A Day in the Life

Homeschooling and Medieval Living

Mosh’s Take on Sir Terry Pratchett

The following is from a friend’s blog. This is that friend I mentioned in an earlier post. He introduced me to Terry Pratchett back in 1995. Thanks Mosh for all that you did for me.  You can visit his blog at http://www.moshblog.me.uk/

BINKY? PRATCHETT’S HOURGLASS IS EMPTY… BUGGER

Terry Pratchett enjoying a Guinness at honorar...

Terry Pratchett enjoying a Guinness at honorary degree ceremony at Trinity College Dublin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A man with a big scythe and mounted on an impossibly white steed arrived to pick up the soul of one Sir Terry Pratchett, aged 66 today. Pratchett, for those who’ve lived in a literary black hole for the last thirty years or so, was the genius behind the Discworld novels and all the history, back story and associated paraphernalia with the fantasy land he’d created.

I was introduced to Discworld by a handful of friends at school who latched on to them a little earlier than I did – Indy and Richard were the main guilty parties if I remember correctly. From reading The Colour of Magic I was hooked.

Annoyingly Terry Pratchett was a hugely prodigious author, chucking out a couple of books a year which made collecting his works quite pricey. On the other hand, they were almost without exception work paying for. Some of my favourite reads of all time flowed from his wonderfully creative mind, including Good Omens which he co-wrote with Neil Gaiman.

What made his work stand out, to me, was the way he wrote rather than what he wrote. The fantasy world he created was as good as any other which flowed from the pens and keyboards of many an author but his humorous style was second to none. With a bevy of pop culture references in his novels (annotated guides appeared on the internet many years ago which I downloaded, printed and promptly lost while at university), there was an extra layer to the stories which gave them an extra level of re-readability.

What I truly appreciated about him, though, was his eagerness to engage with his readers. Along with Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett took to the internet with aplomb in its earlier days as a publicly accessible network and regularly posted on alt.fan.pratchett, a newsgroup on the old usenet system. I remember him asking questions about the physics surrounding someone randomly teleporting from one place to another, and the input from respondents was used in (I think) The Last Continent.

He regularly did signing tours and would sign anything and everything he was given… with a different quote in each. I attended two signings in one day in Leeds many years ago, between which I think he signed about 15 books I had. Each one annotated “Best Wishes”, “More Best Wishes”, “Son of Best Wishes” and so on. He added drawings and stamps to his repertoire as the years went on.

And then he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

One of the most active and creative literary minds of our generation was being eaten away from within. A more cruel punishment for a person I cannot imagine. Yet, despite this, he ploughed on. He still had stories to tell and no damn debilitating mental condition was going to stop him.

Utilising copious notes and voice recognition software to allow him to keep track of the plots while writing as quickly as possible, and with the aid of friends and family, his output slowed but did not stop. Did he need to write more to pay the mortgage? No. He wrote because he was good at it, enjoyed it an – most importantly – other people got happiness from something he did. And also to piss off the Alzheimer’s, a condition he called an “embuggerance”.

And now that creative mind has ceased to function. News was released some months ago that his daughter Rhianna would take over the Discworld when her father passed, and on her capable (trust me, I’ve read some of her stuff) shoulders that responsibility now lies.

Thank you, PTerry (sic). Thank you for seventy-plus novels of laughs. Thank you for being one of many people who engendered in me a genuine love for the written word and how beautifully it can be crafted.

Enjoy that final ride on Binky. Such a brilliant moniker that we named our last dog after him. I just wish your hourglass had been that bit bigger.

A Just Giving page donating to the Research Institute for the Care of Older People (RICE) has been set up in his memory: https://www.justgiving.com/Terry-Pratchett/

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RIP Sir Terry Pratchett 1948-2015

Sir Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett on an archive picture. Photograph: Eamonn McCabe/Eamonn McCabe

There are two authors who made a great difference in my life and now they are both gone: Douglas Adams and Sir Terry Pratchett. Both of them introduced me to England and a wonderful man who is still a great friend. That same friend took me to see Terry Pratchett in 1995. We went to a book signing at a small local bookstore in England. Mr. Pratchett not only signed my book but he also spoke with me at great length. He asked me how I was getting on in the new Discworld game. He also asked me what my favorite book was. Even after the book signing, he stayed around and chatted with everyone there at the store. I remember him signing everything he could. He signed books, computer CPUs, even people. That is one of the greatest memories I have of him. I really felt like he was an old friend. Every time I read one of his books, I can hear his voice speaking those words to me. I will truly miss him. I will spend today re-reading my favorites and sharing fond memories of him with my family. I will miss you greatly PTerry!

