Hold onto Hope

Finding Faeries

So many people are disappointed in the people of America. And I won’t lie, I cried on the morning after the election. Why? Because I’m scared. I’m scared of what our country could look like with Trump in charge.

Like truly scared.

That the forward, positive steps we have taken will be erased.

But America has voted and this is the result. I have been thinking about why. And I have a bit of insight because my husband voted for Trump. And yes, I voted for Hillary.

OMG, you say! My house must be a war zone, you think! Well, no. We are opposites. Always have been, always will be. We vote on different sides every single time. After revealing that I am married to a Trump supporter on FB, someone commented that they would get a divorce. Wow. Well, I am not getting a divorce from a man I…

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WHO LET THE DRAGONS OUT

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So, I’m toiling away on the last bits of Canticle of Destruction, the third installment of the Songs of Atlanitis YA fantasy series. I put dragons in my first fantasy series (called them fflorin) and figured, what the heck, might as well put dragons in this series. I like ‘em. So do others. In they go. But of course, they have to be part of a historical twist within the story arc and coincide with the previous books. Check. Check.

Anyway, the last six months have thrown my goals off track due to involvement with a friend’s estate and collaborating with her writing. Won’t do that again. Doing so proved painfully illustrative and validated a set of rules my critique partner, Judy Post, aka Judi Lynn, and I have learned to our cost. Rule Two—which comes after the sacred Rule One of writing one’s tushie off every day—is never, EVER let up on promoting your own work. I did for the last months, spending more time elsewhere, but always managing to get some writing done. Still, I dismally failed at Rule Two: promote and advertise your work until you die. Or lie bleeding out on the floor.

The year started off great with a fabulous bounce from an ad on BookBub for the regency series written as Julia Donner. Yes, I do the no-no of writing under more than one name. Here comes the whine: I gotta do more than one genre!

Fortunately, and blessedly, as writers in this day and present industry construct, we no longer have to line up under the sign that says writers MUST follow a formulaic code of composition. Of course, that outdated rule must be observed if one is signed with a traditional publisher. (Shoulder shrug here.) That’s a given, but writers now have a wide range of choices. Whether we go with the traditional publishing path or not, we all have to promote ourselves. The days of book junketing is pretty much dead and gone, unless your agent has signed you for a million buck deal with a clause that clearly states the publisher will provide this. Ergo, Rule Two (hence known as the Eleventh Commandment) is not to be forgotten, never ignored. I did to my cost, my sales sagged, and now I’ve got to get back on board the advertising express.

At the end of the month, I hope to have that new YA fantasy up and live on Amazon and two (yes, count them, two) campaigns running. This means (insert dramatic groan) I have to scour pages and pages of advertising ideas. As writer and playwright friend, Rachel Roberts has expressed, it’s not easy to toot one’s own horn. Can’t agree more. I’ve endured  the disappointment of three declines from BookBub in the last months. Have to wait for a while to resubmit, but in the interim, look out Twitter, here I come.

Wrapping up, publicizing one’s work is wicked heart-wrenching—a hair-pulling, out- loud wailing, and lying-on-the-floor-heel-kicking endeavor. But it’s the only way to sell the books we’ve sweated blood and rained tears on the keyboard to bring to life. So bring on the dragons and burn up the procrastination tactics. Your work and what you have to say is worth it.

While we’re on the subject of horn-tooting, Judi Lynn’s latest installment of the delicious Mill Pond Romance series, Love on Tap, is now available for presale. Please take a looksee on Amazon, Face Book or her webpage:

http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hobby? Career? Or are you aiming for best seller?

Judi Lynn

My writer/friend, Ann, came to visit me on Thursday, and she brought me a Writer’s Digest she’d finished reading and the book section of the September 2nd Wall Street Journal that listed new releases coming soon by prominent writers.  Prominent, in this case, referred to what I’d consider literary fiction and nonfiction.  I’m more of a genre reader myself, but I enjoy reading about any author and his writing process, and it’s fun to read outside of my usual interests once in a while.  So Ann gifted me with a few hours of entertainment with a little bit of insight tossed in.

I especially enjoyed a sidebar on page D5, an article–How to Write a Bestseller–by Tobias Grey. Matthew L. Jockers and Jodie Archer have a new book coming out September 20th, THE BESTSELLER CODE.  They’ve identified certain things that make books sell.  They listed which verbs sell better than others.  What really caught…

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FRIENDS

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Ten years ago, not many hours after my husband passed away, I heard a car pull up in front of the house. Still in wrapped in the numbness of shock, I saw through the front windows a woman hop out of a car, hurry up the walk, and bend to set something at the door. It took a while to get up and go look. The corner of a white envelope stuck out from under the welcome mat. Jane and Steve from church had left a message that they didn’t want to disturb me but wanted me to know they prayed for me, shared my pain, and hoped I would call if I needed anything. And so began one of the most poignant, remarkable, and horrible weeks of my life.

So often we hear or whine about how the world is rotting away, people are hardened, uncaring of others. It’s then that I remember the weeks after John died. My brother, Karl, immediately drove my mom from Illinois to Indiana to be with me. Only days after, my writing buddies brought food and themselves for a diner party that lifted my spirits and started to bring me back to life. Cards and phone calls poured in from my church. Flowers, more cards came, but that which lifted me most were the prayers. A choir member, Helen, a widow herself, told me that I would know when the prayers for me stopped. I woke up one day, almost a year later, and felt the absence of the cocoon of prayer that had buffered pain and loss, but by then, I was healed enough to make it on my own.

Then there are the friends of childhood, Connie especially. It’s hard to believe that it’s been over fifty years ago when our aunts introduced us. Instant friendship. I admired her bright, lively mind, musicality, and the kindness that pours out of her, her stubbornness to accomplish a task and do it well, her romantic heart. Mostly, I love the fact that I can tell her anything, everything, and know that as kind and sweet-natured as she is, she would stand stalwart at my back through any trial or problem.

The wonder is that Connie is not my only friend like that. There were theater friends who stood by me during my first horrific marriage. Coworkers over the years I’ve never forgotten and still hear from now and then. Linda, a new friend from my part-time job, didn’t hesitate when I called. She gave up her day off and took me to the ER for sciatica pain, sat with me, and took me home, constantly cheerful and patient. And in the last decade, I lucked-out and joined Summit City Scribes, a band of determined writers, finding more brothers and sisters, like Judy, my critique partner. I trust her judgment implicitly, admire her ethic, her clean writing style, and ability to plot with deadly accuracy. Imagine a tall, red-headed, dark-eyed warrior with a quick laugh and quicker mind. She is someone else I can say anything to and she will instantly and completely understand—more importantly, she will contradict or readily spout a differing opinion. How I love that about her.

It is because of the blessings of so many amazing people I can call friends that I started the regency series about friendship. I lost my dearest friend when John died but have so many others and know that in the future, there will be more.

A Rogue for Miss Prim, now available and 9th book in The Friendship series:

https://www.amazon.com/Rogue-Miss-Prim-Friendship-ebook/dp/B01KJ3K27I/ref=sr_1_10?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1472763851&sr=1-10&keywords=julia+donner#nav-subnav

And check out Judi Lynn’s webpage and Mill Pond Romances

https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites

webpage: http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

War and Freaks

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I woke this morning with a comparison in my head generated from two vastly different genres—two stories about war done in film—War and Peace and Warcraft, which I’d never heard of until its recent release. War and Peace I read too young to fully understand its layers. I was probably twelve and too invested in Natasha. Both works have a great deal in common. (Don’t go fainting on me now, you lovers of classics.) Both are tales about family, responsibility and honor, how we respond to these on personal and national levels, which pretty much boils it down the basics.

The War and Peace series with Lily James, Paul Dano and James Norton wrestled Tolstoy’s massive work into submission. Previous film versions could not do it justice due to the scope of the story. Production work was, without exaggeration, extremely well done.

Warcraft was the surprise. The graphics were superior to Gods of Egypt, which was visually beautiful in the forefront but criminally childish in the backgrounds. If you’re going to do a flick like that, do it right. No, what impressed the heck out of me was Warcraft’s screenplay/script. Action films are just that, a lot a smashing up and intense movement meant to keep the viewer revved up. The Warcraft action was on a level above the usual action fare with subplots, in-depth characterizations, admirable reasoning, pacing and structure.

Don’t get me wrong; I am not in any way glorifying war. I think the term “necessary evil” is a feeble excuse for lack of nothing better to say. In Warcraft, Durotan fights to save and protect his people, his family, a drive beyond that of honor. He exemplifies the true meaning of sacrifice.

So now we’re down to the comparisons in my head. To paraphrase what Frank Langella said last night on the Tony Awards, strife will either define, destroy or strengthen us.

Both films deal with war and how the characters are carried along in its futile wake, doing what must be done. Natasha, Pierre and Prince Andre in War and Peace, Durotan, Anduin and Garona in Warcraft, these are individuals to admire even when war itself is not. What I found in both renditions, and from recent events, was validation for an opinion.

There is no comparison, whether fictionalized or not, to the sleazy cowardice of ISIS and its followers. They are pathetic and inferior. What they and terrorism perpetrate is valueless and in the end will come to nothing. History has shown that no matter how a people of courage and resolution are brutalized, in the end, it only makes them stronger. Gulags, death camps and rendition holes will pass away. Valor will not.

Follow on Twitter @RigdonML
Website http://www.MLRigdon.com
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Julia-Donner

BLUNDERS

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Things have changed in the last few hundred years, in some ways, drastically. The root of this observation comes from my bumbling around in necessary research. When I write contemporary, all that’s needed for up-to-date conversation is an hour watching a current sitcom. But my WIP is regency-set, and—oh, yeah—things have changed.

Two hundred years ago in upper crust London, there were specific rules for everything. Let’s imagine you’ve just entered a drawing room for an obligatory visit. (How and when to call on others involves another set of rules). This is how a morning call goes: After an appropriate salutation which includes curtsey and/or bow, you wish everyone a pleasant good day, ask about or wish them good health, talk about the weather. A comment may be made in regards to a recent social event. Children may be discussed, or perhaps a comment about an upcoming event. If all else fails, go back to the weather. No compliments can be made directly to one’s hostess/host. That can only be exchanged between family and the closest friends. After fifteen minuets, and no long than twenty have passed, thank the hostess/host and beg your leave.

Imagine today:

“Dude.”

“Whaddup?”

“Nuh.”

Compare that cintillating exchange to Caroline Bingley’s snide remarks to Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, all rendered in perfected ton style and yet she is snark personified. Jane Austen knew every social rule and how to abuse, use, and mock at the same time. Nowadays, we are reduced to single word responses. Young males speak in childish, noncommital mumbles with no evidence of consonants. Girls speak too fast in nasal valley-speak that used to be ridiculed and is now the lexicon and style of ninety percent of the young female population. I recently spoke to a girl who aspires to a career as an actress and she didn’t know who Tennessee Williams was. She thinks emulating Hannah Montana is the epitome of the acting. This was not easy to swallow after watching the Starz recent rendition of The Dresser.

Half of what goes in conversation today was not done in 1950. Marlon Brando’s mumbling started this mess IMHO. (And yeah, text anachronisms haven’t helped.) Freewheeling acceptance of social taboos has also changed. In the fifties, sex was never mentioned. Strict monitoring and censorship didn’t allow it in any form on the screen. Nary a hint. If a bedroom was shown, there were separate beds! There was a time when I was quite young that I thought it was weird that my mom and dad didn’t have two beds. Wow, I digressed.

Going back to the subject, if you are interested in the wide gap between aristocracy, middle earth, and today, try Jane Austen’s Guide to Good Manners by Josephine Ross. It is, as they say today, a hoot. Oy, how the times have changed.

Book Eight in the Regency set Friendship Series, The Barbarian and His Lady, is now available for pre-sale on Amazon, due for release on June 18, 2016.

And don’t forget to curtsey or bow before you exit.

Follow on Twitter @RigdonML
Website http://www.MLRigdon.com
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Julia-Donner

The Barbarian and His Lady

Got a Rise Outta Moi

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It’s that time of year when religion theme movies come out to play. I was ready for some religious action and went with hope to see Risen.

Let’s start with what I loved. There’s only been one depiction of Christ that I’ve liked and that was in the Matthew Series. In this film, Cliff Curtis has a sweetness about his portrayal that drew me in. The film locations and sets take the viewer to the time period. I delighted in the correct use of Christ’s given name, not the twisted, Latin version we use today.

Joe Fiennes had the tough job of carrying the story along, and he accomplished this but just barely. He looked more comfortable in the battle scenes, which were well conceived, depicting how the Roman military conquered the known world. (China was thousands of years ahead of Western Civilization at this point in time, but that’s another story.) Poor Joe attempting to work his way through a mystery, and find his path after his discoveries, well…not so much. Joe sort of deflated as a regular guy.

I also loved the political aspects of the film, the showing of another perspective and backroom dealings, of how religious leaders plotted to get rid of a threat to their power structure and sleazy dealings in the Temple. (Recall the turning over the tables in the courtyard? Caiaphas and his family had control of that side of the business.)

The way the Pharisees used Pilot and Pilot hoped to use them to secure his own position was nicely rendered. Pilot was definitely under the gun with Tiberius about to visit the troubled Palestine. Tiberius was a vile man and worse emperor. He had no patience for inferiors bungling up the works. In this film version, Caiaphas is marvelously slimy and evil in contrast to the dignified and holy Joseph of Arimathea, a true servant of God. These character contrasts and Curtis’s depiction of Christ made the picture in my opinion.

The clinkers were the use of stirrups and saddles on military mounts. Nuh-uh. Don’t believe me. Look at the bas-reliefs that exist. Egyptians didn’t use stirrups either. They were used elsewhere in the world, but not like what we have today and used in this film. Then there was the funky scene where Joe gets a costume change all within the same time segment. Guess they had to keep the actors on horseback somehow.

There were a couple of other silly things but they didn’t bother me much. What really got to me is coming next, the Mary Magdalene bashing. It goes on and on, even though it has no scriptural verification.

Pope Gregory I took it upon himself to do some Biblical revisionism during a sermon wherein he set Mary M. down as a prostitute. And so the insult was born. The ugly lie has held on throughout the centuries, perpetuated by men, in text, art and repeatedly in film—yeah, that’s you Mel Gibson. This saddens me, especially since I otherwise liked this film. Even got teary-eyed in places. It’s still no excuse for trashing a woman Christ loved and relied on as confidant and friend. His own disciples griped about her, but they were men reared in a culture and religion that separated women and men in religious settings.

So what excuse do men (and sloppy screenwriters) have today for abusing a holy woman? I’m not even going to go there. Too sick, boring and wearying. Anyway, sans the stupid bit in the barracks asking soldiers for a show of hands to see how many men Mary had screwed, I would have really liked this film. If you don’t mind the toying with Biblical truth/ female bashing, go see it. Tis the season.
FYI: Prophecy Denied, the first book my fantasy series is free March 4 through 7.

Also check out Empty Altars by Judith Post, last day free!

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B007EW75Y6

M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)
Follow on Twitter @RigdonML
Website http://www.MLRigdon.com
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Julia-Donner

JANE GOT A GUN

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JANE GOT A GUN

If you’re not into westerns, you might want to stop right here. But if you LUV the genre as I do, this might trip your trigger. The film did for me because of its authenticity. There wasn’t much to find wrong about its level of production. It’s a story of human behavior at its best and worst, and how the life choices we make are the best ones we can make at the time.

The story is about Jane Hammond (Natalie Portman), whose husband, Ham (Noah Emmerich), barely makes it home, shot in the back many times by the Bishop Gang, the baddies. After patching up hubby, Jane hides their daughter with a friend and heads out to find help, knowing that Bishop (Ewan McGregor), eerily evil and ruthless, is determined to kill her and her husband. The only man she trusts is Dan Frost (Joel Edgerton), former fiancé prior to the Civil War. The overt theme is survival. The subplots are Dan’s ongoing love/hate thing for Jane, and why Jane married a criminal and gives him relentless, unbending devotion. To paraphrase Jane’s explanation to Dan, not everything in life is all about Dan. Nor is it what appears on the surface. Everybody has a sunshine tale to tell but hers doesn’t/didn’t have much sunshine. For women in the West, there was very little “sunshine” to be had. And that’s one of the two nitpicks I have with the film.

Look at the photos of women of that time period. This film takes place in 1871 New Mexico Territory, hardscrabble indeed. Natalie looks too dang good in the face. She’s lived through every kind of hell and yet looks young. Women in their twenties looked thirty years older. But there were some nice touches, like the blue canning jars and sturdy looking clothes.

My other gripe, and it’s a tiny one, is the condition of the horses after being loped for miles. Their coats would have been wet, perhaps not lathered, but definitely some sign of distance carrying weight. I can’t nag about this much, because it shows that the film had a caring wrangler. The horses were beautifully trained, and like animals used in film, knowledgeable of the terminology from action to cut, unflinching if a clapper is used. When I lived in LA, many of my neighbors were stunt riders. Their horses were in a different class from riding mounts with a calm yet alert demeanor. I digressed.

So I got a little oyfgehaytert when I saw the trailers for this flick. Had to see it before it left the theaters and it didn’t disappoint. It’s made me yearn to haul out the western romance I started to convert to digital length. But I’ve got four WIPs to finish. Mind you, I’m not griping. This film reminded me that I don’t have to start a fire every morning, pump water for the house, livestock and garden, clean clothes with Fels Naptha on a scrub board, wring the neck, pluck and singe the chicken before roasting it in a range that needs the right amount and kind of wood to create the proper temperature. Yeah, I’ve got nothing to whine about. Certainly not this movie. I’ll be buying it when it’s released.

Writing bud, Judi Lynn has a new release, Cooking Up Trouble, now available on Amazon for presale:

Check it out: http://www.amazon.com/Cooking-Up-Trouble-Mill-Pond-ebook/dp/B013NI5G68/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1454985355&sr=1-1&keywords=judi+lynn

M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)

Follow on Twitter @RigdonML

Website http://www.MLRigdon.com

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Julia-Donner

 

 

 

 

REIGN PAIN

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While moseying along the racks at the library, I spied a TV series in the DVD section, one I’d never heard about. History freak that I am, it got snatched before anyone else noticed it sitting there, two seasons worth of what looked like Elizabethan period work. I should have paid more attention to the front cover.

Yeah, yeah, I’m an annoying stickler for historical fact, but this thing caused major jaw-dropping due to the history of Mary Queen of Scots getting twisted into something unrecognizable, a sort of hysterical history. Had the characters been taken over by pod people? Had the writers lost all sense of integrity? About half way through the first season it became clear: Reign, for all the bucks they’ve dumped into a very attractive production, has a target audience of teens, quite simply, a soap opera for the teenage masses.

Costumes for the men are a mish-mash covering a three hundred year span. Let’s face it, teens today would not like to see their heroes in tights, heels and bulbous shorts. And the girls, oye, the female costumes look like prom night on meth. For today’s proms, they’re perfect, but the time period is 1558 with ten layers of clothes and twenty pounds of beads and lace.

Mary Queen of Scots had her ups and downs in history but the real action didn’t start for her until she returned to Scotland after the death of King Francis II, who was probably a foot shorter, sickly and had a speech impediment. He kicked it a year and a half after they married, he fifteen and Mary seventeen at the time. And it was never established if their marriage had been consummated. It was said they liked each other well enough, according to Dad, King Henry II, who had ulterior motives, doncha know. And talk about strangling the facts, pious Francis murdered his father on the jousting field? It boggles the mind that puny Francis donned armor and lanced his father to death. Shame, shame, oh ye purveyors of nonsensical history.

On the positive side, I liked the performances. It takes talent and discipline to walk the fine edge of teen angst and soap opera scenery-chewing. Veteran, Megan Follows, is always a pleasure to watch. She infuses Queen Catherine with a vague, sly humor and this tempers the evil of the woman’s scary-cunning political maneuvers.

Now if the creators of this project wanted to make a twisted tale out of the Valois court, they should’ve written about Francis’s youngest brother, who later became king, the charming—and I must say decidedly prickish—Alexandre Edouard, Henri III. Now we’re talking the dark side of the force. This guy had no problem murdering family members, one of which was the Duke de Guise, Mary’s uncle. Henri Three also massacred Protestants after instigating political unrest, fled Paris like a coward and then later plotted to wage war on the city. Oh but the list goes on and on. One bit of accuracy in Reign is that it shows the real power broker, Mom, Queen Catherine de Medici. She ran the show behind the curtains and continued to do so during the tenures of all of her sons.

So why am I whining and ranting? There’s nothing wrong with fiddling with historical fact when it’s being made obvious that is the case. Heath Ledger in A Knight’s Tale was acceptable because the entire movie was tongue-in-cheek. It didn’t make itself out to be anything but a fun story set in the medieval time period, but Reign has warped the entire time period. My hope is that students will become interested enough to look up the truth, especially since our schools aren’t teaching it longer.

And so ends my rant. In a nutshell, if you don’t care about history and just want to see youngsters in costume playing at court intrigues, you’ll like this production. For a more precise rendition of the period, watch Helen Mirren in Elizabeth I.

As Monty Python was wont to say, and now for something completely different. Critique partner and writing buddy, Judith Post, writing as Judi Lynn, has a cover release for her upcoming digital work from Kensington, Cooking Up Trouble, scheduled to come out next year. Take a look-see:

http://www.pumpupyourbook.com/2015/11/27/pump-up-your-book-presents-cooking-up-trouble-cover-reveal/

M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)

Follow on Twitter @RigdonML

Website http://www.MLRigdon.com

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Julia-Donner

CRIMSON PEAK SQUEAKS

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Every once in a while the cinema gets it right, but I agree with one reviewer who judged the production work better than the story in Crimson Peak. Better doesn’t do it justice. The surprising part is that it’s an American company, not known for accuracy in period works, but was partly filmed at Pinewood Studios, which may be the reason for its excellence in this area. The set design and costumes were gorgeous, even if the house itself was more of a caricature of the gothic theme and the creepiness value more fun than scary.

I’m a chicken about horror flicks. Don’t watch them, but I was lured to this one because of the time period and wasn’t disappointed. There were more creaking floorboards than necessary but the fx sounds worked for this film. Expensive homes built back then had master craftsmen doing the work. Those squeaky boards probably didn’t start to protest until at least fifty years later after the house had completely settled and woods began to dry out. And what wonderful woods and woodworking. It was everywhere, all over the walls, in dark, whirling Jacobean furniture and elegant Belter style chairs. I was in late Victorian heaven.

Jessica Chastain knows how to carry off wearing the 1880 bustle—I loved wearing dresses with a bustle—and as always, used her expressive eyes to fascinate. Her clothes were meant to be out of date, a decade behind Gay Ninties Paris-influenced styles.

Wasikowski and Hiddleston performed an exquisite waltz scene, so gracefully done it could be filmed showing footwork as well as an overhead view. OK, so I’m a bit nutty when it comes to period pieces, but this film had actual parquetry work, a real ballroom floor. I notice things like that, and noisy bedsprings.

The coolest thing for me happened in Sir Thomas’s workroom where there were three, wax mannequin heads. Spooky looking things. My aunt had one in her museum and it always gave me the shivers, the fixed smile, weird eyes and ashen-white complexion. And Crimson Peak had three of them on a dusty shelf.

Since the story wasn’t freaking me out, and remember, I’m a chicken, which means diehard horror fans might stifle a few yawns, but it allowed me to check out all the marvelous accuracy. There was only one error to be found (but I might find more when I watch the DVD) and that was the walk in the park. Edith Cushing (Wasikowski) props her parasol on her shoulder. Never done. The parasol was held upright, but I let it pass because it was a gloomy day and much was made of the weather in that scene.

I enjoyed the film for its artistry, but if you’re looking for scary, it wasn’t so much. There’s some slasher type action and yucky ghosts, but I didn’t flinch, if that’s any kind of gauge. I’ll be seeing again because of its artwork and attention to period detail.

M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)

Follow on Twitter @RigdonML

Website http://www.MLRigdon.com

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Julia-Donner