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.