Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The End of My Autumn To-Do List 2017

My Christmas tree is up and decorated, and I'm working on sending out with this year's batch of cards, so I'm declaring autumn basically over.  Time to see what I did and did not check off my Autumn To-Do List for this year!

~ Publish Cloaked  Check!  You can now buy it from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

~ Read House of Living Stones by Katie Schuermann  Check!  You can read my review here.

~ Read 5 other books from my TBR shelves  Check!  I read Luther: Biography of a Reformer by Frederick Nohl, Flashes of Splashes by Elizabeth McCleary, Film Noir: Light and Shadow edited by Alain Silver and James Ursini, The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis, and A Sidekick's Tale by Elisabeth Grace Foley (review to come).

~ Read 3 books from the library  Check!  I read The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer, Frames by Loren D. Estleman, and As You Wish by Cary Elwes.

~ Watch 5 movies from my TBW shelves  Check!  I watched Ivanhoe (1997), Jackie Robinson (2016), The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939), Daddy Long Legs (1955), and Hell on Frisco Bay (1955).

~ Go see Thor: Ragnarok  Check!  In fact, I've seen it three times now.  I reviewed it here last week.

~ Make "Baked Oatmeal Bars" from this recipe.  Check!  My kids and I quite loved them, and I'm sure I'll be making them again.

~ Finish the skirts and cape I'm sewing for my kids  Semi-fail.  I did sew one skirt, but the rest are still languishing on my to-do pile.

~ Finish my Newt Scamander scarf  Check!  I finally finished my scarf! It is super-duper long, down past my knees on both sides.  It goes perfectly with my long black coat, and I've already worn it a couple of times.  It may have taken me almost a year to knit, but it's done!  (By contrast, I crocheted a scarf for my daughter in three days last week.  I crochet soooooooooo much faster than I knit.)

~ Repair/update the "mouse house," which is this playhouse I made for the kids out of an old sheet that I cut and sewed to fit over a card table.  Fail.  Total fail.  Never touched it.  Sigh.

Well, I have WAY more checks than fails on this list, so yay!  I'm pretty happy with how much I accomplished over the past three months!  I'll be posting my winter list of projects and goals soon.

How about you?  Did you have any goals for this fall?

Sunday, November 19, 2017

"Thor: Ragnarok" (2017)

This, my friends, is the Thor movie I have been waiting for all my life.

Thirty-seven years, and finally, here it is!  Exactly the Thor movie I have always yearned for.  Even if I could never have described it to you before it existed, now that it exists, I know it for what it is:  the Thor movie that lives in my heart.

Is it because this is the Thor movie that Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has always deserved?  The one where they didn't try to smoosh him into a specific mold, but just let him be himself?  No more smooshing him into the whiny mold, or the stalwart mold, or the sacrificial mold, or the oblivious mold.  They have just let Thor be Thor, and in doing so, elevated him.

They have finally allowed Thor to be a serious, stalwart, honorable, goofy, hopeful, and cheerful fellow.  Instead of trying to show off just one or two aspects of his character, they've shown them all off -- and thereby allowed him to be a fully-rounded, believable, huggable character.  Who'da thunk, right?

I love so many things they did in this movie.  They hit so many right notes in the rightest way.  They used humor that is actually funny, is character-based and situational, not just adolescent-boy-humor.  They allowed the poignant moments to be poignant, and the proud moments to be proud.  And they let the silly moments be silly, and because they weren't trying to pretend that silliness is important, or that seriousness is unimportant, they pulled off both.

This isn't really a review, is it?  It's kind of a gush-fest.  I'm still humming along on a post-second-viewing buzz from yesterday, to be honest.  But just so you're warned, there's some spoilage below.

You probably know that I have never really managed to like Loki (Tom Hiddleston) before.  I have appreciated Loki, I have enjoyed Loki, but I have never liked him because he's always been such a jerk to Thor!  Thor, who just wants to be friends with his brother, to live peacefully with him... and then Loki's always doing jerk things like stabbing him or trying to kill his friends or making him believe he's died -- ARGH.  Loki, just leave the poor guy alone, will you?  You're so eaten up with envy because Thor is everything you aren't (and that you claim you wish you weren't) that you can't stand it when he continually repays your jerkiness with kindness and love.

But then, Thor stops.  Thor finally stops falling for Loki's crap.  He started pulling away from him back in The Dark World (2013) when, in one of my favorite moments, he admitted, "I wish I could trust you."  Thor knew, cerebrally, he couldn't trust Loki anymore, but he still wanted to.  And, in the end, he did trust him -- he believed Loki's lie about Loki dying.  (And then I spent like a year wanting to cut Loki's heart out with a spoon.)

But now, he's stopped.

