I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney
The psychological thriller is my favorite genre to read. Packed with creepy surprises and unexpected turns, these stories are some of my favorites. Alice Feeney's "I Know Who You Are" is one that delivers on all counts. This book is filled with twists and turns that are easy to navigate, but rarely take you where you expect to go. And, her ending is a complete surprise... right down to the last sentence from the main character. Nothing is as it seems in this creepy tale.
I enjoy Feeney's ability to meld the past with the present in her writing. She gives you backstory not by simple plot exposition, as so many other authors do; instead, she allows the characters to tell and show their own backstory by living through their histories in real time. In other works, this jumping from past to present and back to past can sometimes be confusing, almost like two different stories happening simultaneously. But Feeney has the distinct ability to run both timelines in parallel, which keeps you engaged in both times, and with all the characters in the today and the before. It's fantastic skill.
This is another of those rare instances where I was treated with "Wow!" on the last page, and then ten full minutes of silence while I digested the experience. I read this in audio book, and I must say, the narrator's tone, acumen with the pregnant pause, and slight voice changes made the work more enjoyable. I highly recommend this book, if you like endings that grab your attention.
This is the second installment of this series... a story about Mary Jekyll, Diana Hyde, Catherine Moreau, Justine Frankenstein,, Beatrice Rappaccini, and Lucinda Van Helsing. All are the daughters of their scientist fathers who have questionable moral values when it comes to genetic manipulation. Together, the women make up The Athena Club, and are dedicated to helping save other women facing a similar fate to escape the controlling scientists in their lives, all members of the Alchemical Society.
This book, similar to the first, takes the women on tenuous adventures across Europe, where they encounter strange circumstances and even stranger people. They are faced with mystery and danger at nearly every turn, and must face it all alone through their own special skills, wit, and snark.
As with the first book, Catherine Moreau is the chronicler of their adventures, and frequently records the other women's comments within the text, as they all sit down to read the manuscript together in a sort of critique and editorial session before publication. I find Goss' technique here quite entertaining. It's almost like you have a secret window not only into the adventure, but also into the mind of a fictional author, and by extension, into the mind of Goss, herself. It really is quite delightful.
I would call this book a cozy mystery for those who enjoy the horror genre... it's a new approach to the topic matter that will keep your attention well to the last pages.
Again, I read the audio book version, and found the narrator to be equally skilled the second time around. It's certainly worth your time.
So much of life (and book festivals) is throwing noodles at the wall to see what sticks. What slides down the wall to the floor, you let the dogs eat. What sticks, teaches you that you got something right, and then you reproduce the steps you took, and enjoy the fact that you get to eat more great pasta than you let the dogs eat. There are so many factors involved in this experiment, it can be challenging. The definitive recipe book for this has yet to be written.
Which Pasta Company Makes The Best Noodles?
Do I have the right brand of pasta at the start? This is a tough one. You want to choose a brand that you think people will notice, one they are familiar with, one they've experienced before. I really thought I covered this detail well. The brand I chose was well-known, and large enough to be seen from all four directions... but I guess it wasn't familiar to enough people, because some still had trouble noticing it. So, perhaps not the right brand of pasta. Not a terrific start to dinner.
Are there obstructions between the pantry where you keep the pasta and the stove where you eventually will cook the pasta? Do you need to step over things like trucks, piles of sand, broken pieces of flooring? This is difficult to predict. Of course, if when you make plans for pasta night, and you know you're renovating the kitchen the same day, you probably don't want to cook pasta that night, and maybe do burgers on the grill, in the back yard instead. But, if you made plans for pasta dinner in advance, and the ceiling falls in, damaging the floor in the process... well, there's not much you can do about that. Unforeseen issues may arise, stuff you can't plan for, but you go ahead with your pasta dinner anyway, because you promised people you'd make pasta. So you dodge the cracks in the floor and the piles of drywall, navigating carefully around them to get to the stove, working hard not to spill the huge pot of water. Stuff happens that we can't control sometimes; but we make the best of it.
