What makes a good book stand out?

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Peach sunset colours fade to soft rose and lavender over a somber sea. “The heavens declare the glory of God.”  Gulls screech and dance in the stiff onshore breeze while a lone eagle disappears in the distance.

I scuff through the sand and stones, always hopeful that I’ll discover a bit of sea glass. My daughter lives near here and has gathered a multi-hued collection. I’ve yet to find any.  But along the beach occasional shells stand out, white against the blue-grey stones.

On the outside oyster shells are a chalky unimpressive white. Inside they’re smooth and satiny, sometimes quite pearlescent. On rare occasions they might even contain a pearl. A treasure.

You know there’s an analogy coming, right?

Like the miles of beach stones and sand, there are millions of mediocre books on the market. What does it take to make one stand out? Some might suggest a great cover, but, while that would get me to pick it up, I’ll still turn it over to check for other things before deciding to keep it. I’ll be looking for something special inside, hoping to find a real treasure… a wonderful story written with passion about unique characters.

What are your requirements when you go looking for a new book? What makes a book stand out for you?

~

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
[Psalm 19:1 NIV]

Windows on Winter

Windows on winter

Sun-blessed discoveries

On a chilly morn

Wandering ‘coon tracks

Across my back deck

Pressed in powdered snow

Glimpses of beauty

Branches of white lace

Tree spears stretching tall


Evergreens shiver

Showering snow flakes

To capture lost warmth



Fresh winter snowfall

Fluffy white crystals

Dusting winter’s day

~

What’s your writing day like?

Can you describe it in five syllable phrases?

~

Autumn Nostalgia

On the way into town today leaves fluttered from trees and floated across the road in windy disarray. So many barren branches compared to just a week ago. Now that clocks have been turned back, the extra few minutes of morning light are welcome, but evening sunsets are too early. It’s hard to steel myself to face twilight before I’ve even had my dinner.

As we whizzed past winter-readied fields I thought of our own gardens with their mushy hostas and wilted lily spears, faded hydrangea blooms and brittle astilbe feathers. I’ve ignored the fall cleanup process in favour of NaNoWriMo writing. I’ll be sorry next spring when new growth struggles to emerge from under the debris.

Autumn Sky

Colour still haunts the few leaves clinging to our blueberry bushes, but the lilac shrubs are bare. There is melancholy in late fall – regret for the passing of another season – but it is tempered with the promise that after winter’s hiatus the cycle will begin again.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

(I Chronicles 16:34)

Unexpected Glimpses

Tiny sprigs of luscious new growth are appearing everywhere. It’s spring, so I shouldn’t be surprised by these sightings, especially since I’ve been waiting for them all winter. It’s the unexpectedness, though – the delight of discovery when I am glancing at one thing and suddenly notice something else – that catches me unaware and elicits such pleasure.

These glimpses are bonuses… bits of joy among the ordinary.

But what if (the writer’s favourite question), what if the telescope is reversed and you become the object glimpsed? What if in your writing you reveal just a hint of your authorial self to those who are immersed in the lives of your fictional characters?

Such glimpses are not bonuses, but interruptions.

Carol Benedict left a comment yesterday saying she wants readers “to pay attention to what I’m writing, not how I’m writing it.”  She was referring to a quotation by Somerset Maugham about style, but it also applies in principle to those times when we as authors write something that our characters wouldn’t say, see or know. Suddenly we have injected ourselves into the story. We have given the reader an unexpected glimpse of something that shouldn’t be there.

Do you think authorial intrusion matters to most readers? How do you avoid it when you’re writing?

Autumn in Transition

Morning Garden

Morning Garden

 

Another crystal white frost preceded today’s sunshine, touching the vivid garden colours with a wilting chill. Autumn is in transition here. Heavy pink hydrangea heads have now evolved into lacy beige puffs atop bare stems. Protected under those globular skirts are tiny buds, securely tucked away for the winter.

Blueberries

Blueberries

Delicate ferns are now pale, uninteresting fans and the daylily spears are folded and brown, sinking to blend with the soil. Coneflower leaves have become dry wisps, leaving only their seedheads against a backdrop of brilliant red blueberry bushes. And strawberry plants show off green, red and brown leaves along with nubbins of green berries and surprising blossoms.

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Speedwell (?)

I wandered the gardens with camera in hand, delighting in the remaining fall foliage. I can’t recall the colours ever being so varied or glorious! One Japanese maple tree is luminous orange while another is ruby red.

Dogwood Leaves

Dogwood

There are crimson, scarlet and yellow dogwood leaves, and golden speedwell (although I’m not entirely sure that’s what it is… it has spikes of pure white in the summer).

At the beaver pond the summer’s grasses have been replaced with a haze of gold. Soon even that will die down and once again there will be a clear view of the water.

Wildwood Marsh

Wildwood Beaverpond

Today there was a heron there, waiting patiently for his breakfast, gangly but efficient as he snatched unsuspecting morsels.

Days like this are treasures, their moments of beauty to be savoured and stored in memory to ensure my survival during the coming winter months.

Dappled Sunlight

Dappled Sunshine on Dogwood

A Natural Kind of Beauty

There is nothing quite like the peaceful seclusion of a special place to bring refreshment to mind, body and spirit. Our lakeside retreat is remote. There is no public access and the nearest electricity is twenty kilometers away. Only one other home on the lake is occupied.

Thunderclouds

The only sounds we hear are from nature – most often it’s the loons. Their haunting call echoes over the lake at random times day and night.   It’s a nostalgic sound for me, reminding me of childhood vacations, family gatherings and annual hunting trips. Starting with my parents, our family has owned property on this lake for more than sixty years and I can’t recall a time when the loons weren’t there.

EveningSunshine

No matter what the weather, in fog, sunshine or pre-storm moodiness, the lake view is memorable. I have taken hundreds of photos and no two ever seem exactly the same.

Birchbark

Birchbark

It is a place of quiet beauty, accessorized with the peeling bark of birch trees, fluttering poplar leaves, brooding evergreens and an abundance of wildflowers — scarlet Indian Paintbrush, Brown-eyed Susans, lacy white Yarrow, the occasional nodding Tiger Lily, pale pink Wild Rose bushes growing between patches of glossy Oregon Grape and scatterings of Oxeye Daisy. Their splashes of colour stand out against a rusty backdrop of soil created by ancient disintegrating trees and deep layers of discarded evergreen needles. It is a natural kind of beauty… the kind that can’t be duplicated in my home garden… the kind only the Master Gardener can create.

 

LakeFog

The world is His, and all that is within. I am ever so thankful for His generosity in sharing it with me during these past two weeks of vacation in the wilderness!

Cheekiness Personified!

What a brat! We refill our birdfeeder whenever its emptiness threatens a famine for our favourite birds, usually once a week. Top-ups have been happening with increasing frequency, however, since a non-feathered diner discovered the easy pickings.

 

Yesterday the squirrel managed to dislodge the lid so he could climb right inside the seed-filled cylinder.  He chowed down and with stuffed cheeks raced away to store his hoard somewhere safe. After repeated trips I noticed he was taking ownership of the feeder and challenging the chickadees, juncos and blackbirds. When he managed to chase off a much larger jay we took action and securely replaced the birdfeeder’s lid – at which point he challenged us!

Squirrel

We were not persuaded to remove the lid for him. Cheeky brat!

The “Wow” Factor

It isn’t often that I am startled to the point of gasping, but this morning was one of those times. As I sat in our family room watching the TV news a movement outside the windows caught my eye. A quick glance and I breathed a stunned “Wow!” as a huge (and I mean really big) Bald Eagle glided across our back yard right at my eye level.

 

You’d have to know our back yard to appreciate the unlikely flight path but take my word for it… he was close and he was impressive! What a magnificent start to my day.

 bald_eagle-1152x864bPhoto credit: http://www.firstpeople.us

 

Winter Metamorphosis

Long rays of late afternoon sunlight slant through snow-frosted trees behind our house. Frigid temperatures have already arrived although winter is still officially two days away.

 

There’s something about colours on a clear winter day that defies logic. Skies aren’t just blue, they’re a vivid azure. Evergreen trees change colour and become a blackened shade closer to charcoal than forest. The snow that we describe as white is anything but in its shadows and on crystalline slopes. I don’t understand why winter air has an intensity and clarity that is so different from that of any other season.

 

While I don’t know the reason I certainly admire the effect. The snow-covered mountains bordering B.C.’s Fraser Valley were spectacular in today’s chilly sunshine!