The Stone of Kings · Writing

Just Look at this Gorgeous Cover!


A huge thank you to Cora Graphics for the fabulous design! I had a hard time visualizing what would go on the cover, but when she sent this to me, it screamed “I’m perfect!” ūüėČ Remember the release date: August 12!

I’m having unfortunate computer issues at the moment, which is keeping me¬†from accessing Microsoft Word. Ack! I was hoping to add¬†the back blurb here for¬†those of you who¬†can’t quite read that blurry thing up on my banner (lol), but I can’t open the file.¬†¬†Hopefully I’ll be able to get some blog posts ready in¬†time for my guests spots on my friends’ blogs. *whispers* I may just have to borrow hubby’s new computer. Shh.

Blogging Contest · NaNoWriMo · Writing

#8 Thoughts On Writing Contests

Image attributed to mrzeising via Wikimedia Commons.

Other than¬†a couple¬†blogging contests, I haven’t entered a writing contest since high school. Of course, I hadn’t done much creative writing after high school until a few years ago.¬† Nothing like time-and-energy-draining motherhood to get the creative juices flowing.

I’m not a terribly competetive person. You can thank my dad for that. Even though I had childhood dreams of playing baseball for the Mets (after all, they named their stadium after me ūüėČ ), I never got to play sports much. He was more willing to pick me up from¬†a theatre¬†rehearsal than driving me around to different games.

But I’ve always found sports “contests” to be easier to understand than writing or other artistic competitions. With sports, there are clear and definitive rules that make for a winner or a loser. There can be rules for artistic competitions, but in the end, isn’t the work chosen as a winner a subjective choice made by the judge?

I’m okay if I don’t win¬†writing¬†contests. It proves to me that I have to work harder at what I do. The challenge is the whole reason I enter in the first place. When I start getting better, then maybe I’ll expect to win or at least “place.” And if I still don’t win, then, well I guess I just didn’t tickle that judge’s fancy.

But that’s the nature of writing.

As an author, you’re not going to get the entire world to enjoy your book. Some people, for¬†whatever reason aren’t going to like it. Maybe you unintentionally dug up a bad childhood memory with your story, and that memory belonged to a contest judge.¬†If all a judge thinks about when reading my piece is how his older bully¬†brother, who had a bed-wetting problem, would stuff his head under the mattress for five minutes and make him breathe in the noxious fumes, well, I could understand if he doesn’t like it.

But I would hope a judge could be more objective. ūüôā

[This post was written as a part of the NaNoWriMo Pre-game Kick Off over at Jessica Schmeidler’s blog.]

NaNo word count: 7279


Losing the Beauty

“Father Time Overcome by Love, Hope, and Beauty” by Simon Vouet. I’m no art expert, but it seems we can still appreciate the push for love, hope, and beauty, though I’d have¬†thought that Time might have given in by now.

Last week, I talked about how sad it was that my students had a stubborn bigoted view of the world. This week, I want to discuss the effects of such views. Not only had they completely lost the meaning of two fantastic essays, but lousy attitudes such as theirs continue to put a black eye on a beautiful region of our country that they supposedly love.

Some of the attitudes in America’s southern states have always been a sort of anomaly to me. On one hand, they are famous for their hospitality¬†and¬†respectful manner¬†(I love the habits of addressing people with “sir” or “ma’am”). And who doesn’t like their terms of affection for complete strangers (shoog, darlin’, hun, etc.)? ūüôā

I think we all know the other side to the South that is like it’s evil twin.

Now, I’m certainly not indicating that all Southerners with these habits have bigoted views, but some do. I remember one of the kids who didn’t “get” the Canada essay because of being considered a “Yankee” by the author.¬†Otherwise, he was actually a very respectful kid. He was always dressed like a ranch hand and while he wasn’t an exceptional student, he completed his work,¬†was never rude to me, or caused a disruption in class.

Last week, I saw this charming Cheerios commercial and heard about the controversy over it. I wonder how that student would have viewed it?

Would he not have even considered the premise of the scene¬†–¬†that is, a little girl who loves her daddy so much that she want’s to make sure that his heart is healthy? Given that he failed to see the humor in the Canada essay, I’m disheartened to say that he probably would not.

If there is love in a family, why should the color of the skin matter? People have all sorts of views on this commercial, for what I would think to be strange reasons. And that’s okay. Anyone is entitled to their opinions.

But when the beauty of love is overlooked because people¬†are offended… that really doesn’t sit right with me.

I know I have views that some people would find offensive. I may find other’s views offensive.¬†I must admit that my¬†gut reaction to people¬†who¬†disliked the commercial for racial reasons¬†was, “They must bleed a different color…ugly.”¬†But then,¬†to forget completely that we are all human and have our own beauties about us, I certainly hope I never fall into that trap. If I ever am, I beg of you, using an open mind,¬†call me out on it. I will listen.

