Sunday, October 26, 2014

Guys, I am so sorry that I have not been more active here. I'm still battling some debilitating health issues and while I was able to get up and spend some time with my family yesterday, I'm by no means better yet. Thank you for your patience

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Are you watching "Selfie"?

From the vastness of time and space, Karen Gillian (Doctor Who, Guardians of the Galaxy) and John Cho (Star Trek) come down to modern day Los Angeles for this updated take on "My Fair Lady." Gillian plays Eliza Dooley, a social media obsessed sales rep for a children's pharmaceutical company, while Cho plays Henry, a young but old-fashioned-at-heart marketing guru at the same company. When Eliza realizes that, despite her social media popularity, she doesn't have any real friends, she turns to Henry for help in "rebranding" herself.

Hijinks ensue, of course, as Eliza struggles to follow Henry's instructions in befriending coworkers and forcing her paramour to value her as more than a casual hook-up. On the other hand, Henry realizes that although he might understand the rules of interaction better, he doesn't really have friends himself. It's clear to see that together they are going to balance each other out, and it'll be a fun ride to get there.

So what emerges is a fun and surprisingly deep sit-com. Gillian and Cho are perfectly cast and the first three episodes have been well written and directed. It's not really any cleaner than any sit-com these days, but it's about self-worth and valuing yourself and others beyond what the 'ratings' tell you to do.

Are you watching "Selfie"? If not, I think you should give it a try.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

OUAT has more treasures than they know what to do with.

Hypable has a pretty good article up today about which minor characters in OUAT need more episodes. It is simply mind-boggling that OUAT has dropped the ball on Mulan - and while I hadn't been interested in seeing more of Granny previously, I certainly am after reading this article!

But the characters I really want more of are Ruby and Aurora. They weren't much more than set dressing last season, but there is so much more that could be done with their characters. Ruby, especially, is a fan favorite, if the number of requests for her cloak in my costume inbox is any indication! Now that Meghan Ory's slate is reasonably clear again, the showrunners really should snatch her up with a nice contract and give her some juicy bits in part 2 of season 4. I would especially love to see her friendship with Dr. Whale expanded upon.

As for Aurora - last we saw of her she was still pregnant in a gestation that seems to exceed human capabilities (Snow got pregnant after her, and when Snow gave birth at full term, Aurora was still pregnant). We really need to see her baby and learn how Phillip got rescued!

I know fans are cooing over the Hook and Emma sweet moments, but personally I'd like a little less of that mush and a little more fleshing out of some of these other, excellent, characters.

Monday, October 13, 2014

IEW says "Write With Pens!"

While I may not agree with all of IEW's methods, I think this article on the benefit of pens vs. pencils (especially for young writers) is spot on. I've always preferred writing with pens to pencils, but never stopped to analyse why. Which is a bit crazy because the contrast and consistency comparisons are hardly rocket science, they're just so 'normal' to us that we don't bother to think through why we prefer one over the other.

For 90% of what I do, I prefer writing on the computer. However, when it comes to doing flash writing assignments for writer's group, I'll chose a pen over a pencil any day. Write, baby, write, and go back and edit later!

Friday, October 10, 2014

"Parenthood" grows up even while it remains Forever Young

May God bless and keep you always
and may your wishes all come true
may you always do for others
and let others do for you.
May you build a ladder to the stars
and climb on every rung
and may you stay-
Forever Young.
~Bob Dylan

In one of the most emotionally moving title sequences since Joss Whedon's "Firefly", each episode of NBC's "Parenthood" kicks off  with a rousing chorus of family and life that just keeps going.

Now in its sixth (and final) season, I first discovered this show shortly after season two began airing. I'd been browsing through Hulu, saw it starred Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls) and had to give it a try. Quite surprisingly, Lauren's character was not the draw of the show for me. Instead I was trapped by the refreshingly honest, supportive, beautiful but so-not-perfect Braverman Family.

Led by parents/grandparents Zeek and Camille Braverman, their four adult children (Adam, Sarah, Crosby and Julia) plus spouses and children, navigate the maze of life - specifically in the realm of parenthood and family. While they bicker like any sibling groups, in the end they always come together. They may not agree, but they'll be there for each other, come what may.

In a TV landscape where shows about families are mostly regulated to sitcoms, "Parenthood" stands out as a stellar drama with storylines that ring true, writing that is real and raw, and acting that is so believable, you forget that they're actors and not an actual family. From Autism, Adoption and Abortion, to Infidelity, PTSD and a Political Campaign, "Parenthood" covers a myriad of situations relevant to American Family Life without ever becoming a soap opera. Controversial? Maybe. But never without sympathy and insight. While some work better than others, each story is nonetheless told with compassion, not a heavy hammer. Like wine, the show grows better with age, with each episode more and more consistently leaving the viewer with misty eyes.

