Woe! It’s Wednesday: Positively Maybe I’m Done With Downton Abbey

Unless you’ve been living on the slopes of Mount Everest, you’ve probably heard all the kerfuffle about Downton Abbey and its season ending episode. Viewers are outraged and threatening Julian Fellowes with pitchforks and torches. The writers and production team are busy pointing fingers and yelling their reasons.

I’ve read some of both sides and I have to say, I agree with them both. 

The reasons it made sense:

Viewers liked the actor and wouldn’t want to see that character played by anyone else.

His story arc was done. What else could be done to him?

His death would make the other characters mine their own depths for future storylines.


The reasons con:

It was the second family member death in Season 3. How many tragedies should this family bear?

The whole episode ended with no hope for next year. No reason to tune in. Grief. Mourning. More black dresses.

Viewers feel betrayed.

I’m not sure I feel betrayal but dismay? Definitely.

This season seemed more soap opera than period drama. It also began overlaying 21st century political correctness on early 20th century conventions. I don’t believe that a man who would forbid his family to be served lunch by a former prostitute would be so accepting of a homosexual man dressing him and serving at his table.

I’ll likely tune in to the beginning of Season 4, but they better hook me and reel me in. Otherwise, I’ll move on.

What do you think? Did the ending leave you yearning for more? Or were you let down?


Book Talk Tuesday: Still Life

A friend recommended Louise Penny’s series set in Quebec. Still Life is the first and it was cheap on Kindle so I splurged and bought it and read it on a recent car trip. 
I enjoyed it.
Inspector Armand Gamache is called to a village in rural Montreal where an inoffensive retired teacher has been found dead. At first it appears Jane Neal died from a hunting accident but why didn’t the hunter report it? Clara Morrow, Jane’s best friend, is distraught and her husband feels helpless. As the Inspector spends time in Three Pines and gets to know the residents, he sees there is much more to the village than it appears on the surface.
The book is well written, although Penny breaks one of the of the hard and fast “rules” of writing. We’re in multiple points of view throughout the book, often in two or three different heads in the same scene. This doesn’t typically bother me, but I know some readers hate that and I did find it jarring a few times and had to look back to be sure when I thought I’d been in someone else’s head in the previous paragraph.
I’m so backed up with books waiting to be read that I probably won’t seek out the next in the series, but if it were offered to me, I’d put it on my stack.


Woe! It’s Wednesday: Life in Paradise

When this posts, I should be over midway through our dream vacation in Maui. It’s the longest I’ve been away from home. The longest I’ve slept on a strange bed and a new pillow. The longest I’ve spent without a dog or cat curled up my feet. The longest I’ve gone without vacuuming, dusting, or scrubbing toilets.

DSCN4551Part of me is really looking forward to the time away. Another part of me is dreading it. I don’t know how much I’ll miss my pillow. It will help that our kids and grandkids are coming with us for the first two weeks, so it’ll be less time that we’re separated from them and less time to miss them.

It’s strange that something that should be fun and relaxing can also induce feelings of uncertainty and unease. It’s the fear of the unknown. Another fear. Yes, I see the irony. This is the year I’m facing fears and conquering them. And another one is about to clobber me.

Well, there’s only cure. Pack my bag and step on that plane.

God willing, that’s what I’ll be doing in a few days. By the time you read this, I’ll be in paradise. But who knows if I’ll be having just enough fun and dreading the time to come home or if I’ll be counting the days till I get to hug my dog and cat.


Book Talk Tuesday: A Quilt For Jenna

I'm a little tired of Amish fiction so I opened A Quilt for Jenna with just a bit of trepidation.

I was immediately captivated by Jerusha's pain and her need to quilt and flee her life and her grief. I loved the book! A Quilt for Jenna by Patrick E. CraigAnother reviewer said, “Amish + Quilts = reader’s delight!”

I concur.

Jerusha and Reuben fell in love but Reuben wasn’t an Amish man in good standing with the community. Then he went off to fight in World War II. He came home a changed man, determined to live by the Ordung, and return to his Amish roots. He and Jerusha marry and are happy.

A few years later, Jerush and Reuben lose their only child, Jenna. Neither Reuben nor Jerusha can find their way back to the other. Reuben blames himself forJenna’s death. So does Jerusha. Reuben has left their Amish community. Jerusha has stitched a wonderful quilt that is to be her ticket out of Apple Creek.

