursula -- she's ticked off because she's been humiliated and now she wants to humiliate back
Ms. Hannigan -- she feels stuck and she hates what she's become
Elphaba -- she's tired of playing games and she wants to be free
Rasputin -- his existence is meaningless and he's trying to justify it
Scar -- he's watching the life he feels he deserves being prepared for someone else
Dr. Horrible -- the one thing he wants is being claimed by someone who does not deserve it

I may disagree with the way these characters respond in their fear and anger, I may be able to recognize how their choices have led them to these moments, but it doesn't keep me from sympathizing with the underlying emotions.  Somehow, singing through these songs helps me to process whatever is irritating me at the moment. In a way, it is like verbalizing my complaint with the world.

These characters, on some level, all want to be recognized and important. Their motivations are unhealthy, but do we not all want the same thing? To be important to someone? To be seen and recognized for what we do well and what we contribute to our communities?

Some of these characters have legitimate frustrations with the world.  They're tired of less-than-deserving people winning in life while their hard work goes unnoticed. They're tired of dishonest people being lauded as heroes. Haven't we all felt like that at one time or another?

The difference between me and these villains is that in the end I know I have been heard.  God hears my little tantrums and doesn't love me any less when they're over. It may not change the circumstance, but it does help me to know that He sees me and understands my feelings even better than I do. He reminds me that I do have a purpose, and it is to serve Him. Even if I never get recognized for it, He knows, and that is all that matters.  It makes me want to talk to these characters and tell them that they don't have to be angry with the world.

These characters are fictional. I can't do that.

But I can be intentional about recognizing other people. I can find ways to sympathize with people who are angry and frustrated instead of judging them for the way they respond to those emotions. I can point the way to the God who sees them, hears them, and loves them.

Then maybe they will be less inclined to play the villain, too.

"If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat,

    and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink,
for you will heap burning coals on his head,
    and the Lord will reward you." Proverbs 25:21-22

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust."  Matthew 5:43-45

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Review for Darkness Reigns by Jill Williamson

A few months ago I reviewed By Darkness Hid by Jill Williamson. I fell in love with the world and the characters Williamson created in the Blood of Kings series. You can read my review for the first book, By Darkness Hid, here. This winter I am excited and blessed to help promote part one of her new series The Kinsman Chronicles. This series takes place thousands of years before Blood of Kings and is about Achan and Vrell's ancestors. The first book, King's Folly, will be released in three parts. Part one, Darkness Reigns, is available TODAY on Amazon and it's free! I received an advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review:

My Review
If you have ever felt fed up with your own culture and powerless to help people who were suffering, then you will be able to relate to Wilek and Trevn, princes of the House of Hadar.
The kingdom of Armania experiences disaster after disaster. Earthquakes and sinkholes destroy entire villages. Sar Wilek’s father, King Echad, believes the gods are angry and require human sacrifices. But the offerings do not seem to appease the deities. Wilek hopes to be named Heir to the throne soon so he can protect his people from the evil that is tearing his country apart, including the ruthless executions. To appease his father, and to keep him from sacrificing more innocent victims, he plays the political games, but it is becoming more and more difficult to be diplomatic and follow his own conscience.
Trevn, the youngest son of King Echad, is an explorer and a scholar by nature and hates the political games of court. Like his brother, he cares nothing for the gods or his father’s superstitions. He seeks to distance himself from his father and brother Janek’s corrupt lifestyle, calling himself a renegade and freely speaking his opinions to whoever will listen. He spends his time charting the changing landscape of the kingdom and wondering what lies beyond the sea.
When a messenger comes to court claiming that the kingdom of Farway has completely disappeared to the underworld, the king demands more sacrifices and sends Wilek to investigate. The disaster he finds is worse than he imagined. How will he be able to protect his people from his father and the cataclysmic destruction of the five realms?
I loved this first installment of King’s Folly. The story is written from several perspectives, but the majority of the time we read through Wilek or Prince Trevn’s point of view. I felt for Wilek as he felt powerless to protect his people from his own father. I related to him on the "oldest child" level, understanding what it was like Trevn’s energetic defiance of the courtly lifestyle reminded me of my own teenage years and my dissatisfaction with what was considered “normal'. I think a lot of teens will relate to him. I look forward to seeing how his character will grow throughout the rest of the story! 
This story has multiple narrators which makes for captivating reading. It was frustrating at times, only because I never wanted to leave one character's viewpoint. This also served to keep me engaged in the story so I could find out what happened to the character. So I kept reading, and it wouldn't be long until I was sucked into the next character's storyline. There was never a dull moment. It takes extreme talent to tell a story from so many different perspectives and not lose your readers.
Though Darkness Reigns is short, the reader has plenty of time to become fully invested in the characters. Warning: This is only part one of a larger book, meant to establish the setting and introduce the characters, which it does beautifully, but it does end on a bit of a cliffhanger. Still, though nothing is resolved in the end, there is a definite shift in the story that left me excited to read Heir War which will come out in February. You will not want to miss this new series!

The author will be hosting a release party on her Facebook page today at 6 pm PST (8:00 CST for those of you on my side of the country). You can also check out Jill Williamson's blog in which she writes countdown posts which give more information about the characters and the world of the Kinsman Chronicles. You can read each of her individual posts by clicking on the links below. Enjoy!