Friday, August 28, 2015
Flying With Mary Poppins
Last night, I saw a community production of Mary Poppins that blew my socks off. I can’t say enough about the acting, singing, dancing, or sets, but it was during the instances when Mary Poppins took flight that I felt a surge of “practically perfect” happiness. The only thing that made me fly higher was watching the face of a four-year-old child sitting in the row in front of me.
The little girl was the youngest of three sisters. Seated in the third row, directly behind the family, I was concerned when I realized her parents placed her between her sisters rather than next to them. Was she the buffer to keep the older children from fighting? How could the parents possibly reach and control her if she became bored?
I had my answer during the overture when she crawled over one sister and plopped into her mother’s lap. For the remainder of the performance, she quietly was shuffled between her mother and father. In the comfort of their arms, her attention was glued to the stage for the first act, but she became restless after intermission. That is, until she sensed the actress playing Mary Poppins positioning herself on the edge of the stage, in the semi-darkness, a few feet from our seats. A moment later, when a now spotlighted Mary Poppins rose and flew over the audience – pausing for a second to smile down from directly above the little girl’s seat – the child’s eyes grew wide with wonder, awe, and the making of a permanent memory for both of us.
Hopefully, she will always remember the night she saw Mary Poppins fly. May I, as a writer, cling to the memory of how a child became engaged by the magic of storytelling.
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Friday, August 21, 2015
I May Have Put a Curse on Someone
REPLY TO COMMENTS (because Blogger still hates me):
Sorry I'm so late getting back to everyone, but today was another doctor's appointment, so I've been gone all afternoon.
Pam, thank you for the hugs and prayers. I can always use them.
Thank you, Kathy and Marilyn!
Judith, I really didn't mean to.
Kathy, both of them did. Yay!
Ritter, you are so right about all three.
Doward, I try to avoid physical violence because the cancer meds increase irritability and I might accidentally kill someone.
Thank you, Alice!
Thanks, Mary. I know allergies must be awful. That's one load I don't have to carry, and for that, I'm very grateful.
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Why Reading Is Good for Us
1. Reading is an effective way to overcome stress. Researchers at the University of Sussex found that reading relaxed the heart rate and muscle tension faster than other activities often said to be de-stressors—for example taking a walk, listening to music, and drinking tea. Note that the research was done in England, a bastion of tea drinkers, so this is really saying something shocking.
Kay Kendall is a long-time fan of historical novels and writes atmospheric mysteries that capture the spirit and turbulence of the sixties. She is a reformed PR executive who lives in Texas with her husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Terribly allergic to her bunnies, she loves them anyway! Her book titles show she's a Bob Dylan buff too. RAINY DAY WOMEN published on July 7--the second in her Austin Starr Mystery series. The audio-book will debut soon.
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
August is a Busy Month
First one of come up is my eldest daughter's wedding anniversary. She married her high school sweetheart who was going into the Army right away. (As it turned out, the Army discharged him honorable after discovering all his old motorcycle racing injuries.) They were married in the chapel on the Seabee base (Hubby was still active in the Seabees). Daughter made her wedding dress and some of the bridesmaids dresses. We had the reception in our family room and backyard and I prepared all the food. (Something I went on to do for all of my kids' weddings.)
Next is the daughter's birthday. She is now a grandmother of five. (Can't believe it.)
My granddaughter's hubby celebrated his 27th birhday a few days ago by going to the river (just up the hill where there's a natural water slide) with his family to play, then back to our house for dinner and cake.
Next up is that granddaughter's youngest turning one. The party was in the grands' backyard--and yes, we went.
My birthday is this month too. No, I'm not going to tell you which one--I have trouble remembering which it is anyway. Don't have anything special planned--they come around too quickly.
I'm also going to have the birth of a new book at the end of the month.
Not as it Seems is the latest in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series. It's set on the Central Coast of California--Morro Bay, Los Osos, San Luis Obispo, Pismo, Nipomo, Tempe and her husband have gone to celebrat their son Blair's wedding. Yes, there is a murder, and spirits, or course. It wouldn't be a Tempe Crabtree mystery if spirits didn't make an appearance.
