Has Reading Affected Your Life?

Nancy is running an interesting contest and I encourage everyone to enter. I did. All Nancy asks is that you tell her how reading has affected your life. I bet there are some pretty amazing stories out there. I hope you’ll share yours with Nancy, please let me know if you do.

Here’s mine.

The Perfect BrideThe Perfect Bride by Brenda Joyce

The hero Rex is a war vet who lost his leg in battle. While he hides himself from proper society at the start of the novel he does not hide from life. He learns to do everything he wants with his amputation; he just has to do it differently sometimes. And over the course of the novel and with the love of the perfect woman he learns to rejoin society.
When I read the DeWarenne books I was suffering from severe arthritis in my right leg. Both my knee and ankle were impaired and in constant pain. One doctor suggested that at some point amputation might be the best solution. Three years later that is exactly what I did. I amputated my right leg above the knee.

Now, it might seem over-dramatic to say that a fictional character gave me the courage to do it. But it certainly helped. It reminded me that there were a lot of amputees before me and they did not have benefit of the medical technology that we do. And they survived. I knew that I would survive and I would go on.
Plus, I’m married. I’d already found my perfect husband and soul mate.  I’d be okay. Love conquers all.

PS: I got measured for my first prosthetic last week. Soon, I’ll be walking again after six years.

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Post Every Day

I CAN DO THIS!

I’ve decided I want to blog more. Rather than just thinking about doing it, I’m starting right now.  I will be posting on this blog once a day for all of 2011.

I know it won’t be easy, but it might be fun, inspiring, awesome and wonderful. Therefore I’m promising to make use of The DailyPost, and the community of other bloggers with similiar goals, to help me along the way, including asking for help when I need it and encouraging others when I can.

If you already read my blog, I hope you’ll encourage me with comments and likes, and good will along the way.

Signed,

ZaBeth Marsh

What’s Your Goal?

It’s that time of year again when we evaluate what we are doing and where we are going and how we want to get there. I think it is extra critical for me as I find myself in the midst of a career change. I try not to get too metaphysical and caught up in the melodrama that can be New Year’s Resolutions.  I’d rather focus on goals. What is that I want to accomplish? What did I accomplish last year, but I want to be better at or build on?

A former coworker of mine once told me an inspiring story about her daughter’s marching band leader.  The band leader wrote this on the school’s white board:

“What do you want? What are you doing? And do they match?”

I don’t know if he was just paraphrasing someone’s philosophy but I have found those 3 questions to be very insightful.  If you have children, remember that music and extra-curricular activities teach your children a lot more than the obvious subject involved. Anyway, when I feel like I’m not making progress on a project, I’ve often found what I’m actually spending my time on isn’t really supporting what I say I want to accomplish. That is where the deer-in-the-headlights look starts. And where I believe most people give up on New Year’s Resolutions.  They come to the realization that they aren’t really spending time on their goals as much as running around them and so they give up. Instead, we all need to focus our attention and time on what matters. Match our energy to our goals.

Be Specific

First off, you have to be specific in your tasks. Too big and/or too lofty in your goals and it could realistically take years to accomplish them. Saying you want to write the next great American novel may truly take years to accomplish.  However, such a lofty goal will likely never get you a finished novel. So don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Own Your Time

Second, remember that time has a way of getting away from you. Make the time you are going to spend on each task small and repeatable until the goal is accomplished. For example, this year I’m going to finish my novel. That would be a very large goal to put as my New Year’s Resolution. Instead, my task is to write 100 words per day for my novel. Now I intend to write more than that per day, but having the task of writing a minimum of 100 words makes me sit down at the computer on those days that I’m sure I have nothing creative to write. I might write crap, but I’ll write 100 words of crap at least.

I’m betting more often than not in crunching out those painful 100 words I’ll find a nugget of something I actually like. And the next day my 100 words will turn into 1,000 words because I now have a spark.

Check Off Your List As You Go

Third, give yourself a sense of reward. Notice I didn’t say give yourself a reward. If you went out and bought a new car after every 100 words you’d be the poorest writer in the world. But keeping a list of your tasks and checking off every accomplished task will show you how successful you can be when you focus your efforts. That can be extremely important on those days when 100 words is as excruciatingly painful to pull out of your soul like a dentist pulling teeth from your mouth without Novocaine.

