About Me

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I'm a published author of short fiction for kids and adults. I have an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. I'm a former content writer for Spirit and Truth publishing on their Living the Word series. I've also worked as a paid book reviewer and as a student editor for The Louisville Review literary magazine. I'm a wife and mom to two great kids, three dogs, and a cat. I love books, movies, gardening, kids, and animals.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Chat with Mrs. Claus

I am truly honored today to welcome Mrs. Claus to my blog as a special guest. For privacy purposes I couldn't post an actual picture of the great lady herself, but there are lots of cute images of her and Santa out there. This was one she sent me that she liked best.

Ann: Thank you so much Mrs. Claus for agreeing to chat with me on one of your busiest days of the year. I am a huge fan of you and your husband.

Mrs. Claus: I'm so glad you asked me. Even though it is a busy season for me and my husband we love to talk about our life's work with believers like you.

Ann: Well I'll try to keep this chat short even though I have lots of questions I'd love to ask. Do you find fewer children believe in you nowadays?

Mrs. Claus: Fortunately, we don't. We have more children than ever who believe in us and thank goodness we have lots of wonderful helpers out there who are more than willing to work hard to make sure many deserving children receive their presents.

Ann: By helpers do you mean elves?

Mrs. Claus: We do have a few elf helpers out there. But there are lots of other groups and organizations that work to get children the presents they deserve. Santa and I love this time of year because of the spirit of giving that is so prevalent during this wonderful season.

Ann: That is true now that you mention it. I can think of several wonderful organizations that work all over the world to help make this season merry for kids. Do you find it hard to keep your anonymity in this technological age?

Mrs. Claus: It is challenging. But with so many people out there willing to be Santa helpers and listen to the wishes of children few people can ever be sure who the real Santa is. Also, my husband and I have been doing this work a very long time. So we have years of experience maintaining our privacy.

Ann: Okay, I have to ask, how does Santa deliver all of those toys to children in one night?

Mrs. Claus: I'm so glad you asked that question. The answer is that Santa is known by many different names and is anticipated on different days throughout the Christmas season. Some children look forward to him coming on St. Nicholas Day, others on Christmas Eve, and others expect him on the day of the Epiphany in January. Also, time zones are very different around the world. Some countries are whole days ahead of others. In Italy, I actually get to deliver the presents as Befana, so that particular country holds a special place in my heart.

Ann: That is fascinating, I love learning things about other cultures. It sounds like you and Santa have a remarkable history together. I wish we had time to talk more about it, but I know you are on a tight schedule, so I'll just ask one last question. Do reindeer really fly?

Mrs. Claus: Dear, Clement Moore and his wonderful poem certainly helped spread my husband's popularity. I can tell you that we do have special reindeer that do fly, but I can't tell you anymore about it. For the safety of reindeer everywhere that is a trade secret that my husband and I guard very carefully. It took us years to train and learn to guide our reindeer safely. Not all reindeer are equipped to do what ours do. It could be very harmful to the animals if people tried to force them to fly when they aren't able to. Let's just leave it at that.

Ann: Well, thank you so very much for taking the time to talk to me today. I know you have lots to do so I won't keep you any longer. I hope you and Santa have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Mrs. Claus: Thank you, Ann for hosting me on your blog. I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas and a very healthy and happy New Year. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Happy Belated Birthday Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice

In July of this year, I was finally able to go to my first ever Jane Austen festival at Locust Grove in Louisville, KY. Unfortunately for me, Louisville is the closest place that has a Jane Austen society in the Bluegrass. A fun group for Austenophiles (I made this word up, not sure if it's a real word) like me, also known as Janeites, who enjoy getting to do fun stuff once a month to celebrate all things Jane Austen. Still, I did get to enjoy a fun afternoon with my daughter and mother, and realized that this year is also the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice, one of Ms. Austen's most popular novels.

My daughter was introduced to Pride and Prejudice in movie form at a very early age, but didn't remember the story. So, to celebrate it's bicentennial year, we did a film adaptation viewing marathon which then inspired my precocious 12 year-old to read the actual book. We watched the oldest film adaptation I have in my movie library, a 1940 version with Sir Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy and Greer Garson as Miss Elizabeth Bennett. Then we moved on to the BBC made for TV version (1995) with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, one of my personal favorites, and Jennifer Ehle as Lizzy. We ended with the most recent version I know of (2005), with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen in the lead roles. Of all of them my daughter loved the newest adaptation the best, though the BBC version ran a close second. When I asked her why, she said that she loved Matthew Macfadyen's nose. Not sure why his nose is a factor, but apparently the Mr. Darcy in her mind has a nose like this particular actor.

I wasn't sure my daughter would like the book. But I hoped she would. I love the character of Elizabeth Bennett or Lizzy as she's referred to by her family and friends. She is strong, she doesn't settle for just any man in order to be safe and please her mother, and she has a firm sense justice for all, no matter your station in life. Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is the model for many of the romances that women and even some men enjoy today. The aloof and snobby Mr. Darcy is won over by the poorer but bright, and clever Miss Bennett. They fight, and dislike each other in the beginning, then slowly fall in love and end up enjoying a happy ever after moment at the end. All of Jane Austen's books have happy endings for her characters, despite all the trials and tribulations they endure beforehand. My daughter loved the novel and came home telling me about how she secretly squeed in class while she read about Mr. Darcy's first proposal to Lizzy.

It brought back happy memories of my first time reading the book at about her age. So here a day late is my tribute and personal thank-you to Ms. Austen. I don't think genre fiction would be what it is today without your clever stories that see into the human spirit so keenly and accurately. Even today your novels strike a cord with us and our human foibles which haven't evolved all that much in over 200 years. And for those of you out there who love her novels and enjoy watching the film adaptations of them, don't be sad that 2013 and the bicentennial of Pride and Prejudice is coming to a close. The dawning of 2014 will be the 200th anniversary of another of Jane Austen's novels, Persuasion. I'm looking forward to exploring the nuances of this novel with my daughter in the coming year since it is one of the only Austen novels I haven't yet read all the way through. This time we'll read the novel first and then compare film adaptations, of which sadly, I only have two. I'll be interested to find out which Captain Wentworth appeals to my daughter most and why. =)

In the meantime, here are some fun links to check out about Jane Austen and her novels and the movies/TV shows based on her books. Also, which Jane Austen novel is your favorite? Who do you like best of her heroes and heroines and who do you like least?

Editorial of why Mr. Knightley is better than Mr. Darcy

200th Anniversary of Pride and Prejudice and Life Lessons from Jane Austen

List of 11 adaptations and spin offs on Jane Austen stories

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Movie Remakes, and Series vs. Standalones in Genre Fiction

Photo of my personal DVD

Okay, so many of you might have heard that plans are in the works to remake the classic Frank Capra film It's a Wonderful Life. Many people are outraged by this idea. See the link:

Others are excited about it. An article in Parade magazine actually took a viewer poll on the subject.

While I'm not usually a fan of Hollywood's tendency to remake old movies or make movies based on popular older TV series (Bewitched), there have been a few I didn't mind.

Miracle on 34th Street for example. While I love the Maureen O'Hara and Edmund Gwenn version of the original classic, I didn't think the remake was bad. I actually liked it. The 1994 remake starring Richard Attenborough and Elizabeth Perkins was well written and an acceptable update on the classic. And if reviewer's opinions count the two rated very closely on both Amazon and Imdb.

Another remake that comes to mind is Christmas in Connecticutt. In my opinion, the Barbara Stanwyck version with Dennis Morgan as the charming and cute WWII hero, and Sydney Greenstreet as the overbearing Alexander Yardley is the best. The remake with Dyan Cannon and Kris Krisofferson just wasn't the same. Granted it was a made for TV movie, but still...

As for books, don't get me started on movie versions of books. Most of them fall terribly flat. Which leads to another trend in Hollywood of making movies out of popular YA series. While, I'm very impressed with the Hunger Games movies, most of the time there is no comparison. This leads me to another interesting article I read lately. It posed the question of whether you read series books differently than standalones and whether there were ever genre series you gave up on. Here is the link:
Mind Meld: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Genre Series...

While I agree with her on the Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne, I don't agree on the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. I think Harry Dresden has gotten more unlikeable with each book since Changes. I do like the Gail Carriger Parasol Protectorate series, and am looking forward to the sequel series and diving into the new YA series she's started. And even though there have been years in between Diana Gabaldon's Outlander books, I'm still a fan. I am not probably going to finish the Beautiful Creatures series books by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, or Maggie Stiefvater's Wolves of Mercy Falls series. Both just sort of bore me.

So how do you feel about movie remakes and the plans for It's a Wonderful Life, the sequel? What about series vs. standalones? Do you read them differently or have a different set of expectations for one vs. the other? And have there ever been series you've given up on?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Adventures into the Holiday Season

Well the holidays are in full swing. My calendar is filling up more each day with special holiday activities for me and the kids. Thank goodness for cyber Monday or I don't know when I'd have time to shop. I did make it out on black Friday and managed to get a few good deals. But black Friday has gotten more confusing each year since it became more like brown Thursday. It used to be I could strategically plan out my shopping early in the morning on Friday like a general calling up the troops. I'd sneak out of the house while my kids were still asleep and pick up holiday surprises and be back before they even knew I'd gone anywhere. It was lovely. Now you hardly get time to digest your turkey before the deals start on Thursday. I guess it's nice for those of us who don't like getting up super early. But it makes it harder to figure out where to be and when and I'm always so sleepy Thursday evening after eating so much. I did manage to go out with my mom and daughter to see "Frozen" on Thursday though. That's a fun thing to do after you eat if you aren't into football.

This year I decided it wasn't worth it to get up and out early on Friday. Most of the deals had been going on too long by then. So I had a nice leisurely breakfast of pumpkin pie with whipped cream, hot tea, and waldorf salad with lots of apples and cheese. I figure pumpkin is a squash so it is perfectly acceptable to eat it in pie for breakfast, plus if you do it before you go shopping you can walk it off all day long. After doing a little shopping with my mom, daughter, and sisters, we had lunch and went to see a holiday movie called the "Christmas Candle." Overall, it made for a nice new holiday tradition and it took some of the pressure off shopping on that one crazy day of the year. I think if you're going to have deals around the Thanksgiving holiday you should do them all throughout the week. That way people can browse and shop and see what's out there the weekend before and it makes it easier to plan your attack later in the week. Plus it might help alleviate the mob scenes that still seem to occur on Friday. Some of the stores did do that this year and I think that might be a sensible approach.

And as I mentioned earlier, if you aren't able to get everywhere over the weekend, you can shop in your pjs on Monday and still get some good deals. Then you can celebrate by making holiday fudge or maybe peppermint bark. Yum!

What about you? How do you feel about the black Friday/brown Thursday trend? What holiday traditions do you enjoy this season?