Monday, January 11, 2021

Me Writing a Screenplay and Maybe Next Year I'll Become an Astronaut or a Doctor


You know that scene in Legally Blonde where the professor says, Do you think she woke up one morning and said, I think I'll go to Law School today? Well that reminds me of me deciding, Oh, hey, I think I'll write a screenplay of the Gummy book. That's what I call Nobody Told Me Love in the Time of Dementia, my memoir about me, my mother-in-law, and dementia. 

After that decision my reality became a tsunami of new information to learn, software to choose/purchase/master, skills to miraculously acquire, and incredible friends who pointed me toward incredible opportunities that I don't begin to deserve. 

Why I thought this was doable is downright foolish. That's exactly the attitude that got me writing books to begin with. One day I really did wake up and decide that after decades of writing stories in secret, I was going to finish an entire novel and figure out how to get it published. 

That's all well and good. Finishing the book is the famously difficult part. It is to be applauded. Yet getting it published was a whole new difficulty. Publishing is a business, much to the colossal disappointment of countless writers like myself, and you actually have to learn it and do the work. Yes, after all the effort of writing the book, then you have to learn about the publishing business.

You might think that would have given me a clue about writing a screenplay

Why I thought that adapting a memoir to a screenplay would be basically a formatting issue is a tribute to my clueless optimism. (My muse is whispering, dumb dumb dumb.) I'm still trying to figure out the screenwriting software. Sure, I wrote one screenplay start to finish already, but no, I still haven't really figured out the software. 

I'm a visual learner. I had the story in my head. I had the movie in my head. I got copies of other screenplays and I tried to duplicate the formatting. Sorta, kinda.

Hey, I took a Masterclass and read books about it!

It's still clueless and precisely how I began the novel writing process so long ago. (Wait, how do you format dialog? *opens a book to see*) Ignorance really is bliss. That's why I enjoy writing first drafts so much, before you have to do it all again properly. Anything is possible when you first begin writing and before you start the slow climb to publication/reality. Over time I've developed a method. This is my secret: I turn shitty first drafts into novels with the tenacity of one of those whales attacking boats off the coast of Spain. BAM. BAM. This is MY boat. BAM. BAM. Do as I demand. BAM. BAM. Surrender, mortal!

My technique is to write a thing and then continuously rewrite it as I storm the seas until I find a way to make it a real book. I suppose that'll work for screenplays too. 

Or not.

The book Nobody Told Me Love in the Time of Dementia is a book I rewrote eighteen times. Keep in mind it's a true story. You might think that would have given me an edge and cut down on all the rewriting. It didn't. Who knows how many times I'll rewrite the screenplay? I keep working and rewriting until I find my flow. Tenacity is my superpower. 

Maybe by the time I'm finished rewriting the Nobody Told Me screenplay, I'll have figured out the

screenwriting software. (It worked for Microsoft Word.) More importantly, as I attempt this new technique, I'm really building some unused writing muscles, plus I'm networking and learning as I go. This month I began another screenwriting class. MOOC classes are my favorite way to learn new skills. 

If publishing is big business, movies/television/plays are a freaking Goliath/Amazonian/Giant! 

Tenacity looks a lot like those whales. It might not make sense to onlookers, but my muse and I know exactly what we're doing. (Banging our heads against the bottom of a boat, right? Surrender, mortal!)

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer—The story of Christopher Johnson McCandless


There's a 2007 movie about this story. Like in most every case of book versus movie, the book is more in-depth and factual. After a long trek through Alaska, a friend sent me a copy of the book telling me to read it to know the true story. 

Wilderness Adventure

While I'd found the movie beautiful (Alaska) and inspiring, I found the book sobering for many reasons. First, a hush of reverence hit me. The book contains quotes by Thoreau, Muir, and lesser known naturalists. What sobered me was the unimaginable courage of anyone who can walk into the wilderness alone and with no backup. I've sampled enough motha nature to know I couldn't expect to walk out if I did that. 

The book contains stories besides McCandless's, stories about climbing icy peaks and dangerous wild wilderness adventures—some with better endings than others. What struck me was the draw of taking such risks for the reward of communing with a more ancient side of our nature. These stories happened before Instagram and are about adventures taken for quiet, personal reasons. Secondly, that motive is something I miss in stories coming out of the world today. The only glory found in these stories is internal and private. I admire that in a human being.

Personal Reasons

Any quest taken for purely personal reasons, without happening to have a camera crew on hand, impresses me. For that alone I appreciate Christopher (Alex Supertramp) McCandless's striving, optimism, and determination. I also appreciate the author, Jon Krakauer, and his effort to uncover this story including what happened to Chris McCandless in the end. 

It's not likely the truth would have ever been known if not for Krakauer's efforts. 

It's definitely worth a read. It's a very centering book. It made me think about what my inner hero needs and it's not Instagram. 

Sunday, January 3, 2021

The Hating Game A Novel by Sally Thorne—A Quick Read & Pure Escapism


This one is pure escapism

Often when I ask someone what they like to read and we talk classics, non-fiction, memoirs, biographies, and literature, I'll add but what is your go-to escapism reading? You know the kind of book you devour but don't necessarily remember to add to recommendations, something you picked up and couldn't put down? 

Because reading can be just for fun

For Christmas I received a delicious pile of books: Coffee-table books, inspirational, bestsellers, non-fiction, and books that are friend's favorites (including some translated into English from other languages). Books are my favorite gifts to receive. I feel like the luckiest person ever to have vetted and recommended piles of books waiting for me. It's great when I can literally cozy into my over-sized chair with them scattered beside me, piled on the floor, and a few in my lap and read one after another. 

Movies are great, but books are my first love. They contain MORE detail, deeper story!

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne was a gift and came with the instructions to take a day and read it obsessively. It's pure escapism and just fun. It's about two co-workers who absolutely despise each other. They share an office. It's told from the point of view of Lucy Hutton. The publishing house she works for merged with another publishing house and now she has to compete with Joshua Templeman, a priggish and perfect man who judges her every move and never smiles.

Lucie initiates various games against Joshua, keeping track of his predictable behavior and trying to one-up him as he effortlessly wins every battle she wages. Things get heated when they compete for an upcoming promotion they both want and they keep Human Resources busy with their hijinks. I laughed out loud and read until the wee hours of the morning, unable to put the book down and go to bed. 

It's a fast-paced story and you won't want to put it down either!

In fact I planned to reread it to deconstruct Thorne's writing style. I was that impressed with her technique. Maybe I will get to that in time—after I've read all the other vetted and gifted gems vying for my attention. Have I mentioned how much I love to read? It's one of my favorite things, especially when a book keeps me laughing out loud.

Monday, December 28, 2020

The Science of Happiness—Berkeley edX—online learning during a pandemic


In order to focus on things besides the latest pandemic news and to continue to learn and grow as a person, I decided to take edX's The Science of Happiness by BerkeleyX . It teaches positive psychology and science-based principles for a happy and meaningful life. 

Heads up, The Science of Happiness isn't about becoming ridiculously happy all the time or not feeling what you really feel. It's about living your best meaningful life. It's smart and insightful and like any science-based class it's backed up with research and facts. 

It's a big class. That means it takes a chunk of time. The overview says about five hours a week for eleven weeks. I gave myself only five weeks to do it because I have deadlines approaching and had to. A more leisurely pace would have been easier, but I also do better on quizzes and tests if the course material is still fresh in my vestibular migraine head. 

Free or Verified

Verified Track vs. Free

If you choose to take the verified track it offers plenty of extra reading material, podcasts, videos, and even books. I ordered several (you don't have to and they're at your own cost but I was so fascinated by aspects of this class that I wanted the extra material). I'd guesstimate I spent about twenty-plus hours a week on the class. That doesn't include reading the books I purchased, which I haven't done yet. 

Assignments were almost all pleasant, and they were all fascinating. They're suggested tasks to help discover what happiness practices work best for you. I learned things about myself in this class that I thought I knew, but didn't. (Who knew, but some of the things that have annoyed me about hubby for the past centuries aren't all him.) It taught me better communication skills and ways to incorporate happiness-inducing changes in my life. 

It is time well spent

A few of the incredible concepts studied that I found particularly profound are as follows:

Mindfulness, the difference between being Thankful and Gratitude, Empathy, Compassion, Kindness, Maximizer/Satisficer, Why Self-Compassion trumps Self-Esteem, Flow, Habituation & Adaptation, Gratitude in Schools/Romantic Relationships, The Science of Awe. 

As with other edX classes, you can skip the verified track and take it for free. However you chose to increase your happiness, I do recommend checking out The Science of Happiness and the Greater Good Science Center. Especially during this anxiety-producing pandemic, it can help you sort your priorities and learn coping skills. 

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Pyramids of Giza: Ancient Egyptian Art & Archaeology—Harvard edX—an incredible online learning opportunity in the time of a pandemic

Feeling restless? Wanderlust? Me too. I found a great way to scratch that itch during this pandemic and next time, someday, when I can go back to Egypt, I'll know a heck of a lot more about what I'm looking at thanks to I took a HarvardX online course called Pyramids of Giza: Ancient Egyptian Art and Archaeology

There's even a free version, so you have no excuse if Ancient Egypt is your thing. I've never had so much fun taking a class before in my life. It wasn't just the subject matter either—hieroglyphs, Old Kingdom tombs, and pharaohs. The professor was brilliant, engaging and articulate. I enjoyed it so much I tore through an eight week course in half the time. Mind you, I put way more time into it than if I'd moved at the leisurely 2-4 hours a week suggested. 

The Great Pyramids of Egypt on the Giza Plateau are surrounded by tombs. They're underground and unlike the Great Pyramids (Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure), many are decorated with art. The pyramids themselves are named after the kings who built them, from an older kingdom, and are from a more basic plainer time. When I went inside the Great Pyramid I was surprised at the utter lack of decoration, not realizing it was from a time before Ancient Egyptians decorated tombs so extensively.

The underground tombs in the Giza complex were excavated in part by Harvard's own Archaeologist George Reisner. The class goes over the countries and archaeologists involved in the heyday of Egyptology in a truly engaging and informative way. It's easy to follow and retain, and I daresay, it was interesting and fun. 

This is a photo I took with my phone in February of 2018 when I was in Egypt. The pyramids are in Cairo, Egypt but located on what's called the Giza Plateau. From this photo you can see some of a mastaba field (mastabas are above ground tomb portions). I did have the opportunity to go down into a couple of the tombs near the pyramids and it was amazing. The underground tombs are from newer kingdoms and rich with painted walls, hieroglyphs, statuary, and are beautifully artistic. Although I wish I'd taken this class first, it still helped me understand more in retrospect. It was my first trip to Egypt and the sheer magnitude of it overwhelmed me. 

Being the fiction writer in a group of Egyptologists, I focused on taking in as much as I could and simply experiencing it. I climbed inside Khufu (the biggest pyramid), rode a camel around Giza to the Sphinx, and took endless photos of everything. They tried to educate me on the different kingdoms, dynasties, and hieroglyphs, but I really wanted to prowl through the dusty bookshops, sail in a felucca on the Nile, and score a purse with a camel painted on it. Fortunately Harvard edX showed me what I missed. Now, like the rest of the world's stilled travelers, I wait for the someday when I can resume my hands-on learning with renewed appreciation, thanks to this incredible class. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Oops! I'm Late for My Nineteenth Vestibular Migraine Anniversary! But There's Something to Celebrate This Year!

Deliciously Ella has a nice Turmeric Latte to sip while I spin, and I'll be wearing
my shades inside because sunlight makes my eyes burn like a vampire.

There is a BOOK. We have a BOOK for Vestibular Migraine. I was going through a spate of them recently. Sitting on the comfy grandma chair in my office, spinning and bobbing, I started googling "Vestibular Migraine Books". When I first started to get these migraines (and I didn't even know they were migraines), the only diagnosis I could get after a year or so of running to doctors, was that, "It must be a migraine variant.".

That was nineteen years ago and they're an official type of migraine now. Why that makes a difference is hard to explain. Maybe we just like to know the name of our enemy. He-Who-Cannot-Be-Named is so much worse. You do not want to show up in the Emergency Room with an invisible ailment. Back in the Olden Days of 2001 I recall having a raging migraine with aura. My vision was totally blocked with various prisms and flashing, while a nurse in the E.R. tried to give me an eye exam... 

 "Can't you see the TOP LINE?"
"I can't even see YOU!"

From April of 2001 until September 18th of 2001 I had five to six cluster migraines every single day. If it wasn't hell, it was one of the lesser waiting rooms. (Mind you my neurologist appointment wasn't until that October.) An emergency room doctor (after several visits) gave me a prescription for Propranolol. It's a beta blocker with good success as a migraine prophylactic. Unfortunately it made my blood pressure go berserk. (It's a rare side effect.) I wound up self-referring myself to the Cleveland Clinic to see a specialist for a condition called pheochromocytoma. I'd been misdiagnosed as having that condition in my small town. My mad scientist husband thought it was awfully suspicious that I didn't have those symptoms until I started taking those meds.

He was right and he's been insufferable ever since.

No, I didn't have pheochromocytoma. I did memorize how to spell it after that mess. So there's that. What I do have is a body that can't deal with meds very well. Or grains. Or broccoli. When this all started, one emergency room doctor called me a hot house flower. That's not a medical compliment. I suppose it means I'm a pain in the rear for someone who tries to keep me flourishing. Well, I might have a hot house flower body, but I have a tough and stubborn disposition and in nineteen years no matter what amount of Fun House spinning my migraines have thrown at me, I've never returned to the Emergency Room. 

Basically I gave up on doctors. Maybe that was bad, but I was getting nowhere and I think my out of pocket medical expenses in 2001 were somewhere around $20K. So, I changed the way I ate to mostly vegan and it helped. The spinning never went away completely, but it got better and I learned to live with it. Still, after all of these years, I can't tell you how thrilled I as to come across Shin C. Beh, M.D.'s book Victory Over Vestibular Migraine, The Action Plan for Healing & Getting Your Life Back.

You can tell by my copy of the book (with all the Post-It notes sticking out and the cover mangled) that I've gone over it many times already. I wrote in it. I teared up repeatedly as I read it because nineteen years of Vestibular Migraine is a very lonely road. 

As I read this I nodded my way through it YES! YES! YES! All the things the author said, I could relate to. Many of the triggers and organic solutions I'd figured out for myself. I may be a slow learner, but, hell, nineteen years is a long time. What I loved is how comprehensive this book is. It covers everything. I didn't really understand what a migraine even is or what happens in your brain during an attack. I didn't realize it could be more than one problem—that realization may send me back to a doctor after all these years. But I swear to god if all they do is have me touch my thumb to each finger and tap my nose, it will get UGLY.

Sorry, but you do cluster migraines every day for months while waiting for the blessed neurologist and get five minutes with that and only that, and you'll understand the frustration.

Many of the triggers I'd figured out myself too, including diet. Mind you that didn't stop me from gradually dropping my mostly vegan diet and gaining a bunch of weight back, and kicking the whole cycle into high gear again. That's because I PRIDE MYSELF ON DOING ALL THINGS THE HARD WAY. Also, stress eating. Also, cake.

No worries, I'm back on the wagon again.

If you have these migraines, you have my sympathy friend, and you have to get a copy of this book. It covers everything you need to know AND it's like an empathetic hug while you circle one of hell's waiting rooms. 

Ain't nothing pretty about a
Vestibular Migraine.

Links to my other Vestibular Migraine Blogs:

Vestibular Migraine is the Devil

It's my Vertigo Anniversary


Friday, October 23, 2020

Bless me father for I have sinned—life in the time of COVID-19


Right now I'm supposed to be in actual Paris for a writer thing,
but reality. It's biting all of us.

This morning I got on the British Museum website to look for a book about cartouches (hieroglyphs of names of Egyptian kings). It was out of print, so I spent nearly £200 on things like a Rosetta Stone wristwatch and a pencil sharpener that looks like a little trebuchet. 

Let's pretend those things are going to be Christmas gifts.

Are they still Christmas gifts if you give them to yourself?

Hubby promised to clean the sink and forgot. When I pointed it out he said he'd do it tomorrow, so I muttered, "You'd better or I'll throat punch you." Let's face it that's not okay. Yes, I apologized, but wrapped up my apology with, "But I meant it."

He's a good man. He puts up with my crap. That's really important in a spouse. It's really important to know your spouse would never actually throat punch you, no matter how much she wants to. Next week is our anniversary. I'm planning to make him those tiny gluten-free cupcakes Wegmans makes and pass them off as effort. I also think I'll gift him a tiny trebuchet pencil sharpener. I'll keep it in my office.

Halloween is next week and what with the virus no one can trick or treat. I decided to offset this rift in the force by making up little bags of candy (and letting them sit for a week to neutralize cooties) and giving them to family/friends/the people who bring my Amazon packages. As I assembled them, I ate enough of those tiny Snickers bars to make an entire Snickers bar. They're gluten-free (unlike most candy) so they had it coming. 

It's the end of the week and we're still having leftovers from the one meal I made this week. I've perfected the fine art of cooking two meals a week. That's not a sin. That's a talent. If one of those "cooked" meals is takeout, it's genius.

Good gravy I should write a cookbook about that.

Contrariness is in the air like leaves falling off trees. I think it's an excellent time for low expectations and not expecting too much from yourself, or others. Bet my expectations are lower than yours.