Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My Favorite Time of Year and Other Ramblings

This is my favorite time of year, this tucked away week between Christmas and New Year's. Maybe it's a leftover from school vacations, but I'm more inclined to think it's part of my hardwired programming, one of those things that is me, always was, always will be. Best not to fight those things, as it's a losing battle; embrace them instead and steer into the skid, as it were.

Things like how I've always known historical romance is the genre of my heart, my artistic tastes lean strongly toward maximalism and the correct answer to "how many blank books does Anna really need?" being "all of them." Of course, none of those books stay blank for very long once I know what they're for - see above mentions of writing and art.

This year's tucked-away week has no less than three gatherings of friends for the sole purpose of celebration. Four, if I can count yesterday's write-in, which I will, and two of those will involve books to some degree. Tomorrow is a gathering of the clans, as my friend, Mary, and I call the mushing together of our two families en masse, and since everybody is a reader, there will be at least one bookstore involved. Also much discussion of books. On Friday, I meet with my longterm critique partners, Melva and Michele (I really do have friends whose names begin with letters other than M, I promise) for our annual holiday feast, and then will see them again on Sunday for Michele and her hubby's annual open house and book swap. Okay, that's three gatherings that will be book related. These gatherings will also involve nonwriters, but those nonwriters are readers, so it balances out.

In an ideal world, I would spend the tucked away week in a big house, decorated inside and out, open to friends and family. Dress of the day would alternate between elegant glitz and flannel pajamas - let's say pjs until noon, regular clothes for lunch (as this might involve leaving the house, especially if there is snow to walk and play in) and then treat dinner as a red carpet event. Suits for the gents, gowns for the gals, and everybody is encouraged to accessorize as they please. I maintain a version of this in my head, alongside the real life events; call it my own alternate universe. So far, it's working.

Mornings would begin with pancake breakfasts, everyone in pajamas and robes and then mornings may be spent in repose, lain out on couches, recliners, comfy chairs and convenient patches of floor as desired. Conversation and books abound, and the four-legged members of our party would have free run of the place. This part, I've found, is the most portable - it can come from its universe into the tangible one at any time. Okay, holidays and weekends, because I do need to be gently turned about and pointed back toward the computer at some point.

Which is perfectly fine - once the well is filled, there needs to be output to balance the input. Fof this week, I'll revel in the company, gobble a few good books, as I am most assuredly in a reading mood, but more on that later, and then it's time for a firm but gentle hand to point me back to the keyboard and let me ramble.

What about you? What are you taking away from this tucked away week? Do you have a different favorite week of the year?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays (dancing and otherwise)

It's that time of year again. Over here, that means last minute push to finish making gifts, one more store run for stocking stuffers, hashing out the schedule for The Day, which is subject to change until hm...about 12:01 on Dec. 26th.

Memories of Christmases past, with family members who are elsewhere or no longer with us, linger. Earlier today, I had to put away a packet of photos that started out with DH's now-traditional portraits of our stuffed animals because -kapow- the next one was the first from the roll we shot at what was my Dad's last Christmas. A few years back but yet too soon, so those go aside for a while. Emails and cards from friends bring the intimate warmth of being together even if there are miles between us, and I've had the great joy of putting up or helping to put up three trees this season. Two in friends' homes, one in my own. One traditional pine with heirloom ornaments with sentimental meanings, one silver fiber optic with brightly colored ornaments that all came together, and one mini tree made of red tinsel, self-lit and adorned with tiny red, gold and green balls as well as one giant red one emblazoned with the logo of DH's place of employment.

Holiday music gets frequent play over here: Neil Diamond's cover of Adam Sandler's Hanukkah Song; Coldplay's Christmas Lights, which put me in mind of a favorite blog that has not been updated for some time now -I wish the blogger well- and the Pogues' Fairytale of New York, which is a new discovery for me. Stephen Curtis Chapman's "O Come O Come, Emmanuel", the only version I've ever heard where the singer actually sounds like he wants Emmanuel to arrive; since I'm Christian myself, this is kind of a biggie.

Movies are Love Actually, About a Boy and The Holiday. I've already read Coming Home for Christmas by Carla Kelly, and Christmas Revels by Mary Jo Putney, and if I were able to hunt down some of the older Shillouette historical Christmas anthologies, I'd be up for a gorge on those, but if not, my TBR shelves overflow and there are untapped treasures on my ereader. I have yet to view Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol (or any version of Mr. Dickens' masterpiece, for that matter) this year, but there's time for that. We count the twelve days of Christmas in our family starting on the 25th, not ending on it, and the week between Christmas and New Year's is my favorite week out of the entire year, that tucked away time.

Since I'm not sure when I'll have computer time over the holiday itself -power cord on the laptop blew; I'm borrowing a friend's, and a new one is on the way (thanks, Kara!)this will stand as the "official" weekend post. It's all too easy for me to blabber, especially about my favorite holiday - some sad, some happy, some silly, some holy, old friends and new favorites, the ghosts of Christmases past, present and future all welcome guests- but the only appropriate happy dance for today is obvious:

Happy holidays, whatever you celebrate.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Saturday at the Movies #77 - Hell on Wheels

I did not see this one coming. Normally, I don't have much interest in westerns, novels by Maggie Osborne excepted. Still, the lure of a historical drama on television is strong, rare birds that they are. Two things drew me in, though.

First, the grit. If I'm going to do a western, then give me something raw, something harsh, a trek into the unknown, undertaken by the adventurous and the desperate. In short, don't give me a nice, mannerly story here. I expect something that's still finding its way, tension between characters who might not otherwise ever breathe the same air, and I am fully aware words and actions are going to get ugly at times. That, for me, comes with the territory. Aforementioned Maggie Osborne novels are good examples, or for those who aren't opposed to some very gritty spiritual content, Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers.

Second, Colm Meany, who plays a New York senator and entrepreneur here. I first noticed him in Star Trek: The Next Generation, and was beyond pleased with his performance in The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain, so anything with Mr. Meany in it automatically has my interest.

Okay, two and a half if we count the visuals. :points to title card above:

This may not be the most romance-rich program out there, though we do have some characters who would be right at home in a western romance novel. There's the recently widowed Lily, a woman alone in the rapidly changing world as the birth of the railroad means the death of the unspoiled frontier. Confederate veteran Cullen Bohannon, a man now without a country, bent on avenging the assault and murder of his wife at the hands of his Union counterparts. Elam Ferguson, a freed slave who rises to a position of power amongst the railroad crew...and may be having more than merely physical grownup fun time with one of the local working girls. Then there's the man known as "The Swede," who isn't Swedish, but will get the job done, by whatever means neccessary.

There's preachers, Indians, immigrants, former slaves and survivors of Indian captivity, jockeying for position in this rapidly changing world. This is the birthing pangs of a new era and the death throes of an old one, happening at the same time. Colm Meany's "Doc" Durant is a nineteenth century spin doctor, keenly aware of not only what he is actually doing, but how his actions will be perceived, though his motives are far from altruistic.

Hell on Wheels delivers everything I want in a historical drama, even if it is outside my comfort zone, setting wise, and I'm okay with that. I can already tell this is one I'm going to want to watch multiple times to catch bits I've missed on the first viewing. How about you? How gritty is too gritty for a historical drama, or is there no such thing as long as it stays true to the times?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Happy Dance Friday #77 - Preston Leatherman

funny celebrity pictures - CLASSIC COOL
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Sometimes, when I open Blogger to start a post, I have no idea what's going to come out. Today is one of them. Open Blogger, open YouTube, chide self for not posting anything writing-related during the week (but I've been writing, does that count?) and the phrase, "dance like nobody's watching" popped into my head, and so the search began.

