Applesauce and Norwich Terriers

Hey, just for something new, why don’t I put up a blog post? What a thought!
After all this time, I have a number of random things to write about, but I’ll narrow it down to two.

First, if you’d like to see what I did yesterday, here’s a pic:

2016-11-05-16-09-28That’s applesauce. Craig and I broke our previous record for the number of quarts made in a day. Previously in the 30s, our total now is 58. This was the yield from 3 bushels of apples.

Here’s the fun part about all this: we don’t have apple trees, and we don’t eat applesauce. I won’t bore you with the whole long story about how this came to pass, but will say that we have kids and grandkids who love applesauce, and most of this will be divvied up among them. The remainder, I plan to turn into applebutter, which activity, as I may have mentioned in the past, is how I traditionally like to celebrate New Year’s Day.

That’s one random thing. Here’s the other:

This summer, some of my writer friends were talking about doing a novella collection together. At first, I thought, “That’s not for me,” probably because I think of novella collections as being romances.

Matter of fact, two of the friends I’m talking about participated in a just-released novella collection, The Bucket List Dare. It’s the-bucket-list-darefour stories by four authors about four friends who challenged one another to revisit the “bucket list” they made in college and tackle one daring item before they turned thirty. I have not read any of these stories (Why not? you may ask. I don’t do romance, is my answer), but two of the authors (Pamela S. Meyers and Linda W. Yezak) are my buds, so I’m putting in this plug for their new release.

Okay, back to my point:
The novella collection my friends were proposing had a tiny house theme. The stories could be any kind of contemporary fiction (that is, they didn’t have to be romances) provided the protagonist lives in a tiny house. As I watched their conversation online, I thought it sounded like fun. So when they said, “Who wants in?” I surprised myself by raising my hand and saying, “Me! Me! I wanna do it!”

This is not a tiny house in the sense I mean, but it’s a free image. And I like free.

These gals are so with-it. Organized. Knowledgeable about what they’re doing. Next thing I knew, they’d set up a Facebook page for the authors involved in the project and a schedule setting out when this aspect and that must be completed in order to be ready on the release date they’d decided upon. (We’re publishing through CreateSpace.) Whoa, Nellie! We’re really doing this!

Next question: Can I do this? I’m the speculative weirdo — I don’t usually write contemporary fiction. And I’ve never been a big fan of the tiny house craze. But I let my brain ramble with a few story lines, came up with one I liked, starting writing, and had a whole lot of fun!

I wanted to get finished as quickly as possible so I could get back to the big project I’ve been working on since last September. So I wrote the story in record time, ran it through my critique group, and am doing a final proofread.

And am back to my first love, which is speculative fiction. And that last sentence is a bit of a pun, because the title of my novella for the tiny house collection is First Love. But it’s not a romance. Interested? I hope so.

I haven’t read any of the other stories, but I’m sure they’ll all be good. Look for the collection’s release in early May, and stay tuned for updates about this project here on YsWords. I promise to not wait another six months before posting again.

Another view of that lovely applesauce...
Another view of that lovely applesauce…

Meanwhile, back in the spec-fic world, remember my last post, in which I gave a preview of the opening chapter of my WIP? Well, I’m now at about 143,000 words, and there’s still quite a bit of story to be told. As I indicated in my last post, it’s too long for one book, so I’ll turn it into a series. Once I get the whole big, unwieldy thing written, I’ll be in a better position to decide where to divide it, and how to make one section end and transition into the next.

I have a lot of work to do before I can release the first part in this new, as-yet-untitled series, which I’d like to do by the middle of next year. That’s why I was eager to get the tiny house story finished–so I could move forward with this puppy.

Speaking of puppies, I gave a dog to my protagonist in the tiny house story.

Photo from Wikipedia
Photo from Wikipedia

I was in the middle of the third chapter when I realized she needed one. I resisted, because I, personally, don’t want a dog. Been there, done that, and am convinced that life is a whole lot easier, cleaner, and less nerve-wracking when you don’t have pets. But my protagonist needed a dog; it just couldn’t be avoided.

