Monday, August 21, 2017

A Book from all Around the World

I thought this was just awesome! I've always wanted to feel like a "well-rounded reader" and be well-versed about literature from around the world, and this list seems pretty comprehensive.

If anyone has any books they think should be added, please let me know in the comments section!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

I REALLY wanted to love Disney's Live Action Beauty & the Beast...

Truly I did.

But I couldn't.

Let me explain. I have adored Beauty & the Beast since I was 2 years old. Since it came out in 1991, I have been enamored with the music, animation, story & characters in that particular Disney classic.

I even have my original pillow case from the bedsheet set my mom bought me when I was 5 years old. I have watched the 1991 Beauty and the Beast probably well over a million times. So much so, that I have even the instrumental melodies and harmonies memorized, in addition to the lines of dialogue. If you say to me one phrase from the movie, I could tell you exactly what is going on in the scene, what each character was wearing at the time and what instruments are playing in the background.

Basically, I know my Beauty & the Beast stuff. I think I'm a pretty fair judge as to what is a good and what is a bad interpretation of the classic fairytale. And Disney did SUCH an amazing job on the animated version, that it was nominated for an Academy Award. Yeah, it was that good.

So when I found out that they were doing the live action version, featuring one of my favorite actresses, (Emma Watson) an actor I adore from Downton Abbey (Dan Stevens) and a fabulous actor from the Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug & Five Armies (Luke Evans), I was absolutely beside myself with excitement. Though, I knew they would make some changes and additions to the original, I was hopeful. Emma physically & personality-wise was perfect for the role. Dan Stevens has the piercing blue eyes that the Beast has in addition to having a beautiful voice. Luke Evans has the ruggedness and gusto to bring to the role of Gaston.

I was thrilled to see it last night with my husband. And then... it started. And it didn't start the way I thought it would.

Now before I get into the things I had a problem with, I'll tell you the things that I thought they did spectacularly well. I thought Dan Stevens did a great job. I thought visually, the live action adaptation was stunning. The castle, the costumes were beautiful. I think personality wise and physically, (as I said before) Emma Watson was a perfect Belle, though she is no professional singer & there were a few moments she overacted. Those things I didn't mind, honestly.

Now here are the things I did have a problem with.

Instead of a narrator with a rich, mysterious voice speaking slowly and emphasizing words, it was someone who I felt like sped-read the whole opening and gave WAY more information than was necessary. Instead of a variation of the original's beautiful stain glass that tells us the story of how the prince was spoiled and then cursed by an enchantress, they make the opening scenes gaudy and change the prince's character to being a bit of a party animal, instead of him just being selfish and unkind. I wasn't expecting them to do the stain glass like the original, but I was hoping they'd do something like beautiful tapestries or impressionist paintings to depict the opening. You know, making it their own thing while paying homage to the original.

But no...

And then it all went downhill from there.

The dialogue was clunky, the editing atrocious and the new songs they wrote for the live-action adaptation didn't fit. I was expecting them to add in the songs from the Broadway version of Beauty and the Beast like "If I Can't Love Her," and "Home." I was also expecting to have the song "Human Again," which was cut from the animated version for the sake of time & pacing.

I also felt like Luke Evans portrayal of Gaston wasn't rude enough. What I loved in the Broadway version of Beauty & the Beast is that the three babettes (the three dim-witted girls who fawn all over Gaston) are all sad that Gaston's going to marry Belle. But Gaston tells them basically, "don't worry girls. We can still have our fun together," with a little wink. WOW. He just became THAT much more of a swine. In the animated version, it seemed like he liked the attention the three girls gave him, but in the end he was obsessed with Belle. In the Broadway version, it really shows Gaston as a womanizer and a pig. I was looking forward to seeing more of that in the live action version.

Though Gaston had his awful moments, one of which punching Maurice in the face and leaving him for dead, I wanted more of his terrible-ness to be shown in front of Belle. I just felt like he should've really laid it on thick, because his behavior towards Belle just wasn't good enough for me.

