Cruising takes on a different meaning…

A little reprieve from cruise photos… sort of. Yesterday it was cruising of a different kind as hubby, son and grandson drove our two vintage vehicles to a large car show. ‘Old Car Sunday in the Park‘ is a Father’s Day tradition in our area and is “one of the largest shows of vintage, antique & collector vehicles on display in Western Canada.” Last year more than 1,340 vehicles participated. This year there were only 534 due to the threat of bad weather (which never materialized), but it was as much fun as ever! The organizers’ motto is, “If you love it, bring it!”  and it’s evident that a lot of people love their old cars, whether rusted or restored, classic or custom.

Our Vintage Vehicles

Our guys don’t claim to be ‘collectors’ — both the 1930 Ford Model A and the 1946 Willys CJ2A Jeep were acquired quite unexpectedly, thanks to the kindness and generosity of family and friends. But they both bring much delight to our men who appreciate their enduring heritage and enjoy tinkering with them.

What’s the appeal of old things? Why do we like old vehicles, vintage clothing, and the ancient history found in books, antiques and museums? I think it has a lot to do with the nostalgia created by these reminders of the lifestyle from a bygone era. We like to believe it was a simpler time, a time when quality and old-fashioned principles were held in higher esteem, and when a hard day’s work created calluses rather than stress. I doubt our forefathers would agree with that analysis, but what else is it? Why do Currier & Ives Christmas card collections remain so popular through the decades? Why do historical and Amish fiction continue to dominate book sales? Why do groups hold such successful car shows every year? I don’t have an answer. Do you?

What’s your opinion? Do you like owning any special reminders of the past?  What do they mean to you?

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Easter? So What?

Yesterday was Easter Sunday. Some have returned to work today, while others are still enjoying one more day of a long weekend. I wonder how you spent your ‘holiday’. I imagine that depended on your interpretation of  its significance.

Ask Google for a definition of holiday, and you’ll get the following:

hol·i·day  ˈhäliˌdā/
noun

  • a day of festivity or recreation when no work is done.

Wikipedia, on the other hand, also looks at the etymology and says:

  • “The word holiday comes from the Old English word hāligdæg (hālig “holy” + dæg “day”). The word originally referred only to special religious days. In modern use, it means any special day of rest or relaxation….”

The Merriam-Webster dictionary provides additional information, first citing it as a holy day before moving on to various popular definitions.

About now I expect you’re thinking, “So what? Get to the point!”

IMG_0234I was away for part of the weekend, travelling a little over 800 km round trip to visit with family and friends. One of the highlights was being able to rendezvous with a granddaughter and her husband, to meet my seven-month-old great-granddaughter for the very first time. We drove there on Friday morning and drove home Saturday afternoon so we could be in church for the Easter service. It was that important to us.

One of the messages at Easter is that Jesus died to pay the price for a debt he didn’t owe. He died an unimaginably torturous death, overcoming death to rise again. And he did it all for me (and you). After a Maundy Thursday service, daughter Shari Green wrote a poem that makes it very personal:

“Bread and wine offered,
Remembrance of open arms
And a life given.
This much, O Lord, you love me?
This much, He whispered, and more.”

Shari Green

The “so what?” of Easter — one’s definition of it as a vacation or a holy day — depends on a personal response. Without one  Easter has no purpose… and can you fathom someone willingly submitting to such a death for no reason at all? Oh, how He loves you and me! (Listen: Only God/Praise & Harmony: a cappella worship)

Do I dare ask how you spent your holiday? Better still, will you dare to tell me? (And isn’t that a precious smile to travel 800 km for?)

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March Madness 3: Fragile Reflections

Bubbles 1A couple weeks ago a granddaughter was here for the afternoon. One of her activities of choice was bubble blowing with Grampa. There are various soapy solutions and different shaped tools that all seem to work, although some produce better bubbles than others.

This particular afternoon the bubbles were very fragile. After blowing them she would try to recapture one, hoping it would balance on the wand. Each time a bubble was touched, however, it popped with a splat and splatter into the air.

Left alone, the bubbles were light enough to catch the breeze and soar away.

Bubbles 2

Thinking back on this I was struck with the similarities between those bubbles and my new WIP. One of the reasons I lean towards the ‘seat-of-my-pants’ kind of writing is because I like the unexpected pleasure of watching a basic idea develop into a beautiful story. I don’t generally talk much about it during the first draft because the concept seems fragile, and too much poking around can easily destroy whatever beauty my spontaneity may be creating. If I try to wrestle it into position, something that at first seemed exciting, begins to lose its appeal. The bubble finally pops and a rainbow idea disappears.

