I’m reading books faster than I can review them, and although I’m excited about the next book review post, I feel like I need to address something: burnout and poor health. It plagues every profession, so let’s dive in.
Sometime in October, an old problem reared its ugly head. I crashed and burned and threw everything off-kilter. I didn’t write a darn thing. My Tsalagi language learning stalled and I couldn’t bring myself to talk with my learning buddies. My social media posting schedule stopped. Clients resorted to texting me when I didn’t see their emails because looking at the screen me sick. Add on some extreme anxiety and GI problems, and I was ready to disappear. Luckily my husband won’t let me do that, lol!
While I work with my doctor and neurologist to figure out what is causing these “silent migraines” and put them to bed, I am planning for the next battle. Humans are not always great at taking care of themselves and it can happen again.
The Bus Factor
I was doing too much and when I stopped, chaos ensued. How many people can get hit by a bus before everything goes to chaos? In Bernhard Schroeder’s book Simply Brilliant, he explains that you must set up securities so that basic stuff gets done when you’re not around. So what does that look like for me?
I don’t want to give away the ending but the beginning words say it all: “There is no scatheless rapture.”
The main character remembers his life as an orphaned, bound boy to a merchant who trades with the Cherokee Nation pre-removal from their homelands. As he adjusts to his new situation, he learns a great many things: who to avoid or trust, how to communicate, how to show respect, how to keep his horse from being stolen, the value of each item in trade instead of money, random coins and their values, etc. He also gained an adopted Cherokee father and learned a great deal about love and loss. I’d say that really, the entire book is about value, whether it’s people, relationships, lost love, or land. It’s also about growing up and growing old, and how perspective changes with age.
Frazier twists in good humor, foreshadowing, difficult decisions, contested stories, and masterful settings with ease. It is from a white boy’s perspective, regardless of who Will spent his life with and how his views meshed with his new family, and the author makes that clear within the story.
I found a couple of surprises in the style that I am comfortable with now, but wasn’t sure about at first. Every single thing I might consider an oddity has a specific purpose and just…works.
There are no quotation marks for dialog. At first this bothered me, but I thought about it. There is an indication that somebody has started speaking, and after that, do I care? Not really. It just kind of flowed.
I didn’t notice the shift between past and present tense until the end.
Despite a few reviews criticizing details gotten wrong, etc., I didn’t care. Yes, there were a few things I’d researched extensively and could spout off a thing or two about what “actually happened”, but in these cases did the average person in the POV character’s situation know any better? Probably not. Hindsight is 20/20, and history buffs have a lot of hindsight to help them pick apart fiction books.
I’d never read a Charles Frazier book before, and I think this one is a great first! I bought it to read in tandem with the section printed in Cherokee syllabary (Tsogadu Nvdo), but I realized I couldn’t wait that long to read it, so I will turn back when I can understand more Cherokee words.
Most who knew Boudinot described him as a sensitive (in a good way) and caring man. Many later described him as a traitor to his nation. After reading this collection of writings, along with Perdu’s notes, I see that he had simply lost touch, if he even had it, with the average citizen of the Cherokee Nation.
Cherokee Editor: The Writings of Elias Boudinot, edited by Theda Perdu
He was born as “Buck” Watie in Oothcaloga (present-day Calhoun) Georgia. Those first years went by very different from his father’s growing up years. The Watie family departed from matrilineal traditions by using his father’s name, and lived and worked very individualistic lives instead of collective lives traditionalists cherished. He and his cousins John and Nancy Ridge attended a mission school, and further distanced themselves from traditions.
Not long after the first mission school, he met a man who impressed him very much, Continental Congressman Elias Boudinot. The elder Boudinot was also the American Bible Society president and pushed the theory that American Indians were one of the lost tribes of Isreal. Buck Watie took Boudinot’s name, not an uncommon practice of the day.
Boudinot joined people of many tribes and nations from all around the world and attended the Foreign Mission School in Cornwall, CT. He met his first wife and caused a great stir about marrying out of his race, to point of death threats and his fiance being burned in effigy by her own brother. He concluded that no amount of assimilation would make his nation equal in the eyes of the whites he thought he could trust.
