Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Spotlight Interview at Story Sessions!

Today I'm getting interviewed over at Story Sessions, regarding the release of The Light Between Us.  Here's a little taste of my conversation with the delightful Suzanne:

If you could be a character in any story that you've ever read, what story would you want to join?  Why?

Oh wow.  What a question!  How can I choose?  Perhaps I could be Bastian of The Neverending Story, stealing away to a musty tumble of blankets in his school's attic to literally fall into the book he was reading.  Or Lucy of The Chronicles of Narnia, with her courage and goodness and faith, not to mention all her adventures. 

Check out the rest of the interview here.  

And guess what?  The Light Between Us is currently $0.99 on Kindle!  Nab it here.  Woohoo!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

On Bellies and Bumps and Body Love

I catch a glimpse of my own swelling belly as I dash about the kitchen from counter to fridge to counter again, preparing breakfast for myself and my toddler son.  Without thinking, I pause, cradle that belly with a tender palm, sending a smile its way.

And then I really pause, frozen in embarrassment even in the privacy of my kitchen.  Because what I am doing?  How dare I cradle the belly that's grown thanks to a flawed diet and a dearth of ab work?  How dare I show love to my round belly when it's not round from a baby?

And it's not like I don't want there to be a baby in there, growing from microscopy into miracle in mere months.  But my husband and I both agree that it's not the right time, not with all that we've got going on, no matter what that taskmaster of a biological clock might be screaming.

Maybe it was wishful thinking, that gentle cradling of my stomach, imagining that it really was full of life.  If I was pregnant, this growth would be just big enough to be declared "showing," an official bump. 

But no, that explanation doesn't seem right.  Because I haven't forgotten that I'm not pregnant.  I could never mistake that, not after all I've been through in the motherhood department. 

No.  I showed my midsection a moment of love because it is.  Because it is mine.

It is my belly, and though it may not be filling with another's life at the moment, it is full of life -- my life.  My years, my history.  It is where the nourishment of my mother's body met mine before I took my first breath.  It is where I cradled my babies before their skin kissed sunlight.

It is my belly, and it is rounder than society says it should be, but I say that I love my bump.  How many years have I spent rejecting my stomach, sucking it in, comparing its [non]flatness to other feminine bellies, glaring at its profile in the mirror? 

How dare I allow anyone, allow myself, to call the seat of womanhood, the core of my core of my core, this amniotic home of two and deathbed of one anything but holy, holy, holy?

I can't.  I won't.  I can't. 

Not for
one
second

longer.

Welcome home to your whole self, my darling soul, my dearest body, my imperfect person.  You are loved -- all of you.  All of me.  All of we.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Finding Home {Atlas Girl Blog Tour}

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0801016568/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0801016568&linkCode=as2&tag=kitchcoura-20
This post is part of the Atlas Girl Blog Tour. To learn more and join us, click here

I wanted to take a few moments to introduce you to a writer friend of mine.  You may already know her -- she is the author of several books and an award-winning journalist, not to mention a prolific blogger.  But just in case you don't, meet Emily Wierenga.  She is a sweet and kind soul who cares deeply.  While our theology -- or lack thereof -- doesn't always line up, I can't deny this powerful caring that Emily lives and walks and breathes.  I don't just mean in general, either -- I also mean for me, specifically.  And that means the world to me.

Emily has a new book out, Atlas Girl.  This memoir is the story of Emily's travels as a younger woman, her struggles with anorexia, the church, and family woundings woven in with her exploration of the world. 

As a person who carries within her a deep, deep longing for home -- or really, Home, although I don't know what that means or where I might find it, not as surely as I once did -- I appreciate this tale of the tension between running away and homeward yearning.  And you know that I love Emily's exploration of doubt and faith, because what is the light without the darkness?  And anyway, all life begins in the dark, so I'm glad that more and more faith writers are validating this truth.

