Curling Up By The Fire would like to welcome Madeline Freeman, author of Awaking (The Naturals, Book 1), which released August 12, 2011. Awaking is Madeline's first published novel and features Morgan, Lucas, and Corbin as they try to discover the origins of the latent powers they each hold and what it means to them and to others who have been watching them for years. Madeline is here to talk a bit about what it's like to be a perfectionist; when it can work to your advantage and when you need to let things go and relax. A bit of a perfectionist myself, I found this post interesting and I've always wondered whether other perfectionists succeeded at "letting things go" or if it was always a constant struggle. Here's a brief summary of the novel:
Morgan Abbey’s life is about to change.
Just weeks before her senior year is set to begin, a mysterious stranger approaches Morgan with information that has far-reaching ramifications. First, the psychic ability she believes she has just been pretending to have since middle school might actually be real.
Second, her mother, who disappeared abruptly and completely almost a decade ago, might still be alive.
Morgan finds herself in the drawn into a centuries-old struggle involving a group of people who quietly coexist alongside the common people of the world. This shadowy group believes it is time for them to reclaim their former positions of power—and they believe Morgan is the key.
But when the time comes, will Morgan be able to do what it takes to reunite with her mother and fulfill her destiny?
Striving for Perfection
by Madeline Freeman
I’ve always been a perfectionist. I remember clearly walking home from elementary school one day in tears because I got a B on something.
Yeah, I was that kid.
And it’s not even like the pressure came from my parents. As I walked home sobbing about the B, my mom walked beside me telling me to calm down, that a B was still a good grade. It was all me.
Perfection isn’t a bad thing. Especially not when it’s something easy, like using apostrophes or differentiating between there, their, and they’re. (Can you tell I’m an English teacher?) But perfection can be a hindrance when it holds a person back. If you’re late for a job interview because you want to look perfect, that can cost you the job. If you never turn in that writing assignment because you want it to be perfect, it can cost you your grade.
And if you never do anything with your writing because you want it to be perfect, it can cost your heart’s desire.
I’ve written a number of first drafts in my life. Now, to be honest, none of these are in a ready-to-publish condition. I’d always get done with a draft, reread it, decide it was crap, and move on to the next project. Apparently, in my mind, if it wasn’t perfect on the first try, it wasn’t worth my time.
Does anyone else see how ridiculous this is?
Perfection is a process. A person can’t expect for something to be absolutely perfect on the first try. I tell my students this all the time, especially when it comes to writing assignments. Authors go through multiple drafts before a book is published. Even amazing authors like Libba Bray and JK Rowling don’t get it right on the first try.
So why should I hold myself to a higher standard than that?
It’s a process, but I’m trying to break out of my perfectionism. I’m allowing myself grace. If I need to skip ahead and write a scene that will occur in the future (not the next scene in the book), I’m letting myself do that. If I need to go back and make a change, I’m telling myself it’s okay. It doesn’t have to be perfect on the first try.
Am I giving up on the ideal of perfect? Of course not. I think we should all strive for perfection in what we do—especially in what we love. But we can’t let it hold us back, either. Just because it’s not perfect now doesn’t mean it can’t be later. Perfection is a process. So is life.
****Giveaway****: One lucky reader will win an e-book version of Awaking. Leave a comment after this post with your email address in order to be entered. Contest is open internationally. Contest closes 3 October 2011.
Morgan Abbey noticed him during a routine day of telling fortunes at the park. Her last customer of the day was just sitting down when she became aware of him, standing some fifty yards away from the shaded picnic table at which she sat, looking almost too cool in his dark blue jeans and black T-shirt, leaning up against the pole of a swing set and staring off into the distance.
Morgan’s first irrational thought was that he was a drug dealer. Her second was that, though he wasn’t looking in her direction, he was watching her.
But before there was time to do anything but register these ideas in her mind, her thoughts were interrupted by the perpetually whiny voice of Tasha Rush, one of Morgan’s classmates at Arthur B. Casey High. “Morgan, are you paying attention?”
“Of course,” Morgan said, fixing her gaze on Tasha’s face. “You were saying your sister’s annoying? And that summer school’s boring.”
Tasha looked mildly mollified by Morgan’s summary. She shifted on the bench, looking excited. “Okay, so…”
Morgan raised an eyebrow at her. “Anxious?”
She smiled. “I always get a little anxious before a reading; you know that. I get nervous, learning about the future.”
Morgan nodded. She picked up her cards and shuffled them with a practiced rhythm. They weren’t tarot cards, just a regular deck. She’d tried out tarot toward the end of middle school, but gave up when the boys who came for readings couldn’t stop giggling at the sight of the nude lovers. Every now and again, someone would comment about the cards, but mostly no one cared. In general, people just wanted to be told what they wanted to hear.
Morgan would oblige only occasionally.
She dealt out four cards: the nine of spades, the queen of diamonds, the ace of diamonds, and the six of spades. She made a face.
Each card had a meaning in itself—or at least that’s what the book Morgan had bought back in the sixth grade claimed. The queen of diamonds was the card that represented Tasha—the signifier that these cards were forTasha. If that card hadn’t shown up, Morgan would have re-dealt the cards. The nine of spades meant loss and worry. The ace of diamonds and the six of spades together foretold news of failure. Morgan took a few moments to clear her mind, to allow herself to make the connections that would tell her what this information might mean for her client.
When she looked up again, she snuck a glance over Tasha’s shoulder. The guy was still by the swing set. She turned her attention back to her customer. “So, bad news,” she said bracingly. “Summer school’s a waste of your time.”
Tasha smiled, rolling her eyes. “I know, right? I mean, do you know how much I’ve had to give up this summer because of stupid summer school? I’ve barely been to the beach. And look—” She held out her arms. “—not even a little tan.”
But Morgan just shook her head. “That’s not what I mean. I mean, it’s a waste. You’re not gonna pass.”
“But… but…” Tasha seemed unable to form a coherent sentence for a few moments. “But I’ve been to, like,every class! They can’t fail me!”
Morgan considered mentioning that grades weren’t based solely on attendance but changed her mind. She sighed and forced a smile. “Well, now that you know what path you’re on, maybe you can maybe change something.”
Tasha made a scathing noise in the back of her throat. “Not likely. It’s almost over.”
Morgan shrugged. “Then I don’t know what to tell you.”
Tasha pouted. “What am I gonna do, Morgan? Without this credit, I’m not gonna be a senior! My mom’s gonna kill me. She’s been such a complete witch about having to pay for this class. So obnoxious, you know?” Then Tasha looked up at Morgan, eyes wide, realizing her faux pas too late. “Wow, totally forgot who I was talking to. I’m sorry—”
“It’s okay,” Morgan said coolly. She sighed. It drove her crazy how people could speak so disparagingly about their mothers when she didn’t have one around…. Not anymore.
For a minute, Tasha just sat there, staring blankly at the cards on the table before her. Finally, with a sigh, she stood up. She eyed the payment she’d given at the beginning of the reading. Morgan never put the money away until a reading was over—her tacit money-back guarantee. For a moment, Morgan though Tasha might ask for a refund, but then she seemed to think better of it. She straightened and, with an awkward wave, muttered a farewell and walked away.
Morgan watched her briefly before taking the payment and placing it in her velvet drawstring purse. She wondered momentarily if she shouldn’t’ve told Tasha a different fortune. But, then again, that wasn’t really how Morgan operated.
She looked out into the park again, wondering vaguely if the guy in the black T-shirt was still there, but her search was halted by the appearance of her best friend and business partner, Clarissa Perry, Ris for short. Ris, who had been at a nearby table during Morgan’s readings, commented about the day’s turnout and mentioned something about not thinking word-of-mouth was the most efficient way to communicate when Morgan would be at the park giving readings. Morgan was only half paying attention.
“Hey, Ris, did you notice that guy over there?” Morgan said quietly as soon as she could get a word in edgewise.
“What guy?” Ris asked, voice too loud, turning her head in all directions.
Morgan groaned. “Dude, seriously? Could you be more obvious?” She moved a few inches to her right to look around Ris’s spiky blond hair toward the swing set. No one was there.
Ris grinned sheepishly and then shrugged. “Well, at least we know spy school’s out for me. But what guy?”
Morgan shrugged too. “He was just standing over by the… Never mind.”
“Was he hot?” Characteristic Ris question.
Morgan rolled her eyes. “Yes. Naked, too. And holding a sign that said, ‘Ris Perry, will you be my Princess Leia?’”
Ris closed her eyes and put her hand solemnly to her chest. “Han Solo has finally come for me.”
“Star Wars, huh?”
Morgan’s eyes snapped over to where the speaker stood and she immediately felt an unaccustomed heat in her cheeks. The guy who had been standing against the swing set now stood before her.
If Ris noticed anything off in Morgan’s reaction, she didn’t show it—which Morgan took to mean Ris hadn’t noticed anything. Ris was rarely adept at hiding her emotions.
“Can I help you?” Ris asked in her professional voice.
The guy appraised Ris, something of a smirk playing on his lips. Meanwhile, Morgan appraised him—his brown hair artfully tousled to look like he woke up that way, his stance casual but sure.
“Depends,” he said with a slight shrug. “What is it, exactly, that you girls do out here?”
“Morgan’s a psychic,” Ris replied promptly in a chipper voice that made Morgan groan inwardly. “She does readings. Cards and palm.”
“And what if I said I don’t believe in that kind of thing?” the guy asked.
Ris shrugged. “Then I’d ask you why you were here.”
