Month: January 2015

Sylvain Reynard and E.L. James Go To Florence

I love this: http://blog.eljamesauthor.com/?p=1088

Bestselling authors and good friends Sylvain Reynard (Gabriel Series, The Prince and soon to be released The Raven) and E.L. James (Fifty Shades of Grey) teamed up for a fun blog post that celebrates Reynard’s newest venture: The Florentine Series.

The authors share a jaunt through the darker side of Florence, fully immersed in the world of Reynard’s characters.  They find themselves under the intense scrutiny of a mysterious figure in the shadows: The Prince of Florence.

I love this joint venture. It’s fun seeing the two authors “in” this environment. I love the collaboration between the two bestselling authors and the fact that it also gives fans a glimpse into their personalities.

(And imagining argyle-sock wearing, multilingual Sylvain Reynard defending Ms. James is hot…and I am not one to use that expression lightly…)

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Writing Reviews and Recaps

I love writing.  I love all kinds of writing, from quick blog posts to short descriptions for an ad, to novel and short stories, poems, reflections, reviews and recaps.

Writing recaps is a fun challenge. If I don’t have an advance screener of a show, I try to challenge myself to write the recap as quickly as possible, while the show is airing. It’s tricky, but possible.  This is when you really notice dialogue versus action scenes. The Walking Dead is much easier than Doctor Who because there is more action and less talking.

With reviews, the challenge comes in not giving away too much of the plot while also giving the reader enough of an idea about the plot to lead him to buy a copy himself. Spoiler-free reviews are tricky, but coveted. (Though I do see requests for spoilers every now and then from people who know they won’t read the book but want to know what happens)

Writing reviews is like doing book reports over and over again, except now I’m doing it for the joy of it, and not because I’m in school.

I do recall a time in 5th grade when writing a book report on a book we got to choose on our own. I chose a novelization of Back to the Future II. It took me a long time to write, and eventually I realized I was doing way too much summary.  In retrospect, this was my first recap. It only goes to show that I was born to be a writer!

Diving Into Middle-Earth for the First Time

I’m losing my J.R.R. Tolkien virginity today. I’m 34 years old and a self-proclaimed nerd, and yet I have never read Tolkien, nor have I seen the Peter Jackson films.

It’s not that I didn’t want to. I place the blame squarely on the shoulders of a former co-worker, Wayne, who said that The Lord of the Rings was the “best book ever.”  I’d never read it, so I had no opinion on the matter.  However, he said that about everything. Harry Potter, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time…everything. Everything was the best ever. The. Best. Ever. It was so bad that I became resistant to reading anything he talked about, for fear of not being as thoroughly engrossed as he said I should be. (And then having to explain why I wasn’t as thoroughly engrossed as he was…)

That, and growing up in the 80s I was subjected to the 1970s cartoon version of The Hobbit (complete with Leonard Nimoy singing about Bilbo Baggins). That cartoon scared me half to death. I was scarred for a very long time!

At long last I have decided to lose my Tolkien virginity. And I want to write about my experience discovering this new world.  I think my journey to Middle-Earth might be just as interesting as the story itself, and I’m hoping that if I have questions, I can ask them here and have the support of the Tolkien legions of fans to help me.

And so it begins.  The Hobbit, page one….

Writing. A Lot.

Life has a funny way of sorting itself out.  It really does.  Call it fate, cosmic coincidence, or divine intervention.  Whatever you call it, it works.

I needed more time to write, and suddenly the sea parted and the time appeared.  (So, too, did several new clients, which is both fantastic and time consuming–but no complaints here!)  With my new time and schedule, I have spent every morning this week working with clients and then writing during a three hours gap.  This schedule will change next week, as I’m sure it will do for the remainder of the semester, but the great thing is that I’ve had a chance to enjoy the time and to see how helpful it is to have it.

There will always be interruptions.  Last night I was being called upon to run a late-night errand, and as I was leaving I was also frantically trying to capture an idea in my notebook.  But in the end both tasks were accomplished.  I ran the errand and I finished the thought. (Of course, I still need to finish said thought in the article I’m currently working on today, but…c’est la vie)

So…I’m writing.  I’m writing.  There is nothing else I’d rather be doing right now. And it feels great.

American Horror Story Freakshow Season Finale Recap S4E13: Curtain Call

American Horror Story Freakshow, S4E13: Curtain Call

Original Airdate: January 21, 2015

Recap by Sarabeth Pollock

 

It’s the final night of the Freak Show, ladies and gentlemen!

Dandy Mott is going to sing Cole Porter tunes.  The Freaks are out hanging new show posters, and while they work Penny contemplates leaving the show.  Paul points out that their show is a dying breed.  At least Dandy has money, so for the time being, they need to stick with him.

Speaking of Dandy, he’s in the main tent chastising the light guy for confusing the red and blue light for his rendition of “Anything Goes.”  Magenta is for the spirited performance.  Duh!  He’s surrounded by “amateurs.”  The Freaks return from their task and Dandy wants to know how many tickets have been sold.  Paul says that they haven’t sold any tickets, which angers Dandy.  Surely they have done something wrong, even though they just put up the new signs 30 minutes prior.  Dandy thinks they are washed up and suggests that they need new talent.  When he suggests that Penny should have horns, Paul pushes him away from her.  Dandy says he owns them, which pushes Eve over the edge.  She punches Dandy in the nose and lays him out while the other Freaks pin him to the ground.  Paul tells Dandy that he has no talent, that he does an abominable Cole Porter, and that while he had been willing to “eat shit” to keep the show going; now he’d rather starve.  Paul announces that they all quit.  He takes Penny’s hand and they walk away, leaving Dandy on the ground with a bloody nose and an empty playbill.

Elsa arrives at the network to see the vice president.  The secretary reminds Elsa that he only sees people by appointment, and she doesn’t have an appointment, same as the day before and the day before that.  She says she has new headshots and that she will wait.  The hours tick by as the ashtray fills.  When the office closes, Elsa wants to know why the VP didn’t walk past her.  The secretary informs Elsa that he snuck out the back to avoid her.  The guard is close by, so when the secretary tells Elsa that “Marlene did it better,” and when Elsa slaps the girl, the guard is close by the restrain her.  She falls to the floor weeping when a man runs out and offers her his hand.  His name is Michael Beck (he changed his name because he was German—a communist…and is he also the one who cut her legs off??).  Elsa lights up when she hears this.

Dandy is finishing his makeup.  He looks quite dapper in his red and white suit.  “Showtime,” he declares. He walks out of his tent and down the dirt road, humming to himself.  Paul is waiting for him and he wants to know about their last week’s pay.  Dandy shoots him in the head.  Penny sees this and ducks into the laundry.  Dandy approaches and shoots her, then he goes into the mess tent and shoots Toulouse.  Suzi tries to dodge him but he follows behind her and shoots her in the head.  Desiree hears the shot from her trailer.  As the Freaks flee, Dandy keeps shooting.  Eve finds Paul’s body and grabs an ax.  Dandy shoots the Fat Lady, then heads to Desiree’s trailer.  She’s hiding and he screams when he can’t find her.  Eve bursts in and tackles him, and for a moment she manages to get the gun away from him but he gets it back and shoots her in the leg and then in the head.  He hurries back into the trailer but still can’t find Desiree, who managed to switch hiding places while he was outside.

Dandy to his own trailer, where he has the twins tied up.  They’re bound and gagged, and he leans down and takes the gag out of Dot’s mouth.  He tells them to come with him.

Jimmy, equipped with his new hands, makes his way to the camp to find food.  He’s starving.  That’s when he sees how quiet it is.  He calls for Elsa and goes to her tent only to find that she’s gone.  He calls out for anyone, but there’s no answer.  When he goes into the main tent he sees all of the dead Freaks lined up in a row going down the main aisle leading to the stage.  He falls to his knees and weeps, and when a hand grabs his shoulder he falls over in terror.  It’s Desiree.  She hugs him and sobs.

Dandy has taken the twins back to his mansion.  They’re in a wedding dress and he’s in a tux.  A harp player and a flutist play music as they walk down the aisle, with all of his stuffed animals serving as witnesses.  The minister pronounces them man and wife.  “Mrs. Mott,” Bette breathes.  He hopes that Dot doesn’t feel like the third wheel, and she assures him that she will just leave her body.  He hopes she’ll join in from time to time.  “A stallion needs his mares in line,” he says.  They have prepared a feast for him.  He hopes they can have little Freak babies.  He’s drinking more and more champagne, and that’s when he starts to feel funny.  Desiree sits down at the table.  He doesn’t recognize her at first, thinking her to be the maid, but she reveals her ample cleavage.  She says that wedding night has been cancelled.  Dot and Bette tell Dandy that they wouldn’t dream of being with him after he slayed their entire family.  He was ready to give them everything he has, that they were going to be together until death.  Death can’t come fast enough, Bette says.  She shoots him in the arm when he tries to get up.

