I’m baaaaack!

Jack Nicholson in "The Shining"

I'm baaaaack!

Yes, I’m back after an unexpected and drawn out hiatus.  It’s amazing how life can change in such a short time, and what’s equally amazing is how I have not spent one drop of that time reading or writing.  For some, this would not be unusual, but for me, it’s akin to living in Opposite World.

A quick update for those keeping track:

1.  I finished NaNoWriMo and actually submitted 50,000+ words by the end of November.  Now I need another November and possibly another 50,000 to get to the end of the story, but I was really proud of myself for reaching that goal. It makes me realize how much really is possible when I put my focused will into it.

2.  After the holidays, the business of which kept me away from my books and writing, I ended up relocating back to South Florida in a relatively sudden development, so the month of January was spent packing, cleaning and actually moving.

3.  I started and recently finished a temporary job which involved standing on my feet for interminable hours without the ability to sit, read, write, or do anything other than smile and chat up virtually non-existent customers.  My mind quickly proceeded to turn to jelly, and it was all I could do to arrive in my hotel room before passing out from physical exhaustion and mental stagnation.  As much as I appreciate the opportunity, I cannot express how glad I am that it is over.

4.  Of course, this now means that I am officially unemployed . . . but it’s May in South Florida and I’ve got a pool so it can’t be all bad.  Right?  Right???

5.  Relating to my previous post on technology, I acquired an iPhone 4 due to the infinite wisdom of Apple to share its hardware with a cellular provider other than AT&T.  It’s the only thing that kept me sane during #3 as I surreptitiously
checked FaceBook and email and text messages every 15 minutes all day.  It’s remarkable how quickly I was able to drain the battery during the long work day, not to mention pathetic how dependent I was on social media for a feeling of connection.

6.  Also relating to technology, most recently, I purchased an e-reader in anticipation of a vacation that I will be taking in about a week.  I went with an e-ink (black and white) version of Barnes and Noble’s Nook.  (Disclaimer:  a week or so after I received my cheap-o refurbished Nook from B&N, they came out with a new e-ink one which is where this link will take you.)  I agonized over the decision for quite a while before making a commitment, but the main reasons for selecting this particular item were the ability to “borrow” books from the local library because of the compatible file types, the capacity to “lend” books for two weeks for free to others who use a Nook (and I do know a couple), and I went with the e-ink because, bottom line, I have to be able to read it in the sun and that’s just not possible with any of the color readers currently available.  I’m sure they’ll figure it out eventually and I’ll probably upgrade at that point, but I’m really loving the look of e-ink right now.  So far, I’m delighted with my choice.

7.  Oh yeah . . . since this is supposed to be about classic books . . . I’ve read about half of The Scarlet Letter in the last 6 months.  Anybody familiar with that book knows that it should take a serious reader approximately 4 hours to read such a slim volume, particularly a reader, such as myself, who has already read it at least twice and written two separate research papers on it.  I actually enjoyed it in the past, so I choose to blame my inability to finish it to life circumstances rather than any fault of the book or the author.  I promise to finish it before the end of my vacation and report back.  Or maybe I’ll just copy an old research paper onto the blog.

8.  One final note or actually a plug.  My high school drama class friend Christy English has just released her second novel published through Penguin Books historical fiction division.  It’s entitled To Be Queen and I’m using it to christen my Nook.  It’s sort of a prequel to her first book The Queen’s Pawn which was on an earlier post of books I read last summer.  It deals with Eleanor of Aquitaine’s earlier life and marriage to the King of France.  It’s incredible to me that I actually KNOW somebody who is really making a living as a writer, and a darn good one at that (a good writer, I mean.  I have no insight into the magnitude of the good living she is making.)  It’s inspiring to me, and more than a little annoying that I haven’t been able to do it. I suppose I’d have to actually finish writing a novel first.  Details, details.

Go buy her books.  I’ll let you know when mine is available for purchase, but, uh . . . don’t hold your breath.

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I know what I DON’T what to be

American Author Ernest Hemingway aboard his Ya...

