Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Results of My Winter To-do List

I don't know how things are where you live, but spring seems to have sprung here in Virginia over the past week!!!  My daffodils are blooming, my cherry-plum tree is about to burst into flower, and I went ahead and planted peas yesterday.  I'm sure we'll get some chillier weather yet before the end of March, but it's looking like winter is for real over already.  I can remember one year when I lived in NC as a teen where we planted our garden in February too -- just happens this way sometimes.


Anyway, it's time to look at how I did on my to-do list for the winter.  I have to say that this is probably the best I have ever done at checking stuff off one of my season lists of stuff to accomplish!  And sharing them here with all of you really helps me stay accountable, in a way, and makes me really want to achieve these goals.  So let's go!

~ Finish reading Song of the Ean by Emily Nordberg  Check!  My review is here.


~ Read Letters from Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien  Check!  My review is here.

~ Reread A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens  Check!  My review is here.

~ Read three more books from my TBR shelves  Check!  In fact, I have read six!  Four from my physical shelves and two from my Kindle shelf:  Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton, The Jane Austen Guide to Life by Lori Smith, A Flame Shall Spring from the Embers by Heidi Pekarek, Montana Rides! by Evan Evans (review coming soon), Once by six different authors, and Where Treetops Glisten by Tricia Goyer, Cara Putman, and Sarah Sundin.

~ Read three books from the library  Check!  I read six from the library as well:  A Wreath of Snow by Liz Curtis Higgs, Becoming Holmes by Shane Peacock, Nimona by Noelle Stevenson, Dani Noir by Nova Ren Suma, That Part was True by Deborah McKinlay, and The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder by Rachel McMillan.   It's been a great winter for reading!

~ Start blogging about my favorite adult coloring books  Check!  I've written about two so far, Whimsical Gardens and Color Me Jane.  I want to write about one each month for the rest of the year.


~ Figure out what book challenge I'm setting myself for 2017  Check!  I am participating in a very relaxed and leisurely read-through of The Lord of the Rings hosted by Risa at The Next Chapter, and I'm planning to read some other Tolkien-related books as well.  Calling it My Year with Tolkien.


~ Start blogging about how 2017 is the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation  Fail.  But I intend to start in on that in March.

~ Finish sewing my black-and-white skirt in time to wear it for Christmas  Check!  I've worn it several times since then, too.  It goes so well with almost everything!

~ Knit myself a scarf like Newt Scamander's  Fail.  I've started one, but I'm only about twenty rows in.  I will just have to finish it over the spring and summer so I can wear it next fall.

~ Finish the baby blanket I'm making for my best friend from college  Check!  It took longer than I'd expected, which is part of why I haven't done much of my scarf yet.  But the blanket needed to be done before the baby arrived (it's due in about six weeks), whereas the scarf is just for me for fun, so has no time limit.

~ Finish a rough draft of my western Little Red Riding Hood retelling, "Cloaked"  CHECK!!!  I'm really getting excited about trying out the whole self-publishing thing with it, too.  I'm working with a professional editor on it right now, and in the planning stages with an artist to design the cover.  Right now, I'm hoping for a June release -- definitely this summer, anyway!

~ Watch two Christmas movies  Check!  In fact, I watched three, and two of them were new to me!  I watched The Holiday (2006), Donavan's Reef (1963), and Holiday Affair (1949).



~ Watch 3 movies from my TBW shelves  Check!  There's some overlap with the above category here, but I watched five movies from my TBW shelves:  The Princess and the Pirate (1944), Donovan's Reef (1963), Holiday Affair (1949), Sense & Sensibility (2008), and China (1943).

~ Print, frame, and hang family photos in our foyer finally  Fail.  Well, sort-of.  I did print and frame the photos, but they're sitting in my bathroom upstairs, waiting for me to hang them. Check!  After I posted this, I was like, "You know... hanging them should take like ten minutes.  I'm going to do that right now.  So I did!"


~ Make "Porter Cake" from An Unexpected Cookbook by Chris-Rachael Oseland  Check!  And it was magically delicious -- like you've always imagined fruit cake ought to be, but isn't.  This is a recipe I will make over and over, and not just at Christmas time.

Well, that's the end of my list.  Only three two fails!!!  I'm pretty pleased.  Time to work up my list of stuff to do this spring, huh?  I hope to post that in a few days.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Simple Questions Tag


Rachel at A Girl's Place recently created this tag and tagged me with it.  Thanks, Rachel!  Here are my answers to her questions:

1. How does your morning start? 

Generally with a little person crawling in my bed sometime around 7am and snuggling up to me :-)  Though I've noticed this is only happening about every-other-day lately -- quite often now, my kids wake up and play with each other in their rooms instead of coming to wake me up.  Then I just wake up on my own, see it's time to get up, and off we go.

2. What's your favorite color? 

Purple.

(Violets make me happy.  I did not take this photo, btw, I found it on Pinterest.)

3. What book are you reading right now?

Right now, I'm reading The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien, Rogue One by Alexander Freed, and Montana Rides! by Max Brand writing as Evan Evans.  I pretty much always have at least two books going, sometimes three.  One upstairs in my bathroom to read while brushing my hair and teeth, one on the main floor to read at random moments, and sometimes another that I couldn't bear to wait to start.

4. What is your opinion about having a mobile phone? 

I like always being able to call for help if I need it, and I must admit I love being able to check my email just about anywhere.

5. Your favorite actresses? (Pick at least two)

Maureen O'Hara and Emma Thompson are at the head of my list.  I also love Myrna Loy, Lauren Bacall, Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman, and Doris Day.

(Maureen as a Musketeer!  Yesssssss!)

(Emma Thompson.  I didn't take this picture either.)

6. What's your favorite movie right now? 

My favorite movie has been The Man from Snowy River (1982) since I was two years old.

7. Snow or rain? 

SNOW!  I am a snowphile.  Though I do enjoy rain as well.

8. What's your favorite ice cream flavor? 

Mint-chocolate-chip :-9


(Now I'm hungry.)

9. To which countries have you been? 

Obviously the USA, as I live here, but also Canada, Mexico, Poland, Ukraine, and some islands in the Bahamas.

10. What are you doing mostly in the evening? 

Once the kids go to bed, I'm either watching a movie, writing, or spending time with my husband.  Sometimes a combination of those, like watching a movie with Cowboy.

11. How old are you? 

Thirty-six.

12. Which countries do you really want to visit? 

Great Britain and Germany.  I want to go on one of those literary tours of Britain and see all kinds of Sherlock Holmes/Jane Austen/Shakespeare/Tolkien stuff.  And I want to go to Germany and see all the Luther sites.

13. What's your dream career? 

Writing westerns that are so beloved and successful, they get turned into movies.  But I'll settle for just getting paid to write westerns.  Working on that.


(There's no actual reason for this picture to be here except that it has Alan Ladd in it.)
(Also, Olivia de Havilland.  And it's from The Proud Rebel, which was a good movie.)
(Also, puppies are cute.  I like that Alan looks cheerful here.  He doesn't in the movie.)

14. If you were cast in a movie, which character would you love to play?

How about Emma Thompson's daughter?  One of us would have to fake our accent, but it would be great fun to play, like, mother-and-daughter writers who are somewhat competitive, but also very supportive, and decide to co-write a story and then drive each other kinda nuts in the process.  It could be like Alex & Emma where we show the story that's being written too, but like show the same scenes it two very different styles as we try to work out HOW the story will go.  Maybe she writes historical romances, but I write YA westerns (boy, that's a stretch), and trying to meld the two is just awkward and funny at first, but eventually turns out something awesome.

Okay, I like that idea.  Somebody pitch it to Emma Thompson!  And then you can replace me with someone who can actually act, and I'll just write the screenplay instead.  Also, the western our characters co-write must star Armie Hammer, Henry Cavill, Michael Fassbender, Diego Luna, and Ben Mendelsohn because of reasons.

(Look!  Diego has a horse already!)

