November...

Hello, friends!

Since the last newsletter, I have become well acquainted with three things: the Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit at Texas Children’s Hospital; the best routes to drive between our house and the Houston Medical Center; and the amazing, unfathomable kindness of God. I mentioned last month that we had experienced a family crisis, and at the time it was still relatively fresh so I didn’t like to talk about it much. Plus I knew a lot of you all were already acquainted with the situation. For those who weren’t and aren’t, here’s the summary: on October 1 my daughter and I were in a car accident and Christina suffered a severe traumatic brain injury. Since then, she has gone from being unresponsive to being alert and awake, and her cognitive and physical abilities are returning in amazing ways. Her personality is shining, she is working so hard at all her therapies, and she is being really brave and strong having to be away from home for so long. 

It’s a long road that we are on, and this current part of it has required a lot of juggling and tiredness, a lot of physical support from family and friends, and a lot of looking forward in hope while also living with the emotional ups and downs of a difficult situation. I might have more deep thoughts on our current situation next month, but not today. Today is for being present. (plus, I’m a slow processor).

The back and forth and tiredness and hours in a hospital room have--as you might expect--affected my reading and media consumption the last several weeks, but not necessarily in a bad way. I’ve gotten reacquainted with an old friend, and met some new ones, shared books with Christina, and enjoyed a couple on my own.

What I’m Reading...

Ramona and Her Father, by Beverly Cleary 

My memories of reading the Ramona series are so clear, so imprinted, that they feel like my actual memories. Klickitat Street is so vivid in my mind, it’s like I’ve been there in the flesh. I’ve looked forward to reading the Ramona books with my kids more than any other books, I think. Nostalgia aside, I’m also pleased to say that for me the books hold up. Some of the references and language may be a little old fashioned, and give hints to the publication dates, but the stories, characters, and themes are timeless, and Beverly Cleary writes with such deftness and sympathy for what it’s like to be a kid. 

Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth, by Jane O’Connell

I discovered the Fancy Nancy books when I was working as a librarian, and thought Nancy was adorable. I was secretly pretty thrilled when Christina took a liking to the picture books. I knew that the author had begun writing chapter books starring Nancy several years ago, but it wasn’t until the hospital librarian offered us the first of the series that I actually read any of them. It turned out to be a highly enjoyable read aloud with Christina. It’s classic Nancy with an excellently plotted mystery, not too difficult for a 6 year old to follow, but still intriguing enough to be a real mystery. 

The Magic Treehouse, by Mary Pope Osborne

Our friends sent us the first four of the Magic Treehouse books, and they were really fun to read. After the first one, I found myself waiting to pick them up until I knew I had a big enough chunk of time to read it all in one sitting! I can picture myself having loved these books as a kid, sitting in my favorite reading spot on the end of the living room couch. 

Don’t Blink, by Amy Krause Rosenthal

This picture book is fantastic. The premise is that every time you blink, you have to turn the page, and when you get to the end of the book, it’s bedtime. So an adorable owl tries to help you NOT BLINK, because we all want to avoid bedtime, right? (except me). This book was one of the first things that Christina interacted with and smiled at as she began to emerge cognitively, so it will always hold a special place in my heart, but I would love this book regardless. I’m thinking it will become one of my go-to gift books for babies and little kids.

The Curious Incident of the Dog at Nighttime, by Mark Haddon

The main character of The Curious Incident is a teenage boy with autism. The set up of the story is that someone killed the neighbor’s dog, and [x] sets out to investigate the crime, but really, the book is more about getting to know [x] and spending time in his life. I really enjoyed it. I thought it was poignant, funny, and thought provoking.

The Girl Who Chased the Moon, by Sarah Addison Allen

This book was exactly the kind of novel I needed. I’ve checked Sarah Addison Allen books out from the library numerous times, but never managed to actually read one, despite the fact that everything I’ve heard about them indicates they are right up my alley. A few weeks ago, a friend sent me this one, so I felt extra motivated to finally read it, and my instincts were correct: it was right up my alley. Character driven, magical realism, with lyrical writing and a plot that touches on some deep and heavy subjects, but with enough hope and joy to keep it from feeling weighed down. 

