Thoughts on M. Kate Quinn’s SUMMER IRIS

Remembering my dad today. He would have been 81 and terribly excited and proud about his ‘little girl’s’ achievements. He always encouraged me and had tremendous belief and faith in my God-given gifts. Just sorry he never got to know his grandchildren (all six of them :)).

Good day all! Life gets so busy, I’m just grateful for moments when I can catch up—like this one.

These, like my thoughts on Joy E. Held’s Writer Wellness: A Writer’s Path to Health and Creativity are long overdue. Earlier this year I read my good friend M. Kate Quinn’s debut novel, Summer Iris (The Wild Rose Press). I was especially excited to read this one. M. Kate and I had met at a writers’ meeting and became friends almost immediately. We’d critiqued each other’s work a bit, so I knew about this story firsthand. We also both got our first contracts around the same time, so I feel that, in a way, we’ve come up together.

I fell in love with this page turner from its first paragraph. Not sure the term ‘coming-of-age’ story is appropriate here, but that’s exactly what Summer Iris, the first in this author’s Perennial Series, is. Iris Stanton is a very relatable divorcee who—on her fiftieth birthday—is out of a job, and about to lose her home. As part of a gift, she is challenged by Vonnie, her vibrant, vivacious, always willing-to-go-for-it best friend to step out of character by taking a risk vs. continue living the so-so life Iris has always known. With little else to lose, Iris embarks on a summer of cottage-sitting at theJersey shore.

                                (coming next!)

Via wonderful descriptions, incredible attention to detail and a myriad of lovely similes and metaphors M. Kate took me into Iris’Jersey shore world¸ one I could easily envision, especially being a native and resident of the state. I love the way she connected sapphire dresses and September weddings (for those who don’t know sapphire is September baby’s birthstone—little associations like that always garner my notice). I’m also pretty sure she slipped in an inside joke here and there when it came to naming a character or two—among the fun of reading a personal friend’s work. Well done, M. Kate!

Sensitivity and humor colored the pages. Iris, Vonnie, Eddie, Sam—even Iris’ ex-husband, Roger—are all people I’d love to meet and hang out with at Iris’ shore house. M. Kate endeared me to Iris; I laughed out loud and cheered for her a multitude of times. This author took me through an emotional journey that led to a bit of a surprising resolution. I especially loved the way M. Kate opened this story then smoothly brought it together full circle to a flawless finish. Teary-eyed and emotional, I did a double-take when I realized—with some sadness—I’d turned the last page. Definitely one of those stories I wanted to not end.

So looking forward to reading Moonlight and Violet, second in my author-friend’s Perennial Series. Be on the lookout for Brookside Daisy, coming next and maybe even expect a visit from M. Kate in between now and then!

Until next time,

Joanna

Advertisements

Do I Really Need That?? (Part 2)

  Hubby spent hours watering these so that I can enjoy this!

Yesterday I initiated a discussion on downsizing. As tends to be the case with me, here is how it applies to my favorite creative outlet:

So how does downsizing connect to writing? When I first started writing and attended my first critique groups, one of the first things I learned was that each and every word in a manuscript needs to serve a purpose. Downsizing equals editing and effective editing leads to strong, bring-that-manuscript-to-a-new-level status. Example: it’s not enough to describe or mention the incredible sun set. Its blood-red glow needs to reflect someone’s mood or indicate an upcoming event. By the same token, the heroine’s hoop earrings are crafted from her and her deceased husband’s wedding bands so that she can wear both at all times. Not only do I get a picture of the character, I get insight into who she is and backstory. (And once I tie this into a dialogue between my lead characters, my text has done that much more multi-tasking.)

Am I making sense? Like most of the necessities the man in that tiny cabin makes use of (or my farmhouse table at the cottage that serves as my counter) words need to do double duty. If they don’t, chances are you may not need them. 

What about the dreaded letting go of a scene or—eek!—an entire character’s POV? That can feel like cutting off a limb! I mean, here I am with this fabulous story—they’re all incredible to the creator, aren’t they?— so how can I edit that???? And horror of horrors, shelve an entire story? (No way I’d ever delete that much work. It can sit in virtual space where it won’t bother anyone.) Yet, when I get over myself and make the requested or necessary changes I can see the story shine through the clutter I removed. (Sigh. I’m truly working on practicing what I preach given a recent rejection due—in part—to “too many characters in a manuscript’s opening” that could “potentially overwhelm the reader.” Guess I need to get back in there and hack away. There’s that perseverance part, right Stacey?)

So that’s where I am today, cleaning up my act physically, mentally and on virtual paper. For now, I gave up on the filing that’s been sitting on my desk since June. I do, however, have hope. (Dancing with the Stars is has at least six weeks to go–at least one or two of those evenings can be multi-tasked to getting all those papers in their place, right?

