Finding Hope In A Mysterious World

Tag: Tim Suddeth (Page 1 of 7)

Wishing Everyone a Blessed 2021

Choosing a Path

Going on a journey

After living through a pandemic, a strident election, and a record number of natural disasters, 2020 is finally over. Now, we are looking forward to the new year of 2021. Even though we are carrying a lot of baggage left over from the old year, that doesn’t condemn the new year to be just like 2020. In fact, we have as much reason to believe it will be twice as good.

Many of us like to make plans and get an idea of what we want to achieve in the weeks and months ahead.

The Wonder of Creation

2020Night Sky by Pezibear

Over on The Write Conversation, I posted a blog about making plans that included God. You can get the link here.

Often, we think about what we can do. I know, when I do this, I get discouraged because there is so much out of my control and my abilities are so small.

But when I look at God, my Lord, at His creation and how He has worked in history, why shouldn’t I think He will do it in me? In you?

Wishing everyone a happy 2021 and hoping that you will achieve even more than you can dream.

Joy In the World and December’s Readings

By Tim Suddeth

Merry Christmas

Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash

Christmas is nearly here, and it could not have come at a more needed time.

This year, everyone’s routines and expectations were changed like never before when the COVID virus infected our world. Socially, economically, practically, everything has been upended to such an extent that we may not know how much things have been changed for several years.

Here in America, we have just gone through the most bitter political campaign I can remember. Both sides are still unable to accept each other. We cannot even agree on the facts We each have our own news networks that continue to feed the divides among us.

Even though, in the end, we are all Americans. And that should be the most important issue. That is not what we hear on the political ads or news shows that run continuously on our TVs.

This is the week of Christmas. My family plans to stay in most of the week. Maybe with a trip or two out to ride around and see Christmas lights in the neighborhoods.

My wife just came back from a short shopping trip for s few necessities. She said the crowds were out, but the spirit, the stockers and shoppers telling everyone Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, doesn’t feel the same yet.

I’m convinced the spirit of Christmas will return. First, it has to start inside each of us. Then, like lighting candles in a play, it will spread to people around us. And it’s that spread that we have to make sure we feed.

In our world, joy isn’t always welcomed. Joy doesn’t have a place in the corporate rat race. It doesn’t have a place in the battle to beat the Jones. It doesn’t have a place when we choose those in society who we have to keep below us so we can feel superior.

Joy doesn’t fit in that world. The world we live in.

Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t fit so easily into that world, either? Where we didn’t listen to society to find our personal value or the value of others. Where getting the biggest present didn’t decide the winner.

Maybe we shouldn’t expect our joy to come from the world.

Maybe, just maybe, that is what Christmas is here to remind us.

 

***

 

The shorter days and longer evenings of the last few months and given me a great time for reading. I have finished eight books this past month. One thing that has slowed me down is two large books that I picked up, The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries and The Longman Anthology of Detective Fiction. Each of them are slow reading, but they include great short stories by many of the masters of mystery. They are a great way of getting a taste of the legendary writers’ works.

I’ve picked out three of the books to highlight. First, is How I Got Published, edited by Ray White and Duane Lindsey. They give us the stories, in their own words, of how over eighty writers find their ways to getting their first works published. Writers like C. J. Box, Jerry Jenkins, Louise Penny, Hallie Ephron, Clive Cussler, and J. A. Jance.

It was encouraging to hear how the vast majority had to fight through numerous rejections. Some of them had successes only to have to confront defeat and battle back.

There were a lot of good lessons from the experiences the writers retold to us. The first is that there is no one way to becoming published, everyone has their own journey. You shouldn’t compare how long it takes you to find an agent or editor to someone else.

Another lesson is that the only way you lose as a writer is to quit. It isn’t about how many books you write or how many are sole or how much money you make. It is about you writing what your heart wants to. That you tell the stories only you can tell.

The book was very encouraging. And I feel I’ve met some new writer buddies.

It is that time of year when college basketball takes the stage. If you like March Madness and the stories that you find in college sports, I’ve got the book for you, Dick Vitale’s Living A Dream.

Written by Dick Vitale and Dick Weiss, they have done a terrific job in catching Vitale’s energy and passion, baby. Reading the book was like spending dinner or a cup of coffee with the ESPN sportscaster. He recounts the great games he has called for ESPN and some of the famous players and celebrities he has met. He didn’t try to hide his enjoyment at meeting famous people, like many of us feel. He, also, tells about the sure-fire stars that didn’t live up to expectations and the loss their coaches and fans felt.

