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What’s different about writing in summer as opposed to any other time of the year?

In my world, the difference lies in the host of other activities and jobs calling to me. Not only must I maintain my house and feed my family, but I have a small garden and a huge yard to manage. And a family reunion at our place. And visits from neighbors and friends. And one must take time for hot dogs and BBQs and ice cream cones. IMG_1196

Yesterday, for example (August 24), I planned to continue working the latest edits into my manuscript. But first, I wanted to pull the invasive weeds overwhelming my garden plot. It shouldn’t take more than an hour or so, I thought. Three hours later, I returned to the house, amazed at how much time had passed but glad to have the job done. I had so enjoyed the morning outside that I decided to cut the grass after lunch. It’s a 2.5-hour job, but since rain was predicted, I thought it prudent. The grass looks lovely today in the rain. IMG_0270

Today I’m back at the computer, but writing-life housekeeping chores take much of my morning. And this afternoon I need to attend my writing group meeting, since we are discussing my latest manuscript.

Sigh.

And that’s how summer goes. But there’s also Christmas, preparing for the family to come home en masse. And Easter, when they do the same…we are so blessed. There are many interruptions in life, but maybe I’m looking at it from a completely skewed perspective. Maybe life IS the interruptions. Maybe my writing is the commentary I fit in as often as I can. I call it my vocation, my career, my job. But it will always be a balancing act with what happens off the page.

Me with my mom and one of my daughters

Me with my mom and one of my daughters

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For me, this book started out slowly. I continued reading anyway, and I’m glad I did, because it turned out to be well worth the time commitment.

The story in brief:

Police officer Michael Keane has returned from the dark, dead-end streets of Chicago to his hometown of Hidden Springs, Kentucky, where things are quiet and calm. That’s when the corpse shows up on the steps of the courthouse. So much for small-town sanctuary.

Through the progression of the story, we see Michael’s background, at least what he can remember since the dark night when his parents were killed in a car crash and he almost died as well. We meet his straight-laced but caring Aunt Lindy; his childhood girl friend, Alex; teenaged Anthony, whom Michael is trying to watch over against the boy’s wishes; and the rest of the unique residents of Hidden Springs.

Now that there’s been a murder, Deputy Sheriff Michael Keane must search out the murderer. He must observe people and figure out what makes them tick. Which of them could be capable of murder?

 

Even when I realized “whodunit,” there were still a couple of subplots to keep me turning pages to see how the author would bring all things to a finish.

Ann H. Gabhart

Ann H. Gabhart

Ann Gabhart has written many books in different genres, and this cozy mystery is certainly entertaining and inspiring.

I recently read a blogpost on the Novel Rocket site that tweaked my interest because it’s about indie publishing. It’s written by Michelle Griep, an amazing Christian author who, incidentally, has a great sense of humor. I’ve read a number of her books (Gallimore, A Heart Deceived, Brentwood’s Ward) and loved them. When I asked Michelle if I could repost her article here, she said, “You betcha.” So here is Michelle’s experience with independent publishing, so far…

You know those TV shows that feature some daredevil lighting his underwear on fire as he hops on a motorcycle and jumps over five semi-trucks and a baby, all while some scrolling type at the bottom of the screen warns you not to attempt this at home? Yeah. I feel like there should be some kind of warning to those considering self publishing because it’s really not as easy as it looks. Leastwise not if you want to put out a quality book.

So here is my attempt at enlightening those who think they’ll just slap up some type on Createspace and rake in a million bucks.

**pretend the following is scrolling across the screen . . . I’m not technologically savvy enough to do that and there’s no teenager around for me to collar**

  1. Covers are a pain in the patootie. Who knew there’d be so many decision to make? Color. Style. Artwork. Wording. Layout. Font. Sizing. Transparency. Bleed. And that’s just in the first consultation.
  1. No matter how many times you go through a manuscript, you can always find something else to change.
  1. A good editor is worth her weight in chai. I didn’t actually have the money up front to pay for a manuscript edit so I bartered for a lifetime supply of chai. So far it’s worked out pretty good. Of course, if she lives to be one hundred, I may be in trouble. Nah. I’ll be dead first. Hahahaha! Joke’s on her. . . wait a minute. Maybe not.
  1. If you put your book up for pre-order on Amazon, they give you a deadline set in stone to upload your final copy. If you’re late, oops! Your name is written on the Amazon naughty list and you don’t get to put up any more pre-orders for over a year.
  1. There’s way more that goes into producing a book than simply good writing, though that is a must. There’s book size, paper color, paper weight, ISBN nonsense, Library of Congress shtuff, a bajillion different kind of ebook conversions, yada, yada. Seriously, I had no idea.

