Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Hardest Left Turn a Series Ever Took





Long ago, I was a horse crazy kid living in the suburbs, where horses were scarce, but books were abundant. I don't remember the exact moment I met The Black Stallion, but I know that somewhere between the end of the 80s and the first few years of the 90s, I read all 21 books in the collected stallion-related series by one Walter Farley, with help of his son Steven to finish the final installment. And I adored every one of them. 

The first book deals with the titular stallion being stranded on a desert island, along with the only other survivor of a shipwreck, Alec Ramsey. Together they learn to survive, form a lifelong bond of friendship, and are eventually rescued and brought back to live in the suburbs of 1940s era New York, where the horse is discovered by a retired thoroughbred trainer named Henry Daily, trained up as a proper racehorse, and entered in a match race against the fictional racing stars Sun Raider and Cyclone. (Probably a take on the match race between Seabiscuit and War Admiral, which took place just three years before The Black Stallion was published.) Spoilers - The Black Stallions wins. 

It's a fantastic story, later adapted into one of the most beautiful films ever made, staring Kelly Reno as a much younger than the book version, but brilliantly cast Alec, Mickey Rooney as Henry, and Teri Garr, who I absolutely adore. With cinematography by Caleb Deschanel (yep. Zooey and Emily's dad.). Again, a great story, with distinctly fantastical elements. 

The Black Stallion was followed up by 20 more installments in the series, mostly about The Black and a select few of his offspring, his sons Satan and Bonfire, and his daughter Black Minx, all, of course, following in their great sire's hoof prints and becoming world champion race horses. There is some broad artistic license throughout the series, starting with the Black's first son being trained as a racehorse, and entered in the Triple Crown (which he wins, off stage. A bold move for Farley, considering that at the time of writing and publication, thoroughbred racing was in the throes of the second longest dry spell between Triple Crown winners since the 37 years separating Affirmed and this year's American Pharoah.) Black Minx then goes on to win the Kentucky Derby. 

You can't do that in real life. Maybe The Black would be allowed special exception to enter the one off match race, but to enter any of the traditional stakes races, including the Triple Crown, your horse is going to have to be a Jockey Club registered Thoroughbred, which The Black and any of his potential foals would simply never be. Not to mention Bonfire, the who is a harness racer in the series, which is, again, an entirely different breed, with very specific skills and traits. 

But this is all curmudgeonly nit picking of the pickiest of nits. This is a fictional series about racehorses, after all. Readers want to read about champions wining races.  Some smudging of the boundaries of reality makes it all the more fun, even into the sort-of companion series about The Island Stallion. 

In The Island Stallion, Farley reworks the same basic elements of his first novel - boy, horse, hidden island - but instead of leaving, all the action takes place on the island itself. A kid named Steve finds a band of wild horses, descended from abandoned steeds of the Spanish Conquistadors, on a supposedly desolate rock of an island. And that's about it. He names the chestnut stallion on the island Flame, and he tames the horse just enough to ride him around inside the confines of the natural stone fortress that the horses call home. A little bit more fantasy, and 0 horse racing. Fine. Eventually, the reader assumes, Flame is going to become some sort of racing champion as well, and indeed that does happen, because 


- wait for it - 






Yeah. I'm absolutely not kidding. 
In The Island Stallion Races, published in 1955, aliens visit earth. Aliens who are so obsessed with horse racing that they offer to whisk Steve and Flame away to Cuba to participate in an international competition against the best race horses in the world. Aliens who dress like Nathan Detroit from Guys and Dolls, no less. There is a scene where the horse is loaded onto a spaceship, and flown across the ocean to an international race track.  

All the corners cut in the earlier tales of Farley's fictional horse racing dynasty are instantly erased by freaking ALIENS showing up to help some kid take some horse to some race in CUBA. If you're going to take a risk, why not? They'll read it. I did. I bought a copy, which still sits on a shelf above my desk, because I love that series, even with the bizarro  alien horse racing element tossed so casually in. The very best part? If you read the copy on the back of the book, there is absolutely nothing so much as hinting at the insanity within. All that's mentioned on the cover copy is that Flame is going to race, and that's going to be dangerous, with him being an untamed wild stallion and all. The Aliens come screaming out of left field in the first 50 pages of the book. And... that's it. They take Steve and Flame to race. Flame wins race. Flame goes home. Steve shrugs and pouts about his horse being faster than the legendary black stallion, racing up north in the US. Yes, The Black exists in this world, and one day goes on to meet Flame both on his island home, and later on the track in a legitimate race. 

So the next time you watch the movie, or just see the majestic image of the Black galloping down the beach, just remember that somewhere else in that same world, aliens are traveling to the Caribbean Sea to find Earth's Best Racehorse. 

Actually, this is mildly disappointing, now that I think about it. Why wasn't there an intergalactic horse race for Flame to win? Why stop at racing the Black, when he could be pitted against the fastest horses IN THE GALAXY???

 
Somewhere out there, is a true match for Flame, the magnificent Island Stallion*.

*this is still a book about horse racing.
So, what about you? Ever read something that was just completely bonkers, based on the cannon of the series up to that point? 






Thursday, October 22, 2015

Old Dog, New Tricks, and Titles.

So, Otis is officially the Best Dog Ever. 
He highly recommends you consider adopting an older dog. They come with all Good Dog Software already installed. 
 Housebroken? check. Socialized? check. Gets along with household felines? check. Likes kids? check. Good manners when walking on a leash? check. Knows how to give high fives? check. Seriously, just bring him home and you have an Instant Best Friend, no additional hardware required.
Here he is being all cute and relaxing on his blanket after a visit to the dog park.

"You are not currently petting Otis, or feeding him treats.
Let's try to work on that." 

After a few months with us, he's very settled in. When he first arrived, he had a bit of anxiety during thunderstorms, but now even that seems to be relaxing. A few days ago we had a rather loud afternoon storm, and he just hung out on the couch, instead of trying to cram himself under my desk as he had on previous occasions. 

The one thing he hasn't been very helpful with is picking out a title for my manuscript. 
That is one of the most aggravating parts of writing, I find. 
I walk through the book store reading spine after spine, thinking, "Wow, that's brilliant." and then I get back to my own project. I stare at my list of potential titles. And they are all somehow, in their own ways, completely terrible. 
I was never especially intimidated by queries - condensing my manuscript down into a little less than a page is one thing. Coming up with five words or less that can grab a potential reader and make them want to read the jacket, or better yet, open to page one? Eeek. 

So that's where I am in the writing world, fellow scribes. 


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Equinox is as Good a Time as Any

Summer is officially over. Dare I say, yay? I am an autumn person. A winter person, even. I'll take spring in a pinch, but summer. Ugh. I don't like heat, I don't like blazing sun. I don't like the sound of lawn care equipment raging through my neighborhood from dawn till dusk seven days a week.

Today summer is officially over.
Now we get to put extra blankets on our beds, snuggle without sticking together, drink hot coffee outdoors, have peace and quiet while the children are off at school. And pumpkin flavored everything. Basically all that's good and right with the world.
This summer was, as always, very eventful and over in a flash.
To condense the accounts to a reasonable size,
I've been hard at work on a top secret project* which will hopefully be revealed to the world very soon.
Mr. Cate worked on almost a dozen films, from short to feature length, that are heading out into the festival circuit, and one television pilot that looks fantastic. Next year looks to be even busier for him.
We lost a dear old friend, Lola the cat. She was with us from the beginning, when it was just me and Mr. Cate and one rascally cat in a little apartment in the city. That was nearly 16 years ago. She had a great run, and was a tough old bird to the end, but we had to see her off onto her next adventure in early August. She will always be missed, and always be remembered as a bright spot in our lives.

We also brought a new friend home to join the family, our very first official Cate family dog.
Meet Otis.




He's an older fellow, a little bit of greyhound, a little bit of lab, and something else probably too, something that loves to track and dig, based on his favorite outdoor activities.
He's spent the last few months with us now, sleeping on our sofas and beds, riding around with us in the car, enjoying snacks and walks in the neighborhood, and basically being the cutest, sweetest dog that ever was.
My apologies for the grainy photo. His propensity to come trotting right up to you whenever you look at him, combined with my inability to frame a shot has made me as good a dog photographer as I am a cat photographer. Which is, terrible. It was sheer luck that he sat still long enough for this picture.
We'll practice. We'll get there.


