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Articles on this Page
- 11/19/14--11:19: _Off the Shelf: Rach...
- 11/24/14--17:40: _Project Runway All ...
- 12/09/14--18:24: _Project Runway All ...
- 12/09/14--18:57: _Twelve Films of Chr...
- 12/15/14--13:46: _Project Runway All ...
- 12/29/14--17:24: _Briefly, Merrily...
- 01/12/15--21:39: _Project Runway All ...
- 01/19/15--22:09: _Project Runway All ...
- 01/29/15--17:32: _Project Runway All ...
- 02/05/15--21:39: _Project Runway All ...
- 02/09/15--19:04: _Notes on Jupiter As...
- 02/13/15--13:54: _A Table by the Wind...
- 02/21/15--00:44: _The Oscars Are Comi...
- 02/21/15--12:27: _Catchy is as Catchy...
- 03/26/15--15:11: _Writer's Corner: Th...
- 03/28/15--17:09: _The Pear Squares: A...
- 04/08/15--15:48: _Writer's Corner - W...
- 04/15/15--18:00: _Christian Fiction S...
- 04/21/15--17:03: _Reservations for Tw...
- 04/30/15--08:00: _Tales from the Gree...
- 11/19/14--11:19: Off the Shelf: Rachel McMillan & The Blue Castle
- 12/09/14--18:24: Project Runway All Stars: Designing for the Duchess (Episode 4.5)
- 12/09/14--18:57: Twelve Films of Christmas, Part I
- 12/15/14--13:46: Project Runway All Stars: Luck Be A Lady (Episode 4.6)
- 12/29/14--17:24: Briefly, Merrily...
- 01/19/15--22:09: Project Runway All Stars Recap 4.8: Les Poissons
- 01/29/15--17:32: Project Runway All Stars Episode 4.9 - The Ready to Wear Challenge
- 02/05/15--21:39: Project Runway All Stars Recap 4.10: Always the Bridesmaid
- 02/09/15--19:04: Notes on Jupiter Ascending
- 02/13/15--13:54: A Table by the Window - the gorgeous new cover!
- 02/21/15--00:44: The Oscars Are Coming, and Other Sundry Things
- 02/21/15--12:27: Catchy is as Catchy Does
- 03/26/15--15:11: Writer's Corner: The Hands-On Approach to Beating Writer's Block
- 03/28/15--17:09: The Pear Squares: A Story of Dealing With It
- 04/15/15--18:00: Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt: Stop #14 (Pink Team)
- 04/21/15--17:03: Reservations for Two Release Day Tiramisu!
- 04/30/15--08:00: Tales from the Greenroom: Six Minutes on Television
Confession: this might have been my favorite episode so far! Join us next time to find out if Justin has a break-out moment, if Sonjia picks another terrific fabric, or if Dmitry says something catty and delightful.
Also! Debra Messing is guest judging next week! Here's hoping she wears a scarf.
Poor Sarah, she's had a rough few years. I'm pretty sure she was paid for the appearance. I really think the studio's marketing team came footed the bill for quite a lot of this.
I think they just told the models to wear black. I would have enjoyed being party to that conversation, though.
Forgotten outwear money = best.
Eh, cropped peacoats were a thing, but I really do like the length, myself.
Out of all of them, I would have sent Gunnar home. But - nothing kills a PR career like confidence, so there you go.
A few weeks ago, Melissa Tagg and I decided to celebrate our love of Christmas and movies by putting together a blog event combining the two! The idea grew until it became what you're about to read - twelve authors talking about their favorite movies, split into two blogs, and giving away a total of twelve books.
This week, we'll hear from Allison Pittman, Becky Wade, Katherine Reay, Kristin Billerbeck, Kristy Cambron, and Melissa Tagg!
Remember the Night with Allison Pittman
Meet Me in St. Louis with Kristy Cambron
This should tell you how much I love — nay, adore — the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. It is nostalgic and sentimental and tear-jerking, all things a good holiday movie should be. But it’s also poignant. The moment when Jimmy Stewart finds Zuzu’s petals in his pocket and realizes his mouth’s bleeding…it’s jubilant perfection. When he runs through town yelling, “Merry Christmas, Bedford Falls…Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan!” my heart is celebrating along with him.
Plus, Donna Reed is from Iowa. And that’s happy.
All For a Sister ~ Meant to Be Mine ~ Lizzy & Jane|
What a Girl Needs ~The Butterfly and the Violin ~ Here to Stay
Each of today's authors are contributing a book to the giveaway! And as much fun as giveaways are, you know what's also fun? Supporting authors! Each one of the books would make great reading for a Christmas getaway or an ideal Christmas gift. And for the next six, check in next week with Melissa Tagg!
