Friday, April 30, 2010


Thanks to Julie at Silver Lining I received this award a few days ago as I was searching through my picture files looking for the perfect picture, or the perfect idea for a blogger buddy award. I wanted to celebrate my bloggerversary by thanking each of you for being such awesome blogging buddies!

So, you may have it already, but here it is again: The Blogger Buddy Award.

May your friendships be blessed!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Blogging Reflections Continued

Tomorrow will be my official blog-iversary.

Looking through my old posts I can see that I've come a long way . . . in fact, I'm thinking about deleting some of those old posts because they are so embarassingly bad.

Despite all my mishaps and mistakes, I've written a few hundred entries between this blog and two others I started this last year. Two others? Why would anyone need more than one blog?

Well, I decided that I wanted to focus more. Despite my worries about over-focusing and over-editing my work, I still think there are times for focus and editing.

I hope that in the future this blog will mainly be about writing, faith, poetry, reading, and all the stuff that goes into my life as a writer.

So, I separated out my home school blogs and my food intolerance blogs and created two other blogs.

Keeping Track

and Cooking Free

If interested in finding out if I'm actually finishing my Readers' Challenge, that's been the basis of my posts at my home school blog, since most of the books I'm reading are reader-friendly for my kids, or books that we are reading for their lessons.

Possibly, I'm guilty of creating blog litter. However, I'm certainly learning more about writing and more about blogging each day.

So far, my blogging journey has been worthwhile so far.

What about you? Has your blogging journey been helpful to you as a writer? As a person?

Am I the only blogging litterbug? Actually, I know I'm not. If you would like to read more about blog litter, check out Confessions of a blog litter bug at Confident Writing

Tomorrow: come by and pick up a special blog-iversary award!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Free to Be Me . . . with my writing

"‘Cause I got a couple dents in my fender
Got a couple rips in my jeans
Try to fit the pieces together
But perfection is my enemy
On my own I'm so clumsy
But on Your shoulders I can see
I'm free to be me"
by Francesca Battistelli

Ever felt like you had a couple dents in your fender? Rips in your jeans? Like perfection is your enemy?

Self-editing and being edited by writing friends can be a challenging process for me, whether I'm asking someone to check out my blog, read a story I've written, proofread a devotional or check my poetry for a sense of rhythm. (BTW, rhythm is one of those words I mispell every time I use it.)

Sometimes, like in my parentheses above, my "inner" editor is just plain hard to ignore. Sometimes I think I need to listen to it, see my mistakes, improve as I go, and write for excellence.

However, sometimes I just want to put on my ripped jeans, drive my car with dents, and write with a flow that comes from leaving the worries behind.

The idea of writing perfection, checking off all the "right" ways to write on that list that builds in my head when reading "writing" book, can leave me staring at a blank screen, frozen.

There are several ways I fight that freeze.
1. Turn on music and get a little dancing exercise.
2. Write a poem.
3. Freewrite like mad for 10 minutes.
4. Write a 4, or 5, sentence exercise.
5. Blog.
6. Read a book that has nothing to do with improving my writing.
7. Pray, climb up on God's shoulders, and get a better view.

So, what about you? Do you ever fight with an enemy called perfection? And if you do, how do you fight it?

Two other blog posts I've read recently that touch on this topic are at: Silver Lining dealing with the battles we face as writers,and Confident Writing which deals with the difference between "focus and flow" while writing.

And, if you don't know the song I'm quoting up above, be sure to check out Francesca Battistelli's Free to Be Me

Hope you are having a "free to be you" kind of day! Blessings!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Reflections and Hopes

Nearly a year ago, I began this blogging journey. With some hopes and dreams, and absolutely no knowledge, I began this quest to write a blog. If I liken it to an adventure story, it's like I stepped out of my normal world and into an alien world of cyberspace with no map, and no real direction. Sure, I had e-mail, and I had a story, and a poem published online at that point, but I had no idea how to even write a blog, or start one.

Thanks to the many writers at on-line publishing sites like Every Day Poets, Flash Fiction Online, and Mindflights, I had seen writing blogs. I admired them, thought they were a great tool for connecting with other writers and readers, and then decided one day, why not me? Why not create a blog? Why not have my name highlighted in blue when it showed up at the end of a poem or story at an on-line site, so that a reader/fellow writer could just click on it, and find me?

I didn't really have a plan for what someone should find once they found me online. I wrote poems, movie reviews, reflected on my faith life, and had no followers. I didn't even know how to use most of the tools on my blog site, and I'm still learning.

Finally, I started reading blogs about how to have a successful blog at great places like Men with Pens. Then I found a writer's blog that I really admired at The Write Worship, and I became a follower there. Tamika became my first follower, and I remember jumping up and down and telling my family, "look, look, I have a follower, someone actually wants to read my blog!" Thank you, Tamika!

Then I had four followers, then five, seven, nine, ten, and now eleven. Thank you all so much! I appreciate your encouragement, and the wisdom that I find at your blogs, and in the comments you have written on mine.

So, I have hopes of making this blog a better blog. I've been doing a little research. Thanks to a recent post at Write Now I have a few more ideas.

Many thanks to all of you who have encouraged me on this journey, who have shared with me your wisdom, and who have shown me awesome blogs.

Friday, April 23, 2010

What Can You Write in Five Sentences?

What can you write in five sentences?

Based on the four sentence exercises I learned in my UW Commercial Fiction classes under the tutelage of Pamela Goodfellow, an excellent writing teacher and editor, this exercise is designed to force the writer to work on a certain aspect of their writing with each sitting, and to make sure that at least four sentences get written even on the worst of writing days.