So I did some research—almost as if I were looking for a dog for myself—to see what breed would be most appropriate for a woman of her personality and in her situation, and I decided on a Norwich Terrier. I’d never heard of that breed before, but my protagonist is very happy with hers, and she recommends them.

Applesauce the Dog, alive and well 28 years later!
Applesauce the Dog, alive and well and living in Parma, Ohio almost 29 years later!

One last observation: for our youngest daughter’s first Christmas, we gave her one gift: a great big stuffed dog. Why only one gift? Because she (Rustie, the daughter) was less than six months old and so didn’t care about Christmas, but I felt obligated to give her something. The dog was about the same size as Baby Rustie, and she paid no attention to it until she got older. Somewhere along the line, she named it Applesauce, perhaps because of the color. Or perhaps because her mother used to make large quantities of applesauce every fall. And the family used to eat it frequently.

None of this has anything to do with anything, but I couldn’t very well title this “Applesauce and Norwich Terriers” without mentioning the stuffed dog named Applesauce.

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Sneak Preview of My WIP: The First Three Scenes

blog backgroundAs you may recall, I promised you a peek at my current work-in-progress.

Well, maybe you don’t recall, but I do. So here it is!

At the beginning, it appears to be a Young Adult novel, but it isn’t; I start with the protagonist’s childhood in order to introduce the reader to the unfamiliar setting and background, so when you get into the meat of the story, you’ll know what’s going on.

And I haven’t decided on a title yet, so for now, I’m just calling it WIP.

For some reason, however, I’ve been using chapter titles, something I never thought I’d do. Ever. I don’t like chapter titles! So why am I using them this time? I’m not sure. It just seemed appropriate.

So, without wasting any more of your time, I now present to you the first three scenes of my current WIP.


Chapter 1: My First Life

I shall never forget the day my first life ended.

Not that my next life began right away after that. For a fuzzy while, I hovered between them, not certain where to land.

But I’ll explain all that later. For now, let me tell you about that first last day.


Jeriah and I were about eleven, best as we can figure. Maybe twelve. Gran doesn’t remember when we were born, and Pa never talked about it. But we were about the same age as Mayne, and his twelfth birthday was the week after all this, so that’s how we figure our age.

Riah and Mayne found me near the cave that morning. You see, Ibro was at the house. He didn’t live there, but he hung around sometimes, like he was hiding from something. And when he was there, it wasn’t wise for a girl to be anywhere in the vicinity. Which is why I’d spent the night in the cave.

When Riah and Mayne canoed around the bend, I was high up a tallpole tree picking papes for breakfast.

Riah and I had found the cave one time when Pa sent him out with two baskets that he was to fill with papefruits. Pa didn’t send me, of course. As far as he was concerned, I didn’t exist. But he didn’t care if I helped.

Everybody knows papevines climb the trees that grow along the lower part of the sharpfall. Sometimes you’ll find them elsewhere, but they like the water best. So we’d canoed along the water’s edge, searching out the rounded, green-and-white foliage that wrapped around the tree trunks, and the pods of pink fruit high in the branches. We only found a few here and there, and it took all day to fill those two baskets. But we also found the cave hidden behind the falling water.

Now, Riah couldn’t see me up in the tree’s umbrella, but he always called whenever he approached so I’d know who was coming. “Jem!”

He needn’t have warned me, because I’d seen them a mile off. “What ya want?”

Riah didn’t answer. Just steered the canoe toward my voice. When they reached the bank, Mayne grabbed a rope and stepped off the bow seat onto a rock. While he tied the canoe to a scrawny tree, Riah climbed out and shaded his eyes with his hand to scan the slope. “Pa’s off dragoning.”

I didn’t move, wondering how long it would take him to spot me in the branches. “So?”

“So we have to get the skinning shed cleared out and the soaking pots ready before he gets home.”

The pain in my gut, always there those days, twisted and tightened till I thought I’d fall out of the tree. “I ain’t goin’ home.” I’d stay up there for a week if it kept me from Ibro.

Riah’s gaze had been searching all that time, but it zeroed in on me now. “Ibro ain’t there. Gram had him go with her to get a load of salt.”

I relaxed a little, though my gut still cramped. “What do you need me for?” I knew the answer, but had to ask.