What did you think of the commercial? Can you see it’s charm, or do you see skin color? Are you appalled that some of us are still stuck in the¬†50’s?¬†

Books I Love · Harp

My thoughts on The Hobbit vs Beowulf

Reconstruction of the Sutton Hoo Lyre

If you haven’t guessed already, I love the poem Beowulf. During that England/Ireland trip, I was very excited to see Sutton Hoo. Even¬†several of you folks from England are asking, “What on earth is Sutton Hoo?” In short, it is a viking burial ship which dates back to the culture that brought us Beowulf.

On the ship, they found an instrument believed to be a lyre that the scop might have played while singing such epic poems. Fortunately, I happened to see the Sutton Hoo exhibit at the British Museum in London first because that was where the remnants of the instrument were displayed at the time.

Sutton Hoo Lyre fragments

So what does all that have to do with The Hobbit?

Well, since you’ve already dipped your toe into Lake Nerd by reading thus far, perhaps you like to wade out a bit farther with me? I promise it will be fun! ūüėÄ

Tolkien also enjoyed Beowulf and would begin his lectures on the poem with a dramatic recitation of the opening lines in Old English. (Oh! to have been in that room at that time!) For anyone who has read both The Hobbit and Beowulf, you can see how Bilbo Baggins is Beowulf.

To compare (spoiler alert for both Beowulf and The Hobbit):

We’ll start with Beowulf. In the poem, King Hrothgar’s men are being attacked by Grendel, who essentially is a violent, cantankerous neighbor who doesn’t like Hrothgar’s parties. He chases them all out of the mead-hall and for 12 years terrorizes the people.

“As [Hrothgar’s] woes became known widely and well,

Sad songs were sung by the sons of men” (Beowulf, lines 129 &130)

Songs! Hmm… I wonder who heard them? You guessed it! Beowulf, an outsider, comes to defeat this Grendel guy who couldn’t be pierced by any of the blades of Hrothgar’s men.

But Beowulf is different. He is a wrestler!

After watching Grendel eat one of his own soldiers, Beowulf gives Grendel… a handshake? Well, his grip breaks Grendel’s fingers and rips off his arm. So much for attempting friendship.

Anyway, Grendel slinks off to his lair and dies of his wounds. Yay Beowulf!

Now for The Hobbit. We’ve got Thorin (Hrothgar) whose people were driven out of their mountain (mead-hall) by the dragon Smaug (Grendel). I know, I know. Beowulf has a treasure hoarding dragon/worm creature too. There are a lot of blending of symbols in The Hobbit. I’m simply going over my favorites. Then, there is Bilbo (Beowulf). He too is an outsider who does not use weapons.

But Bilbo is different. He is a burglar!

Much like Beowulf has a natural strength to defeat Grendel when no one else could, Bilbo has the natural ability of stealth. This not only helps them to defeat Smaug, but many other foes along their journey.

But what inspires Bilbo to help the dwarves? Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 1:

“They came back…with Thorin’s harp wrapped in a¬†green cloth. It was a beautiful golden harp, and when Thorin struck it the music began all at once, so sudden and sweet that Bilbo forgot everything else, and was swept away into dark lands under strange moons, far over The Water and very far from his hobbit-hole under The Hill.”

What was that? Was that music? A harp even? Whether Bilbo likes it or not, he has already started his journey with the dwarves when he first heard the song describing their sad history.

*deep breath* Okay I should probably stop now because I’m entering the realm of what really¬†inspires me, but may bore you guys. ūüėČ Maybe soon I’ll post my thoughts on the new Hobbit movie ūüėÄ

Have you read either of these works? Have they inspired you in any way? Have you ever seen Sutton Hoo?

Glutened Goals update: (a letter)

Dear Rocks In My Belly,

I get it. I’m not supposed to injest gluten of any size. It was a complete accident and happened a month ago. Please stop punishing me! It makes it very difficult to get anything done.

Thank you,

Hasn’t Written¬†Much Of¬†Anything

Books I Love · Harp

Beowulf Blues

Image attributed to Ganainm

At the risk of sounding like I didn’t enjoy myself when I went to England and Ireland in 2005 (which is far from the truth) I’m going to post another regret from that trip. This one was my own fault.

When I was in Dublin, I went on a pub crawl –¬†one of those touristy things (I’d gone on another fantastic one in Scotland which covered Burns and Stevenson). It was guided by 2 musicians who explained all about Irish music and the history of it.

During the tour, they talked about how you may find yourself at an impromptu session of music making at any pub¬†and it’s possible you may be asked to contribute. The lead fellow on the tour explained (tongue in cheek) that it would be highly offensive¬†to refuse. If you aren’t any good, the musicians would be happy to give you tips to get better, and if you are very good, they still will give you tips to get better.

Since I still had the rest of the week to go on my stay in Ireland, I was already dreaming of how nice it would be to find myself one of these musical sessions, but it would be¬†a shame that there probably wouldn’t be a harp around for me to play. As it was there was no harp at this tour, and when it came to the end of it, the guides requested us to contribute something.

Only 2 other guests got up and during their performances, my heart started hammering because the thought crossed my mind that I could contribute after all. Neither one played an instrument; a lady recited a poem about fairies and a fellow sang a song about Boston a capella.

