Saturday, November 29, 2014

Weekly Update: 11-29-14 Thanksgiving

A whole year of watching Chopped has cumulated to this very moment: when I must take Thanksgiving leftovers and rearrange them into a delicious meal. Today I took the insides of a very dense coconut cream pie, added cranberry almond crunch cereal, cranberry sauce jello, and whipped cream and made a parfait. Not many points for creativity, but the flavor was good!

* * *

Since my siblings migrated to Washington and Oklahoma, Thanksgiving was a small affair, with only my mom, dad, aunt, uncle, and me. Since I thought it ridiculous to make three or more pies for only five people, I eschewed the traditional pumpkin pie and made the pies we all agree on: custard and coconut. I also made a pumpkin cream cheese roll, so that pumpkin was represented somewhere.

After eating, we played an old school board game called Airport, which was sort of like Monopoly. The goal is to stick your airplanes on the most desired routes before they fill up and you get kicked out. My dad, the money master, hit a string of bad luck and could not hang onto his cash. I chose good routes and started winning, until an ill-timed maintance kicked me off three of my best routes. To add insult to injury, my mother and aunt teamed up to kick me off my routes. By the time we quit, I had twelve airplanes and no place to put them. And my aunt won instead of me. Grrr....

* * *

November has been a production month. I produced 57,500 words of The Originals for NaNoWriMo, as well as editing/ formatting The Changelings, and making several Christmas cards. As I head into December, my focus will shift into organizing for the new year. Now I have to read all the stuff I created, do a self-critique, and figure out what I need to re-write and how. I also need to get my business stuff in order. And Christmas shopping, of course.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Weekly Update: 11-22-14

In a burst of writing, I wrote 7000 words yesterday (28 pages) and got my word count up to 50,333, the required limit to complete Nanowrimo. But I'm not done yet. I have a few more days left in National Novel Writing Month and a few more words I'd like to get out.

It felt really nice to sit (or, in my case, lay) down and just write for hours at a time. I hit a vein of inspiration and feverishly mined it until it had run out. By the end of it I had a bit of a headache, and I fet wired, but in a good way. There is an obsessive part of my brain that likes to get lost in a different world for hours at a time. When its triggered, it clings to the object of its obsession and not let go.

Case in point: last weekend, I popped open The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug DVD, and watched the entire movie, all 10 hours of behind-the-scenes extras, and the entire movie again with the director's commentary. Of course, I knew it was a risk, allowing my Middle Earth geekdom to show its face, so I planned for the event by getting out my stamping supplies. I put together 25 Christmas cards, plus 4 sparkly dragons. So it was not an entire waste of time.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Weekly Update: 11-14-14 Movies

It seems like I spend the whole year waiting for that slim space in time between November and December for all the holiday movies to come out. I used to like watching summer movies, but there's only so much comic book films I can take. Of this year's crop of movies, sadly, all I have seen is:

1. Divergent
2. Maleficent
3. The Maze Runner

But this Sunday, I'm off to see Interstellar in IMAX. It's one of the bumper crop of holiday movies I hope to see in the next two months. This is my wish list for the season:

1. Mockingjay
2. Big Hero 6
3. The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies
4. Into the Woods

If I watch them all, it will double my movie-viewing list.

* *  *

Tonight the Friends of the Brea Library had a Volunteer Appreciation Dinner. I ate nice Italian food, brainstormed ideas for promoting the bookstore, and in general learned more about the organization where I volunteer.  

I had three subbing jobs this week, which isn't bad, considering that Tuesday was a national holiday. I'm also up to 32,500 words in NaNoWriMo. Tomorrow is the Writer's Forum for my Brea Library Writer's Club. Should be fun.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Taking a Bit of a Break...

Early on, when I began this blog, I got in the habit of postig twice a week. On Friday, I do my "Weekly Update," which is basically a summery of what I've been up to, and on Sunday I try to post "Content," which can be anything from travelogues, to book reviews, to research on the writing industry, to my own little insights on writing and fantasy. The content portion takes at least 2-3 hours to write, often longer than that. That's why I need the whole weekend to work on it.

