Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Game Rooms and Puppies

First things first... yes, we are getting a puppy!

In about two months we are going to bring one of these adorable furbabies home! Mama is a shih Tzu, papa is a Chihuahua/Shih Tzu mix, and I have known both parents since they were babies and they mesh well with my health limitations, so we are very excited to have the chance to adopt one of their kids!!! Also happy to have someone to keep me company while Nathan is at work! 

I have been wanting an indoor dog for a very long time. I had two dogs growing up, but because they were golden retrievers, they were not allowed indoors. As soon as Nathan and I bought our house, I started talking really seriously about getting a dog (we'd talked casually about it before). We considered getting a hearing dog, but you are not allowed to express any preferences, and we couldn't risk getting something I was allergic to, or that would shed a lot or be too big for me to handle with my fibro issues. Since I knew both parent dogs, and their pregnancy timed out perfectly with our move, we felt this was God's direction on how to proceed. I am tremendously excited about having a little fur friend around the house! (Extrovert here... days can get long, especially when I am really in pain.)

Our weekly Star Wars RPG has finally outgrown our kitchen table, so I needed to get our family room organized pronto. For game night we push the tables together and bring down chairs from upstairs. During the rest of the week, I can use the surfaces for cutting out fabric, either apart or together.

And I finally got my geek artwork out of storage and on the walls! (Also a new Star Wars poster, because Star Wars RPG group!)

RPG stands for "Role Playing Game" and we use the system put out by Nathan's company (Fantasy Flight Games.) Our crew is kind of a Firefly set-up (my character is half Simon Tam, half Zoe), but in the Star Wars universe right after the 1st Death Star blew up. It's a lot of fun! This week our characters went to a fancy dress ball (after three years of jungle, desert and space ruffians), so some of us dressed up a bit. Nathan is wearing his "evil Gamemaster" shirt with the Empire symbol on it, since as GM he plays all the Non-Player-Characters including the bad guys. 

Our Tuesday night RPG  has been the one social activity I've kept up with since my fibro flared up last fall. We don't always meet, but our group is extremely understanding when my health gets in the way and so I can cancel without feeling guilty, which is a huge blessing.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Paris Research and the Internet

This photo was taken back in 2005, when I was all of 16 (gosh, 11 years ago ALREADY?). I was only in Paris for 4 days, and yet we crammed a ton of amazing memories into this very short period. Here we are enjoying some delicious paninis at Versailles, a scene which appears in "The Mermaid and the Unicorn."

Trust me, I mined my memories of that trip for every possible detail to make M&U feel as authentic as possible! I've also bombarded my world-trotting friends with questions, both to confirm my own recollections and determine what might have changed, and also to glean details about the places I was not able to personally visit.

That said, there are still plenty of details that I never would have found without this beautiful thing called the internet. (Have you heard of it? It's a writer's best researching friend and worst procrastinating enemy).

Some random things I've looked up:

- The source of Parisian tap water
- How fish poop/pee
- Eiffel Tower restaurants and menus
- statues on Notre Dame
- Shakespeare and Co.
- Little Tokyo
- Outdoor Flea Markets
- Concessions at French Movie Theaters
- Flavors of ice cream available at a specific train station

Not all of these will appear in the book, but being able to verify facts has been both relieving and frustrating - sometimes changes are required if something is impossible or non-existent. It is mind boggling to think that even fifteen years ago these resources were not available. Sure, the internet existed, but it had not yet expanded to the proportions it exists at now. One certainly wasn't likely to be able to find all of this information, much less in English!

And that's not even mentioning the awesomeness of Facebook, which allows me to posit a question to 400+ people at any time, and usually receive half a dozen answers/suggestions!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Someday - A Fictionalized Account of the 272 Kidnapped Nigerian Schoolgirls

Okay guys. I'm going to do something I don't think I've ever done before on this blog. I'm going to recommend an R-Rated book.


Because it's based on a true story, and it's something that is still ongoing and needs awareness, prayers, and help. It's a horrible thing that you can do something tangible about - but it's not going to be easy to read. Let me tell you a bit more about it, and then I'll give a content age-guess.

If you're attuned to the news, you'll remember when 272 Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped on April 14th, 2014. It was a horrifying story, and the saddest part is that the majority of them remain in captivity.

