Hear Me Bloviate on Publishing!

You may or may not know that my husband, also a writer, is a podcast fiend, both as a listener and as a podcaster himself. He is currently hosting three podcasts (The Gut Check Podcast, Clinch: A Podcast of Fiction and Not-Fiction, and These Go to Eleven) and his sermons are available online as well.

I’ve appeared here and there on the Gut Check Podcast, mostly as a bystander or an interrupter-of-proceedings, though occasionally I am asked direct questions or serve as a reader for Gut Check Literacy Month (which has lasted, oh, I’d say maybe two years). And I bet you can hear my laugh in some of those sermon recordings. But this week Zach actually interviewed me for the not-fiction portion of Clinch.

If you’re curious about what I do in publishing, how annoying I think I will be as an author to the people on my publishing team, or you just want to listen to us talk about Zach getting lost in the woods outside of Owosso, actor Kevin Sorbo, and whether or not we should have closed the drapes to keep our dog from barking during the recording, you should definitely give it a listen.

Also, you should go back to episode one and binge it, both for the fiction portion, where Zach reads his current work in serial fashion, and the not-fiction portion, which gives you an inside look into the highs and lows of publishing, both traditionally and independently, from Zach’s own rollercoaster experience and interviews with other authors. It’s one of the most honest assessments you’ll get of what it’s like to be a writer trying to make a mark in the book world today.

Bringing Back the Morning Room and the Drawing Room

A couple new pieces were added to the Cigar Room over the long weekend. While the menfolk were out geocaching and shooting off rockets on Black Friday, my mother-in-law and I went antiquing. I had two very specific items on my list — a small, round drink table and a vintage lamp for right next to the Eames style chair. I found the lamp right when I walked in the door of the first shop. The table was discovered in the back of the second. It’s the perfect size for the lamp, a drink, and a little candle.

We do still need to put a few more things on the wall, but the room is nearing completion. Both my husband and I find ourselves there at some point almost every day. Sometimes all day when we are writing or editing. It is perfect for sunny morning coffee and reading, afternoon tea or cigars and writing, and evening wine or decaf paired with pleasant adult conversation.

Though it’s far more masculine than the traditional morning room that a large estate may have had in the 18th or 19th century, I find that it is a nice substitute in our neighborhood of small homes built in the 1930s and 1940s.

A morning room, if you’re unaware, is just what it sounds like. A room used in the morning. Traditionally it would have been used by the lady of the house to receive visitors, plan meals, make shopping lists, and work on correspondence (I do have all my stationary there now). Lots of windows and strategic placement on the morning side of the house meant lots of natural light by which to read and write. The term is used more in Britain than the US, by why not borrow it to add a touch of formality to our stubbornly casual lives?

The morning room’s cousin is the more commonly encountered drawing room. Contrary to my childhood misunderstanding, it is not a room reserved for drawing (a fact which deeply disappointed me when I discovered it). The term is short for withdrawing room. It’s a room to which you and your guests might withdraw after a meal for conversation and drinks. Alternatively, it might be a room to which one would withdraw alone in order to escape one’s guests.

We use it to escape the messy kitchen and dining room after dinner, or the toy-strewn living room at almost any time during the day. We also use it to withdraw from noise when we are trying to read or write with other people in the house. It is mostly separated by the brick wall that used to be the outside of the house, so with the door shut it is quite insulated from the sounds of video games in the basement or music in the living room. It is an absolutely adult room — no toys allowed — and the only part of it that can get messy is the table, which is easily tidied by emptying the ash tray and putting coffee mugs into the dishwasher.

This uncluttered space has helped my state of mind immensely. It is a room in which it is equally easy to concentrate and to let the mind wander and dream. I don’t know when I’ve ever been so pleased with how a sudden redecorating whim has turned out.

Estate Sale Win for the Cigar Room

I am in love.

EamesChair

The cigar room continues to slowly come together with this Eames-style mid-century chair for which I got up at 6:00 AM on a Saturday. I got my name third on the sheet and should have been third in line when the sale opened, but the first two ladies were slow and apparently not too eager, so I was the first one in the door at 9:00 AM. One of the estate sale workers had already told me exactly where in the house to go for it. I snagged the tag a split second before the lady whose name was after mine on the list (and then avoided making eye contact with her).

Victory!

The lady who checked me out told me they’d gotten a lot of calls about the chair, so I bet there were a number of disappointed people out there this morning. But I’m not going to worry too much about them. Instead, I’m going to sit smugly in my awesome new chair and get back to drafting my next novel. In fact, I used the time waiting in the car this morning between 7:00 AM and 8:30 AM to get more than 700 words written, so I’d say it’s been a pretty productive morning.

Now, I say Eames-style because it is not an authentic Herman Miller Eames chair. Here’s a great article on how to tell the difference. But the estate handlers advertised it and priced it accordingly. I never would have bothered going if it were authentic.

Good Christian Men Smoke

It is a warm and windy first day of November. The sky is gray and my burning bush has finally turned red, but my maple trees in the back yard are still green. Autumn has been slow this year so that I’m not sure any of us are really mentally prepared for November. Shouldn’t we be waking to cars needing to be scraped and frost on the windows? Instead, my marigolds still look incredible.

But it is the first of November, and therefore it is time for this:

Capture

Tonight is a book launch party at Timothy’s Fine Cigars in Bay City, Michigan, for The Christian Gentleman’s Smoking Companion, a hybrid illustrated/reference/humor/cultural commentary written by my husband Zach Bartels and our friend and fellow writer Ted Kluck.

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Some of you may be thinking, “Christians smoking? Isn’t that a sin?” The short answer is, no, it is not. And I won’t go into the long answer here, but there is a chapter in the book that addresses this very question.

In fact, a large portion of this book is devoted to profiling famous and influential people of faith who smoke(d) cigars and/or pipes, such as Charles Spurgeon, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, C. S. Lewis, Pope Pius X, J. R. R. Tolkien, Karl Barth, G. K. Chesterton, J. Gresham Machen, Johann Sebastian Bach, and more. The book not only includes original illustrations of all of these men, it also includes many quotes from them (and even a fairly lengthy poem from Bach!) on how one can smoke to the glory of God.

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There are interviews with a few smoking enthusiasts (including Tim Socier, owner and proprietor of Timothy’s Fine Cigars in Bay City, and Jody Davis of Newboys fame, who creates one-of-a-kind pipes as a side business), and chapters explaining cigar types and terminology, smoking lounge etiquette, what cigar brands say about the person smoking them, and more handy advice that keeps the smoker from looking like an amateur out there.

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And that’s really just the tip of the iceberg (or perhaps a more fitting metaphor would be just the ash at the end of the cigar). The bottom line is, if you smoke cigars or pipes, this book’s for you. If you think this whole enterprise sounds a little suspicious because you’ve been taught that smoking is sinful, this book’s for you. If you love satire and sarcasm, this book’s for you. If you can laugh at yourself (and others) this book’s for you. It’s just a fun, enjoyable experience (as long as you’re not too uptight).

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If you’re in the Bay City area tonight, join us at Tim’s on the corner of Center and Saginaw (across from the planetarium) from 6-8pm. There will be amazing gourmet snacks, including chipotle brownies, made by Ted’s wife and personal chef Kristin Kluck, a.k.a. The Saucy Broad. If you can’t come by but the book sounds like something you or someone you know would like (perhaps as a Christmas gift?) you can buy it here!