Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2010!! Can You Believe It?

2010 sounds like a title of a sci-fi book. Maybe it has been the title of a sci-fi book. And you know if you had written a book twenty or thirty years ago about all the things we do in 2009 it would have sounded like a sci-fi book. We have Facebook friends we talk to via computers. We want to find out about something, we "google" it. There's not much demand for door-to-door encyclopedia salesmen these days. Drone aircraft drop bombs on our enemies without the need for a pilot to be aboard. Robots build our cars. We drive up to square piggy bank machines that spit out cash when we insert a little card into them and punch some buttons. We can hold a little book shaped gizmo in our hands and read a book without every turning a page. We put our music on something smaller than a deck of cards. We walk around with a phone to our ears or if we're of the younger generation, type out messages on a tiny screen without having to say a word. And check the weather forecast on those phones or the movie times. We take kidneys, hearts and various other parts from one person and put them in another without the first thought of that being strange. We can make puppy dogs that glow and sheep and cats that are clones. The DNA from a hair or drop of blood can tie someone to a crime or prove he's innocent after fifteen years.
~~Twenty ten. Two thousand ten. Ten. We're entering the second decade in the Twenty-first Century. I had to get up and find a piece of chocolate to keep that from being too depressing. Not really. The chocolate, yes. Any excuse for chocolate. The depressing, no. I have a calendar of daily quotes and one of them reads, "Life is like an exciting book, and every year starts a new chapter." I like starting new chapters in exciting books, don't you? So 2010 here we come.
~~And on the way are you going to make any New Year's resolutions? I've got some I could make. Use my time more wisely. Grow as a person (spiritually, not in the waistline!) and grow as a writer. Write more. Write better. Write right.
~~Write right - that's what I'm trying to do now as I finish up the edits on my new book, The Seeker. I think I could work it over a hundred times and still see some things I might do better. So I'm trying to vary my words, make them flow smooth and easy so that anyone who reads my story won't notice the words at all. Only the story I'm trying to tell about Charlotte and Adam. Most people don't realize how much a story has be polished and worked over before it ever makes it out onto a bookstore shelf. So I'm doing some of that polishing now. Not a bad way to finish out a year. Then next year I can dive back into my work in progress and figure out what happens next to those characters.
~~Hope your year ahead is chock full and overflowing with all the best blessings and that you'll find lots of good books to read as we head out through the teen decade toward 2020. Talk about a sci-fi title!! But we've got a few exciting chapters to go before we get there. Enjoy! And thanks for reading.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Hanging on to the Christmas Spirit


~~Do you think it's possible to hang on to the Christmas Spirit once all the wrapping has been pulled off the gifts? When you think if you ever see another piece of candy it will be too soon and the Christmas punch has turned sour. When the thought of another ham sandwich makes you cringe while pizza is sounding like your favorite dish. When the tree starts shedding needles like a dog shaking off raindrops and (this one's the worst of all) the bills start coming in the mail. Christmas is over and we're looking January square in the eye.
~~Ahh January!! A time for looking forward with new hope and plans and determination. And also the time when the Christmas Spirit can slip away from us as we face the grim gray days of winter and wait for the violets to bloom. And yet if we can only carry along a handful or two, maybe even a couple of pinches of that Christmas Spirit that helped you keep smiling even when you had a million things to do and the lines at the grocery store were ten deep at every check-out counter, then the winter days, every day will be brighter.
~~What is Christmas Spirit? Is it two spoons of starlight and a shake or two of angels singing in the night? Is it a cupful of rejoicing and a generous measure of love? Let's throw in several generous measures of love. We need them.
~~The week after Christmas is a good time for those generous measures of love. Especially when bad news seems to keep knocking on our door. That seems to happen often. We get so high up as we anticipate and try to prepare for a perfect Christmas with our families. And of course a perfect Christmas isn't possible. When you look at it, Mary and Joseph probably wouldn't have called that first Christmas in Bethlehem perfect. Far from it. Having to be miles from home just as you're about to have a baby. Sleeping in a manger with the cattle and donkeys. And oh yeah, while you're having a baby. Strangers intruding on your little family circle. Again right after you had a baby and because angels told them to come. How many of us would believe that one? Of course, Mary had an advantage on us there since she'd been visited by one of those angels. And she pondered all those things in her heart.
~~Maybe that's how we can carry forth the Christmas spirit. By pondering in our hearts why we celebrate Christmas. By dwelling on the love that makes Christmas glow. By knowing the Lord will walk with us through the valleys ahead and rejoice with us on all our mountain tops.
~~So take a handful or two of that Christmas spirit and stick it in your pocket to carry into the new year with you so that you can pull out a smidgen now and again to remind yourself of the power of love. John 3:16 - love in its purest form.
~~And if that Christmas spirit leads you to, say a prayer for our little niece, Kaelyn, who was diagnosed with acute leukemia four days before Christmas and is now undergoing aggressive treatment at St. Jude's. She's had a couple of better nights according to her mother. The treatments have been making Kaelyn very sick and also causing her a great deal of pain. So your prayers for her and her family are appreciated and coveted.
~~Thanks for reading. I'm thankful for each and every one of you.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My Favorite Gifts


These are my favorite Christmas gifts. Nine beautiful grandchildren under the tree. For the last several years we've added a new baby in the family every year or almost every year and I always take a picture of the new baby sitting in front of the Christmas tree. Grammy's favorite gift. So this year we got all the kids to slow down long enough to take this great shot. And believe me, getting nine to sit still in the same area long enough to snap a picture is not all that easy. And then to have none of them crying - that's plain amazing. I've got a picture from a long time back of my two oldest kids and their cousins and everybody but my daughter is crying. Two of the girl cousins were fighting over a stuffed bear. Another baby cousin was crying for his mama. My son was crying because he didn't want to sit there and my daughter is staring up with these huge eyes as if wondering what the heck is going on. But you know, it's a great shot. I smile every time I see it. Of course, I'll smile everytime I see this one too with all these sweet faces waiting for Christmas to hurry up. That's the magic key to getting the picture. We promised they could open presents just as soon as we got the picture. Now you know why they're smiling.
~~We had Christmas here at the farm for the kids last Saturday for the kids. At least the two who were able to get here. The snowstorm south and east of us kept my daughter and her husband from coming. The roads were awful between here and there. We missed them, but the party went on. The WV son and family came early to get ahead of the bad weather and by the time they went home the roads were clear. They're still playing in the snow and all we have here is mud. Plenty of that though.
~~The kids had fun playing together and tearing into their gifts. Both the little kids and the big kids. Do we every outgrow the anticipation of opening a nicely wrapped gift? One of my granddaughters has an almost Christmas birthday so we always have her birthday party first. She was four and has become a Spiderman fan. I think her favorite gift was some Spiderman pjs I went shopping in the boys' department and bought for her. She went and put them on right away and wore them the rest of the day.
~~Then on Sunday as I was expecting to settle in to enjoy the rest of the family get-togethers with our extended families and hoping to see our daughter the weekend after Christmas for a late celebration, things started going haywire. Darrell came in from one of the Patriots' concerts with a stomach bug Sunday and was yuckily sick all night. A granddaughter and daughter-in-law came down with it at about the same time. On the news Monday morning, I heard that my preacher's son's apartment was destroyed by fire. They got out with nothing but what they had on. Then later in the day we got the worst news. Our little great niece, Kaelyn, was diagnosed with leukemia. Suddenly stomach bugs seemed pretty minor. Kaelyn is a beautiful little girl, five years old, who has an active imagination and a sweet spirit. She's already starting aggressive chemo treatments at St. Jude's. And hundreds of people are praying for her. How quickly we were all reminded of what matters most in life.
~~I hope you each and everyone can celebrate the joy in your life on Christmas morning as you rejoice in the birth of the Savior. That is something that always matters and when you believe that, you never face hard times alone. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Ten Best Things about Christmas


People are always doing lists. I do lists too, but mostly about things I don't want to forget. You know, chores-to-do lists. Grocery lists. Christmas card lists. Gift ideas lists. Birthday lists. One late night comedian has made his lists of ten a big part of his comedy. So I thought I'd jump in on the idea. The ten best things about Christmas. Feel free to add your best things.
10. People do book giveaways.
What a lead in! Over on http://continuousdelights.blogspot.com/ the blogger, Carman is doing a drawing to give away my book, The Believer. All you have to do is leave a comment on the interview she did with me. To see the interview go to Carman's blog and click on The Believer's book cover. That will link to my interview. One thing she asked me is what could I tell readers that they might not know about me already. Well, I'm sure there are lots of things, but if you want to know which things I picked, you can go check out the interview. Then leave a comment and be in on the chance to win a book. Something free at Christmas time is always good.
9. Christmas lights decorating everybody's houses. Everybody's but mine. Oh, you might be able to see the lights of my Christmas tree through the window, but I've never strung lights up on the eaves. I know I'd be one of those people who didn't get them taken down until June or something.
8. Shopping. I can't believe I said that. I hate to shop - except in bookstores. Christmas gives me a great excuse to spend a few hours browsing shelves in bookstores to try to find books for my family that they might not have read yet. I ended up bringing home a sack full of books for myself. If you can't buy a few gifts for yourself to reward your shopping efforts, then you might as well stay home.
7. Cookies and punch and all that sweet stuff. We made crackerjacks at my mom's today. She traditionally made crackerjacks and six or seven types of candy at Christmas. She can't do the candy anymore, but I have plenty of good memories of satisfying my sweet tooth with her delicious candy. And we've had punch at Christmas ever since I can remember. OJ and pineapple juice and gingerale and orange sherbert. That just tastes like Christmas to me.
6. Gifts. I like giving gifts to people I love and it's sort of fun getting gifts from those people too. The gifts don't have to be expensive to be good. The best gifts are those that show the person really thought about what you might like.
5. The Christmas Spirit. That's the feeling that has us pitching in our change or a few dollars every time we hear the Salvation Army kettle bell. That's the feeling that keeps us smiling while we're standing in long lines at the stores and exchanging holiday pleasantries with the strangers behind us. That's the feeling that keeps us remembering the true meaning of Christmas.
4. Candlelight Services at churches. We have a great candlelight service at Goshen. Our church is way out in the country and when we turn out the lights, it gets dark. And then the pastor will light the one candle that represents Jesus bringing light into the world. We each then light our candles from the candle representing Jesus to take His light out into the world.
3. Gathering with family and friends. Christmas is a great reason for families to visit. We feast on great food, laugh at old stories and tighten up those family ties that bind us together.
2. The excited sparkle in children's eyes. The anticipation of waiting for Christmas morn as kids put out cookies for Santa and reindeer food for Rudolph, Donder and Blitzen and the rest. It is so much fun watching the little ones have fun. There were some excited kids here yesterday as they tore into their presents. Sometimes I think they enjoy the opening of the packages more than what's in them.
1. Hearing the Christmas story read out of the Bible. Those Bible verses that have been read countless times over the years and that I have heard almost every year of my life still sound fresh and joyful every time I hear them read. "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"
~~I'm sure I overlooked some things, but these are ten of the things I love about Christmas. How about you? I hope you are rejoicing in all the favorite things you love about Christmas.
~~And don't forget to go read my interview and leave a comment at Carman's blog, http://continuousdelights.blogspot.com/ for a chance to win a signed copy of The Believer.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas!!


~I didn't set out to be a Santa collector. It just happened. Mostly because my daughter enjoys finding neat Santas and giving them to me for Christmas. More than half of my Santas have been gifts from her and her husband. It all started many years ago when all the kids were still living at home, none even thinking about getting married. This lady who worked with Darrell made the plump little Santa in the middle or at least painted it for him for Christmas. You might not be able to tell in this picture, but Santa's making a list. In the beginning when Santa was new, that list was five names - mine and Darrell's and the kids. Since then Santa has filled up his list - writing names all down the front and back of that list as our family has grown to include two daughters-in-law, a son-in-law, and nine grandchildren. Along with all those names, Santa has gotten plenty of company on his shelf - Santas of all descriptions. A sleeping Santa. A skiing Santa. Even a UK Santa! There are a few more Santas spread around the room. One's a music box/snow globe combination. Another jiggles and bounces when you touch him, and another is a cookie jar. That's the new one this year. My daughter gave it to me at Thanksgiving.
~It's fun to collect things. Your family likes it because it gives them gift potential. When I was a young girl, I wanted to collect something. My sisters both had some sort of collection, and I felt like I needed to collect something, too. But I could never settle on what. I tried salt and pepper shakers. Then I did souvenir cups and saucers. I'd get two or three of whatever and then couldn't seem to get more. So I'd try something else. Wish I'd collected silver dollars now. I'd probably only been able to get two or three of those too.
~ But maybe what I did collect turned out to be more valuable for me than those silver dollars could have ever been. Stories. That's what I collected. The ones I read and the ones I wrote. All great training for a girl who never wanted to be anything other than a writer.
~And if you could see my bookshelves right now, you'd know that while I may have some Santas, I collect books. Along with a little dust. ;-) I talked to a man once at a book signing who claimed all his cabinets were full of books instead of food. I'm not quite that committed a collector. I like having food in my cabinets, but a stack of books here and there adds personality to a house. Along with the promise of hours of entertainment.
~Then of course there are the boxes of books in my closets and basements with my own by-line. I don't think I can have too many of those books. The more the merrier.
~And the same with my Santas. It's fun to set them out every year and remember where I got this or that one. I had an older sister so I didn't get to play the Santa Christmas game very long as a child. She shared her superior wisdom with me when I was five. So maybe I'm still trying to recapture some of that magic and fun. Of course with the grandkids, Christmas can't help but be fun. Hectic and a little noisy, but fun.
~Don't worry. I haven't forgotten the true reason for the season - the greatest gift, Jesus. We'll be celebrating His birth on Sunday at church with special services, but I'd really like to know the spirit of Christmas every day of the year. May you collect much Christmas joy in the days ahead. Joy and love - now those are some real collectables.
~~P.S. By the way, I think the puppy is going to be a Lucy.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

What's in a name?


~Here's my granddaughter with the puppy I decided to keep from the litter the neighbor's dog had in our garage. She's a very cute puppy and my daughter-in-law named her Latte. Since I have to admit that didn't sound like a puppy name to me, I started calling the pup L.T. But that doesn't fit either, so we're having a puppy naming time in our family. I get the final vote, but the grandkids and everybody else can voice a suggestion. Me and the dog-loving granddaughters have heard and rejected Spot and Pug and Dandy. Cookie is on the table and so is Sadie. We tried a bunch of names out on her yesterday, and she paid absolutely no attention to any of them. "Puppy" still gets her attention some of the time. Especially if I'm opening the dog food bag.
~I like thinking about names. A writer has to do that a lot. There are always people to name in a story and not just the major characters. Everybody has to have a name. Maybe for some of the minor characters, the name won't matter that much, but then sometimes the name is how you get people to bring up a mental image of a character without having to add a lot of details. A Josephine brings forth a different image in a person's imagination that Miranda. Dusty than Wilton. Jake than Jeffrey. So a writer has to think about the character's personality before she hangs a name on him or her.
~I've never actually counted the total number of characters I've had to name in one book, but that might be interesting to know. Then again it might make my mind go completely blank and I wouldn't even be able to think of my own name.
~I've done posts on naming characters before. I think it's an important first step in getting to know my characters. The name has to fit. The name has to sound right, and the name has to be right for the historical era. In my current work in progress, the heroine's name is Lacey. I didn't have any problem coming up with that name. She sprang into my mind and was Lacey at once. Lacey completely. She is Lacey. Then I started noticing there are a lot of Laceys out there in fiction right now, but she's still Lacey.
~Being that sure of a character's name doesn't happen that often for me. Usually I waffle a while on the names of my main characters. Sometimes change the name two or three times before I start my story. And sometimes without even realizing it, I pick a famous name or a name that sounds very similar to a famous name. The name will roll off my imagination's tongue easy with no sharp edges but then I'll realize why the name sounds so good - or an editor will point out the obvious. When that happens, that name has to be changed for the good of all. The character, the eventual readers, and the writer. Not to mention the editor.
~But I like coming up with names. I've worn out a couple of baby name books. I'm sure I could come up with a name that I like for the puppy. But first the grandkids can have some fun thinking up names next weekend when we're celebrating Christmas.
~I celebrated Christmas with a group of Central Kentucky writers today. The Danville Theater group was performing an original play "Claus and the King" written by Amy Barkman, a member of our writers' group. All but one of the actors were kids and they did a fabulous job acting out the play and singing the many songs that Amy also wrote. I don't know too many other things that can get a person more into the Christmas mood than watching kids acting out a Christmas play.
~I'm going to need to be in a Christmas mood this coming week so that I can do the baking and cleaning and shopping and cooking and ... well, you get the idea. My goal is to have most everything done before Saturday so that I can enjoy my family all being together for Christmas.
~I hope you have a great week with the names of your loved ones dancing in your head like treasured sugar plums. I'm going to be sending out a Christmas newsletter soon, so if you're not signed up for that and would like to be, just go to my website, www.annhgabhart.com and click on the newsletter link. And thanks for reading.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Countdown to Christmas


~Right. This picture has nothing whatsoever to do with the countdown to Christmas. But it does show a little joy. My son-in-law loves dogs and they love him as you can see. The puppies thought it was very neat having a human playmate and Oscar looks like he's wondering how to get in on the fun. All the puppies have been adopted now except for L.T., the little brown and white one that I'm keeping. I need another dog like I need a hole in the head, but she is very cute and the grandkids love her. Not to mention the son-in-law. Reasons enough.
~And so on to the dreaded question this time of the year. "Are you ready for Christmas?" I think the people who ask that are usually the ones who are and they just want to gloat. My sister told somebody the other day that she hadn't done any shopping and she thought the other lady was going to faint away. But it just turned December - well, almost ten days ago now. And that means it's only fifteen days to Christmas and actually we're celebrating here with the kids and grandkids on the nineteenth so that means it's only nine days. Oh, dear, I think I'm going to have trouble breathing. ;-) Maybe I'd better not think about how many days before I blow some circuits and start whirling in place.
~As you can probably tell, I'm not ready for Christmas. I'm never ready for Christmas. It just gets here. And every year I say I'm going to do better the next year. I'm going to shop early and wrap every present as soon as I bring it in the door. Sounds like an excellent plan, but you know what happens when I shop early? I'll tell you. I hide the presents. Then two years later when the kid I bought that present for is now way too old for that toy or whatever I come across it and say, "Oh yeah, I remember buying this." I lost some plush baby toy hammers I bought the twins last year. They were so cute, but I forgot all about them. Found them about July this year. But they're for babies, not toddlers. So the new little one may have to get two hammers. One for each hand.
~That's only one of my problems with shopping early. Another is getting stuff that later I wonder why in the world I thought anybody would like that. It must have been on sale really cheap. Of course it's months too late to try to get a refund and so it goes into my sack of maybe someday gifts. So far someday has never come. I have a feeling it never will for some of those gifts.
~But it's not only gifts I have to get ready. It's food too. Cookies and snacks and sausage balls and every good thing anybody can think up to eat. I think I have to fix it all. And of course the house needs to be cleaned. Don't houses always need to be cleaned? And there are people to visit and cards to write. Alas, there's another of my problems. I think I have to actually write something besides my name on Christmas cards. Something that makes the person getting the card smile. Isn't that what Christmas is all about? Making somebody or a lot of somebodies smile. That's a mama's/grandmama's job, isn't it? And most of us wouldn't have it any other way.
~So are you whirling in place or can you say yes to that dreaded question, "Are you ready for Christmas?" Maybe we should forget the shopping and the baking, the decorating and the wrapping, and just say yes. Yes, we are ready for Christmas. Ready to welcome the spirit of love into our hearts and share the joy that Christmas means. As to the rest of that stuff we need to get ready, we'll get enough of it done. Enough to enjoy the day and see the magic sparkle in the eyes of the little ones we love.
~Hope you enjoy each and every day as you count down toward Christmas.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Time for Stories


~The holiday season is such a great time for families to get together and share stories - some old and heard dozens of times and some others new and never heard before. Here my little granddaughter is sharing one of the never heard before stories. She's been making up stories since before she was two, so maybe someday she'll be like her grammy and want to write them down. I don't remember ever telling too many stories back when I was a kid. I would have been much too shy to take center stage like that.
~Several of my grandchildren show a flair for the dramatic and they all love stories and books. The littlest ones just want to chew on their books, but that will change when they realize there's magic in those words.
~There's magic in family stories too. I love to hear my mom talk about how things were when she grew up during the depression years. Her mama never put up a Christmas tree and so their presents were placed on a rocking chair. Nothing like the presents kids get these days. She said they'd maybe get a doll, an orange and some candy. Then when I was a kid, we did our Santa shopping in the "wish book." That's what we called the Sears Roebuck catalogue. We were given an amount and then we could mark what we wished for that was at or below that price. I remember almost wearing out the pages of those catalogues wishing. One toy I wished for and got from Santa was a Betsy Wetsy doll. Why in the world anyone would want a doll that wet, I don't know now, but I wanted it then. I also got paper dolls and games and chocolate candy that I hoarded like it was more valuable than gold. My kids have their own Christmas memories of getting up early and running to see what might be under the tree. And now my grandkids are making their Christmas memories that they may turn into family stories someday.
~To me that's the sort of thing that makes the best family stories. Memories of the little things in life that can forever warm your heart. One of those warm heart memories for me is how I spent Christmas Eve day at my aunt's house waiting for my mother and father to finally get there so the good times could begin. The tree lights would be blinking. Sparks would fly up the chimney when my granddad poked the coal in the fireplace. Brightly wrapped presents beckoned from under the tree. Delicious scents drifted out from the kitchen. The candy dishes were full of homemade goodies. The afternoon would drag along, surely the longest day of the year. But finally my parents would come in bringing with them the brisk smell of the winter air and then the magic of Christmas would begin.
~Now I wish I had been smart enough to ask the older members of my family to tell me more stories about when they were growing up. About their average, ordinary days and what their mothers and fathers or grandmothers and grandfathers were like. Some of the stories I heard. Many of the stories I can only imagine now. And yet all of that, the real and the imagined is stuffed down in a pot pushed to the back of the stove in my creative center where it's bubbling in a nice simmering stew. Ever so often something in that pot pops out and lands in a story. That's why, for a writer, the more stories she hears the better. That pot of creative stew is very greedy and constantly in need of being fed if you want it to keep popping. Sort of like that Betsy Wetsy doll I had. I had to keep pumping in the water if I wanted her to perform as promised in the advertisements.
~Hope your creative stew gets fed some wonderful family memories and stories this Christmas holiday.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Shopping till I Dropped


Thanksgiving is over and I can no longer pretend Christmas is a long way off. Especially since we're going to celebrate here the weekend before Christmas. AIII!!!
--So I took off on a marathon shopping trip today. First you have to understand that shopping is one of my very least favorite things to do - unless I'm in a bookstore. I'm going to do that shopping next week. That will be fun. I'll get to buy a bunch of books for all my family members. They get a book every year whether they want one of not. ;-) Fortunately they are all book lovers. My daughters-in-law too, but right now with their big families they have a hard time squeezing out reading time. I understand that. As the saying goes, been there, done that, got a t-shirt.
--Well, I didn't have quite as big a family as both of them. I stopped at three. One of the ladies at my church used to tell I should have a whole houseful of kids because she thought my kids were so cute and smart. And they were, of course, says this not so unbiased mom. But guess I decided to let my sons have the whole housefuls of kids and now those grandkids are so cute and smart, of course. Grandmas are notoriously biased.
--And so here I am with three of the little reasons I was out hunting bargains and fun things to wrap and put under my tree. And I found a bunch of cute stuff. I have to keep reminding myself that I'm not Santa Claus. I'm just a grandma with a lot of grandkids and so I have to keep my gift buying under control or my new room built so we could have enough room on Christmas might not be big enough. I've got my list and I'm sticking to it. Except for that red shirt I bought me. ;-)
--I hope you are enjoying every little thing about Christmas this year. The lights and decorations and shopping and the sound of the Salvation Army Kettle bells. I haven't seen as many of those yet this year. But I know they are in need of our help with so many families struggling right now. It's a good time to share with others. But then I suppose it's always a good time to share with others. Thank you for sharing a few minutes of your day with me.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Signing Books in London -- Kentucky, that is.


