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.