Imitation Game Movie Review

One Spark 2014

What does it really mean to be who you are? If you are changed, because some external force determined that you should, what is the cost? How much can be taken before the essence of your potential would no longer exist? Those are the haunting final questions that the Imitation Game left me with, the tragedy of a brilliant soul who was tortured and discarded and ultimately destroyed, only after he was no longer useful. Of course, the story focuses on Alan Turing and the enigma code breaking team employed by the British government to change the war. That story was told before, in 2001 with Kate Winslet, and it completely ignored Turing. So did the British government, when Turing was later investigated and shamed, abandoned by the very country he saved. Benedict Cumberbatch dissolves into Turing and Kiera does well, she doesn’t tremble or giggle too much. But I left the theater feeling sad; sad enough to not write a review for 2 weeks, sad that humanity tries to choose the parts of people we like the best, and sometimes negates the importance of that very part we want to cast aside. Who are we to do that? If someone is not who they are, they can not do the things that they do. I’m still pondering that relation. I’m typing this on a computer made possible because Turing *was*. I hope his soul is finally at rest. ‪#‎moviereview‬

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One Spark 2014

This is a cool place! Jacksonville at One Spark 2014

Still Alice Movie Review

I saw Still Alice a week ago, in the nick of time before Oscar night because it took forever and a day to get to Jacksonville, instead of, “Coming Soon to a Theater Near You”. It’s taken a week for me to find some words to describe it well enough to call the paragraph a review. Still Alice is devastating, a horror film for grown-ups because it centers upon something that truly frightens with plausible reality: losing ourselves to Alzheimer’s Disease. As far as films go, and performances, this is a liquid looking-glass portrayal, an image so translucent of what it must be like that the viewer is left breathless. Somehow, we are inside her. We are able to see and feel the sudden drop of vacant holes in her ability to Think and Know and Find. The process is terrifying. When the “something scary is about to happen” music plays, when Alice in her familiar home and can’t find her way to the bathroom, we too feel the spine tingling fear and suspense of the enemy that’s gaining ground. Alice is a physically healthy woman, still young, who does what she can to retain personal empowerment. There’s a scene where the Then and the Now are brilliantly portrayed and it’s piercing to realize how much degeneration has slowly taken place. If you see it, you’ll understand why there wasn’t a single other possibility for Best Actress this year. You’ll understand more about the human aspect of the disease than any fact sheet or documentary could show. You’ll get your money’s worth for the price of the movie and it’s not over doing to suggest you might live more for today as well. Side note on theaters: we saw this at the AMC, which now has real food, a “design your own” coke wall of machines, and a full bar, allowing us to sip an Old Fashioned from high backed reclining theater seats. Nice touch. ‪#‎moviereview‬

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April in Jacksonville Beach. Hot sun and sand, cold water.

April in Jacksonville Beach. Hot sun and sand, cold water.

What Flannery accomplished in 2 hours a day, most of us won’t do in a lifetime.

“I’m a full-time believer in writing habits…You may be able to do without them if you have genius but most of us only have talent and this is simply something that has to be assisted all the time by physical and mental habits or it dries up and blows away…Of course you have to make your habits in this conform to what you can do. I write only about two hours every day because that’s all the energy I have, but I don’t let anything interfere with those two hours, at the same time and the same place.”   – Flannery O’Connor


It reminds me of another quote I’m fond of, that I can’t remember who said, “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”

I’m currently enjoying a bit of a writer’s high. After pounding away for almost a year and a half on a novel that is progressing slowly, inch square by inch square, but by getting up per the habit anyway and inching along, I had space provided when this mysterious muse decided to plop itself down on my brain and funnel its words out of my fingers. I don’t even care that it’s for an entirely different story. The feeling of my fingers airily skittering over the keyboard as words fly out without effort is worth it.

Of course, I say “without effort” and that is the funny irony! I had to first cultivate the habit, which has taken a tremendous amount of effort, much of it not fun and with no promise of any reward but the satisfaction of having done it.

So, here’s to you, 5 am! In the hours I rarely knew waking unless nursing a baby, I now have a fully summarized plot outline, start to finish. I have a cast of 9 crystal clear characters with histories and layers and a part to play in the story. I have a title, a vision for cover art, and have begun a scene spreadsheet. I say weird writer-newbie things on Twitter and sound more like a word nerd than ever before.

The terrain of writing is gradually inclining. Fleshing out all those story scenes is no doubt going to have some arduous progress and probably a few slips and slides backward too. At least I have a plan and a habit. I also have experience with ant sized increments forward. I know I’m optimist by nature but I can’t help feeling I might have a winning formula there.

Incidentally, Jacksonville achieves connectivity through its many bridges over the St. John's River.

Incidentally, Jacksonville achieves connectivity through its many bridges over the St. John’s River.

Interstellar Movie Review

Dear Madeleine, I saw Interstellar today and I think you would love what the kids did with your Tesseract. The actual human discovery process of a wrinkle in time has probably never been quite so realistic, so believable, or so poignant. Remembering that Christopher Nolan is the same director who left his audiences gasping from the spinning top ending of Inception creates fantastic suspense and breathless dread. I won’t spoil his choice to repeat that stunt or not. You’d love Murph- she’s your Meg, only better. Girls who love science have a great character there. I got so completely lost within the story that I completely lost track of time and, until travel into wormholes and fifth dimensions is real, the power of story and great writing will simply have to do. Love, Tia ‪#‎moviereviews‬

P.S- for those interested- completely clean movie, intense, inspiring, no wordie-dirties, and more great acting than one movie usually contains.

