Sunday, December 16, 2012

Son of Saturday at the Movies #2: The Libertine

Three movies this weekend, and I still have my Dr. Zhivago rant to transcribe (it's in longhand and it's long, and I want to see if the library can find me the 2004 UK TV remake) but the movie strongest in my mind right now is The Libertine, with Johnny Depp.



The English Restoration is one of the eras in which I feel the most at home as reader and writer both, and the visuals of this era are gorgeous - both sexes lavishly dressed, the glorious excess of the restored monarchy in a huge pendulum swing from the stern repression of the Lord Protectorate under Oliver Cromwell, the sense that life, in many aspects, could begin again. I especially liked that this film wasn't about only the excesses of the era, but the consequences as well. We also get to spend time in the world of Restoration theater (I will seriously look at anything having anything to do with Restoration theater) with a young actress who goes from getting booed off the stage, to being Wilmot's protege and mistress, to royal spy, to ultimately her own woman.

This is a dark movie. Literally, and figuratively. I'm going to have to watch it again on a smaller screen that is closer to my face and with better lighting because I have no idea what the white script on black says, but such screens take up a good part of the first few minutes of the film. I'm going to guess some historical information on the real John Wilmot, who would have been a rock star in today's parlance. As a poet, he was a favorite as well as a bane of Charles II, definitely not the kind of guy you'd want to bring home to mommy, because he'd charm her into a compromising position in the laundry room before she'd had so much as a chance to take his coat. That kind of guy, which actually makes the ultimate resolution believable on several different levels.

Johnny Depp, of course, was brilliant, as Wilmot in his prime, Wilmot on the downhill slide, Wilmot arguing passionately before the House of Lords regarding laws of succession (and dang, can that man make even a prosthetic metal nose look good.) The scenes that stuck with me the most are two: his appearance before Lords, loud, brash, painted and costumed to hide the disease that consumed his body and mind; and the quieter, more intimate confessional style frame of the film, that of a young Wilmot, without paint or artifice, first assuring the viewer they will not like him, and then at the end, asking with ever more vulnerable repetition, if they like him now. That's the kind of acting, and the kind of story, that I like to marinate in for a while; not think of anything else, or anything in particular, but let it sift into my brain and emotions as it will.

I've already written one book set at the tail end of the English Civil War and I can feel some Restoration stories making noise in the back of my brain, so this was a good time to see The Libertine. One of my favorite authors, Judith James, drew inspiration from Wilmot for her Libertine's Kiss, whose hero has a happier ending than the real Wilmot or Depp's portrayal. I'm thinking it's time for a reread.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Happy Dance Friday #111: You're The Best Thing About Christmas

Celebrating the return of Happy Dance Friday with something that's been on my wish list for some time now - a Christmas single from Right Said Fred. In collaboration with Mr Weebl (who is new to me) this is fun, upbeat and full of holiday spirit.

Happy holidays to all, and if you're holiday-free, then Happy Friday.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Son of Saturday At the Movies: Colin Firth x2; A Single Man and Dorian Gray

All right, so it's been a while since we've had one of these entries, so no number for now. It's been a big few months, some of the big stuff good, some not, but one of the good things is finding the library system in Albany is amazing when it comes to movies, and I am once again gorging myself. This week, it's period dramas, no surprise there. This week, I borrowed two Colin Firth films and one Firth-less classic I've been meaning to see for literally decades, but more on that later.


Set during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, A Single Man doesn't dwell much on that world event, keeping the tight focus instead on the title character, George Falconer, a British college professor living and working in the US. George, when we meet him, is in deep grief over the death of his lover, Jim, some months past. Time has moved on, but George has not, the loss of Jim still as sharp and keen as when he first got word of the accident. George gets through his days but everything is empty, and the day that we meet George is in fact the day that he plans to make his last.

George methodically gets his affairs in order, says things he's always meant to say, everything so that he can be done with the never ending grief. The matter of fact tasks George performs are interspersed with vivid memories of life with Jim, which makes George's state all the keener. Life continues to pull at him; an inquisitive student, adult and child neighbors he's kept at arms' length, a chance encounter with a stranger, dinner with a female friend who deals with her own torment by different means. Colin Firth is amazing, and this is one film where every shot counts. The use of color, the incidental music, the blocking, set design, everything has a role in telling us George's story, and when the resolution comes, we can understand how it got there. Definitely have to buy this one for multiple viewings.



You know the story; Dorian doesn't age, but his picture does, and appearance is hugely important in this story, but it's not about looks. Oh sure, we have Ben Barnes and Colin Firth, and a gorgeous set with the right feel of opulent claustrophobia at all the right moments, but as the not-yet-corrupted Dorian says early on in the film, what about a man's soul? Colin Firth's Lord Henry scoffs at the very notion and commits his own soul to hell, later asking Dorian if he'll do the same. Wrong choice, Dorian. Wrong choice, but amazing story, courtesy of Oscar Wilde.

This is another one I have to own, so I can see it by myself and catch the multiple layers. Both lead actors do a marvelous job, and where Dorian throws himself into sybaritic excess, it's Henry who finds growth. Though he takes fatherhood lightly at first, the daughter born soon after Dorian makes his fateful choice, gives Henry the heart he'd always denied. Seasoned readers/viewers know where this is going. Dissolute Dorian, who has already had blood and everything else on his hands, falls for Henry's daughter, Emily. This is not a romance, and Dorian reaps what he sowed, big time. The climax is horrifying, both in what's shown and what's not, and even as we know this is how things have to end, there's still a smidge of sympathy for Dorian, who can't find a way to turn back from what he's become. The final scene with Henry, alone, haunts. I loved the way this movie handled the passage of time; motor cars, telephones, Henry ages, Dorian does not, the hissing breaths from the shaded portrait. There's tragic loves, grief, despair, gorgeous sets and costumes, friendships that go through hell, tasteful and yet visceral historical gore, all combining to leave me one very, very satisified viewer.

Neither of these are for the faint of heart, but for those who want to dive in deep into emotional viscera, two thumbs up. Next up for me: Dr. Zhivago.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

40255

I did not win NaNo this year, and I am okay with that. I didn't think I would be. I like to win. If I keep on at the same pace, I will hit 50k on December 7th. Not too bad in that respect, and since I was a rebel this year and worked on a project that was already in progress, I may be there already but I'm not doing that math at this point.

What I did win was A) the new writing schedule fitting itself into place, B) finding out what pace is good for me right now, C) 40,255 more words written than I had on November 1st. Also D) I write big, and trying to ignore that and go for anything else is not going to work.

I learned that the laundromat is an amazingly good place for writing longhand, and that it is possible to get pounced by heartbroken pirates in such a place. He followed me home and I'm keeping him. Since said pirate is fictional, DH is fine with this. I have even volunteered to babysit Housemate's laundry in order to get more writing time.

Bring on December.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thankful

On Monday, DH wasn't able to go into work due to the strong pain in his left foot. Since that's the foot where his gout flares, we figured that might be it. It wasn't. The usual meds weren't working, so Tuesday was twelve hours in the ER. Mostly waiting, as one might expect. Still not the record holder. (For those counting, that's still thirteen hours with my dad.) At the end, the diagnosis was Achilles Tendonitis, which wasn't treatable in the ER, but we were referred to an orthopedist we needed to see the next day.

Which we did. DH was told to stay off his foot and on some good pain medication. He took the meds but the crutches are still propped in the corner of the bedroom where I put them when we got home. He prefers his shillelegh, which was my grandfather's and then my father's and now his. Tuesday afternoon was DH at home getting some rest and housemate and I driving to unknown territory to get a topical painkiller from a holistic pharmacy. Headed back home, completely exhausted. DH had been up and about while we were gone, which I probably should have seen coming. I know this guy.

While nobody likes Achilles Tendonitis, I'm thankful that's all it was. I'm thankful that DH was able to decide, halfway through the cooking process, that he was going to take over anyway so I could do the last minute tidying and arranging of seating. I'm thankful that DH wasn't in respiratory distress. That his kidneys weren't failing and that we could use the dinosaur spit, as DH termed the topical painkiller, instead of the oral remedy that would have put him at risk for more kidney trouble. I'm thankful that he's able to get around with the shilleleagh and should be cleared to go back to work in a few days. I'm thankful we had the best Thanksgiving ever and, after a wonderful dinner, were able to flop in our comfy chairs and trade battle stories of horrible Thanksgivings past with our guests.

I'm also exhausted. I'm thankful I could be there for DH, but caregiving can rip absolutely every resource out of a person. Glad to do it, glad to rest from it and replenish. We weren't able to do Black Friday this year, and I know for a fact I'm not going to win NaNo this year. Because the Christmas ornaments my family has put up since before I was even born are in the back of the storage unit in another state, we have to get all new for this year, and I really wanted the traditional ones. Won't mind buying new shiny, pretty things, but I miss the cardboard Christmas tree I made in preschool.

DH says he has to admit the dinosaur sit works better than he thought it would, and he's looking forward to getting back to work soon. It's funny looking at getting back to normal when the new normal hasn't been fully formed yet. We still don't know-know anybody in the region, are still finding our way around, but we're home, DH's ER visit was not of the life threatening sort, and I'm thankful for that.


Photo courtesy of Samuraiantiqueworld

Friday, November 09, 2012

No, I was not playing chess

When I was a teen, and I had an important school paper to write, I had to sit in the antique chair in the front hall and wasn't allowed to move from it until I had the draft done. I'm not sure if that chair made it when we moved things out of my dad's house, but it's not that particular physical chair that's the important part.

Needless to say, I haven't managed to completely distance myself from my own posterior, and the variety of chairs and corners of floor on which it has been parked probably do not bear numbering. Today (well, yesterday, to be honest; I didn't take pictures of where I sat today) I'm parked in the coffee shop again, in what has come to be my regular time for NaNoing. I would say for writing, but that happens in other places as well, as evidenced by the Moleskines that I keep filling, but we're talking NaNo stuff here.

Ask me on any given day how NaNo is going, and you're likely to get a different answer. From yesterday's really good session to today's wanting to curl in a ball and sob for an hour, venting to a nonwriter friend (who is writer-friendly) and then dragging my battered writerly ego back to the keyboard to see what more I can eke out, because if I don't tell this story, nobody else will. This NaNo has, so far, beaten me up more than the others. Today, for example, I had a casualty, ripping a secondary character whom I really like out of the story because everything else having to do with him had been deep-sixed and the things went better if my heroine did what this guy would be doing in this, basically his lone scene left in this version.

Still behind on count, but there's still a lot of November left in which to get things current. It's not always easy, but if the butt is in a chair and the fingers are on the keyboard and my head in the story, then one figurative foot in front of the other. I've done NaNo excited and prepared, trepidatious and only semiprepared, and this year, it's not so much a feeling as a determination. Maybe moving and family colds and all of the rest took up everything else. Whatever the cause, this year's NaNo sessions feel a lot like those papers and the chair in the front hallway.

In both cases, this puppy's got to get done, and nobody is going to do it but me, so onward.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Enthusiastic and Enthralling, said the barista

The barista who served me said his words for the day are "enthusiastic" and "enthralled." He told me he was enthusiastically enthralled to serve me tea, and I replied that I was about to enthusiastically write something enthralling.

This, I should note is not it. Well, probably not. If my ramblings (and random photo from our street) enthrall, then that's serendepity. Which may or may not end up being a word of the day tomorrow.


I'm behind on my NaNo count, the good side of that being that I now know that I did need to reoutline. The bad side is that I am behind on my NaNo count and that makes me crabby. I do not recommend moving to a different state during NaNo or the weeks immediately prior, or during a presidential election. Especially if it's A) the move from two different levels of hell, B) includes more than one anxiety attack, and C) two incidents of Martian Death Cold, one with an upgrade that includes the need to wash down walls and purchase a new bucket.

The new writing schedule hasn't yet solidified, but I am writing daily, making sure that family knows those two hours a day at the coffee shop are *mine* and if the office door is closed, that means I am busy. End of story. Which will go a long way to getting to the ends of stories. I don't expect I'm going to get to the end of an entire novel during NaNo, but fifty thousand words in? Yes, I can do that. Won't be perfect, but it will be written.

I'll be honest, there are, and have been for a while, days when I don't think I can write my own name, when it feels like I'm floundering and it wouldn't matter if I gave up. Thing is, I can't. I've tried to not write. It didn't stick and it made me miserable. Better by far to keep going, even when it's rough. These characters and their lives and worlds and all of that stuff is in my head and it has to get out, even when real life has other ideas. Besides, there is no really good idea section of Barnes and Noble. It's all finished books.

Which is why it's butt in chair and fingers on keyboard and filling notebooks and one foot in front of the other on and on until The End are the last words on the page. That won't happen today, but the pages I write today are that many pages more than if I'd done nothing at all. There will be a schedule in place at some point, but that's not my main concern. So, off to fill some pages. Tomorrow, there will be more.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

'Twas the Night Before NaNo

...no rhymes about what's all through this house (the actual apartment or the dollhouse-that-got-moved-instead-of-stored-but-looks-so-good-on-top-of-this-dresser-that-is-in-dining-room-we-don't-mind) but as NaNo does indeed begin tomorrow, I have only in the last 24 hours decided to be a rebel and work on the current WIP, which is to me a new book in many ways, that's what I've got this morning.



The cafe from which I wrote the most recent entry here has been closed for several days, not sure why, so new home away from home is here. No fireplace, but I love the brick walls, the fact that it's in a basement, the comfy chairs gathered around tables, the helpful staff (extra kudos to the nice German gentleman who recommended honey for my lost voice -physical, not authorial) and the fact that they have chai.

New writing routines are still working themselves out. Linda is back in CT for one last haul of her stuff, DH and I are both in the grips of Martian Death Colds, which manifest in different ways for each. I lost my voice completely for a few days but can now croak out a few words. He wouldn't appreciate my sharing his worst symptom, so I'll skip that, but we're both hopefully on the mend. I have found out that when the heat is cranked up the slightest of notches, my office is the snuggest, most comfy place in the whole apartment, and the actual officey stuff is taking shape.

In a way, I like not having things set up yet. My new desk, actually one I coveted as a kid, is about half the size of my old one, which did not make the move with us (by choice.) This means no room for clutter, only what I absolutely love and need. This is also true for books; I brought my absolute classic must haves, and the rest are in storage. This also includes new titles that I have bought but not yet read. Those are all in neatly labeled boxes, and I can pick up one at a time from the unit, read through, trade in/donate those that aren't keepers. (More on that later.)

It's along those same lines with writing. What do I really, really love? Historical romance, heavy on both, thanks. Love that is worthy of record, characters who are people of their time (or times, with time travels, which in my mind count as historicals, at least the way I do them) and taking the hard road to happily ever after. That's enough. NaNo starts tomorrow? Bring it on.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

And so it begins...

P1011749, living room from doorway All the furniture is off the truck and hauled upstairs. Our friends who helped us move have all gone home. Skye kitty is hunkered down under the far corner of Linda's bed. Boxes and suitcases fill the dining room area. I am at the cafe across the street from our new apartment, on a comfy couch, across from a fireplace. It is quiet but for the whirring of oscillating fans. When the sun goes down, DH wants to take a date night and show me some of the sights of our new neighborhood. That will be soon, and at some point, Skye will venture out and investigate her new world, possibly after I've flopped on the bed to play Sims 3 for a while, filling the new space with familiar activity.

The old secretary desk from my childhood home is now in my new office, beneath a mirror I will have DH take down in the next couple of days, as I don't want to look at myself while writing. I have told everyone that tomorrow is for not hauling things up or down stairs, not putting things in boxes (but taking them out will be a neccessity)and not venturing hither and yon in various vehicles. I have told DH that tomorrow, I will not get out of bed unless absolutely neccessary, and the fall I took down the front steps (moving one's belongings from truck to upstairs apartment in the rain is exactly as fun as it sounds) says that may be a good idea.

And yet (because you know there had to be an "and yet") - I. Want. To. Write. In. My. Office. Nothing is set up yet. The desk still has one drawer off, sitting inside the storage area. My chair is in the dining area. The bookcase is empty, and only a milk crate full of art magazines graces the rest of the space. Still, it's mine. This space knows me only as writer. This space has no baggage. This space knows we are all moving in here - me, my characters, their stories. Their worlds fit within these sage green walls, stand upon the boards that still smell of varnish. This, more than any other part of the new apartment feels like home.

Picture above is from our first viewing of the apartment, and is not of the office, but camera is not unpacked yet. Stay tuned.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Holding on and Letting go

Moving week is finally here. By this time next week, we'll be ensconced in our new home, taking stuff out of the boxes we're filling now. The picture above is one load of donations to a friend's library sale. A lot of these books came from library sales to begin with, and more than a few of them are returning to the sale from whence they came.

Though our apartment is a good size, there's no way to bring all of the books. For me, moving the books is what makes the move real. Books are the first thing down and first thing up (second, if one counts bookcases) if I have any say in the matter, and the process of deciding what to bring and what to release into the wild is an adventure all on its own. Some decisions are easy. Research books purchased for a project that is now long completed, interests that have changed, or duplicate copies are like that. Others are trickier. Have I read that? Am I going to read it? Really? If read, will I reread it? Can I get rid of the paper version and replace it with electronic?

