Reading Lessons

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” ~ Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~ Charles W. Eliot

Reading grasped me when I was a senior in high school. We studied British Literature that year. I was enamored with A Tale of Two Cities, Jane Eyre, and Shakespeare. Everything we read opened up my perspective on history, and how the different characters lived. I knew I didn’t want to be like Miss Haversham in Great Expectations. On the other hand I very much liked Jane Eyre’s self-confidence, and A Tale of Two Cities immersed me in the horrors of The French Revolution.

It wasn’t that I hadn’t been a reader before, but we didn’t have access to libraries, except for the school libraries, in the small towns in which I grew up. The Scholastic Book Fair was always a treat and I did buy books that I enjoyed reading. But those were held only once or twice a year, and so it was often months between reading the books I wanted to read, and the ones I had to read for school.

But senior year I became a real reader. What I mean by that is that a real reader is always on the lookout for the next book they are going to read. And now that I’m semi-retired, and have more time for reading, I feel uneasy if I have to wait even a day to find the next book to sink into. That rarely happens, though, because most of the time, I have a list of two or three possibilities waiting in line.

The advent of social media groups like Goodreads has helped me up my reading game with their yearly reading challenge. For the last few years I’ve pledged to read 50 books a year. I know for some people that’s not a lot, but I like to read a book slowly, savoring and living within the lives of the characters.

I’ve tried to understand why I feel this need to sink into other people’s lives. I do it with movies and TV too. Maybe I’m a voyeur, but I think it’s because I’m just one person and I can’t possibly experience every aspect of life. Yet I have this need to understand the world from different perspectives. And when I talk or listen to other readers, they say similar things about why they read.

I secretly wanted to be a writer for many years. When I finally acknowledged that fact, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to write effectively. After all my degrees are not in English. But when I read a quote I believe was by Stephen King, “You can’t be a good writer if you don’t read,” that made me feel better. I am learning how to be a good writer by reading both good and bad books. A poorly written book can sometimes teach me more than great ones because they show me in glaring detail the mistakes I make, or ones I need to avoid.

On the other hand there are great books that I still think about many years after I first read them. And maybe that’s the highest praise I can give an author, to continue to contemplate their work and how it affected me. And then try to write as powerfully as they did, only using my personal experiences and point of view.

I’m grateful to be a reader. It’s hard for me to imagine what my life would be like if I didn’t read. I think it would be lots smaller and maybe even sadder. Reading about characters who experience terrible things, then grow, and even flourish as a result, gives me great hope.

Welcome to my new followers. Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. Have a fabulous weekend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2019

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 little bit like Outlander in that it’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, novel. Only Jenna’s life is shattered. When she finds old journals, she joins consciousness with her three-times great-grandmother, Morgan, instead of traveling physically. She is able to come back at intervals and apply what she’s learned to her own life situations.

The Space Between Time 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. Stay tuned for news on the audiobook version Lucinda is working on. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Never Stop Learning

Inside Powell’s bookstore

“There is a cure for anti-aging that actually works – it’s called lifelong learning.” ~ Robin S. Sharma

“The great awareness comes slowly, piece by piece. The path of spiritual growth is a path of lifelong learning. The experience of spiritual power is basically a joyful one.” ~ M. Scott Peck

My dad was curious about everything. He encouraged me and my siblings to seek lifelong learning. Because of his passion for learning, he had a huge influence on my life. He asked questions about everything, the news, about the articles and books he read, about things that were happening in our lives. Two things I learned from Dad were to think critically, and to look deeper into any event or story. If I did, I’d find something not readily identifiable that affected what was going on. Dad and I would have discussions about what I was reading in school, or for fun. But my favorite time spent with my dad was when he’d sit and watch a movie with me and the subsequent discussions we’d have about them. Because of Dad, I too am a lifelong learner.

So, here I am at sixty-five embarking on some new learning experiences. I may have mentioned in this blog before that, after twenty-two years of living in Arizona, I’m finally learning Spanish on the Duolingo app on my phone. I just completed my ninty-sixth day! I’m enjoying learning Spanish very much because it’s in anticipation of a trip to Spain in a year or so. After I learn Spanish, I think I’ll work on French, which is the language I always wanted to learn. Who knows which language I’ll choose after that.

