Friday, May 30, 2008

James Bond's New Novel

Call me excited. Wednesday, the 28th of May and the 100th birthday of James Bond's creator, Ian Fleming, a new Bond novel was released, further continuing the adventures of one of the world's sexiest and most deadly spies.

Written by noted English novelist Sebastian Faulks, Devil May Care hit shelves this week. Do I have it in my hot little hands? Not yet, but the weekend is here and the paycheck is in the bank. Hmm...I sense a trip to the bookstore!

While I am quite pumped to read the new novel, I am also intrigued by how it was written. Sebastian Faulks is a literary writer, (and in my opinion, quite handsome) and his novels include Birdsong and Charlotte Gray (which was turned into a movie that I absolutely loved). So choosing him as someone to emulate Ian Fleming's style might seem like a strange choice. But Fleming's family specifically wanted him to write the book. Faulks at first refused, but after he read the Bond novels again, he became intrigued with the idea.

But here is the really cool part. To write the novel, he decided to follow Fleming's process. He wrote 2,000 words a day. In an exclusive interview with the The Times, Faulks said, “You’ve got to do it all quickly. You give yourself six weeks. You write 2,000 words a day and that will give you the required length. Don’t stop. Don’t agonise. Don’t try to correct your prose as you go along. Don’t worry too much about the details. You can always revise them later and get it checked by experts.”

He even put together a "dossier" of all the required Bond elements and thoroughly studied Fleming's writing style. In the article, he says, “I think it’s standard journalistic: no semicolons, few adverbs, few adjectives, short sentences, a lot of verbs, a lot of concrete nouns. These are the tools, and that’s literally the style.”

And he felt Fleming's tone was.. “a sort of slight hauteur that was a little bit harder to catch – a little bit cold and a little bit superior in places”. To capture its cadences of “I’m more worldly than you”, Faulks “sometimes imagined myself sucking on my teeth, with perhaps a cigarette-holder”. (source: The Times)

This whole process just fascinates me. I once did an exercise in a creative writing class in college where we had to emulate the style of Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. I found it challenging, but I can't imagine writing an entire novel that way.

I've only read one Fleming novel - Casino Royale - and was a bit disappointed with it. But, I'm perfectly willing to give the rest of the Fleming novels another shot. I'm anxious to read the new Bond story and to see how well Faulks did. I don't think I'll be disappointed this time!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Lovely Day

That's the only way to describe my day yesterday. My daughter woke up with an upset tummy (which was NOT lovely), so after I took my stepson to school, we came back home, she curled up on the couch, and I tried to get her to eat some toast. No go. She fell asleep and I contemplated curling up beside her for a good nap. But I resisted. A day off from work was not to be squandered, especially when I have so precious few days off.

Instead, I made myself a proper breakfast - two boiled eggs, turkey sausage, and toast with jelly. YUM. This gave me enough energy to get me downstairs and start the laundry. When I checked on my daughter, she was sound asleep, so I took the opportunity to write a few letters to my new pen pals via The Fedora Lounge. We're trying to get back to the lost art of letter writing and let me tell you, it was great fun to use my wooden lap desk that hubby gave me for Christmas one year, and put pen to paper.

I did the dishes, folded clothes, and watched a bit of the movie The Out of Towners with Goldie Hawn and Steve Martin. That movie is always good for a laugh. Then, of course, I got busy with fixing myself a nice, healthy lunch, read a bit in one of my research books, and even got in a bit of a nap. I then decided I needed to get my laptop out and get to work. My daughter woke up feeling much better and downed a few slices of toast, and then joined me out on the front porch.

Can I just tell you how utterly wonderful it was to have all my household chores done by 1 p.m. and have the rest of the day stretched out before me in wonderful bliss? Well, it was heavenly. I even made a nice supper for all of us, took the dog for a walk, and finished the chapter I was working on in my novel.

And what really impacted me was how smoothly everything went. The kids were well-behaved (for the most part) and the mood in the house was just, well, calm. I suspect that this was due to me being home when my stepson got out of school, having my chores done instead of being beat from the dayjob and having to do them anyway, and having my stress level cut in half. In short, I had time to spare yesterday.

I've done the stay-at-home mom gig and it was a bit of disaster. This was largely because I need to be around people and if I don't have that social interaction, I get pretty darn depressed. So when my daughter was young and my stepsons were in school, it was just the baby and I at home. That wasn't so bad. But after I went to grad school and was looking for a job, I stayed home with the kids and got severely depressed. I needed the social interaction that I had gotten at school, I guess.

I've blogged about this before, but it's worth repeating because I am constantly praying and trying to figure out how to get my life to work on this schedule: work three days a week and home the other two, or some variation thereof. Problem is, part-time jobs usually don't pay as well as full-time, and the job I have now is great - a great company, great benefits, and great co-workers. You don't just heave that out the window.

Today, though, only solidified my need to find this balance in my life. When it will happen, I don't know, but I pray it happens someday soon.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Disgustingly Cute Photo of the Day

Gretchen and Slick, brother and sister, and cohorts in cuteness (and general mayhem).

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Please Explain...

Please explain to me why my teenager, when he knows the rule of "no phone calls after 10 p.m.", insists on sneaking the phone into his room when he assumes everyone is asleep.

And please explain why, after being caught sneaking the phone numerous times in the past few months and having said phone priviledges taken away, he continues to do it knowing that he is breaking the rules?

I'm baffled.

He turns fifteen next month. And will be a freshman in high school in August. And has already had more girlfriends than I can remember.

Oh dear.

Pray for me.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Weekend!

Here in the U.S., we're celebrating Memorial Day on Monday - which means a three-day weekend for a lot of us. Neither hubby nor I have to work on this holiday, so I'm quite ecstactic at the thought of three days off. Anytime I don't have to work on a Monday is a GOOD thing.

Plans include...well, maybe watching a few classic war movies, working on the novel, (hopefully on the front porch if the weather is good)sleeping in, taking lots of walks, and relaxing. Nothing too extravagant. My cat Slick really knows how to relax. I'll have to take a cue from him.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Ticket Is Bought!

I'm excited. Really really excited.

Why?

Do you really want to know?

Really really want to know?

Ok, I'll quit toying.

Yesterday, I spent $730 for a roundtrip airline ticket from Omaha to London.

Yes, LONDON.

I am going to England in October, to the country that I've adored since childhood, to immerse myself for ten glorious days in a land steeped in history. I'm going to visit Diane and Shirley and maybe even Kate. And I want to stay in a ton of bed and breakfast's (is that how you make that plural? Hmmm...). I want to visit great country homes and go to the sea and maybe even take the Chunnel across the Channel to France and go visit Napoleon's tomb and see Josephine's house, two things I've always wanted to do. And in London...ah, glorious London, I plan to go to the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Imperial War Museum and who knows what else?

I had planned on a vacation to Italy, but those plans were pushed back because no one in my family can make the trip this year. And I really want to go there with my dad or brothers or sister-in-law so that they can meet our relatives, too. It will be a much more satisfying trip that way.

I'm busy browsing the 'Net for places to go and things to do. The intinerary is wide open! And since it will be the "off" season for tourists, the crowds shouldn't be too bad, either.

I was just amazed I got such a good deal on my ticket. Omaha isn't too far from where I live, so I'll take the flight from Omaha to Chicago, then Chicago to London. And with the price of gas and everything else skyrocketing these days, I had to jump on the chance to buy a ticket to Europe for under $800.

So! That's my grand news for the day. And just for the heck of it and because I'm in such a great mood, here are a few pics I took yesterday in my front yard. I was rather pleased with how they turned out. :-)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Indiana Jones


Well, the whole world is talking about the new Indiana Jones movie, so I figured I'd throw my two cents in.

I've always been a big fan of the first three Indiana movies - though I must admit, I didn't like Temple of Doom nearly as much as Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade (who can NOT like the witty dialogue between Harrison and Sean Connery?). My husband also loves the movies and wants an authentic Indiana Jones whip. Unfortunately, I don't make enough to afford one!

I knew when the new movie came out that there would be a lot of hype. But I tell ya, I really wasn't expecting this much hype. The marketing and publicity departments must be working overtime. Indiana Jones is on cans of Dr. Pepper, on bags of chips, on cereal boxes. Commercials featuring the movie trailer or some other product are on every time I click through the channels. I went into Wal-Mart the other day and saw a ton of Indiana Jones toys - even a whip that makes sounds when you crack it! (I may have to buy this for hubby...).

And, of course, there are the special appearances that Harrison Ford has to make. Yesterday my teenager was watching a live music show on BET and there was a grizzled Harrison Ford standing in front of all these screaming teenagers who weren't even born when the last Indiana Jones movie came out, answering questions from the two hosts who were garbed in fedoras (and who looked ridiculous, I might add). And I felt incredibly sorry for poor Harrison. It's been almost 20 years since the last movie and the poor guy just looks, well...tired. I can just imagine what was going through his mind while he was standing there in front of said screaming teenagers and music hosts: This is SO not what I had in mind when I made this movie.

Congratulations, Spielberg and company - you have effectively saturated our lives with Indiana Jones.

