Friday, August 28, 2015

What the Heck Does It Mean to Be Whole?

We hear that expression a lot. I can’t count how many of those feel-good quotes I’ve seen on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere that have to do with ‘being who you are,’ ‘claiming your identity,’ and the blessed state of ‘being a whole person.’ These ideas usually revolve around one’s readiness to enter and maintain healthy relationships, or embracing the concept of going it alone.

I think the concept got a foothold in the sixties and seventies with self-help books like I’m Okay, You’re Okay*, and How to Be Your Own Best Friend**. There were others, of course, but those are two that I distinctly recall as a youngster—my mother even provided us with a copy of the latter during adolescence. I wish I had actually understood and applied what I'd read. Nevertheless, as a culture, we’ve been talking about ‘Being Whole’ for decades. 

The reason I’m now contemplating the issue is that when I boiled down the theme of the story I’m working on, the third in my Portraits series, this question—What does it mean to be whole?—keeps coming up.

For anyone who has read Portrait of a Girl Running and Portrait of a Protégé, you know I’ve put my protagonist, Leila, through the mill. Although she has had independence foisted upon her, she is living what appears to be a fulfilling life in a safe and nurturing environment with people who care about her, and with opportunities for personal and artistic growth. Of course, I can’t leave well enough alone. No, I don’t think I’m going to kill anyone off (at least not unless I have to, ha!), but let’s face it—Leila has a lot of unresolved issues about her upbringing, and especially about her mother. She’s been on an emotionally intense roller-coaster ride, but, just because her life seems to have finally leveled out, that does not mean she can side skirt those issues which have left her broken and with pieces missing. Yes, she’s having to confront the question: What the heck does it even mean to be whole?

I Googled the question, and aside from coming up with a lot of religious answers—valid as some may be, I’m not focusing on that route—there are so many opinions, a psychological and spiritual free-for-all! I have my own opinion, but I’m still shaping it. And I am very curious how other thoughtful people define it. Please feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail (bridget at jbchicoine dot com) if you’d like to share!

*by Thomas Anthony Harris  **by Bernard Berkowitz, Jean Owen, and Mildred Newman

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

What I Did On My Year-Long Vacation

Well, it’s been…let’s see…over eight months since I last posted! And yeah, I will admit that the break felt good—really good. Not only did I take a break from blogging and nearly all social networking, but I also took an even longer break from writing. I might have been suffering from a bit of burnout, but I think that mostly I wanted to revisit my life the way it was before I took up the crazy notion of publishing my work! Yeah, I actually had a life and it was still intact just waiting for me to slow down, to clear my mind, and to refocus. What do I have to show for it? Well, at least a few pictures… 

Beginning with last autumn...
...we visited New Hampshire...

...did you know they have drug-free cows?...

...we started roasting our own coffee beansyeah, that's a modified popcorn popper!...

...I mooshed my kitties a lot...

...I watched as Todd split a lot of wood...

...we made lots of pear wine (not as good as our last batches)...

...I painted a bit...

...I sewed a bunch of dolly outfits for my granddaughter's American Girl Doll...don't make me rant about how ridiculous those dolls are...

...I tried on goofy hats at the flea market...

...made and ate far too much bread, and didn't spare the brie!...

...visited my beautiful sister and her husband in Virginia...

...enjoyed an 'ice storm' while with friends in the beautiful Virginia countryside...

...came home and survived the rest of our winter in Michigan, and waited until May... 

 ...when we went to the Chesapeake Bay to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary...

...we watched sunsets...

...and sailed...

...ate raw oysters! Yum!!...

...saw scary sea creatures...

...and gooey ones...

...and ugly ones...

...and more sunsets...

...and hung out on the beach and did nothing at all...

...and sat around some more...

...and played with crab pots...

...and sailed some more...


...watched our last sunset...

 
...and then, a month or so later, we headed to New England and camped with my lovely daughter and her family in Maine...

...and saw more cool jellyfishes...

 ...and visited the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse...

...and took pictures that made me want to write...

 ...and made me want to paint...

