Lena Corazon

Flights of Fancy

Tag: books (page 1 of 2)

Casting Myndi Shafer’s THE DARKENING

the darkening cover (83)I’m excited to host the fabulous and uber-talented Myndi Shafer. She’s the author of the fresh-off-the-presses YA fantasy novel, THE DARKENING, the second book in The Shrilugh Saga. If you haven’t read book one, SHRILUGH, then get thee to Amazon or Smashwords. Trust me: you won’t be disappointed.

Today Myndi is going to walk us through the cast of THE DARKENING, as seen through the eyes of her wonderful readers.

Take it away, Myndi!


Something most writers find themselves daydreaming about at one point in their career or another is who, should Hollywood come calling, they would cast as actors in the movie-version of their book (which, in the daydream is always a smashing triumph that leaves Stephanie Meyer’s success looking rather pale in comparison).

Here’s the deal, though. I’m wired weird. I’ve never been able to picture my characters as actors or vice versa…at least, not until someone else has pointed them out to me.

Enter my fabulous readers and a couple Pinterest boards. Shrilugh – As You See It and The Darkening – As You See It are boards that my readers contribute to – and boy do they contribute! It is strictly because of them that I have any sort of Hollywood vision for these books…

and it’s so much fun!

Okay, so lookit:


Aydan Fulbert is a sweet, somewhat naive girl who’s been raised by a not-so-nice family. Her world is turned upside down when she comes to the understanding that (a) her adoptive father would like to see her dead, and (b) she’s not human. My readers thought Emma Roberts would be a perfect Aydan.

Aydan’s adoptive father, Lenox Fulbert, and her adoptive sister, Calista, are Really Truly Wretched People. I had a reader the other day mention that she was kind-of half-hoping we’d see Calista have a change of heart in the third book. I sputtered on my coffee, laughing. Calista Fulbert is evil to the core. That doesn’t mean you won’t feel pity for her by the end, but…no. She’s one bad, bad girl. As far as Lenox goes, well…95% mean and 76% crazy. Yeah, those numbers don’t add up, but come on…crazy never does. My readers thought Jenna Malone would make a fabulous Calista, and Dylan Walsh would shine as Lenox.

Jenna Malone as Calisa Fulbert Dylan Walsh as Lenox Fulbert


Emily Fulbert is Aydan’s adoptive mother, who died when she was little. She was such a force of love in Aydan’s life, that Aydan has found the strength and courage to carry on in her abusive household. My readers liked Sonya Walger as Emily.


WalkerBrig Cooper is the Boy-Next-Door-Everybody’s-Friend-Kind-of-Guy that girls just love…and Aydan does. Brig has been Aydan’s only constant throughout her tumultuous childhood, and he’s fiercely protective of her – to the death, if need be. My readers thought Paul Walker would do Brig justice…and I think they’re right!


SmithGrandma Opal is Brig’s grandmother. She is a wise, kindly old woman who’s never lost her spark for life. She’s convinced she has an impeccable judge of character…and most of the time she does. My readers like Lois Smith for the part of Grandma Opal.



mitchellConnie Cooper is Brig’s mom. She’s a flighty, somewhat self-centered woman, who has a tendency to ‘love’ according to whatever suits her in a particular moment. She left Brig’s dad when Brig was only seven, leaving Shannon to raise the boy on his own. She was Aydan’s adoptive mother’s best friend. My readers thought Elizabeth Mitchell would make a good Connie.

Shannon Cooper is Brig’s dad. He’s a good guy (the best of guys, actually) – a rock for Brig, a father-figure for Aydan. He’s as steady as they come. My personal choice for this one would be Nathan Fillion (left), but my readers have pegged Viggo Mortensen (right) for the roll What do you think?

Fillion Mortensen






Isaac Bary is Grandma Opal’s handyman. He’s soft-spoken and serious…and full of deep, dark secrets. My readers left me torn on this one. They liked Karl Urban (in the middle) and Jason Isaac (on the left) and Henry Ian Cuski (on the right) to play his role…and I just couldn’t choose. Each actor is so totally different…but each could pull it off.  Ack! Okay, I have to stop looking at them…it’s making my stomach tie up in knots!

Issacs Urban Cuski






And just when I thought I couldn’t take any more pressure, here comes another dilemma. Rein Torvald is a smolderingly hot tortured soul from the other world, sent to collect Aydan. Little did he know that the task he’d been sent on was part of a much, much bigger picture. One that his mother knew an awful lot about – including the fact that he’d fall in love with the girl he’d been sent to fetch. Rein’s character makes me weak in the knees, and I have to be honest, so do these two reader’s picks for his character: Matt Barr (on the left) and Alex Pettyfer (on the right). I mean, come on! How on earth could a girl be expected to choose between these two??

Barr Pettyfer






Dominic Bertram, aka The Sovereign is an other-worldly bad guy who thinks he just might be Aydan’s bio-dad. His chilling evil-ness is bad in the first book; in the second he has me running for the hills. He. Is. Bad. I love my reader’s choice of Michael C. Hall for the Sovereign (middle). They’ve also tapped Viggo Mortensen – again (left) and Kevan Just-Oozes-Jerky-Evilness Durand (on right). Well, crap. This is exactly why Hollywood won’t be begging me to cast movies. I can’t effing decide.

Mortensen02 Hall Durand






MooreGemma Csitrali/Bertram/Vidar is Aydan’s biological mother, who hid her daughter in another world just prior to being caught by the Sovereign. Who happens to be her husband. Which is why he thought Aydan could be his daughter. But, since Gemma had left him for another man around the time Aydan was conceived, it was always in question. Anyway…my readers like Julianne Moore as Gemma, and frankly, I love it.

RennerHamilton Felin
is Rein Torvald’s best friend; they served in the Sovereign’s Guard together. Ham is one of my Very Favorite Characters in this series. He’s a family man, a loyal friend, and though his exterior is soft and charming, he’s made up of strong stuff on the inside. I love him. And I love, love, love my readers pick of Jeremy Renner for Hamilton. It’s freaking perfect.



And there you have it. A Not-So-Fast run-down of the major players in Shrilugh and The Darkening. Have you read Shrilugh? Do you agree with these picks? If you do (or don’t) and would enjoy pinning to the As You See It Pinterest boards, feel free to drop me an email at myndishafer [at] rocketmail [dot] com, and I’ll send you an invite!


Thanks so much for stopping by, Myndi! And mmm, that Rein Torvald. I don’t think I can choose between Alex Pettyfer or Matt Barr either — maybe we can just keep ’em both?

You can find Myndi Shafer on Facebook and Twitter. And don’t forget to follow her blog! She’s got some of the funniest (and tastiest!) blogs around.

THE DARKENING (Book Two of the Shrilugh Saga)
As Aydan Fulbert settles into her new life in a new world, she realizes a few things. She’s healing from losing Brig. She’s coming to terms with her new home. And she’s lonely.

Rein Torvald’s return from his long absence helps alleviate her loneliness, but a darkness comes with him. Unsettling news about her father and the Sovereign has the potential to make her a fugitive all over again – from his world and hers.

Will Aydan allow her heart to be taken places she’s never been brave enough to go? Or will the threat of danger – of the Sovereign’s rage, and her father’s vengeful grudge, send her running?

Myndi Shafer is author of the best-selling book, Shrilugh. Currently she makes her home in Kansas with her husband and four children. Her second book, The Darkening, is available at Amazon and Smashwords. Look for it soon on iTunes, Barnes & Noble, and more!

Celebrating Valentine’s Day with ALL The Books

Original image courtesy of varbenov / kozzi.com

Original image courtesy of varbenov / kozzi.com

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” — George R. R. Martin

“A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.” — Carl Sagan

“Books are the mirrors of the soul.” — Virginia Woolf


Since Valentine’s Day is all about love, I thought that this would be the perfect time to declare my lifelong passion and commitment to the best partner a girl could ever have: books.

As I like to say, lovers come and go, but books are forever. If I tried, I could probably measure my life in books, for they are at the center of my earliest memories. They’ve built up my soul like so many Tetris blocks, bits and pieces shaping my imagination and my heart. Their lives and the worlds continue to swirl about in my head–echoes of story and tale that comfort, heal, and teach, even as they entertain.

So this Valentine’s Day, I will be curling up with a bottle of wine and one of the dozens of books that have been clamoring for my attention. There will be classical music, and my favorite fuzzy blanket. If I am lucky, my cat may even show up and keep me company–the best sort of solo date night, in my opinion.

To celebrate this lifelong love affair, I’m sharing a handful of books that I fell in love with during my last book binge, when I managed to plow through eight books in seven days. I was full beyond belief by the end of it, but ohhhhh, it was a delicious feast while it lasted.

Here are my early favorites of 2013:

[Amazon | Goodreads]
Genre: Mystery
Jameson Quinn trades in the crime, pollution, and drama of the big city for the quiet serenity of Ruth Valley. When a young man goes missing, Jameson starts to suspect that something sinister may be happening beneath the small town’s veneer of perfection.
Why It’s Awesome:

SO many reasons. Jameson is a wonderful protagonist, and someone I pretty much want to be BFFs with. She’s snarky, spunky, and intelligent, with the courage to go digging after the town’s secrets even when it becomes clear that doing so could come at the cost of her personal safety. And let’s not forget the fantastically snappy dialogue, or the well-paced plot, or the setting itself — Ruth Valley really is the perfect tiny town, but Amber West does a fantastic job in highlighting the ways that small communities can seem creepy.

With 33 five star reviews on Amazon, I am clearly not the only one who fell in love with this book. So go out and get it! You won’t be disappointed.

Falksen-OuroborosCycleTHE OUROBOROS CYCLE, BOOK ONE by G.D. Falksen
Genre: Horror/Fantasy
Babette Varanus is the scion of a wealthy 19th century French family, but she has little in common with her peers. After her grandfather’s enemies turn her world upside down, she finds herself pursuing a path that leads into the unknown, complete with vampires, mysteries, and all sors of dark secrets. 
Why It’s Awesome:
In many ways, the tone of the novel reminds me of old 19th century horror novels in the vein of Bram Stoker’s DRACULA, while still managing to be original. This is an amazingly creative twist on the vampire/werewolf genre, and one that features a truly badass protagonist. Babette Varanus is not only resilient and resourceful, but the sort of woman who learns how to create her own future. As a side-note, I highly recommend checking out G.D. Falksen’s accompanying Pinterest board for this book. It is gorgeous, sumptuous, and absolutely magical.

Reher-OnlyHumanONLY HUMAN by Chris Reher
[Amazon | Goodreads]
Genre: Science Fiction
Captain Nova Whiteside is promoted to elite Vanguard status in the Commonwealth army, and paired with Major Tychon, her straight-laced Delphian commanding officer. The two are forced to grapple with their differences when a crazed, power-hungry rebel leader gets his hands on a weapon that could destroy the universe.
Why It’s Awesome:
I love sci-fi, but I don’t tend to read a lot of it. ONLY HUMAN was a wonderful surprise. Not only did Chris Reher deliver a great adventure with a deeply satisfying romance subplot, but she also gives us a great example of world-building done right. Every character feels three-dimensional and real, and the array of alien cultures and planets are vivid and lifelike. There is plenty of action, adventure, and romance to be had here.

MacKenzie-RunRosieRunRUN ROSIE RUN by C.C. MacKenzie
[Amazon | Goodreads]
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Rosie Gordon has everything she wants in life, but she can’t rid herself of the lifelong crush she’s had on her best friend’s brother, Alexander Ludlow. But when unrequited love turns into something more, will it be too much for her to handle?
Why It’s Awesome:
Okay, first up is a confession: I’ve read everything that C.C. MacKenzie has written. I know, I know, I say that like it’s a bad thing, but it really isn’t, because she is my new go-to author for steamy romance. What I love about her work is that she is brilliant when it comes to zeroing in on the transition between lust and love. It’s that moment of capitulation, when her hero and heroine finally decide to give in to their feelings and one another, that she does so well, and this book is no exception.

RUN ROSIE RUN can be read on its own, but it is Book 3 in the Ludlow Hall series. Book 1, RECKLESS NIGHTS IN ROME, is free on Amazon. Pick up a copy. You can thank me later.

Canham-MoonlitSeaACROSS A MOONLIT SEA by Marsha Canham
[Amazon | Goodreads]
Genre: Historical Romance
Simon Dante, an aristocrat and infamous privateer who is one of Queen Elizabeth’s most successful “sea haws,” meets his match in the beautiful but fierce Isabeau Spence, who serves on her father’s merchant ship. As sexual tension boils over between them, they find themselves caught up in the threat of war between England and Spain.
Why It’s Awesome:
I actually don’t know where to start, because this book blew me away. Marsha Canham’s use of historical detail is nothing short of amazing, the romance and tension between Simon Dante and Beau Spence is delicious, and her writing is exquisite. The book is an exercise in “show vs. tell”; her descriptions are vivid and, simply put, gorgeous. For example:

Their leader, the fifth Marquis of Moncada, was a rotund strut of a man with a face like a boil of dough stretched too thin over spidery red veins. He had small, dark eyes set so close together, they seemed to touch at the bridge, and he had made a feeble attempt to hide a weak chin under an abram beard trimmed to a perfect point.

Ack! I love it!

If you like action, adventure, and a good bodice-ripping historical romance, give it a read. And, y’know, the Kindle version is currently free on Amazon, so grab it while you can.

Have you read anything lately that’s made your list of new favorites? Share them in the comments!

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ROW80: When One Email Equals Success

I need a little bit of this in my life.

I need a little bit of this in my life.

My morning began with a freakout.

Well, no, that’s not entirely true. My morning actually began with a wonderfully incandescent moment where I turned on the radio and heard the sweet, gentle sounds of of Ralph Vaughn Williams’ exquisite “Serenade to Strings.” It was when the piece was finished that I found myself falling into panic mode.

The problem: I’ve spent the last three weeks telling myself to email my dissertation advisor to tell her all the things I’ve learned in the course of my research over the last three months. The longer I wait, the more panicked I get. But every time I sit down to write the darn email, I freeze up. Why? Because everything I write sounds less than perfect.

It’s the curse of the overachiever, this need to be hyper-critical and always in control. Judging from the comments on my last couple of posts, many of you can relate. It’s perhaps the ultimate irony that all of our attempts to be perfect leave us frustrated and dissatisfied, ready to throw in the towel and just be done with life.

Little by little, moment by moment, I am trying to undo these nasty habits.

What would happen if I trusted in my talents and abilities? If I was confident that my advisor won’t judge me if I send along a few underdeveloped ideas? If I trusted that brainstorming + a little work will yield the theoretical framework that my project currently lacks?

I’d work faster, I’d be more creative, and I’d be so. much. happier. 

My friend Chad Carver may have said it best in his latest blog post:

In fact, our imperfect humanness is what makes us great artists because the interesting people are those whose character are coloured with most, or all, of the hues of the human condition.  They are, as a result of their layers of virtue and vice, capable of wide thinking, and profound creativity.  So, embrace your imperfection.

“Embrace your imperfection.” That’s an awesome sort of battle cry, isn’t it?


Here’s what I’ve accomplished in this first week Round 1:

I finished preliminary research at 2 out of 6 sites, continued to work through my notes, finally emailed my committee, and read 80 pages of Coburn & Smith’s Spirited Lives: How Nuns Shaped Catholic Culture and American Life, 1836-1920, which looks to be really useful for my work. For next week:

I sort of ditched last week’s plan and revisited my August CampNaNoWriMo novel, STRANGE BEDFELLOWS. It is in surprisingly good shape, possibly because it has more of a plot than any of my other WIPs (plots are useful things, did you all know that?), but I don’t necessarily know that I want to make that my major project for the year. However, I did write a couple of poems: “muse” and “drought“.  For next week:

  • More poetry.
  • Reread TELL ME NO LIES (for real this time) and make the Ultimate Editing Battle Plan.

