Thursday, December 17, 2020

Two (New) Must-See Christmas Movies

I woke this morning to a gentle rain falling outside my bedroom window. Here in the Treasure Valley the temperature has climbed into the high 30's, and the rain melts the weekend's snow and Tuesday's ice. Rambo sits on the sill batting the cords of the blinds. He wants to go out, but knows he can't.

It is a week before Christmas 2020, the last major holiday before the new year. Most will be happy to see 2020 end, but a flip of the calendar won't wipe away our ills. Even with vaccines for Covid-19, the experts are predicting the virus will continue to wreak havoc and claim lives well into 2021.

In the midst of the madness, our hearts and eyes turn to anything that will lift our flagging spirits. The local Christian station KTSY 89.5FM has been playing Christmas music since November 1st. My Facebook and Twitter feeds displayed gorgeously-decorated trees well before Thanksgiving. Until 2020, this practice was frowned upon. But if it brings us joy, who cares about convention?

Many of us began watching Christmas movies early, those light-hearted clips of love and a belief in something bigger. Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime rolled theirs out early. The other stations may have too, but those are my three go-tos. We all have our favorite Christmas movies, and there are many from which to choose. But I prefer romantic comedies, and have invested in the DVDs and/or bluerays.

Until last year, my top two favorite Christmas movies were Love Actually and The Holiday. But one day in December 2019, I ducked into our local $3.00 movie house, Reel Cinema, and took a chance on a film called Last Christmas. I had watched the trailer on Fandango, but other than that, I'd heard nothing about this little gem.

I loved it so much, I went back a week later to see it again. Then I rented it from Redbox a couple weeks after that.

And yes, it spiraled to the top of my Most-Loved Christmas Movies list. And it was the first Christmas movie I watched this year. Here is a post I wrote on Facebook after watching it on November 16, 2020:

"This year I started my Christmas-movie watching with Last Christmas. If you love romcoms and haven't seen this movie from last year, don't wait any longer. Especially if you have an intimate knowledge of depression and/or addiction. Or are a George Michael fan.

Last Christmas is a romcom with a twist, starring the amazing Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding. Written by Emma Thompson, who also plays a great role as Emilia's mother, and her husband, this movie has a LOT of heart.

As Emilia's character slides deeper into her own personal morass, she meets the unlikely character played by Henry Golding. The lovely Michelle Yeoh plays a spicy "Santa", the owner of a year-round Christmas shop in London, and Emilia's boss.

I won't tell you any more. But if you love romcoms and/or Christmas movies, don't miss Last Christmas. Btw, I recently found the blueray at Walmart for $12, and I'm hoping one of the big players - Netflix, Prime, or Hulu, offers it for free."

Recently, one of my patients told me about a Netflix Christmas movie, an animated film called Klaus. I watched it yesterday and - WOW! I now have another new favorite.

In the beginning, the main character, Jesper, is none too likeable. The son of a rather severe and wealthy Postmaster General, Jesper is lazy and selfish and full of himself. Fed up with Jesper's entitled shenanigans, his father sends him to Smeerensberg in the far, far, faaaar frozen north. He must either turn the zero-mail being sent from that island-town around—or he will be cut from the family purse strings with not a cent to his name.

Read Roger Ebert's Review of Klaus

For the sake of honesty, I admit that I nearly stopped watching this film. The people of Smeerensburg were even more awful than Jesper. But when Jesper meets Klaus, a disillusioned toymaker and isolated giant of a man, things begin to turn around.

Here's IMDB's blurb, which captures the heart of the story in a nutshell:

"A simple act of kindness always sparks another, even in a frozen, faraway place. When Smeerensburg's new postman, Jesper, befriends toymaker Klaus, their gifts melt an age-old feud and deliver a sleigh full of holiday traditions."

That first line - a simple act of kindness always sparks another - is key to the remainder of the movie. And to life, I might add. This charming film has now been added to what has become my Top Four Favorite Christmas movies. Below those are movies like Scrooged, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, White Christmas, occasionally Die Hard, It's a Wonderful Life, and Miracle on 34th Street.

I also watched a few cute ones on TV - The Dog Who Saved Christmas, Small Town Christmas (both with Dean Cain), and others whose names aren't coming to me now. But each and every one of them lifted my spirits. And made me forget about Covid and what it's done (and doing) to our world for a while.

What are your favorite Christmas movies? Did you start watching early this year?

Have a safe and happy (Covid-free) holiday. Stay well and be safe!

That Rebel, Olivia J. Herrell, writing as O. J. Barré

P.S. I will be sending the first prequel to the Awen trilogy (A New Home) to my newsletter subscribers on Christmas Eve. If you're not already registered, enter your email address to join my mailing list (Muse & News). You will NOT be spammed and you WILL get this nice little Christmas present in your virtual stocking on Christmas Eve.

O. J. Barré is the author of the Awen trilogy, an urban fantasy with an alien invasion set in 2042 Atlanta. Steeped in current, ancient, and future history twists, Book One, Awen Rising debuted July 2019. Book Two, Awen Storm, released May 2020. Book Three, Awen Tide, arrives Summer 2021.

Friday, December 11, 2020

The Awen Universe - An Update

The other day we talked about my new favorite writing hack - Word Hippo. You can read about Word Hippo here. In that post, I originally included an update for the Awen Universe, but decided it deserved an article of its own. Here it is:

The first draft of Book 3, Awen Tide, is now over one-third complete. I participated in NaNoWriMo, and though I did not "win" it with 50K words, I did break my writing slump, adding about 25K and pushing the manuscript total past 40K.

Now it is up to 44K of 120Kish.

We're getting there!

I've also written the initial draft of my first novelette. The working title of this first prequel to the Awen trilogy is A New Home. It is heavier on scifi than fantasy, though both are intertwined—as they are throughout the Awen Universe. A New Home tells the story of how the Druids and the Reptilians ended up on Earth.

The second novelette will be entitled UnderEarth, and the third AboveEarth. Once the three are complete and published individually, I will put them together into a novella or a novel, depending on the final length of the three parts and the whole.

The ebook of A New Home will be offered for sale for $.99—or free to newsletter subscribers. If you haven't already, go ahead and sign up for my newsletter here. I promise I won't spam you and will likely only email you now and then, mostly about new releases, giveaways, free books, and special promotions like newsletter swaps in which other authors' books will be offered to you for free.

I would love to release A New Home around Christmas time, but that's likely a bit optimistic. I'm slogging away at Awen Tide and as I'm not great at multi-tasking—I lost that ability back in 2007 when I suffered from an adrenal meltdown—I'd have to turn loose of it for a while to get A New Home ready.

But never say never. It may happen yet. At least to my newsletter subscribers.

So go ahead. Enter your email address to join my mailing list (Muse & News), and you just might get a nice little Christmas present in your virtual stocking. If not then, by New Year 2021!

Have a safe and happy (Covid-free) holiday. Stay well and be safe!

That Rebel, Olivia J. Herrell, writing as O. J. Barré

O. J. Barré is the author of the Awen trilogy, an urban fantasy with an alien invasion set in 2042 Atlanta. Steeped in current, ancient, and future history twists, Book One, Awen Rising debuted July 2019. Book Two, Awen Storm, released May 2020. Book Three, Awen Tide, arrives Summer 2021.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Word Hippo App

 Hello and Hi-De-Ho! Where does the time go?

It's been three months since I've stopped peddling long enough to catch up with you. Please accept my apologies. It's not that I haven't thought about you—I have. I even began several posts and wrote most of one on melancholy. But as you have personally witnessed, none of these have seen the light of day.


Today, I want to share a writing hack. One I recently discovered, though based on the extensive database, I'm guessing it has been around for a while.

Until recently, I used Thesaurus dot com to find synonyms—that perfect word that means exactly what it is that you want to say. Since I write in MS Word, I first try its limited synonym function. But as it is very limited, I frequently resorted to Thesaurus dot com.

Not anymore.

My new go-to tool for finding the perfect word is Word Hippo. Yep. WordHippo dot com.

Not only can you search on single words, to which Thesaurus dot com is dedicated, you can also search on PHRASES! Be still my heart. That sealed it for me. And not only that, but Word Hippo gives strings of synonyms for every usage of the word whether as a noun, verb, adjective, or adverb. It also gives antonyms, definitions, rhymes, sentences, translations, pronunciations, etc!

So next time you're stuck for the right word or phrase, check it out. You won't be disappointed. And you too may find your new favorite app.

As for the Awen Universe, I'll be back in a few days to give you an update. Keep an eye out!

That's all, y'all. Don't forget to check out WordHippo dot com. And be on the lookout for that writing update which is set to publish on Friday, December 11. Don't miss it. There's new stuff a-coming! But to be the first to get it (and for free!) you have to be a newsletter subscriber. If you're not already subscribed, you can sign up for Muse & News here.

Have a safe and happy (Covid-free) holiday. Stay well and be safe!

That Rebel, Olivia J. Herrell, writing as O. J. Barré

O. J. Barré is the author of the Awen trilogy, an urban fantasy/alien invasion set in 2042. Steeped in current, ancient, and future history twists, Book One, Awen Rising debuted July 2019. Book Two, Awen Storm, released May 2020. Book Three, Awen Tide, arrives Summer 2021.

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