Book: To Have, To Hold

© 2017 by Darlene Polachic

This is the first in the Ever Green series and is available through Kindle Unlimited for those who are subscribers.

When Janet O’Grady’s wheeler-dealer husband Marty dies in a car crash, she learns that he’s put everything they own under ownership of the company he and his brother own. Looking through his desk, hoping to find a bank account with funds she can access, she discovers evidence that he’s been shifting company funds into an offshore account. Marty’s brother soon learns that millions of dollars are missing from the company’s account, he’s sure she’s been party to this deception. He wants his money and she m us know where it is.

Janet packs up what she can and leaves in the wee hours with her six-year-old boys, running scared, headed for her parents’ home in Washington. She’s hoping they’ll forgive the past, take her in and give her shelter until she can get on her feet again. She doesn’t want — but needs — help from a kind stranger en route.

Though she’d ignored their warnings when she ran off with Marty, her parents refrain from, “I told you so.” But they think she’s a rich widow now — and she doesn’t tell them the truth, fearing her father’s health is too precarious. Her sister Christa soon shares the news of her upcoming wedding to banker Grant Brooks — who turns out to be the kind stranger who paid for Janet’s gas a few hours before.

Grant, a generous man with an inkling about Janet’s true financial state, offers to let her live in his grandfather’s house in exchange for cleaning it out — his grandparent saved EVERYTHING — so he can sell it. Janet appreciates working with Grant to clean up the place and Janet’s twins, starved for a father’s attention, just love him. She’d like to, too — but Grant’s taken. She’s not about to snitch her sister’s beau.

There are so many things I like about this book! It’s a clean story and well written. The main characters are mostly mature, considerate people; the ones who profess to be Christians do try to practice patience and kindness. It’s not your stereotype modern romance punctuated by screaming matches all the way through. (I’ve grumbled about these enough in earlier posts!)The plot is interesting, believable, dramatic in places but not a high suspense.

The only thing I couldn’t quite see was Grant as a banker — or a successful banker with Grant’s easy-going nature. He’s personable and conscientious but to my mind a banker would have more clearly defined goals in life and be prudent in his spending. Would a professional money manager, at age thirty-four, let himself drift into an engagement with a woman who loved to spend his money. (We have a former banker in the family. 😉  )

That aside, overall, this is an upbeat, enjoyable read.

A Burn Under Control

Oh, lovely springtime, what is so fair! But…

So many things show up once the snow is gone. We have a lovely, tree-filled yard, which means we need to walk around before mowing the lawn and gather up odd branches the wind has brought down. Some trash often drifts in and catches in the tall grass, too.

A controlled burn can be a very useful tool to clean up all this debris. This spring, however, our RM has put on a burning ban because of dry conditions. We heard in the news a few weeks ago how one town in Sask suffered loss when a “controlled burn” got away and consumed half a dozen homes. (Thankfully most of these were unoccupied.)

Last night when I went out for a walk the air was hazy in spite of a strong wind and I caught a faint whiff of wood smoke. Sure enough, a look online shows a forest fire raging out of control in the northern part of the province. It’s hard to picture any benefit coming from an inferno like that, yet scientists say an old forest needs a good fire. It does for the forest what a clean-up fire does for our yard: gives the land a chance to rid itself of dead wood and breathe again; lets the forest get a new start. Otherwise there comes a time when a forest chokes itself.

Between our yard and our neighbours, there’s an “old” woods. The original trees, planted a hundred years back by the first settlers, are dead and ready to fall down. A lot of new growth has sprung up since, but so many young trees are twisted or crushed when their elders drop thick branches on them. And when those big old trunks hit the earth, it takes many years for them to decompose.

It would be so beneficial if a fire could sweep through and consume all the dead wood, but leave the living. And more importantly, leave our and our neighbours’ homes intact! Since we know that isn’t going to happen, both of us couples hope and pray no lightening strike or careless cigarette starts our woods on fire. There’s so much ready fuel, none of us could control the damage.

The Bible talks a lot about fire, both in a destructive sense, where God destroys the enemy as if by fire, and in a purifying or enlightening sense.

“Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice, that he might instruct thee: and upon earth he shewed thee his great fire; and thou heardest his words out of the midst of the fire.”
Deuteronomy 4:36

Thoughts of God’s fire tends to scare me, though, because it’s not a thing I can control. I can’t tell him, “Yes, I’d like to get rid of this bit of attitude, burn this fault out of my life, but leave the rest of my habits alone.” He sees all the trash that needs to go, not just the little bit that’s causing me embarrassment. He sees all the dead wood in the heart of the forest, not just the bit I can spot from where I stand.

