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Not Another Rant!

Oh good. A fifth Tuesday means I get to write a “random” blog. That usually means, unfortunately for my readers, a rant from me.

Today’s topic: The Joys of Technology…or not.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the advantages I receive from internet and email access. I love the almost instant connections, the ability to submit articles online, to schedule and post my own blogs, to research for a new book.

But, it’s the tech-failures that drive me to semi-controlled rage. Picture my hands shaking, my stomach in knots, me biting my lip, occasional racing of my heart.

We recently changed internet providers. It was not our choice. One company bought out the other, and we decided to tag along. All went fairly well until last week when we stopped receiving emails through our “local” provider. I called them, and a young man spent some time on the phone with me trying to fix the problem. At one point, he had me change a setting for another of my emails, and my original problem seemed to be solved. However, the result included failure with my other email address. He informed me that since that email address was not through their email provider, he couldn’t fix it. (Couldn’t or wouldn’t, I wondered.)

I didn’t want to spend another afternoon on the phone, but today when I saw my second email had 15 messages waiting, but none of them showed up in my inbox, and I couldn’t send emails from any account, I called again. This time, a nice woman looked into it with me and suggested I go to Apple Care. (I’ve always used Apple products and love them, except the price.) She even helped me find the phone number.

When I connected with the young woman at Apple Care, she said, “Don’t worry. I will help you fix this.” Desperate as I was, I believed her, and she came through. After forty minutes on the phone and screen sharing, she had me up and running on all accounts. I kept telling myself as the minutes ticked by while we waited for my old MacBook to restart, that she was getting paid well for her time.

When the missing emails popped up and unsent messages started sending, I exclaimed, “Bless your heart!” She liked that. I hadn’t planned to say that; it doesn’t sound very cool, but that’s what came out.

So, if you have occasional technical problems, don’t lose your faith in people. You may come up with a dud now and then, but most times, they are lovely folks who are happy to help.

 

NOTE: All three of the photos in this blog come from pixabay.com, a great place to find free photos.

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Where do our ideas come from? Best answer: everywhere.

I’m visiting with friends and someone mentions a strange circumstance that intrigues me. Or talks about a quirky character they met. Or refers to a larger-than-life experience they read about online. These are all fodder for the idea mill.

 

First lesson: Be observant. Listen. Imagine how this or that can be recreated in our writing.

 

 

Sometimes good ideas slip away on me because I’m not convinced they are novel-worthy. Can I build an entire book around a particular idea? Will it really fit into my plan without messing it up? Perfectionist tendencies show up and may need to be squelched in order to give the brain free reign to imagine the possibilities.

 

Second lesson: Cast off perfectionist tendencies. Welcome the ideas and save them for later use.

 

 

As amazing as some of the ideas are that come to me, I have a confession to make: they often take leave as quickly as they come. I have an unfortunately poor memory. I may remember having a fantastic idea, but the gist of it is gone forever.

 

Third lesson: Write. It. Down. We can’t always trust our brain to remember even the most intriguing ideas. At least I can’t.

 

 

 

 

To recap:

* Observe

* Accept

* Note

Grab those ideas and run with them. They are everywhere, but they want tending.

NOTE: This post first appeared on the InScribe Professional blogsite on August 30, 2017.

ANOTHER NOTE: All photos from pixabay.com.

 

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I am not a green thumb by a long shot, nor will I ever be, but my gardening self-image improved substantially when I discovered the joy of perennials. (I hear some of your saying, “Duh!” But really, I didn’t know.)

I’ve always loved the randomness of English gardens, and now that I’ve welcomed perennials, I have my own version. Some of my seeds/plants came from my middle daughter, who has a green thumb she inherited from her paternal grandmother. Some were freebies from a neighbour who was trimming up her gorgeous yard.

My flower gardens will never make “Better Homes & Gardnes,” but they make me happy. After many years of failed flowerbeds and embarrassment in my “everybody gardens” neighbourhood, I can finally look out my windows and enjoy color and variety, with low maintenance.

The best thing about perennials is that you’re never quite sure what will come up. My box garden in front of my kitchen window is different every year. This year, the violas took over in joyful disarray.

I had to stick in a few red and yellow portulacas to add variety to the purples and yellows.

My favorites, the Maltese Cross (they are July bloomers, as am I, so I call them my birthday flowers, and I love red) are prolific this year, to the point of overwhelming one of my pretty purple and white lilies. I may have to do some transplanting before next spring.

I’m always amazed at how something comes from nothing.

We have long winters and short summers here on the Canadian prairies, so se perennials hurry to sprout up and bloom as long as the weather allows.

Lesson to learn: use my time wisely and bloom where I’m planted. We never know the joy we can bring to others just by being ourselves.

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Why Before What

The old and sometimes annoying question rises again: Why do I write?

I can’t say, as some writers do, that I can’t not write. I’d probably survive if I didn’t, but I would be much less of a person because I’d be denying the creative spirit within me. The one that comes from God. After all, our gifts are from the Father, and we ought not ignore them. I am so thankful that God has chosen me to use words to tell others about Him.

Why do I write?

When I think back to my first book, a historical novel set in pre-WWI Russia, I saw my story as:

1) a way of preserving my family history (“Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation” Joel 1:3.)

2) a way of passing on the story of God’s faithfulness in the past

So I had an idea of the why. As my books were published and I had the opportunity to present readings, I met people who shared my history and my faith story. It was then I realized that my readers were part of the “why.” They had invested in my books, so I wanted to share truthfully and faithfully. I wanted to influence them to see the God I had met through my stories.

I often find myself working through issues, beliefs, values or personal decisions as I create my stories. As writers, we become very vulnerable to those who read what we write. And it’s only in this way that we can engage readers, through our characters, and introduce them to the Father’s love.

As Kristy Cambron wrote recently in her Novel Rocket blog, Called to Story, we need to know the “why” before we attack the “how.” My favorite quote from this post is: [The why is] “a reminder of our eternal motivation when earthly setbacks threaten to derail.”

 

So let’s keep in mind why we write as a prerequisite to the “how” and the “what.”

On that note: why do you write?

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I read something on Facebook this morning that resonated with me:

Discussion is always better than argument because argument is to find

“who is right” and discussion is to find “what is right.”

(origin unknown)

As writers who work from a Christian worldview, we need to know what we believe, and to communicate those truths clearly. It’s a huge responsibility. We must be accurate and insightful, led by God’s Spirit.

However, I see a trend coming in. Again. I know it’s as old as time but it concerns me nonetheless. We are being distracted from the main truths of our faith by those who incite arguments about the details. The small things. The insidious whispers that interrupt and infiltrate our lives and our work.

I have experienced some of this distraction in my own life, and it is always about “who is right.” By wasting time and energy, and creating alienation, we can be led away from communicating the important tenets of faith.

 

 

 

I suggest we need to focus on the basics, the core of Scripture, the heart of the Gospel. One concise statement of faith is the Apostles’ Creed:

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

 If we enjoy discussion on details beyond this succinct statement, that’s fine. But let’s not be distracted from the work God has given us to do by those who prefer arguments.

“Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels” II Timothy 2:23.

“But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless” Titus 3:9.

And, let’s pray for a heart of love, which helps us to understand others, withstand temptation, and stand strong in every area of our lives.

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I love rural living. I was born and raised on a farm, and later married a farmer. It’s the best life. I love the peace and solitude, the privacy, the space to live away from the gawking eyes of others.

But there is one thing in particular that detracts from this utopic life. It’s the problem of mail / courier service.

I don’t mind driving to pick up my mail, and I’m thankful we still have service in our little hamlet. But international companies often refuse to send items through Canada Post. A PO Box does not, in their estimation, constitute an official address. I’ve offered my land description (including the color of my house), but they don’t think that’s funny.

I realize in cities, people can choose mailboxes in order to remain anonymous. But where I live, my box number is my address. 

Example: I ordered two boxes of my books from amazon. I pleaded with them to send by mail, but they cannot do that, especially to a foreign country like Canada. I contacted Canada Customs, and they told me all my out-of-country packages go to Winnipeg, so if I can pick them up there, it’s all good. Only an eight-hour drive.

If, however, I want my order to come nearer to my home, I have to use UPS, for a small fee. UPS takes it as far as Saskatoon, and then offloads to a truck delivery service. Since I don’t have a street address, I have asked the community center (which houses the municipal office) to accept my parcels, where I pick them up once I’ve been notified. BUT, if I don’t know when the truck arrives, I’m not there to pick up the parcels and pay the fee, so the trucker—in this case, Mario— takes them back to Saskatoon, and the circus begins.

This time I managed to pay the fee over the phone, so the truck will drop off my books tomorrow, paid. I hope.

I still wouldn’t trade my rural life for regular courier service, but I would love to receive my orders through the mail.

Have you experienced something similar? What have you done about it?

 

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“My Danny”

About a month ago, I was pleased and honored to have my picture taken with “my Danny,” and to present him with a copy of the book I dedicated to him. This is Jacob Eckert, the man who told me the story of his early life in China, which I fictionalized in my latest historical novel, In a Foreign Land.

Jake has become a hero of mine. In his long life—he is 88 now—he has suffered many things that would have broken or at least discouraged a lesser man. But he carried on. He is wiry, hale and hearty, excited about life, gentle and kind. He speaks English, High German, Low German, Russian, Mandarin, and a smattering of Korean from his time in the Chinese Army during the Korean War. He has a black belt in Karate and still maintains a good sense of balance. And he loves to tell stories.

When my daughters were reading In a Foreign Land, they asked me which parts were true and which were made up. I’ll tell you what I told them: almost every event that happened to Danny and Luise is true, except the romance with Rachel. The characters of Dubrowsky, Phillip and Jasch come from the first book, Other Side of the River. Mi-sook is purely fictional. She was included for interest sake, but also because Jake told me about a colony of Koreans that had been resettled from North Korea to an area west and north of where he lived in northern China.

So if some events in this latest novel sound stranger than fiction, it’s because they are. I have included “the story behind the story” in the back matter of “In a Foreign Land” if you are interested in reading more about Jacob Eckert.

I’m glad I could publish this story independently. It would be a shame for it to have remained unpublished because “it’s too foreign a setting for readers to identify with.” I’ve had that feedback from agents in the past.

I am so thankful to Jake for telling me his story, to my dear friends and colleagues who helped in many ways to make this book better than it was before they read it, and especially to Marcia Laycock at Small Pond Press for her professional edit, Rik Hall at Wild Seas Formatting for his formatting expertise, and Fred Koop at Fred Koop Designs for catching my idea for a cover and making it better than I ever could.

To all indie authors out there: keep learning, keep working, believe that it can be done. And remember that there are still heroes among us.

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