I've fished more than one rescued book out of the DH's discard pile because he does not understand the neccessity of an obscure title, but I leave his picks of his own stuff alone. There are books I can't part with, because they have fused with me and it would be like excising a body part and sending it off into the unknown. Others have had their time with me and I like imagining someone else idly browsing the romance section of the sale and finding an unexpected treasure. They don't know it yet, but they have just touched their favorite book for the first time. Kind of exciting there.

Other books will go into the storage unit, either for a short time or until we make our next and hopefully final move. The rest, though, the special ones, those we count worth the trouble of packing and hauling down the stairs, onto the van, out of the van, up the stairs and into their eventual homes on whatever bookcases will fit.

When I last moved out of a college dorm room, many, many years ago, I divided my books into books I would be devastated if I lost and books whose absence I could bear. It hasn't become any easier to move, but the criteria is still the same. Thankfully, for those that are staying with me, it's only a short parting. I'll see them again in the new place.

How do you decide what books make the move with you?

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Personal Archaeology

dining room, Dining room from doorway Our family is getting ready to make a much-anticipated move (that's our soon to be dining room in today's picture) which means that we are now in the decluttering and packing phase.

We've been in the same place for double digit years now, so there are a few time capsules to be found now and again. Today was one of them. This morning was rough, and I needed some time before I could face the keyboard, so to the boxes I went. We'd put this stuff away to look at later, and from the dates on the magazines, it looks like this was from slightly before my father's Alzheimer's diagnosis. I found a print galley of a favorite author's second book. Two spiral notebooks and one composition book with black pages, for writing on in white ink. Letters from friends. Printouts of pieces I'd written for fan publications. A big black binder with the printout of my first novel, My Outcast Heart. Handwritten notes from a talk a visiting rabbi gave at our church. Magazines for interests that I still hold and some that I no longer do.

I sorted. I read. I relived, all under the watchful eye of Skye kitty. I sorted into trash/donate/pack. I remembered how fun it was to write the fan pieces, how exciting it was to type THE END on my first novel. Then I signed up for NaNo. November is going to be a big month.

Monday, October 01, 2012

On the nature of talking....



A friend asked me what I've learned from the blog entry challenge this week. As a word of warning, this may get ramblier than other posts, but rambling can be a good thing; I'm writing this entry in Write or Die's web app so that i can't fall into the trap of self editing myself into oblivion. See, right there, the two instances of "self" in the same sentence. I would go back and get rid of that but Very Bad Things will happen here if I don't so that will come into play later.

Back to the original question. I didn't know how to take that at first. I didn't set out to make this a teaching tool, but hey, unexpected opportunities. What I'd say I recognized the most is that I am a talker. Talking and thinking are linked for me. If I can talk about it, then it's real and I can do it.

So, my friend asked, does talking about writing translate to writing and finishing stories? For me, yes. It does. Think about having the best racehorse in the world. Now don't feed him. What's going to happen? How is he going to run? Not very far or long after missing enough meals and the running he can do isn't going to be up to the usual standard. Kind of the same thing here.

While there are awesome writers who will go from initial idea to finished first or second draft before they breathe a word to anybody, I am not one of them. Everybody has their own right way to work, and for me, that involves talking. My friend did ask if the talking works if nobody replies; this is after I mentioned that blog entries seem to count as talking to my writer-brain so that there will likely be more entries in the future. (Since I also seem to do very well with accountability - if I tell the internet, then I have to do it- there will also likely be more challenges in the future. It can be a thing.

Best of all is sitting down with another writer, one on one, and talking about writing. Talk about their stuff, talk about my stuff, some back and forth, give and take and I'm good to go. Give me a beverage of choice, often some form of black tea with milk and sweetener in this autumnal weather, perhaps a nibble or two, and let me run, because I'm fed. So if that can be something learned, then there's that. It works for me, and it doesn't have to work for anybody else, because we all have our own best ways to go about this business of making the voices in our heads pay rent.

Is it a magic pill that will make everything all betters all at once? No. I don't think there is such a thing. It's a process. It is difficult for a talker to work when there isn't someone else to talk to/with; it can be done, theoretically, but it's a whale of a lot harder and will take a lot longer, and our talker is going to be worse for wear by the time it's done.

Already over my projected length for this entry, but in short, it's a process. For me, talking works, and I can talk here, so I will. You have been warned.

What have you learned about your own process over the years?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Extroverted Writer Links

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Useful links on writing, extroversion and overcoming self-sabotage:

Five Signs You May Be Sabotaging Your Own Writing Career: Guilty of all five at one time or another in the past year.

What's Your Writing Personality?: Introvert? Extrovert? Mixed?

7 Ways for Extroverts to Increase Their Writing Productivity: good tips on making inherent personality traits work for, not against the writing.

http://susannahfriiswrites.com/2012/02/07/ten-reasons-why-extrovert-writers-are-doing-it-tough/: I can't admit to #10, but the others do sound familiar.

The Problem of the Extroverted Writer: Holmes and Watson help an extroverted writer figure out his most perplexing predicament.

The Challenges of Being a Writer and an Extrovert: YATopia offers some excellent suggestions.

About.com on Extroverts: Really good definition, easy and accessible.

The "Silent Treatment" vs. the Talking Machine: Understanding Introverts and Extroverts: Introvert and extrovert styles of processing thoughts and feelings.

Ten Myths About Extroverts: This Truth About Sushi blog entry tackles some generalizations.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Saturday at the Movies #96 - Anna Karenina

First, it's a historical drama that is not a fictionalized biography. That alone would get me in the theater. Can't use the "it isn't Tolstoy" argument to fault the story because, well, it is Tolstoy. Anna Karenina. Then stick Keira Knightley and Jude Law in the same movie, produced by Working Title no less...yeah, I am going to be in that theater seat multiple times. All I ask is that they not mess with the ending. Please please please please. Not the happiest of endings, but I'm a proponent of staying true to the work.

Not getting on that soap box today, as time's a-wasting, so I will leave you with this gorgeous trailer from FilmTrailerZone. Will you be watching?

Friday, September 28, 2012

Happy Dance Friday #110: LMAFO and character theme songs

Quick drive-by post this time, but rest assured I haven't forgotten about dueling "Addictions" and I haven't even started to blabber about All The Right Moves.

LMAFO's "Sexy and I Know It" is on my WIP playlist, as it's pretty much the song playing in my heroine's ex's head at all times, and the current scene is is his first appearance. A past-his-peak dancer, this guy is more in love with himself than he ever could be with anyone else. It fits, and it puts me in the right frame of mind to know where his head is in this scene.



As an aside, would this not make an awesome flash mob idea? Have to admit the initial shot of a whole horde of black-clad dancers taking the floor at once makes quite an impression. May have to file that away for later.



LMAFO's song bumped the previous choice of theme song for this character out of the playlist. (Sense a theme here?):



How about you, writers? Do your characters get theme songs? Readers, do you assign theme songs to your favorites?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

So. Writing. I do that.

So. Writing. I do that. Secret tip #2: “So. X.” works along the same lines as “here’s the thing.” That’s a good thing because it always helps to have a backup. Which is pretty much the whole point of doing these morning pages. The brain has to do something, and it doesn’t matter much what the starting gun sounds like, as long as it sounds.

Right now, it sounds like looking at a big blank white wall. Which is normal for the start of a writing day. Some days are great; the characters pull the writer out of bed, march her (or him) to the computer or crack open the notebook and they’re off and running. This is not one of those days. Doesn’t mean it’s a bad day. It only means it’s a day. Butt in chair and fingers on keyboard, same as usual.

The worst time-waster, for me, isn’t Facebook (even with SimCity Social) but doubt. Don’t ask me when the doubt monster (DM for short, as we’re that well acquainted) posed as a pizza delivery person and barged in to take up residence. I’m guessing DM used that particular disguise because, really, what writer is ever going to not open the door for a pizza? At any rate, it did, and while, as with any writer, there’s the obligatory trial and error of finding the right weapon to hit DM where it counts, most days the best way out is through.

So. Writing. There are days when any writer will do anything but write. That’s because writing can be scary. It’s at once intensely personal and meant to be shared. Kind of funny that way, but that’s how it goes. For someone who is both a writer and an extrovert, it can be a delicate balance. Still working on that, since I’m pretty sure I’m going to be both for the rest of my life.

The thing about extroverted writers (see what I did there?) is that we need the energy of others around us to get our own motors running. I can stare at the blank page for hours, go around and around in my own mind, but put me across the table from another writer and I can blabber out pages worth. Which brings to mind an interesting experiment; would it work to try speaking the day’s work into a recording device? Not sure on that one, since I’m a wuss about hearing my own voice in a recording. I’ve heard that’s pretty common, and it’s because we can’t hear our own voices within our heads the same way they sound to others, and the how-it-sounds-to-others is how we hear it on a recording.

That’s it for me today. What’s your favorite weapon when fighting DM?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Here's The Thing....

Test Here’s the thing about making a challenge to oneself and putting it on the internet; it takes away the anonymity of weaseling out. Which, I will have to admit, I was tempted to do. Let’s face it; sometimes, writing is scary. I’ve described it to writing friends as sticking an ice cream scoop in the writer’s gut, grabbing an generous portion, plopping it on a plate and offering it to strangers.

That’s moi, by the way, for today’s picture, photo taken in a church reception hall bathroom and then fiddled with in Photobucket. Because I do those sorts of things. Click to embiggen.

So, anyway, writing. Secret tip #1 – I can make myself go from nothing to write about to being able to get something down by starting with “here’s the thing…” I don’t know why that works, but it does. Not the most useful thing when writing on an actual historical romance manuscript, but when it comes to freewriting, “here’s the thing” does it every time. Don’t ask me where I got that turn of phrase from. We writerly sorts are master eavesdroppers and that’s where I’m assuming it came from. Somebody used it in public and then it stuck in my mind forever. Thanks for the inadvertently useful trick, dear stranger, whoever you are.

The thing about the thing is that it fits in with something said by the facilitator of a writer’s group I attended years ago. In that group, we wrote to timed prompts, and were to keep the pen moving during that time. It didn’t matter what we put on the page. The goal was to get something down. Anything. We didn’t have to share if we didn’t want to, and we didn’t have to use the prompt, but we were to keep the pen on the page. As the facilitator said, the process begets the content.

There’s only so long one can write “I have no idea what I’m writing” or the like before some exasperated character will push themselves to the front of the writer’s consciousness and decide their story is more important than counting the number of lines left on the page, or venting one’s spleen about whatever real life annoyance has one’s knickers in a bunch. Sometimes, though, there has to be that bloodletting first, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Same thing as clearing the junk off the floor before attempting to dance on it. Only way to do it is to do it.

Two more days to complete my week. Got a question about writing, reading or the romance genre in general? Shoot it at me in comments and I might blab about it in days to come. Now go be fabulous.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Workings of a Writing Mind

Freewriting today to get the pump primed, our illustration courtesy of Gunther from my Sims 3 game. Pretty accurate for the writing life, I'd say. Though this is the day of the week when I generally meet with writer friends, life happens, and thus it’s me and me and me.

Which is fine. That’s how writing goes, isn’t it? One writer (two or more if we’re talking a collaboration, but we aren’t at the moment, so move along, nothing to see here) with butt in chair and fingers on keyboard. While it’s important to keep in contact with those of our own kind (especially for those of us who are extroverts, but that’s for another post), writers are not people who talk about writing, without actually doing the work. Writers are people who write. We tell stories. We interpret what’s unfolding in our heads and put it in a form that allows others to enter these worlds of our own creation and get to know the characters who inhabit them.

This morning, I told the woman behind the counter at my local Panera that I have crossed the bar into fall and my usual beverage is now hot tea rather than iced. I wore my fleece vest, a knit hat and matching mitts while on my once-again-customary morning walk with a neighbor. My brain gave me the signal that it’s time for fresh tunes on my mp3 player. Since my brain gave me that signal immediately prior to the device asking me to reformat it, I’m going to consider that confirmation that I’m on the right track.

When I was but a wee princess, my mother used to tell me that the more I did, the more I would want to do, and that holds true with writing as well. I’ve called these random babblings ‘morning pages’ if I want to be writerly, ‘priming the pump’ or ‘freewriting’ most of the time, and if I’m angry/upset/stabby/etc, ‘bloodletting.’ It’s that whole bodies in motion tend to stay in motion sort of thing. We like motion.

Which is why, today, you get this. I am giving myself a challenge. One page of freewriting every weekday morning this week, posted here. That’s the goal. If I tell the interwebs I’m doing it, then I have to follow through. Pictures may be present, but do not count toward page count. Happy Dance Friday will likely count toward fulfilling this challenge, unless faithful readers like you want a double post with extra rambling.

What goes through your head before you get down to business for the day?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Saturday At The Movies #95 - The Beauty Inside

No, you're not seeing things. It may be Monday, but Saturday at the Movies is back. Though I'm excited about the new TV season, today's feature is a Saturday at the Movies first - a web original.

I first stumbled onto The Beauty Inside by accident , when it came up before the video I'd meant to watch. Average guy gets out of the bed where his female companion still slumbers and furtively dresses in clothes that obviously do not fit. In voiceover, he introduces himself as Alex and mentions he has a condition- every time he wakes up, he's a different person. Literally.

They had me right there. Alex, played by, well, many different actors, never knows if the body that gets out of bed the next morning will be male, female, old, young, pretty, ugly, fat, thin, Caucasian, African-American, Asian, Hispanic, etc, etc, etc. Alex supports himself (voiceover is always male, and Alex seems to identify as such) by restoring antique furniture and doing business online. One gets the impression Alex knows how to handle this, and though it's far from normal, but normal for him. Work, one night stands, and a daily video diary so that he can keep track of who he's been. His bodies never repeat, so each diary entry ends with the same phrase, "that's it for me."

Now that we have the Ordinary World part of the story established, it's time for our protagonist to find his complication, and it comes in episode two, which introduces a love interest, Leah. Alex meets Leah when he ventures into the antique store where she works. He and Leah share the same passion for antiques, Alex is physically attracted to her and the chemistry is palpable...but how can he pursue a relationship when he doesn't know who he'll be tomorrow?



All I'm going to say is that there is a happily ever after. For those who love watching actors do this thing, this is a smorgasboard. While a couple of the Alexes will be familiar to the casual viewer, most will be new, which fits the character and the story. Since this film was cast on the internet, with an open call, there's a huge variety of Alexes, consistent with the single character.

The love story is gorgeous, one perfect night of sneaking into a museum to indulge their mutual love of the past, capped by Alex's bittersweet voiceover that he would see Leah again, but she would never see him. Or is there something he could do about that? Leah's journey to discovery and acceptance of Alex's condition is beautifully acted, and if this were made into a traditional television series, I can only imagine the dazzling array of Alexes we might encounter. There are only six episodes, and Alex and Leah's romance is complete, but I do have to add them to the list of couples I ship. This is one love story romance fans won't want to miss.

First episode here:

Friday, September 21, 2012

Happy Dance Friday #109 - SYTYCD Season 9 Finale and Hypothetical Publishing Ramblings

If I ever come into possession of a publishing house (and in this day of digital publishing, I can't gaurantee that will never happen; no plans in the works, just saying) I already know what the first anthology would be. Bad Boys of Dance. Or Bad Boys Who Dance, if Brava owns the Bad Boys of... thing.

It's all built in right there; passion, music, the physical, emotional and spiritual natures of dance, which, in itself requires a connection between partners, as does romance. Which is one of the reasons that, when a dancer clicks with my creative mind, they really click. Which is one of the reasons I was, to put it mildly, pleased with the results of SYTYCD season nine. Loved that there were both male and female winners, and Eliana absolutely deserves a post of her own, but we'll stay with Chehon, aka "that guy who was really really good" according to my DH (who insists he doesn't like watching dance, but asked if the town to which we are moving has a ballet company as we watched Chehon's final solo -it does- and came out of another room when I alerted him to the Cyrus/tWitch animation routine, which is for another post. No, I have not learned my lesson from the Mia Michaels theme week and have not forgotten about the final part of that.)



But I digress. There really was no bad way for the vote to go with the final two guys, and I would have been happy with a Cyrus win. The inherent conflict of classically trained vs never took a class in his life prior to the audition, that's compelling viewing.



Still, there was part of me that really wanted to see a ballet dancer win, so double the pleasure with Team Ballet.



What about you, faithful readers? Are you satisfied with the SYTYCD winners this year? Romance readers, would you like to read a book with a dancer hero or heroine? Dancers, why is your dance form perfect for inclusion in a romance novel? Leave a note and weigh in.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Happy Dance Friday #108g - Dueling Benches

Happy Dance Friday comes early this week, as I'll be away from keyboard for most of the day tomorrow. This entry could almost stand on its own, because both performances affected me very deeply, but each has their own unique flavor, so onward we go.

There's nothing like the first time, really and seriously. As soon as I saw Travis and Heidi on that bench and the first few notes of music sounded -shoot, before that- I knew this was going to be something special. I wasn't wrong. This man and this woman try to connect; she comes closer, he can't help but move farther away, though reluctantly. She leaps at him, he catches her, they spin, but there's a poignant ache.



When they touch-but-don't-touch, through the freaking bench, people, it's no wonder the audience goes crazy. This depth of emotion, this is what draws me to stories that have that beautiful heart-hurt. Gorgeous. Though this is by now a moment dance fans know well, the first time I ever saw the man walk away at the end, leaving the woman with her outstretched flower, made all the more poignant by Heidi's presentation as an ingenue, it was a powerful surprise.

Have to admit that I was excited to see Chehon and Witney would be interpreting this story. It's interesting to see that the woman would be played, again, by a blonde ballroom girl from Utah (and they do tend to rock, so no complaints) and while Travis and Chehon are very different types, nobody does those leaps and spins like the ballet boys. Can I say there was a certain European flavor to this interpretation? I think that worked favorably, both in making this a distinctly different performance while still keeping the feel of the piece, and fitting Chehon and Witney's unique stregnths. Nice acting as well, with the facial expressions. When Chehon melts off the bench, it still packs a punch, even though we know the man is going to walk off, leaving the woman alone.



Verdict: Apples and pears. Both delicious, like spending time with two members of the same delightful family. Well done.

How about you, dance fans?

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Of Unexpected Intermissions, Getting Back on the Metaphorical Horse and Other Oddments



Life happens. I could leave this entry at that. Full disclosure: part of me would like to. I'm two dances behind on what should have been a week-long series of posts, behind two whole episodes of SYTYCD, and wth happened to Saturday at the Movies? Plus all of those writing and reading posts that need to be up here, yeah, behind on those.


So why not throw hands up in air, say I'm too far gone to fix things and slink away (preferably to a gallon of Cherry Garcia and a rewatch of Moonlight?) I've thought about that, too. Would I like some cheese with my whine? Yes, I would, thank you; a nice Swiss, with some lean ham, on rye, with mustard, toasted the tiniest tad, would be great. Yes, life happens to everybody, she's been this route before, and may be this way again. That's part of the territory. The trick is how to respond to it.

Have I found the perfect solution? Not yet. Though I will be teaching an online workshop, Save the Writer, Save the Book, with longtime writing friend, Melva Michaelian, in October. More on that later. Right now, the important thing is to get this post up because A) it's on my list, B) I could use the advice myself, and C) to quote my mother, the more you do, the more you'll want to do.

Saying "I'm tired" is not a sign of weakness. It's a statement of fact. Look at it this way; how far could you drive the best car in the world, without refilling the tank? Those of us who write and read historical romance know that no matter how eager our characters are to get from point A to point B, they are going to have to stop and change horses because the beasties can only take so much. Plus it affords the opportunity for inn scenes. I like inn scenes.

I also like historical romance. No, scratch that. I love it, and making sure I take in things I love is essential to my well being as a writer and a person. Which is why, a couple days ago, in the midst of a morning where my attention was needed here, there and everywhere (or so it seemed) I hunkered down on the couch with an afghan (yay for cool mornings) and read a chapter of The Perfect Scandal by Delilah Marvelle. Best thing I could have done for myself at the moment. I am now carrying it in my purse because I am one chapter away from the end and reading feels good, and if I have to shut myself in a public bathroom stall to get my dose during today's multitude of errands, so be it.

How do you find time to nurture your creative self when life happens?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Happy Dance Friday #108f - SYTYCD Dueling "Time" 6/8

First off, full disclosure. This routine, about Mia's relationship with her father, came the first time when I was caring for my father, who had Alzheimer's. That was near the end of the road for him, so that probably colored my experience. I know it's a very emotional piece for many, very close to the choreographer's heart, but I don't love it. Don't hate it either. Don't really anything about it, so this won't be the most emotional recap.

I do like the contrast of the costuming - the all white ensembles of the dancers, against the rainbow of flowers on the ground, and the emotion of the joy shared between the man and the woman -in this case, a father and his adult daughter- comes through clearly. Lacey is still a favorite of mine, so she's always fun to watch.



I was eager to see if different dancers would provide a different viewing experience for me, and went into this with an open mind. Audrey certainly fits the sweetness of the character, and if there's any dancer who should be frolicking in a field of flowers, she'd be my pick. Matthew's wistful/joyful facial expressions in his first closeup fit nicely as well, though as Nigel says, the essence of that particular character could have been a bit stronger.



Splitscreen from Jroxy13:

Verdict: It's not them, it's me. Really pretty, though.

How about you, dance fans?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Ten Questions With Gerri Brousseau

Historical romances of the piratical sort have always been among my favorites, and if I can combine such with another of my favorite things, talking with like-minded writers, I consider that time exceedingly well spent. So it is that I'm pleased to announce two debuts: A Pirate's Ransom by Gerri Brousseau, and a new feature here at Typing With Wet Nails. I first met Gerri at a meeting of Charter Oak Romance Writers, and was pleased to find that we both share a love of pugs and historical romance novels.Which made Gerri a natural choice to introduce my Ten Questions feature, but more on that later. If that cover has whet your appetite, read on.

1) When did you first know you were a writer?

That’s difficult to say because I have been writing stories since I was about 8 years old and I was the editor of my high school newspaper. As an adult, I worked in the legal field and wrote law briefs. So, I guess I have always been writing. I think in a past-life I must have been a scribe.

2) What draws you to historical romance?

I have always been enchanted with the romance of certain periods in history, such as pirate times, knights in shining armor, the French revolution, and the civil war, just to name a few. Although these periods may not ring “romance” I’m sure there was romance going on at the time. I have always looked at history as the story told about what happened, but I always wondered what stories were not told; stories of the people history happened around. “ ... It was the best of times, it was the worst of times ...” yes, the French revolution was not particularly romantic, but I ask myself how those people survived. Who found romance in the midst of their circumstances and what made them strong and made their love survive. That’s what intrigues me, imagining and writing those stories.

3) How long had you been writing before receiving the call (or the email)?

The first novel I ever wrote was According to Legend (release from Soul Mate Publishing 11/12) which I wrote in 2009, but set it aside. Subsequently, I wrote a second novel (under consideration for publication at the time of this interview) and then in July of 2011 I completed A Pirate’s Ransom. I submitted Pirates and Legend to Soul Mate Publishing in March of 2012 and they snapped them up. All in all, that was pretty quick. Certainly nothing like some of the horror stories I have heard. I really can’t complain. I’m actually pretty excited because that first book is not in a box under my bed, but is being published.

4) What was the first thing you did after you heard you’d sold? I got an email at 10:30 p.m. so I couldn’t call anyone. I screamed, I jumped up and down and I did the happy dance with the pugs. Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep that night!

5) What was your inspiration for A Pirate’s Ransom?

Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow. Oh, sorry (excuse me while I wipe the drool from my chin) ... well, maybe he did have a bit to do with it. I’m sure I’m not the only woman who would find him to be an inspiration. However, I have always loved the romantic notion of being swept away by a handsome pirate, and wanted to try my hand at writing about it. I hope I have done it justice but I do have to tell you, I’m totally in love with my handsome, rogue, Pirate Captain Edmund Drake.



5) Tell us something that very intriguing book trailer doesn’t tell us about Edward and Catherine (and Blackbeard.)

Something only briefly mentioned in the book trailer, the Duke of Devonshire. He does play a larger part in this tale, but you’ll just have to read the book to see where my story takes you. (wink)

6) What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve ever received? The best advice was NEVER, NEVER, NEVER GIVE UP!!!

The worse: one editor told me I should go to school to learn how to write. It should be noted here that this happened only weeks before I got the call and sold not one, but two books.
I would like to say to any writer who might be reading this. I had “friends” tell me I was crazy to think I could be a writer and ever get published. I had one “friend” in particular who actually said, “Do you actually think you will ever make enough money writing to ever be able to quit your day job?” Writers, get away from these people. DO NOT listen to them. Keep writing, keep submitting and never give up.

7) What is your all time favorite romance novel? Your most recently read?
Right now I’m reading The Undead Space Initiative by Casey Wyatt and I’m really enjoying it. My favorite novel of all time ... wow, that’s a tough one, I have a few I could read and re-read, and I do love Mister Darcy, but I could never pick a favorite. I will tell you though that the very first romance novel I ever read was The Flame and the Flower by the late Kathleen Woodiwiss, and I was hooked.
8) Surprise! I hid a parrot in your office while you worked on final edits for A Pirate’s Ransom. (Don’t worry, he’s back home now.) What three words or phrases did the parrot learn during that time?

