Sunday, December 16, 2018

December Articles in Femnista and Prairie Times

Just a quick update!  If you're like me, you're verrrrrry busy right now, but still have snippets of time to read things now and then.  Well, if you're looking for something quick to read, my article about candy in the 1800s will be available in the current issue of Prairie Times for another couple weeks, and my article about Ramona Quimby for Femnista is out now too.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Want to Write a Novel? Here's Some Help...

I'm crawling out from under the Christmas tree and brushing cookie crumbs off my fingers so I can share something really exciting with you.

I know I've mentioned taking writing courses from author/teacher Holly Lisle before.  I've taken quite a few, from the massive ones like How to Think Sideways and How to Revise Your Novel, to smaller courses like How to Write Flash Fiction (which is free, btw) and Title, Cover, Copy.

How to Write a NovelShe's putting together a new class right now called How to Write a Novel.  It's weekly step-by-step lessons, just like her other classes, with worksheets and demos and so on.  And right now, she's giving away a sample version of it for FREE right here.  It's the first 7-9 pages of the first 7 lessons, no worksheets or demos, but if you're a writer and looking for some guidance or assurance or new ideas or inspiration or something fun to do while procrastinating working on your WIP... definitely check it out!!!  Download the PDF, or print it out, and boom!  You've got something to do while you're riding in the car to Great-Aunt Sophy's house for Christmas dinner.

::Disclaimer 1:: I do not have a Great-Aunt Sophy.  YMMV.

::Disclaimer 2::  I'm not affiliated with Holly Lisle, I'm just a BIG fan of her writing courses.  She's helped me tons over the years.  I love her classes.  Again, YMMV.

(YMMV = Your Mileage May Vary.  Just FYI.)

(FYI = For Your Information.  JIC you didn't know.)

(JIC = Just In Case.)

(Methinks it's time to crawl back under the Christmas tree with more cookies.)

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

"Hamlet" (1964)

If you hadn't guessed from the title of this blog, I'm enormously fond of William Shakespeare's play Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.  It speaks to me on many levels, and every time I read or watch it, I learn more about the play and about myself.  To date, I've seen 17 different versions of it, which I talk about as a whole on this page.

Today, I'm going to talk about the 1964 version that stars Richard Burton, which you can find on DVD (I recommend checking ebay, as Amazon's gone a bit pricey on it lately), and which you can also watch on Amazon Prime right here (for FREE at the moment).  This is a very special version because it was not made as a film, unlike the Olivier, Gibson, and Branagh versions you might be more familiar with.  Instead, this is a presentation of Burton's spectacular Broadway run.  (To my knowledge, he still holds the record for most performances in the role on Broadway.)

Someone in Hollywood came up with the idea of filming a Broadway play and then showing it in theaters so that people across the country could experience really wonderful theater entertainment without having to try to get to NYC.  They called it "Theatrofilm" and used something called "Electronovision" to record two successive performances.  They had to use special cameras so that they could capture the play without having lots and lots of lights like a normal filming experience would use -- they didn't even need the house lights up!

The idea of Theatrofilm never really took off, but we do have similar things today, like National Theatre Live, which broadcasts London theater on movie screens here in the US.  I got to see Benedict Cumberbatch as Hamlet that way twice, actually.  Anyway, Theatrofilm was going to be a big deal, except that audiences didn't embrace it like execs hoped.  You can learn a whole lot about it on this site, if you're curious -- it has photos of promo materials and interviews with Burton and so on.

This production of Hamlet opened on April 24, 1964, the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's birth.  It was directed by Sir John Gielgud, who I believe still may hold the record for most performances in the role overall -- he played Hamlet in 5 different productions between 1930 and 1944.  There's a really wonderful book called John Gielgud Directs Richard Burton in Hamlet by Richard L. Sterne, which is a transcript of things said during the rehearsals for this particular production.  Sterne played one of the random men in the Danish court, and he thought that having Gielgud and Burton there discussing this play day after day should be captured for posterity.  So he smuggled a tape recorder in a suitcase into the rehearsals (remember, this is the '60s, so it filled that whole suitcase) and captured so many amazing insights into this play, and into the process of bringing a play to life.  Which means we really know a lot about how things went behind the scenes in this production -- Gielgud and Burton discussed the character of Hamlet endlessly, and I feel like they both understood him so, so well.

