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2012 January | Yearning for Wonderland

Yearning for Wonderland

There is such a place as fairyland - but only children can find the way to it...until they have grown so old that they forget the way. Only a few, who remain children at heart, can ever find that fair, lost path again...The world calls them singers and poets and artists and story-tellers; but they are just people who have never forgotten the way to fairyland. ~ L.M Montgomery

Dratted Downton Abbey

This is dire.

I needed another costume drama addiction like I needed a Tim Tebow bobblehead…which is to say, I didn’t.

In case you did, Merry Christmas

I certainly didn’t want an addiction to a show currently airing. I have the peculiar habit of refusing to watch a show while it airs. I purchase it on DVD and then I can glut myself all at once without having to wait that pesky week in-between, gnashing my teeth. This works well except when it doesn’t and someone spoils a plotline at the water cooler.

And then came this Christmas…

My mother, the source of all delightful period temptations, gifted me with Season 1 of Downton Abbey. This is the one show I have been avoiding precisely because I knew it would be like catnip for costume lovers.

I did not open it for several weeks. And then Season 2, episode 1 was due to air. I told my mother I wasn’t going to watch it, that I needed to watch Season 1 first and then I could buy Season 2, as per my usual plan. She parried this lame and useless objection and sternly told me to sit down and watch Season 2, episode 1.

“But…but, it’s all backwards and besides then I’ll know what happens and it will spoil season 1,” said I, feebly.

With inexorable Mother Logic, she brushed that protest aside and told me to watch it. So I did. And now I’m hooked. I watched Season 2, Episode 1 (all TWO HOURS) twice. And then I watched it again when it re-aired before Episode 2. For those counting, that is SIX HOURS of Episode 1. Dratted Mother. Dratted Downton Abbey.

First, I’ve always been a huge Edwardian era fan. One of my very favorite movies of all time is “A Room With a View.”

When I was younger, I wanted to grow up to be like Lucy Honeychurch. That daydream likely consisted of wandering around Italian meadows in white muslin gowns, reading letters and pining. After watching Downton Abbey, I took the official personality quiz to find out which character I was like. Apparently, I am now like Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), the witty and nefarious heartbreaking one. It seems to be a short leap from Lucy to Mary, or eleven years.

At least she has exquisite taste

There have been other blog posts which have much more eloquently and succinctly dealt with the virtues of Downton. Ah, the acting! the costumes! the setting! the storylines! the dialogue!

Lady Mary actually had me at this droll exchange from Season 2, Episode 1:

Matthew: Edith seems jolly tonight.
Mary: She’s found her metier: farm labouring.

Metier? Who uses that word? Other than me, that is. I can hear the distant bells of addiction tolling – DOOOOM!

My favorite relationship in the show is actually not Lady Mary and Matthew, nor is it the popular charm of Anna and Mr. Bates. No, my favorite relationship in the series is Lord and Lady Grantham.

The hats!

Backstory explains that Lord Grantham married Cora, an American, for her money, but their relationship has grown into one of such nuanced tenderness and relative equability for the time…how could you not love them? The chemistry between Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern reminds me of my own parents…too bad we didn’t grow up in Highclere Castle. Sigh.

So, to sum up, all my substantial to do list has been shelved and you will find me curled up in my blanket, probably eating Cool Ranch Doritos and watching, oh yes, watching Downton Abbey.

And then I will likely pull out my copy of “A Room With a View”, which also features the indomitable Dame Maggie Smith.

The Divine Miss M

Coincidence? I THINK NOT. If anyone finds a Maggie Smith bobblehead, that is what I want next Christmas. Also, Season 2. Thanks, Mum.

Awards of Versatility & the 15 Magnificent Bloggers

*TRUMPET FANFARE* 

Phew. I was nominated a short while ago for the Versatile Blogger Award by the talented Emmie Mears. Of course, the holidays made it next to impossible for me to adequately respond, but now that it is officially 2012 and – ACK – work is in an hour, it seems a fortuitous moment.

 Here are the rules as they stand, for the Versatile Blogger Award:

1. In a post on your, blog, nominate 15 fellow bloggers for The Versatile Blogger Award.
2. In the same post, Add the Versatile Blogger Award.
3. In the same post, thank the blogger who nominated you in a post with a link back to their blog.
4. In the same post, share 7 completely random pieces of information about yourself.
5. In the same post, include this set of rules.
6. Inform each nominated blogger of their nomination by posting a comment on each of their blogs.

 Okay. Fifteen amazing bloggers whom I admire, along with their Twitter handles. Here we go:

1) Surly Muse: He’s only half-surly, really, but has some great guest bloggers and can turn a phrase with the best of them. @surlymuse

2) A Yankee’s Southern Exposure: Gordon McCleary is a Yankee trapped in the South, but his posts are good-natured, humorous observations on the peculiarities of both sides of the country. @asouthernyankee

3) Alisa Libby: Historical fiction author of “The Blood Confession” and “The King’s Rose”. She muses on writing, history and more in her blog.

4) Lia Keyes: I have dubbed her the Queen of Steam. If you enjoy steampunk as a genre, she posts great original content and has some of the best links around. @liakeyes

5) Cara Michaels: On her blog, Cara is running #WIP500, which is a fabulous writing marathon that runs 366 days this year (you heard me). All you need is 500 words a day; she does it all for the love of the writing community – go Cara! @caramichaels

6) Out of the Past: a Classic Film Blog: this classic film blog is run by @quellelove and a true must-visit for any who love iconic films and their stars.

7) Indie Jane: Devoted to Jane Austen and matters Regency, this blog is run by @_jessmelendez and it’s fun, informative -and- engaging.

8) Finding Wonderland: the YA Writing Weblog: One of the first blogs I started reading regularly. Offers some amazing YA lit recommendations, as well as wry comics by the talented @aquafortis, co-author.

9) Lupus in Flight: Whether writing prose or her lovely poetry, Shaista’s writing always sings and is well worth a regular visit. @lupusinflight

10) Marian Call’s Official Blog: This Alaskan singer-songwriter was one of my fantastic discoveries of 2011. Her song “Good Morning Moon” is one of my favorites of the year and she’s a geek girl too! @mariancall

11) Bullish Ink: Every post I have read on this blog is chock-full of writerly wisdom and that’s saying a great deal. An invaluable resource for those who write. @bullishink

12) Write Me Happy: One of the friendliest writers that I have met through Twitter, this blog documents Angie’s journey through the perilous straits of writerdom. @write_me_happy

13) The Insatiable Booksluts: Other than the pure awesomeness of their name, this site has thought-provoking analysis and will make you laugh at the same time. Really, can you ask for more than that?
@insatiablebooksluts

14) Dead White Guys: Much in the same vein of IB, DWG excels at snark, yet includes a streak of charming erudition. @deadwhiteguys

15) Dasia Has a Blog: This is the blog of @awkwardoptimist, who does a rockin’ air guitar and is another of my favorite snarkers on Twitter. Not only is she a good fiction writer, but reading her blog always cheers me up.

So you should visit all these amazing blogs, subscribe and (of course) follow them on Twitter.

Okay, seven random pieces of information about me:

Errr…

1) I grew up in a theatre, in a most literal sense. I had the most magical childhood, in that I was underfoot backstage and in the costume shop and in the orchestra pit. It gave me a very musical theatre way of looking at the world, which leads us to point 2…

The view of my childhood

2) Wherein I confess that I burst into song randomly. People say musical theatre isn’t realistic, isn’t very real life. It’s -my- real life. Periodically in our household, we would burst into refrains from Jesus Christ Superstar, Pirates of Penzance or Showboat. No fake, Jake. Extra-funny from my 6 feet tall brothers.

Me as Edith in Pirates of Penzance. “Too late! – ha ha! – Too late! – ho ho!”

3) I am a voracious reader. That’s true of most bloggers and writers, but I take it to a point where it annoys people. I usually need to read when I eat. I read the back of airline tickets and cereal boxes and anything I can get my hands on, really. My brain gets panicky if I can’t read, though luckily it is okay to listen to public radio in the car.

4) I have extremely high standards of expectations for myself, maybe because I’m an oldest child. Whenever I feel bad about what I have accomplished thus far, I remind myself that I have had two original full-length plays and two literary adaptations produced. And a short story published in an anthology. And starred in a goth opera, Veil & Subdue. And created a t-shirt brand, Super Secret Spy Girl. And made this blog, which you are reading. I am happy to meet you and hope you will comment and come visit us often.

