Game of WTF?

Yes, I have a lot to say about Game of Thrones. So much WTF. But I’m going to wait until after the season finale on Sunday before I say any of it. Who knows, maybe that last episode will change everything. Maybe Dany will wake up next to Daario and say, “Honey, I had the weirdest dream! I was jumping over a shark…” And then we’ll get the real story.

My newsletter subscribers are more awesome than you

Because they got to read the first chapter of book two in the Lydia Trinket series, Peak of the Devil, last week. Now you can read it here and be awesome too. (Warning! Contains adult language. Reader discretion is advised.)

The Kindle edition of Peak of the Devil will be 99¢—that’s 75% off regular price—April 28-30 only. All editions, including print, will be widely available at major online retailers the last week in April.

Newsletter subscribers will get a release announcement, so you can both safeguard your awesomeness and make sure you don’t miss the sale by joining my mailing list.

And don’t forget that all eBook editions of Ghost in the Canteen have been permanently priced at 99¢, so as to be sure there are no barriers to entry into the series. If you aren’t awesome, I’m afraid you have nobody to blame but yourself.

And I think that’s about all the shameless self promotion we’ll be having around here, until I’ve got the cover to show you all.

Search terms: you ask, I answer

This is one of my favorite games to play on my other blog, but I don’t think I’ve ever done it here. I feel it’s only polite to try to help those who visit me seeking something specific. Luckily, WordPress can tell me what they were looking for.

real dornish peppers: It would have been better for you to hear this from a loved one, but I’m afraid there’s not a real Dorne. I imagine you could substitute any of several varieties of chili?

things that are not scary: Macaroons. Napkins. Toothpaste. The Blair Witch Project.

sansa loves lemon cakes: Yep.

jen rasmussen hawaii nude: Not that I recall.

richard armitage butt: Seriously, four of you in the last thirty days? I am not the proper resource for this. Meaning no offense to Mr. Armitage, there aren’t very many people whose butts I care to know stuff about.

american horror story briefly topics: Ghosts, aliens, medical experiments gone awry, odd explanations for the Black Dahlia, creepy clowns, creepy nuns, creepy war criminals, completely uncreepy and nonsensical witches, serial killers, and ladies who want babies. Not in that order.

info on murder of jen rasmussen: I imagine I’d be the last to know.

we found a witch may we burn her: How do you know she’s a witch?

jen scary thing: Not generally. Maybe if that Hawaii thing was true.

where do you send for letter to cary fukunaga: I can’t help with this, but if you write to him, tell him I loved his Jane Eyre!

four and tris with supernatural powers: I agree this would be cool.

excessive planning: THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THIS.

i would always rather be happy than dignified: Jane and I both approve.

mr rochester x reader lemon: This is almost certainly code for something, but as I’m not a Cold War spy, I don’t know what. Perhaps my commenters can offer suggestions, if it wouldn’t blow their cover.

One Last Time

MAJOR SPOILERS for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, both movies and books.

CORRECTION: My apologies for getting the subtitle of the first movie wrong. What can I say, there were a few iterations during production, and I’m a forgetful old lady. That part’s been removed.

 

The subtitle for the second Hobbit movie made no sense. The Desolation of Smaug didn’t happen in that movie. But The Battle of Five Armies is aptly named. The battle is the movie. The whole movie.

It’s to Peter Jackson’s credit, then, that despite all that (great) action and all those (great) special effects, this was really a character movie. This is what I was missing from the second installment: it rang a little hollow, because it was just a bunch of action scenes mashed together without enough room for the actors to, you know, act and stuff.

That doesn’t happen here, and ultimately, it’s Jackson’s cast that carries this trilogy to a triumphant end. So I’m going to say nice things about them first, before I do any scolding.

Among some very stiff competition, Luke Evans and Richard Armitage were the standouts. Armitage played Thorin’s descent into madness beautifully. Sure, Thorin was a bit over the top, but if you haven’t come to expect that from Peter Jackson’s direction by now, you haven’t been paying attention. And it was the quiet moments, the flashes of the real Thorin coming through, that made the whole thing work. Armitage is what I always think of as a face actor; his performances are as much about his expression as the delivery of his lines. And when you can pull that off under all that hair and makeup, that’s saying something.

