The Hazel Wood

Mar 12, 2018 by

The Hazel Wood

Last week I read Melissa Albert’s debut book “The Hazel Wood,” a young adult novel 355 pages strong. Not something I would normally read, but I’m trying to better understand what tops the best seller lists and this has been atop the Costco list recently. I wanted to know why.

The is a modern-day fairy tale but dark and dreary. The first half of the book I found rather intoxicating. Night one I consumed 87 pages. The second night I reached page 167. The third page 264. I did not read the fourth night. On the fifth eve I reached page 320. On the sixth I had 35 pages to read. It took seven nights to finish.

It was what a writer would call the Supreme Ordeal, where all hope seems lost for the main character, where things seemed to fall apart for me. After finishing I saw some of the comments on Goodreads and that seems to be the consensus, too. Though I thought most of the low ratings on Goodreads read as bratty.

Melissa Albert’s command of the English language is strong. She uses word pictures to help her readers imagine what she wants them to see. Even in a first-person novel where the reader is inside the head of the main character, Alice, the entire book. That’s not an easy thing to do.

She did a good job of foreshadowing and setting up and the following through later.

Like I said, I enjoyed the setup in the first half of the book. The latter half got to be a little strange for me. Like I said, this is not something I would typically read, but I am glad I did. I gave the book a four-star rating on Goodreads. These people who hated it, don’t appreciate the art of it, and this book is a work of art.

I don’t believe that any book must have a happily ever after ending. This one has something of a HEA ending, but without providing a spoiler, maybe not in the way the bratty Goodreads commenters would like. If an author writes a book that doesn’t end the way readers think it should, the author has done his/her job. Whether that’s good for the business-side of writing is another matter. What’s true to the story first should always be the first consideration. The answer isn’t always easy, I’m sure.

Congratulations to Melissa Albert. Writing this story, no doubt, was not easy. There are lots of twists and turns to keep her up many a night as she composed this novel. I hope she keeps writing despite the few Negative Nellies on Goodreads. illegitimi non carborundum is all I have to say to that.

(You can check out my list of 101 books I’m reading and recommend by following the link here. I’m at number 61 with this book as of December 2016. I’m using these books to improve my craft. Some of them are about writing better, some of them are fantastic reads. I invite you to check out the list. If you know of something I should read, please tell me about it.)

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Finding Water

Aug 28, 2017 by

Finding Water

I’m in Week Seven of Julia Cameron’s book, Finding Water.

Julia Cameron’s Finding Water.

This makes 19-straight weeks of following in her teachings, coupled with an equally invigorating study of my NIV Bible. Today I’m on the last pages of a second $0.50 college rule Walmart notebook. In fact, Chandler, my daughter, about fell over last week when I showed her the two-foot high stack of them in my closet.  Every three weeks now, I fill a notebook with handwritten Morning Pages. It’s the best form of prayer and therapy I’ve encountered in almost 52 years.

Friday

Friday was a crummy day and if it weren’t for my growing faith in God–thanks to Julia Cameron’s teachings, my daily study, and the confidence I’ve been building because of my Morning Pages, my weekly artist’s dates, and daily walks, (ones that have been trimmed the past month for medical reasons and the oppressive Texas heat) I’d probably be on a balcony somewhere ready and willing to jump.

Transportation issues presented themselves. Issues with a video project popped up. Issues with my ex reared their ugly head. Another video and web project presented issues. And worst of all, the book project with SMU, the one I’ve worked so hard on since 2014, well, I was not one of the 14 selected to go to New York in November.

And That’s Okay

All off it. It’s okay. At some point, mechanics will figure out what’s wrong with my car. There are always difficulties when you shoot a video project. You work them one or two at a time. They get solved and then you fix the next two or three that come along until the project is complete. Website and video editing problems you deal with. You use your creativity and you fix.

The Writer’s Path at SMU

I am grateful for what I’ve learned through the Writer’s Path at SMU. I would not trade the experience for anything. It’s honed my writing. The past year and a half I’ve been wigged out on opioids.

I am happy for the 14 authors selected. Julia Cameron teaches us in Finding Water to celebrate the accomplishment of other artists. They worked hard. I’ve worked hard, too. And now I’m free to follow my own path.

That’s what I’m going to do on my book, too. I don’t have to worry the next few months how I’m going to pay for a trip to New York in November. Things are tight enough around here as they are. I can now get into the feel of my book now that the opioids are having less of an effect on my brain. I can query to my heart’s desire. My brain is in a different place than it was in late June and throughout July. God wanted it that way. You can read my post from last night to read just how. Again, this is okay. God has me on a different path to getting published.

Even the sermon Sunday spoke to this very topic. With God, nothing is impossible. He has a plan. There was a reason I got hurt. There was a reason it took so long for me to get back on my feet and off the pain meds. There was a reason for all the bad things that happened Friday. I believe that. And most of all, I am okay with it. All of it.

And that’s what puts me further ahead than many.

dc.

 

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Zelda Fitzgerald’s Parents’ Graves–The Sayre Graves

Jul 15, 2017 by

Zelda Fitzgerald’s Parents’ Graves–The Sayre Graves

The graves of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald’s parents are in Oakwood Cemetery in Montgomery, Alabama.

The grave site of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald’s parents and family members in Montgomery, AL.

They are marked as #28.

They are not easy to find unless you know what you’re looking for.

How To Find The Sayre Graves

Oakwood Cemetery section. How to find the Sayre graves, the parents of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald.

Heading east on Upper Wetumpka Road in Montgomery, go past the Montgomery Police Department and down the hill toward Alabama Public Television and Paterson Field.

The last three entrances to the cemetery are important. The third one leads to Hank Williams’ grave on top of the hill.

The first one, St. Ann’s Street, is the entrance to the section leading to the Sayres.

Once you pull in at St. Ann’s, take the first left onto Stella Street. At the first right, turn north on Clarmont Ave. and go up the hill. The first right near the top of the hill is also Clarmont, but go straight another 20 or 30 yards. Then stop.

Off to your left, three rows in, follow the path of Clarmont to the west. You will see several tall and full trees, and there are two obelisk-like markers to the west in the next row of the Sayre resting place.

Once you are three rows deep, turn to your right and the Sayre site should be to your left.

Clearly marked at the front of the site is a memorial marker to F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, who are not buried there.

Photos of the Site

I’ve included photos of Minnie Sayre’s grave, as well as Anthony D. Sayre Sr’s resting spots. Minnie is buried on the far left and Judge Sayre is three graves to her right. Zelda’s brother Anthony Sayre Jr lies immediately to the left of the Judge.

Marker for F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald in Montgomery, AL

The grave of Minnie M. Sayre, the mother of Zelda Fitzgerald.

Close up of the tombstone of Minnie M. Sayre, the mother of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, who was born in Montgomery, AL

The tomb of Judge Anthony D Sayre, the father of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, in Montgomery, AL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zelda, Almost Home

In June 2017, I made a short film about Zelda. The premise, what if Zelda returned to her hometown Montgomery as a ghost?

Thing is, the more I learned about Zelda and her haunts in Montgomery, the more it seems she actually does return to the city quite often.

July 24, 2017 will mark the 117th anniversary of her birth in the Capital City of Alabama.

Here is Zelda, Almost Home, available on YouTube. Music courtesy of Moby.

 

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The Barrowfields–Book Review

Jul 13, 2017 by

It’s taken longer than it should have but last week I read The Barrowfields by new author, Phillip Lewis. 

The book starts out a little slow, but once you immerse yourself in the story, and that becomes easier to do with each passing page, Lewis takes hold of you with his quality, rich characters.

I enjoyed this book and will read it again. There are not many on the New York Times Bestseller List I would say that about. It seems of late the publishing industry is all about a bang for the buck that lasts three weeks and no more. My pen-pal, Amor Towles, currently on the list for 32 weeks with A Gentleman in Moscow remains there because his book is of substance. Something someone will want to read again.

The Barrowfields is of that same ilk.

Lewis blends a rich knowledge of literature, books and North Carolina lore together for a superb recipe of a tale. He takes us through his father’s courtship of his mother and the relationship with his grandparents. Then we see the main character seek to recover from the events of home that linger. He seeks to escape his past but like none of us, is able to do so. It comes racing back into his life and he is compelled to deal with it.

I am an active reader so there are a few lines from the book I underlined as I read.

A beguiling optimism is often the first step toward folly. Page 29

“I write, because it’s one of the only things that seems real to me.  It’s the only way short of death to make time stop.” This was not a simplified explanation for a ten-year-old. This was his truth. Page 45

As a fellow writer, I understand the perspective of Henry Aster’s father about writing.

And I so much would like to meet a woman as grounded as Story. She was a dear and though she herself is dealing with her own familial emotional baggage, she makes the story come alive and enjoyable.

I encourage you to find the book and give it a read. It is one you won’t want to take to Half Priced Books in a three weeks along with your current Grisham, Clancy, Patterson, Steele and the like. No, you’ll want to keep this with your Towles and Lees and Patchetts.

This book also helped me with my own writing. The language is rich and colorful and immersive. I look forward to the next book by Phillip Lewis.

“I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.”

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The Haley Buggin’ Guitar Riff Ditty

Jun 9, 2017 by

The Haley Buggin’ Guitar Riff Ditty

Guitar riffs. We hear them and they earworm their way into our consciousness and then burrow in for a long stay.

Last night about 8 p.m. I downloaded an app to tune my guitars and one for my mandolin. I never got to the mandolin.

Haley Buggin’, a little ditty I made thanks to The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. https://youtu.be/7zgmMeP-coE

I tuned the guitar and then started a progression of the chords E A D, but thumping them and muting them like U2’s Edge would do, and then hammering the neck notes like Eddie Van Halen or Pete Townsend would do.

The result, I thumbed out a progression that I then recorded and sent to my daughter Haley calling it “Haley Buggin’.” You see, over the past couple of years, Haley has from time-to-time sent me tracks she’s recorded seeking input and support. I’ve been encouraging but probably not nearly enough. This was the first time I’ve ever sent her one. I sent her a track about 40 seconds long. Then I recorded a second one. These are the only two times in my life I’ve ever played this progression in this manner and almost 12 hours later, I’m not sure if I picked up the guitar I’d find it again without the aid of the audio recordings. If I’d not taped them, they’d be lost.

After finishing the second version, I liked it at playback and immediately came to the iMac and opened Garageband.

After a few tests, I found some backing drums and maracas to add. I also played with the reverb setting for the guitar track and violla, I had something that sounds like it was recorded in a studio. After moving it over to iTunes, I then fired up Premiere Pro, pulled the audio into Audition to make a .wav file, and then copied the twins’ graduation video. I created a new sequence, called it Haley Buggin, and began to cut individual pics of Reagan out.

Now it’s important to explain that I have nothing against Reagan. It’s just that the first thing that came to mind when I named this piece of music is Haley Buggin’. Since she was born, I’ve called her Haley Bug, and juking on a guitar, well, it just SCREAMED the obvious title. I love Reagan and Chandler, my two other daughters equally.

I then found some video of Haley jukin with her guitar and she starts talking and moving her head in time to the accents of the music. I added a music credit across the black, and then I dropped in the “This is Sick” video clip of her netting potting. Loaded that to YouTube and then on to FB.

Haley says she wants the tune as a ringtone. I can do that.

The amazing part is that in 1.75 hours I took something that didn’t exist before and loaded it to YouTube as a semi-finished, finished product for all the world to use as an earworm.

My guitars haven’t been out of their cases in years. And when they come out, they play a riff I’ve never heard before and in a way I’ve not ever really played, either.

THE ARTIST’S WAY WEEK 7

I am presently in Week 7 of 13 of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. This book is transforming my life in measured and magical ways. Godly ways.

Pulli out the guitar and the first thing my fingers do is knock out a catchy, bouncy riff. That’s magical and wonderful and that’s The Artist’s Way.

God and Julia Cameron helped get my mind to a place where it could free that song into existence. There is no other way to describe it.

So here’s the video of Haley Buggin’. I hope you like it. I hope the tune infects you and you’re stuck walking around with it. Dance in your car with it. Add it to your walking track. (I did 9,000 steps yesterday.) Make it a ringtone.

And if you don’t like it, well, that’s okay, too. I freed it from non-existence to make my soul happy and to release it as an artist seeking to make a contribution to the world of music, sound and video. And I made the piece the way I did out of love for one of my children. That’s the happiest, most healthy part of all of this. This one paragraph.

The point is, share this wonderful creation that God has given us. Serendipity-style.

And then pick up your own copy of The Artist’s Way and see what God does in your world.

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I’m Under A Writing Deadline

Jun 5, 2017 by

I’m Under A Writing Deadline

So what does that mean? Naturally, my mind is trying to find everything it can to NOT write. And I have 56 days to meet a writing deadline.

My kitchen is clean. My sock drawer indexed in a way that would make Sherlock Holmes envious. My Scrivener file is full of sub-folders. And I keep rehashing my Resurrection, Supreme Ordeal and fighting with myself about how to actually re-write my Call to Action.

Why is this?

The Quest for Perfection

In Chapter Seven of The Artist’s Way this week, I’m dealing with PERFECTION. Or my mental quest to put out something that is as close to perfection as humanly, or me-ily possible.

I’m on a writing deadline and doing all I can to NOT do what I should be doing.

“The perfectionist is never satisfied,” says Ms. Cameron. “Midway through the project the perfectionist decides to read it all over, outline it, see where it’s going. And where is it going? Nowhere, very fast.”

I’m trying to break out of this syndrome. In a video on the CREATIVE app today for Apple TV, the screenplay writer teaching the class said to “Imagine your harshest critic sitting here on your shoulder. Most like, if you’re fortunate, it’s your mother. Pick a place she would love to be on a vacation to, and send her there for the time being.” Get her off your shoulder, is what he said.

So yeah, I get that. Mom probably isn’t alone perching on my shoulder. I know I have several critics who I need to send packing.

And not just until I finish this draft.

The Artist’s Way

Julia Cameron’s book, done right, a chapter a week, is altering my creativity. She is healing my heart. She’d argue more so that it is ME who is healing my own heart. And she’s right.

I recommend this book for everyone. In 2014 I bought a copy and gave it to each of my three girls who never did anything with it. That’s not a criticism, because in 2014 I started reading it and thinking, I don’t have time to devote 13 weeks to this.

Three years later, that’s exactly what I am doing. I don’t peek into the coming week’s lesson. I review those of the past. I re-read my Basic Principles, and The Affirmations I need to hear. I also read An Artist’s Prayer every couple of days to help keep my mind fresh and healing.

Writing Deadline

I have a third of fourth draft I’m working to revise of my book, The Voodoo Hill Explorer Club. A revision of it must be ready for submission to the head of The Writer’s Path Program at SMU on Aug. 1. The first 15 pages are going to be judged and determined whether or those those of us who submit should be selected to go to New York in November to meet with publishers and agents who work or represent the Big Five.

In the meantime, I’m struggling to not self-sabotage this effort. But it’s hard. I’m finding plenty of excuses to not write. I need to go for a walk. Three miles and an hour’s time. But while I’m walking I’m thinking about the book. And a dozen other things. The garbage needs to be taken out. The floors haven’t been vacuumed in several days. Oh gosh, there’s dust on this computer. Oh my, look, it’s about to thunderstorm. What’s being said that’s dumb on Twitter? How about Facebook? What did Simon Cade or Matt W post in their video feeds about filmmaking today? What’s Hazel Hays up to? What’s in my Mail inbox? Julia Cameron says I need to throw some old clothes out. What can I really do with this closet? Ah, yes, what am I going to eat for….

Chapter Seven

This week Julia Cameron affirms that my story is written. I just need to get it down on paper. Or into Scrivener so I can push it out of Word. I need to think of the writing process as being lowered down via a well into an sub-dermal layer of consciousness. She says writers, creatives, should not be trying to think things up. Then you’re reaching for something that’s out of reach. Visualize being lowered down into that river and the words are floating past. It’s my job to offer them rescue. To gather them into the boat and then put them in the right order onto my pages.

That is a much easier way to see writing. It seems to be working today. Today.

The teacher in the CREATIVE network on Apple TV says that we should schedule time on our calendar for writing and then adhere to the calendar.

I’m going to do a little of both. But it’s not easy. I keep trying to find a way to not sit here. To be elsewhere. And yet to retrain my brain to stay fastened to the chair.

I will say that the extracurricular things I am doing are not all bad. Yes, they are excuses, but they’re also allowing my brain to play. And Cameron also says that a playful mind is the most creative one of all.

I hope she’s right. There are only 56 days left until submission and I have 56 scenes in my work at present…..

And that’s how an extra blog post gets written, too…. 🙂

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