Lingerie and Football


By Alexandria Harris

As Boromir would probably say “One does not call an interception a touchdown. It is folly.”

I couldn’t resist this. 1) because Boromir is only foretelling what is to come 2)  because it’s the Packers  and I have an excuse to talk about Wisconsin. My state can’t stay away from drama–it just follows her. The pri madonna is at it again!

But first, I did promise you that I’d explain what memes were when I showed you the first Packers meme.

If you are not familiar, a meme is basically an image or a video that has the potential to go viral. A common one is to have a picture of a cat and with text, like the following:

You can make memes out of anything and for any reason. Politicians, cartoons, McKayla Maroney’s frown at the Olympics have been fairly popular memes. Possibly my favorite one is of the President and First Lady with hilarious facial expressions.

But this is really about the Packers. 

You’re probably wondering, “Ok Alex, but what does lingerie have to do with football? Get to the point already!”

Hold on grasshopper, we’re almost there.

Anyone who watched NFL Football this week knows about the upset between the Packers and Seahawks. I’m not going to rag on the Seahawks because everyone watching knows it wasn’t their fault.

They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. The real culprits, who are already being burned at the metaphysical stake of media, are the replacement refs.

Wisconsin is in full Hulk-SMASH mode. Seriously, scratch the green and yellow, we’re all just seeing green.

From the alleged $1 billion lost in game bets, to talks of the replacement refs ruining the NFL’s brand, these men in black (and white) have caused quite a stir.

But who are they, where did they come from, and why are they here *ahem* being used in the first place? Typically questions you would ask during an alien invasion.

But while the conspiracy theory of refs being taken over by aliens is wrong, there is something far more sinister at work here.

I almost died laughing when I read it.

Fox News had an article about the origin of these replacement refs. And they didn’t come from a planet far, far away.

No, they came from Planet Lingerie, located right under the earth’s crust. That’s right, there is a Lingerie Football League. I’m not going to go into too much detail (because you either know about it or that link is to the omniscient Wikipedia for your convenience). However, I do feel like these women are like a Powderpuff league on botox about to bust into a rendition of “Oops, I Did It Again.”

The article goes on to say that the LFL fired five to six replacement refs due to poor calls and bad officiating.  Mitch Mortaza, commissioner of the LFL, even threw down the gauntlet at the NFL, saying “At our level, being in our infancy, we appreciate our credibility and the integrity of the game is on the line,” he said. “If we appreciate it, I’m not sure why the NFL can’t appreciate it.”

However, the LFL clearly had a ref takeover also, so our origin story does not start there. Normally referees make about $150,000 a year for their services in the NFL. According to the article, most have full-time jobs on top of that.

The aspect of the dispute that I find interesting is that no one is budging. Yes, there are talks about how the owners are making concessions and want to rapidly bring the lockout to an end. However, I have a feeling that we’re going to be seeing a few more games with the replacement refs.

Safety is a big issue, (I stopped counting how many times poor Aaron Rodgers got sacked) and the question now is will other teams start to take bigger risks just to see what they can get away with? Hopefully, however long the reign of the replacement refs lasts, everyone stays safe.

Or we will cry alien invasion and not be held responsible for our actions in self defense.

Alexandria Harris is a writer and former reporter on WSUM 91.7. When she isn’t watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, she tweets regularly as @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Movie Monday: The Hours

By Alexandria Harris

Premise: Three different generations of women are interconnected by the novel Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.

Best Quotes:

“A woman’s whole life in a single day, and in that day her whole life-” Virginia Woolf, writing Mrs. Dalloway

“Today, sort of like black fire. Sort of light and dark at the same time. There was one like an electrified jellyfish. They were singing. It might have been Greek,”-Richard describing how his guests looked.

“We shall publish no more new authors. I have to tell you I found ten errors in the first proof.”-Leonard, Woolf’s husband.

“Because I wanted to be a writer, that’s all. I wanted to write about it all; everything that happens in a moment, the way the flowers looked when you carried them in your arms in this towel, how it smells, how it feels, this thread. All our feelings, yours and mine. The history of who we once were. Everything in the world. Everything all mixed up, like it’s all mixed up now. And I failed–I failed. No matter what you start with, it ends up being so much less-” Richard, explaining why he didn’t want to be honored.

“I think I’m only staying alive to satisfy you-” Richard.

Pause: All right, basically anything said by Richard is quotable gold.

Suicide. That is how the story begins, which immediately pulls its audience in because now we need to know how and why the story ends from this. Set in the 1900s with flashes forward to 2001, this film boasted an all-star cast. I was hoping it would live up to the way I’d already hyped it up in my head.

It did.

Seriously, five seconds into the actors scrolling past, I was thinking in amazement to myself “Who ISN’T in this movie??”

The film continues with the kiss of death for a writer–starting a story where the character is waking in bed. In spite of this, it was interesting. At the beginning, I became confused with the multiple perspectives of the three women: Virginia Woolf in 1923, Laura Brown in the 1951, and Clarissa Vaughn in 2001.

Laura Brown, in 1951, is unhappy with her marriage. You know something is wrong when a man gives a woman flowers on his birthday, and she walks on eggshells like he is an axe murderer.

Vaughn is the energizer bunny book editor, running around and making preparations for her friend, Richard. He is to receive a lifetime achievement award for poetry, and he is very ill from AIDS.

Richard has a dry, self-deprecating humor and refers to Vaughn as “Mrs. Dalloway.” He is fascinating to watch. He has a controlled craziness about him, although I think a writer has to have a little craziness in them if they are touched in the head by the stroke of genius.

Ed Harris played him well–I didn’t know what he was going to do next. Richard wonders if he got the poetry prize because his work was good or because he’s sick.

Woolf is basically put on house arrest by her husband, who runs a publishing company out of their house just to be near her. She has a passive-aggressive show-down with her cooks, which was really impressive, considering the fact that she didn’t look up from the floor.

Meanwhile, Brown is making her husband a birthday cake with her young son, Richie. He asks to sift the flour and tells her that making a cake isn’t difficult. She tells him that they are making the cake to show Daddy they love him. Richie asks–in that sweetly innocent ‘leave-it-to-Beaver voice’ that all movie children have–“Otherwise he won’t know?” And Julianne Moore’s character is undeniably but unintentionally chilling when she answers yes.

The cake failed. Epically.

Apparently the audience needs to know that it’s ridiculously easy to make a cake, and Brown just can’t do it. This probably has more to do with the relationship with her husband and not whether or not she can actually make a cake.

It actually hurt to watch the women in 1951. Exhibit A: “You can’t call yourself a woman until you’re a mother.” I know it was a different time period, with a different set of values, but I had an urge to reach inside the screen and drag those women off to a women’s shelter. It was a cross between the Stepford wives (creepy, fakely bright happiness) and the mentality of a POW.

Kidman (who was barely recognizable as Woolf) spoke in a soft monotone the whole movie. This woman had genius inside her brand of madness. Woolf’s sister visits with her children and they find a dead bird. The sister asks if Woolf is better, if she is listening to her doctors.

The bird funeral, and corresponding conversation between Woolf and her niece is hauntingly beautiful. I got the sense that the suicide scene wasn’t far off, and the stakes started to raise for all of the women.

The film contained many references to reading, the writing craft, and death. Lots of quirky sayings about death. These women all seem trapped in their respective time periods. One by illness, another by convention, and another by fear and denial.

I am definitely watching this movie again, if not solely for Richard’s character. This movie was exactly what a movie about writing should capture. The score was beautiful, cinematography was excellent, the dialogue was amazing, it kept me engaged, and the acting was convincing. And there is a twist!

The film gives the sense that writers are in this world, but barely of it. Both Richard and Woolf seem to be empty of life as they imbue life into their characters, almost as if they are pouring their life force into their work. Brown wants escapism into someone else’s life to hide from her own by reading. And Vaughn doesn’t need a book, she uses Richard and staying busy to hide from her own.

The film also gives a wonderful commentary on why we read and write. I loved the underlying meaning. The only complaint I had is that the beginning sequences seem a little chaotic and rushed. Also, the fact that the women were all depressed and repressed. I don’t want to completely spoil the movie, so you’ll have to watch to see if and how they rise above those issues. I would give this movie a 9/10 for that.

Alexandria Harris is a writer and former reporter on WSUM 91.7. When she isn’t watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, she tweets regularly as @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Speak…Easy

By John Winn

No, this isn’t about Prohibition, alcohol, or Ken Burns documentaries.

This upcoming Saturday, Sept. 29th, Hennens Observer and the High Point Public Library in High Point, North Carolina will have the honor of hosting author and public speaking coach Carol Roan for an hours-long interactive talk and Q and A addressing the pratfalls–and possibilities–of public speaking. Roan is a 30 year veteran public speaking coach and motivational speaker who has worked with hundreds of clients over a long career spanning from opera divas to average Joes and Joanettes applying for job interviews. A signing of Roan’s books Speak Easy (pictured above) and Speak Up will follow. As always, refreshments will be provided.

If you are a writer or author in the final stages of polishing up your Great American Novel or just someone who wants to learn more about speaking in front of a live audience, we cannot overestimate how important this meeting will be.  So much of the marketing and promotion of novels and books these days depends on writers being able to read and promote their work in public–someones for many days and weeks at a time.  Being able to read and enounciate your work in a clear, concise–and dramatic–way is often as critical to capturing a reader’s interest as a brilliantly designed book cover.  As a coach, Roan comes highly recommended, not just from clients but also members of the Hennen’s family.  

We’ll be getting the word out through traditional media as well as Twitter in the run-up to the meeting, so if you miss this post by any chance trust me you’ll hear about it soon in you local paper (if you live in the Piedmont) or on Twitter or Facebook.  So if you’re truly invested in seeing your literary dreams thrive, please come and see us in High Point next weekend.  Not to mention, it’s totally free of charge!

Social Media Coordinator (and managing editor) John Winn is Hennen’s Twitterer in Chief.  In addition to writing for Hennen’s, His work has been featured in A Twist of Noir, Lightning Flash, Racket Magazine, and plenty of other online magazines.  He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.

The One That’s Not About Paperholics

By Alexandria Harris

“Hello. My name is Alexandria, and I am a paperholic.”

Specifically paper hoarding–I just can’t throw them away. Also filing and the smell of paper…but the lack of paper (not my specific paper issues) is specifically what I’m trying to focus on.

A couple of things have happened in the world of digital readers and digital publishing.

First (and how important this is depends on if you own a Nook, Kindle, iPad or none of the above), the Kindle is $70.

*earth shattering silence ensues*

Get them while they’re hot (at this price). It’s always a relief to know I can wait to get technology at a lower price in a matter of months or a few years, or that I can attempt to avoid a mob beating on Black Friday.

People have differing opinions about paper vs. screen. The convenience of tablets, the feel and smell of paper, danger to eyes, and reading comprehension have been studied and questioned. Tablets and smartphones have boosted ebook sales and, one can argue, it actually promotes reading among people who just want literature at the tap of their fingers.

Another worry is that digital publishing can replace comic books. Although the interview I looked at was from 2009, so technically the comic book industry should be dead by now.

Reasons why that is not happening: Several movies based on comic books were released in the past two years, spawning renewed interest in comic book films, comic book fans are LOYAL. Some religiously go to ComicCon every year, spend a couple days camping out at their favorite movie career, and enjoy walking down the street dressed as Mr. Fantastic, not caring who sees them.

Some newspapers and magazines have survived the paper apocalypse by using hybrid methods-separating websites into free and paid sections (the New York Times is a prime example), utilizing social media more and expanding marketing departments, or incorporating soft news into their hard news regimen.

Secondly, Barnes & Noble’s new PubIt! system seems to be picking up speed. I’m unsure why the exclamation point is necessary, but perhaps it makes potential consumers more inclined to use it. Christine Rose does a fantastic job of explaining exactly what PubIt! is, but for those who aren’t familiar, I’ll recap.

PubIt! has been around since 2010, but many people haven’t heard about it. The reason is probably because Amazon was so far ahead in the digital publishing arena, that Barnes & Noble needed some extra time to come up with a viable solution. Otherwise it would’ve been like David going up against Goliath, and hitting himself in the face with his slingshot.

The same goes for the Kindle vs. Nook debate. As Rose notes in her post, Amazon came out ahead once more. The other factor here is pricing and the fact that since Amazon has more resources and diversity across its products, it could offer more to authors in terms of digital publishing. The same also goes for its Kindle pricing.

I’m in group C (sans Kindle and Nook, tactile & olfactory paper lover) but the day may come when some doctor discovers that loving the smell of paper so much is an addiction or causes cancer; then I’ll have to convert.

Alexandria Harris is a writer and former reporter on WSUM 91.7. When she isn’t watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, she tweets regularly as @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

I Want Candy


By Alexandria Harris

It’s a cream puff…it’s a fried oreo…IT’S PICA?

Not in my household (the strangest thing I’ve been craving this past week is the hot peppers from Potbelly’s) but apparently, the staff at the Wall Street Journal had junk food on their minds. I don’t know if you saw either of the pieces, but let me give you a recap.

I stumbled across the video in disbelief. Since companies can’t market junk food to kids on television, they’re using smartphone applications to do it. I kid you not, there’s a free game called ‘Icee Maker’. What is the genius plan behind this application, to take over the world?

No, basically to show kids how to make their own Icee. And this ignites their brain synapses and makes them want one. Literally all the application does is let you choose a flavor and make a virtual icee for you.

Dum-Dums has a game where one just taps the screen and the dum-dum goes away little by little until it’s gone. Super pretzel factory, cookie dough factory, and companies like Kraft and Mars are also making food games.

When I was three, I had better things to do than plug away in my own virtual pretzel factory. And even if I did own my own pretzel factory, it wouldn’t make me want one, just the opposite. First, because I dislike pretzels (I didn’t eat them until they came out with honey coated ones). Second, it goes against every principle of working in a food establishment. You eventually get sick of eating the food unless A) you just want to eat something or B) you actually like eating the same things every day.

But the virtual world takes care of this problem, and kids are craving junk food after playing these games that aren’t actually games. I say they aren’t actually games because real games have some kind of meaningful objective.

The second was a bundle containing an article, video, and interactive graphic about food cravings. Food cravings are a mix of social, cultural and psychological factors, heavily influenced by environmental cues. Chocolate is the most-craved food in America (no surprise there) but other cultures don’t seem to have a word for craving. For example, Japanese women are more likely to crave sushi.

I might be part Japanese.

However, the big solution this study and article presents? Don’t fight the feeling. The more people resist their cravings, the more they want them.

And exercise helps. Or sniff on some jasmine or peppermint.

Personally, I looked at the infographic and found it intriguing. For my meat-loving friends, did you know the rich, mouth-feel of meat actually has a name? It’s called ‘umami.’ Other facts explained why we crave salty foods in times of stress and the chemicals each food had in them.

I personally don’t use crunchy food as an outlet for anger, but I’m always in the mood for chocolate, especially my nightly pinch of Ghirardelli Semi-sweet chocolate chips (while they last in my house).

Alexandria Harris is a writer and former reporter on WSUM 91.7. When she isn’t watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, she tweets regularly as @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

For Those Who Are Unaware, Dangerous Weather Approaches Again…

Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf of Mexico near i...

Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf of Mexico near its peak Category 5 intensity (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Brennon Keys

Yes, just seven years ago, the costliest and deadliest natural disaster in the history of the United States, Hurricane Katrina, reached landfall and wreaked havoc on the Gulf Coast. Much like late August 2005, Katrina’s younger — and subsequently, weaker — distant cousin, Issa, decided to pay the South a visit some weeks ago. Thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by the most recent storm, and those who still deal with the lingering effects of Katrina’s wrath.

But, honestly, I’m not sure if these every-so-often tropical storms destroy as many lives as the Katrinas or Issacs we all know. And yes, we all know at least one… Continue reading

Bored with Board Games

By Alexandria Harris

Harsh. Monopoly is a cruel mistress sometimes.

It seems like the general public has had enough with board games, even as people develop new strategies to succeed at them each year. I stumbled across a new book to help navigate the ins and outs of Scrabble. My family chose giant checkers (the one with the quilt board) and Monopoly as our favorite pastimes, so I haven’t played Scrabble as much as I’d like. The trailer for the book cracks me up and freaks me out a little.

Because I’m someone currently obsessed with words, it’s surprising that I didn’t beg my family to spend hours in Scrabble tournaments. To absolve myself of this travesty, I became addicted to Words With Friends. Although, it’s not the same because Words With Friends thinks it’s a genius application–it chooses what is a word and what isn’t, which is frustrating when something is clearly a word.

The only reason I remember the last time I played a game was because it was Labor Day and my little cousins wanted to play Uno, Mancala, and Jenga. In this age of technology, people really don’t sit down and play board games anymore. I can always be in the mood for Apples to Apples (waiting to get the infamous Helen Keller card) and even though I love Monopoly, we had to stop playing it at my house.

Technically it’s my fault.

I was always the banker, and banking is a hard job. Hard jobs should pay, so I paid myself when I was the banker. Cheating is a really harsh term for this, I just like to see it as being compensated for the amount of work you’re doing-$100 per turn to be exact.

Card games with a fast learning curve, like euchre, are not my friends. I really wanted to love euchre, I did. For games like War, Poker, or BS, I’m either a really bad liar or really good. For some reason it never stays either or, it switches by who I’m playing with or per game.

I didn’t have a good relationship with every board game I met. Battleship bored me, and don’t ever ask me to play Clue. Clue was always a little too cryptic and I always felt like I had to turn into Sherlock Holmes to get anything right.

When computers became more sophisticated and most board games transferred online, the need for being in the same room, or playing with actual people, was gone. Case in point, my sister can play Solitaire for hours. It’s interesting to think that you can be the most anti-social person in the world but still have a whole bunch of gaming buddies.

Games like Hang With Friends, Angry Birds Space, Muffin Knight and Fruit Ninja (what’s with the food obsession?), Game Dev Story, and Plants vs. Zombies have people spending ubiquitous amounts of time on their smartphones.

Board games require strategy, interaction, and tons of humor to stave off the competitive edge. Computer games or games for smartphones barely require people and when they do, it’s like your experience is impersonal because it’s mainly virtual.

Board games make me nostalgic because there’s nothing like sitting around a fire, eating popcorn and indoor s’mores, and everyone in an uproar because someone may or may not have cheated. It’s a defining experience, a connecting experience. We can always produce sleeker, faster, applications with more graphics and story lines, but (call me old-fashioned) there’s nothing like plain logic and a bit of fun to get a good day or night going.

Alexandria Harris is a writer and former reporter on WSUM 91.7. When she isn’t watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, she tweets regularly as @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Movie Monday: Man of La Mancha


By Alexandria Harris

Premise: Cervantes and his manservant are imprisoned by the Spanish Inquisition and the prisoners put him on trial. His defense is a story.

Best Quotes:

“Reality–a stone prison crushing the human spirit. Poetry demands imagination and with imagination, you may discover a dream.”- Cervantes

“Miguel de Cervantes I charge you with being an idealist, a bad poet, and an honest man how plead you?” Prisoner
“GUILTY!”-Cervantes

“We both select from life”-Cervantes, referring to how poets and madmen are alike.

