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It’s About Time

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Someone asked me this week how I manage to find time for writing. It’s a good question.

Like many people, I have a lot going on, and my days are quite full. The person didn’t really want an answer I don’t think, but I immediately thought of this quote from Nora Roberts, though at the time I couldn’t remember how it went exactly or who said it.

Because of the challenge I set myself to write daily, I have made a conscious effort to make the time to write, even if it is just ten minutes before I go to sleep. I would wholeheartedly agree that has not been through time I found, but was always time I made to focus on writing and nothing else.

Well, at least I endeavor to focus on nothing else. ;)

I’ll confess this week has not been the best for my writing. While I have gotten writing done, I haven’t had very good direction to what I am writing. It got me to thinking that it isn’t just the amount of time I make to write but the quality of the time I spend writing.

I am working out a plan for how to maximize my time by prepping ahead of time for whatever I plan to write that night.

I have some open time at my son’s football practice where it isn’t practical to write, but I could use that time to develop characters a bit more or begin brainstorming new scenes.

I have a lot of time spent in the car going to and from work. I could use that time better to think about what I am going to write instead of zoning out, which does seem to happen sometime. :)

I have found myself thinking a lot about time lately. I’ve not just thought about how I spend my time but about the theme of time I’ve been attracted to in books and poems I have read. I find the poems that touch on time have really resonated with me. It’s not surprising, since my time is at such a premium it seems lately, but also because I am just at an age where I am beginning to grasp that I don’t have an unlimited amount of time ahead of me. How I spend my time, therefore, has added weight.

So every ten minutes I make to write is ten minutes I am investing in creating something which is important to me. It is ten minutes I might otherwise have let go towards worry or to something else intangible.

W.H. Auden’s poem As I Walked Out One Evening, (read by Tom Hiddleston on the really lovely iF Poems app) is a favorite of mine. Auden beautifully tackles the theme of Time. I have several lines I especially love, one being:

In headaches and in worry
Vaguely life leaks away,
And Time will have his fancy
To-morrow or to-day.

I love this because of the reminder that I can let my time drift away with no purpose but to be wasted on little stresses that will pass, or, instead, I can make time for the things that are important to me, like getting words on a page. Even if those words aren’t Auden or Shakespeare or anything close , it is still important to me.

So I will make time.

Hopefully you are making time for the little things that are important to you, as well as those big ones that fill so much of our time, like family and friends.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. :)

I hope everyone has a great week!

One Lovely Blog Award Blog Hop

One Lovely Blog Award Blog Hop

I have been very fortunate since starting my writing challenge, and subsequently starting a blog and joining Twitter, to have found some really great people through their Tweets and their blogs. It’s been a real joy to find people who share the same love of writing and books that then tweet and blog about their experiences, and like me just share their lives, too.

One such person I’ve “met” in the Twitter-verse is Bill Cunningham, who was kind enough to read my blog and kinder still to say he enjoyed it. He also just nominated me for the One Lovely Blog Award on his blog, which you should check out because it’s quite good.  You can also follow him on twitter at @cunninghamb103

I’ve done another blog hop award for the Versatile Blogger award awhile back, which you can read here. Like that one, this award comes with the challenge to share 7 things about me that you wouldn’t know and then to nominate other bloggers whose blogs I think you should go check out.  I’ve listed a few I’ve included previously, but also quite a few I’ve found through following other writers on Twitter, so I’ve also included their Twitter handles.  Be sure to follow them there as well. :)

If I’ve nominated you, do not feel obligated to continue the blog hop, but if you do, please link back to my blog as the person who nominated you.  I’d appreciate it. :)

So here goes – 7 things you may not know about me:

1) I have two rescue dogs, one is a terrier mix mutt that is my oldest son’s dog and the other is a sweet old chocolate lab. She’s the only other girl in the house so I love her. :)

2) I love movies that are based on Jane Austen books. Ang Lee’s Sense & Senisibility is a favorite, as is Joe Wright’s Pride & Prejudice.

3) Kindness is key. One of my all time favorite quotes is:

Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind, the second is to be kind and the third is to be kind.
– Henry James

Really isn’t that what it is all about?

4) A Favorite Writing Resource -

Steven King’s book On Writing. Uncle Stevie is chock full of great advice and good stories. Highly recommend.

