The Road to Happenstance – review

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The Road to Happenstance by Janice L. Dick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


“Happenstance: A chance happening or event” (Dictionary.com)

That is what Matthew Sadler’s (aka Matthew Smith’s) arrival at the town by that name seems to be at first—a chance event. But the town’s welcoming vibe and quirky inhabitants cast a spell over the fleeing-from-demons teacher, whose motorbike, pony tail, and new growth beard are outward signs of the inner changes he seeks.

However, not all is as it seems even in the town that bills itself as “A Town You Can Trust.” As Matthew gets to know his two aging hosts at the Happenstance Hotel, the local mechanic, the coffee shop owner, the pastor, the woman who is a fellow guest at the hotel, and others, he realizes that strange things seem to be afoot—and even here his past might find him.

The wonderful writing, colourful characters, cleverly contrived plot, that reinforces themes of faith and grace, made this cozy mystery a welcome winter diversion for me.

A set of discussion questions at the end would make it a good book club choice.

Recommended!

I received a copy of The Road to Happenstance as a gift from the author for the purpose of writing a review.




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South: The story of Shackleton's 1914-1917 Expedition – Review

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South (Illustrated): The Story of Shackleton’s Last Expedition by Ernest Shackleton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Recently my preference in books has settled on memoir and biography. In that genre, South a memoir of Shackleton’s 1914-1917 Antarctic expedition (first published in 1919) was a real find in my stash of unread Kindle books.

Sir Ernest Shackleton (1874-1922) was an Antarctic explorer who had gone on several expeditions before the one described in this book. He was a third mate in Robert F. Scott’s 1901-1903 Discovery Expedition and led another, the Nimrod Expedition, in 1907-1909. On that trip, he and his mates broke the then-record for getting nearest to the South Pole and climbed Mount Erebus, Antarctica’s most active volcano. On returning to England, he was knighted by King George VII, becoming Sir Ernest Shackleton.

His third expedition, the 1914-1917 one which South details, was ambitious. It involved two ships with a selected crew of 26 men on each. The ship Endurance carried Shackleton and his crew. They hoped to reach Antarctica via the Weddell Sea (approaching Antarctica from the east), and trek overland. Meanwhile the ship Aurora, approaching Antarctica from the South via the Ross Sea, was tasked with carrying and depositing supplies along the route that Shackleton and his men hoped to take.

The expedition’s trouble began when the Endurance became trapped by ice before reaching land. Active ice floes moved, ground, and pressed against the ship. Shackleton and his men, fearing the worst, prepared for the possibility of abandoning their floating home. One fateful day the Endurance was indeed crushed and badly damaged. Shackleton and the crew’s many weeks drifting on the ice was only the beginning of their misadventures.

Shackleton’s telling is rich with journal entries of his own and others. The story of the Aurora and its crew, almost as discouraging, follows the tale of the Endurance crew.

In this day of air travel and sophisticated communication, the isolated, helpless state of Shackleton and his men is almost unimaginable. Their character, stoicism, and resourcefulness, along with Sir Ernest’s inspirational leadership are things I found remarkable in this story.

On this expedition, Shackleton and his men encountered the beauty and brutality of nature. They were often near death and I wondered, did they ever get to a point where they were beyond themselves? Did they ever acknowledge God? Pray?

Several times in the book Shackleton does mention Providence (yes, capitalized). And this bit from the last leg of his journey on South Georgia Island to get help is very interesting:

“When I look back at those days I have no doubt that Providence guided us, not only across those snowfields, but across the storm-white sea that separated Elephant Island from our landing-place on South Georgia. I know that during that long and racking march of thirty-six hours over the unnamed mountains and glaciers of South Georgia it seemed to me often that we were four, not three. I said nothing to my companions on the point, but afterwards Worsley said to me, “Boss, I had a curious feeling on the march that there was another person with us.” Crean confessed to the same idea. One feels “the dearth of human words, the roughness of mortal speech” in trying to describe things intangible, but a record of our journeys would be incomplete without a reference to a subject very near to our hearts.”

— South: The Story of Shackleton’s 1914-1917 Expedition by Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton (Kindle Location 3220)

South is a riveting tale that will keep you reading long into the night. Highly recommended.

Note:
My Kindle edition of the book had a list of illustrations (mostly photographs) that weren’t included in the book. Should you happen to read such an edition, the illustrations are available and linked here: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/5199/5199-h/5199-h.htm .

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A daily practice

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Happy New Year – Sketch for January 1, 2020

It seems we were just wishing everyone a happy new year and here we are, already into double digits of January. How does time slip by so quickly?

I resolved that this year I’d do a better job of the blog—even posting a little something regularly, like once a week. Now that I’ve blown that resolution, it’s time to at least get started.

In my journey into art last year, one resolution I did keep was to do a sketchbook entry every day. With the exception of a couple of days in early January 2019, I kept that promise to myself. In the process I’m well on the way to filling up my second 110-page sketchbook.

I’ve continued on with that practice this year. I use a simple 5.5×8” hardcover sketchbook from Michaels. It’s made of 75 lb. paper (not even mixed media weight), not meant for watercolours, but I use them on it regularly and it holds up remarkably well with never a bleed-through (unless I rub the paper raw).

