Thursday, September 21, 2017

So... "Cloaked" is on a Best-seller List...

Um, yeah.  I took that screencap about 7 minutes ago.  My book Cloaked is currently in the top 100 of Amazon's best sellers list for YA fairy tale adaptation e-books.

It's not even released yet!  This is just pre-orders!  I am... almost in tears, to be honest.  Wow.  So exciting and awe-inspiring that people are pre-ordering my book.  And this is the e-book -- I know some people are waiting for the paperback to get listed for pre-order too.  Which it will in a couple days.


Thank you so much to everyone who has encouraged and supported me, here in the blogosphere and in other parts of my life!  This is YOUR doing.  YOU put this book on that list.  Thank you.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Tag for the Tolkien Blog Party 2017

My fifth annual Tolkien Blog Party is in full swing over on my book blog, The Edge of the Precipice!  I've got games, giveaways, and more -- be sure to check it out if you're a Tolkien fan.  There's also a tag with ten questions to answer, and as usual, I'm going to answer them over here :-)

1. How long have you been a Tolkien fan? 

Since the first time I saw The Fellowship of the Ring in the theater in 2001.  Sixteen years!

2. Has your love of Middle-earth affected your life? 

Indeed, it has.  It's brought me quite a few friends, both in the blogging world and in real life.  Well, I guess I haven't met anyone in real life just because of Tolkien, but a shared love of his works has definitely deepened several friendships.

I think it's affected me as a writer too, because I have a deeper appreciation for mythic stories thanks to Tolkien.  I like to use the "hero's quest" form in my own stories a lot of times, and I wouldn't have wanted to learn about that if I hadn't read things about how Tolkien used it himself.

3. If you had to take the One Ring to Mordor, which character would you choose for your sole companion? 

Glorfindel!  He's extremely awesome, even if he does have a tiny role in LOTR.  He was such a great person, he actually got sent back to earth after dying during The Silmarillion.  In LOTR, he rode openly against the Nazgul and successfully fought off several of them.  I definitely want Glorfindel on my quest.  (But he doesn't go along in the books cuz yeah, that would make it too easy.)

He's not really in the movies, though supposedly he shows up at the end of Return of the King:


I'm not exactly a fan of the "smug Ken doll" look, to be honest. If I were casting him in a movie, I'd probably cast Chris Hemsworth.  Yeah, yeah, I'd probably want to cast Chris Hemsworth in just about any movie, but he wears long hair well and can do "warrior dude" brilliantly, so I stand by my casting choice.

4. Which is scarier, Shelob or the Balrog? 

Shelob.  I hate, loathe, and despise spiders.

5. Which two towers do you think Tolkien was referring to in the title The Two Towers? (i.e. Orthanc, Barad-dûr, Cirith Ungol, Minas Morgul, or Minas Tirith) 

I think Tolkien meant Barad-dûr and Minas Tirith, the dark tower and white city opposing each other.  But I think Peter Jackson meant Orthanc and Barad-dûr.

6. Whose wardrobe would you like to have? 

Bard the Bowman's. I especially love his animal-skin coat.  I actually found a replica on Etsy once, but it cost many hundreds of dollars, so yeah, didn't get that.  But I would wear anything of his!  His practical coat, his makeshift fingerless gloves, his plain homespun tunic and trousers, his sturdy boots... and also the fancier blue coat and chain mail he gets later on.  These are comfortable clothes I could live in, which is what I want from clothes.

7. What do you think an Ent Draught would taste like? 

Like a clear vegetable broth, a sort of celery-plus-onions-plus-mushrooms flavor.

8. Where in Middle-earth would you like to live?

Either the Shire or Rohan.  I do like comfort and books and good food, but I also like horses and wide-open spaces, so I'd like to live in either place.  (But for vacations, I want to go to Rivendell.)

9. Do you have any Tolkien-related opinions that surprise other people? 

Well, I like the movies of The Hobbit better than the book, which I know is pretty shocking to some people.  The awful truth is, I don't actually like the book all that well, for a variety of reasons.  But I really love the movies, especially The Battle of the Five Armies (2014).

Also, Boromir is my favorite LOTR character, which kind of confuses some people.

10. List up to ten of your favorite lines/quotations from the books or movies. 

 "Books ought to have good endings." -- Bilbo 

"Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear." -- Aragorn

"Courage is found in unlikely places." -- Gildor

"Oft the unbidden guest proves the best company." -- Eomer

"Look out for me, especially at unlikely times!" -- Gandalf

"The time of my thought is my own to spend." -- Dain

"May your beer be laid under an enchantment of surpassing excellence for seven years!" --Gandalf

"In the morning counsels are best, and night changes many thoughts." -- Theoden

"Need brooks no delay, yet late is better than never." -- Eomer

"Short cuts make delays, but inns make longer ones." -- Frodo

There!  Now I've finished this and can go read all the tag posts people have been sharing at the party.  Yay!

