Monday, September 30, 2013

The 2013 Fall Utah Shakespeare Festival: My Reviews Of The Plays

I returned Sunday afternoon from a quick weekend trip to the Utah Shakespeare Festival's Fall Season in Cedar City, Utah.  Before I review the plays, let me note that, in many ways, I liked being at the fall season festival better than being at the summer season.  The drive south was beautiful (all the rabbit brush was in bloom against the juniper trees and the red sand! gorgeous!), it wasn't hot, the festival and the motel were FAR less crowded, the plays were less crowded, it was easier to park and easier to get a seat -- and did I mention it wasn't HOT???
However, I was not as thrilled with the plays as I was in the summer season -- but I think that has to do with the plays themselves, not the Festival.
First of all, Peter and the Starcatcher is still going on.  You can read my review of it here.  (Interesting side note: I had a conversation on Saturday with Rhet Guter, the star of the show.  I was mainly interested in telling him how fabulous I thought his choreography had been for Anything Goes this summer, but I did end up confessing to him why I wasn't raving over Peter.  He told me a LOT of people had told him the same thing.)

Then we have The Marvelous Wonderettes.

This is a juke box musical, much like Forever Plaid.  There is no plot, but there is a good deal of characterization and depth -- and humor.
Basically, the first act takes place at the prom in 1958.  The girls sing wonderful pop songs and ballads of the era in great harmony, all while battling out their gum-chewing, boyfriend dramas.  The audience even gets to vote for the prom queen, much to the annoyance of the ushers, who have to collect all the ballots and pencils.
After intermission, it's 1968 -- the 10-year reunion:

The girls return, looking like they just stepped off the Lawrence Welk Show, and sing songs of that era, channeling their Supremes style.
The only resemblance of a plot is strung around the song lyrics, such as "It's My Party, And I'll Cry If I Want To."  There is a teacher/student romance that's meant to seem "cute" but made me cringe, as poor Mr. Lee would end up in jail today for the same thing.  And there was some definite realism about the drudgery and limits of being ONLY a housewife -- something which is sure to irk a good many Molly Mormons and mommy bloggers, although I think a very good point was made.
And that's it.
The music is great.  The set is fabulous (a high school gym with banners about the school's championships: chess, square dancing, and jai alai), and the acting is superb (I loved all the chipmunk references.).
It is light, fluffy, and a bit silly.  There is no more depth than in a soap opera.
I enjoyed it very much, but, if you're looking for serious drama, this is not the show for you. :)

At the completely opposite end of the drama spectrum, we have Richard II.

This is a star-studded cast, with David Ivers playing the lead, Brian Vaughn as Northumberland, and Quinn Mattfield as Hotspur, as well as several other well-known actors in minor parts.  The show was directed by Henry Woronisc, who played Prospero in the summer season's The Tempest.
The set is sparse, and the play has been set in the Edwardian era -- which pleased many play-goers and bothered others, based on the next morning's discussion hour with the SUU Shakespeare Program's director.  The acting is FABULOUS.  And the play is in a marvelous blank verse, which makes it tremendously rich.
Shakespeare was constantly experimenting, and this play was one of his not-so-popular experiments.  The problem is that there is not one, single likable character in the whole play.  Oh, the viewer ends up feeling sorry for Richard, but he's a wuss who vacillates on everything and then just gives up.  You can't really like that.  And the Duke of York seems to be standing up for what he thinks is right in the face of great odds -- for part of the play.  Then he caves and treats his son horribly; he appears to want him to be killed for treason.  The Queen does have some tender love scenes with Richard, but she also appears harsh and manipulative in other scenes.  And Northumberland is just nasty.
It's hard to love the play when you can't connect to any of the characters.
King John is a difficult play, too, but Shakespeare makes you feel the king is noble by the end.  And Richard III is created as a real villain by Shakespeare, but the Bard STILL manages to make him likable -- in a Severus Snape sort of way.
But Richard II just has no honest, upright, noble, or friendly characters -- except maybe the groom who appears in one of the final scenes.
So, this is not a play for Shakespeare newbies; it could put you off Shakespeare forever if you're just dipping your toe in the water.  No, Richard II is a play for hard-core Shakespeare fans.  I'm really glad I saw it, but it's certainly not my favorite.
And it's an extreme contrast to Wonderettes, I assure you.

