February 13, 2024

One Thing Leads to Another (the Book, It Lives!)

Funny how things work. My recent foray into the world of Mary and George led me to algorithms recommending more gay-themed videos featuring Nicholas Galitzine, which means snippets from Amazon's Red, White, and Royal Blue. And then THAT led to more recommendations of royal-gay-themed videos, which include snippets from Netflix's The Young Royals. And then THAT turned into Netflix recommending other boarding-school or simply school-themed shows.

Where did that take me? 

Back to my experiences in a Catholic school (not a boarding school, though), which led to a nostalgic trip back to the time I wrote Wollstone (a gay YA fantasy boarding school love story), which led me to antiphonal singing (something we did during mass), which then led me back full circle to the scrapped Madrigal, which I was hoping to write but couldn't get the ideas to work as a cohesive unit. 

And guess what! It lives! 

Rather than make it into a full-on dark fairy tale of sorts since it's technically a gothic take on "The Pied Piper of Hamelin", it's getting a full-on glow up and will take place in a boarding school that's a mix of Catholicism, superstition, and dark fantasy. Because ghosts. And folklore. The book's title will be different to reflect the shift, but I'm tentatively looking at Compline instead of Madrigal. From secular to sacred but with a twist, I suppose. 

It'll be a treat to go back to writing another boarding school story. Certainly a lot creepier than Wollstone, and I hope to really dig into my Catholic background for more inspiration.

And as a bonus, I'm also beginning to form ideas for a follow-up book (a sequel and yet not quite since it's a standalone) to Nightshade's Emporium. I'm totally stoked for this. I'm still not clear about what kind of publishing calendar to follow, but the sequence can go either Voices in the Briars + Compline + untitled or Voices in the Briars + untitled + Compline. It'll most likely be the first option, but depending on how energized I am, I might work a miracle and actually write Compline and the still-untitled follow-up book simultaneously. I did that before, and I got it done. 

It'll all depend on how the calendar this year works out, of course. That said, it's safe to say both of the latter books won't be out till next year.

February 07, 2024

Mary and George (Well, Hello There!)

Ran across this trailer yesterday, and color me well and truly intrigued.

From the YT page:

Mary & George is inspired by the unbelievable true story of Mary Villiers (Academy Award® winner Julianne Moore), who molded her beautiful and charismatic son, George (Nicholas Galitzine), to seduce King James VI of Scotland and I of England (Tony Curran) and become his all-powerful lover.

Through outrageous scheming, the pair rose from humble beginnings to become the richest, most titled and influential players the English court had ever seen, and the King’s most trusted advisors. And with England’s place on the world stage under threat from a Spanish invasion and rioters taking to the streets to denounce the King, the stakes could not have been higher. Prepared to stop at nothing and armed with her ruthless political steel, Mary married her way up the ranks, bribed politicians, colluded with criminals and clawed her way into the heart of the Establishment, making it her own.

Mary & George is an audacious historical psychodrama about a treacherous mother and son who schemed, seduced and killed to conquer the Court of England and the bed of its King.

George Villiers was, by many accounts, an utter sleazebag, and his Wiki entry is wild. I won't be able to see the series since I don't have the streaming service for it, but I'm all for Jacobean gay intrigue (not to mention disastrous results -- not because of Villiers's sexual orientation, but because of his narcissism and greed).

February 05, 2024

Keeping Up With Netflix: Paranormal

I know I've been banging on and on about stuff I've seen on Netflix and nowhere else, but it's because in my household, Netflix is the only entertainment platform we have. A number of reasons are behind us no longer going to the theater for movies, the overriding one being health (not mine, but my husband's). 

I'm actually good with this, though. Never had any problems turning to alternative methods of enjoying films and even series. Heck, I've even developed a preference for limited series runs versus the standard X number of seasons' long runs on TV back in the past. We've also got rid of our TV twenty years ago, so it isn't as though this is new. 


This limited series was on my queue for the longest time, and I finally got to see it (not binge, though -- I stopped binging stuff ages ago, too). It's got a fun premise, and I like the setting (Egypt in the 1960s). The protagonist is a doctor who's a bit of a sad sack type, going around smoking non-stop and with his shoulders stooped and his head bent. He's convinced he's the unluckiest person on Earth, and small mishaps happen around him all the time. 

There's a love triangle going on between him, an old university friend with whom he's always been in love, and a cousin who's in love with him and is also engaged to him. The premise of the series, though, revolves around paranormal events meant to test his beliefs. 

The series is episodic on the whole though there's a theme that links them all together, the first episode and the last being bookends that cycle him back to where the story begins. The primary conflict involves the ghost of Shiraz, a little girl who was his playmate when he was a kid. So her mystery was the one I was the most invested in, but the show still needed to go through a few more supernatural adventures that lead Refaat back to Shiraz. Those adventures are there to test his beliefs in science and use them to explain whatever supernatural events are happening. So his struggles aren't just with the outside world and all the calamities coming his way, but internally as well.

The series is based on books written by Ahmed Khaled Tawfik, and it's a fun one to follow. I suppose my favorite episodes are the ones around Shiraz (first and sixth) and the one about the naiad (fourth). The setting is really to die for, but it does get overwhelmed by the moody lighting, which is incredibly dark and murky at times that it almost feels like a slog, watching an episode. As the lead character, Refaat is a hoot with his dry, self-deprecating humor, but after a while, it does get a little too much at least for me. I think I paused my watching more and more frequently the further into the series I went, and much of the relief from his character's dourness comes from the side characters, who are much livelier and offer a necessary counterpoint to his.

However, it ends pretty satisfyingly, and it's raised my interest in the original books. I don't know if they're available translated, but I do need to dig around.

February 03, 2024

Life Comes Fast at You, Doesn't It?

Work has begun on The Dubious Commode, though it was off to a bit of a sluggish start. January felt like a parting blow from the holidays, so I was barely coherent when the weekend came around. Second weekend into the new book, and I'm saddled with a bad cold. Bah. I still work through it, though. Writing is my special downtime, in a way, so the time I carve out of the weekend for myself is sacrosanct. 

But February's now here, and while I'm still recovering from a bad cold, my mood's pretty high. If things go according to plan, I hope to be done with The Dubious Commode by the end of April, and it'll be rounds of edits and revisions after. The book may very well be released sooner than scheduled, but if so, I'd like to aim for a five-month calendar as the best case scenario. I had a good reason why I needed to ease up on my release schedule, and that reason still holds up, but as you've already seen, I'm prone to being too eager when things go my way. 

I'm also looking ahead and am brainstorming for Voices in the Briars, and I do think I know what to do with that lovely "Dance of the Knights" video I shared in the previous blog post. It'll be part of the story, for sure, either as a single scene or a recurring one, depending on the plot. The plot for "Bluebeard" involves a lavish party / ballroom scene in which Bluebeard convinces his future bride's family and friends that he's both wealthy and harmless, after all, and I'd like to play with that.

One thing I also would like to try my hand at is urban fantasy. Granted, I've done something along those lines already with the Dolores series, but I'd like to amp it up some more though not necessarily with the use of mythology. I've been digging around other cultures' take on elements since I really like the idea of powerful beings representing the different elements though not along the classical lines of fire, water, earth, air, and aether. I prefer the Chinese agents of earth, fire, water, air, and metal. 

What I've read about Wuxing is really fascinating, and I love the idea of the elements' interconnection and how they work together to create and destroy. I do have a vague -- very vague -- idea of a possible urban fantasy story making use of the Chinese philosophy on cycles and the role of elements or agents in the creation and maintenance of life. I've got a few random notes written about the story, but nothing's yet coming together since that's not my current focus, anyway. I might be toying with it once I get going with Voices in the Briars since the slot following that book's planned release is still empty. 

I'm currently reading an M/M zombie apocalypse series, and I stumbled across the sub-genre recently; however, the first series that caught my attention ended up being a DNF -- sadly in the third and final book because the second book was a forced finish, and I figured I couldn't devote another minute putting up with a histrionic main character. Or one-half of the main romantic pair, anyway. The book I'm reading right now is more balanced in that sense though it does treat the zombie apocalypse more lightly compared to the first series, which is rather heavy-handed in both the gloom of a dying world and the hurt-comfort trope.

It's a fun sub-genre to read, at least, but it's definitely not one I'll be voluntarily looking for in the future. Reading these books did feed the muse, though, hence the resurfacing of the itch to write urban fantasy. Knowing me, the angle will most likely have something to do with ghosts or vampires (in the folklore sense, not the paranormal romance sense).  

January 26, 2024

I Want to Gothify Shakespeare or Something

Or something more like "This! I want this! This look! This energy! This mood!" Like get a load of this amazing production of Prokofiev's ballet, Romeo and Juliet. First, shot: 

And then chaser:

I first shared this at Mastodon, as I was absolutely mesmerized by the "Dance of the Knights" segment. Too short, though. It obviously got cut off when there was still roughly a minute and a half left of the song.

However, what really got me was the overall look of the production: all black, with the women also in all black dresses. The men are dancing with swords, their costumes just incredible in the stark silhouettes and the simplicity of the backdrop. And the women in their equally stripped down costumes and absence of headdresses. There's a very modern edge to the whole thing, which I just love even though I'm very much a traditionalist when it comes to classical music and ballet.

Oh, and did I mention the glasses? I'm a sucker for glasses on men. It's bad enough I'm gawking at male ballet dancers. But a male ballet dancer with glasses? More, please!

I've been so used to brightly colored and lush productions like this one from the Royal Ballet, which makes for an eye-popping experience if you were to watch the ballet in person.  

That said, my accidental stumbling over the Ballet Zurich's production on Youtube is the one niggling at me. I'm thinking of using that as a springboard for Voices in the Briars, actually, and even if it's not an injection of the scene itself or the dancers or costumes, the overall atmosphere (brooding, forbidding, uneasy) and visual composition (stark, black with tiny hints of light and color, severe lines and stripped down silhouettes) will definitely feed the brain with the inspiration it needs.

Anyway, I thought to post these videos here not just for something fun for visitors, but also for my benefit. I want to be able to go back and watch all three for a study in contrast and a nudge in whatever direction this kind of artistry will send me. So exciting!