He doesn't stop loving Loki.  You can see that in every moment they have together -- that absolute, unconditional love is still there.  But he no longer even tries to trust him.  Thor accepts that Loki will always try to trick him, try to twist things to his own advantage, try to pull one over on Thor.

So what happens?  Well... I kind of like Loki now.  Because as soon as Thor quits trying to trust Loki, I think Loki realizes what he's lost.  And suddenly, he wants to be trustworthy.  Wants to be helpful.  Wants to even do the right thing now and then.  He realizes that what he's always wanted... kinda sucks.

For a long time, even up until after my first viewing of Ragnarok, I thought the Thor trilogy as a whole was about Thor finally growing up.  And it is, to some extent -- he is a fully mature man now, willing to take on the leadership role that he should have assumed long ago.  But it's also about Loki finally growing up.  Will he always be the god of mischief?  Of course.  He'll always try to mess with people just for fun, trick people, twist situations to his own ends -- but I really really really think/hope that Loki has also discovered that he values Thor's love and trust.  He sheepishly walks in at the end and stands beside Thor's throne, taking his place as right-hand man, exactly where Thor has always sought to place him.

ALL THE FEELS, MY FRIENDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Okay, other things I love.

Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson).  She is just -- she's beyond cool.  I love her arc, I love her attitude, I love her super-playful relationship with the Hulk.  I love that, when she first sees Thor, she knows exactly who he is -- she calls him "Your Majesty" right from the get-go, before he's identified himself more than cursorily.  And the very first thing she does is protect the throne of Asgard, really, by rescuing Thor from the trash-hunters.  She's tried to convince herself, just like Loki and Thor both did at various times in their series-long arcs, that she is perfectly happy letting other people suffer because she's forsaken her duties.  But, like Loki and Thor, she comes to realize that a duty is not necessarily a curse.  It's a blessing -- it's a place in the world that you fit perfectly, a way for you to serve others that no one else can.

In fact, it's a lot like the Christian idea of vocation -- that God has given us roles to perform, duties to fulfill, and that by doing so, we are serving not just those around us, but serving God through them.  Rebelling against those roles doesn't bring us joy.  Forsaking our duties doesn't make life easier.  We might think that running off and doing our own thing, living for ourselves, and ignoring duties we consider unpleasant will make us happier... but it won't.  We'll end up miserable and bitter and lonely.

Um, so that got kind of deep.

See why I love this movie?  It's bright and glittery and fun, but it's got so much more going on under the surface.  Just like Thor is handsome and muscly, and people tend to just see that outside of his and think that's all he's got going on, but he's actually got plenty of intelligence and an almost boundless capacity for hope and love that they tend to overlook.

And then there's Hulk.  Ohhhhhh, sweet Hulk.  And Banner (Mark Ruffalo).  How I love them both.

And Heimdall (Idris Elba)!  I love that Heimdall got some thrilling heroics this time.  But did we really have to kill off the Warriors Three?  I was not happy with that at all.  I mean, yes, we needed to show that Hela (Cate Blanchett) was horrible, but... poor Fandral and Volstogg and Hogun.  Uncool.

Okay, speaking of Hela, she was... kind of my least-favorite part of the movie, to be honest.  She spent an awful lot of time sashaying around, prating and preening, and her fight scenes went on longer than necessary.  I mean, it's cool that we have a female antagonist and whatever, but she was... well, she was more interesting than the bad guy in Dark World, but did she have to vamp so constantly?  I guess I like my villains to have more than one note.  Which is why I've always appreciated Loki -- he's never boring.  Hela was just all, "I'm going to kill you!"  All the time.

Skurge (Karl Urban) was a lot of fun, though.  I love his final scene.  So I put up with Hela whenever Skurge was around because he kept things fairly interesting,  He wasn't one-note, at least.

Oh, and we have to talk about Jeff Goldblum!  I would say "Grandmaster," but let's all be honest -- this is like the most Jeff Goldblummy role Jeff Goldblum ever could play.  I really have to wonder if they even wrote a script for him, or if they were like, "Then Grandmaster comes in and says stuff," and he just walked in straight out of make-up and hair and said stuff.  He cracked me up soooooo much.

Other funny things:  Matt Damon, Luke Hemsworth, and Sam Neill as actors playing Loki, Thor, and Odin.  I mean, dude.  That was unbelievably hilarious.  I had zero idea they were in it, and so the first time I saw it, I laughed so hard over Matt Damon showing up, I had to blow my nose.  (I recognized Sam Neill too, but I had to look up Luke Hemsworth when I got home -- so funny they got Chris's older brother for the role!)

So much I loved!  The colors.  The joy.  The optimism.  The happy ending.  Thor's short hair.