Thankfully, the timing was right, and I happened upon a young gentleman named Preston Leatherman (whom I induct into my Awesome Cool Names Hall of Fame here and now. Yes, I do have such a thing, but that's for another time.) embodying the very spirit of a happy dance here:

I must confess I've had the same idea, but being without camera crew at present, have not actually indulged. Yet.

Imagine my delight when I found there's also a holiday edition, and bonus points for using a song also used in Love Actually.

Bonus Christmas music video:

Very creative, sticking Taylor Swift song titles into a song titled "Taylor Swift." I now have the mad urge to decoupage a guitar...and I don't even play.

As well as proof positive that the world would be a better place with free-range pianos available for public use.

All of the above certainly gets my Friday started on the right note. How about you?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Saturday at the Movies #76 - Neverland and beyond (or run, idea hamster, run)


Pretty much my reaction to watching BBC America's Neverland, billed as a prequel to the story of Peter Pan. First off, 18th century pirates, and the slums of Edwardian London? I am there, corn popped, notebook in hand and anybody who touches me while this is on will pull back a stump. Seriously. There's also a female pirate named Bonny (and only Bonny, buuuuut being the pirate geek that I am, I know darned well that the historical figure, Anne Bonny, was a pirate who disappeared from a prison in Port Royal in 1720, so I see what you did there, writers, and I approve) and a gang of child thieves; two more points in Neverland's favor. Then there's Peter, signalling his fellows by playing tunes on his pipe from the rooftops above, and the adult leader of the group, the magnetic, enigmatic James "Jimmy" Hook, oh swoon. Then we have the relationship between Jimmy and Peter, who has plans to become Jimmy's partner in crime as adulthood approaches, so life can always, always be the same.

Life doesn't work like that, though, and we have the promise, foreshadowed by one of Peter's friends planning for a future Peter finds downright abhorrent, that things are about to get very, very different. Peter gets a wee bit ahead of himself and takes on a job for which he is far from ready, and Jimmy isn't at all pleased. Events transpire.

Corinna Lawson remarked at last week's CORW meeting, where I'd given highlights from my From Fanfiction to Fantastic Fiction workshop, that she found it interesting how I liked to watch fantasy movies and then file off all the speculative elements to get historical ideas. It's not a conscious thing, but that's how my mind works.

Sure, there's the travel to a magical dimension where pirates and Indians (that's the term used in the film, and the term a former co-worker preferred, so that's what I'm using)coexist and there's tree spirits who can fly and curses and, well, we all know how Peter Pan turns out. For me, it's not about any of that.

Okay, the time travel, I like, and since 18th century and Edwardian are both among my favorite historical eras, that part is right up my alley. The chemistry between Jimmy and Bonny leaps off the screen, so major, major props to Rhys Ifans and Anna Friel. Especially since Mr. Ifans has previously appeared in another film in my collection:

Yep, mind blown.

What gets me here is the relationships. Peter's coming of age (or not) story, the past relationship Jimmy had with Peter's parents, and Jimmy and Bonny could make a truly spectacular partnership. There's betrayal, loss,love, secrets, tough decisions, and life altering consequences. While my creative plate is full at the moment, that doesn't mean I don't stuff some of this in the idea crock pot and let it simmer to see what rises to the surface. There's time for that yet, and more ingredients needed to cook the idea soup. For instance, though I know Steve Valentine isn't in this movie, Bonny's first mate bears a strong similarity, and really, could any movie be made worse with Steve Valentine in it? Not from where I'm sitting. I'll have what I need when I need it, and in the meantime, a few dozen more viewings can't hurt.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Happy Dance Friday #76/Post #500 - Happy Blogiversary

Okay, not an actual annniversary, but close enough. Besides being Happy Dance Friday #76, my stats page also tells me this will be post #500. Writing and dancing may not seem to have much in common on the surface, but when it works, it works. When done right, both tell a story and touch the emotions, and creativity feeds creativity. Story in, story out, I always say, and after the ups and downs of the work week, we could all use a happy dance or two.

I wasn't sure at first if I'd be able to find enough dance clips to make Happy Dance Friday a regular feature, but the internet is a big, big place, the good ol' USA isn't the only place with televised dancing competitions that provide both delightful and heartrending performances that get my idea hamsters running...

...and a little Google-fu turns up old and new favorites in exciting new venues...

Best of all, though, is the chance to be able to share all of the above with my readers. Without you, I'm only talking to myself...well, okay, I'd be doing that anyway, but you all make it a lot more fun. On to the next five hundred.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Saturday at the Movies #75 - The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone

cute puppy pictures - It was a tough job being the center of attention... but someone had to do it
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Sunday edition this week, as yesterday found me giving my very first live and in person version of my From Fanfiction to Fantastic Fiction workshop at Charter Oak Romance Writers, where a wonderful time was had by all, but we're here for the movies today, and once again, I have stumbled upon a remake, so now the search begins for another movie and the novella from which it sprang.

I first spotted The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone at a library book sale, and couldn't at the time remember why the title jogged the "out of my way, I must have this movie" urge, but it did, and I snagged it. Quick glance at the cover - aha, Helen Mirren spotting, so that had to be part of it. Midcentury setting? Also good. Still, the title, where did I know that from? Flip case over...aha, adapted from Tennessee Williams novella (what, he wrote novellas? Apparently so.) Scan cast list. Rodrigo Santoro's name jumped right out at me, as he was in Love Actually, my favorite comedy ever ever ever. Also this visually gorgeous bit of commercial indulgence:

Yep, okay, I can tell already that this is going to be good. Now for the plot. Retired actress moves to Rome after the death of her husband and becomes involved with a...with a what, now? :ahem: A gigolo. As in male prostitute. Played by Mr. Santoro? Nope, he plays likely the most gorgeous homeless person in the history of history, and it's not even a speaking role, but essential and pivotal. Instead, the intriguing and dangerous Paolo is played by Olivier Martinez, who also has a fragrance ad to his credit:

Add in Anne Bancroft as "the Contessa" (aka madam) and Brian Dennehy as the soon to be deceased Mr. Stone and send the under eighteens out of the room because this is a movie for grownups.

If I had to sum up this movie in one word, it would be "gorgeous." Helen Mirren was gorgeous, in acting and appearance, even though her character's arc was one of an actress with more beauty than talent, who found even the beauty beginning to fade. Anne Bancroft was gorgeous in the Contessa's shrewd, shabby elegance that masked a brittle and desperate soul. Italy was, well, Italy; gorgeous scenery, gorgeous sets, gorgeous atmosphere. Olivier Martinez and Rodrigo Santoro both provided their share of the pulchritude, but more importantly, both men can act. Mr. Martinez' Paolo is one complex character, cunning manipulator, vulnerable boy, suave seducer and ruined aristocrat all at once, and his relationship with the titular Mrs. Stone is as volatile as Vesuvius, with equally disastrous results. The final scene is a giant, intriguing question mark that I'll have to mull over for a while. Definitely have to watch this again to get the most out of it; I can tell there are layers yet to be found.

Also yet to be found is the previous version of this movie, filmed in 1961 with Vivien Leigh in the lead.

In the meantime, I have a sudden urge to re-read Broken Wing by Judith James, to help me figure out what happens to Mrs. Stone's Young Man (Mr. Santoro's character is credited thus)after the cameras stop rolling. Have you ever had the need to fill in the gaps left by a favorite film?

Friday, December 02, 2011

Happy Dance Friday #75 - Happy for Deep People

Kathy Nightingale: What did you come here for anyway?
Sally Sparrow: I love old things. They make me feel sad.
Kathy Nightingale: What's good about sad?
Sally Sparrow: It's happy for deep people.

