Characters, Movies, Writing

If wishes were books …

I wish I could say I’ve completed a first draft of my next book, but the truth is I’m far from that point. Every night before I fall asleep, I listen for my characters to speak. Every day I continue reading and waiting to get back to work. Ah well, one day soon …

ppposterThis past week, I took a workshop from the Women’s Fiction Writers Association on writing middles, and I hope to get a spot in the upcoming workshop on writing beginnings and endings. That should cover a brush-up on structure, right?

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was the book used as an example in the first workshop. I can’t recall reading any of Austen’s works and don’t own any, so I downloaded a digital copy of the book, but I didn’t have time to read it before the class started. Instead, I watched the 2005 movie version. I loved the movie. (And yes, I know it wasn’t completely faithful to the book.)

Apparently, most Austen fans prefer the earlier BBC mini-series version with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. I watched clips of that one, and though I’m sure it was a top-notch production and Firth acted splendidly, I prefer the more recent version with Matthew MacFadyen, maybe because he reminded me of John Cusack. And Keira Knightley, who played Lizzie, reminded me so much of my oldest granddaughter that watching the movie was a delight.

So anyway, I got introduced to Jane Austen fifty years later than most readers do. I confess reading the text was a bit daunting. Maybe my inner ear isn’t tuned to Regency. I had no trouble with the dialogue in the movie, but I’ve since learned it was slightly modernized because the director theorized people didn’t actually speak the way Austen wrote.

Wishing is where I started this and that’s where I’ll end. I wish my Nicole would speak to me with her beautiful words. I wish my Jesse would speak to me in his soft, molasses drawl. I wish the words would flow and carry me swiftly down the river to the The End.

I wish …


Movies, Opinion

Call me a Pollyanna if you must

In the past month, when I took breaks from writing I watched movies. I’m going to tell you about three of them.Two were set in Ireland, one in Australia.  Two, I’ll recommend, the other I won’t, even though it was well made. I’ll explain why, though you may not agree.

My first recommendation is Ondine, described as a romantic drama. It’s the story of Syracuse, called Circus, an Irish fisherman who discovers a mysterious woman in his fishing net and hides her away. It stars Colin Farrell who’s not hard to look at—especially with long hair. Circus is a recovering alcoholic, trying to be a good father to his daughter whose kidneys are failing. His daughter believes the woman is a selkie, a mythological character.

The selkie reference, as well as the misty, dreamlike quality of this movie, reminded me of another, The Secret of Roan Inish, which I wanted to rewatch, but my copy has disappeared.

The second move, also Irish, is The Eclipse, described as a supernatural drama. It’s the story of Michael Farr, a grieving, middle-aged widower, struggling to get on with his life as a single father. It stars Ciarán Hinds, not as “pretty” as Farrell, but handsome nonetheless. Michael teaches shop in the seaside town of Cobh, and volunteers at the local annual literary festival. There he’s assigned to assist and chauffeur a woman who writes about ghosts. Since he’s recently begun to suspect his house is haunted, he seeks her opinion.

Both these movies were quiet, drenched in atmosphere, and interesting character studies. If you like that sort, click on the links above and watch the trailers. If you’ve seen either of them, let me know what you thought.

Now, the third movie, which I decline to name. It’s based on the true story of a group of Australian men convicted as serial killers, and told from the viewpoint of the youngest of the group. Most often, serial killers act alone, so this case was unfortunately unusual.  It was well done, gruesomely, realistically, disturbingly so. I was both repulsed and mesmerized as I watched it. At one point, I had to mute the TV and yet, I didn’t stop the dvd player.

When the movie was over, I felt sick and violated. I felt as if I’d lived among those people and participated in their crimes. I felt guilty. It took me days to shake that off. The movie was well written, directed, and acted, yet it seemed an indecency to watch. I wish I never had, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to forget it. For that reason I can’t recommend you watch it.

All of these movies drew me into the lives of the characters. Those are the sort of movies—and books—that I love, and that’s why I need to be careful whose life I’m drawn into. Maybe it’s my age. I’m well aware that life is messy, complicated, sometimes midnight black because I’ve lived through six decades of it. I’d rather be assured of the decency in humanity than of the depravity. I believe in hope. So give me at least a glimmer of light in those last frames or pages and I’ll remember you fondly.

Dream, Family, Movies, Real Life

The fear and psychedelia of “vacationing”

I’m “vacationing” from my virtual life this week. Where I live, this is the last week of vacation before the school year begins, and I’m being visited by granddaughters. By the end of this week, I’ll have seen four of my five, and spent considerable time with two of them. With those two, it’s serious craft time with one and movie time with the other.

Fortunately, nine-year-old Emily uses the glue gun herself own now, which is a relief because I can’t get within two feet of one without decorating my fingers with burns. She always packs as much color as she can into a project, so after we watched the fourteen-year-old Adrienne’s movie choice, Yellow Submarine, Emily crafted the peacock below. Adrienne went with this psychedelic mushroom.  Hmmm … yeah.

