Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Pre-Dawn Writing

If my Facebook Memories feed is anything to go by, November has historically been a crazy writing month for me. Obviously NaNoWriMo plays a part in that, but I also just plain tend to do a lot of writing in the fall.

This month I've been battling both health and editing blues to get progress done on "The Professor and the Siren." I'm not very keen on the editing part of the novel process. My mentor, Regina, claims that it is her favorite part. Me, I don't like nitpicking over what I've already written, so it takes a lot more strength of will to sit down and edit than it does to sit down and write new scenes (well...most of the time.)

This morning I woke up at 5:30 and had trouble sleeping. Part of it was a stuffy nose, and part of it was an idea for the book. Since I'd already planned to rise early to watch "Supergirl" with Nathan before he left for work (it's Superhero CrossoverWeek, doncha know), I decided to get up and pull out the computer.

I actually got through 20 pages of manuscript in about an hour, which wasn't bad at all. (Okay, a bunch of those were title pages. But still!). It was weird being up while it was still pitch black outside, but I turned on the tree lights in the living room and it was quite nice.

Then I started to put breakfast together, and quite confused poor Mateo, who walked out to find - not the black kitchen he was used to - but Mommy! Already awake! Our dog is a creature of extreme habit and anything out of our ordinary routine confuses the heck out of him. He spent several minutes just pacing back and forth around me as he recalibrated his morning brain.

I stayed awake through the "Supergirl" episode (which was really only a crossover in the last three minutes), then gladly fell back asleep for another three hours. I didn't wake again until noon, but I already had the biggest item on my daily agenda crossed off.

I don't know that I would do this regularly, but it is interesting to note that this is, in fact, how our ancesters functioned.

Monday, November 28, 2016

OUAT 6.9 "Changlings"

After a week off, OUAT is back with some big developments.

Spoilers ahoy!

First of all, I want to state that after rewatching the first three seasons of OUAT with my husband, I am finally coming around to enjoying Killian as a character. My first watch-through was so overshadowed by my frustration of them taking an iconic villian and turning him into a handsome Jack-Sparrow-Wannabe. Having now come to terms with that, I can appreciate the character he actually is, which makes for much less stressful viewing.

Snow and Charming had a tiny subplot this week, but it is one with big implications - possibly. Aladdin redeemed his earlier failure by putting on the cuffs and becoming a genie so that Jasmine can find Agrabah. Which really shouldn't be that dramatic of a thing - isn't it obvious that Jasmine's final wish will be to wish Aladdin free? But, oh well, it's still romantic and heroic and lovely.

I also think it is quite lovely and bittersweet that they have chosen not to portray Aladdin's genie on the show. This seems to me an obvious tribute to Robin William's passing, and I think it is a good choice. To have any other genie interacting with Aladdin on a Disney-connected show would feel weird at this point in time, even if not actually disrespectful.

Perhaps the biggest shock in this episode was finding out that Rumple's mother was the long-referenced Dark Fairy, played by Jaime Murray (Warehouse 13) in a far too short scene. Indeed, for such a big revelation, there was almost no build-up, which was pretty disappointing. This could have been a half-season arc in and of itself. Not that we need it, but it would have been nice to spend a few more episodes leading up to the revelation, accompanied by a few more scenes. Dare we hope that we'll get another flashback with her this season?

Now, yes, Belle's decision to send Gideon away was also a big deal, but I didn't find it so shocking. Indeed, I sincerely thought that the answer to the dilemma was going to be to kill Rumple (although of course that is far easier said than done). But of course Belle would never ever do that. For her, sending her son away is a thousand times better than killing anyone.

It remains to see how this will actually play out on scene. Will there be a time skip of some sort, with grown-up Gideon coming back with the Blue Fairy (but better done than with Connar on Angel). Grown-Gideon has been so delightful in Belle's dreams, I would really love to see him as a series regular or at least continue to be a re-occuring guest star.

The downside is that it sets up another 'full circle' plot on the show. Really, can we come up with some new motivation for Rumple?

Ah, I'm forgetting. This is OUAT. The moment they have you believing they've become mundane and predictable, they twist everything up unbelievably. So... I'll wait...and see...

Speaking of twists.

CRAZY THEORY - Does Emma somehow split herself? Is she fighting herself in the end? Trying to kill herself? This would really tie the two series-long threads together AND provide a big twist at the same time. Especially if somehow Emma defeats the Evil Queen without killing Regina, but in payment, has to split herself, and her evil side turns out to be naaaasty.

Friday, November 18, 2016

"Heartless" will rip your heart out...

When Marissa Meyer (The Lunar Chronicles - my review) told her agent that she wished Gregory Meyer ("Wicked") would write the backstory of the Queen of Hearts, her agent challenged her to write the story herself. And so "Heartless" was born. 

I've never managed to read my way through either of Carroll's works, and detest the Disney animated "Alice in Wonderland." Although I've appreciated some recent takes on the iconic world, it generally is not my cup of tea at all. This fact, in addition to my less than enthusiastic reaction to Meyer's previous villain backstory ("Fairest") made me ambivalent about the recent "Heartless" release. However, a coupon for Half Price Books and the absence of the book I really wanted shifted the scales, and I ended up picking up a copy. 

(The photo does not do it justice!)
(Which, I'll admit, was in part because the cover is so dang gorgeous. Every time I picked up the book I drooled over the beautiful design and lamented the fact that such a cool production is out of my reach as long as I am in the self-publishing arena).

But unlike Meyer's "Fairest", "Heartless" stars a sympathetic and lovable heroine. In fact, Cath is so sweet and endearing, that it seems impossible that she is really the Queen of Hearts. She is a young lady of noble birth, who desires nothing more than to start a bakery, when all of her plans are upset by two suitors...

My non-spoiler wrap up? "Heartless" is a book as rich as the treats Cath bakes, going from whimsy, to spectacular, to a bone-chilling finish. 

At first, my foray into the world of Wonderland was slow, because, well, as I've already mentioned, I'm not a Wonderland fan. And the human/animal romance side plot was a little weird. BUT Meyer did a great job of making it all work. The curiosities and craziness of the land of Hearts is believable and a good mix of annoying and endearing. 

...but then she adds a layer of cool and chilling -- from the creepiness of a familiar childhood nursery rhyme, to the awesome imagining of characters from the land of Chess (Rooks are the beeest), to her take on the Mad Hatter -- Meyer's Wonderland is entrancing and awesome.

So awesome, that I would give this book five stars and recommend it to any fan of fairy-tale retellings...but I would include a strong warning. This is a beautiful book with a heartbreaking ending. When I finished, I felt as though my own heart had been ripped out (a la OUAT). 

Back to the first paragraph -- although the theme is similar to those explored by Maguire, I found "Heartless" to be more my cup of tea, and also more suited to a YA audience. "Wicked" fans will doubtless enjoy this, but even if you didn't like "Wicked" you may still wish to check out "Heartless" as it is tonally rather different. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Fairy Tales, Writing Updates, Museums, and Mateo

Today's post is going to be a smorgasbord of updates, recaps and news. (FYI - OUAT spoilers are at the bottom of this post)

First off - the big news online today is the release of the "Beauty and the Beast" trailer. Although I was uncertain about some of the costumes in the photos released the other week, I am pretty optimistic about the new trailer. I'm pretty bummed that I won't be able to see it in theaters, due to the way the over simulation gives me migraines, but right now I'd say there's a good chance I'll be buying it the day it releases on DVD! (Husband, thou hast been warned!)

Speaking of headaches, we are trying a new (for me), very specialized type of chiropractic care to try and get to the root cause. Although I have done regular chiro before, I've never gotten long lasting results. This new care is a type that has worked amazing well for a friend of mine who also has fibro, and so far my body is responding in a very promising manner. We are trying not to get our hopes up too high, but it is difficult! We'd love prayers - both that it would work well, and that if it doesn't, that we would be at peace and continue to trust in God's plans. (I will discuss this treatment in further detail if it works out, but I don't want to say too much until we get something more concrete.)

