A Writer's Journey

December 5, 2017

My Favorite Holiday Movies

Filed under: off topic — mackenziew @ 12:00 pm
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It’s December! I know Hallmark has been showing Christmas movies since right before Halloween because…well…that’s what they do but let’s talk holiday movies now that we’re closer to the actually holidays.

We all have our favorites—the movies we have to see before December ends. For me, the list includes a blend of old classics and new ones.

So here’s my top ten…this year.

1. Love, Actually

Who doesn’t love this movie? I had a friend in college who hated rom coms and after he watched it with his girlfriend, came back and admitted he loved it. There’s just something so appealing about these intertwined stories about love and Christmas that has lasted for over a decade. It also boasts an amazing cast—Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Alan Rickman, Andrew Lincoln, Keira Knightley and so many more!

This year, most of the cast reunited to do a short special catching the fans up with what their characters had been up to since the movie ended. You should check it out if you haven’t yet.

2. The Holiday

I absolutely love this rom com starring Kate Winslet, Jack Black, Cameron Diaz and Jude Law. Diaz and Law have great chemistry and Winslet is an absolute delight to watch on screen as she plays a woman taking control of her life again. And it has shots of sunny California and snowy England. It’s the best of both worlds!

3. A Princess for Christmas

This is a popular Hallmark Channel movie that launched a genre of its own—regular girl falls in love with royal, is awkward but endearing trying to fit in at court and lives happily ever after. This one stars Katie McGrath and Outlander’s Sam Heughan and the two have amazing chemistry. You need to check it out if you haven’t.

4. A Charlie Brown Christmas

How can anyone hate this classic? Come on.

5. Santa Claus is Coming to Town

There’s just something sweet and nostalgic about stop motion. And this is a great tale about how Santa Claus came to be—abandoned baby taken in by kindly toymakers, a man who wants to give presents out of the kindness of his heart, a mean dictator who could represent communist dictators, and a beautiful schoolteacher who learns that some rules may be meant to be broken. The Winter Warlock is pretty cool too.

It also provided me some inspiration that has gotten me through a few hard times: “You put one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll be walking across the floor. You put one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll be walking out the door.”

6. Once Upon a Christmas/Twice Upon a Christmas

These two are considered on entry because they are linked—one’s a sequel to the other. They are more Hallmark staples starring Kathy Ireland and Touched by an Angel’s John Dye. She’s Santa’s daughter and when it seems that there are more naughty children than good, she goes to Dye’s family to try to turn their behavior around and make them want to celebrate Christmas again. It works and soon love is in the air…but she also has to stop her evil sister from ruining Christmas forever.

The sequel deals with the evil sister once again trying to destroy Christmas and sell the North Pole to Donald Trump (!) while Kathy Ireland tries to find out who she is, having forgotten everything due to actions she took in the first movie. It’s a romantic follow up to the first movie and has a pretty interesting plot. And I love both of them.

7. Rudolph’s Shiny New Year

Over the years, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer hasn’t really held up for me. Everyone in it is pretty much a jerk—Santa included—and it makes me mad that everyone just kinda gets a pass in the end. But I do love this sequel, where Rudolph needs to save the New Year when Baby New Year runs away because people were jerks and laughed at the ears he no doubt would grow into. Rudolph jumps around the islands where every year goes to, meeting Ben Franklin, a knight and a caveman. There’s also a whale that helps him too. It’s a lot of fun…even if I’m just realizing that there aren’t really any female characters.

Geez.

8. Mickey’s Christmas Carol

This was a special made in the 1980s, just ahead of the Disney Renaissance that started with The Little Mermaid. It stars Scrooge McDuck as Ebenezer Scrooge and follows the classic Christmas story as he learns the true meaning of Christmas. Donald is his nephew Fred, Mickey is Bob Cratchit, Goofy is Marley, Jiminy Cricket is the Ghost of Christmas Past, Willie the Giant is the Ghost of Christmas Present and Pete is the Ghost of Christmas Future. It’s a cute little cartoon and I love it.

(Fun Fact: It’s the first official appearance of Wayne Allwine as Mickey Mouse).

