Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Random’ Category

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:

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

 

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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?

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: