Monday, June 26, 2023

Jane Steele--A Good Jane Eyre Variation

Interesting story: I decided I needed a new Kindle. While I was working out what to buy, a family member told me I could get a Kindle app for my iPad for free. For free! And she was right! And it works just like a Kindle, except better, because the covers are in color and I can see them all instead of
just lists of book titles, which was all I had on my very old Kindle.

A great deal of my life is on my iPad now.

But that's not the interesting part of the story. The interesting part is that I was able to transfer my nearly 200 volume Kindle library to my iPad with no problem. Except that the "read" categories didn't transfer. There were just all these book titles, some of which I didn't recognize, and some of which I couldn't tell if I'd read for one reason or another. So I've been dipping into some of these unfamiliar titles, and it was clear that I couldn't remember if I'd read some of them because I hadn't liked them and probably didn't finish them. So I didn't waste any time on those and filed them away under one of the beautiful new categories I've made.

But one book I didn't recall reading was Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye. Its publisher describes it as a "reimagining of Jane Eyre as a gutsy, heroic serial killer." Reader, that is right up my alley. I love reimaginings of Jane Eyre, the most famous being Rebecca. But I couldn't remember reading this particular one. So I start reading it, and I get through the childhood and school part, with no recollection, but then I come to something I do recall reading. So I thought, Well, I must have read this far. Then I read some more, and I get to another part that's familiar. 

I go on like that through the whole book. Which I did like a great deal. Presumably I liked it the first time I read it, too, though not enough to remember it.

What Is Jane Steele?

The original Jane Eyre is a Gothic novel, in which a young woman is in some kind of danger in a moody setting with a house having a significant part in the story. I think you could argue that the danger Jane is in is from losing her independence and having to play some role defined for her by society or within marriage. She struggles to live life on her terms. Jane Steele is more of a mystery/thriller, one in which the main character has read Jane Eyre and refers to it often. In the original Jane Eyre, Jane believes that she is not a good person, probably because she doesn't have an interest in conforming to social norms. In Jane Steele Jane has no doubt that she is not a traditionally good person.

Author Lyndsay Faye's website appears to have vanished. Earlier this year, she had a neat section on research she did on the clothes Jane Steele wears. I did notice her clothes while reading the book this second time. 

The ending of the book seemed to be a set up for one of those nineteenth century historical couples mystery series. Or maybe it is just a nod to another type of book, the way Jane Steele, itself, is a nod to Jane Eyre.

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Why Have You Forsaken Us, Gail?

No, I have not forsaken Original Content. But now that I'm writing other kinds of short-form work, the short-form blog posts don't seem as pressing. In fact, a blog post I began last week may become a short-form piece published elsewhere. Or not.

Some Things I've Been Doing The Last Couple Of Weeks Instead Of Blogging

1. I went to Niagara Falls for a few days. This was my third and most extensive visit. One of my other trips I was literally just passing through town. I took some spectacular videos, IMHO, but I can't make them post, so these pictures will have to do.

It turns out, there is a Niagara River that runs from the falls to Lake Ontario. I biked along it for the second time this trip. The other time I biked there I must not have known where the hell I was. In addition to the bike trip, we also walked along the top of the gorge the Niagara River creates on its way to Lake Ontario. Honest to God, I had no knowledge of the great lake involvement with Niagara. I am a great fan of Niagara Falls, but also of great lakes. So this was a multiplier trip.

2. I have been preparing for John the Baptist Day.  You know, the French Canadian holiday that happened today. All you French Canadians and FrancoAmericans have, like me, been planning cookouts, making your deck presentable, cleaning the house, mowing the lawn, and dealing with cancellations, because, just like Christmas and Easter, people are sick.

3. I finished a quick revision of one of my completed adult manuscripts, which I hope to start submitting again next week. Which means the week after.

4. I've been binge reading some not very elevating historical mysteries. This experience has given me an idea for a scifi short story, because I am committed to short-form work as I've mentioned before.

I'm Psyched For The Next Few Weeks 

  1. I won't be planning a holiday meal and gathering. 
  2. I've got that book submission coming up. I find submissions exciting, because rejection doesn't bother me. In fact, there's something to be said for it. Acceptance always involves additional work of some kind.
  3. I have a bag of books I got at my favorite library a couple of weeks ago, I'm reading one of the historical mysteries as an ebook, and I was just notified that two ebooks I requested are available. 

So if I'm not posting here regularly, it's because I'm doing that.

Friday, June 09, 2023

Getting Serious About Humor: Trying Some Fiction

 I believe most of the humor books I've discussed so far have been essays or memoir or essay/memoir. Today I'm covering a couple of humorous novels I read this year.

Deacon King Kong by James McBride won The Thurber Prize for American Humor in 2021. It's an excellent book, sort of a classic story about a time (1969) and a place (a Brooklyn housing project). I didn't find it all that funny, though. Reviewers do describe it as funny, but I'm thinking maybe droll or wry in places. But that's not a failure, because the book is just plain good. It doesn't need to be gut-busting funny.

A number of reviews call To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris funny. There is humor here, particularly when you consider that the book is about religious observance. I particularly liked the main character's interactions with his employee, Betsy Convoy. They made up for all the sections on baseball I had to pass over, because I always pass over sections on baseball.

But neither of these books have the kind of humor that I'm Wearing Tunics Now and The World's Largest Man have. 

So What's Going On Here?

Well, a few things could be at work here.

  1. This could just be the way humorous fiction rolls.
  2. McBride and Ferris are fiction writers who happened to write some humor in these novels.
  3. Wendi Aarons (Tunics) and Harrison Scott Key (Largest Man) are humorists who happened to write some memoir.

Must read more.

Tuesday, June 06, 2023

Time Management Tuesday: A Reminder About Done Lists

Last week someone on Twitter was feeling...uncomfortable...about tinkering with her to-do list by adding things to it that she'd already done. She felt she was cheating. She was relieved to hear that what she was doing was creating a done list, and a done list is a thing. 

So I thought it was time to do a reprint of an Original Content blog post on done lists. It's from 2016, so I decided to do a quick google search to see if I could find anything newer about them. I could at Slate and Wired

If in my reprint you read my personal life example of a done list related to exercise, I would like to point out that I am no longer so obsessive that I try to keep track of different types of exercising. However, I do have a place in my bullet journal (which has evolved from what you see in the linked post) to note how many miles I've done walking/biking/stationary bike/walking programs and whether or not I've done yoga. (Been a while.) 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Time Management Tuesday: "Done" Lists

Sometime this past year I read a suggestion that workers forget about "to-do" lists for managing time and focus their attention on "done" lists.  Since I spend time each December doing something similar for my whole year, this seems like a good opportunity to consider this time management option.

If I've written about "done" lists before, I can't find it now. Nor can I find the original article that included this material. Getting a handle on that sort of thing seems as if it would be good for time management, doesn't it? Another post.

Why Keeping Track Of What You've Done Could Work

The theory behind preferring "done lists" to "to-do" lists is that much that goes onto "to-do" lists is never done and will often just be dropped. In fact, I can also recall reading decades ago about prioritizing "to-do" lists into A, B, and C categories, planning to eventually drop the Cs altogether at some point, if they lingered on the list too long. Which kind of raises the question, What's the point?

"Done" lists, on the other hand, can become motivators, particularly if you create real lists and you're the kind of person who gets a kick out of some kind of visual reward.

A Couple Of Examples From The Life Of Gail

Exercise "Done" List
First off, let's look at an easy application from my personal life. I have no trouble exercising each day. I'm a bit of a plodder, but I'm happy to walk, sit on a stationary bike with a book, use an aerobics DVD, do some resistance training while watching TV, some yoga, go biking. What is more difficult for me is to organize exercise around specific goals--maintaining strength, improving flexibility, or any of the other functional fitness things we're supposed to be doing. I'm a bit of a binge exerciser. I've tried planning to do X number of minutes of some activity Y times a week, but I doubt I've ever made it through seven days with that kind of thinking. I always went back to running with whatever felt good at the moment. Except not running, of course. I've never been a runner.

Soon after I read about "done" lists, though, I came up with the idea of keeping track of what I've done for types of exercise instead of planning what I had to do. Yes, there are four types of exercise I should be doing each week, and I should be doing each one of them a certain number of times. But instead of assigning days, I jot down what I did with a number, the number designating that it is the 1st, 2nd, or whatever time I've done something in a week-long period. I'm getting a lot more success with this system, in large part because I see that I've done something once, and I'm motivated to do it again so I can see that I've done it twice.

Having done something, motivates me to do more. I've been doing this with exercise for two or three months now. That's far longer than I've ever made it with planning out what and when I'm going to do ahead of time.

Submission Boards "Done" List
A second, more professional example involves what I'm calling my Submission Boards, which you'll see to your right.Technically, this is a very poor way of keeping track of manuscript submissions. What you should do...well, I won't go into that, because, though I've kept track of submissions a variety of ways over the years, in all likelihood none of them were "what you should do."

But the Submissions Boards...the Submissions Boards are another example of how having done something provides motivation to do more. When I could see on the first board that I'd only made a few submissions this year, I definitely wanted to submit more. And when I got close to thirty submissions, I wanted to hit the big 3 0. Yesterday I hit the big 3 3 for the year. That's what bicyclists call a third of a century. (Really, they call 33 and a third miles a third of a century, but I haven't figured out how to do a third of a submission.)

National Novel Writing Month might also be described as a "done" list. If you're doing well, having written for fourteen days in a row is a big motivator to write for the fifteenth day. And if you've been not only writing every day but meeting your word goal, you're going to feel good about continuing to work. 

The Opposite Of The What-the-Hell Effect

Remember the What the Hell Effect? It describes how we often give up on a goal when our self-esteem is low because we feel we've failed at doing something we wanted to do, so what the hell? We might as well drop the whole thing. "Done" lists are the opposite of that. We see we've done something, and we're so encouraged that we keep working.

"Done" lists are also a pretty powerful example (at least in my experience) of an external support for willpower. Workers are ""offloading" some of their mental work/working memory to their environment."

Saturday, June 03, 2023

So This Happened Last Week

 Just yesterday, in fact.

I had another humor piece accepted and published, this time at The Belladonna. This is my first appearance at The Belladonna comedy site, and I was happy to breakin.

The Best Moments For A Sex Scene During A Thriller practically wrote itself, coming together over the last year or so as I watched characters in TV and movies choose to have sex over saving themselves. As with my last piece, The Trick to Writing Stellar Book Submission Letters (in Greener Pastures), I needed to do a little revising and editing. In both cases, there was a similar issue I needed to deal with. 

As I've said before, my Medium experience is what I imagine comics doing while they are taking material out on the road.