I'm going to be lame and not tag anyone specifically because my brain is tired.  If you like Rachel's questions, feel free to answer them yourself and say that I tagged you :-)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Pinterest Storyboards for "Cloaked" and "Hopeful"

Here it is!  My Pinterest storyboard for "Cloaked," my western reimagining of Little Red Riding Hood.  It's about an imaginative teen who travels to Wyoming to meet her grandmother, and there encounters a scheming bookkeeper intent on stealing her grandmother's ranch.  My story board is filled with casting ideas, locales, historical details, props, and even some costume thoughts.



I mentioned recently that I've finished writing the first draft of "Cloaked."  I'm working with an editor to really bring it into focus, and my plan right now is to release it as an ebook this summer.

Today, I'm also going to share the board for a story I'm still doing research and planning for.  I call it "Hopeful" right now, and it's a Snow White reimagining set during the 1870 "Exoduster" migrations when thousands of African Americans left the south for the wide frontier.  The history of that time is really fascinating, and I'm having a great time researching it.  I won't start writing "Hopeful" for a while yet, not until I've got "Cloaked" published and finish up another project, probably.  But it's coming!



I have to admit I've gotten kind of addicted to making these inspiration boards.  Sometimes, my best friend and I even use them to make up stories together, adding photos and seeing where the story takes us, though that was a lot more fun before Pinterest started hiding the comments, alas.

This post is my contribution to the Pinterest Storyboard Party 2017 hosted by Elisabeth Grace Foley.  If you'd like to see the boards I did for her party a couple of years ago, including the one for "The Man on the Buckskin Horse," my story that's included in the Five Magic Spindles anthology, you can read that post here.

Monday, February 20, 2017

"Blackboard Jungle" (1955)


Blackboard Jungle stars Glenn Ford as Richard Dadier, husband, WWII veteran, and brand-new high school English teacher.  He gets a job at North Manual High School in what we assume is New York City.  He's diffident, quiet, nervous.  He has a pregnant wife (Anne Francis) who miscarried their first baby and is terrified she'll lose this one too.  And he's faced with an inner-city high school full of rowdy, surly, angry, combative teen boys.


Two of them, Artie West (Vic Morrow) and Gregory Miller (Sidney Poitier), give him an especially hard time in the classroom.  Dadier struggles to teach them, to reach their minds and hearts, to lead them.


This film is a product of its times, certainly -- the optimistic ideal it holds forth is that if teachers only care enough, only try hard enough, they can engage their students.  Sure, there are bad kids, but once you weed them out, the rest of the kids will learn and grow and flourish.  At first glance, this film can seem simultaneously naive and bleak -- love for your students will solve everything!  But inner-city schools are horrible garbage cans full of human refuse, so you're going to need a lot of love!  Not a lot of nuance there.  All the nice, white, middle-class teachers kindly trying to rescue the poor students, many of whom are black or Hispanic, all of whom are "depraved on account they're deprived," as West Side Story would put it.


But if you look at this film through the lens of time, if you keep in mind what was going on in 1955, Blackboard Jungle is amazingly progressive.  You've got a fully integrated school here -- black and white students mingling freely.  It was only one year earlier that the Supreme Court ruled that "separate but equal" rights and the segregation of schools was unconstitutional.  And while this film does address race several times, it doesn't make that the point of the movie.  The "us vs. them" divide is about teachers versus students, all the students.  Maybe this is the most naive thing of all in the film, but I think that by not focusing on "let's all try to get along with people who look different" and instead showing black and white students simply interacting naturally, the filmmakers were presenting a positive look at how students really could get along.  With each other, anyway, if not with their teachers.


I mentioned above that Dadier's two problem students are played by Sidney Poitier and Vic Morrow.  In the end, it's Poitier's Greg Miller who Dadier connects with, while Morrow's Artie West gets kicked out of the classroom and sent to reform school.


Throughout the film, Miller is shown to be intelligent, and Dadier picks him out as the leader of the class, the one the other boys look to and follow.  He never says "even though you're black" or "because your black," he just sees that Miller has the charisma and attitude of a leader.  While Miller refuses to help Dadier by leading the class to cooperate with him for much of the film, in the end, he chooses to support the teacher against Artie West and rallies the classroom to do the same.  I find that pretty remarkable for a film made in the 1950s.