Friday, September 15, 2017

"King Arthur: Legend of the Sword" (2017)

I've seen this twice now, and I haven't quite wrapped my head around it yet, but I think I'm starting to.  Not that it's hard to understand -- the plot is pretty straightforward.  But there is a ton of stuff going on under the surface that I appreciated way more with the second viewing.  And since layered movies are my favorite kind, yeah, I'm basically a fan of this one.

In fact, I've realized that I'm becoming a Guy Ritchie fan.  You probably already know how much I adore The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015), and I would like to see his two Sherlock Holmes movies again.  I also can't wait to see what he does with Aladdin (2019?).  He doesn't play things safe with his direction, always trying new ways to tell stories or show us things, and while I don't always like what he does (the "shoulder-cam" thing in King Arthur is just doofy, I'm sorry), I have to give him props for inventiveness.  He has this cool way of telling a story in circles, giving us the bare bones of an event and then filling in details later in a way that changes our perception of those events.

Cowboy says he thinks this is a good movie if you ignore the fact that it's supposed to be telling the story of King Arthur and just look at it as a cool story of some dude named Arthur becoming king.  And I guess that works too.  But one of the things I like best about it is the way it takes familiar bits of the Arthur legend and makes them fresh and new.  I mean, the world already has The Sword and the Stone (1963) if I want a super-traditional telling, Camelot (1967) if I want a musical version, and King Arthur (2004) if I want one that includes Ioan Gruffudd (because of course I do).  So why not a swaggery retelling with oddball music and lots of new ideas for things like how that sword got in that stone?

Because that's what we have here.  Lots of swagger.  Some very odd music, and some cool music -- I've been listening to the soundtrack on YouTube, and yeah, it's odd.  But I will give the composer, Daniel Pemberton, the same props I give Guy Ritchie here.  He is trying new things, he's not just writing generic placeholder music that could be swapped out with any other actiony movie.  I love his soundtrack for Man from UNCLE, and even though this one doesn't hit me at the same level, I still like listening to (most of) it just because it's so different.

Okay, so basically, Vortigen (Jude Law)  kills his brother, King Uther (Eric Bana), and takes over the throne, but fails to kill little Prince Arthur.  Little Arthur escapes and grows up in Londinium, in a house of ill repute.  He grows up scrappy and loyal and sarcastic and lonely (so, duh, of course I like him).  When he's all grown up (and now played by Charlie Hunnam), the sword in the stone comes to light.  Vortigen knows this was his brother's sword that won't answer to anyone but the rightful heir to the throne, so he sets about systematically searching for that heir.

Arthur's very bold and ambitious, but he doesn't know he's the rightful king.  He has these nightmares about the night his father died, but he doesn't know what they mean.  Yet.  Thanks to a powerful mage (Astrid Berges-Frisbey), he begins to understand his dreams, his past, and what his future could hold.  Also, there's a bunch of rebels who want Vortigen gone.  And these angry Viking dudes.  Plus, Vortigen gets power from these super creepy serpent-women-octopus-things.  Like I said, there's a LOT going on in the movie, and I'm not even sure how to coherently review it.

So I guess I won't try.  If you're interested in a movie about King Arthur with a lot of magic and some cool storytelling twists, not to mention nice scenery and pretty people, give it a try.  If you're not, don't.

My favorite scene both times I watched this was the approach to the big finale, when a hallucinating Arthur rides toward his uncle's castle, unarmed and alone.  (This song is playing in the background, and it's so wacky and off-kilter and perfect for the scene.)

(He's hallucinating because the mage had a snake bite him, and I haven't entirely figured out why yet.)

It's a cool montage sequence, and it's pretty.  Did I mention this movie is very pretty?  Just like Man from U.N.C.L.E. was a beautiful movie to look at, though this one involves more CGI.

And Ritchie uses some great, unusual camera angles and staging that keeps everything so interesting, visually.  Like this shot of Arthur confronting Vortigen after the ride to the castle:

Isn't that a feast?  The opulence of the castle, the solid bulk of Arthur and the two guards bringing him in, the tiny focal point of Vortigen framed by Arthur and a guard.  It's like Vortigen is a prisoner too here, and in a way he is -- captive to his own ambition.  Also, Arthur towers over him, shadowy and unknowable.  We spend most of the movie with Arthur, but he remains apart, a bit unknowable.  Whereas Vortigen... he gets fewer scenes, but we know so much about him from them.

My other favorite scene is when Arthur pulls the sword from the stone.

Can you feel the tension, his reluctance to touch this, his confusion?  And the dreary greys of his surroundings, with him the only bright spot -- mmm, I am in love with the cinematography, for sure.

I've wanted to see Charlie Hunnam in something ever since I read this article a few years ago about how his TV show Sons of Anarchy was basically a retelling of Hamlet.  Really, I want to see him play Hamlet himself, but this was a fun introduction to him, anyway.  (Plus, he was playing opposite the only person I've seen play Hamlet live, so that was cool.)

