Art/Architecture Books/Library Christianity/Religion Life Writing

The Artist and the Stone

A chunk of stone struck by an artist may appear damaged and degraded. With swift chisel he wields insult, marring the line, forcing a shadow, laying a plane. From side to side he moves, his knowing eye eternally judging. Finally the piece is finished, glowing in lustrous beauty. The artist stands aside, the masses pass before it and weep. Wrenched from the quarry heap has emerged a masterpiece; a statement, a message, a sermon.

from A Thousand Pieces by S. J. Buxton
Apple Computers Books/Library Life Weather/Nature Writing

At Least This: One More Dawn

I am but a pilgrim, a rather pitiful one at that, certainly not a sage. So when an isolated few pitch honor my way by consulting me and by speaking of my wisdom, I cringe, for of my extreme incompetence am I aware. I shudder, really I do, to consider what a mess this world is in if I am among the wise, except perhaps if it is understood that I am standing on the bottom rung of such a group. For I easily recall the thinness of the pool of wisdom from which I draw.

At least in one thing, however, do I admit to wisdom, that one thing being the acknowledgement of the wonder and the glory of dawn–the awakening to one more day on this earth.

From my unpublished novel, THE SOUL OF ABRAM CLARK

Fingers of dawn began their scribble over the dark sky, and the sun pulled up the edge of night so that paint of pink and blue filled the sky. Now between the trees could be seen the changeling sky, as its fresh self took to the day, its glow serving to note one more night’s survival.

. . .and from another chapter.

He moved along the trail and now a hint of rising sun played on the canyon walls, the inky blue of midnight having grayed to dawn. A watercolor pallet of sunrise threw its tones about the walls and the hues of the rock named the light and became burnt tangerine and creamy raspberry. Abram snapped the shutter of his camera with such rapidity the buffer filled and he must stop to let the processor catch up. By the second, the light changed and the monuments and temples of stone moved forward and backward as the sun rose ever higher, and shadows came, and then reformed.

Few persons had risen so early. The quiet trail led to a widening of the canyon where in a spot that claimed a panoramic view a bench had been placed. Abram sat. A haunting mood took him and he knew the throaty notes of a flute should whisper, or should be heard the plucked strings of a harp.

Then the sun tipped all the way over the eastern edge of the vista and the sky striped itself crimson. Ice glittered on the trees and a veritable world of magic had been struck.


More than a year ago, I finished the first draft of this novel and made feeble attempts to get the attention of an agent and/or a publisher with no positive results. (My attempts were so feeble that, sorry to say, I didn’t even follow up on all leads I was given. 😦 See I told you I’m not very wise.) Since then the book has been simmering in my mind, on the hard drive of my MacBook, and printed out on white pages, punched, and inserted into a leather binder. Today, I finished one more draft and believe I have polished the book to the highest sheen of which I am capable. The book is an excellent one, and I plan to try to get it published.

Would love to hear feedback from you!

Blogging Books/Library Photography Writing

Interview with Chila Woychik

Hey, here we are. I’m excited that Chila Woychik has agreed to spend an hour or so here on my site with all of us who are hunkered around our screens across the United States and maybe even into other parts of the world. We’re an eager, inquisitive bunch–we writers and publishers–and that shifting in the air outside my windows here in Crestline, CA. just may be anticipation and enthusiasm filtering in from you. A few words on the format/procedure. I will ask Chila Woychik for beginning comments, and she will respond. After her initial words, please join in with any questions you have. I have a long list of questions and I’m sure you do also. It would be great to hear from all of you–at least to know you’re there, and to know where you live. I’m certain we’ll all be polite and respectful of everyone’s opinions, even when they may differ from our own.

untitled (1 of 1)Chila M. Bradshaw-Woychik is the owner of what has been referred to as an “exceptional midwest small press.” Port Yonder Press publishes both mainstream and religious books in a number of genres. Though small and young, PYP has already been the recipient of several literary awards, among them the Spur Awards, Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards, Westerners international Fred Olds Poetry Award, Grace Award, and Selah Book of the Year Award.