What I’m watching...

When watching both the first and now second seasons of Umbrella Academy, I found myself thinking, “how are they going to manage to bring all these flailing, unravelled threads together?” Yet somehow, they do. I found myself thinking, “none of this makes sense,” and yet it also manages to make perfect sense! I loved watching continued development of this family’s relationships, the redemption arcs, and the crazy reveals. The plotting of this series was so tight, and the conclusion both satisfying and maddeningly tantalizing (please start filming season 3 soon!!) 

What I’m grateful for...

Starbucks gift cards, family and friends who take care of us, friends who clean our house, and Bri McKoy’s Whiskey Sour recipe.

Meet the Author: Charlotte Whitney

Charlotte Whitney’s historical fiction novel Threads: A Depression Era Tale, captivated me with its vivid setting. Ms. Whitney’s story was grounded in a single family in a specific time and place, but through her storytelling was able to capture a moment in history in a way that was really engaging and sympathetic. So I thought we might like to get to know her a little better! Meet Charlotte Whitney...

Favorite part of writing process: 

When you receive that first shipment of author’s copies and pull the new book out of the box.  You flip through it, and look at the familiar chapters, and it’s like a kid entering a toy store.  You’re finally there!

Least favorite part:

I struggle through every first draft.  Every sentence sounds clumsy.  The plot isn’t intriguing.  The characters are boring.  Even though I tell myself it’s the first draft, I want the words to come out polished with an exciting story and oh, so fascinating characters.  But that just doesn’t happen.

Where I feel at home:

I love being out in nature, whether it be a walk through a garden, a hike on a mountain trail, sitting at the bottom of a waterfall, listening.  I grew up on a farm, so much of my childhood was spent playing outside. When I’m outdoors I feel young, carefree, and much less stressed.

Someone who inspired me:

Early in my career I met someone about my age who was working on her first book.  She was so encouraging, indicating that perseverance was critical, plus lots of rewriting.  I knew I could do that.  A couple of years later, she told me that I was the only one of many friends she encouraged who actually followed through and published a book.  Perseverance.

Types of books I gravitate towards:

Not surprisingly I enjoy historical fiction.  I simply love being transported to a different place and time, swept away with a conflict that’s not part of my twenty-first century reality.  Some examples:  All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr; Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline; The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah.

My super power:

Invisibility.  Listening in on conversations in waiting rooms or at other tables in restaurants, overhearing conversations in the locker room at the gym. 

Best piece of advice: 

Lighten up!  I tend to take life too seriously.  Fortunately my husband has a great sense of humor so he makes it easy to laugh at the world and at myself.

Go visit Charlotte and read more about her work at www.charlottewhitney.com.

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October...

Happy October, friends. The newsletter will be on the short side this month, as our life was interrupted by a family crisis a few weeks ago. We are navigating the upheaval with much prayer and support from family, friends, and the Lord’s strength and love. Although life is far from “normal” right now, there is one thing I know for sure about myself: when things are out of control, I reach for the familiar to help me get out of my head and ground me, activities like reading, listening to music, talking to friends, prayer, getting outside, moving my body, and even writing. I hope and pray that whatever is going on in your life right now, you are finding comfort in familiar activities and routines, and that the peace of God will fill your heart. 

What I’m Reading...

Life Together, by Dietrich Bonhoffer. This turned out to be a somewhat odd but also perfect book to read during a year when community and life with other people looks a lot differently than what we’re used to. Even though the book is specifically addressing physical community among Christians, there are so many good thoughts about how we do and should relate to each other and to God, and the importance of living a Christian life WITH other Christians-- we weren’t meant to do it alone. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Many months ago, Amazon announced it was beginning production on an adaptation of The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. It seemed like the perfect time to dive into a reread of the series. I decided to listen to the audiobooks, because I could then easily read other books at the same time. For months, the characters of The Wheel of Time have been my companions on runs, walks, long drives, while I do housework, grocery shopping, and watching the kids play at the park. It had been so long since I’d read most of the books in the series, that I had forgotten a lot of things that happened in them. It was the best of both worlds--the delicious anticipation of knowing how things turn out with the excitement of not quite remembering how. The Wheel of Time was my introduction to the fantasy genre, and while it’s not perfect, and certainly not going to be for everyone, it really is an amazing piece of storytelling. The worldbuilding and character development alone are truly wonderful.

