Wednesday, 20 April 2011

I left Paris Hungry....

I had the wonderful opportunity to take a mini-break in Paris, during the middle of the week.  A friend of mine had taken her sons to Paris for their Spring Break and asked if I would like to join them for a few days.  What girl wouldn’t want to take up such an opportunity?  So, my daughter and I boarded the EuroStar and took the train from London to Paris.  (Gotta love modern technology...only 2.5 hours UNDER the English Chanel).

It was a very, VERY quick trip with lots of walking.  Two days isn’t nearly enough time to Paris.  Even though I had recently been, there were still places I wanted to see and more experiences were to be had.  Currently living in England, I understand how expensive it is to live in Western Europe...when you convert pounds to dollars, the £7.95 burger you just ate at the pub actually cost you $ adds up.  Though England has nothing on prices compared to Paris.  Little cafes in the back streets of gay Paris will charge you 8.95 Euros for Croque Monsieur – two pieces of white bread with a slice of ham and cheese that had been placed under the broiler for about 3 minutes (The one we had actually cost 14.95 Euro).  Outrageous! 

For me, I have a difficult time eating while travelling.  It’s my fault, really, being a picky eater... I’m a chicken and plain vegetable kind of gal.  It was rare to find chicken on a menu that wasn’t covered in a heavy cream sauce (I’m also lactose intolerant... France loves its milk products).  So, choices were typically foie gras (sorry, goose fat doesn’t do it for me), lamb (have you seen their cute little faces?), or duck (too gamey).  Plus, as previously mentioned, everything is very expensive.  While I loved the opportunity to go to Paris, we did have a budget.  So, my stomach and wallet both came back very hungry!  First thing we did when we got back to London (with friends in tow) was treat them to some good English Pub grub.  I had one of the tastiest burgers in quite some time!  I don’t know if it was because I was basically starved, but the meat was flavourful and juicy....and it was a burger!

I also came back hungry for more of Paris.  It was such a tease!  We did a lot of walking the first day around the Latin Quarter after meeting in front of Notre Dame de Paris.  We were planning on going up in the tower, but the upper level was closed and there was a very long line.  By the time we discovered this, we walked back to go inside; however, the line wrapped around the block and I didn’t want to waste their vacation waiting in the line, since they had been in the day before.  I felt like Kate from the movie French Kiss (starring Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline... if you haven’t seen it, DO!)  Throughout the first part of the movie, all she wants to do is see the Eiffel Tower, being a history buff.  Notre Dame (interior) was my Eiffel Tower.  I love the outside...but one day I will actually see the INside.  My daugther’s ‘Eiffel Tower’ was the Haagen Dazs store on the Champs Elysses.

While walking through the Latin Quarter, we found our way to the Pantheon.  I was also really looking forward to going into this building, as I had just read Anna and the French Kiss (cute YA book by Stephanie Perkins) and there was quite a bit of detail about the inside of this very cool structure.  So, it only made me want more.  We then went up to Montmartre and found one section of artists, but I didn’t have time to have my portrait done.  So many things to do in Paris!

The following day we were able to see Versailles and we ended up spending most of the day there.  Once again, though, it was too large to see everything and still make it back into town for dinner reservations at 7 pm on the Ile de St. Louis.  I will have to go back to able to row a boat on the Grand Canal and see Trianon, along with the Hamlet and the Temple de l’Amour.

Walking around Paris is a wonderful thing to do.  There is so much to see and to soak in.  It deserves more than 48 hours here and there.  Each museum alone can take all day to see everything, to be able to sit and absorb the paintings (like falling in to Renoir’s Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette)…to watch the world go by while the paintings stand to be admired.  Walking in to a cool cathedral and hoping that someone will be practicing the organ for the upcoming weekend, seeing if others are in wonder at the beauty and history before them.  I definitely left Paris hungry for MORE!  (Though I will bring my own snacks and lots of lactose enzymes to eat croissants all day!)