Yes, racial tension gets addressed in Blackboard Jungle.  Dadier, when lecturing his class on things NOT to call each other, uses several racial slurs.  A student then reports him as being racist and bigoted.  Dadier vehemently denies it, then goes right out and has a big argument with Miller, in which he starts to blame Miller's incooperativeness on his race, then realizes what he's saying, and apologizes.  So don't think they entirely sidestep this issue in a "La la la, racism doesn't exist here" way.


Both Poitier and Morrow turn in startlingly nuanced performances -- their characters could have been cliches, a black "uncle tom" helping the white teacher and a white "angry boy" striking out at authority figures.  But Poitier brings a dignity laced with resignation that makes us root for his character even when he isn't cooperating at all with the protagonist.  And Morrow puts so much feral, sly desperation into Artie West that you can't take your eyes off him whenever he's in the frame.


This was Vic Morrow's first film, but he knows already how to own a scene, and more than holds his ground with the big-name star, Glenn Ford.  In fact, I've read that Morrow beat out Steve McQueen for the role, both being relative unknowns at the time.  Way to go, Vic!


This was the first movie I ever saw Sidney Poitier in, and possibly the first I ever saw Glenn Ford in as well.  I didn't initially watch it for either of them, but this film made me a fan of both actors.  If you've ever seen To Sir, With Love (1967) and think this sounds a lot like that, you're not wrong.  To Sir is not a remake of Blackboard Jungle, but the two films share many similarities, and I personally like to imagine that Poitier's character in the later film is his character from this one, all grown up and following in the footsteps of the teacher who reached out to him many years earlier.


I watched this for the first time twenty-one years ago, when I was fifteen and freshly in love with the TV series Combat! (1962-67).  I'd stumbled across an article in Reader's Digest about a person reminiscing about their own teenhood in the mid-50s and this movie they went to see, the first major motion picture to play real rock 'n roll right in the film.  Not just in the film, but over the opening credits:  Bill Haley and the Comets' "Rock Around the Clock" blasted loud and clear for all the audience to hear.  What interested me particularly about this article was a tiny picture of one of the actors in the film, a very young and very delinquent-looking Vic Morrow.


I latched onto the idea of this film, Blackboard Jungle, with Vic Morrow in a black leather jacket and brandishing a switchblade.  I desperately wanted to see it.  I had no idea who else was in it, or what it was about other than '50s JDs, but I had a thing for juvenile delinquent movies already then -- I was in the middle of a West Side Story (1961) phase, you see.  I was fifteen, full of hormones and emotions, starting to figure out my identity, and realizing I could like things my parents didn't, and not like things they did.  Typical early teen stuff.

And like I said, I had recently fallen in love with Combat! (it's still my favorite show).  Vic Morrow played my favorite character on it, Sgt. Saunders.  I knew he had acted in lots of other things, but this was 1996.  You couldn't just watch movies and clips on YouTube, rent a movie on Netflix or Amazon, or find cool stuff on Hulu.  You had to find movies on TV or on VHS.  If you had cable and a great channel like AMC used to be, you could eventually get lucky if they decided to play whatever movie you were hungering to see.  Or, if you had a really cool entertainment store that stocked kinda obscure old stuff, you might be able to find what you were looking for there, or get them to order it.

We didn't have cable TV at my house, but we did have this store called Media Play that fed my burgeoning entertainment appetite.  And on February 15, 1996, I found Blackboard Jungle on VHS at Media Play.  I spent my carefully-hoarded and hard-earned money on it -- I didn't have a "real" job yet, but a friend and I made money painting faces at various local festivals, so I could buy a video now and then if it was something I wanted to see and my parents didn't.

But I didn't rush right home to watch Blackboard Jungle.  I waited.  I was afraid, to be honest.  I knew, from the synopsis on the back, that Vic Morrow was going to play the bad guy.  At that point in my life, I had a really hard time dealing with actors I liked playing Bad Guys.  I'm a little calmer about it now, but witness how annoyed I am right now at Luke Evans for playing Gaston in the upcoming Beauty and the Beast -- I want MY actors to play Good Guys, I just do.  So I worried about watching  Vic Morrow be the Bad Guy in Blackboard Jungle.  What if he was horrifying?  What if he played a character so awful in this, I would somehow stop loving his character on Combat!, Sgt. Saunders?  Worse, what if the whole movie was awful?  What if my parents hated it and banned me from ever watching it again?  That wouldn't be so bad if it was awful, but what if I liked it and they didn't?