The guy smiled, but it wasn’t an amused smile. To Morgan it looked more secretive. “I’m where I’m supposed to be.”
“Well, that’s kind of cryptic.”
Morgan spoke the words before she even realized she’d thought them. Ris glanced at her appreciatively.
The guy crossed his arms over his chest. “As the two of you seem to be,” he said. He glanced at Morgan. “How does one become a professional psychic, anyway?”
Before Morgan could think of how to explain herself, Ris was talking.
“It’s not something you become, it’s something you are,” Ris explained patiently. “She’s good, too.”
The guy didn’t look surprised by the information, only mildly interested. Eyes fixed on Morgan, he took a few steps closer.
“Is that right?” He looked from Morgan to Ris and back again. “Quite the entrepreneurs, aren’t you? Young business prodigies and all that?”
Irritation flared somewhere in the back of Morgan’s mind. He was teasing them. “What are you, like, a year older than us? Two maybe? At least we’re here for a legitimate reason. You waiting for some middle school boys to show up so you can push pot or pills or something on them?”
“Drug dealer? Really? That’s your best try?” He let out a short laugh—not derisive, amused. He glanced at Ris. “Maybe she’s not quite the psychic you think she is.”
Ris glared at him. “She’s not reading you now,” she said, as though explaining the obvious.
A second later, catlike, the guy was sitting across from Morgan at the picnic table. “Okay, then. Read me.”
Taken aback by the request, Morgan did the only thing she could think to do: she smirked, hoping the expression belied the nervousness she felt. The only people she ever gave readings to were people she knew—her classmates and other students at Arthur B. Casey High. The thought of reading this stranger was unsettling.
But she couldn’t let that show.
“Sorry, we’ve closed up shop for the day,” she said, jiggling her change purse in her hand. “We’re back Monday; you can leave your name with Ris and she’ll get you on the list—”
He put his hands out, palms up. “Why wait? What’s the saying—there’s no time like the present? What d’you charge for a palm reading?”
Ris opened her mouth to respond, but Morgan cut her off. “Why are you here?”
He shrugged. “Maybe I wanna know my future.” He placed his hand on the table in front of Morgan, palm up. “Care to fill me in?”
Morgan glanced at Ris, who waggled her eyebrows encouragingly. She then nodded at her friend and Ris backed away to the table she usually occupied during readings.
For a moment, Morgan felt anxiety bubble up somewhere in the vicinity of her lungs. What was she doing? Ris would say she was doing the same thing she always did, but Morgan knew this was something very different. Despite what Ris and others might think, Morgan relied on the background knowledge she carried into each reading. But for this guy—whose name she didn’t even know—she had no information.
“So, how does this work?” the guy asked.
Morgan flicked her eyes up to meet his. “Depends,” she said evenly, stalling for time. “What do you wanna know?”
"Depends,” he said, leaning over the tabletop toward her. “What do you want to know, Morgan?”
Morgan’s eyebrow’s pulled together and she offered a wry smile. “Now that’s not how this works.”
"You sure?” he asked, leaning in even closer, his voice barely above a whisper. “Because I already know so much about you, Morgan Abbey.”
Morgan was taken aback by the use of her surname, and before she could ask how he knew it, he was talking again.
“You’ve been running this little psychic business since sixth grade. Your classmates always tell you how rightyour predictions are.” He offered a smile and a soft chuckle as if this information amused him. Then his face turned serious. “Your mom went missing almost ten years ago. You were seven.”
It was like the wind was knocked out of her lungs. Morgan stared at the guy sitting across from her. His expression hadn’t changed; his hazel eyes continued to gaze intently into hers.
How could he know that? ABC was the logical answer—but Morgan was sure she’d never seen him at school. Perhaps he knew someone at ABC? Maybe this was an elaborate prank to get back at her for some reading someone didn’t like?
But what if it wasn’t?
“What do you know about her—about my mom?” Morgan asked, voice low to avoid Ris’s notice.
“Chelsea Sutter Abbey, born August seventeenth. Married Dylan Abbey at twenty-three and had you, her only child, at twenty-four.”
Morgan felt her heart pounding like a bass drum. “That’s nothing a Google search couldn’t tell you—”
Morgan froze. “I know that.”
“No,” he said firmly. “You think that. You hope it. But I know it.”
“How do you—?”
“Suffice it to say I know it. I know things. I know things about your mom, and things about you.” He held her gaze for a moment longer and then stood up. “But that’s enough for now.”
Morgan stood, too. “Wait—you’re just leaving?”
He shrugged and nodded. “Yeah.”
“But—you can’t,” she hissed. She cast a furtive glance toward Ris, whose attention was on her cell phone. She turned back to the guy. “You can’t drop a bombshell like that and then leave. I don’t even know your name.”
A smile played on his lips. “Well, then. Until we meet again, consider me a man of mystery.” With a wag of his eyebrows, he turned and walked away.