Thursday, April 30, 2009

On Bond

All right. Enough with the down-in-the dumps posts. I realized that I had way too many of them in the past few weeks and I am bumming myself out with them, so today's post will be full of light and joy!

Ah...that's better. Joy! Light! Daniel Craig!

For
some reason or another, I have been on a big Bond kick - and not just the movies, either. I've been diving into the books. After Ian Fleming passed away in the mid 1960s, there were a few other authors that eventually tried to fill his shoes, resulting in more Bond novelsto enjoy.

I admit, when I read
Casino Royale, I was disappointed. I wasn't a fan of Fleming's writing. But now that I've read some of the other authors who have tackled Bond, I am willing to give Fleming another chance. I plan to start From Russia with Love soon. That is one of my favorite Bond movies, so I'm excited to see how it compares to the book.
I think what is hampering me a bit in reading the original novels, however, is that I saw all the movies before I ever read the books and I have put the actors into the character's role. I usually see Sean Connery in the role, but when I read the latest Bond novel by Sebastian Faulks, I definitely pictured Daniel Craig.


It's fascinating to read how each author has approached the character. Faulks' character was much more introspective than Fleming's. I would also say the same for John Gardner, another author who has penned several Bond novels. Fleming's character is harder, while Faulks' portrayal is a bit softer.

But the character of Bond is incredibly unique. He started as a literary figure and was transformed into a larger-than-life movie character that the entire world knows and loves. When a new actor is selected to fill the Bond shoes, he is subjected to intense scrutiny. In fact, Daniel Craig was roundly criticized by many who thought that there was no way we could have a blonde Bond. I'm glad to say he made a believer out of many (including me) and I think he has brought new life to the Bond mystique.

Here's my point (I realize I'm rambling a bit...I'm distracted by those pictures I guess). Lots and lots of people now feel like they own the character of Bond. People feel a connection to Bond on some level. This literary character turned Hollywood movie star has created a mega-sensational fan base. It is hard to compare it to any other type of literary character. I would say Jane Austen comes close with Mr. Darcy, but it's not on the same scale.

I wonder what Fleming would think. He witnessed the early success of Sean Connery's Bond, but would he believe that a character he created all those years ago would still drive legions of people to the movie theaters and bookstores? And it's a multi-generational thing. My dad loved Bond. I love Bond. And even my daughter knows who James Bond is!

I find the whole thing absolutely fascinating. Will any of the characters of today hold the same magic for years and decades to come? Harry Potter? Twilight?

What do you think?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ups and Downs


Some days, I have the energy of a two-year old and a smile to match. Other days, I can barely make it out of bed, wear a frown all day, and want to withdraw inside myself for hours on end. Lately, I never know what kind of day I'll have until I wake up in the morning.

Even when a divorce is official on paper, it's not officially over in your heart - or in your life - for quite some time. I get daily emails from a Divorce Support Group and the subject line for the message today said, "Expecting Too Much Progress Too Quickly?" Sometimes I think my progess meter is just about right. But other times, I think my brain is telling me, Hey, the papers are signed. You should be happy now. Full of energy and life. It's a new beginning!

There are some days that I feel that way. More often than not, it's a curious mixture of sadness, grief, and acceptance. But what I really didn't bargain for was just how much of a physical toll this would take on me. The other day, I went to exercise at my gym and I could barely make it through my 30 minutes. I was about to fall asleep! I don't know that I've ever experienced that in my life and since I haven't felt that way since, I can only attribute it to the emotional turmoil of the past few months finally catching up with me.

I think we forget just how much our physical and emotional states are inextricably linked. So when major drama happens due to the divorce (and yes, it's still happening, unfortunately), sometimes the physical exhaustion doesn't hit me until a few weeks later.

It's been a rather rough cycle to deal with, but I just have to cling to my mantra
of "One day at a time." Oh. And I always, always have chocolate on hand. :-)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Turning Point

I edited my manuscript nearly all day Sunday. It was the perfect day to write. Pretty much all afternoon, the skies were dark with thunderclouds and it rained off and on. A few times, the thunder rumbled so loud, it made my cat and I jump. I took a few breaks to watch an episode of Band of Brothers and also to read a bit of my James Bond novel. Other than that, I tapped away. And finally, I reached the turning point.

