Saturday, August 26, 2006

Movie Review - The Illusionist

The Illusionist is the perfect late summer movie. It's mellow and warm and golden-colored, like rich summer days turning overripe to autumn. It stars Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti, which is reason enough for anyone to see it. It's set in fin-de-siecle Vienna, which is reason enough for me to see it. And it's the kind of engrossing, classic fairy-tale like love story that all fans of romance would enjoy, which is reason enough for you to see it.

Edward Abramowitz was the son of a cabinet maker who began studying magic after a chance encounter with a traveling magician. As a teenager, he befriended Sophie von Tesschen, the daughter of a local nobleman. At their secret meetings, he would show her his magic and they would plot to run away together to the Orient. Then her family separates them.

Fifteen years later, Edward appears in Vienna as Eisenheim the Illusionist and takes the city by storm. Even Crown Prince Leopold attends one of his performances, at which he offers up his lovely almost-fiancee as Eisenheim's assistant. The woman in question is of course none other than Sophie.

After the lovers reunite, they begin a game in which they seek to be together, the Prince seeks to keep Sophie for his own and debunk Eisenheim's magic act, and the Prince's right hand man, Chief Inspector Uhl, seeks to untangle and increasingly complicated web of illusion, reality, love, politics and violence.

The cinematography is breathtaking. The director uses techniques from the early days of cinema, like irises and slow dissolves, to create a movie that's feels more like an artifact from 1900 than a mere period piece. The acting is uniformly good, with Norton's quiet intensity and Giamatti's slightly fussy, detached Inspector the two stand-outs. And the love story captivates like a fairy-tale -- it's heavy on mood, light on plot, and the characters are as familiar as archetypes from a legend.

The Illusionist is in limited release, but should be expanding to more theaters soon. If you get the chance to see it on the big screen, you'll be well rewarded.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Soul Maintenance

painting by Nicole Etienne

Before I launch into the heart of my post, I would like to apologize to all my fellow scribbling women that I haven’t been as present lately on your blogs. Alas, upon moving to Olympia I relinquished easy access to the Internet. I can’t hook up my townhouse until I get my first paycheck… and hurray for teachers, that doesn’t happen until the end of September!

In the mean time, I hope you’ll all excuse my somewhat erratic e-presence. Today I embark for a week-long stint of house-sitting for my aunt and uncle. I'll be at the house they built on the bay, with gorgeous hardwood floors and doors from antique European churches. I'll be sitting on the back porch, listening to music on their outdoor speakers, and drinking wine from their impressive collection.

I will also be writing.

Doesn't that sound like heaven? I'm excited to have such a lovely place to come home to, as next week I begin my professional development and, to tell the truth, I'm a little nervous. But this weekend is all about revising Revising Mr. Right. (My, that sounds awkward!) Not only will I finally be working on my novel again, but I'll be following the "routine maintenance schedule" as advised by Monica Wood in The Pocket Muse:

once a week: skip to the next part of what you're working on.

once a month: write all day without talking to anyone.

every three months: send something out for potential publication.

every six months: remove the detritus from your work space (sadly, yes, this includes the panapoly of useless file icons currently sprayed across your desktop).

once a year: take at least three days and give yourself a "Do Not Disturb" writerly vacation, wherein the creative muse stops only for eating and sleeping.

This is my once-a-year vacation for 2006... and unfortunately, the three days will be broken up by professional development for my day job. But this Saturday, Sunday, and Thursday I'll be writing, writing, writing... and wining and dining myself in high style, I might add!

It begs the question: how do you all take care of your inner writer?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Ticking Clock

After a week away in Sag Harbor, NY and Santa Fe, NM, I'm back home in New York and the days are ticking down:

2 weeks until I begin school
3 weeks until I begin sending queries to agents and entering contests.

I finally have all four of my author (and Kate D) inspected manuscripts back. And it's unanimous...all five of us agree that my ending sucks. So while consulting the OED to find out if the phrases I use are Regency-period appropriate, fixing typos, and cutting about 20 pages, I also have to rewrite a good portion of the ending so my characters don't behave in ways that were pulled out of my ass. Oh, and I changed Peter to a viscount from a duke and changed his brother-in-law's name from Geoffrey to Alfred, so now I'm going through looking for every instance of "duke" and "Geoffrey." And there are a lot of them.

In good news, I chose a new title, not one that was previously listed here. Then Comes Marriage.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Relocated... and soon to be scribbling

Since I’ve been whining about the horrors of moving, it seems only fair that I admit to the fact that I absolutely love my new home. Olympia, the small but intriguing port city of my youth, has reclaimed my affection along with my residency!

(Yes, I know this is a website devoted to Damned Scribbling Women… but forgive me! I’ve been so busy lately with baby showers, weddings, and moving that I haven’t had time to scribble. Or even, tragically, read romance novels. For now, all I can offer you is an Ode to Olympia.)

Being an hour south of Seattle means that I can get more for my money, and I must say I’m loving the apartment amenities. I haven’t had a dishwasher in two years, so having one now is lovely… and I’ve never enjoyed having a washer and dryer in my own home. Three cheers for that innovation! No more wandering down to the basement with a bag full of quarters and underwear, hoping no one else is already washing her knickers…

I’m also fully settled into my kitchen which, unlike my last kitchen, contains (a) storage space and (b) electrical outlets. I’m happy to report that, after a mere fortnight in residence, the spice cabinet has already taken on an alluring odor of marshmallows and cinnamon. Mmm… makes me want to bake…

In fact, I christened the oven with a blackberry pie. This baby was homemade from the crust on up—I even picked the blackberries myself, from a wild patch on the other side of my little patio. Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, I’ve been exceedingly spoiled in the berry arena. When I lived in New England, I hated buying berries at the grocery store. It seemed like cheating, somehow. But now I can get sticky, prickly purple fingers to my heart’s content… I’ll be making at least one more pie before the season’s over.

Three of my five items already listed, and (like Erica) I’m still focused on the proper care and feeding of my oh-so-spoiled stomach. I’m happy to report that I now live within walking distance of my favorite coffee roaster, Archibald Sisters, my favorite store on earth since approximately 1988. It’s not the random assortment of Curious George lunchboxes and statue of David magnet sets that attract me. No, those are fun, but it’s the perfumery in the back that’s held my attention for almost twenty years. I used to spend hours trying all of their different scents—much to my mother’s chagrin. Sadly, I am no stranger to the phrase “You smell like a whorehouse,” though these days I stick to the demure Peach Rose blend.

And there you have it. Reasons to enjoy my new location. Next time, I promise, I shall wax rhapsodic about something involving romance novels! But in the mean time... tell me five things you love about your home!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

An Unwholesome Love

I would like to apologize to our readers for my serious delay in posting anything remotely new and/or interesting on DSW. I would love to tell you that my lack of attention to blogging stems from the fact that I've been holed up in my office, frantically improving upon my first draft of Revising Mr. Right.

Sadly, this is not the case.

Instead, I've been enmeshed in that horror of horrors that some people in this country refer to as "moving." That's right. As befitting any hapless young renter, I moved out of my Seattle apartment on the last day of July. Of course, my apartment in Olympia was not yet habitable, and so I had the great fortune to place my belongings in my parents' garage for several days. On this past Sunday, we removed said items from the garage and made our second U-Haul trip to the Olympia townhouse.

Bonus: the new apartment has stairs.

Now, I do not consider myself a materialistic person. And it used to be that I could fit all of my belongings into the back of a Ford Sedan. (Ask Theresa; she was on that particular road trip.) And yet, upon this particular move, I realized that I've been compromised by an unwholesome love. A fetish, if you will.

My friends, I speak of my overwhelming obsession with books.

There were boxes of books. Bags of novels. Paperbacks squirreled away in suitcases (ostensibly) full of winter sweaters. As I pulled my collection from the various nooks and crannies into which it had been packed, I had to ask myself: do I truly need all of these books? They make a decorating statement, and they're quite delightful to have around, but oh, how I HATE moving them!

And so, I petition the DSW readers for advice. Specifically, I want to know how you all weed down your romance novel collection. Because right now, I've removed the sad paperbacks that should never be read again in my life. I've enshrined my favorites on a special shelf. And I'm left with piles upon piles of books that were good, but don't quite merit "favorite" status. I reread them occasionally, but not often... so do I keep them, or pack them off to the used bookstore?

For the love of my big brother's aching muscles, give me some advice: how do I winnow down my most beloved, bulky book collection?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Best of the Bridgertons

I started the final Bridgerton novel last night (and finished it, uh... last night) and I'm feeling nostalgic for the series. I heard from Kate that there was some disappointment over Gregory's story in the romance world, at least online, but I was nothing but satisfied. In fact, it's inspired me to do a little list-making of my favorite Bridgerton books, in order:

1. Romancing Mr. Bridgerton
Colin was my favorite hero and Penelope was my favorite heroine. I loved that they were writers, I love the "unrequited crush on the popular guy" plot, and I loved the resolution to the Lady Whistledown mystery. Still one of my favorite romances.

2. The Viscount Who Loved Me
I just re-read this last weekend, and enjoyed it just as much the fifth or sixth time. Quinn's humor is so sharp in this book, the conflict is light but still compelling and serious for the characters, and Anthony and Kate are so delightful as they squabble. Plus the pall mall scene!

3. The Duke and I
All of these first three books are very close together. This one is third mostly because I haven't read it as many times as the others. But Simon and Daphne are a lovely hero and heroine and Quinn sets up the rest of the Bridgerton clan (and her trademark humor) so beautifully with this book.

4. On the Way to the Wedding
Kind of surprising, I know, but I was impressed with what Quinn did with Gregory's character, and how sharp and fresh her writing still is eight books into the series. I liked the way she played with the trope of love at first sight. As someone who is prone to panic attacks myself, I could relate to Lucy's well-described but not over-emphasized anxiety problems. And aren't the nine children a perfect end to the series?

