27 August 2012

The Screenplay vs. The Novel

Continuing my writing series, I first talked about my process then tackled inspiration. Now I'm taking you down the more technical road to explain the differences between a screenplay and a novel (and there are many).  This may come as a shock, but writing a novel is different from writing a screenplay as they're two completely opposing mediums. Who knew??

All forms of art begin the same way: an idea. Depending on the interpretation, one idea elicits boundless results in many forms. Give ten painters one subject and no painting will resemble another. Give ten screenwriters one idea, one "logline" as its known in the Industry, and suddenly you'll have ten different films from which to choose.

After the "Idea" phase, the novel and the screenplay move in separate directions. Being an artistic medium made up entirely of paper and ink, a good book requires endless descriptions of people, places, things, smells, sounds, and emotions. Ever read Tolkien? Authors create entire worlds filled with cities made up of classes and communities full of diverse characters human or otherwise doing and saying interesting things. These stimulating visuals surround a story enriched by themes, philosophies, and conflicts hopefully felt in some degree by the reader to create connection. A novel IS the medium whereas a script is the blueprint of the medium of film.

Like the plans for a building laid out by an architect, a screenplay has parameters in which it must remain, the main two being time and structure. Most films are ninety minutes to two hours with exceptions like Disney animated features coming in around eighty minutes and large scale epics like Lord of the Rings reaching the three hour mark. Novice screenwriters will want to whittle FINAL drafts down to around ninety minutes. Conciseness is key in filmmaking as Time. Is. Money.

As for structure, if a script lacks proper structure and grammar, a Reader will throw it out. Period. Some executives make exceptions toward grammar if the story and characters are unbelievable. In terms of structure, each scene requires a scene heading, descriptions are short, dialogue is written with the character's name in all caps and his/her words centered underneath. Page numbers are in the top right corner, use black Courier font, a script must have a title page, and there are absolutely no pictures or gimmicks: let the film speak for itself.

Visual, present tense, action-filled writing is the only acceptable style for scripts. If a writer can't SHOW it then whatever "It" is needs to go; no subjectivity or emotions. Unless a screenwriter can show a character's feelings that part is left to directors and actors. For example, "Seeing his friend's grave made Aaron sad" is unacceptable and amateur. Something like "As Aaron reaches the top of the hill, a small gravestone reading "Dan Smith: Loyal Son, Brother, and Friend" comes into view. Approaching the stone, Aaron drops to his knees, pounds his fists into the ground, and sobs."

For fun (as I believe writing should ALWAYS BE FUN-- take that Hollywood!!), I stylize my writing when describing people (and places) as it keeps me on my toes. Instead of introducing a character as "JAMIE, 27, blond, tall, and heavy-set wearing skinny jeans and a T-shirt..." I would write "JAMIE, a long-legged 27 year old whose curvaceous frame remains stylish at any size with a perpetual smirk plastered on her perfectly made-up face..."

Dialogue is a whole other matter that will be saved for a future post.

Furthermore, the position of a Novelist is solitary work. You can lock yourself away in a remote cabin somewhere in the north woods with nothing but you and your computer, and write until your fingers fall off. Your publisher will send you notes for revisions. Writing the initial screenplay might require a Screenwriter to lock himself away until he finishes the first few drafts, but once the script moves into the hands of agents and producers, kiss any power you had over your work goodbye (unless you're Charlie Kauffman, Quentin Tarantino, or Aaron Sorkin). Everyone gets a say in the revisions, from financiers to producers to the director to the actors-- even other screenwriters may be brought in to rewrite the script. In fact, unless the writer is also producing and directing (and most of the time this spells disaster *cough* M. Night Shyamalan *cough*), he is last in the filmmaking chain of command.

Yet, the writing process and basics remain the same for novels and screenplays. Both need intriguing stories with compelling conflict; both require dimensional characters who elicit emotional reactions from readers. Every writer dreads the blank screen and blinking cursor, experiences Block, and thinks everything he writes is shit and he should have been a doctor like his parents always wanted. No work is ever complete and always needs further polish, though, as someone who grew up drawing and singing, this attitude is adopted by artists in any form.

So why do I write? Am I masochistic or utterly vain? I write because I have something to say and writing is the best way for me to do it.

Jane Austen Made Me Do It

Because I'm thoroughly in love with all fan fiction relating to Jane Austen and free stuff rocks, I was ecstatic when I won Jane Austen Made Me Do It from the editor Laurel Ann Nattress (signed too!) after winning a drawing at Barbara Tiller Cole's Darcyholic Diversions blog back in mid-July. 

