Posted in Church, Music

Beautiful River

Another one of the songs it my 19th century American Song book is this Religious Favorite.  Written By Rev. Robert Lowry, minister at Hanson Place Baptist Church, this song was sung by 40,000 children in Brooklyn during a parade.

While his most famous creation, he was not especially proud of it, preferring All the Way My Saviour Leads Me and I Need Thee Every Hour.

I found this song in my Baptist and Methodist hymnals, with 4 verses, but not the same four. Of Lowry’s 6 verses, the 5th disappears from the hymn books I have. Later hymnals apparently dropped the “smiling of the river”.

The other change I noticed was that in the last verse, instead of Lowry’s original silver river, hymnals change the river to a “shining river.”

Shall we gather at the river,

Where bright angel feet have trod

With its crystal tide forever

Flowing by the throne of God!


Yes, we’ll gather at the river,

The beautiful, the beautiful river

gather with the saints at the river,

That flows by the throne of God.

On the margin of the river,

Washing up its silver spray,

We will walk and worship ever,

All the happy golden day.


On the bosom of the river,

Where our Saviour-king we own,

We shall meet and sorrow never

‘Neath the glory of the throne.


Ere we reach the shining river,

Lay we every burden down,

Grace our spirits will deliver

And provide a robe and crown.


At the smiling of the river,

Mirror of the Saviour’s face

Saints whom death will never sever,

Lift their songs of saving grace.


Soon we’ll reach the silver river,

Soon our pilgrimage will cease;

Soon our happy hearts will quiver

With the melody of peace.


Posted in Family, Music

A Toy and a Song Book

The family was sitting around on Thanksgiving Evening, after hosting the extended family Thanksgiving dinner. My son was in the playroom digging through an old toy chest, looking for stray Lego pieces he was missing, when he came across a toy he was unfamiliar with. It was a windup clock that played a song, old enough that you had to wind it up, and then gently push the windup wheel to get it to play at the correct speed, instead of 1/4 speed.

He brought over the old Fisher Price clock (which I recognized as a toy from my childhood), and asked “what song is that?”

“I can play it for you” I told him, “Once I finish doing this online survey I am taking.”

The survey was almost done, and once I completed it, I went to my music books and found the book I was looking for: Popular Songs of Nineteenth-Century America: Complete original sheet music for 64 songs.

I pulled it out, looked up Grandfather’s Clock, and played it for him.

I also showed him the inscription on inside cover:

Johnathan Lightfoot


~Aunt Olive

And we spent much of the evening after that going through several of the 64 songs. (Thank you, Aunt Olive, even if you misspelled my name, your gift of music is still blessing me and the next generation.) So tonight I will be sharing some of that music in this blog, and perhaps a few other blogs.

So I may or may not talk more about Grandfather’s Clock in this blog. The book is arranged alphabetical, and I will be reviewing and commenting on the songs I select in that order.

Battle Hymn of the Republic

One of the interesting thing about the songs in their original sheet music is how the music is arranged. For example, the Battle Hymn is written in a staccato 4/4 chord progression.

It has a third verse that I knew, because I had played from the book as a child, but which is not in any of the hymn books that I have on my shelves, and which Betsy, who knows all the verses to most hymns, was not familiar. The verse is:

I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:

“As ye deal with my contemners so with you my grace shall deal;

“Let the Hero born of woman crush the serpent with his heel,

“Since God is marching on.”

One of the things I like about this version, besides it militant marching accompaniment, is the ending tags of each verse.  Several hymn books like to change the end of each verse to “His Truth Is Marching On”. But here, the five verses have five different tags:

His Truth is marching on

His day is marching on

Since God is marching on

Our God is marching on

While God is marching on

The subtle changes of the wording have significant relationship to the text of each verse.

The music is written with unison verse and three-part chorus — soprano, alto and baritone. A lot of the music was arranged with parts for the chorus. This was in the time where people created their own entertainment, so being able to play instruments or sing music in parts was a standard part of people’s lives.

(Next: Beautiful River)

Posted in Politics

Cultures in Conflict

I almost suspended my blog series to publish this post earlier.  Instead, I am writing it on Wednesday for release on Friday. It is showing my perspective from Wednesday, to see how well it holds up to the light of Friday.