Monday, August 17, 2015
State of Hope
|Phyllis A. Whitney|
I am constantly looking for a writing craft book or article, organized notebook, online class, or writing conference that will bring all the elements together to make me the writer I want to be. I search the computer and scope out the writing sections of bookstores and libraries, certain the magical resource is out there if only I can locate it.
The second part of Whitney’s book is about structuring a story and has chapters explaining how to deal with the beginning, middle, and end; add suspense and emotion; create intriguing characters; deal appropriately with time, transitions, and flashbacks; and revise. The shortest chapter provides advice on getting the book published.
Friday, August 14, 2015
Go Set a Watchman - a Draft Not a Sequel
Once upon a time, a book by Harper Lee titled To Kill a Mockingbird was published. The book was tightly written, had beautiful descriptions of the people living in a small southern town, and provided a moral compass for generations of readers. Despite the awards the book won and the adoration of the public, Ms. Lee said she wouldn’t publish another book and she held true to her word until 2015 when, after the death of her sister, who also was her personal lawyer, a manuscript “discovered” in Harper Lee’s sister’s lockbox was published.
The found manuscript, Go Set A Watchman, was explained as being the original Harper Lee version that after a year of rewriting under the guidance of her editor became the To Kill a Mockingbird published in 1960. Supposedly, her then editor felt the draft manuscript was flawed but believed the parts dealing with the main character as a child with the story told from the child’s perspective were strong enough to build a book around.
The editor was right.
My disclaimer at this point: since I began writing novels and short stories, I read differently. Rather than reading simply for enjoyment, I can’t help taking books apart structurally. Although Go Set A Watchman deals with events and characters after the time of To Kill a Mockingbird with flashbacks to the main character’s childhood, it is not a sequel. It is a draft.
Repetitive passages, instances of showing not telling, point of view shifts, and even a nickname reference without establishing a set-up for it are problematic – especially since readers are so familiar with To Kill a Mockingbird. The book isn’t bad, but it isn’t the story or even the characters associated with Mockingbird unless it is a passage dealing with the children. Those passages are engaging. A careful reader will find many full paragraphs and partial references made to events or actions that are fleshed out in the final To Kill a Mockingbird manuscript. Some characters are left out, others added and there are major differences between the arthritic Atticus of Watchman and his dignified characterization in Mockingbird. Most importantly, some of the points that Harper Lee subtlety made in lines readers recall after closing the last page of To Kill a Mockingbird can only be found in long speeches or between the lines in Go Set A Watchman.
If there had been no To Kill a Mockingbird, Watchman would have been read as a first novel with little to no lasting impact. Although Scout is a young woman in this book, to call it a sequel is a shame. It should be read and perhaps even taught in schools as what it is --- a draft that with revision eventually became a masterpiece.
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
When Characters Withhold Information
I’d been working with this character for some time now and yet, it seemed she was avoiding me. I knew the secret that kicked off her adventure and kept her driven, but it seemed as if something was missing. That there was something deeper going on—the secret beneath the secret—and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure it out. And I needed to figure it out in order to create the emotional impact I desired with the story.
I decided to interview her.
Interviewing characters is not an uncommon practice for authors. The author asks the character questions about his or her personality, and/or desires, and/or anything story related—or not story related. The process allows the author’s subconscious to surface and reveal important information not previously known. It’s not a technique I’ve had to use often, but I was tired of this particular character giving me the slip. She knew something I didn’t and, by heaven, I was going to force it out of her. After all, didn’t I have a right to know her deepest, darkest, most self-protected secret if I was going to write her story? Didn’t she owe me an explanation? I was her creator, for crying out loud.
So, I asked her what she really wanted, really, really wanted and pushed her to go beneath the surface. I confronted her about why she was not allowing me to understand her at the level I needed in order to complete the story. What happened surprised me.
She accused me of probing where I had no business probing and challenged me with, “You ever think maybe I don’t want my story made public?” Which naturally had me ask why she didn’t want people to know her story, what was she afraid of? To which she went on the attack stating she wanted to forget her past and I had no right to force her to remember.
I’d invested so much time on this character. How dare she. I mean, the story was powerful as it was, but I wanted to move it to another, more profound, level. And this character was holding out on me, I just knew it.
I threatened to get a new protagonist if she didn’t cooperate.
She attacked my goal for writing this story. Then attacked my most vulnerable writing insecurity.
I accused her of being mean and hitting below the belt.
She accused me of not facing the fact that maybe she was mean. Deep-down. A lot meaner than I’d ever imagined. “You willing to write about me now?”
To prove her point, she tossed out a grenade that blew me off my feet: somebody else killed the antagonist.
For those of you who are writers, you understand the implication of this revelation. The protagonist, and only the protagonist, is allowed to defeat the antagonist.
My character was forcing me to rewrite the entire story.
I told my character that I’d get back to her in the morning, but I let a week of passive-aggressive avoidance go by. I simmered with her revelation. And then I understood. My character did give me what I asked of her. The secret under her secret was that she believed someone else killed the protagonist. So whoa, baby. Do I have a surprise for her. Let her think what she wants. I’ll show her who’s the story master.
So, lessons learned. My characters can help me write their stories. And, I can be as STUBBORN as they.
http://tinyurl.com/cvl5why or http://tinyurl.com/bqcgywl. Marjorie invites you to visit her at www.marjoriespages.com.
Sunday, August 9, 2015
That 70s Vibe...
Her first romance was a finalist in the 2014 Golden Heart® contest. That book, A Haunting Desire, released July 28, 2015.
Julie also writes mysteries. The Deep End (available now) is her first mystery and is the winner of The Sheila Award. Look for book two, Guaranteed to Bleed, October 13, 2015.
Thursday, August 6, 2015
How We Spend Our Time
Today we're thrilled to welcome our friend, the brilliant, talented, and award-winning author, Lori Rader-Day who shares her thoughts on how we spend our time.
Take it away, Lori...
Do I set off on a multi-state bookstore tour?
Do I offer to visit every library in the state?
Do I visit all the friends I haven’t seen in two or more years, ever since I’ve had to start using all my day-job vacation time for book conferences and such?
There’s a certain itching panic involved in realizing you could do WHATEVER THE HECK YOU WANT. That you have, for possibly the first time ever, the time to focus on making your dreams come true.
I should be doing. I should be going. I should teach here, speak there, offer this, volunteer that.
And yet—what did I want from this time so much that I made the leap in the first place? What was so important to me?
I wanted the time from my time. And not time for more promotions or more blog posts (with apologies to Sparkle Abbey, for hosting me today). Time for writing.
So. Writers retreats. Should I apply for a two-week residency somewhere? I’ve never had two weeks to rub together before. It’s attractive—coming off two years without a vacation, though, I wonder if I would panic at that vast amount of alone time.
A few of my friends have taken mini-retreats to write. Book a hotel room, get away for a day or two, scribble. That sounds pretty good, too, and less of a commitment. But am I the only person who’s stayed in a hotel recently? They don’t exactly inspire me, and sometimes you get neighbors who have booked a hotel room for distinctly different pleasures than silence. Ahem.
What I want to do is create a daily retreat practice at home, based in reality and therefore perhaps more sustainable over the time I have off work and into whatever I do in the future. I know it’s crazy, but I like my husband and dog. I don’t want to spend two weeks away from them. I want to do the morning dog walk and then take my husband away from his desk for dinner. Instead of escaping from my life, what I want to do is escape into it—live it deeply and with an attention that I haven’t had in a while. Instead of retreating, actually, I want to charge forward.
So? No solutions here. Only thoughts that haven’t quite coalesced into a plan. If anyone has ideas on how to make the best use of time—golden, precious time—leave a comment. I’d love to know how you used your time best or would spend a few months of freedom if you got the chance.
By the way, thanks for spending the time you have on this post. Anne Dillard said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” We all just want to spend our days, our hours, our minutes on things that matter. I wish that for everyone.
Thanks so much for stopping by today, Lori. And readers, please be sure to check out Lori's latest book Little Pretty Things. Kirkus Reviews says: “Rader-Day…writes absorbingly.”
Wednesday, August 5, 2015
Why I Love to Read
I can’t recall a time when I didn’t love to lose myself in books. Reading is so much a part of me that I take it for granted—like breathing, sleeping, eating.