And rightly so. 

Jane Austen Made Me Do It is a compilation of 22 short JAFF stories written by some of this literary community's prime authors, as well as one story by the winner of a JAFF writing contest.  The various adaptations range from Regent fiction to supernatural fiction, as well as stories starring Jane herself. Some are letters or journal entries while others involve humor and romance.

Not only is this book worth a read, but I'm thrilled to add JAMMDI to my collection because whenever I have a hankering to read JAFF but can't commit to a book, I can pop open a short story and get my "Austen Addict" fix.

Now, I must be honest-- I didn't love all the stories. Believe it or not, this is part of the charm. Jane Austen Made Me Do It will be loved by JAFF fans like myself yet is an even better resource for new readers of this genre because it offers a great variety of styles & authors to choose from as a way to learn one's JAFF preferences. 
In fact, I discovered that I tend to favor Regent stories like Monica Fairview's "Nothing Less Than Fairy Land" starring my favorite Austen characters over more modern adaptations, and even found a few more authors--like Jo Beverly's "Mistletoe Kiss" which is a wonderful Sense and Sensibility-esque Christmas story-- whose books I'd love to read.

Overall, a must read for any fan of Jane Austen and her fan fiction.

Rating 5 out of 5 stars

25 August 2012

Five Years

Stress and a few distractions have kept me from writing and while I won't discuss any discouraging details, I will say that I'm having a heck of a time finding a day job at an office even with experience. Such is life these days.

August 12th, Michael and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. To commemorate this momentous occasion on my blog, I thought I'd post some wedding photos and tell you the story of how we met. If you know this story already, just enjoy the pictures :)

I met Michael at Bible study in college. We knew each other for a year but didn't really hang out until the end of my sophomore year as I thought he was boring (the only time I've EVER been wrong in the whole of my life).
After summer break, Michael found various excuses to hang out with me while I remained utterly clueless that he was remotely interested in more than a friendship... even after he literally told me I was pretty. Yes, he still makes fun of me for that but what can I say-- I'm blond!

Thus, at the end of October 2006, he tricked me into going on a date and had to bluntly explain that he liked me, wanted to date me, and wanted to be exclusive. Thank God as I'm not one for innuendos and subtly-- obviously. Did I mention he was my first boyfriend???

Left: Michael and me at my extended family's Christmas. Right: Posing at our "surprise" bridal shower.

Seven months later we became engaged. As I was driving up to visit Michael in Wisconsin, a car several yards ahead on the highway illegally u-turned and I slammed right into the back part of the driver's side, totaling my parents' Honda Civic. When I called Michael telling-- okay, hyperventilating and crying-- him I was 45 minutes away in an accident, he got to me in fifteen minutes, hugged me while I cried (coming down from the adrenaline), bought me Gloria Jeans and we looked at engagement rings. A few days later he proposed. I said yes, by the way.

Making "Vogue" faces at our rehearsal dinner.

I woke up at 6am on our wedding day. Michael and I stayed at my mom's TOGETHER-- I'm not superstitious or traditional-- had a wonderful breakfast then went our separate ways, he to the church and I dressed at the house.

Our wedding parties, pre-wedding.

You won't find me crying in my wedding photos, I was far too happy and smiley to shed a tear. I wanted the wedding to be a day of fun and celebration and it far exceeded the expectations.

The first photo of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Nicholas.

We almost got our marriage annulled thanks to my brother.

Left: Our cake from the family bakery with flowers from a friend's florist. Right: getting ready to shove cake in each other's faces-- a tradition I support wholeheartedly!

What was in the cake, you ask? Well, it was champagne colored/ pearlized buttercream with layers of devil's food, white, and graham cracker cake separated by white chocolate mousse. To. Die. For.

These two photos are among my favorites as I remember the exact parts of each speech to elicit the expressions on our faces. On the left, my Maid of Honor and cousin, Jenn, recalls the moment she first met Michael and he was so impressive she literally fell out of her chair... which she did. 
On the right, Michael's sister refers to their mother as the Queen of Reproduction in front of 220 people.

I don't dance because A. I can't and B. I make ridiculous faces.

Michael and his mom putting my sad skills to shame.

Have you ever seen so many guys DYING to catch a piece of clothing that means they'd get married next?!

From our honeymoon in Door County: the worst kissing picture EVER.

Here's to five more years!

15 August 2012

Chicken Curry ~ Slow Cooker

My husband and I love curry. If I find a decent recipe with plenty of flavorful ingredients and spices, chances are I'll make it within a week after the discovery. In the past, I've made dry chicken curry-- all of the flavor and veggies without the coconut milk-- and a 30 minute, one skillet meal of coconut chicken curry which I have yet to share with you. This posting shall be my reminder.

With the sweltering heat over the last few weeks and consistent stomach pain every time I eat restaurant food (I'm trying to figure out if it's stress, an ulcer, or gluten intolerance without selling my soul to pay doctors' bills), I've needed recipes that utilize my crockpot or require little time on the stove so I can enjoy fresh, home-cooked foods.

And thus I give you Chicken Curry, adapted from Better Homes & Gardens:

Simple, loaded with flavor, and makes plenty for leftovers. As I'm avoiding rice since it continuously causes my stomach to expand to an uncomfortable level no matter how little I eat (what is happening to me?!), I used a cup of quinoa. Quite the delicious substitution. 

VEGETARIANS!! If meat isn't your thing, opt to make this vegetarian by frying up some tofu (or whatever protein substitute you like) and adding it at the end. Or simply omit the chicken & flour, add chunks of squash, and use quinoa & nuts as your protein. 

One other chef's tip: be sure you have coconut milk before you get all of your ingredients and cooking tools ready on the counter and then have to put them away because you need to walk to the convenience store in 100 degree heat. Happy Cooking!!!

Chicken Curry

3 Tbsp all-purpose flour 
3 Tbsp curry powder
1 - 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1 - 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves or thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces
4 medium red potatoes, scrubbed and cubed (you can remove the skins if you want)
4 small carrots, bias-cut
1 cooking apple, coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 cup chicken broth 
1 ~ 13.5oz can unsweetened coconut milk

1 cup quinoa or rice, cooked per instructions
Green Onions

In large plastic bag combine flour, curry powder, cumin, and salt. Add chicken a few pieces at a time; seal and shake to coat.

In a 4 quart slow cooker, combine potatoes, carrots, apple, onion, garlic, and jalapeno. Top with chicken and pour broth over mixture. Cover. Cook on low-heat setting for 6 to 8 hours or high-heat setting for 3 to 4 hours.

If using low-heat, after the chicken & veggies have cooked for the allotted time turn the slow cooker to the high-heat setting. Add the coconut milk and cook for 30 minutes more. Serve over cooked quinoa or rice and garnish with your choice of toppings.

09 August 2012

Benefit "They're Real" and other Mascaras

Mascara. A makeup essential... unless you have perfectly long, thick, dark eyelashes in which case you need to stop bragging because that's just mean.

Finding the right mascara is a chore because they're all different, expensive, and if you don't like it once you buy it, tough (unless you try out the new Lush Mascara - they have a 30 day return policy, no matter how much you use up!). And depending on your eyelash needs-- volume, curl, length, thickness, VISIBILITY-- different products will come in handy.

For instance, without mascara I have no eyelashes. Fine blond lashes are as invisible as Sue Storm (where are my Marvel nerds??) and take, like... four coats to even resemble a normal lash. I blame genetics. So I look for volume and some length when shopping around. And that's where Benefit comes in.

Say hello to "They're Real."


According to the Benefit "Cosmetic Advisor" at the Macy's counter-- who isn't biased at ALL-- this is the most popular mascara in the entire six-billion-people-populated-and-three-billion-of-them-travel-the-LA-highways-on-a-daily-basis WORLD. Impressive. 

Do my lashes look longer?!

"They're Real" is meant to add length and sure enough, it does. The mascara is thin so it easily coats the lash while the wand is smaller so you don't end up with black splotches all over your face like really uncoordinated people (me). In these photos, I used 3 or 4 or 3.5 coats and think my lashes look great. And no, I didn't use an eyelash curler because I'm scared I don't believe in them.

Rockin' my half-face emo picture.

My cosmetic gripe is that it doesn't really thicken the lashes. Plus this stuff is expensive. The travel size is $10 and the full-size bottle is $23.00. 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 winks

As a gal living on a budget, I normally use Maybelline Great Lash:

Mascara Hoarder? Maybe.
From left to right: Brownish Black, Very Black, and BIG Very Black.

Through my extensive experience of wearing makeup, I've used many cheap inexpensive brands. For years I only wore brown mascara because my mom told me it complimented blue eyes (true) and that black is whore makeup. Then I only wore waterproof mascara because I'm really dramatic and cry a lot... and I was too cool to carry an umbrella to class when it rained. But WP is nearly IMPOSSIBLE to get off my lashes so I switched to normal and had my tear ducts removed.

Anyway, regular Great Lash definitely adds volume but starts to clump after the second coat. Great Lash BIG starts to clump after the first coat and ends up all over my face because I have clumsy sausage fingers the wand is rather large. But at $4 a bottle I can't complain... not true, I can always complain, but four bucks a bottle is CHEAP!

You can see looks I've done using this mascara here, here, and here.

Rating: 3 out of 5 winks

And finally, the mascara with the longest title - BareMinerals Flawless Definition: Volumizing.

I was fortunate enough to try this when I scored a free sample from Sephora and I still remember how amazing this stuff is. Besides actually living up to its "volumizing" reputation, the mascara softens the eye and uses voodoo magic to prevent any clumping.

This is a great example I found from a beauty blog by a Seattle based makeup artist:

It's $18 a bottle and worth every penny.

Rating: 5 out of 5 winks

In terms of the lasting effects of each product, I haven't noticed much of a difference. They all require a good scrubbing with remover at the end of the day. However, the Great Lash does start getting in my eyes after several hours. 

Couple mascara pointers:

If you do need waterproof mascara and experience clumping problems, use an eyelash primer first then apply.
Fake eyelashes can look amazing-- consult someone else because Lord knows I'd probably glue my eye shut trying to wear them.
This might be common sense but NEVER-- and I mean NEVER or I'll kick your butt-- sleep with mascara on. I used to because I hated washing it off at night when I was tired (whine whine whine) and my eye doctor thought I had glaucoma because he could see little scratches all over my eyeball. True story.

Mascara is tricky and definitely a matter of personal preference, but overall I recommend splurging if possible. My husband made an excellent point as I was about to buy cheap foundation when I ran out of my YSL: Why go to such great lengths to take care of my skin only to throw crappy makeup on top of it? Is he amazing or what?!?! So these days I try to think long term so I can be a sexy old lady rockin' granny panties and bifocals.

What mascara do you use? Are you afraid of eyelash curlers? Do you think mascara is the sign of a "loose woman?"

08 August 2012

Crustless Summer Zucchini Pie

Always on the lookout for new, seasonal recipes, I dug through my Pinterest album aptly titled "Foodage" and found this pin:

Pretty scrumptious looking, eh? It's from skinnytaste.com which is why it's obnoxiously professional.

What I love about this recipe is that it fills a 9 inch pie pan with only 3 eggs. So even if you and your husband finish it in one day (which never happened-- stop judging me!), you've really only eaten 1 and a half eggs. Are you impressed at my math skills?! (rhetorical question, of course you are)

In true "Jamie the Absent-Minded Chef" fashion, I forgot to grease the pan and thus the slices became a bit of a mess when I tried to remove them. So... learn from me.

And for dessert? A mini burger cake courtesy of Gelson's bakery-- it was quite tasty!

Almost too cute to eat, no?

Crustless Summer Zucchini Pie

  • 2 medium zucchinis, shredded
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 3/4 cup part skim mozzarella
  • 3 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour (King Aurthur)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2/3 cup fat free milk
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • cooking spray (I used my misto)


Preheat oven to 400°. Lightly spray a pie dish with cooking spray. Combine zucchini, shallots, and mozzarella cheese in a bowl.

Sift flour and baking powder in a medium bowl. Add remaining ingredients to the bowl and blend well. Combine with zucchini mixture and pour it into the pie dish.

Top with parmesan cheese and bake 30-35 minutes or until knife comes out clean from the center. Let it stand at least 5 minutes before serving.

**My recipe is a little different from the one at skinnytaste.com, so check out her version here.

What's your favorite seasonal recipe?  Do you like the new look for HPG???

07 August 2012

Lush: Emotional Brilliance

Ever since my introduction to Lush, I've become a complete Lushie and geeked out even more when they released their two-years-in-the-making Emotional Brilliance makeup line the day before my birthday. I mean... could the timing be any better?! (The answer is no.)

Now, I must admit... I've committed a Beauty Blog sin: I didn't take any pictures of the store! I'm still working on my "can I take photos of your merchandise I promise I'm not casing the joint" line, but for this I'm afraid I only have photos of the makeup I bought and me wearing it. You'll just have to make your way over to a store near you.

