Comfort reading with The Cat Who . . . book series

I’m a stickler for books set in smaller towns with a large cast of fun and quirky characters, if you couldn’t tell by the stories I share on here for Fiction Friday.

I mention The Cat Who books by Lilian Jackson Braun from time to time and when I do I write that I am reading one as “comfort reading.” I consider them comfort reading because I used to read them when I was a teenager. For me, reading about James Mackintosh Qwilleran and his Siamese cats, Koko and Yum-Yum, and the cast of characters around them, feels oddly like coming home.

I call them The Cat Who . . . books because all of the book titles start with The Cat Who . . . followed by something the cat did.

Examples include The Cat Who Played Brahms, The Cat Who Sang for the Birds, The Cat Who Lived High, and The Cat Who Sniffed Glue. There were 29 books written between 1966 and 2007. There were 18 years between the third and fourth book and after reading that in an article while researching for this post, I started to wonder what the delay was all about. What did Braun do in between and what made her pick up the series again? I did some digging and learned there were a few reasons for the break, including the death of her husband and the fact that she was working at The Detroit Free Press as the “Good Living” editor during that time, and for 30-years, retiring in the late 70s. The other, bigger, reason for the break, though, was that when she turned in the manuscript for the fourth book, the publisher said they were interested in books with more sex and violence.

Luckily Braun was able to find a publisher in the future who recognized that not every reader wants books full of sex and violence.

As a writer who has started writing fiction fairly “late in life,” I found it interesting that Braun published her first fiction book at the age of 53. She was 97 when she passed away and her husband told a newspaper that her biggest regret was dying before she could finish her 30th book, The Cat Who Smelled Smoke.

When she did release a new book in 1986, after that 18 year break, it was called The Cat Who Saw Red. It was published under a new publisher and nominated for an Anthony Award and an Edgar Award in the best original paperback category. The new publisher also re-released her other three books.

The original cover of the first The Cat Who book.
The second book with the original cover.
The third book with the original cover.

The books always offer a mystery, of course, usually in the form of a murder or two, but woven within the mystery are hilarious anecdotes about the people of Pixax, the town James Qwilleran, a retired crime beat journalist and columnist, has settled into.

The series started out with Qwilleran working “Down Below”, as the country folk call the city of Chicago. After inheriting some money from an eccentric distant relative (who, if I remember correctly he wasn’t even biologically related to), he ends up moving to the tiny town where many of his mysteries occur, which makes me ask, “how many criminals live in this one tiny town?” That thought always makes me a bit paranoid, since I also live in a small town. After reading one of these books (or watching an episode of Murder She Wrote) I start looking at my neighbors in a different light.

“Do you think Mrs. Smith down the road is capable of murder?” I might ask my husband, but I don’t actually since there isn’t a Mrs. Smith down the road.
Or sometimes I think, “What does Mr. So-and-So have in those containers in his back yard? Compost or . . . bodies?!”

Anyhow, back to the books. Not all of them aren’t all winners, a couple of them are stinkers, only saved by the cats and quirky characters. Still, I keep reading them, enjoying the feeling of coming home, in a way, much like I do when I read and re-read the Mitford books.

It isn’t only the quirky characters and pets that captures my interest in the books. Being a veteran of the journalism world, I also find myself drawn to the parts of the stories that involve reporting and the newspaper office. The characters of the small town newspaper are about as odd as some of the people I used to work with, but not quite.

When the subject of reporters and journalists come up in a conversation, I often comment that a newspaper’s newsroom is full of people who are two clicks away from being certifiably crazy. Then I remember I was once one of those people and wonder what that means about me. I guess it means I was the only sane person in the four newsrooms I worked in over my 15-year career.

Braun’s own career in journalism helped her to become a prolific novelist, releasing one or two books a year. She said she was used to continously writing after doing it for 50 years. I can relate to the idea of being used to writing often and a lot, since that’s what I did when I worked at newspapers, but of course I only did it for 15 years, not 50!

When I picture Qwill in my mind he’s a cross between Sam Elliott and a former boss of mine (who incidentally no longer has the mustache he used to have). Qwill is an old school newshound with a passion for digging up the answers to mysteries, even after he stops working as an investigative reporter and knows it isn’t his place.

How I picture Qwill but without the long hair.

Getting to the bottom of something was my favorite part of being a reporter. I loved to dig for the news, but I was nowhere near as good at is as my husband is. He’s like a dog with a bone. When he gets a tip, he’ll dig that thing out of the ground and bring it in the light no matter who tries to stop him.

He isn’t as obsessed with it as I am, though. I remember laying awake at night wondering what the local school board or district attorney was hiding from me while he comes home, drops the mystery at the door, picks up a book and doesn’t pick up work things again until the next morning. Usually anyhow. Some nights he does lay there worrying about work things, but not necessarily a story he is working on.

Throughout the books, Qwill ages from his late 40s to his mid-50s. He is a divorced, slightly overweight, former alocholic who now declines offers to drink any alcohol when the books first start. He loses the extra pounds as the series progresses.

Women find him irrestible, Braun writes, and one reason they do is because of his “luxurious mustache.” He also has salt-and-pepper hair, but it is the mustache that is the most intriguing, not only because of it’s appearance.

An excerpt from an article on Wikipedia describes the role of the mustache perfectly.

Whenever Qwilleran gets a suspicion that something is wrong or his instincts are right, he will get “a tingling sensation on his upper lip.” Depending upon the strength of the sensation, he may be seen “stroking it with his fingertips” to “pounding [his mustache] with his knuckles”.

Characters in the books (especially women) are also drawn to Qwill because of his willingness to listen, a skill he picked up in his job as a reporter. It’s a skill I picked up as well. I found that the more I let a person talk, the more they would tell me, without even realizing they were telling me it. Idle chitchat also helped relax the subject of a story or the person I was interviewing. I never felt like I was manipulating the person. I was simply reminding them that I was human too and helping them to feel comfortable with talking to me.