Luke Evans, on the other hand, actually manages to deliver a performance with restraint in a Peter Jackson movie, which is also saying something. He hits all the right notes with Bard, without ever crossing over into melodrama, and gives us an understated hero who despite his unlikely acrobatics and even more unlikely, for a fisherman, weapon skills, is completely believable.

And speaking of face actors, Dean O’Gorman is an unsung hero of these movies, because Aiden Turner’s Kili (also well played) gets all the spotlight in that brotherhood. But Dean O’Gorman? Is awesome. Peter Jackson is a great storytelller, and watching Fili and Kili growing from immature, innocent, plate-tossing goofballs into brave and battle-hardened men (or, well, grown dwarves) has been one of my favorite stories to watch.

The dwarves in the book aren’t really characters, except for Thorin (who himself only has one note, and that note is jerk). The others are largely indistinguishable from one another, a string of funny names. It’s quite an accomplishment for the writers and the cast that they managed to create thirteen actual, distinct, sympathetic people. I will never again read the Moria scene in Fellowship without tears, because Ken Stott made Balin real. Also a special round of applause for Graham McTavish, who succeeded in making me see Dwalin again, when I was pretty sure I’d only be able to think of him as Dougal from now on (and thus want to punch him).

It’s always, always a pleasure to see Ian McKellan and Cate Blanchett. I’d watch them read their grocery lists and be riveted the whole time. I can’t with this weird Gandalf-Galadriel thing, but still. Nice to see you guys!

And then we have Martin Freeman. Crikey. I really think this is the single best piece of casting across all six movies, and this performance right here is how you take a movie full of pointy elf ears and swords and dragons and make it real for people. And incidentally, while I got emotional several times, I did not cry until Bilbo started crying over Thorin’s body. (Then I cried the whole rest of the time.)

Okay, enough gushing. I have a bone to pick. There’s pretty much no point anymore in book comparisons. The Hobbit movies especially are more “inspired by” than “based on,” and that’s okay. Unlike a lot of other book fans, I like Tauriel just fine, and I like Evangeline Lilly in the role. But all that said, the worn-to-death star-crossed lovers routine is, frankly, a piss poor replacement for how Fili and Kili really die. It’s just one little line in the book:

Fili and Kili had fallen defending him with shield and body, for he was their mother’s elder brother.

But that image of them, fighting to the death over the mortally wounded Thorin, has stuck with me since I was seven years old. Because all that courage and loyalty and sacrifice make a tragic, fitting end to the House of Durin. And it’s so much more compelling than what we got.

I’ve expected to have my heart broken by their deaths since they first came to dinner at Bilbo’s. But, nope. I was properly shocked and dismayed by the abruptness of Fili’s, but Kili’s was so strongly telegraphed, and in such a cliched way, that when it finally came it was almost a relief. I was sorry they were dead, but the actual deaths did not make me cry. And they should have. That should have been one of the most memorable scenes in all six movies.

On a lighter note for the darkest of the Middle Earth movies, it’s clear to me that either Peter Jackson, or someone on his team, plays Word of Warcraft. First they put dwarves on rams. Then Beorn does a textbook bear bomb. Coincidence or conspiracy?

I’d like to end with a hat tip to the genius who came up with the “One Last Time” marketing campaign. Because I spent the last, I don’t know, maybe twenty minutes crying, and by the end it had nothing to do with the story and everything to do with my knowledge that we were leaving (movie) Middle Earth forever.

Only the rights to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were ever sold, and if memory serves, Christopher Tolkien has been very clear that he has no intention of selling the rights to any of Tolkien’s other work, ever. Peter Jackson already did some mining in the appendices of Lord of the Rings for the Hobbit movies, and I don’t think there’s much more story to be wrung out of the material he’s allowed to use.

Then again, “not much more” isn’t the same thing as “none,” is it? #OneMoreTime?

Pie, Revival, and telling me my butt looks fat

Finally coming up for air after all the holiday festivities. I hope all my American peeps had a great Thanksgiving! Do you still have pie? I still have exactly one piece of pie, which I’m strongly considering having for breakfast. But that’s just because I made my mom make another pie right before she left. Was that mean? Otherwise I’d have been out, despite having a 2:1 person:pie ratio at the table last Thursday.

Thanksgiving was late this year, which means if you celebrate Christmas and left it until after like I did, you’re already behind on your holiday shopping. Luckily for you, Kindle books are so easy to buy and give, and Ghost in the Canteen is just 99 cents all week long!

Speaking of which, I’m not that author who lets her mom write a review. Or her sister, or her best friend, or even her beagle. I do know some of the people who’ve left reviews so far, but they’re real people who’ve really read the book. (Or at least I’m pretty sure they’re real, although I’ve only ever met them online.) And they are not those people in your life who would hesitate to tell you your butt looks fat, you know? The upside is that I know, and you can rest assured, that my reviews are legitimate and honest.

The downside? I don’t have enough reviews. So if you’ve read Ghost and enjoyed it, please consider leaving an honest reader review on Amazon.

My own honest reader review, thus far, of Stephen King’s Revival is this: Revival is on my Kindle. The new WoW expansion is on my PC. In my scant bit of unwinding time before I go to bed each night, I look from one to the other. And I choose WoW pretty much every time.

I’d say I can’t remember the last time I was this unengaged in a King book, but I can: it was the last one, Mr. Mercedes, which was, if it can be believed, even worse than The Tommyknockers. So a bad streak here. Revival is better written than Mr. Mercedes, and the characters are interesting, but maybe I’m just not clicking with it. I’m about 35% in and it just lacks momentum. There’s nothing keeping me coming back. If it was almost anyone else’s book, I’d have put it down by now. But since it’s King I’ll probably tough it out. It is creating a backlog in my TBR pile, though.

So that’s my update. I KNOW YOU WANTED AN UPDATE. You can go back to stimulating the economy now.

Bookshelf tag – I’m it!

I’ve been tagged by Marcia Meara, whose answers you can find here. It works like this:

“Answer the following questions about books on your bookshelf and then tag five other bloggers. You can answer the questions any way you want, whether it’s on your blog, in a video, or a combination of the two. Then remember to let whoever tagged you know when your post is up so they can read it.”

1. Is there a book that you really want to read but haven’t because you know that it’ll make you cry?

Actually there isn’t. Goodness, my first answer is boring. Now I’m sad.

2. Pick one book that helped introduce you to a new genre.

One? Just one? Well, I guess I have go to with good old Lord of the Rings then, which when I was 8 or 9 years old made me a fantasy reader for life.

More recently, although still many years ago, I was generally bored by biographies until I started reading Allison Weir. I believe The Six Wives of Henry VIII was the first of hers I read. I enjoy historical fiction, though, so that was kind of a natural progression.

I can’t think of anything recently that’s inspired me to read a genre I haven’t before, but that’s because I’m pretty much a genre floozie. I’m not sure there are any I haven’t read before.

3. Find a book you want to reread. (Question 3 is suspiciously absent from Marcia’s list, but I found it on Stella’s.)

I reread books regularly, specifically books with very well-drawn settings that give me that sense of being transported elsewhere: Rebecca, Lord of the Rings, the Harry Potter series.

Oddly, it’s not necessarily the same list as my favorite books, although of course I wouldn’t reread it if I didn’t love it. But rereading for me is more about the world than the characters or story. Jane Eyre is probably my favorite book of all time, but I don’t reread it as often as some others.

4. Is there a book series you’ve read but wish that you hadn’t?

Heavens, no. Why would anyone wish they hadn’t read something? I suppose that happens in the sense of wishing you hadn’t wasted time on something, but if I felt that way about the first book, I wouldn’t go on to read the whole series.

5. If your house was burning down and all of your family and pets were safe, which book would you go back inside to save?

Well, can’t I just save my Kindle, so I’m saving a bunch at once? Or scoop a whole armful off a shelf? It seems unlikely I could only save one. But if my fingers are burning off and I can only balance one book on my elbow, I’d go for Jane Eyre, because poor Jane’s had enough destroyed by fire.

I don’t actually have any expensive or special editions of anything, so from a collector’s standpoint, I wouldn’t weep for the physical objects themselves. Apart from all that wasted paper, that is.

6. Is there one book on your bookshelf that brings back fond memories?

Again with the just one! It’s very cruel. I’m just going to ignore the “just one” instruction from now on, okay?

I’d have to go back to all the children’s books that meant so much to me in my youth: Lord of the RingsThe Hobbit, Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising series, Narnia. Anne Shirley, I will always love you.

I also have fond memories of waiting on my front porch for the last Harry Potter book to arrive, then spending the entire rest of the day eating fudge and reading it, having delegated all household and child-rearing chores to others. It was like a holiday.

7. Find a book that has inspired you the most.

I’d have to say all the childhood books named above. They made me love books and reading, which is something that has shaped my entire life.

8. Do you have any autographed books?

Nope. But I’m considering stalking Marcia long enough to find out where she lives and break in to steal that autographed copy of Rebecca she has. It’s one of my favorite books of all time.

9. Find the book that you have owned the longest.

Maybe this doesn’t count, but I’ve got the covers of my original childhood copies of The Horse and His Boy, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and Anne of Green Gables all framed. As for which entire book is oldest, I’m honestly not sure. They’re all looking pretty beat up. I’m one of those people who eats while she reads and stains the pages with chocolate, and dog-ears her pages, and makes a tragic mess of the binding. (You can see why I love my Kindle.) I don’t mind my books being lived in.

10. Is there a book by an author that you never imagined you would read or enjoy?

Not really. I don’t read the ones I don’t think I’ll enjoy. I’m trying to think if I felt forced to read anything in college and then ended up liking it, but as far as I recall, I pretty much looked forward to all of those too, because I’m a dork. Except Moby Dick and Notes from Underground. I never imagined I’d enjoy either of those, and I was right.

Tag time!

I’m going to tag Servetus. I’m not sure she’ll do it, as her blog is themed and this won’t fit, but she’s all scholarly and stuff, so I’d be curious to read her answers.

I’m also going to tag Paula Light.

And Roy.

And Lisen Minetti.

And Lyda.

Mostly because those five seem like they’d have very different answers, and I imagine variety and discovering new books is part of the point. I’d tag Don too, but I’m pretty sure he’s busy burningburning.

Thanks for thinking of me, Marcia!

Best and worst: writing advice

Today we’re doing best/worst writing advice you’ve seen or heard. Be sure to sound off in the comments with yours.

My least favorite is write every day. This is so often repeated it’s taken on the tone of a rule more than advice, and always with the implication that if you don’t, you are not a real writer. But seriously, all you bossypantses who want to tell me how to run my schedule need to step back. I’m a very good project manager, thank you very much. I’ve got this. And if I want to take Christmas off and spend it with my family, that is okay.

Of course this advice applied to any other profession would sound absurd. You wouldn’t tell a dental hygienist that she’s not a real dental hygienist just because she took a day off. But the undertone here is clear: not only must you write every day, but you must want to write every day. It must be unbearable for you to not write. Only then are you a true artiste.

Which is nonsense. Because not only have we got lives and things that come up and sometimes the flu, and not only are we grownups who can figure out our own work schedules, but for some of us, writing every day is creatively counterproductive. If that’s not the case for you, I’m happy for you, but don’t be all smug about how the way it is for you should be the way it is for everyone. Personally, I can get burned out. Sometimes walking away for a couple of days to recharge my batteries is the best thing for me and for whatever I’m writing.

It all comes down to letting your brain work they way it works, rather than insisting it work the way someone told you it’s supposed to work, or the way you’ve heard it works for a writer you admire.

My favorite common writing advice: write books you want to read. This one is simple to the point of seeming obvious, but I hear people worry over it all the time. Sure, they might like to read popcorn when they’re feeling fried at the end of a long day, and they might find popcorn more fun, but shouldn’t they be writing broccoli? Isn’t broccoli a healthier, more worthy goal? Or maybe they really like broccoli, but they’re concerned about how few other people like broccoli. Wouldn’t popcorn sell better? If they want to sell things to people, and the people want popcorn, wouldn’t writing popcorn be a better idea?

Look, I’m not telling anyone else how to write, because I just got done saying that bossiness is bad. But speaking as an avid reader, when I buy your books, I feel like I can tell if your heart was really in the story or not. And if you aren’t enthusiastic about it, chances are I won’t be either.

And I like “write the books you want to read” much better than its cousin write what you know. I’m not sure anyone who writes fantasy likes that one, but I think it’s especially a problem for those of us whose stories include elements of horror. It’s not so much that I don’t want to write about the things I know, as that I don’t want to know the things I write about.

Okay, now you.

Guardians of the Galaxy and the clever application of tropes

Guardians of the Galaxy is hilarious, and silly, and fun, and thoroughly entertaining. So like many silly and fun things, there will be some who dismiss it in terms of “real” value, or laugh at the idea that there’s anything to be learned from it. But you shouldn’t, and here’s why: Guardians of the Galaxy does some skillful, even admirable, storytelling.

Because it’s an origin story, but not your typical superhero origin story; it’s the origin story of a team of five. Consider what this movie is tasked with:

  1. Establish five individual characters so they feel like real characters. (From scratch, mind. This isn’t The Avengers, where most of them have had individual movies ahead of time.)
  2. Establish their dynamics as a team and their relationships with one another.
  3. Acclimate the audience to the universe. Be sure they understand its rules.
  4. Be sure the audience is clear on the main conflict and the stakes of failure.
  5. Establish not only the villain and stakes of the current story, but the overarching villain and stakes in this universe, a conflict that will not be resolved in this installment but must still feel like a present danger.
  6. Leave the audience with enough unanswered questions to make sure they buy the next one, but not so many that they feel frustrated or that the story feels incomplete.

But that’s the job of the first installment of any series, right? Sure. Except:

  1. Do it all in two hours, but without ever slowing the pace, so the audience is constantly engaged in a steady stream of action and never feels the exposition at all.

Did you see it? Did you feel the exposition? I didn’t, except when they wanted me to, and never in a bad way. There are few storytellers who can accomplish that list both well and with economy.

They do it largely by using tropes, which may sound lazy and the exact opposite of what any storyteller should do. But while tropes are easy, doing them right is hard. Here they use them skillfully and playfully, as shorthand to acclimate you, without crossing over into boring you because you’ve seen this story before. I wouldn’t go so far as to call Guardians a spoof. (I’ve seen it compared to Spaceballs, but I think it’s more of a story in its own right, that could exist apart from the stories that inspired it.) But it’s certainly tongue-in-cheek enough to embrace its clichés.

Case in point: within five minutes of the introduction of the adult Peter Quill, we’re given very clear visual connections to both Indiana Jones and Han Solo. And I’m just talking about the shots here, not the dialogue or the action. The audience for a sci-fi superhero movie almost certainly already speaks that language. Which means we’re now more than halfway to understanding this character without them having to do anything else to get us there.

As another example, for pretty much the entire first act, very little is explained. We are not explicitly told how the universe works, or what anybody is talking about, or what Quill has, or what it does, or why, or who is chasing him for it, or who belongs to any of the names we’re hearing and why we should care. There is absolutely no as-you-know-Bobbing. Because we don’t need that. We’ve seen enough Artifacts of Doom to know this orb is a Bad and Dangerous thing, and that’s really all we need to know for a long time. So they can afford to wait to explain the specifics of infinity stones until they can do it without much pause to the action, in a scene where it feels natural.

They make all these formula elements work for them rather than against them in a few ways. First, they’re funny about it, and they don’t try to hide it. It’s okay that it’s heavy-handed because it’s a joke we’re all in together.

