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J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

"I Sling Words As I Go Along."

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magic

So, every morning, I get to do the most amazing thing…….

………I get to feed horses and bask in their grounded presence.

While with the horses, I’m also privileged to see real magic in this world – nature.

Nature just is.

Just a couple of blokes, hanging around…..

There is no good, there is no evil.

Just pure instinct in motion – like a red-tailed hawk capturing its breakfast or a hummingbird taking a long drink of water from a puddle.  Or four turkey vultures unwittingly re-enacting a scene as the Fab Four in The Jungle Book (1967).  Or a four-foot long gopher snake sunbathing before slithering off into the bushes for a quick snack.

There is so much more that I’m witness to and I wish I could have you see what I see.

A young red tail hawk.

I truly feel like I’m living a Disney movie – sometimes the G-rated cartoon (because it does get silly and whimsical), but most of the time, it’s more organic and earthy, like Middle-Earth.

Nature is magic.

It has both light and shadow.

It is primal and ancient and has no regard for you.

Treat it with respect and you will be granted more than you asked.

So, I’ve got a new character and an idea……

…….of sorts for her story.  I’ve been thinking of it as a short piece, maybe 30k to 40k words, but as any writer will tell you, the length is usually determined by the characters and plot.

This particular story and character came into being while I was at work at the hardware store – a rather unpleasant customer had me wishing I could lay a curse on him or turn him into an unpleasant critter.  Which, karmically speaking, would be a bad move on my part.  I mean, who wants the energetic kick-back on that kind of act?

But I did get a story out of it, so that’s where my energy is going.  And that’s a positive way to deal with negative situations, people or feelings – turn them into art, whether it’s a poem or a painting or something in between.

This story has a light sense of humor attached to it, which is very good.  Some of the stuff I write feels like it comes out of a dark place, whether I intend it to or not.  From character to story, that darkness has helped build a lot of fictional worlds for me, and I’m grateful for those tales I created.  I don’t expect to stop writing them.

In any case, I’m wildly curious about this new story and the lightness and humor that feels attached to it.  I can’t wait to find out more about this character, the world she inhabits and the the town she lives in.  It feels like a completely different type of story than what I’ve written before, much like my Saucy Speakeasy.

And with the cursing of a customer, I’m about to find out what happens next.

So, I’ve seen Beauty & the Beast (2017) twice now…..

……..and I loved it both times.  I also cried at the sheer beauty (pun not intended) of feelings it evoked in me, regarding the characters and the story.  This is not a review, only my response to a number of reviews about the film and its flaws.

The most common theme in all of the reviews I’ve read is how it’s Belle who bends and changes first, that it’s her responsibility to change the man, rather than the man doing it of his own volition.

I heartily disagree with that assessment.

I’m not excusing the Beast’s behavior (he’s a jerk and needs to learn about boundaries), but it’s his poor behavior that’s the catalyst.  It’s the reason Belle flees the castle in the first place – he’s rude, he’s being an asshole and he scares her over something that she does not realize has significant importance, not just to the Beast, but to his servants, as well. [1]

After scaring her out of his castle, the Beast realizes his error and almost becomes paralyzed with despair.  He knows he blew it, he knows he’s probably ruined the only hope to undo the curse that he and the castle are under and he wallows.  In many ways, his behavior is of someone who has given up all hope, who does not even dare to acknowledge that there is hope.

I understand that feeling.  I’ve been in that black pit of despair.  I did not treat my nearest and dearest well during that time.  Would anyone?

But what does the Beast do then?

For reasons never explained in the animated film or (presumably) the Broadway production or even in the 2017 version, the Beast goes after Belle.

Why?

What would be the point?  If he’s such a misogynistic, self-centered asshole, why would he do that?   Was he obligated to go after her?  No, he was not.  Was he obligated to save her life?  No.  The Beast CHOSE to go after Belle (to apologize, presumably, but, as observed earlier, it’s not made clear), and he ends up SAVING her life.  Was he obligated to that, too?  No, he was not.  He chose to do it because it was the right thing to do.

The Beast changed first.

It was his selfless act of saving her from the wolves that allows her to change her mind.

And yet, no one sees that. No one sees that he recognized his error (self-awareness) and went after her, to apologize (again, there’s no reason stated for why he went after her) and ends up risking his life for her.

All they see is that she changes her mind about him.

Belle didn’t reassess her opinion of the Beast out of nowhere. There was a motivating factor.

He saved her life, at great risk to himself, of his own free will.

She could have let him die and you see her move to leave him again, while he’s wounded and too weak to follow.  But she doesn’t – she recognized that he saved her life.  He chose to bend first, not Belle.

My argument here is that it was not Belle who initiated the change in their dynamic first.  She didn’t in the animated version nor in this version (and not in the Broadway production, either, I’m assuming).  I’ve read many reviews of this movie, and no one, NO ONE, remembers that Beast risked his life to save Belle BEFORE Belle decides to reassess her opinion of Beast.