"Blink" - Dr. Who

This quote pretty much sums it up for me. Even though my DH had some fancy talking to do to keep me from doing the television physical harm during the "Blink" episode of Doctor Who (I am sure his ears still ring with my outraged shrieks of "that is not romantic!")I connected strongly with Sally's character. Old things, old places, abandoned yet full of the ghosts of what ifs and might have beens, always give me a delicious shiver - what seeds of stories could be found in what looks to others like a lost cause? For a historical romance writer, ruins are a treasure trove.

I must have watched the video for Adele's "Someone Like You" at least a dozen times already, and there has to be a story in there somewhere. The black and white film takes us into both the bleakness of a lost love, the scenery is gorgeously old world and Adele herself is utterly stunning. Pay special attention to her expression in the sequence that begins at 4:09, and the slow, heartbreaking reveal in the background.

I have mad, crazy love for Christina Perri's "Jar of Hearts," which has been beautifully interpreted on So You Think You Can Dance, but it was Josh Krajcik's performance on X Factor that made me stop in my tracks. Give this song to a male, and the impact, at least for me, heightens. Shivers, absolute shivers.

Pop star accompanied by a symphony orchestra? I am there. Since "Evaporated" by Ben Folds perfectly encapsulates where the hero of my postapocalyptic medieval ms enters the story, imagine my delight at finding a version where Mr. Folds' backup musicians happen to be the West Australian Symphony Orchestra:

What about you? Do you find beauty in the dark places to get your idea hamster running?

Thursday, December 01, 2011

After NaNo, Now What?

I did it. NaNo 2011 has been conquered, and I am ready for National Napping Month. However, that event has not yet been organized, and the holiday season approaches, and I make most of the gifts I give, and then there's that bit about writing being my, umm, job. I was asked recently how one knows when one is a writer. For me, the answer is, "one writes."

That's the easy part. Not that writing is always easy. It isn't. Ask any writer who has been doing this for a while. Though I must put in a caveat; they may give you the stink eye, snarl and return attention to keyboard or paper. In cases like that, put the caffienated beverage down and back away slowly. It's best for all involved.

After a solid month of showing up on time and blundering my way through Tamsen and Alec's world, it's odd to think of not doing that, but time for all of us to take a small breather. I'll go through and make my bullet point lists so that I know where I left off, but now is their time to simmer, and when I know more about this story, I can go farther. This morning, I spent some time with my notebook for last year's NaNo, Nothing Short of Heaven, and it felt like I was never gone. There's also the time travel ms that needs only some polish to wing off to potential agents/editors, and the postapocalyptic medieval needs the romance heightened before it can go out and earn its keep.

The showing up on time and pounding keys, though, that's staying. This rate of output feels like a doable pace for the discovery and first draft stages and blogging about writing feeds writing, so that's going to stay as well. Receiving the most recent issue of Romance Writer's Report gave me some good encouragement and ideas for career planning, so time to strategize there.

For any of you who are in the CT/MA area, I'll be here on Saturday, December 4th, speaking on how to go From Fanfiction to Fantastic Fiction, so time to get handouts and wrangle visual aids for that. After that? Nap. Reading. Gummi bears. Well, maybe after I go over some story notes...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Last Day of NaNo...with Goo Goo Dolls?

Last day of NaNo today, and by their count I need 1985 words to get the 50k. I'm going for it. Will I get it? That's the plan, but if I don't, it's not the end of the world. I played with pirates for a month, learned I can produce at this rate and as an added bonus (or two) I'm blogging more and stretching my graphic art muscles. All good stuff right there.

Text in today's art comes from "Still Your Song" by Goo Goo Dolls. I've been listening to this song on pretty much a continuous loop lately, and there's a story in there somewhere. Lyrics here and listen here:

Honestly, start a song with "Called you up ten years too late" and play it to a romance writer, and you know you're starting something. Music is often a point of entry into the creative quagmire area of my story brain, so this does not surprise me at all. Never mind that I write historicals - it's even better that way, as communications that can only travel by written word via foot, hoof or sail make for some tremendous drama. This song touches a lot for me, as I'm of the firm belief that the lower the valley, the higher the mountain, and I love putting my characters through all of that. Which is exactly where this song and NaNo dovetail rather nicely for me

The lines in the graphic leapt out at me when thinking of what NaNo has been this year. Worn down? Yep. Not gonna lie about that. Are Alec and Tamsen real people? Yep again. Sure, they live in my head, and they need more time to marinate before they trust me with something as intimate as their love story. Still, we felt each other out this month and when the time is right, we will complete our journey together.

Do I know when that will be? Not right now, but this is still their, story.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

One (NaNo) Day More

Some days have theme songs. Those that don't probably should, but then again I'm the type who generally has one running in my head anyway. For those participating in National Novel Writing Month, I suggest this:

This is the last full day of NaNo and according to their counter, I have 1978 words per day for today and tomorrow to make it. Since I did make over 2k yesterday, it is possible I could do the same today and tomorrow, but at the same time it's possible that I won't. I'm okay either way.

I've been asked if I'll be working on this story during December and the answer as I see it right now is 'no.' My intent is to put this away, focus on editing and polishing other mss that are ready to go out and earn their keep and let this one marinate for a while. What I have in this file isn't so much a book as background material, and an object lesson in knowing what my process is and how well it works for me. All good stuff. I like pirates and Port Royal and Alec and Tamsen and Cornelis and Lydia, and when we all have a chance to get to know each other in more depth, then maybe we can get together and make this happen.

Being an extrovert, talking my story out doesn't detract from ability to write it; it's more likely to unlock things the more I go over it with trusted writer friends. I need to know far more than will ever make it into the actual manuscript. Rushing the process, like trying to microwave a whole turkey half an hour before Thanksgiving dinner, is not something that's good for me, but when I embrace what works for me, as I did with last year's NaNo, the whole journey is a lot smoother. Lesson learned, and on we go.

I'm looking forward to closing out November and returning to other projects, and the new idea slot will be open for other characters to come find me. When they do, we'll take our time and get to know each other and wherever the story takes us, we'll get there together.

Monday, November 28, 2011

There's a PE teacher in my head, and it's writing related.

Only three days left in NaNo, and I'm pretty sure I'm not going to make the goal. This is not a whine, but an observation. Right now, before today's session, I am at 43833 words, and if I write 2056 words per day for the next three days, I'll sneak in under the wire. Do I see that happening? To be totally honest, no, I don't. What I've learned the most from this year's NaNo is that I do best when I keep to my process. Blorch first, then highlighters, sticky notes and numbered scenes, then outline, then flesh. Assemble story notebook with sections for hero, heroine, villain if needed, history and plot. Images of important things. Soundtracks.

That's what I did last year, and I won. That month spent in Georgian England with Slate and Melanie, two wounded souls with tragic pasts, who find wholeness and healing in each other, and Master, the only villain I've created so far who made me have to get up and walk away from the keyboard because he creeped me out too much, flew by. I still have the notebook at the ready, and as soon as I get the current ms polished and making its rounds, they're up next for front burner treatment.

This year, well, not so much. It's not that I don't like Tamsen and Alec, because I do. It's that I don't know them well enough to tell their story yet, so it's like trying to give a guided tour of a place I've never been to myself. Sure, I had a quick look at the brochure; I know that Tamsen tells far more than she thinks she does by the rings she wears on all fingers, I can see the rolling swagger of her walk and I know that she and Alec are destined to spend their lives together on the high seas in a matter more lawful than she might choose and more risky than he might pick on his own. I do know that they are each other's perfect mate in the nautical as well as romantic sense. I know Tamsen's parents, Cornelis and Lydia, are what I envision as living their happily ever after...and after. I know what a pirate ship is. I know what Port Royal is, and the events of the climactic earthquake...keep eyes peeled for an Unusual Historicals blog post on that for November 30th.