Desiree calls for the next course, served up by Jimmy himself.  We see that the twins snuck him in while Dandy wasn’t looking.  The tray has a note that says Mr. Dandy Mott will be performing.  He’s going to be a real Freak, Jimmy says.  Dandy passes out.

Dandy wakes up in his underwear, locked in chains, and in the glass box used for the water escape trick.  Earlier, Desiree looks at the box and asks Jimmy if they can cut his balls off.  They agree that this is what the other Freaks would have wanted.  Returning to the present, Jimmy says that he has to escape in order to live, that he killed good people.  “I’m good people too!” Dandy insists.  He says he was just doing what God put him on this earth to do.  It’s his purpose.  He pleads with the twins to let him go, and he says he forgives them and that marriage is hard.  He wants to go home.  Bette says he’s going to hell, and that she hates him for taking her friends away from her.  Desiree says that many of their kind have been killed, starting with the ones Stanley killed and put in jars.  She says that Dandy may look like a dream, but he’s the biggest freak of all.  She starts filling the tank with water.  Dandy says that he’ll give them money, he has tons of money.  Jimmy says that they will always win because they defend each other.  “Freaks shall inherit the earth,” he says.

As the tank fills, Dandy screams and fights to break the chain holding him down.  Desiree eats popcorn and watches as Dandy struggles and screams that he hates them.  Dot laughs with Bette.  The water passes over his head, and suddenly Dandy goes still.  “Heck of a show,” Jimmy says.  “That boy is a star,” Desiree declares.

(Ooh, look, a preview of The Strain!)

1960, Hollywood, California

The newsreel shows the creation of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and this week they’re celebrating Elsa Mars, Friday night’s darling, who has three Emmys and music awards.  She’s married to Michael Beck (who happens to be the man who cut her legs off).  We see Elsa filming a coffee commercial, and eventually she stops filming because she thinks the writing is shite.  Beck brings her a publicist who wants to do a Halloween spread for Parade Magazine, but she says she will not perform on Halloween, as per her custom.  Beck tries to convince her, but she turns to the publicist and starts talking trash to him.  Later, we see that Elsa is in control of her husband in more ways than one (as in the kinky way).

Elsa goes home to find her old German friend there.  It’s Massimo.  He says he has been to Nevada, but he wanted to come to her.  She confesses that she’s in a horrible marriage and both she and her husband cheat on each other.  She has everything she wants, and yet she has nothing.  She tells him the story of Ethel baking her a cake and making a birthday wish to be happy.  She begs him to go away with her, so that she can be with someone who loves her.  Massimo says that he’s there to say goodbye, as he has lung cancer that has spread to his bones.  He has a month at most.  “There will be no one left,” she cries.

Beck returns home and Elsa is drinking.  Beck has Mr. Gable from the network with him.  She thinks he’s there to convince her to do the show on Halloween, but that’s not why he’s there.  He says that someone got their hands on the 8mm films from Germany and the tapes are at the Times.  She had told Beck she lost her legs in a rail accident, but she lied.  The media is going to publish the article the following week.  Beck says he’s going to leave her.  He also says that Ms. Hopper at the Times hired a private eye and found out about her time in Jupiter.  He says that all of the Freaks are dead, which troubles her because she didn’t know.  Gable says there is a morals clause in her contract and that she will be released, with pay, of course.  Elsa, sensing that the end is near, agrees to perform on Halloween after all.

Elsa gets set to film her scenes.  The Halloween Spooktacular.  There is a live audience in the house as the lights come up and the music starts.  She is back in a white suit and she’s signing “We Can Be Heroes.”

Elsewhere, Desiree walks down the street with her husband, the man we saw back at the show who came to visit.  She has kids, too.  She looks happy.  She sees Elsa performing on a shop television and smiles.  Jimmy is sitting down for a TV dinner, served up by the twins—who are very pregnant.  He praises Elsa’s pluck.  Bette turns off the TV, declaring that they have seen this before.