...then we backtracked to New Hampshire and kayaked while visiting my brother and his amazing family...

...and ate clams on the halfshell...

...and later on, played on the river with grandbabies...

...and now we are home and I'm writing again. I've had an idea for a third book in my Portraits series, and it has turned into a plot. I'm in the very early stages and can't make any promises, and I won't set any deadlines, but I am making progress and enjoying it.

So, there you have it! I may even post again before the year is out! 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Free Portrait of a Girl Running Adiobook in Exchange for Honest Review!

So, I just received 25 complimentary Audible.com copies of PORTRAIT of a GIRL RUNNING audio books! I'm supposed to use them to start spreading the word about the audiobook release. So, if you would be interested in a free audiobook of GIRL RUNNING in exchange for an honest review, send your email address to bridget at jbchicoine dot com and I'll send you the code and instructions!

Here's what the story is about:


All Leila wants is to get through her senior year at her new high school on Long Island without drawing undue attention. Not that she has any big secret to protect, but her unconventional upbringing has made her very private. At seventeen, she realizes just how odd it was that two men raised her—one black, one white—and no mother. Not to mention they were blues musicians, always on the move. When her father died, he left her with a fear of foster care and a plan that would help her fall between the cracks of the system. Three teachers make that impossible—the handsome track coach, her math teacher from hell, and a jealous gym instructor.   Set against the backdrop of Long Island in the 1970s, Leila’s ability to run, along with her musical and artistic talents, places her in compromising situations. Accusations of misconduct and judicial hearings put Leila’s autonomy and even her dignity at risk, unless she learns to trust an unlikely ally. Portrait of a Girl Running is a story that sifts through the many ways we define friendship, family, romantic love, and even ethnicity.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Portrait of a Girl Running Audio Book Now Available!

Once again, my overall inactivity online is not necessarily an indication of what’s been going on behind the scenes. I’ve been tossing around some ideas for a third book in my Portrait series, and that’s not all … the bigger news is that Portrait of a Girl Running is now available as an audio book! You can find it on Audible.com where it’s free with a trial membership or can be purchased for $19.95. You can also download it via iTunes for a little cheaper. It is also up on Amazon.com. Carolyn Nicely narrates and does a stellar job! Go have a look, that is, a sample listen!






And just in case you didn't know it, Uncharted: Story for a Shipwright is also available as an audio book!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Five Books in Thirteen Months! Yikes!

I’m coming up on one year since I published Portrait of a Girl Running and its sequel, Portrait of a Protégé. And last year at this time, I also received the reversioning rights to my debut novel, Uncharted: Story for a Shipwright. This was only months after publishing my second novel, Spilled Coffee. That was a lot of publishing in a short period of time! And on the heels of all that, I dove into my fifth novel, Blind Stitches and published it this past July. Yikes! That’s five novels in a little over a year—no wonder I feel story weary, which explains my recent silence on this blog. In fact, I haven’t been online much at all since the beginning of August, and I have to say, it has been very good for me. Especially for my stress levels.


It may be hard for a non-writer to understand the kind of pressure a storyteller feels, not only from the voices of all those characters who want resolution to their conflicts, but from those voices (real or imagined) that insist a novelist must continue to produce or they’ll lose their audience. And that sicky-sweet voice that says, “It doesn’t matter what you write as long as you’re writing! Write for yourself! Write for fun—you remember what that is, right?” when the contrapuntal voice is saying, “Oh please, there’s no possible way you could ever write without analyzing every word, every sentence, every plot twist and character profile. Writing for fun is like losing your virginity—you can never get it back!”

