Friday, 20 October 2017

Lean or Anorexic

In the last few years, I’ve noticed writing styles have changed. They are now like our society. Life is mad dash from morning to night with little time in between. Less is more, publishing houses insist. Tighten, tighten, tighten. As writers, we are forced to adapt. But is this a good thing?
As a reader, I’m not so sure. Perhaps it’s the countless books I’ve read, or had read to me, over the past sixty-nine years, but I struggle with these new guidelines. My latest peeve, the one that prompted me to write this post, was a book written by four of the most popular writers in Christian fiction. I was excited when I saw the book on Amazon and put it to the top of my reading list. The story had to rock. These authors are as popular as snowflakes in winter.

But shortly into the story, my snowball burst.  Except for the last section, written by an author who delighted me, it was one of the hardest to “keep reading” books I’ve ever read. In the first three sections I felt like I was dangling in that zone between sleep and awake. Nothing anchored me anything or anyone. I remember the characters only because they were the same as those in the final section. Which brings me to my pondering. Where does lean end and anorexic begin?

The first section, that should have anchored me into the story, read like an outline. Whoever’s pov I was in felt like a pine box. Try as I would, I could not find a comfy spot to curl up in and let the story take me to some far and distant land. Instead, I was in a world that sped past me faster than my surroundings when I’m riding the tilt-a-whirl at a local fair.

To be fair, some of the old classics can describe a flower in a field in so much detail, I’ve forgotten why I’m in the field by the time I see exactly what the author saw and felt. And who really cares if it’s a coffee or a tea stain on the white tablecloth, unless it’s a mystery you’re reading. But, fluff gives me an option. Over the years, I’ve become very good at skimming. But in this day and age, that’s not practical either.

What I need is something in between. I want to know my protagonist, where she lives, what she likes, what she doesn’t, and what she wants bad enough to write a book about. I want a subtle description of her that allows me to fill in the blanks with my own imagination. I don’t want a block of white houses described, but if one is brown with a red horseshoe on the door, my interest is peaked.

I understand how age and time can dictate writing styles, but for me, they have gone bi-polar. Older stories tweak my skimming abilities, while many newer ones leave me frustrated because I can’t find the link between the dots. When I find a story that flows like a river, ripple after ripple, around and over obstacles and finishes in a waterfall, my toes curl up in delight, right back to my heels.   

Tuesday, 19 September 2017


Every day, all around us, small insignificant events take place. Most go unnoticed,  but others are life changing. God moments, I call them. My interpretation of "be still and know that I am God." 

Ten years ago, my husband, Alex, was diagnosed with cancer and given five months to live. Shock waves shot through our family, neighborhood, and church.

Alex shared his time and resources with everyone. He had a marvelous sense of humor that lightened even the heaviest situations. So many people wanted to say goodbye and spend time with him. The phone rang constantly. Our front entrance became a revolving door. Our daughter came home to help me with Alex’s care.

One day, a month after his diagnosis, our daughter left for the day to spend time with her brother.  By mid afternoon, several friends dropped by, and our daughter phoned, saying she was spending the night at her brother’s. "Unusual," I thought, but realized siblings can comfort each other in a way no one else can. I pushed the unusual from my mind.

I was exhausted, and deep shadows on Alex’s face bore witness to his weariness. With much effort, he pushed out of his recliner saying, I’m going to lie down. Please come with me. I glanced at all the dirty dishes in the kitchen, left behind by constant company, and opened my mouth to ask for fifteen minutes. But my words stopped.

Since it was too painful for Alex to lie down, I collected pillows from the beds around the house and made our bed into a giant recliner. As we snuggled together, warmth flowed through us, much like an electric blanket on a cold winter night, and nothing around us existed. Alex’s pain ebbed. We talked about the fun things we’d done, the places we’d been, the people we’d met, the mistakes we’d made. We laughed about the shenanigans our children had done. The wonderful adults they’d grown to be. Evening turned into night. Still we talked and laughed. With no warning Alex’s mind softened and he returned to Bosnia, where he’d served as a military engineer years ago. I held him until he calmed, then we drifted off to sleep.

The following day, Alex’s pain returned and he was admitted to the hospital. Within hours he was gone, but stories pierced my darkness.

The night before, Alex’s cousins were coming from Edmonton to visit him, but a tire on their car went flat. By the time AMA changed it, it was too late. Friends were coming from Calgary, but a sudden blizzard closed the highway between Calgary and Red Deer. And our daughter chose to spend the night at our son’s home.

Wonderment filled me. God used blizzards and flat tires and sibling love to give Alex and I that last evening by ourselves, to lie down in green pastures. Even now, ten years later, when I find myself in darkness and see no way out, I remember that night and am filled with hope for tomorrow.

Monday, 19 June 2017


Spring is such a lovely season, but along with all its loveliness comes a truckload of work. Each year I do one major project beyond the normal planting and weeding. This year, my major undertaking was painting the fence.

As I evaluated the weathered boards, my mind wandered to my writing projects that were weeks behind schedule. From there, my thoughts zoomed into sentence structure and my unpainted fence morphed into a sentence.

There was absolutely nothing wrong with the fence. It served its purpose by offering privacy, keeping the neighbourhood dogs out, and most of the time, my cats in. But it was drab. And boring. Just like a first draft sentence.

I went to work pulling out branches that had grown through the cracks between the boards much the same way I slash goes without saying words in a sentence. The fence appeared taller, but dry leaves and brittle pine needles littered the two-by-fours to which the boards were nailed. As I brushed away the dead foliage it reminded me of how the over use of fluffy words and words ending with ing or ly cluttered a sentence, making it difficult to comprehend.  This done, I checked all the boards to make sure their nails were still holding them fast. It made me think of how necessary conjunctions are to hold a sentence together.

Now, I’m ready for the paint. But what kind of paint? Just as a sentence requires precise words, my fence needs the right paint. The clerk in the local hardware store showed me exactly what I needed. Then, dressed in old tube top and shorts, a can of paint in one hand and a brush in the other, I began my task. Hours later, my arms ached, my skin burned, but I’d finished one side of one side of my fence. I stepped back to admire my handiwork. My throat throbbed. All my loving swishes had left light spots all over the fence.

Just like your sentence crept into my thoughts. Those light spots are weak words you allowed to remain in a sentence rather than taking time to search for stronger ones. I took a deep breath and returned to the spot where I started. Before laziness could overwhelm my thoughts, I dipped my brush into the paint and applied another coat.




In half the time it took to apply the first coat, I’d completed the second. My arms ached twice as much, and I think the sun had removed the top layer of my skin, but I’d finished. Again. I stepped away, gingerly this time. But it wasn’t necessary. A perfect fence section stood in front of me. Not one light spot. Not one knot hole exposing naked wood. No loose boards or painted-over pine needle. My fence sang. Just as well thought out and strategically placed words make a sentence dance, properly applied paint to my weathered fence gave my whole yard a fresh, new life.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Watch "Days" or Write


I’ll do it tomorrow. I cannot stop watching this movie or toss my bowl of popcorn. Doing so would be wasting.

In these words, finding time to sit and write is over-the-top obvious, but in reality, it isn’t. Time has no boundaries. Yes, we have timepieces that inform us as each hour, minute, or second passes, but responsibilities and commitments do not adhere to a timeline.

Before I enter my writing sanctuary in the morning, I have routine chores needing to be completed. On a normal day, my domestic engineering duties eat up the better part of an hour. Sounds good. Lots of time left. Well, not quite. When I started, I didn’t notice a honking big hair ball stuck to the hardwood floor in the corner of the living room. Twenty minutes later, it’s cleaned up and disinfected, but I’m well over my assigned time.

Then, the phone rings. That wonderful piece of technology that keeps us all connected. What would we do without it? I could ignore it, but that grating voice coming through some part of the contraption is telling me the caller is my daughter, whom I can’t ignore. She’s in a talkative mood, and my last glance at my watch told me she’d been talkative for the last sixty-five minutes. When we finally said our goodbyes, my morning was spent.

I’m left with two options. My procrastinating personality screams turn on the television and watch “Days of your lives.” Your day is messed up already. You’re never going to climb into your writing frame of mind.  

I reach for the remote and my responsible personality whispers you need to write.

And the battle is on. Days or write? Days or write? My head doubles in size as my opposing personalities duke it out. Slowly, my responsible side wins, and I head for my desk.  

Before I do anything, I ask God for help me calm my scattered brains. Once peace settles over me, I open the document needing my attention and read what I’ve written. If it’s a novel, I read the latest chapter. Before I’m half way through, I’m pulled into my thought stream and my fingers itch to hit the keyboard. Most of the time.

Those times my brain remains stubborn, if it is summer, I leave my desk and work in a flower bed. Something in handling the soil brings my wayward thoughts back into focus. In winter, a brisk walk through snow-covered trees and bushes have the same effect.  

Temptation to procrastinate is a daily battle but it doesn’t have to win. Recognizing it and making positive steps is the beginning of defeating procrastination. If writing is a priority, there is always ways to outsmart the pesky time gobblers. They just need to be found.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Praise in the Storm


This morning I awoke to a Neuralgia flare-up, a neurological condition that has taken up residence in my brain for many years. My head throbbed, feeling like a giant pimple not quite ready to be popped, but regardless, something or someone was squeezing it. Waking up in this state is not new or surprising, but what makes today is a trifle different is, I must write a blog post on thankfulness.


As I stared at my screen trying to gather my thoughts the letters and icons across the top turned into bright stars doing a square dance all over the page. My eyes drifted closed and I leaned back in my chair. Within seconds a beautiful old hymn floated into my thoughts—I see the stars—I hear the rolling thunder—Thy power throughout the universe displayed. Immediately I was reminded of how small and insignificant I am, yet my Heavenly Father took time to nudge me into refocusing my mind. Gratitude overflowed from within and I recalled a few of the many blessed moments in my life.


It overwhelms me knowing that our great and mighty God gave me the privilege of growing up in a home where godliness was a way of life. Sunday School was not an option, and I am thankful for those Sunday afternoons because it was in that small group I committed my life to Christ.


I am grateful for my children and grandchildren, my brothers and sister, my church family and my writing family. I am thankful I live in a country where freedom is a reality. It may be cold at times, but I have a warm house and my cupboards and fridge are always full. When I’m lonely, friends or entertainment are only a click away. My eyes don’t work very good anymore, but I have an active imagination that can fill in details I can not see.


 It would be nice to say that throughout my mini praise the pain in my head lessened but that is not so. It hurts big time but it no longer controls my feelings. For this I’m grateful because by changing the direction of my thoughts I was able to complete this post. I am also grateful for my soft comfy bed I’m about to curl up in until my head returns to normal. While I’m being thankful for big things, I’m reminded of the small day to day blessings I find myself taking for granted. For example, my four kitties, Beebins, Oliver, Athena, and Bentlee who will curl up around me, their soft purrs and unconditional love always bringing me comfort.


Satisfied I’d done all I could for this post, I clicked on the save icon and that beautiful old hymn once again filled my thoughts. Then sings my soul—My Savior God to Thee—how great Thou art.
Obstacles are those frightful things you see when

you

take your eyes off your goal.