My family has been especially touched by the show's portrayal of child/pre-teen Max Braverman as an Aspie. My own Aspergers remained undiagnosed until I was 19, and both me and my parents can relate to many of the issues Max and his parents face. Even though Max's case is extreme, it is nonetheless pretty accurate to what we'd consider a textbook case of Aspergers (I'm far from textbook, which is why most people rarely can't believe I have it). The show further branched out by it's introduction of adult character Hank portrayed by Ray Romano (Everyone Loves Raymond) who also seems to fall on the Autism spectrum. I won't say more, because I really recommend watching the show and seeing it all play out for yourself. And then I recommend researching Aspergers and learning about how it differs from person to person and between the genders, because it is such a complicated syndrome that it cannot possibly be fully portrayed even among two characters.

Other storylines that have been especially heartwrenching for me deal with (I'll stay vague, but this could be considered spoiler-ish) ---

--- cancer, a broken marriage, and two out-of-wedlock pregnancies dealt with from both sides of the equation. 

(end Spoilerish Stuff)

I fell in love with this show and got my sister and my parents into it, who - in turn - got my grandparents into it. Now I hear that my aunt and uncle have also gotten on the bandwagon. Its the only show besides "Downton Abbey" that has been enjoyed by so many of my family members, and I think that in and of itself says something pretty significant about the show. It's certainly meant that we always have something to talk about, as we discuss the decisions and choices of the characters on the show, in particular the different parenting choices they each make.

Every season is on Netflix, which makes this the perfect binge-watching show. You can even catch up in time to watch the final season as it airs - which is so far turning out to be possibly the best season yet.

And then you can find me on Facebook or Tumblr raving excitedly about it every Friday morning.

(While about family, there are enough adult topics that I would recommend the implementation of parental discretion for viewers under 16. It's a really good way to talk about these issues, though.)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A Look Back at L'Engle

I spent the last half of September and beginning of October reading Madeleine L'Engle. I reread my old favorites, I read new ones. Every time I read her works, I read new ones, which is good because some of her books are for younger readers, and some for much older. The series grow up with you. While I could give "A Wrinkle in Time" to a ten year old, I wouldn't give "Many Waters" to anyone younger than 14 or 15. Same with the Austen series, each book is for a reader a year or two older than the last one. The reader is expected to grow up alongside Vicki Austen. I certainly have.

The very first time I read "A Wrinkle in Time" my Dad listened to it on tape at the same time. He told me "I think you're a lot like Meg Murray." I didn't really get it because that was never my favorite L'Engle book - just very weird to me, but I liked that my dad saw me as a heroine.

A few years later I got to "A Swiftly Tilting Planet" and that was probably the first true science fiction book I really read. It was weird but it was time travel and had all these interesting links between Wales and Native Americans and the most awesome rune ever. My kind of weird, I guess.

I grew into "An Acceptable Time." I need to give "A House like a Lotus" another try. I picked it up in college and the sex stuff was too much for me (I was a young freshman). After that I was more wary of L'Engle, but not so much that her death didn't hit me pretty hard. It was the first time an author I read had died. Authors were either alive or dead - they didn't live and suddenly die on you. Not until then. Then a legend passed, and I froze in front of the sign in the English department and tried to wrap my head around it.

A family friend of ours had gone to L'Engle's church in New York and had known her. So I think that added to the sense of connection. I didn't know her, but someone I knew did. She was a real person, you know?

It's fascinating to read her books because they're all set, roughly, within the same universe. Characters cross over and around. Meg Murray and Vicki Austen never meet, but Meg's daughter and Vicki date the same boy. Characters are young in YA novels, then come back as 50 years older in adult works.

I hope, someday, to give my children a new "Austen Family" novel each year between the ages of 12 and 16. L'Engle captures so well the tumultuous inner life of the creative adolescent. She doesn't shy away from the hard stuff, and her theology can instigate some deep discussions, so pacing them out appropriately is the game plan.

It was hard for me to accept, as a pre-teen who saw things very black and white, that L'Engle was Christian. Back then I couldn't wrap my mind around a Christian who believed in evolution! As an adult, I see great courage and honesty in her ability to write about belief in mainstream books. She didn't write "Christian" books, but most of her protagonists wrestled with God and Christ and Faith in some way, a way that was always honest and raw and real.

