Confessions of a Slow Writer: Why NaNoWriMo isn’t for Everybody – by Anne R. Allen…

A topic dear to my heart as I participate in NaNoWriMo, knowing (and accepting) that I’ll never make a 50K word count goal. I’m a slow writer, too, but maybe that’s not all bad…

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

We live in a speed-obsessed civilization. Whatever it is we crave—cars, trains, electronics, food, dates—we want them ever-faster-and-furiouser. In fact, much of the developed world seems to be engaged some turbocharged drag race of the soul, hurtling our frenzied selves from cradle to grave, terrified of slowing for even a minute of rose-smelling.

So here we are in National Novel Writing Month, when much of the writing community is turning out fiction at rate of speed never imagined by our pre-electronic-age foreparents. NaNoWriMo can do great things for a lot of writers and help them take their craft to the next level. A number of excellent, bestselling books have started as NaNo projects, and I do recommend it for writers who need to overcome blocks and “creativity wounds.

If you’re participating, you’re probably here on the fly, champing at the bit to get back to that brilliant WIP. Go…

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Is The Nightmare Before Christmas a Halloween Movie, or a Christmas Movie?

This fun, well-thought-out article by Max Gladstone finally settles the debate that my household engages in every year…or does it? I’m firmly in the Halloween movie camp–I mean, really, it’s about Jack losing passion for his role as the Pumpkin King, trying to be something he’s not, and subsequently finding himself–and his love for Halloween–all over again. But my husband is firmly in the Christmas move camp for reasons of his own. Whichever camp you’re in, this is a brilliant article on the topic and well worth reading. Who would have thought a claymation movie would inspire such deep, philosophical debate? Well, it is a Tim Burton creation after all, and not exactly your typical kid’s film. If by some chance you have missed this movie in the last 25 years, go rent it. Right now! Then come back to this article and see what you think. Halloween movie or Christmas movie? Maybe it’s both…


Is The Nightmare Before Christmas a Halloween movie, or a Christmas movie? In terms of worldbuilding, it’s obviously both—it’s about a bunch of Halloween-town residents taking over Christmas from Santa Claus.

But worldbuilding elements don’t suffice as genre classifiers, or else black comedies wouldn’t exist. Creators deliberately apply worldbuilding elements from one genre to another for pure frission’s sake. Consider Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (speaking of Christmas movies), which takes a New York noir character, a down-on-his-luck con, and drops him into an LA noir scenario of movie glitz and private eyes; or Rian Johnson’s amazing Brick, a noir story engine driving high school characters. Fantasy literature is rife with this sort of behavior—consider Steven Brust’s use of crime drama story in the Vlad Taltos books, or for that matter the tug of war between detective fiction and fantasy that propels considerable swaths of urban fantasy. If we classify stories solely by the worldbuilding elements they contain, we’re engaging in the same fallacy as the Certain Kind of Book Review that blithely dismisses all science fiction as “those books with rockets.”

And what happens after the slippery slope? The No True Scotsman Argument?!

This is a frivolous question, sure, like some of the best. But even frivolous questions have a serious edge: holidays are ritual times, and stories are our oldest rituals. The stories we tell around a holiday name that holiday: I’ve failed at every Christmas on which I don’t watch the Charlie Brown Christmas Special. When December rolls around, even unchurched folk can get their teeth out for a Lessons & Carols service.

So let’s abandon trappings and turn to deep structures of story. Does The Nightmare Before Christmas work as Christmas movies do? Does it work as Halloween movies do? It can achieve both ends, clearly—much as a comedy can be romantic, or a thriller funny. But to resolve our dilemma we must first identify these deep structures.

Halloween Movies

Halloween movies are difficult to classify, because two types of movie demand inclusion: movies specifically featuring the holiday, like Hocus Pocus or even E.T., and horror movies, like Cabin in the WoodsThe Craft, or The Devil’s Advocate. Yet some horror movies feel definitely wrong for Halloween—Alien, for example. Where do we draw the line?

