Sunday, September 30, 2012

Once Upon a Time 2.1 - Broken

Wow. Hold on folks, because we're on for an awesome ride this season!

First off, if you haven't finished season 1, go catch up! It's on DVD and Netflix instant, so you've got no excuses!

Secondly... SPOILER ALERT!

This was a fantastic opener. It was much stronger than last year's first episode (and that was pretty decent!), and carried on perfectly from season one's epic finale.

Rumbelle fans are happy - and I'm mixed. I'm a Rumbelle fan, and I'm thrilled to see them together... but it does worry me to see Belle working to change her man. That pretty much never works in real life and is really dangerous, so I'm wary of where it's going... on the other hand, they are obviously trying to keep the "Beauty and the Beast" quality going, so we'll see.

Snow and Charming! Snow being all badass! Charming being a grandpa! Snow and Charming being parents! They were adorable and awesome.

Emma... had angst. But I like that she was determined not to kill Regina. Also, it was interesting that Regina got control of her magic after Emma touched her. What was that?

Then... The Enchanted Woods are still there? But a corner was untouched? Mulan and Prince Phillip and Aurora are NOT a flashback? Man, that would have been beyond awesome if PHILLIP WASN'T DEAD. Seriously. I adored the dude and then he was dead. IN THE VERY FIRST EPISODE. LAME. Ahem. Pardon my emotions.

The dementor wraith was weird, because it didn't have a base in any fairy tales, it was just kind of like they went "we need a scary monster, oh lets do something creepy with a long black robe that SUCKS YOUR SOUL. Let's make one up!" Which isn't wrong, just odd from this viewer's perspective.

STILL. Snow and Emma are not in Storybrooke, and Emma is going to have to face the stuff of legends face to face. And upcoming weeks hold Lancelot and Captain Hook ("He's HOT" one of my fellow viewers declared) and other kinds of epicness. Plus we're due to find out who Dr. Whale actually is before long!

But the biggest question is this: who was the mysterious man in the beginning? The one who received the "Broken" postcard? The theory I've heard is Baelfire, which would make sense, but there are plenty of other options as well. Time will tell!

Downton Abbey Prequel?

Looks like it, folks! ITV is in talks with Julian Fellowes to create a prequel series following Robert and Cora's courtship. Cue squeals!

But be warned, this article hints at a horrible possibility as well... Dan Stevens and Michelle Dockery (Matthew and Mary) leaving the show at the end of the season for Hollywood fame. Let it not be so! Downton could not be the same without Matthew and Mary!!!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Angels Take Manhattan

The last time I hurt this much over a TV show was when I finished Buffy, season 7. And you guys remember that post, right?

I'm sitting here in front of my computer, trying to begin to process how a fictional story about made up characters can affect me so deeply. It's not a - "Oh I'm depressed and my live is over" hurt, its a beautiful hurt, it makes the world seem a little deeper and I'm looking with new eyes. That's the power of a well-told story.

Spoiler Warning Time.

SPOILER WARNING TIME.

I WARN THEE. 

I'll try to be coherant here.

First of all, I appreciated going back to more traditional Weeping Angels (as opposed to the season 5 Angels). They were also properly scary, and I loved that they explained that Angels can inhabit any sculpture, which finally explains the montage from the end of "Blink."

Secondly, all of the humor in this episode was fantastic. I can't even think about laughing right now, but it's one of the best episodes we've had from Moffat in awhile... he writes his best when he's planning to break our hearts.

And River was fantastic. We got to see older River again, right in her absolutely perfect element of the 1930's. That woman so belongs in a screwball comedy/film noir. And she and the Doctor had an awesome Nick and Nora type chemistry going on. I mean, c'mon, the Doctor checking himself in the mirror before going out to see her, being so affectionate in the most adorable way... it was beautiful.

And it's good that we got the good stuff because the hard stuff was hard. Amy and Rory were fantastic in this episode, but especially Amy, and their love and devotion to each other was heartrending.

The moment when they jumped off the roof was possible one of the hardest fictional moments I've ever seen on television.

And then in the graveyard, when Rory turned... and was gone... and Amy had to make her choice - but we knew what it would be, there was never any doubt. The Doctor breaking his heart, begging her not to go, but River - her daughter - knowing this was the right thing to do -

This was a good episode. It was reminiscent in various ways of all of Moffat's best episodes; "Blink," "The Girl in the Fireplace," "Silence in the Library."

Some people will disagree with me, but I think it is just as good as any companion goodbye that RTD ever wrote. And though it hurts so much (and gosh it hurts) knowing that Amy and Rory lived out their lives together, happily, that they didn't suffer as Rose did, or loose everything as Donna did... it's good.

And the Doctor still has Amy. Because he went back to her as a little girl, and told her stories. He wasn't an imaginary friend. Apparently Steven Moffat has been waiting two and a half years to tell us this. It's beautiful.

