Perfectionism and Pictures

There almost wasn’t going to be a post today. Because as you may or may not know by now, I’m a perfectionist.

Sometimes that may be a good thing, but in the case of blogging . . . not so much. See, it means that in order for me to post something, I have to have a solid topic, and write some long semi-essay on it, and find some good pictures, and set up everything just so and make it . . . perfect.

And I was thinking that, well, if I keep doing that, I’ll never keep up with this blog. It worked early on because I planned several posts ahead when I started the blog, but I don’t always have that kind of time these days. There’s only so many perfectionist-friendly post ideas, and there’s only so much time in the world with which to write blog posts — and in the case of blog followers, read them. So I need to stop writing such long things (a bad habit of mine, I’m afraid), and stop needing everything to be perfect.

I want this blog to be fun and casual, but whenever I try that, my inner perfectionist takes over and has to be all eloquent and turn everything into a project . . . and whenever my perfectionist self decides that something is a project, it puts it off indefinitely because it knows that it will be an enormous task to do that project perfectly. It thinks that something not done perfectly is something not worth doing. *rolls eyes at perfectionist-self* Yes, it’s a problem, and one that I need to deal with sometime or another . . . as long as I can pretend that that won’t be a project. 😉

As I was thinking today about all of this and the fact that I didn’t have a topic to post about, I suddenly thought —

“Wait a minute, that’s a topic!”

My perfectionist-self raised a cynical eyebrow and went, “Really?” It wasn’t so sure.

And I said, “Emphatically yes.”

And I wrote the post that you have just read most of, but not all of because it isn’t over yet.

(And no, I do not actually have conversations with my inner-perfectionist, or at least not in so many words, but in addition to being a perfectionist I’m also a writer, and writers like to expand on things and make them dramatic, and can turn practically anything into a story. Though not necessarily a good one. This being a case in point.)

Anyways, the actual point of all this is that I’m going to try to write shorter, funner, less topic-heavy posts and be less of a perfectionist when it comes to blogging. Key word: Try. So . . . kinda. Sorta. Almost. Maybe. Ish. At least, I won’t do those all the time. I need to remember that it really doesn’t take long to write up a post, and if it’s taking too long I’m probably being too much of a perfectionist or making it too enormous.

Now that I’ve managed to write an entire post about nothing in particular (take that, pefectionist-self! Ha!) I sort of feel like I should give some slight substance to this . . .

When in doubt: pictures! It snowed this week, which is basically unheard of where I live — at least, it’s been a couple of years — so I was making the most of it. Even a light dusting is cause for cheers and a frolic and obsessive photography.

So here, have some Texas snow pictures.

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Cactus in the Snow (good one, right?)

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Cardinals must be so smug… they’re adorable and they know that we know it

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Someone went by here…

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Poor Little Seahorse: “Why didn’t I stay in the sea where it was warmer…?”

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Christmasy pic! If only the snow had come a month earlier…

Favorite Reads of 2013

I read a lot of wonderful books in 2013, so here without further ado I give you a list of my favorites, not counting re-reads. I’m including three books I read that aren’t published yet, written by people I know. When those books are published, I’m going to be the first in line to buy them.

TOP 15 BOOKS READ IN 2013


1. Paper Crowns (Unpublished)Mirriam Neal

Yes, my favorite book of the entire year was an unpublished story. Was it really that good? The answer is YES. ABSOLUTELY YES. It was perfection in awesome fairytale form. Publish it soon, Mirri, so that it can sit in a place of honor on my bookshelf and so I can send multiple copies to all of my friends. ❤


2. The Court of the Stone Children – Eleanor Cameron

This was a truly amazing book, a delightful mixture of historical fiction, fantasy, mystery, ghost story… I’ve never read anything like it before. Plus it’s by one of my five favorite authors. I’m going to be rereading this again soon I think…


3. Searching for Dragons – Patricia C. Wrede

I loved this book! Second in the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, and even better than “Dealing with Dragons”, the first one–even though I thought the series couldn’t get better. I loved all the fairytale things hidden throughout, and the whole thing was epic and witty.


4. The Kingdom of the Starlit Valley (Unpublished)the Princess of Dol Amroth

Hilarious humor and fun and adventure, plus one of the very coolest characters EVER made this book wonderful!


5. The Penderwicks – Jeanne Birdsall

Considering the fact that this is a modern story, which is not my thing, it just shows how amazing of a book this was that it made it this high on my list! It totally felt like a really classic older book and I was amazed to notice it was only published in the last ten years. The fun adventures of four sisters, I really enjoyed it.


