Wednesday, December 1, 2021

IWSG: The Delight and Dismay of a Writing Life


Welcome to the first Wednesday of the month. You know what that means! It's time to let our insecurities hang out. Yep, it's the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop. If you're a writer at any stage of career, I highly recommend this blog hop as a way to connect with other writers for support, sympathy, ideas, and networking. If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life.

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

This month's optional question: In your writing, what stresses you the most? What delights you?

The awesome co-hosts for the December 1 posting of the IWSG are PJ Colando, Diane Burton, Louise – Fundy Blue, Natalie Aguirre, and Jacqui Murray! Be sure to check out what they have to say when you're finished here: 
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Writing is central to who I am as a human, but it's really hard to explain to other people. From the outside, it definitely doesn't look like fun. I sit alone, wrestling with imaginary friends, giving myself anxiety and angst over fictional people, places, and situations…and I call this fun? 

Articulating the experience for outsiders feels impossible, and I end up shuffling my feet and looking uncomfortable. 

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Oddly enough, I think I like it because it's hard, so I guess I take delight in the dismaying part. Make of that what you will. 

Sure, it doesn't exactly feel good in the moments when you're struggling to straighten out a tangled plot or understand the secret motivations of a uncooperative character, but when you do it--when you come out on the other side victorious, it feels like you really *did* something. And even in the moments of struggle, part of me is enjoying it--the delving deeper, the striving to understand the part of myself making itself known on the page, the brainwork. 

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It's a highly individual challenge, too. I have a strong support network and love the heck out of my writing community, but there's only so much they can do for me. In the end, it's me and blank page locked into battle and I have to win or lose on my own. 

Then, if you hand that story over to someone else and they *get* it--they pick up what you were laying down, they laugh and cry at the right moments, they get angry at the injustices . . .well, that's a whole second level of wonder and delight. Because as much as I love writing, I'm not sure I'd keep going without readers. I need an audience to finish the circuit. Otherwise, all that gorgeous energy would spin in a circle until it just burned out. I'm not Emily Dickinson, satisfied only to have captured the moment for myself. I want to share it. 

There's nothing else in my life that gives me this feeling. 

When I was a kid writing poetry, I'd call the urge to write "itchy fingers." It was this strange little urge, this feeling of dissatisfaction that could only by soothed by wordsmithing. These days, I feel like the itch is someplace deeper than my fingertips, maybe in my brain itself. But there's a nervous energy that overtakes me when I don't get enough writing time. 

I'm sure a therapist could analyze it for me, but I'm not looking to be cured. It's worth every moment of misery along the way for ecstasy that comes when I've had a breakthrough in a story. 

So, fellow IWSGers, how does it work for you? Can you explain why you love it to someone who doesn't write? 

If you don't write, is there something like this in your life, something you love because it's challenging? 

I'd love to hear what you think in the comments!

Monday, November 29, 2021

What I Read in November

 


A little romance, a little war, a little nostalgia, a little nonfiction advice, and gorgeous heartbreaking prose. November was a good reading month in la Casa Bryant. 


I picked up Somewhere in Time by Richard Matheson mostly because I've long been a fan of the movie featuring Christopher Reeve. I listened to it as an audiobook, read beautifully by Scott Brick, who got the breathless desperation so key to the story. 

As always seems to happen in these cases, my reading was all about comparing the movie, which I already loved, to the book. 

Luckily, everything I loved about the movie was there in the book: time travel by sheer stubbornness, star-crossed lovers, gorgeous setting, sparkling chemistry, and unapologetically sappy romance. There were some new layers, lending more ambiguity to whether the events happened or were a flight of fancy, and I liked that a lot. 

At the same time (because I'm crazy like that and often read multiple books at the same time), I was reading Fortune's Pawn by Rachel Bach on Kindle. I picked this one up mostly because I read a book of writing advice by the same author, and wanted to see what kind of work she's able to create using her system. For a book with a lot of military and hand to hand combat scenes, there was a surprising amount of romance in this one. Although this genre isn't my typical cup of tea, I found I really enjoyed it. Enough so, that I was frustrated by the reversal at the end. 

The only thing that stopped me from immediately buying book 2 to see what happens next was sticker shock. I'm a hard sell for ebooks over $5. After all, I don't get a physical object at all. 

I read Black Beauty by Anna Sewell in audiobook/ebook combination, moving back and forth between the two editions.  It's the December pick for my First Monday Classics Book Club, and I'm looking forward to the discussion. I read it with wide-eyed wonder when I was a child, and still found it pretty affecting with my more cynical adult brain. I hadn't realized the full range of politics surrounding care of horses. 

Structuring Your Novel by KM Weiland was suggested by a friend when I mentioned I wanted to try and learn to outline to see if that might speed my writing process. I found some good food for thought within its pages, but didn't get as many a-ha moments as I'd hoped for. Where's my magic bullet, darn it? Reading writing advice books at this stage is often dodgy as most of them are aimed at absolute beginners and I'm a little further along in my path than that, though I still have plenty to learn. 

Everything We Left Unsaid by Ashley Cade is the second volume in a romance series by a woman I know on Instagram. I read and enjoyed the first book, Something That Could Last, last year. While I still ended up cheering for our hero and heroine to get to their Happily Ever After, this one was a little less up my alley, with a large part of the early plot relying on delayed communication. Not my favorite trope. I'm glad I stuck with it, though, and enjoyed watching the next stage of this romance develop. 

I finished my reading month on a high note, like an operatic, break the wine-glass on the table note. So good! 

Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell explored an imagined version of Shakespeare's marriage and the death of his son.  The prose was gorgeous, and the narration in my audiobook version by Ell Potter was perfect for the story--calm, unhurried, but with deep currents running beneath. 

This one is in the running for the best book I've read this year. 

So how was your November life in books? Anything wonderful make to the top of your TBR? I'd love to hear about in the comments!


Friday, November 26, 2021

On Headaches

My first husband didn't believe me when it came to my headaches. I guess he thought I was exaggerating to get out doing things I didn't want to do. He didn't really get headaches, lucky bastard. 

I was never lying though. No, "not today, honey, I have a headache" games from me. Just waves of pain and a need for quiet stillness in the dark. 

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I've always been susceptible to them. Sinus headaches, allergy headaches, stress headaches, migraines. I manage a lot of life through the haze of some kind of headache or another because if I gave in and went to bed every time I had a headache, I'd be there more often than not. 

People who don't suffer from headaches really can't understand what the pain is like, much the way people who've never broken a bone or never birthed a child cannot truly understand what a sufferer is suffering. 

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I woke with a doozy this morning. Felt like a hot piece of steal was piercing the left side of my head, with a point of impact feeling on the forehead, and something else in the middle of my skull, like a hot golf ball swelling and trying to burst its way out though my cheek. 

Waking with a headache is especially terrible. Like the day has pounced before you were even alert enough to defend yourself. Unfair. Dirty pool, old boy. 

I tried vacating the bedroom and going through the morning motions--letting the dogs out to pee, feeding them, making a cup of tea. Sometimes moving makes things better. I'm a medication-avoider. I don't like to take pills, even basic pain-killers, if there's something else I can do and feel better. 

Not this time, though. The pain kept increasing, making me worry I was going to vomit and giving me heat waves, even after I caved and took a sinus pill, so I had to wake Sweetman on his holiday and get him to take over dog duty so I could work on finding some relief. It took a range of things: that sinus pill, a nasal rinse, a shower (for the steam), lots of nose-blowing, a defensive sleep nap with the pillow shoved against my aching cheek to apply counter pressure. 

But I woke with only the residual ache and a cautious feeling. Whew! I'm relieved it ended after only a couple of hours, and that my head chose a day off to attack me on, so I didn't have to try and create sub lesson plans through that pain. My best guess is that my head was angry about the amount of dust I got into yesterday cleaning up to host Thanksgiving. I hadn't done anything else that usually triggers a pain wave like this. 

Any other headache sufferers out there? What do you do to find relief, besides medication? 

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Celebrating a Book Birthday with Patricia Josephine

 

Book Birthdays are the best. Even better when they coincide with your actual birthday! I'm celebrating today with Patricia Josephine. She's having a scavenger hunt to celebrate! Keep reading to learn more about her newest release, and watch for the word highlighted in red--it's part of the prize! 

Simply head over to https://www.patriciajosephine.com/blog for the list of other participants and visit the other blogs to collect 5 prize words. When you've collected the words, leave a comment on her "Happy Birthday AND Anniversary" post to be entered in the giveaway. 

Savannah and Evan thought they were safe on earth. They were wrong.

Savannah Janowitz had everything: Popularity. Caring parents. A boy she had loved all her life. It all vanished when she went missing. When she reappears a year later with no memory and strange, new abilities, she struggles to fit back into her life.

Evan Sullivan never believed aliens existed until he and Savannah were abducted. Experimented and mutated by them, he is forced to hide in the shadows and watch Savannah rebuild her life without him. But no matter how hard he tries, he can’t stay away from her.

Reunited with Evan, Savannah sees a glimmer of her old life finally return. As they face what was done to them together, they discover aliens aren’t the only danger to them. Someone closer to home is watching, waiting for the order to take out the ‘alien threat’.

Abducted Life is a sci-fi romance about true love over coming all the odds.
Steam rating: Warm (Moderately explicit sensuality.)

AVAILABLE FOR $3.99 AT AMAZON OR READ FOR FREE IN KINDLE UNLIMITED!
Add to Goodreads

Thursday, November 11, 2021

A Good Day Off, Samantha-style

I've got a day off today. Thank you Veterans! Generally, I take one particular veteran to lunch, but my sister just moved to the opposite coast, so that's a little harder than usual to do, so I donated to a couple of veteran-related charities instead. 

My work-life balance is a mess again--tilted way too far over on the work side, and leaving the life side flapping feebly in the wind, so today is about trying to rebalance that a little, and getting to enjoy the small pleasures of life that get trampled in the hurry-hurry pressure cooker I call a day job. 

So, first I went to breakfast with Sweetman. As a middle school teacher, my day starts hella stupid early, so generally, I've left for work without even seeing his face or hearing his voice.

Starting with coffee and hot bar breakfast at Weaver Street Market, surrounding by trees at the height of fall color was perfect. We talked and just enjoyed seeing each other before five o'clock at night. 

Then, I took the boys for an extra-long walk. We went to Riverwalk and included the extra loop around Gold Park. There was a brisk fall wind, and I was wearing a flannel shirt my dad left here the last time he visited (there's still something special about wearing your dad's shirt, even at age 50) and it felt so good to take time to get out into the air and light. 

Daylight savings time has been leaving me in the dark most of the time and making it much harder to get a walk, since it's already getting dark when I get home from school now and I cannot get up early enough to walk before school--I'm not naturally a morning person at all, though I've learned to manage because I have to, as a teacher. Walks are the number one thing I do for my health: physical and mental, so it's painful when I can't get enough of them. 

Home from that, I spent some time on my computer, writing this post, responding to emails, and checking in on social media. 

Yes, I probably should have devoted that time to working on my novel (I'm drafting the fifth Menopausal Superhero novel for NaNoWriMo), but I craved a slow start to my day, and this balanced "productivity" with relaxation in a way that works for me. 

Next, I'm on lunch duty, followed by early afternoon errands: taking the kiddo to two appointments. We try hard to avoid missing school both for the kid and for me, but we still need get to all the health care people that matter to our lives. So generally a day off school has a couple of appointments in it. 

Today it's the orthodontist and the eye doctor because the poor kid has two parents with glasses who needed braces. There were no good eyes or teeth to inherit. 

I'll lug my laptop with me and squeeze some words in while I'm sitting in waiting rooms. This evening, I'll work in a little more writing alongside dinner time, dog care, and maybe a little TV watching with my family. 

Of course, since I'm the mom, there will also be some dishwashing, laundry, etc., but it's all made a little easier by having room for it in the day instead of shoving EVERYTHING I do besides teach into 3-4 waking hours at home after school. 

Maybe it's not exciting, but it's a very good sort of day off for me. When you get a single day off from your daily grind, how do you use it? 

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

The Dreaded Blurb: An IWSG post


Welcome to the first Wednesday of the month. You know what that means! It's time to let our insecurities hang out. Yep, it's the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop. If you're a writer at any stage of career, I highly recommend this blog hop as a way to connect with other writers for support, sympathy, ideas, and networking.If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life.

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

This month's optional question:
What's harder to do, coming up with your book title or writing the blurb?

The awesome co-hosts for the November 3 posting of the IWSG are Kim Lajevardi, Victoria Marie Lees, Joylene Nowell Butler, Erika Beebe, and Lee Lowery! Be sure to check out what they have to say, and visit other writers in the blog hop!
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My title probably gave me away. Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, do I struggle with writing a blurb. Even the word gives me the shivers. 


Sounds like the name of some kind of scourge from another planet that would show up to chase teenagers in a 1950s monster flick. 


via GIPHY

The thing that fills me with dread about writing a blurb is trying to boil down my 80,000 plus word book baby into effective marketing text. It's a summary and a sales pitch at the same time, all in a few sentences and a good or bad one can make all the difference in the likelihood that someone will give your work a chance. There's so many things you're trying to get these two paragraphs to do for you. 

So, no pressure, right? No big whoop?


via GIPHY

Like a lot of writers of my acquaintance, I LOVE writing, but hate selling . . . or at least hate being a salesperson. So, writing that back of the book blurb can feel like a nightmare and bring every insecurity you have screaming to the forefront. 

So, what do we do about it? Seek help! As you build your personal writing community, you can ask for help with this bit. That's definitely what I do. I draft something (no matter how bad--because you have to have something to use as a starting point) and I run it by writer and reader friends, soliciting feedback. Bit by painful bit, we build those paragraphs into something that does the job.

Then we send it off and begin the work of blocking the memory until we have to do it again for the next book! 

If you're a writer, what advice do you have to make blurb writing less painful? If you're a reader, does the blurb decide whether or not you'll read a book? What turns you on or off in a blurb? I'd love to read your comments! 

Friday, October 29, 2021

October Reads

 October was all about books for me…though oddly, I didn't read that many. 

I decided to take on a little project in October. I do this a lot. There's something about the combination of cooler weather and the advent of "spooky season" that bubbles up in my creativity. 

In other years, I've indulged in spooky movie marathons, participated in blog hops like Wording Wednesdays and October Frights,  or flash fiction challenges like Nightmare Fuel. One year, I wrote 31 blog posts, about 31 things I love about Halloween and all things creepy. 

This year I did 31 days of spooky reads videos over on my YouTube channel, highlighting 31 spooky/scary/creepy/eerie books that I have read and loved. 


I talked about a range of books and stories, from the terrifying to the merely odd, published as recently as last year, and as long ago as 1764.  I'd love it if you checked them out! 

Preparing those videos meant re-reading parts of 31 books, but I didn't re-read any of them in their entirety, so I don't count them as part of my reading challenge. (Now at 62 books, out of a goal of 52). 

So, outside of those, I only read three books this month: 


The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark was a choice by my neighborhood book club for September. I didn't get it read it in time for our meeting (because The Count of Monte Cristo was kicking my butt), but I was intrigued enough to go ahead and read it afterward. It's a quiet book in some senses, but very intriguing and full of interesting insights about teaching, learning, growing up, relationships, and betrayal. 

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward, I really liked. Like Beloved by Toni Morrison (one of my spooky reads picks!), it follows a family dealing with intergenerational fallout from past trauma--the death of a son at the hands of a white neighbor, time in incarceration, and cancer. It intermixes this very realistic family drama with ghosts and witchcraft to great effect. Heartrending and beautiful. 

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley was a re-read for me. I was revisiting it because it's the next book for my First Monday Classics Book Club. The ideas of the book are still fascinating, and a little scary in their seeming accuracy, but the book lacks a lot on other fronts: two-dimensional characters, weak plot, jerky pacing. There's a better book in there somewhere, but Huxley didn't write it. Still, I'd recommend it if you've never read it, if only for the ideas. 

What did you read this month? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!