Our Vacation Out West Part 2: The Desert

After driving through the Rocky Mountains, Mike and I watched the landscape turn dryer, the rocks and dirt became a burnt red and orange. Small bush-like trees grew across the desert. And if you looked towards the horizon, the land continued for miles and miles in every direction. Flat and sparse and rocky, shadowed by giant mesas, we were just accessories to an already finished masterpiece.

This was the Utah that first greeted us. We drove for miles with no one around, except for the sparse trailer or house dispersed across the barren landscape. We drove through a good portion of the Navajo reservation and much of the landscape was the same; houses dotted a flat landscape of orange, red and brown.

Whoever lives here must drive for an hour to reach the nearest grocery store, or a half an hour at best to reach the nearest gas station. Little huts which promised finely woven Navajo rugs and pottery and jewelry, started to pop up every couple of miles alongside the highway.

We felt awed by the difference of this landscape compared to what we were used to back home. Upstate New York is green, the mountains are gentle hills, breezes tease the trees and rainstorms nourish. Here in this desert landscape was a harshness and a palette of colors we had never encountered before.

As the we drove into higher elevations and then drove back down, we kept our eyes out for eagles, and looked for big-horned sheep. We saw a few horses, and the occasional grouping of cattle, which chewed on the brown-yellow grass.

During our journey, I’m thinking about Star Wars, about a lonely teenager longing for adventure his desert home doesn’t provide. I’m thinking about science fiction stories of life on Mars, or a desert planet much like this one.

I fell in love with the desert’s stark beauty in a harsh and unforgiving landscape. Of dirt, and hot wind and a sun that blazes so hot and bright, it makes the sand burn underfoot.

I’m already in awe and we haven’t even made it to Zion National Park yet…and as we soon discovered, it’s always beautiful in Zion.

Spring Writes! Literary Festival: What I Learned this Weekend

This weekend, I had the pleasure of attending a literary festival in the new town that we live in! What is a literary festival you ask?

From Thursday to Sunday, writers, readers or literary-lovers of all sorts were able to attend workshops, panels and readings from a collaboration of local writers. These writers are all supported by donations, and a $5 dollar entry fee which purchased the cute pin featured above and was my pass to all the events this weekend.

On Saturday I attended: Workshop: Research Secrets, How to Write What You Don’t Know by and Workshop: The Short Fiction Market, Targeted Writing and Publishing.

What I learned from the Workshop: Research Secrets, is that there is never just one source of finding information out there – the internet is a great tool to finding what you need, but also don’t forget the value of your local library and historic museums, if applicable.

Don’t rule out YouTube and Google Maps as excellent how-to resources when it comes to story research and world-building. Also, remember to validate the credibility of your online sources! (Not everything you read or hear on the internet is true.)

And the instructor also pointed out the value of a good interview. Sometimes the best place to get information is from the person who wrote the book in the first place. Remember to be courteous, prepare your questions and always follow-up.

At the Workshop: The Short Fiction Market, the instructor emphasized that getting your work published is more of a science rather than an art and he pointed out some great strategies that writers can use to get your work out there.

Don’t forget the benefit of submitting stories to Contests. Contests have lower pool of submissions, are judged blindly and carry a lot of weight in a future cover letter if you can brag later on down the road and be like: I am also the first prize winner to XYZ magazine…

He says that contests which feature a specific theme also have a lower pool of submissions, and always remember to ask for feedback when you are submitting something. Most editors will probably not offer feedback, but sometimes someone will.

Focus on the number of submissions that you have out there…it is better to have so many balls in the air that after one rejection, it might not sting as much because you have all those other submissions to look forward to!

The more book reviews you write, the more submissions you submit and the more you get out there and talk to other writers, the more you are building up your social network and other opportunities might present themselves.

Today I attended: Panel: “World Building: If you Build It, They Will Come” and Panel: “Intimate Communities, Starting and Sustaining a Writing Group That Works”

In the world building panel, a group of women spoke about their different processes of world building and their favorite part of the process. Each of their approaches to world building was different.

Some of them approached a world as having a central conflict. What makes parts of the world clash? While answering these questions you get an idea of the different cultures, and the holidays and the food that the characters might eat.

