Sunday, March 29, 2009

Pressing On

Another Sunday. Isn't it amazing how quickly the Sundays come around? I know, I know! I'm just thinking that because I'm getting older. Well, everybody still breathing is getting older. Even little kids. But some of us maybe have already gotten a bunch older, huh? Anyway, when I was one of those little kids, a week seemed to take forever. The days didn't fly by, except maybe in the summer time. But now it doesn't matter what time of the year it is, the days zoom by.

A friend of mine advanced a theory for this once that I thought made some sense. He said to a five-year-old, a year was a whole fifth of his life. But to a fifty-year-old a year is only a fiftieth of her life. (Just an age pulled out of a hat for the example - nobody has to tell her real age!) And for my church friend who just turned ninety-six on Friday, it's only a ninety-sixth of his life. Earl is a great guy who still reads through his Bible every year and so does his wife of almost seventy-six years now. She'll soon be ninety-three. They are both such wonderful examples of faithfulness to their family and to us, their church family. When Loretta prays for you, you're bound to be blessed. And the best part of that, she does pray for her family and church. They both have some health problems, but Loretta fixed him a birthday supper last week. Whenever I need a spiritual boost, I know exactly where to go.

My intent when I started this post was to talk about perseverance in life and in working to reach your goals, so maybe I didn't really get side-tracked talking about Earl and Loretta. They have definitely persisted in their faith and in their love for each other and in their cheerful good humor. My Sunday school lesson this morning was about Nehemiah rebuilding Jerusalem's wall. The writer of the lesson was a college teacher and he wrote about the many students who had passed through his classrooms in the last twenty-five years. Some did well. Some did not. He said the common factor in those students who succeeded was persistence. He put this line into the study guide. You're in this for the long haul; be faithful. While he was talking about students and Nehemiah in the Bible story, I think we all need to be faithful to our dreams and our goals in life. As Paul says in the Bible, we need to run our race to the best of our ability. Faithfully. We can't give up when we get winded around the first turn. We have to keep pressing on.

If you're a writer, that's a great thing to remember. People are always asking me what attribute I have that helped me become a published writer. And I tell them the most important ingredient for me is perseverance or persistence. Pick your word. My first novel didn't sell. My second novel didn't even get an approving nod from the agent who had agreed to try to sell my first novel. I could have quit trying. Rejections are daggers in a young writer's heart. But you know what, they aren't reasons to give up. Not if the urge to write lives within you the way it lives within me. Rejections are just a goad to do better with the next book or to keep trying to find an editor who will look at the rejected work with a kinder eye. My third book sold. My fourth book sold. My fifth book did not. At least not for twenty or so years and after a major rewrite. My sixth book did not. I'm still hoping on it, so maybe another major rewrite is in order. But I did keep pressing on. I did keep writing. And eventually I sold another book and then another one. So you can see why I value perseverance and I'm thankful for the double handful of stubborness the good Lord surely dropped into the mix when he was figuring out the best ingredients to use for me.

It's also valuable to remember that as Nehemiah led the Jewish people in rebuilding the wall one stone at a time, so a writer has to write a story one word and one sentence at a time. That's something I'm concentrating on right now as I move along with my new story. One word, one sentence, one scene, one chapter at a time.

On a down on the farm note, I thought I was going to be a new grandmom again last night, but the doctor sent my daughter-in-law home to see if she could wait a few more days. She's still having pains in spite of the medicine they gave her to stop them, but so far it's a wait and see situation. So maybe next week I'll be able to announce the arrival of a new sweet child into the world. And that child will start on her life journey where she'll learn the value of persistence.

So be faithful to your dreams and keep pressing on to your goals. That's what I'm trying to get my new characters to do, too.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Rainy Day Friends

Thanks to all of you who have sent kind words to me after I didn't win the big prize for my book, The Outsider. Reading your e-mails has been like winning lots of little prizes of friendship. And what better prizes can a person win! So thank you for being a blessing.

You know, there are so many times when we can bless the people around us just by smiling or doing a favor or speaking that encouraging word. Unfortunately there are also times when we pass up those moments, when we're cranky and ill tempered with the people we love the most. Maybe because we know they'll forgive us, and because hardly any of us can be happy and nice all the time. There's one lady at my church who comes very close. She has sweetness and kindness cornered. She's my role model. My Barnabas. You know Barnabas in the Bible. He was the one who was always ready to help somebody. To be a friend.

So here are some friendship quotes on this rainy day Wednesday when you might need a little sunshine. I hope you have a whole bouquet of friends and plenty of reason to smile.

  • You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.~ Dale Carnegie
  • To know someone here or there with whom you can feel there is understanding in spite of distances or thoughts expressed. That can make life a garden.~ Goethe
  • Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?~ Abraham Lincoln
  • Friends are the sunshine of life. ~ John Hay
  • Friends are the angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly. - Anonymous

I almost forgot to let you know the winner of my latest book giveaway. It's Martha from Wisconsin. She won the book Hidden by Shelley Shepard Gray and chose my book, Angels at the Crossroads because that was the only book of mine she hadn't already read. That was definitely an encouraging word for me from Martha. So, Martha, if you're reading this, the books are in the mail. Hope you enjoy them.

I'll be starting a new giveaway in a few weeks. I'm planning to give away a couple of copies of my new book, The Believer, every month this summer. I'll be posting details on when to sign up in a couple of weeks.

Thanks to all of you who entered the giveaway. Wish I could send you all a book, but maybe next time it'll be your name that I draw out of the hat. Have a great rest of the week.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I Didn't Win

I didn't win the award for best Christian Fiction novel of 2009. :( Actually I didn't expect to win, but then when they were announcing the winners at the banquet last Thursday night about five minutes before they were ready to announce the fiction winner, I got to thinking, you know, it would be nice to win. And what if I do? I better think about what I might say up there on the stage. I had already told a couple of people who had asked if I had an acceptance speech all written out that I was just going to say "I'm speechless." Which would have certainly been true. Amazed, too. But then I didn't have to be speechless or amazed because Susan Meissner's book, The Shape of Mercy was the winner. She gave a nice speech and obviously wasn't "speechless." And I was a little disappointed. Especially the next day when her book had that beautiful gold medallion already added to the copies on display.

I talked with Susan and she's a wonderful writer and person. I had no trouble being happy for her. I grabbed a copy of her book, unsigned unfortunately, but maybe I'll put it in one of my book giveaways this summer. I'm going to draw for the winner of my current contest tonight. I'll be sending out a newsletter to my friends and readers - and that's not and/or. If you are reading my books, I think we're friends. Anyway I'll be letting everyone know who the lucky winner is in the newsletter first and then I'll post it here on Wednesday night. I mean somebody needs to be a winner this weekend since I didn't quite make it.

Still as I told my church family this morning when they were assuring me that I was a winner to them, I did feel like a winner just being in the top five. Plus seeing The Outsider on April's Christian Book Association bestseller list is another winning moment. Having so many friends pulling for me was definitely the best winning moment.

Darrell and I had fun in Dallas. I got to meet a lot of great writers, and even better, now I can put faces with some of the people I work with at Baker Publishing. It was a good two or three days. Those pilots had no trouble at all navigating the skies. That must have been all of your prayers giving us smooth air. And no telling how many other blessings the pilots got just because you guys were all praying for them coming and going. I know I was mightily blessed. I even looked not too bad in the outfit I bought last week. My hair wasn't perfect, but you can't have everything. I did manage to wear heels and keep my earrings on for the whole evening. That was the first time I've worn earrings since my oldest son got married some 16 years ago. I even wore them to church this morning just to prove to everybody that I had earrings. Some of them didn't recognize me. ;)

I'm off now to hear the Patriots sing in Mercer County tonight. They'll be in Pennsylvania next Friday night and then in northeastern Kentucky at Mayfield and Ashland on Sunday. I'm staying home. I need to get back to work on that stubborn third Shaker novel. One of the writers I met said she loved to write on her laptop in the car. I'm sure someone else was driving her to important appointments and booksignings. Me, I'd just get car sick. But I do love to write. Even when the words aren't coming easy. Writing is what I do.

Hope you are having a good weekend. The weather is gorgeous here in Kentucky today and if you don't want to go outside, you've got ballgames to watch. I love the tournament, but I've missed most of it this year. So did my team, unfortunately. UK fans are not happy campers, but maybe a beautiful spring day like today will get us smiling again.

Thanks again for your good wishes and prayers. Wish I could have won for you.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Texas Here I Come

Hi everybody. Tomorrow's the big day. I'm getting on that airplane and flying to Texas. I've already asked my church family for prayers for the airplane and the pilot. I'm n-n-not really a n-n-n-ervous flyer. Honest. I mean I've already been on two airplane trips. That makes me practically an experienced traveler, doesn't it? But prayers always help. No matter how you're traveling or what you're doing. I don't think there's a greater gift you can give a person than to say a prayer for them. And you've always heard it's more blessed to give than receive, so here's your chance to be blessed and my chance and that pilot's chance to be blessed by your prayers.

I am excited about being at the Christian Book Expo. This is something I've never done before. I've been to book fairs and such, but never to a big event celebrating writers and books. I can't wait to meet all those famous writers that up until now have merely been names on books. Max Lucado is one of them. If any of you want to read a devotional book that helps you feel as if you're basking in the love of the Lord, try one of his. No frowns in his books as he encourages us to live the Lord's way. I'll have to buy something from him to get his autograph if he's signing books at the Expo. Of course the line will probably be two miles long, so I might not be willing to wait that long. As for when I sign my book, I'm just hoping there will be somebody, anybody in line.

I did get some good news about The Outsider. I guess I should say additional good news since the Book Award nomination was definitely already good news. Anyway, The Outsider is number thirteen on the CBA (Christian Book Association) Fiction Bestseller list for April. Reader response to that story just keeps astounding me.

How do you like my picture here on the blog? That's the same one the CBE lifted off my website to post on their website alongside all the professional photos. One of my Sunday School kids took the snapshot of me when we were hiking down at Panther Rock. Me and the kids always have a great time down at the creek, so if I look like I'm having fun, then that's because I was. Plus it looks as if I had somehow managed to stay away from all the splashing - at least up until then.

Susie, my webmaster, has been helping me with posting pictures and my book cover on the blog since my dial up connection usually times out before I can get the process figured out. Or maybe it's my brain that times out.

Hope that doesn't happen in Texas. I'll be sure to let you know how things come out when I get home this weekend. And thanks for the blessing of those prayers.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday Traditions

Don't you just love Sundays? There's even something about the word that sounds good - Sunday. What did you do on Sundays when you were a kid? We visited with family most every Sunday. One Sunday my cousins and their parents would be at our house. The next Sunday we'd go to theirs. We had so much fun. Then when I got married we tended just to go to Mom's house or my Mom-in-law's house every Sunday. And my kids got to play with their cousins.

I'm a little sad to say that tradition didn't carry over with my kids. Two of them moved out of state after they got out of college and can't very well come spend Sunday afternoon with Mom and Dad. Even a good home-cooked meal can't entice them to make that kind of trip very often. My youngest lives close enough, but then my husband is in a gospel quartet and is gone most Sundays singing in this or that church. So they come sometimes but Sundays are more family days for them. And that's good. So I still go to see my mom when I'm not tagging along with the quartet.

Today I had my sisters out for Mom's birthday dinner. I got up and cooked and cooked all this delicious food. Then they brought some delicious food. We had way too much, but we enjoyed. Maybe the best thing is that having company always motivates me to clear away some of the clutter that accumulates way too fast. My desk is breathing a sigh of relief and so am I. I'm hoping I'll be able to work better with some of that paperwork filed away. I'm a hundred pages in on my new book and thinking there is no way in my fictional world I'll ever be able to tell the story I want to tell in the proper number of pages. I've even considered coming up with a whole new story, but then I think this one might work. I just need to get it written and then I can worry about the length and cutting out parts of it then.

Of course getting it written is sometimes the hard part. Especially with all the distractions like cleaning off that desk or shopping for a suitable dress to wear to that dinner is Texas. I looked for a red one, but red must not be in this spring. (I tried, Susie.) I did get red earrings, and I don't even wear earrings. Normally. But somebody said I had to have earrings with my hair short like it is.

And talk about distractions. Now it's tax time. Yuck! But I can't put that off much longer. I actually made myself start gathering the bad news yesterday. I have to keep reminding myself that it's a blessing to have a reason to pay taxes. In this economy that's to the good. And while I'm hoping the economy improves for everyone, I'm also hoping it's true that a down economy doesn't keep people from reading books.

Books are a cheap form of entertainment. They can take you traveling when you can't afford the gas or the plane fare. They can make you smile when you weren't sure you could find any reason to smile. They can take you on adventures you would never even consider trying. I've climbed mountains, shot rapids, been in the middle of battles, lived through car chases, and any number of other exciting scenes. But the best part is being in that favorite character's skin throughout the story and living it with him or her.

So enjoy your Sunday. Hope you have a few hours for a good book. And I'll talk to you again Wednesday before I fly off to Dallas.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Birthdays - A Reason to Celebrate

Have you ever noticed how birthdays sometimes seem to bunch up in the same month in families? March is one of those months for my family. Not my birthday, but my daughter's and niece's and my mom's. On Darrell's side of the family there are five dates that are multiple family members' birthdates. One day in August was the birthday of three of the grandkids born a few years apart. Of course as you may have guessed, he had a big family - three brothers and one sister. So that increases the odds of a birthday being duplicated with a new family member's birth. I think we're up around sixty on his side of the family counting all the kids and grandkids and even a few great-great grandkids now. That makes me a great-great aunt. Maybe I'd rather not think about that!!

But tomorrow is my daughter's birthday. That's hard enough to think about. Because, you see, somehow she's gotten older than I tend to think about being myself. Do any of the rest of you forget your actual age - unless you make yourself remember? Have you settled on this other more acceptable age that maybe you reached several years past and just decided to stay? At least subconsciously. I'm not being Jack Benny and telling people I'm 39. I own up to my age when asked, but it's just not where I am in my head. That mental age is hovering down there somewhere around my daughter's age or even a little younger. I suppose my head's in a bit of denial.

Still I love birthdays. Mine and everybody else's. It's such a great time to celebrate and make someone feel special. You don't have to count them, but if you're like me, you want to keep having them. So why not have fun? I won't get to bake a cake for my daughter. She lives too far away to come home to let her mom cook her a birthday dinner and I miss that. Her birthday was always a great opportunity to make some sinfully delicious chocolate dessert. Remember Mississippi Mud. That was her birthday cake choice a lot when she was home. My sons always liked banana split cake. My favorite is homemade Angel Food cake with that great white icing. The cake takes twelve egg whites and the icing took a couple more and had to be cooked in a double-boiler while you stirred it for seven straight minutes. Then half the time I messed it up when I used to try to make it. That was back when I was more of a farm girl and had my own laying hens and would get so many eggs I had to try to use them up somehow.

Anyway I know you all will join in with me singing happy birthday to my beautiful daughter, Tarasa. And then next Monday is my mom's 89th birthday. She's probably thinking she's younger than me although age is beginning to slow her down. She's the last of her four sisters still living and she's hanging in there. But let me tell you, Henry Louis Mencken hit the nail on the head when he said, "Old age ain't no place for sissies." Things get harder. But Mom always said from the time she was a little girl that she wanted to live to be 100 and she may make it.

Just in case you're having a birthday this month, here are a few quotes to make you feel better about getting older.

  • To remain young while growing old is the highest blessing. - German Proverb
  • Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. - C.S. Lewis, 1893-1963
  • If wrinkles must be written on our brows, let them not be written upon the heart. The spirit should never grow old. -James A. Garfield, America President, 1831-1881
May your spirit never grow old.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Springing Forward

"An extra yawn one morning in the springtime, an extra snooze one night in the autumn is all that we ask in return for dazzling gifts. We borrow an hour one night in April; we pay it back with golden interest five months later." -Winston Churchill

Did you remember to spring forward this morning and make it to church on time? Most of us at our little church were on time, even me. Most of the folks at my church look at their watches in disbelief and wonder if they are late if I beat them to church on Sunday mornings. I always aim to be on time, but then I'll think I can do one more thing before I leave and the clocks somehow go into double quick time and before I know it, I'm running late. It's a good thing my church family is so tolerant and forgiving.

But I have to admit to doing a little extra yawning this morning the way Winston Churchill said in his quote above and it'll probably be worse tomorrow when I get up to start writing. I'll be nodding at my computer and hoping I can think up the right words in my sleep. My mom and sister and I were talking about what we remembered about Daylight Saving Time around here. Actually when I was a kid we were in the Central Time Zone, but changed to the Eastern Time Zone to keep from going on Daylight Saving Time every summer. That lasted a few years until the powers that be put us back on DST but we stayed in the Eastern Time Zone.

Anyway I decided to do a little history searching to see when DST started. Benjamin Franklin thought it would be a great idea in 1784, but not enough people agreed to get it started then. It wasn't until 1918 that the U.S. first implemented DST to help with energy saving until the end of WW I, but DST proved so unpopular that the order was repealed after 1919. It wasn't until the nation entered the Second World War that Daylight Saving Time was brought back to once again save energy for the war effort. The nation moved the clocks one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time year round from 1942 to 1945. In England they also moved the clocks ahead one hour year round during the war and in the summer they had Double Summer Time when they moved the clocks ahead two hours.

After 1945, states and municipalities were free to observe or not observe DST on whatever schedule they decided to set. This caused so much confusion with train and bus schedules and television and radio program listings that Congress passed the Uniform Time Act of 1966 in an effort to standardize the time throughout the country. Areas of the country were still free to not observe DST if they passed a local ordinance, but if they did decide on DST they had to start it on the last Sunday in April and end it on the last Sunday in October. This stayed the timetable until 1986 when the beginning time was moved to the first Sunday in April. And now it's been moved up another couple of weeks.

So that's a little history of why we have DST. Now the question is do you like it? Are you happy with having that extra yawn in the spring and do you think it does present us with dazzling gifts of more sunshine after our work or school days?

I like it okay once a few days pass and I'm used to the new schedule. And in the summer it's daylight around here until way past nine o'clock. Plenty of time for gardening or walking. Not as much time for sleeping. Of course what I really like is the spring sunshine whatever time it is. And it felt like spring here this weekend - finally. Perhaps too much like it tonight with storm warnings out.

We went to WV to babysit the twins and their big sister Friday. They're growing fast. Already almost sitting up and ready to smile everytime anybody looks at them. Big sisters are all doing well too. One thing sure, there's always a baby to hold right now in that household. I can't even imagine how people manage with triplets or more.

Hope you all had a good Sunday.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Making the Words Disappear

It's been a hard work week so far with too many other things I have to do getting in the way of my five pages a day quota to make sure I meet my summer deadline. I've been writing and maybe almost getting my pages, but at the end of the day I sometimes end up thinking that I'm going to have to cut most of those words in the final draft. But I tell myself to just get the words out there where I can cut them or improve them, where I can tell the story I'm trying to tell. In the best way I can.

I got a kind e-mail from a writer friend saying she got so into my stories that she didn't do any critiquing as she read. That's something a lot of us writers do as we're reading. Maybe because we're wanting to think we could have written it better, or maybe just because we can't turn off the editor in our head so that we can enjoy the story. Anyway, she said she was able to turn off her editor mode and just enjoy my stories. That's something a writer likes to hear. Right up there with "I couldn't put it down." That has to be the favorite comment most writers hear.

Actually what I'm trying to do - when I think about it - is make the words on the page disappear. That is, I want to make my characters and their stories become so real to the readers that they forget they are reading and just live the story along with the people in the book. I've read stories by other writers where I felt like that, and I can only hope I am sometimes successful with my own stories. So how does a writer make the words disappear? Good writing. Careful editing. And more rewriting. You have to try to take everything out that might jar the reader from your story and make him or her notice the words sentence by sentence instead of just flowing along the river of words living your story.

Here are a few quotes from writers on writing. If you are a writer, I hope they inspire you to write so well that your words disappear. I hope they inspire me to do the same.
  • A good style should show no signs of effort. What is written should seem a happy accident. ~W. Somerset Maugham, Summing Up, 1938
  • As to the adjective, when in doubt, strike it out. ~Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson, 1894
  • Write your first draft with your heart. Re-write with your head. ~From the movie Finding Forrester
  • One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper pattern at the right moment. ~Hart Crane
  • Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~William Wordsworth

Oh, yeah, and they say it's going to be 70 degrees here on Saturday. Zero windchill last Monday and 70 by the weekend. Kentucky weather can be interesting in March. But we are so ready for some warmer temps.

If you haven't already, don't forget to send me an e-mail from my website to get in on the drawing for the free books on March 22. I'm doing the drawing the day I get back from Texas after the big Book Expo.