Saturday, January 29, 2011

Hearing, seeing, touching, tasting the real world

My husband swears he's told me things that I've no recollection of hearing. The excuse is usually I had my nose buried in a book, or my kindle, or glued to the computer screen. It's a good excuse. And if it's something that matters, my husband will tell me again.

He told me about the woman who walked into a fountain while texting...

...and today a friend told me of a young man who walked into busy traffic...

Suppose that fountain was a busy intersection; suppose those cars couldn't stop.

When I'm buried in a book or my kindle or glued to the computer I miss lots of things, but at least I'm not moving around in the real world at the same time, and at least my inattentiveness won't end up burying me.

I guess I ended up writing rather a sad 50-word story today: Warn your kids, your family, your friends, and remember the real world really hurts.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

More reading; more reviews

It's been a fun week, though the promised sunshine was short-lived. Mist and fog finally lifting at 4pm, sun shining till 5, seemed like the pattern for our days. But dark evenings while the guys watched recorded soccer matches gave time to read, and here's another crop of book reviews: As usual, click on the links for my reviews on

Original Sinners, by John R. Coats: I was showing a friend my children's stories based on Bible events--Genesis People, Exodus Tales and Storyteller Psalms. My tales are aimed at a much younger audience but the idea's the same--that Bible characters behave like real people, and we can learn from seeing them that way. I might not agree with all the author has to say, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading and thinking about this book.

Sweetie, by Kathryn Magendie: I'd not read anything of Kathryn Magendie's before, though I enjoy her blog. Sweetie is a great introduction to her writing, wonderfully lyrical, descriptive, and filled with sympathy for a wealth of fascinating Appalachian characters, all seen through the eyes of a young girl just beginning to grow up.

Never without Hope, by Michelle Sutton: This was a faster read--Christian romance with a difference, and Christians who aren't picture-perfect, who do make mistakes and do suffer the consequences--a surprisingly powerful tale of the modern world. And finally...

Warriors: Into the Wild, by Erin Hunter: Okay, you must have seen these books in the stores, with their gorgeous pictures of cats. Well, if you love cats and browse the children's book aisles you must have. And now that series 2 of Warriors is out, series 1 isn't quite so expensive, so my husband got them me for Christmas. The cats are great--the depiction of wild and tame, of Twoleg and clan, of nature red in tooth and claw and loyally faithful and true, is wonderful. I can hardly wait to start the next one.

So that was last week's reading, and this week there's plenty more... but the sun's come out. Ah well, I'll catch up some day; I'm not going to complain!

Friday, January 21, 2011


The rain stopped and we went to the beach. Then the rain started again. But first we saw yellow sun spilling on sea. We listened to waves, watched them tower like rolling ice poured over rocks, smelled their salt in the air, hair blown in our eyes. We tasted the bitter tang of coming showers and stopped for lunch.

The restaurant had gluten-free bread, so we all had sandwiches and they were good. Then we had cake because we hadn't left room for dessert but we couldn't resist--gluten-free chocolate cake!

And then it rained. But who cares. We had a brilliant day! Trees loomed through rain's gray mist like mystery as we left the beach behind.

Today I cleaned.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Last Week's Book Reviews

Last week it rained, a lot. One advantage of rain is that it keeps you indoors, which just might mean you get to do some reading. Of course, there's always washing and cleaning house which likewise benefit from rain, but still, I did read one or two books, or three, four, or five...

As usual, click on the link to find my reviews on Gather.

Sunrise to Sunset, by Laurie Bowler is a vampires-in-love-type novel with an interest in cats rather than werewolves, a somewhat unreliable narrator (with unreliable DNA?) and a nicely imagined universe waiting for more.

Standing at the Crossroads, by Charles Davis, is an eye-opening, wonderful novel of African fear and love and words and books and the value of story. I truly couldn't put it down. Thank you Permanent Press.

Oskaloosa Moon, by Gary Sutton, was another un-put-down-able tale. Reminiscent of Forrest Gump, it creates a world of small community, church uniformity, the exclusion of the strange, and the curious innocence and forgiveness of the kind. In the end even the reader might forgive--a haunting tale.

Witness, by E.G. Lewis, was an amazing story of the time of Christ, well-researched, neatly-plotted, with unobtrusive faith and a really good story. I'm looking forward to reading the sequel, Disciple, soon.

Secret Agenda, by Jerry Banks
was my second Jerry Banks novel; I read and reviewed Second District last year. Both books surprised me by bringing the legal world to life and making me really care. I wasn't in Oregon when the famous cult moved here, but this novel tells a story that still feels all too plausible.

Back to teen fiction, Ada: Legend of a Healer, by R.A. McDonald, was truly intriguing; hard-hitting, gritty, been on teen anger rather than angst, and raising some fascinatingly deep questions about duty, power and personal care and concern.

And finally, a non-fiction book borrowed from a friend: The Great Typo Hunt, by Jeff Deck and Benjamin D. Herson. I'm almost afraid to review it--I'm sure to include a typo somewhere, or some other error. But it was a really absorbing read--fun story, fun musings, entertaining typos and educational explanations; I really enjoyed it.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Life Is Good

With thanks to Ruthi whose Poetic Creations most assuredly make life good for all who read them, I'm posting and passing on a new award today--the Life is Good award. In order to accept this award I have to answer ten questions, so here goes...

1. If you blog anonymously, are you happy doing this? If you aren't anonymous, do you wish you started out anonymously, so that you could be anonymous now? Okay, shameless self-promotion here: I started blogging because I want to sell my books, which meant I couldn't be terribly anonymous. I'm not sure I've sold very many books since, but I have made friends and I can't help thinking anonymous friends would be odd.

2. Describe an incident that shows your inner stubborn side. Stubborn? Well, I've stubbornly refused to pay for a website, and determinedly tried to turn my blog into one.

3. What do you see when you really look at yourself in the mirror? Not what; who. And the answer is my mother--we look very alike.

4. What is your favorite summer cold drink? I'd rather have a coffee.

5. When you take time for yourself, what do you do? If not reading, write.

6. Is there something that you still want to accomplish in your life? See 1 and 5.

7. When you attended school, were you the class clown, the class overachiever, the shy person, or always ditching? I was too shy to ask.

8. If you close your eyes and want to visualize a very poignant moment in your life, what would you see? Saying goodbye to my Gran, knowing we'd probably not see her again.

9. Is it easy for you to share your true self in your blog, or are you more comfortable writing posts about other people and events? I'm still not sure I really know my self--maybe growing up is trying to work it out?

10. If you had the choice to sit down and read a book or talk on the phone, which would you do and why? It would depend who was calling and why.

I'm not sure who to pass this on to, so, if you're thinking life is good, please feel free to consider yourself awarded. And thanks again Ruthi.

Monday, January 10, 2011

This weekend's book reviews

If ebooks are virtual books, then Virtual Pulp #1 is well-titled. It's also the first book I've read entirely on my brand new Kindle. I had a pdf version sent to me by the author, so I connected the Kindle to my computer and dragged the file across to copy it--no problem at all! Of course, the text was a bit small, and the neat tool for changing font sizes doesn't work on pdfs. But the tool to turn the screen on its side works fine, then it was easy to read.

Anyway, here's three more book reviews, for the three books read last week; more coming soon...

Blind Hope: I joined Blogging for Books to get my copy of this, and shared it with my Mum. We both really enjoyed the story of a blind dog teaching its owner to see what had been missing from her life.

Virtual Pulp: This one's not for Mum, but reminded me of books I used to read--high adventure, tortuous honor, epic battles and wounded beings surviving the odds. I really enjoyed it.

Dead Center: I was sent this by the Permanent Press--it's a brand new January release, and I couldn't put it down. Based on true events--that's usually a guaranteed way to make me stop reading, but this novel has people and relationships right in the center of a murder mystery, and it really draws you in.

As always, click on the links to find my reviews on

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Book-covers in black and white

There's a book on the table looks different every time I see it. I read and turn the pages then put it down. Maybe I'm making coffee; maybe checking something on TV, or finding my mother's favorite English soap on the internet to keep her in touch. (It's called "The Archers," and started in 1950!) When I look back, the cover's closed on my book--a new picture each time; fish or birds, or famous authors, or curious scenes.

The pictures are always black and white, and the book always opens exactly where I left off; a useful trait. The pages don't get bent out of shape; the spine never threatens to break... The book's my Christmas Kindle and I'm really enjoying it.

I'm even reviewing a second book on my kindle(downloaded pdf), and I'm beginning to catch up. So I'll leave the computer to play more Archers episodes (which maybe also open up just where they left off without losing shape, thus keeping their audience happy for 60 years). Meanwhile I curl on the sofa, remembering childhood paperbacks while gazing happily at a clean plastic screen.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Productive Writer - winner!

I've assigned a different "card" to each commenter from Sage Cohen's productive writer post on Monday.

Cold as Heaven is Adventurer
Jean is Bureaucrat
Horrible Sanity is Cellar
abitosunshine is Chancellor
Book Bird Dog is Chapel
Carol Kilgore is Coucilroom
Patricia Stoltey is Feast
Angela Ackerman is Festival, and
Mary Russel is Laboratory

If the cards sound familiar, it's because they're from the board game Dominion, which we got at Christmas and spent lots of time playing with the family. (It's a really fun game!)

In Dominion, you deal five cards from the top of your deck to make your hand. So I've shuffled the cards, dealt five, and I'm picking up the next one to receive Sage's book... I turn it over and the winner is, abitosunshine with the Chancellor! Congraulations Ruthi; I'm sending you an email, and I'm sure you'll love the book.

Monday, January 3, 2011

How I Became a Productive Writer - and How You Can, Too: A Guest Post by Author Sage Cohen

I'm delighted to hand over my blog today to Sage Cohen, author of  The Productive Writer (just released from Writers' Digest Books); Writing the Life Poetic and the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World. Sage blogs about all that is possible in the writing life at, where you can: 
  • Download a FREE "Productivity Power Tools" workbook companion to The Productive Writer. 
  • Get the FREE, 10-week email series, "10 Ways to Boost Writing Productivity" when you sign up to receive email updates. 
  • Sign up for the FREE, Writing the Life Poetic e-zine.
  • Plus, check out the events page for the latest free teleclasses, scholarships and more. 
Sage has very kindly offered a free, signed copy of her book, The Productive Writer, to a lucky reader leaving a comment on my blog today. I will get my mathematical family to help me do a random drawing from all comments at the end of the day. (Don't forget to leave a way for me to contact you--an email address for example.) Thank you, Sage, and over to you:

How I Became a Productive Writer—And How You Can, Too: Guest Post by Author Sage Cohen

I recently heard Ira Glass advise an audience: If you really want to do something well, you have to be willing to do it really badly for a very long time. I think this is the key to the productive writing life; it has been for me. You have to love what you’re doing enough to keep on doing it, no matter what your results, no matter what anyone else says about the merit of what you are doing. From this foundation of commitment, anything is possible. I wrote poems for 10 years before sharing them with anyone. Eventually, it occurred to me that maybe I was a poet. From there, my writing life gathered a new momentum.

Once you have a secure foothold in your own writing craft and a confidence in your ability to show up to do the work, then it’s time to fine-tune your attitude. When I started sending out my work, I considered dropping the envelope in the mailbox to be my success, because that was what I could control. Getting up the gumption to try—and keep trying—was the real celebration. I knew that every writer is rejected exponentially more than she is ever accepted (if ever). My commitment was to simply keep trying. Getting published was the icing on the cake.

When we set our sights on a goal and don’t succeed, it’s easy to tell ourselves a story that keeps us chained to this so-called failure. “I’m not [fill in the blanks with your own favorite insult here] enough to accomplish that,” we may tell ourselves, then beat ourselves up with that story over and over and over, ensuring that we’ll never try again. But it is just as easy to tell ourselves a different story when we didn’t get what we wanted. And that story goes like this: “Well, that way didn’t lead me to what I want. I will try another way.”

These two sentences can be repeated for the next two days or two decades, however long it takes to find your way, that is, the way that takes you where you want to go. With this approach, there is no end point where we know for sure we can’t and won’t succeed. Instead, there is a spirit of practice and lighthearted fun. We are practicing getting somewhere and being creative about the ways and means of doing so. We are committed to the journey, and we are willing to keep moving in the direction we’re headed, no matter what. With this kind of spirit and fortitude, eventually we get there—with a smile on our face and the humility to enjoy and appreciate our results.

To help inform and inspire my writing life over the years, I’ve sought out classes, mentors and a community of peers. I’ve experimented with new techniques and approaches and listened carefully to people I respect. But most importantly, I learned to listen to myself and trust my own instincts. Along the way, my portfolio of publications slowly but surely expanded and my platform came into focus. Then, at age 37, I pitched a book, and it sold. The next year, I pitched another one and that book sold, too.

I am grateful to have been published along the way. But I’m no more grateful than I was those first ten years of writing poems for no audience other than me, because that was what I was called to do. As I see it, there is no greater blessing than knowing what you were put on earth to do – and then making the space in your life to do it. Productivity can help you become better and better at honoring the call to write.

Remember: Your job is not to be perfect. Your job is to find your way. As you try new approaches to writing and publishing, keep a log of what worked, what didn’t, and what you intend to try next, and you’ll always be moving toward where you want to go.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sage Cohen, author of The Productive Writer, visits my blog tomorrow

I'm still attempting to be productive, but most of what I've made in the last few days was edible and is now eaten. Still, it's the thought that counts... maybe... or it's rejoicing in small victories, setting somewhat higher goals, and getting organized enough to aim at them. I did throw my blogs through the template designer yesterday in an attempt to make them more professional; if you'd like to test-drive a few of my links I'd be enormously grateful for any comments. And tomorrow I'll enjoy sharing Sage Cohen's guest post here.

The Productive Writer is a really neat book--enjoyably readable as well as informative and helpful; so I'll hope to see you tomorrow in the company of The Productive Writer herself, Sage Cohen.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Starting the year with book reviews

Happy New Year!

In the interests of being more organized, more productive, more... well, many things... I'm starting the year by posting my most recent book reviews on gather and listing them straight away on my blog. I guess it would be even more efficient to post them on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, Shelfari, Lunch etc straight away too, but the coffee's brewed and the transatlantic Skype is coming soon...

First is The Productive Writer, by Sage Cohen. (Click on link for review.) Sage will be visiting my blog on Monday, so don't forget to come back and learn more. I'm hoping to put many of her ideas into practice this year.

Second, Homecoming by Sue Ann Bowling, an exciting mix of Tom Brown's Schooldays, Hogwarts, fascinating science and a touch of romance.

Next is Murder by the Slice, by Livia J. Washburn. A cozy mystery for a dark winter's night--I'll have to look out for more of this series. What's not to like, with retired teachers solving mysteries and baking cakes!

And finally, Silent Kill, by David Fingerman--a novel I read at least a month ago and somehow forgot to review, with some very nice scenes amongst the very gory.

Time to drink coffee and Skype. Don't forget to come back on Jan 3rd and meet Sage Cohen!