‘Tis the Season (for Hallowe’en Movies)

I’m not a gore person. I don’t do movies that involve hacking and lots of blood. But I love a good psychological thriller or dark comedy. Here I’d like to mention a couple lesser-known films that I’ve enjoyed.

mrfrost1. Mister Frost

This gem from 1990 shows Jeff Goldblum just prior to his big Jurassic Park moment. I’ll admit, my best friend and I found it equal parts hilarious and disturbing. Goldblum has some amazing lines, like (to the best of my memory): “Oh, yes, the bodies. I was just finishing burying them as you were walking up.” It’s been years since I’ve seen this movie, but I’d love to watch it again. As I recall, there was something about cake—Goldblum, playing the titular Frost, baked cakes then took pictures of them and dumped them in the trash. But that’s only the start. Once they put him in the psychiatric ward, things gets increasingly sinister. “Soon. Soon you’ll be on my side of the mirror . . .”

2. The Last Supperlastsupper

Perfect for this election season. In this film, a gathering of frustrated liberals decide to turn their dinner parties into murdering sprees so they can rid themselves of rightwing pundits. As with Mister Frost I don’t remember many details, but I do recall the Shonen Knife cover of “Top of the World” being fabulous as it played over the end credits. And I remember liking the movie in general.

You have to take into account that when Mister Frost came out I was 14 and when The Last Supper came out I was 19. It might very well be that, should I go watch these again, I’d find them abysmal. At the very least I’m sure they’re dated. But that’s sort of the fun thing about these kinds of movies, too—special effects aside, being dated only adds to their charm rather than detracting from it.

Do you have any favorite Hallowe’en movies? Oldies but goodies? Have any of you had the joy of watching either of these two movies? If so, I want to hear about it in the comments!

Happy Easter!

To all who observe the holiday, I hope you have a lovely one! To everyone else, I hope you at least have a great Sunday.

You don’t have to be religious to enjoy the candy aspect of Easter. It fills the stores; there is no escaping it. So it seems like a good time to list some of my favorite (and least favorite) treats.

Favorites:

3. Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs. While I generally love any and all things Reese’s, the Peanut Butter Eggs are the best because they have the exact right ratio (to me) of peanut butter to chocolate.

2. See’s Scotchmallow Eggs. See’s has this wonderful combo of marshmallow and butterscotch caramel that knocks my socks off. Love this stuff!

1. Cadbury Chocolate. Not necessarily their eggs, which are okay, but I actually prefer their straight-up chocolate bars. And I’m talking the real UK Cadbury’s, not the pale US imitation. Accept no substitutes!

Thumbs Down:

3. Cadbury Mini Eggs. Yes, I know, I just named Cadbury as my #1 favorite! But these candy-coated eggs turn me off. I don’t at all enjoy the candy shells.

2. Malted Milk Ball Eggs. Similar to the Cadbury Mini Eggs. Maybe candy shells are really my problem.

1. Peeps. Yup, I fall on the “dislike” side of the Peeps spectrum. Despite my love for Scotchmallow, I’m not actually much of a marshmallow fan.

What about you? Any favorite or least favorite Easter candies? Or candies in general? Let me know in the comments!

WEP: Valentine’s Challenge

Valentine BadgeThis challenge is hosted by Denise and Yolanda as part of the Write . . . Edit . . . Publish series of writing challenges. Learn more (and join!) by clicking here.

And for this particular challenge, the question to be answered in 1000 words or fewer is: What does Valentine’s Day mean to you?

I know for a lot of people it’s hearts and flowers and chocolate and romance. Or the lack thereof. And I’ll admit that I’ve had my share of sad, lonely, self-pitying Valentine’s Days. You know, the kind where you feel utterly unattractive and unloved. You can’t help but hope someone will suddenly speak up and admit they have a crush on you, even though you know to hope is to set yourself up for disappointment. And as the day draws to a close and you’ve received nothing (or worse, your parents sent you something), that disappointment comes crashing over you like a wall of frigid water. Yeah, I’ve had that. A lot.

BUT.

I’m lucky in that I don’t have to focus on that aspect of the holiday. For me Valentine’s Day is actually more about friends. Because for whatever reason I have many, many friends whose birthdays are on or near February 14. I don’t know if it’s an astrological thing, where my chart just jives with those of people born at that time? But there you have it. So for me, Valentine’s Day is about the love of friendship rather than romantic love. And I prefer it that way. I’d rather devote time and energy toward that than some romantic gesture or gift that is only given out of a sense of obligation rather than any real feeling. To me, romance is best when spontaneous. Meanwhile, I’m happy to spend the day celebrating the existence of people I am truly glad to have in my life. In turn, this helps me remember that I’m not alone and unloved after all.

What about you? I know Valentine’s Day has come and gone, but what (if anything) does it mean to you? Answers and general feedback welcome in the comments.

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Want to show me some love? Check out my latest novel, The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller, available in various e-formats from Tirgearr Publishing.

Love Your Authors

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Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope you have a lovely one, regardless of relationship status. Later this week I’ll be participating in a Valentine’s blog challenge, and you’ll be able to read about my feelings for the holiday. But right now I’d just like to say, if you love reading and love writers, the best valentine you can possibly send it the one posted here. Buy and review! That’s what keeps authors going. And it’s not just the money. It’s the encouragement. We live off the love!

With that in mind, you can find links to my books on the Shop page at the top of this blog. And you can find all versions of my latest novel The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller on the publisher’s website. Happy reading!

Happy Mardi Gras!

And on the heels of Chinese New Year, too!

I’ve just baked a cake with a bean hidden in it (because I had no plastic babies handy). I do this every year as my one nod to my heritage. The kids love it. Whoever finds the bean gets to pick the next night’s supper menu. Yeah, it’s not a huge prize, but it means a lot to them.

I don’t really miss the noise and mess of Mardi Gras, but I do miss the gowns and balls! I love having a reason to dress up, and the masks are so fun and often (not always) beautiful! At the same time, I don’t enjoy crowds, especially of drunken people, so . . . I’m content to stay home and watch from afar. Bake my cake. And find another occasion on which to do myself up.

Happy Fire Monkey!

Today is Chinese New Year, and we’re kicking off the Year of the Fire Monkey. I’m wearing some red today for good luck. I’m also excited to be hosted by author Christy Nicholas on her site. Go read the interview! It’s short so won’t take long, and I’ll tell you (among other things) how The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller got its name. Afterward, be sure to go pick up a copy of the book. If you already have it and have read it, please consider leaving a review on Amazon, Goodreads, and other sites! Thanks for being readers!

Holiday Movies

Do you have favorites?

I grew up watching The Bishop’s Wife and A Christmas Story pretty much every year. Yet I find when I’m thinking “Christmas movie,” I really want Die Hard and Lethal Weapon.

That isn’t to say I don’t love those others. I do try to watch The Bishop’s Wife every year (I adore Cary Grant), and I also still enjoy A Christmas Story, though I’ll admit I’ve reached that point where it’s no longer as funny as it used to be. Still, it’s a source of great quotes.

I also try to watch the musical Scrooge, and also the film version of A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott. Those are great, even for someone like me who doesn’t much enjoy Dickens.

But for some reason, when it comes right down to it, the movies I first think of when it’s that time of year are Die Hard and Lethal Weapon.

It probably says more about the decade in which I grew up. Stuff like Miami Vice was on TV and these movies made a big impression on me. I didn’t see them in the cinema, of course. But we always had at least one movie channel in our cable package, and my parents considered me pretty mature. They were of that school where they figured so long as I watched with them, so that I could ask any questions and/or they were there to shepherd me through the traumatic experience of an R-rated film, it was probably okay. (Lethal Weapon 2 was the first R movie I saw in the cinema; my dad took me. I was 13.)

I know It’s a Wonderful Life is considered the ultimate Christmas classic by many, but I actually really dislike that film. I can’t even say why, exactly. And yet years later Robert Carradine did this TV movie called Clarence and I loved it. No idea why, can’t remember a thing about it now, but I distinctly recall enjoying it. Again, maybe it’s a sensibility issue. A movie made in 1946 can’t win an 80s kid over the way a TV movie from 1990 can.

But this wouldn’t explain my love for The Bishop’s Wife. Except that I grew up loving Cary Grant and only later, in film school, would I develop a healthy respect for Jimmy Stewart. That must be it because Cary Grant is really the only movie star of that era that I enjoy. I don’t particularly like Bogart, or Cooper, or Burton, or Peck, or any of those. I mean, I liked To Kill a Mockingbird and Gone with the Wind, but I wouldn’t hunt for more movies just because of those actors. When it comes to Grant, though, if his name is in the billing, I’ll watch it. There are very few actors I can say that about.

Anyway, tonight we’ll be watching Die Hard. I haven’t yet watched any holiday movies this season (just the Charlie Brown cartoon), and I’m thinking I’d still like to get in Bishop’s Wife at some point too. But if I can only squeeze in one Christmas movie, I guess it’s going to be Bruce Willis vs. Alan Rickman. Yippee-ki-yay.

The Truth About Santa Claus

I’m going to try not to ruin this for anyone, so if you don’t want to know the truth about Santa . . . Don’t keep reading.

Here’s the thing. I figured out Santa way before my parents were willing to admit the whole thing was . . . Well, anyway, no one ever told me. So people ask, “When did you find out? Who told you? How did you react?” and I’m sort of like, “I don’t know. I just knew.” Shrug.

