Thursday, January 28, 2010

Still taking that journey

The Take the Journey reading challenge continues, and I've added extra points by visiting blogs of other readers, but I'm still only in the 100 club, with not much chance of reaching 200 by February. I found lots of good recommendations of books to add to my to-read list, but I already have more than plenty books waiting on my shelves.

I received an amazing book from the Permanent Press a few months ago which I've reviewed on my gather page. It comes out next month, and I highly recommend it. The Chester Chronicles by Kermit Moyer is one of those rare books that I really didn't want to put down - I found myself beginning to reread it as soon as I got to the end. It's not short stories, but every chapter's a complete, beautifully crafted and very satisfying story in itself. It's not a memoir, but the tales bring the 50's and 60's to vivid life. Army brat, Chet Patterson grows up to be a young man through the pages, so maybe it's a coming of age novel; but it's more than that. It's funny, poignant, tragic, delightful, absorbing... and I'm really glad I got the chance to read it.

Meanwhile, for light reading, I had a children's book called the Portal to Forever, by Bonnie Sullivan Raymond, which I've reviewed for Poetic Monthly. You'll have to download, or buy, next month's magazine to read my review. It's a fun story with sorcerers, dragons, elves, magic and time-travel, plus all their inherent problems. But it's a quick read with a really delightful sense of humor and a fascinating plot.

For non-fiction I received a pre-release copy of Mary DeMuth's memoir, Thin Places, which also comes out next month. I already know that I love Mary's writing - A Slow Burn was an incredible read - the sort of book where an aspiring writer keeps thinking "I wish I could do that." Her memoir is a slower read, engaging the reader on a journey of self-discovery; inviting us into the author's own painful memories as a way of seeing how God turns the darkest places into the "thinnest" - into places where the eternal slides healing power into the stuff of our lives. I've not finished it yet, but I'll post a review when I do.

Meanwhile there's this February challenge due to start with our local writing group. What made me think I could write book 3 of Hemlock in just a month? If I'm away from my blog for a while, and fail to reach that mythical 200 points in the reading challenge, I guess you'll know why.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Travelling, taking pictures, and failing to write

It rained last week - a lot. And it always rains in Salem - that's our theory anyway, based on two visits, several years apart. But Silver Falls, near Salem, is an incredibly beautiful place, even in the rain, and we had a wonderful visit, dodging drops, splashing through puddles, and enjoying the views.

Mission Mill's pretty neat too, especially since my Mum has so many memories of people who worked in the mills (cotton mills in Lancashire, woolen mills in Yorkshire) in England.

And on Saturday the sun came out, so we enjoyed a beautiful trip along the Columbia Gorge to Astoria.

My husband and I even climbed the 164 steps up the column - incredible views - but Mum stayed in the car.

I'll get back to writing soon. Honest I will...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Last days of winter...

The winter's winding down; hail-storms, gray skies and night that comes too soon, but all of it retreating, leaf-buds peeping through the soil. Christmas is gone, decorations packed, the light-bulbs in a box with a label this time. The cards look kind of lonely but I'll keep them up awhile since some get held up in the post - hard work crossing the Atlantic this time of year. And Mum's still here but we're reaching those sad weeks of multiple "lasts." Last time we'll shop at New Seasons on a Wednesday afternoon. Last time I'll lead the Bible Study before Mum leads the one before she leaves. Last episode of Stargate shared; we're counting how many Sharpe movies we have left.

Thanks to a friend we have great plans, and we'll end Mum's trip with some beautiful days out (or wet ones; we'll see). But somehow there's still that feeling of "lasts" casting its pall over everything.

Winter's winding down, the sky's gone gray, and I wish Mum's visit would last longer.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Between the Lines reading challenge

I'm still reading new books and writing new reviews and racking up points, but I do seem to be way way behind the other Between the Lines challengers. Still, maybe I'll get my 100-point badge before the end of the month.

I've posted some more book reviews on gather, and not got around to posting any elsewhere yet. (Searches desk for that round tuit.)

The Vampire's Curse, by Cristiophe McFarland
On Basilisk Station, by David Weber
Living Dead in Dallas, and Club Dead by Charlaine Harris

And I've several more books that I'm reading and plan to review.

As for the writing though - is it the weather? the housework? the sudden growth of early weeds in the yard? (Can you tell what I spend yesterday doing?) I think I need a writing challenge to get me back to my novels, but maybe the trick is to remember to challenge myself.

Still, I have written some drabbles

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Roller Coasters and Chicken Soup

One of our sons phoned home today. His car had been broken into - a nasty surprise as he was setting out for work, especially since his car is the only treasure he's allowed himself.

