Books We are Reading

We are all a little busy right now, so we thought we’d post about what we have, are, or are going to read.  As writers, we are all readers also.  And we read a lot!  I hope you enjoy seeing what we are reading, and let us know what you are reading as well.

Bev

Bev is getting ready to go on a long trip but has these titles in her stack including The Private Patient by P.D. James, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, Live Wire by Harlan Coben, and Mystery and Manners by Flannery O’Connor. And she says most importantly, she reads the Bible.

Pat

Right now Pat is reading a challenging book on prayer called The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson, in her very little free time between a full-time and a part-time job.

Susan

Susan says she isn’t currently reading a book.  But she recently finished three last week by Penny Reid, they are Neanderthal Seeks Human, Friends Without Benefits and Love Hacked.  Week before last she read The Frog Prince and Alice In Wonderland by Elle Lothlorian.  Before those she read The Atlantis Plague and the Atlantis Gene by A. G. Riddle.  Before those two she read L. L Bartlett, Dead In Red, Murder On The Mind, Room At The Inn, Dark Waters and Cheated By Death.  One of her favorite authors is Susan Elizabeth Phillips and she thinks she has read all of hers, the most recent being Match Me If You Can.  She has also read all of the books she could get her hands on by Harlan Coben, Lee Child, J. D. Robb, Tess Gerritsen, Ann Frasier and Katia Leif.  She loves suspense.

Michelle

Being home all day with the kiddos doing their schoolwork and around my household duties, I fit in as much reading as possible. In the last few weeks I’ve read two books by Jon Acuff; Start and Quitter, Try Dying by James Scott Bell, and The End of Dieting by Joel Furhman, M.D. Currently I am reading Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, and waiting in my stack to read are several books, which include Reunion by Lauraine Snelling; Death by the Book by Julianna Deering; A Heartbeat Away and Six-Liter Club, both by Harry Kraus, M.D.; Homeschooling for the Rest of Us by Sonya Haskins; Homeschooling Methods by Paul & Gena Suarez; Missing You by Harlan Coben; Gray Ghost by William G. Tapply and Wuthering Heights which I’ve never tackled by Emily Bronte. Good thing the library offers renewals, huh?

What are you reading now and what’s in your to read stack? Do you have a favorite author you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Bev, Pat, Susan, Michelle

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Less Mess

“It’s a beautiful day,” says hubby. “Let’s wash windows.”

“Wait, did you say windows?” said I.

“The sun is shining. All is well in the Universe. And our windows need washing. Where’s the vinegar?” He grinned an irritating grin. “ You can do the front door, but remember not to touch Annie’s window.”

As if I’d forget and wash the slobbered on, mucked up, cloudy, mess of a window pane that brings us a warm feeling every time we see it. It’s covered with a pattern that only the loving nose of a beloved beagle could tattoo on the glass as she waited for us to come home each time we left the house. She was our joy, but she’s been in heaven seven years, and her window hasn’t been cleaned since she left us.

Our kids call it the “Annie Memorial Window,” but I think of it as a reminder that life can be messy but love endures. Don says if we ever decide to sell the house we’ll worry about cleaning it up then. It will take elbow grease and some tears but it can be done.

That windowpane comes to mind sometimes when I’m working on my novel. I’ve been writing that book since NaNoWriMo 2007. Seven years ago. Started it just after Annie left us. It is a joy. But it is a cloudy, undisciplined joy. I know I should clean up the messy parts and wash away the slobber, but unfortunately I have fallen in love with my story and am reluctant to part with things that are clearly muck.

Oh, sure, I could get out the vinegar and make things crystal clear. But the murkiness has grown on me and I like the story the way it is. It’s familiar and I can tinker and play and stay comfortable. However, if I should ever get serious and decide that I would like to sell the book, it’s going to take some elbow grease and some tears to get it shiny clean and ready to show. I don’t want to have to wait for a sunny day, though, maybe I’ll tinker with it today.

Bev.

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Spring Writer’s Retreat

The four of us drove to a cottage in a town not far from where the Mississippi and Illinois rivers join for a weekend writer’s retreat. What an awesome setting and a great time we had! There was much laughter and writing as we worked together on our individual projects.

As a mother of younger children (who I love dearly, mind you), these retreats not only give me time to think (and to go to the bathroom alone!), but for precious uninterrupted writing time. It is great to get in the groove and be able to stay there for a long stretch without having to answer a homeschooling question or change a dirty diaper or stir the Crockpot. It is also good for the family to experience life without mom for a while and then appreciate me more when I get home (who doesn’t want that?!). It’s a win, win!

There’s something about getting together with likeminded writers and spending a weekend together. We always bring way too much food, and stuff the refrigerator with enough food to feed a small town. And we share jokes and stories from our families and talk about books we’ve read or are reading now.

Other Benefits

Going on retreat also gives me time to think through a novel in progress, or what direction another project needs to go, or about a character’s background or a host of other things that need serious quiet thinking. And the time away energizes me to keep going and to figure out goals for the next conference or retreat.

Getting away from regular routine living is always refreshing and can help creativity flourish. It’s also a great way to ask each other questions and get input on wherever we are on our books. We seem to feed off each other which inspires us to get more work done.

Other Retreat Possibilities

Maybe a whole weekend away is not in your future or possible economically. But there are other ways to go on ‘retreat’—many of them free or for just a few dollars. Perhaps a trip to the local library for a peaceful work atmosphere would satisfy, or reading a book in a quiet café or jazz bar can rejuvenate your spirit. Being outdoors in nature is always a good bet. Just sitting in the sunshine with a book works for me. Another idea is to visit a park depending on the weather to people watch or read a book. Do something you enjoy for a few hours either alone or with a friend without feeling guilty. It’s important to fill ourselves up, especially as women or mothers who might have little ones who constantly need us.

What works for you? How do you ‘retreat’ from life for a while? Let us know in the comments! We’d love to hear from you and get new ideas.

Michelle

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The Year Spring Dawned Slowly

It was 2014 and winter drug on like a leftover pot of company stew. Except that the winter wasn’t better with each subsequent serving. Snow after snow, storm after storm, and the coldest temperatures we had endured in a couple of decades.

Most years spring weather precedes the date on the calendar. No so in the year twenty fourteen.

The first day of spring came with hope and expectation and a batch of snow and ice followed a few days later. And again a few days after that. And the cold stayed. We would have a tiny tease of a beautiful day. Then the reality of the unending winter returned.

Then one day the air smelled differently. Not much, but significantly. It did not hold the hint of winter, but instead of promise, of warmth, or new life. It was not evident yet, but we all hoped in unison.

The trees budded slowly. The red buds hid their color. The apple blossoms didn’t, even they could not be sure. But the buds began to appear, one by one.

As I write this, I still put my fleece jacket on in the morning and haven’t scheduled our first picnic yet, but I am on the lookout for color.

Some things in life are slow to leave like this winter: challenges, hardships, strain, writer’s block. And some things are slow to come like this spring: release, breakthrough, answers to prayer, ideas and story lines.

But eventually the seasons of hardship melt away and the season of peacefulness dawns. Even if it happens slowly, it will happen. Even if it is hard to believe, it happens.

“He changes times and seasons …” Daniel 2:21

Patricia Meyers

A novel for pre-teen girls

A novel for pre-teen girls

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Still the Winter of Discontent

Someone forgot to tell the clouds it is spring. We awoke this morning to an inch of snow on the grass. Not on the concrete or asphalt of the streets, mind you, just the grass. The children are not going to miss a day of school and commuters will not be delayed because of the crystalized white stuff, but in terms of morale it is a terrible reminder that winter is not finished with us yet. “Now is the winter of our discontent.” says Richard III in the opening line of the play of the same name by William Shakespeare. Boy, did he have that right. Maybe Richard was talking about his discontent over his brother Edward gaining the crown. Or maybe he was in anguish over being a lame hunchback in comparison to his “Sun” King brother but no matter. We borrow his words for today.

Winter has many allegories but discontent is the center of them all. For instance, winter of life refers to being aged; nuclear winter refers to the time after a cataclysmic nuclear event which throws our planet into a perpetual winter resulting in the death of all living things; winter is a time of life and death struggle against the elements in which all living things fight to live. Only the heartiest or the smartest win this battle. Cozied up in our houses with forced central heating, fireplaces and snuggly sweaters we look out at winter and wait for spring while outside creatures of the wild, both large and small battle the cold to stay alive. Winter can also be a symbol of being frozen in place. Artists and writers are the most commonly referenced for this type of creative lock-up but people from all walks of life can experience a winter of the soul.

Life guarantees nothing save a winter of the soul experience. Add that to Benjamin Franklin’s quote, please. “The only things certain in life are death and taxes“, and if you live long enough, a winter of the soul experience.  Thank-you.  Feel free to use that line anytime but make sure you reference properly.

