Friday, April 30, 2010

Wildwood Dancing

There are books that one reads for entertainment and a bit of fun, and then they drift away back to the library shelves.

Then there are other books that touch us in a profound way and leave some sort of lasting mark upon our minds.

"Wildwood Dancing" by Juliet Marillier was one of the latter for me, although I'm still trying to understand why. There was a depth and breadth to it that one doesn't find in most teen books. And it touched something in me on a very deep level. It's not a story I'm going to forget easily.

It is a retelling of the fairy-tale "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" set in Translyvania sometime when the Turks still ruled the east of Europe. Translyvania is of course an ideal place to set a fairy-tale, as magic and superstitions haunt the land even now, and certainly affect our perception of it.

Tati, Jena, Iulia, Paula and Stela are five sisters who live with their Father in a mysterious old castle at the edge of the fabled Wildwood. Every month they cast shadows on the stones of their bedroom walls and a portal opens, taking them deep into the Wildwood for a night of dancing amongst the wonderous inhabitants of Faerie. There they dance the night away, unsuspected by their father or friends (save, perhaps, their wise old housekeeper who knows well the stories of the Wildwood and the castle).

But life is not meant to remain uncomplicated. The girls' father takes ill and must spend the winter abroad, leaving their scheming and powerhungry cousin in charge of their finances and future. Then Night People (a traditional name for vampires) come to the dance in the Wildwood, bringing with them a young man who immediatly captures the heart of the beautiful Tati.

It is up to Jena and her companion, Gogu the frog, to find out the truth about the young man and the Wildwood before the destructive forces of evil on both sides (human and faerie) destroy them all.

At 400 pages this is a complex book with plenty of story to it. Plot, character, myth, humor, love, faith... there is room for it all. And with the author being recently from the field of adult literature, perhaps it is no surprise that this book rises above the average quality of teen literature.

However, "teen" does not equal "child." Though it is based on a fairy-tale, it is a coming of age story that deals with aspects of love and life that are more appropriate for those older than 16. The magical aspects are of course in keeping with fairy tales, yet they exist in a world which also holds priests and crucifixes, which may also confuse younger readers.

I enjoyed this book. It's not a simple story and it puts a fascinating and unique twist on a beloved fairy tale. Vampires in "Twelve Dancing Princesses" may seem a bit odd, but it works. And trust me, they are not glamorized the way the Twilight Vamps are.

While it may seem to give truth to the "Love at First Sight" myth, it also makes it very clear that you need to know the person you are in love with. The best and deepest love is often the one right before your eyes, even if it is hidden in an unusual disguise.

"Wildwood Dancing" is a book that will make you think, and perhaps not always make you comfortable, but if fairy-tales, love, adventures, vampires and well-written stories catch your interest, I think you'll enjoy it as much as I did.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A sketch of a dream...

I had a dream several weeks ago about a house that was built around a tree. This picture is an unfinished sketch that captures only a tiny part of the beauty and fantasy of it.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"Going Rogue: An American Life" - by Sarah Palin

Like most of America, I was shocked, confused and a little disgusted when Sarah Palin resigned from the Governership of Alaska last summer. "What can the woman be thinking?" I wondered. To tell the truth, I was not very interested in reading her autobiography, which seemed little more than an attention-getting ploy.

Then I ended up on an RV trip with my grandparents, and guess what the most interesting title in the vehicle ended up being?

Yep. "Going Rogue."

I have to admit, it's a cool title. Well, at least for someone like myself who is obsessed with the X-Men, names her car Rogue, and is given a 12-inch Rogue doll for her 21st birthday and considers it one of her coolist presents. And then there is the fact that I really am a rogue myself, a fact that my friends and family will testify to. I don't follow the normal path, and have fun trying to get me to follow authority that I believe is acting foolishly or is incapable of the job.

So to be honest, the title worked its magic on me and I actually picked it up and started reading. And am I ever glad that I did!

Sarah Palin is actually a pretty good writer. She had experience in journelism and therefore was perfectly qualified to write her own autobiography without the help of a "professional" writer. She writes in an engaging and fascinating manner that kept me turning pages well after midnight.

Page by page, my respect for Palin grew. Page by page I started regretting more and more that there was no chance she was going to be our President. By the end of the book I was absolutely convinced that Palin is exactly the kind of politician we need more of in the goverment. Her conservative thinking on finances alone would do wonders to restore our economy.

My father and brother heard Palin speak in person at the Republican National Convention last year and both said that they didn't think there was much depth to her. I'm advising them to read this book.

And I absolutely support Palin's decision to leave office when she did. I believe the circumstances where enormously unfair and that she was acting in the very best interests of Alaska and her own family. What impressed me most of all was that she frankly awknowledged her awareness that in stepping down she was effectively ending her political career. But it was something that needed to happen.

Why? Well, I could try to explain the absolutely pathetic ethics campaign her opponants were waging against her, but I really think you ought to read it in her own words.

(A side note to high school homeschoolers - there's another reason you should read this book! It's got enough goverment talk in it that you can probably get your parents to award you some High School Credit for American Goverment if you do so! ;) )

Friday, April 23, 2010

Dresses of Yesteryear

Two projects I completed recently, for two special cousins of mine! As usual I designed them and created the patterns myself, although I had help from the young ladies and their mother with the actual grunt work.

