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A Plan Forms

It’s time to get serious. I have been writing on and off quite a bit. I have four or five novels in the works, none of which I’m working on nearly enough and none of which are anywhere close to finished, but they’re all good in their own right and I have goals. I want to be a novelist. I want to write for a living. It’s important to me to get there.

And I’m fat again. It’s mostly not my fault. The weight I gained over the past few years was a direct result of my birth control, but now that I’ve had that removed, I need to take control and lose it. I started out well with that yesterday. I planned a full day of healthy eating and I walked and jogged more than four miles after work. Then I went to a friend’s house and ate this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And this morning, I nearly got sick in the shower (if you’ve ever experienced morning sickness, it felt like that) and then a pair of pants that fit me fine last year wouldn’t even come close to buttoning. Yeah. That happened.

But no worries because even before the truffle/cheesecake incident, during my workout, I had formed a plan in my mind. I am going to remedy all my woes.

First, I will go to the gym three times a week to lift weights. On the days I go to the gym, I will do some sort of cardio exercise to round out a full hour and on the days I don’t go, I will do a full hour of cardio. I will also do at least thirty minutes of yoga every day. I will write for a minimum of one hour per day and I will read a book each week. I mean, I started the book review blog before my surgery and I feel like I wrote two great reviews and was on a roll and then … I stopped. And that isn’t OK with me. I have big plans for that blog. It has a theme and a purpose and it’s pretty. It’s time to get serious.

 

 

 

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Photo courtesy http://www.fanpop.com.

I’m going to keep this short because I don’t think there’s a need to dissect this movie. I simply want to say that I think you all should see it. I haven’t read the book, but I’m told the movie compares very favorably. And the soundtrack is to die for.

In basic terms, the movie will make you feel:

You know when you’re on a roller coaster and you have that constant knot in your stomach from the tension of climbing hills and knowing that when you reach the top, you’re going to go really fast down a hill of equal proportions and while it’s exhilarating, it’s also incredibly scary?

That’s how this movie made me feel. And I was on the verge of tears from start to finish, even though there were some funny parts and sad parts and everything in between.

And it makes us children of the ’90s (well, adolescents of the ’90s, because really, it’s us Grungers who will really understand it) nostalgic for a different and simpler time.

Finally, anyone wondering if there’s life after Harry Potter, wonder no more. Emma Watson’s performance was superb.

Yeah … Another New Blog

I decided to start a new blog for the express purpose of reviewing books I read. My goal is one a week and a Friday post.

I will start a Facebook fan page for it probably this weekend, but if anyone is interested, my “about” page and my first review (A Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling) are up and ready: http://inaperfectword.wordpress.com/about/.

I’ll still post here, but only non-book review posts. Enjoy!

Should I Read this Book?

On Labor Day (United States), I went with a friend to Goodwill. She wanted to take advantage of the store’s sale on clothes and I was just going along for the ride. I need to lose about forty pounds before I even think about buying new clothes. But  a welcome surprised when we arrived was that there was also a sale on books, most of which were no more than three or four dollars full price.

One of the books I left with was Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books. I’d been interested for several years in reading that particular book, but hadn’t gotten around to it. Since it was such a good price, of course I snatched it up, along with four others.

If you read the back of Reading Lolita, the publisher describes it as being about a woman who holds what basically amounts to a book discussion group in her Tehran, Iran, apartment where the members (the former college professor’s students) read books that the Iranian government has banned. Obviously, one such book is Lolita.

By that description, the book most definitely sounds interesting. But the description is misleading. Yes, this book group is a part of the book. In fact, it takes up the entire first section. But there is so much more to it.

For those less familiar with Reading Lolita, the author is a woman who received a literature degree in the United States and then returned to her native country in 1979, just as Ayatollah Khomeini and his, shall we say minions?, seize control of Iran from the Shah. I’m more than half way through the memoir and the majority of it is about the author’s experiences during and after the revolution and of course throughout the course of the Iraq/Iran war of the 1980s. Her life touches those of her students and she tells what she knows of their experiences, as well.

What this book is, really, is a personal history lesson about an extremely tumultuous time in history that changed the world and I’m learning so much more than I ever did in school.

Miss Auras by John Lavery

In reading Reading Lolita, I began thinking about how publishers so often drop the ball in promoting books. I suppose in a way, what they’re doing is working, since the books I’m talking about have been best-sellers. But I wonder at the same time, what am I missing out on?

I’ll begin with Harry Potter. I didn’t read a single word of any of the books until last July and then I devoured all seven of them in sixteen days and re-read them all within the next year. But I only did so because I happened to catch a couple of the movies on television. The impression I had of the books, based solely on the publicity they received, was that they were very juvenile and a bit silly and while others may have loved them, I didn’t think they were for me.

