Just a nasty case of these ol' Wintertime Blues
By Norah Wilson
I'm sure John Hiatt will forgive me for stealing the title for this blog entry from his song "Wintertime Blues". But the clinical name for what I'm suffering is Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. I live way up in New Brunswick, Canada, so our daylight periods in the winter are short. Six years ago, I used a handy-dandy questionnaire I found on the Internet to self-diagnose myself, after which I puchased a full spectrum light therapy lamp.
SAD affects millions of people. As you may know (or will have guessed), it manifests itself when the season transitions to fall/winter and tapers off with the lengthening days in the spring. Sufferers may display any or all of the following symptoms: feel less energy, feel less productive/creative, need more sleep, feel depressed, have less control over their appetite. If you think you might fit the profile for SAD, you might want to take this self-test at this Dr. Norman Rosenthal
In my case, the primary symptoms are a desire for sleep, an unending appetite for carbs, and a marked anti-social feelings. And oh, yes, a reluctance to open my work in progress and write. (How can I feel my characters' feelings well enough to write about them when I can barely feel my own?)
The good news is that there's help. The light therapy box really does help lift the worst of the symptoms. So does vigorous exercise and managing your diet. Some people find St. John's Wart very effective in combatting SAD, but if you have high blood pressure like me, you should probably avoid it. And of course, your doctor may prescribe anti-depressants, if necessary.
The other thing I found heartening when I read it is that while women in their late thirties are more inclined to be "seasonal" (my approximate age when I diagnosed myself), symptoms reputedly lessen with age. So far I'm not seeing that. In fact, I have a suspicion that as long as I'm still pre-menopausal, I won't see much improvement (try crossing PMS with SAD and see how you
So, if there are effective treatments and if diet and exercise can help ameliorate the symptoms, what am I whining about? Perhaps because December is drawing to a close and I have yet to dig out my light therapy box. Yes, I am certifiably nuts. But here's the thing -- the whole SAD business makes me actually want to avoid
treatment. For the most part, I don't feel like I'm suffering...as long as I keep indulging myself by doing what the SAD tells me to do. Does a hibernating bear want to be shoved in front of a 10,000 lux light? Does he want to engage in bouts of vigorous exercise or take pains with his diet? No. He wants to be left alone to sleep. :-)
But enough is enough. My New Year's resolution will be to get on top of my SAD. Come January 1, my light therapy box will be sitting beside my computer, my refrigerator and cupboards will be filled with more healthful food, and I will climb onto the eliptical trainer I bought myself for Christmas.
In the meantime, since I ripped the title from John Hiatt, I'll leave you with a verse from his "Wintertime Blues":Three hours of day light
And all of them gray
The suicide prevention group has all run away
I'm running out of groceries
I ain't got no rubber shoes
Bring the bacon baby
I got the wintertime blues
Master of Disaster
Stuffed and Lovin' It
And not just from the turkey I ate. Eating is pretty much what I do when visiting family and friends in Louisiana during the holidays. Lest you think I exaggerate, allow me to share my diet since arriving.
Tuesday/Family Dinner with parents and siblings: Boiled Large Shrimp, Fried Turkey, Dressing, Corn Casserole, hot rolls, green beans, cranberry relish, sweet gherkins. Dessert choices: Hummingbird Cake, Date Nut Cake (kissing cousin to fruitcake), peanut blossoms, chocolate chip cookies, cranberry walnut cookies, Russell Stover chocolates, lemon meringue pie, or sweet potato pie.
Wednesday/Breakfast with Family: Homemade Buttermilk Waffles, Pork Sausage, Real Maple Syrup.
Wednesday/Lunch in the French Quarter at the Redfish Grill: appetizers: coconut shrimp, BBQ oysters, alligator sausage. Main course: Baked fish over potatoes and asparagus with a red wine reduction sauce. Dessert: chocolate bread pudding. YUM!
Wednesday/Afternoon Snack at the Blane Kern Mardi Gras World tour: slice of Gambino's King Cake
Wednesday/Early Evening Snack at Cafe Du Monde: an order of Beignets and Cafe au Lait
Wednesday Evening Cocktail at Mom and Dad's: Brandy Alexander
To counterbalance the effects of all this gastric indulgence, I did not go power walking like I should this morning, but I did choose raisin bran over bacon and eggs for breakfast. My willpower didn't last much longer. Yes, I went out to lunch again--canneloni and caesar salad at a new Italian restaurant in my hometown. It was very tasty. I'm already figuring out which sandwich shops have reopened so I can scarf down a muffleta or shrimp po-boy for lunch tomorrow.
So if you ever wondered if Louisianians still love their food as much as they profess to, the answer is a resounding YES. As the saying goes, "The rest of the world may eat to live, but in New Orleans, we live to eat!" That's something Katrina hasn't changed.
by Ila Campbell
I was cruising the blogs today, looking to see if there was any post-Christmas activity going on, and saw that Jennifer Crusie (http://jennycrusie.blogspot.com/
) had put up a new posting on hers. She decided that in addition to making New Year’s Resolutions this year, she was going to also make up a list of New Year’s Indulgences – things she was going to do this year just because she wanted to. Things that would mean just pure pleasure for her.
What a great idea! Usually New Year’s is a time for looking back at the things you didn’t do and resolving to do better, but honestly, how many of those things are we then able to cross off our lists? Don’t you think we’d be much happier with ourselves if we promised some time to do some indulging? Don’t you think there’d be a much higher success rate from that list?
So in that spirit, here’s my list of indulgences for 2007.
*Get out my batik supplies and do a few paintings. I started out in art, and I realized I am starving for the feeling of accomplishment that completing an artwork can bring. Manuscripts take me months/years to complete, but I’m much faster on the painting front.
*Take a few writing weekends with my buddy, no matter what my school schedule looks like – students can wait an extra three days to get their papers back. I will be guilt-free!
*Finish the rag rug my daughter and I started and left half-finished.
*Buy some truly decadent bath beads and enjoy a pressure-free soak every two weeks, tops!
*Get a massage at least once a month.*
Go see a movie at least once every two months (that used to be easy, but for some reason I stopped doing that).
So there’s what I’ve come up with so far. At least what I’ve thought of to date. The great thing with indulgences is you can keep adding to the list (another indulgence!!)
So, what are yours?
A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step
My oldest son, Jesse, graduated from USC in 2002. After working in Redondo Beach and then San Francisco for a few years, he quit his job and set off to see some of the world! Over the past four months he’s been to China, Bali, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, and he spent Christmas and the New Year in India. Right now he's on a three day camel safari.
Jesse has a traveling spirit. He likes to immerse himself in other cultures. With little money in his pocket and few items in his backpack he sets off for far off places. Jesse sends me updates along with pictures of acquaintances he’s met along the way. His free spiritedness has given me glimpses of life beyond my own little world, glimpses of the beauty and sadness in places I’ll probably never see for myself. It’s a lot of fun to see the world through his eyes.
How about you or your kids? Have you been bitten by the travel bug? If so, where have you been? Where would you like to go?
The Hidden Gifts
Holiday blessings to all of you. For those of you who are interested, I'll be putting this lovely but very anachronistic painting by A.B. Wenzell up on my website tomorrow, along with its story. Historically naive though it is, it has a hidden gift. It makes me smile, for it reminds me that artists and authors always see the past through the lens of their own experience.
It has also had me thinking today of the gifts we have been given this past year. Sometimes, when we look at all the trauma and sadness of the passing year, it's hard to find the gifts. But they're there.
It's been a year, I think, when many people who have been silent have decided they had been silent too long. Silence is an empty bell. It leaves the air undisturbed, and the world stagnating in its pain.
And there is a gift of change upon us. Change is creative as well as destructive, but stagnation is-- well, it has a tendency to remind me of pond water that's been around too long.
But I think the greatest gift we have been given this year is our gift from the Amish. Most of us surely remember the shock and compassion we felt, but perhaps even more we recall our awe and humility as we watched the way the very courageous Amish responded. We watched the strength and support they gave to each other and even reached out and gave to the stunned outside world. We saw the courage of the children who from the cradle had been given the skills to face death with courage, faith and peace. And we saw the gift of forgiveness for what it really is. We saw it for its deepest truths.
The man who attacked those children was caught up in anger and hatred he could not lose. He could not let it go, and he let it take him into the ultimate destruction of children he did not even know. How very different he was from the people he killed and those he hurt most. For what the Amish knew, he had not even begun to understand.
Hatred destroys, yes. But it destroys most the one who hates. It eats him alive, chews away at him and consumes his past, his present and his future, until there is nothing left of his life. In the desperate passion for vengeance, the vengeful person becomes a wraith, his soul burned away. He has victims, yes, but their destruction brings him no relief. After vengeance, then what? There is nothing left, for there is no room left for living. There is no place for peace and joy. Where he might have thought his pain would at last be assuaged, he has found only a vast emptiness. Perhaps he has found out what the true horror of Hell really is.
The Amish have shown us another way. They did not tell us; they showed us, with their lives. They will not spend their lives bound up in the destructive waste of vengeance. They will not rail at God or man. They have chosen forgiveness, and in so doing, they can go on with their lives. They will continue giving, sharing, supporting, loving, worshiping. Despite their pain, they will find peace and joy.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if the rest of the world would take up this gift they have been given? So that is my wish for the world: that we find and hold to our hearts this quiet gift the Amish have given us.
Are You Ready for Christmas? by Dr. Deb
I can’t believe in two days it’s Christmas Eve. Where has this month gone? I hope everyone reading this blog has their Christmas preparations done. If not, what do you still have to do?
I made it a goal to have everything done by mid-day today. (I don’t have to cook anything so that really lets me off the hook.) I want to relax and enjoy the Christmas spirit for the rest of the weekend. Well, almost relax. Tomorrow my kickboxing instructor has promised a special workout. Instead of an hour composed of kickboxing/aerobics, hitting and kicking the bag, floor work on abs and gluts, and a stretching cool down; she’s adding a half hour and a second instructor. In the extra time she’s going to do dancing--probably salsa, and boot camp. The dancing sounds like fun. The boot camp... But it means guilt free eating for the rest of the weekend. ☺
My family’s German roots mean we have a big celebration on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day is also celebrated. Lots of food and presents on both occasions. I want to arrive at both parties with a calmness of heart, not stressed out, so I can savor every minute with my family.
So what does relaxing and enjoying the spirit of Christmas mean to me? Aside from the nap I know I’ll need after kickboxing class, I want to watch a Christmas movie or two. Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer is at the top of my list.
I’ll have the lights lit on the Christmas trees (one in the living room and one in the family room) and carols playing. I’ll make hot chocolate and curl up on the couch in front of the fireplace. I want to take time to think about all the blessings in my life. And I want to pray for all the underprivileged people who aren’t looking at a beautifully decorated tree with presents piled underneath. I’ll include prayers for the men and women of our armed forces, especially those fighting in Iraq. And finally I’ll visualize sending around the world the ancient Christmas wish, proclaimed by the angels:
PEACE ON EARTH, GOOD WILL TO ALL!
Goals - Do You or Don't You?
I used to be a big goals person. When I first got internet, I frequented the AOL writer boards, especially the goals board. I would make yearly, monthly and weekly writing goals. After I left AOL, I continued this practice with a few of my AOL friends, including some more “life” goals, like, you know, getting Christmas cards out on time.
I looked at my yearly goals for the past couple of years. You know what? I hardly accomplished any of them. It’s not that I didn’t do anything…I just didn’t accomplish those goals. Things changed, expectations changed, circumstances changed.
It didn’t make me feel any better about not sticking to my goals.
A few weeks ago I stopped posting my weekly goals, probably when I needed them most (I just mailed my Christmas cards and I still need to bake some cookies). It wasn’t that I wasn’t accomplishing them – I like breaking things down into small bits – but I was no longer able to see how they were helping me toward the big picture. I think it’s actually because I don’t know what the big picture is anymore.
But I’m taking a break from goals for awhile. I don’t need the stress of the disappointment.
What about you? Do you make goals? How do you feel if you don’t meet them?
A Book is Like a Christmas Tree by Diane Gaston Perkins
My daughter and I decorated the Christmas tree yesterday, and it occurred to me that decorating a Christmas Tree is like writing a book.
Step One: Pull out the tree and box of decorations from the basement.This stage is the glimmer of a story idea. Everything is in pieces or unformed but all the parts are there waiting to be assembled.
Step Two: Remove the tree from its storage box.We have an artificial tree, one that comes in pieces and has to be constructed, so this stage is like writing a synopsis. It is a tree but a pre-constructed one.
Step Three: Build the treeBuilding the tree is like writing the first draft, organizing the book into chapters, flushing the story out into something with a beginning, middle and end.
Step Four: String the lightsThe lights represent the heart of the story, the emotion, conflict, the romance, the part of the story that gives it excitement and the glow of something real.
Step Five: Putting on the ornamentsThe ornaments are all those little details that make a story rich. Details of character, of setting. Dialogue that is just right. Description that is vivid and real.
Step Six: Stringing the garlandThis is the final polish. Going through and making sure all spelling, grammar and punctuation is correct. Getting rid of repetitions and inconsistencies
Step Seven: Putting away the boxesThis is where you clean up your works space of all the clutter you have accumulated. The book/tree is shining on its own, ready to be admired by all!
Now, I can just hear it. Some of you will say, “But we always buy a real tree.” Your Step One and Two are going to the tree farm and cutting it down, or to the Boy Scouts in the parking lot picking out the tree and tying it to your roof. Same thing!
Some of you will say, “But my artificial tree is already assembled.” That’s great! You are one of those writers whose story ideas come fully plotted, instead of having to be constructed scene by scene.
Others will smile smugly and say, “My tree comes with lights already attached.” Hmmph. You are that lucky breed who write a first draft that is near perfect and needs only a little embellishment.
The other day a friend of mine told me of someone he knew who had constructed a hidden closet in his living room, its sole purpose to store the already fully decorated Christmas tree. When the Season comes, this fellow merely opens the door and pulls out the tree for all to admire.
This is what everyone else thinks it takes to write a book. We know better!
I wish you all a wonderful holiday!
DianeYou can still get Diane's Christmas novella, A Twelfth Night Tale in Mistletoe Kisses from Eharlequin or Amazon
. Look for Innocence & Impropriety by Diane Gaston, March 2007
Cold Comfort -- Kiki Clark
Here's what I've read and experienced over the years. I am not a medical professional, merely an informed reader.
There are about 400 rhinoviruses out there, causing the common cold. Once you get one, you're immune to that particular variant, which is why we get fewer colds as we age. You can't catch the same cold again by not changing your sheets or toothbrush after you get over one, nor does being cold or wet generate a cold. It might weaken your system enough to succumb to a rhinovirus that's hanging around, but that's about it.
You start to show cold symptoms two to three days after you're exposed to a rhinovirus. My time frame is a remarkably consistent 48 hours. You're also the most contagious during this pre-symptom time frame. Once you start to produce mass quantities of snot, you're actually slightly less contagious, because your body is fighting the bug tooth and claw. For the average person, a cold lasts two weeks. Antibiotics don't kill rhinoviruses, because they're not bacteria. Antibiotics can help with secondary conditions, such as sinus infections. Antibiotics also depress your immune system, so your symptoms may be less, but this method is not encouraged in the medical profession.
You're unlikely to catch a cold through your mouth, because the rhinovirus would have to survive the digestive enzymes. Mostly, you catch a cold because you handled something a cold sufferer handled, then touched your eyes or the inside of your nose; the virus initially breeds in your mucus membranes. Rhinoviruses aren't that tough, however. Outside the human body, they only live about ten minutes.
Recent information shows that a Vitamin D deficiency makes people susceptible to colds, which would explain why we get more of them during the winter. If you get a lot of colds, consider taking a Vitamin D supplement.
Once you have a cold, there are a few things you can do to shorten its duration. Drink plenty of fluids, -- excepting juice, which is full of sugar. Sugar weakens the immune system. It's also possible that a sugar-filled human provides lots of easily accessible fuel for the virus. To lessen mucus production, cut back on fats, processed grains, and dairy products. Vinegar is a natural antihistamine, so have all the pickles and olives you want. You'll sniffle less. Vitamin C is essential for fighting viruses, and taking zinc with it has been proven to shorten the time you're sick. Zinc can make you queasy if you take it on an empty stomach, so after a meal is best.
My personal cold regime, which I am on right now, is the following:
Ionized silver -- Similar to colloidal silver. Can be expensive. If you find it helpful, consider getting the little machine that allows you to produce your own. Silver bonds to microbes oxygen receptors, or something. It was used effectively during the plague, but only by the rich. They used it so much their skin developed a grey cast, hence the term, "blueblood."
Vitamin C with Zinc -- after every meal.
Osha tincture -- Osha is anti-viral, and I always choose it over goldenseal, which is antibacterial, or echinacea, which boosts the immune system.
NyQuil -- Every since I started with this, my colds have ceased to lead to bronchitis.
Chloraseptic -- helps with throat pain, and is also a great cough suppressant.
Some kind of antihistamine in the morning -- Benadryl is fine. I take Zyrtec for allergies, so that's filling the bill. This lessens mucus production, suppresses coughs, everything.
Musinex -- My mother's doctor recommended this, and Mom swears by it. I'm trying it for the first time. It's supposed to break up mucus so it doesn't collect and harden in your lungs or sinuses. It's also a cough suppressant. There's a children's version.
Here's to a healthy holiday, and a resistant new year!
Finding The Story Map
When I wrote my September blog, I was wrestling with a particularly difficult story, titled BERRY’S LICK
, which came to me with a heavy but intriguing backstory. The story just didn’t seem to fit the structure I’d used in the past.
Truncating the backstory and feeding the events into the contemporary story didn’t seem to be working. The story clearly had two parts, separated by a period of twenty-five years. I considered what I knew of my story and wondered if I had two stories, which should be told separately. But after making two attempts, I realized the two parts were clearly dependent on each other and needed to be told together. The resolution of part one will coincide with the climax and resolution of part two . . . at least I think
that’s the plan--only the story angels know for sure. Check the blog in February. I’ll let you know how it comes out.
I’ve been flirting with mainstream elements in my last four manuscripts. There’s been a tug-of-war going on between my romance roots and my need to tell stories with a broader focus. I seem to be drawn to casts of a thousand with interconnecting relationships. I finally crossed the line in BERRY’S LICK
, thanks to the nagging angels. It turns out, the story they sent along is a much more interesting version than the one I'd first imagined. Story angels are very adept at keeping secrets. I can’t wait to see how the story is going end. I’m here to encourage you to have faith in the story you are given and be open to new possibilities. The process will not fail you.
I will leave you with these words from Eric Maisel, creativity coach and author of FEARLESS CREATING
and DEEP WRITING
. “Go deep and try to tell the truth. Dig in, put on your writing clothes, grab your favorite pen and immerse yourself in the process.” If your story angels saddle you with a story that doesn’t fit a simple structure, I encourage you to open yourself up to other alternatives.
I’m looking forward to many magical pre-dawn mornings where I can write by the light of my Christmas tree with my story angels to guide me.
My musical Christmas toys
If you come to my house this time of year, you might think you were in a Christmas store. I have Christmas things from one end of my house to the other. During the year when they are all put away, I have one closet just dedicated to Christmas things. The rest of it is in the attic. This year I even got a new artificial tree to replace the one with the tilting top that I've had for over ten years. The new one has built-in lights. When you turn it on, it is so bright that it nearly illuminates the room.
But I digress. I want to talk about my musical toys. It all started one year at the party our Bible school class had where everyone brought a white elephant gift to exchange. I wound up with a little cowboy Santa that twirls a lasso and sings "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town." Unfortunately, over the years he stopped twirling his lasso, but as long as I put in the batteries, he still sings. Since that first singing Santa, I have added moose, reindeer, snowmen, dogs, penguins, and more Santas that sing. I have over a dozen snowglobes and music boxes that play a variety of Christmas tunes. It's fun to walk through the room and press a button and hear a Christmas song or two. The new ones I got this year play when I clap my hands, but my husband made me turn it off because it also plays when I laugh or talk too loud or bang a cupboard door. My family just tolerates my singing toys, but I love them.
Christmas Quail and Grouse
by Bridget Stuart
No, this is not a recipe for wild game on the holiday table. It's more like quailing at what I read in my Yahoo! Headlines yesterday, and grousing about it to my blog-buddies. It hasn't even got anything to do with Christmas, but I'm sending a nod to the season anyway.
