The Gown by Jennifer Robson was one of my October book club reads. I was a little hesitant about reading another WWII historical fiction book. I had enjoyed the other books I’d read but wasn’t sure where this story would take me.
I wrongly assumed it would be a memoir about Queen Elizabeth II’s wedding to Prince Phillip, but found it to be a fascinating fictional story about the dressmakers and embroiderers who constructed the then-Princess Elizabeth’s gown.
Next on my reading list
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
This historical fiction story is set in post war England and is told through the eyes of three women. Two of them suffered the loss of loved ones during the war and struggle to make ends meet without any close family to support them financially or emotionally. Despite their different backgrounds they become friends, roommates and work closely together on the wedding gown.
The third woman’s tale begins many years after WWII. Heather is bequeathed a box from her late grandmother. Within the box are squares of tulle with delicate embroidered and beaded flowers. Heather is puzzled by the contents and the lack of any written information about the items. No one in the family has a clue what the story is behind the beautiful squares of fabric. Heather heads to England to uncover the meaning behind the keepsake.
This story of three working-class women struggling to find meaning in their lives is about friendship, sorrow and triumph. I would recommend it to anyone who loves historical fiction, women’s literature and a little romance.
If the past months have taught me anything, it’s the lesson that I shouldn’t overload myself with too much news and time on social media. So, I have limited my online presence lately, neglected all of my sites, and have limited my news to some morning programming with my first cup of coffee.
The rest of my day has been devoted to family, friends, my little doggos, reading for pleasure, and soul searching. Last year was full of excitement as my husband and I built our retirement home in the Arizona desert and stress related to a major surgery and rehab for me.
I thought 2020 would be the year I’d get back to normal, so I find the time to write regularly and finish the book I’ve been working on. Plans don’t always pan out. Who knew we’d be facing a pandemic and that half a million people (and counting) would die around the world. It touched my family in various ways with the loss of a family friend and extended family members.
My mom is in a care center and I haven’t been able to visit her since the end of February. I call her daily, but she is aging and I worry that I might not get to hug her or kiss her cheek again.
These are the things that bother me most — not wearing a mask or being able to shop or dine as we have in the past. It’s the loss of contact with people I love.
Books have been my escape and my social life while the characters have become my friends and foes. I discovered by reading the type of stories I love, my inner voice cleared its throat and began whispering bits and pieces of dialogue and plot points. The stresses of life had dulled that voice but it’s there, faint but growing stronger.
I’ve written a couple of times about my struggles with writing over the past year. I wondered if I’d ever write again. Where had my drive from years past disappeared to? Maybe I didn’t have anything creative left inside? I questioned whether it was a new environment that had thrown me. Or current events? Who isn’t feeling off kilter with what is happening?
Some people suggest that you should write each day even if its crap. Trust me, even when I’m motivated I write pages of copy in desperate need of editing help.
I am feeling more and more that it is a combination of things that had sucked my energy out. I was exhausted by the pace of my life. My time away from social media, the blog, and writing has started to recharge my creative battery.
When too much noise surrounds you, how can you hear the voice within? You can’t–or should I say–I can’t. Some writers are very focused on making money with their writing and pour a lot of time into promotion, social media and scheduled writing. I find if I put that kind of pressure on myself, I will focus on the wrong thing for me.
The story is the goal. Connecting with readers is the goal. If I apply myself to those two items perhaps the money will follow.
Being an Indie writer and self publishing is hard; especially, when you are working with a limited budget. Each writer has to find the path which is right for them so they may continue to stoke the creative fire within themselves.
For me, I needed a vacation. I needed to sit by the pool, drink an occasional margarita, play with my dogs, and to laugh and cry with my family.
No one likes the reason for the Stay At Home orders we have been under. Who among us is okay with 90,000+ citizens of the United States dying from an enemy too small to see with your naked eyes? I know I’m not.
I would much rather go back in time and stop the last few months from happening, but that is the stuff of fantasy or science fiction novels and not the reality of life right now. Instead, some of us have made certain that we have enough toilet paper to last the rest of our lives while the rest of us are left pondering what items might be used in its place.
I never thought Isopropyl Alcohol (also known as rubbing alcohol) would be a hard to find item. Who thought it would come to this?
I did think I would get more writing done than I have. Instead, my daily routines are checking my news feeds, drinking copious amounts of coffee, walking my doggos, trying to find a mask, and searching the stores for toilet paper. For my mask, I opted for a bright pink bandana and have dubbed myself the “Geriatric Bandit”. The staff at the local grocers are very familiar with my signature look.
I’m very fortunate to live in Arizona so I can soak up all of that healthy Vitamin D. Let’s just say, my skin has turned brown and now I stress over getting skin cancer despite applying a sunscreen with an SPF of 100. I burn off excess energy in the pool each day.
While I’m busy with all of these daily tasks, I think about writing. I have written a few chapters for my WIP. I have recorded a short story for a podcast and I’ve started writing another short story.
The time I always wished to have free to write unhampered by outside influences is here, but I can’t help thinking about those people we’ve lost too soon. The medical personnel who leave work exhausted and in tears over what they’d seen that day. The people who go to work in those jobs that are so necessary for our society to function but are poorly paid and never shown the appreciation they deserve — cashiers and baggers at the store, the garbage men, the construction crews, funeral directors and staff, transportation workers. The teachers putting packets together for students and families each week. The families of the workers who expose themselves everyday. The lists go on and on.
I think of you instead of my imaginary characters. I don’t write very much right now, but I pray for you.
It might seem like social distancing, staying at home and wearing a mask would be a dream for many writers. I have more often than not referred to myself as a introvert and chilling on the couch with a good book, listening to music and binge-watching movies have all been favorite past times for me.
I take this pandemic seriously, too. When I hear doctors, nurses and paramedics tell their stories with tears in their eyes, I believe. I was a practicing nurse for over thirty years — things are bad right now. Perhaps that is why I’ve had difficulty focusing on just one thing. I flit from project to project, write sporadically, rarely post anything of my own on social media, and keep busy doing laundry and housework.
It was easier when I was walking several days a week, but I had to take a break from my daily walks due to some inflammation that wasn’t getting any better. This gave me more time to think. Only I wasn’t thinking about writing.
I decided I’d be better off if I turned off the news. It has worked for the most part. I have completed two chapter in two months. Not a lot of progress but progress all the same. I made some friends in our new neighborhood; although, social distancing has slowed down our gatherings to backyard chats across the fence (picture the TV show, Home Improvement with Tim and his neighbor, Wilson).
It’s a reminder of how I felt on 9/11 when I saw NYC, my birthplace and home of my youth, devastated but not defeated. I was transfixed by the images, and I felt the world had changed and it had. Once again, New York City is one of the worst epicenter’s of the disease thus far and I know things will change.
Mother Nature is feeling better because we have altered our patterns. We see clearer skies and waterways while the wildlife roams more freely than they have in years in our parks and wild areas. The world has had a slight pause, but not a reset. At least not yet. That will depend on all of us and how we look at our world and our lives.
I plan to think a bit more about how I live and want to live in future. My writing will become a daily respite and not a task that needs to be completed.
My world has been topsy-turvy for the past year — loss of a dear family member, placing my mother in a care center, having a total knee replacement, building a house and moving across the country. There seemed to be very little energy left to devote to writing. My life has to change.
I have a good thirty years left on this earth and my bucket list includes writing stories that entertain as long as I’m physically and mentally able. Stay safe, stay healthy my friends.
The author’s dreaded but inevitable challenge of the old reliable laptop deciding it’s time for retirement. Oh my goodness, talk about the drama! I knew that my lovely laptop that ushered in all three of my novels was starting to slow to such a point it was taking thirty minutes to boot.
I postponed the decision to go computer shopping. I did lament over it with comments like “I think I may need a new computer” and “I hope this laptop lasts a little longer”. The biggest challenge is reloading all of the programs I use on a regular basis.
One of those programs is my writing program. I spent a bit of change on it a few years ago and have taken it for granted that I would be able to transfer it seamlessly to the new PC. Nope, it isn’t recognizing my license number. Do I really want to buy a new program after forking over money for the new computer?
The answer is no. So, I’ve emailed the company praying they will assist me and I can return to writing my long-awaited book (although, I know I’ve kept my readers waiting too long).
The point of all of this blogging is primarily a writer’s opportunity to publicly wail and thrash around throwing words instead of physical items out there. Now, my hissy fit is finished, and I wish each and everyone of you a good day.
Actors talk about staying in character while they are in a play or movie, and how it helps them stay true to the role. I believe writers have the same dilemma when they are working on a book.
How do you get back into character when you’ve had a long break? While I’m writing, I continue to revisit my character outline and critical, pivotal moments, especially when writing a series. I don’t want the story to deviate from a particular character’s motivations and general personality. It wouldn’t make sense to have a mild-mannered individual begin swearing like a sailor and starting bar fights without reason.
I’ve been away from writing for about six months after a cross-country move and major orthopedic surgery. Life was chaotic, and I missed the daily catharsis it provided desperately. My recent move has added some distractions I haven’t had to deal with before. I’m still unpacking boxes and getting my life organized. I’m meeting new friends and have had an increase in social activities. It’s also lovely weather, and I’m spending more time outside walking the trails, swimming, and going to the gym. Plus, my husband is around the house since he retired.
