Tag Archives: reading

Comfort Foods and Calming Books by Sherrie Hansen

Here in northern Iowa and southern Minnesota, we’ve been snowed in by a blizzard for the last few days. For two days, we were completely cut off from the rest of the world by 6 and 7 foot high drifts up and down our road. Now that the plows have come through, there are walls of snow 8 or 9 feet high on either side of the road, and the drifts that haven’t been already been blasted away are as hard as cement. Our temperatures heading into the month of March are forecast to be in the single digits, so there’s no sign of a spring thaw anytime soon.

Blizzard photo 2On Sunday, church was cancelled for the first time in decades, and I’ve been totally discombobulated ever since, wondering what day it is and awakening in the night thinking it’s time to get up and play the piano. Our schools have had 10 snow days in less than a month and at the rate we’re going, they may be making up days until the 4th of July.

Zion 2013 snowy

Not to complain… our electricity has stayed on and we have heat. We had plenty of warning that the storm was on its way so we were able to get where we needed to be before the weather turned the roads to glare ice and stock up on food to eat while we were snowed in.  Thank goodness!

Blizzard - 2019

Is it just me, or do you get hungry for good old-fashioned comfort foods when something in your life isn’t going quite right?  This weekend, I’ve had meatloaf, home-grown sausage, egg salad sandwiches, and raisin cinnamon bread with a lot of smooth, creamy butter spread on top – and a lot of wonderful cheeses because I was supposed to have a cheese tasting party (it also fell victim to the blizzard).

Cheese

I have a lot of other foods that I associate with warm, cozy feelings – chocolate chip cookie dough (well, any kind of cookie dough), Grandma Hansen’s chicken pie with baking powder biscuits on top, homemade apple pie, Skippy Super Chunk peanut butter and butter sandwiches… I could go on… This is part of the reason I struggle with my weight.  But my point is that food does a great job of  soothing frazzled emotions and making us happy. So do books, and they’re a lot less fattening!

Food - Strawberry Pie 2.jpg

Reading a favorite book can take you back to happier, less stressful times. Books can transport you to another part of the world, a different era in time, or an altogether unique universe where fantasy reigns. In a well-woven story, dreams can come true. The characters in a wonderful book can reassure you that things could be worse – that your life and your problems aren’t half bad after all. A good novel can help you to dream again, to move forward and keep trying when your own world seems hopeless.

Quilt - bear

Books can fill your heart with hope. They can uplift you and make you laugh. They can provide a quick escape from the harsh realities of life and renew your perspective.

Celtic Crosses

That’s why I like reading a good book when I’m stranded in a blizzard, trying to relax, or feeling anxious and overwhelmed by what’s going on in my life.

Wildflowers

My love for books helped shape my business, a bed and breakfast and country inn called the Blue Belle Inn, just as my passion for good food has. If you come to visit, you’ll find rooms named Never Neverland, On the Banks of Plum Creek, Secret Garden, Anne’s House of Dreams, A Wrinkle in Time, and Heaven to Betsy from Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy Tacy books. I’m a writer because Betsy Ray was, and if Laura Ingalls Wilder could make it through the Long Winter, then I can survive these horrible winds and snowstorms we keep having.

Scot - Chanonry Point

If you’re an avid reader, you know exactly what I mean. If you haven’t picked up a book in awhile – I urge you to give reading a second chance. Whether you need comforting or calming, perking up or settling down, a good book can help. Hopefully, it will bring a smile to your face and a song to your heart.  Cookie dough might give you a momentary lift, but reading can change your life.

heaventobetsy-179x269

Sherrie grew up on a farm south of Austin, MN. After living in Colorado Springs, CO, Augsburg, Germany, Wheaton, IL, and Bar Harbor, Maine, she returned home twenty-eight years ago to be nearer her family. Sherrie rescued a dilapidated Victorian house in St. Ansgar, Iowa from the bulldozer’s grips and turned it into a bed and breakfast and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn. After twelve years of writing romance novels, Sherrie met and married her real-life hero, Mark Decker, a pastor. They divide their time between 2 different houses, 85 miles apart, and Sherrie writes her novels and murder mysteries on the run whenever she has a spare minute. Sherrie enjoys playing the piano, photography, and traveling to far off places with her husband. Sherrie has eleven books in print, including her highly acclaimed Wildflowers of Scotland novels. Her new release, DAYBREAK, published by Indigo Sea Press, is the long-awaited sequel to her first novel, NIGHT & DAY, set in southern Minnesota and Copenhagen, Denmark. You can contact Sherrie at https://www.facebook.com/SherrieHansenAuthor/ or

https://sherriehansen.wordpress.com/ or

https://www.amazon.com/Sherrie-Hansen/e/B007YXQJ4W/


			

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Gratitude

Gratitude.

A simple word that carries so much power. As the launch date for Root draws closer, as I tick down my to-do list to get ready, I can’t help but think about how grateful I am to all the folks who made releasing Dormant memorable. Of course, there are the folks I expected to be grateful to – my parents, my sister, my husband, my critique group – but it’s the surprises that come to mind today. From the woman at work who sent out an email blast on the day my book was published to the high school classmate who invited me to speak to her middle school students. The support I gotten from my old school mates almost makes me miss high school (almost…OK, not really).

I remember the sweet ladies in my mother’s book club who read Dormant and discussed it with me via Skype. I’m grateful to my mother for buying a lot of copies and giving them to her friends. I appreciate all of the people who invited me to speak at their book clubs. It’s humbling to have serious conversations about ideas and characters I created. I’ve been awed and amused at some of the reader theories.

I think of the people who griped at me for killing off Hugh. As one reader pointed out, “he’s the only one with any sense.” Any author will understand the feeling of glee when a reader is upset over a character’s death. Means we made an impact.
And to the people who kindly listen to me natter on about my writing process, my latest book, and my experiences, I’m grateful to you for listening!

And there are the people who live far away from me but still wanted signed copies and were willing to pay a little more one. The bookstores who host readings and are so kind to nervous authors. And I will never forget those of you who come to my readings!

Self-promotion is very difficult for me. I constantly doubt the worthiness of my stories, I hesitate to add my voice to the clamor of promotion requests, even though I know it’s an important part of the process. So when I do, I’m very grateful for the support I receive from the likes, retweets, shares, and comments.

I don’t write my stories so you’ll like me but I would be lying if I didn’t admit to feeling a rush when someone tells me they enjoyed Dormant. Writing is a combination of transcendent and nonsensical moments. Sometimes I love what I wrote enough so I don’t think I need feedback from readers. Then someone tells me how much they loved Dormant or how much their daughter or son loved it and I realize that, yes, I do need to hear what you think.

Gratitude is humbling. Gratitude reminds me that people are generally good. Gratitude reminds me to say thank you. To my now and future readers.

LeeAnn Elwood McLennan twitter photoLeeAnn Elwood McLennan is the author of Dormant, book 1 in the Dormant Trilogy (www.indigoseapress.com, Amazon and Barnes and Noble). Root, Book 2 in the trilogy will be released soon so you should pick up a copy of Dormant today to get to know Olivia Woodson Brighthall and her family.

 

Follow LeeAnn on Twitter and Instagram @atticusmcl and on Facebook at LEMWrites.

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Overwhelmed by Time and Expectations by L.V. Gaudet

There is nothing easier in life than slipping into a rut.  Believe me; I know that all too well.  I’ve been in that dimly lit abyss too many times to forget that lesson.

Your days melt into each other like suckers left on the table in the summer, bright colors oozing and solidifying into a dull brown congealed mess.  Doing nothing is just so much easier than doing anything else.

It’s just too easy to slip into the monotony of letting your days lead you, going with the flow on autopilot. You forget about you.

That will never be truer than it becomes as you go through life, getting older, and have more and more responsibilities heaped on you.

One day you realize that the only time you have for you is the commute to work. Far from relaxing and impossible to do the things you would like to be doing.

At this point, it becomes crucial to shake off that old creativity hat, whack the dust off it, and remold it to fit.

 

If you are a reader, you need to find ways to read. Yeah, a no brainer, right? Easier said than done sometimes.  I had a hard time giving up the printed book.  Electronics just aren’t the same.  But, what they are is convenient.  I can fit, literally, hundreds of books on my phone.  Wow.  Kobo and Kindle both have free apps you can download on most smart phones, tablets, you name it, and turn your device into a portable eReader without the cost of buying another device just for books.

With eBooks, I can take five minutes to read anywhere and anytime. It’s come down to that, grabbing five minutes to read, write, or edit when and where I can.  Schmooze, share, follow, and keep up on book news find their niche where they can.

I especially like the white print on black background available with eBooks. I can read in the car while my spouse drives (coming out of winter, it’s been mostly dark the past months), and in bed, without a bright reading light.  I’ll let you in on a little secret. That’s pretty much the only time I get for reading now.  And at bedtime, I’m usually so beat that I can’t make it through a page without falling asleep.

That’s the other benefit.  When I wake up and fumble for my book that fell on the floor when I rolled over after falling asleep, your eBook saves your page.  No flipping through pages and spending your entire small block of reading time trying to find your spot, sometimes finding it just as your time runs out.

There is also no shortage of free books, both in print and eBook, if you know where to look. Discounted books too.

The one difference is that there is such a glut of eBooks on the market between the publishing houses, small presses, and self-published books, that authors themselves are giving their books away in hopes of getting reviews and followers.

This is my own observation, but eBooks and print books do have one big thing in common: I’ve probably read about the same number of bad books in both.  Being put out by a large press does not mean a book is good, and being self-published does not mean it isn’t.

 

If you want to be a writer, you have to write.  You have to write, write, and write some more.  You have to edit that ten times and more, and then go back and edit again. You have to read and explore books and the book culture.

If you haven’t written in a few years because life got away with you, that’s okay.  It doesn’t mean you have to give up.

And when you find, like me, that life has filled you up and you are so overwhelmed by time and expectations that you don’t have time for writing, then you have to find more creative ways to catch those rare moments to breathe and write and edit.

Grab those five minutes when you can. Get creative. Get inventive. Learn to write and edit under stress, duress, and with a lot of interruptions and distractions around if you have to.

When you don’t have the time to write blog posts, but you still need to keep your blog alive and active, share that interesting article you happened on.  Share industry news; something that you can click and share in a few heartbeats. Done.

Take those ten minutes in line to flip through emails and keep up on what’s going on, or to keep in touch and do a little schmoozing with the writing community.

where the bodies are

 

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What is Indispensable?

There was a time (and maybe even still today) when well-meaning facilitators would ask a group to imagine themselves in a life boat, now required to throw some somebodys overboard to save the rest. The game was supposed to be an exercise in applied ethics, the outcome of which was apparently to teach that ethics are relative, though to what end I don’t know. I played a few times, but never heard the facilitators say exactly what the point was. Maybe they didn’t know. I, on the other hand, never saw it as anything but a way to reveal our prejudices: babies are more valuable than old folks, sick whites are less disposable than healthy blacks, uniformed cops chaff compared to movie stars. Once those hard choices were made, the facilitators would declare even more people had to go, until you were left just trying to save the passengers most like yourselves.

Faulkner said it: “…that point where man looks about at his companions in disaster and thinks When will I stop trying to save them and save only myself?”

Ouch.

Luckily, we will never find ourselves in such a situation. It’s not even fun to think about. But here’s one I do think about a lot, even though it also will never happen: if I were banished to a desert island and could take only five books, what would they be?

