Monday, December 8, 2014

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

So, I just received 25 complimentary 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 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 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.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Cats vs Chickens

Who hasn’t heard of the expression Cat Lady, and usually in conjunction with crazy? Maybe you personally know a Crazy Cat Lady. The fact of the matter is, especially with all the cute kitty pictures popping up all over the place on the internet, Cat Lady has become so cliché. The concept of accumulating—or hording—pets, though, is still quirky, to say the least and makes for an interesting character embellishment.

In Blind Stitches, one of the characters—Aunt Anita—is a hoarder and a collector of not only things but pets, originally cats. Then I got talking with a friend, and in conversation about his upbringing on a farm, he divulged something so odd and amusing I just knew I needed to include it in a story. Chickens. They raised chickens and also had a few as pets—yes, chickens make fine pets and they can even be house-trained, although my friend and his 5 brothers never brought them in the house. What I found so amusing, in a twisted sort of way, was that when the chickens died—the pet chickens, not the ones destined for the pot after they no longer laid eggs—they ‘planted’ the chicken in the ‘chicken cemetery’ with their feet sticking up out of the ground like branches reaching for the sky. I have to say, I was at first stunned and then couldn’t stop laughing at the visual it conjured. And they would tag the feet, hanging little signs on the talons with the chicken’s name. Perfect!

Personally, I’ve never come across a Chicken Lady—I’m sure there are a few out there, but that designation is by no means cliché! And what’s even better is that chickens fit perfectly into the Blind Stitches storyline and help define not only the oddball Aunt, but the enigmatic young Romeo who has Asperger’s, and yes, he even knows how to house-train chicks! The free range chickens also emphasizes the stigma that poor Juliet has been trying to shed since she was a child, given that the three live on the fringes of an elite little New England town.

Oh, and I have one more bit of news—my husband, Todd, is currently working on an oil painting of a ballerina dress for my cover, in a style along the lines of which Nikolai would paint--sort of Impressionistic. The cover concept remains the same as I last posted, but it will provide a better nuance for the genre, which will likely fall into the Romantic Suspense. Or, hmm … maybe Dark Humor—is that a genre? or Quirky Psychological. Hmm ....

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Blind Stitches Cover & Progress

I have been making headway on BLIND STITCHES. My first round of edits are done, I have the cover copy (description for the back cover) and a cover concept. Hopefully the cover conveys a psychological drama feel with a hint of romance and mystery. I’m open to suggestions and observations.
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. 
Next, another round of beta readers, more edits ... more edits ... and more edits .... 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Blind Stitches and Winter Survival

No, I haven’t fallen off the grid—okay, I might have slipped the grid a little, but I’ve not done so in my usual winter slump. I’d like to think it’s because after years of practice, I’ve learned how to survive winter a little better. No, full-spectrum lighting is not part of my W.S.K, (and as soon as I post this—just because I have posted this—I may very well fall into a deep dark place), and I haven’t returned to medication (aside from an occasional glass of wine in front of my keyboard). And in spite of the brutal cold outside that started in November and is now stretching into March (many mornings, like as this morning, it has been well below zero), this winter has flown by for me. My secret? I’ve been completing my first draft of my next novel, formerly known as Blind Sight.

Now that the first draft is complete, a more appropriate title has emerged, BLIND STITCHES It fits much better since one of the main POV characters is a seamstress, and the other is vicariously ‘blind’—that is, his delusional mother believes he is blind.

Having said thatabout not falling into my usual winter slumpI must add a disclaimer about the way winter may have affected my writing. BLIND STITCHES is a little on the darker side, psychologically speaking. Then again, it’s difficult for me to be objective about my novels, especially when it comes to gauging how dark, or twisted, or disturbing my readers might consider them. I will admit to a sensitive constitution—I don’t like horror stories, and while I enjoy the occasional thriller, it takes my nervous system days to recover. So, what I consider dark may seem merely ‘dim’ to someone else.

I don’t have a projected date of publication for BLIND STITCHES, but I anticipate having it out there within the next six months. I need time away from it while it’s out with my beta readers, and I will use that time to read some Russian literature and to work on the cover layout.