“Madness most of all is seeing life as it is, not as it should be.”-Cervantes

I know this is a musical, but I thought I stepped into a distorted production of the Wizard of Oz or The Wiz with all of the tin men and straw people jumping around and Catholic monks as the wicked witches in the first scene.

But no, it just happens to be Cervantes putting on the play “Don Quixote” in the square–and gets arrested by Inquisition soldiers five seconds later.

I love when movies dive right in and get to the point.

Cervantes and his manservant look like they’re headed to prison, especially because of a dungeon like structure they are escorted to, but apparently they only wait for their trial in two hours.

Cervantes goes into this hilarious monologue where he tells the prisoners that he’s been to prison many times (how mobster of him), that he finds the world a prison at times, and then gets attacked by the inmates!

Cervantes begs the prisoners to “try” him when they almost put his manuscript in flames and he almost dives in to save it. He tells them he presented an entertainment and is to go before the Inquisition. The prisoners put him on trial.

Cervantes and his servant put on Don Quixote for the prisoners and he transforms into the part (meaning Peter O’ Toole looks like he does presently, only in grey and with a longer beard) and breaks out into song.

Warning: the songs are catchy (and really cheesy) with donkeys and other animals doing some fancy footwork. I found myself singing “I’m Don Quixote, yes Lord of La Mancha” over and over.

The first song apparently has magic powers because suddenly Cervantes/Don Quixote and Sancho/his manservant are in a field and living the scene where Don Quixote sees a giant and it’s actually a windmill.

I think Sancho and Don Quixote are both right and it’s a giant windmill. The windmill fighting scene alone will either have you in stitches, give you a slight case of vertigo, or both.

The movie flashes back to the prison where Cervantes picks prisoners to be in his next scene. He goes among the women and picks his Al Donza, saying she could be a tiger crouching with fire and the scene turns back into Don Quixote land.

Sophia Loren’s Al Donza is FEISTY. I admired her character until she started singing. She was literally attacked by all these horny mean to the point that I was for sure I was going to see a rape scene for a hot second. But she sang her way out of it.

The prisoners wonder if Cervantes is trying to distract them from their purpose instead of mounting a defense. Cervantes affirms that it’s exactly what he’s doing and asks to continue. He chooses more for his cast and the audience delves deeper into the world of Don Quixote, into his family.

His niece is soon to be wedded and wants to hide her uncle’s apparent madness from her fiance or he might break the engagement. Thus the intrigue and plotting begins.

Watching the movie helped me to appreciate how much of a storyteller Cervantes was, how much of a genius he was at setting the scene. I usually enjoy a play within a play. It was a nice twist to have the prisoners perform Don Quixote and have it seem drawn from Cervantes’ life.

The fact that Don Quixote looked like the malnourished, human, and ten years older version of Victor from The Corpse Bride only enhanced the movie for me.

It was too long at a little over two hours, but at least it was interesting. If you cut the songs out you’d probably get rid of thirty minutes. The singing didn’t exactly blow me away, but it did the job. I’m not much for musicals, but this one kept me thoroughly entertained. The dialogue was great, O’Toole makes a very convincing, off-his-rocker Don Quixote.

The story was well put together and it makes a good movie. I give it a 6/10 mainly because it does a great job at connecting the writer/story/and reality but the story would have flowed better if it wasn’t a musical. But what an ending! (in a good way)

Alexandria Harris is a writer and former reporter on WSUM 91.7. When she isn’t watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, she tweets regularly as @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

To Build a World From a Grain of Sand

By Alexandria Harris

William Blake would be so proud.

I had a moment the other day and took his famous line “to see the world in a grain of sand”  literally. I wanted to build a map like Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings. Not an exact replica, although there was this interesting tutorial on how to age cardboard to look like genuine parchment paper (that I will be trying when I have the time).

No, I actually wanted to try being a pseudo cartographer and make my own world. Technically I had already done it. Before I started my book Forbidden Fruit, I did some Norse mythology research and mapped everything out.

However, in the Prose and Poetic Eddas, there are some loopholes/areas to be explored that I fully exploited.

For example, the origin of elves can be traced back all the way to Norse mythology and explained in one sentence: the elf world was given to the god Freyr as a teething present. That’s it. No coming from thin air, being formed from fire, or etc. It’s a writer’s gold mine. There are so many whos, whats, wheres, and whys to be asked and answered that it’s exhilarating.

Only later does it get muddled into dark elves, light elves, Jacob Grimm’s interpretation, J.R.R Tolkien’s interpretation. It’s no wonder people are fascinated with them–there is a lot of material to be explored.

Another such example is that one of the Nine Worlds, Vanheimr, is mentioned maybe twice in the Eddas but apparently its inhabitants were at war with the more popular world we all hear about, Asgard. And only five gods (depending on the historian) are mentioned as being from this world, but they are all assimilated into Asgard as hostages after a huge war.

What was this world like? There had to be more people on it. What happened to them after the most powerful gods were taken from them? The Eddas do mention one incident (they killed the gods their gods were exchanged for because they thought they’d been cheated) but that’s it. I attempt to fill in the blanks.

But continents, forests, and seas are some pretty big blanks to come up with out of thin air while still staying true to the material. Creating an entire world is pretty daunting. Every little detail needs to be accounted for so that it makes sense.

Naturally, my first step had to be making a map. A hand sketch was fine, but if I wanted to eventually put it in a book, I knew I’d find myself at the computer sooner or later.

I assumed someone had done it before, so away to the online world I went. And some people had, kind of. Holly Lisle probably had the most comprehensive and encouraging advice, with examples. Programs existed for people who designed video games, but little else. It took me a while because most of the time people are interested in actually living in the world instead of creating their own.

No one really had a free program that one could just get on and start designing. Even the paid ones were hit or miss and looked really bad. I found out really quickly that apparently the best way was to hand draw it with an Atlas to get realistic land edges for however you wanted your world to be, scan it into your computer, and Photoshop or GIMP it to death.

Since I only had a large Atlas book of the states in the U.S. and Canada, my worlds consist of  a hodge-podge of Iowa, Montana, the bottom half of Florida, Maryland, and Quebec.

To make a long story a lot less shorter, I’m still working on it. The main point is that through a lot of effort, people who read my book might feel more connected with the locations I’ve created if I make maps for them. Enhancing people’s literary experiences, especially the visual learners, is one of my goals.

I always enjoyed seeing where everything was in Middle Earth and in Game of Thrones. It makes you feel as if you really are seeing what happened. And while the maps of my locations may never look as good as Middle Earth, people can at least have fun appreciating the reason I did not study cartography.

Alexandria Harris is a writer and former reporter on WSUM 91.7. When she isn’t watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, she tweets regularly as @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Movie Monday: Somewhere in Time


By Alexandria Harris

Normally romantic movies are not my thing, but the allure of seeing Christopher Reeve NOT play Superman was too much. Plus I’m a sucker for time travel. And Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. So Superman plus Dr. Quinn and time travel equal a good time.

Premise: A Chicago playwright uses self-hypnosis to find the actress whose portrait hangs in a hotel

This movie was a mash-up of The Time Traveler’s Wife, The Lake house (especially because of the Christopher Plummer link), and a dash of The Phantom of the Opera.

Quote:
“Evening, Ms. McKenna. You don’t know me, but you will.”

Richard Collier is a budding college playwright, and has just finished debuting a successful play. While he’s basking in the glow of his success, an elderly woman moves through the crowd to him, pushes a pocket watch into his hand and whispers “Come back to me.”

Awkward. Especially because he has no idea who she is and everyone becomes silent to watch the awkwardness.

