Friday, April 29, 2011

Review: Tangled

All right, I admit it. It’s been a deep-kept secret all the long years of my life. One of those hideaway-under-the-bed-with-the-dust-bunnies type of secrets, you know? But the time has come to admit it to the world . . .

I love Disney princesses!

Okay, so maybe not such a secret after all . . .

It is the popular theory among my family and friends (and now my husband) that I am a Disney princess incarnate. When I visited my big brother in Okinawa and convinced jungle birds to eat out of my hand, he declared me Snow White and started singing her song at me in falsetto . . . a terrifying prospect if you know my military officer brother!

Thus it came as a surprise to no one when I fell in love with the handsome stranger I met at fencing class who turned out to be Prince Charming incarnate (and I don’t mean in the personality-less way of Cinderella’s Prince Charming), and that our wedding was above all things Fairy Tale.

Even less of a surprise was the fact that my debut novel featured a teenage princess with idealized views of romance . . .

Anyway, all that to say that I adore the whole genre of the Disney princess. I adore the pretty ingénue heroine in pretty dresses. I enjoy the peasant-girl-in-disguise revealed later to be lost royalty (or future-royalty as in the case of Cinderella). I enjoy the songs, the colors, and especially the little animal friends!

(Rohan laughs . . . he knew I was a secret princess the day he met my three furry familiars. Sigh. In my defense, usually a Disney princess goes for the mice rather than the cats. At least mine are natural predators, right?)

And yes, I adored Tangled.

Despite everything stated above, I actually didn’t expect to like the movie when we went to see it in the 1.50 theater the other night. You see, I had gone to The Princess and the Frog with such high expectations and had been so disappointed. The pacing of that movie was spastic, the artwork only so-so, and there was never a moment when I found myself truly attached the characters. I told myself that Disney had lost its “princess touch,” and therefore went to Tangled with great reservations.

Oh, how it proved me wrong!

Everything about it was a delight. The art was exquisite! I was so afraid I wouldn’t care for the digital art being such a fan of traditional animation as I am. But it was just gorgeous. The characters . . . oh, the characters! They had so much personality! There was just the right amount of time spent developing them into individuals that you really came to care for. Sure, they were stereotypes: the rakish thief, the golden-haired beauty. But they were so fresh and fun within those stereotypes!

(And seriously, did any Attolia fans out there watching Flynn running along those rooftops not think of Eugenides eluding the guards in the queen’s palace? Just asking!)

So, yes. Loved the pacing, loved the art, loved the characters . . . the humor was great! I was concerned that it would be too modern, but while I was watching it I didn’t think so at all. It was a lovely counter-balance to the drama. A perfect story (as far as I’m concerned) has a healthy measure of both, and that’s exactly what Tangled had.

The only thing I wasn’t absolutely wild about was the music. Or rather, the “musical numbers.” The pretty orchestral bits for the background were awesome! And there was nothing particularly wrong with the numbers . . . there was just nothing particularly right about them either. Nothing memorable.

This, however, did not stop me from walking out of Tangled with a huge smile on my face and a renewed love for all things Fairy Tale!

Happy sigh . . .

I think that might possibly be my favorite movie seen in theaters since . . . gosh, since I don’t know when!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Building the Tower

I was thinking more along the lines of Voyage of the Dawn Treader today. The book, not the film. Do any of you remember that beautiful moment in the chapter called “The Dark Island,” when Lucy calls to Aslan and he appears in the form of an albatross and leads them to safety? (There’s a brief depiction of it in the movie that totally fails to accomplish anything . . . sigh.)

How many of you know where that albatross is from?

That’s right! Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. In that great poem (the first long poem I read in ballad stanza form, which inspired me to make a stab at ballad stanza writing myself . . . an ambitious stab, not altogether unsuccessful. If you ever see it in print, think of Coleridge!), the albatross is a symbol of Christ, leading the sailors through stormy seas. But one of the sailors, the Ancient Mariner, kills the bird in a moment of vicious thoughtlessness.

After the Mariner has done this foolish thing, he and his shipmates are lost in calm waters, trapped, starving, parched. At long last, when they have almost given up hope, they see a sail on the horizon. Are they saved?

