Tag Archives: Gone with the Wind

Mothers…we all have them

Today is one of those days my husband refers to  Hallmark-made days. A day – he feels – greeting card companies institute and promote. I think I read somewhere  there are more cards sent on this day than on Valentine’s day and Easter combined.

And I believe it because we all have, or have had at some time, a Mother. We wouldn’t be here right now if we didn’t.

Since I am such an avid reader, Mother’s day got me to thinking about all the famous and infamous mothers in literature. There have been a bunch of memorable ones and like I’ve said before, Google and Wikipedia have lists for everything, so did a search for the Best Mothers in fiction.

Here are some of the tops names. See how many you recognize and if you agree with their inclusion in the list.

It’s interesting, I think, to note that two of the moms are defacto moms, not biological ones. Mammy, in GWTW, is Scarlett O’Hara’s nanny, and is African American to Scarlett’s lilly white, but she is closer to her than any mother who gave birth to her. Mammy is the sound of  Scarlett’s  conscious on most decisions, and cares for her charge more than Scarlett’s mother ever did. Mame Dennis is Patrick’s Aunt, but she raises him after he is orphaned and brings him to maturity, offering him a world of excitement and adventure to squash his staid upbringing. She instills in him a sense of fun and whimsy he’s never had before, all the while showing him unconditional love and devotion.

I also find it interesting that two of the moms – Mammy and Marmee – are raising their “children” during times of war and national strife and economic downfall. They valiantly attempt to protect their young from all the horrors of war – famine, poverty, loss – and help their children grow into productive adults. Ma Ingalls has to face uprooting her family to travel west for a better life. She copes with floods, drought, sickness, blindness, famine and poverty within her family, yet always manages to make their lives a little bit better through her kind actions and thoughtful heart.

Mrs. Lancaster must deal with every parent’s nightmare : a sick and potentially dying child with cancer. She wants nothing more than to make her daughter’s life light and happy despite the tragic diagnosis, and through her caring and loving ways, she epitomizes the intrinsic and internal strength of will every mother possesses.

That’s what I come away with from having read all these books: the strength of the “mothers.” Be it internal, external, religious or spiritual, all these women have strength, Strength of character, of morality, emotional strength, fortitude, and determination. There is not one mother on this list who wouldn’t fight to the death to protect their young. The instinctual force of maternal protection inhabits every one of them.

Today, think about your Mom, or the person you consider Mom. In a way it’s a little sad we have to earmark one day a year  to remember her – we should be paying her homage everyday, and in the perfect world without stressors and strife, we would. But today, call her and tell her what she means to you. Sending a card or flowers is nice, but in reality, the thing your mom wants most is the gift of your time – of you!

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The Power of Friends… in Literature

Where would Nancy Drew be without George Fayne? Where would Huck Finn have wound up without Tom Sawyer? Scarlett may have derided her, but Melanie Wilkes was her best friend hook, line,  sinker and soul. What about Elizabeth Bennett and Charlotte Lucas? Without Charlotte, Lizzy may just have wound up married to the horrible Mr Collins. Charlotte did her a solid by marrying the little worm. Harry Potter,  Ron Weasley and even Hermione,  were the best of ‘mates. And dear God, could we have had Sherlock Holmes without John Watson?

In my last post I talked about my friends and what having them in my life means to me. Literature is  chock-full of besties and we are all better for having shared in their friendships, albeit second  hand.

Friends in literature serve so many purposes aside from simply being  “a friend.” They are foils for one another’s characters; sounding boards for ideas, problems, and resolutions; cheerleaders and soul soothers, and best of all, the true  friend will always steer you in the right direction when you are going the wrong way, tell you if you have spinach in your teeth, and hold your hair back when you need to vomit. This last one is literally and theoretically!

My two favorite books of all time are Gone with The Wind and The Wizard of Oz. Both are rife with the beauty and detail of friendship. In both, the main characters of Dorothy and Scarlett need to find their way: home and in life. The TinMan, Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow all help Dorothy face trials, tests,  and tribulations in order to find her way back  to Kansas, to Auntie Em’s loving care, and to discover her heart’s desire. Scarlett is Melanie’s opposite in every way, except in their love for Ashley, and in  this opposition of character details, each woman brings out the best in the other. Despite what many historians have postulated, I really do think Scarlett’s road to redemption begins when she brings Melanie back to Tara after the birth of Beau. She risks her life to make sure they all get home safe and sound. Whether you believe it is for a selfish reason, such as ensuring Ashley knows Scarlett helped his wife, or  – like me – because deep down Scarlett was truly a good and loyal person, their relationship ( Scarlett and Melanie’s) is the strongest and most enduring in the novel.

When a writer creates friends, he/she needs to know what each friend brings to the relationship table. It’s simply not enough to have the main character have friends. They serve purposes, both positive and negative, and these purposes enrich the novel and the character’s quest. They play off one another, spark ideas between them, and – such as in the case of Holmes and Watson – better the lives of the people surrounding them. Ron and Hermione show Harry Potter that people do care about him -not because he is a wizard – but because he is a person with feelings and desires, just like they are. Sharing triumphs, failures, tears, and joy are just some of the emotions friends go through together.

Think about your favorites books. What are the friend relationships like? Is the book made better because of them?  What does each friend bring to the relationship table for the main character? When you write, think about these facets. Your book will be richer for it, and sound more true-to-life.

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Titles…

Someone asked me the other day how I come up with the titles to my stories and novels.  They are all different and don’t really follow a common thread. Book titles, I feel, are like your children’s names: you want them to be unique, but not so unique they become albatrosses or points of ridicule. I discovered through research  (okay, through Google!) there is an entire industry devoted just to this: how to pick the correct words to capture a reader from the get-go; the word combinations never to use in a title; the words that have the most impact on sales.

I know some writers who use song titles for their books and expound on them in the story.  I love this idea. I know another author who writes down every combination of a phrase based on what the book is about until the perfect title presents itself. I also love this idea.  Some experts say never to have more than one word or two at the most in the title so that it grabs the reader’s attention.  Long winded names can be turn offs to people glancing at the book rack in Barnes and Noble. The key, advertising executives always say, is “short, punchy, and memorable.”The original working titles for my favorite all time book, Gone With The Wind, were Tomorrow is another day and Ba! Ba! Black Sheep.

Now would GWTW have been such a mega hit if it had one of those titles? Who knows. I certainly don’t think the movie would have done as well with the sheep title, do you?

To Kill a Mockingbird was called Atticus before Harper Lee – thankfully – changed it.

And my favorite title change – more about why in a bit – was Pride and Prejudice. Austen originally called it First Impressions.

Now my titles are usually the first thing that pops into my head when I’m working a new plot through. I don’t try to be cute or fancy or erudite. I just “see” the title in my head, and that’s it for me. I’ve never had an editor or even a reader tell me the work was mis-named or would have been better suited to some other title. Maybe this is arrogant on my part, and okay, I’ll agree with that. They are, after all, MY titles. But again, just like when  you name a child, you want the title/name to be a reflection of your thought and love. You want it to be able to convey something of what the book is about when you are trying to capture a potential reader’s attention. Skater’s Waltz has two words and is actually a piece of music. There’s No place Like Home, has 5 and it’s a sentence in one of my favorite movies, The Wizard of Oz. My third book, which I am thrilled to announce just went to contract, is First Impressions. See now why I like that Austen changed her title?

Titles are like names. They should be individual, coherent, and special. They should capture a reader’s attention and their desire to want to read more. Think of your favorite book titles. Do they fit in with this thought? I know mine do.

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The 10 Book Challenge

Recently on Facebook, I’ve seen several posts about people who have been challenged by friends and family to list 10 books that changed their lives. No one has challenged me, but I think this is a great blog topic, so here goes.

The 10 books that have had a profound impact on me during my life are – in no particular order:

1. The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper. Best book about self actualization ever written.

2. The Wizard of Oz ( Dorothy’ Adventures in Oz)  by Frank L Baum. Because there really is no place like home.

3. Irish Thoroughbred by Nora Roberts. First Nora I ever read. This story and this writer gave me my love of romantic fiction.

4. Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss.  First romance with actual sex in it I ever read. Quite an education, in addition to being a great story.

5. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey. Helped me focus on the goals I wanted to attain during my lifetime.

6. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. In my opinion, the most perfect book ever written.

7. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. As a child raised in the 1960’s and 70’s, this book brought home the meaning of racial inequality like no other to me.

8.  The Oxford American Dictionary. Hello! It’s filled with WORDS!! Fabulous words!!

9. The Bible. This one needs no explanation.

10. Become a Better You by Joel Osteen. This book really did help make me a better person.

So, what are the books that have influenced you?

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Filed under Author, Characters, Contemporary Romance, Family Saga, Literary characters, Romance

Why I re-read my “how to” books

Someone who read a recent blog of mine blog asked me “why do you re-read your old writing texts and “how to” books? Didn’t you get enough out of them the first time? Did you miss important stuff? Instead of answering the question directly, I asked this instead: “Haven’t you ever read something – a book,or an article – that was just so good you read it again just for the pleasure of it?” The answer I got back was typical of most people: “No. Once I read something, that’s it. I’m done.”