The next book I nearly missed — and didn’t thanks to a movie preview — was The Help. Everyone raved about it. I thought I should give it a go. Then I walked into Borders, picked it up and read the cover. It said something about a young southern girl looking for her missing nanny and learning lessons along the way. I immediately put it down. I only bought it after seeing a preview for the movie (which I hated) and realizing there was much more to it.

Once I’d read The Helpit became clear just how ridiculous the description was on the back cover. Was Skeeter, the heroine, looking for her missing nanny? Well, yes. But that was mostly a subplot that took a back seat to her stealthily interviewing black housekeepers in Alabama at the beginning of the Civil Rights movement in order to publish a book exposing the truth about what went on behind the manicured lawns.

That was an excellent book. The one described is sentimental and hackneyed.

I wonder if it’s always been this way. I don’t think it has. I’ve been a reader my entire life. I don’t recall a time I wasn’t. I’ve always chosen books at random. I walk into a book store or library and a title catches my eye. I read the back of the book or the inside jacket if it’s hardcover and if it interests me, I take it home and either love it or hate it. This method has worked well for me for thirty-five years. And now? Not so much.

Now I walk into a store and look at the books and they all sound awful. And many of them are. And now I can’t even count on the publishers to help me figure out which is which.

Last night, Christian Grey kept me up very late. Past midnight. I’m very tired this morning.

I first stayed up to finish Jennifer Armintrout’s recaps, chapter by chapter, of 50 Shades Darker, the second book in the 50 Shades of Grey series. I finished reading her recaps of the first book on Tuesday night.

Before I get to my point, I want to make some clarifications about my experience with this book. Because of the hype about it, I downloaded the free previews — the first two chapters — of each book to see if I could even stand to read them. Set aside the fact that E.L. James couldn’t write herself out of a paper bag, I got really, really, really bored and decided it wasn’t worth the torture to even try. Then I read Katrina Lumsden’s reviews of the books on www.goodreads.com and they were so funny that I kind of wanted to read the books just to laugh at them. But the thought of spending actual money and adding to the fortunes of the publisher who stooped so low as to publish this drivel was too much for me. So, if someone wants to lend me a free copy of the series, I’d appreciate it. 🙂

So … with that said, let me take you all through a couple scenarios:

Imagine, if you will, a 19-year-old girl sitting in a mall food court with a man. They’re having a conversation and once or twice something catches her attention out of the corner of her eye and she glances in that direction, finds nothing of particular interest and looks back at the man she’s with and continues the conversation.

And then …

He accuses her of staring at a man who was in the general direction of where she’d turned her head to look. She tells him she didn’t see anyone, but he doesn’t believe her. Of course, this “staring” she did in the split second during which she turned her head means she wants to have sex with a man she didn’t see. An argument erupts and in the end, they make up and move on.

A few months later, this same teenage girl and the same man are in a restaurant having dinner. By now, she’s learned to keep her head down in public, lest someone with a Y chromosome wanders into her line of sight. They get up to leave and she notices that there are three men sitting in a booth towards which she must walk in order to get out of the restaurant. She is careful to cast her eyes to the floor and not look at them at all on her way out.

And yet …

The man screams at her for hours about how she was “staring” at the men in the booth.

Every time she’s in public with this man, she gets a sick feeling in her stomach. He calls constantly and demands to know who she’s with and what she’s doing. He attempts to separate her physically and emotionally from her family and friends she’s known her entire life.

Put billions of dollars in his bank account and make him “hot” (as in good-looking, not with a fever) and I present you with Christian Grey, the man millions of women are “in love with.” The man millions of women compare to their own boyfriends or husbands and find their real-life partners lacking.

Let me tell you right now, Christian Grey is not a catch. He is not a good person. He is not someone you want to be involved with. He is most definitely not romantic or heroic. If someone you cared about was in a relationship with him, you would be afraid for her life and begging her to leave him.

Prior to reading Armentrout’s blog, I was mostly just annoyed that a publisher picked up the books. The writing is horrible. The theme and plot barely exist. This thing with Leila? I’m not even sure why James bothered. Take out the sex scenes and these books are the ideal romantic relationship that might spring forth from the not-quite-formed psyche of a ten-year-old girl. But they came from the clearly stunted psyche of a woman who, based on photos I’ve seen, is in her thirties or forties.

To the women who look at Christian Grey and see the ideal man, I ask: WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU??? I know I’m going to offend some people, but seriously, you need therapy. Intense, serious, deep therapy.

This book would have made more sense and been a more honest story if it was a thriller about a young, innocent woman who fell in love with a billionaire who turned out to be a psychopath (because that is absolutely what Christian Grey is) and she has to somehow escape him. Hmmm … perhaps this should have been Sleeping with the Enemy fan fiction. It’s closer to the reality. One of them will have to end up dead in the end because that is how this kind of thing ends.

I know plenty of people are going to comment here about how it’s “just a book,” but it isn’t. I can understand that the sex scenes maybe turned you on. I can get that you maybe even enjoyed the story. But what I don’t understand, the thing that should concern any of you who think this way, is why you believe this is a romantic story? Why do you think Christian Grey is the man of all your dreams? Why in the holy hell would you want to even know someone who won’t even allow you to choose your own food or when you will eat it?

Here’s a tip: If you enjoy having every last detail of your life micro managed, commit a crime and go to jail. You’ll have more autonomy that way.

Writing Hurts

Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters.

– Neil Gaiman

Today was a good writing day. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I’m having a difficult time finding a balance between my regular life and my artistic life. I often feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

The gathering storm clouds of my artist’s mind. (© 2012 Renee M. Liss)

Mrs. Thor and I held our “meetings” once a week for two or three weeks and I managed to fit in an hour of writing every day of that time, like I promised I would. But then we had company and went out of town and I stopped writing and I stopped journaling and when it was all over, we didn’t start back up. And until today, I didn’t do much writing at all.

But today, tonight, I sat down and wrote for more than two hours and I wrote two thousand words. And I fear that it won’t matter in the end. I fear that I will write and write and write and then I will decide it isn’t good enough and start all over from word one and in the end, I’ll die without ever having completed a novel.

I don’t want to do that. 50 Shades of Grey got published. It’s a best-seller. And it’s horrible. I can write circles around that woman. I’ve only read the Kindle preview of the first two books, which is the first two chapters of each. I wanted to at least have some idea of what it was like. Her writing is full of clichés and repetitive words and horrible dialogue. And she got published. And it’s a best-seller. And I’m better than that.

I don’t know what to do, though. I mean, I set this hour a day goal, which gets me sitting in front of the computer and writing words. But are they quality words just because I’m writing them? Tonight, I actually enjoyed the world I was creating and the characters who came from my head. I got lost in it. I stopped because I’m starting to fall asleep and can’t think clearly anymore (apologies if that’s obvious in this post!). I want to go back and create more. I like it. Right now. I don’t know if I’ll like it tomorrow. I don’t know if I’ll write myself into a corner and have to stop. I don’t know if I’m good enough.

Based on what’s “out there,” I’m more than good enough for publishers. But am I good enough for me? That’s what really matters. I want to write a quality novel. I don’t want Stephen King running around saying what an awful writer I am. Even if I’m bringing in millions, I don’t want to be known as a bad writer.

So what do I do now?

So, the kid got her license a few months ago and she’s about to start college in a month way on the other side of town, plus hopefully she will find a job soon.  All that may make transportation with only one car between us a bit … difficult.

Actual photo accompanying a used car for sale ad on Tallahassee Craig’s List.

That means we’re in the market for a used clunker she can use to get around town. As we all do in this here the modern age, I turned to Craig’s List. Our price range is quite low, so pickings are slim. But what I’m finding more of an issue is that people are … strange.

The first car I found to look at seemed promising. I talked to the woman and she told me the best time to come was the next day between 5 and 7. We got ready to go and called and she said she’d sold it.

The next car was listed at $600 more than it was worth. The seller initially agreed to let me have a mechanic look at the car, but after we test drove it, he said he’d prefer the mechanic come to his property to look at the car. I didn’t realize mechanics made house calls. So, that one fell through the cracks.

Since then, there hasn’t been much but I’m learning that if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. On Friday, I found a Camry listed well below Blue Book value, but the seller claimed he was moving away and absolutely had to sell his car by the end of the week. So I sent him a text message. He answered a couple questions, but when I asked if we could look at the car, he waited hours to respond telling me that someone was coming that night with cash in hand, but if I would offer just $100 more, he’d hold the car for me and turn down this supposed sure sale. I told him to let me know if the sale didn’t go through. He answered back pressuring me again to offer more than he was asking (which was still a good price, but I’m no sucker).

Again, I told him I wasn’t in a rush to buy a car and to let me know if the deal fell through. Surprise, surprise, an hour later the “buyer” had bought another car already and he wanted to know if I wanted to “take a look.” If course I said yes, but he wouldn’t commit to a time or place. Finally after I said, “How about tomorrow morning?” he said we’d “shoot for 11.” And then wouldn’t tell me where.

That made me nervous. I decided if I was going to look, it would not be alone. But in the end, it didn’t matter. I never heard from him again.

Shocking, I know.

The same day, I contacted a man about a Saturn. The ad said the air conditioning wasn’t working, but it “just needs freon.” He wouldn’t tell me how he knew it just needed freon and that it wasn’t something more serious. I thought about looking at it, but it’s 95,000 degrees and 100% humidity down here and I don’t want to test drive a car with no air conditioning. He also wouldn’t tell me a good time, just said I should call when I’m ready and he’ll let me know if the car is still there.

Now there are about seven ads on Craig’s List for this same car, all listing different prices and one says the air conditioning blows cold and works great.

I don’t think we’ll be finding a car any time soon.