Sparks of Light

There’s a lot of heaviness in the world right now. The holiday season can be rough–while there is a great deal of joy that comes with Christmas, it can also be a time of sorrow and/or weariness to many. Even in my own family, we’re struggling to maintain a Christmas spirit against 3+ weeks of illness and some unexpected travelling for Carl to be with his family in their time of need, as his aunt is in the hospital with pancreatic cancer.

Here in the UK, there’s been a lot of stress and tension over the recent general election, and a great deal of fear on all sides about what comes next. The US political scene isn’t much better, frankly.

Sometimes it can feel like the darkness presses in too closely, and looking around, there’s very little hope to be seen.

So on an impulse this weekend, I chose my most hope-filled book (aka the only one without any murders) and made it free until 1 January. No gimmicks, no strings, just my way of lighting a candle against the dark.

Kind of appropriate, when you think about it, that this book should be titled From the Shadows. Here’s to stepping out of the shadows and into the light.

Whisked from her troubled, solitary life to a spaceship centuries in the future, the young widow and musician Riss Waldon must first figure out how she got there, and then if it’s possible to get home. Before long, she is visiting strange and deadly planets and meeting new alien races, and forming friendships with the crew. Even as they strive to discover a way for her to return, she wonders if it possible to step out of the shadows of her past life and stay here. But when the well-being of the entire crew rests on her shoulders, she isn’t sure she’s up to the task. What if she fails them? All she can do is try …

Available at:

Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, and Amazon (Amazon will only let me drop the price to $0.99, but if enough people report it as free elsewhere they just might lower it all the way there as well–it’s worth a shot).

May this be a season of hope for you, friends, whatever your circumstances. That is my earnest prayer for all of us.

Another Bend in the Road

Dear friends,

Those of you who receive our family newsletter in addition to subscribing to this blog will already have an inkling what this post is about. For those of you who don’t, here goes.

As of February 2, our family will moving back to the U.S. from England for the foreseeable future.

There are a number of factors behind this decision. Health needs in our extended family have been drawing us back to be near to our loved ones and help them in whatever way possible–Carl is in Houston, TX right now, in fact, visiting his aunt in the hospital with pancreatic cancer. At the same time, Carl has felt a growing uncertainty as to whether an academic career in Biblical Studies is really what God is calling him toward, or if, rather, it is time for him to put what he has already learned into action in a local church and community. We have already learned before this that sometimes it looks as though God is calling us to a specific end, when in reality it is the journey that is important.

Whether that be the case here or not, what is certain is that we need to return to the States to support and care for our family. This is not, right now, an official goodbye to the PhD: Carl will be intermitting for the next six months and then will make a final decision–to withdraw or return to Cambridge–this summer.

Carl’s engineering firm has offered him a full-time position in one of their New England offices, which means Maine is our ultimate destination once we’re back. We are looking forward to living near the ocean again, as well as being close enough to mountains to go hiking (or hill walking, if we want to continue to use British terminology once we’re back) on weekends.

To close, I will quite directly from the newsletter:

 As you might imagine, this change has left us more than a little breathless. Our hearts are at peace knowing we are walking in God’s will, though, and we trust that He will continue to make our path clear, as He has ever done. We know with absolute certainty that our time in Cambridge has not been wasted, even though this is not the outcome we’d anticipated. Truly, God’s ways are not ours, and we thank Him that His plans are perfect. Thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for your love, prayers, and support during our time here.  

cross-posted from my Patreon, with a few edits.

On Stories

‘We love stories, then, because our lives are stories and in the attempts of others to move, temporally and painfully, we recognize our own story. For the Christian, the story of Jesus is the story par excellence. That God should be with us in the story of a human life could be seen as a happy accident, but it makes more sense to see it as God’s way of always being with human beings as they are, as the concrete, temporal beings who have a beginning and an end—who are, in other words, stories themselves.’

Hauerwas, Stanley. “Story and Theology.” In Truthfulness and Tragedy.

StarDance Editing

I am so happy to be able to introduce the sister site to StarDance Press: StarDance Editing. Offering manuscript critiques and proofreading for now, hopefully expanding to copy edits and content editing as I get my feet under me.

This is an exciting new step, though it’s one I’ve been contemplating for almost a year. I’ve always enjoyed critiquing and proofreading short stories and novels for friends, and as more and more of those mss I had a hand in birthing saw publication, I started to realize this was something I could do for others, as well. Knowing from personal experience how difficult it is, especially as an indie author, to find editors within one’s price range, I knew there was a call for this sort of service!

This year seemed a good time to begin this business, as I am taking a step back from my own writing projects. It’s a way for me to stay connected with the world of storytelling without feeling the pressure to create my own stories. In fact, polishing up someone else’s creative work to shine even brighter ought to be wonderful inspiration to me when I do pick up the pen and paper to start writing again!

If you or anyone you know is in need of a manuscript critique or proofreading, I hope you’ll visit StarDance Editing and see if it would be a good fit. I look forward to working with you!

Sabbatical

For a few years now, I’ve been stifled creatively. I’ve tried all sorts of ways to overcome it–perseverance with writing in hopes of pushing through the creative block; pursuing other creative outlets like knitting; getting more exercise; writing just for fun instead of publication; writing longhand with a fountain pen and a nice notebook instead of typing on the computer, etc.

Nothing has really helped.

Even the two books I published during this time–Glamours and Gunshots in the Whitney & Davies series, and Candles in the Dark as the start of a mystery novella series–felt forced, causing more stress than joy in the process of creating them (I had more fun researching Candles than writing it, which really isn’t how it’s supposed to go).

Moving to England was supposed to be a creative re-awakening for me. When we visited two years ago in March, I felt more alive than I had in ages. I was sure coming here to live would have the same effect, only more so. I was sure I would find my creative flow again.

I haven’t.

Since arriving, I have toyed with the idea of taking a month-long break from writing. Maybe longer, maybe six months. Maybe a year? But then I would have the idea for another story, and I would think that maybe I just had been tired. I would start to write the story … and everything would collapse on itself again, like an overdone soufflé. The story that had seemed so vibrant in my head would get stuck somewhere between my imagination and my fingers, and only something lifeless would appear on paper (or computer screen).

So last week, I made up my mind, and realized that I need to state it publicly or else I’ll be tempted to go back on it at some point. Accountability is important!

2019 is my sabbatical year for writing. I’ll still be doing my weekly journal posts and monthly flash fictions for Patreon–and at some point I will write a short story for the higher-level patrons–but aside from that, I am Not Writing. Maia and Len, Pauline, all the other stories I’ve been working on behind the scenes … they will wait until 2020.

It’s a little scary to think about. It’s also exciting. Taking a break from writing gives me a chance to pursue other interests for a change. I can study some of the subjects that fascinate me but I never have time for. I can finally finish all the knitting projects I have in the works! I can devote a proper amount of time to learning French (and Italian, in preparation for when we get around to visiting Rome). I can work on figuring out whether I’m a soprano still or if my voice really has changed to alto, and if the latter, how to sing harmony.

More importantly, I can stop feeling so torn between responsibilities and calling, and can try living a more whole life.

I will post occasional updates here throughout the year to keep you all informed as to how it’s going. Wish me–not luck, but a good journey!

Home is where you find it

A few years ago, as I was struggling to find my footing for the sequel to Magic Most Deadly, I was struck instead with inspiration for a science fiction novella, a tribute to Star Wars, Star Trek, and other hope-filled space operas. It demanded I put aside everything else and write it–so I did.

(That version of MMD’s sequel was terrible, anyway.)

Somehow or other in the writing of it, the story turned into so much more than this light-hearted tribute I had originally intended it to be. A theme of found family, of home, of finding the place where you belong, wound its way through. It became a letter of solidarity with all the other people in this world who feel stuck in the shadows of life and have a hard time feeling they belong in the light.

When I finished the novella (the song in the final act was written late at night, after I was supposed to be sleeping, because it came to me complete with tune and I was afraid that if I waited until morning I would lose it–which proved to be a good call, as I re-read the song the next day and said, “Wait, I wrote this?”) and sent it to my beta readers, they one and all sent it back saying it needed to be longer; it needed to be a novel.

Nah, I said. The story did what I wanted it to do. It was just a fun side-project. Now I needed to get back to my real work, that darn sequel.

But the story wouldn’t let go of me, and finally I broke down and expanded it. Filled out the side characters a bit more, developed the plot more deeply, made the protagonist’s journey a bit more winding, less jumping from Point A to Point Z without anything between. As usual, my beta readers were right. This was what the story needed.

This was the second book I self-published, and I made a lot of technical mistakes with it. The font was too small, the margins off, etc. So a couple years after publishing it, I went back to it. I loved this story, and I believed it deserved a better package. I went through and did a basic copy-edit, cleaning it up a bit without changing anything significant. I altered the font on the cover and made the back copy a bit cleaner. And I fixed the font and margin size and other issues in the physical copy. I added a brand-new short story at the end as a bonus, since the novel itself is on the shorter side of the spectrum.

From the Shadows is still my least popular published book. Yet those who have read it and reviewed it love it just as deeply as I do. My friend Laura still nudges me every so often asking when I’m going to write a sequel (I keep trying, but so far all the plots are too dumb or contrived. If it’s meant to happen, eventually something will come to me). My dream for it is that eventually it finds its own family, that the people for whom it will mean the most will discover it and take hope and encouragement from it.

To that end, I occasionally do things like write this blog post, reminding people that I did, once, write a story that was not a detective and/or fantasy tale, and that if space opera, character-driven stories, found families, and found homes, sound like something you would enjoy …

Here it is. Available on Amazon and Smashwords, as well as Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iBooks.

As a favor, to those of you who have read and have not yet left a review anywhere, would you mind doing so, either on one of the above sites or on Goodreads? They really do go a long way toward helping others who might also enjoy the book discover it. Those of you who have already done so: thank you! The more we all spread the word, the more we help this story, and these characters, find its, and their, home. After all, as one of the major themes of the story and the title of this post says …

Home is where you find it.

Ring out the old, Ring in the new

I was planning to write a years-end wrap-up post for 2018, but realized that almost all I could remember about the year was the move at the end of September, and everything past that. A three-month wrap-up isn’t what anyone asked for!

It was a much fuller year than that, though, at least according to my photo album.

Between January and September, we: met one of my internet friends in real life, after trying to make it happen for years; went skating on Frog Pond (and our local rink) as a family; went to a book signing by Susan Cooper; visited the beach a final time (or two); went to the aquarium where Joy and Grace got kissed by a fur seal; had my parents out for a visit; celebrated Joy finishing up all the Basic levels for figure skating; visited the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston; moved away from Hamilton after 5 years; celebrated 14 years of marriage with Carl and I having a weekend getaway to VT; planted a tree for Carl’s mom; spent a week in Acadia National Park.

Not included in the photo collage would be the numerous family reunions, the many trips to the bird sanctuary, the bike rides, the power outages, the swimming, the schooling …

I guess, thinking it over, it was a pretty full year after all, even before the move.

We are now in the second day of 2019. What this year holds, I don’t know. I wouldn’t mind if it were a little less eventful than 2018! But whatever comes, I know we’ll meet it as a family, with determination and with laughter, and we’ll move forward together.

(Oh yeah, I also published a volume of short stories and a novel in 2018. I guess you might consider that kind of a big deal!)

I am not making specific goals, or even choosing a specific word for this year: rather, I am open to whatever comes. Let’s see what 2019 has to offer!