A sad, but a very common occurrence among  people. Most people will see a movie more than once if they like it – this is evidenced based fact: look at how many movie DVD’s are sold each and every day, not rented. Or, they will listen to a song endlessly. But to re-read a favored book? Not happening.

I’ve read Gone with the Wind  11 times. Cover to cover. And I could read it again tomorrow if I had the time to devote to it.

I’ve read To Kill A Mockingbird 8 times. I can quote descriptions and dialogue when prompted.

Last year I re-read every “In Death” book by J.D.Robb again, starting with the first one in the series, Naked in Death and finishing with the most current one Concealed in Death, straight out. I didn’t read anything else until I finished all of them. Re-reading the list in order, the way it was written, was very powerful for me.  I could see and watch how J.D.Robb grew her characters with each book, building on their personalities, using their individual backgrounds to advance the plot and the series characters themselves. It was  like taking a master class on how to develop character and plot arcs effectively. I gleamed so much valuable information and writing development wisdom from re-reading the series that has helped me enormously with my own writing.

To me, re-reading a favored book is more pleasurable than seeing a favored movie over and over again. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve seen The Birdcagat least two dozen times – and every time I laugh while I quote the dialogue! But to spend time to re-read a book, one that gave you such treasured hours of pleasure, one that, every time you read it, you learn something new, or find something new from, something you didn’t see before, is to me one of life’s most wonderful ways to spend a few hours.

Re-reading my writing craft books and texts brings me the same pleasure, because every time – EVERY TIME – I find something, some tidbit, some phrase of wisdom, I didn’t see when I read it the last time. And to me, that is time so valuably spent.

What’s your favorite book? When was the last time you read it? Why not get reacquainted and read it again? Believe me, you’ll be happy when you do.

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Reading

“The first time I read a new book, it is to me just as if I had gained a new friend; when I read over a book I have perused before it resembles the meeting with an old friend.” Oliver Goldsmith 

This quote resonates with me because I have been known to read and re-read books, sometimes yearly. I’ve read Gone with the Wind once ever year since I was in college. I read every Nora Roberts book when it is first released and then when it is re-released. The joy I experience when I read The End in a book, is only surmounted by the joy I feel when I start a favored book again. It doesn’t matter that I know the outcome. What matters is that the story being read is a good one. And, like  Goldsmith alludes to in his quote, the meeting of the words again is like meeting up with an old and treasured friend.

Why do I write? I’ve explored this topic before, but today I can answer it in a little more depth by asking, “Why do I read?”

Why do we read? What compels us, as a civilized people, to record our words? Many reasons come to my mind, not the least of which is to be entertained. I enjoy losing myself in a book, its characters, its plot lines and twists. A good story, like a good story teller, is a commodity. Anyone can write a book. All you need is a basic command of the language and a plot. But to write a good story, one that lasts, tests the passage of time, that entertains, educates, and makes one think, that takes talent. I read nowadays to be entertained. In college, I read to be educated. When I was in grade school, I read in order to learn how to read: what the definition of the words were, what the punctuation meant. As a baby I was read to in order to calm me down and prepare me for bed.

When we only had real bound books and paper products to read, such as newspapers and magazines, reading was something we usually did in the privacy of our homes or at school. The techno-age, which  may end up being the death of paper, has allowed our civilization the  freedom to read at any time, any where, and to read anything. Books, magazines, periodicals, blogs, diaries, history, spreadsheets, anything that can be printed that needs to be read can now be uploaded and stored on a myriad of personal devices. People now read while standing in line at the grocery market, waiting for trains and plains, even while walking down the street – which can prove hazardous! And we still read for all the same reasons: to be entertained, educated, informed, enlightened, stimulated, and calmed.

I have a Kindle, a Kindle app on my Ipad and a Kindle app on my phone so I am never without my current reading material. NEVER. I remember a time when I went on vacation and had to limit myself to one hardbound book so as not to take up too much of my suitcase room. Now, I take my Ipad and I have thousands of books at my fingertips any time I want.

So. Back to why I read. Basically, I like to lose myself in characters that bare no resemblance to me and into plots that I will never find myself  embroiled in. For a few stolen hours I like to imagine worlds where love does concur all, good always triumphs over evil, and greed is not good. So because those are the sorts of books I like to read, those are also the sorts of books I like to write.

There’s an old adage that states “Write what you know.” If I were the one penning that concept, I would say, “Read and write what you like.”

I do.  Do you?

Any thoughts?

 

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