As I mentioned in my last post, I have a new treasure that I picked up recently at my favorite used bookstore, Better Books and Bibles. It was made from prayers used in the Daily Broadcast Service of the BBC radio program, compiled by an unnamed and un-credited person. There are no dates that I can find anywhere in the book, which I find intriguing, but according to the National Trust Collections and other resources, it was published in 1928 or 1929 by St. Martin’s Review, London.
After some searching, I found that Hugh Liddon Johnston is credited with being the compiler. I wonder why his name wasn’t listed. Perhaps it was his own humble choice? Or the publisher’s? A similar book of his, When Two or Three, was published in 1932 as a new version of This Day; and a later version of This Day was apparently published in 1953.
The Reverend H.R.L. Sheppard, who wrote the introduction, conducted the first church worship service ever broadcast on BBC radio on January 6, 1924 at St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church, in London. You can find a fascinating and inspiring biography of him here. He “preached in a style that made Christianity live for the ordinary listener.” Amazingly, and fortunately, the Daily Service is still broadcast on BBC, here.
This is one of those books that looks pretty ragged on the outside (which isn’t surprising, being 86 years old and originating in London, England), but brand new on the inside and perfectly relevant to today.
In its 70 pages, each containing three separate entries, are one-sentence prayers focused on a short phrase of scripture. What a simple and valuable way of praying, to be reading at any point in the Bible, and to stop at one place to speak to God.
In fact, lately, even before picking up This Day, my own scripture reading has naturally merged with prayer. I always have questions to ask the Lord, but I also make comments and just start talking about my own thoughts and related ideas. This book is a great starting point for that kind of lovely time with God.
It is not easy to buy, however. Amazon U.K. lists This Day and When Two or Three, but shows all the volumes as not currently available. But you can enjoy some of these images as inspiration for personalizing your own scripture reading and prayer times, and I hope you do!
One of my favorite places in this whole city is a particular bookstore, which has not only new books, but also used books, and not only that but also Christian books. I consider it a Mecca for booklovers and treasure hunters. Last week I treated myself to a browsing session at their new location.
I posted before about their previous location on Meridian Road, and now they are even more accessible on 16th Avenue Northwest. If you’re anywhere near Peter’s Drive-In, SAIT or Motel Village, you’re just minutes away from Better Books and Bibles, a couple of doors down from Whyte’s Flowers. It is interesting that the shop next door to the east, formerly a house, used to be one of the biggest and best used bookstores ever.
You are welcome to bring in used books you no longer want, and with certain titles and authors you can either receive cash for them, or exchange them. In the New Book section, their theme is “Better Books”. They also have a great selection of Bibles, audiobooks, CDs and DVDs. It is also a great resource for church leaders to support the needs of a congregation.
I had a chat with David, the manager, who said that some customers found them through my previous blog post, which is wonderful, and I hope many more find them here!
The prices at Better Books and Bibles are more than reasonable, and lower than most used bookstores. Of course I couldn’t leave without a treasure. I found a copy of This Day: A Collection of Simple Prayers. (David gave me a great deal on it since it was my first time in the new store!) I will be posting a review and some images soon.
Here’s how you can reach the store:
Phone: (403) 233-2409
Address: 636 16 Ave NW, Calgary, Alberta (SEE MAPS BELOW)
(Parking in the back, accessible from the alley)
HOURS OF OPERATION
|Tuesday||10 am to 6pm|
|Wednesday||10 am to 6pm|
|Thursday||10 am to 9pm|
|Friday||10 am to 9pm|
|Saturday||10 am to 6pm|
There are 2 maps below, and a “touched up” Google street view image.
Do drop by and check out the riches of this store and the friendly staff!
I have been perusing my binder full of book reviews, which I’ve been writing for the past 20 years or so. I think I started writing them because when I find a particularly inspiring, thought-provoking, well-written book, I can’t bear to lose the memories of the experience. I love to revisit books, especially novels, the way I love to re-live moments in my life, which is why I have a ridiculous amount of journals, scrapbooks and photo albums. Here’s a book from ten years ago:
What made me pick up this book was the message on the back cover, which asked a question: Could she learn to live without love for the rest of her life? I wanted to know how this book resolved that question, and I especially wanted to know how it resolved it from a Christian viewpoint.
