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Writer Wednesday with Award-Winning Author, Bob Hostetler

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I met Bob Hostetler at a recent ACFW-Indiana meeting. I had no idea how much I admired his work until I saw his book table. And there it was. A book that had a huge influence on my life as a youth minister and teen Sunday School teacher:

I raised my kids and a whole passel of other kids on this book. It’s an excellent apologetic in layman’s terms. I think I’ve quoted most of it for the past 20 years over and over again. The title itself is one of my favorite phrases.

I was fortunate enough to visit with Bob during our luncheon that day and he was nice enough to agree to an interview!

Grab your cuppa (I’ve got my iced tea ready!) and get ready to glean wisdom from an award-winning, best-selling author. 

Thanks for agreeing to the interview Bob! I’m really looking forward to your next book! And I don’t care if I am gushing like a giddy schoolgirl. Its delicious purple cover (purple is my FAVE) and delectable content has me salivating already!

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Click to tweet please!

Bob says, “Don’t check your brains at the door!”

Words from the abyss

I stare at the page. No, that’s not right. I stare into space. Into nothingness. Empty of anything but anguish. The mere thought of lifting my hands to the keyboard, exhausting. Thinking thoughts that require more than automatic muscle movement, overwhelming.

If you’ve never experienced grief this strong, you cannot know how this feels.

The blankets are my shelter. Like God’s wings, they hide me from outside forces that take too much glaring effort to face.

Exhaustion. The exhaustion is much, much more than being tired. It’s the lack of will to do anything but sleep, stare, sob, and sleep again.

I wonder if God feels this way over children He’s lost. And if He does, how His mercy is even deeper and wider.

My thoughts are stuck in a thick goo of anguish. Anguish isn’t the right word. It’s much more than despair. It’s pain, squared by pain times itself, over and over and over again. An exponential abyss of dark, infinite hell.

I know now why they wear black when they grieve. This is so much worse than death. So much worse. And I. Can’t. Find. My. Way. Out. This yawning void sucks me down with each strain toward the light. Each small advance thwarted by the constant shadowy reminder of the cause of the torment.

The only escape is death. But death doesn’t come. With bodacious irreverence life marches on with trivial duties. Make the bed. Brew the coffee. Feed the cat. Sort the socks.

Why do people go on as if nothing has happened? Why does the sun continue to shine? Why do the stars and moon mock the darkness?

I must think new thoughts. I must put praise on my lips.

No. No energy. My mind is too full of intrusive sorrow. I cannot be a hypocrite today. To pretend I’m okay when I’m clearly not is too heavy a burden. Today I can’t paste on the smile, stick out my chin and write pretty prose.

The blankets. So soft. So comforting.

The cat purrs. I close the laptop. Close my eyes.

Tomorrow will come.

Maybe there will be new words tomorrow.

Time management: a new way of doing things around here

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Let’s see, it’s already January 19 and I’m just now getting around to mapping out my year.

But in my defense, it’s only because I had to finish up a three-credit-hour course in Science methods which I did in two weeks. Talk about noodle brain! But I did it, and now I can move on to other things! Yay! (God is so good to help me! The glory goes to Him!)

This is our college mascot. His name is Sage. Isn't he cute? He sends me a note whenever I pass a course. Love it!

This is our college mascot. His name is Sage. Isn’t he cute? He sends me a note whenever I pass a course. Love it!

Anyway, I thought I’d share a bit about what I’m doing in terms of compartmentalizing my life. From what I read, I work more like a guy than a gal. I’m very compartmentalized. Guys can do that better than gals. Gals tend to keep a lot of their mental compartments open all at the same time. I think that’s because they have to when rearing children. They have to be able to nurse the baby, make supper, fish the toddler out of the toilet, call the plumber and switch the laundry all at once. If they compartmentalized everything, something would go wrong. Supper would get burnt while switching laundry and the baby would end up in the toilet and the toddler in the oven or some such thing.

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Now, I’ll admit, I had to do a lot of the many-things-at-once sort of thing when my kids were small, but I was never very good at it. A lot of suppers got burnt. I’ve always been someone who likes needs to focus on one thing at a time. And I think that’s why I get so much done. It doesn’t seem like one would, but it works for me. Always has.

This is how compartmentalizing works.

-There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven---Ecclesiastes 3-1, NASB (2)

 

Picture your brain with a lot of drawers. You only open one drawer at a time. For example, when I’m working on my novel, I only open the novel drawer. I do not allow myself to open any other drawers because to do so means my focus is split. I don’t crack open those drawers even a little bitty bit. This is easier for me than it is for a lot of my female friends. But it works for me. (I also shop like a guy. Grab it. Bag it. Boom. I’m out of there. My husband, on the other hand? Total opposite!)

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Recent scan of Mr. Himself’s brain

 

(Naturally, I’m speaking in general terms, here. I do not mean to imply that all guys and all gals shop or focus the same all the time. Well, actually, I am, but thought I’d put that disclaimer out there to keep the trolls off my back. Seriously, though, Mr. Himself and I are clearly examples that generalizations don’t always apply.)

Here’s one way I’m trying to compartmentalize this month. If it works, I’m going to do it all year.

Sundays/Mondays: Read an entire book cover to cover. I start it on Sunday afternoon (or Saturday evening if I can) and finish it on Monday. It’s a priority. I have a mile-long stack of books I haven’t read that I’m dying to read. Not to mention the hundreds on my Kindle. Some are for research. Others are fiction authors I want to study. Yes, thankfully, I’m usually a fast reader (depending on interruptions).

Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore-–Henry Ward Beecher (2)

Tuesdays: Update the blog for the week (I’m glad I can pre-schedule my blog posts), create info-graphics for social media, etc. Write four hours (this includes editing time).

Wednesdays: Focus on my grandchildren and working at the church. I teach an evening class for children and I create my own hands-on lessons. I also pick my granddaughters up from school and taxi them back and forth from dance class and give one of my granddaughters a piano lesson.

Can you believe I get to spend every Wednesday afternoon with these beauties?? (Here they are with their Dad, my son, Jesse)

Can you believe I get to spend every Wednesday afternoon with these beauties?? (Here they are with their Dad, my son, Jesse)

Thursdays: Heavy writing days/college study time/church work study time

Fridays: Heavy writing days/college study time/church work study time. Date night!

Saturdays: Church work/laundry/other manual labor chores

Sundays: Church, rest, read

Now, I don’t know how well this will work. I’m going to give it 30 days. So far so good.

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In the midst of all of it, mind you, I’m still taking care of things at home, fielding interruptions (which are constant), exercising, taking my vitamins and showering. (Showering is important.) I also substitute teach when I can, but usually on Thursdays and Fridays unless there’s an urgent need another day of the week. I’d rather not have to, but feeding the family is important, too. For some reason they show up hungry at regularly scheduled times.

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I think the fact that I’m constantly interrupted (due to living with Autism and Alzheimer’s) is why compartmentalizing works for me. I get so mentally distracted, it’s easier for me to get re-focused if I’m only focusing on that one thing for the day. I also use the timer on kanbanflow (where I keep track of my tasks). It helps me stay on task, keeps me off social media, and helps me track my interruptions and time spent working. I just wish I would remember to start the timer each time!

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Please tweet: How do you keep track of time? How do you focus? Weigh in!

So what do you think? Am I nuts? How do you get it all done? I need ideas, so please share with me!

Top 10 Christmas Gifts for Busy Writers (Or at least for this one)

I love writerly gifts. But most of the time, my friends and family haven’t a clue what such things are. I may leave my computer open to this post in case Mr. Himself walks by…

Here are my top 10 picks this Christmas in no particular order.

Number One:

 Jane Austen Action Figures and anything Jane Austen.

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Such as this,

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this,

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and this.

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Just because I love all things Jane Austen. And these are absolutely frivolous and uniquely writerly and readerly.

Number Two:

Stickers for my laptop. Such as this NASA one.