I loved this episode. It had everything I love about Doctor Who in it. And even though it took me a long time to fall in love with Amy (not because of who she was so much as that in season 5 the writers didn't know where they were going with her), I grieve her passing as much as I ever have anything on Doctor Who. But my grief is for us, and the Doctor, not for her.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

21 Must Watch Musicals

I adore musicals. Where most young people fill up their ipods with popular music in genres like pop, rock and indie, mine features a strong majority of musical tales, spanning close to a century of performances. Not surprising, when you consider that I'm deaf and my ears and brain process music differently than hearing people (cannot do rock of any kind, it just sounds like noise to me. I need a strong melody!).

Unfortunately, many young people today are unfamiliar even with the classics, much less the more obscure (but still good!) oldies. Plus there are some new ones that have yet to get the fame they deserve.

So the purpose of this post is to serve as a guide for what musicals you should check out if this is your thing. I've not included every musical ever made, just the ones I personally think are worth your time! (And that, you know, I've actually seen myself - being deaf makes the non-filmed ones tricky).  I've also linked you to some of my favorite songs in places, but if I couldn't find a version I really liked, I didn't link it. You can search for it on youtube, iTunes, or the library, or just go out and watch the show! (film or live!)

(Note, I haven't tried to list all the objectionable things in any of these films because that's not the point of this post. Some of the films have scenes that are more adult geared towards others, and most of them have good Wikipedia write-ups that detail what the film holds. So do your research! /disclaimer off/)

1. Annie Get Your Gun

Annie Oakley is the best sharpshooter the west has ever seen... but shooting and worldwide fame don't get a girl a man, so what's Annie to do? A hilarious musical that will have you laughing to split your sides, plus a song every actor should know to keep up their spirits when times get hard!

Notable songs include:

- Doing What comes Naturally
- You can't get a man with a gun
-There's no business like show business
- Anything you can do I can do better (Favorite Version? John Barrowman of Doctor Who fame and Ruthie Henshall!)


2. Beauty and the Beast

There's more goodness to this than just the animated Disney film! Check out my whole blog post on the songs added in the Broadway musical!


3. Bride and Prejudice

It's the classic story of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy updated to modern times and moved to India! A fantastic introduction to Indian films, and featuring some crazy fun music and outrageously awesome dancing! (LOST fans, want to see Sayid dance and sing? He's brilliant!)

- Balle Balle (Fantastic dancing)
- No Life Without Wife (One of the funniest songs ever to be filmed! With intro scene.)

4. Camelot

Whether you're a fan of King Arthur, or just want to see what a medieval musical looks like, or love Richard Harris (Dumbledore!) and Vanessa Redgrave, I highly recommend this musical. My version of the soundtrack is the original as performed with Julie Andrews, and I highly recommend getting that one!

- Camelot (Ignoring the eyeshadow, this is a beautiful nostalgic ode to the dream of Camelot - and quite funny too!)
- The Simple Joys of Maidenhood (Julie Andrews)
- C'est Moi
- How to Handle a Woman
- If Ever I would Leave You
- What do the Simple Folk Do


5. Fiddler on the Roof

If you can only see three musicals in your whole life, this had better be one of them. The story of Jewish Milkman Tevye and his woes marrying off his daughters and avoiding the Russian Pogrom is filled with heart, humor, and tears.

While I can't pick a favorite song, there is one piece that you will not see if you opt for the wonderful film version instead of seeing it live. Which is regrettable because it is the funniest piece in the whole thing!

- The Rumor


6. Hello Dolly!

A lesser known musical that was introduced to me when my piano teacher brought me the songbook. It's a fun tale of a professional matchmaker and her own unexpected love story.

Most notable songs:
- It Takes a Woman
- Ribbons Down My Back
-Elegance
- Hello Dolly!


7. Into the Woods

There are two reasons why Into the Woods has never become a well known musical. #1, it was never made into a big budget film (that is soon to change if the rumor mill is right!). #2, the music is so complicated that most high schools and few collages are really talented enough to attempt a performance. So unless you go to Broadway, or rent the recording of the Bernadette Peters performance (which is totally worth watching), you are unlikely to have a chance to see it. Which is entirely regrettable as it is a beautiful, moving and hilarious story of our favorite fairy tales - and how wishes don't come true the way we expect, and love is a complicated thing (and yet also so very simple). Available for instant streaming on Netflix.

- Hello Little Girl
- Giants in the Sky
- Agony
- It Takes Two
- Your Fault/Last Midnight
- No One is Alone

8. The King and I

What is it about our culture that loves stories about governesses? Sound of Music, Jane Eyre, Mary Poppins... and The King and I. Based on a pseudo-autobiographical (much of the facts are contested) called Anna and the King of Siam, this musical is the story of a widowed teacher who takes her young son to the country of Siam to teach the many many many children of the King so that they will be able to take their places in an increasingly westernized world. The newer, non-musical version (Anna and the King) features more of a historical perspective, but the musical is worth watching both for some really lovely songs, and a wonderful, hilarious and very poignant performance by Yul Brenner (and Deborah Kerr isn't bad either!)

- A Puzzlement
- Getting to Know You
- Shall we Dance?

9. Kiss Me Kate!

It's Shakespeare, it's a musical, and the film version features Howard Keel (my favorite old Hollywood singing voice) as Petruchio... or rather, as a 1960's divorced actor trying to win his ex-wife back as they play the leads in a musical version of "The Taming of the Shrew." Sound fun? That's because it is!