“Takes two.” His tone implied I was stupid for asking.

“Only ’cause you’re a gel eel.”

Mayne climbed the steep slope. “I’d help, but Ma likes me to be there when she gets home from work.”

Holding a pod of papes in my teeth, I shinned down the tree, trying not to wonder what it would be like to have a Ma—especially one who wanted you around. “Riah don’t need your help anyway. Or he wouldn’t, if he weren’t such a sliming gel eel.”

Riah snorted. “If I am, you are, ’cause we’re twins, y’know.”

“Wish I could forget.”

I handed Riah the papes. He and Mayne plucked them from the stems and ate as we picked our way along the steep slope through brush and over rocks. After pulling off the last pink fruit, Mayne tossed the pod’s gnarled skeleton into the water below, where it floated on its back like a big dead spider.


I don’t figure you’ve ever been to Freemansland. Not many people have, though everybody’s heard of it. Probably most of what you’ve heard is wrong, though. So let me tell you what it’s really like.

It’s true that it’s an island, and not a natural one. In the distant past, some unknown peoples built it for a purpose long forgotten. The land itself was long forgotten after the last great war centuries ago, which just about wiped out everyone. It took the rest of the world a long time to find us again—and most of us wish they never did.

Freemansland is an uneven oval shape, built in six levels. At the base, it’s about 400 kilometers across and 350 wide. The highest level, the smallest, is flat on top like a table, with sheer rocky sides all around. This steep, almost-vertical wall, called a sharpfall, plunges down about 1700 meters and ends at a moat of sorts. The stillwater, so called because there’s not much of a current and it’s not much affected by tides, wraps around the whole tabletop in a watery band about a kilometer and a half wide and up to 10 meters deep.

A high rock rim around the outside edge holds the water in the stillwater, except for overflow areas where the water pours down to the next level. Each of the levels is the same—a sharpfall going up to the level above, with a wide stillwater at the foot. Except for the lowest sharpfall, which falls into the ocean instead.

On the day I’m telling you about, Freemansland was all I knew. And all I wanted to know. As far as I was concerned, Freemansland was all there was.

Though most of the things you hear about the place aren’t true, it does live up to its nickname, The Land of Many Mysteries. But I was learning its secrets. If I wished for anything back then, it was to learn more of them.

Well, okay, there were other things I’d have liked. To not be scared anymore, for instance, or in pain. I didn’t know why I hurt all the time, but it seemed to be getting worse. Sometimes I’d be too sick to eat. Sometimes my vision would blur. And a couple of times—I never told Riah, but I’m telling you now—sometimes everything would go dark, and silent, and I wouldn’t know a thing until it all came back a while later, with me wondering what had happened.

If I knew more of Freemansland’s secrets, then I’d know what was wrong with me and how to fix it. Just like I’d learned what I could eat and what was poisonous. How to smear my body with a mixture of mud, rufflemint, and burrowrat dung so the dragons couldn’t smell me. How to make a paste of barbweed and charcoal to soothe the yellow rash. How to move so I wouldn’t be seen or heard by predator or prey, and to enter and leave a place without leaving a sign I’d been there. Those were the secrets I knew.

I hoped if I learned more of Freemansland’s secrets, maybe I’d know how to kill whatever was inside me, killing me, before there was nothing left to save.

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We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

I intended my next post to be a snippet of my WIP. But then I ran across this infographic about one of my favorite subjects — commas — and decided to use it instead. You’ll have to wait a little longer to preview my latest novel.

Yes, I love the subject of commas. This might make me a sick-o, but so be it. I love those little squiggles. The cute little thing below, while it doesn’t address every comma issue, is fully self-explanatory, so I won’t say much about it except to comment on the Oxford (a.k.a. serial) comma.

When I was in school, I was taught by every teacher I ever had that we shouldn’t use that final comma in a series anymore; it was old hat, out of style, no longer considered necessary. However, when my first novel was being edited for publication, the editor (Reagen Reed–I love her!) said it’s back in vogue. Really? Are you kidding? No, she wasn’t kidding. Not everyone uses it these days, but those who do aren’t laughed at for being behind the times.

She got me in the habit of using it. In other words, you can teach an old dog new tricks. But when I’m critiquing other writers’ work, I don’t slap their hands for omitting it.

But enough about me. Now let’s talk about commas!

Top 6 Common Comma Problems (Infographic)

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Why I Don’t Blog

blog backgroundWhen I started Y’s Words back in 2010, it was for the purpose of establishing a writing platform–or at least an online presence as a writer. What I’d hoped would be a platform, however, turned out to be an infinitesimal, near-imaginary toehold despite my attempts to do everything pretty much as was recommended at the time.

Back in the day when I posted three times a week, I learned a few things: 1) the effort did not generate significant book sales; 2) as I’m a slow writer, doing three posts a week imposed a fairly small but constant strain and required me to devote the equivalent of one whole workday per week; and, 3) the posts that got the best response from readers were about my personal life, not writing. (Or, about nothing in particular. For instance, a post in which I shared an old, not-so-funny joke is the one that’s gotten the biggest number of hits. Go figure.)

It’s been several months since my last post, though, so it’s time to do an update. That much is obvious. What I’m less certain of is what I should write about.

2015-07-24 12.30.28No point talking about the weather. Whether or not you like the current weather conditions or look forward to the coming winter or summer (depending on your hemisphere of habitation), there’s no point in my writing about it.

I’ve talked enough about snow, spring flowers, gardening, and that sort of thing in the past. To do so again—especially with nothing new to contribute—would be redundant.

There’s nothing going on in our lives at present worth reporting. This is not necessarily a bad thing, for same-old/same-old can be a comfort. But it doesn’t make for interesting blog posts.

How about writing? I don’t know about you, but I’m bored nearly to tears with writers’ blogs by now. Everything worth saying has already been said a myriad of ways and will be repeated many times in the future. A newcomer to the writing life who wants to learn more about it already has plenty of resources, and I see no reason to add my weak voice to the clamor.

file8431289655927There’s another reason I haven’t been blogging, and I touched on it lightly above: the time factor. No, I’m not the busiest person around, but neither am I looking for things to do; and I have neither time nor energy in inexhaustible supply. As a writer, then—and, as I noted earlier, I’m a slow one—I must choose between writing blog posts and working on my next book. I can’t do both on a regular basis.

To summarize: I don’t blog anymore because 1) I have nothing to say; and 2) it doesn’t seem to be the best use of my time.

But, while I have your attention, let me tell you about my current WIP. (For those writing-newbies, WIP stands for Work in Progress.)

I’m about 82,000 words into my latest novel. It took me a while to get rolling, but now that I’m fully immersed in it, I’m loving it. Love the story, love the world I created for its stage, and love the characters galloping about on it. But I have a problem: it’s getting too long. I’ve already written a novel’s worth, but I still have at least as much to go before the conclusion I envision.

Sometimes my fellow writers will say things like, “My novels are usually only about 50,000 words, but my publisher wants at least 75,000.” Or, “I’m done with my first draft, but I’m 15,000 words short. How can I bulk up the story?” Ha! I never have that problem!

IMG_2017For now—that is, while I’m in the first draft stage—I won’t worry about it. I’ll continue to tell the story as it demands to be told until it’s all put into words. Then I’ll decide whether to make sweeping cuts, or add a little more (if necessary) and turn it into a series.

I can think of good reasons for doing the latter, and, though I’d originally planned for this to be a stand-alone, that’s probably what I’ll end up doing. Here are my thoughts on that, in case you care:

  1. Because I intend to self-publish it, there’s no need to consider a publisher’s requirements. That is, I can do whatever I want.
  2. Especially with titles by little-known authors (that is, me), readers are more apt to pick up a short book than a massive tome. Cost is a big factor here: fat books take more paper and ink and consequently cost more to produce, and the price must reflect that. Time is another consideration. Would I prefer to buy a book, even an inexpensive ebook, that’s going to take me forever to read, or one that’s short and sweet? Unless it’s by an author I already love, I’d opt for a short one.
  3. A short book that’s first in a series can whet a reader’s appetite for more. That way, instead of trying to introduce myself to a reader by selling her one heavy-weight volume, I can tempt her to try a short sweet one; and if she likes it, I have a good chance of selling her the whole series. (In other words, it’s better to sell three books than one.)
  4. If I write the whole story and divide it into three volumes, after publishing the first, I can then release the subsequent titles quickly before reader interest in the first one wanes.

