A Memoir to Recommend

The imagination is a powerful thing – it can bring video games to life as my son shows me daily.  It can bring a person to tears, even though she knows that she is reading fiction.  It can also make us concoct a dream world out of a place where reality, though more stark and mundane, is far superior.

I’m very glad to have had my Lake District dream world – full of Jane Austen characters and time-worn walking trails  – completely debunked.  This is thanks to James Rebanks whose memoir, The Shepherd’s Life, tells a more complete story.  From his memoir I’ve learned that a young boy can detest school because it vies with the way of life he loves – and this does not make him inept or unambitious.  I’ve learned that this same boy can go on to Oxford, can be capable of attaining the modern dream, and still return to the farm that is home.  I’ve learned that  the hills are called ‘fells’, that ‘winter is a bitch,’ and that selecting the best tup at auction is an art form.

But more importantly I’ve had the privilege of being reminded of an ancient lifestyle of hard work that far exceeds the cozy daydreams in my mind because of the honesty in Mr. Rebanks’ recounting.  I’ve found myself waxing romantic and wishing that I could somehow return to such an existence.  But that is hardly Mr. Rebanks’ point.  Rather, it is to educate – to offer a better understanding to those of us who know little of the farming life and who want to wake from our daydreams.  I’m very grateful to have learned, and I feel better off for it.

You can follow James Rebanks on twitter here and find his book here.   I hope that you’ll enjoy it as I have.

I ain’t sorry

I didn’t write today.  I didn’t change the sheets on the beds or clean the bathrooms or put away the boxes for Christmas decorations that are still strewn about – not quite in their intended spots.

I did take a break at about four o’clock to have some apple cider and a cookie.  My four-year-old son asked to join me.  We sipped cider in the library, listening to rain, admiring our Christmas tree, a painting that I recently bought, and some birds that played on the trees outside.  We clinked mugs and sang ‘Just the two of us.’  I put my arm around him, and we finished our cider in silence before it was time for me to start dinner and him to play video games with his dad.

I checked off quite a lot on my ‘to do’ list today, but in that quiet moment when I might have pulled out the computer, I didn’t.  And, I ain’t sorry.

May you all enjoy a quiet moment with the ones you love in this most hectic of seasons.

A Wish For 2017

Just about every American with access to social media posted their opinions about our recent election, and I’m here with mine – only a few days late.  🙂  I don’t have an opinion to share so much as an experience. It probably mimics others from Wednesday.

In my office, we all adhere fairly well to the rule of keeping religion and politics out of the conversation. But we failed to remember that on Wednesday, with some people speaking out loudly, and others getting deeply hurt.  Doors were closed as those feeling distraught hunkered down to console one another, and those locked out wondered what the hell had just happened.  They hadn’t realized that their opinions were not shared.

When the doors were finally opened and apologies made, we all came out better for it.  We found colleagues with whom we share new bonds, and we found that although a wide divide still exists in our dreams for America, that divide does not have to extend to our relationships.

As the United States moves forward into 2017, may we all strive to show empathy for those whose opinions differ from our own, and to work toward continuing an America that has always been great.

Ready? Set? Write!

Not much to post about today, but happy Nanowrimo everyone!  Whether you plan to get all 50,000 words written or just 5,000, Nanowrimo is a great time to set goals and get serious.  I don’t expect to have a full novel written by the end of the month, but I do expect to have a good start on it.  Good luck and happy writing, everyone.

How the hell did you know that?

I overheard a conversation outside my office at work the other day – two people talking about another coworker’s recent wedding.  Someone was curious to see photos, saying, “Yeah, it sounds really weird.  I can’t remember what the theme was called – punky something, or something about smoke, or…”

“Steampunk!” I called out.

“That’s it!” she yelled back, and she and the other person came into my office.  “How the hell did you know what it was called?”

“It’s a genre of fiction,” I told her.  And she screwed up her face at me but luckily ventured no further.  I have yet to confess my part-time pursuits to people at work.

I don’t know a lot about steampunk, truth be told.  I’m sure there are lots of sub-genres of which I may not be aware.  And while it seems safe to assume that authors write what they know and know what they write, I’m guessing there are some lost souls out there.  People just like me.  People looking to find their niche, feeling alone, and unaware that they aren’t.

So, here are a couple of places to learn more about this off-shoot of sci-fi.  First, something, albeit a few years old, from the Huffington Post.  And here is an explanation and some comps on Goodreads.  Happy publishing to those of you who write in this area. And for the rest of you, have fun mystifying your co-workers!



A Novel Idea

I’m still on the hunt for good comps.  I have one under my belt – finally – but it would be nice to have at least one more.  Ugh.  It’s like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack, and I’m reminded why I burned out eight months ago.  I feel like I’ve exhausted Google and Amazon and Goodreads, typing various versions of ‘novels like _____.’

