The Porch Light is On

I recently started drafting a post on the subject of “coming home.” It was appropriate, considering that’s the title of the new novella collection in which one of my stories appears with six others.

Each story takes place in a different location (Texas, West Virginia, an island in Lake Superior off the coast of Wisconsin, Indiana, Georgia, one of the Carolinas [sorry, Kimberli, but I don’t remember which one!]*, and Ohio) all with the unifying theme being tiny houses. I don’t usually write contemporary fiction, but it’s been fun working with my friends on this project, and I enjoyed writing the story, which I set in the community where Craig and I lived for 30 years.

*[Note: Kimberli just contacted me to say: “This is one of the few stories I’ve written that doesn’t take place in the Carolinas. Like Linda’s, mine is set in Texas, only North Central Texas where it’s hot and dry and the town has been suffering a long drought. That part was based on an actual event. It was so dry in the real town my fictional town is based on, they pleaded with people to pray for rain. In the story, they got it. In buckets.” Sorry I mis-remembered, Kimberli, and thanks for the correction!]

And now, back to our regularly-scheduled broadcast:
Another reason “coming home” is so appropriate is because we recently moved, and when I return to this place after being away, I don’t quite feel like I’m “home.” This kind of surprises me, because when we moved to Maryland in 2013, my husband and I both immediately felt like our new house was home. Why don’t I now? I’m not sure, but it’s different this time.

Here’s a portion of the post I started drafting earlier but never finished:

Coming Home is the title of the novella collection a group of us recently published. In a way, it’s also the theme of my contribution to the book, though it was someone else who came up with the title.

It’s also what I felt like this past Wednesday when I went back for visit to the area of New Philadelphia, OH. That’s where my husband and I lived for 30 years. All four of our kids grew up there, graduated from high school in the area, and were launched into the world from that home base.

When driving back to T-County this past week, the closer I got, the more I found myself anticipating my arrival there. I felt like I was going home.

I dropped off copies of the book at both the New Philadelphia and Dover public libraries. I also delivered several copies to Dayspring Christian Bookstore, where they are now available for sale. I went to Swiss Village Bulk Foods and Sugar Valley Meats in Sugarcreek. I had lunch at my cousin’s house. The whole time, I drove around with a smile on my face.

I don’t ever expect to live there again, but it sure is nice to visit.

I got that far and then couldn’t think what else to say, so I put it aside. Until now.

This morning as I read in the Gospel of John, I got to the first verse in chapter 14 and pulled up short.

I’ll share that with you in a minute, but first, let me fill you in on something that happens in my novella. The main character has been going through a very difficult time. Her marriage has fallen apart, she’s moved out of her long-time home, she’s left her career, and is trying to start over in the community where she lived when she was a young girl. Subconsciously, I suppose, she hopes to recapture something of the hope and happiness of her youth. But she can’t find it, because those days are gone. She prays, but can’t seem to feel the connection with God she once did. She feels lonely and adrift.

At one point in the story, she’s out walking the dog after dark and gets a little scare. She looks toward her tiny house, and the lights beckon to her to come back to safety. As she and the dog move into the protective glow of the house’s deck light, she asks herself, “Stepping into the light of God can’t be as simple as walking back to the house, can it?”

That analogy came back to mind when I contemplated John 14:1. Here are the thoughts I recorded in my journal. (Please forgive my long, rambling sentences; I write these notes only for myself, not for publication!):

What the disciples were about to face—they didn’t know it yet, but Jesus did—was a horror of unprecedented magnitude. They were about to see the long-awaited Messiah, whom they knew to be God in the flesh, whom they had seen exercise supernatural power over everything (sin, death, disease, demons, storm winds, human authorities, physical laws), and in whom God would fulfill all His glorious promises to Israel—this One in whom they had willingly placed their lives, their hope, their faith—would soon be arrested like a common criminal and taken away, subjected to unjust trial, physical torture, and the most horrific execution mankind had ever devised, all without lifting a finger or a word to defend himself. It was more appalling than can possibly be described. And on the eve of this, Jesus tells them, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.”

There is no difficulty, no trauma, no heartache we can possibly face in this world that falls outside that assurance: Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Jesus.