5) I love HBO series like Boardwalk Empire, which is beautifully shot and full of great characters. I am a little mad still about a character that got killed off at the end of last season, but I am trying to move on. ;)

6) I’ve started learning Krav Maga.  What is Krav Maga?  Krav Maga is a generic Hebrew word meaning “contact fighting”. At the school I’m attending, it’s a self defense and fighting system.  I’ve only just started, but I am looking forward to learning. I may certainly not have sought out the class on my own and may have been inclined to say, “Well that’s not me”, but as I wrote in my Me Before You book review, I really am trying to open up my definition of what’s me by trying new things. And if nothing else comes of it, maybe something I learn will show up in something I write.

7) Here is something I think is a great guide for life – especially life in what we share on the interwebs. There are more than enough haters and lots of hating, but let’s focus on what we love.

Celebrate What You Love
Instead of Bashing What You Hate

Thanks for reading & have a great week!

Blogs I nominate for One Lovely Blog Award:

1) Ellen Mulholland @thisgirlclimbs

2) Ainsley Wynter @AinsleyWynter

3) Emma Wicker @ELWicker

4) Garry @gjscobie

5) Anna Langford @MsAnnaLangford

6) JHMae @byjhmae

7) Danielle Hanna@danielleLHanna

8) Jackson Dean Chase @Jackson_D_Chase

9) Linda Myers @lindabmyers

10) Emilia Leigh @Emilia_Leigh

11) Kristi Lazzari @KristiLazzari

12) Lunatic Poet @JesiScott

13) Amanda S. Green@AmandaSGreen

14)Larry Atchely Jr @LarryAtchleyJr

15) Fiction and Food Not on Twitter, that I know of, but her blog is awesome :)

16) Wordsplash – also not on Twitter, but a great blog and great writer.  Always so supportive, I appreciate her a great deal.  Check her out.

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It’s about to get crazy

Tomorrow, football season starts for my oldest son. We have practice four nights a week for two hours for three weeks, then three nights for an hour and a half for the rest of the season. Plus games on Saturday and random events/fundraising. He’s 9. And I have two other sons starting martial arts. And a little thing called school with lots of reading and homework. So… my life is about to get really crazy. :)

I am going to need to really work hard to keep up with all of that AND stick to my writing challenge. But the great thing about having a goal, and sharing it with others, is that you have a way to keep moving ahead when things get crazy.

A friend posted this great quote on Facebook today:

Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.
– Henry Ford

I may get busy ( or rather, busier ), but I will keep my eyes on the goal.

Have a great week y’all and I’ll catch you next Sunday after I have made it through our first week back to football. :)

PS – I saw 30 Seconds to Mars in concert for the first time last night and it was such a fun time! I became a fan in the last year or so. You can read a tiny bit of my 30 Seconds to Mars love in my A is for Alibi post from earlier this year. Seeing them live was great. And they played part of the song Hurricane, which is one of my favorites!!

I will have to see them again and I will have to get seats closer to the stage next time. If you wanna go see a cool show – be sure to check them out.

And Jared Leto – he is awesome. :)

Me Before You

 

I just recently finished reading Me Before You, a popular book by JoJo Moyes which was recommended to me by several friends.  Since finishing the book, people have asked me, “Was it good?”

It depends on what makes a book good.

Is a book good when you don’t want to stop reading, when you are filled with curiosity about what will happen next and are anxious to see how it will end?  Then this was a great book.  I really didn’t want to stop reading it the few times I had to set it down and I frequently found myself throughout the workday wondering what would happen next.

Or is a book good when you love the whole story and how it ended?  Then no, it was not a good book. I have mixed feelings about how the book ended so overall have mixed feelings about the book. If asked if I liked it, it’s hard for me to say simply yes or no.

But maybe it is that indecision and continued thought after finishing the book that makes it a good book.  Maybe the fact that I didn’t simply put it down and move on without any further thought makes it a success. 

Me Before You is billed as “heart-breaking”, “romantic”, and generally a weep-fest.  I did cry a bit, but found myself more frustrated than moved.

Our main characters are Louisa Clark, who in need of a job, accepts one as a caregiver to Will Traynor, a wealthy quadriplegic man who used to live a very large life and now struggles with living a smaller, more painful one.

