Dracula Untold

draculauntold

 

This movie has been languishing on my DVR for 5 months. I had some time on a Friday afternoon last week, and although I “should” have been writing, I grabbed some popcorn and settled in.

I’m always interested in new interpretations of the Dracula myth–I’ve read the book a couple of times, and enjoyed the 1992 movie “Bram Stoker’s Dracula.” This one combines the historical figure of Vlad the Impaler (a Romanian prince who lived in the fifteenth century, known for his cruelty and impaling of his enemies) and a few elements of Bram Stoker’s vampire novel.

In Dracula Untold, Vlad (Luke Evans, that guy from Laketown in The Hobbit) is a loving husband and father, who will do anything to protect his people. Taken hostage by the Turks as a child to ensure his father’s loyalty to the sultan, Vlad now rules his kingdom and pays tribute to the Turks to keep the peace. On a scouting trip, he and his men encounter a terrifying supernatural creature in a cave atop Broken Tooth Mountain. Vlad learns that centuries before, a man had made a terrible bargain with a demon; he got the demon’s powers but became stuck in that cave forever until someone else comes along to take up the burden.

During an Easter celebration, the Turks  barge in and demand 1000 boys for their armies. They also demand Vlad’s young son (Art Parkinson, young Rickon Stark in Game of Thrones) as a hostage, just as he had been held captive years before. At first, he feels compelled to acquiesce, but at the last moment changes his mind and slaughters the Turks sent to bring his boy back. Now he’s in big trouble, and needs a miracle to save his people.

He races toward Broken Tooth Mountain to face the demon-like creature he had encountered earlier–he wants his powers, and sees it as the only way to defeat the Turks.

power

He faces the vampire (Charles Dance, also from Game of Thrones), and agrees to his deal: he’ll get the powers, and if he refrains from drinking human blood for three days, he’ll go back to normal. If not, then he’ll be a monster for eternity, and agrees to help the present vampire get revenge on the demon who tricked him into his present state.

Simple enough, right? Right. It’s fun watching Vlad take on the entire Turkish army by himself (and with his millions of bats), but you just know things are going to go terribly wrong. He’s pretty much useless by day, his own people start to distrust and fear him, the thirst for human blood becomes unbearable, and personal tragedy isn’t far behind.

I thought this was a pretty entertaining movie for what it was, dark and sweeping and wrenching, and the ending promises a sequel at some point (remember that bargain with the original vampire?) I’d go see it.

untold montage

 

 

 

Another Book Roundup

I haven’t been keeping up with full-length book reviews here, so I thought I’d just jot down a few lines about the books I’ve been reading lately.

  • The Last One, by Alexandra Oliva. A woman competes in a Survivor-like reality show, only to find the line between show and reality beginning to blur. As her Solo Challenge progresses, it becomes clear to the reader that something terrible has happened in the outside world, but Zoo thinks it’s part of the game-or refuses to see it. An interesting tale on how we can blind ourselves to the truth.
  • the-last-one
  • Low  Country Bribe, by Hope C. Clark. A Department of Agriculture employee finds herself mixed up with bribes and murder. Not my usual cup of tea, but I love Clark’s website Funds for Writers, and thought I’d give her fiction a whirl.
  • The Bookseller, by Cynthia Swanson. A woman dreams an alternate life in 1963 Denver. By day, she’s Kitty, a single woman who runs a bookstore with her friend. When she goes to sleep at night, she’s Katharine, wife to perfect husband Lars and mother to two beautiful children. But it turns out that perfect life isn’t so perfect, and Kitty struggles to make sense of the two lives she’s living.
  • bookseller

 

What I’m reading now:

  • The Light Between the Oceans, by M.L. Stedman. I’m reading this one for the book club, about a couple living on a lighthouse island in 1926 Australia, who decide to keep a baby washed up onshore in a boat. Like that won’t have devastating repercussions.
  • light oceans
  • Children of Earth and Sky, by Guy Gavriel Kay. Kay is my favorite fantasy author, and I’m finally reading his latest. Opening up one of his books is like coming home.
  • Children

So that’s what’s been going on in my reading world. Have you read any of these books? What are you reading these days? Let me know and we’ll talk about it!

 

Fifty by Fifty

It’s been a weird couple of weeks, as I’ve dealt with some personal funks that’s caused some highly philosophical musings, such as: what’s the f***ing point, anyway? I couldn’t focus on writing, so I decided to take some time and just do whatever the hell I wanted to do. Important things like long walks, napping in the middle of the day, and listening to music I love. Reading books, as always. Some not-so-important things, like aimless TV watching, and tooling around on Facebook, Pinterest, and You Tube. It felt good to indulge in a little bit of time-wasting.

