Tag Archives: blogger

My First Blogiversary

Today is my blog’s first birthday!

Happy blogiversary to me! Image: fiftieswedding.com

Happy blogiversary to me!
Image: fiftieswedding.com

My first blog post was only a couple of sentences long, and I remember how terrified I was as I wrote and posted it. It felt like my head had become a theme park and I was offering free entry, with popcorn and super-sized sugary drinks on demand. As it turned out, of course, nobody but the WordPress bot actually ever read my first post, but my feelings didn’t care about that.

I can’t believe I’ve been writing my blog for a year. In one way, it’s become such a part of my everyday routine that it feels like I’ve been blogging forever, but in another way I’m mystified as to where the last year has gone.

So, what have I learned in a year?

Writing a daily blog is a lot harder than I thought it would be. I love it, and it gets me going in the morning like no cup of coffee ever could (particularly since I’m doing my best to give up caffeine, for real this time), but I’m not going to lie. Several times during the past year I’ve been reduced to tears at the thought of writing a new post, and I’ve had to really draw on all my reserves of strength, inspiration and improvisation to deliver the goods – but then, that’s a good thing. Isn’t it?

Conquering fear is fantastic. I really was afraid of writing a blog. I would have started one years ago, except I was terrified to do it. Starting this one felt a lot like jumping into the void and – against all expectation – learning how to fly, very quickly. It has given me so much satisfaction to look back over my year’s worth of blog posts, remembering how scared I was when I started out, and how I’ve overcome that fear.

I’m a lot less weird than I always thought I was. It’s great to know that other people think the same way I do about things as varied as books and mental health issues, or authors and writing techniques, or family and life. Having said that, it’s slightly bittersweet to think that perhaps all your little quirks aren’t as unique as you’d like to think. So it goes.

People are wonderful. If I’d thought I’d ‘meet’ so many wonderful folks through the medium of this blog, I really would have started to write it years ago. I’ve been buoyed up by positivity, support, friendship and fellow-feeling more times than I can remember over the past year, and I am so grateful to all my wonderful followers for that. It has been incredible to make contact with so many other bloggers, writers, thinkers, artists, and fellow human beings over the past twelve months. I started this blog thinking that (perhaps) my mother would read it once in a while, when she had nothing better to do; now I have over 200 followers and nearly 14,000 hits. My mind still can’t process that, really.

I really, really love writing. It would have been a bit of a ‘whoops’ moment if I hadn’t discovered this during the course of writing the blog, wouldn’t it? Luckily, though, that’s exactly what I found. Writing brings me more satisfaction than anything else I’ve ever done, and I’m privileged to live in a world where I have the opportunity to ‘publish’ my words in this way. Being completely honest, I had hoped to have achieved more, in terms of writing, over the past year than I actually have. However I think, all in all, I haven’t done too badly.

And the best part about having a blog? I can relive every moment of my journey, in ‘real time.’

Writing ‘Clockwatching…’ has been the best thing I could’ve done for my writing. This blog has compelled me to be disciplined, and strict with my routine. It has given me a sharp appreciation for deadlines. It has allowed me to see that I can provide ‘copy’ at short notice, not only once but repeatedly. It has shown me that I am capable of wringing inspiration out of my brain even when it feels drier than a camel’s backside. It has allowed me to take part in competitions and writing groups which have been a huge source of inspiration and feedback. It has opened my eyes to the sheer amount of writing blogs in existence, and I have benefited from every blog I’ve read and followed. It has made me realise, so clearly, that writers are all struggling toward the same goal and that we are all pulling for the same team, and that the success of one writer brings the rest of us up, just a fraction.

Go Team Go! Image: zazzle.com

Go Team Go!
Image: zazzle.com

This past year has, in so many ways, been the most satisfying and successful one of my life. I am hopeful, as I enter my second year of blogging, that this feeling of accomplishment will travel with me, and that I’ll soon have something concrete – in terms of my writing career – to show for all the work I’ve put in. No matter what the future holds, I wanted to say something to all of you who’ve been following my blog and who’ve told me that reading it has become part of your daily life: Thank You.

To all my wonderful friends, both ‘real life’ and ‘virtual’, who have supported me every step of the way, I am so grateful for your help and encouragement. To everyone who has read this blog, thank you. To everyone who has taken the time to comment and critique and help me on my way, thank you. To everyone who has contacted me to let me know how much they enjoy reading this blog, thank you. To my family (particularly my husband), thank you, and I love you.

Here’s to a second glorious year!

 

Image: bizetiquettes.com

Image: bizetiquettes.com

 

Book Review Saturday – ‘Level 2’

Hello!

So, it’s Saturday. Ain’t life grand?

Because this is *totally* my reading nook. A hammock. In my sunny, warm, Irish garden.  Image: thewomancondition.blogspot.com

Because this is *totally* my reading nook. A hammock. In my sunny, warm, Irish garden.
Image: thewomancondition.blogspot.com

Time, I think, to do my bit to promote reading by delving right into another book review post. Today, it’s the turn of ‘Level 2’, by Lenore Appelhans. Here it is:

Image: midnightbloomreads.blogspot.com

Image: midnightbloomreads.blogspot.com

I’m sure you’ll agree that this book has a brilliant cover. In fact, the cover design was one of the things that made me want to read it; I saw it on Twitter, and other social media sites, before it ever hit the shelves. I learned that the author was a well-known blogger (check her out over at Presenting Lenore), which also piqued my interest. So, I was looking forward to reading this book long before I ever got my grubby little paws on it.

Was my enthusiasm rewarded? Well. Let’s see.

The story outline is pretty intriguing. The book is about a teenager named Felicia Ward, who dies just before her eighteenth birthday. As it opens, we don’t know what happened to cause her death, but it hardly matters – the book throws us right into a radical reimagining of the afterlife so different from anything I’d ever read or heard of before that it was immediately arresting.The Level 2 of the title is a ‘between-world’, one through which we must pass after death, and before we enter heaven, or Level 3.

Felicia, and the other deceased young women (or ‘drones’, as they’re called) who occupy her ‘hive’, exist in sterile-seeming chambers where they spend their time accessing memories of their lives. They can, as well as watching their own memories, rent and watch the memories of others; there is, of course, a cost for this. To access the memories of other people, they must first build up a level of credit, earned from other drones renting their memories and watching them. The memories can be given ratings up to and including ‘5 stars’, depending on their content, so popular memories soon rack up huge viewing rates. It’s a vision of the afterlife which may sound very strange to someone who has no familiarity with YouTube, for instance, but to the teenage audience at whom this book is aimed, the concept behind Appelhans’ idea is second nature.

I did wonder a bit at first what the purpose of Level 2, as a place, was. The norm, for an afterlife, is to move on, to come to terms with your death and reach a place of peace. But spending your time reliving your memories, particularly your most cherished ones, seems a strange way to accept your own death and allow yourself to pass on to the next level. However, Appelhans makes interesting use of this as her book unfolds – the souls in Level 2 are being held there for a purpose, and they are being encouraged to live and relive their cherished memories for a reason, too.

So. ‘Life’ (or, afterlife) continues normally for Felicia until the day the girl in the next hive (Beckah) disappears. Beckah is one of the only friends Felicia has in Level 2, and so her disappearance causes her a huge amount of upset – this is compounded when it emerges that Felicia is the only person in the hive who remembers Beckah at all, and the fact that she vanishes upsets nobody but Felicia. She begins to wonder whether someone has removed Beckah from the ‘net’ of interconnected memories shared by the hive, and why – in that case – Felicia’s memories have not been affected. Just as she is attempting to come to terms with this, a breach appears in the wall of the hive, and a figure steps through – a figure from Felicia’s past, who tells her she must come with him. He is in possession of information which he knows Felicia desperately wants, and leaves her little choice but to leave the hive.

This is a book of two halves. I really enjoyed one half, and I was ambivalent about the other. The sections where Felicia accesses her memories, and the picture she gradually paints of her life, her experiences, her fractious interaction with her family, her relationship with her deeply loved boyfriend, are fascinating. She was romantically involved with a boy named Neil, a deeply religious and honourable person, while she was alive. Neil is painted as a little too perfect, but this is probably as a consequence of our only knowledge of him coming from Felicia’s memories. Through her memories, we also come face to face with Julian, a boy about whom Felicia has complicated feelings – he evokes a sense of dread and fear in her, but her best friend Autumn falls for him in a serious way. Autumn’s fate at the end of the book, and Felicia’s actions in the weeks leading up to it, are genuinely gripping – even shocking – and it is this story, the story of her life, rather than her afterlife, which I found wonderfully well-written and engrossing to read.

It’s the sections in the hive, and the uncovering of the larger plan involving the girls in Level 2, and the role of the figure who unexpectedly turns up in Felicia’s life just as her friend Beckah disappears, which I found ill-conceived, hard to imagine, and – frankly – a little bland. The book devolves into a toothless chase around the afterlife, where people with the skills to manipulate the architecture of Level 2 with their minds find they can open doorways, access convenient memory chambers, and keep track of other people by mapping their brainwaves, which takes away any sense of urgency or drama surrounding the whole thing. I found this section of the book difficult to keep in my mind’s eye, because it is, to my taste, under-described and underdeveloped. I found the ending of the book frustrating, and the reason for the importance of Felicia’s role in the book was, in my opinion, irritating. I found the writing in the scenes drawn from Felicia’s life much stronger than that in the scenes describing the battle for Level 2. In other words, the scenes which should be gripping – the science-fiction aspects, the fantastical aspects, the ones which ought to appeal to me most – are the ones which left me cold.

In short, I would recommend ‘Level 2’. It’s a good book, with original concepts and a take on the afterlife which started off extremely well, no matter what way it ended up. I really liked the character of Felicia, and her relationship with the men in her life, and her friend Autumn. I also found Felicia’s parents, their careers, and their relationship with their daughter, interesting and different. Having said that, so much about the book made me want to just give up reading that I can’t recommend it wholeheartedly.

But – if you read it – I hope you enjoy. Particularly if you’re reading it in a hammock.