If you're interested in reading Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look, you can nab a copy here, and add it to your Goodreads shelf here.  And if you do, I'd love to know what you think.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0801016568/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0801016568&linkCode=as2&tag=kitchcoura-20

http://www.atlasgirlbook.com/

*this post contains affiliate links

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

On the Wearing of Wedding Rings {Living with a Spouse in Chronic Pain}

 

I spent this past weekend away, four days of sharing space and words and breath with some of the best and most kindred friends I've ever had the delight of knowing.  We fed each other food and wine and truth, shattered bottles in catharsis, pressed our bodies close. 

We talked about many things, but what stuck with me the most was the concept trying on new things, experimenting.  This is my fearless year, and I have tried on a great many things.  I have taken off perhaps even more.  So this notion is not new to me.  I have become quite practiced.

But what I played with this weekend felt anything but familiar.

This weekend, I took off my wedding ring.

* * *

My husband and I are coming up on seven years of marriage.  How has it been so long?  And yet, not very long at all.  

And regardless of perception of time, those years have been full -- of hard stuff.  Good stuff, too, but the bad stuff has been Very Bad, and Very Big.  Eating disorder, stillbirth, crippling depression and anxiety, a newborn struggling to thrive . . . and those are just the things I've written about here.

My husband has been grappling with his own set of Bad Things.  Mainly, living for years with undiagnosed chronic pain, as well as other undiagnosed health issues.  And I'll be the first to admit that I haven't dealt with this facet of our lives very gracefully.  

I never understood chronic pain until I found myself living with one who lives under that heavy weight.  It is mind-boggling, impossible, and horrible in its invisibility, its lack of external physical markers.  So often those with chronic pain look completely normal, making it hard for those of us who don't struggle to fathom the depths of their challenges.

It is made all the worse in my husband's situation by the fact that he doesn't have a diagnosis.  Fibromyalgia,  chronic fatigue syndrome, Lyme disease, and more -- none of the symptoms line up, nor do any of the treatments work.  He's aching in the dark, and no method or drug can reach him.

* * *

We have also been doing quite a bit of growing this past year, both of us.  No doubt that at least part of that journeying was catalyzed by the above Bad Things: my dark night of the soul, his realization that he had shifted out of a lifetime of evangelical Christian beliefs into atheism.  My husband and I are different people now, exquisitely, terrifyingly, starkly different people from the ones we were seven years ago. 

This is not a bad thing.  To live is to grow, and if you're not growing, changing -- well, I would invite you to consider whether you are truly alive.

But our marriage is struggling as a result of our growth.  We have grown in opposite directions.  And again, this is not a bad thing, but it does bring us to a peculiar place, where we have become strangers to one another.  We need to date one another again, to meet each other anew.

* * *

We promised, on our wedding day, for oneness in sickness and in health.  And I honor that commitment.  

But we also need to rescue our floundering relationship, for each other and for our son.

And -- we can't.  Because of the pain.  Because my husband cannot (or struggles to) do the simplest of bonding activities: a walk around the block, grabbing a bite to eat, snuggling on the couch.  

We are faced with the seemingly impossible task of strengthening our bonds when one of us finds simply sitting a challenge.

Where are we to go from here?

* * *

I am living with a man that I love, but I am alone in our home, all of those needs one can reasonably expect to be met in marriage going achingly unfulfilled.

I rage.  I weep.  I rage again.

How can we rebuild when our hands are tied?

More and more, our conversations have turned toward separation.  Perhaps it would help, we say.  Perhaps it would give him a better chance for healing.  Perhaps it would tell me whether my deepening depression is born from our circumstances, or is sourced solely in my self.  If it's the latter, leaving would do nothing.

Some days I can't imagine leaving my husband.  
Some days I can't imagine not leaving.

* * *

And so this weekend, when I was folded safely into the care of kindred women, I slipped off my wedding ring and tucked it into my bag.  I was trying separation on by taking the ring of my commitment off.

I thought it would feel freeing, delicious.  I thought I would never be able to put my ring back on, that I would go home laughing and sure and determined to separate, and --

I lasted five minutes.  