And as I wrote in the last post, I’m also learning to become a freelancer. I’m one of those Baby Boomers who always wants to be working because that’s one way to learn new things. This week, the exercises with The No Pants Project, were all about taking a look at my current lifestyle, dreaming of the lifestyle I want, and then doing some math to discover what I need to charge per hour for my services. I have to say I had a bit of a panic attack when the number came out to be $95 an hour. I was stunned. I’ve never earned that much for any job, whether working for someone full-time, freelancing, or as a contracted employee.

After I calmed down, I realized that I have been selling myself short all these years. Because I’ve worked in the arts, I’ve accepted that no one will pay me for my expertise. The world is a little bit upside down in that way, the professions that have to do with expressing emotions and turning the human experience into something visual, and visceral, pay poorly. Unless, of course, you are one of the chosen superstars in that artistic field. And yet, regular ordinary people like me, who have lots of experience and knowledge, deserve to earn more than a pittance for what they can offer audiences and clients. Maybe programs like The No Pants Project, will help change that.

Of course, as writer, I’ve learned a great many things about how to express my thoughts clearly. And more than that, how to express emotions in a way that helps my readers feel what is going on with my characters. I’m still new at writing. But then, writing is one of those professions where you never stop learning. At the beginning of each semester, I tell my acting students that taking this one acting class will not give them all they need to know about acting. It’s a discipline in which the participants are still learning after thirty, forty, fifty years of work. Like all the arts, acting is about mining your inner world. Artists are attempting to define what it means to be human for themselves and by extension the rest of us. My plan is keep writing as long as I can in order to continue to learn about what it means to be a human being.

I think my Dad would be proud that I still have a hunger for knowledge and self-improvement. I hope it continues to help me feel young.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. Have a fun weekend and maybe enjoy some artwork.

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, 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. Stay tuned for news on the audiobook version Lucinda is working on. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Publishing Anniversary

Revised book cover for The Space Between Time

“Don’t worry about writing a book or getting famous or making money. Just lead an interesting life.” ~ Michael Morpurgo

“Without words, without writing and without books there would be no history, there could be no concept of humanity.” ~ Hermann Hesse

Wow! The Space Between Time print-on-demand version was published a year ago this month. When I realized that, I started thinking of things I’ve learned over this past year and things I want to improve in both writing my next books, and in marketing.

The first thing that came to my mind was that I have to stop saying I’m bad at marketing. It’s not that I’m bad at it, it’s more a matter of not knowing much about it. So I’m now on a mission to find the right marketing techniques that fit my talents. I will probably be reading books and even taking some classes or getting some coaching to help me improve my skills.

Next, I have to do a better job of compartmentalizing my list of tasks for the day. Here’s an example: When I began working on the audiobook version of The Space Between Time, working on my new novel everyday went out the window. I haven’t even looked at it in three months. Now that’s not to say I haven’t been thinking about it, I have. But I need to sit down and work on it at least half an hour every day if I want to make progress on finishing the first draft. My problem is, I’m single minded, therefore, the more immediate tasks, like writing this blog, or things related to teaching, and my audiobook project take presidents. That’s not getting my novel written, which is a concern since an element of the book involves the current #metoo movement.

I don’t know, maybe I’m stuck a bit on my second novel because I’m secretly worried it won’t be good. The subject matter is so complicated. I don’t even know how I feel about what’s happening with women’s rights sometimes. That’s all the more reason to keep writing, because as some author said, “I write to figure out what I’m thinking and feeling.” Mostly, however, the thing that is keeping me from the new novel is that I still have things I need to do related to the TSBT, and that’s frustrating.

The other day I was watching the first episode of the PBS series, The Great American Read, first broadcast in the spring. The program encouraged Americans to go vote for their favorites among a list of 100 books so that this coming week they can reveal the number one favorite book in the country. One of the categories they discussed were books that did not become popular until late in the author’s life, or after they had died. That gave me hope for my book, though it would be nice if more people wanted to read it now.

I picked up another little tidbit in an interview Emma Watson did with Canadian poet, Rupi Kaur. Her book Milk and Honey, could be classified as a book of poems for women. But she said that she has been approached by men who have thanked her for writing the book. And that got me thinking that one of the promotion points I’ve used for my book is that it’s a woman’s book.

It is difficult to put The Space Between Time into a category. It’s part historical novel, part a contemporary story of young woman’s journey of discovery, it’s part magical realism with the characters having paranormal experiences. Now I’m thinking that also classifying it as a woman’s book may keep some readers away who might otherwise enjoy the book. After all, we pick up books to read that sound intriguing. I’ve read lots of books by male authors with male protagonists, and loved them. Why should I think that men couldn’t enjoy my book as well?

