Friday, June 30, 2017

Announcing the Alan Ladd Blogathon

Oh, this was inevitable, wasn't it?  I am hosting a blogathon dedicated to Alan Ladd!  His birthday is September 3, so I thought, what better time to celebrate him than that weekend.

You are hereby invited to participate!  Sign up in the comments on this post.

Alan Ladd made many, many movies, but I know from sad experience that quite a few are not yet available on DVD, so I will allow up to two posts about each of his films.  But you don't need to limit yourself to movie reviews -- I will totally welcome blog posts about his life, an overview of his career, or whatever cool Alan Ladd-related topic you come up with.

My thanks to Quiggy for suggesting I host this!  I know it will be great fun :-)

Please grab one of these buttons for your own blog if you'd like to spread the word about this event!

The List:

Hamlette's Soliloquy -- China (1943), Lucky Jordan (1942), and Top Ten Favorite Alan Ladd Movies
Sidewalk Crossings -- The Iron Mistress (1952)
MaddyLovesHerClassicFilms -- This Gun for Hire (1942)
The Midnite Drive-In -- The Blue Dahlia (1946) and Appointment with Danger (1951)
Coffee, Classics, and Craziness -- The Proud Rebel (1958)
Critica Retro -- The Glass Key (1942)
Phyllis Loves Classic Movies -- Calcutta (1947)
Movies Meet Their Match -- My Favorite Brunette (1947)
Sometimes They Go to Eleven -- The Badlanders (1958)

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

July Blogathons

Here's another of my heads-up posts where I let you know what events I'll be participating in soon.  If you're interested in joining one, they're all still taking entries!

July 1-3 is the Second Annual Olivia de Havilland Blogathon + Errol Flynn!  It's hosted by Phyllis Loves Classic Movies and In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood, and it's open to entries about either star -- or something they're both in.  Olivia de Havilland will be turning 101 on July 1!!!  So amazing that she's still with us.  I'll be reviewing Santa Fe Trail (1940) for this event.

Then, July 14-17 is the Swashathon, hosted by Movies Silently.  Any swashbuckling movie is eligible, and there are still plenty up for grabs!  I'll be reviewing The Three Musketeers (1993) for this event.

And finally, July 21-23 is the 007 Blogathon hosted by MaddyLovesHerClassicFilms.  There are quite a few James Bond films still not spoken for, so if you're a fan of that super-suave superspy, definitely check it out!  I'll be reviewing my favorite 007 movie of all time, GoldenEye (1995).

Monday, June 26, 2017

"The Great Gatsby" (2013) -- Initial Thoughts

As you probably know, I'm leading a read-along of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald over on my book blog right now.  Until this month, the only movie version I'd ever seen was the 1949 one that stars Alan Ladd (you can read my review of that one here).  I decided that I'd like to see as many of the other movie versions as I could while I'm reading the book, and I started with this one.

Overall, I did enjoy this movie.  I was a little put off at first by the framing device of having Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) at a sanatorium being treated for alcoholism and depression, and writing out this story as a form of therapy.  Wasn't sure I liked that for a while, but in the end I think it worked quite well because it provided a reason for Nick to be telling this story.  Books don't always need that the way movies do.

Baz Luhrmann is always such an interesting director.  I love his Moulin Rouge! (2001) and Australia (2008).  Like a lot of what he did for Romeo + Juliet (1996).  Here, I felt like he tapped really well into the hedonistic angles of the story while also showing the decaying underbelly of society.  I already knew he was great at melding modern music with period settings, and I thought overall the music really helped bring out the similarities between the anything-goes spirit of the 1920s and today.  In some ways, it made the story even more unsettling, which I appreciated.

The cast overall was very strong.  I am not really a fan of Leonardi DiCaprio, but he definitely can act very well when he wants to, and he clearly wanted to for this piece.  You're not going to believe this, but I found his Gatsby equally as sympathetic as Alan Ladd's.  I really wanted to jump in and rescue him.  His was my favorite performance here, by far.

I hadn't realized that Elizabeth Debicki was in this -- I absolutely love her as the villainess in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015), and it was so cool to see her pop up as Jordan Baker!  I thought she was very effective in the role, capturing Jordan's swagger and cool charm.  I'd like to see her in more things.

Joel Edgerton made a really good Tom Buchanan, I thought.  Tom needs to be physically intimidating, but also sophisticated and confident.  Hard mix to pull off, but I very much believed Edgerton in the role.  I even felt a but sympathetic toward him a couple of times, which I had not expected.

As for the rest, Carey Mulligan was acceptable as Daisy Buchanan.  I never felt she was quite alluring enough, but she captured Daisy's shallow selfishness quite well.  Tobey Maguire was fine as Nick Carraway -- nothing special going on, but I didn't wish he'd been recast or anything.

Isla Fisher and Jason Clarke as Myrtle and George Wilson were kind of forgettable for me.  They're the two that I really feel were much stronger in the 1949 version -- I cared so much about George Wilson in that one, and here I couldn't have picked him out of a lineup if I tried.  So in that sense, I think they were kind of a fail.

Overall, it's a pretty faithful rendition -- maybe kind of show-off-y in its faithfulness, actually.  "Look at how much of the book's dialog we can cram in!  And all the symbolism!"  But I definitely would like to see this version again some time.  I could have done without the scene where someone gets Nick high on alcohol and an unspecified pill at the party in the NYC apartment, though -- I'll likely fast-forward through that part next time.

Is this movie family-friendly?  Not really, no.  There's some violence, several instances of implied sexual activity, much of the plot centers on Tom Buchanan having a mistress, and there's some scattered bad language.  Also, the weird scene where Nick gets kind of high is very unnecessary and not in the book.  Not for kids or younger teens, for sure.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Wisteria Writer's Tag (and a Sneak Peek at "Cloaked")

I have borrowed the Wisteria Writer's Tag from Mary Horton at Sunshine and Scribblings because I'm procrastinating it looks like fun.  She didn't add new writing questions of her own, so I'm just answering the ones she answered.  I happen to love wisteria, so couldn't resist this one!  Mary, you didn't actually nominate me, but I shall say Thank You to you anyway, for posting this where I could snurch it :-)

1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
2. Answer the ten questions asked.
3. Add ten (writing or book related) questions of your own.
4. Nominate people.

1. Which of your writing projects is your favorite and why?

No, but honestly, people think this is an answerable question?  How can I choose one favorite?  Do you know the sorts of sad and lonely and unloved and disappointed looks I'd get from all the others?  I can't choose a favorite.

Now, a favorite character... weirdly, that's easier.  Right now, my favorite is Hauer, a very important person in my Red Riding Hood western, "Cloaked."  I would totally marry him.

(I hope all the questions aren't this hard to answer.)

2. Can you share some snippets from your favorite project? (and no you cannot say no to this IT IS MANDATORY)

But I just said that I don't have a favorite project.  How about I just share a little bit from "Cloaked," which I really ought to be working on instead of doing this tag?  This is the opening paragraph:

The stagecoach was smaller than Mary Rose had expected, more cramped. Two people would only just fit on each wooden bench—if you didn’t know your neighbor well already, you would by the end of the ride, she guessed. And yet, a man had contrived to fall asleep on one of those small seats, the forward-facing one, curled up on his back with his knees in the air, his dusty boots tipped up against the side, heels on the seat. No spurs on his boots to mar the wooden bench, at least. He had his arms crossed over his chest and his stained brown hat settled companionably over his face. Mary Rose wondered if all the rattling and jostling of her entrance would disturb him, but he never stirred. So she sat down across from him, smoothing out the skirt of her brown travelling dress so it would be at least somewhat presentable by the end of her ride.

(1880s traveling dress)

3. What is your favorite tense (past, present, future) and voice (first person, second person, third person, etc) to write in?

I prefer to write in past tense.  Very much so.  For fiction, that is -- sometimes I write movie reviews in present tense because that's fun.  I've written lots of fiction in both first and third person, but second person is really hard to pull off, and I don't think I handle it well, so I don't use it.

4. When is your favorite time to write?

In the morning.  Sometimes I even get to, if I can skip off to Starbucks on a Saturday while Cowboy takes the kids to the grocery store.  But I do most of my writing at night, after my kids are in bed.  Fiction-writing, that is -- I write blog posts at any time of day or night.

5. What is the most unpleasant thing you've put one of your characters through?

Okay, so... I have written and co-written more than 30 stories set in WWII, all fan-fiction for the TV show Combat! -- and the awful truth is that lots of bad stuff happens in war.  LOTS.  I've beaten, shot, stabbed, blown up, burned, and bludgeoned a lot of characters over the years.

I think the worst thing would be a toss-up from when I killed all of Saunders' squad at once in "The Better Part of Valor" and when I convinced Hanley that Saunders was dead in "Lost."  Though the latter was temporary.  I could never kill my beloved Saunders.

(Vic Morrow as Sgt. Saunders on Combat!)

I just realized that this answer totally shows that I consider emotional pain to be worse than physical pain.  It interests me much more, too.

6. Are you a more character-driven writer or a more plot-driven writer?

Character-driven, allllllll the way.  I struggle with plots.  Basically all of my story ideas start out with "Oh, this is a cool character!  I like this person.  Oh, this is another great character!  I like them too."  And then I have to think up a terrible situation, toss them in it, and see what they do.  I'm really bad at plots sometimes -- this is part of why I've fallen in love with writing fairy tale retellings.  The plot is there, I just have to put my own characters in it.

7. Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I'm a plantser.  I have to know the basic beats of my story before I start writing -- where it starts, where it ends, and some of what happens in the middle.  The plot points have to be there or I'll get muddled.  But I cannot plot the whole thing out ahead of time.  I can't outline.  When I do that, it kills the joy and I never actually write the story because all the fun and adventure of discovery is gone.

8. What is your favorite word processing system to write in and why do you like it?

I like Microsoft Word because I'm used to it.

(So I should stop procrastinating, huh?)

