Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Hallelujah Story and Proverbs to Live By

Hi, my book, The Outsider, is officially released Friday, but some people have already gotten it and read it. The beautiful young model on the cover is one of those and thank goodness she enjoyed the story. Her mom says she may read it again. I guess that is the supreme compliment a writer can get - for someone to read their book twice. It's good when the readers say they couldn't put the book down once they started reading. It's good when they say they are telling all their friends to read the book. But to say they have read the book twice - that ranks right up there with "I haven't read a book in twenty years but I read yours." Of course I really like to hear from the ones who read a book every week. They're my kind of readers.

The book I've actually gotten the most "I couldn't put it down" comments on is Angels at the Crossroads. That's the true story of my friend, Jerry Shepherd, who went to prison for life as a nineteen-year-old. The Lord kept his hand on Jerry even when he was trying his hardest to run away from anything to do with God. Jerry found the Lord and forgiveness while he was in prison mostly because the Lord kept putting people (we like to think of them as earth angels) in his pathway to help him to a new beginning in life. Even before he got out of prison, Jerry promised he would tell his story whenever he got a chance to try to help others make the right choices instead of the wrong choices the way he did as a young person. That's why we wrote the book. That's why he goes out and gives his testimony. He told his story this last Sunday morning at his home church in Burgin to over 300 people. He said 12 people made decisions for the Lord. Now that's a hallelujah! He has a tremendous testimony and an amazing story of grace.

But on to my Wednesday hodgepodge of quotes this week. Hope one of them makes you smile or gets you going anew on your current project or just makes you nod and agree with the timeless wisdom.

  • Be humble for you are made of earth. Be noble for you are made of stars. - Serbian proverb
  • Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you. - Maori proverb
  • At the end of the game, the king and the pawn go back in the same box. - Italian proverb
  • The older the fiddle, the sweeter the tune. - Irish proverb
  • Vision without action is daydream. Action without vision is nightmare. -Japanese proverb
  • He who is outside his door has the hardest part of his journey behind him. - Flemish proverb
  • When two elephants fight it is the grass that suffers. - African proverb
  • Blessed is the man who can laugh at himself, for he will never cease to be amused. - Proverb found in many cultures.
Have a great rest of the week.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A New Book in the Mail

Another busy Saturday with an even busier Sunday coming up - maybe. The Sunday School kids couldn't make it for the Panther Rock walk last week, so maybe they'll want to go this week. It's a good thing we didn't go last week because we had a gully washer about 3 p.m. We'd have been way down the creek by then and would have gotten WET. Of course the kids wouldn't have cared. They would have already jumped in the creek by then anyway. But somehow getting rained on is different than getting wet in a creek or pool. Of course when I was a little girl we went out and played in the rain when there was no thunder and lightning. We had great fun getting soaked and running through puddles. It was the closest we ever came to playing in a sprinkler.

So we may do the walk again. Then my son and family are coming out to try to get one more gallon of blackberries for some more jam. He got back from his business trip to China on Wednesday. Just in time. His kids were really missing him. The little two-year-old kept saying she'd "lost" her daddy. Anyway to let him know he's back on home ground here in Kentucky, I'll let him climb into all the worst brambles this time to find those biggest berries, because of course, that's where all the best ones are. School starts around here in about ten days so the grandkids are going to spend the night. So now you see why I'm blogging tonight. We'll be busy tomorrow night. Those little rascals like to go to bed late and get up early when they're at "Grammy Camp."

I didn't have a grandmother who spoiled me rotten when I was a little girl, but I did have an aunt who stepped in to that spot. We spent the night with her every Friday and she loved us without boundaries. She cooked us hotdogs (a rare treat for us when I was a kid) and bought us soft drinks. Sometimes she let us make Brown Cows (ice cream and coke). I didn't really like it, but it was fun to make. She had an old Underwood typewriter she let us type on. I typed "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog" a zillion times. Perhaps that was the beginning of me thinking I could be a writer. I still miss Bond and she's been gone now for forty years. I don't suppose we ever really stop missing the ones we love. We carry them in our heart and the love they had for us somehow stays with us and makes us stronger.

You'll be happy to know I got my copies of The Outsider Friday. The publishers got them out to me ASAP after I called to let them know they hadn't arrived. I knew they hadn't really lost my address. ;o) So, Donna and Jane, the books you won in my book give-away are in the mail to you. I've been giving books away right and left to family. At this rate, I'll have to order more next week. But that's okay.

It's always fun getting a new book. This is my eighteenth (I think) and it was just as exciting as the second one. Note, I didn't say the first one. Holding that very first published book in your hands is extra special. Of course it was so long between books before The Scent of Lilacs was published that getting that book was about the same as seeing the first one back in 1978. There had been black months in those unpublished years when I wasn't sure I'd ever see another of my books in print. And then I decided to write about a preacher and his daughter and discovered a whole new group of readers. A great group of readers. I'm glad the Lord put Jocie's story into my head. I just wish I had dived into the inspirational market a few years earlier than I did. But you know, I can't go back and do over yesterday. I just have today with hope for tomorrow.

I wish you a great today and an even better tomorrow. If you get The Outsider and read it, let me know what you think. Write me a review on Amazon if you take a notion. I've already received one e-mail from a lady who has already read The Outsider. And liked it, thank goodness. Talk to you Wednesday with some inspirational quotes this week. Quotes to keep you hanging in there and working toward your dream.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

And the Winner Is..

I went bookstore visiting Monday since I was in Lexington for an appointment anyway. You know with gas prices you can't just go somewhere without two or three good reasons, can you? Anyway my new book, The Outsider, was already on the shelves in a couple of stores. That was good. What's not so good is that I still don't have any copies, so this big book giveaway I was advertising as "get your advance copy" turns out to be false advertising. Sorry about that, guys! I always got my books early before. Anyway I did the drawing today and decided to draw two winners to try to make up for being later having the book to send out than I expected. The winners are Donna from North Carolina and Jane from Missouri. I'll get autographed books out to them as soon as possible. The person I spoke with at the publisher today said she'd get my books to me ASAP. They had been put in the computer as "back ordered." I don't even want to try to figure out what that could mean. At least they hadn't really lost my address...I don't think.
Thanks to all of you who entered my drawing. I'll be thinking up something new to give away in September. Maybe somebody else's book plus your choice of one of mine. So if you didn't win this time, maybe next one.

Now to the usual mid-week entry. I came across this poem by Emily Dickinson. That's a little different entry for me, but I found the information that Emily Dickinson who lived from 1830 to 1886 was such a private person that only seven of her 1,800 poems were published during her lifetime. But this poem about hope is surely one written by a poet for writers.

Hope Is the Thing with Feathers
by Emily Dickinson

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard:
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chilliest land
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.


Talk with you this weekend.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Picking Blackberries and Other Berry Picking Stories

It's Saturday night and I'm bushed. I usually don't sign on to let you know what's going on in my life out here on the farm until Sunday, but tomorrow promises to be one of those days when there's no time for blog reflections. The guys are singing at the Mercer County Fair in Harrodsburg tomorrow night, so I'm hoping to go hear them. And of course I'll be going to church in the morning and then if it doesn't look stormy my Sunday School kids are supposed to come home with me to take our once or twice a year walk to Panther Rock. They have a blast playing in the creek and crawling over the rocks. This is our third Sunday to try it. Both the other Sundays the weathermen have predicted storms. Both Sundays it was cloudy till after church and then after we'd postponed the adventure, the sun came out and the afternoons turned out to be great. Probably will rain on us whenever we do get down on the creek. Now that was definitely a glass half empty comment, wasn't it? I'll have to go back and read my quotes on optimism again.

The reason I'm so bushed is it's hot here today. In the nineties, and I decided - in the hottest part of the day - that I'd better pick the beans in the garden before they grew too big. I was just finishing up when my daughter-in-law (not the one expecting twins, the other one) brought the kids out to go blackberry picking. She wanted to get enough berries to make jam. I took them to the easy patches, but I think the deer have been beating us to the berries. They must like the easy patches too. And then the kids wanted to eat all they picked. The littlest one who is two kept saying she wanted to pick out of my bucket. We finally found almost a gallon, but they didn't have time to go to the patch in the pasture field. So after they left, I decided I was already hot and sweaty and itchy and scratched up so I might as well get more so. I went back. I must have been too hot to think straight.

Any of you ever pick blackberries out in the field where the vines grow over your head and there are mysterious paths tunneling through the bushes? If so, you know that's where the biggest and best blackberries grow. But you also know there could be snakes under there or even crawling along the top of the briars. The stickers don't seem to bother them much. I've decided I'm a Kamikaze blackberry picker. Show me a big plump berry and I'll mash down briars, stick my hand through prickly vines, and do whatever it takes to go after that berry. Then when I finally stretch as far as I can and have my fingers on that delicious berry, half the time I drop it. Or it's too ripe and the June bugs have already beat me to it. All that pain for naught. I haven't really figured out yet why I do it. I could just stay away from those patches and be oblivious to all those berries going to waste, but I go out hunting them. I must like picking berries. You know, finding my food out in the wild, beating the deer and birds to them, challenging the snakes.

Darrell told me he saw that someone was selling wild blackberries for $8 a quart. That sounds like a lot, but I wouldn't pick them for $8. Not for anybody else. We have bosenberries in our backyard. The vines aren't doing good this year, but I've picked a lot of bosenberries in years past and those briars are way worse than blackberries. They lay in wait for you and grab you even when you think you're way out of reach. Don't ask me how. I think they're possessed. Anyway I tell people I only pick those berries for people I love. A lot.

Going berry picking to make jam made me think of the book I finished a few weeks ago. Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen. I talked about sitting by the author, Susan Gregg Gilmore at the Blue Grass Book Festival in one of my May blogs and how the title pulled people in. Her books practically hopped up into their hands, and most of them didn't put it back down. I finally had time to read the copy that hopped up into my hands. The story is just as good as the title. It's about the daughter of a preacher (Yeah, I know. Just like mine.) and who lives in a small town (again just like mine) and can't wait to leave the small town and go out into the big world. (Not like Jocie in mine. Jocie loves Hollyhill. It'll be hard for her when she has to leave.) Susan's heroine, Catherine Grace, does leave town as soon as she reaches 18, but she finds out that maybe she left behind too much of her heart. But the reason my berry picking brought the story to mind is that in the book, she and her sister pick strawberries and sell strawberry jam to make money for their big escape from their small town. See where berry picking can take you. Check out Susan's book on her website, www.susangregggilmore.com. This is her first novel but she put in her years learning to write as a newspaper reporter. She learned well. Her book is even on the high school reading list for the old high school she attended. How neat is that! I'd just be happy if all my old high school buddies wanted to read my books. And I'm lucky enough that some of them do.

I've gone ahead and scheduled the book launch for The Outsider at Corinth Bookstore in Frankfort, Kentucky for August 1. I just know it's going to make those twins decide to come early, but we're taking a chance. I'm looking forward to having my book out and my daughter-in-law is looking forward to having those twins out where somebody else can carry them around for a while. LOL Hope if you're in the area you'll come out to my book launch. It's at 7 p.m. Friday night, August 1. I'll be talking about my new book, answering questions and signing copies of the book for anyone who wants to take one home. Then the next day I'll be at Paul Sawyier Library in Frankfort, KY at A Gathering of Authors. I'll have all my recent books available there. Come by and see me if you're in the area.

Hope you have a great week. And get out there and pick some blackberries. It's probably good for the Southern soul. If you put them in a cobbler they taste good for sure.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Enjoy your Summer Days

Here are those rest and relaxation in the middle of summer time quotes I promised.

"Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time." - Sir John Lubbock

Sir John sounds as if he knew how to focus in on the important moments of life. Of course I'd have to have bug spray or I'd be busy the next day scratching chiggers. Oh yeah, and if I didn't sneak off and leave my dog behind, he'd be right in my face licking me or sitting on top of me. A big 95 pound lab sitting on you doesn't lend itself to relaxation. But it does sound like a delicious afternoon's pasttime.

Here's the next one. It's from a "Sir" too. Guess they had the leisure to think about leisure.

"Let us not hurry so in our pace of living that we lose sight of the art of living." - Sir Frances Bacon

I'm trying not to do that. I'm trying to remember to enjoy the precious present. A moment with a grandchild. A new flower in the pasture. Those white clouds Sir John was talking about chasing across a blue sky. Hope you have a restful week and enjoy the moment that you are in. I love summer even when it's hot. But then I love Spring and Fall and even Winter. And I'm going to love August this year. See, here I am hurrying on past July, but I'm anxious to have my new book, The Outsider, out on the store shelves or maybe I should say in readers' hands. And I'm anxious to hold my new twin grandsons. Who wouldn't look forward to August with those kinds of promises waiting? But I won't hurry it along. I won't need to. The days hurry by fast enough on their own. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Loving Church Family

Hi, everybody. Here it is Sunday again. Do you ever feel like the weeks are only three days long instead of seven? I know one thing - I try to shoehorn in about ten days of work into those seven days and it's going to get worse for me before it gets better on the work front. The garden is coming on with bushels of beans and there are blackberries out in the field. I love blackberry jam, but those berries don't jump in the pot by themselves. Then I still have that deadline for my next Shaker book, tentatively titled The Believer, flashing up in front of my panicked mind every once in a while. Actually I'm not panicked yet, but I can imagine getting there. My goal is to have the first draft finished this month, but I rarely ever meet my writing quota goals. Probably because I don't set realistic ones. I always think I'm a faster writer than I actually am. But with this book, I need to hit my goals or at least stay very close to them because the twins are on their way. About three weeks away or so my daughter-in-law hopes.