The way the exercise works depends on what feature of writing you are trying to get better at the time of the writing. If you're working on good dialogue, you should work at showing the different characters in your story through four sentences of dialogue, complete with emotion, and quality of light (which means not only what the setting is, but how the character feels about the setting).

If you're working on the exercise to gain writing skill for a sword fight scene, then the sentences are focused on the physicality of the fight scene but also including characterization and quality of light. Pamela wrote "quality of light?" all over my drafts so perhaps that is why I remember that particular phrase so well from a class I had nearly ten years ago.

The reason I've expanded to five sentences is . . . well, that's the minimum writing requirement my kids have to write in their journals each day, in addition to their other writing exercises. How I arrived at five sentences? I don't remember. It just happened.

So, as you can see from the above, I am overly verbose even when trying to keep things short. So this challenge is particularly hard for me, even on the best and the worst of days.

Five New Sentences for The Crystal Sword

Hands clenched over the handle of her shattered sword, Clara leaned back her head towards the dark clouds, and let out an anguished cry, "Lord, Lord."

King Hezen, with the molten red sword burning above him, laughed, "Your forsaken God has no power over me." He started his downstroke with a look of dark glee on his face.

Clara closed her eyes, knowing that in her exhaustion she would never be able to roll out of his way. "Lord," she whispered again.

Five sentences shift my gears forward into high speed, pedal to the metal, and ready to write. So, that's where I'm headed.

So, what can you write in five sentences?

Readers' Challenge: Carry On, Mr. Bowditch

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham is a gripping historical fiction account of the life of Nathanial Bowditch, and his writing of The American Practical Navigator.

This Newberry Medal winning book is one that we are reading through the Sonlight Curriculum as a "read aloud" book for my 3rd grader's American History and Literature curriculum.

I would recommend this book to anyone who can read at a 5th grade level and up, to get a good feel for life in the United States the first few decades after the Revolution, and for anyone interested in sea voyages, navigation, and self education.

The part that amazes me most about Nathanial Bowditch's life isn't his mathmatical genius or his ability to re-write the rules of Navigation to make sailing safer, but his ability to educate himself despite all the odds stacked against him. He is from a poor family. He is indentured for nine years and can't go to school, but he keeps notebooks of everything that he learns, ask questions, teaches himself mathmatics, Latin, French and Spanish, along with navigation.

This fictionalized account brings Nat Bowditch to life, and one of the analogies in the story about sailing in life that is carried successfully throughout the novel is about "sailing by an ash breeze," which I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago.

To sail by an ash breeze meant to pull out oars and make the boat go where you wanted it to go when there wasn't any wind. To sail by an ash breeze in life means to work hard at getting where you want to go, even when everything in life seems to be trying to keep you at a standstill.

As a writer, there are many days in which the wind of my ideas has stilled, and I have to pull out my oars and just keep typing.

Good Sailing, everyone!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Readers' Challenge: How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy

How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card is a well-written book that I have been enjoying the last few days. I'm not finished with it yet, and I like it that way.

I'm not sure that I'm ever really finished with a good book on writing, even when I've come to the end of it. I often start over, or store it for a while on a bookshelf, and re-read it, or sections of it, depending on my needs as a writer and reader.

My reasons for reading this slim volume packed full of writing advice by a secular author I admire are: 1) I write. 2) Some of my writing is fantasy and science fiction. 3) I may not like everything that Card has written, but I like a great deal of his work and I think he's a good craftsman. 4) I'm teaching a class on writing next year at a home school co-op my family attends. 5) I teach my kids writing each day.

So as a reader, writer, and teacher, I have found this book to be helpful.

One of my favorite quotes from the first chapter is:

"There is nothing new under the sun - or beyond it, either. The novelty and freshness you'll bring to the field won't come from the new ideas you think up. Truly new ideas are rare, and usually turn out to be variations on old themes anyway. No, your freshness will come from the way you think, from the person you are; it will inevitably show up in your writing; provided you don't maks it with heavy-handed formulas or cliches." Page 16.

I happen to agree with Card in that quote, but what about you?

Do you think that new ideas are rare?

Do you feel that the freshness you bring to your stories comes from who you are?

Do you think that your uniqueness will show up in your writing inevitably?

Reader's Challenge - Making it my own

A week ago I came across a reader's challenge: to read 15 books, and write 15 book based blogs in 15 days. It intrigued me, excited, made me want to pile books around me like a blanket and enjoy. (actually books as a blanket would probably be uncomfortable, but I liked the idea)

The reality is, I have a life. I have kids. We home school. They dance, sing in choir, and play with friends. We volunteer at a Cat Rescue. I teach Sunday School. This week they had to take a state test to make sure that they're progressing educationally, and I volunteered to proctor the tests for a different age group, had to go to training, not see my kids during the test, etc. I have a wonderful husband who I like to spend time with as much as I can. I have a house to keep from getting unsanitarily messy, laundry to fold, two dogs and a cat who need attention.

In addition to all of that, I love to write.

So, to somehow do a reader's challenge meant that I had to read books that I've already read, or that are really easy for me to read. Or just not sleep, and that's not an option for me.

So, here it is, I'm not going to complete the reader's challenge as it was presented to me. I'm going to review books that I am reading currently for myself, or that my kids are reading with me for home school, or that I've already read, or that are easy, or that I can find time to read. And I'll blog about them.

Maybe when summer comes, I'll have time for a 15 books in 15 days kind of challenge that includes all "big" books, and all completed within the time period. But not now. I have a story to write. Toss that! I have many stories, poems and devotions to write, plus a life to live. I love to read, but my real life is blessedly full.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mental break

After a busy morning of testing (in our state home school families have to either be under the supervision of a teacher or take a yearly test to keep their "independent" home school status), I had a mental break, and now . . . a few minutes to write before we jump back into busy, busy life.

How much can I write in 20 minutes before my kids are ready to go?

I'll find out soon.

Readers' Challenge: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Vorst is a must read for anyone having a bad day because it will make you laugh, realize that really things aren't that bad, everyone has bad days, and makes mistakes, "even in Australia."

If you haven't read this one yet, go to your nearest library and check it out. Alexander's bad day can put anyone's bad day into perspective.

One of my favorite parts of this books is:

"At school Mrs. Dickens liked Paul's picture of the sailboat better than my picture of the invisible castle. At singing time she said I sang too loud. At counting time she said I left out sixteen. Who needs sixteen? I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day."

Poor Alexander starts out the day with gum in his hair, loses his first best friend, doesn't get dessert at lunch when everyone else does, has to get shoes he doesn't like when they go shoe shopping, finds out he has a cavity, stubs his toe, eats something at dinner he doesn't like and gets in fights with his siblings. He wants to move to Australia, until his mother convinces him that "some days are just like that, even in Australia."

I am just so thankful that I'm not the only one that has days like that, and when I read about Alexander, it makes me feel a bit better, and sometimes even makes me chuckle.

Today is going to be a much better day. I can tell. Even if I don't move to Australia.

And tomorrow, I will reviewing a book that I haven't read in a single day . . . because I just want to write about one of the awesome ongoing reads I have going, and not focus on the fact that I don't have time this week to sit down and just fall into a book.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Readers' Challenge: The Squire and the Scroll

The Squire and The Scroll by Jennie Bishop is fantastic Christian picture book about a young man who guards his heart, vanquishes a dark dragon, rescues his kingdom's greatest treasure, and marries a princess, all due to the simple scroll which he he lives by, representing scripture.

My daughters and I have loved this book, and given it to others as a gift. The illustrations are beautiful, the message is strong but shown through the active adventure of the young squire, and the choices he makes. He is tested, and faithfully relies on what he has learned from the scroll to pass all the tests and triumph over evil.

Re-reading The Squire and The Scroll was a treat, and I wish I could say more, but our day is just packed full today.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Strings of stories . . .

Finished a rough draft of my short story, "Unlikely Odds" today, another story in the "One Armed Maiden" group of stories I'm writing. I'm not a big fan of my title for that group of stories, but it is what it is at the moment.

Although it's not one of my current novel projects - The Crystal Sword and True Love's Gifts, I'm trying to write a series of stories that I can sell individually now and hope to string together into a novel later.

I've seen this done before, but I'm not sure how to get each individual piece to stand alone in a polished way without it feeling like a stray chapter. And yet, I want to try it, partly because I know of a few markets for some of those shorter pieces and I'm not ready to commit to any other full length project since I am already swapping between two of them.

This month is The Crystal Sword month, and I think next month will be too. This morning I finished the rough draft of that short story, tonight I hope to get in another 500-1,000 words on The Crystal Sword.

If you have any ideas or examples of how to write a series of short stories that can stand alone or be strung together, please let me know. I need to do some research.

Readers' Challenge: Where the Wild Things Are

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak is such a near and dear book to my heart that I want everyone to love it as I do, but yet everyone's version of the story seems so different than my own. Sendak has supplied us with a simple story, with imaginative pictures, and yet each of us fills in the blank spaces with our own imaginations. To me, this makes it the best kind of story.

This leads me to Max, the main character in Where the Wild Things Are. Max is up to mischief and his mother sends him to his room, where Max's imagination takes him on an amazing journey to the land where the wild things are. Max becomes their ruler and they have wild times together, until Max realizes he "wanted to be where someone loved him best of all."

He returns home, and he finds "his supper waiting for him, nice and hot," a sign of his mother's love for him.

I related to this story as a child, with every fiber of my being, because I often took wild journeys in my imagination, and loved knowing that at the same time I had never really left my loving home. I climbed trees, sang songs and had dashing adventures, and then I could climb down from my favorite spots, walk across the yard and find my mom and dad waiting for me, with watermelon slices for lunch in summer and hot chocolate with a card game in winter.

Where the Wild Things Are is a book for daydreamers, for children and adults who know how to use this story as a jumping off point for their own imaginative adventures.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Readers' Challenge: Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude

Once Upon A COOL MOTORCYCLE DUDE by Kevin O'Malley, Carol Heyer and Scott Goto is one of our family's favorite picture books. My youngest daughter brought it home from the library at the age of four. We read it aloud together and laughed, and laughed, and laughed. Then my husband read it aloud, doing voices as only he can, and we laughed even harder.

We checked the book out from the library over and over again, until my mom in a wonderful Grandma moment, gave the book as a gift to Trisha for her birthday.

Since then, we've read the book over and over again, even if we are all "older" readers now. We've read it aloud at sleepovers, we've recommended it to friends, and I re-read it for my 15 books for 15 days challenge.

The storyline is simple it seems, as the book flap says, "Once upon a time there was a boy and a girl who had to tell a fairy tale to the class, but they couldn't agree on the story. Will everyone live happily ever after?"

The girl tells a story of Princess Tenderheart and her eight ponies, which are being stolen one by one by a horrible giant. Princess Tenderheart spins gold thread and cries, until the boy interrupts the story and brings in his hero, "this really cool muscle dude rides up to the castle on his motorcycle." The hero does battle with the giant and the Princess has to keep spinning gold thread to pay him. "The End," the boy says triumphantly.

The girl says, "I don't think so . . . I'll tell you what happened, bubba!" Then she tells of how Princess Tenderheart becomes a Princess Warrior and the dude has to make his own gold thread. Of course, then the boy isn't satisfied with the ending, and they, finally, work together to create a happy ending for all, happily arguing their way through the story to the finish.

There are three sets of graphics for this story, one by each of the illustrators, and in the end story they are skillfully woven together, just like the story.

I have to admit one of my favorite pages from this story is where one of the fight scenes take place, and the boy and the girl are adding their comments at the bottom of the picture. It goes something like this:

"The muscle dude has this really big sword. The giant and the dude battled all over the place. The Earth was shaking and there was lightning and thunder and volcanoes were exploding." (text with main picture, told by the boy)
"It was huge." (boy's interjection)
"Volcanoes? Where'd the volcanoes come from?" (girl's interjection)

One could argue that this book pays too much homage to biases about boys and girls, but therein lies the humor, and is a great discussion point for parents. Our family agrees, we've seen those differences between boys and girls . . . but do all girls think one thing and all boys think another? No. Not every girl wants to be a beautiful Princess with 8 ponies that she plays with every day, and not every boy wants to do battle with a giant whose breath smells like "stinky, moldy, wet feet."

If you ever want to have an example in creative, interactive storytelling between two characters, or have a story to use as a jumping off point for "stories in the round" where family members or students take turns adding to a story told for the fun of the whole group, this is a book you'll definitely want to read.

Or, you may just want to read it for the fun of it.

Thanks to one of the authors of this book, I learned recently that this amazing, wonderful, hilarious book is still in print. When I originally wrote this post, I had heard from a friend who tried to find it that a bookseller had said it was out of print - one of those "he said, she said, and then they said," kinds of rumors that I am so glad to find out was a false rumor. This awesome book can be found at bookstores, on-line, and at libraries. There is also a sequel coming out!

Thanks for your update, Carol Heyer!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Readers' Challenge: A Time for Courage by Lasky

A Time for Courage: the Suffragette Diary of Kathleen Bowen, part of the Dear America series by Kathryn Lasky, paints a very intimate and well-researched look of life of a teenage daugther of a Suffragette living in Washington, D.C. in 1917.

Not only is this Kat Bowen's life in an upheaval over the rights of women to vote, and the sufferings her mother and her family go through to achieve this right, but "The Great War" starts. Kat Bowen just wants to share banana splits with her cousin and best friend, Alma, but even that ritual is shattered as Alma is torn from her side by her father who fears the suffragettes and by World War I, since Alma runs away to become a nurse at the age of 14.

Kat weathers these events by sewing banners for the suffragettes, growing a liberty garden, playing hockey at her "progressive" girls school, and writing her mother letters while her mother is in prison. She excels at Latin to please a teacher, and makes a new friend, whose last name Wilhem, has led to harrassment at school.

Kathryn Lasky, the author, is an amazing and prolific children's author who has written over a hundred books ranging from fantasy, to history, to picture books. This book, like so many others written by her, was read by my oldest daughter first, and then me. We can find most of her books at the library. Some of the other series by her that we like are: the Camp Princess series, the Guardians of Ga'Hoole series, and a new wolf series (name slipping right now).

For those of you who know my Christian, conservative views, I have to say that Kathryn Lasky does not necessarily write things that fall under those headings, but she writes well and for the most part creates fun, educational and interesting characters with strong attributes. Only one little section of the above book stood out to me as slightly disagreeable, and I discussed it with my daughter.

"I think people lie a lot, not really to deceive or mislead, just to get over these rough spots. There are a lot of rough spots these days. I know that Father is very worried about Mother. I know he really does not think she should be out there every day for such long hours in the cold. I know he thinks woman's suffrage is probably a nice thing but wishes women had never had the idea. But he never really says these things. I think people often lie for love." (p.26,)

Part of the reason I felt sensitive about the above passage is that I have seen deceit being shown as a good/acceptable quality trait for heroes and heroines in Juvenile and YA literature, and so when I read anything about deceit, the red flag flies up in my mind. The character in this passage is trying to make sense of all that is happening in her life, and she does so with a great deal of insight, however, I was afraid for a moment that deceit was going to be portrayed as an acceptable part of life. Thankfully it does not become a large part of the novel, although Kat's cousin Alma does lie to her dad about working on homework when she is really sewing suffragette banners.

Although there are a number of spoilers in what I've written, there is even more plot, character and action packed into this book that you might enjoy reading. I highly recommend reading it for a good historical novel, either on your own or with a girl whose age ranges from upper elementary through high school.

Tomorrow's book will be one of the following: The Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude, Where the Wild Things Are, Goodnight Moon, or Noah's Ark - the Lucy Cousins version. These are all old favorites in our household, and then after those, I have to find one that my youngest has recently read that isn't too long to read in a day. She likes to read some 300+ page lengthy novels sometimes, and then sometimes she reads a 120 page book about fairies. I need one of those short ones for this challenge.

Friday, April 16, 2010

a little bit of rough writing

Finally, a little later than expected due to some unplanned yardwork, I spent some time doing some "real" writing. It's really rough, and I need to make time to do more tonight, but here is a bit of the 750 words I wrote on The Crystal Sword this afternoon.

With a start, Clara stood up, drawing the Crystal Sword from it’s sheath. “What is it?”

Salene stepped back and gazed at the sword and then at Clara, awe filling her face. She dropped to one knee and bowed her head.

Clara quickly re-sheathed the Crystal Sword and leaned over her friend. “Stand up, silly, it’s just me. Now tell me, what’s wrong?”

“It’s not just you,” Salene said, her voice trembling. “The Maker’s Light, all around you . . . it is brighter than the sun.”

“I put it away, seriously Salene, please tell me why you look so worried when you woke me?”

Salene laughed shakily and then glanced at her friend. “You’re still glowing, you know.” She stood slowly, hesitantly. “I was worried because you never sleep past sunrise and it is two hours past and we couldn’t wake you,” she explained.

“Oh,” Clara said, seeing how bright the sky outside her tent flap looked for the first time. “I am sorry. I had such bad dreams, and then after I prayed at dawn, I guess I started catching up on all the lost sleep. A gift from the Maker to me, but not to the group. I apologize, I can be ready quickly.”

“I’ll help,” Salene said. “My gear’s already packed, and you know Dantor has the Prince and the troop thinking you were giving the Prince more time to rest. In fact, why don’t you eat your breakfast and I’ll pack up for you.”

“Thanks,” Clara said, devouring the cold breakfast bread, cheese and cool tea as quickly as she could. When she finished that and a quick wash, she took down the tent and stowed it in her saddlebags.

“I’m glad you woke,” Dantor said, “but don’t be surprised if the Prince thinks you are coddling him.”

“Salene told me that you had them believing that I was slow on purpose. Thanks for that, Dantor. I didn’t expect you to be so . . . kind.”

“Tactful, you mean, giving the command of the party a good turn? I know how to obey orders, or even look like I am to make my commander look good. It’s a skill I learned as a private,” Dantor said softly.

“Thank you,” she said, feeling that it all went beyond that. Dantor had brow-beaten her for years over her behavior, her tactics, her swordsmanship. He had seemed to belittle her at every opportunity, and yet here he was showing her not only respect, but kindness.

“However,” he said, “don’t make this sort of thing a habit. It looks bad to your troop, and even our Prince.”

There was the Dantor she knew. “Of course not, Dantor,” she said, holding back the desire to excuse herself, or point out that she had never overslept before.

In Spite of Everything - a Reader's Challenge too

In spite of everything there is to do: love on my family, write, home school, clean the house, love the dogs and cat, celebrate my Dad's 72nd birthday, I just signed up for a crazy book Challenge - 15 books with 15 blogs (about the books) in 15 days.

I will probably be reading a lot of our old picture books to make it work.

The reading challenge starts today, with the first blog written tomorrow - if that makes sense. First book today, first blog tomorrow.

If you are interested, check out Girl Detective or The Thinking Mother

I'll be posting my blogs here and at my rarely ever blogged upon Keeping Track: A Homeschool Mom's Record

And no, I don't have too much time on my hands, but yes, my laptop is both the place where I work and distract myself too much. Next time I sit down, I will be writing the "real" stuff - The Crystal Sword needs a few thousand words today, and in two hours I'll have a time slot available again. Time to get serious.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Eager for the Daily Walk?

Every morning, my mom and dad who live next door to my family, come to my house en route to our daily walk. Every morning at the same time, my dogs get my attention and walk me to the door, where they look out of the window with expectation written in every line of their bodies. They are eager, ready to go, and become more and more excited as my parents draw nearer.

However, sometimes I am still in my pajamas when they come. I am less eager. This daily walking habit sometimes feels dull.

The same scenario is reflected in my faith life. Every morning I try to put God’s Word first. However, sometimes, instead of being eager to have my daily walk with God, to read his word and experience his nearness, I veer off and read the latest news, or open my laptop and write.

I realized this morning, as my dogs stood waiting faithfully by the front door, I lack eagerness for my daily walk with God. I haven’t been watching for his approach, and waiting for him to draw near to me with excitement coursing through every fiber of my soul.

These thoughts drive me to my Bible with renewed conviction and repentance. The mercy, grace and peace I find in scripture mirror the forgiveness I feel when I bring this to the Lord in prayer.

Psalm 25:4-7 “Show me your ways, O Lord,
teach me your paths;
guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.
Remember, O Lord, your great mercy
and love,
for they are from old.
Remember not the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you are good, O Lord.”

How about you? Are you eager to walk with God today?

If you have felt a lack of eagerness, then bring it to the Lord in prayer and dive into his word. I suggest not only Psalm 25, but also Deuteronomy 11:18-21, Matthew 25:1-13, Psalm 23, and Acts 2:1-4.

Tulip and Everlasting

A Tulip and Everlasting

A tulip stands tall amongst
the flowers my mom calls everlasting.
Pink, rounded edges on a straight stem,
and purple tufts branching up and outwards,
show life, fleeting and everlasting,
precious in any form, for any season.
Reminding me of the measure of this world
against the length of everlasting eternity.
Until now, I never knew a flower arrangement
could speak for sanctity, and truth.
When the tulip dies, the everlasting will live.

Wrote this just this morning - and then researched the everlasting flower, and it turns out their are a number of flowers in the family Cyanthillium that are everlasting . . . although usually it means they look alive when they are in their dried form. I still think it's pretty amazing that they look so alive, and are nicknamed everlasting.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

This is just to say . . .

This is just to say,that I'm working on cleaning up my blog so that this one reflects more of my writing and faith life, and less of my cooking life.

If you are interested in my recipes, they will be found at my Cooking Free blog.

Cooking Free

If not, no worries.

Back to Writing, My Home, My Heart, and My Mess

In the last week, my writing has been erratic, my habits have been lost, and I've been caught up in all the excitement mentioned in the last two previous posts.

Vacation, Dance Convention, and a family member's injury and illness.

Some of that time I wrote. Some of it I rested. Then facebooked (is that a verb?), and prayed, and danced.

Now I'm back home, back to my writing, and I am thankful for all my usual routines, and even some of my usual mess. I don't think I write well without a least a little clutter. However, too much clutter can be bad. It has to be just the right amount.

Don't ask me how I measure that, because I really don't know. I know that the tabletop around me can't be perfectly clear. There has to be a Bible, a cup of tea - half empty, a book about writing, and a few stray items from family members, and then I'm happy and I can focus. Leaning piles of paper that are above an inch tall, and dirty dishes are too much mess. A few pieces of artwork and a vase of flowers are a nice touch, but not every piece of artwork that my kids have created in the last week.

I generally write at the dining room table, and sometimes in my bedroom. My favorite chair puts me to sleep, so it's not my favorite writing chair. The "computer" office room is too loud, and too much of my husband's creative place. He works days as a Supervising Electrical Engineer, and spends parts of his evenings and weekends as a video editor. He likes to take apart old computers and put them back together with extra hard drives.

The first year we were married, I would come home from substitue teaching and find the hard drive with my writing on it disconnected and placed to the side of one of our computers. I learned more about the hardware of computers than I ever wanted to know, and I still try to forget the horror of finding my "baby" (my writing) left forlorn on the side of the desk in a hard drive I didn't know how to reconnect the first time.

There is a reason that I am protective of "MY" laptop and don't want my wonderful husband even touching it. I'm afraid he'll change something, or take it apart to make it better, and I won't be able to recover my writing. I try to keep hard copies, as well as back ups. Usually my husband can recover just about anything off of an old hard drive, but sometimes my writing is not his priority, and he has asked me in the past, "Do you really need all these file?" Yes, dear.

Don't get me wrong here. I love my husband madly, deeply and passionately. We share everything we can together, and someday even hope to do some creative movie making of our own. Our church currently has a Creative Team that makes video dramas for worship, and my husband is one of the technical directors. So, maybe someday, when he's retired from "real" work, and I've learned out to write a script . . . we will actually put our creative passions together. That's just one of our dreams for the future that we know we're not quite ready for yet.

I haven't even let him help me with my blog to make it better . . . because I have this crazy idea about learning how to do it myself, with just some helpful hints from him.

So, I'm happy to be home, where my heart is, with my husband, daughters, dogs, cat all close around me, and my parents just next door, and my in-laws all just a phone call or a semi-short drive away. Writing here is easier, even in the midst of distractions.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Prayers Answered - Thanks!

Thank you all for praying for Gary!
He is out of the ICU and is in a regular room.
His bleeding has stopped, and although he still has pneumonia, he hopes to go home in a few days.
Praise and Thanks be to God for answered prayers.

Ups, downs, providence, blessings, and celebrations

In the last week, I've been up, down, experienced God's providence in an immediate and undeniable way, been thankful for multiple blessings, have had caused to celebrate more than once, and have had reason to fall to my knees in prayer.

During that time, I haven't written much, other than facebook status updates and a few words here and there in my (gasp) handwritten journal.

There was one afternoon, where we drove five hours from Whistler to Seattle, when I could have written, and I did journal a little, but I journaled about God's provision of rest and amazing grace. Every moment of that drive felt like a gift to me from God, and my husband who did all the driving, and my kids who were happily reading and taking a few turns on their DS. Viewing majestic beauty in a variety of forms felt like a gift. Mountains, sea-scapes, cityscapes, people, farmland, sun-bright beauty, all rolled into one wonderful, and restful view for me.

My daughters' dance competition and convention over the weekend went wonderfully. They received a gold for their tap dance, and a high silver for their large company dance. Other dancers from our studio also did very well, with the best duo getting four awards for their tap number including 1st overall and Judge's choice.

On Sunday morning, when I was packing up our hotel room and the girls and my husband were walking to the convention, I felt a keen pang and a longing for worship at my church. Just moments after that thought went through my mind, with a half mumbled prayer, God provided. Immediately a sidewalk preacher outside the inexpensive hotel where we stayed, started preaching God's word with a voice that carried all the way up five stories and into my window. I never saw his face, but his words were straight from God's word. He touched my heart with his message of salvation and his joy at inviting others to become a new creation in Christ.

My daughters had a wonderful time at their convention, my spiritual needs were filled by God's providence, we had a great time skiing at Whistler (out of order), and my husband and I even had time to spend together over breakfast one morning and had a great conversation. In addition to that, we also got to take a Parent Hip Hop class and jump around on the stage at the dance convention in the attempt to embarass our kids. Their response, "You did better than we thought you would." Hmmm.

In addition to all of those experiences I received an invitation to have my poem, "Grace Unexpected," published in a print anthology.

So I had many reasons to celebrate this last week, and many rich experiences to enjoy, but we also have had sorrow, and worry going on at the same time.

Currently, my husband's oldest sister's husband is in the ICU with internal bleeding and pneumomia. He already has severe MS, and has weathered through many storms in his life with an amazing faith in God that puts me in awe. My sister-in-law's ability to work full time and care for all his needs is also awe-inspiring. She also happens to be one of the worship leaders at her church. He has led Bible studies. They deserve so much, and yet they are in the midst of a life-threatening storm. I pray that God calms the wind and the waves soon, and gives them strength, comfort and His peace that passes all understanding. Please join me in praying for them.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Poems from the road . . . and other stuff

Poems from the road need some revision, but I thought I would post them anyway. After I wrote them, I tried to write a bit of The Crystal Sword, ignoring the awe-inspiring craggy cliffs and open sea views of the Sea to Sky highway north of Vancouver. Twisting turns that squeeze between the cliffs and the shoreline wound a knot in my stomach, and a fuzziness in my head.

Never before have I been so thankful for a road construction stop. I rolled down my window and gasped in gulps of fresh mountain air to tame the excruciating car sickness. Finally, I wised up, shut down my laptop, and appreciated the amazing views. Sometimes God has to get my attention with anything that works, jerking me back to reality with car sickness, road stops, inspiring vistas.

I haven't written anything about those awe-inspiring sights, but I did write some poetry earlier today from the start of our car trip.

Leaving Day
Over-stuffed bags and scribbled lists
Books, and passports,
A well-loved teddy bear
A house standing open to the air.
Searching for that last thing, and saying goodbye
We’ve made our reservations.
“Did we forget the kitchen sink, a toothbrush, our socks?”
We’ll know when we get to our destination.

Thoughts from an Open Road
Open road stretches out
ahead of us, flickering light
glints off shiny cars ahead
and rivers of water that pass under the roadway.
The power lines stand like strong men,
holding up the electrical support of thousands,
while we drive alongside, into a new country
Not our own, but similar enough to be deceptive.

Canada feels like an old family friend, especially here
just across the border, but the road signs are wrong,
and the land is surprisingly rural for a place
outside a city. In the US we like our sprawl
of suburbia more than our lonely fields.
Next to the Puget Sound where we live,
businesses thrive, but here the fields
meet the sea in a vast stretch of open
that invites the imagination.

The land where we vacation
may allow these musings more
than the land where I work, love,
raise my family, and found my every
day walking around life. A seagull flies
over the freeway, but we do
have a number of those at home,
along with Canadian geese on
vacations of their own.

Road Trip
Water bottles and snacks
Dog-eared books, and a candy wrapper,
The hum of tires on the road,
Each city we pass is like a new chapter.
Listening, and looking,
Letting the maps slip from our grip,
“Are we there yet?”
All this makes for a good road trip.

Travel Writing

I know I'm on vacation. I shouldn't be blogging, right?
Or should I?

What makes a travel writer? Someone who travels and writes?

Is it stopping late at night on a long drive, getting a good deal on a La Quinta Inn in Bellingham, and staying awake to the sound of a tired ice machine across the hall?
Or having my husband turn on the room fan just for some white noise to block the sound of that same ice machine at 2:30 a.m.?

Is it waking on a hard bed and wondering why I thought it was comfortable last night?

Or being impressed by an orange shower curtain with a cute slogan written on it?

Happy for a simple continental breakfast that provides fruit for my daughters and I, and waffles for my husband?

Glad to drink tea with huge amounts of sugar and homemade cocoa muffins with raspberry jelly?

Unfortunately, the microwave in our room hadn't been cleaned, but the rest of the place looks good and smells nice.

I think I've taken the romance out of travel writing here. Isn't there supposed to be a room with a view involved?

Wait, that will be this afternoon at Whistler after another long drive.

So, here's my first, flirtatious jab at writing on the go, while around me my family talks, dresses, and prepares for the road.

As always, my last thoughts center on how God involves himself in our lives. I know His presence is right here with us, preparing us for anything, shining his light into and through our lives no matter where we are.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookie Brownies - dairy free

Chocolate Chip Brownies for food troubles – gluten free, dairy free, corn free (if you use my mix)
1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.Grease (with canola oil or spray-on – read the label first) a 9X13 baking pan

3. Mix Dry Ingredients listed below:
2 cups Gluten free flour mix
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon guar gum
½ teaspoon salt

4. Mix Wet Ingredients separately:
½ cup canola oil
1 and ½ cups light brown sugar
2 tablespoons agave nectar or honey
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (yes that’s TABLEspoon)
5 tablespoons water - may need more depending on consistency – need to test this out again.
5. Mix Dry and Wet ingredients together
6. Add in 12-14 oz chocolate chips.
7. Make sure you’ve greased the pan (I don’t always remember this part first)
8. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Check like you would check brownies or cake for doneness. (is that a word)

The Recent Chocolate Chip Cookie Celebration

Just yesterday, it took my husband three taste tests to determine which batch of cookies cooling on the racks were his "regular" cookies. This is an awesome success for me in my "trouble"-free cooking! It is also a worry . . . because now I really have to make sure my cooking stays separate. I may even have to "gasp" not cook "regular" cookies anymore.

The funny part about my husband's "regular" cookies is that the only different thing is the flour mix. I make his cookies with egg replacer instead of eggs as well because he has some trouble with eggs, garlic and dairy. We don't replace the butter in our cookies very often, because finding margarine that we can eat is a laughable process. However, I do have a cookie bar recipe that works with oil instead of butter or margarine. I'll try to post that one too.

As you may notice with all my recipes, there is no one, true way yet . . . the experiement process is still taking place. The flour mix I used happened by accident because I was out of my own, and my mom handed me hers, which didn't have arrowroot meal in it by accident so . . .