5) I have big feet and a turned-up nose with freckles.

6) I studied Art History & English in college, two degrees guaranteed to require the learning of the phrase, “Would you like fries with that?” Yet I have always managed to avoid working fast food, no matter how poor I get.
Vermeer’s Muse Clio will -not- serve fries with that

7) I consider 7 a lucky number, though I’m not terribly superstitious. And I actually like red-penning my own work when I edit. There’s something about marking up all those pages that gives me a sense of accomplishment.

There you are, gentle reader. Please visit all those bloggers; they are all deeply deserving and add to the loveliness of the blogosphere – read them today!

Gratitude: a Retrospective, 2011

This year is waning fast, so I wanted to reflect a moment and try and find some final thoughts before the book is closed on 2011.

Like most years, 2011 was a year of bitter and sweet. It had its tragi-comical moments, but ultimately I find it a year that was full of creativity. What more can I ask than that?

* In 2011, I developed this blog. My father suggested several times that I write a blog, but my first attempt was lame and half-hearted, because I didn’t know how to write the blog I wanted to read. This time around, I visualized it better. I wanted a place on the internet with beautiful music and art, one with interviews of people I was curious about, a tiny spot of serenity where true hearts could feel at home.

Arthur Rackham, Feeling Very Undancey

I wanted a blog of unabashed romanticism, one that celebrated the beauty in the world, one that put words to the yearning that all lost souls feel in this increasingly mechanized and digitized world. I hoped these people would find my little watering hole. And they did. Because of my blog, I got to interview such kindred spirits as writer Sarah J. Stevenson, writer/artist Paul Ramey, poetess Shaista Tayabali, writer/marketing guru Frances Figart, humorist Gordon McCleary, writer Alissa Libby, sculptor Cynthia Cusick and musician Ananda. If you have not read the 3QV’s of these amazing people, please go do so. They make the world a more beautiful place.

You can also see our Facebook page or enjoy our whimsical bits and bobs on Tumblr.


* I started writing for Blogcritics.org, which has gotten me published in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer regularly (such as my Elegy for Amy Winehouse), as well as giving me opportunities to interact with such luminaries as Neil Gaiman.

* I gained and lost pets. My sweet Pippa ran away, scared off by feral raccoons. I thought I found her again, but instead it was Sephi, her doppelganger (Read more: Little Cat Feet). I found Sephi a good home. My dear old boy Ramses is staying with my friend Paul for the moment, because I know he is having a happier life there.

As well, we lost Salvador this year, my dearest kindred spirit in canine form. (Read more: Remembering Salvador). There can be no replacing of animals like these. All you can do is bid them adieu and marvel at the fact that the universe sent them to you at all. Paul Ramey wrote and illustrated Zen Salvador, a beautiful tribute to Salvador that all animal lovers would enjoy, and the proceeds benefit the Jacksonville Humane Society.

* I discovered Twitter. I am embarrassed to admit my social media snobbery and it’s all Sarah J. Stevenson’s fault (@aquafortis)! On Twitter, I discovered a whole interlinked community of artists and writers that I would never encounter on Facebook because they would not be in my circle of acquaintances. I couldn’t possibly list all of my favorite Tweeters, so instead I did a Wordle of you all. Click to make larger.
Wordle: Favorite Tweeters 2011

* In a related note, I also attempted National Novel Writer’s Month (NaNoWriMo) this year. After years of forgetting about it till Thanksgiving (oops!), I finally committed to doing it…as though life in November weren’t exciting enough with a retail management job. I did not win it, but I did write 20,000 words on a new manuscript that super excites me. That itself is a major win. I don’t believe I’ve written 20,000 words of fiction in my life, let alone in four weeks.

More exciting, I have developed a writing habit and now actually do write on a semi-regular basis. NaNoWriMo was not without its fallout (almost no blog posts). Given that the main reason that I started the blog was to force me to write on a regular basis, it seems like success!

* I revived Super Secret Spy Girl. She now has a Facebook page. You can go there and like/comment to receive your Super Secret Spy Name. Burn after reading.

To close, I am grateful for all my new friends and experiences. You each contributed to my year. Thank you so much.

Shall we continue on this road together?