Um, yeah, I even love the short hair.  I thought I was going to be super sad to see his hair go.  I was right there with him, saying, "Please, kind sir, do not cut my dear Thor's hair."  But nope, he rocks the new look. Including the (I know I said spoiler alert earlier, but SPOILER ALERT!!!!!) eyepatch.  I mean, when he lost that eye, I was like, "I hate Hela and she must die," but holy cow, he looks so regal even with only one eye I can barely stand to look at him straight-on.  Like, he's just so grown-up and adult now, so regal and fierce, and I'm so proud of him.  So, so proud of my Thor.

Okay, I could go on and on and on, but I am kind of guessing that nobody has really read this far, and if you did, well, thanks for letting me gush about my darling Thor and how much I love this movie.  I have other things to say, but I've said the ones I really wanted to share, so... good enough for today.

EDIT:  Forgot to say if this was family friendly or not.  Erm, there's rather a bunch of low-level cussing, loads of smash-and-bash, and people die.  Also a reference to orgies and a couple other small innuendos.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Beautiful Books Link-Up: How's the Writing Going?

I spotted this over on Hayden Wand's new blog, Leatherbound, and it looked like so much fun I just have to give it a go myself.  So for the first time, I am linking up with Cait at Paper Fury and Sky at Further Up, Further In for their NaNoWriMo edition of their usual link-up series.

Right now, I'm working on the first draft of my YA western retelling of "Twelve Dancing Princesses," the second story in my Once Upon a Western collection.  I call it Dancing and Doughnuts.

Overall, how is your mental state, and how is your novel going? 

My mental state is currently flurried because my father-in-law is coming to visit us this weekend, we're hosting a pre-Thanksgiving get-together on Saturday, and then next Thursday, we're also having friends and family over for a Thanksgiving meal.  I'm getting over a cold, and yeah... it's been a crazy month.

How's my novel going?  Well... it's only 7,000 words right now.  Now, I wasn't planning to do a full-on Nano this year just because Cowboy says I'm too crabby when I do Nano "for real," so I don't do that anymore.  My goal is 30,000 words or the end of the first draft, whichever comes first.

All of which means I am woefully behind.  But the month is only half over right now, and if I can get some nice long stints in, I could possibly still finish that first draft off.  We shall see.

What’s your first sentence (or paragraph)? 

I’d passed through quite a number of similar towns in the last few weeks. Quiet, a little lazy, dusty, boring. When I reined in by the dingy clapboard building marked ‘Saloon,’ why, I had no reason to think Peabody Crossing would hold any surprises.

Who’s your current favorite character in your novel?

My protag, Jedediah Jones.  He's a Civil War veteran -- he was in the Union cavalry.  Now that the war is over, he's made his way out west and is taking whatever jobs interest him.  He just finished a cattle drive to one of the railroad hubs in Kansas, and decided to see a little of Kansas while he was there.  He's such a sweet, cheerful, intrepid guy that I can't help but love him.

What do you love about your novel so far?

My characters!  Some of them make me laugh and laugh, especially these two boys I haven't gotten to yet, but who are known to the townsfolk as Trouble and More Trouble.  With good reason, I might add!

Have you made any hilarious typos or other mistakes?

Possibly?  None that I've noticed so far...

What is your favorite to write: beginning, middle, or end — and why?

Middle.  The very beginning of a story is often hard for me because I have this great fear that I will screw the whole thing up before it really gets going.  Once I'm in the swing of the story, it goes quickly and merrily, but those first couple of pages are me gingerly feeling my way into the world and the characters and the story's particular flavor, and that's just not as fun.  And sometimes I struggle with endings that satisfy me -- those conclusions can be so important, and I don't want to screw them up either.

And because first drafts are, by nature, going to be rough anyway, those glitches are pointless, and I know that, but... they're there anyway.

What are your writing habits?

Most irregular.  By which I mean that I only write 3 times a week *in a good week* because... I'm a wife, a mom, a homeschooler -- I have a lot of stuff going on.  My three kids are at home with me all the time, and I just can't write fiction with them around, so I have to either wait for them to be in bed, or leave the house to write.  And I do go to Starbucks and write for a couple hours several Saturdays a month, but I can't do that all the time, heh.  After they're in bed, I can get in maybe an hour of writing, maybe an hour and a half if I stay up late.  But that's also the only time I have for watching movies and spending time with Cowboy, which is why I only manage to write about 3 times a week.

Is there a specific snack you eat?

I like to have something warm to drink, either tea or hot chocolate, whichever I'm in the mood for.

Do you listen to music?

Absolutely!  For Dancing and Doughnuts, I'm listening to tons and tons of my beloved Bobby Darin because his music matches the story's bouncy tone so nicely.

What time of day do you write best?

Mornings are absolutely the best for me.  I don't have my brain cluttered up with stuff from the day, I have lots of energy, and I can focus much better.  But I've learned to make myself write at the end of the day too.