6. Princess of the Midnight Ball – Jessica Day George

Okay, so Twelve Dancing Princesses is my favorite fairytale, and this was a MARVELOUS version of it. Add in the fact that it was set during a musket time-period, and it reaches near perfection for me…


7. Secrets of Camelot (Unpublished)Lauriloth

I had the great privilege of getting to beta-read this for my friend (still working on the notes, Lauri!) and let me just say… I. Was. Blown. Away. The story mixes together King Arthur legends and Robin Hood legends, and add in some dragons in there and just… whoa. Does it get any better than that? The answer is no! This was SO epic!


8. The Fairest Beauty – Melanie Dickerson

This was an AWESOME book! You may be noticing by now that I’m a big fan of fairytale re-tellings, and this was an incredible version of Snow White. I really loved it and want to try more things by the author!


9. The Naming – Alison Croggon

This was recommended to me by a friend, and though a bit thick to wade through I was extremely glad that I did! Though it seemed to borrow heavily from The Lord of the Rings for a few things, it was a great fantasy story and I’m looking forward to finishing reading the series!

10. Facets of FantasySarah Scheele

This was a collection of five novellas, and each one of them was something special in itself! Awesome adventure stories, Sci fi, and Fantasy, and also one of the most hilarious stories I’ve ever read. The author is currently serializing a rewrite of one of the stories in this collection, on her blog–an incredible and original Cinderella retelling that I am LOVING, so be sure to check it out! I can’t wait for the conclusion!


11. The Amaranth Enchantment – Julie Berry

This was a great fairytale-ish fantasy story–it even had an element of Cinderalla that was fun! Very vivid and original, I quite enjoyed it.


12. The Boggart – Susan Cooper

This is possibly the oddest thing on my list of favorites this year… But Scotland! I listened to the audio version which was awesome. Very funny and cool and unique!


13. Castle in the Air – Diana Wynne Jones

Sequel(ish) to “Howl’s Moving Castle”… enough said! This was extremely fun.


14. Tears of a Dragon – Bryan Davis

Fascinating conclusion to the “Dragons in Our Midst” series, it was extremely engaging and fun!


15. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

Going on my slowly-growing pile of books I’ve read by Jane Austen (all right, I’ve only read Pride and Prejudice besides this) I enjoyed this story immensely! It’s interesting how much I “got” it, despite it having been written so very long ago.

FAVORITE NONFICTION:


Exploring J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit – Corey Olsen

Fantastic look at The Hobbit, and really showed me some good things to think about when re-reading it! Highly recommended!

(If you’re a fan of Tolkien, check out Corey Olsen’s AMAZING downloadable MP3 college lecture series on Tolkien’s works–they are the most fascinating thoughts on Tolkien I’ve ever found; not to mention extremely fun and informative!)


The Four Loves – C. S. Lewis

Lewis always has great things to say, and this year I branched out from his fiction into some of his non-fiction. I was very glad that I did! This was my favorite I read in 2013 and had a lot of interesting and inspirational thoughts.

FAVORITE SHORT STORIES:

Wintermoon Wish – Sharon Shinn (from “Firebirds Rising”)

This story. I just… I can’t. It’s a WONDERFUL short story. Which is extreme for me to say because I’ve been finding that short stories are usually not my thing. It’s basically a Christmas story, or like what a Christmas might be in a fantasy land that doesn’t have Christmas. It was wonderful. It was also basically the only story in the entire collection it was in that I liked…

The Apprentice Thief – Seumas MacManus (from “In Chimney Corners: Irish Folk-Tales”)

I loved this story about an apprentice thief doing seemingly impossible things–it was awesome!

Westwoods – Eleanor Farjeon (from “The Little Book-Room“)

And this one, about a king who’s looking for someone to marry, was just SO delightful! In fact, many of the stories in the book it’s collected in are great!

***

So there’s my year in books! Have you read any of those? What did you think? And what were your favorite reads of 2013?

 

Many Happy Returns (Also Hobbits)

Happy New Year! It seems to be 2014 already, which is something my mind is having a hard time comprehending . . . And I know for a fact that I’m going to continue to write and type “2013” for a long time still (case in point: I accidentally typed that when I was trying to type 2014 up there), but I’m excited for the clean slate and open possibilities of a new year!

Which no doubt includes posting on my blog more regularly. *glances around and dusts things off, disappearing in a particularly large cloud of dust, from which I shortly emerge, coughing loudly and trying to pretend I’m not* From the looks of things around here, and judging mostly from the fact that the last time I posted, NaNoWriMo hadn’t even ended yet, it might be presumed that I did not survive November. In fact, I barely did; but it was a close call.

When last I posted I was very behind on my words for the month and still going slow, but in the last couple weeks of NaNo I pulled an epic comeback and crossed the finish-line victorious at 50,237 words. Alas, my story is not finished (and in a sense only begun) but despite that I’m immensely pleased by how Underground Rainbow has turned out so far — especially the characters taking over and coming out so wonderfully — and overall I had a superb NaNo 2013!

