Saturday, December 31, 2011

Farewell 2011!!!

It's been a momentous year. In many ways a tough one, but with its own surprises and joys along the way.

Thank you all for continuing to follow me here at Elenatintil.Blogspot.Com. Your readership, support, comments and likes mean so very much to me. And I cannot say how incredibly encouraging and uplifting all of your prayers have been. Thank you. Again and again.

Wishing each and every one of you God's joy and blessings in 2012!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Fighting off a Migraine with Doctor Who Special Features

It may seem strange but it was actually pretty comforting. I curled up in bed after taking my asprin and put on my brand new copy of Doctor Who Series 3. The lovely thing about the BBC is that they subtitle just about all of their special features on DVDs. Americans don't tend to do that so for most movies I have to ignore the special features. However with Doctor Who it really is worth getting all the extras. Series 3 has a very lovely long feature (actually broken up over four disks) that actually are David Tennant's video diaries from the series.

Most fans know Doctor Who Confidential as their backdoor into the series, but honestly I found the clips edited for the DVD release to be quite unsatisfying. The video diaries, however, were a delightful, hilarious and very personal look into the filming of the show and I vastly enjoyed them. Even with a migraine.

It's also pretty fun to see all the actors out of character. Surprisingly I found that Freema Agyeman (Martha Jones) reminds me a ton of Sharayah Bunce, who played Rose Brier in my film "The Shadow of the Bear." Also fun to see was the appearance of Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith) in the segment on the Doctor Who "Weakest Link." I've always loved the character of Mickey and it was fun to see how hilarious he is in real life.

Plus, of course, it's no secret that I adore David Tennant and it was brilliant to see his lovely self hosting the thing. So anyhow, this is a fun special feature that all DW fans should take the opportunity to watch.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Too-Absent Hero

Have you ever noticed while writing a story that when certain characters walk into a scene the whole tenor of your project changes?

I've been working on a sequel to my first novel (which has had a lull in querying with all my health issues and the holidays). There was a certain way the plot had to go that kept the hero from wandering in until about page 65. I knew I missed him, but I didn't realize just how much I needed him until he finally appeared and started talking to my heroine.

The whole story takes on a new depth when he arrives. Not that there aren't other characters that bring plenty of their own goodness to the tale, but it really doesn't feel truly 'alive' without him. When he's not there, it's obvious that he's missing.

It doesn't even have much to do with Romance because that whole element hasn't come strongly into play yet (I'm a fan of drawn-out romances). It really is that he is a character that adds a needed edge to the story.

So now I need to figure out how to handle this lack when he's not around. I think there is a certain part of it is that is good. The readers need to miss him when he's not there and feel what an important character he is. If my pre-readers tell me that they missed him, I'll count that as partially a good thing.

But I also think that a complete absence of my hero for the first 65 pages is a problem. So I need to determine how to bring him in or strengthen the other characters to hold the weight better. Actually I need to do both.

That's why we have second drafts.

Anyhow, I wrote eight pages today and I feel immensely satisfied with the fact. I've been in a rut where I haven't been able to write more than a page or two at a time and it has been very frustrating. My writing retreat really forced me to sit down and write for a long period of time and got me back into the groove.

It also helped that my doctor identified one form of caffeinated tea that my body can handle. Which is lovely because it gives my brain that extra jolt and focus I need to sit down and seriously write some quality focused material for two or three hours.

Anyhow, draft one is currently 79 pages and 23,000 words long. Considering how long I've struggled to start this sequel, I think that's a pretty significant start.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Twelve Days, Broomball and Doctor Who

It's always strange when Christmas ends, isn't it? So much hype and then... over. I much prefer to embrace the twelve days tradition and spread out the festivities. With New Years, a dance night and a bridal shower planned, it's not hard to continue on in the festive spirit.

I am, however, perfectly glad to give up all the sugary sweets because they make me feel absolutely miserable. If any of you see me sneaking any chocolates or such things, do come up and slap my hand away, won't you?

Overall Christmas was extremely lovely this year. We had a good time with family, lovely music, and some really heartfelt presents. After supper us young adults, my mother and grandfather went out to the pond where we proceeded to build a bonfire and play broomball in the dark. It was absolutely splendid. I haven't been able to play a physical game like that for a long time, so it was wonderful to be well enough to do that yesterday and to spend the time with my cousins.

Then my sister and I settled down to watch the Doctor Who Christmas Special which, while not quite as wonderful as last years, was nonetheless extremely good. There was more humor and quirkiness than last year, and a happy ending which I always felt was rather lacking in RTD's years.

