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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Who Doesn’t Love Free?

This post’s title suggests a number of interesting possibilities, but I really only have one thing in mind: free books!

New coverTwo of my fellow author-bloggers are currently conducting book giveaways on my behalf. Anna Weaver Hurtt is running a contest in which the winner gets a copy of The Story in the Stars, and India’s Crown blog is providing one lucky reader the opportunity to win The Last Toqeph.

Not only that, but both blogs offer the chance to read brilliant, scintilLost and Foundlating interviews with yours truly. That’s right, brilliant. Scintillating.

Or at least mildly interesting. Well, maybe not even that — if you’re a reader of my blog, you’ve probably already heard the answers to all their questions. But hop on over to both blogs anyway and enter to win a book or two. Even if you already own one, it’s nice to support the bloggers. And if you win, you’ll have a head start on your Christmas shopping.

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Wild and Free

file000758102380On Monday morning, I followed a car displaying a bumper sticker that read, All good things are wild and free. H. D. Thoreau.

Forty-five years ago or more, I tried reading Thoreau’s On Walden Pond. I say “tried” because I couldn’t get into it and gave up the effort after fifteen or twenty pages. And that pretty well describes all I know about Thoreau: I just can’t get into him.

But the quote on the bumper sticker interested me, so I contemplated it as I drove. “All things.” I assume that means all living things, because it would be hard to describe an inanimate object as either wild or free.

Imagine, for instance, your response if I said something like this: I love having central heat in this kind of weather. Our furnace is new, energy efficient, and the whole system, everything that makes my house warm, is wild. It’s free, too! file0001926667793

Ummm… okay. So it’s only living things we’re talking about. Does this mean there are no good house dogs? A gentle and productive family milk cow can’t be good because she’s confined? My backyard grapevines aren’t good because I prune them?

The quote seems to suggest—though I’ll admit it doesn’t state—that all things wild and free are good. That’s only the case if you define “good” differently than most people do. The Ebola virus isn’t good, for instance, unless you consider it a step in the right direction where human overpopulation is concerned. But it is certainly wild and free.

Not sentient, though. Maybe “good” can only apply to something with a brain.

A person might argue that anything natural is good, even venomous creatures and man-killing tigers. It’s not wrong for a wild animal to behave in ways we humans don’t happen to like, if it’s simply the animal’s nature. We shouldn’t judge it by saying it’s not good.

I understand that point of view, but for it to work, we should carry it out to its logical conclusion. That is, if my natural inclination is to be a free spirit, it’s not a bad thing if I can’t keep a job because of poor attendance, don’t pay my rent on time, party all night, and abandon my family. It’s all good, because I’m wild and free.

file000774209023This is getting silly, so I’ll back up a bit.

Let’s not take it to extremes–that is, we’ll say there can be  such a thing as a good dog, domesticated though it may be. And we won’t twist the quote around to mean the opposite of what it says–that is, all good things are wild and free, but not all things wild and free are necessarily good.

Okay, then. What does it mean?

As you may have figured out by now, when I have a moral question, I go to the Bible for the answer. And doing that is when it really got interesting.

According to the Bible, only God is good – God himself, and the good gifts he gives us (see Mark 10:18, Luke 18:19, James 1:17, etc.).

So is God wild and free? Hmm….

If “wild” is defined as not domesticated or cultivated; and if “free” means not under the control or power of another… well, then, yes.

So I guess, scripturally speaking, Thoreau was right.

And that’s what I thought about as I wove through the frozen streets of Frostburg, Maryland on Monday morning. Isn’t that a lot more fun than thinking about the weather?


Lost and FoundPostscript

I didn’t think about it until I prepared to post this, but this topic somewhat relates to my latest release, The Last Toqeph. That is, the shorter man on the front cover is wild and free. But is he good?

I’ll let you decide. Comments welcome.

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Goodreads Giveaway

Lost and FoundHey, y’all – I thought it might be a good idea to let you know about the promotion going on at Goodreads. Between now and the end of the month, you can enter a drawing to win a free copy of The Last Toqeph, the fourth book in the Gateway to Gannah series.

Looking at the cover, do you wonder who those two guys are? Especially the one in the animal-skin skirt. Wouldn’t you love to see his face? Guess what color his eyes are… just guess.

I’m not going to tell you. You’ll have to read the book to find out.

And what’s that in the distance, barely visible above the “S” in “Last”? It’s small in the picture, but significant in the story (which is why I asked the artist to make sure he included it).

Do you know why the guy in the hat looks so much taller than the shorter one? Because he is taller — by about a foot and a half. Do you wonder why they both have an aggressive stance? Well, you would too, if you were in either of their situations. What does the taller one have that the shorter one wants? Why is the tall one jealous of the little guy? Do the two remain at odds, or do they become friends by the end of the story?

Read the book to find out. To do this for free, you can, of course, enter the Goodreads giveaway (see the link in the first paragraph of this post, or click “Enter to Win” in the widget to the right). But only five people will win a book that way, and you might not be one of the lucky ones.

So go to your local library and ask them to order it. They might do it for you. If they don’t, I’ll be upset with them. (That prospect will not faze them in the slightest, but that’s beside the point.)

If you want to read it “on the cheap,” the Kindle price is only $1.99. Don’t have a Kindle? You can download a free Kindle app for your computer — Amazon has them for both PC and Mac.You could just bite the bullet and buy a print copy.Or, you could just forget the whole thing. But seriously, don’t you want to find the answers to these questions, one way or another?


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Muddling Through

file0002136730600That’s what I’ve felt like the last few weeks. A muddler — as if I’m slogging through mud. I’m not sure where I’m going, and even if I did, it would be a slow, messy business getting there.

This might be partly because I’m still dealing with the effects of a respiratory infection, but also partly because… I’m not sure. Maybe I’m just lazy and don’t want to do all the things a writer needs to do these days.

All four books in the Gateway to Gannah series are now available for sale both in print and ebook. For some reason I don’t feel like this is any great accomplishment. I’m glad it’s done and am ready to move on, but I’m not sure where to go from here.

It’s autumn. Ordinarily I love this time of year, and it’s a lovely season here in Western Maryland. But autumn_scenethe brisk air, autumnal smells, and beautiful colors don’t energize me like they usually do.

Next week will be the first anniversary of our moving here. This fills me with a sense of satisfaction, because we like it here and are fully settled in. But rather than itching to tackle a new project, I feel more like taking a nap.

I have a couple of writer friends in Iowa whom no one can call muddlers. One of them, Susan Lawrence, visited me here on Y’s Words a month or two ago. (If you haven’t read her book yet, Atonement for Emily Adams, hurry up and do it. It’s a good one!) A list of her regular activities makes me feel breathless.

Another of my Iowa friends, Glenda Mathes, recently released her first work of fiction. She’s not a newcomer to the writing world by any means. For more than a decade, she’s been writing for Christian Renewal magazine. Since 2001, she’s served as either the managing editor or contributing editor The Messenger, the newsletter of Mid-America Reformed Seminary. She’s the author of several nonfiction books: an introductory text to the Heidelberg catechism; a thoughtful, tender look at infant loss, and a lovely devotional about resting in God. She has at least one other devotional book under contract, and she’s actively working on another nonfiction book.

PrintSuffice it to say, Glenda’s no muddler. But her first published fiction work is about a muddling boy. And it’s a delight.

It’s the first in a three-book series called Matthew in the Middle, and I can’t decide what I like most about it. Rather than list its great qualities in any particular order, I’ll share them as they come to me:

  • Glenda wrote the books for her grandsons. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought about writing something for my grandkids. But have I ever done it? No. Because I’m a muddler. Glenda, on the other hand, not only wrote this wonderful series, but is publishing it — and doing a first-rate job with it.
  • It’s written from a believable kid’s viewpoint. The main character’s actions, thoughts, attitudes, and responses are spot-on for someone his age. His relationships with the people in his world (family, teachers, friends, etc.) are realistic and three-dimensional.
  • Matthew faces the sort of challenges every kid faces. No over-the-top stuff, no responsibility to save the world, nothing supernatural, nor dark, horrible, or creepy. He’s just a kid who has to deal with normal pressures, but it’s all portrayed in such a way that the reader relates to him, cheers for him, and worries for him.
  • Though a natural spiritual thread keeps things moving with a purpose, gentle humor prevents it from ever getting heavy.

All this to say: though Matthew may be barely muddling, the author soars.

There are several things I’m uncertain about right now. A partial list of these mysteries includes what my next writing project should be (if there should be one at all); how I should best market the Gannah series; whether I should blog more diligently.

But here’s one thing I’m sure of: Glenda’s latest book, Matthew Muddles Through, is a great gift for young boys and an enjoyable read for any age.

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The Deed is Done

Lost and FoundWell, folks, I was shooting for a release date of October 15 for book #4 in the Gannah series. And, to my surprise, despite some set-backs and time drains, I made it!

I just now (as in, less than half an hour ago) clicked “Publish” for both the print and the Kindle versions, so you probably won’t find them in either format on Amazon quite yet. But maybe if you check back later tonight (it’s 3:08 pm EST) or tomorrow, you’ll be able to snag YOUR copy!

It’s the longest of the four titles, so by necessity the print version has to be over $10. However, I’ve kept the prices in both formats as low as I reasonably could. I know how difficult it can be to part with your hard-earned money. I don’t like spending it on books, and I hate to ask other people to spend it on mine.

If you’d like to read it for free, here are some options: 1) Ask your local library to buy it. Better yet, ask them to buy the whole series. 2) Watch my blog for a give-away. Sooner or later, I’ll probably do one. 3) Same for Goodreads. I plan to do another giveaway there too. 4) Ask your mom, husband, best friend, boss, or neighbor across the street to get it for you for Christmas.

