Posted in Reviews

Hill House Revisited In Review…

It stands to reason that the Haunting of Hill House story has had an influence on me from a young age. I found stories about hauntings, houses, and the supernatural to be endless sources of inspiration even in my teens. When I was in college and out on my own for the first time, movies like 1999’s The Haunting were popular. At least they were among the fans of horror and supernatural films. It was based on a novel written by Shirley Jackson in 1959. It featured an amazing house full of odd rooms, secret passages, and, of course, ghosts. My eccentric little self pined for that house and still does in a way.

It also boasted a well-known blockbuster director in Jan de Bont and a cast that included Liam Neisen and Catherine Zeta-Jones. If you haven’t seen it, I definitely say, watch it for nostalgia sake. It was pretty well done for the time.

Yet recently, it got a massive makeover and has been the talk of horror movie communities all over the internet. Netflix seems to have spared no expense in the creation of the new series The Haunting of Hill House. And I recently sat down to watch it.

I have to say, this is, in my humble opinion, one of the most well-done remakes in the genre. Once I sat down and watched the first episode, I was hooked. I ended up bingeing and watching the entire available series in one sitting. And I am hoping they continue the storyline for more.

Now, die-hard fans of the original films will point out some blatant deviations from the original storyline. However, I think that the writers did an amazing job of changing just enough of the story to enhance its creep factor, bring it to a modern audience, and still manage to make it feel original. (Which, incidentally, is a bit of a pet peeve of mine with the film industry in the USA, to begin with. More on that in another post.) They took, what some are calling a classic, and altered it enough to really tackle modern issues like drug addiction, mental illness, and child abuse. And I applaud the creators for not shying away from more supernatural and psychic elements as well. Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised to see how different the story of Hill House unfolded with the family who came to live there. It is a deep story that will, I’m sure, resonate with many people.

The visuals elements were immersive and full of subtle nuance. It is one of those series that you could watch several times and still see new things and draw a new conclusion each time you see it. I’m sure I’ll be watching it again myself in the near future. The darkness of the series isn’t found in the jump-scare tactics that most horror filmmakers rely on. Instead, it is in sadness, personal tragedy, pain, and loss where this series manages to pull at your nerves and set you on edge. Those tactics are well-placed and present for those classic horror film aficionados but, I honestly believe that even without those, this story has enough of a horror element to it that it fits the bill.

I admit to being skeptical about this at first. After all, why mess with something that was good, to begin with. But, I am glad to see that horror and suspense are taking a new direction. I hope that we see new voices, new stories, and a continuation of this style of filmmaking.

If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend a Netflix weekend when you can watch the whole thing. Once you start, it will keep you riveted to the very end.

I want to post more reviews about books, movies, and tv series that line up with what I write. So you can see more of these posts in the months to come. Have a suggestion for a series, movie, or book? Why not drop it in the comments for me? Or just tell me what you thought of either the 1999 version of the Hill House story or this new adaptation! I’d love to hear what you thought as well.

 

Posted in The Writer's Life

Gifts for the creator in your life…

The holiday season is upon us again.

Thanksgiving is a week away and that means that Black Friday Sales deals are on the horizon for many of us. If you’re like me, you probably have a few people on your Christmas list that are hard to buy for beyond the usual gift selections in the aisles of your local Walmart or Target. So, I thought I would take a moment and give you some great gift ideas for the creative people in your life.

I’m going to keep this fairly general. Nothing specific for writers, artists, or crafters will be included in this post. However, I will likely do something for each niche in the next few weeks. My goal here is to give you some general ideas for how to inspire and empower the creative people in your life. You know, make sure they know you appreciate and encourage their creativity, quirkiness, and maybe even help them see that side of their personality in a new light.

I don’t have to put any disclaimers here. I’ll provide some links to sites that I think are great, of course. But, buying from these businesses (some of them small businesses) will only support them. I’m not one of these bloggers who have affiliations and get kick-backs from your purchases. So I can recommend them without a reservation on the simple premise that I like them and buy from them as well. That being said, let’s get started.

The first thing I would recommend for any creative person is so simple, you’ll wonder why you didn’t think about it first.

A Journal

Yes, it is the simplest tool that any creative person can put in their arsenal. For the writer they are essential. A place to capture ideas, keep track of progress on projects, empty the clutter of the mind, and to refer when we need clarity. It is the same for visual artists. A blank sketchbook is an equivalent of giving an artist a world of their own to play in. And the truth is, this can be the most inexpensive gift option you could give.

A blank notebook is simple and inexpensive at Walmart. In fact, for less than $10.00 you could put together a set of journal and pens. Want to get fancy? Try heading to a stationery shop or a local Barnes & Noble or BAM for something a bit more sturdy and fashionable. Couple that with a fountain pen and you’re good to go. It’s a classic gift that will help any creative mind figure out what to do next.

Want to shop online? Try out sites like Levenger.com or Jetpens.com for options. Amazon is always a great resource as well. And I’ll give one more option at the end of this blog that will let you add a personal touch.

Bonus Idea: If your creative person is more tech-focused, you can also look at giving memberships to blogging communities like Livejournal.com or deviantArt.com that will give them a year of ad-free usage with a few other perks. There are also paid apps that you can give as well.

The next gift idea is something I have given to creative friends on numerous occasions.

Books On Creativity

There are loads of these out there and all of them have their merit.  For me, there are two that stand out on my shelf. (Hint: I’ve blogged about them before.)

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. This book quite literally has the power to change lives. It certainly did mine. A self-study course on how to unblock your creative self, I return to her process over and over again. It is something I have done not only on my own but with a group of others that has given my creativity a boost even when I thought it was buried. And you have several options with this because there is the original which will run you about $13.00 for the paperback, but there are continuations of this that are also included in a lovely hardback compilation edition that includes her additional books in the same process.  You can find it here: THE ARTIST’S WAY. And there are companion books, journals, and tools that you can also opt for.

Another book on creativity that I love and find inspirational is Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and Your Creative Career by Anna Sabino. (Which incidentally, will be going with me on my road trip home to see family this Christmas.). There are others and I’m not going to make a list of titles for this post. However, if you’re interested in a more comprehensive list and review of this type of book, I’d love to know. Leave a comment and make sure you subscribe so you won’t miss out on those posts. Maybe we’ll make use of the Creativity tag and category for these. Let me know.

 

And my last idea for this post is …

A personal planner or accessories for one that they already use.

I’m going to do a more in-depth post about this one closer to the start of 2019. But, all creative people need a way to keep things going, organized, and figure out what to do with their time. We’re all a little scatterbrained these days. A place to keep track of appointments, tasks, accomplishments, birthdays, and goals is essential for me. And I don’t think I know a creative person who is serious about getting projects done and out there to the public who doesn’t use some variation of a planner.

Now I’m a planner addict. I’m one of those color-coordinated people that has a case of stickers, colored pens, and stencils. I use a combination of an Erin Condren Life Planner and a Bujo that I personalize. But I’m not going to tell you that it’s a cheap gift to give. You can get cheap planners at Walmart. And you can find all sorts of accessories. Some people use travel journals for this purpose. (Yes, I have one of those too.) There are digital options, as with everything. And there are versions that range from being a very utilitarian calendar to more like a workable journal experience.

Erin Condren offers highly personalized options. I’ve collected custom covers over the years. 2019’s is a paisley design that features my initials. Last year’s looked like antique lace overlaying a pretty shade of blue with my name on it, and my first one three years ago also featured my name but was geometric and colorful with the quote “I Want to See You Be Brave” on it. That last one served as a reminder to keep going with the pursuit of my dreams.

Erin Condren also offers a lot of accessory options and they even have notebooks that also fit their custom covers which, by the way, are interchangeable throughout the year. One of these personalized notebooks would make for a great journal in my opinion! And I love the options for stickers, their pens, and their stylized sticky notes.

 

Posted in Baking & Decorating, book news, My Process, The Writer's Life

Rainy Days & Fun Times: A Nanowrimo Update.

After 7 days of Nanowrimo, I’m coming on here with an update!

No, it is not going as well as I want on the word count goals. However, I’m happy to report that getting an outline together is proving a fruitful endeavor. I have clarity in the direction of the story now. So that’s a good thing. But, I think I should have done more for Preptober. I was engrossed in releasing Beyond The Storm then though. So I won’t complain.

November is usually a busy month anyway with a major holiday and then preparing for the Christmas rush. This year is no different for me. I’m excited because for the first time in 4 years, I get to be home in the mountains, at my grandparents’ for Christmas. With my mom, my brother, his wife, my three nieces and my grandparents. I also get to spend a little time with my best friend since high school that is long overdue. And there is a lot that needs to be done before we leave Texas for that.