Arrr ... I thought I heard that rascal. I apologize if he’s now screaming “OMG! You want me to add what??? WTF!”
Three words he would have learned: scoundrel, derriere and courtesan.
Here are three phrases he may have seen:
1. Spoken by Captain Drake to Lady Catherine (Countess of Dorset): “Countess, why must I continually remind you that you are, in fact, my prisoner, and as such, you are in no possession to be making demands? Now, if you would kindly excuse me, my crew awaits.”
2. Spoken by Lady Catherine to the Quartermaster, Tobias Smith (don’t you just love that name?): “To devil with the Captain and his orders.”
3. Spoken by Captain Drake to Lady Catherine: “Every Lady needs a scoundrel in her life.”

9) Imagine you’re browsing your favorite bookstore and encounter that rarest of birds, a curious reader who has never heard of a romance novel. In one sentence, how would you define the genre to this reader?

A handsome hero enters into an adventure where he meets a beautiful heroine and sweeps her off her feet, but circumstances and conflict separate them, yet they strive to overcome these circumstances and ultimately find love.

10) What can your readers look forward to next?

In November 2012 Soul Mate Publishing will release According to Legend. I hope my readers will enjoy this time travel novel. Legend has it that when the spirit of the Tribal Princess is born again and she holds the enchanted stone in her hand, the lovers will be reunited ... even through time. This story is about a woman who comes into possession of a dream catcher (which has the enchanted stone woven into the net) and through her dreams she is drawn back in time and into the arms of the handsome warrior chief. This story actually takes place right here in my home state of Connecticut. For more information on this adventure romance, I invite you to visit my website www.gerribrousseau.com where I share more about it.

Thanks for stopping by, Gerri. I know what's going on my TBR pile. Readers, if you're convinced, too, stop by Gerri's site or cut right to the chase and get your copy directly from Soul Mate Publishing here.

Readers, if you are an author of historical romance and would like a crack at Ten Questions (and don't mind sharing your office with a parrot, hypothetically speaking) drop me a line at AnnaCBowling@gmail.com.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Happy Dance Friday #108e - Deuling Beds 5/8

The bed dance. Three words, and a whole story is told right there. I'd never heard "Dreaming With a Broken Heart" before seeing the original performance of this, but it immediately went on the playlist I have for my I Would Know You manuscript. There's a raw, unbearable emotion that plays across the man's face as well as the movements of his body, testament to tWitch's (aka Stephen Boss) acting skill. He hits us hard with the pure, unadulterated grief too many of us know too well, capturing that moment between sleep and waking, that moment of remembering a loved one is gone. That desperate reaching. Angstbunny me clamped right onto that, and it was as pure a picture as I could see of my tormented hero, Anthony's longing for his believed-dead Christine.

This could have worked as a solo, highlighting the man's aloneness, but when the woman, the shade of his beloved, appears behind the bed, sliding into it, but still out of his reach, angh, my heart. Add to that her own frustration - does she, too, want to be next to him once more, but can only look? Then we have rose petals exploding everywhere, the lyrics with that it-makes-sense-in-grief question of the man grasping at even giving her gifts in his dream, and reality crashes in. No, she's gone. I dissolve at the sequence that starts at 1:15 below. All it takes is the eye contact to hear the entire conversation. No, she's not back. Yes, she's really gone. Yes, he has to live on without her. No, she didn't want to go. Yes, this sucks. It's raw and it's bleeding and it's gorgeous.



I have to admit to being really curious as to who would essay this dance in the new version. Dareian and Janelle, again, have very different physical types from Kherington and tWtich, which does help differentiate the two performances. I liked that Mia tailored the choreography to showcase the dancers. Dareian's spin at 2:40 was gorgeous, another rip my heart out moment. I do appreciate Janelle sharing that this dance came at a pertinent time in her life. Method dancing? Could be. Dance begins at 1:35:



I got a different feel from this performance, more vulnerable than raw, but still very effective. Dareian gave the male character an everyman quality. This is our brother, our friend, our neighbor, and this is one night of many he's alone with his pain. He'll get through the day all right, but the night, well, that's rough.

The female character was a bit harder for me to grasp. First, that's part of the story. She's dead, for one thing. Second, while Janelle has really gorgeous curls, for me, that obscured some of the facial expressions that convey the character and relationship. The soulful eye contact in the original becomes a gentle head shake. Still a sad "no, I'm not here," and a valid acting/choreograpic choice, but I missed the facial expression. Especially since this is far different from Janelle's usual dance persona. This couple feels younger to me, and can make it a sweeter ache.

Now for the split screen, courtesy of jroxy13:


What I found most interesting here was who I watched, and when, given the chance to see both routines at the same time. tWitch and Kherington have me one hundred percent at the eye contact, but when Dareian does his spin, then I'm there 100% as well. For me, tWitch's character was bleeding his pain, Dareian's soldiering on, and they both have me. My notes say "the original is the movie; the remake is the tv series." The same heart is there, but one is bigger, one quieter, both effective. What about you?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Happy Dance Friday #108d - Deuling Koops 4/8

Ah, the b*tt dance. "Koops" in the post title is to avoid disappointing those whose search engines were looking for posts about b*tts (same reason for asterisks) because while this is a dance focused around a b*tt, it's an artistic b*tt, not a salacious b*tt. Not that I believe for a minute that the man character doesn't have pictures of women's b*tts wherever it is he hangs that hat of his, because I'm guessing he does. Man of mature years admiring the posterior of a potential paramour several years his junior is not the highest of concepts, but (no pun intended) it packs an impact.

One of the aspects that stands out for me the most from the original Randi and Evan performance is not on the clip, that of Evan's charming apologies to Randi's husband for having to focus on Mr. Randi's wife's b*tt all week. It's that contrast between the decency of Evan-the-dancer and the character of the dirty old man in this performance that ramps the latter up a notch and makes me admire the talents of the younger Mr. Kazprzak all the more.

As for Randi, I can definitely see the Mia in her performance and the character of the woman fits in with the whole world of this story. I'm thinking 1930s, slightly seedy town, possibly by the sea, and this ain't this gal's first rodeo. She's at least willing to accomodate her companion, and the relationship is fun to speculate. Plus the look is dead-on, but enough of my blabber.



I have to admit that I actually squeed when I saw that Amelia had been cast in the new version, because honestly, is there any other choice? Her 1920s persona and look fit perfectly here, and I had to wonder if this was going to surpass the original, even as I wondered if that was possible. My Google-fu skills did not turn up a performance-only clip, so dance begins at 2:20 below:



Will's interpretation of the man struck me as both more humorous and dirtier than Evan's, though the head waggle could have been taken down a notch. Amelia's presentation gets an elebenty out of ten for capturing the look of the story. I knew she'd (and hair/makeup/wardrobe)nail that. I also want her shoes.

For me, this was more a case of apples and oranges. I like both versions, and maybe it's the different physical types of the dancers -Evan's more compact physique isn't the same as Will's tall and lanky frame, and while Randi and Amelia are both gorgeous, they have very distinctly different "types." I think that went a long way towards letting me take this new version in without constantly (only sometimes) referencing the original in my brain.

Have to say that this is the split screen I've had the most fun watching so far. It puts me in mind of two different but related stories set in the same world, and I could definitely go for that. Final verdict for me is apples and oranges; different from each other, but both delicious. Also going in the idea file.



Oh, and b*tt b*tt b*tt b*tt b*tt b*tt b*tt b*tt b*tt.
Because it's fun typing "b*tt."

Monday, August 20, 2012

Happy Dance Friday #108c - Dueling "Hometown Glories" 3/8

Were I one of the dancers during Mia Michaels week, and were I to draw "Hometown Glory," there would likely be a few minutes of breathing into a paper bag. First, Mia Michaels choreography in general. Second, the deeply atmospheric Adele song. Third, it was originally performed by Katee and Joshua. Fourth, and possibly most important, the assisted run. Granted, I'm not a professional dancer, so I have no idea what goes into actually executing something of that nature, but from an audience sort of seat, it's amazing, so conjecture is allowed.

This is one of those performances that sticks with me years after first seeing it, and the lyrical dissonance of the claustrophobic cloud looming over the melody, compared with the rather well adjusted lyrics teeters on the line of something amazing. Or maybe that's only me. I'll grant that I don't get the choice of mock mohawk on Katee, but small quibble.