So, that’s where I’m at … sort of. I don’t have a story and characters wrestling in my head and it feels good—like relief … like I can breathe. I’m finding it so much easier to focus on other things that are, quite simply, more important to me than writing. Not that I won’t start some project when something compelling strikes me (especially in the dead of winter), but nothing has at this point. If I do get a creative surge in the form of a story, you may not hear about it until after I decide what to do with it. As an experiment, I’d kind of like to try writing for fun again—just to see if I can actually do it!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Vintage Sewing and a Book Review

In two of my books—Blind Stitches and Portrait of a Protégé—one of the main characters favors vintage clothing. Leila (of Protégé) inherits her former-modeling grandmother’s designer wardrobe from the ’40s and ’50s, and Juliet (of Blind Stitches) is a seamstress who specializes in the retro look. These casting details make it all the more cool that I just received a really nice review of Blind Stitches from a talented lady who has a vintage sewing blog. I’ve been following Laura Mae’s blog—Lilacs & Lace—for a little while, and she’s inspired me to sew a few vintage outfits myself. I’m especially pleased that she enjoyed the story!

If you're curious about a seamstresses impression of Blind Stitches, go have a look

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Nitty-Gritty of My Publishing Journey

In the process of researching Russian history and language for Blind Stitches, I became acquainted with Anesa Miller, who has a background in Russian studies and creative writing. When I first visited her blog, her post “Drawer No More” caught my attention. To quote Anesa:
In Russian (one of my former professions), there was a saying in the days of universal censorship: “This one’s for the drawer.” Or, “He writes strictly for the drawer”—i.e., with no hope of publication. Even in the era of samizdat, a practice of illegal home-based publishing, writing for the drawer meant that an author was brave enough to put unflattering ideas about the Soviet system down on paper. Sadly, his or her readership remained limited to a circle of trusted friends.

She continues:

In an American context, where being ignored is far more likely than being censored, writing “for the drawer” suggests the author has lost the will to keep seeking the golden fleece of publication. Given up on sharing his or her work with anyone, anywhere.
Anesa’s words immediately struck a chord with me. For anyone who has followed my blog since I started it over five years ago, you know how long it took finally to get any of my work published. What you don’t know—because I have always been very cautious about publicly sharing the nitty-gritty of finally gaining and eventually losing a publisher—is how I ended up self-publishing, that is, how I felt about my publishing journey, the highs and the lows. As I corresponded with Anesa and read more of her blog, I realized that although our publishing paths have differed, we shared many of the same feelings about our work and trying to get it out where it could be read and hopefully appreciated. Anesa has graciously invited me to her blog to tell about how I eventually found a publisher and what lead me to choose the path of independently publishing even while with a traditional publisher. If you are curious about my Inside Scoop, stop over at Anesa’s blog!


Interestingly, over the past several months as I corresponded with Anesa, I found out that she was on the verge of publishing her debut literary novel, Our Orbit, and by chance we ended up publishing the very same week. I’ve just begun reading Our Orbit, a novel about the conflicts that arise when nine-year-old Miriam—with a fundamentalist Christian background—finds herself in foster care trying to adapt to a secular lifestyle while struggling not to lose her connection to the past and her oddball and radical family. Our Orbit, captures the tension between modernity and tradition in the Appalachian corner of bellwether Ohio. Amid the conflicts of finely drawn and compelling characters, Anesa provides a glimpse of the spirit that binds us in our common humanity. I’m really enjoying this read. Can’t wait to find out how it ends!


Monday, July 21, 2014

Why Glasnost and Insanity?


I know that on this blog I’m supposed to share my thoughts on my writing process, but to be honest, when I’m writing, well, I’m just not in the mood to write blog posts. My focus is on finishing the story! When a story morphs from 'my work-in-progress' into a published novel, that’s when I have more time and inclination to share, which I have been doing more of lately—today’s post is a case in point … sort of. I’m actually sharing on someone else’s blog. If you are curious about what inspired Blind Stitches and why I chose to write about insanity and set the story during the Glasnost era—and what about those chickens! head on over to Long and Short Reviews where I tell all (okay, not all, but more information than I have posted here on my own blog).

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Blind Stitches! Now Available! — And an Interview!

I’m a little ahead of schedule—Blind Stitches is now up and running!

Not only that, but I have the pleasure of answering a few questions for one of my readers, Ariffa Bevin, about Blind Stitches, Portrait of a Girl Running and Portrait of a Protégé, and also my writing process—even some bits of information that I’ve never shared on this bog. Go have a look!