- I've come to Wive it Weathily in Padua
- Tom, Dick or Harry
- Thine that Special Face
- So in Love
- Brush Up Your Shakespeare

10. Little Women
It's not the first classic to be made into a musical, nor is it even the only version of Louisa May Alcott's beloved work. One of my friends even claims the other version is better... I haven't had a chance to check that version out yet, but I am in love with many songs from this one. It was probably the main thing I listened to last summer. I know the story of the March sisters pretty well, as I once wrote and directed a 55 minute version of their story. I'm pretty picky about the film versions, but I think this music does the story justice. Unfortunately I've not yet been able to see it performed live, however the music stands alone if you know the story.

- Here Alone
- How I Am
- The Most Amazing Thing
- Days of Plenty
- Small Umbrella in the Rain

11. Mamma Mia!
Period epics not quite your style? Then sneak away to a Greek island and dance to some ABBA! The story of a mother and daughter, preparing for the daughter's wedding... and figuring out which of three men is her real father! It's hilarious, and while the film vocals are not as strong as the originals, the acting is fabulous and there are some truly fantastic dance numbers, not to mention the gorgeous scenery!

- Honey, Honey
- Money, Money, Money
- Mamma Mia
- Dancing Queen
- Our Last Summer
- Lay All Your Love on Me
- Slipping Through My Fingers
- I Have A Dream

12. The Music Man

There's trouble in River City my friend! Con man Harold Hill (as he goes by these days) has come to the fields of Iowa to try and sell the idea of a boys band to the good citizens of the town, red uniforms and all! Hostilities quickly turn to excited children, but Marian the Librarian is suspicious and decides to do a little research on this Hill fellow... and you'll have to watch it yourself to find out what happens next! Every song in this show is a gem, and there is a fantastic film version with Robert Preston (who originated the role on Broadway) and Shirley Jones. 

13. My Fair Lady

As a story, I personally find this Victorian take on a traditional Greek tale somewhat problematic, but it features many wonderful songs, plus the enchanting Audrey Hepburn! Julie Andrews originated the role onstage, but they refused to cast in her in the film as she was then unknown... which freed her up to do Sound of Music! But anyhow, MFL is worth seeing, and a must for any fan of the musicals.

14. Oliver!

Those who have seen my Shadow of the Bear film will be interested to know that I really fell in love with the musical Oliver! when I saw it performed by Sharayah and Greg Bunce and Karina Link, (Rose Brier, Mr. Freet and Eileen respectively). Sharayah played Nancy, and though very young, she did a beautiful job. I was enchanted and quickly went on to get my favorite songs on my iPod. Available for instant streaming on Netflix.

Consider Yourself
You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two
It's a Fine Life
Who Will Buy?

15. Once More With Feeling

Not a traditional musical in the sense that it's an episode from the 6th season of a TV show. However, even those who are not fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer have been known to greatly enjoy this episode. The creator, Joss Whedon, wrote all of the music for this project (his first ever musical!) and it features some really witty, beautiful, hilarious and poignant songs. It encompasses every aspect of the musical genre, from jazz to ballet, from 50's style to rock. It's fascinating and wonderful and best of all it's a literal look at 'what if we all suddenly lived in a musical?"

(The whole episode is streaming on both Hulu Plus and Netflix)

Going Through the Motions
I'll Never Tell
Rest in Peace
Walk Through the Fire

16. Peter Pan

The Mary Martin version of this musical used to play on television - and when it didn't we'd rent it from the movie store. I was always entranced by the story of the boy who never grew up and the children who flew off to Never Never Land, but it wasn't until I was older that I realized that the musical stayed closer to the book than any of the film versions. It's filled with several fun and memorable songs, and often quotes the book closely (if memory serves me right, I haven't watched the whole thing in years.)

Tender Shepherd
I've Gotta Crow
I'll Never Grow Up

17. The Phantom of the Opera

Sad to say, I still have friends who love musicals who have not seen POTO. Which is a shame because it is a beautiful and haunting musical (although you should see it live by a professional company if you can as the special effects are so much cooler on stage than in film). I was first drawn into it when I visited Europe and was able to see both the actual opera house and the musical performed in London. It's a story about love and what love really is, set against the beautiful backdrop of Paris and in particular the historic Paris Opera House (which really does feature an underground lake and labyrinth of passages!) No particular favorite songs here, as nearly every one of them is fantastic.


18. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Adam and his six brothers are mountain men hacking out a living in the harsh mountains of the American west. Rocks, trees, frigid winters and stubborn animals are nothing compared to the severe lack of women, however, and one day Adam goes down into the valley town to get himself a wife. He comes home with the spunky Millie, who is horrified to find out that she's supposed to take care of her husband's bachelor brothers. However she sets to it to teach them some manners... and soon the men decide having a woman is a right good thing indeed! But with so few females in the west, how are they to get themselves brides? Well, brother Adam tells them the tale of how the Romans stole the Sabine women and...

Bless Yore Beautiful Hide
Goin' Coting
Sobbin' Women


19. SMASH

See my review here.

Don't Say Yes Until I Finish Talking
On Lexington and 52nd Street
Mr. and Mrs. Smith
Let Me Be Your Star


20. The Sound of Music

Who hasn't seen the most classic musical of all - the story of the singing nun, the navy captain, and seven rebellious children? Believe it or not, I've met grown adults who have never experienced this timeless show, therefore it gets placed on this list. It was, of course, the first musical I was really exposed to outside of Disney, one of the rare films introduced to me by my mother (Dad usually did the honors).


21. 1776!

My first encounter with this musical was when it was performed live at the Minneapolis Guthrie. It was a magical experience. There is also a very good film version which I highly recommend as well. Funny and deeply moving, it is a look at the humans that founded our country, not as saints, but as real men and women. (For more on the historical aspect, check out this website.)

The Lees of Old Virginia
Cool, Considerate Men
The Egg
Molasses to Rum
Is Anybody There?


Whew, that was quite a list! And I'm sure I'll be updating it eventually as I come to know even more great musicals!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

J.K. Isn't Quite Ready to Leave the Potter Universe?

See the full story here.

While I doubt that she'd ever write another full book (much less a series), I think it would be really fun if she did a short story anthology, filled with pieces like the James and Sirius short she did for charity a few years back. That way she could write whatever she wanted, it would fill the fans with unspeakable joy, and yet there wouldn't be the same insane pressure that there would for a full novel.

Now, to get my hands on 'Casual Vacancy"...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Earth Unaware

Orson Scott Card's "Ender's Game" has long since earned its place on any top ten science fiction list. For the most part, the other novels (sequels, parallel and otherwise) have been its equal though often quite different. Card's last installment in the series, however, ("Shadows in Flight") was shorter and less complex than fans were anticipating, leading to some natural disappointment.

(Don't worry, fans, SiF was just the first part of a novel so long it had to be cut in two, and it looks very probable that the next book, "Shadows Alive" will be everything we're hoping for!)

So what about this newcomer "Earth Unaware", Card's prequel to "Ender's Game" telling the story of how Earth first encountered the Buggers? With only a cameo appearance by one character we already knew, is this really an engaging read?

I went into the book somewhat skeptical, even though Card has a remarkable rate of turning out amazing books at a breathless pace. Still, the idea of a prequel dealing with entirely new characters had me wary.

But this is Card we're talking about, who can take any group of people and make them interesting because he really truly understands people. And Johnston, his cowriter, either is a fantastic mimic or really understands how Card works, because you can't even tell where one leaves off and the other begins. It all sounds traditional Card.

"Earth Unaware" begins with the human race believing themselves alone in the galaxy. Spaceflight has been made feasible for everyone, and there are colonies on the moon and mining stations all the way out to the asteroid belt. The miners are both corporate and family clans, making for a dynamic that is part wild west, and part gypsy.

Until something strange appears on the scanner of a single ship, who must fight against all odds to warn the rest of humanity before they are destroyed.

The book does an excellent job of setting up the horror of the first Formic Invasion. It also lays the groundwork for how humanity would eventually be able to defeat such a technologically advanced invader, by introducing us to military training regimen and a couple truly original minds - including one that is experimenting on what obviously will one day become the Little Doctor Device.

For those of you who just read that last paragraph and didn't understand the significance of the references, I'm going to direct you to the library. Pick up a copy of "Ender's Game" before you read "Earth Unaware." While EU takes place chronologically prior to EG, it is written so that it will be better enjoyed by the fans who read EG first.

Overall the book was better than I was expecting, and I can hardly wait for the next one to come out.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Pickiest Journal Shopper's Club

I really have a love-hate relationship with journal shopping.

Yeah, some of you are nodding in agreement, and some of you are going "wait, what? But, new journal! How is that not utter awesomeness?"

Well you see I am a very serious and very picky journal shopper. When I get a journal, I use it until it is full (or very close), which means that a lot of my journals stick around for a long time. I've also learned the hard way that I'm much more likely to write in the perfect journal, then the 'meh' one.

I hate 'meh' journals, don't you?

For me a perfect journal has several components.

Color
It can't be too bright. I prefer dark, rich colors. Browns, blues and reds are the trend. I'm tired of brown and just had a red one, so that meant that my new one probably needed to be blue (or possibly green, purple or black).

Cover Quality
No cheap plastic or leather imitations, please.

Paper Quality
If you're not planning to destroy the journal when you're done, why would you want something that isn't going to last? I need good paper that will stand the test of time.

Cover Design
Color and quality might be met, but what about the design? Nothing modern or geometric, I prefer timeless, classical designs.

Paper Design
I like an interior that has a nice coloration and layout. Even lines that aren't too small or too large, and if there are any interior accents, they can't distract from the writing.

Size
I'm actually the most flexible on size, but it's still a determining factor. I don't want a journal that is going to take me five years to fill up. Ideally I'd love to have one page per day, but with a larger journal that means too much writing (and less incentive to write regularily.)

Price
Budget varies of course, but ideally I don't want to spend more than $20 for a journal (unless I'm doing really well financially and there is a perfect journal for $25.) However I'm also wary of journals for under $10 - they just don't meet the above qualifications.

Bonus: Ribbon Bookmark
It's easy to add a bookmark, but it's really nice to have one included.

So... did I find something workable? Yes. It was pretty difficult and I came very, very close to walking out of the store in resignation. But I finally settled on this gorgeous peacock journal. The picture in the link doesn't do it justice, it's really majestic and I love the interior as well!

What about you? Are you a member of the "Pickiest Journal Shoppers" club? What are your qualifications?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Power of Three

This is your public service announcement that SPOILERS ABOUND. You have been warned.



Henry VIII's legs were in Doctor Who. I can die happy now. No, seriously, ever since I got into Doctor Who I have been waiting for something with Tudor England (Shakespeare doesn't count). RTD was supposed to give us an episode, but it never happened. Last week we got a reference and this week we got A SCENE. And Henry's LEGS. Yeah, I could be pathetic, or I could just have been really obsessed with Tudor England for the past 12 years. (Take a look at my bookshelf if you doubt my devotion.)

But more than a Tudor Geek's dream come true, this scene proved an internet fan theory that has become pretty popular since Pond Life - that the Doctor has not been visiting the Ponds in the order that the Ponds and we are going through the adventures. How do we know this? Because in last week's episode the Doctor told us about the phone charger in Henry VIII's suite. Something that didn't happen for Amy and Rory until this week. Plus every time the Doctor and Amy talk, he seems to have some knowledge of her fate... as though he has already experienced it, and is now moving back in her timeline to see her as much as possible.

They just want to break our hearts thoroughly.

Anyhow, I really enjoyed the whole Anniversary montage. I love that the Doctor just can't give them a good trip no matter how hard he tries. I love that Brian realized what had happened, and kind of gave the Doctor a talking too.

Brian could have been my favorite part of the episode. He was so adorable. I think all of us Harry Potter fans see shades of Arthur Weasley's obsession with Muggles when Brian gets all enthusiastic about the timey-wimey space travel stuff. It's adorable.

The theme of the episode was the 'double' life, which was an important one... I need to watch it again to solidify my feelings on it though. I was taking care of a two-month-old fussy (but very adorable) baby when I was watching it, so I had to take several breaks from it and I don't want to judge that emotional arc until I can see it continuously.

Having Kate be the Brigadier's daughter was awesome. Many fans were hoping for it, and I'm glad that's the move they made. Fantastic tribute.

But... the boxes? The lead up was good, but the ending, to me, felt anticlimatic. Maybe I was too distracted and need to give it another try, but the motivation was not very well explained and the solution seemed way too easy for stakes that high. So I felt a bit cheated out of that. Is that just me?

Next week River is back... Who else is looking forwards to having her on screen again?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Dealing With Writing Critique

Book project progresses! If you haven't been around long, the short story is I'm junior writer on the third book for Chesterton Press's Ruah Chronicles. Junior Writer means I do the grunt work while the Senior Writer does editing and polishing and has their name first on the cover. Matt Bowman is the "Senior Writer" on the series, so that all the books will be filed under 'B' and also so that all the books can have the benefit of his extensive fantasy knowledge. Regina Doman will be co-writing the first book and of course will have publisher duties.

For the past two weeks I've been taking the plot outline Matt and I wrote up in July and expanding it. It took longer than I expected and I was really relieved to send it off last night... only to be very surprised when the response this morning was a whole page of notes. At first I was like "ahhh, the weight! I can't handle!"

Then I realized something really important. Nothing Matt said was taking away or changing anything I'd written. It was all clarification or expanding things further. Which, yeah, took me longer to process, but in the end I think it was a bigger compliment than saying so specifically. 

Why am I bothering to write this up? Because dealing with critique and suggestion is a really difficult thing for any writer, but especially one who is new to the publication world. You won't get all of the verbal affirmation your insecure inner writer wants, so you have to learn how to translate the information you are getting into what it really means. If they're not telling you to change something, that means it's good. Good enough for their publication, and what more could you want right now? 

This is my first time working directly with a publishing house on one of my own projects, so I'm learning a lot, and I'm looking forwards to sharing snippets of the adventure that might prove helpful to other writers. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Princess Kate and the Media

This is an excellent article detailing all of the relevant facts regarding the recent 'topless photos' scandal.

The good news is that the Royal Family won their lawsuit, and the publication will be paying some hefty fines. I'm very thankful to see this, as it is just sickening what paparazzi will do.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Town Called Mercy

Last week the Doctor Who fandom found itself in a bit of a disagreement. Some people found Solomon's end in "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" to be perfectly justified, others questioned whether it was really in character/okay for the Doctor.

I'm not sure whether people were doubting the show, or what, but the ones who were upset about it were the ones reacting the way the writers wanted us to.

Cue SPOILERS for "A Town Called Mercy."

First off, lets enjoy this look at the good old American We--

Nope. First off find out there's an alien bounty hunter hunting down people and killing them.

THEN we get to enjoy our good look at the American We-

Nope. Weird stone and wood border around town. Everyone acting weird. Electricity ten years early.

Fine. Adjust Stensen. Swager. Walk into bar, ask for the hardest stuff they've got (and by 'stuff' I mean tea of course), and enjoy a good look at the American...

Poor Doctor. All he really wants to do is play cowboy. What he finds himself doing is taking on a realer old west than he expected. A place that was dangerous, and where morality and justice were real issues that people had to settle, often without 'official' help from the law (which wasn't always there).

It's a good episode, with some real weight behind it, and complex characters that you really care about despite their sometimes short screentime. And they are not clear-cut good/evil types, which makes this western more realistically focused than the 'old classics' were. The Doctor finds himself wishing for the Daleks, enemies that are far less emotionally complicated than the town of Mercy.

And so do the viewers. We like Jex, and we are appalled by him. We are terrified by the Gunslinger, and yet we grieve for what he has lost. We are sad for Jex's passing and yet uplifted by his nobility. We see the shell that the Gunslinger's life is about to become, and rejoice in the new purpose the Doctor gives him.

In fact the only downside is that we really don't get to see Amy and Rory doing much - although what Amy does do is of vital importance.

"This is why you need someone traveling with you," she tells the Doctor, when he is about to (effectively) kill Jex. "This is not what we do, and you know that." (quote may not be exact, sorry!)

High five, Amy. Donna would be proud of you.

And high fives all around to the DW production crew for bringing off a really stellar episode. I'm very excited to see what the rest of the season holds!


Friday, September 14, 2012

33 Books Everyone Should Read

Let me start off by saying that this is absolutely a prejudiced list. It is by no means absolute, or complete. Next year it may grow to 35, or it might not. There are plenty of other books that I love and adore and ecstatically recommend to anyone who will listen.

So why do these books make the list and the others don't? Because these are the books that I personally believe everyone, regardless of gender, should read and most likely would enjoy. They are also all appropriate for at least a high school audience, and the majority of them I first read when I was in Jr. High or middle school.
  1. Beauty - Robin McKinley
  2. Christy - Catherine Marshall
  3. Coronation of Glory - Deborah Meroff
  4. Emma - Jane Austen
  5. Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card
  6. Girl Meets God - Lauren F. Winner
  7. Gone With the Wind - Margaret Mitchell
  8. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - J.K. Rowlings
  9. Let Me Be a Woman - Elisabeth Elliot
  10. Little House on the Prairie - Laura Ingalls Wilder
  11. Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
  12. Mere Christianity - C.S. Lewis
  13. Murder on the Orient Express - Agatha Christie
  14. Peter Pan - James Barrie
  15. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
  16. Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier
  17. Redwall - Brian Jacques
  18. Robin Hood - Roger Lancelyn Green
  19. That Hideous Strength - C.S. Lewis
  20. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis
  21. The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexander Dumas 
  22. The Keeper of the Bees - Gene Stratton Porter
  23. The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
  24. The Once and Future King - T.H. White
  25. The Robe - Lloyd C. Douglas
  26. The Scottish Chiefs - Jane Porter
  27. The Shadow of the Bear - Regina Doman
  28. The Swiss Family Robinson - Johann Wyss
  29. Till We Have Faces - C.S. Lewis
  30. Time Quartet - Madeleine L'Engle
  31. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
  32. Vienna Prelude - Bodie Thoene
  33. Watership Down - Richard Adams

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

So... NaNoWriMo? Yes or No?

First off, I want to be very clear that I have nothing but admiration for the folks over at NaNoWriMo. I think it's a fantastic movement, and wholeheartedly support it.

So why am I not doing it this year, when I actually do have the time? Let's talk about that.

(NaNoWriMo = National Novel Writing Month)

To be a successful writer, you have to write constantly. Maybe not every single day, but as near to that as you can. Short stories, blogs, your novel, even fanfiction or roleplay (if you're doing quality stuff). Mainly, though, by the time you get through college, you should be working on projects you intend to submit for publication. That is, if you want to be a serious author with published works.

The problem most writers find is that it is much, much easier to do anything else than sit down at the computer and write. "Oh, I have to do the dishes first. Oh, I've been meaning to sort my antique license plate collection. Oh I should catch up on the latest episode of Downton Abbey." And so on and so forth. You know you should be working on your story/novel, but it just takes so much brainpower... and you'll get to it in an hour anyhow.

NaNoWriMo forces you to sit down and write your required 1200 words every day. Maybe at the end of November you'll have 50,000 words you can turn into something good - or maybe not. But either way, you've developed a routine and discipline that is vital to being a successful writer.

What if you don't want to be a writer? Why is NaNo still a good thing? Because again, it's great discipline, and it's a good way to work on your writing skills. And let me tell you, with the state our high school grads are in with their lack of writing proficiency, this can only be a good thing. There is even a young writer's program, in which participants under 18 can set their own goals, if 50,000 words is too much for them to reasonably complete.

What if you are not a novel writer, but a scriptwriter or otherwise? NaNo has plenty of other programs as well, and they just keep coming. So check it out!

But back to my situation... if NaNo is so good, why am I not doing it?

Because I've already learned how to sit down and force myself to write. I learned that even before I did complete NaNo two years ago. Which by the way, was fun and worth the effort and someday I do want to go back to that novel and see if I can edit it into something publishable.

However, for me personally, I can't write at that pace. Yes, I could turn out 50,000 words in a month (I've done over 10,000 in a day before), but they wouldn't be 50,000 of my best words. I need to be able to take a few days or a week off from a story if the plot is not going right, so I can let ideas sit and settle and stew and ferment. Even if I sketch out the whole plot ahead of time, characters and pacing can still take weird turns and I need to be able to adjust the story to work with that. It'd be much more reasonable for me to dedicate 50 hours to working on a particular novel in a month, than commit to a word limit.

And since I do have a manuscript promised to a publisher, I need to give that my full energy and creative juice, in the time that is best for that project.

However... NaNo is fun. It's crazy, but it's fun, and there will be a part of me that will be sad not to be participating. Because NaNo is about more than just crazy wordcounts - it's about doing crazy wordcounts within a community. Writing is one of the loneliest professions, so it is really worth doing the program for that alone. NaNo has forums to foster this, but you can also hook up with local groups for weekly write-ins, or organize a group from your own church, school, forum or blog ring.

So... NaNoWriMo... yes or no?

No for me this year, but possibly very worth checking into for you.

Monday, September 10, 2012

At the Coffee Shop, Writing

Okay, since I'm writing this post, technically at this exact moment I may or may not be procrastinating. Procrastination is of course the arch-nemesis of any self-employed person, but especially of the writer.

However I've actually done fairly well. I'm working on expanding the synopsis for book #3 of the Ruah Chronicles (for Chesterton Press) so that my editor and publisher can sign off on it and I can get started with the actual writing. I got Act I finished (that's 1200 words written just today) and after this break I'll hopefully have some juice left to get cracking on Act II.

I'm thankful that I'm well enough to drive, and therefore leave home to write at a coffee shop. It's really where I do best and I've missed it. Of course part of being well is eliminating caffeine from my diet, so that leaves me with hot chocolate or decaf tea, and unfortunately the selection of teas here is not great...

But the comfy chair is good, so is the ambiance, and when I'm here I can mentally turn off the "must be working on costumes!" and "should be cleaning house!" modes.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Once Upon a Time - Season 2 Promo



First Promo trailer for the second season of ABC's hit show "Once Upon a Time!"

What do you think? Like our first glimpse of Mulan in action? Who is the woman behind her? Looks like Red will be back to her wolf form with magic on the loose in Storybrooke, and the dragon will be making a return as well!

Thoughts? Theories?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Dinosaurs on a Spaceship


"Dinosaurs.... on a Spaceship!!!" The Doctor's gleeful shout pretty much sums up this episode. It's a ball full of fun, which is exactly what the writers intended. It lacks much of a concrete plot and will never make it on a Doctor Who "top ten" list, BUT it does do a nice job of taking all our favorite elements of Doctor who and tying them together. I mean, how often do you literally get both the "Time" and "Space" elements in the episode title?

Spoilers beware (although honestly this episode doesn't depend on revelation, you could know the whole plot of the episode ahead of time and still enjoy it - we all basically did anyhow.)

We've got the Doctor, a tag along Queen Nefertiti, An enlisted big game hunter, and three kidnapped Ponds. (Well, Williams, but they will always be the Ponds to the Doctor, even if one of them is Rory's Dad). And then there is a giant Silurian ship full of dinosaurs and a conniving bandit with his two wise-cracking temper-tantrum throwing robots.

While not brilliant, it worked better than I thought it would. We got a nice interaction between Rory and his dad, without straying into too deep waters. Nefertiti and the big game hunter were fun, although a trifle underused.

However by far the best element of this episode was seeing Amy and Rory in the position of 'Senior Companions." Both of them showed off the knowledge and confidence they've gained from their years with the Doctor, with Amy even referring to Nefertiti and big game hunter as "her" companions. (Although I was disappointed that Amy missed the chance to tell of Nefertiti with "Yeah he's got a queen: my daughter!").

Yet although Amy and Rory seem more mature than ever, a brief conversation with the Doctor shows a worrisome undercurrent in Amy's life. She's trying to live normally, but she isn't able to stay long at any one job. She's not living, she's... waiting. Which brings us back to the infertility issue from last episode, because if Amy and Rory had been able to have more children, I think Amy would have been able to settle down and focus raising her family. Right now, though, the Doctor literally is her family, and she worries about him when he's not there and is unable to focus on life on earth. How will this resolve? We'll find out over the next three weeks...

Final question in this fan's mind. Now that Brian knows about the Doctor, will he be introduced to his granddaughter?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Which Shows Are You Excited About This Fall?

After a summer dominated by the Olympics, TV viewers are ready to reconnect with their old friends, and possibly make some new ones as well. Which shows are you excited about? I've got quite a list, and here's why...

Returning Shows I am Psyched About

Doctor Who (BBCA)
- Britain's favorite Time Lord returns to our screen, saying goodbye to old friends and welcoming a quirky new companion to the cast!

Switched at Birth (ABC Family)
- Bay and Daphne and their switched at birth families return with more twists than ever. Daphne is trying to get a job and finds her deafness a bigger obstacle than she expected. Bay is dealing with her breakup with Emmett, and then the whole family has to figure out what to do to keep Angelo from getting deported... and Regina's plan will surprise them all!

Modern Family (ABC)
- After last finale's shocking revelation from Gloria, we're on the edge of our seats to find out how this unexpected expansion is going to impact our favorite modern family!

Once Upon a Time (ABC)
- One of the biggest hits of last year, OUAT ended with an explosive finale and several loose threads. We don't even know if some of our favorite characters are still alive, but one thing is for certain. With memories restored, Storybrooke is bound to look quite a bit different this year!

Parenthood (NBC)
- The Braverman family sets itself apart from other shows by being about more than family - it consistently remains true to its central theme of the trials and joys of parenting children in all stages of life. Often deeper and more realistic than we've come to expect from prime time television, I'm looking forwards to seeing what another year has brought to this family.

SMASH (NBC)
- Marilyn made her debut - or did she? We're still not sure who is going to carry on the title role, but the death of a certain character could sure shake things up. But what I'm most excited about? More of that awesome original music!


That's already a pretty full schedule, but what about the new shows? Am I going to take the time to check anything out?

Upcoming Shows I May Investigate:

The Arrow (Wed, Oct 10, 7c, CW)
 - The Green Arrow hits TV screens in another attempt at a superhero TV show... will this one actually last?

Revolution (Mon, Sept 10, 9c, NBC)
- Another offering from J.J. Abrams set in an apocalyptic future. We'll see how this goes - the cast list has me excited, so it really depends on the writing and execution.

Any other new shows I should be checking out? CW's "Beauty and the Beast" could be good, but I'm not intrigued enough to check it out until I've heard more. "Elementary" is another take on Sherlock Holmes, but after the brilliance that was the recent British series, I'm not really interested in another interpretation. And "666 Park Avenue" looks intriguing, but I'm wary of the spiritual undertones, which could be really fascinating or really disturbing.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Asylum of the Daleks

Wow.

Just.

WOW.

Um, yeah, that about sums up the spoiler-free review. I went into watching it with low expectations and was blown away... "The Asylum of the Daleks" will go down in Doctor Who history with the best of Moffat's episodes. It might not be "Blink" but it's excellence that Moffat hasn't given himself time to show since he got so busy actually producing the show.

Anyhow... Spoiler time.

I'm not kidding. If you haven't seen the episode yet, you want to run away screaming with your hands over your eyes now. There's a spoiler so big that it will literally ruin your first watching of the episode if you know it ahead of time. It's also a spoiler that the DW headquarters managed to keep completely secret prior to the showing. I don't know HOW in the world they managed it, considering that even Rose's return in Season 4 was leaked, but WOW.

Anyhow.

The first shock of the episode is not the Amy and Rory divorce - most of the fans already knew that, and after Pond Life it's not a spoiler. No, the surprise was the Doctor's request from the Daleks. "Save us."

We knew right then that this was going to be no ordinary Dalek episode. And it wasn't, indeed it wasn't close to anything we've seen before, thanks to the magnificent character of Oswin Oswald, as played by Jenna-Louise Coleman.

More on that in a moment.

Oswin is brilliant, witty, gorgeous, hilarious, and captivating. She's souffle girl. The girl who can. Loveable from the moment she appears on screen, you're rooting for her even though you know that it's not all adding up. Where is she getting the milk from indeed?

She outshines Amy and Rory, although those two are given a good plotline as well. Their divorce is very, very well explained. As my readers know, I was incredibly skeptical of how any reason could pass that did not involve brainwashing or duplicates.

But infertility? Oh yeah. That puts a heck of a lot of a strain on a relationship. And it fits Amy's personality exactly that she would react by pushing Rory away because she thinks it will make him happier to marry someone else and have kids, than to stay with her. Which is remarkable because so many writers have struggled to truly understand Amy - I think in a way that Moffat is the only one who really does.

Did the fairly simple resolution to the marital problems seem anticlimatic after all the build-up? Yeah. But that's understandable once you realize that it was an intended Red Herring to keep fans busy while they went around covering up the early appearance of Jenna-Louise Coleman.

Jenna-Louise is of course the new DW companion, and was due to make her first official appearance as Clara Oswin in the Christmas Special. Her appearance in this episode was a complete surprise, helped no doubt by the fact that she never appears in any scene with any other character and therefore could never be 'caught' with Matt or another DW regular and her early appearance or even casting deduced.

But all is not clear regarding the future of Jenna-Louise's character or characters. Because she did not seem to know the Doctor at all, and at the end of the episode she was revealed to be... A Dalek.

It's rare that I feel such heartbreak in a Doctor Who episode. There are a few finales, of course, and some of Moffet's episodes during RTD's run... but rarely more than one per season, and certainly not the very first episode.

"I am not a Dalek. I am a human!"

Oh Oswin.

But is Oswin actually Clara? It could be, of course. Memory loss and time travel can explain a lot.

But IS it? Some fans are already theorizing that Clara and Oswin are not the same person, but rather related, much as the returns of actresses Eve Myles and Freema Agyeman were used to explain the identical looks of Gwennyth/Gwen and Adeola/Martha.

We'll see. Anyhow, the bar has been set for Season 7, and I can't wait to see what comes next!

And I might need to rewatch this episode a time or two to get me through the next week... I need more Oswin! And her dress. I need her dress.