My naked ring finger screamed, crawled for the familiar titanium band.  My already shredding heart threatened to rend well and truly in half, beyond repair. No amount of snuggling from my soul sisters could distract me.

I fled to my room, chest heaving in relief as I slid that silvery circle back onto its place on my finger

Because it belongs there, whatever the hell that might mean.  


* * *

There is no neat and happy ending to this post.  I came home, glowing from the retreat, to discover a sick man.  He was far more ill than I have ever, ever seen him in all our years together.  

It is now three days since my homecoming and my lips have yet to be kissed.  This is the reality of living with a spouse with [undiagnosed] chronic pain.

I don't know how to navigate All This Shit, only that in spite of our frustration and grief and sense of incapacitation, neither my husband nor I wish to divorce.  

But that doesn't make the staying easy.   It doesn't ease the loneliness, or the fear.  It doesn't dry my almost constantly flowing tears. 

I am here.  That is all I know.  And that is something, I hope, although I have no idea what.



I have been searching for quite some time now for resources on living with a spouse with [undiagnosed] chronic pain.  And -- there is nothing.  Nothing that I can find, anyway (let me know if you have something, I'd love to read it!).  There is quite a bit of support for those who are actually suffering from the pain, but not for their partners. So I am writing this aspect of our/my story, to begin to stitch together the beginnings this very needed kind of resource.  Watch this link for future posts on this topic.

Monday, June 16, 2014

I am Not My Characters {On Writing Fiction}

 
We have a tendency to see the author in the words she writes, or the actor in the roles he plays, or the poet in the poems she pens.  I do, anyway, particularly with poetry, even though know first-hand of how a poem's voice is not always the same as the poet's voice.

And now I have written a novel, a whole book (!!), that is very not-me.  Well, it is me, in some ways, because how can a writer avoid etching pieces of her soul into her prose?  And Ruth and I do share some similarities.

But at the same time, Ruth is very much not me.  She has very different values than me, and enjoys a very different lifestyle than me.  Same with Derek, the male love interest, and all of the book's minor characters.  They live, speak, celebrate, fight, and mourn in ways that are for the most part extremely dichotomous to my own.

So now there's this story of mine out there in a few thousand readers' hands that is scandalous and sensual and full of imperfect humanity and some rough language and characters whose lives don't match my own in almost any way.

I'm not going to lie.  This is uncomfortable, vulnerable.  It's a risk.  But it's a risk that I am okay with.

But I wonder if there are those who aren't.  Friends, family, who suddenly have this peek into my mind and find themselves wondering if they know me at all.

I am not my characters.  But I suppose those who are now perhaps feeling more uncomfortable about sharing space with me might struggle to believe such reassurances.

* * *

What is an author's responsibility with her words?  Particularly in relation to the assumptions a reader might draw from her creations?

In the past, I might have said that fiction had to always explicitly communicate a message about Jesus.  And even though I don't write that way any longer, I don't think this approach (or any) to fiction is bad.

But I also know that it never worked for me, that it felt like army crawling over shards of glass, that the plot and characters that emerged from these efforts were stilted and forced.  I think this was part of what led to writing fiction becoming extremely triggering of my eating disorder, which in turn led me to abandon fiction in early 2011 (I'm so glad I un-abandoned it when the time was right!). 

* * *

So what do I think a writer's responsibility is now?  More specifically, what is a fiction writer's responsibility?

I think that a writer's responsibility is ultimately to the story, the story flowing through her and from her.  That the writer's responsibility is to her characters.  This is why I wrote a love story that is not necessarily reflective of my values -- because it is Ruth's story, because it is the story that came through me when I sat down to write.  Because, in many ways, it was inevitable.

Does this mean that I think Ruth's tale is especially deep, or important, or for every reader?  No.  Her story is important to me, of course, but I don't see her tale as the next Great American Novel either.

But I also consider The Light Between Us wholly successful, because I was true to the story asking to be bornBecause I was true to Ruth, with all her flaws and victories and exquisite idiosyncrasies.

