Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Year of Risk Update - #wordoftheyear

Here we are half-way through my Year of Risk.  My first time ever choosing a word of the year.  I entered a writing contest (and didn't win).  I applied for--and didn't get--an internship at a literary agency (that would have been so much fun!).  I applied for--and didn't get--a couple of other positions.  Then I posted a random complaint on Facebook about the difficulties of finding a job that let me avoid having to get before and after school care for my kids, and--ta-da!--a few weeks later I'm working basically full-time for an awesome boss doing interesting work, and not needing to pay for child care!  And now I'm busier than I've ever been in my life.  I've also said yes to some social situations that aren't exactly comfortable for an introvert like me.  I should probably have brought a friend to one or two of them, since I hate looking like a wallflower (which I am, of course).

It has, so far, been a year of risk-taking unlike any I've lived before it.  I don't do risk, generally.  I really like my comfort zone.  But what is interesting is that I'm also currently more fearful than ever before.  More introverted.  More awkward.  More doubtful of my abilities and talents.  Maybe pushing myself to jump in has made me more afraid.  This is the opposite of what I hoped would happen.

Usually I like going out to a house party, or other event.  I like being with people, as long as I know I'll have one or two people to talk to.  I like people-watching.  So why do I suddenly have a heart-racing, sweaty-palm reaction to the idea of going to an event?  Or at the idea of starting a conversation with one of the other soccer-moms lined up at the side of the weedy field?

In addition to the extra dose of anxiety, I'm also becoming discontented with that so very comfortable comfort zone.  Maybe I don't want to be the same as I've always been.  Maybe I want to change, even as I fear it?  I'm sure some famous somebody has said something about this paradox I find myself in.

image of alberta prairie field with cloudy blue sky




Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Right-Brain Writer

I have lived pretty much my whole life in the sphere of my right-brain.  Particularly when it comes to my writing.  I write to capture a feeling.  Such writing is pretty much always dependent on the illusive muse.  While such a state of flow is exhilarating, It does not naturally lend itself to finishing things.  Particularly long things like novels.

I tried NaNoWriMo for the first time this past November.  While it was a lot of fun, it was also really hard.  My best days were those in which I had previously thought out which scenes I needed to write, and had a rough plan for my writing time.  I still got to that fun place where the writing flowed, and I even got there faster!

Part of my risk-taking in 2017 will, I hope, be focused on developing and encouraging more left-brain analytical activities, which don't come naturally to me.  So I am giving an honest shot at serious outlining.  I've always loved planning.  But stories I've planned out never get beyond that stage.  And stories I haven't planned peter out by about 3000 words.  By combining the two--serious outlining, followed by a writing start date and maybe a NaNoWriMo-like sprint to finish the first draft--maybe I'll hit on the system that works for me.  It's worth a try!

If you're a writer, please share what works for you.  How do you get your writing done?  Outlining? Not outlining?

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Risk - #wordoftheyear


For the past couple of years, I've been feeling gentle but persistent nudges to move out of my comfort zone.  Mostly I've resisted, but the few times I have opened myself to something new and scary, It's been awesome.  So, for my first ever word of the year, I strongly feel I should embrace the concept of RISK.  Maybe it's time to stand up and jump out of the nest rather than waiting to be pushed.


Thursday, 16 June 2016

Write what you know? What do I know?

My talented friend, Alexis Marie Chute (who accomplishes more in 5 minutes than I do in a year...oh, to be a high-energy person!) recently posted a "write what you know" reminder on instagram.  Upon seeing this advice, I had my usual reaction of, "I don't KNOW anything!  I haven't done anything!"  Since I married young, have only had a few jobs, have only taken a few college courses, haven't travelled much, and have spent the last nine years barely surviving the raising of little kids, I feel like I don't have a lot of interesting personal experiences to draw from. At least none that I want to write about.  Then I realised that I do have something: Random trivia that I've read about over the years.  My obsessive personality likes to read everything possible about whatever topic is most interesting at the time.  And I tend to retain a lot of it.  So here is a list of things that I DO know something about (even if I've never actually done many of them and they'll probably never help me win a game of Trivial Pursuit):


