Choices, choices — so much good reading ahead!

There’s always excitement surrounding the release of a friend’s new book. I’m not sure how one contains all the excitement when suddenly several friends have books hitting the shelves all at pretty much the same time, but that’s what’s happening this month.

In my daughter’s writing group, not one but THREE of the members have books published this month:

Alibi Book CoverKidlit author KRISTIN BUTCHER had a YA novel, ALIBI, published on October 1st by Orca Books.

  • Fifteen-year-old Christine is visiting her eccentric great-aunt in historic Witcombe, where a pickpocket has been victimizing tourists. Aunt Maude owns an antique store and also runs the town’s ghost walk, which gives Christine the opportunity to meet local characters and visitors, including a mysterious young man who seems to know far too much about the crimes. When the pickpocket targets Aunt Maude’s store, Christine is determined to find out who is behind the thefts. Her search takes her through the nooks and crannies of the quaint town full of stories, and she unearths more than one surprise.

Cry From the DeepDIANA STEVAN‘s debut romantic mystery, A CRY FROM THE DEEP, was released October 15th.

  • An underwater photographer about to cover the hunt for one of the lost ships of the Spanish Armada buys a Claddagh ring and begins to have nightmares and visions more compelling than the hunt itself.

.

.

SHARI GREEN‘s debut YA novel, FOLLOWING CHELSEA, was released on October 17th by Evernight Teen.

  • Following Chelsea CoverWalking in the footsteps of a dead girl isn’t easy.After her social life flatlines, seventeen-year-old Anna Richards wants nothing more than to lie low at her new school. But it seems Anna looks an awful lot like Chelsea, the sweet and popular girl who recently died, and Anna finds herself stepping into the void created by Chelsea’s absence.Anna is determined to make the awkward situation work in her favor, because Chelsea didn’t just leave a spot open with the in-crowd; she also left a gorgeous—and now available—boyfriend. But it turns out that following Chelsea might be a lot more complicated than Anna expected.

Foreign Exchange CoverThen, there’s DENISE JADEN‘s newest YA release, FOREIGN EXCHANGE,  just out, too, (along with her non-fiction book for writers, FAST FICTION).

  • Jamie Monroe has always played it safe. That is, until her live-for-the-moment best friend, Tristan, jets off to Italy on a student exchange program. Left alone with her part-time mother and her disabled brother, Jamie discovers that she is quite capable of taking her own risks, starting with her best friend’s hotter-than-hot older brother, Sawyer.Sawyer and Tristan have been neighbors for years, but as Jamie grows closer to the family she thought she knew, she discovers some pretty big secrets—not only from her, but from each other. As she sinks deeper into their web of pretense, she suspects that her best friend may not be on a safe exchange program at all. Jamie sets off to Europe on a class trip with plans to meet up with Tristan, but when Tristan stops all communication, suddenly no one seems trustworthy, least of all the one person she was starting to trust—Sawyer.

Corpse Platinum Hair CoverAnd, if that weren’t enough, CATHY ACE‘s fourth book in her Cait Morgan mystery series, THE CORPSE WITH THE PLATINUM HAIR, was released October 14th by TouchWood Editions.

  • Welsh Canadian foodie and criminologist Cait Morgan takes off on a short break to the fabulous Tsar! Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas with her significant other, retired cop Bud Anderson. But before they can start celebrating Bud’s birthday in style at the casino owners’ exclusive private dining room, the death of Miss Shirley — a woman with a colorful background and the acknowledged Queen of the Strip — results in a security lockdown. Cait, Bud, a corpse, and ten possible murderers are trapped in the luxurious restaurant for twelve deadly hours. The bodies pile up, the tension mounts, the list of suspects dwindles — and Cait knows she has to work out who within the group is an audacious killer because there’s no telling who might be next to die.

UnknownRACHEL ELIZABETH COLE‘s newest kidlit, THE RABBIT ATE MY HOMEWORK, is available in paperback now, in addition to the Kindle edition, published by Tangled Oak Press.

  • Eleven-year-old Drew Montgomery has not, does not, and will not ever want a stupid old rabbit. All they do is sit in their cages, eat carrots, and poop. Then his annoying little sister blackmails him into hiding a bunny in his closet. She knows what really happened to his “stolen” bike and she’s threatening to tell. Now Drew’s in a real jam. If his “No pets!” parents find the rabbit or, worse, his sister blabs the truth, he’ll be grounded till Grade Seven for sure.

    And if that’s not enough trouble, two girls at school drag him into a prank war that goes from bad to worse–and it’s all the rabbit’s fault. Plus, the weirdest girl in his class wants to be his science partner. If she tells him she wants to be his girlfriend, he just knows he’s gonna die.
    Drew must find a way to outwit the mean girls, wiggle out of the blackmail deal, and get rid of the rabbit before it destroys his bedroom and his life.

perf5.0625x7.8125.inddAnother great new children’s story is from DARLENE FOSTERAMANDA IN ALBERTA: THE WRITING ON THE STONE.

  • Amanda is delighted to show Leah around Alberta during her visit from England. They take in the Calgary Stampede, go on a cattle drive, visit Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, spend time with the dinosaurs at the Royal Tyrrell Museum and explore the crazy Hoodoos.
    When Amanda finds a stone with a unique mark on it, she doesn’t think it’s important until everyone seems to want it – including a very ornery cowboy. Is this stone worth ruining Leah’s holiday and placing them both in danger? Spend time with Amanda as she explores her own country while attempting to decipher the mysterious writing on the stone and keep it from those determined to take it from her.

There are even more! If you’re looking for stories to start getting into the mood for Christmas (you didn’t hear me suggest that, did you?), the HOPE FOR THE HOLIDAYS Contemporary Collection is out with inspirational novellas from Mary Connealy, Ruth Logan Herne, Audra Harders, Missy Tippens, Sandra Leesmith and Tina Radcliffe, with the HOPE FOR THE HOLIDAYS Historical Collection available for pre-order. The small town holiday romance, MIDNIGHT SPRINGS, Book 4 in the Springs series by Elena Aitken, is also available for pre-order!

I’ve probably forgotten to mention somebody’s book baby, so feel free to mention other new releases in the comments. But what an abundance of choices… something for everyone, and it totally boggles my mind. I don’t know where to start. Oh yes, I do! My daughter, Shari’s book, FOLLOWING CHELSEA, was the first one I reached for. You’d expect a mom to make that obvious choice, wouldn’t you?

 

~  ~  ~

Sometimes it’s hard

Earlier this week, on Thanksgiving Monday, under the title “In all things give thanks“, I posted a photo I’d taken during a drive in the Fraser Valley,  and I included a quote from Psalm 95:2.  We have so much in our lives for which to be thankful and I was feeling full of praise.

Give Thanks

Tuesday morning we were once again driving in the Fraser Valley and I took this photo as we crossed the Golden Ears Bridge. We were on our way to an appointment with our veterinarian. Our eight-year-old Labrador Retriever, Tynan, hadn’t been well over the holiday weekend and we were looking forward to finding a solution for whatever was ailing him.

The solution wasn’t at all what we expected.

After x-rays, ultrasound and various tests we were confronted with the devastating news that what was ailing him couldn’t be fixed. Even with immediate surgery, the prognosis was poor. Less than three hours later we were retracing our route, returning home without him, in shock from the unexpected loss.

To add to the ache, for the first time in over fifty years there were no canine greetings to distract us when we arrived home. We’ve had many dogs during our lifetime. Our first were Labrador/Shepherd crossbreds. Later I bred, trained and exhibited purebred Shetland Sheepdogs for thirty-five years. We’ve always shared our home with anywhere from two to five dogs at a time, but somehow, after the passing of our last Sheltie, Tynan ended up as our lone canine companion. Now the house is painfully empty.