So, you've got a really nice pasta dinner planned, and you've told everyone you know. You sent out colorful, nifty invitations. You've told them about the kind of sauce you'll be using, the mountains of cheese that will be available, and you've even offered meat or meatless options. You tell every one of your friends, and you invite them to tell their friends, because after all, a pasta dinner is so much fun, you want to share it with as many people as you possibly can. You spend time posting flyers at local meeting places around town, places that don't usually serve pasta (and some that do), you send out several emails and redundant social media postings about the snazzy dinner you're hosting, and you send letters to the local media to let them know how cool your pasta dinner will be... you can only hope everyone will tell the world, or at least everyone within a twenty mile drive.
Pasta Dinner Day
So, you've got your pot of boiling water filled with noodles on the stove, and you add a bit of salt, just to make sure the pasta will cook evenly. You make sure there's plenty of garlic bread, and extra cheese... just in case. You set out the tables and chairs, and make sure that everyone has easy access to the bathrooms... again, just in case. You put out six large signs on the roads to direct people to the kitchen, and another just inside the door, hoping people will see them and make their way to your table in droves. You grab the camera, and get ready for some fun pasta dinner hi-jinks because, let's face it, your friends are the BEST at having a good time when they get to share pasta and talk about EVERYTHING they love about noodles.
Your Friends Arrive Hungry, But...
This is a good thing. You've cooked the pasta and thrown it against that wall. Most of it sticks, but there are a few pieces that fall to the floor. But, with a golden retriever and a little terrier, there's no worry of ants ruining dinner. So you press on. All is going well, you're all set up around the table, ready to share a splendiferous meal with a crowd of pasta enthralled people... but no one shows up. Well, okay, a few trickle in here and there... but not nearly as many as you had planned on, or hoped for. You're disappointed, of course, everyone is. You had really hoped that your friends would scream about this pasta dinner from the rooftops, but it appears that they didn't tell anyone. Or maybe your friends don't have any friends who like pasta, or at least, not this particular brand. You hoped that the local media would scream about it, too, but... crickets. So, everyone packs up and goes home, frustrated and feeling let down because you promised them a remarkable pasta dinner with tons of people, and it just didn't work out that way. You feel a little like a fraud and a lot like a failure.
The Next Day
After contemplating the pasta dinner over a cup of cocoa, and going over where things went wrong, you come to a few conclusions.
First, you should have anticipated that not everyone likes your brand of pasta. They're not used to seeing the green box, and so they didn't really notice the trouble you went to in buying the best brand you could find... while staying within your budget. You probably should have thought this through and asked people ahead of time what brand of pasta they preferred. That may have enticed more people to come to dinner.
Second, you should have checked more than six months in advance to see if any demolition work was planned for that section of the kitchen before you chose the date for your dinner. And in fact, you did, but either the renovations that took place wren't planned, or the workmen didn't bother to tell you... it's hard to nail down the truth on that one because contractors can be so unpredictable.
Third, you realize that you should have had more signs, more cheese, more bathrooms, and more time to take photos. Perhaps a clown or pony rides would have helped, too. But, you had a limited budget based on what your friends were willing to kick in for this awesome dinner, and there wasn't anything left for fun frills like that... so, dinner wasn't all that much fun. None of your friends offered to help, either, and you felt rude and awkward at the idea of delegating or asking for more money. A couple people even left the dinner early. Disheartened, you pack up your leftover pasta, and go home. The leftover pasta, and cheese, and garlic bread are all spoiled now, and you've lost a ton of money, and there's nothing left to give to charity. At this point, even the dogs aren't interested in cleaning up what's left.
Out of desperation, you write a note to all your friends. You tell them that you had planned to host another pasta dinner party in a few months, but after the utter failure you just experienced, you just aren't sure that's such a good idea. So, you ask for their feedback. You ask them to hide their identities so they can feel at ease in being brutally honest. After all, false feedback doesn't help anyone make a better pasta party. What you get back is indeed, brutally honest. But it's not incredibly helpful. There's a lot of critique, but not many specific suggestions on how to improve. Frustration looms large.
Finally, after much thought, a review of the financials, and a conversation with the dogs about their lack of interest in pasta, you make the decision NOT to host another pasta party. Although it's a lot of fun, it's too much work for just one person. And let's face it, you're not as young as you used to be. You contemplate that perhaps the dinner would have been more fun if you had spent more money on things like a balloon animal guy, a marching band, and a gigantic full-page ad in every newspaper in town, but you didn't want to ask your friends to pay more than the pasta dinner was actually worth; 'cus you know, that's all sorts of fun once, but then who wants to spend that kind of money on another pasta dinner party, like EVER?
There's a lot of sadness when you stare at the leftover noodles the next day, and even two days later when they're stinking up the kitchen, and realize that perhaps no matter what you try, people will NEVER like your pasta. So, you accept it and move on. Thinking that perhaps making chocolate chip cookies and only sharing them with your closest friends is a better idea.
I've always believed in the idea of doing what works and not doing what doesn't work... so, no more pasta dinner parties for me. But... I still like pasta. If you're hosting a pasta dinner party someday, I'd love it if you would include me on the guest list - and you can be sure, I'll tell the world!
Translation: Although fun for me, The Summer Indie Author Book Festival 2019 was a complete and utter failure. Pages Promotions will not be hosting another Indie Book Festival. If you already reserved a table for future planned events, your refund will be processed shortly. We appreciate your patience. Thank you.
Birthday Reflections 2019
So, this year marks my 55th trip around the sun. So far, it's been a fun ride. Every year as June 14th (my actual birth date) comes around, I sit back and reflect on where I've been, how I've grown, and I realign my goals for the next year. I tend to look into the reflecting pond at this time of year, rather than in January, with the rest of humanity for two reasons:
First, It's cold in January, and I'm usually still in hibernation mode, trying to keep the old processes warm, adding kindling to the fire that keeps the past year's goals breathing; no small feat. It's tough to keep things growing in the arctic frost. Drake tends to migrate during the cold of winter, so no great help there.
Secondly, everyone else on the planet seems to take that same month to reflect, and albeit with good intentions, I think, also with a foreshadowing of acceptable neglect. The people I've come in contact with, those that make "new years' resolutions", tend to choose things that they don't really want, so that they don't feel like failures when they don't achieve their goals; and they know they won't, because everyone else fails, too. It's rare for your peer group to rave with you when you celebrate a January resolution. Usually, they feign happiness for you, secretly, or not so secretly, frustrated that they couldn't stick to it. Regret is at a high premium in February... I think that's why Hallmark came out with Valentines' Day, so we'd have something to look forward to.
I simply don't like setting myself up to be surrounded by that kind of negative energy, or failure. So, I wait until I feel like my head is in a space where I can reflect and follow my goal setting path with conviction. I do this during a time when we least expect failure - both me and those around me. For some reason, when you announce to the world that you are going to do things differently, and it's not January, there is an energy shift that works to your benefit, rather than your detriment. I like taking advantage of that... the fact that my birthday just so happens to fall during a time of comfort and renewal doesn't hurt, either.
I've raised an amazing little person who has grown into an incredible man... I married an incredible man who has grown into an amazing husband... I've learned more about business than I ever thought possible in one year... I've started a new business... I've established a TV program... I've made a ton of new friends... I've reconnected with some old friends... I've said goodbye to a beloved dog and I've invited a new puppy into my life... I've written more words toward publishing more books... and I've read more words written by spectacular authors. I've spent time sharing with people I care about, and continue to be a cheerleader for those who sincerely want to move their lives and their creativity forward.
How does one celebrate another year? For me, it's all about zero stress. I escaped the "regular world" for a few days, choosing that time to live off-grid and nearer to nature. I feel most at peace when I'm at our little cabin in the woods. And even closer to peace when the rain lasts for hours, and the thunder reminds me of my insignificance. There's something refreshing about being reminded about my smallness in the world. It relieves the pressure of all I want to do, and allows me the energy to simply do what I can... well.