You’ll find lots of suggestions online regarding your search for the elusive comp, but I received an interesting piece of advice at a recent writer’s club meeting.  The published author told me to ask a librarian.  She said it helped her.  And although I’m hesitant to do it – sure that I’ll ask the one librarian who’ll say ‘how the hell am I supposed to know which book is similar to yours?’ – I figure it can’t hurt.  Maybe I’ll try it this week and report back.  And now that I’ve written that I guess I’m kind of committed to it, aren’t I?  Oh well.  Here goes nothing.

Stop Asking Me That!

I dread going to writer’s club meetings for one reason – the question.  And that is, ‘What do you write?’

It’s a natural question, no more intimidating than, ‘What do you do for a living?’ or ‘Are you married?’ or ‘Do you have children?’  Although, come to think about it, people don’t much like those questions either.  They’re used under the guise of harmless conversation, and we all default to them from time to time.  But the truth is that they are tools used to assess the character, status, quality, etc. of the new acquaintance.  Similarly, judgements fly following the dreaded, ‘What do you write?’  Of course, no one lets on.  People smile and nod with looks of intent fascination as you prattle on about your chosen field.  But here’s what they’re really thinking:

Literary fiction?  Sure you do, honey.

A World War II novel?  God if I have to read another one of those…

Fantasy/Sci-fi/Steam-Punk/Historical Fiction?  Oooookaaaay……

Upmarket fiction, eh?  In other words, you don’t have a clue, do you?

Ah, well.  The answer is, I suppose, that I need to get a spine.  I need to lay it on the line, or admit that I don’t know, opinions be damned.  And, I should take heart.  I should remember that the guy asking the question might be just as clueless as I am.

Hello. It’s Me.

Hello again, writing world.  I see you’ve all gotten on just fine without me.  🙂

My last post was in February, and I quickly went from taking a break for a week to pushing writing aside all together.  So here I am, trying to get back into a routine.  I’ve got a new novel idea, and I’m going to try outlining this one.  I’ve found a new novel called The Wonder, and I hope that it will be a good comp for The Scars of Martyrs.  Fingers crossed, since the hunt for one back in the winter knocked me down.  Here is a link of the author, Emma Donoghue, talking about her latest project.

Stepping back into the blogging world will, hopefully, be the shove that I need to get started again.  After all, I would hate to abandon you again.  And while I say that jokingly, I do feel a sense of ‘coming home’ with this return.  I’m glad to see your pictures, glad to revisit your blogs.  I’m forever surprised by this blogging world and what a nice community it can be.


Pass The Foie Gras, Please

I’ve been delving into the world of non-fiction lately, and one of my recent finds has me ready to buy a beret and my husband bemoaning my enthusiasm.

It’s a book by Karen Le Billon, and it’s called French Kids Eat Everything.

For those of you with kids (especially picky eaters), stop what you’re doing now and go buy the book. Right now. I’ll wait…

And for the rest of you who don’t have kids, listen up. This book is for you too. Here’s the gist: Food is central to French culture (duh). They respect food and mealtime and demand that their children do the same. Now before you imagine totalitarian parental control, and pain and suffering for parents and youngsters, bear with me. Rules and a little discipline at mealtime do not an unhappy family make. The French have mastered the art of eating well, and they pass that art on to their children, which means that they have a serious leg up on those of us who live outside of their culture.

“We’re not French. We’re never going to be French!” my husband tells me. And to him I say, you’re missing the point. I don’t want to be French. I’m sure there are aspects of my life that I’d prefer to theirs. But not food and the culture that surrounds food. Tell me, what is wrong with a little discipline in eating habits? What’s the problem with reining in snacking, introducing a new item to the menu, expecting your child to at least taste what you provide, and putting a table cloth and candles out at dinner?

Yes, you too can use cloth napkins.

I have another non-fiction book on using linens, and what do you think my husband thinks of it? Well, that’s another blog post for another time.


Just An Idea

My son’s birthday is coming up soon, and he received a gift that I just might have to steal from him.

It’s an award-winning children’s book called ‘What Do You Do With An Idea’ by Kobi Yamada.  But this gem of a story should not be read by or for children alone.  It must be lifted beyond the messy chaos of the playroom, away from the kids’ bookshelf that overflows with rhymes about dinosaurs (nothing against dinosaurs, mind you), and given pride of place in the adult library.

It is the story of a simple idea, born without intention and determined to follow its young owner who questions what he should do with it and what others will say about it.

Sound familiar?  It does to me, and it likely will for so many of you who battle to keep your ideas alive, to protect them from criticism (especially your own), and to see them through to the point that they blossom and become somehow bigger than yourself.

Buy a copy of this book.  Look at it every day and remember that the end result of your idea is not the goal.  As with everything in life, it is the journey you take with your idea that matters.