Check it out at The Character Therapist!
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
The Character Therapist gives her first how-to lesson on writing fictional therapy sessions. Check it out!
Monday, January 18, 2010
I recently finished CJ Darlington's debut novel, Thicker Than Blood, just in time for her blog tour this week! CJ's novel won the 2008 Operation First Novel contest with the Christian Writers Guild, and after reading it, I can certainly see why.
Here's a short blurb:
Christy Williams finally has her life on track. She’s putting her past behind her and working hard to build a career as an antiquarian book buyer. But things begin to unravel when a stolen Hemingway first edition is found in her possession, framing her for a crime she didn’t commit. With no one to turn to, she yearns for her estranged younger sister, May, whom she abandoned after their parents’ untimely deaths. Soon, Christy’s fleeing from her shattered dreams, her ex-boyfriend, and God. Could May’s Triple Cross Ranch be the safe haven she’s searching for? Will the sisters realize that each possesses what the other desperately needs before it’s too late?
Before I don my therapist cap to do my psychological review, just a couple of general statements about CJ's story world and writing. She really has a knack for sharing pertinent detail. I say pertinent because it's certainly not boring detail that she weaves effortlessly into her prose, but detail that just transports the reader straight into the pages.
I also really appreciated the way CJ introduced me to a profession I knew absolutely nothing about. She digs into many facets of antiquarian book traders--of which CJ knew tons about because she was one!--from buying at trade shows and estate sales to internet sales and the managing of a book store. I love how CJ used a small, interesting fact of her trade to really spin the plot on it's side. (Of course, I won't tell which one...and you learn tons of them throughout the book...so you'll just have to read it.) :)
Now, let's talk about characters with real problems, and how CJ portrayed them very realistically. By Chapter One, you know her heroine, Christy, has a little problem with drinking. Given the situation, though, you might be tempted to excuse her. But as the book progresses, you realize that her problem is much more serious. Alcoholism really is a way of life, and CJ does a great job of showing the reader how Christy's past, present, and future fall victim to the choices and decisions she made. Being under the influence of any kind of drug alters your perceptions of everything, from what constitutes a "good" relationship to what looks like a good business arrangement that you later regret.
The key to creating such a flawed character really is in CJ's consistency. Christy's first thoughts when faced with any kind of hardship or stressful situation is to turn to the bottle for courage. This is so true to life! Alcoholics reframe their addiction and think things like the bottle will give them courage they wouldn't have otherwise. Christy falls prey to this line of thinking more than once--she's consistent.
CJ also blows the lid on abusive relationships and co-dependency. Abuse can come in many forms, not just physical. Emotional abuse--mind games, threats, using manipulation--are extremely common in relationships today. Christy's relationship with Vince is a testament to many women out there who go through the exact same thing every day. It's hard. It's scary. But kudos to CJ for showing that a woman can break free. Yes, it requires falling down and dusting yourself off. It requires striking out into the unknown. But it can be done!
I was pleasantly surprised at the character arc for Christy. I thought it was going to be one of these ultra-convenient spiritual transformations during a church scene. HA! The only time I was actually frowning while reading this book was during the preacher's oh-so-timely testimony. I'm not going to tell you how Christy "sees the light," but it sure wasn't during the church scene. :) So refreshing! Christy has come a long way, through so many hard knocks, to just lay down and pick up something as simple as a relationship with a Lord she has had no firsthand experience with. So again, kudos to the writer, who made her conversion believable.
Last but not least, CJ digs into family member estrangement. Any number of events could cause members of the same family to close off from one another. While misunderstandings are probably the most common, CJ's scenario works just fine. A very believable watershed moment sets the stage for these two sisters to walk down the paths they do. There is a certain amount of palpable awkwardness when the two sisters meet up for the first time in 15 years. It's not all hunky-dory and tears and hugs. Piecing back a family takes longer than that. It's really a very poignant reunion...eventually. CJ doesn't spoil it by making the connection too soon, in my opinion.
If you don't want to read the book after all that, something's wrong with you! While it's not a romance, there is a little romantic thread (although from a romantic side--I sure wish there had been more. I also wish there had been a little string-tying in that general direction...but perhaps there will be a book two?) amidst quite a big suspense thread. Ultimately it's a story of redemption and hope you won't want to miss out on.
You can buy the book from Amazon, CBD, Barnes and Noble, or Borders. You can also reach CJ at her website, http://www.cjdarlington.com or her blog, http://www.cjdarlington.blogspot.com/.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
It's Personality Type Expose over at The Character Therapist! Come find out about the Golden Retriever/Phlegmatic!
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
I realize that most of my posts on this blog have essentially been directing you to my other blog, The Character Therapist. The reason for this--for those who don't know--is because I recently moved BACK to California and took a new full-time job as the director of clinical services for a non-profit there.