I must say, I'm quite pleased with how they turned out! (Especially since we made them in about four days!)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

"The Young Victoria"

The Queen wore black and mourned for him for forty years... but why? Who was her husband and why did she love him so much? That's the story "The Young Victoria" sets out to tell.

Those of you who have been following my blog for awhile will remember I posted the trailer over a year ago when the news first started really circulating. Apparently Sarah Ferguson (Duchess of York) has been working on this project for the past 17 years. Now that is dedication!

And I'd say the 17 years were well worth the wait.

"The Young Victoria" is easily one of the best historical pieces I've seen in a long time. It breaths life and passion into a story that could so easily have been left a dowdy "dialogueshotinamuseum" piece. Instead breathtaking cinematography, Academy Award winning costumes, and phenomenal acting bring to life a beautiful story of love and coming to age as the most powerful Queen on earth.

Victoria, age 17, is a princess and a prisoner. She is the only surviving child of the three royal brothers - two of which have already passed away, making her the heir to the throne of England. In fear for her life, her mother (The Duchess of Kent) and her mother's controller (Sir John Conroy) have bound her in rules regulating everything from the books she reads to not going down a flight of stairs without holding someone's hand.

Meanwhile, her cousin Prince Albert is also being trained for a role - albiet a slightly differant and less certain one. Their mutual uncle, Leopold of the Belgians, has been plotting a match between his royal niece and nephew since they were born. At his orders Albert works daily to mold himself into the ideal suitor for the young princess.

But after years of suffering the reign of Sir John Conroy, Victoria is the last person on earth to be controlled. Though she is attracted to the handsome, sincere and passionate Albert, she senses the adults working behind the scenes and resents it.

Then enters the charismatic, sensetive and kind Lord Melbourne, who is to become Victoria's first Prime Minister. He immediatly slips into a paternal role and becomes Victoria's idol.

Meanwhile, back in Germany, Albert is left kicking up his heels. For you see, one cannot propose to a queen, one can merely wait for her to propose to you...

This is a fascinating and enjoyable movie, for those who love history or a good love story or good acting or simply just adore beautiful costumes. The relationships are fascinating to watch, as are the political manoueverings. And the star-studded cast (including Miranda Richardson, Jim Broadbent, Mark Strong and Paul Bettany) ensure that one is always watching an engaging and believable performance, no matter who is on the screen.

But of course what really makes the story work is the amazing performance and chemistry between Emily Blunt (Victoria) and Rupert Friend (Albert). They respectfully but realistically bring to life a passionate young couple, dealing with many of the same struggles that all young couples handle (though on a slightly larger scale!).

The movie is rated PG, and contains a few bedroom scenes with the newlywedded royal couple. Nothing explicit is shown (both remain fully clothed the whole time) and the kissing is real, joyful and pure, not gratious. However such scenes are probably not for younger audiences, and I would recommend this for ages 14+.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Firefly Character Sketch

My latest bit of artwork... a character sketch for a Firefly RPG. Her name is Gillian MacEwan, and she's the ship's medic.


Monday, April 19, 2010

1st Draft of May's Cover for "Ink and Fairydust"

Did a mini-photo shoot to get some pictures for the May issue... which will focus on Modesty, Mary and the Rosary!

Here is the first draft of the cover...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Another step on the internet accessibility for the hearing impaired...

So some Netflix shows and movies now have subtitles/close-captions for the hearing impaired.

I guess I should cheer for this - and part of me is, because it's a step in the right direction.

But I'm also very wary of how far they're going to be willing to take this. Are they going to caption a few titles and hope that relieves the pressure and then not do anything more for the next five years? Because to some extent, that's what's happened with Hulu and Youtube. Sure they have some captions... but really not nearly enough. For everything I can watch with captions, there are so many more things without captions - and as someone with a severe hearing impairment, that's extremely frustrating.

I know they can't do everything at once - that's a LOT of work. But I can't break out the pom-poms until they demonstrate that they are dedicated to captioning EVERYTHING, and in a timely manner.

However, kudos for finally stepping up to the plate and getting some stuff out there, Netflix. It's an incentive for me to plan to get a subscription again, and if you DO keep captioning things, then yes, I will indeed be back.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


but ruby slippers would have been handy today... I woke up at 6:00 this morning with severe heartburn and had to go to the emergency room... and this was while we were still six hours away from home!

I'm doing much better now, and am safely in my home sweet home surrounded by my loved ones and in surroundings that are rather too eerily familiar... it seems so strange to have been away for three months!

This week will be a major re-entry period and will probably be very weird and possibly emotionally challenging, so I'd appreciate prayers!

Time for a whole new adventure of life!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Joss Whedon to direct "Avengers"

*completely freaks out*

*calms down*

Oooooh, this is super cool news! I hope he's majorly involved with the script too, because that's definetely his strongest area...

