Friday, April 29, 2011

The Sceptred Isle

This post is a tribute to everything British. The royal wedding was lovely, and I have to admit to tearing up a little when Will and Kate kissed on the balcony. Why? Because I was happy for the glowing bride and groom, for the people of England. Their joy was so evident.

This isn't a fairytale, it's better.

I feel a strong tie to this wonderful country. For me, it is a place of memories and dreams. Years ago, I lived in England and met my husband there. Discovered myself.

Have you seen The King's Speech? Loved it. Loved Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. Excellent writing and acting. I thought about this movie for a long time afterward. I could watch it again.

Shakespeare said it well, dear readers.

"This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection, and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,—
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England." King Richard II

God bless the sceptred isle.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Matter of Words

Yesterday, I finished revising a manuscript of 427 pages, 96,207 words. I accomplished this over the course of a week, with a birthday and a wedding thrown in there to keep my on my toes. One night I stayed up until four in the morning, rising at six to get my family ready for school and then returning to the revision project two hours later. When I reached The End, I was elated. I've always identified strongly with the characters in Charm Bracelet, and I felt the corrections did them credit. I love this story. The literary references, the dialogue, the message of redemption and happiness where none were expected.

A couple of hours after finishing, I became very sad. Let's face it, when you create a world you enjoy, it's hard to let it go. To say goodbye to people who seem so real but aren't. How I wish they were. Maybe I'll revise this story again next year . . .

Have you ever felt this way? Longing for the editing work to be done and yet, mourning a bit when it is.

My husband and I took his parents to see the Carl Bloch exhibit. It was even better for me on this third visit. While at the museum, I found another interesting display. A Matter of Words by Adam Bateman, Harrell Fletcher, and John Fraser. It is minimalist, modernist, and conceptual art. Very clever, entertaining, and definitely worth seeing. The above work especially caught my eye. It was a large tower of carefully stacked books. After the exhibit has finished touring, these books will be donated to the Wordwide Book Drive.

It was interesting to watch people react to the book tower. Everyone wanted to touch it. They ignored the boundary marks, walking past the lines without a thought on their way to feel the sometimes beautiful, other times common, volumes. We're all drawn to words, stories, ideas, aren't we?

A plaque at the exhibit read, "In an age of electronic media, where the printed word is rapidly being dematerialized as a result of digital forms, "the matter of words" may soon become an outmoded concept."

A few minutes ago, I picked up a hardbound book, dazzled by the burgundy cover. It's the kind of soft glowing leather that needs to be held and used to grow in beauty. I treasure heirloom quality editions like this, and the classic brilliance inside.

While I enjoy the new digital reading systems of today, knowing they are convenient and accessible, I hope the printed word never becomes an "outmoded concept."

Read on, talented writers, and if you want to check out a great blog about art, drop in and visit Crystal Cook. She's absolutely amazing, and a wonderful writer to boot.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

La commedia e finita . . .

I was cooking Italian with my twelve-year-old son the other day. Leoncavallo's Vesti la Giubba from Pagliacchi was playing in the background. (Pavarotti does an awesome version, but my favorite is the old, grainy recording of Enrico Caruso. Talk about pain and angst.)
As we cooked the pasta, my assistant/son was entertaining me. He does a spot-on impression of Jamie Oliver. He picked up a tennis ball.

"Look at this lemon," he said, sounding a lot like Jamie. "Fresh, lovely taste. It's literally beautiful."

"Um, Jamie?" I replied. "That's not a lemon. It's a tennis ball."

"What are you going on about, woman? Are you mad? Of course it's lemon. Look at it's beautiful yellow color!"

We went on like this for a while, and it was fun. This child always surprises me. He has a great sense of humor, and he's a bit of a rebel when it comes to following the rules. Kind of like the character of Pagliacchi. He's a rebel, too. He actually speaks at the end of the opera. (You just don't do that, people. Speaking is strictly forbidden in this musical genre. That's why they sing every bit of dialogue between arias.)

Anyway, after killing his wife and her lover in a play within a play setting, the tragic clown looks out at the audience in anguish and says, "La commedia e finita!" The comedy is over. Oh, speak to me some more, Pagliacci. Don't you just love that? Awesome, awesome. Or as Mr. Oliver would say, "Literally beautiful!"

Sometimes breaking the rules makes things better. I wish I could do the stream of consciousness thing like Faulkner. I absolutely love The Sound and the Fury. It's one of my favorite books. Wish I had the guts to throw the rules out the window and create something revolutionary. I also wish that I could use description as a literary tool like Dickens, even though it's frowned upon today. Prologues, epilogues, adverbs. I'd do them all.