Feel free to show us a picture of your writing space!

I just sit on my couch or in the rocking chair if I'm at home -- or at our desktop computer if Cowboy has gone to bed early.  When I'm at Starbucks, I sit wherever I can, just so it's not right next to a window.  I don't like too much glare on my computer screen, gives me a headache.

How private are you about your novel while you’re writing? Do you need a cheer squad or do you work alone (like, ahem, Batman)?

For the last few years, I have been sharing my first drafts with my best friend and writing mentor, Deborah Koren, as I write them.  Pop out a couple pages, share them with her, discuss, move on.  It only works because we 100% trust each other with our babies -- she shares her work with me too that way.  And we are very careful to be only cheerleaders for a first draft, no criticism.  We can point out flaws in the rewrite.

A crazy side effect of sharing our work so instantly and intimately?  We boost each others' creativity levels.  If one of us is writing frequently, the other will pick up on that energy and start writing frequently too.  It's so cool.

(This was us more than 10 years ago.  She's giving me a piggy-back ride,
and I'm laughing so hard, I'm having trouble hanging on.)
(Yes, we've always been this weird.)

The rest of the world, though, doesn't get to see works-in-progress.  Not until much farther on down the line when I need beta readers and so on.

What keeps you writing even when it’s hard?

My incredible stubbornness and refusal to quit just because something is hard.  I mean, giving birth is hard too, but you can't just quit in the middle of it and be like, "Sorry, baby, you have to stay in there."  Baby has to come out.  Book has to get written.

What are your top 3 pieces of writing advice?

I remind myself of these three things often, especially for first drafts:

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

"Cloaked" Kindle Giveaway!

It's true.  I'm giving away three Kindle copies of my book Cloaked right now!  Click here to go to the Amazon giveaway page and enter.  No purchase necessary, void where prohibited, and only open to US residents because that's what Amazon allows, I'm afraid. 

The giveaway runs through November 14, and three winners will find the e-book automatically added to their accounts on November 15.

Need something to read while you travel to visit relatives for Thanksgiving?  Looking for something to while away those homework-free hours during your fall break?  Or want something to amuse you while people nap in front of a football game after the big meal?  This would work well for all three!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

"No, No, Nanette" (1940) -- Initial Thoughts

I am really not sure what to think of this movie.  On the one hand, it's perky and quirky.  On the other hand, it left me 100% unsure as to whether Nanette's uncle was a skirt-chaser or just misunderstood.  I'm bothered by that vagueness.  More about that in a bit.  Really, though, I feel like it should have been called "No, No, Uncle Jimmy."

So, when I was a kid, my mom and brother and I all watched The Lawrence Welk Show every Saturday night.  I loved it.  The singing, the dancing, the music, the costumes -- so much fun!  And one of my favorite performers on the show was Mary Lou Metzger because she was always cheery and fun, and she did a lot of the funnier songs.  At least once, she sang the song "No, No, Nanette!"  I found this video on YouTube that include it, so you can see it if you want to:

And ever since I first saw this song performed on the show, I've wanted to know what on earth Nanette was up to that people were always telling her not to do.  So when Phyl announced the Eve Arden blogathon, I looked Eve Arden up on imdb.com and saw that she was in a movie called No, No, Nanette and looked to see if it was available on either YouTube or Amazon Instant Video.  And it was, so I was like, "YES!  At last, I can find out what Nanette is up to!"

So, um... it turns out there's a stage play called No, No, Nanette that the title song and the songs "Tea for Two" and "I Want to be Happy" are from, and this is a movie that is loosely based on.  And by "loosely based," I mean "they both have a character named Nanette in them, and they both involve blackmail."  Ahem.  Yeah.  Oh, this movie does have "Tea for Two" and "I Want to be Happy" in it also.  So I guess it's kind of a musical.  But it didn't have the title song in it, so I was bummed about that.

Random trivia thing:  There's another movie that's loosely based on the same play called Tea for Two (1950) that stars Doris Day and Gordon MacRae, though also with only the vaguest of resemblences to the play.  And Eve Arden is in that too!  I just found that out.  Kind of wishing I'd chosen to watch it for the blogathon instead, but then again, it's not free on Amazon right now, and this is, so... there you go.

Okay, so the plot of this particular film is that Nanette (Anna Neagle) lives with her Aunt Susan (Helen Broderick) and Uncle Jimmy (Roland Young).  And all these random, pretty girls keep getting money out of Uncle Jimmy by saying he made a pass at them when his wife wasn't around.  And Uncle Jimmy loves Aunt Susan, so he keeps paying them off, and Nanette keeps helping sort things out, and trying to keep her Aunt Susan from finding out about it all.  Except... Aunt Susan already knows.  ::cue dramatic music::

Also, there's this whole subplot where she's in love with this artist (Richard Carlson), but there's this producer (Victor Mature) who loves her too.

