5 Cool Authors for Cold Weather and Turkey Sandwiches

I was just a young pup last November, my first. Chewing on slippers. Dish towels. Wayward fingers. Learning Come. Down. Jump. Sit and Stay. Also how to jitterbug. That just kinda happened. I mean, who can listen to In the Mood sitting still?

Anyway. Now that I’m coming up on a year-and-a-half, I’m leaving all that baby stuff behind. Well, some of it. But I’ve gotten pretty good at chasing fallen leaves. Wearing that stupid red “doggie jacket” Mom insists on when the temperature drops below forty degrees. Swiping turkey sandwiches when no one’s lookin’.

Even though it’s cold and crisp outside, it’s not all bad. A neighbor’s cat, Sir Puddleglum, is staying indoors most of the time. (That’s not the orange tabby’s real name. I just call him that because it gets his goat. Or his cat nip. Whatever.)

Anyway again. Apple cider. Crunching leaves. Snoozing by the fireplace. Mom says fall is a great time to re-read some favorite authors. She showed me her list. I’m passing it on to you at no extra charge. (Don’t tell anyone.)

5 Cool Authors for Cold Weather (in no particular order):

1. Earl Hamner, Jr.

Hamner is best known as the creator, executive producer, and warm narrative voice of The Waltons. He wrote several books, including the autobiographical Spencer’s Mountain and The Homecoming. The latter inspired the movie of the same name. It became the pilot that launched The Waltons. You can almost hear the snow fall… G’night John Boy…

2. Jill Hucklesby

Never heard of her? Me neither. Until Mom swooped into the library and yanked Samphire Song off a shelf. The librarian said it was on the “weeding” (death) list. She felt sorry for it. Read it. Loved it. Said it’s brisk. Engaging. Beautifully written, with memorable characters. The story revolves around a young girl, Jodie, and her half-wild stallion, Samphire. Both are damaged. They inch their ways toward healing together.

3. John Eldredge

A multi-published author of best sellers like Wild at Heart, John is a Mom perennial favorite. He has a warm, cogent, and down-to-earth writing style.  Bonus points: I hear John’s a Dog Guy.

4. Richard Paul Evans

Mom says this guy is a prolific, award-winning author perhaps best known for The Christmas Box. Richard publishes a book every year, usually when temperatures start dropping. His latest, The Noel Diary, was released two days ago! Says Mom: Richard’s gentle, uplifting stories are a great choice for curl-up-near-the-fireplace reading!

5. Gary Paulsen

Looking for larger-than-life outdoor adventure told with a keen eye for detail and a gritty, spunky writing style? Gary Paulsen’s your guy, according to Mom.  His many books include The Hatchet series, Dogsong, Harris and Me,  Woodsong, and Winterdance.

Even Sir Puddleglum can’t complain about that.

Hey. You gonna to finish that turkey sandwich? Askin’ for a friend.

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And So It Barks…

If you’ve been reading along for any length of time – say, 20 minutes or so – you probably know I’ve always felt that the world should be divided into two main camps: Dog Lovers and Other. (If you’re a feline fan, sorry. Naw. Not really.) You may also know that I wrote a book about our good dog, Eve, who passed away around Christmas 2013. And that our house has been dog-less ever since.

In the finale of my recent blog post Christmas, Eve, I told you I’d have an update for you on the dog front. Well. Here she is:

Her name is Kimber.  About six months old. Isn’t she a beauty?

Kimber was quite the li’l nipper when she joined us in late August. She’s calmed down quite a bit since then. But she’s a puppy and excitable. If you come visit, I can pretty much guarantee she’ll think the sun rises and sets on you. And greet you accordingly. (I’d bring treats ‘fize you.)

Part Golden Retriever. Part Lab. Part Border Collie. All heart. Way smarter than me. I’m thinking of re-naming her. How does “Einstein” sound? Also in the running: “Cicero.” Or “Typhoon.”

wp-image-2116531908jpg.jpegIn the past few months since Kimber came to us via the local dog rescue outfit, she’s learned “Sit,” “Stay,” “Come,” and “Down.” How to navigate 13 steps by herself. Let herself out. Open doors. Walk on a leash. NOT to eat Dad’s slippers. How to play football (sort of). Lie down while I write (most of the time. Nobody’s perfect.) And jitterbug.

Told you she’s way smarter than me.

I’ve called her “Eve” more than once. Call it a “Freudian slip.” They don’t even look alike. I’d almost forgotten what it’s like to have a dog in the house.  After getting Kimber, however, I can’t imagine having a dog-less house again.

I may even have to write about it. Again. 🙂

Best wishes for a happy, healthy 2017 to your and yours, dear readers!

What are your writing goals for the new year?

Forever, Eve

Forever, Eve

A Dog’s Story

Stille Nacht – Just in Time for Christmas

Solitude can be hard to find in our rush-rush, hurry up, instant everything society. Grabbing a few quiet moments to refresh and recharge can be a challenge any time, but it’s particularly tough  during the holidays, huh?

If holiday merry-making has you ready to tear your hair out or your festive feathers are a bit ruffled, this is for you.

Slow down. Sit down with this old favorite for about five minutes. Give Manheim Steamroller’s Stille Nacht (Silent Night) a listen. You’ll be glad you did.

Know anyone else who could use a yuletide boost? Don’t forget to share!

Christmas ‘In the Corner’

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Candles in the window. Lights up on the tree. Sleigh bells. Mistletoe. Apple-cheeked kids rushing in from a snowy sled run. Hot chocolate and marshmallows. Carols and cantatas. Family. Friends. And…  loneliness so thick and heavy, it could crush a camel.

Yes, friends. The holidays aren’t full of fa-la-la-la-la-ing for everyone. In fact, this can be an especially tough time of year for some. Those facing a job loss or a cut in income. A divorce. An involuntary move. The frostiness of an unresolved conflict. Bad news from the doctor. Betrayal. Feeling utterly alone in the middle of a crowd. Too much money at the end of the month. Distance. One less place set at the table. One less gift under the tree.

If you’ve been there or are there, you know what I mean. And how difficult the holidays can be. Especially if you’re Alone. Or feel that way.

I hear you. It’s one reason I wrote Man in the Corner: A Holiday Story. About newly divorced Mae Taylor and her son Josiah. Their plans to start over solo are jostled when they move next door to Mr. Tom, a lonely widower and retired school teacher. Together, the unlikely trio finds a second chance at faith, hope and love with help from Gettysburg, cookbooks, an attic secret and two ‘Christmas ghosts.’

But I’m also doing something I rarely do here: recommending another author’s novel. With three thumbs up.

It’s called The Mistletoe Secret. By Richard Paul Evans, a perennial favorite. Without giving too much away, it’s a touching, moving story about two lonely people, Alex and Aria, who brave rejection and loss to find love. Exquisitely written as only Evans can, The Mistletoe Secret is vintage Richard Paul: Honest without being preachy. Hopeful without being sappy. Uplifting and fine. About 306 pages. I read it cover-to-cover in about five hours.

While we’re on the subject, I also want to offer a video to those who may be struggling this time of year. You’re not alone. Give this Mark Schultz piece a listen:

Grace. And Merry Christmas!

 

REAL DADS: Not Just One Sunday in June

Dad Naas Scan 2

It’s Father’s Day. Time for a card or two, a new tie, maybe breakfast in bed or a nice dinner out.  But have you noticed? There’s something off-kilter about a culture that spends 364 days a year  belittling dear old dad, then turns around to “honor” him on one Sunday in June.

Sadly, we live in a time and place where dads are often viewed or portrayed as: 1) Bumbling oafs who can’t tie their shoes without written instructions; 2) Insensitive clods and boorish louts or; 3) Invisible and irrelevant. Like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without peanut butter. Or jelly. Or bread.

What Does It Mean?