Ariffa read my two Portrait novels recently and contacted me. One of the best perks of writing and publishing is finding out that a complete stranger has read your work and enjoyed it enough to send off an email. Come to find out, Ariffa has also recently published a novel, Kingdom of the Sun.

Ariffa’s novel, to quote her, “… reflects the desire that most of us have to make a change, whether it be in the world or in our own lives, and how we may lack the strength or the courage to do it. The novella highlights the significance of what it truly means to be educated as well as the power that one possesses when they are.” Sounds like my kind of story! I’m looking forward to reading it now that I have Blind Stitches up and out. 

Oh, and here’s where you can find Blind Stitches:
·         Amazon paperback
·         Kindle
·         iTunes
·         Smashwords

It will soon be available through Barns & Noble (paperback and Nook), Kobo, Indiebound, and loads of other online ebook retailers!

If you do read Blind Stitches and care to leave a review on Goodreads or Amazon, or anywhere else, that would be grand!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Uncharted: Story for a Shipwright—The Perfect Summer Read!

In case you are looking for a good summer read, I'm offering Uncharted: Story for a Shipwright eBooks for $0.99 until the end of the month! Reviewers call it the perfect beach read!



Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Blind Stitches—Preparing to Launch!

I'm down to the nitty-gritty of getting Blind Stitches published by July 15th. If anyone is interested in a free ARC (advance reader copy) for the purpose of reading and writing an honest review, please email me at bridget at jbchicoine dot com

In case you're curious, here's what it's about:

Nikolai Solvay has been dreading his sister’s wedding, but when his father dies unexpectedly two weeks beforehand, his return to New Hampshire promises to rake up his worst nightmares. 

Meanwhile, talented young seamstress Juliet Glitch has been putting the finishing touches on the wedding dress. Mother of the bride—former prima ballerina and Russian expatriate—asks Juliet if she ‘would hem her blind son Nikolai’s trousers for the funeral’ … and the wedding. 

When Juliet meets Nikolai, he draws her into the whirlwind of his unraveling family that makes her own quirky domestic situation seem normal. Confronted with the Solvay’s delusions and narcissism, Juliet must decide if her developing relationship with Nikolai is worth the turmoil as she deals with her own unreconciled past. 

Either way, Nikolai cannot stave off the repressed memories surrounding his mother’s defection from the Soviet Union twenty years earlier. Against the backdrop of autumn 1989, during the Glasnost era, Nikolai’s family secrets crash alongside the crumbling Berlin Wall.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Some Happy News!


I think I will be forever awkward about announcing such things, but I am really happy that Portrait of a Girl Running received a finalist award in the 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards! I don’t know if it will have an impact on anything like sales or popularity, but I do get a Finalist Certificate, a medal, some gold award stickers, and my book will be listed as a Finalist in the 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards catalog which will be distributed at Book Expo America in New York this week. I won't be attending the awards ceremony in NYC, but I am grateful for the recognition.



Wednesday, May 21, 2014

From Concept to Cover: Blind Stitches Update

It takes me a long time to design a book cover (probably one of the reasons I don’t do it for hire). I usually have an idea or concept in mind, and as soon as I compile the basics, I can’t wait to share, like here, on my blog. I also assign it as my computer desktop background so I can stare at it for a long time, or glance at it quickly and regularly. That way I determine its strengths and weaknesses, both in content and compositionally. The result of my last, weeks-long staring episode is significant—and really a no-brainer. The sheer cloth of the initial layout lacked interest and a human element, which I think is important when there’s an underlying love story. But it’s more than a love story, it’s a psychological drama set against an absurd backdrop.

Blind Stitches is about a ‘vicariously-delusional’* blind artist and a seamstress, and the painting of a dress that brings them together in a suspenseful tale of twisted family dynamics.

In this version of the cover, I think the painting makes all the difference. My artist husband  rendered it in the same Impressionist style that Nikolai—the purportedly blind artist—painted his sister’s wedding dress, designed after his delusional mother’s ballerina costume and modeled by … well, I don’t want to give it all away. Let’s just say it’s all rather twisted.

*Yes, I made up that term; you won’t find it in any psychology textbook.