On the book front, I am about to plunge into edits on "The Professor and the Siren" as soon as I get notes back from my Alpha readers. One of those readers is my husband, Nathan, who figured out how to use a text-to-speech app to listen to the book (so cool listening to my book with a British narrator!) We continue to plan on a February 14th, 2017 release for this novella, which currently looks to be hitting about 160 pages (the book itself will be a slightly smaller trim size than "The Mermaid and the Unicorn" to help distinguish it's status as a companion novella and not a direct sequel). 

The actual sequel, "The Selkie and the Queen" is about 10k in length right now. It's a bit weird going from the tight pacing of the short novella format to the richer description and fuller details of a fantasy length novel again. However, I really love the setting and cast for the book, and I'm having fun immersing myself in their world. 

Meanwhile, "The Mermaid and the Unicorn" is now stocked at Chesterton Press! After many years of being an avid fan of CP owner, Regina Doman, and promoting and selling CP books at conferences and online, it is really cool to see them stocking my own novel (which of course, they played a vital role in starting). Very 'full circle' so to speak. 

Last week my mother-in-law came up to help us catch up on our long list of to-do items before the snow hits. In addition to getting a lot of important stuff accomplished, we also had fun times, including some Steampunk Pirates on Halloween, with new additions to our costumes!

The pulpit where Luther preached his final sermon.
MIL also treated us to the Martin Luther/Reformation exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Given that actually traveling to Germany is FAR out of our reach right now, this would have been a really cool opportunity even if it wasn't a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see some of the objects on display in the US. This is because the MIA is restoring some items (like Luther's pulpit) and thus it is coming out of his church for the first time in 500 years (and possibly for the next 500 years as well). While this exhibit probably has the most interest for those of Protestant origin, it is an extremely well-done and diverse exhibit that I think would prove fascinating for anyone with an interest in European history. If you're in the Twin Cities between now and mid-January, I recommend checking it out!
Nathan and his mum, silhouetted against the beautiful Minneapolis skyline

This is Minnesota? In NOVEMBER??? 

He likes yarn almost as much as his mom. 
Mateo is also enjoying the gorgeous weather! At just short of 15lbs he is bigger than either of his parents, and we continue to enjoy watching him grow and learn more every day! He brings constant smiles to our faces...not a surprise in my case, but it has been a bit astonishing to see how much Nathan (not a dog fan) enjoys having Mateo in our little family. 

We also managed to find a 'Mateo' ornament for our Christmas tree! I didn't think it was possible, but almost as soon as we walked into "World Market" last night, I found myself facing a miniature version of my pup. Could not stop grinning about it!

World Market has this ornament in several Shih Tzu color combos!

The other Hajek pursuit this month is indoctrinating Nathan in the ways of "Once Upon a Time." I am thrilled at how much he is enjoying the show, although I rather dread the fact that next Spring I'll have to wait an additional nine or so hours to watch each new episode! Horrors! ;) 

Speaking of OUAT (mildly spoilerific?)... no full recap this week because I need to have some diversity on the blog, but I do wish to say that the opening montage was just pitch perfect and nearly made me cry. Waaaaaa.... 

Monday, November 7, 2016

OUAT 6.6 and 7 - "Dark Waters" and "Heartless"

As I mentioned two weeks ago , Nathan is finally joining into the OUAT fun. We are halfway through season 2, and stayed up far too late last night in order to get through "Manhatten" (which is just one of my favorite episodes. LOVE that reveal!)

spoilers forthcoming...

Last week we got our "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" episode, which was great (finally more Hook!). Although I have to be nitpicky - back in Season 2, Cora told Hook that he wouldn't notice that 28 years passed, while "Dark Waters" clearly states that the flashback action is taking place during the time of the Dark Curse. So... little slip up there. However, getting to see Liam II come back was worth it (and a great Captain Nemo). Also, Henry/Hook bonding was great, particularly Hook wondering how he was going to manage the video game console. And this gem:

Henry: My Pop Tarts!
Hook; I'll make us a real pirate's breakfast of grapefruit and boiled mackeral! There'll be no scurvy here today!