To decide what to draw, most days I’ve been following drawing prompts from Doodlewash. These challenge me to draw everyday common things as well as things I would never attempt without a prod. On other days I draw what calls to me.

Here are a few pages from 2020, along with some of the reference photos (all taken by me).


If art is calling to you, keeping a daily sketchbook or sketch journal is a great way to get started and daily practice is a sure way to get better.

Mini-conference on Storytelling

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Two weeks from today (November 2nd) has been marked on my calendar for weeks. It’s the day of our one-day writing conference: “Storytelling: Bringing the Past to Life.”

If you’re a Vancouver area writer, you’ll want to give this a look. Here is the delectable lineup:

9:00 a.m. – “The Drama of Biblical Fiction” by David Kitz (president of The Word Guild).

10:00 a.m. “Writing the Play Tolkein” by Ron Reed (eminent playwright and founder of Pacific Theatre, Vancouver).

11:15 a.m. “Twentieth Century Historical Fiction and Memoir” by Rose Seiler Scott.

1:30 p.m. “How to Save Your Family History through Short Stories” by Jim Martens.

2:30 p.m. “Writing Historical Musicals” by Allen Desnoyers, composer of “Pier 21 – The Musical”

The day winds up with an evening performance of “Pier 21 – The Musical” (ticketed separately).

Location:

South Delta Baptist Church
1988 – 56th Street
Delta, BC

This conference is sponsored by The Word Guild’s Surrey and White Rock Chapters. More details and a registration form are available HERE.

Arty changes

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My artist corner where, on this day, my toothbrush supervises me drawing her portrait in my sketch journal.

It’s been quiet on this site lately (with just the Israel trip and a few book reviews) as I’ve been pursuing a new interest—in art. Art, as in learning to draw and paint, has used up most of my creative energy and writing has taken a back seat.

I’m at the point where I am ready to go public with this new, albeit still morphing, reality. As a result there will be changes here and in my other online haunts in the days ahead.

Some of the changes are already made, some are in process.

  1. I have imported poetry posts from Violet Nesdoly / Poems to this site. I did that to streamline my current online writing presence to one blog (and have the poems display cleanly on this site with no WordPress ads). I plan to delete the poetry blog shortly.
  2. All the writing pages are now sub-pages of “Writing.” You can get to them by hovering your mouse or track pad over the “Writing” button which activates a drop-down menu. They are also listed and linked on the “Writing” page.
  3. I have put up an “Art” page with its own sub-pages. Here I will display some of the current pieces I’m working on.
  4. POETRY BOOKS and the novel DESTINY’S HANDS are still available for purchase.
  • Info on purchasing poetry books is HERE.
  • Info on purchasing Destiny’s Hands is HERE.
  • BLANK NOTE CARDS with images from my paintings are available for purchase HERE.

Hidden Secrets (review)

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Hidden Secrets (A Green Dory Inn Mystery, #2)Hidden Secrets by Janet Sketchley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With batches of fragrant muffins and mugs of herbal tea, served up in an idyllic seaside setting, Janet Sketchley lures us into discovering the deadly secrets of the Green Dory Inn. Hidden Secrets is Book 2 in the Green Dory Inn Mystery series.

Thoroughly modern, with cell phones and drones, there are also elements of old sea tales with rogue ships and rum-runners in this cozy mystery. The Christian faith of the two main characters, Landon and Anna, adds value and heft to this hard-to-put-down read.

The believably imperfect characters (many of whom we met in Unknown Enemy, Book One of the series) remind me of the characters in Jan Karon’s Father Tim books. But the main player here is a 24-year-old college student, Landon, whose secretive personal past adds complications to the fast-moving plot. Sketchley has included a character list at the beginning of the book to help us keep straight the cast of characters and their relationships to each other. Though it works nicely as a standalone, reading Book One of the series would help you feel like you’re reconnecting with these folks.

Sketchley’s descriptive, yet tight writing and savvy plot combined to make me wish the book was longer. I thoroughly enjoyed it and am happy to hear that Sketchley is beginning work on Book 3.

I received Hidden Secrets as a gift from the author for the purpose of writing a review.

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As the Ink Flows (review)

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As the Ink Flows: Devotions to Inspire Christian WritersAs the Ink Flows: Devotions to Inspire Christian Writers by Glenda Dekkema

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Though books of devotions abound, As the Ink Flows is a unique collection of ninety meditations written by five Canadian writers for writers—and speakers too.

Section divisions (The Craft; Inspiration; Know Yourself; Well-Being; Personalities; and Faithfulness) demonstrate how wide-ranging and thorough this book is.

Devotions are short. A quoted scripture verse, two to five paragraphs on the day’s theme, followed by a one-line prayer completes on one page. Each is followed by a “Let the Ink Flow” page which consists of a thought or idea on which to reflect and a writing prompt. Space on these pages makes writing directly in the book possible (if it’s a hard copy).

I found these devotions by turn encouraging, probing, affirming, illuminating, and challenging. What a useful guide for worship, gratitude, prayer, meditation, and future direction for writers or speakers at any point in their career, from “should I give this a try?” to “been there, done that.” Highly recommended for Christian speakers and writers of any genre.

I received this book as a gift (ebook edition) from the publisher in exchange for a review.

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