What I’m listening to…

Patient Kingdom, by Sandra McCracken. I’ve been a huge fan of Sandra McCracken for years. I love her poetic, thoughtful lyrics, and her acoustic, folk style. For me, this album is like the musical equivalent of laying in a hammock with a good book.

Julie Fowlis is a new to me Scottish artist who popped up as “artists you might like” on my Amazon music account. And yes, algorithm, I do like it! She has a beautiful voice, and the fact that most of the lyrics are in Gaelic, just adds to the charm. 

What I’m grateful for…

I can’t express how grateful and humbled I’ve been the past couple of weeks by the way friends and family have gathered around us, supported us, encouraged us, and carried us in these early days of our family crisis. It is a true display of God’s love, in that it is so undeserved, but so welcome and so needed. Every day I have a renewed commitment to being that person to someone else when it’s my turn, to being the friend that so many have been to me. 

For this month’s Meet the Author, I want to introduce you to Katherine Reay. Katherine writes books that are full of literary references, stories that are perfect to read when you want something both light and thoughtful. I enjoy the way she explores different relationship dynamics, and the way her characters grow. Without further ado...meet Katherine Reay: 

What is your favorite part of the writing process, and least favorite part of the writing process?

Ah… It’s the part I am not currently working within. I’m joking a bit, but not entirely. It’s a little “the grass is always greener”… 

When I first stare at that initial blank screen with only a kernel of an idea, I wish I was in edits. Yet, at the end of edits, when I can’t   look at one more line of the novel I’ve been digging into for a year, I want that thrill of a new idea. 

But, if forced to pick one part, it would be the moment I crack open the manuscript after my first edit letter. The time comes about three days after I’ve read the letter and my subconscious has worked out many of the issues it raised. I then get to approach the story with fresh insights. And, thankfully, that’s when some of the “magic” happens. 

Where is someplace you feel most at home?

I moved around a lot growing up and my grandparents’ cottage in Northern Michigan was a haven every summer. I still love visiting there and feel very at home. That said, after moving so many times, wherever my family is becomes home very quickly. 

Now, for writing, it’s my office. I am not a coffee-shop writer. I prefer to be at my own standing desk in my cork board walled office. It’s an amazing place — and I can pin anything I want on the walls. 

Tell us about someone who has inspired you creatively.

Looking at a few of my book titles (Dear Mr. Knightley, Lizzy & Jane, The Austen Escape…), the obvious answer is Jane Austen. Yet C.S. Lewis has inspired me more. In his fiction, he always put story first and never wasted a word. He layered meanings within the action and characters while keeping the eye on the movement and arc of the fiction, rather than everything going on underneath. I have learned a lot from reading him over the years. 

Visual artists also inspire my writing a great deal — studying how to express ideas and beauty across different mediums fascinates me. I think that’s why you often find artists within my stories. 

What kind of books do you gravitate towards in your own reading life?

All books. I am a super eclectic reader. I love fantasy, mysteries, drama, suspense, character-driven stories, literary fiction, nonfiction… I only shy away from horror. My imagination is too vivid and some images — the entire Silence of the Lambs movie — I carry with me forever. At any given time, I have at least three books going at once. One is always a hot new title, one is always a nonfiction read, and the other is whatever captures my interest at that time — or what my book club has selected for the month. 

What is your super power?

Laundry. It’s not glamorous, but it’s proven pretty valuable over the years. I can get a stain out of anything! 

One of the best pieces of advice you've ever gotten.

Since you didn’t ask writing advice specifically, I’m going to give life advice. I don’t remember where I heard it, but I liked it so much I used it in The Austen Escape. Here’s Nathan describing a bit of advice his grandfather gave him: 

“He said that how people treat you is only 10 percent about you and 90 percent about them, so you need to be careful how you react and how you judge. You never know someone’s story.” 

I find that’s a good bit of wisdom to remember most everyday. 