So it's supposed to be all cute and fluffy, except that I could never decide if Uncle Jimmy really was misinterpreted by all these women he innocently meets on a ferry boat or whatever, because there are a couple instances where he most definitely does this creepy-old-dude-stare-and-leer thing?  And so I'm really not sure?  And part of me thinks the subtext might be that he really was a creepy old dude?  But then we're all supposed to be happy when Aunt Susan takes him back at the end of the movie?


Now, the bright spot of this movie was actually Eve Arden.  She played this aspiring artist who can't paint at all well, but thinks she can, and she had these two dogs, and she pretends to have this ridiculous accent when she's actually from Kansas.  I got quite a few chuckles out of her performance.  Unfortunately, the quality of the video on Amazon (and the free one on YouTube) were so poor, I couldn't get any decent screenshots of her.  And there aren't any on the internet, really -- at least, none I could find by googling.  This is the best I could find!  She's the one in the center with the feather in her hair and some kind of feathered... purse?  muff?  thing on her arm.

In the end, if you like Eve Arden or really daffy old movies, you might like this.  However, it's not one I feel compelled to watch again.

Like I said, this is my contribution to Phyl's Eve Arden Blogathon -- click on the button or right here to access the list of everyone else's posts :-)

Sunday, November 05, 2017

AMA Answers #4: Rose and Cordy

Here we are at the end of the AMA answer posts!  This has been very fun, at least for me :-)  One last vlog at the end.


Have you ever read a book that changed your view on the world? Which one?

I've read quite a few books that changed my view of specific aspects of the world.  Sixguns and Society: A Structural Study of the Western by Will Wright really illuminated for me why I like specific stories, what I dislike about others, and how to improve what I write.

What are some books everyone should read to call themselves cultivated human beings?

See vlog for answer :-)

What is your dream travel destination?

Alaska!  I've been wanting to go there since I was probably ten years old.

Coffee or tea?

I drink both, but I drink coffee every day, and tea only now and then, so there's your answer :-)


What's your favourite movie genre?

Westerns!  No question at all.  My heart seems to live in their stylized, dreamy version of the Old West.


What are five things on your bucket list? 

1. Go to Alaska
2. Go to New Zealand and see where they filmed the LOTR and Hobbit movies
3. Go to the Alamo
4. Go to Australia and see where they filmed The Man from Snowy River
5. Go to Germany and see all the cool Martin Luther sites


What are some of your favorite character names that you haven't used yet? (Unless they're too good to share and then choose secondary favorites. ;)) 

Hmm.  I don't tend to come up with character names before I have characters.  It's the other way around, really.  I get a character in my head, and then I figure out what their name is.  I don't keep lists of names like some writers do, waiting for a character to come use them.  I don't even always name them, exactly -- some characters simply have names, and I have to wait for them to tell me what they are.

That being said, I've got this character named Cortland for a YA western that is NOT based on a fairy tale, and I absolutely love his name.  I want to write him, I just don't have quite all the pieces of the story put together yet.

If possible using your phone or iPod (or whatever you may have), put it on shuffle and tell us the first four songs that play. (I didn't come up with that question...I saw it somewhere and thought it sounded cool). 

Answered in the vlog!

What's your favorite music to listen to while you're writing...that is, if you listen to music while writing... 

I listen to a lot of Bobby Darin and a lot of movie soundtracks.  Every writing project demands its own music, and sometimes it takes me a while to figure out what music a story needs.  Other times, I'm finding music for a book long before I start writing it.  For instance, I've got this idea for a story set in post-Civil War North Carolina that has about five soundtracks that work for it already, and I've only kind of dabbled around with writing the opening scenes.  But I know exactly what music goes with it.

A while back, I shared some of the music I listened to while writing Cloaked, if you want to read this post for a more complete answer.


What color do you use the most when you're enjoying your coloring books?

I'm very drawn to to blues and browns and greens.  Also reds, but I often can't achieve exactly the shade of red I want, so I've been shying away from them of late.


That's all, my friends!  Thanks again for all the awesome questions -- I had so much fun answering them :-)  I'll put links in a comment to the songs I mentioned in the vlog (if I can find them on YouTube) so you can hear them in their entirety.

Friday, November 03, 2017

AMA Answers #3: Jessica Prescott, Natalie, and Gabby A.

Time for the third batch of AMA answers!  Once again, there's a vlog at the end of this post in which I answer one question from each of these participants.

Also, again, if you want to ask me any questions, you have ONE MORE DAY to do so.  Anything asked after tomorrow (11-4-17) won't get answered in a post and vlog, it'll just get answered in the comments.  Ask your questions on the original post, please.