With this heaviness permeating our hearts and home, how can we obey the admonition to give thanks? It isn’t easy. In fact, it’s very hard today. And yet, while my mind wants to complain bitterly at the sudden loss of our dearly loved companion, at the same time bittersweet memories are bubbling up and bursting out — memories that bring with them joy and thanksgiving, not for what is, but for what has been.

Best Buds

Best Buds

Through my tears I give thanks for:

  • the experience of smelling his baby puppy breath the day I carried him home on my lap those too-short eight years ago;
  • remembering how he  would clamber onto the shelf under our coffee table and fall asleep there, until he was eventually too large to fit the space;
  • how he and our younger daughter’s Lab and Aussie were always so excited to see each other, no matter how long it had been between visits;
  • the day our other daughter’s Brittany Spaniel taught him that there was joy in swimming, not just walking in the ocean waves, and how, at our Cariboo lake, he would happily do the work of swimming out to retrieve sticks, only to willingly give them up to our son’s chocolate Lab who was waiting at the shore to snatch and claim them as her own;
  • watching him shadow my hubby everywhere he went, even to waiting outside the bathroom door for him;
  • giggling at how he leapt into the air like a gazelle and gambolled about when asked if he thought it was his dinnertime, or if he was ready for his daily 3 km walk with my hubby;
  • loving how he would slowly elbow the front half of his 90 lb. body up on the couch beside me until he could nuzzle my ear and leave a tiny kiss on my nose before being chased off;
  • knowing how much he loved to go for a ride with us, and always knew which vehicle to approach when we mentioned we were taking the truck or the van;
  • marvelling at how he could instantly turn from a couch potato into a showdog when it was time to go to a dog show with his special friend and handler, Jayne Luke, and how he adored the specialty cookies that always arrived with her and the toys she bought for him after each of his wins;
  • laughing at his love of a plastic garden pot and how, whenever I was planting bedding plants, he delighted in stealing just one empty pot and racing ’round and ’round the back yard with it;
  • smiling at how his head tipped, his ears lifted and his expression brightened whenever we told him one of our family members was coming to visit — he knew everyone by name, including their dogs;
  • remembering how he watched inconspicuously for the last corner of a sandwich, bit of toast or pizza crust, because he always got it if he wasn’t blatantly begging.
  • how he would roll over on his back and freeze there, all four legs in the air, hoping for ‘a tummy rub’ whenever we walked past;
  • and perhaps most poignantly, how happy he was at the end, tail wagging, munching a generous supply of biscuits provided by our caring and compassionate vet, content and unafraid because we were there.
Saying Goodbye

Saying Goodbye

He had his own toy box, and today the dozens of plush stuffies that he adored and played with but never destroyed, have been washed and put into storage — even the very first fabric squeaky toy made for him by his breeder. There might not be another Labrador in our family, but you never know, perhaps one day some new puppy will come along to adopt them.

You’ve been a long-suffering reader if you’ve persevered this far! 

My point, of course, is that no matter what disappointments or catastrophes life dumps on us, we won’t likely be thankful for them, but hopefully in retrospect we’ll look for snippets of joy in the experiences we’ve had despite them.

~

R.I.P. sweet friend

CAN. CH. RIVERSEDGE TYNAN AT CAREANN
January 22, 2006 – October 14, 2014

Tynan 2012

~  ~  ~

The clutter in my life, garden and writing… better known as reality

In the pre-dawn stillness yesterday morning I lay awake, contemplating the coming day. Its square on the calendar was empty. I love non-designated days with their freedom to pursue whatever tasks come to mind. One of retirement’s perks! I tugged the duvet close and snuggled down to think about what I might undertake once daylight broke.

My mind began lobbing ‘could’ and ‘should’ ideas at me like a tennis ball machine. Soon I was burrowing deeper and wishing I could go back to sleep, but it was too late. I was overwhelmed with mental clutter. If you could have seen into my head you would think it looked a lot like my gardens.

