Stephanie Abbott's Blog
January 6, 2017
December 27, 2016
I never talk much about Star Wars, do I? I never talk much about my skeleton, either. Like Star Wars, it’s way down inside, it helps hold me up, and I take it for granted.
Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia was a huge part of my childhood. I saw Star Wars in the theater at age 8, but it wasn’t until The Empire Strikes Back that I became a true fanatic. Thanks to that fanaticism, I met the artist known as Rosemary O’Malley, who responded to my impatience for the movie’s arrival with this suggestion: “Why don’t we write a story about what might happen in the movie?
That’s how the Star Wars fanfic started, which led to the X-Men fanfic, which led to me calling myself an author from age 14 up.
I loved Princess Leia long before I loved Carrie Fisher. I thought Leia was incredibly heroic. She defied the Empire, risked her life to prevent the Death Star from becoming operational, refused to give up the plans even when everyone she knew and loved was threatened, and even quipped to her rescuer, “Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?” She could shoot, fly a Y-wing (in the comic books, which I read religiously), strategize, and lead. Luke was the kid with the big destiny and Han was the overgrown boy who loved trouble, but Leia was the adult in the room. You could count on her to do the right thing, to be courageous no matter what, and to keep her chin up even in the worst circumstances. Plus, she ran around in white go-go boots with flat heels. In an era when even superheroines wore heels to work, Leia had intelligent footwear.
Photo: Lucasfilm LTD
Carrie Fisher in 2013
Carrie Fisher was a different story. At first she shocked me with her wicked wit, her fearless honesty, her transformation from ingenue actress to bestselling author. Gradually I realized that while Princess Leia was a wonderful role model for my early teens, Carrie Fisher was a person the grown-up me could look up to.
I’ve struggled all my life with my weight, especially as I’ve entered middle age. She had a few things to say on the topic. I’ve also struggled all my life with clinical depression, something I’ve kept secret in my writing life because of the stigma. Now that Carrie, a brave and indefatigable mental health crusader, has left us, I suppose it’s time for me to do something she might have liked: add my voice to the long list of people living with depression.
In 2015 I suffered a major episode that lasted from early summer through the fall, throwing a monkey wrench into my writing schedule. By that I mean, I couldn’t write a word or do much of anything. It was hell. Lucky for me, modern medicine prevailed and I feel like myself again today. But take it from me, #depressionlies and there is help available.
Let me repeat: t. I was lucky enough to regain my mental equilibrium before my vision problems started. Because of that, I went through the surgeries and life changes that followed with renewed strength.
So with a heavy heart I say farewell to Carrie Fisher. Princess Leia will always be with us, for a new generation of little girls and boys to discover and admire. Carrie has moved on, and she’ll be greatly missed.
Filed under: Depression, Emma Jameson, Movies Tagged: #depressionlies, carrie fisher, Depression, mental illness, Princess Leia, star wars
December 25, 2016
December 18, 2016
Divorce Can Be Deadly (Dr. Benjamin Bones Mysteries Book #2) is live on Amazon. Here’s what it’s all about:
“Two ghosts troubled Dr. Benjamin Bones. One he feared would never release him. Another he worried might slip away, however much he tightened his grip… .”
So begins Divorce Can Be Deadly, the long-awaited second book in Emma Jameson’s wartime cozy mystery series. Return to Birdswing, a tiny Cornish village, in the bitter winter of 1939 and revisit old friends as they embark on more amateur sleuthing. Irrepressible Lady Juliet is taking a correspondence course in private detection and is vexed by the return of her soon-to-be-ex-husband. Meanwhile, not only has Ben failed to realize the depth of her feelings for him, but his obsession with Lucy, the Fenton House ghost, is growing stronger.
When a bloodless, half-naked corpse is discovered in a great house in a nearby village, Ben and Juliet must again follow the clues to solve the case. Join them as they pry into the secret lives of villagers in seemingly picture-perfect Barking, including a vicar who hides from his secretary, a baron haunted by the Great War, and a butler who just might have done it.