Thursday, 7 April 2011

On Writing...Character

"What is character but the determination of incident?/ What is incident but the illustration of character?"                     --Henry James

20 Master Plots by Ronald B Tobias

'If you use your characters to say what you want them to say, you're writing propaganda.  If your characters say what they want to say, you're writing fiction.... You manipulate characters in the sense that you make them conform to the basic requirements of your plot.  You don't let them run roughshod over you.  In a sense, you build a corral for your characters to run around in.  The fence keeps them confined to the limitations of the plot.  But where they run inside the corral is a function of each character's freedom to be what or who he/she wants within the confines of the plot itself....  Start with a premise, not a conclusion.  Start with a situation.' (page 43)

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

How to Make a Journal of Your Life

Quotes from this little book by d.price

"I have seldom gone on a tramp without seeing things hat made the heart ache with their beauty or pathos, and other things that set the mind a-tingle with intellectual curiosity.  I do not refer to great episodes, but to the little things, unexpected visions of life!  Some were unforgettable in themselves and seemed to need no other tablets than those of memory, and yet it was a great addition to inner content and happiness to describe them in my day-book of travels." (pg 5)
                                              --Stephen Graham, The Gentle Art of Tramping

"It is in description that the keeper of a diary becomes artist.  All description is art, and in describing an event, an action or a being, you enter into the joy of art.  You are more than the mere secretary of life, patiently taking down dictation; you become its singer, the expresser of its glory.  With a verbal description goes also sketching, the thumbnail sketch, the vague impression.  There is no reason for being afraid of bad drawing in one's own personal travel diary.  The main thing is that it be yours and have some relationship to the eyes and the thing seen." (pg 12)
                                              --Stephen Graham, The Gentle Art of Tramping

"Believe in yourself.  Believe in your capacity.  Believe in your goodness.  Seek adventure.  Climb high mountains.  Run wild rivers.  Live daily with this spirit.  Take care.  Follow your dreams, but watch your step.  Have fun, sing, dance, laugh, and spread joy wherever you journey." (pg 65)
                                             --Royal Robbins

"Be strong and do not betray your soul.  Carry your light to illuminate your destiny.  Rejoice, for you are part of the Great Mystery." (pg 34)
                                            --old Indian saying

Friday, 1 April 2011

On Writing...

Reading through 20 Master Plots (and How to Build Them), by Ronald B. Tobias, trying to gain strength in tackling the concept of writing myself.  I am only through the introduction, but have learned a few things already.  Here are some of my favourite quotes from the book:

On describing method of writing, page 32: ‘But then Anthony Burgess, the author of A Clockwork Orange, probably said it best when he described his method: “I start at the beginning, go on to the end, and then stop.”

This reminds me of the scene in ‘Better Off Dead’ with John Cusak (great 80’s movie!) while contemplating skiing the K-2... “Go that way, really fast.  If something gets in your way, Turn!”  What great advice!

Page 32: ‘But remember what Somerset Maugham said the next time you come across something some great writer said: “There are three rules for writing a novel.  Unfortunately no one knows what they are.”

We all need to find what works for us.  I saw that one author doesn’t like to start a novel unless they know how it ends...and starts with that.  I think that I can understand this.  It might be something I will try, as endings for me are VERY important.  I cannot tell you how many books have been ruined by the ending.  Annalisa on said this about one book I was looking at: “What I don't like about chick lit (and movies) is that moment near the end where it gets awkward and embarrassing and then it gets cheesy and embarrassing. And I'm left gagging and my whole enjoyment of the tension the first half is ruined.

How many times have I felt that?!  Too many!  Maybe one of my stories, I will try this method.  I have so many story ideas, that I could definitely try this out, and see if it works...write the ending the way I want it to be, and then build the story up to that.