Care to share how you keep everything in check? All ideas welcome here!

A wonderful week to all,

Joanna

 

Do I Really Need That?? (Part 1)

Good day friends,

Thanks so much to all of you for your loyalty and support. So sorry I’ve been MIA. This post should have run as a guest blog over a week ago (at another author’s site) but the world wide web seems to have eaten it twice on its journey through cyberspace. On a more personal note, the school year got off to a rough start and things continue to jump out of place on a daily basis. I’ve barely started bringing work home and still find myself bogged down with the day-to-day (and not enough of it relative to my writing, blogging, etc). 

     (A morning glory I grew from seed–never knew the detail was so incredible!)

Anyway, these are the thoughts I wanted to share about ten days ago:

Downsizing. In today’s less-than-stable economy, the word can inspire anxiety or even fear. I look around at a house, basement or garage full of stuff and apply the term differently.

 Not too long ago I read an article about a man who downsized from a large home to a tiny cabin-like structure he designed and, I believe, built. (He now makes a business out of designing and crafting these minimal-square-foot living spaces.) He knows exactly what he needs to live within that tiny space and has opted to do without a lot more.

 My little cottage in the woods, built somewhere between 1872 and 1905, gives me a sense of what it is to live that way. When we first bought it—as is—it was crammed to the rafters with stuff. Three layers of rugs on every floor kept the place damp and musty-smelling. A dry-rotted player piano took up a whole wall. Five coffee pots and no one drank coffee! More cups and glasses than an average-sized family could ever use at one time, even if the previous owners did live there six months out of the year. Outdated encyclopedias, a gazillion 1980’s paperback romance novels (at least they were readers, lol). My little enclosed sleeping porch where I now write, a storage closet that had to be emptied one item at a time before I could even set foot in it: rusty exercise bike, volleyball, a cot with over eight layers of blankets on it that no could access because of all the clutter around it.  Closets and dressers stuffed with towels, sheets, blankets, clothing, shoes—name it: it was there. In a word, we filled a twenty-ton dumpster in the course of a few days (and I still emptied stuff, got to the last closet last year).

 Since we purchased that cottage five years ago, we’ve pretty much weeded out most things we don’t need. When I tell you I bought almost nothing for it, you can trust I mean what I say. (I do, however, keep a second coffee pot on my little porch for those rare occasions when I don’t feel like going down to the kitchen. And I still like the hand-held kerosene lanterns lined up in my closet—keeps that late 19th century feel to the place.)

   More and more though, the lesson of downsizing comes home to me in various ways. My home is relatively small. This two-bedroom colonial houses four of us and three cats.  None of us are hoarders but we’re not necessarily ‘tossers’ either. (For a while one of my sons wanted to keep his old toothbrushes!) I can’t begin to tell you how much clothing and other domestic items we got rid of after the small house fire we had two years ago and still that clean contemporary country look evades my humble home.  (There’s a blog for that: https://joannaaislinn.wordpress.com/page/6/)

Remember (or ever hear of) comedian George Carlin? One of his routines talked about how clearing out stuff is akin to creating a vacuum for more stuff to find its way in. I used to love garage and yard sales and still stop by them on occasion, but I’ve got a new rule (besides ‘don’t let my husband loose with expendable cash anywhere,’ lol.): no cash gets handed over unless I know exactly where that item will go in my home. (I may mentally toss or donate another item before I buy and try hard to stick to that once I’m home. Being someone who doesn’t tire of a color or a beloved object doesn’t help but I’ve improved.)

And once that stuff is gone? When I walk back into that downsized, now open space, I feel as though I can breathe better (could be all the dust that went with it ). Definitely something to be said about Feng Shui! BTW, many organizations will come to your house and carry away your donations—a search on the net can yield the names of those who do in your area—a few clicks and you’re scheduled. (I often use Vietnam Veterans of America—vva.org. Very easy.)

I’ll stop here for now and look forward to your thoughts on the subject. Tomorrow I’ll apply these ideas to writing.

Until then, have a great day,

Joanna

IMHO

Hi all,

So excited about sharing my latest reads I almost forgot! Today I’m guest-blogging at Toni Sweeney’s Icy Snow Blackstone and talking about downsizing. Toni’s been kind enough to read and review NO MATTER WHY; check out my Reviews page for a link to hers and others’ opinions about my debut!  (Toni’s review follows Mary Gramlich’s take on NMWhy.)  I’ve also signed up at Goodreads and posted MHO times two: one for Richard Paul Evans’ brand new release (PROMISE ME) as and another for Laura Hogg’s time travel romance, ROMEO VS. JULIET. (Look for an interview with Laura sometime next week).