On Thanksgiving weekend 1950, a horrific storm blew through Ohio, capturing Jerusha and her quilt in its fury. A little girl in the back seat of another car is abandoned and left to die. The two find each other and take refuge from the storm.

Patrick Craig is equally as good at both the male and female points of view. The battle scenes at Guadalcanal are as painstakingly crafted as Jerusha's quilting scenes.

I liked how the backstory of what happened during World War II was interwoven with the 1950's events.

Mr. Craig accomplished what I thought was impossible: weaving a compelling Amish/quilting story into a wonderful tale of love, loss, and redemption.
I'll definitely read the next one in the Apple Creek Dreams series!


Spotlight Thursday: Richard Mabry, Medical Suspense

Last week's Author Spotlight included a picture of my first Mount Hermon mentoring group with Gayle Roper. Richard Mabry was also in that group. Richard writes medical suspense. I've reviewed several of his books here and I'm delighted to turn the spotlight on him this week.


Dr. Richard Mabry is a retired physician, past Vice-President of the American Christian Fiction Writers, and the author of five published novels of medical suspense. His books have been finalists in competitions including ACFW’s Carol Award and Romantic Times’ Inspirational Book of the Year. His last novel, Lethal Remedy, won a 2012 Selah Award from the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. His most recent medical thriller, Stress Test (Thomas Nelson), will release in April, to be followed by Heart Failure in October.


Richard, what's your newest book called and what's it about?

Stress Test is scheduled for release in early April, but is already available through every major bookseller. There’s a preview posted on my website, and here’s the back cover copy.  
Dr. Matt Newman thought he was leaving his life as a surgeon in private practice for a better one in academic medicine. But the kidnappers who attack him as he leaves the hospital at two AM have no such plans—they just want him dead. Bound and in the trunk of his car, Matt's only thought is fleeing with his life. He does escape, but at a price: a head injury that lands him in the ICU . . . where he awakens to discover he's being charged with murder.
Sandra Murray is a fiery, redheaded lawyer who swore she was done with doctors after her last relationship. But when Matt calls, she knows she can't walk away from defending someone who is truly innocent.
Matt's career is going down the drain. His freedom and perhaps his life may be next. But with the police convinced he's a killer and the kidnappers still trying to finish what they started, finding the truth—and the faith to keep going—will be the toughest stress test Matt has ever endured.

-Which of your characters is most like you and why?

That would be Dr. Ben Merrick, and before your readers start thumbing through my books, he hasn’t seen the light of day yet. Ben is the protagonist in my very first (unpublished) novel, working title More Than A Game, playing a failed baseball player who goes on to medical school, but gets discouraged with his practice and looks for a way back into baseball.

Not only is my background similar (played semi-pro ball, could throw the curve but not hit it), but like Ben I’ve wondered at times if it was too late to find another profession. Now, after retirement, it appears that I have.    Carrie's note: I've had the privilege of reading the opening of More Than A Game and I love it! It's the story that made me Richard's fan before he was published.

-How do you celebrate when you finish a book?

Unfortunately, it always seems that when I finish a book I’m also involved in marketing the last one and thinking up an idea for the next one. However, we sometimes celebrate with a dinner at some purveyor of comfort food, like Gazebo Hamburgers or El Fenix Mexican Restaurant. (What, you were expecting fine dining featuring champagne and caviar? Let me explain to you about royalties sometime).

-What's your favorite part of the writing process?

Once I have the first draft finished, I get to go through the book page by page and make it better without having to wonder where the action is going or how the plot will devolve. That’s fun.

On the other hand, I don’t particularly like responding to line edits, when it can seem as though someone is leaning over my shoulder, whispering in my ear. Go figure!

-What's your best piece of advice for aspiring writers?

I can distill what I’ve learned into three phrases: 1) Learn the craft, 2) attend at least one writer’s conference, and 3) write, get your work critiqued by someone who knows what they’re doing, revise, repeat the process again and again and again. I think it takes all three to become a successful writer.

-When you read for pleasure, what's your favorite genre?

I enjoy suspense and thrillers, often with a touch of humor. Unfortunately, many of the authors whose work I love to read are now dead—Dorothy Sayers, Ross Thomas, Donald Westlake, Robert B. Parker—but their work is so good I keep re-reading it. Some of the work of James Scott Bell’s has a similar feel, and I enjoy it. And I’m sure I’ll think of other names as soon as this is over.