Even more awkward is having to watch the old woman go to the Grand Hotel, shut herself in her room, and cradle the playbill to her chest in a rocking chair because we immediately flash forward eight years.

Richard has now written many plays, but has apparently hit a rut because he decides to go on a vacation after breaking up with his girlfriend and hasn’t finished his newest play.

And of course, he ends up staying at the Grand Hotel. The bell hop Arthur provides a nice example of overly helpful customer service and has a weird case a deja vu where he thinks he might have met Richard before.

Richard settles in and wants to eat something, but apparently he arrives forty minutes before the dining hall opens. As he tries to kill time, he notices something called a Hall of History (which I now wish all hotels had) and goes through it.

After browsing a few things, he’s mesmerized by an unidentified portrait of a gorgeous woman. He tracks down Arthur, the eager to please bellhop, who tells him all about the woman, Elise McKenna.

Then the audience witnesses his not-so-slow descent into obsession when he goes back to mope at the portrait, then ogles the pocket watch in the middle of the night, stares at the portrait more, tosses and turns in bed, then take a wild guess at what he stares at again.

Next (I would consider this modern Facebook stalking but she’s dead so I guess she can’t care about it) he goes to the library to dig deeper into her life because he found out from Arthur that Elise was a famous actress. After more digging into her later years, he comes across a picture from the end of her life. It’s the same woman who gave him the pocket watch.

*gasp* Dun-dun-DUN! Sorry wrong movie genre.

But now we take obsession and stalking up one more notch and he visits the woman who wrote the book about Elise’s last years and who was also with her the night she died, eight years ago, on the opening night of his play.

She has a sharp reaction to seeing the pocket watch and by this point, I really just wanted to know how far we were going to go down the rabbit hole. The more Richard learns about Elise and her life, the more I wanted Jane Seymour to just come out in all her glory.

Richard finds a book about time travel that his philosophy teacher wrote that Elise apparently read non stop. A music box Elise had made plays the soul wrenching musical score evident throughout the movie that is Richard’s “favorite music in the whole world.”

This drives Richard back to his old philosophy teacher, who suggests self-hypnosis and mind suggestion via some scientific yada, yada, yada as a way of time travel.

The most lovely part of this is that during this conversation, you literally see Christopher Reeve snap, disregarding the dangers and entranced by the whole possibility. And afterward you get to see glaring evidence of just HOW hard he snapped.

I have to say, watching the scenes of Reeve trying to hypnotize himself were worth seeing the movie alone. It was like watching Superman fight against the effects of kryptonite. He was truly a fish out of water in a different time, which made for some very funny material.

Also, the manager-actress relationship could have been a prequel to the Christine-Phantom relationship from Phantom of the Opera. Reeve makes a great Raul and Plummer has the stern, “I’ll kill you in your sleep” intimidating demeanor down pat.

You’ve got cryptic dialogue, creepy stalker dialogue, laugh out loud moments, the danger element, a sense of mystery, and the taste of an epic period romance with some modern sprinkled in. All of this made it a little more than your run of the mill romance. And the time travel helped.

Jane Seymour and Reeve had fabulous chemistry, there was a wonderful sense of spontaneity. I really enjoyed that the movie outlined the pressures of being an actress, of having the responsibility of bringing someone’s world to life.

I mean there was an Inception-like moment/inconsistency that I felt was Christopher Nolan worthy and usually happens with many movies trying to tackle time travel. Who had the pocket watch first?

I have to give this movie a 6/10. I wasn’t too fond of the ending because the movie gradually grew unconvincing. Furthermore, it took them about an hour to show Jane Seymour in action. Who does that?

It also didn’t really get into Richard being a playwright-he just happened to be a playwright who was in love. So basically the moving was less about writing and writing processes than I thought it would be. I thought I was really going to like it, but it made for an adequate love story, plot-wise. The good news–the talent and the soundtrack were fabulous.

Alexandria Harris is a writer and former reporter on WSUM 91.7. When she isn’t watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, she tweets regularly as @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.