I am befuddled by the reaction of the protestors. Why they take such an interest in the fate of another person, in a place far away from them, in a criminal case.

I know we are to care about others, but the way these people identify with the victim as themselves seems very communally dangerous.

Of course, I see the event as an exchange between one individual and another, or an individual and the representative of authority. They picture this as the clash of one group against another. This is the prime advantage/disadvantage that each side faces: there is a war of two cultural perspectives.

The protesters demand justice for their group, by insisting that an individual from the other group be punished for the crimes of the other group against them. That the evidence against the individual isn’t even compelling enough to warrant the justice system to go to the effort of a trial is immaterial to the needs of the justice for their group. One doesn’t have to do anything individually wrong to merit punishment.

Thus we can have social justice for groups and injustice for the individual, or justice for the individual with social injustice. This is the frame that is painted by the conflicting cultural perspectives and imperatives. Are we groups, or are we individuals.


But which frame prevails? How do they relate to each other? How does responsibility get assigned to the group or the individual? Am I limited by the groups I am assigned as belonging to, never able to get beyond them and their definitions, or am I an individual able to define myself and chose to change myself and my destiny by growing, creating and reforming myself and others?

Will people see what I do as a result of “what I built”? or will everything I do be a result of the groups I am seen as affiliated with by the culture?

There are groups we are “innately” associated with, and groups we choose to belong to. Are our group associations to be primarily seen as the ones of individual choice, or will the “hard-wired” ones be the prevailing ones in our identity?

Based on the culture you come from, different of the above questions will seem reasonable, while others will seem insane. It is even possible that some of the questions will seem heretical and unaskable by the group mentality that arises.

Are we a nation of laws, and if so, what type of laws? Are they laws that govern individual actions, or those that govern people by the actions of the groups they belong to?

As you can see, the thoughts in this blog are neither swift nor precise. But they are core to the sort of events facing our culture. We have to get outside thinking the current assumptions of our society — the things that “just are” — to think critically about these things, and the impacts they have on us all.

Posted in Uncategorized

With a Song of Thanksgiving

Here is the lyric and sound tracks for the Medley “With a Song of Thanksgiving” that I sang Sunday at Avondale United Methodist Church.

At the end I include the track from the choral anthem, “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken.”

Come, ye thankful people, come – Raise the song of harvest-home;

All is safely gathered in Ere the winter storms begin.

God, our Maker, doth provide For our wants to be supplied:

Come to God’s own temple, come – Raise the song of harvest-home.


For the beauty of the earth, For the glory of the skies,

For the love which from our birth over and and around us lies;

Lord of all, to Thee we raise This our hymn of grateful praise.


For the joy of human love, Brother, sister, parent, child;

Friends on earth and friends above; For all gentle thoughts and mild:

Lord of all, to Thee we raise This our hymn of grateful praise.


For Thyself, best gift divine, To our race so freely given;

For that great, great love of Thine, Peace on earth and joy in heaven:

Lord of all to Thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.


We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;

He chastens and hastens His will to make known;

The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing,

Sing praises to His name: He forgets not His own.


Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,

Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;

So from the beginning the fight we were winning;

Thou, Lord, wast at our side, all glory be Thine!


We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,

And pray that thou still our Defender wilt be.

Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;

Thy name be ever praised! O Lord make us free!

O Lord make us free!


Anthem: Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken

Posted in Avondale United Methodist Church, Writing

Witchfinder — the multi-tasking mind of the writer

(This is part five of a blog series on the discussion between Sarah A. Hoyt and the Avondale United Methodist Church Book Club about Hoyt’s book Witchfinder, the art of writing, and what it is like to publish a book as both a traditional and “indie” author.)

Mark W.: You mentioned that you read 2-3 books at a time.  How many books to do you write at a time? How many books are you working on right now?

Sarah: I should give the proper answer and say one book at a time.

Right now I have two science fictions, and then on the side I have the stock pile. I will be going on one project and another idea will come along.  The proper thing to do with an idea is to ignore them until they go away, Because I already have more ideas on file than I could write in a lifetime. So the first thing I do is “go bother someone else”. Then if it doesn’t go away, if it sits there, then I have to do something to keep it quiet for a little while. Can be anything from jotting down this happens and this happens.

