What I’m Into (January 2015)

All January I have been in denial that it’s January: I’ve been calling it ‘December-plus’. I haven’t made any New Year’s Resolutions, I haven’t chosen my ‘one word’ for the year, I haven’t gone on a crazy diet because I’m already on a crazy diet (no dairy, no sugar, no grains), and I haven’t gone to the gym, though I am now managing to walk a little way on my own at home, which is a real win. So January has flown by in a whirlwind of denial, but there have been some exciting developments along the way:

IMG_2919I wrote a book!
I wanted to write something short (c. 50 pages) so you can read it in a 30-minute sitting, or use it in a Bible discussion group with questions and creative exercises. So I revised and reworked a previous series on Ruth, which is one of my favourite books of the Bible. There are two ways of getting the book:

1) FREE as an ebook when you sign up to my newsletter


2) Buy as a paper copy from Amazon.co.uk for £3.99 or Amazon.com ($5.50) (Some have asked about alternatives to Amazon – I’m currently investigating).

There has been a real buzz about the book, and I have been encouraged (and relieved!) by the positive reception. Thank you – and if you have read it and enjoyed it, I would really appreciate it if you leave a review on Amazon.


Superman and Magic Man – illustration by Master Marlow

My boy wrote a book!

It went something like this: Jon and I told the boy we were having a book launch party. The boy, quite reasonably, thought that ‘party’ meant ‘party’, i.e. an event with lots of people to celebrate the launch of my book, but we disappointed him by telling him there were no presents at Book Launch Parties, or in our case, any guests . We were celebrating with a steak dinner and an early night. Nevertheless, the boy was very taken by drinking fizzy elderflower drink out of a champagne glass after bedtime, and decided he would quite like a launch party of his own.

Jon does layout (excuse the BAD carpet)

Jon does layout (excuse the BAD carpet)

But if you’re going to have a launch party, you first need to write a book. Not a problem – “I’ll publish a book in ONE DAY,” he declared. And so he did. It’s based on a superhero character he invented, Magic Man, and is an eleven-pages long. He threw himself into the illustrations, but when it came to writing the story down, he expanded his creativity into the spelling (he has a predilection for adding ‘igh’ randomly into words at the moment, as a replacement for ‘i’, or just randomly), so I figured it would work better if he just dictated it to me and I acted as scribe. Like my book, Jon did the layout, cover and binding, and in a day, the boy had written his first book, and he got to eat ice cream and drink fizzy elderflower. He got a special Headteacher’s award for it, which he accepted nonchalantly, (in contrast to my bursting with vicarious pride and excitement.)


‘Wons upon a tighme there igh wa s Magighc Manigh’

This may be self-indulgent, so feel free to skip ahead to the other book recommendations, but here is the full text of his book:

“Once upon a time there was Magic Man. He has got transforming powers, and he saves people when he transforms. There was a dragon, and the dragon was trying to kill Magic Man and all of the other people who were there. Then his superhero friends came to help him. Magic Man ate all of the dragon’s fire, and then he saved all of the other people. They were happy. Superman lived happily ever after with Magic Man, and all the other superheroes lived happily ever after with Magic Man and Superman. The end.”

Also – this month my parents celebrated their ruby wedding anniversary. In the photo of them at their anniversary dinner they look endearingly giddy and excited. I am so grateful to have grown up with parents who have loved each other well.


  • The St Clare Prayer Book – Jon M Sweeney. After reading Sweeney’s outstanding biography of St Francis, I thought I’d get this book, which is a combination of a mini-biography of St Clare (St Francis’ best friend) and a liturgy of prayers written by her for morning and evening prayer. It wasn’t quite as sparkling as his St Francis book, but still a thoroughly enjoyable biography, beautiful prayers, and a pleasingly quick read. This book would be useful for anyone looking for a breviary, or similar: there are some good Bible passages and written prayers. Get it from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com
  • Girl with a White Dog – Anne Booth. This is a really good book for explaining the holocaust to 8-10 year old children. It’s quite clever, because it still has the shock of what the Nazis did, but without being excruciatingly horrific. I found the ‘twist’ a little obvious, but guessing it would be a surprise and shock for children. What I particularly liked about it as an adult was the parallels she drew between 1930s Germany in recession, and today’s culture, with increasing hostility towards immigrants and disabled people – it made it current and thought-provoking, which means it’s well worth reading as an adult. It’s well-written, and I read it in one sitting. Get it from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com
  • A Christian Survival Guide – Ed Cyzewski. This book is ideal for anyone who has grown up in an evangelical or fundamentalist church but is now thinking of turning away from the faith because it feels too rigid and imprisoning. It asks questions of tenets of faith that we so often take for granted as ‘gospel truth’, and gently shakes the foundations a little, saying that there is perhaps more room for belief than you might suppose. It’s theology, but with a pastoral, gentle, respectful tone, rather than dry and academic. Get it from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com
  • I Knew a Phoenix – May Sarton. I enjoyed this better than her Journal of a Solitude, and her writing is so masterful that I keep highlighting things. As a memoir, it places you like a seagull over the action, rather than in the middle of it, and really there isn’t much action, more a beautiful description of several epochs in her parents’  and her life. It’s the kind of book that isn’t a page-turner, but one I like to read when I need good writing flowing through my head. Get it from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

On my bedside table
I’m halfway through a lot of good books – will review these properly in February;

  • 3-2-1 – Glen Scrivener – This is an evangelistic/apologetics book. So far there is one chapter of apologetics that I think is outstanding. Looking forward to reading the rest.
  • This is the story of a happy marriage – Ann Patchett– I devoured the first half, and I’m slowing and savouring the second half.
  • Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas – I thought this would be an endurance test, but I’m finding it hilarious. It’s so witty and fun.

On the web:

  • “This creates a paradox: ‘real’ disabled people must be completely bedridden in order for their disability to be legitimate, yet if they want to win respect rather than just well-intentioned pity, they must be capable of incredible physical achievements.”
    Oh my goodness, but this is good. On society’s expectations of ‘real’ disabled people – Lucy BritonI’m fed up of having to perform my disability 
  • “If you’re lying in bed and you can’t move your head and you have to speak in whispers, [Graded Exercise Therapy] is not going to help you, and were you to attempt it, it would most likely kill you.”
    Brilliant article from Miriam E. Tucker in Medscape (make sure you read both pages) looking at the recent PACE trial study and the recent press claims that exercise helps ME: Addressing fear of exercise cuts chronic fatigue…perhaps

Film and TV: 

  • Wolf Hall – I am loving this series, with Mark Rylance as captivating a Thomas Cromwell as everyone is saying, but I suffer the misfortune of sitting next to someone who has read Hilary Mantel’s books. This means that every time a new character walks on screen, Jon says something like,

“Oh – she dies. He ends up having an affair with her sister” or – “Those four all end up burned on the stake”.

So I say, “Um…hello – plot spoilers?”

“But it’s history!” Jon argues. “It’s not like we don’t know the end.”
Personally, I like my history mediated through novels or TV series, remaining blissfully ignorant of plot spoilers. (Though it should be noted, in case anyone is concerned, that I do in fact know that Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn.)

  • Funny Girl – there were some scenes I now found excruciatingly patriarchal, but who cares, when you can just rewind it continually back to seeing a young Barbra Streisand sing “Don’t rain on my parade.” over and over. Her voice is incredible.
  • Anne of Green Gables – I cried every time Matthew so much as walked on the scene, but I thoroughly enjoyed this trip down memory lane.
  • The Musketeers – the swashbuckling returns! We are missing the cardinal, as he was the best one. I guess Dr Who is a bigger gig than playing Cardinal Richelieu, but all the same, the rejection hurts.

Pop music:

Classical music:

  • Debussy – Preludes Books One and Two (Pierre-Laurent Aimard) – these are just enchanting, like slow-running waterfalls. I’m really enjoying this album, and it’s nice to have the preludes in the same place. Get it from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com
  • Debussy – Etudes (Paul Jacobs). If you’ve heard Debussy’s most famous works, like Clair de Lune, but never heard these etudes, you are missing out big time. If you imagine Claire de Lune as a wispy blonde, standing on a bridge beside a weeping willow, trailing her hand in a stream, the Etudes are her older, brunette sister, upstairs in the lounge smoking cigars and playing poker, entertaining with her witty yet melancholic banter. Because they are etudes, designed to hone technique, they are fiendishly difficult to play, but a true artist sees beyond that to the melodies hidden therein. Mitsuko Uchida’s recording is surprisingly disappointing – with her Mozart albums her technique is light and sensitive, but her Debussy felt to me a little soulless and aggressive. In contrast, Paul Jacobs achieves a rare sensitivity in these pieces, and I felt moved as I listened to them. It’s worth paying extra for this album, even though the sound recording isn’t so good as the newer ones, because his playing is outstanding. Get it from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

An unmissable talk

The Gay Christian Network Conference in America is convened by Justin Lee as a conference where gay Christians on either side of the ‘does the Bible endorse gay relationships’ debate can meet in a loving and celebratory environment.

I may be biased, because she is my friend, but this keynote talk by Vicky Beeching, sharing her story of growing up as secretly gay and the emotional cost of coming out at the age of 35, is incredible. It had 14,000 views in just 7 days. Seriously one of the best talks I’ve ever seen – she’s a captivating speaker, and her story is well worth hearing, whichever side of the debate you fall on.

Jeff Chu’s talk was also excellent, and is available as a full script so you can read it.

Most popular on my blog:
The two types of friends really hit a nerve – glad I’m not alone in this!

Good girls don’t get depressed – people were really loving Cara’s Strickland’s frank words on depression.

Linking up with Leigh Kramer’s monthly What I’m Into.

Over to you:

  • What were you into this January?

, , , ,

21 Responses to What I’m Into (January 2015)

  1. Leigh Kramer 8th February, 2015 at 8:47 pm #

    Congrats to you and your son on your books! Whether in book or movie form, Anne of Green Gables is the best, forever and always. I found both Vicky’s and Jeff’s talks at GCNC to be incredibly moving- I’m so glad the conference shared with those of us who couldn’t be there.

    • Tanya 23rd February, 2015 at 7:33 pm #

      Thanks, Leigh! I’m also really glad that the GCN conference made those talks available – really high quality production, too.

  2. Kelsey Munger 8th February, 2015 at 3:59 am #

    I adore Barbra Streisand’s voice! Always look forward to pulling out her Christmas album during the holidays. And Hello, Dolly! is amazing.

    I haven’t read The Three Musketeers but I was actually recently thinking about reading it, so I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying it so much. A Christian Survival Guide sounds interesting; might need to look into that one.

    And congrats on your book! (And congrats to your son as well. Love the name of his superhero, by the way.)

    • Tanya 23rd February, 2015 at 7:34 pm #

      Thanks for the Hello, Dolly tip! And for the congratulations – much appreciated 🙂

  3. Joanna 6th February, 2015 at 9:21 pm #

    Fantastic selections and I did so enjoy Magic Man. If I did a ‘what I’m into’, it would consist entirely of set texts for my BA; however, I have your book on my Kindle and now I know it is readable in 30 minutes, I shall open it on Sunday (no uni reading allowed!)

    • Tanya 23rd February, 2015 at 7:35 pm #

      I’m SO glad you enjoyed magic man! Hope you get some time off reading for uni – although i remember when I finished my English Lit degree I had a few months off reading altogether! Thanks, as ever for your encouragement.

  4. Heather 6th February, 2015 at 1:09 pm #

    I love that your sweet boy wrote a book to have a party. That’s so fabulous!

    • Tanya 23rd February, 2015 at 7:36 pm #

      Thanks, Heather! Glad you enjoyed the story of my little boy! 🙂

  5. Pam Smith 6th February, 2015 at 2:03 am #

    Magic Man has everything – action – suspense – drama – he is seriously gifted, I hope he carries on writing!

    My January has largely been taken up with having pneumonia – complete with 3 days in hospital being checked out to make sure I didn’t have an embolism in my lung. It was odd being in hospital without feeling dreadfully ill as I have been the last three times I’ve been in hospital – I felt a bit of a fraud, but I was impressed as ever by the standard of care and the patience of the staff even though they were bursting at the seams because of the flu epidemic.

    Oh I do get so fed up of this cycle of being ill and then needing to rest – sure I don’t need to tell you about it!

    • Tanya 23rd February, 2015 at 7:38 pm #

      Yay for Magic Man! I’m really gratified that other people think it shows promise…

      But BOO for having pneumonia. Yikes. I’m glad you’re going to be okay, and I’m glad that the hospital took good care of you (no fraudery – not a word, but you know what I mean – in sight). Bumholes for the whole of January being wiped out. It sucks. This is pretty much what has happened to me in February – solidarity. x

  6. Rebecka 5th February, 2015 at 7:40 pm #

    Hey, we’re on the same diet! 🙂 Gosh, I miss cheese! Don’t you?

    I loved Magic Man; it’s the best book I’ve read this year. Of course, I still haven’t read yours, so that could soon change. Once I’ve read your book I must read Three Musketeers. I can’t believe I’ve never read it. I’m enjoying the Musketeers series very much even though I miss the cardinal as well. (And I can’t stop referring to D’Artagnan as Freddie…)

    • Tanya 23rd February, 2015 at 7:41 pm #

      Hey – diet twins! Fortunately I never really ate much cheese, though I LOVE pizza and lasagne, and I do miss them. I shall tell my boy that his book was your favourite one this year. I’d like to say he’d be pinkly delighted, but he’ll probably nonchalantly nod and agree with you that it’s the best book you’re gonna read. (He may well be right…)

      and HA! We totally refer to D’Artagnan as Freddie. (Incidentally -those last two episodes of Skins with Freddie in? – probably the most traumatic thing I’ve ever seen on TV).

      • Rebecka 25th February, 2015 at 4:31 pm #

        So traumatic!

      • lulu 28th February, 2015 at 10:30 am #

        Your diet sounds awful. I’ve never been on a diet but all the ones I’ve heard of sound horrendous! Though I did lose a lot of weight at the beginning of my depression because I just stopped eating. Not out of choice and not because I thought I needed to lose weight I just never felt hungry.

        • Tanya 11th March, 2015 at 12:32 pm #

          Um, yeah – eating isn’t something you can drop just because you don’t want to do it anymore! It’s not like chess or something.
          My diet started off pretty miserably (did it for health reasons, but not sure if it’s helping!) but I’m used to it now, so it’s okay. The big advantage of cutting out all sugar is that your tastebuds adjust and eventually fruit tastes really sweet. So every day I have fruit and it tastes like eating yummy sweets. Score!

  7. lulu 5th February, 2015 at 5:26 pm #

    Oooh Tanya I’d watch that boy of yours. It looks like he’s gonna be some compition for you in the book writing business! I even think I like his book better than yours (only kidding)! I got a removable brace today so I have these two contraptions wedged in my mouth. I can hardly speak and when I do no one can understand me. Its making me really worry about my singing. I’ll probably have to quit the choir at school. 🙁

    • Tanya 23rd February, 2015 at 7:43 pm #

      I think my boy is totally up for the competition!
      Sorry to hear you have an incredibly annoying brace. Don’t quit the choir at school though. If necessary you can sing more quietly, but so much about being in a choir is about listening well as well as singing. It seems a shame to quit when the brace will be temporary.

      • lulu 27th February, 2015 at 7:06 pm #

        I decided against quitting I’m just going to take out the brace to sing. Its not exactly easy to be the quiet person in the back wen you have teachers coming at you right left and center asking you to do solos. 😉

        • Tanya 11th March, 2015 at 12:27 pm #

          GO GIRL!!!

  8. Lisa notes... 5th February, 2015 at 4:58 pm #

    Congratulations on your book! That’s awesome. I keep it in the back of my mind as something I may or may not do someday. 🙂

    I loved Ed Cyzewski’s book too. He always writes in a way that makes me smile but also makes me think.

    I’ll bookmark Vicky Beeching’s talk so I can listen to it when I have time. Thanks for sharing this. Same with Jeff Chu. I keep hearing awesome things about it.

    • Tanya 23rd February, 2015 at 7:44 pm #

      Hi Lisa – lovely to see you here! Great to meet another Ed Cyzewski fan. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Please send me my free ebook and updates