As she sings, the green fog rises around them.  The producers didn’t order fog yet!  Edward Mordrake is here, and Twisty (Yay, it’s Twisty, and he’s not deformed!!) is with him.  Edward senses that Elsa’s pain has led her to a suicide.  He raises his knife and Twisty tells her that it only hurts for a moment.  “Your place is not here with us,” Edward tells her as she falls to the ground.

Elsa is dressed in black and she’s moving toward the main tent.  Ma Petite is there to greet her.  Paul and Penny welcome her.  They got married.  Ethel is on stage.  Elsa asks where they are.  “Sins of the living don’t add up around here,” Ethel says.  Elsa thinks she needs to pay for what she’s done, but Ethel points out that actors don’t get arrested for playing their parts.  She says it’s great there, with full houses every night.  They miss their headliner, and she’s a terrible friend and she can’t cook, so what else is she going to do?  Elsa preps for the show with Ma Petite while Ethel warms up the audience.

The curtains part and Elsa is on her throne in her powder blue suit.  The music starts and Meep and the Freaks clap from offstage as she goes to the front of the stage and looks at the audience in wonder.

So ends Season Four of American Horror Story Freakshow.  As up and down as the season was, I felt oddly at peace with the final moments of the show.  Given Dandy’s horrific tantrum, I think he got off too easy, but hey, that’s life.  Finn Wittrock was the highlight of the season after Twisty left.  I really wanted more of Twisty…I hope we see him again.

What did you think of tonight’s bloody episode?  Was it a fitting finale?

American Horror Story: A Look Inside the Connections Between the Seasons

TV Guide posted an interesting article that lays out several possible connections between the four seasons of American Horror Story.  Rather than going back and trying to find the connections myself, I’ll post a link to their article and let you, the readers, decide if they’re on target or off base.

Click here for the article.

The more I thought about last week’s penultimate episode, “Show Stoppers” I realized that David Burtka’s Hans Gruper was a younger version of the same Nazi doctor portrayed by James Cromwell in Asylum.  They even look alike.

At any rate, I’m sure we’ll see more signs during tonight’s season finale.  What are you hoping to see?  Are you looking forward to season 5 and a fresh start?

Book Review: The Prince, by Sylvain Reynard

The Prince

By Sylvain Reynard

Publication Date: January 20, 2015

Review by Sarabeth Pollock

 

There is a whole other world that comes to life in Florence as soon as the sun goes down.  With The Prince, New York Times Bestselling author Sylvain Reynard launches the brand new Florentine Series in which we meet the eponymous Prince of Florence.  The Prince is furious because one Professor Gabriel O. Emerson has arrived at the Uffizi with his young wife, Julianne, to celebrate the opening of the gallery’s newest exhibit: One hundred illustrations of Dante’s Divine Comedy, created by the Renaissance master Botticelli himself.  Emerson’s collection is the most comprehensive set of copies in existence…only the Prince knows better.  Not only are they not copies—they’re originals—they were stolen from him over a century prior.

Yes, you’ve guessed it: The Prince isn’t an ordinary man.  He is a vampyre.

The Prince is a novella that introduces readers to the darker side of Florence ahead of the release of the first full novel in the series, The Raven, due out on February 3rd.  It truly is an amuse bouche of a story, designed to draw readers in and captivate them with the mysterious figure known only (at this point) as the Prince.  Fans of Reynard’s Gabriel Series will delight in seeing The Professor and Julianne once again in The Prince; the novella is set during the gallery opening at the Uffizi in Gabriel’s Redemption.  Gabriel and Julia meet the mysterious Englishman in a chance encounter, and Gabriel is immediately suspicious of the strange man.  Little does the couple know, however, that they have been under his surveillance and he’s hell-bent on recovering his prized collection, at any cost.

The Prince of Florence is powerful, fierce, respected, alluring, and deadly.  Despite his power and his devastatingly good looks, there is an underlying melancholy in his demeanor that he must keep hidden from his council and the other vampyres around him.

As with all of Sylvain Reynard’s books, The Prince has been meticulously researched so that the setting is just as much a character as the Prince and the rest of his preternatural companions.  The city of Florence shines in the golden light of Reynard’s prose.  Reading Reynard’s books is like taking a survey course on the history of Florence and its art and architecture.

The Prince is a wonderful introduction to the Florentine Series.   Fortunately for readers, the next book arrives in a few short weeks, providing just enough of a taste to whet their appetites.

 

Click here to read my interview with Sylvain Reynard.

Click here to buy a copy of The Prince