Book Recommendations

“I am a horse for a single harness, not cut out for tandem or teamwork … for well I know that in order to attain any definite goal, it is imperative that one person do the thinking and the commanding.” ~ Albert Einstein

“One of the best ways to minimize your interaction with energy vampires is to become ‘empowered in the negative.’ In other words, learn how to turn people down, even if you have to hurt them a bit in the process. This is essential. Be like those old drug commercials: Just Say No.” ~ Dr. Christiane Northrop, Dodging Energy Vampires

I’ve been doing lots of reading this summer and I’d like to share my thoughts on some of the books that have made me think. Two of them are non-fiction, but first I’d like to write about the novel my family book club chose for our summer read.

The Circle of Ceridwen by Octavia Randolph, is the first in a series of historical novels that begins in 871 in Angle-Land. It had been split into seven kingdoms ruled by the Anglo-Saxons. However at the beginning of the book, the Danes (Vikings) control five of the seven kingdoms, all in the north. The central kingdom Mercia, is the home of Ceridwen where her father and then uncle were lesser lords. This kingdom is on the border of Dane-land. Wessex in Southern Angle-land, is first ruled by Ælfred’s older brother, but when he dies, Ælfred becomes king. Mercia and Wessex must defend their homeland. Ceridwen, having been raised by her uncle and then the Prior of the local monastery, is an unusually educated and independent young woman. When she turns fifteen, she decides to leave the monastery escaping marriage or the veil, to find a position serving a noble family. On a bitterly cold day, when she’s in danger of dying, she meets Ælfwyn a Saxon maid. She is on her way to marry a Dane as part of a bargain her father made to save his lands. They become instant friends and once at Four Stones, they transform the place in a very short amount of time.

Until I read these books, I thought I knew what the middle ages were like. But this series of books gives texture to my flat understanding of the people, industries, medical practices, trade, and politics of the times. Reading them was better than studying a dry historical textbook. I highly recommend this series to any lovers of history or historical fiction. It is based on historical events and people.

During the late spring I heard Dr. Christiane Northrop speak about how to dodge energy vampires. She referred back to her latest book Dodging Energy Vampires: An Empath’s Guide to Evading Relationships That Drain You and Restoring Your Health and Power. Even though the full title is a mouthful, I immediately bought the book and devoured it in three days. I’m highly empathic and a sensitive introvert. For years I hid that fact and slowly learned to dodge energy vampires. One of the most difficult lessons was to stand up for myself, and saying goodbye to the vampires in my life.

Even though I’ve learned a great deal, for the most part I continued to hide. This book gave me hope that I could come out of the shadows and embrace who I truly am. As I read, I began to see that the qualities I possess are highly valuable and I need not be ashamed of them. More than that actually, in Dr. Northrop’s estimation, empaths are here to help transmute negative energy into positive. At the end of her book she states that often empaths do that just by being present with people who need healing, or a change of attitude. I loved that! She said that empaths/introverts need to embrace their particular gifts and not let energy vampires drain them or push them around. Which led me to the book I’m reading now.

The book is Quiet:The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. She did a fantastic TED talk a year or so ago about introverts and how important they are to creating the progress we need to make. Her talk has been viewed maybe a million times. That’s how I was introduced to her work.

In Quiet, she documents how the American and European cultures became worshippers of the go-getters, dismissing one-third to half the population who hide in the shadows. She also outlines the strengths of introverts and, as I heard her say in an interview, how introverts and extroverts can team up to create something fabulous. In fact, they already have. Apple would not be what it is today without both Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs working together creating fantastic personal computers and marketing them to the world. There are many introverts who have contributed to the world in amazing ways. On her list are Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Albert Einstein and many more. In my reading so far, she has examined leadership strengths introverts have in certain situations, that are superior to extroverts. But don’t get her wrong, she knows we need both personality types to progress.

I’m hoping by the end of the book, she will predict where the new studies of personality types that are taking place now, will lead us. Maybe introverts will soon be able to state proudly who they are and society will embrace them as valuable just as we do extraverts today.

Thanks for reading, commenting and liking. Have a fantastic weekend whether it is partying with friends or staying home and reading a great book.

By the way, both my books are half off at Smashwords the entire month of July. Click the Smashwords link below to get yours.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Writing Lessons So Far

Thunderstorm over Corfu

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ~ Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” ~ Toni Morrison

“The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.” ~ Gustave Faubert

This morning as I awoke, for some reason I was thinking about what I’d share with eager attendees of a writing workshop should I ever conduct one. Sometimes I wake up with these kinds of flights of fancy rolling around in my head. I don’t know why. Maybe they are part of a dream I was having so it’s fresh in my mind.

In any case, since I’m not finished reading the next book I want to write about, I thought I’d write down some ideas so I can get them clear in my mind just in case one day I end up writing a memoir, or conducting a workshop about my writing process.

In my mind, memoirs by creative people are much more valuable to the new artist than a how to book about writing. I know, how to books are very popular. And common wisdom tells writers to get a MFA in creative writing, or take writer’s workshops. But I’m a contrarian. I take the view that the only person who can teach me (or you) how to write is me. I’m not saying don’t take that writing class, I’m saying that if you are going to be creative in any way, the muses are going to speak to you differently than they are to me. And what you have to share with the world is unique to you alone. No one else can share what you’ve experienced.

Last year I read Ann Patchett’s wonderful memoir, The Getaway Car. It’s about her writing life. It’s called The Getaway Car because in the beginning Ann tells about being a waitress and writing her first novel was her getaway car out of a job she hated. I loved that image, because I had a similar feeling about my writing.

But the point I wanted to make about her memoir is this, she writes about a fellow writer who had to move her writing desk away from the window so she couldn’t look out. She did this because her writing instructor told her having her desk by the window would be distracting. I was appalled! I would never presume to tell someone how to organize their writing space, nor what rituals to adopt, or what time is the best for writing. I wouldn’t do that because what’s great for me, might be disastrous for you.

My writing desk is right next to a window. I love seeing the wildlife that traipse under it. It gives my mind a little break every once in a while so that some new idea can sneak in. I prefer to wake up, get my husband off to work, then meditate, read something inspirational, write in my journal all before entering my office to write. That’s my routine. You may write better at night, or very early in the morning. You may need to play music. I can’t do that, it’s too distracting. See what I mean. Every one of us is unique. And if you’re going to be creative, you’ve got to plug into that core desire that is beating in your chest, train yourself to listen to what it’s telling you, and dive into a life apart from most of the people you know.

Here’s the thing about embracing the wild and crazy life of an artist. It isn’t easy, nor even fun sometimes. It can be scary and frustrating. Sometimes what you want to express plays tricks on you and hides. And the only way to come to terms with your fear and illusive ideas is to take a break for awhile. Sit by that window and watch the birds, or the storm gathering. Let your mind wander. Sometimes I go do housework, or read a book. But no matter what, you can’t let anything stand in your way of finishing that project. You have to go back to that chair, or into the studio and practice, practice, practice.

Barry and I had a voice teacher before we got married who used to say, “Perfect practice, makes perfect.” And I have a writer friend, Debrah Strait, you should check out her books by the way, who says, “The rough draft is always crap. Don’t worry about that just keep writing.” Those two statements may seem antithetical, but I disagree. As you practice, you do the very best you can at the moment you’re creating. When you go back to look at it later, you may well say, “This is crap.” But you practiced as perfectly as you could at the time. Then you throw away the bad parts and take the good parts and mold them into something new. Or you start over again with a new idea. We learn more from our failures than we do our successes. At least, I do. So, as Elizabeth Gilbert suggests, tell that critical voice in your head, “Thanks for sharing, but I’m going to get back to work now.”

I’ve been writing full-time for ten years now. I have two books published, and five years of blog posts trailing behind me, but I still feel like I’m an amateur. Taking creative writing classes may have helped me move along faster, but, again I’m a contrarian. I don’t want an instructor giving me writing prompts and then criticizing a story I didn’t want to write in the first place. I’ve learned that I’m a slow writer. I don’t do well if I have a deadline and that’s why I self publish. I have to let my story roll around in my head picking up little tidbits to add from lots of different sources. I never know how long it’s going to take me to finish my book and that’s okay with me.

So, if you feel the urge to create something, don’t let anything stop you. Jump right in. You will learn as you go.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I appreciate it.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Unrelated Lessons This Week

Northern Cardinal

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” ~ William James

“We can’t understand when we’re pregnant, or when our siblings are expecting, how profound it is to have a shared history with a younger generation: blood, genes, humor. It means we were actually here, on Earth, for a time – like the Egyptians with their pyramids, only with children.” ~ Anne Lamott

I have no book movie connections to write about this week. I am reading, just not books that I’ve stacked up to include in this blog. So, today I’d like to write about some random things that happened that I’ve been thinking about.

Story One
Yesterday I met with my independent study student. It’s the dramatic structure class that is normally taught during fall or spring semester. She’s taking it now because she’s going off to a four year institution in the fall and the theatre program at her new college doesn’t offer a class like this. This young woman is remarkable. She just graduated from high school and already has a number of college classes completed toward her theatre degree. Though she’s a fantastic actor, she was in my spring production of Measure for Measure, her first love is theatre tech.

I could talk about movies all day. She and I have fun talking about the movies we’ve watched, but yesterday I had reason to be further impressed with her. We were discussing Cloud Atlas, a movie/book connection I’ve written about before in this blog. The movie can be very confusing because it switches back and forth among six timelines. Because of this, I created a movie guide to help the students notice important aspects of the movie. My student impressed me when she said that because of my guide, she got what was going on during the first viewing. It helps that she’s also taking a film class at the same time.

As we got to talking about the many themes of the movie, she connected them to things she has learned in her life. And I have to say, I was so happy to hear that she has already learned things it took me well into my fifties to understand. I find this to be true of many of my students. They are so self-aware. It gives me hope that what I believe really is true: When I do my personal work and gain insights, they are passed on to future generations. We talked about that too, because it’s one of the major themes of Cloud Altas. Even if no one remembers our names, our experiences help those who come after us.

I told my student I was happy that she was so much farther along in her development than I was. Don’t be fooled that the younger generation is going to hell in a hand basket. It’s just not true.

Story Two
A week or so ago, I wrote about the book and TV show Dietland. I don’t think I mentioned that I also watch the show, Unapologetic with Aiysha Tyler which airs right after. It’s a talk show linked to, but not exclusively about Dietland. In fact the main part of the show is discussing women’s issues. I hope it stays around. Aiysha has three guests on each week, they discuss current events as part of the format. About a week ago, Aiysha had a woman, who had been part of Obama’s administration, on her panel. Sorry, I don’t remember her name. The woman said that signing petitions and making phone calls to our elected officials really does make a difference and to keep doing it. I loved that, because in recent weeks I have been tempted to give into battle fatigue. But no more. I’m going to speak up as often as possible.

Story Three
Barry and I have a friend who is a lesbian. She and her wife just celebrated fourteen years of being together. Today, on her Facebook feed, she wrote a moving story about a conversation she had with a gentleman while they were getting their cars inspected. He talked of his wife and family and what they were going to do this summer. When he turned the conversation to find out what her summer plans were, she felt a bit panicked to come out to him. At first she made her plans with her family generic, but finally she just came out with the facts. When he realized that she had used the word, “wife”, his face changed for a moment, but then they continued their conversation as if what she had said was perfectly normal. Wow! I want to become that vulnerable. As an introvert, I don’t like revealing too much about my personal feelings and beliefs. But our friend, Joy, who has much more at stake than I do, taught me a valuable lesson. Being vulnerable, open, and honest can help us change the world.

One final little tidbit. Last Sunday David Edelstein, the film critic for CBS Sunday Morning, urged the viewers to go see Won’t You Be My Neighbor? a new documentary about Fred Rogers and his groundbreaking children’s show on PBS. But he said something that I completely disagree with, that seeing the movie will make you feel good until you go back out into the real world. He implied that treating everyone with respect and love is abnormal. I disagree with him. I believe that, for the most part, we come into this world with open hearts and a desire to love everyone, but those natural impulses are altered by the time we reach adolescence. I will go see the movie and aspire to be loving and respectful at all times just like Mr. Rogers.

Thanks for reading, liking, and commenting. Have a fantastic weekend. And by the way, The Space Between Time is half off this entire month at Smashwords. Click the link below to get your copy.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Dune – Evil Kills Itself

Dune SONY DSC

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will let it pass over me and through me. And when it has passed I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where it has gone, there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” ~ Paul Atredies in Dune

The other morning as I was in that nether world between sleep and waking I heard a voice say, “Evil always kills itself.” I opened my eyes and thought back to all my favorite novels, movies, and events in history and confirmed the truth of what I’d heard. It may take a long time, but people who lust for power are eventually crushed under the weight of all they try to control.

Later that week several things happened, too numerous to relate here, in which various people expressed fear over current events. These two ideas converged in my head and I thought that I’d write about the book and movie/mini-series, Dune, which is one of the great examples of what I heard in my head that morning.

One of the things I love about the fantasy/sci-fi genres is that they can take the things we struggle with everyday and show them in a new way. The authors and movie makers put their stories of human experience on a distant planet, in space, in a parallel universe, or in the struggles of superheroes so we can examine ourselves at a safe distance.

Frank Herbert’s Dune, is such a story. The power struggles in his story are not confined to one planet, but to an entire universe. Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV is trying, desperately, to hold on to his power, but there are many forces against him, The Baron Harkkonnen, the Spacing Guild, and the Bene Gesserits, an all female order, all want to control the spice melange on the planet of Arrakis. This spice extends life and enhances certain psychic powers. Whoever controls the spice, controls the universe.

In the middle of this struggle is Duke Leto Atreides and his family. The Duke has no taste for power other than to rule his own home planet of Caladan. He’s a benevolent ruler and his people love him. His humility and humanity makes him popular with the lesser nobles in the universe as well and a threat to the balance of power. This makes him a target. The Emperor and the Baron, commanded by the Spacing Guild, join forces to destroy not only the Duke but his entire family.

Meanwhile, extended use of the spice has caused the Spicing Guild leader to become something other than human. He can see the future and knows that the precarious balance that exists will be upset by the unexpected coming of a super being created by ninety years of genetic manipulation of the Bene Gesserits. This being is called the Kwisatz Haderach. The Spicing Guild wants to kill this being to maintain their power, the Bene Gesserits want to control him to gain theirs. Their plans are upset, however, when Duke Leto’s concubine, the Lady Jessica, a Bene Gesserit who was to have had only daughters, disobeys because the Duke wanted a son. This makes her son, Paul, a dark horse, and a target for all those struggling for ultimate power.

The Fremen, the native inhabitants of Arrakis, are another dark horse element in the struggle. Everyone assumes that the Harkkonnens, who have governed spice production on the planet for centuries, have killed off most of them. When the Emperor orders Duke Leto to become the new governor of Arrakis, the Duke sends out a trusted ambassador and discovers that the Fremen have been living in hiding in the deep desert. Their numbers are vast, and they want their planet back. Duke Leto vows to help them do that, but before he can put his plan into motion, he’s betrayed and killed. Jessica and Paul escape, unbeknownst to the four groups struggling to gain the upper hand.

In the end, Paul, Jessica and his young sister Alia, become Fremen. It is revealed that Paul is the Kwisatz Haderach. When he announces himself after the Fremen win the final battle on Arrakis, all power shifts to them. All the maneuvering, to gain power by the four main combatants falls apart and balance is restored to their universe.

I love all versions of this story because it shows that the lust for power destroys those who attempt to control everything. It also shows that “the powerful” really aren’t. They live in fear for their safety far more than those they dominate. They think that what they have accumulated will protect them. It won’t. It’s like mist and can dissolve in a moment. What the power hungry don’t understand is that there are larger forces that work to maintain true balance.

Frank Herbert and the movie/mini-series makers did a fantastic job of weaving an intricate story to show that real power is embodied by the humble, intelligent, loving and fair rather than the arrogant and cruel. It may take a very long time to restore the balance of power, but it always happens.

And I believe what our good friend John Berger used to say, “There are no victims, only volunteers.” So, going back to our current political situation in this world, though it appears that people’s lives are ruined, or they die as a result of cruel leaders, those “victims” have volunteered on some cosmic level, to help us choose which master we’re going to serve. The stories I love the most all have characters who choose to stand up to cruel tyrants and claim their personal power. I want to do the same.

I just occurred to me that, though it doesn’t look like it, this is an appropriate post for The Fourth of July.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I appreciate it very much. For those in the United States, happy Fourth of July. I hope you remember why we celebrate this day.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Open Mic Night Video

Revised book cover for The Space Between Time

On June 15, 2018, I got to do my first book reading. Some of you might not be aware of how much time it takes to choose what you’re going to read and then to practice reading the selection. There is usually a time limit for the selection too, so in my case, I had to cut down some of the pieces to fit the allotted time.

All of the preparation is fun, but for me, having been an actress at one time, it was a blast to get up in front of an audience again. Even though I am now a teacher and director, there are times when I miss the energy I get from an audience.

Probably because of my theatre background, I usually begin by writing dialogue. Then on subsequent passes through the manuscript, I fill in what I see in my head about the body language, emotional states of my characters, and connecting information.

While I was rehearsing the sequences, I decided to go all out in terms of emotions of the characters. When I read in front of an audience, I was glad I’d decided to do that because most of them were with me all the way. I am convinced that I should be the one to so the audio book versions of my books. Who else knows what I intended for the characters to be thinking and feeling but me?

Here is the video of me reading from the opening sequence in my novel, The Space Between Time. I hope you enjoy.

Thanks for reading, (or watching), commenting and liking my posts. I appreciate it very much.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Outlander

Sam, Caitriona, and Diana at Outlander Premier.

“If you love someone, set them free. If they come back they’re yours; if they don’t they never were.” ~ Richard Bach

“The relationship between husband and wife should be one of closest friends.” ~ B. R. Amedkar

“For where all love is, the speaking is unnecessary.” ~ Diana Gabaldon, Outlander

I honestly can’t remember if I’ve written about the Outlander series before now. Barry and I binge watched season three recently, which made me want to write something about what I know of the story so far.

I can’t think of any exceptional stories that are NOT about relationships. Even movies like Castaway, where the main character is alone for most of the movie, has the heartache of a loving relationship interrupted. Outlander has that element to it as well, with a little twist.

I once heard, or maybe I read it, Diana Gabaldon say that she wanted to write about a fifty year marriage. That’s one of the things I love about this series. In general, I’m not a huge fan of romance novels mostly because they end shortly after the wedding. We don’t get to see the couple dealing with the ups and downs of their relationship. But the Outlander series is full of fights, and make ups, danger and heartaches that need to be resolved. I love that.

Though romance, and lots of sex, are a big part of Outlander, that is not the only focus of the series. It’s category is hard to define. It’s historical, with time travel, and paranormal aspects to it. Readers get to learn practical things such as medicinal plants and other healing techniques. There are lots of heart wrenching events and fun adventure too. At the heart of it all, are Claire and Jamie Fraser.