It’s so unreasonable. How about five novels, five poetry collections, and five books of plays? That would be easier.
Not for everybody, of course. I can already hear the calls for books of history and biography and criticism. Criticism? Somebody wants to take Surprised by Sin? Sure, okay. But I know how the game works. I pick my five novels, etc. and then I’m asked to sacrifice a number of them. My list will be reduced to just five books eventually. So why not start there?

I think I began this game when I got my first copy of Gravity’s Rainbow. I found it on the giveaway rack in the U.S. Army library on Coleman Kaserne in Mannheim, Germany. It was that gold-colored Bantam paperback. On the first page of reviews, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, writing about it in The New York Times, declares, “If I were banished to the moon tomorrow and could take only five books along, this would have to be one of them.”

I’m afraid I’m going to have to agree. Gravity’s Rainbow is definitely the desert island book of books. I’ve read it four times. One time through, I read every entry in the Weisenburger Companion as I went. I don’t think I’ve yet exhausted my enjoyment of that book. It makes the list.

So what else?

Well, Absalom, Absalom. I love Faulkner. I’m trying to think of a book of his I don’t love (Soldier’s Pay?). Once I read Sartoris and Flags in the Dust simultaneously to see what his editors thought needed excising. What kind of a nut does that? There are no words for my love of Light in August. But Absalom is something else. I think it encompasses everything wonderful about Faulkner: the voice, God, the voice. The shifting points of view and loci of truth, refusing to privilege one version over the others. The South, the war, the cultural collapse. The omnipresence of the past. Yes, Absalom is coming along too.

I’m taking Yeats. Volume One of the Collected Works: The Poems. I can’t defend this choice. Love means never having to say you’re sorry.

I’m taking the Harrison edition of the Shakespeare Complete Works. That counts, right? It’s just one book.

And, what? Fifth book. What’s it going to be?

The Dream Songs? The Maximus Poems? It needs to be a hefty one. Forever is a long time on a desert island. The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor? How can I not take that? Blood Meridian? Maybe an anthology? Poulin’s Contemporary American Poetry? That’s a really good book. Could I rubberband together Updike’s Bech: A Book and Bech is Back? They really do tell just one story over the course of two books. Can’t that count as one? Please.

I don’t know. I’ll have to think about it some more. If time runs out, I’ll take Light in August. Can’t go wrong with that.

And when my internal facilitator says, Okay, now. You can take only one book? What then?

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Why not Fantasy by John E. Stack

You know, sometimes you just have to have an escape. Life gets tough, people get rude and jobs get overbearing, so you just need to get away. But, either you can’t take the time or you just plain can’t afford it.

I’ve traveled to many places. I’ve visited almost all of the US and several locations abroad and they all have one thing in common – the hustle and bustle of everyday life. You have to go here or be there and you have to wait to see the next big attraction. You have to go through security where if they don’t search you, they still have to search your baggage. It is really difficult to enjoy yourself when you have to meet a time schedule. And, the cost, no matter what you do it is expensive.

We once visited London, England. The flight was long and expensive. The hotel was beautiful but outrageous. A good formulated, name brand coffee was the same price as it was here in the US, but when you took in account the exchange rate you were paying almost $8 a cup (the novelty wore off rather quickly). And, the crowds were unbelievable. All of that for a little rest and relaxation.

Where I most enjoy going when I really get stressed is a good book. I have traveled to many places, lands, and planets. I have seen sights that no one else could imagine. Sometimes beasts talk and often they are smarter than we are. Many times there is magic, or elves, or things you can barely comprehend.

I read a few different genres of books. I read the Bible often and especially when I need to be lifted up, and there are many good Christian authors that I enjoy for spiritual enlightenment. I’ve tried the true stories about someone’s life, but I live real life and sometimes it is not exciting, not humorous and not inspirational.

I’m also retired military. I do not like stories about war or battles or how flawed our military is. These too are about real life. I’ve been there and trained for that. No matter how you paint the picture these are not about victory, they are about death. Again, not fun, not relaxing, not exciting.

Once in a while I will pick up a mystery just to get my brain thinking again. Still not my favorite read.

I love to take a stroll through a forest and end up in a different world where the laws of the mundane are totally rewritten. I enjoy reading about and meeting beings other than men, where lives are lived differently, a lot simpler and maybe, just maybe a touch of magic. To see the ground riding on the back of a fire breathing dragon or race a horse across a grassy plane, how exciting is that?

I also like to write fantasy. I enjoy creating worlds where people have adventures or maybe a little child saves the day. I like worlds where people can change to animals, where they have their own special language, and where my imagination can run free, if only for a little while.

Many people I know will not read fantasy. They consider it silly fabrications and will only read stories about real people or historical novels. That is okay, but just not for me.

Cornelia Funke wrote several years ago that every book is a window to another world. Think of all the windows there are out there to look through. And, you never know what or who you may find

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo, and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.

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Books, books, and more books!

For several years now, I have been attending the Bookmarks book festival during the month of September.  This event is held annually on the streets of downtown Winston Salem.  There are numerous activities, speakers, food trucks, and of course, books! 

My first year attending, I wandered the streets simply looking for books to purchase.  I found one I liked and had the opportunity to meet the author, who signed the book I purchased.  Since that time, we have become quite friendly and she has offered me her guidance as I entered the publishing arena.

The second year I attended, I somehow managed to score a seat just inside the covered area that Diana Gabaldon, one of my favorite author’s, was going to be speaking.  Although I had my two children with me and they fidgeted the entire time she spoke, I was glued to my seat as she read from her book that had not yet been released.  After she finished, I ran to the book signing arena and waited in line for her to sign my very own copy of one of her books. 

Having been to this event on several occasions, you can only imagine my delight when I was asked to attend this event, not only as a member of the reading public, but as an author myself!  The day my first book was released coincided with the book festival.  I arrived early and met my publisher and then was handed a brand new copy of my newly released novel.  I spent the remainder of the day at the event greeting anyone I knew and encouraging them to purchase my novel. 

This is now my third year attending this event as an author and I continue to be excited beyond belief.  Each year I run into someone who I haven’t seen in some time and may not know that I have had two novels published and I, once again, feel the thrill of telling someone that yes, I am a published author. 

I am currently working on my third novel and hope to have it completed in the next few months.  But I will be taking today off to attend the Bookmarks book festival as an author and an avid reader.  So if you’re in the Winston Salem or nearby area, drive, walk or bike to the downtown area and purchase some books!  And while you’re at it, stop by the Second Wind Publishing tent and say “Hi!”

And did I mention the event is free? 

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10 Things I Didn’t Learn from Strangers by Sherrie Hansen

There’s an old expression in our family – you didn’t learn that from strangers – that I’ve heard said many times over the course of my life.  Some people say, well, that nut didn’t fall far from the tree. Same idea. When I was 9 or 10, I thought I was so different from the rest of my family that I must surely be adopted. Now that I’m a bit older, I can see how closely certain personality traits passed down through generations of Hansens, Lightlys, Paulsons, and Millers are intertwined, and how much they’ve affected who I am and how I live my life.

Danish Girl

My family history and the tales of my growing up years may not be as story-worthy as Laura Ingalls Wilder’s, but our Little House on the Big Farm was bursting with colorful characters that have and continue to impact my life in ways I’m both oblivious to and very aware – the perfect storm of nature and nurture. I feel a great sense of connectedness to prior generations of my family, especially since moving back from Colorado Springs to northern Iowa / southern Minnesota where I grew up. Here are 10 things I didn’t learn from strangers. 

