Wednesday, December 21, 2011
It's nearly Christmas, the shopping is nearly done, the wrapping and shipping nearly finished. My first Christmas post-divorce, and my second without my children.
It's strange how grief rolls out over time. Dealing with the pain of distance from my kids has been a daily trial. The wrenching pain of this distance is a wound that has to be dressed every single day. Because of its severity, other pain gets pushed away, pushed down because there is only so much you can handle at one time, and pain related to children triumphs all others.
I looked at my puppy Charlie the other day, and remembered the dog I had to leave behind.
The dog I loved, and who loved me. I had no choice; my ex-husband needed Courage and loved him more than any dog we'd ever had. It would have been cruel to take him. Savage even. And despite the pain and rage and fear of my departure, I couldn't do that.
And so that little dog, who was also my favorite dog of all, the one who loved me best, had to stay when I left.
It's been almost two years, a long time in a dog's life. I imagine how he has aged. I wonder if he wondered what happened to me. I wonder if dogs can think back and remember.
But I don't stay long in those wonderings.
God is good. He has given me this new little dog to love. So strange and funny and smart and weird. In loving him, I am beginning to be able to mourn Courage. Which I think, is a sign of healing.
Merry Christmas Courage. I am petting you in my heart.
Saturday, December 17, 2011
Monday, December 12, 2011
After a fruitless search, I settled for white icicle lights. I'll drape them and tuck them and do what I can to hide the fact that they weren't intended for a tree. And I'll use coordinated colors, gold and a turquoisey blue, something I've also never done before.
And it will be a good Christmas.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Here's the first. Because I do need one.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Saturday, October 8, 2011
"Simply and truly done. A finely wrought spiritual conversation which is a pleasure to listen to and appealing to all ages and cultures."
"A tale with meaning for everyone today. A mixture of fable and faith, so right away the reader's reality transfers to a different world, more significant than the one he/she is standing in."
"Beautiful, lyrical, spiritual, well-crafted and subtle. Expands the bounds not only of Christian faith, but of culture. I loved this piece."
"Provokes the question: What role does fable play in our makeup?"
"Suzanne has a great gift for the mythic, and a very credible innocence. Genuine and deeply felt."
"A lovely, poignant tale, much needed at this time in our culture."
Friday, October 7, 2011
Monday, October 3, 2011
Monday, September 26, 2011
Saturday, September 24, 2011
Friday, September 23, 2011
Monday, September 19, 2011
Saturday, September 3, 2011
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Monday, August 29, 2011
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Friday, August 12, 2011
Sunday, August 7, 2011
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Monday, August 1, 2011
Monday, July 18, 2011
Or more accurately, how much online-networking is justifiable for not sitting down to actually write?
I'm thinking it has to be limited. I should come up with a ratio. Or someone should.
It's not that I haven't been productive lately. I'm working on the 3rd draft of my second picture book, and the reliable reader plot and villains are pretty well nailed. I sent off more submissions and queries for the first picture book, and continue to look for the right magazine for my food-related writing interests.
Writing seems to induce a strange inertia. When I'm not sitting in front of the keyboard or notebook, ideas wait to jump from my brain through my fingertips. The moment the fingers touch a writing implement however, the urge to do anything but write kicks in.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Monday, June 13, 2011
"Good position, I told her. Angel above, and a carnivorous angel too -- high time they came clean on that subject! Oven below, as in all the most reliable accounts. Then there's the rest of us in between, stuck in Middle Earth, on the level of the frying pan. Poor Myra was baffled, as she always is by theological discourse. She likes her God plain -- plain and raw, like a radish."
Sunday, June 12, 2011
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
The story contains several promising subplots. The protagonist struggles with guilt related to her best friend's death; she'd become engaged to a man with whom the friend was in love and the resulting heartache appears to have resulted in the woman's suicide. She later befriends an elderly woman who shared similar guilt from childhood, having told the son of an Italian gestapo member where her Jewish friend was hiding, thinking he would help.
Other details within the book are also promising: vintage clothing and the potential stories related to each piece; the unhealthy connection between a beau and his spoiled daughter; another beau's interest in classic, early films; the complexity of a father who goes off to have a child with another woman and the resulting trauma for the mother. All this seems like great fodder. The author had plenty to work with.
So given that the book presents challenging major themes and includes interesting details and relationship complexity, I've been trying to figure out how it ends up vapid.
I think the problem must be in the character development.
The protagonist feels guilt but that's all you really know about her other than her career choices. She appears to be "nice" in a vanilla pudding sort of way, befriending the old woman and being kind to her infant brother. But there is no real depth. She is smooth and bland, with nothing to like or dislike about her.
The other characters are similarly lacking in dimension, each presenting a single face throughout the book.
The most intriguing character is the secondary love interest. He's given very little airtime, which perhaps explains why he is intriguing. With him you are at least allowed to wonder and hope that there is more.
Two other characters who made brief appearances were also stronger than the lead players, perhaps again due to brevity.
So what am I to learn about character development from this book?
First the main character has to be complex and flawed. I've read this over and over again in articles about the craft, but this protagonist brought it home for me.
Second, there needs to be more going on within the heroine than just the primary conflict.
Third, secondary characters also need to be dimensional. I might be able to get away with one or two minor characters who are so colorful that demonstrating depth beneath the surface isn't necessary. They can be treated like artwork, or the squirt of lime that brightens the flavor of a cocktail. But for the major secondaries, even the colorful ones, dimension and complexity must be conveyed.
Fourth, saying less about a character may actually work toward their believability because the reader is drawn in by wondering what's behind the curtain. To make this work I'd probably need to build mystery.
I've not quite finished the book, but am very glad I selected it. Turns out it has been very instructive.
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Saturday, May 28, 2011
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Friday, May 20, 2011
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
- June 12, 2011--Laurie R. King provides details about backstory in and interesting way. When The God of the Hive opens, you are immediately thrust into the middle of action. Clearly much has happened that is yet to be explained. Ms. King weaves descriptions of previous events throughout the first half of the book, maybe even farther. She incorporates them judiciously, leaving many questions unanswered in order to keep the reader wondering how this or that happened. The technique may be easier to pull off when you have as many books in a series, like this one. Most readers are familiar enough with the style, characters, and approach to plot that they won't find it off-putting. Not sure it would work so well in a first book or a standalone piece. She also leaves a few cliff hangers unanswered, about which fans have commented on her blog. Not sure why she did that Maybe the scenes ended up on the editing room floor without editorial clean up of the pages that survived. Perhaps the book traveled too quickly to print?
- June 1, 2011--Margaret Atwood is a master, plain and simple. The Blind Assassin is all about shifts forward and backward in time, and she handles it very simply via changes in chapter. Clean and elegant.
- May 10, 2011--This morning I finished reading Nicole Seitz' The Inheritance of Beauty. The book centers around a group of childhood friends who come back into each other's lives when they are elderly. The sense of secrets and mystery is slowly developed as the pages turn. The author uses several devices to tell the story of what happened years ago. She uses letters as a form of confession tool, memories from the one lucid central character, and the daydreams and mind wanderings of two other elderly characters who no longer communicate with the outside world.
- May 6, 2011--Goldie Goldbloom (in The Paperbark Shoe) weaves events from the past in and out of the present in a free form style, as mini-stories inserted into the ongoing first person narrative. The heroine will be talking about one thing and then smoothly segue into a story which provides explanation about why she was in a lunatic asylum, or how her little girl died, or why she puts flowers on the grave of a man she never met. It works very well in the overall piece which reads like a stream of consciousness. (BTW: You can't quite determine if she is telling the story from the future or in the present as it unfolds. You might even wonder if it could be both, though how could that be possible? This weird wondering somehow adds to the book's dark magic.) I like the way Goldie handles the unfolding of backstory... it reads the way you talk when telling your own stories. You have to interrupt the main tale periodically to explain why your aunt was wearing that green shirt, or how you came to discover your seafood allergy, or how surprised you were that it happened on your parents anniversary. She uses a narrative style that is natural, which probably helps the story feel so real.
Monday, May 9, 2011
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Thursday, March 10, 2011
It was beautiful. And reassuring.
Today is March 10. In upstate New York, that means it's still winter, and will be for weeks to come. Yesterday I noticed that the tree beside the driveway is in flower. The bare branches are covered with small yellow blossoms.
The signs are appearing.
I'll be leaving soon.
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
If you've been reading and are wondering what happened to the night skyline etc., now you know.
Friday, March 4, 2011
I've also been reading Writer's Digest articles on outlining strategies and other tools of the craft.
Plus while dozing, a character name popped into my head for the reluctant reader book which has been percolating for a few weeks.
I managed two submissions as well, so while I'm frustrated at functioning at a low ebb, I'm grateful for what has been accomplished. And I'm hopeful that I'm on the mend...
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Friday, February 11, 2011
Friday, February 4, 2011
It was a useful session. A panel of children's librarians (both public and school) from around the area answered questions about reading trends, books they wish there were more of, etc. Interesting highlights included the need for:
- Fiction books to support social studies and science curriculum.
- Fun books to lure reluctant readers into the joy of reading.
- Books with age appropriate content but lower level vocabulary for older kids who read below level. For example, imagine a teacher trying to encourage a high schooler who currently only reads at a 4th grade level... Judy Moody isn't going to cut it.
- Elementary level biographies.
The general consensus was that kids love-love-love series, and are currently stuck on all things vampire, zombie, and fantasy. (In case you didn't know.)
I'm glad I went, and have been ruminating all night about a book for a 3rd grade little boy who doesn't yet know he loves to read...
Thursday, February 3, 2011
My list of submissions for various pieces is growing, and as my friend DiDi tells me, rejection letters are a sign that I am moving forward in my life as a writer. It is good to have friends who are optimists and encouragers. They point out truths that you don't always see on your own.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
On the plus side, Ms. Goodman wrapped up the many story lines in hopeful ways (ala commercial fiction?) The nice girl gets married, the traumatized girl gets a new goal in life. The side characters end up with enough money, the girl of their dreams, etc. It's all very tidy, which makes you feel good inside though you may question the feasibility of such ubiquitous tidiness.
On the negative side, there were so many story lines. It could have been at least 2 books, probably 3. I would have loved to see Jess investigate the cookbook collector's life further, as that story line alone was rich and deep. Instead it was merely touched on, while details of dot.com IPOs and plummets were extensive.
I GET the idea of an ensemble cast, and of telling multiple tales at once. The stories were woven together reasonably well, but the overall impact for me was diluted. It didn't have enough of what I wanted. Readers feel misled when the title implies focus on one thing, and the book actually focuses on another. They/we look at a title like this and expect a cozy read involving cookbooks. That's what they hope for. That's not what they get.
I learned a lot from this book! It gives me hope, and focus. It helps me see how far I should go in providing back story about side characters. It warns me to keep the central focus on my heroine, and let the side stories support and feed it rather than compete with it. And it encourages me to include the types of writing that I love to do, such as she employed in chapter 22.
Monday, January 31, 2011
Sunday, January 30, 2011
(Click here for examples: http://theologyofdesire.blogspot.com/search?q=peach)
Too bad Ms. Goodman couldn't have stayed in the place she conveyed so well in this scene.
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Before that there were occasional tantalizing snippets but they were presented meagerly. Without them I would have given up altogether, but if there had been a few more I would have turned pages eagerly in hope of finding the next one on the next page. I'm guessing she used this as a device, but if so, she walked a dangerous line, particularly for someone who has a sizeable stack of unread library books wafting promise from the bedside.
Thank goodness for Chapter 22.
Friday, January 28, 2011
Over the past years I've had to do a lot of covering up of my faith. My home was full of beloved atheists. My office was no place of prayer. My non-profit work would have been hampered by a public proclamation. In this past year of seismic shifts, my Abba keeps reminding me that I no longer have to hide it. That I'm no longer supposed to hide it.
So I step out in faith here and now, confessing with my fingers that He is my Lord. I dedicate every word that forms in my mind and passes through my hands to your eyes to His glory. And I leave the details of what He will do with it to Him.
This is peace and joy indeed.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
The pictures are crucial for this book. I'm not sure how so many children's authors are able to hand off the text to a publisher knowing that they'll have no input on choice of illustrators, style, etc. Perhaps that's why there are so many author/illustrators in picture book land.
I am grateful to be a person of faith, and can rest in the certainty that the right pairing will be made, even if it takes time. Now I just need more patience...
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
One part I do like is the timeframe. It's set in the late 1990's, pre-dot.com bust. I've been trying to figure out when to set the novel I'm working on, and have been thinking about roughly the same timeframe.
There's been no mention of cookbooks yet. Frustrating given that I'm a cookbook junkie. Am trying to be patient though, certain that cookbooks come to those who wait.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
If so, I guess I'm doomed to be a commercial writer.
Monday, January 24, 2011
Recent titles have included White Oleander by Janet Fitch, The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, Anne's House of Dreams (a Green Gables sequel) by Lucy Maud Montgomery, The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano, Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (still reading), Vinegar Hill by A. Manette Ansay, and Message in a Bottle by Nicholas Sparks.
Obviously Sparks' work falls under the commercial category, and the quality reflects it. (No offense Nicholas.) He's got a knack for coming up with compelling story concepts, but the writing itself is a bit weak, and the character development is shallow.
But what about The Secret Life of Bees? Where does that fall on the spectrum?