As Pagliacchi would say, "La norme e finita!" The rules are over.

Which ones would you break?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

SPrinG BreAk

If a picture is worth a thousand words then this is the sum of my Spring Break in a photograph. Chaos. Painting and home improvement stuff. More chaos. Writing like crazy to meet my Saturday deadline. Lots of laundry and dishes. And children like the ones above. (The guy that's hanging upside down is my son.)
You guys are awesome. I've scanned through your blogs during this hiatus, and they are often the highlight of my day. Thanks for posting and being you!

How are you doing out there? Hope you're enjoying the beginning of Spring! (my favorite season!!)

Monday, April 4, 2011

In Which an Old Muse Returns . . . Briefly.

We writers are dreamers.

Funny enough, as I was sleeping last night, I found myself sitting in my living room, wondering why I write in the genre I do. My teenage daughter walked in, looking excited, and said, "Mom, so-and-so from such-and-such agency wants to represent you. They have a publisher all lined up!" I remember feeling elated for a few seconds before saying, "This is a dream, right?" I woke up immediately after making that remark and laughed at myself.

I thought it was funny. Obviously, I worry too much about publishing success. I take that aspect of writing as a sign of vindication, as a means of showing those who have overlooked and underestimated me that I have merit in spite of what they think. (Weaving psychological need into your writing definitely tangles with your enjoyment of the craft. We shouldn't do it. It's self-defeating.)

What about just finding happiness in doing something you love? Can't that be reward enough? (Okay, maybe not. But it's still pretty great!)

This is my old muse Daniel Craig comforting me and saying, "Your story doesn't suck, love. Stop saying it does." He makes a good Bond, don't you think? (My current muse, Matilda the adorable dog, will never know about this because she is sleeping. She does this for hours and hours and hours! EVERYDAY.)
This is the angry Daniel muse. He doesn't like being ignored. When he tells you to write down that new idea, do it. Quickly.
In this picture, I've just told Dan about a plot twist I came up with. His expression really says it all, doesn't it? Usually when he looks this way, he crosses his ankles, sighs, and squints up at the heavens. Oh, I know what's going on behind those cool, blue eyes. He's thinking, "Why? Out of all the writers in all the world, why do I have this one?"

(Sorry, Matilda, but sometimes I miss Dan when you're snoring away in that chair.)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Of Painting, Rabbit Holes, and Phantoms . . .

I am not dead, rest assured, but I am tired enough to be in a coma.

The result of my being a painting fool for the last two weeks? My older sons now sleep in a cranberry-red room with brilliant white crown molding and bead board. My daughter's bedroom resembles a gift box from Tiffany's, all sophisticated blue and white.

I've learned a few things from these projects. Firstly, I'm getting too old for this DIY stuff. It's hard. And always takes longer than you think it will. I also love edging the walls free hand. No taping things off to avoid seepage for me. I use a small, slanted paint brush, and focus on that straight line as though all the world has disappeared except for the two of us. Very therapeutic and calming actually.

I do well at painting for the first two-thirds of the room. After that, my energy level takes a hit, and I need a diet Coke break with lots of ice cubes and a twisty straw. I then drink my beverage and study the remaining, unpainted third. It seems so long to finish, and a niggling voice in the back of mind gives me permission to put it off. 'I can do it tomorrow, can't I?' Things don't go well if I listen to that voice. But if I push on for a bit longer and continue painting, my motivation returns and I reach my goal. You could switch this whole bartering process with manuscript revision and it would be the same!

I listened to Pavarotti while working. Love him and Italian opera! Nessun Dorma from Turandot boomed through the stereo speakers on repeat mode for at least an hour. It's my favorite Pavarotti, followed by Pieta Signore. I also listened to movies as I painted, and it was interesting to concentrate on the dialogue without seeing the characters on screen. Rabbit Hole with Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart was awesome. I wouldn't recommend it for painters though. It's hard to wipe tears from your eyes when your hands are speckled with red and blue. The teenager in Rabbit Hole reminded me of my son, and he killed me in every scene. Personally, I think Kidman should have won the Oscar for her work here.

Lastly, while doing trim, I watched/heard the Phantom of the Opera film with Gerard Butler. His singing was okay, not great, and still I found myself haunted by this movie. The songs went over and over in my head for days. I felt so bad for the Phantom. In spite of the fact he was scary, crazy, and did all sorts of unforgivable things. I guess that's the mark of a great villain.

Who are your favorite villains? Are you tired from working too much? Do you enjoy painting?

Have the best of all possible weekends, friends.