The middle of the novel is always the hardest for me. The character development, plot points, and conflict have to be fine-tuned in this area, otherwise, the reader (and even the writer!) will lose interest and toss the book aside. I knew I needed to really concentrate on the middle in the editing process and let me tell you, it was a rather painful journey.

But yesterday, I consciously felt a shift in my mind after I finished a particular chapter. At that point, I realized the hardest part was done. My mood suddenly lifted and the excitement I felt over the novel reemerged. The last part of the novel is fairly strong and won't require as much editing. But I think I can say the same for the middle now. And that is a wondrous thing!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

What I Did Today



I completed half of my project today. This is a dresser scarf and the same pattern is on the other end. This one took me quite a long time to finish. To be fair, I went a few months without even picking up my embroidery, but decided to start on it again a few weeks ago.

There are lots of mistakes which you'll see if you look closely. ;-)

I'm hoping to do some smaller projects, ones I can get done in an afternoon or a few days instead of months! Still, I love the whole experience of embroidering. It relaxes me and I enjoy seeing the design take shape.

Now, it's on to the novel
! Or maybe another viewing of Quantum of Solace...hmmm...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Your Ideal Job

On my way to work this morning, I started daydreaming. While I am very, very thankful that I have a job when so many are struggling, I started to wonder.

What if I could have any job I wanted in the world? What would it be?

It made me pause. Why? Because I would really like to be a full-time novelist. But I also recognize that I really need to be around people a few times a week, so a part-time gig would be the best.

So if I could have any part-time job I wanted in the world, what would it be? Hmm.


I think I would like to work at a historic estate such as Chatsworth, which I visited last October in England, or even Mount Vernon or Monticello. I would love to be surrounded by history. Now I probably wouldn't be a tour guide, but I'd like to work behind the scenes, taking care of precious historical documents or coming up with new exhibits to feature.

I could have gone this route in grad school with a degree in musuem studies, but at the time, I intended to go straight through, get my PhD, and become a professor. By the time I realized that path wasn't for me, my university got rid of the museum studies program and transferring to another school wasn't an option at the time.

What about you? If you could have any job in the world - and money is not an issue here - what would it be?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bolt Update

I'm here to tell you about the power of the Internet.

My dad called me last night and asked me what specific backpack my daughter was looking for. I sent him a link and then about fifteen minutes later, he called me back and said, "Your Bolt backpack is on its way. From Italy."

I think I was shocked speechless.

By searching the Disney product number, something I never would have thought to do, he and his girlfriend found the backpack on an Italian website. And since both of them are Italian, and I am part Italian, and my daughter is, well, an 1/8 Italian, I guess it's pretty cool that her backpack is coming from Italy!

Crisis averted. My daughter will have her Disney backpack thanks to the wonderful kindness of my Dad and Maria.

THANKS, YOU TWO!!!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

In Search of Bolt


My daughter is a huge Bolt fan (the Disney movie). It's a charming tale about a dog who is a superhero on a hit t.v. show but he doesn't know that he's on t.v. He thinks it is all real. When he is accidentally sent away from the studio and into the real world, things take an interesting turn as he meets Mittens the Streetwise Cat and Rhino the Hamster with the Napoleon complex. It's an adorable movie and of course, she's started to collect Bolt "stuff."


Amazingly enough, with Disney's penchant for marketing, it is hard to find anything. She has a few things, but most of it I had to find online. Her birthday is coming up soon and she really wants a Bolt rolling backpack. I mean, REALLY WANTS as in, "You don't get this, Mom, and I'm going to be mad for the rest of my childhood."


So I figured, no problem. I'll order it when her birthday gets a big closer.


Today I went online to see how much it was and got the shock of my life. They do not have it anymore.


I began a frantic search. Amazon.com. Ebay. Even called a local Disney Store only to find they aren't there anymore (see how much I get to the mall?). Nothing. Nada. Zip. No Bolt rolling backpack.


As of this writing, I still do not have that backpack in my sights. Rene, bless her heart, has offered to look in her Disney Store for me in California. Anyone else want to take a shot? I would send you money! Lots and lots of money! (Ok, maybe not LOTS, but enough!)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Good Enough?

In writing, it's tempting to use a cliche, skim the surface of a character's emotions, or gloss over the details. But it robs the reader - and the writer - of depth.

I've discovered recently, after slogging through my novel edits, that I'm tempted to just come up with some old, hackneyed phrase or generic description and say, "Good enough." and then move on. Fortunately, I usually come back to it with the overwhelming need to fix it. And thank goodness, too. As writers, we need to dig deeper than what's available on the surface. Is it easy? No. It's incredibly hard sometimes. But we need to stretch ourselves. Otherwise, how will we improve? How will we keep our writing fresh and engaging?

Next time you're tempted to tell yourself, "Good enough" and move on, resist the urge. Either fix it right then and there, or make a note to yourself to go back and change it later. You owe it to yourself - and your readers.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Tea Time

Tea with Mr. Darcy
Jane Austen Centre, Bath, England


Glorious weekend! Well, apart from going shopping and not finding a single thing I liked. I'm not sure what's going on with this season's fashion choices, but I am having a hard time getting excited about any of it. Let's hope the summer season brings something a little better.

Worked plenty on the novel this weekend (yay!), but I think the highlight of the past few days was the English tea I attended at my church. One of my friends went with me and we had a great time eating scones with clotted cream, mint butter cucumber sandwiches, fruit tarts, chocolate-covered strawberries, and tea, of course!

The conversation was wonderful and there was an informative and inspiring presentation on art history. A few people were also very interested to hear about my recent travels to England, so that was fun to share, as well.

My friend and I have decided that we should start doing this within our circle of friends - tea parties! I have a beautiful set of china that includes a sugar bowl and cream holder, but alas, no tea pot. Which means, of course, that we are going to set out on an antiquing expedition to find the perfect tea pot.

I see this as another opportunity to bring some of the treasured traditions of the past into my life. Besides all the yummy goodies that come with a tea party, there's also the gathering of
friends and the chance to get together, forget the cares of the day, and enjoy each other's company over a warm cuppa. It's a tradition I hope to start and to eventually pass down to my daughter.

Won't you join me?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Thoughts...


Thank you to all of you for your prayers, your thoughts, and your comments. Once again, you have humbled me with your outpouring of support. This blogging community of ours, tiny though it may be, has a huge impact on my life. I am very blessed to have you all!

Even though lots of people told me, "You're starting a new chapter in your life!", it doesn't quite feel that way yet. Maybe it's because I made this decision late last year and only now is it final. So it has yet to sink in. I haven't cried yet - maybe I need to. Maybe not. To tell you the truth, I have cried so much during the last 10 years that I can barely fathom it. I hope that is over.

I do not feel this overpowering sense of liberation or joy. True, I feel relief that the roller coaster ride is over. I got off it before it made me too sick. I broke the cycle which is much better for my daughter and I.

But there's also a sense of sadness. A marriage is irretrievably broken. Those two words carry so much power. Irretrievably. No going back. Wow.

I now have to tell myself, "You're not married anymore. You're a single woman. You don't need a man to make you happy. You are no longer part of a 'couple.'" Each one of those facts is hard to swallow, but it's a lot easier to swallow now than it was a few months ago.

It's time to move on. And I think I'm doing ok in that. I'm not going to force myself to do something I'm not ready for, but I can already see that I'm starting to emerge from my self-induced shell. That's a good thing and definitely a sign that I'm beginning to heal. I know it's not complete and will not be complete for a long time to come, but it's a great step in the right direction.
With this all in mind, I plan to return to my novel with a renewed sense of purpose. I'm excited to see where it takes me.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

D-Day

I parked two blocks away from the courthouse this morning. I was early, and wanted to take a few minutes to clear my head with a nice walk. The cool morning air and overcast sky matched my mood. But once I started walking, little blessings popped up all over. The beautiful dogwood tree blossoms, pink and white, smelled wonderful. Bright yellow and ivory daffodils opened to the sky. A brown, fuzzy, and fat squirrel stared at me as I walked by, and when I looked up, a blackbird chirped from a tree.

God is with me, I thought. And indeed He was.

I crossed the busy intersection to the courthouse, went inside, put my bag on the x-ray machine, then made my way up to District Court, 3rd Floor. My phone rang. It was the soon-to-be ex.

"I just wanted to let you know that I'm thinking about you today," he said.

"Thank you," I said. But then the tightness started in my throat, crept up through my cheeks, and was released through tears. "But I can't really talk right now."