It was an adventure putting out my self-pubbed book, Writer Off the Leash, but one that’s been a good education. Would I do it again? Probably. Will I leave the realm of traditional publishing behind? Nope. Each venue has their pros and cons.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

WOTL Front Cover Final

WRITER OFF THE LEASH: GROWING IN THE WRITING CRAFT is a kick in the pants for anyone who wants to write but is stymied by fear, doubt, or simply doesn’t know how to take their writing to the next level.

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Michelle Headshot 2 2015

 

Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. Follow her adventures and find out about upcoming new releases at her blog, Writer Off the Leash, or stop by her website. You can also find her at the usual haunts of FacebookTwitter, or Pinterest.

Theme is a topic, idea or motif that is central to a story. I believe theme is something that evolves organically in our fiction as characters move through their particular conflict and respond to it. As writers, we have to be careful not to manipulate a theme to convey our values. Our heart-theme will emerge if we write honestly.

Why do we write what we write, and how do we incorporate our values into our stories without being conspicuous? I would suggest it takes practice in releasing theme, and allowing the Lord to bring out truths in our stories that will positively influence our readers.

Theme is also an aspect of our lives that develops as we learn and grow and mature. It comes from who we are, what our values are, and how we live them out. Sometimes other people see our life-theme better than we do.

If a theme is organic, that means it stems from our responses to circumstances in our lives.

I’ll be honest. I have trouble maintaining a smoothly-flowing passion for life. When things go well—my relationships are healthy, finances are manageable, plans seem to be following through—then I love life and it spills over into my writing. But when things go less than lovely, which is to be expected in this life, I tend to question my reasons for doing what I do. Thankfully, I know I am forgiven when I fall or fail, and my God is all about redemption and renewal.

So I’m thinking that everything I believe and do must be based on something solid and sure. James 1:17 (NKJV) says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”

God does not change, nor can He be manipulated. We can lean on Him, rely on Him, depend on Him because of those invariable truths. If we base our theme on God and consider the good gifts He gives us, we should be able, with His divine help, to live at peace with whatever circumstance we find ourselves in, whether in our writing life or in our personal life.

I pray that the theme of my life, my commitment to Jesus Christ, would be organic, influencing other lives toward Him.

CELEBRATING FAMILY

(Origin unknown)

(Origin unknown)

I first saw this picture on a card I received years ago from someone with a sense of humour that matches mine. I displayed it in my house recently when my extended family came for a reunion.

About a year ago, my husband and I offered to host a reunion for my family. It was to be a time of reconnecting and enjoying each others’ company.

My parents, John and Margaret Enns, were married in March of 1949. Dad passed away twenty-two years ago, but Mom is still doing relatively well at 93 years of age.

My family—Mom, my brother, my sister, and our children and grandchildren—gathered at our farm on the August long weekend. I was sure someone would be ill or unable to attend for some other reason, but everyone turned out in fine form. All thirty-five of us.

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I wouldn’t consider offering to host a gathering like this very often, but we managed it with the help of various family members and lots of lists. There were lists for Accommodations (our beds were all full, a number of families brought their own campers/RVs, and we rented two RVs from friends who offered them for our use), Activities (which turned out to be mostly free playtime for the kids and visiting for the adults), and Food (meal plans, amounts required, grocery lists, to-do lists…).

Looking back, I believe we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. With eighteen children ranging in age from six months to fifteen years, there was no shortage of action. We had cleaned our tarp-covered Quonset to within an inch of its life, and that’s where we ate and visited, and also where the kids played with sidewalk chalk and rode their bikes. To transport our food from house to Quonset, we were blessed to use a neighbour’s Gator. My dear mom had first dibs on rides to and fro.

I am most thankful to the Lord Jesus for my family. We miss Dad a lot. He made his love for all of us known with few words. Mom was very brave in keeping up with all the activities during the weekend, as her mobility is becoming more of a challenge. But I know she wouldn’t have missed this for the world.

I’m thankful we could celebrate the heritage of faith that has been passed along from generation to generation. That the children and grandchildren have had the opportunity to respond to God’s love and plan for their lives. That we could celebrate strong marriages and active parenting and warm relationships and our off-the-wall sense of humour. All these things connect us, and are, I believe, well worth celebrating.

