There is a point, when you have been in quarantine for 6 months with no end in sight, when the death toll of the plague you’ve been living through has reached 200,000 deaths in America alone, and when rampant wildfires in your state has clouded the sky with ash and turned the sun blood red, you just want to say, “Screw it,” and not do a damn thing. For the first time, it was starting to feel like the apocalypse, from the eerie "yellow wallpaper" sunlight to the constant bites of mosquitos that the signs outside warned might carry West Nile Virus. If September had a theme song, it would be Kelly Clarkson's "Born to Die," from the Trolls: World Tour soundtrack. It says something when a song from a kid's movie can plunge me into existential despair.
I can’t believe the violence of the emotions I went through this month, how they spewed out of me like a volcano, covering me with ash. Suffering through them felt like more than enough to deal with, and yet, I pressed on with publication. Surprisingly, I got a lot done. I published Company, I worked on Hazel and Saul, I completed the “Bonus Materials” section of my website, I updated my website, I wrote blogs, I created pins for Pinterest, and I formatted my novel for a paperback. I did this while dealing with a nippy dog, a million mosquitos, and all the drama September unloaded upon my head.
Interestingly enough, the first day of September I came to a conclusion about the feelings of vulnerability. As I wrote in my journal: “I am feeling vulnerable, and yet, I am not allowed to be this way. I need to be strong. I’m putting out a piece of my heart and soul, and I desperately want a reaction, a genuine positive reaction, yet I am bracing myself for judgement and indifference. I want to hide and weep and curl up and tell people how utterly miserable I am, but instead I must market and sell and edit and be gracious and positive and produce more, and I am tired, exhausted, and sad. But I can’t just throw those things out, in hopes of being affirmed or getting a reaction. No. I have to deal with them privately.”
This plunged me into what would be the theme for September, which was my relationship with the world at large. And yeah, it’s not really the easiest thing to contemplate, when the world is still only half-open. But contemplate I did, and as I did, my feelings swung everywhere, from desperately wanting to change the world to desperately wanting to change myself, from wanting to use art as a means of protest to wanting to find a way to make money already. Mostly, I felt disconnected from society and sort of crazy. It’s amazing the feelings that get bottled up when you’re feeling stuck and isolated from the community at large.
There were a few bright spots, however. Although Company didn’t make much of a splash, the feedback I got was good. I found pockets of support from friends and family, which I appreciated, even if my overall mood was glum. That’s unavoidable, though. Exhaustion makes me pessimistic. However, there is some bright news. My dad has a time share in Lake Tahoe, so as I finish up my publication journey with Company, I’m high-tailing it to Northern California. No matter the smoke in the air or the plague in the land, I am going on vacation. I hope that when I get back, I’ll be rested, relaxed, and ready to take on the future.
My roommate, Rita, decided to punish me for not being lazy enough by making me watch Cats with her. I think she was looking for an excuse to rope me into it. Anyway, I knew I wasn’t going to like the movie, because I read the reviews and I saw parts of the Broadway play on YouTube. I actually went through a phase where I watched/ read bad reviews of this poor movie for fun. (What that says about me, I don’t know.) But, at any rate, I finally saw Cats, so I can have an opinion.
Let’s just say, I’m not a fan.
Cats is the 2019 movie adaptation of the Broadway play of the same name, popular in the 1980s. A recently abandoned cat named Victoria (Francesca Hayward) finds herself in the midst of a tribe of Jellicle cats who are having their Jellicle ball. One cat will be chosen by Old Deuteronomy (Judy Dench) to ascend to the Heaviside Layer, where they will be reborn into a new life. While cats sing and dance and make their case, an evil cat named Macavity (Idris Elba) kidnaps the participants for his own nefarious purpose. Meanwhile Victoria befriends Grizabella (Jennifer Hudson), an old glamour cat who has been ostracized by the Jellicles and wishes for acceptance and a better life.
If my summary makes it sound like Cats has a plot, I apologize, because it really does not. Cats is an excuse for song and dance--dance, mostly. Aside from “Memory,” the one song everyone knows, and “Beautiful Ghosts,” the new Taylor Swift song embedded in the movie, most of the songs are adapted from T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.” These poem-songs are whimsical, but don’t really have the emotional highs and lows. For most of the movie, the cats introduce themselves. The dancing is good, but, honestly, I don’t like dancing much, and I get bored of straight singing. I watch movies for stories. I like plot and character. This was why I was against watching the movie. I already knew there was not going to be a plot, and without a plot, why even bother?
It turned out I wasn’t as bored as I thought I’d be, but not for the right reasons. There were so many story errors and questionable artistic choices, that my writer’s brain went into overdrive analyzing the mistakes and trying hard to fix them. By the end I was alternating between screaming into my pillow and bursting into uncontrollable laughter. At least Cats made me feel something. I can’t fault the movie for that.
Title: Half a Soul (Regency Faerie Tales Book 1)
Author: Olivia Atwater
Genre: Regency Romance, Fairy Tale Fantasy
Dora Ettings knows she will never be married. As a child, a faerie lord tried to steal her soul; he only got away with half of it. Since that day, Dora has never been able to act normally. She says the wrong things and feels very slightly, if at all. But her beautiful cousin Vanessa has a plan to cure her. Elias Wilder, the young Lord Sorcier, is the best magician in England; surely, he can find a way to make her whole.
Vanessa arranges for a trip to London, where Dora crosses paths with the cantankerous Lord Sorcier and his friend Albert. Although Elias has a great contempt for polite society, he is interested in what ails Dora. In the midst of society balls, marriage plots, and a mysterious plague, Dora and Elias grow closer. To the outside world it almost seems like the Lord Sorcier is courting the strange Miss Ettings. But Dora knows the truth: his attentions to her have only to do with case. For how could the most powerful magician in England fall in love with a woman with only half a soul?
I happened across Half a Soul randomly on Amazon, but I like regency romance (in the vein of Jane Austen) and I like fantasy, so it seemed like a good fit. I sampled the first chapter, and I was engaged with Dora’s plight from the beginning. I was curious to see how a character with half a soul would act and how her romance might unfold. The day I began reading in earnest, I was feeling drained and overwhelmed. I read the entire book without stop and finished it in a few hours. The next morning, I re-read my all favorite bits, which turned out to be most of the book. I found Half a Soul to be, not just entertaining, but also healing and restorative. It made me feel good.
One of the reasons why it was so easy for me to read was because I connected to Dora early on. After the faerie drains her passion, Dora becomes dreamy and erratic and can’t quite function in normal society. (I feel you, girl. Same here.) She is often insulted and treated poorly by those closest to her, and her response is subdued. Yet even though she doesn’t feel strongly, she does feel. In fact, she has a great capacity for caring, which comes out more and more during the course of the story.
Dora’s strangeness actually helps her during her first encounter with Elias, the Lord Sorcier. Elias has a reputation for impropriety, and boy, does he earn it, acting downright rude to Dora the first time he sees her. Dora is barely bothered by his insults and holds her own with witty comebacks. The relationship between Dora and Elias, which begins with verbal sparring, gradually becomes sweet and warm, as Dora learns more about Elias and comes to understand the depth of his character. The Lord Sorcier is a man of passion and ideals, unhappy with the ways of the world.
Writer. Critic. Dreamer.