Books I Love · Writing

How Not To Be Below Average

Don’t get stomped on by making yourself less than average. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Do you remember the Monty Python sketch, “How Not To Be Seen?” I recently received a request on my blog that made me think of this. Here is the request that I didn’t actually approve because I don’t want to embarrass the person who made this comment on my Beowulf/Bilbo post and instead allow them to stay anonymous:

“What does Beowulf and Bilbo have in common in both stories? I need help for my English response… Can someone help me pleaaseee ?”

*sigh*

I have had to rewrite and edit today’s post more than usual to keep it from sounding condescending and mean-spirited. It was a challenge because the request posed was kind of over-the-top. A bit like Monty Python. 😉

I wrote a post last year about my thoughts on the Hobbit versus Beowulf and while I’m happy that it tends to be my most viewed post, I’ve often been worried that lazy students might use my words for their assignments. Indeed, all this anonymous person had to do was to actually read my post, and they would have found what they needed. But now I figure, that if they plagiarise me and don’t get caught, then their teacher needs to do a bit more legwork. I did when I taught.

The sad thing is, that those students who don’t get caught, begin to think that they will never get caught. And when their chance to learn, grow, and be great passes, they become just like Mrs B.J. Smegma of 13, The Crescent, Belmont who didn’t have the sense to learn from the mistakes of the guy ahead of her.

Kaplooey.

Okay, so maybe they won’t get blown up or shot, but eventually they will get caught. If not for plagiarism, then for some other shady deal they’ve gotten themselves into. Plagiarism IS stealing.

Notice how I’ve titled today’s post. I didn’t say, “How not to be average.” Average is fine. Average can be hard work that you can be proud of because you did it yourself. But keeping yourself below average, when you are fully capable of doing the work… well, you’ve just set yourself up for failure in life.

Those who don’t learn to become independent will forever continue trying to live off others. This doesn’t fly in the real world. No one is going to earn your living for you, no matter how nice your pleaaseee is. Oh, you may get away with it a few times, but eventually, your luck will run out.

So instead, to this person, I’ll give you a gift. Pride. The feeling you get when you work really hard on something and get a good score and the score  belongs to YOU. It’s YOURS. Not the person who secretly did the work for you. If you have enough gumption to have something to actually turn in to your teacher then you can push yourself to do your own work. Just imagine Jillian Michaels hovering over you – “Come on! You CAN do it!” – as you plow through the material. 😀

I’m allowing this person to remain in anonymity in hopes that they’ll read this post instead and understand why I did not respond with “write this verbatim for your assignment…” Though somehow, I doubt that will happen :/ but at least I’ve had my say.

I won’t do your work for you. It’s YOUR responsibility. OWN it. Or you will never own anything.

Have you ever been mooched from? How did you handle it? Did you try to teach a life skill instead?

Blogging Contest · Books I Love · NaNoWriMo

#20 Words Or Storyline? How Do Books Make Your “Favorites” List?

Image attributed to ALA TechSource from Chicago, USA via Wikimedia Commons.

Words certainly count for a lot, but I’d have to say storyline. And even then, if something turns me off I shut the book. Conversely, if I really love the storyline, I’ll read it again and again. So I guess I’ll talk about the repeat favorites.

As a kid, my favorite book was The Secret Garden. I loved how the magic of a simple neglected garden could benefit the lives of two neglected children. Burnett didn’t even have to mention it, but you could feel Lily’s spirit helping her son and niece become happier and healthier children. Personally, I don’t believe in ghosts but it’s fun to dream about them.

A Christmas Carol is another favorite. Another ghost story. Go figure. I suppose it’s nice to think of a spirit giving us a gentle nudge (or in Scrooge’s case not so gentle) in the right direction. But I’ve also favored books such as Pride and Prejudice, where a girl doesn’t give up her values and marry for money just because her family is in a bind. I was going to list Jane Eyre and The Lord of the Rings, separately, but as odd as it is to lump them together they are both classic underdog stories. I’ve always loved the underdog.

Speaking of underdogs, Harry Potter is another favorite, but more so because of the lesson against bigotry that the books teach. A less epic, but more grown up version of this theme can be found in By the Light of the Moon. I love how the course of the story forces the characters to realize just how strongly they detest bigotry. The bonus in BTLOTM, is the words. Koontz is very descriptive, but I especially enjoy how poetic he seems to get during the more intense scenes.

One of the more frustrating books that I shut? Love In the Time of Cholera. I was enjoying the plot of life on a sugar plantation, but then it turned into page after page of details with prostitutes. What? Okay, really, I didn’t need that. Just a small description of how he went philandering, so I can get back to the plot that drew me in. Ugh. Never finished it.

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

NaNo word count: 18,912 lol, don’t think I’m gonna make 50,000 by November 30th, but I’m loving how my plot is going. At least it’s been circumstances that keep me from writing and not writer’s block. 🙂 I’ll keep pushing though, to see how much I can manage this month.