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It’s cool for people to think I’m a rocket scientist when I’m out in public writing. Then again, the astronaut sloth sticker might clue them in to what I really am.

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Or the  NASA “I need my space” one.

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Seriously, though, this one is perfect.

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As is this one. And you can’t beat the price! Okay, forget the gifting. I’m getting these myself.

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Number Three:

I am in total love with this gift idea! It’s a Moleskin notebook in a Moleskin gift box! How perfect. No need to explain why any writer wouldn’t love this one, right?

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Number Four:

Altwork Station.

Source: endgadget.com

Source: endgadget.com

When I make my first million I’m so getting one of these.  You’ve got to see this for yourself! (Watch the video. You’ll be putting this one on your list, too.)

Number Five:

Bookends. I have so many books. I’m never without a need for bookends. And since I’m really into elephants, I love these little guys.

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Every writer can use a nice set of bookends

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or even a cute bookshelf!

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Number Six:

Movie passes!

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Fiction writers love movies. Mainly they like to go and rip apart every scene, dissect each word, analyze the dialogue, conflicts, and more. Sometimes they want to sit in a movie alone and savor every morsel. Writers are weird. You might want to get the passes for them  to go to the movies alone unless they happen to have patient friends who understand. Or you have a unique writer friend who’s an extrovert. Unlike me. It’s not that I’m anti-social. I’m just an in-her-head-all-the-time kind of gal. Okay, fine. My kids think I’m anti-social.

Number Seven:

A vintage typewriter. Just because. Personally, I’d love to have a pink one:

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Or this one from my childhood. I can still remember its smell!

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Source: http://goo.gl/OmyMrA

And if the below picture is really a thing, please, please, please, someone show me where I can get this one!

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Source: http://stillcracking.com/want-one-2/

It does look like you can make your own according to this website, but a circuitry aficionado I’m not. However, I’m a writer, and there’s nothing a writer loves more than dreaming–besides caffeine and chocolate. Which brings us to

Number Eight:

Our own caffeine station. Deborah Raney has one I absolutely love! Mine would lean more toward tea, diet Mt. Dew, milk (with a Splenda — you’ve got to try it! It’s like a legal milkshake) and water. I don’t drink coffee. But I don’t mind those who do because I love the smell of it. Wouldn’t a little station in a cozy home office be wonderful?

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How cute is this???

Number Nine:

Our own private lair.

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I have a huge Pinterest board dedicated to this (with over 600 delectable images!).  I’d love my own little cabin in the backyard. But Mr. Himself is hesitant to create such a thing because he’s afraid I’d never come back in the main house.  He might be right about that. (See Number Six.)

Number Ten:

Contracts. Lots and lots of contracts.

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If I haven’t hit on anything your writer friend or family member might like, you can check out this amazing Etsy list here. There are plenty of things there any writer would love. And I like shopping at Etsy because it supports independent creatives like me.

What are your top ten Christmas wishes (besides peace, health and unicorns)? Is there anything on my list you’d like to have, too? Weigh in!

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Please tweet: Top 10 Christmas Gifts for busy writers! What’s your pick?

My Interview on the Wealthy Wednesday Radio Show!

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Everything you wanted to know about me but were afraid to ask.

I hope you’ll take the time to listen to my interview on the Wealthy Wednesday Show and leave your comments and questions. I love interacting with you!

Thank you to Luci McMonagle for inviting me to be on her show. I had a blast.

Enjoy!

Pink Motorcycle & Bird Final (1)Kindly tweet:  Interview with Karla Akins with tips on starting your writing business!

The Methuselah Project by Rick Barry

Methuselah

Order at Amazon

Order at Barnes and Noble

Order at Kregel

Since I’ve been overbooked, I asked a friend of mine, Joe Fausnight, to read and review this book for me. Here’s his take:

Captain Greene was an American Pilot from Indiana who was flying missions over Germany in 1943 when he was shot down.  As his plane fell he cried out to God.  He landed in a woods between to giant oak trees destroying his plane but leaving him and the cabin of the plane intact.