I'm going to the movie, of course - I'm a diehard fan. I hope I like it. Unfortunately, even though there are toys for the 13 and under crowd, the rating on the movie is PG-13, which means I can't bring my eight-year-old daughter, even though she, too, loves the Indiana Jones movies.

Sigh...

It's Pirates of the Carribbean all over again. I mistakenly took my daughter to the second Pirates movie because she loved the first one. And since there were toys and books directed at her age group, I figured it would be ok. Silly, silly me! She hid her face for a lot of the movie and we didn't even bother going to the third one. For me, I would have been very happy had that whole franchise ended with the first Pirates movie.

Anyway...

Sometimes I think Hollywood goes too far with publicity, merchandising, endorsements, etc., etc. I just hope this Indiana Jones movie lives up to it all. If it doesn't, that's ok - I'll just remain blissfully unaware of its existence and continue to enjoy the first three.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Shouldn't It Be Easier Than This?

I can't write simple, uncomplicated novels. I've tried. I always start out with a relatively simple concept, or so I think. But it invariably turns complicated. My husband says it's because I overthink things. He could be right. I do tend to over-analyze a lot.

My current work-in-progress has been a challenge. I've enjoyed it, don't get me wrong, but man, there are days - like yesterday - when I wanted to shove every last page into the shredder and never look at it again. The last chapter I wrote felt like the old saying by Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith: "There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein." Every word felt forced. Fortunately, for me, that is a red flag that something is wrong. Either I'm not writing in the correct POV, or the scene shouldn't take place at all, or there's something wrong with my plot.

This time, it was my plot. So what did I do all weekend? I worked on getting that plot point figured out. I used the "notecard" method this time, and wrote down all my plot points on each card. Miraculously, it helped me to "see" my story and where I needed to go with it. And thank goodness - I figured things out. Again.

Writing is hard. We know this. And for some reason, with every word we write, we expect that it's going to get easier. This is my third novel. And it's not any easier at all.

Oh, I've learned quite a bit in writing the other two, learned things I shouldn't do again, but I'm also realizing that every single novel is different. The plot of my last novel came to me quite easily - but there were other aspects of it that I wrestled with over and over again. My current novel is giving me fits with the plot - but other parts are easier.

So in answer to my question, "Shouldn't it be easier than this?" I suppose the answer is, "No, it shouldn't." Why? Because anything worth doing, and worth doing well, involves lots of hard work. And let's face it - whether you are willing to do that hard work is what will separate you from the rest of the pack.

Friday, May 16, 2008

I Moved...

I took the plunge and registered a domain name. One of my graphic designer buddies offered to make me business cards, so I figured, why not get my domain name registered now?

This blog, Grosvenor Square, is now also http://www.melissamarsh.net/

Aren't I just spiffy now?

No need to change your bookmarks if you don't want to - the old address still works just fine.

But now I feel a little more professional as far as the writing goes.

Now if I can only get the ultimate writer's room, I'll really feel professional! Ha!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Writer's Room

What does your writing room/space/corner look like? Bbooks piled everywhere? Stacks of papers scattered around? Messy desk? Or is it neat as a pin, everything in its place?

The Guardian ran a special series on writers' rooms that I found absolutely fascinating. And after looking at those pictures and reading the descriptions from the writers themselves, I really don't feel too bad at all for my rather messy space. Sure, it's in a corner of the basement with a small window that I have to stand on top of a chair to look out of...and it's rather dark...and in the winter it's freezing cold because there's a concrete floor beneath me...BUT, it's my room. My place. My little corner that I've staked out and said, "This is MINE."

This is Eric Hobsbawm's writing room. Now I really don't feel so bad about mine!

But I think my favorite writing room out of all of those feature is this one. Lots of room, lots of light and big windows - room to move about (pace) during those times when the writing is difficult.


I have a mental picture of what I want my ultimate writing room to look like. For now, I'm content with my little basement corner. But someday...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

We're Not Gonna Take It


In my youth, I wanted to be a lawyer. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because I hated injustice and wanted to do something about it. Short of being a superhero, I guess I thought a lawyer was the next best thing. Even though I abandoned my plans of being an attorney, I didn't abandon my ideals. When I saw injustice or felt like something wasn't right, I often sought to correct it.

A few examples...

When I became a freshman in high school, I was absolutely appalled that the girls' locker rooms had no shower curtains. Now maybe it was common to let everyone see you au natural, but I was and still am a very private person. And darn it, if I had to take a shower, I was going to do it with a shower curtain.