Gluten-Free, Egg-Free, Corn-Free, Rice-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
Flour Mix used (I think – have yet to duplicate Grandma’s mix):
22 oz. Sorghum flour, and 22 oz. Garbanzo and Fava Bean flour mix from Bob’s Red Mill.
All mixed together in a large container.

Dry Ingredients:
2 and ¼ cups flour mix
2 teaspoons EnerG dry Egg Replacer
1 teaspoon guar gum
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup brown sugar

Wet Ingredients:
1 Cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
¼ cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla

14 oz chocolate chips (more than a usual size bag)

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Mix Dry Ingredients.
3. Mix Wet ingredients separately.
4. Mix dry and wet ingredients together.
5. Mix in the chocolate chips.
6. Drop the dough by spoonfuls onto cookie sheets.
7. Bake in the 375 degree oven for 8-14 minutes, depending on the size of the cookie.

Note: this is just a recipe from the back of a chocolate chip bag with a few replacements. I don’t really make my own without starting from a recipe from somewhere.

Gluten Free Recipes and Stuff

So many friends have asked for my recipes, and ask me how I actually cook with 20+ foods to avoid, so even though this blog has been primarily about my writing life, I am going to have a few posts about my cooking life.

It kind of makes sense, since it does affect what I write . . . I don't usually every portry my characters eating much . . . just realized that a few days ago.

So, for starters, there is the flour mix. Gluten-free, Corn-free, rice-free, and mostly soy-free cooking doesn't happen with a single package of flour picked up at the grocery store. There are flour mixes available, but usually they have one of the above flours in them, or tapioca or potato flour. My daughters and I have some minor issues with tapioca flour on an occassional basis so I don't cook with it. Potato flour is an acquired taste, and we haven't acquired it yet.

In the past I've used a combination of Bob's Red Mill flours, and flour I've picked up at the health food store in bulk packages. These are a few of my favorite flours and flour type additives:
"Sweet" white sorghum flour
Garbanzo Bean and Fava Bean flour (mixed together in a Bob's Red Mill package)
Arrowroot Meal
Amarath flour
Almond Meal
Flaxseed Meal
And I've tried Teff flour . . . but think it's best in tiny amounts.
Quinoa - like it cooked like rice, but not in it's flour form.

The flours I actually use on a regular basis:
Sorghum Flour
Garbanzo Bean and Fava Bean flour
Arrowroot meal

Why: Because these three flour mixed together in equal amounts seem to make a good cooking base for most recipes. Recently, I discovered that I could use a lot less Arrowroot and get a better flavor for cookies, pancakes and bread - so I am experimenting with percentages right now.
Amarath flour is awesome, but my oldest daughter has an allergy/intolerance to it that we discovered after a year of cooking with it.

The reason I use the whole "allergy/intolerance" is that often people think that "intolerance" means picky eater, or that certain symptoms go with either an allergy or an intolerance: like rashes are only with allergies, and IBS/digestive troubles only come with intolerances.

Our experience: We get both rashes, and digestive troubles (stomach through bowels) with most of our "trouble" foods and we have "intolerances".

We've also had sores in our mouths (feels like I have weeping wounds in there), headaches, and fatique (yes, this is a measurable symptom). I once slept over 24 hours after eating freshly caught trout . . . my parents thought they were going to have to have the rangers give me a helicopter ride out of Bowron Lake Provincial Park in B.C., but I woke up tired, crabby, and determined to canoe and hike the rest of the trip. I highly recommend canoeing and hiking now, but I avoid most fish.

Anyway, all grouching aside, allergy free cooking can be an adventure in experimentation, just one ingredient at a time. If you or someone you love needs to cook differently, try to see the bright side of it. Keep looking for the flour mix, or the ingredients list that works best for your needs and for your taste buds.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Moral Dilemmas in Fiction Writing

Have you ever written a story, or a poem, that you just feel might be pushing the edges of what is good or true?

Have you ever faced a moral dilemma with your writing?

I know that I've heard the "pushing the edges of humanity makes your writing fresh and brilliant" school of thought before, but I find that I disagree. Sometimes I read things at short fiction sites, written about pain and suffering, that don't really seem fresh, or brilliant. In fact, they leave me with a sick feeling in my stomach, a bad taste in my mouth, and a strong desire to run to my Bible for a good word.

So, it would seem that I wouldn't ever come across a moral dilemma with my own writing.

However, that just isn't true.

I write poetry sometimes that focuses more on the pain of a moment in my life, and less on the rising hope that pulls me out of that pain. One poem I wrote like that was published last year. I just didn't really think when I submitted it. I still like that poem, but . . . I wish I had added something more to it. Something that actually proclaimed the reason for the hope that is in me - Christ's loving sacrifice for my sins and His Resurrection.

Today, as I published a link to my flash fiction story, "Enough to Do" on my facebook page, I pondered the overall affect of that story. I know what I wanted it to "feel" like at the end . . . but I don't think I quite got there.

In fact, the story feels like a huge "Xena:Warrior Princess"-cliche the more that I read it. There just isn't enough of Jesus in it.

Then there is the dilemma I face just in writing "action" scenes - how much violence should there be in a story? How much should I portray? I've seen some violence, and know just how ugly a little bit can be. Sometimes I think to truly show the amazing grace of God, we need to show the suffering that comes without it. However, I think there is a limit to what is readable, and a limit to what we can/should write when we portray a fallen world and a perfect Savior.

What do you think? Have you ever faced those moral dilemmas with your own writing?

By the way, here's the link to my story, "Enough to Do" at Every Day Fiction.
Enough To Do