I made my rounds to the allotted number of blogs this past week, answered all my comments, and spent a little time on Twitter. I didn’t write my 2 non-ROW80 posts, which tells me that I really need to write them over the weekend. For next week:

  • 2 non-ROW80 posts
  • Continue visiting blogs/leaving comments/responding to comments

Confession time: I have been avoiding books for the last few weeks because I know without a doubt that once I start, I will never be able to stop reading. I will become a tired, haggard, zombie-like shell of a person because I will stay up all night devouring books, and I won’t get anything else done.

But! I marshaled a little self-control and took the plunge into the world of books. I read THE RUTH VALLEY MISSING by the wonderful Amber West (seriously amazing book; review forthcoming), along with the latest novella in Lindsay Buroker’s EMPEROR’S EDGE series, BENEATH THE SURFACE (also fantastic). For next week:

  • More reading.
  • More journaling.

How has the first week of Round 1 treated everyone else? Have you hit the ground running, or are you slowly building up momentum?

Be sure to swing by and visit this week’s ROWers to offer them lots of encouragement and word love!

Tattoos and the Otherworld: Reviewing “Many Stories” by Sebastian Orth

Today on Flights of Fancy, I’m excited to share a bit about tattooist Sebastian Orth’s recent release, Many Stories: The Point of the Needle (Escargot Books, 2012).

My initial interest in the book stemmed from the fact that Sebastian Orth did my first tattoo—a peacock feather quill with the phrase “Words have been all my life,” as pictured below.

We discussed a wide range of topics during the four hours that I was under the needle, everything from his upbringing on California’s Central Coast, the history of tattooing, the history of art itself. I was impressed with the breadth and depth of his knowledge, and thrilled to find that so many of these topics are covered in his book.

Sebastian Orth of Otherworld Tattoo, author of Many Stories.

Orth is a natural storyteller, and effortlessly weaves the autobiographical and the philosophical. His voice is engaging, and his descriptions are vivid, visceral, and compelling. The result is a beautifully written account of enlightenment, the discovery of self that is forged through pain, challenge, and discipline.

Like the book’s title suggests, Many Stories is a tapestry of tales: the first moment Orth discovers how to use ink and needle to create an indelible mark, his evolution as an artist, his struggles with epilepsy, and the development of his personal philosophy, among others. There are also an eclectic array of characters, the people who have come in and out of his life and shaped it in countless ways.

At the heart of all these stories lie the symbolism and deep meaning of tattoos. As he observes in the introduction,

Tattoos are not simply pictures in the flesh, fixed and static. They live with us; breathe with us and die with us. Each tells a story and each of those stories is personal and unique.

In the same way, tattooing itself is more than mechanical skill. Rather, it “can also be a form of magic, a timeless art and a door to the otherworld.” This link between body modification and the otherworldly is an ancient one, a tradition found in indigenous cultures around the world. Even today, both the act of tattooing and being tattooed can become a transformative experience, one in which past, present, and future meet and coalesce.

My tattoo, done by Sebastian Orth, May 2012

Many Stories is a unique book, one that touches on a range of genres. I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys reading memoirs and autobiography, as well as philosophical discussions of life and art.

To hear Orth in his own words, check out this short interview with him below:

For more about Sebastian Orth, visit Otherworld Tattoo, his shop in Santa Barbara, CA. Many Stories is available as an e-book from Amazon and Barnes and Noble; the paperback edition is forthcoming.

ROW80: Respite, Interrupted

In my last update I celebrated the vanquishing of my to-do list, and declared my plan to be completely sloth-like and lazy for the rest of September. That goal was thrown off by paper edits, unexpected social time, and a few emotional twists and turns (nothing terrible, just draining), but I did get a chance to just unwind Friday night and all day Saturday. I snagged a copy of season 1 of CSI from Target for ten bucks, and have been happily binging on all my favorite episodes, not to mention reliving my old high school fantasies of becoming a forensic profiler. 😛

Better yet, I finished season 3 of Supernatural, read CC MacKenzie’s steamy and delicious RECKLESS NIGHTS IN ROME, finished Lindsay Buroker’s latest novel in the Emperor’s Edge Universe, BLOOD AND BETRAYAL, and am half-way through Lois McMaster Bujold‘s THE HALLOWED HUNT, the third book in her Chalion series. There is nothing like reading and devouring fun television shows to restore my peace of mind.

Here’s how the rest of the week has gone:

Day Job: Edits to my papers have been completed, the mini-proposal for my “little conversation” has been sent off to my committee, and I have all of my paperwork in order (I hope). Once Monday’s meeting is through, I have a list of books I’d like to read for research purposes, but I plan on waiting until I’ve put a decent dent in my Kindle TBR list.

Writing: Managed about 3k or so in the last few days, but nothing approaching Fast Draft status. Little bitty ideas for edits to my CampNaNo novel have been swirling around as well, though I haven’t really had a chance to do much about them. I’m postponing most writing-related things to next week, or maybe the week after, as I have house guests slated to arrive next weekend.

Exercise: Mom and I walked 4 days this week, for a total of 19 miles. I think this is the first time I’ve managed to make my exercise goal since this round started, so whoo!

Social Media: The latter half of the week has been pretty quiet in terms of Facebook and Twitter, though I have been trying to visit 2 or 3 blogs each day.

