Monday, January 29, 2018

The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright - Book Review

Greetings Pups,

You know what I love? Letters. Good, old-fashioned, handwritten letters. No, seriously, kids. These aren't just fairy tale things. They actually existed at one time. That one time when people gave a crap. Okay, harsh, I know, but as someone who values words, you can't be surprised that I feel this way. Now someone might counter my argument by saying that an email or even a text can contain the same words, so what's the difference? Well, much like how an ebook also can have the same story as a physical book, there is a difference. To me and to many others, while the words might be the same, books and letters make those words more real. They make those words something you can touch and hold. They make those words an experience. So, yes, I would take a letter or a book over anything any day. And, therefore, you can imagine just how much I would love a book about letters. So, even though I feel like I'm using certain words WAY too much, let's discuss a book called The Wednesday Letters.

The Wednesday Letters is a 2007 novel by Jason F. Wright. Admittedly, I picked it up because of the subject matter. The story is about Jack and Laurel Cooper, a couple who were together for 39 years and died in each other's arms. This isn't a spoiler. It's in the synopsis. Anyway, in the wake of the tragedy, their three children Matthew, Malcolm and Samantha, come together to make arrangements for the unexpected double funeral.

While going through the remnants of their parents life, they find a collection of letters that Jack had written to Laurel every Wednesday for all their years together. They begin to read the letters, at first, out of order, but soon they begin to uncover secrets about their family that none of them were aware of. As expected, these revelations cause tension between them and accusations and blame to be thrown around. And in the midst of dealing with this crushing family drama, each of the grown children are dealing with issues in the world outside their family home. With each passing moment, they consume themselves with trying to find answers and a way to move on with this new life they are now being forced to live.

I had no idea what to really expect when I picked up this book. I could tell that it was some kind of a faith based story, and believe it or not, I am often wary of those. Yes, I am a Christian and I enjoy a good story about faith, but on occasion, I think some religious writers, as well as film makers and musicians, are afraid to go too far, for fear of pushing away a devoted and built in fan base. They can also become complacent at times. So, it was nice to read this book that was written well and, while not going into gratuitous details, managed to tackle some very, very hard and dark subjects. And I think it did this fairly.

Now, over on the GoodReads, some of the criticisms people lobbed at this were that it was too much like a Hallmark movie, maybe with a dash of Lifetime. Okay, to be fair, it does have some of those elements, but it's not that bad. Not that I don't like Hallmark or Lifetime movies. I like them quite a bit actually, but this book is its own thing. I can admit that there were a few sappy and overly sentimental moments, especially with some of the phrases being said. Still, it's a book about getting ready for a funeral, so what do you expect?

I will say that what I enjoyed most about this book is that it's a story about the value and the power of forgiveness. And there are a lot of people in this that have to do some hardcore forgiving, even to the point where those who don't have a full grasp of the concept of it might think it's unrealistic. But it's the situations where forgiveness is the hardest thing to do, yet people still do it, that can make anyone understand that power.

In closing, I'd say I would recommend this book. I know it won't be for everyone, but if it sounds like something you'd like, then you'll probably like it. I certainly did, enough to possibly check out the sequel that I just found out exists. So, I guess I'll have to see where the story goes.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Monday, January 22, 2018

Waiting Vs. Working

Greetings Pups,

I've been browsing the interwebs lately, looking for videos about writing, as I tend to do on a regular basis. Something that came up in quite a few of them was debating the idea of the muse, like how much should writers depend on sheer, unadulterated inspiration and how much should they just do the work no matter how inspired they feel.

Believe it or not, there are some people who fall very firmly in one of these two categories. There are people who seem to be hardcore against any romanticizing of the writing process. It's just work, then work, then more work and your book is done. I wonder if they even enjoy writing or if they just do it because they happen to be good at it. On the other hand, there are people who totally see writing as that thing you do, but only if you have been visited by those aforementioned muses. So, they spend all their time waiting for them, instead of, you know, writing and whatnot. These people tend to not finish much.

Despite all of this, I'm happy to say that I think most writers understand that we have to embrace a combination of these two things. Anyone who is really a writer knows that it is a job, whether or not you're getting paid, it is hard work. But there are also times when you are absolutely inspired. Knowing that inspiration is somewhere drives us to continue, but knowing that we have to work is how we start in the first place.

I was thinking about this a few days ago, so I wrote a little something down and I shared it on my social media. I figured I would just share it again here, just to get my point across. Enjoy.

"A moment of inspiration that comes out of nowhere is like winning the lottery. There is always a possibility that it will happen, sometimes it does happen, but it is rare. The moments of inspiration that visit us on a regular basis, the ones that we are used to, the ones we expect, they are like paychecks, and we have to work for them. Those muses that we allow ourselves to believe in, they rarely drop by unannounced. We have to invite them in, make them feel at home, let them do their work. And the way we do that is by doing our work. Everything that makes us writer, makes us true artists, is waiting for us, but it won't come to us. We have to go to it. We have to travel, search, toil and cultivate everything that makes us who we are. Everything that makes what we do, what we create, matter. We can't just say we want to get somewhere. We have to go there."