Second, while they pull at least half their characters off the stock shelf, they don’t just throw them into the movie as-is. They give them their own quirks and strengths and vulnerabilities. And every performance in this movie is good. As a character, Peter Quill is probably the most cardboard one we have here, but Chris Pratt’s performance is such that you not only see a distinct character, you can’t imagine anyone else in the role. He owns Peter Quill, and Peter Quill is not interchangeable in this story with any of the others of his kind.

It’s not just the acting that makes it all work. The team responsible for Rocket Raccoon should be provided with a big stack of money and complimentary pastries every single day. Talking animals rarely work on the screen, but Rocket is expressive in ways many live actors will only ever aspire to be. His face is brilliant.

The same applies, to a lesser degree, to Groot. They took a tree who says three words, and still managed to give him a personality.

Finally, and arguably most importantly, they’ve got something to back the tropes up with. They use them for shortcuts, but the shortcuts actually lead somewhere. This is a Marvel story, and as such, it has a full, longstanding, legitimately created mythology and universe to tap into.

So what’s my point? Maybe it’s that tropes can be great tools when properly applied. Maybe it’s that it is indeed possible to make exposition painless. Or maybe it’s just that you should see Guardians of the Galaxy, because seriously, you should. It’s a riot.

On all things Divergent

I have a young person in my life who’s reading the Divergent series, so I’ve been rereading the books for discussion purposes, and took her to see the movie as well. And I’m sorry to say, it doesn’t hold up quite as well to a second read as I would have hoped.

Divergent was such a clever concept, and IMO one of the best books to come out of the dystopia trend. It didn’t have the depth of The Hunger Games, but Tris was a well drawn character, the world was interesting, and let’s face it: neither Peeta nor Gale can hold a candle to Four as far as romantic leads go, am I right? And I think that for young girls learning about relationships through fiction (you know, the way we did from Judy Blume when I was a kid), it’s a great thing that Four never sees Tris as a damsel in distress, even when he’s rescuing her. There’s a line between supporting and coddling that he doesn’t cross.

So there are a lot of good things there. Which is probably why, the first time I read it, I was too engaged to notice the sloppy writing. I know! I’m sorry. I hate to call a writer sloppy; there’s no doubt Veronica Roth put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into her work and applying a term like that to it is kind of mean. But when you’ve got characters walking outside and then two sentences later looking up at the ceiling, or standing in the lobby of a building and then telling each other to close the door for privacy, or leaving their rooms barefoot in the middle of the night, then going directly to breakfast and training in the morning without ever going back for shoes, that’s really the best word to apply. All three books are riddled with these kinds of small logistical errors that completely pull me out of the story and that should have been caught in editing.

But that’s not the hugest deal. Just nitpicks. And the good outweighs the bad. Until you get to Allegiant.

My complaint with this book is not among the common ones. Yes, Tris can be frustrating, and makes some bad decisions, in both Insurgent and Allegiant, but do you know any teens who are never frustrating and never make bad decisions? And yes, there is that ending, but I’m fine with that too. No, my problem with Allegiant is the sloppy factor, which is carried to new heights here.

Rather than giving us only Tris’s first person point of view, as in the previous two books, Roth also gives us first person chapters from Four’s point of view. Great! Now we can get new insight, see things from a different perspective, and gain a deeper understanding of both the world and Four as a person!

Except no. Because Four’s chapters are completely indistinguishable from Tris’s. The same voice. The same language. The same tone. Exactly. I know they have a lot in common, but come on. He should be a separate person. I shouldn’t have to flip back, when I pick up the book from the night before, to remind myself who’s talking. I should be able to tell by the voice. When there’s nothing fresh about this new perspective, I can’t help but feel that its only purpose is author convenience, to show me things that Tris is not present to see. Which is… sloppy.

This is still a good series. It’s clever, the worldbuilding and storytelling are good, and Tris is generally a good kickass heroine for young girls to read about. But it needed more time in the editing room.

As for the movie, it’s a pretty faithful adaptation that captures the spirit of the book even when details inevitably have to be changed or omitted. There were some characters I missed, but the ones who made it to the screen were well acted. The action was very good; even knowing what was about to happen, I was on the edge of my seat more than once. Really, my only complaint here was trying to get used to the idea of Mr. Pamuk as Four. Theo James’s performance was solid, don’t get me wrong, it’s just… Mr. Pamuk is not passing as eighteen or nineteen. Whereas Shailene Woodley, while also older than her character, can still come across as teen-ish. Which made watching them kiss a little disturbing, like a Lifetime movie (or a Police song) about an affair between a high school teacher and one of his students. It was distracting.

Bottom line: read the books (or at least the first one), and see the movie. But only if you can set aside nitpickery for a while.

On the murder of our evil little friend

This post contains significant spoilers for Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire (assume that includes all five books, because I can’t be arsed to look up which book things are mentioned in).

So of course I had great fun watching Joffrey die. (But Jack Gleeson, I’m sad to see you’re giving up acting, because it’s not just any actor who could make me feel I’m going to miss that little shit.) Afterward, my husband, who doesn’t read the books, had a few questions. We watched the scene again and I pointed out that wiley Queen of Thorns doing her thing with the necklace. He thought that was all well and good, but voiced his suspicion of Littlefinger, even though we haven’t seen him in ages.

So I blithely explained Joffrey’s death as I’ve always seen it: the Tyrells, or maybe just Olenna, conspire with Littlefinger to both kill Joffrey and frame Sansa and Tyrion for it. For their part, the Tyrells need a more tractable lad to be the king to Margaery’s queen, and one who is less likely to, say, cut Margaery’s limbs off and fashion her severed hand into a candy dish. Building a scapegoat into the plan is a good idea too. For Littlefinger it’s the reverse; dead purple Joffrey is a bonus, but what he really wants, for reasons both political (o hai Winterfell!) and personal (o hai Cat!), is to separate Sansa from the Lannisters and get her under his control. If he can get Tyrion executed and free her up to marry again, so much the better.

No, he can’t know that Tyrion will be put in such obvious and direct contact with the cup, following such an obvious and public humiliation by Joffrey. Those details are a bit of luck for him. But Littlefinger’s a pretty clever guy, and it’s a safe assumption that at some point during that feast Joffrey is going to be a dick to both Tyrion and Sansa, because name the last time that didn’t happen. One way or another, motive will be taken care of for him; plant the murder weapon on Sansa, and you’ve got means and opportunity, too. Done and done.

Except not. Because in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, George himself said:

I think the idea with Joffrey’s death was to make it look like an accident — someone’s out celebrating, they haven’t invented the Heimlich maneuver, so when someone gets food caught in his throat, it’s very serious … I think that’s what the murderers here were hoping for — the whole realm will see Joffrey choke to death on a piece of pie or something.

Then why… what?

For the Tyrells, if you’re not trying to frame anybody, wouldn’t it be easier to just bring the poison in one of your pockets? Less variables in the mix that way. But maybe having Sansa carry it is just a backup plan. Okay, I’ll buy that. I would like to think Olenna doesn’t mean Sansa any harm (because Olenna is awesome), but she’d also want to make sure that even the worst case scenario will still turn out well for her (because Westerosi grandmas are a ruthless lot). It may be her intent that things look accidental, but if someone does cry murder and someone must be blamed, then getting the keys to Winterfell away from the Lannisters is certainly preferable to anyone in her family falling under suspicion.

But I can’t think of any way Joffrey dying in a freak choking accident benefits Littlefinger. (And we know, by things he says later, that Littlefinger is indeed involved in the murder plot.) Destabilizing the realm is fun and all, but I don’t buy that his alignment is just chaotic evil and that’s all there is to it. There’s a method to his madness, and he looks to profit as much as possible from every nasty thing he does. If Joffrey’s death and Sansa’s escape from King’s Landing aren’t meant to be linked, why put them together the way he does? Of course he knows she and her husband will be blamed. Of course that’s his intent. Right?

Except GRRM says not. Maybe when he said “the murderers” he just meant the Tyrells, though?

Confused.