Tuesday, December 29, 2015

I'm alive!

I was in the ER twice this month with a migraine, and after the last one I couldn't be on the computer for a week. Now I am frantically trying to meet a writing deadline, so that's where all my keyboard typing time is going. Eeek! But I'll be back blogging in January.

My husband and I did start a new humor instagram account as something fun to help us cope with how intense and anxious the last few weeks have been. If you're a Lego fan or geek of any kind, you may get a kick out of it. https://www.instagram.com/built2laugh/



Happy Holidays and wishing you a wonderful New Year!

Friday, December 11, 2015

How to (not) End a Show in December

(This post contains some spoilers for DOCTOR WHO, ARROW, AGENTS of SHIELD, and ONCE UPON A TIME and Downton Abbey Season 3.- I tried to keep things cryptic, but if you're smart you'll probably figure stuff out. )

I am very annoyed by TV shows that leave their last December episode on a horribly sad note. Mid-season finale in November? Sure, kill someone off. Mid-season finale in December? HOLD OFF ON THE TEARS UNTIL JANUARY, DUDES! LET US HAVE A NICE CHRISTMAS! Or, you know, have the tragic thing happen in the penultimate episode and give us another episode to decompress before the holidays. (Like Agents of SHIELD. That wasn't a pivotal death, but it was super emotional and unexpected and I was pretty mad for the week when I thought that was the finale until Tuesday rolled around and we got another episode. Joke was on me.)

Okay, OUAT gets a pass because it is so obvious the character is coming back next season (and he's the showrunner's special snowflake). I was more upset about the last scene character destruction than the actual death.

Doctor Who, of course, contained an actual death but ended up being the best character exit on New Who - almost, I must admit, better than Martha's. (I love Martha, but not everyone appreciates her the way I do. *sigh*)

Arrow, on the other hand, was horrible. Like, they wrote a list of "how can we best spoil Christmas" and ticked off a bunch of boxes so that for the rest of my life I will probably burst out bawling whenever "The Little Drummer Boy" plays. What's ironic about that one is that the character in question might actually end up being alive!  (no, the grave is still four months away and X is alive in the promos for January) But it had all the emotional punch of a death and it was so explicitly tied into Christmas that I just want to punch things.

So far everything else is giving me happy feels, but Arrow was so awful, I'm still bummed about it today.

No, a TV show isn't going to ruin my Christmas. But man, it can leave a sad taste in the mouth for a bit. I mean, that one Downton Abbey Christmas special still holds all the awards for worst timing ever, but some other shows are definitely trying to steal the trophy.

Seriously,  I'd far rather get a cliffhanger season finale in May and have to wait three months to see it resolved than have someone die (or appear dead) right before Christmas.

BTW - if you mention the ending on any episode for any show that has aired in the past few weeks, please tag your spoilers for the sake of other commentators. Thanks! 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Gospel and the Deaf, or Videos in Church

Note: This is a post about accessibility in the Church, particularly as relates to the growing trend of showing videos during services. This is not meant to attack anyone, but rather to raise awareness and provide some tools. It is directed towards the Evangelical Christian Church, and deals with deafness as the disability because those are the situations I dealt with and feel equipped to talk about. I would be happy to share posts about dealing with disabilities in any non-government regulated context – please link to them in the comments or send me an e-mail.


One of the things I find most puzzling as a deaf women, is that it is the Christian videos that are always least accessible to me. I cannot count the number of times someone has wanted to watch some indie Christian film and I’ve had to veto it because it wasn’t close-captioned. And I finally stopped going to my childhood church in part because they would show videos pretty much every time I visited and never captioned them. Every time another video without visual words appeared, I felt like the church was saying “we don’t care about you.”

Here’s the thing. That isn’t true. The church where I grew up is a tremendously welcoming place full of great people who really shaped my life. They just didn’t know that there was a problem.

Unfortunately, this is true of most American churches. Unlike a business corporation, there aren’t diversity seminars (I have never even heard a sermon about disabilities), and unlike the internet, there aren’t accessibility laws. Churches might be wheelchair accessible because of the law, but there is no law governing making videos played live captioned, and there shouldn’t have to be.

Contrary to common assumption, lips in videos are not the same as real life. I can lipread pretty well in real life (although I’m exhausted after a 40 min sermon, so there’s a cap on how long of a service we can commit to), but I cannot lipread a video. No matter how big or how loud, it still is a flat surface, often with lips not visible.

Here’s the thing. It’s not just a deaf girl like me who needs those captions. It is also the older people who are losing their hearing, and either don’t know it, or are far too shy to ever speak up. They will miss the words of that video you are using to speak about Jesus, and they will never tell you because they think that would be rude. What a shame if a family finally manages to get anti-Church grandpa to Christmas Eve service, but he misses a message that would have really spoken to his heart because they used a video rather than a speaker?

It’s also those who don’t have English as a first language. If they are going to an English-speaking church, they probably understand English pretty well, but I have to think that they too will get far more out of a video if they have the English words to look at in addition to listening what the people said.

And the kicker is this – if a video is captioned, it will be more accessible to all of these people than a regular speaker. Instead of your message being lost to part of the congregation, it will be amplified!
I did quite a bit with film over the years, and I know full well how powerful a short film can be, and why it has been so embraced by the Evangelical Church. But I really don’t think Jesus would be too keen about us using a form of communication that is clearly not accessible to everyone listening to him, particularly when there are some pretty simple fixes.

So let’s talk about how you can still have those videos, and let their truths speak to everyone this holiday season.

#1 – it may seem easiest to pick a video without spoken words. Silent films are powerful, and can draw a viewer in even more than one with narration or dialogue. The problem with this method is that it flips the accessibility problem over to the blind community. While you might know for certain that you don’t have a blind member in your church, you can’t know that one won’t come as a guest.

#2 – only use videos that are already captioned, and have enough narration that blind congregants can also follow along.

#3 – if there is a video you really want to use that isn’t captioned, consider captioning it yourself! Captioning a 5 minute video is pretty simple, and you can probably find a kid in the youth group who would be happy to do the technical bit. (Before doing this, I would suggest asking the original video creator if a) they would do the captions themselves, or b) if you do it, if they creator would like a copy to offer to anyone else in need of captions).

#4 – if you absolutely cannot caption the video, offer a transcript at the door. (This is the solution my old church finally adopted). I strongly suggest having a sign for this right away at the entrance, and have the ushers with the bulletins holding the transcripts right there, because some people (especially the elderly who are newly hearing impaired) may be too self-conscious to get back up from their seat and go over and get a transcript.

#5 – if you create internet videos to draw people closer to Jesus, please, at a minimum, offer English captions. (No, the youtube auto-captions are horrible. Try them sometime and laugh at the ridiculous, then cry for those who have no other choice but to use them). Having English captions available will make it easier if someone ever wants to do Spanish/French/Arabic/etc captions.  Make a call for translations part of your intro text. If you have different versions available for churches/missionaries to use, make that clear and encourage people to ask for them!

#6 – encourage any congregants with disabilities to be open about them. Occasionally make announcements and designate a contact person for them. Churches are so willing to pray for physical healing, but they don’t seem to know what to do beyond this for the disabled body of Christ. Open dialogue and earnest searching is the only way to overcome this.

(A Facebook commentator pointed out that I didn't address ASL in this post. It doesn't work very well for videos due to lighting/positioning, but it's worth talking about ASL and the Church and acknowledging that accommodation in this post, so I'm hoping to do a follow-up post talking about that briefly and will link to it here when it's done. If any of you out there are a Deaf ASL church-goer, I would LOVE to talk to you about your experiences for this follow-up post. Thanks!)