But no. Coleridge describes the approaching vessel like this:

Are those her ribs through which the Sun
Did peer, as through a grate?
And is that Woman all her crew?
Is that a DEATH? and are there two?
Is DEATH that Woman’s mate?

Her lips were red, her looks were free,
Her locks were yellow as gold:
Her skin was white as leprosy,
The Night-mare Life-in-Death was she,
Who thicks man’s blood with cold.

In the following stanza, we see Death and Life-in-Death cast dice for the life of the Ancient Mariner. Life-in-Death wins, crying, “The game is done! I’ve won! I’ve won!” Thus, the Mariner does not die for his sin. Instead, he is made to live . . . a fate far worse.

I’ll never forget the first time I read that passage. It was for my English Lit. II class, one of the college courses I took while still in high school. The image was chilling and has always been one of my favorite creepy-literature moments. I took down a note right there in my notebook, off to the margins: “Life-in-Death . . . the Night-Mare . . . the Lady of Dreams.”

Some of you, who have read my debut novel, Heartless, will perhaps recognize this woman. I give her a slightly different look, but she does, in fact, appear in an early scene of Heartless, within Una’s nightmare. She is the Lady of Dreams Realized, the Life-in-Death. She and her brother, the Dragon, cast a dice for Una’s life . . . the Dragon wins, and goes on to claim Una as his prize.

But what if Life-in-Death should win one of their games? Well, you’ll have to go on and read Veiled Rose to see what that might look like . . . .

But this post is not about Life-in-Death or Veiled Rose. It’s about something much bigger, much more important. It’s about building the great Tower.

C.S. Lewis understood, as a literary scholar, how great literature is formed. It is not something that stems from pure, unadulterated originality. This is impossible. We human beings are individual for certain, but we are also merely human. We cannot have a thought or an idea that is completely original. The more we strive after this in our writing, the more frustrated we shall become.

And yet, who would accuse Lewis of being clichéd? Surely he was an original thinker if there ever was one! Who can read his Space Trilogy and not be boggled by the breadth of his imagination? Who picks up the Chronicles of Narnia and is untouched by the beautiful simplicity of his tales?

Lewis knew what literature is. It’s not “originality” as such. It is a universal effort.

Writing fiction is like building an enormous tower. Each author brings his own block or stack of blocks to the construction site. These blocks are cut and chipped by individuals, but they must fit together in order to build the overall structure. Some will be better suited to certain parts of the tower than others . . . some will fit together more naturally.

Consider Lewis, writing the symbol of the albatross as a type of Christ, slipping his literary block right in next to Coleridge. He took Coleridge’s symbol, but he made it his own in the context of the Narnia stories. His representation of Christ through the character of Aslan is much fuller than Coleridge’s albatross . . . so by using Coleridge’s albatross, he not only honors and acknowledges Coleridge, but also builds upon the foundation that Coleridge began.

In my own, much humbler way, I am trying to do the same. No albatrosses in Goldstone Wood yet! Yet you can see the connection, you can see where my block might possibly nestle beside Lewis’s and Coleridge’s by the symbols I choose. My Lady Life-in-Death is an outgrowth of Coleridge’s work, linking me, not only to Coleridge, but also to C.S. Lewis.

This is literature! This is why people take English Lit. classes . . . to study ALL the ways that writers link themselves together through time and history, sometimes in the most unexpected places! How many, many, many novels use symbols and archetypes found in Shakespeare? Yet Shakespeare himself built atop other writers’ works! And he is but one example of the thousands upon thousands of men and women who contributed to the Tower of Literature.

Writing fiction both is and is not a solitary endeavor. We are all building on the Tower in some way. We bring our individual blocks, but they are only small parts of the whole. And isn’t it wonderful to read the novelists who realize this? Who carve their blocks in subtle ways to stack atop those greats who went before? Think of Neil Gaiman’s Newberry Award-winning, The Graveyard Book. Read it and notice all the amazing connections he purposely wrote, fitting it to Rudyard Kipling’s, The Jungle Book. See how he builds upon the work of Kipling, but expands upon it, makes it his own. His originality is clear, but so is his dependence on the work of Kipling.

It makes me sad how many writers don’t realize the importance of all those little symbols and connections. They either struggle so vehemently for something “original,” or never think about it at all. But this leaves you with a resource of only yourself. And when you limit yourself to yourself (in all areas of life), the result is a very small world indeed.

I find myself doing this often . . . Before writing Heartless, I got myself into a deep, writerly hole out of the simple desire to think up something original! It was such a relief to realize that originality wasn’t the issue . . . the only new thing I had to bring to the table was me. Not my ideas. Just my perspective and my way with words. So I tackled a story with as many classic archetypes as I could find (some people even say stereotypes). I worked to connect it to those great authors I admire. It is by no means a perfect result . . . but it’s a beginning!

So next time you read Lewis, or Tolkien, George MacDonald, Peter S. Beagle, Diana Wynne Jones . . . any of your favorite novelists . . . watch for those connections. Look for those symbols that link them to others who went before, the poets and novelists and playwrights who placed those founding blocks beneath them. And when you pick up the pen to write, consider how you too can contribute to the Tower.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Saga of the Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

“I am going to bake him a cake!”

This decision was reached with all the vim the inexperienced often have when setting forth into artistic territory hitherto unknown to them.

Not that I haven’t any experience baking. I’ve baked bazillions of pies, half of those since getting married (my husband is exceedingly fond of pie). I can make some extraordinary-looking scones (Mum says I haven’t the patience for proper-looking scones, but my little ‘scone explosions’ taste just as good as her perfectly round little things, so there!), and I’ve certainly mixed my fair share of muffin batter, lots of cookies, loaf cakes, fresh bread . . . in short, I know my way around the kitchen and am handy with a baker’s tools.

How hard can one cake be?

And it was such a beautiful recipe. The picture screamed, “Bake me! Bake me!” And the title was the last word in scrumptious: Lemon Poppy Seed with Raspberry Curd Filling. Mmmm.

Our “two months married” evening was coming around. I was planning an At Home Date, with a fine supper, complete with wine, and this most perfect of all desserts. This cake, indeed, was the key ingredient to a romantic evening.

Had I but known the turmoil awaiting . . . had some foreboding given pause to the impetuous speed with which I flung myself into the arms of Baking Woe . . . Would I have turned back? Would I have shirked the adventure, the chance for growth and character-betterment?

You bet I would have!

You see, I started the day with a writing session. Not a particularly intense one, of course. An intense day for me is upwards of 7,000 words, and I come to the end of one these days with all the romantic spark of a shell-shock victim. I knew better than to put in a full day, not with a home-date night in the works. Besides, I needed to be certain I left plenty of time for the cake. I only wrote a couple thousand words.

Just enough to leave me with half a brain.

But, seriously, how difficult can one cake be? Half a brain is plenty. It’s just combining the right ingredients at the right time and sticking them in a hot oven. Surely there’s a reason the expression is, “Piece of cake!”

I followed the instructions (I really did!) which said first to beat my five egg whites into their stiff white peaks. Whites beaten, I then moved on to stirring up the rest of my batter. Around this time, I remembered to turn on my oven and thought I might as well grease my cake pans while I’m at it . . . .

Except, I had no cake pans.

How can that be? In the recent combination of both of our well-stocked kitchens, how could be possible that not a single cake pan lurked in the cupboards? But the truth was what it was. No cake pans.

Piffle. Not a problem! After all, I have a deep dish pie plate, and that’s close enough, right? And why not use my 8x8” casserole dish for the other half? I’ll have a square bottom and a round top! A quirky little Frank Lloyd Wright cake, that’s what I would bake, and my Rohan would love it, being a quirky fellow himself.

This solution reached, I greased the pie plate and that casserole dish, and turned back to folding my beaten egg whites into the rest of my batter.

Only, the egg whites had separated and turned into pale slop in the bowl.

Oops. I pulled out my beater and tried to revive them to the lofty heights of foam they had once been . . . but to no avail. They were flat.

Oh, well. I had more eggs. A shame to waste any, but I’d be able use some of the yolks in the raspberry curd, so it wouldn’t be a total waste. I beat up five more egg whites until they were nice and foamy, folded them into my batter, poured the batter into the greased pie plate and casserole dish, and put them in the oven.

It was while I was cleaning up the bowl and measuring cups that I realized . . . every time the recipe had told me to use a 1 cup measure I had used a ½ cup.

I stared at the ½ cup measure in my hand, willing my eyes to be wrong. They weren’t. So the 1½ cups of sugar had only been ¾.


I peered at the cakes in the oven. They were rising. They looked edible. Well . . . perhaps it was best to leave well enough alone? After all, there’d be sweet in the raspberry curd, and the butter cream icing with lemon zest. No one would be the wiser, right?

Oh, yes. That raspberry curd . . .

The instructions said, once you’ve boiled down your raspberries, to strain out all the seeds. At this point, I was head-achy, wanting tea, and sick to death of all this nonsense. Besides, what is so wrong with a few raspberry seeds? They add crunch to life. So I left them in and stuck the whole into the refrigerator to thicken up a bit.

The cakes finished baking. I pulled them out, let them cool the appropriate amount of time, then tried to turn them onto plates. “Tried to” being the key phrase. I had greased that blasted pie plate and casserole dish. Hadn’t I? Hadn’t . . .

Maybe I hadn’t. However the case may be, those cakes did come out eventually . . . in stages. First this chunk then that. I pieced them back together, thinking grimly, “Frank Lloyd Wright after an earthquake cake.” I nibbled a piece of cake crumble.

Bleh. Definitely not enough sugar.

But that raspberry curd would certainly help everything, wouldn’t it? I’d just smear it between the layers—let it sink down into the fissures—and cover it all with butter cream icing! It would be glorious.

I spooned the thickened raspberry curd onto the first layer. It went, “Glop, glop, glop, gluuuuuub.”

Um. Yeah. It looked about like that too.

My jaw ached from teeth-grinding. I probably undid about two years’ worth of orthodontic efforts that afternoon.

“It’s fine,” I told myself. “Just put the next layer on and whip up that butter cream frosting.”

The second layer went on. Actually, it went, SPLAT!!!

And spurted raspberry curd like blood across my white kitchen floor and me.

It was a calm decision. Everything else had been hazy up until then, muddled in my mind, confused. That moment, everything crystallized. A future as certain and perfect as a swiftly-coming dawn. All other recourse was taken from me. Only one remained.

The Frank Lloyd Wright After the Earthquake Cake hit the trash can with a last, satisfying, “Gluuump!”

That’s when the phone rang.

Of course, it was my new mother-in-law.

AE (in hollow tones): “Hullo.”

MIL (cheerfully): “Hello, dear Anne Elisabeth! How are you today?”

AE: “I just tried to make a cake. I killed it.”

MIL: “Oh, no, it can’t be that bad. Surely you can save it?”

AE: “No.”

MIL: “Maybe cover it with a bit of frosting?”

AE: “No.”


AE: “I threw its remains in the garbage.”

MIL: “Oh, you shouldn’t do that! It’s a shame to waste so many good ingredients. You should turn it into a pudding.”

AE: “No.”

MIL: “It’s very simple.”

AE: “No.”

MIL: “All you have to do is steam it . . .”

AE: “No.”

MIL: “. . . and it will be the most lovely pudding!”

AE: “No.”

MIL: “But don’t you want to try to fix it?”

AE: “No.”


AE: “So how are you?”

Following that conversation with dear Mother-in-Law, I sent my husband a single text: My life is over. There is no cake. I can make no supper tonight.

He, long-suffering man that he is, wrote back: Shall I bring something home?

Our At Home Date night became a Take-Out Pizza Night in no time flat.

In the wake of this shame, I had very little courage left with which to face the Christmas season and all its baking. Nonetheless, I struggled through with a handful of baked goodies successfully served. But I did not rush out to buy cake pans . . . and I hid the wretched Lemon Poppy Seed Cake with Raspberry Curd Filling Recipe safely out of sight. On dark nights, I could feel it watching me.

Then, a month before my birthday, my husband made startling announcement: “You know that cake you tried to make for me a couple of months ago?”

AE: “Mmmrrhrrh?” (I can’t be coherent when it comes to that cake.)

Rohan: “I’m going to bake it for your birthday!”

AE: “_____”

Rohan: “Yes, I am.”

AE: “Bhhhh?”

Rohan: “So, if you’ll give me the recipe?”

AE: “Whhhh?”

Rohan: “No, I’ve never baked a cake before in my life. But it can’t be that hard!”

Here, I smiled.

Can’t be that hard? HA! Once upon a time, I too had been that naïve. Once upon a time, I too had laughed. Once upon a time . . .

. . . before the Lemon Poppy Seed Cake.

But I gave him the recipe. I gave it to him and laughed. He read it over in grave silence, his handsome brow drawn together in a stern line. Then he tucked it away.

I heard nothing more of it for some time. My birthday came, was celebrated with much pomp, and went. Still no cake. I began to wonder if he had forgotten his bold declaration of a month ago.

Then, two nights ago, my Rohan said, “The time has come,” and began to assemble his ingredients.

I could not bear to watch. Scoffer that I am, I do love the man rather a lot, and I couldn’t watch him suffer. So I curled up in the living room, finishing the last few chapters of Gone with the Wind. With half an ear, I listened to the clashes and clatters from the kitchen.

At one point, an earnest face peaked around the corner. “Sweetie, are you sure this is a two cup measure?”

I wrenched myself from Melanie’s agonizing death scene, my eyes shimmering. “Wh—what?”

“This?” He held up a yellow measuring cup. “Two cups?”

“Yes. I think so. Yes. Go away! Melly’s dying!”

“Oh, right.”

He ducked away again.

A few minutes later . . . .

“Sweetie? How do you know if your egg whites are stiff enough?”

I pulled myself from Scarlet and Rhett’s heart-rending parting, tears streaming down my cheeks.

Him: “Are you okay?”

AE: “No!” Sniff. “What do you need?”

Him: “Do these egg whites look okay?”

AE: “Yes!” Sniff. “Go away!”

He worked late into the night. At the end, he sent me to bed without a glimpse of his progress. The next day, Easter Sunday, he took me to church, speaking scarcely a word as to his progress. When we returned, he set to again with a will, mixing and stirring, laboring in silence.

At last, as the evening drew toward its end, he called to me.

Him: “Wanna come see?”

I entered the kitchen. I beheld.

The first bite was mine.

I must say, dust and ashes have never been so sweet!

So, all this to say, my husband is scarcely human. I mean, look at the way he prepared his weapons for the assault!

Oh, well. Human or not, I love him. And I love what he does with Lemon Poppy Seed with Raspberry Curd Filling cake!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Favorite Literary Couples

I am going to a wedding today, so in honor of Romance, I thought I would post a Top Ten list for my favorite literary couples!

1. Gen and Irene (Queen’s Thief series). I know they’re crazy . . . but crazy-awesome! Seriously, if you haven’t read this series, you should.

2. Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth (Persuasion). Communicate, people! Communicate! But, hey, when you don’t, it makes for some pretty amazing fiction . . . .

3. Beauty and Beast (Beauty). Sigh . . . he’s just so subtly romantic.

4. Howl and Sophie (Howl’s Moving Castle) “Life’s not worth living if I can’t be beautiful!” “Gah!”

5. Samuel Vimes and Lady Sybil (Guards! Guards!) Just so unexpectedly awwwww . . . .

6. Mau and Daphne (Nation) And I mean that in the sweetest, tearing-up sort of way.

7. Beatrice and Benedick (Much Ado About Nothing) When you think about it, how many literary couples have been inadvertently spawned by these two? I wonder . . . .

8. Mary Russell and Holmes (The Beekeeper’s Apprentice) Just so . . . interesting.

9. Irene and Curdie (The Princess and Curdie) So satisfactory!

10. Okay, okay, fine . . . Elizabeth and Darcy (Pride and Prejudice). I really do love them, but I get so tired of everybody gushing about them . . . especially when most people are talking about the movie couplings and not the actual literary characters! Who really, when you read Austen, are not as passionate, per se, as people seem to think they are. They’re much, much better!

Other couples in the running;

1. Scarlet and Rhett (Gone with the Wind). But they make each other so miserable by being so selfish, it’s hard to call them a favorite.

2. Bambi and Faline (Bambi) I’m talking about the book, not the film. Read that book over and over and over when I was little!

3. Redcrosse Knight and Una (St. George and the Dragon) Always loved them, but not sure I should count a picture-book couple, you know?

4. Phantom and Christine (Phantom of the Opera) Again, fascinating story in all its variations . . . but so eeeew at the same time, how can I make it a Top 10?

5. Romeo and Juliet (Romeo and Juliet) Except . . . not really. They’re classic, yes. But gosh, I just hated Romeo and really didn’t have much use for Juliet when she fell for him!

6. Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester (Jane Eyre) Love their chemistry . . . but Mr. Rochester really is too much of a jerk for me to fall in love with him myself. I like being able to fall in love with the hero right along with the heroine.

Okay, those are my picks. Who would be some of your favorites?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Review: Voyage of the Dawn Treader (film)

“This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”

The entire, joyful purpose of a Christian writer’s existence, summed up in one, profound sentence. O! C.S. Lewis, how I love you!

And that's where the similarities between the film and novel versions of Voyage of the Dawn Treader end.

I must say, I did not go into this film with any particular expectation of having a C.S. Lewis story performed upon the screen. After all, I did see what was done to Prince Caspian. Did anybody manage to dig up some similarity between Lewis's novel and that film? I didn't think so. Nevertheless, I managed to enjoy Prince Caspian as a disassociated, adventure/fantasy, summer flick, and that was fine. I expected about the same from Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Problem is, Dawn Treader was never written to be performed on screen. The pacing is episodic, the climax is not the stuff of movie magic. Dawn Treader is about a long voyage full of many, many discoveries, but the ultimate goal (beyond looking for the seven lords) was to sail to the “utter East,” to find Aslan's Country. These mariners are sailing for heaven in a gorgeous allegory fraught with peril and temptations!

The film turned it all into a Harry Potter wannabe, with seven swords substituting for seven horcruxes that must be gathered together to vanquish Voldemort/Scary-Green-CGI-Mist.

Oh, and Aslan’s Country? That turned into a, “Well, I suppose while we’re in the neighborhood, we might as well stop by” jaunt. Something to do as a breather after the real mission—stopping the Scary-Green-CGI-Mist—was accomplished by a bunch of glowing horcruxes stacked on top of each other.

I miss C.S. Lewis.

But, for the sake of cinema, I can understand why they tossed in this Overarching Villain for the characters do defeat. Movie-going audiences are obviously unable to grasp the drama and power of a “Voyage to Heaven,” so it’s best to make it simple for them. Give them a specific baddy to latch onto (because personal temptations and weakness aren’t all that bad, eh?), and everything will come out right. Especially if it’s Scary-Green-CGI-Mist.

Sarcasm aside, I really can see why they felt the need to do this, especially if their goal is to make money rather than to see Lewis’s genius performed on screen.

What I don’t understand is . . . what happened to their editors? I mean, did anyone in the universe see the point of sticking that (cute-as-a-button) little girl, Gael, into the story? Did she serve any purpose whatsoever? The reinventing of Rhince was bad enough, but if you must stick in Scary-Green-CGI-Mist baddies, sure, you’ve got to make it a more specific peril for someone. So give Rhince a wife and have her sacrificed to CGI terrors . . . but what’s with the almost dialog-less daughter? There were too many underdeveloped characters as it is!

I think the part that made me saddest, however, was the story of Eustace as the dragon.

Those of you who have read Heartless will recognize the strong parallels between Princess Una’s story and that of Eustace Scrubb. A similar transformation for similar (though not identical) reasons. By their own sin and selfishness, they both become the physical manifestation of what lies in their hearts. And, though both make the attempt, neither one is able to rescue themselves from this terrible form. Their only hope is grace . . . and even that grace is so painful that both shy away from it at first. But oh, how great and how beautiful is that grace when it tears through their foul form and releases them from the burden of themselves!

Love that story. Always loved C.S. Lewis’s short version of it in Dawn Treader . . . Thoroughly enjoyed writing a novel-length variation myself!

But the film, of course, modernized it.

The story of grace is almost there . . . Aslan does rescue Eustace in the end. But only after Eustace has proven himself a hero. Only after Eustace has suffered for the sake of his friends, fought the monster, risked his life . . . proven himself worthy!

Do you see the problem here? The modernized philosophy of grace? Oh, it makes me so sad! You see it everywhere in our modern literature/movies. For a character to be redeemed, that character must first earn his/her redemption. He must prove himself worthy in some profound way and then can be released/transformed/rewarded in return. It’s a give-and-get philosophy.