Back Garden Flowers

A landscape designer would be horrified by the gardens here. In each of the eighteen or so years we’ve lived on this rural property we’ve planted a few things — sometimes a half-dozen new perennials, sometimes a woody shrub or another tree. Goodness knows we don’t need any more of the latter! Our home is surrounded on four sides by towering trees…lots of cedar, hemlock and fir interspersed with a few poplar and alder. But one can’t really consider them ‘landscape’ trees, so I’ve added others like Japanese Maple and Dogwood.

Fall Backyard

Hubby and I have created assorted garden beds around part of the yard’s perimeter, prying out the boulders and filling the holes with whatever needed planting. There was never much planning done, except to choose things that could cope with the soil acidity and abundant shade. We have a well for water, and once things have been established we don’t waste any on them, so they also have to be hardy and drought tolerant.

The beds are a mishmash. That’s the nicest thing I can say about them. In one area Solomon’s Seal has all but choked out a clump of Siberian Iris and one white Astilbe. Wild ferns poke out from the middle of  sprawling Junipers, and everything leans in the direction of the sun, eventually overlaying whatever is in front.

It’s a muddle.

Except for a few tubs and baskets on the deck, we don’t plant annuals in the backyard. In fact, we don’t plant them in the front either, except for a small bed that edges the sidewalk at the front door. For the past several years I’ve bought one flat of colourful bedding plants, usually Begonias, and tucked them into unoccupied nooks and crannies. It’s my one concession to summer colour…a bright spot in the chaos of green. I try to remember to water them in May and June, but once summer comes, they’re on their own like everything else. I am always surprised that they survive and sometimes even flourish.

Fall Flower Garden

It’s all somewhat reminiscent of what comes out of my cluttered mind. Little ideas germinate and manage to develop into potential stories. I nurture them along for the first while and then, without plotting or planning, give them the freedom to grow or not. Most times they surprise me by producing an abundance of words. Occasionally, like one I’m considering now, they shrivel up and disappear from the page. The fact is, not all ideas are sturdy enough to last.

It can be discouraging in writing when enthusiasm for what seemed like a good idea fades; or in gardening, when a pot of cheery marguerites suddenly stops blooming and turns brown; or in life, when some days just seem like too much. But that’s my reality. Fortunately, there’s always another idea, a fresh blossom or new day coming.

Have you ever abandoned what at first seemed like a promising idea? Do you save it for reconsideration later, or toss it altogether?

~  ~  ~

Facts or Fiction in Writing a Novel

One of our signs of autumn is the Woolly Bear Caterpillar, which is the larva form of Pyrrharctia isabella, the Isabella Tiger Moth. It waits out the cold winter, sometimes freezing solid, and thaws out in the spring to pupate and eventually become a moth. (Such interesting tidbits I provide for you on this blog!) The width of its coppery brown stripe is said to be an indication of the severity of the approaching winter  — the thicker it is, the milder the winter. That’s the myth, anyway. 

Furry Fellow

Wikipedia says, “Folklore of the eastern United States and Canada holds that the relative amounts of brown and black on the skin of a Woolly Bear caterpillar (commonly abundant in the fall) are an indication of the severity of the coming winter… In reality, hatchlings from the same clutch of eggs can display considerable variation in their color distribution, and the brown band tends to grow with age; if there is any truth to the tale, it is highly speculative.”

Separating truth from fiction can sometimes be a challenge. When we’re writing non-fiction or memoir, truth matters, but in a novel it’s not so important. At least, that’s what some writers seem to think.

There’s a difference between truth and accuracy. A novel may be fictitious but any details must be accurate for the story to remain credible. But, you say, it’s contemporary fiction. We write what we know. Why do we need to research anything?

Yesterday on the Seekerville blog, author Amanda Cabot‘s post, “So You Want to Write a Contemporary“, asked seven questions writers should consider when deciding whether to write contemporary or historical fiction. In her sixth question she debunks the idea that contemporary doesn’t require research. The reality is, all writing requires research.  It’s true that research for contemporaries is different from historicals, but it’s still essential that your details are correct.  If anything, readers are more critical of contemporary authors who get their facts wrong because it’s so easy to get them right.”

Hopefully our contemporary fiction isn’t devoid of an interesting setting or enriching details just because we’re writing only “what we know”. It’s good to stretch our horizons and venture into a bit of unfamiliar territory once in a while.

What kind of facts do you deal with in your writing? How did you research their accuracy?

~  ~  ~

 

Writing a Memoir: or, down the line, who will care how I live my life?

Our daughters’ weddings were beautiful occasions, and traditional in many aspects but unconventional in their relative simplicity.  The girls dubbed them ‘casually elegant’. There were the usual lovely long white gowns, bridal bouquets, and receptions, but not a lot of fuss or elaborate preparations. (Our son’s wedding was more formal but we didn’t have a lot to do with its planning.)

As I compose this post it is well after 2:30 a.m. The house has become quiet. We’re housing the spillover of family that is gathering for a granddaughter’s wedding. Two of the three families who will be staying with us through the weekend are here and have settled in for the night; the third will arrive later today. In addition to sharing in the marriage of two special people, there is the precious time of being together with all the family and friends (170 of them!) who will gather to celebrate the milestone. Being together brings present joy and provides memories to treasure.

X TeacupsOne afternoon last week we were rummaging through boxes of items from the basement, unwrapping pieces of vintage china and crystal to use at the reception. Each piece brought memories of long-ago times when they had adorned the tables of other generations now gone. Stories were shared as each fragile piece was carefully washed and dried. I commented that our memory is a wonderful thing… a God-given blessing… but something that often we take for granted.

X Crystal

We don’t expect to forget the important events that make up our lifetimes, but our minds age along with our bodies and there is no guarantee that in later years we’ll always be able to remember details that we’d like to pass along to younger family members.

Like the Royal Crown Derby tea set that belonged to an aunt who died over forty years ago, and had come to us with the admonition that she would like it to remain in the family to be passed down through future generations of the Garvins.

X RCDerby

Or like the silver bowl with its latticed insert that used to hold nodding blooms of roses from my husband’s parents’ garden … from the very rose bed that a gathering of church young people danced around at a party one summer evening, beating a circular pathway into the grass of the manse’s backyard.

X Silver

We write memoirs for various reasons. Sometimes we want to share remembered antics and anecdotes publicly because we’re storytellers. Sometimes we simply want them recorded as personal recollections, a heritage for our families. We might not think anyone in future generations will care about what seem like insignificant happenings in our lives, or about the eccentricities of dearly departed relatives.(Where DOES that term come from??? Why are they ‘dear’ when they depart???) But my own experience has been one of regret that I didn’t sit down with my parents and grandparents to record some of the stories I’d vaguely overheard in fragments of conversations but later couldn’t recall. Those stories went to the grave with them and are now lost forever. I don’t want my life’s memories to suffer the same fate. Maybe nobody down the Garvin line will care, but if they don’t, they won’t be compelled to read my words. If they DO care, they will be extremely grateful that I took the time to record them for their benefit.

Such stories are part of who we are, and therefore part of the heritage that belongs to future generations. They nourish the roots which will enrich their lives.

Have you written any kind of memoir, autobiography or journal? If so, is it published? What are your intentions for it?

X Pitcher

~

“For whatever was written in former days
was written for our instruction,
that through endurance and
through the encouragement of the Scriptures
we might have hope.”

[Romans 15:4]

~  ~  ~

Are you too busy?

Overnight the weather has changed. Overnight we’ve gone from summer to autumn. The calendar says so, whether we want to believe it or not.

Falling Leaves

Some days I’m convinced my life is run by a calendar. Most of my activities are scribbled into those tiny squares, partly so I won’t forget any of them and partly so I won’t double-book engagements, meetings and appointments. On Facebook last weekend I saw a graphic that said, “Too busy is a choice. Life is not an emergency. Life is a gift.”

“Too busy is a choice.”

I’m pretty sure most of us don’t think it is. We think busy is what life does to us as the clock ticks through its 1,440 minutes every day. Now that fall has officially arrived the pace will pick up. Today is the first day of school for children throughout BC (thankfully, the teachers’ strike is finally settled), our church choir resumed yesterday, my writers’ group is back in action, and a myriad of meetings are already vying for visibility on our calendar.

One bit of wisdom I’ve learned through the years is, while so many home, church, school and community activities are worthy of my support, I. Can’t. Do. It. All! I can’t and I shouldn’t.

When we exceed our emotional or physical limitations we cease to be useful. We admire those who appear to give 110%, but in reality it’s impossible to overextend ourselves for very long without suffering consequences. In today’s society burnout and nervous breakdowns are commonplace.

“Too busy is a choice.”

Septembers are a little like Januarys in that they provide ‘beginning again’ opportunities. We get to decide how we’ll spend the majority of these minutes, days and weeks. Oh, I realize there are some commitments that have to be shouldered; life isn’t all about us. But we are responsible for how we use the one life we’ve been given. We are answerable to the One who gave it to us … expected to make wise use of our time and abilities.

A new season begins today. There are new opportunities, old commitments and decisions facing us. Now might be a perfect time to evaluate and reestablish priorities.

We writers know about squeezing our passion into leftover crevices of our days, procrastinating about finishing (or starting) a particular manuscript, waiting until deadlines choke us before giving the task the priority it always should have had. We say we’re too busy, and we let that excuse stress us to the limit. But …

“Too busy is a choice.”

The choice is ours to make. I believe I have some thinking to do!

~

Are you making any changes in your scheduling this fall? What (or who) is it that you want to make time for?

~  ~  ~

Summer’s Winding Down

Robins are supposed to be harbingers of springtime … that time when everything is becoming vibrant and new. This one is tattered, a little tired-looking and worn. Maybe that’s to be expected as we go into the last weekend of the summer.

Autumn Robin

I read on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website that Robins can produce three broods each year. If that’s the case, I can understand why this one might be feeling a little frazzled and frayed. Parenting can be demanding! Then again, it’s said that although “the entire [robin] population turns over on average every six years,” the occasional one can live up to fourteen years, so perhaps this one is just showing his age.

All winter long we wait for summertime, and when it finally arrives we exult in relaxed schedules, vacations, and the opportunity to catch up on everything we didn’t have time for in the preceding months. We garden and travel, make time for afternoons on the beach and backyard barbecues. Then, all too soon, we see it …

Autumn Glimpse

… the unwelcome hint that it’s all coming to an end.

We’re already back into September routines and any vacation time we might have had is little more than a distant memory. I should feel refreshed after several weeks of cottage time and family visits, but in reality I’m a little breathless. The weeks zipped by like a roadrunner on caffeine. I enjoyed my activities, but I’m taking stock and discovering that a lot of what I hoped to accomplish during June, July and August didn’t happen. What became of all that extra time I expected to have?

Perhaps having a summer birthday and acknowledging the passing of yet another year in my life makes me more aware of time’s elusive nature. Like the Robin, I’m getting a little worn around the edges. It takes me longer to get things done — although that may be less to do with aging and more to do with stopping too often to appreciate the blaze of changing colours or breathe in late summer’s distinctive scent.

Yesterday was subdued … a mist drifted through the trees most of the day and mingled with a cool breeze. The alders have begun letting their leaves loose to flutter down and clutter the freshly mown lawn, and down at the marsh there’s a hint of gold. We’re approaching the last weekend of summer and I’m feeling a little melancholic about it.

~

“The whole earth is at rest and is quiet;
They break forth into shouts of joy.

[Isaiah 14:7]

~  ~  ~

 SS-BUTTON