I was out and about with my mom yesterday and snagged these awesome elf house shoes for making holiday memories. I think my nieces are going to love them. They’ll be a source of amusement for a while. I imagine that my grampa will eventually tire of the jingle bells ringing through the house but, it will be fun while it lasts.

We’re planning to do a holiday bazzaar on the 1st of December with our cookies and candies to sell. So, that’s going to be fun but a lot of work. Everything with Sambee’s is handmade from old recipes that have been passed down. Well, except our cake pops. Those are a fairly new invention. But, I’m sure it will be a success with our paint-your-own sugar cookies, and holiday gift boxes. I’m actually fairly excited about it. I mean who doesn’t love cookies and sweets?

After a day of being out and about, it is time for me to get back to the work of writing the next book. I still have a few things to map out though. There are a few new characters entering the series in this book. And writing sequels is a difficult task guys. So many details that you have to line up. I am definitely learning the importance of creating a “series bible”. So, making that is a big deal for me at this point. But, if you were a fan of The Fallen, you’ll be happy to know that the next installment of that series will be happening next year.

So just a quick little update before I dive in and get some words on the page. Fall has officially arrived here in East Texas though. I turned off the air conditioner and am donning the sweatpants and socks today. Comfy clothes for a cozy day of writing and working.

Posted in book news, My Process, The Writer's Life, Updates, Writing & Publishing

Let’s Go Wrimos!

Yes, I know, it is insanity to the outside world. However, the month of November is when writers from all over come together to kick the blank page’s rear and produce what could very well be your next favorite book. What’s more? It could be by your next favorite author who, after this year’s success, decides, at last, to stop waiting for people to tell them it’s worth a contract and publish it themselves. There is so much talent in the Indie Community. And it is, all too often overlooked in my opinion.

 

Are you a writer? Do you have a novel sloshing around in that big beautiful skull of yours? Have you ever wanted to try to write a longer story or turn that campfire ghost story into something that others can enjoy? Well, then come to join the rest of us! You’ll find amateurs and professionals alike who take part in the challenge to pen 50,000 words in November.

Yes, it’s a lot of words. But you won’t be alone. Writing every day, it is a goal of 1,666 words per day. Though, (here’s my NanoWrimo trick to preparing for interruptions of the holidays) I always strive for 1,800-2,000 instead. That usually puts me ahead of the game for winning the challenge. But, I don’t always win and I don’t always participate.  Last year, I started and then found that with my job, and the other obligations I had, getting that many words in just wasn’t going to be possible. I still managed over 30,000 for the month though. And that’s 30,000 I didn’t have before.

For many of us, we already write on a daily, or almost daily, basis. So adding a new project to the mix is a change. The added perks of local write-ins with other writers, forums and groups on social media dedicated to discussion and cheering one another on, and after parties to celebrate the wins and successful addition of words make it a unique time of year. In fact, it has been so beneficial that National Novel Writing Month (lovingly called NanoWrimo) has created Camp NanoWrimo events throughout the year to accomplish the same sense of camaraderie and motivation as the original. Some of us set bigger goals. Some of us are happy to hit that 30,000 or even 20,000 mark. The point is to get writing!

Today is Day One! The idea that you have to spend months preparing is rubbish. You start where you are. Novels are typically longer than 50,000 words anyway. Consider this your crazy way of getting all that story out on the page and then you can spend another session, or the rest of the year, adding to it and refining it into something that is amazing.

What am I working on this November? Well, I’m going off the beaten path a bit with something completely new. New characters, new setting, and a new plotline than I usually write. If you want the details, you should join me over on the NanoWrimo site: Here’s your link!  You’ll find all the information I have available for this one and I’ll be sure to update it.

Also, I’ll post weekly updates here on the blog.

Before I dive into the writing pool; let me just say that I had a great time at the East Texas Booktacular taking Beyond The Storm for its’ first spin on the events table. Copies are available in paperback and Kindle ebook on Amazon. If you’re interested in signed paperback copies; I have news. I’m working on a way to have you order direct from me. For now, if you’re interested you can email me at annebellewrites@gmail or you can PM on Twitter or Facebook for details. I’ll be happy to invoice by Paypal and get them to you in time for the holiday gifting season! You know, readers never have too many books.