Posted in Movies, Uncategorized

A Blast from the Past – Wabbit Season

Way back in 2012, this was my spoiler-free review of The Dark Knight Rises. Looking back at it today, I realized it also perfectly expresses my feelings about The Avengers: Infinity War. Apologies to the faithful; love it all you like. But this is me. 

One of the things I did on vacation was see The Dark Knight Rises, the final dark chapter in Christopher Nolan’s dark Der Ring Des Batman-lungen trilogy.  One of the previews shown before it was for the Nolan-produced Man of Steel, aka Die Leiden des jungen Supermans, which looks, among other adjectives, quite dark.  So moved and inspired was I by this experience, my fangirl need for chaos, knowledge, and control seized me and forced me to psychically hack the hard drive of Nolan’s writing computer where I discovered his first notes for a new project:  Wabbit Season, a dark and hyper-realistic interpretation of another beloved and iconic fictional universe long revered in the collective subconscious of American pop culture.

Working Title:  Wabbit Season

Bugs Bunny:  Protagonist; small-time criminal, genius intelligence, incomplete arts education, anarchist, open transvestite, closet transsexual – Brooklyn accent, Irish descent – ties to IRA; good with bombs.  Casting notes:  Christian Bale currently preparing with carrots-only diet and plastic surgery to stretch ears.  Other possibilities if Bale unavailable and/or uninsurable due to starvation?  Will Smith?  Warner Brothers pushing Jim Carrey; too on-the-nose.

Daffy Duck:  Homicidal moralist – strong ties to Black Panther movement of the 1960s – 1960s setting?  Subtle lisp suggestive of homosexuality, self-loathing, love/hate/lust/kill fixation on Bugs.  Torture sequence involving bill.  Casting note:  take meeting with Chris Rock re:  possible dramatic vehicle.  Don Cheadle could also work.

Elmer J. Fudd, Millionaire:  Primary antagonist, industrialist, serial killer.  Owns a mansion and a yacht.  Childhood history of profound physical and sexual abuse, current addiction to whiffable drug designed by his own pharmaceutical company – turns red while under the influence.  Hunting enthusiast; obsessively drawn to Bugs in drag.  Casting note:  keep calling Tommy Lee Jones, restraining order be damned.

Secondary plotline to open the film involving dwarf mafioso Babyface Finster – Tom Cruise has expressed interest; only if he dances.  Prefer Peter Dinklage, would take Patton Oswalt if his sense of irony can be surgically suppressed.  Mel Gibson last resort.  Possible product placement deal with Huggies?

Other possible titles:  “Pronoun Trouble.”  “Despicable.”  “Hassenpfeffer.”  Trilogy?

 

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Posted in Book Reviews, Books, Uncategorized

When In Doubt, Read More Books

So exactly one month ago, I moaned extensively about how all art lately has been making me sad. (Read it here if you can stand it.) Since then I’ve been taking my favorite cure–reading fiction. I asked for a bunch of books for Christmas, and I’ve been burning through them, reading every night. And I’m pleased to say, they’ve made me feel a whole bunch better.

So here’s what I’ve finished since January 2, 2018:

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

I’ve loved this book since I was a teenager. I read it years before the movie came out. That first time, all I really engaged was the story inside the story, Westley and Buttercup. I read it again as a grad student and was all about the postmodern narrative and how the fantasy story reflects the story of Goldman the writer as a character–much equating of Buttercup and the starlet in the pool. Now as a middle-aged writer myself facing all those same doubts, that’s the story I see. And it’s still great. I wish he’d never bothered with all the Buttercup’s Baby stuff, but that’s not up to me. It’s an evolving story, and it’s completely his.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

It is precisely what it reads on the cover–a very readable retelling of the high points of Norse mythology from the guy who wrote Stardust and American Gods (and many many other awesome written things). These ancient stories are told with intelligence and a whimsically twisted humor that should feel very familiar to anybody steeped in contemporary pop, goth, and geek culture. But while the tone feels current, the scale of the stories is still epic; it’s not hipster-lite mythology. I’m no scholar of the great sagas, but I would bet he gets the details right–that’s certainly the way it feels. Because these are myths, the characters are archetypes, but they’re all very specific and well-drawn–I rarely found myself referring to the glossary of names at the back; I usually remembered everyone once they were mentioned. I can’t say I particularly identified with them or felt any great emotional connection to them, but I enjoyed their tales very much. I read the whole book in a weekend. I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in Norse culture, especially young readers. Yeah, there’s some crazy, perverted stuff that goes on, but it’s all told in a matter-of-fact, humorous style that should keep any interested middle-schooler from being scarred for life.

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

This one was so wrenching, I actually put it down halfway through, meaning to take a break from it, but I couldn’t. I ended up reading the second half straight through and ended up a soggy, emotional wreck–and a huge Jesmyn Ward fan. The best, truest, most heart-wrenching, most horrifying ghost story I’ve ever read. Deserving of all its awards, including last year’s National Book Award for best fiction book. But I was afraid I would have to spend the next month reading nothing stronger than Winnie the Pooh stories just to recover.

Leia, Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray

This was the first YA book I’ve read in a long time, and it’s a good one. Gray’s version of Leia at 16 is strong, smart, and winning while being both a realistic teenager and true to the character I know and love from the movies. And I was surprised by how exciting the plot was–this is no standard feisty princess tale; it’s a tense and well-paced Star Wars adventure. I would recommend it to young adults new to Leia’s story but also to older fans like me who have loved her since A New Hope.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

This is the easiest, most purely pleasurable reading experience I’ve had in quite a while, and I read a lot. The shorthand synopsis is that it’s a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, and it very much is. If you’re familiar with Austen’s famous novel, one of the pleasures of this book is seeing all the clever, twisty ways Sittenfeld has worked all the sparkling facets of the original into this new version. But even readers who have never touched eyes to Austen and wouldn’t on a bet will enjoy this story. Witty without ever being mean, hilarious without ever being stupid, and romantic without ever being schmaltzy, this is the modern woman’s romance for readers who loathe “chick lit.”

So that was my January. Right now I’m reading back and forth between The Briar King by Greg Keyes and Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff–two great tastes that so far taste great together. And I also proofread an extremely fab anthology as part of my editing gig that I look forward to telling you all about when it releases. In the meantime, go to the bookstore. It really, really helps.

Posted in Food Glorious Food, Uncategorized

Macaroni Pie

macaroni pie

Our family’s ultimate side dish, a baked mac & cheese casserole, insanely simple but insanely satisfying, too. My Grandmama Wylie taught the recipe to Mama when she and Daddy got married back in 1963, and Mama taught it to me when I was about eight years old. My sister, Sarah, has made refinements, and I put more cheese in than anybody else in the history of the recipe, endearing me for all time to Sarah’s daughter, my gorgeous niece, Katie. And I know all my aunts and cousins have their own versions—I would happily pile my plate with any of them. We make this at all occasions of import, especially holidays. (Once we establish who’s doing the turkey at Thanksgiving, the next order of business is the macaroni pie.) I’ve got one in the oven right now because it’s Labor Day and because this would have been Mama’s 76th birthday. We’re eating takeout chicken and birthday sheet cake and macaroni pie and missing her very, very much.

Ingredients:
1.5 pounds of macaroni, cooked al dente

1.5 pounds of sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

2 eggs

1.5 cups of milk (whole is best, but 2 percent works just fine)

Half a teaspoon of salt

Half a teaspoon of black pepper

A quarter teaspoon of cayenne pepper

About three tablespoons of butter, cut into eight small pats

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spray a big casserole dish with cooking spray.  Put in a layer of cooked macaroni. Cover with a thick layer of cheese. Put in another layer of macaroni, then another layer of cheese.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Pour it over the macaroni and cheese as evenly as possible. Scatter the dabs of butter over the top.  (I do mine like rolling two fives on a set of dice.)

Bake for 30-45 minutes until it’s cooked through and starting to brown on top. Let it stand for about five minutes to set, warding off with a wooden spoon any men or children who have smelled it from the living room and want to eat it NOW.

This also makes pretty good leftovers out of fridge – just cut off a brick and heat it in the microwave.

Posted in Book Reviews, Other People's Awesome, Uncategorized

A Review of Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings by Stephen O’Connor

In this meticulously researched and exquisitely deconstructed narrative, novelist and historian Stephen O’Connor views the life and work of the great American architect of personal liberty through the prism of his relationship with Sally Hemings, a woman he considered his rightful possession. This paradox strikes at the heart of our national identity, and while he doesn’t make it make sense, O’Connor does manage to define it in a way that seems plausible, empathetic, and almost but not quite complete.

