Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Corinna Turner and "The Siege of Reginald Hill"

Welcome to the final stop on the blog tour for Corinna Turner's "The Siege of Reginald Hill."  
If Turner's name sounds familiar, it is because she is the author of the gripping "I Am Margaret" series (my review here), the heart-wrenching "Someday" (my review here), the fantastical alternate history "Elfling," and the quirky "Mandy Lamb and the Full Moon." I love her works, even though she writes them faster than I can review them! 
For her sixth entry in the world of "I Am Margaret," Corinna once again delves into matters of faith and future, and what it means to truly battle for a soul. I was intrigued by the premise of the book (which I got to preread in beta) and was excited to get a chance to interview Corinna about the unique challenges of writing "Siege," formatting/tweaking for American audiences, and her favorite holiday traditions! 
Q: Let’s go back to the beginning. How did you first conceive of Margo and her world? What was it about that idea, of all the ones spinning in your head, that captured your literary imagination and demanded a book? Well, a series of books!

A: I had the core idea for ‘I Am Margaret’ in a dream whilst on retreat at a convent and the rest of the plot developed very quickly. It was definitely a ‘has to be written’ idea, and a lot of that was because of the faith element. I’d been writing books aimed at the mainstream market and was  increasingly frustrated at having to leave my faith out of them (faith doesn’t sell in the mainstream; at least it doesn’t in the UK). Faith was so integral to the ‘I Am Margaret’ plot that I decided to just write the book exactly as I would write a mainstream novel—but with the faith in.

Q: Out of all the secondary characters in the IAM books, how did you decide that Reginald (of all people!) was the next who needed his story told? How did you choose Kyle as protagonist?

A: Although Siege is a sequel to the whole series, I also see it very much as a sequel to ‘Brothers’ specifically. Kyle thinks a lot about his biggest fears in that novella, and in Siege he suddenly has to face them, and at a time when he no longer expects them. From that point of view, despite the long time gap between the chronology of the two books, it’s very much a continuation of ‘Brothers’. As for Reginald Hill, he’s been the main ‘bad guy’ of the series right from ‘I Am Margaret’. Although several ‘bad guys’ appear at the end of ‘I Am Margaret’, Hill was always (leaving aside Lucas Everington) the most well-developed and was the one who carried on through the series, making appearances now and then and threatening Margo and those she loves in various ways. And he really, really hates Margo (Full English Breakfast, Mr Hill?). So I didn’t consciously choose Hill, he was just the one who would do something like that, and the one who would be hardest for anyone to love.

Q: Any thoughts on what stories you might tell next in the IAM universe?

A: Next in the IAM universe I intend to publish a short story collection, but the main item in it is actually a novella called ‘A Saint in the Family’, which follows up on ‘The Siege of Reginald Hill’. I also have an idea for a novella or short novel about Luc Verrall, at the time of his eighteenth birthday, tentatively titled ‘Beyond the Wall’ but I can’t honestly say when I will be writing that. I really need to finish writing the ‘Yesterday & Tomorrow’ series!

Q: I find the surgery/torture scenes in the series really difficult to read. How do you write them? What do you hope your readers will take away from them?

A: I very deliberately avoid almost all graphic physical descriptions, and convey what is happening almost entirely through the reactions of characters or the dialogue. This leaves how ‘much’ the reader ‘sees’ largely up to the reader’s own imagination.  But I do get some readers with strong imaginations who seem to believe that there was a detailed, gory, graphic, blow-by-blow description, so it’s not a foolproof way of handling an unpleasant event.

They’re there for the dual purpose of putting the reader fully in the shoes of the main character and making sure they identify fully with what he/she faces throughout the book, and to highlight what many martyrs over the centuries have faced, what they (and maybe we) could face in the future, and what, indeed, in some form or other, many Christians are facing right now. I hope they will challenge readers in their faith, and make them think about what they would really endure for Christ. Is out faith more than skin deep?

Q: The SEIGE in the book is one of the Soul, and it makes for some powerful but very heavy reading. Was it tough to write? I felt the arc was very believable, which is immensely difficult to do with a storyline of this type, so kudos for that!

A: It was a harder book to write than usual, because I think I was writing very much from the deepest parts of me, and the book is very close to my heart as a result. The story really pulled me in and I lived inside it a lot of the time. However, it wasn’t as hard to write as ‘Three Last Things’, which I’m hoping to publish in the first part of 2019. That story ripped me to shreds inside—the Holy Spirit practically took my hands and forced me to write it. I love the resulting novella, but it was the most difficult two weeks of writing I’ve done in my life. Siege would be the second most difficult, and wasn’t anywhere near as bad.

Q: We’ve corresponded now about three novels and one short story of yours in which I’ve primarily focused on catching what we’ve termed “Britishisms.” It’s been pretty fun and enlightening to learn more about some of the cultural differences between our shared-language countries. Is there anything that has stuck out to you as particularly surprising or humorous? What has been the most difficult for you in managing clarity for two audiences like that?

A: The most difficult thing is actually when I pick up an American edition and see ‘Z’s’ and missing ‘U’s’. Still makes me wince, ha ha! It was a big surprise that I couldn’t find a completely equivalent word for ‘layby’. I had to pester my US test readers over that one, and ‘rest area’ or ‘shoulder’ was the closest we found. Then there were the ‘dry stone walls’ from ‘Mandy Lamb and the Full Moon’. Turned out they literally don’t exist in the States, and I had to go with ‘stone fence’. Sometimes when I make a word up translation is difficult, as well, and the US version ends up with something boring and official that’s in the dictionary instead.

Q: Speaking of Britishisms, can you tell us what the holiday season will look like for you over in the UK? What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions/songs/foods, etc?
A: In my family we like a real Christmas tree, never a fake, and a big one! We also tend to have goose, which is a more old-fashioned Christmas dinner. For most people the Christmas dinner of choice tends to be Turkey. Goose is juicer, though! We also have ‘pigs in blankets’ which are sausages wrapped around with bacon, and Brussel sprouts and satsumas are also synonymous with a British Christmas dinner. Perhaps we should re-name them ‘Brexit sprouts’ this year? Christmas crackers and party poppers and Amaretti Biscuits, which nobody likes, but if you roll the wrapper and set fire to it, it takes off and flies up into the air. Although, the other Christmas I confidently rolled and lit one to demonstrate to my brother’s in-laws, who had somehow reached the age they were without encountering this custom, only to have it burn down into a miserable puddle of ash on the plate. It turned out we’d bought a box made for the American market, instead of the Italian ones, and the wrappers had been changed. Health and safety gone mad, perhaps? Terrible disappointment, anyway! We actually considered taking them back for a refund!