I have a science fiction trilogy that exists in a notebook my husband moved. Three books about humans who for reasons of necessity enhance themselves with alien genes and how that changes them and how that changes the people back home and about the poor kid who is raised by ordinary humans back home but isn’t. It wouldn’t leave me alone, actually attacked me while we were away for the weekend so the only way to make it shut up was to write the plot for three books.

I went to this convention and my publishers were there, they asked what are you doing, and is this indie or are we getting it.

(I told them) This is generally new and absurd. Like Dragon Riders of Pern meets Starship Troopers. Set in a world that is sort of like World War I technology. That sounds odd. But it has to got to be you because I see the cover, it is a Tompkins cover. A steam train is coming out of the cover toward the reader and above it is a silver dragon with a girl riding it in World War I aviator’s gear.  This is Toni (my publisher).  She says “It is a Tompkins cover, I guess we get it.

It is all there, if I just let it dictate it it is all there. Right now I am trying to stop it long enough to finish this other book.

At one time –I was writing books set in Elizabethan England, 19th century China, and 24th century.  That got very weird, because there was cross contamination .It is the result of (my) low attention span and lack of self-control.

The proper answer is “I write a book at a time like a good writer.” Because there are things readers don’t need to know.

Jonathan: Let me follow up a little bit on that. You talk about a lack of self-control, but if you average it out, how many words a day do you write?

Sarah: Including the blog, it alternates … life keeps interfering. There are days these past two years I wrote nothing.  I signed up for the catastrophe of the week club. I didn’t know it, maybe somebody gave it to me as a gift but it just been really hard. But if I sit down and write at all – about 10,000.

Sandy: That’s a lot.

Sarah: I have been known to write 40 thousand in a weekend….  But it is not my normal.

Mark: This book had extremely short chapters. Several in the discussion said it made us, well let me read one more chapter, one more chapter. …and kept going. Was the existence of extremely short chapters because of the story, of because of the blog with the chapter a week.

Sarah: For a reason. First when you are writing multiple persons with a large cast it is better to have short chapters because if you have these really long chapters then have you 4 or 5 threads people are following, when you get to that 4th one you get a “who is this?” so it is better to have short chapters. Second one is because I learned from Pratchett. Who in his first books didn’t have chapters but sections because of the traction you are talking about, I will read one more section. And the next thing you now it is 4 in the morning and you are still reading the book. That is a good effect for writers.

I like for people coming to cons and saying “you, you kept me up all night.” One guy said “I probably failed my first year of med school because of you.  Now I am going to go and buy the other book.” He’s now a doctor, so I guess he didn’t flunk.

The other was the chapter a week. Did it on Friday. Friday is the day I clean, so I have half an hour to write the chapter and then get to cleaning. So that controlled the length too.

I know as a reader if you have a short chapter it is easier. If people get to the end of a chapter and go, oh my heavens it (the next chapter) is 30 pages they put it aside and there is a good chance, life being what it is, that they won’t come back.  Part of it is to keep people attached.

I was talking to an author, writing science fiction and he is putting in links to another area. And I said, stop that, put them as afterwards, do not link from the inside. Why not? He said. Because, I said,  I go off and read about your super-duper time travel device and search for it, and then I go on the internet and start searching up names you gave me and I never come back. Stop sending the readers away. That’s not the way to have a career in this field. And he said, “oh, I never thought of that.”

The End (for now)

Posted in Avondale United Methodist Church, Writing

Witchfinder — indie publishing

(This is part four of a blog series on the discussion between Sarah A. Hoyt and the Avondale United Methodist Church Book Club about Hoyt’s book Witchfinder, the art of writing, and what it is like to publish a book as both a traditional and “indie” author. Sarah begins here by talking about putting up her book for sale as an indie publisher.)

