The Ghost and Mrs. Muir – a book review

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir – a book review

Title: The Ghost and Mrs. Muir Author: R. A. Dick (Josephine Leslie) Publisher: Vintage Books Pages: 174 ISBN: 978-0-8041-7348-3 Price: $14.95 (USD, Amazon.com) I didn’t discover this gem of a book until after I’d watched the movie on Netflix – I’ve now seen it seven times and counting, it’s a really good movie – and learned from the credits that it was based on R. A. Dick’s novel of the same name. I ordered a copy of the movie and the book, and read the book over two days. The story begins with newly widowed Lucy Muir who, after discharging the debts left behind by her late husband, decides she wants a life of her own – preferably one that is far from her pushy and interfering in laws who insist on treating her as though she were a silly child rather than a grown and widowed woman with two children. After enquiring at the local house agent’s, Lucy learns of Gull Cottage, a beautiful little house by the sea in Whitecliff that is supposedly haunted by the former owner, Captain Daniel Gregg. Despite attempts at interference from the house agent, Mr. Coombe, who tells Lucy exactly what he thinks would and wouldn’t suit her, she is successful in renting it. As it turns out, all the rumours about Gull Cottage being haunted are completely true. Captain Daniel Gregg, a plain spoken sailor who “lived a man’s life” and then died in Gull Cottage unexpectedly, has terrified previous prospective tenants out of their wits – and out of his house – but Lucy is determined to stay and the two come to an agreement as Lucy settles into her new and independent life in Gull Cottage. I admit that as I read the book, I did picture Rex Harrison (Sexy Rexy!) and Gene Tierney in the title roles, but here, Captain Gregg’s language is even stronger and more appropriate to the way you might think a former sea captain would talk (when he was practising restraint in the company of a lady, anyway), and Lucy seems feistier and her struggles to speak her mind and be heard are more apparent. I felt sorry for and amused by movie-Lucy – Eva is really an annoying martyr in the film – but book-Lucy was someone I admired from the start. She makes up her mind early in the story that “…if this was a new life, she must begin at once to lead it in the way she meant to go on.”, and so she does. She refuses to be bullied into doing what others feel is right for her, even when standing up for herself is frightening or tiring. With some encouragement from Captain Gregg, she...

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Birthday monsters

Birthday monsters

When I was a kid, I LOVED having my birthday. I’d go to bed on November 10th absolutely sure that when I woke on November 11th, I’d be obviously older, smarter, wiser, and worthy of more adult privileges like staying up later and not being treated like the kid I no longer was. And even if none of that happened, there would still be presents and cake to enjoy, so I couldn’t lose even if I did have to be in bed by 8:30 p.m. and keep being bossed around by grown-ups. Now that I’m 38, I’ve lost a little of that excitement and hope. I have gained a little wisdom, but only by putting myself through difficult things that Little Me would have disdained (“If that boy is mean to you, or makes you feel sad, just don’t be his friend any more.  Now let’s colour, OK?”). Still, despite the dumb things that my older self has done (or not done) that have made my life more difficult than necessary, I do still enjoy a nice gift and a slice of cake (though, I no longer expect these things the way I once did). So, yesterday I met up with my lovely friend Ms. von Bossypants, and she presented me with this awesome, three-eyed little monster from the Monster Lab on Salt Spring Island:   His name is Acme, and he’s got stringy legs (so he can’t stand without some serious assistance), but he can see pretty well out of all three eyes, so that makes up for it. Plus, he’s a friendly looking little guy and he seems to be getting along pretty well with my Murloc and other critters. Joe treated me to a great sushi dinner, and then made me some chocolate mint brownies (instead of birthday cake) for dessert. We spent the rest of the evening eating brownies, listening to Jonathan Coulton, and playing video games with the sound off. OK, maybe I haven’t grown up as much as I thought. Credit: I took the photo, but all credit goes to the Monster Lab for making photogenic...

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Is this thing still on?

Is this thing still on?

It’s been awhile since my last post (seven weeks and six days, but who’s counting?).  What have I been doing in that time? Well, a number of things: I went to Ontario to see my family because it had been two years since my last visit. I had a great time. I saw two plays at the Stratford Festival (Merchant of Venice and Othello) with my Dad – and we had amazing seats for both. I also drank a fair bit of home-made wine on the back patio (really good stuff), while tossing a bright orange squeaky ball for my parent’s dog, Dodge. The only bad part was not getting to see my sister as much as I would have liked. I have been making things with crochet hooks and knitting needles (teddy bears, octopi, dishcloths, and felted wool bags) – and getting requests for these things from people who see them. I cooked a 20 lb. turkey for Thanksgiving for Joe, and some friends, and it turned out really well. I discovered that you can only eat so many turkey leftovers for lunch and dinner. I am really very tired of turkey now. I cleaned up all the half-dead plants on the balcony, dried the herbs that survived my neglect, and scrubbed down the balcony and my now empty plant pots. My balcony looks really bare and strange. I re-caulked the bathtub because the old caulk was peeling off and it looked nasty. It was actually quite easy to do, and it looks about a thousand times better (Note: pay more for the stuff that makes you tub usable in three hours instead of 12 – it’s worth the extra money). I have been working with the City of North Vancouver to stop the patrons of a certain restaurant across from our building from screaming/yelling/shouting etc., in the street from 7 p.m. to damn near midnight every night in creation. Things are in the good part of the cycle of noise for now and I’m enjoying the relative quiet while it lasts. Did I do any writing? A little – most of it was putting down the beginnings of stories and some random ideas on paper. Some of those ideas are refusing to do anything more than take up space on the page, and some of them are shaping up nicely and wanting to become more. I have a tendency to put my own work on hold when I start new jobs so I can devote myself to getting things working in such a way that they do not require constant vigilance and can be cared for easily and well.  However, this approach takes time and effort that...

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Shut up and write

Shut up and write

I’ve been debating for awhile now about whether I should use this blog to talk about the book I’m trying to write. I’ve mentioned before that I’m working on one, but I haven’t gone into details about it. Today, I made the decision that I will not be blogging about the book on here until it’s finally done (which right now feels like ‘never’) – instead, I’m going to shut up and write. I read a great post on the New York Times website by Mark Slouka called Don’t Ask What I’m Writing in which he brings up the dual nature of writing and talking about it with other people: I hate being asked what I’m writing about, or how it’s going, because when I talk about it, it all sounds stupid and improbable; but I also hate not being asked because I want to hear that I’m not just wasting my time writing nonsense. So far, I’ve erred on the side of, ‘tell me I’m not wasting my time/life’, and gave a mostly done draft of the book to some friends, who all gave me feedback, which I then tried to incorporate into the unfinished book. This was a really terrible idea. The feedback was mostly positive, and most people want me to hurry up and finish so they can find out what happens – but you know, so do I, and trying to incorporate feedback into an unfinished story is making hard to go forward. My poor little ego liked the praise, but actually doing the work is harder now that I am trying to crowd please by taking into account criticism I asked for – much of which is actually pretty spot-on for the chunk of the book that exists. Add in the inner critic (made up of equal parts of bully and helicopter parent)and hardly a new word has been written in months. What have I done to try and work my way out of the black hole that is the blank page? I talked about the book. Repeatedly. To several people. Yeah, I’m a genius. Mr. Slouka points out that we writer types are always making openings to talk about the work. We say things out loud, apropos of nothing, like: “The work went really well today! I think I’ve got that plot problem licked.” And woe to the person who hears this. They will respond, mostly out of politeness, and that’s all the opening we need to talk about the work. And we’ll talk about it ad nauseum, essentially working out our neurosis with a captive audience while scanning them for signs of liking, or not liking, a particular thing – which we’ll then...

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Success – let the feedback begin!

Success – let the feedback begin!

Success! All the issues around commenting and posting have been fixed – let the feedback (and floods of spam trying to sell me shoes and prescription drugs) begin! Thank you, so much, to the awesome team at Sparkjoy Studios who not only built my lovely site, but willingly spent hours looking into the issues and trying out various solutions – and who were more curious about why the issues were happening than they were frustrated. They all have so much more patience than I do – and they know WordPress and it’s little plugin quirks far better than I ever will. Now I will be able to spend more time checking to see if anyone wrote comments about the things I did write, rather than writing new things! I’m mostly kidding about that last part… Credit: Image by Laney Griner, and obtained via Know Your Meme.  ...

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Story ideas and the question every writer dreads

Story ideas and the question every writer dreads

I recently read an interesting post on The Writers’ Room regarding where story ideas come from – and where a person might look for ideas to spark something creative.  I’ve always thought this is a pretty interesting question, even though it seems to be the bane of every published writer doing a public appearance. Still, it’s not a bad question, really – it’s just hard to fully answer, and the asker often won’t like the answer. Let’s start with the question itself. I didn’t always know where story ideas came from. I used to think there was a magic well of ideas, or a large idea cloud in the ether that only the most talented of people could access. I thought perhaps you had to be specially marked in some way by the God of Creative Endeavours, or that you had to have a muse you made regular offerings to in order to be furnished with interesting ideas to write down. I thought that being a Real Writer meant having access to Grand Ideas that the rest of us mere mortals weren’t allowed to access to. I’ve learned otherwise since then.  Now I know that when writers at readings look annoyed with the inevitable “Where do you get your ideas?” question (and someone always asks), it’s not because it’s a big secret. They didn’t swear an oath on pain of death to not tell non-writers about the big Idea Library under the city – they’re annoyed because the only answer is, as Neil Gaiman says, “I make them up, out of my head.” And the question asker is looking for something more concrete. They want that Idea Library to be real. They want to know how much a membership is. They assume that once they are furnished with a Grand Idea that a well-written story will flow like water – and that some measure of fame and accolades and money will follow shortly thereafter. But, this isn’t how it works. Louisa from The Writers’ Room sensibly points out that ideas can come from nearly anywhere – and that’s true. She found inspiration from a news clipping about her family. I’ve found inspiration in a picture of a tomato on the Internet. We both found things that caught our attention and interest, and then we asked questions. In Louisa’s case she might have wondered, “What was it like for my Grandmother to find out her brother had died?” and “What happened afterward – how did they go on?” I looked at a picture of a  lumpy tomato in a blog post entitled “Nightmare tomato from our nightmare garden” and asked myself, “I wonder what else would grow in a nightmare garden?” and...

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