Sunday, October 14, 2018

The NaNoWriMo Fanatic Tag

I found this at Coffee, Classics, and Craziness, and then I saw it again on Sidewalk Crossings, but it originated somewhere else entirely.  Let's dive in, shall we?

The Rules

1. Insert the tag graphic into your post. (Check)
2. Link back to the original post. (Check)
3. Answer all — or as many — of the questions as you like. (Check)
4. Refer to our communal family bunny named Fanny at least once in your post. (Check -- see #7)
5. Eat three cookies. (I'm drinking cappuccino, does that count?)
6. Post a clean list of ALL of the questions somewhere in your post. (Check)
7. Tag as many friends as you want! (Check.  I tag Fanny the communal family bunny.)


PART ONE... Get to know me

What is your NaNoWriMo username?

The same as it is here!  Hamlette.  This link should take you to my profile.

(Did you know I made this from the title logo of the Richard Burton version of Hamlet?)

Are you a plotter, pantser, plantser, or plantser?

I'm a dedicated plantser.  If I don't have any plan at all, I fizzle.  If I have everything charted out with an outline, I fizzle.  But if I start writing knowing a beginning scene and an ending scene, with a pretty good idea of the basic story line, and have a few carrot scenes calling my name along the way, I am good to go.

How many years have you done the NaNo?

In one form or another, this will be my 12th NaNo.  A lot of times I've had a much smaller goal than 50K, though.

How many times have you won?

I've full-on won with 50K+ words four times, in 2005 (my first time!), 2006, 2008, and 2010.

What is your NaNoWriMo Origin Story?

The year I graduated from college, 2002, I heard about this new thing that had been going on for a couple years called NaNoWriMo.  (It started in 1999, but 2000 was the first year it was an online thing.)  I was just getting into blogging that fall, so probably I found out about it on a blog somewhere.  I was dinking around with writing my first novel already, so didn't want to start another whole new novel on top of that, but I liked the idea anyway.  So I discussed doing something similar with some friends.

Although I'd graduated from college, I still lived on campus because I am a cradle-robber.  I married a boy a year younger than I am, so our first year of marriage, we lived on campus because he was doing his senior year.  Which meant I was still involved with the creatively titled Writers' Group on campus -- I was an honorary member, not the co-leader anymore, but my best friend was basically the leader, and she loved the idea of Nano too.

But everyone except me was still going to college.  Full-time.  Hard to write a novel when that's the case.  I mean, you could do it, but it's probably not the wisest.  So we decided to do our own little mini-nano.  We would each try to write something 30 pages long in the 30 days of November.

I don't remember anymore who-all succeeded.  Besides me, I mean.  I dropped my novel (temporarily) and wrote a long short story called "The Reincarnation of Rudolph Valentino."  It was very silly -- a send-up of romance novels (even though the closest I'd ever come to reading a romance novel was a couple old Victoria Holt books) and of reincarnation stories that centered around an actor I had never seen act, but thought must be a really dreadful actor based solely on one photograph I'd seen of him in a book as a teen, plus the knowledge that critics had called him a "powder puff" at some point.

(This pic of Rudy changed my mind about him a little bit.)

Weirdly enough, the story worked.  The most surprising side effect was that I actually went and learned some stuff about Valentino, found some photos of him, and discovered I might actually find him interesting instead of laughable.  A couple years later, I finally saw some of his films and became a fan.  Which I wouldn't have done if I hadn't written that mini-nano story.

(This pic of Rudy really made me think I would like him.)

But I didn't really do NaNo until 2005, and it is 100% thanks to DKoren that I tried it again.  We met online in May of 2005, and we talked a LOT about writing, right from the beginning of our friendship.  In fact, she was my writing mentor before she was my best friend.  So when autumn rolled around, she started talking about doing NaNo, because she'd done it before and it was fun.  She encouraged me to try it too, so I FINALLY finished off my first novel (yes, it took me 3 years, and yes, it's crap) and prepared to tackle a whole new book I called Josey.  I won NaNo with it, and then again with its sequel, Pike, and the rest is history.

Do you have any writing “lucky charms”? 

No.  I don't believe in luck.

What is your absolute favorite NaNoWriMo memory?

The story I just related about writing "The Reincarnation of Rudolph Valentino" because it led me to Rudy, who is now one of my favorite actors.

How do you pronounce NaNoWriMo? (Na-No-RYE-Mo, or Na-No-REE-Mo?)