In the first call I could hear and share his horror at how the car seemed spoiled; broken glass; the middle of the dashboard ripped out; everything left wide open, even the trunk, and contents strewn. But he took deep breaths, many and slow, called the insurance and began to feel like life would go on. Broken glass; missing radio; phone charger and other details that would need to be replaced. He could cope with that.

Then came the third call when he'd looked again, to make sure the glass and radio would be easy to fix. They wouldn't though - the glass had been pried from the frame which was bent, scratched and torn; the radio had been carelessly yanked leaving cracks and shredded wires. So the emotional roller coaster goes on; insurance, body shop, estimate, shock, insurance, body shop, etc.

Meanwhile "Chicken Soup"s looking for stories about parenting moments - could I say that this was one? I'll have to ask our son if I can write about it. Grown up, left home with a life of his own, but beloved and always our child. I hope the car gets fixed soon.

Monday, January 11, 2010

I don't even like chicken soup!

Somehow I got volunteered to suggest a topic for our writers' group's next competition. Since one of the group had just announced she'd had another story accepted by Chicken Soup for the Soul, and since we'd just been talking about sharing opportunities to get published, I came up with the idea of asking everyone to write a chicken soup piece and submit it there as well as to our group. Two chances to win in one perhaps? I guess I'll see how it goes.

Of course, my ulterior motive for suggesting this was the nagging feeling that perhaps I should submit something to Chicken Soup sometime - after all, I'm supposed to be trying all writing avenues and pushing on all doors. But I've never read a Chicken Soup book (honestly), I don't like the taste of chicken soup, and, since it's "my" competition, I'm not even allowed to enter.

None of which stops me submitting a piece to Chicken Soup of course, though I guess I'll have to write one first. So if you see me wandering aimlessly round the bookstore, looking vaguely like a plucked chicken, you'll know why.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


Lynn Tincher offered an interesting challenge from the Literary Lynnch Pen in her newsletter. I decided to give it a go and emailed my response.

Today my email rejection from Glimmertrain (yeah, well; I like to aim high) was balanced by an email from Lynn saying she'd posted my piece on the site. It's always nice when those negatives get evened out with positives. I hope you'll go on over there and take a look at my tale - all 50 words of it. You could even sign up for the newsletter, and send in your own entry for next week's challenge.

Thanks Lynn. Your timing was perfect.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Between the Lines Reading Challenge

Remember that dream of mine, that I might one day, maybe, get organized? I bought Snowflake Pro when it was first released (got a super super price deal) to organize my writing. Meanwhile I'm still looking for ways to organize submissions, life, the universe etc. And I've joined the Between the Lines Reading Challenge for 2010, to give me a nice set of guidelines for tracking my reading.

Today I posted my first book review of the year: The Shaman's Bones, by James D. Doss. I've decided to make my Gather page my primary book review site, but I'll spread reviews around the other sites later (when my beloved "round tuit" gets into the action).

I'm supposed to read 40 books by authors I've not read before, so this is number 1. 20 books by favorites--I expect I'll manage that. 3 or more new genres might be challenging; I'm wondering if I can claim a single-volume paperback novella as a genre, since that's what I'm reading at the moment. Write 12 reviews? No problem. Read to a child? Hmm. Anyone got a child I could borrow sometime? Read to someone older--I'll find an excuse to read a story to my Mum. Share the challenge with a friend--please consider it shared. And finally attend a book event; failing all else, there'll always be Wordstock in the fall.

So I'm up and reading and ready to start posting my scores. The Shaman's Bones was a pretty fun read. And Brian L Porter's Dracula doesn't live here anymore, closely followed by Murder Mayhem and Mexico will be numbers 2 and 3. (Since I've not read anything of Brian Porter's before either, this'll make 2 new authors. And one day I'll hope to read his Jack the Ripper novels which get really great ratings.)

I wonder if joining the reading challenge will help me organize my blog? I could post on what I've read each week... maybe... if I could find where I've put that round tuit.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Back down to earth

I got up at 5am this morning. That's down to earth with a bump. Youngest son needed a ride to the airport, but tomorrow won't be so bad. I'll sleep till 6:15, then wake next son up for his ride to the station.

Still, the earth I bump into is beautiful and blessed since it's still Christmas here. Our tree and decorations stay up at least until twelfth night - probably later since I'm not very organized. (Remember that wish for organizational software?) The wise men still have to make their appearance, and maybe I'll hold out my hand and ask for some wisdom. It's probably a better bet than trying to make unkeepable resolutions.

Seriously unkeepable resolution: I resolve to get a novel published this year.
Slightly more keepable resolution: I resolve to try harder to get a novel published this year.
Keepable resolution: I resolve to try.
And a better idea: I resolve to trust God's timing.

I read a blogpost today that pointed out you only get one "first." So waiting for the right one's probably good. See, I found a spot of wisdom after all, and it's not twelfth night.