2017 Book Kickoff:We Have Always Lived in the Castle

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Happy New Year!

I intend for 2017 to be a year of books, among other wonderfulness. To kick things off, the first book I read so far this year is Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962).

I admit, I was drawn to this book because of the cover and because it’s by Shirley Jackson, one of my favorite authors.

SPOILER ALERT

The book is told from the perspective of Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood, one of the few surviving members of the Blackwood family. She lives in an old, large house with her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian. There used to be more members of the Blackwood family, but she poisoned her family’s sugar with arsenic to punish them when she was sent to her room without supper. Her sister survived because she does not take sugar (and that is the reason why Merricat poisoned the sugar and not something else) and her Uncle Julian only took a small amount.

The plot largely centers around the daily routine of Merricat and her family and their relationships with the other characters. The most fascinating part of the narrative is Merricat herself – she shows no remorse for having killed her family, and yet she respects  various spaces and objects that belonged to them, even though they are deceased ( for example, after her Uncle Julian dies, she still does not enter his room, insisting that she is not allowed). As a reader, my reaction to Merricat was at times, “She’s crazy” and “She’s a brat,” but I still found myself happy that she and her sister were happy at the end of the story. I feel like it’s an odd reaction to have given how horrible Merricat is as an individual, but that’s part of the beauty of Jackson’s writing: she doesn’t just invite you into the psyche of a character, she thrusts you in, allowing the reader to become intimate with the character by helping to detach the reader from their own preconceptions to understand the world of the story through the character’s eyes.

Now, onto the next book!

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Project Thankful: Reason #96

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about being a writer.  I currently have two books, The Hunted and Darkness Calls, published on the Amazon Kindle store.  I am also currently in the process of writing the sequels to both of the books.  As I’m going through this process, I reflect back on the books and a list of things comes to my mind stating all the edits, changes, and just what I would have done differently back when I first wrote/edited/published them.

There will always be things I should have done differently.  That’s just life.  In regards to being a writer, I don’t associate the things I should have done differently with regrets.  I don’t have any regrets when it comes to being a writer.  No matter how scathing that part of me that looks at the books and says “Yeah, it would have been better…” is, if I had a time machine and could go back and re-do anything, I would still leave the books as they are.

Mistakes, failures, errors, misjudgments…they happen for a reason.  When it comes to being a writer, all of mine have made me a better writer.  I’d rather start weak and become strong instead of starting strong and turning weak. 

Project Thankful: Reason #60

Hello, readers.  What am I thankful for today?  You!

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Thank you, readers.  Every time I see someone liked a post, commented on a post, is now following this blog, bought a book…basically, every time I notice that someone is reading my material I am overjoyed.  It fuels purpose into my writing, knowing that there are individuals out there who do read my work.  So, thank you.  A very simple saying, “thank you,” but extremely sincere.

Brave New World

In addition to not being consistent with updating Twitter, I have not updated my progress on Goodreads in a while.  I get the monthly updates from Goodreads telling me about what my friends are currently reading, and in the bottom of the screen is the last book I listed as having started reading.  I have since read many more books.

The most recent book I finished reading was Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

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This book has so many amazing, thought provoking quotes that my copy has underlines and stars fillings its pages.  Here are five quotes that I especially liked:

“Those who meant well behaved in the same way as those who meant badly.”

“Did you ever feel…as though you had something inside you that was only waiting for you to give it a chance to come out?  Some sort of extra power that you aren’t using?”

“Words can be like X-rays, if you use them properly – they’ll go through anything.  You read and you’re pierced.  That’s one of the things I try to teach my students – how to write piercingly.”

“Happiness is a hard master – particularly other people’s happiness.  A much harder master, if one isn’t conditioned to accept it unquestioningly, than truth.”

“Happiness has got to be paid for.”

Why I’m Good Without Twitter

Despite the title of this blog post, I do in fact have Twitter.  Two Twitter accounts to be more exact.  I rarely log onto Twitter, however, and when I do my total time spent on the site is less than five minutes.

One of the pieces of advice the online world (aka Google search) gave to me when I was getting ready to publish my e-books was to expand my social media presence, including creating a Twitter account where I should tweet several times a day.  At first, I tried the Twitter thing.  I followed people and some people followed me as well.  I would tweet to promote my books with the occasional tweet about my day thrown in there as well.

What I’ve found is that I’m good without Twitter.  Yes, it’s a way to promote my books, and I did use it as such.  After a while though, my tweets felt to me like flashy, stiff billboard advertisements or infomercials.  And that’s not how I want to feel about anything I write, be it a tweet or a Facebook status.

I’m more of a blogger than a tweeter when it comes to social media.  For me, blogging is a better way for people to get to know me and to get to know my books if they are interested.  It also helps that I’m not confined to 140 characters when I blog.  More room for writing.

Confessions Of A Writer #22

I haven’t posted a “Confession” in quite some time.  A part of this lapse in time is due to the blog space being transformed into a showcase for my latest project, “Project Thankful.”  Another part is because I have not really been working on either novel in Night Creatures series.  The first draft of the  sequel to Darkness Calls is finished.  The first draft of the sequel to The Hunted is still a work in progress.  But a good work in progress.  The type of work in progress where the story itself including the characters are all, “Look here, author lady.  You’ll finish the novel.  You just have to leave us alone for the novel to take shape, so that when it’s time to write, we can tell you how the story is going to play out.”

That said, I recently started working on the sequel to The Hunted.  Today, I surpassed a writing goal that I would say is the hardest to achieve: the first 10,000 words.  Because the first 10,000 words are the hardest to write.  They are the beginning of the novel, and just like a beginning of a relationship, a beginning of the novel feels awkward to write.  You have all these big ideas, but then aren’t sure if they will work or be realistic within the construct of the story, and you fall in and out of love with the characters, and you wonder why you thought the series itself was worth it at all, and you question whether you should unpublish your work and be done with it, and you abandon your original notions regarding how the novel will take shape and what will happen because as you write, the story tells itself and the characters show you what will happen.  And as the plot is being revealed to you and you are caught up in this collage of characters and action, the idea of unpublishing your work seems ludicrous because writing is so much fun.

And then you look down at the word count, and you’ve passed 10,000 words.

Project Thankful: Reason #20

The ginormous lottery jackpot is no more!  Two tickets hold the claim to the massive jackpot from last night’s drawing.  I am not one of the winners.

I’ll admit, winning the lottery is a very appealing idea.  The money would certainly help with many areas.  While money can not buy anyone happiness, it can help ease the financial burden many face.

To help curb my “Ah, shucks!” feeling, I thought about what winning the lottery would feel like.  On the one hand, it would be pretty awesome.  On the other hand, and this is my prevailing feeling, it would feel hollow.  I like to earn my money.  I might not like the work I have to do to get that money, and I especially do not like how little money I get paid, but I like the feeling that when I get my paycheck that that money is money I worked for, that I earned, that I deserve for what I did. 

I think our culture has become one where the idea of winning the lottery has become woven into the American Dream.  I had to teach students the concept of the American Dream as part of their background on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby.  I looked up the definition of the term, and the closest one I could find was by the man who coined the term, James Truslow Adams:

“But there has been also the American dream, that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”

A couple of phrases are distinct in that definition: “opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement;” “not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely;” and finally, “a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.” 

The American Dream is about opportunity.  Opportunity to grow based on “ability or achievement,” to grow based on what you do.  Not what you win.