Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Book by Any Other Name - Titles

Another Sunday. A hot one here in Kentucky. Humidity level is at that point where if you walk outside you get real humid and start sweating before you take two steps. I'm one of those people who isn't all that fond of refrigerator air all summer, but it doesn't feel half bad this week. I used to work at an insurance claims office and they kept the air so cold in there that getting into my car that had been sitting out in the sunny parking lot all day felt good for at least five minutes at the end of the workday. That nice extra warm heat. Here at the house if we keep the thermostat high enough that I only have to wear a sweater and not drag around a blanket, then Darrell's sweating and complaining. I was going to say if we set it cool enough for him, but then I decided we probably have never set it that low. There would be icicles hanging off my ears if we cranked the thermostat down that low. How about you guys? Do you have a variance of heat or cold tolerance in your house or where you work?

Thank all of you who responded to my newsletter. I've got you entered in the drawings for July, but even better I enjoyed hearing from you. Writing can be a lonely endeavor. Even writing a blog. I talked last Wednesday about addressing my journal to Dear Nemo (or nobody). I appreciate my signed in followers who give me hope that I am writing to someone now. To those of you who haven't gotten back with me about signing up for the book giveaway, you still have plenty of time to enter the drawings before next Sunday and then on until August. So send me an e-mail from my website,

I promised several weeks ago to do a post about titles. I work hard to get the right title for my books and often don't name the books until after "the end" has been written. I like having a title that is catchy and that suits the story and that might be interesting enough to make a person who has never read any of my books pick this one up and give it a look-over.

What makes you decide to pluck a book off the shelf or check one out on the internet? Titles are that first eye catcher along with the cover. Cover art makes a tremendous impact on the casual book browser. The back copy or blurb might be second most important, but that doesn't always convince me. I read the copy, but it doesn't tell enough most of the time for me to make a sure decision. And I have to admit I don't always read the recommendations. I've done a few recommendations, and I hope that what I wrote helped some readers give the books I recommended a second look. But I still don't often read them. I do sometimes scan bits of reviews.

But one of the first impressions a book makes is through the title. That title can catch a reader's eye. I've had some good titles and some I wasn't all that crazy about. The publishers changed the titles of the first two books I published. Mine weren't eye-catching enough for the historical romance market at the time back in the early eighties. A Kentucke Dream became A Forbidden Yearning. Shadows over the Heartland became A Divided Heart. I wasn't too excited about either title, but I was extra excited about the books being published, so that was great.

Then with my young people's books, I thought I came up with good titles usually. I liked Bridge to Courage, Wish Come True, and Secrets to Tell. And the Hollyhill titles fit the books. The publishers came up with The Outsider. I would have probably rejected it out of hand because of the famous young people's book, The Outsiders. But it is a good title for the book and lends itself to more titles such as the new book, The Believer. Then the third one for 2010 is The Seeker. Who knows what book four will be. I'll have to think The something. Or maybe not. Maybe we'll head off in a new directions with the titles.

What are some of your favorite titles? Gone with the Wind has to be in there along with To Kill a Mockingbird. I'll have to think on titles this week while I'm trying to do the rest of my housecleaning. I painted my kitchen and then the kitchen ceiling. What a job! My neck is still telling me about it. And I have definitely decided that the rest of the ceilings look just fine. At least right now. Walls I can handle, but no more ceilings for a while.

Hope you're planning lots of fun things for July. Maybe even checking out a new book called The Believer at the end of the month. ;-) Have some fun and enjoy.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A New Book Calls for a New Giveaway

Hi, everybody. Hope you're having a great week. It's hot here, but the sun is shining. That's good after rain and more rain last week. Darrell finally got up some hay and now with sunshine in the offing, his mower is broken. That's a farmer's life. When I was a kid, my dad mowed hay with a sickle mower and I don't think he ever managed to mow a whole field without breaking the blade at least once. Of course we had a few rocks where we lived. Actually we had a lot of rocks where we lived. Our farm isn't far from that one, but not as rocky. A lot of difference only a mile or so away. Once upon a time, long, long ago our farm was supposed to be part of a shallow sea. At least that's what the geologists think. We do have a lot of fossils and pebbles and sandy soil in places.

