Monday, February 27, 2017

Unexpected Paths

Image by Free Artistic Photos
 I love it when a book sets off a chain reaction; one book leading to another, which leads to another. Often when I discover an author I like, I want to read everything they’ve written. I’m sure we all do that. But I love when a book leads us in unexpected directions. (After reading The Fault in Our Stars, how many of us would have read An Imperial Affliction if it had been a real book?)

I just finished Liane Moriarty’s The Hypnotist’s Love Story. I’ve never been particularly interested in the subject of hypnosis, but while reading, I was intrigued by the way the MC spoke vivid images into her clients’ consciousness.I ended up at the library yesterday searching visualization techniques and guided imagery.

Image by Free Artistic Photos
I often experience anxiety in social situations, and in unfamiliar surroundings. When I traveled to New York City several years ago for Book Expo America, I Xeroxed pages from my daily spiritual reading and pulled them from my purse whenever I began to feel panicky. But I’m a visual learner. While I homeschooled my children, I was always drawing diagrams and making charts to help reinforce a concept (if not for them, for myself.) I love the idea of self healing with imagined images. So with that thought, I’ll leave you with some gorgeous photos (not mine) that help me feel relaxed and grounded.

Image by Free Artistic Photos
Image by Free Artistic Photos

What unexpected paths has reading led you down?

Monday, February 13, 2017

In Search of Balance

This week I thought a lot about balance: in work, in writing, in life. Probably because it’s February, everything is covered in snow and my four-year-old great niece asked me to take her to the playground. There’s an awesome seesaw that was installed last year at one of the neighborhood parks, made out of strong wood, with rubber tires underneath to prevent that terrible thumping that can happen when your riding partner unexpectedly disembarks. I thought about balance because she and I can’t ride that seesaw together. She needs someone else on her end to balance things out. Usually, she and my daughter would be on one side, while I'm on the other, but this week, it was just the two of us. It didn’t matter; with a blizzard that dumped a foot of snow days earlier and temperatures in the low 20s, there would be no playground visit.

Still the picture of the seesaw stayed with me all week. So many of life’s struggles can be boiled down to finding the right balance: Between eating healthy and eating what we want. Between taking care of your family, but also making time to stay in touch with friends. Between becoming so focused on the road to publication that we lose sight of the fact that we would write for the love of it, no matter what.

The more the image of that seesaw lingered, the more I thought about what happens once we climb on. Once we achieve that initial balance. Then it’s all about the ups and downs. Not only our own, but also our partner’s. Just as satisfying as being the one in the air is watching the smiling face across from you as they reach those heights. That’s what makes it interesting. That’s what makes it fun. That’s what makes going to the playground worth it (when the temperature is above freezing and you are properly attired.)

It’s the joy of receiving a heart-shaped box full of chocolates and then the devastation of staring back at the empty box a week later and realizing you should be doing Zumba, or Pilates, or at least getting up from your desk to do a few deep-knee bends between reading emails.

It’s the high we get when we finish a manuscript, get the full request, have that agent call, countered by the disappointment of hanging up the phone with revision suggestions instead of an offer of representation.

When I look back at this blog, it’s been about the highs and lows. Those are the realities of life far more often than balance. I’d like this to be a place where we can both celebrate and commiserate those realities together. My heart was touched by all of you who came and commented on my last post. It reminded me of how wonderfully supportive the writing community is, and I’m so grateful for each one of you.

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, I’d like to share with you a high point in my reading life. My daughter introduced me to the novels of Kasie West and I am completely hooked. She writes feel-good contemporary romances with great characterization and a lot of heart. Her latest, By Your Side, released last week and will soon be moving from my daughter's nightstand to my own. But really I recommend any of her titles. 

Do you have a high or low from this week to share? 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Keep on Dreaming Even if it Breaks Your Heart

I used to own at least a dozen houseplants.They dotted the windowsills and hung from the ceiling in fancy baskets. I have zero left. They didn't all die. I gave some of them away for their own good. The problem was a lack of consistency. I'd neglect them until they were near death and then pamper them back to good health, only to let them languish again. It's an all-or-nothing mentality, and as much as I want to do better, this is how I continue to operate.