A few of the women started with a character first, and then they built the world around the characters.

They talked about the differences of world building for short stories, versus a novel, and how for some stories you don’t have to know everything, because you will also discover a lot of the world in the writing process.

To organize their notes, one of the women uses the software Evernote, which is what I use! And then another, keeps a notebook with character details.

The best part of world building according to the panel of ladies, is living in another time period, and the power trip: you are basically God.

In the panel, for Sustaining a Writer Group, I learned about the importance of knowing what you want personally from a writer’s group, and remembering to have Guidelines in your group.

Establish those Guidelines from the get-go and you’ll need someone to be the leader, to enforce those guidelines and to keep everyone on task.

I learned so much this weekend, and have some great reference points for finding a writing group in our area that might suit what I am looking for; I am so excited to move on to the next step of the process!

Hope everyone had a great weekend, and Happy Writing!

10 New Year’s Resolutions for Myself

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I don’t normally do these lists, but well, I wanted to this year. Besides, if I don’t write things down lately, I will never remember them. And this is for me after all…Plus, it gives me a chance to actually think of my New Year’s resolutions as I haven’t really thought of them yet, heh heh.

Anyway here goes…

1. Love More

Love my family more, love my boyfriend more, love my friends; show compassion to others who don’t necessarily see it on a day-to-day basis. More hugs and cuddles!

2. Be a better Writer

Okay, confession: I am a terrible speller, and I could be better when it comes to grammar. Sure I know the difference between my there, their, and they’res, but there are certain grammatical rules I should probably know better. Like does that comma go there, does that semi-colon go there, etc. Sometimes I feel ashamed of myself. Oh, and I need to actually Write More this year!

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3. Eat Healthier

Now that the holidays are over, enough with the sweets already! We are having a nice meal tonight (courtesy of the gift cards we got for Christmas) but this is our last hurrah. But what a way to break into the new year with filet mignon and scallops, eh?

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4. Travel More

Was playing a drinking game last night, and it became clear to me that a lot of us hadn’t been out and done anything. I felt kind of pathetic. Enough of that! It’s time to see the world and experience new things. You only live once.

5. Volunteer

This Christmas, I felt the need to give back more than ever. It has been hard with my Grandma gone around the holidays, but this year felt just a little bit easier.  I felt like it was time to show the love to everyone that she has been known for.

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6. Exercise

I hate going outside during the winter months sometimes. It’s so cold! But on the sunny not-windy days, I need to bundle up and get moving! Motivate myself with a new book, etc.

7. Treat Myself Better

This goes along with taking time for myself. Sleep more, give yourself time for light therapy in the mornings, and don’t be too hard on yourself. Nobody is perfect and there will be bad days and good days. I have to remember that when you are upset you make it ten times worse to make yourself feel bad about it.

8. Be Open-minded

If there is anything to take away from this disastrous election year here in the US, it’s to be more open-minded. Not everyone is going to agree on everything, but we should listen and chat openly about the issues we are facing in our country. Only by educating ourselves can we truly understand the problems at hand.

9. Save Money

We are terrible at saving money. It’s not that we spend it on useless things, and it’s not that we ever go without – we just see a little extra money in the bank, and it’s a hey! Off to a great place on the weekend or a new restaurant! Self, it’s time to BE BETTER at this.

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10. Love Animals

My boyfriend’s dog, (aka our fur baby) lives at my mother’s house as a country dog, which he loves very much. But being with him this holiday season reminds me of the powerful therapeutic connection we share with our four-legged friends and how important it is to continue to support our animals…domestic or otherwise.

And that’s it really. What about you? What are your New Year’s resolutions?

NaNoWriMo: How’d you guys do? Finish a novel?

writing-828911_1920Well, my NaNoWriMo month wasn’t very successful. I honestly didn’t have the time.

Buut…wanted to ask everyone: How did it go?

Since it is no longer November, don’t you think we should have a December novel writing month?  DeCeMoWriMo?

Wait, that doesn’t make much sense…December NaNoWriMo?

Anywho…did you guys get a lot done? Create awesome characters? Type out about 50,000 words of trash? (Hehe!) Trash is still good!

The important thing is, is that you are writing and no one can take that away from you.