There’s a fair amount of confusion about what constitutes a “real dad.”  Some equate dadness with volume, brute force, or beer bellies. They think the dude who sires a string of children and then disappears without a trace makes the yahoo a “father.” Or “dad” is the lunkhead who throws his weight around because there’s plenty of it. There’s a word for these kinds of guys. And it’s not “dad.” (Since this is a G-rated blog, you’ll have to fill in the blanks yourself.)

Real Dads

Real Dads can be hard to find these days. There are plenty of fakes. Just turn on the TV. But the Real Deal is still  around.  And often unsung.

A Real Dad is decent, hard-working, and upstanding. A Real Dad takes his family, job, and responsibilities seriously.  He gets outside himself to benefit others.   A Real Dad puts his family first.  Even when it’s “inconvenient.” Sometimes especially when it’s inconvenient.

Faucets, Flicks and Foregoing

Real Dads fix leaky faucets. Hang pictures or wall paper (without killing anyone). Walk on the outside of the sidewalk, nearest the street. Endure chick flicks without complaint.  A Real Dad may toil long hours in a thankless job to keep a roof over his family’s heads and put food on the table. Forego Monday Night Football to cheer a child’s Little League game. Put up a tent in the rain. Do dishes. Clean up dog barf. Teach junior how to slide into second without breaking anything, or stay home with the kids so Mom can have lunch out with the ladies.

Go Get Them

Real Dads take 1:00 a.m. phone calls in the middle of a sleep-over – come get me Daddy, I’m scared – and break every land-speed record on the books in the process.  They attend daughter’s tea parties, scrunch their knees into their chins in those made-for-kindergartener chairs. Down gallons of pretend tea and wear those funny little party hats like they’re dining with royalty. Because they know they are.

Real Dads may not always know how to express themselves. They may have a hard time finding the words to tell the wife and kids how much they mean to him.  So they do instead of say, speaking the language of self-sacrifice, service and grace.

Real Dads:

  • Stand for the National Anthem. They remove their hats, hold ’em over their heart and sing about rockets’ red glare, bombs bursting in air as their eyes mist.
  • Don coat and tie and conduct somber graveside services for dead gold fish and neon tetras.
  • Burn Christmas Eve and the wee hours of December 25 assembling brand new purple Schwinns.
  • Open those stupid pickle jar lids.
  • Spend an entire afternoon traipsing from store to store in the mall with the wife or kids, pretending they’re having a great time.
  • Say Yes when they can and No when they should.
  • Have arms that embrace, shield and protect. Their shoulders are big enough to ride, cry on, and hide behind.
  • Pray. And teach their kids to pray.
  • Are never quite thanked enough.

Real Dads cement a protective wall around the fam as no one else can. Real Dads stand on that wall, often alone, and patrol. Real Dads put any lurking menace or stalking evil on notice with, “Not on my watch. You’ll have to come through me first, and I’m here for keeps.”

With Dad at Neff How do I know? Because my dad was a Real Dad.  And not just on one Sunday in June.

***

This post was previously published on June 16, 2013.

GUEST AUTHOR: 9 Ways to Jumpstart Your Writing During the Holidays

By Terry Whalin

Used by permission

***

You can almost feel the shift in the publishing world when the calendar gets close to the holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.  I’m receiving fewer emails. My phone calls and emails are not as quickly returned.  The culture is shifting into holiday mode where activities outside of publishing fill our schedule and less is happening.

While the schedule for others fills with holiday activities, your writing does not have to go on hold. In fact, from my experience, the holidays are a perfect time to jumpstart your writing life.  Here’s nine action steps you can take during the holidays:

1. Increase Your Writing. Now is the time to lean into your novel or your nonfiction book and complete it.  No book manuscript is created overnight. It takes day after day effort to write your story and finish the manuscript. Make a plan for your writing then stick with it.

