Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year Journal Entries through the Years

Since it's New Year's Eve, I decided to do something a little different for this blog entry. Ever since I first began journaling years ago as a young teen, I've written a review of the year past around January first. Then when I began seriously trying to market my writing a few years later at the age of twenty, I started using the New Year's journal entries to not only count the blessings of my personal year but also to record the ups and downs of my writing life. And it has truly been a rollercoaster ride at times. Deep lows and exhilirating highs. So even though my journal is usually a private conversation with myself, I'm sharing a few paragraphs of the New Year's entries over the years with you, my friends and readers.

  • Jan 4, 1978It seems appropriate that I waited till now to write in this year of ’78. And now I don’t know how to say it. I’ve waited so long and now I’m without words. It got an offer. Specifically Warner Books likes Kentucke Dream and wants to publish it. She (my agent) says she’s not entirely satisfied with the terms but wants to know how I feel. What am I going to tell her? Of course I’m satisfied. I don’t know anything about advances. To me, it sounds like a fortune, a miracle, an answer to prayer.
  • Dec 31, 1978 - In a few minutes it will be 1979. I’ve written on so many New Year’s Eves since I first began journal writing as a young teen. So much has happened since then that sometimes in ways it seems such a long time ago, but in other ways it seems to be only a soft twirl of days. It seems to be a time to mark accomplishments, to count successes and mourn over failures. This has been an exciting year full of newness. Seeing my book (retitled A Forbidden Yearning) on the stands was a definite high.
  • Jan 3, 1983I didn’t write on New Year’s Eve. Guess that is indicative of my mood. I hate to keep reiterating my failures, and that’s all 1983 held professionally. Rejections and even worse than that – no rejections. Only silence. So I won’t write much about 1982. I’ll let it roll over me and let loose of it as I try not to be mashed by my failures. I’ll try to realize that I’m still alive. I’m still able to work. I still want to write even if the words seem elusive and difficult. So what if my drawer is full of rejection slips. It’s all part of learning and growing and getting better. Pray God I am getting better and 1983 will hold something good in the wings for me, the writer.
  • Jan 14, 1985A new year. Seems like it always brings new hope. I keep trying anyway. I’m almost finished with Shane. (A Chance Hero) I got a nice letter from my agent. She said my “lack of sales” was no reflection on my writing ability. She wants to see Chance Hero. I worry the whole idea is too unbelievable with the Big Foot as part of the story, but I still like it. I should finish this week if nothing interferes. It’s snowing like the dickens right now.
  • Jan 2, 1986The new year’s made my brain go soft, but yes, it is 1986. ’85 is gone, a part of the past. I did sell one book which wasn’t as good as I wanted but it was good. I did rewrite one book and struggle through the writing of another. Even if Gillie’s story isn’t as good as I expected or dreamed, I did learn from her.
  • Jan 2, 1987 – A new year. Let’s hope it’s not as sad as the last. This time last year we were just realizing Dad was sick, and now he’s gone and has been gone for many months. I can’t review the year. Too many sad memories. Maybe I’ll just stick with work news. I did sell 3 books, a record for me.
  • Jan 3, 1989Life brings us both joy and sadness. I personally have been gifted with many good things and I am grateful for the love in my life, my family, my talent and the chance to do what I love to do. So many blessings and gifts. Perhaps I shouldn’t forget my spring of hope that sustains me when I’m discouraged. The next book. The next idea. The next editor. I have only to believe, to continue to try, to step forward. And I thank God for my faith. I don’t understand it, but He understands me.
  • Jan 3, 1991I love it when I can think positive. I want to have a whole year of positive thinking. “You can do it” stuff.
  • Jan 17, 1994A new year. Guess I didn’t search for a time for writing about my year because it’s been such a sorry one in regard to writing successes. You might even say it was a low point – a valley that I haven’t climbed out of or even begun climbing. I’ve been working at F.B – full time for a while. I will succeed again, but not as long as I’m at F.B. with no time to work here. So I’ll find a way to do without the money.
  • Jan 12, 1995It’s a funny thing trying to chase after a story idea. So funny and today so futile I thought I’d write about it. It’s as if I’ve blanked out my mind and I’m stumbling around searching for a way out of the blankness, sort of hoping I’ll bang into something that will suggest some possibilities. But right now it’s a white-out blizzard of nothing. How is another way to describe it? It’s like I’m out in a huge field and I can see nothing but flat ground and grass. I’m lost but not really worried. I know that some direction I take will lead me to some trees or perhaps a house or something interesting – maybe even a hole I can fall into. But which direction? Today I might even think I’m blindfolded and someone has spun me around till I can only stagger a few steps timidly just trying to keep my balance. I guess what I need to do is keep walking some way or other and not just keep circling the blank field finding nothing.
  • Jan 21, 1998I want to do something fresh, something that will inspire me and make me proud to say I’m a writer again. Maybe I’ll be a writer again. Now I’m just going through the motions and doing a poor job of that. I need a new story. I need a story. Period, exclamation point.
  • Jan 14, 2003It’s hard to believe, isn’t it? Here we are starting the fourth year of the 21st Century. I haven’t worked the way I’d like. I keep dragging my feet. Letting things interfere. Falling to sleep at the wheel (or keyboard). Afraid of failing. I’m still working on Jocie’s story. (The Scent of Lilacs) I like it, but will anyone else? I don’t know. But I am going to push through to the end. If I fail, I fail. But I have failed already if I don’t try.
  • Jan 3, 2005Of course, the year’s highlight workwise is selling my book. I’m so excited about that I shouldn’t even think a depressing thought. And I finished Jerry’s story (Angels at the Crossroads) in record time. Still in the holding pattern on what next there. I’m trying not to worry about or even spend too much time thinking about that. It’s in the Lord’s hands and something will happen.
  • Dec 27, 2005Time spins away from us in great circles. One day it’s the first of the month. The next the end. Christmas has come and gone. A new grandbaby girl has come into the world. A beautiful perfect miracle of a child like all the others. Blessed beyond imagination.
  • Jan 3, 2008Can you believe it’s 2008? So long ago I started writing in a journal. So many private words. Yet it continues to feed my soul. Words on paper. Thoughts and ideas. Gripes and complaints. Praises and joys. Worries and troubles. Happiness and love. So many things to record over the years. I suppose I started my first journal when I was 13 or 14. I’m not 13 or 14 anymore. But I’m still here. Still writing. Still having joy and worries. But pray God, always more joy.

I hope you enjoyed reading my selections through the years. If you did, let me know, and maybe I'll pull out some bits and pieces from my journals again some time. Perhaps the progress reports of a book from initial idea to published book. I did that once for one of my young adult books, Discovery at Coyote Point, for a workshop and the participants seemed to enjoy that.

So until next time, Happy New Year and happy reading. I hope your year ahead overflows with blessings and much joy.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Very Good Dog - Watson

It's been a bad year for my kids' dogs. First we lost Hank back in the summer. That was my son's dog. Now Watson, my son-in-law's big German Shepherd had to be put down on Saturday morning. Last blog, I mentioned he was having some problems and they were taking him to a vet as they came home. For a couple of days he seemed better. At least was walking and more alert. But then on Friday morning when all the crew was supposed to be here for our Christmas festivities, we decided to take the dogs out to stretch their legs before the grandkids arrived.

We had already decided to keep the dogs and the grandkids separate since Watson wasn't feeling well and the other dog, Jaks, has never been real keen on little ones wanting to love on him. My little granddaughter, Jillian, has a new puppy in her house. They're the ones who lost Hank a few months back. So they got a black lab mix and he's the cutest thing. Also very puppyish and energetic. Jillian is two and a half and she loves Coal and will just plop a hug on him with no warning. That's fine with him and with my dog, but we weren't sure it would be fine with Jaks and Watson. So we had it planned out to keep them in a room far from the craziness. But first we wanted them to have a bit of exercise.

While we were out, something happened to Watson. Perhaps a stroke. He couldn't go. Again it was off to another vet who did the best he could to keep him going until they could get back to SC. They headed home that afternoon, a day earlier than they had planned, and went to their vet who said nothing could be done to help Watson. So they had to say goodbye to their faithful friend.

Watson was an exceptionally intelligent and good dog. Understood many words. Knew all our names. Loved to stay close to his people and be ready in case they needed anything. When he was younger he disdained the usual sticks most dogs fetched. He liked to pick up big branches, and carry them. You had to make sure you gave him plenty of room when you were walking with him or he'd whack your legs with his branch. Accidentally of course. He didn't like storms and once when I was dog sitting, I had to sleep in the guest bedroom so he could lay close to me until the storm was past. He was a very good dog. Even if he did occasionally dig his nose in the trashcans when you were away and spread bits of paper all over the house. He had a very good eleven years with people who loved him. But no matter how old a dog gets, you're never really ready to say goodbye. I've had to put down two dogs and I still get teary-eyed when I think about Jody and Max. Now to make matters worse, my current dog, Dub, has some serious health issues and it's not looking too good for him. I haven't been without a dog since I was around nine or ten. I was supposed to get a lab mix puppy for Christmas, but all the pups found homes before I got mine. Their owner's dad didn't realize the last puppy had been promised and he gave it away to someone else. I'm not worried about that. There are a lot of puppies and dogs out there waiting to find new homes. But first I have to see if there's anything to be done to help Dub.

Actually losing a dog seems a minor thing when you see all the bad things happening in the newspaper. There was a house fire that killed three children. A truck driver was shot seemingly at random on a highway in Texas. A small girl was horribly abused and died. And that's the headlines. Other personal tragedies are happening all the time. Families splitting up. Terminal illnesses. Loss of jobs. Home foreclosures. And so many other hard times. Still we can't help but be sad as we hear the echo of Watson's ferocious bark (Nobody was going to break into their house!) and the tap of his toenails on the hardwood floor. You dog owners out there understand.