Sarah: Once I put the book up, I can see the figures, real time. I see I just got 500 sales. And by now I have made on that book what I would make on a traditional sales, within 4 months, which is what I was trying to prove to myself. Because I have put my backlog up, and those don’t sell like a new book.  I have musketeer mysteries and earn maybe a few hundred dollars a year, and I thought maybe I’ll just make a couple hundred a year (on Witchfinder), and while over time that might be the same from traditional publishing, over a very long time, and I live from this – well we live from my husband’s salary and my inputs from it.

It was completely different.

By the way, I am terrible at promotion, but let me say, by the end of November everything that’s indie, under Goldport Press, novel length, will be on sale until January. I am doing a Christmas splash.

I am not a control freak, but after 12 years of working for traditional publishing and having some really bizarre things happen. Like books going out of print just weeks after they come out. The sold out the print run and the publisher takes it out of print, and I am thinking “you should be printing more, not taking it out of print”.

One feels good being able to control the process. I think that is the attraction. I do think the future is e-books, and here I am looking at this as a reader. I have this horrible habit I read 2-3 books at a time. I used to roam all over the house looking for the books I was reading.

My kids learned to read in self-defense because their first job was to go find me the book I was reading And they learned. Because, how do I know what is this book, because the house is full of books. So it starts with a B. Well what does a B look like? I show them, they roam around the house and come back with 3 books that begin with B. Eventually they learned to read because they had to. Sort of read in self-defense or else mother will make us go and locate another book.

The other thing I would do was make them read to me while I was cooking, because I was reading in paper. And I have a lot of mysteries that have a lot of splats on them because I was reading while I was cooking, so I would say, go to the kitchen table and read. But they both read very well, and by the time they entered school.

With by Kindle I can read and cook, I put it in a ziplock bag, and I can take it with me on trips. The reason we got a kindle, my husband he was having trouble focusing, so reading books on paper was impossible. Doctor suggested an e-reader . For whatever reason, reading on a reader is easier to focus. As an avid reader, when he was unable to get his fix he wasn’t easy to live with. We got him a Kindle, and he can read a Kindle fine. It has become attached to his hand. I have heard same stories from friends.

Sandy: to me there are two advantages to the e-reader. For one you can make the print as big as you want, and when I read at lunch I don’t have to prop the book open with a stapler.

Sarah: Or a knife. My kids think the purpose of a butter knife is to hold my book open. I will be honest, I was a bit a stick in the mud with an e-reader particularly because I don’t like reading on the screen. We got the first kindle, and what I found I kept forgetting I wasn’t reading paper. So there were two problems. I have a horrible habit of reading two or three at a time, and will put them face down. Well I kept putting the kindle face down and forgetting where I put it. The second problem is I still get books in paper, for research, is that the first time I pick one up after a long time of reading Kindle, I’ll be pushing to have the page turned.

I read while I cook, to flip  a page with a finger with butter it is there forever , if you just touch it, you put it in a ziplock it is just a little dot you can wipe it. They sell fancy things, but hey, it is a Ziplock, gets gross you can throw it away.

Jonathan: is writing your actually profession, or is it a time-consuming hobby.

Sarah: My training is in language and literature with an option to teach. Training and translation. When you start out you make very little, build up clientele. When you move you lost all your clients. They want something local, so when we moved to Colorado I told my husband I will have to rebuild my business, but what he told me, was, since you always wanted to write, why don’t you write, you are going to have to do it either way.  I’m not sure it was the brightest thing in the world because it took me almost 8 years to make almost anything.

At this point, If I don’t get ridiculously late on a book, I make about what I would make from the most viable job I could walk into tomorrow, which is instructor at a community college. About the same as an underpaid secretary. But I do it from home, I was here for the kids growing up, there are intangibles. I don’t have to dress up, though I usually do, because I fell sloppy writing in my pajamas. I enjoy it a lot more than being a secretary, I know this because I worked as a secretary for a while. Yes at this point it is my job, which is why when I get ridiculously late delivering a book it costs me money.

To be Continued

Posted in Avondale United Methodist Church, Writing

Witchfinder — shapeshifting diner and the free library

(This is part three of a blog series on the discussion between Sarah A. Hoyt and the Avondale United Methodist Church Book Club about Hoyt’s book Witchfinder, the art of writing, and what it is like to publish a book as both a traditional and “indie” author.)

Sarah: Years ago when I was writing but hadn’t published yet, I thought I need a reward for myself for when I finish a book, so I have something physical, because I might never sell it. I need something tangible to say yes I did that, so I started buying these, These are glass globes. Because I am a magpie and I like sparkly things. I have one for each novel….This is a rolltop desk and this is the top of the desk and this leads to very interesting moments because the cats love to walk up there, and it leads to hah hah aiyee get off the glass wall.

When we move (to a new house) my goal is to have a wall that I can put a glass globe wall where they can’t get to.

Sandy: That is very cool, I love the glass balls.

Sarah: You should get something for yourself when you finish the work. I know some other people buy silver charms, have a bracelet, I just don’t like things around my wrists.

Mark: I noticed when I was reading on the cover, it mentioned Noah’s Boy, and I wondered is it related to this book, is it the same genre?

Sarah: It is the same genre, it is also not related. This is a convention, you put the last novel in the genre on the cover of the book. It is the third book in the series.

It is about a diner where shape shifters congregate. The diner’s owners are shape shifters and they have some responsibility when a shape shifter goes off the reservation and starts eating people. They have to deal with it, so the city won’t be affected.

I don’t read my books again unless I am working in my series again. Noah’s Boy, I read Draw into the Dark (book one of the series) and realized something really weird.  I learned British English first, and other dialects later, and that book mixes them up a lot, I used pavement instead of sidewalk, for example. That book goes in and out a lot. I called Toni, said I needed to fix it.  “We’ll let you do it for the second edition,” she said, and put the first edition up free on Amazon. As you know, the first taste is free.” (an allusion to the philosophy of the Baen Free Library

Noah’s Boy completely shocked me because all of a sudden there was a space invasion, and I have no idea where it came from. It’s the book’s fault, and I’m sticking to that.

Jonathan: You have both dealt with self-published and traditional publishing houses, please compare and contrast.

Sarah: I am doing both. What Indie allowed me to do was drop the houses that were driving me crazy. So I kept the one. I had three publishing houses. Which is very difficult. It is like having three spouses. Each one wants to be exclusive. And they will actively sabotage each other. Which makes no sense because you think, if an author becomes a best seller it will lift all books. But what they think is … so no publicity or at one point, (then) I had them racing each other to be the first one to publish, so I ended up with three books coming out in a month.  This was insane. I couldn’t sleep, they were all crazy,

But I will still work for Baen because Baen is decent. They treat you like family. The other two houses I dropped because they were driving me several levels of insane, including Berkley, because they said “you have to change your name again” like why?

Now I work Indie and Baen.  I need Indie because there are things Baen doesn’t publish. But I write mystery also. I don’t think they want everything, so I like having the other option. With Baen I get a check up front, but won’t see royalties for maybe two years. So I can ask “how is it selling?” at at this stage even the publisher won’t know. Six months to a year to get the first report.

So with Indie, with the way I do it, I am also going to bring new books out under small press house. But this one, Goldport Press is all mine.  All controlled by me.

This book (Witchfinder) was my first attempt at typesetting. Inside it isn’t the type I like, but this is through CreateSpace and every other type I used ended up twice the size. And that meant the price was like $40, I couldn’t ask people to pay $40 for a book, so I had to use I think Sanscript Baskerville. For some reason it is condensed. I was afraid it would be hard to read, I think in a way it is, a little.

One of my writing friends, and the person I go to for question is (Terry) Anderson. He is now publishing his own stuff too, and what he said is “don’t sweat the hard copy. You will sell some, some people still prefer, them, but you will sell one for every hundred you sell in e-book. I don’t know why.  If you are still going traditional most of your sales are in paper, but everyone who goes Indie has this huge ratio. I have books that have sold thousands in E and one or two in hard copy. You ought to have the hard copy because people want it to exist, but people don’t buy it, they want the e-book. Tons of people will tell me ‘I need a hard copy’ and then they don’t buy it, they buy the e-book. It is cheaper and more convenient.”

Cover was a problem, because I contracted with the artist, and the cover looked like it was drawn by a three-year-old. Oh, this won’t do. So the cover is a compromise, it what I could (re)do with Photoshop and a period painting, the gentlemen is a picture I ran through filters and I bought the dragon. I needed something that says historical, I needed something that says fantasy, and I needed a central human figure.  Because the only place you get away with not having a human on the cover and still selling reasonably well is military science fiction.

The Cover Taught me a valuable lessons. One of the problems writers have in traditional publishing and that I have is that we have no control. I am now getting to the point at Baen that I am selling enough and they like me enough that I get to tell the artist “I don’t like this,” and if the publisher agrees I get it, which was the cover for Darkship Thieves — only I don’t remember saying naked.

The other houses I get covers and go – what were you smoking? But you have no say, the packaging is their decision, so I thought, Indie I get complete control – except you are still limited by what the artist delivers – and by the way, about artists. I know what I said about delivering books late, and I have delivered late a couple times, not all. Artists – it is not just me – other writers who have gone indie say it – these people will say – you will have it next week and then a year later it comes in and it is awful, and it is clear they did it in a morning and they were drunk.  I think it is the Bohemian archetype.

To Be Continued …

Posted in Avondale United Methodist Church, Writing

Witchfinder — characters shock the writer

(This is part two of a blog series on the discussion between Sarah A. Hoyt and the Avondale United Methodist Church Book Club about Hoyt’s book Witchfinder, the art of writing, and what it is like to publish a book as both a traditional and “indie” author.)

Sandy: So how you keep all of these characters and plot points straight – do you have index cards or something?

Sarah: I tried cards, and notebooks, none of that works for me, because the characters are just themselves. They just show up and do their thing and if I don’t get in the way they are amazingly consistent in themselves.

Another writer said you have to do it this way, find out things about the characters. So I did it, but I wasn’t writing the stories because I was talking to the characters. What I was finding out wasn’t what I needed for the book.

There are things, like when Jonathan reveals himself, takes action and reveals himself, that shocked me, which I think works very well, because it was a shock for the readers too.

I feel very responsible and non-professional doing it that way. Should I pretend I do index cards?

Sandy: No’ I think that is actually fine, I have seen articles and other interviews that say similar things. Everyone has their own style, and whatever works for anyone is great.

Sarah: If you think about it isn’t quite the sane thing to do for a living. I sit down and create elaborate lies.

Sandy: And talk to my imaginary friends.

Sarah: Yes!

Jonathan: You mention Jonathan Blythe several times, and one of my favorite lines was about him near the end of the book. “We’ll send Jonathan Blythe to them, and they’ll end up thinking this was all their own idea.”  I take it that this idea of Jonathan Blythe is where Rogue Magic spins off of. I didn’t exactly see him that way, but it sparked such a wonderful idea is my mind when I read it.

Sarah: Yes, he is like that, although inside his head – because in rogue magic we spend a lot of time inside his head — and oh, is it a messy place! He is not as nearly as suave as he comes across on the outside. There is a lot more hesitation and stuttering, but what comes out of his mouth is very polished.

(From here Sarah segued to a story about the fastest she ever wrote a book – 3 days – in writing Plain Jane – a novel about one of Henry VIII’s wives. The publishing house asked her to be one of several authors each writing about a different wife.

Sarah: They gave me Jane Seymour. This is somewhat of a problem because I have no interest in the woman. She lived a life no one recorded and died giving birth. How do you write a novel about this? So I put it off and put it off. For the first time in my life the publisher was calling.  We have a cover, can we have the book. So I sat down and I just rushed through it in three days and I actually had no clue about what I had just written. But I thought, hey, it’s not under my name (the publishing  house was giving her a Pseudonym). So I sent it in and fully expected them to say what about these chapters in the middle? They never said anything, they published it. It did well, it is still doing well. And about a year ago I actually picked it up and read it. It makes perfect sense – probably one of the best things I have written.

I’m seriously considering writing all my books in three days. Only it almost killed me. When I got done writing it I felt 80 years old. My fingers hurt, the joints on my fingers were about pounded to death. I felt and looked 80, looked like I had just been drained, pale. I came up with all sorts of things, like dividing it into sections, having cool names for the sections.

Sandy: I notice you have a whole wall of books behind you. I have to ask, what is your favorite.

Sarah: The books behind are mostly research. But as an author who I like most everything he writes, that is Pratchett.