Moyes puts a lot into the book that makes you think. Reading Me Before You made me think of a favorite quote about one of the joys of reading: 

A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man’s mind can get both provocation and privacy. ~Edward P. Morgan

Moyes gives us both fragile thoughts and explosive ideas.  I’ll tackle the fragile thought first, as it was what I liked most about the book and why I would recommend it.  The explosive idea is morally and politically charged as well as filled with “spoilers” – as River Song might say in Doctor Who ( sorry I have a house full of Whovians at the moment and I can hear her voice saying spoilers, spoilers).

The fragile thought for me, that touched me, looked at how we define ourselves, our lives, our limits. Will Traynor challenges Lou to live a bigger life, not limiting herself to the tiny world and life she had defined for herself.  While I may not have connected with Will’s character, as I’ll discuss more later, one thing I did appreciate about Will was the way he challenged her tendency to say “That’s not me.”  Louisa’s response to things she hadn’t done before, like going to the orchestra or scuba diving was often, “Well that’s not me.”  When Will basically dares her to try things, and then provides her not only the opportunity but a strong motivation to try them, she begins to see herself differently. The Louisa Clark we meet in the beginning is a very different one than we see at the end, and I liked her journey. It made me ask myself, “What am I missing out on by telling myself, ‘That’s not me’.”?  I love that a book can open up new thoughts like that. 

The explosive idea (spoiler alert) is with Will’s decision to end his life through assisted suicide.  While I’ve read some very heated responses to the morality or politics of the “right to die” or “right to choose” or however you want to define the idea of whether a person should be able to receive medical assistance to end their own life, I don’t want to get into a debate about the big concept.  I think people will have very strong opinions about whether it is right or wrong, should be legal or should not be legal, and then even further into other related issues.  I don’t really want to go there.  Though many certainly will, and would argue it’s an important discussion to have. Perhaps.  I just don’t want to have it.

I’d like to speak very specifically about Will’s choice.  Not whether he should be allowed to have the choice. 

Why I struggled with this book and felt like flinging it across the room in the end was because Will was so determined to end his life and would not be swayed from that decision.  His argument was that it was the last choice that he was able to make for himself.  I’m sorry, but that’s BS.  He could choose to make the most of the life he had.  He still had his mind.  He wouldn’t even consider the possibility of trying to make a life work.  He gets a tattoo at one point in the book that I absolutely HATED.  The tattoo was “Best Before” and the date of his accident.  As if his life expired when he had the accident that disabled him.  All he can see is the life he used to live and the greatness of that life.  He cannot see beyond the limitation and pain of his new life.  Okay, I will concede that yes, that must suck.  You go from being the king of the world to having to have someone else be responsible for you basic physical needs.  He could no longer travel, climb mountains, ride motorcyles and have sex.  Yes, that would be awful.  But to not just joke but to believe that he was best before his accident and no longer wants to live because he can’t have those things is to take for granted what he still has or could have. 

Will and his family have the means to provide him the best care possible.  Will has full use of his mind and could use much available to him to still do something with his life.  Will has people who care about him, including a woman who loves him and wants to help enrich his life.  He has life.  I was so frustrated with this book because of his refusal to even consider that his life could still be good despite the incredible difficulties and limitations. 

Maybe it is the part of me that is an optimist that hated his pessimism (or even realism if you want to look at it that way).

Maybe it is the part of me that loves to see people rise up in difficult circumstances that hated his decision to end his life because it was difficult.  I want to read about a person who fights against difficult odds, overcomes insurmountable obstacles, and is ‘bloody, but unbowed.” 

I do not, and did not, want to read about a character who believes the best of his life is over and the rest of his life has no value.

And then he focuses his determination toward ending his life, despite how he knows it will hurt those around him.  I couldn’t like Will for all of these reasons.

I find it interesting that Moyes never gives us a chapter from Will’s perspective after his accident.  We get bits from the POV of most of the characters, but not Will.  I wonder why Moyes chooses to limit his POV chapter to only before the accident.  I have to say it contributed to my inability to connect with his character.

But do I have to like Will to like the book? No.  So was it good?  Yes, for making me want to read and making me think after.  But if someone asks me if I like it – my answer is no.  Because of Will.  Because of his decision.

Feel free to share with me (not political or moral outrage please) how you felt about the book.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Read on for a related note on this book from my Fangirling world.

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Part of the reason I read the book was because there are rumors that Tom Hiddleston has been considered or suggested for the part. Here, for my fangirl friends, are my thoughts on Tom in this role.