While Mia says this is the story of two people on their own journeys, who then collide, my brain insists this takes place in the hours before dawn, a pair of characters desperate to escape their current situations. Maybe not sure that was even a possibility, but they clash, collide, and ultimately the two struggles become one, and continue. I love the grim determination on both Katee and Joshua's faces, the straightness of the initial movements contrasted with the frenetic struggle of the rest, and then the assisted run - I'd never seen anything like that. Amazing.

When I first saw that this would be performed by Tiffany and George, I wondered if it would have that same sense of impending peril. Tiffany and George seemed perfectly suited, to me, for the NappyTabs babysitter routine, and this is, well, different. There's more vulnerability here, which has its own flavor and stays true to the overall atmosphere. The choice to leave Tiffany's hair mostly loose adds an added visual, especially the sequence starting at about 0:43. The assisted run didn't hit me as hard as the Joshua/Katy version but it can't be easy to pull off for anyone, and when the bar was set that high, any comparison can be hard to make. The finish, as well, has that vulnerability that's softer, but still effective.



Splitscreen, courtesy of JRoxy13:


Definitely still prefer the Katee/Josh version, but I think this one had its own merits as well. What about you, dance fans?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Happy Dance Friday #108b Dueling "Mercy" 2/8

When I decided to compare this week's performances to the originals, my first question was which to look at first. Not as easy a task as it seems. For most of us, the original performances are what we know, unless, like the week's guest judges, the ballet boys, they had not seen the original and then the new performance is all they know. There's also the fact that Mia choreographs for the original dancers, and stepping into someone else's role has an added challenge.

Still, I want to look at the new performance in its own merits. What do these dancers bring to the performance? Are their characters unique while still maintaining the flavor of the piece? making something the same but different is a tough challenge, and one writers of genre fiction face on a regular basis. Reach happily ever after, solve the crime, save the world, come of age, etc, but in a different way with each new story. It's all in the details, and that's what makes comparing the same dances with different dancers this much fun for me.

That said, it's time to get down to business. For ease of writing, each dance story will have two characters, the Woman and the Man. tWitch and Katee's original performance has a definite dynamic to it. I get the craziness of the relationship, the Man's easy swagger, his cooler demeanor contrasted with the woman's perpetual and prickly determination. I imagine the man has been through this scenario before. He's doing what a man does in his own home, and then she's baaaaack. He opens the door, there's the kiss and it's on.



All wrapped up with that achingly vulnerable look on the woman's face when the door closes with her on the outside yet again.

Love tWitch, love Katee, so I was curious who they'd put in this version. Cyrus and Eliana definitely put their own spin on things. Cyrus' interpretation of the man seems younger (understandably) and Eliana's woman strikes me as less deranged and more aggressive. What stands out to me most for the flavor of the new performance is at about fifty seconds in, where the man puts the woman outside the door. The man flat out grins. (Yes, tWitch's character grinned as well, but this has a different feel.) I like the way that fits in with Cyrus' looser movements, giving, to me, a more humorous take on this scenario. I don't think the man minds the woman's actions as much as the previous incarnation, and when the woman finds herself shut out at the end, I would suspect she'd be back before too long. Like Nigel, I would not have been surprised if the woman had been the one to shut the man out this time.



I don't know if anything like this exists for the other performances, but I found an interesting split screen of both versions here:



Okay, dance fans, which version did you prefer? Apples and oranges? Mix and match? Are there any other dancers you'd want to see perform this routine? If you were/are a dancer, would you ever want a crack at such choreography?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Happy Dance Friday #108a - SYTYCD Mia Michaels week 1/8

Well.

Ahem.

You may have noted the "a" at the end of the post number, and there's a reason for that. The reason being that my birthday and Christmas seem to have come early this year and at the same time, with the first ever SYTYCD episode devoted to one choreographer, Mia Michaels, who happens to be my favorite contemporary choreographer (Travis Wall a close second, but more on him later.) Those who also read the Saturday at the Movies posts know that I like to compare remakes to the original, (as in post #39, Dueling Alfies) so when the top fourteen dancers get to recreate some of Mia Michaels' classic routines, there is only one thing this blogger can do.

Individual recaps. Yes, you read it right. This is a seven part Happy Dance Friday. Considering that real life things are happening at Stately Bowling Manor, Sunday is double booked (most likely) with committments, and other things are on Schroedinger's schedule (must plan to both do X and not do X until I know which way things go) more than usual, this does pose a challenge, but I think it's worth it. I tried condensing things into a single post and it couldn't be done.

So. We'll start with the opening group number. Nigel called this the Fifty Shades of Grey dance. I didn't make that connection, but then again, I haven't read the book (bailed out of the Masters of the Universe version at chapter five, for full disclosure)but if Nigel Lythgoe ever wants to name one of my titles on national TV, he can apply it to any choreography he wants. Mia looked a bit befuddled by the connection, so I'm guessing it's not on her nightstand.

I'm not familiar with Active Child or "Hanging On," but I know Mia Michaels always provides something special, so when I saw the combination of formalwear, birdcage skirts, the black/white/red color scheme, and cables coming from the ceiling, I knew we were going to see something out of the ordinary. Then we have flying dancers, roses flung about, amazing music, and it's bliss. YouTube is not liking me at the moment, and I'm getting long-winded, so clip posted by IdolXFactor2, here:



Best viewed fullscreen, because there is so much going on. I'm going to have to view this one a couple more times before I can comment more, but it definitely made me sit up and take notice, and whetted my appetite for what's to come.

How about you, dance fans? Are single-themed weeks a good idea for SYTYCD? If you could get Mia Michaels to choreograph any dancers to any music what would you pick?

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Saturday, Not at the Movies

Photobucket No movie talk today (well, sort of. Postulating post on BBC's amazing White Heat miniseries, which will come later) but as my Second Life avatar ponders her world, (click to embiggen, and that is a theater behind her, so it sort of counts)I got pensive.

The northeast US is currently boiling in the sixth or seventh (I have lost count) heat wave of the summer, and the humidity level is at "swimming pool." DH wasn't up to attending our friends, Mary and Brian's, renewal of vows today, which was gorgeous and spiritual and romantic and intimate. I am declaring that we sat at the fun table for the reception, and I got to be a reception rock star by lending a set of multicolored highlighters to the six year old seated next to me (yes, this was a grownup table)so she could draw and color page after page of scary heart shaped guys. I have great hopes for this kid and her awesome aunt. Plus the bride insisted we have seconds on cake, and one cannot say no to the bride.

After the reception, my friend Linda and I headed to Barnes and Noble, coming away with a knitting magazine for her, the new issue of Where Women Create for me (which I first noticed because my brain said "Tessa got the cover, awesome!" Yeah, brain goes straight to Highlander shipping. Can you spot the romance writer here? No, that was not HL's Tessa nor her actress, Alexandra Vandernoot, but that's beside the point.) and of course a historical romance novel we will share, because that's what friends do. This time around, it was Persuasion by Brenda Joyce, which I will devour soon, but I may first want to wallow in Almost a Scandal by Elizabeth Essex.

I finished that in the wee hours of the morning and still want to marinate in the excellence. Scandal avoided, believably so, heroine disguised as male in a seagoing story, British navy, love the heroine's surprise sister-in-law/friend; all good stuff. I still have another of her books at home yet to read and need to go nab one more.

My humidified brain asks me where I was going with this, but I can tie it in. Mary and I first met and then bonded over a shared love of historical romance, so it was only natural I went straight to the bookstore after the reception. All of which puts me in the right mood to go home, shove DH over so I can sprawl on the bed in front of fan and air conditioning and fill my historical romance well, because there's a new work week coming, and I can't wait.

Oh, and that mist? It's swirling. I like swirling mist.

How's your weekend going?

Friday, August 03, 2012

Happy Dance Friday #107 - SYTYCD Romance Anthology?

Season nine of SYTYCD is not disappointing, and while we're on a two week break from my favorite summer show due to that sporting event, what we got on the most recent episode gives us a lot to feast off in the meantime. Seeing as how I'm one week behind, I'm counting that as very considerate of them. More details will follow later, as I like playing armchair judge, but on a tight schedule today, so hitting the high points.



Witney and Chehon's Mandy Moore contemporary had Anna bait smeared all over it. Let's take stock: ballroom dancer and ballet dancer tackling contemporary, classic song written by Dolly Parton, sung by Whitney Houston, angsty romantic storyline...stunning.

Lindsay and Cole also impressed and good mercy, the lighting in this one made me want to go play with my mixed media art. Or maybe Photoshop Elements. Okay, probably both in the end, but the shadows, people. Gorgeous.



