Cynthia Lee writes young and new adult works of fantasy



Take Shelter – From the Movies

I do not often have much to say on this blog.

So I’ve decided to write movie reviews.  Because I watch a lot of movies and I always have, since I was tiny and small.

This weekend I watched a movie called Take Shelter with Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain.

And this movie creeped me out.  I do not creep easily, not at all.  I have seen so many horror movies that I am desensitized to all the usual scares the movies provide.  I think the last movie that actually scared me was David Fincher’s Zodiac.  No, actually, it was Session 9.

Take Shelter isn’t even a horror movie exactly.  It is about a man (Michael Shannon) who has uneasy dreams, one right after the other, and begins to believe that a terrible storm is coming, a Biblical storm perhaps.  He begins to build a storm shelter on his property.  His wife and neighbors and friends think he’s gone nuts.  His mother has been lashed by paranoid schizophrenia for decades, you see.  But he persists.  Something happens near the end and you think “well, that’s it.”  But then other things happen that change everything you’ve seen until that moment.

The movie takes its time.  Some might find it slow-moving but I enjoy a slow-build.  Slow builds are fairly rare nowadays at the movies.  The performances are excellent all around.  There are few working actors more compelling than Michael Shannon nowadays.  The movie inspires a low-level dread that changes slowly into urgent dread and finally into a kind of low-key panic.   (If you have anxiety issues – you may want to skip this one)

Check it out.


Please Standby Move

When I was a dancer, I used to have a particular dance move in mind for those moments (not exactly rare) during which I suddenly went blank.  I called it my Please Standby move.  (For any bellydancers out there, it was a 3/4 shimmy over a full body undulation).  These were almost always moments during a solo ( usually improvisational) in which I just turned into a complete non-entity.  I forgot all things, especially dance things, and I stood there, in the lights, looking like an idiot.

I’ve decided that I need a Please Standby move for writing novels.  Except I would have to perform this move mentally, right?  I don’t know how that would work.

Usually, yoga is my Please Standby move.  Yoga is actually a series of moves, of course, so I guess writing takes 30 or more moves to qualify as a Please Standby move.

Writing is a pain in the ass, sometimes.


A Clean Well-Lighted Place

I need what Hemingway called A Clean Well-Lighted Place in my life.  I will further qualify that desire by calling it A Clean Well-Lighted Quiet Place.  If you are a working wife and mother, you will know exactly what I mean.  The well-lighted place isn’t so much a rarity as the clean and quiet part.  Life at my house is maybe clean for five or so minutes and quiet – well, that almost never happens unless everyone is asleep.

If you are a parent, you will know that noise and noise-making demonic electronic devices are a part of a parent’s life.  If you are as ADD as I am, you will know that noise and noise-making demonic electronic devices are about as much fun as being hit in the head repeatedly with a baseball bat.

I often have a hard time concentrating, to put it mildly.

But, still, I soldier on like the little soldierette I am and I try to write my daily allotment of 1,000 words on a novel, 250-500 words on a short story.

That used to seem like a great lot of words to me, back a few years ago when I was writing my first book.  Now it’s just a normal day of writing work for me.

Funny how that works, isn’t it?

Still, I long for that Clean Well-Lighted Quiet Place.  I will wait for it.  It will come someday.  I’m sure of it.

the emotion called elevation

Do you like how I  e e cummings – ized my blog post title?

Today, I want to talk about an emotion that the late film critic Roger Ebert defined as “elevation.”  At least I think he invented the term.  I could be mistaken.

Anyhoo, generally speaking, elevation occurs when you feel empathy for the plight of others, when you care what happens to them, when you extend your consciousness  or (for lack of a better term) your caring self towards someone else.  I think it can be when you feel a sense of kinship, even responsibility, towards other people, even total strangers or people you dislike.

I believe this to be true.

Here is Roger’s take on it:

“If I were a film producer hoping to make a movie with deep appeal, I would consciously look for Elevation–remembering that it seems to come not through messages or happy endings or sad ones, but in moments when characters we believe in–even an animated robot garbageman–achieve something good. I have observed before that we live in a box of space and time, and movies can open a window in the box. One human life, closely observed, is everyone’s life. In the particular is the universal. Empathy is the feeling that most makes us human. Elevation may be the emotion caused when we see people giving themselves up, if only for a moment, to caring about others.”

