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Heavy rain and thunderstorms are hitting my area right now. My poor collie, Ty, hated to go outside this morning and now is hiding in the corner of the kitchen as he tries to escape the big booms outside.

Me, personally, I love the thunderstorms. I delight in the rain falling in sheets and the crack of thunder and streaks of lightning. It’s a symphony I never seem to tire of. As I stood at the window, enjoying the show, it brought back a long-buried memory. And it got me thinking of when more is too much.

writing

When I was young, we often grew a yearly garden to have vegetable reserves for the coming year. One spring, when I was about ten or eleven, we had a terrific thunderstorm. It was flooding our garden. I was instructed to go outside, take boards, and try to barricade the garden.

It was pouring rain. I was soaked.  I recall using the board to push the dirt back as inches-deep muddy water rushed past my ankles, washing away our seedlings. I recall my bare feet sinking into the cold mud and my hair plastered to my scalp as I tried to beat the watery surge. It seemed equivalent to holding back the tide of the great lakes.

We had hoped for steady, soft rains to water our crops. Instead we got too much: a deluge of relentless rain that destroyed a portion of our garden. And sometimes we do that in other areas of our life.

Like when we tell a little white lie, that starts innocently enough and soon turns into a flood of endless falsehoods. Or spices added to a meal that should have enhanced it and instead drown out the food’s intended flavor.

Or when we are writing a scene and once we reach the wrap-up, we keep going  and going like the Energizer Bunny. The scene is complete, the loose ends tied up, and the conclusion is satisfying. We should close and move on. Instead, we belabor points, add dialogue or narrative that isn’t needed, and in general we linger in the scene far longer than necessary.

We have all read books like that, and some of us have written books like that. Yes, me too. I call it a learning curve and a rite of passage as we grow and mature as writers.

daydreaming kitty

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This is Now

I can so relate with Snoopy right now. I plowed into 2018 with three new releases under my belt and a firm resolve to take a few months to recoup from those, and then spend the spring writing two more time-travel novels for late 2018 submission. However, a new opportunity presented itself last month so I  decided to temporarily pause the novels to work on a short story, of which I am now 3,000 words into.

While I do have more than one sheet of paper, I have limited time and reserves to write when I need to be doing everything else. I’ve heard it said writing is hard work. Personally, I don’t find the real writing so hard, I find many other aspects of being a writer the hard work.

I wish ol’ Snoopy all the luck with The Cabin and his one sheet of paper. In the meantime,  please wish me luck on the literary endeavors I am writing my way through.

Snoopy one sheet of paper

Enduring Trials

 

Enduring Trials God’s Way, by Scott LaPierre is a book that’s a unique blend of Old Testament prophesies and New Testament fulfillment. This book will redirect the suffering reader’s focus from a single layer prospective to a new, uplifting outlook.

Scott’s very straight-forward approach to writing and an educational–though encouraging–delivery shows his pastoral background. The book is absolutely chock-full of solid scripture and concise examples to aid the reader through their struggles and trials.

This is an excellent resource, meant to transform the reader’s view on suffering and trials to one of encouragement. It offers undeniable proof that God is 1–in control, 2– seeing our pain, 3- alongside us during our trials, and 4– planning a good end to our trials and suffering. An entire chapter is dedicated to finding the good end God has in mind for our suffering and trials of today.

This is a book that should be highlighted and underlined. There are heavy references to Job, Joseph and other heroes of pain and trials. There are fantastic insights and a particular favorite was this: if we repent and stop a sin(s), that void now must be filled by doing something else. The intention is that one now does something positive to replace the negative (sin) of before. This seems much like saying for every negative action (or sin) that we stop, there is now an equal and positive reaction.  That sort of insight causes the reader to pause and contemplate.

There are series of questions at the end of each chapter for the reader to record personal reflections or have a discussion with a small group. This book is a resource that would be fine read alone or as a group study.

Finally, I would mention the author also has another book, entitled “Marriage God’s Way.” For anyone searching for ways to strengthen their marriage and make it how God intended holy matrimony to be, it would behoove them to check this title out as well.

Links to connect with Scott LaPierre or purchase his books are:

https://scottlapierre.org/                              Twitter @PastorWCC

 

My last ‘Been Thinking’ post had been on where we start. This morning I was reflecting more on when we stop, slow down, step away, or halt. Interestingly, I was thinking about the concept of doing that with writing.

stop-shield-traffic-sign-road-sign-39080.jpeg

Now, before anyone gasps in horror, no, I am not ending my writing career. I am enjoying it way too much and have so many stories planned to write. However, what about the people that do? Therein lies my thoughts.

Like many writers, I get overwhelmed or frustrated by the required promotion time we have to invest in our books. We mostly just want to write, not stop writing in order to promote or sell ourselves. It requires a balancing act many struggle with, including me.F Factor in time spent on family, friends, other jobs, and life in general, it’s easy to sometimes ask ourselves: Is this even worth it? This can be especially true following a harsh review or disappointing sales. Just scan the Facebook pages with all the groups devoted to authors who give each other that boost to keep going when it seems insurmountable.

Now suppose someone just decided enough, they were stepping away from writing. How do they do that? Well, the obvious answer seems to be “Stop writing”. However, it’s not always that easy. Do the current work(s)in progress just go into the drawer or archived files? What about the social media presence? Do the posts just stop? And what about the books already out there? Royalties will still trickle in from future sales. The book will still be ‘alive and available’ unless it’s self-published and the author decides to remove it from all listings. Is that advisable? Contracts? Series? Sequels? All things to consider. Even harder is the story lines already dreamed up and wait their turn to be crafted into a book. Are they destined to lie in silence forever?

I would invite you to take this reflective journey with me. Imagine the one thing you secretly, deeply, totally want to stop. What is this one action? Your day job? Your hobby? Your marriage? Family or friend obligations? Social obligations? A stifling friendship?  Close your eyes and silently give it voice, say it to yourself.

Now, picture all the things that will cease as a result. The future things that will no longer be.  How does that look to you? Liberating? Terrifying? Exciting? Sad? Happy?

Sometimes, when we want so badly to stop or walk away from something but know we cannot, it can be cathartic to imagine it, to let the fantasy run while in our minds for brief flights of fancy. above-adventure-aerial-air.jpg

 

Karibou Magic cover

“Karibou Magic” is a nice Christmas fantasy.  The reason for the misspelling of Caribou is actually the name of the town used for the setting. Karibou, Wyoming.  I was given a free copy of this book through Reading Alley in exchange for an honest review.

There were several pros and cons to this story. It was a short, easy read. Eva Mars Bowman, DVM is happily settled in Karibou, working alongside elderly veterinarian, Doc Nickolas. Thank to Doc and some special reindeer, Mars’ faith in Christmas magic has been restored. She is especially looking forward to joining Doc in their annual Christmas Eve sleigh ride.

Then Doc’s estranged son, Trebeck, returns to Karibou, and brings his teen daughter, James. Yes, the names are it bit unusual, and can stumble a reader at first. I backtracked when I first encountered the daughter named James but there is a story to why she’s called that.  Trebeck does not believe in nor appreciate Christmas and immediately he and Mars at at odds. He is rude, insensitive, and pretty much a jerk.

The quick friendship between Mars and James is heartwarming and very sweet. It seems they both needed each other. Things turn bad when Doc falls gravely ill just before Christmas. Trebeck ends up in control of Doc’s vet clinic, pushing Mars even further out of the picture. She goes from initially feeling unwelcome with his arrival to ready to pack her bags since he has taken over.

The resolution is good. What I did not like about this story was the sudden romance between Mars and Trebeck. They clearly did not agree on much of anything and the almost instant attraction seemed rushed and inappropriate. Granted there was some misunderstanding in the beginning, but still one normally doesn’t go from disliking a person for several reasons to thinking he/she is hot all that quickly.  Second, there were many types, incorrect and missing words and other grammatical words that slowed down the flow of reading. More editing or proofreading would have helped greatly.

Beyond that it was a cute Christmas fantasy. James, the reindeer and a three-legged dog add much to the story. Warning, have a few tissues handy as you’ll probably need them.

Today I was thinking about starting a writing project. Whether it be a journal, memoir, book of fiction, or a poem, we all have to start somewhere. But where?

My dad has kept a journal for upwards of forty or fifty years. My own journal keeping started around 2004. My first book was written in 1979. My first poem was written shortly thereafter. Articles came later, as did novels. My great-aunt wrote poetry, though I’ve no idea when she started scribbling her thoughts.

Countless times I hear people say they’d like to write a book or a memoir, but they can’t. I’ve also heard countless reasons why. No time…no skill…no ideas…no notion of where to start. All I can say is you start where you begin.

Sit down with blank paper and a pen, or computer and open document. Write or type that first word. Then a second word. Etc… Change them and maybe change them back again. It doesn’t matter. The key here is to stick with it until you have something completely down. If it’s a journal, it’s your honest thoughts for that moment. If it’s prose, it’s a first draft, with time to go back and make it better. Ditto for song lyrics if that’s your passion. We all have to start somewhere.

When I began with my journal back around fourteen years ago, I had no grand plan of keeping lengthy journals. I was frustrated, scared, and desperately clinging to optimism at the time, and the writer in me begged–nay, demanded–that I write it down. So I sat and wrote, capturing all the pieces of my tumultuous life at that moment.

Since then, they’ve evolved into ‘chapters’, complete with titles to reflect the period of my life. As each stage of my life changes, one part closes and something new begins, I end that ‘chapter’ and begin a new one. November 24, 2017 I began chapter 11, titled ‘Standing on Faith & Stepping into the Unknown’. Chapter 10 was called ‘Strong in the Storm’. I’ve no idea when or how this eleventh chapter will end, but I don’t worry about it. I just write when inspired, and let the days and pages unfold. They average about a year and a half to two years, though many years ago I had an entire chapter covered in three months. That was an intense three months!

So whether you’re wanting to write that first word or tackle that fiftieth project–just begin it. And that is your point of beginning. You can only go forward from there. Good or bad, it can always be redone, but it can’t be undone. It might be lost or trashed, but it was done. Celebrate yourself, you have started. Congratulations.

Recently I was visiting a friend at her house. Her seven-year-old granddaughter read a graphic novel about a lost kitten to me. I marveled at how well she read and praised her lavishly. Later, she stopped reading and marked her place with a bracelet. Grammy discovered she’d misplaced her bookmarks. They found one but I made it a point to give her three more bookmarks the next time I saw her.

Now, I like comics too, particularly the Sunday ‘funnies’. About the same time I came across the weekly strip for “For Better or For Worse’ by Lynn Johnston (www.fborfw.com) Reading it was almost a flashback to my friend’s granddaughter. While I dislike seeing books damaged or dog-eared, I especially liked how ‘dad’ gave a new perspective of it. The child was reading. Isn’t that the important thing to remember?

fborfw For SMP blog 1-15-18

Both events got me to thinking how, as adult readers and writers we have an obligation or duty to help the younger generation to become readers. Hopefully they learn to treasure books and take care of them in the process, but it’s even more important they develop an interest in reading. If you look close at the last frame of the comic strip, you will notice movies on each of the bookshelves behind the parents. A television set, with a VCR player on top is on one end of the frame and a computer is at the other. I have nothing against any of those things, however, nowhere in the cartoon does one see a book save for the dog-eared one ‘mom’ is holding. To me, that says a lot in itself.

I know so many adults who know how to read and write, they just don’t like to. They say nothing interests them; not fiction, not much non-fiction, maybe the newspaper if anything at all. To me that is sad, because I know there is so much out there ready to be explored, discovered, and enjoyed. I know one man, in his thirties, who told me in all seriousness he has read one book in his life. One! To me, that is tragic. He is smart, capable of reading almost anything, he simply has no interest in opening a book. He is a father and I can’t help but wonder if he fosters an interest in books for his young children. It would be difficult to encourage children to do what they never see him doing.

While I was growing up, books were my escape. I loved the places they took me, the friends they became, and many childhood gems still grace my adult bookshelves. However, I was in the minority. I never saw my mother with any reading material beyond a magazine. My brother would rather cut off an appendage than be forced to read. I did see my father with paperback westerns. Incidentally, I still have a keen interest in western movies and books to this day.

Compared to the rest of my family, I was book obsessed. I had to have loads of books to read. The older I got, the more genres I wanted to explore. To be blunt—I loved books. I liked the feel of them. I liked challenging myself with tougher subject matter and longer lengths. Discovering a series made my heart flutter. While my family did not demonstrate or especially encourage a love of reading, they also did not discourage it. They bought me books for birthdays and holidays. They (sort of) tolerated my long visits to the bookstore where I spent my baby-sitting cash on books. I still remember walking out of the bookstore (ours was called WaldenBooks) with heavy stacks and shopping bags of books. I felt so grown up! On the long drive back home I would already be immersed in them, picking out the next great adventure.

As parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, there are so many things we seem to get wrong while dealing with the children and youth in our lives. The one thing we can do right, and pays a high dividend on the future, is to encourage, foster, and model an enjoyment and respect for books.  When the youngster wants to read a story, remember it is a blessing to sit and be read to. If they want us to read them a story, that is equally as special. The impressions, lessons, and memories created in those moments will last them a lifetime.