I suggest that movies centering on Halloween tend to be stories about the experimentation with, and confirmation of, identities. Consider, for example, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, which might at first glance be mistaken for a simple slice of life featuring the Peanuts characters’ adventures on Halloween. In fact, the story hinges on the extent to which the various Peanuts’ identities shine through the roles they assume. Charlie Brown is the Charlie Browniest ghost in history; a dust cloud surrounds Pig Pen’s spirit. Snoopy operates, as always, in a liminal space between fantasy and reality—he becomes the most Snoopy-like of WWI fighter aces. Linus, whose idealism and hope are the salvation centerpiece of A Charlie Brown Christmas, isn’t equipped for the kind of identity play the other characters attempt. He’s too sincere for masks, and as a result becomes the engine of conflict in the story. For Linus, every holiday must be a grand statement of ideals and hope. In a way, Linus is rewarded—he meets the Avatar of Halloween in Snoopy’s form, but fails to appreciate the message sent, which is that Halloween is an opportunity for play, for self-abandonment. It’s Lucy who turns out to be the truest embodiment of the holiday—by explicitly donning her witch mask, she’s able to remove it, and bring her brother home.

Even movies that feature Halloween in passing use it to highlight or subvert their characters’ identities by exploiting the double nature of the Halloween costume: it conceals the wearer’s identity and reveals her character at once. In E.T.’s brief Halloween sequence, for example, while Elliott’s costume is bare-bones, Michael, Mary, and E.T. himself all shine through their costume selections, literally in the case of E.T. The Karate Kid’s Halloween sequence highlights Danny’s introversion (he’s literally surrounded by a shower curtain!) and the Cobra Kai’s inhumanity (skeletons with all their faces painted identically!). Even holiday movies like Hocus Pocus that aren’t principally concerned with costuming present Halloween as a special night for which identities grow flexible: the dead can be living, the living dead, and a cat can be a three-hundred-year-old man.

If we expand our focus to include books that focus or foreground Halloween, we find Zelazny’s A Night in the Lonesome October, Raskin’s The Westing Game, and Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, all of which focus on the experimentation with, or explicit concealment of, identities, and the power of revelation. Fan artists get in on the fun too—every time Halloween rolls around, I look forward to sequences like this, of characters from one medium dressed up as characters from another.

The centrality of identity play to the holiday explains why some horror movies feel “Halloween-y” while others don’t. Alien, for example, is a terrifying movie, one of my favorites, but with one notable exception it doesn’t care about masquerades. Cabin in the Woods, on the other hand, feels very Halloween, though it’s less scary than Alien—due, I think, to its focus on central characters’ performance of, or deviation from, the identities they’ve been assigned.

Examined in this light, The Nightmare Before Christmas is absolutely a Halloween movie. The entire film’s concerned with the construction and interrogation of identity, from the opening number in which each citizen of Halloween Town assumes center stage and assumes an identity (“I am the shadow on the moon at night!”), to Jack’s final reclamation of himself—“I am the Pumpkin King!”

So, are we done?

Not hardly.

Continue reading this article: https://www.tor.com/2018/10/26/is-the-nightmare-before-christmas-a-halloween-movie-or-a-christmas-movie/

Christmas Movies

What’s New Wednesday

It’s time to freshen up my blog a little, so in the coming weeks you’ll see some new features popping up. Don’t worry, I’ll keep doing Medieval Monday and Fantasy Art Friday, since I know many of my followers enjoy those.

I am going to reserve Wednesdays for anything new, exciting, or interesting going on. This might be related to my writings, personal life, free book promotions I’ve found, or anything else that I feel like sharing.

For my first What’s New Wednesday, I’d like to share a brand new character interview that was recently featured on K.M. Jenkins blog as part of an author spotlight.

The interview is with Bane, a character who appears in Ancient Voices: Into the Depths and Visions of Light and Shadow.  He has a pretty quiet and mysterious role in Ancient Voices, but some of his secrets are finally revealed in Visions of Light and Shadow.

So check out this brief interview with Bane.  CHARACTER SPOTLIGHT: Bane


Want to read more character interviews from the Wind Rider Chronicles?

Meet the Characters from Journey to Aviad

Meet the Characters from Ancient Voices

Meet the Characters from Into the Shadow Wood

 

Medieval Monday: Saving the Past

As so many medieval historical sites and artifacts have been lost to time, one of them has recently been brought back from oblivion thanks to The Friends of Friendless Churches! Check out this article from medievalists.net and see the pictures. The transformation is really incredible!


English medieval church restored to beauty after being abandoned for over 50 years

A medieval church dating back to the 13th century is reopening after an impressive campaign led by The Friends of Friendless Churches to restore it.

Located in East Hatley, Cambridgeshire, St Denis dates to 1217, with much of the surviving medieval elements coming from the 14th century. The long history of the church includes renovations done in the 17th and 19th centuries, but gradually it fell in to disrepair and as the cost of repairs couldn’t be met, St. Denis was abandoned in 1961 in favour of a new church.

