Downton X-Men

Downton X-Men

Not that I need anything else to do in my Copious Free Time, but last night I wasn’t even thinking about my Downton Abbey/X-Men mashup (did I mention that? the other day I had an X-Men/Downton Abbey dream and thought, damn, that could work. WWI-era superheroes, that is, more than actually fitting Downton Abbey to the X-Men (which could also work but I don’t see getting to do that any time soon :)) and I realised I could use that world to do Evil Hat Fred’s “World War G” idea, which was a thought he once had where instead of WW2 we had a World War Gamma wherein superheroes were largely created/powered by gamma rays, a la the Incredible Hulk, as the next stage in the Downton X-Men world.

I wish–on another comics note–that I could think of something to doodle for some kind of little web comic. I can think of a dozen ideas for a real artist, but just for me? Pssht. Nothing. Absolutely no clue.

In things I *can* think to write, I have hit 75K on MAGIC & MANNERS, and I get to spend the weekend writing, so it’s 90K or bust by Monday.

ytd wordcount: 26,100

Recent Reads: Edwardian Murder Mysteries

Recent Reads: Edwardian Murder Mysteries

Last fall sometime I read MC Beaton’s SNOBBERY WITH VIOLENCE, which I enjoyed very much (as I do nearly all of Beaton’s historical romancs) and asked for the rest of the quartet for Christmas so I could finish them all before doing a Recent Reads on them.

A couple weeks ago I picked up the 2nd book and found it…incredibly disjointed. There was no flow from book 1 to book 2, and while it had been a few months since I’d read the first, I didn’t think it had been *that* long. I couldn’t remember the things mentioned in the sort of recap-first-chapter, and found it really hard to get into. But I struggled along, never really finding the rhythm of the thing, and upon reaching the end was surprised to find that our protagonists were getting married now. “Huh,” I thought, “that’ll change the dynamic of the last two books.”

So I picked up the third book. Except the characters weren’t married. In fact, the 3rd book appeared to be about some of the recapped adventures from the 2nd book’s first chapter.
With a sinking feeling, I checked the order of the books inside the front cover, and discovered I had shelved them out of order (a thing I NEVER do) and read the 4th and final book second. ARGH.

Anyway, now it feels totally pointless to read books 2 & 3, even though it’s not like there’s any great surprise in what’s going to happen in a light fluffy historical romance series. In fact, I’ve spent most of the past week trying to read the second and third books and just being totally unable to get into them, so I guess I’ll give up and move on to something else. Maybe if I hang on to them for a while I can start anew sometime. Or maybe I just won’t bother, which is sad, because they were a Christmas present. :(

ytd wordcount: 23,200

I need a TARDIS.

I need a TARDIS.

I don’t know what happened to January. I mean, yes, I know what happened to January: we had the flu, or something like it, and totally lost a full week or more to being sick. And then Ted had a week off and somehow I got a lot less work done in that time than I imagined I was going to, and now it’s the end of the month and I’m sick again. For God’s sake.

I’ve gotten…15K or so done on MAGIC & MANNERS, which is pretty good, but it’s not *done*, which is what I was hoping for. I crossed the 70K mark this morning, and I have dreams of it coming in at 100K but I’m afraid it, er, won’t. I’m afraid if I’m lucky it’ll be 110K and if I’m not it’ll come in around 120K, which is roughly the length of PRIDE & PREJUDICE.

30K to go sounds a lot less awful than 50K, though. Anyway, so I need a TARDIS to get caught up. Which is a pretty pathetic use of a TARDIS, when you get right down to it, but needs must.

ytd wordcount: 22,100

bloody monday

bloody monday

This morning as I was getting dressed, Young Indiana appeared in the doorway and said in his Confessional Voice (which is slightly tragic and solemn), “Mommy…I have something to tell you. I washed the blood off in the sink all by myself.”

Then he proudly displayed his hands, which were red with dried blood, and said, “I was putting my fingers in my nose last night because it was drippy.”

Yes. Yes, it apparently was. And then it was very bloody, to the degree that he brought me to show me the bloodstain on the pillow. I found the bloody smears all over the sheets, foot of the bed, and wall on my own. I had to put him in the shower to get him actually clean, and then he spent some time with a tissue stuffed up his nose to stop the leak that had been re-opened by showering.

Kids are gross.

ytd wordcount: 19,800

Picoreview: Into the Woods

Picoreview: Into the Woods

Picoreview: Into the Woods: Not bad. Not *nearly* as bad as it could have been, which sounds damning with faint praise and isn’t intended to. It may even verge on satisfying, although it’s not entirely satisfying, because I’m too familiar with the stage play.

Many of the performances are very, very good. Most, even. Chris Pine is terrific as Cinderella’s Prince, Shatnering it up way more than he does in Star Trek, and, as everybody has said, the Princes’ Agony is very funny indeed. Meryl Streep is–well, she’s Meryl Streep. She largely manages to make the role of the Witch her own, which, when you’re following Bernadette Peters, is a pretty strong showing all by itself. Etc, etc; almost everybody is very good.

The movie didn’t fix any of the major problems I have with the stage show (and as much as I love it, I have *issues* with the stage show, which I think is hugely misogynistic), but I didn’t expect it to. It did introduce other problems through the changes it made, resulting in–well, chaos, basically. Ted’s not familiar with the stage show and thought the movie was okay but far too chaotic. He was agog when I said there were two plot threads that had been cut entirely. He couldn’t imagine how they’d be stuffed in, although as it happens they both anchor the Rapunzel thread, which he had found to be utterly unmoored.

It also turned out Ted wasn’t familiar with the old-school Cinderella stories, and was straight-up horrified at the step-sisters’ prince-getting antics and fate. That was actually kind of fun, because he threw me a few appalled looks during those scenes and afterward was like “OH MY GOD” and I was like “oh no that’s the original story” and he was all “augh!” I was such a fan of the older, darker fairy tales when I was a kid I never imagine people don’t generally know them, and he *does* know some of the others, but Cinderella’s was new on him. O.O :)

…everything about this commentary is going to be spoilery because it’s comparing the stage play to the film and even if I’m not *comparing* I’m talking about the changes made to the script, so…spoilers ahoy, but I’m not cutting it because it’s a 30 year old play. :)

I maintain that the Wolf should have been played, as he is in the stage play, by Prince Charming (Chris Pine, in the film). Although, because of other changes they made to the script, having him play the Wolf is not putting the ring on it that it is in the stage play. The Wolf is a sexual predator, as is Prince Charming, but by casting the Wolf as someone else and removing the Sleeping Beauty/Snow White subplot (which also deprives us of the Agony reprise, which is, IMHO, even funnier than the original), you end up with “Prince Charming is kind of a jerk” instead of “Prince Charming is a sexual predator” or at the very least “Prince Charming is a *total* player.” It’s not nearly as strong a position as the stage play takes, and I think it should be.

That said, Johnny Depp was almost fine in the role of the Wolf, as he only fell into Depp Mannerisms twice in the five minutes he was on the screen and could almost sing the whole of his song.

The same, unfortunately, can’t be said of the boy who played Jack. Giants in the Sky is one of my favourite songs ever, and the poor kid–I don’t know if his voice was changing, or if he just simply didn’t have the capability to sing the song, but he was flat all over the place and he didn’t even *try* for the final high note. They cut his other song, which is very funny, entirely.

In fact, I felt they’d cut a *lot* of the humor from the show. Jack’s song, the Agony reprise (people have been saying they can’t see how they could top Agony with a reprise, but lyrically it’s very funny and I don’t think it needs to be topped in melodramatic performance), a bunch of stuff with Jack’s mother, some of the Witch’s best lines…really, aside from Agony, I thought all the humor got dropped. A friend thought all of Little Red Riding Hood’s funny bits fell flat, although I thought she was perfect. Possibly, though, her straight-man deadpan delivery wasn’t as funny because most of the normal-funny got dropped.

Despite all of that, though, it wasn’t a bad adaptation. It’s not as Disneyfied as I thought it might be (I had gone in with the impression that the Baker’s Wife’s final song and the subsequent plot points had been eliminated), and overall I enjoyed it. I’ll probably own it, and all that, so, y’know. They did their job. :)

Okay. Lemme talk about the misogyny of the show in general. There are *much more specific* spoilers past this point, again for both the film and stage show, so I will put this behind a cut, but if you’re familiar with either version or don’t care about spoilers, read on. This isn’t like Birdman where I think it should Be Revealed To You as part of the Experience Of The Show. :)

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re-learning photography

re-learning photography

I’ve said before that there’s an alternate universe pretty close to this one where I’m a professional photographer instead of writer. Back in the day I was good enough to get a scholarship for photography, but I only pursued it half-heartedly, and after a while digital cameras started doing all the work for me and I forgot what I’d learned. I do manual photography as a kind of crap shoot (ahahah) anymore, without any real sense of how the light or depth of field is going to work.

I can afford to do that with digital cameras, since I’m not burning film, but it’s always kind of bothered me. I’ve made a couple more half-hearted attempts to re-learn the basic mechanics–a photo class here and there, mostly–but not to any particular avail, and I’ve long since gotten rid of the photography basics books I had in high school and college.

But it did kind of occur to me a little while ago that I tend to learn best from reading, and after faffing around a bit I picked up a basic photography book and have been poking at it.

It’s embarrassing, what I’ve forgotten, and how easy it is to remember. Low f-stops create depth of field and high f-stops flatten it, high ISO is good for stopping action and indoor photography, shutter speed–okay, shutter speed I could always remember, that’s pretty easy. :) But I am *terribly* out of practice working the three together, much less having an innate sense of what any given lighting scenario might require to create good pictures.

I don’t know that I’m up for doing a weekly photo challenge/theme/thing, because the last thing I need is Another Thing I Must Do Or Feel Like A Failure to stuff into my copious free time. But I might just kind of work my way through this book and see what I’m learning and doing and post some pictures as I go along, I donno. But I do have some hopes of improving my skills again, because it’s aggravating knowing I’m so much less good than I could be with even a little effort.

My favourite and most successful shot of the experimental pictures taken today, with no doctoring applied to it. It’s not an especially well-framed shot, what with a picture sticking out of the top of his head and a bannister in his neck, but those do at least illustrate the depth of field that I was trying to achieve. :)

doftest01

More of today’s ISO & depth of field efforts behind the cut, with thanks to a surprisingly patient model. :)

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Picoreview: Birdman

Picoreview: Birdman

Picoreview: Birdman: So, wow. That was, so that was a movie.

I’m. Wow. Virtuoso performances from the whole cast. Emma Stone eats the screen alive when she’s on screen, and Edward Norton–it’s always fun to watch actors playing actors, but he’s especially good (I shall detail why behind the spoiler cut). Coming from the theatre background that I do, it was a…it was…it rang true in the same way Noises Off does, except without the farce. Mostly. It was…wow.

And technically, also, wow. The scene changes, the camera shots, the…wow. Sublime. I never, ever forgot that I was seeing sublime camera work and scene changes either, although I don’t think–particularly with the scene changes–that I was intended to.

I…am not sure that Michael Keaton deserves the Oscar more than Eddie Redmayne. I think there’s a very good chance he’ll *get* it instead of Redmayne, because he’s 63 and Redmayne is 33. I would be *really* pleased if it got Best Picture and Redmayne got Best Actor, though.

I’m not sure I enjoyed it. Or liked it. Or…something. I am, however, impressed as hell with it. It’s very, very good.

I’m going to make a couple of spoilery comments about the actual story, and the end of the film, behind the cut. If you think there’s any chance you’ll see it, I’d suggest not reading the spoilers, because I genuinely think it’s worth watching unfold without any particular notion of what’s going on.

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Recent Reads: The Paradox Trilogy

Recent Reads: The Paradox Trilogy

As mentioned in last week’s post, I got Rachel Bach (Aaron)’s military sf/space opera last year on the strength of her Eli Monpress books, and, in my quest to get through my TBR shelf in order, read them this month.

They’re not as easy to fall into as the Monpress books; Devi Morris, the main character, isn’t as charming or delightful as Eli Monpress. Then again, she’s not supposed to be, so frankly that speaks to Aaron’s strengths as a writer. Book one found its footing after a few chapters, and carried on well up until the end, when Aaron pulled out a plot device so appalling that I still can’t believe she used it. Not “oh my god I can’t believe she did that to this character,” but “oh my god I can’t believe she used such an incredibly annoying trope, how plot devicey can you GET.”

In Aaron’s defense, the world setup allowed for the unbelieveable trope, with it being at least nominally set up beforehand. That didn’t, however, really make it particularly forgiveable. I started the second book immediately anyway, but with a bad taste in my mouth. The unbelieveable trope was resolved about a quarter of the way through the second book, but it took until about halfway through for the book to really feel like it had recovered and was kicking back into action.

Fortunately, when it kicked back in, it did so with a vengeance. Arguably, in fact, the main plot for the whole trilogy really kicked in halfway through book two, and it went rollicking on to the end of the books in excellent form. I had a theory about how one aspect was going to turn out and was proven wrong, which faintly surprises and probably pleases me for its lack of predictability. (Only probably because I’m still trying to decide if I think her resolution was more satisfying or mine was. :))

I really, *really* wish she’d found a different way to deal with the issue that prompted the Unbelieveable Trope, because that came very close to being a deal-breaker. However, as anybody who is reading this will now go into the books forearmed, I can as a whole recommend the trilogy, because despite the Unbelieveable Trope they’re really pretty good books.

so many conventions

so many conventions

Argh, there are so many conventions I’d like to go to this year. I’d like to go to EasterCon, because Jim’s going to be one of the guests of honor and it’s the perfect place for seeing UK-based friends.

I’d like to go to WorldCon because it’s West Coast this year and so loads of people I know will be there and so will Daniel Keys Moran, who doesn’t go to cons and who I would really, really like to meet.

And I just found out WFC is in Saratoga Springs again this year. WFC is by far the best professional convention to go to, *especially* when it’s held in New York, because half the publishing industry just hops on the train and pops up for the weekend, and besides that, lots of people I know will be there.

I’d like to go to Geek Girl Con, too, but it’s the same weekend as Octocon, and assuming all goes well I’ll be doing a book launch at Octocon so yeah, no.

Anyway, I don’t know how I can go to any of them, realistically, never mind ALL of them, which would presumably require selling a kidney. Or a book. Or several. :)

(Before anybody says “Kickstart it!”, 1. I just ran a Kickstarter that hasn’t been fulfilled yet, so the idea would make me twitch anyway, and 2. I don’t have any idea what I could offer as rewards/perks/whatevers to make it worth anybody wanting to support such an endeavour. So. :))

reality collides with perception

reality collides with perception

I asked for Rachel Bach‘s Paradox Trilogy for my birthday last year, and, in my Read The TBR List In Alphabetical Order quest for 2015, I started reading them this week. I also discovered that my interest in them was a source of great confusion to Ted, who knows I hated Honor Harrington and had extrapolated that I disliked space opera/military SF, which is bonkers. I stared at him in utter astonishment and he said, “Well, they look like they’re up the Honor Harrington alley and you don’t like those kinds of books!”

“Like I totally hate the Jack Campbell books,” I said somewhat incredulously. “And I totally didn’t read all the OLD MAN’S WAR books. Or FOREVER WAR, for that matter. Or Lois McMaster Bujold. Or all of Elizabeth Moon’s military SF.” (Although, to be fair, I read those before I met Ted.) Anyway, he got a pretty funny expression of “all of these facts I was indeed previously aware of have conflicted horribly with this notion of reality I had created,” but it was all cleared up when I explained that it was the Harrington books in *specific* I didn’t like. (Which is something he also knew, but had just filed under “hates military SF.” Seriously, the first three chapters or so were just, like, filled with Specific Things Catie Doesn’t Like. It’s like Weber had a checklist of tropes that would get on my nerves and went down it assiduously marking them off. I didn’t get any farther than that in the books. I couldn’t stand it. :))

None of that has anything to do with the Paradox books, so although this was going to be a Recent Reads post instead it’ll just be an amusing anecdote post. :)

ytd wordcount: 16,100