The series begins with Claire Randall just returning from being a combat nurse during WW II. She and her husband Frank, are in Scotland on a second honeymoon trying to get reacquainted after so many years apart. While in Scotland, Claire and Frank secretly attend a ceremony at some nearby standing stones. While there, Claire sees a plant she wants to study and goes back the next day to get it. When she approaches the stones, she hears voices emanating from them. Curious about the voices, she touches one of the stones and is transported to the 1740s. Disoriented about what has happened to her, she is plunged into immediate danger when she meets a man who looks exactly like Frank. A group of Scots save her from being raped. And that’s when she meets Jamie. The first thing she has to do upon meeting him is to save his arm from much more serious injury by his friends. She resets his dislocated shoulder, much to the amazement of the gathered men.

Claire is immediately taken away from the stones to an estate a few days away. She has no idea how she will get back to the stones so she can return to Frank. And she must conceal who she is and why she’s dressed so strangely. This makes her mission to return extremely difficult. The Laird of the manor does not trust her. Nor does anyone else, which isolates her.

Against all odds, she and Jamie form a friendship. Her healing skills come in handy, and eventually gain her a measure of trust. But later, to protect her from Black Jack Randall, the man who nearly raped her, she must marry Jamie. Though Frank will not be born for two-hundred years in the future, Claire is torn. She’s attracted to Jamie, but her heart is still with Frank back in her own time period. However, an undeniable bond forms between the newlyweds, which further confuses Claire.

Of course, danger is never far away and there are bumps in Jamie and Claire’s relationship since they are from two different time periods. Claire never gives in to Jamie or any of the other men. And slowly, Jamie accepts that Claire is a strong minded, independent, educated, capable women a fact that attracts him more than he’s, at first, willing to admit. Claire is also a healer, kind and knowledgeable. She saves lives and since she’s seen more death than anyone else in her new time period, she knows how to ease the passing of those she can’t save. This earns her respect that she might not have had otherwise.

I read the first four books before the series even came into existence. I love this new trend of paying particular attention to themes of the source material for television series like Outlander. The producers, directors and writers take great care with each episode, and while some of the situations are slanted differently than the way Diana Gabladon created them, the overall look and feel of the visual series is closely related to the book series and make compelling television viewing. The two versions of the story enhance each other. I love that.

I realized just now that maybe I really wrote this post because I’m working on a section of my next novel in which Jenna and Jack have some issues to work out. It’s difficult for me because I, like most new novelists, want my characters to be perfect. But as great stories like Outlander show us, real to life characters dealing with their problems is much more interesting than fluffy, syrupy sweet stories are. I’d much rather read or watch stories where the characters go through tough times, and come out the other side changed for the better, than one where the characters aren’t challenged in anyway. I aspire to write satisfying stories where the characters learn from their trials and help the reader gain insights as well.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I appreciate it very much.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Dietland

“The problem for all women is we’re identified by how we look instead of our heads and hearts.” ~ Gloria Steinem

“Women tend to be conservative in youth and get more radical as they get older because they lose power with age. So if a young woman is not a feminist, I say, ‘Just wait.’” ~ Gloria Steinem

I’m not generally interested in contemporary fiction. I don’t comb the best seller lists for my next read. I prefer classic books, or books that are on the “back list”, which means they’ve been around a while but they are well worth my time to read. So, picking up Dietland by Sarai Walker was unusual for me. Okay, technically Dietland is a back listed book. The hardback came out in 2015, but it has come into the public consciousness again because it is now a summer series on AMC.

I didn’t pay attention to the first trailers for the series. It looked like a women’s revenge show and I wasn’t interested in lots of violence. However, one trailer caught my eye. It was centered on Plum Kettle, a young “fat” woman who works, interestingly enough, as a ghost writer at a fashion magazine. Barry and I decided to take a chance on it. I was hooked from the first episode so much so, that I decided I had to read the book.

Though I haven’t finished watching the series, I have finished reading the book. The two mediums diverge a bit, but I like that the TV show allows us to see women in different roles, with different attitudes and approaches to slogging through a male dominated society.

Both versions of the story center around Plum (Alicia) Kettle, who works for Kitty Montgomery, editor of a teen magazine for girls called Daisy Chain. Kitty is much too busy running the magazine to answer her own emails, so she hires Plum to ghost write her responses. But, of course, Plum does not fit the image of the women that litter the pages and offices of the magazine, so she works from home. She and Kitty meet once a month so Kitty can keep her finger on the pulse of her readers. I love those scenes. They show just how shallow Kitty is. Plum barely gets a word in edgewise, and, of course she has to endure Kitty’s condescension. Kitty is not someone you want to mess with. The book doesn’t concentrate on Kitty much. But the series capitalizes on the difference between Kitty and Plum, which I find appealing.