This is a historical novel based on a story in the book of Genesis in the Bible. It is not set in Bible times and places, however; it is set in eighteenth-century Scotland, and is filled with customs and culture from that time. What a brilliant idea!
I have to admit, it was hard for me to stick with for the first ten or so chapters, because it moved so slowly. In historical novels, I like to learn a little about the setting, customs, history, landscape, plants, herbs and clothing, but just a little. I care about the characters, what they think, how they base their decisions, what motivates them and what happens to them, and don’t like to be distracted from the characters for long. Please, especially don’t make me wade through strange italicized words and dialects. At the end I discovered a glossary of Scottish word meanings that I probably would have referred to many times had I known it was there. But when I couldn’t figure out what an italicized word meant from the context, it frequently interrupted the flow of the story.
But on to the good stuff.
The beginning of the story centers around a young man named Jamie (playing the Jacob part of the story of Jacob and Esau), and his ambitious, conniving mother (playing the part of Rebekah exactly as in scripture). She orchestrates her son’s deception in order to obtain his father’s blessing (and with it, his favor, inheritance, and launch for success in life). Jamie has to flee from the wrath of his duped brother, so he goes to his uncle’s place, traveling several days and getting robbed more than once, seeking a wife, either Rose or Leana (Rebecca and Leah in the original story).
From there on, it was a gripping story, full of deep emotion and suspense. Jamie loves Rose, a vivacious, passionate, strikingly beautiful dark-haired, blue-eyed girl. Unfortunately for him, her reaction to his attention is flirtatious and self-serving, but not heartfelt. However, Rose’s older sister Leana, opposite her sister in disposition and bland in her looks, loves Jamie intensely.
Liz Curtis Higgs expertly developed every character, and has a keen insight into the human weaknesses and motivations of both men and women. The way Jamie is tricked into marrying Leana was surprisingly believable, as was the entire plot in this intelligent novel. But the book ends in the middle of the story, so I quickly reserved the sequel at the library. (This ended up being a trilogy with Fair is the Rose, and Whence Came a Prince. All of them are bestsellers, and the last one a Christy Award winner.)
Did I receive satisfactory answers to my own questions? Absolutely. I gained insight both from the text and from scriptures quoted throughout the novel. And, as happens often when I read a well-written Christian novel, I believe God used it to build my faith and to know Him better. Sometimes when we pray that our pain—a “thorn in the flesh”—will be removed from our lives, God says, “My grace is enough for you.” Or, “Trust me, I love you dearly and am going through this with you, but I’m leaving the pain there for a while. It will change you, heal your heart, and transform your life.” And then, even though at first we can’t imagine how we could ever bear the pain, in time we find grace and healing in abundance, just as promised.
Thorn in My Heart was published in 2003 by Waterbrook Press, and the entire trilogy is not only available online, it is still available at my public library, so it’s probably at yours, too.
A writer who wants to carefully target a magazine in order to make a sale will study samples of the magazine, as many writer’s guidelines suggest you do. But this can get expensive. Having gone through this experience several times, and being frugal to the core, I have a few recommendations of how to familiarize yourself with a magazine publisher’s style and preferences by getting article and magazine samples at bargain prices. My focus is on children’s magazines, but these tips work just as well for all kinds of magazines.
Free Online Articles
You can find a lot of free samples of the articles that a magazine publishes on websites. The best resource I’ve found for children is the group of Cricket/Cobblestone magazines, who have a webpage of free articles, as well as an entire sample issue you can read online, for each of their magazines. I signed up for their emailed newsletter, which has links to free articles, and have gathered about a hundred of them to study so far. Highlights for Children is another magazine that has archives online. At HighlightsKids.com, click “Read It” and select Stories or Articles. You’ll see a few, and then click “Read More”, where you’ll find plenty of their past stories, articles and more.
A subscription to a database of articles can be pricey, and a lot of my online searches for magazine back issues and articles led me to these. But as a help for teachers and parents, CobblestoneOnline.net has an incredible searchable database containing all their articles. It costs $35 per year for a Single User membership. There are also online databases you can access through your library (see below).