One way I have to do this is a new web tool called Joe’s Goals. It is a visual check box that let’s you track the good things you are doing. Like writing 100 words a day. And the not-so-good things you are doing, such as sneaking an hour of TV time to watch Ellen in the afternoon when you should be writing. You can assign positive and negative points to each activity and reports will let you know if you are keeping on the good side or not. I like this tool because it has a much more visual aspect than many of the more traditional project management or To Do List apps that you find nowadays. It is simple and doesn’t offer a lot of advanced features but does provide a Logbook and Notes feature so that you can enter comments. This tool is free to use but if you like it please support independent development and contribute to the creator.

Disclosure: I receive no payment whatsoever for recommending any web application. I am experienced in the software industry and use my knowledge of such as an incentive to write more.

How Worthy Are Remakes?

It seems like the thing to do in Hollywood these days is to remake a classic movie. I have to tell you I was personally horrified when I heard they were making a remake of True Grit (1969). In my mind Rooster Cogburn was John Wayne or rather John Wayne was Rooster Cogburn. No one but John Wayne could get that one-eyed fat man correct with his mixture of  sad drunkenness, crude honesty, and fierce sense of justice and loyalty. To touch “True Grit” is like trying to rewrite my childhood. Every Saturday afternoon spent watching John Wayne with my Dad flashed in my mind. I did not want these memories, which I cherish, to be tarnished.

However, my husband is a strong supporter of Westerns. And if we want to see more Westerns made for the big screen we must support this genre by going to the theater. Today was the day. We braved the crowds and made our way to see if the Coen brothers, who directed the newest version of True Grit (2010), would break my heart.

First, I must thank Ethan and Joel Coen and all the producers of this new movie. They not only hit the mark; they made a perfect bullseye! Although no one will ever replace John Wayne in my heart, Jeff Bridges deserves an Oscar. Bridges made me forget that I had previously met Marshall Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn. I was meeting Rooster for the first time and he was as complex and frustrating as he was meant to be. I also believe this film has one of Matt Damon’s best performances (and I don’t usually sing his praises but he honestly deserved it for this movie). Josh Brolin, while brief on screen, was amazing. I also believe that Hailee Steinfeld may have stolen the show; she totally blew away Kim Darby’s version of Mattie Ross in the 1969 movie. Both Darby and Steinfeld’s performances are excellent, however, I feel that Steinfeld was allowed to play the role tougher where as Darby still had to give in to some female stereotypes of the 60’s.

My husband has read the novel that started it all – True Grit by Charles Portis – and he told me that the 2010 movie stays truer to the novel than the 1969 film version. But again, I believe that there were some accommodations made in the 60’s because they just didn’t want to portray a 14-year old girl in a certain light. I think the audience in 1969 would have accepted the novel version but then we might not have been given these wonderful performances today.  I’ve already gone out to my public library and reserved the book so that I can compare the movies and book myself.

So many remakes leave me disgusted that I cringe when I hear about a the release of another classic “with a new spin.” Normally I would say that remakes really add no new value to the original story. But in the  case of True Grit (2010), I have to say that it is definitely worth a movie-goers time. As an aspiring author, I found it was the slight changes to the storyline that interested me instead of proving false red-herrings. I’d bet overall if one were to compare both versions’ script dialog word-for-word, they would be surprisingly similar. And yet, while both films provide the drunken Rooster with his moment of redemption these are completely different stories of the same man.

The Coen brothers – in their genius – have been able to use some of America’s most legendary heroes – John Wayne, Rooster Cogburn, and now Jeff Bridges – to show us that there are always multiple layers to everyone. Every character. Every story. In the movies and in life, we need to remember to take a second look at those around us to learn more. Because there is always more just under the surface that we didn’t have time, talent, etc. to see the first time.

Yes, a good remake is worthwhile. It is even worth suffering all the bad remakes.

My 2011 Writing Goals

This topic was inspired by a post in Livia Blackburne’s blog, A Brain Scientist’s Take on Writing, called: Writing Craft Growth and Goals for 2011.