Jesus knows what we’re going through; this is not a trite platitude. He knows full well, for he’s experienced it. Indeed, he goes through it with us. When we know Jesus, we know the way through it, because HE is the way (vv. 5-6).

I tried to depict this through my story, but John said it better. Jesus is the Light (John 1:1-5 and 8:12) that draws us to God. When we hear things bump in the night, when we see disturbing shadows in the darkness around us, when we’re filled with fear—and indeed, there are plenty of legitimately scary things in this world!—we can come into the Light. He’s always near.

This is not to minimize the dangers. Our troubles and fears may be horribly real, but they are not eternal; they’re not all there is. When we walk in Christ’s light, we can see the end of them.

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It’s About Time!

After keeping the same site format for almost seven (7) years, I’ve finally updated my blog! I like the simple format and the clean look. I may tweak it here and there yet–for instance, I’d like to find a good photo to set up as the featured image, if this template will allow me to do that. But because I haven’t posted anything since March, I’m letting it go out into the world despite its immature state.

As you might notice, I’ve made small revisions to my “About” page as well as the tab for the Gateway to Gannah series. And I’ve added three new tabs:

  • One for my upcoming speculative fiction series, The Four Lives of Jemma Freeman;
  • Another for the tiny house novella series;
  • And a third for the new publishing company I’ve recently created, Gannah’s Gate.

Check them out! What do you think?

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New Stuff Coming Up

Us old dogs adapt slowly to new things, but if you hang around a little longer, you’re likely to see some changes here on Ys Words.

Including announcements of new book releases. Woo hoo! After not having published anything since 2015, I’m getting in the game again. With, of course, some changes, because it’s the year for switcheroos!

One new book to watch for is the novella collection I mentioned a little while ago. We have a cover for it now, as you can see, and I love it! It was designed by Ken Raney, who also did all four of my new Gannah books.

I’ve read four (including my own) of the seven stories that will be in it, and they’re all good. I’m assuming the other three are too, but I haven’t read them yet, so I can’t tell you about them. The four I’ve read are all very different, but each is a short, entertaining read, and I’m happy to conspire–except I guess the proper term is collaborate–with the authors to bring this collection of stories to you.

The projected release date is May 8. Watch for the official announcement, with buy links, later this spring!

Speaking of spring, we had the first real snowfall of the winter last night and this morning. A total of about 9 inches. That is apropos of nothing, but I thought I’d mention it, as the first day of spring is next Monday. Unless you’re in the southern hemisphere, of course, in which case it’s the first day of fall.

Okay, back to yakking about books:

I’m also preparing to release the first part of my speculative series I started working on in the fall of 2015. Hard to believe it’s been that long, but as you can see, I first mentioned it this past April when I was at 80,000-some words, and I posted a snippet of it here. I’m still not finished with the final section, but I’m far enough along that I’m ready to unleash the first part into the world. I hope it bites several thousand people and makes them rabid for more. It’s more reasonable to expect it might interest two or three unfortunate individuals, but I can hope for thousands, right?

Series name: The Four Lives of Jemma Freeman.

Book one title: Stillwaters

I don’t yet have a cover design to show you, but I do have a map of the world–my story world, that is. Here’s a peek at the land masses on the planet Umban:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See that little island called Freemansland in the eastern ocean all by itself? That’s where the story opens, which you’d know if you read the preview I posted earlier. As things unfold, you’ll get to see a great deal more of Umban than just Freemansland.

And, in case you wonder why I’m sniffling as I write this, a strange thing happened just now. While drafting a chapter that comes near the end of Book 3 a few minutes ago, I started crying over what was happening in the chapter. I don’t mean I had a tear trickle, I mean I actually cried! Writing the end of The Last Toqeph, which readers tell me is a genuine tear-jerker, made me sniffle. But writing Chapter 63 of Jemma Freeman made me break down. When I go through and make revisions later, I’ll see if it’s really that bad or if it was just the mood I was in when I drafted it.

Appetite whetted yet? No? Why not? What more do you want from me, for crying out loud?

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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!”

804d4591ad06aa82f195d94749732509
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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