Book 6 Teaser: Marriage can be the scariest endeavor . . .

There’s the story about a young woman saying happily to her parents on her wedding day, “Now I’m at the end of all my worries!”

Her parents glanced at each other said, “True, but she doesn’t know which end.”

That’s not to discourage anyone from marriage, but to point out that there’s no greater adventure, no bigger challenge, and no more rewarding endeavor than figuring out how to leave peaceably with a stranger, and then welcoming more of them, in miniature, into your home.

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Traveling abroad to some remote locale, like climbing Mt. Everest or backpacking through Australia, is generally considered among the greatest adventures, but nothing compares to raising a family at home.

And you don’t even need a passport or a bottomless bank account for this fantastic, exasperating, thrilling, terrifying endeavor.  In fact, not having those, and knowing you can’t escape, only adds to the intensity.

Savor it.

Title of Book 6, and it’s coming May 2017!

Here’s my Valentine’s treat: the title of Book 6:

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The current plan is to release in May (thus the nebulous “spring”–gives me some wiggle room).

This is the back cover of the book; the front is still in production (ooh, and it’s gonna be good!), but a note on this image: if you’ve read book 5, Safety Assured Leaving East of Medicetti, you’ll recall that Perrin and Peto create a tree-slashing method for marking paths to the ancient temple ruin.

I wanted to make sure this strategy would actually work. So about two and a half years ago, when I was first drafting the series, I went out to my little aspen forest in my front yard and slashed a tree with a knife.

(One of my kids saw me doing it, and he was aghast. “For research,” I explained, and because I sometimes do odd things in the name of research [such as pushing down a dead tree in a burned out forest to see if I could; I could, and it’ll be in book 7] he didn’t ask anything else.)

The slashes on the aspen healed into beautiful, dark lines, as you can see by the photo.

Now, if you should visit my house and can’t find your way to my massive blue fifteen-passenger van in the driveway, just consult the aspen and it will tell how many paces in tens, and in what direction, you need to go. (Or get your eyes examined because, seriously, that’s a huge vehicle.)

Teaser lines from Book 6 will be coming at you every week now, and the countdown’s on!

How to stop hating the opposition in 7 short steps

You despise that person (you know the one), and all that they stand for. Their face is on everything and everywhere, and why they’re famous or even admired baffles you to nausea. If they would just die (and everyone else in their little groups) the world would be a better place.

But that’s not going to happen, nor is wishing someone to die a mature attitude that anyone over the age of nine should still possess. Our rhetoric about people and public figures has degenerated to level of grade school recess fights, and it’s time to reverse that. Not just to teach the rising generation how to handle those who they don’t like, but for us adults to have some peace of mind, and some peace in heart.

As I’ve tried to find ways to get along in my mind with those people whose very existence rankle my ire, I’ve devised this list:

  1. Acknowledge that every person—EVERY person—has some good qualities. No one is ever wholly “evil” or “bad,” no matter what the memes say about them.
  2. Find that good quality. Identify it, and not in a sarcastic manner. Recognize that even the “worst” politician, athlete, Hollywood type, or even next-door neighbor has some worthy ability. Maybe they’re very tenacious, or are devoted to their kids, or aren’t fazed by criticism, or have a unique way of looking at the world.
  3. Next, grab hold of that quality, and admire Yes, you heard me right: admire that ability to do whatever, and isolate it in your mind as their redeeming factor.
  4. Do NOT add a “Yes, but,” after that, the words which negate that admirable quality you just identified. There is no room for “Yes, buts.” At least, not at this step.
  5. Now, whenever you see or read something about that person, and you feel your blood pressure rising with rancor, recall that quality, and say to yourself (and here’s where the “Yes, but” comes into play), “Yes, but she seems very skilled in applying eyeliner.” (See, it doesn’t have to be an exceptionally noble trait, but something you can admire.) “Yes, but he genuinely seems to like his current wife,” might be another. Or, if you’ve got nothing else, you could think, “Yes, but I’ve never heard of that person sending rabid gorillas to the international space station.” Repeat this line in your head about the person, over and over if necessary.
  6. And move on. Do NOT continue to read or listen to or watch that person who you so despise. Change the channel, turn off the device, click past them, and find something more settling for your ulcer.
  7. Finally, repeat to yourself: “I do NOT have to get angry about someone. I do not have to spout off in social media, or repost that snarky meme, or comment below the article about why that person should die. I can MOVE ON” (remember step 6?).

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Repeat as necessary, and revel in your new-found peace.

You have very little time in life; don’t waste any of it being angry at a public figure who will never care what you think, and will never know.

Go pour some love on someone instead. Valentine’s Day is coming, after all.

 

Mahrree rarely thought about the twenty-three Administrators who now ruled, and likewise those Administrators thought nothing of her at the northern edge of the world.

~Book 1, The Forest at the Edge of the World

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The Best Spot in the world may not be where you think it is

There isn’t One Best Place in the world.

That came to me Tuesday as perfectly clear blue skies tempted me outside, despite 19 degree temperatures. My winter brain desperately needed the sunshine.

Besides, I got the impression that Maine was trying very hard to win me over during my last hours.

(Which was a smart play on Maine’s part, since my flight that day was canceled because of mechanical issues, and as I typed this the next day at the airport hotel, I watched in dread as the snow came down; another flight delay.)

I arrived seven days earlier to get to know coastal Maine, where my husband already lives and works, and where we’re planning to move in June.

Everyone has been gushing, “Ooh,  Maine! It’s so pretty there!” But in the dead of winter, I don’t believe there’s any place in the northern hemisphere that rates as “pretty.” Everything appears as the equivalent of, “Ugh, morning hair, forgot the makeup, frumpy clothes—just be grateful I showed up today.” Such places shine and glow in the summer, but everything seems to frown and snarl in the winter.

Snow is pretty only for the first hour; after that, misery.

Except for Tuesday when the blue skies waved its big hand at me and said, “Come on! We look decent right now—take a look!” So I bundled up, headed out of the school grounds where my husband lives and works, and soon found myself on an old track deep in the forest.

And this was a true forest, with old growth and ground thick with hundreds of years of plant matter, making parts of it spongy and springy where the ground wasn’t frozen. Despite the cold, a little spring insisted on trickling, and a squirrel next to it gave me the eye, as if wondering why I was there.

And this forest won me over:

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Darn it.

I was suddenly in Edge, in the forests above it which I originally patterned after Yellowstone (hence the hot pots and sulfur vents). But these forests were a very close, very nearly perfect, The Next Spot.

You know “The Spots,” right? The places you envision yourself being—the Dream House Spot, the Best Vacation Spot, The Cruise Spot, The Job Spot . . . The Spot.

I have been living in THE Spot for the past eight years, close to family, universities, shopping, and mountains. After having moved a dozen times in our marriage, I was sure we were set to stay.

Only, THE Spot doesn’t seem to be The Final Spot. Maine may not be The Final Spot either. However, for decades my husband has imagined Maine to be THE Spot, so when he was offered a job last year, seemingly out of the blue, he couldn’t resist.

I came for the week, trying to see this as THE Spot, and as I wandered in that forest I realized that there are many Good Spots. Millions of them, actually.

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(Just the regular run of the mill view as I ambled on a walking path . . . ho-hum.)

Do you ever wonder why people live in such diverse places, and in such varying ways?

Because there is not One Way To Live.

There is not, nor has there ever been, an Ideal Spot, a Perfect Home Town.

Some folks struggle with the idea that there isn’t a “ONE and ONLY TRUE WAY TO LIVE.” To them, Home Town is THE best Spot in the world; one can ONLY cheer for (fill in the name) university’s football team; vacations MEANS sitting at the beach; and pizza should have ONLY pepperoni and sausage toppings. Don’t even bring up pineapple.

They’re astonished to learn that others don’t want to move to their town, they don’t even follow football, vacations are some place different every year, and they prefer calzones. No, people aren’t ill-informed or plain stupid for not wanting to be exactly like everyone else, living in exactly the same way and place.

Because oh, what problems we’d have if everyone wanted the same things! It’s vital that different places, customs, and notions of “ideal” are wide and varied, in scope and depth, or seven billion of us would all be sitting on top of each other in one tiny Spot! (Which, I’ve learned from an acquaintance, people who live in New York City already think is happening.)

What a marvelous miracle of Intelligent Planning that all of us are different! That means there’s plenty of space and options for everyone.

Some of us live in the same town for generations; others may pick up and settle in another part of the world, never to return. History is full of stories of families sailing far away for a new life, a Different Spot. All of us in America, aside from the Native Americans, originally had family from “Some Other Spot.” It’s fine to find Other Spots. Sometimes God forces us to Another Spot, which looks like a Wretched Spot but later becomes a Most Beloved Spot.

There are millions–even billions–of Good Spots.

My current house hasn’t been my favorite, but it has grown on me—even the too-small kitchen—and I find myself melancholy about listing it for sale soon. I’ve always thought this was the best view I could hope for. As I type I frequently gaze out the windows to These Spots, and sigh in delight.

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But Those Spots will soon be memory, replaced by Spots Like These, the new paths I get to explore:

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And I had to admit Tuesday, that’s not so bad a Spot.

Some year, it might even become my new Best Spot.

It was that realization that the world was so vast, yet only a tiny fraction of it was populated and fought over, that struck the Shins as so tragic. None of the violence in the world had to happen. There was plenty for everyone. But no one wanted to leave what they knew.

~Book 6, coming Spring 2017