Nothing happens in a vacuum.

Belle bends, but the Beast did it first.

*****

[1]  As for his relationship with the servants and why they couldn’t help Beast change his abusive and rude behavior?  Their relationship dynamics are in an already established hierarchy (master and servants).  As anyone in a family knows, effecting change in someone’s behavior is difficult enough as it is.  To effect it in someone you know is even more so.  Sometimes, it takes a stranger, someone from outside, to hold a mirror up to you before you can see it.

So, apparently it’s Shakespeare Sunday…..

…….where quotes from the Bard and his many plays are shared liberally and with love all over the internet. There are so many plays to choose from, so many lines and thoughts to suit any occasion, that it quite boggles the mind. No, that’s not a Shakespeare reference, although, since he did invent more than a thousand words, one could be forgiven for thinking so.

William Shakespeare’s works are a huge influence on me as both a writer and an actor – I began reading his plays at the age of twelve and performed in The Merchant of Venice at the age of twenty-one. His use of language is exciting, creating visual images through words and drawing us back in time to experience the lives of those who came before us. From Ancient Egypt to his own historical kings in Scotland and England to fantastical islands where magic is as natural a resource as water, Shakespeare has given us works that transcend time and place.

Unfamiliar with the Bard? Check out some of the films based on his plays – from Laurence Olivier to Kenneth Branagh, there are excellent and engaging adaptations that make the words and worlds of William Shakespeare accessible.

“But this rough magic, I here abjure, and when I have required
Some heavenly music, which even now I do, To work mine end upon their senses
That this airy charm is for, I’ll break my staff,
Bury it certain fathoms in the earth
And deeper than did ever plummet sound,
I’ll drown my book.”
Prospero, The Tempest

Excerpt: Secrets & Howls: A Wolf’s Head Bay Mystery

 

From the Prologue:

Her skin prickled and she stopped, alert.

Whoever was watching her was back. Or he’d never left. She suspected the latter – the sensations were so strong that she instinctively knew he was still around. Gripping her keys, she turned in a slow circle, her eyes touching on every shape, muscles tense, aware of the scents carried on the ocean breeze. From the center of town, she could hear the post office tower’s bell chime out the hour.

He was close – she could feel it. The question was, where would he come from?

The attack, when it came, was sudden – her body’s instinctive reflexes were faster than her mind and she ducked just in time to miss the swinging, clawed fist.

He roared, furious. She leapt back, dropping her purse, her breath coming in sharp rasps.

He was new to this – it was obvious from the way he carried himself. But new or not, if she wasn’t careful, he may just take her by sheer brute force.

She intended to take him down first.

They circled each other – Holly hoped that something or someone would distract him long enough so that she could gain a better advantage, but she didn’t rely on it happening. She had to rely on herself.

As she studied him, gauging his skill, her analytical mind suggesting strategies that she automatically considered or disregarded, it occurred to her reporter’s mind that there were peculiarities surrounding the death of Jackson Tanner. Peculiarities that had been similar to another death…..

Her attacker growled – her eyes widened in shock as she saw him literally expand in size and knew that she was in far more danger than she had at first realized.

She had no choice now. This was a fight that would end in one way.

She roared at him until her throat was raw, her hands like claws, and she ran at him.

His first blow sliced through her shirt and opened up her belly – four neat, parallel incisions, nearly gutting her.

 

The next blow killed her.

 

Secrets & Howls

So, I’ve been working on a project……

……….that is so far outside my comfort zone that it makes the Andromeda Galaxy look like it’s just a stone’s throw away from Earth and easily reached via space shuttle.

Ironically, it’s become by far the most fun to write and, rather than write it strictly on my computer, I’ve gone back to old school methods and am writing in long-hand. Although I’ve only written about four or five pages (most of it exposition as I work my way into it), the catalyst action for the lead character has been re-written to suit her last name (Falls) and her subsequent journey of self-discovery has begun.

There is a kind of magic to writing in long-hand.  – the feel of the pen in my hand, the way it traces out words on paper, the way letters emerge and link together to form words, how the paper makes a crinkling sound with the weight of those hand-written words.

Of course, the downside is that when you write by hand, cramps in fingers and palm will ensue. I suggest ice wrapped in a towel to relieve the pain.

So there is an interesting dichotomy here – the magic and comfort of writing in long-hand and the act of tackling a genre that is outside my comfort zone. Rather than the removed medium of a pixelated Word document on a computer, using pen and paper creates a more immediate experience with the story (and lots of scribbled notes and corrections in purple ink in the margins as I go along).  I suspect that there is a subconscious point to this particular choice of writing method and the story itself, but I’m content to allow it to reveal itself on its own.

And, given the need to create heightened sensations in this project, it’s more than appropriate to revel in the sensuality of ink revealing itself on paper.

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