Quiet and Alone

IMG_5456On an average day I speak to and listen to over a hundred individuals. I’m a teacher who has 90 students. During the workday, I’m never alone. There is always noise–I need my classes to be that way since I teach Spanish. Communication is the goal! It is true when I am home the noise is not as varied, only my husband, kittens, and the TV.

IMG_5450Also, another tidbit about myself. I’ve never lived alone. I went straight from my parents’ house, to a dorm with a roommate, to my parents’, and then with my husband. That is many years of never truly being alone for any length of time.

Part of the reason I wanted to go on my three-day writer’s retreat by myself was to see once again if I could be alone and quiet. I’ve done it twice before on research trips. And somehow, I managed. Yet, I find I prefer to have people to talk with and listen to daily.

As an author, the act of writing is a solitary job. These three days without cooking, washing, and teaching gave me the time I needed to organize my papers, my ideas, and actually put some words on paper. I appreciated the quiet, the nature trails, the lake, the rain, the deer, and long hours to do some things that I love–writing and reading.

IMG_5459I’m home now where I should be, happy and rested with a plan for my writing, ever thankful for the hours to focus, regenerate my excitement, and set a few goals.

I asked a friend last night if she could go away for three days alone. She said she couldn’t. Could you? Where would you go and what would you do?

My Writer’s Retreat

IMG_5336Just me. Alone. With my research box, my computer, books, pens, and a great view. I am on fall break from teaching. I asked my husband for a getaway, and he couldn’t leave work. So, here I am in a comfy room with a view of a huge lake and nothing to do except what I want. Three nights and three days.

IMG_5337I’ve needed time like this to organize my thoughts and make some progress on my current writing project–Draw Me to Your Side, Revolutionary Faith Book Four. I’m so excited with high hopes and lofty ideas of progress.

Of course, I will use the scenery and perfect weather to motivate me. I will take at least two walks a day finding spots to write and think.  I’ll nap or rest with a good book when I feel the need. Oh, how I look forward to the freshwater fish and local dishes.

What will my writer’s retreat involve? Here are some of my (flexible) plans.

  1. Organize my research box. This will take a few hours as I look through odd pieces of paper that at one time I thought important enough to jot down notes or save from odd resources.IMG_5341
  2. Reread the chapters I have written, comparing them to my outline, focusing on my characters’ personalities and physical appearances.
  3. Input my handwritten manuscript to my computer–I have about four chapters that haven’t been added to the 15,000 words already there. IMG_5343
  4. Write. Write. WRITE. I want to advance 4-5 chapters.
  5. Make a schedule for writing once I return home. My novel will be 90,000-100,000 words, so I need to write the end in the next two months.                                                                                                                                                                                                             Well, happy week to you. I’m doing exactly what I want to for a few days.                                                                                                                                                                            If you could, what type of retreat would you take all by yourself?

The cigales of Provence (Cicadas)

As I contemplate writing about the awesome cigales (cicadas) of Provence, I’m concentrating on the sounds around me that I hear consistently every day or in a particular season. Since I live in a small town, the noises surrounding me are different from the ones in a city. Before we moved, my ears acclimated to the sounds of traffic, sirens, children playing, dogs barking in back yards, and doves.

Now, I hear birds, frogs, trains, dogs, wind in the trees, rain, distant interstate traffic, and silence. My ears tend to get used to my surroundings. I’m glad. Otherwise, the trains would render me sleepless!

On our road trip through France in July, we continued our journey from Andorra to Carcassonne and on into Provence to the village of Rousillon. On a narrow country road, we heard a loud, constant raucous, a rhythmical din, a roar as bold as any train. Actually, we thought it was a train or a roaring river hidden behind the trees. After rolling down the windows, my daughter suggested it was coming from a thousand insects! Mesmerized by the sound and the possibility, we determined to find the source. No, not by traipsing through the woods. We waited to ask our questions, but not for long. Rousillon gave us all of our answers without asking anyone.

The cigale was on many postcards and posters. A postcard explained that the cigale (cicada) is the symbol of Provence, France. We began to see them everywhere, except alive in the trees. In high summer (in July), the insects perform their symphony for hours on end. To me it sounded like a harmony of millions. I guess it could have been. I loved every minute of it, and as with anything heard for a period of time, I became used to it and less disturbed. But I wanted to know more, because the cigale had made it into art forms like soap and paintings and sculptures.

