Enjoy Multiple Movies While You Vacation

“You’re kidding. You’ve never seen To Kill A Mockingbird?” my friend Jean said on the second evening of our vacation in Scottsdale, AZ.  I interpreted that to mean, “On what uneducated, uncultured planet did I grow up?” So we went to Target and purchased more movies than we could see in the few vacation days we had left. When we got back to the condo, we watched the movie most important for my education first.

atticus_and_tom_robinson_in_court

It had every storytelling tip I’ve ever read for writing a breakout novel. The story, narrated by an adult viewing her childhood experiences, illustrated the historic perspective. The youngest character, Scout, through whose eyes we saw the events unfold, brought a fresh innocence to an issue that still refuses to die down. Her childhood experiences still influenced her as an adult.

Conflict makes interesting storytelling. Scout, about six, and her brother Gem, about ten, had plenty of conflicts. In fact, Scout had several scrapes in school defending her father. Although Scout had lots of spunk and was willing to try anything, if it meant she could tag along with her brother, she was also loving.

Scout in tire

In order to be a breakout novel, a book needs internal issues tied to larger issues. In this case, the trial of a black man alleged to have molested a white woman provided the requisite controversy. In 1962 when the movie came out, the lack of civil rights in the South was coming to a boil.

At least some characters in breakout novels need to change during the story to keep it from being flat and dull. I think all of the major characters made some changes. One of the characters who changed the most was a client who wouldn’t talk but brought the family gifts to pay for his attorney fees. When Scout picked him out of the lynching mob and began talking to him, he spoke up and broke up the mob. I think even the steady pillar of a father changed at the end when he realized that the law couldn’t solve all the problems that society had.

In an excellent book bad things need to happen to good characters, and the more bad things the better. This story had more than its share of obstacles. The father, Atticus, almost got lynched. The villain accosted and almost killed Gem and Scout in the forest. Atticus lost his case, in spite of his brilliant defense. The defendant didn’t wait around for a retrial. One disappointment led to another. The virgin viewer has no clue what is going to happen at every step.

Stories, at least in America, usually need a happy ending to break sales records. This tale didn’t end well for some of the characters, but the family took away some valuable life lessons. Scout made a new friend and lost her fear of the biggest monster in the neighborhood even as he was confirmed as a murderer.

Jean was right. I must have grown up on another planet. I should have seen To Kill a Mockingbird. The good news is that I’ve seen it now. If you haven’t you must have grown up on my planet, and you should upgrade your education.

We saw two Julia Roberts movies that I would characterize as mediocre. The first one, Secret in Their Eyes is showing in the theaters, so I’m not going to spoil it by telling you too much. You can watch more than enough trailers for that. I didn’t have a lot of sympathy for the man who was killed in the line of duty. He was never portrayed as a noble character. Therefore, I felt that the sympathy the characters portrayed at the end were not sincere.

good cop bad cop

I’m not sure how I felt about the love situation either. The authors built the drama well, but for me, it just hung there and didn’t move me.  Again it seemed contrived and insincere. The husband remarked that “he,” meaning the past loved one, had been in their marital relationship for twelve years. Really?  We only heard from the husband one time, so there was no build-up of jealousy. We do not have any indication that the two lovebirds were in contact during the intervening years because they didn’t seem to know what had transpired in each other’s lives. So why would the husband make such a random statement?

I think this movie needed some time to work out the bugs.

august_osage_2796696c

The second Julie Roberts movie we watched at the condo. August: Osage County seemed more sincere or believable maybe, but we left the DVD at Diamond Resorts in Scottsdale, AZ for the next guests or employees to not enjoy. I don’t think this movie had an upside. Both Jean and I were shocked that so many stars studded it. That doesn’t sound good. But then neither was the movie, in spite of the fact I like the stars in it. They were just clouded over by a lousy plot.  Don’t waste your $5 to buy the DVD. That’s my opinion anyway.

On what planet did you grow up, and what good movies have you missed?  Which ones have you seen that you would recommend for those of us just joining planet earth in 2015?

 

Where DID We Have Lunch on Monday?

As you recall your trips, do you struggle to remember time markers anyway? My friend Jean and I spent at least thirty minutes one evening during our Arizona trip retracing our stops to remember where we had lunch three days before.

“Take a picture of the restaurant,” Jean said. “So we’ll remember it next time.”

If I have a picture I can at least remember the town. If I have the town – thank goodness for Google! Is that what’s important? Really?

Ciao Grazie in Buckeye, AZ
Ciao Grazie in Buckeye, AZ

In Writing the Breakout Novel I read that novice writers write their novels chronologically. Reading back over my unpublished novels (that would be all of them so far) I notice that I follow that trend. Yet when I journal, I don’t break out my journal until something significant happens, like the transmission goes out in the truck while pulling the new trailer up the mountain highway in the rain at twilight.

