my definition(s) of normal

For me, normal is…

Waking up at six in the morning to write, write, write, while wearing my enormous, feels-exactly-like-a-big-soft-hug sweater, and sipping from a ginormous mug of instant coffee.  Which usually goes cold because I tend to forget it when I get caught up in my writing.


“Books are not made for furniture, but there is nothing else that so beautifully furnishes a house.” ~ Henry Ward Beecher

Organizing my wonderful, beautiful books while listening to Glenn Miller & His Orchestra.  With a few swing-y dance moves if I’m alone (which doesn’t often happen).


Scott Harding 1965 | San Antonio, Texas | TuttArt@ | Pittura * Scultura * Poesia * Musica |

Curling up in Mom’s comfy rocking chair by the window and reading Jack Cavanaugh’s books or Unbroken or Violins of Autumn or Gone With the Wind.  Or just anything.  If the house is cold, I’ll wear two pairs of socks and my aforementioned sweater and read for hours.  And hours.  And HOURS.


Eating oatmeal with almond milk and drinking coffee + cream for breakfast.


Fun mail!

Walking down to the mailbox on lazy, golden summer evenings, hoping that there’s a letter or package for me.


Watching movies at night with my siblings, snuggled up on the leather couch with my glasses on, thrilling over Casablanca or keeping up a running commentary on an episode of Combat! with Elisabeth.  And then we’ll pause for snack breaks and bathroom breaks and it’ll usually take us three hours to finish a movie half that length, but it’s still great.


And all those other tiny, perfect things that make up my super-cool-and-awesome life.

What things make your routine amazing?


P.S. This post is dedicated to the fact that my life has been anything but normal for quite some time and I’m ready for it to go back to the way it was.


book review: gone with the wind

Gone With the Wind Graphic Design

Margaret Mitchell’s epic novel of love and war won the Pulitzer Prize and one of the most popular and celebrated movies of all time.  Many novels have been written about the Civil War and its aftermath. None take us into the burning fields and cities of the American South as Gone With the Wind does, creating haunting scenes and thrilling portraits of characters so vivid that we remember their words and feel their fear and hunger for the rest of our lives.  In the two main characters, the white-shouldered, irresistible Scarlett and the flashy, contemptuous Rhett, Margaret Mitchell not only conveyed a timeless story of survival under the harshest of circumstances, she also created two of the most famous lovers in the English-speaking world since Romeo and Juliet.


This book.



Where on earth do I begin?  My love for this novel, which I only read recently, knows no bounds.  I laugh and cry and gasp and nearly throw it across the room whenever I read it (or parts of it), but even so, what do I have to say about the story or the characters that’s unique?  Hundreds, probably thousands of other readers have reviewed Gone With The Wind and given their decided opinions on just about everything that can be found inside its pages.  However, most of the reviews I’ve read have focused on Scarlett and Rhett’s ‘romance’ (really, it’s more lust and greed than true love) and/or Scarlett’s infuriating qualities to the exclusion of all else.  But there is SO. MUCH. MORE. to this book than just that.

What about the other characters?  Melanie, Ashley, Mammy, the Tarleton twins, Frank Kennedy, Gerald, Ellen, Archie, Carreen, and so on.  Sure, they’re mentioned sometimes (Ashley, Melanie, and Mammy the most – the others get forgotten, more often than not), but not like they deserve to be.  And what about Will Benteen?  Everyone, and I mean everyone, always forgets him.  Much of that probably has to do with the fact that he isn’t in the movie, but even the reviews I’ve read on Goodreads never, ever mention him.  And that’s ridiculous!  If it hadn’t been for Will, Scarlett might never gotten Tara back on its feet (at the very least, it would’ve taken her ten times as long), and that’s not just my opinion.  Even she admits it to herself.  He’s Scarlett’s right hand man, and she likes him a lot, but so does everyone else, which is kind of a miracle, you know.  If Scarlett likes someone, you can be pretty sure everyone else will dislike him or her.  But everyone likes Will.  He’s intuitive and kind and gentlemanly and awesome.  HE’S JUST SO EPIC.  SO. EPIC.  You can’t help but love him, IF you pay attention to him and don’t skim over all his scenes.