For those of you who are unaware, Joss Whedon is important to me personally because of his work on the X-Men comics, and of course his creation of a new favorite show of mine - "Firefly." (He's most famous for creating "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" which has a pretty good rep among people I respect, though I think it would be too scary for me). Whedon is excellent at creating strong characters and working with ensemble casts, as well as writing complex plots with deep themes and great dialogue. So we could really get a good film here! :)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

On the road...

I'm on the way back home now and therefore have very limited internet access. Travel is going well, however, and I'm very blessed to be spending time with my grandparents, uncle, aunt, and cousins... which includes babies and, well, I just rather adore babies. ;)

Hope you all are doing well also! :)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Easter beauties

I mentioned that Easter was wonderful... well part of it was the absolutely enchanting table settings and decorations we had! Regina did a lovely post about it on her blog, which I am excited to share with you!

Also, the pictures show three of the five Easter dresses I orchestrated making for the five younger ladies (and babies!) of Shirefeld!

Monday, April 5, 2010

"The Tripods Attack"

I'm usually very wary of Science Fiction novels that deal with aliens. Because I really don't like aliens. They can just be too... creepy. Especially in those "taking over the world" scenarios...

But, well, "The Tripods Attack" has a very interesting premise that really cannot fail to hook a Chesterton fan. Because it's the first book in "The Young Chesterton Adventures" which places young Gilbert Keith Chesterton in an alternative history where everything is backwards and literature peeps through at every crack. Britian is industrialized by steam computers (more or less) and a strange set of mysterious circumstances land Gil in the midsts of a Martian invasion, rushing against time to save the world with the help of Father Brown and a certain H.G. Wells!

As stated before, the book completely turns history on its head. Chesterton shows up as an imigrant to Britain from the United States, and the Titanic likewise started off in New York and was making it's maiden journey to... London?

It's an exciting ride that will keep you turning pages, but be prepared for anything to happen. History isn't the history you know, and bits and characters from Lewis, Doyle and Shelley among other authors come in as real, living breathing characters. For example, most prominent is the constant referance to "Ransom" as a main player on Mars. Anyone who has read C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy will recognize Ransom at once. Plus, of course there are numerous referances to many Chesterton works. Having only read some Father Brown mysteries and "The Man Who was Thursday" I am quite certain I didn't catch them all, but I'm sure they are there.

This is a very old fashioned style of Science Fiction, appropriately written in the vein of H.G. Wells and C.S. Lewis. There is one particular scene of alien violence that I found almost too horrific, but other than that the book is fairly appropriate and would be a fun and intriguing read.

I'm not an expert on Chesterton, but I've been told that the one flaw in the book is that Chesterton really isn't that much like... Chesterton. Which I can see is very true. Gil is very much the ordinary 17-year-old boy hero you'd find in any book. So if you're looking for a story that tells you more about the REAL Chesterton, you'll likely be disappointed. If however you're looking for a good read full of fun referances to the works of Chesterton, Lewis, etc, plus a healthy invasion of outerspace enemies and plenty of mystery and action, then you'll certainly enjoy this.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

HE IS RISEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Just got home from a sunrise Easter Service in the mountains... what beauty, joy and cause for celebration!

Christ, the Lord, is risen today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth, reply, Alleluia!

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Lo! the Sun’s eclipse is over, Alleluia!
Lo! He sets in blood no more, Alleluia!

Vain the stone, the watch, the seal, Alleluia!
Christ hath burst the gates of hell, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia!
Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!

Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

Hail, the Lord of earth and Heaven, Alleluia!
Praise to Thee by both be given, Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!
Hail, the resurrection, thou, Alleluia!

King of glory, Soul of bliss, Alleluia!
Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!
Thee to know, Thy power to prove, Alleluia!
Thus to sing and thus to love, Alleluia!

Hymns of praise then let us sing, Alleluia!
Unto Christ, our heavenly King, Alleluia!
Who endured the cross and grave, Alleluia!
Sinners to redeem and save. Alleluia!

But the pains that He endured, Alleluia!
Our salvation have procured, Alleluia!
Now above the sky He’s King, Alleluia!
Where the angels ever sing. Alleluia!

Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
Who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
Suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!

~Charles Wesley

Friday, April 2, 2010

A bend in the road...

First time eating a Passover Seder.

First time attending a Catholic Good Friday service.

First time watching "The Passion of the Christ."

First time swimming in the pond at Shirefeld.

First time registaring to be a vendor at a conferance.

First time getting ready to spend Easter away from home...

Lots of firsts this week, some big, some not so big. Lots of lasts coming up too... I leave Shirefeld and the Black Cat Inn next week to head back west. It's a weird transition period. I have so many people I've become good friends with here, and I'm very much attached to the family...


Home calls. My heart is irrevocably settled there. Family. Friends. Dreams. I have so many plans and I can hardly wait to get home to start them!


I'm still living here. I still have responsibilities to carry out, and goodbyes to see through. How I'm going to manage to say goodbye to the kids, I don't know.

And going home will be a new adjustment of it's own.

A new adventure...

The road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began
now far ahead the road has gone
and I must travel if I can.

Pursuing it with eager feet
until it joins some longer way.
Where many paths and errands meet -
And whither then? I cannot say.

~Tolkien, FotR.