Food - Black Forest

1. Cooking Up a Storm:  I started out the week making a big batch of Grandma Hansen’s Chicken Pie with Grandma Victoria’s Baking Powder Biscuits dropped on top for a church gathering at the Blue Belle Inn. Later in the week, I found a family recipe for Scottish Ginger Snaps in a cookbook and made them at a cooking seminar. Grandma had labeled them “Grandma’s Ginger Snaps” which means it was my great-great grandma’s recipe. Whether it was Grandma Vic’s famous Sunday roast beef dinners and homemade apple pie, or whatever goodies Grandma Hansen happened to be cooking up for her family, neighbors, or the occasional thrashing crew, I was taught how to cook it up right. And make lots of it. Besides, it was either stay inside and cook, or go out and drive tractor, which I did not like to do.

baby-blue-cinderella

2. No Matter How Tired You Are, There’s Always Time for a Bedtime Story – or Two, or Three:  Sitting around during the day, reading, when you should be working, is frowned upon in our family 😉, but at bedtime, that all changes. My Grandma Hansen was one of the best storytellers I know, and her funny voices for the Little Red Hen, the Big Bad Wolf, and the Three Little Pigs still play themselves over and over in my mind. I follow the lessons learned even today, working hard at my bed and breakfast all summer and fall, making hay while the sun shines, and telling stories – writing novels – in the winter when things are slow.

Iowa - sunset 2010

3. Being Stubborn Has Its Perks:  Danes (I’m half Danish) are a stubborn lot. But along with sheer willfulness, which can be a bad thing, comes tenacity and dodged persistence and stick-to-itiveness and the very building blocks that have helped me achieve my goals, get published, run a successful business and more. Don’t be a quitter. Never give up. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again. Remember the Little Engine That Could saying I think I can, I think I can, over and over again until he could and did?Zion - Sunflower 2013 Sun

4. Keep Looking Up:  My Great-Grandma Paulson wrote these profound words in my autograph book when I was ten or eleven. I knew what she meant – keep your eyes on Jesus. It’s the first rule, and the thing that makes everything else come together.

Mopar

5. Mopars Rule:  Okay, so I strayed from the fold when I was young and foolish. We try to forget those years… the Toyota Corolla, the Mazda 323. Today, I’m back where I belong. I drive a PT Cruiser. My brother drives a Dodge Ram. My parents are on their third or fourth Chrysler mini-van. What can I say? We all tend to vote the same way on election day, too.

Scotland flowers by the sea

6. Getting Something for Nothing is One of the Greatest Joys on Earth:  Found treasures, whether they be bargains or cast-offs nobody wanted bought for a little bit of nothing at a Crazy Day sale, or simple gifts from the earth like agates or fossils or a pretty red maple leaf pressed flat in a book or a little cluster of acorns, are some of the best things in life. If you haven’t tried it, you should – still. The Hansen way to thrill-seek.

Scotland Fishing Shack

7. One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure:  I can’t walk like an Egyptian (good dancing genes do not run in our family), but I can talk like an auctioneer, or at least I could when I was little. My Grandpa Hansen took me to so many auctions that I picked up the lingo. More importantly, I learned about repurposing and adaptive reuse, and refinishing, and respect for the past – all things that hold me in good stead even today. I grew up snuggling under quilts made from worn out wool suits, watching Grandma working in aprons and wearing dresses made from flour and feed sacks. Water was used at least five times before it was thrown out on the garden to make the strawberry patch grow. And yes, I firmly believe that tin foil has three or four lives. And you should ask me some day about the things my Dad makes with discarded doors. Waste not, want not.

KY - staircase

8. Worrying Doesn’t Help, But We Do It Anyway:  There are several genes that I wish I had gotten from my family, but didn’t – the Fix-It Gene, and the Green Thumb Gene, for example. I did, however, get the Worry Wart Gene. I try not to succumb, but if you’ve got it, you’ve got it.

Food - Cookies Noah

9.  The Compulsion To Have 10 of Something When You Really Only Have 9:  This one was my husband’s idea. I think the word he’s looking for is perfectionism. He’s right. In my world, everything needs to be just so. Neat. Tidy. Even Numbers. It’s a disease.  But seriously, if you’re going to do something, why not do it right?