For three days, I waited.  Waited for my parents to go somewhere and leave my brother and I home alone so I could watch this movie in peace and the relative security of no parents judging me and my movie choices.  And finally, on February 18, 1996, they left us home alone for a Sunday afternoon.  I've kept a journal since I was fourteen, so I know exactly when I bought and watched this movie, and exactly what I thought of it after that first viewing:
"Then Mom and Dad went to Hickory, so John and I watched Blackboard Jungle!!!!  We loved it!!!  WOW!  There was only, like, one swearword in it.  Vic Morrow played a knife-toting Artie West, Glenn Ford was a teacher named Richard Dadier, and Sidney Portier [sic] played Gregory Miller.  It was great!  Most Excellent!"
Um, yes, fifteen-year-old me was not the most coherent movie reviewer.  But I liked Blackboard Jungle so much, I watched it again the next day and declared it one of my second-favorite movies ever.  (It's still in my top 100 now.)  My instincts were correct, though -- neither of my parents cared much for this film at all.  Such is life.

I didn't realize until I looked up my first viewing in my journals the other day that I would be posting this two days after the 21st anniversary of my first seeing Blackboard Jungle, but I absolutely love that coincidence.  This film has been a big part of my life for a long time, and I'm glad I've gotten the chance to reminisce a bit about it.  Especially because I usually post something special in honor of Vic Morrow's birthday, which is February 14, and this year my Jane Austen blog party kind of took over the whole blog for a week, so this post is also my Happy Birthday to Vic moment, just a few days late.


This is also my entry into the 90 Years of Sidney Poitier Blogathon -- Mr. Poitier is 90 years old today!  Astonishing.  Please follow this link or click on the button below to read lots of reviews celebrating this legendary actor and his film legacy.


One last thing -- is this movie family friendly?  It does have two curse words, several violent fistfights, a tense moment where a student pulls a switchblade and threatens people with it, and an attempted rape scene that is non-graphic but still too much for younger children.  Also, a teacher flirts openly with Richard Dadier and asks him to leave town with her, then grumbles because he's married and won't cheat on his wife.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

I Love Austen Week -- Wrap-Up Post with Alllllll the Links


Thank you, everyone, for making I Love Austen Week so much wonderful fun!  I have thoroughly enjoyed myself, and I hope you have as well.  Maybe you've found some new blogging friends, even!  I know I have.

Here are links to all the great posts people contributed to this week.  I know they're also all in the linky thing in the master post, but that linky tool is hosted by another site, and there were so many wonderful posts this week that I would hate to lose track of should that linky tool quit working some day.

Reviews and Such

Becoming Jane (2007) review by Elanor
The Best of Jane Austen Knits book review by Molly Rebekah
Bride and Prejudice (2004) review by Catherine
"Captain Wentworth's Famous Letter" by Kara
"Character Sketch of Anne Elliot" by Hamlette
Color Me Jane coloring book review by Hamlette
Dear Mr. Knightley book review by Jane
"Dressing Like Jane Austen" by Skyeler
Emma (1996) review by Charity
Emma (2009) review by Rachel
The Jane Austen Guide to Life book review by Hamlette
The Jane Austen Handbook book review by Abby
"Jane Fairfax -- An Appreciation Post" by Elanor
Lost in Austen (2008) review by Rosie Dean
Love and Friendship (2016) review by Maggie
Mansfield Park (1986) review by Eowyn
Northanger Abbey book review by Allison
Northanger Abbey (2007) review by Natalie
"On Loving Emma" by Hayden
Persuasion (1995) review by Erin
Persuasion (2007) review by Meredith
Pride and Prejudice (1995) episodes one, two, threefourfive, and six by Movie Critic
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016) review by Charity
Sense and Sensibility (1995) review by Heidi
Sense and Sensibility (2008) review by Jessica Prescott
"Sense and Sensibility vs. Frozen" by Movie Critic
"Strength and Beauty in Austen" by Heidi
The Third Sister book review by Birdie
"The Thoughtfulness and Sweetness of Jane Austen's Heroes" by Miss March


Tags

Livia Rachelle at Rose Petals and Faerie Dust
Natalie at Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens
Catherine at We'll Meet it When it Does
Elanor at Musings of a Jane Austen Wannabe
Rachel at The Beckoning Hills
Evangeline at Over the Hills
Abby at Lavender Spring
Movie Critic at Movies Meet Their Match
Kelly-Anne at The Diary of a Country Girl
Hayden at A Singular and Whimsical Problem
Erudessa Aranduriel at The Flowering Vales
Molly at A Ramble Through the Woods
Heidi at Along the Brandywine
Miss March at Sunshiny Corner
The Elf at Willawa
Madeline at The Little Decorator
Eowyn at Captured by the Word
Kelsey at Kelsey's Notebook
Kara at Flowers of Quiet Happiness
Hamlette at The Edge of the Precipice
Ruth at A Great Book Study
Lois at You, Me, and a Cup of Tea
Lissa at An Attempt to Be Classic
Phyl at Solid Moonlight
Meredith at On Stories and Words
Elisabeth at Elisabeth Grace Foley
Night Owl at The Night Owl Reads Books
Deborah at The Road of a Writer
Mary at Misty Corners
Rosie at Rosie Dean
Rachel at A Girl's Place


I haven't finished reading all these yet, but I will do my best to finish them in the next day or two.  So if I haven't commented on your contribution yet, I'm not ignoring you!  I'll read it soon.

EDIT:  I just discovered there were people who did not put their links into the linky thing, but instead left them only in the comments on the master post.  I've now added them to these lists too.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

I Love Austen Week -- Giveaway Winners

And now for the post we've all been waiting for!  The winners of the giveaways!


"Jane Austen Coloring Bookmarks" -- Kelly-Anne

Sticker set #1 -- Natalie

Sticker set #2 -- Aija

Sticker set #3 -- Jessica Prescott

Sticker set #4 -- Rosie McCann

Austen ladies bookmarks set 1 -- Kelsey Bryant

Austen ladies bookmarks set 2 -- John Smith


Letters from Pemberley and More Letters from Pemberley -- Molly Rebekah

Persuasion DVD -- Deborah O'Carroll

The Jane Austen Guide to Life -- Abby P.

Jane Austen's Little Advice Book -- Ashley Stangl

Jane Austen:  Her Complete Novels in One Sitting -- Kara

The Pursuit of Mary Bennet -- Lucy Reiss

Congratulations to all the winners!  Please check the email address you provided to the Rafflecopter widget because I am in the process of emailing you to request your mailing address.

I Love Austen Week -- Quotations Quiz Answers

Here are the answers to the Valentine quotations quiz!  I hope you had fun :-)  I know many of you did far better on this than I would have -- if I hadn't been looking these up, I would have gotten maybe half of them.  I'm impressed!

(And yes, I'm afraid one of these was actually from a movie, not directly from a book -- I should have checked that one more carefully.  It was hard to find twelve lines that would work as Valentine cards, and I was getting desperate, I guess.)

#1 Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice

#2 Elinor Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility

#3 Mr. Knightley, Emma

#4 Captain Wentworth, Persuasion

#5 Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice

#6 Henry Tilney, Northanger Abbey

#7 Fanny Price, Mansfield Park

#8 Captain Wentworth, Persuasion

 #9 Mr. Collins, Pride and Prejudice

#10 Captain Tilney, Northanger Abbey

#11 Edmund Bertram, Mansfield Park

#12 Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice

Scores:

John Smith -- 24
Kelsey Bryant -- 24
Heidi -- 23
Jessica Prescott -- 20
Lois Johnson -- 18
Miss March -- 18
Elanor -- 17
Erudessa Anduriel -- 17
Natalie -- 15
Livia Rachelle -- 14
Rachel (The Beckoning Hills) -- 13
Rachel (A Girl's Place) -- 11
Meredith -- 10