Chila has written many articles and short stories, has been widely published, and has released at least one book. ON BEING A RAT resides on my Kindle and is beautifully written–a touch sassy, a touch brilliant. She refers to those particular writings as lyric essays and vignettes. I bring you one line from the introduction: “I’d lay my pen on the tiny porch outside my door and let the sun renew it with words.” Exquisite writing.

Welcome Chila. Before I turn you loose, though, I have one question: Did you bring Dudley? If not, why not?

I suspect there may be several with us today who are not familiar with you and your work. Please tell us as much–or as little–as you wish about yourself. A smattering of background, how you happen to be a publisher, a little about your heart–your vision.

Blogging Blogging Awards Books/Library Internet Uncategorized Writing

Announcement: Blog Interview with Chila M. Woychik

You’re here. This is the right place for the interactive interview with Chila M. Bradshaw-Woychik of Port Yonder Press. Monday, February 18th–that’s today! She  is the owner of what has been referred to as an “exceptional midwest small press.” untitled (1 of 1)Port Yonder Press publishes both mainstream and religious books in a number of genres.

The time is 8:00 pm central, which of course is 6:00 here on the west coast. We’ll be talking for an hour or so–open “mic”–and I’m hoping you’ll all join in. Know established writers or beginning writers or “wanna-be writers”? Let them know of this event, please

Please pass the word: Coming up in a few hours here at Have your questions ready.

4:30 PST  Monday  The blog interview will start precisely at 6:00–not in this post, but in the one following. Thank you for standing by–eager to jump in.

Books/Library Christianity/Religion Writing

On Novel Publishing

Usually when I write a column I am sure of the material, whether it is a work I will reference, or opinions and observations rallied from my own brain. This is neither, and in the beginning here–rather the beginning of the publishing part, for the subject has squeaked about my mind for several days, so this could hardly be called the beginning–I anticipate difficulty in presenting my argument in a cogent and convincing manner. (Hardly a grand opening for such a piece, some would say–I hear you now, and I respond: At least I am aware of the shortfall.)

My argument circles about the genre designation of novels–in particular of a manuscript that is scratching to become such a book, and to which I have a distinct connection, seeing I authored the said, eager manuscript. The manuscript is finished and ready for the market. The work is well-done, likely a cut above the average recently published novel, and, with the assistance of both a compelling agent and a skillful editor may possess the force to become a finely wrought piece of literature. Then, too, because I am honest and practical, I recognize such a scenario may be only “an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato,” words Dickens placed in the mouth of Scrooge for saying to old Marley as Scrooge considered whether or not he was seeing a specter.

By the study of agent and book publishers submission processes I have determined there is one (possibly two) genres into which my novel falls: Christian (overt Christianity allowed), but not the Christian which allows only covert Christian thought, and probably not literary because of the overt Christian content. Crossover? Possibly, except the overt Christian tone may preclude this. Not sure.

Which leads to my biggest question–and frustration. Why is there such a genre as Christian? To be logical, should there not also be genre of agnostic, atheist, Buddhist, Muslim, and every other spiritual thought? If my book is spy thriller, YA, sci-fiction, or slipstream can it not also be Christian? Of more puzzlement to me are houses which take covert Christian themes, but not overt.

A radiant drama with redemption as its theme, Christianity flares an enchanting vision of hope that appeals to the masses, for inherently we sense our need of a savior. The creed is the sensation; the plot confounds us, hinged on a solitary character. From antiquity, Christianity has influenced art, as a walk through any major gallery will reveal. Mythology, too, swarms with redemptive themes, yet much of it has been crafted through dark pagan worship.

The embodiment of Christianity takes in the great themes of repentance, forgiveness, redemption, resurrection, and renewal. Are these not arguments with which moving novels may be constructed? Should not writers have the latitude to fashion literary works with obvious Christian roots and have those same works regarded with such favor as the writing itself demands?