But it’s time I pulled myself together, because the truth is I’m not happy unless I have some concrete writing goal. Since I suspect the source of my funk has been Time itself, as in, the swift passage of it, my youth in the dust, and my perception of having nothing to show for it, I devised a goal that would help me look forward to the arrival of the next decade. Namely, the big 5-0, less than 5 impossible years away.

hourglass

I love writing short stories. Why not try to write 50 stories by the time I’m 50? If I let myself count the 16 stories I’ve already written (some here on the blog, the rest on my hard drive), that leaves 34 to be written. That’s roughly 7 stories a year.

I can do that.

Here are my parameters: they have to be completed stories, not sketches or fleshed out ideas. They can be flash fiction, or short stories of any length. They don’t have to be submitted for publication anywhere, or posted on the blog (unless I feel they’re good enough to do so). They just have to be written. They don’t have to be perfect, but they have to be the best that I can achieve. They can be about anything, in any genre. They have to please me.

If I do this, I think hitting fifty won’t be so formidable and depressing, but rather, an achievement, a culmination of a creative goal I’ve set for myself. If I don’t quite make it, that’s okay. The point is to keep writing as if I will. It’s the act of writing itself that’s always gotten me through the tough times, no matter what it is.

Time flies, as I can attest, so I better get going!

 

Lilly Lately

Taking a break from the blog. Meanwhile, over on Beautiful Detour…

Beautiful Detour

Thought I’d post a few photos of what’s been going on in Lilly’s world lately.

038 Bangs! She looks so much older. They’re already starting to grow out.

087 8th birthday party at the French King Bowling Center. The boys were busy playing games, but the girls were all about the food!

129 First snowman of the season. 

136 Cupcakes we made from one of the baking sets she got for her birthday. The vanilla frosting  called for butter, but since we had none in the house, we used margarine. Big mistake. Yuck. We frosted the others with Nutella. Yum!

View original post

Movie Musings

movie-projector

I love movies.

While following the storyline of a TV show over time is a wonderful thing–you don’t have to say goodbye to favorite characters for weeks, months, even years–there’s also something satisfying about a story encapsulated into a two or three hour span, and you’re done (unless we’re talking about sequels, prequels, or entire franchises, of course). To me, TV shows are like novels, while movies are short stories. I love them both.

Before my daughter was born, I could often be found in a movie theater, usually alone, eager to watch the story about to unfold on the big screen; or staying up late to watch a taped (yes, taped on VHS) movie that I’d been wanting to see for awhile. But that’s a rare thing these days. I find it difficult to get to the theater to see that new, interesting film, and by the time I do find the time to go, the one I want to see has moved on. Okay, I’ll have to catch it on cable when it comes around, I think. When it does, I record it on the DVR, and there it sits, waiting forlornly for me to watch. It seems neither my husband nor I can stay awake long enough to get in a whole two hour movie after Lilly is tucked into bed. Long before the credits roll, we’re snoring. That’s why TV shows have eclipsed movies in my entertainment world lately. It’s easier to fit in a one hour show, to take little bites of a long-running story.

I still have hope. I still make lists of movies I’d love to see, and maybe someday I will watch them. Here’s the latest list:

  • Hidden Figures. Who can resist this true story (that none of us knew of) about African American women who helped launch the space program? I can’t.
  • Manchester by the Sea. I love a good, quiet, intense indie film now and then. This looks like one of those I can sink my teeth into.
  • Arrival. Aliens, hello?
  • Rogue One. Not sure if I should care about this one-if it doesn’t directly concern the original characters, I’m all “Meh.” But I’m a fan, so I’ll probably view it sometime.
  • Dracula Untold. This movie has been around for a few years, and has been patiently waiting for me to watch on my DVR for six months. I really do want to see it.

 

In the meantime, we’re deep into the middle of the last season of Grimm, and I’m thinking about getting back to The Walking Dead On Demand to catch up on Season 7. Once I finished Season Six, I needed a break from that world. I couldn’t bear to witness the horrors inflicted upon the group by the evil Negan. But I’ve heard they’re rallying, and will try to overthrow that bad dude soon. That I have to see.

So what about you? Have you seen any of the movies above? What’s your opinion? Drop a line and we’ll talk about it!

 

White Elephant

flag-elephant

Let’s address the red, white and blue elephant in my digital room, shall we?

I’ve made it a point not to write about politics on this blog, for various reasons. Blogs can certainly be a podium for one’s opinions on just about anything, and I applaud those who use their digital space to make their (thoughtful) voices heard, no matter what side of the fence they’re on. But apart from re-blogging an article some time ago that rang true for me, I’ve decided not to use this space in that way.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have definite opinions or strong emotions concerning the current state of politics. I’ve spent my fair share of time watching, reading, and discussing current events from various sources (NOT the internet), with various people, and in various states of rationality. But one thing I will not do is rant on social media, no matter how angry, fearful, or frustrated I become. For one thing, I don’t think it will do one iota of good; for another, it would waste a lot of energy I’d rather be spending on creative pursuits.

What I have been doing is reading with interest how my writing and blogging peers have been dealing with their volatile emotions since the election, and for the most part, they’re pursuing constructive, empowering actions rather than ranting or crying in their beer (which, let’s face it, sounds tempting).

One writer listed dozens of untrustworthy websites that possibly reported “fake news”; another writer is re-evaluating her entire writing life and learning all she can about the government, the political process, and the law, after a lifetime of basically being “asleep” to politics (guilty here, too). Others are using their writing to affect change and spread awareness, in whatever way they can.

All of these are useful ways to channel the concern and passion we all feel toward people and events that seem so beyond our control. And I suppose that’s what I’m getting at: we can’t control everything that goes on “out there”. What we can control is how we conduct ourselves and our reactions to stressful events. I know people who are so upset and on fire about what’s happening in Washington, I’m afraid they’re going to develop an ulcer. Ulcers, people.

So what have been doing differently in response to all this? Well, nothing really. Nothing different, anyway. I’ve never been an activist. I would have loved to attend the Women’s March on Washington, or even the smaller gathering of over 1,000 people here in my hometown on the same day, but alas, I needed money and was at work. I get up in the morning and get my daughter ready for school. I wrote two short stories in the past month that have nothing to do with politics. I’m planning my daughter’s 8th birthday party. I do the laundry, help my husband cut vegetables for dinner, wash the dishes. I don’t feel that I’m ignoring anything or hiding my head in the sand (though again, that sounds tempting); rather, I’m focusing on the things I can control, things I never want to take for granted and would fight to protect. In other words, I’m getting on with it.

Please note, I said I’m “getting on with it”, not “getting over it”. I don’t think, for me, there’s any getting over what happened in November. What I’m suggesting is, please don’t make yourself sick. Don’t let outrage take over your life. Focus on the things that have personal meaning, and work productively on the things that can be changed.

I’ve been reading in my town’s newspaper that the League of Women Voters is becoming more active in my area in response to the upheaval that’s taking place. Dare I say I’m tempted to join? It would be wildly out of character for me, and yet, these are wildly out of character times. One of the more positive things I see coming out of this whole thing is that people are paying more attention, becoming more involved in their communities, and banding together to protect the things they hold dear.

And that, my friends, is a good thing.

 

 

Labels

label

So I’ve been doing this writing thing for many years, beginning in my early twenties when I feverishly wrote in my journals, discovered Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg and decided to make it my practice, and penned fantasy stories about kings and priestesses, war and magic. It was, and continues to be, my “thing”.

I spent most of those years writing in private (I was a “closet writer” for a long time), and then later only showed my sister my work, or posted as an anonymous writer on Fanstory. It’s only been in the last 8 years or so (since my daughter was born) that I decided to become a “real” writer: write everyday if I can (even if I don’t feel like it-just show up); revise my work; and submit it to magazines and contests. I wanted to take myself seriously as a writer and try to sell my work. I even began telling other people that I was a writer (that was big). I started the blog over a year ago as a signal of my serious intention, to share work and meet other writers and bloggers.

During that time, I had one short story place in a fairly important contest (The Memory of Oranges, in the Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition in 2013), and an essay published in a Chicken Soup for the Soul book in 2015. I’ve earned a total of $225 for my writing, and a little bit of personal glory (and much-needed validation) for those two successes. I’ve had over a half dozen other stories rejected countless times. That’s okay-it shows I’m trying.

But something’s been bugging me for awhile now. Just what kind of writer am I? Am I a hobbyist or a “professional” writer? From certain sources, it seems you’re either one or the other. Either your writing is simply a hobby because you only write when you feel like it, or don’t approach it like a “real” 9-5 job; or you’re a professional because you are making a living off of your writing. Well. I certainly don’t make a living off of my writing, and I’m not a copywriter or journalist or even a writing teacher. I’m a cashier.

On the other hand, I bristle when others suggest writing is my “hobby”. It’s not like knitting, or stamp collecting, or gardening. It’s not something I do in my free time; it’s something I make time for. There are plenty of days I’d rather be sitting on my couch eating ice cream and watching Netflix, but I don’t. I’m getting out the notebook or firing up the computer to get something down. I finish stories, and I send them out. I’m very slow at this, because sometimes I can’t write everyday. But I do it, and will continue to do it indefinitely.

In another life I worked as a tax preparer for an accountant. We had lots of clients who filed a Schedule C for their small businesses. If the business recorded a loss for three years in a row, in the eyes of the IRS, that wasn’t a business. It was a “hobby”.  I don’t consider my writing a business because I’m not making any money with it, so I suppose in the eyes of the law my writing is a hobby.

And yet, it’s not. It’s more than that. It’s not my job, but it’s my work. It’s my practice, my discipline, my lifeline to meaning. And yes, someday I’d like to be published, and I’d certainly love to make money off of it. That’s definitely a goal. But I’d still do it even I didn’t accomplish that. I can’t not write.

So where does that leave me? A professional hobbyist? An aspiring professional? Do we even need these labels? I write, therefore I am a writer. That’s the only label I need.