Wait, I'm not supposed to be off chasing rabbits. I'm supposed to be telling you about my new book giveaway. I sent out a newsletter a couple of days ago and I thank all of you who have responded. If you haven't heard back from me yet, you will - if my internet doesn't give up the ghost or something equally dire. Of course, I did go to the store and buy all kinds of painting supplies to paint my kitchen. That's pretty dire. :-o! Guess I'm really going to have to get at those July chores after all.

Anyway, the newsletter went out with news of my summer book giveaway. I'm going to be drawing a name out of the hat every Sunday in July and then again on August 1 to give away an autographed copy of my new book, The Believer. I'm really excited about the book and hope you will be too. I think it shows the unique beliefs of the Shakers even better than The Outsider and that the romance between the two main characters is compelling. At least I hope so. Guess I will soon find out when readers start letting me know what they think. If you haven't entered the giveaway and want to, just send me an e-mail from my website. You can also sign up for my newsletter there if you want to get some occasional reports on what's going on in my writing life and here on the farm.

I know you're getting some of that info here in the blog. This is my 151st blog entry. I could have written another book. I guess I did write another book, just not one that would make any sense if it was put together page after page. Some writers obsess about making their blog entries perfect, full of wisdom, and extra meaningful. Sorry, guys. You're just reading my journal. Free association. Chasing rabbits. Just talking to friends.

When I first started writing a journal when I was about fourteen, I always addressed my entries to Dear Nemo - the Latin word for nobody. At least I thought it was the Latin word for nobody. My Latin is definitely very rusty now. Dear Nemo. Dear No one. But you know I always pictured my Nemo out there listening. And now maybe my nobody has actually turned into some real somebodies. So glad to be writing to somebody. Thanks for reading.

Hope you don't have to paint any kitchens and can kick back, put your feet up and enjoy some good books. Till Sunday. I won't be drawing this week, but will on the first Sunday in July. You've still got plenty of time to get your name in the hat.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Good Times with Dad

Happy Fathers' Day to all you dads and all of you who have a dad. I hope if your father is still living you were able to give him a hug this weekend either in person or via telephone or some electronic means. And those of you like me who don't have your father here with you anymore, I hope you thought about some fun times you had with your dad and that you're still smiling in your heart from knowing how loved you were by that first most important man in your life.

I had a good dad. He wasn't a take you fishing (thank goodness since I never wanted to go fishing) or play catch with you kind of dad. He did like making ice cream on hot summer Sundays. Banana was his flavor of choice. And once the grandkids came along they all had fun helping him churn the old White Mountain freezer.

But mostly when I was a kid, quality time with dad was time spent working in the fields in tobacco or hay. When you're a kid that's not exactly what you want to do, but I don't remember resenting it too much. That's just what we had to do since we were part of a family and all of us had to work to keep the family farm going. My kids had to work on the farm when they were growing up too, but they were into a lot more extracurricular activities at school. That's not something I did. I spent my spare time writing and reading and walking in the woods and playing with dogs. Just like now. Except I've added in playing with grandkids now.

And there are still chores to do. With July coming, I'm going to have to look some of those chores I've been putting off in the face and just do them. Window washing and painting and closet cleaning. I haven't named a favorite chore yet. What is my favorite chore? Can you have a favorite chore? If you like doing it, then it isn't a chore, is it? I suppose my least unfavorite chore is laundry. It's so easy now with the washers and dryers. Just throw the clothes in and the machines do all the work. Lots easier than that wringer washer I had when I got married and tons easier than the scrub board my mom had when she got married.

You know the Shakers were one of the first to come up with a washing machine. The Shakers were industrious and hard working, but they always wanted to figure out a quicker and more efficient way to do all their work. That's why they came up with so many innovative ideas. They wanted to get their work done as fast as possible so they could do more work. They made what they called "fancy goods" to sell to the "world." They liked making money to expand their holdings and take care of their land. They are an interesting people to learn more about, and I learned something new this week. I mistakenly thought all the Shakers had died out, but there are still a few (four?) at Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in Maine. They are actually still recruiting but from what I read on the internet, they have a lot of curious nibbles but few serious inquiries.

Not long now until my new book, The Believer, will be out. Remember you can send me an e-mail from my website, to be entered in the drawings in July and August. One entry gets you five chances to win an autographed copy of The Believer. Also, I'm going to be sending out a newsletter this week. If you'd like to be on my newsletter list, you can go to the website and click on the newsletter link and I'll sign you up.

Hope you have a great week. I'm sending that new book, The Seeker, in this week so I can feel good for day or two. Then I'll have to be on pins and needles until I hear my editor's reaction.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Off into the Sunset - Finally

The End. Finis. Th-th-that's all, folks. Over and done. That's all she wrote, dear John. Enough's enough. Cut, print. That's a take. Finished. Complete. Ended. Riding off into the sunset. The fat lady's singing because it's over. The credit's are running. Close the book on that one. And so we have come to the end of the story.

Guess you've figured out I finally got my characters to ride off into the sunset so I could write those two magic words for my book, The Seeker. The End. I'd been looking for them for about two weeks now. And I finally found them. So I'm doing my happy dance or would be if I hadn't caught a cold from one of my grandbabies when they were here last weekend. But loving on them was worth a few sneezes.

And cold or no cold, I found the end of my story. Even better, I've read through it and it read okay. A few minor problems here and there, but nothing major. It was the story I wanted to tell and the thread stayed true all the way through. Now after a bit more spit and polish I'll have to sit back and see what my editor thinks and then if she likes it, then I'll have to wait a lot longer to see what my readers think. I liked the romance in it. And the historical part came through better than I thought it was going to.

So I'm excited this week. I'm even going to meet my deadline instead of having to beg for mercy. At least I think I am. Maybe I shouldn't get too carried away. I haven't actually printed off the book yet and sent it to anybody yet. Something could happen to delay me, but I'm hoping not. And you can believe I'm saying some thank you prayers because that ride off into the sunset had been hard to find. Actually there wasn't a sun or a ride, but there was an end.

I'm also getting excited about The Believer being out there for readers in about six weeks now. I usually have a book launch at Corinth Christian Bookstore in Frankfort, but this year they're doing something extra special for me. They're sponsoring a Brunch for me at Shaker Village in Mercer County on Saturday, July 25th at 10 a.m. They will be selling tickets at their store for $15.00 which will cover the traditional Shaker breakfast. Listening to me talk will be absolutely free. What a deal! ;-) Space is limited so if you're interested, you need to call Corinth. I'll put the info on how to contact them for tickets on my web page schedule in the next few days. I really appreciate, Steve and Bonnie and Mickey for all their support. They have a great store, one of those places you can go in and you just know you're going to have a good, peaceful shopping experience where everything is beautiful and even better can be used to spread the good news of the Lord.

Hope all of your have a lot of reasons to do your happy dances this week. Talk to you Sunday.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Dancing Room

Another Sunday. Another day to enjoy life. I had a lot of life to enjoy around here on Saturday with both sets of grandbabies (nine of them, but sometimes it seems like a dozen or more) here to give the new room a test run. Since I don't have any new furniture and only an entertainment center and side table and rocking chair out there, there was plenty of room for the grandkids to play. I sort of like the wide open spaces and they liked playing on that new hardwood floor. It looks great. And it looked even better with circles of grandkids playing with each other on it. Katie, my three and a half year old granddaughter, told me she wanted to go out and play in the "dancing room."

Maybe that's what Darrell and I should do tonight to celebrate his birthday. Dance in our new "dancing" room. Only trouble is neither one of us is much of a dancer. Even as a teenager when the twist and such dances were all the craze, I never had the nerve to actually try doing any of them anywhere except in the privacy of my own room. Too self-conscious at the time. Too awkward now. So we'll probably just celebrate without fanfare by thinking about how cute all our grandkids are while enjoying the peace and quiet now that they've gone home. I used to always make him a pecan pie, but now he's continually on some kind of diet. So it's not fair to cook something to tempt him off it. Guess I can wash some celery sticks for him. Or make him something sugar-free. Won't be good, but I could make it.

Anyway with my WV son and his family here Thursday to leave the twin boys and go on to Kings Island on Friday and my close-by son and his family coming over on Saturday to help celebrate Dad's birthday early, I ran out of writing time to find those elusive two words. I told everybody I was just going to say they (my characters) rode off into the sunset and lived happily ever after. The reader won't know how they got up on those horses to ride off or even when the sun started going down, but the story will be finished. Then my younger son said he hated books where it seemed like the writer did just that. Just ended without letting the reader in on what happened. But then he also said he hated just as much the writer who wrote an extra fifty pages after the characters should have ridden off into the sunset. I really don't want to be guilty of either thing. I want to nail the ending. Make it perfect.

Some of you know Darrell is in a gospel quartet, The Patriot Quartet, and you know it's that ending on a Southern Gospel song that really packs an emotional punch for the listeners. If a group can nail the ending, then the audience will sit up and notice. So I'm thinking the ending of a book is some the same. It has to be done right. It has to be emotionally satisfying. It has to come at the right time and make the reader nod and say, yes, that's what happened. And that's what I'm trying to do. What I've been trying to do for at least a week. Get to that perfect ending and nail it.

I think I've nailed a few endings in my stories in the past. I liked the way Summer of Joy ended with Wes and Jocie talking since their relationship had been such a fun part of all the Hollyhill books. The Outsider had a very dramatic ending. The Believer has an emotional ending that I hope will be satisfying to readers. And that's what I'm trying to find with this new book, The Seeker. The right ending. Tomorrow for sure. Even if I have to stay up all night. And then I'll have to do some fast editing. Gee, how did May and June zoom by so fast? Don't you think we need to put some speed limits on these summer days?

Hope all your days are speeding by with happiness in every mile. Talk to you Wednesday.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Searching for the Elusive Ending

Still not quite there. Still haven't quite found those two important words to every writer. Maybe to any person with a job to do or a task to complete. The End. I need to be able to say I ended some housecleaning chores. But right now all I can say is it will have to wait until July. You know I think I should take July off, because there is no way I can ever get everything done I have said I am going to do in July. Now I've got two rooms and woodwork to paint. But right, you got it. Not until July. Then you think it will be too hot to paint? My daughter, sweet child that she is, says she could come home and help me, but she's busy redoing her own house. They have one of those beautiful old houses that you can really get deep into remodeling. They've done a lot of it already and it looks great. My new room looks great too, but the other rooms cry out for paint. Right. July.

Anyway I stayed home from Bible study to try to find those elusive two words and so I'm getting ready to go do some more hunting for the right words in my head to get there. And to inspire me and maybe you, I looked up some "end" quotes. They weren't exactly what I had in mind, but I love this first one from Oscar Wilde. It's talking about romance, I'm sure, but you know, I think it fits writers. When that story that has you totally in its grip ends, the weak writer might cry every time he or she gets that turn down. Ah, but the efficient one will find a new story to take off with, and the wise writer will already be thinking up that new idea before she writes "The End."

When a love comes to an end, weaklings cry, efficient ones instantly find another love, and the wise already have one in reserve. ... Oscar Wilde

And I just love almost any bit of wisdom Mark Twain comes up with. He has such a tongue-in-cheek way of thinking. Plus his quotes alway have that germ of truth that really gets his point across.

Man was made at the end of the week's work, when God was tired. ...Mark Twain

Here's another good one for writers. We need to have the thread of our story from the beginning to the end. I'm not one of those writers who knows the ending at the beginning, but I do hope that my endings fit my beginnings.

If you want to know the end, look at the beginning. ...African Proverb

And here's another great quote a writer can take to heart. Write the books you love. Enjoy the writing journey. Finish your moments and live your hours in your stories and in your life.

To finish the moment, to find the journey's end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom. ...Ralph Waldo Emerson

How about this one? What do you think about it? Does this just fit for an artist? One thing sure just because I write the end doesn't mean I'm finished with this story. I need about two months to go back over it and make it better. But right now I'll settle for two weeks to at least begin to polish the story.

To finish a work? To finish a picture? What nonsense! To finish it means to be through with it, to kill it, to rid it of its soul, to give it its final blow, the coup de grace for the painter as well as for the picture. ...Pablo Picasso

There's a review of The Believer in Publisher's Weekly. Not great, but not bad. They liked most of my characters while disdaining my bad guy. But you won't have any doubt he's the bad guy if you decide to read the book. I'm looking forward to the book being out. And as soon as I find those two little necessary words I'm searching for in this new book, I'll do a newsletter (You can sign up for the newsletter from my website, and let you in on some chances to win an autographed copy of The Believer. The title of the new book that will be out in 2010 is The Seeker.

2010! Wow! That sounds futuristic. Guess it is. At least in the future.

Hope you all have a wonderful week. I'm supposed to babysit the twin baby boys on Friday. That'll keep me moving. They're crawling all over now.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Gardening for the Brain

The tea at Clear Creek was great. And I found out the church is way over 200 years old. It was established in 1785. Wow! And it is a beautiful church with beautiful people. My talk wasn't as good as I'd hoped it would be. I can never decide whether more practice is better or less practice is better. Sometimes when I prepare too carefully then I get hung up on wanting to say those great words I've thought up exactly as I wrote them down and then I'm stumbling around trying to remember what it was I had worked out to say. So then I try just preparing an outline of ideas and that works better, but then I skip over what I'd hoped would be some of my best points. I like to speak and I hope as I have more opportunities that I will get better and find my comfort zone somewhere between too much preparation and not enough.

One thing sure, the ladies at the church had done the proper amount of preparation. The tea party was great. The place was decorated in chocolates. Now you can't go wrong with those kind of decorations. Everything was pink and chocolate brown. And the centerpieces were elevated cake plates with brightly wrapped mini candy bars. Then the food was fancy with lots of dainty sandwiches, crackers and cheese dips and pretty and delicious desserts. Oh yeah, and my favorite part, fruit. I'm just saying that to keep everybody from thinking I totally pigged out on the chocolate. There was strawberry tea and peach tea and raspberry tea. All very yummy and served up by some of the guys in the church.

You'll be glad to know I did come up with something to say. I probably even talked a few minutes past twenty, but only a couple. Nobody went to sleep (that I saw) and only the littlest baby got so tired she cried. I enjoyed meeting all the ladies and appreciated their kind words about my books. There was a momma there who has an eleven month old baby boy, a twin, with a serious health problem. Evan is facing a bone marrow transplant when they find a donor, so keep him and his mom in your prayers.

Now to the title of the blog. I always make you wait. I just read an article in the newspaper that gardening can help us hang onto our cognitive abilities. I want to hang onto mine for sure, although I have to admit to being more forgetful than I used to be. I can turn around once and lose something completely and totally. I usually find whatever it was. But sometimes not for a couple of days and half the time it's right where I thought it was all along. I think the gremlins are playing tricks on me. You know about gremlins - those invisible little beings that collect odd socks and hair clasps and paperclips and dozens of other necessary and chronically disappearing items.

Anyway, I've been vegetable gardening all my life. Darrell does most of the gardening work these days. Now I realize how I'm blessing him by letting him do most of the planting, hoeing, etc. since it's helping his brain stay young. But I'm still in the garden a bunch, picking the veggies and pulling the weeds you have to lean over to get. If Darrell can't get them with his hoe, they don't get got. So maybe we'll both fend off dementia for a few more years and even if we hang up our vegetable garden hoe, there will always be flowers to plant and water.

I guess I'll keep digging in the dirt until I forget which is a flower and which is a weed. I was showing my grandkids which were weeds and which were not the other day. They're growing some beans in half our garden. The little one who just turned three pulled up the morning glory vines out of the beans and then very carefully planted them in the middle of the rows to keep them from dying. One thing sure, gardening is more fun with kids around.