So there was a shadow of sadness over our Christmas gathering. But it was still good. The kids had fun opening their presents. My three-year-old granddaughter, Katie, took most of the day to open hers because she was ready to play with or wear whatever she opened as soon as she saw it. The other kids opened and moved on, hoping for something even more exciting in the next box.

I took a picture of the new babies under the tree. They're my best Christmas gift. I've been blessed with some beautiful grandbaby gifts under the tree over the last few years. I had doubles a couple of years back with Katie and Jillian arriving six months apart, but this year the double blessing was a true double even though the twins don't look much alike. But they both smiled and enjoyed everybody admiring them at Christmas. My other daughter-in-law is expecting in April so we'll have another grandbaby present under the tree next year. Even more reason to check with a builder about adding on a room. It's either that or start having Christmas in shifts!!!

Hope you are all looking forward to a great New Year. Darrell will be singing in the New Year as he has nearly every year for the last thirty some. And I guess I'll be listening. It's not a bad way to bring in the New Year - with good gospel music reminding us of the love of God and His amazing grace. How are you planning to usher in 2009? However you bring in the New Year, I do hope it brings you joy.

Talk to you New Year's Eve.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Hope you are having a wonderful Christmas Eve. I'm still baking and trying to get everything ready. No need getting done before time, now, is there? A person might get to sit down and not be able to get up. ;-) My daughter and her husband are on the way home, but their big German Shepherd is having some problems so they're making a run by the Emergency Vet. Watson is very dear to them, so I'm hoping the vet can make him feel better. He's having navigation problems where his legs aren't working right. Not a good thing.

As for the weather - last time I wrote the wind chill was minus some gosh awful number. Today it's pouring the rain with temps in the fifties. That's Kentucky weather for you. Plus they say it may change to snow before the night is over. Of course it will! Santa has to have snow for his sled.

Hope you are enjoying your Christmas Eve. This is my favorite holiday day of the year. A time for family and for kids' anticipation as they wait for Christmas morning. A time to remember old traditions and to start new ones. A time to read the Christmas story and to sing Happy Birthday to Jesus. The scholars don't really think Jesus was born on December 25th, but that's okay. He won't mind us celebrating His birthday and the greatest gift on this day as long as we celebrate His love all year long.
Merry Christmas everybody.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Memories on the First Day of Winter

Man, is it cold outside tonight in Kentucky!! We don't have snow like so many of you do west and north of us, but we've got some wind chills. Back when I was a kid, you looked at the thermometer and said it was such and such degree. If the wind was blowing you knew that made it colder, but nobody ever figured out some frigid minus number to freeze you even before you stepped out the door.

Of course, in the old house (frame over log) that I lived in growing up, you didn't have to step outside to know about wind chill. The wind came right inside with you whistling around the windows or up through the cracks in the wood flooring. We tacked sheets of plastic to the outside of the windows and folded up strips of newspapers to stuff in the cracks around the doors. Made it interesting every time somebody came to the door, but when you lived in an old house, you did what you had to do to keep the heat from the woodstove inside with you and the cold air outside. My mom wore an insulated jacket to cook in the kitchen and we had a lot of family togetherness around the stove. And of course, we got plenty of healthy exercise carrying in the firewood. It was a great time. I had a wonderful family and a beautiful place to live even if it wasn't always the warmest place in the winter time.

That's just a few memories the wind whistling against the windows brought to mind. Now I have a nice warm house that keeps that wind outside and I only have to drag out the big sweaters in the summertime when the air conditioning is too cold for me but too warm for my husband. Does anybody ever marry somebody who agrees with her on where to set the thermostat?

But back to memories. I was invited to do a Christmas memory piece for TitleTrakk.com, a site that focuses on Christian books, movies and music. If you'd like to read my memory, here's the link. http://www.titletrakk.com/author-interviews/christmas-traditions-authors.htm There are lots of other authors on there telling about their favorite Christmas tradition, too. You can read about a wide range to traditions from authors like Jerry B. Jenkins, Brandilyn Collins, Robin Jones Gunn, and me. I wrote about how our family always gathers on Christmas Eve and how I've been stirring up the fruit punch for us for many years. But I have lots of other Christmas traditions I share with my family too from the special ornaments on our tree to the giving of at least one book to everyone in my family. The way my family is growing, I can practically keep a bookstore in business. I know you surely have favorite traditions too, things that make Christmas extra special for you. Feel free to share your favorite here with us.

I love hearing from readers and got an e-mail this week from Barrow, Alaska. She probably knows a little bit about wind chills and snow. She used to live in Kentucky and then lived a few years in Arizona where the sun always shines before she moved to Barrow where the sun forgets how to climb up in the sky for a few months a year. Quite a change, she said. I can't imagine. Guess I'd best not take my characters to Alaska then, right? Because then I'd have to imagine so that my readers could imagine too. Maybe I'll stick to mostly Kentucky settings.

There's still time to get your name added to my drawing for a book give-away in January. I'm giving away an autographed copy of Virginia Smith's Stuck in the Middle and your choice of The Scent of Lilacs, Orchard of Hope, Summer of Joy, Angels at the Crossroads or The Outsider. Just comment here or send me an e-mail from my website, http://www.annhgabhart.com/. You can also sign up for my occasional newsletter (8 or 9 times a year if I have any news) from my website.

I hope you enjoy all your Christmas traditions this week and that you have the best Christmas ever! We're having our big family day here on Friday when we'll need to stretch the living room to accomodate the crew. Eight grandkids with another on the way. My cup runneth over with blessings. And so will our living room. Runneth over. We'll be having some of that family togetherness like I used to have with my sisters and mom and dad around the woodstove when I was growing up. That doesn't sound half bad when I say it that way. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Building a First Snowman

How long has it been since you built a snowman? Even if it's been years, don't you still go out and check out every snowfall and automatically rate the snow as good for building snowmen or sledding? We had snow and some ice on Monday night and Tuesday. It started out as icy rain and in the night, changed to snow before going back to freezing rain or just cold rain. It was one of those interesting days if you had to be out in it all. Then last night the temps went up during the night and the ice melted and the snow condensed, but it was still there.

So today I kept my two-year-old granddaughter for a couple of hours, and we went out to play in the little bit of snow left and built a snowman. Her first at age two and a half. The snow had passed beyond the good snowman building time. We had to sculpt the snowman by scraping up handfuls of snow and plastering it on the snowman. Jillian had fun making arms and hair and adding to the snowman's head until it had a rather odd shape. A head that fell off several times as she added more snow, but we just picked it up and stuck it back atop its body. She had fun and so did I watching her even though it took an hour for my fingers to thaw back out after I convinced her (by picking her up and carrying her) to go inside. She wasn't all that cold because she looked like a little blue snowman herself in her snow pants and jacket.

I've built several snowmen since I left childhood days behind. Usually with a kid or a grandkid. But once not so many years ago when it snowed in March and then turned sunshiny and rather balmy, I went out and played in the snow by myself. I made a snowman and snow woman and their dog. The snow was just too perfect for snowman building to waste that day. And today a few chilled fingers were a small price to pay to see the fun Jillian had sculpting her first snowman.

Here are a few snowman quotes.



  • Snowmen fall from Heaven unassembled.
  • When it snows you have two choices: shovel or make snow angels.
  • The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event.

Hope you enjoyed the snow if it fell where you are and that you didn't have to drive anywhere if the roads were slippery. Oh yeah, and we have one week till Christmas. Snow and Christmas all in the same week. What more could we want? I know. The cookies baked. The candy beaten. The presents wrapped. The cards sent. The Christmas Spirit. Wishing you all a healthy dose of that last whether the other stuff gets done or not.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A December Birthday

I'm writing a day early because one of my grandbabies will be three on Wednesday, and we're going to help her celebrate tomorrow. It's hard having a birthday in December when sometimes your special day seems to blend in with Christmas and get overlooked. Or so my daughter-in-law says. Not Katie's mom, but the other daughter-in-law. Carrie's birthday is New Year's Eve and she says she always hated it when the relatives said whatever they gave her for Christmas was for her birthday too. She wanted to have her own day. Katie, the almost three-year-old, is just now figuring out Christmas and birthdays so she's probably going to feel good about presents two weeks in a row. It's been a year of change for her anyway with the twins coming along to push her out of the baby spot, but she's adjusting well and loves her baby brothers.


I've always thought it would really be hard having a birthday on Christmas Eve or Christmas day. My birthday's in September, but I think if I had been born on Christmas, I would have wanted to celebrate my year and a half birthday in the middle of summer. What do you think? Any of you out there have a holiday birthday? Do you feel overlooked or do you enjoy the extra attention at holiday time?


I love birthdays. I might not like counting my own, but I do enjoy having them and count each one a blessing. And I enjoy helping others celebrate theirs - especially the kids. While I didn't do anything really fancy for my kids on their birthdays when they were growing up, we did always celebrate with a cake or dessert of their choice and a family get-together. They blew out candles and opened presents and got older until now they have families of their own. And I have a lot more birthdays to help celebrate, but sometimes it has to be long distance and not in person.


The days are zooming by toward Christmas and I'm shopping and wrapping and writing cards like everyone else. But I'm also working on the idea for my new Shaker book. The characters are coming to life in my head and beginning to talk to one another. So that's encouraging. Now if I can get my time line down on the history part I'll be ready to start the journey again. That's sort of what writing a book is like - going on a journey with your characters. Sometimes I'll see a destination out there ahead, but the path isn't always clear. I have to let my characters lead me along and show me what's happening in their lives even as the path winds and twists and sometimes veers completely off the route I had thought they were taking. But a new destination and often a better one usually appears.

