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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Home!

I’ve been quiet recently for a number of reasons:

#1 – I’m a lazy blogger. Lazy like a sloth, but not so hairy.

#2 – Craig and I recently made another out-of-state move. (Didn’t we just do that a little over three years ago? Yes. But it was so fun the last time, we did it again…)

#3 – I’ve been waiting until one of my new releases finally came out, so I could announce it.

SO… We’re settled into our new home now. Yes, actually settled, though we still have one more carload of stuff to bring from the old place — things like winter coats and other odds and ends we won’t need immediately, so we won’t go back to get them for another couple of weeks.

AND… I’m finally able to announce the publication of that tiny house novella I’ve been talking about!

Coming Home: A Tiny House Collection is now available in Kindle, and will be out in print in the next week or two.

I’ve read four of the seven stories, and they’re each very different but are all sweet reads. I have no doubt the other three are just as good, and I look forward to them.

As is always the case with new releases, we need reviews. So if you’ve got $4 to spend and a little time for reading, I invite you to download it and post a review!

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Book Publicity and Root Canal

I was going to say book publicity is like root canal, but I’m not in a position to make the comparison, as I’ve never undergone that particular dental procedure.

In my mind, however, the procedure of marketing my writing is probably worse than root canal, because with dental work, it’s usually a one-shot deal. Maybe two or three shots. In any event, unlike promotional efforts, it’s not something you have to do on a regular basis.

I’m not sure why so many writers cringe at the very thought of self-promotion, but many of us do. Possibly it’s because writing is a rather solitary endeavor that appeals to introverts. I do know of some writers who love marketing, but they seem to be in the minority.

With two new releases coming up (the novella collection, and Stillwaters, Book 1 in the Four Lives of Jemma Freeman), I embarked on an online course  in book publicity through ACFW. I’m getting a lot of information, suggestions, and ideas. None of it excites me, and all of it makes me feel a little sick to the stomach. I don’t want to do that! Are you kidding? I’m supposed to do what?

This isn’t my first rodeo, but I’ve never won any prizes in the past. In fact, my efforts have made me feel more like a rodeo clown than a competitor. But it would be silly to keep writing and publishing books if I’m going to pretend I’m not.

So please bear with me as I get on this bronco and ride. And get thrown. And get on again. And get thrown again… And get on again…

If you want to laugh at me, I won’t be offended. That’s what clowns are for, right?

 

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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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Ups and Downs

My writer friend Michelle recently posted the following infographic on her blog. It resonated with me, and so I’m sharing it, with her permission. (You may use it too–she says so! Honest!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve mentioned in the past that the so-called inspiration that comes to me in my half-awake state is almost always, if not always-always, laughable when seen in the light of day. So I couldn’t fully relate to the first part of this scenario. Not as far as good ideas coming to me as I drop off to sleep, anyway.

I’m more apt to come up with good story ideas while I’m doing something else. Something that occupies one part of my conscious mind while giving the creative part freedom to roam. Like washing dishes or pulling weeds or painting a wall. But the point is, I do get an idea now and then, and as illustrated above, I work on it mentally for a while before I sit down and try putting it into words. The Inspiration, Vision, and Genius phases are three of my close acquaintances.

And so, inevitably, is Disaster.

I’m not sure why, but the clearest, most gripping scenario in my mind often doesn’t work when I try to write it. Quite a few plans I’d had for the story I’m currently working on have had to be either scratched or dramatically changed in order for things to make sense.

But that’s okay. This is fiction; if the facts don’t fit, then change the facts, right?

Well, that works to a degree. If you’re writing historical fiction, you can’t change history; that would shift it into the speculative category of alternative history. If you’re writing about the real world, you’ve got to keep all the natural laws intact. Otherwise, you’re writing fantasy.

In case you hadn’t guessed, that’s one reason I write speculative fiction: because I like to write my own history, create my own society. But even in a DIY world, things must be consistent. You can’t have elements changing their properties according to the whim of the moment. Just because something seems like it should work doesn’t mean it will once you lay it all out and see how the pieces fit together.

And then, as the above graphic points out, we writers often have trouble with the basic mechanics of writing. Even when we know what we want to convey, the words do not flow. We stammer on the page. Our sentences look like they were written by a five-year-old.

I think a five-year-old might have a better way with words than what I come up with some days.

So why do I do this to myself?

I have no idea. I keep praying that God would let me quit. I don’t care that I’ve invested untold hours and years of my life in this unprofitable venture; I’m ready to cut my losses. Turn my back on it once and for all and just walk away. Right now. Tell the world, Yeah, I thought I might be a writer, but I guess I was wrong. Let’s just forget it, shall we?

But every time I think that way, I get the impression of God lifting an eyebrow. Are you done with your whining? Yes? Good. Now, quit being such a baby and get back to work.

So that’s what I’m going to do once I publish this blog post. Get back to work on my current writing project. And then, after it’s finished, then maybe I can quit. Can I? Can I? Please?

 

 

 

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