Brimming with romance, historical details, and warm humor, Divorce Can Be Deadly is already being called “worth the wait!”
The book is currently publishing on other platforms and should be available soon for Nook devices, the Apple store, Kobo, and Google Play. Watch this space and I’ll let you know!
Don’t forget you can also preorder Dr. Bones and the Christmas Gift on most platforms. It will go live on December 23rd and take up right after the events of Divorce Can Be Deadly. Click below on your preferred vendor:
Filed under: amazon, Apple, barnes & noble, Books, Britain, Christmas, Dr. Benjamin Bones, Dr. Benjamin Bones Mysteries, Emma Jameson, England, ghosts, iBooks, Kindle, nook, Publishing, Second World War, UK, World War II, Writing Tagged: Apple, Books, Christmas, cozy mystery, ebook, England, fiction, new book release, new mysteries, novel, wartime romance, world war II
December 3, 2016
Hello, all! I’m sure you can guess what I’ll be doing this weekend. Continuing to finalize Divorce Can Be Deadly, and watching tomorrow night’s Westworld finale. In the meantime, I have good news: Dr. Bones and the Christmas Wish is now available for pre-order. Many of you have requested pre-orders in the past, but I’ve always been wary. This will be my first attempt. As for DCBD, it will go live the moment it’s finished, I promise.
To order Dr. Bones and the Christmas Wish, click to visit one of these vendors:
Here’s the details:
Dr. Benjamin Bones had no opinion on Christmas. That is to say, he had no polite opinion on Christmas. His actual opinion, the one he knew better than to say aloud, was that Christmas was a disappointment, a raising of hopes only to dash them, a festival of flash and dazzle which, come January, was hard to pay for and even harder to justify. That was Christmas: disappointment, with a price tag.
So begins Dr. Bones and the Christmas Wish, a charming romantic short story set in the tiny Cornish village of Birdswing, 1939. Readers who enjoyed the Dr. Benjamin Bones Mysteries, Marriage Can Be Murder (#1) and Divorce Can Be Deadly (#2), will adore this holiday tale of love lost and love found featuring Dr. Bones and Lady Juliet.
I hope you’ll enjoy this novella set in wartime England, 1939. Please note the story takes place after the second book in the Dr. Bones series, Divorce Can Be Deadly. It’s not essential that you read that first, but I highly recommend it to get maximal pleasure from the story.
Filed under: amazon, Apple, barnes & noble, Christmas, Dr. Benjamin Bones, Emma Jameson, iBooks, iTunes, Kindle, nook, Second World War, UK, Westworld Tagged: amateur sleuths, amazon, Apple, Books, Christmas, Christmas romance, Christmas wishes, Romance, wartime romance
November 23, 2016
Photo: My collection
So most every year around this time, I like to post about things I’m grateful for. It’s essential to say this isn’t a comprehensive list. It’s just a taste of all the good things in my life.
I’m Thankful For…
My vision. As many of you know, I now see mostly with my left eye. However, the right eye has a tiny tunnel of vision (thanks to my excellent surgeon Dr. David R.). Because the last two surgeries played havoc with my eye muscles, it’s taking awhile for my eyes to become “straight” again–to work in unison. But it’s happening, and every week I can do more on the computer without getting a blinding headache.
My readers. I cannot express how grateful I am to each and every one of you. I was a slow writer before all this health stuff started, and it’s been a little scary to find myself so far behind. Yet virtually every communication I’ve received from you has been positive, supportive, and kindhearted. Thank you so much for sticking with me. There will be a book and a short story from me soon, I promise.
Photo: My collection
Cornwall. It was everything I dreamed of, and more. I can’t wait to return, hopefully in 2018. We’ll see how things go.
Game of Thrones. Yes, I know. Aren’t I silly? But my mom and I had so much fun watching the series together, one episode a week, all year long. There’s nothing like bonding over beheadings.
My friends. You know who you are. I am so richly blessed in friendship. Some of you I’ve known since childhood. Some I made as an author, some I met on Facebook, and some are from my own neighborhood. If I need to talk, there’s always someone I can turn to, by phone, email, text, or in person. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Jackson Galaxy and My Cat from Hell. I should have started watching this years ago. It’s a joy to see my three cats much happier and getting along.
Westworld. Yeah, baby. Anthony Hopkins. Evan Rachel Wood. Ed Harris. Thandie Newton. I can’t think of anything else to say. That should be enough.
James McAvoy. Soon to be appearing in the movie Split. Can’t wait to see it.
November 3, 2016
Hello! For those readers who don’t follow me on Facebook, a quick update: The first half of Divorce Can Be Deadly has been edited and critiqued by my experts. I am working feverishly on the second half, so it can receive the same scrutiny. It won’t be much longer, and that’s why I declined to write a blog post about Westworld 1.4 (“Dissonance Theory”) or 1.5 (“Contrapasso”). But I have the bare bones of yet ANOTHER Man in Black (MiB) theory that I want to share. As usual, my speculation is loaded with spoilers, so please don’t continue if you haven’t caught up.
Now. We all remember this guy, right?
Photo: MGM Home Entertainment
Yul Brenner’s performance in the original film Westworld (1973) is arguably the best part of a fondly remembered sci-fi romp. I tuned into HBO’s Westworld expecting a similar gunslinger, and I got him in Ed Harris. One look at Harris in costume, complete with black hat and black horse, and you just know you’re looking at a formidable villain.
Or are you?
Let’s review his appearance on the scene. He taunts Teddy (who we originally believed to be a human visitor) and shoots him. Then he grabs a screaming, pleading Dolores by the hair and drags her into the barn, presumably to have his way with her. He says something like, “You think I paid all this money because I want it easy? I want you to fight.” We never see what happens, but we assume Dolores is raped and killed (in the sense that hosts can be killed), and the MiB is a sadist who visits Westworld to exercise his cruelest instincts.
Later, we see a bit more of what happened inside the barn. The MiB takes out his enormous hunting knife (which I originally took as a bit of Freudian symbolism) and says something like, “We’re going all the way back to the beginning.”
Until now, I’ve assumed Dolores’s father triggered her growing self-awareness with the phrase (voice command?) “The violent delights have violent ends.” But what if the MiB did it? And could the knife somehow be involved?
Recalling Maeve’s flashback to a prior incarnation, we see her cornered by the MiB. He pulls the knife as he advances. Again, the obvious assumption is, he’s going to rape and kill her. But does that fit into what we’ve learned about him?
We’ve spent a lot of time with William. Many viewers, including me, think William’s story only seems to be running concurrently with, say, Elsie’s realization that the self-destroying host carried a secret transmitter. Due to various clues, we think William’s story is a flashback to thirty years ago, just before the mysterious “critical failure.” William clearly has a thing for Dolores, and he’s discovered a knack for excelling in Westworld. Perhaps when the MiB mentioned “All the way back to the beginning,” this is what he met.
William is a kind, decent, fair-minded person. Of course, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t transformed himself into a reprehensible beast over the intervening thirty years. But another guest recognized him and tried to thank him because his foundation “literally saved” the guest’s sister. So in the real world, at least, the MiB does good things.
In Westworld 1.5, the MiB tells Teddy he once cut open an early host model and found a mechanical marvel within. He then says something like, “What would I find if I cut you open?” I can’t help but think the knife is more than a knife, but not the way Freud meant. Even Dr. Ford, who seems to harbor some antipathy for the MiB, examined it with some interest, as seen below.