That’s all I have learned up to this point..will write more when I see it.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

“Wickedness is always wickedness, but folly is not always folly. It depends upon the character of those who handle it.”
JANE AUSTEN, English novelist

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

My Top Ten

My Top Ten from ‘Jane Austen Made Me Do It’ Contest

After having finally finished reading all 88 entries in the ‘Jane Austen Made Me Do It’ Short Story contest, I found myself wandering around aimlessly.  For two weeks I made it my mission to read each and every one of the stories, as I would want fellow contestants to do as well!  (As one of our daughters said, ‘Do to others as you want done to yourself.’)  I actually kept a running list of each story, and gave each one a 1 to 5 Stars, and a brief description about each (and possibly why I did or did not like it) to help me keep track of all of these delightful stories.  This was such a wonderful contest, and it has definitely left me wanting more!  We should hold one of these contests every quarter.... some of us can continue their stories, or try new spins!

I am not listing mine, (Mariah’s Match) though I loved it and will plan on writing more for it!  It will be posted once the contest is over and the Top Ten have been posted.  I must admit that by participating in this exercise, I am once again amazed at how different people truly are.  What one person finds wonderful, another may see it as pure drivel.  This fascinates me, and it shows me just how unique we are as a species!

I have decided to list my Top Ten favourites and why I enjoyed them so much.  I would love to know if some of these authors have a blog, and if they plan on continuing their stories, as I will put myself at the top of the list to read more of their story.  I am listing them numerically, but have also posted how many stars I have given each.  This just proved that there are many talented writers out there, and this reader hopes to see more from them!

27- By Any Other Name by Hannah Reynolds (Shipboard romance that makes young girl determined to go to college, set in 1900) 4 Stars

34  -The Authoress by Abby McGannon (not sure of the time period, and only briefly mentions JA or her works.  Nice story about love and the test of time.) 5 Stars

52 - All Darcy Could Do by M. M. Griffin (great ‘what-if’ P&P – Darcy goes to Mrs Bennet for help.  Well written!) 5 Stars

53 - Withersfield Park by Abigail Beaver (Mary Cawley and Mr Woodcomb at a ball – well written and leaves promise of more to come) 4 Stars

60 - Double Wedding at Longbourn by S. M. Klassen (very well-written.  Series of letters and journal entries about Jane’s and Elizabeth’s wedding) 4 Stars

64 - Unexpected Intimacies by N. W. Prynn (Lizzie finds hidden depths in Mr Darcy) 4 Stars

77– An Early Apology by Allison Phayre (day after Darcy gave Lizzie the letter, a ‘bump’ in Rosings Park.  Very well written, and wonderful vocabulary – great tone) 5 Stars

78– Assuming – A Tale of Persuasion by Hannah Cowan (contemporary redo of Persuasion – very well written and left me wanting more) 4 Stars

80 - Unexpected Joys by Angela Kaye (Kitty meets Major Pearce – fairly well written) 4 Stars

88 -The Tao of Jane by Dinah McPhail (very well written – young lady is Maid of Honor for her sister’s Austen wedding – distils bits of Austen wisdom. Well thought out and does very nice analysis of JA in fiction format) 5 Stars and my personal favourite

I would also like to point out a few Honorable Mentions.  These are all 4 Star stories, but there were so many of them, on my sheet.  However, these, I feel, deserve to be mentioned as they had me laughing out loud, or I just liked the premise of them.

#29 – Mr. Wickham’s Folly by Faith Williams (Getting Rid of Wickham, who only wants his ‘sister’ Elizabeth)
#30 – SWF Seeks Mr. Darcy by Carissa Shealy (personal ad taken out to find her Mr. Darcy – amusing scene with a Sir Darcy Blakeney ‘Sink Me’)
#31 – Attempting Elizabeth by Jessica Melendez (time travelling into P&P and trying to get into Elizabeth’s character – leaves off for a continuation)
#35 – Flirting with Trouble by Tess Quinn (Georgiana decides to flirt with Bingley, in order to improve her skills – well-written, though a few errors.)
#36 – The Girls of Netherfield Park by Marybeth Ihle (diary of young orphan during WWII and how JA novels helped her get through tough times)
#43 – Want and Will by Jessica M. Gordon (college Austen class with guy and girl.  Well-written)
#45 – The Stars are Fire by Lindsey Jane (blog about Radcliffe and his ship Udolpho – with Persuasion elements)