The second Shaker book, The Believer, is already out there on the internet for readers to pre-order. It won't be out until next August, but some people have already been ordering their copies. That has astounded me, but it's great to know some of you are anxious to read my new book. One surprise - the cover has been redone. It has the same background and the same Ethan. (Thank goodness. He's a perfect Ethan.) But Elizabeth is different. I'll be posting the cover on my website after the first of the year, so you can check it out then. So far the first cover is still up on Amazon and other bookselling sites.

You've still got time to get in on my book give-away for an autographed copy of Virginia Smith's Stuck in the Middle and one of my books - your choice of The Scent of Lilacs, Orchard of Hope, Summer of Joy, The Outsider or Angels at the Crossroads. It's fun to win something and all you have to do is comment here or send me an e-mail from my website, http://www.annhgabhart.com/. If you entered before and didn't win, January might be your lucky month.

I know a lot of you will be going to Christmas pageants tomorrow or in the next week. I love shepherds in bathrobes with towels on their heads and wise men with presents wrapped in aluminum foil and angels with tinsel halos. I included a Christmas pageant in my book, Summer of Joy. My hope was that it would make readers smile and remember all the children's pageants they have seen or taken part in. Seeing the children act out the story of the birth of Jesus is one of my very favorite things at Christmas. I hope you enjoy many favorite things this Christmas.

Talk to you Wednesday when it will be one week and counting. Hope to have my Christmas cards sent by then.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Two Weeks Till Christmas!!!

Do you remember when you were a kid and you counted the days off until Christmas? You always knew exactly how many there were to go. Fourteen, thirteen, twelve and on. Well, this time in two weeks it will be Christmas Eve and many families will be gathering to enjoy the holiday with presents and glittering lights and delicious food. And the kids will all be ready to go to bed so Santa can come. Such a different perspective when you're Santa's helper instead of just wishing he'd show up and soon! Still fun, but instead of wishing the days gone, you're wishing for an extra day here and there to wrap those presents, to address those cards, to make that candy or those cookies. Being a Santa's elf is not for the faint-hearted.

Someone asked me about the Shakers celebrating Christmas. They did observe Christmas but not as we do today. They gathered in their Meeting House and sang and danced as they worshiped. And they definitely had a good meal. The Shakers' tables were always laden with the best foods. But in the "world," as the Shakers called everyone outside their villages, the celebrations were probably not much different. Certainly not much like our celebrations today for the average person, but then Christmas celebrations have changed for everyone.

Think about your picture of an old-fashioned Christmas and compare it to the Christmas you and yours expect to have this year. My mom can remember getting an orange and candy in her stocking. She ate the orange one section at a time over several days to make it last. Back when I was a kid, oranges were still a treat, but we might have a whole box of fruit under the tree. Now a lot of children have oranges whenever they want one and have no conception of how an orange at Christmas could be a special treat while most of us older folks could never have imagined the sorts of things they find in their stockings these days - phones you stick in your ear so you're never out of touch, music players that are smaller than your hand and don't require tapes, CDs, records or anything to be inserted in order to play songs, and computers where one person can sit woolgathering and somebody half a world away can read the words and send a comment back immediately. Wonder what Christmas will be like in 2050. One thing I hope - that it will always be full of old-fashioned love and joy.

Here are some quotes on an old-fashioned Christmas and what makes the best presents to give and get at Christmas. At least I think so. I love getting books and I wish I had time to read all the books I'm giving my kids before I have to wrap them. Everybody always gets a book. It's a long standing tradition in our house. And of course, love and your gift of time is always the very best and most valuable gift you can give.

  • "Do give books - religious or otherwise - for Christmas. They're never fattening, seldom sinful, and permanently personal." -- Lenore Hershey
  • "They err who think Santa Claus comes down through the chimney; he really enters through the heart." -- Mrs. Paul M. Ell
  • "Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love." -- Hamilton Wright Mabi
  • "Christmas--that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance--a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved." -- Augusta E. Rundel

Hope you can take time to enjoy the special time of Christmas. And that you know a child with Christmas stars in his or her eyes.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Christmas Memories

Well, the Christmas tree is up. And decorated. A few of the lights don't work, but if you squint your eyes a little, you don't notice it much. It's one of those trees where the lights are already wrapped around the branches. That's great, but whoever decided to put the kind of light strands on it where if one bulb is messed up the whole strand goes out needs to be sentenced to two weeks straight of pulling out those little bulbs and trying new ones to see if that's the bad light. I never did find the bad light, but my thumbnail is ready to fall off. ;o)

Somebody said I should check the fuse, but I haven't tried that yet. I just turned the tree around so the non-lighted part isn't exactly in the front. And with all the decorations on, you hardly miss those lights. Hardly. Anyway the tree's up and that's the important thing. I said it would be up this weekend and it is. My sisters and I even put up my mom's tree today. Hers is a short tabletop tree that we just put in a garbage bag and set in the corner of the garage in between Christmases that are definitely coming closer and closer together. I mean when I was a kid, Christmas Eves lasted longer than the whole year between Christmases now.

Christmas Eve was always a fun time for us when we were kids. That's when we went to my aunt's house. She spoiled us girls with a whole pile of presents, mostly clothes, but it was still fun to have that stack of brightly wrapped gifts to tear into. We had to eat the delicious supper first and she always had fruit punch spiked with gingerale. She was Christmas for me and the first Christmas after she died was lonely and sad and oh so different. I think that's true for everybody who's lost loved ones in the past year. Those empty spots around the Christmas tree are hard and reason for a few tears. But I hope you have good Christmas memories to keep the joy and the echo of their love in your heart.

I have lots of great Christmas memories. How about you? What about a favorite Christmas gift? My very favorite gift, well, I have two. One was a fountain pen and a bottle of blue black ink when I was thirteen or so. I had to have blue black ink. And the second was a desk. Writer-to-be gifts. Actually that desk was replaced by another Christmas gift several years later when my husband bought an old secretarial desk and had it refinished for me. That desk has held my typewriters and then computers while I've written a lot of books. The drawers groan when they are opened, but that just makes it all that much better. It has personality. And I still have the first Christmas present desk too.

One of my fun Christmas memories is the year when my daughter, Tarasa, was three or four and when anybody asked her what she wanted for Christmas, she would say "A candy apple." In those days about the only place you ever saw candy apples for sale was at the county or state fair in the summer time. So no candy apples were to be found in December. I wonder now why I didn't just put an apple on a stick and dip it in caramel. But I didn't, and Tarasa was more than happy with the candy apple substitute toys under the tree on Christmas morning. Years later I bought a chocolate covered apple, wrapped it up, and told her sometimes Santa was slow reading his list, but eventually he always came through.

As a Christmas treat for myself, I met Jan Watson, author of Troublesome Creek, Willow Springs, and Torrent Falls, for lunch last Thursday. We talked until the waitress was surely ready to throw us out. We weren't getting the offer of any more water in our glasses. That's for sure. But it's always so much fun comparing notes with a fellow writer that we had a lot to talk about. That's why you see writers gabbing nonstop to one another at book fairs. After weeks and months locked away in their private space trying to dig words out of their strained brains, writers need to talk. On top of all that Jan is a super person and writer. Her books are very popular and good reads.

That's what I aim for in my own books. For the stories to be good reads. Hope if you get one to read, you'll think I've been successful. Don't forget. If you want to enter my book-giveaway drawing, send me an e-mail from my website, www.annhgabhart.com. I'd love to hear from you, and thanks to everybody who comments here. I'll enter your names in the drawing too. Just be sure to tune in after the first of the year to see if you won.

I hope you have lots of great Christmas memories and that this month you'll be adding to your collection by taking time to do some things you enjoy this Christmas season. Talk to you Wednesday.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Christmas Tree Memories

Here it is Wednesday night again and I'm getting the pleasure of sending a few words out to my friends. Hi, everybody.

By the way, I'm still tripping over that box of tree ornaments, but I'll drag that tree up from the basement this weekend for sure. I admire people who put up multiple trees. One of my daughters-in-law puts up a tree in every room and the trees all look great. But me, I guess I take after my grandmother. Mom said Mama Rose never wanted to bother with a tree in the house so they used to just hang their stockings on the rocking chair. They didn't have a Christmas tree until her youngest sister talked their dad into bringing in a cedar when Mom was a teenager.

I'm not that bad. I want a tree and so far I've always gotten the tree decorated before Christmas day. So far. I used to go out with my kids and cut down a cedar tree. We always picked one that was way too big. Those trees just look smaller out there in the field. And greener and not so lopsided. As you can probably tell, I wasn't the best tree picker, so most of the time Darrell took care of that chore. Thank goodness. He was definitely better at it.

Cedars smell good sitting in your living room, but they are sticky. Not so bad when you decorate them, but very prickly when you take the ornaments off after Christmas. Especially those foil icicles. Any of you remember those? Plus cedars dry out fast even if you set them in a bucket of water and that makes you have to worry about them being fire hazards. I've gotten modern now with an artificial tree, but I sometimes think how my dad would frown if he knew I paid good money for a fake tree when the fields were full of cedars that need to be cut down.

Dad didn't overflow with Christmas spirit, but sometimes he'd go to Louisville and buy us something at a warehouse or secondhand shop that we weren't expecting. One Christmas he brought in a turntable record player. It didn't have a case, but since it played LPs and 45's and had a stack 'em on spindle, we were happy. So he wasn't exactly a Scrooge. He just left most of the merry preparations up to Mom and his sister. They made Christmas fun.

Hope you have many great Christmas memories. Share your favorite with me if you want. That would be fun. And here are some Christmas quotes to make your day brighter.

  • There's nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child. - Erma Bombeck
  • Unless we make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings, all the snow in Alaska won't make it 'white'. - Bing Crosby
  • My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that? -Bob Hope
  • When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things -- not the great occasions -- give off the greatest glow of happiness. -Bob Hope

Wishing you much happiness and joy. Always joy.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Being True to the Word

December 1st. Ready or not, Christmas is on the way. I don't think I'm ever really ready with everything done, but Christmas gets here anyway. Thank goodness. I wouldn't want the special season of joy to have to wait on me. But I will get some of the Christmas preparations done. Actually the grandkids were here Friday night and helped me get out the first phase of my decorating. I've got a Santa collection that I put up on a shelf and then the kids love to set up my nativity sets.

I bought a special wooden one so they could move everything around without their parents holding their breath. I mean don't you think Jesus wants to be a hands on Savior even as a baby in the manger? I don't think He wants to be on a shelf just to be admired and dusted off now and again. He wants to be right there in the middle of our lives every day, holding our hands, cheering us on, loving us.

I don't have the tree up yet, but I brought the ornaments down from the attic. That's a first step. Actually several steps. Now when I get tired of tripping over the box, I might actually drag the tree up from the basement and put it up. As you can tell, I'm not a big decorator. I admire people who are and love to look at their beautiful trees and yard decorations, but I'm quite satisfied with the one tree (when I get it up), the nativity scene, and my shelf of Santas. As I told another writer on a blog this morning, I'd rather write. Any day.

And I need to be writing to get my new story going. The characters are beginning to talk in my head, but I need to do some more fleshing out for them so I can know them well enough to introduce them to you. And then there's all that research to get things right. I suppose time management and carving out that writing time has always been my biggest challenge in my writing career from way back when I was just beginning to seriously try to sell my writing. It's often been a juggling act, but I wouldn't change much. Except I would have begun to write for the inspirational market long before I did. But it does no good to regret the wrong turns I might have taken. I can only look forward and hope to take the right turns ahead.

I did get the Baker Books summer catalogue with my new book, The Believer, featured along with all the other new publications for the summer months. The cover and spread looked good. I hope the story will sound good to readers and bookstore buyers.

I also got an anonymous letter in regard to my non-fiction book, Angels at the Crossroads, about the life of my friend, Jerry Shepherd. The letter writer said the book and Jerry's testimony had helped him realize he wasn't worthless and that the Lord hadn't turned His back on him. (I'm saying he, but the letter writer could be a she.) It is such a gift to know that the book and Jerry's story is helping someone to find the good in his life and to feel loved. Isn't that what we all want? To feel loved. And to love. That's what Christmas is all about. Joy and love in its purest forms.

That's what the Patriots sing about at their concerts. The love of the Lord. I spent most of the day with the guys yesterday as they sang in Sulphur Wells. Don't ask me where that was. I was just riding along. No, actually it's down past Campbellsville, Ky. The Sulphur Wells Methodist Church has a beautiful church built in 1916 with narrow wooden strips as the entire wall and ceiling. I talked to one of the men there who had been attending since he was a baby fifty plus years ago. He told me a story that I want to share.

Some years back, the church was heated by two wood stoves and there was a member who got up early every Sunday to start the fires so the church would be warm when the members arrived. He lived about a mile from the church and he would walk down to the church in all sorts of winter weather. Sometimes he would feel discouraged because the attendance would be low and he'd wonder if he should just stay in bed or by his own warm fire and not bother going down to warm up the church building. But he stayed faithful and kept the church fires burning. Years later a neighbor of his surrendered his life to Christ and he told this man who got up early every winter Sunday morning to start the fires in the church stoves that it was seeing his faithfulness through the years as he watched him walking to church that made such an impression that he decided he wanted to know the Lord this man served so loyally. So you see even when we don't know it, somebody is watching us. Somebody is reading us for their Bible. Are we true to the Word?

That's my devotional for the week. Now I'd better go trip over that Christmas ornament box on the way to my desk to do some writing. And thanks for reading. Remember, I'm doing the book giveaway for your choice of one of my books and Virginia Smith's Stuck in the Middle. Just send me an e-mail from my website, http://www.annhgabhart.com/ or leave a comment here to put your name in the drawing.

Talk to you Wednesday.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving Today and Every Day

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! I hope you have a wonderful day with some great food shared with some people you love. And that you get to take a nap after dinner. I read the other day that naps enhance our creativity. Maybe that's why I've been struggling with my new idea - not enough naps. Darrell would say so. He's a long time advocate of a daily nap and feels deprived if his schedule doesn't allow a snooze in the afternoon.

I sent out a newsletter last night and of course, forgot something I wanted to include. I'm doing a new give-away with an autographed copy of Virginia Smith's Stuck in the Middle. Her next Sister series book, Age Before Beauty, will be out in February, so this will be your chance to win her book and get it read before then. I'll be doing the drawing on New Year's Day. The winner will also win his or her choice of an autographed copy of one of my books. Just send me an e-mail or leave a comment here before the end of the year to be entered.

I also included a Groucho Marx quote that doesn't have anything to do with Thanksgiving, but it's fun. "Outside of a dog, a book is your best friend, and inside a dog, it's too dark to read." I decided that makes me smile because I can see the power of words and how if you arrange them just so you can take the reader by surprise. Hope you are often pleasantly taken by surprise by whatever you're reading.

I also hope you have much to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving weekend. I certainly do with my beautiful family, my praying church family, good health, my place to live with its fields and woods, the Lord's blessings and grace, the want to and ability to write, editors who like my books, even more - readers who want to read my books, and friends who take the time to read my wool-gathering in the midst of their busy days. Too many blessings to count them all, but what would be the blessings you would count on this day? Could you do a Top Ten list? That would still leave out a lot, wouldn't it?

Here are some more seasonal quotes about Thanksgiving for you to ponder and enjoy.

  • "If we meet someone who owes us thanks, we right away remember that. But how often do we meet someone to whom we owe thanks without remembering that?"- Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
  • "Life without thankfulness is devoid of love and passion. Hope without thankfulness is lacking in fine perception. Faith without thankfulness lacks strength and fortitude. Every virtue divorced from thankfulness is maimed and limps along the spiritual road." - John Henry Jowett
  • "Thanksgiving Day is a jewel, to set in the hearts of honest men; but be careful that you do not take the day, and leave out the gratitude."- E.P. Powell

Enjoy the day and if you go shopping tomorrow, watch out for runaway shopping carts.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Chair in the Sun

We're having a sunny Sunday today and that's very welcome after last week when winter came to visit. We even had snow on the ground one night. It's still chilly, but the sun feels fantastic. As humans, I think we're wired to need the sunshine. I know we need the rain and maybe if it was sunny all the time, we'd miss the gray skies. Maybe. But sunshine puts a spring in our step and a smile on our faces. It makes some of us want to get outside and clean something while others want to go fishing. Me - well, in spite of being a dog person, I get to thinking sort of like a cat when I see a chair beside a sunny window. I immediately want to curl up in that warm spot with a good book and spend an hour or so reading before the sun shifts to another window.

Not that I ever have the time to actually do that. I need to learn to be a better manager of my time. But with Christmas weeks away, I know every minute will be scheduled and I'll be rushing to get everything done the way I always do this time of the year. Plus I went to the library Friday and got a whole stack of history books to help me figure out what was happening in the time period I've picked for my next Shaker book. So maybe I should be curling up in that chair with a history book, but if the history wasn't riveting, I'd probably just doze off in that warm sunshine. Guess I'll just keep typing here instead.


Some fun news. My new Shaker book The Believer is out on Amazon.com and other internet sites for pre-sale. Not that I think anyone will be buying it this soon, but if you're interested you can go out there and check out the cover and some info on the story. I'll be posting the cover on my website sometime soon, but I haven't yet. I do like the cover with the Shaker buildings in the background and the stormy sky. I especially like the guy. He's a good Ethan and Ethan is the Believer in the story. The Outsider was released August 1 this year and looks as if The Believer will follow suit in 2009. By then I should have my next and perhaps last Shaker book finished and off to the publishers. I will if I meet my deadline. So I'd better get at those history books.


We had a great day at Goshen today. Br. Fred preached on Psalm 107 "O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good." He told us about a word in that first verse. A Hebrew word 'hesedth' that is translated in many Bibles as 'lovingkindness.' He says there isn't any good way to translate it word for word into our language but that the closest you might come is a combination of all the good greeting words in the world wrapped together. All the blessings and goodwill anybody might want to wish to you and it's all coming from the Lord. Hesedth. May you be wrapped in that loving kindness this week as you pause in your busy schedules to seek out that spot in the sunshine of the Lord's love to warm your spirit and count your blessings.

You are one of the blessings I will be counting this week. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Famous Quotes on Fame

I'm a day late today. Yesterday was my anniversary. Darrell and I have been married umpteen years. I remember noting the anniversary where I'd been married half my life and then the one two-thirds. Now I'm heading toward the three-fourths but that's still a ways down the road. It's hard to realize so many years have gone by since we stood up before a preacher with trembling knees and promised "till death do us part." Good years. Busy years. And we have such a beautiful family. So many blessings.

But I'll talk more about blessings and thanksgiving next week. This week I'm still zeroed in on that "Are you famous?" question the young man asked me at the Book Fair last Saturday. I decided this week that my best answer to him would have been if you have to ask somebody if they're famous then they probably aren't.

But his question still has me thinking about fame. What is fame? And why do so many people seek after it? I went out quote hunting to see what other people have said about fame and found out a lot of people have a lot to say about fame. So here are some of my gleanings.

