A Disease, a Wedding and an Anthology

I have a disease. It may be incurable. Some of you know this already and some of you have suspected it for some time, but have remained silent. Please don’t pity me. I really don’t like pity. The disease I have keeps me awake at night, keeps my mind buzzing, makes me wonder just what the future holds in store for me. Some say this disease is caused by the bite from a rare bug, one that can bite you quite early in life or later on. It doesn’t discriminate. For some, it’s a lifetime struggle. The bug I’m talking about, of course, is the writing bug. No surprises there!

Yeah, I’ve been writing. A lot. Writing and editing and revising and writing some more. Writing takes up a great deal of my time, and when I’m not writing I’m often thinking about the story I’m writing. It is a disease, really it is. One that I may never recover from. One I hope they never come up with a cure for.

But that’s not all that’s been going on with me these days. More than writing I’ve been living and working and taking some family time. Family time comes before writing time. No contest. I have two precious grandbabies now who need snuggles and kisses and hugs, so many hugs. And I have a wedding to plan. Yes, wedding.

After being widowed for 26 years, my Mum is getting married next weekend. I couldn’t be happier. The family couldn’t be happier. To be honest, this is something none of us ever expected, least of all my mother. But the world is a mysterious place. Sometimes life throws things our way, and even when we fight against them we end up realizing that resistance is futile. I’m a bit older now than Mum was when she found herself all alone. It wasn’t easy. Many of you know that on top of all that she’s visually impaired. Luckily, she has five kids. And now a soon to be second husband.

“Everything will be all right in the end… if it’s not all right then it’s not yet the end.” Love this quote by Deborah Moggach, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and it reminds me of my Mum’s story. I have Gary Doi to thank for making me aware of the quote. He’s the editor of the new anthology I’m a part of, along with 25 other people, titled, “Fly Like an Eagle.” It’ll be for sale on Amazon within the next few weeks. The proceeds will go to SORCO, a rescue rehab and release facility, in the Okanagan Region of British Columbia, for raptors such as eagles, hawks and owls. I feel honoured to be a part of this project, a project that gives back.

So, for now that’s what’s up with me. Oh, and not to mention a forty hour regular work week, can’t forget that. I’ve been missing my blogger friends and looking forward to getting caught up with what you all are doing.

Anything new in your corner of the web?

My It-Doesn’t-Matter Attitude

Lately, I’ve been taking an “it-doesn’t-matter” kind of attitude when it comes to writing. On the surface that sounds like a bad thing, but let me explain.

It used to be I fretted over how much writing I was accomplishing in the run of a day, a week, a month, a year. I looked around and saw many of my author friends churning out novels at an amazing rate. Why can’t I be more discipline, I wondered? Why can’t I just whiz through a first draft, revise and edit, wrap it all up neatly in a few short months? Truthfully, that’s kind of the way things went with Bitter, Sweet. Smooth as silk. I like to say it took three months to write, and that it practically wrote itself. I know that my first novel, so near and dear to my heart, was a novel just waiting to be put to paper. It was so much a part of me that all I had to do was write the story that was in front of me.

But not all stories are the same. Some take a lot of digging around to get to the bottom of. Digging equals time and lots of it. Time equals, well, time. Something we all complain we don’t have enough of these days.

Writers are often under enormous pressure to produce quality writing– and fast. Pressure, I might add, that is most often self-imposed. We can feel that invisible monkey on our back. We compare our accomplishments to that of our writing friends. And many times we are merciless. We are our own worst critics. But, of course, that can be said for most of us in general. We just aren’t nice enough to ourselves. We should be. We need to be. If we can’t treat ourselves with love and respect how can be possible treat others that way?

Here’s the deal. Awhile back it came to me that it doesn’t matter when that story is finished or even how many I eventually end up writing in my lifetime. I’ll do what feels comfortable for me. If a story comes at a fast rate, so be it. I’ll burn the midnight oil if I have to in order to get it down, but if it comes at a leisurely pace, a bit here and a bit there, that’s okay too. I’m not going to twist myself into knots trying to keep up with someone else. It just doesn’t make sense. Besides, we can only ask of ourselves what we are capable and willing to give. So that’s what I’m doing this summer. I’m working on my next novel, enjoying the process. When will I finally write “The End” ? I haven’t a clue. But what I do know is it will be done when it is done and not before. So,while an it-doesn’t-matter attitude might not be for everyone it certainly takes a lot of pressure off this writer. Does my writing matter to me? Absolutely. Not only that I intend to enjoy every moment of it.