As soon as the journal opens and my pen hits the paper, my internal date book flips on, and I chew my pen trying rack my brain trying to remember all the places I ate and places I visited. Did I think I would ever get back to Florence, Italy, Charleston, SC, Chicago, IL, Klamath, CA, or Scottsdale, AZ to eat there again? Even if I did go back, would that restaurant be there waiting for me when I arrived with the same chef at the helm? Would there be no other restaurant other than THAT Arbys  in the same town? Why am I so driven to remember all those places?  By the time I get around to recording what I THOUGHT was the dramatic moment of actual event, usually a juicy story from a tour, the sizzle is gone.

recessed lighting in the theatre room at Taliesin West
recessed lighting in the theatre room at Taliesin West

Actually the dramatic moments of a trip are usually the bad personal moments, like when a fellow traveler spills coffee all over your blouse and suggests that you change it right there in the parking lot because nobody will notice. What’s up with that anyway? No one will notice when I take off my blouse in a parking lot? Really? What alternative universe am I in? Are people really THAT different in other parts of the world?

Frank Lloyd Wright was short, and egotistical. He built short doorways because he figured anything over 5’8″ was a waste of space.

In Frank Lloyd’s world, I think people might have been that different. You have to read the books, though, to learn the gory details. The tour guide didn’t mention the negro servant who axed Wright’s lover and her two children in the head then burned his home to the ground killing a gardener, and three architectural students in 1914 at the original Taliesin home in Wisconsin.

 

The tour guide claimed that FLW initiated the use of floor lighting.
The tour guide claimed that FLW initiated the use of floor lighting.

We saw floor lighting in the movie room, but the stories of the sex camps at Taliesin West never came to light.

It goes against my nature to be a good storyteller.  I have no posterity who might be interested in where I was at any moment. And yet, I record every stop I make in painstaking chronological order. No wonder good storytellers are at a premium, not only in the world of writing, but in the world at large. Most of us are still trying to remember where we ate two days ago. 🙂

What about you? Where did you eat two days ago? Anything dramatic happening in your life? Which did YOU post on FB?  🙂

Using Time Share Points – Scottsdale, AZ

My husband rarely admits envy, but I got a “jealous” out of him when I texted him some of theses pictures. He doesn’t like to travel as much as I do, but he may hesitate turning down trips now. This serendipitous tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright Taliesin West did it!  He loves design, and FLW is his hero.

 
This hands-on training college for architects was a hotbed of controversy when it started in 1932. 

  Trainees enjoyed weekly social instruction from his fourth wife, who believed anyone could learn to design, but if they couldn’t get along with people, they would not be successful. Smart lady!!!
  Students today dine in this room and enjoy dancing, music, drama and movies. I loved the tables and chairs.
  Set up ready for a gourmet meal, we could only imagine the sumptuous courses that students took turns cooking and serving each other.
 So if you travel to Scottsdale, AZ, or other places in the U.S., and want to make Vince jealous, just text him pictures from your Frank Lloyd Wright tour.

  
This might do it too!

Why NaNoWriMo – Deadline Or No Deadline?

I don’t know about other writers like you, but I find NaNoWriMo grueling.  I’ve had a birthday, and today is V’s birthday and his son has come to visit.

 

Other minor interruptions-Thanksgiving, a cold, pink eye, a five-day 5,000 mile trip to DE, and  a trip to AZ planned starting the 30th have ground me into pulp trying to finish writing 50,000 cogent words by Nov. 30th. My breakout novel is destined to be pulp fiction reflecting the state of my brain.

pulp-fiction-poster

 

I wanted to keep up with a commentary on my blog with how things were going and what I was learning as I wrote. But guess what? I can’t sit that long. I’ve run out of procrastination hours. I need to write 5,000 words a day to meet my deadline. I can barely snap my fingers on my mouse hand. I’ve gained another three pounds on top of the ten I already had going into the month. My normal sleeping pattern, which is asymmetrical at best, disintegrated in the wake of the NaNoWriMo deadline.

All deadlines fossilize me. The whisper directly into my endocrine system. “You have to get up to go to Kiwanis, Marsha.”

Result  – I blog all night and oversleep on Tuesday morning.

learning, writing, blogging, reading, pets, dog

“You must go to the store today.”

Result – I dither around the house trying to plan my itinerary, deciding which stops to make when I go into Visalia until it’s time for dinner. Then I call Vince to bring home some take-out from Subway.

In the case of NaNoWriMo my back, shoulders and butt tell me to walk away from the computer, take a long, hot bath – or until I have a hot flash –  and head to bed by 8:00 pm This forces Puppy to move off my pillow to the center of the bed. At 10:00 pm my sore body parts scream at Vince to give me a massage. Puppy gives me a respite if he puts enough smelly stuff on me. As soon as he finishes,  she crowds all ten pound between us and pushes with all her might against my back forcing both of us to sleep on the edge of the king-size bed. Then my brain, or Puppy Girl’s pressure against my kidneys, wakes me up at 1:30 am and threatens to kill itself if I don’t go back into the office and sit down at the computer and start writing again.

kalev7

Vince asked my why I had to do this. After all, I’m retired and still young. (though I’m not feeling it today – pink eye in both eyes) I have a whole lifetime to finish, right? Right? Of course he’s right, he usually is – annoyingly so, but then so am I, so why do NaNoWriMo?

Deadlines motivate me. When I wrote Images of America Woodlake, I started from scratch collecting pictures and information about Woodlake. I worked eight or more hours a day to finish by the six month deadline. About half-way through the writing process the publisher wrote me an email, “You’re doing a great job. We’ll give you an extra five books free if you finish in five months.” I ramped up production to get those five extra books – about a hundred-dollar value – so I had more to give away before I had to buy any to give away to all my contributors.

My amateur diagnosis – there is definitely something wrong with my brain. I guess it’s the reporter-brain training I had as a kid that is just now kicking in.

brainfreeze

Motivations like due dates didn’t work on me when I was a kid taking journalism and working on the school paper. Nothing motivated me to finish something that other people besides a teacher would read.  Going public with my thoughts, narrow as they were, petrified me. I feigned illness if the deadline came, and I wasn’t ready – an unpleasant characteristic flaw of mine. No worries If you’ve known me for more than a couple of minutes, then you already knew there were holes in my perfect persona.

After I missed my first real assignment on the high school paper, covering the first football game of the school year by moving to another state 2,400 miles away, I made sure I stuck to more important beats. In my new school I covered the library. I thought nothing exciting happened in the library because I only talked to the librarian, stupid kid. How dumb was that? I just needed to look between the shelves, but that’s another story. The interview and fear exposing myself during the publication process terrified me for six years, and deadlines did not motivate me to do more than get sick.

 

Deadlines and contact with real humans who need me to accomplish something by a specific date still make me sick, but without them my life would be chaos. Dishes would pile up, beds would be unmade. No one would have clean laundry. I might leave the house, and might not. I would spend the day in bed reading one good book after another until my eyes withered into the back of my head. I would eat until I ran out of ice cream, potato chips and protein bars. Oh wait, I’ve just painted a picture of my life now when I do have a deadline.

chaos

The best thing about having a deadline is that it puts an end to something you are driven to do. They validate saying, “It will never be perfect, Marsha. You can stop now. You made it. You got the sticker for your blog. Now go clean your house and fix a nutritious dinner.”

And I do.

What works for you? Deadlines? No Deadlines? Tell me YOUR stories. 🙂

Thanksgiving

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, FRIENDS!

Flying Across the United States Is A Great Time to Read

I could have watched movies if I had downloaded the United app on my computer or iPhone BEFORE the plane took off. I downloaded it before I boarded to go home, but I was already engaged with Winn-Dixie, and it was more trouble than it was worth to figure out how to use the free movie service.  Books are more accessible.

You  can read Because of Winn-Dixie by Katie DiCamillo in about an hour and a half. Mama Cormier suggested this book because she thought it sounded too similar to the one I am rewriting now. Di Camillo uses a simple style which includes repetition without being unbearable. I enjoyed Opal’s adventures, yet is well-suited to a ten-year old’s reading level. It reminded me of a picture book for younger children only the author used words instead of drawings.

Opal’s mother left her with her preacher-father when she was young. At age ten she and her father moved to a new community.  Opal’s new misfit-type friends made her feel welcome as she introduced them to her new dog found in the grocery store, Winn-Dixie. Opal, in turn, drew these strangers together into her new community, enriching their lives.  I wish I’d written this one!

Because of Winn-Dixie

I finally finished Writing the Breakout Novel by  Donald Maas. I do this every time I sit down to write – read about writing. It makes me indecisive because I start one thing, then hate it, and start over. My manuscript gets chewed up before it even gets halfway done.  Nonetheless, I think it improves some each time. At this point, I haven’t written a good word in a week, which is 1/4th of the time I have to write. I can’t blame that on Donald Maass. This might be a better book to read between writing exercises, rather than during NaNoWriMo. But DO read it.

Writing the Breakout Novel

Finally, Change of Life by Anne Stormont lapsed over into my regular schedule because my iPhone tells me it took five hours to read, and I started it just before we reached San Francisco.

I would have been happy to write this book also. With an enlarged family of characters and only a few outsiders Stormont manages to inflict everything horrible on the heroine that can possibly happen. She does things to that poor woman, that I just couldn’t bear to do in my Girls on Fire novel. She’s not very nice to her husband either. I cried a few tears with her, but I didn’t put the book down until the resolution. I think the worst secret, saved for the last pages might be little overplayed, for today’s reader, but for the time period in which it happened, not so much. Her husband kept the secret until 2009, and by that time, I didn’t think it should have had the painful impact on the heroine that the book seemed to imply that revealing the secret would cause.  I recommend this book, especially for women battling breast cancer. If I  am diagnosed with cancer, I’ll give this book to my husband!

Change of LifeThe other book I started to read, and closed quietly was The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman. I thought this book would help me write a successful first page to my new novel, but it drug me all over the writing process.  It would take me an agonizing two hours and fourteen minutes to complete the remaining 81% of the book. Instead I opted to try to sleep my way to Philly with my seatback fully reclined at 89 degrees, every itchy inch of my dry skin making me want to crawl out of it, and shivering in the controlled airplane climate under layers of thermal and flannel wrapped in a down coat.  Sorry Noah.