Thursday, December 6, 2018

5 Quirky Christmas Films


There are all types of holiday movies. Some are sappy, some are goofy, some are romantic, some are sweet.

My favorite holiday films are a little bit quirky, different, fun.

Here are five adorable movies that have become Christmas traditions for my family...



The Snowman

My son was utterly mesmerized by this 1982 film when he was little. It is based on the book by Raymond Briggs and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. It is a whimsical, moody, charming holiday movie with almost no dialogue--just a haunting, emotional musical score. This story is magical and lovely. One of my all-time favorite Christmas films. 




Elf

Not only is this one of my favorite holiday films, it's a favorite for any time of the year. Will Ferrell brings his wacky, weird energy to the character of Buddy the Elf, who is raised in the North Pole, but then ventures forth to Manhattan to find his biological father. The quirkiness of this film includes random cartoon characters popping up in the North Pole, a fist-fight at Gimbels Department Store, a raucous break-dancing scene, and plenty more hilarious scenarios. This is a movie that both adults and kids will adore.




Olive the Other Reindeer

This animated holiday movie hits all my quirky high points...adorable main character voiced by Drew Barrymore, evil villain penguin voiced by Dan Castellaneta, and an entire ensemble of kooky gems. It has suspense, music, and of course, a wonderful happy ending. Schnitzel the Reindeer is Michael Stipe (from REM), and his rendition of WE'RE NOT SO BAD is hilarious. (Watch it here). My kids were addicted to this one. Super charming illustrations and lots of quirky humor.





Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

This 1964 stop motion animated television special is a classic for a reason. It includes a nerdy elf wanna-be dentist, a sort-of jerky Santa, an entire island of misfit goofy toys, and a reindeer with a red light bulb for a nose. My favorite nutty part...an Abominable Snowmonster with hidden talents. Singing elves, catchy tunes. We watch every year!




How The Grinch Stole Christmas

Animated classic from 1966 based on the Dr. Seuss book. This adorable made-for-TV film has all the quirky weird sensibility of a Dr. Seuss story with a great musical score.  The Grinch is one of the greatest villains of Christmas history. But never fear, it has a precious happy ending, and a lovely Christmas message for adults and kids. Forget about all the remakes...the original Grinch is the one to watch.


Do you have any favorite quirky holiday films you watch every year? Let me know!

HAPPY QUIRKY CHRISTMAS,

Nina/Penny

Friday, November 30, 2018

Now Available for Purchase...A LUMBERJACKY CHRISTMAS!



I decided to try a little experiment. I'm using Draft-2-Digital for the first time with a new release.

I usually offer my books at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo only.

D2D will allow me to sell via Apple (iBooks), as well as offer other library options.

This super short story--A LUMBERJACKY CHRISTMAS--was available as a download on my website a few years ago, but I'm not sure how many folks actually saw it/read it.

I decided to make it available for purchase so it would find a larger audience.

It's a very short story--only 4,000 words--but it definitely captures the sweetness and hopefulness of the holiday season.

Here's the blurb...(purchase links, too!)

Happy Holidays to all! xoxoxoxo

Love, Nina/Penny


❆❆❆


From award-winning author Penny Watson...

A super-schmaltzy, super-sweet, super-beardy, super-short snowbound-in-a-cabin holiday romance.


**Previously available on Penny Watson’s website**


Genre: Holiday Romance
Length: Super short story, 4000 words

Looking for a super-schmaltzy, super-sweet, super-beardy, super-short snowbound-in-a-cabin holiday romance?

You just found it.

David Green is an award-winning children’s author searching for inspiration. Hannah Morgan is an illustrator who is unlucky in love.

When they find themselves stranded in a cabin on Christmas Eve, can they possibly create their own special story...together?

Book includes 4,000-word quickie and an excerpt from National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award-winning A TASTE OF HEAVEN.


❆❆❆

Ebook only 99 cents!

Apple


Sending love and sweet treats to you!

Nina/Penny

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Review for KINGDOM OF THE BLIND


Buckle up, people! 

I have many, many thoughts about this book, and series in general, and Louise Penny.

In no particular order...

1. The beginning of this book is strong. As always. One of Louise Penny's strengths is her beginnings. She sucks you right into the story with the characters, the mystery, the unknown. Everything feels profound. She throws in poetry. Philosophy. Art.

Strangely, however, the familiarity of the characters/town we know actually dragged this story down. That is no longer a strong point for the series, but a detriment. 

At one point, there was a scene with our familiar cast of characters, in their familiar setting, and I thought to myself..."I've read this before." It's getting redundant, and that's a bad thing. Dialogue feels recycled, character reactions feel recycled, even the twists/big reveals are things we've seen before (Gamache has a big secret...yeah, we know. HE ALWAYS HAS A BIG SECRET).

2. There are certain scenes/moments/events in this book with huge impact. The collapse of the house, the angst-filled scenes with Amelia returning to her old life. I love the whole symbolism of the house collapsing/the family collapsing. Penny did an extraordinary job bringing that symbolic event to life. 

Unfortunately, these are overshadowed by many tedious scenes that dragged and ruined the pacing of the narrative. Too many scenes with financial folks, figuring out documents, etc. These bits were dull and ruined the energy and flow of this story.

3. Pacing was a problem. The flow of the story felt disjointed. Usually, I find that Penny does an excellent job blending high-action scenes with internal POV, character bits with setting and storyline. But it was pretty choppy going in this book.

4. I love fiction that blends multiple storylines. This is a trademark for the Gamache Series. Sometimes, it works very well, and sometimes it's not as successful.

The parallel storylines for this book--the Baumgartner will and the continuation of the drug storyline from the last book (GLASS HOUSES)--did not work well together, IMO. There has to be both contrast and commonality for blended storylines to work. 

The mystery about the Baumgartner family started very strong, then fizzled and died.

The storyline about Amelia had its strong moments as well, but the "twist"--Gamache has a secret from everyone else--is something we've already seen in this series. That reveal was disappointing.

The "reveal" about the Baumgartners also lacked punch. It was fairly expected.

That was the biggest disappointment about this book for me...it started with a lot of energy and suspense, and it all sort of fizzled out and died by the end. 

The "post-mortem" scene at the end (everyone sitting around and discussing who/how/why-dunnit) was painful. It was an uninspired way to resolve the main mystery of this book.  

I do appreciate a few new characters thrown into the Three Pines world--even the promise of romance for some of our regular characters--but that is not enough to pump fresh life into this series.

5. My big assessment about The Gamache Series: This series has lost its magic. Louise Penny has not, however, lost her magical touch as a writer. She just needs to use her "powers" with a new project.

She needs a new town, new characters, maybe even try out a new genre.

She has a lot left to say, and a wonderful way to say it. But Gamache and his buddies and Three Pines have been wrung out like a wet sponge. 

I got the feeling several times that Penny is writing her "default" setting with this series. I honestly feel like it's wasting her talents.

6. Most series drag on too long. There's a fine line (or not) between exploring and re-exploring the same characters/relationships, watching them change and grow. At some point, it's done.

You know a series is still working when you return to that world and it's like putting on a favorite snuggly cardigan and going along for a wonderful adventure with "friends."

I didn't get that feeling this time. My friends felt flat and almost cartoonish. The mystery became predictable and underwhelming. 

Even Gamache, who is one of my all-time favorite characters, was missing something.

Overall grade for KINGDOM OF THE BLIND: Disappointed.

Here's hoping Louise Penny tries something new and different soon. I would really like to see that happen!


Signing off from Watsonville,
Penny/Nina

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Simple Living Holiday Edition: How To De-Stress Christmas


Last year I had a wee little freak-out on Christmas day.

After months of shopping and cooking and card-writing, the actual BIG DAY was a disaster.

Everyone was in a bad mood, especially ME!

I decided that I was going to make some big changes this year and turn the whole holiday around for my family.



Here's my plan for the 2018 HOLIDAY SEASON...


1. Cut out the cards.

Every year I spend a ton of time attempting to find the perfect family photo (you know, all four of us with our eyes open...good luck with that!), and then I have to design a card, order the cards, go to the post office, stamp/address hundreds of envelopes, etc. I hate it. Cards are expensive. They are wasteful. Bottom line: WHO CARES!

They're out.

(Wheeeeee! I FEEL BETTER ALREADY!)



2. Focus on experiences, not gifts.

My kids are not little anymore. Christmas morning is a big deal when your kids are young. All those presents under the tree...their eyes light up. It's magic! And fun.