British author Corinna Turner was deeply impacted by the story and felt convicted to write about the situation. She chose to move the setting to England, so that the true horror of the atrocity might be more readily felt and understood by Western readers.

And gripping it is. I was given the chance to assist in vetting the novella for American readers (identifying British phrases that might not make sense to American readers), and I simply raced through the story. I had to. It is intense and important - and horrible. Really, really horrible things happen to these girls, and Turner has such a strong grasp of character that you feel intensely for each and every person. The only way I could handle the depth of emotion was to get through it as quickly as possible.

The novella construction is interesting - it is entirely first person perspective, but has over a dozen viewpoint characters. This gives it enormous power and is a very effective device - but takes a bit of getting used to. The characters are well drawn and distinct, with a wide range of viewpoints. (Turner and several of her main characters are Catholic, but there are also Protestants, Muslims, Atheists and a Shintoist).

This is such an important book, but I must strongly caution sensitive readers. There is a lot of violence, all inflicted on girls aged 14-18. Several graphic deaths take place in the first person. Most sexual violence is discreetly described or happens offscreen, but the details are all too easy to imagine, very vividly.

Turner does a very good job of interspacing the darkness of the experience of the kidnapped girls with the hope and efforts of the searchers and rescuers - (many experiences are actually based in true stories) - but one cannot escape the fact that, although this is a fictionalized account, it is not sensationalized. These horrors are true. Most of the schoolgirls are still missing, and their true stories (as far as we have discovered) are relayed through news articles in the back of the book.

I read a lot, and very little moves me to tears. I broke down weeping at the climax.

I would strongly recommend this book ONLY to readers over the age of 18. I would also strongly recommend reading it with a friend or group of friends to debrief afterwards. But I do recommend reading it, if you believe you can handle it. We must face the truth in order to change it.

The profits from this book go to Aid the Church in Need. So even as you read the horrors unfold, you will know that you have already contributed towards the cause.

Just yesterday, a "proof of life" video was released by the real kidnappers, featuring 15 of the real schoolgirls. They are still in captivity. This is real, and it is ongoing.

Corinna Turner is hosting 9 days of prayer for the schoolgirls on Facebook. You can join here.

You can read more about "Someday" here, or purchase the Kindle Version on Amazon here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Han and Leia - The Bickering Couple Grows Up

I FINALLY got to see "The Force Awakens" (movie theaters give me migraines so had to wait for DVD release) and it's time to write about it. (Spoilers to come.)

When I was a little girl, there were two love stories I really fell for, hard. #1 was Robin Hood and Maid Marian. #2 was Han Solo and Princess Leia.

7 year old me was obsessed with Han and Leia. I had the action figures (man, it was SO hard to find them!) and loved making up post-movie adventures for them. I didn't read much of the EU stuff because the one I did read didn't do them justice, but I loved knowing that they eventually got married and had kids together. 

(When I grew up I read "The Courtship of Princess Leia" which was one of the most horribly written pieces of ridiculousness I've ever encountered. So glad I never ran across that in my childhood.)

As I grew older and encountered other couples, I was definitely drawn towards the bicking couple stereotype - from Elizabeth and Darcy in "Pride and Prejudice", to Beatrice and Benedick in "Much Ado About Nothing." (And, come to think of it, Robin and Marian in the Errol Flynn version have a quarreling couple vibe too!). There's just something about the chemistry in those couples that is electric to watch. 

The problem is that, in real life the quarreling couple does not succeed unless they grow, mature, and learn to pull together rather than apart. Elizabeth and Darcy's whole story is not about being a quarreling couple, but about overcoming that which makes them quarrel. I fully expect Darcy and Elizabeth's marriage to last because it is rooted in character growth, not chemistry. 

But Han and Leia?

Since I couldn't see Episode VII in theaters, my husband and I decided to read all the spoilers right away. We felt it would be better to have control over spoiling ourselves, rather than let one secret after another leak in over the next four months. This was absolutely the right move - the characters were so funny and fresh and solid that the film was charming and wonderful even though I knew all the plot twists. 

This also gave me four months to adjust to two big facts: 

#1 - Han and Leia are living apart.

#2 - Han dies.

