FAVORITE THINGS, JANUARY 31, 2021

So, technically I forgot to post last week. Oh well. This one can cover two weeks of favorites. Of course, I also forgot to keep track of the things I wanted to share over that time, so we’re still probably only getting one week’s worth.

First, MUSIC, because “The Pink Phantom” by Gorillaz, featuring Elton John & 6LACK has been giving me life. I love everything about it, but most especially and particularly the Elton John parts. As always with Gorillaz, I also appreciate the animation.

Apparently I missed a whole segment of Gorillaz music, so while their song “Melancholy Hill” isn’t new to the world, it’s new to me, and it’s become a regular addition to my dance parties with the kids.

A song that I’ve been loving that is new, is Jon Batiste‘s “I Need You.” I dare you not to enjoy this song, the dancing, the clothes, everything.

I usually try to keep our house free of music that’s meant specifically for kids because I want to maintain my sanity, but our friend Hannah (check out her beautiful sewing projects on Instagram) posted something a few weeks ago about Caspar Babypants, which is really just Christopher Ballew (former lead singer of Presidents of the United States) when he’s making children’s music. While I may not choose to listen to the songs on my own time, they’re actually super fun, and I’m happy enough when my kids request them. My favorite is probably, “Mister Rabbit,” but my kids love a lot of others as well.

Chicken breasts drenched in a creamy tomato and basil sauce, held in a white ceramic dish.

In COOKING, this slow cooker Creamy Tomato Basil Chicken was a hit at our house. I made some pasta noodles to go with it. My husband added Inner Beauty Hot Sauce to his and said it was to die for.

In WRITING, I am continually surprised and gratified by how many very supportive writers there are out there, doing work to help their fellow writers out. For instance, the Writing With Color Tumblr blog is such a good resource. In particular, I think the posts on describing skin color would be helpful to most writers.

Picture of a woman with dark brown skin. A golden-colored cat sits on her shoulder. Beneath the photo are the words “Writing With Color.”

Also, another writer, Bethany Hensel (check out her stories here), mentioned that she listens to ambience videos on YouTube while she writes, and it might literally have changed my writing life. So much easier to focus with the sounds of, say, a howling snowstorm playing in the background to drown out the sounds of my children ransacking the house. I sometimes use instrumental music for the same purpose, but my mind can get suddenly caught up in the musical intricacies, which distracts me from my writing, so this has been a better option for me lately.

Other things I’ve been loving the last couple weeks:
– Desert rain
– Being a reader and writer of good stories
– Watching my kids learn more about their world
– Therapy

January Comfort Reads

Who didn’t need comfort in January? It’s been a rough month, and you can bet I turned to books for some respite. Here are the ones that were the most comforting to me:

crookedkingdomtheq

Crooked Kingdom: The sequel to Six of Crows (which I loved so much that I literally shed tears when it ended). This series is like a Dickens book, if you added magic and more action and adventure, and if, say, Oliver Twist were an intriguing, ruthless, criminal mastermind out to get revenge while simultaneously ensuring the safety of his ragtag group of friends. The characters are so vibrant and layered. Some of my favorite characters ever written, maybe. Read Six of Crows first, and see if it doesn’t give you a heartache when you reach the end. 

The Q: Aaaaaah. I just loved this book so much. So many moments that made me nearly squeal with happiness. In this story Quincy St. Claire, one of the best business minds in her country and someone who throws herself into her work so fully that it nearly shuts real life out, must learn how to be vulnerable and let other people into her heart in order to save the business that means so much to her. One of the most elegantly crafted romances (and just general character growth) I’ve read in a long time, and it’s not afraid to lay bare the foibles of its characters, though it does it with compassion and affection. 

Writing Advice from a Top Gun

I was starting to feel kind of worried about how long it’s taking me to get my Painters book to where I want it to be. Then I saw last Thursday’s Late Night With Jimmy Fallon interview with Val Kilmer.

Val Kilmer as Mark Twain in his one-man show Citizen Twain.

Val Kilmer as Mark Twain in his one-man show Citizen Twain. Doesn’t even look like Val.

While talking about how he took a break from acting in big movies for a while so that he could write a screenplay about Mary Baker Eddy and Mark Twain, Val Kilmer said, “After ten years of blood sweat and tears of writing the screenplay, I’m still about five years away from making it…I didn’t think it would take ten years…but then when I finally got the screenplay together I realized that I hadn’t put the character together.”

I was like, “Wait! That’s what happened to me too.” I’d gotten the plot pretty much sealed, but when I looked at the story again I realized the characters—Zanny especially—just sort of petered out partway through the book. Since the characters are one of my favorite parts of the story, I knew I had to remedy that situation. I’ve been working hard on making them live on the page in the same way they live in my mind, and that’s taking time to do.

I don’t have to feel bad about that. It’s taken genius pants Mr. Kilmer ten years to do his screenplay. If it takes me a few more months or so to get my book to where I’m happy with it, I’d say I’m in pretty good company. I can take the heat.

Val Kilmer in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

Val Kilmer as Gay Perry in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. He’s so stinking cool.