“Beowulf! You can sing Beowulf!” A voice in my head was screaming at me. Another voice was saying, “Eh, don’t bother, you don’t have your harp with you anyway.”

It would have fit in nicely. Beowulf originally passed along by oral tradition before it was written down, much like the traditional Irish tunes. It was originally sung by a person called a scop (I believe it’s pronounced “shope”), who would play the tune on a lyre. I had learned the first 11 lines in Old English and set them to the tune of “The Grenadier and the Lady” because I’m not that good at making up my own tunes. I did it for a project in one of my classes at USF and enjoyed the creative and historical aspect of it. I’ve never forgotten how to sing Beowulf, though now I’d have to practice again to play it on the harp.

In the end, I chickened out. At the time, I made the excuse to the first¬†voice in my head that I didn’t have my harp, so there. But as we were all walking out of the door of the last pub, part of me wanted to gather everyone back in there so I could sing it a capella like the guy from Boston.

I know it wasn’t that big a deal, but I was really kicking myself that I was going home with a regret instead of what could have been a fun story. If I ever get the chance to do something like that again, I hope that I can push myself out of my comfort zone. Doing this blog thing helps, I think. ūüėČ

Have you ever had an opportunity like that pass by? Do you regret it, or are you happy you didn’t jump on it?

Glutened¬†Goal update: I haven’t been able to get any writing done the past 2 days because of illness and gluten. But on the plus side, I came up with another creative analogy to what gluten sometimes feels like: Don Quixote is riding around on Rosinante¬†in my belly and for reasons only known to him, he’ll suddenly wield his sword and swipe my innards. These are the times when I have to just stop what I’m doing and let the jabbing pain pass. lol My writing today was finishing this blog post.

Books I Love

Remembering The Globe

Attributed to Tracy, from North Brookfield, Massachusetts, USA.
Attributed to Tracy, from North Brookfield, Massachusetts, USA.

I was fortunate while finishing my Literature degree at USF to be able to attend the summer study abroad program at Cambridge England in 2005 (a big shout out to my hubby for facilitating that!). While there, there was no way that I was going to pass up the opportunity to attend a play performed at Shakespeare’s Globe. The only night that I was able to go offered a modernized production of Pericles, Prince of Tyre. I managed to read the first half of the play before attending, but I have yet to actually see the play through to the end.

I was so disappointed.

I’d taken numerous college courses on Shakespeare including one which focused on effective theatrical accounts of the plays based on textual evidence from the scripts. Perhaps this was my undoing and why I had no problem with leaving the playhouse to catch the train before midnight back to Cambridge.

I’m not stuffy enough to say that it was because only “traditional” productions are the best. One of my all time favorite Hamlets is Kenneth Branagh’s set in the 19th century. In fact there were parts of the Pericles play that weren’t even in the script that I somewhat appreciated, but it was also where I started to say, “Hey, come on now. What are you guys thinking?”

In the production I saw, they had an older version of Pericles looking on his younger self during the play; much like Scrooge with the Ghost of Christmas Past. This wasn’t in Shakespeare’s script, but I was okay with it and looked forward to what else they would offer.

But then each Pericles spoke their lines.

The young Pericles (quite appropriately) spoke with a mediterranean accent, while the older Pericles spoke with a decidedly British accent. Huh. Maybe they thought that they could pull off what Madonna couldn’t? I mean, come on, they were supposed to be the same person! So much for continuity.

Then came the tournament in Pentapolis. We were subject to sit through about 15 minutes of acrobatics and rope tricks. While they were impressive, it added nothing to the story. Just after the intermission, the “narrator” came out and made a big speech about how he knew we were all thinking “This is not Shakespeare!” but then made some argument about how Shakespeare would have loved it. I’m sorry, but he just did not convince me.

Maybe I haven’t studied enough plays, but I never saw where Shakespeare added spectacle except where it moved the story along. He might have enjoyed the stunts, but I feel as though he would have wondered at their point.

The point where I finally left was when Marina was trapped in the brothel. I hadn’t read that far, and if the actors were trying to do Greek accents, it was lost on me. They were speaking Shakespeare’s Early Modern English with really thick Italian accents. I had no idea what they were saying anymore, which was a shame because the language of Shakespeare is half the fun.

If I didn’t have a train to catch, I might have stuck it out. It was awesome to be inside the Globe and seeing a play performed after all, even if it was a disappointing production. By the time we were at the brothel, I admit, I stopped following the play and simply imagined what it might have been like to attend a play here in Shakespeare’s day. Though I don’t think they had any night performances due to lack of light. The seats were uncomfortable and the groundlings were getting rained on. I felt that the experience provided a testament to the awesome plays that Shakespeare wrote. It just would have been nice to see a production that not only stayed a bit truer to Shakespeare, but also made sense.

I was amused to find a few months later that I was more impressed by a highschool production of The Secret Garden than a British acting troupe at Shakespeare’s Globe.

Do you think I was overly critical of the production? Have you been to the Globe? What was your experience?