11 Things Mentalist Fans Will Love About Forever

Yes, it’s true – tonight we will be bidding a final farewell to our beloved TV show, The Mentalist. Of course, Jane, Lisbon, Cho, Abbott, Wylie, Rigsby and Van Pelt will all continue to live on in fanfiction, fanart, and in fan-fueled discussions all over the Internet. But there will be no new adventures on our screens each week, no more watching Jane hypnotize a witness or piss off an arrogant suspect. Losing this show will leave a big, hollow pit in our lives, and while no other police procedural could ever completely fill that hole, there is one show that’s helping me cope with the loss. That show is Forever. I have fallen madly in love, and I think many Mentalist fans will feel the same way, if they give Forever a chance. And so, without further ado, I give you:

11 Things Mentalist Fans Will Love About Forever:

1.) That SMILE – You know that smile Jane has? Not the “I’m smiling as I envision your painful death” one, or the “I’m smiling but my heart just got ripped open” one, either. I’m talking about the one he does that’s just pure joy. The one that makes the sun shine brighter and the world spin faster and twittering cartoon birds land on your windowsill because it’s just that magical. You know that one? Well, Dr. Henry Morgan, the main character on Forever, has got one, too. When he smiles, it’s like he’s smiling at me. I can’t help but smile back. Happy chemicals are released in my brain, and my whole body gets the benefit. It’s a scientific fact – smiling improves your health. And on Forever, just like on The Mentalist, you’ll get no shortage of reasons to grin. :)

2.) The Chemistry – Whether as a romantic couple, best friends, or simply partners at work, it’s no secret that Jane and Lisbon crackle on screen. It’s a rare dynamic – to have the woman being the one with the gun, the one tackling suspects, the one kicking down doors. She’s a cop; he’s not. It’s a flip-flop of traditional roles, and it’s refreshingly wonderful to watch. Over on Forever, you have a very similar dynamic between Henry and Detective Jo Martinez – a not-so-tough non-cop tagging along on investigations with his strong female partner. Unlike The Mentalist, where Jane and Lisbon already knew each other in the show’s pilot, Forever gives us a chance to see this special relationship between its lead characters blossom from the very beginning. Henry and Jo lean on each other. They protect each other. They confide in each other and go out for drinks after hours. Their bond deepens with every episode, and the “will they or won’t they?” debates have already begun.

3.) Oops, Wrong Time Period – I don’t know if it’s his carnival background, or that he’s simply an old soul, but Jane has always struck me as a guy born in the wrong decade – or maybe the wrong century. He dresses in three-piece suits, calls airplanes “flying machines” and generally gives off a vibe that he’d be more comfortable using an abacus than a calculator. While Jane may be an old soul, in Henry Morgan’s case, the “old” part is literal. With his age at 200 years (and counting), it’s no wonder that Henry sometimes uses outdated terms like “vector,” dresses in a long coat and scarf, and carries an antique pocket watch. If you loved those little tastes of vintage charm on The Mentalist, you’ll be sure to love them on Forever, too.

4.) It’s All About the Team – From Day One, The Mentalist was never a one-man show. It was never just about Jane, but rather about him and his new-found family: Lisbon, Cho, Rigsby, Van Pelt, and even Minelli. In recent years, that family gained a few members – Abbott, Vega, and Wylie – but one thing didn’t change: the show was about them, too. Over the course of the series, we’ve met all three of Lisbon’s brothers, two of Cho’s girlfriends, Rigsby’s dad and Abbott’s wife. We’ve watched Van Pelt and Rigsby fall in love, get married, and have a child of their own. We’ve watched Wylie get up the courage to ask Vega out. And through it all, we’ve watched these characters stand by each other, protect each other, and comfort each other. Forever isn’t a one-man show, either. It is about Jo’s grief over her husband’s sudden death from a heart attack. It is about Lucas’ comic book obsession, Detective Hanson’s desire to shield his partner, and Lt. Roark’s nephew getting screwed over by the music industry. It is about Lucas gently placing a blanket over Henry’s shoulders in a moment of vulnerability and Hanson jokingly buying Henry a Speedo after one of Henry’s skinny dipping arrests. It is about a team of coworkers coming together as a family – and being there for each other, no matter what.

5.) The LOL Factor – One of my favorite aspects of The Mentalist is how much it makes me laugh. Whether it’s Rigsby talking with mustard on his face, Jane off-handedly delivering a MAJOR insult to some highfalutin know-it-all, or Cho simply giving a deadpan look, The Mentalist cracks me up more than most half-hour comedies. I’ve always said that the best dramas can not only make you cry, but can also make you spray 7up out your nostrils (which kinda hurts, because it’s fizzy). Forever is another one of those dramas that has it all. Lucas Wahl is guaranteed to elicit at least one guffaw in every scene, his antics ranging from dutifully sniffing a corpse’s stomach contents to gleefully playing the part of a murder victim in one of Henry’s reenactments, and Detective Hanson’s deadpan could rival Cho’s. If you’re looking for a well-rounded show with laughs, scares, joy and sorrow, look no further than Forever.

6.) Hello, World - In many ways, The Mentalist is a show about an isolated, deeply traumatized character slowly but surely rejoining the world of life. After his family’s murder, Jane had a mental breakdown. He lost everything, including his sanity. The series chronicles his painstaking journey to find something beyond revenge – to find a reason to live again. Jane gradually lets the other team members into his heart – he risks caring about them, even though it could mean huge heartbreak down the road. He learns to lie in the sand and surrender himself to the little joys of life. Although Henry’s family was not murdered, he has also suffered great losses – and is doomed to continue this cycle, as he will outlive everyone he ever loves, including his own son, Abe. The sharp tragedy of this makes it tempting for Henry to remain in his dusty basement laboratory (not unlike Jane’s little attic at the CBI – only with cooler stuff), cutting off humanity. Over the course of the season, however, we see other characters like Jo and Lucas drawing Henry out of his shell, getting him to join them for drinks, getting him to risk his heart again. He still hasn’t shared his whole self with them, and probably won’t for a good long while, but it’s a moment I wouldn’t miss for the world.

7.) It’s Like Talking to a Five-Year-Old - If you’re like me, you get a continual kick out of Jane’s “little boy” antics. His dramatic reactions to things, his hiding behind other team members when he’s about to get walloped, and above all, his playfulness. Who else would hop on a parked motorcycle and make fake revving noises? In all honestly, probably not Henry Morgan. But he does have a touch of that child-like spirit. Sometimes, he’s downright innocent. There’s a vulnerability to both characters that makes you want to protect them, to shield them from further pain. And Henry, much like Jane, has moments when he’s just completely filled with awe or wonder – or can’t resist horsing around on the job. In Henry’s case, his partner in the morgue, Lucas, tends to bring out the child more than anyone, and their romping reenactments of murders are as much a riot to watch as Jane impersonating God on a megaphone.

8.) Wait, That Was Evidence? – Patrick Jane’s crime-solving methods are unusual…to say the least. Dr. Henry Morgan also has his own “quirky” way of doing things. Jane steals an iPod out of its evidence baggie and uses it to jog a witness’s memory. Henry takes a damaged vintage audio tape (which happens to be evidence in a homicide) to his home and BAKES it. In his OVEN. Whatever their methods, these guys get results. The only real difference between them is that Jane has never (and probably will never) care very much whether a District Attorney’s ability to prosecute a case is damaged by his hijinks during the investigation. Henry, OTOH, is quickly learning what “chain of evidence” means and how important it is not to tamper with it.

9.) Foreign Delights - You know how sometimes, when Simon Baker says certain words, his delightful Aussie accent slips out? If you’re like me, you wait for and thrill over those little moments, and the curious way he pronounces certain words, like saying Tereza instead of Teresa. Well, one of the many awesome things about Forever is, you DON’T have to sit around waiting for little flashes of accent to pop out here and there. You can enjoy Ioan Gruffudd’s wonderful Welsh brogue in each and every episode, from start to finish.

10.) Move Over, Sherlock – Jane’s incredible powers of observation stem from his mighty mental fortress. Henry’s come from over two centuries of studying every aspect of humanity. Either way, you get the joy of watching a detective who notices even the most minute details – and can use those details to colorfully flesh out the story of the crime. I love a great mystery, but what I love even more is a great investigator. Especially one who doesn’t shy away from sniffing corpses. :)

11.) The Big Bad Wolf - For years, Jane had a formidable nemesis in Red John – the shadowy figure who loomed over everything, was responsible for murdering Jane’s family (and countless others), outsmarted Jane at every turn, and seemingly could not be caught. Red John episodes always got my heart slamming, my teeth grinding, and my butt perched on the very edge of the couch. These were the episodes where something happened. Where the core storyline of the show moved forward. Much as I enjoyed the filler eps, the Red John eps were what I looked forward to most. If you’re a fan of shows with great mythology and compelling baddies, look no further than Forever, where Dr. Henry Morgan’s chief enemy – and occasional ally – is a creepy, 2,000-year-old fellow immortal named Adam. He hasn’t killed any of Henry’s loved ones – yet. But the threat is always there, and his murderous, psychotic nature is not in question. Nor is his keen intelligence, honed over thousands of years of life. And his downfall may prove even more difficult than Red John’s, since Adam can’t die, and his supernatural existence would make traditional prosecution near impossible. Intrigued? I know I am! :)

 

Flash Fiction Chronicles’ Annual String-of-10 Flash Fiction Contest is BACK!

My absolute FAVORITE writing contest of the year is back again, and it’s only open for one week – starting today. The reason it’s my favorite – it’s the most creatively-challenging contest I’ve ever run across. Also, it’s free. Also, I never do well in this contest, which you would think would make me want to quit, but instead it inspires me to work even harder every time.

The gist of the contest: They give you ten prompt words. Your goal is to incorporate at least FOUR of the ten into a 250-word (or less) work of fiction. They also give you a quote for thematic inspiration, although I believe use of the theme is optional. They have cash prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place, as well as a special prize for best use of the theme. All of the prize winners get published and also interviewed. As a bonus, the winners also get free books!

Possibly helpful advice: Think of ALL the different ways you might use each word, not just the most obvious way (e.g. “grave” can be where someone is buried, but it can also be used to describe a dire situation or a serious facial expression). Don’t necessarily go with your first story idea. And definitely read the past winners so you can get the flavor of what type of writing this contest favors.