"Ok," he said. And we hung up. I suppose that is our last conversation as husband and wife.

My lawyer showed up, and we went through the paperwork. "These are the questions I'll ask you," he said. Easy, yet incredibly hard questions.

The court case before ours made me shake my head. He'd violated his probation, and the original crime was alcohol-related. I remember my own ex's struggle with alcohol. Seeing this other guy have his life wrecked from alcohol just reinforced my thought that yes, this divorce was the right thing to do.

Then it was our turn. I stood in front of the judge, raised my right hand, took the oath, then sat in the witness chair. My lawyer asked me the questions. Then came the tough one.

"Do you feel your marriage is irretrievably broken?"

A moment of panic. Was it? Had we tried everything? Could we absolutely not make this work?

"Yes," I answered.

And then it was over. 10 years of marriage over in 10 minutes. I felt numb. Should I cry? Should I smile and laugh that I no longer had to endure the pain? I did neither.

As I left the courthouse, the same drab sky and chill wind greeted me. It matched my mood. And then, when I walked back to my car, I saw the dogwood blossoms...the daffodils...the birds...and I knew God was with me.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter Recap

We started out our weekend at a local church's big Eggstravaganza! They had a huge Easter egg hunt, a petting zoo, face-painting, games, and even pony rides.
Egg hunting is serious business. But if you can see by the photo, these eggs won't be hard to find! My daughter managed to get quite a few eggs in her basket, although none of them contained any prizes. She was pretty happy with the candy she got, though.Let me tell you, trying to pop open plastic Easter eggs and look for prizes isn't exactly fun. Those darn things can be tricky.
Mother and daughter pic - and of course, Bolt! She never goes anywhere without him.
The petting zoo was interesting - lots of goats (so my daughter wasn't as excited to pet them since she's petted a real tiger cub before), but I got a kick out of the llama.
And this goat was pretty friendly, too.

We waited in line for a good 30-45 minutes for the pony rides, but since my daughter has been begging me to take her horse-riding, it was worth the wait - especially for this big smile!

The name of her horse was Starfire and she just loved him. She also informed me that she wants a horse for her birthday. I have no idea where it will fit in our apartment. ;-)

After lunch, we went home and decided to get the eggs ready to color. And of course, my brother came over and joined in. I thought it was awfully sweet of a soon-to-be 30-year old guy to dye eggs with his niece. :-)

We got pretty creative with ours eggs, too. I think they turned out rather well.
Some of the finished product. After we were done, my mom and my brother went and hid the eggs for my daughter to find. She loved it.
We then headed over to the duck pond. There wasn't as many ducks around, but there were some beautiful geese who got close to us for some good photo ops.
Sunday we went to church, then came home and made our famous Easter Egg. It's incredibly simple to make and oh so yummy. Here's what it looked like when it came out of the egg mold:
Perfection! We topped it with whipped cream, decorated it, then put it on a bed of coconut.
This is the only time I can eat coconut. YUM. So good with the cheesecake!
And of course, you've got to work off all those calories! So grandma and granddaughter indulged in a game of Wii Baseball at my brother's house.

Suffice to say, it was a wonderful, busy weekend. Lots of fun, lots of laughter, and new memories made.
Oh! Almost forgot...

Obligatory cute cat photo for Rene.

Of course, I didn't get one whit of writing done, but I don't regret it. Family comes first and I loved every minute of the weekend.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Fun


Whew! Lots and lots to report on for the Easter Weekend! We barely had a spare moment (although we did indulge in a nap on Sunday afternoon), and of course, I took lots and lots of pictures. But I'll have to get them all organized for tomorrow's post.

For now, enjoy this picture that I took - I didn't realize my daughter was in the background when I took it - which makes it all the more special!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Easter Weekend


It's Good Friday today and my mother is on her way to our city from her small farm in Western Nebraska. My daughter is looking forward to spending time with her grandma, and I'm excited, too. :-) I don't get to see my mom a whole lot since she lives so far away, but we stay in touch via email and the phone.

We have a few Easter traditions that we haven't been able to do the past few years, but we're resurrecting them this year. One of them is watching The Ten Commandments. This was always on our t.v. stations every year when I was growing up and our entire family would sit down and watch it. Since I don't have a t.v. (only the little laptop), I bought the movie on DVD (on sale, even!) and we'll probably head over to my brother's house to watch it on his big screen t.v. We also make a cheesecake in the shape of an egg and enjoy that while watching the movie.

