Monday, January 21, 2013

them thar's "writin' words"

Some people find it annoying when they come across unfamiliar words in their reading. Usually, I can intuit the meaning of the word from it's context in the sentence, or gloss over it without losing my train of thought. Soon enough, the word begins to ring familiar even though I still can't quite nail the I give in and look it up. In fact, I keep a running list of words I-really-should-look-up inside the back cover of most books I read. Then on cold, snowy days like today I haul out the dictionary in an attempt to enlighten myself.

Here are a few recent favorites:

1.  peripatetic--walking from place to place; traveling on foot; itinerate:
"Sometimes I long for a peripatetic way of life."

stock vector : climbing
2.  fug--heavy, stale atmosphere; musty air in a poorly ventilated room:
"A gray fug hung in the air long after the party broke up."

3.  redolent--suggestive or reminiscent of:
"The forest was silent and still, redolent of the monastery he'd abandonned."

4.  pejorative--disparaging or belittling:
"His pejorative rant drove her to tears."
5.  parse--to examine closely or analyze in detail by breaking up into component parts:
"Parsing the English language takes all the fun out of it."
6.  niggle--to find fault constantly, trivially; to be preoccupied with petty details:
"If she didn't niggle over every little thing, we'd be done by now."


7. officious--marked by excessive eagerness in offering unwanted services or advice:
"There's nothing more annoying than an officious salesman."

8.  truculent-- disposed to violence; fierce;expressing bitter opposition; scathing:
"The mayor's truculent posture drove even his supporters away."
 Do you gloss over unfamiliar words or look them up as you go? Does that annoy you?
"...words are all I have to take your breath away."
--Barry, Robin, Maurice Gibb--
We're (I'm) looking forward to cold weather and some snow later this week. Sounds like a good week for writing.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

thank God for take-out

What will I do? I can't tear myself away from the book I'm reading (The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins)...

...and I can't tear myself away from the yet-to-be-titled book I'm writing. We may never eat again! I say that because I just bought four new books and downloaded Les Miserables onto my Kindle, and that alone will take me years to get through!

Plus...I have a number of other witing projects I want to tackle. We're doomed! Thank God for take-out!

So with this in mind...I thought I would share my writing "bucket list" with you:

My current WIP takes place in a remote village in Africa, Dr. Ian McAndrew's birth place. His missionary aunt begs him to return just once before she dies. Something scares her.

There, he uncovers a sex tourism ring at a nearby safari resort that trades in orphans. Outraged, he pledges to shut the place down.The operation is clothed in secrecy and denied by the child victims and villagers alike for reasons he can't understand. The truth surfaces just as he is ready to give up and head for home. Will he stay to take on the powerful and coldblooded Isaya Mumbasi or will he turn his back on his people once and for all?

I am also collecting my thoughts for a memoir of illness and healing. Exactly sixty years ago, my brother and I were hospitalized at the same time, in the same place, with the same illness--rheumatic fever.

Buffalo Women's and Chidren's Hospital

I recovered uneventfully and, for whatever reason, went on to pursue the study of medicine. But my brother didn't fare so well. He nearly died in the hospital. Then he spent two years in bed at home in recovery. That experience haunted him in ways too unspeakably sad to describe. The point is that I never knew that. We grew up together and maintained a solid sibling bond...but until about 10 years ago, I never knew what demons followed him through life. When we first spoke about it, I cried for days. I still do. I spent a lifetime pursuing the study of medicine while he spent a lifetime in search of healing.

I'd also like to carve out the time for the 2013 A to Z Blogging Challenge in April...

...with a series of posts entitled, "maybe...maybe not", exporing why, as a cradle Catholic, I continue to have such trouble accepting formal theology and committing to the doctrine of the church. So. Much. Trouble. Hence, my interest in "The God Delusion."

There is a another story I feel needs to be told. It unfolded at the time of the G8 summit meeting in Montego Bay, Jamaica back in 1999. As I understand it, the city officials regarded the street people to be a national embarrassment, given the arrival of international dignitaries and the press. In an effort to eliminate the homeless and mentally handicapped from the streets, 36 of them were rounded up and bussed to the edge of a bauxite lake in the mountains where they were abandonned to fend for themselves.

(Bauxite lakes are shallow lakes that contain the toxic residual from aluminum refining. The water in them is poisonous. When these lakes dry up, the red dust that remains is picked up by the wind and deposited overland. The high incidence of asthma in these "red dirt regions" is attributed to inhaling the dust. It stains skin and clothing. Jamaicans blame the dust for crop failure, cancer and other medical conditions.) The point is that nine of the people died. One gentleman broke his leg running to the edge of the water, officials having promised a new home to the first one to reach the water. The then-mayor of Montego sought to prosecute the men who master-minded the operation both because of the deaths that occurred and because such forced relocation was illegal. Her life was threatened and she eventually fled the country. I came across this story when I worked at an orphanage in Jamaica that, to my horror, was surrounded by red dirt not far from one of these defunct red lakes.

And, finally, should I live to be 120...I would like to write about what I refer to as "The Final Common Pathway"...

...those neural connections and neurophysiologic processes that explain how divergent therapies can be equally effective against certain illnesses...therapies such as accupuncture, aromatherapy, reflexology, meditation, hypnosis, and placebo, among many others. What is the final common pathway through which each of them exerts its healing effects? Especially that placebo thing...

Oh...and I still want to do a major rewrite of my first novel, The Bandaged least enough to make it self-publishable.

Thats all.

 For now.

What about you? Do you have stories waiting in line for your attention? Do you ever feel as though you're running out of time?
"The great thing about getting older
is that you don't lose
all the other ages you've been."
--Madeleine L'Engle--
This week I'll be preparing for the arctic blast we expect at the end of this exceptionally mild week. It is winter, is it not? 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

"git er done"

Without knowing it, some time over the past couple of years I seem to have developed a mantra that works well for me--in my writing and in my life. A mantra is a sound (think: "Om'm'm..."), a word, or a group of words that, with repetition, is believed to bring about transformation.

Sesa Woruban
Symbol of life transformation

For example, in a situation where you are worried or anxious (for example, pitching your book to an agent), repeating the words "calm down" or "peace" while you wait in line might help quiet your nerves. Say it clearly to yourself. Mindfully. With intention.

A mantra is different from a motto. A motto expresses a principle, goal or ideal that you live by.

"Carpe diem."--Horace
"Do small things with great love."--Mother Theresa
"Be the change you wish to see in the world."--Ghandi
I didn't acquire a mantra with the help of some wizened guru. I didn't study the history or belief systems that claim to harness the transformational energy of the mantra. Nor did I enter into some deep meditative state while sitting cross-legged on my yoga mat to access its benefits.

 It just came to me at the end of a bad writing day. A really bad day.

My mantra is:
When I got ready to shut down my laptop that day and realized how unhappy I was with what I'd written...

...I was too tired and frustrated to go on with it. Instead, I told myself, "I can make this better. Tomorrow I can make it better."

The next day, when I reread the scene, I told myself, "I can make this better."

When this happens you may have to slow down and think things through for a while. You may have to study up a little before you figure out what it's going to take. You might not be able to make it happen right away...but you know you can make it better.

And that's what keeps you going: the desire, the determination, and the intention to make it better.

Determination - Little Pine

Sometimes this means breathing new life into a character. Or clipping some dialogue. Or raising the stakes. What is missing one day shows up the next.

Maintaining a positive, optimistic attitude can be difficult for a novelist because the undertaking is so fearsome, and it takes so long. You may be tempted to rush through it or to settle for less just to get the *#&*%! thing finished so you can move onto something else. Something "better."

Don't do it! End every day with the conviction that tomorrow, no matter what you are working on--a scene in your book, the lyrics to a song, or a drawing--you can make it better!

Begin each day eager to get back to it because you know that you can "git-er-done!"

Do you have a mantra that gets you through the day? What's your motto?
"If you can dream  it
you can do it."
--Walt Disney--
Re: Les Miserables: I can't decide what to do--see the movie again (it swept me away), or read the book again, or both. What would you do?