The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman




First Lines: "Richard did not become frightened until darkness began to settle over the woods.  In the fading light, the trees began to take on unfamiliar and menacing shapes. There was movement in the shadows. Low-hanging branches barred his path; rain-sodden leaved trailed wetly across his cheek."


Back cover:  He was the last-born son of the Duke of York and the last Plantagenet King.  He was Richard III, a complex man living in tumultuous times.  Caught in the vicious power struggle that history has called the War of the Roses, Richard had been raised in the shadow of his charismatic brother Edward.  At nineteen and against all odds, Edward had defeated the House of Lancaster and claimed the English throne for York.  Famous for his sensual appetites and his preference for the expedient over the correct, Edward nonetheless found in his younger brother Richard an unfailing loyal ally.  Richard himself was repaid for his allegiance; he was denied nothing, except the one thing he wanted most in life--the right to wed the woman he adored, Anne Neville. Their love would haunt them both and add to the tragedy of Richard's eventual defeat at the hands of the Tudors.
Sharon Kay Penman has become one of my favorite historical fiction story writers. I was first introduced to her books through her Welsh trilogy with Here Be Dragons.   Her stories are full of depth and richly populated with interesting historical characters.  

The Sunne in Splendour covers the life of Richard III over a 33 year period from when he was seven years old until after his death. From page one she immerses you in the lives of the House of York, as well as Lancaster and Neville.  I enjoyed learning about Richard, his brother Edward's rise to to be King and his relationship with Richard, the War of the Roses, the intrigues as well as betrayals of the time period.  History too often is rewritten with the facts being lost in the process when told from your enemies point of view. Through meticulous research, Penman set out to write a historical fiction novel that would show Richard wasn't the villain the Tudors and Shakespeare made him out to be. At 900+ pages, The Sunne in Splendour is a rich and densely packed story about 15th century England,  family, power, and politics which will capture your attention and hold you there until the very end.  

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg



I finished Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones which was most entertaining, educational as well as an inspirational read.  Her essays are like meandering down a winding trail with something new around each curve to observe and absorb, with new or common sense ideas to try out different approaches to writing as well as writing in different places and spaces.   


Synopsis:  With insight, humor, and practicality, Natalie Goldberg inspires writers and would-be writers to take the leap into writing skillfully and creatively. She offers suggestions, encouragement, and solid advice on many aspects of the writer’s craft: on writing from “first thoughts” (keep your hand moving, don’t cross out, just get it on paper), on listening (writing is ninety percent listening; the deeper you listen, the better you write), on using verbs (verbs provide the energy of the sentence), on overcoming doubts (doubt is torture; don’t listen to it)—even on choosing a restaurant in which to write.  Goldberg sees writing as a practice that helps writers comprehend the value of their lives. The advice in her book, provided in short, easy-to-read chapters with titles that reflect the author’s witty approach (“Writing Is Not a McDonald’s Hamburger,” “Man Eats Car,” “Be an Animal”), will inspire anyone who writes—or who longs to.

I'm more of a sporadic writer, writing daily for long periods of time, then maybe not at all for weeks or more.  There is always something percolating in the back of my mind but I don't always feel the need to get it down on paper.  After a while, ideas blend together to form an epiphany that gets me writing again.  I had been doing morning grumbles (morning pages), then started to laugh at myself for dwelling too long on things that I can not change and decided to go back to ignoring what Goldberg calls the monkey mind. 


We all have the mind of a monkey. This analogy, slightly humorous though it may be, is actually quite salient. Consider that we humans have around fifty thousand separate thoughts each day, many of them on the same topic. You might imagine that each thought is a branch, and you, or at least the attention of your conscious mind, is indeed a monkey, swinging from thought-branch to thought-branch all day long. ~ Pocket Mindfulness.

So when I came to the chapter The Goody Two Shoes Nature I realized I had been doing some of my writing out of duty rather than because I wanted to, which of course takes all the joy out of it.  


