Saturday, May 26, 2012

Happy Memorial Day!

Happy Memorial Day (Monday, technically) to all our brave soldiers and vets who have served, and are serving, our great country. We have our troubles and flaws, but please set aside this weekend to remember that there is a reason we are free to live our lives the way we do. Thank you to our military for keeping us safe!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


We had a visitor at work today - and not the two-legged kind.

My coworker came in from her break with a picture of a striking - and very big, she said - critter that looked, at first glance, like a butterfly. Since it was out in broad daylight, and sitting with its wings straight up, I assumed it was a butterfly.

Turns out, it is Hyalophora cecropia, North America's largest moth. I went out to get a better look at it, and it sports the fuzzy body and feathered antennae common to all moths. But unlike other moths (and most butterflies) I have seen, this fellow was huge. He was about 5-1/2 to 6 inches in wingspan, by my guess. And very striking for a moth, too. My only question is, why was he out in the daytime?

Maybe he was telling us to go home and get a nap.

Movie Review: The Woman in Black

So, this is Daniel Radcliffe's first film role since Harry Potter, or so I've read. Certainly the first thing I've seen him in since Harry Potter. Which, of course, is why I rented it. I had heard he has the acting chops to come out from under the shadow of his role as Harry ... and I have to agree.

The thing that made you care about Daniel as Harry - that emotional sweetness of character - is the same thing that helps him succeed as struggling lawyer and father Arthur Kipps. Arthur is about to lose his job due to lack of focus - an understandable situation, as his wife died in childbirth. Now, with a young son to support, Arthur is recruited to tackle the clearly undesirable task of managing the creepy, derelict estate of a deceased woman. Once he arrives, both mystery and mayhem ensue.

This is classic Gothic storytelling, employing all the hallmarks therein. Beautiful old estate fallen into ruin and cut off from the rest of the world, check. Tragic hero who can't resist going upstairs to investigate that curious noise, check. Fearful townsfolk, check. Underlying mystery, check. Constant state of tension-slash-foreboding-slash-fear ... check, check, check.

Movies like this scare me more than gory horror films, mostly because the bulk of the danger is in your head, rather than smeared all over the screen. Because Radcliffe clinches that emotional attachment so well, you follow him into this dangerous situation, biting your fingernails as you go. And while several of the moments of the film are clearly Gothic cliche, I can't say I was ever bored with it. The movie is a solid four out of five, lacking that last star for a few loose ends and unexplained plot points. (Where did the dog go, guys?) Most of the praise I give this film is due to the terrific set design and costuming, and of course Daniel Radcliffe's handy talent for saying a lot with just his body language. Nice job! I look forward to more of his post-Harry work.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Little Light Reading for Pleasure and Profit

I have recently been doing lots of reading, in genres ranging from romance, to fantasy, to historical fiction, to religious nonfiction. (Now that's variety.)

The nice thing about reading for pleasure, for a writer, is the opportunity to switch mental gears. We are now on the other end of storytelling, as a reader. The switch is no longer complete; as a reading writer, I find myself noticing editing errors or plot transitions more than I used to. But it's still a nice change to dive into someone else's world for a while (or in the case of nonfiction, expand my horizons).

Reading does writers some good for their own work - especially fiction, if you're a fiction writer. (I imagine reading nonfiction does the same sort of thing for writers of nonfiction.) I tend to notice good characterization and dialogue much more, as a reading writer. The things I admire in others' work are often the ones I'd like to strengthen in my own. It helps to see how other storytellers approach these challenges. Reading also has the nice side effect of being a mini-vacation - so I'm refreshed and ready to work again once I get back to my own stories.

So that's why teachers of writing tell you to read, read, read. Good for your mind, good for your soul, and just plain good fun.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

This weekend, we set aside a special day to honor our moms, and the things that make them so special. (Mine is still the best cook EVER.) Take some time on Sunday to give your mom a hug and kiss, and show her thanks for all those boo-boo kisses you got when you fell off your bike as a kid. Happy Mother's Day to all you moms out there!

Saturday, May 05, 2012

...And Sometimes It's Just Dumb Luck

Today, while hubby was out in the yard working on our new deck, I noticed several Red Admiral butterflies, who had decided to stay over in our yard following this past week's huge migration of them.

They invariably lit on the dandelions in the sunny parts of our not-yet-mowed yard, and after following them around for a half hour with a camera, I managed to sneak up behind one and snap this spectacular shot:

When I say "sneak," I mean it. After losing out by approaching each of the previous prospects from the front or side, when they fluttered away, I decided to approach from behind. Success! This one was too busy getting nectar to be bothered with me. It rested for a while, ate, and then opened its wings for the perfect shot. My first butterfly photo! Woot!

Just goes to show you: if you want something, keep trying. Fifty percent of it is work. The other half is just dumb luck. :)