HansenFamily2

10.  The Family That Prays Together, Stays Together:  It was very important to my Grandma Hansen that we cousins got to play together. She facilitated countless family get-togethers and events where we were all together. Our family isn’t perfect – we have our share of black sheep, and family members who go their own way. But when we go to Mom and Dad’s for Thanksgiving and Christmas, it’s a joyous occasion, sharing not only food, but memories, and laughing about things we did when we were kids. The more nieces and nephews who show up, the better. I’m thankful that the glue that holds our family together is good and sticky. I think it’s called love, and I come by it naturally.

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Reading? Why not?

Henry E. Vallely did the cover art for this 19...

When I was growing up In Central Africa in the 30s and 40s reading was the only entertainment we had. Nobody even had a radio to listen to such things as Jack Armstrong, The All-American Boy. The government post must have had cable communication of some kind because Lt. Lebray brought my father a cable telling us my grandfather had died.

Radio 4We were the first to have a radio on our station. It was a short-wave radio, dark grey, almost black in color. It sat in the corner of the living room close to a window. The copper wire that acted as the antenna was almost invisible where it ran out through the bottom of the window.

Outside the window, it ran up the wall, across to the nearest porch pillar and then from pillar to pillar halfway around the house. I helped my father string that antenna and we tried several different ways until we thought we had the best reception.

Half an hour before the news came on we started the 12-volt generator located on the back porch. It was allowed to run for half an hour to charge up the batteries. At five minutes of four it was turned off so the loud putt putting of the two-cylinder engine would not interfere with hearing the radio. Continue reading

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Technology Addiction Continued….

I have always been a reader. I love books. Their smell, the way they feel, the sound they make when the binding is cracked for the first time. I love the feel of the coolness in my hands and the smooth surface of the cover.

Beside my bed, there is a stack of books that I have purchased at various stores with the intent of reading. Unfortunately, I tend to purchase more books than I am capable of reading. Thus, my to-be-read pile continues to grow despite the fact that I spend a great deal of time sitting on my couch reading. It has grown so much, in fact, that I now have a spare bedroom that I have furnished with bookcases along one wall. It is these bookcases that hold the books I am intent on reading but can’t find room for on the pile beside my bed.

It really is quite comical. I may find myself buried beneath a pile of trade paperbacks one morning and unable to get out of bed. Come to think of it, as long as I can open one of the books, that may not necessarily be a bad thing…

But I digress.

In one of my earlier blogs I confessed to my technology addiction and now I will confess to allowing technology to enter my one true love – books.

I now have an e-reader. But not just any e-reader. I have the Kindle paperwhite. This neat little gadget has a screen that mimics both the look and feel of an actual piece of paper. The technology that comes with this little gizmo enables one to read while they are anywhere…even in direct sunlight! If any of you are like me, much of your time is spent outside. And if you can read while enjoying a sunny afternoon, all the better. Perhaps you’re sitting on your porch or relaxing by the pool. In either of these situations, the sun is your enemy as you simply cannot see the words on your e-reader screen despite how much you squint or turn the device. You wind up with a headache from trying to read through a piercing glare.

I no longer have that problem.

Let me say that this particular path to yet another technological addication was a long one. I didn’t want the e-reader. I had no interest in a device that was so “portable,” which is what my mother told me when she purchased hers. I simply could not understand how this device was any more portable than, say, a paperback.

Still, I gave in and got the e-reader. Once it was in my possession however, I was hesitant to purchase books for it. Would I miss holding a book in my hand? Would I miss turning the pages and feeling their smooth, cool softness between my fingers? Would I be somehow disloyal to the stack of books I already had in my possession?

I began slowly by downloading anything that was free, whether it was a short story, a novella or a full-length novel. In this manner, I was much like the former smoker who never buys a pack, only borrows from friends. If you don’t have to pay for it, you’re not really cheating, right?

