A Far, Far Better Thing

Sydney Carton and The Seamstress by Sol Eytinge

This is the third year I’ve concluded with Dickens. When I wound up 2019 with Great Expectations (I realize how ironic that sounds now), and liked it so much, I made an intention of exploring more Dickens in the fourth quarter of the year.

Last year was David Copperfield, which I enjoyed, but it felt a bit self-congratulatory on Dickens’s part. Certainly more so than Great Expectations.

This year was A Tale of Two Cities. This book is the only Dickens I had read prior to 2019, although that “prior” was close to forty years ago. I remember liking it when I read it in high school, and I remember really liking a TV movie version we got to watch in class. In that rendition, Chris Sarandon played both Sydney Carton and Charles Darnay. I loved him, especially his portrayal of Sydney Carton. When The Princess Bride premiered just a couple of years after I saw that version of A Tale of Two Cities, I was a touch disappointed to see him play such a heel of a character as Prince Humperdinck.

Flash forward to now, when I’ve seen The Princess Bride more times than I can count. I found that old TV movie A Tale of Two Cities streaming somewhere, and watched it last month. I can no longer unsee Chris Sarandon as Prince Humperdinck, especially since his voice sounds exactly the same in his portrayal of all three characters. Although his Sydney Carton certainly has more of a drawl. Another fun fact lost on me back in the mid-80s — Peter Cushing (Grand Moff Tarkin from Star Wars) played Dr. Manette.

But I’m burying the lede. What has bubbled up to me through the sedimentary layers of decades is how much I love the character of Sydney Carton. He’s the reason I liked the book so much the first time I read it, and the TV movie the first time I saw it. He’s the poster child for “damaged goods.” And he knows it, and has no illusions about it. He never tries to redeem himself through multiple, abortive, attempts at self-improvement. Actually, his commitment to keep his damage self-contained, and not inflict his misery upon others, is one of the most heroic things about him. (Is his self-containment why Dickens chose the name Carton?)

No, Sydney Carton’s foregoing any small-scale redemptive attempts during his lifetime, sets up his final act in a huge way. He makes the ultimate sacrifice, but it’s not to win a battle, or save a city, or save the universe (sorry, Iron Man). It’s to save a family — and it’s not even his family. But it’s the family of the woman he loves.

And I can’t think of a character who has a better concluding line / thought than Sydney Carton’s. So I begin this new year, grateful to have explored and rediscovered a love I have held for most of my life. Here’s to far, far better things for all of us.

Alternate Timelines

Souvenir from the Wookieeverse

The concept of alternate timelines, or alternate realities, has always been somewhat second nature for me. Or, alternate nature, perhaps.

When I first learned about the multiverse, the hypothesis that there is not only one universe, but an infinite number of universes, my first reaction was, “Of course! Why wouldn’t there be?”

I think I’m just wired that way. Space and time — time especially — has always felt like a construct to me. Something like scaffolding.

Why am I going on about alternate realities? They’ve been on my mind these past few days. In another timeline, I would have been in Disney World with nieces Nicole and Cece this past weekend. Running the Star Wars half-marathon. But that just may be a delayed timeline, since we’re planning to run this race next year, instead. And we still got medals for running a “virtual” half-marathon.

And if I had been in Florida this past weekend, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to go through a long-neglected box of stuff. Where I found piles of evidence of my own alternate realities. (In reality: past realities.) Day planners, wall calendars — things I had no business hanging onto for as long as I had.

I disposed of most of them, but couldn’t bring myself to part with some of the very earliest ones. The most ancient artifact from that timeline is pictured below.

A couple of friends came immediately to mind as I found that 1981 Hallmark date book. Not friends I had back in that day, but friends I have now. One of whom would have been a wee bairn in April 1981, and the other who would not make her debut until October of that year. (I mean being born, not making her society debut.) I was 11 for most of 1981, and from my perspective, it was a good year to be 11. I’m glad to have memories of that year.

Even though they might just be a fabrication. 😉

Interesting how I marked the track meet. It would be years before I found my stride as a distance runner.

Chewbacchus 2020

Lightsaber Drill

Saturday was the 10th annual roll of the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus! Chewbacchus is a science fiction-themed Mardi Gras parade; this was my 6th year taking part as a Leijorette. (The Leijorettes dress up as Princess Leia from Star Wars and wear boots — originally conceived as Majorette boots — thus, Leia-jorettes.)