*Top secret project hint. A while ago I decided that if I ever sold a book, I would get a dog... to be continued :)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

First Ever Book Cover Reveal! (Seriously, check this one out!)

Now this is an exciting day for me! 
Today I have the pleasure and privilege of helping host the cover reveal for Pat Edsen's forthcoming New Adult novel, A Hold On Me. I had a chance to sneak a peak at parts of this manuscript already, and I am so, so ready to read the whole book, as soon as I can get my greedy little hands on it. 
For now, we can all bask in the glory of this absolutely gorgeous cover  -  






That is just ridiculously cool. And now you have to know more, right? 
Here's the pertinents - 


A HOLD ON ME (Dark Heart Book #1) by Pat Esden

Kensington Books
Release date: March 2016



She never wanted to return.
He wants nothing more than for her to leave.
But the fire between them is as strong as the past that haunts them.

Annie Freemont grew up on the road, immersed in the romance of rare things, cultivating an eye for artifacts and a spirit for bargaining. It’s a freewheeling life she loves and plans to continue—until her dad is diagnosed with dementia. His illness forces them to return to Moonhill, their ancestral home on the coast of Maine—and to the family they left behind fifteen years ago, after Annie’s mother died in a suspicious accident.

Once at Moonhill, Annie is shocked when her aunt separates her from her father. The next time Annie sees him, he’s a bizarre, violent shadow of his former self. Confused, she turns to an unlikely ally for support—Chase, the dangerously seductive young groundskeeper. With his dark good looks and powerful presence, Chase has an air of mystery that Annie is irresistibly drawn to. But she also senses that behind his penetrating eyes are secrets she can’t even begin to imagine. Secrets that hold the key to the past, to Annie’s own longings—and to all of their futures. Now, to unlock them, she’ll have to face her greatest fears and embrace her legacy…


Now would be the time to mark your calendars, because this gorgeous adventure will be out in March, which, as we all know, will be here before you know it! 


Click here to add A HOLD ON ME on Goodreads: 


 Or better yet,  go ahead and pre-order from your particular book source of choice 

  
Amazon  

B&N  



PAT ESDEN would love to say she spent her childhood in intellectual pursuits. The truth is she was fonder of exploring abandoned houses and old cemeteries. When not out on her own adventures, she can be found in her northern Vermont home writing stories about brave, smart women and the men who capture their hearts. An antique-dealing florist by trade, she’s also a member of Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, and the League of Vermont Writers. Her short stories have appeared in a number of publications, including Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, the Mythopoeic Society’s Mythic Circle literary magazine, and George H. Scither’s anthology Cat Tales.

GIVEAWAY!

Check out the fantastic giveaway on Pat’s Facebook page. Chances to win an Alex and Ani Path Of Life Heart Charm Bangle, or Amazon gift certificates.  Easy to enter! https://www.facebook.com/PatEsdenAuthor

And here are all the other ways to keep in touch with Pat while we wait for the day we can curl up with A Hold On Me, and then immediately get anxious for book #2 -


TWITTER: @patesden





Congratulations Pat!! I'm so thrilled for you!!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Halfway Point of 2015 - Already

We've reached the halfway point. There are less days left in the year than we've already spent here. The last six months of every year seems to move a little bit faster for me. 
But so far, it's been a tremendous year here. 

Mr. Cate has been working on long list of film projects, some of which are starting to finally wrap up, and adding new ones every day, it seems. Everything looks very promising there, so far. 

I have writing related news which I cannot share yet, but it's been well, well worth the wait on this wandering journey of mine. 

Our 17 year old cat looked like she was getting ready to shuffle off this mortal coil, but somehow, after suffering a stroke, dental surgery, and going partially blind, she is still with us, and looking better than ever. She's become much more sociable and friendly in her golden years, and we'd love to have her around to celebrate the big 18 in six more months. (and 19, 20, 21... she can stick around forever, if she likes) 

We had, for the first time in my lifetime, a Triple Crown winner this past weekend. It was every bit as thrilling to see as I had hoped, every year that I've watched since I could remember. 

