Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I Had A Title For This

AlyneGarden2_001 While my Second Life avatar ponders this majestic garden (click picture to embiggen) I ponder the state of the afteroon. Ninety-two degrees, possible thundershowers according to AOL weather, but the sun is blazing. DH is also home and a day sleeper on days off after a busy shift, so to keep things quiet for him and to keep pale-skinned and heat-sensitive me from roasting, I seek out air conditioned venues on such afternoons.

I had a blog topic all ready to go when I opened this window, and it made sense at the time. It even tied into the choice of picture, but can I remember it now? Not a bit of it. I'm going to blame the heat, or maybe the humidity. Whichever one of them is making my brain wonky, could they please stop? Either way, I'm going to go with what I've got. At the moment, that's A) refreshing the selections on my mp3 player, and B) writing. Also putting away the laundry, but nobody wants to hear about that.

My morning was spent mastering the table function in Word, no mean feat for someone who regularly transposes numbers. I had to, though, because getting all my characters' vital information in one place means I do not have to sift through different drafts of the ms in search of said information when I need to check one thing before moving forward. Also because I am a special, special princess and all the character charts I had seen left me feeling like A) I had never met the characters I know better than my own family, because I couldn't think of a single thing to put in the helpfully labelled blanks and B) they left off important things like the character's theme song.

So, with the help of a more-technically-savvy-than-me writer friend, I set about modifying the modified character study (see what she...um...they, as I don't know who originally used the term "study" instead of "chart" did there?) to a format that would tell me what I needed to know, at a glance. Instead of being a chore, this was -dare I say it?- fun. There aren't blanks to fill in, not as such, but expandable boxes that will adjust their size to contain whatever verbose answers to the questions I've posed. Big surprise, but I get talky even with myself. Creating the tables took me the entire morning, and I only got the chance to fill in a few of them for my hero, but it felt right. Best part? I get to do more of it tomorrow. Or later tonight if I can't resist the urge to slip away from sleeping DH and sneak off to the keyboard.

There's reading to be done as well, as I have both my ereader and a paper book crooking their fingers at me, and trust me, if I hadn't been able to snag a seat near an outlet, my nose would have been deep in a reread of Pale Moon Rider by Marsha Canham (delicious highwayman story.) I already know that her Pirate Wolf duet-that-is-now-a-trilogy will be next, but by the time I reminded myself that I needed to reread the first two books, I was already ten pages into Pale Moon Rider, and queue forms to the left, thanks.

Either that or my first read of The Sinner by Margaret Mallory, the second in her Return of the Highlanders series. I liked the first book, The Guardian, as sixteenth century Highlanders are relevant to my interests. Big plus that the author's website has discussion questions, which means I must now make friends read these books so we can yak.

Only problem with wanting to settle in for a good evening's read (aside from the aforementioned laundry needing to be put away) is that our abode is currently comfy chair-less. The couch and I have reached a state of detente, the bedside lamp is on indefinite hiatus until we can get the wiring checked and as much as I love my ergonomic desk chair, it is not my first choice for reading in at hours at a stretch. I can fake semicomfy by sticking a pillow behind my back on the carpeted landing, especially good if I can aim the standing fan directly at myself, and really, what does it matter, because when I'm in the story, other things take a back seat.

All of which brings me to the fact that I have not chosen a default read option for this summer. Hm. Must let thhat one sort itself out. More on that later. Since this feels long winded even for me, I'm going to wrap for now and say goodnight. Time to rest so I can attack the keyboard anew in the morning. What will you be doing?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sunday Rambles: Of Missing Comments, Nick Hornby and Matters of Voice

First, comment issue should be fixed now. Though I have read about a bug with Blogger, I'm going to take responsibility with this one; I'd had my text and background colors too similar to see a difference. In short, the link was there, but invisible, which is not terribly helpful. Many thanks to those who clued me into the glitch.

To prove that I do actually read books, this weekend, I finished my a relisten (audiobook) of Juliet, Naked, by Nick Hornby. I first discovered Nick Hornby through the movie, About a Boy, which led me to track down the book, which led me to A Long Way Down and How To Be Good and his first YA novel, Slam. I have yet to read High Fidelity or his memoir, Fever Pitch, and while I'm aware of the US movie versions of both, I'm going to pass and hold out for the books.

I have my reasons. While there are Americans in some Hornby novels - JJ in A Long Way Down, Tucker from Juliet, Naked - Nick Hornby's voice is such an integral part of these stories that to see things transposed to a different continent and culture would be too much of a paradigm shift. Possibly along the lines of Gilbert Gottfried reading Fifty Shades of Grey. Which ties in with reason two, that, although I do love movies and TV, one of the very few things I like about the summer season is that the dearth of new programming does allow for more reading time.

Nick Hornby is not a romance novelist, though there are some memorable romances in some of his books, and Juliet, Naked, fits that bill. Not a romance, but a love story, and one which covers different sorts of love. Romantic love, successful and not, parental love, love of work (yes, really) and what makes me want to hug the author the hardest, love of fandom. No surprise, as his first work, Fever Pitch, is about his devotion to the Arsenal football team, and while the object of the fannish affection can change, fandom is fandom, and Nick Hornby gets it.

In Juliet, Naked, Duncan's devotion to reclusive former singer-songwriter Tucker Crow eclipses and eventually fractures his devotion to his longtime girlfriend, Annie, whose exception to this leads to her finding her own voice and the man behind the myth. Anyone who's been involved in internet fandom will understand the trolls, the bulletin boards, the fanon and that moment when what 'everybody knows' isn't what really is.

Given that one of my musical interests right now is tracking down acoustic versions of favorite songs, I'd love to be able to play the fictional albums, Juliet (in the story, an iconic 80's rock album) and Juliet, Naked, the acoustic demo version that fractures the fandom and the lives of our protagonists and the artist himself, and judge for myself which version I liked better. My best guess: apples and oranges. Both have their own merits, and when one, as Annie does in the book, goes straight to the source, the truth is somewhere in between. As a writer, I get that.

So. Rambling here, but on a Sunday afternoon, I'm allowed. What about you, faithful readers? Have you read Nick Hornby? What writers' voices ring true to you? Leave a comment, because now you can.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Saturday at the Movies #91 - The Woman in Black

I'd been waiting for a chance to see this one for a while, and when it showed up in On Demand exactly when the need for a movie hit, I took that as a sign. Adult Daniel Radcliffe in pre-WWI period dress, stuck in remote creepy (but breathtakingly gorgeous) house (that I would move into in a second, and since I don't have kids, the titular woman in black would have none to lure into her morbid clutches, so I think I would be reasonably safe, and my word, the atmosphere would be perfect for me) is enough to get me to see this, even though I'm not much for horror.

Let me correct that; I'm not much for gore. Horror, as in Edgar Allan Poe and Vincent Price and spooky 70s comics and Flowers in the Attic (book, not movie)is another matter, and I prefer psychological to supernatural, but that's another entry. The Woman in Black oozes atmosphere, and apart from one young girl who spews blood, it's not a gory movie. Creepy as all get out, though? Yeah. From the opening scene where three proper young Victorian(Edwardian? I'm foggy on the actual date of the story) girls stop playing with their porcelain dolls and, in unison, hop out the window (hint, they are not on the ground floor) we know we're in for some scares.

Though I haven't read the novel by Susan Hill, upon which this film is based, I like that the central horror is based on a local legend of a vengeful ghost, who has some serious "if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy" issues, but what stuck with me most was the atmosphere. Being a romance writer, I'd have ended things differently, there would have been a romance between Daniel Radcliffe's character and the nursemaid. Though if one looks at the actual ending from a Victorian novel point of view, one could say that was a sort of a happily ever after, from a certain perspective.

I'm definitely going to have to watch this again to pay closer attention to the story, as I was too busy gawking at the gorgeous grungy splendor to catch everything, so this movie may get a second post. As luck would have it, Janet McTeer, who impressed me mightily in Albert Nobbs, hit it out of the park again here as a woman who warns our hero of the ghost's doings. Bonus points for using a pair of chiuahuas dressed in sailor suits for dramatic effect.

While researching for this entry, I read that The Woman in Black will be getting a sequel, entitled Angels of Death. No Daniel Radcliffe, though, as this is set a few decades later, but if the atmosphere is done as well, I'll be there, and I'm fairly certain Mr. Radcliffe will be on the screen again in something else.

