Sunday, December 8, 2013

Scene 13: Update for Poetry in Progress

It's a been far longer than I originally anticipated.  I had hoped to work on this poem and update its progress more like once every other week or so... not once every three months.  Such is life.

The original post and poem can be found here.

I've spent the last few iced-in days to work on it again.  Rather than post a little progress here and there, I'd like to share where it stands now.  I'm not sure it's finished.  I may work on it more, but I like it a lot better.  And it's interesting to me how the idea morphed and focused itself as I worked.  I'd love to have some feedback :)

A lonely lovebird's sick heart aches for the company of her kind.
A bird of her feathers to comfort her and speak peace to her mind.
She knows she'll never be content in this land of featherless, flightless birds.
She doesn't belong, though she doesn't know why, and she fears her song will never be heard.

She circles and she paces 'round bars unseen but felt.

Her heart encased in ten thousand scars made of betrayal and guilt.
They tie her down and bind her tight, her dreams locked deep inside,
Pushing the world far and away, until the fire within her dies.

The cage is an illusion, Love. The master magician's lie.

Open your eyes, stretch your dreams, unfurl your wings and fly.
Let love pulse life back into your veins.
Hope erases gravity, dear Bird.
Breathe deep, and sing again.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Scene 12: Prompted

I've recently joined a writing group.  The North Texas Writer's Alliance.  I love writing groups.  It's a great way to hone the craft and gain useful insight and feedback.

This month, I was asked to provide a prompt for our group.  Writing prompts are also awesome in my book.  It's a great way to get the juices flowing and allow yourself to open up and spill it out.

The prompt I gave the group was:

We all know how important setting can be in your writing, whether it's fiction or non-fiction.  We even talked briefly about how the setting can become another character in the story.  And I recently stumbled upon this quote:

"Never write about a place until you're away from it, because that gives you perspective."  -Ernest Hemingway

So the prompt for this month is about gaining that perspective.  Write at least one descriptive paragraph about a place, any place, that you've been.  This can be a physical place (a childhood home, favorite vacation spot, you're grandpa's lap, the creepy lady-next-door's house) or this can be a figurative place, a place in time and thought, if that makes sense.  Let yourself be there again.  And as you write about it, try to keep in mind all your senses, even those things that you feel inside your body while you're there.

Here's what I came up with:

It’s dark in this place.  The kind of dark that paralyzes every muscle and weighs heavy in one’s lungs. It presses in on my ears with its silence, causing them to ring.  I want to scream, but my mouth won’t open.  Every joint and ligament is tense, waiting to spring into action. The very marrow in my bones struggles against unseen restraints.  Sweat collects on my forehead from the effort.  My head spins as my breathing grows evermore shallow.  I’m on the verge of implosion, though, from outward view it probably seems like a quiet collapse.  It is not quiet.  The shrieking pain of it all pushes blood from my ears. I am dying.   No, I realize.  My fate is worse.  I’m a prisoner here.  Fear has me in his clasp and laughs at my timorous attempt to escape.  Hot tears pool in my ears, not blood, though the volcanic pulsing there would suggest otherwise.  Exhausted, and despite my reluctance, I tumble into restless oblivion. It would be many years before I realized: there is no escaping one’s own mind.  

Monday, November 18, 2013

Scene 11: a Prose

Landscape's Lullaby

Ears are not the only parts that hear. Our eyes hear those things too quiet for our ears; they hear those songs that can only be found in the curves of the landscape.  Those songs are in the inclines of the mountain and the tufts of fur tree shivering under the freshly fallen snow.  It is those notes that are in rivers fighting the freeze and in the sun piercing through the clouds, its rays magnifying the melody.  It is the song of birds unwilling to leave their homes boldly defying Mother Nature, and of the stubborn orange bushes, naked of their leaves, which refuse to be hidden.  It is the bass undertones of the red-brown etchings in the cliff face that stands as a sentinel.  My eyes hear their song.  Their harmony calls to my wandering heart and thrums in my bones.  It blankets me in its beauty and sings to me, “You are home.”