Here are some links to Chewbacchus-related posts from prior years, if you’re curious: 2016, 2017, 2019

For the first time since I began marching in this parade, it concluded in the French Quarter, which was pretty awesome. It was a clear, cool, night, and passing by Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral was quite an impressive sight. (It happened too quickly for me to get a picture.)

I’ll conclude this post with some pictures I did manage to capture…

 

Themed drinks were prevalent.

An impressive tauntaun costume.

Steampunk Yoda by day…

…and by night (photo courtesy of Niece Nicole)

Niece Nicole participated as a Red Shirt (parade escort) this year!

This year’s crop of parade throws (giveaways) from Sister Elizabeth. The Baby Yodas were all claimed well before parade day.

Checking in: Sci Fi

Sister Julie, a cosplayer as Cara Dune, and me. Do you see The Child?

I’ve had a wealth of sci fi experiences — both viewing experiences, and “live” ones — in the past month or so, and yet I haven’t posted about a one of them. So herewith, in no particular order, is a brief assessment of the standouts:

  • Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order — Don’t think I’ve ever written about video games, because I don’t play them. But I will watch when my husband gets into a new game, because I like the narrative / storytelling aspect. Thus, I’m familiar with the storylines of Assassin’s Creed, and Red Dead Redemption. Jedi: Fallen Order is my hands-down favorite, most likely because I’m already very well-versed in the story milieu. But who can argue details when the m.c.’s droid is as cute as BD-1!
  • Speaking of cute — yes, I’ve watched The Mandalorian, and I’ve seen “the child” (aka Baby Yoda). It took me a little while to warm up to the show, but I feel like I was pretty into it by episode 6. (It didn’t hurt that Clancy Brown, one of my favorite actors, had a role in that one). And I was satisfied with how season 1 wrapped up.
  • Speaking of satisfactory conclusions — I thought Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker stuck the landing. (One of the first reviews I heard, before I’d even seen the movie, used that phrase to describe the movie — “it sticks the landing.” Upon seeing it, I found it apt.) I didn’t love it, but I thought it was enjoyable, and I thought it made better use of its wonderful actors than the previous two movies. But the story wasn’t awe-inspiring. I’ve heard some awe-inspiring theories, one being that “Skywalker” isn’t just a family name. It’s a new brand of force-wielder, the yin-yang duality of Jedi and Sith together, embodied in the character of Rey. It would have been a great movie if I’d walked away with that conclusion proven by the story itself, rather than having a fan explain it to me the next day.
  • Someone who didn’t need to explain himself: Cary Elwes at Wizard World New Orleans, our annual comic con. I saw him in an on-stage interview, and he was a delightful story-teller. Most of his stories were from the set of The Princess Bride, but he’s had a long career, and he had some other gems to tell — from the first time he met Mel Brooks, to a prank the Duffer Brothers played on him on the set of Stranger Things. He was warm, authentic, and able to playfully engage with fans of all stripes. My admiration for this actor has definitely gone up a notch.

Here are a few more pictures from Wizard World, to wrap this up. Bye-bye, have fun storming the castle!

Niece Cece was Kayley from Quest for Camelot, and Niece Nicole was an absolutely brilliant Twister.

 

Space Farce

I marched with the Leijorettes in the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus parade this past weekend. There’s an “only in New Orleans” kind of sentence, if I ever heard one! For the uninitiated, Chewbacchus is a Mardi Gras parade with a science fiction theme. But that feels like an oversimplification. Chewbacchus really incorporates all the best elements of a Mardi Gras parade — satire, alcohol, grand pageantry, an overall over-the-topness — with a wide spectrum of sci-fi and fantasy fandom.

The Leijorettes are a “sub krewe,” honoring Princess Leia. (Yes, of Star Wars). This was my fifth year with the Leijorettes, and I’ve written about the experience a few times before: in Chewbacchus from 2017, and My Kind of Mardi Gras in 2016.

Everything seemed to click this year. The 2019 parade theme was one I thoroughly endorsed: “Space Farce.” Saturday night was clear and cool to cold-ish, with no wind to speak of. The spectating crowd was big and happy, as it was the only Mardi Gras parade happening in the city at the time. We’re still about two weeks away from the full, head-on Mardi Gras season, and I got the sense that New Orleans was ready to start the party a little early. (NOLA as a collective is still smarting from the Saints’ NFC Championship loss.)