The best stories are about human beings dealing with challenges that we can relate to. In The Space Between Time, Jenna the protagonist in the present has experienced life shattering events. She was dumped by her fiancé, been fired from her job, and lost her mother in a terrible car accident. Most of us can related to one or all of those events. Now, getting help from her three-times great-grandmother by joining consciousness with her through her journals might be a bit odd to some people, but don’t we love reading about other people’s lives precisely because we learn something from what they went through?

Well, I’m rambling here, but I realize that embarking on this writing career has been, and will continue to be, a very important endeavor. I’m not giving it up and I’m looking forward to learning more things about myself and learning new skills along the way.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. Have a fun and creative 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. Stay tuned for news on the audiobook version Lucinda is working on. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Reading, Writing, and Belonging

Dad reading to son

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

“Humans aren’t as good as we should be in our capacity to empathize with feelings and thoughts of others, be they humans or other animals on Earth. So maybe part of our formal education should be training in empathy. Imagine how different the world would be if, in fact, that were ‘reading, writing, arithmetic, empathy.’” ~ Neil deGrasse Tyson

“I never feel lonely if I’ve got a book – they’re like old friends. Even if you’re not reading them over and over again, you know they are there. And they’re part of your history. They sort of tell a story about your journey through life.” ~ Emilia Fox

I’m not sure exactly what it is I want to express with this post, except for the last nine years I’ve been focused on writing and that has changed me in profound ways. Long before I was a writer, I was an avid movie watcher and reader. I still am, and for quite some time now I’ve been trying to understand just what it is about story telling in all its forms that draws me in. It might be the communal aspect of watching a movie or reading a book with one or two of my friends and then discussing every little detail about it. But watching and reading can also be solitary activities and I love that about them too. Or it might be that stories help me understand human beings better. When I hear people talk about how they are affected by the books they read, or write, I know that there is something fundamental about story telling that we need. Maybe I don’t need to define it, just enjoy it.

I have a number of former students and friends who are totally into cosplay, attend Comic Cons, dress up as their favorite characters, and are even on panels at these events. They read all the fan fiction, watch all the TV shows and movies about their favorite characters. And at first I thought them a little daffy. But after listening to them talk about the different layers of the plots and of their characters, or of the movie we watched in class, I changed my mind. I remembered all those hours of discussing movies with my father and I knew that these students were demonstrating a great deal of understanding about human behavior, their motivations, and hangups because the stories engaged their imaginations. Most of my friends and students have empathy because of their attention to the extreme situations their favorite characters have to deal with. They put themselves in their shoes. They think about what they would do in a similar situation. I love that!

The thing that connects me to great stories is the playwright or author’s ability to help me feel with the characters. When I was in college, the first play I was cast in was The Merchant of Venice. As we rehearsed the play, I understood more fully why Shylock wants his pound of flesh. He, as a Jew, has been treated so horribly. He’s a wounded character but unfortunately, he gets punished again at the end for trying to get what is due him, by literally taking a pound of flesh from the man who can pay his debt. In a way I couldn’t blame him for wanting revenge. But the whole point of the play is about how showing mercy is better than seeking revenge.

When I read a great book, or see a timeless movie, somehow I not only understand other people better, I understand myself better. That’s what I aim for when I’m reading, directing a play, watching a movie or writing. I’m looking for new clues that will help me understand human behavior a little better.

I just realized that I wrote this post because until recently, I felt like the odd person out. I mean, a lot of the people I associated with were into sports, or outdoor activities, or going to concerts, even some of my theatre friends, and I just didn’t get that. I mean I love nature and music, but I didn’t understand the whole sports fan thing, until I began to have students who were into dressing up like their favorite characters, and analyzing every detail of the books and movie world they inhabited. I finally got it. Most people are looking for their tribe, a place to belong. I’m finding my people and it’s a good feeling.

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

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel. It’s available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, and print-on-demand at Amazon and other fine book sellers. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

It’s Here!

Revised book cover for The Space Between Time

“Why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me.” ~ J. K. Rowling

“Finishing books – and leaving the world you’ve created – is always a kind of emotionally wrenching experience. I usually cry.” ~ Lauren Oliver

I’m not crying, that The Space Between Time is live on Amazon, I’m cheering. The process of publishing a book is long and arduous and now that I’ve completely finished, okay I may do an audio book, I can now devote my full attention to the sequel novel and other projects. That’s a huge relief.

On the other hand, there are things I discovered while making the final corrections that I could have gone back and changed. Instead I said, “Hmm, should I go back and make those corrections to the sheriff’s dialect, or should I be like Elizabeth Gilbert and say, ‘Done is better than good.’” I do want my book to be good but will the reader really care if the sheriff says, “ya”, instead of “y’all”? I will change his dialect in the second book, but it was just time to get all versions of this book out into the world and move on to the next.

I do have a word to say about writing dialogue in general and dialect specifically. The way we speak and the vocabulary we use says a lot about us, and about characters in a book. I have several characters with specific dialects in this book. I didn’t even attempt to write the New England dialect, because I couldn’t hear that one in my head. However, since my background is in theatre, I automatically hear the characters speaking, so mostly I write the dialogue first. But that doesn’t mean I type the dialect correctly on the first few go arounds. I’m going to have to look for some writer apps or websites that can help me with that on the next book.

I think writing dialect is a tricky thing because you have to make sure the reader understands what the character is saying. Not long ago I was reading a book that took place someplace in what is now the UK. The author wrote what one character was saying in their native dialect, and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what the heck that character was saying. My conclusion: indicate the dialect, but make it readable for all readers, not just the ones who are familiar with it.

Of course, now that my book is published in both ebook and print-on-demand options, the fun (ugh) work of marketing and promotion begins. That’s going to be an interesting learning process. I’m only somewhat familiar with how to proceed, so I will keep working on that a little bit at a time. I know that many authors do pre-sales of their books and are so happy when they get lots of books sold ahead of time. I’m just not that kind of person. I’d rather have a slow but steady interest in my book. I hope that happens and I hope that this book will be one that people are reading many, many years from now.

If you buy The Space Between Time, I ask you to do somethings for me. Reviews help sell books, so if you would be willing to write a few sentences on Amazon, Goodreads, or any of your social networks (posting the links where people can buy it too) that would be a big help. And please post an honest review.

If  you don’t have time to read the book yet, but belong to Goodreads, putting it on your “want to read” shelf helps the Goodreads administrators see that there is interest and they may choose to promote it.

Also, if you feel so inclined and like the book, recommend it to your local bookstore, and/or library, book club group, on social media, or any other place you can think to talk about it. Even if you only tell your friends about it, that would be great. If you’ve got a blog, a mention there would also help me get the word out.

Here is a description of The Space Between Time:

Life is not going well for Jenna Holden. Her live-in-fiancé walks out. Her estranged mother is in a terrible accident that may kill her. And instead of the promotion she’s expecting at her book editor job, she’s fired. Jenna must return to the small town where she grew up to recoup. With all that’s happened she sees no future for herself.

But then, in her mother’s attic, Jenna finds journals written by a long-dead ancestress. They transport her to another time and place, giving her access to the thoughts and feelings of another woman, also alone in the world, who is facing similar trials of heartache and loss. Reading them somehow gives Jenna an escape from her own pain and sorrow, yet offers a doorway to resilience, healing, and the joy of a supportive love. Jenna need only find the self-knowledge and courage to step through, into that space between time.

Thanks so much for continuing to read, Sage Woman Chronicles. I appreciate your likes and comments.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, a historical, time-travel, magical realism women’s novel. It’s available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, and print-on-demand at Amazon, CreateSpace, and other fine book sellers. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

My Book is Published. Now What?

Elizabeth Gilbert At TED

“Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.” ~ Edward de Bono

“Passion is one great force that unleashes creativity, because if you’re passionate about something, then you’re more willing to take risks.” ~ Yo-Yo Ma

“I was a writer before ‘Eat, Pray, Love,’ and I’ll be a writer after it’s over. It’s what I want to do for the rest of my life.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

I was going to make this post about the marketing and promotion that is a necessary part of publishing a book, but this morning I saw a TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert from 2009 about what happens to many creatives after a big success. She related what she had experienced after the explosive success of her memoir, Eat, Pray, Love. It wasn’t her reaction to the fame, that caused her to take a step back and examine the creative process, it was the reaction of others.

I don’t know why we think we have a right to comment on, or be concerned for other people in intrusive soul killing ways. When Elizabeth related the fact that people were indicating that she had created her ONE masterpiece and how did she feel about that? And how was she going to cope with that fact? I cringed, just like she did.

The thing is, she has written another big block buster book since her first. It’s Big Magic, which I have read. It’s about the creative process and it’s been an inspiration for me. She debunks lots of old myths about the tortured artist idea. She’s right it’s time to think of artists in new ways. And she wrote the book for artists, so they can be cycle breakers. I decided to break out of the starving, tortured artist mould and just have fun writing.

Here’s the thing, I’ve written a novel, my first. It took me seven years to complete. It’s taking my husband a week, to prepare the manuscript for publication as an ebook. Then it will take us two or three weeks, maybe more, to complete the process to publish it for the print-on-demand version. It will be a big relief and, of course, I’ll have lots of work to do promoting the book. It may be popular, it may not. But I have lots more to say, and in fact, I’ve started work on its sequel. In addition, I have begun a fantasy book, and I’ve got an idea of taking some of my blog posts and creating a book of them as well. None of my work may hit the New York Times bestseller list. I have fun visualizing that one or two will, but if that never happens, I’ll be just fine. Because I write for me, not for you. Sorry if that sounds callous.

I do hope that my work touches people, that they get something out of it. But, my writing is about doing what poetess Ruth Stone does, I’m catching ideas as they flow by and putting them down on paper. Only in my process, unlike hers, some of the ideas come and pitch a tent, go fishing, hiking, bathe in the sun, roast marshmallows at the campfire for a while before they turn back to letting me in on what it is they want to say. I have lots of ideas camping out in the back of my head. So if one of them comes to fruition and it’s popular, that’s great! But I’ve got others waiting to let me in on their secrets, and when they do I’ll learn something as I’m writing them down.

I hope next week to share the download link for The Space Between Time. If you decide to read it, I hope you’ll share it with others, and even write a review.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to share this post with a friend, and leave a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

The Gifts of Restlessness

Apollo Launch

“Restlessness is discontent and discontent is the first necessity of progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I’ll show you a failure.” ~ Thomas Edison

“No, it’s not dissatisfaction that inspires me to tinker with my songs, it’s just restlessness.” ~ Andrew Bird

“I believe that curiosity, wonder and passion are defining qualities of imaginative minds and great teachers; that restlessness and discontent are vital things; and that intense experience and suffering instruct us in ways that less intense emotions can never do. ~ Kay Redfield Jamison

I once heard a poet tell of her writing process. She’d be out gardening, or maybe doing housework when suddenly she could feel a poem galloping toward her. To capture the poem, she’d have to stop what she was doing and run to get pen and paper before the poem passed her by. Sometimes she wouldn’t get to the paper fast enough to catch the poem and it would gallop on never to return. At other times she would miss the beginning of the poem, so she’d have to catch the tail and drag it back. In those cases, she’d have to write the poem down backwards. I wish I could remember her name. I’d love to read her poems.

This story stuck with me because that’s how I know change is coming. I can feel it coming long before it arrives at my doorstep. A mild restlessness and dissatisfaction with the way things are going in my life are the first indications that big changes are on their way.

This feeling of restlessness applies to all aspects of my life, even writing. I can feel that there is something I’m supposed to write about, but sometimes the horse has stopped to snack on luscious grass and I feel frustrated that I have to wait until the horse is ready to continue the journey. No amount of coaxing works. I have to wait to be able to grasp the entire idea.

Or sometimes I feel restless, like now, because I’m waiting on others to do their part so I can publish my work. Then, just when I’m about to explode with frustration, something will happen and I’ll read an article with a writing tip that I can use to improve my work, and that sends me to do another round of revisions. That happened to me last week. So, while my husband is creating the cover art for The Space Between Time, I’m making minor changes to my manuscript.

The thing about restlessness is that it’s not random. When it sneaks in to my life, it’s telling me something important. It appears when I’ve gotten too comfortable and am about to stagnate, which is never a good thing for any of us. We’re meant to grow and evolve and we can’t do that if we cling to our routines and never venture to try anything new.

Maybe our trip to Portland intensified my current restless feelings. I mean for a couple of years, I’ve been examining my belief systems and attitudes, and working to open myself to new ways of thinking and being. Just these past few months, I’ve decided it’s time for some new experiences. But when we went back to a place we had lived for fifteen years, after being away for nearly twenty-one years, I saw how much the city had changed. I didn’t fit there any longer and that shook something loose in me. I think it shook something loose in Barry too because it feels like our horizons have been expanded.

I’m not quite sure how all these feelings will manifest yet, but I know that for the first time, my dreams for the future are far larger than I’ve ever dared hope for and I’m excited for what comes next.

By the way, I hope to reveal the cover art for my novel soon. The restlessness is fading. I don’t think I’ll have to wait long for the changes that have been germinating to appear.