Blogging Contest · Harp · NaNoWriMo

#19 Your Greatest Fan

Ick, sometimes I feel as if I’m my own greatest fan. Which is about as sad and silly as I’m My Own Grandpa.

I’d love it if my hubby were my greatest fan, but when he reads, it’s always non-fiction. I don’t think that harps and romance or faeries and druids will appeal to him. 😉 So, unless I sell a million copies of my books, my writing will look like just a hobby to him.

Having a hobby doesn’t really draw fans.

I suppose my greatest fan depends on which book you’re talking about. So far. For either one, my fans are my mom and step-mom (whom I also call Mom, just to add lovely confusion 😉 ).

My birth-mom has the same taste in reading as I do. She and I enjoy discussing the finer points of The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter series. She liked Harp Lessons, but has been really enjoying being my beta reader for The Stone of Kings. When I wasn’t quite sure where I wanted to go with TSOK, we had wonderful brainstorming sessions. That always got the story moving again.

My step-mom is more of a visual artist, but has provided most of the inspiration for both my finished books. She has encouraged my writing throughout my childhood, got me started playing harp, and took me on my first trip to New York City, where she grew up. She and her mom, my Grandma Caroline, told me endless stories of Ireland and what it was like to live there. If you’ve read Harp Lessons, do these things sound familiar? Naturally, Mom has been tickled pink that I’m now a published author.

I know there are those outside of my family who have loved Harp Lessons. But I can’t imagine having many “fans” since I’ve only got one book out there so far. I’m quite happy to have my mothers as my greatest fans. But it’ll be nice to start getting multiple five-star reviews that my fellow author friends (who have great backlists) have.

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

NaNo word count: 17,462

Books I Love · Writing

The Beach – A Review

Can we vacation here instead? Image attributed to Jeff Hitchcock via Wikimedia Commons.

In the moment my family suggests that we go to the beach, we have all transformed. Hubby has become Gandalf, the one who organizes and has all the answers to succeed in such a quest. The boys become Fili and Kili, ready for fun not caring a fig for the inconveniences. I have become Bilbo Baggins, and am entirely too reluctant to give up my creature comforts at home to brave the perils of a beach adventure.

But I know they love the beach, so for their benefit, I tag along, hoping I don’t dampen their experience.

So we pack everything up, all the towels, blankets, toys, sunblock, hats… you get the picture. In my case, we stop somewhere along the way so that I can pick up a satisfying gluten-free meal, because the boys haven’t yet figured out that they shouldn’t cross mommy when she’s hungry.

Because it’s a holiday weekend, we wait for an hour before getting up to the gate to pay, but at least we’re in the air-conditioned car. I have it on as full a blast as my family can stand, relishing the cool as much as possible, because I know what’s coming.

All too soon, I’m huddled under my beach umbrella, greasy from sunblock cream, trying to read my Kindle and thinking that I ought to be writing instead. The intense sensations however, will probably get in the way. My legs are blotchy and stinging from the salty air, my rings threaten to cut the circulation in my swollen fingers, and the sand sticks to my greasy, sweaty skin.

Note: Trying to brush sand off cream coated skin is as pointless as trying to brush crumbs off a sugar cookie.

But, I look at my boys.

They are having such a great time playing in the water with Daddy. They’re so cute and so small against the expansiveness of the Gulf of Mexico. Charlie, who’s three, wanders over to a group of girls and flirts with them. It makes me giggle.

But then William, who’s four, has grown tired of the water and wants to join me under the shade of the umbrella. So now I’ve got a dripping sandy kid getting my blanket wet. And, being a kid, he is not content to sit in the shade and enjoy the view. Nope, he has brought his bucket of water and is busy scooping clumps of sand (“sand rocks”) into it to make his “soup.” Every other handful results in him shaking his hands, effectively flinging it all over me. I’m relieved that I thought to put my Kindle in its clear plastic sleeve.

After a few hours, they have finally decided that they have had enough. So we put shoes on gritty feet because the sand might as well be hot coals. As we are trudging through the sand, I’m wondering if any Florida sports shops sell snow shoes. But I suppose that wouldn’t be attractive beach attire. Why must people insist on suffering for beauty?

All in all, it wasn’t a horrendous day. I was able to bite my tongue against my complaints and got some reading in. But by the time we get home, I have a headache so intense, I think a blood vessel might burst. At 9:30 pm on a Saturday night, I’ve fallen asleep on the couch before the pain reliever even kicks in.

Now I’m feeling guilty. It’s Sunday afternoon as I write this, and I’ve had a breakdown. I’m so tired and drained from the Florida sun every little annoyance pushes me to tears. I feel like a toddler in need of a nap. Charlie won’t take one, but I think I will anyway. After having spent the morning in church service, my behavior this afternoon is especially abhorrent. So, night-night!

Update: Charlie did end up napping, which was fortunate, because I ended up running a fever… lol

What “vacation” spot annoys you most? Why? Where would you rather be? (Give me the mountains any day!)

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! 😀

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. 😉 Maybe soon I’ll post my thoughts on the new Hobbit movie 😀

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