One final thought. Some of you may be wondering why I left my childhood church rather than advocate for the changes I’m talking about in this post. It is very true that those of us with disabilities need to speak up and educate others about our issues. I have always regularly communicated my needs, and that was part of the problem – it was exhausting. I felt that if there was any place that should be ahead of the curve on being accessible, it should be the body of Christ. On top of some other issues I had with the place, it was just too much for me to handle at that point in my life. So I left. But this is part of why I am writing this post, to have something prepared to bring to any new churches I visit, once my health gets better. And who knows, maybe someday I’ll walk into a church that will already have the accommodations I need. That would be the best gift ever.


As stated above, although this post is about a specific circumstance in a specific location, I would like to raise awareness about all disabilities in non-government regulated capacities. Please feel free to share good links with me, and if I think they are constructive to the discussion, I’ll add them to this list.

Accessibility at Geek Conventions  (Ironically, the MN convention, CONvergence, was one of the most accessible experiences in my life!)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

OUAT 5.11 - "Swan Song"

y'know the drill. SPOILERS.




Okay guys. Let's be honest. While there were some great moments in the episode, it wasn't quite as climatic as most OUAT mid-season finales are. In fact, I thought the flash back scenes with Hook's father were actually kind of a let down (except the finale one, of course). Hook's sacrifice was not at all a surprise... and not nearly as sad as it should have been, given that anyone who reads the internet probably already knew they were going to the underworld in 5b so of course Hook is coming back. Which is sad, because the actors did a great job with the scene.

(Speaking of Hook's father, I totally thought his half-brother was going to be Robin Hood. Someone on tumblr theorized that Liam = William = Will Scarlet, which I think would be interesting although I'm not sure if the timelines work for that).

What WAS shocking was Rumple's reversion to being the Dark One, out of choice. I did NOT see that coming, and this is probably the maddest I have been about anything on OUAT since they made Captain Hook a hot hero. I've been a Rumbelle fan since day 1, and this is my breaking point. I cannot trust Rumple after this. I truly thought that removing the darkness was going to let him be good at last and he and Belle would get to be happy for more than a single night but NOOOOO.

Listen, I can deal with a lot of the show's twists and turns. I'm not a fan who gets mad at every little thing. But this is pretty big, and feels like a real blow in the face to the fans who have been cheering for Rumbelle for 4 years now. *sigh* Yeah. I'm ready to have Belle really and truly get over Rumple and fall for someone else. Except, of course, now actress Emilie de Ravin is pregnant, so there's a decent chance a little baby Gold is heading this way next season.

Now, in regards to babies. poor baby Hood and baby Neal! And Roland! I sort of can't believe that ALL the parents just marched off to the Underworld. And baby Hood doesn't even have a name! We have to wait until March to know her name? Tragedies!!!

The 5a story arc has been quite good, which is why this lukewarm mid-season finale is puzzling. After several years of very disconnected A and B season parts, this seems to be a much more integrated storyline, so perhaps that is a factor.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

OUAT 5.10 "Broken Heart"

I haven't been great about keeping up with writing reviews lately, but, eh, health issues. That's how it goes. Still, I have been enjoying the recent twists and turns on "Once Upon a Time."


OUAT SPOILERS BELOW




Seriously, though, the moment I gave into "oh, Hook is cool, I guess I ship him and Emma" they have him turn evil again. HAHAHAHAHAHA. That was hilarious timing.


But it is fascinating, after Sunday's episode, to see the contrast between Emma's pretend (but not real) Dark Oneness, and Hook's immediate and complete capitulation to villainy. After spending the whole season going "Emma's evil!" to "Is Emma really evil?" to "Wait I think she has a plan and is not actually evil..." to "SHE IS TOTALLY NOT EVIL well except that thing with the girls heart but okay" ... and then Hook is just... BAM. MOST EVIL PIRATE. (A very funny evil pirate, though.)

Ahem.

But really, OUAT gets plenty of criticism, but there have been some intriguing new things happening this season that I think they should get kudos for. Getting to see Rumple finally turn GOOD, completely, and see him and Hook face off again was immensely satisfying. I'm not 100% convinced that was Belle at the end there. I mean, it seemed like exactly the sort of thing Hook might do to mess with Rumple, and a few lines rang less than true to Belle's character. Who wants to guess that he's actually holding her prisoner somewhere?

Zelena confuses my emotions. She's an awful, vile person - but she is so entertaining to watch. It was heartbreaking to see her with her baby (still nameless - who laughed at the "Baby Hood" namecard?)... yet I still have to wonder at Robin and Regina's sanity because what on earth was preventing Lady Green from poofing off with baby and disappearing forever??? We'll see, I guess. I'm guessing Zelena either begins reforming or dies by the end of this season.

Now the whole "ALL THE DARK ONES" thing was a bit overkill. Rather than one big villain, we get two dozen black riders running around? Hmmm... seems like a good way for our heroes to get even less screen time. But I guess it'll all lead into the Underworld plot for 5b, so we'll see...

...the good news, however, is that it means Merlin is very likely coming back at some point. So for everyone who cried out when Hook crushed his heart... stay positive! His face is probably not gone for good yet!








Sunday, November 22, 2015

Face the Raven

SPOILERS


SPOILERS


SPOILERS

Okay, this post will seriously make no sense if you haven't watched the episode, because it's not a recap, it is just some things that are bugging me. So seriously, if you haven't watched it, GO AWAY AND WATCH IT NOW.


SPOILERS,  I TELL YOU!


I knew going into the episode what was going to happen. BUT here's the weird thing. The episode is not written by Steven Moffat. Moffat is big about writing the pivotal episodes himself, and it seems quite weird to me that he would hand off a character death episode to another writer. He's co-written several episodes over the past two seasons, so it's not even like he would have had to write the whole episode himself. I just can't believe that he would be so busy doing other things that he would hand off Clara's last episode to someone else.

Secondly, to kill her off not in a finale (midseason or end of season) is weirdly anticlimatic for the longest running companion of NewWho.

The other issue still at stake is Orson Pink, time traveler, who is very clearly set up to be the descendant of Clara and Danny. If this is not explained before season 9 is ended, I shall be very, very ticked off (and I know I'm not alone in this).

Clara will be gone before Christmas. That's clear. But is she already out of the picture for good? Will there be any further appearances from her in the next two episodes? She doesn't even have to come back to life - it could be the Doctor popping back into her timeline to say 'goodbye' in a different way. Or her appearing in an afterlife vision the way River did. There are a lot of ways we could still see Clara again in the finale, and it really seems that we ought to get another glimpse of her before dropping the curtain forever.

I'm weirdly not sad about the death. I mean, it is time, for sure, but her dying would have been sadder if she a) hadn't died so many times before (I was far sadder the first two times even though I knew she was coming back) or b) was leaving anyone besides the Doctor behind (Capaldi has grown on me so much this year, but his face doesn't tug at my heartstrings the way Tennant's and Smiths did). She had no family, and she was essentially going to join Danny. Which, if you think about it, is why her dying is almost less sad than her being banned from ever seeing the Doctor again. She'd made him her only reason for living - something the Doctor pointed out over and over again in season 9.

Sadness - not getting more Doctor/Baby interaction
Happiness - Torchwood reference! (Retcon)
Intrigue - More Ashildr!
Questions - What the heck is going to happen next week??? Confession dial? Where is the Doctor? Who was blackmailing Ashildr? AHHHH!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Costumes for Sale!