Though we can’t govern what God’s fire will consume in our lives, the good news is, HE can. He may select trash (like bad attitudes) that needs to burn out of our lives, but our God is merciful. He leaves all the good wood to keep on growing. He may burn the wood, hay, and stubble, but he leaves the silver and gold.

“Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire.”
Hebrews 12: 28-29

In every life some matches will fall. Trials come to those who believe in God and those who don’t, to those who choose to live a Christian life and those who don’t. Living in this world along with other human beings guarantees that flames will pop up from one source or another. Unkind words or discrimination may burn, health or financial woes may flare up.

These troubles aren’t always the result of a direct action on God’s part, sent because we have need of major refinement. But God can use any fire to purify us. If we give our lives into his keeping, He can control any burning so that it doesn’t damage us beyond hope of restoration.

“When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour…” Isaiah 43:2-3

Negative Self-Talk. Delete, Delete, Delete

A Reader’s Opinion

While I’ve been laid low with back problems this week, I took the opportunity to read a novel by P G Wodehouse. Like all his novels, Jill the Reckless is a great story! Six stars out of five. The author has created a memorable cast of characters and, like Agatha Christie, has such a delightful way with words and phrases.

Writers like D E Stevenson, Wodehouse, Sayers, Christie, etc., used strong story lines and an interesting cast of minor characters to showcase their heroes. There was a STORY in their story. Even in tales with a romance woven in, the overall focus was as much on the main character’s triumph over adverse circumstances as on their relationships.

Have modern genre formulas become like a corset, rigidly holding writers to a specific shape deemed to be attractive in our day? Stories tend to be so focused on the conflict between the two love interests. Furious outbursts, insecure characters full of negative self-talk, a lot of internal dialogue use up word count without adding variety. I read one novel awhile back where I’d estimate 75% of the word count was spent on the MC’s conversations with himself — basically why she’d never have him anyway so forget it.

I find almost no negative self-talk in those older novels. Miss Marple doesn’t constantly berate herself for snooping. Lord Peter may babble about his silly curiosity but the writer doesn’t devote long paragraphs to his self-chastisement. Wodehouse’s characters act and react in a lively way; they spend little time mentally rehashing their own actions and reactions.

In real life negative self-talk is usually destructive. It’s the devil on our shoulder that berates us for how we are without giving us any power to change. Sometimes we do need to admit faults and make changes, but negative self-talk rather tends to paralyze.

So, in our age of promoting self-esteem and ridding ourselves of guilt, why do we allow our book characters to indulge in so much self-criticism? Do readers really find it that appealing?

Imagine yourself standing in a long supermarket checkout line and striking up a conversation with the customer in front of you. You notice she has two boxes of Exquisite Caramel Ice Cream. You’re quite fond of it yourself. You say so, and she replies:

“I really shouldn’t be buying this. I know it’s not the best for me; it’ll only go to my hips and I really should lose weight. I can hardly resist the delicious taste but I know I shouldn’t indulge and it’s so foolish of me to be buying it. My best friend’s brother’s such a hunk and I wish some romance would take off between us but he makes fun of me for eating it and says I’m turning into a dumpling. Well I don’t like him anyway. But still, even if the taste is exquisite and I can hardly resist, I am just getting fat eating it every day. What kind of a wimp am I? I need to develop some backbone and not ever touch the stuff again. But then I might as well eat because no guy’s ever going to look at me anyway.”

Worse luck, every few days you visit that same supermarket, stand in line beside the Exquisite Caramel Ice Cream addict, with another two boxes in her cart, and hear her recite her insecurities again.

Welcome to the modern novel. No, not all. But too many. Recently read another one myself.

Let’s say you’ve been asked to edit some current book — your choice. So you open it in a new window, start at Chapter Two and delete all the negative self-talk. How much will be left?

Can you fill in those gaps with ACTION? An outside CRISIS they must deal with? Other issues going on apart from main character blow-ups. Maybe leave just a phrase here and there to let the reader know those feelings are still in the background. Once in every  chapter is often enough, IMO.

Can you add some ENVIRONMENT? In one story I read, the female MC and her parents had joined a wagon train. Though they would have been crossing amazing new territory, scenic description was scant. (Saves research, I guess.) Pages were filled with how she was attracted to/ couldn’t let herself fall for/ the scout or he was attracted to/ couldn’t let himself fall for/ her.

What about adding a new CHARACTER? A jolly old auntie or uncle to give readers a break from the intense focus on the lovers’ spats. Wodehouse added the smooth-talking, conniving Uncle Chris who squandered Jill’s inheritance in poor stock market investments, but was always ready to fleece some new lamb. The author devotes some paragraphs to Jill’s assessment and acceptance of her uncle’s nature and weaknesses; these in turn show Jill’s compassionate nature.

Maybe you could add a nosy neighbor? If the story already has one, write in another and have the two interact with each other and with the main characters. Sprinkle in their WRY COMMENTS ABOUT HUMAN NATURE and each other. Have them play “Pass the Rumor.” Display your hero’s nature in the way they deal with these minor characters.

I believe these subplots are what made novels so memorable and writers so successful in years gone by. As a reader, I’d like to encourage all writers to loosen the constrictions of formula and put more STORY in your stories.

From My Poem Stash

What Says The Most About You?

………….Author Unknown………….

It isn’t the money you’re making;
it isn’t the clothes you wear;
it isn’t the skill of your good right hand
that makes folks really care.
It’s the smile on your face and the burdens you bear;
it’s how do you live, and neighbour,
it’s how do you work and play.
It’s how do you say “Good morning”
to the people along the way
and it’s how do you face your troubles
whenever the skies are grey.

Books: Honeymoon Cottage

Honeymoon Cottage
© 2012 by Barbara Cool Lee
First book in the Pajaro Bay Series

Camilla Stewart’s fiancé, Dennis Hutchins, bought a little cottage for them, left his eight-year-old son Oliver in her care, and disappeared. A short time later she was arrested — and discovered the truth. He was a con man.

From a great job in the accounting dept in a high-tech CA firm, she’s hit bottom. She’d trusted the sweet guy who waltzed into her life one day and won her heart, then used her computer to get access to her and the company’s bank accounts. She was finally cleared of the charge that she’d been the embezzler, but now she’s obligated to pay the company back. She needs to sell that cottage.

Out of money, out of gas, she’s come to Pajaro Bay to claim the house locals still refer to as, “Honeymoon Cottage.” But first her car needs to get them all the way to the door. She’s forced to sell her engagement ring — and the woman in the antique store is stalling.

Ryan Knight, in charge of the Pajaro Bay Sheriff’s Dept has been called by the owner of the town’s antique shop, who was suspicious as to why this stranger’s trying to sell such a valuable ring. Must be stolen. Running a check on Camilla’s ID, he discovers the real reason why she’s driving an old clunker and trying to sell a diamond ring bought new only the month before.

He escorts her to the house and she gets her first look at the place. She won’t be paying any bills with what she gets for this tiny, tossed-together mess!

“It looks like it was built by a drunken leprechaun,” she finally said.

I read this first book in the series and quite much enjoyed it. There’s the mystery of what happened to the lowlife who left her and his son with this place — and obviously some romance as Captain Knight tries to help her sort out her legal situation and the house repairs that must be done. The romance is light, the behavior of all characters decent and considerate.

Camilla’s efforts at drawing Oliver out of his shell and respecting his feelings for his father are impressive. There are some tense scenes as it becomes apparent Camilla and Oliver are being set up for some kind of “accidental” death.

A well executed plot by a skillful writer. I’d give it 5 stars and look forward to reading the next book in the series.

According to the book blurb:

“The Pajaro Bay mysteries are filled with light and breezy, heartwarming fun, and always leave you with a happy ending. Each is a stand-alone novel so can be read in any order.”

Team Work

by Edgar Guest

It’s all very well to have courage and skill
and it’s fine to be counted a star,
But the single deed with its touch of thrill
doesn’t tell us the man you are.
For there’s no lone hand in the game we play;
we must work to a bigger scheme.
And the thing that counts in the world today
is, ‘How did you pull with the team?’

They may sound your praise and call you great,
they may single you out for fame,
but you must work with your running mate
or you’ll never win the game.
Oh, never the work of a life is done
by the man with a selfish dream,
for the battle is lost or the battle is won
by the spirit of the team.

Weaving

Weaving Wisdom

The good times and the bad
the ribbons of joy,
the patches of sorrow,
the threads of lessons learned
from the materials of every day;

with these we can weave
the fabric of our lives
into a blanket of sweet memory
that will warm our hearts
in the old times, the cold times.