I also have a lot of respect for her pioneering work in both YA fiction, and YA Science Fiction. For a writer who matured in a pre-internet world, she wrote on a vast canvas, drawing from her own personal life which included international living and even a trip to Antarctica. She wrote what she knew, and she knew a lot! (No, I'm not saying she knew how to tesseract. I'm just saying she clearly loved science too.)

As I read her books (again or for the first time) this autumn, I realized how much her writing has impacted me. I am not entirely sure how this happened. Did it rub off on me, or do I like it because it is so similar to how I write? I suspect a mixture of both. Regina Doman writes in a similar way, and she's one of my favorite authors who is now my own publisher.

I'm not always comfortable with everything L'Engle writes, but I think it is a good kind of uncomfortable-ness. I may not love every one of her books, but the ones I do love, I love very much, and the ones I don't love, I usually at least enjoy and respect.

(A comment made me realize that I didn't explicitly say in here that her adult books do feature definite adult content, so stick to the YA books if you're concerned about that.)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Sheep and Ice - OUAT picks up steam in 4.2

Last week I had more to say about the costumes than the episode. This week it is the other way around (sadly for fashion, but happily for good drama). 


Anna goes to the Enchanted Forest, meets David, and runs into... evil Bo Peep? (More on her costume here.) Seriously, the whole "Bo Peep is an evil slave mistress/warlord" thing was kind of trippy, but it did make a good set-up for finding Anna back in Storybrooke. And it was kind of hilarious to see Peep as a grumpy butcher in the modern day.

Sure, it's a little bit of a stretch to accept Anna teaching David to swordfight in 24 hours, but they lampshade it with Anna herself saying "I wasn't sure we'd have enough time." I guess David was destined to be a heroic prince. At first I also had trouble with Anna knowing how to fight so well, but then I thought "spunky Anna locked up in the castle for so many years had to do something besides ask Elsa to build a snowman. Of COURSE she made the guards teach her how to fight!)

Back in Storybrooke we get some nice Elsa/Emma and Hook/David moments. Snow's storyline is more unbelievable because where the heck are all the guys who normally run the power plant? But eh, baby high five was pretty cute. Sad lack of Regina and the Golds in this episode, although with such a large cast not everyone can get equal time in every episode.

But hands down, my favorite scene was the reveal of Elizabeth Mitchell's character. It was an excellent intro, logical and visually perfect. Plus, JULIET IS BAAAAACK. 

Ahem. Yes, I know, it's not actually Juliet Burke and she's going to be evil and everything but seriously I adore Elizabeth Mitchell and she was so perfect in this scene, I can't wait to see what else they have in store for her!!!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Writing and the Weather (again)

I have been thinking again about autumn writing urges. The poll I ran on the blog revealed that my readers, at least, also view fall as their most inspiring season for writing, followed by winter.

I'm still mulling over why that is. One aspect I was thinking about last night was the weather change. When spring comes, (here in Minnesota, at least) we abandon everything indoors and rush outside to swim, hike, run, or just read a good book in the sun. And we don't abandon it until the rains of October force us indoors where we cozy up with tea/coffee and legwarmers and... think.

You don't want to go outdoors when it's like this in October. Ew.
And thinking leads to writing. No longer distracted by sunshine and pools, we face all those philosophical meanderings we put off in the spring. We put aside the chick lit and take up the classics (or the really thick fantasy tomes). We can't garden or go to the zoo or take photos outside, so we have our computers and our pencils and our paper. We have to make our own warmth with our words and our thoughts.

I think this is assisted by our upbringing as well. School starting in autumn has trained us to be ready to work intellectually when the weather changes. That scent of dying leaves turns up the desire to sit down and construct something on paper or computer, just as the smell of fresh grass in the spring lures us out of doors.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Thumb Cramps and OUAT

I've been doing so much knitting lately that my right thumb and forefinger are cramping up easily. Which makes writing anything other than my novel... not a priority this week. Ugh.

Good news, though, I wrote 2500 words on "The Mermaid and the Unicorn" yesterday, passed the 100,000 page mark, and am just a couple of pages away from crossing over into Act 3!!! At last!

I don't know if I'll write a full post on the "Once Upon a Time" season premiere... by the time my hand is fully working again I suspect it'll be next week with episode 2. Most of my thoughts are about the costumes, anyhow, which I wrote thoroughly about here.

Anyhow, thank you for your patience, and check out my instagram for more frequent content over the next week. Gotta see what I'm killing my thumb for, right?