Tiny House Living May Not Be For You—But Our Book Is!

My novella, “Big Love,” is just one of seven great reads collected here!

Me and my co-authors in the novella collection Coming Home (which contains my novella, “Big Love” and six others) were attracted to the concept of tiny house living for many reasons:

We’re fascinated by them! Tiny houses are part of a current societal trend we found interesting—minimalizing the impact we have on the planet.

They fired our creative synapses! There were a plethora of opportunities to creatively integrate tiny houses into our stories.

We’re romantics at heart. They are, gosh darn it, sort of romantic and intriguing and fun—especially as settings.

Some of us, myself included, have contemplated living in a tiny house but none of us currently do. For me and my lifestyle, I see them as a fun second home to have on lakefront property. A place to get away to.

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My wife waiting in line to see this tiny home. We could live in this on lakefront property some day.

Fortunately, readers don’t have to live in a tiny house to enjoy our stories. You just have to like great stories about fun people who live in tiny houses or, in some cases, work in the industry. But what if you’re seriously considering taking the plunge to tiny- or small-house living?

That’s great! You’ll enjoy the stories then, for sure. If you haven’t plunged yet, but are thinking about it, here are 10 things to consider—especially if you have children at home—that may take the romantic stars out of your eyes. Or not, if you are really committed to small house living.

Diane and Chris, who author the Small Home Family blog linked to above, have two children and live in a 400-square-foot tiny house.

What are your thoughts on tiny house living? Do you say “yes” or “no” or, like me, “maybe” in the right circumstances?


Buy on Amazon.

“Big Love” is one of seven novellas written around the theme of tiny houses. It is included in Coming Home: A Tiny House Collection from Penwrights Press. Available in e-book and print . Cover design by Ken Raney.

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Visit my co-authors: Ane Mulligan, Linda Yezak, Pamela S. Meyers, Yvonne Anderson, Chandra Lynn Smith, and Kimberli S. McKay.

Samara Is A Real Place

My novella “Big Love” is part of this seven story collection.

Samara, one of the key locations in my novella “Big Love” in the collection Coming Home: A Tiny House Collection (Penwrights Press), is a real place. It’s about an hour and ten minutes north of me in West Lafayette, just off I-65. It is one of the last houses architect Frank Lloyd Wright envisioned and had built in his Usonian style.

And I never knew it existed—until I needed it. In that sense, Samara is rather like J.K. Rowling’s fictional creation, The Room of Requirement, in her Harry Potter series of novels. That room appears, stocked with whatever the magician requires at the moment, just as it is needed. And until it is needed, it cannot be found.

Only, as I said, Samara is real. You can visit it and I highly recommend you do.

In my novella, my architecturally-minded journalist and my as-independent-as-Yankee-Doodle small business woman who builds tiny houses for the homeless, needed a place they could explore together to deepen their relationship—and divide them.

Samara is one of the last examples of Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian period designs.
This is the front approach and garden at Samara. The entrance, which Wright liked to hide in his creations, is just around the corner created by the bank of windows you see.

I knew I had to have this almost magical place where the natural attraction these two feel for each other could be easily intensified. It’s a novella, after all, there wasn’t a lot of time.

As I searched for the right location—I wanted a real one, not something made up—I knew Purdue University had a great school of civil engineering and that south of Indianapolis is the city of Columbus, renown for its architecture. So this got me thinking about what architectural marvels might be found in Indiana. I fully expected to make a road trip or two to Columbus for exploratory purposes.

But when I searched online for architecture in Indiana, I found this 2014 article from Indianapolis Monthly magazine: “Milestones: An Indiana Architecture Road Trip,” by Daniel S. Comiskey. As I read through the piece, the name “Samara” lit up like neon in my mind.

And the location in West Lafayette couldn’t have been more perfect. My journalist, Nathan “Rafe” Rafferty, lives in Chicago. My builder, Timberly “Berly” Charles, lives in Indianapolis. Connecting them is I-65 and almost exactly in the middle is—Samara.

You hear it too, don’t you? When you read “Samara,” doesn’t it sing? Don’t you almost hear Hervé Villechaize’s Tattoo calling out, “The house! The house,” as Ricardo Montalban’s Mr. Roark strolls nonchalantly onto the veranda?

A quick email to Linda Eales, Samara’s associate curator, secured a visit to the home for my wife and I. And yes, until very recently Samara was a home and a museum. The original owner, Purdue University professor John Christian, and his wife Catherine, lived in the home until their deaths. It is now operated by the John E. Christian Family Memorial Trust and is open to the public.

Here’s a bit of a scene from my character’s visit to Samara. In the living room of the house, Berly and Rafe experience the calming effects of the room’s architecture. The scene is in Berly’s point of view:

Wall-sized windows fill an entire side of this amazing great room that was created before the concept of great rooms. A line of cushioned benches underneath a wall of shelves for books and knickknacks extends into and around the corner of the library section of the room.

Linda talks about how the design, the integration of nature—“With a capital N as Wright would say”—and the unity of the lines in the house create a feeling of peace and relaxation today’s homes often don’t have.

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The corner Wright called “the best seat in the house.”

She motions to the library’s distant corner. “Wright would have said that corner bench is the best seat in the house.”

I move into that corner to look at the amazing display of books and other decorative pieces on the shelves.

Rafe follows me. “Don’t you want to sit?”

“Oh, I couldn’t.” To me, this is a museum, and that means Do Not Touch. But Linda confirms Rafe’s invitation.

“No, it’s all right,” she says. “Dr. Christian lived in the home until his death in 2015. The furniture is intended to be used.”

So I do, and Rafe sits next to me. I am sitting on a piece of furniture designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

“I’ll dim the lights,” Linda says. “That will help you feel the peace.”

As we sit there, in the quiet and in the natural light of a sunny Hoosier afternoon, a calm does descend. My breathing evens out, and my body relaxes. It’s the first time I’ve noticed how architecture can be used to create mood—and I love it. How can this be incorporated in our work at La Petite Maison?

Rafe rests his hand protectively over mine on the seat cushion between us. It scares me to even think about it, but I am beginning to wonder about the future with Rafe. Sitting next to him, I swear I hear some pieces of my life fall into place. I try to lean into the peace and enjoy it. I don’t find it often.

“What are you feeling?” he whispers in my ear, his warm breath accentuating his words.

What am I feeling? I can hardly tell him, now can I? I’m not even sure I could tell Bets, were she here. But I am feeling.

Just a short scene or two later, trouble descends in paradise and the comforts of Samara get lost as the characters… well, you’ll just have to read it!

And you can! I have five electronic copies to give away. Just leave a comment either here or on the Facebook post for this blog. If you win and read “Big Love,” (and the other six tiny-house related stories), I’d be honored if you left a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Though a review is not required to enter, reviews give books a fighting chance to find an audience. Thanks in advance!


“Big Love” is one of seven novellas written around the theme of tiny houses. It is included in Coming Home: A Tiny House Collection from Penwrights Press. Available in e-book and print . Cover design by Ken Raney.

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Visit my co-authors: Ane Mulligan, Linda Yezak, Pamela S. Meyers, Yvonne Anderson, Chandra Lynn Smith, and Kimberli S. McKay.

The Sabbath Life for a Writer

This may seem counter-intuitive, but here it is: You can improve your writing by taking time off to not write.

Those of you who are jumping up and down right now because you think you’ve just found a new excuse for your lack of writing this week, this month, this year—“Hey! I’m on a writing Sabbath!”—calm down. You’re misunderstanding.

First, let’s define the term: Sabbath comes from the Hebrew word that means “to cease, to stop working.” As Peter Scazzero writes in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, it refers to “doing nothing related to work for a 24-hour period each week.”

Sabbath, as Scazzero is referring to it, “provides for us … an additional rhythm for an entire reorientation of our lives around the living God. On Sabbaths, we imitate God by stopping our work and resting.”

Reorientation

For many years, I saw the Sabbath as a day to rest after working, working, working for the previous six days. I have used it as an excuse to work more and more throughout the week—if I worked hard enough I could enjoy the Sabbath without feeling guilty. But that’s backward.

A biblical Sabbath isn’t a reward for hard work; it’s not a time to unplug. Rather, it’s an opportunity to plug into God and recharge in anticipation of the coming week. It’s a retreat, yes, but not to inactivity. It’s a retreat into relationship with
God.

So should a writing Sabbath be. Don’t retreat into inactivity, but retreat into activities that build your relationship with your creative self. Some writing Sabbath possibilities:

  • Instead of writing five chapters of your current manuscript, pick up one of those long-neglected books on your To Be Read pile and submerge yourself in it. Suspend your inner editor and your inner learner. You’re not looking for typos or trying to analyze how the writer created that unique feature. Your goal is simply to be carried away.
  • Instead of spending time “marketing” on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, turn off the computer, call a real friend, and take in a local walking or bicycling path. “Pin” the memories of the beauty you see and experience in your Emotions Bank—you can withdraw them later for use in your WIP.
  • Instead of printing your latest chapters and grabbing your red pen for corrections, visit a local nursing home, homeless shelter, or school and volunteer with the aged, the invisible, or the young. Your investment could “edit” the course that person’s story takes forever.

Re-Engage

Best of all, when you do return to your desk and computer, you’ll return energized—and may even have a couple great plot points to flesh out as you move your story forward.

The important thing when taking a writing Sabbath is to remember Scazzero’s four principles of a biblical Sabbath and apply them to your writing Sabbath:

  1. Stop: Stop writing. Stop social media. Stop editing. Lay it all down, knowing that it’s temporary and will still be there when you return. (Deadline exemptions available.)
  2. Rest: Step completely away from writing and writing-related activities. Your creativity needs it.
  3. Delight: Experience “joy, completion, wonder, and play,” as Scazzero puts it.
  4. Contemplate: Before returning to your keyboard, think about the experiences you had and what they might mean when you begin writing again. Seed your brain with the “what if” possibilities and allow them to germinate.

Consider the writing Sabbath—not as an excuse to not write, but as an opportunity to enrich and deepen your well. See if it doesn’t help you recharge for the next session of writing.

One last thought from Scazzero: “Sabbath is like receiving the gift of a snow day every week. Stores are closed. Roads are impassable. Suddenly you have the gift of a day to do whatever you want. You don’t have any obligations, pressures, or responsibilities. You have permission to play.”

Writer image courtesy of Phaitoon/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friends in water image courtesy of adamr/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mike-9Michael Ehret loves to play with words and as the editor of CHEFS Mix Blog for CHEFS Catalog he is enjoying his playground. Previous playgrounds include being the Managing Editor of the magazine ACFW Journal and the ezine Afictionado for seven years. He also plays with words as a freelance editor and has edited several nonfiction books, proofedited for Abingdon Press, worked in corporate communications, and reported for The Indianapolis Star.

Originally posted on Novel Rocket

The Summer of Success

Facing a crossroads at the moment—what step to take next and all that. I’m not all angsty over it, but I have been thinking a lot about the late Donna Summer lately, as a result.

Donna Summer? The Queen of Disco?

First of all, thinking about Donna Summer is not new for me. I’ve had a long time interest in her career and in the singer, herself. I’ve even been known to be a defender of Summer (she’s so much more than disco), because I think her talent was far overshadowed by her persona and by the Super Storm known as Disco that came in and tried, unsuccessfully, to obliterate the Rock and Roll shoreline.

Variety defined her career

Still, I’m more interested in Summer’s genre-hopping than in her music, per se. For instance, did you know she was nominated for 17 Grammy Awards in eight different categories (sort of like fiction genres)? Further, did you know she won five times in four different categories—twice in Inspirational? That’s right, Inspirational. The singer of 1975s 17-minute+ disco moan-fest, “Love To Love You, Baby,” won two Grammy Awards for Best Inspirational song (1984 and 1985).

Conventional wisdom is to not genre hop in the publishing world. There’s greater freedom in music (Linda Ronstadt also played the field, musically). But in publishing, writers are often advised that if they start in romance (or speculative or historical or suspense) then they should stay in romance (or speculative or historical or suspense).

But, I must have a little Donna Summer in me because I don’t want to be constrained in that way. Before we get all crazy, let’s remember that no one is knocking down my door for my next book—or, for that matter, my first book.

But—again—we can look to the diva for guidance. Because “conventional wisdom” isn’t called “conventional-sort-of-good-advice,” you know?

Summer made her mark in one genre—disco. It was the red-hot genre of the time and she rode that horse for all it was worth.

But when the horse started to get hobbled, she made the smart move of wrapping up that era with a Greatest Hits collection, changing record labels, and then came roaring back in 1980 with a rock-pop disc without even a whiff of disco, The Wanderer. And a song from that project earned her one of her Grammy nominations.

What are the lessons for a writer?

  1. Do your homework. Summer worked in Germany and Europe in various touring companies of shows like “Hair” and “Godspell” before connecting with Giorgio Moroder for her first major album, Love To Love You Baby.
  2. Establish yourself as an excellent writer of (choose one: romance/historical/suspense/other) and then, like Summer, work your butt off to make your mark. She released seven disco albums from 1975 to 1979—that’s four years—three of them in a row were blockbuster double albums.
  3. Keep your nose to the ground and your face forward. If you pay attention to the market and publishing trends, you’ll know when it’s time to change genres. If you’re a big enough success, you’ll get your opportunity. When you do, show the same quality, perseverance, and dedication to craft that got you where you are.

That’s the way to build a Hall of Fame career (Summer was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013) and do all the things you want to do.

Summer died May 17, 2012, at age 63. At her death (from cancer) she was working on two albums simultaneously—a collection of standards and a new dance music collection.

For the record, Summer’s Grammy wins were for:

  1. Best R&B Female Performance, 1979, for “Last Dance.”
  2. Best Rock Female Performance, 1980, for “Hot Stuff.”
  3. Best Inspirational Performance, 1984, for “He’s A Rebel.”
  4. Best Inspirational Performance, 1985, for “Forgive Me.”
  5. Best Dance Music Performance, 1998, for “Carry On.”

Additionally, she was nominated four times for Best Pop Vocal, twice for Best R&B Vocal, twice for best Rock Vocal, once for Album of the Year, once for Best Disco Vocal, once for Best Inspirational, and once for Best Dance Music.

Not a bad career.

Your turn: So, do you have a little Donna Summer in you?

Mike-9Michael Ehret loves to play with words and as the editor of CHEFS Mix Blog for CHEFS Catalog he is enjoying his playground. Previous playgrounds include being the Managing Editor of the magazine ACFW Journal and the ezine Afictionado for seven years. He also plays with words as a freelance editor and has edited several nonfiction books, proofedited for Abingdon Press, worked in corporate communications, and reported for The Indianapolis Star.

Originally posted on Novel Rocket

Filling Your Well of Ideas

Sometimes I think my idea well has run dry. The plots I dredge up are so spare they couldn’t even flesh out a flash fiction story.

Can you relate?

The Well of Ideas

The Well of Ideas

Usually what this means is I need to switch from “creative” mode to “ingestion” mode—I need more raw material to draw from. Some writers can create a story idea from nothing except their own imagination.

That is not me. And if that’s not you, too, maybe this trick will help you fill your well.

Feed Me, Seymour!

Much like the carnivorous plant in “The Little Shop of Horrors,” I need constant feeding. Often I chow down on a great novel; less frequently nonfiction fills my gullet.