Then...your kids grow up. They want gift cards and a new iPhone.

Last year there were too many gifts and a lot of complaints, and I'm done with that.

This year, I am replacing the gifts with experiences.

Ideas:

***Attending the Nutcracker Ballet

***Glass-blowing class for the kids to make a tree ornament

***Attending the light show at Tower Hill Botanic Garden

***Going to a musical performance

***Winter hike in the woods/Owl Prowl

***Make hand-made wreaths/holiday flower bouquets

***Make (and give away) Christmas cookies!

I think my family will appreciate this. We need to spend time together. That's more important than stuff.



3. New Christmas Eve tradition, inspired by Iceland.

It's called Jolabokaflod. It means Yule Book Flood. Icelanders exchange books on Christmas Eve and spend the evening reading.

BE STILL MY BOOK-OBSESSED HEART!

Unfortunately, even though my husband and I adore books, my kids are less excited about them.

But, I will not be deterred!

I am going to get my son books about the environment and science and photography (his passions) and my daughter books about style and fashion and art (her passions) and my husband travel journals and books about fly-fishing (his passions), and I'll give "Santa" a list of books I'd like, too.

I think I'll add holiday books to the list as well. It's nice to collect books about Christmas/other holiday traditions.

This is just one more reason to love Iceland!



4. Establish new/old Christmas morning tradition.

When I was young, my family had a fairly formal Christmas morning breakfast. My mom set the table with her Christmas china, and we had a full breakfast and hot chocolate and Christmas candies.

It was super sweet and lovely.

My family has gotten into the unfortunate habit of attacking the tree and gifts first thing.

I don't like it.

So...it's out.

We will be reinstating the "Christmas Breakfast" tradition at our house. The kids can help. I have A LOT of Christmas dishware.

This is a more relaxed way to start the day.

Less about the stuff, more about the experience.



5. Edit the decorations/stuff.

I never saw a Christmas shop I didn't like. 

We have nutcrackers and angels and elves and snowflakes and Santas and lights and big trees and little trees.

And...cripes. It's just all too much!

So, I'm learning to "edit" with my decor. EVERYTHING does not need to be displayed every year.

(Repeat that three times and make a wish!)

Last year I chose a few select things to put out. It looked a lot better, and it was easier to clean up after Christmas.

This tip brought to you by Project Runway. EDIT EDIT EDIT!



How about all of you? What do you do to decrease your stress over the holidays?

Let's chat!

xoxoxo

Nina/Penny

Monday, November 12, 2018

Poem


God reached down


God reached down

He grabbed the shoulders of that tree

He shook and shook that tree

It's time to let go, He said

It's time to let go of the dead things

But the tree held on

The tree held on to the brown of the earth, gold of the sky

Jewels so red, fire so orange

The tree held on

God grabbed those shoulders and shook so hard the air made noise

Tree fingers shook in the wind

Danced like a ghost

Trembled and cried

The time had come

Time to let go of the dead things

The tree lost bits of the brown earth, pieces of the gold sky

Scattered the red jewels, shocked the orange fire

God reached down and shook some more

The shoulders bent under the will of God

Lost the last of the fire and jewels, the earth and sky

Until only the skeleton remained

Shocked by its nakedness, stark barren exposed

God reminded the tree

The buds were there, hidden waiting ready

For the time when God would reach down and unfurl those buds

For the time to embrace the live things

For the time would come.



"God reached down" by Nina Roth Borromeo, ©2018

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Joyful Writing Month JOYWRIMO Has Commenced!


Time to start our new November project...JOYWRIMO!

A whole month of being happy. Can we do it?

[YES WE CAN]


The rules of this game...none. Anything goes! Here's a link to explain what this is all about.

Do what you can, when you can. No guilt. Reach out for support.

Most important: FIND JOY IN YOUR WRITING!





✵When you find joy, your writing shines✵


I thought we could start off the first day by sharing what we find most joyful about our own writing, our own writing process.

I see a lot of folks talk about FEAR when they start a new project. They say it's the worst part of writing a book. The very beginning.

Oddly enough, I have the opposite experience!

My favorite part of writing a book is the beginning.

Probably because I'm a "pantser" not a "plotter." For me, it's an exciting time. I have no idea what's going to happen. I have no idea how these characters will grow and develop.

It's like making new friends.

