Picoreview: A Little Chaos

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Picoreview: A Little Chaos: Entirely fictional, but charming.

I mean, entirely fictional: Kate Winslet’s character is an invention, no one like her existed at all, and…I wish they wouldn’t do that. It’s like Disney’s Pocahontas: why drop a couple of historical names on top of characters who live lives completely unlike the real story?

The answer, obviously, is because people recognise names like Pocahontas and Versailles and King Louis, which establishes the story, but…look, Belle was not an entirely accurate telling of Dido Elizabeth Belle, but it gets her story right in broad strokes. Similarly with Carrington (which, if you haven’t seen it, you ought to), both of which prompted me to go look up the real people and learn more about them. Which is what I cheerfully set out to do having watched A Little Chaos, because woman gardener in the court of King Louis XIV!

Except no, she’s completely fictional, and if you invent your main character and thrust her into the middle of a nominally real historical court and a you’re…I don’t know. Telling lies. Which is a silly thing to be offended by in a movie (and I didn’t know until after seeing it that Alan Rickman, who directed it, has been entirely frank about it being, as he said, “deeply historically inaccurate”), but it still irritates me.

None of which has anything to do with the general charm of the movie, which is, in fact, generally charming. Kate Winslet has a backstory that’s a little heavy-handed, and Matthias Schoenaerts, who plays the male lead, has one that’s a little too obscured, but Winslet (who looks gloriously un-made-up) brings her usual appealing steadiness to the character and Schoenaerts has a sort of restrained smoldering thing going on. I rather liked them together, although there were a couple of moments when I did wonder if Winslet was going to run off and have an affair with Alan Rickman’s Louis, whom he played as one of his soft-underbelly sorts, which, er, you know, works for me. :) There are several smaller roles that are especially well played. In fact, I could probably have watched an entire movie about the interactions of the secondary characters. :)

So overall I enjoyed it quite a bit and didn’t get annoyed until I found out after the fact that it was entirely fictional, which I’m sure wouldn’t have bothered me at all if I’d known it beforehand.

Five years old. :)

henry_5thbirthday

And very excited about it too. Very clear on YESTERDAY he was not yet five, even if we had a birthday party yesterday. (“My birthday celebrated!”) Definitely not five last week when I, being old, started saying he was five. “NOT YET. NOT FOR TWO WEEKS.” (We’re still a little unclear on time. :))

But today, oh my. Today the first words out of his mouth were, “NOW I’m five years old!”

And indeed he is. :)

henry_5thbirthday

Bewitching Benedict!

Bewitching Benedict!

Okay, the decision is official: the straight-up Regency romance (no fantasy elements involved!) that I’ve written will be coming your way soon! In July or August, if all goes well!

BEWITCHING BENEDICT is (potentially!) the first of a new 7 book series about the Lovelorn Lads. Think 7 Brides for 7 Brothers meets PG Wodehouse: seven friends (not actually brothers, except in spirit!) attempt to navigate the Regency marriage market, while an interfering valet helps them avoid bad relationships and secure good ones. Hijinks, as they say, ensue. :)

It is, I said modestly, a charming little book. :) I’ve got the production team lined up for it, am working on my first-draft revisions, and will hopefully have it off to the editor by the end of April. I can’t wait to get it out to all of you. I think you’ll like it even if it’s not your usual fare!

Picoreview: Age of Ultron

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Picoreview: Age of Ultron: We saw it twice in a row.

We were going to ANYWAY, I mean that was our plan, we had tickets for the 10:15am 3D IMAX showing, which was as early as we could see it without going to last night’s midnight showing, and then tickets for a 3:30pm 2D showing, so basically we had time enough to go get lunch and come back to the theatre. And that’s what we were going to do ANYWAY.

But we were also glad we did. :)

First and most importantly, you actually *don’t* need to stay past the first teaser, because there is in fact not a second one, even though they said there wasn’t. :)

Without going into spoiler territory, Paul Bettany is perfect as The Vision. I liked Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver quite a lot, which I had not expected to. Hawkeye had a much more substantial role in this one without anybody else feeling like they’d been shirked. Nearly everybody got some funny bits. Ultron himself was just terrific.