Speaking of other little-thought-of characters, there’s also Wade.  I feel so sorry for him.  The way Scarlett brushes him aside all the time, or yells at him, and the way he’s so scared and worried all the time (and he’s just a little kid!) breaks my heart.  So when Rhett encourages/spends time with him, I can’t help but like him, just a little.  A few other minor characters I like are the Tarleton twins (it was quite sad when they died), Gerald and Ellen, Archie (who also wasn’t in the movie, but he’s great), and Carreen.  The Will/Carreen subplot gives me allll the feels.  Ashley annoys me, but I didn’t hate him like I thought I would.  Melanie is a dear and one of my favorite female fictional characters.  Scarlett is the WORST, though I must admit that, while I’m angry/annoyed with her about ninety-eight percent of the time, I can’t help but admire her the other two percent.  She’s got grit and gumption and determination.  I have to give her that.  And Rhett…my feelings are extremely mixed when it comes to him.  He’s got very (VERY) loose morals and he can be cruel, but he admires Melanie and loves little kids and he’s the only person who can see through and stand up to Scarlett.  Half the time I like him, half the time I’m disgusted by him. *sigh*

What about the writing?  Margaret Mitchell is my writerly ideal.  The way she strings together words, leaving golden prose sprinkled through every page, paragraph, and sentence in Gone With the Wind takes my breath away.  Gorgeous descriptions of Tara and ballgowns and Atlanta; nerve-wracking, vivid depictions of Melanie in labour, wounded lying everywhere, Scarlett shooting the Yankee soldier; dialogue that snaps and crackles right off the page and into your mind.  The woman was a genius writer.  Absolute genius.

What about the epic scope and breadth and depth of this story?  I never got bored reading Gone With the Wind.  I didn’t skip a word, which in a book of its magnitude is pretty impressive (all those sewer bits in Les Miserables, anyone?).  The intensely interesting, iconic scenes keep coming and coming, and it would take forever to list them all.  You know the ones I’m talking about, anyway.  And the last two or so pages have got to be one the best, the most satisfying endings in literary history.  I had an huge book hangover after finishing Gone With the Wind, because it was so perfect and awesome and epic in the truest sense of the word (of all three words, really).  Unlike what I had thought, it was soooo much more than Scarlett and Rhett twitting each other for a thousand pages.  There’s the war, Reconstruction, social commentary, dozens of awesome characters, and just….ASODIJFAWEPOIJASDFMO;IAEKA; SKFLW’QERIO.

I don’t have anything else to say.  JUST GO READ IT.


all about Untitled Writing Project

One thing that’s always frustrated me is how so many other writers gush about how they write every single day and how their characters come to life for them and how they can’t stop thinking about their current work-in-progress.  It frustrated me because I couldn’t relate, and I didn’t feel like a ‘real’ writer because of that.

Until a couple of weeks ago when I started writing the story of a young man (a bank examiner) entering a little town in the days of Ye Olde West, going into the bank, and being caught up in a robbery/hostage situation with a few other people.  I couldn’t get it out of my head!  Not until I’d written the entire first draft, which I finished just a few days ago, and even now, I can’t stop thinking about it.  All the character stepped out of my mind and onto the page with names and backstories and personalities and I didn’t have to do any of those silly character development questionnaires to figure them all out (which is good, because those never work for me anyway).  And getting up early every morning to write hundreds of words felt incredibly good, like I was really accomplishing something for once, and I ended up giving up movie watching + email writing time (unheard of!) to write more.  On one of my best days, I wrote 2,000 words in forty-five minutes, which is probably a record or something.

So, what exactly is Untitled Writing Project about?  Well, I just finished the first draft, so things are still subject to change, but I think I’ve got the basic plot.  And it’s pretty much what I talked about in the above paragraph.  I’ve always wanted to write a story where a bunch of people are stuck together and have to work with each other toward a common goal (in this case, escape), because I love that plot type, so it came very naturally to me.  For once, the entire plot worked out well without a bunch of complications or me tearing my hair out over insurmountable problems.  All the characters felt real to me (although dialogue is still something I have to work on), which I’m sure helped quite a bit.  I’ve got backstories for everyone, even the three robbers, though because the story is told from only one character’s point of view, I can only hint at those stories (or not mention them at all).  Which is why I’ve decided to expand the whole thing for NaNoWriMo.  That way, I can get all those juicy subplots worked into the main story thread.

Characters are something I don’t reeeeally want to talk about right now, because they could still change so much, but I will spare a few words.  I doubt that Smythers, the protagonist/hero, will change much.  Because the story is written from his viewpoint, I have his character arc/motivation/etc worked out pretty well.  Also, Walt and Annie (who I’ve cast as Anthony Perkins and Audrey Hepburn because ADORBS) are pretty well set in stone as well.  He’s a doctor-to-be, she’s his wife (they’re both quite young), and I love them.  Picking a favorite character is too hard, but they’re near the top of the list.  Jackson is probably the character I have the least background information on so far.  All I know is that he comes from the mountains (did you know that Nevada, where the story is set, is the most mountainous state in the USA?) and he traps animals and sells their furs for a living.  Mrs. Bradley, Alice, I haven’t quite figured out yet, either.  I’ve taken some elements from High Noon for her story, but I don’t want to plagiarize, so I’ll have to see how that works out.

I even like my robbers (as much as one can like them) – Scott, Marty, and Les.  That picture in the collage, from High Noon, is sorta supposed to be them.  I cast Lee Van Cleef as Scott, but the other two are too old for Marty and Les.  So, just focus on Lee Van Cleef. 🙂  Anyway, like I said, I’ve got ideas for their backstories as well, but I’m not sure if they’ll make their way into the novel.

Untitled Writing Project (btw, it’s called that because I’m terrible at thinking up of titles) is 13,621 words long, so it’s a longish short story, a novelette, or a novella, depending on how you want to look at it.  I think it will take well to expansion, although, as it stands, the story is good already.  So, even if lengthening it doesn’t work out, I’m satisfied.

Now that I’ve introduced my story to ya’ll, would anyone be interested in some snippets?


movie review: friendly persuasion

The patriarch of a peace-loving Quaker family, Jess Birdwell (Gary Cooper), begins to question his pacifist values when the Civil War moves toward his close-knit Indiana community. Meanwhile, Jess’s daughter, Mattie, is in love with a soldier, and her brother, Josh (Anthony Perkins), contemplates picking up arms to defend his home lest he be considered a coward. As Confederate forces draw nearer, the Birdwells must make some difficult, life-altering decisions.


My grandparents really (REALLY) like this movie and they’ve watched it every year, for as long as I remember, and I’ve seen bits and pieces of it over those years, but never the whole thing from start to finish. From the parts I saw, it didn’t really look like my kind of movie. Sweet, funny, heart-warming, etc., etc. Because, you know, I like deep, depressing movies like Les Miserables or Unbroken or The Purple Heart. I like to think, really think about the movies I watch. I mean, yes, I adore State Fair, but that’s the rare exception. At least I thought so until about a week ago when I finally sat down and watched Friendly Persuasion from the opening credits to ‘The End’.  And then there were two exceptions.

I loved it. Absolutely loved it.

Even with all the funny scenes (and, truth be told, I didn’t mind those one bit), there’s quite a bit of depth to this movie, with the Civil War and all. Though I was surprised that they didn’t explore more of Mattie’s romantic relationship with a non-Quaker – that would have been interesting and realistic. Anyway. There were several parts throughout Friendly Persuasion that I really liked. The fair is probably my favorite scene (or, series of scenes) with the freak shows and dancing and organs. I love fairs in general, and I enjoyed this one very much. The Hudspeth episode was great, too. I’ve heard “Marry Me” being sung around my house for ages, and pretty much nothing can beat that scene for comedic value. But, not surprisingly, it was when the film took a serious turn that I got really hooked. Josh’s moral dilemma, Jess charging off to find him, the Rebels raiding the farm…and so on. Excellent stuff, and it showed that all the actors and actresses could do serious just as well as they did funny.

