A Day of Endings

As the calendar closed out on November, I knew it would be possible to finish my novel by the end of the year now that my personal Novel-less Non-Writing Month (NoNoWriMo – I think it has a certain ring to it) had passed.  I knew the finish line was in sight, and had been making slow but steady progress toward it since my breakthrough in September.

What I needed, I determined, was to force myself to write in sprints, and that was exactly what I did.  Madly.  Barring necessary days off for the various Christmas concerts I had to perform, I wrote pretty much continuously from the 3rd to the 15th with very little time allotted for non-essential things like food and sleep (and definitely none for housework.)  It got even harder to take breaks for human necessities after I’d written the climactic scene and its immediate aftermath and knew that all I had left was to manage a bit of denouement.  When I woke up from a jittery three hours night’s sleep on December 16th, it was with the knowledge that I had only one scene more to write, and I would have a completed manuscript.

I’ve talked before about the fact that it was The Hobbit in particular of all books that first got me interested in the idea of being a writer and inspired my love of the fantasy genre.  So it was beyond appropriate that I got to celebrate finishing my novel by attending the opening night screening of the final instalment of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit films.

My state going into the film was, I would have to say, euphoric.  Maybe a little swimmy, a little disconnected.  I hadn’t really eaten or slept the way a person sort of needs to for at least the previous week, and I was stumbling suddenly under the weightlessness of a six-year burden removed.  I lead with all of this because perhaps it contextualizes my response to the film in some meaningful way.  My state coming out of the film was something else entirely.

I’m going to try to get at why that was.  My thoughts are helped along by the fact that I have now been able to see the movie a second time, on the proper amount of sleep and sustenance and having had some time to come down from the I-just-finished-my-freaking-novel-after-six-years high.

My very spoilery thoughts about The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies, such as they are, beneath the cut.

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achievement unlocked: book love spReAd

Saturday ended up being a bit crazy, so I wasn’t able to make my book donation until today. When I told the spawn where I was going and why, he wanted to come along and make a donation of his own. On the way, we talked about what book he planned to share. His immediate, emphatic answer was Ender’s Game. All discussions about the very disappointing movie aside, he explained that it was the first book that went into him as more than words. I know just what he means.

At the book store, I was suddenly faced with an unexpected dilemma:

Holy cheese! Which one do I choose?

Holy cheese! Which one do I choose?

So many editions! Too many choices! I was at it for a while, but I eventually settled on a winner.

with Tolkien's original illustrations

With Tolkien’s original illustrations.

Although this one was a major temptation and made me think right away of Obscura and Servetus both.

You can breathe easy tonight, kids.

You can breathe easy tonight, kids.

While I was taking a year and a day flipping through all of the editions, weighing the merits of each, trying to make the difficult decision, I was approached by a very friendly couple who asked me excitedly if I was a big sci-fi/ fantasy fan, because they loved reading so much and just didn’t come across enough women readers of the genres. We had an enthusiastic conversation about books, and reading, and books on Kindle, and books as movies, and books for young readers. I told them what I was doing and got their joyful thumbs-up. At the end, the woman asked for my name so she could look for my books when I’m published. I gave her my card (and my inner five-year-old gigglesnorts every time I do that. So author. Such grownup. Wow.)

But then it was time to make our donations. The spawn found the edition he wanted (don’t mind the teenager face):

He flatly refused to donate any edition with the movie poster cover. Can't say I disagree.

He flatly refused to donate any edition with the movie poster cover. Can’t say I disagree.

Because apparently my local library has weirdly severe and restrictive donation policies, I elected to make our donation at Half Price Books. It was a good choice. They are proudly, prominently displaying their project.

Right at the front of the store.

Right at the front of the store.

 

So excited for some child to read you!

So excited for some child to read you!

Godspeed, beloved words! May you find your home in a willing heart!

Happy Hobbit Weekend

In honor of the release of The Desolation of Smaug, and because people tend to doubt me when I talk about my “geek shrine,” I am sharing the photographic evidence with you.

My geekery is serious business.

Points to you if you can pick out everything in there, although I very much doubt it. Some of it is too niche to be playing fair (and the photo just would not come into focus.)

and this is after I cleaned it out and removed maybe half of the LotR figures

and this is after I cleaned it out and removed maybe half of the LotR figures

For the record, I very much enjoyed the film. I highly recommend getting out there and seeing it in the theatre. You won’t want to miss seeing the dragon on the big screen.

Just a sentimental sap after all: watching An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition

It all started back when I was in college, a freshman most likely.

I was using my in-laws’ computer and internet connection to work on an assignment for one of my English classes, and the browser home news page contained a headline that drew my eye as surely as if it had been written in flashing neon letters: Cate Blanchett talks about being Galadriel. Because you see The Hobbit is the first book I remember having read to me by my mother, when I was two years old; and that reading is the event that formed my earliest fascination with words and story, and which drove me to learn to read and to become a writer of fantasy stories of my own. The Silmarillion was my favorite book from fifth grade until I came across another perspective-changing book when I was sixteen. I used to be able to draw, from memory, J.R.R. Tolkien’s map of Middle Earth, because I had done it so often. I could name you all of the Valar and their functions, recite the names and fates of every one of the Sons of Fëanor. Among my friends I have always been known as the Tolkien geek, the expert, the one who can tell you anything you want to know about Middle Earth. I write about elves in my work because of my fascination with the concepts that Tolkien liked to explore about immortality and how that would inform one’s ideas of beauty, creation, learning, love, power, isolation, family, death, and loss. I spent my childhood dreaming of the possibility that one day, movie-making technology might finally be up to the tall order of bringing The Lord of the Rings to the big screen. That would basically be the pinnacle of everything I had ever wanted from cinema.

So I saw that headline. It was all down the fandom rabbit hole from there. Anyone who knew me back then will be able to tell you that I only just managed to keep my real life under control in the midst of my obsession with the process of those movies coming to life.

Anyone who followed the drama surrounding the Hobbit film project coming to life can also tell you that it was never certain there would beHobbit movie until it was actually physically happening. I made a tactical decision, early on, that I couldn’t afford the level of perseveration with the fandom that I had eventually come to during the years that LotR was getting made and released — especially not for something so unlikely to happen (or to happen the way I wanted it to, back when Peter Jackson was not going to be involved,) so I didn’t follow the news or the process at all. For all intents and purposes, I have been disconnected from the Tolkien film fandom for the last ten years.

This weekend I was finally able to obtain and watch a copy of the extended edition of An Unexpected Journey and all of the special features. And I have to say, I was looking forward to it with keen anticipation, yes, but I did not expect to get so emotional while watching the behind-the-scenes material and reliving the experience of being a fan back in the days of the LotR trilogy. The nostalgia of seeing all of those familiar sets, and art, and the remembered faces of the crew, and that particular camaraderie that occurs with Peter Jackson’s people. It was a bit like having one foot back in 2001 and all of the emotions of that time, but looking at it through the lens of everything I’ve lived through since then and all the subtle tones of how those years have changed me.

I was genuinely teary during the sections of the featurette about Hobbiton and Rivendell. I remember those places. I remember the innovation, the blood, sweat, and tears that went into them the first time, how hard the crew worked to bring these places to life for us.

I remember being a fan hungrily waiting online with other fans for each and every still, teaser, and news item that trickled through to us through the ether (and staunchly enduring the insane download times for what we would now consider laughably small files!), discussing every little bit of it to death because that was all we could do to try to keep our excitement under control while we waited for the finished product. I remember how my heart raced in the theatre the first time the camera opened on that reveal shot of the Shire from Gandalf’s cart, and I was just screaming inside my head, “This is it this is the Shire this is Middle Earth that’s Gandalf it’s actually happening it’s on the screen in front of me it’s real no way no way no way!” I remember the tears that sprang to my eyes when the sorrowful but proud dwarf music swelled in Moria, and the camera panned up and up to show us the grandeur of this world that had been lost. I remember how I couldn’t breathe when the Balrog stepped onto that bridge and Gandalf stood in his path. I remember bawling like my heart had broken as I watched the Fellowship mourn Gandalf’s fall, even though I knew perfectly well he would later make a triumphant return to save the world. I remember the struggle to keep my emotions under control through the rest of the film, knowing what was coming, and really only sort of managing it, because Peter Jackson kept the mood so brilliantly unsettled until that final battle on the banks of the Anduin. I remember the actual physical pain in my chest as I watched Boromir make his last heroic stand. I remember being grateful that the credits were so long and that my husband likes to stay until they’re done, because it took me that long to stop crying and we were there with friends and I don’t like people to know that I feel things as deeply as I do (or at all.)

I remember the agony of waiting an entire year, and then another year after that, to finally see the story through to the end. And of course, the heartbreak when it did end. In a very real sense, the breaking of another Fellowship as all of us fans drifted away from each other and lost touch once there were no more films to wait for and talk about. A defining era in my life, over forever.

I remembered of that, felt all of that, struggled with it, as I watched the special features on the AUJ: EE disc with one foot back in 2001 and the other in the now facing forward. And felt a bit silly for doing so, for crying, but I was by myself, so it was all right. But despite feeling silly, it was a real experience, and a strong and truthful one, and I can feel it bursting out of me, needing to be revealed. This is me, revealing it: I do feel things that deeply, this silly Tolkien stuff is that important to me, I am that crazy-obsessive even if I can just manage to keep it under control these days. I do miss those days, those people, that feeling of youth and irresponsibility.

Yeah, a documentary about the making of a fantasy film made me cry. And you know what? I love that those feelings are still there to be tapped and that I can be blindsided by them.

And here I thought I’d just be watching the bonus features to catch glimpses of the elusive Mr. Armitage at work.

Roll on December 13th. I’m ready for the Desolation.