This month, however, I'm dealing with Nanowrimo, editing/formatting The Changelings, and working as a substitute. Plus, there's the holidays coming up. So I'm going to take off the month of November. Not completely--I'll still do my Weekly Updates. I'm just not sure I can get to writing and posting new contewnt at this time.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Weekly Update: 11-7-14 RIP Aunt's Favorite Chair

A cry broke through the blare of the TV. It was my aunt's voice, echoing from the front room. She sounded surprised, like she had seen a large spider or spilled her Diet Coke on her lap. Sensing no alarm, I finished coloring in a gingerbread man for my Christmas cards, before venturing into the front room to investigate. What a sight beheld my eyes. My aunt, sitting in her favorite black massage chair, had toppled backwards on the ground.

It seemed the massage chair had decided on that particular Tuesday that it wanted to spend the rest of its days (not many, by any reckoning) being a horizontal chair instead of a vertical one.  Being reclusive, it had not decided to communicate this fact with my aunt until the moment of its resolution. At that point it issued a loud crack, and the deed was done.  My poor flustered aunt was like a turtle upside down on its shell, kicking and embarassed.

I helped her up, and we examined the massage chair. Alas, it was set on its retirement, and neither sweet words, threats, nor glue could coax it upright again. My aunt was desolate. Even now she mourns the loss of her beloved black chair, with frowning face and tight shoulders.

* * *

You know how last week, I said that substitute jobs were hard to get in November? Apparently, I spoke too soon. I worked 4 days this week and have 2 more scheduled for next week. Thank goodness I got a head start on Nanowrimo last weekend, or I'd be falling behind. Right now, my word count is hovering at around 20,000, which sounds impressive, but only covers one "short" story and part of a chapter. I still have 4 more chapters to go in order to meet my goals.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Book Review: Ophelia

Title: Ophelia
Author: Lisa Klein
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Romance, Fan Fiction


A motherless girl, neglected by her father, grows up to become the queen's favorite and catches the eye of the handsome young prince. It would be a fairy tale--if it weren't a tragedy.

Elsinore is a web of deceit, plots, madness, and betrayal, and young Ophelia soon becomes caught in the middle of it. But this maid of flowers isn't as passive and innocent as she seems. As her beloved Hamlet becomes consumed by the thought of vengeance, Ophelia faces a choice. Will she bind herself to her beloved's fate? Or will she steer her own destiny?


William Shakespeare's Hamlet is a tricky play to figure out. So much depends on how you interpret the characters. I, personally, found Ophelia to be obedient, idealized, and boring--right up until she goes crazy and kills herself. But, as Lisa Klein says, "If Ophelia was so dim, what on earth made Hamlet fall in love with her?"

In this reinterpretation, Ophelia is an equal of Hamlet, every bit as capable of witty wordplay and deceit. Lisa Klein makes good use of events leading up to the play and the things that happen "between the scenes" to flesh out her character and twist the plot. Though Hamlet remains essentially mysterious, his feelings toward Ophelia are clear.

Other supporting characters, on the other hand, get less characterization. Laertes, despite being Ophelia's brother, is hardly present. Horatio, an important character, acts stoic and doesn't express much emotion. Queen Gertrude is lovingly portrayed, but a key question--why she married Claudius--remains unanswered.

The world is believable and well-formed. Klein manages to retain the flavor of Shakespeare's language while keeping it understandable to a modern audience. One of my favorite parts came during the courtship phase, when Hamlet and Ophelia banter suggestively like any romantic couple in a Shakespeare comedy.

Now, I don't think I'm giving much away when I say that Ophelia doesn't die. One major hint is the fact that it's written in first person point of view. Also, a quick glance at the prologue reveals that she's alive to receive news of Hamlet's death. While leading up to the tragedy, the story is fun and vibrant, having the full force of Shakespeare's plot behind it. After the tragedy, the story drags.

The last 100 pages introduces new characters, new settings, and new conflicts, but there doesn't seem to be much of a point to any of it. The string of incidents very loosely continues the themes madness and the unfair double standard of men and women. I had an inkling of how Ophelia might get a happy ending, but I had to wait until the epilogue to have it confirmed and the one brief scene just didn't satisfy me.

So basically, if you skip the final 100 pages and read the epilogue, you'll be fine. I think, on the whole, it's an interesting interpretation and a fine companion to Hamlet.