So did you hear that some fashion mavens--designers and media folks--are getting together for some serious head-scratchin' about the über-thinness of couture models? They're considering setting some standards for the industry, not necessarily because they're concerned about unhealthy examples for young women, but because they'd rather "police themselves" than have rules imposed on them--and the wind is definitely blowing in that direction. Check out the Salon.com update: http://www.salon.com/ent/col/fix/2006/12/11/mon/index.html
Still, let's think about this. Is the solution to the starvation problem really to set weight standards for fashion models? I mean, hello, aren't we in the middle of an obesity epidemic as well as a battle against anorexia? These fashion mavens are the ones who started the whole "starved is sexy" thing in the first place--do we really need them to tell us what to think?
Here's an alternative: instead of encouraging the image industry to come up with yet another way to manipulate minds…let's encourage independent thinking instead.
I don't believe I was the only adolescent to ever watch friends getting wacked out at parties, puking their brains out, and think "Doesn't look like any fun to me--I think I'll give drugs and booze a miss." That was a no-brainer, actually. The same could go for sticking your finger down your throat in the girls' bathroom after lunch, or undergoing painful surgery to pump your boobs up like scarred balloons, or breaking and resetting your nose (and breathing in blood for weeks afterward) or any of the other things girls do to measure up to an impossible ideal.
To help our daughters, maybe we can become more powerful role models than the fashion models--we could live the way we want our kids to live.
Hmm. Maybe if we want our daughters to have a healthy body image, we need to get one ourselves, first. I think we all know what we *should* be doing--respecting ourselves, speaking positively, using food in a healthy way, being active but not obsessive. And it's hard to keep it up. But maybe we could support each other in the effort. If we make changes in our own lives for our daughters and sons, we will show them how much they are loved--and point the way to true adulthood.
Happy, Healthy Holidays, everyone.
Write through the holidays
by Charity TahmasebBridget Stuart
has a tongue-in-cheek take
on writing through the holidays this month over at the Wet Noodle Posse ezine. But seriously, can you write and still enjoy the holidays? Or even more importantly, can you write and give your house the über-cleaning it needs before relatives descend on you for the holidays? (The latter is actually my question.)
There are three things you can do to make a little writing progress during the holiday season: steal, compost and fill.Get up from the computer, put laundry in. Get son to do his homework and practice violin. Listen for the umpteenth time to his rendition of Merrily We Roll Along.
. Steal a little time at the right time. Heading out for a shopping trip? Make your first (not last, you’ll be too tired) stop the library or café. Take a notebook, drink your favorite hot beverage, and write. Alternately, steal quiet time at home. One of my favorite things to do is wake up early and write by the light of the Christmas tree. I have the house, my thoughts, and the tree all to myself.Scrub whatever that is on the bathroom floor. Don’t ask. You simply don’t want to know what that substance is. Ponder the financial feasibility of a cleaning service. Food’s overrated, isn’t it?
. All stories (and writers) need a little downtime. Got a plot problem? Pondering character motivation? Write the question down in a notebook or word processing file, then go about your tasks for the day. When inspiration strikes, say in the middle of scrubbing toilets, take a quick break to jot down the notes.Wrap present for birthday party. Bumper bowling. With four year olds. Do deep breathing and mentally prepare for that experience. Get directions from Map Quest.Fill
. Don’t feel guilty for enjoying all the season has to offer. Combine family time with filling the creative well. Take in a live performance of the Nutcracker or A Christmas Carol. Or during holiday shopping drudgery into an experience. Check Anno’s Place
for a lovely description of the perfect Christmas shopping day.Redistribute ornaments so they cover more than the lower two thirds of the tree. Convince kids that the Happy Meal ornaments look great on the backside of the tree. But the homemade ones? Those look best front and center.
As I said last January
, I’m a big fan of Anne Lamott’s one inch picture frame, or what I call writing the 250. Whatever method you use, a little writing goes a long way. If you wrote 250 words per day until the end of the month, you’d head into the New Year up 5,250 words.Words for this blog entry stolen in between laundry, ornaments, and whatever that was on the bathroom floor.
Oblivious under the mistletoe
Every year about this time, my parents tell the story about the year my dad played Santa at the company party. I waited in line with the other kids, took my seat on his knee, and rattled off my list, completely unaware that was my dad beneath the beard and suit. A ho-ho-ho, ha-ha-ha situation.
Understatement alert: I've never been known for my talents as an observer. In fact, I'm the most oblivious person I've ever met. The first to trip over the uneven pavement, the last to catch on to a joke, the world's worst witness to anything. So every time I hear someone say that writers are true observers of life, I cringe and hope no one looks in my direction.