No wonder at all why Amber and Brandon's Ray Leeper jazz routine got such a reaction. Baby making performance indeed. This felt like the sticky, steamy South, a peek back in history (which naturally got my attention) and two characters whose love for each other is stronger than the challenges life throws in their way. Hm, kinda like a romance novel when one comes to think of it.



Come to think of it, a little tweaking here and there, and there could be a darned good romance anthology in these routines. What stories do you see in this week's performances? What author(s) do you think could tell them best? Hint: it's okay to put your own name in there. Inspiration is for everybody.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Writing for Fun

Writing for fun has been on my mind a lot lately, because real life has taken one of those turns that can best be described as "aaaahhhhhhh." The robot uprising has begun within my own personal electronics as multiple devices decided to go belly up or seriously wonky at the same time (Linda, Kara, E and la, you have saved my patoot as well as my sanity) and at least one is one replacement part away from having more than I'd like in common with Frankenstein's monster.

Which goes a long way to explain my recent absence here. A beloved uncle passed, our family is looking at a long anticipated interstate move that may happen in quick fashion, a heat wave and summer cold do not cancel each other out, and I am using the Not at Nationals tag here, as, despite my best intentions, blogging about not being at Nationals did not happen during the course of the actual gathering. Nope, did not go this year, but I will make it at least once. :shakes fist at monitor:

So, writing for fun relates to this how? I will admit that it's easy to get distracted and off on bunny trails. I will admit that those of us pursuing a career in commercial fiction do need to pay some attention to market trends, the state of the industry, the state of the genre, and nobody but me is going to write my book, same as nobody but you is going to write yours. A page a day is a book in a year and butt in chair, fingers in keyboard, yes, all of that is true. Writing is a business and those of us who are in it have to do the work.

At the same time, where is the love? I've thought back recently to those afternoons of cobbling together a desk out of tv trays and letting the story spill out of me because I knew it, I lived it, and the characters had to get out of my head and onto the page. (Though in full disclosure, do they really leave?) Right now, I'm overhauling a ms I've already written...and rewritten. It's natural in such endeavors to get bogged down with the "do I have to go over this again?" refrain. Who cares? I know how it turns out, so good enough and on to the next? Well, no. If it were, I wouldn't be writing.

While I'm doing the grownup writer thing by putting butt in chair and fingers on keyboard/pen in hand/chalk on cave wall (refer to robot uprising mentioned above)there's still a need for fun to keep the spark alive. Sort of a dating your spouse thing. In real life, DH knows that ordering takeout and suggesting trips to Barnes and Noble keep him in my good graces, especially when in full on writer crank. It's the same in writing. I've found a need to play in the mist, let characters have their way with me, perhaps toss around with a few like-minded souls. Not sure what track this will take, but knowing the need is halfway to fulfilling it, right?

Have you ever written only for fun? What's your favorite creative playground?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Happy Dance Friday #106 - SYTYCD epsiode 7 and Step Up Revolution preview

Note: I wrote this post before learning of the Colorado theater shooting, a cruel and traumatic event. Not a happy day to be sure, especially for those directly affected. Posting anyway because I do believe dance can heal and make a statement. Thoughts and prayers with Colorado.

SYTYCD:
Excited as I am about Step Up Revolution, especially with all the familiar faces -tWitch! Mia Michaels! Travis Wall! Philip Chbeeb!- and the focus on flash mobs, which I find fascinating, especially with all the sharp choreography and the costumes (I could stare at the suits and fedoras mob for ages, seriously)and to get a live number on the show, I could have gone for a bit more tWitch (okay, I have favorites, I'll admit.) Then again, not everybody can be the star of everything every time (they'd be tired!) and there were so many wonderful dancers that I can't complain. Really good to see Phillip Chbeeb again and having the dancers behind the judges as well got the energy up even higher. Also, I want Kathryn's dress.



All in all, really looking forward to this movie.

I do miss the result show, but the new format is fun, too. Less fun was having to bid farewell to Janaya, Alexa, Daniel and Nick. Hate to lose all of them, but competition is tough this year. Very pleased to have Chehon (aka "that guy who was really really good, according to DH, and yes, I will keep mentioning that b/c DH insists he doesn't like "the dancing show." I love him anyway.) and Witney still with us, especially after their amazing Bollywood display:



Love the speed, the precision, the sheer variety of movements that I'm guessing are not second nature to either ballet or ballroom dancers (at least not on this continent) and Nakul Dev Mahajan's choreography always shines. Loved this.

Other standout for the night for me was Amelia and Will's Sonya Tayeh routine. Softer side of Sonya? Who knew? Loved the lighting, loved the music, loved the acting from both dancers, and the whole bleak but hopeful feel.



What about you, dance fans? Any favorites so far?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Happy Dance Friday #105 - SYTYCD top twenty and post #600


So much stuff in the first competition episode of SYTYCD season nine that I'm going to have to resort to bullet points.

*Openng number involving Christopher Scott choreography and furniture!

*NappyTabs bebeh on the way! I am going to imagine that this is the sonogram:




*I know they said other stuff about the National Day of Dance, but I could not hear any of it over my own squee-ing upon hearing that Travis Wall will be performing the Mia Michaels bench routine with Allison Holker. I hope Heidi G is well and happy but Travis and Allison!

*Amelia as a kitty!

*Cyrus does Broadway choreography!

*Ballroom dancers drawing their own style! Paso doble and Viennese Waltz - my two favorite ballroom dances in the same show!

*Audrey and Matthew in Travis Wall routine with chaise lounge that they really need to return to my office. Loved the turn of the century setting and the use of "Unchained Melody," but Titanic the greatest love story? Oh Travis, Travis, Travis, I'll give you some romance novels when you drop the chaise off. Love stories are better when nobody dies, but more on that later.



*Not pleased that we're going to lose four dancers next week, as I still love everybody, but such is the nature of the beast. Couldn't vote this time, as I had to watch this on the DVR, so will feel slight twinge of guilt for whoever gets cut. I may have to come back for a more specific recap later.

What I am pleased about is that this makes post number six hundred for Typing With Wet Nails. Still rather impressed with myself that this has been going that long, and ready for more. I'd give you all cookies if I could for sticking with me, but since I can't find the cookie port on my laptop, here's Cookie Monster:

Friday, June 29, 2012

Happy Dance Friday #104 - SYTYCD Top 20 and Anna Finally Gets to Watch Bunheads

Robot Dance Party GIF - Robot Dance Party
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TV's summer cornucopia of dance programming continues with SYTYCD's top twenty reveal, and I finally get to watch the first two episodes of Bunheads. Let's take them one at a time.

SYTYCD: Oh the pretty. Where to start, where to start? The Top Twenty episode can be a mixed bag. There's the excitement of finding out who made the cut and who we hope will try again next year. It's an emotional time for everyone, but since there are only twenty spots and thousands of applicants, as it were, not everybody is going to get the nod. Not sure what dance credentials Zooey Deschanel has, apart from the New Girl interactive video, blogged about here, but if someone can educate me, that would be appreciated. Still, she's fun and enthusiastic, so I won't complain. We get two winners this year, one male and one female.

I'm happy with this year's top twenty. Very excited to see ballroom dancers Witney, Nick and Lindsey, as well as the classically trained Eliana, Daniel and Chehon (aka "that guy who was really really good," as my DH calls him.) Amelia has been a favorite of mine ever since her first audition, and I'm thrilled to see Cyrus from Dragon House will be getting a chance to compete. With these two as finely tuned as they are in their preferred styles, it's going to be interesting to see how they tackle the wide variety of choreography inherent in the show. Season nine brings, IIRC, the first belly dancer and the first stepper to make the top twenty, and even a gent who likes to blend dance with martial arts. Best of all, the group as a whole marked the return of Mia Michaels' choreography, which made me a very, very happy camper:



Did your favorites make the cut?

Bunheads: This went in a direction I definitely didn't expect. Not as much dance content as I'd thought there would be, though I've only seen up to episode two, and it's a lot of worldbuilding, as it were, getting us used to the people and places. Lead character Michelle is a dancer, working as a showgirl when we meet her, though I'm guessing she'd class her preferred style as Broadway. Even so when she ends up in the tiny town of Paradise, sans the only person she kindasorta knew there, she gets dropped into a ballet studio filled with teen girls (and a couple of guys; would love to see more there)and a former ballerina mother-in-law, Fanny, whose career ended with her first pregnancy. Tragedy strikes, the girls rally, there's a lovely spur of the moment ballet performance, and...the jury's still out. This may be more about fish out of water Michelle than anybody's drive to dance, but time will tell.

In the meantime, we are less than a month from National Day of Dance. How will you be observing? This clip of 200 SYTYCD moves in 200 second should give some good ideas.