Cinderella: #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft

Cinderella aired on ABC Family this last weekend. I’m a sucker for a Disney marathon. Since I tend to look at Cinderella as a study in how and why people get stuck in abusive relationships, I decided to live tweet it under the #WhyIStayed hashtag in the title character’s voice. This post is a record of those tweets.

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10 Books That Made An Impression On Me

You’ve probably seen this challenge on Facebook already – list 10 books that have made an impression on you. When one of my friends tagged me last weekend, I decided to narrow it down to ten by focusing on books that I feel have influenced me as a writer. Here’s what I came up with, listed roughly in the order in which I first read them. All images link to listings on Barnes & Noble’s website. Continue reading

How soon should you blog about a work in progress?

Believe it or not, Google did not give me any answers to that question. I have no idea whether I’m telling you this way too soon or not soon enough. But I’m too excited to wait, so here it is…

Image via Wiki Commons

I’m working on a new novel unrelated to Thalia’s Musings. It’s a young adult steampunk dystopia inspired by the 19th century American “robber baron” industrialists, tentatively titled Baroness. Absolutely everything in the previous sentence is subject to change at this point. I’m 10,000 words in, which is about 1/8th of its projected length.

The plan for this one is to query the manuscript as soon as it’s finished, find an agent, and get the book published by a major publishing house. Don’t worry, I have no intention of abandoning Thalia’s Musings. But Thalia’s Musings 4 will conclude the series, so I have to start thinking beyond it now. I hope my readers will follow me to whatever projects come next (hopefully there’ll be many, many more). I’m looking forward to bringing you more updates about this one!

Frankenstein, MD – It’s Aliiiiiiiive!

I read Frankenstein about six years ago when I was discovering steampunk. I was expecting to like it in a so-bad-it’s-good way akin to the B-movie neckbolt cliches. I ended up loving it for its engaging characters (including the philosophical, articulate Monster), its thoughtful exploration of enduring themes like familial responsibility and ethics in scientific research, and its legitimate, well-written horror.

So I was ecstatic when I found out about Pemberley Digital’s plans to follow Emma Approved with an adaptation of Frankenstein. And that they were partnering with PBS. And that Victor Frankenstein (the creator, not the creature) was being rewritten as Victoria!

Anna Lore as Victoria Frankenstein, Steve Zaragoza as Iggy DeLacey. Image via Frankenstein MD (click to visit the official site)

Frankenstein, MD premiered last Tuesday with three episodes, followed by a fourth on Friday. It’s ostensibly a PBS science vlog hosted by two promising almost-MDs, Victoria Frankenstein and Ludwig “Iggy” DeLacey. Like The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Emma Approved, the writers are taking plenty of liberties with the source material. For example, the vlog does not open with its titular character stranded in the Arctic. It’s a reasonable alteration, I suppose. As is adding a stand-in for Igor the Hunchback Lab Assistant, a character who doesn’t appear in the book, but has become an inextricable part of Frankenstein mythos.

Overall, I’m impressed by how many elements I’m recognizing from the book. The silent cameraman/editor, Robert Walton, is a nod to the book’s framing device of Frankenstein relaying his story to an Arctic explorer of that name. Victoria’s mentor, Dr. Abraham Waldman, was a prominent character in the book. Victoria’s childhood friends Eli Lavenza and Rory Clerval are gender-flipped versions of Elizabeth Lavenza, Victor’s love interest, and Henry Clerval, Victor’s best friend. Victoria and Iggy’s university, Engle State University, takes its name from the book’s Ingolstadt University.

Most of all, there’s Frankenstein herself. Victoria mirrors Victor in that she’s passionate about pushing the limits of medical science. Nothing gets in the way of her research. Don’t tell her something’s impossible. “Impossible” just means no one’s figured out how to do it yet. Petty things like her subject’s clinical death are no impediment to her. She’ll just shock that bitch back to life. Drug-induced paralysis causing a panic attack? No prob. She’ll bring the subject out of it with MOAR DRUGS! Sure, the higher-ups may question her ethics (and her sanity), but genius and determination will triumph if Victoria has anything to do with it.

In short, Victoria Frankenstein is a mad scientist.

And she is the most adorable mad scientist you will ever see. Great writing, great comedic foiling from the rest of the cast, and a great performance by Anna Lore combine to make Victoria’s megalomaniacal superiority complex come across as hilarious and endearing.

The story has been light-hearted and upbeat so far. I’ll be interested to see how Frankenstein, MD handles the book’s heavier material. The book is full of murder, arson, identity crises, and like I said earlier, legitimate horror. The book closes with (SPOILER) anticipation of both creator’s and creature’s death. In the end, the reader is left contemplating which was the true monster. Pemberley Digital did an impressive job handling the more serious, uncomfortable issues in Pride and Prejudice and Emma. I’m confident that they’ll do the same for Frankenstein, and curious to see how they manage it.

Click here to watch Frankenstein, MD on the official website, or watch the playlist embedded below. If this has inspired you to read Mary Shelley’s original book, click here to get a free ePub, Kindle, or browser ebook at Project Gutenberg.

The Quest: LARPing is now a televised competitive sport

A few weeks ago I got the following text from my sister:

The shameless fangirling is genetic.

The shameless fangirling is genetic.