Another thing that disappointed me was the subplot of "Where's Belle's mother? And how did she die?" This really served no purpose or usefulness in furthering the story at all, and was just a waste of time in the end.

In Robin McKinley's novel interpretation of Beauty and the Beast entitled, Beauty, the subplot was that Beauty hates her nickname because she doesn't think she's beautiful at all. She doesn't think she's ugly but she thinks she's plain and that nickname of 'Beauty' embarrasses her. So when she meets the Beast, there's a parallelism that happens. Beast knows he's not handsome and has no mirrors in his whole castle apart from one (which one do you think that would be?), and Beauty believes to not be a ravishing beauty. So at the end of the story when she finally sees herself in a mirror after Beast transforms, she realizes she is beautiful and sees the beauty that Beast saw in her the whole time, which Beauty learns to see the beauty in the Beast.

MUCH MUCH better subplot than "How did Belle's mother die?" You know, there's stuff that's called, "useless exposition,"  or "expository dialogue," that just bothers me. And the live action version of Beauty and the Beast was chalked full of useless expository dialogue.

For example, every body was making comments on how "why is it snowing at this Beast's castle when it's in the middle of June?" Um.. first off, in the animated version it was clearly autumn, so naturally when it transitions from leaves blowing off trees to snow on the ground at the Beast's castle, it's kind of logical that that would happen.

But let's say, for the sake of this reinterpretation that in the village where Belle and Maurice are at, it's June. Then they wind up at the Beast's castle and there's snow everywhere. Knowing that the castle and Beast are enchanted, wouldn't it make sense that the grounds of the castle would be enchanted as well? And that the evidence that they're all under a curse would be snow? You don't have to talk about "how strange it is that there's snow on the ground when it's June!" 😑😒 Um... the castle's enchanted.... duh. I don't need you to constantly remind me of that through stupid comments about the weather being different at the castle than in the village.

Now, you might say, "Why is that such a big deal?" Well, I guess it isn't. But I do take offense when directors or screenwriters think I'm stupid and can't read between the lines in the narrative. As a writer myself and a storyteller, you learn early on that your readers are smarter than you think and giving them a bunch of exposition that you can simply give subtle hints about is going to piss them off and make them feel like you don't think they're smart at all.

I could go on with other examples of things that bothered my like the transformation, that they could've REALLY gone all out for, but the camera pans away for half of it and then when the Beast is finally human, neither Belle nor he say anything.That's awkward.

You know what would've been nice? Having Belle and Beast share the same dialogue as in the original and then Belle telling him, "I don't even know your real name." and Beast replying something along the lines of, "It's been too long and I can't remember. You give me a new name." Or something like that. A little shout out to Robin McKinley's Beauty.

And then there's the enchantress that was hidden in town that randomly shows up at the end, but nobody sees or mentions the fact that "hey! That's the enchantress that cast the spell!" It's just a pointless thread in the movie that should've been cut.

And then there's the over emphasis on Lumiere, Mrs. Potts, Cogsworth and so forth instead of on Belle and Beast's friendship and love story. I'm sure that Disney felt that since they got so many big name cast members to play these minor roles, they needed to give them more screen time. But, here's the problem with that; it takes away from the WHOLE HEART-TUGGING main plot. When Beast dies, the camera pans over to all these minor characters turning into lifeless objects... well you kind of just sucked out all the emotionally charged feelings from the air, and turned it into a melodrama. Sorry, but in the animated feature, it was perfectly acceptable that the camera shifts over to where Lumiere, Mrs. Potts & Cogsworth see the last petal fall, and they're crying. Instead, they turned it into this long, overdramatic thing where I'm not feeling any sadness or grief over the Beast dying or Belle crying over his dead body. In the original, I WEPT at that part. In this one, I was bored.

If they wanted to have Lumiere, Mrs. Potts, Cogsworth, the Wardrobe (etc) to be in the spotlight a little more, why did they not include the song, "Human Again," that Disney cut from the original animated film?

Basically, the dialogue was stilted, the additions unnecessary, and I really felt like they could've done a better job in picking the subplot of the movie being Belle's body image issues and in the end, realizing the beauty that she always had at the same moment of Beast's transformation.

Maybe I'm suffering from the Hindsight Syndrome of "I could've done it better!" after something has already been done. But the fact is that, movies like Batman vs Superman & Captain America Civil War had massive criticisms when they were actually, very good movies. The problem is people becoming lazy and not wanting to read between the lines in the narrative. A movie isn't just about being entertaining, unless it's Fast & the Furious, I guess. But I don't consider those to be "entertaining" so much as "brain heroin."

A movie should have 3 things:
1. Make you feel uplifted--leaving you better than when you went in
2. A place you've never been before
3. A story with some substance

And the fact is that I felt like watching the Beauty and the Beast live action was like listening to a symphony by Mozart and every 5 minutes the orchestra hits the wrong note. It should be beautiful, inspiring, uplifting but they can't get the music in tune!

You're more than welcome to disagree with me. If you liked it or even loved it, that's fine. But after seeing it, I just can't get on the bandwagon. Fact is, Disney needs to STOP doing live action version of their classic movies. They have yet to do one that is satisfactory, and why would you do a remake when the originals are perfect? It makes no sense. They need to go back to doing more original stories with original music and classic hand-drawn animation. Not any of this 3D Frozen crap. That takes no talent whatsoever to do.

Feel free to leave love, or hate if that's how you roll! Maybe I'm just a picky son of a B. Or maybe I just expect better quality from a multi-billion dollar company that has access to hundreds of talented writers. I just wish this time around, I was one of them.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Writer's Experience With Depression

I decided to finally make this blog more focused on my writing again. The title after all is Ramblings of a Starving Creative Writer, so I figured I should probably post things in accordance to that.

Anyway, I wanted to write a little bit about my experience that I've had (and continue to have) with going through a depression as an aspiring author with several book projects being juggled all at once.

I mentioned on my facebook how I crashed into a mini depression as soon as I moved from the States to Canada. Long story short, my husband's Canadian and we needed to move back to Canada in order for us to be together and for him to get his Master's degree cheaply.

I went from working a full-time job at a global magazine, constantly reading and voraciously writing chapter after chapter in my adult mystery, adult ghost story and young adult fantasy novels. I was probably flying at my highest when it came to goals and accomplishing them.

Fast forward to August of 2016. About five months ago. Me and my husband make the move to Canada and I'm unable to work until I get permanent residency (which, let me tell you takes FOREVER). We lived with his parents for a month then moved in to our new place which we've been in since September. I thought that maybe my lack of motivation in writing was due to all the stress of a new environment, not having access to my own computer (since I did a lot of my writing on my work computer) as well as just the fact that it took us a while to unpack everything and get settled into our new place.

Well, October comes and goes. Then November. Then December. And my mood and way of life aren't changing. We moved to a small town an hour away from a big city. My husband has a car he needs to use for work, which leaves me without any means of transporting myself anywhere outside of this town of about 3,000 people.

Needless to say, I've had several meltdowns since about November. I had such a fire ignited within me to write and to read, and I have done a fair amount of reading but not like I did when I was in the States. I thought FOR SURE having the free time I have right now I'd have at least 2 books written by now and revising them and looking for an agent.

But no. Mostly it's just empty pages. It's a flashdrive I haven't picked up in months. It's chapters that are unwritten. It's a brain that used to be flooding with ideas that now can barely tell her fingers to type a sentence. In addition to the painful and crippling disappointment comes the shame and absolute and utter self-loathing.

I've spent the past few weeks trying to figure out what's wrong with me. I've searched YouTube videos and kindle books to try to find authors who struggle with depression and how they don't let it affect their writing.

What I found was comforting but I wanted more. With the new year, I decided that I desperately needed to change something. I wasted 4 months of what could have been solid writing, solid improvement, solid progression.

So I'm writing this blog post in the hopes that I can help other fellow writers who struggle with what I struggle with as well. Or really, any artist. Any musician, any designer, any poet, any photographer etc. who have struggled with depression.

I really do feel like we writers (or we artists/creative folk) are both blessed and cursed at the same time. We are blessed because we feel deeply and passionately about our craft--about telling stories. But we're cursed because of our deep seeded emotions, they can turn on us like a tidal wave, and it's excruciatingly difficult to overcome it.

I'm not fully back to my normal self yet. Far from it, in fact, though I've hidden it from almost all of my family members and friends until now.

But I will list a few things that have helped me just attempt to get back in the saddle again as far as my writing goes.

1. Force yourself to just do it, no matter how little you end up accomplishing.
By celebrating these simple achievements, and by simply writing you'll at least not feel like a total failure. I wrote 204 words yesterday of an outline for my young adult fantasy novel. 204 words. For a bloody outline. But I did it. I wrote 204 words, which is 204 words more than I've written in over 3 months. And I felt slightly better about myself after the fact. And you will too if you just wrench yourself from your couch or your bed or wherever it is you spend the majority of your time instead of writing and just WRITE. Force yourself to until you get into the habit of it. Someone told me it takes 28 days of doing something to make it into a habit. I'm on day 2. How bout you?

2. Don't beat yourself up about everything.
This is something I'm the Jedi master of. Seriously. It's a BAD JEDI MIND TRICK that gets me EVERY TIME. But there is a way to move past it. Part of it I mentioned in #1 which is celebrating small victories. If you can only get out 200 words, treat yourself. If it's 20 or 2, give yourself a pat on the bat, or allow yourself one episode of Netflix/Amazon prime, or buy yourself a smoothie or ANYTHING that gives yourself positive reinforcement. You know how they train dogs to do tricks by offering them food at the end? Well, it kinda works with us humans as well. If you give yourself a reward after you try and exert yourself, you will feel better about yourself and your life. Trust me, I'm trying to do that right now. Be kind to yourself. If you want to end up in the black hole where you're at right now, then listen to that douchey jerky voice telling you that you suck or you've failed. Tell that voice to shove it and promptly turn on the Force Theme by John Williams. Star Wars music has a way of empowering just about anyone, I've found.

3. Change up your routine/scenery
This is something I'm trying to do now. Because of my husband's schedule, there are random times during the day where he's at home and distracting me. Though I love him and love spending time with him, I just can't write when he's in the house. I need complete and utter solitude in order to do that. I tried writing at home when he's not there, and it sort of worked, but having to use his work laptop can sometimes be problematic. Especially when he has to use it. So I go to the library. It's only a few blocks away from my house, and even in the cold, pathetic wasteland of a winter we're having right now, it's not so bad to walk to. I'm only technically allowed an hour on the library computers, but I'm kind of friends with the library staff so they let me work a little longer than that if it's not busy. Changing things up a bit will greatly help stimulate your creative juices. Though I'm not a fan of the sloppy, bulky keyboard, I'm at least able to be in an environment that I'm not too relaxed in, or tempted to turn on the T.V. or distracted by a spouse.

4. Make sure your sleep schedule isn't whacked
Going to bed at midnight and getting up at 10 or 11 in the morning is fun for a day or two, but then it really starts to make you feel like a zombie. Especially if you're struggling with depression. I'm still working on this but going to bed by 10 and getting up around 8 or 9 will definitely help you a) have more hours in the day where you can get a lot more done and b) help your mind to be more sharp and focused. When I'm not on a sleeping schedule like I was when I was working full-time, I don't get hardly anything done. So make sure you're going to bed at a decent hour and eating healthy at least 3 times a day. The simple things are what helps your mental health, trust me.

So far that's all I've tried doing to help me in my depression to continue working towards finishing one of my books. If you have any suggestions or additions that you'd like to see on this blog post, please comment below. I'm still struggling with this so I absolutely welcome others' experiences, whether they're yours or someone you know.