And I’ll bet you’re already bored. See what I mean? I have nothing to say that’s worth blogging about.

00097However, I’m giving some thought to posting the opening of my current WIP—just a little bit—to test the waters and/or generate a little interest, so maybe once I finally publish it, I’ll have three or four people already prepared to hand me their money.

What do you think? Would you like to see the beginning of my current project? Or have you already quit reading this post because honestly, you don’t give a fig?




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The World of Pictures

The view out my window at sun-up on Saturday.
The view out my window at sun-up on Saturday

Okay, you’re tired of pictures of snow by now. Too bad. I’m going to show you a few more.

Why? Because I didn’t do it earlier, that’s why!

These were all taken on Saturday the 23rd, while the snow was still coming down. By the time it was done and the sun came out Sunday morning, we had somewhere between 26 – 30 inches. Nobody records an official accumulation here in LaVale, so I’m just estimating based on how far it came up on my leg when I stood beside a plowed section.

Getting started with the snowblower
Getting started with the snowblower

It was perfect weather, actually. Cold enough that the snow was light and fluffy, but not so bitter that being outside was dangerous. (That is, less risk of frostbite, lungs freezing, heart attack from shoveling, etc.) On Monday, I actually saw a guy digging his car out of a massive pile of snow wearing only jeans and boots. He’d taken off his jacket and shirt and hung them on a nearby road sign.

But I’m not really here to talk about snow, specifically. My topic today is pictures.

Look at the difference between the car that's under the carport and the one that's out in the open!
Look at the difference between the car that’s under the carport and the one that’s out in the open!

And no, I don’t mean the photos I’m including here (though they are rather fun). I’m talking about the illustrations God gives us in the temporal, physical world to picture eternal spiritual realities. The whole world is a picture book given by the Father to his children. If we’ll sit in his lap and listen, he’ll tell us what they’re all about.

For instance: while clearing two feet of snow off the front porch Saturday morning, I meditated on a phrase from Isaiah 1:18, Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.

Yea, verily, snow is white. I can think of nothing whiter! Matter of fact, when in full sun, it’s so white it can damage your eyes– snow blindness is a very real thing. The brilliance is not so impressive, though, unless the sun reflects off it. That is, the power is in the sun, not the snow.

The car is no longer bound by snow as in the picture above, but...
The car is no longer bound by snow as in the picture above, but…

We usually say the opposite of white is black. I learned in school that white light is the combination of all colors (think how a prism breaks down white light into a rainbow) whereas black is the absence of color. Opposites, right? All color v. no color? But in Isaiah 1:18, the opposite of white is scarlet. Blood-red, because sin is a bloody scourge we can’t escape.

The snow covers everything and makes it clean and white. Very white. And at present, very well covered! God went to great lengths (depths?) to make his point this past weekend.

...the road isn't cleared yet, only the sidewalk. So we're not going anywhere.
…the road isn’t cleared yet, only the sidewalk. So we’re not going anywhere.

Funny thing about white, though. It doesn’t stay pure for long. If you live a temperate region, you know how quickly the pristine snow will degrade, passing through the stages of brown sugar to ash gray to coal black to gritty slush.  Truly, a fresh snowfall is a brief and precious thing.

When God covers our bloody sin with His snowy-white redemption, it’s a precious thing as well. But we get dirty right away, too, for how long can you go without sinning again? A few minutes, a few seconds? Just when we’re fresh and new, a prideful thought, a lustful impulse, a resentful response splashes its dirt across the surface, and the white is pure no more.

Hope you weren't planning to use the grill today.
Hope you weren’t planning to grill burgers today.

On the other hand, our redemption is eternal. One day, the dirty temporal will melt away, and the new creation beneath will remain, perfect and pure as God made it.

