Tag Archives: Movies

Science Fiction Romance: The African Queen in Outer Space?

Today’s guest blogger is former teacher, principal, and symphonic oboist Edward Hoornaert, who’s here to discuss how The African Queen starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn inspired his latest science fiction romance novel. Welcome, Ed!

Set on an inhospitable moon…

My upcoming science fiction romance, Escapee, is coming out in early 2016 from MuseItUp Publishing out of Montreal. What inspired me to write the book?

The 1951 movie, The African Queen. My version is set on an inhospitable moon, rather than the African Jungle, but in both tales the hero and heroine battle nature and, ultimately, the invading enemy.

How did I transform a movie into a science fiction romance? So glad you asked.

Analyzing the movie

I rented the movie and looked for two things:

  • Stages — Charley and Rosie’s relationship go through a number of stages.
  • Turning points — The events that caused their relationship to change from one stage to another.

I then devised analogous — but subtly different — stages and turning points for Escapee. Here are a few of them, so you get the feel for how the analysis worked.

Stage 1:  Polite disconnect between hero and heroine.

  • AQ — Rosie, a missionary in German East Africa, disapproves of Charley, a crude freighter captain who brings supplies, but treats him with chilly politeness.
  • Escapee — Hector, a stuffy career army officer, disapproves of the freewheeling, lower-class airship pilot, Cattaroon who supplies his base.

Turning point:  The enemy invades. In AQ, it’s the Germans, who leave Rosie alone and stranded — until Charley comes by and saves her.

In Escapee, it’s humans from the Proxima system. While Hector’s on leave, they destroy his entire command, leaving him stranded and alone — until Catt lands, looking for survivors.

Stage 2:  Rosie devises a near-impossible goal that he doesn’t agree with.

  • AQ — Rosie wants to attack a German warship. Charley agrees, knowing she’ll give up when she learns how dangerous the river is.
  • Escapee — Hector wants to attack enemy headquarters. Catt agrees only because she’s certain he’ll give up when he realizes how dangerous a flight across the moon is.

So far the two stories are similar. Now they start to diverge, though the skeleton remains the same.

Turning point:  When mild danger fails to deter her from her purpose, his true feelings come out explosively.

  • In AQ, after shooting rapids doesn’t deter Rosie, Charley gets drunk and insults Rosie. She dumps out all his rum.
  • In Escapee, after getting caught in a volcano’s updraft doesn’t deter Hector, Catt sabotages a cannon stored in the airship’s hold.

Stage 3:  Futile attempts to rebuild a civil relationship.

  • AQ — Charley apologizes for insulting her, but she won’t accept his apology unless he agrees to take her to the Germans’ ship.
  • Escapee — With the cannon gone, Hector realizes how futile his quest is. Feeling guilty, Catt tries to be nice, but he’s too depressed to talk about it.

Turning point:  He agrees to share her goal.

In AQ, Charley’s (deeply buried!) chivalry makes him give in.

In Escapee, Catt remembers all the friends whom the enemy has killed. Hearing her cry during the night, Hector finally talks, voicing his idealistic reasons for wanting to fight. Inspired by his idealism, Catt agrees to make the dangerous voyage to the other side of the moon.

Stage 4:  Falling in love

Etc, etc.

“Inspired By”, Not a Ripoff

This post is getting long, so I won’t bore you with all six stages, but hopefully you get the general idea. Analyzing the movie turned out to be a huge help in developing my plot. You ought to try it some time.

I’d like to emphasize that Escapee ended up having a very different feel than the movie. If I didn’t tell you it was based on the African Queen, you wouldn’t notice. If addition to being science fiction rather than historical drama, here are some of the key differences:

  • Although both environments are hostile, they’re different — river rapids vs. hurricanes and volcanoes.
  • The characters’ genders are reversed. Their wounds are very different, as are the lessons they need to learn.
  • I added secondary characters. They capture an enemy who tries to sabotage the airship. Hector has an alien pet that is ugly/lovable. Finally, Catt’s android co-pilot provides comic relief as well as the book’s most poignant scene, when he dies.
  • The ending is more believable, IMHO. AQ‘s ending requires an act of God (a rainstorm that floats their grounded boat) and a wild coincidence (their sunken boat nonetheless sinks the German ship). Escapee has a logical ending.

What’s It to You?

If you have a favorite movie you love, you might want to turn it into a book of your own. If so, consider analyzing it for stages and turning points.

What movie would you like to turn into an “inspired by” novel? Tell us about it in the comments.

[Jill: Many of you know that Noon Onyx was loosely inspired by Evy Carnahan from The Mummy. None of the plot points are the same though. Want to read about my lunchtime light bulb moment when the idea of the character first came to me? See my FAQ page.]

Guardian Angel of Far Flung StationSuggested Reading

Escapee is the second book in my space opera series featuring the Dukelsky family. The first book is The Guardian Angel of Farflung Station.

Sandrina, a lonely, waif-like genius, conceals more secrets—and power—than anyone on Farflung Space Station. One secret is her hopeless crush on Duke Dukelsky, the handsome head of the station’s security.

But when invaders take over Farflung, Duke needs Sandrina’s help to repel them and rescue the reformed space pirate who cut out her tongue when she was eight. Can she earn Duke’s love even though it means stripping herself of all secrets and forgiving the man who maimed her?

Edward Hoornaert

Edward Hoornaert

About Edward Hoornaert

What kind of man writes romance? A man who married his high school sweetheart a week after graduation and is still living the HEA decades later. A man who is a certifiable Harlequin hero in his own right — Ed inspired Vicki Lewis Thompson’s Rita Award finalist Mr. Valentine, which is dedicated to him.

Ed started out writing romances for Silhouette Books, but these days he concentrates on science fiction romance. In addition to novelist, he’s been a teacher, principal, technical writer, salesman, janitor, and symphonic oboist. He and wife Judi live in Tucson, Arizona. They have three sons, a daughter, a mutt, and the world’s most adorable grandson. Visit him at http://eahoornaert.com.

Ed’s still waiting on the cover and buy links for Escapee. In the meantime, you can check out all of his books here. Thanks for guest blogging today, Ed!


Alan Rickman

I was going to do a Supergirl versus Shannara post this week but then I saw the news that Alan Rickman passed away. Like everyone else, I was surprised and sad about it. I didn’t know he was battling cancer and 69 is way too young.

When Leonard Nimoy died I laid on my couch and marathoned the first four Star Trek movies. I’m tempted to do the same this Sunday with Harry Potter movies but, since I watched all of them again just a few months ago, I’ll probably turn to some of his other work. Like the movie my husband and I still quote all the time – Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. The movie itself was disappointing (Robin and Marian’s chemistry was non-existent) but Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham was AWESOME.

Robin_hood_1991

Nottingham: “I’m gonna cut your heart out with a spoon!”

Robin Hood: [blah blah blah]

Sir Guy of Gisbourne: “Why a spoon, cousin? Why not an ax or a—”

Nottingham: “Because it’s dull, you twit. It’ll hurt more!”

Seriously, who can deliver lines that like and not only make them entertaining, but highly memorable?

If anyone else is considering a weekend Rickman marathon, here are some other choices (besides Harry Potter):

I feel like Alan Rickman had twenty or more movies left in him. So sorry I won’t get to see them, but will gladly watch the ones he made that I love over and over again.


THE FORCE AWAKENS: My spoilery thoughts

Went with my family to see the latest Star Wars installment last night. We couldn’t go over the weekend because we were doing holiday-ish things but, as it turns out, Monday night was the perfect night to see it. The theater was crowded but not super packed so there was room for our trough of popcorn, our ginormous boxes of candy and four giant sodas.