What do you think, film fans? Did you see The Woman in Black? Do you think it needs a sequel? How did Daniel Radcliffe do in his first grownup movie?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Happy Dance Friday #99 - SYTYCD Season Nine Flexes Creative Muscles


Does my Second Life avatar think she can dance? Still too soon to tell, but So You Think You Can Dance is back for season nine, and it's got me thinking.

While watching the New York and Texas auditions last night, it hit me why I love this show with such a fierce passion. Clue is right there. Fierce passion. Australian dancer Daniel Baker fell in love with the US as a child, and became a ballet dancer so he could get a US visa (and bonus points to him for understanding that one book can change a whole life.) Another dancer confessed to training "like a lab rat" to perfect his ability to flip over objects. Yet another didn't need to tell us that his dance interpreted the poignant loss of his dear friend in the 9-11 attacks; his body told us the story in the pure language of emotion. I greatly appreciate that this season, at least so far, has been focusing on the truly excellent dancers, and their passion shines bright.

We've all seen the other kind, those who, and I'm not naming names, state that their greatest ambition is "to be a celebrity," are twentysomethings who are convinced they know more than seasoned dancers with decades of combined experience, champions in their field, and in the case of Li'l C, can honestly say that they are the co-originator of a wildly popular dance style. Ugly attitudes do not impress anybody. Phenomenal artistry does.

I love SYTYCD because it shows artists in love with their art, whether classically trained or self taught, who push themselves to the limits of their knowledge base, and in doing so, come away with a whole slew of new tools for their artistic toolbox.

My very favorites, though, are the ones who know exactly who they are and bring us into their world, like flapper-obsessed Amelia Lowe. Maybe it's the strong connection to a bygone era, maybe it's that authorial voice is big on my mind lately or that my current heroine is a dancer, but all of the really good auditions from last night sent me away from the tv with a spring in my step and that burning passion to get some sleep and then pound some keys. We writers may not get a stage and an auditorium filled with our cheering peers (but sitting across a hotel dining room table from an editor or agent is pretty sweet, too,) and I think I'm safe in saying the majority of us are not staggeringly fit twentysomethings, but other than that, it's the same. We channel our burning passion through words, while they channel through movement, and the emotions we have the privilege of being able to touch are the same.

How are you going to flex your creative muscles today?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Saturday at the Movies #90 - Albert Nobbs

Historical romances with the heroine disguised as male for part of the story have been among my favorites for ages. Not that Albert Nobbs is a romance; far from it. There is the full immersion in the historical world, though. This time around, it's nineteenth century Ireland, in a hotel that's not the best and not the worst to be found, but it's getting by. Getting by as well is the titular Albert, played to perfection by Glenn Close. Perfectly proper, regimented, Albert has spent his working life as a waiter, his only respite his vague dreams of opening a tobacconist's shop at some point in a hazy future he's never measured. In lonely moments, he counts out his savings and imagines snatches of the life he might have.

One suspects Albert might have gone on like that were it not for the visiting Mr. Hubert Page, a house painter, whom the owner boards in Albert's room, despite Albert's protests. Albert, a woman who has been living as male since her teens, finds the close proximity too much to bear and the anxiety is palpable, especially when Hubert discovers Albert's secret. Albert cringes, both terrified and apologetic, but Hubert does nothing.

Soon enough, we find out why. Hubert, played to perfection by Janet McTeer, is also a female living as male, though with one important difference - a wife. Albert finds this fascinating, and as a restrained friendship forms, begins to add the idea of a wife to his tobacco shop dreams. His sight soon set on a maid, the blonde and pretty Helen, who is infatuated with the feckless Joe.

I won't go farther for those who haven't yet seen Albert Nobbs, but the real story here is in what isn't said. Silent looks say more than words in many cases. One scene, completely without dialogue, after a fever epidemic, when Albert and Hubert both venture outside in female clothing for the first time in decades, speaks volumes. Both actors do all the work with their posture and movements, one painfully poignant conversation executed entirely through facial expressions. Glenn Close can say more with locking a door and laying down on a bed than less competent actors can do with a whole movie full of dialogue.

