What Writers Can Learn from Downton Abbey | Nathan Bransford, Author

Are you a fan of Downton Abbey? I find it simply swoonworthy. So when I read this post from the fabulous Nathan Bransford (link below), I had to add my dos centavos. When Bransford said, “What’s amazing about a drama as well-received as Downton Abbey is the sheer simplicity of its moral universe. The good characters are good and the bad characters are bad. That’s that. No one learns lessons, no one evolves (with the possible exception of Miss O’Brien), no one is especially complicated. Carson will always be dignified and Thomas the footman will always be a jerk. We don’t exactly spend a lot of time plumbing the depths of souls.”

So where does that leave Mr. Bates, I wonder? So far, everyone at Downton, especially his new wife Anna, believes Bates was unjustly imprisoned for the murder of his ex-wife Vera. Bates would easily fall in the “good” characters Nathan Bransford described above. Honestly, I find Bates storyline the least interesting of all in the Downton universe, and I think it’s because he is too unbelievably good. My fervent hope that the writers have something tricksy up their sleeves for Mr. Bates.  I’m holding out hope that it really was him who fed is witchy ex-wife a heaping slice of arsenic pie. That would starch sweet Anna’s crinolines, eh?

Anyway, if you’re a sucker for Downton, check out Bransford’s post. What Writers Can Learn from Downton Abbey | Nathan Bransford, Author.

20 Great Writers on the Art of Revision – Flavorwire

As I dive into revising Luna Park, the novel I horked out in the month of November during Nanowrimo, this post from Flavorwire inspires me. Especially this gem from Roald Dahl. “By the time I am nearing the end of a story, the first part will have been reread and altered and corrected at least one hundred and fifty times. I am suspicious of both facility and speed. Good writing is essentially rewriting. I am positive of this.” 

20 Great Writers on the Art of Revision – Flavorwire.

On Christmas Adventures and Getting Chicagoed

It’s a frigid New Year’s Day. I’m sitting in my in-law’s home in New York, watching the waves crash on Lake Ontario. Soon, we fly back home to Colorado. Going home is good. But if we have a layover in Chicago like the one we had getting here? I don’t know if this mama will make it.

On Christmas afternoon, my wild children and I headed to the airport to spend a week with my in-laws. Darrick was already in New York, having left a week early to be with his mom who had a nasty battle with pneumonia. (She’s doing much better – woot!)

We had a tight connection in Chicago – only forty minutes to change planes. When we touched down in Chi-town, our plane proceeded to lap the airport. We waited on the tarmac. And waited and waited, with me visualizing a herculean sprint through the airport to catch our next flight. Then the pilot said we were one of forty planes waiting for a gate, thanks for your patience, yadda yadda. More than an hour went by. In the words of our friends, we’d been “Chicagoed.

The good news was that I’d been in touch with Darrick via cell phone, and he got us on the next flight out. The bad news was that it was the next morning. The kids and I were going to spend Christmas night at the airport Hilton. I was determined to make it a Christmas adventure and not a Christmas catastrophe, so I said we’d have a room service pizza party and play games. Fun!

Our kids packed all their most important toys in their carry-ons, so while we had no pajamas, no toiletries or change of clothes, thank Heaven we had the new Lego Hobbit game and enough stuffed animals to last several lifetimes. Sam set up the game while I tried to order room service. After spending ten minutes on hold, I called the front desk. Maybe the restaurant was closed — it was Christmas after all. The attendant said that room service was slammed. We’d get better service if we just came down to the sports bar.

A Christmas adventure in a sports bar! This would be a Christmas Sam and Sophie would never forget. And the thought of a Christmas beer sounded more appealing by the minute. We walked the half-mile down the hall to the elevator and rode it five flights down to the lobby. But our Christmas sports bar adventure was not to be. There was no room in the inn for us weary travelers. The restaurant was closed and the sports bar was more packed than a Tokyo subway train at rush hour.

Plan C. The mini-bar. We went back to our room, and I, in my most Christmas-y voice possible, told the children of the treasures that awaited them in the mini-bar. They could have cereal or granola bars for dinner! They could even have their pick of candy for dessert. Yes, they’d have to forego a year of college tuition to pay for the sustenance, but at that moment on our late Christmas night, it was my last shot at providing dinner for my family. And by this point, Mama wanted to curl her lips around one of those cute little mini bottles of Baileys.

The mini-bar had a plastic chain twisted around the handle. I broke that sucker off, with my kids watching in anticipation. But the door was locked. The thought of dragging everyone another half-marathon to the front desk to get a key was just too daunting. I called the front desk, hoping they’d run one up, but all I heard was a continuous loop of Musak while holding.

I’d almost reached my breaking point. It was nine o’clock at night, and we had to catch an early flight that morning. I had one final shot at dinner. Santa had brought the kids a big box of gummy Angry Birds, and Sam had it in his carry-on. Pair that with the leftover Oreos from our in-flight snack box, and you’ve got yourself a white trash Christmas dinner, sir!

When I told the kids they were having Angry Birds gummies and Oreos for dinner, you’d think they’d won the lottery. Sam tried to open his package of gummy Angry Birds, but couldn’t. I tried to open his package of gummy Angry Birds and couldn’t. Seriously, it was made out of some kind of stupid rip proof material and no matter how I tried, even with my teeth, I couldn’t open the blasted thing. The whole universe was conspiring against me – preventing even this measly, pitiful excuse for dinner.

I finally snapped. Letting out a scream of frustration, I chucked that stupid bag of gummy Angry Birds across the hotel room. It smashed into the mirror and fell on the floor. Sam looked at me in shock, and then proceeded to howl with laughter. I started laughing too – the out of control hysterical kind that is half-laughing, half-crying. We rolled on the bed, cackling like lunatics. Sophie, the bastion of responsibility, picked up the battered package of gummy Angry Birds and stabbed it with a pen until it opened.

Then she said, “This is a weird Christmas.”

Requires machete to open

Requires machete to open

We laughed all the more, and I didn’t give a rip about how much candy my children ate. While enjoying our Christmas feast, Sophie used a bed for a stage, entertaining us with a her own rendition of “Gangnam Style.”

Psy's got nothing on Sophie

Psy’s got nothing on Sophie

One thing about not having any luggage is that it’s really easy to get out the door in the morning. I set my alarm for 6:30 and we were gone by 6:45. I didn’t even have so much as a comb in my purse, so we didn’t bother with our hair. No need to get dressed, since we’d gone to sleep in our clothes. We looked like a pack of crazies wandering the airport with our hair sticking up and Oreos in our teeth. I’m pretty sure my kids will never look at a package of gummy Angry Birds again without thinking of our Christmas adventure.

Let’s just hope we don’t get Chicagoed for New Year’s.

Wishing you a very happy 2013, full of wonder and joy and love. And new adventures.  And hysterical laughter.

Whoop ‘em Gangnam Style.