Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Woman Gives Birth at Fifty-Eight



We take a break from our regularly-unscheduled 40th anniversary shenanigans to hold a birthday party. For a book.

It’s 5:30 a.m. and I can’t sleep because it’s launch day for my third novel, Bleak Landing. It’s the day I get to have my hair and nails done, the day I'll party with friends and place copies in their hands, a day of celebration and nerves and running around and checking Amazon to see that online sales already began in Australia before I went to sleep last night. It’s all very exciting.

But it’s not the real “birthing day.” 

Releasing a book has been compared by many to birthing a baby. You labor and you sweat. Things get ugly and painful. Time drags. You endure a lot of indignities. Then finally, your baby is born and you think it’s beautiful and you hope others will, too, as you present him or her to your family and friends. 

But although today might be launch day, the labor for Bleak Landing was finished months ago and I’m now laboring over another work in progress.

At least for this author, the real labor comes in those wee hours of the morning, when I drag myself out of bed at 5:00 or 5:30, hoping to hammer out a few words on my novel before I need to leave for my day job. For most of the year, it’s still dark at that time of day. I don’t bother turning on the overhead light in my home office, though—just the desk lamp. I light the scented candle I keep on my desk. The fragrance and the light remind me that God is present in the room and has in fact invited me here. The candle has three wicks, representing my triune God—Father, Son, and Spirit. He’s teaching me what it means to write not for him, but with him. And it can be a wonderful journey, but it can be agonizingly laborious too. The words fight me. They don’t always want to come out, and when they do, they’re often ugly and wrinkly and slimy and howling with the injustice of it all. So for me, that first draft is the real labor. The editing process is when you finally get to push the baby out and see that your efforts are accomplishing something.

Which makes Launch Day much less like the birth day and more like the dedication ceremony at the front of the church, where parents and child are all cleaned up and respectable. Where family and friends stand with you to present the child before the Lord. Where you say, “God, thank you for this little one. Please help her to grow strong, to make an impact in this world, to serve your purposes, to bless hearts, to help people know how much you love them.” 

It’s the day you say something like Samuel’s mother did as she laid her baby before God: “For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.”

And you shed a tear. And you wave goodbye, knowing your baby is in the very best of hands.

(Local friends, please join me from 6:30 - 8:00 this evening as we launch Bleak Landing from the Portage Library. There will be pie.)

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

40 Adventures for 40 Years, Part 8



Sadly, our list of forty things went ignored for three solid weeks. This past Sunday afternoon I said, “c’mon, let’s pick one item from the list we can do today.” The weather was lovely. We were staying home. The answer seemed obvious.

#12 Draw a Hopscotch on the sidewalk and watch what happens.

A city sidewalk runs about twenty feet in front of our house, which not all the homes in town can say. And it’s fairly busy, especially on a lovely summer evening. We’d already “borrowed” two fat chunks of sidewalk chalk from our grandsons in anticipation of this day. I grabbed my phone so I could prove we did this together, and out we went.

The other man’s sidewalk is always smoother.

Our stretch of sidewalk is old and sort of crumbly. We were tempted to go around the corner and draw our hopscotch on the smooth, new sidewalk in front of the neighbour’s house. But then we’d need to beg them for seats in front of their picture window to fulfill the second half of our project: watch what happens.

So we picked the smoothest looking section we could find in front of our own picture window. Jon grabbed the push broom from the garage and started sweeping away the sand and stones while I stood watching, wondering if passersby were saying, “look at that selfish old woman, making her poor one-armed husband sweep the sidewalk while she just stands there.” I should have found a shovel to lean on to really complete the picture.

Then Jon took the camera so I could start drawing. I’d downloaded a diagram from the internet to make sure I got it right. I couldn’t believe how quickly we went through our chalk! Betcha it would have gone farther on the neighbour’s smooth new sidewalk.

For the rest of the evening and in the two days following, we watched the various reactions as people walked by. Most ignored it. But the ones who not only noticed it, but hopped it, did so with huge smiles on their faces, and made me smile too. My favorite was a mom with two little boys. She stopped to show them how it was done and then they tried. So cute. (I’d post pictures or videos, but I didn’t take any. Seemed rude and wrong somehow.)

We’re having so much fun watching people hop our hopscotch, I want to go out and buy a supply of chalk so I can keep it there all the time. Such a little thing, so much joy. I hope I never ignore another hopscotch beneath my feet. No matter how crumbly the sidewalk.

“Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have.” Ecclesiastes 6:9




Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Quarter Inch from Crazy



I’m doing it all wrong.

Thanks to our friend Harv, I recently had new laminate flooring installed in my home office. Which prompted some rearranging of the furnishings. Which prompted some rearranging of the wall d├ęcor.

I thought I’d go a little funky displaying my canvas book covers. I Googled “cute ideas for hanging picture frames crooked” but the only images that appeared were crooked picture frames and none of them were cute. I charged ahead anyway, and this is what I ended up with. It was much cooler in my head.

I know, I know. It basically looks like someone banged on the other side of the wall until everything went wonky. And I’m just OCD enough that I won’t be able to stand it for long. It helps that the wall is behind me as I work.

But my wall provides a metaphor. As an author, I often feel I’m doing it all wrong. I don’t plot out my books ahead of time. I don’t create clear story arcs. My main characters tend to be unlikable. Every week, my inbox is filled with articles about how to do it right until I become overwhelmed with how thoroughly I’m doing it wrong.

I don’t have my own website, only this blog. I don’t use Twitter, just Facebook. A friend reminded me recently that I “ought” to be on Instagram. I’m not. I’ve turned down every speaking invitation I’ve received since my first book came out. Not that there have been dozens, but experts would tell me I’m committing career suicide. Which is ironic, because it kills me to say no

It’s that right now, with my physical limitations, I know it’s logistically impossible to pull that off, maintain my day job, keep writing, and still get the rest I need.

So I say no a lot. And I torture myself, because I ought to do all these things. I ought to say yes and I ought to trust God to provide the strength and resources I need to keep saying yes.

Unless.

Unless God can be trusted to get my stories into the hands of those who need to read them, regardless of my shortcomings.

Unless, if a story is good enough, it will soar without my having to constantly push it in front of people’s faces. (Ever notice that the authors we love to read most are rarely the ones dishing out the how-to advice?)

Unless what Jesus said to Paul is the same thing he says to me: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Unless what he’s already accomplished with my books is more than enough.

Here’s the thing. There will always, always be more you ought to do. At some point, you must know your limitations and focus on what works for you. Yes, do your part. But trust God with his. And go write a really good book. Hopefully, without a wall full of crooked picture frames behind you.

What are you doing wrong? I'd love to hear about it. And here’s the rest of my office.

I love that I write WWII era novels on a WWII era desk.

Didn't change my book nook. Still love it.

Had to unload and move the bookcase to do the floor!