I am taking a course at UTexas called Kickstart your Novel. Last week I brought in a sample of my story and a few classmates and the instructor took it home in order to critique it. Normally the instructor critiques your writing while you are in a small group setting. But for reasons I won’t go into, my writing was critiqued in from the entire group.
The instructor is kind and has a way of delivering a critique without squashing your dreams. Overall it was a favorable review by all who read it with one classmate saying it was the best thing she’d read so far in class. The instructor pointed out my good word and phrase choices. An example, “Michael casually shredded her life.”
I have the most difficult (my therapist would say impossible) time accepting praise. I sift out the good and only keep bad. Silly, I know and I’m working on changing.
So who knows, maybe I will someday realize my dream and be a published author.
You are probably wondering who is Demelza and why would I want to live like her? She is a wonderful character created by Winston Graham. A poor miner’s daughter living in an abusive, desperately poor home, she is swept into a new world when she is brought home with Ross Poldark to work as a house servant in England post American Revolution.
Now am I saying I want to work as a servant. The answer is no. But Demelza has a love of life, a roll up your sleeves and get to work, I am blessed view of life. No matter what tragedy she faces, even when she makes her own mistakes, she quickly rebounds.
I am going to quote the book in this my first blog post. Now married to Ross, Demelza has just lost their young daughter to a morbid throat disease and she herself has almost lost her own life to the same. A feud is broiling between Ross and his cousin, Francis who married Ross’s sweetheart, Elizabeth. And to complicate matters more, Demelza caught the disease while nursing Elizabeth, Francis and their young son. They all survived but precious Julia was lost. Now if I had been in that situation I would have had Ross’s attitude, an attitude of anger, sadness, overwhelming hopelessness and a desire for revenge. However Demelza ends the book with the following:
“When something happens,” she said, “like what has just happened to us, it makes all our quarrels seem small and mean, as if we were quarreling when we hadn’t the right. Didn’t we ought to find all the friendship we can?”
For me the simple substitution of happiness in the place of friendship and disappointments for quarreling makes it applicable to my life and my divorce.
When something happens, like what has just happened to me, it makes all my disappointments seem small and mean, as if I was disappointed when I hadn’t the right. Shouldn’t I ought to find all the happiness I can?
Alright, I may have admitted this before, but it is important we own our addictions. And I have found a new website which happily feeds my addiction. It is Thrift Books. I’ve been using the library for ebooks but sometimes I am impatient and don’t want to be 11th in line for a book, so I feel compelled by my addiction to buy the book. Thrift Books helps me afford to do that but, I am a book addict. I will say it again. I am a book addict. Since January 1st, I have read 38 books. Which means I am averaging one book approximately every 3.8 days. And since last fall I have specifically become addicted to detective mystery series set either in another time or another place. These include:
- The Armand Gamache Books by Louise Penny – set in Quebec, present day
- The Maisie Dobbs Books by Jacqueline Winspear- set in England pre and post WWI
- The Ian Rutledge Books by Charles Todd- set in England post WWI
- Bruno, Chief of Police Books by Martin Walker- set in St. Denis area, France, present Day
I am not certain why I have suddenly become addicted to this type of book but I do know why a series captures me. A good writer makes a character real in my mind. These characters become my friends. I think about them. I wonder what they are doing when I am finished with a series. What do I share with each of them. Each character faces their own demons and identifying with this is easy. I question my choices like Armand. I have been hurt and right now I keep s wall around my emotions like Maisie. Ian struggles with a voice in his head of a lost soldier. I struggle with my own voice chastising me for making so many wrong choices. I long for love like Bruno.
I admire them and their unique qualities. What can I learn from their lives and then incorporate into my own life so I will be happier, more content person. I want to be a better listener like Armand. I want to be patient like Maisie and not miss the details. I want to push past my fears like Ian. And I want to live a life rich with friends and the love of the simple things like Bruno. I know they are fictional characters but I still learn something about myself through each book, each story, each struggle and each triumph.
So again, I admit I am an addict, a book addict and I hope I never am cured.