And on a spiritual front, I've been reading and pondering Lauren F. Winner's "Mudhouse Sabbath" which is a fantastic book that I hope to blog about at some point in the near future.

I hope that you and yours had an absolutely lovely Christmas. :)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

On this the eve of our Savior's birth...

Two thousand years ago a young girl, nine months pregnant, was told there was no room for her to lay her head. Her husband, a young carpenter, searched out the only shelter available for them... a dark, dirty stable cave. Their child, God incarnate, was born not to the anxious audience of a court, or even the loving circle of a family, but rather under the dark quiet eyes of the animals of Bethlehem. What humbler entrance to the world could there be for the Prince of Peace?

Now every year humanity gathers in an attempt to make up for this shunning of our savior at his birth. We'll never achieve it fully, for we are always distracted by presents and food and our own selfish vanity... but the grace of God is that he loves and desires us always, no matter how imperfect our love for him might be in return.

May the love of God surround you and may you feel his presence tonight, no matter how you are celebrating.

Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I was Jane Austen's Best Friend

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to grow up with Jane Austen? To be her friend, her confident, her sharer in adventures and the recipient of the first drafts of her stories?

Well wonder no longer. In Cora Harrison's novel "I was Jane Austen's Best Friend" we are given a peek into the life of Jane's cousin, Jenny Cooper, and the year she spent living with the Austen family.

The scene is set with Jane Austen dying of a terrible fever in Southampton. With a schoolmistress too cruel to send for Jane's parents, her only hope of survival rests in the hands of her cousin Jenny. But to save Jane's life, Jenny must venture out into the dangerous seaport to secretly post the letter summoning Mrs. Austen. In doing so she risks her own life... or at the very least, her reputation.

Jane and Jenny both survive, thanks to Jenny's courageous actions and the assistance of a handsome young Navy captain. However Jenny must carry her secret with her as she travels with the Austens back to their home in Steventon and joins society there. For now she is safe, but if anyone learns that she wandered the midnight streets of Southampton unescorted, her future will assuredly be destroyed.

It's easy to push these fears to the back of her mind in the midst of the boisterious Austen family. Jenny quickly makes friends with all of the Austen boys, and helps Jane teach her deaf and dumb brother George sign language. They put on a play with the help of the glamourous and worldly cousin Eliza, and take great amusement in older Austen sister Cassandra's hidden romance with student Tom Fowle. But then Captain Williams reappears and Jenny's secret is in danger of being discovered...

With a full range of characters from which we can see the seeds for many of Austen's literary creations, this well researched but light-hearted and appropriate look into the past will be enjoyed by every Austen fan.

Monday, December 19, 2011

What temperature do you write best in?

It's a weird question, but we all have different body types and different situations under which we can write best. I have a hard time writing or focusing on anything when I'm cold. I reallyreallyreally hate being cold.

Being hot can be problematic too, but I don't think it's such an impediment to my writing.

Or maybe I'm just all focused on the cold because it's December and it's the midwest and it's freeeezing in my bedroom.

Anyhow. I think temperature is relevant to the creative process. What do you think?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Writing Retreat Weekend!

It just so happens that I'm heading out of town with a couple of friends for our own writing retreat... on the weekend of Jane Austen's birthday... to write a book about Jane Austen.

No, this was not planned. The dates just happened to align this way.

So anyhow I packed up a ton of books on writing and Jane Austen and then a novel or two and a book on drawing. Possibly overkill, but just looking at the books inspires me. I'm also bringing along my favorite writing movies. By which I mean:

Sense and Sensibility (the new BBC)
Pride and Prejudice (2005)
Bright Star
Miss Potter
Becoming Jane

I can never watch these movies without feeling in a writing mood. I figure if I get writer's block, I can just pop one in and get those juices flowing.

I should have internet access so I do hope to write a few blog posts about the experience. Should be pretty fun! I'm hoping to really get some serious work done on my sequel and also get the final edits into the first novel, because they've been sitting around for a YEAR waiting to get finished.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

To Judge a Book by its Cover

That's one of the earliest sayings we learn. "Never judge a book by its cover." And yet we do. Why else do publishing companies work so hard to package books attractively? Why else is one of the biggest pieces of advice to self-publishers "hire someone else to do your cover?" 

Because an intriguing cover is going to catch our eye and a boring cover is going to turn us off. Unless someone has recommended it to us or the title really draws us in, we're not going to look further at a book with a boring cover. But a book with a well designed cover with interesting and informative graphics? Yeah, we're going to pick that up and check the back or inside flap to see whether the synopsis lives up to the promise of the picture.

Unfortunately it is rather hard to properly enjoy covers at libraries. Sure they have a few out on display, but never nearly enough. So what do I do? I go to the bookstores where they fully realize the importance of a cover and lay their books out on tables. Then I browse among the lovely spreads of awesome and pick up the books that catch my eye. If it passes cover, title and synoposis test, I write the title down in my notebook and look it up at my library later.

 Yes, I do actually buy books. However I'm extremely poor and can't buy all the books I read. That's what libraries are for. However if I read a book and decide I want to reread it a year or two down the road, then I will purchase it. I simply have been burned too many times to buy a book without reading it first. That's why I don't ever weed out my bookshelf. I have chosen its inhabitants carefully and loved them long before I bought them. They're not going anywhere.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Once Upon a Time -- Let's Discuss

Well before getting hit by this flu bug, I did manage to properly enjoy last night's episode of "Once Upon a Time." I've been meaning to do a mid season analysis post, and with the holiday break commencing this seems the right time to do it.


Properly warned? All right, lets carry on.

While each episode has had it's own surprises and revelations, I think last night's episode might be the most shocking yet. From the moment Sheriff Graham kissed Emma and started getting flashbacks, I knew we were in for a crazy ride.

For a show that is about fairy tales, we really haven't had much for kisses yet. I should have known that Graham kissing Emma already meant that bad things were going to happen...

Yes folks, he's dead. As in Storybrooke dead. It's been confirmed by the actor that he will not be reappearing as Sheriff Graham, although he reminded us that there is still plenty of room for him to show up in flashbacks. Considering the heavy influence LOST has had on this show, I think we can count on seeing him again. (In LOST it didn't matter if someone died, the actor ALWAYS came back for SOME reason.)

Still... what a shock! I always liked Sheriff Graham. When he first appeared on the screen I was livechatting with my friend Amanda about the episode and we both went -- "CUTE BRITISH GUY! WHO IS THE CUTE BRITISH GUY?" My first instinct was that he was the big bad wolf, but considering how the writers denied any connection to the comic book Fables (where the sheriff IS the big bad wolf) I realized they would likely give him a very different fairy tale origin. The huntsman/woodsman from the Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood tales struck me as most likely.

(Interestingly enough, the writers originally wanted a different origin for Graham, but had to change it, citing rights issues. Hypable theorizes Robin Hood, but I think it is far more likely that they originally DID want his backstory to be the big bad wolf and had to change that to avoid similarities with Fables)

So he's dead. And at the very moment when Emma was finally about to open up her heart to him. What does this mean for her? Will it make her harder or will it break open that wall she's built around herself? We're due for an Emma-centered episode soon which I am very much looking forwards to.

Also last night we learned a bit more about why Regina hates Snow. Apparently she entrusted Snow with a secret... and Snow told someone else. I suspect this has something to do with Snow's father. Snow felt it would be betraying her father to keep Regina's secret, so she told her father. Whether Snow's father is Regina's lost love, or whether there was someone else in the picture is another question entirely.

What about the show as a whole thus far? I'd say overall I'd give it a B, or B-. It's lot a lot going for it, but the writing could stand to be a bit tighter in places and it shows. Some episodes are pure gold, whereas others stray too close to bland. However, overall, it's doing a pretty good job and has lots of room for the future.

Coming up in January we'll be getting an episode centered around Mr. Gold, which should be fantastic as he's been a well acted and intriguing baddie. I'm looking forwards to learning how his brand of evil came to be!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

14 Days until Christmas

Time, where did you go? Wasn't Thanksgiving just yesterday? Now suddenly I don't know if there is enough time to get all of my Christmas work done!

Being sick all fall means my finances are in a sadly depleted (read 'non existent') state, so I have to rely on my artistic abilities to provide much of the gift material for my loved ones. Thankfully I've spent enough years perfecting these skills that I can actually create some pretty cool things.

Okay, not going to lie, some of the presents I am seriously going to have a hard time parting with. Bother my skills of coolness!

Anyone else here the crafty sort that creates rather than buys gifts? What sort of things do you do?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Photos for Little Smiles

We can't always focus on the big things in life. That would just get way too intense. Lately I've been taking pictures of little things that make me smile, and I thought I'd share them with you all. 

I have a pretty extensive necklace collection. I can get about half of it onto hooks on the wall, but my smaller fragile necklaces are not to be trusted there. Several years ago I figured out that I could take an organizer intended for sewing supplies and use it for my jewelry. It works like a charm!

 Everyone else went crazy with Black Friday shopping. I just picked up a few deals on Amazon. To my surprise they arrived just four days later -- excellent service, especially when you get four films and a TV show for a mere $30!
 I love pretty lights. It's one of my favorite things about the holiday season and I love the chance to add a bit of extra sparkle to my own room as well as the world in general.
 Did I mention sparkle? How about this bit of glitter in my favorite color on this card?
 The perfect breakfast. I mastered the art of creating mashed potato pancakes at last. The trick? Mix in an egg white with the potatoes before frying them and everything will stick together a lot better!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

New Painting of Jane Austen?

Thanks to the good ladies at Austenacious for posting about the recent discovery of what may be a painting of Jane Austen.

For those of you who are Austen fans, you probably know that there are only two authenticated images of Jane in existence (so far as we know). So this is pretty exciting news! Check out the whole story here:

Monday, December 5, 2011

Screenwriting Challenge

We like to give screenwriters a lot of crap for writing shoddy scripts - especially sequel scripts - that we hate. We criticize their plots, their character choices, their dialogue...

So here's a challenge. Write an outline of 1-5 pages, including some indication of character motivation and bits of dialogue, for a film or film idea that you think you could do better than the film studios.

It can be as much or as little work as you want. It's a chance to stretch your writing and adaptation skills, but it's also a way to have fun that is maybe not quite as much work as a full blown fanfic.

Extra motivation? Send me your outline and I'll post it here on the blog! For my favorite one I'll even do a bit of concept art. ;) elenatintil [at] gmail [dot] com

Some Suggestions

The 'official' movie is coming out next year. Do you have issues with the direction they're taking? Want a different line up? How would you do it?

Doctor Who
Write your own episode. Fit it into an existing season, or write your own one-off Christmas special.

Harry Potter
(Honestly I can't think of any good prompts here, but I'd be interested to see how someone else would structure one of the harder books like 5 or 7)

The Hobbit or Beren and Luthian
How would you do it? Would you make the Hobbit as one movie or two? How would you turn Beren and Luthian or any of the other Silmarillian tales into a film?

Prince Caspian has gotten the most criticism... how would you write it? Or try your hand at one of the other books. (Silver Chair or The Horse and His Boy being my suggestions)

Pirates of the Caribbean
You know they'll always find room for more movies. So how would you do it? Do your own sequel to any one of the films, 1-4.

Star Trek
Write your own episode/movie based off the TV series (any version), or write ideas for a sequel to the newest movie.

Star Wars
You get a chance to write a story set between episodes 3 and 4. What would be the plot? Who would you focus on?

Rewrite X3. Or work on a sequel to XMFC. Or write your ideas for X4. Or an origins movie based on the character you are most intrigued by.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Letter to December

Hello December.

Been awhile since we last hung out. 11 months, to be exact. That's kind of a long time for friends to be apart, isn't it?

We have an interesting sort of friendship though. You always like to bring stress in my life. At the very least there is all the hustle and bustle about making food for the holidays and finding the perfect gift for everyone (Okay, I do like gift shopping, although it helps when I'm not sick and unable to make money!).

But what I like least of all is the commercialism you bring with you. I know it's not your fault, but it's still true. America has turned Christmas into a big marketing scheme and it drives me nuts. I mean, this year Christmas decorations and songs started showing up with your little sister, November. She seemed excited to get in on the fun, and I swear, October was looking jealous.

Yeah, that's right, your little siblings want in on the Christmas fun too. Please tell them no? One month of religious sacredness turned commercial is more than enough for a year (Yeah, March and April are in trouble too with their Easter shennigans, but that's another letter).

No, don't run away now. We're still friends, December. I just have to be honest about these problem's we've been having. Now comes the good part.

I love your music. Christmas carols are some of my favorite songs ever. And since we only sing them when you're around, I'll always love you for that alone.

First snow. Okay, November says she gets this one, but honestly? Her snow never says. You, my dear December, always get the honor of the first snow that stays.

Christmas trees. Remember when you and Prince Albert got that tradition set up back in the 1800's? It's one of my favorite. The smell of pine... the twinkling lights... the ornaments with years of memories...

But most important of all? You're leading up to the most important birthday celebration of the year. The one all the other months are jealous of. The one that so much of the world celebrates even if they don't really know the birthday boy himself.

So... December... I guess we'll keep on going with this friendship, since the pros outweigh the cons by far (though we still can't ignore them).