I’m worried that there hasn’t been enough coverage of this movie yet. That people may not be discussing it enough. And since my site is such an active hub of buzzy pop culture conversation, I figured this is what we should talk about today. :-D

Here are my thoughts, in no particular order. SPOILERS!!! (If you’re one of the only two people who haven’t seen THE FORCE AWAKENS, buy your tickets NOW!)

I LOVED IT!!! I went in with super high expectations and wasn’t disappointed. That’s a HIGH bar, which is almost never met. Loved everything everyone else has loved about it – the old characters, the new characters, its fresh yet familiar feel.

If I had one itty, bitty complaint, it was that I wasn’t expecting a plot that hued so close to the first Star Wars movie it almost felt like a remake. I’d expected that with Star Trek because that’s what it was billed as. But this wasn’t and so I went in expecting a more original story line. The movie sort of fell in this gray area between sequel and retelling. But you know what? Who cares? Because it was terrific.

The new leads, Rey and Finn were amazing. They were funny, charismatic, and easily characters I could root for. I loved their relationship and am eager to see where the filmmakers take it.

Han Solo’s death was horrible. I was putty in the filmmaker’s hands, desperately hoping with my heart that the scene wouldn’t end the way it did while my head kept telling me to get real. Storywise, had to happen, but that knowledge didn’t prevent me from imagining all sorts of implausible alternatives.

BB-8 was great! (His diminutive app-enabled doppelgänger will be making a reappearance under our Christmas tree. Whether it’s worth the hefty sticker price is less certain…)

I’m in the camp that wants Rey to be Luke’s daughter. I really do get those that say blood shouldn’t matter. That anyone can be a hero simply by acting heroic. That you don’t have to inherit the ability to save a world… or the galaxy. But this is Star Wars, folks. Total space opera. Luke’s the quintessential hero. Again, storywise, I feel like the entire three movie arc (Ep. VII-IX) has been established. Luke’s daughter must redeem Kylo Ren to make up for her father’s failing him. And if Rey turns out to be anything other than Luke’s daughter, all those awesome clues will be wasted. My favorite? The visual connections. Rey’s garb and speeder bike intentionally evoke young Luke. As for the camp that wants her to be Han and Leia’s daughter, this theory requires too many story machinations for me. I think the only reason it has so much traction is because brother versus sister is more epic than cousin versus cousin. But, if Rey turns out to be Luke’s daughter, then I view it as Luke’s daughter versus Leia’s son, which sounds pretty epic to me.

Worth noting that my younger daughter said this was the best movie she ever saw. That’s high praise coming from her. She’s my little SFF fan and she’s watched gobs of recent non-R-rated blockbusters. Rey definitely captured her attention. She told me she was glad they finally made a movie with a girl as the hero. Yeah, me too, kid. :-) [And, yes, I know there are plenty of stories with girl heroes, but none at this level of fandom].

So what about you? Did you see THE FORCE AWAKENS? What are your thoughts?


SPRING: #horror #romance #movie

Has anyone watched SPRING yet? The 2014 horror, sci-fi, romance flick directed by Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson and staring Nadia Hilker and Lou Taylor Pucci? (It’s not rated, but I’d put it squarely in the rated “R” category.) I saw it last week and have been thinking about it on and off since. If you’ve seen it and want to discuss, read on! If you haven’t, be aware – big spoilers below!!

Spring

The woman who cuts my hair recommended this to me. I’ve been going to her for years and we talk about movies all the time. We have similar tastes and she watches as many movies as I do. So it’s always fun to catch up and swap recs. I have to say, the day we discussed this one was pretty funny. The backdrop was this semi-swanky hair salon and there we were, me in the chair, her chopping away behind me, talking about blood and tentacles and syringes and killings and body transformations… and it seemed like every head in the room turned our way. I couldn’t figure out if they thought we were insane or just wanted to watch the movie too.

As some of you know, I’m actually not a huge horror fan. I prefer supernatural thrillers, psychological suspense, and/or dark fantasy to straight up horror but, occasionally, I’ll watch something with a twist (The Cabin in the Woods comes to mind). So I was wary when my hairdresser first recommended Spring. After hearing all the gory details, I asked her:

Does it have a happy ending?

Yep, I’m a wimp sometimes and I just wanted to know what I might be getting myself into. She was reluctant to spoil it for me but finally said, “Yes.” And her answer is what convinced me to watch it and why I’m passing this info on. Romance fans who like dark stories, this one’s for you. Bonus: horror fans will not be disappointed either (but don’t tell them the ending ;-) Half the fun for horror fans will likely be trying to figure out whether the guy will end up the girl’s victim in some sort of gruesome black widow scenario).

Why did I like it?

I loved that it successfully blended two near-opposite genres. Combining horror and romance is really difficult. Romances are about bringing two people together. They are about human connections, closeness, emotions, warmth, and love. Horror is about frightening the crap out of the audience. You know someone’s gonna die and it might even be the MC.

Ok, so what’s it about?

The movie opens with Evan losing his mother. It’s a really sad scene. Tough to watch, but it immediately establishes his capacity to love and be there for those he loves. Grief-stricken, he decides to travel and round-aboutly makes his way to Italy where he meets a mysterious, beautiful woman – Louise. The rest of the movie centers on their developing relationship, which is massively complicated by who and what she is.

What you may not like about it

FlickFilosopher wrote a review that points out that, in order to get to the happy ending, Louise had to give up her immortality and change who she was. The reviewer’s point was that, not only was Evan not worth Louise’s sacrifice, but why should the girl always have to change to get the guy?

It was an interesting point and one that caught my attention. (Obviously, the stories are different, but in my first novel, Noon also struggled with who and what she was. Ultimately, she decided not to change.)

For me, however, Louise’s change and sacrifice worked. Why? Three reasons.

First, I thought Evan might be someone who was worth that kind of sacrifice. Hey, it’s a movie. The filmmakers only get two hours for audiences to fall in love with their characters. They showed me enough of Evan’s character for me to fill in the gaps. He had potential as an awesome beau even if we didn’t see all of it. His devotion to his mom and his interactions with the other characters (the two buddies he traveled with for a while and the old widowed farmer he worked for) gave us hints that he was someone who, despite being at a very dark point in his life, was still going to approach the world with openness and warmth.

Second, he loved Louise enough to die for her. Yes, he fell in love quickly but, man, once he was in, he was all in. When he found Louise mid-shift in her apartment looking deadly and terrifying, he didn’t run. Nope, he bashed down the door and found a way to help her. And, at the very end, when Louise kept telling him she was probably going to kill him – that she didn’t love him and that, for his own sake, he should get the hell out of dodge – he didn’t. He never left her. He was willing to risk her killing him if it meant having a chance at a life with her.

Third, there were hints that Louise was sick and tired of that immortality b.s. Is it really all it’s cracked up to be? Sounds pretty lonely to me. And Louise’s rebirths every twenty years sounded awful. If she was fully embracing who and what she was, she wouldn’t have been carrying around all those syringes to stop the transformations. Nope, she was ready for it to be done.

Have you seen SPRING? What did you think?

[Am I back to blogging? No. Not really. I may share my thoughts on stuff from time to time here, but for now, I’m still focused on my WIP. So I’m heading back to my writing cave. NaNoers – soldier on!!! Wishing you – and me – high word counts for today! :-D ]


Egg Timer Reviews: 20 Stories! (Books, Movies, TV & Broadway Shows)

I was supposed to post an author interview yesterday, but I never received it. If I do, I’ll reschedule because I think her Q&A would be interesting and fun to read. In the meantime, however, I was in a bind bc I had nothing of my own ready to post. What to do?

Egg timer reviews.

What the heck are those? Well, it’s where I take a look at my bookshelf, Kindle, movie queue, etc. and see what I’ve watched and read lately (or eons ago) that I can talk about in three minutes or less. So these aren’t really reviews. They’re more like stream of consciousness goo. (I filled in some of the names via internet search later – my memory’s not that good. ;-) )

Are there spoilers? Is it still miserably cold outside!? Yes, there are some spoilers!

BOOKS

Stolen Songbird

Trolls! Trolls! TROLLS!! I always wanted to do a romance featuring a leprechaun but could never figure out how to make a leprechaun sexy. Well, Danielle Jensen found a way to make trolls sexy. When I read the back cover copy, I knew I had to read it just to see how she did it. The first part of the book is the best: the dynamic tension between Cecile and Tristan, the descriptions of Trollus and its inhabitants… good stuff. There was a bit too much coming and going in the end (it felt a little “fillerish” to me) and I worry that the trolls might really be “e—” (maybe not…? since that would take away from the Big Accomplishment here). But, if you love YA fantasy, pick this one up. You’ll love it. (Worth noting: Jensen started out with Strange Chemistry, Angry Robot’s now defunct YA imprint. I think Angry Robot picked this series up, but it’s still nice to support authors who end up in this situation).

The Girl of Fire and Thorns

I loved this character’s transformation. You all know I love big character growth arcs and Elisa has one! At the start of the book she is clueless, overweight, and timid. By the end of the novel, she has sought forbidden knowledge, grown physically stronger, and become much more confident and assertive. The only thing that gave me pause was the almost over emphasis on the character’s weight. I’m a big “love your own body” kind of person. And yet, I can also get behind a person’s wanting to change themselves. (My own work reflects my ideological tug of war between “learn to love yourself” versus “pursue your dream to change,” especially my first novel). The bigger question is always, why does a person want to change? Is it society telling them (perhaps subtly and evilly) that they should or is their desire to change truly coming from within? – But rest assured, genre fans, Girl of Fire and Thorns is mostly an adventure story with some magic and romance.

Throne of Glass

I think I read this in a day or two. (I’m a big DNF’er so that, in and of itself, is a rec to read). Hmm… what else can I say? Cool cover. She looks really bad ass. I think there’s a love triangle, but I don’t mind them. (Ahem :-D ) Who would like this? Fans of YA female assassin characters and YA fantasy with equal emphasis on both romance and action. It’s been a long time since I read it, but this reminded me of Maria Snyder’s Poison Study.

Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover

It was the cover that drew me to this book. A historical romance heroine in pants! As with Jensen’s troll hero, I had to check it out. What was the story behind this heroine? I read quite a bit of historical romance. And many times the heroines run together. That doesn’t mean the books aren’t well written. They are. They’re doing exactly what they’ve promised their readers they will do: deliver a hot, sometimes witty, romance. So why egg time review this one? Well, the heroine backs up the cover and the title’s promise. There was a lot more going on with the plot than I expected. The heroine had not just one cover (aliases), but two. That’s three different personas for the author to keep track of. Sarah MacLean did a great job! (Worth noting: MacLean wrote Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake. I haven’t read it, but may now. MacLean was on an RWA panel last summer and discussed how hard it was to come up with titles, especially when you lock yourself into a format. She was funny. (I buy some of the recorded sessions). I’m currently trying to title Noon Onyx B4. It’s tough. Blank Blank of Blank. Left Hand of Darkness? Oops. Taken. ;-) Little Shop of Horrors? Dagnabbit. Nabbed too. :-D In any case, I thought the title to Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover was extra awesome bc it fits MacLean’s “Rules of Scoundrels” series title format, it references the heroine’s aliases, and it’s a nod to the book’s unusual genre cover.)

MOVIES

Belle

A period romance with a great hero and heroine, Belle is inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, an illegitimate mixed-race daughter of a Royal Navy officer who was raised by her rich great-uncle. The film divides its time between the romance and the hero’s quest for social justice (he’s an aspiring lawyer attempting to change the law on slavery, albeit through a fairly narrow ruling). Gugu Mbatha-Raw was excellent.

Begin Again

I actually thought this would be awful. Like some sort of weird Juno [aging music aficionado has unrequited feelings for someone who’s totally inappropriate for him… am I remembering that movie right?] meets Love Actually [clichéd romance]. But it was better than that. My worst case scenario plot prediction did not come true. Instead this was a cool, little story about a down-on-his-luck music exec with zippo money who helps a talented, young up-and-comer. The story’s take on how imagination can be used to see a person’s potential and creatively solve funding problems was fun. I liked that the exec fixed his unhealthy family dynamics (he has a teenage daughter and estranged wife) instead of having a romance with his music mentee.

Chef

The shame of this movie is that it’s rated R but the best part about it was the story of how the character reconnected with his son. Minus a few parts, I’d love to watch this with my kids. What’s it about? A chef (duh) who is fired from his job bc he wants to create exotic dishes versus tried-and-true. When he gets panned by a food critic for his boring menu, he lashes out at his boss and gets the pink slip. After some soul searching, he decides to take it on the road. He gets a food truck and goes cross country. With the help of his social media savvy son, he draws crowds wherever he goes. It ends well. For foodie movie fans, road trip movie fans, Jon Favreau fans, food truck fans, fans of movies where characters reinvent themselves, tell their boss to shove it, and/or tell a critic to shove it (and then make up w them later).

Annie

Saw this over the holidays with my daughters. They loved it. And I did too. It was cute. Quvenzhane Wallis was wonderful. I was less taken with Jamie Foxx. Cameron Diaz as a reimagined Ms. Hannigan was ok, as was Rose Byrne. Who should see this? Quvenzhane Wallis fans and anyone who liked any of the other eighteen million Annies.

Box Trolls

We actually bought this, which meant we were able to watch the extras. And they were pretty neat. There was a featurette on how the filmmakers created characters that live in boxes and the world they inhabit and some cast member interviews, but my favorite was the one where Dee Bradley Baker and Steve Blum talk about how they came up with the Box Troll language. Oh, and I loved Winnie and Eggs! :-)

Magic in the Moonlight

My recollection is that this was not a huge success but I enjoyed it. I like Emma Stone and Colin Firth. I’m not familiar with Woody Allen’s work (although I liked Midnight in Paris). Magic in the Moonlight is for anyone who likes the idea of a stage magician and would-be clairvoyant falling in love against the backdrop of the 1920s French Riviera.

Maze Runner

I had heard so much about this, and it had been hyped so much, before I watched it, that I’m amazed I wasn’t disappointed. That said, it didn’t make me think very much (not like Into the Woods or Predestination did) and that’s the main reason why it’s getting an egg timer review. I thought it was good. Definitely worth two hours of your time. None of the actors really wowed me, but I’d happily watch them again. The sets were visually interesting but not stunning. In fairness, maybe part of my mehness is bc I didn’t read the book so watching this didn’t give me the pleasure of seeing a favorite novel successfully adapted.

Lucy

Finally!! I had been wanting to watch this since the summer when I’d mistakenly assumed it was based on Laurence Gonzales’ book. It isn’t, but (as I’d suspected; it’s not like the reference was subtle) it is based on Lucy, the Australopithecus, and a “what if” evolution scenario. Bottom line: Scarlett Johansson is a good action heroine. I’d watch her in a similar role again. As for Lucy? Read Gonzales’ book instead. I didn’t love everything about it, but it was better.