I've been sick now for 4 months and unable to work much at all during that time. We went through my costume stash and identified some that I could sell in an effort to bring in some more funds. 

These are mostly between 5 and 7 years old. They are clean and in good repair, but because they were made awhile ago, they are not up to my current standards, hence why they are listed for relatively low prices. 

The biggest issue with most of them is that there are exposed seams on many interiors, seams that I would now serge to prevent fraying. The bonus to this, however, is that this makes for fairly easy alterations if you need to take anything in! (Not all of the zippers are as smoothly inserted as I would do now, but they all work quite well!) 

For more photos, prices, and details on purchasing, please visit the Facebook album here. 







For more photos, prices, and details on purchasing, please visit the Facebook album here. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

When a Facebook 'like' is all your health can manage.

(Dear blog readers - I could have written this as just a Facebook post. But I wanted it to be a) easily found for future reference and b) even if you aren't one of my friends, maybe you have a chronically ill friend and reading this will let you know how much a single 'like' from them on Facebook might really mean.)

Hi Friends, it's me, Elizabeth.

Right now, for most of us, our relationship consists mostly of us "liking" each other's stuff on Facebook. I wanted to tell you that often when I'm liking your stuff, what I really want to do is write you a message, find out everything that is going on in your life, and make plans to meet for coffee.

But my health is so bad, both physically and emotionally, that even a Facebook conversation is stressful right now. I literally have one non-family non-medical person that I keep any sort of regular communication with, and there are a lot of circumstances behind that.

I feel like a bad friend. I have to remind myself that if you care about me, then you understand and you'll be waiting for me at the other end of this tunnel. You'll know that I have so little to give right now and you won't forget me or think that I don't care about you.

Facebook is something I can choose to browse when I am feeling up to it. I don't have to wait for responses, which may come at times I can't respond. I don't have to expend mental energy composing thoughts, or sharing the same depressing health news over and over. I can smile at your children's cuteness, rejoice in your graduations/engagements/etc, laugh at your jokes and follow links to your shared articles of mutual interest. I can see what your new house looks like, even though I may not be able to visit for a long time. I can hear your perspective on books or movies or tv shows. I can lift up a prayer when you ask for it (and sometimes when you don't). In other words, I can be there in the little moments I have. It's not the way I want to always be there, but it is the only way I have for now and I appreciate the chance.

Friends, I miss you. Thanks for waiting. I look forwards to the day when we can catch up in person again.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

4,722 Hours (Agents of Shield)

Being with a show from the beginning is kind of like watching a kid grow up. They take their first steps, they fall down, they make a mess that everyone runs away screaming from, they get older, they learn to talk, to run, to leap, to paint pictures... and then suddenly they're an adult, amazing the world.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. isn't an adult quite yet, but it has certainly grown up a lot over the past year. Last night we got our first really unique episode. It's the daring type of episode that a baby show can't do, but a show in its third season can and should try.


SPOILER ALERT


The actual storyline was not, perhaps, the most revolutionary. Two humans struggling for survival. No crazy aliens (except one, maybe sorta), no weird planet (it's just always night), no terribly surprising twists... but even a fairly basic plot like girl meets boy, girl and boy survive crazy desert together and fall in love, girl and boy get separated can be deep and absorbing when executed properly. And I'd say that this was executed superbly.


Jemma has been the weakest member of the team for awhile, with the greatest 'annoying' factor. In order to keep her relevant and likable, the writers had to do something drastic to her this season - and wow, did they ever pull it off. They threw her into an absolutely horrible situation, and had her react to it, and she changed but not completely. Yet, though some of her annoying quirks are still there, she has changed enough and our perception and affection for her has changed enough that suddenly we see her differently - we like her more, there is a new fondness and understanding there. They stayed true to Jemma and brought out all of her potential in one beautiful and devastating episode.

Like I said, the actual plot was not revolutionary. It was only surprising, perhaps, that it was another human there rather than some alien. I was expecting her to meet aliens, or at least descendants of some of the inhumans that passed through the monolith in the past. So finding just a stranded earth astronaut was a little anti-climatic at first... but they took that simple story and made it deep and clearly it is going to have enormous ramifications on the Fitzsimmons dynamic going forwards. I mean, whose heart didn't break at the end? There is no happy ending to this love triangle. Fitz, or Jemma, or Will; one of them is going to be left alone at the end of this - or Will is going to die and that is going to cause seasons of angst for Jemma and Fitz.

It's a little ironic. I've been loving this whole season so far, but I haven't been at all motivated to blog about it until last night's episode, about my previously least favorite character. So that's a strong testament to what they've managed to achieve.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Chronically Ill and You See Us Smiling...

The thing about being chronically ill, is that sometimes you have good days. And you treasure those good days, and are so happy for them, and, of course, those are usually the days you feel up to seeing people. So what happens? People might notice that you're not at your best, but they see you smiling.

"Wow, you're holding up so well!"

"Wow, I'm amazed at how upbeat you are!"

Yes, I'm upbeat because I'm feeling well enough to see you. I'm so happy because I'm not dying of a headache or nausea or fatigue or any of the other symptoms chronic disease can bring. I'm thrilled and elated to sit up and see a face besides my own in the mirror, and actually talk with you, and think about something other than how miserable most of my days are.

You ask me how I'm doing, and I pause. This brings me out of the happy moment. I have to think about the truth. "Well... not so good... but I'm able to see you today, so that's good." I don't want to think about how bad it really is. I don't want to waste a moment of my precious time with you complaining.

Yeah, it's half faking, half ignoring. It's true that I'm better that day, and I'm so ecstatic to see you. That happiness is real. It's also true that I will probably pay for it tomorrow - but unless it lands me in the ER (which has happened three times in the past three months and makes me even more wary of doing anything) I will still consider it worth it.

If you read my blog, you see posts like this one and you get a better idea of the reality. You're still not getting the full picture though, because the blog has to stay reasonably upbeat to stay alive. I refuse to turn it into a dumping ground for negative emotions. That's not why you are here.

So when I write about my sickness, I try to have a point to it. My point today is: don't judge how a chronically ill person really is by what you see when you're with them. Unless you're living with them (or their parent), chances are even the negative news you're getting is only the tip of the iceberg. And this is all even more important to remember when someone is suffering from depression or anxiety, because you're already in a pretty trusted circle if you actually know they have it, but you probably still don't know how very bad it really is, unless you've gone through it yourself.

Ironically, I'm not writing this because I'm feeling judged - rather the opposite. I've been extremely blessed by how understanding my community has been. If there was an upside to the horrible migraine I had on my wedding day, it was that it put me visibly in the front of everyone when I was feeling at my very worst. It should have been the happiest day of my life, but I only got up that aisle with a lot of help (including both of my parents walking me down). Since that day I have seen a definite increase in sympathy and understanding, even from those who already had a pretty good idea of how bad my sick days could get.

Still, I want to acknowledge that I'm not always upbeat because people admire me for seeming that way all the time. In fact, there are a lot of days when I am the exact opposite of upbeat. I know that, over all, I do probably remain more positive than most chronically ill people, but that's not the full picture, and I know if this is the way it is for me, it probably is also true for a lot of others who aren't able to communicate this truth to those in their lives.

And remember, my health issues might be super hard, but if I am well enough to see you, than my smile and happiness are genuine, and your smile and presence will set me glowing, so that, for a few hours, I feel even better on an already good day.



Thursday, October 22, 2015

If you ever wanted to know about being deaf...

Jansina Grossman (of Rivershore Books) and I putting are together a little ebook of some of my posts about being deaf, and I wanted to include some exclusive content. Could you help me out by letting me know what you'd like to see in the book? What is a question you've always wanted to ask me about being deaf?
I've never been offended by people asking me questions about being deaf. There have been other hurtful circumstances, but I've always been happy to educate my friends about my disability, so don't be shy! I should mention, however, that I communicate orally, which means I do talk and read lips rather than utilize sign language (I know a little, but not much, and when I do sign it is SEE not ASL.) Also, my experiences won't be the same as every other deaf person, as everyone feels differently about their disabilities. This is just one woman's thoughts on being deaf.

If you want to see what I've already written about being deaf (and what is being edited into the book!) you can check out some of the posts below (but you don't have to read the posts before leaving questions, I won't be upset if you ask something I've already written about, it just shows there's a need for this ebook!)

A Guide to Eating with a Lip Reader: 
http://elenatintil.blogspot.com/2015/01/a-guide-to-eating-with-lipreader.html
The Care and Keeping of Deaf Ears: 
http://elenatintil.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-care-and-keeping-of-deaf-ears.html
What Texting Means to the Deaf: 
http://elenatintil.blogspot.com/2012/07/what-texting-means-to-deaf.html
American Girl Dolls Get Hearing Aids: 
http://elenatintil.blogspot.com/2012/12/american-girl-dolls-get-hearing-aids-at.html
Being Deaf Is . . . (This could be the title, perhaps): 
http://elenatintil.blogspot.com/2012/05/being-deaf-is.html
Celebrating Disabilities in Fiction: 
http://elenatintil.blogspot.com/2012/06/celebrating-disabilities-in-fiction.html

This is a very little project, meant to test the waters as I try to get back into writing. These days, with my health issues. it is hard to keep a whole novel in my head even when I don't have a headache, so editing M&U is unfortunately on a backburner for now. 

If you leave a question, I will accept that as permission to reproduce it in the book. Please give me a first name I can include with the question, so you can see your name in print! (a nickname is fine.) 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

OUAT Bromances, Mad Kings and Marriages

(This is a review for 5.3 and 5.4 of "Once Upon a Time and includes spoilers for both. Read at your own risk.)

Husband and I have been watching a lot of Psych lately, which is kind of the ultimate bro show. Seriously, Shawn and Gus are just the best.

OUAT is not, of course, Psych. It's actually pretty opposite, being one of the most intensely female action-driven shows since Buffy. It's not only got great lady characters, it has great lady friendships, which is super rare outside of teen shows.

In fact, it's been so marked, that a lot of us have complained from time to time that all OUAT does with young male characters is kill them off. Which is a pity, because they write their guys pretty well too. Charming, who has been the only young male to make it through all five seasons so far, gets sidelined a lot. Thankfully, they've written this into his character arc, giving him angst about his seeming uselessness amongst all the high-powered females (and, y'know, Rumple). This has led to some half-hearted hero acts in the past, but last week in 5.3 "Siege Perilous", we got not one but two awesome bro-ventures with King Arthur and Prince Charming, one in the past (creepy lake!) and one in the present (pick-up truck jousting!!!) On a smaller scale, the other funniest moment of the episode also went to a guy scene, with Hook hilariously misconstruing what Robin meant by his description of a sonogram.

This week's episode was a little more subdued in the 'awesomeness' factor, but "The Broken Kingdom" tackled another sidelined topic - marriage. In the episode we see the contrast of Arthur/Gwen's crumbling marriage, and Snow and Charming's marriage which can not only weather big fights, but grow through them. Marriage, not just romance, has always been a key underpinning of "Once Upon a Time" but last season it was a lot more about a broken marriage (Rumbelle). It's awesome to see the focus on the power-team Charmings again - and not in the annoying "it's an affair but it's not really" way from Season 1.

I really should have guessed earlier that Gwen was under a spell. I mean, this is a show that abounds in magic of every kind. However, like much of tumblr I just thought that the weird "off" feeling from Guinevere was because she was evil/plotting... not because Arthur had pulled a "Midsummer Night's Dream" on her.



On that note, Arthur is definitely crazy. At first I thought maybe he was just really misguided, but 5.4 showed that he is certifiably insane. His intentions are more or less good, but his method of accomplishing them is totally screwed up. Personally I've never been a huge Arthur fan, so this doesn't bother me too much - and besides, OUAT already broke my heart and my expectations for canon characters when it destroyed Peter Pan. However, I would encourage Camelot fans not to give up hope completely; there is plenty of room for Arthur to be "cured", certainly more than there was for Pan, and it definitely is OUAT's favorite methodology. Although I find it more interesting if they don't' redeem all of their villains, I have to agree that writing Arthur as irredeemably evil/crazy would be a sour note in the show - which is too bad because my only other complaint from this season so far is NOT ENOUGH ROBIN HOOD!!!

However, our other favorite archer is back this week, with Emma demanding that Merida make Rumple like herself... "Brave."

(What about the awesome costumes? I have stuff to say about them here.)

Saturday, October 17, 2015

"Under the Lake" and "Before the Flood"

I haven't been so happy with a Doctor Who episode in quite awhile. Maybe it's because my emotional state has been all over the place and I was just in the mood to really love something today, or maybe it's that I went back and watched some Matt Smith episodes and that sated my Eleven cravings and gave me new appreciation for Twelve at the same time, or maybe it was something awesome about the actual episodes that I will reference in a minute,  but anyhow, I adored the 9.3 and 9.4 two parter story.

We are late on the scene with this one because I've had a rough couple of weeks and wasn't up to handling anything spooky until today. Which turned out to be a great decision because we got to watch the whole story without a break, which was really cool.

Prepare yourself for lots of ALL CAPS.

AND SPOILERS

SPOILERS

SPOILERS

If you know me, you probably have already guessed my favorite part of the episode.

GUYS. GUYS. GUYS. THERE WAS A DEAF CHARACTER!!!!!!!!!! AND SHE WAS AWESOME AND HER DISABILITY WAS TOTALLY ESSENTIAL TO SAVING THE DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The moment the ghosts appeared and were inaudible, I knew that her deafness was going to be the key to communicating with them. For the record, I tried to lipread them myself, but there were no clips long enough and clear enough to make it out until Cass interpreted. Pretty sure they did this intentionally so no lipreading viewers would figure stuff out faster than any of the characters.

It's really hard to put a disabled character into a story. It is especially difficult to put them into action stories, because how do you make them team members and not the weak link? It takes a skilled storyteller who really understands the disability to do what Toby Whithouse has done here and make that disability a vital part of the story. Yes, Cass has vulnerabilities because of her lack of hearing, but she has learned how to compensate. The scene where she can't hear the ghost, but feels the vibrations was AWESOME. AND she even got a love story!!!

My signing skills are pretty basic; I use hearing aids and extensive lipreading to communicate. However, when watching ASL I can still pick some stuff up. This is the second time I've seen non-ASL signing used (Call the Midwife did a deaf storyline last year) and it was more jarring this time not to recognize any of the signs, even when I normally would. BUT it is cool to be reminded that the deaf and hard-of-hearing in every culture around the world have developed their own language, just as their hearing counterparts have. Anyhow, my main point here is that I didn't have any extra "insight" here, because the sign language was just as foreign to me as to most of you! (I'm sure the deaf over in the UK had a blast, though!)