I’ve been moving gingerly into this new story, and now that we’re half-way through our March month of Madness it’s clear my original goal of a complete first draft isn’t realistic. As other MM hosts have suggested, it’s not a bad thing to step back periodically to evaluate what we’re doing, to redistribute our efforts over the remaining available time, and possibly even tweak our goals.

There is no shame in adjusting our goals, only in abandoning them. March 31st is only an arbitrary deadline. Do whatever it takes to stay focused on your destination but also retain joy in your writing. Don’t let anything burst that bubble!

Just sixteen days of this madness left. How are you faring? I hope you’re soaring!

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Judging books by their covers…

Do you judge books by their covers? We’re admonished not to, but I have to admit that’s the first thing that attracts my attention when I’m browsing for a new book to buy.

Certain covers instantly catch my attention in either a negative or positive way and I’ll either reach for it, or turn to something else. My hubby says this is true for him, too. Taste is dictated by personal ideals and I know what appeals to me doesn’t necessarily appeal to someone else, but I don’t really understand why. That’s probably the reason I could never make a career out of designing book covers.

Oh, but wait! I DID design one! Now if I could only figure out why I chose certain of its elements perhaps I might better understand why some covers appeal to me and others don’t.

Johnny_Front_CoverThe book, THE ADVENTURES OF JOHNNY AND MR. FREDERICK, was the dream of my aunt, Norma McGuire who had collected the fanciful stories told by her late husband to their three boys, and decided it would be nice to make them available for others to read. I assisted with the editing and a year-long process of querying various Canadian agents and publishers, but then decided the uncertainty of obtaining traditional publication wasn’t worth the indefinite wait. With a son-in-law in the printing business, there was another option — self-publishing.

In this case, it became not-self-self-publishing because it was done by the family as a surprise Christmas gift — and what a surprise it was! — so I couldn’t consult with Norma about any of the decisions she normally would have made herself.

Formatting the interior pages was a straightforward task, but the cover…? All the book’s illustrations were paintings or sketches done by my aunt and there were any number of the story’s whimsical characters who could have been featured… but which to choose?  Copies of the book wouldn’t be on real shelves in bookstores for children to select, but would be available for ordering online or directly from Norma, so it seemed wise to also make the cover appealing to the adults who would buy the book for their children and grandchildren.

Since the stories were about a young boy and an old fisherman and mostly took place on a fishing boat, the fishing theme was a good place to start… except Norma hadn’t created any fishing illustrations that would fit the vertical cover format. That’s when I asked for assistance from my daughter, photographer and fellow writer Shari Green, who lives in an oceanside town. With camera in hand she visited a local marina and shot several photos, one of which instantly caught my attention and became the chosen background.

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Photography by Shari Green

There was an island in the background, and an island also plays a prominent part in the stories. There were colourful elements that could be repeated to make the text child-friendly. Voila! A cover was born. Do I know why it appealled? No, but I trusted my eye and instinct.

Another fellow writer and graphic artist makes a business out of creating covers. One of her e-book covers just won first place in a cover design contest. Maybe I should ask Rachel Elizabeth Cole of Littera Designs for her opinion on what makes a good one.  I think that may be a subject for another post. :)

What elements of a book’s cover appeal most to you?

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Christmas preparations, secular and sacred

Our family has a dual heritage when it comes to Christmas preparations. There’s a combination of the sacred and the secular because my hubby and I came from those two backgrounds. Christmas was always a special time when we were children, but for different reasons, and celebrated in different ways.

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When Advent begins, along with the nativity figures, our decorations come out, lights are strung and a tree goes up. Christian friends might wonder how we can put energy into all the secular preparations and still focus enough on the anticipation of such a holy season, but somehow we do.

DSC09165

Last night, for the umpteenth time, we watched the movie, “Miracle on 34th Street“.  “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” will probably be next, along with “It’s a Wonderful Life“, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and assorted other television specials. Years ago we watched these with our children. Now we’re on our own and we still watch them.

Soon I’ll turn my attention to a bit of baking. Not a lot, since there aren’t many of us to eat it, but we need a few of the annual goodies, like Shortbread, Melting Moments and Peanut Butter Snowballs. We’ll also be caroling to shut-ins, finding delight in the children’s Sunday School Pageant, singing a Cantata with our choir, and of course attending all the special Christmas worship services.

There’s a little magic and a lot of mystery associated with Christmas, and we experience both, in ways that are meaningful to us. I doubt that God minds our strange muddle of traditions. We still meet Him at the manger.

What are some of the meaningful traditions you’ll experience again this Christmas? In your writing, have you allowed your characters to establish traditions?

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Slogging or skimming along…

Do you ever have days when getting from one point to another — in any endeavour — is a major effort? Achieving forward momentum is like trying to run in knee-deep water or snow.

Hanging on the wall of our little cabin is a pair of my mother’s snowshoes — a cross between the Alaskan and  Heron styles, wooden frames with rawhide lacing and leather harnesses. My Dad’s are at home in our basement — a similar but larger version of Mom’s. I still remember the first time I went snowshoeing with Mom, and the amazing sensation of NOT sinking up to my knees as I had been, prior to putting them on.

Snowshoes

There was a knack to moving easily on them, but even my inexperienced and inept attempts allowed me to keep up with my petite and very fit mother. (I don’t want to admit she might have been accommodating me!) What a difference the right equipment made!

While I was in the cabin last week I had a small epiphany about my current manuscript — how the addition of one phrase … a clue… early in the story would solve the major dilemma I was having with a later scene. A glance at those snowshoes reminded me how much easier it was to utilize a proven technique for the desired result than it was to slog blindly ahead with stubborn determination. I’d been doing the latter for far too long and had become worn out and frustrated.

Now I’m back on the right track, as I get this manuscript ready to accompany me to the Surrey International Writers’ Conference this weekend. Just four more sleeps!

Do you know of any different analogies for things that have made your life or writing easier?

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Journeying IV – Coming Home

“Wisdom and understanding can only become the possession of individual men by travelling the old road of observation, attention, perseverance, and industry.”

Samuel Smiles
On the road...

On the road…

I’m a terrible homebody! If I had my druthers, I’d probably be an armchair traveller and have a clone to do any actual travelling. While I love our fifth-wheel trailer and our little Cariboo cabin and I love visiting our children and their families,  getting organized to leave home is always an effort. Staying home is comfortable.

On the other hand, I can’t imagine missing out on the sweet discoveries, the family joys, and All. The. Photo. Opps along the way. (Oh, and the cruising experiences… I have to admit to liking them, too.) So, I compromise and travel only to places that are meaningful to me. And then I come home. I said I was a homebody, didn’t I? 

I’m home again after three-weeks-less-one-day away. I had a wonderful time, but it feels good to be back. Now I get to be the insufferable host(ess) for the next while, and bring out my photo albums… ;)

(If you wish, you can click on a photo to enlarge it
or, if you prefer, you can skip the next part altogether.)

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Waiting at the Galena Bay ferry landing.

Waiting at the Galena Bay ferry landing.

On board...

On board…

Crossing Upper Arrow Lake, BC

Crossing Upper Arrow Lake, BC.

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Journeying II

The start of our vacation journey was not entirely uneventful. We had barely entered the town next to ours, when our brakes began smoking — never a good thing when you’re towing a 27′ trailer! Fortunately the services we needed were close at hand and, a few hours later and $900 poorer, we were back on the highway again.

Not long after, however, we came upon an accident scene involving a large transport truck. As the traffic control person eased us past the scene we saw what was left of the truck being readied for removal, and it was evident that someone else’s journey had begun with a  much more serious incident.

Accident 1

Accident 2

Because of the delays, we didn’t cover much mileage our first day, but ended up spending the night in a small municipal campground along the Similkameen River. Instead of dwelling on the day’s unpleasant aspects, we said a prayer for the safety of the driver, gave thanks for our own, and opened our eyes to the view from our trailer’s window.

We were reminded that whatever life brings, there are still joys to be discovered in the blessings that surround us if we turn our eyes towards the Creator.

RV View

RV View 2

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus.”

Hebrews 12:2

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“Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.”

Words & Music: Hel­en H. Lem­mel, 1922

Music Video

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Journeying

Lately there’s been a lot of journeying going on in the lives of friends and family members. Some of it’s easy to enjoy… some, not so much. When the terrain gets a bit uncertain, it’s good to remember, “we may not know what our future holds, but we know Who holds our future.”

Life

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“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

Psalm 119:105 (ESV)

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Has life taken you into any uncertain, unfamiliar or not-so-pleasant places recently?

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