Showrunners (documentary)

Featuring J.J. Abrams, Steven DeKnight, Jane Espenson, Michelle King, Damon Lindelhof, Janet Tamaro, Joss Whedon, and a gazillion other people, this is a full length documentary on showrunners – the head writers/creators of a show. If you’ve ever wanted a peek inside a writer’s room, or if you’d enjoy hearing behind-the-scenes interviews of some of the most well-known and/or interesting TV show wranglers, this doc is for you.

World without End (miniseries)

I’ve read the book (and read and watched Pillars of the Earth) so when I saw this was available for streaming, I had to see it. I loved the books (although Pillars was my favorite; I liked Aliena and Jack better than Caris and Merthin). Even though I utterly despised her (I was supposed to), the best part of World was Cynthia Nixon’s Petranilla. Conniving, deceitful, murderous, immoral… she was just Jaw Droppingly Awful. Which made the scene where Caris forgives her sins just before her death that much more powerful. If you’ve read the book, like TV miniseries set in the Middle Ages, or just want to see Nixon’s range, rent it.

TV

Finding a TV show that I love enough to watch every single episode is extremely rare. Ones I’ve enjoyed start to finish in the past: Alias, Lost, and Battlestar Gallactica. Shows I’m currently addicted to: Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, Mr. Selfridge’s, and Outlander. So I wanted to find a new addiction. Below, my candidates.

Reign

I streamed 10 episodes of this before I couldn’t do it anymore. At first, it was amazingly addictive. Definitely a guilty pleasure type of show. Beautiful kids playing monarchs-to-be with friends who have names like Kenna. (Is that historically accurate? Do I care? Does anyone who watches a show like Reign? No! :-D ) BUT the problem was exactly that. History. I know where this story is going. There wasn’t enough tension in the story questions. Will Mary wed Francis? Will Mary become Queen of France? Will Mary live happily ever after? I know the answers to those questions already.

Vikings

I watched 2 episodes before moving on, but may return. I like Lagertha. And kudos to the writer/director/showrunners/whoever for moving the story along at breakneck speed! I remember saying to my husband, “Wow! They’re already going to England.” I thought it would take Ragnar all season to gear up, find men, etc. And then – in that same episode – saying: “WOW! They’re going back home!” After they’d landed in England, I’d just assumed they’d spend all season there. And I liked that it’s based on real Norse mythological characters. But… it didn’t grab me as much as I’d hoped.

Arrow

I wanted to like it. The pilot opened well. It captured my attention… but couldn’t hold it. (My husband hated it, although we often differ on TV shows.) As with Vikings, I’m hard pressed to say exactly why. I might return to this. But would choose Vikings over Arrow.

House of Cards

Streamed 2 episodes so far and am very much looking forward to the next one. I had to talk my husband into this one (he watched Vikings and Arrow with me, not Reign; lol). He’s in DC a lot for work and I think he thought the show would be one big cerebral snooze fest. And the opening credits! Geesh, sorry, but horrible. They’d make anyone who works in DC feel like they’re commuting in instead of lounging on their couch getting ready to watch an entertaining show. (Although maybe that’s the feeling the credits hope to evoke…?) But the show itself – terrific! We’re hooked. Kevin Spacey! Robin Wright! My only worry is that the show may end up like The Newsroom, which I stopped watching midway through the first season.

SHOWS

Matilda at the Shubert

Saw this just this past weekend. Fantastic! If you are looking for an entertaining, funny, sometimes heartbreaking, but ultimately happy, family show – see Matilda. The whimsical, bright, colorful sets seemed custom-designed for book lovers. The letter tiles surrounding the proscenium and incorporated into the many sets were decidedly Scrabble-esque. Bookshelves, libraries, classrooms… not to mention swings, scooters, lasers, confetti, strobe lights, helium balloons, a story-in-story told partially through a vintage paper doll/shadow puppet-like presentation. But the best part (as it should be with live shows) was the singing and acting: Brooklyn Shuck as Matilda! So expressive, sweet, sympathetic, and adorable… So confident, bold, and fearless. Also loved Mrs. Wormwood and Rudolpho. And Christopher Sieber as Miss Trunchbull!! (10.0 for the vault number. :-D )

The Illusionists at the Marquis

Saw this a few months ago. Seven magicians, each with completely different acts. There’s an escape artist, an archer, an inventor, a Vegas style comedian “trickster,” a truly phenomenal card manipulator, an Edward Scissorhands type “anti-conjuror,” and a dance performer “futurist.” It was fun trying to figure out the magicians’ tricks. (I’m no magician and lots of their acts stumped me). Watching audience members (who may have been pre-selected?) become part of the act was hilarious (glad it wasn’t me!). Who should see this? Anyone who likes top-notch stage magic and illusionists who can put on a diverse, spellbinding show.

So, please, go forth and purchase, rent, stream, read, or watch. Support creativity… and stories… and egg timer reviews!

What have you read or watched lately that’s worth mentioning? Come on, sharing only takes three minutes or less…


PREDESTINATION: Does happiness require a deep connection with another?

If I was a blogger with a good sense of timing I would have posted this on Valentine’s Day but instead of writing this post, I had lunch with a close friend and, later, played poker with my family. Romantic? Not really, but it was one of the best Valentine’s Days I’ve had in a while. The experience seemed to underscore the meaning of the movie I watched just a few days prior to the holiday – PREDESTINATION.

Predestination, Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook, time travel, science fiction,  Spierig  brothers, Robert A. Heinlein, All You Zombies

As with Into the Woods, I knew I’d likely do a blog post about Predestination because I kept thinking about it long after I watched it. But Predestination is no fairy tale, not even a subversive one. Its themes are mature and provocative and written with an adult audience in mind. My post is tame but not spoiler free. If you haven’t read the source material or watched the movie, skip the orange section below.

I’ve mentioned before how plague movies never get old with me. But time travel movies… eh. I have to admit, when I first saw the description for Predestination my response was, “another time travel movie?!” But then my husband suggested we watch it AND pointed out its Rotten Tomatoes rating (81%) and I decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did.

Predestination is the story of a time traveling agent who is trying to stop a mass murderer – the “Fizzle Bomber.” It stars Ethan Hawke (who I loved in Gattaca but haven’t seen much of since; I haven’t seen the Before Midnight/Before Sunrise/Before Sunset movies… yeah, I know, I should see them too…) and Sarah Snook (who I’ve never seen before, but hope to see more of in the future).

The movie starts in medias res with a mysterious figure trying to stop a bomb. The bomb fizzles but the stunted explosion is still powerful enough to completely disfigure the person. They then travel back to the “future” (1992) where the story’s basic premise is established.

The injured mystery man is a Temporal Agent who works for the Temporal Bureau, a government agency that sends people back in time to prevent crimes before they happen. That part felt very “PreCrime”/Minority Report-ish to me, which, combined with the fact that time travel was discovered in 1981 [would we have traded MTV or the IBM PC for time travel?] gave the story a slightly dated feel, but it wasn’t until later in the movie, when Space Corps (and its ridiculous “female companions for male astronauts” search) appeared in the plot that the story’s 1959 origins became fully apparent.

(I found out later that the movie is based on Robert A. Heinlein’s “ ‘—All You Zombies—’ ”. And my gripes about Space Corps’ dubious side mission are relatively minor. All I’m sayin’ is that it felt laughable to me that a contemporary non-dystopian sf story would feature a would-be respectable space program that disallowed female astronauts while searching for women streetspacewalkers. And yet… I came to see that searching for companionship, as well as what happens when you find it and lose it, was one of the themes of the story.)

So back in futuristic 1992 the injured agent tells us part of his story as his face is reconstructed. When he’s finally healed enough for his bandages to be removed, he looks in the mirror and declares, “I’ve changed so much, I doubt my own mother would recognize me.”

He’s then sent on another mission – NYC in 1975 – to stop the Fizzle Bomber from killing 11,000 people. He goes undercover as a barkeep and one of his customers insists he tell him a joke. After first refusing, the barkeep opens the next part of the story with, “A man walks into a bar…”

Maybe it’s that I love tricky, trippy plots. Maybe it’s that I know storytellers love to leave clues for people who are paying attention. Maybe it’s because I’d made a late afternoon Starbucks run that day so I was working with more late night caffeine than I’m used to. All I know is that about halfway into it, my husband and I both shared our theories about what was really going on. Both theories were interesting and backed up by story clues but I thought, “it would be impossible for us both to be right.” And that’s when I knew… We were both right. And that’s when the story got really interesting. And heartbreaking.

But this is not a heartbreaking post, I promise. In fact, now would be a good time for those of you who don’t like spoilers, or dark tales about transformative journeys, to jump ahead to my warm and fuzzy closing.

~

If you’re sticking around to read this part of the post it means you’ve read the story or watched the movie…

And so you know that the story revolves around the identities of the barkeep/agent, his customer, the customer’s past/future lover, and the Fizzle Bomber.

Due to the aforementioned mid-afternoon mocha and my husband’s alternative theory of Who Was Really Who, we got it all sorted out pretty early on. But that doesn’t mean the movie was predictable. Seeing a snake eat its own tail isn’t going to be boring even if you know it’s going to happen. I thought the movie’s use of the ouroboros symbol was well done. The movie’s not just about identity, it’s also about reinvention and transformation. Yet that transformation isn’t always welcome or good. Unlike the symbol of the mighty phoenix, which rises triumphantly out of the ashes to begin its life anew, the ouroboros consumes itself. It isn’t kind to itself. It is its own worst enemy.

I condemned and hated the final iteration of the main character. Who wouldn’t? But, oh, how I sympathized with the young, uncannibalized version.

But cannibalized by what is the question. What ultimately destroyed Jane and created the Fizzle Bomber?

Too many time jumps? Maybe. There were all sorts of references to the fact that too many jumps could wreak havoc on one’s mind.

But I think it was loneliness (exacerbated by the character’s repeatedly betraying him/herself) that ultimately destroyed Jane. In the end, the Fizzle Bomber says something like “by killing me, you become me.” So sad. Honestly, I, like everyone else, was blown away by Sarah Snook. Her portrayal made me want to give Jane a huge hug and kick the crap out of everyone who was giving her so much grief. But then I also kind of knew Jane wouldn’t thank me for it. Because this was the same character who willingly admitted (if only to herself) that she was better than everyone else.

Ah, Jane. How could I fix your story? How could I give you an HEA? Leaving aside the perilousness of attempting to tinker with Heinlein, it’s still interesting to contemplate. Reunite her with her parents? Nope. Let her grow old with her one true love? Nope. All the horrible things that happened to her storywise had to happen in order for her to be born, have the childhood she had, live the life she had, etc., etc. because taking away any one of those things would jeopardize her very existence.

~

So, yep, Predestination is a very good time travel movie. Definitely better than a Plain Jane plague movie.

My final thoughts? One day a year isn’t enough. And it doesn’t always have to be about hearts, chocolate, and roses. It can be about tapas or sushi, poker or pedicures, a walk in the woods, a trip to your local animal shelter, complimenting a stranger, or simply smiling at them. You can and should deepen your connections to other living things every day throughout the year and you should be kind to yourself. That doesn’t mean be egotistical or narcissistic. It just means, don’t be your own worst enemy.

Want to read more about Predestination?

Did you do anything fun for Valentine’s Day? Are you doing anything fun for President’s Day today? We’re headed to see Jupiter Ascending later. Tomorrow? Gah!! Looks like it might be another snow day…!? At least my commute is short. Lol. Stay safe and warm, people. Here’s wishing you more than romance – I wish each of you HAPPINESS. :-)


INTO THE WOODS: My Thoughts

Last night I took a group of kids ranging in age from 10-13 to see Into the Woods. My thoughts on the movie are below, roughly divided into two sections: thoughts during and immediately following watching and later after I read a few other reviews and looked up info about its source material. Caution: spoilers!

Initial thoughts: The songs were fantastic!

The kids I took were confused by the part in the story when Prince Charming and the Baker’s Wife kiss.

Well, who wouldn’t be?

There was a bit of foreshadowing for this (e.g. “A Very Nice Prince” performed by Cinderella and the Baker’s Wife) but not much. I kept thinking that if the storytellers were going to go down that road then I needed to see how horrible the relationship between the Baker and his wife was — bc it wasn’t! The only reason I went along with this plot point was bc of the Baker’s Wife’s line: “This is ridiculous. What am I doing here? I’m in the wrong story” which alerted me to the fact that the story was about to go off the rails.

At the time, I thought that making the Baker’s Wife “sin” was a story choice made to make her less sympathetic, which then made her necessary death less sad.

(Despite the Baker’s Wife’s faults, I thought she was a sympathetic character. I thought her death was necessary bc it had to happen in order for her husband to have that moment when he decided to be a better father than his father had been when he had abandoned him.

I also wondered if the storytellers thought the Baker’s Wife had it coming to her even BEFORE she kissed Prince Charming. After all, she was the one who lied to Jack about getting Milky White back, cut and stole Rapunzel’s hair, and attacked Cinderella. Not that I think death should be the consequence of those things, but it was a fairy tale after all. And fairy tales ALWAYS have extreme consequences for poor decisions. Isn’t *that* their true purpose? ;-) )

But I came to think that what that scene was REALLY about was “be careful what you wish for.” (Duh).

Later thoughts: The movie’s screenplay was written by James Lapine based on the Tony-award winning musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, a version of which is still playing off-Broadway at the Laura Pels Theater. My understanding (based on what I read, partial list of links below) is that the playwrights took a bunch of fairy tales, mashed them up in a great big ball (Act I) and then exploded them (Act II) in order to explore various themes: wish fulfillment, growing up/path to maturity, parents and children, blame, responsibility, and HEA versus reality.

See:

STAGE VIEW: Sondheim’s Winding Paths

INTO THE WOODS: Into the Words

Disney Is Officially Destroying Into the Woods

Did Disney Take All the Bite out of Into the Woods?

How Disney Wrecked Into the Woods

How Hollywood drains the subversion out of Into the Woods

[Geesh, enough already with the downer headlines… it’s worth seeing, people!]

The Wolf: he felt creepy to me and not in the way I like (it wasn’t a fun creepy; it was an icky creepy). After reading up on the source material, and discovering that the Wolf and Prince Charming are often played by the same actor (bc both characters are unscrupulous and predatory), I got why the Wolf and his scene with Little Red Riding Hood made me feel uncomfortable. I’ve liked Johnny Depp in the past but can’t say I was in favor of the choice to use him for the part of the Wolf. It would take more time and hubris than I have to say how I might have fixed the problem of adapting this part of the story.

Bottom line: I LOVED the songs. And there were some lines that were so comical and self-aware they made me laugh out loud. I liked the movie and want to see it again, especially now that I know more about it. Younger kids may be confused by some parts. (Heck, I was confused by some parts). This was a story made to be told in one medium (Broadway play) that lost something when it was translated into another (Disney movie). But as Sondheim himself put it: “censorship is part of our puritanical ethics.” If you want to “sell your painting or perform your musical [, y]ou have to deal with reality.”

Hmm… maybe Sondheim’s shrug over the changes to his story was because one of the play’s main themes was reality versus fairy tale…?

In any case, seeing the film and reading about its adaptation is a must for anyone who is into that kind of thing (which I hope includes a lot of you!)

I’m sure my analysis is lacking. I could spend a week or more looking into this and thinking about it. But I had less than a day. How about you? Have you seen it? What do you think?

p.s. where was Prince Charming’s just reward? Was Cinderella leaving him enough? The Baker’s Wife died. Did he get his comeuppance in the play? (I don’t think so…. But then again I don’t think the play’s point was that life is fair.)


Ten Things from Summer 2014 (#movies #books)

My thoughts on ten things I watched or read this summer:

  1. The Lunch Box
  2. Outlander
  3. Snowpiercer
  4. The Amazing Spider-Man 2
  5. Guardians of the Galaxy
  6. The Giver
  7. Noah
  8. The Firebird
  9. Lucy
  10. Me Before You

The Lunch Box

This mixed-up lunch box story involves India’s dabbawallas, the men who pick up hot lunch from home and deliver them to office workers. I was nearly as fascinated by the dabbawallas as I was infatuated with the movie. And I’m not the only one. Apparently, others have been interested in the process by which the dabbawallas deliver hundreds of thousands of lunchboxes daily with very few mistakes or delays. But don’t watch the movie just to see the dabbawallas! Watch it for the wonderful characters: a lonely, unappreciated housewife who cooks amazing food, a cantankerous, soon-to-retire office worker, and his genial replacement.

Outlander

Who else is watching this series on Starz? I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was worried it might be too much Lifetime and not enough HBO, but I was pleasantly surprised by Episode 1 and now, after six episodes, I’m firmly entrenched. I read the books years ago so it’s been fun returning to the story and seeing how it’s being told on screen. Tobias Menzies as Frank/Jack Randall (remember him from Rome and GoT?) and Graham McTavish as Dougal (in truth, I did not remember him from The Hobbit) have been doing a terrific job. And Claire and Jamie (Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan), if not looking exactly as I imagined them, are skilled actors with great chemistry. And I loved the author’s cameo in Episode 4!

Snowpiercer

I loved this movie. Yes, it’s gory and violent and bloody. And, yes, it strains credulity (there’s steak up front; where are the cows?!) and, yes, there are a few things not to like about the MC (well, one thing in particular). But it sticks with you. It’s unique and memorable, as much for the story – admirable these days since post-apocalyptic stories seem to be everywhere ;-) – as for the juxtaposition of scenes and characters (gruesomely dark and wet ax fights; kids singing over-the-top propaganda songs inside a surreally calm and disturbingly charming classroom car; Tilda Swinton as a vile, deranged second-in-command; Octavia Spencer as a vengeful mother on a search and rescue mission; and Chris Evans as oh-so-conflicted Curtis).

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

I wanted to love it. I really enjoyed the first one, despite the fact that I didn’t think the franchise needed a reboot. But 2 didn’t wow me. It wasn’t the ending, it was the fact that the relationship between Gwen and Spidey before the end didn’t seem as fun as it did in the first movie and the villains were kind of meh. I’m still planning on seeing The Amazing Spider-Man 3, but only because Spidey is one of my favorite superheroes and I like Andrew Garfield. I think if everything around him comes together it could be great fun.

Guardians of the Galaxy

All the fun that was missing from Spidey 2. Word seems to be that this was everyone’s favorite summer ’14 film. Yeah. What they said. And for good reason. Mostly, the cast. I was largely unfamiliar with Chris Pratt before the film. I don’t watch Parks and Rec, I didn’t see Her, and, even though I saw Moneyball, I don’t remember his character. But he was terrific in Guardians! I read an Entertainment Weekly article before the movie that detailed his career to date. He sounded genuine and grounded. His portrayal of Peter Quill made the movie for me. And, of course, I loved Zoe Saldana as Gamora and Bradley Cooper as the voice of Rocket too. My kids loved Groot.

The Giver

I didn’t read the book. My older daughter did though and it was interesting hearing her take on how the book and the movie were different – namely, and among other things, that the movie’s characters were older and its ending less ambiguous. I found myself wondering if the novel’s vague ending was a subtle message and, if so, what that message might be. Ambiguous endings can be more powerful and achieve a more lasting impact because readers love to argue about them. Regardless of her original intent with respect to The Giver’s ending though, Lowry’s now written three other books that provide definitive closure.

Noah

I put this off for a while even though the trailer looked great and reviews were positive because I worried that it might be The Fountain meets Evan Almighty. But it wasn’t. If you are on the fence about this movie, rent it. Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly had already proved they worked well together in A Beautiful Mind and adding Emma Watson to the mix definitely cinched it. They all delivered emotional, compelling performances. The special effects and visuals were fantastic and the filmmakers’ take on one of our oldest stories (especially the watchers, a fanciful bit of storytelling) was interesting.

The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley

The story of modern-day Nicola who has the gift of psychometry (she can sense an object’s history by touching it) interwoven with the story of Anna, a young Scottish woman living in Russia during the aftermath of the 1715 Jacobite Uprising. I love parallel timeline plots when they are done well (Kate Mosse’s Labyrinth and Katherine Neville’s The Eight come to mind) so I very much enjoyed this. Two romances, historical detail, and a bit of ESP = an irresistible combination. I will definitely be searching for other Kearsley titles in the future!

Lucy by Laurence Gonzales

Last month, I promised to talk more about this. At the time, I wanted to see the movie so that I could compare and contrast it with the book, even though they are two entirely different stories. But I never made it to the theater. (I see very few R rated movies in the theater because I can’t bring my kids). In any case, my theory, which I’ll have to test later, is that the book and the movie share a similar title because each is about an evolutionarily advanced girl/woman and Lucy is a reference to “Lucy” our oldest human ancestor, the first Australopithecus afarensis skeleton ever found. [Incidentally – and as a wonderful example of how art can impact science deeply and directly – the Australopithecus afarensis skeleton was named after the Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”]

So what about the book? If you like social science fiction, read it. It’s the story of a girl who is half-human, half-bonobo, which to someone like me (who spends lots of time in a fictional world inhabited by all sorts of shapeshifters and human hybrids) doesn’t sound too outlandish. But the story initially appealed to me because it wasn’t fantasy. It’s billed as a Crichton-esque “biotechnical thriller.” And the book jacket copy describing the fifteen year old “adorable, lovely, magical Lucy” made me curious. I was worried about what would happen to her before I even started reading her story.

The two best parts of the book for me were the character’s relationships (more time is spent on these than on the scientific aspects, which suited me fine but may disappoint others) and the author’s idea of The Stream (his term for the whole ecosystem of living things and their observable and imperceptible, though real, effects on that ecosystem and other living things within it).

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

I saved this one for last because it was the toughest one for me to gather my thoughts on. Initially, I downloaded this book because I was simply looking for a nice, warm emotional romance – one I could read in 24 hours and would, by and large, likely forget about 48 hours later. [As an aside, this is not a criticism of stories that can be consumed quickly or are forgotten easily; there’s an art to crafting them too – just because a story’s easy to read doesn’t mean it’s easy to write]. But Me Before You *isn’t* that kind of story. Parts of it are nice, warm, emotional, and romantic. But the book is a lot more than that and it’s not easily forgotten. Nor should it be.