Maybe it’s my background as a newspaper reporter, but some of the best food for my imagination comes from the news—including quasi news sources like blogs. Because, as Mark Twain said, “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”

When I read news, online or print (broadcast doesn’t work for me), invariably I read an article that sparks an idea or two. Now, I freely admit not all of them will produce even a flash fiction piece, let alone a full-blown novel, but the important thing is I’m filling my imagination. At the appropriate time, several of the ideas will likely congeal together and produce something workable.

But I can guarantee that nothing workable will be produced if raw material isn’t imported into the processor.

Is he talking about you?

What is the cost of living together?

What is the cost of living together?

For instance, I read this commentary from Regis Nicoll the other day called “The High Costs of Living Together.” It included this gem:

In 1969, although the vast majority of people, 82 percent, reported having had sex before marriage by age 30, only 21 percent felt that was morally acceptable.

… Over the next 40 years, as public acceptance grew three-fold (to 63 percent) and (more) people (94 percent) admitted to having “done it,” there was far less social pressure to restrain it or keep quiet about it.

This sea change in attitudes and practices can be attributed to two things: “no-consequence” sex and a morally-compromised Church.

… With roughly 80 percent of the U.S. populace Christian and 94 percent admitting to pre-marital sex, that means that a lot of Christians—very likely the majority—are guilty of sexual sin.

Woah … right? I know a lot of people who will take offense at a study like this. But that’s what makes great fiction!

Is that giving you ideas? (Story ideas, guys, story ideas.) It sure did me. My oeuvre, the framework within which I write, includes marriage, fidelity, trust—and all the antonyms of those, of course. I took the entirety of Nicoll’s piece and fed my imagination with it. Who knows where it may lead, but now that information has been uploaded and is available. (And also stored electronically.)

Fill your well

The point is there are ideas for fiction everywhere if you open your eyes, your heart, and your mind to them. If you read something that sticks with you—good or bad—file that away in your Well of Ideas. Maybe you’ll use it, maybe you won’t. But you for sure won’t use it if you don’t have it stored away.

Obviously our world is ever in need of the transformative power of story—and of Story. What ideas have you picked up from news sources and used in your stories?

Want to play?

Screenshot from Jan. 25, 2014, FOXNews.com home page

Screenshot from Jan. 25, 2014, FOXNews.com home page

Go to the front page of your local paper (or to the home page of CNN or Fox News or your favorite online news source) and read the main story—no cherry picking. Choose one fact or one quote or one idea from that story as your idea seed and freewrite a paragraph or two in the comments.

Here’s my example. I wrote this on Jan. 25 based on a story found on FOXNews.com. The story has changed since that day and my idea seed is no longer in it, but it’s still a good example.

My idea seed: The scene was “believed to be secure” police said in a tweet issued at about 12:36 p.m. Here’s what I came up with:

Ethan was dead. True. He’d been an effective triggerman. Also true. But there were others. Many others.

Captain White’s tweet that the mall was “secure” made Gaston—almost—laugh out loud, but he did not “LOL. When he laughed, and it was rare, it was real not some fake social construct. But that “out loud” part was a luxury he couldn’t allow himself right now. Later? Most definitely.

Stupid twerkers. Ethan got a few, but they’d be back prancing through the mall in their tight clothes and loose morals soon enough. It was “secure,” after all. White said so. Truth. 

So not true.

And then he did chuckle—but quietly. After all, the shoppers trapped in his store from the lockdown were still shook up and hyper aware—no sense in giving them something odd to remember if the police did questioned them.

They’d soon enough embrace again the fragile cloak of security they thought protected them. True, always true.

So, if you want to play leave a comment. Or, if you want to talk about where you get your ideas fromhow you fill your Well of Ideasleave a comment.

Well image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and cbenjasuwan.
Couple image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Ambro.

Mike-9Michael Ehret loves to play with words and as the editor of CHEFS Mix Blog for CHEFS Catalog he is enjoying his playground. Previous playgrounds include being the Managing Editor of the magazine ACFW Journal and the ezine Afictionado for seven years. He also plays with words as a freelance editor and has edited several nonfiction books, proofedited for Abingdon Press, worked in corporate communications, and reported for The Indianapolis Star.