I've kept up with my list of films and books so far for the year pretty well. I wanted to have finished a bit more reading by this point, but I've had to prioritize writing time over reading time while my current project demands it. I should have the current revision done by the beginning of July, which means time for a break, and maybe a week of just me and some new books. 


And now, back to the manuscript. 
How about your year so far? Going well? Not so much? There's always time to turn it around :) 

Film Count 2015 : 118
Watched this week:
(*not first viewing)

Spun
The Words
50 Shades of Grey
Kiss of Death
The Shawshank Redemption*
Shopgirl
Big Eyes
Blade Runner
Monsters University
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby Him
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby Her
Snake Eyes
Before I Disappear
Winter Passing
Kiki's Delivery Service
The Blues Brothers*
The Others*
Welcome to the Punch
Cop Land
Inglorious Basterds*
Spring Breakers




Things that are technically TV shows even though I only watch them streaming on the computer: 18
New this week:

Nothing.

Books of 2015 : 20
New this week:

Books 2,3 & 4 of Catherynne Valente's Fairyland Series

Things I'm Looking Forward to in 2015 

Jurassic World (taking my kiddo to the ginormous screen for that, obvs) 
Yorgos Lanthimos's The Lobster

Monday, May 18, 2015

Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Just About Every Parent in Middle Grade Fiction

First, a little tip of the cap to Nathan Bransford, for his post today, which is right on track with how I happen to be looking at and working on my own writing projects right now.

Last week I started really digging into a third draft of one of my WIPs. This round involves heavily paring down a lot of superfluous bits of the first two drafts, from settings to world building to whole characters that aren't going to be strong enough or important enough to the story to leave them all in. I'm a noted panster, and I love working on first drafts, where all the ideas can just pour out into one big bucket of book soup. The real work is in slowly simmering that vat of words down into a tasty, manageable, and most importantly enjoyable treat of a novel.

Sometimes characters leave your book, and you easily forget about them as you revise. And sometimes characters are important, but must stay mostly in the background. For instance, almost all parents in middle grade fiction. Of course there are exceptions, and parents who play a larger role, but in so many children's stories, the parents must be predisposed in order to serve the plot. Which makes perfect sense, as so many tales couldn't happen if anyone's sensible mother or father was paying attention to the children in the first place. The story isn't about the parents, except for the background they provide to the protagonists. Mom and Dad remain largely off stage while the kids get to be the stars of the show, and I have no problem with that. Except that another manuscript of mine includes a set of parents with a really fantastic backstory that has no place in the book itself, and their epic relationship will probably remain just a collection of notes in one of the dozens of books of other notes about the story of another character.

One of my favorite plays is Tom Stoppard's Rosencranz and Guildenstern are Dead, which explores the perspective of two minor characters from Hamlet as the events of the main story unfold around them, with hilarious results.
Unfortunately, not every character in every story can have their whole tale told in full, or even expounded upon Stoppard-style for a few hours trespass of the boards. But I can say, just as with Hamlet's dear departed schoolmates, my unsung characters' biggest mistake was getting on a boat.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The First Bee of Spring


Forget the robins. It's spring when the first bees return, because bees mean - Flowers!
And the first fat, fuzzy bumblebee of spring appeared this week, as I repainted the front deck railings.
It's time to open windows (yay) and pull weeds (boo).
I know a lot of people love this time of year, but I remain ambivalent. I love seeing the new plants, getting back out in the garden, seeing the world outside again. But something about springtime always makes me feel as if I'm not getting enough done. There's suddenly all this Outside work to do, as well as Inside work that gets put off in the winter doldrums. And these are the last few weeks of school before kids are back for the summer.
I always love having my son home, and I always get a bit down when school starts up again in the fall. Right now, though, I'm in Finish All the Writing mode, because there are only a few more weeks of quiet mornings, and I need to make them all count!

What about you? Does spring somehow awaken that flurry of motivation to Do All The Chores, and Make All the Things?