It’s the story of a 26-year-old woman (Lou) who’s a little lost. At the start of the book, she’s living with her parents, she’s in a so-so relationship, and she’s lost her job. It wasn’t a glamorous or high paying job but it was one she enjoyed and its loss propels her in search of another. She finds one caring for a 35-year-old quadriplegic (Will) who’s not lost (he knows all too well what he wants). He’s rich and handsome… a former business tycoon and lady charmer who is now at times angry, withdrawn, or resigned.

SPOILERS… don’t read ahead if you want to read it and don’t like spoilers…

Before reading Me Before You I’d never heard of DIGNITAS, the Swiss right-to-die organization. And then, the day after I finished it, CNN ran this article. And then, the next week, a very close friend of mine had a family member take her own life. She wasn’t quadriplegic, but she was dealing with issues that were just as serious as Will’s. So I’ve been thinking, on and off nearly every day since I read Me Before You not just about the dignity of life, but the dignity of death. Is it a happy topic? No, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored. It’s a huge, meaningful topic. A blog post can’t do it justice. So, for now, I’ll simply say that Jojo Moyes’ book should be read – as much for the author’s thoughtful portrayal of Will and his struggles as for the author’s down-to-earth and at times truly humorous take on Lou and Lou’s life.

Have any of you watched or read any of the above? If so, what did you think? If not, are you watching or reading anything worth sharing? Let me know in the comments! I hope everyone’s September is off to a great start.


16 Favorite Fairytale Films by Juli D. Revezzo and Jill Archer

Paranormal romance author Juli D. Revezzo was one of the first people to reach out and connect with me when I first started blogging. Two years ago she guest blogged here about “Ghosts as Paranormal Heroes.” [Two years! How the heck did that happen?!] She has a new book out called CHANGELING’S CROWN. When she contacted me about guest blogging again we discussed a few topics and one of them was fairytale film adaptations. Juli said she’d love to write a post about her favorites. And — because I couldn’t resist — I added a few of my own below too. Welcome, Juli!

 

Juli’s Favorite Fairytale Films

Jill asked me to come today to talk about fairy tale movie adaptations. There are some great ones out there—and some not so great. Let’s dispense with the not-so-great for the moment, these are my top favorites. Do I think these movies may’ve had an influence on my new release, CHANGELING’S CROWN? I’ll let you see what you think. :-)

10: Snow White and the Huntsman. Yes, Twilight’s Kristen Stewart was miscast, but she pulled it off. More importantly, the story was well done and Snow White doesn’t rely just on the prince to save her hide. I liked that.

9: Enchanted: Princess Giselle is sent to New York City by an evil queen. A quirky take on the princess and fairy godmother story.

8. Cinderella by Disney. Of course, you can’t really go wrong with this adaptation.

7. Shrek. Mashing all the faery tales together and giving them new problems? Brilliant.

6. Princess Bride. A tongue-in-cheek take on faery tale themes. A poor girl falls in love, loses her love, and is forced to marry a prince. But someone comes to change her plans. And some very memorable lines to boot.

5. The Little Mermaid. Disney paints a happier version of the tale yet it’s still by far the best. You all know this one, Ariel, the little mermaid, falls for a prince, and trades her voice to her father’s rival in order to gain human legs so she can be with him. In true Disney fashion, it ends happily.

4. The Princess Diaries. Mia, a typical teen, finds out her father was a prince and she his only heir. She is swept up into lessons at her grandmother’s behest so she can rule their small kingdom. Charming and funny YA series, the movies only hint at the fun tale Meg Cabot spins.

3. Pan’s Labyrinth: A young girl living during the Spanish Civil war meets a mysterious faun at the heart of a labyrinth and to fulfill his prophecy she must complete three tasks. If she does, she will take up her destiny as a princess, missing for decades. If not…she’ll be forever doomed to live under the iron rule of her evil stepfather.

2. Red Riding Hood. This one is the latest adaptation starring Gary Oldman. The bones of the story are here, but barely. In a nutshell, the lead actress lives in a village plagued by wolf attacks. When her sister falls victim to the attacks, a zealous priest comes into town and tells them it’s not just a wolf, but a curse and he’s going to rid them of. Red is part of a love triangle with one man, and another whom she loves. But mama and grandma won’t let her chose the one she wants most. Meanwhile, the villagers go after the wolf only to narrow it down to one possible suspect. Guess who gets to take the blame for the wolf attacks? Really a brilliant twist on the tale, I think, if some of the acting (not Oldman’s) leaves something to be desired.

1. Labyrinth. A young girl, sick of her boring life and little brother, tells him a bedtime story of child-stealing goblins, never knowing they’re about to grant her wish. Plus, you get David Bowie as the goblin king and a great soundtrack. What’s not to love?

So all these somehow had an influence on my latest book, CHANGELING’S CROWN. Would you like to see if you agree?  Here’s the synopsis:

CHANGELINGS CROWNWhen Ianthe began her career as a faery godmother, she stumbled so badly that Snow White will probably never speak to her again. After a long suspension, she’s finally been given a chance to redeem herself…but everything on this latest assignment is going wrong.

But why?

Worse, she definitely doesn’t need an attractive mortal man distracting her from her duties. Of course, needs and wants are two different things.

Briak has had his eye on Ianthe for a very, very long time, but he’s been waiting for just the right moment to make his move. Despite the fact all hell’s about to break loose on his watch, he can’t resist the opportunity to insert himself into her earthly assignment. Can he convince Ianthe of her true calling and thereby win her heart? Or will his subterfuge ultimately cost him her love?

CHANGELING’S CROWN is available at:

I hope you will enjoy it, and my thanks to Jill for inviting me here today!

More about Juli

Juli D. Revezzo

Juli D. Revezzo is a Florida girl, with a love of fantasy, science fiction, and Arthurian legend, so much so she gained a B.A. in English and American Literature. She loves writing stories with fantastical elements whether it be a full-on fantasy, or a story set in this world-slightly askew. She has been published in short form in Eternal Haunted Summer, Dark Things II: Cat Crimes (a charity anthology for cat related charities), Luna Station Quarterly, Crossing the River, An Anthology in Honor of Sacred Journeys; The Scribing Ibis: An Anthology of Pagan Fiction in Honor of Thoth, Twisted Dreams Magazine and more. She’s the author of The Antique Magic series and the Paranormal Romance Harshad Wars series.

Jill’s Favorite Fairytale Films

Some of Juli’s favorites are on my list too. My thoughts on some of her choices?

Snow White and the Huntsman: I thought Kristen Stewart was okay. She would have been better if she hadn’t reminded me so much of Bella. Charlize Theron rocked her role as she always does.

Enchanted: on my list too! I adored this film. Amy Adams is absolutely fantastic. Only she could pull off a role like that — part poking good fun of the princess stereotype, part reminding us why we love it so much. She’s one of my favorite actresses because she has such range but also because of the Happy Working Song. Anyone who has spent precious time cleaning toilets, scrubbing soap scum, or doing loads of laundry is indebted to her for actually making it look funny.

Princess Bride: Yep, agree with Juli. Anything that spawns this many quotes deserves a spot on everyone’s list.

Pan’s Labyrinth: This one’s on my list too for the dark visuals and its multi-layered storyline that leaves the film’s ending and meaning open to multiple interpretations.

Red Riding Hood: This one’s not on my list, but it IS a fun film to talk about. I mostly agree w Juli’s take. My Jan 2012 review has my thoughts on who I thought the real stars were and what I most wanted to see Virginia Madsen do in that film.

Labyrinth: How the hell did I miss seeing this film? It may have been that I didn’t trust Bowie’s involvement. (I seem to recall being underwhelmed by Sting in Dune two years earlier, but I honestly can’t remember.)

And here are my adds:

#6 — Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou? Kind of a cheat since it’s based on an epic poem not a fairytale but George Clooney and his Dapper Dan pomade made me an instant fan. As well acted as Amy Adams in Enchanted and as quotable as Princess Bride.

#5 — Edward Scissorhands. It’s no secret that I like Tim Burton. Slightly Frankenstein-esque but very original.

#4 — Sleepy Hollow. I also like Christina Ricci. For years, we used to watch this movie every Halloween.

#3 — Black Swan: also kind of a cheat because it references Swan Lake rather than retelling it. But it makes my list because it’s incredibly creepy and I’m a fan of movies that play with the line between reality and fantasy.

#2 — A.I. Artificial Intelligence: inspired by Pinocchio. Heartbreaking. Spielberg made me care about an A.I. character (something that’s not real twice over!) David is a fictional robot who wants to become a real boy so his human mother will love him. Ugh. I’m sad just remembering it.

#1 — Hoodwinked: ‘Cause I gotta end on a happy note AND because my girls and I often break out into song whenever we refer to this movie. I also love the non-linear plot and the quirkiness of the characters and humor.

 Do you agree with our choices? What are yours? Thank you to Juli for guest blogging today!


Fictional “Feast Masters,” Maleficent and Miscellaneous

Hi all– the White Heart of Justice blog tour continues! I’m over at Suzanne Johnson/Susannah Sandlin’s blog Preternatura today discussing how I used Saturnalia and the Lord of Misrule as inspiration for one of the opening scenes in White Heart of Justice. There’s a cute picture of a snow demon — the only one I could find. Why a snow demon? Because that’s what the students carve out of snow at the Festival of Frivolity. Come on… I know you want to read more about it! Click here. :-D

Last Friday, CBY Book Club posted their interview of me. I share what my very first favorite book was and I discuss my TBR pile — past, present, and future. Since the start of the tour on May 20th there have been other spotlights and reviews. Check out my blog tour page for the complete list of bloggers/reviewers who are participating. Each link gives you an extra chance to win the fun prizes I’m giving away at the end of the tour:

  • $50 Amazon eGift Certificate (or bookseller of winner’s choice) (international)
  • 5 copies of White Heart of Justice (or an earlier book in the series, winner’s choice) (international so long as Book Depository ships to your address)
  • Dark Light of Day themed SWAG pack (includes signed copy of book and other awesome goodies; see below) (US only)
  • Fiery Edge of Steel themed SWAG pack (includes signed copy of book and other awesome goodies; see below) (US only)
  • White Heart of Justice themed SWAG pack (includes signed copy of book and other awesome goodies; see below) (US only)

RELEASE DAY PARTY WRAP UP

The Release Day Party at Bitten by Books was fantastic. So many terrific questions, including:

Do I have a favorite classic novel with a winter setting?

Is there an inspirational playlist for the Noon Onyx series?

How do I come up with the names for things in my series?

Have I used historical people, places, or things as inspiration?

What country would I love to visit?

Which actress would play me if my life were made into a movie?

If I could visit any place in Halja, which would it be and why?

What books would I recommend to a young reader?

and…perhaps my favorite:

If I could do a crossover with any book, film, or TV series, what would it be and why?

Bonus: Lanie left a DIY snow globe link, which I may use to make White Heart of Justice themed snow globes. Fun, right?

See all of the comments, questions, and answers here.

EMMA D. won the $50 Amazon eGift Certificate I was giving away there. I loved that (urged on by me) she made a “completely wild” wish that would require great miracles and supernatural happenings. It was a really nice wish. In fact, so many of readers’ wishes were heartfelt, selfless, and inspiring. (One of my reader questions was: What would you wish for at the fountain outside Kalisto’s Crystal Palace?)

LAST DAY TO TWEET 

WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE

SNEAK PEEK TWEETS!

Anyone who tweets one of these will be entered to win ANY fantasy book of their choice from Book Depository (so long as Book Depository ships to your address, up to $10.00). Ends at midnight EDT on 6/3/14.

One tweet/entry per person.

If you aren’t on Twitter, or don’t want to tweet the above, you can still enter to win the book. Just tell me what’s the last fantasy book you read, or the one you’re most looking forward to reading, in the comments below. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Open to international participants 18 and over. Complete rules here.

Lucem in tenebras ferimus. Into the darkness, we bring light.” @archer_jill #DARKLIGHTOFDAY

“When traveling into the unknown, sometimes the biggest danger is the one you bring with you…” @archer_jill #FIERYEDGEOFSTEEL

“One out of every two hunters who follow the Old Trail will not return.” @archer_jill #WHITEHEARTOFJUSTICE

Finally! I’m looking forward to seeing Noon embrace her fiery magic. @archer_jill #WHITEHEARTOFJUSTICE

Ari Carmine is smokin’ hot. I wanna see if Noon can forgive him for that nasty surprise at the end of B2. @archer_jill #WHITEHEARTOFJUSTICE

I heard a rumor that Rafe Sinclair makes a wish and I wanna know if it’s granted. @archer_jill #WHITEHEARTOFJUSTICE

Nocturo. Tall dark handsome. Heard his scalpel’s put to good use. Is he gonna threaten Brunus w it again? @archer_jill #WHITEHEARTOFJUSTICE

I love the characters, but I’m really just in it for the monsters and magic. Bring on the ice demons! @archer_jill #WHITEHEARTOFJUSTICE

Armageddon is over. The demons won. But it’s not as dark as all that. Parts of it are romantic and sweet. @archer_jill #NOONONYXSERIES

WHAT ELSE HAVE I BEEN UP TO?

This past weekend I saw The Machine (a Blade Runner-esque science fiction movie: Caity Lotz was terrific; the noir feeling felt a little forced at times, but overall, I enjoyed it) and Maleficent, in which Angelina Jolie was magnificent. There’s an interesting discussion over at io9 today. I was going to comment but then got frustrated at having to create yet another social media app account to manage my comments there, especially when the pop up box blocked the terms & conditions so that I couldn’t even read them. In any case, the post and my thoughts are worth a read IF:

1. You’ve seen the movie (massive spoilers)

2. You don’t mind rants (it’s filed under “rants”)

For what it’s worth, my take:

I can’t help but think that Disney was damned if it did, damned if it didn’t. To me, the most significant scene storywise wasn’t the dragon transformation (although that could have been much more impressive regardless of who was doing the shifting) but the kiss. I don’t want to spoil it further for anyone who hasn’t seen it so I’ll just say: Bravo, Disney!

As for the wing cutting scene… horrible. Just horrible. But I have to admit I enjoyed watching Maleficent’s dark transformation into a character capable of exacting revenge. Just as I equally enjoyed her other, lengthier, but perhaps more meaningful, transformation into something else. Not a dragon, but something potentially more powerful.

Also visited Baltimore’s National Aquarium and the Inner Harbor. Because you all know how much I love my photo galleries, here’s one from the weekend:

Beautiful, Deadly, Cute, Helpful:

But which is which?

That’s it for now, but I’ll be back tomorrow with a fun guest post from Auralee Wallace, author of Sidekick, and a link to my guest post at Addicted 2 Heroines. Have a great night!


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