Even though I’ve only had a couple of days to relax, I feel vastly improved. Sunday and Monday are going to be somewhat taxing, between the drive down to Santa Barbara and my “little conversation,” but all of these things are pretty minor compared to the last couple of months worth of work (and stress, and anxiety, and all those other yucky things).

How’s the end of the round treating everyone else? Have you managed to accomplish all of your goals, or will you be deferring a few to the next round? Don’t forget to pop by and catch up with everyone else.
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ROW80: Barely Squeaking By

Oh man, I cannot believe I have missed two ROW80 check-ins in a row. It’s definitely not my usual speed, but there’s a lot going on right now. Classes just ended this week, final exams are due next week, and I’m moving 300 miles back to my parents’ house at the very end of the month. So I am a bit distracted, shall we say, but I am here cheering on all my ROWing friends in spirit, if not “in the flesh.”

However, there has been *some* progress along the way. Here’s how things have gone over the last couple of weeks:

Day Job: So. Much. Work. I have been buried under books and journal articles for what feels like weeks, trying to finish a 25 page term paper on 19th century Catholic nuns for the course I’m taking on religion and gender.  However, the absolute best thing to happen to me is that I met with my dissertation advisor on Tuesday, and we decided that the topic  can be merged with my nascent dissertation topic.

This is a really, really, really good thing for a million reasons, not the least of which is that I have a direction at last. Better yet, it’s a direction that I enjoy, one that makes me happy, and kicks my little sociologist brain in gear.

I am going to have my work cut out for me this summer, honing and refining my central research questions, but I feel passionate about this project for the first time in a while. And where there’s passion, I’d like to think that we can do anything.

Writing: Yup, this is where I’m “barely squeaking by.” Work on my main novels has been stalled by the day job, though I have been trying to tweak little things here and there when I have a spare moment. So I don’t let myself get too rusty, I decided to sign up for my first flash fiction challenge in a few months: ‘Timony Souler’s June round of the “Dice Games.” I’ve been a little slow at posting my fills, but I’ve finished 2 out of 3:  “Liberty,” about a lady assassin, her trusty blade, and a final mission; and “Worthless?“, which involves a pair of supernatural hunters, zombies, and a lovers’ quarrel.

Exercise: I’ve been working out on an average of 4 times each week, so I’m not doing *too* terribly here. Listening to audiobooks while walking has definitely made exercising much more enjoyable.

Social Media: Er… what is social media again? *hangs head in shame*

And finally, here are the awesome things that have been on my reading and watching lists:

I had a blast with a little time travel romance by way of Susanna Kearsley’s THE ROSE GARDEN and fellow ROW-er Jennette Marie Powell‘s TIME’S FUGITIVE (the 2nd book in her Saturn Society series). Kearsley’s protagonist, Eva, is grappling with the death of her older sister and finds herself in Cornwall, reconnecting with old family friends. There, she learns that she can “slip through time,” and ends up falling in love with an eighteenth-century smuggler. It reminds me a bit of Diana Gabaldon‘s OUTLANDER — rich description, evocative prose, lots of romance (although nothing as explicit as Gabaldon’s work), and haunting. I wasn’t sure how things would be resolved

While TIME’S FUGITIVE is also involves romance and time-travel, it’s much heavier in the science-fiction elements than THE ROSE GARDEN. Powell does an amazing job exploring the “butterfly effect” conundrums that can accompany time travel. There’s lots of tension, lots of excitement, and lots of twists and turns that I loved. I was so enthralled with the plot that I devoured the book in a single sitting, which says a lot. 😀

Finally, I read Lindsay Buroker‘s ENCRYPTED. Like all of her other books, this one was funny, fast-paced, and hugely enjoyable. There was one question that ran through my mind as I read, and that was, “Why the hell did I wait so long to read it?”

The watching list is a long one, since my friends and I have been hitting the theaters like crazy over the past couple of weeks. Here’s what we’ve seen, in bullet form:

  • What to Expect When You’re Expecting: Blech. I was dragged to this against my will, and I thought it might maybe be terrible-funny, but no, it was just terrible. Pathetic writing, lame jokes, regressive notions of gender, fat-shaming, stupid “let’s-adopt-an-African-baby” subplot… the list goes on. Not even a bare-chested Joe Manganiello doing one-armed pull-ups could save this one for me.
  • The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: Also known as “that movie with all my favorite old British actors.” Despite the middling reviews, and the fact that my friends and I were the only people in the theater under 60, I loved this. The movie was a good blend of funny and heartfelt, with three-dimensional characters that I cared about (it’s always nice when characters, you know, grow and evolve). The entire cast is wonderful, but Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, and Bill Nighy really stood out to me.
  • Snow White and the Huntsman: I could devote an entire blog post (maybe two or three) to why I was so disappointed with this movie. Instead, I will link to Tor.com’s review, as it pretty much sums up everything that bugged me (Terrible writing! Poor worldbuilding! A protagonist that hardly freaking speaks!).
  • Dark Shadows: Yet another movie that I got dragged to, as my desire to see Battleship for all its terrible glory (and Alexander Skarsgard, and Taylor Kitsch, despite the horrid haircut) was overruled at the last minute. Even though the movie departs from television show, I mostly enjoyed it. Johnny Depp is, once again, absolutely fantastic, Eva Green is an amazing antagonist, and Michelle Pfieffer pretty much kicks ass. The last third of the movie, however, sorta goes off the rails. Not really sure what the writers were thinking, to be honest (Seth Grahame-Smith, I’m side-eyeing you).
  • Prometheus: Okay, so I’ll admit that my expectations for this movie might have been a tad too high, but I was disappointed. It is visually stunning — I would actually pay $10 just to look at the darn thing — but I’m not too sure what happened with the script. I found myself hating most of the characters, with the exception of Michael Fassbender’s delightfully creepy android, David, and the ship’s captain, played by Idris Elba (aka my new mancrush).