I know the events of the story, and I can pound out the plot points (and dear bullet points, how I miss you with the heat of a thousand suns) but how the romance develops? No, I don't know that yet. I have to live it along with them. With the large amount of words (and I will be thrilled to go back to counting pages in December) left to write and the short amount of time, what keeps me from throwing in the towel and sparing myself the misery? My high school PE teacher, Diane Nappier.

High school was not my favorite part of life, and PE was pretty much tied with math as most dreaded course, as I was not built for either one. Ms. Nappier came at her job with all the passion of someone who's found their calling, and I admired her for that. Though I lagged badly at the lone cross country run our class attempted, I still remember Ms. Nappier pointing something important out to the miserable group of us struggling in the back; the finish line was in sight, and we weren't allowed to quit if we could see the finish line. We could pace ourselves, we could walk if we had to -I did- but once we could see the finish line, quitting was no longer an option.

Every time I think about hitting the delete key and settling into a comfy chair with my e-reader or selections from my TBR shelf, it's Ms. Nappier's voice I hear in my head, and I keep on going. Can't quit when the finish line is right in front of me, no matter how far it seems.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Saturday at the Movies #74 - There's Always Next Year

funny pictures - Fud coma  we haz it
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Climbing back into consciousness after Second Thanksgiving and tree trimming with friends, which acutally, wonder of wonders, included movie viewing. Love Actually, which has to be my favorite Christmas movie and favorite comedy at the same time. As one can expect, discussion of movies ensused. During an ideal holiday season, I'd get in a few good movies, but this year, I'm not seeing too much in theaters that appeals. Next year, though, looks very promising. YouTube still not cooperating, so apologies for flubs in advance.

Let's start out with Sean Bean in a historical horror story that adds a supernatural twist to the Black Death (because the plague wasn't horriffic enough?)

For those who can't get enough winter adventures, follow Liam Neeson to Alaska in The Grey

The Woman in Black looks spooky and gorgeous, with an adult Daniel Radcliffe in the lead.

Tanner Hall's release date seems elusive, but coming of age story at a private school? I am there, whenever it's available.

What movies are you looking forward to this holiday season or into 2012?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Dance Friday #74 - Ricky Martin on Black Friday

Happy Black Friday, the high holiday for extroverts. I'm one of those obnoxious people who can't wait to get into the crowds and snatch the insane bargains. If that means getting up at 4AM to bang out my daily NaNo words, then so be it. I have a gingerbread man and a home office, so lock and load. Done and done.

Taking it on faith that I'm posting the right links again, since my poor abused laptop is in need of defragging and videos are taking a long time to load, and I have minutes before I'm out the door to a friend's post-Thanksgiving leftovers and tree trimming, but couldn't go without posting here. Random bit of my graphic art -must do a resource post soon- as Icanhascheezburger isn't loading either. Possible chance of NSFW images in videos, if that matters to anyone.

When I thought about what to share for a Black Friday happy dance, the insane energy of Latin dance music came to mind right away. Is it crazy to go shopping on Black Friday? Maybe, but friends and family won't be complaining when they unwrap gifts next month, now, will they? Didn't think so.

Ohhhkay, preivew function isn't working either, so I'm trusting things look okay. Some have compared Black Friday shopping to a contact sport, so this high energy classic, once used for the World Cup seemed appropriate:

For those who prefer to stay home and get first dibs on the leftovers instead of fighting the crowds, but will cheer on the more bloodthirsty shoppers, perhaps something like this would work to express your virtual support:

What about you? Are you out there on Black Friday, or do you prefer to wait for things to calm down? If you're one of those who has been sitting on a pile of everything purchased last December 26th, you get extra points. Maybe this year.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Heroines Don't Get To Quit

It's after ten, and I am only now opening my NaNo file. First, I had to make some art. Having one of those days over here, and it started last night, so things are bound to improve, but my goal in talking about writing in this blog, and the creative process in general, is to be honest. Lay it all out, the good, the bad, and the ugly, because it's all needed to make the end product.

We are now in the last official week of NaNo, and even though some days have a rocky start, each day does find my bottom in the chair and fingers on the keyboard. Normally, I'm beyond excited to get to a project like this, but here's something I've been struggling with whether or not to share. Every single day in this year's NaNo, I've wanted to quit. Every one. I see others zooming on by with higher word counts while my goal is re-teaching myself to produce a certain amount a day, weekends included, and so far, I've been successful. I've also been successful in learning that, for best results, I need to follow my process and come to exercises like NaNo and BISW with my story notebook ready for reference, having ample time to spend following my hero and heroine through the mist and then shaping things into a blorch, and then I'm good to go. Not better or worse than anybody else, but what works for me.

I have also learned that comparison to others is bad and best avoided. Anybody else's goal is not my goal, so if I'm doing what I set out to do, yay me. They're not writing my book, I'm not writing their book, and everybody's life is different. While it's true that at some point during every day this month, I've thought about quitting NaNo, I'm competitive. I need the bragging rights. I get a graphic badge if I finish? Allrighty, then. Lock and load. It's on, baby.

There may come a point in every NaNo writing day when I want to cash in my chips, say 'good enough, this is as far as I go' but writing isn't a matter of want to. It's a matter of have to. Trust me, I've tried not writing and it doesn't work. I'm going to be doing this for the rest of my life. November is one month. One month. When I let Alec and Tamsen rest for at least December, there's still Angus and Summer who need my attention so they can get all sparkly shiny polished to go see agents. John and Aline who need their romance emphasized so the wake of the Black Plague doesn't overtake the love story. Last year's couple, Slate and Melanie, are quite insistent that they're ready for me to pay them some attention again, and I am excited for all of the above. Tired from heading into NaNo with insufficient-for-me ammunition, but hey, that's how we learn.

So, is there likely going to be some point in today's writing where toy with flipping over the metaphorical table, muttering an epithet and spending the rest of the day looking for graphic art resources and playing Sims 3? I'm counting on it. I'm also counting on hitting the magic number of words for the day, announcing "Done!" and collecting my Awesome Writer Chocolate Truffle that is reserved only for days that goals are made, and then sticking my nose in a good book.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Week three of NaNo -where's my brain?

funny pictures - My  official  Monday  face
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Normally, I love Mondays. Seriously. Specifically Monday Mornings. Sure, Monday evening brings How I Met Your Mother, but it's the mornings that get me going. I am the dreaded morning person, up and doing stuff before the sun, so by the time evening rolls around, it's not uncommon for me to turn into a pumpkin somewhere in the middle of dinner, fighting valiantly to stay awake until the end of a favorite program, and then crash. Mornings, though, I can spring out of bed, head to a local coffee shop, obtain beverage and bagel and start pounding keys.

The difference here is that we're in week three (or four? Are there five weeks in November? Is it really Monday?) of NaNoWriMo. Although my stats page says that if I stick with my current pace, I will finish on time, there's still the anxiety of chipper posts from people announcing they wrote the entire fifty thousand words on their lunch break and want to keep going. New ideas are exploding everywhere and it's oh so fun and oh so fabulous and...yeeeah, about that.

Honestly, if you're reading this and the above applies to you, I will shake pompoms for you with great enthusiasm and if you catch me at the right moment, I will even include a marching band. I greatly admire the super productive and they deserve every bit of acclaim. Maybe some other year, that will be me, but this year, I'm the kitty above. Today, for example (or more specifically yesterday) I left my travel mug in a friend's car, which meant this morning found me rifling through conference tote bags because I thought I remembered a promotional sport bottle in there somewhere. The staff at the coffee shop have my traditional bagel and travel refill order down to a science and I am a creature of routine when it comes to starting the morning's work.

There have been days when I've found myself looking blankly at a friend, only to be told with a fond chuckle that it's okay; I've obviously used all my words for the day. Not, I should mention, because my head is that deep in the book -I love when that happens, though- but because pounding out my daily word quota (and note, I normally count pages, not words) is sucking my brain. I will admit that the discipline is my main reason for doing NaNo this year. Will the NaNo story live past December? Maybe. Too soon to say at this point, but I'm in it for the discipline, so I will do today's words today and deal with tomorrow when tomorrow comes. I have learned that I need to do my blorch first, then make my outline, then it's time for actual readable writing. I need to be able to talk to other writers, online and in person, about my characters and story the same as I talk about people we know in real life. My characters are real; they may live in my head, but they are alive, and I need to talk about them. None of this is better or worse than anybody else's process, but it's mine and I embrace it and dance with it, even if it does end up looking like Victor Frankenstein dancing with the reanimated corpse of his beloved in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Saturday at the Movies #73 - Reading the Movies

funny pictures - jumpy?
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We've all seen books adapted for the big screen, some successfully, sometimes not, but this week, we're looking at something different here. Namely, reading scripts or screenplay. When I was in high school and college, I did a lot of theater, so reading in the script format is very natural for me. I have had plays of my own performed, and it's something special to see the written word come to life through the interpretations of actors and director. Give two different actors the same script, or the same actor and the same script with a different director, and you'll come away with two totally different results. For that matter, different set design or costume choices will create yet different environments for the actors and spur the director to steer his/her ship in an entirely different direction. So, for me, reading a script or screenplay shows me the writer's vision at a purer form, like an acoustic performance of a song with an elaborate music video.

I spent the morning at a library book sale, where I picked up, among other items, a book covering the Kenneth Branagh film adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

While this dovetails nicely with my acquisition of Rowing Into the Wind, a film about Mrs. Shelley's writing of her famous work, and there will be a post on that later, but since the book includes the actual screenplay, I'll need to read that first. It got me thinking, though. I have the screenplay for my all time favorite romantic comedy, Love Actually, and read it about as frequently as I watch the movie.

During the time I spent in Star Trek: The Next Generation fandom, I bought several fanzines, many of the licensed novels, but only two scripts, and they are parts of my collection that I will not be parting with anytime soon. Both have romantic plots. but since they are main character/guest character pairings, neither can end well.

"The Outcast" provides, hands down, my favorite canonical relationship for the dashing Commander Riker.

While the complex romantic geometry of "The Host" means beautifully written heartbreak for all involved:

I do reread the scripts that I have, and have found that when I write my blorches (first very rough drafts)they follow screenplay format very closely. Since I always made notes in the margins on the scripts that I used, I'd love to have a peek at a script used by one of my favorite actors - what stood out to them, and what did they question? What did they want to change? Where did they need to give themselves reminders and why?

What about you? Have you read any scripts or screenplays? If you could have any script used by a favorite actor in a tv or movie productions, which one would you choose?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Happy Dance Friday #73 - All in The Family

funny pictures of cats with captions
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Here in the USA, we're only days away from Thanksgiving, when families gather from far and wide to partake of culinary bounty and spend time in (or avoiding) each other's company. When I was growing up, such gatherings with more than one person under the age of twelve invoked the time honored tradition of putting on a show for the grownups. In some cases, to the extent of certain adults informing certain combinations of children that there will be no shows this time. Harumph. No, I am not over that, thank you for asking. Perhaps with the proper encouragement, my cousins and I could have followed in the footsteps of some of these famous families.

There's the brother/sister act of Derek and Julianne Hough:

More sibling action with Benji and Lacey Schwimmer:

Or Benji with cousin Heidi Groskreutz:

Who's their daddy? (or uncle?) This guy:

It's like father, like son when it comes to talent in the Ballas family with Corky and Mark:

Since I can name family members of mine who would do me bodily harm if I left out the Chmerkovskiy brothers, here they are:

I know I'm thankful for all of the families above. How about you?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Saturday at the Movies #72 - Four Historical Hugh Grant Films...I think

funny pictures - I SED NO PEEKING  MAI PROJEKT!
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My husband sums up 'every movie Anna loves' as "Blah, blah, blah. This horrible war is ruining my love life. Oh look, here comes Hugh Grant. Let's have tea." He is not that far off. Which is why it was a very pleasant surprise to find the Miramax Critic's Choice four in one edition of four Hugh Grant films, all historical.

The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain has been on my to-be-purchased list for quite some time now, so that would have been worth the price of admission alone, and I'd actually forgotten exactly who was in Restoration, but Hugh Grant and the court of Charles II? Pop the corn, dim the lights and no talking during the movie, please. Rowing With the Wind has Hugh Grant as Byron (hey, he played Chopin, so he can play Byron)in a story set during the conception of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Rounding out the collection is Sirens, which A) I had not known Hugh Grant was even in, B)I did know had Portia DiRossi in it, and C)is set in Australia in the 1920s, so bonus points for unusual setting.

Today's technical difficulties are brought to us by the internet and YouTube, possibly my laptop as well, so I can't vouch for the trailers embedded below, and Blogger doesn't think I need to see previews of my post. I do have popcorn at the ready, DH's schedule says he's working tonight, and four historical movies are at my disposal, so how -especially when trailers refuse to cooperate- does a person choose? I'll see a performance from a favorite actor no matter which I pick, and I'm interested in all four different settings. Old favorite first, or new discovery? Historical chronological order? Supporting role to starring role? Order in which films were, well, filmed? Alphabetical by title? Costumes? Atmospheres?

Sirens trailer:


Probably trailer or scenes from Rowing with the Wind...I think...

No trailer could be found for The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill but Came Down a Mountain, but click here for Wikipedia page.

How do you pick when faced with multiple films you want to see equally?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Dance Friday #72 -It's Electric

funny pictures - The Electric Mayhem almost broke up when Animal OD'd on Pixy Stix. Then they found Eugene.
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For those of us who lost power during Octsnowber/Snowtober/Winter Storm Alfred/other words not printable here but referring to the giant amount of snow that descended upon the northeast US in the last week of October, there was a great deal of happy dancing when our power came back on.

I will admit that Eddy Grant's "Electric Avenue" did indeed pop into my head when power was restored in our neck of the woods, and for a bit of Sims trivia, if I make an electronics store in my game, it is always called Electric Avenue. Always.

I don't remember being much into this song when it first came out (too busy walking my dinosaur) but I do love the lead singer's optimistic attitude:

To keep with the theme, there's Electric Light Orchestra:

and Electric Mayhem:

And dancers of electric boogie have some impressive moves:

IHere's hoping the winter will be warm and bright inside our house and all others.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Of Nor'easters and NaNo

The last couple of weeks have been interesting. Storm, aftermath of storm, recovery from storm, all in time for the month long exercise in creative insanity known as National Novel Writing Month. Last year was my first, and because of reasons above -and others- I had debated sitting this one out.

Normally, I like to have my story notebook all planned out, a detailed outline, sections for hero, heroine, villain if applicable, history, research notes, pertinent pictures, etc. This year? That didn't happen, and in many ways, it feels like I'm doing the detailed outline for my daily words. I miss my blorch.

Blorch is a word of my own creation, and it means the basic slapping of jumbly words on a page, exactly as it comes to me in my mind. Present tense, hither and yon, jumping around in the story timeline, in and out of POV, talking to myself, referencing (warning, do not click if you expect to get anything done for the next several hours)A blorch comes before an actual draft and allows me to then go through it with my collection of highlighters, sticky notes and define and number scenes, which then becomes my outline, and then I write. Life is funny sometimes and this year, all I came to NaNo with was a large spiral bound sketchbook with random notes scrawled freeform in multiple colors of Sharpie.

Hence the image you see above. That's a rough concept design of one of a pair of handwarmers (aka mitts, aka fingerless gloves) and it's appropriate for a number of reasons. I am tackling a pirate story this year, so the skull and crossbones is appropriate. The "Deal," though, that's a reminder that no matter how crazy things may seem, we get through them. Appropriate for this fumbling about in the mist of NaNo and recovering from a whomping nor'easter. So far, I'm making my daily word goal and should hit the requisite fifty thousand words by December 1st. Taking this one day at a time and seeing how it goes. If I end up turning out fifty thousand words of horrible trash, well, nobody has to see it but me, and I'll have done the equivalant of half a manuscript in one month. Pretty nifty right there.

So, the whole "deal" part...yeah, that's the thing. Show up at the keyboard. Open the document. Pound keys until the daily goal has been reached (to get 50k by the end of the month, I'm shooting for about 1660ish words per day, which is again different, since I normally count pages instead of words)- then I get a reward. I have found that I am eminently self-bribable. This time of year, cocoa is good. I don't know exactly where I'm going when I start the day's journey, but I have somewhat of an idea. Most likely, this will turn into the blorch, if I can convince myself it's okay to do that here - yes, I know nobody but me is going to see this, but head knowledge vs heart knowledge, mmkay? I'm getting there.

Are you NaNoing? Would you? Have you?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Saturday at the Movies #71 - More to be viewed

As I've said, I can walk to a multiplex in five minutes and I can't remember the last time I was there. This is often the case; visits to the cinema are few and far between, but I love movies. While I do like going with friends, my favorite way to watch a movie in the theater is solo. My choice of snack (and it's different depending on the movie -popcorn is a classic, but if I'm with a friend who does not do popcorn and likes to share the snack they chose, you can see my dilemma) and zero interruptions, no other voices in my head. For me, that's sitting in the dark and having someone tell me a story at its best. I am perfectly content to sit next to someone I love dearly, in the dark, and have no interpersonal communication whatsoever for the course of the story, then go somewhere to have an actual meal and analyze the film in detail afterwards. Since there is a pizza place directly across from said cinema, it's not a long walk.

Three new additions to my to be viewed list this week, and one substitution.

I have never seen Justin Timberlake act before, but In Time takes a literal spin on the "time is money" concept and the visuals are sharp and distinctive, so that's enough to catch my interest.

Anonymous gave me a little hesitation -I'm not big on fictionalized biographies or speculation of this sort- but the visuals, again, are what sold me. There's a distinct mood here, and the taut, dramatic tone adds to the Anna-bait. Elizabethan England? Check. Drama? Check. Writerly angst? Check. Gorgeous costumes and cinematography? Check and check. Pass the popcorn.

Immortals is aimed directly at the mythology-obsessed kiddo I was, or rather the adult that kid grew into .-sprawling epic myth with drama and adventure.

Which brings us to the substitution. When I'd first heard that there would be a new Three Musketeers movie, I was excited. With Orlando Bloom? Double excited. 3D? Well, okay, I guess. Wait, airship? Milady DeWinter doing a limbo slide underneath daggers flying out from the walls? Ummmm....yeah, about that. Visuals are lovely, but no, Orlando, not even for you. I would love to see a great steampunk romantic adventure on the big screen, but this isn't it. Alexandre Dumas does not need the help.

Instead, I'll be hunting down the 1974 version. Richard Chamberlain, Michael York, Faye Dunaway, Raquel Welch, the sheer gorgeosity that is the all-white ball...right now, this rings my chimes much more than what I've seen of the reimagined version. Yes, I know this version took liberties with the original text as well, and YMMV, but this is my blog, and that's my pick.

What are you planning on viewing in the near future?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Happy Dance Friday #71 -Thriller

Some dances are iconic. I remember the first time I encountered Michael Jackson's Thriller. I was a young teen, visiting family, and my cousin, who shares my penchant for unusual creative endeavors, took me into his room, turned off all the lights and cued a song on his newest tape (the ancestors of CDs for all you younguns) - Vincent Price narrated in his distinctive voice, and the music kicked in, and I knew I was experiencing something special.

At the time, I was more impressed with the Paul McCartney duet on "The Girl is Mine" but which song had the iconic video? "Thriller."

10 minutes long, actual dancing doesn't come in until about 8 minutes in, but what gets packed into those remaining minutes is pure genius. Not commenting about anything else regarding Mr. Jackson, but his dancing and his choreography and this piece in particular, well, it's still readily identifiable how many years later? Exactly my point. We've seen Thriller flash mobs, Thriller proms, Thriller wedding dances, Thriller prison inmates, and there's even a website,, which annually strives to break a world record for largest number of people simultaneously dancing this specific routine.

Google "Thriller Choreography" and you'll find endless interpretations of this iconic piece by dancers/choreographers,

It's been incorporated into ballroom routines

and adapted for kids of all ages and even for dancers on wheels. For a dance where the cast of characters is largely comprised of the undead, Thriller's choreography is still alive and kicking. For me, that's the sign of a true classic, and we've only addressed the choreography. That's a whole mini movie packed into ten minutes, with a twist at the end that still sends shivers down viewers' spines.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Saturday at the Movies #70 - The Walking Dead TV vs Graphic Novel

Last week, I mentioned dipping my toe in the zombie waters and maybe possibly checking out season one of The Walking Dead. Well. Since AMC had a marathon of season one shortly thereafter, clearly, it was meant to be. I am now current with seasons one and two, am on volume nine of the graphic novel, and have the official companion book and the first hardcover in-universe novel, The Rise of the Governor, waiting for when I've finished volume ten.

It's safe to say, the zombies got me and they got me good. Normally, I'm not a horror person, I don't do well with gore on screen, and bad things happening to anything with fur is a dealbreaker for me. This is different. For me, The Walking Dead is a character study rather than a horror story - it's not as much about the zombie outbreak/apocalypse, but how the surivivors, especially our viewpoint character, Rick, handle it. How do these extraordinary circumstances affect the choices he makes, and who is he at his core? While I do expect there to be some resolution to and explanation for the zombie thing by the end of the series, that's not the main point.

When I'm in a series, it's for the characters and the relationships. In a departure from the graphic novel, we get to see a lot more of the Rick/Lori/Shane triangle. Our hero, Rick, is thrilled to be reunited with wife Lori and young son, Carl:

but while Lori and Rick's best friend, Shane, believed Rick to be dead, they turned to each other. Now that he's back, Lori seems to have made her choice, but is Shane going to let things go that easily?

I'd already put myself in the Rick/Lori camp before delving into the graphic novels, and reading those has only cemented my alliance to this ship, but at the same time, I'm aware that the differences between tv series and graphic novel may crop up here as well. We've already seen one large departure on this front, so I'm going to be cautiously optimistic for Rick and Lori, while at the same time knowing anything can happen.

Normally, adaptations can be hard sells for me - I have a firm lifetime boycott on the Emma Thompson version of Brideshead Revisited, because of needed liberties trimming things down to fit the medium of a theatrical movie, but that cut out too much of what I love about the novel and miniseries. I did not have that reservation with The Walking Dead. Granted, I came to the tv series before the graphic novel and debated reading the original format. Would it confuse me? Throw me off? True answer - not in the least. I'm able to keep things straight in my mind, as the two formats are unique enough to remain distinct, while at the same time having a cohesive flavor. It's actually fun to figure out what characters have been added, deleted or combined for the series.

