What I’m Reading in 2015

Well, I ended 2014 with what I’m assuming was a mild case of the flu and the news that our church had been broken into. I began 2015 with four stitches after a blunder with an extremely sharp knife that seemed to want to separate my right thumb from the rest of my hand. I also turned 35 on Friday. So there’s that.

Today was better, though. I’m healthy, my hand is healing, and I’m hoping to finish up the draft of my work in progress, a novel I’m currently calling I Hold the Wind, in the next couple weeks. I am also making preparations for what will probably be a full year researching for my next book, a historical novel set in various locales in France, Austria, and Germany during World War I and the years preceding it. I’m calling that one Enough of Peace at the moment. Here’s what I’ll be reading in 2015…

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Since Christmas I’ve been hip-deep in failing aristocracies, rising anarchy, the Dreyfus Affair, and various other social and political upheavals as I read about the decades that led up to the start of WWI in Barbara Tuchman’s The Proud Tower. I’ve also been reading Mein Kampf, which has been alternately fascinating and horrifying.

Europe in the late 19th and early 20th century was glossed over a bit in my history classes. Except for the requisite pat on the back for ending the war, the First World War was not a subject upon which we lingered. Generally, we stuck to American issues: Reparations after the Civil War, the Industrial Revolution, the Roaring Twenties, and the Depression, only concerning ourselves with Europe again when we were sucked into the Second World War. For that reason, I’ve never truly understood the causes of WWI. All I remember learning about it was that it was the first truly mechanized war, it was the first war to be fought partially in the air, there were lots of trenches, and the colossal loss of life was all in vain. So I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

Also on the immediate horizon is the Write on the Red Cedar writing conference that my writing group, the Capital City Writers Association, is putting on. We’re officially sold out (!) and taking care of all the last-minute logistics. I’ll be sure to share pictures from and thoughts on the conference in late January.

Oh, and in the past couple days, it has finally snowed. :)

Sometimes your husband is on the cover of a magazine…

And that’s freaking AWESOME.

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Zach‘s debut novel, Playing Saint, releases in just six days. Here’s what people are saying about it…

“★★★★½! Bartels’ debut novel is a page-turner from the very beginning. His excellent use of foreshadowing and his glimpses into the past create a story that readers can’t put down. In the vein of Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti, Bartels weaves the supernatural into the natural in ways that are gripping and realistic, adding a shocking surprise that will leave readers stunned.”—RT Book Reviews

“Michigan minister Bartels (42 Months Dry) holds readers’ interest in this intrigue-filled thriller, despite its far-fetched premise. Saint’s character is particularly well developed. This book will be enjoyed by those who love a mystery combined with supernatural elements.”—Library Journal

Playing Saint is everything I love in a novel: great characters, edge-of-the-seat plot, and great twists and turns. I’m ready for his next book already. Highly recommended!”—Colleen Coble, USA Today bestselling author

“A thought-provoking exploration into the power of faith and the reality of evil. Filled with memorable characters and tight writing, Playing Saint is an impressive debut from an author to watch.”—Steven James, bestselling author

“Zachary Bartels is not afraid of head-on collisions with complicated issues. I loved Playing Saint for the recognizable reality, and the humor, and the way I felt when I finished the book—entertained, satisfied, and looking for more.”—Tracy Groot, award-winning author

Playing Saint is a reflection of its author—risky, fast-paced, sarcastic, clever, and ultimately hopeful. We need more novels, and more authors, like this!”—Ted Kluck, award-winning author

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I am so proud of him and happy for him! And you should go pre-order it right now. No, seriously. Do it.

New Release! This Elegant Ruin…and other stories

I’m so thrilled to tell you that This Elegant Ruin…and other stories is now available at Amazon! Click here to order.

For the uninitiated, in 2013 I challenged myself to write one short story each month. The twelve stories that make up this collection are the result of that challenge. I’m so thrilled to see them in book form with the incredibly beautiful cover my friend and colleague Heather created.

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Now that the kids are back in school, do something for you! Short stories make great reading material for when you just want a little down time (or when you are waiting in the pick-up lanes after school). I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them!

Here’s the back cover copy to give you a bit of the flavor of the writing:

 

Love and hate. Dreams and nightmares. Luck and misfortune.

In twelve engaging stories, the joys and sorrows of life glow against such varied backdrops as a snowy wood, a quaint country inn, a crumbling metropolis, the shore of Lake Superior, and a lonely country highway. A man in the twilight of his career falls in love with a young woman at the dawn of hers. A girl at the end of her rope finds an unexpected friend in an eccentric stranger. A young man haunted by memories finally gets a chance to forget his troubles. An artist takes stock of his life’s work and discovers an unwelcome truth.

With prose that evokes wonder and fear, regret and relief, Erin Bartels draws meaning from the small moments of life, challenging us to be still, to notice, to dream—and to hope.

Here’s What Has Been on My Nightstand

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So this is what I’ve been reading for the past few months. Except for My Antonia by Willa Cather, I’ve read all of these in the past–most in high school. They’re all books I already had on my shelves at home. And I hope to more than double this stack by the end of the year.

Any guesses as to how they all relate to one another? Or which has been my favorite thus far? What have you read so far this year?

First Short Story Collection: Cover Art Reveal!

Over a year ago, I secured the services of Heather Brewer, a talented graphic designer I’m lucky to call a colleague and friend, to design a book cover for me. At the time, I thought it would be a novel. At some point I realized that what I really wanted her to design was the cover for my collected short stories.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a year or more, you probably know that in 2013 I challenged myself to write one short story each month. During that year, I made each story available for Kindle users. Now I’m gathering those stories together, adding more material, and preparing to publish the collection as both a printed book and an ebook.

And this, I’m ecstatic to say, is the cover…

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When I saw it, I literally said in a loud and astonished voice (to no one in particular), “Oh my GOSH!” 

It’s breathtaking. And it’s more than just a pretty picture. Not only is it eye-catching, it evokes the kind of emotion that I hope the stories evoke in the reader–a little mystery, a little ache in the soul, an appreciation of beauty alongside an acknowledgement of the broken things. And, importantly, it’s non-gendered. In this collection, there are just as many male protagonists as female, and the themes are more universal than gender-specific, so having a cover that would appeal to both men and women was important to me. What do you think? Have we succeeded?

I’m currently editing the collection and getting the interior ready to go. I don’t have a firm release date just yet, but my hope is that it will hit the “shelves” by late summer or early fall. I’ll keep you posted!