Monday, October 24, 2011

What I Do About Loss

It's been a rough month or so. It all started when my little schnauzer, Trey, was following me up the stairs, you know like velcro dogs do. I turned around and gave him a quick scratch under the chin like he likes. That's when I noticed two little lumps on his neck. I felt them for a moment, muttering under my breath, "well that doesn't feel right," and then went about my day. The next day I called the vet and to make a long, painful story short, it was determined that Trey had lymphoma, a very aggressive form of cancer.

It went from oh-that-doesn't-feel-right, to three weeks later taking him for the last time to the Vet for a quiet push across the Rainbow Bridge.

As you can imagine, the grief of losing one of my best friends has taken its toll on everything else in my life. I found myself completely unable to do any writing. Sitting down at my computer would just remind me of the fuzzy foot rest I always had at my feet and the random pictures in my computer containing a face or tail or leg of Trey, always in the background, always part of the family.

So I threw myself into some art projects. My sister-in-law, Brittany, replaced all of the old, wooden windows in her house a few months ago. While visiting her one day, I saw that she'd taken some of the old windows and hung them on her walls. They looked awesome and rustic and I asked if she had any more. Yup.

So I took these...

and turned them into these...

I still have one more window to fill and currently have a watercolor in the works starring my youngest son as a toddler staring out the window with his gray, fuzzy friend, Mr. Trey-Trey.

The thing is, a few days ago I was finally able to open my laptop and continue the mountains of work I'd been neglecting. I guess time does heal wounds, or at least numbs them enough to help us continue on. And cathartic art projects help too.

I have Trey's collar hanging above my desk and I'm still prone to weeping if I sit and think too long about his soft ears or his waggling tail (there may or may not be tears wetting my keyboard right now), but at least I'm able to get back to work and do things like signing my three book contract *damp grin* and editing, editing editing.

P.S. Since things have been generally sucky, I did finally manage to get the free book MONARCH out to the respective winner but I did it without any fanfare (I haven't been in the mood for fanfare). In fact I simply drew the name out of a hat (a black fedora I borrowed from my long-haired preteen), contacted the winner and sent it to them in the mail. Sorry, folks, the contest is over. There was a lucky winner who is now happily caressing their not so new, well-loved copy. :)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

MONARCH by Michelle Argyle--book review

I met Michelle at a baby shower for a mutual friend a few months ago and instantly hit it off. She writes thrillers, I write thrillers. She’s very savvy in regards to the publishing industry and is fantastic at marketing her work. In a word, Michelle is brilliant. And did I mention that she designed her cover? Oh yeah, baby!

So naturally, when I had the opportunity to read and review her debut novel MONARCH, I was super excited.

Nick’s life as a VIA spy should be fulfilling, but it has only given him unhappiness—a wife who committed suicide and two daughters who resent everything he has become. Now, stuck in the Amazon on the last mission of his career, he must track down Matheus Ferreira, a drug lord and terrorist the U.S. has tried to bring down for years. If he succeeds, he’ll have the chance to start his life over again.

Just when Nick is on the brink of catching Ferreira, he’s framed for a murder that turns his world upside down. His only chance of survival lies in West Virginia where Lillian Love, a woman from his past, owns the secluded Monarch Inn. He’s safe, but not for long . . .

Monarch is a fast, interesting read. The characters are complex, the plotline compelling and the monarch butterfly symbolism created a great thread to tie everything together.

I’ll admit though that I had trouble getting into this novel. As you know, I write thrillers. I love thrillers and everything about them so when I picked up Monarch expecting the super-duper speed and action of a thriller I’m afraid I was disappointed. I couldn’t pin it down for the longest time. Why couldn’t I get into this book like I had so many thrillers before? Well it took a long time to pin it down but I finally figured it out while listening to an episode of Writing Excuses by the phenomenal Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells and friends about making promises to your readers.

Authors make a promise to a reader by the book blurb, the opening chapter, the title, the cover and multiple things in between the covers that the writer must deliver on or risk disappointing their readers. However the very first promise we make is through our book genre.

Monarch is marketed as a thriller and technically has all the earmarks of a thriller. CIA Agent, guns, life threatening situations, dead bodies. However, the real genre of the novel doesn’t technically exist.

This is a book about relationships, thus when it didn't thrill me like a thriller...well there was my problem. Anyone know the genre name for relationship books? I don't. Don’t say romance because it’s not the same, and there’s way too much angst and fighting in this book to be considered Chiclit.

So we have guy meets girl, girl meets guy. Guy likes girl, girl likes guy. Guy betrays girl, girl betrays guy, like, hate, will we, won’t we, etc. etc. This is what the book is about. The balance of thriller vs. relationship leans way too much on the relationship side for this to be considered a thriller. I understand the need to be able to place it somewhere on a shelf, but will someone please create a relationship genre for these books so they don’t get overlooked or lost in the wrong-ish genre category?

I don’t say any of this in anyway to trash on MONARCH. I love Michelle and appreciate all the work she’s put into making this novel the best it can be . . . Michelle Argyle style. As a relationship book it works very well and does have its share of thrilling moments. However if you’re looking for a thriller and are expecting one, you will be disappointed as a whole. Read it for what it is, rather than what it’s marketed as and I think you will find it quite enjoyable.

I have an advanced reading copy available to one lucky commenter. Yes, it’s the same one I read so it might have some telltale signs of wear since I love to cuddle my books to death . . . erm, so with that little disclaimer, comment anyway, yo.