When Listening Is The Answer

“More than any inheritance, more than any sacred item, more than any title, the legacy he left behind is this: as one that day in the sundance circle when he lifted me from the depths, he taught us that during our time on earth we ought to love one another, and that when our hearts are broken, we ought to work hard to make them whole again.

This is at the centre of sacred ceremonies practised by Indigenous people. This is what so many of us seek, no matter where we begin life.

This is the reason you walk.”

The Reason You Walk by Wab Kinew

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I’ve spent considerable mental energy the past couple of weeks trying to figure out how to deal with the fact that’s I’m white. That’s very strange thing for me to type out – I’m a white woman. When I think of all the words I would use to describe myself ‘white’ wouldn’t even hit the top ten. Quite possibly not the top twenty. I’m not sure it would occur to me at all.

I guess that’s a case in point for white privilege.

“an invisible package of unearned assets”   Peggy McIntosh

There has been considerable talk, especially in light of Black Lives Matter, asking others to listen to what needs to be said, no matter how hard it is to hear it. It reminds me of the time my son travelled to El Salvador in high school on what was essentially a mission trip. Not to build home or schools, but to spend time with the people of El Salvador in their homes to hear their stories of their country’s violent civil war and the impact it had on their lives.

Hard, harsh, cruel stories of death, loss, and violation from people who wanted their stories told and heard to than be retold and heard again by people who knew nothing of that kind of violence. Stories that were incredibly moving and very hard to read. That process also involved decompressing at the end of each day, because that kind of intense listening needs an outlet.

We cannot simply listen and listen and listen some more and at the end of the day be silent too.  But first we must hear what others have to say.

Or read what they have to say. Hence my book choice and reference to the quote above. I’ve wanted to read this book for a while now and finally picked it up as one of my summer reads. Then I thought maybe I’d wait for the fall to read it in favour of a more ‘beachy’ type read. The kind of books I write! Then people died. And more people died. And the call to action was listening to what people of colour have to say about systemic racism, inequality, and ignorance .

Reading The Reason You Walk by Wab Kinew is my response to that call to action. To read a book by a First Nations politician, broadcaster, musician and activist, who’s also an Honourary Witness for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. I will read his words.

Because we need to do more of what my son did in El Salvador right here at home. We need to listen, absorb the words, without prejudice. Without defence. Or defiance. The words of the people of this country who have stories of oppression, reconciliation and redemption to tell. Because we do better when we know better. But first we must listen. Read. Or both.

Summer Reading and A Chance To Win Prizes!

It’s a party! And a chance to win prizes!

TRR Sizzling Summer Reads Banner

The Romance Reviews Sizzling Summer Reads Party!

Check out the games for chances to win prizes like gift cards and book giveaways! The Grand Prize is a $100 Amazon gift card! Log in at The Romance Reviews to play along.

Exposed by Karyn Good

Kate Logan needs a safe haven, a place to start over after her modeling career disintegrates in scandal. But her hometown of Aspen Lake isn’t the sanctuary she hoped. Her vow of a low-key life is disrupted by a break-in and other strange happenings at her boutique. As the chair of Aspen Lake’s Gothic Revival Festival, she’s also drawn the ire of a religious fanatic. Kate is up to her stilettos in drama and intrigue including one sexy carpenter who’s determined to get in her way.

New to town, Seth Stone is seeking inspiration and solitude to concentrate on his art. Short on funds, he agrees to take on a second job restoring the damage to Kate’s Closet. Trouble erupts along with the desire to get to know Kate better. When he’s used as a pawn in a smear campaign against his gorgeous boss Seth fights back. But now the whole town is watching. Including the man determined to further his own agenda. Time is running out with nowhere to hide.

Here’s a sample of my summer to-be-read pile!

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What books are you looking forward to reading this summer?

Spring Projects In The Good House

Here we are and it’s almost June! This spring seemed to be our month for projects and some spring cleaning. I’m guessing it’s the same for lots of people who usher in spring this time of year and have projects in need of doing after a long winter.

And it’s true that physical activity promotes brainstorming, even if I’m not aware it’s happening in tandem with carrying out my other responsibilities. I’m happy to say I’ve had a few ah-ha moments this spring. Little bits I can’t wait to incorporate into my work-in-progress. I love revising! It’s one of my favourite parts of writing – adding in the layers and little details. And the satisfaction of tying all the plot threads together. Sometimes you have to get out of your own head to make that happen. And although I feel like I haven’t gotten much actual writing done lately, I’ve done a lot of thinking.

It’s also raised some important questions about my next writing project. I have an idea in mind for my next endeavour but whether that will be a romantic suspense or suspense with romantic elements is a surprising question I’ve found myself asking. Which has led to thoughts about branding and how I want to move forward.

It’s also helped me figure out which direction my Downtown Eastside series will take. In the beginning I had planned on three separate stories (because trilogies are my favourite) with three separate sets of heroes and heroines. But it’s really Sophie and Caleb’s story. If When I proceed, the next two books will continue with the intended plot lines and new secondary characters but the lead roles will be played by Off The Grid’s hero and heroine. I love those two and I’m not ready to be done with them and I don’t think they’re done with the story. Each story will continue to be a standalone book although the theme of the story will continue through to the next book.

The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes. —Agatha Christie

It might be the dishes, which I don’t do by the way, or it might be something else. She who cooks does not clean around here. And I do most of the cooking. But here’s a bit more on the major and no-so-major projects happening around the Good household. Projects that very much needed to be done!

Culling and decluttering of closet!

Closet Reorganiztion

Also, new his and her hangers. Colour coding makes me happy.

New Hangers

Culling and decluttering of garage. Much bigger job! Not quite finished by it’s more than on it’s way to being done.

Before:

Garage Makeover

After:

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Finally, the rest of the old fence has been replaced with new PVC fencing.

Fence Complete

And lastly spring planting has begun and the flowerbeds are filling with colour! Fingers crossed the plants actually survive. While I love flowers, I do not have a green thumb!

Spring Flowers

There were a couple of painting projects we hired the professionals to do. More on that later. Maybe. Unless you’re bored senseless!

What are some seasonal projects you’ve tackled lately?

 

Books, Mothers, and Memories

I remember trips to the library to pick out books with my kids. Me pulling them along in our wagon. Loading up on books and coming home to read. Cuddling up and turning the pages. Maybe we’d read the story before, or maybe it was a new to us story. Those times are among my fondest memories. I still remember their favourites: Something Out Of Nothing by Phoebe Gilman, Have You Seen Birds by Barbara Reid, Arthur books, Franklin books, Berenstain Bears books. Matthew and The Midnight Pirates by Allen Morgan and Michael Martchenko. Okay, maybe that was one of my favourites. And every time I read Love You Forever by Robert Munsch I tried not to cry.

“Goodnight stars,

Goodnight air,

Goodnight noises everywhere.”

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

I remember going to the library with my mom, who is also an avid reader. Our small town had a cozy little library but it seemed huge to me. And full of possibilities. I’m so very glad she introduced me to the idea of a room filled with books for the borrowing. Thank you, Mom!

Another memory. We lived in a farmhouse on a mixed cattle/grain operation. In the winter, we kids often ended up downstairs playing games or watching television. My mom stayed upstairs. You could usually find her sitting over a heat register on the floor reading a book. That was her escape time. Because we moms need those.

The Gift of Reading

My sister takes the Adorables to the library. And when she comes to visit it’s one of the first places my mom takes her. Bedtime means story time or reading time depending on the age and ability of the child. I hope that’s one of things my kids will remember when they get older. All those trips to library. All the books. The words. The pictures. The love that went into reading them. The time spent.

Some of you might enjoy this article: The Simple Practices to Nurture the Motivation to Read. Whether you’re reading to your kids, your siblings’ kids, the neighbour kids or your grandkids. Maybe you volunteer at a shelter, a community centre, or a library.

Book Recommendation

I’m wrapping up reading All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, which is our May book club pick. And what a fantastic read it is! If you find yourself in need of some respite, this is the book for you! An engaging delight for the senses in the form of a captivating story with intriguing characters.

Reading

Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks. When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris in June of 1940, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure’s agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall.

In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure’s.

There are many things about this novel that are wonderful. That make reading it an experience to be savoured. One of the small things that I took away from it is the importance of creativity. Of books, of music, of art. And how those things can soothe, even for a moment, a tortured soul.

Happy Mother’s Day on Sunday. What’s a treasured book memory of yours?

W Is For Wrap Up #AtoZChallenge

W Is For Wrap Up

A to Z April Blogging Challenge 2016

Because I’m pretty much done even though it’s only Day W in the A To Z April Blogging Challenge. I’m blogged out. But I made it almost two thirds of the way through the alphabet so I’m calling it a win.

What I’ve Learned

  • I already knew it, but this challenge reinforced the fact there are a lot of clever and interesting folks out there sharing their stories, struggles, perspectives, and information.
  • Creativity and curiosity make for passionate people.
  •  Everyone loves quotes.
  • It is not possible to wing it during this challenge. Even though I had a topic list for every day it was still a lot of work to do on the fly. For me anyway. If I were to do it again I’d spend time writing and scheduling posts well in advance. This would leave me more time for visiting other blogs.
  • If I were to do it again I would zero in on a very specific topic.

This challenge came along at a great time. I needed to set aside my work-in-progress for a bit. The A to Z Challenge allowed me the opportunity to keep writing but switch my focus. These types of challenges are another way for me to fill my creative well and interact with others. I’ve done photo challenges and Instagram challenges because I love taking pictures. I’ve done NaNoWriMo and many other writing challenges. I do well within a flock, I think.

Community is a key thing for everyone, however big or small in whatever endeavour whoever you are.

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Do challenges inspire you?

Q Is For Q&A With Jana Richards #AtoZChallenge

Q Is For Q&A With Jana Richards

A to Z April Blogging Challenge 2016

I so happy to have my friend and talented writer Jana Richards here answering questions about all things books and reading.Welcome to the A to Z April Blogging Challenge, Jana!

So Jana, inquiring minds what to know. What are you currently reading? and Why you picked it?  I’m reading three different books right now, in three different formats. I “read” audio books at the gym and currently I’m listening to Mary Balogh’s Then Came Seduction. Why? Because I love Mary Balogh’s books. On my e-reader I’m reading Please Release Me by Rhoda Baxter, who writes for one of my publishers. I was intrigued by the premise; on their wedding day, a couple is in a bad car accident, putting the bride in a coma. But this bride isn’t going to let a coma stand in the way of her happily ever after. Can’t wait to see how this one turns out. In print, I just started reading Somewhere in France, a WW1 romance. I saw this book on the Internet and it sounded so interesting I wanted to read it. I’m a sucker for a war romance. And it’s written by Canadian Jennifer Robson.

Those sound like great reads, Jana. I’m currently reading The Lake House by Kate Morton, part of which takes place during WW1. I’m really enjoying it! Two of the authors are new to me, but you can’t go wrong with any of Mary’s books!

Following up with the usual qualifiers. E-reader or Physical Book? Choice of Drink While Reading? Favorite Reading Spot?  I can honestly say I don’t have a preference between ebooks or print books. Both have their place. And I love audio books. They make working out at the gym, and long road trips, enjoyable.

My choice of drink – Water at the gym, and either coffee or wine at home, depending on the time of day. I have a comfy chair in my living room that I like to read in. I sometimes read in bed, but I have a tendency to nod off.

I want to know whom you’re an unapologetic fan girl for? An author you’ve read the most books from?  Lifetime, I’ve probably read more Nora Roberts’ books than anyone else’s. Mary Balogh comes a close second. I’m definitely a fangirl of both. They are both so prolific and write such wonderful books. I’m deeply in awe!

I couldn’t agree more with your picks! Love both their books! I’ve read a couple of hidden gems over the years. What book are you glad you took a chance on?  When I belonged to a book club I read some books I probably wouldn’t have read on my own. One that comes to mind is Lord of the Flies – maybe not so much a gem as an experience. Speaking of gems, I contributed a novella, Chill Out, to The Wild Rose Press’s Candy Hearts Series for Valentine’s Day this year. I had the opportunity to read some of the other stories in the series, and maybe I’m biased, but I thought they were all little gems. A couple of my favorites were Ask Me by Laura Strickland and Be My Love by J.C. McKenzie.

It sounds like a lovely series, Jana! I promise not to carve it in stone anywhere important. Three of your all-time favourite books?  In no particular order:  A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux; The Defiant Hero by Suzanne Brockmann; Slightly Dangerous by Mary Balogh.

I find most readers have an opinion on committing to a series. Book series fan? Favourite? Not a fan?  I love book series! I love being able to find out what happens to other characters, and hanging out in the world the author has created for just a little longer.

We romance readers love our heroes. Your overall pick for best book boyfriend?  Tucker Longstreet from Carnal Innocence by Nora Roberts. At first he comes off as this womanizing, good ol’ Southern boy. I didn’t like him at all. But then Ms. Roberts lets us find out who he really is, and Holy Smokes, I’ve been smitten ever since.