Sometimes, Dickie V feels over the top, but you can’t deny that his enthusiasm is genuine. And he has a heart for the people he encounters, coaches, players, coworkers, and fans. He understands that because of the position he has been given, he has a responsibly to be a good role model.

Michael Connelly was a crime journalist before he started writing novels. In Crime Beat, a Decade of Covering Cops and Killers, he gives us his stories of some infamous murder cases and criminals he covered as a beat writer in South Florida and Los Angeles. On his job, he got to know the cops, the criminals, as well as the victims. Here we get to read his newspaper stories on 22 different cases.

After reading this, you can tell where he got the realism and characters for his stories. He told one story where there was a brutal murder. All the reporters were leaning against the police tape and the officers were coming out and not speaking. He moved further down the line and approached an officer he had spoken to “hundreds of times on prior cases.” The street-hardened officer whispered to him, “This one is really bad.” They learned that the mother had killed her own children. The officer walked away. A tear in his eye.

In Crime Beat, Connelly does a great job of showing the humanity of the officers and the hurt of the victims. This is something that every writer should remember to make their stories more realistic and engaging to their readers.

This month, over on the Killer Nashville blog, you can see my review on Killer Nashville. The Wayward Spy , by Susan Ouellette, takes us behind the scene of the intelligence community in our national capital. Ouellette worked with the House Permanent Select Committee, so she was able to take us behind doors and into a world that most of us will never see. And it isn’t all like James Bond. You can read my review here. I hope to see more of Susan’s writings.

November’s Reading and Mourning the Loss of Traditions

by Tim Suddeth

2020 is racing to an end. Most of us would be quick to say, “Good riddance.” Hopefully, prayerfully, 2021 will bring back more of a sense of normality, maybe with a dash of peace and compassion for others.

Let’s make that two dashes.

The COVID pandemic has burdened many of us with a new feeling this year, guilt. Probably not a new feeling for most of us, but COVID seems to have brought its own supply.

The holidays are here with their traditions and gatherings. Thanksgiving is the day each year that my family drives to the mountains to enjoy a whopping big dinner with cousins. My eighty-seven-year-old mother says that she did this when she was a child. I have gone every year, except for one or two because of health, for all my fifty-nine years.

This year it’s cancelled.

Family gatherings, musicals by churches or communities, parades, plays. Many of these are going to be cancelled or drastically cut back. Then you have to deal with either the guilt of going and risking exposing someone to the virus or the guilt of missing out on some of the holidays.

No matter how you choose, you still feel guilt.

Maybe, this will; be for just this year. A mere blip in the years of our lives.

But it has been a long time in the present.

 

Here are some of the books I’ve been reading.

Great Stories Don’t Write Themselves, by Larry Brooks, came out in 2019 and is his latest book of writing advice. In it, he gives benchmarks for writers to use in developing and improving their novels. He begins by helping us consider our idea and premise, then describes how to determine if they are meaty enough to last for a whole book. Then he walks us through the structure of a novel, how it is organically shaped. He tells what the reader expects at different points along the story and how we can meet and exceed their expectations.

The writing community has separated a battlefield between those who plot out their stories before they write and those who just jump in and trudge their way through to some type of an ending. In Great Stories Don’t Write Themselves, Brooks come down strongly on the plotting side, but agrees that both ways work.

I think most people are somewhere in the middle. When you start on a hike, or on a trip, you usually want to know where you are going, with maybe some stops along the way. That way you can be sure to get enough gas and pack any supplies you might need. Your destination may be a drive to the mountains, or to certain barbeque place in Black Mountain.

With my five books, each one has had its own process.

Like Brooks says, no one is going to care how you wrote your story, how many character sketches you used or how drafts you went through. They are only going to care if they were able to lose themselves inside your story.

 

The Power of Less, by Leo Babauta, is another book on the benefits of not flooding our lives with more; more stuff or more activities.

He talks about the importance of simplifying. That running faster and faster on a hamster wheel isn’t going to get you anywhere. Spending all of your energy to do more isn’t the best way to meet your goals. That takes focusing, planning, and goal setting.

His tips are pretty generic and commonly heard by all of the simplifying gurus out there. But this is a good reminder to watch out for all the extra things that are constantly sneaking onto our schedules and into our lives.

 

 

Over on my new blog, Opening a Mystery, you van find my review of the last mile. David Baldacci’s The Last Mile is his second in the Amos Decker series. It will be interesting to see where he takes this detective and whether he will continue to work with the FBI. One thing’s for sure, I’m glad he’s on our side. (You can get the link here.)

Hope you all are enjoying your reading. If you have a particular book you are reading you would like to recommend, leave me a note in the comments.
And happy holidays.

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