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Still, when December hit I had some intense writer’s burn-out and have been too exhausted from my writing (not to mention out of breath from a whirl of pre-Christmas activity) to even think about blogging.

But all that to say, I have at last returned! Hence one of the reasons for the “return” in the title of this post. Though . . . “many” probably does not apply. And I don’t know if anyone is happy about it either. But the subject of my return is not the only thing I’m here to talk about.

You see, it’s also a birthday. Not mine, of course, but the birthday of my favorite author. I love a lot of old books written by authors who lived awhile ago, but even though most of my favorite authors are no longer among the living, I like to remember them and appreciate their wonderful books by celebrating the authors’ birthdays. So today I’m here to do just that.

Once upon a time, on a January 3rd, 122 years ago (in 1892 to be precise) J. R. R. Tolkien was born.

(Please note the “i” before the “e” in Tolkien. That is the correct spelling, which some folks, even in published books, cannot seem to remember, and tend to reverse it and spell it like “Tolkein”, which I shudder just looking at. And hey look; even my spellchecker knows that’s the incorrect way to spell it . . . This is a minor aside to all such people, correcting them, even though I’m sure none of them is reading this. “Tolkien” — “i” before “e”, please. I’m not nit-picky, no; not at all. Whatever gave you that idea?)

I’ve never gone so far as to bake a cake or anything (yet), but I always mark my calendar and each January 3rd I go about in a celebratory feeling of appreciation for everything Tolkien wrote and how much epicness and enjoyment his books have caused (not to mention how much of an increase of books written in the fantasy genre — my favorite — there have been since The Lord of the Rings was published). The Lord of the Rings is probably my favorite book, and well overdue for a reread; but every other thing by Tolkien I’ve read I have likewise enjoyed immensely.

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I have a map of Middle-earth framed and hung on my wall. I happen to have in my possession 63 books by or about Tolkien or his stories — yes, I just counted. Some are multiple copies of various books by him, but the fact remains. If you just said I’m obsessed, I fear I won’t argue with you. I also own all the soundtracks for the films based on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit so far — I feel like the music of Howard Shore in the movies are a much better adaptation of Tolkien’s books than the movies themselves.

Which brings me to the final point of this post: I saw “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” the day it came out. I had planned to review it on my blog, and had such low expectations (except for the music) that I already had picked out what I was going to say in my review. It was going to be this:

My review for “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”:

I enjoyed the music.

. . . Yup, that was going to be it. Now, the music was splendid, but that’s not all I enjoyed, and nor can I just let the awfulness go unnoticed, so I’m going to have to amend my review. (Caution: May contain spoilers…)

Recipe for a certain movie:

  • Take one well loved book.
  • Chop in three parts.
  • Take all the events and tumble them together so they’re not separated at all. Mix well.
  • Throw in lots of made up stuff — whatever you like. (It doesn’t matter if it has nothing to do with the original book or characters. The fans of the book can protest but they can’t really do anything.)
  • Add a pinch of Radagast and Gandalf doing stupid out-of-character things, and a sprinkling of far-fetched over-the-top “battles” between light and dark.
  • Mix in some insane dwarf plans for getting rid of Smaug, and lots of parts where he could have blasted them all with fire but for some reason decided not to. (?)
  • Add generous helping of ridiculous love affair that doesn’t work, between an elf and a dwarf. (Come on; seriously?)
  • Season with non-stop action throughout (Legolas is a good help for this).
  • Carefully chop the ending off to leave enough bits dangling so people will come back for the third part.
  • Serve cold (December will do) to indignant audiences.
  • Note: Be sure to top with brilliant actors and spice well with beautiful epic music so no one will notice.

Lot of parts annoyed me, and I could go on and on about it. But on the whole, as a movie, it was a really fun movie and I enjoyed it a lot. It just wasn’t anything like the great book it was supposedly based off of. I loved Bard — he was great. Bilbo was splendid as ever. The Dwarves were fun at times. I oddly really enjoyed Legolas (one of the bigger but less naughty additions — at least he would have been in the area). His parts were some of my favorite, especially a certain fight near the end . . . Also most of the river/barrel sequence was hilarious and awesome. And Thranduil! I don’t know why, but he was spectacular.

As such an extreme book lover, I only enjoyed the movie because I had been keeping up with the rumors of the horrible things they were going to do to it and resigned myself to the fact that it would be ruined even worse than the first one, and it was only by that mental attitude that I managed not to get extremely annoyed. With the first one at least I could list the problems and complain about them; with this, there are too many changes and I’m giving up and just looking at them as completely different entities.

Today being the birthday of the man who wrote The Hobbit, I’m going to appreciate the real Hobbit — the classic and wonderful book that I’ve so enjoyed reading so many times, and that led to the writing of my favorite book ever. My thanks to Professor Tolkien — Happy Birthday.