I mean, my mother still likes to pretend Santa is real, and I just let her. It’s not worth a fight or anything. I suppose at some point my parents knew I knew, but they never explicitly said anything. There was sort of this tacit understanding. We’re going to keep doing this because it’s fun. But we all know the truth.

In fact, when I think about any of those childhood beliefs—the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy—again, I don’t know when I stopped believing. I can only assume I did believe at some point, at least for a little while. I do have vague memories of hunting for eggs with my cousins and thinking the Easter Bunny really had hidden them. And I recall asking about how Santa got in when we didn’t have a fireplace (answer: magic key). But at some point all that melted away. Around the time I noticed Santa’s handwriting was the same as my mother’s maybe.

I’m only thinking about this because my oldest son is ten now and I’m not sure what he does or doesn’t know or believe. I’m fairly certain the two little ones still believe in Santa. But I don’t know if the oldest is being complicit or . . . I mean, he read the Fudge books (Judy Blume), and I remember Peter talking about how Santa isn’t real in those. Did my son pick up on that? He’s pretty smart, so I’d be surprised if he didn’t. But he never mentioned it.

So now I’m asking myself if this is what my parents went through. The whole, “Does Amanda know? Has she figured it out? Maybe we should just keep going until she says something.” Only I never did. So . . . We keep going.

And it is still kind of fun.

Craftmas

I’m pleased to be hosting the lovely Mary Neighbor as part of Rhonda Parrish’s Giftmas Blog Tour. I don’t think of myself as a crafty person—in either the sense of being sly or capable of arts and crafts—but writing is a craft. It’s sometimes easy to forget that.

giftmas_rectangle

Craftmas

I’ve got a strong urge to make gifts by hand this holiday season. Maybe I’m tired and turned off by cyber-this and virtual-that; I want something real and tangible. But there’s one big problem: I don’t do any crafts. As a teenager I made long paper chains made of folded bits of gum wrappers, but I don’t think that counts.

This acorn fell pretty far from the family tree, because my mother used to be very gifted and artistic. She could paint, sketch, and cut impressive silhouettes out of dark construction paper. I remember her handmade ornaments and decorations, and I have a strong suspicion she re-ordered some of our Christmas tree-hanging arrangements, late at night after we went to bed with visions of sugarplums dancing in our heads, to make the tree more balanced and harmonious, to make it more beautiful.

One of my sisters sews beautiful quilts, but to my knowledge, she’s the only one of us who currently does handcrafted projects. So what about the rest of us? My other sister has a knack for keeping family stories alive, and she devotes great energy in keeping us all connected. My brothers have musical gifts and hysterical senses of humor and huge hearts that find expression through all the ways they reach out to me and say “I love you.” So maybe I don’t need a craft after all.

Of course, the holidays are all about family and close friends. As I think of my siblings, I’m left wondering what I contribute. I write, but I don’t write a lot of letters or emails. Months slip by before I pick up the phone. But I treasure my brothers and sisters, and I want to give something back for all the years of their love.

So I come back to writing, and a project comes to mind: an anthology of the genealogy data my mother collected before her death, family photos that I have digitized, and narratives that I can write about that genealogy, including additional history I’ve researched. My mother traced my father’s family back to the seventeenth century, so by Christmas I’ll probably only complete one chapter, of the first generation, but it’s a start. As with all my writing, getting started is the hard part. Once I get rolling, I know I can go the distance.

For Christmas 2015, I’ll print out the chapter as a newsletter and send it to them in binders, so that they can continue adding chapters as I complete them. And maybe by next year, I’ll be able to make all the chapters into a book, and then I’ll be able to say that I literally handcrafted their gifts. For now, I think they’ll be happy with the fact that this first chapter is heartcrafted.

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SpeakRightMary Neighbour is the author of Speak Right On: Conjuring the Slave Narrative of Dred Scott, a work of historical fiction that explores the story of Dred Scott and the history of slavery that has changed our cultural landscape. ABA Booklist described it as “nuances of slavery that provoke human emotions from nobility and loyalty to greed and selfishness,” and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said about it: “It’s a fine piece of fiction . . . reminiscent of Toni Morrison.”

Neighbour heard the voice of Dred Scott through the few quotes we have from him. She developed his character from researching the slave narratives and folklore of nineteenth-century America and of Africa. Through her book, Mary hopes to stimulate conversations about race and politics in our lives today. Please visit her blog and join the conversation.

And here’s a Giftmas offer for you, holiday reader:

This blog is part of a blog tour and raffle prizes, thanks to Rhonda Parrish’s blog site. Check out the complete list of prizes here http://bit.ly/1jkpUfa to win, or pick up your Rafflecopter code.