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Fabio is first to roll because he was last week’s challenge winner. Fabio gets Denim Masquerade Ball.
I felt bad for Helen - Zanna encouraged that front slit and it totally backfired.
Also - the Twelve Films of Christmas event is still going on! Don't miss reading about Allison's favorite Christmas film here on this blog, and mine on Melissa Tagg's, and then enter the contests to win books!
Hope everyone had a lovely Christmas! Regularly scheduled blogging will resume next week - this week Danny is off for the holidays and I'm joining him. It's been a very busy holiday season with a flurry of food, family, and travel, so we're taking a few days to rest up before jumping back into the fray.
In the meantime, I'm pleased to announce that Contest Entrant Tracey Culley has won the 12 Films of Christmas Book Giveaway! Many thanks to everyone for participating, so delighted by the huge response.
Love and blessings!
Dmitry is immediately inspired by the sea horse. The shape and the scales, and the whole body made of geometrical scales with a very complicated patterns. Not unlike the man himself.
Readers: What did you think? Would you have used a Tim Gunn save for Justin?
I think Fabio's stuff - I think Isaac is right. I think Fabio can exist too much in his own headspace sometimes for his work to feel necessary to others.
The Judges Hate:
1. It's better than Underworld: Awakenings, which was the measuring stick I armed myself with when we entered the theater.
2. It looks great - the art direction, even when it's crazy, is top-notch, and there's some real imagination here. The best part of the movie is the bureaucratic wrangling necessary for Jupiter (Mila Kunis) to claim her inheritance. It's like Gringotts on steroids.
3. Some of the costuming is really lovely (though some of the accessories look like they came from the formal section at Claire's).
4. Channing Tatum is fully committed to his role as a genetically modified part-wolf mercenary. He's all in, bless him.
|Channing Tatum w/ ear prosthetics and guyliner|
5. Sean Bean. His character doesn't die, you guys! How great is that?
6. The sweet peas outside of Sean Bean's home - a witty (rather than head-bashing) nod to the central theme.
The not so great:
1. The studio bumped the release date back to winter for re-editing, and while the film usually makes narrative sense, the second half in particular is a celebration of awkward editing.
2. EXPOSITION. It's sci-fi, I know. There's a lot of universe building to accomplish, I get it. But so much of the dialogue is telling us, without any sleight-of-hand, how the universe works and who the characters are. Sean Bean, in particular, is "the guy who explains Caine the Wolf Hybrid," both to Jupiter and to Caine himself.
3. Eddie Redmayne's...everything. Eddie's a great actor, but the "too evil to speak above a rasp" shtick felt like twenty flourishes too much. When he yelled, I laughed. I don't think that's the effect he was going for.
The unintentionally funny:
1. There's a freeze-frame scene in which Eddie Redmayne's character is analyzing how his plot could have been foiled, and the way that tableau is arranged is HILARIOUS. Expect memes.
2. Sean Bean's "follow your heart" speech.
3. Basically anything having to do with the "romance." (There is no chemistry between the leads. Nada. And the "romantic" dialogue is, um, not.)
4. The creature costumes, particularly the bird-people and the elephant-esque ship navigator.
5. Mila Kunis' black dinner dress, which looks concerningly like an homage to Natalie Portman's black dress in Star Wars Episode II.
|Because that's what you wear to dinner with your genetic son.|
The forehead slapping:
1. Jupiter: for the central and titular character, she's given very little to do and no skills with which to accomplish her tasks. She doesn't ascend so much as drift upward. Channing Tatum has to rescue her a lot, twice to keep her from signing things. She cannot help herself. At one point she rattles off some tax code cleverly, which might have worked better if we'd seen her at least reading said tax code.
I've written about active characters before: one of the key components of an active character is an element of the extraordinary. A superpower. Now, it doesn't have to be a literal superpower, but it does have to be a way for that character to be able to uniquely contribute.
The Wachowskis give us nothing, aside from Jupiter's affinity with bees. The bees might have been enough if they'd been available in space, but alas. She has no special courage, wit, smarts, or skills to contribute. She's soft-hearted and naive, in a way that puts her (and the universe) in danger more often than not.
2. Also, she's not allowed to kill. If you don't want any spoilers, skip past to the next bold text. In recent media, we've seen previously non-violent protagonists such as Sherlock (in the BBC take) and Superman (in Man of Steel) kill their antagonists for the greater good. The antagonists pose a real threat to their loved ones and the world as a whole, and rather than leave it to others (or an unfortunate meeting with gravity) to right the wrong, the protagonists kill the antagonists.
But when Jupiter is faced with the opportunity to kill Balem Abraxas (Eddie Redmayne), he laughs and tells her she's just like his mother and won't be able to do it. So she shoots him in the foot instead, and runs away. However, she runs, and he chases, and it's another five minutes of action sequence. Eddie attacks her again, naturally, and she barely escapes while he falls to his death like a Disney villain. (She's saved by Channing Tatum, shortly after. Again.) Is it because she's female? Kristen Stewart managed to dispatch Charlize Theron's evil queen in Snow White and the Huntsman. Katniss wouldn't have blinked. Heck, Trinity wouldn't have blinked. Don't get me wrong - I'm not against women being saved. But when it comes to the central plot, we need to see the protagonist defeat the antagonist herself, regardless of gender.
3. All that said, the film's gender politics are concerning. The most chilling moment, for me, was the sequence at the fertility clinic. To have a scene with a woman preyed upon while on a hospital bed, under anesthesia, feet in stirrups, anticipating an already über-personal procedure such as egg extraction - it felt extremely tone-deaf. I've yet to see a movie in which a hero is attacked while undergoing a prostate exam, much less a sperm extraction.
I understand that the idea behind the egg-harvesting was yet another repeat of the genetics motif, but it didn't need to come at that expense. Being female is complicated enough.
Add the fact that title character, the one who's supposed to be ascending, has no skills and cannot actively contribute, and when she does try to do things, she must be saved from herself - we should be beyond this.
And in the end - I'll let you see that for yourself. Let's just say that I have questions about the aforementioned ascension.
Final Verdict: If you need a night out at the movies, you could do worse. Good on the Wachowksis for attempting something original and interesting, even if it didn't succeed. We had fun, I was glad we saw it.
However, while the film technically passes the Bechtel test, I'm still troubled by the film's treatment of the female lead. When we've got theaters full of Mockingjays and ice queens, astronauts and code-breakers, a queen of the universe should feel more transcendent.
What about you? What did you think about the movie? And if not, what films are you excited about instead?
In the words of Liz Lemon, I want to go to there. I want to step inside and read a book, paint a canvas, camp out forever in that cover (I'm sure there's room service). I want to take Danny and have a twirl on that cover, and then eat a croissant. With jam.
Read more about the book and pre-ordering options (truly, if you love an author, pre-order her books), as well as the Reservations for Two Pinterest board here!
|Shiloh, snoozing against my computer.|
I mean...there are worse things, because it's a legitimately good song. But since she's suffering, you know, I'm offering up some likewise solid yet ear-worm-y songs -
1. Let Me Be Your Star - the song that convinced us to watch Smash for entirely too long -
3. Defying Gravity - the ultimate singing-in-the-shower song.
6. I Want You Back - as choreographed by Baby Groot.
Yeah, him. He was on the table. On the table, EATING THE PEAR CAKE.
While he's loosely explored the idea of climbing the table before, this was the first time that he made the full journey and had a snack in the process. I'm still horrified.
Within that short period of time, he cleaned up about half of the cake. And I had guests coming.
So what did I do?
I cut off the nibbled edges and cut the remainder into squares, sifting fresh sugar over the top. And yes, I did explain the fiasco to my guests, explaining that there was no pressure to partake. I served it with some white wine, and we carried on.
(For those of you who may feel concerned about such things, Shiloh seems not to have suffered any ill effects from his cake binge.)
So the moral of the story is that sometimes things don't go as planned, and sometimes things really don't go as planned. But if you carry on, you can share pear squares with friends - and that's a good thing.
I get it. I do. But there are two reasons why being able to write one easily will really benefit you.
First - synopses are a reality of the publishing industry. If you're pitching a book to an agent, to an editor, they all want to see a synopsis. And with good reason, obviously - it's faster to read a synopsis than an entire book.
And second, a synopsis is a very useful tool for getting from beginning to end. A lot can happen in 85,000-95,000 words, and it can be easy to lose your way. A synopsis is a road map, a planning tool to work out plot kinks before you're in 60,000 words and realize you've lost your way.
Writing a synopsis can be difficult for many fiction writers. It's basically the opposite of writing a book. But if you break it down into three steps and shift you're writing perspective, it's very, very approachable.
1. Make a timeline. I take a sheet of 11x17" paper and create a timeline with three-act structure in mind. It's okay for this to be messy, with thought bubbles connected to the timeline with long pencil marks.
And do use a pencil, because this is a rough, rough stage.
2. Make a bulleted list of plot points. This is simple - in a document, transcribe the plot points on the paper, filling in any blank spots. This is just a list. For your personal use, you could probably just stop here. But for a proposal synopsis, the next stop is to connect everything together.
3. Write the synopsis. Stay with me on this one.
Tip 1. Tell, don't Show. For instance, if you're writing a book you'd say -
"Penelope held the potted rosebush in the crook of her arm, stroking a soft bloom with her fingertips. Her heart squeezed. It wasn't supposed to be this way. The house had been in the family for generations. It had survived war, flood, and a pernicious case of mold.
But it couldn't survive her brother's financial decisions. After three hundred years, the legacy ended with a bad investment made by Bernie Seymour-Weston.
The furniture had sold, the artwork too. All she had left of the house was a cutting from her great-grandmother's rosebush."
And in a synopsis, you'd say -
"After her brother loses the family estate, Penelope has nothing but a rosebush to her name."
Tip 2: Lean into the verbs and keep the sentences simple. Protagonist does this, later protagonist goes there. Protagonist feels hurt, protagonist decides to become a garden consultant. A week later, Protagonist travels to Upper Winbaugh to an estate willing to hire her - and so on.
Tip 3: Look at is as a series of actions and reactions. In the Writer's Block blog, I talk about how a book is a series of chemical reactions. So look at the synopsis as a way to write out the actions and the subsequent reactions.
Tip 4: Don't overthink it. If there's ever a time to not self-edit, it's synopsis writing. Take a deep breath and dive in, relaxing into the style.
Tip 5: Practice. When I was pitching the Two Blue Doors series, I had 25 or so versions of the proposal - that's how many times I wrote and rewrote and pitched and re-pitched the concept. And after that? Tossing out a synopsis feels much more natural. So even if it still feels tricky, keep at it. It's the writing equivalent of riding a bike.
If you're just joining us, there are two loops—pink and purple—and they begin at Lisa Bergren's site and Robin Hatcher's site for stop #1 for either stream. If you complete either the pink loop or purple loop, you can enter for a Kindle paperwhite and the 17 autographed books from that loop. If you complete both loops, you can enter for the Grand Prize of a Kindle Fire HDX and all 34 autographed books.
Please be sure to keep track of the clues at the bottom of every post in the loop and the favorite number mentioned. You'll need those clues to enter for the loop prize and every number mentioned in order to enter for the grand prize.
(Also, please don't use Internet Explorer to navigate through the loops. Some web sites won't show up using IE. Chrome or Firefox are recommended.)
Hillary here - welcome to stop #14, Pink Loop, of the Great Scavenger Hunt of 2015! If you're just popping in, do start at stop #1 for the full dish.
I'm delighted to be hosting my friend here today, the delightful Katie Ganshert. Katie writes with great sensitivity and lyricism on a number of topics, infertility included. Read on to find out how her own journey inspired her latest release, The Art of Losing Yourself, releasing April 21st.
Secret Word: your
Secret Number: 7, because Danny and I married on 7/7/07 (Yeah, we were one of those).
Next Stop: Katie's hosting Stop #15! Click here to continue. And if you're turned around, a complete list of the stops with links will be on Robin Hatcher's website.
Before You Go:
You can find ordering information for The Art of Losing Yourself here, as well as the first chapter.
Reflections on my own journey with infertility can be found here and here.
Also, you can enter to win a copy of my latest - and not yet released - title, Reservations for Two below. Thanks for stopping by, enjoy the rest of the Scavenger Hunt!
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It's been such a wonderful release day! Reservations for Two is officially out in the world (see purchasing options here). I got to swing by a nearby Barnes & Nobel location (our closest bookstore) and see copies on the shelf! So wonderful.
It's been a busy few few days - yesterday I appeared on our local morning television show, AM Northwest, and did a short cooking demo.
I'll post more fully about that experience tomorrow, but until then you can see the clip of me cooking and putting-together-sentence-doing here.
But back to Reservations for Two - it's officially out and about in the world, and to celebrate, I'm sharing the Home-style Tiramisu that Juliette enjoys during a visit to family in Tuscany.
The standard Italian version uses very fresh, un-cooked eggs for the custard. Because the eggs are raw, just take the same precautions you'd take when buying or preparing sushi - organic eggs are recommended; farm-fresh eggs are ideal if you can get your hands on them. The filling also relies on creamy mascarpone cheese, the Italian take on cream cheese. Look for it near the ricotta in well-stocked grocery stores.
2 ½ cups mascarpone
6 very fresh eggs
20–22 savoiardi or crisp ladyfinger cookies
1 ½ cups brewed coffee or espresso
1/2 cup sugar
½ ounce shaved dark chocolate (optional)
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
Wash the eggs with soap and water before cracking. Separate egg whites into one mixing bowl and yolks into another.
Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add most of the sugar and beat until egg whites are glossy, about another fifteen to thirty seconds.
Beat egg yolks until pale and creamy. Add mascarpone and remaining sugar and beat until well incor-porated. Grate dark chocolate over mascarpone mixture, if using.
Fold the egg whites into the mascarpone mixture, folding gently until fully incorporated.
Dip the unsugared half of the cookies into the coffee and then place them snugly against each other until the bottom is covered, about ten or eleven cookies. If necessary, break cookies in half to fit.
Spread half of the custard mixture over the cookies, and repeat with a second layer of coffee-dipped cookies, followed by the last of the custard.
Cover and refrigerate for 1–2 hours. One hour leaves the cookies a little structured still, while two hours gives a fully softened cookie. Sift cocoa powder over the top.
Keep cake chilled.
(Note: when I made this yesterday, I made it with jumbo-sized eggs. And while they were delicious, it turned into a bit of a space issue -
But never fear! If you wind up with extra cream, simply set it aside and enjoy it with some fresh fruit. And if you have jumbo-eggs in your fridge, consider decreasing it to just five eggs.)
Quite a lot of work can go into six minutes of TV.
I heard from my publicist on March 4th that I'd gotten a slot on AM Northwest, which is the local Portland morning show, aired on the ABC affiliate station. "That's going to be rough for you," Danny said when I told him about it. "You're going to have to be up early."
My publicist and I went back and forth discussing recipes - because I had a six-minute slot, I decided to play it safe and make the cherry crostini that first debuted on this blog. The one complication? No fresh cherries. I prayed for weeks that the grocery stores would have some early cherries in stock, flown in from somewhere in Argentina.
|Last summer's crostini|
Which meant having two more recipes prepped - I made the frittata and cornbread the night before to make sure they were as fresh as possible.
Which wound up meaning that I was up until after midnight.
And I got up at 5:15 - the last thing I wanted was to be late, and we had a drive across town during rush hour ahead of us. My mom had arrived the night before, and the three of us packed up all of the food and equipment.
I was the first guest to arrive, which worked out great because I had the greenroom to myself. Not knowing what else to do, I started plating the food and getting things ready - I had no idea when I'd go on, so I wanted to be prepared. I plated up the frittata and peach cornbread in the makeup room and then moved it to the coffee table.
...Which the first guest, actor Peter Coyote saw. Not that I had any clue who he was, he was just the guy who walked in and said, "That looks good, is that for us?"
Dear Reader, I chased him away. I didn't care who he might be - I wasn't about to have a "Oh, the girls got thirsty backstage"Miss Congeniality water glasses moment.
Shortly after, one of the backstage assistants took me back to where they stored the kitchen counter - it was on casters, so I could set everything up and it would be rolled to the set when they were ready for my demo. Once I was ready, with my thawed frozen cherries (Argentina had nothing for me) all nice and drained with paper towels, I sat back down on the couch with Danny and my mom and waited.
What's great about the greenroom for a local morning TV show is that you're hanging out with everybody else who's presenting - and it's an eclectic bunch. I didn't see Peter after the food incident, but there were extra-glossy cast members from the Portland Opera's production of Show Boat, and Donald Olson, who's the author of The Pacific Northwest Garden Tourand an all-around delight.
There was chatting to be had, but not unlike a horror film, people left to go on set and did not return. Soon enough, it was my turn to go and be fitted for a sound pack (which handily clipped into the back of my belt) and have a microphone clipped to my cardigan (which would be moved, for reasons I can only imagine, were Lina Lamont-ish).
I attempted to turn on the oven, but whether it turned on or not remains a mystery. And after getting into position - we were on!
It's a blur. And I haven't quiiiiiite been able to get myself to watch the clip for myself, but you can watch it all happen here.
So no, the bread wasn't toasted. But I SWEAR TO YOU that if you make them at home, the bread will be ready for you by the time you throw the rest of the ingredients together (unless you're pitting cherries - and then by all means pit the cherries first).
But overall, it was a lot of fun, - I had this moment about half way through, where I thought, "hey, this does not suck. It's going okay. It's all going to be fine." And I'd love to do it again when the third book releases.
So that's the full story! What was the most fun was getting to chat with the crew members and production staff. Everyone was super nice, and one gal came and found me after to ask about details for the peach cornbread, so that she could make it for the station's potluck. Stuff like that makes me happy.
What about you? In what ways have you been challenged and discovered what you're capable of doing?