Sandy: Yes, he’s my favorite as well.

Sarah: I read Pratchett, I read Agatha Christie, obviously with this book I read Georgette Heyer. Although I didn’t read any of her (Heyer’s) stuff until I was 37. I met my publisher Toni Weiskopf at a con and said I know my plotting needs help — there are cultural reasons for that —  plotting of Portuguese novels are much slower, and that is what I grew up with.

So my novels had these very slow, very inside your head rhythm. And she said: Read Heyer. And I found I liked her romances. Her mysteries are atrocious. There is no life in them. They are like set pieces, just figures moving around.

The ones (authors) I reread are Terry Pratchett, Agatha Christie, Heyer, and Heinlein, but Heinlein is more when I am in a science fiction mode, which I should be right now.

Betsy: (Referring to something on a bookshelf behind Sarah) I was wondering if that was a Lego Batman up there…

Sarah: No, no, this, my younger son, at 4, came to me with this.  The way I bought time to write was have them play on the floor in my office. So he came to me and told me “this is an attack duck. It will protect you when you are writing.”  He is embarrassed that I have kept it all these years. It talks (she moved its mouth and it fell apart, she put it back together). I told him we should have it dipped in resin or something so I don’t have to put it back together. That is my guardian duck, he protects me, which is good because the critters I write about are dangerous. So I have an attack Duck, and have all sorts of things the kids have given me. An origami crane from his Japanese culture class… the one thing I do collect in the junk.


(Next time – more on the “junk” Hoyt collects)

Posted in Avondale United Methodist Church, Reviews, Writing

Witchfinder and the art of publishing/writing

Author Sarah A. Hoyt addressed the Avondale United Methodist Book Club this morning (Saturday, November 22, 2014) to discuss her book Witchfinder, the art of writing and what it is like to publish a book as both a traditional and “indie” author.

The interview was a culmination of the club’s reading and discussing Witchfinder at its regular club meeting earlier this month. Witchfinder is Hoyt’s first indie publication of a new release novel. This blog post, and possibly a few more, will cover what was discussed, and the insights gleaned, during the hour and twenty minutes of rolling conversation.

The interview was conducted by Skype, and this was the first time the book club had attempted to use Skype, so technical issues were encountered. On the Avondale end Mark Keeney, church staff member and husband of church librarian Sandy Keeney, provided tech support to get the sound clearer, while in Colorado Dan Hoyt, Sarah’s husband, provided her with technical support.

So as they were getting things set up, and as we were waiting for people to roll in at Avondale, Dan provided this important note, from his experience at various conferences.

“The best way to handle things at a conference is don’t talk about anything important for the first 10 or 15 minutes.”

“That’s usually where the writers come in” Sarah chimed in, giving us a visual of a half asleep/zombie like writer entering, searching for coffee.

“But that’s usually when you get the fun stuff, when people are off book,” Dan added. The things that everyone remembers happen in those first few minutes.

(And that must be true, since here I am remembering it.)

We had collected questions from the club to start and guide the conversation. As spokesperson, I had divided them into two sets: those about  Witchfinder, and those about publishing in general. I decided to begin with the questions about the book.

Jonathan: How much of this story did you have in mind before you began or how much do the characters write the story and take it where you don’t intend.

Sarah: This book is a bad one to answer that one. Normally I have a very good idea of what I call the high points. I know okay, this is where they meet, this is where it is going to go. I thought I had it planned when I started out. I started this book on my website mostly because I didn’t want to think (what) to post every day. I wanted one day, Friday, where I knew what I was going to write.

(Sarah had actually started the book earlier, as a sort of proposal for her agent, but it ended up in her drawer when the agent didn’t know what sort of book it was to market it.)

Sarah: (She told me) “We don’t know if it is fantasy or science fiction.” At this point I said, “hello, magic, spells, fairyland, what are you talking about.” “But the character is a computer technician, that makes it science fiction.” Ah no.

I started writing a chapter a week. The main reason I chose it was I already had four chapters written. So I started doing a chapter a week. The book was not supposed to be like this at all, it was supposed to be about them having adventures and rescuing people. It was supposed to be about half the size that it is.

But I wrote it over a year. Normally I write my books very fast. Usually in a month or two, tops. This was, by necessity a very long process, and over time it changed, the characters got a life of their own. Then I had to go back and fix things to make sense. Gabriel was supposed to be a very minor character.

Mark W.: That changed a little.

Sarah: So for this book the answer was it wasn’t very well plotted, sort of hit me over the head. Like I was writing along and the book crashed (into) me and ran off with me, hijacked my fingers.  I was very surprised when I finished, I needed to revise, and clean it up. I thought this is going to be very interesting, it probably makes no sense at all. Well, the characters changed, but they made sense, and it needed about as much revision as my normal book. (But) first of all I put it off for six months because I was so scared of it, and then I set aside a whole week just to do just that.

It came out very complex, which I hadn’t meant, and a group novel, which I also hadn’t intended. So you see that wasn’t a simple question.

Jonathan: We have some questions about fairyland and fairies. Where did you pick up the rules for Fairyland in this one, is there some sort of long medieval tradition you are drawing from, or did you come up with most of it yourself?

Sarah: (I used) Medieval, and Rome, and some basic things, the role of myth in all of them. And creatures are very Protean, they change, their shape, they are different.

I had started with the vague idea that it (Fairyland) was a parasite world, and I was 2/3 in before I realized it wasn’t. It was actually some sort of magical engine that propelled the rest of the worlds and gave them magic.

So it was this was a very interesting process (writing a chapter a week). Let’s do something completely different from what I normally do it and see what gets done.  I’m still not decided on whether I like it. It is a mix of all the mythological travels to different realms and how they change you. And then dictates of the book itself, and what it needed. Which is good, but causes problems for the sequels, but that’s okay.

Jonathan: Do these characters appear in any other books, or will they? The mention of sequels seems to say yes.

Sarah: I have started two sequels, one on the Website, called Rogue Magic, featuring Jonathan Blythe — because I have a thing for rogues. And the other one is called the Haunted Air, and it is kind of YA, what happens when Michael, Seraphim’s younger brother, builds a sort of boat, a rowboat, but it is magical and it can go between dimensions and he gets into all sorts of trouble with it. He is 16, so you know, you sort of expect it. He starts by running away from a magical mechanical barber that he created and which is trying to behead him.

To Be Continued …

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Leap years, leap days, and missing days — the importance of calendars

Avondale United Methodist Men’s club had a fairly good rolling conversation around the table Thursday night. My son Nathan described it as the same methodology used in a podcast, except without the recording. A group of people who are talking. They start with one topic, and then either build off of it, expanding to other ones, or else think of other subjects that will pique the group’s interest. Podcasts are meant and recorded for an audience. Our conversation wasn’t.

One of the subjects our circle discussed was the question of calendars. The world has various civil and religious calendars, and the way various religious holidays are calculated vary based on the religious group and the calendars that they are using.

Of particular interest to us Westerners, was the change from the Gregorian to the Julian calendar. The Julian calendar, which was basically the Roman calendar, inserts too many leap years. It got so the Church calendar had festivals meant for the beginning of spring occurring 10 days to late.

So in 1582 Pope Gregory issued a Papal Bull amending the calendar, and dropping 10 days to bring the seasons back in line. Those who lived in Catholic countries went to sleep on Oct. 4, 1582, and woke up on Oct. 15, 1582.

But the reformation had already occurred, so the change did not occur for everyone who had been following the Julian calendar. It took until 1752 for the English-speaking world to make the change. Thus people went to sleep on Sept. 2 and woke up on Sept. 14.

One interesting historical impact of this is that George Washington was not born on Feb. 22, the day that we celebrate his birthday. He was born in the Julian Calendar on Feb. 11, which becomes Feb. 22 when converted to the Gregorian Calendar.

But is that how people really did it? Did they change the date of their birth when the calendar changed, or did they observe the same Calendar date as from the old calendar.  Which would you do?  In the honoring of his birthday, we have done the date change, so I would assume that is what Washington did, but I don’t have a source yet to truly tell me one or the other.

Just another example of how things we take as solid to base our lives on, are in one sense solid, and another constructions of our need for them to be solid.