ANYHOW. The other major geek out moment was when MARTHA was mentioned by name. We've heard other companions referenced before, but to the best of my memory, this is the first time anyone in Steven Moffat's reign has referred to Martha by name. As you may know, she is my favorite New Who companion and I had to stop the show and explain to my husband why I was freaking out.

So often the "trapped on a station with a group of new actors" DW episodes can be the weak ones. Sometimes, like "Silence in the Library" they are awesome, but a lot of times they can be a little overwhelming with characters and underwhelming with plot. This one did a good job of setting up the distinct characters, and pulling some really cool timey-wimey stuff. I also have to say, I am really digging the rock god vibe Capaldi's Doctor is incarnating. It works tremendously well. I said to Nathan, "They put the young actors in suits, and the old actors in rock clothing, and that's what makes them the DOCTOR."

Guys. I'm excited about Doctor Who again. I loved this episode, it made me so happy the whole time. I can't wait to watch the next episode when it gets online in the US tomorrow.

Monday, September 28, 2015

"Once Upon a Time" in Season 5

OH BOY.

My favorite show is back and it is just as awesome as ever!!!

Let's get that SPOILER WARNING up fast!

First of all, I'd like to point out that the very first shot, Minneapolis 1989, freaked me out because that's when and where I was born. In fact, since I was born at 9:00 at night, I’m just gonna pretend it was the night I was born. Ignore me... 

*cough* Anyhow. Young Emma looks so much like old Emma, it's great. And sudden Merlin appearance! Sudden prophecy!

Then Arthur pulls up Excalibur, which has a really familiar design on the broken off end... the Dark One's dagger was formed from Excalibur? (Let's not quibble over the fact that Excalibur came from the Lady in the Lake, NOT the stone. It's still working out cool.)

Getting down to business, Emma's been carried off to the Enchanted Forest where Rumple prances around as a bit of her imagination, as sort of an evil Obi Wan "mentoring" her into following the dark side. She runs into Merida, who is exactly like Merida from the film, only older. While cool to see Merida in the flesh, OUAT is disappointing us by continuing to translate modern princesses word-for-word instead of reinterpreting them as they did all the old ones. (Yeah, it's to keep the little girls interested and selling merchandise, right?) Cue struggle - to kill Merida and steal the wisp or not?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Hook is running around following his heart, while Regina follows her head. Shennigans ensue, Zelena escapes, Regina saves the day, and then in a super epic scene everyone crams into Granny's and in whipped off in an actual Tornado to Oz the Enchanted Forest (although it really was almost Oz). And by "everyone" it really is everyone, down to baby Neal, Roland, three dwarves, and Granny. They even took Zelena, with Robin now refusing to budge from her side in case Hook manages to let her escape again.

I was a little thrown that they took the kids, but I guess if I were jumping between realms, I wouldn't want to risk another 28-year-separation from my newborn.

The gang arrives just in time to convince Emma not to squash Merida's heart, Emma trusts Regina with her failsafe dagger,  and then Arthur conveniently shows up (yay for prophecies, who needs cellphones?) and leads them off to Camelot.

Then quicker than you can say "We lost our memories AGAIN?" (and Snow does) everyone finds themselves waking up back in Storybrooke 6 weeks later, wearing awesome clothes (that I will review on the sewing blog next week) and no idea of what's happened.

Cue Darth Vader's Emma's entrance with an ominous "You failed" and a stone dwarf to punctuate the horror on everyone's face.

Like I said. OH BOY. This season is gonna be good.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Doctor Who Season 9 Begins

I haven't written much about Doctor Who lately, and that's because of the season 8 finale. I just really didn't like it. Plus, the season as a whole was weak (although it had some really strong episodes). This is typical - each Doctor's first season is always weaker when compared to his later ones, as actor and writers struggle to really discover who the new Doctor is. So I came into season 9 without enthusiasm, but not without hope.

(Yeah, the Christmas episode was good enough to warrant a review, but not to get me excited about Season 9)

Of course, the nice thing about having low expectations is that it is pretty easy to exceed them. That said, the season 9 opener stands as an above average story by DW standards, and Capaldi proves that he has really come into his own.

SPOILERS TO FOLLOW

Considering that I really did not like Missy at all in Season 8, I was surprised to find myself quite enjoying her presence in these episodes. Genuinely funny, and much more enjoyable to watch as a companionish character rather than an antagonist.

The plot with Davros was fascinating, and ended up going in quite a different direction than I expected. That said, my single biggest complaint with the story is that they never addressed the fact that the last time we saw Davros on screen, he quite definitely died.

Yeah, he could have been teleported away or something at the last minute... but it would have been nice to at least see this addressed. DW fans have had to come to accept unanswered questions in Moffat's reign, but this particular storyline really rubbed in our faces "This is DW, we do what we want and don't explain" with both the Doctor and Missy actually saying paraphrases of this. This just seems kind of mean to the fans, who are just doing what the Doctor himself does and seeking answers to weird things.

Complaints aside, I loved loved loved Capaldi's entrance on a tank wearing sunglasses playing an electric guitar. It was so reminiscent of Ten and yet helped illuminate who Twelve is as well. I also thought Clara was handled really nicely, and it was definitely creepy/cool to see her back inside of a Dalek.

Indeed, bringing Clara's story full circle now, in what is due to be her last season, makes me wonder if the Clara/Dalek connection will re-emerge again in the finale, and tie into her departure from the show. It certainly seems to be foreshadowed at this point.

Not to mention the fact that both episode titles seem to be referring to Clara - or at least, that is the best explanation I can come up with, if one reads "Magician" as "Doctor" and "Witch" as "Missy." Any other interpretations for "The Magician's Apprentice" and "The Witch's Familiar"?

Snake henchman was creepy, but utilized really really well. Invisible Skaro was a beautiful scene, and "Your sewers are revolting!" was HILARIOUS.

All in all, it was a not-perfect-but-still-solid opener and I look forwards to seeing what the rest of the season brings - and that's a better reaction than I was anticipating, so count me happy.


Friday, September 11, 2015

The Real Amy Farrah Fowler

I've spent a lot of time in the past eight weeks reading web articles on my phone. So. Much. Buzzfeed.

Anyhow, a friend on facebook linked to an article on Kveller.com, which is a Jewish parenting site, and even though I'm not Jewish or a parent, I've still found the website fascinating to browse through. Ironically, it was only after I'd decided to regularly read the site that I realized it is also the blog home of Mayim Bialik, (Amy Farrah Fowler on CBS's Big Bang Theory.)

I already knew, of course, that Mayim is an unusual Hollywood player, in being both an observant Jew (Amy wears skirts on BBT because Mayim follows Jewish modesty/tznuit) and the holder of a Ph.D in Neuroscience. I didn't realize that she is an articulate and prolific writer as well, nor that she is a very outspoken proponent of breastfeeding.

I might not personally agree with everything she writes, but I certainly find it all very fascinating, particularly how she balances the demands of her job and her faith. (Gotta love the many posts she's written on finding appropriate award ceremony dresses!)

Anyhow, I'm looking forwards to seeing what is in store for her character on the show this season - the spring finale ended with such a major twist!!!!



Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Because you might want an update

Wow. Five weeks of ill-health and still no improvement? This is a record even for me. Seriously. In the past at least either a) I could draw and binge watch Netflix or b) there was recognizeable progress every week. Not to mention I could recieve visitors - these days seeing anyone other than Nathan tires me out really quickly, so other than my doctor, I have only seen non-family members three times this month.

With this... there isn't much new to share. My health crisis continues, and while not life-threatening in any way, it certainly is almost completely debilitating - my mother and mother-in-law have been coming over to cook and clean just to give my husband a break. My pain and fatigue is just so overwhelming that I count it as a good day if I can actually cook even half a meal. I just can't be out of bed for very long. Even holding a book or scrolling on my phone is too painful sometimes. Right now I'm sitting up to write this post, but I'm not going to last very long. These days I don't leave the house except to go to the doctor.

To reassure you... We are working aggressively at getting me better, and the good news is that this extended period of awfulness isn't unexpected or even worrying - it's actually kind of a good sign. I'm not comfortable talking about the details publicly (although I will confirm that I am not pregnant), but I do want to reassure everyone that a) I'm not dying and b) my body is making progress, it's just that 'progress' is going to feel more painful for awhile before it actually gets better. In fact, we are very very hopeful that on the other side of this we'll find my health in a much better place than it has been for years. It's an awful fight right now, but one that should hopefully be very rewarding.

I've basically said all of this before. It really is just staying the same. Everything in my head is pretty bleak right now, so sharing anything other than facts just really isn't happening. Part of me wants to share more of the emotional stuff, but I find myself not comfortable with releasing all those thoughts publicly... which, if you know me, is saying something pretty extreme right there (I'm a fairly open person).

I'm not writing a single word of this post because I feel I need pity. I have been surrounded by tons and tons of caring people (even if I don't have the energy to see most of them or even respond to their texts). I'm overwhelmed by the prayers.








Thursday, August 13, 2015

Pineapple

Being so sick has been taking a real emotional toll. So the energy I have for TV watching (I'm actually in so much pain that I can't sit and watch very much TV) goes into watching a goofy, witty comedy that fills me with laughter rather than depression or suspense.

Psych just makes us happy.






Saturday, August 8, 2015

Health Report

Because you are possibly wondering... we are making progress in figuring out what is going on with my health (day 20 here), and while overall I'm making progress, it's one of those cases of getting worse before getting better. I may just plain feel this crappy for the next month as my body sorts things out. (too complicated to really explain). So just know that I am doing my best to meet commitments and respond to messages, but my range of energy from day to day is pretty small, even on the best days.
My biggest priority right now is my health, followed by meeting my work deadlines (and we are planning that I wont' take on any further costume commissions for awhile after I get the current batch done. The towels are easier to manage, but the big costume ensembles are just too overwhelming.)

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Multiple health issues going on right now... Only online in spurts bit mainly reading, no posting/formulating sentences. Scared that stress will bring on another migraine...i hate going to the ER so much. Anyhow, I am not ignoring anyone, just really limited.

(Today is the first day I've been on the computer or been able to watch anything since Monday - it's been really insane.)

Monday, July 20, 2015

Support a Young Artist!

This is a self portrait by my sister. It’s one of my favorite pieces by her, and I’m thrilled that she’s decided to enter it in Blick Art’s “The Art of Portraiture” contest. I’d love to help her get a boatload of votes!
She’s embarking on that scary adventure - becoming a self-sustaining artist. It would be a huge confidence booster for her if she won the DickBlick “Art of Portraiture” contest, plus the art supplies would be hugely appreciated. 
So if you’re interested in supporting a young artist as she begins her career, please consider going and voting for her! You can vote once per day for the next week. It would mean a lot to both of us!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Books, More books, and other stuff.

So. What's up? Summer. A hot summer. Sure, Texas would laugh at us, but it has been very humid up here as well, so it really has been quite intense for us Minnesotans.


Nathan and I got bikes! Of course, once we got them, the heat ramped up and my health ramped down and so I haven't done as much as I'd like. Nathan goes out and has solo adventures though.


I opened a new etsy store! I can run my embroidery machine while doing other sewing stuff, so I thought I'd try and make some money off of it - all part of trying to get me off deadline work so that I can be less stressed when my health delays things. I'm really excited about all the cute designs I've got up on my tea towels! Go check out Whimsical Kitchen here for all of your unique dish towel needs.


Summer is book binging time as well. Ironically I've made two big hauls in the past two weeks. I say ironically, because I just got Amazon Unlimited as well, so I'm overflowing in books! The stack above is from two weeks ago - love love love Half Price Books!


Today my sister and I went to the Half Price Books Tent Sale and both spent about $20 getting some good stuff. We also sniffed around the local street festival that was going on and compared the art pieces to what my sister is creating in her studio. (She just wrote a post on being an art student, which I think is pretty interesting.)


As you can see, I had more luck in the YA section than the adult section. This is mostly because the YA stuff was cheaper, so I could get more!

And since it was blazing hot again today, and we had to park aways away because of the street fair traffic, I am exhausted. Over and out!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Are You Watching "Poldark"?

I love it when both Nathan and I get equally obsessed with a show. We did with "Wolf Hall" (Actually, Nathan was even more into it than I was, probably because I already knew what was going to happen!), and now we're doing it with PBS's newest import, "Poldark."


We don't have TV, so we watch it online the day after it airs. This means I'm currently awaiting Nathan's return from work tonight to see episode four - so no spoilers!!!

Anyhow, my synopsis of the plot thus far is this: after the Revolutionary War, Ross Poldark returns to his home in Cornwall, England, to find his father dead and his fiance engaged to another. Against all advice, he determines to revive the family estate, do right by his father's tenants, and reopen his family's mine. At his side is the spunky young serving maid, Demelza, but will her encouragement and Ross's strong will be enough for him to stand against those arrayed against him?

This is the second BBC show of the name. The first was aired in the '70's and was also based on the "Poldark" novels by Winston Graham. I'm dying to dig into reading the novels (which are on Amazon Unlimited!) but am resisting the urge until we've at least watched the first season. I want to get through season one unspoiled, so that Nathan and I continue to be on the same page.

And yes, Poldark himself is played by Aiden Turner, whom you may recognize as "that hot young dwarf" from "The Hobbit."

It is a grown-up show in tone, but since it aired on PBS it is pretty appropriate as far as what you see/hear. (Characters tend to use the curse "Judas" a lot, which I've never heard used before). There is some immorality, but framed in such a way as to never appear a right or honorable choice - and so far there is no gratuitous nudity or anything more than the briefest beginnings of a sex scene. (I don't know if the original BBC broadcast contained more).

This is the perfect time to jump into the show, as the first four episodes are all up on PBS for free - BUT episode 1 is due to expire on the 19th, so get thyself a'watching!




Wednesday, July 8, 2015

20 Lbs off

Remember when I wrote this post about my weight? Well, today I got on the scale and I was 20 pounds lighter than I was in January - and I achieved it without having a regular exercise regime, counting calories, or going hungry (mostly.)

Yes, folks, between the end of March and today, I've lost 20 pounds. I'm nearly back to my college weight, and while I need to get more of my waist and belly fat off (because it's an indicator of other health problems, not because I want a flat tummy), I'm in a better place than I ever thought I could be without being able to exercise.

How did this happen? Well, with all the joint pain I've had this year, my mother suggested that I go on Dr. Hyman's "10 Day Detox" to see if it would help relieve my inflammation. I cannot say enough good things about this program. Yes, you spend 10 days on an extremely strict regime, but it tastes good, and you don't go hungry (except sometimes before going to bed, since eating must stop 3 hours before bedtime).