Hah, he sounds like a great book boyfriend. One of mine would be Cameron Quinn from her Chesapeake Bay Series! Time to ‘fess up. Worst bookish habit?  Perhaps, on occasion, I have been known to read the last page first, just to make sure there’s really going to be a happily ever after.

One of my mine involves a New Year’s Eve stay at cabin that didn’t have a television, let alone an Internet connection. We took turns reading the first Harry Potter book to our five-year-old son.  A dear to you reading memory?  When my youngest daughter was about six, she brought home a book from school about a child whose father had just died. It talked about the father’s funeral and what the child was going through. I got choked up as I was reading it, and Rachel put her hand on my arm and said, “It’s okay Mommy. It’s not our Daddy.” I don’t think I’ll ever forget my six year old trying to comfort me.

Ah, that’s a sweet memory! Inspiration surrounds us. The name of a book or an author who has inspired your own writing?  So many authors have inspired me, but I’ll just talk about three. I’m going to mention Mary Balogh again; I know when I read one of her books that I’m going to root for her heroine and fall in love with her hero. And I’m going to laugh and cry and feel the depths of sadness along with the highs of happiness. Her books are always an emotional read.

I love Rosamunde Pilcher. I’ll never forget crying my way through “Coming Home” and not being able to put the book down. Perhaps it was that book, as well as “The Shell Seekers” that got me interested in writing World War Two stories.

I admire Nora Roberts’ ability to always put me in her settings. She makes me feel like I’m right there with her characters, experiencing their surroundings, whether it’s Chesapeake Bay or New York City or Ireland. And she’s so prolific! As a writer, I’m in awe of the number and quality of the books she’s written. As a reader, I’m thrilled to have so many to choose from.

Oh my gosh, I remember reading The Shell Seekers and being utterly enthralled with her storytelling ability. I loved that book! I think we would make excellent reading companions!

Thanks for being such a good sport and answering my questions, Jana! I’m always curious about other’s reading habits and how it influences their writing.

Jana’s book The Girl Most Likely is a wonderful read and will be a steal of a deal at 99 cents through May 13 to May 27th.

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Cara McLeod, the girl most likely to have the perfect marriage, is now divorced and, in her own words, “fat, frumpy, and over forty.” The thought of facing former classmates—and the ex-husband who dumped her—at her high school reunion terrifies her. Cajoled into attending by her kids and her best friend, Cara enlists help at the gym to lose weight and look great for the reunion. Personal Trainer Finn Cooper is more than willing to help—but does he have to be so to-die-for gorgeous?

Finn thinks Cara is perfect just the way she is. She’s everything he wants in a woman, except for one thing—she can’t get past the fact that he’s eight years younger. To Finn, age and weight are just numbers. But can he convince Cara the numbers she worries about add up to only one thing for him—love?

Amazon * The Wild Rose Press * Kobo * iBooks * Barnes and Noble

Find Jana!

Website: http://www.janarichards.com

Blog: http://janarichards.blogspot.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/JanaRichardsAuthor

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/JanaRichards_

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/janarichards

Amazon UK Author Page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B002DEVWWG

Newsletter Signup: http://www.eepurl.com/m3UnT

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2892274Jana_Richards

Google+ Profile: https://plus.google.com/100820406211390323245

What are some of your favourite books to recommend?

P Is For Profanity #AtoZChallenge

P Is For Profanity

A to Z April Blogging Challenge 2016

I guess I should preface this with the fact that I very rarely swear. I confess to indulging when I was a teenager. Often, in fact, but not for a very long time. My husband doesn’t either. At least, not around me. I think the strongest word I’ve ever heard my mother say was shit. And that was one time. My father doesn’t use profanity around me either. But I suspect it might be a different story for my brother.

That doesn’t mean I think using them is right or wrong. They are words like any other. To use. Or not. Having said that, there are words that will never ever cross my lips or spill from my pen.

The reading stretch I’m on now has a decided lack of profanity. And it’s given me new reasons not to indulge in too much of it. I am loving the books I’ve been reading lately.

I think overuse dilutes the impact of cursing when it’s necessary. For myself, it’s a crutch I try not to use but I do indulge in. I never want it to come easily. Obscenities are like cheap wine, too much and it leaves a nasty taste in your mouth. I find that by rewriting and omitting, a more powerful way to convey the emotion I’m reaching for is possible and often more effective. And it’s lots of fun to develop creative ways for characters to insult each other than the obvious and the cliched.