Na-no-WRY-mo.  How I've always said it.  Sounds very weird with "ree" in there because "wri" looks like "wry" to me, so why would I not pronounce it that way?

PART TWO... Prep

What’s the name of your NaNoWriMo Project?

It is currently "Untitled Snow White Retelling."

What is your project’s genre?

Western, because that's all I write anymore.  Also, fairy tale retelling, because I'm still getting a kick out of doing those.  Also, Christian.  And YA.  It's a Christian YA Western Fairy Tale Retelling.

Introduce us to your cast!

OH BOY!  Now for the fun stuff, bwahahahahahahaha!

Hopeful Mallone is a kind, generous, open-hearted young woman.  She's my Snow White character.

Levi's parents died three years ago.  He's my narrator, and he, his siblings, and his cousins are my "seven dwarves."  But seven orphans instead.

This guy needs a name yet.  He's my huntsman/handsome prince character.

Hopeful's stepmother.  Also needs a name yet.

The huntsman/prince's father, Wallace, leads the wagon train.  He's honorable, stubborn, and can be judgmental.

Hopeful's father is a charismatic leader of men, a preacher and a teacher, full of wisdom and love.  He's blind to his new wife's machinations and flaws, and loves his daughter more than anything but God.

Levi's older cousin who is very antagonistic and grumpy for most of the book.  Maybe for all of it.

What is your novel’s theme?

Love one another as God has loved you.

What are your novel’s main settings?

A wagon train of African-Americans heading to Kansas to start new lives in 1878.  There really was an "Exoduster Migration" made of former slaves and other free blacks who formed wagon trains and set out to make new, better lives for themselves in the west.  This story takes place during all that.

Are you using any plotting/story structures for your project, or are you just winging it like the beautiful pixie that you are?

Because it's a retelling of the Snow White story, it has that basic structure (envious stepmother tries to get rid of beautiful, sweet step-daughter, who befriends 7 outcasts, etc.).

What are some ways you prepare for The NaNo?

I talk to my characters in my head as much as I can, avoid writing for several weeks before, and binge on books and movies to tank myself up with creativity.

What’s in your writing toolkit? (pictures are encouraged!)

My laptop, Silver, is really about it.  I drink hot beverages and burn candles and listen to music while writing, like I always do.

(I won't be NaNo-ing in a forest, alas -- this is a photo of Silver from the summer.)

PART THREE... Inspiration

What was the initial inspiration for your NaNoWriMo novel?

I got a junior non-fiction book about African Americans in the Old West from the library a couple years ago for my son to read as part of our history curriculum for homeschooling.  In it, I learned about the "Exoduster Migrations" and immediately knew I wanted to et a story during that time.  And then I thought, "What if I had a Snow White character... who was black?"  And then I was like, "I am a white person -- can I write a book about black people?  How would I go about that?"  And right about that same time, Jamie Lapeyrolerie wrote a blog post about how ridiculous it is that there's this idea that you can only write about people of your same race or ethnicity, and she basically called for authors to step bravely out of boxes and write about everyone in the world.  And so, this book is me answering that call.

But I'm not being entirely brave.  My narrator is a white orphan boy, thirteen and scared and brave and lonely.  But the majority of the cast, the actual heroine and villainess and so on, are black.

What’s your NaNoWriMo Novel’s Word Aesthetic?

(Created here)

Share your Pinterest boards and music playlists!

Don't have a music playlist yet, cuz that will evolve while I write, but my Pinterest board is here.

What’s your absolute best advice to new (and old!) NaNoers?

Tag, You're It!

I hereby tag anyone who is doing NaNoWriMo, or contemplating doing it.

And here's a clean copy of the questions for you!


PART ONE. . . Get to know me

What is your NaNoWriMo Username?
Are you a plotter, pantser, plantser, or planter?
How many years have you done the NaNo?
How many times have you won?
What is your NaNoWriMo Origin Story?
Do you have any writing “lucky charms”? 
What is your absolute favorite NaNoWriMo memory?
How do you pronounce NaNoWriMo? (Na-No-RYE-Mo, or Na-No-REE-Mo?)

PART TWO. . . Prep

What’s the name of your NaNoWriMo Project?
What is your project’s genre?
Introduce us to your cast!
What is your novel’s theme?
What are your novel’s main settings?
Are you using any plotting/story structures for your project, or are you just winging it like the beautiful pixie that you are?
What are some ways you prepare for The NaNo?
What’s in your writing toolkit? (pictures are encouraged!)