9. If you were left on an abandoned island with the last character you wrote about, how would that go for you?

It would go really well if I was stuck there with any of the good guys from "Cloaked."  I'd prefer being stuck there with Hauer, because as I said earlier, I would totally marry him.  And he's skilled at living off the land.  But Mary Rose and I would be good friends, and I think we'd muddle through surviving all right, as she's a great blend of optimism and sensibleness.  I'd be fine with Jubilee too.  As long as I don't get stuck there with my Bad Guy, I'd be fine :-)  I suppose I could just kill and eat him if necessary.

(OH MAN, now I've got him staring at me in aghast horror at the revelation that I would cannibalize him.  Sorry, dude, you'd totally deserve it.)

10. What is your favorite writing resource? (this could be a blog, website, newsletter, writing book, that one pet who listens to all your writerly ramblings, anything basically)

My best friend.  I could not do this without her.  She's my Ideal Reader, my Writing Mentor, my Cattle Prod, and my trustiest of Trusty Scouts.

(She's also really great at braiding my  hair.)

I was not tagged with this, so I'm not going to tag anyone either.  If you're a writer and want to fill this tag out, have at it!

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Four Fictional Characters Tag

MovieCritic of Movies Meet Their Match tagged me with this a while ago.  Thanks, MC!  I'm pretty fascinated by what makes me relate to characters, and I spend a good bit of time thinking about this sort of thing, so it's fun to share four of those with you.

The Rules: 
1. Link back to the person who tagged you. 
2. List four fictional characters (use pictures if you want! They can be from movies or books) and, if you like, describe what they're like and why you believe they relate to you. 
3. Tag a few other blog people! Three, or four, or even twenty. :) Share the fun! Be sure to let them know you've tagged them!

1.  Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) from The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015).  Illya and I share the tendency to get obsessive when we're on a quest for something.  We follow what we want in the most relentless way we know.  We're also both hesitant to begin new relationships, be they friendships or romances, and very cautious about who we trust.  And I'm afraid we both tend to want to smash stuff when we're angry.  He actually does it, I just want to, but it's still there.

2.  Lucy Moteratz (Sandra Bullock) from While You Were Sleeping (1995).  Lucy is the first fictional character that I ever looked at and said, "That's so me."  If I were single, I would decorate a Christmas tree just for me and my pet.  I've totally worn my dad's old clothes just to feel close to him (even though my dad's still alive).  We're both helpful, we both like to feel needed, and we're both fond of giving Christmas presents to random people who might not expect them.

3.  Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans) from The Hobbit films (2013-14).  Everything Bard does, he does for his kids.  He's a devoted, caring, protective parent.  Me too.  Bard and I both tend to reluctantly assume authority if no one else is willing or able to step up to the task.  And like Bard, I tend to give people second chances even when others say they don't deserve them.

4.  John Reid from The Lone Ranger (2013).  John and I are both loyal -- sometimes so loyal it causes us problems.  Once you gain our trust, we will trust you forever, and with just about anything.  We both like boxing.  Neither of us are quite as cool as we'd like to think.  We both will take only so much annoyance before we blow our tops and start stomping around shouting.  Shouting very sarcastic things, I might add.  And we're both prone to rescuing kittens.

Okay, those were my four!  I'm going to tag four people:

Cordy at Write On, Cordy!
DKoren at Sidewalk Crossings
Eva at Coffee, Classics, and Craziness
Hayden Wand at A Singular and Whimsical Problem

Play if you want to :-)  And if I didn't tag you and you want to do this, I hereby tag you too!

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Summer To-Do List 2017

Right!  Time for a new to-do list.  Here are the things I'd like to accomplish before September:

~ Read Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

~ Read 4 other books from my TBR shelves

~ Read 5 books from the library


~ Watch 5 movies from my TBW shelves

~ Rig up a new cover for our deck swing

~ Finish the skirts and cape I'm sewing for my kids

~ Finish my Newt Scamander scarf (I mean, it can't take me forever to knit one scarf, can it?  This has to end sometime.)


~ Reorganize the shelves where I keep all my homeschooling materials and supplies

~ Order curriculum for the new school year

~ Make lesson plans for the class on creative writing I'll be teaching our new homeschool co-op group

~ Clean up my crafting corner

~ Organize my kids' crafting cabinet

~ Publish "Cloaked"

That last item is going to use up a lot of my time and brain-power, I know, so I'm letting this list be a bit shorter than many of mine!

How about you?  Got anything special you'd like to get accomplished this summer?

Thursday, June 01, 2017

"Five Poisoned Apples" Cover Reveal and Contest Info

Hey, guess what?  Today's the day that Rooglewood Press announces their final fairy tale retelling contest!  And I get to be part of the reveal.  Here it is!!!

I don't know about you, but I think this is the prettiest one yet.  The cover photo is by Wynter Clark, and the design is by Julia Popova, who also designed the previous covers in this series.

If you're interested in entering the contest, the official page is right here.

You know that I won the previous contest, and my story "The Man Buckskin Horse" is now available in Five Magic Spindles.  I'm excited to also announce today that I will be involved in the publication of Five Poisoned Apples too -- but this time as a judge!  That's going to be such fun.  In fact, I'm looking forward to it so much, I'm posting about it on both of my blogs!