Qwill uses this tactic in his reporting, but also in his sleuthing. It may appear to the reader that the character is simply telling Qwilleran about the new decor in their homes, but Qwilleran might hear something quite different, including the fact that the person who designed the new look for their home new the victim in a recent crime.

Now, I would be very remiss if I did not mention that Q’s cat Koko helps him solve his crimes in unusual and distinct ways. Koko sometimes yowls at the guilty person, flips a book to a page that offers a clue, or leads Q to a clue when they go on their walks, with Koko on a harness and leash.

Koko’s full name is Kao K’o-Kung and he is named after a 13th-century Chinese artist of the same name. He was once owned by an art critic who Qwill used to work with at the Fluxion, a newspaper Down Under. His first owner fed Koko a gourmet diet of lobster, chicken, and other fancy meals, which means he won’t eat normal cat food.

Qwilleran later adopts Yum-Yum, another Siamese, and ends up having to feed both cats expensive food on his sometimes meager salary, which of course expands when he inherhits a fortune and mansion later in the series.

While locals often credit Qwill when he solves a crime, there are some who know Koko is the real brains in the operation, as shown by this exerpt from The Cat Who Played Brahms:

“Qwilleran’s Siamese cat was a celebrity at the Press Club. Koko’s portrait hung in the lobby along with Pulitzer Prize winners, and he was probably the only cat in the history of journalism who had his own press card signed by the chief of police. Although Qwilleran’s suspicious nature and inquisitive mind had brought a few criminals to justice, it was commonly understood at the Press Club that the brains behind his success belonged to a feline of outstanding intelligence and sensory perception. Koko always seemed to sniff or scratch in the right place at the right time.”

In addition to the newspaper angle, I, of course, like the way the books nail the personality of cats, especially Siamese, right on the head. I had a cat that our vet said was part Siamese and he was a very interesting cat, so I relate to the way Braun writes about cats as well as the mysteries.

Being a cat lover, and the owner of two Siamese herself, Braun certainly had first-hand experience about the behavior of cats.

Braun with the Siamese she named after her literary cats.

The good thing about these books is that they are fairly simple and straight forward. They aren’t raunchy, have very little to no swearing, and don’t feature grotesque or detailed descriptions of violence. They are almost completely void of romance, other than a very tame, chaste storyline involving Qwill and town librarian Polly Duncan.

I have been having fun snatching books from the series up at book sales but have also purchased a few through my Kindle. I don’t know why, but I prefer reading The Cat Who books as hard copies, maybe because that’s how I started reading them when I would sign them out at the local library.

So, how about you? Do you have a series of books that are like “comfort reading” to you? I would love to hear about the series.

Sunday Bookends: Rooms, Blooming Flowers, and finishing Harvesting Hope

 Welcome to my weekly post where I recap my week by writing about what I’ve been reading, watching, writing, doing, and sometimes what I’ve been listening to.

What’s Been Occurring

As I wrote last week, I have been on a streak of posting on here and I think I’m on day 17 at this point. I’m not sure how long I will push the posting streak for, but I think I might aim for 20 days in a row and then stop. That will be Wednesday. I don’t think I’ll have much left in me after that, but we will see. I may not even have anything in the tank for these last three days. My little mind is a bit empty, which is not uncommon. Ha! Maybe some more blog post ideas will pop up and I’ll keep pushing on to 30 days. I doubt it, however.

Our flowers are in full bloom around our house. They are only here for a short time so I have been trying to enjoy them as much as I can. I’ve been taking photos to remember how beautiful they are. It’s so sad that they are only in bloom for about two weeks before they are all gone again.

The roses in the backyard have been in full bloom but yesterday I noticed they are also starting to fall away. The peonies have fully opened now ,and they will hopefully last for a couple of weeks before they are gone. I should learn more about how to plant flowers so I can see flowers all year around, but I’m not really great at plants.

My neighbor is wonderful at it, so I simply sit back and enjoy her flowers and reap all her hard work. She really is a hard worker too. Her and her husband are always in their yard, making it look beautiful. I admire them and maybe someday I can do the same. I won’t hold my breath, though.

I’ve been busy trying to finish up Harvesting Hope. Scenes for the story run through my mind constantly. I often think about giving up and not writing these books, but I’m simply having too much fun, even if no one reads them. That’s been my goal all along with writing – “just have fun.”

I hope to have the first draft of the book done this week and then start going through it for the second draft in the next couple of weeks.

I really need to finish this book because Ginny The Librarian has been screeching at me to finish her story. She is stuck in limbo right now. Liam Finley, the editor, would also like some happiness beause right now he’s a raging drunk, depressed newspaper editor in my head. Then there is Randi who lost her job in her field and is now back home in a dinky town applying for a job at her small town paper with before mentioned raging drunk at the helm.

And in the background, always, is Josefa, daughter of Jairus, raised from the dead by Jesus, literally. She was what kicked this all off and she’d like to know what life held for her after Jesus told her to rise.

What I’m Reading

I finished Rooms by James L. Rubart this week and it was different than most of the books I read, but it was really interesting and thought provoking.I considered abandoning it a few times. I am not a supernatural fan when it comes to books. In life, I am, of course. But in books I was getting a little annoyed with all the weirdness. Then, as I read, I got wrapped up in the weirness and I ha to find out what happened. I could not get this book out of my head and still can’t. It truly makes you think about God’s love for us, even when bad things happen or we make bad decisions. It makes you sit and ponder what God things of things you’ve done, mistakes you’ve made and hope he has the response that he does in Rooms. I am not sure in what category to place it in, other than speculative supernatural fiction.

The description from Amazon (a little long, but worth it to undertstand the unusual plot(:

What if you inherited a brand-new mansion on the Oregon coast—from a great uncle you never knew? Would you blow it off? Or head down there to check it out?
Micah Taylor isn’t stupid. He’s made a fortune building a Seattle software empire. But he can’t figure out why he’s been given a 9,000 square foot home right on the beach.
And not just any beach.
The one beach he loves more than any other.
The one beach he hates more than any other.
Both at the same time.
Micah drives down to check out the house. On the surface, everything seems legit. He instantly feels at home and then he meets a beautiful young woman at the local ice cream shop.
Now there’s two reasons to keep coming back to Cannon Beach. But the house still feels off. Things start happening that Micah can’t explain.
That Micah doesn’t want explained.
Because he’s slowly realizing the house isn’t just a house.
It’s a physical manifestation of his soul.
He begins a journey into the most glorious rooms of his life, but also the darkest.
Rooms where terrible things happened.
Things that must not be remembered, but scream out to be heard.
Micah can’t run. Can’t hide.
Because the memories aren’t just memories.
They’re real.
Memories that can heal and set him free.
But that can also destroy him
And there’s no way to know which side will win in the end.

This week I am continuing an advanced reader copy of Sarah’s Choice by Pegg Thomas, as well as The Heart Knows The Way Home by Christy Distler.

Little Miss and I have finished On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and we are now on The Farmer Boy.

What I’m Watching

On Friday I watched the replay of the K-Love awards, which are Christian music awards. I enjoyed every performance on there. Some of my favorite artists performed, including Danny Gokey, Cory Asbury, Elevation Worship, Zach Williams, Matthew West, Crowder, Kari Job and Cody Carnes, and Casting Crowns.

On Saturday, my husband, daughter and I went to see Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway. It was a cute, family movie with less off-color jokes than some of the so-called family movies I see these days.

The theater we went to is about 45 minutes from our house and it is really nice inside. They have these large, black and white photo of old actors or scenes from old movie up on the walls. I had to take photos of two of my favorite actors, Paul Newman and John Wayne. And then The Philadelphia Story, of course.

At home I’ve been watching some Jonathan Creek, but not much else. I’ve been reading more than watching this week.

What I’m Listening To

This week I’m listening to Zach Williams, Crowder, Elevation Worship, and CeCe Winans.

What I’m Writing

I mentioned a little about my writing and what I’ve been working on, above.

If you followed the blog the last 17 days, you know I’ve written a lot. Probably too much.

This week on the blog I wrote:

A Book review of Amanda by Sarah Monzon

My To Be Read list just grows and grows and grows

Faithfully Thinking: Why aren’t some people healed?

Randomly Thinking: The Scarewoman, mouthy first-graders, and creepy Christmas music

Fiction Friday: Harvesting Hope (formerly The Father’s Sons) Chapter 14

Special Fiction Saturday: Harvesting Hope (The Father’s Sons) Chapter 15

So that’s my week in review. What have you been up to this week?

My To Be Read list just grows and grows and grows

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I started reading books more (again) in the last couple of years. Before that I was always too busy with raising my son, blogging and photography. And before that time period, I was too busy working at smalltown newspapers. When you’re busy writing words, you don’t always enjoy reading them in your down time.

In high school I read a lot, almost all fiction.

When I started reading again I started hearing the acronym TBR. I had no idea what that meant and then someone finally let me know it meant “To be read.”

Oh.

I’m a bit embarrassed by how large my TBR list is.

There are simply too many books out there and I’m not a super fast reader.

I thought I’d list some of my current TBR list, but let’s be honest, our list will always grow because there are simply so many good books out in the world to read. There is a mix of Christian fiction, non-fiction, and general fiction (mysteries, thrillers, etc.) here:

My (partial) list so far:

The Heart Knows the Way Home by Christy Distler

Lavender Tears Sandra Cunningham

The Love Coward by Naomi Musch

More Than Honor by Carol Ashby

Sarah’s Choice by Pegg Thomas

Fortitude: American Resilience in the Age of Outrage by Dan Crenshaw

So This Is Goodbye by Jodi Allen Brice

Relative Silence by Carrie Stuart Parks

Leora’s Letters by Joy Neal Kidney

The Number of Love Roseanna M. White

Another Man’s Moccasins by Craig Johnson

Ready to Trust by Tina Radcliff

Distortion by Terri Blackstock

The Black Echo by Michael Connelly

When Jesus Wept by Bodie and Brock Thoene

The World Ending Fire by Wendell Berry

What Is True? by Charles Martin

The Five Times I Met Myself by James L. Rubart

Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson

The Mysterious Affair At Styles by Agatha Christie

I also have a stack of Coleen Coble books that are currently at my mom’s house that I want to dig into at some point this summer. So, fellow readers, how large is your TBR list? No need to list them all for me, but give me a round about number in the comments.

Sunday Bookends: Reading classics, my son’s various costumes, and spring may stay around for a bit

Welcome to Sunday Bookends where I ramble about What I’m Reading, watching, writing, listening to and doing.

What I’m Reading

Little Miss and I have finished quite a few Marguerite Henry books now including Misty of Chincoteague, Stormy: Misty’s Foal, Sea Star, King of the Wind, and this week we will finish Black Gold.

We abandoned the White Stallion of Lipizza because it was fairly slow. We may go back to it later, but this week I hope to start reading either Little House on the Prairie or Anne of Green Gables. I am actually reading a hard copy of Anne of Green Gables that I picked up years ago from Barnes and Noble. The old-fashioned looking cover and style of the book attracted me, but I put it on a bookshelf for probably 15 years before I ever actually opened it last week. I always loved the movie with Megan Fallows but I don’t think I ever actually finished the book, so I plan to read a few chapters a week and savor it.

The Boy and I are reading To Kill A Mockingbird during the week and unlike the other books we read this year, this one hasn’t felt like I’m being forced to read it. I’m actually enjoying this book and look forward to reading it after my daughter goes to sleep each night. I enjoyed the other books we read, but sometimes I had to force myself to sit down and get through the assigned chapters. Actually, once I got into Silas Marner, I looked forward to finding out what happened. For Lord of the Flies, I knew nothing good was going to happen, so I actually dreaded continuing on.

Lord of the Flies was not part of any of the set curriculum we had this year. I chose it on my own because I felt it was an important book for him to read and he might enjoy a book about young boys who go wild on a deserted island. Instead, we both ended up somewhat depressed after reading it and longed for something slightly less depressing. Which is why I chose To Kill A Mockingbird. Why, yes, that is sarcasm. Why do you ask? Really, though, To Kill A Mockingbird, even with its eventual tough subject is a little more cheerful at times than Lord of the Flies.

I know many people say To Kill A Mockingbird should be banned because it is “racist” since it uses the “n-word” more than once, but I am smart enough to recognize that Lee is telling this story from the point of a child who was taught to use the n-word by the culture she was in. Lee isn’t saying the word should be used, or that it is right. We are using the book as a learning opportunity and others should do the same.

This week I might delve into a couple lighter Christian fiction book as well. I just finished a Christian novella for an author. I enjoyed it but it ended much too soon. Now I know why my novella is my least popular book. Well, it could be the least popular because it isn’t good, but I also wonder if it is because it is so short. For the book I was reading, I was just getting into the characters and the book and then it ended rather abruptly. My first book did the same, however, so I can’t say much.

In between all the fiction I am also reading Beyond Order 12 More Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson.

What I’m Watching

We have been watching a lot of Everybody Loves Raymond on Peacock. We’ve had some bad news in or around our family lately, or simply in the news, so I have needed comedy.

I watched an independent film this week on Amazon called The Ultimate Life. There is another movie called The Ultimate Legacy and they both have similar themes. The Ultimate Life is about a billionaire who learns he needs to rearrange his priorities in life after he reads his grandfather’s journal. The Ultimate Legacy stars the same actor, Logan Bartholomew, but he is a rich young man who can’t get his inheritance until he completes several steps she sets up in her will. Both movies are by the same studio and are listed under faith and spirituality. They are clean. They are also both fairly well written and acted.

I also watched a Miss Marple episode from the 2005 series and did not enjoy it. I’m too much of a fan of Joan Hickson from the 1980s series. The lady in this series was way too creepy. She looked like she was zoning out or something. And some of what she said made her sound like a serial killer herself.

What I’m Listening To

When I do have time to listen to music, I have been listening to a lot of worship music lately.

I also listened to Jeannie Robertson when going to bed a couple times this past week, but I’ve been falling asleep fairly fast so I don’t catch a lot of it. If you aren’t familiar with Jeannie, she’s a hilarious older lady from North Carolina who talks about a variety of subjects. I will leave a YouTube clip here for you so you can have a sample of her style of comedy (which is light, laid back, and is drawn from her everyday life.

What I’m Writing

I did not write other blog posts this past week, mainly because I felt depressed about the state of the world and had no real ideas on how to share anything without sounding depressed. I have drafted a Randomly Thinking post for this week and I’m sure I will come up with other topics to blog on this upcoming week as the weather is set to be as warm and nice as last week.

I have been working on The Farmers’ Sons and shared a chapter from that on Friday. I am not sure I will stick with that title for the final book. If any of my readers have an idea for a book title, let me know. I will be sure to mention you in my acknowledgements. *wink*

What’s Been Occurring

My son picked up a medieval helmet last week. He was absolutely thrilled when it arrived and walked downtown with his friend to pick up a pizza. Other people enjoyed seeing at as well, including a man who slowed his car down, pointed at my son and yelled, “Awesome mask!”

My husband said he thinks people just need to be cheered up these days and see something funny and light because he witnessed similar responses from people on Saturday when he and my son went to see a movie (their first in over a year) at a small theater near us and my son wore the helmet inside. My son said a little boy watched him either in horror or awe as he shoved the straw of his drink through one of the holes in the helmet to drink while he waited for the movie to start.

One man stopped him in the Aldi’s parking lot and asked to take a photo with him.

The Boy has always loved dressing up and going out in public. I’m surprised he still enjoys it, since he’s become a bit of a recluse as a teenager. At the start of all this virus craziness, he purchased a Plague Doctor Mask and went into stores wearing it instead of a regular face mask.

As a little boy, he loved to dress up as Ninjas or superheroes and go with me to dentist appointments or the store. When he was about 3-years-old, I took him to the local supermarket dressed as Ironman. He got away from me at one point, racing down an aisle. I grabbed what I needed to off a shelf and turned the corner, expecting him to be in the next aisle. He wasn’t. I started to panic and began looking up and down the aisles. I was in the bread section when a voice came over the loudspeaker.

“We have a young Ironman at the front of the store if anyone is missing him.”

Oh boy.

I headed up to the front and was informed they had tried to get him to tell them his name, but he’d only yelled out “repulser blast!” held his hand out and pretended to blast them with the toy blasters on his hands.

The staff seemed mainly amused by the interaction. One seemed a little annoyed, but he apparently had no sense of humor.

We finally tried to curb his costume wearing when he started wearing a Deadpool mask, without really understanding who Deadpool was, other than he was “cool” (Deadpool was way too rated R for him then and still is now, both in the comics and the movies), and yelling at people who thought he was Spiderman.

“I’m not Spiderman! I’m Deadpool!” he screamed at an elderly lady one time.

Yikes.

The Boy cringes now that he was ever so rude, but he was about 6-years-old. We had a good talk about it and he never did it more than a couple of times.

Little Miss isn’t as thrilled with dressing up in public.

She and I were able to get to the playground a couple of times this past week thanks to the warmer temperatures.

I would like to take her to a larger playground, but she is quite happy with the very tiny one in our little town, so we drive down the hill and push her on the tire swing and swings for a while and come home. Works for me.

Thanks to the nice weather we were also able to have Easter at our house with my parents (steaks on the grill instead of a our traditonal Easter ham) and held an Easter egg hunt for the kids in the backyard.

So that’s my week in review. How was your week? What are you reading, watching, listening to, or doing? Let me know in the comments.

Sunday Bookends: Amazing roses, new authors, and a little too much binge watching

What I’m Reading

I found a new author this week. Someone I “met” on Instagram world where self-published and traditional authors intermingle and share their latest publications.

Bethany Turner has authored a selection of books and I’m trying out Wooing Cadie McCaffery on Kindle Unlimited. I hope to grab up her latest, Hadley Becket’s Next Dish, at another time (I have to limit my book budget or I’ll go crazy.)

Here is the Amazon description for Wooing Cadie McCaffery:


After four years with her boyfriend, Cadie McCaffrey is thinking of ending things. Convinced Will doesn’t love her in the “forever” way she loves him, Cadie believes it’s time for her to let him go before life passes her by. When a misunderstanding leads to a mistake, leaving her hurt, disappointed, and full of regret, she finally sends him packing.

But for Will, the end of their relationship is only the beginning of his quest to figure out how to be the man Cadie wanted him to be. With the dubious guidance of his former pro-athlete work friends and tactics drawn from Cadie’s favorite romantic comedies, Will attempts to win her back. It’s a foolproof plan. What could possibly go wrong?

Bethany Turner is back with more of the heart and humor readers love. Anyone who enjoys a good romance or binges romantic comedies on Netflix will devour this delightful story.


I’m on Chapter 2 and so far I’m really enjoying it. Bethany really pulls the reader into the story right from the beginning. Her writing is fully relatable and full of humor and romance. Definitely a winning combination. (Bethany did not pay me for these comments, don’t worry. She doesn’t even know me or that I’m writing this.)

Another new author to me that I hope to read this next week is Robin W. Pearson who I also just discovered on Instagram. Her first book is A Long Time Comin’ and so far I am absolutely in love with her writing and with her main character Granny B. I can’t wait to really get into t his one. I don’t often buy books at full price on Kindle but I did this one.Her second book is coming out in February and also sounds great. It can be pre-ordered at this time.

A Long Time Comin’:

To hear Beatrice Agnew tell it, she entered the world with her mouth tightly shut. Just because she finds out she’s dying doesn’t mean she can’t keep it that way. If any of her children have questions about their daddy and the choices she made after he abandoned them, they’d best take it up with Jesus. There’s no room in Granny B’s house for regrets or hand-holding. Or so she thinks.

Her granddaughter, Evelyn Lester, shows up on Beatrice’s doorstep anyway, burdened with her own secret baggage. Determined to help her Granny B mend fences with her far-flung brood, Evelyn turns her grandmother’s heart and home inside out. Evelyn’s meddling uncovers a tucked-away box of old letters, forcing the two women to wrestle with their past and present pain as they confront the truth Beatrice has worked a lifetime to hide.

(Just a FYI, I know some authors plug other authors to get attention to themselves, but that is not my intent here. I actually only thought of that after I started writing this. I don’t know these women, but I’m really enjoying their writing and wanted to pass them along because many of us need some good distractions right now.)

Looking for intense escapism to hide from the absolutely insanity of the world, I plan to head back to a familiar cozy mystery series with another Lady Hardcastle book at some point, if not this week, then next. Death Beside the Seaside sounds very interesting. T.E. Kinsley’s stories are fairly light and even if the mysteries are easily solved, it’s not always clear how Lady Hardcastle and her maid Flo will reach their conclusion.

Death Beside the Seaside:

July 1910. Lady Hardcastle and her tireless sidekick Flo have finally embarked on a long-overdue seaside break. But just as they’re wavering between ice creams and donkey rides, their fellow guests start to go missing—and the duo find themselves with a hysterical hotel manager and a case to solve.

The first to disappear is Dr Goddard, a scientist doing something terribly top-secret for the government. Gone too are his strongbox and its mysterious contents. By the time Lady Hardcastle has questioned the horde of international guests, her number-one suspect has been dispatched in grisly circumstances—and then the others start vanishing too.

As the case begins to look like a matter of national security, Lady Hardcastle takes advice from her brother in the secret service. But could there be an even more personal connection at play? To solve the case, Lady Hardcastle may face a shocking discovery of her own.



Still in my reading que:

The Knife Slipped by Earle Stanley Gardner (I hope to finish it this week. I like it so far. It’s very different from what I’ve read before. I shared a little about it a couple of weeks ago.)

By Book or By Crook by Eva Gates. This author was recommended by Erin at Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs and last week I said I wasn’t sure it was my type of book, which sounded sort of rude. Well, guess what, my finger must have bumped the wrong book in my Kindle because this week I reopened it and that is not the book I started and said I didn’t think I’d like. I actually started reading the book this week and I do think I’m going to like it! I don’t know which book on my Kindle I looked at last week but this wasn’t it. So thank you, Erin! This particular book is the first in the series.


What I’m Watching

I finished Virgin River this week and totally predicted the last episode but I want more. Luckily Netflix just announced they will be having a second season.

To fill the void of missing Virgin River I’m alternating between Hart of Dixie (I’m in the first season and it’s growing on me), When Calls the Heart, and my husband and I started watching Longmire, which is different for me, but I’m really enjoying.

What I’m Writing

I’ve been sharing chapters from The Farmer’s Daughter each Friday and I’m also writing the second part of Quarantined and I’ve decided to combine it with the first Quarantined and make it a novella on Kindle Unlimited at some point. I have to fix all the typos and errors on Quarantined first, of course. (Oh my gosh, I wish I had caught those errors before sharing it on here but, well, the blog is for fun and doo-doo happens!) I’ll most likely share another part of the second part , which I am currently calling Rekindle; on Thursday. Chapter 13 for The Farmer’s Daughter was published Friday.

A New Beginning is for sale on Amazon in ebook or paperback form and it can be read through Kindle Unlimited. You can find an excerpt from it HERE.

What’s Going on Otherwise:

Our roses bloomed even more this week and I also learned from the neighbor, who once lived in the house, that the rose bush is over 100 years old. So, the bush has been growing for 100 years or more and the flowers have bloomed year after year for the families that have lived here. I love that thought.

I seem to have a slightly sad life since I check on the status of the roses every day and have possibly taken a couple hundred photos of them. I don’t know what I’ll do with a couple hundred photos of roses, but I have a feeling I may need to look back on them in these next several months and especially in the Fall and Winter when I struggle with Seasonal Depression that I have a feeling will be even worse this year with the state our world is in.

We also had another peonies bush bloom and this one produced lighter pink flowers that were gorgeous.

We, unfortunately, weren’t able to walk out and enjoy the flowers as much this week because there are a bunch of gnats swarming us in the backyard near the bushes. We aren’t sure what is up with that but our neighbor thinks maybe they just hatched and will hopefully go away. I’ve never seen them this bad and I guess the neighbors haven’t either.

This is my daughter trying to wave the gnats away.

The roses that bloomed late last week are starting to fall and I have a feeling by next week they will be gone. It’s sad how fast the flowers bloom and then fade, but I’m enjoying them while they are here.

So, how about all of you? What have you been reading, watching, or doing? Let me know in the comments.





Bookish questions: short chapters or long chapters?

As I started getting back into reading in the last couple of years, I’ve noticed there are all kinds of opinions among book readers. Everyone has different tastes, everyone has different interests and what one person likes in a book another one doesn’t. Of course we all have our own preferences. It’s part of being human.

One varying perspective among book readers is chapter lengths. Some like longer chapters, some like shorter. Personally I’m in between. I don’t enjoy super short chapters but I also don’t want chapters so long that I feel like the story is dragging on.

I know I mention Jan Karon a lot but when I was thinking about longer chapters in books, she came to mind because her chapters are quite long. Even though her chapters are long they are interesting enough to not make it feel like I am pushing through and dying to get to the end of the chapter. She makes the chapters easier to read by breaking them down into sections or scenes throughout the chapters.

The only issue is that sometimes these sections are too short so it feels like I am reading clips from a movie and not a fully cohesive narrative. At times, but not always, it feels almost as if I am jumping in and out of scenes and I lose track a bit, but I still love the stories Jan weaves.

As a writer it is hard to know how long to make a chapter and it’s even harder when a writer is sharing their book or chapters on a blog. When I share the chapters of my stories on my blog I tend to make them shorter because I know most people don’t want to read a long blog post, but when I rewrite them for the final book, I tend to add sections together and make the chapters a little longer.

There are tons of opinions online about how long a chapter should be too. Wordcounter.com says that 5,000 is too long and 1,000 is too short, in the opinions of many. However, Writer’s Digest says that as a writer, you should make your chapter as long as you need in order to propel your story forward. The article’s author, Brian A. Klems says that he thinks of a chapter as an act in a television show.

He writes: “When a TV show finishes Act 1 (which almost always happens just after something significant is revealed or an important question is raised), it goes to commercial break. Ditto for Act 2, 3, 4 and so forth. Look for your chapters to have those similar elements. When you find those “commercial breaks,” end your chapter and start a new one. In other words, let your content dictate your chapter length, not the other way around.”

So, how about you? As a reader, when you read a book do you like short chapters or long chapters? Do you like chapters with lots of scene breaks in them or one big, long scene? If you are a writer, how do you decide how long to make your chapter? Let me know in the comments.



Sunday Bookends: Peggy Rowe, The Chosen, rocking out the stress and country living

It has definitely been a crazy week with moving in, trying to get settled in to our new house and having the sudden realization we now live in the country. Sure, we have other houses around us and technically live ‘in town’ but our backyard (beyond the neighbor’s garden that is) is a forest. Not only that but the other day our neighbor suggested we move our trash cans inside the garage until pick up day because one time the previous owner didn’t and a bear got into it.

Yes, a bear.

Into the garbage.

That may be the moment I actually realized we live in the country. That and when he told me about the six or seven deer who visit their yard from time to time. I have this bad feeling we might put a crimp in that with the arrival of our dog. I’ve noticed neither of the neighbors on either side have pets, or at least dogs. How sad for them. (*wink*)

I’m still waiting for the weather to warm up so we can start getting our garden ready. We had more cold and rainy days this week but hopefully we will finally have spring in the next couple of weeks. The previous owners were nice enough to leave garden supplies in the small shed out back, including fencing to keep the deer out.

They also left several rakes, hoes and shovels. We’re not a drinking family but they left us wine glasses and a bottle of wine as well, which was nice. I might need that when I start trying to plant a garden since I’ve only done it once before and it didn’t go so well. I have a tendency to kill plants, which I think I’ve mentioned before.

My daughter and I cleaned out some old leaves from the flower beds Saturday using rakes we found in the garage, including a small one for my daughter. Even though I kill plants I’m going to try to plant some around the house when the local greenhouse opens up in the beginning of May. I also discovered several perennials that I am hoping will come up soon. After that we tried a bike ride on the street in front of our house, hoping the cars that zoom by when they use it for a short cut didn’t run us down at any point. We took the dog with us and she found a cat to bark at and watch closesly.

I’ve been able to get back into some reading this week. I am really enjoying Peggy Rowe’s new book, as I’ve mentioned the last couple of weeks. It’s made up of short stories about her life with her husband and son’s so it’s easy to read one or two stories a night before bed. This week her son, Mike Rowe (from Dirty Jobs, The Way I Heard it podcast, MikeRoweWORKS Foundation, and Return the Favor on Facebook.), shared a video telling her that for the second time in a couple of years she has a book on the New York Times Bestseller list. For those who are Christians on my page, don’t let the screenshot below dissuade you from watching this clip or reading the book. It’s less offensive than it looks!


I’m also finishing up True to You by Becky Wade this week (as I’ve been saying I would do for awhile now).

As for what I’ve been watching I’ve started The Chosen, an online dramatic series based on the life of Christ. It weaves a lot of Biblical fiction within the story of Jesus, so don’t look for this to be a word for word interpretation of the Bible, but it still keeps very inline with the message of the Bible and of Christ. The acting is excellent and the imagery is compelling. I’ve only watched the first episode and part of the second and I’ve already cried twice (in a good way.) I ordered a DVD set of the show to help support the production costs for Season 2. You can learn more about this project and how to watch it on their site.

I thought I would share a little about what I am listening to this week, as well. I started my Friday morning with a playlist of Skillet on Youtube and I highly recommend it since it woke me up and got my day started off right. (I know. I don’t seem the Skillet type, but I am, just without the leather jackets and dyed hair and nose ring.)

My day would have been better if I had done what I had originally planned to do and turn the phone off and never looked at social media, but live and learn.

I’ve also been listening to this new song by Elevation Worship since I loved watching them perform it live on Easter morning. That service was such a breath of fresh air and a move of the Holy Spirit I couldn’t stop watching it and am thrilled I can listen to the song on my phone or anywhere else now.

So how about all of you? What have you been reading, watching, listening to or up to this week? I’d love to read about it in the comments. Let me know!

Sunday Bookends: Free ebooks, moving and some fresh air

What a week, huh?

Don’t worry, I’m not going to interject politics, worries, or virus numbers from around the world in this post, so you’re safe.

The only thing I will say about it all is that I have discovered a couple new things from not being able to get the groceries I usually do. One, I had no idea that Bob Evans potatoes came in individual servings. I rarely eat them but picked them up when potatoes were running low in our area. We’ve eaten these at my parents and they aren’t the best, but they also aren’t the worst. Two, a local pizzeria near us makes amazing pizza and I wish we had ordered pizza from them in the past. We know this because we ordered two of their pizza making kits and the ingredients were fresh and resulted in incredibly tasting pizza.  Once the restrictions in our state are lifted, we will be sure to order from them again.

As many of you know, if you’ve been a long time, or even short time reader of this blog, I don’t handle stressful situations well. I especially don’t handle the unknown well. Not knowing what might happen from day to day or if someone I love will come down with this virus and become very ill is very draining on me.

BUT —  and yes, this is a good BUT — only by the literal grace of God,  I have been able to stay calm and surprisingly positive throughout this situation affecting our world.

It isn’t that a couple of nights haven’t been ruined by me laying awake and scrolling through a mental list of “what-ifs” but I’m able to push those thoughts aside a lot faster than I used to be. I’m handing so much more over to God than I did in the past. I am remembering (for once!) the words “the battle belongs to the Lord!” When a reader told me she remembered my post and wrote those words on a piece of paper and hung it up on her house to help her get through all of this craziness, I was not only touched, but it encouraged me to do the same.

I have not been doing as much reading as I would have liked to this past week, even though my brother encouraged me to do a 24in48 readathon. The idea is to read 24 hours out of 48 hours. Um… yeah. Not really going to happen. Probably ever. For me anyhow. (Edited this to add this comment of clarification from my brother: “Just to clarify that is the idea. That is not the rule, especially this time around. I think what’s happening this time is that a lot of people are gathering together and talking about books, even the little that they are able to read. One participant suggested a goal of reading 10 minutes each hour or listening to an audiobook for 20 minutes, which I think is doable. Today, for myself, I am going to post once or twice on Instagram and stay away from Instagram Stories, read Sunday Salon posts like I normally do, and read as I can while avoiding all news altogether.” (You can read the rest of his comment in the comments section and check out his blog for what he’s doing to keep his mind off of things.)

Anyhow, I probably read a total of an hour on Saturday and may read an hour Sunday so two hours total.  I’ve been having trouble focusing on reading (much like my brother) between current events and packing up our house to move, plus homeschooling (which we do all the time, as I mentioned in my post yesterday) playing with my 5-year old (who thinks she needs constant entertainment at this age), writing a short story for my Facebook pageant Instagram author account, and finishing up A New Beginning.

Isn’t it cool how I made myself sound really important and busy in the above paragraph? Looks good on paper/screen, right? In reality, it looks like a Picasso painting that’s been puked on.

While I am thinking or writing about books, in case others are not yet aware of this, Scribd, which I had never heard of before, is offering their subscriptions for free for the next 30 days. That includes almost all of their ebooks, audiobooks and even sheet music. My brother told me about this and it has been nice to have because all of the Romana books by Beverly Cleary are currently available for free there and my daughter loves Romana so I am reading the books to her before bed.

For myself, I am reading the second book in the Mitford series by Jan Karon, A Light in the Window and also Falling for You by Becky Wade (continuing the nice light romances I mentioned last week.)

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We were able to get outside in between blasts of heavy rain on Friday, which was very much needed after a damp, cold week. It was 71 on Friday and dropped to 37 by Saturday. Talk about messing up sinuses. I’ll share a few photos from our day here and then probably do a separate post later in the week when we all need a break (another break) from the bleak news cycle.

We usually visit my parents on Sundays but with everything going on we decided to skip this weekend even though we think we’ve most likely exposed each other already. My dad is 76 and pretty matter-of-fact about things so last week he told us “We’re in our 70s. We could get a cold and die at this point so I’m not really worried.”

My dad is a young 76. He is still very active so keeping him in one place hasn’t been easy.  Earlier this week he said “Well, I guess we should try to not travel much during all this,” and we decided together our family would stay home for this weekend and maybe next, but after that, we are moving and may need to stay a couple nights with them.

We are praying none of us catch this before then so we don’t have to sleep in our van or car until we get the keys to the new house (apparently we have to be moved out prior to signing our closing papers to sell this house and can’t have keys to the new place until the sale of this house is final. Yeah. Fun times.).

We enjoyed a visit with them last week and while the trees are still bare, we did some signs of spring starting to show up.

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DSC_8772DSC_8788So how about all of you? What are you reading, writing, watching or simply doing right now? Let me know in the comments.

Sunday Bookends: house selling drama, Sweet Land and small town libraries

The house selling process plods forward and as it does I seem to be having more breakdowns than normal. The roller-coaster of emotions as we worry about something falling through with either the sale of this house or the purchase of the other is getting to me I guess. I find myself sitting down and having a good cry a couple times a week.

After an unexpected removal from the house when the inspector came and wanted to bring the buyers, I cried as we toured our small town, not so much because I will miss the place, but because of all the bad memories made while here.

“That,” I said as I pointed at the hospital, the largest in our region, tears rolling down my face. “is the last place I saw my grandmother alive.”

This was after we drove past the house where some family members live but who no longer speak to us, though they never spoke to us much before either. That situation has broken my heart for a long time and resulted in a lot of confusion and hurt feelings on all sides. In some ways, it’s as if we think if we pack up the house and get out of this place we can leave all the emotional baggage behind, but of course, we really can’t.

We can drive away but we will still carry the scars we’ve gotten here. From the broken family relationships to the loss of my husband’s grandparents to driving by the last place I saw Grandma alive so many times in the last 16 years to the knives in our backs from former places of employment and former friends, living in this town hasn’t always been easy. I know only God can heal those scars so I have to lean on him now more than ever.

In happier news, I watched a movie called Sweet Land this week, which was actually pretty “sweet”, so it lived up to its name. It starred Elizabeth Reaser, Tim Guinee, Alan Cumming, and Alex Kingston.  I kept writing in circles when I tried to explain the plot (that’s how muddled my brain is this week), so I pulled it off Wikipedia:

In the aftermath of World War I, Inge Altenberg (Elizabeth Reaser), an orphan from Snåsa, Norway, arrives in America to a very cold reception. The parents of immigrant farmer Olaf Torvik (Tim Guinee) remain in Norway, where they met her. Dialogue reveals that the four of them have worked out an agreement that allowed her to emigrate to America for the purpose of marrying Olaf. The Minnesota farming village of Audubon, in which her intended husband lives, is horrified to learn that she is a German immigrant with no papers. To make matters worse, she has accidentally obtained membership papers for the American Socialist Party. Scandalized, both the town’s Lutheran minister and the county clerk refuse to marry them.

When events lead them to openly cohabit with each other, they find themselves ostracized by the entire town. They are then forced to harvest their crop completely by hand and alone. This particular harvest season brings not only work, but love as well.

I streamed the movie on Amazon, but I’m sure it is available on other services as well.

On the book front, I am still reading Love Begins at Willow Tree Hill and still enjoying it. I haven’t had as much time for reading with all the “drama” (so to speak) in our life, but this week I hope to escape that drama a bit with reading and working on my two novels. (If you haven’t been following my novel, you can find a link to the chapters at the top of the page or HERE. I post new chapters on Thursdays and Fridays and will post it to Kindle when I’m finished, possibly with changes, but definitely edited and revised.)

I visited what was once my local library and will hopefully be our new local library when we move. My son and I had headed to the new house to pick up a radon test we’d ordered ahead of the inspection. After we left the house we mailed the test and then I asked my son if he wanted to see the little library in town. It was the library my mom and I always went to when I was a kid.

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“You don’t understand,” I told my son. “I didn’t have video games and social media when I was growing up so books were my only way to escape and experience life.”

When I walked into the library, the smell of books overwhelmed me just like it did when I was a kid. That smell was a sign to me that entire worlds were opening up to me and my mom and I would spend probably an hour choosing the books we wanted. We’d drag them home in a big bag and my dad would say “More books?” Sometimes we would bring home books we bought from the book sale and Dad would say, again, “More books? We don’t even have room for the books we have!”

But he let us have them anyhow and Mom and I would delve into them and float away from our small house in the country to worlds far away that were much more exciting than cleaning houses and cooking dinners and washing clothes and doing homework.  And we met new people, learned new ideas, developed new vocabulary, and for me, dreamt dreams of sharing stories as compelling as the ones I was reading.

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Before we left town, I decided to let the little old library ladies sitting at the front desk know how important the library was to me when I was growing up. They appreciated me letting them know, they said, and hope it works out for the library to be our home library by spring.

As for what I’m writing this week:

A flash fiction piece about a “sugar report” (letter to a soldier from a romantic interest);

Did you drink your water?

Faithfully Thinking: God’s Kingdom is in Your Own Backyard

Fiction Thursday, A New Beginning Chapter 22

Fiction Friday: A New Beginning Chapter 23
I’ve also joined *eyeroll* Wattpad…the place that teens apparently share all their bizarre pubescent sex fantasies. My story, however, is nothing like that so it will not, most likely, get traction on Wattpad. But, why not try? Life is short and we need to go for it, right? If you want to follow The Farmer’s Daughteron there (though this version probably won’t be what I finally publish on Kindle), you can find it HERE.

As for what I’m listening to this week (something new I’m adding):

Oldies to get me in the mood for revisions on A New Beginning (which takes place in the mid 60s):

Marc Martel:

and sermons like this one:

So, how about you? What are you up to this week? Reading? Watching? Learning? Listening to? Share with me in the comments!