I am currently reading a book series by Martin Walker. They tell the story of Bruno Courrèges , the chief of police in the Périgord area of France. He loves his village of St. Denis, his adopted hometown. Here he finds the love and support he didn’t have as an orphaned boy. One of his great loves is cooking and dining well. He is gourmand and I sadly am a daughter of American cuisine. My palate would be challenged by some of his meals. However, the food doesn’t need to be fancy to be shared.
Dining with friends is a central theme throughout the series. Bruno is known for his cooking in addition to his astute police work. Laughter, sadness, love, hopes and dreams are shared between friends and family around the dinner table. Farewells are said to friends lost through death. Now I realize this is a book and not real life, but I do know the importance sitting together with your family for one meal a day . It plays a vital role in our lives. It is the one chance each day we have the opportunity to focus on those most important to us. Dinner time is when a child might express concern or joy about something inparticular. It is when parents teach their children through discussion the importance of staying connected with what is going on in the world. It is clearly the time parents can share their values through simple conversation.
Dining with friends widens our network of support. We are reminded we don’t face life’s hardships alone and we don’t celebrate the goodness of life alone either. At the dinner table we learn to give thanks for the simple things in life and the importance having a strong network of friends can be. Americans though have a difficult time sitting down and dining. Dinner is often rushed take out. Everyone grabs their order then scrambles off to their private space in the house. I know time is limited and the author is very clever because he writes about Bruno doing preperations prior to his day beginning. It does take practice but if everyone shared the responsiblity (at the the husband and wife) then it wouldn’t seem like such a burden.
Americans don’t entertain friends much anymore either, at least most of my former friends didn’t. When I or the one other friend who entertained would invite people to share dinner in our homes, you would think we had given them an expensive and irreplacable gift. I agree the gift of friendship is irreplacable but sharing dinner doesn’t have to be. If you can’t afford to serve dinner to a group of friends, host a potluck. Or maybe host a dessert party, a make your own pizza party or an after dinner drinks party. The object is to come together for a time and shut out the rest of the world. Bruno, time and time again, finds the support and encouragement he needs around the dinner table.
I live alone and have allowed this to be my excuse for not cooking. Why cook for one? It is so much work if I am the only one who will be eating. Sadly I am teaching myself I am not worth the effort to make good food. A goal I have as I move on from this place, is to bring back the art of dining, even if it is only dining for one.
MURDER IN BLUEBONNET HILLS
I am well into my story now. 80,000 words is given as the minimum for writing to be considered a novel. I am halfway finished with reading Stephen King’s On Writing book. I was skeptical when he mentioned his characters speaking to him and leading sometimes down an entirely different story path.
I know now he’s right. I had a basic plot line in mind, characters, victim, a guilty murderer and as I have continued to write the story, I am being lead in an entirely different direction. It seems my murderer is innocent and someone else did the nasty deed.
If I continue writing at my current pace I hope to finish the first draft by mid-May. Thank you to Julie and Anne for their bravery in reading what I’ve written and giving me their honest opinions. When it’s finally finished and I e-publish it I will certainly post it on my blog.
All charts are fromVulture
Men continue to keep women in their place by casting super young actresses opposite old men. I’m not talking a couple years difference. I’m talking about men old enough to be their father and grandfather. The link is to an article by Vulture. They are an online news media outlet that reports of what’s happening around the world especially in entertainment.
Every time we watch images with such an age discrepancy, we are being sent a subliminal message that only young women have value and are lovable. We may not be consciously thinking about it at the time, but when we see it over and over in the movies, on TV and in the lives of public personalities there is no way it doesn’t affect us.
Discrimination is something we as Americans are supposed to fight against yet we allow the movie industry to continue to plant untruths in our minds. We do nothing about it. The actresses of Hollywood do nothing about it. What would happen if actresses agreed not to have more than 5 years or even a maximum of 10 years age difference between them and their leading men? There would be lots of movies that would not get made or casting agents would find someone age appropriate.
Is this the message we want to send out daughters? That they only have value when they are young? Thankfully there is one man who stands above the rest with integrity.
Ok let me clarify. The TV show Younger is the pretext of 40 year old divorcee pretending to be 26 because se can’t get hired after she stayed home to raise her daughter. She wants health benefits and an income. That is where the similarities stop.
I am 56 and couldn’t pass for 42 (same age difference in the show). And I don’t have super young and super hot boyfriend. But I did stay home to raise my daughters. I am divorced. I don’t have health insurance and I can’t find a job.
In the season finale she leaves her good job as a 26 year old and takes a job in a department store. Her only comments are she was able to turn off her brain and she will have health insurance. Of course her incredibly hot age appropriate boss hunts her down lays a kiss on her.
So as much as I have in common with Liza (the character), I am unfortunately living out the realty rather than the television fiction.
I love the Poldark Series by Winston Graham. My favorite character is Demelza and this is why I am so captivated by her.
A quote from Demelza by Winston Graham. “He sighed and put her hand against his cheek. It was not a disconsolate sigh, for her returning life was a tonic to his soul. Whatever she suffered, whatever loss came to her, she would throw it off, for it was not in her nature to go under…..But chiefly it was because some element had put in her nature to be happy. She was born so and could not change.”Are we born with a certain personality? We all know people who always seem to be happy regardless of their circumstances and there are people who are always depressed and sad. Do we come into this world one way or the other with no hopes of changing? Clearly Ross believes Demelza was born with a happy disposition and could not change. He believes he has her opposite disposition with a perpetually pessimistic outlook.
I’ve read so many books about this very topic. You can find a book to support both positions but now many experts agree that our outlook on life is a combination of our inborn personality and life experiences. I can attest to this. My sister and I are two years apart but on the opposite ends of optimism and pessimism. Wish I could say I was the lucky one with the natural sunny outlook but I’m not. I have to work everyday to have a positive outlook and believe the best is ahead of me.
Reading Ross and Demelza’s story resonates with me. It reminds me they we do have a choice on how we perceive our life and a choice to how we react and proceed forward when things don’t go our way. This is why I titled my blog Living Like Demelza. I want to work towards living with Demelza’s spirit and attitude in my own life.
Okay I admit that I never attempted the gargantuan novel War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. The idea of reading about Napolean’s invasion of Russia and the lives of people affected never appealed to me. I am however a sucker for a big, beautiful costume drama. So I watched all six hours of Lifetime’s presentation of BBC’s production.
It was a complicated story with many characters. It required my full attention to follow the storyline. This is one time I wish I had been able to watch the last scene before I watched the entire story. Why? Because while War and Peace does tell the story of lives affected by living during times of War and Peace, I realized (maybe slower than others) that it’s a metaphor for what we experience internally in our own lives.
We all have time that war is raging internally and we must pretend we are at peace. Or we all know at least one person who is able to experience internal peace regardless of what is happening in her/his life. Andrei and Pierre both are drawn towards Natasha because she is one of those people. And it isn’t until Andrei and Pierre have suffered life altering situations that they realize the importance of just finding joy and love in each day. Without those experiences they would never had understood the secret to a joyous life. The question is would they give up that knowledge to avoid the pain they experienced? I’ve had to ask myself that question. Is the peace and joy I experience now worth the pain of my divorce? It’s been a journey for me just like it has been for Andrei and Pierre but I agree with Pierre. What follows is a quote from the movie. Pierre is contemplating his life and was his experience as a prisoner of war worth the lessons he learned. He decides if being a prisoner of war was the only way to reach the peace and joy he experiences now, than he would do it all again. He would suffer in order reach this peace in his heart.
“When our lives are knocked off course we imagine everything in them is lost. It is only the start of something new and good. As long as there is life there is happiness. There a great deal, a great deal to come.”
Why do I always feel a little sad when I finish a good book? I should be happy to be finished and ready to move on to the next good read but unless it’s a sequel I never feel that way.
A good author can make the characters seem real. I become involved in their lives, sorrows and joys. Time, life situation and age are immaterial. I connect as much with a thirty year old single female trying to make it in New York City as much as I do with an angry Englishman in 1779. Then there is the love longing Mexican girl and the post World War II single, female author seeking the place she belongs, so different but I identify with both.
I wonder what happened to the newly divorced woman who gave herself and her soon to be ex husband a divorce party in a failed effort to save her marriage. Did she find love again? Or what about Demelza? Does she become a grandmother and Ross a grandfather? Did the abused wife heal her heart and soul once she was free?
I can go places I will never see and meet people from the beginning of time to present day and even people from the future. I wonder could I possibly write about and share a story, a world and people? I just know my life would be one dimensional and gray without books.