But sometimes f-bombs and the like are necessary. They are words used by characters when developed convincingly are warranted. Too much profanity makes for exhausting reading. But I have characters that swear for reasons that I hope are evident, but swear they do.

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You might enjoy this article from the Writers Digest: How To Use Profanity And Other Raw Talk In Your Fiction.

What is your reading or writing preference? To swear, or not to swear?

 

O Is For Outside #AtoZChallenge

O Is For Outside

And Other Writing Distractions

A to Z April Blogging Challenge 2016

It’s that time of year again. The time when the need to be outside is strong. After months of being cooped up after winter. Even the winter that wasn’t, as is the case here in southern Saskatchewan Canada. It’s spring! Keeping my butt in my chair, my hands on the keyboard so as to type away madly is proving more and more of a challenge. The outside beckons. But it’s not only the warmer weather and the job list that goes along with it. There’s energy in the air and I’m breathing it in. I’m coming out of hibernation mode with the accompanying need to rearrange, reorganize, and – horror of horrors – tidy up closets and the garage and all manner of other strange inclinations.

Just this morning I had the bizarre notion to go through my entire closet, pull everything out and decide what stays and what goes.

O, that way madness lies; let me shun that; No more of that.

Shakespeare, King Lear

I think I have Shakespeare on my mind after seeing Romeo and Juliet last week. I have to assume his distractions were very real and great in volume. And certainly he was no stranger to tragedy. He lost his son at age 11, as well as three sisters and a brother. But he managed to write 38 plays, 154 sonnets, and two narrative poems over his lifetime. FYI, the 400th anniversary of his death is on April 23rd. I know this because I looked it up.

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Time to turn on some music. Loud and pumped directly into my brain through earbuds. Because, damn it, the birds are chirping their little hearts out outside my window.

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Easy peasy. Except it kind of is. Because I can do ten minutes. Can you?

M Is For Must Have Writing Tools #atozchallenge

M Is For Must Have Writing Tools

At least for me!

A to Z April Blogging Challenge 2016

My Top Five Writing Tools

Scrivener. A writing program geared towards organizing long documents. Ideal for first drafts of books. That’s what I primarily use it for, writing the first draft. It allows me to write in a nonlinear fashion but still see at a glance where I am. I did take a class to help me make the most use of it and I’m glad I did. Scrivener Classes given by Gwen Hernandez was very helpful. A very low maintenance course with great information.

Karyn Good

The Synonym Finder by J.I. Rodale. This one is pretty self-explanatory. Words, words, and more words.

The Synonym Finder by J.I. Rodale

A journal. And pretty pens. Some place to jot down and keep track of ideas. I’ve recently started bullet journaling and find it very helpful for keeping track of tasks, notes, questions, etc. I’m also a fan of colour and colour-coding which makes coloured pens essential.

My Journal

Music. Some days to get any writing done I have to turn off the noise in my head first. In go the earbuds and then the music comes on. Having music playing quiets the other noises in my head.

Music Playlist

And there you have it! My list of essential writing tools. What are some of your essentials?

Find out what other bloggers are saying here.

L Is For Love Stories

L Is For Love Stories

A to Z April Blogging Challenge 2016

Romance novels are written primarily by women. They are read largely by women. They are written for people who believe in love. In hope. And who are in need of a bit of respite from the stress of everyday life. Whether we read them for comfort, solace, or entertainment. They are necessary.

How Romance Novels ‘Imagine a World in Which Women Can Win’

They are varied. They are pertinent. They matter.

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NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE named DIAGRAM OF THE HEART as one of the best photo books of the year. It’s the compilation of images with translations about Muslim romance novels from Northern Nigeria. There’s a small but vibrant cottage industry of Muslim women writing romance novels, littattafan soyayya, in Northern Nigeria, a region best known for the acts of terrorist group Boko Haram. The writers face off with Islamic censors, and they sell their books in some of the same markets targeted by Boko Haram suicide bombers. The books are about love and marriage. Some are subversive and speak out against human trafficking and child marriage, while others are submissive, advising women on how best to please their husbands, offering fantasies of escape, and tales of the poor girl marrying the rich man. Guided by the themes of these novels, “Diagram of the Heart” explores romance, tradition, love and loss in the lives of women in Northern Nigeria.