Here is the official announcement as posted on PJSM Prints:

“It is with immeasurable sadness that we announce that author Sir Terry Pratchett has died at the age of 66.”

Larry Finlay, MD at Transworld Publishers:

“I was deeply saddened to learn that Sir Terry Pratchett has died. The world has lost one of its brightest, sharpest minds. In over 70 books, Terry enriched the planet like few before him. As all who read him know, Discworld was his vehicle to satirize this world: he did so brilliantly, with great skill, enormous humour and constant invention. Terry faced his Alzheimer’s disease (an ’embuggerance’, as he called it) publicly and bravely. Over that last few years, it was his writing that sustained him. His legacy will endure for decades to come. My sympathies go out to Terry’s wife Lyn, their daughter Rhianna, to his close friend Rob Wilkins, and to all closest to him.

“Terry passed away in his home, with his cat sleeping on his bed surrounded by his family on 12 March 2015. Diagnosed with PCA1 in 2007, he battled the progressive disease with his trademark determination and creativity, and continued to write. He completed his last book, a new Discworld novel, in the summer of 2014, before succumbing to the final stages of the disease.

“We ask that the family are left undisturbed at this distressing time.”

To read this message on the web, go to http://www.pjsmprints.com.

There are times in life when people must know when not to let go. Balloons are designed to teach small children this.

– Sir Terry Pratchett

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20 Books I Want to Read

  1. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  3. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  4. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  5. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  6. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  7. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  8. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  9. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  10. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  11. The Stand by Stephen King
  12. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  13. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  14. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  15. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  16. The Timetraveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  17. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  18. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  19. The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
  20. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
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My Top 10 Books of All Time

Photo Credit: stevehuang7 via Compfight

Photo Credit: stevehuang7 via Compfight

I have just started reading a new book. It is called Building Fiction: How to Develop Plot and Structure by Jesse Lee Kercheval. So far, it is pretty good. It is full of great writing exercises. I was putting all of my answers to them in a notebook. Then I figured I could just put them here to share with all my fellow writers out there. So here they are. Exercise number one is: “[Make a list of] your favorite books. Explore why you remember each one. Was it a particular scene? A character? A memorable phrase or insight into life?”

1. Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

I really like this story because the main character, Harry Dresden, is dead. He died in the last book. He spends the entire book (in ghost form) trying to figure out who killed him. This is very unique and wonderfully written. The entire series really changed how I saw fantasy and magic. Jim Butcher gave me the inspiration to write my own fantasy novel.

2. The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah by Stephen King

His characters spend a portion of the book looking for their creator – a writer by the name of Stephen King. It adds just enough surrealism to make it interesting. King appears several times in this book. It is both comical and thought-provoking. This showed me that the fourth wall can be broken successfully.

3. On Writing by Stephen King

This is both a memoir and a how-to book. It gives great insight into the man himself. The first third of the book is about his life before the accident that nearly took it . The second third is full of wonderful advice and writing gems. He tells the best way to find an agent and how to sell your work. He even includes some great book recommendations. The last third of the book concerns the accident and his recovery. He explains how writing, along with his wife Tabitha, saved his life. This is by far the best writing book I have read.

4. Thud! by Terry Pratchett

The main plot of this novel concerns the ongoing strife between the trolls and dwarfs and the Battle of Koom Valley. There is a small subplot that I enjoyed even more. The main character is Sam Vimes, Commander of the City Watch of Ankh-Morpork. Sam makes it a point to be at home by six every night so that he can read Where’s My Cow to his 16-month-old son. His love for his son carries him through the entire book. He even uses quotes from Where’s My Cow as zingers to the bad guys. The final scene will stay with me forever. I don’t want to spoil this for anyone so I won’t go into detail. I will say that it was so popular that Terry Pratchett actually wrote and published Where’s My Cow afterwards.

5. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

This book was the inspiration for the movie Apocalypse Now. It details the differences between barbarians and civilized society. Which side is actually more “civilized” – the British who colonized Africa or the tribesmen who where dominated and mistreated? I love how Conrad shows the fall of Mr. Kurtz through Marlow’s eyes. Marlow actually reveres Mr. Kurtz even through scenes of severe violence and domination. It is an eerie book and a must-read.

