There's a proverb which says, famously, that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. As of this morning, I find myself hoping there's a fork somewhere. I started July with the good intention of 50,000 words under my belt by the 30th, and according to my Camp NaNoWriMo chart, I only have 12,376. Between a head cold, some seismic changes to my usual routine, and a heavy dose of stress, I feel another expression is in order:
I have had several people suggest to me that I change my word-count so that I can still "win", but to me, that feels like cheating. I need to be able to settle with the idea that goals are not always met, you see. I grew up under a lot of pressure to be not necessarily perfect, but good enough: and falling short of that caused me a great deal of anxiety. I struggle with it to this day, but a combination of supportive, lovely friends and a steady diet of mindfulness and meditation have begun to help me square with the reality that not everything can be completed, not everyone will be happy, and it's really about taking care of myself.
I know I don't usually get so personal on this blog, and that's by design: this site is more about the worlds I create than it is about me. But I know that all writers struggle with themselves during their process, and I've found comfort in being able to read others' words and say "Oh! It isn't just me!" Maybe this will help someone feel that way, too.
It's hard for me to let go of a goal which is tied to something I care very much about. It puts my stomach in knots, and almost immediately brings tears to my eyes, because I have always been a very emotional person (something else I'm in the process of not just accepting, but embracing). If I've spent a very long time expecting that goal, and need to change it, well, the giant neon sign that says "FAILURE" lights up over my head, and I'm sure everyone in the world can see it, because I've dashed their expectations for me. But here's what I'm learning: usually, I'm the only one who can see that giant neon sign ... and even more importantly, I can be the one to pull the plug.
I'm trying to surround myself with reminders that sometimes saying no or walking away is okay. Currently, my desktop wallpaper is a lovely thing I found on the internet. I wish I could credit the author of it, but it reads as follows:
Some days you will not be able to write, and that's okay. Every now and again we need to be proud of ourselves for just getting out of bed and facing the day.
Not bad advice when you're battling the summer sinus cold from hell. So, it is with a heavy heart that I let go of the July 2016 session of Camp NaNoWriMo. It's okay, Camp. The Proper Bearing will still be finished, but at its own pace. More than any other thing I've written, it's setting its own terms with me, and teaching me a ridiculous amount in the process. I suspect I have to sit with a scene I wrote, recently, and consider its sudden, unexpected relevance to my own life.
I thank you for allowing me this break from my usual blog content, and hope to be back on track again soon. If nothing else, I'll have a good chunk of stress off my back and some good news to share in a couple of weeks.
Until next time, I remain your hostess,
At my first book signing in April, I got to meet some fantastic fellow independent authors! I only had the budget at the time to buy two books... I'm reading the second now, and this is my review of the first. As always, I would like to start out by saying that this is an unsolicited review, and I am not being paid for it in any manner. My tablemate on the left, the lovely Catherine Dougherty, is just as quirky and wonderful as the characters she creates.
The book is told from the point of view of Jean, the main character, who is just celebrating her fiftieth birthday with her two sons and husband when the novel opens. It took me a few chapters to get used to "listening" to Jean, because she is rather, er, how do I put this gently? "Salty" is a half decent word. A number of events in her life have left her bitter, not just toward those who wronged her, but the world in general. Rosie, a new realtor at the agency Jean works for, is the lovely, herb-infused oil to her straight white vinegar. The two are absolute extremes, and Rosie is not only positive to a fault, but occasionally hints to Jean that the secret to her happiness comes from her faith in God. I'm not usually the type for narratives that tend toward preaching, but I gave Rosie and her plan to put Jean's attitude back on track a chance.
When Jean's potential buyer of a house Rosie is selling turns out to be an unwelcome visitor from Rosie's past, things take a turn I was not expecting from the book copy. I don't want to give it away, but weathering what happens over the course of the house sale brings Jean and Rosie a little closer to each other, and a pivotal slumber party full of oldies, wine, take-out, and gaudy titular pajamas leads them to realize each has found the sister they always wanted, but never had. As an only child, I could relate to that (hi, Sis, I know you're reading this), and found myself finally softening to Jean by the time the party was over. I was surprised to find that at that point, I was only halfway through the book, and Jean had a few more hurdles to overcome .... big hurdles.
Over the second half of the book, Jean does her best to patch up family troubles: a sick relative, a divorce in progress, and her rocky relationship with her sons. She also begins to realize that a man can be a friend, and not just an object of desire ... something which she struggles with, having married her high-school sweetheart after she became pregnant. Jean returns home from a family trip with equal amounts of joy and pain in tow, and the novel ends neatly with an opportunity for her and Rosie to each have another shot at the lives they always wanted for themselves, but never quite found a way to have... providing a neat and tidy ending and simultaneously leaving things open for the next book, "In Woolen Bikinis".
By the end, I have to say quite honestly that this is not the sort of book I usually pick up and read for myself. It is a perfect example of chick-lit, so I know several people who would enjoy Jean and Rosie's escapades, especially their heart-to-heart talks about life as they approach old age. Catherine Dougherty's writing shines the most in these scenes: Jean and Rosie become people I could easily know outside the page.
As an author, Catherine's weakness may very well be Jean's, and not her own: Jean likes to ramble, quite a lot. Since the book is told in first person, reading it is like sitting down with Jean for a pot of coffee - or bottle of wine, if she had the choice - and listening to her fill you in after having been away for a while. In this, her voice is very real ... but in writing, it can become awkward at times, and almost too conversational. Since this is Catherine's first novel, and there are now two more in the series, I would imagine she has had enough feedback in that regard, though.
Simply put: this was a fast read which I finished over the course of a lazy weekend afternoon, and it was not time I regretted spending once I had settled in. I would compare Catherine's grasp of her female character to Nora Roberts ... so if you enjoy her, give Catherine a try! You can find Jean and Rosie in their three escapades to date at CatherineDougherty.com. .. along with some doodles, as Catherine's trying her hand at cartooning, too!
Now. if you'll excuse me, dear readers, I have a novel of my own to finish, and another book to read for review! If you have any suggestions for indie authors you'd like to see me review here, please drop a line in the comments!
Until next week, I remain your hostess,
I have been chosen to receive the Sunshine Blogger Award! Much like the Liebster Award I received a little while ago, it is given to bloggers by bloggers, and the questions are chosen by each prior recipient. This week’s questions come fro m the talented and sweet J.A. Goodsell, and I’m excited to answer them ... there are some really good ones in here. So let’s get rolling!
1. What do you write and why? I don’t confine myself to one genre, because life isn’t one genre ... the town of Aviario and the people that pass through its borders have lives of their own. My characters have the same struggles and challenges to overcome as anyone else: both internal and external. The little bit of magic and intrigue just makes it more fun.
2. What is your favorite quote and why? I have two ancient, typewritten index cards decoupaged to my desk which tie for first place. The first is by Elmer Rice: “It’s not what you do that matters so much, it’s what you are.” The second is by Disraeli: “The world is a wheel and it will all come round right.” So far, they’ve both been true.
3. If you could change any moment in your life, would you? Wow. that ‘s a heavy question for a Wednesday morning pre-caffiene! But, yes. There were many times I held my tongue because I thought speaking my mind would do more harm than good... and many of those times, I suffered for it. Like Buster Heywood, I’ve had to learn to find my voice and use it. However, knowing that I can’t actually take any of those moments back doesn’t bother me: I can still change how I act going forward, and that is what matters more.
4. What did you think of the Game of Thrones finale (if you don’t watch GoT, what did you think of the last finale you watched)? Ahh, Game of Thrones. I have seen some of the series and am on the fourth novel, but I don’t keep up with the pack, as it were. I can only enjoy it in small doses... and that may be a blog post all its own, someday. The last finale I watched was Series 9 of Doctor Who, and I had a lot of issues with what was done. The writers did things simply for dramatic value, without thinking of the true essence of the characters involved and what they should have done ... which I find an increasingly common occurrence in television and movie series these days. Since before the inception of Aviario, I have been an ardent defender of “keeping in character”... once you have followed a character for long enough, they have to have very good reasons for breaking from what makes them who they are ... and if they don’t, it not only cheapens the story, but disrespects the viewer or reader. ... Oof. That one got away from me, and I may not be done wit h it. Watch this space, I may come back to it.
5. If you could choose any artist (writer, artist, musician) to spend a day with, who would you choose and why? Jewel E. Leonard. I haven’t seen her face-to-face in twelve years, you see, and I miss her terribly. If we are going for the “usual fantasy answer”, I think Canadian musician Alan Doyle would be an absolute joy to spend a day with. I had the privilege of talking to him for a short while after a show on his So Let’s Go tour, and he was a lovely human being: easy to talk to, down-to-earth, and with a sparkling sense of humor. I’m pretty sure we could just sit in a pub and swap stories for hours.
6. Have you ever gone skydiving? No, but every now and then, I wonder if it’d help me conquer this fear of falling ...
7. Have you traveled out of your home country (if so, where)? Yes, I spent a lovely week in France during my junior year of high school. Someday, I would love to go back and appreciate it with a more mature mind. My favorite place was the Sainte Chappelle cathedral... it’s on the opposite side of Ile de la Cite from Notre Dame, and smaller, but what it lacks in recognition and size, it makes up for in beauty.
8. What is one major thing that will make you put down a book and never finish it? Poor technical writing. If I am constantly fighting against my inner editor to actually read what ‘s on the page, it takes me too far out of the story. I want to be immersed ... the prose needs to feel as natural as breathing.
9. What is one major thing that keeps you reading until the very end? Strong, well-developed characters and plot. If you make me care for your characters strongly enough, I can readily ignore the odd typographical or grammatical error.
10. Who or what inspires you to do what you love? My younger self, the one who was constantly spinning stories in notebooks or on her parents’ Gateway PC, doodling the characters on everything and sharing them with everyone before she was “taught” that no one wanted to hear such things, and she needed to Be Serious. I owe her a lot, you see.
11. What is your spirit animal? Sparrows, hands down, for many years. But since a trip to Mystic Aquarium, cownosed rays have been competing for my attention in a pretty spectacular, splashing fashion.
Here is the point where I am supposed to nominate eleven other bloggers to answer my own questions, but I’m not up on how many people have actually received the Sunshine Award! So ... let’s do it this way: if you like the looks of these questions, and you haven’t been nominated. feel free to say I went ahead and nominated you! Everyone could stand for a little award boost if they need it, don’t you think? Without further ado, your questions:
I hope you have fun with these questions if you decide to use them, and comment with a link below, so others can see! Please come back next week, when I’ll be reviewing Catherine Dougherty’s novel “In Polyester Pajamas” ... a light-hearted look at two unlikely best friends in their fifties as they grow old but refuse to grow up.
Until next time, I remain your hostess,
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