Sounds of Music but No Story

We were excited to view the live remake of the Broadway version of The Sound of Music as Ed and I only know the 1965 movie, however, we know it really well. The videos of our first tour through Salzburg in 1992 includes visiting the gardens and gazebo from the movie with me in Maria (Julie Andrews) poses. Ed even spliced in clips from the movie so our young daughters would recognize where their parents were in those same movie scene locations.

Ed and I were in Salzburg again in 2008 and took the “Sound of Music” tour and loved it, especially singing all the songs on the bus. The Austrian locals are amused by tourists, who are so in love with the movie and songs, as they feel the true story is more interesting. But the Hollywood version has helped fund a lot of estate repairs and garden maintenance in the past four decades, so it’s an extra layer of story for locals and movie fans to discuss.

This Thursday was a live TV event so we made movie-night-plans and that’s why we watched all the way to the end. If we were alone and at home Ed and I would have given up after the first, or second, commercial break. But our niece Kathy, and her children (ages 8 & 10) had planned for this special evening with pillows and popcorn, all week. Kathy has theatrical training and is a professional singer, Ed is a Carrie Underwood fan, and I was hoping for some story flavor relating to the Maria Von Trapp memoir I’d read years ago.

We were all disappointed.

It’s sad if this epic fail is hung on the talent of the actors. That’s wrong because they were doing their best to live up to legendary heroes. It’s the directors, and writers, and objectives of the producers (maybe ad dollars to cover the $9 million cost?) that need to be questioned as to how a story this strong, and an amazing cast, would present three hours of lame and confused entertainment.

It’s good that I have no memories of the original Broadway musical but I’ll now have nightmares about bobbing heads under the bed singing about the goat-herd romance. There was no relationship building, no romance, and no story value to the historical events.  Even worse, the passion and purpose for living that was threatened with The Third Reich regime was lost in bad acting and awkward scene staging.

Kathy’s children were wide awake and totally confused by the end of the show. Fortunately, the Hollywood movie version will answer most of their questions.

As I have edelweiss both preserved in glass and in paintings on my walls, I was not pleased with the fake daisy-like flowers Carrie clutched at one point.

The irony of all this is today I was communicating with Kristina McMorris – bestselling author of Letters from Home, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, and most recently The Pieces We Keep - to create  a workshop about weaving historical and factual character details into your story in fresh, succinct ways to maintain pacing – and her novels are framed by WWII.

Our history includes greater horrors than wars and it can be silly when those stories are portrayed through a romance with song and dance. Maybe Carrie Underwood fans will be curious enough now to learn some history and why the Von Trapp Family story was worthy of being “remade.” Maybe they’ll be engaged in news worthy events to suddenly hear the name Nelson Mandela.

There’s a reason for everything, and I always try to put a positive spin on the hypocrisy of spectacles I observe.

A Discovery of Witches – A Novel

I always love when a book with a tantalizing title also has “A Novel” in tiny text on the cover. This is important to note as it means there’s truth between the pages, and the potential for emotional journeys and entertainment for the reader.

A Discovery of WitchesMy sister recently read A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness and handed it to me as a “must read” with the qualification that Ms. Harkness is a historian with a variety of scholarly credentials and an award winning Wine Blog! That’s a triple score for me. I promised a friend she could read it after me so I started reading on Sunday morning, without even a glance at the blurb, and by the time I hit page 200 I had to pause and laugh because:

1. Nothing had really happened yet in the story

2. I was reading a vampire romance (I don’t!)

3. There’s all kinds of history and science references discussed – in a library (No Action!)

4. I was having the most enjoyable reading experience!

I finished this book on Tuesday afternoon, an hour before leaving for grandson activities. I’m a fast reader but I closed the book for a leisurely excursion with Ed on Sunday, and took care of all kinds of home/work tasks while in the flow of the story. This is a book that does not grab-you-by-the-throat-to-keep-turning-pages-in-nail-biting-need-to-find-out-what-happens-while-you-burn-dinner-can’t-sleep-  BUT it does tantalize in the opening paragraph and continues to do so, with every word.

It’s a book to savor, and I will many times, because as a writer I reread and review. Stories that improve with each reread – remain. And this is one I will reread soon, when I get it back from my friend, and before I lend it to my daughter.

The final chapters revealed that this stage of the story is over, in only 579 pages and with no surprise tornado, and all the characters wandered away to rest and regroup for when the next stage of the story will begin. Fortunately book 2 is already available, but it’s a trilogy and according to the author’s website the final part is still in process.  I’m content with book one.

Here’s what the story is about that makes it timely/or timeless:  forbidden love. Two species may not mingle. Witches and Vampires cannot be friends – or marry. This basic plot has been part of the human social order during my life whether it was illegal for blacks and whites to marry, or Jew-gentile, same sex partners, or even those forbidden marriages between Catholics & Christians! What makes A Discovery of Witches unique is it includes the forbidden marriage between science and magic.

I love characters who know their stuff when they discuss technology, philosophy, science, history, magic, and moon phases. I’m a really picky reader with lots of go-to authors so I will pass by many books unless someone I trust says, “You’ve gotta read this.”

I’m glad I did.

This story includes libraries, a family homestead, herbal teas, cookies, and a variety of great wines – all my comforts. I’d add most of the characters to my Christmas Card mailing list even though their addresses exist in the 4th dimension. Sigh.

A Novel can take decades to create and be read in a few hours or days by a reader. Yet when a classic plot is transformed to explore a social truth in a new way, the reader benefits from that point of view.

The story begins with an old book and I have a collection of old books from my dad. Now I’m fighting a sudden urge to go inhale their dusty scent and feel the energy of the covers. Now I also have this truth repeating in my head:

A Novel is only created in a Write Mind when Time has no hold on the story.

Not the cover – it’s about the back

Kate on the riverIt’s fascinating to now be accomplishing preliminary tasks to publish a novel, like filling out a W-9 tax form. Then there’s the dedication, acknowledgements, back cover blurb, and the form to fill out for an artist to design the cover.

The cover is THE primary part of marketing a novel. It’s got to do a lot at first glance. This picture of our daughter, on the bow of our boat, was the one I chose years ago to use when mocking up a cover image of my story.

Yes, the most common reaction from those who hear I signed a contract to publish a novel is – it’s about time.

Creating a cover while still writing the novel is a visualization exercise, or law of attraction principle, to making dreams tangible. Having that fun cover image, with title and author name, was a good thing because this novel spent a lot of years as a forgotten file, or a pile of pages in a binder tucked into a cabinet.

But that cover image would pop up, like a bad penny, and I’d be reminded of the characters, the story, and I’d pause to give the pages some attention. This was always with an – I wonder how I can apply what I’ve learned, about writing, to this story? The characters wouldn’t die yet the story lacked conflict and drama, which was abundant in my life.

Tree of life tattoo

The above picture was taken in July of 2005, the boat was for sale so it was our last time on the river. It was between my mom’s funeral in May and my dad’s funeral in August. Ed was still in chronic pain, and taking toxic drugs, then.

Now, looking at that cover image I created with that picture all I can say is, “What was I thinking?” The story takes place in March, in Oregon, and the cold and windy Columbia River is a primary setting. There are no bathing suits on display in March, on the Columbia.

However, this is the perfect example of how things change in just a few years, because that daughter has an entirely different back. This daughter is now married, pregnant, and buying her first home. She “gets” that the tree of life is all about the seasons.

the business of story

I watched the premier of Once Upon A Time tonight and enjoyed it. I plan to study all the techniques of storytelling woven into this new show. It’s got fantasy, time  travel, the potential for some kick-assitude and more. It’s heartening there’s something new and creative on TV.

I’ve read all kinds of books and watched a variety of movies these past few months with the flavor of preparing for final exams. The intimate conference I attended in April was packed full of advice and processes for a career as an author. Agents and editors agreed an author today should embrace all venues of publishing available (print, electronic & self) and create marketing processes through social networking.

In my network of writers we all consider November as the month to begin a new project because of the NaNoWriMo focus. Last year Larry Brooks was vocal about how this is a waste of time for writers as it only produces text, not story. This year he’s taken a different route and has blogged daily at Storyfix.com through October to present ways to prepare for National Writing Month so all that words-on-the-page effort will be beneficial. It’s because of his posts that I’ve been creating a story template for my use in the upcoming weeks.

On the 23rd the new moon will be in Scorpio. It will also be my lunar return in my 4th house, so I could be in a bit of a daze that day. I’m ready for new routines and projects and have been considering a variety of options while saturating myself with books and movies. Since my sis is an astrologer I was forewarned of this stellar aspect and have been conscientious to choose carefully where I focus my energy on the story of my life.

On the 28th,  Jupiter (expansion) and Pluto(permanent transformation) get together in a beneficial way and suddenly, you get it.  Sydney Omarr’s Astro Insights

This is an awesome prediction for the 28th as that day begins the Emerald City Writer’s Conference. A lot of my writer friends and favorite authors will be there and it will have the flavor of an annual reunion. As Rachelle Gardner posted today, there’s a steep learning curve between aspiring novelist and published author but the conferences are one the perks.

My mermaid tail for the masquerade on Saturday is almost done…

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