If you’re feeling restless, take that as a sign that better things are on their way and look for new and exciting things to be presented to you.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Writing and Reading Lessons

Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher series.

“Nobody needs me to sing MacDonald’s praises, but that yard of books did more for me than provide excellent entertainment. For some reason the McGee books spoke to me like textbooks. I felt I could see what MacDonald was doing, and why, and how, as if I could see beneath the skin.” ~ Lee Child

“Dickens didn’t write what people wanted. Dickens wanted what people wanted.” ~ G. K. Chesterton

“Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.” ~ Stephen Pressfield

I’ve gone back to working on my sequel novel to The Space Between Time, and because of that and the political climate, I’ve been doing lots of thinking about my characters Jenna and Morgan and their relationships with their husbands. I’ve known for quite some time that Morgan becomes a Suffragist, and Jenna has a tangle with the conservative right who want to keep women in their place. But when I first started working on that manuscript in 2014 I felt a little bit stuck. Things were going along pretty smoothly at the time but events have turned to give me more fodder for my imagination. Because of that I’ve been thinking about how Jack and Seth will react to their wives becoming activists. I want to get into their heads to see what interesting things their struggles will bring to the story. This book may turn out to be more about how men and women relate to each other than Jenna and Morgan’s involvement in the women’s movements of their respective time periods.

As I’ve no doubt written before, my mind is rarely quiet. I’m always storing away bits of information I pick up from the books I read, current events, the movies and TV shows I watch, and conversations with friends and family.

Every once in a while all the disparate things I’ve been thinking or observing come to a conjunction and I get a big AHA. I’ve recently had one of those ahas when I read an article about “The Awesome Omega Male.” I don’t want to go into detail about how my thinking came together, however, I will say that I’ve come to some interesting conclusions about the different kinds of male characters in movies and books.

My husband and I had been watching many action movies lately. After reading the above mentioned article, I realized that male oriented action movies come in two basic categories. There are the alpha male movies with the characters who are egotistical and on a rampage of revenge. It could be as trivial a reason as somebody messed with their stuff, or crossed them in some way. I don’t like those kind. They don’t seem to have a point.

In the other category there are characters who are alienated from society, but they have more omega male qualities. These characters are introverted and like it. They don’t go seeking trouble but if it comes, they have the skills to take out the bad guys. They can be empathetic and kind, but for the most part they like working on their own. They don’t have much of an ego because they know their own strengths and weaknesses and how use both to accomplish their goals. In this last category of movies, the men use violence only when necessary to protect those who really need it.

One thing I loved about the article on omega men was it defined the type of men I grew up knowing. I knew that I could go to my father with a problem and he’d listen without judgment. I could rely on him to protect me if I needed it, but he also encouraged me to stand up for myself. So that’s the kind of male characters I created for The Space Between Time. When my writer friend told me that she thought my male characters were too soft, I told her I wrote the kind of men I knew, yet I did consider making them tougher. However I just couldn’t do it. I liked the men I’d created, and I didn’t want to change them. The article on omega men gave me the justification for the type of male characters I had written.

As Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher series says, “Character is king.” He’s right. We remember characters over plot, but the plot is what the characters swim in to learn their lessons, to grow and change, and to accomplish their goals. That means that we must create lots of challenges for our characters to deal with, which in turn helps us show who our characters are.

Child also said in the introduction to the first Jack Reacher book, that he likes characters who are winners but alienated in some way. He likes characters who are confident and who can defeat their enemies. We have traditionally thought that the winners are the alpha males, the strongest, loudest, most domineering egotistical men. But the world is changing and so are men. We need winners who fight for all of us, not just to make themselves look good.

As I’ve been thinking about the omega male model, I’ve been comparing it to the female psychological models. According to an article I read by Stephanie S. Covington, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., and Janet L. Surrey, Ph.D., women’s primary motivating drive is toward connection with others. Alpha males think that’s a weakness but we’re discovering it’s a huge strength. That’s the one omega man trait that the above movie characters struggle with. Many of them have had a significant close relationship, or they would like to have a connection with someone but for now, they’re loners.

Since reading, as the Lee Child quote above says, is like taking a writing seminar, I’m reading some Jack Reacher and other books with strong male characters. I want to get a different perspective on men so I can use this information to flesh out Jack and Seth and the other male characters in my book. I want them to be distinct from each other and believable, but most of them will continue to be omega males.