2. Create A New Product or Book. Do you have a new product or book idea? Take this time to lean into it and create. I encourage you to download The 24–Hour Product Creation Cheat Sheet from Jimmy D. Brown. I have several of these types of projects which have been on hold because of other work. I’ve started scheduling regular time into my work day to begin to move these projects forward and get them into the marketplace.

3. Write A Book Proposal. Maybe you have several book ideas and the place for you to dig in during the holidays is creating a new book proposal. If you don’t know how to create a proposal, take my Write A Book Proposal membership course or use my free Book Proposal Checklist or take my free proposal teleseminar. Then take action and create your proposal.

4. Reach out to Editors and Agents. The holidays are often a great time to touch base with these publishing professionals. Send them a card or email and reconnect with them. Tell them some detail you appreciated about them and see how you can help them. Those simple statements may go a long way with that person.

5. Read and Review books of others. I’ve written about this important habit but if you’ve never started it or forgotten about it. Now is a good time to read these books and review them. You will be practicing your craft of writing but also building good will among other writers as you read these books and write book reviews.

6. Begin a new program or tool. Do you want to learn how to make money with your blog or increase your social media presence? The key is to develope an easy system for you or to learn from someone else. I have a risk-free, detailed 31–Day Guide to Blogging for Bucks. Or listen to my free teleseminar on blogging or follow my detailed information on social media. Take committed time to work on developing a new skill or tool.

7. Get Organized. As a writer, I have piles of paper that isn’t in a file folder (where I’m much more organized). I took some time this weekend to sort through the papers, put them into folders and get more organized. If I haven’t used or read something,  I threw it away rather than lurking in a pile. As you get organized, you can be much more effective as a writer.

8. Pitch and Write Magazine Articles. Think about the publications you read and send ideas to the editor. If you have written for a magazine in the past, what can you write that they need? Approach the editor and see if they have a theme list online or one you can get from the editor. Then pitch appropriate ideas.

9. Write to Look for New Opportunities.  Maybe you want to do more speaking in the new year or have a greater visibility at a particular conference. Work on expanding those possibilities during this season.

I include more than a dozen ways to jumpstart your publishing life in my book, Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams. The key is to take action during the holidays and move forward with your writing.

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About The Author:

Terry has written more than 60 nonfiction books plus been published in
more than 50 magazines. For five years, he was an acquisitions editor at two book publishers and he’s a former literary agent. Now Terry is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing, a NY based traditional publisher. Terry encourages writers of any level (from beginners to professionals) at Right-Writing.com.

To help people pursue their own dreams of a published book, Terry has written Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams, Insider Secrets to Skyrocket Your Success.

 

Find out more about Terry Whalin here.

A Kitchen, a Corner and Christmas!

Fabulous chocolate fudge.  Spicy cocoa mocha mix.  Savory roast beef with red wine. Wassail with clove-studded oranges.  Fruitcake.

Well, okay.  Maybe not fruitcake.  But what are the holidays without festive food?

The Kitchen

Grandma Peggy's Kitchen Cover.1Is your mouth watering yet?  Good.  Because I’m opening a door to Grandma Peggy’s Kitchen (aka: my mom), an  ebook collection of holiday recipes, reminiscences and easy, inexpensive craft ideas to spruce up your home for the season!   Grab your copy here.

Man in the Corner

Speaking of which, Man In the Corner is another holiday-themed story based on real people. “Mr. Tom” is loosely based on my dad:

Man in the Corner Cover

Mae Taylor and her son Josiah just want to be left alone after the divorce. Their plans to start over solo are jostled when they move next door to Mr. Tom, a lonely widower and retired school teacher. Together, this unlikely trio finds a second chance at faith, hope and love with help from holiday traditions, cookbooks, an attic secret and two ‘Christmas ghosts.’

Find it here.

If you enjoyed either one, a kind review would be appreciated. Thanks!

‘Fat Free’ Seasonal Treat? Have I Got a Deal For You!

So, how was your Thanksgiving?  A little too much mashed potatoes and gravy?  Are you wearing that third piece of pumpkin pie?  Not to fret.  Here’s a seasonal treat that’s not only “fat free,” it’s $-free, too!