  • You're not famous until my mother has heard of you. - Jay Leno
  • I never wanted to be famous: I only wanted to be great. - Ray Charles
  • A celebrity is a person who works hard all his life to become well known, then wears dark glasses to avoid being recognized. - Fred Allen
  • Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, and riches take wing. Only one thing endures and that is character. - Horace Greeley
  • Don't confuse fame with success. Madonna is one; Helen Keller the other. - Erma Bombeck
  • Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful. - John Wooden

And you know what? The best place to be "famous" - that is to be loved and appreciated is in your own family. And we're all well known by God. So make sure you're building your fame in the places that matter most.

Till next time. Hope you have a great Thanksgiving next week.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Are You Famous?"

The Kentucky Book Fair was yesterday. It's a great event because a lot of readers show up to talk to the many writers (over 120 authors) and buy books. People do their Christmas shopping and come in with lists they have written after searching through the Book Fair catalogue. My book actually made some of those lists and I'm grateful for every reader who came by to say hello. Some had already read my books. Some were trying my books for the first time. I had fun talking to all of them, old friends and new. And the amazing thing is that I don't think I forgot any names that I was supposed to remember. A lot of people signed up for my drawing for a free copy of The Scent of Lilacs, and the winner was Ruth. I'll get her book in the mail the first of the week.

I did have one interesting conversation. A young man maybe twenty, maybe a little older or younger, came up to me and asked, "Are you famous?" Of course I said, "Hardly." I certainly don't feel anything close to famous as I think about famous. Who is famous? Movie stars. Athletes. Coaches - the line for Rick Pitino's signature on his book was pretty long. Preachers can be famous. And some bestselling authors might surely make the list. I suppose the sole criteria of fame is being well known in a general, all-encompassing way. A person might be well known in his or her home town and not be known in the town down the road. So would he or she still be famous? You know what? I think that's a question that has to be answered by everybody else and not by yourself. If you're famous, you might not know it, but everybody else would.

Maybe the better question is "Do you want to be famous?" I've never worried much about acquiring fame, but I would like my books to be widely read. Most all writers do. That's why we work so hard getting our words published and out in front of readers. It's what we do.

Anyway I enjoyed talking to readers and other writers. I sat next to Janna McMahan whose book Coming Home is getting great reviews. She sold out her books before the day was over and got the reward of leaving early. I didn't sell out, but I did have a lot of great people carry one or more of my books home with them. If some of those books end up under Christmas trees, then I will certainly feel honored.

It was one young woman's birthday and her husband had surprised her with the gift of one of my books and a trip to the Book Fair. She was so excited and having so much fun. Her husband surely got bonus points for being so thoughtful and knowing what would please her. And he wasn't the only thoughtful hubby. Another lady told me her husband had taken her out to breakfast and then suggested going to the Book Fair. She was having fun too. So take note. Maybe Book Fairs are the new romantic locations. At least for all those people who love books the way I do.

My writing friends, Virginia Smith and Jan Watson, were a few seats down the row from me with their piles of books. Both also had many people coming to take their books home with them. Ginny has a new title from Love Inspired, A Taste of Murder, and Jan had her popular Troublesome Creek series about her character, Copper there. Both have more new books coming out next year. Ginny and Jan are fun people to know and between us we must have smiled and talked to every person in Frankfort yesterday. Our smiling muscles got a work out.

And I still had plenty to smile about again this afternoon as our church gathered for our annual Thanksgiving dinner. When I was driving back to church this evening, I was thinking about my special reasons for thanksgiving. When we first started having our Thanksgiving dinner a few years ago in the basement of our church, we would stand in a circle and hold hands while we each named a special blessing. One of our blessings now is that our church has a beautiful new fellowship hall and we don't have to have our dinners in the too small church basement anymore. Another is that we had too many people come tonight to let everyone speak a blessing one by one. The dressing and gravy would have gotten cold.

Even so, I always think about blessings of the year when we gather for the dinner. I have so many to count. My family. New twin grandbabies and another grandbaby (the other son and his wife) on the way. My church family. Friends. My Lord. A great place to live. A farm where I can walk with my dog. More books than I have time to read. And also many writing blessings. Two new books in 2008, Summer of Joy and The Outsider, and one, The Believer, scheduled for 2009. New readers. Old readers. Any and all readers! People who say they read my blog. I guess I could go on and on. I hope and pray that you can too.

And I'm still going to do that "too busy" blog sometime. When I have time.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Shocks and Surprises

Wednesday certainly rolls around quickly. In a couple of weeks we'll be talking Turkey day. I like Thanksgiving. When I was a kid my aunt cooked some of my favorite foods, things like cornsticks and turkey (well sometimes chicken) and dressing. Plus she put salt in those cute little salt wells at everybody's plate. That in of itself made the meal special. She was my aunt in name, but my "granny" in heart. Every kid needs a granny who loves them no matter what.

I went to a Circle meeting with my Mom today. That's a group of women in her church who get together once a month for Bible study and fellowship. Their lesson was on the scene in the Bible where the women went to the tomb after Jesus was crucified and were surprised and shocked to find it empty. The study leader asked us to recall a time when we were shocked by some event in our life. Most of us remembered tragedies - a sudden death or the illness of a son or daughter that shocked us. But one woman remembered being shocked when her baby was born with red hair when both she and her husband had dark hair.

That made us laugh, but it also started me thinking about times when I could say I was shocked that weren't necessarily sad or tragic times. I could say when I sold my first book, but that wasn't really a shock. More a dream come true or a goal achieved. I wrote the book with that end in mind so I can't really say that it was a total shock. A total blessing for sure. So I still haven't come up with anything that I've actually done, but I can think of some things that might qualify. Winning a contest perhaps. Your son having twins. I guess I do know about that one. How about a long lost friend or relative showing up at your door unexpected? Maybe your child volunteering to rake the leaves. Okay, so that might be just a little shock. What do you think? Have you experienced something happy in your life that would qualify?

One last thing on this blog Wednesday - I was thumbing through The Reader's Digest and came across an article about great inspirations. Martina McBride was talking about being inspired by the writings and speeches of Maya Angelou and how Ms. Angelou had once told her that sometimes we're afraid to push ourselves and really reach as far as we can because we're afraid that when we succeed, the world will ask more of us. I understood what she was talking about. As a writer I sometimes wonder if I hold back, afraid to spill it all out in one book for then what will be left for the next one. But the well refills. That's what we need to remember. The well refills from the creative springs inside us. So may you always have the courage to be the best that you can be at whatever you do.

Okay, two last things. If you're in the area, come see me Saturday at the Kentucky Book Fair at the Convention Center in Frankfort, Kentucky. It's a great place to get some unique Christmas gifts and meet a lot of writers and readers. Oh yeah, and who better to give a gift to than yourself? Especially when it's the gift of a good book. I'll be on the back row with some other inspirational writers, and I'd love to talk to you.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sunny South Carolina

It was warm and sunny in South Carolina Thursday, Friday and Saturday. And then we came home to Kentucky and found winter taking up residence here. It is chilly outside. I had to fill up the car with gas a while ago and all of us at the gas tanks were complaining about the chill. Not the prices. Wow! It was under two dollars a gallon. I never thought I'd see gas prices like that again. So since we didn't have the prices to complain about, we fussed about the cold wind that had us wishing for glove and coats. And one lady was wishing she could pack up and move south.

It was nice in South Carolina. Of course, it was nice here the first of the week. That's the thing about Kentucky weather. It can change in a New York minute. Especially this time of the year. So the heat is on and it's feeling more like it's supposed to feel when Thanksgiving is only a couple of weeks away. The trees were pretty in SC too, and they don't always have colorful fall trees down there. My daughter was enjoying that. I think everybody who moves south misses the fall colors.

The booksignings at both the Barnes and Noble on Heywood Road in Greenville and the one in Spartanburg went well. I enjoyed talking to some new readers and some aspiring writers. My best advice to them was to keep reading and keep writing. I did a book give-away at both places. Laura won my book The Scent of Lilacs in Greenville and Lynette was the winner in Spartanburg. I'll mail out their books next week. The winner of my book at the Heaven Help Us Bookstore in Indiana was Carla. Ginny and I also did a give-away when we were at JosephBeth Booksellers in Lexington last month. Marion won Ginny's book, and Anne won my book, The Scent of Lilacs. I appreciate everybody who signed up for the give-away and while everybody couldn't win, some of you did. I used to say I never won anything. But then I won a neat afghan at a library raffle. It was made out of all the leftover yarn this woman had and I think I like the hodgepodge of colors better than I would have liked a solid colored or more coordinated colored one.

That's what we all are. A hodgepodge of characteristics and looks. You might get your nose from your granny, your ears from your great grandpa, your mouth from your mom, your singing talent from your father, your stubborness from your grandpa and on and on. Darrell alway said our kids got their stubborness from me, but I told him that couldn't be true. I still had all of mine.

Actually stubborness is a very important part of the make-up of a writer. There can be some pretty disappointing moments in a writer's life. Times when rejects seem to be more numerous by far than acceptances. Times when the critics tear your work apart. Worse times when your work isn't out there for the critics to tear apart because nobody agreed with you that it was worthy of publication. At least not yet. That's where the stubborness comes in handy. If you don't give up, then someday something you write is going to make it. And then maybe the critics will like it and even better maybe the readers will love it and tell all their friends. That's what I'm hoping. That those who read my books will think the stories are good enough to pass the name of the book along to their reading friends.

I like talking about books with other readers, don't you? My sisters and I are always sharing the titles of the books we read or an author's name to try. So if you're saying to your friends, "Have you read any books yet by that woman who wrote that book about those Shakers? What was her name? I think it started with a G. Geppar. No, Gabhart. That was it." Or something along those lines, then I'm happy. Of course all of you know my name. And I thank you for coming out here into blog land to read my journal.

And thanks to all who talked about their favorite trees this week or had a mental image of a special tree from when you were a kid. This week you can think about the hodgepodge of charactistics that make you the special person, the one unique, never to be copied person you are. That's the kind of character I'm trying to come up with for my new book. Perhaps a hodgepodge of different people I've met in my lifetime in person or on the pages of a book or that I have conjured up out of my imagination. Someone unique. Someone interesting enough to have a story to tell. Because it's time to have my characters up and running again.

Wednesday I may do a list about being too busy. If I'm not too busy. ;-)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Some Trees to Remember

What is your favorite tree? Thanks, Jane, for letting us know some of your favorites. I've been trying to think of my own and of course, couldn't narrow it down to one. I enjoy walking among the trees. Taking a path that leads through some towering oaks or golden maples. Even as a kid, I would pick out this or that tree that was a landmark of beauty. But then I thought trees were for fun too. There was a willow tree in our yard where I grew up that had branches that grew to the ground. It was great fun to go inside the branches of that tree and set up my own little world. Then we had sycamore trees we called "monkey" trees because we could climb them with little difficulty.

More recently there are maple trees in our yard and fields that turn beautiful colors in the fall. One in our front yard used to cast a pink glow through our front window. Unfortunately the wind and ice storms have taken a toll on it, but the last section of it struggles on. We have a swing on it for the grandkids now. Of course the oaks are majestic, and the apple trees generous. And there's one old tree over in the field that could be a Halloween tree. It looks a little spooky, but then getting older can make us a little spooky sometimes. Maybe my favorite trees right now are the tall yellow poplars over in the field. I suppose when I think about it, I can't narrow it down to one or even ten favorites. Each beautiful tree is a gift that can lift my spirits and make me glad to breath the air they so generously provide.

Here are some tree quotes.

  • Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come. --Chinese Proverb
  • For a tree to become tall it must grow tough roots among the rocks. - Friedrich Nietzche
  • The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now. - Proverb
  • The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn. --Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence. -- Hal Borland, Countryman: A Summary of Belief
  • Many people, other than the authors, contribute to the making of a book, from the first person who had the bright idea of alphabetic writing through the inventor of movable type to the lumberjacks who felled the trees that were pulped for its printing. It is not customary to acknowledge the trees themselves, though their commitment is total. -Rada and Forsyth, Machine Learning
Hope you get out and enjoy some trees this fall. Share some of your favorites with us in the comments section if you want. And if you're in the SC area, don't forget to come by and say hello at my booksignings in Greenville and Spartanburg at the Barnes and Noble stores on Thursday and Friday nights. Talk to you Sunday.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Trick or Treats and Ghost Stories

Friday was Halloween. It seems like Halloween gets a little more popular every year. There are even special Halloween stores now and many, many decorated yards. I'm not much of a decorator. I have put pumpkins out on my porch when we raised them in the garden a time or two and I might have even carved a face in one once. Only once, because I don't like the smell of pumpkins' innards. Then one time I bought one of those orange garbage bags with a pumpkin face on it and filled it up with leaves. That is the extent of my Halloween decorating. No spiders with legs all across the yard. No ghosts floating down from the trees. I leave all that up to everybody else.

My son-in-law enjoys Halloween. If he had more time he'd have spiders and witches and ghosts and who knows what else decorating his lawn. They live in a nice old neighborhood in SC and have a pile of trick or treaters every year. They lay in the candy (about 500 pieces) and get ready to enjoy all the kids in costume. But this year they had a little problem. They joke about their house being haunted. It's seen a lot of living in the years since it's been built and occasionally something strange happens. A wet spot stain where there are no water pipes. A door shutting when there's no wind. A creaking floor board. You know, old house noises, etc.

I used to live in an old house - so old part of it was log under the wood siding. Every noise, we just said it was the house settling or the old boards creaking. We sometimes blamed ghosts but always in jest. We didn't really think there were ghosts. But some people like the idea of ghosts as long as they aren't the kind that do anything more than creak a board now and again.

Well, on Halloween in the midst of the candy passing out frenzy, my daughter's front door shut and locked. Nobody knows how. They have a German Shepherd who might have decided he'd seen all the little monsters he wanted to see for one night and perhaps he nosed the door shut. Or perhaps it was a mischievous ghost. At any rate my daughter and son-in-law were out on the porch with no unlocked doors or windows on the first floor. So they had to go borrow a ladder and my daughter climbed up to the top of the porch and scrambled in a second floor window that luckily wasn't locked or painted shut. Meanwhile, they ran out of candy outside and had to turn away a lot of trick or treaters. They couldn't get inside to get the next bowl of candy or to turn off their front porch light to let the kids know there were no treats. Guess they all got tricked. My daughter just hoped she wasn't going to be tricked by a bunch of angry little ninjas and princesses and supermen.

Did you ever go trick or treating? I went once when I was about ten. A friend invited me and I thought it was going to be fun having all that candy. I love candy. But I didn't like trick or treating. I guess I was too old already, but I remember being very glad when I could go home. My friend enjoyed it though. And so do my grandkids. Actually I have fun now seeing all the kids show up. I don't have but three or four ever come to my door out here in the country, but I like visiting my kids' houses and helping them give out candy. The little kids are all so cute in their costumes. This year there were a bunch of pretty butterflies. My littlest grandkid was the cutest dog ever. Some churches make the Halloween an outreach night and have trunk and treat where the members pass out candy from the trunks of their cars. That way the kids don't have to be out on the streets. Then other churches have parties where their young people dress up as Bible characters or something sweeter and kinder than ghosts and monsters. I like the Bible character idea. It's a great chance for the kids to not only hear a Bible story but to be part of the story.

So Halloween is over and Thanksgiving is on the way with Christmas chasing right along behind it. Sometimes the days pass so quickly that I don't really appreciate the gift of each day's hours the way I should. I fill up my days with too many "to dos" and not enough "enjoys." And now even with all the chores the holidays bring, I'm anxious to be writing again. The last story is wrapped up and sent in and the itch is growing in me. Something doesn't feel right and I know it's because I'm not putting words together to tell a new story. And yet I have to let that new story gather in my mind - at least a bit of it. I need the "What if" beginning and the characters. Who is going to spring into life in my head? Will she be pretty? Will he be brave? Will he need to be brave? Or maybe she will be the one who has to be brave? At this point all the questions are out there and none of the answers. Right now I don't want all the answers. I want the answers to show up while I'm writing. But I am ready to know whose story it's going to be.

Check back with me Wednesday. I think I'll talk about trees. Do you like trees? Do you have a favorite tree? The newspaper asked that last week. It's a good question and one that I'm ready to see if I can answer before I head off to SC for my booksignings at the Barnes and Noble in Greenville on Thursday night. I just found out there are two B & N stores there, but I'm going to be at the one on Heywood Road. Then Friday night I'll be at the Spartanburg Barnes & Noble. If you're in the area come on out to see me. You can tell me about your favorite tree.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Back from the Smokies

Got home from our trip to the Smokies with the Gabhart side of the family - the brothers and sisters. We had a beautiful cabin up on the side of a mountain and a great time talking and catching up on all our family news. When Darrell's mom died a few years ago, we decided to make a special effort to keep our family close. We didn't want to neglect getting together until the only time we were seeing one another was at Christmas or even worse, a funeral home. That sounds like an awful thing to write, but it's sometimes too true that we don't take time to visit with those we love and have grown up with and those who share our personal history until we gather for a family funeral.

So this week we all took time out of our busy schedules and spent a few days together, playing cards and enjoying some great meals and even better talk. We always tell stories about what happened in the past and even when we've heard them a dozen times, we keep laughing. And it's good to remember Darrell's mom and dad who have passed on and his grandparents, too. His granddad on his mother's side of the family was part Cherokee and also a natural storyteller. He passed some of that talent down to Darrell and his brothers.

The weather in the mountains was chilly but the sun was shining and we had great views of the trees. We went over to Cades Cove and saw lots of wildlife including three bears and a coyote. We also saw lots of traffic, but I suppose that's to be expected this time of the year when everybody is wanting to see some fall colors.

On the way home we stopped at a few book stores where I talked with the clerks and store managers. Debbie at the Family Christian Bookstore in Seiverville was very welcoming and let me sign copies of The Outsider for her customers. Maybe next time I'm down that way we can work out a booksigning date. It's a great store with books and more books. I finally had to just close my eyes and leave before I loaded the van down. I love buying books. Then we stopped at the Sonshine Bookstore in Corbin. They didn't have my book, but when I introduced myself, the guy at the counter, Dwayne, was actually ordering new fiction books out of the Baker Books catalogue. What a coincidence! There was my book listed right in front of him. So he ordered some copies of The Outsider, Summer of Joy,and Orchard of Hope.

No wise sayings tonight. I think we stayed up playing Canasta and Rook too late every night for me to think of anything wise. Except to say hope you enjoy your family as much as I enjoy mine. They may all be family by marriage, but they are definitely family.

Talk to you this weekend. I'll let you know who won my website book give-away. And tell you about where I'll be having my next booksignings in South Carolina.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Two states down - Two to go!

I made my trip to New Albany, Indiana. The Heaven Help Us Bookstore was a beautiful place owned by a couple of beautiful people, Nyla and Mary Lou. They were mother and daughter team, and both had a love of books. Their store overflowed with lots of other lovely Christian items as well. I did a little Christmas shopping while I was there and got the twins a couple of cute plush hammers that make a breaking noise when you whop them on something. My husband, who was sweet enough to drive up there with me, kept popping them against his head and laughing when it sounded like his head was shattering. It must have been a man thing. But then again, I was the one who bought them.

You can bet if I lived in the area, I'd be in Nyla's great store shopping all the time. I kept seeing things I would like to buy. And the book section was well stocked and had lots of great titles. Not only that, Nyla was an avid reader who stood ready to point out the best books to her customers. That's service.

Oh yeah, one more sort of amusing note about the trip. Nyla had told me her story was right next door to the nice restaurant when she sent me directions. I thought that was good, to have a nice restautant right next door. But it turned out the restaurant was actually named The Nice Restaurant. Great thinking. What do people sometimes say when you ask where they want to go out to eat? Right. Somewhere nice or a nice restaurant. So if you're in the New Albany area you can go to the Nice Restaurant and slip on next door to an even nicer bookstore, Heaven Help Us. And believe it or not, just up the street is The Flower Shop. No joke.

Three other inspirational fiction writers were there as well. Jamie Carie had her book, Snow Angel; Shelley Shepard Gray was signing her popular Hidden; and Ramona K. Cecil had a couple of her Heartsong Presents novels there. One of her titles was Sweet Forever. So of course, I ended up buying all their books. They looked so good and writers should support other writers, shouldn't they? A couple of them were sweet enough to return the favor. I decided their books would make great give-aways on my website in the next few months. So check that out after I draw for the "trick or treat" winner on the thirty-first. You've still got time to send me an e-mail in get your name entered into that drawing. Just go to my website, http://www.annhgabhart.com/ and click on contact Ann.

All three of the other authors were coming out with new books in December or the first of the year. So they're ahead of me a few months there. My new book, The Believer, is a summer 2009 release. I got the changes finished on the new book and sent in and approved, so it's a wrap. Of course there will be copy editing and proofing down the road, but the story is ready. I'm hoping my readers will be ready for another Shaker story. I think you'll like Ethan and Elizabeth, the two main characters. Now I need to get started on researching the next book. I thought I had decided on a Civil War book, but I'm wavering on that historical time frame now. I'm thinking that might be better in another story and not a Shaker story. But we'll see. That's one of the good things about research. It seeds your mind with a lot of different ideas and then you have to sort of wait to see which ones are going to sprout and grow best.

Then today was the trip to West Virginia to see Matt and John's baby dedication at their church there. It's always fun to see the new babies and the loving parents and families at a baby dedication service. My son's family took up quite a bit of room with his three girls and the twins. The two year old wasn't too patient with the preacher's dedication talk, but the twins never made a peep. They are both very laid back and happy babies.

We didn't get to stay to play long since Darrell and his group were singing tonight and we had to get back in time for that. That was the third night in a row the guys had sung. Their Homecoming on Friday and Saturday went well. Thanks to all who came and thanks, Faye, for coming by to speak to me. Then Sherry stopped to talk to me tonight. It's great to meet you guys wherever I am. Also hope you're feeling much better by now, Bonnie.

Tomorrow we'll head out for some R & R with Darrell's brothers and sister and spouses in Tennessee. I won't be going to South Carolina until the next week, but I'm really looking forward to the trip down there to see my daughter and maybe gain some new readers for The Outsider and Summer of Joy at the Spartanburg Barnes and Noble Store (Nov 7)and the Greenville Barnes and Noble (Nov 6). I love bookstores. Especially these new bookstores that are so reader friendly. My biggest problem is trying to keep from buying a carload of books everytime I go. I love to buy books for my grandkids and for everybody on my Christmas list. At least this close to Christmas I'll have an excuse.

Guess that's all my news. But I did have one more thing. Do you guys have a magic mirror? Maybe not exactly like the witch in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, but a mirror that you look in and you see yourself as looking not all that bad. Then you get out somewhere, perhaps go in a public restroom and all of the sudden spot yourself in that big bright mirror and you don't feel so flattered. Your hair looks messier or grayer or duller and your skin looks a little splotchy or not as smooth as it did back in that magic mirror in your own bathroom.

Is it because we're holding our mouths right and lifting our chin to a flattering pose? Or is the light dim and we just can't see? I don't know. What I do know is that most of us have people in our lives who look at us and see us prettier and better than we are. That's because they're looking at us with "magic mirror" eyes of love. I'm wishing you lots of "magic mirror" eyes looking at you this week and making you feel beautiful and loved.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Writer Needs to Feed Her Imagination

I talked to a fun bookclub on Monday night by phone. I'm not great at hearing on speaker phones, but I could tell those ladies of the South Zumbra Church Book Club were having a good time. And not just because they were talking to me although I'm sure that put a little extra zing in the meeting - getting to quiz the author of the book they'd read. Actually they picked my book to read because the mother of the beautiful model on the cover is a member of the club and she picked the book. I told her one thing for sure - they couldn't knock the cover. It's perfect for the story. I asked them how they picked their books and they had a dozen different ways. They'd just read Gone with the Wind not long ago and I thought that sounded like a great idea. To revisit some old favorite books. I read Gone with the Wind in one long Thanksgiving weekend when I was 13 or 14.

Is there any better way to read a book than to just lie down on your bed or sit in your favorite reading chair and wallow in the words until you've read every last one? I can't do that very often these days. Too many chores and responsibilities and books of my own I want to write. But I do think it's vital for a writer to read. That's the advice I always give young people, but you know it's good advice for any writer. I've been reading Stephen King's book On Writing. He says nobody can be a good writer without being a voracious reader. He carries a book everywhere he goes and reads in minutes snatched out of a busy schedule. I need to do that. Steal a moment here and there to read more books. A writer needs to feed her imagination and what better way than to read and read some more. Reading brings new ideas your way, and King made the point that all the books don't have to be great. That reading a bad book can bolster your confidence. That nearly every aspiring writer has at one time or another read a book and said "I can write a better book than that." And then he adds that reading a really great book can inspire us to think I want to write a book that good. So it's a no lose situation.

Of course I have to admit I don't stick it out through a book I think is really bad. I close it up and find another one. There are just too many books out there to wade through a book I'm not enjoying. Unless of course it's a research book, then I wade on in. So just a thought or two on reading. What do you think? Do you think you have to read to become a better writer? Do you ever give up on a book and start another one?

Okay here are the quotes I promised last Wednesday.

"You know you're old when you've lost all your marvels." --Merry Browne (Could she have any better first name for that quote? And I don't want to ever lose all my marvels.)

"There are no shortcuts to any place worth going." --Beverly Sills

I hope you are going to lots of places worth going and that even if you can't take any shortcuts that you will enjoy the road and discover plenty of marvels along the way.

One last note - I'll be up in New Albany, Indiana for a booksigning at the Heaven Help Us Bookstore on Saturday between 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. If you're in the area, come on over and say hi. They're celebrating five years of serving the Christian community in that area.

Oh yeah - another really last note - If you want a chance to win my book, The Outsider, go visit Rose McCauley's blog, http://www.rosemccauley.blogspot.com. She does a book give-away every month and this month it's mine. What better way to get a book than free!!

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Joys of the Electronic Age and Booksignings

Hi, everybody. Thanks for stopping by. But this post is late since my phone lost its dial tone all weekend. The repairman just called a few minutes ago to say our phone was working again. Somebody dug a fencepost hole and cut the cable. I don't know who was fencing, but it wasn't us. Anyway, out here in the sticks where those of the slower electronic age reside, a person can’t reach out to talk to people on the other side of the country without that nice little hum in your ear when you pick up the phone or that melodious growl in your modem when you hit the connect button on your computer. Now and again we talk about checking into satellite internet, but I’m the one dragging my feet, thinking it’s just too much trouble to switch over. I’m the kind of person telephone companies, etc. love because I just don’t want to go through the hassle of changing it all over to a new company. I’m loyal as a puppy dog or maybe I should say as an old dog that doesn’t want to bother learning new tricks.

Of course land lines don’t seem quite as vital to most people as they used to be because we all have cell phones these days or so it seems from the way everybody at the grocery store has a phone chatting away as he or she picks up some groceries. Or how half the people who come through a stoplight have telephones pressed against their ears. We are a nation connected. And some can connect to the web on their cell phones, but not me. I figure I’ll hang back on that modern advance a bit longer. Besides I don’t have anything earth-shaking to say. Certainly nothing that you can’t wait a few more hours to read. I put all those kind of words (the kind you have to read right away) into my books. At least I’d like to have those kinds of words in my books.

Virginia Smith and I had our booksigning at JosephBeth Booksellers in Lexington on Thursday night. Thank you to all my friends who came by. And Ginny’s friends too. We didn’t do a reading as we had planned because somehow the contact at the store thought we weren’t speaking and so we ended up just talking to everybody one on one. Ginny kept telling folks I was going to entertain by dancing the two-step or soft shoe or something. That would have had people laughing, but I’m not sure about entertained.

I missed out on the dancing gene, although I used to have a dog that would dance when he came to greet me whenever I’d come home. I have done a few doggie dance steps with him just to encourage him. Tate’s passed on to dance in doggie heaven now. He’d also smile, but the dancing was what everybody liked to see him do the most. Or maybe they just liked to see me doing those dog steps. Anyway, there weren’t any dogs dancing at JosephBeth’s so neither did I. Laughing – that we did do. Even signed a few copies of The Outsider, Orchard of Hope, and Summer of Joy too. Ginny’s book, The Taste of Murder, is hot off the press, just released last week. To her delight, she’s already spotted it in Wal-Mart. She set the book in Owensboro, KY where they have the great barbecue. At least I think that’s what I overheard her telling people. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. But she does have a newly designed website, http://www.virginiasmith.org/ where you can check out all her books. She says she posted a picture of us on there too, but I haven’t had the nerve to go look at it yet.

Also several local papers in Kentucky picked up the article Don White, who used to be the editor of our local paper, wrote about me. Don's writing human interest pieces now about people he meets who have some kind of Kentucky connection. Believe me, he's written about a lot more interesting people than me. You can check his stories out at www.thekytraveler.com. I saw the article about me that was in the Danville Advocate, but he says maybe twelve or thirteen papers across the state picked it up. Not the local paper here in Anderson County. I think they’re tired of printing articles about me. They did a piece on me back in February when Summer of Joy came out.

I never could get them to do the article about my Hollyhill books that I pitched to them. Since I based so much of Hollyhill on my local town, Lawrenceburg, I thought it would be fun to really zero in on that as a hook, but the newspaper reporter wasn’t a long time Lawrenceburg resident and he just didn’t see the appeal to that. I still think it would be a fun article. “Lawrenceburg Stars in Author’s Hollyhill Stories.” Or something along those lines. Oh well. Maybe they were afraid I'd made everybody in Lawrenceburg sound like they were from Jupiter like Wes. If you haven't read my Hollyhill books you won't know what in the world (or Jupiter) I'm talking about. Sorry, you'll just have to read the books to find out.

And now the Shakers are the stars in my new books. I’m knee deep in making a few changes to keep my editor happy with my new Shaker book, The Believer. Nothing major, thank goodness. Just a tweak here and there. And I got the proof of the final cover last week. It’s sort of like the last one with the girl and guy in the front with some Shaker buildings in behind. I like it. I’ll post it on my website as soon as I know a publication date. I’m thinking next summer, but I don’t know that for sure yet. Guess I should ask. Sometimes I just expect to get all the info without ever asking.

The next week is a busy one. Aren’t they all anymore? And can you believe it’s almost November? You realize what month comes after November. I’d better be marking off some time on my calendar to go shopping for all those grandbabies. But this week the Patriots are having their Homecoming on Friday and Saturday nights. That’s always fun. If you’re in the area, check out their website, http://www.patriotquartet.com for more details. And then I’ve been telling people I’m going to be in Indiana on Saturday (a booksigning at Heaven Help Us Bookstore in New Albany at 11:30 a.m.), West Virginia on Sunday (the baby dedication day for the twins at my son’s church), and Tennessee on Monday (a trip to the mountains with Darrell’s brothers and sister and spouses – we’ll have a blast.) Actually I’m not usually so busy. But this all sounds like fun. Hope all your busiest days are fun. And if they are tell us about them. I enjoy reading your comments and I like getting e-mails from you readers. You can contact me privately from my web page if you want.

Oh yeah, and I’ll be drawing for the winner of my Hollyhill books on Halloween day. Guess it’ll be a trick or treat time. So if you haven’t signed up for the drawing, send me an e-mail in the next couple of weeks. I have a dial tone now so I'll get your messages. Thank goodness. I was worried I was going to have to call that machine woman at the telephone company again. You know, the one with the soft voice that says please say yes or no in answer to all my questions. Of course, she does usually ask easy questions. Yes? Or no?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Country Church Revival

We just got home from the last night of our revival at Goshen. How many of your churches still have revivals? I'll guess they aren't like the revivals of old. I've been told of two week revivals, but since I've been faithfully attending Goshen, revivals started on Monday with the evangelist and went through the next Sunday. And we never skipped Saturday night. But then things started to change. People got busy with five hundred and six things and revival meetings ended up ranking about five hundred and seven. So churches around here started having three or four day revivals. Some churches have a different speaker every night. Some churches tried mid-day meetings and offered to feed the comers lunch. We tried having supper before services a few years back. We had ice cream and cookies tonight because we're an "eating meeting" church.

But you know what? It's better when people call us a "praying" church. Or a "spirit led" church. That's what Br. Fred, our pastor, wanted for us this revival. He wanted it to be a spiritual renewal time, and it may have been for most of us. There were no decisions at the altar, but surely there were many decisions of the heart. If any of us step closer to the purpose the Lord has for our lives, then we can claim a spiritual revival.

But a revival such as they had of old? I don't think we had that. Nobody suggested keeping the meetings going another night. I've heard of revival meetings that continued on for weeks and months. People didn't want to stop meeting. They weren't tired of hearing the gospel. Do you think we're tired of hearing the gospel now? Or are we just concerned about getting back to those other five hundred and six things we need to do?

I came across a quote a few years ago that I often repeat to myself. As usual, I had to go out on the net to get it exactly right. I remember things in general terms and I'm not too good at word for word quotes. But I found it. I remembered it was Thoreau which helped in my search. So here it is.

"It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?" ...Henry David Thoreau

That's a question I ask myself often when I seem to be spinning in place, so busy I don't have time to think or get half what I think I need to get done finished. I have to remind myself to be busy about the right things when I'm writing or when it comes to my family. A church can be the same. Busy with a thousand activities, but we need to be busy about what the Lord wants us to be busy about. And realizing that can be hard.

Gee, guys, I didn't aim to preach at you, but looks like I might have. I promise to find something funny for next Wednesday. Talk to you Saturday or Sunday. I'll tell you how things go at the Joseph-Beth Bookstore's booksigning with Virginia Smith. We had been planning to do some speaking about our books, but J-Beth's people thought we weren't. So now I don't know if we are or we aren't. If you come to hear talking, we'll do the talking one on one. How about that? Hope to see some of you there.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Wild and Wonderful West Virginia Book Festival

Well, it's Sunday night, and I'm trying to wind down from a way too busy week. But it promises to be that way all this month. I knew October was going to be extra busy. We're having revival at church through Wednesday and then my booksigning at Joseph-Beth's Booksellers in Lexington with Virginia Smith is this Thursday night. I hope I see some of you there.

That's just what's going on this week. I won't even think about the rest of the month. Anyway, that's why I was so happy to get my new book, The Believer, finished and off a month before deadline. But alas, while my editor did like the story and gave it thumbs up, she also wants a few changes. (Heavy sigh!) Actually her suggested changes aren't all that bad. The really bad part is that I had a couple of questions about the same things she's questioning now and I let it slide right on past me. That's not working the way I want to work. I was just so happy to be finished that I didn't want to see those little minor problems that I could have fixed to make the story better before I sent it in to the editor. Of course, who knows? Maybe then she would have found something else to need fixing. I've heard of some people - not necessarily writers, but anyone who has to write a proposal or draft for someone else's approval - leaving something they know is wrong in the proposal, etc. just so the boss or whoever has to approve it has something to fix. That's not me. I want my stuff fixed as good as I can fix it before anybody else reads it.

Unfortunately nobody is perfect. Certainly not me and that's why there are editors. To help us make our work better. Still I want to be perfect. In my writing at any rate. I know I have no chance of being perfect in my everyday life. I'm always flubbing up something or saying the wrong thing or not getting something that needed to be done finished on time. Praise the Lord for forgiveness. And second and sometimes third chances.

Guess that's what I have with my new book. A second chance to make it more near to perfect. I really don't mind editing - when it's my idea. It's harder when it's the editor's idea, because then I have to shift my thinking over to his or her perspective. Sometimes that's brain strain.

But back to my topic. Wild and wonderful West Virginia. That's the motto on their license plates up there in WV. There is a lot of beautiful country in WV. Mountainous areas, rivers that lend themselves to whitewater rafting, secluded valleys, and lonesome stretches where if you're traveling through on the interstate, you're glad you filled up with gas before you started down the road. And there are some cities. It was the city part I was in Saturday at the West Virginia Book Festival in Charleston, WV. My son's an attorney in Charleston and so I contacted the WV Book Festival committee to beg for a place on the program. Well, I didn't really beg. I asked politely, and they were kind enough to invite me.

My talk was "Writing about Shakers...and Other Odd Characters," and wonder of wonders, some people showed up to listen. I was worried about that. I mean I got up at 4:15 in the morning to drive three hours up there and I was really worried I'd get up there and nobody would come listen. I couldn't see why they would. I mean I'm not exactly famous or any thing. Then my program was at 10 a.m. That's sort of early on Saturday morning. And the sun was shining on a beautiful fall day plus WVU was playing football at noon. On t.v. I was lucky my son showed up to introduce me, seeing as how my granddaughter was playing volleyball at noon as well. But he did show up and did a great job introducing me to the nice group of people who decided to gift me with an hour and half of their time. Most of them seemed to enjoy the talk.

There was one daddy and his eleven-year-old son. The son was the writer. I admired the father supporting him enough to bring him to book events to try to help him learn the ropes. I'm not sure what I said about character development was helpful to him as I had planned my talk with adults in mind. But he made me think of myself at that age. Except I was a closet writer. I would have never had the courage to go out in public and admit to the world that I was a writer. I was, but I wouldn't have been able to say so at age eleven. Not to everybody. So he's ahead of me that way. Plus he said he had a lot of writing opportunities at his school. Not so for me. I used to wish the English teacher would assign themes for homework. I guess I had to come up with my own practice assignments. And as I'm always telling wanna be writers, the best way to learn to write is to read. That's doubly true for young people. It's something I certainly did as a kid. I always had a book in my hand.

But I had a good time in West Virginia and I thank everybody who came. Your kind comments made my day. And then I got to go to my son's house and see the grandbabies - all five of them. The twins are doing great, growing and growing. The two-year-old is having a little trouble adjusting to not being the baby. That's because she's still a baby too. But her mommy and daddy will help her through this adjustment time. That's the thing about a good mama's and daddy's love. It doesn't thin out to cover more children. It just gets thicker all the time until it wraps a warm blanket of love around each and every child.

Hope you have a blanket of love around your shoulders this week. And if you're having great weather the way we are that you'll breath in the great autumn air and enjoy.