This year’s prompt words:

SCRAGGLY – PECAN – ROUTE – SUCCINCT – ACCUMULATE – HANDLE – BIAS – EXIST – COAST – HANDKERCHIEF

Read the official rules and the inspirational quote here: http://www.everydayfiction.com/flashfictionblog/string-of-10-seven-flash-fiction-contest-begins-now/

Can you feel the ideas hatching already? Well, what are you waiting for – get cracking! These things are due on the 15th, people!

Best of luck!

-Gretchen

The Race: Winter Highlights (TV ROCKS!)

There’s no denying it – TV has been rocking lately. Here are just a few of the highlights from my favorite shows (and a couple of dark spots, too):

Monday

Gotham (8/7c, FOX): No secret why this one’s a hit. Despite facing weird, over-the-top comic book villains, Jim Gordon remains down-to-earth, decent, and totally the guy you want to root for. Liking his romance with the nurse from the asylum. LOVING his bromance with Bullock (there was even a KISS!). Most compelling ep to date: the one where Falcone’s people invade the police station on the hunt for Jim (so intense, with the shooting and the blood and little Bruce saying goodbye to Jim… Aw…). Runner up: the one where Liza is revealed as Fish’s spy (the image of Falcone slowly choking Liza to death while Fish is forced to watch…haunt-ing).

Current Score: 7.8

Castle (10/9c, ABC): Although it’s lost the static-crackle, life-or-death intensity of the first few eps, I’m not worried, nor am I complaining. The mystery of Castle’s disappearance is being intentionally back-burnered, so the writers can whip it out unexpectedly and whack us painfully in the face with it like a rubber snake. (This happened to me once, and it really hurt. Seriously, my eyes were watering.) The wedding ep was a memorable one – beautifully shot, with all the right emotions. The lead-up story of Castle being in an alternate universe where he never met Beckett was charming, although the ending was predictable (Castle being unconscious the whole time). And of course, it wasn’t even close to the same league as Supernatural’s epic “What Is And What Should Never Be,” but it didn’t need to be. It was sweet, and it got the point across. The honeymoon was funny, and Javier’s train/hostage situation was nail-biting, but overall Castle seemed to be settling back into a same-old, same-old routine…and then – WHACK. Castle got banned from working with the PD, started his own PI firm, and everything felt fresh, complicated and new again. Right on time. Go writers! :)

Current Score: 8

Tuesday (aka best night of TV EVER)

Supernatural (9/8c, CW): Oh, how I love this show. Let me count the ways: 1.) Crowley’s Mommy Issues 2.) Castiel’s Love Story, 3.) BROTHER MOMENTS (like when Sam says stuff like this to Dean: “Maybe part of that force needs to be YOU.”), 4.) Castiel Trying to be a Dad, 5.) Dean Fighting Off His Inner Evil, 6.) Sam’s Heartbreak Over Dean Going Psycho, 7.) Sam Getting All Bad-@$$ Over Some Guy Having Dean’s Jacket, 8.) Sam Holding Charlie in His Arms, 9.) Charlie, 10.) Dark Charlie, 11.) Dark Charlie VS Dark Dean, 12.) Sheriff Jody Mills (if the writers ever kill her off, they’ll be getting some serious hate mail), 13.) TEEN DEAN!, 14.) 200th episode ***, 15.) I’d keep going, but do I really need to? What would I do without Supernatural?

***Special Mention goes to this spectacular hour of TV, which proved once and for all that even after ten years, this show’s still got it. I was nervous going in, because the previews looked, well, for lack of a better word, stupid. A Supernatural musical? A fan-centered episode? Neither of these sounded very good. Past fan-centered eps have been sketchy, at best. When the writers make fun of writers, like in “Hollywood Babylon,” it’s funny because they’re making fun of themselves. But when they make fun of fans, they’re making fun of us – and sometimes it can be a little insulting. I mean, Becky? Is that who they really think we are?

Thankfully, my fears were for naught. “Fan Fiction” had everything a good ep should have – laughs, scares, brotherly sweetness. It also had that special touch of greatness worthy of a milestone. I don’t know the exact moment when things shifted from pure entertainment to something deeper, but maybe it was when the girl cast as Mary began the first strains of “Carry on, Wayward Son.” Or maybe it was when Sam asked, “Who’s that?” and got the answer: “Oh, that’s Adam. Sam and Dean’s other brother. He’s still trapped in the cage with Lucifer.” But somehow, seeing all those kids on stage, singing the show’s most iconic song, dressed as so many of the characters we lost along the way, I was moved to tears. Kudos to the writers on a phenomenal ep, and one that I’ll be studying for a long time in hopes of making my own writing better.