Between getting this ready for publication, helping my in-laws with the Big Move, (which has required two trips to Ohio in two weeks, with a third one to come this weekend), and entertaining an active upper-respiratory infection that’s decided to take up residence in my body without an invitation, I’m feeling a bit burned out. Which means I won’t be setting up those promised giveaways until at least tomorrow. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get excited about this new release, right? Tell everyone you know about it! Twist a few arms, resort to bribery if necessary, just do whatever you can to get people to buy this book!

Meanwhile, I’m going to go take a nap. After I take the sheets out of the dryer and make the bed. And then get supper started. And then…  well, a nap was a nice idea even if I never quite get there.

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Home is Where the House Is… Sometimes

Craig removing loose paint from the foundation in the basement stairwell, August.
Craig removing loose paint from the foundation near the basement door, August.

One year ago at this time, we were packing our two-story-plus-full-basement-and-attic house in preparation to move 200 miles away. We’d already sold the house but were waiting for the buyer’s lender to complete all the details before the deal closed. That finally occurred on October 11, and we closed the sale and took possession of on our new place on October 16.

Almost as if to commemorate that event for its anniversary, Craig’s mom is selling her house, and has to be out by October 17. She’s in the Cleveland area, and we’re here in Maryland. We’ll be going to Ohio. Craig has two sisters and a brother in the area, as well as two nieces and a nephew, so it’s not as if Mom has to deal with everything herself. However, we’d like to participate, too, rather than leave it all to them.

She’s been in that house since 1957. She’s complained about “this dump” for the nearly 40 years that I’ve known her. Nevertheless, she’s not happy about leaving. It’s a big change for her, and I appreciate that it’s difficult emotionally. She’ll be moving in with her youngest daughter, Gail, and her three kids (teen and pre-teen), which will be a huge adjustment for all of them. But they’re delighted with the prospect and will make her very welcome there, and as happy and comfortable as is in their power.

This year's garden in its prime, August 15. (All that's left now is peppers, tomatoes, and green beans.)
This year’s garden in its prime, August 15. (All that’s left now is peppers, tomatoes, and green beans.)

I’m not fond of moving. It’s a lot of work! But I do enjoy the excitement of new people, new places, and new experiences. Both Craig and I are very happy we made the move last year, and we anticipate his mom will be glad, too, once she’s finally settled into her new home.

Our situation is very different from hers, of course, in many aspects. In some ways, there’s no comparison (except for the actual work involved in both moves). Rather than selling the house to avoid having to keep it up, we bought a house with the intention of changing it to suit us.

We have, in fact, made some major changes over the past 10 months. I showed you before-and-after pictures of the kitchen, our first big project, some time ago. This summer, we put in a garden, Craig built a new shed, and he (along the help of a professional tree-removal service and also from Scott, our son-in-law) did some serious landscaping work. You’ll see various pictures scattered throughout this post.

Front of house in November, 2012 (taken by the listing realtor)
Front of house “before” (November, 2012) (photo taken by the listing realtor)

I’ve discovered one unexpected consequence of this moving experience: it’s almost turned me into a neat freak. How so? Well, at first, we worked on the old house and fixed everything we could possibly fix (I give Craig the credit for this), even so far as patching and painting or wallpapering the inside of all the closets and built-in cabinets. When I say everything, that’s exactly what I mean. Then, of course, we had to keep it spotless for a couple of open houses and frequent showings. (This was much easier than last time we’d sold our house, as we had no small children or pets to mess things up.) After a while, I grew accustomed to having everything neat and clean.

Front as of September 25. Next year there will be flower-filled planters there, but otherwise, this is the "after" picture.
Front as of September 25. Next year there will be 3 flower-filled planters there, but otherwise, this is the “after” picture.

Then, we cleaned everything in the new house before moving in, such as washing walls, woodwork, windows, shampooing carpets, etc. Once we got settled in, every closet, drawer, cabinet and cubbyhole was clean, neat, and organized.

Now, it’s beginning to get that lived-in look—and that bothers me! Yesterday morning I defrosted and reorganized the deep freeze (which needed to be done whether I wanted to or not) and my spice cabinet in the afternoon. Over the next month or so, I hope to do the same everywhere throughout the whole house. Because, after having things clean and organized for so long, I’ve decided that, though I still don’t like the act of cleaning, I do like the result. And, much like with defrosting the freezer, it’s far easier to do it before it gets out of hand. So I might as well just keep up with things instead of waiting until things fall out of the cabinets when I open the doors.

Another view of the new-and-improved front
Another view of the new-and-improved front

For now, though, I think I’d better pack and prepare for our trip to Ohio tomorrow. Another moving day is coming up.

Oh, by the way: I’m still on schedule to release The Last Toqeph, the fourth and final book in the Gateway to Gannah series, in October.

Stay tuned for more news on that front soon!Lost and Found



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