Look at this blog. I didn't mean to let it die. I only meant to take a short break. Then the reasons for staying away piled up and, well, here we are two-and-a-half years later.

On the up side, during that time, I finished another manuscript - YA suspense, which is new for me, and I've had a great time writing it. On the down side, I've lost touch with a lot of my fellow bloggers.

When I started Shy Writer six years ago, I admitted in my first ever blog post that I tend to isolate myself. This is another behavior I have to consciously work at overcoming. Because even though my default is to go it alone, life is just better when we have people to share the journey with. And that's what has finally brought me back here: you, my fellow writers. Because you are the only ones who truly get it. This crazy journey. The feeling of elation when you've worked for three years on a manuscript and you're finally sure it's done. The feeling of possibility when you send those first queries out into the world. And then the feelings of disappointment that turn to despair as the dreaded possibility surfaces:  maybe this one is going to end up in the drawer alongside all the others. That's a hard truth to swallow.

Photo Courtesy of Free Artistic Photos

Today, I'm not only trying to bring this blog back to life, I'm hoping to revive my broken spirit by reaching out, reconnecting with old friends and maybe even making some new ones.

I don't know about you, but it's often music that gets me through the toughest spots. So I'm sharing a song that fits this journey and always helps me to take heart.

How about you? Do you have a song that keeps you going when you feel like giving up?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Plot Twists

I love unexpected twists in books. There's something very satisfying about being taken by surprise. At least in the story world.

In life - not so much.

Back in the spring, I had been toying with the idea of taking a blog break - something decadent, like, a couple of weeks to make some headway on my latest WIP. But things didn't play out as expected. My last post was five months ago. Five. Months. I blame it on a string of real life plot twists, including taking in my niece's three children at the same time my mother was in the ICU with congestive heart failure. All summer long - and even still today -I feel like I'm living a whole new life. During those first few months, I honestly didn't see how I would ever find time to write again. Which was excruciating. Each day that passed without my being able to write, I felt like something inside of me died. Then I received a rejection on a requested revision that had been out for nearly six months. And I thought: that's it. It's a sign. I have to give this up.

But the next day I woke up with renewed determination. I have been working at this for too long. I have come too close. I am not giving up. I sent out a new round of queries and had another full request within days. I participated in Pitmad and garnered six interested agents. I still don't know where things will lead, but I do know that I'm back in the writing life. It's not the same life I had last spring. It's busier, messier, more complicated. But it's also fuller, and richer, and full of unexpected surprises. It may have taken me a while to find my way back, and I definitely have more to juggle, by I'm still a writer, and I'm in this writing life for good.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Binge Reading, Part II

Yes, I am still aggressively avoiding my WIP. Although my preferred form of distraction is reading, I have branched out into de-cluttering various closets, cabinets, and even a portion of attic space. The results on that front is substantial, but less interesting than the books I've read, so, let's chat about those. . .

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

Lara Jean has a hidden stash of letters that she's written to all the boy's she's ever crushed on. They were never meant to be mailed, but when somehow, they are, the consequences are unexpected. This book made me happy inside. I loved the strong family bonds between Lara Jean, her father and two sisters, the strong personalities of each of the characters, and that even though Lara Jean isn't part of the in crowd, she's completely comfortable being who she is - staying in to bake homemade cupcakes for her sister's class bake sale when her classmates are out partying. I loved that I wasn't sure what I was hoping for until halfway through the book.  And I love that there's a sequel in the works so I can experience more of Lara Jean and her story.

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson 

When Lennie Walker's older sister dies unexpectedly, Lennie finds that grief changes everything -- the way she can't seem to talk to her grandmother anymore, the way her clarinet playing isn't what it used to be, the way she has to write down her memories, and the way she looks at her sister's boyfriend, Toby, who seems to share her grief in a way no one else does. And then there's Joe, the new boy in town whose smiles make Lennie want to experience life in whole new ways. This story is full of strong emotions, a mix of sheer joy and utter loss and writing that is lyrical, full of imagery, and makes me think I would read anything by this author.