So what does a gal do in a high school of approximately 200 kids? Why, start a petition, of course.
And that's exactly what I did. I collected signatures and asked the school to put in shower curtains in the girls' locker room. I remember the seniors in my P.E. class shaking their head at me and calling me "naive" and "immature" for wanting to do this. But my P.E. instructor gave me kudos and told me that it was pretty cool what I was doing.

And did I get those shower curtains? You bet. And they're still there today.

When I was a junior in high school, some of our homecoming activities had been taken away. One of them was the bonfire. This had been a tradition at our school for years and years. I remember when I was in elementary and junior high, I couldn't wait for the bonfire activities. Now remember, this is a small town - around 1,600 people - and so the entire community celebrated homecoming. The fire department (all volunteer) would come help, we'd gather a bunch of boxes, and burn them in a safe spot while talking about the upcoming football game and creating a whole bunch of school spirit. It was a great time.

But they took it away before I got into high school and when I was a junior, I figured something better be done about it. So I started another petition. Since I was an editor for the school paper, I also wrote an editorial on the issue. And when I had gathered enough signatures, I gave it to the president of the student council and he presented it to the school board. Lo and behold, we got the bonfire back.

I'm pretty darn proud of myself for taking those two tasks on, miniscule though they may be in the grand scheme of things.

But recently, I've undertaken yet another cause.

We live on a street that, for some reason, gets a lot of traffic. We think that it's a sort of detour for a lot of people to keep them off the main streets. The problem is, we are completely residential - lots of young families with children. And for 10 solid blocks, there is not a single stop sign. No big deal, you might say - but this street is a bit wider than most residential streets and so people figure they can zoom down it at any speed they want.

I'm not ashamed to say that I've yelled at people more than once to slow down and gotten the finger in response. Well, things came to a head over the weekend. I was sitting in my living room, relaxing on Friday night, when I heard a car racing by. By the time I ran outside, it had already gone far enough that I couldn't read it's license plate. Fortunately (or unfortunately, as you'll see), the car came back around, speeding again. Now when I say speeding, I do not mean a few miles over the speed limit. I mean crazy speed - like 50 or 60 miles an hour. And no, I am NOT kidding.

The car comes back and I jump off the couch again and head outside. And just as I opened the door, I saw the car lose control, skid on its breaks, and bang into a parked pick-up truck right across the street from my house. He was going so fast that after he hit the pick-up (and knocked the pick-up tired completely off, plus all the bearings), the speeding car jumped the curb and came over to my side of the street, went into the neighbor's lawn, hit his tree (and left a huge gash in it) and then...he took off. Yes. A hit and run. And since this was a beautiful summer evening, all my neighbors were sitting out on their front porches.

Yeah, the guy got caught.

But the whole situation just reinforced the notion in my mind that something has to be done about this street. I cannot even let my daughter play anywhere in my front yard for fear of something like this happening again. And darn it, why why WHY do people need to drive so fast and then get away with it?

So I've taken the first step and contacted the traffic operations manger for my city. We'll see what happens next. I'm perfectly happy to go around and gather signatures for a petition again if I have to!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Birthdays and Mother's Day

We had my daughter's birthday party Saturday at one of our city's parks. And I just bet you can't guess what the theme of it was when you look at the pictures! :-)


We held it in the nature center where my daughter and her friends were able to touch snakes (eww!) and turtles, watch a bald eagle feed, and see a mama goose and her babies swim in the water.





The girls had tons of fun, and my daughter got some terrific presents - lots of art-related stuff. And of course, her treasured Scooby Doo backpack! But since it was raining outside when we went on our little nature hike, that put a slight damper on things. Still, nothing like a good slice of birthday cake to chase away the blues!



When I got home, though, I took a nap. It rained the entire day, so that was the perfect way to spend a rainy afternoon. Then hubby and I watched the Indiana Jones trilogy on the USA channel. Can never watch those too many times. And I can't wait for the new one to come out! I can't believe how much marketing I've seen for it lately, either, down to a Indiana Jones whip for kids! But hey, if it gets them outside and helps them explore, I'm all for it.

Mother's Day was great - got to sleep in and woke to a clean house! Hubby took the kids and I out for lunch and I got to browse Barnes and Noble for awhile. I even got some writing done. The weather was gorgeous on Sunday, so hubby and I also went for my nightly walk. :-)

How was your weekend?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Saving Tigers


My daughter is an animal lover. I can't remember a time when she didn't gravitate toward animals, whether the toys she played with, the books she read, or the shows she watched. And that hasn't changed a bit.

The other evening she was watching Two Brothers, a very heartwarming tale about two orphaned tiger cubs who end up with very different fates. She came up to me and said, "Mom, can I ask you a question?" She was quite solemn.

"
Sure," I replied.

"What happens to tiger babies when their mom and dads get killed?"

Thunk. That was the sound of my heart going into my stomach. "Well..." And y'know, I couldn't lie and say that they were all rescued by good-hearted angels and lived happily ever after. She's too smart for that. So I told her the truth.

"Well, they have to try and survive by themselves, but sometimes they die. And sometimes there are mean hunters who kill them."

Her eyes widened. "But they're just babies! How come the hunters have to do that?"

When I told her that there were mean people in the world, she started to cry and then I wished I had told her that all those abandoned baby tigers went to a palatial zoo in the middle of Asia.

But then she said, "I want to save the tigers! Mom, how can I save the tigers?"

I'm not joking when I think I have a budding wildlife preservationist on my hands. She is very attune to these types of things already. So we went online and looked at some of the organizations out there whose sole purpose is to save tigers from going extinct. I looked into "adopting" a tiger, but unfortunately, I didn't have the $10,000 fee it required.

My daughter wanted to make posters that said, "Don't kill tigers!", but then she told me that she didn't think hunters would see them. I told her that even if just one hunter saw it and it made him stop hunting the tigers, then she would have made a difference.

Then, of course, we had to find a picture of tigers that we could print out so she could color it.

I'm pretty sure my daughter's concern over the tiger population will not diminish with age, but will only grow stronger. And someday, she will undoubtedly be on a jungle safari to visit a family of tigers or be working in a zoo delivering a set of tiger cubs. :-)

How you can help save the tigers:

Save the Tiger Fund - Program of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation

The Tiger Foundation


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Ode to a Walk

I've never been a big fan of exercise. In junior high, I went out for track for exactly one day. Why? Because that entire first day, we ran around and around in the gym. I'm not a runner.

But I am a walker.

My dog and I love to take long walks around our neighborhood. With the weather being absolutely gorgeous lately and all the spring flowers in bloom, I'm really loving our evening walks. And the benefits are many. Exercise (for me and my dog!). Lots and lots of thinking time. Enjoying nature. And when my daughter and my husband come with me, lots of laughter and talking. Sometimes we'll all go to a local park and take long, meandering walks through the woods and by the lake.


Writers often talk about how walking is part of their writing process. I know it's definitely part of mine. I've worked through many a plot problem or character issue while on my walks, either on the treadmill or outside. Just last night I thought of a way to resolve a plot hole in my current manuscript, although I think I was more excited at my discovery than my dog. ;-)

Monday, May 05, 2008

Miss Potter



Yesterday I caught Miss Potter on Showtime and couldn't tear myself away. It is an enchanting story about Beatrix Potter, the bestselling and beloved children's book author.

Simply put, I loved it. I loved Beatrix's spunk and determination to succeed with her art and storytelling, no matter that it was unfashionable to be unmarried and for a woman to make her own way in the world.

In addition to further flaming my love for England and my determination to someday buy a cottage there, this film was absolutely beautiful - the costumes, the crisp cinematography, the illustrations of Peter Rabbit and all of Beatrix's other friends, and the gorgeous scenery. Rene Zelwegger played the part of Beatrix with warmth and wit and portrayed her absolute love for her creativity.

My daughter, a budding artist herself, was entranced by the movie and promptly told me that she wants to start painting in addition to her drawing. In fact, when she saw the finished product of Beatrix's first children's book, she said, "That's what I want to do!"

This movie is such an inspiration for those who want to succeed in their artistic endeavors. And yes, I'll be adding it to my DVD collection. :-)

Friday, May 02, 2008

Memory Lane


It's been 15 years since I graduated from high school and eleven years since I graduated from college (undergrad). The above photo was taken during my senior year with one of my best friends in college. Look how thin I was!

Unfortunately, I don't keep in touch with hardly anyone from my high school class, and there wasn't very many of us. I think we had around 35 people (our entire town only had a population of 1600) and despite what you might think, we weren't exactly a "close" class. My best friends were sophomores when I was a senior, if that tells you anything.

But the other day, I was talking to another guy who I went to high school with. We work at the same company and started walking down memory lane, catching each other up with where certain people were now. So I figured I'd try and find my old junior high English teacher who was always a great believer in my writing, but no longer was at my school. And lo and behold, I found his email address. I wrote him a short note and he replied. It was great to hear from him and I hope to stay in touch. Gotta love the internet.

Do you still stay in touch with friends or teachers from high school?

One Day at a Time

I've always tried to live with this mentality: One day at a time. Unfortunately, when I implement it, I fail spectacularly. But for this...