9. The Santa Clause

The sequels were good but there’s just something endearing about the very first one, where workaholic dad Tim Allen accidentally kills Santa and therefore has to become Santa. Watching as he transforms into the jolly old elf and how it transforms his life is heartwarming and hysterical.

10. The Christmas List

My parents actually got me hooked on this one but I don’t think it’s aired in recent years. Mimi Rogers plays a mousy mall worker with a nose for perfumes who decides to submit a Christmas list to Santa’s mailbox. She’s surprised when it starts to come true—leading her to a possible new romance and new career opportunities.

So those are my top ten Christmas movies. What are yours?

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November 27, 2017

NaNoWriMo 2017 Wrap Up

Filed under: journey,writing — mackenziew @ 1:00 am
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I know there’s still almost a week left but I’m calling it now: I’m not winning NaNoWriMo this year. And it won’t be a record breaking year either.

I’m okay with that.

This year just wasn’t my year. I never really felt either of my stories. I thought I was excited about both but nothing really ever took off. My second attempt just seems too out of character for Regina and I’m not sure I can salvage it—as a fanfiction. I think it might work as an original story, though.

I’ll have to see.

Not feeling my options were a big reason why I’m not going to win. I know that. I did finish an 11k one shot for this year’s Outlaw Queen Advent Calendar but that didn’t have anything to do with it (except be the reason why I had no writing to add on Friday). I had the same thing last year but still managed to write a lot then—but I really was into my project last year.

Maybe next year will be better. And maybe I’ll return to an original work then. We’ll see.

How was your NaNo?

November 23, 2017

Time to Give Thanks

Filed under: journey,writing — mackenziew @ 1:00 am
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Today is Thanksgiving. It’s amazing to think it’s already upon us. I told you this part of the year always seems to fly by.

Anyway, since it’s Thanksgiving, I want to once again share what I’m thankful for.

Of course, I am always thankful for my family. I love each of them—no matter how crazy some of them are. (Though in some circles, I’m probably an eccentric cousin. At least, I hope so. It seems like a cool role to fill).

I’m also thankful for still having steady employment at a place I love to go to every day. I am grateful for having amazing coworkers who have created a great atmosphere that makes it a great place to work. And I am grateful to be aligned with an organization that does such great work in the community.

I’m thankfully for finding Once Upon a Book Club as it has introduced me to books I might not have read otherwise. I’ve been enjoying expanding my bookshelf.

I’m thankful for Lana Parrilla and Sean Maguire. Thanks to them, I found an amazing group of friends.

Which leads to me thanking my friends. You all are amazing and I enjoy talking with you. I’m so grateful I got a chance to meeting a lot of you this year—either if we went to dinner in March or met up at OUAT NJ last month. You all are amazing.

Thank you to the Outlaw Queen fandom. We’ve been through a lot but we’re still standing strong.

And my biggest thank you goes to all my readers! Whether you read my fanfics or read this blog, you all are amazing. I would probably write anyway, but it’s nice to know I’m not just shouting into the void. That there are people listening to me, reading my words and liking them. And not just liking them but commenting and engaging with me. I enjoy all our interactions.

So thank you, thank you, thank you!

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 20, 2017

Reading Challenge Update

Filed under: off topic — mackenziew @ 1:00 am
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It’s November. The year is almost over. So let’s take a look at how my Reading Challenge is doing.

As a reminder, I challenged myself to read 12 books this year, which would break down to one book a month.

I am happy to report that I am on track and may even finish early if I can finish one of my Once Upon a Book Club books before November is over. (My money is on A Strange Companion over The Saturday Evening Girls Club, though I doubt that won’t be too far behind).

So I’m proud of myself. I met my goal and read so many new books this year. Will I up my goal for next year? I’m not sure. I’ll have to see.

But one goal I definitely know I’ll set for 2018? Finally finishing The Night Circus. It’ll be going on two years and I don’t want to abandon it.

Did you challenge yourself this year? How are you doing? Will you challenge yourself in 2018? Sound off below! 