Papa Hemingway on his yacht

Yesterday was Day One of the NaNoWriMo contest and I also finished reading my latest book selection, Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms.  There is a thread that holds these two disparate items together, other than their appearance on my blog (and their obvious relation to writing and literature.)  After reading Hemingway and beginning my own writing exercise, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I do NOT want to write like Hemingway.  I understand that his choppy, terse prose was revolutionary at the time and it earned him a Nobel Prize for literature and a Pulitzer Prize.  I should be so lucky, talented and groundbreaking, I know.  But it is not very appealing to me.  His work is not without interesting descriptions and word choice . . . one that has stuck with me was the main character’s sighting of a “candelabraed pear tree.”  Nice visual.  But the dialogue is weird and unnatural.  I imagine it serves its purpose, but I still found it difficult to enjoy.

The thing that I appreciate most is that this particular book is obviously based on his life, and really, the story is the thing that I enjoyed most.  Hemingway, too, served as an ambulance driver in Italy during WWI, although he worked for the Red Cross and not the Italian army.  He was also seriously injured during his service, like his main character.  Also similarly, they both drink . . . a lot.  The novel that I am attempting to write during NaNoWriMo is also based on my life, but it is definitely not a memoir, so it is interesting and empowering to see how another author has successfully handled a similar situation.  I am also curious to see how it was treated on-screen and plan on watching the movie version tonight if I have time.

They say write what you know.  What does anybody know better than themselves?

My next step . . .

I have been a good productive girl this week and gotten a number of household projects under my belt.  As a reward, I let myself go to Barnes and Noble to browse the stacks to choose my next victim, er, novel.  Sorry.  Still have Dracula on the brain what with Halloween next weekend and all.  I wanted to move into a more contemporary novel since my first three books were written in the 1800’s and I also wanted to take advantage of some of the Turner Classic Movies that I have sitting on my DVR by reading a book and then watching the movie.  I think I’ve decided upon Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell To Arms, although To Kill a Mockingbird is still in the running since I purchased both.

I have also been given an interesting proposition that I am seriously considering.  There is a contest called National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo for short.  Apparently, all you have to do to “win” this contest is write a 50,000 word novel during the 30 days of November . . . and I say “all” as though that were not much of a task.  The point of the contest is pure productivity.  No editing or polishing or agonizing over the right words.  Just sit down and let the words pour forth.  I must say that there is a certain appeal to this since I tend to be nearly paralyzed by self-criticism when I seriously try to write (obviously, not in this blog, though.)  And the deadline aspect is a powerful motivator in every aspect of my life.  50,000 words translates to about 178 pages, or so their web site says.  Not sure what kind of pages they mean, but it gives a little perspective.  And just in case any of you reading wonder if there is anything other than a bunch of crap being cranked out of this contest, the 2007 best seller Water For Elephants written by Sara Gruen and published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill was a product of NaNoWriMo . . . a book I read and truly enjoyed.  I’m going to talk to my potential writing partner about it later today.  If I decide to do it, my November blog posts may be short and sweet, but I’ll keep you posted (pun intended.)

And now for some personal musing (as though that’s not entirely what a blog is in the first place) . . . I had a job interview yesterday upon which I had pinned a lot of my hopes.  Suffice it to say that although it went extremely well, the outcome was not exactly what I desired:  no position available until next March at the earliest.  Now that I’ve been searching for a job for almost 8 months (and I realize that I am not alone in this) I have some heavy decision-making to do about how and where to continue my job hunt.  I’ve decided to give myself the weekend, if not the rest of the week, to ponder it before embarking on my chosen course.  In the meantime, I’m going to a 3-year-old’s birthday party with a bouncy house, watching a couple of versions of the Dracula movie, having multiple adult beverages with good friends, dressing up for Halloween (twice), and in general, trying to enjoy my life as it is.  It’s a challenge to stay in the moment when you are a control freak like me and can see the end of the money coming, but whether I sit here at the computer enjoying a little writing time or lay in my bed crying over my potential poverty has no effect on my eminent financial crisis.  It only has an effect on my current frame of mind, and more and more often in my life, I choose to try to be happy.  It’s amazing to realize how much of a personal choice it really is, and I challenge myself, as well as my myriad readers 😉 , to try to make that choice every day.