Originally posted on Novel Rocket

Quote It! Writers and Food

Today, three great quotes from authors that connect writing and food–the two essentials in any writer’s life!

Food fuels, literally, my writing. But, in many ways my writing also fuels my eating. I find when I’m about to give birth to a new project, I crave my comfort foods–chocolate (of course), and the three P’s: pasta, pizza, and popcorn.

jamesPatterson“Am I tough? Am I strong? Am I hard-core? Absolutely. Did I whimper with pathetic delight when I sank my teeth into my hot fried-chicken sandwich? You betcha.”

― James Patterson, who in the past three years, has sold more books than any other author (according to Bookscan), is the author of the top-selling Alex Cross detective series that includes Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls, both made into films. To date, Patterson has had 19 consecutive #1 New York Times bestselling novels.

davidmamet“We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.”

― David Mamet, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of Glengarry Glen Ross (1984) and Speed-the-Plow (1988), and the screenwriter of The Verdict (1982) and Wag the Dog (1997).

jrr_tolkien“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, (1892 – 1973) was an English writer, poet, philologist, and university professor, best known as the author of the classic fantasy works The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.

What are the foods that fuel your writing? What food do you turn to when things aren’t going well? When you’re about to kill a character, do you amp up the caffeine? What are your food and writing connections?

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Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line

Mike-9Michael loves to play with words and as editor of the ACFW Journal, he is enjoying his playground. He also plays with words as a freelance editor here at WritingOnTheFineLine.com, where he often takes a writer Into The Edit, pulling back the veil on the editing process. He has edited several nonfiction books, played with words as a corporate communicator, and reported for The Indianapolis Star.

Quote It! Chuck Colson

Chuck Colson, of Watergate fame, has formed an evangelical ministry, and the current class of "Centurions" graduates this weekend in Leesburg, Virginia.“At the root of what makes us good, just, and decent, is a recognition that we owe a debt to those who have gone before us.”

–Chuck Colson, Watergate figure who emerged from the country’s worst political scandal a vocal Christian leader and a champion for prison ministry, spent the last years of his life in the dual role of leading Prison Fellowship, the world’s largest outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families, and the Colson Center, a teaching and training center focused on Christian worldview thought and application. Colson died in April of 2012.

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Last night, our small group finished the study Doing The Right Thing. This quote from Colson was one of the last statements made in the video.

I can’t get it out of my mind.

The statement is truth for each of us, but for the Christian the debt both deepens and enriches. In a Kingdom economy, the debt we owe is one of love:

8 Don’t owe anyone anything, with the exception of love to one another—that is a debt which never ends—because the person who loves others has fulfilled the law.

(Romans 13:8, The Voice)

Kim Peterson, Writing Instructor

Kim Peterson

But what does it mean to me as a writer? Certainly I owe a debt to my parents and siblings who nurtured me–and to my wife who never fails to believe–but also to my writing teachers from first grade (Mrs. Oyer at Hawthorne Elementary) through college (Kim Peterson at Bethel College).

But many others have invested in me as a writer and editor–including many of you who are reading this now. To each I owe my thanks, but also my commitment to use what you willingly gave from your storehouse. There is one other thing: I owe to those who come after me, my own willingness to share, encourage, and educate.

Together we make a chain–and we make each other “good, just, and decent.”

Colson’s quote was one of the last things the video lesson shared. The last thing was this:

“Gratitude is the mother of all virtues.” — G.K. Chesterton

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Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line

Mike-9Michael loves to play with words and as editor of the ACFW Journal, he is enjoying his playground. He also plays with words as a freelance editor here at WritingOnTheFineLine.com, where he often takes a writer Into The Edit, pulling back the veil on the editing process. He has edited several nonfiction books, played with words as a corporate communicator, and reported for The Indianapolis Star.