So, yes, that is my take on this whole subject. As far as I'm concerned, when it comes to being an artist of any kind, work and inspiration go hand in hand. If you want the experience of it all in the way that it's meant to be, you have to embrace both of them. Once you do that and if you've got a gift for said artistic endeavor, that is when you might, you just might, do something very special.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Monday, January 15, 2018

Karliene - YouTube Channel Review

Greetings Pups,

If you read my year end posts about music in 2017, you'll know that I was quite unenthusiastic about most of what I heard. So many of the songs I listened to were either bad or samey-sounding or both. Mostly both. All of that makes me sad because I've lived through years, even in my relatively short life, where artists were being very innovative and creative and original. I barely see that anymore. So, when I do come across someone who is unique and good where their music is concerned, I kind of hold onto them for dear life. Such is the case with the person whose YouTube Channel I am discussing today, Karliene.

Karliene is Karliene Reynolds. She is a wonderful singer and songwriter that I discovered a few years ago whilst I was looking for covers of the song "The Last Unicorn". Don't judge me. Anyway, she did a version of it with another great singer, Ashley Serena. The video was actually on Ashley's channel, but, through it, I made my way over to Karliene's channel and started exploring.

The first thing I noticed, of course, was her angelic voice. That may be an overused adjective in some cases, but with her, it's quite accurate. Her voice sounds like no one else I can think of and that is a very good thing. It's powerful yet soothing, strong yet ethereal, all at the same time. That is not easy to do. Another thing that immediately intrigued me was her style. Like many people, she does her share of cover songs, but she also has a lot of original songs. And with all of them, she makes them distinctly here own. They all have a feel to them that's either a bit Celtic or very much sounding like something you'd hear in a fantasy film score or maybe something Medieval. It's a bit hard for me to describe, but you'll understand when you hear it. My point is that she is doing something different. Yes, there may be a few other artists who are similar, but that style is not oversaturated to where I don't want to hear it. We have just enough of this beautiful music and she is making a significant contribution to it.

But I think the one thing that has drawn me into her world and kept me there for so long is the fact that she seems to be able to find inspiration in anything, particularly she finds it in the art of others. I love it when that happens. Actually, it's something that I do a lot myself and am often met with strange looks for it. In fact, when I dedicated a whole section of my first book to poems about a specific film, even I was hesitant about doing it. Karliene, however, has made me see that this is exactly what artists are supposed to do - inspire each other.

Speaking of which, this would be a good time for me to bring up my favorite thing that she has ever done (so far). Back in August of 2017, Karliene released an album of songs all which were inspired by the poem, The Highwayman, written by Alfred Noyes. Amazingly, she wrote seven songs that stemmed from the story of this one poem, and they are all so good. I may have to do a separate review for that. Anyway, there are three main reasons why I love this album so much. First, the music itself is just so incredible and moving, and it paints a beautiful picture of the story through the eyes of a different artist than the one who wrote it originally. Second, it clearly proves that she appreciates poetry, which is something that obviously I appreciate in return. Third, this whole project has inspired me to return to one of my own that I had seemingly abandoned, wherein I was writing songs inspired by my favorite book, The Last Sin Eater. After seeing what was done here, I have decided to get to work on that once again. So, thank you for that very much, Miss Karliene.

Honestly, there are so many reasons why I would tell you to go to this channel to check out this artist. As I said before, she is talented and unique and has a gift that I don't see often anymore. Best of all, she seems like a delight of a person, which makes me want to support her even more so. I want everyone to hear her music, and I wouldn't mind if she got noticed by some musical legends to do some collaborating. I certainly wouldn't mind hearing a duet with her and Tori Amos. I'd love to see that, too, since they both have the most gorgeous red hair. But, seriously, so many people should be lining up to sing alongside her.

In conclusion, if you are looking for some wonderful, creative music, something different from whatever in the world they are playing on the radio these days, I strongly suggest you check out Karliene.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer


Monday, January 8, 2018

A Few Words About Sue Grafton

Greetings Pups,

As many of you know, 2017 had its ups and downs. Unfortunately, it came to a close on a bit of a sad note, as on December 28, we lost one of the world's best writers and one of my personal favorites, Sue Grafton.

I know I'm a bit late talking about this, but I wanted it to sink in. And I'm not going to go into some long, biographical rundown on her life here. There are plenty of other places where you can read those. I just wanted to say a few, quick words about my own experience as one of her readers.

I discovered her books while I was in the library looking for some good mysteries. I picked up the first in her "Alphabet Series", "A" Is For Alibi, featuring her private investigator lead character, Kinsey Millhone. I immediately loved these books and especially Kinsey. She was everything that a strong, female lead should be. In other words, she was real. I see so much talk about people wanting those aforementioned "strong, female leads", but sometimes I think what they want is a Mary Sue type. I do not like those. I want a character who feels like an actual person. And Kinsey was exactly that. She was smart, but didn't get everything right. She could take care of herself, but also could ask for help. She was loved by some, not so much by others. She wasn't perfect and she wasn't a blank slate. She had actual flaws and an actual personality. Again, she was real. And I would tell anyone who wants to write a great and proper female lead for a book to go to this series for some lessons. Because Kinsey was something special.

And Sue Grafton was special, too. She had a way of pulling you into these stories, getting you involved with the world and caring a lot about the characters. Though many writers can pull that off, sometimes we can forget what a gift it is to be able to do it and do it for so long. Well, Sue could do it. She had that gift and she was a gift to us.

While the saddest thing about her death is just that, of course, many of us who have traveled through the alphabet with her and Kinsey are heartbroken to learn that her last book, "Y" Is For Yesterday, will be the last one, prompting many people to adopt the phrase, "The Alphabet Ends With 'Y'". I think she was planning to release the Z book in a couple of years, but she hadn't even started it yet, so there was no manuscript and her family will not hire a ghostwriter. At first I was sad about this, but I realized that, all things considered, it is for the best.

I had always been someone who hoped for a Kinsey movie or a TV series, and I didn't know that, apparently, Sue did not want anything like that. And she would not have wanted a ghostwriter either. I think she didn't want anyone writing about Kinsey but her. I agree. Sometimes characters and their writers become extremely connected, and this is certainly no exception. These two were practically one and the same. So, when I really think about it, I wouldn't want anyone else writing her anyway.

Still, I feel like, in a way, there is a final book. Not the "Z" Is For _____ book we had wanted, but something less tangible. I think Sue Grafton's final book, her final chapter, will come from everyone who knew and loved here. It will be filled with the stories about her told by her friends and family, the stories that we, the readers, will tell about our experiences with her as a writer. And every time one of us tells a new reader to pick up one of her books, another page will be added. That is how we will help her legacy to live on.

So, in closing, I will miss Sue Grafton and what she may have written, but I will hold on to all the stories she did give us. I will be entertained by them and learn from them, just as she wanted. Just as she succeeded in doing.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Monday, January 1, 2018

Hopes For the New Year

Greetings Pups,

Happy New Year everyone! Hope you all made it through New Year's Eve without incident. And if you got embarrassingly drunk, I hope it wasn't in front of a nationwide TV audience, because that is the job of famous people as we all know. I personally spent the night with an amazing man . . . named Rod Serling. Yes, as per usual, I rolled in the New Year with the Twilight Zone marathon. I can't imagine there being a better way to do so. Didn't hurt that the snow was keeping me inside.

Anyway, as I sat home, I had some moments to think about the things I want to accomplish in the next twelve months. I suppose I could just repeat what I said last year at this time, since most of those didn't come to fruition. I haven't finished the books I had intended to, at least not the entire process of preparing them for publication, and I haven't started my podcast yet, though I have someone interested in maybe helping me out with that. And sadly, I am still in my crumbling house. I guess it's an accomplishment to have survived another year in it, and I could have NO place to live, so I have to be grateful. Still, I am praying for some miracle that will allow me to have something a little better (and safer) to live in.

Now I hate to be the kind of person who makes excuses and I certainly don't want to blame anything or anybody for my failures, but I imagine that I could have done a lot more in the past year had I not had to deal with a few rather serious bouts of depression and some health issues, which most likely affected each other. You kinda don't wanna to much when you're in that place, so I didn't do much. But, thankfully, I didn't do nothing either.

Despite falling a bit short for 2017, I did manage to do some things. If you saw my post yesterday, you'll know I read 115 books in the year, which is something. I hear that reading makes you a better writer, so hopefully, some of that will sink in and help me. I won NaNoWriMo again, so I have yet another novel to edit and possibly publish. Despite how much I am not a fan of the editing process, I'll put this in the plus column. And I also started making videos for my YouTube, and formerly, VidMe (R.I.P.) channel. They're not exactly the fanciest things, just some poetry videos that I make in Windows Movie Maker and a few other ones peppered in there, but you never know who might find them, which could lead to more book sales, which could lead to my making some cash, which I desperately need at the moment. Ya know, it's quite frustrating to do all that work and then have to wait a very long time for a payday. And yet, I do it anyway, because I have to.

So, when it comes to this New Year, I just want to get my life together. Maybe I won't make any long term goals. Maybe it's better to go day by day and accomplish what you can. It's less overwhelming and handling things one at a time can, I think, make you get to more of them. Eventually, it will all build up to something big. All I can hope for is to make it through another year, but if I can get some things done, possibly even some great things, it can be even better.

God bless you all in 2018 and beyond.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer