Cafés, Quills, and New Stories…

It’s been awhile since I posted a writing update. Probably because, even though I have been writing for over twenty years, I have never fully determined how to properly give a writing update. I either say too little, so that no one remembers anything that I’m writing about or I ramble on until my listener’s eyes glaze over, hoping that I’ll be quiet. As I try to avoid the latter, I end up not really updating very often. Someday, I will figure out the proper middle ground.

I do have a lot of hopes and plans inside my head for 2020. Currently, I have five or six stories jumping around as the most prominent in my head, but as both my brains and hands can only do so much at once, I am really only working on two. Well, three if you count the research I’m supposed to be doing.

Café Chocolaté… I plan to have more to say regarding this project very soon. Suffice to say at present, it is a mystery with coffee, explosions, and two old friends from Grandmother’s Letters showing up. I really am very happy to be writing about them again. LORD willing, you’ll see more about this project sooner than anything else – so keep an eye out for it!

Patrick Quill… That is not the title of the book, but of my character. Elliot Windle wants a modern young hero that will live up to his childhood admiration for Peter Pan. So, Arabella and Damien tell their brother about Patrick Quill. He’s older than Peter and very much on earth – no flights to Neverland or fantasy lands – but he may just fit the bill. Still in his twenties, Patrick allegedly takes in unwanted and frightened boys, giving them a home – only no one knows where. The Windle siblings enjoy the story, Arabella sure that it’s true, but as they prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, they hardly expected to meet the legend himself or to be able to work with him.

This book is still in the early stages. It’s being written for A Very Bookish Thanksgiving – a collection of Thanksgiving stories by five authors, including myself – and it should be shorter than most of my books. That is the plan, anyhow. I am not talented at keeping my stories short. Believe it or not, I already have an idea for a sequel too – which may help me keep the story on the smaller side. Even though I hardly have time for yet another one!

As for the other books, regarding each of the three, I am researching the 1920’s, trying to remember everything that I saw and heard in Oxford, and trying to discover how pastry ties to a nefarious crime… If these were my only story ideas, I might stay busy for a good while, but since this is only the priority stack on top of the 80 or so ideas that I have going… I have no clue when I’ll finish. Especially if I don’t stop adding more ideas on random days. I do have fun with it though and may I glorify the LORD while I do so!

To the KING be all the glory!

The Year of the Best and Worst of Times

2019 is drawing to a close. On the one hand, the idea of 2020 seems fantastic. On the other, I hardly know how 2019 is still here, if only for half an hour.

I have taken to naming each year at the end. The Longest Year of My Life. A Year of Thanksgiving. This year I have two titles; The Year of the Best and Worst of Times and a title I’d rather not share publicly.

If I am honest, this year has been one of the most difficult of my entire life. Probably the most difficult. I can’t say that the difficulties are all passed yet either.

Looking beyond that, however, what am I thankful for? What contributed to the “best of times?”

In April, I experienced the best week of my life, when the LORD provided for me to go to Douglas Bond’s Oxford Creative Writing Master Class in Britain. Truly, even being able to attend the class was a Providential blessing; something I should write about at some point. I’ve written Part One of What I Learned in Oxford. Hopefully, I’ll write subsequent parts this year, because I really do want to share and mark it down.

Despite my fears, I made new friends on my trip. People who I truly did (and do) like, enjoyed spending time with, were a blessing to me, and who I hope not to lose contact with.

The LORD also provided for my trip out east at the end of the summer, another highlight and favorite part of my year. I had the loveliest visit staying with my friend Christianna and her family. I hope they let me come back sometime! Laughter, long walks, games, music, and late night chats… After my visit with Christianna, I headed out to a writer’s retreat up in the peaceful mountains, followed by a short and lovely visit with my friend, Anne. All in all, my September trip was a blessing.

In 2019 I wrote and published Christmas Carol Society, which I consider to currently be my best work yet. I found it painful to write in some ways, but also a blessing. It drove me to prayer often, as I tried to work out how to write what was on my heart. Further, Charlie Baker is one of my all-time favorites among my characters.

Shortly after publishing Christmas Carol Society, my niece Mayflower made her grand appearance. She’s a sweet, darling little bundle; I wouldn’t ever tire of cuddling with her. (Though, I love her brother and sister just as much!) Being an auntie will always be one of my favorite things.

Also in 2019, I wrote Gingerbread Treasures as part of the A Very Bookish Christmas collection. We published in late November (and actually the collection is no longer available – it was limited to the end of the year!) and I am blessed to have been able to write two stories this year. My last book had been Presumption and Partiality two years ago.

Those are merely some of the larger, more obvious blessings that the LORD has sent me this year. There are many more. Toddler hugs and chatter, understanding and sympathetic friends, a vehicle that has needed work but is still going, new hymns to learn, beautiful distant mountains topped with snow.

The greatest blessing of this year has been my increasing knowledge of my LORD’s love and faithfulness through even my most difficult days. The LORD is my Shepherd and because of Him, I need not be afraid of the arrow that flies by day nor the terror that falls by night.

What do I expect out of 2020? I don’t actually know. I hope to write a few books. Read rather more than that. Finish my Bible Study book. I don’t know what the future holds; the LORD knows. It’s in His hands.

What was your favorite part of 2019? What do you hope to do in 2020?

Psalm 91

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.

Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.

He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;

Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.

A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.

Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.

Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;

10 There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

11 For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

12 They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.

13 Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.

14 Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.

15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.

16 With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.

To the KING be all the glory!

In Defense of Thanksgiving

I’ll begin by saying that Christmas is easily my favorite season. So, before you call me a Scrooge, recall to mind those words – and the fact that I have now written three Christmas books with hopes for a fourth. I am no Scrooge. I am no Grinch. So, why do I want to leave November open for Thanksgiving and make Christmas wait until the day after the holiday?

Some people do consider me a bit of a fanatic when it comes to celebrating holidays within certain time frames. When October 31st fades into November, I refuse to let the Christmas season commence. Yes, some of my comments regarding waiting for Christmas are facetious, but let me take a moment to give you my defense of letting Christmas wait for Thanksgiving.

Importance

Giving November – or much of it – to Thanksgiving gives the holiday importance. I don’t celebrate Halloween, but I have only to look around and see that October is increasingly filled with decorations, parties, and costumes, because Halloween is important to people. Christmas has a season of colors, movies, and traditions, because it is important. I want to leave November open for Thanksgiving because it too is important.

Sure, Thanksgiving may not be as exciting. Most people don’t dress up in costumes, give gifts, or have music dedicated to the holiday. Not everyone decorates. So, let’s change that. Let’s dress in orange and browns and burnt umber. Let’s write music and relearn the hymns of Thanksgiving that we’ve forgotten. Let’s set up the pumpkins and squash and nuts and pine-cones – and whatever else you might find that gives a cozy atmosphere. Make a thankful tree or send out letters telling your friends and family that you’re thankful that they are in your life. If you must, hang out orange lights on your house. (If they make orange lights; I’m not certain they do.) Be creative! That’s how all holidays get their traditions anyhow – once upon a time, someone was creative.

It’s not the excitement that lends the importance, it’s the meaning behind the holiday. For the Christians I know who celebrate Halloween, it’s important because of the fun and the memories. (I’m not getting into the roots of Halloween or anything like that right now.) Or, in my case, Reformation Day is important, because it’s a reminder of what the LORD has done by His power and through His children in History. Christmas is important because we celebrate the birth of Christ as a human baby on this earth. We have all sorts of traditions and things we do, to celebrate these seasons, to remind ourselves of the memories of years past and why the holidays are important. What then is important about Thanksgiving?

Our Heritage

We have generations of heritage in our country, that points back to a time of Thanksgiving, going back to 1621. Sure, it hasn’t been an every year event since the Pilgrims. And yes, we can quibble about whether or not a Puritan Thanksgiving actually would involve a feast, or if the event of 1621 should be called something else. No matter what we argue, however, our November Thanksgiving every year is rooted in that celebration in Plymouth. The history and heritage of our nation is inextricably woven into our celebration. It’s our heritage, therefore we ought not to throw it away.

“I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your doings; I muse on the work of Your hands.” Psalm 143:5

Remembering the days of old is even Biblical – particularly, when we’re doing it to remember the works of the LORD. We have the privilege of joining with our peers and predecessors in an event that recognizes God’s hand in guiding the Pilgrims to this land and His subsequent provision ever since. We get to look back at the early 1600’s forward and see the LORD’s hand and orchestration.

“I shall remember the deeds of the LORD; surely I will remember Your wonders of old.” Psalm 77:11

To remember a Providential landmark in our personal history as a nation is important.

It’s in the Name

The other reason that Thanksgiving is important is in the name of the holiday.

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18

We, as Christians are called to give thanksgiving to the LORD. For provisions, trials, blessings, – even our very life. Yes, we’re to give thanks every day, but setting aside a few weeks in the year to really focus on giving thanks is a good way to reset our minds for the coming year and look back on His providence from the previous year. Twenty-odd days in November is hardly enough to thanks Him for all that He has done, but it’s a good start.

And that is what the roots of Thanksgiving are about. Thanking the Almighty. That’s what the Pilgrims did. That’s what many have been doing and what the main focus has been for many Americans across many years ever since. Thanking the LORD for food to eat, clothes to wear, the people in our lives, the gift of another year, the sacrifice of Christ on the cross and His resurrection. Thanking Him for the trials that have brought us closer to Him; for His grace through the dark times. For the birth of children, healing, provision where we expected only famine, blessings where we didn’t expect anything at all. To celebrate and thank the One who gave us everything.

This is why I reserve November for Thanksgiving. Not because I don’t like Christmas. Not because I am a Scrooge. But because I want to remember to be thankful. Because I want to place importance on this holiday that focuses on thankfulness and the LORD’s hand in history and our lives today.

“Giving thanks always for all things until God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…” Ephesians 5:20

To the KING be all the glory!

Connection to the World at Large…

It’s not often that I think about my connection to the world. I don’t tend to consider what my connections are to the wild, bustling planet of continents, countries, counties, cities, towns, villages, communities, and homes. In person, I interact with so few and such small pockets of my community.

Presented, however, with the question on one thing that connects me to the world at large, I thought for a bit. After consideration, I would have to decide on literature.

As a child, I devoured all the books that my parents provided. Isabella Alden held prominence as my favorite author, giving me a glimpse into American life in other parts of the country, albeit, in the early twentieth century. My other favorites O.F. Walton and Hesba Stretton as well as a few other Lamplighter titles gave me my first glimpse into the dirty streets of London and the glowing countryside of England.

As I grew older, Arthur Conan Doyle took me through various corners of Britain, while Douglas Bond showed me the bonny braes and beautiful accents of the Scottish. G.A. Henty introduced me to the French, aided by Mr. Dickens who also let me explore Britain in more detail, while strengthening my growing fondness for Egypt and the Scots.

True, many of these books are old. Classics. Jules Verne showed me a world long since aged and shifting. Carriages no longer rumble through London as Mr. Dickens told of and I know the mines aren’t run as Hesba Stretton described. It didn’t matter. The connection had been made.

I still love those connections and still enjoy learning about their more modern ways. I’ve studied many of the countries and their ways both historically and modern day because of those stories. England is on my list to visit some day. I would love to learn the French language. If I could choose to give myself any accent, I’d pick a Scottish one.

Further, their influence makes it into much of my writing. The reverend and his wife who join Georgiana’s church in Grandmother’s Letters are from England. The Wallace clan, who appear more than once in multiple books, began in Scotland, while the patriarch David Wallace shows the accent of his native home in his speech. Knowing what I do about my own future projects, I know that influence isn’t going to wane any time soon.

In my every day life, I use English and Scottish words, I play around with the accents of multiple countries both when reading aloud and just when I feel like it, and I enjoy watching movies or shows that show life and characters from around the world, especially those places that I learned to love through my books.

Certainly, there are other connections that I could ponder and pontificate upon. So much in this world is connected and interconnected, often only in ways that the Creator of this intricate tapestry of life can see and identify. I do think, however, that literature might be my favorite connection, it certainly is one of them, and I’m rather thankful that it can be.

To the KING be all the glory!

It’s Been Twenty Years…

One of my favorite pictures of Papa and Nana…

Today marks twenty years since the last time that I celebrated my grandmother’s birthday. Twenty years since my childish excitement over another year being added to her age, mixed with an apprehension, immature and somewhat vague as it was, over her future.

There are times that it doesn’t seem possible that it has been so long. I can still remember her face clearly. Remember sitting in her lap. Remember her teasing me. Remember her showing me one of her rings, telling me all about when and why Papa bought it for her. That ring is mine now.

It is times like these that, no matter the struggles it causes on other days, I am thankful for my memory. I am blessed to be one of the few grandchildren who remember Nana. Or Papa and Nana together.

One of my favorite memories is set in Papa and Nana’s living room. Nana had on a green turban, since she had lost her hair to chemo and she didn’t always want to wear a wig. Papa had his guitar on his knee. Together, in harmony, and to the strumming of Papa’s guitar, they sang about how they “ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog,” and “I’m not looking for a hole in the ground, I’m looking for a hole in the sky!” I wish I could hear them sing again.

Despite being barely eight when Nana died, I still miss her. I am, however, so thankful for memories. Thankful that I can remember. That I can tell my younger siblings and cousins about her. So thankful.

To the KING be all the glory!