25 Nov

A magical dog ability

How is it that when your day is mapped out to the minute — when you’re planning morning writing from 9-10, yoga at 10, grocery store at 12, cranberry sauce on the stove and simmering by 1, furniture rearranging, bathroom cleaning, vacuuming, silver polishing, dinner planning, picking up the kid, table arranging, dinner, clean-up, potatoes prep, all on a time table that includes no room for anything extra — how is that on that day the dog can magically wander through a plant that leaves dozens of tiny burrs in her fur? On other days when I’m feeling scheduled to the max, she’s been known to roll in opossum poop, which demands immediate and extensive bathing. No way around it. And the burrs shed little black seeds which means the morning vacuuming that I already started is being defeated with every step the dog takes.

Sigh. It’s like a toddler knowing exactly the wrong time to throw a tantrum, exactly the moment when you are least able and willing to be patient. Of course, that’s probably some psychological principle along the lines of always thinking the line you’re in is the slowest — not objectively true, but just the way it feels. But it does feel like I don’t want to spend the next twenty minutes pulling burrs out of Z’s fur.

Reframing for positivity — how lucky I am that I get to spend several minutes caring for my darling dog. Admittedly, she’s not so enthusiastic when she sees the brush come out, but she likes the petting at the end. We’ll both survive.

R comes home today. I woke up feeling happy and joyful. B came on the long walk with us and never flagged — my positive messages to him of how strong he is, what a survivor, so healthy are maybe getting through. At least to me, since I am, in fact, the person who decides how long a walk he’s going to get. But he did great, stayed with us the whole way and never pulled his sit-down-and-refuse-to-move protest.

And that’s all I’ve got, because I have to go pull burrs out of the dog’s fur now. Wish us luck!

24 Nov


My mom would be 73 today. I both wish she could be here to celebrate the day and am so grateful that she isn’t. She’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about a year before she died, so she’d be five years into that diagnosis by now. It made her so unhappy — not the diagnosis alone, I don’t think, but the feeling of losing who she was. Unless something had radically changed, she would not be glad to be four years farther down that road.

That said, I miss her. We weren’t a family who celebrated much — for most of the years where I lived far away, she got a phone call on her birthday and not much more. I wish I could go back and send her more sappy cards, the kind that told her how much I loved her and how grateful I was for how she loved me. I seriously offended R once when I said that I felt like the people who loved me most as me were all dead, but the love of a parent for a child is so different than the love of a child for a mother. Some day he’ll get it, but not, of course, until I’m dead.

That’s kind of bleak, though — I am again violating my sending positivity into the universe rule! So positivity — when I was a kid, my mom was the very best in our neighborhood at pulling teeth. She used to joke that she became a nurse because when she was little, she’d been sick and she’d had to get so many shots that she decided when she grew up, she’d be the other person on the end of the needle. But she was good on the other end of the needle, or the tooth as it were, because she did not flinch. One quick yank and that tooth would be out. You could get sympathy and a popsicle afterwards, but in the moment, you got brisk efficiency and matter-of-fact toughness.

My dad doesn’t like games — of any sort, really. He says he doesn’t like the feeling that he’s being manipulated. But my mom enjoyed them. We’d play cards at my maternal grandparents’ house, pinochle mostly, and sometimes Monopoly. But my favorite game to play with her was Mastermind. We usually played that at my other grandparents’ house. (Both sets of grandparents lived in the same town, so that’s where we went on vacation most often.) Of all the people that I could play with back then — siblings, grandparents, cousins — she was my favorite because we were so evenly matched. Both of us could usually get the answer in six moves, and sometimes less, and neither of us made mistakes in scoring. I don’t know how much alike my mom and I were in general — my feeling is not very much alike — but we were in the way we approached puzzles and games.

When she was dying, unconscious, close to the end, I was talking to my dad, I think, about how magical she always made Christmas when we were little. Undoubtedly helped by the fact that the grandparents lived in Bethlehem, PA, which is a town that takes the holiday seriously, but truly, my memories of childhood Christmas are sparkling and sweet, cookies and fun and laughter and lights. She tried to sit up and her hand tightened on mine. I don’t know what she was trying to say, but I’m glad she got to hear how much I treasured those memories and credited her for creating them for us.

The last thing she said to me was a few days earlier, similar circumstances, talking to my sister, thinking she was beyond hearing, until she sat up and said, “love you,” without opening her eyes. I feel really blessed to have gotten that moment, that time. I miss her so much, but I know I was lucky to have her for as long as I did.

My sister called a few days ago and said my nephew might have to work on Thanksgiving. My dad called this morning and he’s sick, doesn’t think he’ll be healthy enough in time to come to dinner. It’s still going to be a nice meal, of course, but… eh, I should probably go buy some cheap leftover dishes, so I can send them lots of food.

And I should probably get on with Noah’s words. I was working on a scene this morning with Rose, and it was really fun. I need to get back to it, because fun is good!

23 Nov

The Monday before Thanksgiving…

…is not a good time to go shopping at CostCo. Unless you’re very fond of big crowds, free samples, and holiday temptation.

I hate crowds, can’t eat most of the free samples for one food reaction or another, but oh, did I succumb to the holiday temptations. After over a year of trying to follow the auto-immune protocol diet, I’ve eased up on some of the restrictions. All grains are bad for me, alas, and so are nightshades, sugar, and alcohol. But I don’t seem to have strong reactions to nuts; I cannot live without chocolate; and smoked salmon is basically the food that keeps me happy. So for lunch, I had a salad with mixed greens, smoked salmon, radishes, cucumber and black olives, followed by several nibbles of a snack mix that included dried apple, cranberry, pecans and cashews in a pumpkin pie spice blend (so yum!) and a single dark chocolate caramel with sea salt. Well, I say single now — I suspect I’ll be having another before dinner. I also got some of my Christmas shopping done and stocked up on sparkling water and cider. Considering that I went to CostCo to pick up avocados and chicken, I’m feeling very self-indulgent. And also like I want to take a nap, but I’m trying not to think about that.

I didn’t get a lot of words done yesterday, but that was okay, because I went to bed Saturday night absolutely stuck — pretty close to the give up in despair stage. I reread what I’ve written so far to try to get rid of my block and amused myself thoroughly but I felt like I was working with a mixed-up pile of jigsaw pieces and gradually discovering that really, I have pieces of three or four different puzzles, with not enough pieces to make any of the puzzles work.

My Idea of the other day was not enough Idea to carry me through. It was good, but not good enough. Yesterday, however, I had Another Idea. And Idea #1 plus Idea #2 — they might just add up to a complete story. However, I had to play with them for a while, explore their shapes, and see what pieces might work with them, and none of that part of the process involves words on paper for me. Or pixels on screen, or whatever. It involves washing dishes and staring into space and walking dogs and sometimes closing my eyes and hiding my face in a pillow. Despite the lack of words, I’m feeling better about the whole writing thing today than I did on Saturday.

I am enjoying the way I’m approaching the whole NaNo thing now, too. It’s sort of fun to be able to track the way my sentences take shape on the page.

Example from earlier today:

Lucas didn’t finish the sentence. “I don’t. But I didn’t mean to make light of your experience.”

“But I didn’t mean to trivialize your

“But I didn’t mean to dismiss

“I don’t. Not really. I shouldn’t have treated your feelings as if they didn’t matter.”

“I don’t. And I shouldn’t have acted like losing your friend, especially how you lost him, wasn’t important.

“I don’t. And I shouldn’t have acted like your friend—losing him and especially how you lost him—mattered less than my son.”

No wonder it takes me so damn long to write! That’s not even an important scene, not really. It’s giving some closure to the Lucas/Noah antagonism so it’s not left hanging, but it’s not the core story — I think Lucas basically turned into a red herring or some equivalent thereof — but this scene between them is minor. And yet it took me six tries to get that sentence where I want it to be. I’m not even sure it’s there yet — I don’t like Lucas describing himself as “acting” so I may still be tweaking more. I guess I know why I’m so bad at NaNo.

And obviously, I should try to overcome my need to write sentences six times, but I think that’s part of how I think. The first sentence is wrong — it doesn’t accurately describe what Lucas did. The second sentence is wrong, because the language isn’t right for Lucas. Trivialize sounds academic and he’s more direct than that. Dismiss makes him sound like a lawyer; feelings makes him sound like a girl (which is probably sexist of me, sorry); the next sentence is too vague. Finally I come to one that I can accept. But I had to think through the possibilities to get there. Of course, that does make it pretty clear that my real problem is overthinking. Sigh.

Anyway, moving on before I start editing myself, it was cold enough this morning that I wore gloves, a hat and a scarf while walking the dog. It’s nice to have autumn arrive just in time for Thanksgiving. It does make the season feel closer to right. The dogs were bouncing along like puppies. When we got home, after breakfast, Zelda actually wanted to play ball for a while, which is not her usual morning routine at all. But it made me happy to be having her chase the ball and skid around the floors. In two months, she’ll turn twelve and whenever I think about that, I feel anxious. I know better than to dwell on sad future moments, but time passes too quickly when dogs are involved. And really, I shouldn’t let a joyful moment turn into fear of the future — this morning, the dogs were playful and we had fun so yay, autumn.

And now time to get back to the words that matter. Or maybe to the research that I have to do for Idea #2. I definitely need to do some research but is it just an excuse to spend some time browsing? But better browsing than napping, I suppose!

22 Nov


Sometimes it’s so hard to open up the file and start typing. I wish I knew why. I read The War of Art recently, subtitled “Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Creative Battles” and about all I can remember from it is a sort of religious idea of creativity, with Resistance being the devil’s handiwork. More or less. Really, probably less, I’m totally reading into it. But I remember nothing that tells me why I experience such resistance or what to do about it. Except, of course, to just open the damn file and start typing.

A few weeks ago I was on reddit and a cover designer posted a $30 cover offer for NaNo. On a total impulse, I took him up on it. For, of all things, A Lonely Magic. This will be the… fifth cover. I had to count on my fingers. Ugh. I should stop blaming the cover for the book’s lack of success — I worked in the business long enough to know that some books just don’t sell. Wrong time, wrong book, wrong opening, wrong blurb — it’s impossible to know why. It’s just the nature of the business.

But my Law of Attraction friend told me that I needed to be positive about the cover, to send out vibes into the universe that said “sparkling and magical” and to have faith that the cover would be, finally, the cover of my dreams. It would help, I suppose, if I knew what my dreams were. Anyway, I got a first design yesterday, and then a second pass at that design in the evening, and I’m actually rather impatiently waiting for the third pass. It’s different. I have no idea whether it will sell any books. But I’m definitely pleased with my $30 investment. (I’ll post it, obviously, when I get a final version.)

And now I should stop letting my Resistance run away with me. Yesterday I didn’t write a single word on Grace and today I need to do better. As well as doing all those chores I didn’t get to yesterday, including getting ready for Thanksgiving dinner. Yes, four days in advance! But I like to make it easy on myself by having almost everything prepped in advance. Last year, there were nine of us, and by the time people arrived, I had the kitchen close to clean, and by seven PM, it was back to normal. I aspire to do the same this year, with ten people, which means planning. But this year it ought to be really easy — I’ve got people bringing stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, rolls, and two kinds of dessert. I’m on turkey, cranberry sauce, and gravy, but will probably add brussel sprouts and maybe salad, just to give myself more to do. Hmm, maybe I’ll make an appetizer? But I already know that my guests are happy as long as the turkey, stuffing, and pie are there, so I don’t really have much to worry about.

Resistance is writing about Thanksgiving dinner when I should be writing Grace. But if you know of any interesting Thanksgiving appetizers, please share them with me!

21 Nov

The ever elusive last swimming day

November 20th. Maybe.

All week long, I was pretty convinced that swimming was over for the year. I’m not sure I even stuck a toe in the water. But yesterday the sun was shining, the air was hot… so yep, swimming on November 20th. Real swimming, floating, playing ball with the dogs for a solid two hours. It made me remember why I love living in Florida.

Today, though, has been a weird day. I’m not sure why my schedule is so skewed, but I woke up, did the normal morning stuff, came back to the bedroom to get my Saturday chores started — strip the bed, laundry, etc. — and thought, wow, I’m so tired, I’m just going to crawl back in bed for twenty minutes and think about what comes next in Grace before I get started.

I woke up at one o’clock. One! In the afternoon! I suppose it would have been worse if it had been one in the morning, but I have no idea why I suddenly needed four extra hours of sleep. The day’s been off ever since. I still haven’t done the morning chores, didn’t make it to the library, haven’t cleaned up the kitchen and it’s now almost 8PM and I’m finally writing my blog post. I haven’t written a word of Grace.

I did read an enjoyable Amazon First book, though: The Short Drop. If you’re a Prime member and you haven’t yet chosen your free book for the month of November, I recommend this one. I haven’t had a lot of luck with those books — some months, in fact, I haven’t even bothered to download one because I’ve grown so dubious about them. But this one was pretty solid. My sister called while I was in the middle of it and after a couple minutes on the phone with her, I had to say, “Sorry, even though I’m pretty sure it’s totally obvious why the missing kid went missing, I need to keep reading.” It dragged a little in parts and I skimmed some, and a bunch of the so-called plot twists were obvious from the beginning, but it was an entertaining way to spend an afternoon. Technically, for me, it means I again fell into the trap of reading fiction at breakfast, although it was almost 2 when I started. I still intended to only read a little bit and then get to work, but five hours later, yeah, not so much.

Ooh, and that thing I just did — the “yeah, not so much” — it’s called a contranym. The “yeah” in that context doesn’t mean what it ought to mean. I read a great article, What Part of “No, Totally” Don’t You Understand? in The New Yorker about contranyms, and I love the concept.

A dog with an extremely dirty face is sitting next to me looking pleading. I’m not sure what she wants, but I should go see. And then I should start writing the words that count. :)

20 Nov

Super quick

Today I want words, many, many, many words, and I want most of them to be on my story. While I was walking the dog this morning — not dogs plural, because first I take a short walk with the Slowest Dog in the World (aka Bartleby) and his big sister, then I take a longer walk with big sister alone (whose thoughts can be read as “Thank God we left that other dog at home!”) … Anyway, while walking Z, I had an Idea.

I think I know how to make my ending work.

I think it might be even better than any ending idea I’ve had so far.

I’m excited!

Of course, I still have to get there, but that’s why this going to be a super-quick, super-short blog post, because at least for the moment, I’m just fulfilling my daily blog post obligation and then moving on to the writing that might, in fact, just maybe, possibly, we hope, be fun today.

Maybe I can even make it the 2K word day that I’ve been aspiring to on a daily basis. Wish me luck!

19 Nov


In the early morning, half-awake, snuggled and cozy time, I like my mind to drift to my story, imagining what comes next until it’s vivid and then thinking about the words that make it as vivid to someone else. Lately, not so much. Lately, I think about all sorts of other stuff, most of it boring. Like, can I possibly repair the front door this year or am I going to need that money to pay taxes? And is my computer going to survive or will today be the day that the N key finally gives up? (Not today, yay, although I have to bang quite hard to get an 8, which fortunately is not often so necessary as an N.) Also, how the hell did I get poison ivy and is it ever going to go away? That one takes up far too much of my brain because, of course, it itches when the allergy drug wears off. It’s not so bad during the rest of the day.

Anyway, this morning I tried desperately to force my mind to stay on Grace, because I am just struggling. I tossed out my outline and my plan a long time ago because it was going nowhere and now I am lost in the murky middle. I’ve got ideas, but I can’t seem to navigate my way to them. The timeline of the story was supposed to be months — we’d go from meeting in late Feb through March and April to Natalya’s wedding in early May and Akira’s baby in late May, and the climactic scenes would all take place in the hospital while Henry was being born. Instead, all of my action so far has taken place in four days–from a Tuesday to a Saturday morning. First of all, that doesn’t feel like nearly enough time to fall in love, but that’s just what Grace is doing (and I kind of think Noah was already there from minute one) and secondly, if 2/3 of the book takes place in three days, how does the last third take three months? It’s frustrating me. I have a terrible, terrible temptation to start editing, but I am resisting with all my strength, because I know where that path leads.

Meanwhile, could I keep my mind on Grace? Why no, I could not. It kept drifting to an idea for a NaNo project where I might actually be able to write 50K words in 30 days. Done diary-style, so first person, which gives lots of room to babble. The story opens the day the aliens arrive. The aliens make some announcement, which transmits everywhere there are screens and radios, interrupting all broadcasts, and then release a sparkling dust over the planet that looks like clouds of pollen. Our POV character is a twenty-something female narrator living in Seattle, so she can record in her journal both the news of the day, how people are reacting world-wide, what people think it is, and her experiences of the day, how she’s interacting with the people around her, and her own priorities. The dust–and this is clearly my desire to play in the Agents of SHIELD world, but that’s okay, there’s no such thing as a new idea–gives people super-powers or powers of various sorts. Now, would this turn into a reasonable book? I have no idea. But I do think that I could write 50K words in 30 days based on that idea, because it has so many, many possibilities. Any time I get stuck, hey, new character with new super-power. Or new speculation on what the aliens have done and why. New translation of their message. All sorts of possibilities. New danger for the heroine, new romantic love interest for her… yep, this is what I’m thinking about when I should be thinking about Grace.

Of course, if I’m not going to be thinking about Grace, probably I should be thinking about getting a job. Or at least earning money with some actual freelance work. Hmm, and the moment I started typing that, all the dogs (three of them today, because Gizmo is visiting) began shifting around, B snuggling closer, G turning circles, Z trying to get onto my lap. Either they recognize me having stressful thoughts or they’re ready for walks. Or both.

When I started writing this, I had some specific story I meant to write and it had nothing to do with anything that I’ve typed, but I have also totally forgotten what it was. Oh, well, if I think of it, it’ll give me something to write about tomorrow! Happy writing, all my fellow November writers! May your words flow like… huh, all the things that come to mind flow terribly. May your words flow better than molasses and ketchup and chocolate syrup. May they leap out of your fingers and onto your pages with gleeful abandon. :)

18 Nov

Word counts

If you are following me on NaNo, you might have noticed my word count leapt yesterday. It’s not because I miraculously wrote ten thousands words in a day, although I’m still going to succeed in doing that someday. Instead I decided that rather than give up on NaNo, which is what I usually do about now, I would aim for writing 50,000 words in the month, regardless of where those words wind up living (or even if they wind up living at all).

So I made myself a little spreadsheet and totaled up all the words from blog posts in the first half of the month. In the second half of the month, I’ll be counting blog posts, plus all the words in my draft versions. My final total for the month in real story words is probably not going to be anywhere near 50K but it’ll be interesting to see how many I get when I count all the words I write. I’m behind now — nowhere close to the 30K I should be about to hit — but I suspect that I’ll be able to catch up and swing on past the 50K goal without too much difficulty. I believe that tight writing is a good thing — every word should reveal character or move the story forward — and that’s just not compatible with NaNo goals. Writing tight and writing 2K words a day are mutually exclusive, at least for me.

And it stresses me out to be failing in a way that doesn’t motivate me. Every time I’ve tried NaNo previously, I’ve wound up barely writing at all. I started A Gift of Thought during NaNo and it took me another six months to finish that book. Then last year I started A Gift of Grace and here I am, a year later, still working on the same project. Back when I was writing fanfiction and there was absolutely no pressure or motivation outside of the pleasure of writing, I wrote a lot faster and a lot more prolifically. And if those stories were bad, that would be okay, but I can reread them now and still find them pretty good. Not perfect, but fun reads. It would be nice if NaNo convinced me to write like that again, but instead I shut down. Alas.

Speaking of fanfiction, I reread my unfinished Amy & Rory story (Doctor Who) recently — probably because I got some message from fanfiction.net and was at the site — and I should really have finished that story. I know why I stopped — it’s because I started doing research on the era (NYC, 1938) and discovered that I’d already gotten too much wrong in terms of race relations — but I should have adopted the “abandon reality” motto and kept on going. I stopped writing when Amy & Rory were headed off to a jazz club and I can practically picture the scene, the crooning singer, the glittery dresses, the behind-the-scene tensions, Amy being forthright and direct and Rory hanging back, but swinging in to rescue her the moment she’s in trouble… ah, they were fun characters.

I stopped watching Doctor Who a while ago, when I realized that I’d stopped getting angry (translation: I’d stopped caring), but I wonder if it has regained its sense of fun? I guess I don’t wonder enough to try again, but maybe over Christmas. R and I spent a few years watching Doctor Who on Christmas Day, so maybe we’ll do a marathon this year and get caught up on what we’ve both missed. Or perhaps not. Last year we watched movies and that was fun. Mine was Kiki’s Delivery Service and I would happily make watching it every year part of my holiday tradition. It’s not exactly Christmas-y, but it is charming.

Wow, and this is a wandering post. But that’s the price of daily blogging. :)

On to story words. I still haven’t finished the chapter I’ve been writing for the past nine days, but maybe today will be the day. No, wait — I’m thinking positive, right? — today WILL be the day. Many words, flowing happily!

17 Nov


I have a tickle in my throat that will not quit this morning. I keep coughing, clearing my throat, blowing my nose, slowly sipping water — but there it lurks, a little itch somewhere low in my right… something. Is the throat made up of parts? The sinuses must connect somehow, right? But that’s the spot, I suspect — right where the sinuses join the throat — and no way for me to scratch. Except to keep trying to clear my throat. The dogs are not sure they approve.

So in a comment on the last post, Carol* asked:

Question — have you ever been turned off by a book to the point where you quit reading it? I get the feeling that you did just that with the Shinn book you just reviewed. Do you ever feel guilty about it and hang onto the book, telling yourself you’ll give it another chance some time in the future? Or do you just pass it along or donate it?

I love this question! First, though, I definitely didn’t do that with either of the Shinn books. She’s such a good writer that even when I have issues with a story for one reason or another, I keep reading. It’s why I risked the hardcover purchases — not a risk so much because of the price, which was excellent, but because I don’t really like keeping books made with paper anymore. I don’t want the clutter. If I let myself go, I would have a house filled with bookshelves, overflowing with books, accumulating dust. Instead, I try to keep my bookshelves limited to only books that are keepers, that I loved enough that I will reread again and again, or that are meaningful to me for some other reasons. I’ve read some of the books on my keeper shelves dozens of times. Sharon Shinn’s got plenty of books on my keeper shelves and The Turning Season will join them. She writes so beautifully, even when I want to object to elements of the story. Plus, it’s a really hopeful book and sometimes that’s what I’m looking for in a reread. Yes, it’s on the bleak side, but a reminder to search for blessings in the midst of sorrow is not a bad message.

But I didn’t mean to write more about that book — instead I wanted to answer the DNF question. Yes! I used to persist with every book I picked up. If I started it, I felt obligated to finish it for some reason. As if the book would know that I didn’t like it and have its feelings hurt. I read so many utterly forgettable books that way. But now… now I am merciless. If a book doesn’t grab me or it loses me somewhere along the way, I just stop reading. And I don’t even feel guilty about it anymore. Or at least not very guilty.

At the beginning of 2015, when I decided to really try to track the books I was reading on Goodreads, I also tracked DNFs (Did Not Finish). There was a Kindle Prime book where my review started, “I’m admitting the truth on this one: I’m never going to finish it. I just didn’t like the main character and I don’t want to spend any more time in her head.” and another book that I picked up from the library, where my review included the line, “If it wasn’t a library book, it would sit in my “keep trying” pile forever, but since I had to bring it back, I can admit the truth — it’s a DNF.”

Another one is a pretty perfect example of a DNF review for me. It was Nevada’s Barr’s Destroyer Angel. My review, in full:

4th DNF of the year for me, but I’m not blaming the writing. I have enjoyed Nevada Barr’s books before, so I didn’t look too closely at what the book was about, but this one is more thriller than mystery. Three women, two girls, and a dog are attacked in the woods by a gang of men. When the bad guys first hurt the dog and then debated killing the dog, I realized it was not going to be what I was looking for in a reading experience. I’m sure in the end good triumphed over evil, but the intensity level was not for me. Ironically, one of the bad guys is willing to kill the women but not the dog — I guess he and I have something in common, because I read plenty of books where women get abused, but I apparently had to draw the line at dogs this week.

I actually stopped tracking my DNFs, though, because most often — especially with ebooks — a DNF is either obvious within the first three chapters or falls into that “maybe I’ll try again later”. If it’s obvious right away, I don’t want to leave a review on Goodreads, because it doesn’t seem fair since I haven’t really read the book, and if it’s “maybe later”, I don’t leave the review since, you know, maybe later.

I definitely used to feel much guiltier about not finishing books, though, and I have tried really hard to give up that guilt. The world contains more books than I will ever, ever be able to read, and I figure if I give up on one, I’m making time to read another.

Hmm…you know, I am not going to follow that train of thought out to its logical conclusion, which is that if I give up on writing A Gift of Grace, I’m making time to write something else. I am not giving up. Not, not, not. And so I think I’d best get back to it. But great question, Carol, and thanks for giving me something to write about today!

*Californian Carol, not New Zealand Carol. It’s kind of funny in a blog with half a dozen readers or so that two of you are named Carol. I’ve wondered more than once if I was just confused but since you both commented separately on the same post, I have once and for all concluded that you are two separate people. :)

16 Nov

Monday morning

I can’t believe it’s mid-November already. Time is speeding by.

And I just stared blankly out the window for a solid three minutes. Do I seriously have nothing more to say than that? This blogging every day thing does pose its own challenges.

How about a book review? Last week, I saw that the hardcover edition of The Turning Season could be had for a penny (plus $3.99 shipping and handling, and sorry, Catsongea, I bet you can’t get the same deal), so I took the plunge. I hadn’t read any of Shinn’s Shifting Circle books because I’d hit my uncertain purchase spot with her right before she started releasing them and they didn’t sound… well, I hadn’t bought them. They sounded bleak, I guess, and I’m not much of a fan of bleak.

So The Turning Season is the story of a shape-shifter, struggling to get by in a world — our world — that is not so friendly to those who are different. But she’s got friends, an ex-lover, clients — enough of a community of people who are either shifters or friendly to shifters that when she changes (randomly, not under her control), people show up to take over her responsibilities. The crux of the story is a gentle love story: she meets a guy, she likes him, he likes her, slowly she lets him into her world, things happen — some bad, some sad — but by the end, they are living happily ever after. Or, more realistically, happily until her early and untimely death, because in this series, shape-shifters die young because of the strain of the shifting on their bodies.

There are parts of the book that didn’t work so well for me. The fact that all shape-shifters are terrified that anyone will find out about their abilities and automatically hide from any chance of discovery is a cliche and not one that I think makes a lot of sense. The fear of the evil government locking up people who are different feels very 1950s to me, the Cold War mentality in action, and I really think that if there were shape-shifters in the world, at least a few of them would head to Hollywood. In the real modern world, if shape-shifters existed, they’d be on Jimmy Fallon and Ellen and all over social media. I think it would have been more plausible that all shape-shifters were terrified of discovery if the world had been a little farther away from this one, if there had been events in history that shaped their ideas of discovery. As it is, they’re all terrified of discovery but every time a new normal character learns about them, the reaction is basically, “Okay, cool.”

In the same vein, all the characters respond in a very similar way to a key event at the end and it didn’t work for me. Without spoiling it… well, no way to explain without spoiling, so I won’t. But ironically, one of the reasons that Shinn stopped being an auto-buy purchase for me is that in one of her previous books (Royal Airs), an ostensibly good character did something I found horrifying — an incredible violation of someone else’s bodily integrity — but it was presented very nonchalantly and didn’t bother the other characters. In this case, a character did something that made a lot of sense to me and all the characters were horrified. Perhaps I’ve lived in Florida too long. Anyway, I can’t explain it without giving a ton away, but it definitely broke me out of the story.

Those things said, though — Sharon Shinn can really, really write. Her work is lovely and lyrical. The characters were a pleasure to spend time with, the world was beautiful. The book is bittersweet, but oh, so moving. And while the story is definitely entertainment — essentially a cozy paranormal romance — it has a message, too. In the words of her narrator “I will start celebrating the gifts life brings me, no matter how bitter, on some days, they seem. And I will never, inside the curse, stop searching for the blessing.”

Worth the read. But now I should get back to writing a book of my own!

Today’s goal — just to get out of this damn scene I’ve been stuck on. I need to quit being all angst-y and just get on with things. But fingers crossed, today will be the day!

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