Friday, October 21, 2016

A Hajek Autumn

 I've been writing a LOT of TV reviews lately. I mean, it is premiere season, so that's to be expected, but I figured I ought to insert a bit of a personal update too.

The new house continues to be amazing for me. When I am home, I have a lot of days where I have good energy and function. Being able to go outside in my own yard and garden has just been so wonderful.

That said, fibromyalgia and endometriosis are long-term illnesses, and just managing them (never mind curing them) is difficult and intense. We continue to seek out help and try new things, and every couple of months we figure out a new piece. However both illnesses bring debilitating days into my life, and I still periodically find myself in the ER with crippling migraines that take days to recover from.

A big piece of management has been staying close to home. Riding in the car or being away from the house for too long seems to raise the risk of a migraine or other disabling factors. We therefore have had to strictly limit travel to about 20 miles from our home, at most. This has made attending family gatherings difficult, if not impossible, and I've had to miss out on weddings and showers. This has been hard, but I am very grateful for how understanding everyone has been.

 Of course this also makes book promotion difficult, as I can't easily travel around to conferences, bookstores and libraries, doing the self-promotion appearances necessary to author success. We know God has brought this book to this point, and he will take it where it needs to go, but it is difficult to not be able to increase my contribution to our finances. Trusting God's plan is a daily endeavor! (I've been blessed with many friends posting about the book on Facebook, Instagram, Amazon and Goodreads. These posts DO help boost my sales and for that I am so grateful!)

On the book front I will add that I sent a not-quite-finished draft of my follow-up novella, "The Professor and the Siren" to my Beta readers two weeks ago. I still need to write the third act, which I'm struggling with because it is a bit unconventional in how the pacing will play out. I would appreciate prayers for God's guidance as I complete this!

The good news is that I've established several contacts to help me with the Scottish culture portion of the next novel, "The Selkie and the Queen." The bad news is that I've been sicker the past two weeks so I haven't been able to follow up with that as quickly as I needed to. :/

 Mateo continues to be a bundle of joy. He is growing like a WEED, hitting 13 and 1/2 lbs this week, just as he hit his six month mark. He is well on track to be bigger than either of his parents, and twice as big as at least three of his siblings. Puppy cuddles make my days so much better, even though he doesn't understand why some days Mommy isn't able to play with him. He is loving fall, as leaves make great toys, and he has great fun chasing the squirrels in our yard (I think my tomatoes will be a little safer next year...)

Speaking of yards, MN has been blessed with a very warm growing season. It is October 21st and my morning glories, roses and sweet alyssum are still blooming! In addition, we built a cold frame against the south side of our house, and I've got a crop of beets, spinach, lettuce and cilantro growing. Right now I'm experimenting with ways to keep the frame warm enough for another month or two to mature the crops. It's a fun challenge! It was especially cool to be able to construct the cold frame entirely from materials we either had on hand or found for free on Craigslist (including a wonderful double paned glass door!). The only money I spent on the project was purchasing my beet seeds!

Another recent passion has been getting into making kombucha. After my success with Gluten Free Sourdough Starter and Yogurt, I decided to finally accept my mom's offer of a SCOBY and start fermenting my own kombucha tea. Let me tell you, making a week's supply of tasty, healthy, drinks for about $2 is thrilling! (I use the recipe from Sally Fallon's "Nourishing Traditions" and my favorite flavor combo is raspberry/ginger/lemon, like "Synergy's: Trilogy" mix).

At this point I don't know if I will ever be able to take on sewing commissions again. The big deadlines have just been such a source of stress for me over the years and I think contributed to getting so sick in the first place. I still have commissions from last year that I have not been able to finish yet (although I have finished a couple!). Running my Etsy store has been less lucrative financially, but it has also been way less stressful because I am only selling what I have actually made. I'm still hoping to release a book and perhaps some patterns at some point, but I need to get a much better camera for that to happen, and we're still trying to figure out how to make that work financially right now.

It's difficult to face the oncoming winter, as the days get so dark and cold up here in MN, and my health means that any trips south are out of the question for the foreseeable future. Puppy and bringing some garden stuff indoors are meant to help with this, and I'm keeping my eye out for an affordable electric fireplace to cozy up next to while I type away...

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

"Strange Case" OUAT 6.4

My apologies for getting these notes out a day late. But better late than never, right?

Speaking of which... it may not be too much longer before I switch to consistently posting my reviews on Tuesdays. You see, my husband has finally agreed to watch "Once Upon a Time" and when he finally catches up to me, he has asked to watch them together. After trying to get him into the show for almost four years, how can I say no? Problem is, we don't have TV, so we can't watch the episodes until Monday night. I could get a blog review up in the evening... but I wouldn't count on it.

But he's still in Season One, so we've got a bit of time.

Anyhow! Spoilers coming up for this week's episode "Strange Case", so click away now! Otherwise, scroll on...

Daddy Charming is Best Charming. Watching him make pancakes for Emma and carry Baby, it's such a long way from Cursed Charming of Season One. (I keep promising my husband that Charming gets better, because right now Nathan can't stand him!)

Now Gold... just. Wow. He cut his hair AND he locked Belle up. This is not a good week for him at all. Belle, on the other hand, rocks. I loved how quickly she caught on to Jekyll and called to Killian for help.

I hope we get a better storyline for Killian soon, but it is awfully cute seeing him do things like watch over Belle and offer pregnant ladies rum. (Is it just me, or are they heavily foreshadowing papahood for Killian? Either via Emma getting pregnant, or a long lost kid coming up?) I did really appreciate the lovely symmetry of this week's resolution in that Hook finally saved the Dark One's wife. I don't know if they meant to give him a sort of resolution for his inability to save Milah, but that's certainly how it came across here.

It was great to see Snow teaching again, although I thought the way that particular plotline was resolved was a little weird. Sure, her bow shooting was a very "Snow White of OUAT" way to teach, but the problem with teaching the way she'd taught before was NOT because she wasn't channeling her fairy tale identity, it was because High Schoolers need different tactics than middle-schoolers. Same end result, but would have been more applicable and accurate overall.

And yes, Jasmine looks awesome.

Now Mary's characterization, on the other hand, I was pretty annoyed with. For a lot of reasons. No young women of her class in England of that time would have been allowed to walk in the park at night alone (and it WAS England, although how Rumple got there, I'm not sure). There wasn't anything about her that I found likable...which isn't exactly a just left nothing likable onscreen during the flashbacks at all!

Well, except Hyde. Sorta. Because in true OUAT fashion, Jekyll turned out to be the real bad guy. It's actually a twist I liked, I'm just surprised I didn't see it coming! But, you know, Hades really WAS bad, so...

(Remember back in season one, when there was the werewolf twist that was just mind-blowing? Got to watch my husband's brain explode at that last night, and he is usually pretty good at guessing stuff! so fun.)

Of course, the real twist now is that, par the course for OUAT, we have a new focus for the season. How will Regina defeat the Evil Queen? Will Regina go evil...will she die...or will she 'reabsorb' the Evil Queen and 'defeat' her by resisting temptation the way ordinary humans do?

LOL. We'll see. But what would REALLY be a great twist would be for Emma to go "oh, hey, I had a vision of maybe you killing me when I try to kill you!" and then have Regina go "oh THAT'S a stupid plan. How about I ask Gold to kill me instead if it gets to that point? Or give your mom some kryptonite to use against me... or Hook... or Zelena... you know... anyone but you with your vision..."

I also want to see babies Neal and Robin and Alexandra and baby Rumbelle come back from the future because that little glimpse of grown baby Rumbelle was AWESOME.

ALSO on a final fairy tale note... I am adding fairy tale-themed dishtowels to my Etsy shop this week! There are some up now, with more coming over the next few days, so check it out if you want to add some magic to your kitchen!

Whimsical Kitchen

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

"Timeless" and "This is Us" - Check 'em out why?

Pilot season is like dating. Lots of exciting choices that don't pan out, or are pulled too early to tell. So it's a risk to get into a show. Your heart might get broken because it's good and cancelled...or good and keeps on making you sob every week.

Such a show is "This is Us" and thankfully it seems to be well received thus far, so hopefully we don't have to worry about cancellation. I decided to wait a couple of weeks to review it, in order to see if the proceeding episodes lived up to the promise of the pilot - and they did.

When "Parenthood" ended, I was far from the only viewer feeling a big gap in the 'emotional family drama' TV line-up. "This is Us" is clearly NBC's replacement offering, right down to casting a former "Gilmore Girls" star as a lead (Milo Ventimigila). Replacements are risky, of course, since a weak carbon copy is not what we're truly seeking after. "This is Us", however, claims it's own territory from the start, telling the story of four people with the same birthday...

... okay, that's kind of a lame catchphrase, but honestly I can't tell you much more without giving away some big twists. Each episode adds new layers to this story that deepens and enriches the relationships and journeys of the cast. The characters are well drawn from the get-go, each offering a unique look at a different perspective/situation.

From a content perspective, it is similar to "Parenthood." There is one character in particular who is rather crude, but the crudeness is a coping method that allows him to remain upbeat in a difficult situation. I don't appreciate the content, but I can understand the function (and the character is an important one). I wouldn't watch this show with the kids, but that's why it's aired so late in the first place.

Be warned - future blog posts about "This is Us" will contain spoilers, as there is no way to give details about this show without giving away major plot twists. However, the biggest twist of all is in the first episode.

I am really excited about this show and can't wait to catch up every week. I'd recommend it to any fan of family drama, or good character drama in general. Hurry up and catch it on Hulu before it disappears!

Back to the quagmire of pilot season 'dating'... Science Fiction, in particular, seems to fail more than deliver. And time travel? Well, we know how difficult it is to find good time travel stories. "Doctor Who" succeeds because it doesn't take itself too seriously and offers good characters and fun plots...but few others have managed to achieve this (with "Legends of Tomorrow" being the most recent bomb).

So with all of this in mind, I am sure that I'm not the only person checking out "Timeless" with a wary interest. The premise is a familiar one: bad guy wants to change the past, good guys have to go back and time and stop him.  As with most time travel stories, the question is "can we/should we change history?"

However, "Timeless" immediately sets itself apart from the crowd by offering a good trifecta from the start: engaging characters, a fresh take on the plot trope, and a sincere affection for History.

A sinister man, Garcia Flynn, steals a time machine and attempts to change history. Historian Lucy, Army Guy Wyatt, and Techie Rufus are tasked with stopping him to the best of their ability. Flynn's motives are shrouded in mystery...and may not be as nefarious as they first appear. Or are they? Only time will tell...

A good plot and solid characters carry most shows, but for time travel stories to work, a good knowledge and conveyance of history is also required, and here is where the difficulty often pops up. To show history changing, you have to make sure your audience already knows what history is supposed to be. "Timeless" does this well, starting each episode with a brief and engaging look at the history as we know it. Then our time travelers pop in, and we see things change. You can watch this show without any knowledge of history at all, but there are also plenty of fascinating tidbits and factoids for history buffs. My husband is a history major and I'm a history geek, so we have a bit of a leg up in guessing some things, but we still learned some fascinating new stuff from the show.

The show has set up some solid time travel mechanics that we are pretty pleased with. And I say this as someone whose husband affectionately labels as a "Time Travel Snob." It remains to be seen whether they stick to these mechanics, as most long term time travel stories find it difficult to stick within the confines, but if they do carry through, this promises to be one fantastic show.

I held off on reviewing this one right away because I wanted to see if things got better or worse after the pilot. To the delight of both myself and my husband, the second episode (The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln) solidly topped the first episode. Wild theorizing has ensued in the Hajek household, and we can't wait for next week to see where this show goes next!

And yes, future reviews on this show will hopefully be forthcoming, with all of those wild theories as they evolve from one week to the next!

Looking for more good shows to watch? Check out my TV and Movie Review page, or the Geek Portal!

Monday, October 10, 2016

"My Magic Doesn't Have Hives!" - And Neither does "Once Upon a Time"

My last "Once Upon a Time" post was a pretty depressing rant. I am very happy to share that this week's episode (6.3. "The Other Shoe") is a huge improvement and good incentive to keep watching.

Spoilers after the jump/click "read more" for the rest!

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Bitter Truth about OUAT's "Bitter Draught"

Spoilers below, so skip reading if you haven't seen this week's episode of "Once Upon a Time" (6.2).

(click 'read more' to continue reading')

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Your first published novel is rarely your first WRITTEN novel.

One of the things I most hated hearing when I was younger was how most authors never publish their first finished novel. "That won't be me!" I declared. "I've written tons of stuff. Fan Fiction, novellas... my first novel will be publishable!" 

This is a screenshot from a Facebook status regarding my first novel. It was a time travel story that I wrote two different ways, with the second way going through alpha readers, many drafts, and a search for an agent. But it never found a home and ultimately, this a good thing. While the first book held together okay, it rested on a premise that I had a lot of trouble resolving as I attempted to continue the series.

Now the characters from this book still resonate with me today, and some of my alpha readers will tell me even now that they loved those people. So I hope to find the right story to utilize them in eventually. But I have no idea if it will be time travel or something else.

The point is, I essentially wrote two complete novels (not to mention half of several others) before I got to "The Mermaid and the Unicorn." At times it got really hard, especially when I passed my 25th birthday (my original goal was to have my first book published by then).

But timing is everything. I am tremendously proud of "The Mermaid and the Unicorn" and so grateful that I had the chance to write it. It is a first novel I can share with joy, and know that I am truly putting my best work out there. Will I grow as an author and publish even better books eventually? I hope so! Is "The Mermaid and the Unicorn" a perfect book that I will never want to change? Heck no! But it is a better book than I could have really expected my first published novel to be. Honestly, if for some reason I never wrote another book, I would be able to be happy with "The Mermaid and the Unicorn" being my sole contribution to the world of literature.

And that was worth the wait.