Writer’s Forums and Critique Groups
I found some helpful information and magazine samples on a writer’s forum I belong to, and I hit the mother lode when the leader of my in-person writing critique group gave me a pile of magazines she no longer needed!
Buying Single Issues or Subscriptions
With any luck, you can find issues at your local newsstand or book store. But I find the selection of periodicals in the stores shrinking, especially the ones I’m interested in. Many magazine publishers in their writer’s guidelines offer sample issues for just the cost of shipping, at a reduced price, or as a download.
If you are buying several back issues—because the more issues you study, the better you’ll understand the publisher’s needs and style—it can get expensive, so you might find it worthwhile to buy a subscription. Do check the added cost of shipping so you are prepared. I am interested in writing for Sunday School papers, so I ordered a set of weekly papers for an entire season at a very reasonable price.
The local library carries magazines, but understandably only the most popular. I still use this as a good source for a few children’s magazines that I’m targeting. Finding the copies that circulate among the branches will be a different procedure from library to library. At mine, I used to be able to do an online search in the library’s website, and then I’d be able to see which branch carries which magazines, but the library’s search process has changed and I can’t do that anymore. So I called the information desk, and a very kind, helpful young lady assured me that she would make a report and send it to me. (It turned out that she was unable to generate the report automatically, so she made it manually, and I thanked her profusely for the extra time it took her!)
Using my library membership, I also use the eLibrary to search periodicals by various criteria and look at copies of actual magazine pages. A librarian gave clear step-by-step instructions on how to find the actual pdf’s of articles and stories (which include the great artwork). For example, I can read all the articles published for the past twenty years for a certain magazine, and see a listing of all the articles they’ve published on certain subjects and in specific issues.
Also, don’t forget to check your library’s sale tables in case they are discarding magazines.
Talk to school librarians to find out if they are planning to discard any of their issues of magazines. Call in the spring because some will be already preparing for the end of the school year, and you want to catch them before they throw them away. You will save them some trouble transporting heavy loads of them and they’ll probably be thrilled to pass them along to someone who appreciates them. I obtained boxes of past issues this way from schools, and accepted all that the librarians offered, even if they weren’t the ones I needed, because you never know if they will be useful to you or someone else in the future. The downside of this is that you may get old issues, but you might find that even these are helpful.
Magazines.com and eBay
On the web pages of Best-Childrens-Books.com, Steve Barancik has resources for the parents that visit his site. He includes a section on where to obtain children’s books and magazines at bargain prices. You can find more than just children’s reading materials at the links he provides. The magazines I checked at the links were a huge savings from ordering them from the publisher or other magazine subscription websites.
Steve recommends looking around eBay for books (using the search word “lot” for a lot!), and using Steve’s instructions for finding magazines was just plain FUN! I bought six recent issues of a favorite children’s magazine for a great price and low shipping cost. (By the way, he also has web pages on how to write stories, and while you’re there, you can check out my book reviews!)
Thrift Stores, Used Book Stores, and Garage Sales
This is definitely a hit-or-miss activity, but I did want to include it, because the magazine you are looking for might be easy to find in one of these places. I regularly make the circuit of quite a few thrift stores, looking for books to use for tutoring (or, quite honestly, for the fun of treasure-hunting for all kinds of things), but while I’m there, I take a look to see if they have other resources such as magazines on their shelves. Depending on the store, you can pick up magazines as low as ten cents each, up to a dollar. I don’t go to as many garage sales as I used to, for time’s sake—they are very hit-or-miss and I can’t not look at everything—but their prices would be even lower.
If you need magazine samples to study for your writing, I hope that these suggestions will save you some time and money!
My family and friends will be receiving my Christmas cards a bit late this year because I was so engrossed in making homemade Christmas cards. I remembered that last year my Mom and I were talking about not being able to find Nativity or Biblical scenes on Christmas cards in the stores, and I have been going through an artistic/drawing phase lately, so I thought I’d try my hand at making cards my Mom would like.
My first attempt at drawing a Nativity scene lasted only a few minutes. It was obvious that my final product was either going to look like a kindergartener drew it, or I’d have to take a lot of time (and eraser) to make it look “good”. And I was pretty sure I didn’t have that much time, since I’d have to send them to Mom by snail-mail during the first week of December at the latest.