Katherine Reay is a national bestselling and award-winning author of several novels, including Dear Mr. Knightley and The Printed Letter Bookshop. She has enjoyed a lifelong affair with books and brings that love to her contemporary stories. Katherine holds a BA and MS from Northwestern University. She currently writes full time and lives outside Chicago, IL with her husband and three children. You can meet Katherine at www.katherinereay.com or on Facebook: KatherineReayBooks, Twitter: @katherine_reay and Instagram: @katherinereay.

September...

Brought to you by copious amounts of coffee and a new school routine

Hi y’all! (she says in her best Tami Taylor voice) I hope it feels like fall where you are, and if it does, could you be so kind as to send a little bit of that weather down to Texas? (to be fair, this week actually does feel like the beginnings of fall, and for that I am exceedingly grateful). I was looking back over this month’s book list, and realized that despite the fact that all four of these books are quite different, there is a bit of a theme: perspective. Right now feels like a good time to practice considering others’ perspectives (really, it’s ALWAYS a good time to do that, but that might be the Enneagram 9 in me talking), and if I can put myself in another’s shoes by way of a good story...sign me up. 

What I’m reading…

The Dearly Beloved

I talked about The Dearly Beloved on Instagram, but have to mention it again here, because this is easily one of my favorite books that I’ve read this year. I read a library copy, but I’m planning on buying myself a copy because I know I’ll want to either revisit this story, or hand it off to a friend. The story is about two couples who minister together at an Episcopal church in New York. It’s a bit of an origin story-- you learn in the prologue that these couples have worked together for 30 years, but the bulk of the story centers around the way they all met and their paths to faith and ministry, as well as their first 10 or so years working together. When I write out the description, it sounds kind of boring, but I think that’s because the story is less about big events (although there are a few of those), and more the characters, and about themes: faith, friendship, love, family, loneliness, passion, and purpose. It’s about the nature of working alongside another person (or persons) in ministry and service, and how that forms a unique bond. One of the really brilliant things about The Dearly Beloved, is how well the author wrote four very unique people with very unique and often conflicting world views and beliefs, and yet she wrote each one with such compassion and insight. Really, I could ramble on for a while about this book and how much I loved it. It made me want to be a better writer, and it made me want to call a friend to tell them I love and appreciate them. 

Such a Fun Age

And speaking of books I want to talk about with someone else…

I was riveted by Such a Fun Age, and could not put it down. It’s a story about a young Black who works as a part time nanny for a while family, and gets accused one night of kidnapping her young charge. The plot goes in some expected directions, but the complex characters, thoughtfulness, and a couple of twists and turns keep it from feeling stale. I enjoyed the book because it made me think about big issues, while not feeling like a BIG ISSUE book, and I was impressed by how the author crafted a layered and nuanced story in a relatively short book.

Palmer Girl

Part of the fun of having a critique partner is getting to gush about their book! Palmer Girl is the kind of book that’s perfect to read curled up under a blanket with a hot drink. It’s about a young woman torn between modern ideas and her sense of independence, and a duty to the expectations of her traditional upper class life. There is a sweet romance in the story with a relationship conflict that feels refreshingly realistic, and the setting is just so well done with little details that really bring it to life. (also, congrats to Raf Bradley who won the random drawing for a copy of her very own! Palmer Girl releases on September 29)

Just Mercy

Just Mercy has been on my radar for a while, but it took me a long time to actually read it. For one thing, I’m not much of a non-fiction reader. I had also heard that it was a tough read, and I will admit that I am often very hesitant to read books with difficult subjects (not always the best course of action, but I’m working on that balance). However, I can now say that I am so, so glad I finally bought and read this book. In case you aren’t familiar with it (or recent film), in Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson tells the story of the beginnings of the Equal Justice Initiative and their work in criminal justice reform. Stevenson expertly uses stories and anecdotes to shine a light on pervasive problems in the criminal justice system, while weaving in statistics and facts to fill in the bigger picture. I realized that for me, the term “criminal justice reform” had become a political term with very little meaning, and Just Mercy helped me to understand a little better what it actually means (for example: not imprisoning people for mental illness, or not putting a 14 year old child into prison with adults). It’s sobering, powerful, and inspiring. And while there are definitely some very heartbreaking and painful stories to read in this book, I think it’s the kind of subject that’s important to not entirely turn away from. We can’t all do the kind of work that Bryan Stevenson does, but we can support organizations that do, and consider the subject when we vote. If nothing else, this book reminded me to have compassion, to be humble, and to not assume I know a person’s whole story.

What I’m watching…

Kim's Convenience on Netflix

This Canadian sit-com about a Korean family in Toronto is an absolute delight. The first handful of episodes are a little shaky, but once it hits its stride Kim’s Convenience is the best kind of comfort food TV, with funny and heartfelt stories about relationships, family, and regular, ordinary lives. Although the setting and set up are completely different, the tone and vibe remind me somewhat of The Middle

What I’m listening to...

Needtobreathe Out of Body

I’ve been wanting a record turntable for a while, and last month after encouragement from a friend, I got on Facebook marketplace and bought a used one. Needtobreathe’s new album Out of Body was my first new record purchase and it was a very solid choice because for whatever reason, part of the appeal of a record player is that it makes me want to savor whatever I’m playing on it, and this album is worth savoring. Current favorite tracks are: “Seasons”, “Survival”, and “Who Am I”. 

Meet the Author…

In honor of her new release, here’s this month’s author interview with Dawn Klinge!

What is your favorite part of the writing process, and least favorite part of the writing process?

I write historical fiction so I need to do a lot of research. It’s definitely my favorite part, especially when I can visit the places I’m writing about. My least favorite is the final proofreading stage. Finding mistakes at the last minute, right before publishing can feel stressful--but of course, I know, perfection is impossible.

  1. Where is someplace you feel most at home?

I love being in my own home just outside of Seattle. Canceled plans, an evening of cooking, dinner, and a movie in front of the t.v, or an afternoon puttering around in my garden are all things that make me happy. 

  1. Tell us about someone who has inspired you creatively?

Jaime Ford, the author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, inspires me in the way he uses real historical events, places, and people in his novels. When I began writing novels, I knew that I wanted my books to have a similar feel to them. 

  1. What kind of books do you gravitate towards in your own reading life?

I read a wide variety of genres: historical fiction, romantic suspense, contemporary romance, inspirational non-fiction...I love reading.  Jan Karon’s Mitford series is my “comfort food.” I’ve read most of those more than once. Her characters feel like old friends. 

  1. What is your super power?

              I’m a Jesus girl, so any superpower I have is Christ in me. 

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatian 2:20

  1. One of the best pieces of advice you've ever gotten?

I believe it was Emily P. Freeman who I heard this from first...a writer’s job is to pay attention. That really stuck with me, and I believe it goes straight to the core of what I believe is my calling. I do my best to pay attention to this beautiful gift of life, and then describe what I see. 

Bio: A graduate of the University of Idaho with a degree in elementary education, Dawn Klinge began writing online in 2005. She’s a  Pacific Northwest native who loves a rainy day, a hot cup of coffee, and a good book to get lost in. This wife and mom to two young adults is often inspired by true personal and historical accounts. Dawn is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association. 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dawn.klinge/

Instagram:https://www.instagram.com/dawnklinge/

website: www.dawnklinge.com

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August...

what to read when it's too hot to breathe, plus an interview with author Chad Alan Gibbs

Hello, friends! I’m in my usual dog-days-of-summer-August funk, in which the heat and humidity threaten to break me and I want to do absolutely nothing. Fortunately, reading and writing can be done in the comfort of my air conditioned home. I also like to perk myself up looking at pictures from earlier summer adventures, preferably while eating some delicious fresh summer produce, which is really the saving grace of August. School has been postponed until September 8, which I think will be good, but the kids are getting restless. Fortunately on that front, the littlest has a birthday in a week which means we get a few new toys to distract them! 

Reading: 

Saving Ruby King, by Catherine Adel West. This book is one that rips your heart out and puts it back together again. The author does a great job with all the different character voices, including the church itself, which provides a bit of zoomed out perspective. I loved how she wrote a story that was so tense with secrets and hurt, and while the ending wasn’t an everything-wrapped-up-in-a-bow-tidy ending, it was satisfying and hopeful.

Be the Bridge, by Latasha Morrison

Latasha is a wise, patient, and gentle teacher. Be the Bridge is a blend of history, personal stories, Biblical perspective, and practical action steps to actively pursue racial reconciliation. It’s inspiring when read on its own, but would be an excellent book to read as part of a Bible study or book club. 

A Man of Honor, or Horatio’s Confession, by J.A. Nelson. I knew virtually nothing about this book before I read it (although I guessed by the title that it was Hamlet adjacent), and it was a really fun read. The story takes place after the events of Hamlet, as told by Horatio. It’s action-packed political intrigue with a wonderfully strong sense of place. Also, I happened to listen to it on audio, and the narrator was excellent.

The Glass Hotel by Hilary St. John Mandell

I really enjoyed The Glass Hotel although I find it’s a little hard to summarize because there’s not really a big, overarching plot. Similar to the author’s book Station Eleven (which I also loved), it’s more about characters, themes, and loosely connected micro-plots. I fully understand that kind of novel isn’t everyone’s jam, but when done well it is right up my alley--and this one is done well. It’s about connection, choices, compromise, and ghosts (I’m just re-reading this sentence and wishing there was a good “c” word for ghosts). 

Listenting to:

Folklore, by Taylor Swift. I’ve not ever had much interest in Taylor Swift’s pop music (it’s not bad, just not my usual listening preference), but her new album is right up my alley. It’s moody and mellow, with beautiful music and catchy lyrics that tell stories. It’s the kind of album I can play on repeat and not get tired of. (tip: if you decide to give it a listen, there’s a “clean” version if you prefer to avoid explicit lyrics).

Pantsuit Politics podcast. I don’t regularly listen to this podcast, but I’m always glad when I do. It’s nice to hear political analysts whose discussions are nuanced and gracious. I might not always agree with them, but even when I don’t I walk away with something to think about. They recently did a four part series called “How to Be a Citizen”, a sort of primer on engaging in the political process in the US, and the “Media Literacy” episode especially was excellent. 

Watching:

We watched the original Mary Poppins for our family movie night this week, and it made me so happy! Mary Poppins was one of my absolute favorite movies as a kid. We’ve already listened to a few of the songs from the soundtrack, and the kids have been talking about their favorite parts, so I think it was a win. (I also really enjoyed Mary Poppins Returns, so I’m looking forward to watching that with the kids sometime in the next few months too). 

Grateful for:

Like I mentioned above, I’m grateful for the upcoming birthday in our house. It’s nice to have something to look forward to, and something to celebrate. I’ve also been extra grateful all summer for our Amazon Music subscription. Music is important to me, and being able to listen to such a vast library is wonderful, especially when we’re home a lot. The kids have figured out how to play their favorites too, and I like that they’re able to connect with music and develop their own interest in it. 

Meet the Author: Chad Alan Gibbs

And here we are with the second installment of my new favorite thing, where you all get to hear a little bit from an author I admire! Chad Gibbs is the author of Two Like Me and You and The Rome of Fall. I absolutely ADORED both of these books. They’re a wonderful combination of funny and heartfelt; depth and poignancy surrounded by razor sharp humor. Without further ado, meet Chad Gibbs...

  1. What is your favorite part of the writing process, and least favorite part of the writing process?

Least favorite is the first draft. It's so easy for me to lose momentum. But I love every draft after that. Once there is something to work with and improve I'm energized by the process, but putting those first words down can be a trudge.

2.  Where is someplace you feel most at home?

Auburn, Alabama, where I live now. I went to college here, and still remember visiting for the first time. It somehow felt more like home than my hometown, even though at the time I was a fan of a rival school. I met my wife in school here, and we were gone for seven years while she completed medical school and her residency, but we moved back in 2010 and it's hard to imagine ever leaving

3. Tell us about someone who has inspired you creatively.

I'm blown away by Colson Whitehead. I read his book The Noble Hustle when it came out. It's a hilarious account of his adventures at the World Series of Poker. Then to see him switch gears and write two powerful and haunting novels (The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys) that both won the Pulitzer Prize is just amazing. Though I'm not sure if he inspires me creatively, or makes me want to quit because he's just so good what's the point in trying. 

4.  What kind of books do you gravitate towards in your own reading life?

I like to think I'm an eclectic reader. So far this year I've read 16 books, 10 novels and 6 non-fiction, and it's a random list. I do gravitate toward books with humor though. 

5. What is your super power?

The ability to find humor in almost any situation. Also, I can take a nap any time of day

6. One of the best pieces of advice you've ever gotten?

Don't assemble your baby's crib in the living room while watching television, because it will be too big to move down the hall to their room. As for writing advice, everything Anne Lamott says about first drafts.

www.chadalangibbs.com

www.instagram.com/chadgibbs

July

Read with a cuppa tea

Hi, friends! This month starts our new “Meet the Author” Series, and I’m really excited about it! I love introducing people to new books, and thought it might be fun to also introduce everyone to the authors of a handful of books that I’ve enjoyed. During the series, I’ll still be talking about the things I’m reading and consuming this month (because that’s what we’re all here for!), but definitely stick around -- or even just scroll straight down to the end -- for the good stuff.

What I’m Reading...

Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates popped up on my radar last month when a lot of people started sharing books about race and injustice, and titles by Black authors. Between the Worldand Me is a memoir written as letters by Coates to his son, about his experience growing up in Baltimore and as a young adult. He’s an excellent writer, gifted at painting a picture with words and drawing the reader into his experiences.

The Lager Queen of Minnesota, J. Ryan Stradel was just as delightful as Stradel’s first book (which I mentioned in the last newsletter). Lager Queen had a more straightforward narrative, but still told through multiple points of view and with the vivid Midwestern setting. It’s a story about family, ambition, and persevering through difficult situations.

On the Come Up, Angie Thomas is a young adult novel about a girl whose passion for becoming a rapper is challenged by the challenges and struggles of her everyday life. It was a completely engrossing story, with a few cheer-worthy moments that made me want to stand up and fist pump. I’m also a sucker for great characters in my stories, and all the characters in On the Come Up were so real and compelling. 

If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen me post about the Summer at the Garden Cafe, by Felicity Hayes-McCoy, and my comment that it’s like taking a holiday to the Western coast of Ireland. Rather than have a single narrative, the novel is more like a peek into the lives of people who are connected by their town, and so the reader is treated to stories of friendship, new love, grief, and family secrets. It was a slower-paced book, but sometimes that’s just what I’m in the mood for. 

What I’m listening to...

A couple of years ago I discovered the Irish band Beoga when they were on tour with one of my favorite bands (Needtobreathe). They came out with a new album last month-- Carousel-- and I am OBSESSED. There are songs that are bright and cheerful, and a few that are more thoughtful and melancholy, and overall it’s a fantastic mix, and has definitely been on repeat for the past few weeks. The littlest munchkin even asks to listen to one of the songs off the album all the time. 

Something I’m grateful for...

Armed with masks and soap and cleaning wipes and hand sanitizer, we were able to visit my family in Missouri this summer like we’ve been doing for the past few years. Getting to spend time with my siblings and parents, and watching my kids get to play and have fun with their grandparents and cousins is such a treat and I’m really thankful for it. I’m also grateful that Jeremy and I got to spend a week with some dear friends in Idaho, Wyoming, and South Dakota (socially distant from anyone else, and once again safely armed with masks and soap and cleaning wipes and hand sanitizer). God’s creation is amazing, the mountains are even more breathtaking than I remember, and I am thankful not only to have shared the experience with people I care about, but to have been reminded how much nature feeds my soul.

Meet author Laura Thomas

I discovered Laura through the Hope Writers community. She put out a call for people who might want to be on the launch team for her newest novel, and I’d never been part of a launch team, so it sounded fun (spoiler: it was!). Laura exudes warmth and generosity, and that definitely comes through in her writing as well as her online presence. 

What's your favorite part of the writing process, and least favorite part of the writing process?