I’m discovering that reading really is a fantastic way to become a better writer.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

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Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Tenacity

Susan B. Anthony
Susan B. Anthony

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.” ~ Amelia Earhart

Patience and tenacity are worth more than twice their weight of cleverness.” ~ Thomas Huxley

“Turning pro is a mindset. If we are struggling with fear, self-sabotage, procrastination, self-doubt, etc., the problem is, we’re thinking like amateurs. Amateurs don’t show up. Amateurs crap out. Amateurs let adversity defeat them. The pro thinks differently. He shows up, he does his work, he keeps on truckin’, no matter what.” ~ Steven Pressfield

People succeed not so much because they are smart, but because they don’t give up. There will always be the naysayers. The people who take cheap shots from the top row seats, but who are afraid to get down and do the work to make their own dreams come true. The winners never listen to them. They don’t complain, they find their way around obstacles. But one thing is sure, they keep moving forward no matter how slowly.

Now that I’m about to publish my first book after seven years of work, what have I learned?

One of the things I’ve learned is that the work feeds the work. When I made a commitment to work on my novel a little bit every day, more ideas came and soon I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning to begin working.

I’ve also learned that the work feeds the work only when you’ve found the RIGHT work for you. I was fifty-four years old when I found the right work for me. Yet no time was wasted while I was looking for my place in the world. Everything I’ve learned along the way contributes to what I now write.

Another important lesson has been that the time to be the most tenacious is when you’re stuck.

For five years I developed Morgan’s story in the past. It was the easier story to tell because I saw Morgan as distant from me. But eventually I was stuck. I couldn’t move on with her story until I wrote Jenna’s story in the present. I didn’t want to write Jenna’s story because much of what happens to her happened to me in different forms. I didn’t want to relive those tough times. But I learned something else that is vital for a writer, you can’t close the books on one part of your life until you’ve wrung out every bit of the lesson your soul desires to learn. As the character Pi in Life of Pi says of not saying goodbye to Richard Parker, the Bengal tiger he’s just crossed the Pacific Ocean with, “It’s important in life to conclude things properly. Only then can you let go. Otherwise you are left with words you should have said but never did, and your heart is heavy with remorse. That bungled goodbye hurts me to this day.” pg. 414

I don’t know if it’s this way for all writers, but for me, writing is the way I say the proper goodbyes. It’s the way I can reimagine or redefine what happened to me and put closure on those things that nag at my psyche, and my emotions.

One of the things Jenna suffers is being unjustly fired from her job, and then accused of embezzling money from the publishing company she worked for. I included that situation in my book because I lost a most beloved job teaching drama. I lost it unjustly. Years later one of my students told me that the story told by those who had engineered by dismissal was that I was let go because I had mishandled the drama club funds. It was a lie of course. In fact, the woman who handled the accounting for all the clubs had thanked me earlier that school year for making sure my accounts were accurate when I turned them in.

I used Jenna’s situation as a way to put some closure on my own story. In The Space Between Time, the lie was exposed and the perpetrators were tried and found guilty of not just one embezzlement scheme but of many. I used Jenna’s predicament as a way to get that negative energy out of my body. I didn’t want it to continue to rumble around in my head and heart.

Will the truth ever be revealed about that situation? I don’t know, nor do I care. I’ve had a chance to tell my story the way I wish it had happened and that helped me forgive my accusers once and for all.

Maybe the naysayers will be right. Maybe my book won’t sell no matter how hard I market and promote it. But I still have the advantage over them. I created something and if I did it once, I can do it again and again. One day there will be people who appreciate what I’ve written. I’d rather be working on something I love than dying in anguish and desperation doing work that I hate.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden @ 2017

Write What You Know.

Getting a hug from Dad
Getting a hug from Dad

“People of mediocre ability sometimes achieve outstanding success because they don’t know when to quit. Most men succeed because they are determined to.” ~ George Allen, Sr.

“Self-knowledge is essential not only to writing, but to doing almost anything really well. It allows you to work through from a deep place – from the deep, dark corners of your subconscious mind.” ~ Meg Rosoff

“Every writing teacher gives the subliminal message, every time they teach: ‘Your life counts for something.’ In no other subject that I know of is that message given.” ~ Roger Rosenblatt

The last time I had my writer friends read through the latest revisions to my manuscript, one of them said she thought the men were too soft. “That’s okay if you want this story to be used for a Hallmark movie but I think the men need to be rougher.” I was taken aback by that. I said, “Well, I’m writing what I know. My father was soft, my husband, brothers-in-law, father-in-law, uncles, are all like the characters in my book. I guess I don’t know how to write any other way.”