Unfortunately, among movie girl’s other choices this week have been The Mothman Prophecies and then a documentary titled The Eyes of the Mothman. I enjoy watching them, but I regret it when I get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. I am not fond of the dark. I have an active imagination.

I can’t blame my recent series of nightmares on Adrienne though because it started before she arrived. So far, I’ve had one where the whole world has gone mad and blood-thirsty people are at my door. Another where I’m in charge of a baby who is not really a baby and I’m rushing to get it somewhere, but every direction I try to go is flooded.

I even had a dream I haven’t had in twenty years. You know, one of those high school stress dreams. This time, I sensed that I was essentially homeless, but had been staying in this house with a couple of old women I didn’t know. It was the first day of the semester, but I had no idea how to get to the school from this house. I knew I was going to be late, so I would have to report to the office when I got there, but I couldn’t remember where that was, and then I realized I didn’t have my class schedule.

Yeah, I’m stressed about finishing this WIP. Specifically, I’m stressed because I’m unsure about the final scenes I planned.  So, I have a baby, that’s not really a baby (it’s nearly a full book), and I’m pushing to get it to the end, but I’m flooded with alternate ideas. These assaults on my original plans seem like madness trying to get in my door. And I’m suddenly in a place I didn’t plan to be, trying to get to where I’m supposed to be, but I’m late, unsure how to get there, and I’ve left my schedule (outline) behind.

How’s that for a “vacation”?

Book Reviews, Books, Doubt, Movies, Opinion, Reader, Real Life, Time, Writing

Hell is being sick … and not being able to read!

By a strange coincidence, a virus felled me the day after I saw the movie Contagion. That was bad enough, but the topper was that for a couple days, I was too sick to even read. You can only sleep so much, and with my need for glasses, it’s not easy watching television lying down. And writing—even to just think the words—fuhgeddaboutit!

So, as much as I hate the word bored, I have to say I was. I kept thinking about that Twilight Zone episode where the man who wants only to be left alone with his books, gets his wish, but then isn’t able to read because he breaks his glasses. Hell, indeed. Today, I’m about 90% back to normal.

When I could read again, I finished The Help, which I’d started before I got sick, and read a little more of another one, Joy for Beginners, which I’d started over a month ago, but set aside.

For the record, I loved The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which I mentioned in a previous post. I was astounded to learn the degree to which one woman’s cells have been instrumental in worldwide medical and biological research for over fifty years. My only reserve is discomfort over the way the author chose to portray Henrietta’s family.

I also loved The Help. It’s been a long time since I read a book of that length so quickly. I hope to see the movie soon, though I’ve heard it’s not as good as the book. Typical. I try not to read reviews before I read a book, so afterward I was surprised to read negative remarks written as though the reader expected The Help to be more history than fiction.

Despite what the cover says, Joy for Beginners is not constructed as a traditional novel, and eventually I found it less frustrating to read it as a collection of connected short stories. The writing is pretty. The reason I’m taking so long to finish the book is that I don’t care enough about the characters.

As for Contagion, it was a disappointment. The acting was good, the story premise good, the execution of that premise, not good. It started out well, developed a bit, but then waned, and finally, fizzled out. Gee. I seem to be doing nothing but blogging reviews lately, or rather opinions—which is exactly how you should view them.

I don’t really have much to say about writing because I’m sort of stumbling around again. This is a list of the writing problems I encountered this month:

  1. I kept changing my mind on which book to work on first. (Solved … I think.)
  2. I lost sight of writing for myself and started wondering what readers would think.
  3. I started worrying about who I’ll get to beta read and how I can pay an editor.

In short, I’ve been fussing and fighting with writing, but not doing much of it. I have one more novel to read, and then I’m hanging up my library card for a while, so I can do what I’m supposed to do. Write. Right?

Movies, Real Life

Death and The Tree of Life

Due to my awareness of a certain Florida trial, the early part of this summer has carried a depressing overtone of death. With a nod toward synchronicity, I spent a couple hours yesterday afternoon considering another death, but this time it was a beautiful and thrilling experience.

I’m speaking of the Palme d’Or winner of the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, the Terrence Malick film, The Tree of Life. I sat spellbound through the 138 minutes running time. During a stop at the restroom on the way out, I started to cry. A visceral reaction.

I want to see it again. I saw the movie with my youngest son, who had already seen it once with his wife. She cried too. I told him I felt stunned in a dreamlike way. That reminded me of my reaction to another movie, The New World (2005). Same guy wrote and directed both, he told me, Terrence Malick.

This is not a film for everyone. No superheroes, vampires, wizards, car chases, road trips, buddies, bridesmaids, aliens, or pirates. It’s fluid in time and plot, often without dialogue. It’s music and poetry and art and science and religion. It’s gorgeous and haunting and thought-provoking. Expect an experience rather than entertainment.

If you’re curious, watch the trailer below or go to the Official Movie Site to learn more.