Thank You, Lord, for families and faith and functions where we can celebrate them together.

It’s summertime, and thoughts of summer bring to mind pictures of people lounging in the sun, reading. I read all the time for many reasons, but sometimes I like to give myself the gift of reading guilt-free, just for fun. After all, reading has always been my most enjoyable non-writing activity.

Looking back to my youth, I loved the Nancy Drew series. Two main genres that most intrigued me at that time were mysteries and horse stories. (I was fortunate to live on a farm with horses, so that was a dream come true.)

In high school, I discovered classic novels, including Russian titles such as Anna Karenina, War and Peace, Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov (didn’t ever get through that last one).

When my children were young, I couldn’t find as much time to read, settling for short books on how to keep your sanity while parenting young children. And children’s books, of course.

Then I discovered Bodie Thoene. She was the author who inspired me to venture into writing. I found her books bold and intense and impressive, and wanted to write like her. (I’ve since realized that no matter what books and writers I admire and emulate, I still must find my own voice and style.)

My current interests vary widely. I have always loved historical fiction, and I should, since that’s primarily what I write, but I also enjoy good contemporary fiction. I’m on the library committee at our church, so I get to read lots of different Christian authors: Jeanette Windle, Joel C. Rosenberg, Heather Day Gilbert, Patrick W. Carr, Terri Blackstock, James Scott Bell, Angela Hunt, Jill Eileen Smith, Dani Pettrey, Dee Henderson, Siri Mitchell, to mention a few.

photoMy preferred secular books are Alexander McCall Smith’s The Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency series, Alan Bradley’s Flavia deLuce series, and Kate Morton’s novels. I also stumbled upon Lorena McCourtney’s Ivy Malone cozy mysteries, which I love. Add to that my complete series of The Cat Who books by Lilian Jackson Braun, which I’ve read and re-read for easy, engaging entertainment.

I could go on, but I’d love to know what some of your favorite titles are. What do you read just for fun?

00486_t“Between the beautifully bound covers of Bread for the Journey lies a collection of life lessons from past and present, from everyday occurrences to miraculous deliverance; pictures of faith, forgiveness and hope. This book is a treasury of physical and spiritual sustenance in one wholesome, inspiring package.” (My endorsement for MennoMedia).

Bread for the Journey is brought to us by the ten women who joined efforts to write Mennonite Girls Can Cook and Mennonite Girls Can Cook Celebrations, all through Herald Press (MennoMedia).

The dedication of Bread for the Journey reads thus: “We dedicate this book and our royalties to orphans and widows who face each day in need. Our prayer is that they would see the love of Jesus extended through caring hands, one home and one heart at a time.

I think for this very reason, God has been blessing the sales of these books. After seeing an Advance Reading Copy and a mockup of the cover, I’m sure this latest production will also achieve great sales.

Bread for the Journey is based on 13 weeks (90 days) of heartfelt meditations meant to encourage, to stir, to comfort, to inspire, to teach. Each week begins with a story and a recipe, and each day of the week features a devotional written by one of the ten women who compiled the first two books. Their inspirational contributions vary from lessons learned through everyday events to family stories from their forebears in Russia. Nostalgia and faith combine to show God’s protection and preservation through many years and trials.

This volume is again beautifully formatted, with luscious food photos and smartly styled pages. It is artistic, but as warm as Grandma’s hug. I love the spiritual parallel of roasted zwieback for the emigration journey with the long-lasting and nourishing inspiration of God’s word in our spiritual journey.

At the end of each meditation, the writer includes thoughts and meditations to savor.

Some of the stories brought tears to my eyes at the suffering the Mennonite people experienced in Russia and how they chose to trust in God instead of allowing bitterness to take root. Here are a few examples:

– Be encouragers

– Trust God in all circumstances

– Do not allow life to make you bitter; it’s a choice

– God loves us enough to take time to remind us of his great love

– The most amazing gift ever given is Jesus

– We are committed to each other and to Christ

I found these stories to be particularly nostalgic because they are part of my own personal history, stories I heard as a child when our extended family gathered at Grandma’s house for borscht and fresh bread. They are stories of sorrows and joys, of faith and perseverance.

In Bev’s words from article #4 of Week Three: “Without God, there are no answers to the hard questions, no reasons for difficult times, and, worst of all, no hope.”

Thank you, ladies, for your hard work, for your generosity, for your vision, and for being vulnerable. God is certainly using you through this endeavor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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