I’ll conclude with a few photos, in an attempt to underscore my point:

Melding Saints fandom with Star Wars. The Sith Lord had “Goodell” emblazoned on the back of his evil sith robe.

Panda drummer from the Browncoat Brass Band.

Me holding the banner (temporarily).

Leijorettes in the foreground, downtown New Orleans and the moon in the background.

 

Copyright Allen Boudreaux
Credit for this amazing photo goes to Allen Boudreaux

 

The Writing Fall

Funny how life follows the seasons. Right now, it feels like the harvest for me. Several seeds, some sown years ago, are coming to fruition.

First: my novel, The Trouble on Highway One, is available for pre-sale on Amazon. Release date is October 30. This is the second story in the Traiteur Trilogy, featuring the protagonist Lacey Becnel as she struggles to understand and utilize her supernatural healing powers.

This is the seed that was planted a long time ago. I began writing it after the first story, The Incident Under the Overpass, was drafted, but not yet published. So it’s been a long road. (A long highway?) I had to mention it first, lest Husband Tim accuse me of “burying the lead.” (Which he does from time to time).

Second: I have an installment in OUTSIDE IN TAKES A STAB: 139 New Perspectives on 139 Buffy Stories by 139 Writers. This is an anthology on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and my essay covers “The Dark Age” episode. My piece begins with the sentence, “I hate vampires.” I know certain members of my family will read that, and immediately follow it up with Anakin Skywalker’s whiny soliloquy on sand from Attack of the Clones. (A not-so-inside joke for anyone familiar with the “I hate sand” meme.) OUTSIDE IN TAKES A STAB is available for pre-order, currently scheduled to release November 2.

And finally: an excerpt from my short story, “Lucky Eight,” will appear in the upcoming Louisiana’s Emerging Writers publication. It’s set to publish October 23, and should be available for pre-order from Z Publishing within the next week or so.

Emerging, indeed! Feels pretty good, I have to admit. 🙂

Comic Con Through the Years

Ma nièce Cherie et moi

So, I was at the New Orleans Convention Center this past weekend for Wizard World New Orleans, more commonly known as New Orleans Comic Con. I’ve attended this event for several years running—it’s appeared in this space before.

I wrote about my attendance two years ago; and the very first picture I used on this blog was from Comic Con 2012. As I reflect back on this past half-decade plus, the common denominator, and the thing that makes Comic Con so memorable for me, are the family and friends who have accompanied me.

Back in 2012, it was niece Cece. I learned a lot about Doctor Who as we waited in line to get our entrance passes. Later that same year, myself, Cece, and one of her friends spent fifteen hours in a movie theater for the Avengers movie marathon. I think my legs (and neck) might still be stiff.

In 2016, niece Kate gave me a briefing on what was going on at school and with her friends as we waited to get our picture taken with Hayley Atwell. (Hayley Atwell was promoting her Peggy Carter character from the Agent Carter television series.)

For 2018, I was accompanied by niece Cherie, and got an education in not only Doctor Who, but also what used to be called the Star Wars expanded universe, and especially the character Revan.

I’ve also had the pleasure of attending with my good friend Sabrina, who instructed me on all things Outlander. And also best friend Kristen, who pops up in this space from time to time. For the past two years I’ve met her and her family there. Her son and daughter are just coming into their own fandoms, and it was especially fun to watch them take in the weird Comic Con wildness the first time around. They handled themselves like old pros this time.

It’s worth noting that Kristen introduced me to comics, specifically The X-Men, many, many years ago. And here’s the thing—we were roughly the same age as Cece, Kate, and Cherie the years they were my primary Comic Con companions (a little nod to Doctor Who there). We’re talking about that span between sixteen and eighteen years old: formative years indeed.

That’s the real treasure for me. Cece, Kate, and Cherie are all cousins; they each sprang from different siblings of mine. Spending that time together, apart from their siblings and parents, and finding out what’s rocking their individual worlds at such a flourishing age—it’s something that stays with me. Like the springtime plays in City Park’s Sculpture Garden, Comic Con has been something of a winter tradition between me and the nieces.

As I writer, discovering what these young women find compelling is invaluable. But as an aunt, and dearer to my heart, making these memories with such remarkable and beloved kindred is something I hold very close.

And one of these days, I’ll finally settle in and start watching Doctor Who.

Here, Winter Is

City Park, New Orleans, January 1, 2018

Wherefore no man grows wise without he have his share of winters—from The Wanderer, an Old English poem

As my first post of 2018, I was going to write something about how I resent New Year’s resolutions, yet feel compelled to make them anyway. And work in something about how I began this year as I began the last, with a walk in New Orleans’ City Park. But how the big difference was the weather.

So, I’ll start there. It’s cold! From the morning of January 1:

Okay, okay, I know this is downright balmy compared to some spots in the Midwest and along the east coast. But it’s all relative, right? The average January temperature in New Orleans is a low somewhere in the ’40s, and a high in the ’60s. (Fahrenheit, of course.) See, my app said it felt like 14 degrees! And apps don’t lie. (Do they?) And how about all those hard freeze warnings!

Anyway, I bundled up and took my walk. It wasn’t so bad, except when the wind started to blow. That’s when it must have felt like 14 degrees. I got some nice wintry pics of City Park, so it felt worthwhile.

On to resolutions. They’re awfully “should-y.” As in, “I should exercise more, I should eat more healthily.” It always makes me think of Yoda’s admonition to Luke in The Empire Strikes Back: “No! Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.” It’s like the difference between intention and resolution. I had intended (not resolved) to swim some laps (in an indoor heated pool) before work yesterday morning. But it was really cold, and it was tough to get out of bed, and my throat was a little sore (maybe from that cold walk). So I did not swim laps. Thanks to Yoda, and the line of demarcation between intention and resolution, I don’t feel like a failure. If I had resolved to swim laps, and hadn’t, then I might be feeling like a failure.

It’s also why I’m hesitant to apply resolutions to my writing. In 2018, I’ll see the conclusion of my eighth year of this fiction-writing journey. Early on, I made writing resolutions—both New Year’s and Lenten—to write something every day, or to finish a short story. Things along those lines. But as I’ve come to view writing as a vocation, resolving to do these things feels like resolving to show up to work when I’m scheduled. It’s an unnecessary resolution. Showing up at my job is something I just have to do, or do not. And be ready to face the consequences if I do not.

So that’s where I find myself this winter, this extra-cold start to 2018. I’m deep into the re-writes for my second novel. I need to make the time to finish these re-writes, in short order. I intend for my time spent “doing” to far outweigh my time spent “do not-ing.”

I’ll go back to the beginning to conclude this post. That quote about wisdom growing through your share of winters is something I remember from high school. I must have encountered it in English Lit, and it’s something that has stayed with me ever since. I hadn’t remembered that it pre-dates the Norman conquest of England—thanks for that, Google. While I’m not that old, I’ve seen at least thirty winters since I first read that line. I can only hope that I’m wiser now for having seen those winters through.

The Last Jedi

**BE WARNED: This post contains spoilers. Unfortunately, not the spoilers I was hoping for.**

OK, so—Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I’ve seen it once, last Thursday, and I’m still undecided. I feel like I need to see it again, now that I know the story, to confirm what I like and don’t like about the movie.

I’m pretty firm in the opinion that I like Rogue One better. (You can read my appraisal here.) And I think I like The Last Jedi better than The Force Awakens, but that’s where I want an additional viewing to confirm.

Here’s what I liked:

  • The cast: Specifically, the new characters of Finn, Rey and Poe (and BB-8). The characters and the fantastic actors who play them were one of my favorite things about The Force Awakens. The characters really get a chance to develop, independent of each other, in The Last Jedi. (And at 2.5 hours, there’s opportunity for development. I believe this is the longest running time of any of the Star Wars.) And a few sub-points:
    • Chewbacca: Not a new character, but it’s a new actor inhabiting Chewie’s fur. The nuances and differences are super-subtle, but I think the Finland-born actor Joonas Suotamo does an excellent job of honoring the character work originated by Peter Mayhew, while putting his own stamp on this legendary Wookiee.
    • Poe Dameron: I have no problems playing favorites. Oscar Isaac’s Poe is a definite favorite. IMHO, he’s a worthy recipient of the Han Solo “scoundrel-fly-boy” mantle.
    • And the rest: Really liked Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Kelly Marie Tran, too. And yes, I’m only focusing on the Resistance actors. I’m one of those people who always wants the good guys to win in the end. (Sorry, Domhnall Gleeson—you’re a lot of fun as General Hux, but you’re with the First Order, so, you’re out of luck).
  • The setting(s): One of the main reasons I want to see The Last Jedi again—it might be the most visually appealing of all the Star Wars. The mining planet Crait, the island on remote Ahch-To where Luke has been spending his time—each is stunning in their own way. When I was younger, I used to want to escape to Hoth when I wanted to hide away. Hoth has been replaced by Ahch-To. It’s warmer, it’s definitely much greener, and there doesn’t appear to be any Wampa.
  • Luke Skywalker’s storyline: I don’t have any complaints about Luke Skywalker’s thread in this movie. I was very satisfied with how his character was woven into this new trilogy. But the overall story leads me to…

