Miscellany

Summer is winding down, despite the still-soaring temperatures. School is back in session, for those following a traditional schedule. Trees are starting to show glimpses of color. One or two nights lately have been startlingly cold. Pumpkin spice is back on the shelves of stores and coffee shops. Apples have replaced berries as the most common fruit seen at the farmers market. Glamours and Gunshots has been published.

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And, one of the most personally significant signs of autumn for our family this year, our visas have been approved for the next three years in the UK.

First we were counting down months until the move. Now it is weeks. Before too long it will be days. “Just think,” I told Carl this morning as we poured our tea, “less than four weeks before we will be drinking tea in our flat in Cambridge.”

It’s becoming an ever-more vivid reality, but honestly, it’s still hard to fully believe. I suspect it will remain so even for a little bit after we arrive, until our new routine has fallen into place and we’ve started to make friends.

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Publication weekend has come and gone for Glamours and Gunshots, and I want to thank all of you who purchased the book, shared posts about it on social media, and otherwise joined in my joy over it. This is my third novel, my fifth book, and it can be easy to get blasé about the process, or to feel that people must be sick of me always talking about my books. Other people’s delight in the story is helpful to remind me that yes, this is a fantastic accomplishment and it’s ok to get excited and be proud of it! I always feel such joy in the writing of the story, and a sense of wonder whenever I complete a book, and I don’t want to lose that joy and wonder in the work of publishing it. So thank you, my friends, for helping to keep me excited and joyful.

(And also, as always, reviews are a lovely way to keep the momentum going on a book and bring other readers into our family of fans–it is sad but true that books with few reviews don’t show up as much in searches, and many readers won’t touch a book with little or no reviews. So if we want others to become part of the fun of the world of Whitney & Davies, reviews are needed!)

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As I have wrapped up Glamours and Gunshots, I have been turning my writing attention back to the world of Pauline Gray, the heroine of my historical mystery novella series set in my hometown of Canton, NY. Her second adventure takes place in Clayton, NY as well as Canton, and it’s been great fun researching life in the Thousand Islands during the 1930s for this story. I don’t have a publication date for this one yet, but it is coming along well and I am looking forward to sharing it with all of you. I also have basic plots for four more novellas after this one sketched out, so if you are a fan of Pauline, have no fear! There will be plenty more stories featuring her coming out in the next few years.

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The clock is telling me it is time to wrap up this jumble of a post and get to school with the kids. We aren’t in full-blown school mode yet, and won’t be until the move is complete and we are settled in our new home, but we do like to do a little bit each day to keep our brains fresh.

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Have a wonderful Wednesday, friends!

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April Showers Bring …

… May showers, apparently. I keep reminding myself of the awful drought last year and how much we needed rain (especially since we didn’t get much snow this winter), but oh, my spirit is longing for sunshine and warm temperatures! Not HOT, mind you, but mid-60s to 70s would be lovely.

April was notable mostly because I did Camp NaNoWriMo again, and accomplished my 30,000 words with a few days to spare! (actually it was 35,000, but I only officially signed up for 30,000) That’s about half of a draft. Not to give too much away, but this is the first draft of the next Whitney & Davies book, and it’s set in Cambridge. I’m hoping to finish the first draft in May and June, in time to finish the edits on the current W&D book and publish that this summer. Whew!

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I even cleaned off my writing desk and organized my miscellaneous bits of inspiration!

The kids finished Classical Conversations in April, which resulted in mixed feelings. They miss their classes and their friends, but it IS nice to have our Tuesdays back and to be able to focus on our own schoolwork that got pushed aside as the CC work got more demanding. Joy presented a research paper on Empress Wu during the closing ceremony, and both girls got up with their classes to demonstrate something they’d learned throughout the year. They had a great two years in CC, and now that chapter of our lives is closed. We’ve been told there’s a fantastic homeschool community in Cambridge, but no CC. Which is ok, because new experiences are good, too. I don’t like to cling too closely to the past.

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Empress Wu, ready to read her paper!

Carl moves ever closer to graduation; he finished his final translations for his Biblical Languages degree a day or so before I finished my 35,000 words for Camp NaNo (we were having a wee bit of a competition), and all he has left for his New Testament degree is his thesis, which he will be completing through the rest of the spring and early summer. Graduation is a week from Saturday!IMG_2197

Our community ladies Bible Study wrapped up in April as well. This was my first and only year as one of the leaders. This semester we looked at the book of Philippians, and it was such a good study, prompting all kinds of discussion and thought. I’ve been part of the study on and off for the last four years; it’s going to seem odd this fall to not have it as part of my life! (But I’m looking forward to getting involved with other studies–see above about not clinging too closely to the past)

We have gotten some sunny days, and have been able to spend some time outside enjoying spring. Each day is one day closer to the end of our time here. It’s exciting and at the same time a little panic-inducing (mostly for me, as I think of all that has to be accomplished in order for us to move to England). With graduation next week, I think we’ll really be able to call this chapter of our lives closed.

In the meantime, I’m off on a date with my husband while the kids bake an apple pie with one of our neighbors! This, I’m most definitely going to miss.

Two Weeks In

We are (almost) halfway through January! How is the month looking for everyone else?

Here, we’ve had:

Rearranged our living room and can’t figure out why we waited 3.5 years to set it up like this.

Trip to Grandma’s house to finish off our holiday traveling/festivities.

We had snow this past weekend, enough for sledding, and by Wednesday it had all vanished. No one in this household is particularly pleased about this. I want to use my cross-country skis; the kids want to play in the snow; Carl, believe it or not, wants to shovel. Plus we all just prefer winter to be winter. Hmph.

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but the sledding was fun while it lasted. as was throwing snowballs at daddy.

Kids are enthusiastically participating in the Read-Aloud Revival 31 Days Challenge–they have only missed a few days of reading out loud for at least 15 minutes. Gracie, at least, usually goes longer. Joy is more these-are-the-rules-so-we-should-follow-them and so even if she’s at a really good place, she stops as soon as the timer beeps. It’s great for Gracie in building her confidence (she’s a fantastic reader but thinks she can only handle easy books) and for Joy in forcing her to slow down and process what she’s reading (she reads SO FAST that I’m certain she only takes in about 80% maximum of whatever she reads).

I finally passed the halfway point on my current draft of Magic in Disguise, the next Maia and Len book. Technically this is the first book in the Whitney & Davies series, as this is the one that really starts them off on their detecting careers together, but it is the second book about them–Magic Most Deadly, I’ve decided, really works best as a prequel when compared to how I want the rest of the series to go. Is that over-complicated? Sorry. At any rate, every step of the way with this book has been a slog, but the fog is starting to lift. I had it ready to send to my critique partner (which is when I consider a story done the same way a cake is done–all the editing and polishing I do after that is icing and decorating, but the heart of it is finished) last May, and ever since she sent it back to me I’ve been crawling on it. But I’m getting there, and it’s going to be ready for beta-ing by the end of the month, barring any unforeseen accidents like spraining an ankle or some such nonsense (rap wood).

We got back to Classical Conversations (the kids’ homeschool co-op) and back to school in general. We aren’t quite where I’d like to be yet–our morning time keeps getting started late, so we haven’t been able to work in our Shakespeare memorization this semester yet, and schoolwork keeps spilling into our free time in the afternoons–but we’re getting there. It’s always tricky settling back into our routine after winter break.

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working on their nature journals. sunny but windy today!

I am taking a break from refined sugar and wheat for January, in an attempt to break my body of its dependency on both. I know from experience that a little is fine, a lot wrecks me, and thanks to the holidays, I’ve been having a LOT of both. I’ve also started exercising again, something that slid away when I sprained my ankle last May (see above) and never got picked back up. So far, I’m grumpy and sad because of the diet change, but the exercising is going well.

I’ve managed to catalog each of the books I’ve read so far this month in a book journal. Whether that means I’m reading more mindfully is still up in the air.

Getting prepared for the Bible Study I’m co-leading this semester for the women in our apartment building. We’re going to be going through Philippians this semester, which should be great. I’ve discovered somewhat to my surprise that I really enjoy teaching and leading a study, and thanks to Carl, I have commentaries a-plenty at my fingertips. And I can always ask him if there’s any particularly tricky translation issues!

The only other really interesting thing that’s happened this month is that Carl finally convinced me to give Duolingo a try, and I’m diving back into French. Parts of the app really frustrate me (like when you fail a lesson because they expect you to know something they haven’t yet taught you), but overall it’s been fun. I thoroughly enjoyed taking French back in college and have always wanted to get back to it, and so now I am! I’m already wondering what language I should tackle next after this, Russian or Welsh. I desperately wanted to learn both of them in high school, and now I have a chance!

Oh, and I also got to do an impromptu mini-presentation at CC this week–all the kids have to give an oral presentation each week, and this week they got to pick a topic out of a hat. One of the drawn topics was “why are books so important,” and the tutor laughed and asked me if I wanted to take that one, so I said sure. It wasn’t anywhere near as dramatic as my library presentation last March, but it was a lot of fun and made me think how much I’d love to give a proper, adapted version of my “why stories matter” speech at a school or children’s library sometime. Add that one to my dream list!

And that is my mid-January report. Nothing tremendously spectacular, but I don’t want to look back in December and not remember anything about this month, so I’m writing it down even if it seems simple and small. It’s the little moments that add up to a life anyway.

Just An Ordinary Monday

Today as part of school, I’m having the kids draw fantasy maps. I want them to include five things: a sea, mountains, a forest, a river, and roads. Other than that, it’s completely up to them. I showed them some examples and left them to it, only stipulating that they sit at their desks so they can’t see each other and and be influenced by what the other is doing.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about making up stories to go along with their fantasy maps. Putting people there, dragons, mermaids, anything they want, and then figuring out how they all get along and how the world functions together.

Economics, cartography, geography, art, writing, social … and they’re having a blast with it.

Some days I really, really love homeschooling.

Switching Mental Gears

I have been working exclusively on Rivers Wide (my 1930s Thousand Islands novel) for quite a while now, trying to get it to the point where I can start serializing it (I have to at least have it in a coherent draft form, and then I can edit/polish each installment as I go). So it took a wrench today to set it aside and immerse myself back in From the Shadows just for a day. My editor’s schedule has cleared, and she is ready for me to send it to her for line edits, and I had just a few issues I wanted to fix before mailing it off to her.

A wrench, yes, but exciting. Because – line edits! That’s a big step closer to publication. And as much as my head is full of Julie (of Rivers Wide) and her cousins and siblings, and their world of dairy farms along the St. Lawrence River in 1935, it was fun to revisit Riss and the crew of Caledonia and polish them up to meet my editor.

September was an exhausting month, with school starting back up (for Carl, for the kids, and our brand-new Classical Conversations homeschool group), the kids’ extra-curricular activities starting, Carl and I going through church membership classes, weekly Bible Studies, and a lovely whirlwind visit from family in the midst of it all. Not much time for writing at all, frankly.

But I knew that was going to happen, which is why I pushed so hard to get so many first drafts done this summer. Because, for me, second drafts/editing/polishing/et cetera, require much less intensive effort than the initial story creation. So I can pick a story up and do a little at a time without it taking me an hour just to get back into my characters’ heads and figure out where the plot is going. It’s still slow going, but it is progress.

And seeing that progress advance another entire step for From the Shadows is tremendously exciting, and I really can’t wait to hear what my editor has to say about it! Only another couple months before publication, guys!

January Snippets

Joy is learning about atoms and molecules in science right now, and hardly a day passes when Carl and I don’t look at each other and say, “Huh. I didn’t know that.” Homeschooling can be pretty awesome, folks.

Gracie is finally starting to get the hang of sounding words out properly instead of looking at them as a collection of random letters and wildly guessing at how they’re supposed to go together. Which is also pretty awesome. I suspect, when she finally “gets” it down pat, she will be a reader exceeding even her sister. She loves stories, this girl.

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I printed out From the Shadows a couple days ago to begin proper edits on it – all 161 pages. Granted, it’s still sitting on my bedside table, waiting for me to begin, but it’s nice having it there, at least. Makes me feel a little more like a proper author.

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Carl’s classes begin on Monday. This semester is going to be a bit tougher than the last – isn’t that the way of all spring semesters? – but he’s looking forward to it, and I am as well. To be perfectly honest, I’m just eager to get through this semester. Because then we’ll be halfway through, and that is tremendously exciting.

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I had suggested, back when we started reading through the Chronicles of Narnia, stopping after Voyage of the Dawn Treader (quick note: we read in published order, not chronological order, because both of us feel like you lose half the wonder of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe upon first read if you’ve already read The Magician’s Nephew, and once you start in published order, you might as well continue). I remembered The Silver Chair, The Magician’s Nephew, and The Last Battle all being slightly dark/heavy/creepy in places. It might not be a problem for Joy, but Gracie tends to have problems with nightmares as is, and she is, after all, only five.

Carl was not convinced, and by the time they’d made it through Prince Caspian all three were gung-ho to go through the entire series all at once. I subsided. They are now almost finished with The Silver Chair, and Carl has decided that after The Horse and His Boy, they will wait a few months to a year to finish the series.

I only said “I told you so” once, which I think shows great restrain on my part.

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I am not doing so great on my goal of reading one non-fiction book a month, but I have started reading a commentary on 1 Peter, which even if it takes me six months to finish will be well worth six shorter books. I also have the first collection of Dorothy L Sayers’ letters now sitting on my shelf, and I can’t wait to start perusing those (my parents gave me an Amazon gift card for Christmas, and that was top of my list to buy with it). The last few days, though, I confess to re-reading Tey, Marsh, and Christie. My brain’s been too worn out from school with the kids to tackle anything new, even light fiction. I’m starting to get annoyed with all the detectives, though – Grant, Alleyn, and Poirot alike – so it might be time to give them a break.

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I have been getting in a good-ish walk once a week the last couple weeks, thanks to Joy’s violin lessons. We walk the 1/4 mile to her teacher’s apartment and then back, going at a good brisk clip. It’s lovely, and it’s encouraging me to try to get out more than just once a week for a walk. The tricky thing is finding the time, between school and housework and cooking and writing and simply needing to make sure the children don’t take a hundred years to do their basic chores. Ah well. I’ll get it figured out at some point. I’m just thankful for being forced to walk at least once a week. It’s so much better than nothing.

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Also better than nothing is blogging little snippets here and there. If I go too long on here without writing anything, I start to get lonely. Even if the majority of my social media interactions are done on Twitter these days.

Happy approaching-the-end-of-January, friends!

Speaking of exploring Narnia ...

Speaking of exploring Narnia …

Slow But Steady

Writing productivity has slowed to a trickle these days. We started school back up on Monday (the girls and I – Carl’s semester doesn’t begin until the end of the month), and between that and rearranging the bedrooms and organizing the arts and crafts supplies and being neighborly and recovering from holidays and travel, and just being so tired (I actually dozed off yesterday afternoon for a little while, which never ever happens), it’s awfully hard to get anything done.

The nice thing about where I’m at right now is that I don’t feel guilty about it. Sure, I’d like to be writing every single day. I’d also like to be awake enough to take care of my clothes each night instead of letting them accumulate beside my bed, but so far that isn’t happening either.

I’ve learned – am still learning – to go with the rhythms of life. Some times I am going to be able to focus on one thing, sometimes on another. Right now, my main focus is on school and keeping the apartment basically livable. Since I have company coming over for tea next week, I imagine pretty soon I’ll have to spend some time focusing on cleaning. Eventually, school will find its own groove again, and I won’t be as tired from all our travels, and I’ll be able to think about writing again.

My stories aren’t going to perish if I don’t tend them every day. My writing abilities aren’t going to vanish if I take a week or so where I only write a few words here and there. I know this is contrary to what most professional writers say – that you must write every day, even if it’s only for fifteen minutes. I’m sure there will come a time in my life where that kind of self-discipline is absolutely applicable. Right now, it’s more important to me as a person, not necessarily as a writer, to show myself grace.

It’s also more important for me to be a good teacher to my kids, since I have taken up that responsibility. It’s more important for me to be a present and engaged mom and wife. It’s important to be a good neighbor and friend. Writing is important, and it is vital to who I am, and I would not dream of just “not writing” for an entire season, but it doesn’t need to be first and foremost on my list of priorities right now. There will come a day when my children are grown and my life is more settled, and I will be able to bump the writing up on my list.

For now, I’m okay with simply making sure I don’t go too long without doing writing of some sort.