Tom is extremely talented and this could be an excellent vehicle for him to show off his talent.  He communicates much through his eyes and face alone, so playing a role where his face and eyes would be pretty much what he’d be limited to would show off his skill.

It’s also not hard to imagine Tom as the larger than life pre-accident Will that is an upper crust British gentleman or to imagine our devastation at seeing him broken.  I am certain Tom in this role would add a whole other layer to the story that I don’t know that I’d honestly want to explore. There is little possibility that we would not care about Will.  I’m certain Tom would fill in a lot of the holes in that character that I feel were present in the book.  I’m afraid I would love Will like Lou did and I would indeed be a weeping mess at the end when they say goodbye.

If Tom were Will I am sure I would care in a whole different way than I did in the book. 

And that is just one reason I don’t want him to play the role.

I think that whoever takes on this role will be thrust into the kind of discussions I’ve wanted to avoid when discussing this book.  People may ask if because of his decision to play the role, does he then support the choice Will made?  Certainly Tom is intelligent enough and articulate enough to make whatever argument he would choose to make, but I don’t know that I want to see the idiocy that may become prevalent on social media if he stars in this movie.

One of the reasons I am a huge Hiddleston fan is because of his positive and joyful spirit.  Many quotes are full of optimism and I love that. A favorite quote is:

“Never, ever let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do. Prove the cynics wrong. Pity them for they have no imagination.  The Sky’s the Limit. Your Sky. Your Limit.”

I know actors play characters that aren’t like themselves.  I know Tom has played characters that aren’t like him.  I know that. I just don’t like the idea of this character in his collection of characters. I don’t want him inhabiting a character who would value life so little.  I just don’t want it. 

But if he does, I am sure I will watch. I am sure I will weep. But I kinda hope I don’t have to.

A Night Out With The Girls and The Phantom of The Opera

This week I had the opportunity to see a production of The Phantom of the Opera at the Winspear Opera House in Dallas, TX.

If you live in or are visiting Dallas, the Winspear is well worth checking out. The building itself is an architectural beauty in downtown Dallas from the outside, but is equally lovely inside. Before entering the performance hall, you can mill about with others by the wall of windows looking out into downtown, get wine in re-usable sippy cups (no lie, but hey I wasn’t complaining), and pose for pictures against the shiny red wall. At least that’s what we did. For the crowd claustrophobic, like myself, it can get a little crazy waiting for elevators, or queuing up for wine, or when exiting post-performance, but they were well staffed to help move people through to where they need to go.

The best part of the night, for me, was that I saw the musical with the majority of the women in my family: my mom, my sister, my cousin, my sister-in-law and my two beautiful nieces. We all got (sorta) dressed up, had dinner and drinks downtown near the Winspear & then headed to the Phantom. We had never had a night out on the town together like this before, so for this reason alone, the night was a success.

I was very excited for The Phantom, as I have seen it live only once before when I was in London many years ago. Then I have only also watched the movie with Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum. So I know the story, the characters and the music. I love the music. And here I will admit to being very spoiled, having listened to Michael Crawford’s Music of The Night. That man is difficult to beat.

Despite the beautiful venue and the great company with whom I attended the performance, I was disappointed in the production. The stage had a ton of bells and whistles, always moving from scene to scene, literally moving and opening and shifting. It seemed there were very few still moments on the stage. While it was easy to “see” the scene because of the details of the stage, it was hard to see much else. I am no expert on staging, but I have seen it done well with great simplicity This year I have seen Donmar Warehouse’s Coriolanus (via National Theatre Live)and Trinity Shakespeare Festival’s The Tempest, both on very small stages where grand stories were told with very simple sets. I believe it can take very little to suggest a lot, if done well. If the story takes center stage, that is how you will have me.

The music was what I’ve always heard and I couldn’t help but enjoy Andrew Lloyd Webber’s big musical moments, like Masquerade, but overall they all felt a bit hollow. For all the activity on the stage and vivid backgrounds, the heart of the story was lost. I didn’t connect to the characters. The transitions from scene to scene were sometimes quite abrupt and several times I wondered, “Wait, what? How did we get here?” There was no flow.

Probably the biggest issue for me was that the story of the main characters, Christine, The Phantom, and Raoul, which should be the most compelling, felt thrown together as an afterthought to the stage and the need to get all the musical numbers together.