Next on my list: finishing Seth Grahame-Smith’s ABRAHAM LINCOLN, VAMPIRE HUNTER before the film comes out, seeing Hysteria in theaters on Tuesday, and wrapping up season 1 of Jason Isaac’s miniseries, Case Histories.

…and that’s me for this week! I will be retreating back into the reading/writing/working cave, but hopefully I’ll be able to manage a check-in for the last week of Round 2. Hope everyone’s doing okay!

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ROW80: Picking Up Steam, and a New Tattoo

Good grief, I can’t believe it’s Sunday already. The last week sort of sped on by, and I feel like I’ve got whiplash. Also, can someone tell me exactly when May happened? Time seems to be hurtling past me.

All in all, it hasn’t been too terrible of a week. Here’s the shakedown:

Day Job: Not much work done by way of research this week, though I took a couple of hours today to take some reading notes and write up a summary of what I’ve learned thus far. I still need to meet with committee members (I’ve been dragging my feet on making appointments), so this is going to be my goal for the week.

Writing: Things are getting a little better here. I’ve logged at least 5 or 6 hours this week on brainstorming, outlining, and world-building. Better yet, I’ve written close to 5k. Not sure how much will survive my next round of edits, but the good news is that Part 1 of PATH TO THE PEACOCK THRONE is finally coming together. Progress is slow, but if I can make sure that it’s steady, I’ll feel a lot better about things.

Exercise: Shockingly enough, I managed to get 6 days of exercise in. Morning walks are becoming second nature, and way too enjoyable to ignore. There’s nothing like listening to a swelling chorus of birdsong and basking in the sunlight to start my day off right.

Social Media: It was another off week for social media. Not much by way to blog hopping, and only 1 post written outside of my ROW80 check-in. I’ve got a few drafts that need to be fixed up and finalized, so hopefully I can get those posted in the week to come.

And once again, here’s what I’m reading and watching this week:

Rufus Sewell as Aurelio Zen

Films: I’m halfway through the BBC Mystery series, Zen, based on the series of novels by Michael Dibdin. The absolutely dishy Rufus Sewell plays the title character, Venetian detective Aurelio Zen, who is one of the few men of integrity, honor, and honesty working in the corrupt Roman police department. Zen reminds me a lot of my detective protag in TELL ME NO LIES, so I’ve been watching Zen with both my writing and “I’m-going-to-veg-out-and-enjoy-this” hats on.

Books: I just finished Jessica Grey‘s novel, AWAKE, which is a modern-day YA retelling of the “Sleeping Beauty” fairy tale. I absolutely adored it, so if you like fairy tale adaptations with romance and magic and lore, I recommend it.

In other news, I got my first tattoo on Friday! It wasn’t nearly as bad as I had feared (I worked myself up into such a tizzy over the potential pain that I lost sleep for about 2 weeks), though there were definitely moments when I wondered exactly what sort of torture I signed up for. However, I am in love with the final product, and that’s all that counts. The tattoo is on my right arm — my writing arm — and will hopefully remind me of my duty to myself as a writer.

The quote, “Words have been all my life,” comes from POSSESSION by A.S. Byatt, one of my favorite books of all time. The original passage, part of a letter that the fictional 19th century poet Christabel LaMotte writes to fellow poet Randolph Henry Ash, is as follows:

…Words have been all my life, all my life — this need is like the Spider’s need who carries before her a huge Burden of Silk which she must spin out — the silk is her life, her home, her safety — her food and drink too — and if it is attacked or pulled down, why, what can she do but make more, spin afresh, design anew…

Like the fictional Christabel, I am, have always been, and always will be, compelled to write, to create, to spin out words and myths and tales. Writing is something that I must do in order to remain whole, in order to survive. That lesson is one that I learned the hard way during my 2 year bout with writer’s block, when I thought that I could walk away from fiction and submerge myself completely in the world of academia.

So yay for tattoos, and for a bit of writing progress! I’m looking forward to finally seeing The Avengers on Sunday afternoon — I feel like I’ve been waiting forever. I actually had an Avengers-themed dream the other night, where I was some sort of hybrid X-Men/Avengers superhero flying around and solving crime… before I turned back into academic me, taking a midterm of Foucault. My grad school friends have termed this the “supertheoro” (super-theory-hero), and I think that is going to be my new alter ego. 😀

Don’t forget to swing by and wish the rest of the merry band of ROWers well! How’s everyone else doing?

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ROW80: Sunny Days Are Here!

Happy Sunday, folks! The sun is shining in my part of California, and that always leaves me feeling upbeat and excited. I feel like I’ve got a lot to look forward to. My parents will be in town for a couple of nights at the end of the week, as they’ll be moving my sister out of her apartment in LA for the summer. And I’m getting my 1st tattoo on Friday! I’m filled with all sorts of nervous anticipation (mostly about the pain, ugh), but I really can’t wait.

Before I get to my goals, I want to take a minute to hand out the fantabulous Sunshine award. I posted my response to the requisite 10 questions on Friday (you can find them here). I’m passing it on to the following bloggers:

Now, onto the check-in!