"Some people hear the rule "Write every day" and do it and don't improve.  They are just being dutiful.  That is the way of the Goody Two-Shoes.  It is a waster of energy because it takes tremendous effort to just follow the rules if your heart isn't in it.  If you find this is your basic attitude, then stop writing.  Stay away from it for a week or a year.  Wait until you are hungry to say something, until there is an aching in you to speak.  Then come back.
Writing can teach us the dignity of speaking the truth, and it spreads out from the page into all of our life, and it should. Otherwise, there is too much of a schism between who we are as writers and how we live our daily lives. That is the challenge: to let writing teach us about life and life about writing.  Let it flow back and forth." pg 168-169 

I was a Goody two shoes in all things growing up.  I thought I had gotten past that but discovered I was bringing that to my writing practice. So I did quit, for quite a long time.  So this spoke to my heart. 

Since I am in the process of rewriting my current WIP, her essay on Rereading and Rewriting is synchronous. I had been trying to decide how to approach it?  Do I edit electronically -  cutting, pasting and adding or do I work from the printed out version, making notes and filling in?   Neither method seemed to be working for me.  OR....do I rewrite scenes all over again on a blank piece of paper, taking what I know about the story?  

Then I read:


See revision as 'envisioning again.'  If there are areas in your work where there is a blur or vagueness, you can simply see the picture again and add the details that will bring your work closer to your mind's picture.  You can sit down and time yourself and add to the original work that second, third or fourth time you wrote on something.  For instance, you are writing about pastrami.  Your first time writing is good, but you know you have more to say about the subject.  Over a day, two days, a week's time, do several more timed writings on pastrami.  Don't worry that you might repeat yourself.  
Reread them all and take the good parts of each one and combine them.  It is like a cut and paste job, where you cut out the strong writing of each timed writing and paste them together.  So even in rewriting you use the method and rules of timed writing.  This helps you to become reengaged in the work you wrote before.  Attempting to reconnect with first thoughts is much better than standing in the middle of your mosquito swarm trying to swat at your discursive thoughts before they suck blood.  It's a much more efficient way to rewrite and it bypasses the ego even in rewriting.
Given that God, the universe, or synchronicity, whatever you want to call it, has in the past few days thrown the idea at me from several avenues -  the prospect of a fresh start, keeping in mind what I've already written -  I think it's time to take that advice. 

I thoroughly enjoyed Writing Down the Bones and highly recommend it.  

Monday Meanders: Weekly intentions - filling in the blanks



Sunday evening and hubby is using everything - including the kitchen sink - to make Margaritas!  *grin*    He dug out the old oster blender and ice crusher and is having a fun time mixing our drinks.  Best he's made yet...Well this time! 

I made great progress this week with outlining my current WIP on poster board and had more than a few epiphanies! I've always been a visual person so don't know why I didn't try this before.  Love seeing each scene and how I can move each one around to make better sense.




I'm far from done  and have written more notes,  found holes in the main arc and subplots and discovered which characters I need to still interview.  Even after two sessions with the storyboard, I can see I need to put in more time ironing out details so this week will continue to work with the story board and adding scenes.  I have made a lot of changes regarding the number of characters, deleting some and including new ones, plus I had too many points of view. I also forgot I had just the basics on my villains and never interviewed them, so will work on their background as well.  I think I'll give myself two more weeks for refreshing myself on story points, discovery and interview process, with the goal of beginning actual rewrites the first week of February.  I know characters will reveal new information and some things will change as we move through the story, so as always I'll remain flexible.  

However, life interrupts with taxes so I'll be working on those this week. I need to run our 2017 numbers and find out if we own more in  taxes than originally planned for, since our next estimated payment is due.  I know I should have done this a while back, but just didn't have the time.  Plus we coming to the end of the 1st semester of 12 grade and you guessed it, grades are due.  Lots of numbers will be floating through my head for the next few days.  

Meanwhile I'm 2/3rd's of the way through Sharon Kay Penman's historical novel,  The Sunne in Splendor.  I really enjoy her writing.  I shelved The Courage to Write because it was too negative for me and happily reading Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones essays as well as Write a Novel in Ten Minutes a Day by Katharine Grubb.

I've been quite inspired the past couple weeks and feeling more creative. I now look forward to writing, embracing whatever emotion is raised in the moment rather than burying my head in a book and ignoring life.  

Happy writing! 

    










A to Z Poetry: Birth





Birth


An idea comes in the midst of sleep.
Drowsily you grab paper and pen
to scrawl words to keep,
before they are lost again.

Characters once asleep
 in the shadows of your mind,
come to life with a leap.
A story is born in a moment of time.


Let's start with my name
then we'll fill in the rest,
the chick says as she claims
 a home in your mind's nest. 

I want joy and strife,
a mountain to climb, a pit so deep, 
the bottom or top of my life.
will take time to reach.

I may need a mate,  but not quite like me  
we'll both need a race, a riddle, a quest, to solve.
I don't want simple or carefree
while our life evolves.

She sits on your shoulder, filling your ears.
You'll tell the tale of my life
living vicariously through my fears and tears,
laughter and love and strife.

A lifetime created with one little spark
when you read the page
written so clumsily in the dark.
Psst! My name is Sage.


~R.L.McCormack~

Thursday Epiphany: Outlining



I had an epiphany today. I have various exercises as well as a short story using the characters from Eyes that I completed while taking classes a while back.  I realized today that all that information can be incorporated into the main story as flashes of backstory or part of the story, providing clues to the characters as well as the conflict.  I don't have to stick with the conclusion in the short story since no ones read it except class mates and it isn't published, so nothing is written in stone. Such a freeing moment.  I've been writing lots of notes and started to fill out post its for the story board.  It's slow going but that's okay.  I've gotten a good start and will continue to work on it throughout the weekend.   

Doing a happy dance! 

Writerly Wednesday: Getting Organized

Our two week Christmas break from lessons is over and time to get back into the groove of learning. Every Sunday I fill out James weekly assignment sheet. The other evening I sat down to fill out his schedule as usual. I happened to look at the pile of books and notebooks in my writing nook, thinking how I'd fit my writing and blogging and everything else in for the day while he's busy working on his stuff, when the idea hit me. To do's and notes and bullet journals just were not working. I needed something simple and always accessible, not buried in a notebook. 

I should make an assignment sheet of my very own to follow weekly! 

I ignored the voice of the editor in my head saying it's another way to procrastinate from what I really needed to be working on, which is the story board. "Hey you," I say to the criticism, "I printed out the story, put it my notebook and I bought a trifold bulletin board so I'm ready to jet. Lots of changes are percolating around in my brain, so shut it." *grin* Besides, I'm being creative.  The lines aren't perfect and that's a bit annoying which I'll blame on paint and having to do a bit of rework since Word wouldn't let me save it in jpeg for some reason.  Pdf yes, Jpeg no.  *facepalm*

I'm psyched and ready to roll! 



 

Monday Intentions: Review and Rewrite



Have you ever edited the life and your voice out of a story?  I've come to realize I did just that with Eyes in the Ashes.  I wrote it several years ago and had writer classmates and friends  over a period of time review different chapters and provide feedback. Lacking the foresight to decide what was the best thing to do, I implemented way too many changes.  Every time I've gone back and looked at the story, I'd tried rewriting a bit more, but have never been quite happy with how things turned out.  In the meantime,  I've changed and learned so much about the craft of writing and grown into my skin as a writer. Plus I've written a few more stories and even one that kind of ties in with this one, as well as flash fiction and nonfiction.  But I always keep coming back to this particular story.  Things have been percolating in my brain for some time with changes in characters, points of view, and more.     

So I have decided to go back to the beginning and as my husband the engineer keeps telling me - start with the baseline.  He's a great sounding board for ideas and is totally in with me story boarding the story.  Little does he know that I may take over the kitchen wall, but for right now I'll try to keep it poster board size.  *grin* 

I printed out the original draft today and will write up the list of scenes this week and figure out where I need to delete or add scenes.   I've already decided to rewrite from my main character's point of view and have been having fun interviewing and delving into his backstory.  I know much more about him now than I did a couple years ago.   In addition, will write up a current list of things to do involving character interviews,  research and more.  I'm going to take it week by week with the goal of reaching THE END by the end of the year.    

I’ll keep an accountability record by reporting on goals and accomplishments each week. 


The first requirement in taking a step in the right direction is to take a step in some direction. ~Robert Brault

Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball 1973 by Haruki Murakami





By 

Haruki Murakami 






Amazon:  Wind/Pinball, a unique two-in-one volume, includes, on one side, Murakami’s first novel Hear the Wind Sing. When you flip the book over, you can read his second novel, Pinball, 1973. Each book has its own stunning cover. In the spring of 1978, a young Haruki Murakami sat down at his kitchen table and began to write. The result: two remarkable short novels—Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973—that launched the career of one of the most acclaimed authors of our time. These powerful, at times surreal, works about two young men coming of age—the unnamed narrator and his friend the Rat—are stories of loneliness, obsession, and eroticism. They bear all the hallmarks of Murakami’s later books, and form the first two-thirds, with A Wild Sheep Chase, of the trilogy of the Rat. Widely available in English for the first time ever, newly translated, and featuring a new introduction by Murakami himself, Wind/Pinball gives us a fascinating insight into a great writer’s beginnings.






Hear the Wind Sing is an intriguing first book which reads like a memoir. Like his later books, it meanders and introduces topics or goes on tangents that you not quite sure how they fit, but you know they fit anyway. Parts of a whole, more story to come. Derek Hartfield, NEB radio, the girls who touched his life, Rat who is still a bit of a mystery. Captures you and leaves you wondering.





The 2nd in Murakami's rat trilogy illustrates his growing style for writing in a non linear, pseudo stream of consciousness style.  The fondness for the radio station guy calling out of the blue, his love for cats and dogs, and the theme of obsession.  Murakami loads his books with oddball characters which keeps you reading, wanting to know where he is taking you. The still unnamed narrator's memoir like journey with the nameless twins.  We learn somewhat more about Rat who is an very unhappy guy, but yet remains somewhat of a mystery.    The narrator's obsession over pinball has an quirky resolution you probably wouldn't find in other stories.  I thoroughly enjoyed both stories 


A to Z Poetry: Age




AGE

No longer babies, no longer teens.
Perceiving things by different means
I see blues. You see greens.
You. Me. Us. Friends.


We'll never see eye to eye, If you don't 
let me grow up, if I don't let you fly.
You can't say you know more than me
We each experience life very oppositely


I tell the truth. You tell me I lie. 
then don't understand when
 I walk away 
with a sigh. 


You leave, I grieve. 
You return, I accept.
Never demanding to hear
the words you'd expect.


Different spaces, different places.
We are so far apart.
not quite reading the same pages.
Still in each other's heart.


Where did the time go?
No need to apologize.
We bounce in and out
and try see through each other's eyes.


Middle age, no longer children.
Both busy, both immersed
Crossing t's and dotting i's
Embroiled in our daily lives.


We love. We laugh. We try.
Maybe when we are ninety
old and spry
We'll be able to see eye to eye


~R.L.McCormack~

Thursday First Lines: Hear the Wind Sing by Haruki Murakami





"There's no such thing as a perfect piece of writing.  Just as there's no such thing as perfect despair." So said a writer I bumped into back when I was a university student.  It wasn't until much later that I could grasp his full meaning, but I still found consolation in his words--that there's no such thing as perfect writing