Film Count 2015 : 97
Watched this week:
(*not first viewing)

The Book of Life*
The Boxtrolls
Avengers : Age of Ultron
Moonstruck* 
The House at the End of Time
The Sad and Lonely Glow
The Lost River
Rush
The Judge


Things that are technically TV shows even though I only watch them streaming on the computer: 18
New this week:

Under the Dome

Books of 2015 : 17
New this week:

The Last Wild
The Bone Gap
(Intended to start a re-read of His Dark Materials, then realized that I lent out my copy of The Golden Compass, and whoever has it, well, still has it.) 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Films About Writers

Arg. I thought this would be a quick, fun little post about a few of my favorite films about writers. But then there just kept being more and more and... well... I really love movies about writers, and there is a long, long list of fantastic movies about writers, whether it's about the process itself, or just a study of the kind of character who likes to study characters.
So, here's the first ten (eleven) that popped up in my interior Films file, in no particular order -

Wonder Boys - Based on a book about writers, so this one is a double threat.

Becoming Jane - Are hipster guys dressing like Mr. Darcy yet? Because I would have no problem with that.

Sideways - Every one of us is a little bit Miles at some point on the writing journey. Hopefully our id is a little more controlled than Jack

Listen Up Philip - He should have listened. But at least watching him not listen makes for a great movie.

Kill Your Darlings  - Ah, the Beat Poets. You set a high bar for literary inspired debauchery, gents. Well played.

Midnight In Paris - Still waiting for my letter from Hogwarts, and a magical cab to whisk me off for a night of drinking and dancing with our finest artists of the roaring 20s.

Adaptation - Because its important to have those moments, when your manuscript is giving you fits, to say "Hey! I'm in charge here! I'll do what I want!"

Last Night - Only secondarily about writers, but one of the most beautifully crafted films I've ever seen.

Young Adult - A much more realistic portrayal of the glamorous writing life? Maybe not all of it, but we'll each recognize a choice moment, and be thankful that no one films us looking or acting like that.

The Basketball Diaries - I saw this before Leo was Leo. That's how old I am. And him. We're both old. Sigh.

Shakespeare In Love. Yes. This.  Shakespeare, writing, guys with soulful dark eyes, fancy outfits. Perfect. Thank you.


So, what else? What brilliant, writing inspired films would you heartily recommend?


Film Count 2015 : 88
Watched this week:
(*not first viewing)

Home
Girl Most Likely
Obvious Child
The Big Lebowski*
Houdini
Life After Beth
All the Light in the Sky
While We're Young
Spirited Away 
Searching for Sugarman
The Pact
Kicking and Screaming




Things that are technically TV shows even though I only watch them streaming on the computer: 17
New this week:

Louie

Books of 2015 : 15
New this week:

The Scorpio Races (finally) 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Deadly Serious Advice for Writing

I'm not saying this is the only way to do it. I'm just saying this is how I do it. So if you find anything helpful here, I welcome you to add it to your routine.

1. Buy Track Pants.
They are just as comfortable as pajama pants, and you can wear them from bed to your desk and back to bed again, and also pretzel yourself in your chair as you work - thus the basis of the appeal of pajama pants in the first place - except that you can also go out in public, without changing your clothes, and you won't look like an antisocial slob. You will, in fact, look like there's a possibility you've just been working out.  Or you're in the mafia. Either way, more respectable than old hello kitty pajama pants with cheese dip stains on them.

2. Get a Cat.
Let it get accustomed to sleeping in your lap. Then, when you start to get distracted and think about wandering off to do something besides productive writing (all those random projects and chores that become super high priority when it's hard core procrastination time-  I need to deep clean the carpets! We need to fix that sink that's been broken for six months RIGHT NOW. Are those venetian blinds a little dusty? Well, we can't have that! What if the Queen of America stops by for tea? What then??) No need to worry with a warm cat trapping you in place. You'll feel too bad about moving the adorable sleeping kitty, and you'll be stuck sitting there, but hey! you're already at the desk, so might as well write a few words. Genius.

3. Get a Coffee Lad.
This is not an appliance. It's a real guy. One who will refill/reheat your coffee on request. For practicality, I repurposed my husband for this job. He works from home, as do I, and every 90 minutes or so, he'll wander into my office to chitchat about whatever he just read on his fb feed while filling his own coffee mug. So while he's up, he warms up my mug, too. Gotta love him.

4. Build a Garden
You can't get a book written without actual time sitting down in front of your computer (or with your pen and notebooks). But it turns out that sitting down all day, while good for your books, is probably utterly terrible for the rest of you. Exercise has to be included somewhere. Jogging is good, or joining a gym, or finding a yoga studio, but no matter what you pick, most of us will get bored with it eventually. My solution to not enough outdoor acting like a human time is my garden. I have things planted all around my house, and we're adding and changing it a bit every year. It is a lot of manual physical labor to build, weed, water, plant, clip, mow, trim, clean, rake and sweep, but that's the point. It's outside, it requires a lot of different movements and muscles, it's inspiring and meditative at the same time, and I get a beautiful view out the windows for all the work. (sure, other exercise might make me look better, but how often do I get to see myself? And would I want to stare at myself all day, or the beds of flowers outside my office windows? )

5. Do Not Take Yourself Too Seriously, or Not Seriously Enough.
This one's actually about the work. Do not worry that your idea is too serious. Do not fret that it is not serious enough to warrant your time and effort. In short, don't justify why you write what you write. Write what you want to write. What inspires you to buy those track pants, get that pet cat, build that garden and start conditioning your significant other to bring you the coffee carafe like a diner waitress.

And that's about all I have for the moment. You are now fully prepared to write a book. Or at least, no more or less so than anyone else who's set out on this baffling, challenging, winding, weeping beautiful calamity of a road. Good Luck, fellow travelers.

Friday, April 3, 2015

It's A to Z Time!

So, it's been a kind of nutty month for me (details soon, I promise) and there's no way I can keep up with the A to Z challenge this year (again, boo) it is still a fantastic way to find new blogs to follow. There still may be time to join, if you get moving like, right this minute, but go. Now. Go Here. And then come back. 

Are you back? Great! 
This has been a movie heavy week. Why do I watch so many movies, you ask? Well, it's the nightly ritual of Mr. Cate and I, once the little son is in bed, and we pry ourselves away from our many projects, to watch a movie. Neither of us really watch any tv anymore, at least not regularly. We don't even have cable anymore, as no one was watching it. We do, however, both loooove movies. This past week, we even made it out into the world of the normals and saw It Follows in a real live movie theater. 
I actually liked it more than Mr, and horror is really his thing. Oh, and romance. He really loves almost any movie where love happens. Exhibit A - Twilight. I hadn't actually seen any of the films before the original appeared on Netflix recently. 
So, we watched it. And then the next night, we found New Moon on Amazon. And then Eclipse. And Mr. has actually asked when we're watching the other two. And I'm realizing that it would have been a blast to see those movies at the midnight screenings, with a packed house of superfans. At least I'll know for next time (oh yes, there will be a next time. You won't know when, and you won't know where, but the next phenomenon is right around the corner, just wait) 
Can you guess what it is? What will be the next humongous ginormous thing?? 

Film Count 2015 : 76
Watched this week:
(*not first viewing)

The Armstrong Lie
What If 
It Follows
New Moon
Eclipse
Breathe In
Save the Date
This Thing with Sarah



Things that are technically TV shows even though I only watch them streaming on the computer: 17
New this week:

Doctor Who 

Books of 2015 : 14
New this week:

Impatiently waiting for Scorpio Races to show up. It is rushing through the night to get here, I am assured by UPS tracking. But still. I want to read NOW.  

Things I am Eagerly Awaiting in 2015 
The new Noah Baumbach movie, While We're Young. And the Rolling Stones at Summerfest. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Who Would You Choose to Read Your Book?

Aloud, that is.