Over the decades of my introspective journey, I've tried to establish a pattern of living that includes this path:
Choose a Goal... Apply Intention... Make A Viable Plan... Research and Learn about what needs to be done... Take Action... Manifest the Outcome... Enjoy the Celebration... Rest... Repeat.
In the coming year, my focus will be on WRITING AND READING BOOKS! There are four writing projects that I have started, each (of course) in a different genre, and each with at least a five-digit word count already created. This indicates to me that Drake thinks they should be written. I've also amassed a TBR shelf that is about forty books long (and I'd really like to buy more). So, I'm resurfacing as a Writer and Reader for 2019. Sure, I'm also pursuing my business and community service work - but that's only because boredom and hunger aren't any fun. But primarily, my emotional energy - and that really is what we're talking about when we discuss re-evaluating one's direction in life - will be focused on writing and reading.
Each November, I try to participate in a program called NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. The challenge, 30 days, 50,000 words. It's absolutely a challenge easily reached - it's just 1,667 words per day, after all. I do that in a blog post - sometimes in an hour. However, waiting until November each year messes with my intention and momentum. So this year, I'm doing what I'm calling, NaNoWriMo 365. Yes, I'm making a commitment to write a minimum of 1,667 words every day from now until June 14, 2020. On days when I miss, I'm making up for it on another day. I allow myself this little bit of wiggle room because sometimes life intercedes into our strongest intentions and derails our concerted action toward our goals. We become ill and need to recover... We need to celebrate the lives of others... Sometimes, we just need to sleep and recharge after a particularly grueling moment or two; and sometimes, the momentum is so strong that it's difficult to stop - that's when we can take advantage and move a bit slower on a day afterward. So, I've downloaded a word count tracker to my phone and I'm keeping a log of my daily word counts. I'm devoting Monday and Wednesday evenings to sacred writing time, and turning on the focus.
The reading goal is a little bit trickier. I spend so much of my time writing, that I don't indulge myself that down time I used to allow for curling up with a good book and a cup of cocoa on the couch. So, I'm allowing myself "old fashioned reading". What does that mean, exactly? Well, remember when you were a kid and your parents, or a teacher at school used to read out loud to you? We all still considered that reading - we were just doing it orally. We called it storytelling, and I'm embracing that again, now. Instead of criticizing myself for not actually picking up a book and turning pages whenever I want to, I'm allowing myself to read via storytelling... or as we like to say in the 21st century, audio books. Whenever I get in the car, fold laundry, or clean the house, I'm listening to audio books instead of being distracted by television, and my goodness, is it fun! Nothing passes the time like a really great story read out loud. In fact, I'm hearing some new vocabulary words I've not run across before - and when you consider the size of the dictionary, it's not a great surprise. So, just like being in class in second grade, I'm learning, too. Tone inflection, empathy of character, pronunciation, definition within context, secrets about craft that you can only learn from another's mystical practice of putting words to paper, and most curiously, a magical effect on time - from dull to exciting. It's amazing what oral reading can do for you.
Now, don't misunderstand, I am not abdicating printed books for the audio ones... I'm just doing both. My goal is to read two books each month, one orally, one from the printed page (or perhaps digital page). The pure joy of this is to acknowledge that we can get story into our heads in a myriad of ways now, and we shouldn't feel "less than" simply because we're taking advantage of all the methods at our disposal, rather than remaining vigilant to only one. Truth be told, there are some books that I simply haven't been able to find in physical form, but can find them digitally - so I think that's a win - a book discovered and read is wonderment, no matter the form of it's delivery.
So, two books read per month, and 1,667 words written per day, tracking both. I could use a good mutual accountability buddy in human form, but the truth of the matter is that I have yet to find someone with my tenacity for follow through, who can also be nice, as well as firm, with reminders. It's a rare combination. So, my digital nagging system will have to suffice, for now.
The rest of my energy will be spent with those daily "keeping myself alive and the household going" things, as always.
And we will see what my reflection looks like when staring into the pool of my 56th year.
You'll find some interesting stuff here... some Op Eds, some Information, Book Reviews, and More. Poke around the categories and see what ruffles your feathers... in a good way!