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Memorial Park in Riverside, WWI Commemoration

Memorial Park in Riverside, WWI Commemoration

Dreams as Plot Lines

I discovered something interesting about writing as a practice this week.

First, my disciplined habit: It’s my practice to get up early, usually around  5 or 5:30, in order to write in a quiet house before our days get started. Most days this hour will be the only hour where I am completely alone, which ups the ante of making sure I have it. Introverts need time alone to recharge their batteries. If I never write see commercial success with writing, I will still need to get up and write every single day. Most days, it feels essential to my survival.

Still, I’m not a morning person so how this practice came to be was the first series of steps. Coherent thought before dawn is not my forte. Getting up early hasn’t been productive enough in the past to make the lost sleep worth it. When I started working full time a year ago and my teenagers cranked up the velocity of their own trajectory into their wild beyonds, I started feeling out of breath and out of time. My waking hours are simply just very, very full. No two ways about it. Writing and time alone had completely vanished except for my time spent driving between the last carpool stop and the office and then again in the evening, navigating a hairy rush hour home.

When I got sick of rotating through loud pop music stations on my commute, it dawned on me that I could listen to books and podcasts that could at least keep the craft on my mind. And, one of the first themes I heard when I got this new habit underway was the value in setting a regular time slot in place in order to hammer out words. It’s a practice, a discipline…decidedly not inspirational or focused on a muse. It’s just getting up and grinding it out so that the muscles are trained and the space is created. When the muse does decide to show up, so goes the thought, there will be space available to inhabit.

Interestingly, I found that when I get up at 5 instead of 6, I’m actually more alert. I’m so enamored at the gift of this quiet time alone and the outlet to express that the words are pouring out. I don’t have many mornings where I’m sitting wondering what to say. My story lines are picking up seamlessly most of the time. If they don’t, I write on something else. No big. Just do it.

My rule is that I must be in bed the night before by 9:30, asleep by 10:15 and I must sleep in at least one weekend morning. If that doesn’t happen, then no getting up early. This is as much for health and sanity as the writing habit is. My life has too many demands on it for me to devalue rest.

So that’s the background. Last Monday night I slept fitfully, stuck in a reoccur-ant nightmare cycle. I kept crying in my sleep, waking up, going back to sleep, and falling right back into the same dream. I often dream in full color, with plots, characters, and even soundtracks. It’s not that dream was so frightening; the moment that kept replaying was the disastrous discovery of the protagonist. She was shocked, horrified, dumbfounded…then immediately surveying the damage. That one scene kept going without progressing forward. My alarm went off in the middle of it and I deliberately went back to sleep, thinking I could snap it into closure. Twice that happened. The scene did not progress and eventually I had to get up or be late for work.

But I decided to write it down. I still had 15 minutes in my practice time slot. Writing down dreams usually results in scenes of ridiculousness; some sci-fi fantasy mystery psychic nonsense that doesn’t seem nearly as coherent on paper as it did near midnight during REM sleep. This one was different. In a very Anne Tyler/Nora Ephron way, this one has an interesting arc with an even more interesting cast. I wrote it down Tuesday morning and have worked on it every day since. The characters are snapping into focus as clearly as if they were walking up and shaking my hand.  Title, outline, and cast were all there in the dream, streaming out through my fingers onto the digital page.

“Your job is to write it down” said more than one of my audio books. I think I get it now.

Photo taken on the dock of Mandarin Park @Julington Creek after a perfect summer rain.

Photo taken on the dock of Mandarin Park @Julington Creek after a perfect summer rain.

Seasons of Change

The featured image is my curled parsley, a mammoth plant next to a few others that actually took off and grew this winter. There are a few herbs I’ve never grown well in Florida and lo, and behold, all they seem to have needed is the right season.

Three varieties of Parsley, Rosemary, Thyme, Dill, and Oregano….all stunted, bolted, and dry in the spring, summer, and fall, found their glory in the winter. Who knew?

Probably a bunch of real gardeners, that’s who.

I’m going through some changes too. I’m working full time outside of the house for the first time in 20 years, launching 2 of my kids- one as expected and one too abruptly for comfort- and closed my freelance business. I’m re-positioning my time, attitudes, resources, and energies into the way life has changed this year, the way I expect it to need to be for the next several, and the way I want it to be when the next page turns.

I’m giving myself some stuff too.

  • I’m making my writing dream the recipient of the web-business knowledge I’ve accrued over the years.
  • To the start of every business day, I give to my writing practice my first energy, my first hour.
  • In order to devote time to craft, I’m giving my commute: an hour or two spent each day in the car.
  • Under, “if you build it, they will come”, I’m giving my business website to my name, to my hopes that one day I’ll have books in print and platform to promote them.
  • I made my movie and food reviews public, as well as my more writerly status updates, because its time to be brave and put my writing out there again.

I’m investing in my dream by taking action steps. Like the parsley planted  in a different season that took of when the elements were right, I hope my words do the same.