Now this week's episode, "Heartless" brought us another Snow/Charming retcon, but it was just plausible enough to work, so I'll give them that. Nice to see a little more about what spurred Snow to become an outlaw. Although I must say, I was very distracted by Snow and David throwing "Longbourn" around. I kept expecting Elizabeth Bennet to pop up!!!

I'm glad that they are continuing to give Belle strong lines and cute clothes (even though I'm totally distracted by Gold's haircut all the time.) Hook remains way underused, although they are giving him more of his trademark snark again, so that's lovely.

"Never trusted the stuff. Rum would never do that!"

But of course the main point to take away from this episode was the ending, which is the best twist this season has given us so far. The moment Charming's eyes closed I yelled "SHE PULLED A LADYHAWKE!" (basically)

(Ladyhawke - a little known but sweet 80's fantasy film about a pair of lovers cursed so that the lovers alternate human and animal form, so that although they are always physically together, they can never both be human and communicate at the same time)

Anyhow, this is a fresh story twist for the show to take and I'm pretty psyched to see how it plays out.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Timeless - 1.3, 1.4, and 1.5

Are you watching "Timeless" yet? If not, it's a good time to check it out! We have a week's break before the next episode airs, giving you plenty of time to catch up on the five episodes released thus far!

After the stellar opening (see my review for episodes 1&2), we got a 'meh' week for episode 3 ("Atomic City"). However, episode 4 ("Party at Castle Varlar") was fantastic, and episode 5 ("The Alamo") was just as good. So, brace for SPOILERS and keep reading only if you've caught up!

"Atomic City" was a mostly throw-away episode. There were a few good moments (like Lucy insisting on a more dignified disguise), but ultimately the most important take-away from the episode was a) Flynn has a bomb, and b) Flynn has a lifetime (and then some!) power source for his time machine.

Episode 4, "Party at Castle Varlar" also started off with a bomb, this one in Nazi Germany, however it more than exceeded the promise of the first two episodes. This time around we got good character development, and a literal James Bond adventure with creator (and real life spy!) Ian Fleming himself showing up (many of you will recognize actor Sean Maguire as Robin Hood from "Once Upon a Time"). Literally my only gripe with the episode was that amid all of the James Bond references, they never dropped an allusion to the fact that Fleming also wrote "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang." However, they only had 45 minutes and filled those to the max, so I can live with it.

Episode 5 took us back to 1800's Texas, just in time for our heroes to get caught in the Alamo. This was a big character episode for Wyatt, and honestly there was a space of time when I truly thought they were going to kill Wyatt off. It's early enough in the show that we are not so attached to him as for that to be a turn off, but it would have been a huge twist for Lucy and Rufus to deal with. But...no, of course they didn't. Ah well. The episode was still full of great things, with awesome appearances from historical characters like Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie. It was great getting to see Rufus use his brains to save the day, even if I found it a little unbelievable that Lucy's letter differed so drastically from the original.

THEORY TIME! I have two pet theories right now that have yet to be disproved.

#1 - we are not sure that Flynn is actually 'bad.' After all, the mysterious Rittenhouse seems pretty sinister... my theory is that our history is not really the 'original' timeline, and Rittenhouse changed to the form we know for their own purposes. I suggest that Flynn is actually trying to change history back to what it really originally was.

#2 - it seems obvious to my husband and myself that Flynn has some direct connection to Lucy. We've been wondering if he was her father, lover or son since early on, and last night tilted the scales heavily in the "father" direction...but still left us hanging!

What are your theories?

We watch all our shows online, so we rarely get 'next week previews.' However, from Wikipedia I see that we have a week's break before the next episode of Timeless (boo!), and then we'll be dealing with Watergate.

Episode 7 has a title, but no synopsis. It's a bit of a spoiler (although a pretty predictable situation), so I'm not going to list it here, but rather leave a link  to the TV guide if you want to check it out.

Check back for more "Timeless" reviews, and other Geekery over at The Geek Portal.