Since my conversation with my friend, I’ve been thinking a great deal about whether or not I should take her advice. I considered it for a while because some of the movies on Hallmark are sappy and the characters rather one dimensional. I considered making the change, but, I can’t. There are a few men in my book who are not kind. They are reflections of people I have known who treated me badly. But the rest are like the men at church when I was growing up, or the men in my family. Maybe my book is more positive and Jenna and Morgan are surrounded by lots of loving people, but to me that’s normal and I have to write what I know.

Still, my friend’s comment nagged at me, and made me doubt what I had written. “Maybe it’s not true to most people’s lives,” I thought. Maybe it is sappy, like some of those Hallmark movies and shows, but I’m writing what I know.

I have to admit, I’m growing tired of the on slot of dark books, movies and television shows. It’s almost like perpetual Halloween with all the vampires, zombies, and shows about ad men treating their coworkers badly, or brewing up crystal meth to make money to leave their family after they die. Yuck. I don’t want to watch those shows. At least, I don’t want a steady diet of them, and if I don’t, maybe I’m not alone in feeling that way. I may be wrong but it seems harder to find positive stories, with loving characters that are genuine and touching in an unsappy kind of way. When I read a book, watch a movie or TV show, I want to feel good at the end, and like I learned something.

Last week I was looking for a novel to read. I have several on my Amazon wish list but I didn’t want to spend the money now, so I went to the long lists of books I have on my iBooks and Kindle apps. I found, Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts. I saw the movie several years ago and I remember how it touched me. It’s a quiet story about a seventeen year old girl who is pregnant, and on a road trip with her boyfriend from Tennessee to California. When she asks him to stop so she can go to the restroom for the umpteenth time, he leaves her in a Walmart in a small town in Oklahoma. Abandoned with no money, she lives in the Walmart until the night her baby is born. Along her journey she finds a number of loving people who take her in as if she were family, and she learns a great deal about herself along the way. It’s one of those stories where the struggles are mostly internal. There are no vampires, zombies, werewolves, or angry aliens to defeat. Okay, full disclosure, sometimes I like those kinds of stories too. But not a steady diet of them.

I finished Where the Heart Is this morning. The end was so touching that I cried. The book is beautifully written, and as I read the last page, I felt like there is hope for the human race after all, that no matter how bad your life is, you can find love and forgiveness. That’s the kind of book I want to write even if it’s not popular. I want my readers to cry at the end, or feel the joy my characters find. I want them to feel like the human race, despite our struggles, is headed in a positive direction. I don’t know how to write anything else and that is, I can finally say honestly, okay with me.

If you like quiet more positive reading or viewing fare, here are some suggestions. In books: Winter Solstice, by Rosamond Pilcher. I’ve read a couple of her books now and they are thought provoking and positive. Any thing by Madeleine L’Engle, but my favorite is the series beginning with A Wrinkle in Time. They are categorized as Young Adult fiction but I found that the young people at the center of the books must deal with adult problems.

A couple of movies I’ve seen recently that I thought about long after the last frame went black are: The Age of Adaline and Brooklyn. In both, there is a woman protagonist, which I loved. The women in each of these movies have inner conflicts to work out which is what the story revolves around. I found both deeply satisfying.

There are many others, of course, like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movies, or almost any movie written by women (or Joss Whedon). Then there are the classic movies like Random Harvest, Now Voyager, To Kill A Mockingbird (both the book and the movie), PinkyPeople Will Talk, and, of course, I Remember Mama about a writer who learns to write what she knows. You don’t want to get me started on classic movies. I could write a book about what I’ve learned watching them. Maybe someday I will.

I guess I’m on a mission to change the world through entertainment and through my own writing. I hope you won’t settle for watching only blockbuster movies or reading only the latest best sellers. While those may be fantastic, there are so many exceptional authors and movie makers doing extraordinary work. And if we celebrate their work, then maybe these quieter, deeply human stories will get more recognition.

Thanks for reading.

P.S. I just saw a trailer for a new Amazon series, Good Girls Revolt. It’s based on real events at a news magazine in the late 1960’s during the Woman’s Movement. This looks a lot more interesting than Mad Men. (I’ve never seen Mad Men. It may be really good, but it seemed to me that men behaving badly is what that story is about and I’m looking for some quite different.) I think I’ll check out this new series and see if it fits what I’m looking for.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016