what i’ve learned from a year of “no”

I can sum up 2011 in a word. “No.”

In a lot of ways, this year has been about rejection. But I’ve still gained from 2011 – in the form of some lessons learned.

  • There’s only going to be one end of the world, and that wasn’t it.
  • You really don’t know unless you try.
  • Finding out what I’m not good at is at least as useful as knowing what I am good at. Even when it hurts.
  • I don’t have to be the best at everything I do to have friends. (In fact… needing to be the best all the time is often a good way to not make friends.)
  • I REALLY don’t know what is going to happen next. So planning moves down the priority list, while trying to enjoy / do my best in the present moves up.
  • I REALLY can’t change the past. So rewriting it with a lot of ‘what-if’s’ moves off the priority list entirely.
  • I make mistakes, and that is ok.
  • There’s a pretty big difference between my best on a good day, and my best on a bad day. And that is ok.
  • I have to believe in myself even when I feel like no one else does.
  • Most of the time, listening to others’ problems kindly is much more useful than trying to fix them. (And vice versa.)
  • Most of the time, it’s not personal.
  • I mean, it’s REALLY not personal.
  • My parents were right. Mom: “Just do your best.” Dad: “Then let the chips fall where they may.”

Wishing you all a very rich 2012. -bjc


bjc’s top 5 reads of 2011

Books Published in 2011:

The Night CircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s like Cirque du Soleil on magical steroids. If it weren’t for the stupid love story that I can almost totally ignore, it would be five stars. The writing is absolutely delicious.

Tiny Sunbirds, Far AwayTiny Sunbirds, Far Away by Christie Watson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What an astounding story of learning strength through many challenges. It is very simply told but the events do not need flowery descriptions to be vivid and compelling. This is a coming of age story in circumstances that often seem impossible. But there is a window of light that opens in every dark time to create a tale that is ultimately about overcoming. I feel like I have visited an Ijaw village outside of Lagos in Nigeria, and Tiny Sunbirds Far Away is definitely a trip I would recommend. Just pack some Kleenex for the last 50 pages.

A Classic, Read for the First Time in 2011:

A Hero of Our TimeA Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“After all, nothing can happen that is worse than death – and you can’t avoid death!”

I give this book four stars in large part because A Hero of Our Time is just an excellent example of what I love about Russian Lit – tragedy beyond Greek tragedy, melancholy beyond French melancholy, a touch of the class intrigues of Jane Austen, and not a little bit of near eastern adventures such as A Thousand and One Arabian Nights.

It’s an odd novel: the point of view changes, the timeline is all over the place, there are disjointed sections and no clear story arc. But it is nevertheless a journey closer and closer to the heart of Pechorin, a man who has both great desire and great disdain for life.

A Favorite Author’s Old Work Read for the First Time in 2011:

Kafka on the ShoreKafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Like a thunderstorm in snow, thrilling yet ominously quiet. Kafka on the Shore is Murakami on top of his game. Talking cats, nightmarish visions, family secrets and unsullied love swirl around the reader with grace – and force. A beautifully-told adventure that lingers in my mind long after the final page is turned.

A Favorite Memoir Revisited (Yet Again) as a newly-released eBook in 2011:

Out of Africa and Shadows on the GrassOut of Africa and Shadows on the Grass by Karen Blixen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A tale of the beauty that is found only within failure, Out of Africa is one of my all time favorite books. In the twilight years of colonial Kenya, Baroness Blixen endeavors to grow coffee a thousand feet higher than it can thrive. Drought, disease, and plagues of locusts thwart one good intention after the next. But, God, the sights and smells of the Ngong Hills of British East Africa. The tiny Kikuyu and the towering Masai. The roaring of lions and the silent shadows of buffalo. Great friends, strange neighbors, and high tea in the jungle. A truly great read that I appreciate more each time.

View all my reviews

With the exception of Tiny Sunbirds, all of these and more are available as eBooks at my local bookstore – and maybe yours! Remember, you can patronize your favorite local and enjoy the convenience of eBooks. Be sure to check their website.

Over the Moon Books

update: the emissary

When we leave Bex and her friends at the end of The Rival, we’re left asking questions that The Emissary is going to have to answer. Who is really in charge of The Insurgency? Why are the Electroleviathans getting involved now? What made Dr. Andronicus go criminally insane? Who is The Man With the Beautiful Voice? And most importantly, what is Bex’s next move?

I’ve been working hard answering these questions. The process involves a lot of me turning into a prune in the shower while I space out pondering how the Mauna Loa Space Observatory might be involved, and what is the Latin word for destruction. (Not going to post any pictures of that!) But it also includes scribbling down a lot of questions on a notepad and key plot points on post-its, like this:

Then, I start organizing the post-its by act and scene, like this:

Then I usually stare into space for a while longer, pondering the intricacies of time travel, and how to save the endangered Honey Creeper. It’s around this point that I am both very excited, but also pretty overwhelmed. How is all of this going to turn into a story? But somehow it does. I can’t wait to see how it turns out.


wow: ebooks make great gifts! but how?

Giving ebooks is a little new… and has improved a lot for the 2011 holiday season. Open Road Media has made an excellent video tutorial on how to give the gift of ebooks for a variety of major ebook readers. It’s great! The videos are quick (<2 minutes apiece) and simple to follow.

Basically, you’ll need to know your lucky recipient’s email address and what kind of ereader they use. After that it’s a pretty standard online retail experience.

There are some limitations, however. There doesn’t appear to be a way to gift books through the Google eBookstore (which beyond Android is also bad news for local indie bookstores). But don’t fret – there’s a Barnes & Noble app for Android, so just follow the video tutorial for the Nook, and that should work just fine for your friends’ Android devices.

And, if you’re looking to buy The Rival – it is not available for Kobo or the Sony Reader. But it is available on the following platforms to give as a gift!

  • The Rival for your lucky recipient’s Kindle on Amazon
  • The Rival for your lucky recipient’s Nook (or Android device) on Barnes & Noble
  • The Rival for your lucky recipient’s iPhone or iPad on iTunes

Good luck with the holiday shopping! I know I enjoy it much more from the serenity of my home computer, cup of tea in hand.

fan mail: so cute

If you want to know how to make my day, this is it! A big thank you to Lily from Utah for the best fan mail yet. Lily will be getting a complimentary advance copy of The Emissary (Part II of Bex Blixen and the Electroleviathans), due to come out late 2012-ish. And yes, her reply, complete with some writing tips, is in the mail.

And now for something completely different: Tis the season to give eBooks. And since that’s kind of new, here’s a great tutorial on how.