6. The Stranger by Albert Camus

I love the opening paragraph from this novel. “Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know. I got a telegram from the home: ‘Mother deceased. Funeral tomorrow. Faithfully yours.’ That doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday.” During the climax of the book, the main character (Meursault) fights with and kills a man. Meursault is then put on trial. The trial does not concern the incident so much as Meursault’s apathy throughout life. He was judged for not crying at this mother’s funeral. How sad it is to have a life not lived – to merely exist.

7. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Douglas Adams was my introduction to science fiction. I was most fortunate to have listened to a lecture he gave at the University of Texas at Austin. He also signed a book for me. The man was very brilliant speaker and writer. Arthur Dent is one of my favorite characters in science fiction. He is a mild-mannered ordinary man who falls into adventure and chaos from time to time. And he never can get the hang of Thursdays. Douglas Adams is sorely missed.

8. Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice

I love the vampire Lestat. Rice wrote great vampire fiction before vampires were “cool”. Lestat is not cool or loving. He certainly does not sparkle. Vampires in this novel are blood-sucking monsters – and you can’t help but love them. The entire series is full of vampires portrayed the way they should be.

9. The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien

The work Tolkien put into this entire series is just amazing. He created an entire world – complete with it’s own languages and writing. It took him years to put it all together. He was a brilliant and very creative writer.

10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

I like the last book the best. I love all the torment and angst of it. Teens are my favorite characters sometimes. I love how Rowling can start with a boy in dire straights and end with him as an adult in a normal tube station. The twists and turns are phenomenal.

Well, there you have it. Those are my top ten favorite books of all time. I read and re-read them. I give copies of them to friends. I spout their greatness to the world. Feel free to comment below and let me know what your favorites are. I would love to hear about them. Or if you put them in a blog post, give me a ping back. I will definitely check it out.

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Writing Prompt #1

Softball pitcher

Photo Credit: 2stanley via Compfight

I just finished reading a book called What to Talk About by Chris Colin and Rob Baedeker. This book has many ideas for conversation starters. It had a really great thing on page 126 – conversation prompts. I took these and made writing prompts out of them. After all, what is writing but one long conversation between the author and the reader? So here is one of them. “I never saw it coming until…”

I never saw it coming until it hit me in the arm. It hurt like hell, even though it was a softball. The thirteen-year-old pitcher held an expression like she hated the world – or wanted to rule it. She reminded me of a James Bond villain, only younger (and way cuter). She smiled as I heard the umpire say “Strike three. You’re out!”

It’s just one scene but I kinda like it. I may have to put it in a longer story somewhere. What can you come up with? If you try it, feel free to give me a ping back and I will check it out. Happy writing!

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2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 660 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 11 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Meeting Demand

Hi there!

I have been thinking about you guys lately. I have become obsessed with stats. I look to see what is popular and what isn’t. But then I thought the best way to get in touch with my readership would be to put the question to you in a poll. So here it is. Let me know what you would like me to write more about. Any comments can be sent to me privately through a feedback form on my About Page. You can also add it in the “other” section if you aren’t concerned about privacy. 🙂

Please vote soon, polling ends December 26, 2014

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Writer’s Group

Tuesday night I attended a holiday party thrown by the local writer’s group. I called up the contact person to ask about where and when they met. She invited me to their annual holiday party – even though we had never met. I have been dying for some adult conversation with other writers so I accepted. She said I could bring someone. My husband was my plus one. We had a wonderful time. There were all sorts of interesting people there – published authors and newbies alike. I even found one woman who shares many of my views on life and politics.

While there, I found out the following about the group:
– Every meeting starts with each member reading aloud eight pages of his/her manuscript.
– The members can write/read about anything under the sun (no matter how offensive it may be).
– Any other member reserves the right to leave if they become offended (although, in the last six years, that has never happened).
– All opinions must be constructive and polite. Destructive criticism of any kind is not allowed.

I really love the group I have found. While getting ready for the next meeting, I have managed to finally finish and polish my first chapter. I intend to read it at the next meeting. I am so excited. I just cannot wait. I really look forward to getting reviews and advice from published authors. I think a writer’s group can be really helpful to new authors. They offer the advice and support that so many of us are missing. There are so many famous published authors who really hate writer’s groups (Dean Koontz for one). But I am willing to give this one a chance. I will attend my first actual meeting on January 6, 2015. They meet the first and third Tuesday of every month. So I will write more about this group that week. But at least for now, these people have inspired me to write more and love doing it.

