Writing

Conviction

Can’t I be Alice? Her Wonderland makes more sense. Image via Wikimedia.

Due to not being quite prepared for spring break, I took an unexpected blogcation. Sorry. But we had fun playing in Orlando without forking out the money for a Disney park ticket. 🙂

I’m still recouping, so here is the first poem I’ve written in the last six years. It’s how I’ve felt as a conscientious author amid the chaos of Fifty Shades of Grey. Fortunately, the chaos seems to have died down since I wrote the poem, but it’s sure to kick back up again when they produce the movie sequels. *facepalm*

I believe that fiction reflects who we are as a society, and to me that makes the popularity of FSoG that much more terrifying. Maybe that’s why after six years, I woke up with this poem screaming at me. I’d like to say a special thank you to my friend Heather for helping me with the editing process.

Conviction

I don’t remember falling.

I haven’t seen the white rabbit.

Maybe he’s gray.

His fur has become

Shades of confusion.

Everyone seems to know him.

They hang on his insane words.

I can’t see him,

But he’s a loud bunny.

“Stalking is sexy

Rape is romantic.”

No wonder no one hears me.

I wonder how I can breathe.

I wonder if I adapt…?

Someone get me out of Wonderland.

I am a whisper among the deaf.

If I sell out my Irish tale,

If I turn the terrorist into a hero,

If I throw acid on history,

If I make survival meaningless,

It would be fifty shades of green.

Green as money.

I’d rather whisper,

And wonder,

How to get out of Wonderland.

Well, look at that!

I ripped off Lewis Carroll.

Maybe he’ll show me the secrets of the white rabbit.

I plead to him

Send me the Jabberwock

The grey rabbit is too bizarre.

And I’ve misplaced my vorpal sword.

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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 · NaNoWriMo

#13 Thoughts on Shakespeare?

Image attributed to Tracy, from North Brookfield, Massachusetts, USA via Wikimedia Commons.
Image attributed to Tracy, from North Brookfield, Massachusetts, USA via Wikimedia Commons.

Ha! I even already had an image from a long ago post on the subject. Well, feels like long ago, anyway.

I loved studying Shakespeare in college. I know I took at least three classes which focused on him and his plays. My favorite class was online at USF and studied how different scenes had been produced on-screen in different ways. We usually had to explain why we agreed or disagreed with the interpretation and cite our answers with evidence from the text.

Talk about an in-depth approach!

As a kid, my parents used to take my sister and I to Shakespeare in the Park. I remember being mesmerized by scenes, but of course, I had no idea what was going on. After all, the actors spoke (what I thought at the time to be) Old English. But the construct and flow of words still pulled me in and I was hooked on that wonderful iambic pentameter.

I have an easier time understanding the plays these days, though I still pull out my trusty Bevington if I want  to make certain that I’ve got a firm grasp of a scene. Some of the more archaic terminology continues to elude me unless I look up the definition.

But my, aren’t some of these words fun?

Robustious periwig-pated, bare bodkin, orisons, argosies, beshrew, peck of provender, scambling…

Why did they ever fall into obscurity?

My favorite play is Hamlet and my favorite production is the beautiful Kenneth Branagh version, though I enjoyed the 1980 BBC version as well. I loathe the Mel Gibson version. I felt Gibson put too much of his own spin on the character and lost all the charm that Shakespeare put into him. I’d go into more detail, but it’s been too long since I’ve seen that one, and I have no desire to subject myself to it again.

As a final note, yes, we named our first son William because of Shakespeare. Though hubby will tell you that he’s named for William Wallace. 😉

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

NaNo word count: 10,744

Harp · Writing

How O’Carolan Influenced St. Patrick’s Day

Image of O’Carolan’s memorial attributed to James Yardley.

As sick as I’ve been for the last month, I couldn’t let St. Paddy’s day go by without talking about it just a little bit. Having played a non-pedal harp for half my life, I’ve plucked out my share of great Irish tunes. Several of these are attributed to Turlough O’Carolan (1670-1738). He was Ireland’s most celebrated harper for his day.

I’ve always known the basics about O’Carolan. He was blind and wrote many his songs for the nobles of the country. I even knew some fun tidbits, like how he would finger his coat buttons while traveling as a way to practice the fingering of his music.

Since he’s a character in my Work In Progress, I’ve learned some more great stuff about him that makes me wonder for the first time this year, how influential he was in the way we currently celebrate St. Patrick’s day.

During my research for my new book, I came across an excerpt from an article by Very Rev. M. J. Canon Masterson (honestly, I’d like to know why there was a need to put in “Very”) http://homepage.eircom.net/~tina/mohill/O’Carolan.htm. A line that stood out was, “[O’Carolan] served as a heaven-sent envoy to unite all creeds in a common love of country and hatred of oppression and, I repeat, he needed the help of the Protestant gentry, and secured it in generous measure.”

It sounded to me like O’Carolan (who was Catholic) didn’t care who you were, where you came from, or what your faith was. As long as you weren’t cruel to anyone, he was good with you. Being an American, I’ve always come to know St. Patrick’s day as a day where anyone can be Irish. It doesn’t seem to matter our background or creed, it’s a day where we all have a common love of Ireland 😀

With all the traveling O’Carolan did and his intense fame in his time, I can’t help but think that he was a key player in this spirit of the holiday and in the friendly openness of the Irish people in general.

I’ve still got a lot to learn about the bard and am impatiently waiting for my copy of his biography by Donal O’Sullivan, which I unfortunately can’t seem to find at any nearby library. *humph* But I’m enjoying learning about a man whose music I’ve been playing for quite some time. 🙂

What do you think? Are my conclusions about O’Carolan and St. Patrick’s Day feasible? Have you come across other things that may have influenced the “everyone’s Irish for a day” feeling we get?

Glutened Goals Update: Nothing. I think that my glutening may finally be over, but, like my boys who have green goo dripping from their noses, I’ve caught a bug that makes it difficult to tell. lol To quote Gilda Radner, it’s always something.

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

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. 😉

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.