Something I ‘scribbled’ in my phone today on the way home from the library tonight:

 

for what I have are words

life’s love song

I hold them like a talisman

close to my heart

 

Hope everyone is having a great night! Happy writing!

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Have You Seen It Yet?

I went and saw Fantastic beasts on Saturday and I loved it! I was at the book store earlier that day and bought the screen play and it is so great; J.K. Rowling is forever my favorite writer.

So, this is what I got going on tonight: curled up in bed, got something funny on TV, and reading while the snow falls softly outside.

What about you guys? Have you seen Fantastic Beasts yet?

Poem: Inhuman – Some Westworld Inspired Poetry

You’ve given them human words

and human faces

You’ve painted them up

with souls and races

You’ve donned your hats

and laced your boots

You’ve built a world

with thrills and roots

If you can kill a face

That can cry or bleed

Have we fulfilled

your every need?

 

Wrote this one late last night in my phone. Been watching Westworld on Sundays, because of course we need something to fill that Game of Thrones fix until it comes back on!

But it is definitely worth a checking out and it asks some interesting questions. I, of course, feel sympathy for the robots…it feels wrong for something so human to be treated in such a way.

Anyway, it is a good show so far! Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Happy Writing!

The Liebster Award Nomination!

Thank you to Dainelle Hunter for nominating me for the Liebster Award! It means a lot to me that you thought of me. 🙂 I hope this gives readers more of an insight into my writing and what this blog is about.

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The rules are as follows:

1: Thank the blog who nominated you and link back to them.
2: Make a blog post telling 11 facts about you.
3: Answer the 11 questions from the blog who nominated you.
4: Prepare 11 questions for those you will nominate.
5: Nominate 11 new bloggers (those who have less than 200 followers) by commenting in one of their blog posts.

11 Facts About Me:

~My favorite TV Show of all time is Firefly. (FireflyThe fact that it only had one season is an atrocity.

~I only write with one with kind of pen. (Gel pen, black ink, pilot G-2 07.)

~I hate memes where the sentences are deliberately spelled wrong, drives me nuts! (Like: ‘he’s doin me a hurtin’….grrrraaggh)

~I like to write movie and TV show reviews.wpid-img_20140602_185717984.jpg

~I love libraries and books stores.

~I am a tea drinker, love tea.

~I love being outdoors; the trees, the quietness.

~I have an obsession with nicknames. A lot of my characters have nicknames. I think its interesting how people/characters are much more than the names they are given, and the ones they’ve grown into.

~I am a dog person. I like cats, too. But if I were to have one pet it’d be a golden retriever, lab, or a mix.

~My favorite color is now purple. (It used to be blue but my grandma passed recently and that was also her color.)

~I own about five different Star Wars t-shirts.

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Answering 11 Questions for being Nominated:

1. Why did you start blogging?

  • I started blogging to get myself to write an least something a day. I wasn’t writing anymore and it worried me. I would go weeks without writing anything. I started blogging just to get back into writing.

2. What do you love/ hate about blogging?

  • I love how freeing blogging is. It really is like writing in a diary, you can feel free to be yourself and that’s that.  I hate that I don’t have the time to write daily or more quality posts.

3.What is your philosophy?

  • I’d say…Live life to the fullest, no regrets.

4.What career are you pursuing/ What is your occupation and why?

  • I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. Ideally a writer, who actually makes money. 😛 Right now I’m in data entry.

5.Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

  • Hopefully published! And working on other projects.

6.Who is your favorite fictional character?

  • I’ve always loved Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He is supposed to be the bad guy, but by the end of the show you can’t help but love him. He’s so pathetic and amusing.

7. What is your favorite movie?

  • I have a lot. Inception, Star Wars (of course), Princess Bride, Guardians of the Galaxy are probably the top faves though.

8.What is your favorite book/ quote?

  • I am a big fan of Maggie Steifvater. All of her words are great. But I really loved this one from The Dream Theives:

“There are three kinds of secrets. One is the sort everyone knows about, the sort you need at least two people for. One to keep it. One to never know. The second is a harder kind of secret: one you keep from yourself. Every day, thousands of confessions are kept from their would-be confessors, none of these people knowing that their never-admitted secrets all boil down to the same three words: I am afraid.”

9.  What is your zodiac sign?

  • Gemini.

10. What is your biggest fear?

  • Fear of failure is a big one for me.

11. Describe the strangest dream you’ve ever had.

  • I had a dream I was a dolphin once. I was leaping in and out of waves, it was so much fun and exhilarating…and then I woke up.

Questions for Nominees:

  1. What is your favorite book of all time?
  2. Why did you start blogging?
  3. What is your biggest fear?
  4. If you could have a super power, what would it be and why?
  5. What is your favorite kind of food?
  6. What is your favorite movie?
  7. What is your favorite thing to do during the Summer?
  8. What is your Zodiac sign?
  9. Do you believe in the supernatural? (Vampires, werewolves, ghosts?)
  10. Describe your strangest dream.
  11. What would you say is the best thing about you?

And that’s that! I can’t wait to read what you guys come up with!

Hope everyone has a great weekend! 🙂

Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 3 & 4 Recap: What’s Going to Happen Next?

***Spoilers ahead! You have been warned!

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***All photo credits to HBO.

Are you as crazy about Game of Thrones as I am this season??

I can’t seem to get enough of it and repeatedly wish it came out all at once like the Netflix series do! Now wouldn’t that be just fantastic?! Anyway…

Episode 3, ‘Oathbreaker’ recap:

Jon Snow is rather shaken by his return from death. The red woman asks him, “What did you see?”

“Nothing,” Snow says, and he looks horrified. “There was nothing at all.” He hangs the people who murdered him, even young Olly, and then Jon hands his cloak over to Dolorous Edd and says, “My watch is ended!”

Sam and Gilly are taking a detour on their way to Old Town by way of Sam’s parents house. The Citadel doesn’t allow women (which is so freaking typical,) so Sam is hoping that his family will keep Gilly and baby Sam safe.

Bran+Three+Eyed+RavenIn Bran’s flashbacks with the Three-eyed raven, we see a younger Ned Stark try to save his sister in the Tower of Joy. There is a great battle, but Bran learns that what actually happened and what is told through history is actually quite different.

We hear a woman’s cry from the tower…was it Lyanna Stark in distress? Giving birth to Jon Snow?

Daenerys is predictably taken to Vaes Dothrak, Tyrion tries to engage Grey Worm and Missandei in conversation, and Varys discovers that Volantis, Yunkai and Astapor are all backing the Sons of the Harpy.

From Maester Qyburn, we learn that Varys’ little birds are really children bribed with sweets in return for secrets. Jaime and Cersei crash a high council meeting, which doesn’t really go as planned. And in Braavos, Arya finally gets her eyes back after she beats the waif in a fight.

Meanwhile in Winterfell, Lord Umber has a gift for Ramsay Bolton: Osha and Rickon Stark.

(I find it’s nearly impossibly to write a small recap for Game of Thrones, there are so many freaking story-lines!)

sansaEpisode 4, ‘Book of the Stranger’ recap:

Jon Snow and Sansa stark reunite! Sansa, Brienne and Pod arrive at castle black and there is a bit of amusement when Tormund makes eyes at Lady Brienne. After receiving a threatening letter from Ramsay, Sansa convinces Jon that they must fight for Winterfell and take it back.

In the Vale, Littlefinger convinces Lord Robyn Arryn to help Sansa take back Winterfell and defeat the Boltons. We never truly know what Littlefinger is up to…but its becoming more clear how much these ‘lesser’ type characters are really the ones pulling the strings.

Queen Margaery is rewarded by the High Sparrow and is allowed to see her brother. The High Sparrow tells Margaery about his past. For a man who claims to want nothing, why does he have so much power?

In Meereen, Tyrion has a meeting with the leaders of the other cities and suggests some new terms:  they have seven years to get rid of slavery. Missandei and Grey Worm disagree with these terms and believe that the slavers will just take advantage of them all.

Cersei, Jaime and Olenna Tyrell form an alliance and agree that the High Sparrow must be taken down. Theon Greyjoy reaches the Iron Islands and wants to support Yara in being leader, and in Winterfell, Osha is killed by Ramsay Bolton.

danyMeanwhile, Daario and Jorah have reached Vaes Dothrak and Daario teases Jorah for being old and says that the old man could never handle the dragon in bed. He also discovers that Jorah has greyscale.

Daenerys meets with the council of Dothraki Khals, who will decide what to do with her  since she did not go to Vaes Dothhrak after Drogo’s death. Dany tells them that she would make a better Khal than all of them. “You are not going to serve,” she says, “You are going to die.” She dumps the fire pits on them all and the temple goes up in flames.

Dany emerges from the flames and over one-hundred thousand Dothraki all bow to the mother of dragons.

wwndrqmze6jjucq4jtl8mrthcatfyt2y-largeBut what’s going to happen next?

I’ve heard it mention a few times: last week was definitely an episode of Fire and Ice.

Both very important characters to this world made some very game-changing decisions. Daenerys now has one-hundred thousand Dothraki willing to obey her every command, and Jon Snow is taking the next step to becoming Warden of the North, and a possible threat to the Iron Throne.

Well, what does that mean for everyone else?

It’s becoming clear that the future of Westeros is never going to be the same. There’s a new game afoot and characters that were once at the head of the throne, are now falling to the wayside. (Aka, the Lannisters.)

Also, according to the brief glimpse of the white walkers we got in this week’s preview, Winter is definitely coming. The white walkers are coming and iron throne or not, the rest of this world is going to suffer for it.

What do you guys think is going to happen in tonight’s episode?

Game of Thrones Season 6, Episode 2 Recap: What’s Going to Happen Next?

****Spoilers ahead!! And fan theories…venture at your own risk!!

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**All photo credits to HBO.

Well, I kind of missed the boat last week. Hey, life happens people. Here’s a brief recap off the top of my head:

Jon Snow Lives!

Whew. Glad I got that one off my chest. The Night’s Watch leader is alive and well, thanks to the magic of Melisandre, although she experiences doubts in herself. Luckily Davos is there to give her some encouragement.

We finally get to see Bran Stark as well. He is north of the wall with the Three-eyed Raven, and Meera, Jojen’s sister. The three-eyed raven is giving Bran a very interesting glimpse of the past. We see Ned Stark as a boy, and his fellow siblings: Benjen Stark, and Lyanna. Coincidence that Bran remarks that his father never talked about his sister? (I think NOT!)

GoT_Zuhause_Lyanna_Stark_Bran_Stark_Krähe_EddardWe also learn that Hodor used to be called Willis, and he was a stable boy just as chatty and normal as everyone else.

Meanwhile in the present, Sansa Stark is with Brienne and Pod. Theon Greyjoy decides not to go north with them and take the black as Sansa suggests, where everything of his past will be forgiven; Theon doesn’t think he deserves forgiveness and says that he is going home.

In the Iron Islands, Balon Greyjoy is killed by his brother, and Yara, who expects to be named King, will now have to stand and defend herself in a Kingsmoot; a meeting where the people of the Iron Islands decide who gets to be the next leader.

tyrion dragonsTyrion has a very heart-stopping moment with Dany’s dragons in the pyramids of Meereen. He tells the intelligent dragons how much he wanted a dragon as a kid, and how magnificent he thinks they are and they seem to listen. They allow him to free them from their chains.

In Winterfell, Ramsay kills his father Roose Bolton, because his claim to the north is threatened with the birth of his new baby half-brother. In a rather horrific moment, he feeds his step-mother and newborn brother to his dogs.

But what will happen next in tonight’s episode?

I don’t think its a coincidence that we are getting a glimpse of the past from Bran’s new-found abilities. There is a theory bouncing around the internet that Lyanna Stark is really the mother of Jon Snow, because of her relationship with Rhaegar Targaryen, (whether through rape or love, it’s never clear in the books!)

It is thought that the reason Ned Stark doesn’t talk about his sister very much is because of the secret he holds about Jon’s true parentage. The secret could change everything we think might happen or could happen in Westoros.

Will we get more glimpses of the past that points to this theory in tonight’s episode? I think so! Maybe even the birth of Jon Snow! (Although, I think the writers might draw it out a bit more and make us suffer.)

john-snow-512x512What’s next for Jon Snow?

Well, his oath to the Night’s Watch is fulfilled. He died, and he doesn’t have to stay at the wall if he doesn’t want to. Kit Harrington even noted in an interview that death has changed his character. Jon Snow is frightened of death now. We might see a more cautious and calculating Jon Snow from now on.

Will Jon Snow kill Ramsay Bolton? (God, let’s hope so!)

As for everyone else?

Who cares! (No, I’m just kidding.) But…I am very much swept up in the Jon Snow story-line. I can’t help myself.

Arya’s on her way to becoming a bad-ass assassin of course. I think the moment she finally becomes No One, is the moment she will get recognized as Arya Stark. I think her final moments in this series are going to be rather poignant.

And whatever happened to Hodor has something to do with what happened to Lyanna Stark. I think it is very important to the story line. Maybe when Rhaegar kidnaps her? Seduces her? Who Knows!

But these are just theories of course! What do you guys think?

What do you think is going to happen in tonight’s episode?

Game of Thrones Season 6 episode 1 Review: The Red Woman

***Obviously, spoilers ahead! You have been warned!

game-of-thrones-season-6-melisandre-750x522-1456178589Well, that was kind of anti-climatic. I thought with all the hype about Jon Snow’s death, the writers would cut to the chase – now we will finally know the fate of Jon Snow – well, not so much in this episode!

Arya is still blind and struggling to cope with her new affliction, especially when the waif comes to beat her up, expecting Arya to fight her blind. She leaves with the threat that she will be there again the next day.

aryaOne story line that did bring us some satisfaction was Sansa’s. Her and Theon struggle to escape Ramsay’s hounds, and are captured by his men; only to be rescued, (thankfully) by Brienne of Tarth and Pod. Finally something good to happen for the two!

After her shameful walk through the streets, Cersei is excited when she hears of Myrcella’s return, but the expression on Jaime’s face tells all: the young princess is dead. They grieve together, and Jaime convinces her that its only up to them now, who cares about anybody else.

Tyrion looks comfortable in a role that is familiar to him. He and Varys walk the streets of Meereen, trying to see what needs to be done for the city. They both notice that the attitude towards Dany has changed somewhat towards the negative, and there is a bit of humor when Tyrion’s poor Valyrian makes some lady think that he wants to eat her baby.

Jorah and Daario muse over how they both love Dany, and we get another glimpse at Jorah’s greyscale afflicted arm. They find the token she dropped in the grass and conclude (obviously) that she has been taken.

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Meanwhile, Dany is brought before the Khal of the Dothraki horde. They make jokes at her expense, most of them wanting to sleep with her, until she can’t take it anymore. In Dothraki, she tells them who she is, and after learning that she is a widow of a Khal, she is reassured that no one will bring her harm. However, she should be in Vaes Dothrak with the other widows and they seem intent on making sure she gets there.

Margaery is still imprisoned until she confesses her sins. She tells the high sparrow that she has nothing to confess, who says that she is getting there but still has a long way to go.

In Dorne, Ellaria Sand, and the Sandsnakes murder Doran Martell and his son, Trystane, and are determined that Dorne will no longer be ruled by “weak men.” Finally, we get to see more of these strong, sexy women!

Although, the first episode wasn’t lacking in action; there wasn’t much done to the story line that has been keeping everyone hyped up for most of the year. Jon Snow is still very much dead. Davos and a few of the men who are loyal to Snow, barricade themselves in a room away from the traitors.

Meanwhile, in the next room Melisandre is stripping naked. Does she never miss an opportunity to get naked? Anyway, one minute she is looking into the mirror and then flash, there is an old woman in her place. And she is ancient; white-haired, pale and droopy all over. At first, I thought a white-walker had taken her place, but it seems the big secret is that the Red Woman is very, very old.

My Thoughts?

It seems like they are setting up the next episode to be some kind of rising…although she seems to have lost some confidence in herself, I do believe that Melisandre does have the power to bring Jon Snow back.

I was a bit frustrated with this episode. I wanted to see him wake right away, but they are going to make us wait some more, apparently! Other that, I thought it was a pretty solid episode.

It will be nice to finally see Bran’s story, again, and I love the hopeful note in Sansa’s story now. Will we finally get to see Ramsay Bolton’s death in this season? God, I hope so!

What were your thoughts on last Sunday’s episode? Did you like it? What do you think will happen next?