Sunday, July 6, 2014

All Good Things...

Yes, friends, I think you know how that one goes:  All good things must come to an end.

And here we are at the end.

This will be a bit of an emotional post, since it is the final post you'll read here at the Sisterhood. Yes, you read correctly. This is our final post.

This decision was not made lightly. We've thought about and discussed the closing of the blog for some months now. We've known since April that this summer would be our last. It had to be. The three of us, Lorena, Mary Mary, and Stephanie, have come to a point where we have to move on from contributing to the Sisterhood blog. We are all taking different directions with our writing and, unfortunately, we feel The Writing Sisterhood needs to come to a natural end.

We have loved the writing community we've connected to through this blog and will miss sharing on a weekly basis. To say good-bye, we've all decided to write a closing paragraph or two. Enjoy!


I had never intended to blog, but when my brand-new critique partners Mary Mary and Lorena invited me to join their writing blog, I didn't  have to think twice about it. I was in the midst of a novel, and the idea of writing about writing with other writers was very appealing. Writing can be a lonely business, and there aren't a lot of opportunities to get oneself into a supportive writing community. Critique-partnering was definitely one, but I loved the idea of opening it up to the world. Participating in a blog would also, I figured, give me some writing structure. The blog was on a schedule, so I had to come up with at least one idea every few weeks. Nothing teaches you about a topic more than writing about it. If I wanted to learn more about dialogue, then researching and writing a piece about dialogue would get me further than simply reading about it. I enjoyed getting feedback from other writers and hearing their ideas, too. It was a fruitful venture. 

Of course, there are only so many topics to write about; especially when it comes to a narrow subject like fiction-writing itself. Dialogue, characters, plot, yes. Commercial vs. literary fiction, got it. Why something as appalling as Fifty Shades sells a gazillion copies, check. But I have definitely felt myself digging deep for topics lately, especially since I have my personal blog to attend to as well. My sisters are moving along the path toward publication, which is exciting and time-consuming, and I've got other things vying for my own attention. I will miss the community we have built together at the Sisterhood, and all we have done for each other, but I'm happy to say I know we three writing sisters will be lifelong friends ... and I hope all of our readers will stay in touch with us, too. I will still be at my own blog, so please come on by!


When we came up with the idea to start a blog with four different women discussing the highs and lows of the writing world, I loved it from the start. I have been privileged to work with not just these two wonderful writers over the last few years, but also those who have been with us in the past. I will miss the individuals we've connected with during our years at the Sisterhood blog, but I know this is the right timing for the three of us. 

For me, blogging was a new challenge, one I grabbed hold of whole heartedly. As things have changed for me over the past year or so, I've come to realize that it began to feel like more of a chore. I'd find myself searching for some topic that had yet to be discussed at the Sisterhood, when really, what I wanted to do was work on my fiction writing. Perhaps some writers enjoy the weekly schedule of putting out a new post, but for me, this is a good place to stop for now. I'm ready to move away from blogging and focus on my fiction writing and the road to publication. I will definitely be keeping busy. This summer, I started two new novels and I'm working on a play. 

I will, of course, continue to keep in contact with both Stephanie, Lorena, and others of you out there. Stephanie and Lorena's critiquing skills are indispensable, as is their friendship. And, hey, Lorena's now my agent sister! My other book review blog will still be around for a few months, but that one, too, will be ending sometime in August. When the time is right, I'll be back around, but I'm not sure if it will include blogging. Thanks for hanging out with us over the last four years!


Dear readers and friends,

What a wonderful experience this has been! I’m thrilled to have entered such a supportive community and to have met so many of you. I’m also grateful to my sisters, both current and former, for having embarked on this project with me for the last four years. I’ll admit that when I first considered blogging, I was terrified. For one, I had zero experience writing non-fiction and second, I was afraid to open my soul to the world in such a public way. The Sisterhood blog not only helped me develop some skill in interviewing industry professionals as well as writing articles and reviews, but also made me feel comfortable about interacting with other writers online and becoming part of this community.

I don’t know what the future will bring. I may come back to blogging at some point in my life, but for now, I feel a need to close down the blinds and concentrate on a couple of new novels that have been on hold for the last four months. I’m also in the process of revising a beloved novel which has taken over a decade to develop so that my brilliant new agent can start shopping it around!  

