Corgi Seven Leaf: Book Projects Update

This is a happy year in my writing life. I have three books coming out in three genres, from two publishers. I love that!

Corgi

The first book out is actually a third book – it’s the third book in the #SamandSaucer trilogy. The first two, Shepherding Sam and The Barn and the Book, introduced us to Sam, his corgi friend Saucer, and his friends and adventures at the Monastery of St. Gerasim. Sam struggles hard. Sometimes he’s angry, sometimes he’s happy, sometimes he wants to be left. alone. please. Saucer, corgi that he is, loves Sam and follows Sam around and barks at him and pats his foot and even, when occasion demands, takes a good mouthful of Sam’s pant leg and hauls him along where he needs to go.

Corgi standing under a blooming cherry tree
Photo by Alvan Nee on Unsplash

I just handed in my second round of revisions for this third book, and most of what’s left now will be copy-edits and minor adjustments. This book happened in layers, more than the last one did. I originally thought there wasn’t a third book, but with some prodding from my editor, I discovered there was indeed a third book. Like all my books, it fell out of the sky and hit me on the head. This is perhaps not the most dignified writing process, but it works for me! I wrote the story all in one gasp, so to speak, and then set it aside because there was time before the release date. The editor read through her pile and got to my story, and we started in on her first round of big-picture suggestions. The book gained several chapters, the characters gained depth, and it went back to her again for another round. She pointed out a few other adjustments, and that’s what I sent back to her last Sunday night.

I liked working on the characters this time around. They’re two years older than they were in the first book, and I did a little research to help me build out Sam. At no point in the books do we have a name for Sam’s particular kind of struggle. Many people have suggested that he’s on the autism spectrum, and my researched honored that suggestion. However, life has taught me that people with labels and people without labels have more in common than they think. This third book puts Sam together with Macrina, his arch-nemesis. Macrina would be the first to tell you that there is NOTHING the matter with her. But as the story developed, I realized, along with one of their mutual friends, that Macrina and Sam have more in common than either of them would like to admit. Perhaps we all do. For that reason, Sam still does not have a label. Macrina doesn’t either. There’s something in each of their struggles that most of us can relate to.

This book, like the first two in the series, will have a cover and three interior illustrations by the friendly and talented Clare Freeman! And that means I’ve also sent in a detailed list of information for the illustrations – listing scenes I hope will be chosen for pictures, and details of setting, clothing, facial expression, etc, Clare will need to create those pictures.

Seven

Seven Holy Women is a story-telling devotional I’m writing with a group of friends. All told, there are eight of us involved, but our math still works because the book focuses on seven women saints. It’s unique in my experience, for two reasons. First, I’ve never written a book with a group of friends before! Second, I’ve never run across a book like this one. Perhaps one exists somewhere, but it hasn’t popped up yet. Our book is unique because it uses short stories written in the second person to help our readers grapple with their own connections to these saints. “You are Morwenna,” the book begins. YOU. Your brain is wired to read those words and drop your imagination into the story, gazing out at the events as if they were your experiences, in your life. You aren’t Morwenna, of course. You are several centuries too late for that, but when I started writing the four short stories that were the root of this book, I loved the mental and spiritual exercise of trying to stand in these holy shoes, for a few moments only.

I needed help to make this book all that it should be, and that’s where my friends come in. Each of them took one of the seven saints, befriended her, and wrote about her. Each section includes personal surveys and a journaling opportunity, and as of this month, all seven sections are in the manuscript. The only remaining task is for me to write the final chapter, and that’s what I’m pondering now. I’ll wander back through the sections written by my friends and then I’ll have to make up my mind just what that final chapter needs to contribute to finish the book neatly and completely.

Leaf

St. Ia Rides a Leaf, the board book just contracted with SVS Press, is now in the storyboard stage! Kristina Tartara, the illustrator, has sent me the first illustration of Ia, and we’re talking over the color of her dress. This is a story set by the Irish Sea, so nearly every illustration will include shades of blue and green. Ia is a red-head, good Irish girl that she is, and we’ve tried four dress colors, drawn from our research on the dyes available to her in her place and time, and social class. Ia was a princess, so her clothes would be more colorful than those of neighboring peasants.

Meanwhile, Kristina has the final text, and this week she’s breaking it into pages and sketching the rough outlines of the scenes that will appear on each one.

I truly love watching the illustration process. I’d enjoy it for anyone’s book, and to watch my own story appear in pictures is one of my favorite parts of the writing life. It will never grow old! It’s especially delightful when I get to work so closely with the illustrator. Kristina communicates with me often and kindly sends me sketches and snatches at every stage. It makes me happy.

BLOG

And of course, my other writing project is this blog! I am so glad I came back to blogging. I’m finding all kinds of interesting people here in the blogosphere. I enjoy your words and pictures, and the ways they stretch my mind. Thank you for being here!

Lights on the Mountain: A Novel, by Cheryl Anne Tuggle

Cheryl Anne’s writing reminded me at first of a wood carving. There’s that same firm, careful line in her imagery, that prick of wonder that the solid words drop the reader so deeply into the picture, into it and through it, into the story.

The sound and cadence of the words, both in dialog and narrative, are well suited to the characters and their natural setting. That setting is fully, carefully experienced for all five senses, yet lightly, clearly, never bogging down.

But as I fell deeper and deeper into the novel, the wood carving became a tapestry, thick with colorful threads, embroidered with subtle illusion, possessed of layers. A thread would seem to drop, but then it would appear again, like warp and weft, weaving in and out as first one thread and then another was brought to the fore and pressed back again.

At some point in the story, it became difficult to remember that it is fiction. So much of the deepest, hardest parts of life are written into these pages. Our human struggle with the idea of suffering, and the ways we come to terms with it, our temptation to grieve and doubt, our tumultuous journey up and down the waves of self-discovery are all there, and if you have lived through any of them yourself, you will feel a strong sense of recognition. This is the best kind of fiction, the kind that is woven together out of well-learned fact.

The novel has an extra depth for me as it takes place near where I now live. The area’s history, the evolution of these green hills from their farming roots, through industrialization, depression, and, more recently, new growth, has been the backdrop of my life in recent months. This lent an extra fascination and truthfulness to Cheryl Anne’s tale for me, suggesting deep knowledge or excellent research on her part.

As a fellow Orthodox Christian writer, I must add that this book is a major landmark for Orthodox literature as a possible genre. It is exquisitely well written, and at no point does it throw itself into the theological arms of its reader and beg for loyalty. Its power is earned, its artistry is fully executed, and it sets aside the myriad stereotypes about novels written by Christians.

If, as we say, Orthodoxy is not a religion but a way of life, our art should not be amateur or overdrawn. Beauty demands beauty. If we follow the ascetic path in our spiritual life, how much must we also command its endurance in our creative life. It is a great satisfaction to read this book and feel how deeply I may ponder it and find no effort lacking. All of the threads are fully spun, all woven together. It is a well-made whole.

Lights on the Mountain is available HERE.

Lights on the Mountain: A Novel by Cheryl Anne Tuggle

Cover image: Paraclete Press

Featured image photo: Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

Magical 40s

I think there’s some kind of magic about being in your 40s. You finish figuring stuff out. You can say, “Actually, I prefer to pay attention to four things at once. No, I don’t care for dresses with belts. Yes, I have eaten sunflower butter out of the jar with a spoon, but you’re right, it’s a really ugly color.” You have found your own geeks at this point, and you stop caring about how weird other people think they are. You know what’s not OK, and what is OK. You know how to say goodbye, but you also realize how free you are, always, to say hello.

-Photo by Murat Ustuntas on Unsplash

Raising Awareness – Or Not

Soapbox alert!

#NoBraDay

For real??

Facebook, do not be putting “Raise awareness” campaign signs on my page. You should know better, you big social media giant. You make it possible for people in China to know what people in Argentina wore to prom last year. You can’t possibly think we don’t have enough “awareness.”

In most cases, doing something simple to “raise awareness” for a good cause is ineffective at best and harmful at worst. Pink ribbons, anyone? They don’t cure breast cancer. Neither does going bra-less. Going braless doesn’t make people get mammograms, either. It just makes riding the bus a little more interesting than usual. Continue reading