Anyway, after doing a color reading-- which was completely fun, if not a little strange-- I got spoiled by the amazing salesgirl showing me EVERYTHING and having me try on makeup. Is there anything better? (The answer is still no.)

In store, I sampled their translucent powder (shimmery), bronzer (stayed on nicely), multiple shadows, lipsticks, and mascara.  I almost bought the $19 mascara-- the bottle is short but contains double the amount of regular mascara bottles-- but I had already picked up the travel size "They're Real" mascara by Benefit. In the end I walked away with these:

From left to right: "Happiness" cream eyeshadow, "Fantasy" liquid eyeliner, and "Perspective" lipstick.

Let's go over the gold eyeliner, aka "Fantasy." 

First of all, this was my second time EVER applying liquid eyeliner-- so no making fun of my lines. Okay... you can make fun of me but do it behind my back like civilized people.

As far as "Fantasy" goes, the wand is really fine and stiff so the line remains fairly thin, though I did find that I needed to add more to get the depth of color I wanted. It lasted quite awhile and, in my opinion, is a strong gold.

Usually I'm a chicken boring when it comes to makeup, but I like the gold with the black liner: it's fancy. It compliments blue-gray eyes and stands out on pale skin. Plus my eyes look sexy-- is this the part where my inner goddess does cartwheels?! 

Next up: "Happiness" eyeshadow and "Perspective" lipstick.

"Happiness" is bronze/brown/orange in person, yet it definitely comes out more orange than anything else. The wand is the same kind as the spongy ones found in long, thin tubes of lip gloss (I don't know technical terms, okay?!). 

Here's the thing about the eyeshadow: if you use the wand, it goes on thick and the color is strong. If you use your finger to smear, it removes most of the color and all that's left is shimmer. So you must use the wand which hinders blending. However, the color lasts all day and doesn't clump up in the creases too much.

Now the lipstick, "Perspective," is the BEST. I'm obsessed. I hate lipstick in general because it dries out my lips and never lasts. Not so with this stuff. It's moisturizing-- seriously, they aren't kidding when they say it moisturizes-- without being glossy, yet the color still shimmers. Speaking of the color: AMAZING. It's a soft, rosy pink that goes with every skin tone and would make the perfect accent for natural makeup. If you can't tell, I love it and will cry if Perspective ever gets discontinued. Like... I might protest.

The Emotional Brilliance line is full of deep, BRILLIANT (see what did there?), long lasting colors worth sampling. It even holds up when you make faces. For example:

If nothing else, Get. A. Lipstick.  I'm excited to try their mascara and compare it to Benefit, pick up a black liquid liner, but overall I won't be purchasing any shadows. Down the road, I hope Lush releases liquid foundations, blushes, and more nude eyeshadows. I try to keep my makeup subtle so this line isn't to my particular style. If you are all about colors and experimenting with makeup,  Emotional Brilliance is for you.


Happiness Eyeshadow: 3 out of 5 eyelashes
Fantasy Eyeliner: 4 out of 5 eyelashes
Perspective Lipstick: 5 out of 5 kisses

Emotional Brilliance Line: 3.5 out of 5 smiles

Have you tried the Lush makeup yet? Thoughts? How did you like the gold liner? Do you also make faces in mirrors?!

04 August 2012

Neons and Nudes by nails inc.

A few months ago while hunting down my favorite facial products at Sephora, I felt compelled to purchase summery nail polish for the season. Neons and Nudes 6 sample collection by nails inc. screamed at me:

I enjoy the softness of nudes and brilliance of neons so this nails inc. pack just. makes. sense. Or so I thought.

Sigh... writing this review makes me sad. I love these colors and the nails inc. palette in general so the fact that the nail polish is a fail bums me out. First, the polish is sheerer than I expected so I need to add an extra coat. And for those of you who are sticklers about getting the most for your money (so... all of us) that means your dollars aren't going as far since you'll be using it up faster. 

Even with a base coat and three coats of polish and a top coat of the pink, my manicure started chipping the next day. Just to make sure I wasn't crazy, I also tried the yellow and the same thing happened. However, my pedicure lasted a good week so perhaps I'll save these polishes for toes only.

Overall, nails inc. is dead to me. They keep tempting me with new colors and it's cruel.  

Rating: 1 out of 5 fingers (can you guess which one?)