While the stark graphic black and white artwork of the graphic novel is perfect for that medium, the televised version adds other dimensions - sound, including Andrew Lincoln's Southern US accent, the subdued, washed out colors of a world that has been through a major catastrophe, motion, and the use of deftly chosen music, as in the Bob Dylan piece played at the end of the first season finale:

Postapocalyptic stories are in vogue at the moment -I'm shopping around a postapocalyptic medieval romance novella of my own- and zombies even find their way into romance novels these days, but what makes The Walking Dead must-view for me is the very human drama of it all. Who are we, at our very core, and what do we do when the worst gets worse? Since it's early days in both the series and the graphic novel (as I'm only on volume nine and I've seen issues in the 90s) I'm going to have to call this one a draw...and I'm okay with that, even to the point of eating, without squeamishness, while viewing.

New episode Sunday night - will you be watching?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Happy Dance Friday #70 - Derek Hough and Stuff

This one's for Gerri. Derek! Julianne! What are you doing down there in the basement? Knock it off. You're never going to get anywhere in life carrying on like that!

Okay, that phrase was probably not uttered in the Hough household, as both parents and all four grandparents were dancers, but I'm still going to imagine it that way. Whichever hypothetical parent yelled that down the stairs was, I am happy to say, dead wrong. Last week, we saw what Julianne's been up to, so this week it's her brother's turn.

Besides being a three time Dancing With the Stars champion,

Derek is an Emmy-nominated choreographer:

as well as an actor and musician:

Performers who are gracious and appreciative of their fans are always worth a happy dance. Manners count, people. Which is a lesson that would have been right at home on Full House - give this acapella version of the theme song a listen and try to resist the bouncy mood. Can't? Nope, me neither. Happy Friday.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Saturday at the Movies #69 -Luther, Bedlam, zombies and kittens

Oh, BBC America, you know you have me. You know I love you, and nobody feeds my inner Briton like you do. I can even forgive you for what happened to Jamie Bamber's character in Law and Order UK, because then you go and give me Luther.

No, not Martin, but a taut, gritty, psychological crime drama starring Idris Elba.

I blame author Zoe Archer for bringing Luther to my attention, as she cites Mr. Elba as partial inspiration for the character of Catullus Graves in her Blades of the Rose novels. That's Catullus on the cover of the fourth title, Stranger. Personally, I've always imagined Catullus along the lines of this gent, but Luther is Luther, dedicated detective with more than a bit of an edge, and apparently a very interesting relationship with the murderous Alice. I won't pretend to understand that, as I'm new to the Lutherverse, but not to worry, I'm sure all will be revealed in time, or at least the season one DVDs.

As if that weren't enough, BBC America also brings me Bedlam. I've always had a thing for two of the less savory historical sites in England - Bethlehem Royal Hospital, aka Bedlam, and Newgate Prison. Show me a historical romance with at least one scene set in either place, and I must have it. Natural settings for drama if ever there were such a thing. So of course, when I found out there would be a drama set in the famed hospital, turned into apartment units for the up and coming, I had to investigate. Seems like not all of the patients have entirely left the building, if one catches the drift.

Not on BBC America, but another cable series I'm arrving at fashionably late is The Walking Dead. I haven't dipped my toes in the water (or should I say ichor?) yet - advice appreciated if I need to find the season one DVDs first or if it's okay to jump in at season two- but we have Andrew Lincoln from Love Actually (my favorite comedy ever) as a sherriff determined to do good in the wake of a zombie apocalypse. I. Am. So. There. Yes, I know it will be gory, but once I saw our hero riding a horse into postapocalyptic Atlanta, it started the push and pull in my mind and the intrigue has prevailed over trepidation. Cover me, I'm going in.

Then there's Puss In Boots. I have not seen any of the Shrek franchise and don't plan to change that, but if Puss' adventure can be viewed on its own, I loved the original fairy tale, love the mixture of bold adventurer who is still a very catly cat (">true, it's been done before) but I would listen to Antonio Banderas read the phone book, and his films bring back fond memories of a dearly loved and much-missed aunt. Puss may seem like a departure from the above three, but he does have the total committment to what he's doing, and that's always going to catch my interest.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Happy Dance Friday #69 - Julianne Hough and Stuff

First, a confession: A) I did not see the original Footloose movie. B) I would gladly pay good money to watch Julianne Hough do the hokey-pokey because she is my favorite female DWTS pro, which leads to C) I am definitely planning on catching the new version of Footloose, which releases today. So likely a Saturday at the Movies post on that after I view, though not sure when that will be.

It's Friday, though, not Saturday, so this isn't about the movie, this is about the dancer, and the inherent happy dancing when multiple things I love collide in a big mess of awesome. Still not able to work out how to fit DWTS into the regular viewing schedule, so I'm catching as catch can on that one, but with Julianne making a return to the show as a guest performer, I had to hie myself over to YouTube right quick. Julianne on her own is enough (yes, a girl dance crush, what of it?) but then make the song a new arrangement of "Holding Out For A Hero" (originally recorded by Bonnie Tyler, written by Jim Steinman and Dean Pitchford, and I have a huge, huge music crush on Jim Steinman, aka the guy who writes Meat Loaf's songs) - that makes it positively covered in Anna-bait, and perfect romance writer inspiration:

One of the reasons I like ballroom dance as much as I do is the challenge for the dancer, much like the challenge for a writer who writes within a genre, is to exercise their creativity within the requirements of the particular dance.:

Then there's the art of dance in the movies, where the movements are choreographed to develop character and/or story:

Anybody who can pull off both, and do it that well, has my immediate respect. If that's not enough, the gal can sing, and she's making waves in style circles.

While I have absolutely no idea if the Brothers Fairbrass are even aware Ms. Hough exists, the bouncy optimism of the Right Said Fred song, "Julianne" certainly fits. Okay, and watching the audience is fun, too.

Speaking of RSF, their official YouTube channel now includes footage from their live acoustic Night of the Living Fred shows. I would be willing to write the script myself if ""Stop The World" could be played over the opening sequence of a Richard Curtis-directed film about eccentric British people with relationship problems. Is Hugh Grant busy? For the record, I would be fine with collaborating with Nick Hornby. (Yes, I do often come up with hypothetical collaborations like that. Doesn't everybody?)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Reading Romance on the Bathroom Floor

funny pictures - Betsey had clearly been reading Jane Austen again
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My mother had passed on when I was fourteen, but I had some awesome aunts to see me through the turbulent teen years. One of them introduced me to the wonderful world of romance novels, by dint of writing them herself. Another story there, but the other night, while going through my TBR bookshelves (yes, plural) I had a visit with my teenage self, back when I stashed historical romance novels in the cabinet under the bathroom sink.

The bathroom was a sanctum for teen-me, the one room I knew nobody would disturb me, and thus the room I always volunteered to clean when it was housework time. I could take care of tile and fixtures lickety split, but I'd stay in there as long as I could, thanks to my secret stash.

I still remember specific books I read there, Spanish Rose by Shirlee Busbee, and Heartland by Rebecca Brandewyne, to name two. It's not only the titles I remember, but the books themselves, the smell and feel of the pages, the heft of the four hundred plus pages in my hands, the gorgeous Elaine Duillo covers - I collect those now- and the pink cardstock bookmarks with "Jan's Paperbacks" in black script on them. That UBS is long gone, and I have twice had to replace large portions of my keeper stash, but it's times like this that adult-me can make teen-me scootch over on the white and yellow tiles and I'm there again.