Download your FREE copy of my micro-memoir, Isabella’s Torch: A Thanksgiving Memoir.

Isabella's Torch Cover Photo.3

Grab your FREE copy of Isabella’s Torch today!  Consider it my thanks to you for reading!  Why not make it a two-for? Sign up for my FREE newsletter at the same time.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned!

“Thanks-Giving” & The First 5 Minutes

Coming up with a clever, catchy “Thanksgiving” post can be a little like trying to re-write Gone With The Wind.  Ya just can’t improve on a classic.  I wasn’t even going to try this year.  Frankly, I was kinda “Thanksgiving-ed” out by yesterday.

Although Thanksgiving is traditionally family-oriented and a time to reunite with loved ones and gather around a roast turkey the size of Rhode Island, that’s not how our Thanksgivings typically run.

Parents on both sides have gone on to glory.  We live more than 1,000 miles from our nearest family members.  The rest are flung to the four winds, spread out across the country.  So weren’t not able to get together as often as we’d like, and almost never on Thanksgiving.

My husband is in retail, so Thanksgiving weekend is just another work weekend as the store struggles to stay in the black and hopes for a bang-up Christmas season. So our Thanksgivings are a little… shall we say, “non-Norman Rockwellish”?

A quick look around “Thanksgiving” in the blogosphere usually brings up something like: “What are you doing for Thanksgiving?” Or “How many people are you having over?”  “Are you traveling this Thanksgiving?”  “Who’s going to win the football game?” Or the well-worn classic, “What are you thankful for?”

Not to reiterate the obvious, but Thanksgiving is a holiday set aside to, uh… “give thanks.”  Count our blessings.  Lift our eyes off our self-soaked lives and look up to the Father of every good gift.

All well and good.

So why did I resist taking that route this year?  Well, basically because that route is easy.  Comfortable.  Expected.  It’s also a little … canned.  Predictable.  Rote?  Is that what Thanksgiving has turned into – “giving thanks” by rote – because we’re supposed to?

Lord, have mercy.

So this Thanksgiving, when some of us are still working off that third slice of pumpkin pie or that extra serving of gravy and mashed potatoes that we needed like a hole in the head, how ’bout determining to launch into “thanksgiving mode” year-round instead of just the last part of November?

Rather than relegating thanks-giving to one season or weekend a year, what if we took the first five minutes of each day to lift our hearts to God in honest thanks?  What if we went through each twenty-four hour stretch looking for at least one thing, person, context or event for which we can be grateful? I don’t mean Pollyanna or pie-in-the-sky bye-and-bye syrupy stuff.  I mean something that requires alertness, deliberation, and exercising our “thankfulness muscles.”  Examples:

  • “Lord, thank you for the 39th straight day of rain, a roof that doesn’t leak and the promise of an extra-green spring.”
  • “Thank you for my boon canine companion (or feline),” as the case may be.
  • “I’m grateful for hot showers and soap after an afternoon on the trail or in the garden!”
  • “Thank you for this morning’s sunrise.”
  • “Thank you for Corn Flakes and a bowl to eat them out of.”

Thanks also for:

Puccini arias. Truth. Faithfulness.Libraries. Friends and family. Mercy. Raspberry white chocolate cheesecake. Poetry. Lilacs. A good night’s sleep. Fresh snow. Divine guidance and providence. Ice cream and…  what else?

If we develop the daily discipline of deliberate thankfulness, I’m willing to bet we’ll discover whole new horizons of  wonder and beauty that were there all along.  We didn’t see them because we weren’t looking for them. We’ll probably find answers to prayers that we may have forgotten about, splashes of grace and  delight that we somehow overlook in our every day busyness.

Norman Rockwell or not, does that sound like an “exercise program” you can sign on to?  Who’s with me?

‘You Have to Love a Nation That…’

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You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism. ~Erma Bombeck

Happy birthday, America!