Of course, it is a slippery slope and from there, I began to search out older books from some of my favorite authors. I signed up for several email alerts that let me know which books were on sale or were free. Before long, I had pages and pages of books stored on my Kindle that were sitting there, just waiting for me to read them.

I now confess to having an equal amount of books on my shelves and on my Kindle.

And I’ll never be able to read them all.

Donna Small is the author of two novels, Just Between Friends and A Ripple In The Water. She lives in Clemmons, North Carolina where she is at work on her next novel.

http://www.secondwindpublishing.com/index.php?manufacturers_id=62&osCsid=ae4531f38449420009d200bed615aecb

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Our Mysterious Fascination with the Morbid by Sherrie Hansen

When I first began to write books, I remember saying that I would never write about murder and mayhem – that it just wasn’t in me to dwell on the grisly, gruesome details of such occurrences. These kinds of things were so foreign to my own life, that I couldn’t imagine the characters I concocted even remotely being in a situation where they’d encounter such experiences.  True to my intentions, the most traumatic things my characters in Night and Day, Stormy Weather, Water Lily, and Merry Go Round have to deal with are squabbling siblings, backstabbing friends, insensitive parents, nosy neighbors, troublesome children, minor medical problems, the rare encounter with a wild animal , the occasional disruptive weather emergency, and of course, broken hearts.  Not that lions and tigers and bears – oh, my – tornadoes, and bats in the house can’t  be unnerving, or that unplanned pregnancies, nasty exes, finding out your husband is gay or being betrayed by someone you trust  can’t be demoralizing, but you get my point. Nothing really bad or evil came close to touching my characters.  No one died. No one was hurt so badly that they couldn’t be fixed. Nothing unbearable happened.

With the release of Love Notes and Wild Rose, my readers saw a slight shift to a more suspenseful mode – bad guys that were truly bad, a kidnapping, gunshots, murder.  I’d crossed a line. I think that part of it was that my own reading tastes changed. Several of my favorite authors changed over from romance to suspense / thrillers and I went along for the ride. I read new authors, like Second Wind’s Christine Husom, who writes about comfortable, folksy Midwesterners like me who suddenly find themselves dealing with murdered parents and dismembered bodies in cornfields and cults in their backyards, and does it with dignity and aplomb.  Sadly, I think some of it is that the world has turned into such a crazy place that I can now clearly envision my characters having run-ins with evil, despite their best efforts to steer clear of it. As awful occurrences get more and more prevalent, it’s easier and easier for my imagination to “go there”.

Storm sun beams Sunset - 8-24 close

So what are your thoughts? How do you account for our fascination with the morbid? I hear over and over again from readers that they’re not “into” romance, but that they love to read gritty mysteries and thriller or suspense novels. If you’re one of my readers, are you glad I’m inching towards the unthinkable? (Not to worry – there are still plenty of sweet, romantic moments in my books for those of you with tender hearts. ) Any of you who have read all of my books probably also noticed a shift from steamy to not so much. When I made this switch, I expected accolades, and have instead heard from many who are disappointed that I stopped crossing that squiggly line.  It’s interesting to me that while some readers find my steamy scenes offensive, they seem to have no trouble with reading about violent, evil people and the situations that ensue because of their hatefulness. Personally, if I’m going to “clutter” my mind with one thing or another, I’d rather it be with something I think of as beautiful and natural rather than deeds and actions that are ugly and perverse.

What do you think? Have we opened a can of worms with our mysterious fascination with the morbid? Does the art of writing and reading about it quell our fears or feed them? Does it give you a sense of triumphing over evil, or give you pause for fear we are planting the seeds of further evil? Do you feel anxious and terrified after reading a book where horrible things happen to good people, or do you feel inspired by people who get life’s worst thrown at them and live to tell the story?

I always illustrate my blogs with appropriate photos, so here is the most dark, foreboding photo I could find with it’s cheery, upbeat counterpart. Which would you rather read about?

Photo80Scotland - sheep

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