To deal with the second issue first - this I fully expected. My RPG group can verify that I was strongly predicting before the movie aired that Han Solo would get killed off at some point in the trilogy. It was Harrison Ford's 3 decade long wish for the character, and although his death was extremely sad, when I actually watched it I mostly just felt "Ford finally got his wish." And I have peace with that. 

I was more nervous about Han and Leia. How could this couple I had loved so dearly for so long be BROKEN UP??? What would their scenes be like? How could it possibly not sour my love of the original trilogy? 

But, you know, when I actually watched it... it felt right. They love each other, that much is very very clear. But they are pulling two different carts in different directions. Leia's first passion always is the Rebellion. It's a cause her adopted family died for, it's a cause she is good at and integral to. Han's greatest passion is winning - the higher the odds the greater the high for him. He loves Leia, but he's never going to be first in her life.

I think he was first for awhile. Obviously they married and they had at least one child - and that ended in tragedy. Even good marriages are shaken by tragedy, and the death of a child is a significant risk factor for parental divorce. Ben didn't die (yet), but in some ways his turn to the dark side could be seen as worse than death, and it makes tremendous sense that, already wrestling with different (and sometimes competing priorities) this would cause Han and Leia to separate.

Just as their marriage was never clearly stated in the film, neither was their divorce (let me know if I missed a key word somehow). This too I felt was realistic, and honoring of the original relationship.

I mourn how it ended, but in many ways it makes a great deal of sense to me, and I appreciate the sense of realism despite the high romance elements of the story. It's not that Han and Leia couldn't have worked through their issues, is that with all of those elements in play (and a story to tell!) it makes a great deal of sense that they never got over the hump, particularly after Ben's defection.

I will always love Han and Leia, and in the end I appreciate that they gave us a 'true' story, rather than a rosy one.

(For the record, my husband and I have always been the exact opposite of a bickering couple. Funny how those things work out. But we're still going to cosplay Han and Leia someday.)

Monday, April 11, 2016

Author Life Sound Bites

A few things about writing:

#1 - Taxes as an author. Interesting thoughts in this blog post and the comment thread.

#2 - Brand names as an author. How to deal with trademarks? Here's one helpful post I found on the subject.

#3 - I'm starting to do formatting work on "The Mermaid and the Unicorn." It is partially necessary because knowing how many pages the manuscript already is DOES affect my editing strategy. And my potential cover artist needs to know what font to work with. But also it's totally procrastinating on actual edits because PRETTY FORMATTING.

#4 - I am going a little insane trying to figure out a series name for "M&U." It's a LONG story that I'll discuss further at some point, but the original series title is scrapped and I need something else and EVERY SINGLE DECENT IDEA I HAVE IS ALREADY TAKEN. Bleh.

#5 - I think when you read an inspiring story and fact check it and find out that it is false, the natural reaction is to be upset, both with oneself for believing it, with the conveyor for not checking it before sharing it, our with the creator for talking lies (although their original version may have been labeled as fiction and gotten lost in the telephone game of things). But I think the healthy reaction is to think "how can I make such an inspiring story true? If it brightens my day to think such a thing is true, how much good will it do if I actually act in such a way?"

Monday, April 4, 2016

****** and Hades scheme in "Our Decay"

Spoiler Alert

Once upon a time there was a girl who was green, and her story has been told many different ways over the years. OUAT is just one more entry in the long 'history' of the Wicked Witch of the West, but they've made her tremendously compelling, due in large part to Rebecca Mader's brilliant portrayal. (okay, sometimes she is over the top. But most of the time - boy is she fun to watch!).

Anyhow, I find myself feeling so conflicted after finishing 5.16 "Our Decay." How can I be sitting here, feeling sorry for Hades and Zelena? How can I be wishing they could get together and have their happily ever after, which involves vengeance and destruction?

Good storytelling, that's why.

OUAT may not always have the best writing. and they make some unpopular decisions, but they have managed to create a very compelling world and cast of characters that has already secured them a season 6 renewal. They may not hit every ball out of the park, but they continue to surprise and entertain (almost) every week.

Normally I'm not too keen on the Oz episodes, but Mader and Greg Germann (Hades) have a sizzling chemistry that really sells their backstory. Furthermore, Zelena's choice to give up her baby in order to save it was tremendously moving (I kept thinking of King Solomon's judgement during that scene).

Still didn't get a name for Baby Hood, but the explanation that Hades could use the name magically was a good point. Not enough Robin - we really need a flashback episode for him VERY soon.

Was not expecting to see Belle until later in the season, so I appreciated her scenes (although de Ravin is obviously VERY pregnant, unlike her character who had no clue yet!). Even though Rumple has given up any right to her at this point, I also found myself wishing she'd try to make the relationship work - even though I KNOW she needs to walk away from him! The emotions at play were very well done.

"Our Decay" was a really good name for the episode. I mean, calling it "rooting for the bad guys love lives" would have been more on the nose, but that's basically the point of the show anyhow, lol.

So now we have sympathy for Hades. Time will only tell - will he be revealed to be truly evil, or continue down the misunderstood path? As he points out in the show, Hades is lord of the underworld, but he is NOT the devil, which is a true and important distinction. He's not like a super great guy all the time, but honestly Zeus has a rather worse reputation in many ways! OUAT likes to take traditional good guys (Peter Pan, Arthur) and make them the truly evil, and take traditionally bad people and reform them. While Hades is the villain in Disney's "Hercules", the original mythology leaves more room for interpretation. I'm very interested to see where they take all of this...

Friday, April 1, 2016

Making a House, a Home

These days my life revolves around my health, editing "The Mermaid and the Unicorn", and the NEW HOUSE. I don't want to write about my health, and I can't tell you about M&U stuff, so...


The big move was this past Saturday - wow, it's already been a week since we got the rest of our stuff over here?

We had a lot of stuff. You wouldn't have believed that we were moving out of an apartment.

I got a lot of stuff in that apartment. Too much.

Thankfully we had a lot of friends and family to help us out! I was recovering from a migraine, so I sat and directed the movers with my magic paper towel wand.

Nathan did more heavy lifting.

Wondered what our couch looked like under the teal cover I made? UGLY FOAM. Comfy, but UGLY.

After everyone left, Nathan and I kept unpacking for a couple more hours. We didn't get to sleep until after midnight. Nathan was pretty happy to get his computer unpacked in his new office.

Since then, it's been more chill. Nathan got the apartment cleaned up and ready to relinquish. I've been unpacking and planting seeds.

We were tremendously blessed by the fact that Nathan's mom packed up the majority of our stuff for us. This meant that I have been able to use my energy for unpacking and organizing the new house. It's a very slow process, but thankfully I've had a solid good week so I've made more progress than I expected. Some corners are starting to look like home!

Our living room now has TWO chairs! (as opposed to just one)

Our sellers left a few interesting things behind. The curtains were expected - we requested them in our offer. The little brown bookshelf, assorted mirrors, and large plastic dinosaurs on our deck? Unexpected, but welcome!

There will be a piano in the area where the ship is now, we're just waiting for the ground to dry up to move it out of my parent's home.

Also, we're going to be painting some of the walls in here teal. Yay!

After two years of having our dining table directly in front of the entrance, I am so thrilled to have a proper dining room! (No, that mirror will not be staying that high. It was just a spare nail that happened to be there and Nathan hung it up to keep it safe.)

Here's one of the less presentable areas. My mom thoughtfully unpacked the kitchen boxes and laid everything out on a table so that it would be easy for me to put away.

THIS is one area I'm very excited about - it's a sort of foyer at the bottom of the basement stairs that we're going to line with books and is thus called the book nook. I got a lot of teasing during moving for all of the books I own... but nowadays I only buy in paper what I can get for cheaper than digital, so these were mostly older acquisitions.

The upstairs bathroom isn't quite where I want it yet, but the downstairs has come together nicely! I finally get to break out my second bath set! (I want to repaint these walls light green eventually.)

This is going to be my sewing room. Nathan has to put up shelves before I can unpack, and I'm so busy with getting the upstairs done that I'm not rushing the basement.

This is all of my craft stuff. MOST of it will go into the sewing room.

This is my laundry room! Although I have plans to brighten it up some, it's a palace compared to the scary laundry rooms we saw in other houses...

I've posted several kitchen photos on Instagram, but here is one I took just for this post! Can you tell I'm a little obsessed with spices and herbs?