And discovering a story you didn't know existed.

I love this feeling!

This is my most joyful part of writing. Discovering a brand new world.

How about you? What brings you joy with your writing?

Let us know!

Join my posse on Facebook!


BEST OF LUCK TO ALL WITH JOYWRIMO!
#JOYWRIMO
#HAPPYWRITING

Love, Nina/Penny

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Sneak Peek of LITTLE SHADOW MAN


What's a good way to celebrate Halloween?

How about checking out an (unedited) sneak peek for LITTLE SHADOW MAN?

This is my horror novella-in progress. 

Warning: It's dark and includes some bad language.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!


Excerpt:



Chapter One

September 17, 2000




There was no way in hell those things were real.

Two perfectly shaped mounds, like igloos of silicone.

They never moved, not even when Marlene sneezed. A cute, adorable sneeze of course. Not a loud, obnoxious sneeze with mucus or god-forbid...germs. No, the 1985 Homecoming Queen only produced precious little sneezes, followed by a giggle.

The two preposterous mounds on her chest didn't shift. Her upper body tilted, her head twitched. Just enough to make her cascade of golden silk sway and mesmerize every man in Solomon's Grocery Mart. But the mounds--nicely encased in a fitted work-out shirt with giant daisies in just the right spot--were immobile.

Jenny tried to look away, but to her shame, she was also mesmerized.

Even when Marlene shot her a look through narrowed eyes, Jenny still stared at the mounds.

How much did those mounds cost?

What would Jenny look like with a boob job like that?

As though she could read her mind--and boy would that be disastrous if it were true--Marlene leaned down close to Jenny in the check-out line and said, "Honey. Don't you know it's rude to stare?"

Jenny's face got hot and she finally looking away, glancing at the dirty floor.

"That'll be nineteen dollars and seventy-five cents." The check-out guy appeared to be talking directly to Marlene's chest.

"Oh dear. I'm a little short today." Marlene's grocery haul included fat-free yogurt and fat-free cookies and diet Coke and an enormous bag of broccoli, which Jenny was convinced was just for show.

People like Marlene Anderson didn't really eat food. They just smoked and popped pills, and occasionally got plastic surgery to keep up appearances. They also slathered on twenty-three pounds of make-up and false eyelashes.

"Uh...wha...what do you mean?" The check-out guy was starting to stammer. A pair of humongous tits could do that to a man.

"Mr. Solomon lets me charge it. Just put it on my account. I'm good for it." Marlene giggled.

The check-out guy glanced at old Mr. Solomon, dressed in head-to-toe polyester, with the tell-tale button popping open right over his impressive gut.

Mr. Solomon nodded at the check-out guy.

Marlene smiled at Mr. Solomon.

Mr. Solomon took a long, lingering glance at Marlene's plastic surgery-enhanced bosom, licked his lips, and then walked away.

What the actual fuck?

Marlene collected her groceries, neatly bagged in her Roxy totes, and turned to Jenny. She smiled at her, one of those pitying smiles.

Jenny took a large dose of satisfaction in the fact that Marlene's lips were chapped. Her burnt orange lipstick had gathered in the dry creases of her mouth.

Not so perfect after all, Miss Homecoming Queen!

"Please tell Jim I said congratulations. You must be so proud of him. Making town council is such an honor." Marlene tilted her head a bit to the side, as though she were trying to figure out what Jenny was all about.

The short, pudgy girl married to a local politician?

The awkward librarian with the blond jock?

How had it happened?

A cloud of perfume drifted down the grocery aisle from Marlene and assaulted Jenny's olfactory system. It was Poison, of course. The perfume that every 1985 cheerleader in Freeland, Massachusetts, swore was their secret weapon.

Jenny knew that scent well.

She herself didn't wear perfume. Why bother when you were a five-foot-tall, chubby suburban housefrau with stretch pants?

Expensive perfume wasn't gonna make a bit of difference.

But that scent was all too familiar.

It was the fragrance that greeted her every night when Jim got home late from work. Doused all over his rumpled white shirt and his shitty suit.

Poison.

Poison would be too good for the likes of Marlene Anderson.

Even though it was an un-Christian sentiment, Jenny hoped that when Marlene Anderson finally kicked the bucket, it would be painful.

Bloody.

And gruesome.

That would knock those mounds right out of place.