Richard Burton is one of my absolute favorite Hamlets.  Probably in my top three, to be honest.  Definitely in my top 5.  He's brooding and sad, of course, but he's also dangerous and virile.  He shouts a lot, though reportedly his performances varied wildly from night to night, so maybe we just get the shouty version because that's how he was feeling the two nights they filmed this.

But what I really love about his performance is how he brings out a sarcastic humor in Hamlet's words.  The first time I watched this, more than a decade ago, his interpretation of the "Rogue and Peasant Slave" soliloquy transfixed me.  It's been my favorite of Hamlet's soliloquys ever since.  Yes, even above the "To Be or Not to Be" speech.  He goes through so many emotions there, from relief at being alone to self-rebuke, to anger, annoyance, amazement, fury, self-reproach, amusement, and cunning intelligence.  When an actor nails this speech, I am filled with delight.  And Burton does so with ease.

The other actors and actresses are good.  Hume Cronyn is an especially amusing Polonius, though sometimes he seems a little to tickled by his own lines and delivery... but maybe that's just me.  I like Robert Milli as Horatio, he's very sympathetic.  Maybe a little bland, but he has a lovely beard.  Linda Marsh's Ophelia is sweet and worried, and I like her quite well.

The entire play is performed in "street clothes," normal clothing of the day and age, some of it from the costume wardrobe and some belonging to the actors themselves, IIRC.  It's staged as if it were the final run-through before the dress rehearsal, so props are minimal as well. 

I find this helps me focus on the words, story, and characters, but my husband found it a bit silly and boring, so your mileage may vary.  Because this is stage acting, not movie acting, and because it's from 50 years ago, you may find the acting styles a bit different from what you're used to.  But if you enjoy Shakespeare or are a Burton fan, definitely seek this out.  It is well worth your time.

Here's my rating of the acting and production, for my Hamlet Adaptations page:

Hamlet: A+
Horatio: B+
Laertes: C
Ophelia: B+
Claudius: B
Gertrude: B-
Polonius: A-
Overall Production: A-

This has been my entry into the Regaling About Richard Burton Blogathon hosted by Realweegiemidget.  Check out the main blogathon post for links to other posts by the rest of the participants!

Sunday, December 02, 2018

To-Do List -- Winter 2018/2019

Right!  Time to figure out what I want to do in December, January, and February.  Read books, watch movies, bake and cook some stuff, do some crafting -- the usual!

~ Read Old West Christmas Brides and Holiday Grind for the Literary Christmas Reading Link-Up

~ Read 4 other books off my TBR shelves

~ Read 3 more books for my Classics Club list

~ Read 3 books from the library

~ Get back into reviewing adult coloring books on my book blog

~ FINALLY see Elf (2003)

~ Watch 6 movies from my TBW shelves

~ Go see It's a Wonderful Life (1946) on the big screen

~ Take my kids to see White Christmas (1954) on the big screen

~ Go see Little Women (1994) on the big screen

~ Go see Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

~ Go see How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019)

(Our tree this year.  We'll be adding ornaments tomorrow.)

~ Get together with some blogging pals

~ Finish my patchwork skirt in time to wear it to church on Christmas Eve

~ Make Chocolate-Mint Crack(le) again

~ Seriously dig into decluttering this house before I drown in all our stuff

There!  Now I'll stay on track with the things I've got going on in my life this winter.  Or at least, I'll have a better chance of staying on track!

Do you have things you're hoping/planning to accomplish this winter?  Do share!