--Did you ever think about how many exotic places we have in Kentucky? Paris, KY - London, KY - Versailles, KY. Although I have to admit the way we say Versailles with our Kentucky country pronunciation doesn't make you think much of France. Then there's California, KY - Washington, KY - Texas, KY - Moscow, KY - Newfoundland, KY.
--I like the odd names Kentucky town founders came up with. How would you like to live in Honeybee or Black Snake or Black Gnat or maybe Quicksand? That last name or maybe all of those names might make you think twice about building a house there. If you want a town where saying your address might lift your spirits you could live in Joy or Happy or Hope, Kentucky. There's not a Love, but there is a Lovely. I like Jeremiah. I'm going to have to let one of my characters in a book someday live in or be from Jeremiah. I did that in my Hollyhill books. Picked a town name I liked - Grundy - and named a neighboring town Grundy, Kentucky. Actually I think Grundy is in West Virginia or maybe Virginia, but it was too good a name to let get away.
--It was London, Kentucky, not London, England (what a surprise, right?) where I did a booksigning at the beautiful Brookhaven Christian Bookstore in the London Shopping Center a week ago. The picture above is of me and Sharon Kidd, one of the store's owners. Sharon and her partner, Mary, have a whole section of great Kentucky books or books by Kentucky authors on their shelves. They also have a lot of beautiful items made by Kentucky craftsmen and women. It's always a pleasure to be at the Brookhaven Christian Bookstore. Actually I enjoy shopping at Christian bookstores anywhere. There's just a feeling of peace and welcome when you walk in the door of those stores. And if you want to make sure you remember the reason for the season, there's no nicer place to shop. I hope you all support your local Christian bookstores. And buy some books for those on your gift list.
--I love buying books. It's a longstanding tradition for me to give a book to all my kids and now since the grandkids and spouses are included in that tradition, I get to shop for lots of books. It's nice if I'm able to pick one they might like, but even when I don't, it doesn't bother me if they pass them on to another reader. Somebody's book is still out there getting read. Of course I like it when people pick my book as a gift for a friend. What would be not to like about that! But I rarely give my own book as a Christmas gift even though I've got plenty in the basement. By the time Christmas rolls around, I've usually already given everybody on my gift list a copy of my latest book.
--The winner of my Thanksgiving book giveaway may decide to use the books she won as Christmas gifts. I drew for the winner a few minutes ago. Drum roll please. The winner is Jennifer in Canada. Jennifer has become a good reading friend and I'm looking forward to sending her the books she won as soon as she lets me know which of my books she wants.
--I hope all of you had a great Thanksgiving and that you didn't eat too much the way we did around here. Some person, who shall remain unnamed :o), cooked way too much food. And now that person has to get rid of all the leftovers. I'll bet my puppies will like noodles. I've still got three little puppies to give away if anybody wants one.
--I got my Christmas tree decorated with help from my daughter and son-in-law. Next thing on the agenda is Christmas cards and shopping. But at least it's beginning to look like Christmas around here. I bet it is at your house too. Christmas trees are popping up all over Facebook. Hope you are embracing the season of joy.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!


--Here's one of my precious reasons for thanksgiving. I've got almost as many little grandbaby blessings to count as I do fingers. Nine beautiful blessings.
--I knew I wanted to get married and have children when I was fourteen. I remember thinking about what I wanted to do in life one morning on the school bus and of course, I knew I wanted to write. No, I think I knew I would write. Whether successfully remained to be seen, but I knew I would write. But I was also very sure I wanted a family. I wanted to have children and then when those children married, I hoped for grandchildren.
-And boy, were my hopes realized! I know a lot of grandmothers and grandfathers and most all of them consider those precious grandkids a good enough reason to accept adding a few years on and seeing those gray hairs and feeling those aches and pains. Especially after a bout of grandbaby sitting. You've heard the saying you're only as old as you feel. Well, while the grandkids are there, us grandmoms feel young enough to run and chase and play, but when they go home then the years start tapping us on the shoulder and reminding us we're not twenty something anymore.
--All the kids are supposed to be here on Friday for our round of Thanksgiving. They haven't all been here at the same time since last Christmas. That's the problem with being spread out over several states. So I'll be cooking and getting ready tomorrow while most people are sitting down to enjoy what they've been cooking and getting ready today. I have done a few things. The turkey is thawing in the fridge. I wrote out my menu. I went to the grocery - again.
--Let me give you some advice. Don't go to the grocery on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Trust me, everybody else and his Uncle Joe and Aunt Sally are already there and they're not leaving much room for you. Or me. Luckily we didn't have any major shopping cart jams in the cake mix aisle. At least not while I was there. I did knock over a pretty display stack of boxes of chocolate covered cherries. I think they were trying to jump in my cart to come home with me. But I managed to stack them up like a two year old playing with blocks and make my escape. At least it wasn't bottles of turkey gravy. Now all I've got to do is turn those groceries into the traditional Thanksgiving dishes. I'm happy with some old timey dressing and cranberry sauce. Along with a piece of pecan pie or maybe cherry pie. And rolls. You got to have rolls. And sweet potatoes. And corn pudding. And .... Oh well, you get the idea. Maybe I should lock the scales in a closet somewhere and throw away the key until after Christmas.
--Christmas - I'm trying not to panic when I hear that word. Christmas is a season to be enjoyed. It's a time to rejoice and see friends. So what if there are a zillion things to do to get ready and so what if a certain somebody has to be ready the week before Christmas. But I don't like to do Christmas - not even Christmas-got-to-get-everything-done panic until after Thanksgiving. Give me a couple of days. Then we'll see what can be accomplished in panic mode.
--One bit of writing news. I got the Baker Books summer catalogue today. The Seeker was featured on a two page spread and on the back cover. Hope it looks good enough that bookstore people will want to put it on their shelves. And readers will want to take it home. That is one thing I love to do at Christmas. I love shopping for books for everybody on my list. I could spend all my shopping time in bookstores and be very happy.
--Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving with blessings smiling at you from all around the table. Enjoy.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Reasons for Thanksgiving



This is one of my books you might win if you want your name to be in the hat for my Thanksgiving giveaway. Just leave a comment with a way to get in touch with you in case you win or send me an e-mail from my website, http://www.annhgabhart.com/. As those of you who keep up with this blog know, I'm giving away an autographed copy of one of my books, The Scent of Lilacs, Orchard of Hope, Summer of Joy, Angels at the Crossroads, The Outsider or The Believer along with a hardback copy of Less Than Dead by Tim Downs. It's my way of being thankful for you, my reading friends.

We had our Thanksgiving dinner at church tonight. This morning we had a different kind of service where at the end of the sermon Br. Fred encouraged us to speak up and talk about the things for which we were especially thankful. Well, of course I was one of the ones not too shy to talk about my reasons for thanksgiving. I was like one of my church sisters who wanted to list her blessings. "How much time do I have?" she asked.

She was right. If we named all our reasons to be thankful, we'd still be there talking. I am so blessed. As many of you surely are as well. I live in a beautiful country. I have a wonderful family with a fine husband, loving children and the best in the world grandbabies. Every grandma is entitled to think the same about her grandchildren. And should. I have a great mom and sisters and sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law who I also count as friends. I have a good church family and a preacher who has helped me store Bible truths and stories in my heart. On top of all that I've been able to do what I have wanted to do since I was ten and that is to make up stories and write them down. While I would do that, and have done that, whether anybody read them or not, it's wonderful that the Lord has blessed me with some reading friends who do want to read those stories.

And that's just a quick telling of some main blessings. If you get down into the everyday varieties of blessings, I can keep on going. Dogs and birds. Computers and hot tea. Books to read. Glasses that help me keep seeing the words in those books. Walking paths and trees. Smiles and little kids' giggles. The good feel of sunshine on my face. Blackberries on the vine. And on and on. Little things and big things. My church family was glad I edited my list and kept it short.

My church friend had even more dramatic reasons for thankfulness. She's had a hard year, faced cancer treatments several times and wasn't sure a few times whether the treatments would work. But she never turned away from her faith in the Lord to bring her through. We're glad she's walking her faith journey in our little family of God.

I hope you have many reasons for thanksgiving this week as you gather with your friends and family to count your blessings and enjoy a bountiful meal.




Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Story Web


--I've been thinking about writing about how a story can be an intricate web like a spider web for a few weeks now, but I wanted a picture of a spider web to go with it. I went out to the free photo files on the internet. There were some great spider web shots on those sites and it said they were open to use, but I lacked the secret formula for getting them to download, upload, or whatever load.
--So on to plan B. I'd just go out in the wild and take my own picture of a spider web. I've got plenty of spiders out here on the farm. Plenty of them. But did you know it's hard to find spiders spinning in late October?
--Then one day while I was walking in the field, I almost slammed my face right into a spider web. Didn't have my camera of course, so hurried to the house to get it. Got back to the field and discovered that spider wasn't building a web; he was dismantling it. Had maybe two or three strands of web still there with none of the interconnecting strands I was after. I still took a picture. I mean I had walked all that way to get the camera, but there was nothing but a blob in the picture that a person might be able to tell was a spider sticking out his tongue at me or more likely they'd think it was nothing but a smudge on my camera lens. So I was ready to give up on this blog picture until next spring when lo and behold there was a spider web right outside my office window. Not a great one, but a spider web nevertheless.
--So what's all the fuss about a spider web picture? None. You would have been able to imagine the spider web with all those ladderlike connecting bits of sticky web. I just got stubborn about the picture. My point is that creating a new story is sort of like the spider spinning that web.
--A writer starts out with the first bit of web or story idea and swings on it through the air in an attempt to connect to something else. Something solid that she can anchor her story on. Maybe a character coming to life in her mind or a truth she wants her characters to discover or maybe just a fun idea of what happens next. And then the writer starts inching down that first initial web strand to figure out the next direction to spin and then the next and the next until there's the story complete with its dozens of connections - events and happenings that lead to other events and happenings in your story. And you hope your web is strong. So strong it can capture readers and wrap them so up in your story that they'll sit right down and read it through without even trying to break free of your story web.
--Now you might notice that the spider web in my picture is a little ragged looking with some gaps here and there, but in spite of that it's holding together. That's what I always want my story to do too - hold together. It may not be perfect. I'm not a perfect writer. But I do like to tell stories and I'm glad to be spinning a new yarn now that I hope all of you will want to read someday.
--If you live close to London, Kentucky, I'll be at Brookhaven Christian Books to sign my books this Saturday from 3 to 5 p.m. Autographed books make a great one of a kind Christmas gift.
--One last note - I'll be drawing for my Thanksgiving book giveaway next weekend to show how thankful I am for you readers. To enter just send me an e-mail from my website or comment here. I'm giving away the winner's choice of one of my inspirational novels, The Scent of Lilacs, Orchard of Hope, Summer of Joy, The Outsider, or The Believer or my nonfiction book, Angels at the Crossroads plus a hardback copy of Less Than Dead by Tim Downs. If you want to get your name in the pot, you've still got time.
--Now back to web spinning.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

October Sundays in November


We had a great weekend weatherwise here in Kentucky. And in West Virginia where we were keeping the grandkids while Mom and Dad took some R & R time. Looks like the twins are auditioning to join their grandpa's gospel group. A little duet piano playing would certainly add to the fun, I'm sure.

This is our second weekend in a row to have sunshine and warm temperatures. It was picnic weather in November. Some people were out putting up Christmas decorations. I don't know how they did it in seventy degree weather, but then I'm not much of a decorator. I don't decorate my yard in any degree weather for any holiday.

Guess my yard's decorated right now with the neighbor puppies. I actually gave one of them away. Yaay! To be a little three-year-old girl's puppy. The little dog will feel right at home after the way the grandkids carried her around and loved on her. Anyway all this great sunshine makes me think we must be getting the October weather we so sorely missed out on last month this month. And I'm glad. I love the warm, sunshiny days of fall when you just want to sit down and let the sun soak into your bones to tide you over until spring.

The twin boys along with their big sisters kept both Darrell and me hopping to keep them happy and out of trouble this weekend. The boys have inherited a good dose of stubborn from their grandma and once they thought about doing something, they were bound and determined to see it through, especially if it was to open doors or cabinets or head for the end of the driveway. All the kids were fun to be with and "far away grandma" as the three year old calls me had a good time chasing after them all.

Tonight I went with the Patriot Quartet to their concert. I was sitting out in the entranceway of the church before the service started when a couple came in and I caught this scrap of the conversation. "And then she kind of just quit coming." I don't know who they were talking about or what they were saying she kind of quit coming to. But the phrase rang a bell. "Just kind of quit." I figured they were talking about a person who had fallen away from their church fellowship, but that wouldn't have to be the case. She could have just kind of quit going to the gym to exercise. She might have just kind of quit going to visit her family. Who knows?

Hope there's nothing you've "kind of quit" doing that you enjoy doing in this November October. I've "kind of got started" on my new book. Kind of. So that's better than kind of quitting, right?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

And the Question Is...

"Any man who knows all the answers most likely misunderstood the questions."

That's a quote that has a lot of truth. Nobody has all the answers, but writers can get asked some interesting stuff. I promised I'd report on the questions the students at Western Hills High asked me last Friday. I spoke to three different classes - a couple of advanced placement classes and one Senior/Junior English class. The first class had maybe eight kids. They didn't have many questions. I think I probably should have been asking them questions.

The second class was the one the teacher had warned me would be "energetic." And then the teacher was absent with a substitute. Talk about nervous. Me, not the kids. But the kids were great. Energetic for sure, but I was in there for their block period which was an hour and a half almost and between me and the kids we managed to fill up the time. I did my "yeah, I'm a writer and this is how that came about" speech. And then I read some out of my writing journal to show how long it takes from initial idea to published book. Not sure how that went over, but they listened. Then we did my "create a character" exercise. Groups always have fun with that, but this bunch got a little noisy. Thank goodness we were way down the hall from the principal's office. They all had their own ideas of who the character should be and they tried to shout down the other ideas. It was fun.

The third class was a bigger advanced placement class and we were back to the quieter environment and polite listeners. Of course their regular teacher was there listening too and the class time was shorter so we had to rush up the writing exercise of creating a character.

But I promised I would let you know about their questions. Nobody asked a real stumper. Thank goodness. So I knew most of the answers - or maybe I just misunderstood the questions, you think? So here we go with a few of their questions.

"Do you get to pick your covers?" Everybody is always interested in how the covers are designed. That's one of those misunderstood questions if I have the answer. I told them the publishers usually come up with the covers and sometimes ask the writer's input. Even when they don't expect you to give any input. My favorite cover? Definitely The Outsider because the model for Gabrielle is the perfect Gabrielle. Then I liked my young adult novel, For Sheila, from several years ago because of the big old dog.

"Do you know any really famous writers?" I'm always a disappointment on this one. They want me to have chatted with J.K. Rowling or Stephen King. I haven't. I know some writers, but none whose names I could drop to get the kids excited.

"What is your favorite book that you've written?" A hard question to answer. Like saying which is your favorite child when you have a dozen or maybe nineteen kids. They're all my favorites. The Scent of Lilacs because it got me back into the published ranks after several years out. Discovery at Coyote Point because the setting is based on one of my favorite places on the farm. The Gifting because writing it got me through a hard time while my dad was in the last stages of cancer. The one I'm working on because it's new. I can think of reasons to decide each book might be a favorite.

"Which book that you've written made you the proudest?" I didn't have an answer for that one. Maybe I should have told the kids I'm proud every time I finish a book. But then pride goeth before a fall, so maybe I'll just say I'm excited every time I finish a book.

"Can you make a living writing?" Another impossible question to give a general answer. Some writers make a great living writing. Most writers shouldn't give up their day jobs. I've had years I did okay and other years I worked for peanuts. More peanut years than making a living years, but there was never any question of not writing. I am compelled to write.

So no real zany questions. I expected a few zingers, but the kids were kind. How about you? What questions would you have asked if you'd been there? Or if you were listening to any writer talk about writing?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Book Fair Smiles


--Smile! That's what all us writers did a lot of on Saturday at the Kentucky Book Fair. That's because there are always a lot of reading friends and other writers to smile back at us. Here I am with my tablemate and fellow historical Christian novel writer, Jan Watson. Jan is very popular with her readers. They all love her and her characters. She didn't start writing until she retired from nursing and now she has four published books with more on the way. Her new novel is Sweetwater Run. I'm actually reading it now and enjoying the story. After yesterday, I'm sure a lot of other people are reading her story today too after getting her to sign a copy for them.
--I also got to meet Laura Frantz and Gin Petty and Jim Tomlinson. There there were a few stolen minutes to talk with Virginia Smith and Allie Pleiter and Karen Angelucci and Melissa Burton, to mention a few. It's fun to compare notes with other writers. But there wasn't much time for visiting between authors. We were all too busy smiling at our reading friends.
--A lot of those reading friends came by my table and were kind enough to say they had read my books. Some of them took another of my books home with them and some new reading friends decided to give my books a try. I hope to see them back next year to say they were glad they did. Actually one teenager did come by the table to let me know that she was glad she'd given one of my books a try last year. I remembered her. She told me last year she wanted to be an editor. You get a lot of aspiring writers coming to talk to you at a Book Fair, but not that many aspiring editors. So I remembered her.
--I remembered a lot of other faces too, but I am afflicted with mental blocks on names when people ask me to sign a book. Even when I've known them all my life - maybe especially when I've known them all my life. I think it's all those made up character names up there in my head shoving all the real names aside. At least that sounds like a good excuse. So if you're one of the people I had to ask your name when I should have known it, I hope you'll forgive me for giving you a look like a deer in the headlights. I did know you. I just got your name mixed up with one of my character's names. I sometimes forget their names, too. That's why I keep a running character list of whatever I'm working on. Oh dear! I bought a book once on improving my memory. Maybe it's time I read it.
--I did have a good time signing books and talking on the fiction panel. Darrell sat at my book table while I was gone to do the panel talk and had fun filling in for me. I wish I'd had time to walk around and see everybody else's books, but the day was busy and before I knew it the day was gone.
--A few young people from Western Hills High School came by to say hello. I had the opportunity to go to their school Friday morning and talk to three of their English classes. That was fun and on my Face Book page I promised to do a blog on some of their questions. So stay tuned next week for that.
--Thanks again if you came by to see me at the Fair and thanks to all of you who not only read my books but also my newsletter and my blog. It's great to have reading friends.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Beauty of Nature


"Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts." --Rachel Carson


What a great time of the year to feast on the beauty of the world around us! I'm enjoying the sunshine and the crisp autumn air. It makes for some great walking weather. And I like bringing some of the beauty of nature home with me. In the spring and summer I pick a few wildflower blooms - if the plants are plentiful - to put in a vase on my desk. In the fall, I like bringing home a colorful leaf or two to brighten up my office. I like taking nature pictures and I'm thankful for a digital camera that lets me snap to my heart's content without having to think about wasting film.

But sometimes the very best way to bring home the beauty is in your memory. When I first started walking in the woods as a young teen, I remember stopping and taking mental pictures of different trees or creeks or beautiful places so that I would always have them in my memory bank. I'd read a story about a man who was a prisoner of war and had kept his sanity by building a house in his mind, imagining each board and each nail as he put the house together. When he got home, he built that house. Now it may seem a stretch from that to taking mental pictures of a beautiful oak tree flaming in the sun, but I was an impressionable youngster with an imagination that sometimes took me down dreary lanes of what ifs. I planned to store up my beauty images in case I someday found myself deprived of the opportunity to view beauty.

Thank goodness those dreary what ifs haven't happened. I've lived a blessed life, but I still have those images of beauty in my memory bank and I've added lots more. And not just nature shots, but personal images as well. The first sight of my babies. The first time I saw my husband to be. My daughter singing in a Junior Miss contest. My son receiving a scholarship. My other son telling me he was engaged. So many images of the joy of life and some of the sadness too with the nature ones intermingled to keep me grounded.

I like using nature in my books. In my first published book I used the fleeting shadow of a bird passing over the character to hint at trouble coming. In my Hollyhill books, I had locust blooms and lilacs, a tornado and a snowstorm that were important to the story lines. In The Outsider the weather was a major obstacle to the men fighting in the War of 1812. I didn't make that weather up. It was in the history accounts, but my characters had to deal with the heat and then the bitter cold and snow. In The Believer I have Hannah who loves the woods. At the book club I visited last week, some of the readers said that Hannah was one of their favorite characters. So maybe all those mental images I've been snapping of this or that nature scene are coming in handy after all. A writer has to use what she's given along with what she can imagine.

The Kentucky Book Fair is this Saturday. Come by and see me if you're there. I'm in the back row sitting at the same table as Jan Watson. We both love talking to readers. Of course those 200 other writers do, too. So if you come, plan to spend a couple of hours enjoying books. I'll be on a panel called "Fiction Writers Unite!" with Jan and Karen Robards and Mary Ann Taylor-Hall at 12:30 p.m. That should be fun. Last but not least, keep me in your thoughts and prayers on Friday morning as I'm going to be talking to three classes of high school kids. I'm looking forward to their questions. That's always my favorite part of any talk I do about writing. I'll try to remember their most interesting questions to share with you next week.

--Hope you have plenty of beauty in your lives this week.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Photo Shoot Adventure


--This is the view from the deck around the cabin we stayed in last week with Darrell's siblings and spouses. There's just something about looking out at beautiful mountains or any beautiful scenery that renews the spirits. That's one of the reasons I like to walk every day. So I can be out there and see what's going on in nature. And that's also why I like having windows around my desk. I like seeing the trees and knowing the weather and watching the deer sneak up to get a mouthful of rose bush. Although I have to say I wish they wouldn't eat my rose bushes. You'd think with all these dogs around here - mine and the neighbors - that one of those dogs could chase off a deer or two. I think they must be wimps. Or maybe they're too lazy to get up and bark. Or could be the dogs and deer are all big buddies.
--Anyway after we had fun in the mountains, we traveled back to Blackey, Kentucky where I enjoyed talking books with the ladies of the Blackey Library Book Club on Thursday night. I posted a picture of some of the book ladies on my Facebook Fan page. You can go check it out if you want. On the way we made a wrong turn onto Interstate 40. That's the road that's closed across the North Carolina border because of a rock slide. We thought our exit was before the road was blocked but we'd gotten mixed up and should have gotten on the road going the other direction. But it was worth it to get on that big four-lane highway that is usually buzzing with cars and trucks and see no other car in sight in either lane. It felt weird. Very weird.
--Then Saturday I was at the Fleming County Library Book Fair. I was fortunate enough to share a table with Paul Prather who has published a book of his newspaper columns. He's been sharing his life and thoughts with us in the Lexington Herald for some time and it was great getting to not only meet him but talk to him as well. I also got to talk to Jan Watson, another great writer friend. Both of them and about a hundred more authors will be at the Kentucky Book Fair in Frankfort this Saturday. I'll be taking part in a panel "Fiction Writers Unite!" with Jan Watson, Karen Robards, and Mary Taylor-Hall at 12:30 that day. That should be fun. If you come to the book fair, be sure to hunt me up to say hi.
--I did something different today. I got somebody to come out and take photos of me. Usually I'm the one behind the camera. I'm not as good in front of it. Jennifer Duvall (Portraits by Jenn Duvall) was kind enough and game enough to come out to the farm and ride with me in the old farm truck back in the field to one of my favorite nature places, Panther Rock. But she was wondering what she had gotten herself into when we pulled into the field and cows stampeded toward our truck. Darrell has been feeding the cows grain and so whenever they hear the truck they all come running to be first in line for the good stuff. They surrounded us and I had to very carefully ease the truck through the herd. Once we got through the milling cows, I stepped on the gas to try to stay ahead of the herd and make it through the gate without any cows making an escape. Jenn probably thought she was home free then since we were in the hayfield with the cows left behind, but my dogs, Oscar and Dub, didn't want to be left behind. They had to come along on the photo shoot. I had to keep throwing sticks for Oscar to fetch so that he wouldn't be sitting in front of me in every picture. What with all the animal interaction and the slippery leaf-covered muddy paths, Jenn may think twice before she agrees to photograph me - or anyone - on location again if it involves old farm trucks, cows and dogs that like to lick. Actually she was a real sport although she did keep saying that if stuff like this kept happening to her, she was going to start a blog of photo shooting adventures. So I thought I'd beat her to it.
--Hope you have some adventures that make you smile this week.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Seeker's New Cover Art


Hi everybody.

I just got back from a jaunt to the mountains where we had a good time visiting with Darrell's family. We've all been married so long that we all feel like sisters and brothers now. I've even heard some of the growing up stories about when this or that happened so many times that I feel like I can almost remember it myself - the swimming in the river with the water snakes - the nights coon hunting in the woods with their father - the way their sister kept them all in line - how that sister always wanted a little sister and got four little brothers - how two of the brothers managed to have a fight every day. Family memories that they tell over and over and always laugh. That's the good part. The laughing now about their shared family memories.
--So we had a great time with a lot of laughing as we got to get out in the woods and admire the beautiful fall colors on the trees in the Smokies. And then when I got home I found out Revell had posted the cover for my next Shaker book, The Seeker, on their website. What do you think?
--It's always exciting to see a new cover and I'm hoping Charlotte's story will be one that will appeal to readers. Of course the release date isn't until July 2010. Several months down the road, but as fast as time goes by that will be here before we know it.
--Since we're talking about how time flies - we are, aren't we? - then I have to say my view out the window turned winter while I was gone. When I left there were still leaves on the trees in the yard. Now the leaves are a bright yellow carpet on the ground. I'm hoping this wind that's kicking up today will lift them all over the fence out into the field where they can happily lay there and slowly rot to add to the nutrients in the soil. That way I won't have to rake them up and carry them off the yard.
--I had a great time with the bookclub in Blackey, Kentucky on the way home. I'll post their picture next blog. The new cover had to take precedence today. Let me know how you like it and that way you'll be entered into my new giveaway for your choice of one of my autographed books (Orchard of Hope, Summer of Joy, Angels at the Crossroads, The Outsider or The Believer) along with Less Than Dead by Tim Downs.
--I'll be at the Fleming County Public Library, Flemingsburg, KY tomorrow (Saturday) from 10 to 2 for a book fest. Come on out to see me if you live in the area. Me and about twenty other writers would love to talk to you about our books.
--Until Sunday, keep on laughing. It's good for the face muscles and the heart muscles too.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Live in the Sunshine


--Live in the sunshine - that's a phrase out of a song the Patriot Quartet sang last night at their homecoming that so caught my imagination I put it on my Facebook page and now I'm putting it here. What great advice! Live in the sunshine of hope and joy and leave behind the shadows of doubts and fear.
--Today was a great day to think about living in the sunshine. I love being out in the woods on a beautiful day in October. The picture is one I took when I went on my long walk down the creek last week. Today we went tree sightseeing in the car - my mom and my sister and me. We looped around through the countryside and came back up the road where Dad owned a lot of farmland when I was young. We remembered wheat in this field and tobacco in that field and strawberries in another. The strawberries, by far, were the best memory. But the countryside has changed a lot since my sister and I were kids riding the school bus around that road every day fall, winter and spring. We kept wondering if that was where so and so's house used to be and was this or that house there back then and where exactly on the cliffside was that spring that ran with such cool clear water to fill up our water jugs. Things we thought we'd never forget are foggy shadows on the edge of remembrance.
--So many years ago. And yet even then I knew I wanted to write stories down. I wanted to string words together and pile page upon page until the story was told. I could never have imagined how many books I might write. I might not even be able to imagine that now. I'm hoping several more in the years ahead.
--Writing isn't easy. You sometimes hope it will be or imagine it will be or want it to be, but many days the words have to be coaxed out of the black ooze of the mind where stories hide. Or tugged out laboriously one at a time. And yet no matter how difficult the task sometimes is, that's what I want to do. What I have always wanted to do. Write.
--I'm in the beginning stages of my new story now. I'm getting acquainted with my characters. Wondering where they went to school or church. What their parents and siblings were like. What work they did or do. And on and on. So much to learn about these new people I've just met and want to know. So it's good to take long walks with them and listen to what they have to tell me about themselves. October is a good month for that.
--These next few weeks are busy. We're going to be taking a few days to enjoy visiting with family in the mountains. Then I have several book events coming up. The Kentucky Book Fair is just a couple of weeks away on Saturday, November 7. That's always a fun day when so many writers and readers show up to celebrate reading. I enjoy talking to the reading friends I've made there over the years. I'll be doing a panel on "Fiction Writers Unite!" at 12:30 that day with Karen Robards, Jan Watson and Mary Ann Taylor-Hall with Jim Tomlinson moderating. That should be fun. It's always interesting to hear how other writers come up with their stories. So if you're in the area come on down to the Frankfort Civic Center and meet a hundred plus writers who would love to sign one of their books for you. An autographed book makes a unique and special Christmas present. I'm looking forward to doing some Christmas shopping myself and to meeting some writers in person that up until now I've only met via internet like Laura Frantz whose book about Kentucky, A Frontiersman's Daughter, has gotten great reviews and is sure to be a reader favorite at the fair.
--Hope you have an absolutely wonderful last week of October and live in the sunshine.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Singing, Walking, and Writing


--Here's the Patriot Quartet singing at Goshen's Homecoming. That's our church and that's Darrell on the right with the patriotic tie. If you like Southern Gospel you would probably like their sound and their new song "An American Christian" that's getting some play on gospel stations around the country right now. They're going to have their Homecoming singing on Friday and Saturday night at Sand Spring Church. So if you're in the area, come on out and hear them. For more info or to hear how they sound, you can check out their website, http://www.patriotquartet.com/. They're planning to make a DVD. Guess they'll be in the movies - sort of.
--That's something I never thought I wanted to be. In the movies. I'm one of those people who try to hide behind a tree if somebody points a camera toward me. I'd much rather be the one pointing the camera at the other people and making them groan because I'm taking their pictures. Of course grandkids are a grandmother's favorite subject. Some of my grandkids beg to have their pictures taken and others of them are ready to hide behind that tree with me.
--My new dog, Oscar, doesn't hide. He's quite the ham. He actually seems to pose at times and wait for me to take the picture. The dogs and I went on a long walk today. It was a perfect October day here and sometimes you have to seize the opportunity when it presents itself. So I stole a couple of hours from my writing time and went out into the woods to enjoy. Actually it wasn't totally wasted writing/creating time. My characters are coming to life inside my head. I'm figuring out what they look like and what they think about and what they talk about and what they're doing and why. But I'm not going to know that all at once.
--But I don't have to know everything yet. I just have to know them well enough to start the journey. I'm reading a book about writing, bird by bird by Anne Lamott, and in it she quotes E.L. Doctorow as saying that "writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." So I'm anxious to turn my headlights on and start driving. Yet at the same time, I'm timid about turning the key and pressing on the gas pedal. Will the story be there again? It has been so many times before, but how can I be sure it will be this time? I guess I can't be sure. I can only rely on the truth that the stories have come in the past and then click on those headlights and start the journey one more time.
--I posted some new photos on my Facebook page and also in my website gallery, if you're interested. The Facebook pictures are the grandkids and the website pictures are a mixture. And don't forget to send me an e-mail if you want to have a chance to win an autographed copy of one of my books and a hardback copy of Less Than Dead by Tim Downs. I'll be drawing for the winner around Thanksgiving.
--Till next time, remember - always laugh when you can...it's cheap medicine.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Frost on the Pumpkin


--At least there would be frost on the pumpkin if we had any pumpkins in the garden this year. The grass was white this morning. So I hunted up a last year's picture of my angel trumpet plant because this year's plant got frosted last night before it had a chance to bloom. I should have covered it up, but who can remember everything? Well, some people but not me.
--But the frost is a chilly reminder that makes us pay attention to the change of the seasons. We need to take a little time to enjoy the spectacle of red and gold leaves before they all drift down. Some of us will have to get out the rakes or leaf blowers and others of us will just enjoy walking through the leaves in the woods in the fresh, crisp October air. At night the stars look brighter in the night sky and in a few weeks there'll be a harvest moon. My dad used to go out on those moonlit nights in the fall and pick corn by hand all night long. Now farmers have machines that pick whole fields of corn in the same time as he might have picked a few rows.
--Just as the seasons change, so do things in our lives. People move to new houses or towns. Kids have to change schools. We start new jobs or learn new operations at our old jobs. Babies come along to change couples into families. New people come into our churches. Sometimes so many that the churches have to build new buildings.
--Change comes to writers too as they craft their stories. They live with a story for months, even years and then finally manage to write the words "The End." Sometimes it's hard to leave behind the characters you've lived with so long. But you change worlds in your minds as you leave one set of characters behind and go out into your imaginations to seek new people and new stories. A writer needs to embrace change. Not just from one story to the next, but within each story. Without change we wouldn't have much of a story since change is what keeps the readers turning pages to find out what happens on the next page or in the next chapter.
--I read a writing advice piece once that posed the question, "What changes in your story?" And that person's advice was "Everything." At least your characters have to show some changes. That's where I am right now. Figuring out my characters and wondering about the changes they are going to see and what the results of those changes might be. Is it going to cost them happiness? Or love? Maybe it will bring them love. That sounds like a happier ending. But for sure they aren't going to be the same people who stepped up on my stage in the first scene. Nor will I be the same by the time I write "The End" one more time. Months will have passed. Life is a hands on experience. That's the way the Lord surely meant it to be. The Bible promises us He is the same yesterday, today, tomorrow and forever more, but we are continually learning and thus changing. It's how we're designed.
--Hope you have some great life experiences this week and that your flowers escaped the frost so they can keep blooming a few more weeks. Looking out the window I can see my poor angel trumpet lily frozen and ruined. But I raise my eyes and the sun is lighting up the red and gold in the trees down the way. There's beauty to each season.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Disappearing Letter


--There was a list in Reader's Digest this month of the 8 Things being Killed by the Internet. Polite disagreement - Memory - Daydreaming - Waiting a day for sports scores - Footnotes - Leaving your desk for lunch - Concentration - Letter writing.
--What do you think? Are these things being killed off by our fascination with the internet? Memory? I have to admit I thought my memory was just getting killed off by too many years or too many things to remember or perhaps lack of proper attention, but now I know. It's not me. It's the internet. What a relief! And isn't it all those talk shows on the radio that have decided we can't disagree politely? No ratings boost without controversy. Concentration? What's with that? I'd figure it out, but I have to check my Facebook page.
--But no way am I going to let anything kill off my daydreaming. Daydreaming is essential to a person's well being. Well, at least a writer's idea bank. Oh, the things we can imagine or dream up. The internet might even give us even more amazing things to daydream about. But it's not only a writer who daydreams. As long as there are sunny days with kids wishing school was out and as long as there are romance and love, people will be doing some daydreaming, don't you think?
--Ah, but letter writing. They might be right about the letter writing. It may be a dying art with everybody shooting messages across cyberspace without having to lick any stamps. (Oops! Showing my age again. I guess I should say attach any stamps. Nobody licks stamps these days.) I'm sure they said the same with the telephone and letters no doubt took a hit then too. We send cards. Some of those cards have our feelings expressed in perfect words written by someone else. Other cards even sing to us, but how often do we sit down and write a letter. And yet, don't you love getting a letter in the mail? An old fashioned full of news (Christmas one-size-fits-all newsletters don't count) letter just to you. Or a card with some good wishes written down on it by the sender.
--When I'm researching a time period, I feel as if I've received a gift when I come across a book with actual letters written by someone who lived in that time. I did some research on WW I for my book, tentatively titled Angel Sister, that will be out in January 2011 and I found a book of letters written by a soldier from Kentucky back to his wife. Perfect material for me to get the feel of what my character might have gone through as a soldier. But unless somebody is printing out their e-mail messages or saving them, that kind of thing may be lost to future generations. Of course a lot is saved out here on the net. Think of all the blogs. That's what this is - a letter to you. So maybe there will be more material than ever before. Just in a different format.
--What do you think is being killed off by the internet? Books? Brick and mortar bookstores? Music CDs? Secrets? Privacy? I don't know about any of that. I just know I'm not about to let the internet kill off my daydreaming. Or wool gathering. I've got a new bunch of characters to dream up.
--Hope you dream up lots of fun things this week - while you're enjoying the internet.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Dog Named Jaks


--It's no secret that I'm a dog lover and have been since I got the dog hunger when I was about eight years old. Maybe earlier. A dog bit my nose when I was trying to pet it before I started school. Didn't discourage me a bit. I was just sorry I didn't get to pet the dog.
--This year has been a hard year for my family in regard to our dog friends. About a year ago we had to let my son's dog, Hank, go. He was very old. Our best estimate was around seventeen. So it was his time. Then at Christmas my son-in-law's big German Shepherd in the picture above had a stroke or some problem and they had to have him put down. And now we've had to say goodbye to my daughter's dog, Jaks, the lab mix in the photo above. He developed a lung problem a month or so ago and went down fast.
--Jaks was such a fun dog. He loved the water and when he was younger would fetch sticks out of the pond as long as you had energy to throw them. He liked to do acrobatic tricks by walking on fallen trees. He loved to sneak ahead when we were walking out in the fields and find deer poop to roll in when my daughter wasn't paying attention. He got a lot of baths. He became my best friend whenever I was cooking - just in case I might drop some tidbit on the floor. He wasn't above nosing in the trashcan if you left it where he could get to it. He loved my daughter and would try to get between her and any other dog that might think she looked good for a rub behind the ears. He liked his toys, especially the ones that squeaked, and you had to keep something nearby- a stuffed toy or a rolled up sock or maybe a towel - for him to carry to show you when you came home. He was a very good dog and it's hard to think about him not coming home with my daughter and son-in-law for a visit anymore. He loved coming to the farm and walking with us. He and his buddy, Watson both. They would start getting excited as soon as they pulled off the parkway about five miles from our house. But then when it was time to leave, they were the first in the car to make sure they didn't get left behind.
--Dogs are such good friends. I've had so many dogs of my own over the years and it's been great sharing my kids' dogs, too. And I've put a few dogs in my stories. There was a dog named Maybe in one of my young adult books. Another of my young adult stories had a little white ghost dog. Then of course, in The Scent of Lilacs, Jocie had dog hunger the way I did as a kid and prayed her dog prayer and found Zeb out in the woods. More recently in The Believer, Elizabeth has a dog, Aristotle, that helps things turn out right at the end of the story. A pet can lend an added dimension to a story the same as it can to your life.
--We'll miss Jaks the same as we miss Watson and Hank. But they were all three very good dogs. If you have a dog, give him or her an extra dog biscuit tonight in memory of Jaks.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sharpening Pencils



--I just wasted most of my early morning working time sharpening pencils. Well, not really sharpening actual pencils, but doing things that were about as productive in actually getting any words written. I suppose a sharpened pencil might make one more productive. That's always what the writer thinks when he or she stops writing because come on, a person can't write with a dull pencil, now can they? Things have to be just right in order for the muse to come sit down beside you, don't they?
--I actually read about how time can get wasted sharpening pencils in an advice piece once. Obviously a long time ago since most of us fire up the word processor or laptop when we're writing these days. And even when I didn't, I had to have my special inkpen. Creative juices won't flow out of any old inkpen after all. But then I read about sharpening pencils and I recognized myself and how I often delay the hard work of writing by doing other stuff.
--Sometimes the stuff is so much like writing that I fool myself and think I actually did some writing. Or at least something that had to be done. A writer can't work with all those unsharpened pencils laying around. And in our internet world, that can be the e-mails we need to answer, the facebook page we need to check out, the blog that needs to be posted, the twitter to be tweeted. (I haven't got into the tweeting yet. I can't imagine anybody caring what I'm doing on a minute by minute or hour by hour basis. They'd get tired of reading about me sharpening pencils.)
--Anyway, you name it, most of us can find a way to waste a little time or sharpen those pencils. And from my picture above you can see I have some pencils in need of a good sharpener. But first I think I'll try to sharpen up some of my words and remember that I want to write a book, not just talk about writing a book. And if I'm going to manage that, I'd better sit down and put my fingers on the keyboard and enter my characters' world to see what's going on there. Maybe they'll tweet my imagination and send me some updates.
-- So to work for me. Hope you have a great rest of the week. Talk to you Sunday.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Homecomings and Burgoo

--This was the weekend for Homecomings for the Patriot Quartet. First we had our Homecoming and Darrell got to be "home" and visit with all the members and friends who came to hear the Patriots great concert at Goshen Sunday morning. I fully intended to take a picture of the church to post on here, but I got so busy talking that I didn't take very many pictures. Just took a few of the grandkids and of the Patriots singing. I'll get that church picture on here later. It's the church I used as a model for my Mt Pleasant Church in my Hollyhill books.
--So since I promised a picture and an extra post, I went with the Burgoo Homecoming at Claylick on Monday night. That's David's home church and where Joe preached for many years so it was going "home" for them. David sings baritone for the quartet and Joe sings lead. That church has a different kid of Homecoming. Most churches around here do it the way we do with a special service of some type, maybe some former preachers coming in to talk and then a pot luck spread of food that has everybody's favorite dish somewhere on the long tables. But at Claylick, instead of that, they cook burgoo, a Southern specialty.
--The guy stirring in the picture above has a secret recipe that was passed down to him from his father and maybe his father before him. Proper, real burgoo has to be cooked over an open fire for hours and hours and hours. It's a joke that the meat is possums and groundhogs. At least it's a joke now. Back in frontier days when folks were hungrier and with no Krogers around, who knows? Now I'm pretty sure (note that's just pretty sure) the meat in the modern burgoo is steak and/or roasts and chicken. There's not much way you can tell what's in it after it cooks all day. You might spot a kernel of corn every once in a while and you can taste the onions. I wouldn't touch it when I was a kid, but I like it now. It goes with autumn - the cooler air, the smell of hickory wood smoke and men standing around stirring the concoction until it's ready to dip out into people's pans. True burgoo eaters don't eat it out of a bowl. You have to have a pan with a handle brought from home. And your own spoons. That's just the way it's done out here in Kentucky. Crackers are usually supplied. I have to have lots of crackers.
--You might note in the picture, too, that there are a couple of men sitting back advising on the best way to stir the burgoo. You've got to have a few advisors to an operation like this. That might be a southern thing too. When I was a kid, men sat around in country stores and enjoyed telling tales and finding out the news of the community. As far as I know, the only place left like that now in our town is one of the feed stores. In the winter they keep a fire going in the wood stove and have old time straight chairs for the sitting. You're sure to hear a few tall tales from time to time if you bend an ear their way.
--I don't know if homecomings are typically southern or not, but I do know that in Kentucky we enjoy having a reason for everybody to come 'home' for a visit. Hope you all have some good homecomings in the weeks ahead and a beautiful autumn. October can be such a beautiful month.