I hope this is not a goodbye, fellow writers. I’ll still visit your blogs from time to time and you’ll be able to find me on Twitter. Best of luck to all of you in your careers and I hope we meet again soon!

We wish all of you out there working on the road to publication nothing but the best of luck! Thank you for following us through the last four years!

Lots of Love ,

Sisters Stephanie, Mary Mary, and Lorena

Friday, June 27, 2014

Cephalopod Coffeehouse: Outlander

Welcome to this month's round of the Cephalopod Coffeehouse hosted by the illustrious Armchair Squid! Pull up a chair and pour yourself a mug of coffee or tea!

This month I chose Diana Gabaldon's very first novel Outlander. This wasn't really a random choice. A little over a month ago I attended a event put on by the local library called "A Word With Writers." The featured speakers were Diana Gabaldon and George R.R. Martin. If you'd like to read about the event, visit Sister Lorena's post here.

Once upon a time I had tried to read Gabaldon's novel, but never finished. I knew why. I'd found it incredibly boring. But, after hearing her speak about her work, I thought I'd give Outlander a second chance. I dug around my bookshelf until I found my copy. The front cover was just as dated as I remembered and certainly didn't make me think that the lovely, delicate Claire was much of a beauty.

The cover of my copy. If you open the front
flap you'll find an equally unflattering
picture of Jamie with a late-80s

I flipped my book open to where I'd left off all those years ago, which was less than a quarter of the way through the novel. I even had an old, faded receipt I was using as a bookmark. It's from World's of Fun in Kansas City and says I purchased the amusement park ticket for $28.54 on July 3, 2000. So, yeah, it's been a while since I last cracked this book open.

What did I glean from reading Outlander this time around?

First off, although still boring for most of the story, I managed to get through almost the entire novel. I have to admit that I still have about 100 pages to go, but I've skimmed to the end and have a general idea of what happens. If you don't know how long Outlander is, it clocks in at 850 pages.

Next, I realized that Gabaldon has a certain beauty to the way she writes. I love how she describes Claire's surroundings in the novel. Or even some things that we take for granted. Like giving birth. Near the end, when Jenny, Claire's sister-in-law describes to Claire, who has never had a child, what birthing a baby feels like it becomes such an intimate moment filled with descriptions I never even thought about when I was pregnant. With scenes like that, Gabaldon has a magical touch to the way she writes.

Going back to the boring bit, I was disappointed to find that I felt like I never really got to know the main character, Claire. So many things that would be questions in anyone's head if they fell through time and into a strange world they knew nothing about are not raised. It's as if Claire knew exactly what to expect as soon as she fell through those rocks. No toilets? Not a problem. No bathing? Not a problem. Expected to wear suffocating clothing? Not a problem. Questionable sanitary practices in the 1700s? Not a problem. There were times when I wanted to shake Claire and ask, "Now, tell me how you really feel about the absence or lack of..." How do you go from having toilet paper to none at all and not feel just a bit nervous about the prospect? Claire never seems to mind not having modern-day amenities. And if the argument is because Frank, her modern-day husband, and all his historical research prepared her for something like this, I don't buy it. Simply put, she had no interest in what Frank did. That was apparent in the beginning of the novel. So, because I felt like I didn't really know Claire, all the strings of lovely descriptions, sex, and bits of adventure seemed to drag in many places.

On that note, the novel didn't pick up for me until around page 500 and the witch trial. Now, that I liked, and the next 200 pages were exciting. I didn't know what would happen to Claire. Would she be drowned just to find out if she was a witch? Would her knight in shining armor (a.k.a. Jamie) show up at the last minute? What I was hoping and waiting for throughout the entire novel was whether Claire would end up back at the ring of stones. If you've not read the novel, I won't spoil it for you. Her final decision between choosing Frank or Jamie was the right one, I believe.

Finally, there are some final tidbits that stopped me while reading. Claire spots Geillis's inoculation scar, but, again, she doesn't think one thing about it, and only on a side note brings it up to Jamie. What? I think my mind would be racing with all kinds of questions. Claire, from the modern world of 1945 knows an awful lot of older vocabulary from the 1700s. Somewhere I heard that Gabaldon wrote the time travel aspect because she couldn't get Claire to curb her modern-day tongue. Um, no. As soon as she's back in the 1700s, Claire seems to know all the lingo. I actually wanted more of her worldly tongue in the novel, and just felt disappointed it wasn't there. There's also an awful lot of spanking or talk of spanking going on throughout the novel. Just a head's up.

In the end, if you're debating about whether to read Outlander or not, then keep a few things in mind: 1) Gabaldon is truly a lovely writer, 2) 850 pages was way too long for something that could have used some extra editing, 3) Claire almost seamlessly fits into the 1700s, and 4) after all that, you may or may not be inclined to read the next novel in the series. I have no desire to read the next novel at the moment. But, who knows? Maybe I'll change my mind in, say, fourteen years!

Check out other reviews on the Cephalopod Coffeehouse bloghop:

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Postcards Tell a Story

Recently I came across this article about a postcard from the Titanic that went up for auction. The postcard was reportedly expected to fetch $140,000. Why so much? Because this postcard is a rarity, and it tells a story.

The postcard to be auctioned off.
It says:
"S.S. Titanic, April 11th, 1912. Nearing
Queenstown. Good voyage up to now.
Kind regards to all.
J.W. Gibbons."

You see, the Titanic wasn't any different than the hotels of today. They plastered advertisement on just about anything, including the postcards that served as menus for each class. In this case, Gibbons, a second-class saloon steward, dashed off a quick message to his family back home before the final leg of Titanic's voyage. This postcard offers a rare glimpse into what the second-class passengers had for their breakfast:  "Yarmouth bloaters; grilled ox; kidneys and bacon; American dry hash au gratin; grilled sausage; mashed potatoes and Vienna and Graham rolls." I don't know about you, but that sounds like a filling and hearty breakfast! Very few second-class menu postcards are known to exist, so this one is especially a treasure for any collector.

Front image of the Titanic postcard.

As you can also see, this postcard also tells a story. I bet you're sitting there, wondering whether one Mr. Jacob Gibbons survived the sinking? I'll get to that in a minute.

Postcards have recently taken me on a strange trip down the avenues of history. This postcard story of the Titanic probably wouldn't have sparked much interest in me, if not for the fact that I've been researching some of the largest ocean-liners ever built. By the turn of the 20th century, immigration was at an all-time high for the United States. More and more immigrants were leaving oppressed or violent circumstances in Europe in search of a new beginning elsewhere. The number one destination for most immigrants became the U.S. and most notably, Ellis Island.

I had created a character for my story, but I didn't know where to start or where to place this certain individual. I decided to do what is often given as the first instruction to new writers: "Write what you know." At the turn of the 20th century most immigrants came from eastern Europe, from places like Germany and Austria. There were also many Italians and Irish flooding in. But I don't have much knowledge of those countries, so I went back to the one country I know best, which is France. France was more known for trying to slip prostitutes into the U.S., but they also had many immigrants who came seeking a new life like so many others. I got tangled up in researching French history and soon found myself immersed in the Champagne Riots of 1911. And guess what? I found postcards!

Revolution in Champagne -- 12 April 1911
This is a champagne house that was burned by rioters.
It was located in the city of Äy, which is found in the
Champagne region.
These postcards present some of the best lasting images of a time come and gone. They are like gold to any writer looking for historical information on a topic. 

Yes, it seems a bit strange that someone would pick up a postcard showing a burned out champagne house and decide that it was a good choice on which to write a message back home. History is strange, though. We don't always understand the mindset of the time or why things turned out the way they did. One thing we do have, if it's well-preserved, is a photographic history to offer us some insight into what once happened. That's why I like these postcards. There aren't many photos around about the Champagne Riots, but there are these snippets that are up for sale to avid collectors. They chronicle an important page in France's history.

Speaking of chronicling history, some of the very first "news" footage was filmed during the Champagne Riots. That's the only thing police had when it came to arresting those who partook in the destruction of Äy. I have no idea if the footage exists today (I've had no luck doing some simple online searches), but if anyone does know if the film is out there, I'd love to see it!

So, back to Mr. Jacob Gibbons. You can breathe a little easier, because he survived. He ended up getting rescued from a life boat. As soon as he could, he sent a brief telegram back home that read, "Saved, well, Daddy."

Do you have an interest in historical postcards?