Teton Mountain Pass, taken on our drive through yesterday... the drive that inspired this prose. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Scene 10: THE Challenge

I have taken up the mantle.

That's write... I mean, right.  I'm at it again.

My first NaNoWriMo was in 2010.  And I won.  Meaning that I reached my goal of writing 50,000 words in one month.  That manuscript is the one and the same that I finally finished on July 4th this year and have been editing and rewriting since.

I'm ready to take a break.

Three years is a loooong time to work on one manuscript.  Not to suggest it's all I've worked on in three years, nor that I have worked on it consistently for three years, but all the same... it needs to rest for a while.

What better way to take a break from your writing than to start something new?  Am I right?

Day One: Beautiful crisp fall morning.  Husband at work, kids at school.  Dog sleeping at my feet, his stomach making suspicious sounds.  Birds tweeting away, mama bird happy in her nesting box where she is warming her four little birdie eggs.  Me in my p.j.s and fuzzy pink socks, perfect writing attire.  Flipping through my various notebooks, I find pages of notes I've made (to include a map--yes, be impressed) of my chosen project.  Crack the knuckles, adjust the computer chair... and login to facebook.

Wait!  What?  Not what I meant to do, I swear.

Let's try again.

Close browser.  Open Pages-> New Document.  Flip through my notes, finding my intro I'd written months and months ago.  Begin to type.  Yes!  Now, we're in business.  Hit enter.  Reach to turn the page on my notes... slide the lock bar on my phone and check my email.

Seriously!  Who's in charge here?

Focus, Leigh.  Just focus.

Type away.  Let those fingers fly.  Excellent.  The intro is finally in print!  Now to the story.

But first... let out the dog.  Use the restroom.  Have a snack.  Check facebook while you eat... it's multitasking, people.  Brush your teeth so you can put your retainers back in.  Ew.  Best to clean your retainers.  Check your email, clear it all out so you can sit back down and truly focus.  Get lost in an article about learning disabilities and working memory issues that leads you to another article that you really love and need to share so you post it on facebook where you see an article about a family of 11 living in a garage that your sister should read so you email it to her and she texts you a response, which reminds you, you didn't respond to your friend's text earlier so why not now and while you're at it you should text your son just to let him know that you love him which reminds you that you need to switch over the laundry because you do love your kids and you want them to have clean clothes and as you pass through the kitchen to do the laundry you realize you haven't thought about what to cook for dinner yet so you decide you'd better get that started too and then you proceed to wash the morning dishes and sweep the floor and suddenly remember that what you really want to be doing is writing since the house is empty and there isn't anyone home to interrupt you so you make your way back to the computer and sit down to write a blog post.

Challenges are by definition "a task or situation that tests someone's abilities" or/and "entering into opposition" and/or "to do something that one thinks will be difficult or impossible".

It's going to be a long month.

p.s.  I did get 2634 words written today... eventually.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Scene 9: Mid-Writing Crisis

I seem to be having a mid-writing crisis... for not the first time.

I have started/finished/half-written/outlined three novels and a half dozen 'short' stories. (I say 'short' because, in reality, I have a hard time being brief and my short stories soon become more like novellas.)  Inevitably, at some point, I become dissatisfied with my writing.  Not to be confused with discouraged. I have those moments too, when it seems like I will never be able to finish.  No, dissatisfaction is a beast of an entirely different breed.

How is it that I become disenchanted with my own writing?  It is completely frustrating.  This gap between what I want to write and what I'm actually writing.  I want to write something of value and out comes fluff.  It's not what's in my head.  Somewhere between my brain and the clicks of my fingers on the keyboard, things are getting lost.  How do I find them?

It's not that I don't want to do the work to find the right words.  I have spent three years on my current manuscript, writing, re-writing, doing character worksheets, plot webs, etc.  And it's not about perfectionism.  It's not.  Truly.  It's about the literary value of the writing.  I want to write something of value, not simple escapism literature, but real literature.  But no matter how I try, the bridge I need to close this gap eludes me.  And then I begin to wonder, am I writing my truth?  Am I writing what the author in me should be writing?  What she really wants to be writing?  Is it possible that I'm not being true to the creative creature inside of me?

And then I get a headache.

It's all very non-productive.  So what do you think?  Do you think we can truly write whatever we want?  Or is there in each of us a certain type of creative creature that is only happy and satisfied when writing its truth?

For now, I am pushing through my mid-writing crisis again in the hopes that someday I will bridge the gap between what I'm writing and what I actually want to write.   I hope that someday I'll walk across that bridge and bask in the glory of satisfaction on the other side.

Is it possible that with each re-write and revision I am adding bricks to my bridge?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Scene 8: 2-for-1

Two weeks ago I finally got my hands on Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson.  Last week, I got Blackmoore.  I adore these books.  Julianne Donaldson is an Austen-esk genius.  Seriously.

I loved the fell of both books.  It was like reading a new Austen or Bronte novel.  The language.  The landscape.  The love.  It all makes me very homesick for England.  Donaldson balances the right amount of detail to action, giving the reader just enough to be feel at home in the world she has created, never giving a feeling of over-saturation or wordiness.  This I love.

First up, Edenbrooke.  From the author's websiteMarianne Daventry will do anything to escape the boredom of Bath and the amorous attentions of an unwanted suitor. So when an invitation arrives from her twin sister, Cecily, to join her at a sprawling country estate, she jumps at the chance. Thinking she’ll be able to relax and enjoy her beloved English countryside while her sister snags the handsome heir of Edenbrooke, Marianne finds that even the best laid plans can go awry.

From a terrifying run-in with a highwayman to a seemingly harmless flirtation, Marianne finds herself embroiled in an unexpected adventure filled with enough romance and intrigue to keep her mind racing. Will Marianne be able to rein in her traitorous heart, or will a mysterious stranger sweep her off her feet? Fate had something other than a relaxing summer in mind when it sent Marianne to Edenbrooke.

I love that Marianne is ready to run away from Bath.  Most novels that include Bath are about people running away to Bath.  On a side note, I've been to Bath and, personally, I can't imagine running from it.  Bath is amazing.  Sadly, while I was there my camera died and these are the only two pictures I got:

Roman Baths in well, Bath :)
Beautiful architecture that is Bath... seriously, it's like driving into Rome.
Anyway, back to Edenbrooke.  Even though I could guess the ending from the beginning, I adored every step of the journey.  Philip is sigh-worthy.  Marianne is clueless, akin to Austen's Emma, but without the matching-making tendencies.  Their relationship is fun and funny and real.  All in all, it's just a feel good read.

Now, number two, Blackmoore.  From the author's website:  Kate Worthington knows her heart and she knows she will never marry. Her plan is to travel to India instead—if only to find peace for her restless spirit and to escape the family she abhors. But Kate’s meddlesome mother has other plans. She makes a bargain with Kate: India, yes, but only after Kate has secured—and rejected—three marriage proposals.

Kate journeys to the stately manor of Blackmoore determined to fulfill her end of the bargain and enlists the help of her dearest childhood friend, Henry Delafield. But when it comes to matters of love, bargains are meaningless and plans are changeable. There on the wild lands of Blackmoore, Kate must face the truth that has kept her heart captive. Will the proposal she is determined to reject actually be the one thing that will set her heart free?

Set in Northern England in 1820, Blackmoore is a Regency romance of a young woman struggling to learn to follow her heart with a delicious must-read twist.

Here's the thing.  I LOVE Kate!  She might be one of my favorite heroines.  Second on my list to Jane Eyre.  Like Jane Eyre, Kate has a great sense of right and wrong.  But also, like Jane, she is young and immature and can be a bit rash.  However, she does have a great sense of sensibility about her, like unto Elizabeth Bennett.  To add to the mix, she has no idea of her own power and strength.  I love being able to discover those things with the character as they set about their journey.  

I think what I love most about Kate though is how relatable she is.  It was almost a little too close for comfort for me in some scenes, especially those involving her family.  The longing to leave her past behind and forge her new road, the need to be in control of her own destiny regardless of her upbringing; those things pierced my soul.  Oh, how Kate's longings to be free and to follow the desires of her heart sang in my bones.  I loved Kate's connection to birds, both the free and the caged.  It was poetic.

I think that's ultimately what I loved about both books: these strong, intelligent (though not all-knowing or superbly mature), funny, and powerful women and the daring journeys they embark on, intent on acting for themselves and not merely being acted upon.  Isn't that what we all want.  For me that's what true feminism is, the opportunity to simply, bravely choose for oneself the life one would live.  To have the liberty and freedom to make one's own way in the world.  

Donaldson has taken something very timely and valid and woven it into both of her books.  Both great reads for any female over the age of thirteen.  And she gets extra kudos for writing engaging, emotion-filled love stories that are clean and pure, no smut involved.  Take that, 50 Shades. 

Plus, who doesn't love a man in trousers and a cravat?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Scene 7: Poetry in Progress

It has been raining in Northeast Texas for nearly 18 hours straight and I love it.  I love listening to the pound and splatter of rain drops, the whistle of the wind, the rustling of leaves, the occasional thunder.  It is by far the best ambience for writing... though not so much for gaining the needed motivation to clean :)

So the bulk of my day has been spent writing.  Mostly on my WIP, my first finished novel that I am trying to get cleaned up and ready to send out for submissions come the end of October.  But I have been writing some poetry too, gloomy days are particularly ideal for poetry.  As a side note: beautiful spring days and white-out winter days are also great for poetry.  Sadly, those days when it's too hot to breath, let alone move, are not ideal for writing poetry... or doing much of anything else in my opinion.

I thought I'd share a poem I started today.  A poem in progress.  Then I thought, in a week or so I can share the progression of the piece.  Fun, right?
Seriously, I do.  In fact, I was able to share some of my published poetry with my daughter's second grade class last week.  It was awesome.  It was my first ever writer gig.  I shared some about my journey of writing poetry and what it means to me.  

The first poem I remember writing (and documenting) strictly for personal reasons was when I was eleven.  

I've swept, I've cleaned
I've done everything
Except make my mother happy.

It's rather sad and depressing, isn't it?  Thus is the life of an eleven-year-old, pubescent girl.  Hormones.  But I remember that at that moment when I wrote that poem, I instantly felt better, lighter somehow.  There was a release involved.  It was a miraculous find, this new ability to express myself and unload some of my overwhelming emotions.

That's what poetry was for me, for many,  many years.  A release.  And as such, a lot of my early poems are dark and depressing.  Nevertheless, I had my first (dark, depressing) poems published when I was in high school which was unexpected and exciting.  But the most important thing poetry, and writing in general, has done for me is it helped me find my voice.

It was something I lost in early married life with new expectations placed upon me and children to care for.  I didn't write hardly anything for several years.  And I suffered.  I didn't have my release anymore. And to be quite honest, I falsely felt that if I needed a release I wasn't a very good wife or mother.  I was supposed to be blissfully happy, right?  The truth is, I was scared to let my emotions out.

I'm happy to say I've been back to writing poetry for several years now and I LOVE it!

So, without further ado, The Poem in Progress:

Like a caged lion, I long to run with abandon,
To hunt for a meal of my own choosing,
To, at night, lay down my weary frame wherever I desire.

Like an entrapped wolf, I crave to chase the moon
to wear out my long legs, long before I cry out to it, 
To journey with a pack of my choice,
To be free to discover my own den.

I am like that lonely lovebird,
My heart aches for the company of my own kind.
I can never, will never be truly content in that place
Where I do not belong.

Run lioness.  Lovebird, fly like the wind.
Chase after the world to the rainbow's end.
Let the wolf call out as you race towards your moon.
Find the courage to be your own truest friend.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Scene 6: In Which I am Scared of Clowns, but I LOVE the Circus

The Night Circus that is... by Erin Morgenstern.

This book was fantastical.  The plot was so well-woven it was poetic. The characters were alive in me as I was in them.  The circus was magical and mysterious, a character in its own right.  And as I traveled through the circus, I learned more about myself; examining and discovering each new attraction, each one speaking to a different part of me--wonder, playfulness, fear, yearnings--allowed me pinpoint my place in the world.

I can't quite place my finger on what exactly it is that I loved so dearly about this book... and that is, I think, the reason I adore it.  It left me both longing and satisfied.  The ending was so poignant, so eerily quiet it was majestic.

In my opinion, this is real literature.

Which, most likely, explains the polar effect it has on readers, the one loving it, the other hating it.  I dare you to have lukewarm feelings about this book.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Scene 5: Keeping your Muse alive

There are those that only write when their Muse demands their attention by hitting them over the head... with a hammer.  And then there are those that write and write and write, waiting for their Muse to arrive.  They think "if I write enough and show her I'm serious, she'll share her knowledge with me."  And she might.  But, I've come to understand my Muse in a completely different way.

I've come to realize that my Muse is always there, always at my side ready to speak... except when I refuse to feed her.  She needs sustenance!  She needs input.  She needs to be filled.  Like everyone else I know, she cannot give what she doesn't have.  Her hunger is voracious.  And she has a wicked fast metabolism.  Thus, the constant need for nourishment.  I must feed the beast or she will never purr for me.

Like the hippo rhino and the oxpecker some kind of bird,
I provide a constant buffet of nourishment
and she helps clean up the mess that is my thought process :)
It's beautiful, really.

I can wake early, or more likely, I can stay up all night, and write like mad.  I can spend hours staring at my computer screen, willing the words to flow.  I can sit with pen in hand and doodle countless flowers and stars and stick figures, listening for her wit and wonder to play across my pages.  But if I do not first feed her a hearty diet of living life and experiencing the world, a diet rich in humor and sorrow, in sights and sounds, in tangible knowing; if I do not fill her to bursting with a voluminous vocabulary of exposure, she will never speak.

So I read...  a lot.  I talk... a lot.  I observe... a lot.  I listen to music... a lot.  And occasionally, I watch movies... a lot.  And she is happy.

It's symbiotic.  When she thrives, I thrive.

*editorial note:  a friend just pointed out to me that is, in fact, a rhino and not a hippo at all!  Ha.  I was searching for a picture of a hippo and this was the one I liked best.  My brain has first-day-of-school fatigue, apparently.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Scene 4: Snippet

I thought since I shared with you a quick look at Margie's voice in my last post, I'd share with you another snippet from another character's perspective.

World, meet Luke.

The weights slammed against the stand again and again and again.  I knew better than to abuse the machines like this.  Coach would have my butt running suicides and hauling tractor tires until I collapsed in a puddle of my own vomit... if he caught me.  But the rhythm of metal on metal--wham, wham, wham--was steady, like hitting my sticks on the drums. And, right now, it was all that was keeping my rage in check. 

I couldn’t explain the heated steel of jealousy that had cut into my chest as I watched Dane with the new girl.  But there it was, unbidden, confusing and so da... so ef... frog-licking frustrating. Curse my mom for beating the swear words out of me! Sure the girl was cute and that accent... ahhh, it could drive any guy insane.  But I just met her.  Who was this five-foot nothing, nervous girl to me?  

I slammed the weights harder, faster as my irritation with myself increased.  No.  I wasn’t upset with myself.  It was Dane.  It had always been his style to sweep in and claim the prize before anyone else even had the chance to make it onto the field for the game.  I’d known that before I could even talk.  