I've been so busy learning the ropes and getting adjusted to working full time (after having been a stay-at-home mom almost 2 years) that when I come home, I barely have enough motivation to keep hammering out my Character Therapy posts as well as the various articles I write for publication monthly.
So this is the reason for my absence on this blog, as well as my absence from commenting on many of yours. I miss you all. I do. But this is what I have to do for right now.
If you want to stay in touch with me, then come on over and follow me on The Character Therapist. I frequently write back to my commenters there, and often have mini "sessions" with authors who write in Tuesdays, which is a lot of fun. Today, I'm working on explaining to writers how to write bipolar in your manuscripts in believable ways, so click on over.
Again, I miss you all so much. I miss your comments. I miss writing! But I know this is just a season!
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Yesterday, Humboldt County, CA, experienced a 6.5 earthquake. You can see how this compares with the other minor earthquakes experienced on a daily basis by most of California at this website. That huge blue block at the top of CA...that's the one that hit us.
I've been through several of the minor ones, so this was not my first quake. Most are a gentle rumble, a slight sway. But my first time living through a moderate (yes, 6.5 is only moderate!) quake, I thought for sure I was going to die. Not trying to be melodramatic. I honestly thought it was the end.
My daughter and I were sitting on the couch when it happened. It started gently, a little rumbling and shaking. But then it honestly felt (and sounded) like a Mack truck slammed into the left side of the house. You should try tamping down your horror while trying to put on a happy face for your child as all your glasses come crashing down in the kitchen! I shielded Madelyn with my body, because I thought the living room windows might crash on us.
The aftershocks, thankfully, weren't very serious. I think there were some 3.4s or something around there...but I was too shaken to feel them. Maddy didn't have socks and shoes on, so I told her to stay on the couch while I tried to clean up the glass shards that were all over the floor. She just ate her Nilla wafers and drank her milk as she watched me. She didn't cry at all!
I immediately called my husband, who was fishing on the Trinity River with a buddy, and let him know that had been a massive earth quake. He got off the water right then and came home, but that was a 2-hour drive from inland California. The power was turned off, and sirens and ambulances were going off all over the city from the time it happened to the time my husband got home. It was like something from a movie. Creepy and scary. Had to keep Maddy out of the kitchen even though I swept up, because the flashlights started catching the shiny pieces of glass that I hadn't seen with my naked eye. The floor and counters didn't fully get cleaned until this morning.
[The picture above is of Eureka Natural Foods, a local grocery store here. Can you imagine what everything else must look like? We haven't ventured out yet to check things out.]
I am blessed to have wonderful neighbors. Everyone was out checking on everyone else. My neighbor came over to smell for gas and then he just turned it off as fire trucks began driving up and down the streets, waiting for people to flag them if there were gas leaks. He checked out heater to see if it was run on gas or electricity. Unfortunately, the fan blower runs on electricity...so the house got cold. Maddy slept with us last night to make sure she stayed warm, but that meant Allan and I got no sleep as she tossed and turned and sighed and bumped her head. Lights came on about 2:30 a.m. or so...and then the heat. So I brought Maddy back to her room and was able to get about 5 hours of sleep eventually.
But this experience has taught me something. You never know when your final moments will be. I felt like I came as close to death yesterday as I ever have. It was my "first time," so to speak. And to experience this with my daughter, desperately wanting her to be able to live a full and happy life, was nothing short of terrifying. The important things come to life and flash through your mind: my husband, my daughter, my parents. How I might never see them again. How I would miss them.
But I know where I'm going, people. I know that had yesterday been even more serious than it was (say, if I had been standing under the kitchen cabinet, for instance, when the glasses came crashing down), I know where I'd be. I also know how important it is to tell people how much you love them every single opportunity you can.
You never know when it might be your last time.
Posted by Jeannie Campbell, LMFT at 1:45 PM
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Starting a new series to aid you in character development. Come take the tests approved by The Character Therapist and join in the fun!
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Looking at birth order today in a fantasy novel. But newsflash: it's the same no matter what genre. :) Check it out at The Character Therapist.
Saturday, January 2, 2010
Since Sherrinda's, Katie's and Krista's Kissing Day Blogfest was such a big hit, Frankie over at Frankie Writes decided to do a No Kiss Blogfest--where we post our great "almost kisses" from our books. The only rule so far as I gather is that the lips can't touch.
So without further ado, here's an excerpt from my book, Blessed Beyond the Curse, in which the hero and heroine are about to dance in a fundraiser spoof of Dancing with the Stars.
“You want to go over some of the basic steps?” He itched to get started, needing to see where her skill level was. She nodded, her eyes big as she took in the camera crews.
“Ignore them. Focus on me.” Joshua escorted her to an unoccupied corner of the floor. “So we’ll be dancing in a closed position. Like this.” He stepped close and slid his right arm around her back to rest on her left shoulder blade. Her skin was cool to the touch, but oh-so-soft. A slight bit of pressure from his fingers brought them closer.
She raised her left hand to rest on his right shoulder and put her left hand in his right, which he held out from his body in a horizontal ninety-degree angle. In her heels, their position was just so they could look over each other’s shoulder.
“That’s great! Our line is perfect, actually.” He cleared his throat to begin his instruction. “The most basic waltz step is a box step. I’ll step forward with my left while you step back with your rig—”
“Let’s just give it a whirl, shall we?”
He frowned. He had just known she was going to pull something like this. Let her fall flat on her face, then.
“Fine.” His mouth thinned. “I’ll just count it off.” How could one woman be so aggravating and so tempting at the same time? “One, two, three, one, two, three…”
She followed his lead without missing a step, their feet in between each other’s just as his dance instructor had taught him. A little relief worked its way into his shoulders. At least she could do the basic step.
He moved on to more complex steps, and his relief gave way to amusement. Kathy was far better than the average beginner. No wonder she had been smug earlier. It didn’t take much effort on her part to dance with him, and she still got her end of the bargain.
“I think someone was holding out on me,” he said close to her ear, before continuing to count aloud to keep time, since they didn’t have any music.
“Mm-hmm,” she said. After a while, she cocked her head to the side and he saw the question in her eyes before she asked. “So who was this Malinda you cancelled on tonight?”
“Curious?” Joshua answered her question with one of his own.
“I’m simply asking because I feel bad for her, that’s all.” She closed her eyes like a queen might do when talking to one of her subjects, her lashes fanning out on her cheek.
Joshua supposed it was his turn to tell the truth. “Don’t. She’s my younger sister, married, two months pregnant and exhausted. You did her a favor.” Lindy was no doubt ecstatic over being relieved of her sisterly duty.
Kathy tucked her chin in, her brow furrowed. “Then what was all this about a ‘special relationship?’”
“Siblings are a special relationship.” He couldn’t help his own smile at her look of disdain. “But honestly? I wanted to give you a taste of your own medicine. You know—sort of like how you led me to believe you had a date tonight.”
She harrumphed, turning her head to look the other direction, which was the best show of aggravation she could manage while being held as close to him as she was.
Joshua took the opportunity to whip her into a promenade and then into a spin. The dance itself was exhilarating, of course, but dancing with her was even more exciting. They were a fluid pair, each an extension of the other.
As he altered his footwork to pull her into a dip, she did the same to accommodate a backward lean, elongating her body. His gaze traveled the length of her exposed neck, his pulse a staccato drumbeat in his ears. His desire to kiss her very nearly made him lose control in front of all the other dancers.
After a brief interlude, Kathy turned her head to glance up at him, as if to ask, Why aren’t you pulling me up? When she focused on the look in his eyes, though, her own widened in…what? Fear? Surprise dampened his longing, and he sprang into action, helping her right herself before releasing his hold on her. She busied herself with smoothing her dress, her eyes flicking what Joshua interpreted as mistrustful glances his way.
Would she be afraid if he kissed her? That would be a first for him, but wasn’t that what the apprehension in her eyes said? He cleared his throat in order to shut out his questions and break the awkward silence between them. “I think you might be better at this than I am.”
“You’re a very good partner. I just let you lead,” She spoke much faster than her usual Southern pace. Her hand on her chest revealed her breaths rising in time to his own.
“Ah, well, it’s about time.” Maybe a joke would lessen the uncertainty in her regard. Sure enough, he was rewarded with a partial grin.
“Just don’t get too attached to the experience.” She ran a hand underneath her hair, lifting it from her shoulders and allowing it to fall back into place.
Joshua spoke without thought. “What if it’s already too late?” As soon as the last syllable left his mouth, he wished the cufflink on his shirt had been fitted to his mouth. The timing of his first blatant flirtation couldn’t have been worse.
“Sounds like you have a problem on your hands, then.” If he hadn’t been sure before, he was now positive Kathy was treating tonight as strictly a business transaction, not a date. The problem lied in that he hadn’t counted on finding himself at the other end of that spectrum. Tonight was a date, even if it had come about unconventionally.
He also hadn’t counted on the feel of her in his arms. The silken skin of her back, the softness of her palm. They toyed with his memory so much so his hand wanted to move to touch her again.
His brain overrode the impulse, and he shoved them in his pockets instead.
Don't be fooled...this almost-kiss wasn't as one-sided as it might have appeared. Kathy wanted it every bit as much as Joshua did, which is why she was so scared. But you'd have to read the book to know why she's scared....gotta leave you hanging a little, right?
Hope everyone had a blessed New Years. I won't be on the blogosphere much today, as my family and I just moved into our new place YESTERDAY! But I look forward to reading as much as I can during my breaks.
Posted by Jeannie Campbell, LMFT at 6:00 AM