The ideal winter (in my opinion) is one in which, from late fall until early spring, the temperature never goes above freezing, and we get a couple of inches of snow every day or two. That way there’s no mud, no slush, and everything’s always clean and white all winter long. In the spiritual parallel, we need to be made clean on a regular basis through frequently bathing in the word of God (Ephesians 5:26).

Remember "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds"? It's not true.
Remember “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”? It’s not true. But I don’t blame the mail carriers!

But it’s not winter forever. In the spring, everything changes. The old things pass away (like snow and ice) and all things become new. A sagging snowman looks a bit sad, but he’s got to go before the grass can get green.

Indeed, God provides another marvelous picture in the changing seasons.

Your experience with the seasons depends on what part of the world you happen to stand on. While I dug my car out of the snow last weekend, my friend in Tasmania (waving hi to Paula!) enjoyed a warm mid-summer day. When my sister (hello to Holly!) lived in San Francisco, she said the biggest difference between summer and winter was the amount of rain that fell. People in equatorial regions often don’t see much change in the seasons at all. Nevertheless, God is the same everywhere, and his truth is universal. We merely see it from different vantage points.

So what am I saying? I’m not sure. I’m just enjoying the pictures, and I hope you do too.

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Maybe a Book Blog Should Be About Books

books-1015594_1280In our last not-so-exciting blogging adventure, I mused about the possibility of making my next post about books… since this is kinda-sorta like a writer’s blog typa thing. One of my devoted readers (my sister) commented privately that she liked that suggestion. So I’ll take her up on it.

As a kid, I was an avid reader. It helped that I had the time to just sit and read. Nowadays, I guess I do again! Because when I started jotting down the titles I’ve read in the past month or so, the list turned out to be longer than I’d expected. I might have missed one or two, but these are the ones that I thought of:

Fiction – on Kindle
Crooked Lines, Holly Michael
At God’s Mercy, L. L. Fine
The Dance, Dan Walsh and Gary Smalley
The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky (didn’t finish)based on the

Fiction – print books
The Bonesetter’s Daughter, Amy Tan
2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke (based on the screenplay of the film by Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke)
The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga
Space Captain Smith, Toby Frostspace captain

Nonfiction – print books
The Heavenly Man (Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun) by Paul Hattaway
Song of Songs: The Divine Romance Between God and Man by Watchman Nee
Is God Anti-Gay? by Sam Allberry
What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung

A few thoughts on each:

I love Kindle because it’s cheap and efficient. Where else can you get so many books for free or 99¢? And how else can you store hundreds of volumes in a space measuring roughly 7.25 x 4.5 x .5”? I mean, seriously! As a book lover, how can I justify not having a Kindle?index

And yet… I much prefer reading a print book, and I know many who agree with me. Ebooks certainly have their place, but for the best reading experience, you can’t beat print. For that reason, I find it way easier to acquire ebooks than to actually read them. But every once in a while I’ll force myself to make use of the device.

Back when I was working with The Borrowed Book blog, I met author Holly Michael and was introduced to what was then her latest release, the above-mentioned Crooked Lines. Holly is a very interesting person; I loved the cover art; and the book sounded interesting. So, somewhere along the line, I got myself a copy on Kindle but only got around to reading it last month or so. It was okay. Had some interesting aspects to it, and all in all I’m glad I read it, but it doesn’t make my list of favorites.

Neither does At God’s Mercy. This was one I picked up for free, and it was worth the investment. Or maybe I paid 99¢ for that one. I don’t keep track of these things. But I’m glad I didn’t pay more.

51DaiSB6QML._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_I bought The Dance because I used to rub shoulders with Dan Walsh on Novel Rocket, and many years ago at church, we went through a film series by Gary Smalley that I thought was quite good. So when I saw Walsh and Smalley collaborated on a novel, I took the opportunity to get it on the cheap. Though it’s not the sort of thing I’d ordinarily read, it was quite well done. Smalley is a well-known family counselor, so there’s no surprise that family issues are the basis of the story—nor is it surprising that it has a happy resolution. If that type of tale is your cup of tea, you’ll enjoy this one.