What I didn’t like: (here there REALLY be spoilers!) It all relates to a lack of resolution. Let me break it down…

  • Rey’s parentage: We are told in the movie that Rey’s parents are nobodies. Just some folks who sold her off for drinking money. Fine. If that is indeed the case, and not some subterfuge being perpetuated by Kylo Ren, I still feel like we’re owed something. Some flashback to complete the scene from The Force Awakens, where we see Rey as a small child being handed off on Jakku. Otherwise, why would you tease that scene?
  • Snoke: Dude has obviously been around a long time. He looks like he’s pieced himself together from mortal injuries before. Yet, he gets eliminated in this movie, and there’s no reference made to who he might be. Frustrating.
  • Princess Leia: I’m still so saddened by the loss of Carrie Fisher. We all know that she can’t be in the next Star Wars movie, which makes her role in this movie so poignant. There seemed to be so many opportunities to bring her character to a fitting and honorable end in The Last Jedi. But no. All I’m going to say, is, the pressure is on the storytellers of Episode Nine. How do you remove Leia’s character from the story in a way that does her character justice?

So, I would like to see the movie again, minus the expectations noted above. And then see how I feel about it.

Since Star Wars is one of the hugest commercial ventures out there, I’m sure that’s music to the filmmakers’ ears.

My 100th Post!

12 million blogs.* One writer.

The odds are against Anne McClane…

That’s just the way she likes it.

 

Thanks to my Die Hard poster for letting me paraphrase some promotional copy. It seemed an appropriate way to open this most auspicious of posts—WordPress tells me this is #100!

When I began this venture in 2015, I had no idea what would fill this digital space. From then to now, I’ve never worried too much about it. (Any regular visitor here has probably figured that out by now. Bless your heart.) My intention with all this remains the same as it ever was: to give my writing ambitions a public face. And, essentially, to let anyone who may be interested know that I am a fiction writer.

Posting once a week for the past two years, I’m hitting 100 right on pace. While I just wrote that I’ve never worried too much about the content, I’ll admit it hasn’t always been easy to meet my self-imposed weekly Wednesday deadline. There have been times when I’ve concocted something in the wee hours of a Wednesday, or used my phone’s data to post something from an airport. Or written something in a hotel bathroom because I was sharing the room and didn’t want to disturb my sleeping roommate.

Since I haven’t missed a Wednesday yet, I feel inclined to reference another Bruce Willis character, and another great, preposterous, movie: Harry Stamper in Armageddon. In the scene where he’s fighting with Colonel Willie Sharp (played by William Fichtner), trying to get him to turn off a nuclear bomb, this is what Harry Stamper says:

“I have been drilling holes in the earth for 30 years. And I have never, NEVER missed a depth that I have aimed for. And by God, I am not gonna miss this one, I will make 800 feet.”

Okay, so, I haven’t been at this for 30 years, and the fate of the planet definitely does NOT depend on my blog posts. But for those times when I think of skipping, I think of this scene, and it gives me just enough fire to put something together.

In keeping with the number theme and my “come what may” attitude, here are a few stats:

  • Total views over the lifetime of this blog: 7,550
  • Only time I’ve ever topped 100 views in a day: my 2nd post, about a prescient letter my father wrote eighteen years before Katrina hit New Orleans
  • Post where I explained the whole Anne McClane / Die Hard thing: post #3
  • Tags I’ve used the most: Writing (20 times), New Orleans (13 times), paranormal romance (6 times), Star Wars and Lent are tied at 4 times apiece (go figure)

So, there you have it. Post #100. Hopefully I won’t be writing #101 in a bathroom.

*12 million blogs is completely fictitious. I have no idea how many blogs there are in the world.