Jessica Prescott

What's your favorite color to see in a movie? As in, what's one color or shade (of scenery, clothing, sets, whatever) that makes you REALLY happy when you see it on-screen?

This is not something I've ever thought about before!  Hmm.  I'm very attracted to deep blues, purples, and reds.  Also deep browns.  So my eye is drawn to any of those, but I can't say there's any one color or shade that makes me feel happy to have it in a movie, in and of itself.

What is your favorite thing about fall? 

How my creative energy surges!  I get so tired and sort of worn-out during the heat of summer, but when cooler weather arrives and I can feel the world around me begin changing, that's when my creative juices flow faster and freer again, and I feel the urge to write and create much more strongly again.

Which character in The Chronicles of Narnia do you relate to most, and why?

I think probably Peter Pevensie, though it's been a really long time since I read the, so I can't say for sure.  Edmund was always my favorite.  Well, favorite human character, anyway.  I think Bree is probably my fave character over all.

Meat for breakfast: yea or nay? (that'll be a 'nay' from me ;-) )

I wouldn't say yea, I'd say "yay!" if you offered me meat for breakfast!  I adore bacon and sausage, and quite enjoy livermush too.

What do you wear on your feet most often? Sneakers, or dress shoes, or just socks, or what?

Absolutely nothing!  I am almost always barefoot.  Cowboy always says that he knows it must be Very Cold Indeed if I'm wearing socks in the house.  I also go barefoot outdoors whenever I can -- I really hate socks and shoes.

My feet

How do you name your fictional characters? Where do you tend to get the names from, in general, and how do you figure out which fits with which person?

I'll answer this in the vlog below :-)


Do you have a favorite fantasy animal? (Unicorns, dragons, etc.)

Probably a flying horse like Pegasus.  I love horses, and then if you can add flying to them, how amazing!  They don't get used a lot, though.  I find centaurs pretty fascinating too.

If you could, would you rather meet a fictional character or a real-life historical person? Who would it be?

See vlog at the end of the post :-)

Which author's books do you prefer: Charlotte Bronte or Jane Austen?

Oh, that's tough!  Charlotte Bronte wrote my favorite book ever, Jane Eyre, but I've never read anything else by her.  Whereas I've very much enjoyed all of Austen's works.  Judging by who I read more about, I guess I'd have to say Austen.

A little known book you love that you think deserves more popularity?

I don't know anyone else who has read House of Living Stones by Katie Schuermann, and that's just nonsense because it was such an enjoyable read.

Do you like musicals/Broadway shows?

I do!  I love them, in fact.  Old ones, new ones, stage-musicals-adapted-for-the-screen, musicals written specifically for the screen -- love 'em.

Would you rather have a week-long, all-expenses-paid trip in the American West or in New Zealand?

I shall choose New Zealand because a week is far too short a time to spend in the American West, but I think if I had a week in NZ, I'd see pretty much everything I want to see.

What would you rather be (hobbit, elf, dwarf, human...) if you were a character in Middle-earth? If human, would you rather be from Gondor or Rohan?

A human!  I'd like to be one of the Rohirrim.  Even if I wasn't a Shield Maiden of Rohan, I'd still get to be around a lot of horses and out in the wide-open spaces of Rohan.


Gabby A.

What do you normally eat for breakfast?

Most days, I have a protein bar, half a cup of orange juice, and a cup of coffee.  We live it up on Saturday mornings, though.  Cowboy makes breakfast on Saturday, and all bets are off.

What is a memory that makes you laugh?

See vlog below :-)

Is there a characteristic about people that really attracts you (eg. witty humour, good with kids etc)?

Kindness.  I very much appreciate and gravitate toward kind people.  And, conversely, and repelled by unkindness and unkind people.

What 3 words would you use to describe yourself?

Helpful, happy, and busy.

How tall are you?

I am 5'7" -- the same height as Alan Ladd, according to his Army enlistment record.

(Because I just had to stick a reference in here somewhere.)

What does being a Christian mean, for you, on a daily basis?

Making a conscious effort to see that everything I do, I do to the glory of God.  Thanking him for blessings, asking him for help, and thanking him again throughout my day.  Showing his love and forgiveness to everyone around me, especially my husband and children.

That's my goal, anyway!  Do I succeed at living that out on a daily basis?  Not even close.  I'm a sinner in daily need of repentance and forgiveness.

What book changed your perspective on life (whether big or small)? (The Bible is a given. ;))

Jackie Robinson's autobiography, I Never Had it MadeIt really opened my eyes to how little freedom some people still have here in what is supposed to be "the land of the free."  And his insistence that "A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives" really reminded me that I need to be mindful of my actions and how they affect those around me.  As a Christian, I am charged with showing God's love to everyone around me, and my success or failure at doing that can really make a huge difference to others.