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Okay, the beginning of this book was confusing.There are these territory wars between the cadets, the townies, and the boarders of the Jellicoe School. I wasn't sure what to make of all of it for a long while (maybe 100 pages?) but I had been told by numerous people that it was worth sticking with and that everything would come together and it would be worth it. IT WAS! I usually don't read the full blurb of a book. I like to be surprised by a story, and often the blurbs just give too much away, IMO. But in this case, I wish I had read the blurb. I think it would have saved me undue confusion. A lot of characters are introduced at the outset and I had trouble keeping them straight. Plus there are flashbacks introduced by way of a manuscript from one of the characters, that I just wasn't sure how they connected with the main story line for a while. But when everything comes together, every last piece falls into place. As a writer, I'm in awe of Ms. Marchetta and her ability to pull it off so beautifully. When I finished the last page, I immediately went back and re-read all of the flashbacks to make sure I fully appreciated every intricacy.

The Dirt Diary by Anna Staniszewski

When you're in junior high, scrubbing toilets with your mother for extra cash is not the kind of job you brag about to your friends. It also makes encountering your classmates, and even your enemies even more uncomfortable when you're picking up their dirty underwear and dusting off their crazy zombie figurine collection. But, when Rachel's parents split up, her plan to get them back together involves paying off a plane ticket to Florida, so she puts on a smile, grabs a toilet brush and gets to work. This was a fast, fun, lighthearted read full of lively writing and mouth-watering talk of sweets. (Rachel is also a baker looking for the perfect recipe for the school bake-off.). I found it shelved as YA, although it had more of a MG feel to it.

This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

This is a sweet contemporary romance that starts out with a misdirected email and ends up with a real-life encounter between a teenage movie star and maybe the one girl on earth who doesn't swoon over him. It's hard for 17-year-old Ellie to think of THE Graham Larkin as the boy she's been corresponding with for the past few months, but when he shows up in her small town to shoot scenes for his latest movie, she has to decide if being part of his life is worth the risk, especially since there's a secret in her past that, if the paparazzi uncovers, could change her life forever.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Binge Reading

I've been on a bit of a reading binge lately. Some might say this is because I'm avoiding my WIP. Those people would be correct. I'm in that dreaded (but familiar) my writing is crap phase. I hate that phase. But until it passes, I'm making a sizable dent in my TBR list. Here are some of the books I've enjoyed lately:

The Living by Matt de la Pena

I got hooked on Matt de la Pena's books a few months back after reading I Will Save You and We Were Here. His characters just feel so real. I decided I better ration the remaining of his YA books, but then my daughter came home with The Living, and of course I had to read it, probably too soon, because now I have to wait along with everyone else for the next book in the series. On the upside he has two other YA titles I can read in the meantime ;)

Some Quiet Place by Kelsey Sutton

This was one I picked up at the library having never heard of it before, mostly because the cover and the book's small size caught my attention. This story was unlike anything I've read before, with a main character who cannot feel emotion, yet she sees them hovering around in human form as physical beings. I can't wait for the companion novel Where Silence Gathers, coming out in July from Flux.

Leap of Faith by Jamie Blair

From page one you can't help but feel for the main character, Faith, growing up with a drug addicted, prostituting mother who has recently let herself get pregnant so she can sell the baby. When Faith sees the drug dealing couple who are going to buy the child, she decides she's going to run off with the child to save it from the life she's had to suffer through for sixteen years; but also, to get back at her mother, because depriving her of that paycheck seems like the best way to make her suffer.

How to Love by Katie Cotugno

I fell completely head over heels for this book and carried the characters in my heart for weeks after I'd finished. I loved the before and after way the story unfolds. You get to discover Reena and Sawyer's past relationship alongside their current when Sawyer appears back in town after an almost three year absence during which Reena has had his baby. Aside from the age of the main character, this book didn't feel particularly YA. (I think it's marketed as a crossover.) But it didn't matter.  I'm sure I'll be reading this one again!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Blood of a Mermaid Cover Reveal

Today I'm participating in a cover reveal for the second book in Katie O'Sullivan's Mermaid trilogy set on Cape Cod. Blood of a Mermaid releases next month from Crescent Moon Press.  

About the Book:

Mermaid blood.
When Shea MacNamara fell into the ocean for the first time, he found he could breathe underwater. The son of a mermaid, the sea is in his blood. Literally. The best part of Shea’s new life? His girlfriend Kae, who also happens to be a beautiful mermaid.
But darkness lurks under the sea. When evil mermen kidnap Kae, the king reminds Shea that having royal blood means making tough choices. 
An Arctic dungeon, a fiery plane crash, the legendary halls of Atlantis…and narwhals?
Having mermaid blood just got a lot more complicated.

About the Author:

Katie O’Sullivan lives with her family and big dogs next to the ocean on Cape Cod, drinking way too much coffee and inventing new excuses not to dust. A recovering English major, she earned her degree at Colgate University and writes romance for young adults and the young at heart. Her editing column, “The Write Way,” appears in the Literary Women section of CapeWomenOnline magazine.

Living next to the Atlantic influences everything she writes. Her YA mermaid series begins in Nantucket Sound with SON OF A MERMAID, and continues the undersea adventures with BLOOD OF A MERMAID, coming from Crescent Moon Press in May 2014. Her latest contemporary romance from The Wild Rose Press is MY KIND OF CRAZY, a Cape Cod story of second chances and starting over.

Excerpt from BLOOD OF A MERMAID, by Katie O’Sullivan
Shea grimaced. He knew firsthand the damage wind could cause. He’d witnessed tornado destruction back in Oklahoma, when he’d lost his dad and their farm. Wind could be devastating. And deadly. He needed to focus on something else. Maybe curtains and wallpaper weren’t such a bad thing to talk about after all. “Tell me again about this lady who hired your mom to decorate? Why is it she can’t pick out her own curtains?”
Hailey laughed. “Decorating is about more than curtains, you troglodyte. It’s about creating a whole look and feel for a home.”
A deep male voice crackled through the overhead speakers in rapid Greek, followed by English. “Attention, passengers. This is your captain. Please keep seatbelts fastened as we try to steer clear of this turbulence and find a pocket of better air.”
“A pocket of better air?” Hailey shook her head. “What does that even mean?”
Chip leaned back across the aisle and grinned. “Maybe this air is broken?” The light streaming through Hailey’s window shifted as the plane changed direction and Chip’s grin faded. “It looks like he made a ninety degree turn. That seems kind of drastic.”
“I’m sure the pilot’s done this a million times,” Hailey snapped, looking out her window again. “Ooh, look at that lightning over there! It’s like a fireworks display!”
Shea resisted the temptation to look out the window. His stomach already felt queasy enough, and now a storm? A slow tingling sensation engulfed his toes. “How close?”
“Oh, look out there now,” Hailey interrupted. “Water spouts!”
Shea felt the blood drain from his face. “Water spouts? Like, tornadoes on the ocean?”
Hailey glanced back at him and gently patted his knee. “This isn’t Oklahoma. I’m sure everything’s going to be fine,” she said as she pulled the plane’s information card out of the seat pocket in front of her. “But I guess it never hurts to review a plane’s emergency procedures.”
As she removed her hand from his knee to point at the diagram, Shea felt the tingling course through his legs, zinging from his toes up into his stomach. It was as if some switch in his body had flipped into high gear. Sweat beaded on his forehead and dripped down his back. The air inside the airplane cabin suddenly felt like it was clinging heavily around him, as if it were charged with electricity and Shea was the only magnet on board. He’d felt this exact sensation before, back at Plainville High School.
On the day of the tornado.