Riding Bitch

The daily musings of a writer.


A Reading List for Grief (Part 3 of 3)

Wrapping up the Reading List, here are some books related to grief and/or caregiving which have been recommended to me but I haven’t read yet (all available on amazon.com):

The Truth About Death, Poems by Grace Mattern

Bitter and Sweet; A Family’s Journey with Cancer by Darcy Thiel (a guest blogger on this blog!)

Beloved on the Earth: 150 Poems of Grief and Gratitude – Jim Perlman (Editor), Deborah Cooper (Editor), Mara Hart (Editor), Pamela Mittlefehldt (editor)

Nearing Death Awareness (A Guide to the Language, Visions, and Dreams of the Dying) by Mary Anne Sanders

Death and the Art of Dying by Bokar Rinpoche

I am currently reading Madam Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (translation by Lydia Davis) and Panther Baby by Jamal Joseph. More about both in a later post.

Please feel free to keep sending recommendations or any thoughts you might have on any of the books mentioned.

Finally, here are some quotes which resonated with me from two books on Part 1’s list. I’ll refer to more quotes in other posts. Enjoy.

From MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING by Viktor E. Frankl:

“… Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

“If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering.”

“A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the ‘why’ for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any ‘how.’

“Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now!”

“… Even the helpless victim of a hopeless situation, facing a fate he cannot change, may rise above himself, may grow beyond himself, and by so doing change himself. He may turn a personal tragedy into triumph.”

From THE ALCHEMIST by Paulo Coelho:

“Sometimes, there’s just no way to hold back the river.”

“Everything on earth is being continuously transformed, because the earth is alive… and it has a soul. We are part of that soul, so we rarely recognize that it is working for us.”

“There is only one way to learn… through action. Everything you need to know you have learned through your journey.”

“When something evolves, everything around that thing evolves as well.”

“Death doesn’t change anything.”

“’You were always a good man,’ the angel said to him. ‘You lived your life in a loving way, and died with dignity. I can now grant you any wish you desire.’”

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A Reading List for Grief (Part 2 of 3)

I am sharing the books that I read after losing my husband, in the order that I read them, with a brief explanation of how they affected me. They’re not necessarily for everyone but they might interest you. Part Two compromises the books I read from six months onward. As before, the first line of the book is under each title.

Memories of My Melancholy Whores – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

“The year I turned ninety, I wanted to give myself the gift of a night of wild love with an adolescent virgin.”

I picked up this book shortly after befriending the author’s son around my birthday in October 2011. It is his father’s most recent book but by no means his most famous. That would be his earlier works Love in the Time of Cholera and One Hundred Years of Solitude, which collectively earned Gabriel Garcia Marquez the Nobel Prize for literature in 1982. The plot of Memories of My Melancholy Whores is brilliantly encapsulated in the first sentence. But it’s about something else, namely the fear of death and the re-awakening of the heart. As the narrator, a retired journalist, tries to find his virgin, he reflects on his ninety years on earth, how he and the world have changed, and what the world will be like without him. It’s a beautiful, witty, wistful, strangely romantic story that ends in a way you don’t expect.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly – Jean-Dominique Bauby
“Through the frayed curtain at my window, a wan glow announces the break of day.”

This book is a miracle in more ways than one. The author, Jean-Dominique Bauby, had been the editor-in-chief of French Elle when he suffered a stroke that left him completely paralyzed except for his left eye, with which he blinked every letter of the 131-page book. It is as succinct as it is rich in detail. I thought of Kaz a lot while reading this book, when Bauby describes the humiliation of having to be bathed like a baby, the immense pain of not being able to speak to his children or reach out and touch them, his frustration with not being able to eat French food anymore or lay with a woman or enjoy any of the things he used to. Talk about loss. But despite all this, Bauby manages to paint a picture of hope, endurance, personal strength, and the spiritual nature of human imagination. While his body is practically dead, his mind soars. His determination to not only live life fully in his thoughts, but also express them to us, is a testament to the human spirit. After I read it, I watched the movie, directed by Julian Schnabel, and loved that too. One of the rare occasions when the movie lived up to the book on which it was based.

Everyman – Philip Roth
“Around the grave in the rundown cemetery were a few of his former advertising colleagues from New York, who recalled his energy and originality and told his daughter, Nancy, what a pleasure it had been to work with him.”

Philip Roth was my mother’s favorite author and I thought of her often while reading this book. The story is told from the point of view of a man who has just died and is trying to process this reality. He does so by reflecting on his life, analyzing the decisions he made, the women he loved, his relationship with his children and so on. It’s a story of “loss, regret, and stoicism.” Ironic, witty and sad. I liked it very much.

Farenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
“It was a pleasure to burn.”

Most people read this book in high school. But I read it for the first time last year, partly because Mr. Bradbury had just passed away and partly because he was one of Kaz’s favorite authors. The story is set in the not too distant future in a world where books are outlawed and firemen are sent to start fires instead of put them out. I’m not normally a science fiction reader, but I couldn’t put it down and kept talking about it to anyone who would listen for months. The story resonated on many levels, not the least of which because it felt so damn plausible.

The Disappearance – A primer of Loss – Genevieve Jurgensen
“You never knew our daughters, neither did you know me as I was when they were alive.”

Ms. Jurgensen writes about losing her two young daughters, age 4 and 7, on the same day to a drunk driver… and how she recovered from this unimaginable loss. I won’t say any more than that except that this book, along with The Diving Bell, made me cry the most. Perhaps coincidence, perhaps not, but both authors are French.

If you have any book recommendations, or thoughts about the books listed, please feel free to share.

Part Three will list books that have been recommended to me, as well as quotes from some of the books mentioned.


A Reading List for Grief (Part 1 of 3)

If you are grieving, or even if you’re not, you might want to check out some of these books. They are all fine books on their own, but it just so happens I read them all after Kaz died. I have broken the list into three parts. Part One lists the books I read in the first 6 months (in chrono order). Part Two will list the books I read in the following year. Part Three will list some of my favorite quotes from these books, as well as what I’m reading now. I’ve included the first line from each book under the title.

A Grief Observed – C.S. Lewis

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.”

This book is such a classic, someone handed it to me at Kaz’s memorial. Author C.S. Lewis describes his experience of losing his wife after her long struggle with cancer. Amazon describes it as “a beautiful and unflinchingly honest record of how even a stalwart believer can lose all sense of meaning in the universe, and how he can gradually regain his bearings.” Of course, when I read it, I related to the former not the latter, so the end of the book when he describes his renewed sense of faith annoyed me. But it is a beautiful book, very well-written and accessible. Might be interesting to read it again.

The Year of Magical Thinking – Joan Didion

“Life changes fast.”

Described as “an unflinching account of the sudden loss of her husband which occurred while their only child was in a coma in a hospital, this book is considered another classic. The language is sparse, simple but expertly put together to place you in the mind of a woman who is in the midst of both a huge loss (her husband) and a huge crisis (her daughter). As she jets back and forth from NYC to Los Angeles, the story also jumps around in place and time.” Interestingly, I had the opposite reaction to this book than to A Grief Observed. I related to the end more than the beginning. It’s hard to articulate, but Didion’s writing style is both emotionally distant and emotionally powerful at the same time. I found myself unable to read more than a page or two at a time, and would have to leave the book alone for days in between.

The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho

“The boy’s name was Santiago.”

I had read this book before and loved it. After Kaz died, I saw it on the shelf and decided to read it again. Honestly, I think this is one you can read over and over and each time find something new. The story is about a young shepherd who decides to leave the comfort of his simple life in a small Spanish town in search of treasure in Egypt. Along the way he meets all kinds of interesting characters, falls in love and learns about himself and life. It’s not about grief, but about accepting change, following your passion and “listening to the signs” the universe gives you. Because it’s told in a parable, it doesn’t feel preachy. I found it very inspiring and meaningful when I read it the second time.

Man’s Search For Meaning – Viktor E. Frankl

“This book does not claim to be an account of facts and events but of personal experiences, experiences which millions of prisoners have suffered time and again.”

Kaz’s best friend had recommended this book to us during the year of his illness, but neither of us read it. After he died, I decided to see what it was about. Frankl was a psychiatrist who lost his parents, brother, and pregnant wife while he was in four different concentration camps, including Auschwitz. The first half of the book is about his experience in the camps. The second half is his philosophy on how he and others survived, which (put very simply) he says was a combination of luck and attitude. It’s a fascinating and surprisingly easy read. You might not agree with everything he says, but for a man to have gone through that much loss and still be able to see the positive in life, is really quite remarkable.

Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding

“Sunday 1 January – 129 lbs. (but post-Christmas), alcohol units 14 (but effectively covers 2 days as 4 hours of party was on New Year’s Day), cigarettes 22, calories 5424.”

After reading those heavy books, I needed a break and read Bridget Jones’s Diary. It was highly satisfying. I laughed out loud many times. Then I watched the movie and laughed again.

If you would like to share what you read, are reading, or think we should read, please do so in the comment section.


Getting Closer to Organized

Following up to yesterday’s post, I think I have successfully solved my quest to be more organized thanks to the advice from PaulaB at http://thetemenosjournal.com/ (wonderful blog, go read it). I ended up deleting the page menus I’d set up yesterday and adding category menus instead. Then I went back through all my posts and changed the categories from the previous mish-mash to one or two of the following:

Industry Fridays – posts about the business of art
Life – posts about what’s happening now (online journalish)
Memories – posts about the past
Ruby – puppy posts
Wheels – anything to do with motorcycles
Quotes – cool things said by others

Now, if you click on the above categories you will see the progression of posts on these subjects. The coolest one for me is the Ruby category because you can see from the pictures how she’s growing. Industry Fridays now makes more sense too. Conversely, other categories like Quotes and Wheels need more material, espcially the latter. For a blog called Riding Bitch, I need to actually be riding! Not to mention that I miss it and fear I’ve forgotten everything already. But I digress.

For anyone interested in organizing your posts in a similar fashion, hopefully these steps will make sense:

Go to your dashboard, click on Appearance, then hit Menus. You will see a box for Pages and a box for Categories. The categories will be the ones you have already been using. If you don’t see all of them, hit View All (instead of Most Used). If you still don’t see them, go back to Edit mode any of your posts and manually add the categories you want. Then go back to Appearance/Menus/Categories.

Once you see all the categories, click on the ones you want to filter your posts with, then click Add to Menu and name your Menu. You can move the category boxes to the order you want them to read on your blog by simply clicking and dragging them. Any time you want to preview the result, just hit Save Menu and go back to your blog.

After that, you might want to go back through your posts like I did and clean up your categories. I deleted all the extraneous ones so my only choices are the six mentioned above.

In the end, your posts should show up in chronological order under the new tab you set up for your category.

If that doesn’t happen, go to the Support page and ask the experts because I ain’t no expert. I’m literally teaching myself as I go, asking for advice from others and very grateful to have blogging friends who know more than I do!

Good luck.


Creating a Career out of Ebooks

For all you writers considering self-publishing, today’s Industry Friday post comes via a seminar originally given by best-selling author James Scott Bell, www.jamesscottbell.com. I’ve embellished it a little by adding links to the companies and sites that James mentioned, as well as some related articles. Feel free to add to the discussion in the comment section, especially if you have experience with any of the services listed below.

Step One – Write the best book you can

It goes without saying but never hurts to repeat – quality drives sales more than anything else. Write because you’re compelled. It’s also good to do both fiction and non-fiction.

Step Two – Prepare the book for publication

First is editing, which compromises developmental feedback (content), copy writing (consistency), line by line proofreading (accuracy). This is possibly the largest investment of your time, money and energy, other than writing the book itself.

Next is cover design. Study other books of the same genre for ideas, and never put “by so-and-so” on the cover. The cover should include only the title, your name, and an image if desired.

Next is the book description or cover copy, which might include a brief author bio and picture. If you do a little research, the internet has much information on how to write good cover copy. Again, it helps to reference other books in your genre that you like.

The last stage is uploading. You will have to decide whether you want single channel distribution (which offers the most return on your book) or multiple channel distribution (which requires higher fees and/or royalty splits).

Some single channel distributors:

Kindle – https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/signin

PubIt! – http://pubit.barnesandnoble.com/pubit_app/bn?t=pi_reg_home

Kobo – http://www.kobobooks.com/companyinfo/authorsnpublishers.html

Apple – http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5071

Createspace – https://www.createspace.com/

Multiple channel distributors:

Smashwords – http://www.smashwords.com/about/how_to_publish_on_smashwords

Bookbaby – http://www.bookbaby.com/

This article offers an in-depth comparison of the Smashwords and Bookbaby services: http://selfpublishingadvice.org/blog/bookbaby-or-smashwords-best/

Step Three – Develop a Marketing Plan

Once the book is available, how will people know about it?

– Word of mouth – the best and most effective promotion is informing everyone you know about your book, those people telling their friends, and so on. Be an author people like to read!

– Your blog – though keep in mind it might annoy your readers to bombard them with pleas to read your book.

– Book review sites – get your book reviewed on other sites as much as possible, then use excerpts from the good reviews in your other promotion. Ignore the bad reviews, unless you don’t get any good ones.

– Email list for newsletters – http://www.mailchimp.com offers free email campaigns if you have less than 2,000 people on your list.

– Social Media – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and your own website – which you must have, if only as a brochure.

– Google AdWords – pay only when p.eople click on your ad, not to display ad.

– Amazon author page – https://authorcentral.amazon.com

Step Four – Work Your Plan

Step Five – Repeat Plan for the Rest of Your Life

For more info, check out this recent article by Peter Osnos of The Atlantic on the challenges of self-publishing (the comments are just as informative): http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/09/the-cruel-paradox-of-self-publishing/261912/#

And this humorous blog by Julie Gerstenblatt on Huffington Post about self-publishing (she just started it on 12/12/12!) : http://www.huffingtonpost.com/julie-gerstenblatt/self-publishing_b_2272491.html

“Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you’re doomed.” – Ray Bradbury

“Control your own destiny or someone else will.” – Jack Welch

Happy creating!