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:

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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!

New Release: Drive

I pleased to announce the release of October’s short story, Drive. I got the initial idea for this story last year and this is one of the first covers I designed when I decided to write and self-publish a short story every month of 2013. However, it was not until last weekend when the last piece of the plot puzzle fell into place.

Writers, this is why you always want to capture those little ideas on paper. If I hadn’t written myself a note saying “guy goes to collect U-Haul-type trucks that aren’t returned” I might not have even remembered the premise when I came across a news story last weekend about a guy who was legally dead.

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So there you have it. Nearly a year in the making and here it finally is! Buy it here for Kindle. For those of you with other e-readers, I plan on releasing all of this year’s short stories on Smashwords in every conceivable format next spring. And for those of you who prefer traditional books, also coming in the spring will be a printed collection of all of this year’s stories. I’m so excited about it! So hang tight, stay tuned, and hold fast–your day is coming!

New Release: The Beginning and the End

My September story is now available for Kindle and Kindle apps! Click here to buy.

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I have to say this month has been an odd one as far as short story creation is concerned. I started this month’s story with this cover photo and title:

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But as I wrote the story, the title changed, and the photo had to change too. I had intended the story to be more about the house/inn but it became more about how relationships begin and end. To figure out the significance of the dandelion on the cover, you’ll have to read the story. Also got to have a little fun with the type this time around.

I’m really looking forward to writing my nonfiction book next year on how this year’s experiment worked and how you can make writing more intentional. September was a perfect example of initial inspiration having served its purpose and then needing to be discarded for the good of the story. Too fun.

Only three more short stories to go!

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10 Degrees Cooler in the Shade

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Hot off the virtual press (thanks to the near universality of wifi, even on Mackinac Island) is July’s short story, 10 Degrees Cooler in the Shade. This story started at simply pairing a title idea (with no thought of possible plot, characters, setting, content, etc.) and a photo I took at the Ingham County Fair a year or so ago. (Aside: The 2013 Ingham County Fair starts today and runs all week!) I asked my husband to suggest a name of a guy that sounded like he might be a carny (no offense to those of you out there who might share this name). And off my imagination went.

One of the fun things about writing a bunch of short stories this year is trying out different genres, and this is one I’ve never written–suspense. I hope you enjoy it!

Buy it here for 99 cents for your Kindle and Kindle apps.

One Endless Summer Day: A Story from Life

Just under the wire, June’s short story is here! Well, not here on the blog, but HERE in the Kindle store.

I wrote a prehistoric version of this story way back in my second year of college for a creative writing class. At the time I was sure it was the best thing I’d ever written. When I reread it earlier this month I thought it was pretty atrocious. So I took out all the pretension, changed the POV and the tense, added, subtracted, and molded. A few lines made it through unscathed and unedited. But just a few. It is the exact same story as it was fourteen years ago–just much, much, MUCH better.

Unlike all of my other stories written thus far this year, this one is based on a real event and real people, though most are dead and the living have new names. It’s an artistic, fictional rendering of a very small event that made a very big impression on me, an event that I have never forgotten, but told from the perspective of someone else who was there.

Here is a short excerpt to tempt you…

When did she get so old? It seems to have happened when I wasn’t looking, perhaps one night as I was sleeping. It vexes me that time is quickly stealing away abandon, that most precious of childhood qualities. To be unconcerned, flitting about on the very edge of reality in the silvery world of forests and fairies, wearing a dress made of yellow rose petals and riding upon the backs of ladybugs. To lightly touch down upon the ground on soft bare feet. To wear necklaces of raindrops. To talk to fireflies.

“Paula, what are you looking at out there?”

“Karen. Just watching Karen play in the yard. I’m listening. You were talking about the prices at the meat market.”

“It’s really just ridiculous, you know. I’ve never paid so much for ground chuck in my life, and that’s including…”

And on and on and on. The motorcycles from the front room. The drone of negativity from across the table. I squeeze my eyes shut and push my fingers into my temples.

“Mom, do you have any aspirin?”

“It’s in the bathroom.”

I go into the bathroom, shut the door, and stand for a moment in the lovely still dark, my hands upon the counter. Then I flick on the light and open the medicine cabinet. I scan the jars and bottles lined up in rows, a neat little train of powdered normalcy that daily delivers some relief, some steadiness, one more miserable day upon this earth to the two old people who live in this sad little house.

I tell myself that I need to be more patient with her. That life has not always been kind to her. That I’ll be old someday. That she just wants someone to talk to.

In case you’re curious, the POV character is based on my mother, who loved the original story from my creative writing class. I think she will enjoy this one much more. And I hope you enjoy it as well.

Latest Short Story Now Available (and a peek at summer cover art)

Today is the day! You can now buy Clean, my short story for May, for Kindle and Kindle apps. Just click here.

I’ve got covers mocked up for the next five months of short stories and I’m looking forward to writing stories inspired by the titles and images.

As always, things may change, but for now, here’s a peek at what summer will bring…

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April’s Short Story Is Here–and It’s Free Today Only!

The next morning the sun was behind a cloud, but they started on, as if they were quite sure which way they were going.

‘If we walk far enough,’ said Dorothy, ‘I am sure we shall sometime come to some place.’

This line from chapter 14 of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Lyman Frank Baum did not inspire April’s short story, but it did provide the title after it was written. I’m particularly proud of We Shall Sometime Come to Someplace as a story that attempts to combine the three main conflicts (man vs. nature, man vs. man, and man vs. himself) into one short tale, and also alludes to three particular well-known stories that involve portals and other worlds of some sort.

I first had the inkling of an idea for this story a couple years ago during a drive in March when the skies were studded with clouds that looked like they belonged to the month of July. It grew from the short note I jotted down about it and an element of one of my recurring dreams.

Because I like this story so much, I’m offering it free on its release day (and that, my friend, is today) so click here and get your free copy! (No, this is not an April Fool’s joke; it really is free.)

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It’s March! And That Means I Have Something for You!

I don’t know about you, but I’m super happy to leave February behind. We’ve gotten through a few winter storms, we’ve had some wonderful temperatures recently just above freezing, we’ve heard some beautiful birdsong around my house, and the sun made an appearance and I could actually feel it. Puts me in a springy mood.

Which is why I painted my bathroom a much lighter color.

Which is why I’m buying vegetable seeds even though I can’t plant most of them for a couple months.

Which is why I’m feeling pretty generous at the moment.

So here’s what I’m doing. I’m releasing March’s short story today (first day of the month!) and I’m making the first two short stories of 2013 absolutely free for a day! So if you missed the last freebie, take heart. This one’s for you…and for the promise of spring.

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