Today I ran across the recording of Sally Gardner's The Red Necklace read by one Tom Hiddleston, who, it turns out, has not only the most beautiful speaking voice, but is also a pretty impressive voice actor, with a good range of accents at his disposal.   (and he was in a few superhero movies, I have been informed)
And, I wondered, who would I pick, if I could have any beautiful voice in the world, to read my current WIP when it eventually becomes a real manuscript, and, hopefully, an actual book?

This was trickier than I thought. I love playing the casting game, picking actors to play our favorite characters thought I have gotten in trouble with a few fellow writers for my unconventional picks. Sorry, fellow scribes, I stick by my choices!
For my last manuscript, I have no idea. But the one that's on the drawing board right now? That would have to be Tilda Swinton. In fact, if I could get her to read me the passages as I write them, that would probably get this written a lot faster, so let's see if I can hook that up.

How about you? Who would you trust, with your words?


Film Count 2015 : 68 
Watched this week:
(*not first viewing)

Skeleton Twins
Jamie Marks is Dead
Waking
Earth to Echo
Holes
How to Train Your Dragon 2*
Frances Ha*



Things that are technically TV shows even though I only watch them streaming on the computer: 16
New this week:

Penn and Teller

Books of 2015 : 13
New this week:

Nothing as of this posting. Working on my own writing and rewriting for the past few days. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

On Finding Your Genre as a Writer

So, why do you write what you write? Is that the simplest hardest question in all of the writing world? 
Many writers work in multiple genres, of course, but they almost always have a foundation genre, the one they are known for, the one they totally own. And as we all know, one of the major obstacles (okay, THE major obstacle?) of going from wanting to write to actually writing is figuring out just what in the world we're going to write about

For me personally, it happened somewhere in the year after college, when I was working in a bookstore. 
I had been a writer since the first grade, and by the final semester of earning my BFA (in sculpture, of course) I had decided that I was going to start writing again, and taking it seriously. But what to write? 
Well, spending 50 hours a week surrounded by books is a very good way to go, if you're a little shaky on what exactly you want to write. 
That's where I found Middle Grade. Ah, my people! 
I love reading every genre, from memoirs to cozy mysteries to high fantasy to fussy literature, but when it came to writing, there was something about the middle grade category that seemed so freeing, and open, and inspiring. I thought of all the books I loved to read when I loved to read the most - as a kid. Suddenly, I had all the ideas in the world, and all the energy to work on them, hour after hour, through the many years that would follow, while I learned what an agent was, and how submitting to publishers worked, and how fantastic and supportive the kid lit community can be even across the country or the world, because they told me all these things, and read my earliest, cruddiest work. 

So, when did you find your genre? Did you always know what you wanted to write? Are you still looking?  





Film Count 2015 : 61 
Watched this week:
(*not first viewing)

Listen Up Phillip
Magic in the Moonlight
Twilight
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2*
Top Gun*
Ferris Bueller's Day Off*
Somewhere*
Marie Antoinette*


Things that are technically TV shows even though I only watch them streaming on the computer: 15
New this week:

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Books of 2015 : 13
New this week:

The Map to Everywhere
Wonder at the Edge of the World 

Friday, March 6, 2015

A Bunch of Little Things

1. Snow. Ugh. I love winter, but this one has been bitter cold and extra long, and I'm ready for some gardening, and running outdoors regularly, and not having to chip ice off of anything (especially my car) for at least a full day.

2. I cannot decide what to revise next. I have rough/early drafts of three different projects, which all have characters, plots, settings, all the good stuff, but need to be sorted into proper books, and every time I start working on one, I get ideas for another, and I really want to pick one and focus on rewriting and polishing, but I cannot. Alas. 

3. I love pottery. I don't know if I've mentioned it here before, but I had two uncles who were potters by trade, and one cousin and aunt who still work in the field. I love handmade pottery, and I'm very much in the market for a set of beautiful, unique dishes for use around the Cate household. But I'm also a complete klutz, of the kind that's prone to dropping things and chipping dishes in the sink, which is why we're down to three plates, and I am in the plate purchasing market. 