The last act of this story fits with the tone of what's gone before, reminding viewers of difficult choices made in extenuating circumstances. One gets the sense that Albert hasn't quite been inhabiting the same world as those around him, and that the masculine appearance is only part of his story. We know only the facts of how Albert became Albert, but Albert keeps everything else close to the vest. His final reaction to an altercation between Helen and Joe says everything he has to say, again, without a word. His final reveal, as well, to one hotel employee, fits with everything else, entirely appropriate to the person Albert was. It may not be the happiest of endings, but it's the right one for this story.

What are you watching this weekend?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Happy Dance Friday #98 - Strictly Come Dancing

salemFilm Picture is unrelated to dance, but is part of my "save bad photos" project. Trust me, you don't want to see the original, but with a lot of work, I think there may be something there. Which ties in rather nicely with the fact that we are one week away from the SYTYCD season premiere. You know what that means. Auditions, the good, the bad and the ugly. Add on to that, those that defy description, in all of the above categories. Expect highlights as soon as they are available, but in the meantime....

Last week, I found out that one of my favorite STYTCD alums, Pasha Kovalev, is now one of the pros on the UK Strictly Come Dancing, which one could consider the parent (or sister?) show to Dancing With the Stars. So of course I had to investigate,

Let's give the man a warm welcome to his new job, shall we?

How great is it to see the rehearsal and performance footage spliced together like this?

I am starting to suspect hunting down Strictly Come Dancing online is going to be a neccessity, as they also have another SYTYCD alum in their midst, Artem Chigvintsev.

Well, that does it; I'm sold. SCD fans, what are your favorite pros and routines? What other international dance shows are worth a look?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Saturday at the Movies #89 - The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel andExplaining the Intermission

Funny Animal Captions - If I May Be So Bold
see more Funny Captions

It's been a while. Life happens. In this case, it was DH's brush with kidney failure (thank God and modern medicine, he's now fine and back at work) and the resulting caregiving and I will never ever take that most rare and beautiful thing, the nap, for granted even once for the rest of my life.

That being said, all of the above means there is indeed a need for movies and tv. With tv season coming to a close - season finales of both Bones and How I Met Your Mother air tomorrow- and summer, the season of needing to seek air conditioning approaching, I'm on the lookout for a few good films. Haven't seen this one around here yet, but The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel had me at hello. Bill Nighy, Dame Judi Dench, and it's set in India? Ticket, please; I do not need to hear anything more. Already sold. For those who require a bit more, how does this strike you?

Since I still like the Saturday at the Movies and Happy Dance Friday numbers to be the same, looks like I have some fancy footwork to do in order to get things current, but then again, we do have season finales, summer season shows starting, it's summer blockbuster season before too long, and we'll need to bid hail and farewell to a few shows that had one bright shining season (Alcatraz and Awake, I shall miss you, my lovlies.) What are you looking forward to viewing this summer?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Happy Dance Friday #97 - The Game's Afoot

I wasn't sure what I was going to blog about this week, but life does throw us surprises. Consider two friends who surprised me with a very useful item as a gift (but more on that later) and an intriguing item that showed up in my Facebook sidebar.

I would never have guessed that there's a Dancing With the Stars online game, but there is, and it's here. Or:

if that link doesn't work.

It may take a while to load, but the music is good. Players get to design an avatar of either gender, and choose a professional partner. I generally make my avatars redheads but that option wasn't available, at least at this level, for free, so I ended up with a blonde avatar who reminds me of my time traveling heroine, Summer. Nothing I'd intended, but eh, it happens, and I have her book on the brain, so I will deal.

Since it wouldn't be much of a ballroom game without a partner, that was the next step. Though Derek Hough was one of the options, I didn't pick him because he's Gerri's guy. Instead, I scrolled through other choices, worthy gentlemen all. Was leaning toward Maks because, well, Maks, but hold on a minute. They have Pasha? As in Pasha Kovalev? As in my secret dance crush? As in the new pro on Strictly Come Dancing? As in this guy:

Since Pasha may have had something to do with inspiring one of the characters in one particular story, playing this game will remind me to keep writing. I will admit that I got stuck in one phase of the game setup and couldn't seem to get Pasha dressed, but as a friend told me, that isn't a problem many women would complain about. I got over it, and though I'm still learning, I've mastered bronze level on the first skill and am looking forward to more. I don't know yet if one can have "friends" on this game, but if so, I'm Unzadi over there, and friendly competition is always welcome.

What about you, faithful readers and fellow dance fans? Will you be playing?

Friday, May 04, 2012

Happy Dance Friday #96 - Songs for writers?

Okay, so I have a bit of a Snow Patrol obsession at the moment. These things happen. Once in a while, I'll find a band or solo artist who strikes the right chord (pun intended) and I'll dive in headlong. Artistic videos, danceable and emotional tunes, it's all good.

We'll start off this week's dance party with "Called Out in the Dark." Gary Lightbody (singer, aka guy in green shirt in this video)always puts on a good show, but his character's efforts to appear in his own video remind me of all the times we writers find our stories get away from us. Can we get control back, or should we go with it, and who strode in to take center stage when we had different ideas? The nerve!

I also have a soft spot for bands covering hits by other artists, often putting their own spin on a known quantity, so how could I resist Snow Patrol covering Katy Perry's "Last Friday Night?" Bonus points for the performance being unrehearsed. My pantser writer friends, this one's for you, and who hasn't come out of a marathon writing session feeling a little fuzzy?

Try as I might, I did not have any success tracking down any SYTYCD routines that used "Crazy" as a backing track, but come on, this would be perfect. Dance fans, did I miss something? If you could design your perfect routine to this song, what would it be? Group, couple or solo? No video here, so push back the furniture and cut loose.

Do you have any favorite songs that remind you of rigors and rewards of the writing life? Comment below to share your suggestions.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

No ruby slippers over here, so onyx ones will have to do. Another conference down, suitcases unpacked, and back to the day to day business of writing. For extroverted writers like myself, and the delightful Mo, whom my roomie, Melva, and I chatted with on Friday night, a conference is the best of both worlds. It's often said that writing is a lonely profession, and writer's conference are filled with introverts pretending to be extroverts, and there is some truth to that. We extroverts find these things our natural habitats. Plunk us down in a hotel with a few hundred people who also love writing and reading romance? We're there. Don't need to ask us twice. Old friends, new friends, professional contacts, strangers, it's all good. One universal opening line, "so, what do you write?" is applicable in pretty much every single encounter. How great is that?

Of course, the free books at every meal don't hurt, and where else am I going to get mini red velvet cupcakes whenever I want them? Fabulous workshops, a lovely hotel, and a publisher chat that gave me a much needed aha moment to reignite my fire on a particular work. Two entire days where my entire identity was Romance Writer can mean quite a comedown when I return home and have to balance all the other hats of daily life on top of the sparkly tiara.

Book swag 2a, book swag en toto

Note that I said it "can" be, rather than it "must" be. I had a rush of post-conference letdown on Sunday evening; I'll admit to that much. All the fun was over and now it was time to put nose back to the grindstone. If only, I said to myself (okay, truth be told, to the stuffed pink flamingo who lives on top of my research books)there was a way to make the conference spirit last all year long, like Scrooge kept Christmas at the end of A Christmas Carol.

Book swag 2, book haul en toto

As it turns out, there is. Favorite bookmarks, postcards or other swag from those gorgeous promo tables can get a permanent spot on a bulletin or inspiration board, or in the pages of an art notebook, along with photos (click thumbnails to make bigger), packets or tags from some of the many cups of tea consumed and other ephemera. Associate a particular tea or treat with the conference? That's easy enough to duplicate at home. I didn't come home with any centerpieces this year (must be in counterpoint to last year, when I won all but one of them) and no giveaway baskets, but for those who did, there's another reminder.

Freebie table closeup, ...and magnets and postcards and Post-Its...

The best reminder, though, is the people. There may be no conference this week, but I am headed to my CORW meeting, in the company of conference roomie, Melva, and get to rehash the entire weekend with other members who were able to attend, and bring the virtual experience to those who weren't. I'm pretty sure nobody would dare challenge me if I decided to wear the tiara; nobody wants a repeat of last year.