Plum has struggled with her weight and her self-image all her life. She’s dieted once with a Jenny Craig kind of meal plan. With this plan, she eats the “food” they send her, but she’s saved from future health issues when Eulayla Baptist, the owner, dies in a car crash That’s when she joins Waist Watchers. Though she must count calories, at least on that plan she’s eating real food.

Shortly after the book and series begin, Plum meets Verena Baptist, daughter of Eulayla who started The Baptist Plan, that Plum was sucked into. Verena is on a mission to help women, especially those harmed by her mother, find self-empowerment.

In another storyline, men are being pushed off freeway overpasses, off buildings and out of airplanes. These men are all sex offenders. The first of these men has a piece of paper stuffed in his mouth with the name “Jennifer” on it. It is determined that Jennifer is a group of “terrorist” women. They are taking revenge on men who got away with harassment and rape. Plum is minimally connected to this group through a strange young woman named Leeta, who is also the one who sends Plum on her journey toward self-love and empowerment.

This is a woman’s book. It shows the struggles that all women go through as they try to make their place in this male dominated world. For example, Plum hates to go outside because when she does she’s confronted by nasty looks, harassment, and judgmental comments from all kinds of people. Kitty goes on a funny, and sad rant that describes her fears of losing her position as she ages. The Jennifer women have had enough of men getting away with raping and abusing women. Though I don’t believe violence solves problems, I thought the book did a fantastic job of helping the reader understand why they chose the course of action they did. And I have to admit, it was satisfying to see male characters cower at the prospect of being treated the way they treat women.

But my favorite part of the story has to do with Verena Baptist and the other women who work together at Calliope House. They have already faced their demons and help other women, particularly Plum, find their power too. They are the ones who espouse the main message of the book, which is: To change the world, you have to love yourself first.

To me, Dietland is a feminist manifesto. Watch out men! Women are on to your games and tricks and we’re not going to play anymore. That’s a bandwagon I can wholeheartedly jump on.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I appreciate it very much. Have an empowering weekend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Writing Lessons

“… writers are often the worst judges of what they have written.” ~ Stephen King, Everything’s Eventual: 14 Dark Tales

“I became an artist because I wanted to be an active participant in the conversation about art.” ~ Kamand Kojouri

“Ask yourself: Who has the greater influence on you? Is it the people who inspire you, or the people who critique you?” ~ Akiroq Brost

“We write to test life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” ~ Anaïs Nin

“I don’t know what I think until I write about it.” ~ Joan Didion

I’m in the middle of reading several books, some for myself, some for inclusion in this blog, and some to critique. Since posts about what I’m reading aren’t ready, I have some thoughts about my writing life that I’d like to share with you.

Last Friday I was the featured author at an Open Mic night sponsored by Cochise College Writing Celebration and a couple of other local organizations. I got to talking with a fellow college instructor, who is also an author, about the problems and joys of writing. He’s working on his second or third novel that has multiple story lines and we were commiserating about how to make sure the through lines of each timeline get completed, while at the same time keeping them straight. During our conversation he said he loves the creative process but hates the revision process. We got interrupted before I got to say that I feel the opposite way.

It’s strange to say, but the creative part of writing is sometimes difficult for me. I feel that there is a story there, but sometimes the story is illusive. For example, Time’s Echo came to me while I was finishing my first novel, The Space Between Time. I wrote the opening scenes of both timelines and came to screeching halt. Though I knew where Morgan’s time line would end up, I had no idea about Jenna’s. That was back in 2014. As you might guess, Jenna’s story didn’t emerge until very recently with the birth of the #MeToo movement.

Elizabeth Gilbert tells an amazing story in Big Magic, about getting an idea for a book, which she begins. Then life gets in the way. For two years she has other things she has to take care of. When she gets back to the book, the muse has flown away. Elizabeth thought it was dead, but then she met Ann Patchett.

Their friendship developed through letter writing. But on one occasion they got to meet in person at an event at which they were both to speak. They had breakfast together before their day began. In their letter conversations they shared about Elizabeth’s failed book about the Amazon, the one that got away. Ann had shared in her letters about a new book idea she had about the Amazon. During breakfast, Ann and Elizabeth shared their Amazon stories and low and behold, it turned out that Ann’s story had the same plot, and characters that Elizabeth had originally started. They were essentially the same book with very minor changes. Both women were stopped in their tracks. The muses work in mysterious ways.

Now if the muse can move to a new author if a story just needs to be told, then I believe the muse will sometimes wait for current events to catch up so its chosen author can write the book. That’s what I’ve felt about Time’s Echo. There will be lots of authors who will write about the current women’s movement, but none of them will write about Morgan in the past, involved in the suffrage movement, and how that affects Jenna living in our current circumstances. I’m the one who created, with the help of the muses, Jenna and Morgan. No one else is qualified to write their stories but me, because they are based on my experiences.