Current Score: 8.5

Chicago Fire (10/9c, NBC): Current list of things Severide isn’t allowed to have: 1.) Best Friend, 2.) Girlfriend, 3.) Wife. Still hating on the decision to kill Shay. They really sucked the soul out of this show. It’s still a great hour of TV and everything, but it’s not the same Chicago Fire I fell in love with. Doesn’t help that I was a Lindsay/Severide shipper, and that freighter went down very early in the season, killed by the writers in the same merciless fashion they killed Shay. Why put in all that effort – across two different shows, no less – to get them together, if the Powers That Be were just going to axe the whole thing? Erin loses points for dumping a guy when he’s at rock bottom. So what if he was being a jerk-wad? When your soul is bleeding to death, you’re entitled. Then Sev spiraled even further out of control, and got married to some chick he barely knew. I didn’t even know what to make of that storyline. It was over too quickly. My impressions of Sev’s short-term wife went something like this: Pretty-TROUBLE-Sweet-PSYCHO-Decent Human. In that order. I liked her by the end, but then she left, and now my boy’s alone again. Not even sure if they’re divorced, annulled, or what?

‘Course, it’s not ALL bad. I like it when Matt calls Severide “Sev.” Liking all the crossovers (though, would it have killed the writers to have Lindsay notice Severide’s new wedding ring?). Sorry about Gabby and Matt. Liking the new girl, Sylvie, and the Zumba storyline was great. Have decided that if I were trapped under debris, Herrman is the firefighter I’d want there with me (he’s SO good with the rescuees – what a sweetheart). Overall, I think they might’ve gone a bit too dark, and need some more happy storylines to balance things out.

Current Score: 7.4

Forever (10/9c, ABC): Falling in love is a beautiful thing. Your heart bounces like a rubber ball, you sing mushy REO Speedwagon songs in the shower, and even dirty piles of snow on the roadside make you think of romantic ski trips in the mountains. I am so totally in love with Forever. It is my favorite show, my obsession, and my biggest-tv-related fear (CANCELLATION), all rolled into one. I know all the characters by name and by heart. I love the flashbacks, the jokes, the chemistry (Henry and Jo, Henry and Abe, Henry and Lucas), and the mythology. I love the shocking intensity of some of the scenes, e.g. Adam slitting Henry’s throat (Ioan Gruffudd’s eyes during that whole sequence – the terror, OMG that guy can ACT), or Henry leaving a man to die to protect himself. I love the poignancy of some of the flashbacks, from Abe going off to war to Henry taking his dying friend James outside in a wheelchair to see the sunset. Also, the flashbacks often dovetail beautifully with the present-day storylines, making each ep that much deeper. It is that special mix of police procedural, fantasy, and characters I can’t get enough of. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it!

Fav eps so far: “The Frustrating Thing About Psychopaths,” “The New York Kids,” and “Skinny Dipper.”

Current Score: 8.5

Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD (9/8c, ABC): Sorry to say it, but I’m dropping this one. At least for now. It’s a great show, but it’s on opposite Supernatural, and I haven’t been motivated enough to keep up with the recordings. I guess I don’t want it badly enough. Maybe over the summer, when SPN is on reruns?

Current Score: Withheld

Wednesday

The Mentalist (8/7c, CBS): Final season got off to a bumpy start with the first ep. The writers did a good job, but Jane/Lisbon is a drastic thing for viewers to get used to. Didn’t help that I was sitting next to someone who was visibly cringing at the sight of them together, barely holding back under-the-breath comments like, “Why did the writers do this?” and “They don’t have any chemistry!” Nonetheless, I got through that first slightly awkward ep, and to my surprise, things got much better. Second ep was very intense, with Lisbon undercover and people getting shot and everything all LIFEANDDEATH and somehow I got comfortable with Jisbon very quickly. There’s an added depth to the show, because Jane is that much more invested in Lisbon’s welfare. It does still seem a bit surreal, like fanfic playing out on screen. But that’s okay – I like fanfic. :) Favorite moments: Vega saying to Cho how much she respects him and the way he conducts himself (meaning, between the lines, how much she doesn’t respect the way Jane conducts himself, LOL), Jane hugging Cho until Cho finally breaks into a smile, audience finally meeting Lisbon’s other two brothers, Lisbon doing Jane’s psychic act, the whole team going to bat for Abbott, and any scene with Wylie in it.

Got scared when Jane first said he wanted to go away – mostly because it happened in an ep where he was sick, and that’s something very seriously ill people sometimes say – that they just want to go away from it all. It quickly became clear, though, that his reasons had nothing to do with health – at least not his own. Lisbon’s safety is on the forefront of his mind. They are together now, so he’s got more to lose than ever before. Also, his main reason for being with the police – catching Red John – no longer exists. Therefore, why stay?

Vega’s tragic death was written to further Jane’s desire, to push him harder away from police work. It hurt, because I really liked her. I liked that she was her own person, not a clone of Season One’s Van Pelt. I liked her because she hero-worshipped Cho, and because Wylie loved her. RIP Michelle. Wish the writers could’ve had everybody live happily ever after, but I don’t want to judge their decision too harshly until I see the endgame. Stay tuned.

Current Score: 7.9

Chicago PD (10/9c, NBC): Pretty good so far. The crossovers are my favorite eps to date, especially the three-way with SVU (although I actually liked the SVU portion of that better than the PD portion – PD gets too bloody sometimes). The actor playing Erin’s brother, Lou Taylor Pucci, should seriously get an award. His performances were amazing, and I wish he were a regular. Not crazy about Erin/Jay, but I don’t hate it either. They’re cute, I just miss Erin/Severide. It’s never even mentioned anymore. The whole “Erin joins the FBI” storyline seemed kinda pointless, as the outcome (Erin comes back to Intelligence) was pretty predictable. I am digging Ruzek with Burgess. Wish they had more screen time. Really dug the ep with Atwater, Ruzek and Antonio undercover in prison – that was way cool. The ep with the booby-trap bomber was high-octane, but some of the scenes with the cops entering obviously rigged buildings – without the bomb squad being present – seemed unrealistic. At the end of the day, though, you have a show where a cop can sit in an interrogation room, throwing lit matches at a serial arson suspect, and part of you just has to love it.

Current Score: 7.6

Stalker (10/9c, CBS): Haven’t been able to keep up with every episode, but I’m liking what I’ve seen so far. This show is SCARY. Like, truly. There are 1-3 genuine, grip-the-edge-of-the-couch moments in every single episode, and I love that. This show is a thriller, as opposed to Criminal Minds, which is much more of a gross-out slasher flick (not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just not as scary). I enjoy Stalker’s ongoing character arcs, and the fact that most times they are able to save the person being stalked. I just don’t enjoy watching it alone. In the dark.

Current Score: 7.5

Thursday

Elementary (10/9c, CBS): Liked the addition of Kitty – she was a nice blast of fresh air, and I’m sad to see her go (but very happy she didn’t cross the line over to murder). Hope she comes back for a few visits before the season’s up. Other than the storyline of finding her attacker and bringing him to justice, there aren’t any huge moments that stand out to me so far. Still waiting for this show to really grab me again like it did in S1. Which may just happen next week, because OMG Andrew just got murdered out the blue (poison intended for Joan, right?), and OMG I did not see that coming at all.

Current Score: 6.7

Friday

Grimm (9/8c, NBC): Seriously, is there anyone out there who doesn’t love Grimm? We were talking in my writing group about the merits of various supernatural-themed shows – The X-Files, Supernatural, etc. – and the only one we all watched and loved was Grimm. This show is the new definition of FUN. The highlights: Nick getting his Grimm mojo back (complete with zombie cold flashes – YAY!), Trubel’s emotional reaction to aforementioned re-Grimming, Wu FINALLY getting to learn the secret (it got to the point where I was yelling at the screen, “Just TELL him already!!”), Juliette as one bad-@$$ Hexenbeist (soooo coooool), Sean’s awesome mom, SEAN LIVES!! (Though what was that whole bleeding thing about – that scared me pretty good. He’s safe, right???), and Monroe getting saved from some weird, racist cult that liked to say “Wesenrein” and “Impuro” WAY too many times in a row.

Trubel will be sorely missed, and hopefully she’ll be back before long, but even without her magnetic presence, this show is on FIRE. (In a good way).

Current Score: 8.5

Saturday

Red Band Society (8/7c, FOX): When they took it off the air for weeks, then carelessly tossed it onto Saturday, I knew we were probably looking at the end. It’s not written in stone, but pretty close. Tonight’s two-hour season finale will likely be the last we see of the kids, docs, and nurses we’ve grown to love. Kara, I must say, is my favorite – what a treat to watch her slowly transform from shallow b!tch to a person who can put her own grief aside to reach out and comfort someone else. I’m heartbroken for Leo, sad for Emma, hopeful for Jordi, worried about Dash, excited for Charlie, and grieving for Hunter. These kids really burrow their way into your heart, don’t they? Here’s hoping that they at least get some kind of happy ending.

Current Score: 8

November Winner: Supernatural

For the 200th episode alone, this one had to take the prize. Long live Supernatural!

December Winner: Forever, Runner-up: The Mentalist

Forever gets the top honors, owing to the epic episode “Skinny Dipper,” which starts out with Henry’s brutal murder in a taxi, and rip-roars all the way through to Adam’s creepy reveal at the end. I still have shivers. The Mentalist gets a nod for delivering good quality eps while doing the best possible job of getting people comfortable with a ship not everyone wants.

January Winner: Grimm

Do I even have to give an explanation?

 

Ten Things You Should Never Say to a Writer

A friend and fellow writer found this painful-yet-all-too-true list on Pinterest. The proper title is “10 Things People Say to Creative Writers (but shouldn’t)” by Graphospasm. Having personally been a victim of Item #6 (“Have you been published yet?”) this list struck an ouchy chord with me, reminding me that a lot of people who aren’t writers don’t “get it.” In many cases, they don’t know what will hurt our feelings, what will make us bristle, and what is just plain RUDE.

I have no doubt the person who asked me whether I’d been published wasn’t trying to make me feel bad. Yet, he did. I was not published at that time, and I can still remember the feeling of my face turning red as I tried to stammer my defense: “Well, to get published, you really have to submit aggressively. Like, a lot of stories, to a lot of different publishers, and so far I haven’t really done that…” He was not impressed. Cue horrible feelings of failure.

Looking back, I feel bad that I felt bad. There was no reason for me to. I should have recognized that this individual simply didn’t understand the truth about writing (or publishing, for that matter), and made an uneducated remark.

The truth is, it’s HARD to get published. 85-90% of it is LUCK – the right story hitting the right market at the exact right time. Not being published isn’t a sign of failure, and it’s certainly no indication that your work isn’t good. What’s more, some writers don’t even WANT to get published. It’s not even on the agenda for them. One of my best friends has been writing short stories since grade school, and, to my knowledge, he has never once submitted one for publication. His joy comes from the writing itself. From having created something. From sharing that creation with his friends. From watching our “EWWWW!” faces and hearing our belly laughs as we read.

I wish I’d read this list a long time ago, before that encounter left me beet-faced and stammering. And, more importantly, I wish I’d read Graphospasm’s wonderful, pithy responses and more serious-toned explanations for each item. Just like getting your flu shot, you can inoculate yourself against rude (or well-meaning-but-ignorant) people by being prepared for the comments you might receive when you tell folks you’re a writer – and even having some funny answers ready!

So go check out this cringe-worthy list – plus the awesome responses the author and commenters came up with:

http://graphospasm.deviantart.com/art/10-Things-People-Say-to-Writers-but-shouldn-t-307241669

Hold your head high, be proud of your craft, and have fun building up your immunity!

-Gretchen

 

 

Great Reads, Volume 2: It’s Raining You-Know-What

Maymaykitten

Before we get to the awesome stories, I just wanted to say an enormous “Thank You!” to everybody who came out to the Chesterfield Petsmart on Sunday, December 21st to support Furget Us Not Rescue. The event was a big success, all because of you! :)  In the near future, I will be doing an in-depth piece about book promotion to help my fellow authors, including what worked and didn’t in terms of advertising, a copy of my proposal, event dos and don’ts, and much more. In the meantime, though, I have a nice little post-holiday gift for my fellow fans: FIVE absolutely excellent stories for you to enjoy – two original flash fiction pieces, and three fanfics, all on the theme of cats and dogs!

The two original stories aren’t just two of the best cat and dog stories I’ve ever read – they’re two of the best stories I’ve ever read, period. Seriously, if you haven’t read these, your life is not complete. Go fix that now, by reading and reviewing these phenomenal fics.

In terms of the fanfics, we’ve got one for The Mentalist, one for Smallville, and I even went old-school with a golden oldie written for The X-Files! So go forth, read, and enjoy!

ORIGINAL STORIES

The Last Accounting ” by JR Hume

For full appreciation of the awesomeness, make sure you read the Rainbow Bridge verse by William M. Britton. You will need tissues for both the poem and the story. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Also, if you love the story: a.) let the author know and b.) check out the plethora of other stories by JR Hume!

Nikki Comes Home” by Christopher Owen

This one just rips me to shreds. But, like, in a good way. I’ll never forget this story as long as I live, because of how deeply it touched me. So short, so sweet, so perfect. Another major Kleenex alert. If you love it (and you will), tell the author!

FANFICTION

The X-Files

Walk Like a Man” by Windsinger (aka Sue Esty)

Took me three days to track this one down, but man was it worth it. I couldn’t let myself give up, because I just had to share this story with other fans. When something you read has stayed in your heart – like exact quotes from the text – for over a decade, you know it’s something special. Another Kleenex Alert (best to have two boxes on hand), and warnings also for disturbing themes of child abuse. The overall message is positive, but the journey is rough. You have been warned.

Smallville

My Favorite Things” by paperbkryter

No tissues needed here – all smiles for this one. A sweet Season One story featuring the beauty and innocence of Clark and Lana’s early friendship. Oh, yeah, and there’s some really cute cats in it. A guaranteed pick-me-up after the first three tear-jerkers. :)

The Mentalist

Big Red Tabby” by ruuger

Another one that’ll leave you smiling. The talented ruuger lifts Jane out of his gloom and sends him on a mini-adventure to help out a worried little boy, with some adorable results. Features great characterization, as always, plus some nice jokes and sweet moments. A very well-rounded fic.

Don’t forget to review!

Up Next On ATHF: November/December Race Highlights, January Race Results, 10 Things You Should Never Say to a Writer, one of the BEST writing resources on the web, 10 Reasons The Mentalist Fans Will Love Forever, and Care and Feeding of Your Forever Obsession

Book Signing to Benefit Furget Us Not Rescue

I am very excited to announce that I’ll be doing a book signing to benefit Furget Us Not Rescue, which is a 501(c)3 non-profit animal rescue here in Michigan. I will be signing copies of Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What? and Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What? from 12pm to 4pm on Sunday, December 21st at the Petsmart in Chesterfield, MI (Address: 51347 Gratiot Ave). All proceeds from the book sale will benefit the rescue group.

This is also a pet adoption event, so Furget Us Not Rescue will have their beautiful cats and dogs there for people to meet and fall in love with. Furget Us Not Rescue is always in need of both foster families and adoptive families for their many deserving animals (visit their Facebook page for lots of cute pictures!).

This will be a fun event for animal lovers of all ages, with candy, bookmarks, free gift-wrapping services, and lots of cute and cuddly pets to adore. We’ll also have photos of the pets featured in my two stories, plus an exclusive video of my cat Panic, who was the world’s one and only stick-hunting cat. This video has never been posted anywhere online, so this is the only chance you’ll have to see him doing his amazing and hilarious trick!

So, if you happen to live in Michigan, or even if you’re just in town for the holidays, stop by the Chesterfield Petsmart on Sunday, December 21st from 12-4pm. I would love to chat with you in person about writer stuff, fan stuff, and everything in between! While you’re there, you can support a great cause and maybe, just maybe, find the greatest holiday gift of all – a new, furry family member to love!

Hope to see you there!

-Gretchen

 

 

Movie Reviews: X-Men Days of Future Past and The Wolverine

WolverineBlog

 

As a young girl growing up with two older brothers, I was frequently exposed to their questionable entertainment choices. I can clearly recall sitting through repeated viewings of such films as Spaceballs, Young Frankenstein, Time Bandits, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Wrath of Khan. As an adult, I’ve grown to appreciate most of these movies as classics (though I admit, Time Bandits is still lost on me…). But as a little kid, these movies represented pure boredom – lots of grown-up humor and situations that I just plain didn’t get. One thing I DID love, however, was watching the old X-Men cartoon with my middle brother – and my passion for those characters and stories has stayed with me for life. X-Men may very well be my oldest fangirly obsession! And, lucky for me, my adult years have been filled with awesome live-action depictions of the mutant-filled adventures I grew up with:

X-Men: Days of Future Past:

I was totally psyched about this movie from the moment I saw the first trailer. Not only do I love X-Men, but I go crazy for time travel stories, so this flick was tailored specifically to fit my tastes. Also, I could tell that Wolverine had a really prominent role, and that always works well for a Wolvie-girl like me. With my expectations sky-high – fueled by kick-butt previews and rave word-of-mouth reviews from family members – I was worried about being let down by the actual movie. Thankfully, it turned out to be everything I hoped for. I left the theatre completely satisfied and mega-excited about future X-Men movies.

The highlight of Days, for me, was the relationship between Logan and Xavier (both past and future versions). Just the look on old Xavier’s face when Logan is lying on that table, fighting invisible enemies or making little hurt noises as he’s drowning…Heartbreaking. And when Logan tells young Xavier to still find everyone – Storm, Scott, Jean – and still create the X-Men, even if the future can’t be saved…such an emotional moment.

James McAvoy, who plays young Xavier, is top-notch. My mom, who’d never seen X-Men: First Class, commented, “At first, I wished they had picked an actor who looked more like Patrick Stuart. Then, after about five minutes, I didn’t care what he looked like anymore – that actor WAS Professor X.” Well said, Ma! Quicksilver was another spotlight performance – Evan Peters definitely stole the show during his scenes. I wondered if maybe they should have used him more, but then decided a small dose was the perfect dose. There might be such a thing as too much Quicksilver. Can’t really look at Jennifer Lawrence these days without thinking, “Katniss!” Not her fault, just a fact of life.

Michael Fassbender (young Magneto) was strong, as usual. One of my friends commented after the film: “I’m traumatized when Magneto tries to kill other mutants!” I hear you, sister. To have Erik instantly attempt to murder Raven did seem a little extreme. Then again, it fits with his character’s behavior in Last Stand – there, too, he immediately betrays Mystique once she’s no longer a mutant (right after she saves him, no less!).

Would have liked to see more Storm, Bobby, Kitty, old Professor X, old Magneto, but you can’t have everything. Heard complaints of “not enough Bishop,” and I get that. He IS undeniable in his awesomeness, but he hasn’t been a main character throughout the movie series thus far, so suddenly bringing him to the forefront would have required a lot of backstory and other stuff they didn’t really have time for. I’d rather have a well-balanced, well-paced movie than a jam-packed mutant-fest that’s more concerned with covering everybody’s favorite character than telling the story.

It DID hurt to not see Rogue for basically the entire film, and not even have her really mentioned, but that one little look by Logan at the end told me everything I needed to know. Obviously she had died at some point, and it was too hard to even think about, much less discuss. The peace and joy in Logan’s face as he sees her alive once more is a thing of beauty. (In case you didn’t notice, I ship Rogan.)

Even though the movie made MY year, some of the friends I saw it with weren’t quite so elated. I was scared to ask our one friend what she thought, because she doesn’t like Wolverine, but she said she didn’t mind him so much this time around. The character seemed less arrogant/intrusive, she said. I suggested maybe it was due to him being in such an odd, unfamiliar situation (future self in past body and all that). Her response: “I think maybe it’s just that he was a lot older.” And I thought, “Dang, she nailed it!” The Wolverine in this film had a wisdom of age and experience that not only softened him in some ways, but made him more open, honest, and less concerned with self than ever before. I don’t know how Hugh Jackman did that, but hats off. Also, he looked great with that little touch of grey in his hair. Not sure why old Wolvie had grey, seeing as he’s not supposed to age, but I still dug it.

As far as nitpicks go, there were much bigger ones than that, and my less-than-elated friends were happy to point them out. Complaints ranged from “Why does Professor X look like himself and not the dude whose body he woke up in at the end of Last Stand?” to “Why does Kitty suddenly have a power she never had before?” Eager to defend the movie, I tried my best to come up with answers: Xavier doesn’t really look like himself, he just uses his power to project a familiar image into people’s heads. Kitty can control space (phasing through objects), so maybe she could eventually learn to manipulate time as well.