4. The word "dog" has come up a few times with the pre-teen child. Never in an instant way, but just enough to remind me that he hasn't forgotten a little discussion we had, in which I said we could maybe start entertaining the idea of possibly someday getting a dog. I know I could use the requirement to get up and out of the house every day. (working from home on your own business doesn't mean "loads of free time". It means, "I feel like I should always be working".) We do have a beautiful dog park about half a mile from here, and a big lake, and lots of pretty winding roads for walks and jogging. And two tremendous county parks within a five minute drive. The issue has been put on the itinerary for further discussion, is where we stand at the moment. The idea sounds fantastic in the summer and fall, and horrid in the snowy, snowy winter and the muddy, rainy spring. 

5. We also have one very old cat, who deserves a quiet retirement before we go bringing a huge slobbering animal into the family. She's already 17, and has her good and bad days. She was looking pretty pathetic the past few months, but I've been giving her lots of her favorite food (anything in a can, and lots of creamy things) and she's going through something of a renaissance. Trotting around the house, jumping up on the furniture, snuggling with us at night, which she never used to do. My mother in law stopped by with her dog earlier this week, and the old lady cat shrugged and went back to sleep. It was the "little" cat (youngest and biggest, of course) that was shocked, and spent the whole visit hiding behind my legs.

So that's about it for now. For those of you in sunny climates, my eternal envy. For those of you with even more snow and less mercury than we have up here, I salute you.



Film Count 2015 : 53 
Watched this week:
(*not first viewing)

John Wick
Swingers*
Clueless*
Chasing Amy*


Things that are technically TV shows even though I only watch them streaming on the computer: 14
New this week:

House Hunters International 
Portlandia

Books of 2015 : 11
New this week:

Nothin' new. I am getting behind, and it's high time to get to a bookshop! 
Sometime this week, I will go. Promise.  

Monday, March 2, 2015

What Are You Looking For in a Farm?

So, the search for the perfect farmshare begins! 
Step one, research. 
That's easy enough. Just punch CSA and your general location, and find your nearest CSA farms. 

Step two, pick your menu. 
Now, every farm in my area offers vegetables as the staple in your weekly share. You can't really select which vegetables you will get, but many farms provide a list of what they will be grown in the coming season, and when it will be available in your weekly delivery. 


We'll start you off with a salad.
Some of the farms I researched allowed a limited number of requests, such as less "weird" vegetables, more or less greens, but for the most part, you get what you get. Each week your share will include the crops that are ready and available at that time, which should mean your getting the freshest food possible, which is the main point here anyway. Most of my local farms also also offer herbs and seasonal fruit as part of the weekly share, but in much smaller proportion to the vegetables. 

And on to the main course

Many of the farms I researched also have egg and/or meat shares available. This would include any number of items from chicken, pork, turkey, duck, beef and lamb, depending on where you buy. I am not philosophically opposed to eating meat, but I am pretty thoroughly disgusted by the factory farming of livestock as practiced by large scale commercial agriculture. The whole process seems needlessly wasteful, cruel and environmentally dangerous. So if we're going to continue to be omnivores here, we should strive to be conscious omnivores, right? One of the main pluses of CSA food production is knowing exactly where your food came from, and how it was raised, which is preferably with plenty of room, good food and excellent care free of added hormones and antibiotics.
Ideally, I'd like to be getting as much of our food as possible from fresh local sources. So adding meat, eggs and honey to the weekly order sounds fantastic.
The main downside is the quantities - most available meat shares are for a LOT of pounds of product. We don't eat meat every day here, and we don't have a good place for a stand alone freezer to hold dozens of pounds of surplus chops and sausages. I may have to enlist some extended family members to make this work effectively.

Step three, location, location, location. 
So, where do you want to pick up your fresh batch of home grown deliciousness every week? If you live in an urban area, good news! There is probably a local drop location very close to you. 
For us semi rural folk, it looks like we'll be driving directly to the farm. The one I've tentatively decided upon has several strong positives- 
Good variety of seasonal veggies
Fruit with most shares
Long season (4 weeks longer than the other farms I've looked at, for about the same cost) 
Meat and egg shares available, though the meat shares are on a separate schedule. Veggies, fruit and eggs arrive every week, meat every month or so. 
Bridge shares - extra weeks at the start and end of the season - are also available.  

Looks like this might be the winner.