I believe that Livia has an excellent idea here. Especially for a writer. I know for me if I want to remember something or make it real to me, I need to write it down. There is something about typing out the words or writing with a pen that makes that item come alive for me. (Is it any wonder that I like writing fiction?)

In 2011, I want to complete my novel. That is my main goal. I want to complete the first draft and feel that sense of accomplishment that I haven’t had in years now.

My second goal is to make my setting come alive. I feel that I have a good flow of dialog, but my settings don’t add much to the story aside from placing characters somewhere be it in a room or on a map. I want the settings to be part of the story…to become part of the action. It’s my descriptive writing that needs to be worked on next so that it doesn’t feel as if I’ve dropped a paragraph depicting setting at the front of the chapter as an afterthought; like “Oh yeah, and the character started talking here.” It should just flow within and be part of each scene.

I don’t ask for much. Just perfection. Might this be why I have trouble finishing my novel? Probably. But I’ll get there someday.

Happy New Year!


Remember When The News Wasn’t Entertainment?

When I was little, the nightly news was straightforward and informative. I remember serious newscasters who told you the 5 W’s in a very concise format and showed no interest one way or the other. They reported the who, what, when, where, and why. Period. It was up to you to think about it. Names like Cronkite, Murrow, and Brokaw. They were my heroes. I trusted them. I still do. If they showed emotion, you knew it was real.

I’m sure that is an idealized memory of my childhood. But that was the image of journalism that I had during junior high and high school. But something happened in the 80’s. News suddenly needed to keep ratings like any other show on TV. Cable TV brought more competition. ESPN made it okay for commentators to offer opinions on sports, and once you got used to hearing their opinions in the last 15 minutes of the newscast, it wasn’t a big leap to move that up into the first 15 minutes.

By the time that I was attending college it was accepted that major network news shows would take a certain position on the news. It was no surprise to me then that I dropped my journalism major and became an English major. If the news was going to be portrayed in a particular light, I prefer it to be honest and call it the fiction that it was. I decided fiction writing was for me, because I didn’t want to be part of an industry that accepted opinion and sensationalism as fact.

Is it any wonder that we have this blossoming field of bloggers today? I believe that the world is craving the truth and they are no longer getting it in the mass media that our parents grew up with. The system has forever been flawed, but we have let it sink to an all-time low. Bloggers are a new generation of truth seekers. Likely, some are no better than what you see in the mass media, but if you are an interested reader and look for the truly good blogger you will find writers who care about their craft and who write with honesty and ethics.

I truly believe that this new forum of the written word will help guide us in the proper direction of reporting while remembering what reporting the news is all about.  I’m also positive that it isn’t about leaking the world’s secrets to everyone. Not everyone needs to know everything. True journalists find a topic, complete research, find valid sources, and tell the story. That’s a journalist.

A squeaky wheel looking for his 15 minutes of fame takes private government documents and publishes them to the world, careless about the harm that the release of these documents may cause to innocent people. Some people hide behind the words of “free press” and call this journalism. But this isn’t journalism, which is a respectable professional. This is ambulance chasing of the digital world with world governments and corporations as the victims. When these sleaze balls run out of government paperwork to publish, will they publish my diary in the name of free press? (Guess what, Julian Paul Assange I’ve criticized you in my diary and you’ll never get to read what I said.)

What’s Your Choice For A Good Read In 2010?

I’m a big fan of Goodreads.com.  I love keeping track of:

  • What books I read.
  • What authors I’ve read.
  • Which publishers I frequent.
  • What book series I’ve started.
  • Which books I want to read next.
  • Seeing what my friends liked or didn’t like.

And Goodreads does all that. Check it out if you are a list maker like me.

This year, I’m amazed to discover that my book count is surprisingly low.  Only 41 books. (Okay, I’ve had some amazing life altering events this year so there is some justification, but I’m still ashamed that the number is so low. Please don’t hold it against me.) But this shockingly low number got me wondering:

  • How many books does a author read per year?
  • Do authors read books in the genre they are writing or other genres?
  • Do most authors read mostly for pleasure or research?

If you are wondering what readers’ think were the best reads of 2010, see the Reader’s Choice Awards going on now: Goodreads | goodreads choice awards 2010.