DR. JOE’S BOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB

BLOG #39, SERIES #3
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
DR. JOE’S BOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB #13
ELIZABETH GOUDGE’S CITY OF BELLS
September 26, 2012

1948 Pocket Book copy of City of Bells

Those of you who love our Christmas in My Heart® stories may remember my recent story, “Message in a Book,” in Christmas in My Heart 20. In it I referenced a passage from Goudge’s City of Bells:

“‘A bookseller,’ said Grandfather, ‘is the link between mind and mind, the feeder of the hungry, very often the binder up of wounds. There he sits, your bookseller, surrounded by a thousand minds all done up neatly in cardboard cases; beautiful minds, courageous minds, strong minds, wise minds, all sorts and conditions. And there come into him other minds, hungry for beauty, for knowledge, for truth, for love, and to the best of his ability he satisfies them all. . . . Yes . . . it’s a great vocation” (City of Bells, p. 95).

* * *

For several evenings running, I’ve been wrestling with a decision: which book should I choose to anchor our second dozen Books of the Month? I’ve been in a reverie, induced by the haunting sight of falling aspen leaves in trees that have once again transformed Conifer Mountain into one heartbreakingly beautiful glow. Made doubly so by the realization that in only days the aspens will stand naked, stripped of their glory, not to be clothed again until spring. As a result, the book decision was colored by my autumnal mood, tinged with the poignant thought, Who that I love may not live to see autumn leaves fall again? Might even I not be there to see them fall?

So the chosen book had to match my mood. Finally, it came down to one author, Elizabeth Goudge, the Christian British writer (1900-1984) who, over the years, has become an integral part of my spiritual and philosophic DNA.

She wrote so few books that it almost broke my heart to read the last of them. Now I can only re-drink at her wells of insight into this thing we call life. She wrote so few because she poured everything in her into each one. It is impossible to merely breeze through a Goudge book, reason being: she’s not just a “good read,” she’s a “great read.” She had to have agonized over each and every sentence before she’d signed off on it with her publisher. So I find myself savoring them more each time I come back to a given book.

And her fictional children! I don’t know how she did it—for I certainly can’t!—, how she somehow retained, as an adult, the incredible gift of still being able to think as a child, to reason as a child, to love as a child.

And it was so difficult for me to choose just one of her romances–treasure chests such as The Dean’s Watch, Green Dolphin Street, Pilgrim’s Inn, Rosemary Tree, The Scent of Water, Towers in the Mist, etc. In the end, however, the one that best matched my mood was City of Bells, for as I read it I could hear and see the bells of Canterbury Cathedral that helped give birth to my Christmas love story, “Evensong.”

After reading City of Bells in March of 1991, I wrote, “I do believe this one is Goudge’s greatest book.” I’ll be most interested in your response to it. I’ll be exceedingly surprised if you don’t immediately become another Goudgeaholic and track down every Goudge book you can lay your hands on!

In America, Goudge was published by Coward-McCann; City of Bells in 1937, Crowell-Collier in 1947, and Pocket Book in 1948. Keep in mind that sometimes the American editions feature alternative titles from the original British editions.

Happy hunting!

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AN UPDATE ON OUR UPCOMING BOOKS

BLOG #38, SERIES #3
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
AN UPDATE ON OUR UPCOMING BOOKS
September 19, 2012

We have been receiving so many queries having to do with whether or not we have any new books coming out during the coming months that I am writing this explanatory blog.

We haven’t even updated our master listing since fall of 2011, reason being that we are in the process of updating everything about our website (it badly needs it!).

The reality is that after a number of years of coasting along with two series (the Christmas series and Animal series), book-related action has cranked up with a vengeance! As you’ll see when you look over the following list of books in the current pipeline:

(1) Christmas in My Heart 21 (now entering the third decade of its life). An advance copy just arrived at our house, and all who have seen it love it. We should have it in stock very soon. It is our 77th book.

(2) Stinky the Skunk and Other Strange and Wonderful Animal Stories (#9 in “The Good Lord Made Them All” animal series) will be arriving mid to late December. It will be our 78th book.

We have contracted with eChristian for six story collections, each with twelve stories. They’ll be published first in electronic form, and second in paper. We have already completed the manuscripts for all six and sent them in. They will be published in this order, beginning quite soon:

(3) Showdown and Other Sports Stories for Boys. It will be our 79th book.

(4) A Bluegrass Girl and Other Horse Stories for Girls. It will be our 80th book.

(5) The Mother’s Face is the Child’s First Heaven and Other Motherhood Stories. It will be our 81st book.

(6) Only God Can Make a Dad and Other Fatherhood Stories. It will be our 82nd book.

(7) The Talleyman Ghost and Other Mystery Stories for Girls. It will be our 83rd book.

(8) Secret of the Desert and Other Mystery Stories for Boys. It will be our 84th book .

We have just completed a monumental book for Howard/Simon & Schuster, a companion book to my Lincoln biography (Abraham Lincoln: A Man of Faith and Courage, 2008). A hundred years of collecting (first, during my mother’s life; and second, throughout my own) has gone into searching out these elusive, little-known treasures from the past. We sent in the manuscript (with 32 stories about Lincoln, five introductory chapters written by me, and 37 vintage photographs or illustrations) during the last week. Nothing comparable has ever before been published.

(9) The Greatest Abraham Lincoln Civil War Stories Ever Written. It will be our 85th book.

A contract is being processed with Howard/Simon & Schuster for a collection readers have been urging me to put together for many years. It too is due to be released by fall of 2013.

(10) Actual title is not yet settled on, but it will feature the most beloved and moving Christmas love stories ever to come out under my own name [if it goes well, a second such collection may follow]. It will be our 86th book.

* * * * *

So now you can see why we have been so anchored to deadlines during the last year!

What an exciting publishing year the good Lord has granted to us!

BLOG #37, SERIES #3
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
FIRES AND MITIGATION
September 12, 2012

A number of you were kind enough to call us when you heard about Colorado wildfires near us. It has been scary. Especially when we could see a ridge only five miles away, when winds 70 miles an hour were raging, and flames were shooting 200 feet high. One of my fellow Kiwanians lost everything in that fire.

Since that time all of us who live in mountain communities in our region have lived in fear that a wind-driven fire would come our way; for when that happens, all the slurry bombers and helicopters are grounded until the wind dies down.

At times like these you realize how fragile life and houses and possessions really are.

Another fear has to do with defensible space. Insurance company managers have sent out warning salvos to homeowners in mountain communities, declaring that not to provide buffers around homes might be grounds for losing insurance coverage.

So it has been that a number of family and friends, including our son Greg; our neighbor Mike Forth; Evan and Sheree Nudd; Charles and Nikyla, Nathaneal and Garrett Wilkes, have come to our rescue. Twelve large trees have been felled so far, and are in the process of being cut up.

It has been quite a sight to see mountain man Evan Nudd jockeying up to the top of towering pine trees and cutting them down in sections (where the trees are dangerously close to the house or power lines); when further away the rest of us tug at ropes to help guide the falling trees away from the house.

It hurts, especially when you love trees as much as we do. But on the positive side, it gives aspen a chance to grow, for lodgepole pine trees grow so fast they often shade the aspen to death, or acidify the ground so much that aspen can’t flourish.

How grateful we are that the days of circling wagons to protect family and friends are not yet over!

And we are so grateful!

Published in: on September 12, 2012 at 10:31 am  Comments (3)  

The Last Flowers of Summer

BLOG #36, SERIES #3
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
THE LAST FLOWERS OF SUMMER
September 5, 2012

When you live high in the Rockies as we do – at 9,700 feet –, summer is all too short. Plants are likely to freeze as late as June and as early as mid to late August.

Then there are the critters that consider anything planted outside the house to be their salad bar – principally elk, deer, squirrels, and chipmunks.

Since we’ve had bull elk wander onto our lower deck, that leaves but one place for flowers: the upper deck.

But even there, we’re not home free, for hailstorms can come at no notice. In fact, early this summer when we were out shopping, a hailstorm shredded our just-purchased flowering plants. Fierce winds are hard on them too. As are wandering raccoons and bears.

By now I can hear you muttering, So why are they crazy enough to invest in flowers at all? Are they not very smart?

Quite simply, we do it because we love flowers. I come from a long line of ancestors, on both sides of my family tree, who reveled in flowers, and plants in general. My late father was never happier than when working in his garden; my paternal grandmother, who was deaf, practically lived in her garden – it was a world she could retreat into; and my maternal grandfather was a florist who sold stock from his home.

So it is that when we’re home, if we hear thunder, we race for the plants and haul them in under the eaves before it’s too late. In the Rockies, storms often surprise us with their speed –many times we get soaked when we dilly-dally. And lightning strikes give little or no warning.

Thus it is that though our season is short, we splurge on buying flowering plants anyway, and each of those precious days in those allotted ten to twelve weeks, we treasure like misers fondling gold. Perhaps it is because we have so short a time that we value them so much.

And of course we have our favorites: geraniums and petunias always bloom their hearts out for us, and their beauty is so intensely vibrant that the very thought of the imminence of the arrival of that assassin, frost, sends chills up our spines!

But not yet. At least tomorrow the flowers will greet us when we go out to feed the birds, squirrels, and chipmunks.

As to why God gave us flowers in the first place, let’s listen to Emerson:

“THE RHODORA”

In May, when sea-winds pierce our solitudes,
I found the fresh Rhodora in the woods,
Spreading its leafless blooms in a damp nook,
To please the desert and the sluggish brook.
The purple petals, fallen in the pool,
Made the black water with their beauty gay;
Here might the red-bird come his plumes to cool,
And court the flower that cheapens his array.
Rhodora! If the sages ask thee why
This charm is wasted on the earth and sky,
Tell them, dear, that if eyes were made for seeing,
Then Beauty is its own excuse for being:
Why thou wert there, O rival of the rose!
I never thought to ask, I never knew:
But, in my simple ignorance, suppose
The self-same Power that brought me there brought you

* * * * *

Ah Yes! Beauty is its own excuse for being.