5. To Sir Phillip, With Love
I wasn't crazy about the plot or hero of this book, but I love Eloise, I loved the letters that started off each chapter, and I love the scene when the Bridgerton brothers confront Phillip about their sister's honor -- menacing but still so funny.

6 & 7. It's In His Kiss and An Offer From a Gentleman
This is a tough call. Both of these books were fine, okay romance, but I didn't sigh over them when I closed the book. I never was a big fan of Hyacinth, which could explain why her book left me rather cold, although I liked the importance of Lady Danbury to the plot. And the Benedict-Sophie take on the Cinderella story feels out of place in the series, though I enjoy it more in retrospect.

Which leaves:
8. When He Was Wicked
I admire what Quinn did with this series immeasurably, but with eight books, she was bound to have one dud, and this was it. So angsty, and that's just not where the charm of the series lies. I liked the hero, Michael, quite a bit actually, but I didn't enjoy Francesca, whom I found boring and mopey and rather incomprehensible. And to me, a bad heroine means a bad book, much more than a bad hero does. I suppose that explains why she barely appears in the rest of the series.

So no more Bridgertons. I'm quite excited for Quinn's new work, as a change in scenery so to speak will probably revitalize her writing. And as much as I'm opposed to it on principle, I won't be able to resist reading the "2nd Epilogues" for sale on her website.

So tell the DSW, which are your favorite Bridgerton books (you know you've got 'em).

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Rule of Four

As seen on Holly's page, as applicable to Kate D:

4 jobs I've had in my life:

(don't worry. My other category responses are much shorter!)

1. Beer Girl (Ostensibly driving a cart around a private golf course and serving beverages to the patrons while they teed off. Actually spent a lot of time hiding my cart in the bushes and picking blackberries into a 7-11 Big Gulp cup. Fabulous. What can I say? I was young. Carefree. And who could forget The Coworker Who Actually Looked Sexy in Raingear... le-sigh.)

2. Circulation Desk Assistant at
Orwig Music Library (Also fabulous. Work-study rocks. Spent three years working the quiet Sunday shift with a fantastic immediate superviser. Copious amounts of time to do my homework, check email, and surf the web for such weird treasures as fainting goat fan sites... hey, they exist. I'm not kidding.)

3. 5th grade teacher (Loved this. Did it through Americorps. One of the best experiences of my life... yet I seem to have a lot of those. I'm one lucky scribbling woman!)

4. barista (all I can say is: be kind to the latte guy or girl. Not only do we put up with your crap, but we deal with homeless people throwing sugar packets at us and coworkers who don't believe in cleaning the espresso machine. Oh, and $3 buys you a Smoothie, not a smoothie + the right to condescend to service employees.)

4 movies I would watch over and over:
1. 10 Things I Hate About You
2. Pride and Prejudice--Colin Firth version
3. Anne of Green Gables/Anne of Avonlea
4. Overboard

4 places I've lived:
Snoqualmie, WA (yes, of Twin Peaks fame)
2. Providence, RI
SeaGirt, NJ
4. North Attleboro, MA

4 TV shows I watch:
1. Grey's Anatomy
2. Real Time with Bill Maher
3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (mmm... Spike-a-licious...)
4. Road to Avonlea (yes, as you've noticed, I love cancelled shows)

4 places I've vacationed:
1. England
2. Ashland, Oregon (delightful
Shakespeare Festival)
3. Prince Edward Island (need I say more?)
Lake Chelan

4 websites I visit daily:
1. hotmail
2. all of the reader blogs listed in the DSW sidebar
4. (Okay, not daily, but very often!)

4 favorite foods:

(Just four? Too hard. So I'm going to get seasonal here and tell you my favorite summer foods.)

1. pink lemonade cookies
2. chicken jicama salad
3. salmon with orange-dijon glaze
4. Triscuits spread with Laughing Cow cheese and topped with Tomato Garlic Salad

and my alternate (because I love food, so I'm allowed to have an alternate...) Marscarpone Risotto with Peaches.

4 places I would rather be right now:
Cape Disappointment
2. at a bookstore cafe
3. in Europe... yep, basically anywhere in Europe
4. also, basically anywhere getting a backrub, facial, and/or scalp massage (ooh, and while I'm at it can I imagine my novel revisions and unit planning finished as well? Talk about relaxing!)

4 friends I think will respond with their own lists of four:
1. Erica, who believes that
E is for Eating
2. Miss Scarlett, the
3. Flitgirl, right here at Damned Scribbling Women
4. Renee, of
Yarns & Tall Tales fame

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Four Cheers For Kate D.

Because three are never enough.

Last night at 11:30 west coast time, Kate finished the last chapter of the first draft of her first complete novel, Revising Mr. Right. As the critique partner who has had the honor of accompanying her throughout the process, I can't say emphatically enough how proud I am of her and what a fantastic achievement this is. If half of success is showing up, then even more of success in writing is sticking with it when your characters morph into bizarro people and you feel like they're physically assaulting you.

So well done, Kate! Your fans salute you!