-Any last words?

Did the Governor call? Oh, wait. You don’t mean that kind of last words.

To the writers out there: If you find that, even after deciding to quit writing, you keep coming back to your computer, turning over ideas, trying out scenarios in your mind—don’t stop. You’re a writer, whether you’re ever published. You can’t “not” write. It’s your calling.

To the readers: Thanks for inviting me into your home. I hope I can entertain you and glorify God. If I accomplish those two things, I’ll feel I have succeeded.

To my host: Carrie, Gayle Roper’s class at Mount Hermon was a great place to start my road to writing. It was a pleasure to share it with you, and I continue to value your friendship. Thanks for having me here.

Richard, it was my pleasure. I've enjoyed your writing since that group and you've only gotten better! Thank you for letting me turn the spotlight on you.


Woe! It’s Wednesday: Fear Check-in

I did a scary thing recently.

I commented on a political Facebook post. Even though I knew the person was opposite me in our political beliefs. The person whose post I was commenting on was perfectly nice and civil and we had a good discussion. Neither of us changed our minds about our positions. But something interesting happened.

We’re still speaking. S/he didn’t decide to unfriend me. They didn’t name call or question my upbringing.

It was actually quite delightful. I may do it again someday.

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Book Talk Tuesday: Always the Designer, Never the Bride

I’ve read and enjoyed the first two in this series and was ready for a little light reading so I turned to Always the Designer, Never the Bride by Sandra D. Bricker.
Audrey Regan has been working and designing wedding gowns in New York. She returns to Atlanta and the Tanglewood Inn with her most beautiful dress ever. It’s for Audrey’s best friend Carly. While in Atlanta Audrey’s faltering business loses its last-hope client. But things are looking up when a local bride is interested in what Audrey can do for her on short notice. And the very intriguing JR is another reason Audrey doesn’t mind staying a little longer in Atlanta.
We met other couples from the Tanglewood in Bricker’s previous books. Emma Rae is the baker from Always the Baker, Never the Bride and Sherilyn is the wedding planner from Always the Wedding Planner, Never ….  well, you get the idea.
The books are all light and fun and can be read quickly. Perfect for a rainy afternoon by the fire.


Spotlight Thursday: Gayle Roper

Author Spotlight: Gayle Roper

I had the pleasure of meeting Gayle Roper at the Mt. Hermon Christian Writer's Conference. That's part of our group up above. Several are now published and I'm sure they credit Gayle with helping them along the way. She's in the front right. 

She's been my mentor, but more than that, she's become a friend. I love Gayle's books and their mixture of romance, suspense, with a dash of humor. I asked her some questions and you get to peek over my shoulder. 

Gayle, tell us about your newest book and what sparked the idea.

My most recent book is Shadows on the Sand, the fifth of my books set in my fictionalized Jersey shore town of Seaside. I was talking with my editor, and she mentioned that there might be a story in the cop who shows up at the crime in the other four books. Yes, I thought. Greg would be a good hero. Only trouble was that the books are romantic suspense and Greg was already married. What to do, what to do! But I figured it out as you’ll see when you read the book.

As for the heroine, she needed to be someone he’d interact with more than just politely at a crime scene. Enter Carrie who runs Carrie’s CafĂ© where Greg eats breakfast each morning. She’s a gutsy lady who’s more than a match for a cynical cop.

Which of your characters is most like you and why?

I don’t think any of my characters are like me. Some of them do things like I do, say drink Coke or enjoy Oreos, but they aren’t me. In fact one of the great challenges is writing characters who aren’t like me. What would he or she do in this situation since they don’t think like me?

How do you celebrate when you finish a book?

Aside from feeling several pounds lighter with the weight of the project gone from my shoulders? Go out for dinner. I love to eat out (I think that really means I don’t especially like to cook), so going out for a nice meal is my favorite was to celebrate.

What's your favorite part of the writing process?

My favorite part of writing is definitely rewriting. Getting the words on the page originally is hard, hard work. But playing with them, making them the best I can, adding more personality, more depth, more humor, more everything—that’s great fun. I am a sparse writer when I originally put something on paper, so deepening every part of the story is not only necessary but fun and exciting.

When you read for pleasure, what's your favorite genre?