EDIT:  I forgot to say if this was family friendly or not.  Um, sorta?  It's got loads of violence, but none of it is bloody or gory, it's just smash-bash-crash-move along.  It does have a lot of magic stuff going on, so that's not for everyone.  No sex, but he does grow up in a brothel, so there's some implications of what the girls he protects do for a living.  Does have some bad language, including that one non-sexual F-bomb allowed by the PG-13 rating.  Not a movie for kids, but I'll let my kids see this when they're teens (with my finger on the mute button).  Would be great with something like ClearPlay to take out the language.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Tea Cups and Texas -- Upcoming Events, In Other Words

Just popping up to notify you of two perfectly delightful events that you might not be aware of yet, but which I'm confident will be of interest to many of you!

First, I heard about the Tea Cup & Mug Exchange hosted by The Enchanting Rose blog this past spring, but too late to participate.  Well, I am not too late this time around, and I don't want you to be, either!  Details are here, if you're interested.

And second, Quiggy is hosting a wonderful blogathon in October at The Midnite Drive-In.  A blogathon devoted to movies set in (or filmed in) the great state of Texas.

You may not know this, but until I was about ten years old, whenever an adult asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said I was going to be a cowboy on a ranch in Texas.  I have this deep and abiding love for that state, more than for any other state I haven't lived in.  Really, it's right up there with Iowa (my birthplace) and North Carolina (my adopted home state) in my heart.  So yeah... I am loving the idea of this blogathon.

And you know, there are plenty of non-westerns set there.  Check out this handy list on Wikipedia of all the movies set in Texas!  Doesn't have to be about dusty cowboys, honest.

Okay, that's all for today.  Go back to your lives, citizens.

Monday, September 11, 2017

I Need Advance Readers for "Cloaked"

First off, thank you all for being so supportive and encouraging!  So many of you have cheered me on while I've struggled through the process of independently publishing my first book.  We are almost there, folks.  Thanks to a heroic rescue by Cowboy yesterday (when I say my husband knows everything about everything, I'm not exaggerating), I have finished formatting Cloaked.  Which means I'm pretty confident I will be releasing this book the last week of September. 

So now I'm looking for some brave, kind volunteers who would like to be Advance Readers!  There are some requirements for qualifying as an ARC reader.  You must be able to:
  • read a PDF file
  • finish reading the book (just under 200 pages) by September 30
  • leave a review on
  • also leave a review at at least ONE of the following:
  1. Your own blog
  2. GoodReads

If you meet those qualifications, then send me an email at rachelkovaciny at gmail dot com :-)  I can't give away unlimited copies, but I do need a decent number of reviews....

(This has nothing to do with the book, I just love this shot from The Lone Ranger.)

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Autumn To-Do List 2017

Okeydokey, time to post my next to-do list.  I was really happy with how many books I read from my TBR shelves this summer, so I'm upping my goals there, but cutting back on how many books I aim to get from the library.  Just to be fair to myself, because (believe it or not) I don't have unlimited reading time.


~ Publish Cloaked.  This is kind of a gimme, but hey, I like a to-do list to have a few gimmes.  Checking them off makes me feel like I'm doing well.

~ Read House of Living Stones by Katie Schuermann

~ Read 5 other books from my TBR shelves

~ Read 3 books from the library

~ Watch 5 movies from my TBW shelves

~ Go see Thor: Ragnarok

~ Make "Baked Oatmeal Bars" from this recipe.

~ Finish the skirts and cape I'm sewing for my kids

~ Finish my Newt Scamander scarf (after all, by the end of November, I probably will want to wear it)

~ Repair/update the "mouse house," which is this playhouse I made for the kids out of an old sheet that I cut and sewed to fit over a card table.  It's got a bunch of rips, and they're all 3 years older than they were when I made it, so I think it's time to not only fix the rips, but maybe make it a little "cooler" at the same time.

That's all for this season!  Do you have anythings you're looking forward to doing this autumn, or are hoping to tick off your to-do list?

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

The Book Cover for "Cloaked"

Here it is! The cover for Cloaked, the western re-imagining of "Little Red Riding Hood" I have been working on for... well, it feels like forever, but it's actually been just a little over a year. And which, yes, will be released by the end of this month, Lord willing and the creek don't rise. In both Kindle and paperback forms, via Amazon.

I don't know about you, but I am in love with this cover. It's the work of my talented sister-in-law, Erika Ohlendorf. If you're a writer and want to see what other kinds of work she does, her website is here. Her prices are reasonable, as original cover art by a real artist goes.

If you're on Goodreads, Cloaked has a page there already. (Thanks, Elisabeth Grace Foley!!!) I have an author page on Goodreads too. And, you know, a website and a Facebook author page, that kind of thing.  Just in case you want to find me elsewhere.

 So... what do you think? Does it say "western Little Red Riding Hood" to you? I hope so!