November 13, 2017

A Change in the Air

Filed under: off topic — mackenziew @ 1:00 am
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Two weeks ago, I went to a YMCA training course on Fiscal Management. Pretty much, it explains the budget, how to build one and how to monitor one so you can help with your YMCA’s fiscal responsibilities. I’m in a department that’s considered “overhead”—we don’t have a revenue stream, so the other departments cover us. But I’m not here to explain that to you. It’s just…background. Setting, if you would.

That morning, it had been freezing in my room and I had been hesitant to get out of bed. But I knew I had to because I had to go to this training. So I pulled on a nice warm shirt, some warm pants and then checked my phone for the temperature. When I saw it was in the thirties, I knew I had to break out my jacket for the first time since the winter. My car heater was jacked up and I headed on my way.

When the training was over for the day, I stepped outside and paused. Because it was a day that just screamed “November” to me.

It was overcast and the skies were gray as a cool wind blew. My jacket kept me warm against the cold air as I hurried to the car. Around me were trees, all starting to change colors. Reds, golds, browns and oranges stood out against the gray. It was beautiful.

For a moment, I just stood in the parking lot admiring how perfect a fall day it was. It just reminded me how much I love the season.

November 10, 2017

Starting Over (NaNoWriMo Edition)

Filed under: journey,writing — mackenziew @ 1:00 am
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Yes, I decided to scrap the project I was working on and start all over on a new one.

Why?

I just wasn’t feeling my original project. To be honest, I had been waffling for most of the month so far. And keep in mind, we’re barely ten days in. But I couldn’t come up with a better idea so I decided to power through it.

Then came Tuesday. I was trying to find something to watch and saw that Hallmark Channel was airing A Princess for Christmas. I had seen it a couple days earlier but it was the only good thing, so I watched it again. And a couple days ago, I caught “Crown for Christmas,” another Hallmark Christmas movie.

It hit me hard. I was going to do “Crown for Christmas” but with an Outlaw Queen twist. Robin would be the hotel worker who meets the queen of a small European nation (Regina) and is then recruited to help care for her son—just as a tutor rather than a governess. Or whatever the male version would be.

So I’m doing that now. And it’s definitely going better than my original idea. Always goes to show that sometimes it pays to take risks.

Wish me luck!

November 5, 2017

Starting Over

Filed under: journey,writing — mackenziew @ 11:00 pm
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Okay, I’m sure you know by now that my faithful laptop Old Blue died on me this past September and that I lost almost everything on the hard drive. So I’m now saving everything on my OneDrive account.

I’m sure you probably also remember me working on something I cryptically called my “Big Project.” Guess what was not saved on OneDrive?

Yeah.

So now all that work is gone. I mean, I’m not back completely at square one since the “Big Project” is me converting one of my Outlaw Queen fanfictions into an original novel. At least I have a baseline to start from again.

There are a lot of questions, though, I need to ask myself. Well, there is one big question I’ve been asking myself for several months now:

Do I recreate the extensive rewrites and additional material I initially created when I first started on the “Big Project”?

I’ve really been trying to figure this one out for several months now. I wrote up a lot of new material for the Big Project but I want to keep it under 100,000 words as that is a bit wordy for a novel. And I also figured that people like the original enough—did I really need the new material?

Then I think about some of the stuff I added. A lot of the early part of the Big Project was written from the Main Female Character (MFC)’s point of view and then later on, I added the Main Male Character (MMC)’s. The additional material added some of his perspective earlier. I would like to keep that.

This might end up being a compromise. I try to keep the word count down by sticking as close to my original fanfic as possible but adding some new bits to flesh out the MMC more.

Well, I have some time to figure it out. I first want to get through NaNoWriMo and then I’ll restart the Big Project yet again.

October 31, 2017

Happy Halloween!

Filed under: off topic — mackenziew @ 12:00 am
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I delayed this post until today since it’s actually Halloween today! Since it’s Tuesday, I myself went out on Friday night dressed as a vampire queen. I got the costume for New York Comic Con because the dress I got from Hot Topic for my Evil Queen cosplay didn’t fit and the costume’s dress was the closest to Regina’s red dress.