In general, I think people were most happy about the fact that the movie served as a reboot, bringing back many of the characters killed off in the death-fest that was Last Stand. Can’t say I disagree. :) Massive plot holes or not, this movie was an entertaining ride with good pacing, lots of humor, and some real emotional punch. Super excited to learn what happened in the years spanning Logan’s memory gap – did Raven help or hurt him? Does he currently have his adamantium, or did that never happen?

And what will be next for all of our freshly-resurrected mutant friends? When the next release date rolls around, you know I’ll be sitting in the hush of a dark, popcorn-scented theatre, on the edge of a cushy maroon seat, just waiting to find out. :)

My score on the “Skip it, rent it, or buy it?” scale: Buy it!!

The Wolverine:

Despite my love of the character, I had low expectations for this film. I hadn’t seen any previews beforehand, and didn’t even know what it was about, other than some ninjas would probably be involved. I figured it was another prequel about the time before Logan joined the X-Men, and that thought didn’t excite me. It’s not that I hated X-Men Origins: Wolverine or anything. It’s just that I didn’t LOVE it. Something was missing – they tried to cover about eight different stories, not to mention a thousand-and-one new mutants, and it ended up feeling like we were fast-forwarding through Logan’s history, rather than experiencing it as it unfolded. There was a lot of rushing, a lot of action, and very little time to become attached.

As I watched the opening scenes of The Wolverine, set in WWII Japan, I sighed. Another prequel, just as I thought. But then, something happened – Logan woke up! It was just a dream, a flashback. And then something even more incredible happened: JEAN was there! At this point, my heart was pumping hard and fast, because suddenly I knew this wasn’t a prequel. This was something different entirely: a solo Wolverine adventure set after The Last Stand. Thumpity-thump.

Watching this movie unfold was like opening a present you didn’t notice was sitting under the Christmas tree until you were cleaning up balls of crumpled paper and ribbon so the cat wouldn’t eat them and barf. It was a gift to Wolverine fans, and I enjoyed every moment of it. The pacing was excellent – there was *gasp* actual downtime between fight scenes.

There was time to get to know and care about the new characters being introduced. There was mystery, action, hurt/comfort, humor, romance, culture, and a deeper internal storyline about Logan coming to terms with what he’d done to Jean. The flashbacks were expertly interwoven with present-day action. The effects were excellent, save only the CG bear, which could’ve looked a bit better, but I have issues with CG animals in general. (Like in Prisoner of Azkaban, did they really NEED to use a FAKE dog? Come on, people…)

I loved how at the climax of the movie, small details from earlier in the film came into play and were important, like the way to properly hold the Samurai sword. Details matter. Pacing matters. Good, well-balanced storylines matter. If you forced me to pick one thing to complain about, I’d say I would like to know more about how the science worked – how they suppressed Logan’s mutation, how they would be able to transfer it, but honestly, the science in any X-Men movie is going to be sketchy at best, and it didn’t really bother me. I was totally grateful for this movie – it more than made up for any letdown I experienced from Origins. THIS is the Wolverine movie everyone should see.

Also, on a more shallow note, Hugh Jackman has NEVER looked better than he did in this flick. It took my breath away – no joke. I was like, DANG. He was so beautiful, he practically glowed. They had his hair really nice, too – just barely tweaked up at the sides. That’s it all takes – no need for those gigantic ocean waves cresting on his head. Whoever did his hair for this movie should do it for ALL the X-Men movies from now on. No exceptions. But good hair and prettiness are just icing. The cake is the movie, and it left me so satisfied that I immediately wanted to watch it again – which I did the very next day. :)

In the end, the image that sticks with me the most is that of Mariko, lying beside Logan as he awakens from a nightmare. She calmly strokes his claws – completely unafraid of the wild, threatening look in his eyes – until he comes down from his panic. Mariko tells him the story her grandfather told her about “Kazuri,” an animal with sharp teeth and long claws. A creature who would protect her from all bad things. This moment resonated deeply in my heart, taking me back to childhood, and the core reason why Wolverine is my favorite: Because I, too, was a little girl once. A little girl with fears and nightmares. And then one day, my dad put up a Wolverine poster in our basement. I remember him adjusting the lighting, turning it up and down until it fell on the poster just so. Dad said, “If someone breaks in, I bet that poster will scare them away…” A silly idea now, but back then I believed. In that moment, the Wolverine became our family’s protector, MY protector. And I guess in the deepest depths of my heart, that’s what he’ll always be.

My score on the “Skip it, rent it, or buy it?” scale (prepare to be shocked): Buy it!

Up next: Great Reads, Volume 2 and November Race results (expect to hear about Supernatural’s 200th episode, the epic Fire/SVU/PD crossover, Severide’s new wife (?????) the long-awaited Caskett nuptuals, and my new full-on obsession, Forever!). Also, Mentalist fans please take note: the final season of The Mentalist begins airing Sunday, November 30th, 9:30pm ET – MUCH earlier than initially reported. It’s our last chance to see Jane, Lisbon and Cho in action, so don’t forget to tune in!