Awhile back I had a discussion with someone about The Brothers Karamazov (how do you pronounce that, by the way? What syllable gets the accent?), and remembered that I’d downloaded a free Kindle copy—English translation, of course—quite some time ago, but hadn’t read it. So I pulled it up, read about 20% of it, and decided to let it rest for now. It’s not terrible, but finishing it didn’t seem to be the best use of my time.bonesetters

After that I deemed it time to do a little weeding-out of my physical to-be-read shelves. I think the first thing I grabbed was The Bonesetter’s Daughter. I loved Tan’s debut novel, The Joy Luck Club, and this, her fourth, was equally a delight. I believe was Stephen King in his book On Writing who said that no amount of training or practice can turn a mediocre writer into a great one. The average person can be taught to write competently, but, as with any other endeavor, true greatness is a gift. In that discussion, he mentioned Amy Tan as one who is greatly gifted.

After having read two of her novels, I wholeheartedly agree.

After that, I picked up the old classic-you-probably-can’t-believe-I’d-never-read-before-because-I’m-supposedly-a-sci-fi-author, 2001: A Space Odyssey. (I’ve never seen the movie, either.) It was… well, pretty much as I expected. A good example of the genre.

white tigerThe White Tiger was an excellent read. It was my first exposure to the Indian/Australian author Adiga, but I’ll keep my eye peeled for more of his novels. A journalist by profession, he made the crossover into fiction with amazing skill in this adroit story of one man’s struggle to escape the constraints of his caste in modern-day India.

I acquired Space Captain Smith some years ago in the course of my membership in The Paperback Swap Club, looking to expand my sci-fi reading. If you liked Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and its ilk, you’ll get a kick out of this one.

Now to the nonfiction.

YunOther than the Bible, I don’t read a lot of nonfiction, but I do occasionally indulge. The first on this list, The Heavenly Man, was recommended by my friend in Tasmania. Because I’ve liked her recommendations before, I decided to give it a try—and I was glad I did. The writing style was, in my opinion, clumsy, probably due to geographical differences. But the content made it easy to get past the mechanics. This is the true story of a Chinese man who’s still alive, about my age (a little younger, as I recall) and still active in Christian missions. His experiences put the Christian life in a far different perspective from that which American Christians know. He brings out many points, some obvious and some more subtle, that are well worth noting, and which I’d like to elaborate upon further, but this is already getting too long. Maybe in another post.

In late August, I began a study of the biblical book Song of Solomon and didn’t finish until the end of December. (I’ve been meaning to blog about that for a few months but never have gotten around to it.) After completing the study, I bought this book by Watchman Nee, Song of Songs, for further reading. I’m definitely going to have to talk about all this in another post, or series of them. For now, let’s move on…

My pastor loaned me the two books listed above about homosexuality and the Bible and asked me to read and review them. I’ve done the first part but haven’t written the reviews god anti

Both were good, but I liked the shorter one, Is God Anti-Gay?, better. When it comes to “What does the Bible teach about…” any subject, it makes sense to me to go to the Bible to see what it says. Why employ a middle man?

The author in this case does a thorough job with it, but while reading his scholarly, linguistic, but altogether readable explanation, I couldn’t help but think that the problem isn’t so much knowing, as believing what the Bible says. Quote chapter and verse all you want, and parse it down to a pile of split hairs; none of that matters. What counts is accepting, and submitting ourselves to, the Scriptures’ authority. Apart from that, it’s just old writings.

Brevity was one reason I liked the first book better. Another is that the author gives some very practical things for a Christian to consider when dealing with the matter of homosexuality in the church, in the political realm, in familial and casual relationships, and in one’s own life. But perhaps the most commendable aspect is the author’s perspective. He is a Christian who himself is attracted to people of the same sex. Therefore he knows whereof he speaks, and what he says is well worth listening to.

So that’s my recent reading list. Maybe I’ll do this again sometime.

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Post-Holiday Report

2016-01-08 14.05.49I love Sundays—especially during football season.

I love going to church no matter what the season. But in the afternoons, when football’s on, I’m guaranteed a nap.

Today, though, Craig was happy about the Steelers’ win last night and didn’t care a whole lot about the afternoon game today, so we went for a walk instead of falling asleep in front of the TV.