I don't know why this story wanted to be born at this particular time, only that it did, and that now, as a result, it exists.  People can read Ruth's story.  And this, no matter what anyone thinks about the book or about me, no matter how much I may doubt myself, is pretty much awesome. 

Your turn:
What do you see as your highest duty as a writer [or creative person of any kind]?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

My Perfectly Imperfect Book Launch {The Light Between Us}

I wrote a book.  And published it.  It's out there in the world right now, being both read and not read, as books are.  People own it.  This is exhilarating.  This is terrifying.

So.  Wondering how my indie book launch went?  Here's the good, the bad, the ugly, and the next-thing, plus a brief reflection on what I'll do differently the next time around.


The Good


Nearly 5,000 people downloaded a free Kindle copy of The Light Between Us.  A couple purchased a print copy, and a nice handful bought the Kindle edition after the freebie period ended.  It was ranked in the top 100 books in the free Kindle store, and was #1 and #2 in a couple of the free romance categories.  My expectations were exceeded by lightyears upon lightyears.  This is not just good.  This is really, really, really (really!) good.

Also, my mother downloaded my book and read it in about a day, and then wrote to tell me that she loved it.  I can't tell you how much this means to me. 

And actually, she wasn't alone in reading The Light Between Us in a single day or so -- a number of you did.  Thank you and thank you and thank you for downloading your free copy, for reading, for the kind words you've sent me way, and for sharing my book with your friends.  I am deeply grateful.


The Bad


I got a couple of less-than-glowing reviews.  This is not the bad thing -- opinions all over the map come with the territory of sharing your words with the world. 

The bad thing is that said reviews mentioned that my manuscript is rife with copy-editing errors.  After the first review, I scoffed.   

Editing errors?  I thought.  Are you serious?  I am a skilled writer and editor.  I graduated with honors in creative writing.  I'd never make the rookie mistake of launching a book that's less than polished, thankyouverymuch.

After the second one-star review, I stopped scoffing.  I went back into my manuscipt and started reading.

And -- felt my stomach plummet as I realized that those reviewers were right.  There really were a number of embarrassing copy-editing mistakes.  Missing words, misspellings, errant punctuations, and so forth.  And more than one or two. 

As Ruth, the protagonist of The Light Between Us might say, oh. shit.

(Humorous aside: one of these reviewers said that she was disappointed in my book's editing because my blog is so polished.  I almost never edit my blogs.  Shhh.)  ;)


The Ugly


Nearly 5,000 people own a copy of my book -- a book that I've just realized is, in spite of all my skills and editing efforts, rife with copy-editing errors.  That's not good.  This is not the ugly part, though. 

The ugly part is that this fact has filled me with shame.  My body is both weak and heavy with it.  My nerves are on edge, as if I've drunk a gallon of coffee (I haven't).  I want to hide and never stop hiding.  I want to weep.  I want to punch myself in the face.  I literally don't know how I'm going to look my family in the eyes at our Father's Day celebration later today.

(Grammar errors aside, these two reviewers also hated the story and/or characters.  Interestingly, this does not bother me at all.  I believe in my story, and have no qualms about others disliking the plot or Ruth or language choices or any of it.  Maybe the copy-editing stuff hits me so hard because that is something that's in my control?  And I do idolize my precious control.)

The Next


Okay.  Breathe, Beth, breathe. 

This is not the end.  You haven't killed your career before it even got off the ground. 

So, what's next?  Well, you'd better believe that I'm going back in for another round of copy-editing on The Light Between Us.  That's the beauty of indie publishing -- it's easily fixable.  I just hope that I don't have to eat too much grammar-flavored crow. 

And after that, I'm going back to work on my next novel.  I've mentioned it before -- a YA contemporary fantasy based loosely on Celtic myth involving magick, druidesses, and portals through time and space.  Oh yeah.  It feels like it'll be a much longer story than The Light Between Us (which is about 66,000 words, a short novel).  I'm currently 30,000 words into the Celtic-ish fantasy and am feeling like I'm only about a third into the plot.  Sign up for my newsletter if you'd like to get some sneak peeks sent to your inbox.  I might post an excerpt of two here on the blog as well.

Things I'll Do Differently Next Time


I plan on continuing to publish independently.  Because, well, I value that independence.  I make the rules.  And yeah, while that means that the burden responsibility falls on me when things go wrong, it also means that I get to keep all the profits and positives, too.

I think I did pretty well for a first run, especially considering that I hadn't written a speck of fiction since 2010 before The Light Between Us.  But there are a few things I'd do differently:

  • Refuse to be a slave to the deadline.  I announced that my book would be available on June 14, and then thought I had to meet that deadline come hell or high water.  And when it became apparent that I could do with a few more days before launch, I thought I couldn't take those days.  I forgot that, as an indie publisher, I set the rules.  So I pushed to get the book out, rushed the last round of edits, and stressed stressed stressed.  Next time I'll just give myself the extra days.
  • Not get enough sleep.  I am a chronic not-sleep-enough-er.  I covet my time, and hate giving any of it up, even for something as important as sleep.  And I'm sure that this affected my editing capabilites.  Sigh.  Oops.  Sigh again.
  • Enlist more editing help.  I had a number of talented folks beta read The Light Between Us -- but not for editing.  I thought I could do that all myself, and knew that I couldn't afford to hire a copy editor (a good editor, like this fabulous one, charges around $2,000 -- yikes).  But I was wrong; I needed more editing eyes.  For my Celtic-ish novel, I already have a manuscript trade lined up with a fellow writer, in which we'll swap books and tear them apart, both for copy-editing errors and plot/characterization/inconsistencies/etc.
  • Consider not reading my reviews.  Or have my husband screen them for me, so he can point out what might be helpful criticism (like those reviewers who pointed out copy-editing issues -- as hard as that was to hear, it's also true, and I appreciate that, so thank you) versus the less constructive I just despise your writing opinions.  And yes, while I'd also miss out on reading positive reviews, I'm okay with that because I'm so hard on myself that I tend to have a difficult time truly believing praise.  Also, a dear friend pointed out to me that Bren√© Brown doesn't read her books' reviews and comments on her YouTube-d talks because the negative ones put her to bed for days.  And she's Bren√© Brown.  
  • Writing this blog post.  If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you've probably heard me talk about what a lifeline words are for me, particularly publicly processing my junk in this space.  So here I am, showing up, feeling the hard things, sifting voices, and writing my soul into sanity.  And now that I've finished, my body isn't vibrating as much, and I know this is going to be okay.  

Let me just say again -- publishing a book is terrifying.  And exhilarating.  And terrifying.  What a roller coaster I've been riding since baring my book to the world on Thursday.  Was my launch perfect?  Not by a long shot.  But I did it.  I did it.  And so can you.  That pie in the sky you've been eying?  It's not nearly as unreachable as it seems right now.  That ember of a dream you've been tending?  Fan it into flame.  Because it's important.  Because it matters, and you matter.    Because you can.  We can.  Let's hustle, and keep hustling.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll be touching up The Light Between Us, and then diving back into my Celtic-ish creation.  In short, I'll be doing the work.   

What about you?

note: sometime between the time when I read the one-star reviews and now (prior to the publication of this post) one of said reviews disappeared.  not sure what happened there.  ah well. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Free On Kindle! {The Light Between Us Indie Book Update}


Just a quickie post here to let you know that my novel, The Light Between Us, is not only now available for Kindle, but is free through Friday, June 13!  Download it here.  If you're waiting for the print copy, it will be available on Amazon in a few days (and comes with a free Kindle edition download!), or you can order a signed copy here.  If you read it, I'd love for you to leave an honest review of your thoughts on Amazon or Goodreads.

Thank you so much for sharing this special time with me.  Truly.  It means the world.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22376827-the-light-between-us