An odd surge filled my heart as I looked at him, sitting there in that chair: so old; so evil; so broken; so... alone. A warmth. A caring. A... love. I loved him. Just another poor sinner who need my care...
Fr Kyle Verrall is living a quiet life as a parish priest in Africa when he’s snatched from his church one night by armed assailants. He’s in big trouble—his sister’s worst enemy is hell-bent on taking revenge on the famous Margaret Verrall by killing her brother, just as slowly and horribly as he can.
What could possibly save him? The humble young priest is defenceless—or so Reginald Hill believes.
But Kyle has a powerful weapon Hill knows nothing about. And he’s not afraid to use it.
Is Reginald Hill really the hunter?
Or is he the hunted?

Buy your copy here:
(Or request a purchase by your local library!)

Corinna Turner has been writing since she was fourteen and likes strong protagonists with plenty of integrity. She has an MA in English from Oxford University, but has foolishly gone on to work with both children and animals! Juggling work with the disabled and being a midwife to sheep, she spends as much time as she can in a little hut at the bottom of the garden, writing.

She is a Catholic Christian with roots in the Methodist and Anglican churches. A keen cinema-goer, she lives in the UK She used to have a Giant Snail called Peter with a 6½” long shell, but now makes do with a cactus and a campervan!

For reviews of "The Siege of Reginald Hill" and other behind the scenes goodies, check out the previous stops on the blog tour!

Dec 1 – Stop 1 - Corinna Turner – Author of the I Am Margaret series including new release The Siege of Reginald Hill
Dec 2 – SUNDAY
Dec 3 – Stop 2 - Steven R. McEvoy - Blogger and Amazon Top 1000 Reviewer Steven R. McEvoy on "Book Reviews & More" -
Dec 4 - Stop 3 - Erin McCole Cupp – Blogger, Contributor to Catholic Mom and Author (Jane E. Friendless Orphan series, etc.) -
Dec 5 – Stop 4 - Regina Doman – Award-winning Catholic teen fiction Author (The Fairy Tale novels, The Angel in the Waters, etc.) -
Dec 6 - Stop 5 - Theresa Linden – Award-winning Catholic teen fiction Author (Liberty series, West Brothers series, etc.) -
Dec 7 – Stop 6 - Sarah de Nordwall – The Catholic Bard! -
Dec 8 - Stop 7 - T.M. Gaouette - Writer, Blogger, and Author of Catholic Fiction (Faith and Kung Fu series) -
Dec 9 – SUNDAY
Dec 10 – Stop 8 - Carolyn Astfalk - Author of coming-of-age romance Rightfully Ours, etc. -
Dec 11 – Stop 9 - Leslea Wahl - Award-winning Catholic teen fiction Author (The Perfect Blindside, An Unexpected Role, etc.) -
Dec 12 – Stop 10 - Elizabeth Amy Hajek – Blogger and Author of The Mermaid and the Unicorn -

Thursday, December 6, 2018

It's All Good (Hajek Updates)

First off, if you're avoiding the subject of babies (which I understand, since six months ago even the word 'baby' might have me off in tears), tune back in next week for some posts on completely non-baby related stuff, like awesome TV shows, good books, an an interview with Corinna Turner, author of "I Am Margaret." It's going to rock! 

I wasn't sure whether to get the TV/book post up first, or the baby post, but considering that we have a lot of news on the baby front, I thought I'd get that out first and reassure everyone who hasn't heard from me in three months. Yikes!

But yes, the rest of this post is baby updates, including how mama's surviving, and whether we're expecting a boy or a girl...

Back at 18 weeks

My oh my, this autumn was difficult. Pregnancy nausea is like nothing else I've gone through. I could barely function at all until about week 17, and here at week 20 I'm still fighting major food aversions. 

I finally felt well enough to start smiling again!

The good news is that baby is growing very well! We had our 20 week scan on Tuesday and all the measurements showed baby still on the large side! Considering how hard it's been to eat anything, this is hugely encouraging for me! 

Baby is also tremendously active! I've been feeling kicks for a couple weeks now, but it was so cool for me and especially Nathan to see her in action. She didn't want to stay still for a moment, which meant we got some really great photos. 

And yes...I said 'she.' It's a girl! Presenting little Miss. Hajek...

Ultrasound technology is amazing these days. It was fascinating to see inside her brain, to see the chambers of her heart, to see her yawn...

...and to count her little toes!!!

So here we are, approximately halfway through, and looking forward eagerly to April. I've started writing a bit again, sewing a lot again, and even managing a little food prep. Nathan is finishing off our basement at long last, and his mother has been up with us quite a bit to help out -- I don't know how we would have survived without her.

The last 18 weeks have been tremendously difficult physically, so I am terribly thankful to finally have some relief so I can have the energy and headspace to enjoy this amazing blessing we've been given. I don't take a bit of it for granted and I am so immensely grateful to have this little girl in our life.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Other Alcott -- by Elise Hooper

Amy March, the spoiled, vain youngest sister who steals Jo's European trip and ends up with Laurie. What if that was your legacy to the world?

Or so the general public thinks today.

Like a good many readers of "Little Women," I never gave much thought to the real figure behind Amy March. That is, I knew May Alcott was a real person who provided some inspiration for Amy, but no one wrote much about her. It was much easier to learn about Louisa and her rather unusual parents than any of the sisters.

And I did know something about the Alcotts, after all I wrote and directed a 50 minute student adaptation of "Little Women" in my late teens, the premiere of which coincided with my college course on American Literature. "Little Women" still might never rank as one of my top ten favorite novels, but I know the story and the characters very well. Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy came alive for me in a very tangible way while making that film (I played Meg), and I've continued to analyse and ponder these sisters with each new film adaptation I've been able to see.

But when I picked up Elise Hooper's engaging, well-researched novel, I was abashed to quickly discover that I knew almost nothing about May Alcott, and nearly all my assumptions were wrong.

The premise of the novel is the first sentence of this blog post--what would it be like to know that your sister portrayed you in such a fashion to the entire world? What would it be like to have everyone, as soon as they heard the name "Alcott", ask you how much of it was real, and assume that you were indeed vain and spoiled? 

May had the real gumption of the Alcotts, and determined not to let her sister's fame and public judgement overshadow her life. While early reviews praised the writing of "Little Women," they were harsh on the illustrations that May contributed to the publication. Rather than let this defeat her, May decided to seriously pursue a career as a professional artist. Unlike her fictional counterpart, she left behind a future as a society wife and chose long hours of study under drawing masters rather than a cushy engagement. It would take many years of hard work and perseverance, but eventually she would craft a legacy of her own...but would that legacy be at the expense of her relationship with her sister Louisa? You'll have to read the novel to find out!

Elise Hooper does a wonderful job of bringing Alcott's world to life. She understands how to tell an engaging story in a historical setting, paying respect to real historical figures while crafting an emotional narrative. There is a long historical note at the back of the book that goes into great detail regarding the true facts behind the story.

But the best part of the book for me is how Hooper brings the world of art study alive. I know something of art myself, both from personal study and from living with an art major. I was impressed with the accuracy and depth Hooper brought to her descriptions of artistic work. Although my own art background no doubt enriched my reading, I think it would be clear and appealing to readers of any level of artistic understanding, including novices.

My only qualm would be a slight regret that the book starts post "Little Women" publication and gives very little insight into the earlier years of the Alcott family. Bronson Alcott, the patriarch, was a transcendentalist who did not believe in accepting financial remuneration for work. At one point he founded a commune that the family lived on, and later they survived only due to the patronage of admirers. Alcott family friends included Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, figures who impacted Louisa's later writing.

Indeed, this backstory is so intriguing that it would (and has) quite overwhelm May's own story, so I understand why Hooper chose to start at a later point in the timeline. However, I feel that some understanding of the Alcott family history is an important preamble to this novel, so I highly recommend at least skimming Bronson Alcott's Wikipedia page before picking up "The Other Alcott."

It's not often that I find such a great work of historical fiction that is well-written, fairly accurate, and reasonably clean. Late in the book there are a few mildly sensual scenes, but nothing too risque.

This is a perfect read to cozy up with as we head into chilly autumn. I highly recommend all fans of historical fiction, art, and/or "Little Women" go and pick up a copy today!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Big Vacation Surprise

In my last post, I wrote up some reflections about my first fibromyalgia vacation. What I didn't mention, because we weren't ready to announce it, is that there was another complication I was dealing with unawares.


What I thought was just lack of hydration and vacation fatigue turned out to be the first calls for attention from our little baby, whose presence was only discovered on the last day of the vacation when we finally finally got that long awaited positive test. After so much anguish and waiting, it was beyond amazing to not only have such wonderful news, but to deliver it immediately, in person, to my parents and grandparents.

It had been my dream all year that I would be able to give my grandparents the 60th anniversary gift of their first great-grandchild. But given all the holidays and cycles that had come and gone already, I really did not think it would actually happen. So getting that test on the very last day of the celebration was absolutely shocking for me.

I still can't believe that something so beautiful actually happened.

We are currently eight weeks along, due in April, and everything is looking very good for baby. We got to see the heartbeat last week at the first ultrasound, and baby is measuring slightly ahead of schedule.

Mama is not doing so well, as I'm suffering under such extreme nausea that my mother-in-law has come up to stay with us because I pretty much can't do anything--I haven't even been posting on social media. (And yes, I've been trying a ridiculous number of remedies and almost none of them give even a hint of relief. It's unreal.) I've gone through some pretty bad nausea in my life, but it's been nothing compared to this. Food is just gross. This is definitely one of the hardest things I've gone through in my health journey, but it's a really good sign for baby, and a constant reminder that I am, most definitely, pregnant. Since we are not yet out of the first trimester, it can still be a time of anxiety, but most days I'm way too sick to have time to worry, and if I do worry, I know my extreme sickness is a very good sign for a healthy pregnancy.

The night before I got that positive test was one of the lowest points for me of our entire fertility journey. I didn't know how I'd have the strength to keep on trying. Infertility is utterly horrible and the emotional pain and strain is utterly exhausting. I still can't fully believe that our miracle has happened, that the morning after such a terrible night brought such a radical difference to everything.

In my first post about infertility, I talked about wanting God's timing more than anything. I suspect that we will see more about timing throughout this baby's life. But even in the four weeks that we've been aware of his/her existence, I've had so many reasons to see why this is the perfect time for this child to be coming.

God is Hope.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Vacationing with Fibromyalgia

In my youth I was downright spoiled in the vacations I got to take. None of them were excessive, but there were some really special, beautiful places that I got to visit and stay at throughout my life. Although I wasn't capable of fully appreciating them at the time, I treasure the memories deeply. Especially since now, with my fibromyalgia and other chronic health issues, traveling and finances are both severely limited. I cannot fly on a plane at all. (I can't fly with wings or telekinesis or a Tardis either, alas). Any car ride longer than about 45 mins takes several hours of recuperation time, and that's only if I have a suitable place to rest and the right support.

So when my grandparents decided to take the family on a vacation to celebrate their 60th anniversary, I knew the 2+ hour drive was going to be a major hurdle. Still, I really really wanted to make it work. They'd taken us to this same resort ten years ago for their fiftieth, and it was just the loveliest time. I'd so enjoyed being with family at that beautiful place and I both wanted to experience it again and share it with Nathan.

We discussed a lot of factors, and my grandparents worked hard to make sure that there would be a good room for us, and that we could bring Mateo along. These factors really lowered my stress levels, which made a big difference in how my body handled the weekend. The drive was rough, but I did manage to recover from it without major blowback. The only major problem I seemed to have up there was allergies, and those are the simplest issues for me to fix. Managing the big resort while still in a boot for my hairline fracture was tough, but between my husband wheeling me around in a wheelchair and the use of a golf cart, we did okay. I even managed to go swimming in a pool for the first time in years! (Which felt GREAT for my fibro, even if the chlorine was a bit irritating.)

But the best part was being with my family. I've had to miss SO many gatherings over the years and it was just truly a blessing to be able to make this reunion.

I don't know for sure all the factors that made this visit work, because we could probably repeat them at another point in time and have just a tiny fluctuation in my health upset anything. So I am tremendously grateful that this vacation did turn out wonderfully for us. (Ironically, it was my husband who came home with a bad sickness! Amazingly, I didn't catch his bug at all!)

Some Suggestions for Fibromyalgia Travel:

  • Know your limits and stick to them. 
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Make sure you can travel in a way that allows you to bring your WHOLE survival pack. Pillow, meds, vitamins, any air or water filters, etc. The more you can bring, the more your body will be supported and your vacation will truly be a time of rest. Check an extra bag if you have to. The fees will be worth it if you can support your body and not feel rotten a huge chunk of your vacation.
  • Don't cheat on your diet. If you have food allergies or sensitivities, vacation is NOT the time to relax vigilance. On the contrary, the stress of travel and new surroundings can make reactions or flare-ups worse. Do the work in advance to make sure you'll have yummy food you can eat so that you won't be tempted by what everyone else is indulging in. Even if this means checking a second suitcase full of goodies, or taking an extra hour to stop at a grocery store and stock up. Access to a fridge and microwave can be extremely helpful for this. 
  • Take rests. It's hard when everyone else is having a good time (especially if you are at all extroverted), but sleeping in a strange bed makes for a more difficult night, so take a nap if you can, or at least a reading break in a quiet, non-stimulating room. And try to get a situation where you can sleep as long as you need to, when you need to, without interruptions by roomies. 
  • Pack a wide range of clothes. It's always tempting to be practical and pack light, but you'll have more stimulus affecting your body in addition to new temperatures and humidity levels. Include your most comfy pieces that you are okay being photographed in. 
  • Don't overdo the new experiences, and don't pack your schedule too full. It is very tempting to want to do everything, but accepting your limitations from the get-go will help you fully appreciate the parts you do get to enjoy. 
  • If you can, try to fully explain your limitations and how it will affect your vacation to those who may be impacted by them, either emotionally or in scheduling matters. This will lower the stress of fulfilling expectations on both sides. 
  • Take the time before your trip to remind yourself and any close travel partners of your usual triggers. For example, I know that bright sun and rocking waves majorly upset my system. So as much as I wanted to go for a boat ride, I stayed prudent and avoided headache risks. 
  • Plan the trip duration around your health. Maybe you know you can only handle a few days, so you go for a shorter period of time than the rest of your group. Maybe you can only handle a few hours in a car at a time, so you break up your drive with an overnight stay or a nice long rest, walk or swim at a park on the way. If you are flying, look into VIP amenities, as some airlines offer lounges that may provide more rest on a long layover. 
Summing Up

Living with chronic illness is hard. Missing out on things is hard. Feeling trapped in your house and unable to get a break from daily life is all really hard. But when you do get to participate and experience and enjoy--well that is truly amazing. I savor every moment of it, all of which means so much more to me than it ever did before.

It's easy for my life to seem very small, but I work to chose to see it as full. To see and savor and express gratitude for every little piece. It helps so much.

This doesn't mean that I never feel sadness or anger or frustration, but it keeps those moments isolated. And when I do get to do something big or exciting, it becomes nearly overwhelming (in a good way, most of the time!).

And trips are probably always going to be more difficult for me, and won't happen very often, but there are ways to make some trips possible now, and maybe there will be even more going forward as we continue my healing process. After all, two years ago this reunion never would have been possible for me!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

You won’t live forever, so write your novel today.

Novelists, I have a proposition. It’s time to write your book.
Something that someone said to me recently made me think about the limited time I have here on earth. I’m just brushing up on 30. I may get one more day of life, or I may get sixty. Who knows! But whatever my lifespan is, it is limited. There is a finite number of books I will be able to write! This is both terrifying and thrilling. I have a ton of stories I want to share with the world...and the only thing really holding me back is...ME!
We authors are quite often procrastinators. And why wouldn’t we be? Writing is hard. There is always something simpler to do that is either more fun or pays more bills.
And yet we’re not going to live forever (unless you’re secretly an Elf and totally holding out on me). Did you know that you can easily write the first draft of a novel in one year? 10,000 words a month (that’s 500 a day on a normal workweek schedule) will get you to 120,000 in a year, which is a good length for a fantasy novel and too long for just about any other genre—which means you can take some vacation days and still hit that deadline. Or write 20,000 words a month for five or six months, spend another six or seven months editing, and maybe take off December to give your brain a break.
Think about that. Each year that novel doesn’t get written is a year that one of your stories hasn’t been told. Sure, you may eventually get this novel written, but what about the five, ten, or fifteen other novels you could have written in the years that you haven’t been making your writing a top priority.
Now, I’m not unsympathetic. Life happens! Some years you just can’t write very much. There are births, deaths, crazy work deadlines, relationship crisis’s, etc. When there’s a really big thing going on, cut yourself some slack. But otherwise? If you want to be a published novelist, then write.

I really struggled the year I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Fibro fog made writing hard, let alone the editing that I needed to do for "The Mermaid and the Unicorn." But I keep praying and persevering and guess what? Eight months after I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, my first novel was published.

(This was the same year we bought our first house, I started my first garden, and we adopted a puppy. Also publishing a book should NOT have been possible. But before you think I'm Wonder Woman... I have to give a lot of credit to God because each of those things came about from his direct intervention in our lives.)
You want to know something encouraging? Writing is like a muscle: the more you write, the faster you get! So maybe at first it takes you three hours to crank out 1000 words. That’s a lot of time! But keep doing it, and eventually you’ll get that number way down. Maybe you’ll find you can write 1000 words twice a week, or maybe you write 500 words a day, four days a week, or maybe you just carve out a four-hour marathon time each week and pound out 2000 words. Any one of those schedules will get you 8000 words a month, which is still right on track to get a first draft done in a year (unless you’re doing a REALLY epic fantasy book…but honestly, for a first time author, you probably shouldn’t shoot for anything over 115,000, even in the fantasy genre).

Does wordcount scare you? Then ignore that. Set a timer and write for at least 20 minutes a day. Some days, the writing juices will flow, and you’ll churn out more than 20 minutes. Other days? If you’re still stuck at minute 20, move on. You’ve only spent 20 minutes of your day on this, and most of us probably spend three times that on social media. Maybe you don’t get the first draft done in quite one year, but you ought to have it knocked out in two, no biggie.

Can't cope with numbers? I have a friend who would just use an hourglass. If he got distracted while writing, he had to flip the hourglass over and keep writing until the sand ran out. You could also use background music (write through a playlist), or a fun treat (write until your triple chocolate frappe is gone--or your pot of Earl Gray if you want to avoid diabetes), or even just a bottle of water. I used #hydrateandwrite as my own personal writing challange for one week this summer when I realized I needed both more water and more writing motivation.
If you implement any of these things and build up your writing muscles this year, then next year you’ll probably be able to write more, faster! This will free up time for editing that first draft even while you’re writing the first draft of your next book!
“But WAIT,” you say. “I hit a MAJOR PLOT PROBLEM IN MY BOOK. I can’t keep writing!” Fair enough! Take some time away, stew over it, but don’t stop writing! Pull out another story idea and work on that. Every now and then you might end up with a partial draft that you really cannot figure out how to finish; keep going back and reading them when you’re in a lull space, and you’ll probably find that with time, many problems find solutions, just from having further life and writing experience.

Also, it’s okay if your first novel, or even your second one, doesn’t get published. This is not uncommon, and it’s not wasted time. Consider the first full length novel you write to be your master-course in novel-writing, the final step before going on to the real thing.

Now is the day, now is the hour. Seize it. Tell us your story. And then the next one.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Weddings and Fractures oh dear...

 Four years after my own wedding, both of my siblings decided to get married within three months of each other. Wedding #1 was little sister, and it went off beautifully. All prairie flowers and light and joy and love.

I'm absolutely beyond thrilled for my sister. She's marrying a wonderful guy who comes from a great family and we can just so clearly see God's handiwork over everything. It's amazing.

(I'm far less thrilled about the fact that his job is taking them to the other side of the country, but it's for very good reasons.)

I want to protect her privacy so I'm not sharing a ton of photos in public spheres, but I did want to show off this lovely bit of art she designed for the top of the wedding program.

That was basically the aesthetic of the whole wedding and it was just great.

Also, my sister surprised me with a really special memory. Those of you on Instagram and Facebook have already heard about it, but just in case there are any Fairy Tale Novel Fans not following me on those platforms, I'll reshare it here...

Original Post here. 

Now sadly, all that lovely dancing led to the worsening of some foot pain I'd been struggling with for the previous week. I ended up on crutches the day after the wedding, and by Friday was diagnosed with a hairline stress fracture, outfitted with an Ironman boot, and told strictly to STAY OFF IT.

I've never had any sort of injury like this before. There's been a time or two when I've bumped a toe or a pinky and needed to be careful for a few days, but I've never needed x-rays and never had a diagnosed fracture of any kind. Ahhhhhh!!!!

I'm doing okay. With Fibro I'm pretty used to pain, and my mother-in-law came up to help out so that I can actually take it easy. And I've been loaned a bunch of different devices made for making life easier when one foot is out of commission, so I am nicely set.

Also, I decided it was time to reread all of my Agatha Christies AND expand my collection, so I've got plenty of reading material! Although I'm sharing a photo of the cool cover of "The Seven Dials Mystery" I've actually most recently enjoyed "Crooked House" (for which we also checked out the film on Amazon Prime - worth seeing!), and "Sleeping Murder." I love Miss Marple. I also love Tommy and Tuppence ("Secret Adversary" is another of my favorites!). I'm really not so keen on Poirot at ALL.

Also I have been aggressively persistent in my writing schedule. Meaning I've been focusing on novels rather than blogging. Unfortunate for the blog, but really good for you novel readers! I knocked out 50k in 10 weeks, which is definitely not NaNo speed, but still pretty significant for me. We'll see how long I can keep it up.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

Like the works of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, "Murder on the Orient Express" is destined to be re-imagined by every new generation of filmmakers for centuries to come. Each interpretation will bring its own stamp of individuality to the project, as seen through the lens of the current culture. Whether an individual remake will survive the test of time remains to be seen, however, as long as it stays true to the timeless story, it should do well.

(This review is spoiler free. If you have not seen the film or read the book you may still safely proceed.)
20th Century Fox

The story's greatest strength is also its greatest weakness--the sheer size of the cast, each character of which matters intensely in the narrative tapestry. The twist hinges on the numbers, which means that a faithful adaptation cannot eliminate anyone from the cast, even though they can make changes to character specifics. The easiest way to solve the problem is also the most delightful--and the most lucrative: cast a name brand actor in every role.

The 1974 version of the film featured names that are still remembered greats today, including Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery, Vanessa Redgrave and Ingrid Bergman. The 2018 cast is no less stunning, and even if our grandchildren won't recognize every name the way we do, they will still know a decent number (if only because Disney will market their properties to infinity and beyond.) Yet each actor on this list earns their place, imbuing each character with distinction and pathos worthy of remembrance. Michelle Pfeiffer, in particular, delivers a pitch-perfect performance.

Kenneth Branagh's Poirot, although grayer and thinner than typically imagined, is also well done. However Branagh deserves double kudos, as he not only delivers a good Poirot, but also a beautiful film, both visually and emotionally. Nearly every frame of the film looks like a portrait, and every possible angle of the train is utilized to support the narrative in a way that is interesting but not distracting. Without giving away the twist (for those of you who, like my husband, have not yet been spoiled), I will say that the ending lands soberly, leaving one with a great feeling on contemplation and reflection. Like Poirot, we don't feel we can judge, and yet it is an ending one cannot help needing to analyze.

Cultural lens is a phrase I used earlier, and I will say it is clear that this is a film of the present times. The film, like adaptations before it, must set up Poirot's genius for those who are not coming off of Christie's previous novels starring this detective. Michael Green, the screenwriter, chooses to set Poirot's entrance in Jerusalem, 1934, with a crime centered around a priest, a rabbi, and an iman. Poirot solves the puzzle with careful aplomb, and so does the rest of the film weave a diverse cast into the narrative without upsetting the historical accuracy of the period.

For those of you who have read the book, yes, there are a few changes to character backstories in a few places, and a few switches of motivations. Yet, going into this film as someone who knows the story very well, I felt each substitution was faithful to the intent of the original, while serving a more accessible purpose to modern film-goers. And, in a couple of cases, the motivations were actually nicely deepened.

We live in a culture that has put every possible twist on murder shows, setting them against every possible backdrop in every possible drama. While "Murder on the Orient Express" features a fantastic reveal, it nonetheless features an ending that brings us back to the sober truth--Murder is evil, and it ruins every life it touches. Justice may not bring peace, or closure, but it does make the world a safer place.

Whether you know nothing about Agatha Christie, or whether you have every one of her books on your shelf, if you love a good mystery, you need to check out this adaptation of "Murder on the Orient Express." And while I'll always encourage you to read the original book, this film is definitely a worthy way to experience the tale.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Once Upon a Time: The End and the Begininning

Almost seven years ago I wrote: "'Once Upon a Time' is exactly the show fairy tale fans have been waiting for. It's got princes, princesses, swordfights, evil witches, curses, prophecies, fairies, dwarves, mysteries, and yes, of course, true love." 

I hoped against hope that the show would go on to fulfill its promise, and indeed it did so (although at times it lost its way). There were moments, or even months when I felt nearly ready to give up on watching it, and then some twist, or good writing, or awesome costume, or beautiful character moment drew me back. It was a hot mess of emotions that made no sense at times, and it was a beautiful fairy tale that kept me coming back for more. It outlived its welcome for the final seasons, but even then, Season 7 had enough good stuff in it that I would recommend any fan finish watching to the end...even if you end up skipping parts of season 5 and 6.

(Spoilers for all seven seasons to follow)

My husband has seen most of the show with me, and ended up liking Season 4 the best (go figure) although we stopped watching again toward the end of the Camelot/Dark One arc in Season 5. I may just skip the rest of that season to show him the end of Season 6 -- I'm not sure. 

At the same time, the series finale brought back enough nostalgia for me to go back to the beginning again, to return to the days when Emma Swan was not a believer, and Regina was evil, and Snow and Charming were still looking for each other. For the days when Henry was tiny, and Ruby a regular, and nobody in a grave (for good). For the days when things were fresh with the beckoning of adventure. 

I love that we got this show, imperfect as it was. The costumes spurred my imagination and that of many fans who ended up giving me the chance to live my dream doing custom costume commissions (until ill health put that to rest). I loved getting to tune into fairy tales every week, retellings and old tellings. I loved the cast so very much and was happy to keep watching them even when things were mediocre. 

I didn't mind that everyone was related; I did mind that all of the decent men except Hook and Charming got killed. I came to accept the story they wanted to tell when they turned Peter Pan evil, and I went from hating Hook to loving him (although I still think some early issues were valid.) I wish we'd gotten more of Ruby and Dr. Whale and I will never stop mourning Baelfire. I loved some costumes, hated others, and couldn't figure a few of them out.  I think Mulan and Aurora got too little time on screen, but at the same time I'm sad that Anna and Elsa never came back (the Frozen arc wasn't perfect, but the actresses playing those women were). I still think Mob Boss Bo Peep was weird, the Wonderland spin-off crazy and wonderful, and have all the mixed emotions about Rumbelle. 

In short, like most of the fandom, there was no way they could make a show that pleased us all, yet they did make a show that, despite controversies and ranting, still elicited deep loyalty and love and made it through seven seasons. They even got a remarkable number of cast members back for the series finale, which I think goes a long way to show what kind of an environment this was for the actors and crew. 

I am really going to miss getting a regular dose of fairy tales on my screen. I'll miss the hope in the darkness, the costumes and the characters, and the flight of imagination we got to take every week. At the same time, we got not one but two serious closure finales, which I think is pretty fabulous. Although I wouldn't hate a spin-off show about certain side characters, I am fully at peace with the main story of the Charmings, Regina, and Rumplestiltskin being finished for good.

Thanks for the adventures, OUAT. I definitely will never forget you. And, if I'm ever blessed with kids, I'll be passing on your stories (or most of them) to a new generation of fairy tale lovers.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Instagram and Simple Joys

I came to Instagram from the geeky world of Tumblr. I thought that Tumblr was *my* place on the internet. Geeky memes, fanfiction, and a pleasant mix of photos and text. Yet there was tension and stress on Tumblr that had begun to make the internet a less pleasant place to be. I’d begun to think that this was just how social media was, since Facebook had become a similar sort of place.

When I got my first smartphone, it only took a few months before I ventured onto Instagram. I was so prolific on Facebook that I first thought that Instagram would be rather redundant. Yet I decided to give it a try and have been hooked ever since.


I keep pondering this. I think there are a lot of reasons. One is that, despite being a writer, I am an intensely visual person. I LOVE photos with a deep and intense passion. I love seeing photos from people I love, and I adore seeing beautiful pictures, inspiring pictures, and especially photos of the creative process. Once I found the sewing world on Instagram, I fell head over heels in love with the platform.

But it is more than photos that I love about Instagram. It is the aura of positivity. I’ve been on Instagram for several years now and it has been, overwhelmingly, an encouraging and positive experience. I’m sure there are circles on the platform that are negative and factional, but overall I believe the way the app works lends itself toward celebrating beauty, of all kinds. (And I include the beauty of *real* life, #nofilter, #messyroom, #nomakeup in that.)

Social Media photos have come under a lot of fire in recent years and for good reason. An excellent example is the new “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” movie where an early scene shows a teen staging a photo that is supposed to be just a snapshot of ordinary life but clearly isn’t. We want to put our best foot forward to the world. It also, clearly, facilitates an idea of a ‘perfect life.’ One can get the sense that everyone else lives in a rosy, Pinterest-perfect world.

This leads to a growing self-awareness and introspection of the way photo sharing online works. Sophia Kinsella wrote a funny and critical book called “My Not-So-Perfect Life” that beautifully and scathingly dissects the weaknesses of the media—but ends with an offer of a better way: namely, to be honest about every aspect of our lives.

I’ve tried to be conscious about this in my own media. Being chronically ill, my life is so very far from perfect. Sure, I won’t show the pile of dirty laundry in the corner, and I may crop out the very worst of my facial acne, but I try not to shy away from showing the roughness around the edges. I’ve always been my own advocate for my deafness, and I’m trying to be one for my chronic illness as well. Using Instagram to give glimpses of all the sides of living with chronic fatigue and chronic pain is important. I know I’ve certainly found courage and inspiration in the photos and stories of others in the same boat and I hope to pass on the benefits.

That is not, however, the only struggle that I have. The other week I came across a meme that attached each of the major social media platforms to one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Instagram’s temptation? Pride. Boy did THAT hit home. See, the other side of being chronically ill is that so much of what I do remains hidden. For me, sharing it on social media is a way to be, well, social with my creative endeavors! I know there has been great positive encouragement both for myself and in inspiration for others with many of my postings. Yet I would be naïve to ignore the temptation of pride which photos can clearly elicit from me.

And yet, even while pondering this weakness, I came across another strength of the platform, one which I believe feeds the sense of positivity that I’ve enjoyed from it.

You see, the past month has been tremendously difficult, emotionally. And I find, when I’m struggling with really difficult, painful things, I have a lot to think and say about the subject in my diary, my prayers, and to my loved ones. Now the past few days have been beautiful, and I’ve taken such joy in their beauty. Yet when I try to reach back and hold onto the beauty, try to write it down or share it, it is fleeting. I am taking joy in tiny things, ordinary things: the fresh growth of plants in my garden, the sense of wholeness and health just from doing a load of laundry or making dinner for my husband, the satisfaction from being able to sit down with tea and write and write and write, the laughter at the latest escapades of my puppy. I can capture a little bit of this in these sentences, but repeating them over and over, every day, would get redundant.

And yet…when I share pictures on Instagram, it captures these simple little joys. Maybe there is some redundancy, but the visuals capture a poignancy, immediacy, and individuality that words alone cannot. And far quicker too. A simple glance passes on the joy, whereas a whole paragraph takes much longer to read without truly conveying the beauty.

Instagram, at its heart, is a place to share and celebrate the joys of life, of every shape and size. It’s a place where you can see the satisfaction and beauty of a simple cup of tea with the same poignancy as a breathtaking landscape. Indeed, the limited size of a smartphone screen means that, in some ways, the smallest things come through the strongest and have the largest impact on our emotions.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

When Mother's Day is "Not This Year."

Mother’s Day can be hard for many reasons. Estrangement, abuse, death…there are many factors why thinking about your mom might be difficult. Or maybe you are a mom who lost a child. Or maybe you want to be a mother yourself, but for whatever reason, you are not.
I fall into the last category. This probably won’t come as a surprise to many of you. After all, chronic health in general, and endometriosis in particular, are significant barriers to parenthood. But Nathan and I have been married four years, and I am turning thirty very shortly. My biological clock is ticking away hard, and my heart is grieving.
This past year we have watched as post after post on Facebook, message after message, conversation after conversation, have turned into pregnancy announcements. And while we have deep joy for our friends and the new lives they are bringing into the world, each new pregnancy and birth feels like a death knell in my own heart. For not only is it a reminder of what we don’t have, but it is another set of friends moving on to another stage of life. And however much we might work to maintain the friendship, there is a drastic difference in having children and not having children, and how it affects everything. Getting married can change friendships, but I think the addition of children to one half of the equation but not the other has the potential to be even more so.
Both Nathan and I have felt a call to parenthood from a very young age. We both worked as nannies, and we both have always taken a great delight in connecting with our young relatives. We absolutely adore our nieces, nephew, and godson.
We also deeply trust in God’s timing. We both have family history that had long prepared us for the possibility of an infertility struggle, and for the same reason our families are deeply sympathetic, understanding, and supportive. And we can see in our own lives just how God’s timing for the birth of a child is perfect and out of man’s control.
I trust God. I trust him so much, that even when I am crying, and I want to be pleading for a child, I still find myself wanting his timing more than my immediate joy. If we are to be blessed with a baby, I want the best for that baby, and I want God’s perfect timing for my child in our lives. At this point, I don’t know whether it will be a biological child or an adoptive one. I don’t know if it will be soon or late. I don’t know if it will ever happen.
It’s a lonely struggle. People don’t talk about infertility. I know very few people of my own age who have openly shared with me that they are in the same boat. And even when you do find someone, chances are that at some point one of you is going to become pregnant and the other is not. And then you are so, so happy for them, but once again you are left behind. Or you worry about leaving your friend behind and hurting them.

And the rest of the world...well, there are so many kind, loving people in this world, who mean nothing but goodness, but still don't know what to say. Things hurt all the time, even when people are trying to be helpful and positive. Words, no matter how well-meaning, can cause so much pain. And so often I will just not talk about it, because I'm afraid of receiving more kind but upsetting platitudes.
I’m not hopeless. Indeed, at many times I am full of great hope. “Maybe this month…!!!” But I’m also really struggling. Many of the things one starts doing to try and achieve a pregnancy is adjust your hormones, so that an already emotional struggle becomes far, far more difficult to navigate. There’s a lot of crying. And there’s a lot of just walking around with a deep, deep sadness that you can’t talk about.
In part, this is a big reason of why I haven’t been blogging as much this year. It’s really hard when the biggest thing on my mind is so heavy. I don’t want to be a complainer. I don’t want to drag other people down into my depression and grief. But I also know how uplifting it has been whenever I do find another couple going through the same struggle. Whenever I feel less alone. Whenever I know that someone understands, someone else is also waiting on God. It helps so much. And so Nathan has encouraged me to write this post, in the hopes that it will do many good things, including some comfort of solidarity to anyone else going through this struggle.
It’s taken me five months to finally sit down and write this. I really didn’t want to do it. I really hoped that I’d have good news, not sad news to share. But I’d feel guilty every month I didn’t write it. I felt like I was missing an opportunity to be honest and shine a light on a very dark corner.
I don’t know if, or when, I will ever have happy news on this subject to share with you all. But if this journey continues to be a hard one, I may have further thoughts and reflections to share, as I feel they may be of use. I never, ever want this blog to become an outlet for complaining.
So. Mother’s Day. If you’re feeling apprehensive or sad about it, for whatever reason, know that you are not alone. And if you have any thoughts on how to navigate the day, please feel free to share.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Rook by Sharon Cameron

They seek her here, 
they seek her there, 
they seek that Red Rook everywhere...

This rhyme doesn't appear in "Rook" by Sharon Cameron, but it ought to. For this tale of a young girl seeking to rescue the unjustly condemned of of a dystopian future Paris is a clear homage to "The Scarlet Pimpernel" if not quite a retelling.

In this version, however, the role of the titular masked rescuer is played by a young woman (it's YA fiction, what else do you expect?). Sophia Bellamy, English gentlewoman by day, Red Rook by night, is devoted to both her family and the endangered citizens of France. Whether it takes a sword or a marriage proposal, she'll do whatever it takes to ensure that no one is left to prison--or worse. Yet she soon discovers that she is not the only one wearing a mask...

Initially, I picked this book off the library shelf because I confused it with another book of similar title. However, the moment I read the jacket blurb, I was hooked. I'm an old fan of "The Scarlet Pimpernel", always intrigued by things French and British, and fascinated by anything that lets me view history in a new light. In Cameron, I found an author with the same interest.

Although the world of "Rook" could be loosely cataloged as dystopian, this future world is not your usual sci-fi fare. After the shifting of earth's magnetic poles, all technology fails, leading many governments to declare machines 'evil' and require their citizens become self-sufficient. In consequence, the far off future of the Sunken City is no so very different than the 18th century of Baroness Orczy's tale of adventure and romance. And yet, set in a semi-wasteland where plastic artifacts like 'diet' bottles are highly prized, humanity has not changed so very much.

I appreciated the set-up for a future that mirrors the past, but was even more delighted to find the writing and plot well above your average YA book. There is a love triangle, sort of, but the real love story in the book manages to be sizzling, sweet, and sincere. Worthy to follow in Orczy's footsteps, in my very humble opinion.

So if you're looking for another Parisian adventure to tide you over until my next book is released, you may just find this worth checking out.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

It's finally time for me to review "Star Wars: The Last Jedi." My thoughts may not be what you expect, but there will be spoilers. You've been warned.

You'd think that, being chronically ill, watching movies would be one good way of filling the time. And that is partially true (I'm superb at keeping up with TV shows!) However, due to extreme sensitivities, I cannot go to the movie theater without getting a migraine.  So our household tends to lag behind when it comes to seeing the latest releases. This has put a damper on my enthusiasm for film consumption.

However, there are some films that are still really hard to have to wait for. Most of the Marvel films. Some special ones like "Beauty and the Beast." And Star Wars. Always Star Wars. 

My husband works for a company that will typically rent out a theater on opening day of a Star Wars film and all the employees go watch it with their families. My husband comes home and we read the spoilers together. This sounds pretty sad, and it has been, but this time, I'm really glad that it worked out this way. Because while a large portion of geekdom sat on the edge of their seats waiting for certain revelations while watching "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," I already know what was (or more importantly, wasn't) going to be revealed.

Let me tell you, based on the uproar on the internet, I believe "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" is a much more enjoyable film when you can go into it without any expectations. Indeed, it is a beautiful film, easily the most gorgeous and visually striking of any film in the Star Wars saga thus far. It also is the most grounded, stepping beyond the realm of fairy tales and myth and into a landscape of flora and fauna that felt real and solid in a way that I have never before experienced Star Wars.

I really appreciated the many homages in the film. Whereas "The Force Awakens" was a heavy-handed retread of "A New Hope", "The Last Jedi" paid more subtle tribute to "The Empire Strikes Back" (and other films), by taking iconic set-ups and tropes from the earlier films and then reworking them in a fresh an innovative way. For one example: I loved how Crait looked like it was going to be another snow planet, but then was revealed to be salt, with each thrust of battle scraping away the white veneer to reveal the scarlet beneath.

This is not to say that "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" is a perfect film. It is easily the busiest of the Star Wars films, with too many subplots and perhaps more than the typical number of head-scratching logic holes.. Yet I can see how every one of those character arcs was important for the story that Rian Johnson decided to tell, and I'm not sure which of them I would have cut.

This is a personal opinion, you understand. For instance, I have heard that many people didn't like Canto Bight, but I thought it did a great job of finally showing the audience a) the evilness of the empire on a personal scale and b) the range of gray among the citizens of the galaxy. The ride of the Fathiers brought a moment of true joy into an otherwise fairly dark film that was greatly needed. It reminded us of what our heroes are fighting for.

I know people argue about Poe, and Poe's arc, and Haldo's secrecy, and who was right--and really, it all makes a very interesting conversation, doesn't it? Rebels, by their nature, are breaking the rules. But what rules do we still need in order to actually function? (Some, apparently, since breaking radio silence was disastrous...) To cut just Haldo as a character is perhaps the one edit that would interfere with the overall film the least, and yet, you'd lose that magnificent sacrifice scene. Because Leia couldn't do it, she hadn't reunited with Luke yet, (and during filming, of course, they expected Carrie Fisher to be around to carry the biggest legacy role in IX). And if Poe had done it--oh how fans would have cried. Plus, you know Harrison Ford probably would have griped about it. Y'know. They didn't let Han go off young and heroically, so why should Poe get that kind of juicy end?

I loved all of Luke's scenes, this sense of reality and the simple life of a former legend. Everyone kept talking about how awkward the milk scene was, but gosh, when I actually saw it, it was just so short! And I just thought, "Well, Luke started off with blue milk, his final film should have blue milk too, right?" But mostly I loved the mix of grounded humor and conflicted conviction that made up old Luke. I could truly buy this as the Luke of the original trilogy, whiny farmboy to Jedi hero to disillusioned old warrior. He felt authentic to me.

And Rey and Kylo Ren -- their dynamic is the core of this entire trilogy, how could a minute of it be cut? That had to stay. (Whether they are going to fall in love or not, as I discussed after watching "The Force Awakens", I don't know. Kylo is definitely obsessed with Rey. Rey doesn't seem romantically interested in anyone. The only person I saw a spark of chemistry with was Poe, but Poe has chemistry with everyone, so that doesn't really count.)

I loved it all. And I can tell the filmmakers tried very, very hard to cut it tightly together, to keep all of the really good stuff and trim every bit of excess fat that they could. Unfortunate, for several scenes could have used just a little more time to breathe, to let us reflect...yet the running time couldn't spare it. Those seconds add up.

So it's not a perfect script, which means it can't be a perfect movie, right? And yet, I think "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" is the perfect film for this slot in the saga. It says, subtextually and blatantly, "the myth is gone. The heroes you adored are just people, and they are gone too. But that's okay. There are more people coming, out of which new myths are being born...and you already love them too. Trust us, and keep watching."

Some Star Wars movies, like "A New Hope" and "The Force Awakens" are funny and entertaining and make us believe we can do great things while laughing through them. Other Star Wars movies, like "The Empire Strikes Back" and "The Last Jedi" subvert expectations, reveal uncomfortable truths, and make us ponder new ways of seeing the world. "The Last Jedi" may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I am personally quite happy with it as the eighth installment in the Star Wars saga.

Now here's hoping that the yet untitled Star Wars: IX strikes a good balance between the different strengths of VII and VIII and delivers the strongest film yet!

Friday, March 2, 2018

Surgery Recovery Update

I am not sure that I've ever entirely missed a whole calendar month since beginning this blog. I hope I didn't worry anyone by taking so long to post this update. I've made a few updates on instagram and Facebook, so hopefully anyone who got concerned check those out!

Only time will tell if the surgery was completely successful, but right now I can say it was dramatic. They discovered stage 3 endometriosis, which is widespread endometrial cells throughout the pelvic cavity, as well as some organ adhesion and scarring. My doctor is extremely hopeful, and I have to say, I can't remember my abdomen feeling so clear before.

I feel extremely blessed to have a great support system of family and friends supplying help and prayers during this difficult time. I know many women suffer Endometriosis and other similar conditions and lack support systems, so I don't take a single bit of this help and support for granted.

There is other health stuff going on too, so my recovery is (surprise surprise) taking quite some time.It's going well, just long.  I ended up in the ER briefly and got an infection, but that all healed up well. Mostly I'm just tired, and limited in what I can do. Even though I know this is all for the better in the long run, it is very difficult to feel even worse in the short run.

Right now I'm still extremely exhausted, and still on pain meds. I'm waiting to reopen Whimsical Kitchen and return to writing when my thinking and emotional tolerance are at a higher, clearer point.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Surgery time again

Where has January gone? One month into 2018 and life is crazy.

This week I am having laproscopic surgery for endometriosis. This is a common outpatient procedure that typically has a short recovery period. However, a) it took me 2 weeks to even begin to recover last time I had it done, b) I now have fibromyalgia, c) they may discover more and need to do a more invasive procedure which would require an overnight stay.

So basically I go to sleep and am not sure what I'm waking up to.

While I'm hopeful about possible positive outcomes, it's also a pretty emotional turn of events for me. Obviously, surgical intervention is not a hoped-for step, and particularly not when you've already had it done once.

This time around, of course, I have my amazing husband. And in addition to my own parents, I also have the support of my in-laws. Considering that my mother-in-law has already stayed with us and helped me through some significant health issues to date, I am feeling very optimistic and happy about the post-op care I'll be getting!

For those who don't know...Endometriosis is a frustrating, painful, fertility impacting gynecological disease for which there is no cure. It's not life-threatening, but it is seriously life-altering. Sometimes surgery can remove all of the endo cells, but those are the lucky women.  So, yes, this surgery, (which is only one aspect of how we are fighting this disease), is a good step, but it's not a cure. There's no guarantee of success. I have a new doctor whom I am very hopeful about--but, personally, I can't hope too much. My heart can only take so many dashed hopes.

So right now my life is a mix of frantically getting everything in order before the surgery--this all happened very fast--and trying to stay distracted, work on my book, enjoy the latest season of Victoria (oh man Jenna Coleman continues to be so perfect--a perfect actress with a PERFECT nose. Seriously. Her nose is so perfect it distracts me from the excellent acting and gorgeous dresses. Amy March would probably die of envy if she knew such a nose existed.)