He was picked up by the Nazis and a civilian car was following the truck he was in.  Taken to a secret underground lab he was number 7 guinea pig for a Nazi science project for long life and quick wound repair.

Rick Barry

Author Rick Barry

After they had gassed and worked on the men the place was bombed by the Allies. The scientist who had come up with the project was killed as well as number 1 through 6 men.  He survived as did the assistant scientist and he was kept in a cage for many years after the war was over as they experimented on him and tried to duplicate his success.  He looked and acted like a 30 year old even as decades passed.  He knew nothing of the outside world except what he was told that the war was still going on decades later.

They gave him lots of books to read to pass his time and after reading many classics he asked for a Bible.  He got a lot of comfort from it over the years.  He exercised daily as well as taking flying trips in his mind including all the safety checks so he didn’t forget how to fly.

Did he ever get free?  Did he ever find anyone who cared about him other than as a lab rat?  Did he ever discover the changes in the world since his capture?  You will find out and enjoy this book when you read it.  A very good read and worth the time to read.

I give this books five stars.

Star Review!

Kindly tweet this: Methuselah Project by Rick Barry gets a 5-star review!

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How I Get It All Done (Sorta)

Waste your time--waste your life.Like you, I’m insanely busy. Sometimes I feel as if I don’t even have time to breathe. This can make writing hard. Not only for finding time to write, but having the mental clarity to write.

It doesn’t get easier as we get older. We need a lot more brain support in terms of exercise, nutrition and supplements. I was sharp as a tack until I turned 40 and then I realized how fallible and fragile this thing called life is. And I don’t know who told me parenting adult children was easy, but I have a hunch they didn’t have adult children.

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Most of you know that I’m a full-time pastor/pastor’s wife, full-time college student and “full-time” writer. That is, I spend at least four hours a day on my writing career. (Often, I spend much more than that.) As a pastor I spend at least 40 (ahem, to 60) hours and my college homework gets squeezed in there in between it all.

On top of that I’m a Mom, grandma, wife, daughter-in-law to my mother-in-law who lives with us and has Alzheimer’s. My candles are pretty much melted. If I don’t keep track of my tasks, they don’t get done.

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Here’s how I do it.

My first favorite item is my physical planner notebook, The Planner Pad. I love this planner because it not only gives me a full calendar view but also lets me plan by the week and day. Now, I also use a digital planning system as well, but it’s different than this planner, and I’ll get to it later. This physical planner helps me write out my week by hand in order to internalize it.

Here is a pic of my calendar page for the month of September 2015 (it’s not nearly as pretty as the video).

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And here’s the “funnel” pages I use each week to categorize and prioritize my activities. This is the one for this week. It will fill up more as the week goes along.

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Now, if you watch the following video, you’ll see I don’t use the funnel pages correctly. For some reason I want to put my specific times on the middle part of my page instead of at the bottom. What you’re supposed to do is break down the tasks in the middle of the page and then schedule specific times for them at the bottom. I tend to just schedule appointments at specific times on the middle of the page.

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Our lives are so interrupted that I get discouraged if I write something like, “blog from 9 AM – 10 AM.” No sooner will I write that than someone in this house or at the church will have an urgent need. And then I feel even more frustrated. Since I’m a little too task-oriented in life as it is, the way I do it works for me so I don’t become resentful.

The Planner Pad does have a digital planner. But I don’t care for it because it’s not all on one page. That’s why I use KanbanFlow on my computer instead of planner pad.

I like this system because I can see every segment of my life in one glance. (The column on the far left, “Chris” is a part-time consulting job I do. Nothing going on this week. Yay!)

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An example of a week (incomplete)

I can also create a whole new board for a specific task.

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I can also break down the week and tasks into “Do Today” and  “Do This Week” and really, any type of column I want. And if you delegate a lot of things on your list (I don’t) then you can add a name and photo to the task. (I don’t usually bother with the photo thing but did it to show you here.)

dotoday

I’m a bit addicted to Zulily and tumblr…

The drawbacks of this system is that there isn’t an app for the iPhone. However, you can still access it via the web. Still, I’m not sure why they haven’t created an app. But for me, this works because I usually only use it when I have my computer on and open. (And that’s most of the day.)

It also has the promodoro timer!

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I can keep track of time spent on different tasks or make myself focus for different stretches of time with the timer. And it will also keep statistics for you. To learn more about the different details, watch the video below.

I’m still learning how to use different colors to code urgency or type of task. For me, just getting the tasks down (brain dumping) is a huge relief. And I like being able to drag the task tiles over into the “done” column. There’s a lot of satisfaction in that!

This system was actually developed for collaborators designing software. I absolutely love it for juggling the different roles I play in life.

What system do you use to stay on task?

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Would you be so kind as to share a tweet?

What do you use to stay on task?

Steampunk Hat Phase 2

In which my cat, Spook, looks like an alien cat come to abduct my hat

In which my cat, Spook, looks like an alien cat come to abduct my hat

It’s finished! I wish I had time to model it for you, but I’m way behind packing for the ACFW Conference, so I’ll have to take pictures at the genre dinner and post them for you then. In the meantime, here’s a very short video of Spook checking it out. Of course, anytime I start to video my pets they immediately decide not to cooperate.

The lighting was awful when my son took pics of the hat, so I had to enhance them a bit. They don’t at all capture its essence. Yes, it has an essence. I promise.

The bow is much prettier and doesn't look so oversized in person.

The bow is much prettier and doesn’t look so oversized in person.

 

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If you can’t tell, that’s a bird’s nest on the top with an old key.

Here’s a video. Still doesn’t have the same pizzazz as in person, but you get the idea! Remember, my character is a steampunk biologist (naturalist, but it’s Christian steampunk so I say biologist; it’s complicated).

What do you think? Did I overdo it? Do you like your steampunk more streamlined? Let me know in the comments below!

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Tweet this: Check out this amazing steampunk hat!

What’s on your writing desk, Elaine Stock?

What's on your writing desk- (1)

Today I’m excited to feature one of my dear writing pals, Elaine Stock. She is represented by the same literary agent I am, the lovely Linda Glaz. I’m so happy that my readers get to know Elaine. She has a very engaging blog. You’ll want to check it out.

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Karla:  I love this picture of you and your cat! I write surrounded by my pets, too.

Elaine:  Although this photograph of myself is a tribute to my not long ago writing muse of the past nineteen and a half years, Wild Cat, who left me for a much better forever writing spot this past October, what you see is pretty much my writing place. Oh, I do have this great big antique oak desk that is presently in the corner of the kitchen. I think. Is that what’s under the printer, mounds of paper that can never, ever be thrown away, and writing how-to books?

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered

Karla: Oh yes. I have one of those mysterious wooden things you call desks, too. I’m sure it’s under there somewhere. Along with a pony, maybe? I’m very sorry about the loss of your cat. As an animal lover with five fur babies myself, and having had many over the years, I know how very precious they are to us.

Where do you like to write the most?

Where in the world do you write-

Elaine: With limited space, I’ve come to appreciate this corner of the sofa. It’s the closest to the wood stove in the winter, plus I look out four big windows and a backdoor for views of the countryside. Since the photo was taken I now have an additional pink marble side table. On good days I use the coffee table and side table as desk extensions—of course! To add a little more zest in my drive I’ll keep a mug of coffee—if early in the morning—or hot tea or plain old tap water. I’m not into snacking—really!—but may indulge in fruit or a granola bar if the blood sugar sags.

Karla: I don’t think I know the meaning of “not into snacking.” I wish I did! I envy that! Thanks for sharing your lovely writing space with us, Elaine. It sounds absolutely cozy and inspiring.

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Karla writing from her snack fort.

Here’s a bit more about Elaine. I hope you’ll make every effort to connect with her, Dear Reader!

Elaine Stock never expected that a college major in psychology and sociology would walk her through the see-saw industries of food service and the weight-loss business; co-ownership with her husband in piano restoration and 10 years in community service. All great fodder for writing fiction.

