Pepper, the shaky cat

Meet Pepper, my sweet kitty.

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Here she was keeping my legs warm, and giving me gentle purrs as I worked on editing. Much better than her sister, who tries to climb into my lap and sit on my keyboard!

Pepper is my shaky cat. She had a cerebellar hypoplasia, an under-developed cerebellum. What does that mean? She’s a happy, healthy cat; her coordination is just off. She has a tendency to bob her head like a bob doll, and she doesn’t like it. If she catches you mimicking her shake she very carefully, and deliberately, holds her head still.

Pepper moves with caution, knowing her grip on gravity isn’t as good as it should be. She takes extra time to jump, and has a tendency to miss her landing. And if she does, she becomes very embarrassed and runs away.

She still isn’t quite sure what to make of my four-year-old son, though she is learning he can be great fun when he plays with her toys. Correctly. It isn’t often; after all, I have a four-year-old boy!

Social Media and Romance Books

As a romance writer and reader I follow a lot of romance writers, bloggers, and groups on Facebook and Twitter. No big deal, right?

Wrong.

I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed one night and my husband looked over my shoulder and called out, “wait! Scroll back.” I obliged and he stared at the picture of the screen.

Now, this was just a simple cover of a novel. But of a romance novel. So… scantily clad men and women with a few inappropriate handholds.

Cue husband looking at me like I’ve been leading a secret life he wasn’t aware of. I merely shrugged and explained it the best way I could. “Romance novels.”

Any random day I scroll through my news feed and see the following: cat pictures, baby pictures, cat comics, a meme from George Takai, a crotch shot of a male with a female hand down his pants (because a full cover is normally not shown, just the good parts… er, center), kid picture, man and woman in embrace, dog picture, etc.

On twitter it’s even more interesting. One day, while half my feed was involved in a chat about sex abuse, I’m pretty sure I saw a tongue licking… a shaved cat (insert slang here and other meaning, I’ll wait for you to catch up, got it? Good). The censorship is a bit different over there, and I follow a few erotica authors, so…

Bottom line, if your feeds need a little spicing up, follow an author, or blogger, or a group that promotes books. Just be prepared for the confused husband conundrum.

Beginning Stages of a Novel

Each writer begins a new novel differently, and sometimes each project is different. No two stories of mine have taken the same path. There is one theme that rings true: at some point my head is buried in a baby name book.

I’ve owned baby name books since before I was a mother. And naming humans, pets, or characters alike: I hate the process. I’m an indecisive person. I hem and haw. I flip back and forth. To come up with a name, the right name, is quite a challenge. I was in my third trimester before my son was named, and my husband (also a writer, I might add) created a venn diagram. (My son’s name ended up as #2 on both of our lists, out of the three names that landed in the center of the diagram.)

Here is a look at the beginning process of my latest novel:

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Allow me to describe the scene:

Laptop on lap desk on my bed: I’ve been warned against writing in bed by my physical therapist. I even managed to relocate to the dining room for a few days. But a writer must be where the creative juices flow, and that happens to be the worst place possible for me.

Two baby books: the first is my oldest and most reliable baby name book. The first one I bought, where I search for most of my names. The second is filled with more quirky names. I acquired the second in a box of hand-me-downs while pregnant. Score! And since I’ve named the male in this latest novel “Lake,” this quirky name book came in handy.

Pen and paper: normally I stay away from handwriting my novels. I type very fast, faster than I can think, and am very comfortable on a qwerty keyboard. So paper and pen slows me down. Further more, I make ample use out of my delete backspace key, so writing with a pen is just plain frustrating. Nevertheless, this particular paper and pen came in rather handy, when my muse came up with a brilliant story idea…

On vacation…

While I was in the shower.

I wrote the page on view while dripping into a towel, hand held up to keep my husband quiet, while I jotted down the words before my poor memory threw them away.

And might I add, I’m a bit peeved at my muse for sending me yet another idea. I’m supposed to be editing Choice and Consequence. She wants to write the new story. I’m hoping I can juggle both.

The cords: nothing to do with writing, this was me transferring all vacation gems to my laptop. The cord is for my camera. I uploaded photos and transferred the handwritten stories in one night. Multitasking!

Another little insight into my life: this is what happened to my books after I had finished researching character names:

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This is Oreo, my oldest cat. Her name was Edwina when we adopted her from the shelter (Think “Special Ed” if you are a Stephen Lynch fan), I toyed with Chessy as a mark on her leg looks like a checkered board. In the end an on-line friend came up with Oreo and it stuck. I didn’t worry about her responding to the name, as this is my deaf cat. I knew right away her sign name would be two fingers across the chin. English name = hard. ASL name = surprisingly easier.

And she sits on everything a millimeter higher than the ground. Books, laptop, paper, you name it, she’s on it. When my laptop is on my lap she goes especially crazy and has been known to sit on my keyboard, while I’m using it.

So there you have it, a glimpse into the drafting stages of a new novel. Once completed this will mark four completed drafts waiting to be edited (assuming Choice and Consequence isn’t finished first), and two completed novels. A total of six projects with a beginning, middle, and end. And to think, a year and a half ago I only had one novel at a completed draft stage.

My muse might need a vacation of her own.

New Release: SEVEN DAYS by Josie Leigh

Allow me a moment to turn into a total fan girl here: My book boyfriend is now available! My book boyfriend is now available!

<swoon>

Okay, enough of that. I’m not one to swoon over leading men, but Ryan of SEVEN DAYS stole my heart and I’m hoping he’ll steal yours as well. SEVEN DAYS is written by a writer pal of mine, Josie Leigh. I was fortunate to beta read the novel and couldn’t put it down.

SEVEN DAYS is not a light fluff piece. It’s a romance with darkness. My heart went out to the main characters and all they had to endure. This powerful book will have you captivated from the very first line.

Here’s the cover blurb:

I don’t sleep until my body gives me no choice. I go until the last drop of energy is zapped from my bones and my muscles are too weak to keep my eyes from closing. Only then am I able to achieve true peace: A slumber without dreams, without memories of my real life nightmare. I thought I was escaping my past, finally running toward the future I deserved.

Until I met Ryan. One week with him had me questioning everything I was sure I wanted out of my life. Being with him means I can’t leave my past behind. Being without him might just kill me anyway.

One week destroyed everything.
One Week shattered my dreams
One week I lived in the sun
But the darkness never truly fades.

Click here and grab your copy now!

 

 

Guest Blog Post: Morgan Bell – Writing About Mental Illness

Please welcome Morgan Bell to my blog! I’ve posted recently about my own struggles with depressed feelings, especially as it relates to my writing. When Morgan contacted me about her book, which exams mental health issues, I knew I wanted to hear more from her! Her novel, Sniggerless Boundulations, is compilations of short stories. Read more from Morgan’s own words:

Writing about mental illness

For me, when writing about mental illness, I try to get the reader to emote with the character, get them to share an experience. I do not name the mental illness in the story, or dwell on treatment or medications, or even have the characters admit they suffer from a mental illness, I just paint a picture and hope you can relate.

When I was a teenager at high school I read “Cosi” by Louis Nowra. It is a play set in a mental health facility. The protagonist, Lewis, learns from seeing extreme cases of obsessive compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, pyromania, drug addiction, selective mutism, limerence, and suicidal tendencies, that we are all a little bit mentally unbalanced and we all have the traits of these disorders to a certain degree, its just a matter of proportion.

In my book Sniggerless Boundulations, a collection of fifteen short stories, I approach mental illness more metaphorically, but with the same intention.

In Garsdale the cavern represents the depths of depression and the struggle between the broken part of you that wants to stay hidden and the highly-functional part of you that is frustrated because it has to spend so much energy battling the lost and frightened broken part. It is a reflection of the splintered psyche we all have.

In Mrs Jackson I essentially retell a common anxiety dream, I have these dreams often, trying to ward off something bad, and being responsible for something that you are unable to take care of. In real life that “something” is yourself, but in a dream you may be herding cats or literally attempting to hold back a tide.

In Shark Fin Soup I examine grief. That story came about as an entry into the Hunter Writers Centre Grief Awareness Month short story competition. I was a speaker at the Live Reading night and presented one of the prizes. I highly recommend this ebook of the shortlisted stories http://www.amazon.com.au/Grieve-Short-stories-Grief-Awareness-ebook/dp/B00H5CQQBI to get an understanding of how complex and diverse grief is. The competition is open again this year http://www.hunterwriterscentre.org/grieve-writing-comp.html  (500word entries, comp closes 4 July 2014). The piece I read, by author Gabrielle Clover, was the winner, and consisted of a dot point list in a letter to her friends of what not to do when someone is in grief after the loss of a loved one.

In The Dermoid Cyst I look at hypochondria and its causes and consequences, through a simple conversation between three people and a bottle of wine. I am fascinated by how dismissive our culture is towards “attention seeking”, and they tendency many people have towards negative attention seeking rather than positive attention seeking. Where is the line between genuine hypochondria and pathological lying? And are both the bastion of the lonely, to liven up the few opportunities they get for conversation because they fear their day-to-day lives are not entertaining enough? This and the brave new world of medical hysteria from google self-diagnosis. Never ever google common medical symptoms, it will push the most sane person to the brink of madness.

In Tiptoe Through The Tulip I delve into old-school psychological horror via vengeful flora to drive home the message that paradise is not a place, it is a state of mind. This story is similar to “The Day of The Triffids” by John Wyndham, or films like The Happening, with a little nod to Charlie & The Chocolate Factory and its message about respecting your environment. Agoraphobia is brought on in a central character as a consequence of unknowingly plucking the forbidden fruit (or flower) from the garden of knowledge. Beyond the biblical imagery, I am also reminded of the Romantic poets like Coleridge with “This Lime Tree Bower My Prison” or Frost with “After Apple Picking”, where it is the characters attitudes and ambitions that affect how they relate to their environment and contribute towards their own misery and anxiety.

In my story Telfer Speck the title character suffers blackouts and becomes embroiled in a self-fulfilling prophecy. He, once again, is very connected to nature, and the introduction of a pipe-smoking cop puts a fly in the ointment of his environment. Telfer faces the inner turmoil of second-guessing his own nature. This happens to most of us, when something bad happens we reassess our lives and who we are as people, and for some it can lead to a nervous breakdown.

With all of these stories I endeavour to show and not tell, and I hope that readers empathising with these characters leads to reflection, maybe drawing some parallels and feeling a little more understood. As we lead less and less connected lives, with smaller families, and more stressful jobs, it is reassuring to know that fear is universal and fear levels are fluid. It is that universality that writers aim for, and including a dash of mental illness into your characters makes them more like you and me.

Kindle Edition / Barnes & Noble

For more information, check out this link: Snigs-leaflet