Meanwhile, Portrait of a Girl Running has received some nice reviews and mentions—check these out if you are inclined:

And I would especially like to thank a loyal reader whom I shall refer to as Mr. Left8, from over on the WoodenBoat Forum, who started a really nice post about mybooks. (For my long-time readers, you may recall that when I wrote Uncharted: Story for a Shipwright, I spent a fair amount of time researching over at the WoodenBoat Forum, and it was grand fun!) That thread, and those who contributed to it, were a huge perk that helped me stay out of the doldrums! 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Not All 17-year-old Young Adult Characters Have Superpowers!

Okay, yeah, I know this isn't earth-shattering news. But it's a way Raven Reviews opens an interview with me.* I quote:
"Lately, it seems all young adult novels involve a seventeen year old who either have a supernatural secret or find out he or she is a supernatural. Then I came across this next book where the teen was being raised by a black man and a white man and no mother. And they are always on the move. It seems strange, right? Then, the main character falls in love with her track coach. Seems like a lot of stuff going on here. I decided to take a closer look at the book and the author."
If you care to read the interview, head on over to Raven Reviews and find out what inspired Portrait of a Girl Running. There is also a link to an excerpt of the first chapter.

I did warn you I'd be doing some promotion of this book, didn't I?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Pushing the Limits of Absurdity

I suppose I ought to post something now that it’s the beginning of a new year—and I thought I’d provide an update on what I’ve been up to, writing-wise. Blind Sighted was slow starting, but now I’m nearly 20k words into the story;  the characters and plot are beginning to take shape. I still have a lot of research to do in the following categories:

  • Sino-Russian relations during the cold war
  • The Berlin Wall
  • The Russian ballet and costumes
  • Delusional Disorder
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder
  • Asperger’s Syndrome
  • Common Russian expressions
  • Being a professional seamstress in an upper-class, small New England community—Oh, wait, I don’t have to research that—I already have personal experience!

Hopefully this gives you a hint about what this story entails, and yeah, I will be pushing the envelope of absurdity—I mean, the main POV character’s name is Juliet, and her brother’s name is Romeo. Seriously. What kind of a mother names her children Rome and Juliet, especially with a last name Glitch!? And let’s not forget Kim (the poor guy whose delusional mother believes he’s blind). When a girl’s life already pushes the boundaries of absurdity, it’s easy for someone else’s absurd life to draw her in—dangerously easy.

I’ve also decided to do a little book promotion for Portrait of a Girl Running, and its sequel Portrait of a Protégé. I’ve been reading up on marketing books in this ever-evolving world of publishing, and it seems that slow and steady has more of an impact on long-term marketing than the old model of creating a huge bang at a book’s release (yeah, I’ve been reading Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s blog). That said, now, a couple of months after the release of my Portraits novels, you will see me doing what I didn’t think I’d ever get up the gumption to do—promote my books (with the help of publicist Paula Margulies, because you know I wouldn’t do it on my own!).

That said, I should plug my networking stuff, so, if you'd like to follow me on Twitter or Facebook, that would be okay with me! My books are also on Goodreads ... in case you were wondering ....

Meanwhile, here’s an absurd song I wish I could use as my theme music for Blind Sighted—sort of.

Friday, November 29, 2013

When Amityville Is Your Hometown

Now that I have decided to forgo a formal outline for Blind Sighted, I’m diving into writing and thinking about settings. Should I use a fictional New England town, or an actual, real-life village? I was faced with the same question when I wrote my other novels. In Uncharted, I went with fictional, just so I could contrive the quintessential coastal-Maine community. With Portrait of a Protégé, sequel to Portrait of a Girl Running, I chose a true-to-life setting—the Sunapee Lake Region in New Hampshire, even naming some establishments in the community—but with Girl Running, I had a dilemma. I wrote with the geography of a particular town in mind—the village I grew up in—Amityville. So much easier than plotting out the ‘floor plan’ of an entirely new imaginary setting.

Since it has been a few years since the debacle, The Amityville Horror, was produced—thirty-four years to be exact—I don’t know … perhaps many people don’t remember the movie. I never saw it, and not just because I have an aversion to horror flicks. There are quite a few of us who still remember the horrible night that spawned the movie. I was an impressionable fourteen years old. I did not personally know the DeFeo family, but their tragedy rocked my safe, predictable, middle-class, ordinary life. Their tragedy was incomprehensible and it still reminds me of how precarious life can be.

Nevertheless, I have many fond memories of growing up in Amityville. It was a unique setting amongst the suburban towns that surrounded it, with its quaint village and mixed racial community. It was not only picturesque (and I believe it remains that way), but it felt safe. For me and my siblings, life happened in a three-mile radius. Aside from occasional trips upstate or to Florida, and out to Iowa to visit grandparents, Amityville, with its nearby beaches—Robert Moses State Park and Gilgo Beach—was all I knew for the first eighteen years of my life. It was only natural for me to write from memory when I constructed Girl Running. Even though at the time I had no plans for publication (that’s what new writers say when they set out to write their first real-live novel!), I was saddened to know that I could never use the actual name Amityville in a fictional setting. So sad, because it even sounds like the perfect fictional setting—Amityville! Doesn’t it conjure images of a happy, safe, amiable place? I mean, the word amity itself means friendly! Alas, I had to alter the name to Millville. Yeah, it’s pretty generic and it still works for fiction, but I would like to have held true to my hometown.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Changes and Alterations

… Speaking of change or growth or self-empowerment, or whatever you want to call it … I think I am forever destined to ride this cycle of discontentment into striving into frustration into acquiescence onto a plateau, rinse and repeat. I value growth exceedingly. I push myself into discomfort in so many aspects of my life, hoping for growth if not enrichment. I have benefited even if at times the results have been harrowing. This means I am also coming to terms with my strengths and weaknesses and my boundaries. These threads weave their way through my life, including the threads of my writing.

All four of my novels took years to sew up—from inception to the story’s conclusion. A lot of that that time was sucked up because of not knowing what I was doing. Too many of my characters were shallow and all over the place. The story arcs seemed to take a circuitous route. And the prose itself was laden with so much unnecessary verbiage. Now that I finally have those books stitched up, pressed, and published, I’ve been thinking about how great it would be to actually know what I’m doing ahead of time—that’s right, OUTLINING! Using an actual pattern instead of simply draping fabric over a forms and seeing what jumps out at me. Outlining is supposed to streamline the whole writing process. And in theory, I really like the concept of outlining—it’s like ultimate control (and yeah, I kind of like to control stuff and know how things will turn out in real life), so what’s not to love about outlining? In fact, the idea of it has made me discontent with my former make-it-up-as-I-go-along approach to writing.

The problem is, all I seem to be doing is hanging around with these new and fascinating yet ethereal characters in my head, but no plot—like laying the pattern on some amazing fabric, but not being able to visualize the garment. Of course, I do have a few plot points—I do know what each character wants and what stands in their way, but I can’t seem to visualize them playing together. They—and their story—have no solidity. It occurs to me that a basic idea is all I’ve ever had when I started writing a story. Yeah, I’d like to say that pushing my brain to work in a different way would make me a better writer, a better person, but good grief—at what point am I just going to accept the way I work creatively and be happy—yes, content—with that?

Okay, there, I said it! I have officially committed to just writing my next novel by the-comfortable-seat-of-my-pants, one stitch at a time. I don’t know how long it will take to sew Bind Sighted together, or how many times I will have to rip out its seams and refit it, but it’s got to be a whole lot better than poking my needle at nothing at all!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Blindsight—Seeing What We Can't See

Because I’ve always written primarily by the seat of my pants, beginning with just an idea and a vague destination, I really want to try out a new approach, which is not new at all—outlining. Part of this approach entails theme (although knowing the theme up front is not absolutely necessary, it’s supposed to be really helpful, and I need all the help I can get!). The theme should help the outline take shape, running its thread throughout and tying everything together. I have never consciously assigned a theme to my stories up front, though by the time I type THE END, the theme is pretty clear.

For my next project, I've been mulling over ideas and keep coming back to a couple of possibilities, one of which I stumbled upon quite by accident. It has to do with the title of this project “Blind Sighted.” Yeah, it's sort of a play on the word blindsided, but it also alludes to the fact that the mother of one of the main characters believes her son is blind—but he’s not! Yes, she’s delusional.

In the process of researching delusional disorders and simply typing “blind sighted” into Google, I came across the medical term, Blindsight. Well, now, this is quite fascinating, I thought, and serendipitous! Blindsight, according to Wikipedia, is the ability of people who are cortically blind due to lesions in their striate cortex … to respond to visual stimuli that they do not consciously see. This cartoon* nicely illustrates it:

So, this idea of responding to visual stimuli without consciously “seeing” it fascinates me! Metaphorically, this seems like something I could expand upon as a theme. I mean, when it comes to relationships, we often tend to wear blinders—it can be very difficult to see a person as they really are. Sometimes, if they are highly-motivated actors, it may takes years. But meanwhile, we generally respond to individuals and navigate relationships intuitively—without conscious reasoning. That may work for a period of time, but often when there is some sort of upheaval, we may suddenly see what we have been previously blind to. Now, add a delusional layer, and I have all sorts of fodder for tension and conflict.

Do we see what we need or want to see in an individual? What happens when imagination or fantasy or delusion meets reality? I can tell you that it is very messy!

*image by Jolyon Troscianko

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Winds of Change

In my last post, I warned you about my big thoughts that turn into ideas, which sometimes get messy. As I analyze the writing books I’ve been reading, it occurs to me that storytelling revolves around change. Yeah, I know that is probably a very elemental idea that surprises no one. I mean, without change, it remains status quo, stagnation, static. Nothing interesting or worthy of writing about. But what is it about change that intrigues us humans?

It has been my personal experience—and my observation of others—that we ultimately don’t like change. Yet we all desire it on some level. I think we would all like to be improved in some way. Yes, I know the mantras, ‘Love yourself as you are’, ‘It’s all about self-acceptance’, “Live in the here and now’. And yet why do we even have to be reminded of those axioms? Because we inherently desire change. We want better, or at least we want different. Unfortunately, it usually requires that the discomfort of status quo becomes more uncomfortable than the what it takes to change.

Stories revolve around change. Good stories revolve around BIG change. Why is big change so riveting? I think it’s like that strong impulse to gawk at a horrible accident as we pass by. We shudder to imagine being the one with such misfortune. It makes us uncomfortable, but for a moment, we consider how changed out little cosmos would be if it were us. Stories are like that, though not always with such morbid overtones.

Chinese Symbol for Change
Think about the big changes in your own life, the positive ones and those that left you bereft. What upheaval did it trigger? Was it a planned change, or one of happenstance? How long did it take to recover, so to speak, or do you still feel the reverberations of that change? Did it change just your circumstances, or did it change you?

This brings me to the point I’ve been thinking on a lot. Do people change? In the books I’ve been reading on the craft of storytelling, the character arc is intrinsic to the story. Some characters change minimally if at all, but they at least incite change in other characters. We want to see characters grow, learn lessons, and to change. We want them to do what we find so difficult. We are fascinated with the process, so fascinated that we don’t want them to change easily. We want a character to overcome big hurdles, either physically or emotionally. But that’s all good and fine in a made up story. We want to believe that people change, but in real life, do we really change? Is this question the reason why we are so taken in by watching characters change, because we are so stuck in our same old stuff?

Don’t get me wrong, I have witnessed some remarkable ‘changes’ in some individuals, that is to say, they have modified their behaviors and outlook if compelled, or even impelled by some internal motivation. But does our core self, that part of us that is formed into 'us' at a very early age, actually change? We may successfully overcome some weakness, but when put to the testusually by something that hits us out of the bluedon’t we still struggle with that weakness? When it comes to stories or real life, is ‘change’ just a matter of modified behaviors? I think perhaps trauma may change a person—rewire their core, but it seems that such a trauma would have to be severe. On the other hand, could something on the opposite end of the scale—some kind of an amazing positive event—likewise have the capacity to change a person’s core?