The author fractures his story into a spectrum of different tales intertwined. A third person limited telling of the facts as we know them from the point of view of an intelligently-imagined Jefferson and a first person confession of identity and shame from Hemings are familiar devices of historical fiction done well. But what about the Jefferson who’s sitting in a contemporary movie theater with Dolly and James Madison, being driven mad by a lushly romantic biopic of his life and love for Sally? Or the Jefferson-like prisoner being tortured by a furious black female guard? Or the New York Jefferson on the subway pining for the Sally who’s ignoring him across the way? Or, strangest of all, the nameless narrator exploring a weird hellscape that seems to be the inside of a colossal Jefferson–the haunted house of the great man’s reputation? He finds another Jefferson and another Hemings here, two survivors of some unnamed apocalypse, clinging and traveling together.

I love this stuff–my favorite work in grad school was on the fractured narratives of writers like A.S. Byatt and Thomas Pynchon, and I’d rank this novel with the best of that style. It gets at a truth of Jefferson and, less successfully, of Hemings that no straightforward telling could.

But is it enough? As a work of literary art, I found this book really satisfying. As a story about people, not so much. O’Connor doesn’t solve the puzzle of Jefferson; that he can’t is kind of the point. But he does a great job of finding all the pieces.

Posted in Current events, Politics, Uncategorized

From Yesterday’s Congressional Record, or Holy Moley Mooley Moo

DISCLAIMER: While it is based on an unbiased report of actual events, this is not a news report; this is an editorial, spun shamelessly from my own point of view. I don’t feel the need to be “fair and balanced,” and I shouldn’t be read as such. The numbers don’t lie, but my interpretations are my own. I urge you with all my soul to read the raw data and come up with your own.

So in the interest of “real news,” I decided this morning to do a little independent research online about what US Congress did yesterday, February 1, 2017, a day when our country is in a squawking tizzy as much as it has ever been before, a day when we the people are looking to them with bated breath and wringing hands to either protect us from the crazies or protect the crazies from us, depending on our party affiliation. This stuff was not hard to find; you can go to C-Span and watch video of it and get a little abstract of everything they actually voted on, and you can go to the Congressional Record and get a transcript of everything that was said, plus all the documents that got put on the table. Online. Every day.

I’m from South Carolina, so I’m focusing on the legislators from here, but anybody from any state can see a breakdown of all the votes and see what their own people did.

So to start with the House of Representatives, the stomping ground of Jim Clyburn, Jeff Duncan, Trey Gowdy, Mick Mulvaney, Tom Rice, Mark Sanford, and Joe Wilson. They began with the “Morning hour,” where representatives got up and made speeches, some as long as an hour, some as short as one minute. There was much talky talk about the Muslim ban and President Trump’s policies in general—heartbreaking tales of stranded children and nasty remarks about Steve Bannon. Al Green from Texas got up and invoked the sacred spirit of Dr. King to bitch one more time about the Republicans holding up Merrick Garland’s appointment to the Supreme Court. Mr. Thompson from Pennsylvania talked about how sad he was that a guy named Scott Graves wasn’t going to be staff director for the House Agriculture Committee ‘cause he’s awesome and the committee’s awesome, and he was very, very sad. And Mr. Lipinski from Illinois got everybody up to speed on National Catholic Schools Week. And then they went to lunch.

After lunch, they prayed. They tried to approve the journal of the day before, but they didn’t have a quorum, which means all the people who voted later hadn’t gotten back from lunch yet. They said the Pledge of Allegiance. Then they had more short speeches for and against Trump policies (more for after lunch than there had been before—the Trumpians rise late, apparently), plus speeches about a North Carolina newspaper that’s just the bees knees and the new chancellor of the University of Tennessee.

Then they voted 231 to 191 to overturn an SEC regulation requiring drilling and mining companies to disclose payments to US and foreign governments. Let’s think about that for a second – they didn’t vote to say these companies could or could not give money to the US or foreign governments. They voted to say that WHEN these companies DO give money to the US or FOREIGN governments, THEY DON’T HAVE TO TELL ANYBODY ABOUT IT. How in East Hell could this POSSIBLY be in the best interests of the American people? (For their answer, I direct you to the convoluted debate in the Congressional Record, and if you can make sense of it, you’re a better woman than me.) And how did our brave men from South Carolina vote? Messrs. Duncan, Gowdy, Rice, Sanford and Wilson all voted for; Mr. Clyburn voted against; Mr. Mulvaney . . . . didn’t vote.

Then they voted 238 to 194 to get rid of former President Obama’s rule to protect streams and drinking water from coal mining waste. (Because apparently fish, ducks, and school children are all f*ckers who can fend for themselves.) Messrs. Duncan, Gowdy, Rice, and Wilson all voted for; Mr. Clyburn again voted against, and apparently Mr. Sanford has close friends in the fish and duck community because he crossed the aisle and voted nay, too. Mr. Mulvaney . . . . didn’t vote again.

In short, anything that places any kind of oversight or restriction on corporations making money is bad, bad, bad, no matter what evil it might prevent in practical terms for actual human beings. Business (every pun intended) as usual.

After all that boring stuff was done, they went back to savoring the sounds of their own voices for a bit, including a Moment of Silence for the victims of the Quebec terrorist attack. Then Speaker Paul Ryan (who skipped the morning session altogether) read out the new rules for the Homeland Security Committee, which included a neat little revision whereby TWO MEMBERS now constitutes a quorum on anything that the Constitution doesn’t specifically say it can’t. Two.  Two members can now vote on stuff on a committee for a shadow agency within the government which basically supersedes every other branch of our federal government, including any and all civil liberties promised by the Constitution. Two.

From what I could tell, these rules were accepted with no fuss at all.

Meanwhile, over at the Senate, home of Senator Lindsay Graham, who likes margaritas, and Senator Tim Scott, whose black life matters whether the Capitol security guards like it or not, it was all about cabinet confirmations. There was much talk about Betsy DeVos, but the only vote was the one that confirmed former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. And both of our men on the ground voted yes. Now I get that they’re both Republicans. But where’s all that pushback we’ve been hearing about from both of them against the President’s policies? I was as pleased as anybody to see Mr. Graham burn Trump on Twitter, good for him. But if he’s still going to vote to confirm a Secretary of State who will obviously place the interests of Big Oil at the tippy tippy top of his priority list in all foreign policy for the next four years, his Tweets mean precisely squat. And I am genuinely outraged that Senator Scott has had problems in the past getting access to the Senate floor. But now that he’s in there, I’d love to see him do something besides follow white privilege down the primrose path to America’s global ruin.

And where are the Democrats? Home, washing their tights?

We have to pay attention. Congress would love to blame every ill on Il Douche while they keep silent vigil over their own comfy nest. They want to slag him out in the world then silently turn away and let him do what he wants in the rooms where it counts so they don’t lose campaign funds and support for their own pet projects. We can’t let them play this game any more. We have to let them know we’re watching. We have the tools to thwart them as close as our own Facebook wall; it’s time we learned to use them. Don’t just accept my take on this one day; start checking for yourself. Because if we let things go on as they are, we’re screwed. And in our information age, ignorance is no excuse.

Posted in Uncategorized

Event: Our Books Are Not Free

How great does this sound? Melissa is an amazing author and editor, and it looks like she’s going to be part of a stellar line-up. If you’re looking for a good read or good talk about books, I highly recommend this one.

Melissa Writes

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am pleased to announce that I will be one of the guest authors at the online event, Our Books Are Not Free. It’s a multi-day event, so I hope that you will pop in from time to time to read about all the different and wonderful authors in attendance. My specific time slot is Sunday, February 12 at 9:30 a.m. I’d be delighted if you’d come by and give my posts some “like” love and comment.

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Here’s a link to the event: https://www.facebook.com/events/206705409792190/ 

And a little about the event, along with a schedule of authors who will be participating.

Over 100 authors
Not a single book will be given away
Not a single prize will be awarded
Just some fantastic authors
With great books
At reasonable prices
All times Eastern US

Sat 11 Feb
2PM Rose Montague (Intro & Pep talk)
2:30 PM Cait Ashwood

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Posted in Uncategorized

Author Seeking Complex Readers

My partner in crimes of romance writing has hit our favorite nail squarely on its hard, hard head:

The Southern Belle from Hell

adele

Greetings from the world of the living! It’s been a while, but I hope you’ve all been well. I’ve been writing my little heart out the last month trying to finish up my upcoming release from Little Red Hen Romance. It’s a charming little #Sherlock Holmes #mystery entitled “Chasing the Dragon.” It’s a bit longer than the regular LRH release, coming in at just under 30K. But the 30K are well worth it in my humble opinion. As I was talking to my editor about it this morning, we inevitably veered the conversation into that deep, dark pit– how to sell more books? It’s a question that is always on the minds of writers these days. Many of my colleagues have gone from selling enough books to make their car payment to barely selling enough to warrant a check. There are so many layers to this question that we…

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