* Next Wednesday, August 20th, I’ll be interviewing,( yes interviewing!) award winning author, Marsha Skrypuch on my blog! You’ll find out about her band-spanking new book, her writing ,and the circumstances surrounding some death threats and hate mail she received. Her story is an amazing one. I hope you’ll drop by and leave a question or comment for Marsha.

The Author Behind That Book You Hate

As young reader I can’t recall ever reading a book and thinking it was horrible. I was much more accepting, much more willing to read a book with open eyes, not critically looking and examining what I believed to be faults in the story or the writing. I just read for the love of reading. I accepted the story for what it was. But then, that’s the beauty of youth, the way we keep our minds and hearts open, and simply allow stories to entertain us without judgment or malice. Weren’t we just the cutest things back then?

Today, it doesn’t seem to be that way. People are reading and reviewing and rating (they have every right to of course) but a part of me can’t help but wonder what happened to plain old reading for enjoyment. Why does everything have to be rated and what it the purpose behind these ratings? Some argue that it helps them decide if they want to read a book, but with so many varying opinions how could you possibly decide if a book is beautifully written or not and worth your time? If twenty people rave on about a book, there are bound to be some who absolutely hate it. Guaranteed.

Having your work out there to be scrutinized by others isn’t the easiest thing in the world, people. Ask any author. But it’s part of the territory, like it or lump it. We write the best story we can and, God willing, we might be able to share it with others. But there’s always going to be someone who won’t care about the work you put into it or what it means to the author to be able to express themselves with the written word. I’m not sure there is any other craft out there that comes under fire the way writing does. People can get nasty. I’ve seen it, myself, in the reviews of some of my favourite books and I wonder what would cause another person to write such nastiness. I’m all for honest reviews. If someone didn’t like a book they didn’t like it.

Behind every book, good or bad, there is a person. Someone who put their heart and soul into the story they want to tell. Hopefully, people will one day read it. And when/if they do, they’ll form opinions. They’ll either like it or they won’t. One thing I know for sure is, we won’t like every book we read, no more than everyone will like the book we write. It’s a fact of life. But being an author, I try to be as objective as I can and while I won’t like every book I read, I certainly respect the writer for creating it. Many, many hours goes into the writing of a book. We write and then we rewrite. Then rewrite some more. It’s a craft worthy of respect.

Honestly, I never used to think about the author behind the book until I became an author myself. I never wondered who they were or what kind of life they had. I only ever thought of them as an author, as if writing was their entire life. Of course, today, an author bio is on the back of books and we can get a small glimpse of who that person behind the book is. But that doesn’t tell a complete story. No bio I’ve read has ever told me that an author is trustworthy, honest or loyal. Or that they’re warm or caring and have a heart as big as the outdoors. I’ve not read a bio that told me how the author worked at perfecting his/her craft, working through the pain of rejection to produce something they truly believe in. Nor would you read in an author bio that someone’s nasty review was so hurtful that the author never wrote that second or third book because they stopped after number one. Nope, you won’t find any of those things in a bio. Although I’m not sure many people would even be interested in any of that and I’m sorry for sounding a little bit cynical at the moment

So while I don’t expect you all to love every book you read maybe you might stop for a moment and consider the author behind that book you either loved or hated.

 

Have you ever given any thought to the author behind the book you loved or  hate? Do you consider the idea that the reviews you write might be read by the author? Would you care?