I realized while watching how very important a connection to the characters is to me. And I was ultimately disappointed in this production of The Phantom of the Opera, not because of a lack in the music, which, for the most part, delivered, but for missing the heart of the story.

Perhaps we caught it on a bad night. They did start 20 minutes past the scheduled performance time, and it looked like there were a few small technical glitches on the stage during the show, so maybe there was something off for them all night.

I can only say that for me, it was as my sister said, “underwhelming”.

But the Winspear was beautiful and the night out with the girls was great.

Have you seen a great production of the Phantom of the Opera? What really made it great for you? Tell me about it in the comments!

My Writers (Mini-) Workshop Experience

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Today I had the opportunity to attend a mini- workshop put on by the leader of the local library writer’s group to which I belong. The workshop focused on the building blocks of novel writing: plot, characters, setting, point of view, and all the little details that go together to make a novel work.

Most of the material wasn’t new, as we have covered a lot in the course of the year and a half I’ve been in the group. But it was helpful to put it all together at one time and to share the experience with the diverse group of writers we had in attendance.

During parts of the workshop we were given small little exercises to apply the lesson we were covering at the time, such as “Use this room as a setting for your current WIP.” Or “How could you switch Point of View in current project or in a book you love to improve or change it up?”

One of the things I loved most about the exercises was hearing everyone’s take on the same exercise and how representative the results were of who they are as a writer.

The setting exercise for the Fantasy writer became not the room we were in as I would see it, but as he would imagine it to fit his story. The fluorescent lights didn’t work so it was torch lit. The sounds weren’t kids milling about outside the library conference room but creaky wooden floors as characters paced about in heavy boots.

The non-fiction/Motivational Self Help writer described the room quite beautifully as an incubator for great ideas.

Our Young Adult novelist pictured her character looking in the glass window to the room, filled with curiosity about who and what was in the room.

Each response was similarly fitting to the author’s work. I loved watching that play out because I think we all struggle a bit with finding our own identity as a writer.

Maybe we feel we don’t have a voice as a writer.

Maybe we feel we don’t have a story to tell.

Maybe we feel we lack the talent or the nerve to tell it.

Whatever the doubt may be, the exercises today painted a picture for me of how a writer’s identity can emerge when given the freedom to trust his/her instincts. Of course our leader talked about knowing what the rules are, but once you have all those building blocks, it comes down to trusting your instincts to know what you need to write. So what I walked away with today was that our identity as a writer comes out when we trust ourselves.

Rather than say, I don’t have anything to say, remind yourself that no one else can say what you can, the way you can.

Instead of saying I don’t have the talent to write my story, remember that the only way to uncover talent is to dig in and learn the craft as you continue the work.

I don’t have everything down, I still have lots to learn, I still struggle with doubts, but I know I have stories to tell and I need to tell them. Today’s workshop helped get me closer to embracing my own identity as a writer by reminding me to trust my instincts.

Hopefully you will, too.

Have a great week. :)

Technical difficulties

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We were without internet at our house for over 24 hours this weekend.

One would have thought my children were deprived of food, water or shelter with the level of suffering they claimed to be enduring.

When we finally got our internet back the victorious cry was one you might expect at the end of a movie when the good guys defeat the bad guys threatening to destroy the planet.

The World is Safe! We’re gonna live!

Of course my husband and I missed the internet, too, but it amused me how the loss of internet affected so much of my kids’ routine. No Xbox live. No YouTube videos. No Doctor Who on my Kindle.

But I was sympathetic. I know how upsetting it can be when things aren’t working for you the way you want them to as I have also been facing other computer issues myself.

I bought a new laptop PC from work because the laptop I had been using fell and the screen got destroyed. I can use the laptop but only with external monitor, which means it is essentially a desktop now. It’s in my oldest’s room now.

So I am excited to have a laptop again, but I needed programs – Word being most important because I need to write.

The computer I purchased had in outdated OS. It came with Vista which apparently is compatible with … nothing! ;) Seriously though it was not working for me to get Word or Scrivener. Basically all I could do was get on the internet – when my internet was working ;)

Thankfully when I told my dad about my predicament, he had Windows 7 he bought but wasn’t able to use. Ithink I successfully updated it to new OS but I’m not certain yet.

Once I confirm if OS install successful, I will try Word & Scrivener.

So tonight my fingers are crossed that all goes well with OS install and that our internet sticks with us.

Have a great week.

PS – Happy 60th birthday to my mom!

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