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Liz Andra Shaw

Journey into the Creative Mind of a Writing Reader

Random Thoughts

January 14th, 2012
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This has been a rough month-and-a-half for me. The health challenges piled up and now the bills are following suit. I saw the surgeon yesterday and finally I think I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. I wish I could say that I kept writing through it all, but truth be told, I didn’t. Progress meters don’t lie. As a friend told me, “Some people will do anything to get out of writing that next chapter.” I did manage to blog at The Writing Reader some of the weeks, cheated with visual prompts on others, and disappeared completely while being held hostage by the hospital wi fi for one week. It wasn’t a total waste, however, except for my work in progress. I did accomplish a lot of reading. And TV watching.

My favorite read for the month of December was Passage by Connie Willis. If you like medical mysteries, are fascinated by Titanic trivia, or want to know more about near death experiences, you’ll love this book. But if none of that grabs you, how about this: she breaks a cardinal writing rule and kills off her protagonist. Not at the end either, but at the 67% mark. I was just about to put the book down for the night when I hit that event. I had to stay up the rest of the night to find out how she was going to work her way out of that mess. I really want you to read this book, so I don’t want to spoil it any further for you by telling you how she makes this “mistake” work in the book’s favor. I’m just going to say that she does it and it’s brilliant. Connie Willis is a genius!

My favorite TV show for December was The Office: Season Seven on Netflix. There’s no laugh track or musical score to manipulate your emotions. This show stands entirely on the writing and the acting, and both were spectacular this season. I’ve never really cared for the character of Michael Scott in previous seasons, but wow. The way that they handled his departure from the show was the most classy farewell in sitcom history. OK, I admit it. The last scene with Pam at the airport watching Michael’s plane leave, well, I cried.

My favorite move for December was Ram Dass: Fierce Grace. I didn’t expect to like this one, but it was recommended by one of my favorite sites, Spirituality and Practice. This has been sitting in my Netflix queue for several years, and finally I decided to watch it. I told myself that if it was boring or preachy that I could turn it off and delete it from my queue. It was neither. It was not only inspiring and fascinating, but it was also the perfect movie for me to watch while dealing with my own health issues.

Some snippets on other books I finished in December:

  • The Terror by Dan Simmons is a fictionalized history of the Franklin expedition to find the Northwest Passage. As if that wasn’t enough, he threw in an element of horror just for good measure. For my taste, it took too long to get started, but the last couple hundred pages kept me up at night.
  • Pirate King by Laurie R. King, a new entry in her Russell/Holmes series. This is a rollicking play-within-a-play story based on Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance. Loads of fun. If you haven’t discovered the Russell series yet, shame on you! Get started with The Beekeeper’s Apprentice and just keep reading. (In case you haven’t discovered it yet, FictFact is the best site for tracking your book series.)
  • I also read the second book in the Grace Murphy series, Rifts by Nicole Hamlett. I love Grace Murphy. She is the coolest female protagonist since Stephanie Plum came along. She’s full of attitude and sass, making these books just plain fun to read. Be sure to start with the first one, Huntress. These really do need to be read in order or you will be completely lost. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, they are available in the Kindle Lending Library.
  • I also want to mention Curry : A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors by Lizzie Collingham in case any of my readers are foodies. I grew up on Indian food, but I had no idea what a fascinating history the country’s cuisine has. Pick this one up. You won’t be disappointed.

Although I didn’t write anything on my WIP in December, I am working on developing a calendar and timeline for the story. Creating a fantasy calendar is no minor task. I’m deeply indebted to all the RPG folks who have posted so many great resources online. I’ve got a basic structure set up, so now I am trying to work in things like holy days, festivals, etc. I’m also working on a map for the world. Given my lack of drawing skills, it’s pretty lame so far, but it’s a good study to figure out what landscape and weather will be like in different areas of the world.This month I need to finish up that process and begin working through the process of putting my first 38K words into the timeline. Then I need to start adding in the weather, terrain, local color, etc. While I’m doing that, I hope to figure out what happens next, because right now, one of my characters has hijacked the storyline and I’m completely stumped as to what comes next. Yep, I’m a pantser. Well, not really. I mean, I have an outline. My characters just don’t feel obligated to stick with it. So, yep, I’m a pantser.

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  • Emi Bauer says on: January 14, 2012 at 9:26 pm

     

    Okay, I know you, I know all you do and yet it still surprises me how much (reading, writing, TV/movie watching, Toastmasters…) you fit into one month. I’m convinced your days are longer than mine. I read two in the entire month of December and I feel so accomplished! LOL But then you also know me and know that I’m not a reader.
    Emi Bauer recently posted..Raising a GentlemanMy Profile

    • Liz says on: January 14, 2012 at 10:56 pm

       

      Remember, I spent most of the month in bed or on the couch! It’s funny, I’ve always thought that your days must be longer than mine…
      Liz recently posted..Book Review: Savage SummitMy Profile

  • Annabelle says on: January 16, 2012 at 9:46 am

     

    Working out the calendar sounds like a major endeavor. I haven’t tried it for mine (so far it seems not necessary to the plot), but I can see how it would add a great piece of framework for certain kinds of stories. Satisfying work, too, or at least I find it that way. The map, on the other hand, is long overdue for me, but since I too am totally lacking in drawing skills, my efforts so far are pretty sad and vague! I have an in-house artist who I am hoping will take pity on me and do it for me.

    Love the clip of Kevin Kline, by the way — I totally grew up on that movie! I’ll have to try out the Russell series.
    Annabelle recently posted..The Real Reason I Know So Much About The Napoleonic WarsMy Profile

    • Liz says on: January 16, 2012 at 8:27 pm

       

      Glad to have company in lame map drawing club! I think you’ll like the Russell series. The first book starts out with a bit that feels very contrived, but keep reading. She eventually drops that in the next couple books and just tells the story.
      Liz recently posted..TimelinesMy Profile

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Liz Andra Shaw

Journey into the Creative Mind of a Writing Reader