PART THREE. . . Inspiration

What was the initial inspiration for your NaNoWriMo novel?
What’s your NaNoWriMo Novel’s Word Aesthetic?
Share your Pinterest boards and music playlists!
What’s your absolute best advice to new (and old!) NaNoers?

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Tolkien Blog Party Tag 2018

Time to join my own party!  Here are my answers to this year's Tolkien Blog Party Tag, as set forth on my book blog.  If you haven't joined the fun yet, please zip over there and do so!  I've got a giveaway going, and two blog games too.

1. What's your favorite Middle-earth story/book?

The Fellowship of the Ring is dearest to my heart, especially the few chapters where the whole Fellowship is together.

2. Do you have a favorite subplot?

I love Sam's character arc.  He goes from quiet, retiring, and hesitant to fierce and even bold.  But who he is inside never changes.  Instead, his true self emerges into the light over the course of the story.

3. What's your favorite theme in Tolkien's books? (Can be in one specific story, or overall.)

Hope.  Hope in the face of overwhelming obstacles, hope in the face of certain death, hope in the face of hunger and fear and destruction.

4. Do you have a favorite weapon from Middle-earth?

I'm fairly partial to Glamdring and would love to own a replica one day.  Even a tiny letter-opener replica.

5. Would you like to be a hobbit?

I think I would get bored.  Not enough books.  But I do love simple, gentle, quiet life with lots of gardening and baking and eating.  So maybe if I could be one of the few bookish hobbits, then yes, I would.

 6. Do you have a favorite romance/couple?

Faramir and Eowyn are amazing, especially in the books.  Both broken, abandoned, lost people who find healing at the hands of Aragorn and each other.

7. What's your favorite Middle-earth creature? (Can be "real" or "imaginary.")

I love Shadowfax.

8. What character do you look the most like?

Ummmmmm... I look a bit like Sigrid, Bard's daughter (Peggy Nesbit) in the Hobbit movies.

9. Are there any books about Middle-earth or Professor Tolkien (but not written by him) you recommend?

I learned a LOT from both The Lord of the Rings: The Mythology of Power by Jane Chance and Finding God in the Lord of the Rings by Kurt Bruner and Jim Ware.  Click on those titles for my full reviews of them.  I'm also getting a LOT out of A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War by Joseph Laconte, which I plan to review for this blog party later this week.  Just have to finish reading it first.

10. List up to ten of your favorite lines/quotations from the Middle-earth books and/or movies.

There is a seed of courage hidden (often deeply, it is true) in the heart of the fattest and most timid hobbit, waiting for some final and desperate danger to make it grow (The Fellowship of the Ring, "Fog on the Barrow-Downs").

And seated a little apart was a tall man with a fair and noble face, dark-haired and grey-eyed, proud and stern of glance (The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Council of Elrond").

In Rivendell there was memory of ancient things; in Lorien the ancient things still lived on in the waking world (The Fellowship of the Ring, "Lothlorien").

He strode to the archway and stood for some time under the falling rain of the spring.  Then he laughed and shook himself, and wherever the drops of water fell glittering from him to the ground they glinted like red and green sparks (The Two Towers, "Treebeard").

The great horse tossed his head.  His flowing tail flicked in the moonlight.  Then he leapt forward, spurning the earth, and was gone like the north wind from the mountains (The Two Towers, "The Palantir").

The eyes were hollow and the carven beard was broken, but about the high stern forehead there was a coronal of silver and gold.  A trailing plant with flowers like small white stars had bound itself across the brows as if in reverence for the fallen king, an din the crevices of his stony hair yellow stonecrop gleamed (The Two Towers, "Journey to the Cross-Roads").

Proud and grave he stood for a moment as he spoke to the guard, and Pippin gazing at him saw how closely he resembled his brother Boromir -- whom Pippin had liked from the first, admiring the great man's lordly but kindly manner (The Return of the King, "The Siege of Gondor").

And then softly, to his own surprise, there at the vain end of his long journey and his grief, moved by what thought in his heart he could not tell, Sam began to sing (The Return of the King, "The Tower of Cirith Ungol").

Then the heart of Eowyn changed, or else at last she understood it.  And suddenly her winter passed, and the sun shone on her (The Return of the King, "The Steward and the King").

Sam blushed, but he looked gratefully at Frodo, for Rosie's eyes were shining and she was smiling at him (The Return of the King, "The Scouring of the Shire").

That's all for me!  And if you're a Tolkien fan, but haven't join the party yet, you can do that right here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Autumn 2018 To-Do List

Here are all the things I want to accomplish this autumn, so between now and the end of November.

~ Read Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge

~ Read 5 other books from my TBR shelves

~ Read 3 books for my Classics Club list

~ Read 3 books from the library

~ Watch 5 movies from my TBW shelves

~ Go see the 2011 Jane Eyre with a bunch of friends

~ Go see Crazy Rich Asians

~ Go see First Man

~ Go see Bad Times at the El Royale

~ Go see Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

~ Get together with some blogging friends again, somewhere, somehow

~ Make copycat Frankenmouth hot buttered noodles -- I loved them so much as a kid when we lived in Michigan and visited Frankenmout once a year or so!  Can't wait to try these!

~ Make apple crisp muffins

~ Take our kids camping in the Shenandoah Valley

~ Order photos -- I've failed at this so far, but maybe I can make it happen this fall.

~ Start writing the first draft of my next book

~ Run down to Colonial Williamsburg at least once

(All photos taken by me.)

How about you?  Got any fun plans for this fall?  Books you want to read, movies you want to see, places you want to go?

Sunday, September 16, 2018

"Designing Woman" (1957)

Happy birthday to one of my favorite actresses, Lauren Bacall!  Today would have been her 94th birthday!

To celebrate, I rewatched Designing Woman for the first time in almost twenty years.  Don't take that number to mean that I don't like this movie much -- far from it!  The truth is, I saw this at a friend's house when I was in college, and I really, really dug it... but it wasn't available on video.  Also, I was a poor college student who couldn't buy every movie she liked.

I'm no longer a poor college student, but I still don't have enough money to buy every movie I like :-(  However, I DO have enough to buy quite a few, especially if I find them used at the thrift store or the local used book/movie store.  (And sometimes online too, yes.)  And a few months ago, I found a Lauren Bacall 4-pack of movies on DVD.  I already had two of them, but I was so excited to find Designing Woman at last that I bought the whole set just to get it.  I held onto it until just the right time for a rewatch, which turned out to be this weekend, in honor of her birthday.

Designing Woman is a gender-swapped Cinderella story.  One of the things that makes it funny is that the guy in the story doesn't realize it's a gender-swapped version until about a quarter of the way through the film.  I really love what this movie has to say about modern gender assumptions, women in the workforce, and the difficulty of striking a balance between personal life and work.  Those themes are just as relevant today as they were when the film was made 51 years ago, which is part of why it works so well still.

The other part, of course, is that the main characters are played by Lauren Bacall and Gregory Peck, both of whom could elevate any ordinary script into something delightful.

But this isn't an ordinary script.  This is a quirky, smart, sharply witty script with class and charm and sizzle.  You can tell from the opening scene that this is a story that doesn't take itself entirely seriously.  How can you tell that?

Easy.  The first scene has Mike (Gregory Peck) breaking the fourth wall, speaking directly to the audience as he explains that he's here to fill us in on the truth about the infamous goings-on up in New York City not too long ago.  Definitely quirky.

Marilla (Lauren Bacall) then gets her chance to assure us she'll be sharing her side of the story as well.  So do Lori (Delores Gray) and Zachary (Tom Helmore) and Maxie (Mickey Shaughnessy).  Throughout the rest of the film, these five characters will give us their thoughts on the story via voice-overs, some of which make me laugh more than the regular dialog.

It all starts in California at a raucous party where sportswriter Mike buys drinks for everyone in sight.  He's just won more than a thousand dollars betting on a golfing tournament, and he's feeling pretty good about himself.

The next morning, he's feeling much the reverse.  Especially when he realizes he can't remember if he filed his story about the tournament with the big newspaper in New York that has made him fairly famous.  He also discovers he only has a few dollars in his pocket -- what happened to that thousand?

Mike runs into a chatty woman by his hotel's pool -- she insists he gave her $700 the night before.  He imagines what that money might have been for and tries to elude her.  But she's persistent.  Finally, she manages to explain to him that she helped him write an article for his newspaper and file it, and he paid her for her assistance.  But she doesn't feel she ought to keep that much money, as surely one little newspaper article can't be worth that much.

