Friday, March 30, 2012

I needed to submit the first 3 chapters of my novel for editorial review.  After doing that, I thought, why not share it with my subscribers?  If you would like to read the first 3 chapters of my novel tentatively titled Eli's Scrolls:  The Search, subscribe to this blog or like me on Facebook.  Either way I'll send you the link.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Perils of Warm Weather

Our mild winter has led to a warmer than normal spring.  Or is Tick_male_size_comparison_(aka)this the new normal?  I hope not!  Last week I had my first tick.  I usually don’t see ticks until summer. 

Most Ohio ticks are light brown and vary in size from as small as a pen tip to the actual size in this picture (not the size comparison to the match tip).  I felt that first tick land on the back of my leg as I was standing in an area of tall grass.  As soon as I felt it and saw that it was a tick, I pulled it off and flung it into the grass away from me.  I hate ticks!

Let me explain.  One year, I was hiking in a group at Clear Creek Metro Park.  By the end of that hike my socks and legs were covered in ticks (alright, there were maybe a dozen) and the others had none.  My husband patiently picked them off me and executed them.  He hates ticks more than I do.

In the last couple of years, I have had ticks dig into the area behind my ear and my scalp, finding them a day or days after the hike.  In each case, my husband (for the ear)  and a neighbor (for the scalp) used our flat blade tweezers and with gentle pulling, extracted the ticks.  I then drowned them in rubbing alcohol or flushed them down the toilet. 

It’s better to avoid ticks than to have to remove them, but if you hike in woods or grassland that’s almost impossible. I have even been victim to a tick in my suburban front yardTo prevent ticks, I use a citronella-eucalyptus based tick repellant which seems to work; its odor alone should keep them away.  Products containing DEET appear to be more effective and longer lasting (and not as smelly).  Take your pick. 

What else might this warm spring have wrought?  All sorts of insects, reptiles and amphibians.  If you don’t like those, enjoy the early flowers.  As I write this some peach, pear, and apple trees are blooming, as well as maple.  Now if I could just find the time for some early spring hikes. . . well, maybe next week.




Tick image attribution: By André Karwath aka Aka (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Watching My Mother Die

I’ve been spending early evenings, usually the time between 5:00 pm and 8:00 pm (she goes to bed at 8:00), sitting with my dying mom who likes to watch CBS.  This is what I have learned. 

  • No newscast is worth watching.  TV newscasters can tell you only what they consider news at that moment.  What they feed us are half truths and speculation.  What is really worthwhile and of import may not be known for hours, days, or weeks. 
  • People on Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune are no imagemore interesting than my friends and neighbors.  I would rather play Jeopardy with my friends and neighbors than watch someone else’s friends or neighbors play it on TV.
  • The questions on Jeopardy are more interesting than the puzzles on Wheel of Fortune.  When the category is People on Wheel of Fortune, you can bet that the person is not Thomas Beckett, Sir Thomas More, St. Augustine, Dante Alighieri, or even more recent Nobel prize winners in literature like Mario Vargas Llosa, Doris Lessing, and Gunter Grass.
  • My mom has become kind to me in her old age.  She now thanks me and tells me how good I am.  It’s too bad it took the imminence of death for her to begin to see me truly.  What attitudes and conceptions about others should we change prior to our death?
  • There are more good books and writers than I had imagined.  I don’t normally read fiction, but this death-watch has left me unable to give non-fiction the concentration it deserves.  In addition, a good novel will pull me along without any effort on my part, which is good because I have no effort to spend on reading.

Here is are 7 of the ones I have recently read:

The Illumination: A Novel

A must-read.  So well written, I was compelled to re-edit my own novel.  It’s almost a collection of short stories showing the impact of people on others with whom they have relationships varying from deep to non-existent.  This is a book I didn’t want to put down.  Get it at any cost.

Queen, The (The Bowers Files)

A thriller which explores the relationships between an FBI profiler and his family.  Interesting if only for the way crime scenes are analyzed. 

Things Not Seen

A young adult novel in which the boy wakes up to find himself invisible.  He meets a girl who is blind and reveals his secret to her. The story takes us through the boy’s life of what he can do while invisible and makes the point that relationships shouldn’t be based on how people look.  A fun read.


A 12-year old girl’s mother dies, and her father, older brother, and 16-year old sister struggle to survive and run their Alligator wrestling attraction in the Florida swamps.  But the mother was the star of the show, and life is cast on its head.  Anything can happen and does.  Well-written, so well written, that it is a book I may come back to time and again. 

People of the Book: A Novel

I had read one Geraldine Brooks novel, but decided to give this one a try anyway.  The story was good, but I was bothered by the one-sided view of Christians.  The book portrays good and bad Jewish and Muslim people, but all the Christians are bad.  The story intersperses a real object, the Sarajevo Haggadah (a haggadah is a book used at Passover giving the order of service and the words that are read.) This particular Haggadah is richly illustrated and belongs to the museum in Sarajevo.  Weaving together modern history of the Sarajevo fighting, along with medieval history of the illustrations and text, Brooks takes the reader on a journey through Nazi controlled Europe, the Dark Ages, and the Crusades, and the protagonist’s family history and romance (or should I say lack, thereof.)

The Sense of an Ending

 A strange book. The first part explores a college man’s relationships with other male classmates and women. While I was reading it, I couldn’t wait for it to end. Then I reached Part 2 where that same college student is retired and trying to make amends for something he did in the past. Part 2 is compelling, raising questions about how we view our own past and whether we can ever go back and right wrongs or redo our paths. Please, please, don’t give up in Part 1. Part 2 is worth the effort.

The Thing Around Your Neck

A collection of short stories by this Nigerian author.  She examines the life of Nigerian women in various social classes and in and out of Nigeria.  I enjoyed every story and gained greater insight into the struggles and joys of another continent.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Outlining for Non-Outliners

Or why to outline your book.

I don’t outline.  Or maybe I do.  When I write, I write sparingly, then go back and fill in the description, history, details, allusions, punctuation.  I think ahead with plot, and write brief sentences or phrases to let me know where I am headed.  imageI make my notes a couple of pages ahead of the text and use no special format.

However, I was recently required to submit an outline of my historical fiction novel.  My husband said, “You outlined all your books in law school.  Can’t you do the same thing with your novel.”  I started to tell him a novel was nothing like a text book, but stopped.  I had noting to lose trying to do a novel outline.

So for other non-outliners out there, here are my steps:  (Note:  I have been hand writing the outline then transferring it to Word’s outline view.)

  1. Skim each chapter and write phrases or sentences which illustrate the plot developments and essential elements.
  2. When you record an essential element, does it refer to something earlier that you have forgotten to note?  Revise your earlier outline.
  3. When you have finished—indeed, while you are still working on the outline—you will find some chapters have one line, some many.  This is a good time to rethink your chapter breaks.  It may be that one plot element is sufficient.  It may be that some chapters are too long.  This is a great way to edit for readability.

By this time, you have a working outline that you can submit to agents and publishers.  And you have a working outline for your own use in editing and revising. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wonderful Depression

That’s not a title you expected to see, is it?  Depression is never zoo 006wonderful.  Or is it?  When I was severely depressed a few years ago, I sought help, but that’s a story for another day.  What I learned then, was depression means that there will be a brighter day ahead.  Depression means that these feelings I have are normal and appropriate at this time.  Depression means that I give myself permission to be a slacker.  Depression means that I read young adult (YA) fiction (and enjoy it). 

Why am I depressed this time?  There are several reasons all related to one event.  My mother is dying.  Because she is dying, she needs full-time care and I am with her when the other caregivers cannot be, or when they fail to arrive as promised.  I have no time for my normal daily routine.  I have no normal daily routine.  My daily routine is not normal.  Yesterday, I was called away from a job to spend 4 hours with my mother.  I read an entire YA novel during that time.  It’s one of the things that keeps me from crashing and burning in this time of emotional and life upheaval.   

Here are two novels I can recommend.  They are a series, I think. 

The Wednesday Wars

The Wednesday Wars features the Presbyterian outcast in a middle school filled with Catholic and Jewish students who are released on Wednesday afternoons while the Presbyterian boy must stay with the teacher who hates him.  It is a coming-of-age novel filled with Shakespeare and baseball heroes.  I did not consider it as well written as it’s sequel: 

Okay for Now

I loved this book.  Where Shakespeare featured in the first book, this book has Audubon’s birds and a quest to recover what has been wrongfully sold in a small east coast town.  Did I say I loved this book?  What’s not to love about a book where love rules and a world gone wrong is made right.   If not for the silly cover, I would consider adding it to my library.  Perhaps, I’ll purchase it anyway.

Despite the silly title and silly cover, read this book.  It contains everything a good novel should have.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Random Thoughts from Eugene Peterson


I watched a live feed from Q:Ideas For The Common Good this week Kitty at computerof Eugene Peterson speaking on subjects close to his heart.  Who is Eugene Peterson?  A scholar of Greek and Hebrew, a professor, a pastor, an author.  Check out his books.  These are thoughts I picked up from the feed, some might be close to exact quotations, but I claim no accuracy.  This is what he said, filtered through my brain.

  • TV preachers preach black and white and set up an enemy.  When you have an enemy, everything is black and white. But, the Bible isn't black and white; the gospel isn't black and white.   Sermons suffer greatly for lack of ambiguity.  It’s tempting to tell too much. 
  • Our fight is not against people (atheists or secularists).  Like Zaccheus, people outside the faith are up a tree; we must invite them in.  We can’t impose the story of the Bible on then; we must invite them into the Bible’s story.
  • God is the larger context, and the plot in which our stories find themselves.
  • The Bible is inerrant and infallible, but not literal.  Children take things literally when they don’t want to understand (don’t want to obey). 
  • Language cannot be translated from one culture to another literally.  It can be translated truly and accurately, but not literally.
  • Adding chapters and verses to the Bible tempts us to use it as a reference book.  We need to remove/ignore those when we read and get lost in the story.
  • Half of the Bible is poetry.  We must not miss the metaphor.
  • Pray the Psalms, and you are praying the prayers that Jesus prayed.
  • If you have to ask what Jesus’ parables meant, you missed the point.
  • Sabbath teaches us that we awaken to a world we did not make and to a salvation we did not earn.
  • Sabbath: time to pray and play.  If pray and play don’t work together, both are diminished.  Play is how we are restored, because it’s not necessary.  Prayer is the Holy Spirit breathing with us.  Learning to pray is learning NOT to do something.  God does it.  Prayer is a conversation; we need to listen to God.