Friday, February 12, 2016

FRIDAY FIVE: Romantic Movies

I'm not a particularly romantic person, but I can appreciate romance in fiction, and in honor of the upcoming holiday, here are five of my favorite romantic films.

The Young Victoria
This is one of my favorite movies of all time, not just romances. Written by Downton Abbey's Julian Fellowes, this historical drama focuses on the early life of Queen Victoria, most notably her romance with her husband, Albert. Though the relationship starts out rather rocky, it soon blossoms into something lovely.

The Decoy Bride
My sister and I used to watch a ton of rom-coms in the late '90s and early '00s. Revisiting those can be hit or miss, so when I found this gem on Netflix a couple years ago, I was utterly delighted. When writer James Arber and his actress fiancee Lara Tyler venture to the remote Scottish island of Hegg to get married away from the prying eyes of paparazzi, James winds up accidentally marrying Hegg native Katie, who longs for a more exciting life than the island can offer. It's on the quirky side of rom-coms, but definitely worth the watch.

She's the Man
Is there anything greater than modern adaptations of Shakespeare (or Jane Austen)? Probably not. This is a high-school update of Twelfth Night, in which Viola's high school cuts the girls' soccer program, so she decides to impersonate her brother at his new private school just long enough to kick her ex-boyfriend's butt in their rival soccer match. And because this is Shakespeare, complications ensue. Viola falls for her roommate, Duke, who is in love with Olivia, who is crushing on Viola-as-Sebastian. It's kooky at times, but ultimately charming.

Sweet Land
This movie is so underrated. It's the story of Olaf, a Norwegian immigrant farmer in post-WWII America whose parents send him a bride named Inge. The only problem is she's German and hardly speaks any English. When there are complications in getting a marriage certificate, tension arises in the community over Inge's background. Like its title, this is a sweet story about love overcoming barriers.

North and South
What list of romantic movies would be complete without a Victorian novel? When Margaret Hale's minister father faces a crisis of conscience, he moves the family north to the industrial town of Milton. There, Margaret meets John Thornton, a mill owner. The two clash over their different ways of life, but it's soon apparent that they bring out the best in each other. It has shades of the central conflict in Pride and Prejudice, but Elizabeth Gaskell takes time to focus on the secondary conflict between mill owners and workers, lending a larger scope to the story.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

What I'm Listening To: February '16

In the car: The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Carrie Ryan
Goodreads Synopsis: In Mary's world there are simple truths. The Sisterhood always knows best. The Guardians will protect and serve. The Unconsecrated will never relent. And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth. But, slowly, Mary’s truths are failing her. She’s learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and her future—between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded by so much death?

For fun: Confident, Demi Lovato
Favorite track: "Lionheart"

What can I say? I'm a sucker for catchy pop songs.

While writing: Star Wars: The Force Awakens, John Williams
Favorite track: "Rey's Theme"

I've loved John Williams for about as long as I've loved Star Wars, so it's always a pleasure when he releases a new score.

Friday, February 5, 2016


Writing can be a lonely business. You spend a lot of time in your own head, and sometimes it's hard to climb back out. And if you zoom in too close on your story, stepping away can help you see the entire forest again so you can find your way out. With that in mind, here are a few things I like to do when I don't seem to be making any progress and need a break from writing.

Build Something
I like model rockets a lot. I usually lose them, which is why I have to build so many, They have easy snap-together models or more time-consuming ones that require a little wood glue and patience. I've also recently discovered Metal Earth models, which are DIY steel sheet models. Everything's pre-cut, but you have to put it all together. I'm working on a steam locomotive model, and I have a TIE fighter waiting in the wings.

Take Myself on a Date
The solitude of writing isn't a problem for me. It's that I need to get out of the chair so I can let ideas percolate or just open my mind to new things. Some of my favorite places to take myself are: the local cafe, the park, the museum, or the movies. Getting out of the house is nice, but it also provides an opportunity to people watch for character traits or story ideas.

Revisit an Old Favorite
I usually watch TV while doing something else: making dinner, writing letters, knitting. So sometimes it's nice to be able to give my full attention to a movie or show I know I love. Or I take thirty minutes out of the day to reread one of my favorite books, just enough to remind myself why I love storytelling.

Go For a Long Walk
Any sort of exercise is helpful because it gets my blood and my creative juices pumping, but this is my favorite method. Not only does my dog get exercise, but it gives me an hour or two of freedom to think about the kinks in my story. Or to not think about my story at all. Sometimes the best ideaspop up when I'm focusing on something else entirely.

Find My Calm Center
Adult coloring books are all the rage now. I got a few for Christmas, and I have some "children's" coloring books, too. It really does calm me for the same reason building models does--my hands can be occupied without a ton of stress on my mind. Yoga, too, is a good way for me to de-stress, although I should practice it more often.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


I've been a fan of the Star Wars saga since I was eight years old. The Phantom Menace came out when I was 11, and I spent the next six years waiting for the rest of the trilogy and dragging my friends to midnight showings. But even though the storytelling captured my imagination, one thing was always missing: a central female Jedi.

Princess Leia is a fantastic character. She's smart and brash and loves the Republic, and she lets her anger simmer beneath the surface and drive her. She's important, but Luke is the one who saves the day. In the prequels, Padme has less of a presence than her daughter but nevertheless still plays a significant role in the creation of what would become the Rebel Alliance. I love both their characters, both trilogies are very male driven.

Although I'll be a lifelong fan of the saga and will defend the prequels with my last breath, in the weeks leading up to the new movie, I wasn't all that thrilled about The Force Awakens. I fell for the marketing trap and thought Finn would end up being a Jedi. While that would have been cool, too, in a different way, I couldn't help but feel like the message being sent was: girls can't be Jedis; girls can't be protagonists; girls can't, girls can't, girls can't. So, when I sat in that theater on December 18th and watched as a new episode unfolded before my eyes, I felt my apathy slipping away. I cared about Rey. I cared about her and wanted her to succeed and kind of wanted to be her best friend, too.

Rey is unusual for a movie heroine, but especially for one in a blockbuster, in arguably the biggest franchise of all time. She's strong, able to look after herself after living alone as a scavenger for the majority of her life. When she gets attacked in Niima outpost, she fights off her attackers with her trusty quarterstaff. But being able to take care of herself doesn't mean she has to be unemotional. She's clearly taken aback when Finn asks, multiple times, if she's all right, and she wears her emotions on her sleeve when she sees a green planet for the first time and when she says goodbye to Finn. Making Rey the central character in The Force Awakens allows her to be more than the token female character. It allows her to be complex and to inspire a generation of girls who no longer have to grow up thinking that girls can't be Jedis. There's so much I can say about Rey, but I'll stick with: I'm excited to see where her journey takes her.