IMG_5279Here are a few facts about these amazing insects of Provence:

  1. There are about 15 species of cicada in Provence. The provençal cicadas live for four years.

2) The males make the noise to attract females to the tree where they are sitting.

3) The cicada is one of the world’s loudest insects, recording sound of up to 120 decibels.

4) Cicadas are on pottery and fabric, in paintings, sculpted, immortalized in song and novels and drama.

5) In Provence, there are restaurants called La Cigale, but the insect is not a delicacy on the menu as in other countries.

IMG_0554I hope you enjoy these little tidbits about the cicada. I was pleasantly surprised to find an insect receiving so much attention.

 

Do you have cicadas where you live? I do but nothing like those of Provence.

My Fall TBR stack

img_5180.jpgI love finishing one stack of books and starting another.  I always have another group to fill my hours and captivate me with some interesting plots and historical adventures. The books I share here are all print copies. I have another list of eBooks and audible books. Needless to say, I’m never without a good read.

The one I am reading now is by Debbie Lynne Costello, The Perfect Bride. I’m escaping to 1399 England where chivalry, arranged marriage, and feuds are prevalent. I’ve almost finished it. I’ve read many of Debbie’s novels.

The Forbidden Queen by Anne O’Brien takes place in 1415 England and France. The rivalry and back and forth of crowns and property keep the characters wondering what is next for the two countries.

A friend sent me a book by Victoria Connelly, The Heart of the Garden, because she knows my love of gardens and mazes. I look forward to finding a comfortable window seat and reading this jewel during October. Perhaps it will be chilly and conducive to a few hours of leisure.

I bought The curious incident of the dog in the night-time by Mark Haddon at a bookstore in North Carolina off of a Great American Read display. I might or might not like this one. Hopefully, it is better than another I found at the same place. I’ll let you know.

Another novel by Debbie Lynne Costello, Sword of the Matchmaker, which also takes place in 1399 England, is tucked in my stack. As I’ve stated before, I really enjoy Debbie’s books.

And the last one is Valley of Decision, The Carthage Chronicles 3, by Lynne Gentry. This is a time travel novel. I’ve read the first two and learned a lot about third century Carthage through the eyes and life of a woman from Dallas, Texas.

Perhaps you will find a book here that sparks your interest.

What are you reading now?

Follow the Owl

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Follow the owl and what will you find? Have you ever planned a trip and had to include a random night or two just to get you closer to your destination? A place to lay your head, to stretch your legs, to satisfy your hunger. This is the place on which you did the least amount of research.

From experience this added stop can end up being an unexpected, special jewel–a hidden treasure.

IMG_3995If there ever was a planner, I am one. I believe half the fun of a trip is the planning. But on my recent trip to France, my daughter and I had two nights we had to insert to travel from the Mediterranean coast of Italy to Paris. The only planning was a map and mileage. One night in Geneva, Switzerland and one in Dijon, France. We were tired after leaving the mountains of Switzerland and needed to rest. Little did we know Dijon would become one of the highlights of our trip. Unexpected. Charming. Interesting. Perfect.

A moment in time, swelling with potential and promises.

And an owl–la chouette.

Our AirBnB was in the old town center in an apartment nestled between old 16th century timber-framed houses. Cobblestone streets wound through the heart of the ancient city. We immediately felt like this place surpassed some of the destinations and events we had planned and researched for months. How did we miss it in our plans? It deserved our attention beforehand.

Dijon is about three hours southwest of Paris in Burgundy, France. It offers glimpses of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance as well as more modern attractions of the 18th and 19th centuries. Our host suggested we follow the Owl’s Trail. We nodded not understanding at all what she meant. How can you follow an owl’s trail? With map in hand, we set out on the cobblestone streets. After admiring the timbered buildings above the old storefronts, we looked down and noticed brass plates in the old stones.

An owl and a number!

Heeding the words of our host, we followed the trail which took us to monuments and buildings, churches and houses, breathing with historic stories and details. The 13th century Gothic church of Notre-Dame boasted of rows and rows of gargoyles. Here is where we found the famous owl, la chouette. It is a symbol of good luck and peace on the left side of the church. The stone statue carved into the wall has been rubbed by passers-by as a good luck charm. We bought a children’s book call The Dijon Owl’s Secret that fictionalizes the owl’s story.

IMG_0933One of my favorite things to do is to find a tower to climb. My daughter acquiesces to my wishes with a smile. Tour Philippe Le Bon was erected in the middle of the 15th century and offered a wealth of historical information about Dijon as well as spectacular views.

We ate boeuf bourguignon and escargot, bought Dijon mustard, and fell in love with this town. I’m thankful for the surprises along life’s journey. I still believe in planning, but spontaneous decisions can unfold into golden memories, precious blessings.

Follow the owl and see where it leads.

Can you think of a time on your life journey when the unplanned turned into a wonderful escapade?

 

Hidden Among the Stars Book Review and Giveaway

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Tour page on Celebrate Lit

About the Book

Book Title: Hidden Among The StarsHidden-Among-The-Stars-Book-Cover-200x300

Author: Melanie Dobson

Genre: Historical Fiction (However, this is a time-slip novel, so there is also a contemporary component to the story)

Release date: September 4, 2018

From the award-winning author of Catching the Wind, which Publishers Weekly called “unforgettable” and a “must-read,” comes another gripping time-slip novel about hidden treasure, a castle, and ordinary people who resisted evil in their own extraordinary way.
The year is 1938, and as Hitler’s troops sweep into Vienna, Austrian Max Dornbach promises to help his Jewish friends hide their most valuable possessions from the Nazis, smuggling them to his family’s summer estate near the picturesque village of Hallstatt. He enlists the help of Annika Knopf, his childhood friend and the caretaker’s daughter, who is eager to help the man she’s loved her entire life. But when Max also brings Luzia Weiss, a young Jewish woman, to hide at the castle, it complicates Annika’s feelings and puts their entire plan—even their very lives—in jeopardy. Especially when the Nazis come to scour the estate and find both Luzia and the treasure gone.

Eighty years later, Callie Randall is mostly content with her quiet life, running a bookstore with her sister and reaching out into the world through her blog. Then she finds a cryptic list in an old edition of Bambithat connects her to Annika’s story . . . and maybe to the long-buried story of a dear friend. As she digs into the past, Callie must risk venturing outside the safe world she’s built for a chance at answers, adventure, and maybe even new love.

 

Click here to purchase your copy!

 

About the Author

Melanie Dobson is the award-winning author of nearly twenty historical romance, Melanie-Dobson-Author-Photo-200x300suspense, and time-slip novels including Catching the Wind and Chateau of Secrets . Three of her novels have won Carol Awards; Love Finds You in Liberty, Indiana won Best Novel of Indiana in 2010; and The Black Cloister won the Foreword Magazine Religious Fiction Book of the Year.

Melanie is the former corporate publicity manager at Focus on the Family and owner of the publicity firm Dobson Media Group. When she isn’t writing, Melanie enjoys teaching both writing and public relations classes at George Fox University.

Melanie and her husband, Jon, have two daughters. After moving numerous times with work, the Dobson family has settled near Portland, Oregon, and they love to hike and camp in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest and along the Pacific Coast. Melanie also enjoys exploring ghost towns and abandoned homes, helping care for kids in her community, and reading stories with her girls.

Visit Melanie online at www.melaniedobson.com.

 

Guest Post from Melanie

Hallstatt’s Hiding Places

Backpacking across Europe—that’s how my husband Jon and I decided to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary. We savored the old world culture and charm as we hiked along Italy’s coast, toured medieval castles in Germany, and cruised the canals in Belgium; we both left a bit of our hearts in an ancient lakeside town called Hallstatt.

The moment we stepped off the ferryboat and into this storybook village, we crossed through a portal of sorts, traveling back several centuries in time. The rugged, snow-capped mountains around us and alpine lake, the quaint village with its church steeples and cobblestone lanes and waterfall that spilled into town—all of it captivated us.

Along the shore, hidden partially by trees, we could see spires of an abandoned castle, and I wanted to know its story. No one in Hallstatt could tell us who’d lived in the castle—at least, not in English—so my husband agreed to a new adventure. With a swan as our escort, we glided across the lake in an electric boat so I could study the rusty turrets, boarded windows, and wooden boathouse resting in the water like a felled log.

Instead of quelling my curiosity, the match of inspiration ignited my mind. Who had lived in this castle, and what happened there? I began writing in my journal that night, trying to capture my rogue thoughts on paper, hoping that one day a novel would emerge from the ashes of this castle’s story.

When we returned home, I began researching more of Hallstatt’s history and discovered that this region, in all of its beauty and mystique, had been infiltrated by an enemy in 1938. This town and the surrounding Salzkammergut became a mountain retreat for Nazi officials who built mansions on the shores of its many lakes and used salt mines to hide “ownerless treasure”—the gold bullion and artwork they’d stolen from the Jewish people.

The Nazis intended to build a Fourth Reich in this alpine fortress, but the Allies had other plans. Near the end of the war, these lakes became a dustbin of sorts, collecting whatever the enemy dumped into its waters—weapons, counterfeit banknotes, concentration camp lists—as they fled south from the Allied troops. The Devil’s Dustbin, locals call it.

Lake Hallstatt plunges more than four hundred feet between the fortress of mountains. Because of its depth and the many hiding places in the underwater forests, caves, and shifting sands, divers continue finding World War II artifacts today. Some still believe there’s a treasure trove buried on the bottom, but no one has reported finding any gold.

After our trip, a story about this castle and what happened to the heirlooms of the Austrian Jewish people continued to burn inside me until I finally put it on paper. So I built Schloss Schwansee—Castle of Swan Lake—in my mind, inspired by the castle along Lake Hallstatt, and created a cast of historical and contemporary characters who are searching for lost treasure.

Hidden Among the Stars is a time-slip novel about a castle and treasure and fairytales, but most of all, it’s a story about God using ordinary people across Austria to resist evil in their own extraordinary way.

My Review

Melanie Dobson brings secrets and mystery to the pages as she weaves a modern-day treasure hunt with a horrific Nazis invasion of Austria in 1938 that affects the wealthy, the Jews, and ordinary citizens. No one is immune to the devastation of the evil take over. In the midst of the intense darkness of history, hiding treasures for his Jewish friends from the Nazis, Max Dornbach hides Luzia Weiss too. Running and hiding from the Nazis becomes a tangles mystery that will take 80 years to solve.

Gripping and painful, senseless death and destruction, brave sacrifice and love, secrets and treasures, all combine with an endless love for mankind. This author never disappoints. Through her tale, she makes fiction a reality, believable even in its darkness and painful truths mixed with hope and endurance.

Blog Stops

Reading Is My SuperPower, September 6

Fiction Aficionado, September 6

Back Porch Reads, September 6

Among the Reads, September 6

The Power of Words, September 7

Multifarious, September 7

lady ansel book vibes, September 7

The Becca Files, September 7

God’s Little Bookworm, September 8

Christian Chick’s Thoughts, September 8

Painting with Words, September 8

Lis Loves Reading, September 8

cherylbbookblog, September 9

Living LIfe Free in Christ, September 9

Madeline Clark, September 9

Mary Hake, September 9

Reflections From My Bookshelves, September 10

Genesis 5020, September 10

Faithfully Bookish, September 10

Simple Harvest Reads, September 10 (Guest post from Mindy Houng)

Margaret Kazmierczak, September 11

All-of-a-kind Mom, September 11

Daysong Reflections, September 11

Caffeinated Christian Raves – N – Reviews, September 11

Seasons of Opportunities, September 12

Remembrancy, September 12

Inklings and notions, September 12

amandainpa, September 12

Maureen’s Musing, September 13

Locks, Hooks and Books, September 13

Just Commonly, September 13

Book by Book, September 13

Connect in Fiction, September 14

Pause for Tales, September 14

Have A Wonderful Day, September 14

Splashes of Joy, September 14

The Christian Fiction Girl, September 15

Tell Tale Book Reviews, September 15

To Everything A Season, September 15

A Baker’s Perspective, September 15

proud to be an autism mom, September 16

Bibliophile Reviews, September 16

Bigreadersite, September 16

Aryn The Libraryan, September 16

By The Book, September 17

Christian author, J.E. Grace, September 17

Janices book reviews, September 17

Texas Book-aholic, September 18

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, September 18

Carpe Diem, September 18

Godly Book Reviews, September 19

For The Love of Books, September 19

Live. Love. Read., September 19

Reader’s Cozy Corner, September 19

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Melanie is giving away a grand prize package that includes a $25 Amazon gift card, Catching the Wind paperback, and Hidden Among the Stars paperback!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter. https://promosimple.com/ps/d2ad/hidden-among-the-stars-celebration-tour-giveaway

Melancolie–the search

IMG_3964.JPGThe search for the statue called “Melancolie” began when I received an emotional, moving text from one of my sisters about a statue in Geneva, Switzerland with a gripping image of alloys meshed together to form a model of a human being suffering in the midst of great loss. The image itself was mesmerizing as I understood the gaping void in the chest to symbolize emptiness, complete loss. Ever since we as a family (especially one of my sisters) lost a 19-year-old (son, nephew, grandson, brother), each of us has struggled in our own lives with melancholy, this feeling of pensive sadness or sorrow, gloominess, misery, depression. The passing of a loved one is not something forgotten or set aside. Grief takes many forms. Occasionally, something like this statue puts a new meaning or image on the loss.

When I received this text and image, I was traveling in France with my daughter. For once I was glad I read all the details of the statue and its location. Geneva, Switzerland in a small park on the promenade Quai du Mont Blanc along the shore of Lake Geneva. I read it again, out loud this time to my daughter. No way! Out of all the places in the world, this statue rested in Geneva. No longer was this an image, a depiction of an emotion my beloved sister carries in her loss, but a physical statue in the path of my travels. Only God could have for some reason put all the pieces together–the statue, the text, the route at the precise time we would be in Geneva for only a few hours.

IMG_3958I didn’t know if we could find the statue or if we were meant to find it. I just knew excitement and purpose in the mission. My thoughts were far from melancholy and sorrow. Sometimes God puts things in the pathway for us to find as signs and reminders of our loved ones and of His love. This was one for me. As our trip had only just begun, we had two and a half weeks of travel before Switzerland even entered our minds. The mountains of France, Spain, Andorra, and Italy posed unconquerable, much less Mont Blanc and the entrance into Geneva.

Still the image of the statue rested in the back of my mind, patiently, unforgotten, only resting for a time. In my happiness and excitement during my travel with my daughter, I experienced God’s handiwork in the scenery, the hills, the sea, the gardens, the architecture, the people, and the language. The whole time “Melancolie” waited, quietly and peacefully.

IMG_3864I had just conquered my mountain, Mont Blanc and didn’t know what kind of energy I had for exploring Geneva. After all, this was really only a stopping point on our way to Paris. As a rule we knew if we wanted to see anything of this city, we had to bypass a rest and hit the city in order to see a few sights. Quickly we found Geneva to be expensive and a bit confusing. Once we found the old town we relaxed and wandered. Still there was nothing we HAD to see. We found our bus stop and waited for our transportation to our room.

Something pulled at my memory; something I needed to do, to see; something I couldn’t put off until we left in the morning. Now was the time to search, even if unsuccessfully, for the statue–for my sister, for me, and perhaps for a message. Since we had already bought our bus tickets, we had about 50 minutes to see if we could find “Melancholie.”

IMG_3953On the Quai du Mont Blanc, there are three parks. And in one of those parks, “Melancolie”. My heart was racing. Why all of the sudden did I HAVE to find the statue? Because it was so close. I needed to touch it. For my sister and for me. As we searched park #2 with no luck, we turned and my daughter said, “There it is!” Across the street in a park by the lake.

IMG_3956I cried as I approached it, as I’m crying now as I’m writing this. On a bench with his (her) back to the lake, the figure is bent over with his arms on his knees, head bowed, with a huge empty circle where his chest and heart should be. “Melancolie.” I stared at the heartbreaking image of grief and emptiness while a peace filled me. Peace mixed with the power of love. A mother’s love. A sister’s love. A father’s love. Love!

I didn’t know what to do. I looked to my daughter, and with a nod of her head, I advanced and sat by the statue and placed my hand on one leg and looked at the face. I saw myself sitting by my sister and sharing her grief. It was beautiful. And it was healing. It was far from melancholy because love was there in the image of people coming alongside of all of us who grieve. God’s constant comfort even in the grief.IMG_3960

“Blessed are those who mourn, because they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4.

The sculptor, Albert György, created the statue after the grief he experienced about the death of his wife. He has been able to find and enjoy freedom in his life now. The emptiness depicted by the huge void in the sculpture is how the loved one feels at all times–empty. But the love seen through the void is real and allows hope and happiness.

This journey to the statue was not by chance. It was set in motion by God.

Is there an image that has touched you profoundly?