Friday, November 30, 2018

Autumn 2018 To-Do List Wrap-Up

Tomorrow is December 1st.  Time to pull the plug on my autumnal to-do list :-)  Let's see how I did!

~ Read Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge Check!  My review is here.

~ Read 5 other books from my TBR shelves Check!  I read SEVEN others off my TBR shelves:

~ Read 3 books for my Classics Club list Check!  I read four:

~ Read 3 books from the library Check!  I read five:

A Song Unheard by Roseanna M. White
Wonder by R. J. Palacio
The Bronte Sisters by Catherine Reef
Night School by Lee Child
Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy

~ Watch 5 movies from my TBW shelves Check!  I watched Rough Magic (1995), Spaceballs (1987), The Huntsman: Winter's War (2016), Red Mountain (1951), and I finished season 2 of Leverage (2009-2010).  Yes, the last is not a movie, but it takes up space on my TBW shelves, so it counts.  Of those, I liked Winter's War, Red Mountain, and Leverage enough to keep.

~ Go see the 2011 Jane Eyre with a bunch of friends Check!  It was super fun :-)  We have a new theater not too far away that holds these "afternoon tea" events once a month -- basically, they show a period drama and feed you tea and treats that are themed around the movie.  I've been to three of them now, and I am firmly addicted.

~ Go see Crazy Rich Asians Check!  It was amusing, but I didn't love it.

~ Go see First Man Fail :-(

~ Go see Bad Times at the El Royale Fail :-(  I went to visit my parents right when both this and First Man came out, and I flew over two different weekends, which meant I couldn't see movies on those weekends, and I totally missed them.  I'm so bummed.

~ Go see Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Check!  You can read my initial thoughts on it here.

~ Get together with some blogging friends again, somewhere, somehow Fail.  Maybe after Christmas.

~ Make copycat Frankenmouth hot buttered noodles Check!  We made them for an Oktoberfest gathering we hosted back at the end of September (yeah, I know -- but it's totally a thing.  You celebrate Oktoberfest in September if you're good Germans, and I'm half a good German, so hey), and they were FABULOUS.

~ Make apple crisp muffins Fail :-(  I did print the recipe out, but that's it.

~ Take our kids camping in the Shenandoah Valley Check!  And we all survived.  No one got eaten by a bear.  I did mess my knee up again, though.  Grr.

~ Order photos Fail :-(

~ Start writing the first draft of my next book Check!  I'm more than a chapter in, and I love it.  I don't have a good title for it yet, but it's a retelling of Snow White set in the 1870s during a wagon train.

~ Run down to Colonial Williamsburg at least once  CHECK!  I went THREE TIMES!  It was basically the perfect autumn.

All in all, it was a charming autumn.  I'm particularly pleased that I got so much reading done, because it was also a busy season.  But I did NOT let my reading fall by the wayside! 

I'll post my winter goals soon.  How was your autumn?

(All pictures taken by me.  Many got posted on my Instagram account.)

Thursday, November 29, 2018

NaNoWriMo 2018 Wrap-Up

So, I'm done with Nano for the year.

You might remember that in my pre-Nano post, I talked about my goal of starting my next fairy tale retelling, a western version of Snow White set during the 1870s.  What I didn't really say there was that I wasn't aiming for a full 50K this year -- Cowboy says I get too grumpy when I do a full Nano, so for the last few years, I've set smaller goals for myself instead.  This year, I wanted to hit 15K, and I also had the goal of writing a western short story that's a follow-up to Cloaked.  And start my Snow White story, which still needs a good title.

Anyway, I did that!  I wrote TWO whole short stories, one a western and one... not.  I'll let you know when those are available, cuz they're both going to be free.  And I'm more than a chapter into my Snow White book.  Yay!

The NaNoWriMo site lets you set your own goals to track now, so I made a goal of 15K and tracked it all month.  Here's what it looked like:

Yes, there were quite a few days where I didn't write anything.  Mostly that's weekends you see with no forward progress.  But I wrote on fifteen days and I hit my goal, and I'm calling it a win :-)

How about you?  Did you do NaNoWriMo this year?  How are you doing?

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

"Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald" (2018) -- Initial Thoughts

You may recall that I really loved Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016).  In fact, I named it my #1 favorite new-to-me film of that year (though now I love Rogue One better, but that's neither here nor there).

So yes, my hopes were high.  Manageably high, I thought, but high.  With Jude Law coming aboard as Dumbledore and the promise of a lot more Johnny Depp, plus reunited with four characters I've grown to love after watching the first movie many times, what could go wrong?

Um, so things did go wrong.  I'm not saying I hated it, and in fact, I want to go see it again.  I'm going to read the screenplay as soon as I finish the book I'm currently on.  BUT.  This movie has problems.  Mainly, the picture above is the problem.  How many people are in that photo?  Sixteen?  Yeah, sixteen.  How many of those were in the first movie?  Six.


Ten new characters.  Well, really nine, because we already know and love Dumbledore from the Harry Potter books.  But still.  NINE NEW CHARACTERS, people.  Nine out of sixteen.  That's way too many new people for me to have to invest in, while still keeping me invested in the four (fine, five, counting Dumbledore) I already loved.  It's just not going to happen. 

And it didn't.  I couldn't emotionally invest in the film because I never had time to.


The new characters who were actually interesting, namely Nagini (Claudia Kim) and Theseus Scamander (Callum Turner), got almost no screen time until the end, when I was suddenly told to care about their sadness?  And the new character who got lots of backstory, namely Leta Lestrange (Zoe Kravitz), I never cared about because the writing was there, but the acting just wasn't.  Everyone else in this film was doing everything they could with their limited screen time, and she had all kinds of time to be interesting, but never was.

As for Jacob (Dan Fogler), he still stole every scene he came anywhere near.  But he was barely part of the film.  His "I always wanted to GO here!" was basically my favorite moment in the whole thing.  Queenie (Alison Sudol) got sidelined to the point where her character arc didn't make sense -- she's afraid she's going mad, and afraid of losing Jacob?  Those are two FASCINATING things to dig into, and... we never dug.  She just got moved from point A to point B and we never delved into why and how and all the juicy emotions we should be dealing with there.  Plus, in the first film, Queenie was this beautiful, surprising blend of flibbertigibbit and street-savvy.  Where did that go???

Newt (Eddie Redmayne) fared little better.  He's got some pretty juicy emotions to deal with himself, like how does he feel about the girl he loved in school getting engaged to his brother?  And then sacrificing herself for them both?  Redmayne shows us a lot just through good acting, but we should have had time to see him process this.  Instead it's bop from one action piece to the next and one plot moment to the next with no time for the characters or us to process anything. 

Poor Tina (Katherine Waterston) was barely in this movie.  I'm very angry about this.  Tina's a super-cool, fresh, unique female character, and she was handed a "play the jealous female" storyline and left there.  I hate this.  I wanted to see Tina being quirky and curious and passionate like she was in the first movie, and instead, she's almost ignored.

There were very few fantastic beasts, especially compared to the first movie.  And the titular crimes of Grindelwald were what exactly?  He kills a bunch of wizards at the end.  He has his henchmen kill some people so he can steal their house.  He uses polyjuice potion to switch places with his guard, and his guard's tongue got cut out/mutilated in the process.  He throws a little monster thing off a flying coach for being too needy.  Those aren't the kinds of crimes that get you a movie title, usually.  I guess you could add lying and manipulating to them, but still.  He wasn't all that much of a Big Bad, just Johnny Depp creeping it up whenever he managed to get a moment of screentime.

So.  Um.  Yeah.  It's not that I disliked this movie, honest.  It's just that it very much frustrated and disapointed me with its lack of focus, bloated cast, and lack of emotional content.  Rowling can do better; these filmmakers can do better; doggone it, live up to your potential, people!