Normally I don’t follow reality TV competitions. I’m not a snob about them, they just aren’t my thing. I’ve never seen a single episode of Survivor. Overall, I think I’ve watched more parodies of reality TV shows than actual reality TV shows. However, the concept (and my sister’s endorsement) of this one piqued my interest, so I gave The Quest a try.

You guys.

It’s LARPing.

It is a televised LARP.

 

Contestants appear before the Fates in ABC’s The Quest. Image via The Quest’s official Facebook page.

It’s what would happen if you could play a World of Warcraft style video game in a holodeck instead of whatever lame-o device you’re stuck playing it on. Of course, this means all you have to work with are your own personal stats, not a superhuman digital character’s. So far the challenges have included archery, horseback riding, blacksmithing, running, plus a variety of puzzles that require more brains than brawn. In the tradition of reality TV (so I’m told), one of the three weakest contestants gets voted out every week, so you don’t want to use Charisma as a dump stat.

Although the contestants themselves are fun to watch, I think my favorite thing about The Quest is the NPCs. For you poor, sad people who aren’t familiar with fantasy roleplaying games, NPC stands for non-player characters. They’re the people who exist for you to interact with. Sometimes they’re basically talking furniture. Other times they have distinctive personalities, major roles in the story, and enhance the overall environment of the game. The actors playing the NPCs on The Quest are doing a great job putting themselves in the latter category. I have no idea whether these actors are nerds or not. For all I know, they could’ve taken the job because it was this or a Viagra commercial. But they are SO into their roles. They never break character. Ren Faire Drill Sergeant. The Royal Queen of Queenliness. The Vizier. The Fates. OMG, the Fates. And there is no scenery left, because The Hag chewed it all to pieces.

The Quest airs on Thursdays at 8pm/7pm Central on ABC. As my sister said, it also replays on Hulu (though it’s on a one-week delay if you don’t have Hulu Plus). Click here if you want to check it out!

Oh, and if any producers are reading this, y’all totally need my sister for Season Two.

The Fire Wish: Scheherazade Meets The CW

Reviewing Royal last week put me in a YA fantasy mood. Hence this review of The Fire Wish, a new release by debut author Amber Lough. TL;DR – You’re either going to love it or hate it. I loved it.

The Fire Wish (Jinni Wars #1), by Amber Lough. Click image for Amazon listing.

The Fire Wish is about two teenage girls in a mythical version of ancient Baghdad who switch places with each other. Jasmine Zayele is a reluctant princess who wants to escape an arranged marriage. Ariel Najwa is a Jinn spy-in-training fascinated by the human world and its inhabitants. If this sounds too cheesy to you, abandon hope all ye who enter here. If you’re as much of a sucker for this kind of story as I am, grab your long skinny fork thing and join me at the fondue fountain.

My favorite thing about this book is the Jinni world Lough has created. I’m not as familiar with Middle Eastern mythology as I’d like to be, so I can’t tell how much is adapted from that and how much is Lough’s own imagination. But it’s pretty obvious that the Jinni spy headquarters is influenced by Lough’s experience in US military intelligence. There are intelligence files, security clearance levels, walls filled with magic screens, and, of course, secret missions. Najwa, the Jinn spy candidate, was the more interesting of the two protagonists to me, though ironically she spends most of her time exploring the surface and trying to become Part Of Our World. Najwa could be the only protagonist and I’d still want to read this book.

Not that I don’t like Zayele; it’s just that her story starts out way more familiar. She’s a plucky tomboy in a patriarchal society that wants her to be a proper lady and marry the nice prince her family picked out for her. To be fair, she has some legit reasons for not wanting to get married. She’s still a few months away from her sixteenth birthday, and marriage would mean leaving her blind brother at home without her care. And, hey, it doesn’t matter if a guy is a prince, a musician, a scientist, and a total hottie. If a girl isn’t interested, she isn’t interested. Move along.

Is it really a spoiler that Najwa is interested? Or that Zayele ends up falling for the ripped, leather-clad, Special Ops Jinn-next-door that Najwa totes friendzoned? It’s predictable, but it works. Prince Kamal is a great match for cautious, curious, scholarly Najwa. Atish, the Shaitan warrior, is everything impulsive, decisive, headstrong Zayele could want in a guy.

But, cute pairings aside, The Fire Wish manages to avoid being a romance novel disguised as a fantasy. Most of the focus is on the war between the humans and Jinni, how people think the war started vs how it really did, and both sides’ behind-the-scenes efforts to gain the upper hand. It’s an intriguing setup, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with the Jinni War in the inevitable sequels.

If a made-for-the-CW magic carpet ride sounds like your idea of a good time, click the image above or this link to enter A Whole New World.

Thalia’s Musings 3 is here!

The first chapter of Unraveled (Thalia’s Musings, Volume Three) is online at ThaliasMusingsNovels.com!

Unraveled (Thalia's Musings, Volume Three)

Unraveled (Thalia’s Musings, Volume Three)

I’ll be posting a new chapter every Monday for the next seventeen weeks. This blog will keep the same format and content – weekly posts with geeky pop culture fangirling reviews and the occasional commentary on current events. I’ll also be doing short posts like this one linking to the latest Thalia’s Musings chapter every Friday. That way subscribers to this blog will still get updates on the series, but subscribing to Thalia’s Musings is the only way to get updates as soon as the chapters go online.

Miss my usual media review content? Click here for a review I posted yesterday on Royal, the latest book in Anthea Sharp’s Feyland universe.