Thus endeth my reviews.  For more information, for tickets, for more of these great photos, go to

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Book Trailer: Becoming Brigid

My latest YA novel is now available: Becoming Brigid, a story that deals with Celtic mythology.
As the librarian who did my last book trailer for me had surgery right when I needed to put this together, another English teacher at school volunteered to do it for me.  (He made it a little too slow, I think, but beggars can't be choosers, and I could not have done this alone, so I owe him big time.)

Here 'tis:


Blogger won't let me upload it.
*goes into a corner and sulks*

I'll keep trying.  Until I beat this into submission, maybe you could click on this link and go see it on youtube???  Please?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Becoming Brigid by Lisa Shafer

It's taken ten years to get to today.  But the book is FINALLY available.  Finally.
The Kindle website won't let me click the button to upload the book's content.  Thus, the e-book is on hold until I can get that issue resolved through their "contact us" folks -- who apparently don't work on Fridays. (Maybe by next week I'll hear from them.....)

But, in the meantime, let me present my new baby!


I've actually had the cover for a year.  It's my idea and my dad's artwork + Max's formatting.  Dad did the water color wash, then drew the Tree of Life separately -- and much larger -- on a different paper in pen and ink.  Then Max put everything together for us (with Dad supervising) with his photo software.

Here's the book blurb:

Pepper Kircy has definite plans for her future. And she thinks she knows everything about her life -- at least until she meets Dougal, a man with way too much information about a past she doesn’t remember. Suddenly, her geeky, ghost-hunting dad and her mortician neighbors aren’t quite as ordinary as they seem. But then, neither is Pepper. 

Dougal’s tempting. He quotes poetry and insists on calling Pepper by the name she never uses: Brigid. Soon, she can’t get him out of her dreams. So, in spite of all his weird talk about a missing goddess and a long-lost stone, she could really like this guy. Maybe even enough to change her precious plans. 

If he'd just stop trying to kill her....

And here's the link to buy a POD copy.

I have SEVERAL contests planned, but I won't announce them until I resolve the Kindle website issue.  Check back again soon.  I promise to be giving things away to celebrate my new book!!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Pardon Me While The Dust Settles On My Blog

So, mid-terms are due Monday, and I've got 3 classes' worth of essay tests to grade.  (Oh, the life of an English teacher!  Wait.  Scratch that.  We don't HAVE lives; we grade papers.)  Then next week brings us parent-teacher conferences, the single most loathsome thing about teaching, which will suck up two full evenings.  And, the most recent proof of Brigid arrived a few days ago.  While I'm happy to say that -- at half-way through the book -- I've only found ONE real error (a missing word, caused by an earlier copy-and-paste rearrangement of a sentence), I'm still smoothing things (like having the sun set an hour too early in one scene.  oops!).  I need to get this book ready ASAP!!  So every moment I'm not grading must be spent on editing.
Folks, there's just no time for blogging right now.  Really.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Smelling Like A School

Conversation from yesterday between me and a former student who is now the parent of a current student:

Me: So, you do realize who used to have this relo when you were here, right?
Him (chuckling): Be gone to the depths of relocatable one from whence thou came!
Me (pointing): Of course, now all the vocabulary words I used to give you guys are all up on the bulletin board, since I don't have any chalkboards.
Him (looking about in sudden and unfeigned surprise): No chalkboards?!
Me: None in the school.  They've all been replaced with white boards.  Years ago.
Him:  How's it supposed to smell like a school, then?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Reasons For The Lack Of Posts Lately

1) This week is mid-terms.
2) Next week is parent-teacher conference.
3) I'm waiting for the proof of Becoming Brigid, and my mind is so set on that that I cannot seem to get into working on my other novels.
4) I've been planning lots of giveaways, but I can't do anything about them yet until I'm sure of my publication date!
5) I've had extra paperwork to do with the novel approvals committee for the district.
6) I've written several posts but I need to touch them up a bit before publishing them, and I've just been too tired to think clearly about them.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Wait -- What Decade Is This?

So, this morning at 5:50 AM when I finished exercising and went to make breakfast, I discovered lovely puddles of water under the kitchen sink.
Yeah, I was 20 minutes late leaving for school today -- and very grateful I'd put 1st period's test questions on the board Tuesday evening because it would've been pretty tense this morning otherwise.

So, this afternoon, Dad and I were examining the garbage disposal to see where the leak was, but Dad can't get down on the floor anymore (OK, he can get down on the floor, but getting him back up is far from easy and not pain-free.), so I got down, stuck my head into the cabinet, and tried to describe to him what the leak was like.
He wasn't grasping what I was saying, so I found myself thinking, "Well, I could take a picture, but the screen on the back of the camera is so small; he won't be able to see what I'm talking about."
Then I remembered it was 2013.
"Dad, can you hand me the iPad, please?"
Click, Tap an app.  Add an arrow.  Hand Dad the iPad.  He uses his fingers to enlarge the part he needs to see.  Dad makes his diagnosis as to the fate of the garbage disposal.
Another few taps, and the photo is sent to our favorite handyman, so he can determine the plan from here.
Step one of solving the leak problem is complete, and Dad is not in pain from it.

After all, digital cameras are so 2007.

Just A Link To Some Funny Reviews

Amazon has kindly put up a page where we can find a list of their products that get the most humorous reviews.  (I'm so glad to know that people are still making fun of Mitt Romney's patriarchal binders-full-of-women statement!)
Check out the reviews for the infamous Three Wolf Moon tee-shirt, BIC For Her pen, and gallon of milk by clicking here.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Update On Becoming Brigid (Psst.. I'm looking for people to host a cover reveal and/or book trailer reveal)

In case you haven't noticed, I haven't posted much lately.  This is because I've spent every available minute trying to get Becoming Brigid to publication.
Right now, I'm doing what I hope will be the penultimate edit.  In other words, I'm in hopes that I can finish the edit tonight or tomorrow night and get it sent off for a (pleasepleaseplease) final proof copy -- and that that proof copy will have no real errors so I can approve it for release (pleasepleaseplease).
What's in the works?
Well, I'm hoping to do a cover reveal as soon as I can verify a release date.  (I'm now hoping for October 13.)  My book trailer is very nearly finished, even though we had some set backs on that due to  the illness of our school librarian, who was going to make it for me.  I also hope to do a book trailer reveal as well.  I had a book model lined up, but she's now ignoring my e-mails, so I guess that means she changed her mind, so I'll have to drop back ten and punt on that one.  But I do have at least three contests in the works, all ready to roll for this new book, so that should be fun.  (Yes, people, I have prizes!)
So, please forgive my lack of posts for a few days until I get everything rolling here.

In the meantime, I'm still looking for people who want to do either a cover reveal (October 1 or 2) and/or a book trailer reveal (October 8 or 9) for me.  As I recall, Martin at fromsandtoglass was up for this.  Does anyone else want to volunteer before I start sending out e-mails about it?  If so, leave a comment or tweet me.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Beetles Crossing Abbey Road

So, back in high school, my friends and I used to stick pictures in our lockers -- often of the Beatles.  (And also long sections of script from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but that's a different post.)

Following in that tradition, one of my old buddies posted this on Pinterest for me:

Yeah, some things haven't changed all that much over the years.  ;)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Report Card For The Utah State Legislators

Utah schools received reports cards this week, and many schools failed.  (My school did just fine, actually, but that's not the point here.)
The problem is that this is yet another stupid and arbitrary system that ignores the real issue, which is that more and more, the government and the media are shifting any responsibility for learning away from the students.
However, once again, our beloved Tribune cartoonist Pat Bagley has nailed it:

Yeah, I'd like to give the legislators a report card.  :)

Monday, September 2, 2013


So far, I've scrubbed the pots and the pan liners and the kitchen sink, emptied the dishwasher, scraped the hardened goo off the back of the bathroom door where my brother once hung a hook that fell off years ago, dusted the bathroom blinds, cleaned the mirror, reorganized a drawer, scrubbed the tub and bathroom sink, and cleaned the counter.
It's not yet noon.
Now, while I "rest," I get to write a sample essay for my 9GT students, who felt the 4 I already gave them weren't quite enough.  *sighs*
After that, Dad needs my help.
Oh yes, and I still need to sweep and mop the bathroom floor.

So glad to have a day off. :)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Random Tidbits About My Soon-To-Be-Released YA Paranormal Adventure Becoming Brigid

1) While Eric Wright, in the Half-Vampire books, loves lots of real music, but also listens to the fictional head-banging band Narcissistic Sarcophiles (that band name makes me smile) and fictional pop singer Calliope, Pepper Kircy in Becoming Brigid is familiar with such fictional bands as Zunu, the Turd Apples, Tailfeathers, and -- her favorite -- Triskele.

2)  The end of chapter fifteen in Becoming Brigid is absolutely haunting and poignant -- in my own humble opinion, of course.

3) The characters of Dougal, Evelyn, DC, Dr. Finnian, Charity, Morwen, Pete, Tonya, and Elaine are all ( rather vaguely) based on real people -- at least in looks.  In fact, Evelyn is based on Evelyn Nesbit, who has been dead a very long time and cannot get uptight about this fact.  No one else is really recognizable, and the real people would have a hard time realizing their connections to their fictional alter egos playing these roles.
The man who was the inspiration for Dougal has agreed to let me make this public, however, and I may do a post on him at some point.
Pepper, her father, her teachers, and the evil Zane are really and truly completely fiction.  (Okay, I did steal Zane's hairstyle from a former student.)  (No, Zane was not based on any members of One Direction.  I'd created his character years before the group existed.)

4) The fictional North High School is having the fictional Drama Queen III filmed at the school with all the disturbances, fans, and tours that happened when the High School Musical movies were all filmed at the real East High School in Salt Lake City.

5) As any student who ever had me for 7th grade English would insist, poodles are always worked into my books somewhere.  (It's a long-standing grammar joke.  Some of my former students are whispering the phrase "small and dainty poodles" and laughing right this very second as they read this.)  Poodles are mentioned twice in Becoming Brigid.  (I have not yet worked them in to Nerissa MacKay or The Chocolate Smuggler's Notebook.)

6) Many of the places Pepper visits in the book are real.  Thompson, Utah, really does have an abandoned motel in it. Sego, Utah is also real.  The Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar really do exist in Orkney, Scotland.  The barn is not in Old Deseret Village but used to stand in Heber City.  It's gone now, replaced by a Wendy's.  There really is a Liberty Park in Salt Lake City, and the pond in Deseret Village used to look exactly like it's described in the book -- until they put a stupid mini-train around it and built a dumb boat on the shore.  Now it looks like Disney Land.

7) I had to do a LOT of research on Picts and Celts to write this book, as well as a lot of research on the ancient peoples who preceded them.  I also had to do research on ghost hunting and urban exploring.  Oh, and on ancient and modern celebrations of Samhuinn (the preferred Scots spelling of Samhain).

8) The whole concept of time's traveling at different speeds gave me a LOT of trouble in this book, and whole sections had to be re-written multiple times.

9) In the earliest incarnations of this story, Dr. Finnian was King Arthur and Robert the Saxon was Robin Hood.  Those changed VERY early on.

10) The earliest idea for this book came from my noticing that a certain archetypal character showed up again and again in literature: Merlin, Gandalf, Dustfinger, Dumbledore, even Merrick in the original Buffy, the Vampire Slayer movie.  There's always this dark man who knows more than he tells, and you can never quite be sure if he's a good guy or a bad guy -- or if he's just amoral altogether.
Then I asked myself, "What if it were really just all one guy, a guy who wandered from story to story?  And why would he do that?"
That character, of course, became Dougal, who is the Dark Stranger.
And he's trying to kill Pepper.

Have I convinced you to read the book yet?  ;)