Pretty much the only part of Friendly Persuasion that I didn’t really care for was the whole horse racing subplot. I know a lot of people like it and find it hilarious, and I get why, but it just seemed a bit boring/out of place to me. I don’t know why, exactly. It just did.

There wasn’t a character I didn’t like. Gary Cooper is a great actor and I like him well enough despite having seen him in only one other film (High Noon), and Dorothy MacGuire always does a good acting job whenever I see her in a movie. The two of them together had some lovely married couple chemistry – I always like stories that include (or focus on) a married couple, because it’s quite unique. Little Jess and Mattie were good, and all the minor characters like Sam and Enoch and the organ dealer made their own impressions. However, Gard was something of a different story…I liked the character well enough, but after seeing Mark Richman in two different episodes of Combat! (playing a despicable villain in both), I can’t warm up to him as an actor. Plus, I thought he was too old for Mattie, so that didn’t help either.

The real stand-out of this film, in terms of the cast, was Anthony Perkins, who received an Oscar nomination for the role of Joshua. I was a bit leery about seeing him in a role, because his crazed serial killer reputation proceeded him, but I was pleasantly surprised. He did a great job portraying Josh’s inward struggle – to fight or not to fight? – and his relationship with his parents (and Little Jess). (Plus, he’s rather attractive, which certainly didn’t hurt my opinion of him.) I do wish there’d been perhaps one scene between the one where Jess comes and gets Josh and the final scene, because the change of mood is a bit jarring, and I don’t think Josh would recover that easily (emotion-wise, I mean). That being said, I still really enjoyed Anthony Perkins’ performance and I hope to see him in other films (just not Psycho).

Friendly Persuasion (1956)

Overall, I’d say Friendly Persuasion is well worth your (or anyone’s) time. It’s got enough of just about everything to satisfy anybody: humour, drama, romance, war, familial themes, wonderful characters, and lovely music. Highly recommended.


little things {#8}

Little reasons to smile.

~special reading nooks

~instant coffee

~the billboard downtown that says ‘see the world – join the navy!’, because it’s just like The Old Days

~when I get into my writing zone

~early mornings

~special notebooks

~allll the amazing books in this world


~epic, sweeping music (like “Tara’s Theme”)

~”Here’s what happened…”

~Will Benteen

~genuinely funny jokes

~Anthony Perkins + Audrey Hepburn

~my Captain America poster


tv show review: combat! {season 5}

Combat!, a one-hour WWII drama series on television, followed a frontline American infantry squad as they battled their way across Europe. With mud-splattered realism, the show offered character studies of men striving to maintain their own humanity in the midst of a world torn by war.


Ah, Season 5. The final season. Most fans, myself included, don’t care much for this season as a whole. Changing from black-and-white to color might have been progress, but so much of Combat!’s tone and mood depended the b&w, and color just didn’t deliver in the same way. There are some great episodes in Season 5, but overall, it’s my least favorite season. In my opinion, there are just too many weird/odd/different episodes that feel like they don’t belong in the show to begin with. And, perhaps, the cast and crew were getting a bit tired of the show, now that it was in its fifth year, which might have contributed to the worn-out feeling of this season. I’m just guessing, but it does seem like a plausible reason. Anyway. On to the review.

Main characters: The cast looks good in color. Like, REALLY good. Saunders’ golden-blond hair (I know it’s a cliche, but it is exactly that color), Hanley’s green eyes…  I don’t know why it is, but they all look about one hundred percent more amazing in color. That’s pretty much the only good thing about Season 5 being in color. As for the characters themselves, they aren’t much different from the other seasons, which is good – a lot of wonky characterization never improves anything. Kirby gets some nice episodes in this one – “The Bankroll” and “The Masquers” are both excellent episodes that highlight different parts of Kirby’s character: his kinder side in “The Bankroll” and his professionalism as a soldier in “The Masquers”. It’s great.

