Grim and Grandiose: The Gothic Novel

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For the last few weeks, I’ve been living in the world of Jane Austen. As of today I have read all of her novels except for Emma, which I’m about halfway through. She is not my favorite 19th century author (that distinction goes to Charlotte Brontë), but I’ve developed a greater appreciation for the literary mastery and elegance of craft that her work exhibits.

However, I will admit that I prefer seeing the film adaptations of her novels, particularly the ones with the screenplay written by Andrew Davies: Pride and Prejudice (1995) with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle as Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, Northanger Abbey (2007) with J.J. Feild and Felicity Jones as Henry Tilney and Catherine Morland, and Sense & Sensibility (2008) with Hattie Morahan and Charity Wakefield as Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. Right now I’m just a little bit obsessed with Northanger Abbey (and yes, I am totally blaming that on J.J. Feild’s Mr. Tilney.)

An interesting side effect of that obsession was exposure to an area of literature that I had left virtually unexplored up until this point: traditional Gothic novels.
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Seven Years of Blogging

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To escape the sweltering heat that descended upon the East Coast this weekend, I took the opportunity to stay inside and organize my filing cabinet. Like many writers, I’ve got bits and pieces of thoughts and projects scattered across notebooks and folders, empty envelopes and not-longer-sticky Post-it notes. Sometimes I forget just how much paper I’ve generated and accumulated over the years, how many projects are still works in progress and how many handwritten scrawls have not been transcribed into a more legible medium.

And I wonder: when will I have time to deal with all of this?

This year, I turned thirty and I’m astonished at how quickly the months have flown. Sometimes I feel like I’ve hardly gotten anything accomplished, that I’m still were I was at eighteen when I’d just started to take the idea of becoming a professional author seriously. But the piles of paper and notebooks on the floor, the finished manuscript on the desk beside me, and the list of blog posts on my computer suggest that I haven’t been spinning my wheels quite as much as I thought I was.

It’s hard to believe it’s been seven years since The Cat’s Cradle began. My very first published entry was June 22, 2011 with a shiny new Blogspot URL. In March 2013, I moved The Cat’s Cradle from Blogger to WordPress, having a slightly better idea of what I was doing. Over the years, I have continued to learn, adding new sites like LeNoWriCha for the Legendary Novel Writing Challenge in January 2014 and then new features with my Audio Editions in November 2014. More recently, I added Second Unit Reviews in May 2018. As of today, I have 200 followers of The Cat’s Cradle, 32 for LeNoWriCha, and 5 for Second Unit Reviews. (I’m sure a few lurkers stop by and read, but haven’t left any trace of their passing.)

I cannot express how much it means to me when folks read or listen to my entries, who follow any (or all) of my blogs or my Twitter feed, who “Like” my entries on WordPress or Facebook, or (best of all) who leave comments. I know not everyone has the time to do that, so for all those who have stopped by and enjoyed this, thank you so very, very much. I deeply appreciate all of you. I know time is precious, so I’m grateful you decided to spend some time here reading (or listening) to my rambles. To my friends, family, and fellow writers who have been so supportive of me and my work over the years: you have my undying gratitude. Thank you.

So what are my plans for the future? Well, to keep writing, obviously. I still have more than enough novels to work on and I’m still trying to practice short stories to send to online magazines. The Cat’s Cradle will continue to have a new entry posted every other Monday to talk about writing or to give updates on that status of my various projects. LeNoWriCha will pop up for the spring and summer editions of Camp NaNoWriMo and for National Novel Writing Month each November. Second Unit Reviews will keep posting older content every Friday at least through the end of the year and new content will pop up sporadically, whenever the mood strikes me. Alas, my work on Fanfiction.net has not been updated every other Monday as I had originally hoped… Maybe I can change that, but with so much original fiction and blogs to occupy me, it currently isn’t as high on my priority list.

I’ll also continue to record and post Audio Editions for my Cat’s Cradle entries, although I know I am woefully behind at the moment. They take a great deal of time and attention, which is often absconded with for other things (sometimes writing-related, sometimes not.) I’m hoping to record and post #ThrowbackThursday Audio Editions for content published before I was computer-savvy enough to use Audacity.

Here’s to another seven years of blogging! Until then…

 

The Wyrding Way

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Wyrd: a concept in Anglo-Saxon culture roughly corresponding to fate or personal destiny.

Wikipedia

 

Related image

Anglo-Saxon symbol for “wyrd”

Few lines make my hackles rise more than hearing, “It is your destiny,” particularly if it is said by some old guy in a black robe. I have some serious issues with the concepts of prophecy, destiny, fate, and Chosen Ones. From a practical standpoint, they are overused tropes and cliches in works of fantasy. Predestination is a lazy cock-and-bull story made to justify plot threads or character motivations. But on a deeper level, the concept is actually rather disturbing. I’m a big believer in free will, so the idea of having everything I have done, am doing, or will do laid out for me with no ability to change it is both creepy and frightening.
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The Heart of the Story

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In the Character Module of DIY MFA 101, Gabriela postulates that, even if there are many characters of great importance, there is actually only one protagonist in a story. Of course there are exceptions, but this tends to be the rule. My first inclination was to reject this statement. After all, almost every one of my stories has a pair of central main characters: Ryn and Scion for Ravens and Roses; Samuel and Amaris for Seahawks and Storms; Nathaniel and Shakti for Courting the Moon; Asa and Tal for Faylinn; and Melyin and Ciar for Rinamathair.
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New Film Review Site Is Live!

Thought is the parent of the deed.

— Thomas Carlyle

After mulling for a few days over the question of whether or not I should keep publishing film reviews on The Cat’s Cradle, I decided to go ahead and make a new, separate site for them.

I present to you:

(Heh, that didn’t take long for me to decide, now did it?)

I’ve been writing reviews about various topics and media that are obliquely related to noveling, but these have been spread over several sites from 2012 and on. I won’t be removing those reviews from their original sites, and I will probably continue to post some reviews (mostly for books) on The Cat’s Cradle. However, I want to keep my regular writing-related posts on The Cat’s Cradle, which will still be published every other Monday. Any reviews posted on or copied to Second Unit Reviews, and you can expect a post every Friday for the next few months as I collect, edit, and republish collected content. All previously published reviews will have a link to the original post and the date it was originally written. This will include reviews of the Star Wars and Marvel movies which up until now could only be found on my private Facebook, but will now be shared with all of you! Once I’ve caught up on the old content, then posts may become more sporadic since I can then write about whatever catches my fancy any time I choose. After all, the point of Second Unit Reviews is to have a fun, informal place to geek out. (I will do my best not to let this shiny new toy interfere with my regular writing responsibilities!)

So, if anyone is interested in my screen-rants and fangirling about movies, TV shows, comic books, anime, and video games, please be sure to check out, follow, like, share, and otherwise enjoy Second Unit Reviews!

Should the Cat’s Cradle have film reviews?

Hello, readers! I have a question for you. Well, a couple of questions, really.

The main focus of The Cat’s Cradle is (supposed to be) writing, specifically in relation to fantasy novels, structured around personal experience and anecdote. However, I also like writing reviews of films and television shows along with a large dose of fangirling.  Some of these kinds of reviews have already popped up, but I try to keep them to a minimum. After all, this is supposed to be a writing site, not a movie review site.

But I do enjoy writing about things I really loved (or hated) about stories in other media, even if it doesn’t directly relate to writing. Over the last few years, I’ve done a few “reviews in sequence” where every day or week for a certain span of time, I write a brief review of a film that is part of a series or franchise. The two I’ve done so far are “7 Days of Star Wars” from 2016 where I watched Episodes I-VII, one each night for a week, and wrote reviews about each one, and then “The Merry Months of Marvel,” where I reviewed one Marvel movie each week starting in January 2018 and ending in May 2018. Currently these are only found on my private Facebook, as I didn’t want to flood The Cat’s Cradle with this off-topic random content, so they’ve only reached a very limited audience.

Ideally, I’d like to have a separate “blog” section on The Cat’s Cradle to post geeky gushing, but my WordPress site is, by necessity, very simple since I have neither the funds to afford purchasing a more complex theme/skin, nor the skills to modify what I have beyond some basic cosmetics. Right now, I can only add static pages rather than individual entries, and apparently this Piano Black theme has been retired, so if I try to overhaul the site, I may not be able to switch back if I decide I don’t like the new look. I don’t really want to do that if there is little to no interest in my screen-rants.

Plus, there are a bunch of other questions I need to answer before making such a change:

  •  These reviews are fun to write, but will they distract me too much from working on my regular entries and my novels?
  • There are already a lot of sites that do far better, more in-depth, and more entertaining reviews than I do, so do I have anything new to add?
  • If I can’t add a second scrolling blog to the current site, do I just work post them in with regular entries (with a special tag, of course), or should I just make a whole new site and link the two? (I already do have basic access to another site, Geek La Femme, but I technically did not create it. It is essentially abandoned, but I don’t know if I can or should resurrect it in any way.)
  • If I do make a new site or section, do I move the reviews that I already have done over to that new place (which can create a host of dead links) or leave them where they are (which may leave people confused and the organization system muddled)? And if I decide to make a new site, should I take my content from Geek La Femme (which includes reviews of anime and video games) and add it to the new one?
  • If I write or post any such reviews, should I add them to my Audio Editions, even though I get behind on the regular ones so often? (Recording them doesn’t take long, but editing can range from 2 to 4 hours, and I have little enough time as it is.)

So what do you folks think? Should I bother with this or just let things rest as they are?

Fluff and Fairies

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I’ve been feeling cold and unmotivated for quite a while, so today you folks get more of a fluff piece than anything really deep or serious.

For National Novel Editing Month in March and the April edition of Camp NaNoWriMo, I’ve been working on a Young Adult (YA) fantasy novel that I’m currently calling “Faylinn,” which is the name of the world in which the story is set. (Like with Rinamathair, the name of the world is the title of the work-in-progress until I find something better.) This is a different experience from my other writing projects because it’s a hybrid. It isn’t being written completely from scratch like Mariner Sequence, but it also isn’t a fan fiction outline that got revamped and then written from scratch. Faylinn is based on an already-complete piece of fan fiction, but I’m swapping out character names and adjusting the plot and world to be its own thing. I am also generating new content, but at the same time, I’m rereading the preexisting piece of work and doing major cuts and rewrites to it. Maybe that isn’t the best project to choose for Camp NaNoWriMo… but I just can’t do Mariner Sequence justice right now. I don’t want to spend all of my writing time on stories that aren’t as near and dear to my heart, but I also know when I’m not in a fit state for a particular story. So, fluff it is.
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The Power of Headcanon

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I recently went to see Black Panther with some friends, and if you haven’t gone yet, you need to reevaluate your priorities because it’s fantastic. *ahem* Anyway… as we were leaving the theater, one friend noted that during the very emotional scenes between T’Challa and his father T’Chaka on the Ancestral Plane, they noticed that T’Chaka had an old (but still very obvious) facial injury.** Since the characters were interacting in a spiritual realm, my friend wondered why this injury was still present since spirits don’t have physical bodies and therefore wouldn’t have those imperfections. Almost immediately, I commented that a person probably couldn’t spend years as King of Wakanda and the Black Panther without suffering some kind of accumulated spiritual damage, which then manifested in the Ancestral Plane. My friends just kind of stared at me and said that I had the strongest headcanon of anyone they’d met.

You see, while that explanation for T’Chaka’s appearance in the Ancestral Plane seemed perfectly reasonable to me, there was nothing in the movie itself to suggest that was the case. My internal headcanon and pulled from all my fictional sources and compiled them into an explanation. Actually, I’d come up with two possible explanations on the spot, one being the accumulated damage from a life of service and suffering. The other was that it was simply T’Challa’s perception of the spirit, giving it a familiar face. Kind of like how Anakin Skywalker’s Force-ghost appeared at the end of Return of the Jedi as a forty-something man rather than as his twenty-year-old self, who would have been completely unfamiliar to Luke. (No, I do not accept the insertion of Hayden Christensen into the remastered editions of Star Wars. There’s some headcanon for you!) Both of these plausible explanations occurred to me within seconds of my friend’s question, and I hadn’t even noticed until they pointed it out.
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The Problem with Paranormal Romance

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I like fantasy. I like paranormal stories. I like the Regency subset of romances. But when a romance is placed in a paranormal or fantastical setting with characters who are not human or only part human, it tends to fall apart. Not all the time, of course, but often enough to irritate me.  Too often the fantasy element becomes a short-handed excuse to get to the sex. Magical explanations cut through a lot of the natural uncertainty, trials, and discomfort that comes with forming and navigating a relationship. It’s an easy out. True love, impossibly orgasmic sex, lack of self control… magic is used to exacerbate romantic myths, justify a lot of shady behavior, and to mask unhealthy relationships.

Let me be clear: I am not against having magical or paranormal elements in romances. I’m also not opposed to having romance or sex in fantasy stories. There are all kinds of interesting combinations one can create. I’m also aware that these are indeed fantasies; they are not going to reflect real life. Most don’t even come close. Escapism is nice, and erotica has its place on the bookshelves. The problem arises when magic is used to disguise lazy writing and to perpetuate harmful myths.

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