The true power of grace is lost.

When Lewis wrote it in his novel, Eustace did not have a heroic moment. Yes, he came to a point of realization . . . Through his awful transformation, he began to realize what he truly was and how he had behaved. We get to see him helping the others, desperate to make amends. He gives them fire, finds them a new mast for the ship, etc. But there’s no heroic moment for him. There’s no moment where he proves himself worthy of Aslan’s help. He is a dragon, and he cannot change himself, cannot atone for his own sin.

Yet Aslan comes to him anyway. And in one of the most beautiful scenes ever written, we hear Eustace tell the story of his rescue . . . of how he tried to tear off his own hide, but couldn’t. Of how Aslan had to do it for him. And it hurt! It hurt so badly! Grace, in the beginning, is such a painful gift. For true grace reveals to us how little we deserve it. The pain of our own worthlessness makes it almost unbearable . . . but unbearably beautiful at the same time!

Sigh. I miss C.S. Lewis. I miss his way with words. I miss his profound understanding and his wisdom in realizing that the most profound mysteries are often best expressed in stories for children.

And seriously, people. When your source material is a genius . . . why not use that genius’s words? Where was C.S. Lewis’s dialogue? Where were his clever phrases? I recognized one line. And yes, it was a beautiful line. The most beautiful line in the movie. But doesn’t that say something? Doesn’t that imply that Lewis should have been brought in just a tiny bit more?

All that to say, there are simply some novels that should not be turned into movies. I have many more thoughts on that subject, but will save them for a later post . . . .

P.S. I have no complaints about the casting, cinematography, gorgeous backdrops, props, and music. Georgie Henley and Skandar Keynes are so well cast, Ben Barnes is adorable in a not-too-perfect way for Caspian, and Will Poulter was a thoroughly obnoxious Eustace (though I have difficulty picturing him in a heroic role for The Silver Chair). There were plenty of lovely things to enjoy on the screen!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Glorious New Blog!

There are definite advantages to having a) a husband, and b) a husband who is sick at home. For you see, today my poor, sick husband, being bored with his lot as an invalid, decided to take upon himself the redesigning of my sadly-neglected little author blog.

Behold the result!

Is it not the most beautiful thing? Far beyond the wildest dreams of the technically illiterate! I am a huge fan of that man of mine.

Now, to better express my gratitude, I must away to make him a magnificent thank-you feast. Tonight's menu includes: Sundried Tomato and Olive Bread, Cheese-stuffed Manicotti in Meat Sauce, and a fresh green salad. I only hope it is adequate!

Stay tuned . . . I feel inspired to become a blogger once more!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Review: Gone with the Wind

Here I sit on a sunny Tuesday morning, eagerly experimenting to see whether or not my technical difficulties have indeed been resolved! My technical support is awesome. Just saying.

Everything is sleepiness around me. My technical support is home sick with a terrible cough, and the creatures are all curled up in various places across the house. Marmaduke went to the vet yesterday and still hasn't forgiven me for it. He's burying his face in his paws, refusing to acknowledge anyone but Rohan. Sigh . . . It really is for your own good, Marmaduke!

Okay, let me see if I can post some thoughts on Margaret Mitchell's famous masterpiece, Gone with the Wind. I am embarrassed that it has taken me this long to get to it!

I confess, I wasn't entirely certain what to expect when picking up this enormous volume. I've seen the movie, of course . . . an impressive piece of cinematography that really couldn't help but be enjoyable to watch when the cast includes Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, and Leslie Howard (dreamy sigh! But don't judge him on this film. Find his version of Pygmalion instead). But everyone knows that you should never, but never, judge a book by its film adaption!

Years ago, I gave Gone with the Wind a half-hearted attempt, but gave it up because I couldn't stand the character of Scarlet. It is so interesting approaching the book now after several years of literary training, one published novel, and a second one about to release. It definitely gives me a new perspective! Scarlet is, of course, a terribly annoying and even reprehensible character. She is vain and selfish, petty and rude, hypocritical and two-faced etc. It's enough to drive a reader up the wall!

But now as I read it, I recognize the genius of what Mitchell was doing with the character. She never intended Scarlet to likable. She intended her to be memorable. Who, after reading of her despairing love for Ashley, her confused hate/love for his wife, Melanie, her strange passion for Rhett Butler, and her heart-rending devotion to Tara, her father's plantation, can possibly forget Scarlet O'Hara? My word, is she flawed! My word, is she difficult to swallow sometimes! But she remains unforgettable.

Compare her for a moment with even such marvelous literary heroines as Jane Eyre, Elizabeth Bennet, etc. As much as I adore Jane and Elizabeth (in very different ways, for they are very different heroines as well), there is something about Scarlet that speaks to a deeper place in my heart. A secret place that I don't quite want to acknowledge. That quiet little corner of my mind that says, 'I could be just like her. Change my circumstances only slightly, and how am I any better?' Scarlet, for all she is an extreme, is also a universal. We relate to her even as we despise her . . . perhaps all the more so because we despise her.

And seriously, how can we help but admire her as well? With an admiration that we almost don't want to admit, because who wants to look up to a heart-breaker, a user, a liar, a manipulator? Of course, it's difficult to love her. Not like you can love Melanie, who is strong in her virtue and honest love. But Melanie, as lovable as she is, is not the universal character of Scarlet. We perhaps know Melanies in our own lives, but how many of us would dare to think that we are like her?

After writing a character like Princess Una from Heartless, I've developed a lot more understanding for authors who portray such flawed heroines (not that I would place Una in the same literary class as Scarlet! Heaven forbid!). I've received more than one harsh critique on that character, criticizing her weakness, her selfishness, her petty nature. All or which, are completely true about her! Sadly, many of these readers don't realize that, were she to be the strong and courageous type of heroine, then the whole plot of Heartless would be rendered pointless. And the fact is, a character with flaws as dominant as Princess Una's is much harder to forget. As much as we may despise her, we also see ourselves in her. We'd like to think, "No, I would never behave that way in that situation!" But the fact is, many of us would, have, and will again.

Anyway, I digress. So, halfway through reading Gone with the Wind, this is my opinion of Scarlet O'Hara: an unlikeable character, but so strongly drawn that, once you encounter her, you don't forget. They story is gripping and manages, despite it's incredible page count, to keep up a fantastic pace (due in large part to Mitchell's skillfully handled omniscient narrative). The characters are vivid, the imagery, superb, the depiction of that horrible period of history, breathtaking.

Note: It is painful to read Mitchell's harsh and ignorant portrayal of African Americans. She uses insensitive language and foolish portrayals of the characters (which isn't surprising, considering the time in which she was writing, but doesn't make it more palatable). And while I understand that not all of the slave owners were the evil and abusive monsters often portrayed in fiction these days, I don't think Mitchell presents a balanced picture of what life was actually like for those enslaved either.

Nonetheless, an interesting read so far! I suppose it's silly to post a review on a book I haven't finished yet, so don't count this as a review . . . merely thoughts on a read-in-progress.

And my mug of tea is empty. I think I'm going to fill it again . . . . Then time to get back into my current manuscript. I haven't so much as LOOKED at it for more than a week, and I scarcely remember where I left my poor characters. Someone was looking at some ancient and defaced tombs, someone was lost in an abandoned city, and someone else . . . but that I don't remember. Yes, time to pull up my poor, neglected little draft . . . .

Monday, April 18, 2011

Compete to Win an Autographed Copy of Heartless

Hello again! Sadly, still no progress on the "technical difficulty." It's tennis season, you understand, and my husband (a brilliant tennis player) is a little tied up at present. But once he has vanquished them all at tournament, he will help me figure out my little blog-issues.

In the meanwhile, you might like to jump over to my facebook fan page and compete to win an autographed copy of HEARTLESS. All you have to do is name all the literary or cinematic dragons you can think of! It's as simple as that.

Try it . . . you'll enjoy it!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Technically Illiterate . . . .

Forgive me, dear and patient readers. I have had every intention of posting more random thoughts and reviews (specifically on Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind, which I have been devouring lately). But I am having technical issues with this blog site which I have not yet been able to figure out. Time to call in the husband support! In the meanwhile, you might enjoy reading this interview: This was one of the most fun interviews I've had an opportunity to do! Hope you are amused by it.