I handed over my manuscript to an editor a little while ago, thinking I’d have oodles of free time to do other stuff. But what have I been doing? Let’s see…
I read nine books, which is quite an improvement
Successfully avoided blogging 😉
Realized I spent too much time on social media and cut back a little
Did market research and decided self-publishing was a better bet for what I have to sell
My house is still dirty
I had a language learning crisis in which I had to switch curriculum and it killed my momentum, but I’m getting there
Beta read a little faster
Started a book cover and gave it to a designer to make pretty. I figure if editors use editors, I can use a designer, right?
Tried to make a synopsis five times, gave up and tried back cover copy five times. Gave up and wrote this blog
I feel like I should have an outline for another book by now, or finish my marketing plan, but I have to decide which to do first. Maybe I’ll write book reviews for a while and procrastinate some more!
How do you procrastinate from even your favorite activities? Why?
I wanted to find a suitable replacement for Big Brother’s “name”. The term “Big Brother” has many unneeded connotations exclusive to TV show names, political statements, etc. He just needs to be a protective, though grumpy, older brother.
He will not give his actual name because he doesn’t want people, particularly ones he doesn’t like, to use it. That would disrespectful and sort of embarrassing for him. I began to put my feelers out for a new term that encompasses who he is and what he does.
Spare time is like riding unicorns through rainbows while pigs fly about my head. It never seems to happen except when I neglect my household. Well, get ready for some spare time I’ve made. Maybe you can read it while watching your own pigs fly. I’ve been challenged to participate in #Authortalktuesday. I think that sounds fun! I can’t wait to meet everyone else and see your stuff. Please link in the comments.
This is part of the author newbie tag 2.0
1. What’s your book’s pitch? If you have multiple works, choose your favorite!
Oh my…well, I’ve pitched my book Fodder for Pigs enough times. I may as well take a stab at a new approach: the antagonist’s view.
“Joseph pines for when he had everything: a great job, close family, and a new bride. She betrayed him. One by one everything fell through his grasp. He exists in turmoil and wretchedness.
Only revenge will do.
The man who took it all away from him is within his grasp, yet he must savor this. He’s been preparing for decades, priming what child should have been his into a tool for revenge. He’s in too deep to turn back. Too many have died for this moment.
Now is the time.”
2. If you were a book, how would you pitch yourself?
What I love about the writing community is that every once in a while I meet an author or two that has a heart of gold. I know several of them now. These people have a genuine desire to pour their hearts out onto a page and help others do the same, in whatever capacity they can. We share in the excitement of finishing a draft, critiquing each other’s work, seeing each other succeed, and sending our new friends off into publishing land. I can’t do them all justice in one blog post, but I can share their beautiful minds!
Monique De La Uz is a debut Psychological Thriller author. I’m proud to have been part of the critiquing process and to have watched her grow by leaps bounds. Her riveting book, called Eight Words, comes out on August 8th, 2019. Let’s dive in!
Monique, in a few sentences, tell us about your book
My novel chronicles a woman’s journey in trying to save a student whom she teaches. He has no one and she wants to help but when her mentally ill brother accuses the relationship of going further than mentorship, she risks losing everything. She spirals down a path that jeopardizes her own mental health. Caught between her future and her family, she must decide if telling a vengeful truth and secret might be her only way out of this nightmare. Continue reading →
I realized I don’t talk about my work in progress much, at least not with people who don’t have a reason to care. One of the groups I admin did the #WIPjoy tag a while back, and I thought it was pretty fun! It is a good exercise in getting us to think about our work and communicate what it means to us.
#1 INTRODUCE YOUR WIP…
Fodder for Pigs is a historical Fiction/Thriller set in 1850s Alabama and Georgia. This is my attempt at a blurb as of right now. It will change like fifty more times, guaranteed.
Blood don’t wash off yo’ shirt; it sho’ as hell don’t wash off yo’ soul.
Learn a new language as research? Crazy lady! I decided to learn Tsalagi/Cherokee over the next five years. Logical, since I have [almost] nobody with whom to speak this new language? No! But I have found a way to work it in and have about a week left of syllabary learning. Then it is on to the language basics.
I want to make a believable and respectful representation of people in my novel’s time period
By the late 1820’s, after George Guess (or George Gist/Sequoya) developed the Cherokee Syllabary, most of the Nation read and wrote this language. It was important to read the news and communicate at that time. Laws and treaties were being made without them being able to verify any information. At least with this written language, they could have something with which to create and preserve their own government.
I have some Cherokee characters in Fodder for Pigs, but most are only half Native. Given the time period and circumstances, they experience a rapid loss in culture and language. What that means for me is that I need to explore what this loss entails and how to present it accurately and with respect. History books are not enough. The internet is not enough. Cherokee/English dictionaries will have me using any one of seven words for the same object, and I know I am in deep you-know-what if I choose the wrong one.
Language is the way into the culture, forgotten or otherwise
I am encountering countless things every day that enrich my characters and plot.
I realized while researching words, meanings, traditions, etc. that some concepts in English do not exist in other languages. Take for example, “goodbye.” English uses this often. “Goodbye” for early Cherokee was too final. They would rather have said the equivalent of “be strong” or “I will see you later.”
Another example is Aniyvwiya, or the Real People/Principal People. This is how the people used to refer to themselves. Since the nation was matrilineal, only people with Cherokee mothers were Aniyvwiya. If I had not dived right into the language, I would have used it incorrectly. Half of my characters do not have Cherokee mothers.
Even though the old culture was fairly documented by both English and Cherokee speakers, there are few ways to accurately experience it halfway across the country in the 21st century. In this case, the internet, library, and databases have been beneficial to connect with material and native speakers involved in history. Not every Native American knows exactly what happened 150 years ago. Do I know what happened 150 years ago in Hungary? Nope!
So far I have learned enough to make significant changes in my Book One narrative, family dynamics being the most changed. David and Sarah are part of a broken and blended family and they live their early years on the fringes of a dying culture. Having a white mother means more than being a little confused. Since bloodlines were carried through mothers, they had no clan membership. No clan membership means no protection, at least not the depth they will need.
Languages are disappearing
Very few people speak the dialect I am learning, and yes, maybe I will have to learn another to actually talk with people, but it is better than it dying out. A dialect of this language has already died.
If you asked me a year or two ago if I wanted to write microfiction, I would have Googled it and said: “no, I’m working on my novel.” This would be a mistake. A new novel writer ought to have a collection of short stuff or risk being completely unknown in front of the “jury” when his or her manuscript is in the publisher’s slush pile (or new to the bookstore). Not having other works is one of the seven new writer’s mistakes.
A competition came up in one of the writing groups I am in and I decided to try it. We all submitted three, eight sentence pieces in response to writing prompts and voted to determine a winning piece. There were so many good pieces of writing and I’m going to follow all those wonderful authors!
I am honored to have been a finalist and amazed at having made the winning piece. This had me walking on clouds the past week or two and I am feeling more confident in how my writing has progressed. My instinct is to downplay it and call it a silly little piece of fiction, but maybe it’s time to just put it out there.
Prompt: Graves of historical figures are being robbed
Tall Socks: a Microfiction
“Abraham, you promised you would consider stopping this habit,” she floated up and placed her ghostly white hands on the gravestone in front of her.
“My dear Mary, I said I would ‘consider’ stopping, which is still not a lie. Besides, this old man doesn’t need tall socks and I do.” Abe stretched out his leg and showed Mary Todd the chilled space between his own trousers and socks.
“You don’t need socks, you’re dead! Leave Robert E. Lee alone and come back into the mist.”
Abe looked around at the series of mutilated graves and sighed. “I finally found tall socks, Mary, and I’m going to use them; if he wants them back he can start another war.”
There you have it: a nice distraction from my editing! I enjoyed this creative challenge and I’ll be looking for more opportunities this year. There are many groups and resources. I should update my list of writing communities as well! Onward ho!
“Show me your socks”
You’ve got to check out the other winning contestants. They did such a great job! I will post links to their blog here as soon as I get permission.
Here is a great piece from Glass Heart. You should really like her page, just saying: