Another week, another surgery

Rainbow in Santa Barbara during Christmas week.
A rainbow over the Christmas week VRBO.

This week I’m back taking care of my son in the Bay Area. He had surgery a few days ago. He heard the garbage truck coming, realized he forgot to take out the bins and raced down the stairs, breaking his foot. The last time I was here taking care of him, he had shoulder surgery from overuse injuries caused by swimming and rowing. That was several months ago, but not long enough for him to be healed and to be able to use crutches.

At Christmas week in Santa Barbara in the VRBO, he stayed on the main floor with us (mom and dad) and scooted around the kitchen and living room on his knee scooter. The main floor had the master bedroom and a small second bedroom. The rest of the “kids” — ages 21 to 34 — were on the lower level and out by the pool. I can only imagine how frustrating it was for him to be stuck with mom and dad.

He made the best of it and hopped down the spiral staircase a couple of times so he could sit with everyone by the pool.

I’m not sure what this week will bring. I’m sitting in his living room while he sleeps on the sofa with a cast on his foot. He has to return to remote work so I may be sitting quietly by getting ice for the ice machine and filling his water glass.

I brought a book I thought I’d read while I hang out in his house this week. But I finished more than half of it during during the plane ride. (Chanel Cleeton’s “When We Left Cuba.”) The good news is he and his girlfriend were Literature majors and they have a nice supply of books. I don’t need to get worried about finding another book to read.

shelves full of books and a knee scooter
Books and the knee scooter in my son’s living room.

What are you reading now? Have you taken care of your adult kids after surgery? We went out to dinner with friends the night before I left and they said they’d never do it. That their kids are on their own. What are your thoughts about that?

What’s your point of view?

NaNoWriMo winner's certificate
My certificate for writing 50,000 words of a novel in November for the writing challenge called NaNoWriMo.

I’ve been thinking about the project I began for my first NaNoWriMo writing challenge. After the New Year, I plan to dive in and rewrite it. Currently, the story is told in first person of the protagonist who is loosely based on me. I’ve been musing about how I need to make the plot more exciting — but then I began thinking about point of view. I think that’s where I need to start.

The premise is three women and their young children who are peacefully enjoying their quiet lives when the antagonist, an eccentric, larger-than-life character, whirls into their lives creating drama and upheaval. I think telling the entire tale from one character’s perspective is monotonous. It limits the story, because you only know what one person sees and how they interpret people and events.

I dusted off Liane Moriarity’s “Big Little Lies” which I read years ago and discovered that the chapters are told from the POV of Madeline, Jane and Celeste — in third person. It isn’t told from one woman’s point of view at all. If you haven’t read it or watched the TV show, it’s also a story of friendships of mothers of young children.

When I first began writing years ago, my writing mentor Gerry Petievich who wrote “To Live and Die in L.A.” held writer’s conferences. He said to pick out a book as a pattern book when you begin to write a novel. He said you don’t copy it. What I took away from him is that you analyze different things that work in that book such as plot structure, voice and characters. I realized that “Big Little Lies” can fill that role for my project.

Gerry Petievich "To Live and Die in L.A."

I think by alternating the POV to each of the main characters, it will add depth. I’ll need to give each character their own voice and I’ll have to flesh out their lives much deeper than they are now — which currently are only snippets of their lives seen by the protagonist. I’m not sure if I should alternate first person voice or use third person omniscient point of view like “Big Little Lies.” I tend to favor writing in first person.

When you are reading or writing, what point of view do you prefer? First or third person? What is your opinion of books that alternate points of views of characters each chapter? Do you find switching POV is confusing or do you think it adds to the story?

Have you read “Big Little Lies” or “To Live and Die in L.A.?” Have you seen the TV show or movie?.

Big Little Lies book by Liane Moriarty.
Cover of Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty.

Two Choices: Quit or Stick with It

photo (6)
My kids learned perseverance and to never give up from swimming.

While I’m in the heady first week of NaNoWriMo, where I attempt to write a novel in November, I looked back at my last attempt at a novel. It’s a mid-grade manuscript based on my kids’ swim team life. It explores the struggles with friendships amid jealousy and competitive spirits. Sections of it were published in the Los Angeles Times when they had the Kids’ Reading Room and published children’s fiction in their Sunday comic pages. I hired an editor for a big picture and line- by-line edit. I edited and rewrote it. I created a storyboard based on the book Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder. At some point, I gave up. I think it’s when I took a zoom class which included a critique by the editor giving the lecture. The critique landed in my email box and the editor said he couldn’t imagine reading any more of my manuscript because he couldn’t stand my protagonist — who by the way was based on my daughter when she was nine years old. I was out.

I ran across this blog post I wrote several years ago while I was actively working on that project. I wrote this before the above critique that hurt:

I got an unfortunate email yesterday. It was from an agent, who was reviewing my mid-grade novel I’ve been working on for years. Long story short, it was a no.

This is a big goal of mine, to get this book published. Finding an agent is one step along the way, and I had glimmers of hope when a couple agents were truly interested and one in particular, wanted eight weeks to take a deep dive.

When my husband consoled me I said, “I have two choices. I can quit or keep going.”

Four times since that email, I ran into messages like someone was placing a big neon sign in front of me with specific directions.

One  

Dad shared that he spent almost three hours fishing yesterday. He was ready to give up, but decided to cast one more time in the last few minutes before he was due to return the boat. Yes, he caught a fish!

Two

I was looking at FB and a writer friend posted how lucky she was to find several four-leaf clovers yesterday after hours of looking. She said to never give up. Never!

Three

On Twitter, I saw from bestselling author Brad Thor a book recommendation for #Grit, a book about passion and perseverance. Yes, I’ll order it from Amazon today.

tweet from Brad Thor about Angela Duckworth and Grit.

Four

On SwimSwam.com, an article jumped before my eyes: “6 TIPS TO KEEP YOU CHASING YOUR SWIMMING GOALS WHEN YOU FEEL LIKE GIVING UP,” by Olivier Poirier-Leroy, who writes really good stuff for swimmers, that can be used in all aspects of life.

Here was part of his advice to get in touch with your feelings when you started on the journey:

“What are the reasons that I want to achieve this goal? List 2-3 reasons for why this goal is important to you. This is the simplest way to get in touch with your original set of motivations.

How will you feel when you push past the resistance you are feeling now? Think back to the last time you kicked down the wall of resistance that was in front of you. Yeah, that time. How did you feel afterwards? Proud? Like a certified O.G.?

Will you regret giving up a year from now? Imagine yourself a year from now. A year smarter, a year older, and hopefully a year further along. Is “Future You” going to be pumped about you having quit today?”

I got the message loud and clear. I’m not giving up on my goals or dreams. This is all part of the process, and yes there will be some ups and downs. It’s so cliched, but it’s also true.

In  masters swimming we have a new slogan and shirts. After a hard set that I was convinced I couldn’t finish, I blurted, “Hey, it’s not that bad!”

Me and my Masters swim friends.
Showing off new shirts at Piranha Swim Team’s Masters. “Hey, it’s not that bad.”

Yes, getting a rejection letter is not great, but how much better is it than quitting on a dream? Honestly, it’s not that bad.

How do you handle disappointment? Do you believe there are more choices than giving up or to keep trying and what are they? I gave up on that manuscript, but I’m off and running on a new one.

FYI, I read “Grit” and highly recommend it.

Troubles in NaNo land…

Staring our the window while I struggle with NaNo Prep I watch these guys.

While working through NaNo Prep 101 for National Novel Writing Month, I ran into a problem. Actually more than one problem. First, I was stuck on developing characters. I do believe it was the title that got me stuck.

Create Complex, Believable Characters
(Strong enough to shoulder a novel and hold your interest)

Nothing like the words complex and believable to make me feel cowed. Also, would my characters be strong enough to “shoulder a novel?”

I worked through it — thanks in part to one of my blogger friends suggesting I look at characters in my own life. There are some real doozies. I landed on a perfect one who was an exciting, close friend who disappeared forever. It was a whirlwind to be in her life but she moved on to more exciting adventures and people.

The next week’s assignment was plotting or outlining. It began with a questionnaire focused on what type of writer you are. Do you need to outline every detail or do you write and let your novel develop on the fly? I fell somewhere in between, not wanting a detailed outline and not wanting to wing it. They (Or AI?) suggested I try the 9-Step Plot Dot.

As NaNoWriMo participant Derek Murphy said in his Plot Dot blog post: “Nearly all fiction follows some version of the classical hero’s journey: a character has an experience, learns something, and is consequently improved. There are turning points and scenes that need to be included in your story—if they are missing it won’t connect with readers in an emotionally powerful way. And it’s a thousand times easier to map them out before you write your book.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Follow this 9-Step structure to discover the tentpoles of your story, and read the whole blog post here for more details and guidance.

https://nanowrimo.org/nano-prep-101

I worked through this without a hitch. Then onto settings. But the settings referred to the plot dots. I thought it would be helpful to print out the plotting I had done. I have a vague idea of settings including Palm Springs, Laguna Beach and Park City. The 9-point plot dot would help me decide where and when the settings would be used.

But when I looked for my plot, I couldn’t find it — let alone print it. I opened up a new file to start again. Then I decided the system must have saved it somewhere. I searched throughout my laptop and realized I had saved and downloaded the prior steps but not my plot. I felt rudderless and wasn’t excited to recreate it. I decided to go through tabs on NaNo Prep and finally found all my files. You’d think they’d be listed under my account, but they were under file/open/my drive. Whew! I’m off and running again. Or, I should say off and writing!

What type of writer or plotter are you? Do you like to write on the fly? Let your characters tell their stories? Or do you prefer to work from a detailed outline?

Two books to check out

 Cover for Chanel Cleeton's book The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba
The second book I’ve read by Chanel Cleeton.

I finished reading two books this week. “The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba” by Chanel Cleetom and “The Matchmaker” by Elin Hilderbrand.

The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba

I read a book by Cleeton earlier this summer called “Next Year in Havana” and absolutely loved it. Although “The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba” is good, it comes in second place to the prior book I read. This story takes place in Cuba and the United States during the Spanish American War amidst the battle of two newspaper empires, Pullitzer and Hearst.

The novel tells the story of three women, a reporter Grace Harrington in New York City based on Nellie Bly, the real-life Cuban revolutionary Evangelina Cisneros, who becomes famous as the “most beautiful girl in Cuba,” and Marina who left the comfort and safety of her wealthy Cuban family to marry her love, a poor Cuban farmer and fighter.

I recommend this book, but it took me about a third of the way in to get engrossed. In both of Cleeton’s books I’ve read, she has the same main family of Perez’s. I enjoy following their stories from different generations. I’m starting a third novel by her today, “The Last Train to Key West.”

Bookcover for The Matchmaker
Elin Hilderbrand’s The Matchmaker

The Matchmaker

I have read at least a dozen Elin Hilderbrand books and enjoy them. I get lost in the scenery of Nantucket, the Caribbean, or the other backdrops which become as much of a character as the people in her novels.

I get caught up right away and find she creates easy, fun reads. Although there’s usually common threads of death and cheating spouses, her stories fascinate me.

This is the story of a high school couple who are madly in love their entire lives, although not together after college graduation when Clendenin takes a job in as a reporter on the other side of the world. The main character, Dabney stays on Nantucket and becomes the director of the Chamber of Commerce and literally runs the island as a single mother. Eventually, she gets married to a famous economist Box, who becomes a great father and husband.

I won’t give away more of the story, but I got kind of annoyed. This one requires a lot of kleenex and I just wasn’t in the mood.

Have your read books by these authors? What are your opinions of them? What are some good books you’ve read lately and can recommend?