Day Job: The dissertation reading continues. Some days, the reading is hampered by anxiety: I am all too aware that my time in Santa Barbara, and therefore the time I have to figure out my research topic, is rapidly dwindling. I’ll hopefully be meeting with my committee members in the week to come. Their insights and suggestions are always valuable, and hopefully they’ll give me some ideas for wrangling my many ideas into something that makes sense.

Writing: Another slow week with writing. Most of the brainstorming I’ve been doing has taken place during undergrad lectures — lots of scrawled scribbles in the margins of my notebook. I really wanted to treat the first few weeks of this round like my own personal NaNoWriMo, and boy, am I failing miserably. I suppose the goal for the coming week will be the same as last week: to figure out exactly what I am capable of achieving in terms of fiction.

Slightly off-topic, I shared 7 random facts about my writing on Friday. For those of you who expressed an interest in Pierce, I will have you know that it has gone completely to his head, and he is almost too smug to bear at the moment. He would like me to thank you all, as he thinks that maybe now he’ll get bumped up in the in-progress queue (and he is quite compelling, so perhaps he will succeed in convincing me). And, yes, I realize how completely crazy this makes me sound, which is why I’m glad that I am not the only writer who admits to having conversations with make-believe characters.

Exercise: I’m still holding strong here, with 4 workout days this week. I wake up each morning looking forward to my walk, though I think my enthusiasm has been improved by the sunny weather and the fact that my clothes are fitting better. 😀

Social Media: I was only able to write 1 blog post last week, but I have 2 scheduled for the week to come.  I’m getting back into the groove to blog reading, which has been so much fun.  I think I made it to 12 ROWers last Sunday, and another 8 or 9 blogs during the week.

Finally, for fun, I thought I’d include a bit about what I’m watching and reading this week:

Films: I saw The Five-Year Engagement on Friday, starring Emily Blunt and Jason Segal on Friday, and it was absolutely brilliant… if you ignore the fact that it basically sums up my biggest fears about my professional life in academia: having to relocate somewhere very cold, dealing with “trailing spouse” syndrome, etc.

Outside of all that, I totally recommend the movie. There are lots of awesome shots of San Francisco (enough to make me crazy homesick, and very happy that I’m moving back in 2 months), many moments of hilarity, and a great ending.

Fiction: I finished His Good Opinion, Nancy Kelley’s lovely retelling of Pride and Prejudice from Mr. Darcy’s perspective. For those of you who ever wondered why Darcy falls for Elizabeth, and what’s going on in his head that leads him to make such a lovely transformation by the end of the novel, you should definitely check it out.

Non-Fiction: I’m working my way through Beyond Slavery: Overcoming Its Religious and Sexual Legacies for the course I’m taking on gender and religion. The book is a collection of wide-ranging essays that

examine why Roman Catholicism and other branches of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam accepted slavery for so many centuries, and they consider how slavery shaped gender and sexual ethics in these three religious traditions. They also consider how Jews, Christians, and Muslims can draw upon the compassionate values of their traditions to overcome the lingering effects of slavery.

The essays are incredibly thought-provoking and fascinating, and raise lots of important implications for modern-day issues like marriage, employment and labor, the criminal justice system, welfare, and many other social institutions.

So that’s my life at the moment! Be sure to swing by and cheer on the other ROWers this week.

How are things going for the rest of you? Anything fun to look forward to in the weeks to come?

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ROW80: Spring Break is (Almost) Here!

Happy Sunday, ROW-ing loves! I trust everyone is doing well?

After my big ol’ thesis win, I sort of unintentionally dropped off the radar. I went from prepping for the defense to prepping for a guest lecture the following week — my third of the quarter, and the first time ever that my advisor has seen me present (no pressure, right?). It went really well, and I even got a chance to show a short clip from Kate and Leopold — fitting for a lecture on “Love, Commitment and Ambivalence” in American films from the 1970s to the present-day.

Once all was said and done, I was a little exhausted. I’ve spent the last week and a half doing nothing but grading papers, playing Mass Effect, and streaming television shows on Netflix. So far I’ve learned that Downton Abbey really IS phenomenal, that Friday Night Lights is just as brilliant as all my friends promised, and that I should’ve been watching Supernatural since the day it premiered in 2005, because it was MADE for me. Supernatural is kinda like crack, and I can’t get enough; I watched the first season (21 episodes, folks) in under a week.

Jensen Ackles as Dean Winchester (left) and Ja...

Dean (Jensen Ackles) and Sam (Jared Padalecki) are my new favorites. Image via Wikipedia

But it’s the end of the quarter, and once I finish grading term papers, spring break begins! Better yet, my mom is coming to visit me next weekend, and she’ll be here for a week. We will embark on our usual adventures of shopping, drinking, and eating out, along with a trip to see my sister and head to DISNEYLAND. [Insert major squee here]

Anywhoo, here’s a review of my goals from the last couple of weeks:

Day Job: I’m on track to have final grades finished by Monday or Tuesday at the latest. I’d like to do a little dissertation research/thinking/planning over spring break, but I’m not sure how realistic that goal is.

Writing: I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I won’t have a full draft of TELL ME NO LIES finished by the end of this round, which was my original goal. One of the hardest things about all of this is the fact that I am trying to learn how to write a novel, and that sort of thing takes time. I’m trying to push myself, to make sure that I am moving forward and not wandering in circles (I realized a couple of weeks ago that I’ve been rewriting the same 3 scenes over and over again — whoops). However, I’m also trying to be patient with myself and enjoy the process.

In the past week, I’ve taken time for (1) brainstorming and plotting, (2) research, and (3) character development. I’m really excited about #3, because I’ve finally taken advantage of the character profile pinboards in Scrivener.

Squee, so pretty! One of the best things that I can say is that I think I am achieving greater depth as far as this story is concerned. There are growing layers of complexity, and both my characters and the plot are getting more interesting (in my opinion, anyway).

Exercise: I actually fulfilled my exercise goal and used my glider 4 times this week.  Yay!

Social Time: Last weekend was the department’s “recruitment weekend,” so I had way too much social time: dinners out and movie nights and a department beach bbq, among other events. I’ve been hiding out the past few days, and it has been lovely.

50/50 Challenge: Last weekend I saw John Carter (fun, and better than I expected), as well as Guy Ritchie’s RocknRolla, starring Gerard Butler, Tom Hardy, Thandie Newton, and a host of other amazing actors (abso-freaking-lutely awesome). I also read two books: Maggie Stiefvater’s Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception and Gabrielle Kimm’s His Last Duchess

I have lots of fun things to look forward to this week, like the midnight showing of The Hunger Games. And I just might get myself a tattoo next week, ’cause my mom finally gave me the green light (!!!). My current idea is to have the phrase, “Words have been all my life” (from A.S. Byatt’s Possession) tattooed on my right forearm, with a peacock feather quill… but we’ll see what happens. I’ll keep you all posted. 😀

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ROW80: Refreshed and Ready to Rock

As some of you know, I celebrated my twenty-fifth birthday by taking a road trip down to Los Angeles to visit my good friend and colleague, Nicki, along with my not-so-little sister, Jaymie, who will be turning twenty in May. I don’t think I realized how badly I needed a short get-away, but now that I’ve had a couple of days to do absolutely nothing but enjoy myself, I feel like I’m ready to get back to work.

I had a short work week and a long weekend, so the progress I’ve made towards my goals reflects that. Here’s how the last week turned out:

Writing: Last Monday was basically a day of writing: lots of brainstorming, lots of editing, and a couple of new scenes planned out for TELL ME NO LIES. I’m starting to wonder, though, if I am going to be able to have a complete draft by the end of this round, which was my ultimate goal. In the weeks to come, I’m going to need to figure out the game-plan for pulling things together, and trying to get it finished.

Day Job: Oh boy, people, things are moving as far as the day job is concerned. I’ve filled out all the paperwork and set the date for the oral defense for my MA thesis. The official date is Thursday, March 1st, and I will be freaking out prepping industriously for the next week and a half. I only need to make a 5-10 minute presentation on my findings and conclusions, and brave the Q&A segment, but I am trying to remind myself that I know this project inside and out, and that committees don’t schedule defenses for students who aren’t deemed ready.

In other news I’ve signed up for the last two courses I will ever take as a graduate student (thrilling, frightening, exciting). One of them will be a directed study with my advisor, which will hopefully help me to gear up for the dissertation proposal that I need to write and defend by the end of the summer. No pressure, right? 😉

Social Time: There were a lot of good times over the past week: a fantastically awesome Valentine’s celebration with two of my besties that involved a hilarious movie (This Means War), cocktails, and cheesecake; an overnight visit with Nicki, complete with gabbing and tasty cupcakes; and a couple of days worth of shopping and hanging out with this kid:

She is, of course, way older these days and approaching adulthood, but I’m really grateful that we got to spend some time together one-on-one. My sister and I are nothing alike, and because we’re 5 years apart in age, and 6 years apart in school, finding common ground is even harder (I think there’s a blog post in this). But the older she gets, the more we have to talk about. I’m looking forward to this becoming an ongoing trend.

Exercise: Exercise and nutrition are always a major challenge around my birthday, because I am very good at justifying excesses, like this cupcake. Just look at it, will you? It clearly was something that was just begging to be eaten.

I managed to work out 3 days last week, and tried to balance out all the tasty desserts and eating out I did with extra servings of veggies. My jeans still button and I don’t feel like I’m busting out of my clothes (yet?), so I suppose I haven’t failed too terribly.

50/50 Challenge: Okay, I basically took Thursday to do nothing but read, and I devoured DARK CURRENTS and DEADLY GAMES, books 2 and 3 in Lindsay Buroker‘s THE EMPEROR’S EDGE series. I pretty much love everything Lindsay has written, and these two weren’t any different. If you like steampunk and fantasy, check them out.

I also hit the movies twice this week and caught This Means War and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy for a double dose of Tom Hardy. This Means War was a lot funnier than I thought it would be, and even though I was irked by the ending, I really enjoyed it. And wow, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was amazing… though I will say that it was definitely worth my $9.75 to watch Colin Firth ooze and smarm his way around in the background (Gary Oldman is pretty spectacular as well).

Zemanta is encouraging me to give you all a picture of the wondrous Tom Hardy, so who am I to disagree?

English: Tom Hardy

Image via Wikipedia

Thanks to everyone for all the fantastic birthday wishes! I have to say, twenty-five feels pretty darn good. 😀 I’ll be working through all the comments and posts that I’ve missed over the last few days, and hopefully I’ll get caught up on bloggy things sometime this week.

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