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Many years ago, about 1994, in fact, I read Linda Hall’s first novel, The Josiah Files. I loved it, but although I’ve forgotten the story by now, I will never forget the strange and unlikely—so I thought then—technology of characters carrying small handheld devices on which they could communicate and read. I wished with all my heart that I could have a device that carried books and could be accessed anywhere, anytime.

Well, what do you know? Last night I was unable to sleep, so I grabbed my iPhone, and with a few clicks, accessed a novel I couldn’t wait to finish. How the world, even my little world, has changed over the past twenty-four years.

 

 

There are varied responses to these innovations in our world:

  1. Some people conceive the ideas that become new technology
  2. Some people embrace these changes
  3. Some people struggle to keep up with the latest tools/programs
  4. Some people choose to ignore the changes
  5. And some refuse to accept or be involved in using technology

I’m definitely not the first type, nor the second. Nor the fifth. You’ll catch me on #4 and then grudgingly moving up to #3 most of the time. Because I really don’t want to be left behind.

In my writing life, I’ve had to accept some changes. One publisher I worked for expected his authors to learn and use social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Scribble, Scrabble, Bing Bong, etc. (Please don’t look up those last three.) Whatever was available, we were expected to go with it. I did my best, eventually settling on Facebook and Twitter, with LinkedIn as a more silent partner. I have to say it was good for me. Stretching is a good thing, and although I have always disliked the phrase “getting out of my comfort zone,” it was a necessary and beneficial exercise.

A couple of years ago, I decided to embrace the independent publishing scenario. It took a lot of research, observation, questioning and faith, but I jumped in and still have my head above water. I think. Just this week, I heard more about a company I’d been interested in but didn’t understand: Ingram Spark. After emailing with friends, I decided to give it a whirl for the sake of one of my oft-neglected goals: book distribution. I now have an account and we’ll see where that leads.

There will always be technological obstacles in our lives, personal and professional, and it’s our choice how we respond. But maybe, just maybe, we will be able to benefit from some new technologies or programs. My personal line: “If technology is a car, I’m hanging onto the back bumper by my fingernails. I can’t let go, because I’ll never catch up again.”

Whatever the next obstacle, I’ll deal with it…or ask for help to understand. Because times will continue to change. I hope you will also keep on learning and experimenting.

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As you already know if you follow my blog, I had a different year in 2017. My mom lived with us for seven months before she passed, and after that I couldn’t seem to engage in my writing. I’ve kept up with my blogs, but my novel plans have languished. I needed to grieve and to heal.

Then two things happened:

  1. My husband and I read a devotional writing this morning (mid-March) that revolved around Ecclesiastes chapter three:

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…a time to mourn and a time to dance…” (verses 1 and 4b, NIV).

My mind went to seasons and times, and I realized that I had spent enough time in this season of mourning. Yes, it’s important to mourn, and I will never forget my dear mom, but I think it is time to move ahead.

  1. That same morning, I received a phone call from a dear friend. “My neighbor called me,” she said, “and told me she can’t find your third book in this latest series.”

    from pixabay.com

Hmm. That’s because it’s still in my head and on my heart. It has not yet fully migrated to paper and certainly hasn’t come near publication. I confessed this to my friend and she said, “I thought so. You had told me about your mom, and I told my neighbor. We understand.”

But her words were the kick-in-the-pants I needed to confirm the nudge from Ecclesiastes.

This missive is to inform you, my faithful blog-followers, that I have re-engaged in my novel activities. I have been writing, with paper and pen at the moment, a manuscript that will become the third book in my In Search of Freedom series. I plan to use a somewhat different format, so it’s a challenge, and that’s another reason I’ve been procrastinating. It’s scary to try something new.

If you are a praying person, I could use your prayers. I’ll let you know how it’s going, and please feel free to contact me and ask, or to offer another gentle kick-in-the-pants to keep me motivated.

Thanks for listening, and I wish you a day that matters.

 

 

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ARE WRITERS INTROVERTS?

Not necessarily. But, I would guess that a large percentage of writers are introverts. At conferences I’ve attended, the emcee will often comment about the buzz of talk among all the introverts, but that is, of course, because of our common interests, and the fact that we are respectful of one another’s reserved nature.