The principle of the diet is taking out all forms of sugar - we (my husband joined me) didn't even allow ourselves Stevia during the first 10 days. So almost no fruit, no dairy or potatoes grains or beans, and even some vegetables are forbidden (beets, sweet potatoes and peas) because of their high glycemic index. Doing this for 10 days resets your body's insulin and glucose and can actually reverse diabetes.

(You ARE allowed lots of good stuff, like nuts, eggs, lean meat, berries and most vegetables).

It was hard during the initial detox phase. We had cravings, we were grumpy and tired, and the first few days were just not fun. But the book had warned us about this, and sure enough, by about day 5 we were feeling lots better, and I had more energy than I'd had in years. Plus we were losing almost a pound a day!

Let me restate - you do NOT go hungry. Sugar spikes your hunger, but once you reset your body, you are satisfied with much smaller, healthier portions. (If you want more science, read the book, it explains it MUCH better than I do.)

After the initial 10 days, we decided to keep following many of the principles of the diet. Eliminating so many foods helped me identify a few other allergens - so I've removed nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers), avacados, onions, and strawberries from my diet. As you can imagine, seasonings in food has become a NIGHTMARE. However, my joint pain has become more manageable (although it still prohibits some activities), so for now I'm sticking with that. I have to cook nearly all my own food, but it's almost easier, now that I'm not even worrying about grains most of the time.

However, this strictness means that we are more lenient about allowing goat dairy, beans, and the occasional honey/maple syrup back into our diet. Thankfully I can have garlic powder (though not raw garlic), and black pepper and all the herbs and non-pepper spices are fine. I was concerned that the fat in the goat dairy might inhibit my weight loss, but I've continued to loose about a pound a a week!

I thought it was going to be harder to give up my fruit juice than it was. Turns out, lemon water sweetened with stevia satisfies the cravings too without doing havoc on your insulin. And I'm amazed at how many meals I have that don't have any grains at all!

The one "cheat" food I have is salad dressing. Even though I buy the healthiest stuff I can find, it is impossible not to have a little sugar in there. But the amount of salad I consume makes more of a positive difference in my health than the itty bit of sugar (real sugar, not HFCS) is negative.

Healthy foods like kombucha, sprouts and yes, turnips have become surprisingly appealing to me. Our favorite snacks are cucumbers dipped in kalamata hummas, and mushrooms roasted with coconut oil and salt. I stopped eating tuna and started eating sardines... which I love even more!

I've lost 2 inches from my waist, 2 inches from my belly, and almost 3 inches from my hips. I've already had to take some clothes in, and I'm hoping to fit into some of my old jeans by fall! And since cutting out sugar, neither Nathan nor I have gotten any contagious infections, despite how many colds were going around this spring at Nathan's work!

If you have questions about what it was like for me being on the diet, I'll try to answer, but extended typing does make my hands hurt, so if you have questions about how it all works, I really suggest that you go read the book itself, or at least Dr. Hyman's blog. It's an easy quick read and everything is explained.


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Death in Paradise

Looking for a good summer show? Does a whimsical detective show set in the Caribbean with plenty of Anglo/Franco humor sound like your niche? Well then, how about checking out Death in Paradise? Netflix just got Season 3 up, so you have 24 episodes to binge on.

The Premise: A fastidious English Detective gets sent to a Caribbean island of to help solve a murder. Although he dislikes the sun and his Britishness is abrasive to the French islanders, he is good at his job and the local commissioner works out a deal with London to keep the detective around. Slowly he becomes beloved by his coworkers (the islanders are by far the best part of the show) and starts to tolerate the climate, while solving one mystery after another.

Nathan and I fell in love with the show pretty quickly. The characters are great, and the feel of the show is quirky and upbeat enough to set it apart from most crime dramas while making it the perfect bit of relaxing entertainment after a long day at work. The mysteries, which have a very "Agatha Christie" feel to them, are pretty clever, although we do enjoy figuring out as many as possible before the reveal!

It's also fairly clean. There are mentions of affairs, and there are bodies, but you don't see anything and the language is quite decent.

(Discreet Season 3 Opener Spoiler)
I will warn you that there is a significant cast member departure at the beginning of season 3, but the replacement is SO good that the show actually gets better. So don't let that throw you off!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Duluth and Minnesota's "Downton Abbey"

Well, Nathan and I just got back from our first "just us" vacation since our honeymoon! We went up to Duluth, MN for a wedding and spent the weekend enjoy the beautiful city and Lake Superior.


Duluth gets very busy during the summer, so instead of staying in a hotel, we decided to try out AirBnB.com. We got a very nice bedroom/bathroom/sitting room combo for $50, just 20 minutes out of the city. Our host was great, and overall we found it a very affordable (yet still comfortable) way to travel.


The highlight of the trip for us was our visit to Glensheen Mansion, a turn of the century home that is just AMAZING (and a must-see for any Downton Abbey fan!)



Seriously, this place is amazing.


In addition to being lavishly decorated, it also is fascinating to see all of the 'modern' conviences the family used in the home - including central vacuuming!


My favorite room is the greenhouse-like breakfast room. You can see my full album with my notes from the tour over on facebook!


My previous visits to Duluth centered largely around Canal Park and the conference center, but this time Nathan and I drove around a bit more of the rest of the city. And although we brought most of our food (my restrictive diet), we still indulged in some of the culinary delights as well, taking dinner at Pizza Luce and getting some GF rhubarb crisp at the rhubarb festival!

Considering that our car broke down the day before we were supposed to go and we had to rent a vehicle from a family member, I was really really thankful that we both made it and had a lovely time. Very grateful to have a chance to share one of my favorite places with Nathan!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Pain and Pirate Gals (Jacky Faber mini review)

I've been sick all week, which has been pretty depressing. My aches and pains have kicked in with a vengeance (yes, we think it is Fibromyalgia now), and it has just been very unproductive. Typing hurts.

Also, I've determined that it is doubly lame being sick as an extrovert, because you go crazy not seeing people in addition to being miserable. Very thankful that my husband has used several of his lunch breaks to come home and see me... otherwise I would perish of loneliness.

The one upside is that I've had plenty of time to race through the Jacky Faber adventures. All except the last one are on Amazon Unlimited, so I took this month to get my free trial of that... excellent timing, as that was right before I got sick. At least I've traveled the world vicariously through that roguish maid.

Which, by the way, they are very entertaining books. I was expecting just your average "girl dresses like boy, hijinks ensure" and was pleasantly surprised by the varied storylines and unique traits of the heroine.  The historical detail is astounding, and I learned far more than I expected to. Plus the literary and historical 'easter egg's (so to speak) are super fun to find.

However, the books are about a girl running around in a man's world, and a sailor's world at that. This does result in a lot of raunchiness, which, while it makes the story more historically plausible in a lot of ways, it does mean that the books push the upper boundaries of the YA genre. My sister was 16 when she first read them, and (at least for conservative readers), I wouldn't recommend them to anyone younger than that. Jacky has... interesting morals. It works for her character, but, well, maturity is everything when dealing with a character like that. And honestly, it gets a little over the top with how many different men fall in love with her. But, eh, they're good enough to read despite that.


Monday, June 8, 2015

While I wait for my Alpha Readers...

Three of my eight alpha readers have handed in (most) of their notes. I can't really work on the book until I get all the notes back, so writing is not happening right now. It's driving me a little crazy because I really want to start working on some of the stuff the alphas have pointed out! However it's a REALLY long book, so am totally understanding why many of my alphas need extra time. :) The alphas that have already completed their notes have given me really extensive feedback, so it's all well worth the wait.

