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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Writing the nuances of human behavior


“I try as best I can to enter the realm of nuances of human behavior.” – Robert Ludlum
  
Ludlum, who was born on this day in 1927 and died in 2001, wrote 27 thriller novels and perhaps is best known as the creator of Jason Bourne.  The number of copies of his books in print is estimated at some 500 million, published in 33 languages.  He also published  under the pseudonyms Jonathan Ryder and Michael Shepherd.

A native of New York City, he started his “creative” life as a student at Connecticut’s Wesleyan University, doing some writing, but mostly acting.  After a stint in the Marines, he returned to a theatrical career for a couple of decades before becoming a full-time writer.  "I equate suspense and good theater in a very similar way. I think it's all suspense and what-happens-next,” he said.  “From that point of view, as a writer I guess I am theatrical."  Eleven of his books have been made into movies and 2 more are under production. 
Ludlum said his novels often were inspired       by conspiracy theories, both historical and contemporary.  His protagonists are either one heroic man – like Bourne – or a small group of crusading individuals.    They struggle against powerful adversaries whose intentions and motivations are evil and who are capable of using political and economic mechanisms in frightening ways.

“I start every book with something that outrages me,” Ludlum said when asked about his motivation.  “I'm outraged by the FBI, the CIA, and computers that seem to have catalogued our lives. Power too often is accompanied by irresponsibility.”


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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Thoughts for 'The Writing Life'


“If you’re a singer, you might lose your voice.  A baseball player loses his arm.  But a writer gets more knowledge, and if he’s good, the older he gets, the better he writes.” – Mickey Spillane
 
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“Actors are good liars; writers are good liars with good memories.” – Daniel Keys Moran 

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“It's hard to say how certain stories just punch us in the heart and the brain at the same time at the end. I suppose that's what we're all looking for. But each story has its own valence, its own way of saying goodbye to you.” – T. C. Boyle 

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“If you ask 20 different readers why they read, the answers they give will all be right.” –  Teresa Nielsen Hayden

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When all’s said and done, all roads lead to the same end.  So it’s not so much which road you take, as how you take it. – Charles de Lint

 
I awoke feeling a bit nostalgic about this so-called “writing life” and thought it would be a good day to share a few nostalgic (and somewhat profound) words by writers I’ve enjoyed.   May your “Writer’s Moments” bring you happiness along life’s roads.



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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Great characters lead to great tales


“The characters are always the focal point of a book for me, whether I'm writing or reading. I may enjoy a book that has an intriguing mystery or a good plot, but to become one of my real favorites, it has to have great characters.” – Candace Camp

 Camp, who was born on this date in 1949, is a native Texan who started her prolific writing career while earning a law degree in the 1970s.  She said writing just seemed to come naturally to her, and she actually began “writing to relax” at age 10 and has been writing ever since.  The majority of her works are in the Romance genre where she’s published a remarkable 70-plus novels under both her own name and the pseudonyms of Lisa Gregory, Kristin James and Sharon Stevens. 

Her first book Bonds of Love came out as Lisa Gregory in 1979 and her most recent, The Marrying Season, as Candace Camp just a couple of years ago.         Her publisher is now working with her to re-edit most of the pseudonym books to re-release them under her own name.

Writing runs in her family.  Her daughter is Young Adult writer Anastasia Hopcus and her mother Lula Mae (Irons) Camp was a journalist.

“My mother was a reporter, and though she quit when they had kids, she still loved it,” Camp said.  “She told me about the people at the paper and the articles she wrote. She had the best memory of anyone I know, and she could really tell a tale.”

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Monday, May 22, 2017

It's 'elementary' my dear Watson


“A man should keep his little brain attic stocked with all the furniture that he is likely to use, and the rest he can put away in the lumber-room of his library, where he can get it if he wants it.” –Arthur Conan Doyle

Today is the anniversary of the birth of Sir Arthur Conan Coyle – in 1859 in Scotland – the creator of one of the iconic figures in literary history, Sherlock Holmes.     Noted for his to-the-point comments while solving mysteries, Holmes once pointed out that, “There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.”  

Originally a physician (I always thought that he resembled what I imagined Dr. Watson to look like), Doyle wrote his first Holmes book, A Study in Scarlet, in 1887.  It was the first of just four novels about Holmes and Dr. Watson, but he “filled out” the Holmes library of tales with over 50 short stories featuring the famous detective.  The Sherlock Holmes stories are generally considered milestones in the field of crime fiction.   The tales spawned many dozens (if not more) of uses of Holmes by other writers and dozens of movies and television programs.  He also brought Deerstalker hats and Meerschaum pipes into vogue. 
Doyle, who died in 1930, also is known for writing          the fictional adventures of Professor Challenger and for propagating the mystery of the Mary Celeste.   He was a prolific writer whose other works include fantasy and science fiction stories, plays, romances, poetry, non-fiction and historical novels.  

Among the many sayings Doyle created to become part of our lexicon is, “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”  Words to both solve mysteries and live by.


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Sunday, May 21, 2017

The influential music of Jerry Goldsmith


If our music survives, which I have no doubt it will, then it will because it is good.” – Jerry Goldsmith
 
A salute to music today reflecting on the works of composer/writer Goldsmith, who died at age 88 earlier this month.  Most known for his work in film and television scoring, he composed scores for many dozens  of noteworthy films including Star Trek: The Motion Picture (which he personally considered his best), The Sand Pebbles, Logan's Run, Planet of the Apes, Patton, Hoosiers (which I always liked the best), and Chinatown – often regarded as one of the greatest scores of all time.  It ranks No. 9 on the AFI's list of top 25 American film scores and was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award.  Remarkably, under pressure after taking it over from another composer, he wrote the Chinatown score in just 10 days.

He was nominated for 18 Best Score Academy Awards for his movies and three dozen Emmys for his television series. Goldsmith has often been considered one of film music history's most innovative and influential composers.                              
                                               If music can be autobiographical, then Goldsmith’s version was his energetic Fireworks: A Celebration of Los Angeles in 1999.  Looking back on the experience, Goldsmith later said, he realized hd was writing about where he was born and had lived his entire life and decided to make the piece a grand celebration of the events that had surrounded his life. 

As for his career in film and television, he noted, “I like the variety. But basically my choice of films is a small intimate film. Quiet film, no action, just people in relationships. That's what I like the most.”

For a small sampling of Goldsmith’s work, check out the opening credits and theme of Hoosiers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r74qegjbF28
Or, take the time for this nice YouTube mix put together by Mark Michael:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VeDDeP1oFcY




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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Poetry: A relationship to everything


Poetry is above all a concentration of the power of language, which is the power of our ultimate relationship to everything in the universe.” – Adrienne Rich

Born in May 1929, American poet, essayist and radical feminist Rich was called "one of the most widely read and influential poets of the second half of the 20th century."  Her first collection of poetry, A Change of World, was selected by renowned poet W. H. Auden for the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award in 1950 and she never looked back from there.  Winner of more than two dozen major writing awards, she also received a MacArthur Genius Grant and Lifetime Achievement Award from the Griffin Poetry Prize Foundation.  She died in 2012.
As I was reading some of her diverse and often wrenching poetry,     
I came across a poem that, while written 30 years ago, still resonates today.  So, for Saturday’s Poem, here is Rich’s,

Prospective Immigrants, Please Note

Either you will
go through this door
or you will not go through.
If you go through
there is always the risk
of remembering your name.
Things look at you doubly
and you must look back
and let them happen.
If you do not go through
it is possible
to live worthily
to maintain your attitudes
to hold your position
to die bravely
but much will blind you,
much will evade you,
at what cost who knows?
The door itself
makes no promises.
It is only a door.




Friday, May 19, 2017

Keep striving to 'fill the page'


“You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can't edit a blank page.” – Jodi Picoult

Picoult, who has more than 14 million copies of her books (translated into 34 languages) in print worldwide, is a New Hampshire author who was born on this date in Long Island, NY, in 1966.    The daughter and granddaughter of teachers, she grew up reading and writing and did her first story, "The Lobster Which Misunderstood," at the age of 5.   By the time she reached college (at Princeton) she was writing – and being published – on a regular basis, including winning a couple of national writing contests while still in school.

The first of Picoult’s 23 bestselling novels, Songs of the Humpback Whale, came out in 1992 and her latest, Small Great Things, just last November.  She has had a remarkable 9 consecutive novels released in the Number One position on the New York Times Bestseller List, beginning with  Nineteen Minutes in 2007. 
In 2013 Picoult was a member of a group      of 30 bestselling writers who banded together to form the Writers Council for the National Writing Project.  That project recognizes writing – especially creative writing – as a communicative tool and helps teachers enhance student efforts to become writers.  

“Writer's block is for people who have the luxury of time,” she noted when asked how she keeps focused and continues turning out one successful book after another.   “When you're stuck, and sure you've written absolute garbage, force yourself to finish and then decide to fix or scrap it - or you will never know if you can.”



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