So if the MiB was once William, and he’s been coming to the park for thirty years, and now he doesn’t plan to leave (as he said in WW 1.1), what’s his endgame? In my previous blog post, I floated the idea of consciousness-transfer: he wants to put his essence into Westworld and live forever, either in one host body or many. Now I wonder, despite his all-black costume that hearkens to Yul Brenner’s… are his motives more aligned with his real-life role as a philanthropist? Perhaps he’s dying, and has no wish to live as Dr. Ford described in 1.1, clinging to life through technology. And perhaps he’s returned to Westworld with the hope of a grand selfless act: the freeing of its self-aware hosts?
I can’t wait for next Sunday night. And now… back to those rewrites.
Filed under: Emma Jameson, TV, Westworld Tagged: Anthony Hopkins, ed harris, hbo, Man in Black, MiB, Westworld, Yul Brenner
October 17, 2016
Well, it seems all my theories from last week are wrong. Unless he’s a persuasive liar (and he may be), Dr. Ford doesn’t want to create life, and I doubt Dolores means anything to him. However, I found an excellent theory about the Man in Black, and why Dolores might mean something to him. You can check it out over at Beyond Westworld.
Now here are my thoughts about the third episode, “The Stray.” As usual, this post is loaded with spoilers and intended only for those who have already watched.
I’ve always liked the expression “ghost in the machine.” When I was a teenager, the Police put out an album by that name. When I asked what it meant, someone defined it for me just as the Urban Dictionary does:
When software or hardware is made to complete a specific function, but a small percentage of the tasks completed have an unexpected result which cannot be explained.
“I launched the game a million times through that shortcut, but this time it didn’t launch for some reason… must be a ghost in the machine.”
Of course, if you dig deeper, you’ll find the term dates back to 1949, when Gilbert Ryle used it to describe mind-body duality. If the human body is a machine, and you believe humans have souls, then what truly separates us from AI is a ghost, so to speak, rattling around inside our hardware.
Last night’s episode of Westworld reminded me of that expression. Dr. Ford (Anthony Hopkins) takes Bernard into his lab, giving viewers more hints about the park in the process. Bernard is concerned about an apparent glitch among some of the hosts. One went on a rampage, carrying on a strange conversation with a nonexistent person called “Arnold” the whole time. The name means nothing to Bernard, but Dr. Ford has an answer.
According to Dr. Ford (who may or may not be a reliable narrator), he created Westworld with the help of a partner named Arnold. Dr. Ford was the realist who understood the hosts were only machines, and always would be; Arnold was the dreamer who wanted to create consciousness, not just the illusion of consciousness.
Arnold believed imbuing AI with consciousness would require 4 factors. To illustrate the notion, Dr. Ford draws a pyramid split into 4 parts. At the bottom, MEMORY; above that, IMPROVISATION; above that, SELF-INTEREST; above that … blank. Bernard asks what belongs at the top. Dr. Ford says Arnold never found out. He died in the park, and while his death was called an accident, Dr. Ford’s words and demeanor imply it was murder. The obvious conclusion is, he got too chummy with an unstable host and paid the price.
But what if Arnold wasn’t murdered? Suppose he committed suicide, of a sort? What if Arnold decided Westworld needed an upload of human consciousness–his consciousness–to provide the pyramid’s apex? The “ghost in the machine?”
After all, when Dolores overcame her programming (which had prevented her from firing a gun) and “killed” her host attacker, it was a male voice in her head that said, “Kill him.” A voice I didn’t recognize. (Though if it did belong to the Man in Black or some other character, I’m sure other fans on the web will write about it soon, if they haven’t already.)
But if I’m right, perhaps that’s why the stray host spared Hughes by mysteriously bashing his own head in? To silence a similar murderous voice?
I look forward to learning more next week! Back to those revisions on Divorce Can Be Deadly . I’m making progress, I swear!
Filed under: Emma Jameson, TV, Westworld Tagged: Anthony Hopkins, BeyondWestworld, Ghost in the Machine, Man in Black, Westworld
October 8, 2016
I’m enjoying Westworld so far! Of course, you probably guessed that I would give anything starring Anthony Hopkins a look. But it didn’t take long for me to fall under Westworld’s spell. As I do with Game of Thrones, I want to discuss the specifics of BOTH episodes, so if you haven’t seen them, my standard admonition applies: beware. This post is loaded with spoilers and unfounded speculation.
Question 1: Where is the story set?
The future, clearly. Westworld appears to be an interactive hologram, a massive version of Star Trek’s holodeck, and it’s populated by AI embodied not in plastic and circuits, like Yul Brenner in the 1973 movie, but in artificial flesh and blood. Westworld’s creator, Dr. Robert Ford (), says, “We can cure any disease, keep even the weakest of us alive, and one fine day, perhaps we can even resurrect the dead, call forth Lazarus from his cave. Do you know what that means? That means we’re done. This is as good as we’re going to get.”
But beyond the artificial environs of Westworld itself, where are the principals? If it’s a building, well, sub-level B has at least 83 floors. If it overlooks a peaceful vista (as seen during a conversation between Theresa, the head of security, and Lee, the head writer), that vast landscape contains no cities or signs of human life.
My guess? Earth is no longer habitable. The main action takes place on a space station. Westworld may be generated inside the station, or it might be placed slightly out of phase, occupying the station yet separated.
Question 2: What happened during that critical failure thirty years ago?
In episode two, newcomer William is greeted in a steely welcome center with numerous escalators and AI hosts. In episode one, way down on sub-level B, Dr. Bernard Lowe and his security escort pass through what looks like the remnants of a smaller welcome center. There is a ruined fountain with a globe that says Delos (the name of the company). So it appears that the critical failure went all the way to the welcome center.
We also know that Westworld’s mysterious Man in Black (a deliciously evil ) has been coming to the park for thirty years. Which brings us to another question.
Question 3: Who is the Man in Black?
He’s a sadist. He seems to particularly enjoy harming women. He knows the world so well, he understands every character’s backstory and seems almost frustrated by their limited memories. When a park technician notes that he’s “killed” a lot of hosts, the reply is something like, “Give that gentleman whatever he wants.”
So the easy answer is, he’s Westworld’s best customer. But why does the show refer to him as the Man in Black? Why is he listed in the credits that way?
I suspect it’s because the Man in Black is someone very important. Theresa observes in 1.1 that Westworld is one thing to the guests, another to the shareholders, and another to the creative braintrust. I think the Man in Black might be someone high in the company, perhaps the chairman of the board.
In episode 2, he says he’s never going back to the real world. What’s his end game? That brings me to the final question.
Question 4: What do the major players want?
Delores () is almost certainly heading toward revolution. But is it a coincidence that she is the oldest host, never decommissioned after thirty years of service, or that her name is quite similar to the company name, Delos? Probably not. We’ve seen that Dr. Ford still meets with his second oldest host, the decommissioned Wild Bill. Does Delores represent something for Dr. Ford—a recreation of a lost love, etc.?
Perhaps. I think Dr. Ford’s primary desire is to create life that possesses completely free will. His software update, the “reveries” that supposedly comprise a mistake, are perhaps a deliberate attempt to hasten this final progression.
What about Dr. Bernard Lowe? We know he’s been having secret conversations with Delores. We know he carries a photograph of a young boy, and that he lives alone. I think perhaps the child is dead, and Dr. Lowe’s desire is to resurrect him.
And the Man in Black? Can it really be that all he wants is a permanent vacation in Westworld?
I look forward to finding out. If you subscribe to HBO and want to watch episode 2 early, head to HBO GO. As for me, I’ll get back to writing. Happy weekend!
Filed under: Westworld Tagged: Anthony Hopkins, Delos Corporation, ed harris, Evan Rachel Wood, hbo, hbogo, television, TV, TV shows, Westworld