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(c) Elaine Stock

In the spring of 2011 she placed in the Semi-finals category in the ACFW Genesis Contest for her novel WALK WITH ME. In 2013 she received the honor of My Book Therapy’s Frasier Bronze Medalist award for her novel NO GOING BACK. And in 2014 she was blessed with the news that her short story IN HIS OWN TIME won the People’s Choice Award in the FamilyFiction Contest, which was published in the printed anthology, THE STORY: 2014 Anthology. November 2014 saw her short story, THE FOREVER CHRISTMAS GIFT, released in CHRISTMAS TREASURES: A COLLECTION OF CHRISTMAS SHORT STORIES. In January 2015 she became a regular contributing author to Happy Sis Magazine (http://happysis.com) aimed at an international readership to “inspire women to know Christ and to grow in faith, integrity, confidence, success and happiness.”

Her own blog, Everyone’s Story (http://elainestock.com) has grown in its over 4-year existence, receiving an average of 8,000 viewer monthly visits. She weekly hosts authors, writers, and readers, which helps to further her reach and connection to many on an international level. Everyone’s Story’s theme is to uplift and encourage all through the power of story and hope.

Connect with Elaine here:

Twitter http://www.twitter.com/ElaineStock

Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/AuthorElaineStock

Goodreads  http://goodreads.com/ElaineStock

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Tweet this: What’s on your writing desk? Come see what’s on Elaine’s and tell us about yours! 

Would you and your writing spaces like to be featured on my blog? Find out how!

What’s on your writing desk, Pegg Thomas?

What's on your writing desk- (1)

Today we get to peek inside the writing lair of Pegg Thomas! I love the simplicity and peacefulness of her space. I think you will, too.

Pegg lives on a hobby farm in Northern Lower Michigan with Michael, her husband of *mumble* years. They have barn full of animals, a large garden, a small orchard, and a growing berry patch.

Besides writing, she enjoys a variety of crafts including spinning sheep’s wool into yarn, knitting, counted cross stitch, quilting, scrapbooking, and card making.

She and Michael enjoy camping, fishing, boat-nerding (you have to be a Great Lakes person to understand that), and thoroughbred horse racing.

Pegg has been a finalist in the 2013 ACFW First Impressions Contest and the 2014 Clash of the Titles Olympia. When not working on her latest novel, Pegg can be found in her garden, in her kitchen, or on her trusty old horse, Trooper.

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Pegg and Trooper

A lifelong history geek, it’s no surprise that I write surrounded by my antique treasures. My “desk” is a Singer sewing machine cabinet that belonged to my maternal grandmother, Kathryn Champanois. The old black A-1 Singer is still inside and I love to sew on it still.

To my left is a dresser that belonged to my maternal grandfather’s mother, Margaret Warner. Sitting on top is a bowl and pitcher as would have been common in a bedroom before indoor plumbing.

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Click to enlarge

To my right is another sewing machine, a Wheeler and Wilson treadle that pre-dates Singer, made in the late 1880s. It belonged to my paternal grandmother’s mother, Mable Wright. This cabinet pre-dates fold-down models and instead has what’s called a “coffin top” of wood that covers the machine.

Surrounded by such treasures makes slipping back in time an easy and enjoyable thing to do.

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Click to enlarge

Pegg writes historical fiction with a touch of humor. Her current WIP (work-in-progress) is the second novel in a trilogy set around the turn of the 19th century in America. The historical background of this series is the Quaker migration from the slave holding southern states to the new Northwest Territory of present day Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. The first novel is represented by her agent, Linda S. Glaz.

You can find Pegg here:

   Twitter @Pegg_Thomas
   Farm & Fiber Arts Webpage http://www.twinwillowsfarm.com
Thank you, Pegg, for sharing your writing space with us today!
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Tweet this: Her writing desk is a Singer Sewing Machine! What’s yours like?

Where in the world do you write-

Would you and your writing spaces like to be featured on my blog? Find out how!