I enjoy romantic suspense, mysteries with a touch of romance, and some straight romance if the plot is complex enough. There’s something wonderful about being taken to a world that’s not mine, especially on days when my world seems boring or sad or too hard. When the Bible says to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice, I don’t think it means fictional somebodies. Still there’s a sense of life becoming a bit brighter and better when in the company of characters and a story you like.


Woe! It’s Wednesday: When it rains …

I often wonder how people without a faith get through life.

Not just for the big things like cancer, catastrophes, or chemical spills, but for things like traffic jams and a tax bill and a leaky dishwasher.   Or a dog in the dishwasher.

Do they rail at an unknown entity and shake their fist at the universe? Or shrug and figure it’s their turn to be swatted by the cosmos?

As a believer, life is so much easier when I know high blood pressure, crazy political rants, and gophers serve a higher purpose.

To make me more like Christ.

How does a leaky dishwasher make me resemble Jesus?

Well, if I take a deep breath and remember that God orders my day, then for some reason unknown to me, I must need to be one with dishwasher that day. I may not like it. I may not enjoy it. But it’s where I’m supposed to be and that’s good enough for me.

I hope I remember this lesson the next time I’m stuck in traffic and hungry and I know a pile of laundry is waiting for me at home.


Book Talk Tuesday: Becoming Fearless

I’ve sensed a theme forming for 2013. I keep crossing paths with books and speakers addressing the subject of Fear.

Becoming Fearless: My Ongoing Journey of Learning to Trust God

Becoming Fearless: My Ongoing Journey of Learning to Trust God crossed my path several months ago and I downloaded it to my Kindle. I finally read it and can see that indeed fear does keep me in my comfort zone.

Michelle Aguilar won the sixth season of The Biggest Loser. We watch the show and I remember Michelle in a general way but had forgotten many of her particulars until I read her book. She and mother were estranged but had reunited to be teammates on the show.

In Becoming Fearless Michelle tells the rest of the story. Why she and her mother had become distant and how Michelle masked that pain with food and her smile.

Michelle quoted her trainer Jillian Michaels: “Feel the fear. And do it anyway.” I heard Jillian herself say it on the February 11th episode of The Biggest Loser.

She has an compelling story that is told with honesty. I heartily recommend it, especially to anyone feeling held in place by fear.


Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat


The Bandbox Hat

Previously: The charm ceremony finished and SarahJane was not offered a charm. Austin walked her out and told her she was too nice and likeable and the show was more for his actress mother to be in front of an audience than it was for him to find love. He liked her but she had to go.

Chapter Forty-Six

It took a couple of days of Grey’s Anatomy reruns and intense Hershey’s Kisses therapy, but by the following Monday I had recovered somewhat. Enough to go out anyway and get the mail and begin to think about the rest of the summer.

Even though a lifetime of events had happened to me since school let out for the summer, it was only late July. I had three more weeks before I had to be back in the classroom.

I walked into apartment Monday afternoon and stopped as I heard April’s voice pleading. “Please come home. Or at least for a vis—” The answering machine cut her off. That must have been quite a speech. I flopped down on the couch.

If I had the energy I’d just erase her whole message. I couldn’t even conjure up the oomph to delete her from my machine, much less drive four hours for a visit. I pulled a throw pillow close and let myself drift to sleep.


I forced my one eyelid open.

“Auntie SarahJane, are you there?”

It took a mighty shove against the couch cushion to get me upright but I managed it. It sounded like April but I was still alone in my little living room.

“Why won’t you answer?” The plaintive voice sounded from the answering machine. I sighed and reached for the phone.

“I’m here, Punkin. How are you?” I forced a note of cheer into my voice but even I could hear its falseness.

“Where have you been? Why haven’t you called me back?”

“April, you knew I was out of town and couldn’t make or return any phone calls. I told you that when you and Nathan came down a few weeks ago.” And Nathan stayed on the show and wooed everyone until they decided to keep the fun and cute Richter and send his loser sister packing.

“I know.” She sniffed. “But I thought you’d call anyway.”

Ahh, the logic of kids. “I’m sorry, Sweetie. What did you want to talk about?”

“Well, here it is … I was wondering if I could come visit you?” She hurried to convince me. “I know you’re busy with the show and everything. But wouldn’t it be good for them to see how you interact with children? And it’s so convenient because I’m a child and I already know you so you could interact with me.”

Her words tumbled over each other in a rush and she did something I thought was impossible just two minutes ago. She made me laugh.