Erin Morgenstern

(DISCLAIMER- I’m a horrible photographer so these pictures aren’t the best. Hopefully you’ll get the idea though!)

This past Friday, I had the opportunity to see Erin Morgenstern, the author of The Night Circus. I read the book a few months ago and loved it. You can read my review of it here. So when a friend mentioned that she would be coming to a bookstore in the area, I knew I had to go.

The event took place at an independent bookstore in the Atlanta area called Fox Tale Book Shoppe. It’s a gorgeous little book store in the downtown historic part of Woodstock. I got there about an hour early since I had no idea how large a crowd would be there and I knew I could always find something to do in a bookstore. I ended up standing right next to the table where she stood to talk.

The table where Erin Morgenstern sat. (Sorry it's a bit dark- I thought my flash was on!)

I was thisclose to her! Again- sorry it's so dark. I didn't want to use flash here because I was afraid I would blind her.

 

The bookstore had created an absolutely amazing window display based on The Night Circus. Somehow, Morgenstern saw a picture of the display (through Twitter, I think). When Fox Tale asked her to come for a visit, she agreed!

The display that started it all!

So she came. She spoke for about an hour. Some highlights: she read the chapter where we first meet Bailey; she mentioned that the original idea was based on some Edward Gorey-esque (love!) figures in top hats and fur coats that she created during NaNoWriMo; The Night Circus itself took off when she sent those characters to the circus. Also, she spoke a bit about the fact that film rights have been bought already by Summit Entertainment (very exciting! this book is just screaming to be made into a movie).

windowdisplay2

Another view of the display.

Once she finished speaking, everybody went out the back door of the store and wound into a line around to the front. I was almost the very last person and it was a fairly cool night. But it provided an opportunity to speak to other book lovers and enjoy an beautiful night outside. I also got a chance to really look at all the wonderful displays Fox Tale employees had created for the night.

A closeup of the display. That's a glass swan next to the frame.

 

Another closeup of the window.

 

This table was set up right at the front door.

 

This was a small table set up behind the front window display.

 

Almost there! A bit hard to see that well but the light fixtures were absolutely gorgeous!

Finally, it was my turn. She asked if she could personalize it (I said yes), we spoke for a few minutes about how beautiful the book design was (she said she got lucky there, as she had no control over what the publishers decided to do), and then she agreed to a picture. I stammered out my thanks and walked away tightly gripping my brand new and freshly signed hardback, feeling slightly euphoric. It was my first author signing and I’m so glad it was such a pleasant, intimate one.

Me with Erin Morgenstern!

It was a beautiful night.

For Mary- Beau Reves (Means "good dreams" in French)- Erin Morgenstern

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Mythology of the Vikings

I’ve been reading a lot of Norse mythology recently. I’ve always loved myths and the Vikings are one of my favorite people groups. Their history and culture has always fascinated me.

Norse mythology is some crazy stuff. I mean, most myths are pretty crazy but the Norse ones seem to go above and beyond.

First off, the first two creatures in existence were a giant, Ymir, and a cow. The giant survived by drinking milk from the cow and the cow survived by licking ice. The first giants and gods came from Ymir through various ways. Some sprang out of his armpits and others were from his leg (fathered by the other leg!). From these offspring came the giants and the gods.

The giants and the gods hated each other. Except when they were inter-marrying and having babies. Which happened quite frequently.

Odin was one of the original gods and he and his brothers killed Ymir and then used his body to create the earth. Odin was the Allfather and was known for his wisdom. He had one eye and frequently disguised himself to travel through the world of men.

His most well-known son is probably Thor, who would take periodic trips to the realm of the giants and kill as many as possible with his hammer Mjolnir.

Freya was a popular goddess, known for her beauty and rather loose with her, um, favors. Her beautiful necklace Brisingamen was acquired after spending four nights with the four dwarves who made it.

And Loki! Son of a giant, yet Odin’s blood brother. He was a popular companion for the gods due to his cleverness but was always causing trouble. He was always fixing the problems he created though, mainly after some threats from Odin. He ends up turning on the gods at Ragnarok, fully unleashing his bitterness on them for his punishments after some of his more dangerous and unsavory pranks.

Everything ends at Ragnarok. I’m not really sure how that all works. All the gods die except for a handful, who then help create a new era. The gods knew they were going to be destroyed, they just wanted to be as well prepared for it as possible.

A quick note on places: Yggdrasil was the great tree that held all the worlds. There was an eagle at the top and a serpent at the bottom. A squirrel ran between the two relaying their insults to each other. The gods lived in Asgard, the giants in Jotunheim. As humans, we live in Midgard. There are 9 worlds total, each apportioned to a different race.

There’s a lot about Norse mythology I don’t understand. This might be because we don’t really have a complete account of it. Some sources have suggested that Thor was actually a more important god than Odin but somehow what we have now is all about Odin.

If you’re curious to read more about the Vikings and their mythology, I recommend Kevin Crossley-Holland’s adaptations. They are interesting and provide a bit of scholarly background.

If you’re looking for someone a bit younger or if you just want some interesting pictures the D’Aulaire’s version is well worth reading.

Fantastical Places: Part 3

This will be the last post on fantasy locations for a bit. Or at least until I find somewhere else to write about. (I could always gush about New Zealand I suppose, but I do try to keep my obsessions under control. Sometimes.)

If you’re anything like me, you’ve most likely wanted to live in a palace or a cottage just like the ones mentioned in fairytales and stories. Well, we’re not the only ones. There is a whole style of architecture called, appropriately enough, storybook style.

Chaplin Court

Homes built in the storybook style might be castles or cottages. Most seem to have been built in the 1920’s and 1930’s. They are always unique and easy to distinguish from any other type of house or building.

Storybook Cottage

All the pictures and info I’ve used here came from Storybookers.com, which is a great website that gives far more information than I have about what constitutes storybook style. It also has further reading suggestions, galleries of some of the houses, and links to storybook style buildings.

I suppose the best word to describe this all would be: Charming.

Bogart House

How To Train Your Dragon

I am in love with this movie.

I’m a bit jealous of kids these days, actually. Sure, growing up there was Disney with The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast (still the best Disney movie ever in my opinion). But now, animated movies are seen as a sure fire money maker. This isn’t always the case (anyone remember Mars Needs Moms? Of course you don’t, unless just because you heard how terrible it was). And companies like DreamWorks and Pixar have turned kids’ movies in to art forms.

Based on a series of books by Cressida Cowell, the movie seems to be very different from the stories in the books. This is just based on a quick skim of the books however. But a young Viking boy named Hiccup has trouble fitting in with his dragon killing tribe and living up to the ideals of his chieftain father. This all changes when Hiccup comes into contact with a dangerous dragon known as a Night Fury.

I know the  How to Train Your Dragon movie has been out for a few years, but I just got around to watching it a couple of weeks ago. And it was fantastic. Good animation and a great story. Watching the friendship develop between Hiccup and Toothless was one of the highlights of the movie. Also, amazing music by John Powell and a beautiful theme song by Jonsi.

Most likely you’ve seen the movie already, most people have. If you haven’t though, I would recommend not watching the clip I’m posting below. Not because of any spoilers, but simply because it will be a much more powerful scene when watched in context of the original movie.

Enjoy.

Fantastical Places: Part 2

The last post was about New Zealand exclusively. This post will mention a few more places.

The Soca River in Slovenia provided a fairytale-like beauty for Prince Caspian.

Besides New Zealand, The Chronicles of Narnia also did some filming in Bovec, Slovenia. It was here that the bridge was built by Telmarines and subsequently destroyed by the Narnian forces.

Many of the London scenes were actually filmed in Prague and most of the forest scenes from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe were filmed nearby in the Adrspach National Park.

Lucy Pevensie may have just entered Narnia, but Georgie Henley is most likely in the Czech Republic.

Another favorite place for fantasy/sci-fi locations is British Columbia. Not only do they have some great incentives for film makers, they also have really gorgeous surroundings!