It’s an Illusion

I recently read “An Illusion of Trust,” by Linda Cassidy Lewis. Check out her site HERE.I won the ebook in a promotional contest Linda had when her book first came out. I was thrilled! I’d read her first book, “The Brevity of Roses,” and wondered what had happened to some of the characters. FYI— “An Illusion of Trust” is the sequel.

ait_welcome_14When Renee Marshall locked the door on her dark past and married Jalal Vaziri, she hoped for a quiet life in a California coastal town. Now, with a sexy, adoring, wealthy husband, one beautiful baby and another on the way, Renee dares to believe happily ever after could be her future. But doors don’t always stay locked. As the stress of living in Jalal’s high-society world increases, the traumas of Renee’s past begin to poison the present and threaten to destroy everything she treasures. Is it Renee’s imagination or is Jalal keeping a secret that will end their marriage and rip her children from her life? And could it involve Diane, the woman who reminds Renee too much of Jalal’s beloved first wife?

Here are a few quotes from the book that I wanted to share, words that kind of left a lasting impression. There were others but these two seems rather poignant.

“On the worst nights, with exhaustion picking at the seams of sanity, I imagine myself erased from the picture.”

 “It’s time to accept marriage for what it really is—just two imperfect human beings trying to find a little happiness together.”

I have to be honest. It took me many months to settle down and read this book, but that had nothing to do with the writing or the story. In fact, I’ve been feeling down right crummy about not settling down to read it before now. One of the worst things an author encounters is waiting for someone to read our books, wondering what their thoughts are on the story we’ve pour our heart and soul into. Often times, when we hear nothing from a reader, we tend to take that as something negative. Authors are kind of fragile that way. Only those who write can truly understand that. There always seems to be that tiny place within us that allows doubt to wiggle through from time to time. We tend to forget that people have other things going on in their lives besides reading our books. Who knew?

Since I don’t own an ereader the book was downloaded to my laptop—-the laptop I do all my writing on. This created a real problem for me since I use my laptop for writing not reading and it was very difficult to take laptop time to read.

I do quite a bit of reading in the car since we live far out of town. In that way I like the convenience of books. Not only that I sometimes walk while reading in order to get a little activity into my day, and I’ve been known to use the treadmill while reading as well. In others words, I rarely sit down and read since I also sit to write. Can’t spend my days with my derrière plunked down on a chair. That’s just not good.

I’m not sure I’ll ever be comfortable reading from a screen as apposed to books. Could be I just don’t like the change. Or could be a Kobo or Kindle would be more to my liking. I’m just not sure. For me, it feels as though these reading gadgets are simply an illusion, finding their way into our lives the way all technology does. They still aren’t books and never will be. I can’t deny I like reading from a book, holding it, feeling its weight in my hands, physically turning the pages, marking the pages with bookmarks, closing the cover when I reach the end, looking through the stacks in the bookstore. If we ever come to a place where printed books no longer exist I’ll be more than a little sad. I hope this never happens.

Thank you, Linda, and I apologize for taking so long to read your lovely book.

What do you prefer printed books or ereaders? Have you ever read a book from your computer and if so how did you find the experience?

Winter Photos

There is a privacy about it which no other season gives you…. In spring, summer and fall people sort of have an open season on each other; only in the winter, in the country, can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself. ~Ruth Stout

Here are a few snowy photos taken at Black Duck Lake yesterday after Saturday night’s snowstorm. DSC04758

DSC04754

Before this happened there was scarcely a scab of snow to be found. It looked more like spring in these parts than winter. Not only that, the temperature was on the plus side all week long. Nice, since we’d just come through a cold snap.

But, Mother Nature decided to remind us that winter is far from being over. Although spring was flirting with us, she certainly isn’t ready to stay anytime soon.

DSC04731

I’ve been busy writing this winter, as you would expect. The cold weather makes me want to stay close to home and put a pot of soup on the stove to scorch  simmer. I  also have some reading to catch up on– along with all the usual boring things like housework– as I wait from spring to  arrive again.

What are you doing this winter? Are you enjoying the beautiful scenery or are you hoping for an early spring?

Calling it Quits

I’ve been labeled as stubborn a time or two, although I’ve been always been adamant in proclaiming the word “determined” suits me far better. It’s been like that since I was a kid with two older siblings I was “determined” to keep up to. I never had the feeling that my parents expected too much from me, it was always my own self-imposed expectations that made me so determined, not theirs

Writers don’t end up having their work published unless they have that certain determination about them, not only to write, and polish that novel until it’s the shiniest they can get it, but to collect the countless rejection slips that are most surely heading their way. There are times when all writers sigh and wonder if it’s worth the effort and heartache. Being rejected isn’t the easiest thing to bear. Determination can only carry us so far. Eventually we have to see some results for our hard work.

