Please forgive my neglect but I’ve been dealing with yet another plot twist.

Hoooh, boy.

Over a month?! THAT’S how long it’s been since I last recorded?

Sheesh. That’s . . . that’s awful.

If you are frustrated with me, I hear you. I’m frustrated, too.

Would it help to explain that my life has been slightly chaotic? Yeah, I know everyone’s life is chaotic. But my recording “studio” is no longer even my possession.

Here’s the situation: we moved back to Utah nearly two years ago from Maine so we could be part of two of our daughters’ weddings and two of our sons’ babies’ births. When we moved back, I had a clear impression from God that we would be in our rental house for two years, enjoying these milestones in our family. And then . . . ?

The housing market in Utah is the worst in the country. I had been hoping for the past two years that it would cool down.

Nope. The rent on our house went up last year, but this spring it went up another $400/month. And prices for a mere two-story townhome in our county is $425k. Forget a regular house.

I’m a school teacher, making mid-$50k. My husband was an academic advisor at a university, making about the same. You don’t need to be a mathematician to realize the numbers don’t add up to us making Utah our permanent home again. We can’t even make rent anymore.

God gives me insights into my future, but only in snippets. After our initial two years here, He hadn’t shown me what would come next.

Probably because He knew I’d never believe it. That I had to be pretty desperate to do it.

And by March, we were feeling pretty desperate, with every last rental in the valley over $2,000/month, and out of our price range.

Cue the next plot twist.

(Yes, dear Father, I do love a good plot twist, but so many?!)

Last summer one of our sons moved to Florida to help his father-in-law open a few franchises. When the news of our inability to afford living in Utah was shared with our family, one of our adult daughters jokingly said, “Dad should go manage a store” for her brother. After all, my husband has managed big box stores in the past.

We laughed.

Then we thought about it.

And prayed about it.

And got ridiculously excited about it, even though Florida was never a state I’d consider moving to. (And God knew that. Not a mountain anywhere.)

That was in March. By April the decision was made, and for the past several weeks we’ve been packing, including my walk-in closet recording studio.

Three weeks ago I took off a few days of teaching and drove with my husband, sons, and a moving truck to Florida. I left them there. I flew back to Utah so my youngest daughter could finish her school. She has several camps lined up for the first half of summer here in Utah, and since my contract to teach at a residential treatment center requires me to work until July, that works out for her.

But leaves us rather nomadic for a while. We’re house sitting for various friends taking care of their pets while they’re away, crashing for a week here and a week there at our adult children’s homes, and waiting for the day we get to drive cross country (again) to live in our new home in Florida (where we could actually afford to buy something).

My hope is that I can get to recording again, once the dust settles (I’m still cleaning out the last bits from my old rental house this weekend, although I can’t live in it since the carpets were cleaned). I look forward to dull, peaceful days with nothing to clean or pack, just lessons to create for summer school. And maybe I’ll have a few free hours to sit in my car (or an unsuspecting friend’s walk-in closet) and record a few more chapters before my new teaching job at a private Catholic school in Melbourne, Florida begins in August.

I still plan to finish recording these books. I stopped mid-way through chapter 2 of The Mansions of Idumea and Perrin is pacing anxiously in the background of my mind, waiting for his chance to speak again, while Mahrree is more understanding about the hassles of moving 2,400 miles and tells him to just let me figure out where I’m sleeping tonight.

So please forgive my lack of productivity. It’s been shifted to more necessary tasks.

But good news: my new house in Florida does have a lovely walk-in closet.

In the whirlwind weekend I spent in Florida unloading a massive UHaul truck into a storage unit, touring several houses for sale on the market, and buying food for my family before leaving them, we had a spare 30 minutes to spend at the beach. I hope it will be more in the future.

AUDIOBOOK 3: “The Mansions of Idumea” Chapter 1 is here!

I had a few delays getting this next book started, but here we are!

I have a special love for this book, because it was while I was drafting it that suddenly I realize it wasn’t going to be just two or three books.

It was supposed to be an entire series.

To my astonishment characters jumped up, storylines I didn’t recognize manifested on the page, and I was stunned to realize there was a lot, lot more going on.

Relf Shin had a dream, and I didn’t even know what it was until I typed it. Everything then changed in the direction of this series.

Drafting this was the most amazing and breath-taking part of writing. I’d wake up early in the morning to see what else would happen, and at night I’d edit to understand all that I had typed. I was fascinated how the words would download a sentence at a time, straight into my mind and to my fingers, then abruptly stop at 4pm, when I realized I was still a mom and had a family to make dinner for.

The flow would begin again after they kids were in bed, and usually shut off by 10pm (or I’d fall asleep at the computer). This book made me rewrite the first books and continue on for many more.

Audiobook PREQUEL: Chapter 3 parts A & B, “The Walls in the Middle of Idumea”

Because some of the chapters in this book are long, I’m breaking them up into hour-long chunks: Part A and Part B, both about an hour long.

In this chapter Pere is startled to realize that a lot has been going on that he’s not been aware of, but now that he is aware, he’s trying to fix them. He’s frustrated that he never questioned, never noticed. I’ve had that experience in my own life, surprised by what I realize should have been obvious. Makes me wonder what else I’m not noticing that I should, and I hope I notice with enough time to still do something about it.

Audiobook PREQUEL Chapters 1 and 2 of “The Walls in the Middle of Idumea”

What’s the best order for listening to the prequel in relation to the series? I didn’t really plan it, but after Book 2, “Soldier at the Door,” is a great place to start, because Perrin and Mahrree had been discussing Grandfather Pere Shin near the end.
After Book 4, “Falcon in the Barn,” is also a great spot since at the end of that book are some fun revelations about some characters we meet here.

But if you want to START the series with this prequel, you certainly may. I’ll never tell you what to do. However, you’ll probably be a little confused and maybe lost, since I wrote this assuming people would have context from reading at least a couple of books. (I wrote this after the entire series.)

But seeing as how this is my shortest work, I completely understand why you may want to start with the least intimidating book. (Some of my books are kinda long so, yeah, I get that. Start easy. I once read a whole book not realizing there were two in the series before it, and I managed through it ok. I was quite disoriented sometimes, but that can be a fun way of reading: not realizing that the main character is actually a princess whose parents died a book before and left her a kingdom she can’t reach, and wondering why they keep referencing this weird place where the entirety of book one actually took place, but I figured it out, eventually . . .)

So go ahead—jump right in here first. See if you like this pool. If so, I have a small ocean for you to dive into next.

Audiobook 2 FINISHED! Chapters 23 and 24 here

UPDATE: I originally had the wrong book uploaded for Chapter 24. That has been rectified. Book 2, Soldier at the Door, is now complete! The last two chapters are below, along with the most worrying lines I’ve ever written. And now, they feel even more applicable than ever:

“What if everything we believe is wrong?” Mahrree challenged.

Mahrree saw her poor neighbor’s eyes glaze over. Mrs. Hersh realized too late she’d been dragged into the discussion, and the dread in her eyes demonstrated a frantic desire to escape.

But there was also something else there: a sudden loyalty to her society that demanded no one step out of bounds. “Then we’re wrong together,” Mrs. Hersh decided. “Being united is important,” she said as if realizing she actually believed that. “What everyone thinks together is correct,” she reasoned out loud, “and so if you follow the crowd, you’ll never be wrong.”

Mahrree’s shoulders fell. How can you open someone’s eyes who holds them firmly shut, yet claims she sees just fine?

“It’s like the river,” Mrs. Hersh went on, emboldened by Mahrree’s discouraged silence. “Everything flows downstream. Simply . . . go with that flow. It’s just easier that way.”

Mahrree saw her way back in. “Fish don’t flow downstream.”

“Yes they do.”

“No, they don’t.”

Mrs. Hersh put her hands on her hips. “Why wouldn’t they?”

“Because then there’d be no more fish up here in Edge!” Mahrree pointed out. “I’ve seen them when I’ve taken my students to see the river, and when I’ve dragged my fishing husband home again. Many fish swim in the same spot, fighting the current. A few species even swim upstream, against everything pushing them to the southern ocean.”

Mrs. Hersh pondered for a moment. “That doesn’t make any sense. Why wouldn’t they just go with the flow of the river?”

“Because,” Mahrree tried not to sigh at her neighbor’s inanity, “maybe they don’t like where the river is going. Salty water at the end of it likely kills them.”

Mrs. Hersh squinted. “How would they know about the salty water? Besides, so what? At least they had an easy time getting to it. They’re going die eventually, so might as well go easily instead of fighting the current.”

And right then Mahrree realized, to her horror, that the Administrators had won.

Because as long as everyone else was doing it, you should too. Hold hands and jump off the crevice together, never questioning why.

“I’d rather fight the current,” Mahrree said quietly.

Me too, Mahrree.

Next I’ll be reading the prequel, The Walls in the Middle of Idumea, where we meet grandfather Pere Shin, the king’s servants, and a young Relf Shin.

Audiobook Chapters 20, 21, 22 for Book 2 are here!

A shockingly productive weekend–about three hours of listening pleasure for you! (Ok, “pleasure” may be pushing it a bit.)

Mahrree wonders if people give into coercion and force because of fear, or because of lack of faith.

This has been my question for nearly two years now, especially when I look at my own responses to everything since March 2020. Often I stand up with faith, and often I bow down in fear–no, not so much “fear” but in deference others who are fearful, to make people around me “feel better” in the face of what I consider ridiculousness. I don’t want to offend or hurt feelings, but I also don’t want to hide what I believe is correct.

It’s a tough, tough balance, one that I have yet to handle well. But one verse from the apostle Paul keeps coming back to my mind: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” Faith over fear. It’s hard to achieve, hard to maintain, hard to demonstrate without offending. But it’s the only way to get through anything.

Then again, it’s so easy to be brave . . . in theory. So easy to make promises . . . when you don’t have to follow through yet. So easy to feel so much pride . . . when you’re untested.

I confess I’m much like Mahrree, but only when she’s believes she much tougher in her mind than she is in real life. It’s so easy to label others cowards . . . until we face the same situation. (And I’m such a coward, but I wish I weren’t.)

And sorry there’s no visual on this last chapter. I have NO idea where my screen went. Usually you can see the text I’m reading (and revising as I read), but in this chapter? Just some odd, clipped image. I’m clueless. Sorry.

Audiobook Chapters 17, 18, and 19 of Book 2 ready!

Justification fascinates me: how does the mind slide over, a little at a time, to eventually convince itself that extreme action, such as causing someone’s death, is not only necessary but good? Is it because one can still see the “moral” argument from a distance, and so they believe that they if they are in reaching distance of it, they aren’t as far removed from ethical behavior as they seem to be?

How easily is this justification then applied to other matters, such as ostracizing someone from society for holding firm to a belief that others used to embrace, but now have also sidled away from?

Just musing here, not applying this to anything in the real world whatsoever . . .

[Also, The hardest two words for my stutter to work around are “shoulders sagged.” I see those words coming and I start to panic, wondering why in the world I wrote such a lip-whipping line. (I’m not going to try to say that out loud, either: “lip-whipping line.”)]

Audiobooks Chapters 14, 15, 16 of Book 2 “Soldier at the Door”

“After terror, the people are willing to forfeit all kinds of freedoms to ensure their security.”

Some of the lines I read out loud give me goosebumps when I see how the same scenarios are happening in our own countries, already. This one especially. I’ve said before I knew we’d come to this, but it’s all happening faster than I anticipated.

And the fact that Dormin is a “straw man”–I’m teaching logical fallacies to my students right now, and this label jumped out at me today with additional layers. Read about straw man tactics here: https://thinkbuthow.com/straw-man/

Also, pink is not my favorite color either, Perrin. I totally get your reaction. I’d feel the same way.