But back to my writing process. Once I’ve got all, or most of the pieces of my novel written, I have fun putting the puzzle together. I like rearranging, cutting out the unnecessary parts, and then coming up with new connecting pieces. It’s the most fun part of writing for me. Then, of course, the process of doing the final edits is a real drag. I think I can speak for most authors on this, it’s tedious and feels like it takes forever.

Another aspect of writing that I have a love/hate relationship with is critique groups. I’m in an online group at the moment. Fortunately there are only three of us, which means I don’t have too much reading material to comment on. However, at the moment, I’m reading the entire manuscript for one of the women in the group and that’s on top of the other things I’m reading. It’s times like this that I wish I were a faster reader.

This is the problem I have with critique groups. Neither of the women have read my first novel, so some of their comments don’t apply to where I see the series heading. They don’t know the characters or their past relationships, so they suggest changes that don’t apply to who the characters are at all.

On the other hand, sometimes suggestions they make help me get new ideas for the arduous, for me, process of creating my story. That happened just recently, thank heaven.

I have to say, I prefer to share my manuscript after I have finished the rough draft, or when I’m kind of stuck and need new ideas. Sending pieces that are in progress, bothers me. I feel irritated when my critique partners make suggestions of changes that I have already planned, or know that need to be made. I guess that’s just human nature. We don’t want to hear about the changes in our manuscripts or our lives that we know we need to make. Once the initial irritation is over, however, I can go back to the comments my partners have made and consider them less emotionally.

I am fortunate to have found critique partners who are not only honest, but kind as well. And, if I don’t like their suggestions, I have two local women I plan to share my manuscript with, who have been of great help to me in the past. With the help of all these women, I know this next book will be good. I just have to allow myself to go through the messy process of producing a finished product.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I appreciate it. Have a great hump day.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

The Razor’s Edge

Gene Tierney and Tyrone Power in The Razor’s Edge

“The sharp edge of the razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to salvation is hard.” ~ Katha-Upanishad

“The enjoyment of art is the only remaining ecstasy that’s neither immoral nor illegal.” ~ Elliot Templeton in The Razor’s Edge

“As long as man sets his ideals on the wrong objects there can be no real happiness. Until men learn it comes from within themselves.” ~ Holy Man in The Razor’s Edge

“If I ever acquire wisdom, I suppose I’ll be wise enough to know what to do with it.” ~ Larry Darrell in The Razor’s Edge

What I first saw the movie The Razor’s Edge, I felt as if the author had written the story just for me. I’m so much like Larry Darrell. Seeking wisdom is so much more important to me than earning money. I know money is important too, but after a while using it to accumulate things gets boring. I mean if I had lots of money, I would like to use it for things I want or need to enhance my search, like books and edifying travel. But mostly I’d like to use it to help people. To me self-improvement, and helping improve the lives of others is the best way I can use this life I have.

I think W. Somerset Maugham poses interesting questions in The Razor’s Edge and the movie follows the outline of Maugham’s story almost to the letter. Is there value in searching for self-knowledge over seeking wealth, and who is happier, the wealthy person or the seeker? Who contributes more to society the artist, philosopher, or mystic, or the consumer? Maugham offers the reader an interesting mix of characters to help us make up our own minds about these questions.

Elliot Templeton is a vain American who has denounced his country in favor of living in Paris and ingratiating himself with the wealthy and titled. He helps them sell their precious artwork to survive economic hard times after WW I. Since he is cultured and quite knowledgeable about art and antiques, he becomes indispensable, and thus builds up vast wealth of his own. He becomes the man everyone invites to their parties. However, though he appears completely self-absorbed, he can be extremely generous and kind at the most surprising times.

His Niece, Isabel on the other hand is rather cold, or maybe practical is a better word for her. She claims to love Larry Darrell, her childhood friend, with a deep and profound love. We discover later, however, that part of why she “loved” him was because she thought she could manipulate him to do what she wanted. When he asks her to share his three thousand dollars a year and travel the world to discover the meaning of life, she refuses to marry him. She wants to have fun and in her mind you can’t do that without lots of money.

So, Isabel marries another childhood friend, Gray Maturin who’s father owns a stock brokerage firm. Contrary to the picture painted of stock brokers today, these two are honorable men. Their goal is to help their clients build a secure future by investing conservatively. Unfortunately they are seduced by the craze that leads to the Great Depression and not only lose everything for their clients, but they lose their personal fortunes as well. Isabel and Gray end up living on about three thousand dollars a year. I love the irony of that little twist. Isabel turns out to be loyal, however, when Gray is so wracked with guilt about losing his client’s fortunes that he suffers from debilitating headaches and is unable to work.

Somerset Maugham uses himself as a connecting character in the story. He’s the outsider and thus observer who ruminates on the various characters, their actions and motivations and whether they learn anything or remain as they were when he first met them.

The main character of Maugham’s story is Larry Darrell. He, Isabel, Gray, and another character who plays a big role in the turning point of the story, Sophie, all grew up together in Chicago part of a rather smart set. But when Larry lies about his age and enlists in the Canadian Air Force to fight in WWI, he’s changed by the experience. Gray tells Somerset at one point that Larry was always a different kind of person. He didn’t care about money, always seemed a little bit detached and would disappear from parties without a word. When he returns from the war, he’s even more of a loner than he was before he enlisted. Even Maugham, who is a keen observer of human nature, can’t quite make him out. But he suspects that Larry is looking for something most people don’t even know exists and that thing can only be found inside himself.

Larry tries to tell Isabel what it is he’s chasing when he proposes she join him on his quest. “The only thing that makes me unhappy is making you unhappy. I don’t think I’ll ever find peace until I make up my mind about things. It’s difficult to put into words. The minute you try, you feel embarrassed. You say to yourself, who am I to bother my head about this, that or the other. Wouldn’t it be better just to follow the beaten path and let what’s coming to you, come? And then I think of the guy I knew, a minute before he was full of life and fun, and then … he was dead. I’ve seen many men die; but, this one was different. It was the last day of the war, almost the last moment. He could have saved himself, but, he didn’t. He saved me, and died. So, he’s gone and I’m here, alive. Why? It’s all so meaningless! You can’t help but ask what life is all about. Whether there’s any sense to it or whether it’s just a stupid blunder!”

Because of that one segment, I loved Larry. I understood his inability to put into words not only his deep need for his quest, but for his hope of finding the answers he was seeking.

And so Larry goes in search of the meaning of it all. And in the end, he finds it. But it’s not something he can tell other people. He has to live the truth of what he’s discovered. He knows every person who asks these same questions must find the great truth for themselves.

My favorite scenes in the movie are after Larry has had his profound experience in the Himalayas. The light in his face is extraordinary. You know he’s been touched by something deeply profound and personal. Tyrone Power plays the part of Larry and his performance riveted me to the film.

Now that I’ve read the book, I find that the screen play follows the text of the book most carefully except that it is Larry who does a few things at the end, like confronting Isabel with what she did to break up his upcoming marriage to Sophie, that are done by Maugham in the book. I think Larry making these discoveries himself strengthens his character, which I like very much. But perhaps in the end it doesn’t matter. This book is about people like Larry who hunger to find something meaningful beyond themselves and that is accomplished in both versions. That’s why this is one of my favorite stories of all time. I’m on a similar journey. It’s comforting to know that an author the caliber of W. Somerset Maugham has noticed and written about people like Larry and me.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I appreciate it very much. I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Quick Post

Columbia River Gorge

“How beautiful it is to do nothing and then to rest afterward.” ~ Spanish proverb

“A cheerful frame of mind, reinforced by relaxation … is the medicine that puts all ghosts of fear on the run.” ~ George Matthew Adams

“It is good idea always to do something relaxing prior to making an important decision in your life.” ~ Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage

I’m finishing reading The Razor’s Edge, a novel by W. Somerset Maugham. I won’t write much about the book and movie at this time. I want to finish reading first. However, I will write this. Every once in a while there are books, movies, songs, or other artistic expression where when you come across them, you feel like the artist had you in mind when they created their piece. The Razor’s Edge is that kind of book/movie for me, even though this book was published in 1944 nine years before I was born.

Larry, one of the main characters, has survived WW I. He has a driving need to explore the meaning of life, particularly his own. He does this going against popular conventions of getting a job, marrying and having children. Some of his acquaintances think he’s crazy. To me everything that happens to Larry is poignant, and full of meaning. He is seeking something not many other people even know exists. Because this is true, I’m going to need to think about what his story means for me before I can write anything meaningful about the themes Maugham was trying to get across.

In the mean time, I’m getting some selections from my book, The Space Between Time ready for an open mic night in my home town this coming Friday. I am the featured author at this event. Choosing just the right selections, then cutting them down to fit the allotted time given me is a new experience. The part I love best is practicing reading the selections. It kind of takes me back to my acting days and I’m finding it a fun exercise. It’s good practice since I am planning on doing the reading for the audio version of my book.

In other personal news, I’ve gone back to work on my second novel, Time’s Echo and getting ideas for a couple of other projects. I’m doing this leisurely. I don’t want to be in a yank to get all the projects in my head finished. That always stresses me out. I’m in the mood to take it easy and allow the creative muses to whisper to me when they feel like it. Summer is a time for being lazy and recharging one’s internal batteries. That’s where I am today. I feel like enjoying having time to read, and relax after a very busy spring semester.

I hope you are having a relaxing summer and are catching up on some things you were putting off during the winter months.

Have a lovely hump day. Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I appreciate it very much.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.