The doctors measured them last Thursday as they can now before they are born with their magical instruments. Their measurements had the babies weighing 4 lbs 11 oz each. That's a lot of babies to be carrying around for three more weeks or longer. Needless to say my daughter-in-law is tired and feeling heavy and ready to have those twins discover America! We're all anxious to see our newest family members, but it will be better for them if they wait a few more weeks.

At any rate their birthday still promises to come about the same time as the release date for my new book, The Outsider, August 1. I'm looking forward to that too. It seems to be selling well prior to publication. I can only hope and pray that all the readers who are ready to take a chance on the story will be happy they chose my story to read. The Shakers were an odd group with so many contradictory ways, but yet you have to admire their devotion and their ability to create communities that demonstrated their idea of heaven on earth and to keep them going for years as a celibate people who had to get all their converts from the "world" they so wanted to shut away from them. Romantic Times Book Review Magazine gave the book a great review and chose it as one of the "Top Picks!" for Christian fiction. That was good news. I can't keep from reading reviews and taking whatever the reviewer said to heart, so it's good when the reviewer has good things to say. Makes me second guess myself if someone doesn't like my story or my writing. It shouldn't, because we can't expect everyone to have the same point of view or like the same kinds of stories. Still... as a writer, I want everybody to like my stories. I might not really expect that to happen, but I do want it to happen.

I've gotten far afield as I often do when I'm journaling. Our preacher calls it chasing rabbits. I start at point A and before I take a breath, I've zigzagged to point G or maybe point T or even point Z. But what I planned to write about when I started was my church family. I dedicated The Outsider to my brothers and sisters in Christ at Goshen Church. We're a little church and I do mean little. A big crowd for us is anything over 50 and we have dipped lots lower than that. This was one of those dipping mornings when we didn't quite have 25 there. It's been months since we were that low, but everybody was doing something else today or not feeling well. But we had what we call an "eatin' meeting," a potluck meal with yummy homecooking and time for fellowship. We have lots of those meetings and it helps us grow closer as a church family. But as any family does, we also have our conflicts and this or that person will fall away because of hurt feelings or personal problems. That might not be noticed so much in a big church with hundreds, even thousands of attendees, but boy, we notice it at our church and we miss those brothers or sisters who for this reason or that stop coming. And we rejoice when they step back into our fellowship.

My church family has always been loving and supportive of me and my writing and that's why I dedicated this new book about the Shakers, a different kind of religious family, to the many brothers and sisters in Christ with whom I have shared worship over the many years I have been going to Goshen. A lot of great Christian people who set good examples of faithfulness for me as a young Christian have moved on up to heaven. Others moved out of our church community and others are still there at Goshen. I love a small church like Goshen where everybody is family and we enjoy eating and praying together. I hope you all have a church family just as loving.

Enjoy the week. Maybe I'll put some quotes on this week about relaxing. Believe me, that's advice I need. :)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Good-bye Tribute to Hank and Other Good Dogs

We just got home from helping our daughter-in-law and grandkids bury their dog, Hank. He was 16 years old and my daughter-in-law found him as a stray before she and my son got married. My son is away on business and last night something happened to Hank and he couldn't walk right this morning. Probably a brain tumor or a stroke. So she had to take him to the vet to be put down. The grandkids, ages 8, 6, & 2, have never known life without Hank, so they were very sad. But Hank was a good dog who accepted them into his family with joy when each of them were born and loved them without reservations. So my quotes this week are in honor of good dogs like Hank everywhere.

"Puppies are nature's remedy for feeling unloved." Richard Allan Palm

"Humankind is drawn to dogs because they are so like ourselves - bumbling, affectionate, confused, easily disappointed, eager to be amused, grateful for kindness and the least attention." Pam Brown

"When we leap, we must leap as though the net will appear. A leap in life, however big or small, is an act of commitment with the expectation of success." John O'Hurley from his book It's Okay to Miss the Bed on the First Jump and Other Lessons I Learned from Dogs

And last is my own - "Life is better with a dog who knows you are absolutely, for sure, his human."

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Independence Day Weekend - God Bless America!

Hi everybody. Hope you had a great Fourth of July with picnics and fireworks and fun as you celebrated our nation's freedom. In our church bulletin today I put a quote from Pearl S. Buck "None who have always been free can understand the terrible fascination power of the hope of freedom to those who are not free." And that's right. We're so free that we never think about it. Not really. Not the way those who don't have our freedoms surely think about freedom.