Actually, if you think about it, there are quite a few character focus episodes for just about every regular, something that hasn’t happened for a while. Saunders in “The Letter”, “The Furlough”, “The Gantlet”. Hanley in “Entombed”. Doc in “Cry For Help”. Littlejohn in “Gulliver” and “Conflict”. Caje in “Conflict”. Pretty good, huh? I’m satisfied with all the character-driven episodes, the focus each one gets at different times, and that’s about all I want in any season. Now, I’ll admit that sometimes the characterization is iffy, like in “The Letter” – Shirl Hendrix wrote the script for that one, and while he did an amazing job with “Losers Cry Deal” and “S.I.W.”, he really dropped the ball (in my opinion) with both Saunders’ and and Doc’s characters; Doc is too pushy and prying and Saunders is just…wrong all over. On the other hand, “Conflict” shows a much different Caje and Littlejohn, but I think it’s pretty realistic all the same.  And Doc gets some stellar moments throughout the whole season, which makes me very happy.

Minor characters: One thing that Season 5 has in common with every season before it is the looooong list of awesome/famous guest stars. Goodness, there are so many, and I love it. Sal Mineo, John Williams, Robert Duvall (twice!), Robert Walker, Jr., Telly Savalas, Claude Akins (again, twice), Nick Adams (who plays a character similar to his one in “Bridgehead”), James MacArthur, and Claudine Longet. Wow. Combat! attracted some famous names, there’s no doubt about that. Aside from the guest stars themselves, though, there are also some characters who I really like.

“The Furlough” isn’t one of my favorite episodes, not by a long shot, but John Williams’ character was fun, as always. I’ve seen him in Sabrina, To Catch A Thief, and Dial M For Murder, and he always turns in a great performance, so it was fun to see him in Combat!. Then, in “Cry For Help”, Robert Duvall as the-medic-who-I-forget-the-name-of was great. It was neat to see Doc and another medic together and the rapport the two of them had.  I wasn’t expecting to like Ollie Joe (character and episode both), but I did. When I watched Strangers on the Train a few weeks ago, I kept feeling that I’d seen Robert Walker in something else, but I couldn’t place my finger on where it’d been. One trip to IMDB, and I realized that, though I hadn’t seen him in anything else, I’d seen his son, and they look/sound so much alike that it’s crazy.  I also like Claude Akin’s character in “Nightmare on Red Ball Run”, Jeetleman in “The Bankroll”, the British sergeant in “The Masquers”, and James MacArthur’s character in “Encounter”.

Oh, and then there’s “Entombed”. I’ll talk about it a little more later on, but, suffice to say, Elisabeth and I love pretty much every minor character in that episode (with the exception of Angsty German Officer). Marianne, and the German guy she falls in love with, Bishop and Wexler, French Resistance dude, etc. And Hanley’s pretty awesome in that one, too.

Favorite/Least Favorite episodes: Season 5 is my least watched season, partly because my S5 DVDs have a tendency to jerk up, and partly because so many of the episodes are mediocre, or just plain bad. As always, my opinions on some of these episodes could change in the future, because I’ve only watched them once, but several don’t stand a chance of that, I think. “The Losers” was boring, as was “The Brothers” (plus, there wasn’t enough squad in that one, despite almost all the characters being included in the mission). I reeeally didn’t like “The Furlough” (*gasp from Saunders’ fans everywhere*) because it seemed cheesy and Ann (or Anne) didn’t seem right for him. “Gadjo” was boring (again – it seems like a lot of S5 episodes are dry and have a ‘same old, same old’ quality about them), and I wasn’t impressed with “The Outsider”, “Gulliver”, “The Partisan”, or “Jonah”. And don’t get me started on “The Gantlet”. UGH.  That one’s tied with “The Chateau” for my least favorite episode ever.

From the above paragraph, you would probably conclude that there are very few, if any, episodes that I truly enjoy in Season 5.  But there are some, and the best of S5 does measure up to the standards of previous seasons’ episodes – although the color aspect is still a little distracting.  “Conflict” is one of those excellent episodes, something I have to admit, even if I hate the fact that Littlejohn and Caje are about ready to rip each other’s throats out through the whole thing.  “Cry For Help” is probably my favorite episode in Season 5, since I’m such a big Doc fan.  It might not have the same depth that “The Hostages” does, but it comes quite close and there are many things I like about it. (The battle scene near the end drags on and on, but that’s about the only negative thing I have to say.)  It’s great to see Doc getting some quality screen time.  As I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t expecting to like “Ollie Joe” much, but I really did.  A good, solid episode.

“The Bankroll” and “The Masquers” are also great episodes, particularly “The Masquers”, which I view as the second-best infiltrator episode (after “Masquerade”, of course).  Combat! has a lot of those, if you think about it.  “The Bankroll”, “Encounter”, and “A Little Jazz” are all good as well.  But the episode that I really love in this season, besides “Cry For Help”, is “Entombed”.  The first time I watched it, I was busy baking brownies, and it’s really hard for me to multi-task, so Elisabeth was filling me in on everything, and I got kind of confused about the plot.  It didn’t sound interesting to me, so it took a while for me to re-watch it, but when I did…wow.  I loved it.  After that, it sort of became ‘our’ episode, and we can’t help but fangirl over the characters and the episode in general.  It’s one of those ‘everyone has to work together’ plots which, of course, I love.  Annnnd now I need to watch it again.  Figures.

Overall:  Color didn’t do a thing for Combat!.  In fact, I think it detracted from the gritty realism of the episodes, and with the move to a new sound-stage and with new directors/writers at the helm of almost every episode, Season 5 didn’t have a whole lot going for it.  It just doesn’t hold up well to the brilliance of the earlier seasons. *sigh*  I hate to leave this last review on a low note, so I will say that not everything about this season was a loss.  There were some great episodes, memorable guest stars, and solid writing.  Just not enough to make this season a hit, in my opinion.  It’s been great fun reviewing each season and, while these reviews are done, my days of talking about C! are far from over (that’s just a given).

Take the point. 🙂


linky round-up {probably not going to be a regular thing, but who knows?}

Hello, everybody!

I’m working on a few blog posts right now (read: thinking about writing my review of Gone With The Wind as I read other people’s blog posts and make fan-videos), but I thought I’d take a break from my stuff today and direct you to some fresh content, namely, a few articles and blog posts that are my favorites for this week.  Or past couple of weeks.  Whatever.  I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did.

  • What I do to get motivated: This post, written by my friend, Naomi, was a huge encouragement to me on the day she published it.  Just what I needed.  And don’t you just love all the gorgeous, fluffy photos she’s decorated the post (and her blog) with?
  • The Story of Elizabeth Bennet – As told by Naomi Bennet: Another Naomi post, but I had to include it.  The illustrations are darling and the text of the post is highly entertaining, even for someone who knows Pride & Prejudice backwards and forwards like I do.
  • 13 Men Who Actually Look Good In Fedoras:  I approve of everyone on this list (LOVE the fact that most of them are old Hollywood guys), only I wish that Dana Andrews was on there too.  ‘Cause he blows everyone out of the water (except mayyyybe Harrison Ford).
  • Corbin Allred Talks About “Saints & Soldiers”: Really long interview, but totally worth it if you’re a fan.  Corbin Allred is an amazing guy, and the only modern actor I like with the same verve as all those old Hollywood ones, and his insights into the film and Deacon’s character are great.  Ashley, you don’t want to give this one a miss.
  • Book Review: “Go Set A Watchman”: Based on this review, I took the plunge and bought GSAW (well, actually, my grandpa bought it for me – he’s awesome like that), though I’m still pretty nervous about reading it.  I’m waiting to finish Gone With The Wind first, though, which gives me plenty of time to get used to the idea.

What are some great things you’ve read online this week?