Tag Archives: fiction

My first novel, The Awesomely Amazing Adventures of Cherry: Butterfly Buddies, is here

I’m not one for making yearly resolutions. Not the formal sort, anyway. And not at New Year’s.

I made a great list when I was 12 and realized those pretty much set me up for life. I review them every so often. Basically they are: Don’t be a jerk, to yourself or others, reiterated in a variety of ways (believe in yourself, be kind, be true to yourself, follow the Golden Rule, love yourself, etc.).

But this past January (when I also celebrate my birthday), I realized that, while I wasn’t likely to be nominated for one of those Under 40 awards in the next year, I could make another long-time dream reality. I could be a published author by 40.

And now I am.

children's book on grief divorce and stepfamiliesThe Awesomely Amazing Adventures of Cherry: Butterfly Buddies is my first published novel.

I started writing it in March 2015, during Camp NaNoWriMo (same as regular NaNoWriMo in November, essentially). I’d had the idea of writing a children’s book based around my family life, told from the point-of-view of my youngest daughter. She can illustrate the book, I thought. I can tell a heartwarming story about an nine-year-old girl dealing with the challenges of friendship, divorce, remarriage and step-siblings and the loss of loved ones.

And so I did, blatantly using my family as inspiration for and the form upon which the story hangs.

I quickly ran into troubles.

While we have the usual sibling squabbles, all my kids are far too nice, caring and kind to each other to create the tension and conflict a story needs. So my apologies to “Lynn,” who’s truly a great sister in real life, as you’ll see in an accompanying series, The Awesomely Amazing Adventures of Elliot, told from the perspective of Cherry’s brother.

The illustrator at work.

Berry, fortunately as she’s the main character, loved the idea. She read my first drafts and nodded her head in approval. When she claimed stomach aches prevented her from going to school, I handed her sheets of paper and said, “OK, you have to stay in bed and illustrate the book, then.” She did.She also let me tell the harder parts of her story – how she feels about losing my mum and our cat, Hobbes, as well as the changes that have happened to her family due to my divorce and remarriage. I’m grateful for her bravery and honesty.

The illustrator reviews the proof copy and gives her approval.
The illustrator reviews the proof copy and gives her approval.

There’s a lot in the story that’s drawn from our lives. And a lot that’s fiction. The splendid part of writing fiction is that you can change reality to make it work better for your story. That’s much harder in real life (though perhaps not impossible).

I won’t give the story away to tell you what’s true and what’s invented. Some of it you can figure out for yourself. Some you may never know.

But I do want to make sure you know about one thing. When you get to the part about the pancakes, mystery pancakes were really my idea. 🙂

The Awesomely Amazing Adventures of Cherry: Butterfly Buddies is an early middle grade novel for readers age 6-9 (grades 1-3).

2015 books reads: Mostly fiction

I had a plan that I’d keep regularly sharing the books I’ve been reading. I also have a plan to earn a decent income by working regularly. And also to exercise at least 3 times a week. And to write 500+ words a day. I have lots of plans.

I’m more successful at executing some of them than others.

So, let’s play quick catch up. Since the last time I blogged about it in June, I’ve read 28 books. It sounds like a lot, but it’s really only a little more than 1 book a week. And I often combine reading with other things: exercise + reading, reading + eating, reading + putting kids to bed, reading + walking around the house aimlessly, reading + making kids’ lunches, etc.

I was going to do a quick write up of all 28 books, but I got through about half of them and ran out of steam. So, here’s memoir and fiction and I swear I’ll get to YA fiction soon (unlike my plan to write about all the books I read in 2014).

Memoir:

I continued on my memoir, specifically YA memoir reading trend for a while. Then I veered off into fiction land (more on that later).

Teen AngstTeen Angst? Naaah… by Ned Vizzini

I’ve been hunting for good YA memoir and found a series of funny essays about a New York teen in this book by Ned Vizzini. I liked it so much I was going to send him fan mail and was sad to learn he died by suicide not that long ago.

this star wont go outThis Star Won’t Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl by Esther Earl

This book is a collection of essays by the late Esther Earl and reflections from her parents. It’s moving, and completely non-commercially written. I wanted to keep reading it because I cared about Esther and wanted to know her story.

 Wild WithinWild Within: How Rescuing Owls Inspired a Family by Melissa Hart

Melissa Hart is a fellow Eugene writer who I met at a memoir workshop. She’s fabulously generous with her advice and insight on writing memoir and I’d previously read her first memoir, Gringa. I like Melissa and her writing so much I bought the hardback book (the only version available) and read an actual, physical book. And I enjoyed it — and learned so much about raptor rescue and rehabilitation at our own Cascade Raptor Center. Now I need to pass this book onto someone else to enjoy.

laughing at my nightmareLaughing at My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw

I dipped back into humorous YA memoir with Shane’s book. He’s a great and funny guy and you should read his book and follow him on Twitter @shaner528.

foundFound: A Memoir by Jennifer Lauck

Jennifer Lauck taught several workshops at the Willamette Writer’s conference this year, most of which I attended. I’m sure I’ve read her first memoir, Blackbird, at some point, so I decided to keep on reading her work. Found made me think about adoption in a new light.

boys in the boatThe Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

This is non-fiction, not memoir, I know, but I’m apparently too lazy to make another category. I read this book because I participated in an book trivia competition. Billed at OBOB for adults (this is an article I wrote about it), it involved 8 books, lots of questions and some good wine. My team came in 2nd place after losing in the lightning round. This is one of the 8 books I read (yes, I read all of them, I couldn’t help myself), that I probably wouldn’t have read otherwise. And I’m glad I did. It was so well written I enjoyed reading about crew, a sport I otherwise couldn’t care less about. It may be obvious, but I’m not very sporty (hello, my exercise routine consists of either yoga or reading a book while on a treadmill/elliptical/torture device).

Fiction:

martini of destinyThe Martini of Destiny: A Rucksack Universe Fantasy Novella by Anthony St. Clair

I bought this book from the author at a lunch-n-learn writer/author event for my bonus son. Then I bought the kindle version for myself so I could read it, too. It’s a delightful novella with compelling characters and action. I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

the residue yearsThe Residue Years by Mitchell S. Jackson

I read this book for the Bookish Trivia Event mentioned above and honestly wouldn’t have read it otherwise. It was a heartbreaking read, one where I kept hoping the characters would make better choices for themselves. And yet, I knew what was going to happen from the start.

imperfect birdsImperfect Birds by Anne Lamott

I’d previously only read Anne Lamott’s non-fiction (and her Facebook posts), so I thought I’d give her fiction a try. I can only hope my teenage daughters are less manipulative and I’m not in denial as we traverse through those years. It had a lot of true to life characters and interactions, but I wanted to smack her parents a lot.

the brief wondrous lifeThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

This was another Bookish Trivia pick and, if I’m going to be honest, I had such a hard time getting into the book that if I wasn’t reading it for a COMPETITION, I wouldn’t have finished it. But, I forged ahead, buoyed by a review that said it got the wind in its sails by the 50% mark, and ended up enjoying it.

What was most interesting to me was the cultural depictions in the book — and how, in many ways, they were similar to what I experienced as a teen in Barbados.

all the light we cannot seeAll the Light We Cannot See: A Novel by Anthony Doerr

Suzi Steffen (@SuziSteffen) told me to read this book, so I got on the library’s wait list and was #667 in line. Two months later, it was available, at the same time as about 3 other books I had on hold, but I managed to read them all in my allotted 21-days borrowing period.

My mum’s parents fought in WWII — one in the resistance movement, one in the army in some capacity. My Grandpa was captured at one point, escaped (by dressing as a woman) and then somehow met up with Nany. I don’t tend to read too much about WWII because it evokes some kind of ancestral memory passed down through my DNA (that sounds kooky, I know, but I swear I feel the echoes). This was an incredible book.

the ocean at the end of the laneThe Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

This was another Bookish Trivia book, but one I was glad to read as I love Neil Gaiman. It was enchanting. There were certain elements of the boy’s character and the narrator’s voice that moved me. It was weird and wonderful and ultimately hopeful.

oryx and crackeOryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Another Bookish pick, and another one I enjoyed. Even though it was quite disturbing. I wanted better for the main character and often confused by his choices, the motivations for some of which never seemed entirely clear to me. But I suppose if I thought I was the lone survivor of a terrible plague I’d make some questionable decisions as well.

the storied life of aj fikryThe Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

A Bookish choice again and one I enjoyed, but probably wouldn’t have picked for myself (as I don’t tend to read a lot of regular adult fiction as that’s not what I’m writing at the moment). As a book lover, it’s hard not to love books about bookstores that refers to other books. There’s lot of that. Some of the characters are funny and it was a generally enjoyable, easy read, although it didn’t rock my world.

landlineLandline: A Novel by Rainbow Rowell

I love Rainbow Rowell. My sister-in-law turned me onto her and, for some reason, I thought she’d only written Fangirl and Eleanor and Park (I must have forgotten how to Google). I decided to buy this book rather than her latest because I liked the idea of a magic phone and how you might use it to change the outcome of y our life. Several reviewers had difficulty with the ending of the book — feeling that the main character giving up her chance of a lifetime dream to save her marriage — was the wrong message to send to women. I think life, and relationships, are a bit more complicated than that (and, as a woman who chooses to work part-time from home so I can pick kids up from school every day, I’m in the midst of that balance between family and career). I loved it.

 

The rest of the books I’ve read this summer/early fall are YA fiction which I’ll have to write about in another post.  In general, I should write these more frequently. Or read less — and I know that’s not going to happen.

Note: The links for each book go to Amazon.com. They are affiliate links. That said, if you want to buy a physical book, please shop at your local bookstore.

Books I read in 2014: YA Fiction

It’s the middle of 2015 and I’m still working on telling you about the books I read last year… so let’s get on with it.

I love Young Adult fiction and non-fiction and clearly don’t read nearly enough YA fiction as I could. I’ve been in the throes of writing a YA memoir, so I’ve been reading as much memoir as I can. (That post will come soon — update: it probably never will — but here’s what I’ve been reading in 2015 as far as memoirs and young adult memoirs.)

YA Fiction

relativityRelativity by Cristin Bishara

I happened upon this book early last year and it’s stuck with me ever since. It’s about multiple parallel world’s and a teenage girl’s quest for her mother.

ruins of gorlanThe Ruins of Gorlan (The Ranger’s Apprentice, Book 1) by John A. Flanagan

I read this book last summer as part of my Camp Mummy Oregon Battle of the Books reading project with my step-daughter. Essentially, we read the book together, competing to get through more chapters than the other each day. That lasted about half-way through the book for her and I had to nudge her to keep going and catch up with me so I could read more. I enjoyed it.

blackout desertedBlackout  and Deserted by Deena Lipomi

Blackout was recommended to me by a writer friend, who’s a friend of the author. I enjoyed it (minus one plot hole that bugged me) and decided to read her follow-up novel, Deserted.

the fault in our starsThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Who hasn’t read this book yet? I read this before seeing the movie and both made me cry. I liked the book better (no surprise) and read it within weeks of watching the movie, so I had vivid memories of the things they didn’t include in the move (which is always my book-to-movie gripe, even though I completely understand why not everything makes it. It’s all about telling a compelling story.

Books I read in 2014: the fiction list

How many books should I be reading a year? Last year, 2014, the count was 32. It doesn’t seem like  a lot. Or enough, at least.

Thanks to Amazon.com and my public library, I can mostly keep track of what I’ve bought and borrowed. There are a few books I don’t have records of, but I have a pretty accurate list of my last year’s reading.

I was going to post it all in one go but, as I seem to sit down to write blog posts only during the few minutes between dinner and bath time, it’s taking my a while to get a post together, so I’m breaking it up into different sections (fiction, non-fiction, YA fiction and memoir). Here’s regular old fiction.

Fiction

The Rosie Project (Don Tillman Book 1) by Graeme Simsion
A lovely book that I recommend. Funny, quirky, smart, it hit all the right spots for me.

Alyth and Anam (Marysvale Trilogy Books 2 and 3) by Jared Southwick
I got the first book in this series, Marysvale, as a free Kindle download. I bought the second one for $2.99 and the third for $4.99. I’m not sure why I bought the second and third books, other than I liked the plot and the world and wanted to know how it wrapped up. The characters were flat and predictable, though. I like supporting independent authors (this is a self-published series) but it needed to be more than it was.

 Kushiel’s Dart (Kushiel’s Legacy Book 1) by Jacqueline Carey
A voraciously reading friend recommended this to me (the same one who recommended the Outlander series which I promptly devoured. It was engrossing and well written, with enough tantalizing sex scenes but not too much that it was overwhelming. You get the sense of everything that goes on in 50 Shades of Grey without graphic descriptions. I haven’t read the rest mostly because my library doesn’t have them as ebooks (and I started writing a memoir so stopped reading most fiction).

Skin Game: A Novel of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
I’ve read every other Dresden Files book I can get my hands on, so this one was on pre-release order to download to my Kindle the moment it became available. 🙂

Written in My Own Heart’s Blood: A Novel (Outlander, Book 8) by Diana Gabaldon
Looking back in my reading list, I realized I started reading this series in 2013 and devoured the first seven books, plus a novella or two. Then I had to wait until June to read the eighth installment.

The Goldfinch: A Novel by Donna Tartt
I don’t belong to a book club, so I often depend on friends to recommend good books. My therapist said she was reading this one and, before I began it, I confess I thought it was a memoir. I remain a little confused as to why she recommended it, but I enjoyed it all the same.

Torch by Cheryl Strayed
This is the third Cheryl Strayed book I read, after Wild and Tiny, Beautiful Things. It was interesting, knowing it was based on her own experiences losing her mother and trying, and failing, to keep her family together after her mother’s death.  Knowing that, I probably spent more time than I should have, in terms of my enjoyment of the book, trying to figure out what was based on truth and what was fiction.

Keystrokes by Lisa Marie
A long-time mommy friend wrote this debut romance novel and I bought it the first day it came out. There was a lot I loved about it, especially seeing my friend’s personality come to literary life in the form of the main character. It was sexy, it made me laugh, and I wish it had been edited more thoroughly.

I am once again being summoned from the bath tub, so I’m going to press “Publish” and hope for the best. Here’s my disclaimer: these books are (hopefully) linked to Amazon and contain an affiliate link, so I do get a little something if you buy one of them. But I’d write about what I’m reading anyway, as that’s my other way of finding out about good books I might like.