The Lyre and the Lambs audiobook is here

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Now available in audio. Click here to hear a sample.

Narrated by Lynne Parrish, order the unabridged audiobook from Audible.com

7 hours, 16 minutes, $19.95

The Tree of Knowledge

If anything is lovely

Whatever  is lovely

Partaking of the internet is like eating from the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Where once we were relative innocents, we now know the unfathomable depths of horrific evil that pervades the earth, in epic scale.

In a class I am taking, Jesus the Jew, Rabbi David Davis lamented, “Our knowledge has increased, but our hearts have not changed.” There in a simple sentence is the problem I have long pondered.

We have made great strides in science and technology that enable us to battle dissidents and diseases with greater ferocity. But hatred and illness seem to be a war we cannot win. Contain the festering sore in one place and it pops up in another. Forming coalitions, crafting policies, and legislating behavior have their place, but they don’t appear to touch the heart.

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The Family Tree

family treeCharting a family tree provides a record for future generations, but sketching the leafy branches in story form is far more revealing. At first glance, your tree may appear to be a uniform sample of its species, but move your gaze though its branches and you will likely find broken limbs and odd grafts.

Unless it is a well researched biography (non-fiction), a family saga is an intriguing mix of fact and fiction. To tell a good story, historical fiction writers have to make up what they don’t know.

Careful research can raise facts that help shape the story so that what it lacks in accuracy is compensated by truth.

What’s in a name?

I am writing about the role black sheep play in a family. The book is based on the adventures of my great grandmother Nellie Belle Scott. Family legend has it that she left her husband and children for a career as the first female court reporter in the Pacific Northwest. At a time in history when women stayed married and stayed in the kitchen, she ran around the circuit providing stenographic services in makeshift courtrooms and amusing conversation to judges and attorneys.

Viewing Nellie through the eyes of my mother and grandmother painted a negative picture. But in researching her girlhood, I stumbled upon an interesting fact. Her younger sister Jessie named her daughter Nellie. Obviously there’s another side to my great grandmother. My job as a novelist is to discover what in Nellie’s character inspired such high regard from those who knew her growing up.

Namesakes and monikers

In one afternoon I traced my family history straight back to Plymouth Colony. I saw how some names were passed down through generations: Francis Carter, son Frank, great granddaughter Frances, who died in infancy. If you are looking to name a baby or a fictional character, check your family tree.

My favorite moniker goes way back in history. I could write a book about a woman named Submit Talman, a misnomer I’m thinking. Pair the Biblical character trait of her first name with the phonetic spelling of her last name — tall man — and you have enough tension and conflict for a lively plot line.

Have a litter of kittens or puppies that need names? Nineteenth century people had large families. My maternal great grandfather was one of ten children. Choice names from that list? Zenas, Enos, and Hiram, fit for a bevy of bulldogs.

Is there an intriguing name in your family tree?
photo credit: Snapped strength via photopin (license)

Rabbit Holes

rabbitholeBecause I’m off my feet now recovering from foot surgery, I have lots of time to go down rabbit holes. The terrain is so full of holes, I’m beginning to wonder how the ground under our feet holds together.

I clicked on an article that sounded an alarm over the demise of sardines (my husband will be glad to hear that) and declared that the domino effect will be the loss of huge populations of sea creatures. Makes sense.

Pondering that, I scrolled down to a meme that screamed at me, Now do you believe in climate change you #$@*!!!? (Insert a long list of angry invectives branding non believers as evil people of questionable parentage.)

As a writer I spend a lot of time attempting to craft intelligent responses to difficult, complex issues. Given that my brain scatters in multiple directions before it forms a complete and hopefully rational thought, it takes me awhile to get clear on things.

I am not going to address the issues involved in climate change in a public forum. I will freely admit that I don’t know enough about the science that supports the conclusions people draw to discuss the topic in any meaningful way. I do have some thoughts on temperature of the discussion, though.

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Five-Year Diary

Q&A JournalI finished my five-year diary last year. Keeping that diary let me look back at events, spot trends, recall moments, and notice patterns in my life.

The diary reveals the timeline of the two books I’ve published, a history of my travels, sweet times spent with friends, and also the mundane. Recording my weight and daily (or not) exercise routine helped me stay on track. It has been interesting to note weather patterns; it’s not so unusual that it snows at Easter in the Sierra.

When it came time to buy a new Five-Year Diary, I decided to shake it up a bit. No “more of the same” recording what I do; instead I chose the Q&A a Day 5 Year Journal. For the next five years, I will record what I think instead of what I do. Two sentences a day to respond to  provocative questions like:

  • “What is your mission?”
  • “How do you describe home?”,
  • “What new activity have you tried?”

Crystallizing thought is, of course, good practice for a writer. More than that, it adjusts my focus to “what has changed?”

Seasons of Life

Every season of life brings new realities that require changes in perspective and priorities. Life can get uncomfortable if we don’t adjust to our new normal and make choices based on what we see in our present and future rather than what we experienced in the past.

Case in point: We bought our house at a time when we envisioned housing older parents, hosting family holidays, entertaining crowds, and putting up visitors. We did all that. Now, home is my writing studio in my mountain house or desert retreat, or the places where my family gathers, or the gatherings where my communities work, worship, and play. Respite and solitude, cultural activities that inspire, and intimate dinners with friends that refresh my soul; these are the activities that support my priorities.

Choices

broomThese days, I attend writing conferences instead of town meetings. I drop a news magazine subscription that reinforces a familiar point of view and choose instead to support an Indie publisher with a subscription to a poetry journal. (Rattle, that’s appropriate!) I look at pretty table cloths and don’t buy them. Town meetings, table cloths, news talk, all have had their day in my life.

Do things pile up in the cupboards of your house or the closets of your mind that are lovely but no longer useful? Have you lost your zest for an activity that used to fulfill you? Would your feel lighter if you swept it away to to make room for what you really love?

Try this: Go on a sweeping spree. Make room for something new. Prayerfully indulge the passion you feel right now. It’s not a selfish thing to do. God can use your renewed joy in ways that will delight.

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