So, I started looking for images to use on the cover of the card. First I tried taking photos of two manger scenes that I have, and played around with special effects. That was fun, of course, but in the end I didn’t have anything that I thought Mom would like. If you are looking for an unusual Nativity scene, you are welcome to these, 10 images in a Word document. The ones at the bottom were my son’s favorites.
Next I looked on my clipart and Bible DVD’s for various images and photographs, and found 3 that had possibilities. Then I Googled “copyright free nativity images” and I hit the jackpot: THANK YOU, reuseableart.com! I found just what Mom and I would like, and more.
Click HERE to download (pdf file) or just to see how all of them turned out. The first page shows the inside text used for all cards, followed by 7 different images and corresponding back covers (the first 2 are black and white images, the rest are color). If you like them, feel free to use them!
I hope this is useful for you and that it brings to mind the true beauty of this season, and of the gift that God gave us for the taking, the gift of living life with Him.
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In case you’re interested in doing something like this, here are the steps I took:
I started by figuring out what card size I needed. I’d bought a ton of red greeting card envelopes in the summer when the dollar store had them on sale (for 5 cents each!), so I had to make my cards so they fit in the envelopes. I decided on a card stock size of 6” x 9″, which would fold to 4.5” x 6” to fit in a 5” x 7” envelope.
I used Open Office Impress (presentation software) and started with a blank slide. On the Format/Page menu, I selected a custom-sized page and set it to 6×9 inches landscape. Then I inserted the image on the right side, and a text box full of text on the left, which, after folding in the middle, would make the front and back. One more similar slide with text on the left and right sides made the inside of the card.
For the inside left side text, I chose the lyrics from the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah, a piece of music that I have loved ever since we sang it in choir in college. For the inside right side text, I just wrote a short sentiment from the heart.
In the back cover text, I listed the title of the painting and the artist information, as well as a blurb about Handel and his work. I saved my final files as pdf’s that would print on 8-1/2 x 11” card stock or paper, with the intention of using a paper cutter to trim the side and bottom to 6 x 9”.
My plan was to print onto my own card stock at the self-serve copy/print department of Staples office supply store, but I wasn’t allowed to do card stock on self-serve. They had to do it themselves with their own very high quality expensive card stock, and it would be at least a week before they had time to do mine.
So I printed the black and white inside of the card at home on my laser printer, then printed the color sheets at Staples on regular white paper, and trimmed them using Staples’ paper cutter. I attached the color pages to the outside of the cards with double-sided tape.
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This was originally posted December 18, 2012
How could anyone resist this little book with such an intriguing and comforting title? This is one of those gems that I looked forward to reading each day, and it was responsible for much sleep deprivation, since I couldn’t stop reading the narratives until I found out what would happen at the end.
This is a collection of inspirational articles that originally appeared in Reader’s Digest magazine, and were compiled and published as a book in 1959. Most of these are short vignettes or biographies about ordinary people who—through their tenacity, hard work, creative solutions, compassion—became extraordinary. I can’t resist hearing about people’s lives, and I find hearing others’ stories to be the gentlest way possible to change my own character for the better. How fortunate that books like this still circulate fifty years later!
The authors of the articles include Dr. Albert Schweitzer, Dorothy Kilgallen (remember the TV show “What’s My Line?”), Helen Keller, Norman Vincent Peale, Pearl S. Buck and five articles by Fulton Oursler. They are filled with a variety of people, places, hardships, misery, joys, sadness and transformation. Some of the lifestyles and perspectives are so different from today, and so refreshingly simple and helpful.
The titles show the broad range of topics: “I Owe My Career to Losing a Leg”, “The Child who Never Grew”, “A Formula for Presence of Mind”, “Rebirth of an American Farm”, “Forget It!”, “What the Sioux Taught Me”, “Billie Miskie’s Last Fight”.
Here are some notes from my favorites:
From “Your Second Job”: “No matter how busy one is, any human being can assert his personality by seizing every opportunity for spiritual activity. How? By his second job, by means of personal action, on however small a scale, for the good of his fellow men. He will not have to look very far for opportunities.” The author, Dr. Albert Schweitzer, relates two examples, the first about an elderly man traveling by train to an unfamiliar city to visit his dying son; the second about a WW I cab driver declared too old for military service but wanting to serve somehow. Through the compassion of a stranger, and through ingenuity and will, both men were successful.
Helen Keller, blind from birth, tells what she would do if she was granted three days to see. Five articles are taken from the regular Reader’s Digest magazine column, “The Most Unforgettable Character I’ve Met”, and tell of men and women who are unusually determined, courageous and generous.
One long narrative, “When Are You Going to Turn Respectable?”, relates the experience of a man who had studied for several years at Harvard University. But he ran out of money and had to get a job in a hurry, so in order to eat, he left behind his white collar lifestyle and took a job as a sweeper in a steel company. By the end of the article he is explaining why he recommends that sort of work, as dirty and dangerous as it is, and says, “I’m more respectable now than I ever was.”
You can find The Bedside Book of the Art of Living at online booksellers.
Although I have little room on my bookshelves, and usually get rid of the books I’ve read to make room for more, I am squeezing this one back onto the shelf. It’s a keeper, and a reference book I can return to as an antidote to change any kind of gloomy attitude to one of gratitude.
I made notes on this book as I was reading it. (Caution: many spoilers.)
I am only pages away from finishing this book which was published in 1918. It has been a dusty, dry read at times; maybe I’ve been very taken by the Nebraska fields. There have been tragedies and characters’ stories of tragedies. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to accept these ugly intrusions into my reading as necessary or beneficial (two grotesque suicides and a brutally pointless murder). But I’m resigned to the idea that this is real life, and we will now watch as the characters react to and live with these sadnesses and injustices.
The first half of the book draws us into the extreme hardship of the immigrant families living in sod houses. The narrator, Jim, is a few years younger than Antonia, who he knows will probably always look upon him as a boy. Antonia, called Tony, is a strong young woman, physically and otherwise, cheerful, optimistic, dutiful, and full of life. Jim and Tony have moved into town—Jim to go to high school, and Tony to earn money working for another family. For the last half of the book, I have cringed hearing about Tony joining a loose group of girls and participating in their escapades, and about Jim enjoying the company of Lena, the soft-spoken wispy “leader” of the disreputable team, all the while hoping he wouldn’t fall in step with her.
Although I was curious about what would happen to the characters, I haven’t really looked forward to reading the book each evening. It’s as harsh and bland as the colorless landscape. And then when they get to the easier, more colourful life living in the town, the tension has constantly risen as their morals have been compromised. It’s interesting to see that while Jim’s upright family—and his strong home-away-from-home—stabilize him, the opposite happens to Tony, due to her strong will and insistence upon her own way in spite of others’ warnings, but also due to her family at home and the not-so-strong family she lives with.
The author has done such a marvellous job of developing the characters that I almost took it for granted. It seems as though someone is simply narrating a true story, all completely real. Some of the ugly characters were given to us very lovingly (Lena and Tiny), and in spite of all her hardships, some who might have been enemies (her brother, her mother) stayed dear and close to Tony’s heart forever.
I have just read the account of Tony naively entering into engagement with the slippery train conductor, and how he brought her out to Denver to marry him, but instead abandoned her and went off to Mexico. She moved back out to her family’s farm, had her baby, and for the last year and a half has been working as hard as a man for her heartless brother. I think I know what’s going to happen, and if I’m wrong it will be an awful experience, so I thought I’d jot down these thoughts now.
A big reason why I put this book on my “To Read” list is because Kathleen Norris (Amazing Grace) loves it, and this edition has a forward by Kathleen Norris (that I haven’t read; never read those kinds of things, just in case they give away some of the plot). The reason I decided to read it is because the Classics eBook club featured it, and gave me the first 6 chapters to read.
Now I have finished (except for Norris’s forward), and was a bit surprised, and disappointed at first. No, Jim doesn’t marry the young woman with the baby; he goes off to be a lawyer on the East coast, and doesn’t see her for 20 years. (I’m disappointed; he seemed to be much more concerned for Tony than that.) But when he does finally visit her near their old homes, she is blissfully happy with her 10 strong, mature, good-natured children and gentle husband on their farm. It’s just so, so perfect for her. It’s as though all the hard times didn’t matter in the end. Jim apparently didn’t marry; I wonder why.
Willa Cather’s 1918 forward to the book essentially says that her actual friend Jim, with whom she grew up there in Nebraska, wrote down all his remembrances of Antonia, and that became this book. Anyway, I’m glad I read it. It keeps me aware of how easy my life is, by comparison, and makes me more grateful for the good in my life, and the comfort.
Writers sometimes get an “us versus them” attitude toward the editors to whom we send our work. But I have found an editor that is such a pleasure to work with, I almost stopped caring what happened to my submission. Meet editor and author Graham Taylor at Good Guy Publishing in the U.K. We had many emails go back and forth over a few months, and each of his quick responses and warm greetings left me feeling glad that I’d connected with GGP. It was frosting on the cake when I squeaked in as a finalist in the Flashy Shorts 2 contest. I highly recommend writers check them out.
Flashy Shorts?! People displaying their colorful underwear?
No, that’s the name of one of GGP’s many competitions, accepting Flash Fiction (500 word max) and Short Story (5,000 word max) entries. It was hard to find places looking for “long short stories”, but I discovered GGP via a Google search on short story markets, and why wouldn’t I want to do business with a Good Guy? I sent in “I Guess I Robbed a Bank” after getting the go-ahead from Graham by email, but frankly, I didn’t know I’d actually entered a competition until they said I was one of the finalists. (Perhaps everything submitted is considered an entry to a competition?)
Hyperventilating at a hyperlink
You can buy Flashy Shorts 2 at Amazon, here. (That link goes to Amazon.com, rather than the Amazon.co.uk address, because you may have an easier time buying it through Amazon.com.)
Please bear with me in my !!! ExCiTeMeNt !!!. This is a first for me, my name being listed (even hyperlinked!) on AMAZON as an author. In an odd coincidence, this is the second short story of mine published in June/July 2013, both written in 2007 while I was out of town on a holiday, both inspired from a writing prompt in The Writer’s Book of Matches. I’ll have to do some analysis and try to recreate the environment that was so full of creativity.
So do check out Good Guy Publishing, and their many publications. Here are the opening sentences of “I Guess I Robbed a Bank”. Maybe they will inspire you to read the rest!
While Veronica waited at the police station for the administrator to return with the documents, she massaged her wrists beneath the handcuffs. She noticed that a man at the counter kept looking at her. Well, no wonder. Her jeans were ripped at the knees and dried blood stained the denim around an ugly wound. Frightening tattoos decorated the full length of both arms, and sliding tears had left tracks through the pink and blue butterflies on her cheeks…
A few months ago, I mentioned to some writer friends that I’d created some spreadsheets to calculate my writing income and expenses. I use these for the writing business portion of my tax return. I offered to send a copy to them, and a few were interested, so I made them a little more user-friendly (colors!) and included some instructions before I sent them off. Now I’m offering these to you.
Taxes in August? Well, ideally if you have a small business, you are logging your business expenses and income each month. This is always my goal, but unfortunately I tend to leave all this until the last minute in March. Anyway, this may give us an incentive to get a head start before tax season rolls around.
I created these spreadsheets on Open Office and saved them as Excel spreadsheets, assuming most people would be using Excel. WordPress didn’t allow me to upload the Open Office version, but here is the Excel version.
A few notes:
1. I have highlighted in red each cell which contains a formula, so don’t type over those.
2. The GST is automatically calculated when you enter the “before GST” amount.
3. The total cost for each item is automatically calculated by adding in the GST.
4. The totals for each section are automatically added up at the bottom of the section. (So, for example, you can see the total GST you paid.)
5. There are 3 separate sheets all in one file: the “Writing Expenses & Income” sheet, the “Business Use of Home” sheet, and the “Business Use of Car” sheet. You can flip between these by using the tabs at the bottom.
6. The “Writing Expenses & Income” sheet automatically grabs the final numbers from the other 2 sheets and includes them in the calculation of “Total Writing Expenses – Other”. So once you’ve filled those last 2 sheets out, the final numbers will automatically appear on the first sheet.
7. I have shown the calculation next to some of the red formulas. For example,
“(= B12 / B13)” (the amount in cell B12 divided by the amount in cell B13).
Won’t this make tax time fun? I’m looking forward to hearing if this is helpful!