The biggest part about Easter for me, though, is sharing it with family and celebrating my faith. It is a reverent day for me in many, many ways.

Do you have any Easter traditions?

Thursday, April 09, 2009

If Only...

Since I went to England last October, I pretty much took all my vacation days until this September. Ouch. It was worth it, though. I just wish I would take a few days off to go and do like this woman is - sit next to an idyllic river or lake with my notebook and write. No thoughts of divorce, no worries about bills, no stress.

Thankfully, I live right next door to a duck pond so if the weather would cooperate, I could just walk over there. But it's not quite the same, y'know? Sometimes you just need to go to an entirely different place. And maybe that's what a future weekend should be - just me, my laptop, and a beautiful view.

Do you have a place you like to head to get away from it all?

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

On Craft


In editing my manuscript, I am trying to remain vigilant on my adverb use. To my surprise, I haven't used those pesky -ly words nearly as much as I thought. Instead, I've sprinkled them throughout the novel to add a bit of "spice" where needed - but that's been about it.

I think it's rather amazing how a person "grows" in the craft of writing. Have you ever taken out a piece of your writing from years (or maybe even months) ago and cringed when you read it? I know I have! But like anything else, practice makes perfect - or at least, practice makes better. I know I've improved on my dialogue, on my plot, and on tightening my story - i.e. taking out scenes that have no business being there. My "eye" for those things has sharpened.

What is one thing you've seen an improvement on in your writing over the years?

Monday, April 06, 2009

Editing...Ahh, Bliss!


It's amazing how a few short days ago, I couldn't even fathom looking at my manuscript. And then Saturday shows up and wallah! The novel called to me. And I answered in a big way, spending most of the day working on it. I also managed a bit of work on Sunday in between church and a lovely nap. :-)

So I'd say my weekend was a success.

How about yours?

Friday, April 03, 2009

The Mysterious Man


This is a picture of my dear Grandpa Shorty. He wasn't in the army, but one of his brothers was, and they all liked to take turns wearing his uniform when he came home from World War II.

When I was home for my family reunion last October, my grandmother, bless her heart, had been busy scanning in photos on her computer. I had seen this picture before, but when she showed it to me again, I saw something I had never noticed before.

If you'll look at the top right, you'll see another person in the photo. Now what's funny about this is that I showed this photo to a bunch of people at the family reunion - and no one knew who it was. It looks like a man wearing long underwear with a coat and an apron. We've blown up the photo to take a closer look and it almost looks like the guy is wearing a mask. Either that or the tree branches are covering up his face.

Knowing my grandpa and my great-uncle's penchant for practical jokes, I wouldn't be surprised if whoever this was (maybe my great-uncle Frankie) got dressed up and deliberately put himself in this picture for a good laugh. Regardless, it made for a great discussion at the family reunion, spurring more stories to be told of the past. And it also warmed my heart to think of my grandfather and his brother playing jokes on each other well into adulthood.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Emotionally Bankrupt


With everything going on in my life lately, my emotions have taken a major hit. Some days I do great and laugh and smile quite a bit. Other days, I retreat within myself and feel like Eeyore with a cloud hanging over my head.
All perfectly normal. I accept this.

Yet what I didn't quite expect was the toll it would take on my novel. There are days where I simply do not want to look at it. Why
? Because my characters are going through their own angst and I've got enough angst in my life for all of us. Since their issues are a bit different than mine, it's not exactly therapeutic to dive into their emotions, either. It requires more work - and more emotional investment - on my part. And there are some days when I don't have it to give.

Granted, I have been extremely blessed that I've been able to do as much work on it as
I have been. It's been my oasis for those times when I needed an escape.

But lately, I don't know that I want to edit a whole lot simply
because I worry I won't be putting as much depth into it as I need to, that I will be skimming over the emotions simply because I don't want to deal with anymore emotions.

Does that make sense? I hope so. I often feel
like I'm blathering without really saying much. I've experienced so many feelings within the span of a few months that I am mentally exhausted. Some days I don't want to feel anything. I just want to be. I guess those are the days when I should leave the manuscript alone. :-)


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