  • medieval history (most recently, the Plantagenet dynasty thanks to library audiobooks and Dan Jones)
  • medieval heraldry
  • medieval reinactment groups
  • period-appropriate medieval and regency costumes
  • wilderness survival
  • how to do projects without reading the directions or following the rules
  • how to furnish a house with second-hand items
  • Harry Potter
  • latin names of plants...although I'm never sure whether the name that comes to mind when I see a plant is the correct one until I look it up and prove myself right.
  • L. M. Montgomery's books and life (her journals are fascinating)
  • potential problems in renovating an old house
  • building
  • furniture refinishing
  • living in the country
  • tea
  • writing
  • master's degrees that I'd love to get, but both can't afford and don't qualify for (since I don't have an undergraduate degree...can't I skip that part? Or win the lottery so I can do both?)
  • And much more that I can't remember now, but I'm sure will float to the surface of my mind when I'm trying to remember important things like picking up prescriptions, or when was the last time I cleaned the bathroom?
Now, how can I use all this to write a novel?


Sunday, 17 January 2016

Book Review: The Painter's Daughter, by Julie Klassen




The Painter's Daughter, by Julie Klassen, is set in regency England, as are all her books as far as I know. 

Sophie Dupont, daughter of a portrait painter, assists her father in his studio, keeping her own artwork out of sight. She often walks the cliffside path along the north Devon coast, popular with artists and poets. It's where she met the handsome Wesley Overtree, the first man to tell her she's beautiful.
Captain Stephen Overtree is accustomed to taking on his brother's neglected duties. Home on leave, he's sent to find Wesley. Knowing his brother rented a cottage from a fellow painter, he travels to Devonshire and meets Miss Dupont, the painter's daughter. He's startled to recognize her from a miniature portrait he carries with him--one of Wesley's discarded works. But his happiness plummets when he realizes Wesley has left her with child and sailed away to Italy in search of a new muse.
Wanting to do something worthwhile with his life, Stephen proposes to Sophie. He does not offer love, or even a future together, but he can save her from scandal. If he dies in battle, as he believes he will, she'll be a respectable widow with the protection of his family.

The heroine, Sophie, is so relatable, with her insecurity about her looks and her talent, and the mistakes she's made. She is sometimes a little too meek, but I think that's what got her into the mess in the first place. I love that we get to see a glimpse of her hidden passion in the very first scene, as she hurls a portrait of herself off the cliff. 

I love the current trend in inspirational fiction to allow flawed, damaged, or even "soiled" heroines. The Christian historical romances I read as a teenager nearly always featured a chaste and virtuous girl who never once had a passionate thought, and whatever scrape she was in at the beginning of the story was no fault of her own. Real, confusing, heartbreaking passion is refreshing.

Stephen, our dashing and scarred hero, has his own flaws, and his own secrets, and I love him for them. He is a problem-solver. A fixer. And does his best to fix Sophie's problem.

Plot:  I like the way the plot progressed, with Sophie being torn between absent, irresponsible Wesley and present but distant Stephen.  Sophie and Stephen's need to keep up appearances with his family adds even more tension into the mix.  As I read, I was braced for some horrid betrayal, which I thought would be inevitable, and which I hate.  I'm way too empathetic to bear such a thing.  Yet, (SPOILER! sort of) it never came and consequently I loved how Julie Klassen let the story unfold.

When I was halfway through through reading the book, I stayed up way too late reading, then dreamed the rest of the story after I finally went to sleep.  The real ending is much better than what my subconscious came up with,

Now I would love to read a story about Sophie's sweet little sisters and their selfish mother. Perhaps, The Painter's Stepdaughter for your next book, Ms. Klassen?

I was provided with a copy of this book by Graf-Martin Communications in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.