So grow something this week and stay brain young. See you again on Wednesday. No telling what I'll talk about then, but maybe it won't be more than fifteen minutes worth.

My son

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

What to say? What to say?

I am giving a talk this Saturday to a bunch of delightful ladies at a tea. I haven't actually met but two or three of them, but I'm sure if they're coming to a tea they'll be delightful. It sounds like a fun thing to do. At least the tea part. I don't know about the listening to me part. Maybe the organizers won't tell them about that. Maybe they'll just advertise the tea cakes and cookies. You know how sometimes you have to get through something not all that great to get to the better part. I'm speaking first. So they have to listen to me, then enjoy the food. It's being held at one of the oldest churches in this area. A church even older than the one I go to and our church will be two hundred years old in three years. But Clear Creek Baptist Church in Woodford County has been around even longer.

So I'm looking forward to being there again. I've been in the church before with the guys (Patriot Qt) when they sang there. The church considers The Patriots practically a home group for them since they've sung there so often and the people support them with love and prayers. But they're not singing and don't worry. Neither am I. But I am talking, so I need to decide what I should talk about. I have twenty minutes. When I told somebody that (I've forgotten who which is good so I can't get mad at them), the smart alec said do you think you can just talk twenty minutes. As if they thought I'd talk all night. They won't have to worry about that. I'll want to get to the tea and cakes too.

But right now I just have to come up with what I'm talking about for twenty minutes. I want to say something inspiring and fun. I could give my "how I got to be a writer speech." Most people are interested in hearing about a writer's path to publication, but would that be inspiring? I think the lady in charge wanted inspiring. I could give my "Where in the story of Jonah are you?" speech, but I don't think this is the right place for that. Guess I'm at the beginning of the story of Jonah and saying I don't think I want to go to Ninevah on that one. I did a talk once about hands and how the Lord wants us to use them to help others. That went over well, but again it doesn't feel right.

Maybe I'll do like the old Regular Baptist preachers used to do and may still if those type of churches are still around. They didn't prepare sermons. They just opened the Bible and went to preaching. They called it grabbing onto heaven and holding on with their fingernails. They thought it presumptuous to prepare and showed lack of faith in the Lord to give them the message He wanted preached. I won't be able to do that. I'm a preparer. But I hope I will be open to what the Lord wants me to prepare. I think He can inspire you before the talk the same as during the talk. Of course the Bible does say the Holy Spirit will give you words to say when you're telling people about the Lord.

I'll probably end up combining something I hope will be inspiring and talk about my writing too. I'll try to keep it moving and watch my watch and talk just my twenty minutes or less so there will be a few minutes for questions and answers. That's always my favorite part of any talk. Of course the best questions come from first and second graders who have been told by the teacher to come up with a question to ask. You get some good ones then. Adults are usually too well mannered to ask those sort of questions, but you never know. This bunch of tea drinking ladies might surprise me with some doozies.

What is the worst or best question you've ever been asked? I guess a lot of people might say "Will you marry me?" is the best question, but there may be some who also say it could be the worst. I'm going to have to think about that in regard to writing questions. Maybe the hardest to answer is "What is your favorite book?"

And since we're talking about favorite books, I did my drawing for Summer of Joy by yours truly and Age Before Beauty by Virginia Smith and Bobbi from Kentucky is the winner. Bobbi has some great blogs and one of them is about books. You can check it out at Bobbi's Booknook, She reviews all sorts of books and has been kind enough to review a couple of mine in the past.

Thanks to all who entered the book giveaway in May. I'll be posting a new giveaway next week after I finish my work in progress. I'm going to give away a couple of copies of my new book, The Believer in June, July and August so there will be lots of chances to win. I'll give you details in the newsletter I plan to send out next week.

Think about me Saturday and pray that I won't put everybody to sleep. Maybe we should have coffee first. I'll tell you how it goes Sunday.