With book writing, I especially like the exhilaration and relief in completing that first draft of a manuscript—even if it’s terrible (which it always is!) I know I can then go back and do the hard work of revision until I deem it good enough to submit.

And that leads me to my least favorite part of writing: deeming it good enough to submit! Knowing when to finally stop with the edits and let that baby go. It’s incredibly hard for those of us with perfectionist tendencies. Argh. 

Where is someplace you feel most at home?

By the ocean. Any ocean. Preferably with a book in hand, under a palm tree. 

I have lived inland for the past couple of decades, where we have gorgeous lakes—but I still miss the salt and sounds of the sea. It reminds me of my childhood. It brings me home. 

What is a fictional place you would enjoy visiting?

As I’m so fond of the ocean, why not visit Orphan Beach from my latest novel? I set it in Colima, Mexico, and have actually been to that area on a couple of mission trips years ago, but this particular beach is fictional. It’s not only stunning with its white sand and turquoise waters, it holds both spine-chilling and spectacular memories for my beloved characters. It would be so fun to visit! 

Tell us about someone who has inspired you creatively?

At a writing conference several years ago, the keynote speaker was prolific author, Angela Hunt. At that time, I was second-guessing writing in more than one genre and had been quite discouraged by a literary agent. I managed to find Angela Hunt between sessions and knowing she wrote in several genres, I asked for some advice. 

She suggested that if God had truly stirred my heart to write a particular story or book in whatever genre—who was I to question Him? That encouraged me so much. I decided at that moment to listen more to God’s voice and worry less about the voice of other people. As a result, my creativity has blossomed and I enjoy writing “heartwarming encouragement for your soul” in several different genres! 

What kind of books do you gravitate towards in your own reading life?

I try to mix it up and add variety but I’m rather a mood reader. Definitely more fiction when I’m in relaxation mode and non-fiction when I am more focused on learning in “work-time”. 

In fiction, I especially enjoy the drama and tension in Christian romantic suspense (one of the reasons why I decided to write that genre), but I also have a soft spot for historical fiction in the WWII era. I take many book recommendations from the “What Should I Read Next?” podcast by Anne Bogel—it’s such a wonderful resource. 

What is your super power?

Baking. Baking is my jam and I can tempt the strongest will with my sugary delights! 

I also simply love to bring joy by feeding people a little sweetness.

Hmm you may have given me inspiration for a children’s book here… 

One of the best pieces of advice you've ever gotten?

Something that stands out and has nothing to do with writing per se was given to my husband and I when we came home from our honeymoon (32 years ago!) We were at a huge Christian conference in Wales listening to apologist, author, and speaker, Josh McDowell, and happened to get an opportunity to meet him afterwards. (I realize I may sound like I stalk speakers at conferences, but I promise I do not!) He commented on our very un-Welsh tans, and we explained that we just returned home from our honeymoon in Cyprus. He said,

“Never come off your honeymoon, kids. My wife and I have been married many years, and we never came off our honeymoon. It’s the best advice I can give you.”

Brilliant advice. Those words of wisdom have served us well as we have navigated married life, always remembering the love that drew us to one another in the first place, making date nights a priority, and keeping the “honeymoon” alive! And I happen to believe this little piece of advice may have been instrumental in me writing romance into my novels. I would never have imagined that 32 years ago! 

Thanks for talking with us, Laura!

Laura writes heartwarming encouragement for your soul. She has three Christian romantic suspense novels published as well as a Christian teen fiction trilogy, marriage book, and middle-grade novel. She is published in several anthologies and writes devotionals for Union Gospel Press. Her articles and stories are published in magazines and online, and she shares musings on her blog. She is represented by literary agent Clye Young with her children’s books.

Laura is a chocoholic mom of three, married to her high school sweetheart. Originally from the UK, they live in Kelowna, British Columbia as audacious empty-nesters.

Find her books, blog, and coaching atwww.laurathomasauthor.com

INSTAGRAM: @lauracthomas 

FACEBOOK PAGE: @LauraThomasAuthor

TWITTER: @Laura_Thomas_

PINTEREST: lauracthomas

GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5837074.Laura_Thomas

BOOKBUB: https://bit.ly/2Uj4gyR

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