When I was young, I read a Peanuts® cartoon that stuck with me. Charlie Brown said to Linus, “I love mankind, it’s people I can’t stand.” I concurred, not knowing anything about the basic differences between people who love to foster new relationships, and those reluctant to do so.

However, there have been times—I call them magic moments—when I’ve met another introvert and we’ve become instant and lasting friends.

MOVING PAST INTROVERSION

I attended my first Write! Canada conference in Guelph, Ontario at the invitation of the planners, to facilitate a fiction workshop. (I felt anything but qualified, but that’s another story.) One of the responsibilities that accompanied the gig was that I agreed to be available at mealtimes to speak with people. I wanted to crawl inside my shell, to put my back to the wall and observe. But I couldn’t. I had to step out of my area of familiarity and pretend I was comfortable speaking with strangers.

At one meal, two women approached me, one being the spokesperson, because the other was too shy to come forward on her own. Barbara (not her real name) and I sat down together and found instant camaraderie that amazed both of us, as well as Barbara’s friend, who shook her head in wonder. The two of us chatted away about writing and life and stories until lunchtime was over, and we hadn’t thought to eat. That’s also rare for me. Although I’ve lost touch with Barbara, our instant relationship will always remain in my memory as a true heart-connection.

REWARDS FOR STEPPING OUT OF OUR COMFORT ZONE

Recently, we visited our daughter and family in Alberta. Since their son’s teacher knows I write, she asked if I’d come read to them and speak a bit about writing on Read Aloud Day. I was thrilled…until a few days before the event, when I had second thoughts. Silly fears jumped into my mind, questions like, why on earth did I agree to this? But I followed through and the event was lovely. The students were enthralled by the reading (excerpts from the beginning chapters of The Secret World of Og by Pierre Berton), they participated in the discussion session, and they helped create a simple “Story Quilt.” The pièce de résistance was the gift of a story written just for me— Goldie Goes to the Vet—by Daniel, one of the grade three students.

As much as I love my quiet times alone, these magic moments are rare gems to store away in my memory, to remind me that I can do things that are uncomfortable, that introversion should not be allowed to control my life, and that opening up to people can be rewarding, no matter what my life work is.

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In the month of January, several of my friends and acquaintances sent out lists of their favourite reads of 2017. Although I read fewer books this year than usual, I still found some excellent titles I’d like to share with you.

I read mostly for entertainment and inspiration, so my categories aren’t that diverse. I love mystery and suspense, but not blood and gore, so I tend toward cozy mysteries. But every once in a while, a totally different genre of book catches my fancy. I will also note that a good touch of humour goes a long way to my enjoyment of a book.

I keep a running list of the books I read on Goodreads, so that’s where I picked out these favourites. (Some of the categories are negotiable.)

Suspense  (these were my top picks of the year, and I await book 3 in Spring):

Mystery:

Romantic Suspense:

Cozy Mystery:

Faith Non-fiction:

How-to Writing:

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NOTE: This post was mis-scheduled earlier in the month, so if it sounds like you’ve read it before, you probably have. I fixed the posting time, so here it is again. 

It’s always fun to veer off the beaten path every fifth-Tuesday and opinionate. I think the word is actually opine, but that sounds like something you might do in the forest, and I’m nowhere near a wooded area right now.

Today, I will opine on what may be a rather unimportant issue, but still one that has me stewing: GRAY

Gray

I strongly dislike gray. I don’t say “the colour gray” because I don’t think of it as a colour as much as a lack of colour. I think it comes to mind at this time of year because I have a certain degree of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). This means the lack of sunlight hours causes me to have trouble, even more than usual, getting out of bed in the morning and working at anything after supper. It means I have to ward off discouragement and depressing thoughts more than usual.

With that in mind, consider the “colour of the times.” Gray. We went furniture shopping recently. The couches and chairs are gray. The cushions are gray. My sister was looking for a new comforter for her king bed, and all she could find was shades of gray. People paint their walls one of the myriad shades of gray. *Note: Please, if you are a friend of mine and have gray walls, that’s your choice, and your house looks lovely, but I could not live healthily surrounded by gray.

We are all somewhat influenced by social pressures, and I believe we are being told that gray is the style colour to use these days. Another example of this social pressure is the plethora of Amish books that have glutted the reading market for the past decade. I read a few. That was all I needed. So, who is telling us that we want Amish fiction? Who is telling us that we want to surround ourselves with gray?

This world is a palette of colour.

The orange and pink and red of the sunset

The pink of my roses

The violets and yellows of my violas

The luscious reds or our apples

The unnumbered variety of greens in spring trees and grasses.

The rich earthy brown and the gold  of autumn leaves.

As my son said so eloquently when he visited Lima, Peru some years ago,

“It’s like a kid gone crazy with a huge box of crayons.”

Why in the world would I settle for gray in this wide world of colour? So I won’t.

I wish you all a year of brilliant colour in your life and work. May you be blessed.

NOTE: All photos in this blog are my own except for the first. I do not have a picture of gray. That one is from pixabay.com.

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Revisiting Christmas…

One of the highlights of our Christmas season is a visit to our kids in Gem, Alberta, in time for their school Christmas program. Over the years of our grandchildren’s attendance at the school, we’ve managed to take in several of these.

Gem School is a very small rural school, just over twenty students of varied backgrounds. They are divided into two classrooms: grades 1 – 3 with one teacher, and grades 4-6 with another. There is also an educational assistant employed a couple of days a week, and a half-time secretary who doubles as the music teacher. Parents are encouraged to volunteer for various events or to just help out in the classroom. Class pairing—matching students from the first class with students from the second for reading—has been a great success.

When we were at the Gem School program this year (December 2017), we met the new first-classroom teacher, as well as her husband. He told us that as a behavioral consultant for the district, he doesn’t get called to Gem because they don’t need his services. They handle their own issues as a community, as a family.

pixabay.com

Beginning in November, teaching of regular curriculum in Gem School is set to simmer on a side-burner as practices begin for the Christmas program. Each classroom puts on a skit. For many years, these skits have been written by a now-retired teacher and her husband. Many of the jokes relate specifically to certain students or teachers, or even the director of education for the district. Everyone finds them very entertaining.

Students who take music lessons play their instruments in between scenes, and smaller groups sing Christmas songs. The grand finale is a black-light show based on the song: Do You Hear What I Hear? The students do an excellent job of this wonderful production.

Why is this annual Christmas presentation so important? What do the kids learn that makes the time spent so valuable? Here are a few of my observations:

The children:

  1. learn to work together to put on the show
  2. develop self-esteem as they play their parts and sing their songs
  3. learn public speaking skills, including the use of clear and audible voice projection. I could hear every spoken word, even at the back of the long, narrow hall. After this year’s performance, I heard people talking about the boy who never speaks. But he did speak his one- or two-word parts loudly and clearly. Truly a success story.
  4. find out how to work the audience with in-house jokes, humour, and enthusiasm
  5. gain basic play production knowledge: acting skills, acceptable backstage behaviour, onstage movement, positioning of props, presentation of the black-light display
  6. learn to support and encourage each other
  7. strengthen their memorization skills, although it’s not the end of the world if someone forgets a line and needs a cue (this is rare)
  8. learn to adapt when things don’t go exactly as planned, and to enjoy themselves as they learn
  9. develop musical skills
  10. come to appreciate a sense of community within the group
  11. become involved in helping to build props and sew costumes
  12. get to earn a reward, besides the sense of accomplishment. (The day after the program, the Gem School has Pajama Day, where the students all come to school in pajamas, watch the recorded show, and play games.)

During the program, parents and community volunteers take care of lighting, recording, props, and student control. After the program, the students move through the audience talking with people and handing out Christmas oranges. They are obviously pleased with their accomplishments, as well they should be.

One of the welcome aspects of this small school program is the freedom to include a nativity scene in the black-light display. Even though an active debate continues to swirl around the place of religion in schools, I personally am thankful we can preserve the true meaning of Christmas—the birth of Jesus Christ—in the school in Gem. I know this may not be possible forever, but I hope and pray it will be sustained as long as possible.

pixabay.com

I know this phrase has been used before, but I’ll borrow it for the Gem School: They truly have the best Christmas pageant ever! Kudos to all those involved in this production, especially the students.

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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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