I have some complaints, mind. Although I think Black Widow had very close to the leading amount of screentime, as she did in Avengers: Assemble, and despite the Scarlet Witch’s presence, it felt pretty heavily of Boys’ Club to me. There was a thread that although I liked everyone’s reaction to it, I didn’t like in and of itself. Also, there was not nearly enough half-naked Chris Hemsworth. (What? I think that’s a valid complaint! (In fact, so does Joss Whedon, apparently, as he says an awful lot of shirtless Hemsworth got left on the cutting room floor and will be in the DVD extras. :)))

Overall, though, I thought it was pretty damn solid. It was never going to reach the astonishing joie de vivre of Avengers: Assemble, in part because–like the first X-Men movie–it wasn’t so much a matter of whether Avengers: Assemble was good as the flat-out amazing fact that it didn’t suck. If A:A was a 5, I’d give Age of Ultron a 4; if A:A was a 4, AoU is a 3.5.

Writing Wednesdays: Synopses

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My latest question from the peanut gallery was about how I write synopses. Or at least, I think that’s what it was about: the entirety of the question, actually, was, “Synopsis?” :)

I’ve talked about writing synopses before at least once, in depth, as part of the Great Plot Synopsis Project (warning: that contains the entirety of the (2 page) synopsis for URBAN SHAMAN, and is therefore spoilery). However, that was written in early 2008, and I have Changed My Process since then.

Specifically, in fact, I’ve changed it in the past couple of years. Some time ago–maybe while writing MOUNTAIN ECHOES–I had an unusually good writing go, because I had an unusually solid idea of what I was doing. The same thing had happened with the Inheritors’ Cycle books, in fact, and I began to have a sneaking suspicion that having a thorough outline might be…*good for me*.

But I used to think that thorough synopses would suck the joy out of writing the actual book. Where’s the mystery! and all that. And, I mean, I knew my process: I would write to roughly the 1/3rd mark and hit a wall. I’d go back and revise, and make my way up to the 2/3rds mark. I’d hit another wall, and revise. Then I’d finish the book, so by the time I reached “the end”, I usually had a pretty darn solid draft.

Except on those three books, that one Walker Papers novel and the two Inheritors’ Cycle books, I really hadn’t hit those walls. I’d really kinda just blown through them, because I knew where I was going. So for four out of my five most recent books I’ve gotten more serious about the process, even though frankly, I hate synopsising.

MAGIC & MANNERS didn’t have an *exhaustive* synopsis, not the level I’ll be talking about next. OTOH, I was following (in large part, anyway) the plot of one of the most successful books ever written in the English language, so, uh. I didn’t really need to break that down too much.

But STONE’S THROE, BEWITCHING BENEDICT (an as-yet un-contracted-for straight-up Regency romance) and REDEEMER have all been synopsised within an inch of their lives. In all three cases I’ve relied heavily on my brainstorming group, and REDEEMER is going to be the most interesting test of this process, because it’s going to be, by a considerable margin, the longest of the three.

STONE’S THROE and BENEDICT were both in the region of 70K and had synopses of around 3K; given that the synopses I’ve sold on and used as my jumping boards for the past decade were generally around 1500 words for 100K books, that’s quite a jump in detail.

(The one book of the five most recent that I didn’t do a really thorough synopsis on was, incidentally, a miserable writing experience. It went through five painful drafts before I got to the end, and although it seems to work I’m still not strictly convinced it does. :[)

So I’ll talk about REDEEMER now. :)

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aw man elfquest stuff :)

Elfquest: Skywise & Cutter

The Pinis are having an Elfquest collectibles sale, as they’re apparently trying to clear stuff out. They intend to run it over several weeks, adding stuff as they go.

I do not need any of their stuff to become my stuff, I said with grim determination. I don’t I don’t I don’t. Unless they come up with the red leather-bound compilation of all four of the Starblaze Donning GNs, which I saw as a teen in Bosco’s Comic Shop in Anchorage Alaska and did not, of course, have $125 for and never really even entertained the thought of asking my parents if they would buy it for me, which in retrospect they might actually have done, but which I didn’t imagine possible at age fourteen. :)

Or one of the leatherbound editions of the 2nd Starblaze Donning GNs. That’d be good too. Because I clearly need another 30 year old book to add to my collection. (I do, actually; I have there rest of them!) Or–yeah I better just stay away from that auction, eh? :)

Kitsnacks: Easy Tikka Masala

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I have semi-invented an easy tikka masala recipe, which is what happens when I have a recipe I’ve made before but discover I’m missing many of the actually-called-for ingredients. This one ends up having what I trust most people have in their pantries, which is why it’s ideal. :)

Easy Tikka Masala
1-2 oz butter or vegetable oil
1 tbsp garlic powder
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp paprika
1/2-1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
pepper to taste

1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can chickpeas
1 fresh tomato, rough chopped
8 oz cream

Melt the butter in a largish sautee pan (ideally one with a lid). Stir-fry dry ingredients over a medium heat for ~30. Pour the tomatoes in before the spices burn & bring to a simmer. Stir in the cream & bring to a simmer. Add chickpeas and meat, if you’re putting meat in. Simmer until the sticky rice has finished cooking. Throw in the fresh tomato at the last possible moment & serve over sticky rice.

I roasted up a leg of lamb and used about half of it in this, with a nice long simmer so it was super tender. It also works well with chicken, and presumably with beef, pork or shrimp, if them’s your wish.

This can be made entirely satisfactorily without chickpeas, fresh tomato, or even paprika, but the tomatoes and chickpeas give it a nice heft and freshness.

Picoreview: Fast & Furious 7

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Picoreview: Fast & Furious 7: broke my heart.

I knew it was going to; the goddamn trailers were making me tear up even as I recognized that they were specifically choreographed to. I had no attachment at all to Paul Walker–I think the only thing I’ve seen him in is the F&F movies–but I was shocked by his death because, well. It was shocking. And so messed up, that he’s best known for these fast car movies and then died in a horrific car wreck. So FF7 was always going to break my heart.

And it did. And I’m…glad. Because it should have, because it broke the hearts of everybody making the film, and there are moments where you can see that. I mean, they’re moments where it’s in character and in-story and everything, but one of the underlying things about this franchise that I’ve always loved is how much *fun* they’re having with it.

But there are times in this movie when you can see they’re not having fun at all. Times when they shouldn’t be because of the story, but it also feels strongly like it’s because their friend is dead and it’s just awful. One of those times is one of the few places where I was certain it was one of Walker’s brothers standing in for him, and it made a mess of the scene. There was also one shot where it felt very obvious that there was CGI involved, but I’ve got to say that for the vast majority of the movie I really had no idea if it was Walker or not, and just accepted that it was. And I’m pretty sensitive to CGI, so they’ve done a good job in a dreadful situation.

Horrible coincidence of Walker’s death aside…it’s actually a pretty damn good movie. Too much frenetic music video camera work, but that’s part of the franchise. Arguably too long, but the easiest section to cut is one I can see why they didn’t want to, for purposes of spin-off movies (I do kind of wish Dwayne Johnson would lose some of his size. He’s starting to look bizarrely pin-headed to me.). But it moved quickly and I was, as usual, hanging on the edge of my seat and gnawing my knuckles over the extreme car scenes, and laughing at some clever moments.

Somewhat ironically, though, given how many characters there are in the franchise, I actively missed the ones who are no longer part of it, particularly Gal Godot as Giselle: this felt more like a boy’s club than the F&F movies usually do to me. And it turns out that Gadot and Sung Kang’s Han prevented too much time being spent on Tyrese Gibson’s Roman, who is beautiful but growing somewhat wearing as a character. OTOH, I kind of felt that Chris “Ludacris” Bridges kind of finally came into his own as Tej in FF7, which made up for some of Roman’s tediousness.

Dear God, if there is anything as sexy on this earth as Michelle Rodriguez and Vin Diesel in formal wear, I don’t know what it is, except Michelle Rodriguez in formal wear slit to the thigh so you can see the hardware she’s packing on her way into an epic fight scene. And that’s another thing I love about this series, is that the ladies kick as much ass as the gents. They also introduced a new character (one I would not be surprised to see again) with whom I was *particularly* happy because it went 100% against stereotype–which is, of course, yet another thing I love about this franchise.

That said…I would like this to be the final film. It probably won’t be, but…I’d like it to be. I don’t mind spin-offs with The Rock (and Elena, please let us have more Elsa Pataky as Elena, and indeed, cameos from the original crew would be fine) but I…I’d like the actual F&F franchise to wrap. They’ve handled an awful change in their ranks as well as they possibly could; so well, in fact, that it *feels* final to me. Even though they left themselves an out it’s just…it’s season 5 Buffy or Supernatural. This is where the story ends, even if they don’t stop with it for a long time.

In the unlikely event you haven’t seen it already, you don’t need to stay through the final credits unless you’re like me and need the extra five minutes in the dark theatre to recover from the ugly sobbing. Five minutes wasn’t enough, in fact; I still looked a mess when I left.

I very much want to re-watch the whole series in chronological order now (as opposed to order of release), and then go see FF7 again.

Kitsnaps: Zoo Day

Babushka gorilla

Yesterday it was a glorious morning and on the way to preschool Young Indiana said to me, “We should go to the zoo after school on this beautiful day!”

That seemed like a very sensible thing to do, so after school I collected him and we hopped on the bus to, er, actually, to go downtown and then get on the bus to the zoo, because that was by far the easiest way to get there, but, y’know, details details. To go to the zoo. :)

It was in fact a perfectly marvelous day, and I learned something very important, which is that I should not wear my big fashionable vision-correcting sunglasses when shooting with my non-autofocus telephoto lens, because it turns out three quarters of the pictures I take will have the fence behind the animal, or nothing at all, in nice sharp focus. It must have something to do with the distance of the glasses lens from my eye, because usually only about a quarter of my non-autofocus pictures are out of focus. :)

I did, however, get some nice pictures, and am especially pleased with my Babushka gorilla shot.

There’s also a new baby bongo! I love the bongos. Sadly I missed the picture of Daddy Bongo looking like he might charge all of us humans who were looking at his baby (wretched lack of autofocus!), but I got the baby looking pretty belligerent itself, so that works for me. :)

Baby Bongo
Baby Bongo

Dublin Zoo’s newest baby bongo appears to be feeling a little belligerent.

Just as I was taking this picture of one of the newish redheaded monkeys at the zoo, the baby next to me SQUEALED!, causing the monkey to look sharply in our direction. I said thank you to the baby. :)

Redheaded Monkey
Redheaded Monkey

I don’t know what the redheaded monkeys at Dublin Zoo are called. Er, as in their species, although I don’t know their names, either…

I think this is the best picture I’ve managed to take of the white-crowned mangabeys. They move fast!

White-Crowned Mangabeys
White-Crowned Mangabeys

My shoddy focusing skills actually worked out just fine with this, as the baby is so nicely in focus even if the mama isn’t! :)

And since it was his idea to go to the zoo, I figure Young Indiana should feature in today’s post. :)

Enthusiastic Primate
Enthusiastic Primate

I have a lot of out of focus pictures of this enthusiastic primate too, but this one turned out nicely. :)

viral!

viral!

I’ve had something go viral! I think ~160K reblogs qualifies as viral by anybody’s standards. #beams

viral

Look, I’m dorktastic, I knew that already, but it’s kinda cool to see something get so many hits. My previous-ever best was several hundred retweets when I bitched about being able to read faster than any news video so please always just GIVE ME A TRANSCRIPT. So this is neat.

Also it makes me wish I posted more original content on Tumblr but I don’t so oh well. :)