Maybe the reason I'm so oblivious to what's going on around me is because I spend so much time living inside my own head, caught up in my imaginary worlds. Not much of an excuse, but now that I'm writing, it might be a handy one to whip out. Walked into the screen door again? Hey, creative talent at work here!
How about you? Are you a people-watcher or a daydreamer?
Voice, Voice, Baby
By Jenna Ness aka Jennie Lucas
Guess what? I finished The Spaniard’s Stolen Bride and emailed it to my editor late last night! (Feel free to applaud now.) So like any self-respecting woman (especially those who are 8 months pregnant), I went to the grocery store to buy myself some chocolates to celebrate.
My celebration was abruptly cut short when I saw a book on the shelf titled The Stolen Bride by well-known author Brenda Joyce.
Talk about a buzzkill. You mean my title’s already been done? So maybe I’m not so original after all? Say it ain’t so!
Other Noodlers have seen this happen: duplicated titles or books with the exact same high-concept ideas mysteriously get produced by other writers at the exact same time. It’s not plagiarism. We all live in the same culture, and ideas that seem unique actually are bubbling beneath all of us like a virus. (Okay, I know that’s a mangled analogy, but give me a break! I wrote for seven hours straight yesterday!)
Anyway, so I snatched the book off the shelf. Fortunately, I was quickly reassured. First, Brenda Joyce’s book is a historical. Second, her plot is completely different. I had nothing to worry about.
But not for the reasons I first thought.
There are few original titles, if any. There are few original ideas, if any. Everybody knows this. Everything has already been done before. So why even bother to write new books?
Because what makes a story new is the way you write it.
We’ve all heard about workshops where the participants are given the same high-concept idea, and yet their stories are always completely different. Your voice is who you are. The things that interest you (in my case, world travel, fashion, emotion) and the things that don’t (housecleaning, marathon-running, accounting – obviously, I’d never be able to write a Pink book!).
What do you focus on in your story? What do you ignore? Do you tell your story with humor or melodrama or both? Do you use lots of sensory detail, or is it more intellectual? What about segueways? Is your plot gritty and real? A slice of life? Or totally escapist? What is the emotional distance in your POV? And most importantly – what is your core story, the basic theme that you unconsciously repeat in every book you write?
Taking all of this into account, I can guarantee you that even if Brenda Joyce had written a novel about a man stealing his enemy’s bride from Morocco and holding her captive in a Spanish castle, her book would still be different from mine. Her core story is different. Her format is different. Most of all, her voice is different.
If you’re still not sure what I mean by “voice”, here’s an easy way to see exactly what I mean. Go to napster.com (or any of the online music places; I just happen to subscribe to napster) and sign up for a free trial.
Plug in the song “Santa Baby” into the search engine, and listen to the top three tracks.
First, listen to the Faith Evans version. It’s sweet, young, and a little bland.
Now, listen to the Madonna version. Pouty, cartoonish, a caricature of Betty Boop.
And saving the best for last—listen to Eartha Kitt.
Prepare to be blown away. Her voice just drips sex. No kidding. Even lines that shouldn’t be sexy somehow are. When she asks Santa to “come and trim her … Christmas tree” and then tells him to “hurry down her chimney tonight,” it made my ears burn. This track is all the more amazing since it was done in 1954. How the heck did this song get past the censors? Oh yeah ... she never mentions sex.
All three versions are exactly the same. Exact same music. Exact same lyrics. So how come they’re three totally different songs?
So don’t worry about the duplication of titles and ideas. Hold true to your voice, or as Avon editor Lucia Macro says, “Trust your stuff.” That’s what makes you special. That's what makes you new.
I was browsing the new articles over at the e-zine
and am absolutely entranced by Terry McLaughlin's tinfoils ornaments.
How fun do these look?!?! I'm totally itching to go out and get the supplies I need!
My local RWA chapter is doing a gift exchange this Saturday, but I won't have time to make these (bring on next week!), so I'm giving a bracelet like the one I made in the craft archives. So many fun crafts, so little free holiday time!!!
Anyone have good suggestions for other fun holiday craft projects?
A Grinch Stole the Toys For Tots
by Colleen Gleason
Diane Perkins' wonderful list of things to do to keep the holiday easy
included the #1 item of: doing something for someone else
Unfortunately, some crazy person (persons?) decided to help themselves to twenty bags of toys that had been collected for Toys for Tots near my hometown.
This year, the Toys for Tots campaign is having a lot of trouble getting donations...and now it's become even worse.
So, if you can, even if you don't live near me :-) please help them out. Get an extra toy when you're shopping for your loved ones and drop it in the TfT box.
And also...check out my Pay it Forward contest
all week on my blog and get a chance to win a cool prize (at least, I think it's cool!) by doing something nice for someone!
What a difference a day makes. Yesterday, it was in the mid 70s here and I was able to wash my car out in the driveway. Today, it's 37 degrees and I don't plan to go outside except to get the mail and turn on the Christmas lights tonight. Have I mentioned I don't like cold weather? What, only a million times?
It's also cloudy today, which brings to mind the article I did for this month's Wet Noodle Posse e-zine on battling the winter blues. Be sure to get yourself a nice cup of hot chocolate, put on your big, warm, fuzzy slippers, and check out all the great articles in this month's e-zine. Here are the wonderful blurbs for the articles written by talented Noodler Kiki Clark.
Above the white ground, in a white sky, the honking of unseen Canada geese falls through the air with the snow. Each flake is different, each goose is different, and each one of us is different and perfect in our individuality. We write, therefore we are. We bake cookies, therefore we are happy.
The McCall Winter Carnival, in Idaho , is one place to whoop it up during winter. Jenna Ness shares last year’s pix and tells how to book ahead for this January and February. Your man and you can both stop shaving and enter the Beard and Sexy Leg contest respectively. Enjoy the snow sculptures, the Neon Lights parade, and play a few holes of snowshoe golf. These people love winter.
Deck the halls with tinfoil ornaments, because these babies are way cool and fun to make! Terry McLaughlin shows you how to construct unbreakable pretties with the basic ingredients of paint, cardboard, glue, and a hunk of Reynolds Wrap™. If you imagine they look like something a five-year-old would make, go look at the pictures. Of course, this doesn’t mean your five-year-old can’t make them. She can, and should.
Food, family, and…what’s that third one? Fun! Diane Gaston has Ten Tips to increase your enjoyment of this holiday season, from the profound and spiritual to the glittery and caloric. Whether you’re listening to music or giving to those less fortunate, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.
Holiday traditions take all forms, and one is curling up in front of a warm TV to watch our favorite holiday movies, whether they’re funny, sentimental, goofy, or musical. The Noodlers list our favorite Christmas movies. Who do you love best, Scrooge or the Grinch?
For some people, winter isn’t a wonderland, but a time when there’s not enough light, heat or happy-making Vitamin D. If you dread these shorter, darker days, Trish Milburn has the plan for fighting the winter blues on multiple fronts. Exercise, light therapy and taking stress out of the holidays are just a few of her tips.
No one wants her child to have difficulties, but when Angie Beckham discovered that one of her four children had some level of autism, this SuperHeroine learned all she could and then set about starting programs that help not only her own son, but other people’s children as well. Noodler Merrillee Whren tells about Angie’s ongoing success in providing Garrett with the tools for happiness.
During this time of love and laughter, what do you say to a friend whose mother is dying? Dr. Debra helps a reader find the words that will help the most. If you’ve never attended a funeral, if you want to say something but don’t know what, this is your primer on tenderness and tact.
December’s Noodler of the Month is Moni Thompson, who describes her best writing strength as being able to throw pages and pages away to make the story better. She must keep some, because she’s written 13 books. Must be her 20-page-a-day habit. Get your inspiration from this inspirational writer!
Bridget Stuart has some surprising tips for writers hoping to keep their output going during the holidays. While sugar and procrastination are your best friends, your lesser human buddies can still enjoy the privilege of taking your cookie-smeared manuscript to the FedEx™ box at midnight on Christmas Eve. It’ll give them a chance to listen for sleigh bells!
The snow is falling, the fire flickers… All that’s missing is a glass of something in your hand. The Noodlers are here like a butler at your elbow with a collection of holiday punch recipes that range from non-alcoholic to the sort that will sit you on your red-velvet butt. Here we come a’wassailing, among the leaves so green…