Wednesday Music: Overture to Bizet’s ‘Carmen’

Dear readers, friends, fellow classical music aficionados: I have exciting news. Wednesday Music is back! I meant to take a short break from it (like one or two weeks), but then that stretched into… quite a long time. Never fear, the best music-related weekly feature in the blogosphere is here again. This week’s piece is the Overture from composer Georges Bizet’s opera Carmen. Here’s a bit about it.

  • Bizet never visited Spain, but he wanted the opera to have a Spanish flavor. He put elements of Spanish folk music into the work, but some scholars say that it is essentially a French opera. (Bizet was French, so that does make sense.
  • The overture has three themes that occur later in the opera. One is the entry of the bullfighters (act 4), another is the Toreador Song (act 2), and the third is a motif that represents Carmen.
  • Since this is the overture, it’s instrumental-only. If you don’t like opera, you can listen anyway without fear of hearing singing!

Enjoy!

Or click here to see on YouTube.

November Writing Report

Obligatory writing instrument.
Obligatory writing instrument.

Welcome to the November Writing Report! November was a strange month for writing. I didn’t do NaNoWriMo—not this year—but a lot of people I follow on Twitter did. They were racking up huge word counts while I had… 0, at least for a while.

I had 0 words for nearly the first two weeks of November because I was finishing up an outline. Luckily, that outline is done (I outlined by hand and dang, it took a very long time to do) and I’m actually working on a project, which makes me feel productive again. Outlining is essential to my writing process, but somehow it doesn’t always feel productive. Maybe because it’s difficult to get an accurate word count when you hand-write things. I’m considering doing my next outline on the computer and then printing it out when I’m finished.

Anyway, I wrote 12,986 words in November, which is an average of 433 per day. Though if you only count the days that I was actually writing (i.e. finished with the outline), that average jumps up to 721 per day (I had 18 writing days in November). I like that number better, so we’ll go with that.😉

Anyway, I’m planning to finish the year strong and keep working on my current project, which is a major rework of a novel I wrote last year. The first version had some… issues, but then I learned a lot more about story structure (though I was aware of story structure, I never really bothered to learn about it until this year, which is very foolish of me!), so this current version has a definite structure, both on the scene level and the big-picture level. It’s funny how that works: plot points up move your story forward and it’s great. Who would’ve thought?!

I’m not going to end up with as many words this year as I did last year (we’ll talk about that in more detail when December is over), but I did some good writing this year. Spoiler alert: one of my 2017 goals will involve actually sending that writing out.😮

Happy December!

hello-december

Happy December, everyone! I don’t know where November went. Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like it went by very quickly. I can’t believe 2016 is almost over.

It’s finally starting to get cold where I live. Even on Thanksgiving, it was actually quite warm here. (Though it became very cold during the days after Thanksgiving.) I had some time off work, which was nice. Now I’m back to blogging—look for the November Writing Report and Wednesday Music later this week.

Why I’m Thinking Of Quitting Twitter

Should we just say no?
Should we just say no?

After much thought, some of it prompted by the election, some of it not, I’m contemplating giving up Twitter.

I got Twitter in 2008 and loved it for years. I “met” lots of random awesome people, especially Russian speakers, and enjoyed tweeting in bad Russian and sharing articles related to Russia. Once I even managed to get then-president Dmitry Medvedev’s aide Arkady Dvorkovich to tweet to me, along with hawkish Russian nationalist politician Dmitry Rogozin. Rogozin and I actually had an entire conversation on Twitter and it was awesome.

Then a couple of things happened. Twitter went public, which meant it wasn’t just a cute website with the occasional ad and venture capital funding as a way of earning money. It was now beholden to shareholders, which means there’s an expectation to deliver positive growth quarter after quarter. The company had changed and the site just wasn’t as fun anymore.

Or maybe I changed. I’ve written before about how combative and nasty Russia-watching has become. I didn’t just mean in the blogosphere. A lot of the nastiness I experienced was on Twitter.

Still, I stuck with Twitter. Maybie it was out of misguided loyalty, but a writing group I was a part of congregated on there. I enjoyed interacting with fellow writers and giving (and receiving!) encouragement. Writing is a very solitary process and it’s always nice to connect with like-minded people. Then the election happened and—well, let’s just say a lot of those people weren’t who I thought they were. I’m in touch with some of them still, but over email.

Basically, there’s nothing left for me on Twitter anymore. If I want to meet writers, there are better websites out there, plus I have some Twitter friends who have become email friends. If I want to speak Russian, there’s iTalki. I recently reactivated my account and hope to actually learn how to use it this time around. And if I want to network with other book lovers, Goodreads has always been way better for this than Twitter.

I doubt I’ll delete my Twitter account anytime soon. It can be a great resource for connecting with some indie authors I like. (Though now that I think about it, I have those people’s email addresses too!) I just… don’t really see the point of Twitter anymore. I don’t dislike it strongly like I do Facebook or Snapchat (I have proudly never used the latter); I just feel neutral about Twitter. I don’t genuinely like it the way I do Pinterest.

In general, I do think cutting back—way back—on social media use is a good thing. I saw we bring back blogging. Blogging may have been the “original social media” in that it had comments, which let people interact with each other, but it has largely fallen by the wayside since the advent of social media. That’s too bad because blogging allows for more substantial analysis and discussions than social media does.

What are your thoughts, readers? Have you soured on social media and cut back? Or never used it at all? Let me know in the comments!

The Other Elections

So, everyone in my country has been talking about the presidential election on November 8. It’s overshadowed a lot of other things in the news, including two other countries’ presidential elections that took place last weekend.

These countries are Bulgaria and Moldova—admittedly not countries the average American pays attention to in the best of times. Luckily I, your humble correspondent, do follow this area, as I’ve been blogging about Eastern Europe for years. Overall, the results of the elections can be summarized as a big win for Russia.

Moldova

Igor Dodon
Igor Dodon

Igor Dodon won. He’s a member of the socialist party is very pro-Russia. His platform includes improving relations with Russia and ending an association agreement Moldova has with the EU. Russia especially likes him because he recognizes Crimea as a part of Russia. He ran against a pro-European Union candidate and many say this was a victory for the anti-EU (and therefore pro-Russian) movement in Moldova.

Bulgaria

Rumen Radev in 2012, when he was still in the Air Force
Rumen Radev in 2012, when he was still in the Air Force

Rumen Radev won the Bulgairan presidential election. He is a socialist but, like Dodon, is also pro-Russia. Radev is a former Air Force general. He actually participated in a military training exercise in the United States in the 1990s and attended the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, graduating in 2003.

I’m less clear about Radev’s positions than Dodon’s, though he is pro-Russia, wants to develop closer relations with Russia, and wants the EU to drop the sanctions against Russia.

Meanwhile, a lot of the media and political analysts are describing this as a huge win for Russia. Not one, but two pro-Russia candidates have come to power. President-elect Donald Trump has also mentioned wanting better relations with Russia. I think there’s a good chance the United States could drop the sanctions against Russia. Now if only we could get the EU to do the same…

What A Week!

As you’ve probably heard, we Americans had a presidential election almost two weeks ago. Between trying to stay away and see who won—I only made it to one in the morning or so, which was before they called the election—and reading the news more in the past ten days than I have in the prior year, well, readers, I was exhausted. Much too exhausted to blog, unfortunately. I actually deleted the Twitter app early last week so I could have some peace and quiet to do some reading.

Before I deleted the app, I did a mass unfollowing of people I followed on Twitter. In the aftermath of the election, a lot of people I thought were nice suddenly revealed themselves to be… not so nice. I didn’t unfollow them because of disagreements in our views. I just have no desire to unfollow people who enthusiastically post and retweet a photo endorsing a disgusting act of violence against the future First Lady. As a result, my Twitter feed suddenly has a whole lot more Russian in it. And more Russian is never a bad thing.🙂

Anyway, I digress. Blogging should return to normal, pre-election levels shortly. I also hope to resume Wednesday Music—I’ve actually completely forgotten about it for the past weeks!

October Writing Report

Obligatory writing instrument.
Obligatory writing instrument.

I almost didn’t post a writing report for October because it was kind of strange month, writing-wise. I didn’t do much writing that’s easy to record in my writing log. (Yes, I have a writing log. It’s in a spreadsheet—I use Apple iWork’s Numbers but Excel would also work—and it’s awesome.) By that, I mean I finished writing a short story, and it’s easy to track the word count for that. But then I started writing an outline for my next novel. (That, in and of itself, is a bit of a story. Basically, I had a bit of writer’s block and couldn’t decide which of my ideas to outline. Long story short: I managed to make a decision.) I studied story structure and scene structure and character development. As a result this outline has become massive. I worked on it most days in October and it’s still not finished. And I have no idea how many words it is because I outline by hand in my writing notebook.

Anyway, I only wrote 4,730 words in October. That’s 4,730 words in my word processing program (thank you, Scrivener, for the awesome word count tracker thing you have!). If I had to estimate how many words I’ve outlined… well, I think the total word count for the month would surpass 10,000 and possibly 15,000. But there’s no way to know for sure unless I type all of my outlining and brainstorming up, which I don’t intend to do.

I’m hoping to finish the outline in the next week or so. Then, I’ll begin drafting this novel. It’s actually a major rework of a novel I wrote at this time last year. This new version is way better plotted and way more interesting (in my obviously unbiased opinion, haha).

Oh, and that short story I mentioned earlier? I’m planning on submitting it for publication. Of course, if it is accepted somewhere, I promise to tell all of you blog readers.🙂 Be patient, though. Unfortunately, the writing and publishing world works extremely slowly…