He insists she keep it, she insists she can't, and they finally decide to just spend all of it together over the next couple of days before they both have to fly back  to NYC, where they both live and work.

Two days stretches into two weeks, and one quickie wedding later, they're flying back to New York as man and wife.

Mike is excited about the prospect of introducing his new wife to his well-paid, high-flying life.  He knows she's a working girl with a job in the clothing industry and assumes she shares a tiny flat with a friend and will be happy and excited to move in with him.  He's sure his apartment has plenty of room for two, plus whatever bits of furniture and clothes she brings with her.

Yes, Mike is convinced he's Prince Charming and has rescued Cinderella from her lowly city life.

It comes as quite a shock to him when he discovers that nope, she's a wealthy, glamarous, in-demand fashion designer with an apartment that could swallow his whole.  She has sophisticated friends, wears chic clothes, dines well, and is generally so high up the social ladder that they've never met because his associates are beneath hers.  (The whole film was dreamed up by costume designer Helen Rose, and it includes a vast variety of gorgeous '50s clothes.  I could devote a whole blog post to the costumes alone.  Maybe someday I will.)

In other words, she's Princess Charming and he's Cinderelliot.  He takes this reversal remarkably well, all things considered.  He doesn't seem to spend much time obsessing over the fact that his wife is better-paid than he is.  But he clashes with her over her friends, going so far as to make crass assumptions about the sexual orientation of choreographer Randy Owens (Jack Cole, actual choreographer for the film).  The moviemakers upend those expectations too -- Randy Owens may dance like a loony bird, but he has a wife and football-player sons and ends up saving the day at the very end of the film with some inventive fighting-ballet.  (Sorry, probably should've said Spoiler Alert there.)

Mike keeps publishing articles about a mobster who is fixing prizefights.  The mobster doesn't like this.  Mike shrugs off his threats at first, but eventually, his editor convinces him to go into hiding until he's gathered enough evidence for the authorities to step in and take the mobster down.  Mike has a big fight with Marilla right before he leaves -- she found a picture of Lori (Delores Gray), an old flame of Mike's, and thinks he's still carrying on with her on the side.  Mike doesn't tell Marilla where he's going, or what danger he's in, he just leaves, taking along an ex-fighter named Maxie (Mickey Shaughnessy) who is permanently punch-drunk.

Maxie is strange and endearing and as loyal as a bulldog.  He protects Mike against anyone who looks cross-eyed at them.  And the funniest part of the film, to me, comes along while Mike and Maxie are holed up in a hotel, but I won't spoil that bit for you.  Just know that it makes me laugh aloud.

Of course, everything gets resolved eventually.  Marilla's friends help Mike beat the mobsters, Marilla and Mike make up, and the whole film winds up with the main characters assuring us they're all perfectly happy now... or as happy as they can be.

Especially Maxie, the boxer, who's making a come-back, you know.

If Bacall seems a little less than sparkly in this film, I chalk that up to the fact that her real-life husband, Humphrey Bogart, was dying of cancer while they filmed this; he died before it was released.  Bacall more ascerbic and serious than cute and flirty through much of the film, but the chemistry between her and Gregory Peck more than makes up for this.  The two became lifelong friends while filming this movie, and their genuine affection for each other shines.

This is one of those movies where I get a big kick out of spotting familiar faces in small roles.  Dean Jones (That Darn Cat!, The Love Bug, Clear and Present Danger) has an uncredited bit part as a stage hand. 

Edward Platt (The Chief from Get Smart) pops up as a mobster.  Richard Deacon (Mel on The Dick van Dyke Show) has a small role as another newspaperman.  But my favorite, by far, is Chuck Connors, whom I love so much as Lucas McCain on The Rifleman, though you  might know him better as the dad in Old Yeller.  He's playing a heavy here, but he's still great fun.

Is this movie family friendly?  Yes.  Marilla does have a habit of nibbling on Mike's ear, and there's a bit of light innuendo here and there that should fly over the heads of kiddos.  No bad language.  A little mild violence in the form of fistfighting.  Cigarette smoking throughout, some alcohol consumption.  I would let my kids watch this.

This review is my contribution to the Second Lauren Bacall Blogathon hosted by Crystal at In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood.  Follow this link to see the list of all the blogathon entries and celebrate this remarkable, versatile actress!