It had been raining off and on all day, so we were prepared to get rained on. But instead, we experienced a few flits of snow… and a whole lot of wind. But we stayed dry, so that made us happy.

2016-01-08 13.59.55We’ve been walking fairly regularly this winter. Friday we went to the Paw Paw Tunnel again, hoping to see some fun ice formations, since it’s been a little colder the past few days. We had a nice hike to the tunnel, went over top of the mountain, and then back through the tunnel in the homeward direction. Stopping to take a photo or two along the way.

Then we explored the Town Creek Aqueduct at another nearby stop along the same C & O Canal Trail, near which we discovered another interesting trail that we might check out another day. (Took no pics there.)

school house kitchen
School House Kitchen (photo from their Facebook page)

Continuing our exploration, we meandered into a little burg called Old Town, where one of the first things you see is a school. Except it’s not—it’s a repurposed school building. One of the new purposes for the building is a restaurant, the School House Kitchen located in the original school lunchroom. In another area, they restore antique cars.

Craig and I loved the concept and decided to stop for lunch. We didn’t expect much, and so weren’t disappointed. Basically, it was the quality of food you’d find in a school cafeteria. But it was 2 pm, we’d walked up an appetite, and it was a fun place to stop. We wish the owners success!

2016-01-08 14.05.20None of this, however, is worth writing home about. I only mention it because: 1) it’s been over a month since I blogged; and 2) it’s a good excuse to use some of the nice pics I took.

Since my last post, we’ve had Christmas and New Year’s Day – but no snow. I was thinking recently of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, in which, thanks to a spell cast by the white witch, it was always winter in Narnia, but never Christmas. The way the Christmas hype begins in October but the temperatures this year felt more like April than December, it occurred to me that this season, it was always Christmas but never winter.

2016-01-08 14.06.41-2
I don’t recommend climbing these stairs.

Despite wet, gloomy weather without so much as a whiff of winter, we had a lovely Christmas. We drove to the Cleveland area on Christmas Day, where we visited with Craig’s family at his sister’s house before taking everyone out to eat at an Asian buffet that evening. When I say “everyone,” that includes not only Craig’s whole family but also our oldest and youngest daughters (Emily and Rustie, respectively), whom we don’t often get to spend time with. After dinner we went to the Holiday Inn where we met up with Shelley and her family, who’d recently arrived from Virginia, and watched the kids swim in the pool for a while before bed.23847923796_fe2ed0c502_n

Shelley & Scott recently acquired (if that’s the right word) a four-month-old foster baby, whom we met for the first time and found thoroughly charming. She’s truly a sweetheart! Because they can’t post photos of her in public, they have to be careful with family pics. But I thought they did a great job with this one!

Bennett with spoonsThe next morning we had breakfast at the motel restaurant with not only Shelley & Scott & the grandkids, but also with our son Art and his wife Jennie, as well as my sister and her husband. We had to wait a long time for our food, but that merely gave us adults a chance to chat and the kids to entertain the rest of us.

We then went back to Craig’s sister’s house in Parma for the official Anderson Christmas. It was one day late because Art & Jennie weren’t able to be there on the 25th, but I don’t think anyone cared about the delay. After the festivities, we went back to the motel where the kids—along with Craig’s nieces this time—did some more swimming.swimming

Art & Jennie had to go home that night, and Shelley & Scott left the following morning. But Craig & I went to Rustie’s apartment for a while before the three of us went to my brother’s house, where we had “Smithmas” with him and his wife, our daughter Emily, and my sister and her husband.

I don’t know how many more Christmases we’ll be able to visit with everyone, and we very much enjoyed being able to do it this year. We’re also very thankful that we have families to spend the holidays with—and that everyone enjoys one another’s company.

New Year’s Eve was uneventful, but on New Year’s Day, we went to a wedding! Not the usual way to start the new year, but it was a lovely wedding and a happy day.

I have many things to be thankful for, but I’ve rambled on long enough. And besides that, I’m out of pictures. Maybe in my next post I’ll talk about some of the books I’ve been reading. That would be appropriate for a writer’s blog, wouldn’t it?

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