Aerial shot of the Church of St Denis in East Hadley – photo by Ben Greenhalgh / The Friends of Friendless Churches

Continue reading and see more images: http://www.medievalists.net/2018/09/english-medieval-church-restored-to-beauty-after-being-abandoned-for-over-50-years/


Use the Medieval Monday Index to discover more topics relating to daily life in the Middle Ages.

 

#AuthorToolbox Needing a Win, by Adam at Write Thoughts

This post was inspired by Why You Shouldn’t ‘Go All In’ When Starting a New Project(https://megdowell.com/2018/08/14/why-you-shouldnt-go-all-in-when-starting-a-new-writing-project/)

Recently I had a conversation with someone, and in the midst of that conversation, I realized how in recent times I’ve frequently said the phrase “I need a win,” and how true that is for me.

The more effort I put into something, the more invested I become, the more I want to receive a return, some form of validation, proving that I was right to invest. Granted, not everything works out, but there is a way in which, just as we need a certain amount of resources to sustain ourselves physically, we need a certain amount of mental/emotional support in the form of success.

This past summer I attended a talk where someone discussed how many recreational activities (notably video games), are built around guiding audiences towards a success, while simultaneously convincing the audience that failure was a very real possibility (when the reality is the experience was designed to end with a successful outcome).

At the time the speaker was extolling the virtue of experiences that actually allow audiences to fail (i.e. escape puzzle rooms), and while I agree with what he said, I think it’s also important to recognize that we need a certain amount of success in our lives, and writing can be a very long road, with many setbacks, before we can achieve that long sought-after outcome.

Click to read the rest of this great post.

Medieval Monday: Undergarments

This may seem like a strange little topic, but it came up this week as a curiosity question I wanted answered for my new work-in-progress. What was meant to be a quick search, for a quick and easy answer, turned out to be more interesting than I anticipated. Today I’ll be sharing a post instead of making my own because this site really did a good job of addressing the topic. I hope you’ll click and read the whole thing through–I was surprised at how much I didn’t know!


What Underwear Was Like in Medieval Times by Melissa Snell

What did medieval men wear under their clothes? Medieval women?

In imperial Rome, both men and women were known to wear simply wrapped loin-cloths, probably made from linen, under their outer garments. In addition, women might wear a breast band called a strophiumor mamillare, made from linen or leather. There was, of course, no universal rule in undergarments; people wore what was comfortable, available, or necessary for modesty — or nothing at all. Individuals competing in sports, like the women depicted in the mosaic shown here, would have benefited from confining garments.

It’s entirely possible that the use of these undergarments continued into medieval times (especially the strophium, or something similar), but there is little direct evidence to support this theory. People didn’t write much about their underwear, and natural (as opposed to synthetic) cloth doesn’t usually survive for more than a few hundred years. Therefore, most of what historians know about medieval undergarments has been pieced together from period artwork and the occasional archaeological find.

One such archaeological find took place in an Austrian castle in 2012. A cache of feminine delicates was preserved in a sealed-off vault, and the items included garments very similar to modern-day brassieres and underpants. This exciting find in medieval underwear revealed that such garments were in use as far back as the 15th century. The question remains as to whether they were used in earlier centuries, and if it was only the privileged few who could afford them.

In addition to loincloths, medieval men were known to wear an entirely different type of underpants.

Underpants

Medieval men’s underpants were fairly loose drawers known as braies, breeks,or breeches. Varying in length from upper-thigh to below the knee, braies could be closed with a drawstring at the waist or cinched with a separate belt around which the top of the garment would be tucked. Braies were usually made of linen, most likely in its natural off-white color, but they could also be sewn from finely woven wool, especially in colder climes.

In the Middle Ages, braies were not only used as underwear, they were frequently worn by laborers with little else when doing hot work. Those depicted here fell well below the knees, but were tied to the wearer’s waist to keep them out of the way.

No one really knows whether or not medieval women wore underpants before the 15th century. Since the dresses medieval women wore were so long, it could be very inconvenient to remove underwear when answering nature’s call; on the other hand, some form of snug underpants could make life a little easier once a month. There’s no evidence one way or the other, so it’s entirely possible that, at times, medieval women wore loincloths or short braies. We just don’t know for sure.

Keep Reading Here: https://www.thoughtco.com/medieval-underwear-1788621


Learn more about the daily life in Middle Ages by browsing previous posts in the Medieval Monday Index.