I hope you were able to get out celebrate the holiday but if not, I’ll try to help you a bit with a few ghost stories from my hometown of Staten Island!

Happy Haunts!

The Historic Old Bermuda Inn

It is haunted by the ghost of a former owner, Martha Mesereau, whose husband went to sea and never came back. She is still waiting for him and haunts her house, now a popular catering venue here on Staten Island. I’ve been there several times as I can walk to it but I’ve yet to see Martha. She’s been known to appear to guests as well as fiddle with women’s jewelry. The facility recently underwent some renovations and during them, a painting of Martha that hangs in the building caught on fire mysteriously. It wasn’t destroyed and the singed portrait still hangs. I know the owners as we attend the same church and they are more than happy to share Martha’s story. You just have to ask.

Vanderbilt’s Tomb

Magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt is buried in Staten Island’s Moravian Cemetery and his tomb is well known to us. It is said that if you go to the tomb and take a picture of it, strange things happen. People you don’t know and who weren’t there will appear in the picture or the people who were in the picture will not be there after it is developed. Needless to say, many people have flocked to the tomb so a fence was set up around it. Good luck, then, getting your picture.

The Kreischer Mansion

Like the Old Bermuda Inn, this spooky residence is close to my house. It was built by the Kreischer family, who ran a successful brick factory on the island. Some of their bricks can still be found around town. Unfortunately, the family fell on hard times when the factory burnt down and one of the brothers killed himself. And in recent years, it was discovered that one of the caretakers was a hitman for the Bonanno crime family and had destroyed a man he killed in the house’s furnace. Strange activity has been reported in the house, including red lights spotted in windows. It’s also said that sometimes, late at night, a gunshot can be heard going off inside the house.

St. Andrew’s Cemetery

The cemetery is attached to St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, which is one of the oldest churches on the island. It dates back to 1708, though the current church only dates back to just after the Civil War, and was once led by the grandfather of Elizabeth Ann Seton, who would later convert to Catholicism and became the first American-born saint. Strange phenomenon have been reported both in the church (an organ that plays by itself) as well as the cemetery. One of the lingering spirits is a drummer boy from the Revolutionary War, who appears to people with a bandage on his head and asks for directions to the fort. I’ve also heard stories of a teenage girl who is spotted close to the road, often trying to lure young men in order to find her lost love.

Fort Wadsworth

A former military post, it is now operated by the parks department and open to the public. Located right by the Verrazano Bridge, it offers some amazing views of the Narrows and New York Harbor. My track team and I once took a long run down there but only once. After September 11th, it was used as a staging area and was closed to the public for a while. Strange phenomenon have been reported there. People have experienced time shifts, seeing battlefields and soldiers at war racing around though no battle was ever fought at Fort Wadsworth. People in clothes from earlier times have also been spotted walking around the fort before disappearing.

So there are five more haunted sites on Staten Island. And I’ve just scratched the surface. We have a few more haunted sites I might share next Halloween.

For now, stay safe and protect the black cats. And enjoy your Halloween!

October 23, 2017

NaNoWriMo 2017: It’s Coming!

Filed under: journey,writing — mackenziew @ 12:00 am
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Holy crap, October is almost over! The end of the year always seems to fly by, doesn’t it? Not the dreary winter months of January, February and March but the fun months—Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas! (Come on, that’s what we really think when we hear October, November and December if you’re American).

It also means that NaNoWriMo is around the corner. Once again, I will be participating. And once again, I will be using it to write my Outlaw Queen Christmas fic.

So, what is it about? Glad you asked!

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October 16, 2017

So What Happened to My Stories?

A couple weeks ago, I posted about how my laptop Old Blue died. I wrote that I was waiting to see if the IT guy at work could salvage anything off the hard drive. The answer is in:

No.

So, yes. Everything that hadn’t been on OneDrive is lost. And that ended up being a lot.

As I said, lesson learned. I’ve been looking into an external hard drive to be sure I have a backup though I’ve started saving a lot more to OneDrive. I’m not going to lose all of that hard work again.

How much work, you ask? Well…

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