My overtly Christian manuscript is not gorged with light-weight characters who grip the bible as a club to beat about the heads of sinners, nor is it strewn with shabby altar calls or wild-eyed prophets who stand on street corners with doom day signs. Yet, I believe, because the the bible teaches so, of strange prophets, of weeping repentance, and even of The Savior, who incensed by the graft of vendors, plaited a whip and raged through the temple.

My overtly Christian manuscript showcases a godly, successful minister who succumbs to ugly sin. The story shimmers with relevant truth as he claws his way from a pit of almost unimaginable depth. My protagonist Abram reveals Christianity to be cooling water for one parched with thirst.

An excerpt follows, a scene in which Abram considers his sin.

Abram threw back the cover. With quiet steps so as not to wake Sten whose snoring told of sound sleep, Abram went down the stairs, opened the front door and stood on the porch. For long minutes he watched the slash of rain and listened to the beat of its rhythm. The wind shrieked and canted, blowing across his face.

Then, as a crazed man, he took to the yard and stood, head tucked, surrender, a slave on the block, a prisoner for the whip. Prisoner? A shred of book memory called up an iron piece, a bit in human mouth, a chain of finest design that clanked men together and then they must hip-hop into the fields. A master called out Nigger.

Abram recalled the words of David. . .

wash me with hyssop. Cleanse me of mine iniquities.

He tried to say the words. He tried to be David, but he could not. His tongue cleaved to the roof of his mouth. The words lugged in his throat, snagged by the roots of his tongue. They would not come.

A new bolt of lightening careened over the landscape. Thunder cracked near, and yet he stood.

I believe my book has the potential to be a literary crossover. I need feedback. I want to hear from agents and publishers and will appreciate any guidance you may have for me. Thank you.

Apple Computers Blogging computers Culture Internet Macs Photography Social Uncategorized Writing

The Computer and I

They called me a bookworm–always have your head in a book–when I was a child, and I suppose I was, for I adored the library over on Central Street, and I recall many days as I walked home from school that I read as I walked down the sidewalk. I walked carefully, slowly, lifting an eye occasionally to avoid stepping off a curb unexpectedly or stumbling over a crack in the sidewalk. At other times, I read in the car, on the school bus, on the city bus, and at night after my dad made us go to bed, by beams from a flashlight, under the cover.

My parents taught me to read the Bible, and at youth group sessions, when we had “sword drills,” I was the fastest to find the called-out reference, because I was a reader. My sister and I were fascinated by tales we read in fairy books, and as we washed and dried the dishes from our evening meal, untitled (8 of 8)we acted them out, and then we made up our own stories. I don’t think I wrote any of them down, but if I could read them now I would probably see they strongly resemble something I had previously read. Every year from the school library, I checked out The Boxcar Children, and all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, and that biographical series of Great Americans–orange and green colored, they were. One of our neighbors had every one of the Hardy Boys and the Nancy Drew books and she let me read all of them.

As I grew older I read newspapers and magazines and learned of such a fabulous thing as a thesaurus. And now, I read the computer. Oh, I still read books and magazines and newspapers, but there is nothing quite like a computer. I read the news, gossip, weather prognosticators, untitled (6 of 8)events taking place here in my mountains, church news, live streaming of church services, YouTube, concerts, hear from some of my kids and some of my friends, learn things, study how to write books, load my digital pictures from my camera, process them with Lightroom, study photography and understand how hard it is, write articles, write books, edit my novel The Soul of Abram Clark, learn about publishing and agents and fuss about in forums, and find recipes. I keep track of our personal banking. I “talk” to people around the world, post pictures for friends and am encouraged by sweet remarks from friends on Facebook, and hope to encourage them a bit. I make travel reservations, pull up our tax bill when I don’t receive a paper one, utilize Mapquest, and just yesterday I found the location of the nearest Subway to the Lighthouse Theatre in Redlands, then emailed the address to Holly and to Rebecca, for we will snack there on Saturday before we attend a performance of Miracle on 34th Street. And get this–right down at the bottom of my sweet Apple is a thesaurus. Amazing thing. I tweet. I blog. I learn of life . . . and I learn of death.

I suspect I am still a bookworm, and sometimes people say, “Shirley, I don’t know how you can stare at that screen so much.” Sometimes I hide, although it’s a bit harder with a computer than with a book and a flashlight.


How about you? Are you a bookworm? Your face always stuck in a screen or a book or in a Kindle? I’d like to hear from you.

Books/Library Photography Writing

The Soul of Abram Clark, a Novel

A few minutes past 7:30 on Tuesday evening, I wrote the last word of my first novel. I’m extremely excited about having finished the book that consists of more than fifty thousand words.

The Soul of Abram Clark

I do not plan to self-publish this work, so my immediate task is to find an agent, and/or a publisher. The task is daunting, and I say with all candor that I expect the book will never be published.

In my opinion, the book is of excellent quality, well-written, intriguing, and of a timely subject. I believe it to be worthy of commercial publishing, although I quite understand it is impossible for me to judge that–others must take on that task.

Why then, if you judge the book exceptional, do you say you expect the book to never be published? someone will surely ask. The answer lies with the odds in book publishing.   Listen to these words of  Larry Brooks  from his very fine site: “… for every novel only one out of every 2000 novels written finds a publisher.  And of those that do, the vast majority will have gathered more than a few rejection slips along the way.” Mr. Brooks is not alone in his assessment; all people in the publishing field agree that the chance of selling a book by an unknown author is miniscule.

However, I will move toward publication. While being realistic in my expectations, and while remembering the odds, I plan to take all reasonable steps to have my novel published.

My immediate steps are as follows:

1. Compose compelling query letter.

2. Locate and query agents who are interested in the type of book I have written.

3. Locate and query publishers who are interested in the type of book I have written, and who will accept a manuscript from a writer with no agent.

4. Perfect the first 50 pages of my manuscript. (Typically, an interested agent wants to see this much of the manuscript.)

5. Write compelling back-cover material.

6. Have the manuscript read by a few select people.

7. Begin work on second draft of the complete book . . . then a third . . . then a fourth . . .fifth. . .

Would you like to help me?

I need an agent. Do you have any contact with one, or do you know the brother-in-law of one, or the second cousin once removed of your Aunt Lucy who once was in publishing, or did you hear a friend speak of a friend of a friend who . . .? You get the idea I’m sure.

From time to time through this process, I will publish parts of the novel, as I have done once before. No spoilers, though.

From a couple of pages into chapter 1

Landy moved with the stream of people who headed toward the exit doors. Then, among the crush, Grady Tomes stood before her and extended his hand. She stopped and smiled at the man as the crowd moved around the couple. He was a balloon, puffed up, weaving back and forth with importance. His hand in hers was a round of mush, white and soft. His orbed head was pink with a jagged line of fine white hair that circled around. The edges were damp. His aqua eyes bulged, set over by tufts of brows, as though cotton strands from boles had been stuck on. His mouth was red; his lower lip wet and large.

Landy saw that his clothes were of fine cut and that they had been pressed with skill. The shoes on his small feet were glossy, and in the middle of each ended a pant leg, creased knife-blade sharp.

Landy looked at his rotund middle as he bent toward her. Beads of sweat threatened to spill on her. “Landy, my dear, so excellent to see you here.”

“And you, also, Brother Tomes.”

He dropped her hand, turned, and moved through the people. He did not genuflect right and left as though before an adoring crowd, he only appeared to do so.


Animals Crestline Humor Life Photography Weather/Nature Writing

Last Day of Summer Adventure

A couple of weeks ago a section of my novel-in-progress disturbed me so much I was weeping profusely. Those shed tears are long gone, for the chapter I’m working on now makes me want to snatch out papers, wad them into big balls and do a slam-dunk into the nearest trash can! Pitiful. Boring. Flat. Uninteresting. Won’t work. Doesn’t make sense.

So . . . I told Jerry I was leaving. Grabbed my camera, a short grocery list, letters for the post office, and a stuffed bear I had rooted around and found in the upstairs bedroom where the grandkids sleep when they visit. He might be a model for my shoot . . . at the very least he would comfort me, sitting obediently by my side as I tore out of our driveway.

Camp Seeley is two or three miles from our house. Just outside the entrance to the camp runs Seeley Creek. When I arrived there I found this.

. . . and these

And as we were leaving, Bear said he wanted to play in the grass, and so for a few minutes we played hide-and-go-seek in the bushes by Seeley Creek–Bear and I did that.

Courage Culture Goodness of man Grief Photography Writing

First Draft Tears

“On your blog, why don’t you publish bits of it as you go along,” someone suggested, knowing that I am writing my first novel. I was opposed to doing so then,  but I am sharing now, although it’s not something I plan to do often. I am doing so because I wept as I wrote this morning.

In a way, I was astonished at myself for crying over words printed on a computer screen about a fictional character. But when I thought more about it, I considered again that novels come from the author’s mind–in this case, from my mind, and that the people in my novel are real to me because in one sense of the word, they are real people. I have seen their lives. I have cried with them, and I have clapped at their accomplishments. I have eaten meals with such people, and have sat in conferences with them. I’ve shared their struggles.

So, from a first draft of my first novel with the working title, The Soul of Abram Clark, I bring you part of chapter 10.

Richard beat on the floor, his two black fists, hammers.

For two hours, Richard and Sten sat on the floor immersed in conversation that was a mix of Richard’s vomiting out hate and fear and of Sten’s projecting hope and understanding. There was no balance in the conversation: Sten listened long and easy, while from Richard spewed a torrent of words and emotions, as though the walls of Hoover dam had split asunder and the pent-up Colorado had rushed to cover land and houses and farms and roads. Or perhaps the escaping river was of oil, black and greasy, that crashed boulders about and that decimated life and that wasted the landscape.

Finally, Richard was finished, emptied. His face was swollen, his eyes almond slits. The two men sat in silence on the living room floor of the Shepler home.

“Richard, Marjorie and I have spoken about this, and we are inviting you to live here with us, permanently. We believe in you and in your potential for success—even for greatness. There is something special inside you—something that you probably are not able to recognize yourself, although somewhere deep inside, my words may resonate with a tiny spark in your heart. Life has tried to beat it out of you and has tried to destroy you. You’ve been kicked around by your mother and abandoned by your father. Drug dealers have pawed over your young body and over your impressionable mind. You have been mutilated and bloodied.

But listen to me, Richard.” Sten again placed his hand on Richard’s shoulder. Richard’s head banked over. His eyes were closed. “You are a survivor. You are of strength. You are steel and of integrity.”

Richard lifted his head and looked straight now into Sten’s face.

“There is an intangible factor within you, Richard. You are destined to make a mark on this world—a positive mark. You will make this world a better place.”

Richard stared, unblinking. Tears began tracking down his mutilated face. He did not move. In an infinitesimal motion, he elevated his head.

“I’m investing in you, and I am positive my return will be of a thousand-fold,” Sten finished.

There you are, the first ones to read from my developing novel. I’m interested in hearing anything you might have to say.

(I don’t know where all those extra quotation marks came from, but I cannot get rid of them. Please ignore them. 🙂  )

Books/Library Humor Photography Social Writing

Not Perfect

Because I write something every day, I’m quite aware of the need for accurate spelling, punctuation, and other usage of the language, although I understand that despite my carefulness, I frequently make mistakes, as do others.  When I self-published my first (of four) books, I scrutinized every word, sentence, and paragraph in what proved to be the futile goal of producing a flawless book. During these years of extensive writing and publishing, I have learned that a professionally produced book by a major publisher, on average, contains three errors.

Even though I know this, it startled me this past week to notice a significant error in a beautiful book I had purchased.

Yesterday at the library, I picked up a notice of a book sale, and saw right away a misspelled word. A misspelled word and the library somehow seem out of synch.

However, the small error did not hinder my successfully shopping there today. Here’s an image of my stack; a bargain for $4.00.

Okay, okay. I know this piece will be scrutinized to assure that I have produced a piece in which grammatical, spelling, and punctuation usage is of the highest caliber. Score me. 🙂


New post on my devotional blog here.