Isn’t that wonderful!  I think it’s wonderful.

Reminds me of Kevin Spacey’s character from the film American Beauty.  He was Lester Burnham, the self-aware loser living a sedated life in the suburbs.  (Remember the tagline for that movie?  It was Look Closer).  He goes through something of a mid-life crisis (with a sense of humor) and behaves in silly ways before trying clumsily to connect to his family.  There is a scene where he hugs his very damaged neighbor (played by Chris Cooper) who has arrived inarticulately and heartbreakingly at a breakdown.  Lester hugs the poor sad man and I think it’s one of the best moments in the film.  (Lester gets shot for his kindness but that’s beside the point, I think).

At the end, Lester (now dead) decides that all of us will one day feel an immense gratitude for our “stupid little lives.”

Thank you, Lester Burnham.

Movies I’ve Watched Recently


I watched Room (the movie) recently and it made me cry like a hungry and angry baby.  I had almost succeeded in Not Watching it.  I did not want to watch it initially because just watching the trailer made me cry and I don’t watch movies in which the damned trailers make me cry!  (Except for Tree of Life, of course, and also Schindler’s List.  So I guess I do watch some movies with weepy-making trailers.  Clearly you should pay no attention to the things I type).

Anyway, I watched it one Friday when I felt brave.  Excellent movie.  It was hard to watch in places but wondrous and elevating in many others.  I had read that the two leads in the film were wonderful but I was skeptical for some reason.  Boy, was I wrong.  Brie Larson and Jakob Tremblay were lovely and beautiful and heartbreaking.  I must warn you, however, that if you are a mother of a young child  – it will almost certainly break you wide open.

There.  You’ve been warned.

In other urgent news,  I watched half of Daredevil Season 2.  And it was quite good.  I really enjoyed the first season and the second is quite good as well.  But the parts with the Punisher (played by Shane from the Walking Dead) made me cry.

I’m getting tired of entertainment that is wonderful and makes me cry!  I mean what is with these people writing this stuff?




Move Along – Nothing Much to See Here

I’m afraid I don’t have much to say at times.

I’m busy, overwhelmed, tired, struggling to remember all the things I need to remember and so on.

I’m also mostly really happy so there’s that.

I was told by my son last night that at least six monsters were trying to get into my bedroom window.  I was honestly so tired that I doubt I would have cared if six or six hundred monsters were trying to get in through my bedroom window.  These are all good things to complain about after all.  I have plenty of rewarding work to do.  I have a challenging and interesting nano-business to which I can dedicate my time.  I have a good husband.  I have a wonderful little boy.

I write books.

It’s all fun.

The Hero’s Journey

I love Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero with a Thousand Faces.  I also love looking at the picture below.  The video is pretty cool too.


What Makes a Hero: Joseph Campbell’s Seminal Monomyth Model for the Eleven Stages of the Hero’s Journey, Animated



If I could stretch like a cat, I would.  Right here at my desk.  I’m referring to a full-body tongue-lolling kitty cat stretch.

That would feel so good right now.

But there are miles to go before I sleep, before I stretch.

Writing a novel is funny because there is a train running through your head and its passengers consist of “How Many Words Today?” and “This Story Sucks More Than A Sucking Thing.”  Then as the train gets closer to its destination, you start to think that you might just make it safely to the station.  Maybe the book is that bad.

And so it goes. . .








Slide down the Bat Cave

This is the Bat Cave my son made from his Batman Lego set.  It is so cute that if I look at it any longer, my heart may cave in.

Little Batman sitting at his Batcomputer is so cute that I can’t stand it.  I’m overwhelmed with love and cuteness and many other feelings that I can’t describe.

In other totally unrelated news, the husband and I went to see The Hateful Eight and boy, was it hateful.  I thought it was hilarious.  And, in a strange way, kinda exhilarating.  Some dark part of me really loves Tarantino’s somewhat perverse love of exploitation films.  I don’t love exploitation films but I love HIS love of them, if you know what I mean.  And I really admire how he has created his own weird little universe and somehow, against all odds, he continues to make his weird films within it, not caring what anyone says, just doing what he wants.

Also, Samuel L. Jackson is just plain funny.  I love it when he squints at things.  He’s as fine a squinter as Clint Eastwood.

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