That's it for today!  Happy Friday :-)

Thursday, November 02, 2017

AMA Answers #2: Elanor, Maddy, and Claire

Time for the second set of AMA answers!  Once again, there's a short vlog at the end of this post in which I answer one question from each of these participants.

And again, if you haven't had a chance to ask me questions on my AMA post, I'm accepting questions until the end of the week.


What is something that is considered a luxury, but you don’t think you could live without?

A camera.  I mean, obviously I could live without it, but I would be really miserable without a camera to record the big and little and medium-sized moments of life.  I haven't been without a working camera of my own since I was 8 years old.

What is something you do the "old-fashioned" way?

I do a lot of things the old-fashioned way, I think.  I like to bake things from scratch when I have the time.  I crochet and knit.  I sometimes sew.  I write thank-you notes.  I give birth with the assistance of midwives and no pain-relieving drugs.  My bicycle has only one speed.  Do any of those count?

What fictional place would you want to live in?

I'd love to live in Mitford, the fictional town created by Jan Karon.  It's based on a real town: Blowing Rock, North Carolina.  Which happens to be where I spent my honeymoon.

Do you have any hobbies you enjoy? If so, what are they?

I'm definitely a hobbyist.  I crochet, I knit, I sew, I bake, I dabble in photography.  I collect things.  I blog.  I garden.  I learn songs with complicated lyrics and try to sing them really fast.

What is you favorite old (like b&w old) movie?

I can't decide if I'm going to take this to mean the oldest movie I call a favorite, or my favorite black-and-white movie.  Because they've been making color movies since the 1930s.  I'll answer this in the vlog at the end of this post.

Just because I'm curious: Did you like Fantastic Beasts better than Harry Potter? Why/why not?

I am not sure, to be honest.  I love so many of the characters and the world-building in Harry Potter.  I doubt I will ever love a character in Fantastic Beasts like I love Sirius Black.  But I like the more mature story-telling that she's got going on in Beasts.  I'm excited to see where the next movie goes.


If you could have written any novel, which one would it have been and why?

Intriguing question!  Um, well, hmmm.  I... am not really sure!  I don't think I've ever read a novel and thought, "Wow, I wish I'd written that."  I mean, maybe I have, and I just don't remember doing that.  I know there are books that I've read and thought, "Well, I could have done a better job writing that."  Not a lot, but a few.

Okay, here's one, but it's not a novel.  I wish I'd written John Gielgud Directs Richard Burton in "Hamlet" instead of Richard L. Sterne because that would mean that I had gotten to experience being in the theater every day while they rehearsed, getting to bask in the presence of two actors I very much admire as they delved deeply into my favorite play.  That would have been amazing.

What are some of your favorite classic era films?

I'll answer this in the vlog at the bottom of the post :-)

Which is your personal favorite post that you have written here over the years?

I kind of answered this question yesterday, so today I'll say my post about the "realization and revelation" that helped me understand what makes me like and dislike stories.


You are at Elizabeth Chambers' Bird Bakery. What do you order? (And more importantly, which Armie Hammer movie do you watch afterwards? ;-)) I grew up right by Bird Bakery and have been missing it dearly lately, hence the question. :-)

I... I... I have no idea!  Bird Bakery is on my bucket list of places I want to visit one day.  I would order something chocolatey.  Unless, you know, Armie Hammer was there.  Then I'd just cower in the corner and try to keep breathing.

And then after, I'd either watch The Lone Ranger (2013) or The Man from UNCLE (2015), or possibly both.  Because I adore both of them.

What classic novel have you been putting off reading?

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.  Cowboy read it in college, but I haven't.  Yet.

What movie has taken you by surprise and become an unexpected favorite?

Slow West (2015).  I mean, I knew it was a western, and that it had Michael Fassbender in it, but I was unprepared for the way it would creep into my brain and heart.

What is your favorite Rufus Sewell film/role?

Film would be A Knight's Tale (2001), which I have loved since I saw it in the theaters.  I had a poster of Heath Ledger from it on my dorm room wall for the rest of college.  But my favorite role of his is Autolycus in Hercules (2014).  Man, he just kills it in that film.

What is your favorite Christmastime recipe?

Answer is in the vlog below!

What's on the top of your "dream vacation" list?

Alaska.  Also New Zealand and all the LOTR film stuff there -- that's a close second.

You have just been put in charge of creating a new adaptation of Persuasion. Who do you cast?

Ioan Gruffudd as Captain Frederick Wentworth and Louise Brealy as Anne Elliot.  I really want this to happen, so if anybody knows any Hollywood producers, put a bug in their ear about it, okay?  Thanks!

What is your favorite television show episode of all time?

"The Walking Wounded" from Combat!, which I blogged about here.

What's the best movie you've seen so far this year?

I would say Logan (2017).  It's not necessarily my favorite movie of the ones I've seen this year, but it is probably just the all-around best.


That's all for now!  More answers in a day or two :-)

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

AMA Answers #1: Eva, Movie Critic, and Quiggy

Good morning!  It's time to start answering all the charming and intriguing questions you've all asked me in response to my AMA post.  As promised, I'm sharing my first vlog attempts!  I'm answering one question from each person in vlog form, and the rest as regular blog posts.  I got so many questions, I'm just going to answer three people per post, so there will be multiple posts!  And multiple vlogs, one per post.

Also, if you had questions for me, but never got around to asking them, post them on the AMA post before the end of this week, and I'll add them to the ones I'm answering :-)

Here we go!

Eva asked:

Who is your least-favorite superhero?

Cyclops.  I don't like him in the comics I've read, I don't like him in the first set of X-men movies, and I don't really like him much in the second set of X-men movies either.  In the comics, he spends all his time moaning and weeping over the fact that he's rich, handsome, gifted, and loved by this woman he loves back.  In the first movies, he's snotty and always mocking my Wolverine, which is Not Allowed.  And in the second movies, he's just.. boring.

A book you consistently recommend to people?

Pretty sure I've recommended Jane Eyre and The Outsiders to basically everyone I know.  Whether or not they would actually like them, heh.

Favorite Glenn Ford movie? Role?

My fave movie of his is 3:10 to Yuma (1957), and my fave role is Richard Dadier in Blackboard Jungle (1955).  Haven't seen any to top those yet.

How many adult coloring books do you own?

See vlog at the end of this post :-)

What's your favorite sound?

Possibly sleigh bells.  Or horses hooves striking hard-packed dirt.  Or the noise that mens shoes make on hard floors in old movies.  Or a really good, bright (but not too brash) trumpet.

What's your favorite Bobby Darin song?

"Mack the Knife."  It's actually the song that led me to listening to his music, back when I was like 16 or 17.  For some reason, we were watching like a Boston Pops thing on PBS, and they did this cool rendition of "Mack the Knife" and talked about the history of the song and famous recordings.  I thought it was the neatest song ever and really wanted to hear it again.  So I got all obsessive about listening to our oldies radio station and hoping they'd play Bobby Darin's version it.  And they just never did.  For months.  Even though I knew I'd heard them play it before, but not paid much attention to it.

So I broke down and bought a cassette tape of his "greatest hits" that had it.  And the first time I listened to that tape, like four songs in, I knew I was falling deeply in love with that voice and that my life would never be the same.  Yeah.

Twenty years later, I'm still not tired of that song.

Movie Critic

Least favorite movie?

That would be The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974).  A friend talked me into watching it with her on Halloween when we were in college, and NO.  Just... no, no, no.  I've worked very hard for years to scrub it out of my brain, and still haven't quite succeeded.

Least favorite book?

This is a harder question!  So I was thinking that I didn't really have one least-favorite book, and I started making a list of five I really very much dislike, but then I realized that actually, I do.  I hate, loathe, and despise Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.

Favorite post you have done?

My 100% made-up review of a film noir adaptation of Hamlet called Murder Most Foul.  I'm still really wish that movie existed, and I enjoy re-reading it from time to time because it's just so fun!

Plus, how crazy is it that I cast Alan Ladd as Hamlet in that before I was in love with Alan Ladd?!?

Favorite book you've written (Mwahaha)?

My sixth novel, Fickle Creek.  It was the first novel-length western I wrote, and the first truly YA book too.  I really love the characters and story, and one day I will get it out into the world.  It needs some pretty heavy-duty revision, though.

Favorite blog party you've hosted?

My annual Tolkien Blog Party over at my book blog, The Edge of the Precipice.  This year was the fifth one, and I look so much forward to it every September.

Favorite hobby?

Day-dreaming.  I can never spend enough time day-dreaming.  It lets me work on stories any time, any where.  It lets me imagine myself in situations I'll never experience "for real."  It helps me work through problems of all sorts.  I really love to day-dream.

Fun fact about you?

See vlog below :-)

Least favorite LotR book (Mwahaha, there isn't one!)?

Actually, there IS one!  I have to force myself to read Book Four, aka the second half of The Two Towers.  It goes on and on and on, and the only way I get through it is to focus on Sam's character growth.

Have you ever read the Chronicle of Narnia, if so favorite one?

Yup, I've read all the books twice, and I've read The Horse and His Boy probably five or six times.  It's definitely my favorite.

If not, favorite series?

I'll just answer this one too :-)  My favorite series would be the Sherlock Holmes canon.


If you had 20 Alan Ladd movies, and one friend took 10% of them, and another friend took 20% of them, how many friends would you have left?

See vlog :-)


Okay, that's it for today.  More answers coming up in a day or so!