“Dude, you’d better take it easy on that machine.”  Speak of the devil... Dane eased into the machine next to me.  “You know how Coach gets.  What’s eating at you anyway?”

It’s a good thing he’s my best friend.  Because when I looked over at him, I had the strongest desire to grab a twenty-pound free weight and throw it at his face.  What? Why?  

What’s wrong with me?  No girl had ever come between Dane and I before.  She wasn't about to now.  My arms were fully extended mid-press and I simply let go.  I needed to clear my head.  I cringed at the clatter of weights crashing to the floor behind me as I stomped over to the punching bag.  I settled into a quick rhythm of right, left, right... boom, ba, boom.  Much better.

What I picture Luke looking like... only not as tan and with very green eyes.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Scene 3: Voices

I've heard, rather I've read, of other authors hearing voices in their heads.  Characters insisting their story be told.  Conversations between characters.  Evil plots discussed.  Romantic sentiments shared.  Jokes and taunts planted in the mind.  And finally, I am among their ranks.

It's official.  I must truly be an author now.  I have voices in my head... and they won't shut up.

I have voices in my head... and I have been encouraging to speak up, speak louder.

Maybe that sounds crazy, like schizophrenia/multiple personality crazy, but I am so excited about it.  Hearing my characters speak to me is helping elevate my manuscript to a whole new level.  As such, I wanted to share a few tips for developing your own characters' voices.  Things I have learned along the way.

1) Character worksheets!!!  A must have in your character-building tool box.  Some of my favorites are:

You will find that they are each a little different, asking for different information or different angles on the same information (ie how they interact with others vs. have they ever betrayed anyone).  I've found for me, doing multiple worksheets for each character allows their voices to ring more clearly in my mind.  And it's worth the time and work.  It will show in your writing.

2) Personality.  They must have their own and be distinct.  This should naturally develop through the worksheets, but can also be enhanced with further thought and consideration.  

NY Times best-selling author Shannon Hale, recommends assigning each character an animal.  You then would use the characteristics of said animals to flesh out your characters.  She has a list of her characters and their animal counterparts on her website, Squeetus.   You can also use astrological signs such as Cancer and Gemini or the Chinese Zodiacs to help fill out your characters' personalities.  These are also great for finding compatible personality traits in relationships.

Furthermore, look to the world around you for people of similar dispositions as your characters... or even look to other literary characters or those in movies.  Hale has also stated that her character Sir John Templeton in her book Austenland--which has been adapted into a movie and will soon hit theaters--was inspired by the character of Mr. Hurst in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.  

3) Theme song!  Everyone wants to have their own theme song, right?  Why not give your characters each their own.  Music is a must for me as I write and I have found that certain songs lend to writing in certain voices more effectively.  I have found music one of the most beneficial tools in my writing box.   I live my life by music.  So naturally, in breathing life into my characters, music is essential.   You can also use music to help set the mood of certain scenes and to help create the locations or sets of your story.  *side note: the location of your story can also become a character in its own right*  

To help solidify this example, I want to share with you one of my character's voices and her theme song.


I tried to sleep, but even in my dreams I cannot escape him… or her.  My dreams took me back to the day he passed on from this world.

As he lay there, his armor stained and rusted with his blood, his last words were of her, to her:  “I come for thee, love.  I am come home.”  In that moment, I cursed the world and all the creatures in it.  

I had saved him.  I had been born for this purpose, to heal him, to ensure his life was extended.  I had spent my life, my meager few years on this Earth, dedicated to learning the arts--countless hours of boring, dusty books and looking into my tutors frightfully askew eye.  To this end?  To be swept aside as if I were a mere servant girl?  Nay.  I will not have it so. 

I swore to myself right then and there to take matters into my own hands.  This would never happen again.  I will be seen.  I will be approved.  I will become the prize.  No.  I will not be a mere trophy.  I will be a Queen.  The Queen.  They will bow to me, fall over themselves to serve me.  No longer dismissed,  I will be the dismisser.  The world will fear my vengeance.

And her theme song?  Royals by Lorde

And the list goes on, I'm sure.  There are a multitude of characters development techniques out there, find the one that works for you.  And forget creating characters that are likable.  Not all people are likable and yet they exist.  Doubt me?  Read this article and get back to me.  Focus instead on characters that are real and fleshed out, four-dimensional.  Let people love to hate them.  Let people hate that they love them.  If your characters voices are clear in your head, they will be solid and real in your reader's mind too... well, that is if you can write as well as you can think.  But that's a whole other post entirely.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Scene 2: book review, "Good Ground" by Tracy Winegar

I loved Tracy Winegar's first book "Keeping Keller" and her second book "Good Ground" didn't disappoint either.  If you're familiar with Joanne Bischof's Cadence of Grace series (and like it) then you'll love "Good Ground".

Here's the publisher's description:
Devastated after the sudden death of his cherished wife during childbirth in the fall of 1908, Jim Hooper loses the will to continue. But God plants the seeds of hope, and a new life begins to take root following the unconventional adoption of Ellis, an orphan baby. As a result of Jim's love, nurturing, and care, Ellis grows into a fine man, the spitting image--inwardly--of his daddy.

Decades later tragedy strikes again, this time for Ellis, and he finds his life turned completely upside-down after rescuing a young woman, Clairey, from a dangerous blizzard and an even more threatening existence. If their relationship ever stands a chance at thriving, it will have to survive ghosts from their respective pasts, endure the many hardships of running a tobacco farm in the rural Tennessee mountains, and Ellis will finally have to face the truth of his controversial origins.

The first few pages of "Good Ground" had me close to tears.  Reading of Jim Hooper's tragic loss of wife and child and his raw emotions following their deaths was painful.  And it should be.  Tracy was able to beautifully describe true grief... and the anger that often goes with it.  Then later, the healing that can come when we allow it.

The thing I loved (about both of Winegar's books) is the social/historical details.  In "Keeping Keller" it was the backdrop of raising an autistic child in the '50s when the mindset was that such children should be institutionalized.  I could taste the soda at the pharmacy and feel the restriction of Beverly Vance's wardrobe and lifestyle.  In "Good Ground" Ellis and Clairey must contend with the social ideology that if your family's bad, then you're bad too; the apple doesn't fall from a tree.  An ideology that each of us can relate to as we all have past regrets or skeletons we're running from.  And I loved that it was set in Pickett County Tennessee, a place where many of my family are from, but which I've never seen.  I got to experience the world my great-grandmother grew up in and it was lovely.  Well, all except the overly-judgmental, unforgiving neighbors.  Winegar does a great job writing the dialect of the era and area.  It's all very believable and realistic.

And how could you not love Ellis and Clairey?  I love the determination they both have to work hard at whatever it is that needs done and to be their own persons.  I love that (eventually) they allow each other that same growth and development.  Winegar did a great job developing the world of "Good Ground", but also the characters and the relationships.  They were real.  They made me sad.  They made me laugh.  They made me indignant and so frustrated that they were so thickheaded.  I was completely invested in their story.  So much so that I stayed up all night reading.  Literally.  I finished the book at 5 a.m.  I couldn't stop reading.  I had to know what would become of them.

I pretty much want to be Tracy Winegar when I grow up.  She has mad skills when it comes to creating a world and people that you don't want to leave.

I will say, there was a brief spot near the last 2/3 of the book when I started to get antsy and felt like the story was dragging a bit.  Maybe that has something to do with the fact that I was reading it at 3 in the morning? Honestly, other than that, I think it's brilliant and well worth the read.

Click here for a short review/mention of "Keeping Keller" also by Tracy Winegar.
Click here for my review of Joanne Bischof's book "Be Still My Soul".

Friday, August 9, 2013

Scene 1: the Beginning

Every story must have a beginning.  At least, it needs a place to start.  And, funny enough, deciding where the to begin is sometimes a thing we can only do at the end.