Saturday, July 10, 2010

The elusive butterfly of happiness

Can you spot it hiding there among the flowers? And if you do, could you capture it with your bare hands?

Probably not.

We probably all think we pursue happiness on a daily basis, but for the most part, what we're actually doing is just getting through the day. I used to believe that if I reached a point where all of my work was done and my obligations fulfilled, I could then do only the things that I wanted to do, and my happiness would be complete. However, I've been there (briefly) a time or two in my life, only to discover that I'd forgotten what it was I wanted to do that would make me so happy.

I learned a long time ago that acquiring material things won't bring lasting happiness. It seems fabulous for a while, but then the feeling wears off and you have to find something else to wish for. Eventually, you run out of wishes and have nowhere to turn for happiness, which is a very sad place to be.

There are many activities that I enjoy, but finding the time to do them has been the problem lately. I love to play guitar, but finding a free hour when I'm home alone and can crank up the amplifier and make the walls vibrate is difficult. Thus, my trusty Ibanez sits in the corner gathering dust, occasionally catching my eye to remind me that if I could just spare him a few moments, we could have a lot of fun together.

I also like to grow things, but that, too, requires time. I did take the day off on the Fourth of July to assert my independence and do what I wanted to do, which was to get the weeds out of my rose and lily beds. The best part of that job was the scent of the flowers, and just seeing them blooming without all the weeds made me happy.

My vegetable garden, however, is another story altogether. It is one horrific mass of weeds with a few struggling vegetable plants thrown in. The cucumber vines are smothering the tomatoes, and the weeds have choked the basil to the point that I almost couldn't find it. I did finally locate it, but, not having the time to pull the weeds, I just stomped them down so that the basil could get a little sunlight and have room to grow.

I'm becoming convinced that having room to grow is all anyone really needs to be happy, and writing gives me that space. I have the whole galaxy to explore and can sit here and write and the words seem to come out of nowhere. I'm fully focused on what I'm doing and can go on for hours.

Recently, I discovered something else that made me happy; something that took me very much by surprise. You often hear an actor say that they've never seen the finished version of many of the movies they've been in because they can't avoid critiquing themselves. Being my own worst critic, I've never read any of my own books after they're published because I'd know I'd do the exact same thing. However, I recently acquired an iTouch, and thought it would be cool to get the Kindle app and have my own books on there.

So I did that, and last night, while my patient was peacefully sleeping, instead of reading one of the many books I'd picked up at the RT Convention, I started reading Slave, which I had last read several months prior to its publication in April 2008.

It was difficult at first, because even the opening line, which I've been urged over and over again to duplicate for other books, seemed to need revision. As I read on, the first person voice sounded strange to me, but I persevered and somewhere in that first chapter, a funny thing happened: I stopped critiquing it and got sucked into the story. Even though I know I'd read through that manuscript countless times, it was new again, and I was enjoying it. And that made me very happy.

In just a few weeks, my sixth book, Hero will be launched, and it is so different from Slave it could have been written by someone else, and, in fact, it was. Hero was written by me, but Slave was written by Captain Jacinth "Jack" Rutland of the starship, Jolly Roger. Different voice entirely.

Not long ago, a writer friend made the comment that my voice had "matured." She may have been right about that, but going back and reading Slave helped me to remember my roots. I'm probably a better writer now, but though I've written a lot of characters in the interim, few were as much fun as Jack. I've brought her back in other books in the series, and she's still a blast to write, even in third person.

After Hero, the series takes a different turn and Jack will be there to introduce you to the new guys. It may be her final appearance, but knowing when to pass the baton on to someone new is like knowing when to stop trying to catch butterflies and simply enjoy watching them fly.


  1. Jack? Final appearance? Is that possible? Well this new person should be shy, but talkative. Admire cute guys and...Oh wait that's me. LOL.

    Barnes and Noble has a free ereader app too if you're ever curious too. :D Your books are on there as well.

    And I can see the difference in all your books and all the similarities too. Before I got to read this recent book (No spoilers) I reread Slave. And it felt good to laugh as much as I had before. Every book keeps getting better and better. I'm looking forward to everything from you Cheryl.

    P.S. I do see the butterfly. Pretty little thing. I like them a lot. :D

    P.S. 2: I just wrote an essay XD

  2. Love your post, Cheryl! Love the butterfly on the flowers! And your covers are as gorgeous as ever!

  3. Glad you're writing, Ana! And that shy, talkative person who admires cute guys is all set to be a romance writer!

    Yeah, those covers never get old, do they, Terry?

    I'm heading out to my INRWA meeting now. I'll catch up later on. I hope everyone has a great day pursuing the happiness of their choice!

  4. Well, I think I've can say I've seen that CaT-a-pillar crawl out of that coccoon and Fly. And your wings get bigger and better and I think you're soaring. Enjoy your flight. We're glad you land and sit here with us the Busy bees and share your wild adventures with us among the Coneflowers. Just remember we all need to stop and smell that Rose and kiss that babies bottom when we can.

  5. I saw the butterfly, but admit it took me a bit of searching. Elusive little guy!

    I am glad you went back and reread Slave, Cheryl. I have done that from time to time. Sometimes on purpose to refocus myself, and other times accidentally when searching for an excerpt or something. Each time I go through the same steps you mentioned. But when I get to the "sucked into the story" part it is a fabulous reminder of why I do this. It helps ground me and bolster my spirits, especially if lagging due to a bad review or being overwhelmed in some way.

    Keep up the good work!

  6. GREAT post Cheryl, and pretty butterfly. Is he a tiger swallowtail? A tiger butterfly seems appropriate for the Cat Master. ;-)

    I do reread my books, because I find having the finished book in my hands is a totally different reading experience than reading it in manuscript format. Don't know how I'd feel about using an ereader, but I have a feeling I won't like it because I already spend too much time looking at a screen.


  7. I did spot the butterfly right away...I have a thing for their beauty. I would capture it, with my camera lens, if possible:) I do that now even though my garden isn't vast enough for more than occasional visits from them.

    Great post...your thoughts are well put and it's easy to relate to your journey so far. I feel extremely fortunate that I'm finally in that place where I can just "do it" rather than "finding the time." It's a heady, delicious, decadent place to be and makes me thankful each day that I was finally able to get here.

    Surprisingly it still takes a certain amount of discipline on my part to stay focused instead of scattering my energy in too many directions. No matter what, there are still only so many hours in a day.

    For way too many years I never had enough time for activities I enjoyed and I resented it big time. Today I appreciate each time I get a new day to play even if I do absolutely nothing. I'm able to relax about it because I also know there may be days where creative energy will be non-stop and joyous or tasks completed to a thoroughly satisfying degree or not ~ it honestly doesn't make any difference in the grand scheme. I've always taken pride in whatever I do, no matter how big or small and is not I trait, short of failing health, that I will lose until I die. The difference is that I know for certain that it only matters to me and I've good with that.

    It took a lot of years to find an easy to live with balance and quite often I feel the scales seem to be tipped more heavily in my happy zone than not and it humbles me because there is so much not so great stuff that happens all around on a daily basis.

    If played right, age has some great benefits:)

  8. That was a fantastic post Cheryl. I have of late found myself looking closely at my day to day life and as I get older time seems to move faster, but certain things stay the same and don't change and major frustration has started to set in. It's probably a good time for some major purging and starting over. Just need to take that first step which is the hardest step of all.

    How very cool that you re-read Slave. I remember very clearly the day I read this book and was blown away by the premise. I have always loved science fiction and the whole alien quality was unique and fresh(not to mention HOT!). As I've read each of your books, I have seen your growth and change as well. As a lucky recipient of and ARC of Hero I am thrilled at the direction your story is taking, but sad to think we may not see much of Jack in future books!

  9. What a wonderful thought provoking post. It's great that you could enjoy Slave from a different perspective. Now I have Slave but
    haven't read it yet. Should I send it back? LOL. NOT. Great that you enjoyed it the second time around.

  10. Thanks, Donna! It's been a blast having you and the other CBEB ladies along on the flight!

    Sharon & Cindy
    I'm glad I'm not the only one reading her own books! I hesitated to even include that in the post because I wasn't sure how it would sound. Now I know I'm in good company!

    I need to clean out and start over so badly it's not even funny. I feel like Harrison Ford when he was asked if he would ever consider cosmetic surgery, and his reply was, "Once I got started, where would I stop?" I think I'd end up bulldozing the house!

    Nancy, you are REALLY making me wish for retirement, but I've got a few years left before that happens.

    LOL, Mary G! You've got a lot of catching up to do!

  11. Great post, Cheryl~

    Sorry I'm late in responding, life caught up and like a Mack truck ran over me.

    I picked up Romeo, Romeo not too long ago because I was invited to speak at a book club and it had been a while since I'd read it.

    I had a great time, and like you, wanted to edit it a bit, but soon I was dragged into a world of my own making. I just love when that happens, I forget it's my book and think, damn, that's good...Oh! I wrote it. LOL