The world outside the bathroom door still existed, so I don't term this an 'escape,' but a respite. Time and again, no matter the setting or era, I read about strong, resourceful women who refused to sit by and let life happen to them. These gals went to war, they captained pirate ships, they navigated Court intrigues and crossed the badlands, their femininity not a weakness but a strength. These books nourished me, both as a reader and as a writer. I knew that I would be the one writing making these heroines and their heroes come to life one day; it wasn't something I had to figure out, any more than I had to figure out having green eyes. This was right. This was me. The adventure, the characters and their relationships, all the highs and the lows on the way to HEA, that was home for me.

I loved the variety of settings; a favorite author might have taken me to Renaissance Italy this time, but next time, we'd have a date for Colonial New York, then go a-viking, then attend a glittering Edwardian soiree, then elsewhere, then elsewhere, then elsewhere. I still have that literary wanderlust, asking myself where I want to go and who I want to meet this time, in a new book read or a new story waiting to be born. Even with stories scattered over space and time, it was what was the same that resonated with me the most. The women always won. They got what they wanted, sometimes at great cost, but I always closed the covers that final time with a happy sigh and the feeling that yes, life will go on. Whatever the hero and heroine had to fight to find and keep each other, they made it, and they will make it through whatever life brings in the future.

For me, that is happily-ever-after, not that there will never be any bad times, but that we will make it through whatever comes, and we don't have to do it alone. Sorting through my shelves, I got a lot more than the chance to pick out what I wanted to read next. I got a chance to reach back through time and for a few minutes there, I was reading romance on the bathroom floor once again. It's the closest thing I can think of to a meeting of minds between teen-me and adult-me, and I have to say we had a fabulous time. We're meeting again tonight.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Happy Dance Friday #68 -DWTS pros

Some things don't go exactly according to plan, hence the time delay and apology dance. Friday asploded into a twirly errandpalooza, but the beat goes on. Get Down On Your Claws And Do The Apology Dance GIF - Get Down On Your Claws And Do The Apology Dance
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Dancing With the Stars viewing in our house involves a complex interrelation of numbers of televisions in the famiily, the load of shows the DVR is able to handle without going kablooey and my DH's deep and abiding love of the Food Network. Still, there is You Tube, so I"ll be checking out the pros. For now, a quick look at a few pros worth watching:

Blonde Lacey Schwimmer is going to take some getting used to, but she caught my attention when she was on SYTYCD, and I've had the chance to see her live, so I'm definitely going to keep an eye on her.

The Brothers Chmerkovskiy: In case Maks wasn't enough, he has brought in reinforcement with brother Val. Kinda bold starting out in the bed, there, Val, and does the letterman jacket imply that the male in this dance story is a high school athelete? Where did he get his, um, companion, in that case?

Long clip for Maks' entry, because A) Viennese Waltz and B).well, Maks

Fun fact - Tony Dovolani and I actually have something in common; we have both lived in Bedford, NY. Not at the same time, but I'm going to call him my possible once upon a time neighbor anyway.

Out the door once more, but I plan on getting current and having a chance to see how the new kids on the DWTS pro block do. Should be fun.

Monday, October 03, 2011

On the dissipation of cold brain and the art of tai ming

I still have cold brain. Waning, to be sure, but still cold brain. For those who play any of the Sims games, you'll understand an action dropping out of queue. For those who don't, well, we've all started to do something, forget what it is or why we're doing it. That happens a lot with cold brain. When cold brain starts to wane, it's not uncommon to have an action drop out of queue and then pop back in when one has started an entirely different action (Sims games don't do that - yet.)

The plan for this cold was to snuggle under some blankeys and make a dent in my TBR pile. Pause here for wild, demented laughter. Cold-influenced reading was more along the lines of A) carefully pick out book. B) Settle in for good reading session. C) Fall asleep in the middle of first page, or D) Read same page fifteen times and complain about book being repititious already. E) Give up and play Sims. F) Since laptop is on, open WIP and poke with metaphorical stick. G) Open Photoshop Elements and make inspirational graphics, as above (optional.)

All in all, not a lot of reading, when there are a heckuva lot of books. Paperbacks, both mass market and trade sized. Hardcovers. Ebooks. Novels. Research books. Other stuff. Even petted a fanzine in my search for reading material, but brain refused to latch on. Which is okay. It's a new TV season, as recent Saturday at the Movies posts detail. I caught most of Tristan and Isolde yesterday afternoon, which fulfilled some of my romance fiction yearning, but since things don't end exactly well for anybody in the Tristan/Isolde/Mark triangle, no HEA. Utterly gorgeous to watch, though, and atmosphere gets an A+++.

But reading. Yeah. I do have my default reads at the ready; Hannah Howell's Highland historicals this time. I know I'll like those, as I've read some of the earlier ones already, when they were first released, and likely out of order, so they will be like new to me again. Book three is on my desk, awaiting its call to duty, and that may be soon. Still, next to my bed, there is a small stack of started and put aside novels. Nothing wrong with them, only a brain that wouldn't track. I do believe that there is a right time to read a particular book, and something that's a "nice, but not right now" can, days or weeks (or longer) later, become "why did I wait so long to read this?"

Comedian Steve Martin once did a bit on the ancient art of Tai Ming, and I think he was onto something. Like the stack of books by my bed and the computer file of ideas that still need to simmer a while longer because I don't have all the ingredients yet, there is a right time to read or write a particular story, and forcing it isn't going to work. I've learned to embrace the "not right now" and focus on the now. Which is something that isn't that hard to do...and does not mean checking Twitter and Facebook like a maniac every five minutes. Nope, butt in chair, fingers on keyboard gets the job done.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Saturday at the Movies #68 - Sick Ramblings

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This weekend, I am referring to my DH as 'Patient Zero.' Cold brain has set in, accounting for my not remembering yesterday was Friday, so today is dedicated to plopping myself in the relciner and getting current on DVR'd material. With the new season upon us, there's a lot. I had high hopes for X Factor, and what I've seen so far meets expectations. Sure, there are still some auditioners who have, shall we say, creative differences with the judges, but when they're good, they're amazing. Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul together again, and so far, I like what I see from L.A. Reid, Cheryl Cole and Nicole Scherzinger. Not that keen on those who come on talking about how they want to be famous and on the cover of this magazine and that tv show and oy, oy, oy. The ones who sing because they love to sing, though, remind me how much I love the audition process.

Unforgettable gives us Poppy Montgomery (with some seriously gorgeous red hair) as Carrie, a cop with an eidetic memory, the one piece of the puzzle she doesn't have being what happened on the day of her sister's murder. Love the creative cinematography as Carrie can revisit her memories and move about through them. I like the larger story arc and will be interested to see how Carrie's mother's dementia mirrors Carrie's gift.

A Gifted Man stars Patrick Wilson as a doctor with a high end private practice whose comfortable lifestyle gets pushed out off track by a visit from his charitable-minded ex-wife. It's obvious he still has feelings for her, so the first visit isn't entirely unwelcome...until he finds out she's dead. Ghostly visit or guilty conscience? Arguments could be made either way, and our hero's sister's goofy urban shaman boyfriend thinks he can clean up the tangled affair, which provides for some lighter moments. Jennifer Ehle (Pride and Predjudice, The King's Speech) is a nice surprise as the possibly ghostly, possibly hallucinatory ex-wife who hasn't given up on the man she possibly still loves. Possible shippy triangle with our hero, his ex, and the (uh oh) boyfriend she left behind.

Person of Interest and The New Girl are also very much living up to expectations and though I may have to duck a couple of rotten tomatoes for this, I'm going to hang in there with Terra Nova for the foreseeable future; dystopic beginning, time travel, interesting sociology, so we will see. Which of the year's new shows are catching your interest?