Now that we have had our little break from seriousness, I would like to end on an encouraging note. By now you have identified either a past winter of the soul experience or have been reminded of an ongoing winter of the soul circumstance. First, I am sorry for your pain and the cold wind that blows over bare soil covering your loss. Second, pick up your beverage of choice from the fridge, coffee pot or microwave and go to the window. Look out. What do you see? Is there a fine layer of snow on the grass?   Are there clouds frowning from the sky? Is the sun struggling to add a cheery light over the brown and gray landscape? Now reach beyond what you see and listen. Do you hear the chirp of a bird, the bark of a dog or the snore of your cat dozing on a pillow like I do? Okay, maybe not the cat or the dog, but let’s focus on the bird.

When you hear a bird sing it means winter will not win. Spring will come. I believe death is not the end and one day the Son will appear and make all things new. This discontent I feel is because there was never supposed to be winter in any form, whether it be of the soul or covering the ground with snow.  We wait in this intemperate state for our Redeemer King to end our winter of discontent and begin the eternal spring.

 

Susan

In The Kitchen Again Soups, Stews and Casseroles (Kindle Edition)

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Writer’s Retreat

Last year our little writer’s group decided we would shoot for taking two retreats a year where we really focus on writing. Our third retreat is this weekend and my excite-o-meter is set on SILLY. Because I am silly-excited. :)

We have had two retreats that have proven that really focusing three hour blocks of time on writing is like a sprint: you cover some distance in a short amount of time. So going into this weekend, I know I will make some headway on my projects.

Yes, that is plural. I tried to make it so I would only focus on one, but God keeps stirring me with this second project. Yes, I am blaming God. :) So I will give at least one of the three hour blocks to this second project and see what comes.

There is nothing like spending focused time on your goal or dream or heart-wish. And that is exactly what we will be doing. We have been planning for it as we have worked over the past months so that we are all in a place to sprint. I can’t wait to see what is accomplished.

Plus we laugh a lot. Seriously. A.L.O.T. If laughter is good medicine, we are in for some healing time.

We leave tomorrow at noon and return Sunday. Then I treated myself to an extra day off work on Monday so I could continue the focus and downtime.

How about you? Do you have a goal or heart-wish that has been stirring inside you? Can you set aside a weekend or a day or a block of time to focus on it and see where it takes you?

Do it! It is so worth it: fulfilling, satisfying, and exciting all at the same time.

The Bible tells us “He gives us the desires of our heart.” Those desires might just be coming from Him. Give them some time. Award them some of your focused energy. You might be in for quite a treat!

Blessings!

Pat

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Changing Goals

It’s a good thing I’m my own boss.  Sometimes I don’t know what I want to accomplish, other times there’s more to do than I can realistically get to.  I am forever changing what project I’m working on, which for some could be a hazard, but for others a benefit.

This month I was going to work on the edits for my memoir and get that done.  But recently in my email inbox I received a reminder for a novel contest deadline with a mid-March deadline.  I decided I would try to get a synopsis (yikes), the first chapter properly formatted, and a headshot of myself prepared for this contest.  No problem.  Right?

I decided this with only about two weeks before the deadline and it is now looming.  Last week I worked out a rough draft of the synopsis that looks pretty good.  And then I worked on the first chapter, deleting the boring parts.  Yes, unfortunately I had a few of those. As soon as I get this done and off my ever changing to-do list, it’s back to the memoir edits and the usual monthly book reviews.  This week I had three reviews due, to squeeze in around the contest work.

Luckily, I have the freedom to make these changes and don’t have anyone breathing down my neck to get projects done.  Which makes it good and bad for me.  I love the freedom to choose most of my own deadlines, but it’s also nice to sometimes get them from others, to keep me on track.

The writing life is full of these give and takes, and choices to make.  And that’s why I love it.  As long as I’m making progress—I can’t write a novel without sitting down and writing—I know I’m working toward my goals.

And if by chance I get past the first round of the contest, or even if I don’t, it has been good practice working on a novel synopsis, editing, and following specific rules.  It will be great to get feedback from someone who hasn’t lived and breathed this novel for the last several years and to get other eyes on it who can give suggestions for improvement.

I don’t know any other job I could do that is this much fun and this much work at the same time.  But I’m thankful to do it and try to give it my best.

Michelle

 

 

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