But my hands are hurting a lot, so it's probably good that I'm not typing too much this week.

Yesterday my sister told me that she'd ordered a book from the library the previous evening. I gasped and said "I ordered my copy last night too, but there weren't any holds on it yet!!!"

We might not be twins, but we've got some sort of psychic sister mind-link anyhow.

Also, I'm growing sprouts. Which means I continue my journey of turning into my mother. Ahhhh! What happened was that when we were visiting my in-laws, they had a bowl of sprouts in the fridge and they looked SO GOOD that I just had to have some every day. When I got home I missed them, but a pack of sprouts at Whole Foods is $4!!!!! I could get a whole bag of seeds for $4!!! So now I'm giving that a try.

Because of my achy joints, we are trying all sorts of dietary stuff to help them out. Right now that means I'm strictly avoiding nightshades, which means no potatoes, tomatoes, or peppers (even like cayanne pepper or chipolte pepper.) This means no eating out, and I have to get creative with some seasoning stuff.

I am, however, allowed mushrooms. I love mixing them up with coconut oil and salt and crisping them in the oven. YUM YUM.

Also, I learned how to make Paleo Mayo. Yay. (My diet is different than paleo, but paleo recipes tend to be the closest to what I need, so I can alter them easily if necessary.)


Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Immortal Descendents

I'm a sucker for time travel stories. I think they are one of the best ways to explore history, since the modern day protagonist will notice everything that is different about that time from the 21st Century, in a way that a resident of that time would not. I believe that time travel stories, when done well, allow a reader to truly immerse themselves in historical fiction.

Emphasis on "when done well." Alas, it is pretty difficult to find good time travel that is well written, well researched, and reasonably appropriate for general audiences (YA and above). Part of this is because playing with time, even just in one's imagination, gets really complicated fast. I've personally been working on and off on a time travel novel for nine years now and I still can't get everything about it to work. Writing good time travel is hard.

So though "Marking Time" was recommended to me by a well-trusted source, I still picked it up warily. The one thing that stuck out to me was that it wasn't just about a time traveler - it was about the modern day descendants of five immortals, of whom Time was only one. This meant that in addition to time travel, the series also deals with shape-shifters (Nature), war-mongers (War), seers (Fate), and vampires (Death).

"Oh come on," I hear you saying. "Let me guess, another YA novel that has werewolves and vampires? Pleeeeese."

No worries. April White's twist on both of these tropes is nicely done, and well mixed with the seers, mongers and time travelers.

So what's the premise? I'll post the blurb from the author's website, which does a nice job of laying it out.

Seventeen-year-old tagger, Saira Elian can handle anything...
     ... A mother who mysteriously disappears, a stranger who stalks her around London, and even the noble English Grandmother who kicked Saira and her mother out of the family. But when an old graffiti tag in a tube station transport Saira to the nineteenth century, and she comes face-to-face with Jack the Ripper, she realizes she needs help after all.
     Saira meets Archer, a charming student who helps her blend in as much as a tall, modern American teen can in Victorian England. He reveals the existence of the Immortals: Time, Nature, Fate, War, and Death, and explains to Saira that it is possible to move between centuries - if you are a Descendant of Time.
     Saira finds unexpected friendships at a boarding school for Immortal Descendants, and a complicated love with a young man from the past. But time is running out for her mother, and Saira must embrace her new identity as she hides from Archer a devastating secret about his future that may cost him his life.

Intriguing, yes? But is it good? Does it check the three boxes?

It's YA, so that automatically pretty much guarantees it checks the "appropriate for general audiences" box. (There are some 'hero and heroine sharing a bed fully clothed' bits, so more conservative families might not be cool with that, but otherwise everything is pretty much good for the 15+ crowd, imho).

And then... the story is pretty good too. The characters are well rounded, likable and believable. Our heroine, Saira, is only very occasionally annoying. The plot keeps you guessing (although the twist in the first book is pretty obvious to the experienced reader), and is unique. That'd be enough to recommend the story even if the time travel was weak.

But the time travel is strong. I have only read one other book that handled it so well, and that's saying a lot because my standards are high. Both the way the travel is handled, and the historical details themselves are very well researched and incorporated into the story. The second book deals with Elizabeth Tudor, which is a period I know well and I found very little to take issue with. Mostly I was geeking about the inclusion of young Elizabeth I. (Book 3 deals with Joan of Arc, although not in the way you're expecting!*).

Furthermore, a story that deals with time travel in Western Europe can't ignore religion, and I was pretty impressed by the balanced viewpoint the author gave. Sure, one of the main baddies is a bishop, but he's balanced by a good bishop as one of the mentor characters (who is also one of the heroine's favorite people). And it's always fun to see a vampire discussing theology! I'm looking forwards to how this plays out in the last two books as we discover more about the original immortals and how they might connect (or not) to Christianity.

Needless to say, I was impressed, and sped my way through the first three books in a week. The first one is free on Amazon (and the author intends to keep it that way), and the other two are each $3.99, which is a good deal considering that these are pretty long books (always a plus!). My only peeve is that the series is still in progress, which means waiting for two more books to release before the story is finished. UGH!

Anyhow, I was so glad that I was told about this books and followed up on the suggestion. They are really, really good and I highly recommend them to anyone with a love for history, fantasy, and good stories!

*EDIT - I should note that something happens at the end of book 3 that could lower my opinion of the time travel in the series if it is not properly resolved in book 4. Just in case any critical readers get to that point and wonder about this raving review! ;)

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Is it fan art if the author makes it?

Substitute "Beta" for "Alpha" and this is where I'm at in the editing process right now for "The Mermaid and the Unicorn."

I had a nice week off, which included a vacation to visit my in-laws. The only book related thing I did the whole time was to play around with watercolors and do a homage piece to Meredith Dillman's "the Lady and the Unicorn" (which I own a print of.)



Also, I finally collected all of the posts relating to "The Mermaid and the Unicorn" and collected them on one page. Click here or check out "My Books" in the navigational bar to check it out and catch up!


Saturday, May 16, 2015

"The Mermaid and the Unicorn" - first printout is HUGE!

One Alpha reader gets a print out copy. Fun to see the book take physical form, even if the size is pretty daunting!



I know you're wondering... why is Matt's name first when I'm doing the majority of the writing? Here's a post he wrote about coauthored books. He's absolutely more than an editor on this book (and we also need his name to be first on every book in this multi-author series so that they're shelved together in bookstores and libraries). Basically, we plotted the book together - there is no way I could have come up with a plot this tight on my own - then for the past three years I would write a section, send it to him, he'd make a few tweaks and comments, then I'd implement his comments and write more. There's a few sections he's rewritten already, and I'm sure there will be many more bits when we get into draft 4... my 'this is my baby!' author side hopes it won't be too much, but Matt's changes always make the book stronger. Certainly the whole world of the ruahim is his brainchild, he is a fantastic worldbuilder and this series is only going to be as strong as it is because of his guidance.

He is an excellent editor, btw, if you can employ him, you definitely should! I'm very blessed that with this series he just takes a cut of the royalties and I don't have to pay him out of pocket.

Friday, May 15, 2015

I'M FREEEEEEEEE

*cough*

I just finished the latest draft of "The Mermaid and the Unicorn" and have sent it off to my alpha readers (see previous post for what those are).  My body is dead and I don't want to type again for the rest of the weekend, but expect blogging to resume next week.