All kinds of movies and TV shows have been filmed (or are being filmed) in the Vancouver and British Columbia area. The X-Men trilogy as well as the Origins: Wolverine movie were filmed in British Columbia. Rise of the Planet of the Apes was filmed nearby. Two of my favorite TV shows also call(ed) the area home: Dark Angel and Once Upon a Time.

Hatley Castle in British Columbia- also known as Professor X's School for the Gifted in the X-Men movies.

And finally, a little bit closer to my home, Atlanta! Atlanta has really been growing as a location for shooting movies and TV shows because we have begun offering some really great incentives as well. Zombieland filmed here a few years ago and the TV show The Walking Dead films here as well. An Atlanta company called Giant Studios was instrumental in the technology behind the motion capture system used for Gollum.

Bill Murray's house in Zombieland. It's also a private residence in the Atlanta area.

This is only a small sampling or films and locations, obviously. Chicago and New York both played host to Batman and Spiderman, respectively. Ireland and Malta were among some of the gorgeous locations used in the Game of Thrones series. And, according to Troll Hunter, Norway is overrun with trolls.

Location finders must have really amazing jobs!

Fantastical Places

I recently wrote a post about food in fantasy made real. Now I think I’ll write about fantasy places made real. This will most likely end up as multiple posts since today I’ll just be talking about New Zealand.

Hobbiton- or a sheep farm in Matamata

I love New Zealand. Actually, a more appropriate word is obsessed. If you ever speak to me, New Zealand will most likely come up in conversation somehow. I’ll find a way to work it in. But ever since seeing the beauty of the country in the Lord of the Rings movies, I’ve known I had to go there.

Lord of the Rings is now, of course, what most people think of when talking about New Zealand. And they have fully embraced their status as Middle Earth. The official tourism website of New Zealand has a special section dedicated to tours, itineraries and locations based on the movies. With the release of The Hobbit next year, that list will most likely grow.

But New Zealand is not only the Lord of the Rings‘ physical home. The country also served for various locations in the recent Chronicles of Narnia movies.

Look familiar? The Pevensie children entered Narnia through this passage in Prince Caspian; it's also known as Cathedral Cove.

Peter Jackson, who is a New Zealander by birth, has filmed most of his other movies there, including King Kong. (anything on Skull Island is all New Zealand- with a few enhancements!)

Whale Rider is another well known movie filmed entirely in New Zealand.

A young Maori girl attempts to gain her grandfather's respect.

And finally, one of my favorites, The Price of Milk.

 

Will I be going to New Zealand? Absolutely. I’m just saving money for a plane ticket and then it’s simply a matter of deciding the best time to go and narrowing down what I want to see into a period of about three weeks.

I can’t wait!

You Can Keep Your ThunderCats!

This is the cartoon I’m most nostalgic about.

That’s right. David the Gnome.

It came on Nickelodeon in the late 1980’s. Most of what I have seen says 1987 or 1988 which would have made me about three years old. I remember watching this show when I was about 6 or 7 so it must have been replayed later than that. It came on on summer mornings and my sister and I would religiously watch the show. Once it finished we knew it was time for our grandmother to take us to swim class.

Ahhh. Idyllic Childhood. How I miss you.

So the cartoon was based on two books called The Gnomes and The Secret of the Gnomes by Rien Poortvliet and Wil Huygen. We actually owned The Gnomes, although I’m fairly certain that my fantasy-addled child brain thought that book was a field guide published completely separately from the show.

Basically, David (a gnome) was married to Lisa (also a gnome). David was a doctor who traveled around on his trusty and totally awesome fox, Swifty. Trolls were bad and animals were good. I also remember there being some pretty heavy issues discussed and some pretty scary scenes. Although, I was not allowed to read Goosebumps growing up since they freaked me out so bad, so don’t take my word for that.

I haven’t seen the show since that summer (watching it now might ruin my view of it, but I doubt it). But it is now available on DVD through Amazon. I’ll be purchasing it soon, I promise you.