Not that the 'truth' regarding the matter of change is intrinsic to how my new story will develop. In stories, it’s all about illusion. I will put my characters through changes. Perhaps some will have their core altered, or some will simply modify behaviors—after all, sometimes, that’s as good as it gets. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Blank Pages

It may come as no surprise to some of my readers that I was largely uneducated regarding story structure while writing my first four novels. If I hit on what looks like a preplotted story arc, I attribute it to intuition or gut feeling about how my stories should develop. Now that I have my recent works and also my backlist published, I’m thinking a lot more about how to develop a story—a new story.

I’ve been reading writing blogs long enough to come across a lot of terminology on storytelling. Character archetypes, character arcs, the three act structure, inciting incidents, building tension, climaxes, and the list goes on. Generally, I love reading how-to guides. I am a do-it-yourselfer from way back. But I want to know more than simply the mechanics of something—I crave knowledge of principles, those amazing gems of information that can be applied to so many endeavors.

A while back, I purchased a few books on writing. For a beginner writer, The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman helped me clean up my writing, back when I was primarily interested in snagging an agent. I also enjoyed Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. But the idea of constructing a story—well, I had stories and they were already pretty well formed, so I put the other books, Save the Cat by Blake Snyder and The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Volger on the shelf. They seemed like heavier reading that I would eventually get around to.

In fact, I have finally gotten around to reading them, but with a very specific purpose—I have a few characters with some interesting history, but I have no story. I mean, I know there’s a story to be told about a young man whose mother is delusional—she believes her son is blind. But how to write it! I may be as delusional as my character to think I can pull this one off, but still ... Hmm … this story could take a while … so, I thought I’d work out my process of discovery here on my blog and make this space earn its keep. Unless of course I get sidetracked with something else … Be warned, I sometimes get big ideas, and they often get messy. Now, if I can just avoid Exploding Head Syndrome!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Portrait of a Protégé, sequel to Portrait of a Girl Running, Now Available!

I hadn’t intended to publish Portrait of a Protégé so soon after its prequel, Portrait of a Girl Running, but I ended up working on the publication process for both books simultaneously. Now that Girl Running is available, it seems prudent to have its sequel published and ready to read while the first story is fresh in the reader’s mind. And yeah, I just want these stories done so I can finally focus on other things.

While Portrait of a Girl Running has a Young Adult feel, Portrait of a Protégé can be properly classified as New Adult, since the main character, Leila, is twenty-two and finding her way in the adult world. Here’s the description from the back cover:
Four years after the close of Portrait of a Girl Running, Leila is twenty-two and living on a pretty little lake in New Hampshire. A new set of circumstances throws her into a repeating cycle of grief that twists and morphs into unexpected and powerful emotions. Leila must finally confront her fears and learn to let go while navigating the field of cutting-edge psychology, protecting herself from the capricious winds of Southern hospitality, playing in the backyard of big-money art, and taming her unruly heart. Even her ‘guardian’ has a thing or two he must learn about love and letting go.
Portrait of a Protégé focuses a lot on the question of how we define love, and when it comes to romantic love, where do we set our boundaries? Yes, I push a few boundaries in this story. While I’m not opposed to stirring ambivalence, I just hope my readers find it entertaining and maybe a little thought provoking.

If anyone would like a review copy, just e-mail me (bridget at jbchicoine dot com) and let me know which format you prefer.

Here’s where Portrait of a Protégé is available so far: Amazon (trade paperback); Kindle; Smashwords (all other eReader devices)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Portrait of a Girl Running, Now Available

Well, I didn’t expect to get Portrait of a Girl Running up and out for another few days, but Amazon tells me it is now available … so, I may as well share that news! It has been a long time in coming—’tis probably my favorite, perhaps based solely on it being with me for so long. And yeah, the protagonist is a young artist, so naturally, there is a bit more of ‘me’ in this novel—the artist, not the ‘young,’ hehe.

It's sort of a Young Adult, coming-of-age story but fits just as well in the Adult Fiction category with some romance.  Just to whet your appetite, here’s what it’s about:

All Leila wants is to get through her senior year at her new high school 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. 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.
If anyone would like a review copy , just e-mail me (bridget at jbchicoine dot com) and let me know which format you prefer.

As it becomes available on iTunes and other avenues, I will keep you posted.

Oh, and Portrait of a Protégé should be 'up and out' within a couple of weeks.

Monday, October 7, 2013

UNCHARTED: Story for a Shipwright—Second Edition!

This is a case of ‘I have good news, and I have bad news….’ The bad, well, rather sad news is that my publisher of Uncharted, Rhemalda Publishing, has closed its doors due to some unforeseen events in the lives of those who ran the operation. Sad indeed, as they were a fine publisher to work with, and I hate to see any small press shut downespecially one who spent so much time and energy on my debut novel. The good news—as I choose to view it—is that I have received the ‘reversioning’ rights to Uncharted. This means I will be publishing Uncharted: Story for a Shipwright as a second edition under my own self-publishing entity, Straw Hill Publishing. In fact, I have already done so!

One of the consistent pieces of feedback I have received on Uncharted is that the ending is too abrupt; consequently, I have extended the final page—a bit more of a dénouement. Additionally, I have added an epilogue, a small bit about ‘The Island,’ and a Reader’s Guide. And yeah, the cover is slightly different. I doubt anyone will notice unless I point it out, but the ship Marlena is gazing upon now sits in the Atlantic Ocean where the shipwrecks of the story take place, rather than in the middle of Asia. Okay, yeah, I’m a tad OCD. And I added the subtitle, Story for a Shipwright, to the cover.

The new and revised version of Uncharted: Story for a Shipwright is now available as a trade paperback from Amazon, for your Kindle, and in various eBook formats via Smashwords.

I am also doing a giveaway on Goodreads, so if you'd like to enter to win a copy, head on over!

So that’s my immediate news. Within a week, I should be releasing Portrait of a Girl Running, and soon thereafter, Portrait of a Protégé!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Girl Running: Writer Vulnerability and Peeling Off the Shell

I’ve made another decision regarding Portrait of a Girl Running. I have to admit that I have had mixed feelings about publishing this novel and its sequel, Portrait of a Protégé. Don’t get me wrong, I love these stories. In fact, I wrote Girl Running for my husband nearly seven years ago and it has always been my favorite. Consequently, there is a lot of me in these two stories, much more so than in Uncharted and Spilled Coffee, which are written in first person from a thirty-something male point of view. I’ve thought a lot about why I choose to deliver a story in that fashion, and I think it comes down to vulnerability. To write in a point of view so completely opposite who I am—a fifty-three-year-old woman—is sort of an emotional cloak, a way to protect my “identity.”

When I submitted these stories to my publisher, they turned them down because both stories push societal boundaries. That made me all the more squeamish about publishing them—in fact, I wasn’t sure if I would. But, in my biased, authorly opinion, they are really good stories. I didn’t want them to end up little better than a painting sitting in a portfolio, unseen and unappreciated after all the hard work that when into them. But publishing them means vulnerability—much more so than with my other novels.

So, I thought I’d try to apply a story within a story to Girl Running, as I had with my other novels. I had a really cool idea and went with it. I sent it out to a few readers and received mixed responses. Ultimately, I have come to realize that with my other stories within stories, the “shell” story was intrinsic to the overall plot and enhanced the story within. With this attempt—the shell around Girl Running—I did not succeed. The shell only dilutes Girl Running and distracts my reader from the perfectly good story that Girl Running already is as a standalone story. Indeed, I have come to realize that the shell, which I named The Step-Up Man was actually a way for me to work through my feelings about publishing Girl Running, a way of emotionally distancing myself from the stories, a buffer of sorts.

With the help of several astute and supportive reader/writers, I killed my little darling. I am now brave enough to present Portrait of a Girl Running and Portrait of a Protégé straight up, no dilution required. And I feel really good—no, eager—to publish them once and for all.