That’s why I’ve decided to call it quits.

Okay, so I’m not talking about quitting writing. Let’s get that straight. I’m talking about a particular manuscript I’ve been working on for over a decade. Yes, I did say decade. Sad, isn’t it? That much time into one story. I had thought I might actually put the finishing touches on it this week, but that’s not going to happen. Not only that, I’m not sure it’ll ever happen. I’m seriously thinking of ditching it, calling it a “write-off” if you will. It’s hard letting go though, seriously it is. But if I’m being honest I feel as though something is missing with the story, and I don’t know what that something is. Maybe I just don’t like my main character that much, and I don’t feel as though I’m making the story my own. (If that makes sense.) It seems a shame since I’m a few hundred words from being completed, and yet…..

I can’t quite put my finger on what’s wrong with the darn thing.

While determination can be a wonderful thing, there comes a time when we’ve got to know when to say enough is enough. Being so close to our own work, puts an author at a disadvantage. We can’t always know when we’re being objective— whether or not we’re overly optimistic about a project or just feeling down-hearted for no good reason. Did I mention I once stopped working on Flying With a Broken Wing because I started to feel blah about it? Well, it’s true, I did. Luckily, when I went back to it months later I felt much different about it. I could look at what was there and imagine it becoming a book one day.

In many cases writing is a lonely profession. I know today many people have writing groups to cheer them on and give them advice. I think that’s a good thing. But alas, it’s only me to decide what if something is worth finishing. Even determined people need to know when enough is enough. There are always new stories to be written without wallowing in one that feels like a lost cause. Luckily, I’ve got several manuscripts on the go, ones that I do feel passionate about. Good thing, right?

So now  I’ve reached the point where I’m stuck between wanting to finish it and finally giving it up for good. Even as I write this blog post I’m struggling to decide what I want to do. A part of me feels as though it’s a waste of time, while another part screams out , “You’ve got to give it a chance!” at least finish what I’ve started since I’m so close to the end.

Have you ever called it quits with a manuscript? How did you know it was the right decision?

Not Such A Big Mystery, This Writing Thing of Mine

You seem like such a happy, giggly person, why are there sad undertones in your writing? That question came to me in an email earlier this week. I was impressed that this person did see the “sad undertones” in my writing, and thought it was a good question.

There is no real mystery surrounding any of this, no hidden secret I’m keeping from the rest of the world. I am a happy person. I can state that with all honesty, knowing that happiness isn’t something that comes to us from the outside. It comes from a choice we make on the inside.  This doesn’t mean I don’t know what sadness is or even understand it for that matter. I’ve lost people I’m close to, I’ve known disappointment. People have not lived up to my expectations. I don’t always get what I’d like. But I’m happy. Being happy doesn’t mean I don’t have crappy days (or weeks) or have tough, heart-wrenching decisions to make. The thing is, when I do, others rarely see it so they mistakenly believe it doesn’t exist for me, that I’m somehow immune.

None of us are immune.

No one leads a “perfect” life, even those people whose lives look perfect from the outside. If we all had perfect lives we wouldn’t be here, to learn, and share, accept, create, love.

So why does my writing have “sad undertones?”

A writer sees the world through a writer’s eye. And each writer has a different view of the world. I connect to my writing on an emotional level. It’s always been something I’ve understood very easily. It’s not difficult for me to put myself in someone else’s shoes. When I write a book, I understand the emotions my characters feel. A writer has to, even when we might not agree with their actions. A writer needs eyes in the back of their heads. We need to be observant of the world around us. We need to leave our judgments behind and let our characters be who they are, flaws and all. Because we are all flawed in our own way, whether we choose to believe it or not.

After reading an excerpt at the book launch, a friend came up to me and said, “I hate Aunt Millie already.” I agreed with her that Aunt Millie is a hard nut. But I like the character of Aunt Millie. I don’t hate her at all. She’s outspoken, and harsh, colourful in a way that makes her interesting to me. And she cares about Cammie in a way only Aunt Millie can. I promise you. Then again, I’m also privy to information about her that others aren’t. Because no matter what we see on the exterior of the people, characters in our lives, there is so much more to them than what they show the rest of the world. This is the case with Aunt Millie. She has her soft spot, but no one sees it. She can’t let that vulnerability show. She’s a bootlegger for goodness sake. She needs the world to see her as tough.

It helps to see both sides of the coin. One thing that sticks out in my childhood is something my father often said, “There are two sides to every story.” Some people argue that there are three, “your side,” “my side” and the “right side.” But life isn’t all that cut and dry. “Your side” and “my side” can both be right— right for us, that is. There really  is no third side. We all interpret life in our own way. We all see things through a different lens. We all react with different emotions. There’s a tendency in life to label things as right or wrong. But there isn’t always a right and wrong to life. Sometimes it just is, simple as that. A writer accepts their characters for who they are even when their actions aren’t the ones we might personally choose, yet we need to give them space to be who they are. Kind of like raising kids some might say.

Why are there sad undertones in my writing when the outside world sees a “happy giggly” person? The answer is quite simple. Life is sometimes sad, but rather than express that sadness to the world, I express it through the page. Writers don’t produce stories because we want to, but because we need to. We need to put the sadness and horror of this world in their rightful place to have them make sense when we all know that life doesn’t always make sense. It just is. But we all express our emotions in different ways; a writer does it with pen and paper. There’s no deep mystery, no big secret.

It just is.

We are all here to create and express life in our own unique way. We can thank God for that. Writing just happens to be mine. While it might sometimes reflect the happy side of life, it won’t always.

If you’re a writer what are your thoughts on this? Do you believe a writer brings their emotions to the page? If you’re not a writer, what form of art do you use to express yourself?

Finally, A Little Book News

Comparing your first born to your second child is sometimes a bit difficult not to do. When that second little one comes along we start right away by comparing their sleeping patterns. At least I know I did. Often times your first-born is more advanced when it comes to language because they have more of your undivided attention. But that doesn’t mean your second child is any less special. All children bring their own special gifts to the planet. It is what makes all of us unique. The fact that we sometimes compare the development of our children doesn’t make it right, but it doesn’t make it any less so.

I know, what does this have to do with my upcoming book? Nothing. Well, maybe something. Maybe just the fact that it’s difficult not to compare my first book to this next one, and even the whole process of publishing. For instance, Bitter, Sweet was relatively short even though, during the editing process, 5,000 words were added to the story. My upcoming book is a tad too long which means I have to make cuts this time. When my editor told me I had to add 5,000 words to Bitter, Sweet I cringed. I thought it was nearly impossible. However, editors don’t get to be editors by not knowing their stuff. Caitlin made suggestions as to where scenes could be added and slowly but surely the word count came up to where it needed to be. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d originally thought.

But cuts feel like, I don’t know, like an amputation of sorts. I’m mulling the idea of getting rid of a few very minor characters as well as a few small scenes. Writers often refer to it as “Killing off your darlings.” Might sound a bit extreme, but this late in the game it does feel extreme. I blame myself for being too wordy during the first edits. (I had an inkling this might be the case.) But laying blame doesn’t change what is. I still need to decide what can go and what can stay. Luckily, I’m not talking about 5,000 words this time, but still….

Work on the fall Nimbus catalogue is about to start. That means I’ll soon have a cover for my book. Contrary to what many people think, I’m not responsible for coming up with a cover, and thank goodness for that! You really wouldn’t want to see what I’d come up with. This doesn’t mean I won’t have any input. Once they come up with a cover, it’ll be sent my way for approval. If I hate it they’ll keep working at it. The day Caitlin sent me the cover for Bitter, Sweet I was afraid to open the file, wondering what I’d do if I absolutely hated it. Luckily, that wasn’t a problem. I loved it right away. I can’t imagine it being any different.

As for the title.

The title of “Bitter, Sweet,” was originally, “Bittersweet.” I remember when the comma was suggested. I immediately thought it looked weird. The concern with the title was there were so many other books on the market with bittersweet in them, and they wanted this one to stand out. They also thought the comma gave the book a more literary feel. The comma certainly seemed to do that. I mulled the idea over for a few days and then decided that the compromise didn’t feel that horrible, and really wasn’t all that different from the original. Of course, now I couldn’t imagine the title without a comma.

So what about the title of this book? During discussions with my editor, we’ve decided to make a slight adjustment to the title. Instead of “To Fly With a Broken Wing,” We’ve decided to change it to “Flying With a Broken Wing.” Just a small change, but I’d originally titled it, “Fly With a Broken Wing,” until it was pointed out that images of “a fly” were difficult to get past. Hadn’t thought of that when I originally titled it. Now it makes me giggle.

So yes, the book is making progress. We’re working toward publication. I know it feels really slow, and a lot of people have been telling me they’re getting anxious. I’m sure you can appreciate how I feel being the author and all. But patience is something all writers learn. In fact, it’s a must. As soon as I have a cover I’ll post.

So I’m off now to start making some cuts. Wish me luck!

Where I’m At

So I’ve been kind of hiding around blogland this winter, coming out occasionally to see what going on. You may or may not have noticed.

I wanted to give a shout out to a few new blogs I discovered this past week. I hope you’ll pop on over if you have time and see what they’re all about.

The Storm Project

The Rain Girl

Part Time Art Projet

Winter’s been flying by and I’ve been busy writing. Nothing really new to report here. At the end of January, my editor emailed to say she’d lost pretty much all of January due to illness and so this meant the edits on my novel was pushed back. This just means I’ll have more time to work on my current WIP. Yes, I did get through a first draft and now it’s time to start all over again.

Is a writer ever really through with a manuscript? Most of us can always find something we want to change, but alas, there comes a time when we have to say enough is enough.

Now with a book contract signed and “To Fly With a Broken Wing” due to come out this fall it’ll soon be time to start thinking about all the things that go along with having a newly published book— book launches and signing, readings, and meeting new people. Still, it’s a fair ways away. I don’t have a cover yet for the book, but I’ll be sure to share it with all of you when I do.

So there you have it, a quick, kind of dull summary of where I’m at.  And with March edging closer to an ending, I’m anxious for the nice weather and a few signs of spring to come our way.

Now’s your turn to tell me where you’re at. Speak up!

The Voice

There are times when I feel as though my blogging voice is gone, and lately this has been the case. I can tell you this doesn’t feel like a permanent condition, and I’m not planning to go anywhere soon. It just means I might find it more difficult to blog on a regular basis. Truthfully, I sometimes wonder what difference blogging makes to my writing life except to take time away from writing fiction. But no sooner do I have that thought then I remind myself of all those faithful readers out there who come by to visit, and the other bloggers I’ve come to know. Blogging shouldn’t be about accumulating a huge number of followers and racking up hundreds of comments, but engaging with those readers we do have. What that means is you’re all important to me and I appreciate your visits.

While I’m on this subject, I might just as well mention that, along with my reluctance for blogging, the same has been true for Facebook. I pop on by times, mostly to see any updated photos of Miss Charlotte, but when it comes to updating my status, I find I rarely have anything I want to say. I do try to update my page more often, but days sometimes go by before I feel the urge to post something there. Does it sound as though I’m whining? I sure hope not. As a 96 year old Grace once said, “I”m just stating facts.”  BTW Grace is an amazing woman who shared a room with my mother-in-law at the nursing home.

Don’t worry though, all this doesn’t mean I’m not writing, in fact just the opposite is true. I’ve been busy every day working on my next novel, and as any of you writers know, it can be an all-consuming task. Did I say task? Well, not so true. Writing isn’t and shouldn’t be a task. Expressing our creativity should be a must for all of us.

Sometimes our writing lives seep into our everyday lives, and people start to wonder just what the heck is wrong. That faraway look we have might not be one of indifference, but our minds busy creating those imaginary worlds that feel all too true. For a writer, our characters are real people who exist in a parallel universe. If we didn’t feel this way about them we couldn’t possibly make them come alive on the page.

Hopefully, once I have the first draft of my novel completed my blogging voice will return, and just so you know that first draft feels quite close to being done.  Believe me, I’ll be doing a happy dance at that point.

 Do you ever feel as though you’ve lost your blogging voice? Do you have times throughout the year when you devote less time to blogging?

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