We can do and say whatever we want - within the limits of the law, of course. We can choose our own professions. We can quit one job and find another. We can move to whatever community we want to. We can complain about the government without fear of reprisal. And boy, do we ever do that - complain about the government. But maybe that's good. Maybe that means we will never be satisfied with things as they are. We will always be growing as a people, as a nation.

But we can't forget that freedom is not free. Many men and women have given their lives in service to our country to keep our freedoms and to help people in other countries keep their freedoms. We have soldiers right now in harm's way who need our prayers as they serve our country. What better time than Independence Day to recognize and honor our veterans and those who are serving now. So don't be ashamed of that tear in your eye when you hear the "Star Spangled Banner." Let's wave the flag and count our blessings as an American. God bless America!

My husband's Southern Gospel Quartet is called the Patriot Quartet, and since they chose that name, they have made it a practice to sing some patriotic songs in all their concerts as they do their best to stand for God and country. They even titled one of their recordings that - "Standing for God and Country." Their patriotic songs celebrate our freedom as Americans and also our freedom as Christians. You can check out their songs on their website, http://www.patriotquartet.com/. They have some good ones.

They were singing at Fort Harrod in Harrodsburg, Kentucky last night and had a great crowd come out to hear some of those patriotic songs. But there were some unexpected guests that weren't as thrilled with their music while they were warming up and setting the sound system prior to the concert. Bats kept falling out of the upper reaches. I guess the high tenor notes were getting to them. Or maybe it was my husband's low notes. I'm not sure what frequency bats are on, but whatever these were on, the guys' singing was messing it up. Thank goodness and the Lord no bats came down to visit after the people started coming in. We might have heard some high tenor notes from some people besides the Patriot's tenor singer.

The quartet had three really good concerts this weekend and enjoyed singing on a weekend when they could showcase their patriotism and their patriotic songs.

I'm back to work tomorrow on my next Shaker book. The words were coming hard last week. I keep telling myself I need to make the turn for home. Nobody likes a book that goes on and on and forgets to end. So I think I'm turning for home. I hope I'm turning for home because if I'm not I'm going to have to weed out some of these words that I'm struggling so hard to plant on the paper or computer screen. Of course it's way easy to delete words on the computer. Hit a couple of keys and oops! It's all gone. And that's always when you don't want it to be all gone. Of course you can recover it. Can't you? Oh, not if you hit that other wrong key. I did a little of that last week. Just a paragraph's worth, but it was a good paragraph. I'm sure it was. But I couldn't find its echo in my head, so I just had to write a new one. I tried to imagine it was better. You know, writer's are supposed to have good imaginations.

Hope you have a great week with imaginings that bring you smiles and wonders.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

A New Book Makes an Optimist out of any Writer

Are you a glass half full or half empty type of person? I want to alway see my glass as half full and the truth of the matter is that my cup is most always running over and as someone more poetic than me once said, "I'm drinking out of the saucer." I read another take on that from another wise person. That person said if your cup is running over, set it in somebody else's saucer for a while. Blessings are to be shared.

So I'm sharing one with you today. I got my first copy of The Outsider in the mail today. It's always an exciting moment when a writer holds that finished book in her hand and imagines that lots and lots of people are going to do the same. That they're going to read my book and enjoy my story and love my characters. At least the ones they're supposed to love. That's the optimist in a writer. And I can stay optimistic for several months before I actually know for sure how the book is selling. Actually I think the cover on The Outsider is so great that it may sell the book all by itself. The model is beautiful just as Gabrielle in the book is beautiful and in another odd coincidence her name is Tasha (I think) Schmidt and my daughter's married name is Tarasa Schmidt. Plus Tarasa could have modeled for Gabrielle too. She's just as beautiful.

But now back to the optimist theme I'm supposed to be writing about. Here are some fun and wise sayings about optimism.

  • An optimist is a man who, instead of feeling sorry he cannot pay his bills, is glad he is not one of his creditors.
  • Optimism: A cheerful frame of mind that enables a teakettle to sing though in hot water up to its nose.
  • Since the house is on fire let us warm ourselves. Italian saying
  • If you count the sunny and the cloudy days of the whole year, you will find that the sunshine predominates. (But maybe not in February in Kentucky. Tarasa counted one year.)
  • An optimist is one who believes that a fly is looking for a way to get out.
  • An optimist is one who sends a package by parcel post and marks it "rush."

Hope you have a running over cup of optimism this week. Talk to you this weekend. And I'll probably be getting more of my books next week so I'll be doing my drawing then for the copy of The Outsider. Still time to get in the drawing if you send me an e-mail. If you're a true optimist you'll think you're going to win, and if I'm a true optimist, I'll think you'll buy the book anyway even if you don't win the drawing. ;)