World Book Day

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On this World Book Day, I’d thought I’d share my favorite books.

The Magic Tunnel by Caroline D. Emerson was my very favorite book as a child. I still have it although the book jacket is almost long gone. It takes place in New York City and the main characters, children about my own age at the time took the subway and ended up somehow in New Amsterdam. It was a combination of my favorite things: time travel, history, and being that I lived in NYC it seemed plausible to my child mind.

Maybe one day I would get on the subway and end up somewhere far away and long ago.

My second favorite book came to me as an adult while working at Waldenbook’s. It was the cover illustration that caught my eye, and of course the title: Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman.

Like The Magic Tunnel this was also historical fiction, no time travel though; this time taking place in Medieval Wales during the time of Llywelyn Fawr, the Prince of Wales. It set my on a path of learning Welsh history and discovering myself. I was enthralled with the story and even more enchanted by the author’s note that revealed how much of the fictional account had actually happened, including burning mattresses, adulterer’s murdered, and in the third book a kidnapping by pirates! Not to mention the release of Llywelyn’s son from the King’s custody as spelled out in the Magna Carta no less.

Everything you could ask for in a book!

The most recent books I’ve read (out of about eighteen for the year so far), and all that I would recommend include:

Lily Dale: The Town That Talks to the Dead by Christine Wicker,

The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho,

When Women Invented Television: The Untold Story of the Female Powerhouses Who Pioneered the Way We Watch Today by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong, and

Inside Camp David: The Private World of the Presidential Retreat by Michael Giorgione.

50-18 – TV Writers…Writers on TV

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​Before I thought, or accepted that I was a serious writer with something to say, I read ferociously. I also watched television with the same zeal. I could literally sit down and watch the last fifteen minutes of a two hour television movie and be completely engrossed in it. I loved all genres then. We only had six, maybe seven broadcast channels, assuming the winds were right and the aerial was in its proper position. And of course, the only one who knew whether the aerial was positioned right was the aerial itself. It was never in the same position twice.

Our televisions went from huge hunks of furniture to little tiny ones that I could bring to college and get one station in black and white, and now they’ve returned to huge wall hangings, mounted like a movie theatre.

One of the things that never left me from my childhood was noticing and watching all of the writers that appeared on television. I don’t mean the people who wrote the shows or the books that the shows were based on, but the characters who were writers.

I grew up wanting to be a lawyer – slash – private investigator – slash – reporter. I always had a notebook with me, jotting down things I’d see on the street, the way the colors hit the water or the street sign or the sound made when a car drives through a puddle. I don’t know why I needed this information, but I did and I would have it when I did need it.

When I went to my first therapy appointment, I noticed that the therapist had a print of a Renoir hanging on the waiting room wall. In my head, in my best Remington Steele accent, I said, “The wall safe is always behind the Renoir. Where’s the Renoir?”

In the writing in my head, I would insert myself into whatever the storyline was, sometimes more than one, and I would be the journalist or writer, much like Richard Castle who the police or PI couldn’t solve the case without. It gave me the chance to be a recurring, supporting character which is something I probably am in my own real life story, never the main character.

I know a lot of my love for journalism came from the movie, All the President’s Men. I was young and impressionable at a time that journalists were revered, both in real life: Woodward & Bernstein, Walter Cronkite, Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings, and in fiction as well:

Jessica Fletcher of Murder, She Wrote

Ian Stark from Stark Raving Mad

Billie Newman from Lou Grant – my favorite of favorites

Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane of the Superman Adventures

Jake Sisko of Deep Space Nine

Ray Romano of Everybody Loves Raymond

Oscar Madison, another sportswriter from The Odd Couple

Murphy Brown – news writer and reporter

Chuck Shurley, aka Carver Edlund of Supernatural

Iris West of The Flash

Todd Manning of One Life to Live

John-Boy Walton of The Waltons

Richard Castle of Castle

Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza of Seinfeld

Carrie Bradshaw of Sex in the City

Maya of Just Shoot Me

Rob Petrie of The Dick Van Dyke Show 

Phoebe Halliwell of Charmed

And those are just off the top of my head.

Today, I have more respect for the real writers and the current ones who inspire me include Lin-Manuel Miranda, Adam Glass, Robbie Thompson, Bernard Cornwell, and Sharon Kay Penman. They are who I go back to time and again because they are just that good. Not to leave out Wil Wheaton who is truly an inspiration and one of the main catalysts to my beginning this blog. Watching him navigate through his own freelance career, adjusting to the markets and changing, rebooting his life, but always writing and contributing; being his own boss, but also his own motivation. Writer and artist, Norman Reedus who inspires me to break out of my comfort zone and experiment with my art. 

To call myself a writer, I belong to a family of writers, both fictional and real, and each one gives me something, and that makes me better.

History and Historical Fiction

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One of my favorite genres is history and historical fiction, the more realistic, the better. My version of history includes mythology, current events, politics, and religion in its historical sense. Two of my absolutely favorite authors in historical fiction are Sharon Kay Penman and Bernard Cornwell.

The first book I read of Penman’s was Here Be Dragons. Not only did it feed my love of medieval history it started my life long infatuation with Wales, the homeland of my soul. The one thing that amazes me about Penman was the amount of research she does. When I did my own research I was stunned at what was true, like the Princess of Wales being kidnapped by pirates, and Prince of Wales, Llywelyn Fawr’s firstborn son as part of the Magna Carta.

Bernard Cornwell’s The Winter King was recommended to me years before I actually read it. I was afraid it would change my outlook on King Arthur, and it did, but it was well worth it. The guest series I read if his were the Sharpe books. Sharpe takes place during the Napoleonic wars, a time period I was never interested in until Cornwell.

For history, I’d encourage you to read Jon Meacham, Ken Burns, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Douglas Brinkley, and Isabel Wilkerson.

I’d also add these to the list that I’ve read recently:

The Presidents’ War: Six Presidents and the Civil War that Divided Them by Chris DeRose
Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
The Man Who Would Not Be Washington: Robert E. Lee’s Civil War and His Decision That Changed American History by Jonathan Horn
Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman
Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan
The Jet Sex: Airline Stewardesses and the Making of an American Icon by Victoria Vantoch

Make Self-Care a Thing

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Why is so hard to put ourselves first; to take care of our own needs? Most of us usually wait until the stress has hit its boiling point. Instead of letting it go that far, it would be better to take care of ourselves along the way. That won’t eliminate all the stress and angst, but it can go a long way in alleviating those feelings of being put upon.

Some things that might work for you:

  1. Tune-out. Turn off the television, the internet, the cell phone. Find a quiet spot to just close your eyes for at least ten minutes. [Note: I have to mention that when I wrote this in my notebook, I wrote ten months. That might be a bit excessive. ;)]
  2. Re-read a favorite book. The one that I go back to every year or so is Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman.
  3. Go outside and sit. If it’s a cooler day, wear a lightweight jacket, gloves and a jaunty hat. Watch the wildlife scurry by and the birds glide, counting leaves, following the branches as they reach towards the sky.
  4. Listen to music. Mumford and Sons, Adele, Classic Rock – whatever floats your boat. Pop in your earphones and put your playlist on shuffle.
  5. I used to love this and you could do the pages as backgrounds without even having the pictures ready. Check out Creative Memories for supplies and ideas.
  6. Wander around a local museum or a large library or other interesting places in your local area.
  7. Take yourself to the movies. Have popcorn.
  8. Netflix. Catch up on a series you’ve always wanted to watch. Orange is the New Black anyone? Or re-watch a childhood favorite. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Escape to Witch Mountain are two of my favorites; or catch something new like Catching Fire.

One of the things that I do in an attempt at taking care of myself is my recent retreat. That’s a week while the kids are in school, but I also take a day and attend a local flower show in the spring.

As I’ve mentioned before, I visit Starbucks, less now because of finances, but it is still something I consider a special treat and self-care place.

My attendance at Mass will usually put things into perspective for me as well as centering my spirit and preparing me for the day.

I feel sometimes that I don’t have the time for me, but I think the bigger problem is whatever I’m doing gets interrupted and restarted and usually I’ okay with that kind of multi-tasking, but sometimes I’m the guy from Network.

I think I’ll take an hour and catch up on Constantine.