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Creating Something from Nothing

Photo Credit: Sharon Drummond via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Sharon Drummond via Compfight

It is so hard for me to come up with inspiration. Sometimes, I need a writing prompt, others just a word or phrase from someone. I was hoping I would have more happening in my life that I could write about. Lately, it seems I have so little. I should be working on my novel. There are so many things that get in the way of that. I have homeschooling, driving my husband back and forth to school (he has no license) and taking my dear mother to her various doctor appointments. I have no problem with any of those activities. That is why my book suffers.
Then, when I do sit down to write on my novel, I am wracked with insecurity and perfectionism. I rewrite every paragraph I write. I really want to be able to write it and leave it – at least until the entire thing is written. I keep adding to the plot, changing characters and deleting whole chapters.
So, I come back to my blog. For some reason, my perfectionism doesn’t interfere here. I write and post – no problem. I will share some important writing resources with you today. In need of a writing prompt or two? Here are some places to get those ideas flowing.

Daily Post
The Daily Post has everything from blogging courses to daily and weekly prompts. I love it. I have used a few of the ideas for my own blog. There are also many articles about how to blog and how to reach a wider audience. They just started their Blogging University this year. The University has a new course – Blogging 101: Zero to Hero.

Daily Compass
The Daily Compass is full of writing prompts as well as spiritual introspection. There is always a question at the end of the posting that really gets you thinking. This is another one of my favorite sites. Many of my posts from January of this year are written from their prompts. Some of them have left me melancholy while others have helped me become a better person. It is well worth checking out, even if you aren’t a writer.

Seventh Sanctum
The Seventh Sanctum is a generator of massive proportions. I have used it for writing prompts, name ideas, character generators and D and D campaigns. It has so many uses. There is the What-if-inator that generates scrambled histories, Quick Story Ideas, and the Symbolitron (that generates story ideas with meaning) – just to name a few.

Rory’s Story Cubes
Rory’s Story Cubes are actual physical dice. Each six-sided die contains several pictures on it. There are nine dice in all. Roll the dice for some interesting story ideas. If you don’t want the actual dice (for fear of losing them), you can also download his app from the App Store or Google Play. I have the app for Android. I love it. I have used it for ideas and for fun. Whenever I am in line at the store or just want a giggle with the family, I pull it out. The kids like making up stories with it.

RPG Character Generator
The RPG Generator by AC Arcana is great for generating characters. I have reviewed this app in my blog before. I even included screen shots.

Well, that should be enough to get you started. I am currently creating pages for resources. I hope to have them up soon. I will have one for writing resources and one for homeschooling resources. If there is anything you think I should include in this list, please let me know in the comments below.

Happy writing!

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Hope is Overrated

Because every time you see them happy you remember how sad they’re going to be. And it breaks your heart. Because what’s the point in them being happy now if they’re going to be sad later. The answer is, of course, because they are going to be sad later.

– The Doctor (Matt Smith), Doctor Who

I have a big problem with the word hope. I hate it. I really do. Every time I apply for a job, I hope I will get it. Then, I don’t. Then I get angry for getting my hopes up. My husband always says the same thing to me “Don’t worry. It will all work out.” I get so angry at him every time he says that.

It used to be different. I used to hope anyway. I am not really sure when that changed. I know my depression has A LOT to do with it. I just don’t seem to care much anymore. My husband and I had an in-depth discussion about this just last week. I am becoming more and more like Eyeore. I tend to look on the not-so-bright side. He is the opposite. I told him to stop saying things will always work out. “Why must you be so optimistic and hopeful?” I asked him for the millionth time. I told him there was no point being hopeful or happy about a possible outcome. He then looked me straight in the eyes and paraphrased our favorite fictional character. He said, “You should always be hopeful and happy because you may be sad later.” This startled me. I had never thought about it that way before.

You see, my husband is the king of irony. He takes things in an entirely different way than most of society. He has ADHD and he has an above average IQ. So, he is different. In fact, his personality reminds me so much of Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) in Sherlock. He takes things quite literally, he lacks empathy and he rarely gets the nuances in what others are saying. He looks at things logically. He is more thinking whereas I am more emotional. Sometimes it is so difficult to explain his thought processes to others. He comes across as unfeeling and harsh. I know he doesn’t do it intentionally. In fact, he has no intention at all behind his words. He doesn’t think as the rest of us do. This trait forces me to think outside the box more often than I ever thought I would.

So, it really came as a shock when he said something that actually made sense to me. I didn’t have to look at it from a different angle. It just made sense. So, I should be happy because I may be sad later. I will try to take him up on that challenge. It will be difficult, but I will try. Maybe hope is not so overrated after all.

This post is in response to the Daily Post‘s Writing Challenge of the Week – Oh, The Irony.

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