Now that I’m back, I find the voice in my head is muted. I’m re-reading what I’ve written thus far to recapture my creative fire. Each day, I isolate myself after my morning walk and sit down with my laptop to make some headway. The progress is slow, but I’m hopeful that sometime soon, I will feel like writing for hours.
I’d love to hear from other writers about how they have dealt with a similar situation. Back to writing ~~ Kate
It’s been a very long time since I’ve pulled out my laptop to write anything. My surgery was on August 19th. It was tough but manageable for the first few days following surgery. My knee was swollen to twice its size, stiff and painful causing me to move with slow and precise steps. But by the end of the first week, I navigated without the aid of a walker and began using my cane. By the end of week two, I walked without the cane, and by the end of week three, I was discharged from physical therapy.
I wrote twice over those weeks. So much for using rehab time to advance the storyline on my work in progress. When I could, I walked, climbed stairs, and packed boxes. My life became involved in determining where to stack cardboard cubes and judging what should be placed into the same box. My somewhat orderly world with all of its cozy spots morphed into chaos.
Where would I find a place to sink into a comfy chair, sip on a cup of coffee and write about strong women searching, struggling, and surviving in the fictional landscapes in my head?
Every room in the house that I’ve lived in for almost twenty-four years has been rendered almost unrecognizable. Is it a wonder that my internal voice has grown silent when I have problems leaving dishes in my sink before I can even begin to sit down and write.
Even my dining room which is used on holidays, when guests visit, and when I videotape or record podcasts, is a cluttered mess with all of my packing supplies,
extra boxes and the like. The rooms where our bed & breakfast guests lounged while they stayed with us have been emptied of any of the grace and peace that embodied those spaces. My compulsion to put things into order wars with the countdown to moving day.
Instead of working through how my protagonist will find purpose, love, and adventure, I focus on my struggles with chaos and my feelings that I will never be able to write again and the nagging insecurity that my contribution to the world of fiction has ended.
Now, back to packing those boxes. The kitchen is next!
The Clare Thibodeaux Series can be found on Amazon. Watch for Kate’s short story “What Happens in Vegas…” in the Strong Women anthology to be published by NeoLeaf Press. The story features a character from one of her 500-word short story challenges — “Talent Discovered”.
Picture the family gathered around the radio on Friday night to hear the latest episode of “The Lone Ranger” or “Fibber McGee and Molly”. Today’s radio show is the podcast or books on Audible. Combine them both and you have The Stories We Tell.
Check it out from the beginning on April 23rd! The podcast will feature short stories by a diverse group of writers, including yours truly! Join us for something new with a tinge of nostalgia.
Oh, yeah, I’ve been off the grid quite a lot lately. I have my reasons, and I think they are pretty valid.
I’m a Baby Boomer and my husband and I have toyed with the idea of retiring somewhere different. Our 165-year-old home requires a lot of care and maintenance. As we get older, we won’t be able to give it the justice it deserves. So, we started researching, traveling and sometimes making lists of the pros and cons of living in different places. We considered spots in the Midwest, living on an island, moving to Ireland and several other possible destinations.
We had a list of what we wanted in our final home and community. We wanted a newer home to reduce maintenance. A small town with plenty of safe areas for walking, easy access to a grocer, pharmacy, a few restaurants and a golf course that was close to our home. We wanted that small town feel that we love in our tiny village along the Mississippi River with small-town festivals and friendly neighbors. But we decided after this past winter, we also needed warmth.
We’d lived along the Gulf Coast (Texas and Florida) as well as in Sicily, Italy. Two years before my hubs retired from the military, we started looking at where we wanted to raise our sons. Growing up in the Midwest, we determined we wanted to return. Now, after twenty-three years in Wisconsin, we think it would be nice to be back in a warmer climate, so we headed to Arizona.
We found a community that meets all of the requirements we determined were important to us. We are building a new home where I can walk the miles I need for my health and creativity. We can play golf anytime. It’s close to a larger community so we don’t have to drive hours for certain services like an airport, for example.
We are fortunate to have this opportunity, and one of the things that I like about the town where we are moving is that they offer a variety of housing options in several different pricing levels. We will be in a community that values diversity with different age groups, socio-economic levels, cultures, religions, and backgrounds. Isn’t that what America is all about? We believe so.
I want to take the time to thank all of the people who have downloaded my books over the past three months, read my books on Kindle Unlimited and left reviews. I hope you were entertained by my tales about Clare Thibodeaux and her friends.
I promise you there will be more action, drama, romance, and suspense to come. Mark your calendars for February 5th and 12th. I will be offering special deals on books in the Clare Thibodeaux Series on those dates. Watch for more info on my Facebook Author’s Page
I was invited by our village library to do a book reading and signing this past week. Despite the nasty weather earlier in the day, I was pleased to have some brave souls navigate the snowy roadways to attend. I am so blessed to have so much support from so many nice people.